By Daniel Johanson
The annual performance known as Vivid allows the entirety of the Chicago College of Performing Arts to reach across departmental borders to showcase what the university has to offer. Vivid 2014, which will be held April 8 at 7:30 p.m., will mostly highlight vocal works of both the operatic and theatrical spheres.
The performance usually brings in between 1500 and 2000 audience members and takes place in the historic Auditorium Theatre.
The tradition of Vivid goes back almost 20 years, giving an interesting insight into the development of CCPA.
“Vivid goes back before the previous dean, before James Gandre,” Dean of CCPA Henry Fogel said. “It was originally conceived of as a fundraiser, and it had relatively high ticket prices, and a dinner for people who paid even higher ticket prices.”
The rich history of the building serves as a strong attracting force to fill the space. The other initial draw of the event is its performers.
“I remember Bill Cosby came and did a show once, and a pop singer from when I was younger named Elizabeth Clooney,” Fogel said. “It either didn’t involve our students at all, or if it did, they were backing up a star.”
The overhead involved with stars of this caliber had its setbacks. The show’s initial goal of being a fundraising venture through ticket sales didn’t bring in profits after compensating the talent.
“When [Gandre] became the dean about 10 years ago, he looked at it, and he thought that generally, if you’re going to make money, you probably can’t do a high-price gala unless you have a great volunteer organization,” Fogel said. “So, he turned it into a showcase for CCPA and removed the outside pop stars. For some years, he charged a very low ticket price — $10, $15. The problem is, he still did bring in some outside people. One year, it was Frederica von Stade and Richard Stilwell, who is on our faculty. That, to me, was much better, but it still became the accompaniment to a faculty member and an outside star.”
For performances of this nature, the orchestra was the main representation of CCPA. The real benefit to this was that the content was able to be subsidized while still giving a memorable and educational opportunity for students.
Fogel recalled asking Gandre what the purpose of the show was, and Grande replied that it was “a showcase for the school.”
“Well, if it’s a showcase for the school and the quality of the product we turn out, which is students, why do we have anybody on that stage except for students?” he asked of Gandre. “I think what we ought to show off is the quality of the students, because it is, frankly, a professional level.”
The most recent change in the show is because of Fogel’s position as dean. No longer does it solely consist of classical musicians, but performers from as many facets of the conservatory as possible.
“The first Vivid that we did this with was, we did a show where the first half was combos from our jazz department, and the second half was scenes from Sweet Charity, the musical that the theater department did that year,” Fogel said. “They had never been in Vivid before, neither the theater nor music theater students in the Theater Conservatory. Of course, the kids had never performed on a stage like that incredible Auditorium Theatre. The first rehearsal that they were in on that stage, some of the kids were in tears.”
This emotional response summarizes well that the essence of this event is an experience for all involved — the audience, the students and the school.
Vivid is free and open to the public.