By Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Engagement
Good morning! It’s cloudy this morning in Steamboat Springs which may be why it’s still so quiet in the house. After stumbling around in my bedroom for a bit, I make my way downstairs and am greeted by Allison and Danielle. Omar is the next one to show up. I make coffee and get the chicken marinating for tonight’s dinner. Then I go sit outside and enjoy the view. I love being outside and who could possibly pass up the chance to sit in a rocking chair on a porch that overlooks the mountains?
Alas, my phone begins beckoning me with text after text, so I head back inside to answer them and start making breakfast. It’s pancakes and, for those who want it, chocolate hazelnut syrup and bananas on top. This is how I do tour. There’s no griddle, so I have to use a skillet which slows down the process. We’ll have to eat in stages, which is fine. Ryan is up now and Parisa has wandered into the living room, but still no Charles. As we eat, we talk about which operas are the best ones for colleges to undertake and which ones, we feel, are not something that graduate programs should tackle. The Ring Cycle is one I think belongs in the latter category. Once breakfast is completed, Parisa and Charles clean up. Allison, Danielle, Ryan and Omar have left the building and gone exploring. I head upstairs to respond to a few emails and then get ready – we have to leave in about 90-minutes.
Andres arrives at the house. He’s going to go with us to the school today, so we’re officially a party of 8. Everyone grabs their gear, we load into the cars and the caravan begins. It’s still overcast and it’s gotten windy. We’re supposed to get rain and snow over the next couple of days. The car ride is quiet with some talking points here and there. Danielle knows someone who has ducks for pets. Allison wants to raise chickens, Parisa thinks farm animals are cute and Ryan…? Well, Ryan is gazing contentedly at the scenery. He was raised in a family with a great many people of the female persuasion, so a car full of women doesn’t seem to faze him.
We arrive at Soroco High School in Oak Creek, CO and Parisa and Charles head into the school to see where we are supposed to go load in. Apparently we’re not performing in the high school itself, but in the middle school. Our instructions are to go around the corner and drive until we see “a metal thing and doors.” OK. Not OK. We have a problem. There are three metal things and about five sets of doors around them. Charles and Parisa knock until they find the right one; interestingly enough, it’s the door not by a metal thing. We meet the music teacher at the school and she shows us the stage. It’s going to be another tricky set up, but not nearly as tough as last week. The stage is just big enough to fit our set, but at least there are no multi-tiered risers.
Load in begins and it takes all of us to make it happen. Andres helps Parisa with the keyboard that has no stand for the music. So, she either plays with her score in her lap or we improvise. Parisa tries record album covers, then Andres tries pieces of Masonite with an apparent Goldilocks complex; one is a wee bit too short and the other is a wee bit too long. Finally, I ask the music teacher for an actual music stand and that’s just right. While this is going on, the set is going up piece by piece. At one point, Charles has to stand in the set to get it snapped onto the frame. IN it. Ah… creating tour memories. We have to get creative with furniture placement and some improvisation will be required for the scene change, but we get it figured out.
Everyone gets into costume and makeup just in time for the students to enter and take their seats. We’re performing for middle and high school students today. That means 5th grade – 12th grade in one room and it’s packed. We’re about to find out just how well this show can hold the attention of a very large age bracket. I meet with the Assistant Principal and we set how things will run. He will introduce me and then I will take things from there. He also tells me, roughly 5-minutes before we begin, that we need to keep the students in with us until just before they are dismissed for the day. Basically, we’re looking at a 25-30 minute Q&A. He’s concerned that the students won’t have enough questions to fill all that time. I tell him it’s not a problem. If we run out of questions, I’ll do some interactive activities with them. Several hundreds of them.
Show time! The Assistant Principal quiets everyone down, the issue of cell phones is firmly addressed and I am introduced. I go out and kick things off and let the students know what they’re about to see. I also prep them to be ready to ask questions later. Parisa plays the opening notes and we’re off. The performance is fast paced but the audience is fairly quiet. We sometimes see this with kids who are new to live performance. They are quiet and don’t applaud when you expect them to because they are so focused on listening. It’s either that or they are bored out of their minds. But based on the laughter I’m hearing, I don’t think it’s that. By the end of the show, bows are met with applause.
I go out to start the Q&A and give a special shout out to Parisa. I also make sure to thank our partners, Opera Steamboat. How great that we can collaborate and bring opera to these kids. I bring out the Young Artists and we each say where we’re from and where we got our degrees from. I want these students to know this career takes effort. It’s not something that you just decide to do one day. I think they’re getting a somewhat skewed view of being a professional singer from today’s reality T.V. I look at my watch. We now have 20-minutes to fill. I ask for questions. 20-minutes? No problem. There are more than a dozen hands up. We answer each question. Everything from, “What was your favorite part of the show?” To, “How long did it take you to memorize your part?” To, “Which of you are a couple in real life?” Which is closely followed by the ever popular, “Did you really kiss?” I get quite a few questions about the set and costumes and how I work with designers and builders to create them. One young lady in the balcony raises her hand and says it’s more of a comment than a question. She tells us that she loved the show. She is a self-proclaimed theater nerd and she says our performance kept her on the edge of her seat and she thought it was one of the best things she’s ever seen. Believe me, we consider that very high praise. We actually run out of time for questions. There are still hands up when it’s time to dismiss the students. Once again, The Barber of Seville has proven itself as a production that all ages enjoy.
The Young Artists get out of costume and then load out begins… again. It’s as tricky to get everything taken down as it is to put it up, so there’s some finagling that has to happen. Andres comments that he’s amazing that we can get it all into the Denali. It is a feat. I have to always keep that in mind when I’m designing a show. I think it actually makes it more complicated than designing a full scale production. It also helps keep it clean and impactful – you only use what you absolutely need. There’s very little, if any, fluff. Andres bids us adieu; he’s got to get back to town. We finish load out and break out the snacks.
Back on the road, we make our return trip to Steamboat. Ryan is again subjected to being in a car full of women and the conversations that ensue. He’s says he good with it though. We make a quick grocery run for the things we forgot yesterday and then arrive back at our house. We all take a few minutes to just sit and then I start making dinner. I have several sous chefs; Ryan and Charles chop, Danielle gets avocados into a bowl and Allison gleefully mashes them. She says it feels good. Omar and Parisa supervise from the living room, but they chip in later while I’m grilling. Readers… if you ever have the opportunity to grill pre-cut chicken strips… don’t. I spend a few minutes gazing at my lost strips at the bottom of the grill. Then I cut those losses and head inside to finish cooking. Ryan and Charles return from their sauna trip, bedecked in their robes. I’m starting to worry that this is becoming a fetish… With a few more steps, dinner is served. Any guesses as to what’s on the menu?
Dinner conversation revolves mainly around Disney movies and which ones are superior. Soon, bellies are full. Charles and Parisa clean up and then I call everyone around the table for a notes session on today’s performance. Now, it may sound odd that I am giving notes on a production that the Young Artists have performed more than a dozen times this season. It’s not. I never want there to be a point in their residency where they are not working to hone their skills or challenge themselves to do more; go farther. That’s what notes sessions like this are for; I tell them things I see (or hear) that need some work, focus or a new approach.
Notes session done – Parisa decides to make brownies and I lend my support. We soon realize that it’s Danielle’s bedtime and we send her upstairs. (She went willingly) Omar, Ryan, Allison and Charles decide to watch a movie in the basement. Parisa and I decide to try and tackle the libretto we need to write for the Gen OC program we’re doing. Three hours later, we’ve made tremendous progress and eaten a tremendous number of brownies. Well… I only had one, but Parisa works best on a rewards system. Ryan and Charles also came upstairs long enough to have one. Or two. Or more. It’s late and it’s time to turn in. We have an earlier morning tomorrow. Parisa and I are visiting a local theater with Andres to look it over and then we have to skedaddle in order to make it to the performance location on time. After the show, we have to get back to Steamboat and set up for Friday morning’s performance. Busy day ahead.
I go to my room and get ready for bed, then realize I still have a blog to write. No bedtime for me just yet, but that’s part of life on tour as well. I hope you’re enjoying reading about our adventures because we love sharing them with you. Give us a “like” to let us know.
Rest well readers –