The Fourth Messenger Makes Its Midwest Debut At The Ark

On March 18,  the Ark will host a concert performance of “The Fourth Messenger,” a musical created by playwright Tanya Shaffer and award-winning singer-songwriter Vienna Teng. 

Presented by Off-Leash Arts and Remote Theater,The Fourth Messenger” is a musical that envisions the Buddha as a woman living in our times.

The musical is based around the religious leader, who, in this musical, is named Mama Sid (A play of the Buddah’s real name, Siddhartha Gautama).

According to Shaffer, the musical revolves around Sid’s conflicts with a determined reporter who searches to discover Mama Sid’s mysterious past, exposing long-held secrets that could change everything.

“The musical is about compassion and forgiveness because you have two characters coming from very different perspectives, and you have them changed by each other, and coming around to acceptance, even if there is no agreement, there is acceptance,” Shaffer said.

Poster for The Fourth Messenger
The Fourth Messenger comes to The Ark on March 18th.

Shaffer is an award-winning playwright and author, creating the critically acclaimed travel memoir “Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in Africa.”

Shaffer will be co-producing the show alongside director, and Remote Theater founder, Giovanni Rodriguez.

According to Shaffer, “The Fourth Messenger” was a project that began almost 15 years ago. 

“I got the idea for it in the year 2000. The idea was a musical inspired by the Buddha,” Shaffer said. “I wanted to look at some of the choices the Buddha made in his life and think about how people would view those choices differently if it were a woman. Because people view women’s choices differently.”

For “The Fourth Messenger”, this performance will be the Midwest debut of the musical. The musical achieved successful runs, including selling out in Berkeley, Taiwan, and The New York Musical Festival in 2017. 

The performance at The Ark will feature 12 actors/singers alongside a pianist to perform songs from the musical.

According to Shaffer, this performance will comprise primarily local performers, except for original San Francisco Bay Area cast member Anna Ishida, who has been with the show since 2008.

“This is the Midwest premiere, but it’s had many lives before this,” Shaffer said. “This has had a lot of readings and workshops, it’s also had three productions, so the show changes every time.”

This event was scheduled for March 2020 but was forced to postpone due to the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“For this particular version, my friend Rick Sperling, who lives in Ann Arbor, had some ideas for changes. Rick was going to direct this performance in 2020,” Shaffer said. “A lot of the changes for this particular show are inspired by Rick’s ideas. Theater is always really collaborative because everyone brings something.” 

Shaffer notes that this performance is a fundraiser for The Ark.

“This particular performance is just an end in itself. I’ve lived here five years, and for me, it’s about my work being seen in the place where I actually live. This is me introducing this piece to the Ann Arbor community, if something grows out of it, and someone sees it and wants to produce this, fantastic, but if not also good. It’s an end in itself,” Shaffer said.

Tickets for the March 18th performance of “The Fourth Messenger” can be found on The Ark’s website.

There is the option to live stream the upcoming performance through Remote Theater, a company that provides remote broadcasts of live, on-stage performances.

The show begins at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $20 ($10 with a student discount). For more information, contact The Ark at (734) 761-1818.

Antonio Cooper
Antonio Cooper
Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.

Related Articles