Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Video Blog from Solorio Teens

Jennifer D'Agostino, COT for Teens Stage Director

Aside from the excitement of being part of Chicago Opera Theater’s “Opera for All” program, I have the honor of stage directing the After-School Matters/Chicago Opera Theater for Teens program and Solorio Academy. It has been great fun to work with the teens at Solorio who many, if you read Michael Roemer’s blog post, are experiencing the world of opera and music theater for the first time. Together, Mr. Roemer, our school liaison Laura Vaca and I, work hard to figure out what will create the best experience for our teens. The program is 2 1/2 hours, three times a week, and we have many dedicated participants and a supportive staff! The best part of working with the teens is being able to tap into their skills and use their gifts to make the program as strong as possible. We are surrounded by fantastic young dancers, artists, actors, and writers! I can’t wait to see what next semester brings and how we will continue to grow.

Mr. Michael Roemer and I make sure to check in with the kids once and a while to see what they like best about the program. I’m happy to see that (without prompting) these teens mention so many positive aspects of working in the arts and arts integration! I hope you enjoy the mini video blog I put together highlighting some of our wonderful students!

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Program! COT for Teens at Solorio

Michael Roemer, COT for Teens Teaching Artist
My name is Michael Roemer, and I’m new to Chicagoland and Chicago Opera Theater for Teens. My collaborator, Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino and I are leading a new branch of COT for Teens at the Eric Solorio Academy High School. The school is new and fresh, but as the semester has progressed, new artwork and student activity has embellished the halls. We take our activities to the choir room where we’re putting together Guys and Dolls. Both Dr. D’Agostino and I are thrilled to help the Solorio students explore acting and singing!

Each day before we start our sessions, we usually wait outside the band and choir rooms. The sounds heard are certainly not similar to my high school band experience where most students had been playing their instruments since grade 5. No, here, some of these students are encountering these instruments for the very first time. As we selected our teens for the program, we found they were also encountering opera and musical theater for the very first time. We’re fortunate to have the support from Solorio’s choral instructor, Andrew Sons, and band instructor, Madeline Molinedo. They have provided us with great insight in the recruitment and interview process.


It has been a challenge and pleasure to work with these students who are afraid to make noise at times, but that doesn’t mean they lack enthusiasm. We have a few stand-out stars who show considerable dedication, talent, and energy even after a full day of school. One of the teachers, Leah Velez, leads a ballroom dance club, and we’re excited to collaborate with her for our “Havana” scene. In addition, we’re bringing Whitney Hershberger for a stage combat session in a couple weeks.

COT for Teens got to experience a rehearsal of Orpheus and Euridice

Another highlight of our program was the field trip to the Eckhart Park Natatorium for a dress rehearsal of Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice. The students loved this trip, and only complained about not seeing the entire production! It was a great way to expose them to what opera can be in contrast to the stereotypes they may have floating around in their heads. One student commented on a particular scene being “so beautiful, I cried.” The students met with Jerry Tietz and Andreas Mitisek for an introduction and Q&A session after the dress rehearsal. 
Teens at the pool

We’re excited to see how the students progress towards the end of the semester and performance, and we can’t wait to see them put on a show for the first time!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reilly and Hampton's Lyrical Success

Justin Callis, OFA Teaching Artist

The past few weeks, our students had a special guest artist from Young Chicago Authors, Ms. Essie Linzy.  She worked with the students on lyric writing and poetry.  All of the students loved listening to her share her own poetry, and were very inspired by the video they had watched from Louder Than a Bomb.  When Ms. Linzy asked the students about the Chicago Fire, it was very clear all of the students really took advantage of their trip to the Chicago History Museum; they were filled with facts  and ideas, and really put their knowledge to good use.  Watching her work with the students, it was really clear she had a passion for both rhyme and imagination, and she coaxed and encouraged both out of all of our students.  

At Reilly, their teacher Ms. Drakulich was really impressed.  She told me how obvious it was that the students were really getting it, and that they were clearly having a ton of fun learning about writing.  In fact, that class was so enthusiastic about Ms. Linzy and her poem, they requested an encore performance of it at the end of class!  I know all of the students are so enthusiastic about continuing the writing process, and I am sure we will have a pile of wonderfully creative, imaginative operas about Chicago History and Jazz by the end of the school year.  I can't wait!