Amahl and the Night Visitors cast travels to Chicago

Center Director Thom Maxwell with actors and McKinley clientsCenter Director Thom Maxwell with actors and McKinley clients

The IU South Bend cast and crew of Amahl and the Night Visitors exhibited the true meaning of Christmas through their community outreach.  The cast and crew traveled to Chicago in December to perform the opera for adults with disabilities at the Ada S. McKinley Community Services, INC.

Amahl and the Night Visitors is one of the most popular American operas by Gian Carlo Menotti.  It is a timeless story of the power of faith and the meaning of love.  The one-act opera in English tells the story of Amahl, a poor crippled boy, who lives with his mother in a village somewhere on the road to Bethlehem.  When the Three Kings, following the star in the East, seek shelter for the night, the lives of Amahl and his mother are changed forever.

The opera was directed by Lecturer in Voice Alicia Purcell, and featured the IUSB Philharmonic’s conductor Jameson Cooper.  Carolyn Hine-Johnson, assistant professor of dance was the choreographer, Jennifer Fry was the costume designer, Tim Hanson was the technical director and Inseung Park was the set designer.

Thom Maxwell, the center director, says, “It is a short opera, so it kept their attention and they experienced something they may not have been able to without IU South Bend.”  The center typically serves 120 people.  The center helps “all individuals accomplish the goals they have.” Also, the center helps with community integration to provide the individuals they serve with providing a comfortable environment.

Kasey Clear, a student commented, “It is a good opportunity to introduce them the audience to something they have not seen before and see how they will respond to it.”

The performers and crew enjoyed the experience as much as the audience members. Tia Patrick, a student, said “it is a privilege to take something from IU to bring it here.”  When Allie Wheaton heard that about the Amahl and the Night Visitors cast and crew taking the opera to the Center of the Homeless in South Bend in 2009, she knew the production was “something I wanted to be a part of.”

Stacie Jensen felt very humbled by the experience. Jensen said, “Knowing what you want to do has an impact on them and makes them smile” is something that she enjoys about doing these outreach programs for members of the community. “It is exciting to bring something new to an audience of people who have not had a chance to see or experience something like an opera,” said Antwon Williams, who played one of the kings.

An audience member approached one of the actors and thanked them for coming. She told them, “I really loved the opera. I have never experienced an opera before.”  From the many hugs the cast and crew received from the audience members the gratitude was seen in their eyes. Several audiences members commented on how much the enjoyed the costumes and along with performance as a whole.

Michele Morgan-Dufour, Arts Outreach for IU South Bend, says, “This is the second year Amahl and the Night Visitors has been taken on the road.  The first year (2009) was very successful. We received an enormous amount of positive feedback that we decided we would do the same thing in 2010. Our Visit to Ada S. McKinley Community Services and a performance for the students at Washington High School were terrific experiences for the audiences and our students. The spirit of the holidays really was alive and well in all of us!”