Rumpelstiltskin is played by Mimi Lauseur, of Ann Arbor, left, and the princess is Olivia Johnson, of North Carolina, right.

Rumpelstiltskin is played by Mimi Lauseur, of Ann Arbor, left, and the princess is Olivia Johnson, of North Carolina, right.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Opera ensemble spins story into song for students

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 8, 2018


WARREN — Students who attend McKinley Elementary School had the opportunity to enjoy the opera when members of the Michigan Opera Theatre Touring Ensemble performed “Rumpelstiltskin” at the school June 6.

“Rumpelstiltskin” tells the story of a miller’s daughter who finds the power to cure the sadness of the town prince. The town’s prime minister believes that a supply of gold would make the prince happy, and it’s the character of Rumpelstiltskin who helps the miller’s daughter in her quest.

The Michigan Opera Theater, or MOT, cast included Mimi Lanseur as Rumpelstiltskin, Paolo Pacheco as the prime minister, Mark Istratie as the prince, Branden Hood as the miller, Olivia Johnson as the miller’s daughter, and Tessa Hartle as the pianist. McKinley is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.

Also helping with the production were Mysti Byrnes, program coordinator for education and community programs at MOT, and Mark Vondrak, of the theater’s community program department.

The Touring Ensemble’s production was written by husband and wife David DiChiera and Karen DiChiera. David DiChiera is the founder and artistic director of the MOT. Karen DiChiera is a composer and educator and founded the Department of Education and Community Programs and Learning for the MOT.

Through MOT’s Department of Education and Community Programs, the Touring Ensemble has performed “Rumpelstiltskin” for the past two years. The theater’s Department of Education and Community Programs brings musicals to schools, community centers and stages throughout Michigan. The shows include children’s operas, musical revues and educational workshops. It’s a way to bring the theater to the community for those who cannot travel to the Detroit Opera House, where MOT performs.

At McKinley, the actors told the story of “Rumpelstiltskin” through song, costumes, props and plenty of stage presence. After the show, there were a few minutes for students to ask questions. One student wanted to know how the cast members can sing so loudly. Johnson explained the performers have years of training and also learn proper breathing and performing techniques.

The cast needed a few students in the show, and they called on fifth-graders Mariyah Jones, Alicia Chase and Amyiah Jackson for a walk-on appearance. Jones likes the theater so much that she would like to become a costume designer. Chase loved the MOT performance of  “Rumpelstiltskin.”

“It was beautiful,” said Chase, who has performed in plays. “The acting was wonderful.”

“It has a plot,” Jackson said.

The students thought it was a good idea to have such a performance at the school.

“It helps kids explore what they can do when they grow up,” Chase said.

“You ladies did a great job,” McKinley Principal Heather Brodi told them. “To get up in front of the whole school takes a lot of courage. You should be proud of yourselves.”

Brodi said MOT representatives sent educational materials that teachers could use in class that included activities about the show.

Karen McCay coordinated the visit. McCay, through Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, RSVP, volunteers once a week at McKinley. McCay also is an MOT ambassador. She started out as an usher with MOT.

“I can appreciate and see all the wonderful performances,” said McCay, who also conducts behind-the-scenes visits at the Detroit Opera House. She also enjoys reading to first-grade students at McKinley every Monday.

“I read to a small group of children,” McCay said. “I’m retired, so I do all kinds of volunteer work. I have the time and I have the want. I love to give back to the community.”

RSVP is part of a national program and recruits retirees ages 55 and older to volunteer in their communities. Some participate as tutors in schools, while others volunteer their time at various organizations.

A total of 38 RSVP volunteers helped in schools in Macomb County this school year, contributing almost 1,500 hours of service. The Oakland County program is new this year and has five volunteers.

For more information about the RVSP program, contact coordinator Trista Johnson at (248) 559-1147, ext. 3941.