The White Lama

Nikki Appino



The White Lama, Theos Casmir Hamati Bernard and Lama, Tibet, 1937. Photo by Gegen Dorje Tharchin.


The White Lama, Theos Bernard's lecture tour flyer, 1938, photo courtesy of Nikki Appino.


Nikki Appino and Saori Tsukada creating the film for Club Diamond. Photo by Cathy Lee Crane.

Conceived by Nikki Appino, The White Lama is a multimedia work about the quest for the sacred, framed by the adventurous life and death of early 20th-century explorer, mystic, and author Theos Bernard. A performance piece for one actor—Kevin Joyce, who will collaborate with Appino on the text/libretto—the work will feature a new composition by American composer Philip Glass, performed live by Glass on piano and synthesizer with co-composer and Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal on various traditional instruments. Pew Fellow Jorge Cousineau will design the set and projections. 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. He was one of the first westerners to set foot in Lhasa, Tibet and was an early yoga practitioner. 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.”

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.