Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 2

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Morning readers! Want to hear something neat? I got to bed before midnight last night. Two minutes till, in fact. Want to hear something even neater? All of us were able to get a bit of rest last night. When you’re traveling around from place to place, sleeping in different places, living out of a suitcase, it’s not easy to get a good night’s sleep, so any night when we grab 5-hours or so is a good night. Leah, Katherine, Andrew and Daniel decide to enjoy the hotel breakfast while Brett, Taylor and I head to a local hot spot. Some things are worth walking across the street for. Pancakes with homemade cinnamon syrup are among those things.

Breakfast ingested, we get everything packed into the car. It goes quicker than yesterday since we actually know where things fit now. Vehicles loaded, we begin our drive to Lake City. Today’s weather report – partly cloudy and windy. There’s a storm moving in later today and we may get some snow overnight. Daniel comments that it’s a nice day today. He’s not wrong; at the moment we still have some blue sky, so we’re enjoying the beautiful scenery as we make our way to Monarch Pass. The car is very quiet this morning. Not sure if that means everyone is taking it all in or if we’ve just reached the point that we have nothing left to say to each other…

Brett comments about the road, wondering just how in the heck they built it. I’ve wondered that too. I’ve also wondered what it was like for the pioneers who settled these mountain towns. There they are, traveling though the lovely valleys and bam! Mountain.  I would imagine, as they were looking up at those snow covered peaks, the words “Nope” were uttered by someone. We make it over Monarch pass (there’s still a lot of snow up here) and head into Gunnison where we’re stopping for groceries. We have a cabin for the next two nights that Lake City is housing us in and we want to get supplies. When you’re on the road and you have a chance to not eat in a restaurant, you take it. Groceries in hand, we somehow get them and ourselves back into the cars and hit the road again.

The scenery changes from mountain vistas to really cool rock formations and a river with stunningly blue water. Brett, who is in his second year with the program, slept through this drive last year. This year, awake and observant, his comment is “How are we not in another state by now?” No wormhole here, we are, in fact, still in Colorado. We keep driving and the road ends at our destination, Lake City. We head to the theater and snap a group photo by the marquis. We’re on the marquis! Peggy, one of the many wonderful locals, comes and unlocks the theater for us. I know this is how she spells her name because Leah asks if she is Peggy with a “y” or an “ie.” Leah likes to know about people.

While Assistant Road Manager Andrew leads the charge in unload the set, Road Manager Brett and I walk to our housing so I can get the layout and he can protect me from bears. We’re staying in a cabin that overlooks the town. It’s lovely. We’ll need to be a little creative with sleeping arrangements, but I have a plan. I’ll be assigning the room downstairs that has two single beds and bunk beds to Leah, Katherine, Andrew and Daniel. I will be on the next level up. Here’s where I must digress for a moment… The headboard in the room I’ll be in is an amazing sight. It seems to have been carved from a tree from Mount Olympus. It’s hard to describe. Let’s just say, I won’t exactly be sleeping alone tonight.  The headboard has a likeness of Zeus or something like that on it. He’s flanked by scantily clad figures on each side and the foot board is carved too; with faces that curl up into branches of some kind. Can’t wait to see what I dream about with this inspiration surrounding me… Digression over. I’ll assign the top level to Brett and Taylor. This is a call made based on safety. Occasionally, when sleeping, Brett issues forth noises that are eerily similar to an Ursidae. In layman’s terms, a bear. I fear, leaving him on the ground level, we may have some furry, but toothy visitors. Taylor is the logical choice to room with Brett on the top level. He has ear plugs. We’ll make it work. There are also couch options in the living room. We are tremendously grateful to the community to providing us housing for the next two nights!

We walk back to the theater and join in the set up process. We get a few details ironed out in terms of the space and then we all head to the cabin to unload the luggage, put the groceries away and take a quick break for lunch. Andrew is having steak for lunch. Not kidding. He’s looking quite happy at the stove. In no time (see, time again), we head back to the theater to rehearse for tonight’s performance. Since this is Taylor’s first time playing for the group, it’s important that we take some time to go over music for the Arias and Ensembles and run through Hansel and Gretel – that’s right, the whole show. It’s a good thing we do too, because there are several issues that pop up with the musical timing and others with the staging because the stage is quite compact. I’m able to get things figured out and we take a break before dinner. Brett and I don’t have long though, we have to meet Brenda at the theater who will be setting our lights and running them for the show. There are so many details to a live performance that people may not think about. We get the lights set as the rest of the group walks into the theater and we head to dinner. This community is amazing. They’re providing us dinner tonight and tomorrow at night as well. Tonight’s meal is being served at the school.

Our wonderful chef, Shawn and our hostess Debi are delightful and the food is yummy. Over dinner, the conversation picks up. We discuss many things. This group is quite intellectual. Topics are: medications you can use to combat the high altitude blues, various ways that Brett can interpret Rosina Daintymouth (aka the Witch) for tonight’s performance of Hansel and Gretel (I think Satchmo Daintymouth is a universal favorite), Disney movies (the guys make questionable comments about Bambi and venison), who our favorite James Bond is (Katherine and I are prone to Daniel Craig) and the political beliefs of Daniel’s gondola boss (no, that is not a mafia term, he is in fact employed as a gondolier). We finish up dessert and head back to the theater to get into performance mode.

Everyone warms up and finishes changing for the beginning of the evening, which will be an Arias & Ensembles program. I’ve selected pieces that will give a good representation of opera; some well-known and some not as familiar. Brett has located the costumes and props storehouse and is making some very thoughtful additions to tonight’s Witch attire. He chooses a lovely pair of pearl earrings and a purple hat with red ostrich feathers. It’s become a bit of a tradition to incorporate some of the theater’s props into our performances here and the audience loves it. Daniel gets into the spirit and lets Brett choose some items for him as well for his role of the Sandman. The items are a grey beard and mustache that look like dryer lint and a sombrero. Inspired by his transformation, Daniel launches into his aria as the Sandman with an accent that would pay homage to Speedy Gonzales. In the minutes before we take the stage, we hold an impromptu pageant where Leah and Brett compete for the honor of Guacamole Queen. We have a sash and everything. Yes, we’re being silly, but it’s this type of behavior that can get you energized when you’re feeling tired. Everyone is laughing and the energy in the room is great.

Show time. I’m introduced by John Smith, who spearheads bringing us to Lake City. We’ve built a fabulous collaborative relationship over the years and this community is excited that we’re here. The great thing… even though this is a small town, we’re reaching new people each time we perform. There are people in the audience tonight who have never seen one of our performances before. I take the stage and introduce Taylor and begin the first half of the program. The audience is responsive and they’re cheering as the first half ends. Now there’s a brief intermission as we set for Hansel and Gretel and everyone gets into costumes and makeup. This is not a small task. Not when you have the gorgeous Katherine Sanford who becomes Hansel, the dashing Brett Sprague who morphs into the Witch; our elegant Leah Bobbey has to turn herself into a little girl, complete with doe-eyes. Ah, the magic of live theater.

Costumes and makeup complete, I introduce the second half of the program and talk a bit about we take an opera from a full score to an abridged performance and then, we’re off.  I’ve directed this show over several seasons now; this season is its third run. I’ve got every note, every word memorized. I can honestly say, I never get tired of it. I love being able to put the frame on a production and watch as the talented artists bring it to life. The audience is loving it as well and before we know it, we’re at bows; our audience cheering for each person.

We begin the Q&A portion of the evening, something we do after every performance. Yes, it adds to our workload and the hours we put in, but it’s so important to give our audiences a chance to connect with us and what we do on a personal level. Questions start off slow, but they pick up. There’s one woman in the audience; this is her first performance with us, who has question after question. She’s excited and clearly eating up every bit of information we provide. I believe we have a new opera lover in our midst. One of the questions we get is “How do you think this program helps you as artists?” Leah talks about how it’s a bridge between college and mainstage work. Katherine talks about how it helps emerging artists make connections in the business. Andrew talks about the importance of getting to learn by doing and Brett rounds things out by talking about the fact that they are working at what they love; basically living their dream. Well said all.

We end the evening by talking one on one with a few of our audience members and I grin to myself as I watch people leave. Not a single person leaves the theater without a smile on their face. That means we’re doing something right. We decide not to load out tonight. We’re getting tired, it’s getting late and we’ll be back in the theater tomorrow for workshops with students. Everyone gets out of costume as I mingle with the final few guests. Taylor decides to walk back to the cabin and the rest of us are close behind. Before we leave, I’m given the key, not to the city, but to the theater. How amazing to have this kind of relationship with a community.

At the cabin, we gather at the dining room table and chat about anything that pops up and snack as the post-performance munchies kick in. I suddenly realize that Daniel is not among us. He’s apparently walked back into town to converse with the locals. The rest of us decide to play a game called “Telestrations.” The best way to describe it is a visual version of the game Telephone. You start with a word and then the next person draws a picture that represents that word. Then it is passed and you repeat; guess, draw, guess, draw, until you end up where you started. The goal is to have the word you started with be the same word you end with. This does not happen often. What happens is… well… hilarious. On one round we started with ‘key lime pie.’ By the end of the round, it had turned into ‘packman bomb birthday.’ ‘Small talk’ became ‘neck pain,’ ‘racket ball’ took a turn as ‘cookie machete’ and ‘Mother Nature’ became ‘pregnant forest.’ The most memorable one was ‘termite’ which somehow morphed into something that is banned from this blog. Does this give you a glimpse into the psyche of the people I am traveling with? Brett laughed so hard he actually squeaked.

It’s grown late and we decide to turn in. We quickly figure out a shower schedule and bid each other goodnight. Andrew and Daniel decide to hit the hot tub, which I didn’t even know we had. I’m hoping it’s that and not some sort of bear watering trough. Tomorrow promises to be a day that we have to be on our toes. We have two workshops with students on performance skills and the Young Artists will sing a few pieces for them as well. You never know what you’re going to get when you’re working with kids. I have a game plan ready, but I also know that I will need to be flexible once I see them in action. We’re meeting one of our hosts for lunch and we also have to load out. There’s repertoire to plan for upcoming programs too. Oh, and then there’s dinner with members of the community. It’s never dull, that’s for sure and every new event is another opportunity to talk about opera and Opera Colorado.
It’s time to turn in. Thanks for reading today’s blog. We’d love for you to ‘share’ it with others, ‘comment,’ ‘like,’ ‘tweet,’ whatever it is that you do in the cyber-social-world. We love knowing that others are following us on our journey.

Till tomorrow,


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