Shrek at the Cascade Theatre!

Shrek the Musical is now open for a limited run at Redding’s historic Cascade Theater. It has been an amazing journey with this group of people, all of whom I have seen transform themselves epically for these roles. Pics are up in the gallery section for your enjoyment!

Shrek runs through April 14, tickets at www.cascadetheatre.org

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Last days of Lolly Willowes IndieGoGo Campaign

It’s almost April, which means that Lolly Willowes is fast approaching.

The Lolly Willowes Project is a collaborative group of artists who are setting out to produce a world premiere opera based on Sylvia Townsend Warner’s groundbreaking feminist novel, Lolly Willowes. We have secured grant funding, and are trying to finish our efforts with an Indie GoGo push. We have achieved all but $400 of our original $8,500 IndieGoGo goal.

If you’d like to help us get to the finish line, check out our page at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lolly-willowes/x/20441052#/ and be sure to watch the video to meet our artists!

Thanks everyone!

Beethoven 9 in Paradise, CA

This weekend, Raphi and I did something I’ll never forget: we went to the town of Paradise, where more than 80 people lost their lives last November in the Camp Fire, and we sang the solos in Beethoven’s 9th.

We drove in on the same road that had been all over the news last year: the Skyway, where residents had gotten stuck fleeing the flames of the Camp Fire. This weekend, it was as green as Ireland, with stunning views of the rugged buttes and the vale below. As we entered town, it was surreal to see how randomly the hand of destruction had moved through the businesses. A Taco Bell (closed) stood untouched next to the ruins of an auto shop. A sparklingly new hotel offered views onto charred and twisted car bodies at the remains of the Mercedes dealership across the street. Above all the rubble blindingly lit billboards and signs beckoned your eyes upward, reading “We are rebuilding together” and “Paradise will rise again” As we slowly wended our way through the char, I saw a single lit bus stop, sticking out like a single tooth in an otherwise empty gum. My eyes ran over the sight, and focused on another sign, posted for the benefit of those waiting for buses that were not coming anytime soon. “Fear is contagious, so is hope” it read. It was part of the Optimism: Pass it On campaign, and had been there long before the fire.

“Fear is contagious, so is hope.”

That became my mantra. I repeated it to myself as we parked in front of the miraculously undamaged performing arts center. I repeated it to myself as we warmed up and looked at our music, trying to shut out the things we had seen.

We performed that night to a packed house. Among the other pieces performed: a delightful March of the First Responders, written and conducted by the maestro of the Paradise Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Lloyd Roby. We cheered appearances by the fire, medical and law enforcement personnel who had saved so many lives last year.

Then, we got to sing the Ode to Joy. It wasn’t the greatest performance ever heard, just a humble offering to a community that was hungry for something tangible, something to share.

So, it turns out that hope is contagious. We all caught a case of it last night, as we reminded each other that beauty exists not just in the world around us, but anywhere that people come together to share in gratitude for what we have and who we are. And that is what Beethoven wanted us to know when he wrote that piece. I believe that, if you had told Beethoven that one day his masterpiece of brotherly love would be sung in such a time and place, he would have been as gratified as we were. It was just that kind of a night.

Be embraced, ye millions. This kiss to the entire world!” -Schiller

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Coming Soon! Shrek the Musical and Lolly Willowes

As 2019 starts, I’m signed on for two wildly different projects: a major musical for Cascade Theater in California and a chamber opera premier in Texas. Shrek the Musical adapts the hit movie into a fun, clever stage show dealing with themes of being an outsider, while Lolly Willowes (which I’ll write about more soon) is a haunting feminist tale (with a lot of comedy to it, as well). Look for them both in April!

Coming Soon! Over There: The Great War

This November, Shasta College presents Over There!, a musical review show that I wrote about World War 1. Come learn the story of the war, from its roots in the European aristocracy to the story of America’s role in ending it. The Tin Pan Alley hits of the war will be sung by soloists and the Shasta College Concert Choir as actors tell the story.

November 10, 7:30 pm in the Shasta College Theater. With a free poetry presentation The Poetry of the Trenches given by poetry instructor Kathryn Calkins at 6:45 pm. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students and seniors).

All proceeds will be donated to Shasta College Veterans Services.

An Update on Life

Greetings from smoky California!

Raphi and I nearly had to evacuate due to the Carr Fire that hit my hometown of Redding. Instead, we found ourselves hosting several friends whose homes were threatened, as well as several dogs and cats. All the while, we were working away at the Shasta College Vocal Institute, coaching singers and staging scenes from musicals and operas. Most of our rehearsals were being held in offsite spaces, because the college had become an evacuation center. The smoke also necessitated the use of breathing masks, which made for some interesting voice lessons. But the students still pulled off a great show!

We are staying in California for the time being, and are excited to be singing together and exploring every project imaginable while we are in our favorite state.

Shakespeare for the Singing Actor

Shakespearean verse and song have so much in common, and yet aspiring singing actors rarely foray into the world of the Bard. Let's change that!

Recently, an actor friend told me there was an audition that night for a Shakespeare show. I hadn't performed Shakespeare since high school, but I found myself walking into the audition that night anyway, monologue in hand. Why? Well, I have always loved Shakespeare and I was curious to see if my training as a classical singer could be applied.

The first thing that struck me was how many of the skills of a classical singer were required to handle the text. Diction, strong text delivery, breath support and resonance all immediately presented themselves as invaluable tools in the process.

The next thing that struck me was how much the vocalization fed into the acting of the role, and vice versa. I found that a change in vocal register created a change in the intention, and that the was I chose to enunciate a word was crucial to the discovery of character. By the end, my approach to the character was driven in large part by my approach to delivering the text.

How much can be learned from this and applied back into acting for singers? We might scrap tons of acting jargon and complicated discussions of Stanislavski or Chekhov, and do just fine solely with a relaxed body and a complete commitment to the text. 

In that spirit, I encourage all my fellow singing actors to tackle Shakespeare. Lord knows it's not hard to find a production in your local community, and it looks great on a resume. But beyond that, approaching Shakespeare will change your approach to singing fundamentally, if you're like me. Not to mention, many of the best composers were influenced by Shakespeare in their attempts to create characters of their own. Verdi and Mozart, for example, idolized the tragedies of Hamlet and King Lear. 

I'd also say, in closing, that singing actors shouldn't be afraid to step out into the world of classical theatre. There is so much in common with what we do, and so much fun to be had!