This upcoming weekend, I am singing an aria excerpted from the new opera Lady Orchid by Dan Shore in a variety show of sorts for Boston Opera Collaborative. Occurring over Halloween, the program is called Opera Goes to Hell: Sin, Sex and the Supernatural. When the composer watched me sing the role of Chastity in an informal reading of his opera, he exclaimed it was perfect for me. The punchline of this is that it is the role of a stripper.
To explain this statement further, this is not my first foray into the portrayal of the seedy, but I have also played my fair share of ingénues. This character of Chastity is a good blend of exotic dancer by night, while by day she comes off more like a kindergarten teacher. She is based on a real person featured in the news as part of a murder trial in Pennsylvania. This combined with the fact that it fits me well vocally is probably the reasoning behind the casting.
My first unsavory character was actually performed in Pennsylvania, when I was part of a chorus of prostitutes in a modern rendition of The Beggars’ Opera in undergrad. The most remarkable part of this run for me personally, was the night my parents came to see the show. This night also coincided with the professional photographs that were being taken after the performance. We were told we had to greet friends and family in the audience in costume. So, instead of heading out to the pavilion in my street clothes as was the case every other night of the run, I had to greet my parents in a see-through top, purple suede miniskirt and hooker boots. And of course, my mother insisted on a round of photos. My dad kept joking about how he was going to make wallet prints out of them so he could proudly show everyone photos of his daughter, the street walker.
This leads me to another story of note. A family friend was over one time while I was home for the summer from college. The topic of part time jobs came up. This friend suggested that I get a job at Hooters restaurant to put myself through grad school, saying that servers there make two or three hundred dollars in tips a night. While I myself was objecting, we turned to my dad who was deep in contemplation. “Two or three hundred dollars a night…” he said, “That’s a lot of money...” Now, on the list of people who should be objecting to the idea of my getting a job at Hooters, one would think that my father would be at the top. “Of course, you’d have to be careful not to go home with anyone,” he continued. Let’s face it, my dad the mathematician was just being wooed by numbers in his head.
And really, since nearly half of my stage career has been made up of playing risqué roles, what was stopping me from taking a job at Hooters anyway? I might as well have carried some chicken wings at the same time for a lot more money.