| William B. Fosser's Puppet Production Opera in Focus presents
fully staged scenes from well known operas in performances that run about
one hour in length. Each performance may offer between three and five scenes,
depending on the length of the individual scene. A narration of the action
by the well known actor Tony Mockus precedes each scene. A demonstration
of the operation of the puppets and a tour of the highly technical backstage
area follows each performance.
The puppets are manipulated from below the stage floor and are capable of very life-like action and dramatic gestures for which opera singers are so famous.
When Mr. Fosser was Artistic Director of the Kungsholm, he met a gifted 17 year old puppeteer named Paul Guerra, with whom he went on to create and perform a great number of puppet opera productions. In addition to being a Master Puppeteer, Mr. Guerra, who passed away August 8th, 2007, was also a brilliant costume designer, who conceived and executed most of the beautiful and intricate costumes used in "Opera in Focus" productions. Since his passing in 2007, costuming duties have been taken over by Judy Thomson, Cat Bernier, Anthony Satoh, and Leilani Barzyk.
Shortly after opening at the Rolling Meadows Park District in December of 1993, William (Will) E. Harder joined the crew. Will had been a close friend of Mr. Fosser's since the two met in the '50s while both were working in commercial film. He remained a vital force within the Opera in Focus crew for over a decade, conceiving and executing all of the beautiful rear-screen projections used in "Opera in Focus" productions, and also manipulating our beloved conductor, Maestro Tosci (who is patterned after Arturo Toscanini). Will Harder retired at the end of the 2007 season, and continues to support the Puppet Opera with his friendship and technical expertise.
Justin & Shayne Snyder joined OPERA IN FOCUS many years ago as apprentice puppeteers and backstage technicians. During their time training with Bill Fosser, Paul Guerra, and Will Harder, they were trained in every aspect of their craft -- from the design and building of new puppets and scenery to the manipulation of the puppets. As their friendship with their mentors grew, they were personally asked by Bill Fosser to be his successors in keeping the Chicago Puppet Opera tradition alive, an undertaking they accepted with honor and dedication. Upon Fosser's passing in 2006, the Snyder brothers have maintained the theatre and continue to build new Opera in Focus productions each year. In addition to his skills as a puppeteer, Justin is also an accomplished stone carver, writer, and musician. His brother Shayne, a gifted sculptor and musician, sculpts, casts, and assembles new components for Opera in Focus puppets, in addition to being one of our Principal Puppeteers.
Barry Southerland, a longtime friend of the Snyder brothers, joined the Puppet Opera in 2005. Barry was the final apprentice puppeteer to ever train directly with Bill Fosser, and, for more than a decade, was an integral part of the Opera in Focus crew, specializing in backstage tech before retiring to pursue a career in education. In 2008, The Snyder brothers took on another talented young apprentice, Leilani Barzyk, who quickly advanced to become a Principal Puppeteer.
Although the puppet opera takes place on a stage only five feet wide and two feet deep, the illusion of live opera prevails. The puppet opera performances are capable of charming a wide range of audiences - from the lover of opera to the adult or child simply fascinated by the fine art of puppetry.
William B. Fosser (1928-2006): Creator, Master Puppeteer,
Artistic Director (1958-2006) , Set Designer, Master Puppet Craftsman
Paul Guerra (1944-2007): Master Puppeteer, Costume Designer,
Stage Director, Co-Producer
William (Will) E. Harder (1930-2014): Principal Puppeteer
Conductor of Maestro Tosci,Projected Effects & Graphics,Creative Consultant
Tony Mockus (1958-Present): Narrator
Justin Snyder: Principal Puppeteer, Artistic Director (2006-Present)
Shayne Snyder: Principal Puppeteer, Master Sculptor
Leilani Barzyk: Puppeteer, Stage Manager
Beverly Snyder: Apprentice Puppeteer/Backstage Technician
Anthony Satoh: Costume Designer
Daniel P. Anderson: Sound Design
David Kaufman: Website Design, Consultant
Reservationist: Tim Klier
Located In Rolling Meadows, Illinois, we are interested in taking on new apprentice puppeteers and technicians. No previous puppetry experience required, but good hand-eye coordination and excellent memory are vital. We offer matinee performances on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. February thru December, but also book special performances at random dates and times throughout the year, so some degree of schedule flexibility is needed. If this sounds interesting and you would like more information, please call our reservation hotline at 773-809-3153 to make an appointment to see a regularly scheduled performance as our guest and discuss the particularities of joining our crew. If you prefer you may e-mail us at email@example.com and we will answer your questions in a timely manner.