Sunday, October 11, 2020

"A Pickup Truck Opera; Volume One: The Odyssey; Episode Three, The Song of Telemaco" by Mixed Precipitation at Various Outdoor Locations

One of my favorite summer #TCTheater traditions is Mixed Precipitation's delightfully playful mash-up of classic opera and pop music, performed outdoors with passed small bites of delicious food. While the "Picnic Operetta" (which I've attended for the last six years) is on hiatus this year due to the pandemic, Mixed Precipitation is still bringing us fun and and accessible outdoor opera in the form of what they're calling "Pickup Truck Opera." In a 2011 royal blue Ford pickup, they've been "popping up" all over the Twin Cities with their 25-minute performance of yet another opera/pop mash-up. I was lucky enough to catch one of their 11 performances, at a little not-park in St. Paul on a perfectly gorgeous fall afternoon. Their final two performances will be as part of Park Square Theatre and Steppingstone Theatre's "Family Day Out" event on October 25.

photo courtesy of Mixed Precipitation
Only Mixed Precipitation can mix Monteverdi and Dolly Parton and make it work. The chosen Monteverdi opera is about a familiar story - The Odyssey - which makes it easy to follow. Dialogue is in English, songs from the opera are in Italian (with translations shown in clever ways on signs and scrolls), and Dolly's songs are chosen to fit in well with the story (Ulysses returns home to "Here You Come Again" - how perfect!). 

Since they're performing out of a pickup, props and set pieces are minimal, but charming and well used, including puppets (set and props design by Duane Tougas). Costumes (designed by Rhiannon Fiskradatz) have sort of a western theme, complete with matching masks. Under the direction of Scotty Reynolds and Jacob (Jäc) Miller, the cast (Yvonne Freese alternating with Jacob (Jäc) Miller, Tara Priolo, Momoko Tanno, Jason Kornelis, Joni Griffith, Audrey Niemi, and Benjamin Kornelis) is playful and expressive, and they all sing well - even through masks! Joni and Jason pull double duty, also playing in the band, along with Sarina Partridge on banjo (music direction by Gary Ruschman).

It may not be the full "Picnic Operetta" we're used to, but the "Pickup Truck Opera" is the same fun, playful, accessible opera/theater/music performance that Mixed Precipitiation offers every year. During a time when I'm starved for such things, even these short 25 minutes brought joy to my heart and made the world feel a little more normal. Maybe we can still have art, community, music, and joy during a pandemic, if only in smaller doses.

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