Present Tense Initiative continues with aesthetically visceral,

intellectually challenging and emotionally unafraid original work

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11 | 7:30 pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12 | 4 & 8 pm




SALEM, MASS. – The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents the world premiere of All at Once Upon a Time (or Variations on the Theme of Disappearing) in PEM’shistoric Gardner-Pingree House on Friday, December 11, at 7:30 pm; Saturday, December 12, at 4 and 8 pm; and Sunday, December 13, at 4 pm. Tickets are available at:  

The museum’s Present Tense Initiative, which supports PEM’s Composer-in-Residence program, continues to expand the creative range of the museum, as well as access to the museum’s historic properties. This immersive and audience-driven theater experience takes place on three floors of the Gardner-Pingree House, a National Historic Landmark that is one of Salem architect Samuel McIntire’s finest and best-preserved Federal designs. Intimate and ephemeral, the performance offers a unique perspective into this architectural treasure, allowing participants to explore the elegant and storied home on foot, and come upon surprising and dreamlike happenings, while navigating an exploration into the way we see our environment, ourselves and each other.

All at Once Upon a Time is conceived and directed by Giselle Ty, a freelance opera/theater director based in London and New York. She produces original theatrical works for those seeking a small group experience that excites wonder, curiosity, magic and mystery. Each participant will take a different path through the house, experiencing something unique to them, while the group as a whole explores how deeply we see others and are seen by others and where our truest selves lie – when we are alone, when we write, in someone else’s memory or perhaps in the art we leave behind?  


Art lovers hoping for a dose of daring, wonder and living in the moment are welcome, but must be willing to climb creaky stairs, enjoy the company of strangers and unplug from technology for the duration of the performance.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

        – From Letters to a Young Poet by German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke

Made possible in part by The David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust.


Giselle Ty takes a physical, multidisciplinary approach to her work and is most interested in the poetic, whimsical, abstract ways that theater can find expression. She has worked in a variety of spaces such as black boxes, pubs, churches, parks, historic houses, a ballroom and a planetarium. She began her work by studying with, assisting and observing directors at the American Repertory Theatre/A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training in Cambridge, Mass., and was a teaching fellow for many years with longtime A.R.T. company members at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education. Directing work includes projects for the Houston Grand Opera (HGOco Opera to Go!), Guerilla Opera, Harvard Early Music Society, Juventas’ New Music Ensemble, Opera Hub, So & So Arts Festival (London), Vault Festival (London), Bread & Roses Theatre (London), Boston University’s M.F.A. Playwriting Program, Harvard University and the medieval music ensemble, the Broken Consort, among others. She has also worked on the directing staff for productions with the Gotham Chamber Opera, M.I.T. Media Lab/A.R.T. and Opera Boston. A New Georges Affiliate Artist and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, she has trained at various programs and workshops with the SITI Company, Harvard University and L’École Jacques LeCoq in Paris. She has lived in the United States, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and France and hopes to make art that thrives vibrantly at the intersection of different cultures, languages, eras and traditions. In 2013, she staged Excerpts from “Four Letters” at the Yin Yu Tang House at the Peabody Essex Museum and returns in 2015 to create All at Once Upon a Time (or Variations on the Theme of Disappearing), an original theatrical installation conceived for the museum’s Gardner-Pingree House.

The Present Tense Initiative is an extension of PEM’s contemporary art program. Under the guidance of curator Trevor Smith, the initiative celebrates the central role that creative expression plays in shaping our world today. The Present Tense Initiative engages leading creative agents and thinkers to cultivate innovative experiences fueled by the intersection of cultures, disciplines and technologies. By encouraging innovation and fostering new forms of creativity, PEM seeks to push the boundaries of what a museum experience can be.


All at Once Upon a Time is made possible in part by supporters of PEM’s Present Tense Initiative:

Terry and Dick Albright, Dick and Deborah Carlson, Susan and Appy Chandler and Fay Chandler.



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