Local Professional Theater

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

July 29, 2005

Charlottesville is filled with unique art experiences, but sometimes the trick is finding them.

"The level of professionalism that you encounter here, even from young artists in the orchestra and the apprentice artists is so high," said Peter Clark, singer.

Company singers auditioned in New York City to spend seven weeks in Charlottesville putting on "Madame Butterfly" and "Annie, Get Your Gun."

"She experiences a lot of stuff that I think women of all time periods have experienced. Just deciding to make your own way," said Becca Yure, who sings for Annie. "Being an independent woman in a society that doesn't necessarily accept that."

It's not a traditional show. For starters it is performed at the home of President James Monroe, Ash Lawn.

"It makes us feel like we're part of a historic place and a traditional event that happens here," said Technical Director Jessie Sullivan.

Second, the singers only had one and a half weeks to learn their part and the crew not much longer to put together double-sided staging and scenery, for not one but two shows.

"Take all of the walls down, flip them around, put them back up, it takes us about four hours so far," said Sullivan.

Adding another curve ball is the setting. The shows are outdoors, which changes logistics and dynamics.

"The concern with an outdoor theater and trying to do opera is 'do people's voices get lost in the outdoors?' and it's not at all the case. The singers of both shows are just tremendous," Sullivan said.

"To be up there looking right at them enjoying it is very invigorating," said Clark.

"When you get to directly talk and communicate with the people you are performing for, it's a very special experience," said Yure.

People of all ages have come out to see the shows. You can picnic before hand, bring cocktails, and enjoy the performance, but hurry because shows end August 13.

For ticket information log onto: www.ashlawnopera.org or call (434) 979-0122.

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