Good morning readers! It’s our last morning in the cabin. We depart today for Carbondale, our final stop of the 2016 Greater Colorado Tour. In additional to getting up and making breakfast, we have a check out list to get crackin’ on. A little insight to our group: For most of us, breakfast is a simple affair. Eggs, oatmeal, coffee and fruit. This is certainly true of Danielle and Ben. Charles however… is not simple. He has eaten some of the strangest concoctions I’ve seen. Today’s breakfast is leftover lasagna mixed with eggs. It’s not the first time he’s prepared this either. There may have also been some leftover macaroni and cheese pizza thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure. I stopped watching. Will is generally the go to guy to eat what the rest of us have left over or can’t finish so when you have 6 of 18 eggs left, it’s not really an issue. Emily enjoys second breakfast. She’s an early riser, so she generally eats soon after she gets up and by the time the rest of us are moving about, she’s ready for another round. It’s very Hobbit of her. Alaina has her first experience cutting a papaya. Danielle asks her how it was and she says there were a few nice moments but it was generally disappointing.
Breakfast done, it’s time to start working on that check out list, which is extensive when you’ve got this many people sharing one space. I’ve already gotten my things done, so while everyone else is working on theirs, I try to do some work. I have a workshop to plan, an opera to abridge and other items to tackle. Tour is an amazing, enjoyable time. But it’s not vacation – we’re working; that’s especially true for me. I’ve gotten pretty good at setting up a mobile work station. As I’m thinking about how I want to start the workshop this afternoon, I hear the sounds of horseshoes. No, not the clippity-cloppity sound they make when they are actually on a horse, the ringing sound they make when you toss them. Seems things have been completed because part of the group is outside playing a game of horseshoes and the others have taken a walk. I check on the check list and find that there are indeed a few more things to be done, so I pack up my mobile work station, handle a few of them and then call the group back inside to finish the last items.
Time to leave. We’re got about a 2-hour drive and the weather is already changing as a storm rolls in. We load into the cars and begin our journey to Carbondale. Ben selects an epic soundtrack for our drive – The Lord of the Rings. It’s fitting considering the scenery we’re seeing. We pass towering mountains, drive through a snow squall and pass waterfall after waterfall. We make a pit stop in Glenwood Canyon and watch as the Colorado River, which is really high, flows by peacefully. Back on the road, that peaceful river changes into a whitewater rafters dream. The rapids are crashing and moving really fast. I hear oohs and aahs coming from the back of the car as Danielle and Emily tell each other to look at everything that passes by. Emily says she thinks it’s the most majestic drive we’ve been on so far. Secretly, I know of another one that I hope we get to take tomorrow. Independence Pass opened today. They’re supposed to get snow tonight, but if it’s possible, we’re going to take it on our way back to Denver. That drive is pretty majestic and I expect the ooh and aahs will intensify.
We arrive in Carbondale; red cliffs offset by a single snowcapped mountain. It’s gorgeous here. It’s really green and there are wildflowers everywhere you look. We check into our hotel and grab a very quick snack and then we hop back into the cars and head to the venue. I’ll be teaching a workshop for the students of the SOL Theater Company. While I do that, the Young Artists will set up for Carmen. Then they will take a dinner break. When I’m done teaching, I’ll take my break and they will come back and get ready for the performance. Then I’ll head back just before the performance begins. The schedule is very tight and packed full and this is the way a tour should be.
I meet our contact, Jennifer, the director of SOL. She does incredibly things for this community. I’ve worked with her and the students here for the past three years. As I walk into the studio where I’ll be teaching, I see some familiar faces. This workshop isn’t quite like the others that I have taught on tour. I’m working with theater kids. Kids who know all the basics. It’s a chance for me to work at a higher level than I sometimes get to. It’s also a smaller group of students so we can really focus on refining technique and I can give them personalized attention. I start out with an icebreaker and then we’re off and running. Every game we play, every exercise we do, is at a professional level. I believe that you set the bar high and then give people the tools and support they need to rise to the level you expect. Kids are capable of far more than people think they are. This group proves that. I have them play a couple of games that trained professionals struggle with. They keep trying; keep taking risks and by the end of the class, they show some real creativity and focus. There is one young lady in the class that I’ve taught each year. I’ve been able to watch her progress from one season to the next. This year she’s showing some real growth and maturity. We go over our allotted time – I always do – and the students ask questions. These aren’t your typical Q&A questions. These are questions like, “How did you start your career?” “How do you handle really major mistakes during a performance?” How do you protect your voice so you can get through the run of a production?” Answers are given with as much honesty as possible but also with encouragement to keep learning; keep trying. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon – working with kids like these. I tell them all goodbye and head off for my dinner break.
I get back to the venue about 20-minutes before the performance begins. The Young Artists are going through their final warm-ups. I check in with Jennifer and we open the house. I go backstage and wish the Young Artists a great show. A couple of them are feeling sentimental – this is our final Carmen. More than that, this is the final performance of the season. It’s possible that this is the last time these five singers and one accompanist will perform together as a group. It’s extra special for Emily who has family in the audience. Her Aunt and Uncle live in Avon and drove into town to see her perform. I get my cue and I go onstage to give the pre-performance talk. The audience is fabulous; really responsive and we haven’t even started yet. I make sure to thank Jennifer for all she’s done to bring us here – it’s important to me that people are recognized for the work that they do, especially if it’s behind the scenes. The performers who take the bows usually get the applause which is only fitting. But it takes a whole team to pull this off and the people working backstage, or in the office, or in the crew, deserve their “bravos” too. After telling the audience what they’re about to experience, I ask people to silence their cell phones and the show begins.
The final Carmen of the year… goes well. The audience loves it. I mean really loves it. The Young Artists’ take their bows and they bring Alaina up to the stage with them for hers. I go out and begin the Q&A. The questions start slow, but pick up and become more and more interested in the ins and outs of what we do. Jennifer comes up and before I’ve even brought down the curtain on this performance, she’s booking me to bring next season’s group back for the 2017 tour. Often people will say they want us back and we try to make it work, but this is different. Jennifer is so excited about the workshop, the performance and the response; she literally has me commit to coming right then and there. Picks a show and tells people to mark their calendars and everything.
We’re the guests at a reception following the performance and we spend the rest of the evening connecting with our audience face to face. This is a rare opportunity for us and we enjoy every minute of it. Plus… there are cupcakes. Alaina may never stop smiling again. There was a little boy, about 4 years old, who came to see the performance with his parents. After the show, he was very upset and kept telling his mom he wanted to give the girl who died a hug. I went over to them and asked if he was ok or if I could answer any questions he had. Turns out, he wanted to give Danielle a hug because he was worried about her; worried about Carmen. I tell her and she walks right over to him and kneels down. He launches himself into her arms and holds on tight. We both had to choke back tears. After the hug, he was all smiles and mom says he’s been listening to opera at home so they wanted to take him to see one. He loved it and they’ll be doing it again. I talk with a woman who I’ve met on our previous trips here and she tells me that I am a master. How about that… I am a master. Of what, I’m not sure… She says she’s never seen an abridged production that was done so well. She asks me to tell her how I do it, so I walk her through the process. She tells me that the performers are wonderful and all incredibly talented, but unless they have a strong production that lets them show their skills, it’s all for naught. Now that’s a compliment and I tell her how much it means to me. I am incredibly proud of the quality of our touring productions. I’m glad someone else sees that and appreciates it. Based on the other conversations I can hear, she’s not the only one who feels that way. I let the reception continue for as long as I can, but we still have a set to take down and load out to complete. I round up the Young Artists, pry Alaina away from the cupcakes and we start the process.
The Young Artists are in good spirits as they load out. They have realized that this is also a final occurrence – the last load out of the season. I wonder if they also realize that this isn’t just something I have them do out of necessity. It’s a chance to build certain skills and a way for them to understand the hard work that is done by the crews they will have working with them in future productions. We have a moment of panic as a sandbag goes missing, but thankfully is found… in the Yeti. Alaina reappears, having been missing herself for several minutes. She’s got a mustache of white frosting and I’m betting there are no leftover cupcakes. We’re done. We pile into the cars and head back to the hotel. The ladies spend a few minutes in the parking lot watching as the guys try to figure out how to get the interior lights turned off in the Denali. I try very hard not to ask the question, “How many men does it take to turn off a light?” Somehow I don’t feel it would be appreciated.
I go over tomorrow’s schedule and then everyone heads to their rooms. Phew – what a day! I set up another mobile workspace and start writing the blog. It’s then that I realize that I didn’t get a single picture of the workshop or the performance. Rats! It’s rather hard to take pictures when you’re the one teaching and I couldn’t get any of the performance from where I was sitting. At the reception, we were all too busy talking with people to snap photos. Oh well – I promise that all of this actually happened.
One more blog for tomorrow readers. Hope you’ll join me for the final chapter.