Author: <span class="vcard">Liz Rishel</span>

Steam Team in Don Giovanni


Steam members Liz Rishel (Charlotte Monroe) and Jordan Speranzo (Spencer Lawrence) performed in Undercroft Opera’s Don Giovanni last weekend, joined by Bonnie Bogovich, who is working with Steam behind the scenes and in front of the camera as a member of the Knox Mill board of directors.  The remarkable thing about this version of Don Giovanni is that Liz and Bonnie were both on a team that re-wrote the entire libretto of the opera to infuse it with elements from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.   Liz performed the role of “Zerlina” (inspired by “Lucy” from the novel), covered (understudied) by Bonnie, who also played a vampire bride supernumerary (non-speaking acting role).  Jordan covered the role of “Don Giovanni” himself, (inspired by “Count Dracula”) which he performed with Bonnie in a staged covers concert on Saturday.  William Strom (Richard Kauffer) ran the front of house crew, selling and maintaining tickets at the box office and managing concessions.

The performances were augmented through the use of a projected set of functional surrounding or inspirational images that brought the supernatural elements into play.  Each of the 4 performances went very well, and supported the mission statement of Liz, Jordan, William, Bonnie, and the other artists to present opera that appeals to fans of other genres.

The above ad appeared as a full-page spread in the program, promoting our Kickstarter.  Please visit and make a donation.

Artwork by Marjorie Rishel



Kickstarter Week One

It’s week one of our campaign and things are going AMAZING! Thank you to everyone who pledged and shared. You are awesome. We are grateful for as much exposure as possible so please keep sharing our link at




Our Kickstarter to fund Episode One is now Live!  Please tell all your friends and let the fun times commence!


Hi Friends!!

We are excited to have launched the Kickstarter for STEAM ~ or ~ THE SPECTERS OF THE KNOX MILL.  We need your help.  Please visit the Kickstarter page at and donate to your heart’s content.  If you can’t donate today, no problem, we would ask that you take a few seconds to share the Kickstarter with your friends and family on social media.  The more people who see the Campaign, the more value your contribution gains.  Plus if we get big spikes in donations our Campaign can be featured on Kickstarter’s main page, garnering lots of views and donations.  If you’re passionate about excellent music, rich storytelling, and the Steampunk aesthetic, please help us raise the funds we need to create a film that will satisfy.  Make sure to find us on, and on twitter @SteamOpera and help us spread the word!


The Steam Team

Steampunk Dance Party at Cattivo!

Friends of Steam ~ or ~ The Specters of the Knox Mill have asked to throw a dance party in our honor to raise funds for the project!  And what can we say, but “Yes!  A Thousand times, Yes!” because we love dancing, and hanging out with all of you, and singing about our project from every mountaintop in Pittsburgh.

DJ Kelly A and DJ SamAraI will be spinning electro-swing and darkwave music.

This will be a non-smoking event, so no worries for all the steampunkers who want to dance in their steampunk finery.

Come join us on May 14 from 10pm-2am at Cattivo in Lawrenceville for drinks, dancing, and hanging out with the band!


We’re going to launch a Kickstarter!

Dear Steampunk Fans,

We are hard at work preparing STEAM for its big Kickstarter launch. If you are as excited for this project as we are and want to make it a reality, the best thing that you can do is share our Kickstarter with friends and family, heck, even enemies. An initial successful day of donations goes a long way towards boosting our position in the Kickstarter analytics which means more and more people will see our project. In the meantime, we encourage you to keep checking out the website and find us on Facebook and on Twitter. Read our articles, rewatch our music video The Pitch, and share your anticipation with social media.

We need you!


The Steam Team

The Five things Opera Singers NEVER want to hear!

Everyone knows some cliches about Opera, and a few questions to ask.  But when you meet an opera singer for the first time, here’s a countdown of the the five things an opera singer wants to hear THE LEAST:

5.) nothing.

4.) dead. silence.

3.) crickets chirping and a distant cough.

2.) you opening your mouth as if to say something, and then closing it again.

1.) the sound of the moisture evaporating off of your eyeballs as you zone out into a glassy stare.


You keep us and our art relevant when you relate to us on your terms.  Sure, there are some questions opera singers are used to answering, but as long as people are asking them, that means they care.  Don’t ever hesitate to voice your curiosity about opera, because we love this art, we’re passionate about it, and we would love to discuss it with you.  We know that your background is not the same as ours.  The moment you feel too inexperienced to ask questions, or worry that you might embarrass yourself, that’s when we hear the thing we dread the most—  an entire population letting us become irrelevant.


-by Liz Rishel

Mobile Media

When I’m alone in the house, I tend to click on one of three apps for my own personal entertainment- Netflix, YouTube, or the Infuse App that allows me to stream my digital collection of movies and shows.  I enjoy watching new things, but I also like to revisit old favorites.  These are usually the things I put on in the background when I’m making dinner or doing chores.  When I think about consuming media, be it art, entertainment, news, educational, or combinations of those things, this experience of sharing my media with my mobile life is the first thing that comes to mind.

Steam ~ or ~ The Specters of the Knox Mill is designed to be released on YouTube for the general public to enjoy.  We love the idea that our audiences will be able to deck out across the couch, open up their YouTube App, and watch our show alone or with friends from anywhere in the world, but the idea that makes me smile is the thought that perhaps someone will one day decide to throw on Steam while folding laundry or making dinner.  It’s the double-tasking activities that feel the most meaningful- the experience of a familiar voice that whispers, “Hello friend.  I’m here for you whenever you need me.”


-Written by Liz Rishel

Happy New Year From The Specters of the Knox Mill!


Happy New Year, All!

We are getting pumped to really make 2016 a landmark year.  2015 was great for us- we wrote a ton of music that we love, growing together as a band, composers, and as individuals, we continued in the ongoing discussions about how to deepen our characters and story arcs, we made a lot of new friends, we had film shoots, photo shoots, and recorded a song, we played in two public performances, and we put out our First Official Trailer / Teaser!  We are immensely proud of these accomplishments, and look forward to burying them under the list of first steps we have planned for this year.

Unfortunately, due to a recent website crash, some of our updates got lost, so allow me to add a recap.  Bear with me while I recover some of what we lost:

On November 20th, the Good People of Mr. Smalls Theater (where we filmed part of our music video,) threw an amazing party and graciously allowed us to be the main event.  The band performed it’s first solo set as a unit, and we had a blast doing it.  (It’s amazing how much nicer music sounds when it’s not coming out of a tiny amp in the basement.)  We also got to participate in the steampunk fashion show, and design some killer well drinks, complete with dry ice effects.  I had a ton of fun showcasing the custom steampunk vests I made especially for my bandmates, and the faux-leather cincher/apron I made for myself.  I heard that the tea dueling was awesome and amazing fun (I couldn’t attend, because I was getting ready for the set and the fashion show).  We are really appreciative of everyone who came to make that evening enjoyable with your beautiful faces!

After that, it was back in the studio for us!  We laid the foundation to some really nice songs, and I could tell that we were hungry to get composing again after such an extended period of intense rehearsals.  Also, putting some distance between us and the details enabled us to take a fresh look at our story and characters and really get in there with the nitty gritties.  It was also neat diving deeper into our steel mill history research as a band and making some well-needed final decisions.

We got to meet with some really great people, Mike Traficante, Dave Bennett, and Jill Sciulli, who gave us insight into how to plan our crowdfunding, so you can look forward to hearing more about that very soon!

Every rehearsal continues to bring us one step closer to completion, which is at the same time exciting and formidable!  We’ve accomplished so many ‘firsts’ in 2015, and still have so many more to look forward to!

Cheers to all!

-Liz and The Specters of the Knox Mill

Filming at Mr. Smalls

We are very grateful to be hosted by Mr. Smalls as the venue for our music video.  They were courteous and kind, allowing us to use their awesome venue to help us look awesome.  Notable delightful people include Shaunden Smith, Liz Berlin, and Mike Speranzo, who made filming there into an absolute dream.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some other amazing artists who contributed their time and talents toward our cause- Douggie Duerring dropped everything at a moment’s notice to come over and run light board, dazzling us with his amazing display of light and design.  Also, his amazing beard.  Doug is a local photographer, and you can see his professional website here.

Jess Bala transformed me (Liz) with her skilled makeup talents, from a frazzled mess into an artistic, clockwork design of lashes, gears and cogs.  I, personally, am very grateful, because not only did she make me look better than I could have ever done on my own, but her soothing presence and confidence calmed me to the point where I could begin to feel like a human being again.

And, of course, we would like to acknowledge our faithful videographers, Edwin Huang, and Scott Lewis, for their vigilance, flexibility, improvisation, creativity, and inspiration on this shoot, and all of the others.  They are great.  They just are.



Thanks, Michael and Deb!

A special thank you to Michael and Deborah Greenstein for opening their home to us for the filming of our music video/trailer/teaser on Wednesday, October 21.  Not only was their house structurally in keeping with the correct time period, but their ornate collection of Victorian antiques lent some authenticity to the set that we very much appreciated!  Even better, though, was their generous hospitality and kindness in offering us refreshments and lending us additional props for the shoot, candlesticks, oil lamps, a mirror, and even some pages dating back to the 16th century (for ‘research’, you know.)  😉

Mike and Deb, your kindness will always be remembered, and your friendship to our project means more than we can say!