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“The Extreme of Everything…”

Peggy Kriha Dye didn’t just know very little about opera. She didn’t know anyone who knew about opera. While she was an undergraduate student studying elementary education, Peggy Kriha Dye, took a music class and was encouraged by her teacher to pursue the study of opera – a short time later, the Minnesota native was [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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Peggy Kriha Dye didn’t just know very little about opera.

She didn’t know anyone who knew about opera.

While she was an undergraduate student studying elementary education, Peggy Kriha Dye, took a music class and was encouraged by her teacher to pursue the study of opera – a short time later, the Minnesota native was auditioning for the Manhattan School of Music. She sang the only two full-length pieces of classical music in her repertoire, neither of which was in a foreign language. She earned a full scholarship to graduate school, and went on to perform with the Chautauqua Opera Young Artist Program and the Juilliard Opera Center.

BOOM. Opera Singer. It’s an identity that still seems surreal to her.

“I thought, ‘I’ll do this until the ball stops rolling,’ and it never stopped,” she said.

Kriha Dye has performed and continues to perform internationally with the San Francisco Opera and Opera Atelier, a Toronto-based company that specializes in 17th and 18th century opera, drama, and ballet. Much as she redefined herself, Kriha Dye, a soccer mom living just outside Grove City, is now redefining opera in Columbus as the General Manager of Opera Columbus.

Kriha Dye inherited Opera Columbus as a company that had essentially dissolved, existing only to stage productions of other companies on tour. It had a single staff member and the resources of CAPA. It was a situation most arts administrators would have run from. Kriha Dye, however, saw the chance to redesign the company almost entirely – and a bit unconventionally.

Having no desire to repeat other productions in smaller form, Kriha Dye, who sees opera as “the extreme of everything,” has committed to producing new works, casting new and emerging artists along with established artists, and using local designers to create a freshness on stage. Last November, Opera Columbus collaborated with OSU’s Department of Theater and Dance to produce a sellout rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, its first return to local productions where all but two of the 35-member cast hailed from Columbus.

According to Kriha Dye, the biggest challenge in rebuilding Opera Columbus as a company has been getting the word out.

“I’m so tired of hearing people say, ‘I didn’t know we had an opera company,’” she lamented.
Consequently, Dye has worked to bring opera to the people. Opera on the Edge is another collaborative effort between Opera Columbus and Shadowbox Live, with free performances held at Shadowbox Live’s Backstage Bistro, and now expanding to The Refectory. The Opera on the Edge project cuts a typical “war horse” opera down to an hour in length and performs the work in English, often with a contemporary twist. Audience members have the opportunity to interact with the cast afterwards in a casual setting.

Opera on the Edge is not just a fun way to experience opera, but is also a way to build an audience who will be prepared to enjoy the corresponding full-length productions.
Or, as Kriha Dye explains, “It’s Cliff’s Notes with a beer.”

Kriha Dye also says to watch for upcoming opera flash mobs and “Opera Undercover,” where the company will drop clues as to where their secret location, totally fabulous, opera-themed party will be.

“We’re just trying to include people in the opera family,” said Kriha Dye, who encourages people to set aside their stereotypical horns-and-helmet, fat-lady expectations of opera. “It’s not what you think.”

Continuing with its collaborative efforts, Opera Columbus will open its 2014-2015 season with Twisted, a creative “twisting” of the talents of Opera Columbus, BalletMet, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and a show that will bring the “unexpected” to opera fans and newcomers alike.

“There’s nothing to compare it to,” she said.

The 2014-2015 season will also feature an English-language, updated production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Does Kriha Dye worry about angering more traditional opera-goers with updates and innovations? Although she admits she used to, she points to Cleveland and San Diego, where both cities have recently closed major opera companies. “That could be us,” she said. “This has to happen.”
Kriha Dye promises the new future for Opera Columbus will have the highest of musical standards, as well as all the glamour that opera deserves. It’s the audience that will represent the biggest change in the opera experience.

“It’s glamour, but it’s glamour for everybody,” she said.

Twisted will run from September 25 – 28 at the Ohio Theatre. For more, visit www.operacolumbus.com.

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Arts & Culture

Summer Camp Soap Opera

J.R. McMillan

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Young screenwriters shocked by surprise casting at Thurber House

Summer camp is a rite of passage wrapped in revelry, rivalry, and romance — all the makings of a must-see soap opera. But when Thurber House (humorist James Thurber’s former home turned local literary center) rushed to push their summer camps online this year, they feared some of that creative connectivity might be lost among aspiring young writers.

Hoping for a hook, camp counselors Justin Martin and Frankie Diederich decided to challenge campers with a genre they’d never tackled before: writing an original soap opera. Entirely on a whim, Martin took to Twitter to see if anyone happened to have a connection to the industry.


“I genuinely didn’t expect it to go anywhere, I didn’t even tag anyone. But an hour later I had half the cast of Days of Our Lives,” recalled Martin, whose disbelief still lingers. It was a plot twist even campers didn’t see coming. “California’s stay-home order was so uncertain, we never knew when everyone might go back to work. Even when we told writers and their parents the night before the performances, some of them didn’t believe us.

Though daytime television isn’t an obvious obsession for middle school students, nearly every novel of young adult fiction is essentially a soap opera. And Days of Our Lives is set in the fictional Midwest city of Salem — folksy yet sophisticated, and never short on scandal, not unlike Columbus, Ohio. It’s a short stretch that only seems non sequitur.

“Everyone started with a blank page, but by the end of the week, Frankie and I had helped them create a complete screenplay. But the cast was still a shock,” Martin explained. “Kids admire anyone who has made a career out of doing something they love, and these actors and actresses were so enthusiastic, flexible, and generous. They were every bit as into it as the campers.”

It was actress Martha Madison who happened to see a retweet of Martin’s request and matter-of-factly replied, “Can I bring some friends?” She soon roped in more than a dozen of her costars, all equally eager to give a bunch of adolescent screenwriters the performance they deserved despite a pandemic.

“I’m a big believer in fate. It was an easy ask, everyone said yes,” revealed Madison, better known to many as Belle Black. Her character’s parents John and Marlena have been synonymous with Days of Our Lives for decades. “There was so much character development, and they all had love and murder in the plot. They were real soap operas.”


Like many nonprofits struggling to adapt, the shift to online programming has actually expanded the reach of Thurber House. Much like parents working remotely, kids from across Ohio, and from New York to California, also received insightful lessons in craft and collaboration from screenwriter Amanda Beall, whose credits include The Young and the Restless, All My Children, and General Hospital.

“If you’re a creative person, none of that goes away just because you’re stuck at home. You can still share your experience with anyone anywhere,” Madison noted. “I was very impressed with the writing. I’d love to work again with any one of these kids someday.”

***

For more on Thurber House and upcoming events and programs, visit thurberhouse.org

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Rare flower ready to stink up 2020 at the Franklin Park Conservatory

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Photo provided by Franklin Park Conservatory.

“Some people wait a lifetime to see this,” said Bruce Harkey, president and CEO of Franklin Park Conservatory. 

What someone will wait a lifetime to see (or smell) varies from person to person. If watching a massive flower bloom and let out a wretched odor is your thing, you better keep a close eye on the Conservatory.

According to a press release sent out Wednesday, the endangered Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) will flower in the next week for the first time in the Conservatory’s history. The flower can grow to 10 feet tall and emits a strong odor, resembling rotting flesh. While the “corpse flower” only blooms for a few days, those who go to the FPC to visit it will not soon forget it.

And while it may seem that 2020 could not get any weirder with its masks and murder hornets,  this particular brand of weird is actually kind of cool—and it’s in our own backyard.

Check out the FPC social channels, where you can view the bloom live, or head to the Conservatory to smell it in person, though the required mask may prevent a full whiff of the dreadful stench. But if you dare, you can buy your timed tickets online here.

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Columbus Museum of Art opens June 23 for members; June 30 to the public

Julian Foglietti

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The Columbus Museum of Art (CMA)  has announced plans to reopen in the coming week after closing in mid-March due to COVID restrictions. Though museums were allowed to open on June 10, CMA chose to hold off reopening and will instead see it’s first visitors tomorrow,  June 23, as they reopen for museum members, and to the general public next week on June 30..

To coincide with the reopening, CMA has announced multiple measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as significantly reduced capacity, and the introduction of timed tickets, and special hours for at-risk populations.

Tickets for the following week will be made available for sale online each Friday, and an extremely limited number of tickets will be available for day-of admission. While there isn’t a time limit to how long visitors can stay in the museum, there is a one hour entrance window assigned to each ticket. 

Visitors will be asked to socially distance while in the space, and face coverings are strongly recommended. 

Learn more here.

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