Synopsis

The Ten-Block Walk is an hour-long chamber opera for five singers, mezzo lead with soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone supportive characters. Set to an original libretto by Christie Lee Gibson, the story centers on an old woman named Mrs. Otis. She is positively elderly, and she is determined to walk ten blocks to attend a Shakespeare seminar even though she requires the use of a walker. 


Once Mrs. Otis enters the stage, she never leaves. It takes her the entire opera to cross diagonally from upstage to downstage, and each scene of the opera shifts and materializes around her as she gradually moves. Mrs. Otis is a slow and persistent character, and despite the challenges of a long walk over ten different city blocks, she persists. She persists through the pain of falling, she persists when she faces her own looming mortality as she passes a graveyard, and she persists even as individuals mistreat and cajole her. This is a story of a woman comparing herself to the “other” she encounters in each block, and, despite her aging body and fears, she musters the strength to continue her simple quest.

The additional four singers in the production must portray a number of different characters across the ten blocks. At any given point, they may be neighbors, receptionists, cruel panhandlers, car drivers, young children, clergymen, or college students. The final production will include dancers as well.

Each of the ten scenes in The Ten-Block Walk represent a different block on Mrs. Otis’s way to her destination, and, in the opera, each of the scenes represents a world of its own. Of course, there are musical themes and motives that carry across the opera from scene to scene, but, as is typical of Erin Huelskamp’s musical explorations, each scene embraces a new eclectic atmosphere, much as each new block in a large city would be its own microcosm. Christie and Erin hope you enjoy this musical telling of an old person’s odyssey.


Each block is a world and movement unto itself:


The Neighbor
The Major Intersection
The Pan-Handlers
The Playground
The College Students
The Pigeons
The Graveyard
The Dunkin’ Donuts
The Busker
The Arrival
Cast

Mrs. Otis, aka the old woman, mezzo-soprano

A quartet of four singers (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone) will portray the characters listed below:

Neighbor
, soprano
Pan-Handlers, a quartet: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone
Young Girls, two sopranos and one mezzo-soprano
Students, a quartet: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone
Dunkin’ Donuts Worker, tenor
Receptionist, soprano
Instructor, mezzo-soprano


While intended to be performed by five singers, The Ten-Block walk can be performed with 5-19 performers, depending on doubling choices. Mrs. Otis is the only part that cannot be doubled as she is on-stage during the entire opera. 

Creators

Erin Huelskamp, composer/director Erin Huelskamp,
composer


Energetic, hardworking and enigmatic, Erin Huelskamp enthralls audiences as a flutist, stage and music director, and composer. Musically, her styles and preferences vary wildly; she will readily perform and promote popular and jazz tunes alongside classical and high-art favorites. Currently serving as Artistic Director of Opera Huntsville and Orchestra Director for Asbury Church in Alabama, Huelskamp regularly performs in the greater Huntsville area. Noted as “startling revelatory” and “electrifying,” she composes dramatic and comical music that often reflects a philosophical twist on her daily experiences. Recent compositions include Soul Travel for SATB chorus and commissioned by the Huntsville Master Chorale, Swing Low Sweet Chariot for flute and piano, Shall We Gather At The River for percussion ensemble, and continued work on her second opera The Ten-Block Walk. She holds an M.M. from The Boston Conservatory and B.M. from the University of Missouri-Columbia. (www.ErinHuelskamp.com)
Christie Lee Gibson, 
librettist
 
Christie Lee Gibson is a multidimensional performing artist, stage director, creator and producer in theater, opera, and everything in between. Performing credits include starring as Ethel Rosenberg in the American premiere of The Rosenbergs at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and originating the roles of Parasha in Laura Neill’s DIVAS (OperaHub) and Sister Ignatia in Sister Anonymous (Second Act Productions). She has worked extensively on collaboratively-developed performances, notably for OperaHub and FirstWorks Providence, and productions self-directed by small ensembles.  Directing credits include Der Vampyr and La Hija de Rappaccini with OperaHub and The Good Person of Setzuan with Fort Point Theatre Channel.  Her favorite pieces to work on are ones that move the audience to tears of sorrow or tears of laughter.  The Ten-Block Walk is dedicated to her own grandmothers, both of whom she lived with for significant chunks of time as they entered old age.