The Heartland Opera Theater will perform Michael Ching’s opera “Remove Shoes Before Entering” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4-5, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, in the Bud Walton Black Box Theatre at Missouri Southern State University.
“Remove Shoes Before Entering” is an original opera about a group of students finding an abandoned building full of items. As they inspect the items, each student reminiscences a memory connected to each object, weaving tales of sorrow and delight to their peers and the audience.
Dr. Will Mountz, Missouri Southern’s interim director of Advising, Counseling and Testing Services, also serves as president and board member of Heartland Opera Theatre.
“We always want our productions to be approachable, so most of our operas are in English and short,” Mountz said.
“Michael Ching’s specialty is writing one-act, hourlong operas, so working with him has been wonderful. He works closely with schools, so he’s been here helping with directing and making sure that the opera fits (with what we do here).”
Ching is an American freelance composer, known for writing his opera “Speed Dating” and an adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “Remove Shoes Before Entering” had its world premiere in February 2020 at the University of Alabama.
Erik Wolfe, chair of the university’s Theatre Department, serves as stage director, and the cast includes several MSSU students.
“The show doesn’t have a ‘chronological order’ but rather an ‘emotional’ order,” said Jarrett Little, a senior vocal performance major. “The show goes through different experiences and phases of life with each reflective piece of music.
“The composer of the opera (Ching) will be working with us and conducting us through the performances, which is an incredible honor for our community.”
Michaela West, a senior theatre performance major, said serving as a cast member in the opera has been a unique experience.
“I’m a theatre kid through and through, and although I’ve done musical theatre most of my life, opera is a totally different ballgame,” she said.
“Many songs, including mine, are being performed in our production for the first time. We’re really getting to explore our songs and our characters solely through our own personal experiences. It’s definitely a challenge but it’s well worth it.”
Admission to the opera is free and open to the public. The Black Box Theatre will be open 30 minutes before the show starts. Seating is limited and masks are required.