Dig Deeper - The Rise of the Teenager

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“The young always have the same problem - how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.”― Quentin Crisp, writer and raconteur

The powerful passion of the teenager is at the heart of the dramatic conflicts in Grease.  Although use of the words teen, teener, teen-age, and even teenager first appeared as early as 1899, they didn't appear in common usage until the 1920s.  After 1900 reformers, educators, and legislators began to separate teens from adults and children.  State and federal governments legislated minimum age requirements for sexual consent, marriage, school attendance, and work, and later for voting, driving, and drinking alcohol.

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The single greatest factor that led to the emergence of the independent teenager was the automobile. Teens enjoyed a freedom from parental supervision unknown to previous generations. In earlier times, young boys and girls spent their first dates at home. The courtship process rapidly evolved into dating, which, when removed from the watchful eyes of anxious parents became an outlet for experimentation with sexual behaviors before marriage.

Automobile technology led directly to the other major factor that fostered a teenage culture: the consolidated high school. Buses could now transport students farther from their homes, leading to the decline of the one-room schoolhouse.  Between 1910 and 1930, enrollment in secondary schools increased almost 400%.  Graduation rates rose from 29% in 1930 to 50% in 1940.  Before long, schools developed their own cultural patterns, completely unlike the childhood or adult experience. School athletics and extracurricular activities only enhanced this nascent culture. The American teenager was born.

        Cassandra Proball

       Cassandra Proball

From The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager by Thomas Hine on U.S. History.org.

Dig Deeper - Rebels, Rock and Revolution

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Grease, in all it's original raw and gritty glory, opens this Friday at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage!  In his book Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and Musical Theatre, Scott Miller describes Grease's place in the evolution of musical theatre and pop culture in America... "Grease is a show about repression versus freedom in American sexuality, about the clumsy, tentative, but clearly emerging sexual freedom of the late 1950s, seen through the lens of the middle of the Sexual Revolution in the 1970s. It’s about the near carnal passion 1950s teenagers felt for their rock and roll, the first art form that actually changed human sexuality...

Record companies were releasing more than a hundred singles every week and the country was about to explode. Grease, generally considered a trivial little musical about The Fabulous Fifties, is really the story of  America’s tumultuous crossing over from the 50s to the 60s, throwing over repression and tradition for freedom and adventure (and a generous helping of cultural chaos), a time when the styles and culture of the disengaged and disenfranchised became overpowering symbols of teenage power and autonomy.”

Dig Deeper - "Grease" is the Word!

2000 Camel cigarette ad campaign - updating the "greaser"
2000 Camel cigarette ad campaign - updating the "greaser"

Although greasers in the 1950s and early 1960s were considered the outcasts of society, they gained popularity throughout the decades that followed through characters like Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause and Fonzie from the popular TV show Happy Days, and, of course, Danny Zuko in Grease. Outsiders no longer, greasers have become a mainstream iconic image of the rebellious American teenager.

*from North Tonawanda City School, NY classroom materials

The drills are driving, the batons are flying, and Lyric Arts is looking forward to the July 10 opening of our summer production of Grease!  Ever wondered where words like "greaser", "rumble", or "jive" came from?  Read on for more...

*What is a greaser? Greasers are a working class youth subculture that originated in the 1950s among young eastern and southern United States street gangs, and then became popular throughout the nation...Their name came from their greased back hair, which involved combing back hair with wax, gel, creams, tonics or pomade. Other popular greases used were olive oil or petroleum jelly.  The slang term also referred to young men that worked at gas stations or repaired cars or motorcycles.  The greaser style was imitated by many youths not associated with gangs, as an expression of rebellion...

Greasers had a very particular style that evolved from their working-class origins:  plain white or black T-shirts (often with the sleeves rolled up);  lots of black leather and denim like jeans with rolled-up cuffs; and baggy cotton twill work trousers (which were called baggie grays, baggie blues or sandbags). Greasers also typically wore motorcycle boots or army boots, Converse's basketball shoes; bandannas; and chain wallets.

         Cassandra Proball         Education Director

        Cassandra Proball
        Education Director

Interview with Alison Scherzer, Soprano

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alison scherzer

We had the opportunity to catch up with Alison Scherzer, Soprano and Lyric Arts Alum, about her adventures over the pond, upcoming performance of "I am a Stranger Here Myself," and upcoming film, "Operatic." We're so pleased to welcome Alison to the Main Street Stage once again on June 27th and were excited to hear about all her past, present, and future endeavors. LA: Tell us a little bit about your roots in the Twin Cities area.

AS: I grew up in Coon Rapids and was very involved in choir during high school, though I had also taken lessons in cello and piano. At that point, I hadn’t seriously started studying opera or musical theater and feel that my musical “roots” are really in choral music. I lived in the Twin Cities for a year after college working for composer Stephen Paulus and The Schubert Club  and performed with Nautilus Music-Theater and Skylark Opera before moving to Cincinnati to go to graduate school in 2007. I have visited Minnesota every year since then, not to perform but mostly to visit family and “recharge” before the next project.

LA: What made you decide to become an opera singer?

AS: During college I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, which is considered to be the classical music capital of the world. I’d had quite a bit of exposure to opera by then, but taking in several performances a week and seeing not only the musical talent on stage, but the enthusiasm and respect that Viennese audiences have towards classical music was an experience that gave me the final “nudge” towards choosing opera as a career.

LA: Talk a little bit about your experiences with Lyric Arts.

AS: My first experience with Lyric Arts was exactly 10 years ago, when I was cast as Mabel in the summer stock production of Pirates of Penzance directed by Matt McNabb. I remember there was already a clearly established community of actors and singers who regularly performed at the Lyric Arts and were very close. I always felt welcome and very much enjoyed working with everyone involved in the production. Since then, I have visited Lyric Arts as an audience member when in town, attending productions like Wait Until Dark, Cabaret, and The Laramie Project.

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LA: What has it been like traveling and living in Europe?

AS: I have wanted to live and work abroad since my very first trip to Europe with my family when I was 14 years old. I had several study abroad experiences in Europe throughout school, but actually living there is quite different. I think that more than adjusting to foreign language, food and culture, the starkest difference is the constant exposure to so much history. I live thirty minutes away from Beethoven’s birth house! And just a few weeks ago, the city of Cologne discovered a bomb from WW2 that had never been detonated! It has really influenced my perception of time and how people are connected to the past.

LA: You sing in several languages, are you also proficient or fluent in any foreign languages?

AS: German is my most proficient language, since I am based in Cologne, but I also speak some French and Italian.  Greek is the next language on my list to learn, because my boyfriend and some of his family are Greek. I just recently attended a Greek wedding in Athens for the first time. The hospitality of the culture and the musical nature of the language have really inspired me to start learning! 

LA: Describe one of your most favorite moments living overseas.

AS: During my first summer in Germany, I was hired to play Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the outside courtyard of a castle. I also performed a few songs at a Wandelkonzert, which is a “promenade concert” where each musical piece is performed in a different room within the castle. As someone who grew up only seeing castles in the movies, that was a real life experience I will never forget!

LA: Alison, you’ve been traveling the world as an opera singer, putting on concerts and now involved in a very exciting new film. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved in this project, Operatic?

AS: I became involved with Operatic through my collaboration with an opera ensemble called The Cast.  Operatic is a music documentary film giving insight on the lives of six freelance opera singers and how we work together within the opera “band”. There was a film crew who accompanied us on tour for about a year to record concerts and conduct interviews, asking our opinions on singing, on living in Germany and what it is like to be a professional musician.  There will be a screening soon in Columbia Heights of the film on June 29th at the Heights Theater for those interested in attending!

LA: What made you think to come back to Lyric Arts and present what we’re sure will be a lovely concert, “I am a Stranger Here Myself”?

AS: The summer before I moved to Berlin I went to see the Lyric Arts’ production of Cabaret, a Broadway musical depicting the Weimar Kabarett era of Berlin in 1931, just as the Nazis were coming into power. I think seeing that production had indirectly planted a seed in my head, because when I decided to perform a concert of European and American cabaret songs for friends and family in the Twin Cities, Lyric Arts was the first and only venue I had considered!

LA: Tell us a little bit about this concert. What inspired its name? Selections?

AS:I Am a Stranger Here Myself” is the title of a song from One Touch of Venus by Kurt Weill. What had attracted me to this particular song were the lyrics, because it was the first time I had heard the term “stranger” used in a context outside of simply referring to one’s environment.  It gave me an understanding that feeling like a stranger can be applied to love, location, or simply living!  And I think this is a feeling that most people have experience with and can relate to! This concept is a recurring theme in most of the music I am performing, so that is why the title of the song is very fitting as the title for this concert. I chose French, German and songs spanning almost 100 years by composers who seemingly have nothing to do with each other, from Erik Satie to Friedrich Holländer to William Bolcom.  There are some melodies most people will recognize, but it is mainly music that I have picked up either during my studies or while living abroad.

LA: Will you be performing this in other parts of the metro? US?

AS: Since I am only here for a limited amount of time, this is the only performance of the concert in the Twin Cities and in the US to date. I will be performing a similar program with an accordion player in Germany this July, accompanied by orchestra (in the same aforementioned castle!) as the opening concert at a music festival.

LA: What’s next for you, Alison?

AS: As I mentioned before, when I return to Germany in July, I will repeat a similar cabaret program with orchestra at the Wernigeröder Schloßfestpiele.  In the fall and winter, I will be performing Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel with an opera company in Cologne, and have a few opera concerts in Bonn, Olpe and Frankfurt with The Cast. And at the end of the year, I will be collaborating with Operatic director Jorgos Katsimitsoulias, performing a concert of modern art song with live visual projection and abstract drawing. So there will be quite a potpourri of musical styles for me to perform in the next few months!

Dig Deeper - A Family Affair

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Marc Camoletti, playwright for Boeing Boeing, initially trained as a painter, but by the early 1950s he was living and writing in Paris, the city that would embrace his work and that he would call home for most of his life.  In 1958 he wrote his first play, La Bonne Anna (The Good Anna). It was produced at the Théâtre des Capucines by a company affiliated with Camoletti’s wife, the theatrical designer Germaine Camoletti. La Bonne Anna, like all of Camoletti’s forty plays, was a light comedy dealing with themes of sex, relationships, and secrets. His work is often described as “boulevard theatre,” a genre characterized by bedroom farces and named for Paris’ Boulevard du Temple, the location of many theaters.

In 1987, Pyjama Pour Six, a sequel to Boeing-Boeing, opened at the Thèâtre Michel, where Camoletti often produced and directed his own work.  Camoletti continued to write, produce, and direct at the Thèâtre Michel throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Camoletti was an Associate of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts and was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion D’honneur, one of France’s highest honours. He passed away in 2003 and is buried with his wife in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. From the time of Camoletti’s death in 2003 through 2008, Camoletti’s son Jean Christophe and daughter-in-law Arianne managed Thèâtre Michel, currently directed by Didier Caron.

2015 Cabaret Review—Kylie Schultz

by Kylie Schultz

It is always nice to be reminded of how Lyric Arts plays such an important role in the community and in the larger Metro area arts scene. Friday night at the Cabaret fundraising event, I got to hear so many stories from actors who have both grown up being involved with Lyric Arts, and some who are new to Lyric Arts. All the stories shared a similar sentiment—Lyric Arts is like a home for them. It's a community, an artistic outlet, and a welcoming place for them to experience and be a part of high quality theater productions. In addition to telling their stories, Lyric Arts actors old and new sang their favorite Broadway songs. These performances completely illustrated what amazing talent Lyric Arts provides.

Each performance was as perfectly executed as the last and ranged from comedic to dramatic. Every performance gave me chills. Angela Henderson (formerly of Grammy award-winning group Sounds of Blackness, by the way) gave a sultry and amazing performance of "Whatever Lola Wants" from Damn Yankees, followed by an astounding and heart wrenching performance by Molly Jo Hall of "If Someone Like You" from Jekyll and Hyde. Lyric Arts' regulars Nykeigh Larson and Kyler Chase were nothing short of brilliant as we've all come to know in their performances, and Katherine Strom delighted with what I thought was a flawless execution of "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie.

We also learned about the futures of many of Lyric Arts' younger performers who have been with Lyric Arts and will be leaving to pursue the performing arts around the country. They are an excellent example of the quality of Lyric Arts' educational programs which provide much needed arts education, workshops, and performance opportunities during a time when arts funding for schools is sadly being cut short. I come for the high quality productions, but I am a proud supporter of Lyric Arts because of these educational programs and the wider impact the company provides for the youth and community.

Lyric Arts' Cabaret 2015 event does not disappoint by way of performances, but it is an excellent time to show appreciation for the company and everything it does. If you haven't gone in the past, attend in the future and enjoy the show (which is amazing), but don't forget that this performance is about so much more. Thank you Lyric Arts for bringing such vibrant and quality theater to the Metro, I can't wait to see what your future brings!

Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.

Kylie Schultz
Kylie Schultz
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Louis Berg-Arnold Named Resident Music Director

Lyric Arts Main Street Stage has announced Louis Berg-Arnold has been appointed Resident Music Director beginning with the 2015-16 season. This newly created position will work closely with the leadership of the Anoka-based theater in helping to shape the company’s artistic future and growth. In addition, Berg-Arnold will direct one production during the season and will serve as a mentor to guest directors.

“Louis is an exceptionally gifted musician. Beyond that, in his time at Lyric Arts, he has earned the respect of performers and instrumentalists alike with his ability to maintain our high artistic standards in performance while cultivating an environment in the rehearsal room that is collaborative, nurturing, and light-hearted,” says Laura Tahja Johnson, Managing Artistic Director. “When you combine those qualities with his professionalism and his devotion to Lyric Arts and our continued growth, it makes him a perfect choice to be Lyric Arts’ new Resident Music Director.”

As part of a two-year commitment, Resident Directors add a new dimension to the artistic viability of the organization. They serve as mentors to directors who are new to the organization and provide input to the theater in the areas of artistic vision and direction, as the theater works to build its reputation as an emerging company in the Twin Cities theater community.

“Louis’ talent, hard work, and good looks have made him an essential member of the Lyric Arts creative community, says Resident Director, Matt McNabb. "His musicals have been some of the most successful in the history of the organization. I look forward to many successful collaborations in future seasons!”

“I have really enjoyed working with Lyric Arts over the last several years, and I am very excited to take on this new role of Resident Music Director,” says Berg-Arnold.  “Lyric Arts has established itself as a welcoming environment in which to develop new talent in the twin cities theater community, and I am looking forward to helping Lyric Arts continue to grow its musical excellence.”

Berg-Arnold’s first production as Resident Music Director will be Lyric Arts’ spring musical production, Shrek the Musical, running March 18 through April 22, 2016.

About Louis Berg-Arnold

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Louis Berg-Arnold has been active performer in the Central Minnesota arts community for over 15 years. He has music directed four shows with Lyric Arts, notably Young Frankenstein and Into the Woods this past season. Louis has also worked for various theater companies throughout Minnesota and South Florida including the Actor's Theater of Minnesota and Opera Naples. He currently serves as the pianist for the Bemidji Alumni Choir, and is a new member of From Age to Age, a Twin Cities based choral music ensemble. Louis began studying music at the age of 4, and is classically trained on the piano, organ and viola, studying under Ann Oleksowicz, Dr. Kim Kasling, and Coco Bochonko, respectively.  He has performed as a pianist, organist, violist and vocalist with various classical music ensembles in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Florida, including the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra, Amadeus Chamber Symphony and the St. John's Boys' Choir.

Volunteer of the Year—Joan O'Sullivan

April is national Volunteer Appreciation Month and we are thrilled to announce our new Volunteer of the Year, Joan O'Sullivan! In the past twelve months, Joan volunteered over 1,000 hours in concessions, the scene shop, and various other events at Lyric Arts. Joan's dedication, hard work, and friendly personality make her an imperative part of the Lyric Arts community. Thanks, Joan! You make Lyric Arts a success!

Here is what Joan has to say about volunteering at Lyric Arts:

"I started volunteering in 2009 after seeing a wonderful production of "The Foreigner". I was very impressed with how everyone that I met was so friendly and welcoming.

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I knew then that I wanted to be a part of the Lyric Arts "family" too.Being a lover of talent, the arts and interacting with our patrons, actors, fellow volunteers, and staff are all things that make volunteering so much fun and worthwhile.

My favorite volunteering positions are working in concessions, assisting at auditions, and being on the scene shop team (where I have learned and grown as a "painter" and a "carpenter"...sometimes I amaze myself at what I have been able to accomplish).

I spend the majority of my time at Lyric Arts since my retirement in 2011. I hope to continue to do so because volunteering here keeps me happy and feeling useful. And...because I have made friends with so many wonderful people!"

Please join us in congratulating Joan O'Sullivan, our Volunteer of the Year!

 

Dig Deeper - Q & A with James Howe

                                                   james howe

                                                  james howe

The Scholastic Books website has lots of wonderful information about their published books and authors, including James Howe.  Here are just a few questions for Mr. Howe from his readers and his answers...

Why did you become an author? I became an author because I love words. I enjoyed playing with them when I was a kid, writing stories and plays, and doing whatever I could think to do with words. I kept my love of them growing up and still love to see what they can do.

What inspired you to write the Bunnicula series? Debbie [the late Mrs. Howe] and I loved vampire movies. This was in the 1970s when there were a lot of vampire movies shown on late night TV and we stayed up late many a night. Some of them were a lot sillier than they were scary. I don't remember the moment when the character Bunnicula came into my head. I suspect it came from the asking the question, "What's the silliest, least likely vampire I can imagine?" It was never intended to be a series; it just grew out of the first book. I loved writing about those characters so much, particularly Harold, so I continued the story.

Is there anything that you really hoped people would notice or think about when they read this story? I would hope they laugh a lot. I did have a young reader write to me years ago that what she learned from the book was to accept other people's differences the way that Harold accepted Bunnicula into the home. And I liked that. That's become a theme in much of my work and it's interesting that it might have unintentionally been a theme in my first book.

         Cassandra Proball

        Cassandra Proball

What advice would you give a student that wants to be a writer? Two words: read . . . write. Reading is the best way to learn to write, but the way to get better and better as a writer, is to write, write, write. Write what matters to you, write what makes you laugh, write what makes you cry, write in order to get a reaction from the reader, write because you have to, and write because it is fun for you.