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'Night of the Living Dead – The Opera'

Poster: "Night of the Living Dead – The Opera"

In a zombie-fest of CMU proportions, Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Stephen Catanzarite (DC'90) has breathed new life into the "Night of the Living Dead."

The graduate of CMU's creative writing program turned the pop culture classic into an opera.

The libretto that he wrote is based on the film – which, incidentally, was written by alumnus George Romero, who studied art, design and theater at what was then Carnegie Institute of Technology.

Other CMU connections include the opera's director, Greg Lehane, professor of drama in the College of Fine Arts, and scenic designer Briton Mauk (A'13).

Catanzarite is in Pittsburgh to discuss the importance of good writing, hosted by CMU's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. The talk is free and open to the public.

"When you can write well, you have a lot of power. You are able to communicate ideas, share passions and interests and inform and persuade others," he said. "My life has taken a lot of unexpected turns, and my ability to write has helped me negotiate each and every twist."

Catanzarite' visit coincides with the opera's world premiere  Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 in Pittsburgh's Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Microscopic Opera, founded by CMU alumni Erica Olden (A'97, '01) and Andres Cladera (A'03), is presenting the premiere event.

Catanzarite received his bachelor's degree in creative writing from the Dietrich College's Department of English. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Baden Academy Charter School and author of "Achtung Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall."

He was first approached about the "Night of the Living Dead" project by Bill Hinzman, the actor who played the cemetery zombie in beginning of the film.

"Bill asked me what I thought about turning the film into a musical. Not convinced the film's spirit could be captured by show tunes, I eventually convinced him that we should adapt it as a serious opera," Catanzarite said.

Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English and Sigma Tau Delta faculty adviser, is enthusiastic about the advice Catanzarite can offer CMU's English students or anyone interested in writing.

"Stephen has had an amazing career, combining his interests in writing and music in exciting, innovative ways while also becoming a leader in arts education," Daniels said. "We're delighted to have him returning to share his experiences with our students."

Catanzarite credits his successful career as a writer and educator to his training at CMU.

"The writing program gave me a lot of confidence in my natural abilities and helped me refine my skills. Being in the presence of great writers and teachers like Jim Daniels, Hilary Masters and Sharon Dilworth — as well as my fellow students — pushed me to do and be better," he said.


Related Links: "Night of the Living Dead – The Opera" | Dietrich College | Dept of English | College of Fine Arts | School of Drama