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NKy performers living their dreams performing in Cincinnati Opera’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Jared Joplin has wanted to be an actor since he was 8 years old.

Now, as what are known as supernumeraries, or “supers,” Joplin and other locals are being able to live their dreams as extras in Cincinnati Opera’s production of Another Brick in the Wall, which runs until July 31.

After pulling a fan (Jared Joplin, right) on stage, egotistical rock star Pink (Nathan Keoughan, center) spits in his face, leading to Pink’s devastating emotional collapse. (Photo by Philip Groshong.)

“There is really nothing in the world like live performance.  It is highly rehearsed and yet so much of it lives in the moment, a perfect marriage of craft and expression,” says Joplin, a 40-year-old Bellevue native who plays “The Fan” and gets to crowd surf in the production.

“I really don’t have a lot of experience with performing in an opera and you could not ask for a better way to gain that experience,” he says.  “Plus, this is the U.S. premiere of this opera —  that’s an amazing thing to be a part of!”

Another Brick in the Wall is an operatic adaptation of the Pink Floyd album The Wall, which was released in 1979.

Joplin has been working as an actor for years, earning experience locally at Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble, Cincy Shakes, The Falcon and The Carnegie. He also played “The Coroner” in Cincinnati Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess.

Rock star Pink (Nathan Keoughan shouts for a fan (Jared Joplin) to join him on stage in Cincinnati Opera’s production of Another Brick in the Wall. (Photo by Philip Groshong.)

Other supers could have more or less experience, says Drew Dielman, public relations assistant at Cincinnati Opera.

“Every year, Cincinnati Opera offers local residents the chance to play a very special role in the season’s mainstage productions,” Dielman says. Supers do not speak or sing, but they are intimately involved in creating the full theatrical and operatic experience and have the chance to work and interact with international casts, renowned conductors, and talented artistic designers.

In Another Brick in the Wall they act as everything from audience members at a rock concert to battling military police and fleeing prisoners. They also get to participate in stage combat.”

While the amount of work the supers put in can vary, some say to count on anywhere from 20-40 hours per week.

“This is my first time as a supernumerary in the opera, so I’ve learned an incredible amount over the past few weeks,” says 41-year-old Cherie Dawn Haas, an Alexandria, native who plays one of the two main nurses. “It has been so interesting to see how many people are involved in a production like this, and how they each bring different skills to the table.”

A nurse (Cherie Haas, left) helps dress Pink after his emotional breakdown.

Haas, who works a day job as an online content manager for Streamline Publishing, has taken dance classes her entire life but says she really never performed until she left college. Being a fan of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, the opera seemed to be a good opportunity to explore that desire.

“I identified with this album as a teen because of the emotional themes of isolation, the idea of putting up a symbolic wall, and more,” she says. “Today, I appreciate the music just as much as ever, but I think the messages are relevant to our society in new — and not-so-new — ways, regarding the suffering that is caused by war, loss of loved ones and how it affects children as they grow up, as well as the dangers of dictatorship.”

Haas says she really didn’t know what she was getting herself into.

“I was happy to be a part of the show in any way, she says. “I signed up as a supernumerary not knowing what to expect, so I was thrilled to hear about the role I was asked to fill

  A fan (Jared Joplin) crowd-surfs above the audience. (Photo by Philip Groshong.)

“I was actually more nervous during our first stage rehearsals than on opening night,” she continues. “This is my first time performing on the main stage at Music Hall, and it felt serendipitous to be staring out from the stage at the seats in which I’ve always been sitting. Now, I feel more comfortable on stage, thanks to the excellent direction the team has given us over the past few weeks, as well as to the other performers, who have been encouraging and have created an atmosphere of mutual respect and support.”

For fans familiar with the Pink Floyd album, the songs and melodies have been adapted into something new for the opera, something some audience members have called hypnotic and hallucinatory.

“Remember, this isn’t a Pink Floyd concert — the music is original,” says Haas.

And for all the work they put in, is it worth it?

“Without question or hesitation,” Joplin says. “This opera not only provides an interesting and relatable story but it also opens the door to new audiences that have never seen an opera.  It has truly been a unique and magical experience.”

Another Brick in the Wall has performances 7:30 p.m. Thursday (July 26), Saturday (July 28) and Tuesday (July 31) at Music Hall. Tickets: cincinnatiopera.org.

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