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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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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Voice Alumni Compete in 2017 Met Opera National Council Auditions Semi-Final

Four UC College-Conservatory of Music alumni will compete in the Semi-Final round of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which will take place in New York on Sunday, March 12.

The prestigious competition for young singers has four rounds: District, Regional, Semi-Final and Final. Ten of the semi-finalists will move on to the final round, where five of them will be pronounced winners. Each winner receives $15,000, and the other finalists receive $5,000 each. This year’s final round will take place on Sunday, March 19 on the stage of the Met Opera.

The four CCM alumni who will participate in the Met Council Semi-Finals are Jessica Faselt, soprano (MM Voice, 2016); Summer Hassan, soprano (MM Voice, 2014); Andrew Manea, baritone (MM Voice, 2016); and Cody Quattlebaum, bass-baritone (BM Voice, 2015). Read their bios below to learn more about these outstanding young musicians.

Known for her “keen expression and impressive delivery” (Music in Cincinnati), soprano Jessica Faselt hails from Iowa. Faselt completed her master’s degree at CCM, where she was the recipient of the Corbett Award, and she earned her Bachelor of Music from the University of Iowa. Faselt has sung with the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, studying with mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick, and will return there in 2017. She was a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2015 and was engaged there in 2016 to cover the role of Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos. Other roles include: Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Hanna in The Merry Widow, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito and Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw.

Soprano Summer Hassan is a member of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. She made her company debut in 2014 as the Second Lady in Dido and Aeneas and returned as the Ghost Quartet Soprano in The Ghosts of Versailles in 2015. Her LA Opera appearances in the 2015/16 season include the Second Lady in The Magic Flute.  Recent performances include Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle under the baton of Placido Domingo, as well as Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Colburn Orchestra. She was featured as Musetta in Wolf Trap Opera’s 2016 production of La Bohème and in recital with Steven Blier at The Barns at Wolf Trap. Ms. Hassan made her Carnegie Hall debut as Second Niece in Britten’s Peter Grimes with the St. Louis Symphony, and in 2014 she made her debut as the Second Lady in The Magic Flute with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where she was a Gerdine Young Artist. Other roles have included Mimì in La Bohème, Betty in The Threepenny Opera and Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito. She received her Master of Music from CCM and her Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory.

Lauded for his, “charming…robust baritone…,” Romanian-American baritone Andrew G. Manea has been continually rising to the top of the opera world at an impressively young age. Andrew’s recent roles include Marcello in La Bohème, No. 7 in Transformations, Forester in The Cunning Little Vixen, Escamillo in Carmen, Danilo in The Merry Widow and the Father in Hansel and Gretel. In a very successful 2016 season, Andrew was awarded first place and audience favorite in the Mary Jacobs Smith Singer of the Year Competition with Shreveport Opera, second place and audience favorite in the Opera Columbus Cooper-Bing International Vocal Competition, Finalist in the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition and he was a Career Grant recipient in the Giulio Gari Foundation Competition. Continuing to rise to success, Andrew has been awarded a position as a new member of the San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship program. This coming season at San Francisco Opera, he will be performing Marullo in Rigoletto, covering Marcello in La Bohème, performing Marchese d’Obigny in La Traviata, performing in a world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West and performing a Schwabacher Debut Recital with esteemed pianist Warren Jones. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a master’s degree from the CCM, where he studied with Bill McGraw.

Bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum from Ellicott City, Maryland, is currently earning a Master of Music in Voice Performance at the Juilliard School. He received his bachelor’s degree from CCM. He has performed Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Lautsprecher in Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Der Fischer in Matsukaze, Melisso in Alcina and Colonel in a premier workshop of Daniel Catán’s Meet John Doe. He recently performed Guglielmo in Così fan Tutte with Merola Opera. He won the Seybold-Russell Award in the 2015 Corbett Opera competition, first place and “Audience Favorite” award at the 2016 James Toland competition and second place in the 2016 Gerda Lissner Liederkranz competition. He recently performed Claudio in Handel’s Agrippina in Alice Tully Hall and Wilson Theater in New York City. He will also perform under the baton of Maestro Michael Morgan with the Oakland Symphony next season.

About the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions
The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is a program designed to discover promising young opera singers and assist in the development of their careers. Known as the venue for the world’s greatest voices, the Metropolitan Opera holds National Council Auditions throughout the United States and Canada each year. The goal of the National Council Auditions is to discover promising young singers, give singers from around the country a chance to be heard by the major opera companies of the U.S. and Canada, and find potential participants for the Lindemann Young Artist Development program, an opera training program sponsored by the Met.

For more than six decades, this competition for exceptionally talented singers from across the country has helped launch the careers of some of opera’s greatest stars, including Stephanie Blythe, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Patricia Racette and Deborah Voigt — as well as, more recently, Lawrence Brownlee and Angela Meade.

View a full list of this year’s National Council Auditions Grand Finals Winners at www.metopera.org/about/auditions/nationalcouncil.

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CCM Acting Holds Annual Senior Showcase and Dolly Awards on March 24

CCM Acting Class of 2017.

CCM Acting Class of 2017.

Graduating students from UC College-Conservatory of Music’s Department of Acting present the annual Senior Showcase at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, March 24, in Werner Recital Hall. The annual DOLLY Awards ceremony follows the evening showcase performance and includes the recognition of an outstanding alumnus of the program. These events are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.

The showcase performance consists of a variety of scenes by graduating seniors in CCM’s Acting program, demonstrating the depth and breadth of the acting skills they have honed during their undergraduate training at CCM. The Senior Showcase is the first presentation of a performance that the students will take on the road to exhibit their talent in New York and Los Angeles in March and April.

The evening performance is followed by the annual DOLLY Awards, hosted by Professor Richard E. Hess, CCM’s A.B., Dolly, Ralph and Julia Cohen Chair of Acting. The awards recognize the outstanding student achievements and performances in the 2016-17 CCM Acting Season, which includes the productions of TRANSMIGRATION 2016, Very Dumb Kids, Romeo and Juliet, Middletown and Her Naked Skin. Awards are given for Excellence in Performance and Excellence in Ensemble Performance.

The highlight of the DOLLY Awards ceremony is the presentation of the 2016 Julia Winter Cohen Career Excellence Award to a graduate of CCM Acting. This year’s honoree is alumna Julianna Bloodgood (BFA Dramatic Performance, 2005).

Bloodgood began her work with Poland’s multi-award winning and critically acclaimed theatre company Teatr Pies´n´ Kozla (Song of the Goat Theatre) in 2009. In addition to her studies at CCM, she holds an MA from Manchester Metropolitan University in conjunction with Song of the Goat Theatre and she is a graduate of California’s Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. At Song of the Goat Theatre, Bloodgood has developed and performed in Songs of Lear, Portraits of the Cherry Orchard, Return to the Voice, Dead Walk Love and Crazy God. She is currently rehearsing and developing a work based on Hamlet. Bloodgood has traveled and performed throughout Europe, Asia, South and North America.

Bloodgood’s work also consists of community-based projects and artistic outreach, using art as a vehicle for healing and change. She is a founding member of the Great Globe Foundation, an organization devoted to increasing cultural exchange and empowering voices through the arts, and is the proud co-founder of the Dadaab Theater Project, a youth based theater project in Dadaab, Kenya, the world’s largest refugee camp.

CCM ACTING SENIOR SHOWCASE

Performance Times
2 p.m. & 7 p.m.* Friday, March 24
*The DOLLY Awards ceremony takes place after the 7 p.m. performance.

Location
Werner Recital Hall, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati

Admission
Admission to the CCM Acting Senior Showcase and DOLLY Awards Ceremony is FREE and open to the general public. Reservations are not required.

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. Please visit uc.edu/parking for information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

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

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CCM Announces 2017 Opera Scholarship Competition Results

Artist Diploma candidate Yi Li with Mark Gibson and the CCM Philharmonia.

Five voice students were named winners of CCM’s 2017 Opera Scholarship Competition, which was held on Saturday, Feb. 25, in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

Since its inauguration in 1976, the annual competition welcomes current and incoming CCM voice students to compete for scholarships and cash prizes, and a panel of judges composed of opera industry professionals selects each year’s class of prizewinners.

The 2017 CCM Opera Scholarship Competition winners are:

Nicolette Book (first year Artist Diploma student)
From Minneapolis, Minnesota, studying with William McGraw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Corbett Award ($15,000)
The Corbett Award is supported by the Corbett Foundation in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Caitlin Gotimer (second year Master of Music student)
From Long Island, New York, studying with Kenneth Shaw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Italo Tajo Memorial Award ($15,000)
This award is supported by the Italo Tajo Memorial Scholarship Fund (established by Mr. Tajo’s wife, Mrs. Inelda Tajo) in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Chelsea Duval-Major (second year Master of Music student)
From Ithaca, New York, studying with Thomas Baresel
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Andrew White Memorial Award ($12,500)
This award is supported by the Andrew White Memorial Scholarship Fund in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Karis Tucker (first year Master of Music student)
From Brussels, Belgium, studying with Amy Johnson
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Seybold-Russell Award ($10,000)
The Seybold-Russell Award is supported by the Seybold-Russell Scholarship Fund in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Eric Heatley (second year Master of Music student)
From Tulsa, Oklahoma, studying with William McGraw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the John Alexander Memorial Award ($10,000)
This award is sponsored by the John Alexander Memorial Scholarship Fund in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

The judges panel for CCM’s 2017 Opera Scholarship Competition included:

  • Benita Valente, an acclaimed American soprano who has performed and recorded with some of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century
  • Roberto Mauro, Director of Music and Artistic Administration for the Canadian Opera Company
  • Stephen Lord, Music director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the principal conductor of Michigan Opera Theatre in the 2018-19 season

About CCM Opera
The Department of Opera at CCM boasts one of the most comprehensive training programs for opera singers, coaches and directors in the United States. Students at CCM work with some of the most renowned teachers and artists active in opera today.

CCM students frequently advance to the final rounds of the Metropolitan Opera National Council AuditionsAs reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, four singers with ties to CCM advanced to the semi-final round of the 2016 Met Auditions. This year, four more alumni advanced to the semi-final round of the Met Auditions: Summer Hassan (MM Voice, 2014), Cody Quattlebaum (BM Voice, 2015), Andrew Manea (MM Voice, 2016) and Jessica Faselt (MM Voice, 2016).

In addition, CCM’s Mainstage Opera and Studio Opera Series have received some of the National Opera Association Production Competition’s highest honors throughout the years, taking home six of the 18 non-professional prizes awarded in 2010 and four prizes in 2011.

CCM Opera graduates have performed on the stages of the world’s greatest opera companies, including Cincinnati Opera, Metropolitan Opera (New York), Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera (London), La Scala (Italy) and more.

CCM’s 2016-17 Mainstage Opera season concludes next month with Mozart’s Idomeneo, conducted by Aik Khai Pung with stage direction by Marcus Shields. The production runs from March 30 through April 2. Learn more about the production at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/idomeneo.

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Production photo of 'Something Rotten!' by Joan Marcus. Provided by Gabriel Firestone.

Making A Scene: Q&A with Alumnus Gabriel Firestone, Scenic Designer

Cincinnati audiences may remember Gabriel Firestone (BFA Stage Design, 2014) for his scenic designs in CCM Opera’s Mainstage production of Owen Wingrave in 2013. After graduating from CCM’s acclaimed Theatre Design and Technology program, Firestone went on to design scenery for Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional and international theatre productions. Working alongside award-winning scenic designer Scott Pask, Firestone most recently served as the associate scenic designer for the first National Tour of Tony-nominated musical Something Rotten!.

Gabriel Firestone. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Gabriel Firestone. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser.

Firestone isn’t the only CCM alumnus involved in the national tour. Something Rotten! is produced by Kevin McCollum (BFA Musical Theatre, 1984), and onstage performers include alumni Joel Newsome (BFA Musical Theatre, 1989) and Pierce Cassedy (BFA Musical Theatre, 2012). A fun fact from Firestone’s time at CCM: the house he lived in on Wheeler Street in Clifton was actually passed down to him from Cassedy, along with his sofa set. “CCM really is an extended family,” Firestone says.

We caught up with Firestone to talk about his experience working on Something Rotten! and what life has been like for him since he graduated from CCM.

What is it like working in scenic design for the first National Tour of Something Rotten? What does a typical day look like for you at work?
As Associate Scenic Designer for the Something Rotten! first National Tour, my job was to work along-side Scott Pask, who designed the highly successful Broadway production, and effectively translate the original design of the scenery and props into one that could be taken out on tour. There are many different physical and logistical constraints when a production is playing a wide variety of venues, and making sure the set will look just as good on the road as it did on the stage at the St. James Theatre in New York was critical.

I don’t believe there is such thing as a “typical day at work” — my responsibilities with the tour changed as the design progressed. The beginning stages involved lots of modeling and sketching. Later, I was drafting and documenting how all of the scenic pieces moved onstage. I spent a few weeks running back and forth between the scenic shops who built and painted the scenery and drops, giving notes and making sure everything was looking and functioning as it should. Finally, I spent a month out on the road with the show, overseeing as the various elements finally came together in the theater, and reacting to any last-minute changes. Each day was a different and exciting challenge.

What has been your most challenging scenic design project and why?
While every design presents its own set of challenges, one of the more interesting ones I’ve encountered involved transferring a design I did for Red Light Winter in New York City to the National Theatre in Warsaw, Poland. The set in New York was a small, drab room with three crumbling plaster walls and the suggestion of a ceiling — all grounded in realism. Due to limitations for the re-mounted production, we couldn’t use our scenery overseas. Although it might not seem like a huge challenge, the creative team had to reconcile the telling of this story, where the constricted environment itself becomes a major player, with the comparatively spacious bounds we were given in which to work. We reconfigured the staging and design in a pretty remarkable way that didn’t detract from the story, but rather added to the audience’s understanding of what happens to the characters in the brief moments after they leave the room we no longer represented so literally. The sometimes one-dimensional characters suddenly became multi-faceted, and what was lost in the way of aesthetic realism was replaced by much more emotionally driven performances. It was a fascinating production to have been a part of.

Do you have a specific CCM memory or experience that you would like to share?
A favorite memory of mine was going through the design process for CCM Opera’s Owen Wingrave as part of the year-long centenary celebration of Benjamin Britten’s career. Due to a directorial change, all the work had to be scrapped and we started over from the beginning. It was exciting to re-envision the piece under the lens of a different director, and to figure out what changed and evolved from the previous iteration. Although we as a creative team were working within a truncated amount of time, I think the design ended up being every bit as bold and grand as we had imagined. The first time you see the scenery, which takes months to realize, assembled on-stage is always a magical experience; it never grows old.

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Do you have any advice for current or soon-to-be graduating CCM students?
My advice to somebody who’s soon-to-be graduating is to be patient and not to believe he or she is above getting people coffee for a while, so-to-speak. As a young theatre arts professional, there are an endless number of opportunities to get one’s foot in the door, but the people who get those jobs, keep those jobs and grow in those jobs are the ones who have a great attitude every day, show up with a smile and don’t mind supporting the team in ways sometimes deemed menial. In an industry where we spend so much time working in large groups, you can quickly earn a lasting reputation as somebody who is passionate and dependable, and when it comes time to take on more advanced work, your name will be the first one considered. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to make the right connections.

And also, try to find some balance in life between success in a career and a personal life. Both are more fun and fulfilling when there is a sense of balance between them.

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Something Rotten! photo by Joan Marcus; provided by Gabriel Firestone.

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