What to Know Before the Show
A Play for Laughs
Lend Me a Soprano is having its world premier production at Alley Theatre, and you will be one of the first people to see it!
In this version, it's the women who take center stage. So what can you expect from this mad-cap screwball comedy? Let’s dive in and find out!
Stop and Jot
Throughout this guide you'll find "Stop and Jot" boxes. They are great opportunities for students to articulate what they are learning as we move through this guide.
These will also come in handy for the activity below, and will provide insight that makes the performance even more enjoyable!
Lend me a what now?
Philip Bosco, Jane Connell, and Tovah Feldshuh in the original "Lend Me a Tenor" on Broadway in 1989. (Photo by Martha Swope)
Jan Maxwell, Tony Shalhoub, and Jay Klaitz in the 2010 Broadway revival of "Lend Me a Tenor." (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Lend Me a Tenor was Ken Ludwig’s first Broadway play, and opened in 1989 to rave reviews. The action centers around a shy assistant and an opera superstar – and lots of confusion and mistaken identities. Lend Me a Soprano focuses on the same story – with one key difference: the leads are now ladies. So why the swap? In an interview with AP News, Ken Ludwig says,
"I have a responsibility, I think, and the joy of saying, 'All this comic talent out there, male and female, why not make this now, at this moment in my life, into a play about three very strong, competitive, interesting, tough women?'"
This gender-bent version is another addition to Lend Me a Tenor’s long and illustrious history, which includes 17 awards and nominations, world-wide productions, and a successful Broadway revival in 2010.
This is Ken Ludwig's 7th production and 5th
world premiere at Alley Theatre.
Stop and Jot
Let's get in the mood for some laughs.
But what makes something funny? Write down three comedic moments that stand out to you. They can be from a movie, TV show, or real life. Beside each, write a few words that describe what makes them funny. Use as many creative adjectives as you can.
It's All in the Timing
Lend me a Soprano is set in 1934 and, as you can imagine, things were very different back then.
Take a look at this infographic. We've identified a few interesting facts that will help you as you watch the show. (Click on the graphic to make it larger)
The plot of Lend Me a Soprano revolves around the famous opera Carmen. But don't worry – you don't need to sit through a 3-hour tragedy to know why our characters love it so much.
Watch these short videos to get an overview and find out exactly what a "soprano" is!
In Lend Me a Soprano, the character Elena is a world-famous opera singer who is in town to play the title role of Carmen. And to the other characters in the play, this is a BIG DEAL. She’s like the Beyoncé of 1934.
To help you appreciate her talent, it’s helpful to know a little bit about the role of Carmen. Take a look at this famous song from the show:
Stop and Jot
Opera has been around for over 400 years, with new operas being written every day. From what you've seen, list three reasons why you think this art form has continued to be so appealing.
Next, what are you curious about? Write down three questions you have about opera. Having trouble? Start with a "Why...?"
Lend Me a Soprano is a type of comedy called a farce. Chances are, even if you can't define "farce," you'd know it if you saw it. Think zany situations, slamming doors, things breaking – like in this clip from The Play that Goes Wrong, a show about a group of amateur actors trying their very best.
One thing all farces have in common? No matter how silly the situation is to the audience, the characters are invested – they all take it very seriously.
Theatre director Jerry Zaks, who directed Lend Me a Tenor on Broadway, explains it like this:
"It's like physics or music, there are certain immutable laws to farce. You establish the comic situation in some reasonable manner, and then keep it constantly changing. The characters have to keep moving, too, which they will only do if they are truly pursuing their needs."
Stop and Jot
Write down one or two moments from a TV show or movie where you saw farce. For example, this moment from Friends.
It's okay if you aren't sure – just pick something with some obvious physical comedy.
A New Opera Written by...You!
Students use their imagination to gain a deeper understanding of telling a story through theatre. Additionally, they gain a deeper understanding of the rigor needed to perform in an opera.
Divide students into groups of 3-10.
Students should discuss and explore an experience that could be turned into an opera:
Choose quickly: Within 5 minutes.
It can be something that happened to a member of the group, or something they heard second-hand.
Operas are usually about larger-than-life people and topics, so choose a dramatic story - that is classroom appropriate. Examples: The three-pointer at the buzzer. When I was pickpocketed on vacation. When my dog ran away, etc.
Students then identify and write out, in bullet points, the three sections of the story: Beginning, middle, and end. Boil it down for simplicity so that you can tell each section in 1-2 sentences.
Students create a tableau (frozen stage pictures) for each. One for the beginning of the story, one for the middle, and one for the end. Use every member of the group. Some can play inanimate objects if need be. Present to the class and refine..
Students then write 2-3 lines for each tableau.
Students turn those lines into sung dialogue: Opera style.
Present each to the class and polish together.
If there’s time, encourage students to pull from farcical elements they explored earlier.
Your Part in the Play
The show can't happen without you! Watch the video for some great advice on playing your part.