Editor’s note: Freshman Molly Shoulta, a Parks Scholar from Louisville, makes her GC News Bureau debut with this first-person piece on her experience as the Storyteller for the Lyric Theatre Society’s Oct. 23-25 performances in Hill Chapel. Her twin brothers, Josh and Jeremy, are 2006 alumni; Josh is an Admissions counselor at his alma mater.
By Molly Shoulta ‘13
I’m not the only one who ever believed opera was for the high society, the wise, or the bored. Or at least I keep telling myself that. When the posters announcing tryouts for the children’s operas went up around Georgetown’s campus I instantly brushed them off as just another music department production I was either too ignorant too understand or too limited in range without the ability to hit the glass-shattering notes.
I tried out anyway. Perhaps it was an attempt to try new things, or maybe a small push from my voice teacher on campus. Either way, the cast list went up a few days later. And my name was on it. My trek into the world of non-understandable syllables and ear-piercing high notes seemed to have begun, as did my journey down the path of discovering just how much I had misinterpreted the art form.
The Lyric Theater Society has combined two beloved children’s operas into one performance: The Impresario and Hansel and Gretel. While both are still soaked in classical music, their ability to reach out to children and adults alike in an understandable fashion is remarkable. The script itself is original and at times, the words are by no means today’s vernacular. Still, the acting and vocal ability of the performers outshines any previous interpretation of “opera” any viewers may have.
The Impresario is the lesser known of the two operas to those outside of the operatic world. It centers on an Impressario, Mr. Scruples, a theatre owner discontent with his job and surroundings, striving to leave his business and turn to the simpler life of farming. His assistant, Mr. Bluff, wants to be a singer in the company but is laughed at by Scruples, only making his passion stronger. The play house is then overtaken by a banker, vicious for a powerful spot in the company and determined to prove his ingenious plans. Meanwhile, a talented new opera singer clashes with the famous Madame Goldentrill, an aged veteran of her craft. When all five compete for the top place of power and fame, there seems to be no compromising among them.
The tale of Hansel and Gretel is undoubtedly one of the most common tales on children’s bookshelves. When Hansel and Gretel are ordered by their mother to seek food deep in the forest, they soon become lost, relying only on whatever blessings may find them. As the Sandman blesses their dreams and the Dew Fairy wakens them to a new day, they discover a house made of candies, and immediately begin feeding their empty bellies on the shutters, windows, and bushes – all made of the sugary sweets. When a wicked witch emerges from the cottage and reveals her plan to fatten Hansel only to eat him and his sister, the two children forge a plan to knock her into her own oven. But as Hansel is held by a cage of trees and Gretel is too scared to try to flee, they fear the witch and her magical powers that could mean life or death and soon find themselves in a sugar-coated, sticky mess.
The opportunity presented to me to be able to work in an LTS production has been tiring over the first few days of “Tech Week,” but nonetheless very rewarding. My character is found nowhere in the original script for either play. Music faculty Dr. Heather Hunnicutt and Junior Shawn McPeak have written in a transitional character, the Storyteller, to which the young minds, or older minds, can connect. Recent graduate Hannah Davis designed a coloring book for the show as well that will be handed out at the door. With all the help, consider it impossible to get lost, except for within the fun of the show itself!
The set is pretty sweet – literally. Boasting every candy from Hershey’s bars to lifesavers, from the ice cream cone chimney to the oversized lollipops, the witch’s house from Hansel and Gretel is certainly nothing to scoff at. But even sweeter is the story behind it.
The LTS held a design contest in the local Scott County elementary schools this fall for the best gingerbread house drawing and Anne Mason third-grader Callie May pieced together the most creative design. On Monday night, the set was revealed to her and she was shown all the details of her very drawing that had come to life. Hunnicutt kept the set true to form and color throughout the building process. After over 24 hours of painting, cutting, and constructing, the set now stands complete and ready for the show. Callie May, daughter of Bien and Shelli May of Georgetown, will be recognized during the performance for her fantastic work.
The LTS production of The Impresario and Hansel and Gretel will play this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 23-24) at 7 p.m., and this Sunday (Oct. 25) at 3 p.m. All adult tickets are $10 each and students are $4 with ID. Children under 8 may enjoy the show for free with a complimentary coloring book. The production also counts as a CEP/NEXUS credit for Georgetown Students.
“Opera” may seem like a frightening word, but in all reality, is no different from any other box office production. Glass is not shattered and laughs are still had. Both operas are very comedic with colorful sets and even more colorful characters. Don’t be afraid to revert to childhood, even if for just one night!