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I am the utterance of my name

A music-theater piece on Mary Magdalene, created and performed by composer/percussionist Nathan Davis and playwright/actress Sylvia Milo


For 2000 years, societies have projected onto Mary Magdalene a wide range of roles – witness, prostitute, priestess, goddess, wife, witch, mother – archetypes that adhere closely to attitudes held about femininity.

I am the utterance of my name gives first-person voice and agency to each of these, while illuminating the problematic nature of labels given by male authors and religious systems to venerate and denigrate women. Using ancient texts and primary sources, the piece uncovers roots of our present gender inequality, male privilege, body rights, etc. – our social inheritance. It also highlights the erasure of female-empowered texts such as “The Gospel of Mary”, and the appeal of Mary Magdalene as an icon of the modern Goddess movement.

Composer/percussionist Nathan Davis (www.nathandavis.com) and playwright/actress Sylvia Milo (www.sylviamilo.com) have conducted extensive research into the diverse belief structures concerning Mary Magdalene, as well as the growing body of academic work in feminist theology.

Sylvia Milo is an award winning actress and playwright originally from Poland. Her self-produced play, The Other Mozart, had a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run at HERE (NY Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Solo Performance), in London at St. James Theatre, and in Hong Kong. It was presented in Vienna and Salzburg by the Mozarteum Foundation and continues touring in the US and in Europe with over 300 performances to date. Milo is constructing the script for this new work using mystic Gnostic texts such as the rediscovered Pistis Sophia and the Gospel of Mary, patrimonial canonic scripture, ancient and modern pagan ritual, and medieval European plays and legends.

Davis’s score will use hammered dulcimer, harmonium, and other instruments (to be performed by the composer with live electronics), while incorporating field recordings from Ste. Baume and musical fragments from medieval mystery plays. Nathan’s previous interdisciplinary work includes his dance/opera Hagoromo, which premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival, performed by the ICEnsemble and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, with dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Other premieres were presented by Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Park Avenue Armory, The Kitchen, Roulette, Tanglewood, and the Donaueschinger Musiktage. He received a NY Innovative Theatre Awards and a Drama Desk Nomination for his work on The Other Mozart.

“Bessie” award-winning choreographer Joanna Kotze is working with Milo to create movement for the piece, drawing extensively from symbolism in the many depictions of Magdalene in painting. Through extensive editing and comparison, we are sculpting a structure of about 80 minutes that weaves these various threads of faith, tradition, and geography, together with the 2000 years of cultural and religious sediment that binds them.

I am the utterance of my name is currently in development. We began work during our residency at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy, and we were given a week in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC in the Summer of 2019, where we offered a work-in-progress showing.

Project website: http://marymagdalenetheplay.com/

Project Media

Hagoromo – Mvt 15: Ascension
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Features: Nathan Davis

Hagoromo – a Chamber opera/ballet
Mvt. 15: Ascension

Music by Nathan Davis
Libretto by Brendan Pelsue
Choreography by David Neuman
Puppetry by Chris Green
Directed by David Michalek

Performed by Katalin Karolyi, Peter Tantsits, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto

Live premiere recording from 2015 BAM Next Wave Festival
The complete work is 75 minutes long

The Other Mozart
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The Other Mozart

Monodrama created, written and performed by Sylvia Milo

Music composed by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen
Directed by Isaac Byrne
Lighting design by Joshua Rose
Costume design by Magdalena Dabrowska and Mio Guberinic
Period Movement Direction by Janice Orlandi
Hair design by Courtney Bednarowski

The complete play is 80 minutes long.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

Project Created By

New York, New York
Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at BAM Next Wave with The International Contemporary Ensemble, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and legendary dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Lincoln Center and the Mostly Mozart Festival have presented the premieres of “Bells” amongst other of…

In Collaboration With

New York City, New York
Brooklyn, New York


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