An NS+ evening of mixed fare devoted to the process of decomposition and cultivation, featuring New York Times food writer Melissa Clark, theater artist and farmer Tannis Kowalchuk, and musician-composers Caroline Shaw, Mark Stewart, and more!

April 25, 2024
7:30 pm
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NationalSawdust+ digs deep into its For Nature exploration with COMPOST!, an evening of mixed fare with music, theater, and conversation devoted to the process of decomposition and cultivation. Multi-instrumentalist, song leader, composer, instrument designer, and committed composter Mark Stewart brings his Pete Seeger-meets-John Cage sensibility to bear, collaborating with "dirt-obsessed" singer-composer Caroline Shaw, who recently made her solo vocal debut with Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part. Theater artist Tannis Kowalchuk (co-founder of Willow Wisp Organic Farm and artistic director of Farm Arts Collective) performs a scene from her dynamic new solo show, Decompositions, which draws a parallel between the process of living, aging, and dying, and the transformation taking place in a compost pile on the stage. New York Times food writer Melissa Clark shares musings on biodegradation and moderates an engrossing discussion with farmers and activists in this nourishing NS+ evening, hosted by series curator Elena Park.

The event is part of NS+’s continuing For Nature series, three programs exploring the interplay and collision between the natural and human worlds, featuring artists and musicians, scientists, and activists working to preserve and restore the environment. For Nature is made possible by the generous support of Kathryn and Emmanuel Morlet and the Westcustogo Foundation.

Hero image photo credit by Jenny Hill

Please join us for other programs in our For Nature Series:

2/26: NationalSawdust+ presents Insectum Featuring Susie Ibarra, Jeffrey Zeigler, Graham Reynolds, and evolutionary biologist Jessica Ware

6/13: NationalSawdust+ presents A Crisis of Responsibility:  Excerpts from "The Shell Trial" Featuring Ellen Reid, and more to be announced


Photo credit: Amy Dickerson


Food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark is staff reporter for the New York Times Food section, where she writes the popular column A Good Appetite and appears in a weekly cooking video series. Melissa has written forty-five cookbooks, including her latest, Dinner in One, published in 2022. Her books include collaborations with some of New York City’s most celebrated chefs, including Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Andrew Feinberg, Claudia Fleming, Bruce and Eric Bromberg, and former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses.

Her work has been honored with awards by the James Beard Foundation and IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals), and has been selected for the Best Food Writing series. Melissa is a regular guest on the Today show and Rachael Ray. She has also been a judge on Iron Chef America. She’s been a frequent guest host on the NPR radio show The Splendid Table and is a regular guest on The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Melissa lives there with her husband and daughter. She loves anchovies, radishes, chicken feet, and lox but not in that order.


Photo courtesy of Farm Arts Collective

Tannis Kowalchuk is an organic farmer on Willow Wisp Organic Farm and the founding artistic director of Farm Arts Collective. She directs the Farm Arts Collective ensemble in the creation of devised site specific performances including Dream on the Farm, a ten-year long cycle of plays about climate change being created from 2020-2030. Other past work includes Trees, El Viento, and Shakespeare on the Farm. Tannis is currently touring Decompositions, a solo performance that she has written. As founding co-artistic director of NACL Theatre in New York, past work includes COURAGE (Collaboration Award Women in the Arts and Media, 2019), The Weather Project, STRUCK (Cleveland Public Theatre, HERE NYC), The Little Farm Show, Self Portrait at County Fair, Lost Book of Lakewood House, The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes, The Confessions of Punch and Judy, 10 Brecht Poems, and The Passion According to G.H. Tannis trained in ensemble physical theater practices with Primus Theatre in Canada and at The University of Winnipeg (BA Theatre).


Photo credit: Kait Moreno

Caroline Shaw is a musician who moves among roles, genres, and mediums, trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed. She works often in collaboration with others, as producer, composer, violinist, and vocalist. She is the recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, several Grammy awards, an honorary doctorate from Yale, and a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She has worked with a range of artists including Rosalía, Renée Fleming, and Yo Yo Ma, and she has contributed music to films and tv series including Fleishman is in Trouble, Bombshell, Yellowjackets, Maid, Dark, and Beyonce’s Homecoming. Her favorite color is yellow, and her favorite smell is rosemary.


Multi-instrumentalist, singer, song leader, composer and instrument designer Mark Stewart has been heard around the world performing old and new music. As musical director for Paul Simon’s band, he has recorded and toured with Simon since 1998. A founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the duo Polygraph Lounge with keyboard and theremin wizard Rob Schwimmer, Mark has also worked with Steve Reich, Sting, Anthony Braxton, Bob Dylan, Wynton Marsalis, Meredith Monk, Stevie Wonder, Phillip Glass, Iva Bittova, Bruce Springsteen, Terry Riley, Ornette Coleman, Edie Brickell, Don Byron, Joan Baez, Hugh Masakela, Paul McCartney, Cecil Taylor, Bill Frisell, Jimmy Cliff, Charles Wourinen, the Everly Brothers, Steve Gadd, Fred Frith, Alison Krauss, David Krakauer & Klezmer Madness, Bobby McFerrin, David Byrne, James Taylor, The Roches, Aaron Neville, Bette Midler, and Marc Ribot. In addition to working extensively with composer Elliot Goldenthal on music for numerous films, he has designed instruments for Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Theater For A New Audience’s production of King Lear. He is the inventor of the WhirlyCopter, a bicycle-powered Pythagorean choir of singing tubes, and the Big Boing, a 24 ft. sonic banquet table Mbira that seats 30 children playing 490 found objects, and is a Visiting Lecturer in musical instrument design and performance practice at MIT. 

He lives in Brooklyn, NY & North Adams, MA, playing, singing and writing popular music, semi-popular music, and unpopular music, whilst designing instruments that everyone can play.


Photo credit: Julia Inouye

Director, producer, and NationalSawdust+ curator Elena Park has moved freely through the worlds of arts, culture, and media throughout her colorful career. Last spring, she conceived and directed Visual Cavafy, a series of visual poems screened at the New Museum as part of the Onassis Foundation's Cavafy Festival, showcasing the talents of Taylor Mac, Julianne Moore, Caroline Shaw, and Carl Hancock Rux with Daniel Bernard Roumain, Bora Yoon, and Jeffrey Zeigler, among others.

Elena’s director/executive producer credits include eight In Song video portraits for San Francisco Opera, featuring Pretty Yende and Jamie Barton; Cleveland Orchestra’s In Focus performances ranging from Mozart to Debussy to Unsuk Chin, conducted by Alan Gilbert and Jane Glover; Vân-Ánh Võ for Stanford Live; and Jake Heggie's Intonations for the Cabrillo Festival. For the Metropolitan Opera, she is Executive Producer of the Saturday radio broadcasts and was Supervising Producer for the first 140 shows in its worldwide Live in HD series.

The daughter of Korean immigrants, Elena founded Lumahai Productions, an independent consulting and production company, to embrace opportunities for artistic collaboration and social change with artists, thinkers, and communities as well as institutions, large and small. Selected roles: Curator for San Francisco Opera's INSTIGATORS; Supervising Producer for San Francisco Symphony's MTT25: An American Icon; Special Advisor for …(Iphigenia); Artistic Consultant for the Kennedy Center; Executive Producer for WNYC Radio; and Strategic Advisor for Cambodian Living Arts, Meyer Sound, and San Francisco Opera. TV/film credits: Bel Canto, Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle.

Apr 25

NationalSawdust+ presents COMPOST! Featuring Melissa Clark, Tannis Kowalchuk, Caroline Shaw, Mark Stewart, and more