“Of Starch and Forgiveness” is the title of Tyler Zwink’s new student produced opera. Not just any opera, though. This is a Wild West comedy opera performed by local singers.
The Woodward Arts Theatre Council is hosting the opera on July 16 and 17 at 8 p.m., as well as a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. on July 18.
This is a family friendly event and great introduction to opera, as it is all in English and the total performance is under one hour, according to Laurie Steenbergen, director of the Woodward Arts Theatre.
“Some operas are nice in foreign languages but there are a lot of very, very strong, very powerful operas in English,” Zwink said. “
The idea for this opera came after listening to Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“I wanted to write something similar because I really like the idea of both telling a story, but also doing it through music which is a huge passion of mine,” Zwink explained. “It's what I'm going to university for.”
Zwink said the first step in the process was to apply for a grant. The original opera and performance was made possible through student grants from Research and Creative Scholarly Activities at University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). It was originally performed this spring in Edmond.
Zwink received grants to compose and produce the production.
Ethan Snowden from Bartlesville received a grant to direct the opera. Snowden is a post-graduate with his masters in pedagogy and performance and his bachelors in music education at UCO.
“They gave the thumbs up, and then over the course of the fall semester I worked with my composition professor,” Zwink explained. “I write pretty simplistically, pretty easily, but all of a sudden it's a little more complicated, a little more difficult because you're bringing a very experienced composer to make edits, so it reaches a whole other level.”
Conducted during the spring semester in Edmond, the first performance was well received, according to Zwink.
“With this one, it was a lot tighter schedule,” Zwink said. “But we were getting a lot of support from both the arts and theater community here and the music community here and it's really been a huge help.”
After holding auditions in Woodward, the mostly local singers had two weeks to rehearse and learn an entire opera, according to Zwink.
“To do it all in two weeks for three performances is (an) incredible feat,” Zwink said. “I think that everything's going pretty smoothly and I can expect some pretty great things.”
Snowden is coming to Woodward and Zwink will be performing as well. Zwink’s mother, Tracey Zwink, will also be performing.
“We've got Mark Randall who played Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast production,” Zwink said. “We got Ashley Schmitz… she has been very active in like Broadway Review and a lot of the Onstage Woodward productions.”
Colby Green from Fargo will be performing the bass part as the big, bad villain, according to Zwink. Sarah Acosta will be stage manager.
“It is a wild west, and it's kind of a parody of common opera tropes,” Zwink said. “Kind of making fun of the common opera tropes that you see over and over, down to the characters being named literally after their voice types.”
Putting the melodrama in a wild west setting, the story has some twists and turns and possible a little bit of a love story.
“Tyler wanted to bring (Of Starch and Forgiveness) home to Woodward Arts Theatre where he had done everything from Arts Camp as a kid to starring in Beauty and the Beast as the beast,” Steenbergen said. “WATC welcomed opportunity to feature one of our own as well as give the community a family friendly theatre event.”
Tickets are $10 each but student, senior, veteran and family tickets are also available.