A special welcome message from Artistic Director, Lisa Bielawa and an introduction to celebrated artists, Laurie Rubin and Jennifer Taira, who will share the stage with The SF Girls Chorus on October 29 in the anticipated season opening performance, Love’s Journey.
Greetings SF Girls Chorus Community, and a special welcome to our new parents!
Now that we are back in full swing, I’m delighted to kick off this season’s Postcards from the Chorus. For those of you who are receiving your first Postcard today: these are a series of weekly notes from various people within our community. They are an opportunity for us – staff, faculty, the girls themselves, to learn about the various guest artists who come to work with us – to share our thoughts and experiences with you all, thereby bringing the whole community closer to the work we do, and the people who make it all happen.
In NYC the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to catch up with our upcoming guest artist on our October 29 concert, celebrated mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin. Based in Hawaii, Laurie was in town for the NY debut of the musical that she has co-created with her partner, Jennifer Taira, “Peace on Your Wings.” – four years in the making, and finally touring the US!
I was thrilled to be able to see it, especially since it featured an all-youth cast of kids trained in the program that Laurie and Jenny started, Ohana Arts Performing Arts Festival and School. After watching them work so diligently to build this organization (founded in 2010), I was very moved to see these young people take the stage with such polish and assurance. Through Ohana Arts, they are trained in voice, dance and theater, and they have the opportunity to be part of a professional-grade musical theater production each year.
The musical itself is inspired by the short life of Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia at the age of 12 as a result of the Hiroshima bombing, after folding more than 1000 cranes for peace.
Are you aware that there are no adults on stage? How do you think you would feel about this scene if there were? What kinds of relationships do you see between the young characters in this all-youth society of the children’s hospital? When young people appear as a chorus in operas and musicals in other productions you’ve seen, what are their relationships with each other? With adults? How does it change our perception of young people when we see them onstage on their own, without adults? What do you think this experience is like for them?
The stated mission of Ohana Arts is “to promote peace and world friendship through the universal language of the arts.” Alongside the musical and dramatic training they receive, the kids in this program enter into a community that shares a common ethic. This more elusive aspect of their educational experience comes through beautifully in this poignant clip where the young performers talk about the subject matter.
The Hawaiian cast is mostly Asian-Hawaiian, and the co-creators do see it as one of their auxiliary missions to address the paucity of good roles (i.e., not stereotyped) for Asian singing actors in musical theater. What other kinds of stereotypes exist in the performing arts? What kinds of roles are there for women (and girls) in traditional opera? What other racial stereotypes do we see in musical theater? On TV?
What about the disabled? How are they represented in the stories told on opera stages? Laurie herself has been blind since birth, and it is no wonder that this theme of overcoming stereotyped ‘otherness’ has been a central theme in many of her artistic endeavors. In fact, she has many speaking engagements about these issues, and even leads anti-bullying workshops for girls.
I can’t wait to welcome Laurie into our SFGC community next month, and have her in our rehearsals and onstage with our singers! And…a little bird (a folded crane, perhaps?) told me that “Peace on Your Wings” will tour to SF in 2017!
Here’s to a wonderful year ahead, thank you for being a part of it!
Lisa Bielawa, Artistic Director