Peak Performances Presents World Premiere of Fred Hersch’s “My Coma Dreams”

Peak Performances @ Montclair will present the world premiere of Fred Hersch’s My Coma Dreams on May 7 and 8 at Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater.

My Coma Dreams is based on eight dreams and nightmares experienced by the jazz composer/pianist Fred Hersch (Leaves of Grass, Whirl) when he survived a two-month coma in the summer of 2008.

His dream stories have been shaped into a continuous narrative by writer/director Herschel Garfein (Elmer Gantry, the opera) that illuminates an extraordinary journey to the dividing line between life and death.

The work charts simultaneous realities: it follows the progress of Hersch’s life-threatening illness using the words of those close to him, while through music and images, song and narration, it explores the dream-realities experienced by Hersch himself.

My Coma Dreams wanders freely through dream landscapes and over the terrain of medical science and history. There is a meditation on the life of St. Vincent de Paul; a dream-incarceration side by side with the great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk; a reverie played on a fantastical instrument in a Brussels cathedral; a macabre pick-up gig at a “Jazz Diner in the woods.”

The theatrical experience is made all the more urgent by the presence of Fred Hersch himself, who leads a versatile ensemble of instrumentalists in music that captures the clarity and enigma of dreams, as well as the poignant intensity of his own struggle for life. Actor Michael Winther (Songs from an Unmade Bed) narrates, sings and plays all the characters in the drama. Animation artist Sarah Wickliffe contributes an evocative stream of visual imagery to create dream worlds and real environments side by side.

Haunting and lyrical, at times humorous and unsettling, My Coma Dreams pushes the boundary of music-theater into a realm that is deeply personal and inescapably universal.

Performance times:

Saturday, May 7 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m.

All tickets are $15 and are available at the Alexander Kasser Theater Box Office, by calling 973-655-5112 or online at There is no charge for Montclair State University undergraduates with valid ID. Please arrive at least 30 minutes before curtain to claim your PAF ticket.

Commissioned by Peak Performances @ Montclair State (NJ), funded with the generous support of Linda and Stuart Nelson through Premiere Commission, Inc. in honor of Fred Hersch. Supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.