By Tim Smith

I am a fan of the T E D (talks) series, so I'd like to recommend the wonderfully concise – and 'nearly non-theatrical', i.e., dramatic, presentation by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, aptly titled, "How craving attention makes you less creative."

He tactically weaves craft and focus together with simple listening skills and then offers that synergy as the antithesis to the demands placed on us by Twitter (and by implication social media). This is a must view, so I'll end here. Enjoy.

September means all things 'story' related, at least to my immediate family, and on a larger scale, it directly applies as creatives from around the country will shortly be converging on Nashville, TN for the STORY -'19' experience.

This year's conference theme is: "Inspiration. Empowerment. Belonging. Discover Who We Are."

Sorry to do this to you again so quickly, the gathering's website will explain, (nearly), the inspiration that awaits during this two-day immersion into the opening of one's inherent visionary spirit.

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Thomas Merton.

A Night At The Opera: Featuring Metropolitan Opera tenor Arnold Rawls: I don't normally devote space to banner headings like this, yet this experience warrants an exception to that tradition.

I enjoyed an evening in the grand sanctuary of White's Chapel United Methodist Church, Southlake, Texas to hear some of the most famous arias in the opera canon presented by one of its leading practitioners.

On so many levels this was, (concurrently), a most unique concert for it reminded me the depth of discipline an operatic professional must devote to becoming successful.

Mr. Rawls shared a few anecdotes, with photos to support them, yet underneath his good nature and jovial performance spirit, their lurked the mystique of the opera art form.

On the deeply personal side: Those that bring this music to life never quite know when, and if they will perform, as either an understudy or in simply living with the vagaries of the operatic temperament.

For example: On one occasion, Mr. Rawls was contracted for a 12-performance engagement where he would take three of the performances to give the "bigger name," his designation, not mine, a much needed break. Suddenly the supposed 'star' opted out and Mr. Rawls had to take the entire run. Not an easy task as the vocal instrument is well trained yet fragile.

In this more casual performance setting, I enjoyed the time that Mr. Rawls gave in sharing that to remain at the top of the opera profession, one must also be well versed in the cycle of classic operatic works to the level where they literally could walk on any stage in the world and hit their marks, sometimes with little to no rehearsal or time to warm up.

When coupled with the magnificence of White Chapel's full orchestra and choral support, the time went by too quickly.

From his biography: "Mr. Rawls graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and received a Doctor of Musical Arts (1995) from the University of Oklahoma. He is a former professor and artist of Moody Bible Institute of Chicago and Quachita Baptist University in Arkansas."

He is also presenting recitals and concerts across the United States.

Holiday travel tip – Chicago: Heading to the "Windy City" over the coming holiday season? Check out Teatro ZinZanni: Love, Chaos and Dinner. The early report is that it is not to be believed. More information next week.

. . . and also next week: "In The Company of Harold Prince: Broadway Producer, Director, Collaborator": [An Exhibit]. If you are in the early stages of planning a trip to New York City over the aforementioned holiday season, you might want to check out this new showing at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts through March 31, 2020.

Note: Last week's space given to Mr. Prince (the reflections of working with him by Jason Robert Brown) was from American Theatre magazine's Email/newsletter. The electronic banner threw me off as it looked similar to the magazine's logo.

"Country Music," the new film by Ken Burns, begins on PBS on Sunday, September 15th. Check your local station for all the details.

In passing: So sad to learn that Valerie Harper passed away after a long battle with cancer. A delightful personality, I was reminded of her influence in television and theater in that she was a four-time Emmy winner and a Tony Award nominee.

Singing to the heavens, and beyond, in our towns.

Play ahead!

Welcoming you into the room and provoking conversation since '06

See you in the paper.

t A s

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