Friday, July 3, 2015

Behind the Scenes at the Opera House: Kathleen Turco Lyon

We are extremely excited to welcome Kathleen Turco-Lyon back to Stonington. You probably remember her from her visit back in 2011, when she took the stage as both Elizabeth I in Elizabeth Rex and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Now you'll get to know her as Arkadina in this summer's seashore production of Chekhov's dark comedy The Seagull. But first, you really should get to know Kathleen as...well...Kathleen.

1. Where did you grow up?

The suburbs north of Philly, and of Richmond, VA.

2. How would your elementary school classmates remember you?

Happy, always curious about people, willing to engage… and very good at finger painting! 

3. Name four fictional character with whom you'd be okay being stuck in an elevator. Why them?

All at the same time?  Ok… Gertrude from Henry James’ novel The Europeans.  She’d keep me giggling.  Cerimon from Shakespeare’s Pericles.  She’s a magician, after all, and so intuitive — certainly the elevator wouldn’t be stuck for long.  Polixenes, the King of Bohemia in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; he'd bring kindness, calm, and a breath of fresh air to cramped quarters, and  Wilma Flintstone— she’d give the elevator company what-for for getting us stuck in the first place, plus, she’d keep her sense of humor in a less-than-elegant situation… and ever notice what common sense she has?  (Especially with family matters.) And how organized and clean her house is?  Oh, I aspire! 

4. If you were a cartoon character, which cartoon character would you be?

This is a tough one, but I probably have to say Caspar the Friendly Ghost.   I love that he helped everyone, and was kind about it. And he could fly!  And I bet he smells like marshmallows, which I love! 

5. When did you fall in love with theater?

Oh, that’s an easy one; I remember the exact moment: 15 years old.  In the parking lot of my high school getting ready to drive home (I had my learner’s permit) after a performance of Flowers For Algernon. (I played the sister, and had just ONE scene).  I had one foot on the gravel, and one foot in the car, and my body suddenly froze, and out loud I said "Oh, my GOD!"  Because in that moment, I KNEW.  It took my breath away just a little bit, because my next thought was “How can I be 15 and know this is what I want for the rest of my life?”  Truly, it was an unmistakable, unforgettable feeling.  And I knew my biggest love would be for drama. 

The Seagull opens next Friday at the breathtaking Ames Farm. You don't want to miss out on this amazing performance. Why? you ask. Because of everything director Peter Richards says here.  Seating is very limited, so get your tickets today!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday

I Feel PrettySuzanne Nance, Grace Valdez, John McVeigh & Eric McKeever delighted audiences with this 2013 encore performance of the Gala production inspired by West Side Story.
Suzanne and John are teaming up again with musical director Peter Szep for this year’s Gala PLUS two additional performances at the Burnt Cove Church on July 9th and July 10thThe Fat Knight – inspired by Shakespeare’s  most beloved comic creation, Sir John Falstaff – is a wild night of arias, popular standards and more.

Aren't we also touched by grace?

In preparation for our upcoming production of The Seagull, the Opera House staff recently sat down with director Peter Richards to talk about the production and the playwright. Here are some highlights from the conversation…

Anton Chekhov
Why Chekhov?

“Why Chekhov” is not the easiest question to answer, in part because it is such a given in the theatre world. I mean Chekhov is one of the top five writers in the world on most everyone’s list… He’s very very special.

Why is Chekhov so special? Why is he considered a master? Why is The Seagull one of the four masterpieces that he’s written? When properly done, or done with passion, it’s a very special type of storytelling. There are a number of different stories interwoven together that overall make a mosaic of life and reality that is relatable by the audience and in its entirety enjoyable and very satisfying to watch.

What do I mean by stories?

Have you ever been in love with somebody and known that it’s probably not going to work out – and that it’s probably not a good idea for you to continue to love this person? So you want to find a way to not love this person but you’re struggling with that and you can’t – and you try different things and you fail and you try different things and you seek advice from people – well, if you’ve ever lived that, that story is going to be onstage.

If you have ever had faith in an idea or another person that is very special to your heart and then lost that faith and felt kind of lost because you no longer believe in the thing that you felt so passionately about – that story is onstage.

If you’ve had to go through a very tough time in your life where all of the things that you lived for and thought were important don’t make sense anymore in the new reality that you face, and you’ve had to go through the herculean effort of transforming your mind and convincing yourself that actually you have to be a different person in the world – that story is onstage.

All of these different stories are woven together in these plays and as an audience, you can look at the human struggling and to recognize yourself in it. And in this recognition, you get to laugh at them and smile and say “yes, yes look at us: look at humanity, aren’t we doomed? And aren’t we also touched by grace?”

“Let everything on stage be just as complicated and at the same time just as simple as in life. People are having a meal, just having a meal, yet all the time their happiness is being made or their lives are being broken up.”
~Anton Chekhov

Director Peter Richards
Chekhov is not a judger. What makes him so special is that he’s not afraid to show people suffering and struggling, but he makes us look at it with a smile – and it’s okay, because that’s just how we are. So that attitude towards all this turmoil and searching and seeking and struggling is a real gift I think to us as people being able to watch these stories.

The play is about the difficulties that arise in people’s lives when they idealize people, things or times: how humans tend to idealize people and ideas – and what the consequences of that are. When the different idealizations bump into each other comedy ensues, life becomes interesting to watch onstage and this is the stuff of the play.

“An author must be humane to his fingertips.”
~Anton Chekhov

Chekhov shows us a reality that is dark, but he’s approaching that darkness with a light-heartedness that is full of grace.

For people who read his stories and watch his plays, Chekhov’s writing nudges people towards empathy. So, when you leave, there’s something about empathy that is central to how Chekhov sees the world and sees his characters, and I think if people can leave the theatre with that sense towards the characters, it would make me really happy. It’s not an emotion, but it’s a sort of attitude of feeling for these people, even though they are totally flawed.

I think, in the world, when empathy is missing we run into problems, so whenever you can put a thing in the world--like a work of art that encourages an empathetic response--to me that’s a nice opportunity. As a sort of why.