2017 March Tour – Day 4

March 21, 2017 | By Opera Colorado | Young Artists Tour
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Good morning readers! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We’re not exactly bright-eyes and bushy tailed this morning. Allison and Danielle slept through their alarm and Charles and Omar had neighbors partying until the wee hours of the morning. Charles only got about 3-hours of sleep (I’m running on less than that) so he may need someone to take over driving later. I make a mental note to keep an eye on him. I go outside to get The Beasty and am greeted by a gorgeous sunrise. We load the vehicles, make a quick pit stop for gas and somehow hit the road on schedule.

Our drive will take us over two mountain passes today and some absolutely stunning views. The car is very quiet; my passengers are dozing. I choose some tunes from my expansive Celtic playlist and take in the view. By the time we start the climb to the summit of Monarch Pass, I’m “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” loud enough to wake everyone up. We come around the final curve, crest the hill and voilà – we’re on the top of the pass. I will never get tired of this; of Colorado. We pull over and take a few minutes for everyone to snap some pictures. Omar gets adventurous and climbs a snow mountain. The others quickly follow and it turns out to be a perfect photo op.

We hop back into the cars and continue our drive. We go down into the valley near Salida and skirt the Collegiate Peaks. Just outside of Buena Vista, we make another pit stop. Allison is looking especially ravishing this morning with pink rollers in her hair. Legs stretched and snacks purchased, we’re back on the road, making our way over Kaufman Ridge and down into South Park City. We make the turn onto Highway 9 and begin the climb to Hosier Pass that will lead us into Breckenridge and Summit High School, where we’re performing this afternoon. For anyone who hasn’t driven Highway 9 in this area, let’s just say it’s curvy. One of those roads where you can see the back of your own car as you make a turn. There’s a lot of snow here, but the roads are in good shape, so that makes the drive a teensy bit easier.

We get into Breckenridge ahead of schedule and have time to grab some lunch. We park on main street and head to a local coffee shop and deli. Danielle and Parisa make an alternate coffee detour while the rest of us order. Charles has passed out on a couch in the shop, so I decide to just let him rest for a bit. I’m busy texting with Katie, our Director of Production and Ryan, Danielle and Parisa decide to look around the shops while the others eat. They come back empty handed though. It’s really busy up here today; clearly it’s Spring Break in a ski town. Charles has arisen and break time is over, so we load back into the cars and head down the road to the school.

At Summit High School, Parisa gets us checked in and we drive around to the loading dock. It’s at this moment readers, where the day begins its descent into varying degrees of craziness. We park and go into the theater and I see the stage for the first time. It’s worse than I was told. Far worse. We have about 10-feet of clear space from the edge of their risers/platforms to the apron (edge of the stage). For our performance, we need no less than 25-feet. To make matters worse, the platforms that are in the play space are tiered risers. The tiers are each about 3-feet high and angled. To make it even more difficult, the piano is in the back of the stage and there isn’t enough space for us to get it onto the stage. And… there’s a cage over the conductor’s podium in the pit which will limit our ability to set up the backdrop on a flat surface. I take a deep breath and begin to make a plan in my head on what to do. I tell the Young Artists that we’re only going to use the center drops for the show today and set the whole thing in the Saloon. Because of this, the wacky angles we’re dealing with and the multiple levels, I’ll have to restage the show on the fly as soon as we’re set up. The Young Artists begin to get what we need out of the Denali, Parisa goes on a hunt for another piano option and I greet our contact from the Breckenridge Music in the Schools program, our sponsors for today’s performance.

I turn around and see tension in the Young Artist’s faces and it has nothing to do with the set up situation. I ask what’s going on and they tell me that the Denali won’t start. How can that be? Charles just drove the thing all the way from Gunnison with zero issues! I tell them that I’ll check it out and I go outside. I see one of the school maintenance staff looking under the hood of the Denali. I ask what’s up and Charles says it won’t start. They’ve looked at the battery, thinking it could be a loose connection. I know it’s not the battery though. I had a new one put in just a few months ago. I grab the keys and try to start it. It clicks once and then… nothing. We’re dead in the water. Effectively stranded. I tell Charles we’ll try and jump it with the cables we carry with us. If we can get it started, then we can do one of two things; try to get it back to Denver and to a shop there or we can take it to a shop here in Breckenridge. If we do that, then I’ll have to figure out how to get it back before our performance in Boulder on Monday. I take some more deep breaths.

I show Charles how to hook up the jumper cables to the Denali’s battery and we give it a go. In less than minute we get the Denali to start. I have a sneaking suspicion, being the master mechanic that I am (which is completely false) that this could be an issue with the starter. I decide to just let the Denali sit and we’ll figure things out after the show. We have to see to set up. Charles and I go back into the theater and walk into a scene that looks like our production got blown to bits. There are pieces of it scattered all over the stage. There hasn’t been an accident. It’s what we’ll have to do in order to get everything put together before we can set it in place. What takes place over the next 30-minutes is like watching a contortionist act. We’re all working together and climbing over set pieces, maneuvering between walls and trying not to trip over miles of cables and cords. None of which are ours. At one point, we actually have to work in two teams and hand off the set from team 1, who stands on the floor, to team two who stands on the next level and so on.

Parisa and the husband of our contact have located an electric keyboard in the orchestra pit. We ask about using it and we’re told if we want it, we can carry it up. So, we do. At least we’ll have music for the performance. I figure out how to use the school’s risers as part of our set and we get things in place. Once that’s done, we all take a breath and then I start speed running the show and changing the staging as needed. We’re now about 30-minutes out from the start time. The Young Artists quickly start changing into their costumes while Parisa practices on the keyboard. I do a very quick sound check and am about to give the Young Artists a 20-minute warning, when the doors to the theater open and students start taking their seats. After asking a teacher, I find out that the school thinks the performance begins 15-minutes earlier than we were planning on. I have 3 separate emails confirming our start time.

I tell the Young Artists that we will begin as scheduled and I will figure out how to stall until then. I talk with the lead teacher and we figure out how we’ll handle this. I then call Danielle over. To add to all of the difficulties, I can’t be in the theater for today’s performance. I need to be on a conference call for an interview we’re doing back in the office. So, Danielle will have to take my place. I take a look backstage and find that somehow, we’ve managed to pull it off. Everyone is ready and I give the teacher the signal to go; ahead of schedule.

We’re introduced, our sponsor is thanked and Danielle takes the stage for the introduction. Parisa plays the opening bars and the show begins. I sit in the wings and watch. The Young Artists not only have to immediately adapt to the new staging, but they have to navigate around a set that isn’t ours. Performing a live show on a flat surface is tricky enough. Now they have to do it with 3-foot drop offs all around them.  I’ve also noticed something else sitting backstage. This place is amped to high heaven. It seems they don’t perform a show without every single person wearing a microphone. That’s becoming the norm in high schools and that’s fine. But… I want the students to realize what the human voice is capable of when it’s trained properly. I sneak over to Charles and tell him to make sure to bring that up during the Q&A after the performance.

I quietly leave the theater and go set up my remote office before it’s time for the conference call; otherwise known as the front seat of the rental car. I place the call and there’s no answer. Then I get a text from Ben in the office, letting me know that the interview candidate in running late from his lunch meeting. Understandable, but not great news for me. I have a limited amount of time before I have to be back in the theater. As I wait to call in again, I see two people walk up to the theater door. They knock on the door and when no one answers, they begin to pound on it. I mean really pounding in it. Repeatedly. I pop out of the car and say hello in an effort to stop the noise. I tell them that there is a performance going on in the theater, so they won’t be able to enter that way. They looked at each other and then ask me, clearly annoyed, what performance? I tell them. They then want to know how long we’ll be in the theater. I tell them. I ask what they are there for. They tell me that they are professional scenic builders who have been brought in to help the students finish their set; the school never told them we were coming today.

Thankfully I don’t have time to wonder, “what’s next?” because the candidate is ready for the interview to start. I call in and spend 20-minutes on the phone – or a semblance of that. My phone cuts out several times and once, it even goes dead and turns itself back on. By some miracle, the call never actually cuts off and I’m able gather some solid information. I end the call just as the Young Artists end the Q&A. They’ve already begun loading out by the time I get back into the theater. As soon as possible, Parisa gets on the phone to locate a garage in Denver that’s open late or on Saturday. I get on my laptop to give interview feedback. Load out complete, Charles attempts to start the Denali. It starts. Looks like we finally caught a break today. I take one more deep breath. We did it and we can start heading back to Denver.

Charles is driving – seems that everything that happened really woke him up. We hop into the cars and begin our trek. I feel like it’s the perfect time for that Disney sing-along we talked about earlier in the week. I learn several things over the course of the drive. 1. Disney music can really help people to blow off steam. 2. Everyone has an inner Disney princess. 3. Ryan can mimic instruments using only the power of his voice. It’s eerie. Singing along to “Colors of the Wind,” we arrive back in Denver, safe and sound. Everyone stretches and then unloads. Before we go our separate ways, I take a minute to thank each person for pulling together today, for supporting each other and not freaking out. I learned the hard way that when you get handed a situation like we did today, freaking out does no good. (Hey – I said I learned, not that I was always successful in doing that) We pulled together and brought opera to a bunch of students who had never seen it before… and we did it in the most some of the most difficult circumstances that I’ve ever encountered.

Parisa and I tell everyone goodbye and then we begin the last leg of our drive, heading north to where we live.

What a day –

Thank you for going on the journey with us readers. We’ll be back on tour next week and I’ll have more to blog about, that’s for certain.

(Oh, and I never did get that Shamrock Shake…)

Until next week, Cherity

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