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M. Seth Yorra | Operosa

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M. Seth Yorra

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M. Seth Yorra

Stage director

Seth Yorra was born into a strangely schizophrenic world at the intersection of art and the social sciences at the end of World War II. Some eighty years ago, his mother was a notable actress on Boston’s regional stage, playing numerous roles in Shakespeare’s dramas, and moonlighting as a hospital administrator, while his father was a lawyer and musician, who, after successfully auditioning for a tour of the United States that Alexander Glazunov was organizing, turned his back on the classics briefly, to play bass balalaika in a touring Russian Folk Orchestra.



Seth was a featured player at the age of eleven in a US TV series, which starred the American film actor, Barry Sullivan, and, in 1957, wrote a play about his experiences in film for his classmates. By 1963, Yorra had built his own pageant wagon, directing and presenting classical dramas from Sophocles and the medieval mystery plays to Ben Jonson, after setting up in newly mown fields, and playing for the farmers and fishermen of New England. From 1963 onward, he was involved in many regional theater productions and acted in and directed many of his own dramatizations, of Kafka, medieval English cycles, works of living dramatists and dance dramas.


In the mid 60’s Yorra worked at the Staatstheater Braunschweig, in Germany, as an assistant director, and studied at the Berliner Ensemble in East Berlin. He returned to the States to write a thesis on Georg Büchner’s psychotic work, “Woyzeck,” which was written with no scene order, as its author lay dying of typhus, in exile in Zürich in the 1830s, and to mount a production of his English version. Fascinated by Gertrude Stein’s original and abstract use of the English language, he wrote a thesis on and presented her final work, “The Mother of Us All,” an expressionist view of the fight for women’s rights in the United States, and in the 70s, directed his adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” which, although it was featured in a Life Magazine article, was never picked up by the Broadway producer who owned the option. Yorra also directed numerous productions of the classics and modern musicals.


By the time the Berlin Wall fell, Yorra had long since received his Dr. Jur., was licensed to practice in Massachusetts, Nevada, and as a foreign lawyer in Hamburg, and was involved in the attempt to save the Berliner Ensemble from the generosity of the German government, which open-handedness directly caused the collapse of the Brecht Theater. He assisted in the music world by helping to bring German singer Ute Lemper to the U.S., and, in the 90s to transplant American musicals, such as “Grease,” and later “Rent” to Germany, and acted as dramaturg on the North American premiere production in Portland, Oregon, of Reynaldo Hahn’s opera, “Le Marchand de Venise,” helping to reconstruct the composer’s authorized version from the manuscripts. Also in the 90s, Yorra taught theater history in Hamburg, and directed extensively.


Returning to the States, Yorra directed his own translations of Strindberg and Chekhov plays, before being called back to Germany to direct his play “Last Call: Freud in the Fires of Perdition” at the Schauspielhaus Hamburg.


At an age when most people are happy putting their feet up in front of the fire, he is studying psychoanalysis, which, he says, informs his direction of “Pimpinone” for us.