Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – day 10

Disclaimer – busy day, LOTS to blog about.

The human brain is a funny thing. Sometimes the mere suggestion of something makes the brain construct a reality based on that suggestion. You know like when someone like Taylor Baldwin tells you that the hotel you’re staying in is haunted? Your brain will then spend the night in ghost hunter mode, waiting for something to happen. It’s a psychological fact. At least it is if you have my brain. After spending most of last night listening with my eyes (not a typo), I did manage to get a few hours of sleep. I say good morning to Colleen and Louise and then begin to get ready. By the time Jared and Brett knock on my door to go downstairs for breakfast, I’m almost fully-functioning. I ask the gents if they had anything strange happen in the night and it turns out, we did have some odd occurrences. Nothing scary – just laughter in the hallway, knocking on their walls, their bathroom door got locked from the other side and my shoe (that was under the other one) fell off the dresser onto the floor. Paranormal? Not sure. Possibly Baldwin related.

At breakfast, Ben and Taylor pop up looking oddly tired. Seems that they were up later than they anticipated last night. Hmmm… After further investigation, their lack of energy is due to a late night at a local hang out, not trickery or hauntings. Ben, Taylor and Louise went out after the rest of us turned in and played pool, chatted and made a new friend who was born in South America but considers himself Ukrainian. He apparently liked Louise a lot – he thought she looked well fed. This comment caused Taylor to self-appointed himself as her brother. Their new friend wasn’t such a big fan of Ben’s attire however and thought his western shirt made him look constipated. Now, mind you, I am getting all of this information second hand, at breakfast. Part of me believes it’s all an elaborate ruse to get me off the scent of their part in my sleepless night; the other part of me is too busy laughing.

After breakfast, we walk around the main floor of the hotel and stop to look in the gift shop. They have some neat items. Brett is particularly fond of an artisan soap; the scent is called “Grumpy Old Man.” Not quite sure how one goes about capturing that aroma, but apparently this company has figured it out. Brett decides to head up to his room to get ready and Jared and I decide to walk into town and look around. It’s another beautiful day and the red mountain against the blue sky is stunning.
It’s more humid today, so I’m betting we get rain later. We walk across the bridge towards downtown, avoiding cross walk lights that don’t work, hoards of bees and a walkway over the street that seems to be made of Jell-O. Seriously – it wobbled when you stepped on it and you could see straight through it to the street below. Having safely navigated the perils, we look around mainstreet Glenwood Springs.  In a store window, Jared sees a poster. Cool, he says – someone is doing the Barber of Seville. Oh, wait he says… that’s us! It’s a poster for our performance in Carbondale later tonight. They’ve put them all over town and in surrounding burgs as well. I am very impressed with Jared’s powers of observation.

We make our way into a store to look around and I lock on to something that I know Jared has been wanting for some time. A very stylish fedora. I make him try it on and it’s a perfect fit.
Jared reciprocates my fashion find by making one of his own. Readers, many of you may not be aware of this, but my name is a little tricky to pronounce; first and last. This frequently leads to some pretty funny takes on how to say it. One in particular has caught on with this group and become a nickname of sorts – Cherry Cupcake. In this store, Jared somehow finds cupcake earrings. They are a must have and soon we’re both sporting our lucky finds. We walk around town for a bit longer and then begin the perilous journey across the Jell-O bridge again to get back to the hotel.  We meet up with Brett, who is very engrossed in his book (he’s reading Game of Thrones) and show him our purchases. Colleen and Louise are the next to arrive in the lobby; they’ve been shopping too. Soon, we’re reunited with Ben and Taylor and we get to the business of loading the cars so we can get back on the road. We’re headed to Carbondale today. We’ve got a workshop in the afternoon with students and then a performance for the community in the evening.

It’s a pretty quick drive and other than a conversation about sandwich spreads, it is fairly uneventful. Taylor, Brett and Jared were discussing food and their various likes and dislikes. The subject of sandwich spreads came up. Taylor said something about liking hamas on his. Brett questioned this, asked for clarification as to whether he meant hummus (a spread concocted from chickpeas) or Hamas (a Sunni Muslim Palestinian extremist group). It’s an important educational moment for Taylor. It’s also a really good thing that Jared is driving this morning. After post-haunting fatigue and now this, I’m not sure I could have kept us on the road. We arrive in Carbondale and make our way to the hotel so we can check-in.

We get into our rooms and get settled. It’s lunch time, so Brett and Jared want to head to the mainstreet area and check it out, while the other’s want to rest for a bit and get something to eat later. Since this is the first time Opera Colorado has ever been to Carbondale, I’m eager to look around and learn more about the community; I decide to join Brett and Jared. We hop in the beasty and head into town. It’s not far and we know immediately that we’re in our kind of place. The mainstreet area is small, but full of restaurants, shops and… art. There are signs of an artistic community everywhere. Sculptures, chalk art, public art installations; really interesting and eclectic. We grab something to eat and then take a little time to look around. Brett and Jared force me to go into a lovely antique store. Brett and Jared are not allowed to make me go into stores any more. I pack my purchases into the car and just as we leave to get back to the hotel, it starts to rain.

We collect the other members of our group and then head over the performing arts center where we’ll be performing and holding the workshop. We meet up with our contacts (who are all amazing and welcome us with open arms) and we’re led to the performance space. While Taylor figures out the piano situation (they weren’t aware we needed one…), the Young Artists begin load-in. I go to meet the youth theater director and get set up in the workshop space. I’ll be leading a workshop for students ages 8-18 on performance skills. This group of students had to sign up to be able to attend so they’re all kids that love theater and music. I find out as I’m talking to their director that the workshop is completely full – hooray! I go back to get the rest of our group. They’ve completed set up and we’re ready for the workshop.

We’ve got every age in the spectrum represented, even one that is younger than the 8 year-old cut off; she’s 6. I talk with her mom and tell her they’re welcome to stay and play a few of the games, but that as class goes on, it may get too intense for her. I begin the workshop with introductions and then we play an ice-breaker to help the students get to know each other and us. I want them to take risks today, so it’s important to make time for this kind of activity at the beginning of the class. We go around the room and each person says their name and does a movement that represents something that they like. We have students who like to sing, dance, read and play sports. I encourage each of them and cheer them on. The Young Artists and Taylor are participating too and the students are already laughing at their antics. It’s going well... until we get to a young man named Tyler. Tyler is very bright. He’s a theater kid and, for anyone who has been in theater, you know what that means. Tyler says his name, then stops. I ask him what he likes to do and he says, “sleep.” In encourage him to do a movement to show us that. Tyler proceeds to fall to the floor and “sleep.” Readers… I consider myself to be an articulate, moderately intelligent, fairly expressive person. What follows next will not back any of this up… There he is, Tyler, lying on the floor and I open my mouth and say, very enthusiastically… “OK – let’s all sleep with Tyler!” I didn’t mean it that way. I certainly didn’t hear it that way. It’s a very good thing I was focused on the students and didn’t look back at the Young Artists. Jared, Taylor and Brett almost needed medical attention from holding back their laughter.

Blissfully oblivious, I continue on with the workshop. We do warm up exercises and move to playing improv games. I ask for three of the Young Artists to do a game with me so that the students understand what I’m asking for. The game is called “Sculptor/Sculpture,” Taylor and Brett are statues and Ben is the sculptor. They act out a scene but can only move when Ben puts them into different positions. I’d admit, I was a little nervous about where this might go, but what they did was spectacular. They morphed seamlessly from ballet dancers to monkey impersonators to people who like warm hugs. The students are now completely open to what I ask them to do and having a blast. Before I know it, we’re more than halfway through our time. I move on to Shakespeare. Some of the students are involved in an upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I believe that you can learn things from studying Shakespeare that you can’t learn in other forms of theater. I have cards with Shakespearian insults printed on them and each person has a turn to read one and then someone responds with their card when it fits, acting out each one through vocal expression and physical characterization.

It’s amazing how kids “get” Shakespeare when given the chance. The activity is more successful that I had even hoped and the students are loving it. One young man in the class has severe dyslexia and also a pronounced stutter. I partner with him and he gets up to read his card – flawlessly and not a bauble to be heard! I’m beaming. Next we have little Ruby, who at 6, gets up and reads her Shakespeare card without any help. Now I’m walking on air. Then, we have Emmett, who does not read his card. No… Emmett has memorized his insult and even choreographed movements. We’re all cheering for him and the other students by the time the game is done. Louise helps with another activity on expression and sings Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man from Showboat. I stand back and watch their faces as they listen to her – it’s one of my favorite things to do because their expressions are unguarded and completely priceless.
Unbelievably, we’re out of time and I use the last 8-minutes of class for a question and answer session. What a fabulous afternoon – we are so glad we could work with the students and share a bit of what we know. Keep up the amazing work young ladies and gentlemen!

With the workshop completed, we make a quick dash back to the hotel to grab a few things for tonight and then we make out way back to the mainstreet area for dinner. On the way, Taylor sees a dog in a backyard and calls out, “Puppy!” Unbeknownst to Taylor, the dog’s owner is also in the yard and as the dog begins to bark uncontrollably, he gives Taylor a look that expresses displeasure. Taylor responds, “Sorry, I like dogs.” Everyone decides on their own cuisine tonight. I decide to go for Thai food as do Brett and Jared. Taylor, Colleen, Louise and Ben opt for pizza.  As they walk around town, they see signs of the Barber of Seville everywhere; and not just posters. This town has really gotten into this. They have some chalkboard art and there are even gold combs hung on sculptures.
We find out later that the performing arts center hid a pair of tickets on one of the combs and whoever found it got the tickets. Colleen, Louise and Ben frolic around the area and bond while posing with statues. They cement said bond in the aptly named Friendship Park.

Back at the car, Colleen is good luck – or should I say, Colleen has good luck shared with her.
Yep, a feathered friend deposited its contents upon her. That’s supposed to be good luck… right? She’s get cleaned up and we head back to the theater. We have just enough time for the artists to warm up with Taylor before the audience begins to arrive, almost an hour before curtain. We’re sequestered in the green room and everyone gets into costume and makeup. Grandpa Baldwin gives Master Sprague a lesson on how to tie a bow tie while I sew buttons and hooks onto costumes in need of repair. You have to know how to do it all in this business.

It’s while I’m sewing that I realize something profound. After two years of this production, this will be our final show for a public audience. We have one more next week, but it’s at Children’s Hospital and a very different experience. This is it. Barber of Seville has been the most successful and well-received touring production we’ve ever done. It’s been the production that has come the closest to the vision that lived in my head as I was designing it too. I’m feeling a bit misty. I think Jared is nostalgic too – he’s spent the past two year performing in the show and it’s strange to think that it’s coming to a close. It’s time… everyone takes their places and we wait. One of the sponsors makes an introduction and I go out and welcome our audience and tell them a bit about the production. I go out to take my seat as Taylor plays the first chord.

I haven’t watched the show in its entirety for a while. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but I’m usually trying to multi-task so I inevitably miss potions of it. Not tonight. The Young Artists asked me to sit and watch tonight; to enjoy the show. I do. Even after two years, this production still makes me laugh, due in large part to the talent, chemistry and antics of the Young Artists.  The audience is enjoying every moment. At the end of the performance, the finale, there’s a surprise. Now I know why they wanted me to watch. Jared has procured some of the unused confetti from Carmen and the artists throw it into the air on the final note. The audience cheers enthusiastically and I join in. What a perfect way to end this productions’ run. Bows taken, I go out to begin the Q&A.

The Q&A is different from others. Typically most of the questions are for the Young Artists; tonight they are about Opera Colorado, the production and the Young Artist residency. I have to field a lot of the questions, but I am thrilled by the community’s interest. After the last question, I say a sincere thank you to the audience and let them know why tonight was such a special evening. To our surprise, that triggers a standing ovation. Our evening isn’t over yet – the sponsors of tonight’s performance have also set up a reception and we’re led down to a lounge area where we rejoin the audience. We’re treated to an assortment of food and beverages and we all divide ourselves among the crowd, talking to as many people as we can. The response is overwhelming. Everyone tells us how much they enjoyed the show and makes us promise to come back next year. One of the sponsors tells me that we have fulfilled a dream of hers to have real opera in Carbondale. Another woman tells me that this was her first opera; she didn’t expect to like it, but now she thinks she’s hooked! Talking with our main contact, she’s over the moon and tells me we have to start planning next year – they want us back. For a first time visit to a community, this is exactly what I want to hear and I am thrilled that we’ve made a new connection.

I have to break up the ongoing conversations and get the Young Artists out of costume and makeup. It’s already late and we still have to break down the set and load out. Taylor is a champ and he begins to load out while we take the set down. The confetti was a fabulous touch, but it now proves to be a huge pain. Sweeping it up is almost impossible, but Jared, Brett and Taylor are relentless and get the job done. We’re told several times by staff just to leave it and they will get to it tomorrow, but that’s not how we roll. We don’t leave a mess for other people to clean up. We’re told again, for probably the fifth time today, that we’re “easy.” We really to try to be low maintenance; people that are easy to work with.

Just as load out reaches its peak, the rain begins to fall. By the time we get everything and ourselves into the beasties, it’s really coming down. We’re all tired, but it’s been a wonderful day and a great way to end the performing part of tour. We have one more day tomorrow, but it’s all driving. There’s not much time to catch our breath though. This weekend, Ben is headed to Santa Fe for some initial chorus rehearsals (he’s in their program for a second season). Colleen, Louise, Brett, Jared and Taylor will be performing at the Downtown Denver Arts Festival.  Follow that with a fully-booked week and we’ve got a lot still to do. We make it back to the hotel and everyone turns in. As I turn off my light and settle in for the night, I smile. What a crazy, wonderful business this is.

Nighty-night readers (one more blog to go),


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