Otello

My fifth grade teacher was named Millicent Bright. We called her Ms. Millie or Ms. Bright. I was a very precocious student, always finished my work early and would talk to the other slower students, disrupting their work. Ms. Bright was in the chorus of Arizona Opera Company and they were doing a production of Otello directed by Broadway director, Gerald Freedman. The opera required a children’s chorus and Ms. Bright asked my Mother if I might join the cast. She felt this would be a good outlet for my energy. I was thrilled at the prospect of performing in the large Opera House in downtown Tucson. My major duty, in addition to singing with the other children was to serve the Moor, Otello, a glass of wine during Act 2. There was also a folk dance that occurred in this act.
After the run in Tucson, the show toured to Phoenix. Shortly before the first performance one of the dancers became injured. As none of the opera singers were capable of replacing the injured dancer, the others were in a quandary as to how to solve the situation. The dance was a folk dance and required an even number of people to make the formations work. “How about the kid who serves wine to Otello?” one of the dancers suggested.  “I’ve seen him mimicking us and I’m sure he could handle it…”  It was true! I was fascinated by the dancers and spent every moment I could trying to emulate them. They asked the stage manager if it was possible and he said “Sure, as long as he serves the wine at the proper time”.
The dancers quickly taught me the folk dance (I already knew every step of it) and for all of the performances in Phoenix I appeared. This was my professional dancing debut! I went on to have a glorious career dancing with the Mark Morris Dance Group, and my mother surprised me by getting in touch with Ms. Bright and having her attend a performance when the company was dancing in Tucson. How wonderful to be able to thank her in person for giving me the life I live and love!

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