A beautiful mezzo soprano voice, a red belt, two spectacular hats. With her vocal talent, gentle humour, creative movements, a few costumes and minimal props, Mia Harris delighted the audience at the March 13 performance of her one-woman Biography of a Voice.
The story is both contemporary and timeless. Harris describes it as “a journey of self-discovery, transformation, and ultimately of self-acceptance.”
Young people in every era and perhaps especially today wonder what path to follow after education. They hear many calls, have many options. People of all ages experience struggles, loss of inspiration or purpose and a call for change. Thus, one of the basic plots in stories — rebirth.
This performance is for everyone. There are three great scenes and no bad ones. The middle portion of the show will evolve as performances develop in the future.
The opening scene grabs attention with a tight light on a disembodied face, repeating in a beautiful voice an operatic mournful note. We know that something is wrong and the sound captures us. We are all ears. Then we see more of the four stage areas.
Scene 1 is very strong as Harris uses that red belt with basic black, and facial expressions with voice to show the rigours of all the guidelines in her opera training.
We begin to laugh with her. And follow gladly across the stage as she deftly changes to a mock opera skirt and shawl. Then begins the comic epic struggle to tame a bejewelled headdress with a life of its own. An inspired prop. On a round riser atop a surrounding pile of her college books and papers, Harris manages to sing two arias (from Gounod’s Faust and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice) with the infamous wardrobe and headgear malfunctions. Then her fall to the floor from this height.
In the next scene, a good lighting effect shows her torn between the greener pastures of riches and fame and the sacrifices and perhaps unhappiness involved.
Harris soon discards a nondescript workaday costume and depends on varied body movements to show the intense struggle and ongoing struggle and indecision. She uses the floor level well, crawling until finally catching sight of a whimsical and large chapeau, set on a rock, surrounded by feathers and very attractive to her and to us. Discovering and donning this fascinating hat transforms Harris. Her joy is ours too.
Her early mournful notes become the full-hearted voice of lively and happy artist in full light. She sings the lovely Ho’oponopomo Prayer (an ancient Hawai’ian prayer) of love, forgiveness and gratitude.
As Harris adds the many scattered feathers to peek out of one side of her hair, we imagine all her past triumphs. But the one feather that tickles us the most is the final one which she adds to the other side of her hair, alone. This current successful show, a feather in her cap indeed.
In her generous and informative question and answer period, we learned that the performance will continue to evolve through workshops and future performances, perhaps at Fringe Festivals.
I hope many people will be able to see this creative, inspiring, and entertaining show. Thanks to Harris and all her talented collaborators from the lively Penticton music-art-theatre firmament.
Josephine Patterson is a theatre director and retired teacher living in Penticton.