Wayne State Theatre and Dance faculty and students take part in drive-thru opera experience with Michigan Opera Theatre

Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) is taking opera to the next level with its first “drive-thru” opera. Nearly 40 students, faculty and staff from the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance have volunteered to contribute to the production of Twilight: Gods, which opens Oct. 17, 2020. The Department of Theatre and Dance is one of four departments in Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

Twilight: Gods, MOT’s one-of-a-kind musical experience inside the Detroit Opera House Parking Center, will be part live performance, part immersive installation. Audience members will remain in their cars to experience scenes from the final opera of Wagner’s Ring cycle on various levels of the parking structure.

WSU Director of Dance Meg Paul was contacted by MOT Artistic Advisor for Dance Jon Teeuwissen to inquire about opportunities for dance students to participate in the upcoming production. Paul’s professional connection with Teeuwissen initiated an introduction with Yuval Sharon, MOT’s new Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director.

“Detroit is one of the great cities of innovation, and it is no surprise that our arts organizations are stepping up and leaning in to advance the art form during a pandemic,” said Paul. “Those WSU students who are participating in Michigan Opera Theatre’s bold and brilliant concept will see it as it comes to life within the six levels of the Michigan Opera Parking Center. They are gaining important knowledge and creative problem-solving skills that will undoubtably give them an advantage in the site-specific realm of drive-in dance and theatre productions.”

Students from Theatre and Dance B.S. and B.F.A. undergraduates and M.F.A. graduate students in theatre have volunteered to participate. Volunteers participated in several rehearsals to learn the choreography and “car-ography” within Sharon's extraordinary vision for this socially distanced, site-specific production.

Faculty from the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance are exploring other ideas for outdoor, socially distanced performance events. Associate Professor Cheryl Turski and Assistant Professor Biba Bell are developing ideas for a parking lot performance, using cars’ headlights for lighting and their radios for sound, and circling up to create a performance space for dancers and actors.

“This model has been adopted by various theatre and dance companies around the country during the pandemic, bringing a new twist to the theatrical agora,” said Bell. “MOT’s production is especially inspiring in terms of how such formats can be developed beyond the spatial constraints and context to produce an important layer for viewing and experiencing the work.”

The “drive-thru” performance features an extraordinary cast including soprano Christine Goerke, the world’s leading Brünnhilde; tenor Sean Panikkar as Siegfried; and bass Morris Robinson as Hagen. Detroit cultural icon Marsha Music performs new poetry that connects Wagner’s mythological world with the here and now of our city and our time.

MOT is instituting strong protocols for protecting all participants and WSU volunteers are adhering to those guidelines.

For more information, visit michiganopera.org.

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About the Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance
Theatre and Dance at Wayne is the producing entity of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts at Wayne State University. The department offers undergraduate and graduate programs in theatre and dance, including a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre; Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in either Performance, Design and Technology, or Stage Management; Bachelor of Science in Dance; Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance; Master of Fine Arts in Acting, Set Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, Stage Management, and Theatre Management; Master of Arts in Theatre & Dance with an emphasis in Teaching Artistry; and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration. Minors are available in Africana Theatre and Dance; Theatre Design and Technology, Theatre, Theatre Management, Dance, Community and Studio Dance. theatreanddance.wayne.edu

About the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts

Established in 1986, CFPCA educates the next generation of visual artists, musicians, communication professionals, designers, art historians, art managers, actors, and dancers. The college offers 17 undergraduate programs, 12 graduate programs and four graduate certificates through its departments: the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, and the departments of communication and music. The music and theatre/dance departments are nationally accredited, as are individual programs in communication and art and art history.

In a setting of cultural diversity and advanced technologies, students benefit from expert faculty and state-of- the-art resources, and win top rankings in national and international competitions and tournaments. CFPCA's alumni include a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and winners of and nominees for the Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe, Obie, Screen Actors Guild and Caldecott awards. cfpca.wayne.edu

About the Michigan Opera Theatre

Last month, Yuval Sharon was named as Michigan Opera Theatre’s first-ever Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director, a five-year appointment made possible by a generous gift from MOT Board member Gary L. Wasserman. MOT, based in the historic Detroit Opera House, has long been an accessible venue for high-caliber performance while inspiring artistic investment and historical preservation in downtown Detroit. Sharon joins President and CEO Wayne S. Brown as the leadership team for MOT going forward. Sharon begins his tenure with Twilight: Gods; the 2021-22 season, Sharon’s first full season as artistic director, will be announced this spring.

One of the nation’s most vibrant nonprofit arts organizations, Michigan Opera Theatre is committed to presenting opera and dance of the highest artistic caliber. Founded In 1971 by Dr. David Dichiera, the company’s mission is to serve as a major cultural resource to the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit. The organization is led by President and CEO Wayne S. Brown and Chairman of the Board Ethan Davidson. More information is available here.