Meet Octavio Más-Arocas

by Colleen Cook and DRM Productions

Octavio Más-Arocas is the second of three finalists for the position of Music Director of the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Más-Arocas tells us about his musical background, the family of conductors he comes from, and what he does when he’s not conducting.

This is just a fraction of our full conversation, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/sdClDMrQc1s

See Maestro Más-Acrocas conduct the Mansfield Symphony on March 25, 2017 at the Masterworks: Strife and Victory! concert.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Live, 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Three Valuable Lessons from Daniel Tiger

by Colleen Cook

We are BIG Daniel Tiger fans at our house. My husband and I often refer to Daniel Tiger as the third parent in our house, and I am sure any parent of a preschooler knows what I’m talking about. And, if you’re familiar, you’ve also found yourself singing the earworm jingles in the shower and simultaneously realized that you are no longer cool at all. (No? Just me?)

If you’re not familiar, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is the 21st century animated spin-off of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Many of the familiar characters from Fred Rogers’ Land of Make Believe are featured as the adults in this series, with the next generation of preschool-aged neighbors teaching positive behavioral lessons through story and song. It’s produced by Angela Santomero, the genius behind great educational children’s television shows like “Blue’s Clues,” “Super Why,” and “Creative Galaxy.”

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live is on our stage on April 7th at 7 PM – Read more here!

To me, what makes Daniel Tiger so great is that it reinforces emotional intelligence and positive behavior in a memorable way. When you’re in the depths of new parenting, it can be really challenging to know how to change a negative behavior in your child effectively. Daniel’s parents always respond calmly and rationally, even when real-life parents sometimes lose their cool.  There have been many moments when I’ve taken a cue from Daniel and it’s paid off. Here are a few stories:

  1. Happiness counters fear.
    In August 2015 we had a series of thunderstorms. We live in an old, drafty house and when the weather is moderate, we often place a box fan in my daughter’s bedroom window. One afternoon while she was taking a nap, a large gust of wind and clap of thunder during a storm caused the fan to fall out of the window and awoke my daughter in a panic. The very next night we had another thunderstorm and another clap of thunder awoke her into hysterics. This caused several nights of terror as my traumatized toddler was wildly afraid that another thunderstorm would come (and, the reality was, it would!).

    So, we took a cue from Daniel Tiger and watched and re-watched this episode when Daniel and O the Owl were afraid of thunder, and my daughter started “closing her eyes and thinking of something happy,” just the way Daniel did, and her fears subsided.

  2. How our roles evolve as we grow.
    Our daughter Eloise became a big sister to baby Coralie in December 2015. For most kids, adding a sibling to the family is complex and full of emotions ranging from delight to jealousy. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood produced a series of episodes about the addition of “Baby Margaret” to the Tiger family that are incredible for helping a child adjust to a new baby. By giving us the tools to show our 2 1/2 year old that, while she was no longer the baby in the house, she was a valuable helper in our family, our transition to a family of four was as smooth as possible as our daughter took on her role as a “big helper” with pride.
  3. Give your child all the information up front.
    This lesson was maybe a bit more for me than it was for my daughter. In this episode, Daniel’s mom sings “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do.” I’ve adopted this methodology into my parenting and it has been a life-saver. My natural inclination is to limit the information and just deal with things as they happen, rather than add worry and fear to the day. But, talking about about things with my children has been incredibly helpful in allowing them to fully understand and avoid surprises.

I’m so thrilled that we get to bring Daniel Tiger and his neighbors to our stage once again this April. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live is an excellent interpretation of the animated show, featuring many familiar songs along with newly composed pieces, all of the beloved characters, and a story that reinforces the lessons you want your child to learn. I can’t wait to bring my daughters.

Sensory-Friendly Theatre

Sensory-Friendly Performances: What, When, and How Much We Love Them

By Chelsie Thompson

We take our mission to make the arts accessible very seriously – it is the lifeblood of our work and the passion behind everything we do here – so one of the things that matters more than anything to the Ren team is creating an exceptional patron experience, for all of our patrons.

Of course, we know that going to the theatre is more comfortable for some than others. Families or persons with autism or other disabilities that create sensory sensitivities, in particular, may find the prospect of attending a performance at the Renaissance to be somewhat daunting.

Let us assure you: we are committed to creating an experience that will thrill and delight every single member of our diverse audience. So, we are expanding our ability to offer sensory-friendly performances, starting with a sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical on Thursday, March 30th at 7 pm.

For those who aren’t familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others (source: Autism Society of America, 2013). This can easily create feelings of anxiety and stress for a person with autism when attending a performance in a space that may be crowded, loud, and have sudden or unexpected happenings.

Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to make the performance experience a pleasant and welcoming one for those patrons with sensory sensitivities. Here are a few of the accommodations that you can expect when you come to the Ren for a sensory-friendly performance:

  • Lower sound and light levels, especially during louder or more dramatic events
  • The freedom for patrons to leave their seats or talk during the performance
  • Designated quiet areas
  • Places to move or stand while still enjoying the performance
  • Lower crowd sizes
  • Pre-show visits and videos to acclimate to the theatre environment
  • A staff and volunteer team that is trained to be inviting and accommodating

Let’s pause to look at that last bullet point: our staff and volunteer team is now trained to not only design and create sensory-friendly programming, but to be the welcoming faces who are here to help you enjoy these meaningful events. Thanks to an anonymous donor, we’ve had the good fortune to work with consultant Dr. Ryan Hourigan, Director of the School of Music at Ball State University and a parent of two teenage boys with autism.

Dr. Hourigan is a nationally-recognized author and advocate for the inclusion of students with disabilities in the arts, and he first came to us through our Kennedy Center Partners in Education program as a teaching artist on their national roster (and he also co-founded the incredible Prism Project at BSU, which has now grown to multiple locations across the country). Since his first workshop for our local teachers in the 2014-2015 season, he’s offered additional professional development for both teachers and the Ren team. Most recently, he visited in February for training and to help us confirm logistics for our sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical on March 30th.

While we are thrilled to be able to work with Dr. Hourigan (we’ll admit it – our staff is a bunch of arts nerds who love learning new things), we are even more excited for our patrons to be able to experience the performing arts in a way that may be more comfortable for them. We feel that there has been a segment of our audience that we haven’t been serving well, and we want to correct that, so you can expect to see more sensory-friendly programming on the schedule in the coming seasons. Why? Because above all else, the arts are good for us, and they are inclusive.

For more information on the sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical, contact the Renaissance Box Office directly at (419) 522-2726.

Spinning Sisters: The Revolving Stage

By Colleen Cook

When you look at our staff list, the reality is that our titles are a little misleading. While we are each responsible for our primary job functions, each of our staff members possess unique and specialized skills and talents that overlap into many other areas of our organization, and are frequently showcased.

Mike Miller, for example, in addition to being President & CEO, is a talented sound engineer as well as a performer. Dauphne Maloney, in addition to being our Education Assistant and director of MY Theatre, is a skilled costumer. Her creations are seen in nearly every theatrical production on our stage.  Steven Au is our very gifted graphic designer and also happens to be an outstanding violinist who frequently plays with our Mansfield Symphony. And Jason Kaufman isn’t just our Facilities Manager, he also happens to imagine and build incredible sets for our productions as a set designer and carpenter.

Jason’s designs have created beautiful sets like we saw this season in Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol. You might know Jason from Main Street Books, or perhaps you’ve seen some of his sculptural work around town – one of our favorites is the heart sculpture at Relax, It’s Just Coffee. Or maybe you’ve just admired his work from our audience – who will ever forget the haunting beauty and intricacy of the willowy branches in Beauty and the Beast in Summer 2016?

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Colleen Cook: When and how did you get into set building here at the Ren?

Jason Kaufman: The first set I worked on was Mary Poppins, I think. I wasn’t really lead on that, but I did pitch in quite a bit. I ended up as lead set builder when we had a staff member leave and we had a void where no one was really taking the lead and I just sort of ended up in that place. I really enjoy that position and I wanted to step into that. We had a really great intern for Mary Poppins, Abe Swanger, and he did such good work that we ended up hiring him and he became my assistant set builder. Abe is very skilled and our personalities meld very well, and we also have an unspoken understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we just know what needs done with very few words. It’s been a very seamless partnership.

CC: Can you tell us about your background in visual art?

JK: I’ve always been interested in art. I went to college at Kent State and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. I thought maybe art education, but after a few classes I realized that wasn’t for me. I started taking all kinds of arts classes and landed in glassworking program at Kent. Their program is very sculptural-based, where you use glass with other materials, so less focused on craft-based vessels and blowing and more fine art based. I ended up getting a degree in studio crafts with a focus in glass-casting, and then I have a minor in fine arts.

CC: What’s one of the most challenging set pieces you’ve gotten to build to date?

JK: Definitely the revolve for the Sister Act set. It is built in a modular way, with a 12-foot wide disc that can be disassembled into 10 segments, made by creating our own tongue-and-groove pattern so they all slide within one another and are bolted together. But, that required a significant amount of engineering. Everything needed to fit precisely and has to be put back together exactly the same way each time. And then, once that was put together, we had to figure out how to motorize it, which took a lot of trial and error to get the gearing right on the motor and the drive wheel.

View from above: The Revolving Stage

View from above: The Revolving Stage (Photo by Jason Kaufman)

I had a lot of help from my dad Rick Turske, because I’m not as mechanically-inclined as he is. It was a lot of trial and error, and we actually found an old treadmill that we were able to remove the motor from and since the variable speed adjustment was already attached to that, we could use that. Once we got the gearing right with the wheel driving the turntable, it spins easily and smoothly. We’ve had five or six people on it spinning.

Here’s a sneak peek of the incredible revolving stage in action!

Sister Act runs March 4-5, 11-12 and will be incredible – learn more and get tickets to this awesome show here.

Please silence your phones

Please Silence Your Phones: True Confessions of a Multitasker

By Colleen Cook

I used to pride myself in my ability to multitask. I could be watching a show on TV, making dinner, discovering a new recipe, checking email, replying to a text, and carrying on a conversation with my husband all at once – what a marvel!

Yet, what I’m feeling is anything but “marvelous.” I feel tired, exhausted by the constant stream of information and ideas and notifications. I feel like I never have time to do anything. I have a friend who recently reined in her habit of checking social media throughout the day to only once per day and she was able to read 10 books in a month in that same time.

The longer we live with devices in our hands and our pockets, though, it seems that ability to “multitask” is just a recipe for overwhelm and disengagement. When you’re doing everything, you’re focusing on nothing. No one gets your full attention, you’re engaging with the world in a way that is broad, but extremely shallow.

While many of us can remember a time before the internet, we are quickly approaching a world in which the adults have never lived without digital technology as a part of their everyday life. Michael Harris writes about this in his book The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection and in this Huffington Post Article, “Why We Must Teach Digital Natives How to Be Alone:” 

“Emily, 13, wakes up and rolls over to kiss her smartphone good-morning. Not an actual smooch, naturally, but a virtual kiss of attention, a kiss of grazing fingertips as she calls up 34 missed messages. The swarms of comforting “contacts” deliver new material — texts about a sleepover, photos of Slurpees, links to new cat videos — and the possible solitude of the morning is banished. The question that drives her is not “what shall I do today?” The question (more passive) is: ‘what did I miss?'”

The reality is, we’ve only had the internet in our pockets for less than a decade, and the generations living today haven’t yet developed best practices for moderating this luxury, so what’s happening is a form of digital obesity – we over-indulge in this endorphin-releasing technology and when we do that, we’re missing out on the real life right in front of us. Psychologists and neurologists are finding evidence to exactly this:

Psychologists have hypothesized that the constant demands of emails, notifications, and general busy-ness put a significant burden on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the region involved in multitasking and higher-order thinking (like critical thinking and problem solving). Those small demands add up to drain our attentional resources, making us distracted and cognitively fatigued—which in turn makes it more difficult to focus, think deeply, and come up with new ideas. – Carolyn Gregoire, “The New Science of the Creative Brain on Nature”

When you come to the theatre, we implore you, “Please silence your phone,” for a very practical reason: it’s disruptive to our performance to have noisy, shiny devices going off among a crowd of hundreds. But, maybe the performing arts have had this right all along. Perhaps our constant connection is disruptive to our day-to-day, and it’s time to put our devices in their place.

When we turn off our phones, spend time with those most dear to us, and simply engage with a piece of art, it’s like giving ourselves a breath of fresh air. It’s allowing our brains for once to “uni-task,” to disconnect, to be fully present in time and space with the people we love. And, our children depend on us learning the values of silence, solitude, togetherness, and full engagement so that they might be passed down to future generations.

Further listening: one of my favorite podcasts, Sorta Awesome, has a great episode talking about this topic that you can check out here.

Announcing the 2017 Summer Musical!

by Colleen Cook

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The Summer Musical has become a celebrated community tradition. Each summer in the last weekend of July and the first weekend of August, our region’s finest actors, singers, and dancers come together and perform a Broadway musical that dazzles and delights audiences each night.

After our success last summer with Beauty and the Beast, and Mary Poppins the season before, we wanted to continue to offer a show that would give families an opportunity to wrap up the summer in style. That’s why this summer’s show is none other than one of Disney’s most beloved musicals…

 

The Little Mermaid will be on stage July 29 at 8 PM, July 30 at 2:30 PM, August 5 at 8 PM and August 6 at 2:30 PM. Auditions will take place Sunday April 23rd from 12-5, Monday 24th from 4-7, with Callbacks Tuesday 25th from 4-7.

Tickets will go on sale to Renaissance Members only beginning March 1st. Tickets will be available to the public beginning April 4th. Interested in becoming a member? You can join when you call the Box Office (419-522-2726) to order your tickets.

This summer, our Artistic Director Michael Thomas will be unavailable, so we’ve invited director Kris Kyer to step in to direct. Kris Kyer’s career spans over three decades as an actor, performer, teacher, singer, and director in every medium of the entertainment industry.  Most recently, he has directed THE LITTLE MERMAID, ADDAMS FAMILY, ELF JR. MARY POPPINS, PETER PAN (starring as Captain Hook), and SUPERMAN at the Grove Theatre in Upland, CA.  

For nearly two decades he was the director/owner of THE KYER WORKSHOP FOR ACTORS in Burbank, CA. Thousands of young actors began their careers and studied under Kristopher to have successful careers in film, Broadway, stage, and television.  Mr. Kyer was also the “on set” acting coach for ABC-TV’s BOY MEETS WORLD; MAYBE THIS TIME; and GRACE UNDER FIRE; the Bruce Willis film HOSTAGE; and personal acting coach for Jessica Simpson on THAT 70’s SHOW for FOX-TV. You can learn more about Mr. Kyer here.

old-age-360714_1280

How I Fell in Love with the Symphony

by Llalan Fowler

When I was a kid and just getting into music, my grandmother started taking me to all the Sunday matinees with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. The whole experience of going to the Renaissance Theatre was a “to-do,” as she might say. Dressing up, buying drinks and popcorn, getting escorted to our seats like we were important.

I was just learning how to listen to music — how to pull apart an orchestra and listen to one section at a time. There’s the low brass, there’s the high woodwinds, I think that’s a viola? And how to watch an orchestra, too — how to see the players watch the baton of the conductor, the rows of string players watching the first chair, the percussion section watching everything. I was learning a new language. I could already read music, but reading a new language is quite a different thing than understanding a conversation.

I wonder if perhaps you have to grow up with symphonic music to continue seeking it out as you age. My elementary school music teacher was a passionate man. Passionate enough to throw blackboard erasers into the chatty percussion section, gesticulate so wildly as to dislodge his comb over, and to rain insults and spittle down upon the first unlucky row of flutes. Most of the kids hated him. I would have, had he not kept playing fantastic recordings for us: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing, and Gershwin. I took a tape of Rhapsody in Blue out of the library and listened to it again and again in my room, letting the music take shape and color in my mind.

My grandmother loved that I was exploring the big band music of her youth and encouraged me with her own stories of the bands that played when she was a young woman. She still remembered all the words and sang along in her ageless soprano to my CDs of Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Andrews Sisters.

As I got older and my tastes refined, my grandmother took me to even more shows. We saw one of Mel Tormé’s last concerts and even saw Yo-Yo Ma, whose luggage had been lost so he and his accompanist wore lumberjack flannels. We spent several summer evenings on a lawn in Columbus, picnicking and listening to The Canadian Brass, laughing at their jokes even if we’d heard them last year. I played trombone and wanted to be the first lady in the brass quintet.

I played in high school — symphonic band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band — and continued to play through undergrad. I worry that music is accessible only to those who already speak the language. Those of us who recognize all the different voices that combine to one. Those of us who have felt the power in that moment between the last note and the applause. But how much knowledge and history behind a certain piece do you need to “get it?” When I look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I know little of his life and of the story behind the piece; but I do know it is crushingly beautiful.

I want to share the beauty of this music with others, but don’t always know how to convince my Millennial-aged peers to come to an orchestra concert with me. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of them do come, but I greedily want everyone to try it. I don’t know if it’s some presumption that symphony-goers are stuffy and pretentious or if it’s intimidation by the unknown that prevents more people my age from joining me there. I certainly don’t know everything about each piece that’s played in a concert. Rather than feeling ill-educated and uncomfortable at the end, however, I feel refreshed and new and as if I learned something just by sitting there. Like the first time I heard Rhapsody in Blue, I didn’t feel stuffy and pretentious — I felt like something bold and new was let loose inside me.

This Saturday, I will be going to the “When Swing Was King” pops concert, and I’ll be bringing my now-91-year-old grandmother. We will dress up, we’ll go to the Altered Eats catered dinner beforehand, we’ll gets drinks, and we’ll be escorted to our seats. We’ll sit in the dark and listen as the chaos of tuning instruments transforms into the asymmetrical jive of Shaw, Miller, and Dorsey. I suspect we’ll sing along.

 

 

Cheers!

Recipe for Love: Damiana Chocolate Rose Love Cordial

By Nicholas Copley of Lionheart Medicinal Gardens (& Altered Eats)

You will absolutely fall in LOVE with this aphrodisiac influenced cordial! Damiana is a wild shrub native to Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies that has been historically used as an aphrodisiac. Damiana is still used as an aphrodisiac today, as well as supporting relief of: headaches, bedwetting, depression, nervous upset stomach, constipation, and boosting mental and physical stamina. Damiana has also been used to enhance dreams. Chocolate and rose are known aphrodisiacs. Cacao contains phenylethyamines, which work similar to dopamine and epinephrine, creating heightened senses of well being.

Try this cocktail and an entire feast of farm to table goodness at the Altered Eats pre-concert dinner on February 18th!

First before we make this cordial I would suggest making this delicious chocolate syrup. This syrup is dairy-free and does not contain any refined sugar.

The Best Chocolate Sauce

  • ¾ cup raw cacao powder ( or unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup REAL Maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Pulse together cacao powder, coconut sugar, and salt into a food processor until well combined.
  2. With food processor spinning, pour boiling water through feed tube.
  3. Stop processor, scrape sides, add the maple syrup and vanilla.
  4. Process again until consistently silky smooth.
  5. Transfer to a glass container and place in the fridge to cool for a few hours.
  6. Enjoy over ice cream or in this next recipe!

Damiana Chocolate Rose Love Cordial 

  • 1oz dried Damiana leaves
  • 2 cups brandy or vodka (I used Brandy)
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 3 TBSP rose water
  • ¾ cup of chocolate syrup (the recipe above is the best)
  1. Soak Damiana leaves in alcohol for 1-2 weeks. Strain and reserve liquid in a clean glass jar/bottle.
  2. Soak alcohol drenched leaves in filtered water for two-three days. Strain and reserve liquid.
  3. Gently warm the water extract (over low heat) and stir in honey. Remove from heat and add the alcohol extract. Pour into a clean glass jar and add vanilla, chocolate sauce, and rose water.
  4. Use your best discernment on the amounts of rose water and chocolate sauce. Adjust to you liking.
  5. Allow it to mellow for a few weeks. It definitely gets better with age. Store in fridge for several months.
  6. Enjoy!
Improv Olympics 2011

3 Ways to Build Your Team Through Improv

By Dauphne Maloney

Improv exercises take us out of our comfort zone and allow us to play, think on our feet, and be present in the moment. Recently, our Artistic Director Michael Thomas wrote (about his experience as a performer at renown improv comedy theatre The Second City), “The best improvisers are also the most profoundly adept actors. And why? Because they are always listening and reacting. They stay “in the moment” – so their reactions are always honest and believable.”

Here are three improv games, one for children, one for teenagers, and one for adults, that will help to build your team. If you’re a teenager interested in learning to improvise, our free Improv Underground classes begin February 8th – learn more here.

For Elementary/Middle School and older:

Vacation Pictures–(4 players)

Playing:

  1. Set up two chairs, with approximately 6 to 8 feet between them. Your chairs should be facing the audience.
  2. Choose two people to sit in the chairs—they will act as the people describing what they did last summer (or whatever you choose).
  3. Choose two additional people to stand between the two chairs, also facing the audience.

    Chair                     Actor   Actor               Chair
    (with “narrator” seated)                                                         (with “narrator” seated)

  4. Take suggestions for possible vacation locations from your audience.
  5. Once a location is selected, the two people in chairs take turns making statements about what they did last summer, such as, “We went to Cedar Point, and rode a roller coaster.” On the count of three (which the instructor, or audience, can do), the two actors standing between the chairs must create an interesting pose, as they would if in the “photo” of their roller coaster ride. Allow each “narrator” to describe two or three “photos.”
  6. Allow those describing to switch places with those acting so that all may have a turn.

For High School and older:

Garage Sale—(4 players)

Playing:

  1. Players get a few suggestions (from the audience) of items which might be found at a garage sale.
  2. One player (Player A) leaves the playing area as the other players group together (as a “pile” of items at a garage sale). (NOTE: You may also have the players form a line of items from left to right, as though they’re lined up for the garage sale.)
  3. Player A enters and begins looking other players as if they were items for sale. Player A chooses one “item” (Player B) and pulls them down stage (forward; closer to the audience). Player A identifies what Player B is to become by saying something like, “My, what a lovely teapot;” or “I wish there wasn’t a crack in this mirror.”
  4. Player B comes to life and gives a short few sentences about their experience (as that item) in the world. This monologue can be very short (30 seconds to a minute) and can be directed to the shopper (Player A) or given to the audience.
  5. Player A puts the first item back into the pile or line, and chooses another item, and the pattern repeats.
  6. The scene ends when Player A decides what items he would like to buy, and takes them with him/her off stage.

For Adults:

Pros and Cons—(as many players as desired)

Playing:

  1. Using as many players as desired, form a single-file line from the front of the playing space to the back of the playing space. (Players are lined up, one behind another, all facing the audience.)
  2. The instructor will give the first player in the line a subject, object, or person’s name with which to work. It is the first player’s job to talk positively (or “pro”) about their given subject, object, or person for a designated amount of time. (30 seconds is a good length of time. Either the instructor/moderator can serve as the time-keeper, or they may assign someone to keep the time.)
  3. At the end of the designated amount of time, the time-keeper will say, “switch,” at which point the first person in line stops talking, and turns to the player behind them to give that person another subject, object, or person’s name. The first player either returns to their seat in the “audience area,” or goes to the end of the line.
  4. Once players have switched spots, the second player in line will now be at the front of the line. It is their task to talk about their given subject, object, or person in a negative (or “con”) fashion for the designated amount of time.
  5. This continues, with players alternating “pro” and “con” as the line moves from player to player, until all of had a turn.

Hints: It is usually best to advise the players not to suggest subjects which may be controversial in nature, as this may make others uncomfortable, thus defeating the idea of team building or playing. Additionally, when working with players who may or may not know each other well, it is often wise to avoid suggesting names of celebrities or character names from pop culture, as not everyone will know that person of whom they’re asked to speak.

Lori Turner Turandot 1993 Flemish Royal Opera

Life as an Artist: An Interview with Lori Turner

By Colleen Cook with Lori Turner

When parents talk to me about Lori Turner and the work she does with the students who participate in the Renaissance Youth Opera Theatre, or “RYOT,” program, their eyes glisten and their faces become reflective and soft. “She does such a good job,” they tell me; “my child is discovering who she/he is, they are growing so much,” they say. Behind the curtain and apart from the outstanding productions this group regularly performs, the culture of RYOT and the quality of instruction Lori provides creates an almost sacred space for the students who participate each year.

Beyond the RYOT shows, many of our patrons have had the opportunity to see Lori’s unforgettable performances on our stage in a number of musicals over recent years, including Young FrankensteinA Christmas Carol, White Christmas, Xanadu and Ragtime to name just a few. What our audience may suspect from her notable performances on our stage but may not know, however, is that Lori has enjoyed a tremendous career as a performing artist. Lori’s performance career began with the Los Angeles Opera, the Roger Wagner Chorale and the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra. She then spent 10 years in Europe as a member of the Royal Flemish Opera in Belgium. I invited Lori to allow me to interview her and share some insights from that season of her life:

Colleen Cook: What was life like as a full-time opera singer in Belgium?

Lori Turner:  European audiences support the arts in a very different way from those in the United States. As an opera singer with the Royal Flemish Opera, I had a full-time, salaried position and I worked for the season from August through July, with a paid summer vacation. We performed 6-8 fully-staged, avant garde productions each year in two houses, one in Antwerp and another in Ghent. The houses were slightly larger than the Ren, so about 1500 seats, and they would regularly be sold out.

The opera company was constantly aspiring to make opera an interesting visual as well as aural sensation for a younger audience, and they responded. European audiences have fewer preconceptions about opera and are generally more interested in attending an opera even if it’s outside of their normal type of entertainment.

The arts are state-subsidized because European Governments believe that access to the arts is an important experience for the general population’s quality of life, which really improves life for the artists because you can be a working artist. The Royal Flemish Opera Company is 1 of 3 national opera companies in a country the size of Los Angeles.

CC: When you left Europe and moved to Mansfield, what kind of culture shock did you experience?

LT: I tried to anticipate a lot of things, but I missed performing a lot. I missed being able to sing really challenging music, but I was also occupied being a parent, and that was priority one, so that was certainly impactful but it didn’t control my life.

It was harder on our son, because he was used to European lifestyle. He told his friends that it was always warm in America, because he had only visited the US in the summers. Let’s just say that first winter was a rude awakening! Not having medical insurance was impactful. Teaching privately, via a community arts school, and not having a salary had a big impact.

CC: What advice would you give a young performer considering a career in performance?

LT:  If they’re about to go into the world, into college, I’d encourage them to go to a college that has as many performance opportunities as possible. If they’re going into the world to work, then go some place that has as many performance opportunities as possible. I believe every American should spend time overseas – in Europe, Asia, England – to gain a world-wide perspective. Every performer should study the classics, regardless of your discipline, dancers should study ballet, actors should study Shakespeare, singers should study opera – the foundations don’t limit you they expand your higher ability.

CC: The decision to make a major shift from performing to moving your family back to the US and focus on parenting is brave and bold. What advice would you give a young parent?

LT: It really changed my life for 20 years. I was performing full-time, and then I wasn’t. For me, to be home at night, I felt that needed to happen to be an effective parent. For a time, I lived a little bit vicariously through my son’s involvement in theatre, as I suppose all parents do. I never lost touch with theatre because I was still directing. I still sang some with the symphony and concerts but now that Phillip is grown, I’m starting to perform again. I’m no longer a “Dorabella,” the roles I can play have changed as I’ve aged and as my instrument has changed, but I’m having to redefine myself as a performer now, 20-years later. One thing I did for myself and for my instrument, I studied the whole time that I wasn’t performing.


Lori’s next production is RYOT’s The Gondoliers & Pinocchio, February 4-5, 2017.
Get information and tickets here.