Monday, August 19, 2019

Feminist Storytelling in the #MeToo Age

From left: Stage director Kelly Kitchens, moderator Judy Tsou, and theater artist Kathy Hsieh.  
In place of the normal Rigoletto pre-performance lecture this Friday evening, Aug. 23, join Seattle Opera for "Feminist Storytelling in the #MeToo Age," part of our free Community Conversations series. Led by Judy Tsou, a musicologist who studies the intersection of race and gender in opera, the dialogue will include perspectives from two Seattle theater artists, Kelly Kitchens and Kathy Hsieh. What role do the arts play in changing a culture of gender-based violence, and how can storytelling change this paradigm? What role do audiences play in changing the culture? What are the limits and opportunities of works of art like Rigoletto, and how do we engage with these works today?

Seattle Opera is currently in the midst of presenting Verdi’s Rigoletto, a story in which powerful men behave badly while society enables them. Recent years have brought an increasing awareness of the pervasiveness of misogyny and sexual abuse in our society, as well as the importance of elevating women’s voices. Verdi's sobering opera continues to illuminate this reality almost 170 years after it was composed.

Panelists for Feminist Storytelling in the #MeToo Age:

Kathy Hsieh, award-winning actor, writer and director, and Cultural Partnerships and Grants Manager in the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. She has most recently performed the role of the Nurse at Seattle Shakespeare’s all-female Wooden O production of Romeo and Juliet.

Kelly Kitchens is an award winning stage director including a three time nominated and two-time recipient of the Gregory Falls Award for Outstanding Director. She is a Guest Lecturer at The University of Washington. Kitchens recently directed Seattle Opera’s chamber opera production O+E as well as several of Seattle Opera’s touring productions.

Judy Tsou, Head Emeritus of the University of Washington Music Library and a musicologist who focuses on the role of gender and race in opera.

Lipairt Avetisyan (Duke of Mantua) and Lester Lynch (Rigoletto). Actors include Actors in Rigoletto Yena Han (Monterone's daughter), Skyler Gahley and Ruby Mimosa. Sunny Martini photo

At a related Seattle Opera event titled "A Feminist Director Takes of Rigoletto" Lindy Hume, stage director of the company's current production, offered the following reflection on her work: 

"I don't come to work thinking, 'I'm going to do my feminist version of Rigoletto.' I just come to work thinking I'm going to do the best possible production for the audience and the singers ... In opera, the suffering of women is stock and trade. The notion of women being tortured or mishandled is often normal, or even fetishized, in many operas.

For example, the 'Catalogue Aria' in Don Giovanni literally catalogs over 2,000 women who have been abandoned, raped, falsely married, deceived in some way. He talks about La piccina—kids—right though to Delle vecchie, old ladies—and across the whole span of society and across Europe ...

It's a very interesting proposition for a director, to look at stories like these from a different perspective. Great writers, great artists, like Mozart and Verdi—they have such incredible humanity, you don't see a character from one direction, you see a character from many different directions."

Feminist Storytelling in the #MeToo Age is from 6-7 p.m. on Friday, August 23 at the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall in McCaw Hall. RSVP is not required, but encouraged. This free event is open to both ticketed Rigoletto patrons, and those simply interested in attending the lecture. (Tickets will be available for purchase at the box office).