The Schmidt Opera Outreach Program is giving Kentucky students food for thought with its new performance, Get Stuffed, beginning Monday at Adkins-Caudill Performing Arts Center in Sandy Hook.
Get Stuffed is the opera program's new show featuring information about nutrition and its effect on student health and learning. And with Kentucky fifth on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of obese states, director Marc Schlackman hopes the show will make an impression.
"I think the message of this show is so significant," Schlackman said. "And the way to attack a problem like obesity is to start with children. With adults, our eating habits have developed over years, and they are difficult to change. With children we can, hopefully, make them understand how to eat properly."
Get Stuffed was created by Tapestry, an opera company in Toronto. Schlackman stumbled upon the show on the Internet and thought it would be perfect for Kentucky because of the high obesity rate.
"I am playing a character named Big Cheese and another one that is Broccoli," said singer Chris Baker. "Big Cheese is all about calcium, and Broccoli is part of a trio that represents vitamins A, B and C."
Schlackman's cast consists of five singers: Baker, Adam VonAlmen, Diana Vetter, Susan Rahmsdorff and Cameron Perry. Perry plays the main character, Zach, a middle school student who realizes the importance of healthy eating from a dream he has after school.
"He has this dream and is introduced to a new way of eating," Schlackman said. "We have a singing apple, singing cheese, singing broccoli. It is done with a sense of humor, but the information is right on."
University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and the Lexington Opera Society partnered to create the opera outreach program in 2003, and the program has received positive feedback from all of its shows, which are based on educational topics. The fall 2008 show, The Billy Goat's Gruff, even influenced a school bully to apologize to fellow classmates.
Get Stuffed costs $600 per school, and most often the cast and crew perform in the gym or auditorium. In addition, the outreach program provides the school with a teaching guide before the show for use in class. Get Stuffed lasts about 35 minutes, with time for students to ask questions.
"Every school we've ever been to generally want us to come back," Schlackman said. "The only thing that prevents them (from having us) is the funds."
Sponsorship opportunities are available through the Lexington Opera Society, and anyone may donate to help schools afford the show. Schlackman said it is not unusual for a sponsor to fund an entire show for a specific school.
The opera outreach company will travel all over Kentucky to perform Get Stuffed. The performance will begin in Sandy Hook and end in April before Kentucky schools begin state testing.