Thursday, March 17, 2011

Opera Delaware gets Intimate!


OperaDelaware has added a Studio Series to its Spring schedule. The cabaret-style evening of opera entertainment will be presented in the intimate surroundings of Opera Studios overlooking the Christina River on Fri., March and Sat., March 19 at 7:30 pm, and on Sun., March 20 at 2 pm, at 4 South Poplar Street, Wilmington.
Leads from future and past productions of OperaDelaware will sing a combination of opera’s greatest hits along with a few interesting selections from operas never performed in their entirety in Wilmington. Guests can sit at V.I.P. tables or in general admission and enjoy a glass of wine or beer while listening to their favorite arias.
“Last year’s Studio Series was a tremendous hit,” says executive director Lee Kimball. “Folks can get their feet wet with opera without having to commit to an entire evening of one opera. We expect they’ll come back for more.”
Jeffrey Miller, OperaDelaware’s Music Director, will accompany the singers and provide commentary.
Soloists will include Susan Nelson and her sister Joanna Gates,who will perform the famous “sister” duet from Cosi Fan Tutte and “Sorgi, O Padre” from Bellini’s Bianca e Fernando; Jeff Chapman, the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro and Marcello in La Boheme; Elisa Matthews, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Beth in Little Women and members of the Wilmington Childrens Chorus. Guest artists include countertenor Gus Mercante, Lynne Claire Morse and Melody Wilson.
Aisle Say heard Elisa Matthews perform in the musical “Jekyll & Hyde” at Media Theatre. I do not recall my exact quote about her voice, but do remember my very visceral reaction; identical to the swoon cascading over my body when Sarah Brightman first sang “Time To Say Goodbye” to Andrea Bocelli.
For tickets 1-800-37-GRAND

AISLE SAY “Scoop of the Month”

Aisle Say has shown a consistent pattern of scooping our esteemed daily newspaper through his years of bulldogged and unrelenting investigative reporting.
The corporate papers from “The Smartest Guys in the Room” are now ensconced and online at Hagley Museum and Library. A decade ago, the mixture of hubris, auditing corruption, disgraceful corporate governance and Olympian greed brought about the scandal we know as Enron.
Donated by a former board member of Enron, the papers arrived at the Museum in November, were scanned in and made keyword searchable. The minutes are a text for any school of business with a course on deception. Lynn Catanese, Hagley's curator of manuscripts and archives says, “these documents have historical significance to scholars and students”.
Enron was not the biggest bankruptcy in US history, but it destroyed countless lives, made smithereens of Arthur Anderson and engendered the Sarbanes-Oxley legislative reforms. The above titled documentary film was an award winner. I still recall seeing Chairman Ken Lay do his perp walk. President Jeffrey Skilling is still behind bars and in February of this year, his 20 year old son od'd. (Thanks for the legacy, Dad!)
Internal documents may not appear to be as compelling as a quote from Charlie Sheen, but they are 'Winning' in their own right and serve as criterion on how to avoid being the next Enron.
The Library also houses the business records of Avon, Sun Oil, Wawa, Strawbridge & Clothier and, of course, Du Pont Co.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

David Flemng is new Development Director at The Grand

When Dave Fleming was Executive Director of the major performing arts center in Austin TX, Larry Gatlin of The Gatlin Brothers became a friend. Gatlin was waxing philosophic one evening and delivered a phrase that now is prophetic: “You spend half your life trying to get out of town....and the other half fighting your way back.”
Fleming, who was hired as ED of The Grand in 1982, held that position for a decade. He left Wilmington for a bigger theatre and opportunity in New Brunswick NJ. Then on to Austin, Green Bay and the Berkshires as leader of performing arts venues.
Now Dave's Great Mandala brings him back to his hometown and back to The Grand as Development Director.
Though recently living in Massachusetts, Dave and high school sweetheart wife Cathy had kept in touch with Delaware events through the decades. He was aware of the financial stress of The Grand and reached out to friend and colleague ED Steve Bailey. Dave wanted to write a letter to the editor about the desperate need for performing arts in the community. During the conversation, Bailey asked what Dave was doing. “Well, I'm retired....and I am b-o-r-e-d.”
Bailey responded, “Come back to The Grand, man. We need you.”
Dave and I attended Brandywine High together in the '60's. In fact, we were in the first ever Brandywine High Alumni Theatre Association production of “Carnival”., in 1968. (It must be noted that dear sister Liz portrayed 'The Bearded Lady' of the circus, undeniably her most compelling stage role. While she had no speaking lines, Liz brought great pathos to her hirsute character. People talk about it even today.)
In the hippie '70's Dave and I worked together with Earth Shoes in Washington D.C. When I saw him last week at a Grand fund raiser, I exclaimed, 'What in the world are you doing here?”
The House of Medici, the imperious and iron fisted rulers of The Grand during the '90's were long gone. If tar and feathering were legal, their sycophantic Executive Director would have been escorted out of town in this fashion, with Aisle Say leading the charge.
Steve Bailey took over the reins in what Fleming has called “the toughest environment I have ever witnessed. Only now are we seeing the appearance of some light.”
Aisle Say was in attendance the night of the unveiling of the 2011 $10 million capital campaign. Philanthropist Tatiana Copeland announced that she and her husband would donate $1 million each. With others chipping in, that night concluded with 45% of the deal done.
One of Fleming's jobs will be to go after those smaller, annual donors; the ones that were ignored during the Medici era. He understands that The Grand must return to a broad base of support. I need to “make connections”, “bring people back in the fold”.
Regarding The Queen: “It is our greatest fear is that it will not be successful.” The two venues are sharing and comparing notes. With the massive amount of money being poured into The Queen and the hopes for linking Market Street from the Riverfront to Rodney Square, it's failure would be death knell for revitalization.
On the perception of downtown Wilmington, Dave had an interesting take. “Crime occurs when there are few people around. Frankly, the more people on the street, the less likelihood of crime. Therefore, if The Queen brings even more people to their box office, both our entities will will our city. Then, that perception will dissipate.”
(Note: I was in a network meeting with Marty Hageman, CEO of Downtown Visions. He had statistics to substantiate that the Market Street hub is the safest place in the city.)
Says Fleming: “I care deeply about live theatre. I love my home town. I love re-connecting with old friends. I think I bring some talents to Steve and The Grand from my own professional experiences. My goal is to put The Grand on a sustainable path.”

Panoply of Poltergeists in Blithe Spirit

Noel Coward is one of the finest exemplars of the axiom, “With words we rule men”. There are so many of Aisle Say's own personal enemies out there – some even reading this column – about whom I could say “You'll never die....(unfortunately) you're not the dying sort.”
There is great skill attached to reciting dialog from such a prolific, urbane, clever and down right funny word smith. One's diction must be rapier precise; one's timing must be naturally born and one's eyebrows must be forever arched in devil-may-care insouciance.
While from my seat I could not see the angle of the actors' collective eyebrows, otherwise the acting ensemble at DE Theater Company achieved all the elements in performance of a Coward script.
Director Domenec Scudera assembled the most skilled actors in this DTC season. There were multiple attempts at physical humor early on with klutzy maid Edith (Sarah Doherty) that had no basis in the real world as Aisle Say (and dear sister Liz) perceives it. The pratfalls were both a stretch and an eye rolling strain to credulity. Otherwise the pace was swift and the acting confidant.
A full house on opening night was greeted by a set (Designer John Raley) clever by two for a Coward play. The audience sitting center and left saw a dining room through double doors and a foyer. A very inventive conceit by Raley.
Husband / wife team of Dr. Bradman (Peter DeLaurier) and Mrs. Bradman (Ceal Phelan), two-thirds of the founding team of DTC in 1973 – along with Cleveland Morris – returned to their own 'haunts'...(this IS “Blithe Spirit, you know)! Phelan has played both Ruth and Elvira in past productions of her storied and enviable career.
Act II was the most fun. The characters had been introduced in the bit longish and drawn out first. But now the energy level rose and the story went a pretty pace.
Charles (James Michael Reilly) maintained a calm demeanor on the exterior with a more or less evil one inside. (I surmise wishing one's wife dead would be categorized that way. However, it's all in the execution, is it not?)
Ruth (Christie Parker) expressed love for her husband, disbelief at this blithe spirit taking over their home and a wonderful justification in her vengeance.
Beth Hylton (Elvira) took over the audience upon her first entrance. Great theatre is about surprise. Coward knew that. That's why, in 1941, with the dread of the German bombing of London he wrote the show in 6 days. Elvira surprised us with her bouncy exuberance from her entrance and we were hooked.
The comedic star of the show was Madame Arcadi (Meghan Colleen Moroney). Never without a witty, compelling and jaw dropping repartee to her inquisitors, she was a delight. We were convulsed as she walked about the sitting room surveying for fairies, apparitions or whatever blithe spirits she was divining for.
Through March 20. 594.1100