Not your average couple, GLOW Founders artistic director Jenna Tamisiea Elser and executive director Christian Elser, have built Greenville Lyric Opera Company on the vision for a theatre company that believes in the power of the arts to ignite important conversations regarding issues within our community and our nation.
Check out what the dynamic duo had to say about Glow’s founding, the importance of art as a tool for change, and even some sneak peek details for what you can expect to see on the Glow stage this summer!
Question: Could you tell us a bit about your backgrounds and where you’ve done opera and musical theatre?
Jenna Tamisiea Elser: I have a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Tulsa, and once I graduated from there I had quite a lovely career as a musical theatre actress, and I actually transitioned into directing for the stage and received my Masters in Directing at Florida State University.
Christian Elser: I had a career as an opera singer for about twenty years or so… I have a doctorate music degree and teach college voice, and run a collegiate opera program, while still singing and conducting around the U.S.
Question: What’s it like being a wife-husband duo in creating something like GLOW?
Christian: Well for those of you who don’t know, the two of us met in Tulsa Oklahoma, when we were both performing in The Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Sorceror.
Jenna: It was an absolute showmance!
Christian:We’re an 11 year long showmance.
Jenna: Total showmance. And now that we run Glow together, it’s a large part of our personal life and professional life, and I just couldn’t think of anybody better to spend my time with.
Christian: I couldn’t agree more!
Question: And not only is GLOW producing incredible musical works to keep the showmance going, but you both have really envisioned GLOW as theatre that is really trying to be representative of under privileged communities and current issues!
Christian: It’s true, we’re unique in that we have focus on theatre for social justice, and our mission is to produce works that are in direct response to the social and political climate of the state and country at the time.
Jenna: And that’s really part of the reason why Christian and I founded this company and decided to promote social justice through the work we’re doing. It’s because we really do believe that art has the power to change communities.
Christian: If you look through the history of opera, the operetta, and especially the musical theatre they’ve always had something very poignant to say about the situation, culturally and politically, of the time, while also telling a wonderful story that connects audiences to these situations.
Jenna: We want to spark dialogue and ignite change, and the arts are such a wonderful way to do that, because it’s very very hard to go to the theatre and have a closed heart!
Question: So tell us about what’s lined up for the 2017 Season, and the how you’re tackling this year’s festival theme of “Question Authority”.
Jenna: So this season our theme is “Question Authority” and underneath this theme we’re producing three amazing shows! The first is Robert Ward’s operatic adaptation of The Crucible, next we have the tribal rock musical from the 60s, HAIR, and finally we have the very satirical and hysterical and satirical Gilbert and Sullivan classic “The Gondoliers”.
Christian: You may ask what do these shows have in common and how do they question authority? And the standout is probably HAIR. It is a show about protest, the Vietnam War, about social issues, and really to our dismay, these remain the issues fifty years later.
Jenna: HAIR breaks all the rules. It focuses on their struggle against this repressive world, when what they want to do is live free to be who they are.
Christian: The Crucible has a lot to say through this prevailing story that you are guilty until proven innocent, and covers this mob mentality of the Salem Witch Trials.
Jenna: And you hear the phrase witch hunts bounced around a lot lately in our political climate, and The Crucible centers around a lot of mass hysteria, of fear of the unknown, fear of stepping outside.
Christian: Fear of asking questions…
Jenna: Even fear of not going with the group.
Christian: And The Gondoliers is our comedic offering, the entire show is about questioning authority, it’s fantastic, it’s fun… and as Jenna likes to call it it’s our Saturday Night Live sketch of the season.
Jenna: And what I really love about The Gondoliers is how it pokes fun at both sides of the political sphere! And that’s an important reminder that laughter can be the cure for a lot of the ills of our society – that when we’re in a time like now that has turmoil and division, it’s laughter of both sides that can bring us together.
Question: We know we can’t wait to get our tickets! Is there anything else excited audience members can do to prepare for the season?
Jenna: We want to know how you question authority! Put it on our Facebook, get involved with our mailing list…we really want our season to start really important conversations!
Christian:“What does questioning authority mean to you? Tell us!
Jenna: Keep checking back in and become part of the dialogue! Who knows, your ideas may even become part of the season!
Don’t miss out on your chance to see the incredible work of our co-founders and “Question Authority” this summer at Glow Lyric. You can book your tickets today at https://glowlyric.wpengine.com/tickets/, and make sure to get involved in the conversations GLOW’s Facebook and Twitter!