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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks-giving to SEMPLICE cast


A week has passed since opening night, and it seems like it was ages ago already. But I promised you a love note, and Thanksgiving seems the perfect day to write it. 

We have to start with those who made it possible. Ed designed another masterpiece and lit it brilliantly, not that we'd ever be surprised by that. As I post more photos, you'll see just what I mean. Our beloved Les was your captain through occasionally rocky waters, and his musicianship and kind spirit kept all of us calm. Dr. Steele was our rock through everything, and was absolutely unflappable even through the longest of rehearsals. Laura and Amanda did more for you behind the scenes than you can imagine, and were absolute professionals in every way. Ella and Katie handled well the occasionally stressful task of supertitles, and I am thankful to them as well.

But you, darlings, you were the backbone of the piece. You should be so very proud of your work. Who would have thought we'd take on a Mozart opera in the original Italian? But with you, it seemed the logical choice. Young singers with the amount of drive that you have deserved a challenge such as this, and you rose to it admirably. 

The recitative was, of course, the hardest part. A few weeks ago, I confessed that my backup plan was to change it all into English dialogue if necessary. I didn't tell you this ahead of time because you deserved the opportunity to give it an honest attempt, and I was delighted when you made the backup plan completely unnecessary. When Reed Woodhouse arrived to polish your work, the most gratifying words he spoke were, "You are so well prepared." Indeed you were.

Performing the opera entirely in the original Italian was also an enormous feat. Most of you have not taken diction, which means the extent of your experience with the language has been a few Italian songs studied in your voice lessons. Your pronunciation and inflection improved considerably over our ten weeks together. Will it continue to grow? Of course it will: you have only scratched the surface. But you should be very pleased with your progress.

Lastly, you all grew as singing actors. What a joy it was to watch you take chances onstage, and to truly commit to telling the story. At times I asked you to do outrageous things. Many times I told you, "I don't believe you." It was delightful to watch you take the initiative to solve problems yourselves. Taking the responsibility to inhabit the characters both musically and dramatically is a skill that you will take with you to every show in the future.

This was a first for all of you: it was your first full opera in Italian with recitative. For some of you, it was your first opera role ever. Given that, the work you did is even more astonishing. I am deeply proud of each and every one of you and how far you came in one short semester. It's incredible to think that, in ten weeks, you went from knowing only one aria in the opera to mastering an entire role! You should feel such a sense of accomplishment. Some years from now, you may look back and say to yourself, "Wow, I sang an entire opera role in Italian when I was only 20. How did I do that?" 

Are you finished growing? You know the answer to that. We all learn and develop as artists throughout our lives, and undergraduate work is only the beginning. More than anything, I hope you have discovered the deep joy that comes from difficult and painstaking work. There are things we do in this life that are enjoyable because they are merely fun or even effortless. But the fulfillment that comes from making progress on something that is a lifelong pursuit is different and wholly more satisfying. Hard work at something you truly love produces a more enduring happiness, don't you think?

On this day of Thanksgiving, I am deeply thankful to all of you. You inspire me. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach you, and through you, I am also taught. May your day of Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude, time with loved ones, and some well-deserved rest.

And know that I love y'all madly.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

So proud of you, SEMPLICE cast

Kudos to you from Dr. Panion:

Kris, please allow me to congratulate you and the students for a superb operatic production this weekend. The quality of the students' singing is "through the roof." In fact, those voices could have been on any stage. Everyone was commenting on the quality of the sets, the staging, and the convincing acting skills of out music students. I must have been sitting next to a group of people who spoke Italian very well. They were very impressed that the entire opera was sung in Italian, with impeccable diction, by students no less...

And from Kelly Allison, Chair of the Department of Theatre:

Congratulations!  Valerie and I attended the performance last night and were very impressed by the production.  Ed's set looked great and your direction/staging was inspired.  Really effective story telling by a director.  Your cast was fantastic and seemed to handle the language very well – beyond my expectations.  The entire production reached heights beyond my expectations!  I hope you're proud of your accomplishment.

This is high praise, folks. I'll send a little love note soon. Right now I'm just a little too happy for you to even write.

Love y'all madly.

Dr. Kris

Friday, November 22, 2013


Darlings, I could not be prouder of you. You had a solid first night, and any glitches in the system (even the monitors not working) didn't throw you in the least. You are professionals to the core, and are poised to have a wonderful run tonight.

We will have strike tonight so plan to stay long enough to pack costumes, move props into a locked room, erase scores, and clean the dressing rooms. It shouldn't take long, and is required for everyone, including understudies.

We'll meet after break to bring props to their final resting place (as it were: stay tuned) and watch the video. Plan on class both Tuesday and Thursday after break.

Dinner tonight at 5.

Love y'all MADLY!

Friday, November 1, 2013


Darlings, great work this week. You really have a first act ready for a final polish, which is exactly what we needed this week. I'm truly pleased with your work, your attention to the text, and the thoroughness of your preparation. It's very clear that memory slips are minor, and you're able to get right back on track. That's important.

Next week, we may not have the chance to be quite as thorough with specific direction as we were this week, so that we can have a final product for Ed on the 11th. This does not worry me: we'll have time for tweaking starting the 12th. I also expect that, with all the wonderful character work you've done so far, you'll be able to make choices with less direction from me, because you have Act I so clearly in your heads.

As I said tonight, remember to take some time for yourselves this weekend. Go to a movie, take a long nap, or go for a walk when it's so beautiful outside. Some time away from the work is just as important as the time you'll need to spend preparing for Monday. Constructive rest on a daily basis (lying semi-supine on the floor, with or without a few thin books under your head) is great physical and mental rest, even if you only do it for 5-10 minutes.

I'm very happy with your progress. This show will be something we can all be proud of. Stay the course!

Final performance class

We will all meet together in HRH today. If Mr. Byrd or Dr. Mosteller is playing for you in lieu of Dr. Steele, be sure they have your music!...