2016 Greater Colorado Tour – The Prelude Day 4
Happy St. Patrick’s Day readers! Or as they said in Ireland: “Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!” Around 5:30AM this morning I was awoken by a loud thump coming from the room next to me. Seconds later came another thump. Same sound as before. Then another and another. Pretty soon, I was giggling too. Ok – it’s not what you think. There’s a little boy staying with his mom and dad in the room next to me and from what I can tell, he’s jumping from one bed to the other. Unfortunately for my sleep, this lasts for a few a while until I hear, thump, thump, whack… and the crying commences. I gather that he missed his landing pad. Realizing I’m not getting back to sleep, I get up, choose my something green for the day and get ready for the master class. I’m not sure who will be joining me from the group, if anyone. It depends on how everyone is feeling this morning. I’m prepared for anything at this point. I head to the lobby and who do I see? Danielle. She’s feeling better. Hooray! Not well enough to sing tonight but she wants to participate in the master class. Emily, Charles and Will are also joining the party. Alaina will walk over later to meet us. Ben is staying behind. He is not feeling better. He’s made a doctor’s appointment for later this afternoon and I’m hoping they can get him something to help soon. I’m pretty certain that he has the flu as well but we’ll wait for the professionals to tell us if this blasted plague has felled another one of our group. Charles purchases some lip balm before we leave the hotel – he got a thing for lip balm. This is green apple. Will gets some too. I think rooming together is having an unanticipated effect of them. They’re starting to finish each other’s sentences too… It’s very sweet.
Emily is quiet this morning and it’s no wonder. I’m sure she’s tired from last night’s performance. She put in every ounce of energy she had. I hope it’s just that and we’re not headed down the plague-filled rabbit hole with another one. On the drive, everyone is cheerful and the guys do their best to make Danielle laugh, which sounds nice, but actually makes her cough. It’s done out of love – really. We arrive and head into the space and see that the students are getting ready. They will be performing scenes they’ve been working on and I will work with each group and the Young Artists will chime in whenever they want to. They’ve been preparing this for a while, that much is clear. They have suggestions of sets, props and costumes. Over the course of the next several hours, we work on scenes from The Marriage of Figaro, Hansel and Gretel and The Elixir of Love. We are all impressed with what these students brought to today’s session.
They have a real grasp of the language and their diction as well as what they are singing about. We work on support, prepping a good breath, singing a line and using the text to your advantage in recitative. I also do a lot of work on dramatic interpretation and physically inhabiting a character. The amount of information we throw at these students could easily be overwhelming, but they are so open to learning; so ready to grow. They handle it beautifully and we see improvement in every group we work with. I love moments like this. I felt like I was able to use what I know to help young singers develop in their craft and it was done in a really positive and honest way. Completely made my day. We take a few minutes at the end of the session to answer questions. I spend a few minutes talking with the faculty and thanking them for allowing us to work with their students. It really has been such a privilege and we hope to come back next season. After telling everyone goodbye, we load up into the rental and head off to lunch.
We choose a spot on main street. As we wait to cross the street, the cross walk button talks to us (I don’t know the technical term for those thingamabobs). Anyway – it says “wait,” which we do. Charles however has found a new toy. He likes buttons almost as much as he likes jumping. Will joins him and the two of them proceed to incorporate the button into their comedy act. I can’t elaborate more. That kind of humor doesn’t translate well in text form. At the restaurant, we’re seated in our own private room. They must have known we were coming. Lunch banter is good – Will decides he doesn’t care for baba ganoush, he and Emily teach me about the animated series “Avatar, the Last Airbender,” Alaina tells us she was once mistaken for a biker and that she eats a lot of garlic to keep the vampires away and Charles decides the term “lady” applies to him. Pretty typical for us. Danielle manages to survive the laughter-induced coughing too, so that’s good. After lunch, Charles hits a local coffee shop and I go in with him to check it out. Turns out anyone who wears green today gets a free cookie and a smile. I gladly accept the smile and give the cookie to Will. You see, we have an established process. Pretty much anything we can’t eat or really don’t want to eat, is made available to Will. We feel good about doing our part to provide him with the nourishment that he needs. Actually, it’s just fun and it saves on refrigerator space for leftovers. We pile in the rental and head back to the hotel. We had hoped to have some time today to visit the Great Sand Dunes, but the plague has put the kibosh on that. Everyone needs some time to rest and I need to plan the program for tonight. I have a quick meeting with Emily, Will, Alaina and Charles to go over the repertoire and then I head back to my room to catch up on some work, vet some applications and spend some time on abridging our new touring production for next season.
While I’m working, Ben checks in from the doctor and tells me that they ran a flu test and he’s waiting for the results. About 30-minutes later, the results are in and it’s exactly what I thought – the plague strikes again. He has the flu too. He’s got a prescription and I hope it will help him feel better. It has really done wonders for Danielle in just 24-hours. I make sure Ben eats something and then tell him that he should plan to rest in his room for the remainder of the day. The situation stinks but we’re getting through it the best we can. I head down to meet everyone else in the lobby. Danielle will join us, but she’ll be part of the audience tonight. We drive to the theater one more time for our final performance of this tour. It will be an Arias & Ensembles program performed by Emily, Charles and Will. At the theater we have time for everyone to warm up before the house opens and the audience takes their seats. Backstage the talk turns to hobbits and voice-overs as it does before one sings opera. I check in with our contact, Shellie, and as the lights dim, I take a deep breath and just hope that this goes well. It’s now my job to tell our audience and they won’t be seeing Carmen tonight, but a different program. As I enter, I get enthusiastic applause before I can say a word and while there is clearly some disappointment, there is also overwhelming support. I introduce Alaina and the 3 Young Artists and we start the program. Emily, Charles, Will and Alaina do us very proud. They perform beautifully. They run the gambit from charming, to insightful; flirtatious to sincere and the audience loves it. By the final piece, they are cheering and we get another standing ovation. I start the Q&A session and the first thing we get asked is if I will sing. I politely decline but teach everyone how to say “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” in Gaelic instead. Though I would love to, tonight was about their performance, not mine. Alaina receives a comment from an audience member telling her how talented she is and how impressed they were with her playing. We all applaud. She works hard and doesn’t always get those kinds of accolades from our audiences. We field a few more questions and then invite anyone who wants to talk with us one-on-one to come up. That’s where we get a huge response. Every student we worked with comes up as well as some audience members. We spend more than an hour talking with people. I overhear snippets of conversations and its all positive. People are grateful we came, happy we stayed even though we could have cancelled and they are delighted with tonight’s show. The students come up to ask more questions and just say thank you. It’s clear that they not only enjoyed the work we did in the master class, but they been thinking about it too. It’s at this point that I spend time with a young man who I’ve met before. He was here last year and he’s come to several of the workshops I’ve taught in Denver. He’s an actor, a singer and very interested in directing too. We talk for a long time. He has a lot of questions and they are all very thoughtful. How do I bring a vision to the stage as clearly as I do? How do I work with singers who won’t or can’t go where I need them to go with their character? How to I achieve authenticity? I share whatever I can that might help him and teach him some theater games and techniques that I’ve used to address some of the things he’s struggling with. He shakes my hand and then tells me that I have inspired him more than any director he’s ever worked with; ever met. He gives me a hug. It’s a moment I will never forget. As a director you hope you reach people. I think I just did. I hope I get the chance to work with him again next year. Not for another compliment; so I can encourage a young man with a passion for this craft.
I walk backstage to meet everyone else and tell them about my experience; I’m still a little choked up. Charles shares a comment we got about the blog, which is a rave review and now we’re really feeling the love. It’s been a rough couple of days. They needed this. I needed it too. The students invite us to go the Nestle Café with them for a final chat and we agree, but just for a bit. I tell Shellie goodbye and thank her for everything – readers, this is a special woman and she and her colleagues are doing amazing work here at Adams State. They also took really good care of us and gave us every ounce of support we could have asked for. So, I’ll say it again in this blog – THANK YOU.
We gather our stuff, which we always seem to have a lot of no matter where we go and exit the theater. As we exit the lights go off. Will and Charles, make sure we each have our exit buddy (it’s always safety first with those two), but Alaina appears not to have hers because she bangs her head into a wall as she bends over to get her stuff. She’s fine and we really did try not to laugh, I swear. As we pile into the rental yet again, Charles is concerned that his hair makes him look like a douche. Now, based on what I know that word means, I reassure him that this is not the case. Will is my navigator and he may have just earned that title for the entirety of the tour season. He’s very good – calm yet assertive; like a male Siri. We reach our destination and I attempt to parallel park this tank of a car. It does not go well. There are roughly 249 sensors on this thing and each one has a different beep. They all begin alerting me about everything at once; one even goes off when someone on the sidewalk walks by the car. Feeling like I’ve been transported to the bridge of the Enterprise as it self-destructs; I can’t handle the pressure and just find another spot. Turns out this one is a handicapped space. Well it’s after business hours and… I’m not from here! We meet up with the students and spend a few more minutes talking with them, answering questions and eating cookies. It’s a lovely way to end the day. But, it’s time to go. We have a member of our team who is on his own at the hotel and I want to see how he’s doing and everyone needs to rest. We invite them to see The Scarlet Letter again and we say our goodbyes.
While we’re driving back to the hotel, Danielle finally loses it. She’s been so patient this whole trip; feeling awful and not complaining a bit. It’s clear she can’t take any more. From the back, I hear her say; in the most disdainful voice I’ve ever heard from her, “Charles, stop talking. You’re making me sick.” Whoa. I didn’t even know she was capable of disdain. Now, I am known for having freakishly good hearing – the Young Artists say I have bat hearing actually because I don’t miss much. But, being human and not of the order Chiroptera, I also get it wrong from time to time. And when I get it wrong, I’m also known for getting it really wrong. Turns out that isn’t quite what she said. Charles was making her laugh again and she was trying not to cough. Before we head up to our rooms, I go over tomorrow’s departure schedule. I think we’re in for a rough drive back to Denver. There’s supposed to be snow so I want to leave late enough that the roads aren’t as icy as they would be first thing in the morning, but not so late that it gets us back in town after dark. We’ll take it slow and be safe. In the elevator, Danielle glares at Charles. Car comment aside, I really thing she may pop him if he doesn’t quit making her laugh. Ben is resting in his room which is good. Hopefully he’s feeling better tomorrow. I tell everyone goodnight and head to my room. The blog awaits and, at some point, so does sleep. That is unless my little neighbor decides to try his hand at bed acrobatics again.
What a week it’s been. What a way to start our tour season. The highs and lows have been pretty extreme and I’m not just talking about the altitude. People often ask me how I deal with things like this when they happen; how I keep so many moving pieces, well….moving. I’m not sure I have a definitive answer. You just do it. You deal with things as they come and make things work. You put your artists first. You lead by example. You work as a team. That’s what we’ve done this week. Even with all the curve balls we’ve been thrown; all the last minute changes and infestation by the plague, we managed to do what we set out to do all along. We brought opera to Colorado. We don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
This is just the first leg of our journey. I’ll be back blogging away for our trip to Steamboat Springs at the end of the month and then for our Greater Colorado Tour in May. I hope you all continue to follow our journey because we love having you with us.
Until then readers, I bid you goodnight.