Alums and Students in #TheatreCompany Premiere Short Film Starring Diane Kvapil

For the past two years, alumni and students from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music have worked to write and produce a new short film starring one of Cincinnati’s most beloved artists, Emeritus Professor Diane Kvapil. Presented by the #TheatreCompany, A Thankless Child premieres on Thursday, April 27, at UC’s MainStreet Cinema in the Tangeman University Center.

A Thankless Child is the story of a family haunted by a huge secret and the victims left in its wake. It is an absurdist take on the burdens and responsibilities of being a part of a family. This film was made possible by the generous contributions to the #thedianemovie crowd-funding campaign and CCMpower.

The film gives Kvapil an opportunity to get back in front of the arts community that she has fostered and loved for more than 40 years. Locally, Kvapil has performed at Playhouse in the Park, Edgecliffe Theatre and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in numerous productions since 1957. She was a treasured CCM Acting faculty member from 1977 until her retirement in 2015.

At CCM, Kvapil directed productions of Trojan Women (with original music by Richard Oberacker), Our Town, Three Sisters (Acclaim Award winner for Outstanding Ensemble) and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. In 2011 she was named Outstanding Theatre Educator by the ACCLAIM Awards in Cincinnati.

Diane Kvapil throughout her years in the performing arts.

A sample of Diane Kvapil’s work throughout her years in the performing arts.

“Diane is the definition of a passionate life-long artist and educator,” says #TheatreCompany co-founder AC Horton (BFA Acting, 2015). “She is moved by her immense love of the work and storytelling and her dedication to passing that love on to her students.”

The idea for A Thankless Child started with a joke made by CCM Acting student Katie Langham during a performance at Kvapil’s home in March 2015.

“The energy was palpable,” remembers Langham, co-founder of #TheatreCompany. “Just a moment in her home and you can feel the stories around you. I asked Diane if she would be open to making a short film in the home upon her retirement. Thinking that it was never going to happen, she half-jokingly said ‘yes.’ Unfortunately for her, I never half-joke.”

At the time, Langham and AC Horton were working with fellow students and alumni in the #TheatreCompany, a new company of young theatre professionals dedicated to creating honest, exciting and contemporary work. The company was born at CCM when Horton used #TheatreCompany to refer to the one-night-only shows she directed in classrooms. The company grew to produce an original piece, The Gospel of Fat Kathy, which was performed in New York City.

Langham, Horton and John Patrick Maddock (BFA Acting, 2014) wrote the script for A Thankless Child as they worked on The Gospel of Fat Kathy in New York. The entire cast, crew and creative team for A Thankless Child is made of former and current students from CCM’s Acting, Theatre Design and Production, E-Media and Commercial Music Production programs.

“When Katie first asked me to do it, I almost said no,” Horton recalls. “The idea was absolutely terrifying. But, I agreed that if she could get Diane to do it, I would do it. One thing I learned during my time at CCM is that you have to follow the fear.”

Kate Wilford in "A Thankless Child."

Kate Wilford in “A Thankless Child.”

Horton directs the film, which stars Kvapil and her daughter, Kate Wilford. It marks the first time the mother-daughter duo have acted together. Langham plays Kvapil’s estranged granddaughter and serves as the film’s Executive Producer.

“I would not have had the courage or faith in myself to lead a project of this size without the lessons taught to me by my CCM professors, specifically Richard Hess,” Langham says. “He has taught me how to find the heart of a project and how to be fearless and generous every step of the way. Without CCM I would not be the ‘woman in art’ I am today.”

“Working on this film has been an incredible, life-changing learning experience,” Langham says. “Not only did I get to act alongside my mentor, teacher and very good friend Diane Kvapil, but I worked with a crew that was gifted, patient and eager to be in the room.”

A Thankless Child premieres at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at UC’s MainStreet Cinema in the Tangeman University Center. The UC Alumni Association will host a reception with light snacks and refreshments at 6:30 p.m.

The reception and premiere are free; please RSVP online at alumni.uc.edu/ccm/thedianemovie.

PRODUCTION TEAM
Director/Writer – AC Horton (BFA Acting, 2015)
Executive Producer/Writer/Maddie Steele – Katie Langham* (CCM Acting)
Writer/Producer/Andy Steele – John Patrick Maddock (BFA Acting, 2014)
Genevieve Clark – Diane Kvapil
Cynthia Steele – Kate Wilford
V.O. David Steele – D’Arcy Smith, CCM Acting professor
Director of Photography – Zacharias Muller (BFA E-Media, 2015)
Camera 2 – Asa Featherstone IV (BA Communications, E-Media Minor, 2016)
Script Supervisor/Assistant Director – Danielle Kokochak* (E-Media Minor)
Lighting Designer – Josh Davenport (CCM Theatre Design and Production, 2014-2014)
Set Design/Props – Logan Greenwell* (CCM Theatre Design and Production)
Hair & Make-up – Danae Jimenez* (CCM Theatre Design and Production)
Production Assistant – Jacob Berry* (CCM E-Media)
Production Assistant – Clare Bradley Combest* (CCM Acting)
Audio Engineer – Haley Wolf (BFA E-Media, 2015)
Audio Engineer – Lauren Osinski (BFA E-Media, 2016)
Artistic Mentor – Shaun S. Sutton (BFA Acting, 2014)

POST PRODUCTION TEAM
Soundtrack – Jennifer Rowecamp (BFA Commercial Music Production, 2016)
Editor – Bradley Theodore Thompson* (CCM E-Media)
Editor – Sam Medert (BFA E-Media, 2016)
Audio Editor – Lindsey Singleton Ballou* (CCM E-Media)

*CCM student

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CCM Acting Alumnus Takes New Musical ‘Bandstand’ to Broadway

Five alumni from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music are involved in a swing-filled, all-American musical that opens on Broadway on April 26. Bandstand: The New American Musical features alumni from CCM’s Acting, Musical Theatre and Orchestral Conducting programs.

Bandstand, set in 1945, tells the story of Donny Novitski, a World War II veteran who decides to enter a national contest seeking America’s newest musical sensation. He quickly assembles a ragtag jazz band of fellow veterans, along with a beautiful young war widow to be the band’s lead singer, and enters the contest. It’s a post-war Cinderella story told in an era when young Americans were fighting for their identity in the face of a dramatically changed world.

Richard Oberacker (BFA Acting, 1993) wrote the music, book and lyrics for Bandstand. While Oberacker received his undergraduate degree in acting, he has become a successful conductor, composer and lyricist. He is currently the conductor of Cirque du Soleil’s in Las Vegas, and he composed the score for a new musical version of The Great Gatsby, which will premiere in Tokyo later this year.

Oberacker returned to CCM in 2015 to teach a "Singing Actor" master class.

Oberacker returned to CCM in 2015 to teach a “Singing Actor” master class.

“Richard Oberacker was born to make music. He is a storyteller by nature, and now America will get to enjoy just how good he is when Bandstand opens on Broadway,” said Richard Hess, Professor of Acting and the A.B., Dolly, Ralph and Julia Cohen Chair of Dramatic Performance.

“He has such a big heart, and he inspires excellence in everyone around him. Cincinnati taught Richard how to fly; now he’s ready to soar.”

Greg Anthony Rassen (MM Orchestral Conducting 2003) is co-orchestrator, music supervisor and music arranger for Bandstand.  During his time on Broadway, he has conducted An American in Paris, The Little Mermaid, The Book of Mormon and Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. He is also an accomplished pianist and was featured on the Grammy-nominated cast recording of An American in Paris. He currently holds a position with the New York Pops.

The vocal music arranger for the show is David Kreppel (BFA Musical Theatre, 1992), who is currently the Associate Music Supervisor for The Lion King worldwide and has conducted Aladdin, Sister Act, Rock of Ages and A Chorus Line on Broadway.

Two CCM alumni have roles on stage in this production. Geoff Packard (BFA Musical Theatre, 2004) plays Wayne Wright, the trombonist in the band. His Broadway credits include Matilda, Rock of Ages and Phantom of the Opera, and he has participated in national tours of Wicked and Phantom of the Opera.

Max Clayton (BFA Musical Theatre, 2014) is in the ensemble and is also an understudy for Donny Novitski, the male lead. On Broadway, he has been seen in Something Rotten!, On the Town and Gigi.

Bandstand opens on April 26 at Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street in New York City.  You can learn more about the show at bandstandbroadway.com.

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Story by CCM graduate student Alexandra Doyle

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Children playing on tank drums made of repurposed propane tanks, which will be installed at Percussion Park.

CCM Jazz Alumnus Ben Sloan to Open Percussion Park in East Price Hill

If you build it, they will drum — East Price Hill is getting a new park that is built to make noise. Part playground, part instrument, Percussion Park opens in grand style on Friday, April 21, with a celebration at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson avenues.

Percussion Park is the creation of Ben Sloan, who graduated from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in 2011 with a BM in Jazz Studies. It all began when Sloan watched a video of a child playing on a drum set made of paint cans and buckets. He thought, “I could build something like that” and set to work.

A bass marimba inspired by the marimbas commonly found in Zimbabwe. The instrument will soon be installed at Percussion Park. Photo provided by Ben Sloan.

A bass marimba inspired by the marimbas commonly found in Zimbabwe. The instrument will soon be installed at Percussion Park. Photo provided by Ben Sloan.

The park is a collection of outdoor percussion instruments; a brass marimba, tank drums made with propane tanks, suspended stainless tubes and wooden tongue drums. The instruments are easy to play, some are meditative and others are bouncy and playful. “It’s sculptural, it’s playful, it’s bright, it’s inviting,” Sloan says. “It’s a space for making noise.”

He hopes people will enjoy the instruments and make connections through music.

“Perhaps someone finds some clarity playing an instrument on their own on a dreary afternoon, or a couple of friends have a laugh while playing something as they pass by, or total strangers find themselves communicating through music,” Sloan says. “I would love to see the park become a gathering space for the community, a place for events, for impromptu performances — a place for creative expression.”

 

Sloan works as a teaching artist and site coordinator at MYCincinnati, an after school youth orchestra program directed by CCM alumnus Eddy Kwon (BM Jazz Studies, 2011). He teaches the pre-orchestra students, ages 5-10, in a class that combines singing, movement, percussion and “a lot of silliness.”

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and Price Hill Will help clean up the vacant lot, which will soon host the Percussion Park.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and Price Hill Will help clean up the vacant lot, which will soon host the Percussion Park.

Last spring Sloan shared his idea for Percussion Park with MYCincinnati founder Laura Jekel, who is also the head of Creative Placemaking at Price Hill Will, a nonprofit focused on community development. She shared Sloan’s idea with Price Hill Will and a few days later there was space for Percussion Park in an empty lot at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson avenues.

Sloan received a $10,000 grant for the park from People’s Liberty, a philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati. He also worked with Price Hill Will and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to revitalize the vacant lot. They have added a rain garden, plants and trees in addition to Sloan’s outdoor instruments.

When he isn’t teaching or building a new community park, Sloan performs in a handful of other local music projects including A Delicate Motor, Lazy Heart and Fresh Funk.

“Many of the musicians I play regularly with are CCM alums,” Sloan says. “My biggest takeaway from CCM are the friendships forged over those four years.”

Sloan recently connected with fellow alums from CCM and UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) at an event hosted by the UC Alumni Association. He spoke about Percussion Park at the event, which was held at People’s Liberty.

Percussion Park’s opening celebration is from 4-6 p.m. on Friday, April 21 at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson avenues in East Price Hill. The celebration features short performances from MYCincinnati musicians and free catered food from local restaurants Veracruz Mexican Grill and Urban Grill.

For more information on Percussion Park, visit percussionpark.com.

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Melodic Connections musicians on stage during a concert. Photo provided by Melodic Connections.

CCM Gives Back: Volunteer at Melodic Connections on April 8

Melodic Connections, a music therapy studio founded by alumna Betsey Zenk Nuseibeh, needs help painting its new studio space after a storm ravaged its previous location. Join University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music alumni and friends for a day of service at the new studio, located at 6940 Plainfield Road, on Saturday, April 8.

The CCM Gives Back volunteer event is organized by the UC Alumni Association, which will provide a pizza lunch for all participants. Volunteers will meet at Melodic Connections on Plainfield Road from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday to paint the new studio space. Please RSVP online at alumni.uc.edu/CCMgivesback.

Damaged instruments after the flash flood. Photo provided by Melodic Connections.

Damaged instruments after the flash flood. Photo provided by Melodic Connections.

Flash flooding caused by a storm devastated the original Melodic Connections studio on August 28. The studio, which provides music therapy services to people of all ages and abilities, was destroyed along with instruments, furniture and equipment.

“We lost everything,” said Betsey Zenk Nuseibeh, who graduated from UC with an MM in Oboe Performance in 2002 and an MEd in Special Education in 2002.

Vans floated in four feet of water in the Melodic Connections parking lot. The piano was knocked on its back when water flowed through the studio. Instruments and sound equipment, which were stored on the ground level of the studio, were destroyed along with years of teaching materials. Music therapists poured water out of handmade ukuleles, which had been recently donated from Hawaii.

“Our music therapists were heartbroken,” Nuseibeh said. “The students were calling, offering support and wondering when they would be able to return to their music home. We couldn’t answer. We didn’t know.”

The organization rallied after the storm, with tremendous support from the Greater Cincinnati community. Calls of support, instruments and monetary donations were made to help revitalize Melodic Connections.

“In our darkest moments, we found that our beloved city and community wouldn’t let us stop making music,” Nuseibeh said.

With its original studio in shambles, Melodic Connections had to find a new space for its programs. Now the organization is working to move to its new location so it can continue offering music therapy services to Greater Cincinnati.

Nuseibeh founded Melodic Connections in 2008 after she worked with an autistic student who struggled to communicate with others. She realized that he behaved differently in music class and introduced him to piano. Music gave him a new way of communicating with others. He sang commercial jingles to students in the hallway — his way of saying “hi.” He even sang the Beatles’ Get Back to his teachers to let them know when they were standing too close.

In high school he began taking lessons through CCM’s Preparatory and Community Engagement Program. Now as a young man in his 20s, he is part of the Melodic Connections studio.

“Music has given him a means through which to communicate his beautiful thoughts with the world,” Nuseibeh said.

Melodic Connections offers this opportunity to people of all ages and abilities throughout Greater Cincinnati. Offerings include Adult Programs, Afternoon Classes, Summer Camps and Music in the Schools.

CCMpower provided funding for the Music in the Schools program, which brings music therapy-based learning into 24 area special education classrooms. These programs will still be offered through the new Melodic Connections studio on Plainfield Road.

“This new building will signify a beautiful new Melodic Connections,” Nuseibeh said. “So many more people know now who we are and what we do, so this space will now represent our weaving into the fabric of the Cincinnati music community. It will be a place to build skills so that we can be a part of the rich music culture in this city.”

Melodic Connections students in class. Photo provided by Melodic Connections.

Melodic Connections students in class. Photo provided by Melodic Connections.

The new Melodic Connections studio is taking shape but still needs some work before it opens its doors. Volunteers at the CCM Gives Back event will help paint the walls of this new space, which will soon be filled with music.

Volunteers will meet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 8 at Melodic Connections, located at 6940 Plainfield Road. If you plan to participate, please RSVP online at alumni.uc.edu/CCMgivesback.

“I am proud of the education I received from CCM,” Nuseibeh said. “In addition to the high standards and beautiful music I was able to create with others in ensemble there, it also created within me a resiliency, grit and determination to achieve great things through music. I know there are other alum that feel the same way and I am truly looking forward to joining them in community on April 8.”

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CCM Dance presents Masterworks and Beyond on April 13-15 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Photo by Will Brenner.

CCM’s 2016-17 Mainstage Series Concludes with Dance Masterworks and Beyond

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music concludes its 2016-17 Mainstage Series with Masterworks and Beyond, performed by the Department of Dance on Thursday, April 13-Saturday, April 15 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Co-directed by Dance Department Chair Jiang Qi and Associate Professor Deirdre Carberry, the performance features a mixed bill of contemporary and classical ballet.

Alongside a selection of traditional and new works, Masterworks and Beyond includes the world premiere of day of wakening over the sea of night, with choreography by CCM Assistant Professor André Megerdichian and music by CCM composition alumnus and accompanist Bradley Harris.

The program begins with George Balanchine’s masterwork Valse-Fantaisie, a classic ballet set to music by Mikhail Glinka. CCM’s performance is restaged by guest artist Viki Psihoyos, who works with the George Balanchine Trust to offer Balanchine Technique Workshops. Up next in Masterworks and Beyond is Flower Festival, with music composed by Edvard Helsted and choreography by August Bournonville. This one-act ballet is restaged by Qi and Carberry.

The program continues with two works that feature brand new choreography. CCM Associate Professor Michael Tevlin choreographs Revelries, a new traditional ballet performed with music by Gaetano Donizetti. Guest artist Roger Van Fleteren, who is the Associate Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of the Alabama Ballet Company, choreographs “unRAVELed” a new contemporary ballet with music by Maurice Ravel.

The grand finale of the program is the world premiere of day of wakening over the sea of night. Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s mythological writings, this new work is a viscerally engaging, athletically mesmerizing landscape of contemporary dance. The piece features a reimagined stage space, which creates a shifted perspective, heightened by live musicians with a mystic world groove.

Masterworks and Beyond is a collection of diverse works, which showcase the versatility of the students and faculty in CCM’s Department of Dance. Tickets are available for purchase through the CCM Box Office.

Valse-Fantaisie is performed by permission of the George Balanchine Trust.

Performance Times
8 p.m. Thursday, April 13
8 p.m. Friday, April 14
2 & 8 p.m. Saturday, April 15

Please note: UC’s Nippert Stadium will also host an FC|Cincinnati game at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, 2017. The full FC|Cincinnati Soccer game schedule can be found at www.fccincinnati.com/2017-schedule.

Location
Patricia Corbett Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati

Purchasing Tickets
Tickets to Masterworks and Beyond are $27-31 for adults, $17-20 for non-UC students and $15-18 for UC students with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/masterworks-and-beyond.html.

Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors.

For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
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CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Dance Sponsor: Rosemary & Mark Schlachter

The Dance Department gratefully acknowledges the support of the Corbett Endowment at CCM
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Story by CCM graduate assistant Charlotte Kies

Photo by Will Brenner.

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A screenshot from 'Standard Definition' featuring CCM Musical Theatre graduates Ben Biggers and Chris Collins-Pisano.

UC Student Film Accepted into Cleveland International Film Festival

Electronic Media majors Tim Young and Elliot Feltner filmed Standard Definition with their classmates for a school project last spring. Now it will be shown alongside 216 short films from around the world.

Last spring, former University of Cincinnati students Tim Young and Elliot Feltner created a short film for their capstone class that any aspiring filmmaker can relate to. The comedic story focuses on two Cincinnati-based film students who argue about the necessity of spending money on film projects — until they find a magical camera that makes everything it captures appear beautiful.

Nearly a year later, Young and Feltner’s Standard Definition is set to be screened at the 2017 Cleveland International Film Festival.

“It is unreal that our film was chosen to be screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival,” Young said. “When we first started shooting and cutting it together, we had no plans to enter it into any festivals. We just wanted to make something that we could be proud of and show to our friends and families.”

The 41-year-old film festival will screen 200 feature films and 216 short films from 71 countries between March 29 and April 9. Standard Definition will play at the festival on April 6.

Roommates Young and Feltner were enrolled in the Electronic Media program at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music when they filmed Standard Definition for Kevin Burke’s “Advanced Video Production” capstone course. They both graduated with bachelor of fine arts degrees in 2016.

They had to present Burke with a pre-production plan and a list of group members before the class began, which helped ease the filming process. “Once the class started in January, we had all of the tools necessary to start filming,” said Young, director and co-producer of Standard Definition.

The two film students enlisted help from fellow e-media majors Fritz Pape, Katie Laird and Yiyang Xu, and from other programs across CCM. Lead actors Chris Collins-Pisano, Ben Biggers and Raven Thomas are all 2016 graduates of the Musical Theatre program.

Young was the teaching assistant in Biggers and Collins-Pisano’s “Acting for the Camera” class, taught by Robert Pavlovich. The group applied the acting techniques they learned in class while working on the film, Young said.

From left to right: 'Standard Definition' filmmakers Yiyang Xu, Katie Laird, Tim Young, Elliot Feltner and Fritz Pape.

From left to right: ‘Standard Definition’ filmmakers Yiyang Xu, Katie Laird, Tim Young, Elliot Feltner and Fritz Pape.

“I couldn’t have made the film without the help of our other group members,” Young said. “This project was a collaborative effort, and the film would not exist without them. We had a small crew to make this film compared to others, but the people in our group are so skilled and multi-talented that we were able to pull it off.”

The short film debuted at Tangeman University Center’s MainStreet Cinema last spring and received an “incredible response from the audience,” Young said. They worked with Burke as well as professors Kristyn Benedyk and Matt Irvine from UC’s Digital Media Collaborative program to submit Standard Definition to a handful of festivals and will continue to do so throughout the coming months.

Not everything came easy for the filmmakers, though. In August 2016, Feltner was in a severe car crash on Interstate 75, caused by a man who was later indicted on a charge of driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

Feltner, who had been an avid amateur inline skater as well as a filmmaker, barely escaped the ordeal with his life. He was injured so badly that he technically died twice, and police were dispatched to his parents’ home to notify them of their son’s death. However, due to quick medical care from nurses who happened to witness the crash, Feltner was resuscitated and airlifted to a nearby hospital. He suffered brain trauma and multiple spinal cord injuries.

For months, he has been in rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Denver, which specializes in treating spinal cord injuries. He recently returned to Cincinnati and will continue outpatient rehabilitation here.

Young said Feltner is getting better every day. Before the car crash, the roommates saw each other every day and worked on Standard Definition together. After the crash, they were separated as Feltner focused on rehabilitation.

“I basically wrote the film about the two of us, or film students just like us,” said Young, reflecting on how the crash impacted his perspective of the time they spent creating Standard Definition. “Every day after shooting we would come home and stay up late editing together rough cuts of the scenes. It was so exciting and rewarding to see all of our hard work turning into something tangible that we could be proud of.”

“After his accident I only saw Elliot a few times over the course of months as he dealt with his injuries. Going from spending every day and night together to not speaking for weeks at a time was really difficult and really made me appreciate how special our time making Standard Definition together really was.”

Standard Definition plays at the Cleveland International Film Festival on Thursday, April 6 at 9:35 p.m. at Tower City Cinemas, 230 West Huron Road in Cleveland.
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Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

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Lotte Lenya Competition Graphic.

Alumni and Students Named Finalists in 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition

Three current and former CCM students are among 14 young artists selected as finalists in the 20th Lotte Lenya Competition. Those include Jasmine Habersham (AD Opera, 2015; MM Voice, 2013), DMA Voice candidate Paulina Villarreal (MM Voice, 2015) and first-year voice masters student Lisa Marie Rogali.

This isn’t the first time Habersham has advanced in the Lotte Lenya Competition. In 2015, Habersham competed in the competition’s semifinal round. At CCM she appeared as Norina in Don Pasquale, Mrs. Julian in Owen Wingrave and Pearl in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star.

Villarreal, who began her DMA studies at CCM in 2015, was a Young Artist at Cincinnati Opera. CCM patrons may have seen her perform in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Bright-Eyed Joy in November. She has also appeared in Some Light Emerges, Il signor Bruschino, Hansel and Gretel and William Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs.

Rogali began her studies at CCM in the fall of 2016. She appeared in the ensemble and as an assistant costume “spirit” in the CCM Mainstage production of Cendrillon in November.

All 14 contestants range in age from 19 to 32 and hail from across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, France and Israel. They were chosen from a pool of 266 preliminary audition videos — the most applications ever received in competition history. Thirty-two of those applicants moved on to the semifinal round, where they auditioned live in New York for judges Judy Blazer and Ted Sperling.

“Working with these singers is an enlightening and thrilling experience and whether they win the brass ring or not they all win in a sense for having done it,” Blazer said of her experience coaching the semifinalists.

Kurt Weill Foundation President Kim H. Kowalke stated, “This year’s semifinals were more competitive than some of our finals in previous years; the judges in Rochester are going to have their work cut out for them, especially with the stakes increased this year to a top prize of $20,000.”

In celebration of the 20th competition, top prizes have increased to $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000. Judges may also bestow additional discretionary awards of $3,500 each for outstanding performances of individual numbers. The new Kurt Weill Award for $5,000, established this year, will recognize an outstanding performance of two contrasting Weill selections. All finalists receive a minimum cash award of $1,000.

The finals take place Saturday, April 22 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Each finalist will present his or her entire program in the daytime round, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. An evening concert, in which contestants sing only a portion of their programs, follows at 8 p.m. The concert concludes with the announcement of awards and prizes. Both the daytime round and evening concert are free and open to the public.

The evening concert will be live streamed online at www.esm.rochester.edu/live/kilbourn. Visit the website before or during the concert to stream it (no password required).

This year’s judges’ panel brings together three internationally recognized artists. Renowned stage director Anne Bogart brings diverse theatrical and operatic credits to the jury. In January 2017, she directed the highly acclaimed production of Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Tony Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley has demonstrated his versatility as an actor on Broadway in roles as wide-ranging as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, The Monster in Young Frankenstein and a Tony and Olivier Award-winning performance as Jud Fry in Oklahoma!. Bogart and Hensley, both first-time judges, join veteran judge Rob Berman, who returns to the competition for a seventh time. Berman has been seen on Broadway most recently as music director for Bright Star and Dames at Sea; he is music director for the popular Encores! series at New York City Center.

The finalists will sing a program of four selections from the operatic, Golden Age, contemporary musical theatre repertoires and the music of Kurt Weill to compete for prizes totaling more than $75,000.

Over the last 20 years, the Lotte Lenya Competition has grown from a small contest exclusively for students of the Eastman School of Music, to one of the widest-reaching international vocal competitions. Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera and concert stages around the world. This season, LLC laureates can be seen in seven Broadway shows, at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Komische Oper, in concert with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, on national and international theatrical tours and heard on two Grammy Award-winning recordings. See why Opera News said of the competition, “[N]o vocal contest better targets today’s total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups.”

About the Kurt Weill Foundation
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. is dedicated to promoting understanding of the life and works of composer Kurt Weill (1900-50) and preserving the legacies of Weill and his wife, actress-singer Lotte Lenya (1898-1981). The Foundation administers the Weill-Lenya Research Center, a Grant Program, the Kurt Weill Book Prize and the Lotte Lenya Competition, and publishes the Kurt Weill Edition and the Kurt Weill Newsletter. Learn more by visiting www.kwf.org.

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