GLOW Founders in Focus

Not your average couple, GLOW Founders artistic director Jenna Tamisiea Elser and executive director Christian Elser, have built Greenville Lyric Opera Company on the vision for a theatre company that believes in the power of the arts to ignite important conversations regarding issues within our community and our nation.  

Check out what the dynamic duo had to say about Glow’s founding, the importance of art as a tool for change, and even some sneak peek details for what you can expect to see on the Glow stage this summer!

 

Question: Could you tell us a bit about your backgrounds and where you’ve done opera and musical theatre?

Jenna Tamisiea Elser: I have a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Tulsa, and once I graduated from there I had quite a lovely career as a musical theatre actress, and I actually transitioned into directing for the stage and received my Masters in Directing at Florida State University.

Christian Elser: I had a career as an opera singer for about twenty years or so… I have a doctorate music degree and teach college voice, and run a collegiate opera program, while still singing and conducting around the U.S.

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Question: What’s it like being a wife-husband duo in creating something like GLOW?

Christian: Well for those of you who don’t know, the two of us met in Tulsa Oklahoma, when we were both performing in The Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Sorceror.

Jenna: It was an absolute showmance!

Christian:We’re an 11 year long showmance.

Jenna: Total showmance. And now that we run Glow together, it’s a large part of our personal life and professional life, and I just couldn’t think of anybody better to spend my time with.

Christian:  I couldn’t agree more!

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Question: And not only is GLOW producing incredible musical works to keep the showmance going, but you both have really envisioned GLOW as theatre that is really trying to be representative of under privileged communities and current issues!

 

Christian: It’s true, we’re unique in that we have focus on  theatre for social justice, and our mission is to produce works that are in direct response to the social and political climate of the state and country at the time.

Jenna: And that’s really part of the reason why Christian and I founded this company and decided to promote social justice through the work we’re doing. It’s because we really do believe that art has the power to change communities.

Christian: If you look through the history of opera, the operetta, and especially the musical theatre they’ve always had something very poignant to say about the situation, culturally and politically, of the time, while also telling a wonderful story that connects audiences to these situations.

Jenna: We want to spark dialogue and ignite change, and the arts are such a wonderful way to do that, because it’s very very hard to go to the theatre and have a closed heart!

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Question: So tell us about what’s lined up for the 2017 Season, and the how you’re tackling this year’s festival theme of “Question Authority”.

Jenna: So this season our theme is “Question Authority” and underneath this theme we’re producing three amazing shows! The first is Robert Ward’s operatic adaptation of The Crucible, next we have the tribal rock musical from the 60s, HAIR, and finally we have the very satirical and hysterical and satirical Gilbert and Sullivan classic “The Gondoliers”.

Christian: You may ask what do these shows have in common and how do they question authority? And the standout is probably HAIR. It is a show about protest, the Vietnam War, about social issues, and really to our dismay, these remain the issues fifty years later.

Jenna: HAIR breaks all the rules. It focuses on their struggle against this repressive world, when what they want to do is live free to be who they are.

Christian: The Crucible has a lot to say through this prevailing story that you are guilty until proven innocent, and covers this mob mentality of the Salem Witch Trials.

Jenna: And you hear the phrase witch hunts bounced around a lot lately in our political climate, and The Crucible centers around a lot of mass hysteria, of fear of the unknown, fear of stepping outside.

Christian: Fear of asking questions…

Jenna: Even fear of not going with the group.

Christian: And The Gondoliers is our comedic offering, the entire show is about questioning authority, it’s fantastic, it’s fun… and as Jenna likes to call it it’s our Saturday Night Live sketch of the season.

Jenna: And what I really love about The Gondoliers is how it pokes fun at both sides of the political sphere! And that’s an important reminder that laughter can be the cure for a lot of the ills of our society – that when we’re in a time like now that has turmoil and division, it’s laughter of both sides that can bring us together.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 2.16.16 PMQuestion: We know we can’t wait to get our tickets! Is there anything else excited audience members can do to prepare for the season?

Jenna: We want to know how you question authority! Put it on our Facebook, get involved with our mailing list…we really want our season to start really important conversations!

Christian:“What does questioning authority mean to you? Tell us!

Jenna: Keep checking back in and become part of the dialogue! Who knows, your ideas may even become part of the season!

 

Don’t miss out on your chance to see the incredible work of our co-founders and “Question Authority” this summer at Glow Lyric. You can book your tickets today at http://www.glowlyric.com/tickets/, and make sure to get involved in the conversations GLOW’s Facebook and Twitter!


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Madeline Roy

16736224_658947304307152_2067056952_nAs Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

Next in our fabulous cast is the talented and hilarious singer and actress Madeline Roy! In our interview we discussed her upcoming role in Love is Love is Love, as well as her experiences as a trans woman in the Upstate.

 

Q: So this is your first time working with GLOW, could you tell us a bit about your roll in the show?

A: Yes this is my first time working with glow.  Q2 I am ultimately myself, Madeline, in the show and my role is somewhat of a transitional character setting up a few of our comedic scenes.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about what drew you to the project?

A: After seeing a post on Facebook about the cabaret, i thought to myself, “Yes! Now is my chance to really be myself on stage, no typecasting, no judgement just be myself and perform!” It’s just a great chance to be heard.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your experiences in the Upstate’s LGBTQ community?

A: My experience of being trans in the upstate has been a journey! There have been a few lows, from being kicked out of church, to disappointing medical care. But there have been even more highs on my journey, from meeting the wonderful people, to finding a trans-accepting therapist through my friends at the Gender Benders, as well as meeting a new doctor who has helped me with my journey becoming myself.

 

Q: And in the spirit of the season, what is your your dream Valentine’s date, and a Valentine’s candy you cannot go without?

A: My dream V-day Date would definitely be seeing an LGBT Cabaret with my significant other. And of course Valentine’s Day just isn’t Valentine’s Day without a Hershey’s Kiss (or 10)!

 

You won’t want to miss Madeline’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Brook Nelson

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

Next in our fabulous cast is the incredibly talented vocalist vocalist Brook Nelson! In our interview we discussed her upcoming role in Love is Love is Love, as well as her experience as a “gay exMormon”.

 

Q: Is this your first time working with Glow? If not could you tell us a bit about what brought you back?

 

A: This is my second time working with GLOW! I worked on their 2016 Festival Season as a stitcher on the costume crew. I’m back because I love the work that Christian and Jenna do.

 

Q: Well we’re glad to have you back, and this time in a different role! Could you tell us a bit about this new role and what drew you to the project?

 

A: I’m onstage this time- delivering original pieces dealing with my experience as a gay exMormon and performing some familiar and powerful showtunes too. I really wanted to work on Love is Love is Love because I decided (a while ago) that I didn’t want to be quiet about things that matter to me anymore, and this is a pretty awesome opportunity to be loud!

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your experienes in the Upstate’s LGBTQ community?

 

A: As a lesbian, I’ve seen first hand how our world is so divided, and people on all sides are so quick to cling only to people who share their views, as well as ostracize those who don’t. I think sometimes we forget that even people we disagree with are still people. Work like this is important because it helps other people to see who we are and where we’re coming from.

 

Q: And in the spirit of the season, what is your favorite Valentine’s gift you’ve ever received, your dream Valentine’s date, and a Valentine’s candy you cannot go without?

My mom once got me a hip hop hippo who dances to “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon Five, and I still have him. For date I have to go with star gazing then watching a movie, eating pizza, and cuddling. And to be honest, I kind of love conversation hearts.

You won’t want to miss Brooke’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.

 


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Niara Solarris

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is

Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

In today’s interview, we chat with Niara Solarris, as she discusses her upcoming role in Love is Love is Love, her own experience of being a transgender woman in the recording industry, and the important role that music and art have played in her life.

Q: Is this your first time working with Glow?

A: Yes it is my first time, though I’m already excited to audition and become a more frequent part of Glow!  I was actually invited to audition by my fellow cast mate (and friend Heather Feather-  it was definitely a blessing, and so is she!

Q: Tell us about your role in Love is Love is Love, and what drew you to the project!

A: I’ll be covering the role of the battered transgender ingenue’ who transforms from a victim into the femme fatale survivor; and I’ve been finding strength in my beauty and sexuality along the way.  As a freshly signed recording artist and A/R representative of Independent Distribution Label – Wordlife Entertainment/Ventures Beyond Productions, as well as an artist manager of the Underground Music Publishers – Metok Music, this was a fantastic way to use my expertise for something really personal to me.

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your connection to the LGBTQ community and why it’s important to have works like Love is Love in the Upstate?

A: I myself am a M2F pre-op Transgender Woman who plans to get the full female surgery.  I also was an advocate for Affirm and PFLAG (LGBTQ societies) back when i was a teenager and young adult.  It’s important to have art like Love is Love is Love because art reflects that the world can change. And the only way we can have Equal Human Rights for every human is to use art to inspire compassion acceptance and tolerance.

4) In the spirit of the season, could you tell us your dream Valentines date, as well as your favorite Valentines candy?

My Dream Valentines date would be to go to Bahamas or Hawaii (with my date proposing of course!) And the Valentines day candy i cannot go without has to be any combination of chocolate and caramel.

You won’t want to miss Niara’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.


Meet the Love is Love is Love Cast! Sara Magun

Sara Magun As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

Today we feature Sara Magun, a long time Glow performer, as she discusses her input in developing Love is Love is Love with director Jenna Tamisiea, along with her recent push to push for her own and her community’s voice.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your history with GLOW and why you keep coming back?

 

A: I am a long time GLOW performer, since their first official season in fact.  I’ve performed in 8 shows with them and I don’t even know how many concert events.  I come back time and again for two reasons: Christian and Jenna.  Their commitment to producing quality art that strives to make a difference is inspiring.  They have pushed me and supported me as an artist  and a friend. And, at the end of the day, they are just fun, fabulous people to be able to make art with.

 

Q: What is your role in Love is Love is Love, and what drew you to this specific project?

 

A: Originally, I was drawn to it because it was another opportunity to do what I love: get on a stage and sing.  The fact that it was also an event centered around the LGBTQ+ community, of which I am a member, was just the cherry on the sundae.  As we got closer to rehearsals beginning Jenna reached out to Vaughn and I and asked us to help talk through all of the wonderful material people had suggested as performance pieces and see if we could start putting it together in a way that would give a sense of structure and flow.  This show has truly been a collaborative effort and has been an amazing experience.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your connection to the LGBTQ community and why it’s important to have works like Love is Love in the Upstate?

 

A: I am the B in LGBTQ+.  Well, technically I identify as pansexual (I’m attracted to the person, not the gender) but most people have no idea what that is so it’s easier to tell them I’m bi.  I moved to Greenville a little over 6 years ago and quickly fell in love with it here.  And what’s not to love, right?  The mountains, the lakes, the people, the theater, the music…. I could go on and on.  But then I remember that I make a point of not telling people that I’m bi because, living in the bible belt, I am afraid of what their reaction would be.  I don’t lie and say I’m straight but I also don’t volunteer the information unless it’s someone I know well and feel comfortable with.

It’s 2017.  I don’t care if I’m living in the bible belt, I shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit that the last person I fell in love with was a man but the next one could just as easily be a woman.  I think it’s important to have safe spaces to be able to stand up and say things like that without fear of hatred and recriminations.  And that people in relationships have a place to go for Valentines where they don’t feel they have to hide their love in order to feel safe.

 

Q: Any Valentine’s Day traditions you’d like to tell us about?

 

A: I hate Valentine’s Day haha- but… I gotta say I love those Reese’s peanut butter hearts
You won’t want to miss Sara’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Feather Sissom

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As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

You may have seen our next performer, Feather Sissom, around town leading protests and support groups with her incredible spirit and voice, along with her trusty ukulele. We had the chance to sit down and talk about her activism, her LGBTQ family, and her absolute love of those chalky Valentine’s candies we all love to hate.

 

Q: What is your role in Love is Love is Love, and what drew you to the project?

A: This is my first show at When Glow Lyric theatre contacted my local LGBTQ support group, Gender Benders, seeking local performers, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of this show. I am performing two different songs, though I’m most excited about a sweet lullaby, I’m sure you all know, that represents motherly love.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your connection to the LGBTQ community and why it’s important to have works like Love is Love in the Upstate?

A: I myself am a pansexual single woman. I’m also a mother, and of my three children,  one identifies as lesbian. She came out about 2 years ago and has just reached the wonderful age of sweet 16. I was so proud of her courage to speak up at her young age, despite the significant bit of static she received from some people in her life.

My drive for civil rights activism is fueled by the hope that coming generations will become more accepting of one’s orientation, especially our young people. A large percentage of teen suicide cases today have to do with LGBTQ intolerance, and that is so unnecessary.  I also have a beautiful amazing adopted big sister who is a transperson. Having these two in my life is special because they inspire me to be unapologetically me.

Q: In the spirit of the season, could you tell us about your favorite Valentine’s candy?

A: Ok so don’t judge..but I actuality enjoy the chalky, dusty, pasty-when-chewed conversation hearts. Not the sweet tart kind with raised letters and crisp edges… Im talking the almost heart shaped, tumsesque, soft antacidy ones with sloppy illegible words that were just smashed vaguely into some part of its surface. They are softer than the other ones and I like the snap when you bite into them… I love them all! Well, except for those tongue-stinging, Elmer’s school paste flavored white ones, or worse, the grody green ones, which, to me, are what the scent of pine-sol would be if it were a taste instead of a smell.

You won’t want to miss Feather’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Cindy Mixon

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As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

The first cast member featured in Love is Love is Love is the wonderful Cindy Mixon, a longtime Upstate vocalist and actor who has been seen in shows at Centre Stage Theatre, Mill Town Playhouse and many more Upstate theaters. We had the chance to sit down with Cindy to talk about her upcoming performance, her first experience with GLOW, and of course, her own connection to the LGBT community.

 

Q: So this is your first production with Glow correct?

A: Yes, this is my first time working with Glow.  I have been involved with the local theatre community for the past 20 years and I’m very excited to be a part of this GLOW production!

Q: Well we’re glad to have you! Could you tell us a bit about your role in Love is Love is Love, and also what drew you to this project?

A: I am a vocalist in Love is Love is Love, and what drew me to this project was the love and concern I have for my family and friends. I want to take a stand, share my thoughts and experiences publicly, and GLOW is giving me this opportunity. I think now more than ever it’s important to take a stand for what you believe in- especially when they’re human dignity and love!

Q: Could you share a bit about your connection to the LGBTQ community and why it’s important to have works like Love is Love in the Upstate?

A: I am the single mom of a bi-racial, gay son, so I know what it means to say “the struggle is real”.  I’ve seen and felt the hurt and discrimination leveled against him and others for no other reason except the color of their skin or who they love.

I understand their fears and concerns- the need for “safe places” to gather, as well as understand some of the sheer horrors out there, for example, a co-worker of my son was one of the victims of the PULSE night club shooting. So it’s especially important to have works like Love is Love is Love to reach out to the community and show that we are stronger when we stand together in love!

Q) Not to take a semi drastic turn in questions, but in the spirit of the season, here’s a fun one. What would be your dream Valentine’s Day date or a Valentines candy you CANNOT go without?

A) Dream Valentine’s Day date?  February 14th…oh, you mean a date date, well, I haven’t had one in a very long time and I think I quit dreaming about them too- haha. But the Valentines candy I cannot go without is chocolate, of course!

 

You won’t want to miss Cindy’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.


GLOW’s ‘Raising Voices’ explores culture

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker , diwalker@greenvillenews.com

Published 10:15 a.m. ET Jan. 10, 2017 | Updated 11:21 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2017

GLOW Lyric Theatre has a specific goal in mind with its new “Raising Voices” cabaret series: To celebrate diversity, to shine a spotlight on artists whose work often goes unseen and unheard.

The first performance in the series, Saturday’s “And Still I Rise,” focuses on African-American culture, through original music, dance and poetry.

The production, which takes place at the Greenville County School District’s Fine Arts Center, includes “a mixture of all genres of traditionally African-American music, including gospel, jazz, soul, classical music,” said GLOW’s artistic director Jenna Tamisiea. “The music is sort of meant to celebrate the rich history that black singers and composers and instrumentalists have created in this country. What’s interesting about the piece is that, in utilizing music that is traditionally of an African-American style, we’re really using this music to tell a contemporary story about what it’s like to be black in our community.”

The cast includes four singers, a dancer, a poet and five instrumentalists. Composer Jon Grier created two compositions especially for the production, and poet Ashley Lumpkin will perform two original pieces.

“We’re seeing inside the personal lives of these artists. … They’re essentially portraying themselves. And the pieces that they chose, they chose because it meant something to them and it was something they wanted to share, a story that they wanted to share,” Tamisiea said.

The “Raising Voices” series came out of a group of forums that GLOW held last summer for artists in the Upstate.

What they learned, Tamisiea said, was that many artists “feel under-represented or marginalized, including artists of color or artists of varying sexual orientations, often felt like there was no opportunity for them to be a part of the arts in this community. We as a company work very hard to keep diversity at the forefront of what we’re doing.”

While the elements of the cabaret are connected by a theme, it isn’t like a typical theater production with a storyline and specific characters.

But there is one character who helps to tie the elements together, Tamisiea said.

“We do have a character of a storyteller who weaves in and out; she’s the only through-line you can see in the piece. … She’s an African storyteller, and she serves as a connection to the heritage that all of these black singers share,” she said.

The “Raising Voices” series will also include a Feb. 14 production titled “Love Is Love Is Love,” and a March 19 performance, “Milan to Moscow.”

YOU CAN GO

What: “Raising Voices” cabaret production “And Still I Rise”

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fine Arts Center, 102 Pine Knoll Drive Walker , diwalker@greenvillenews.com


GLOW to Raise Voices in ‘And Still I Rise’ January 14

STAFF REPORT.

While diversity should always be one of the major pillars in artistic principles, too often we find our stages, be they local, regional, or streaming live from the Oscars, lacking true representation of our communities, let alone providing many of our brilliant actors, writers and directors the recognition they deserve. But as in past seasons, GLOW Lyric Theatre and their artistic director Jenna Tamisiea are working towards providing a space designed to showcase all talents, and are keeping this tradition with their first event of the 2017 And Still I Rise, happening January 14th at the Fine Arts Center.

Focusing on both the social and political climate of the Upstate (as well as the nation as a whole), Glow’s programing seeks to bring open discussions to the stage, and in And Still I Rise, Glow in collaboration with members of the Upstate’s African American community, has organized a cabaret night filled with music, poetry, dance, and spoken word, focusing on the tumultuous racial tensions that have arisen from events such as the triumphant removal of the confederate flag from the South Carolina state house, to the absolute horror of the Charleston AME Shooting, and anything in between.

“The way we are igniting the dialogue is through this musical performance,” says Tamisiea. “Music (and art) have the power to speak when words fail, and that’s what I really think And Still I Rise strives to do.” Also discussing the questions that have arisen with the recent presidential election and subsequent uncertainty and fear 2017 has arrived with, Tamisiea went on to add “It’s our job as artists to use our gifts as a megaphone for those who may feel repression and discrimination.”

And the tapestry of gifts Glow has organized is a tremendous mosaic of talent, including renowned soprano Diana Thompson, local composer Jon Grier, the Vaughn Newman Dance company, poet Ashley Lumpkin, as well as student musicians from The Fine Arts Center, and Glow has worked hard to insure these artists are at the center of developing and creating the dialogue of their story.

“This whole performance has been solely driven by the artists in the show,” says Tamisiea. “They chose the material that was personal to their experiences, so audience should expect a truly intimate and personal perspective with no punches pulled.”

And with so many unique voices it should come as no surprise that And Still I Rise spans stylings from jazz, soul, gospel and spiritual. “It celebrates songs created and performed by African Americans,” says Tamisiea, which includes “A Change is Gonna Come,” “I Feel Good (I Got You)” and “Mercy Mercy Mercy Me,” and two unique compositions by Jon Grier as well as an overarching poetic text from the likes of Ashley Lumpkin, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and even ancient African prayers.

“Each piece illuminates a unique theme, ranging from the struggle of identity, acceptance and equality that black men and women have endeared in our country and community,” says . And for those inspired by the honesty and intimacy these artists have provided, there will be a talkback with the artists after the show, inviting the audience to take part in tackling and learning about many of these incredibly important issues. It’s sure to provide not only a beautiful array of diverse performances, but also ring in the new year with some thought provoking and unique reflection.

And Still I Rise is the first in Glow’s 2017 Raising Voices Series, which will include two additional cabarets representing other unique groups within the Upstate Community and will continue to elevate stories of marginalized artists. And Still I Rise has one performance January 14th at the Fine Arts Center starting at 7pm. Tickets are $15 with a $10 student rush, and can be purchased at http://www.glowlyric.com/tickets/ . This is limited event with only 125 seats available.

GLOW’s 2017 Raising Voices Series continues with:

Love is Love is Love

February 14th, 2017 at 7:00pm – The Warehouse Theatre

The second in the Raising Voices Series, Love is Love is Love  re-imagines Valentine’s Day to focus on how the power of love can stop oppression. Seven Upstate LGBTQ singers, actors and dancers perform personal songs and stories that reflect their life experiences. Filled with humor and honesty, Love is Love is Love will take place on Valentine’s Day at The Warehouse Theatre in downtown Greenville beginning at 7pm. Sponsored by Upstate Pride.

Milan to Moscow

March 19, at 2017 at 2:00pm – Location TBA

Soprano Tacy Fluery, Mezzo Lucie Svatonova and Baritone Christian Elser present Milan to Moscow, a concert exploring the cultural heritage of each singer.  This production is a part of  Upstate International Month and sponsored by Upstate International.

 


GLOW takes ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ on a tour of Greenville

Three Nights at the Opera
Views: 115

For the average person, the term “opera” likely elicits less-than-positive reactions and conjures up all sorts of images, possibly of a giant, bellowing woman wearing a two-horned Viking helmet, holding forth in an unintelligible language.

Jenna Tamisiea, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s artistic director, understands. “Some of the stereotypes are warranted,” she says.

Since its inception seven years ago, GLOW Lyric Theatre, a Greenville-based professional vocal arts company producing opera, operetta and musical theatre, has been on a mission to change the prevailing negative perception.

Each December for the last five years, GLOW’s mission is especially evident through its holiday performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” a modern, one-act, Christmastime opera in English by Gian Carlo Menotti, who also founded the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston in 1977.

Based on Italian versions of the Nativity and Epiphany, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” is a retelling of the story of the Magi from the point of view of a young disabled boy named Amahl, who lives in poverty with his widowed mother near Bethlehem. He sees a bright star in the sky one night and tells his mother to go look, but she brushes him off, buried in concern over their bleak future. That night, three kings who were following the star seek shelter in Amahl’s simple hut. They bring with them treasure and gifts to give to “the Child” who has just been born.

“It’s definitely a humanitarian story,” Tamisiea says. “It is about the Christmas story, but it’s more about cherishing family and the power of a child to change the world.”

This year, GLOW is performing the 45-minute opera Dec. 10, 16 and 20 in three Greenville churches, all with completely different stages requiring a variation on the set and blocking.

Tamisiea says in the past, GLOW has performed the opera in only one location, but since a secondary purpose of the show is to give back to the community and venues from ticket proceeds, performing it three times in as many locations allows for the donations to be spread out to more institutions. Of the ticket proceeds, 10 percent goes to United Ministries, and the remainder is split evenly between GLOW and the venue.

The primary purpose, though, is to bring the art form to more than just one audience and encourage an appreciation for it in all ages.

“It’s so very accessible,” Tamisiea says. “It’s through the eyes of a child and a mother. It’s relatable, it’s in English and it’s funny. It proves opera is about more than people standing on stage being boring and singing.”

The very first opera ever to be commissioned specifically for television, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” premiered and was broadcast live from the NBC Television Opera Theatre in New York City’s Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve in 1951.

The opera features the five main characters along with a children’s choir and dancers, this year from the Fine Arts Center, who perform a mini-ballet mid-show.

Menotti wanted Amahl to be played only by a child, not a small woman, to ensure the perspective remains from a child’s point of view. GLOW’s Amahl has been played for the last three seasons by a fiery redheaded girl, Morgan Weiner, now 12. This is likely Weiner’s last year in that role, because she is almost too tall to be convincing as a small child, Tamisiea says.

 

 

Amahl & The Night Visitors

Dec. 10, 7 p.m. at the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Dec. 16, 7 p.m. at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Greenville

Dec. 20, 7 p.m. at Buncombe United Methodist Church in Greenville

Tickets: $15 (adult) and $5 (children) if purchased online before the event or $20 (adult) and $10 (children) at the door.

A portion of the proceeds from all performances will benefit both the hosting church as well as United Ministries.

 

For more information visit glowlyric.com or call 558-GLOW.