Oakland University to Present ‘Street Scene,’ an American Opera

An American Opera at Oakland University (OU)

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance will present Street Scene, an American opera based on the 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Elmer Rice, on January 8, 10, 12 and 13 in Varner Recital Hall on OU’s campus.

Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for the general public, and can be purchased online at startickets.com.

“The play is based on a set of immigrant and first generation families that live in the same poor apartment building in lower Manhattan,” said Director Drake Dantzler, coordinator of opera studies and assistant professor of voice at OU.

“The show uses this background to address cultural issues of the day, including domestic violence, substance abuse, depression, sexism, and racism,” he added. “It approaches these topics through the lens of the characters struggles and joys in their daily lives.”

Featuring choreography by Associate Professor of Dance Gregory Patterson and lyrics by Elmer Rice and Langston Hughes, the music of Street Scene incorporates many styles – from blues to soft-shoe to traditional opera — and becomes itself an analogy for the many immigrant families portrayed in the show.

“It is absolutely beautiful music, and I am excited at the prospect of our student musicians performing for the audience at an incredibly high level,” said Music Director Victoria Shively, a special lecturer at Oakland University. “I couldn’t be prouder of our students. And while there are funny and entertaining moments in Street Scene, this is a very moving and painful story, made even more relatable by the gorgeous singing and colorful orchestration.”

Photo credit: JLBoone Photography

For Caroline Roberts, who plays Rose, being a part of Street Scene has been “a great experience.”

“This is my first opera at OU,” Roberts said. “My character, Rose, is an earnest young woman who tries to see the best in everyone. She works a day job, but wants to escape her unhappy lifestyle and find love. Rose is a daughter, a sister, and a dear friend. As she is making decisions regarding the next step of her journey, her fate is tragically decided for her.”

Andrew Forsythe, who plays Rose’s father, Frank Maurrant, said Street Scene has provided him with an opportunity to get to know a “rich and complex character.”

“Frank is an alcoholic and an abusive husband and father, but his character goes much further,” he said. “He is cold, old-fashioned, and hurtful, but is deeply hurting himself. However, there are moments during the opera that he shows sorrow and regret for his actions rather than acting as the hateful drunk that is usually present. Frank has been a fascinating character to present in my own way and I look forward to being able to share that with the audience.”

In an effort to heighten awareness of some of the issues portrayed in Street Scene — including depression, isolation and abuse — the School of Music, Theatre and Dance has collaborated with the Department of Counseling and the Graham Health Center to provide information tables at each performance.

“It is important to discuss mental health awareness to ‘normalize’ the conversation, to educate people about mental health, and to provide valuable resources to those for whom it may be beneficial,” said Rebecca Trouse, marketing coordinator with the Department of Counseling at OU. “The tables will be staffed with people to answer questions related to counseling and stocked with informational materials promoting counseling services that the SEHH Counseling Center offers.”

In addition, the SMTD and the Department of Counseling will host a panel discussion at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 9 in Varner Recital Hall that will explore the history, literature, music and mental health issues presented in Street Scene. The panel discussion will feature OU faculty members David Kidger, Ph.D., associate professor of music; Kathleen Pfeiffer, Ph.D., professor of English; Victoria Shively, music director, Oakland University Opera; and Michael P. Chaney, Ph.D., LPC (Michigan, Georgia), NCC, ACS, associate professor and coordinator of addictions specialization.

“I’m grateful to my co-panelists for volunteering their expertise, and for SMTD’s amazing production staff to take on another considerable project,” Shively said. “Everyone has been so supportive; it has been a reaffirming experience to see how many people want to help those who are in need.”

For more information, contact the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at 248-370-2030 or smtd@oakland.edu.

Performance Schedule

• Tuesday, January 8 at 7:00 p.m.

• Thursday, January 10 at 7:00 p.m.

• Saturday, January 12 at 7:00 p.m.

• Sunday, January 13 at 2:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion

• Wednesday, January 9 at 7:00 p.m. – Panel discussion to explore history, music, and mental health issues presented in the show.

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