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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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See what’s re-opening: Entertainment venues get June 10 go-ahead

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Who would’ve thought that people would be getting excited about a roller skating rink reopening in 2020?

As far as keeping ourselves entertained, Gov. Mike DeWine blessed the state with wonderful news on Thursday. DeWine announced that certain entertainment facilities would be able to reopen under certain health and safety restrictions starting June 10.

Skate Zone 71 has already reopened as of today, but there’s still a handful of entertainment venues who have had to hold off on letting people back in until next Wednesday.

Those venues include:

  • Aquariums
  • Art galleries
  • Country clubs
  • Ice skating rinks
  • Indoor family entertainment centers
  • Indoor sports facilities
  • Laser tag facilities
  • Movie theaters (indoor)
  • Museums
  • Playgrounds (outdoor)
  • Public recreation centers
  • Roller skating rinks
  • Social clubs
  • Trampoline parks
  • Zoos

Below are a few we know are re-opening next week. Check back for more next week!

  • Otherworld  — The immersive art installation that took Columbus by storm in 2019 is set to return on June 11, according to the venue’s webpage. Otherworld will be operating at a capacity of one visitor per 160 square feet, or around 20 percent of the regular admittance.
  • The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomes back members beginning on June 12, 13, and 14, and all guests starting on June 15. The Zoo will be open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., and all Zoo visits (including for Members) will require a dated, timed ticket to help ensure that social distancing and other precautions are followed appropriately.
  • Skate 71 is gearing up for re-opening, according to its Facebook page. It’s currently selling tickets for Adult Night Skating on June 11. Buy them here.
  • The Chiller is also prepping for re-opening and has been selling passes for various sessions since June 1. You can learn more about grabbing some time at the rink here.
  • Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will reopen its operations to visitors on Saturday, June 13. The reopening includes all of the Conservatory's interior biomes and outdoor gardens, filled with colorful summer horticulture displays and topiaries. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the annual Bonsai exhibition and the Conservatory’s entire collection of Dale Chihuly glass artwork.
     
    For more information and updates on the Conservatory, please visit fpconservatory.org or follow the Conservatory on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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What’s Open: Venues slowly start to roll out live music

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When it was announced in mid-May that wedding venues and banquet halls would reopen at the beginning of June, the next question became: When will music venues be next?

Although the rollout has been slow and will be gradual, Columbus venues and attractions that regularly house live music are making their comeback. When the high-spirited, good-feeling cover band Popgun graced the Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen on May 27, many people’s greatest fears of being robbed of live music for the rest of the year were eased maybe a little.

The only way for us to get currently get down to live music is to sit down, which is a fair trade-off given the times.

Check out a few Columbus venues that are set to reopen or have reopened under strict coronavirus guidelines.

  • The Forum Columbus -- The Forum welcomed back live music on May 29 with a tabled RSVP DJ showcase. For this event, guests were required to come in groups of no more than 10, be seated six feet apart from other groups, and remain seated unless you have to use the restroom. There are no future events planned as of this publishing.
  • Otherworld  -- The immersive art installation that took Columbus by storm in 2019 is set to return on June 11, according to the venue’s webpage. Otherworld will be operating at a capacity of one visitor per 160 square feet, or around 20 percent of the regular admittance. It’s unclear when the next time Otherworld will host live music, but this is a giant step in the right direction in terms of venue re-openings.
  • South Drive-In -- It’s not a venue in Columbus that traditionally holds music, but it’s become one and may stay one for the time being. Viral DJ Marc Rebillet will be bringing his sold-out drive-in show to the South Drive-In on June 14. With these types of performances popping up all around the country and the South Drive-In owner getting plenty of event requests, we will hopefully be seeing more shows of this nature in the warmer months.
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Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together

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Photo by John Thorne

Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Video by John Thorne

 

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

This project was originally an idea that I wanted to do secretly aka illegally, but my business partner came up with a better idea. And that was to get other artists involved and pay them during the stay-at-home order. 

The whole time we honestly didn’t think we would be able to get approval on all the permits we needed, but thanks to Lori Baudro, over a month and a half we got permission and permits from the Department of Public Service, ODOT, and the Arts Commission. We were honestly in shock. 

When it came down to businesses, we started working with Tim Cousino, who’s an architect. He figured out all the measurements we needed. From there we had to get our hands dirty and clean the surface of the bridge, which had five 9-foot around dirt piles that we shoveled off.

Once the surface was prepped and ready to go, we had Jacob Bench come out. He’s an engineer that helped translate all of Tim’s measurements. The project would have been 10 times more difficult without him! 

Through the process, we slowly grew the team. David Greenzalis is my partner in crime so he was there from the beginning. Katie Bench, Hawke Trackler, Lisa Celesta, Ariel Peguero, Chris Blain, Patrick Cardwell, Eric Terranova, Sam Rex, and Justin Paul, who has taken the amazing footage everyone has seen. All of these people are passionate, hardworking, and just awesome to be around. I was excited when we all came together. 

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was green-lit very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

There’s a combination of reasons everything moved so quickly (in terms of government) ha-ha. Part of it was the fact people were at home; they wanted something to get excited about. This was a project people could easily get geeked out about: 400-foot long mural on the bridge that has been abandoned for 10-plus years! I think they just wanted to see if it could happen. Also, the bridge will be torn down in a year or so; this means the mural doesn’t need any upkeep. The fact it was temporary made it an easy Yes for people. Still in shock this all worked out so smoothly.

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

A big roadblock that no one could help was the weather. Man, was it a beast to work with. When we first started prepping the bridge, it was raining and around 40 degrees outside. We were in coats with gloves for half of the project. Then it rains for almost two weeks straight, which pushed back any painting we wanted to do. The days when we did get to work was easily 95 and scorching! We were all burnt to a crisp! It was stressful but fun working with this crazy Ohio weather.

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

Art is truly the bridge between thoughtful conversations and action (pun intended). Public art specifically can be the most impactful since it’s meant to be viewed by everyone. There’s no fee to look at it, no dress code, no need for art knowledge, just acceptance and appreciation are necessary. 

Art in general helps people look outside of their own personal bubbles. We can see into someone else’s mind for a split second and become apart of the art and experience. I think we forget that art is a living representation of us, but I hope through this unsure time we start to remember why humans started painting in the first place.

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

Originally the mural was made because I personally felt alone and knew so many other people were feeling the same way during the stay-at-home orders. Once the project actually started to become a real thing, “we are stronger together” became more about the people who were working together; so many different types of backgrounds and artists. People from different periods in my personal life, all coming together and making something epic. 

When it was all said and done, the words are made for everyone, from any background, race, gender, far and wide. It’s a message that I hope makes people know I’m with them, that no matter the craziness in the world, someone’s got your back.

 

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