Pancho Villa From A Safe Distance

A bilingual cross-border opera about Pancho Villa, the enigmatic general, legendary bandit, and hero of the Mexican Revolution. /// Una ópera bilingüe y transfronteriza sobre Pancho Villa, el general enigmático, bandido legendario, y héroe de la revolución Mexicana.


Meet the team

Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance is a collaboration between composer Graham Reynolds, Mexico City-based theater collective Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol as librettists, Shawn Sides of the Rude Mechs as director, Austin Lyric Opera tenor Paul Sanchez as Pancho Villa, Grammy Award-winning producer Adrian Quesada on guitar, and additional lyrics by award-winning poet and novelist Carrie Fountain. The band is rounded out with Liz Cass (vocals), Utah Hamrick (bass and tuba), Jeremy Bruch (drums), Alexis Buffum (violin), and Henna Chou (cello). Set and lighting design by Brian Scott, costume design by Christine Crook, libretto translations by Tomás Morín, dramaturge by Luis Ordaz Gutiérrez, musical remixes and consultation by Toy Selectah.



Graham Reynolds

Called “the quintessential modern composer” by the London Independent, Graham Reynolds composes and records music for film, theater and performance with collaborators ranging from Richard Linklater and Jack Black to DJ Spooky and Ballet Austin. His film projects include scores for Before MidnightBernie, and A Scanner Darkly. With the Golden Arm Trio, Reynolds has toured the country and released four critically acclaimed albums; he is Artistic Director of Golden Hornet Composer Laboratory, which has produced over 70 concerts by more than 60 contemporary composers. He is a member of the Rude Mechs theater collective, resident composer with Salvage Vanguard Theater, and received the 2016 Creative Capital Award for the Pancho Villa chamber opera.

Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol


Founded in 2003 by Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodriguez, Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol is a community of Mexico City artists making projects that link work and life and erase borders. They seek to clarify and articulate, but also to disrupt and unravel notions of biography, document, and history. In exploring events of the past, their work highlights how arbitrarily history is constructed. But their aim is not to correct the record, rather to put the emphasis elsewhere, to change the narrator, to create perspective, and to make up stories.

Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol have presented their work across Mexico and abroad; Festival Automne in Paris, The Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, Vienna Festwochen, the High Season of Girona, Contemporary Scene in Madrid, Montreal Transameriques, Theater Spektakell of Zurich, among many others. They have received several awards, among them the nomination of Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodriguez as candidates of The Rolex Mentor and Protege Initiative 2008, the Audience Award at the Festival Impatience in Paris 2011 (Odeon Theatre and Centquatre) and ZKB Foldpreiss in Zurich 2011.


Shawn Sides

Shawn Sides is a founder and a Co-Producing Artistic Director of Rude Mechs in Austin, TX where she has co-conceived, co-adapted, and directed a new work every year, give or take, since 1996, including Off-Broadway and touring productions of Lipstick Traces, Get Your War On, Stop Hitting Yourself, The Method Gun, and their "re-enactment" of The Performance Group's Dionysus in 69. Current project include Rudes' adaption of The Brothers Karamazov, Field Guide, commissioned by Yale Rep and From the Pig Pile: Requisite Gesture(s) of Narrow Approach by Sibyl Kempson. Shawn is an Alpert Hedgebrook Prize recipient and was included with her fellow Rudes into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2010. She is also 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award recipient. 


Carrie Fountain

Carrie Fountain's poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House, and Poetry, among others. Her debut collection, Burn Lake, was a National Poetry Series winner and was published in 2010 by Penguin. Her second collection, Instant Winner, was published by Penguin in 2014. Flatiron Books (Macmillan) will publish her novel for young adults, I'm Not Missing, in early 2018.

Born and raised in Mesilla, New Mexico, Fountain received her MFA as a fellow at the James A. Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently the writer-in-residence at St. Edward's University, she lives in Austin with her husband, playwright and novelist Kirk Lynn, and their children.

Carrie's paternal grandmother, Celia Fountain, came to the United States from Durango, Mexico to escape the revolution. Her family settled in El Paso where she met her husband Auturo of Mesilla, New Mexico while she was working in a store.  They were married and moved to Mesilla, where she lived until her death in 1984.

Paul Sanchez

Paul Sanchez has been singing and performing since the age of nine, starting out in the gospel circuit of the Fort Worth/Dallas area and then moving on to opera at the age of fourteen with the Fort Worth Opera.  Later he was able to sing and travel with the Austin Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and as background vocalist for different R&B, neo-soul and rock bands including Elton John, Prince, Jay Z and Deltron 3030.  Paul has performed in many stage and musical productions in Austin with Zilker Hillside Theater,  Zach Scott Theater and TexArts and spends a lot of his time giving private voice lessons.  He is currently the solo vocalist at Riverbend Church and is partnering with local singers and songwriters to help with his first EP.

Liz Cass

Liz Cass is an Austin-based mezzo soprano, Executive Producer of LOLA (Local Opera Local Artists), voice teacher, and public speaker. Ms. Cass holds the position of Community Liaison for the Armstrong Community Music School where she has been a member of the faculty and staff for over eleven years. 

Liz is a regular soloist with Austin Opera, The Austin Symphony, Austin Chamber Music Center, Austin Classical Guitar Society, and Chorus Austin. Each year, Ms. Cass travels to Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala to perform Handel's Messiah where dignitaries from all over the world come together withproceeds benefiting various educational efforts throughout Guatemala. 

Adrian Quesada

Adrian Quesada is a Grammy Award Winning musician/composer/producer based in Austin, TX.  As a musician he is best known as co-founder of the bands Grupo Fantasma (now ex-member), Brownout/Brown Sabbath, and Spanish Gold. Never on to sit still, he also releases music as The Echocentrics and is a revered and in demand collaborator. He's toured all over the world and performed on the Late Show with David Letterman and twice on PBS' historic Austin City Limits TV Show. He has worked with such diverse artists as Prince, GZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Bernie Worrell, Daniel Johnston, Larry Harlow, Quantic, and many more. As a producer Quesada has worked on albums by Daniel Johnston, The Sword, Natalia Clavier, Karl Denson, Toy Selectah, and Ian Moore.

Jeremy Bruch

Born in the Iowan heartland, stewed in good music and farm living, Jeremy has been drumming and cooking professionally for a combined total of over 30 years. Upon graduation from high school, he wandered south of SunnyBruch Farm and into the wilds of Texas, where he has spent over a decade playing drums with countless acts ranging from Latin (Grupo Fantasma) to indie rock (What Made Milwaukee Famous) and currently holds it down with Graham Reynolds, doing studio sessions for various soundtracks, scores, and Golden Arm Trio albums, as well as live performances with Ballet Austin, Forklift Danceworks, and many more. 

Utah Hamrick

Utah Hamrick is a jazz educator who holds a bachelor's degree in Music Education and master's in Bass Performance from Central Michigan University, and a DMA in Jazz Performance from the University of Texas. Doctor Hamrick frequently performs with Austin-based composer Graham Reynolds, including motion picture soundtracks for Bernie and All is Bright. He has performed with jazz luminaries such as Houston Person, Bryon Stripling, Larry Ham, Bill Watrous, and Tommy Igoe, and performed with Willie Nelson for the opening of the ACL Live Moody Theatre. He currently teaches Jazz Bass/Jazz Ensembles at Texas State University School of Music. 

Henna Chou

Henna Chou has traveled the world as an environmental scientist and musician for the past two decades.  She is currently the Music Curator at Salvage Vanguard Theater and Managing Director of COTFG, a community organization dedicated to the proliferation of creative sound and counter culture expression.  As a cellist, guitarist, keyboardist or sound designer, she has performed in many theatrical and touring band ensembles and occasionally created arrangements and recordings for film. 

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Alexis Buffum

Alexis has been performing and teaching violin in Austin, TX for twelve years.  She earned a Masters in Music performance degree at the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Music degree at Florida State University.  She performs with the Austin Symphony, Austin Lyric Opera, and Round Rock Symphony.   In addition to Classical music, she enjoys performing alternative styles of music such as rock, folk, Irish, and improvisation.  She has recorded on several films, including “Bernie,” “Mud,” “Our Brand is Crisis,” and “Loving.”  Alexis has also performed with numerous artists such as Willie Nelson, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, Jr., and the Trans Siberian Orchestra.  She has loved the opportunity to work with Graham on numerous projects over the past seven years.


Tomás Q. Morín

Tomás Q. Morín's poetry collection A Larger Country was the winner of the APR/Honickman Prize and runner-up for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is co-editor with Mari L'Esperance of the anthology, Coming Close: 40 Essays on Philip Levine, and translator of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda. His poems have appeared in Slate, Threepenny Review, Boulevard, Poetry, New England Review, and Narrative.  

Brian H Scott

Brian H Scott a Lighting and Scenic Designer based in New York City, as a designer for Austin TX based Rude Mechanicals, where he designed Stop Hitting Yourself at Lincoln Center, Now Now Oh Now, Method Gun, I’ve Never Been So Happy,  How Late It Was How Late,  Lipstick Traces, Requiem for Tesla, and Matchplay.   He created lighting for Tears become…Streams become, Bound to Hurt and Neck of the Woods with Douglas Gordon. With Ann Hamilton Habitus, The Event Of A Thread and Theatre is a Blank Page. He designed lighting for Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet’s Landfall. As a SITI Company member he designed lighting for Steel Hammer with Bang on a Can All Stars, The Persians and Trojan Women with the Getty Villa, American Document with the Martha Graham Company, Cafe Variations, Under Construction, WhoDoYouThinkYouAre, Hotel Cassiopeia, Death and the Ploughman, bobrauschenbergamerica (Henry Hewes Design Award 2004), Radio MacBeth and War of the Worlds Radio Play.

Christine Crook

Christine Crook designs for theatre, dance, and opera all over the Bay Area and is a proud company member of the Shotgun Players and Just Theater.  Recent credits include Caught and Hamlet with Shotgun Players, Powder Her Face and Cunning Little Vixen with West Edge Opera. Coming up next she is designing for San Francisco Symphony's production of The Gospel According To The Other Mary, and participating as an artist in residence with Institut für Alles Mögliche in Berlin in 2017.  Christine has an MFA in costume design from UC San Diego and is the recipient of two SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards. She currently teaches costume design with Academy of Art University, and mentors students designers with the Conservatory Theatre Ensemble at Tamalpais High School.

Luis Ordaz Gutiérrez

Luis Ordaz Gutiérrez is the Co- Founder and Artistic Director of ProyectoTEATRO, Austin's premiere Spanish language performing arts company. His work focuses on highlighting the socio-cultural experience of the Latino Diaspora in the US, as well as creating socially charged arts programming that preserves and promotes the entire spectrum of Latin-American culture. Luis won the 2015 B. Iden Payne Award for 'Best Director in Theatre For Youth' and 'Best Dance Choreography' for his work in POR LOS MOJADOS and was nominated for 'Best Original Script'. Over the past ten years he has had the opportunity to travel around the world to inspire communities to address social matters and political instabilities through the performing arts and to findstrength and pride in their cultural backgrounds through community collectiveness.

Toy Selectah

The mix-master wizard for Monterrey Mexico's Hip Hop en Español Pioneers Control Machete created a whole new hybrid by mixing mexican soundscapes with contemporary urban riddims. As a Music Producer and Remixer, Toy Hernández has been working with a long list of artists such as Major Lazer, Vampire Weekend, Mexican Institute of Sound, Calle 13, M.I.A., Thievery Corporation, Cypress Hill, Manu Chao, Diplo, Kinky, Up Bustle and Out, Plastilina Mosh, Café Tacvba, Sergent García, Don Omar, Gustavo Cerati, Celso Piña, Ely Guerra, Notch, Cabas, Juanes, Julieta Venegas, Alejandro Sanz, Zurdok, Molotov and many others. Lately he has been galloping rural rhythms of Colombian-Mexican cumbias, reggae, and other urban and Caribbean styles creating his own trademark sound. For the last ten years he's been traveling and Dj'ing all around the world as TOY SELECTAH!!! Last decade Toy Hernández was a key element in the establishment and development of Universal Music Group Urban Latino Label MACHETE MUSIC and the global takeover of Reggaeton and other Latin Urban genres. He now lives in Monterrey Mexico and is Creative Director, A&R and CEO of Sones del Mexside, his own production company and boutique label, a kind of incubator that develops and breaks new and established top selling acts like Los Angeles Azules (Double Diamond and Triple Platinum) and Latin Grammy winners DJ collective 3BallMTY. Toy releases music through Mad Decent, Diplo’s label, and is an active collaborator and part of his production team.