Thursday, May 21, 2015
You know that feeling when you wake up? I don’t, at least not this morning. I got about 2-hours of sleep last night due to various factors, the biggest culprit being a bug the size of a baseball who decided to make my room his home base. I have no idea what it was. I know that it could fly and it made a hissing sound when it felt threatened. First, it claimed my shoe as its domicile. I threw my other shoe at it, which caused an immediate cessation of occupancy. Then it scampered into my closet so I shut the door and laid awake the rest of the night, listening with my eyes. By the time I fell asleep it was about an hour before we had to get up in order to get ready, eat breakfast and check out. Brett offered emotional support and made me coffee, but because of my nocturnal bug vigil, we left about 20-minutes behind schedule. Brett is driving this morning, which is probably best. Daniel is following us in the van with Andrew.
We stop for gas the then begin the drive to Summit Middle School. Leah is in charge of the tunes this morning and selects The Goat Rodeo Sessions. It’s a mix of bluegrass, celtic and other music featuring Yo-Yo Ma and other artists whose names I can’t remember. Taylor comments on the awesomeness that is Yo-Yo Ma and Katherine, the pinnacle of modesty, says that she is the Yo-Yo Ma of opera. The area got more snow overnight but it’s partly cloudy this morning. I think all of the beauty, combined with the stress of driving the pass coming into Breckenridge is beginning to take its toll on Brett. He begins to have some kind of psychotic break while driving; fits of giggles. It all seems to center around Hansel and Gretel rhymes, so I don’t think he’s dangerous.
Brett and Andrew do an excellent job driving and manage to make up 15-minutes, so we arrive at the school just 5-minutes behind schedule. We then manage to do the fastest set up on record, 20-minutes flat. No one lost and eye or anything. I don’t recommend this for amateurs. I connect with Mary Jane and several of the teachers at Summit Middle School while everyone gets into costume and makeup. I also get to connect with Joyce Mueller from the Breckenridge Music Festival. We’re excited to have Steve Dilts, our Young Artist Liaison here today. He’s driven up from Denver to watch the performance and workshop and then we’re all having lunch. Opera Colorado’s supporters are, quite simply, the best. The students begin to come in and we’ve got a packed house today; over 250 6th graders. We’ve decided that today is the day to try out a new bit in the show. When we were in Salida, Brett and I found the most amazing hand puppet. It’s an ostrich – or an emu – not sure which. This is a character element that I’ve thought about, but haven’t tried before now. You know, the Witch has gone so bonkers living in the forest alone; she’s created this creature to have someone to talk to. To make it work, the tenor playing the Witch has to embrace the concept. Oh boy has Brett embraced it; his new creative new venture.
I am introduced to give the pre-curtain talk and readers… I’ve changed. “Kathy” Koepke will now begin the show. I am able to gauge the energy in the audience within seconds and know that I need to add a behavior expectation section to my talk. I exit the stage and the show begins. The Young Artists work like crazy over the next 50-minutes to perform for a tough audience. It’s not that they’re not enjoying the show; they are. Sometimes, we get a group of kids that just doesn’t respond in a way that we expect. The ostrich puppet bit gets a couple of really big laughs so it will be something I look at in the future. At bows, the audience is cheering. As the Young Artists exit, I take over and begin the interactive workshop that we’ll do for the next 45-minutes. As the Young Artists get out of costume and makeup, they will come out and join me and each take over teaching a section. This is something I’ve started to do each year towards the end of the season. It’s a way for me to see what they’ve learned during their residency in terms of presentation skills and engaging an audience. Brett did this last year, so he works to load out as much as he can by himself while I do crowd control. After Leah, Kathrine, Andrew and Daniel have run through their activities, Taylor takes over for a bit and gives the students a work out singing scales and adding numbers and clapping on certain beats. By this point, the students are getting incredibly rowdy, so I take the reins again with Brett. Readers, if you’ve never worked interactively with middle school students... proceed with caution. It’s something they might want to consider as an option for training our military before they go into combat. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I love it. By the time the workshop ends, the kids are engaged and, we hope, have learned some skills that they will be able to utilize.
The teachers and our program sponsors are thrilled with what we were able to bring to the students today. We’re showered with compliments on the quality of the performance and the workshop. They want us back next season; at more schools and doing more workshops. That’s exciting. I think we’re offering something very unique with these interactive workshops. We’re connecting kids to opera in a way that not only entertains but helps develop their skills. I now need a nap – it takes a ton of energy to teach a group that big and I tend to put in every ounce I can. We load out the last bit of our set and then head to a local restaurant to meet Steve. As we arrive, we see him, standing in a parking spot in front of the building to save it for us. Does this man take good care of us or what!? Lunch is good but it’s especially good to have Steve with us. Throughout the year, Steve makes sure that the Young Artists have a support system while they are in Denver. He attends rehearsals, comes to performances and even brings donuts and coffee. The Young Artists have come to call these occasions, “Donuts with Dilts.” It may not sound like a big deal but, to us, it’s huge. Steve, we appreciate you more than we can say.
We persuade Steve to let us buy him a cup of coffee for the road and then we say our goodbyes. We load into the cars and make our way to Ft. Collins, Colorado where we’ll be staying overnight. We have a double bill at Bauder Elementary tomorrow, our last stop on tour. Katherine’s driving the van with Daniel and Brett is driving while I attempt to copilot. The rest of our car is asleep within minutes of being on the road. Brett and I don’t have that luxury; driving on I-70 isn’t something and I enjoy on a good day and today the weather is bad and the traffic is nuts. It doesn’t help that there’s road construction every few miles. Brett’s catlike reflexes allow him to avoid getting into a serious accident when a truck swerves in front of us. Brett honks the horn and we are treated to repeated hand gestures involving the middle finger. This goes on for quite a while. Leah says we should pull alongside him and blow him a kiss. I consider it, until I see the “Hello Kitty” sticker on his rear window – the bundle of cuteness is holding an AK47. Things go from bad to worse when the driver starts swerving all over, drives in both lanes and takes out construction cones. Brett and I get his license plate; we seriously think he’s intoxicated. We keep our distance and he finally exits off the highway.
We continue to hit traffic and drivers continue to make poor choices. One woman drives on the shoulder of the road, not realizing she’s not in an actual lane and then pulls in front of us, narrowly missing the concrete wall ahead of her. By the time we get to Ft. Collins, we are ready to not be in the cars any longer. We get to the hotel, check in and I schedule a meeting in my room after everyone has a chance to get settled. While we’re still finishing up tour, we have to start thinking about what’s next. We’ve got performances this weekend and the last week of May is packed. We discuss repertoire, I hand out music and set schedules. We also discuss move-out details – the end of their contracts is just around the corner.
After the meeting, everyone is on own their own for dinner. Leah, Katherine, Andrew and Daniel decide to head to a brewery and Brett, Taylor and I decide to walk to a nearby restaurant. Back that the hotel, I spend some time looking at our abridged production of Carmen that we will tour next year. I wasn’t completely happy with some of the translations I did, so I am reworking it. Brett is interested in the process I take when creating a touring show, so he’s been helping me revise the dialogue. I’ll tell ya – it makes a difference having a male brain to pick when you’ve got a story like this to condense into an hour. I can do many things, I have various skills and talents, but… thinking like a man. That’s one thing I can’t do.
It’s time to turn in. Tomorrow will be another busy day. We’re looking forward to performing for more students and then heading back to Denver.
Sleep well readers – I plan to. This room appears to be bug free.