The White Lama: World Premiere

13 - 14 Mar 2020
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104


The White Lama, Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal records a music demo on a Dranyen, a traditional Himalayan folk music lute. Photo by Bob Finkelstein.

Conceived by Nikki Appino, The White Lama: The Improbable Legacy of Theos Bernard is a multimedia work about the quest for the sacred, framed by the life and death of early 20th-century explorer, mystic, and author Theos Bernard. The experimental performance piece blends music, projected imagery, and prose, performed by one actor—Kevin Joyce—with a score played live by Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal and American composer Philip Glass.

Both praised as a religious pioneer and dismissed as a fraud, Theos Bernard played a notable role in the growth of America's religious counterculture in the early 20th century. Researching Bernard through archival film footage, photographs, letters, and lectures, Appino says the piece is about “a commitment to carving a path into the unknown and ‘the seeker’ in all of us.”