One False Move: Bullying Among Teen Girls

Area students bring special opera to life.

Photo courtesy Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Female bullying, a silent threat that is often unaddressed by parents and teachers, will be the focus of a special opera produced by the Lyric Opera Education Department. One False Move will be performed at 7 p.m., Jan. 18 at Pioneer Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kan. The performance will feature area middle school and high school singers from the Lyric Opera vocal/drama training program, “Opera for Teens.”

One False Move, by composer/librettist Susan Kander, was inspired by the New York Times best-selling book, Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons. The opera will focus on the issue of female bullying – which Simmons’s book describes as “the hidden culture of girls’ aggression.”

“When I read Odd Girl Out, I knew the topic would be perfect for our Opera Heroines program, which gives adolescent girls a chance to examine life choices through opera study,” said Paula Winans, director of education for Lyric Opera of Kansas City. “I immediately contacted the author and not only was she excited about the idea, she agreed to come to Kansas City to facilitate a two-day workshop with the original cast. Because of the response that the book, Odd Girl Out, has generated from readers across the nation, we are particularly enthusiastic about producing a public dialogue on this subject through such an exciting program.”

The Company’s national award-winning Opera Heroines program consists of educational workshops which provide a platform for discussing and musically acting out difficult situations. The program also covers production, costume design and makeup, and offers young teenage girls the opportunity to attend Lyric Opera rehearsals and performances.

Author Simmons is a Rhodes Scholar and a Vassar graduate.  Her research on female bullying shed new light on what has been described as a socially taboo issue.  “We used her information as a guide to create opera vignettes with our girls,” said Winans. “Our girls did role playing and created dialogue and original scenes with Ms. Simmons. Then composer/librettist Susan Kander created the opera from the wealth of information the girls generated.”

Photo courtesy Lyric Opera of Kansas City

One False Move is an examination of the fictional lives of Amy and Bonnie, two girls who have been best friends since fourth grade and are now in high school. When a new girl, Joanne, moves into town she and Amy spread untrue, malicious gossip about Bonnie. Unlike most family operas, this one has a sad ending when Bonnie becomes the odd girl out.

Winans says most of the cast comes from the Summer Opera Camp, which is a two-week session designed for kids 9 to 18. Daily schedules during camp include singing and movement, dramatizing and listening to music from upcoming main stage operas, and visits from Lyric Opera artistic staff and singers. Lyric Opera Camp helps young people to appreciate the many facets of opera and to develop as singers while making new and lasting friendships.

“A few of the young ladies are also Ginger Frost High School Honors Artists,” Winans says. “The young singers receive free voice lessons and master classes. We see them moving on to college to train as music majors.”

These artists also receive training in Italian, German, French, and English diction, singing technique, acting, and audition and stage etiquette. Schools are selected based upon strong relationships between the high school choral teacher and the Lyric Opera Education Department.

Amy: Sarah Van Zwoll
Bonnie: Micah Welch
Joanne: Tessa Hake
Mary Ann: Olivia Lesley
Teacher: Casey Van Eaton
Mother: Kylie Brown

Julia Brand, Alethea-Jade Coffey, Connor Ewens, Alexandra Freeman, Ella W. Graham, Ysabella Jackson, Lauren Lee, Portia Renée, Victoria Schmidt, Jonie Welland, and
Josie Zimmermann

The 7 p.m. performance will be held at Pioneer Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and can be purchased at kcopera.org, at the door or by calling the Lyric Opera Ticket office at 816-471-7344.

The Lyric Opera Education Department

Offers a variety of programs for elementary, middle and high school students to encourage opera knowledge and appreciation. Winans leads the department offers innovative programs designed to further music and arts education in schools and in the community. The education staff works directly with teachers, parents and young people in a collaborative effort to create programs that make opera accessible and appealing to everyone.

For the younger grades:
The Lyric Opera Express gives elementary school students a chance to sing and act in shows like Hansel and Gretel. Participating classrooms are visited by professional singers who help the students prepare for their opera debuts. There is also Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ Spelling Bee, a classic children’s fairy tale with a modern twist by Joseph and Paula Winans, with music by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Rossini, and Gilbert and Sullivan. Simple costumes are created, and the class of new opera stars and four Lyric Opera Express performers take the stage to perform for the rest of the school.

Other components include opera matinees and Opera: Up Close and Personal, which specifically allows teachers, assisted by Lyric Opera educators, to take capture their interests and the interests of their students within the operatic world here.

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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