It's a Thursday morning in the rehearsal space at the Lyric Opera Center in the Crossroads Arts District. About 20 students from the Kansas City Art Institute stand on either side of a long table covered with sketches, floor and building plans and colorful set drawings. They reach into pockets to snap photos with cell phones, or focus in with larger cameras.
“The fun part is doing all of the sketches here, then you have to get to the drafting," says director of technical production, R. Keith Brumley as he walks them through his process. "And this is where it becomes less about art and flow and movement ... now you go to the mechanical drawing."
The design for the Lyric's production of Johann Strauss’ operetta, Die Fledermaus, is new, but the set has been used before, in two previous productions over the last two decades which also featured ballroom scenes.
"In each of these three cases, when you look at this, you’re going to see that the ballroom is the ballroom is the ballroom," Brumley says.
For the backdrop of Fledermaus, a satire of decadent society, chandeliers were rearranged, and there are new drapes and new marble.
"So everything gets a fresh coat of paint," he adds.
It’s something these art students can relate to — re-purposing materials for current projects, as well as finding inspiration from a range of sources.
In small clusters, they circle around the room, leaning in to take close-up shots of opera scores on musical stands and props. There are fans, scarves, and lamps on desks; a small table with elegant glassware on a silver tray; and tall shelves lined with pillows, fire tongs and other objects.
Misty Gamble, assistant professor in the foundations department, designed the class titled "Drama of the Body." Some of her students, all freshmen, have a background in theater and music, but for others, it's their first experience.
"I’m a huge fan of combining music and the performing arts and the visual arts somehow into the capacity of the class," she says.
At its heart, it’s a rigorous drawing class. The students sketch four hours with a model, but, for these sessions, the model poses, sometimes with props, in scenes from the opera.
The students also interact five times with the Lyric Opera, including this day’s tour of the facility and primer on stage design, props and costumes; a visit with a wig designer, make-up artist and performer; and sketching and photographing the final dress rehearsal at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
"It’s like a drawing class, but it’s starting to turn into something more than that, definitely," says student Wolfgang Ibur. "We’re taking everything we have here, all the documentation of the costumes, the sets, the music, the drawings and we’re going to kind of combine it all in these interpretations."
The interpretations, including drawings and paintings, will be on display in May. For the end-of-semester student exhibition, a singer and a pianist are scheduled to perform in what Gamble describes as a "two-dimensional illusionary space pictorial opera of Die Fledermaus in the round."
Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents ‘Die Fledermaus’ through May 4 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. 816-471-7344.
Students in the “Drama of the Body” class display their findings in the foundations department on Friday, May 9, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the Kansas City Art Institute’s end-of-semester student exhibition and sale, May 9 - 11, on the Art Institute campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 800-522-5224.