A Gripping Musical Exploration of Matthew Shepard Comes to Stanford Live

This weekend, Stanford Live will host the Grammy-winning Conspirare choral group as they perform Considering Matthew Shepard. Composed by Craig Hella Johnson, the artistic director of Conspirare, Considering Matthew Shepard is a singular and poignant musical contemplation of an atrocious and senseless crime.

Twenty years ago Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was kidnapped, beaten and left to die alone in a field—he was eventually found and transported to a hospital, but died days later from his injuries. Receiving widespread media attention, the crime stoked conversation in our country about state and federal hate crime legislation and LGBT rights. The “Matthew Shepard Act” was passed into legislation by President Barack Obama in 2009.

Through this three-part oratorio, Johnson has woven together music, poetry, passages from Matthew Shepard’s journal, as well as other writings from his parents and media. Johnson creates a channel to not only remember and tribute Matthew Shepard, but to come together and share our humanity.

“Matt Shepard and his story have led me on an inspiring, challenging and deeply meaningful journey that I continue to this day. In composing Considering Matthew Shepard I wanted to create, within a musical framework, a space for reflection, consideration and unity around his life and legacy.”

Craig Hella Johnson, composer

Join Stanford Live and experience “by far the most intricate, beautiful and unyielding artistic response to this notorious anti-gay hate crime” (Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation).

Considering Matthew Shepard will take place Saturday, April 13 at 7:30pm in the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University. Tickets are $32–60 for non-students.  

Midweek News: Ludovic Morlot, SIFF and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’

News from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond for the (mid-) week of June 14, 2017:

Congratulations, Ludovic Morlot. Soon, he’s going to be conducting for the Berlin Philharmonic for the first time. 

Talking about the Seattle Symphony. City Arts calls recent concert “moving”

The 5th Avenue Theatre is showcasing a world premiere of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Learn more about it from Seattle Magazine and the Seattle Times

The 5th Avenue honored high school productions with their annual awards show. Learn about the winners at Broadway World.

And yet more congratulations. This time to the winners from this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. 

Still more congratulations! This, to the Space Needle, who is going to go under major renovations

What’s this? More congratulations? To retiring Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer, Carrie Imler.

The Seattle Art Fair is returning this August. Learn more from Seattle Channel.

How do we shelter local artists from skyrocketing rents? Some thoughts from the city, via the Seattle Times.

It’s summer movie time in Seattle. What are you going to see? 

Do you like the movie Muriel’s Wedding? A musical is coming.

Midweek News: 5th Avenue Theatre, Ballet and Pavarotti Movies

News from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond for the (mid-) week of June 7, 2017:

The 5th Avenue Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Learn more about the show at City Arts.

Did you see the Seattle Symphony performance of a not-often-seen Ravel opera? The show will not be soon forgotten. It was a shimmering thing.

Talking about the symphony, here’s an interview with Seattle Symphony’s guest conductor, Thomas Dausgaard

The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s latest production is exquisite and bittersweet

SIFF is celebrating Anjelica Huston. Learn more from the Seattle Times.

In a bit of bad news for Seattle cinephiles, Seven Gables and the Guild 45th are closing

Welcome to Braggsville is being showcased at Book-It Repertory Theatre. Learn more about the production from Seattle magazine.

Have you gone out to Village Theatre to see Dreamgirls yet? It’s a dream

Congratulations to Annex Theatre. They’re celebrating their 30th anniversary.

Town Hall Seattle is getting a big makeover. Seattle magazine has the story.

The Drama Desk Awards were recently given out. Come From Away was a big winner. It was at Seattle Rep before making its way to Broadway. 

Ron Howard is making a biopic about the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti

Midweek News: SIFF, Seattle Rep and Muppets

News from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond for the (mid-) week of May 17, 2017:

The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig event was last week. The moneys given to Seattle’s nonprofits that day totalled nearly $19 million

The Upstream Music Festival was last weekend. Check out some photos of the festivities over at Seattle Met.

City ArtsArt Walk Awards were held last week. Check out some photos of the festivitiese.

SIFF starts tomorrow night! Being the largest film festival in North America, there’s plenty to see. Where to start? Some direction. Also—are there Seattle connections to all those movies? Yes

Seattle Repertory Theatre’s popular Here Lies Love is so popular they’ve extended the run. 

Seattle Opera’s production of The Magic Flute is, indeed, “filled with magic.” 

The Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Men’s Chorus are teaming up for the first time.

Muppets at MoPOP? Yup yup yup uh huh uh huh

Midweek News – May 10


Here’s news from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond.

Today is the Seattle Foundation’s Give Big campaign. It’s your opportunity to give to your favorite non-profit. 

The Seattle Opera and San Francisco Opera are co-commissioning an opera about the life of Steve Jobs

The Seattle Opera is currently showcasing Mozart’s beloved opera, The Magic Flute. Learn more about it, here. Reviews call it “spellbinding.” 

The Tony Awards are coming soon. The nominations were recently announced. Read the full list of potential winners, here.

Are there many Seattle connections to this year’s Tony Award nominations? Yes.

Come From Away, that was at the Seattle Rep before going onto Broadway, just won Outer Circle Critics awards. 

An American in Paris is currently at the Paramount Theatre. Here’s an interview with twin sisters who are both in the show. 

Book-It Repertory Theatre recently annonced their coming season. Learn more about it, here.

The new Upstream Music Festival is nearly here. Is it Seattle’s answer to Austin?

The Seattle International Film Festival is coming soon. What movies are coming with it? These movies

Talking about movies, Tina Fey’s Mean Girls is turning into a Broadway musical. It’s coming soon.

Midweek News – April 26


Here’s news from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond.

Seattle Symphony’s esteemed leader, Ludovic Morlot, has announced that he will step down in 2019. Learn more, here.

Learn about Seattle Symphony performance involving Andy Warhol and Thelonious Monk.

Have you seen Seattle Rep’s production of Here Lies Love? You should “go see it.” It’s a “bold, swirling spectacle,” that’s “engaging” and “boogies.” Also, have you seen what they have in store for their next season?

Have you seen the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of The Secret Garden? It’s “heart-warming” and “sumptuous.”

Look who is coming to SIFF this year.

Congratulations, Seattle Arts and Lectures, on your coming season.

Bumbershoot is coming soon. The lineup can be seen, here.

Also coming soon, on April 29th – Seattle Independent Bookstore Day.

Also coming soon, on May 3rd, a discussion of diversity in ballet, hosted by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Where can you hear local composers? Here.

And, talking about classical music, Bill Murray has thrown his hat in that ring. Yes, Bill Murray.

Midweek News – April 19


Here’s news from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond.

The Seattle Repertory Theatre recently announced their 2017-18 season. Learn about it, here.

The Seattle Rep is currently showing David Bryne’s musical, Here Lies Love. Learn about it, here.

The Pacific Northwest Ballet is putting on “Ballet on Broadway” at McCaw Hall. It’s getting good reviews! Here’s one. Here’s another one

Should there be a tax measure on the King County ballot in support of the arts? Some thoughts

The Tony Awards are coming soon. Do you know who the host will be? This man

Finally, during Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” performance there was a brawl. It happens.


Midweek News – April 12


Here’s news from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond.

Here Lies Love is being staged at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Here’s a first look and here’s a look behind-the-scenes. The David Byrne musical is a big deal. There’s more discussed about it here and here.

The Seattle International Film Festival is fast approaching. What is giong to be the opening night film? This one.

Seattle Opera is presenting Mozart’s famous work, The Magic Flute, soon. Take a quick gander at the coming show, here.

Also coming soon to Seattle is the musical of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Romy and Michele were just recently cast for the 5th Avenue Theatre production.

Meany Center for the Performing Arts recently announced their 2017-18 season. Some highlights of the coming year can be found, here.

Congratulations to Wave Books. The local poetry publisher recently won the Pulitzer Prize.

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama went to Lynn Nottage for Sweat.

Finally, taking arts classes have lifelong effects.

Midweek News – April 5


Here’s news from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond. 

The Seattle Children’s Theatre recently announced their 2017-2018 season. It includes The Little Prince and naked mole rats. You can learn more, here

Here Lies Love is nearly here. The Seattle Rep is excited about the production. Here’s an interview with the creator of the show, the famed David Bryne. And here’s another interview with him. 

Dry Powder is on the Seattle Rep stage right now. It’s “sharp.” 

Seattle Opera’s chamber opera, The Combat, is getting rave reviews. It’s “exquisite” and staged for the “right audience.” 

The Pacific Northwest Ballet is excited to bring back dancer Lucien Postlewaite back onto the stage. 

Did anyone see the Seattle Symphony perform Rachmaninov last weekend? It was “breathtaking” and “heartfelt.” 

Talking about the Seattle Symphony, did you know that a superhero is conducting it? Indeed, Ludovic Morlotsuperhero

Cirque du Soleil’s new show, Luzia, is now being performed in Redmond. It’s “amazing.” Another review? “Wow.” 

Finally, could Beyonce be in a reboot of The Lion King




Harmony Arnold: Dressed for the Part

For Harmony Arnold, the costume designer for the production Murder for Two, currently being staged at ACT Theatre, in collaboration with the 5th Avenue Theatre, it’s about exactly that—harmony. “My job is to work with an actor to achieve character.” It’s that character development she appreciates most in costuming actors. “I love the collaborative process.”

Arnold knows something about collaboration. She just recently worked with the 5th Avenue Theatre in their production of The Man of La Mancha. She’s done work with Seattle Repertory Theatre (Buyer & CellarVenus in FurBo-Nita), INTIMAN Theatre Festival (Lysistra), Village Theatre (Snapshots), an ACT Theatre/5th Avenue Theatre collaboration (Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris), and other theatre companies. Arnold has also recently done designs for film (Waxie Moon in Fallen JewelPerfect 10) and has done much more, including advertising and commercial work. She also is an Associate Professor, Performing Arts & Art Leadership (Theatre, Costume) at Seattle University.  

“It is a team sport,” she says sitting in ACT’s lobby, taking a break for a few minutes from the production of Murder for Two to talk about the show and her process. 

Murder for Two at 5th Avenue Theatre/ACT
Murder for Two at 5th Avenue Theatre/ACT

The team of actors in Murder for Two is a small one—two actors. One plays a crime investigator—Chris DiStefano. One—Richard Gray—plays ten different suspects and, together, the pair make up the entire orchestra. This is all done in a fevered 90 minutes with no intermission. How do you costume someone who doesn’t have time for a costume change?

The show is very busy and fast-paced and it’s a challenge, to be sure, for someone like Arnold. “The whole show could be done with a piano and a hat.” But it’s not that simple. It’s a challenge to create characters in such a whirlwind environment and, together with DiStefano and, particularly, Gray, it’s an opportunity to work together to create characters through movement, voice, and clothes.

It all starts, of course, with a deep read of the script. the actors have their ideas about costuming as they read the script, just as Arnold does. They meet. They discuss. They collaborate.

With a creative team that includes director Daniel Knechtges, scenic design by Carey Wong, lighting design by Rich Paulsen and sound design by Christopher Walker, the feel and, specific to Arnold’s job, the look is sussed out. They begin to build a structure based on the ideas garnered from those meetings.

“The production meetings,” Arnold enthuses, “including laughing, brainstorming and collaboration. If you bring a good care-free attitude to them, a lot can get done.”

What Arnold has to get done—to harmonize an actor’s wants and needs on stage with a director’s vision. Add to that, the visions of the other creative staff.

For Murder for Two, the inspirations that immediately came to mind included the Victorian era and Edward Gorey. Add to that small colorful flourishes. The fashions of the 1970s harken back to the Victorian era, Arnold noted, but with more color—the textures and patterns. Arnold began working up this idea, looking deeper in 1970s culture—All in the Family episodes, Phyllis Diller, Elton John, the boardgame Clue, Velma from the Scooby-Doo cartoons. These ideas showed up on Arnold’s character boards. 

Even though there’s no time for Gray on stage to change costumes, Arnold created a character board for each of them to inform not only the actor, but the show as a whole. By fleshing out the characters, one helps flesh out the show. For DiStefano it was somewhat straight forward. A simple, drab 1970s-looking detective outfit. Think Columbo. For Gray, there were many boards and for both genders (Chevy Chase, Tom Selleck, Barbara Streisand). For one character Gray plays, Dahlia, Arnold finally got to go all-out on a costume. She describes it this way—“If Elton John and RuPaul conceived a child while watching Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, you have Dahlia.”

Of course, in the making of these costumes, it’s not Arnold working alone. There are cobblers, drapers, shoppers and craft artisans constructing the visions the creative team have. And, to keep in mind, you can’t go to a vintage store and just buy an old brown suit. You need multiples of each costume. Actors sweat. Actors do dance numbers on their knees. Actors move around the stage. Actors play the piano vigorously. There are several identical costumes per show that can, and will, be used. Actors are at work in these costumes and the costumes have to work. 

Luckily, working with both in mind is Harmony Arnold.