Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Red Death": A New Opera by Bryan Colley and Daniel Doss

Many of you are aware that, since 2008, Bryan and I have produced an original play every year at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. Since Fringe is a beautiful testing ground for new and different material, we've tried to challenge ourselves every year to do something we've never done before. We've done comedy, drama, satire, campy musical, staged an old radio play, and some productions that sort of defy categorization.

This year, it's opera.

WAIT! Don't be scared. It's very audience-friendly opera. Intimate opera. It called Red Death, and it's based on Edgar Allen Poe's short story "Masque of the Red Death." Bryan wrote the libretto, and local composer Daniel Doss wrote the music. And it takes my breath away. It is sweeping and intricate and haunting and creepy. Operatic tenor Nathan Granner stars as the "dauntless and sagacious" Prince Prospero, who believes he can escape the disease ravaging the country by locking himself and a bunch of friends in his castle to party on, with Devon Barnes as his servant, who tries desperately to talk some sense into him. Amy Hurrelbrink is choreographing and will join dancers Chelsea Anglemyer, Josh Atkins, Tyler Parsons, and Tiffany Powell onstage.

It is, by far, our most ambitious production to date. Costumes are being designed and built. The set is bigger and more intricate than anything we've attempted before.

These things cost money. So does hiring an accompanist to play Daniel's intricate music. So does renting a piano. So does publicity and marketing (flyers, print ads, etc). So does paying actors, which is very important to me.

So, we've had to face the difficult decision to ask for help in producing this show. Financial help. We've never done this before. It's hard to ask people for money. But if this show is going to be everything that we dream it can be, we have to. Otherwise, production standards will necessarily be lowered. I hate that prospect more than I can say.

On Saturday, we are holding a fundraiser, Masks for the Red Death: A Poe-pourri of Talent and
Activities. It will be held from 7-9pm in the Fellowship Hall (north entrance) at St. Peter's UCC, 700 E. 110th (corner of 110th and Holmes). St. Peter's is a huge supporter of local arts, and they have been extremely kind to us.
We will have entertainment, food, a silent auction, a mask-making "craft buffet," and a photo booth. Individual tickets to the fundraiser are $15, or 2 for $25. Kids,12 and under, will be admitted free. More info at the Facebook event page:
If you want to help our project, but are unable to make it to the fundraiser, Bryan has an online donation button on his website:
Please consider donating. You'll get your name in the program, and our deep gratitude. Maybe I'll sing you a song too. I take requests.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It's a Beautiful Day for Good News, Volume 2

Here is another installment of my retaliation against "mainstream" news outlets that seem to report on how the world is mostly filled with terrible people doing awful things to each other. I maintain that the world is full of beauty and kindness and wonder, but murder, rape, and explosions make for more dramatic headlines. Screw that.

The Canadian lottery winner of $40 million donates it all to charity:

His doctor told this teenage cancer patient that he could only go to Prom of he wore a surgical mask all night. His friends didn't want him to feel alone:

An eight-year-old boy, saving up to buy a PlayStation, was so moved by a nearby fatal house fire, that he bought something else instead:

High school students show appreciation to an elderly neighbor who brightens their days:

12-year-old CEO donates proceeds to send kids to camp, because "Why not help a kid?":

Thanks to Bryan and Jill, who help by sending me good news links.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Always an Adventure: Dramarama, Spring 2014

Today was the last Dramarama class for the 2013-2014 school year. In the fall, I teach playwriting for third-fifth graders, then acting exploration for fourth- and fifth-graders. In the spring, it's acting exploration for second- and third-graders... then kindergarten and first.
After-school classes are this weird Twilight Zone area for students: They're out of school, but they're not out of school. So teaching an after-school arts class - which is pretty much guaranteed to be full of imaginative, energetic kids - can be just that much more exhausting. Teaching an after-school arts class to kindergartners in the Twilight Zone... Jeez. I can barely have a coherent conversation afterward.
I do love arts education, and I am deeply convinced of its value and necessity. But it ain't always easy.
This year's second-third grade class was called Monster Hunters. Every week, we "traveled" to The Island of Forgotten Monsters - which we figured out, as a group, how to get there (it involved a portal). We were given hints by the "monster" who lived in the classroom, which the class was able to draw, one line at a time, and learn the name of, one letter at a time, as the marker was passed from student to student, until everyone decided the tasks were complete. As it turned out, this monster's name was Paqufcezam, but we called it "Paq," and when it started leaving letters for us, outlining the day's adventure, this class decided to write back.
Reading a letter from Paq. I love this picture.
This Monster Hunters class is a version of what's called "process drama," in which the instructor essentially sets up parameters, and then lets the class take over the group storytelling. It's fun, because, as the instructor, I have no idea what each class will bring. It's tiring because, as the instructor, there is no way I can prepare. Also, I have to keep my eye on the clock so we dismiss on time, and that's a challenge when I have to work "returning to the classroom" into the story.
But it's totally worth it.
What wonderful goofballs.
So today was the last session of K-first's six-week Acting Safari class. It's also a process drama class, in which we mysteriously receive an envelope each week, informing us of Where, and When, we'll be traveling. The first class is spent creating the mode of transportation, which can travel through space AND time. This class decided to build a vehicle, complete with a kitchen and bunk beds, that launches off of a roller coaster track and into the air. When we get to where we're going, we can shrink the Where-and-When Machine and make it invisible, so we can carry it with us and don't lose it, which is a really nice feature. (Also, between classes, we can leave it in the room and no one will bother it.) Today, we went to Saturn, in the year 3000. Since 2014, it's changed from a gas giant to having a "robot" surface, so that was handy. Unfortunately, we had to defeat King Darth Vader (once you defeat the King, all the other Darth Vader clones are destroyed), and that took some strategizing. It was decided that some of us would distract King Darth Vader, while the rest of us snuck up behind him to hit the "OFF" button on his light-saber-holding arm. We knew this would work, because once it's switched off, he can't switch it back on, because King Darth Vader's other hand is a spoon. Duh.
Of course, we were victorious.
Because what could possibly go wrong, with this group of adventurers?