Converse Opera Theatre, in collaboration with Theatre Converse, is presenting the opera Summer & Smoke by Lee Hoiby in Twichell Auditorium on January 26th to the 28th. Converse provides one of the Upstate area’s only opportunities to see a fully-staged opera production each year.
Summer & Smoke tells a heartbreaking love story: It’s Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century. Alma, a preacher’s daughter with an eccentric mother, harbors a secret infatuation with her rebellious neighbor, John. As the two wrestle between love and lust, Alma struggles to find her freedom and identity as a woman in the restrictive South.
“It’s important that art forms like opera are accessible to everyone – after all, live performance should connect us, uplift us and make us feel…”
Converse Opera Theatre Director Jenna Elser says the show was chosen because it contains numerous role for women, which is not the case in most operas. “So many of the themes and situations touched on in the opera are relevant to many in the community here… this story is about Alma’s awakening – about her coming face to face with the reality of the world she lives in…I think much of what Alma goes through is universal,” said Elser.
This adaptation of one of Tennessee Williams’ plays is a collaboration between the Converse Opera Theatre and the Department of Theatre and Dance. Summer & Smoke fits between the two disciplines, as it contains spoken dialogue, acting roles, dance and the focus is on communicating the drama through the music.
Converse’s opera program has a long history in the Upstate community and at Converse College. Many community partners have helped spread the word about the production, have donated concessions and have brought groups to see shows.
A panel discussion about women’s equality and leadership featuring Converse student leaders will be held after the January 27th showing on Twichell stage. Panelists will include representatives from the following student organizations: the Hispanic Awareness Association, the Association of African American Students, Ally Club, and the Day Student Association. They will share their experiences and perspectives as women as well as advice for the audience on ways they can be leaders in their communities as they work for women’s equality.
As an outreach and service initiative in support of women who have been victims of domestic violence, Converse Opera Theatre is partnering with the Palmetto Beauty School in Spartanburg to create a special event entitled “Dress for the Opera” for women from SAFE HOMES-Rape Crisis Coalition. “Dress for the Opera” aims to create a place for women in crisis where art and music, for one night, come together to fill the emotional needs that many of these women forget to focus on in their current situations. Participants will enjoy a free haircut and style from Palmetto Beauty School before the performance, and free tickets to the show.
“It’s important that art forms like opera are accessible to everyone – after all, live performance should connect us, uplift us and make us feel, as well as serve as a good distraction from the pressures and realities of our lives,” said Elser.
This article was written by Makayla Gay ’19, who is majoring in creative and professional writing.