Jay Scheib’s The Silence

2019-20 MIT CAST Mellon Faculty Grant

The Silence, 2019. Photo: Jay Scheib.
The Silence, 2019. Photo: Jay Scheib.
The Silence, 2019. Photo: Jay Scheib.
Study for The Silence stage design by Afsoon Pajoufar.

Dream worlds collide with real worlds in an endless spiral down

About the Project

The Silence
Work-in-Progress Performance
December 12-14, 2019 / 7:30-9:00pm
MIT Theater Building, W97
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA

Two sisters on the run from massive human failure hole up in a hotel where dream worlds collide with real worlds in an endless spiral down.

Featuring Ayesha Jordan, Lacey Dorn, Anna Kohler, Brandon Sanchez ’18, Rionna Flynn ’21, Sualeh Asif ’22, and Kyleigh DeSilva.

With design by Afsoon Pajoufar, Shanise DeSilva, Kevin Fulton, Christian Frederickson, and Joshua Higgason.

As an MIT CAST Mellon Faculty Fellow, Jay Scheib reinvents Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence (1963). The film, described both as a “landmark of modernist cinema” (Lloyd Michaels) and a “tangle of brooding confusions and despairs” (The New York Times), exposes the tense and uncomfortable relationship of two sisters at a hotel in an unfriendly, unknown city.

Over a half-century after the release of The Silence, Scheib draws inspiration from the meteoric film to “[trace] Bergman’s own obsession with the excavation of the most beguiling of emotional transformations.” This project marks a continuation of Scheib’s exploration of live cinema and multiplatform approaches to performance, as well as his engagement with Bergman’s work—previously, he co-created Persona, a chamber opera based on Bergman’s 1966 film of the same name, with music by composer and professor of music Keeril Makan. Scheib’s new live theater imagining of The Silence brings together a cast and crew of theater professionals and MIT students for production development and performances in MIT Building W97.

The Silence was presented as part of the 2019–20 MIT Performing series, a prototyping and presenting series programmed by Scheib and presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. The series is supported in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT. MIT Performing promotes a research- based artistic practice and serves as a new platform for contemporary performance.


Jay Scheib is internationally known for genre-defying works of daring physicality and the integration of new (and used) technologies in live performance.

Scheib’s current productions include the West End musical Bat Out of Hell (after the album by Jim Steinman) at the London Coliseum/English National Opera and a new opera based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Persona, which was produced by Beth Morrison Projects and premiered at National Sawdust in New York followed by performances at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and in 2017 with LA Opera at RedCat. Scheib’s recent mashup of Heiner Goebbels’ Surrogate Cities with Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung played to rave reviews at the Wuppertal Opera House in Germany.

Other recent works include a new opera by Israeli composer Na’ama Zisser titled Mamzer/Bastard at the Royal Opera House in London and the multiplatform Platonov, or the Disinherited, which premiered as part of the Without Walls Festival at La Jolla Playhouse followed by a three-week run at The Kitchen in New York City.

A frequent director of operas and works for musical theater, Scheib staged Evan Ziporyn’s A House in Bali as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival 2010; Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Saarländisches Staatstheater; and an original collaboration with punk band World Inferno titled “Addicted to Bad Ideas.”

He was named Best New York Theater Director by Time Out New York in 2009, and one of the 25 theater artists shaping the next 25 years of American theater by American Theater Magazine, and is a recipient of the MIT Edgerton Award, the Richard Sherwood Award, a National Endowment for the Arts/TCG fellowship, an OBIE Award for Best Direction, and the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.

Scheib is Class of 1949 Professor of Music and Theater Arts at MIT.

More at the artist’s website: Jay Scheib

In the Media

“His brand of theater always seems to be ahead of everybody else.”

— Tom Murrin, PAPERMAG


— Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

“When’s the last time it felt as if an entire theater were about to levitate? The blissful overdrive of Jay Scheib’s production can affect even a relative outlier — ‘Bat Out of Hell’ is all but blasting an adoring audience out of their seats. Count me among the adorers.”

— Matt Wolf, The New York Times

The New York Times: A London Musical With Energy to Burn, and Two Without It

Umbigo: The Opening Response: Jay Scheib