So, there are only a couple more weeks until the Ring opens, and I think I’m almost ready!

Today, I met Star, who plays the horse in Götterdämmerung, the last opera in the Ring cycle. Turns out, there was another horse who had previously performed in multiple Ring cycles for Seattle Opera, but this is Star’s first one! She’s never performed in an opera before. Today was her first time onstage at McCaw Hall, and she seemed to be handling it pretty well! Apparently, Corliss, the horse's owner has been playing music from the Ring in the barn, so Star has gotten used to it by now! I watched once first, as Corliss walked Star up the backstage ramp and onto the set of Brünhilde's ledge. Then, the second time, I got to walk ahead of Corliss and Star on the set! Star got a little uneasy around the Reel Grrls’ boom microphone (she thought it was a snake!), but, for the most part, she seemed to be getting used to the spotlight! But I could tell she was a tad nervous, because she left some horse poop on the stage!

I took a few pictures from offstage with my phone:
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Then I met with Jonathan Dean, Education Artistic Administrator, who told me all I needed to know about the Ring! He told me all about the main characters, and how everything I’ve seen and learned about so far in the “Confessions” project all fits together to create four epic operas! I also learned that it took Wagner 25 years to write the Ring cycle – I haven’t even been alive that long! Hopefully I remember everything he told me by the time I see the show…!

Then I headed back to McCaw Hall, where the Ring orchestra was rehearsing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many musicians or musical instruments in one room before! The orchestra was rehearsing in a huge rehearsal space, and there were over a hundred musicians in there! I felt totally out of my element! Everyone in there seemed so focused, whether their job was to play a ton of notes, to follow along with the sheet music, or to take notes of what needed to be fixed. This was the first time I’d actually gotten to hear live orchestra music from the Ring, so it was really exciting for me! The music has so much depth to it – it’s almost overwhelming! I can’t believe Wagner actually wrote sixteen hours of intense music!

The next Ring activity I see from the Seattle Opera will be the final product – I’m so nervous and excited I can’t stand it! Wish me luck – I mean, hope I break a leg!
 
 

Today was another exciting day shooting “Confessions!”

First, I got to sit in on a rehearsal of the dragon, Fafner, at McCaw Hall. It was amazing to see Fafner in action – the dragon is huge! One of the crew members stood in for Siegfried and practiced fighting Fafner and stabbing his tail. At one point, Fafner’s head was being lowered down onto the set, and it kept moving for a little too long, and all the sudden, I heard a “creeeeak” – the tusk almost broke! Whoops…the crew fixed it promptly though!

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Above, the film crew shoots Fafner from the house
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here, they shot my reactions to seeing the dragon for the first time
Later, I met with Chuck Whitmore, who works with the supertitles and the images projected on stage. He even put my name into the computer and made my name come up as a supertitle! That was really exciting; I felt so honored! He also showed me some of the projections for the end of the Ring cycle, with fire and water. I only got to see it on a computer screen, so I’m really excited to get to see the large projections during the full performance!
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Then I went back to the Seattle Opera offices and rehearsal spaces, and met up with Luretta Bybee and Emma Grimsley, two artists in the Ring cycle. And they’re mother and daughter! Luretta plays the First Norn and a Valkyrie, and Emma plays the Woman in Black. But that’s not all of their opera family! The father of the family, Greer Grimsley, plays Wotan! I asked them what it’s like being an opera family, and if it’s common to have a whole family of opera singers. They said they’re pretty much the only one! I also talked to Emma about what it’s like being a younger person involved in opera – she’s still in high school! She said she tries to get her friends interested in opera, and to get them to come see her shows. In this picture, the Reel Grrls crew captures the interview; Luretta is sitting on the steps to the left, Emma is sitting to the right, and I'm interviewing from the left side.

As always, I learned a lot today! I’m seeing more and more pieces of the Ring cycle, and I can’t wait to see how they all fit together – only a few more weeks until the show!

Photos by Ilona Rossman Ho.
 
 

My body is sore right now. And I can’t figure out if it’s sore because of wakeboarding this morning or the third “Confessions” shoot today.

The shoot started out simple – I showed up and McCaw Hall and got a tour of onstage, backstage, the audience – everything!

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I interviewed Pete, the Properties Manager, right in front of the stage! He told me all about the recently renovated McCaw Hall and the sets that were on the stage. Pete also showed me a bunch of the props from the Ring cycle! I got to hold some swords, and I even got to touch the ring!

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Then I met up with Julianne Gearhart, who plays one of the Rhinemaidens in the Ring cycle. She told me all about what it’s like to fly in the air while singing! I’m sure glad I don’t have to do that! She basically has to pretend she’s swimming around every time she’s on stage!

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Then I interviewed Richard Paul Fink, who plays Alberich in the Ring cycle. He has to do a ton of stunts in the show, like flips and jumps and climbing!

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After I interviewed him, we went on the stage and he showed me some of the moves he has to do! The stage was set for the first scene, on the river bottom, so he showed me how to pretend I’m walking on a slimy surface (even though it’s really just made of Styrofoam!). He also taught me how to climb up the set (from the audience you’d never know how he does it!), and jump from one part of the set to another! I think that all might be the reason my body is sore right now! But luckily, I had my athletic clothes and kneepads on, so I came out without needing any band-aids.

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look at Richard jump right over me!
After all of that excitement, I got to play with fire! The pyrotechnician for the Ring cycle, showed me how to light parts of the stage on fire! And it was so easy! All I had to do was move a tiny little switch, and, voila! Flames! I was very entertained. If they left me alone there I would’ve played with the fire for hours.

After I got my pyromania out of my system, Jim gave me another backstage tour, so I got to see even more of the sets! I even got to see the dragon, which, right now, is in pieces, but I’m excited to eventually see it all put together! Jim also showed me how some of the sets rotate around, so they can be used for multiple scenes! I’m looking forward to seeing those in action!

The last part of my day was spent watching a rehearsal of the first scene from the whole Ring cycle. I got to watch the Rhinemaidens get into their costumes (it took a while to pout those complicated harnesses on!), and then sing and fly (or swim!) around on stage! I saw Richard in action with a few of his stunts. So I got to watch a few of the aspects of the Ring that I had already learned about fit together!

Slowly but surely, I’m learning a lot about the Ring! So many new and exciting things happened today – I don’t know if next week can top it!

photos courtesy of Ilona Rossman Ho

 
 

We had our second “Confessions” shoot this week, and it introduced me to a lot that I have never experienced before!

I showed up at the Seattle Opera offices on Monday morning, and we shot some footage of me entering the building. A few minor technical difficulties ensued, but the wonderful Reel Grrls crew fixed them promptly.

Then I went on a tour of the costume shop led by Susan Davis, Seattle Opera's Costume Shop Manager; I have never seen so many pieces of clothing in my life! I saw so many things in the costume shop that I can hardly remember them all! I saw people working on costumes for the Ring (apparently there’re 214 costumes!), I saw never-ending racks of costumes from past Seattle Opera shows (I swear the fabric went on forever!), I saw the dying room where they dye fabric that needs to be just the right color, and I even saw bloody bandages (fake blood – or so I hope).

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But the best part of my tour was when I got to try on a Ring costume! It was a costume of one of the Valkyries – it had a long skirt, a vest of armor, a jacket, and a hat. The hat normally sits on a large opera wig, but I don’t have a wig, so I had to hold the hat on my head. The hat had huge wings that stuck straight out the back – I had definitely never worn a hat like that before!

Then I got to interview Speight Jenkins, the General Director of Seattle Opera. I Googled Speight before interviewing him, so I thought I had a good idea of what questions I should ask, and a good background of his life in relation to opera. I wasn’t too nervous for the interview. But then, as the interview appointment drew nearer, more and more Seattle Opera employees told me “not to be nervous, you’ll be okay.” And I thought, “Don’t be nervous? I wasn’t, but now I am!” Everyone kept telling me he is “God in the opera world” – something I, most certainly, am not. But once I was finally face-to-face with Speight, my nerves were, mostly, gone. He was nice and warm, and answered my questions with long, full answers. Phew! And guess what, he knew all about the "Confessions" project and he even voted!
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Then I got to the most exciting part of the day – I got to fly! No, I didn’t fly a plane. I got to fly like the Rhinemaidens in the Ring (that's how they portray swimming in the Rhine River during the opera). I was suspended in the air from two cables attached to a harness at my hips. I was a bit nervous as I slowly rose towards the ceiling of the rehearsal space, but soon I was doing front and back flips! I was so proud of myself! Thanks so much to the crew who helped me not fall to my death!

And I think that basically covers the shoot! Other than what I’ve already mentioned, I squeezed in a lunch break, walked up and down a ton of stairs (the rehearsal space is in the basement of the Seattle Opera office building!), and was interviewed by the Seattle Times. It was a day full of a lot of excitement! I’m starting to see the how the Ring cycle fits together, piece-by-piece. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

photos courtesy of Ilona Rossman Ho
 
 

As you may or may not know, I was recently selected to host Seattle Opera's new documentary, "Confessions of A First-Time Operagoer." I'm so excited to have been chosen, and I am so grateful for all of the help and support I received during the week of the voting!

If you voted for me... or made anyone else vote for me... I owe you a favor!

Each week I'll be posting a blog about what opera-y things I did that week. So, without further adieu, here's the update so far:

     We started shooting “Confessions of A First-Time Operagoer” this week! It was a lot of fun. I felt like I was on my own reality show!

     The Reel Grrls crew told me they wanted to see what I do in life, how I interact with my friends, etc. So I told them about how on a lot of Mondays, some of my friends and I go to Varlamos, an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood. Monday is “Calzone Night,” so the calzones are cheaper (for a college student with little income – like me – cheaper, is always better).

    

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So the crew followed me to Varlamos. I had to warn my friends before we went that there’d be a camera crew there – my friends aren’t as big of fans of being on camera as I am! When my friends and I got there, we had a table already set up for us (usually we have to wait for a while – it gets crowded!) with lights and cameras and everything! The crew sat one table over and got calzones for themselves (they’re hard to resist!).

The crew filmed my friends and I eating (there’s probably some really attractive shots of me shoving food in my mouth…!), reminiscing about life, and they even interviewed some of my friends, testing their opera knowledge and seeing if they thought I could make it through this project! Hopefully my friends didn’t say anything too embarrassing about me…! And hopefully they don’t hate me too much for making them go on camera! I told them this “Confessions” project can be like “Laguna Beach” and one of them can have their own spin-off afterwards…

     I’m getting really excited for next week’s shoot. I’ll be diving head first into the excitement of the Ring cycle! Wish me luck!

photos courtesy of Ilona Rossman Ho
 
FMT 05/19/2009
 

    It’s the name of my new website: FMT – F*** My Transportation.
    I didn’t always hate transportation so much. But in the span of one weekend in Cape Cod, I became what I like to call a true transportater-hater.

    It all started out when my mom and I decided to take a simple bus ride from Boston out to the Cape. It seemed easy enough – before I headed home from college for the summer we were going to take the bus and visit some family friends on Cape Cod.  But, oh, were we wrong. The little lights above our heads soon lit up when we realized what we were in for.

    Our transportation problems didn’t start when we got to South Station. They started on the sidewalks right outside of Emerson College, where our trip began. One of our suitcases – which we previously thought was annoying just because of its excessive weight – had a broken wheel. We had paid to fix this wheel a few years ago, but didn’t realize that it was still broken when we packed it full of our travel necessities. Mom was too impatient to wait for a cab (“I’m not stopping!”), despite my attempts, so we continued to struggle down the uneven sidewalks of Tremont Street. Soon enough, we regretted that decision, as we became more and more frustrated with the wheel that wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard we pushed. My mother was screaming obscenities at me, and I was trying to laugh at the ridiculous situation (and try not to tell her “I told you so”).

    After many more screams of pain and anger, and after a man on the street asked us if we needed any help (probably out of fear that my mom was about to abuse me…!), we finally reached the bus station. My mom sat down to relax while I went off in search of purchasing tickets. After waiting for ten minutes for the ancient woman at the desk to halt her conversation, I bought two tickets to the Cape – but the lady informed me that the bus left in 15 minutes.

    I sprinted back to my mother, and then we stopped quickly at Au Bon Pain for some food (packing up my dorm all day hadn’t exactly left us any time to eat) before rushing to the bus terminal. Our “rushing,” however, was quite unsuccessful, as the wheel of the suitcase-of-doom still refused to move one bit. Halfway to the terminal, the wheel caught on a crack in the sidewalk, and the suitcase fell forward, my food flying ahead. Luckily nothing spilled, but it did make my heart beat a little faster.
    Even worse, upon reaching the entrance to the bus terminals, we saw that we had to make it up two escalators before we got to the bus. This may sound much less daunting than it did to us at the time – and for good reason. On the first escalator, it was my turn to push the stubborn suitcase. When my escalator ride was over, I tried to push the suitcase off onto flat ground. But the wheel wouldn’t budge. So the suitcase toppled over, I tripped over the suitcase, and my mother, behind me, fell over me. My laptop went flying and smacked to the ground. Thud. (Side note: my laptop, luckily, still works). The worst part about our top-of-the-escalator-incident was that once we had regained our composure, we looked over to the security man in charge of the area, and he was just standing there. Not looking at us. Just standing, twirling his leg around in the air. We were frustrated, obviously, and quickly found the elevator up to the next level (we weren’t about to attempt another escalator ride…!).
    Eventually we made it to the bus terminal… And our bus had made it there too. But the bus had already left… Without us. That was a disappointment. But we quickly regained our composure, and mom went off to exchange our tickets.    We were determined not to miss our second train, which we had to wait another hour for.
    I sat across the terminal from our gate (where I could reach a wall outlet), and my mom sat right by the gate to make sure the bus didn’t get away from us. She went to the bathroom 5 minutes before the bus was supposed to arrive, so that she would appropriately time her return to the gate. However, as she returned from the bathroom, and after I had gotten all of my stuff together and began to head toward the gate, we saw the bus begin to pull away. I didn’t even know it had arrived yet! The clock had just barely turned 9:45. The bus was supposed to “begin boarding” (according to the older-than-dirt woman who sold us our tickets) at 9:45. Apparently that information was false, because we had just successfully missed our second bus of the day. We were officially idiots.    Now that we felt sufficiently moronic, we were off to a hotel for the night to try again – finally with success – in the morning.    After our bout of bad luck at South Station, the rest of our trip was pretty free of transportation issues. However, we did have some unlucky stretches - our hotel room was the absolute farthest possible room from the elevators, and our flight home left from the farthest gate at the airport back to Seattle. And every taxi we got into all weekend was driven by rude old men.        Maybe it’s just the East Coast?

 
 

    I’m the type of person who can’t listen to the soundtrack of a musical until I’ve seen the show – and can therefore sing along to the music – so I didn’t know much about Spring Awakening before I saw it tonight.
    The only thing I’d been told was “don’t go see it with your parents.” And what did I do? I saw it with my mother. It was my Mother’s Day present to her.

    My mom didn’t end up being too much of a fan by the curtain call, but I think she still had fun. I know she at least partially enjoyed it, because she told me that I “need Kyle Riabko (who plays Melchior Gabor in the tour) as [my[ boyfriend.” I think she spent most of the show ogling over the boys (most of which who are unfortunately, probably gay). We had a good view of them, after all.

    No, we didn’t bring binoculars. Yes, we sat in the front row – of the stage! For Spring Awakening, there’s a group of seats actually on the stage. The actors sit in a few of the seats at various points throughout the show, and they can sing right to you. I even made eye contact with a few of the boys! Not Melchior though, unfortunately…

    Even if I didn’t leave with any of the actors’ phone numbers, watching the show on stage was a ton of fun. But sitting on stage gave me an extra good view of all the actors. Usually, sitting in the audience, I have to find the actors’ headshots to see what they actually look like. But this time, I could see them up close and personal – their faces, their costumes, and especially, their hair.

    I don’t know if the hair for the characters in Spring Awakening is explicitly stated in the script, or if it just depends on the actors, but I was a bit confused about the hair styles in the show. I’m not from 19th century Germany, so I wouldn’t know if that’s how people there and then wore their hair, but I’m going to assume it’s not historically accurate. One of the boys had an extremely-gelled mohawk, one wore greased-down bleach-blonde hair, one had a sort of double-mohawk, and Melchior got to have plain ol’ boy hair (maybe that’s why mom thought he was the cutest?). The girls all had pretty normal hair, either down or in braids.

    Another part of the show that got a bit confusing at times was having two actors play all of the generic adult roles (parents, piano teachers, school teachers) in the play. It took me a little while to realize that the kid characters weren’t having incestuous relationships, because their parents were all played by the same two people. I guess it’s a unique idea, and a great idea to be obligated to pay less actors in this economy, but it was still a little confusing.

    When mom and I first sat down in our onstage seats, we filled our time by eavesdropping on the girls sitting behind us. They seemed to be obsessed with Spring Awakening – they were talking about the last time they saw the show, their favorite actors, everything – they were so enthusiastic! They mentioned something – I didn’t quite catch it – about a “surprise singer” – they were wondering if she/he would sit next to them. I didn’t really know what they were talking about; I just rolled my eyes at their extreme excitement and went back to examining the set.

    My eyes widened with surprise when the girl behind me (sitting next to the other girls) stood up and started singing in the middle of the show. The woman who showed us to our seats had strictly instructed us not to sing along, so, for a second, I was worried. I then realized she had a microphone in her hand, and she was definitely supposed to be singing. Up until this point in the show, I thought she was just a regular person like me and my mom; she had come and sit down like the rest of us, watched the show, I couldn’t believe that she was one of the performers! Then I just got jealous…

    I was actually jealous the entire show. The actors were all around my age – some in college, some recent college grads, and the actress playing Martha had just finished high school! Jeesh, they make me feel so unaccomplished! But it was very cool to see people my age actually working, having real jobs, doing the things they love to do.
    So, all in all, I had a great time seeing Spring Awakening, even if it wasn’t my mom’s favorite. But, hey, there is a parents’ guide on the Spring Awakening website, so she can check that out if she’s really desperate.

Photo Credit of AP Images

 
Welcome! 05/08/2009
 

Hi everyone!

Thanks so much for checking out my website! I will continue to update the site with any new videos I have or updates to my reel and resume!

I am hoping to get my radio reel together soon, and add more video to my tv reel once I get all of the tapes together.
In the meantime, don't forget to follow me on Twitter or find me on LinkedIn!

And please feel free to leave comments on the site or e-mail me with anything you have to say!
-- Cassidy Quinn

 

    Author

    Cassidy Quinn Brettler
    Emerson College
    Acting and Broadcast Journalism
    Alpha Epsilon Phi
    Class of 2011

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