dirty Pittsburgh junkyard was the humble setting of the
first Squonk opera 12 years ago. Since then, Squonk Opera’s
artists, designers, performers and musicians, led by artistic
directors Jackie Dempsey and Steve O’ Hearn, have taken
an unlikely premise and turned it into a set of wildly successful
The “[Your Town]: The Opera” series is an innovative blend
of dance, props, comedy, video and puppetry: a live performance
tailored to a specific town. The group wanted to avoid the
usual mainstream targets with the tour, choosing to focus
on small cities without much hype—so they asked their agent
to avoid marketing the series to New York, Los Angeles,
people think of America they think of New York City and
L.A. We think it’s great to showcase smaller places that
are still beautiful and livable,” said Dempsey.
After a run of shows in late 2006 spotlighting College Park,
Md., the Squonk troupe set its sights on Albany.
To capture the spirit of a city, Squonk spends several months
absorbing the area’s culture. For their upcoming show on
Albany, that meant filming scenes, visiting landmarks, and
getting to know the locals. The Squonk interpretation of
what it means to live in Albany will be a multimedia show.
Albany: The Opera will include an original score,
dancers, musicians, vocalists, visual art, video footage
of the city, and interviews.
place we go to is interesting,” she said, adding, “People
are really enthusiastic about our shows. It instills pride
in your community, especially when you see people that are
not very different from you.”
When everyone else seems to be obsessed with the activities
of wealthy losers like Paris Hilton, Squonk Opera is refreshing
in that it glorifies the lives of normal people in non-lavish
settings. Although Albany does have its share of quirks.
videographer made a special trip to the giant dog,” said
Dempsey, casually referring to Nipper, the lonely canine
who guards the former RCA building on Broadway.
Egg is also a very interesting structure,” but the weirdest
thing they found, she said, was the “U-Haul truck on a stick.”
Interviews with local celebrities are also included. Albany
author William Ken nedy will be making an appearance, as
will Yvonne Perry, the Voorheesville native who in the ’90s
starred as “Rosanna Cabot” on As the World Turns.
In spite of its weirdness, or maybe as a result of it, Squonk
Opera has become a runaway hit. Critics love them; words
like “hypnotic,” “ingenious” and “surreal” are routinely
thrown about in reviews. Beyond critical acclaim, O’ Hearn
and Dempsey’s vision as artistic directors has helped Squonk
Opera earn recognition from places that many only dream
of: Dempsey has been awarded grants from the Rockefeller
Foundation’s Map Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts,
and the Jim Henson Foundation. In addition, O’ Hearn has
received two NEA Creativity Awards, three International
Design Awards, and an American Theater Wing’s Hewes Design
Be prepared to experience what one critic called “a flood
of contraptions, visual jokes, and gloriously eccentric
music that would stretch even Tim Burton’s imagination.”
The Opera will premiere Saturday (April 21) at 8 PM
in the University at Albany Performing Arts Center’s Main
Theater (1400 Washington Ave., Albany). Tickets are $18
for the general public and $12 for students. For reservations
and info contact the box office at 442-3997, or visit the
Performing Arts Center website at www.albany.edu/pac.
monthlong series of events honoring Pulitzer Prize-winning
Albany novelist William Kennedy culminates tomorrow (Friday)
with the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s world premiere of Kevin
Beavers’ Roscoe, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.
Inspired by Ken nedy’s novel, which is set in the world
of Albany politics mid-20th century, the concerto will feature
violinist Colin Jacobsen and the author himself, who will
provide the narration.
Also on the program: Bruckner’s Sym phony No. 4.
You can check out a noon preview of the concert today (Thursday,
April 19) at the Albany Public Library’s Main Branch (161
Washington Ave., Albany).
Albany Symphony Orchestra, with maestro David Alan Miller,
will perform Friday (April 20) at 7:30 PM at the Palace
Theatre (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). Tickets are $42-$21.
For reservations and information, call 465-4663.
probably wouldn’t guess that four-time Country Music Association
Female Vocalist of the Year winner Martina McBride got her
start in the business on tour with Garth Brooks, selling
T-shirts. That was almost 20 years ago, though, and
since then McBride has been in the country-music spotlight,
selling millions of albums for her label, RCA, and scoring
No. 1 hits with practically every album she releases. This
week, McBride took some time off from touring to serve as
the featured vocal coach on the über-popular guilty-pleasure
talent show American Idol.
The Grammy-nominated country superstar will hit the Capital
Region this weekend on her current tour to support her newest
disc, Waking Up Laughing, which was released at the
beginning of April. Special guests Little Big Town and Rodney
Atkins will open the show.
Martina McBride will perform at the Times Union Center (51
S. Pearl St., Albany) on Sunday (April 22) at 7 PM. Tickets
are $54.75 and $44.75. For more information or to order
tickets, call the Times Union Center box office at 487-2000
or visit timesunioncenter albany.com.