Boos Directs New Play

Theatrical innovator Karla Boos, formerly of Wheeling, is directing another world premiere in Pittsburgh this month.

Boos is the founder and artistic director of Quantum Theatre in Pittsburgh. Under Boos’ leadership, Quantum is known for presenting world premieres and staging plays in unusual settings.

The current production, “Looking for Violeta,” is no exception to that pattern, with an outdoor setting utilized this time. The musical production is being presented at Frick Park, on the lawn bowling greens.

Performances, which began Aug. 2, continue at 7 p.m. today; 8 p.m.Wednesday and Thursday; 9 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. next Sunday, Aug. 25.

“Looking for Violeta” explores the life, music and multi-dimensional art of Violeta Parra, a legendary Chilean folk musician and visual artist. Carolina Loyola-Garcia stars in the title role. Eugene Perry, an internationally acclaimed opera singer, plays Parra’s brother, poet Nicanor Parra.

Continuing the theater’s trend of innovative staging, officials have told potential audiences, “We’ve erected a tent — a Quantum first — in Frick Park, representative of Violeta’s penas, where music and dancing, food and drink provided cover for activism. Feel free to picnic in the park before the show, and then join us under the tent (in our comfortable chairs) to celebrate Violeta’s inspiration, in six-part harmony with a live four-piece band.”

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Award-winning poet John Hoppenthaler gave a delightful reading of his work for the Wheeling Poetry Series during Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling on Tuesday.

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling introduced Hoppenthaler, saying, “It is a privilege and a pleasure to introduce this distinguished poet.”

Hoppenthaler, who is an English professor at East Carolina University, responded, “It’s great to be back in Wheeling and at the library.”

He began his presentation by taking a selfie with the audience. “You guys are so handsome. I have to do this,” he explained.

Recently, Hoppenthaler participated in a multi-national poetry conference in Marrakech, Morocco. “It was great to see all those people, speaking different languages, congregate in the name of poetry,” he remarked.

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Poetry and Google brought Hoppenthaler and his wife together.

He related that he dated a woman for a couple of months while he was teaching a graduate course at West Virginia University. Ten years later, he received an email from the woman, who asked if she could visit when he participated in a writers’ program in the Mountain State.

The former girlfriend said she had searched for his name online and found a poem that he had written about her. She bought a copy of his first book of poetry and found a second poem about herself.

“We’re married now,” Hoppenthaler quipped. “Yeah, poetry can make things happen.”

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Hoppenthaler’s appearance in Wheeling was timely, given that he served for nine years as a personal assistant to celebrated author Toni Morrison, who died on Aug. 5.

After Morrison’s death, Hoppenthaler said he received many requests for comment and interviews.

The poet said he connected with the author through her caterer. While living in New York, Hoppenthaler worked as a bartender for a couple of Morrison’s parties that his friend catered.

Later, when Hoppenthaler was working on a doctorate at WVU, his friend called and said Morrison was seeking a personal assistant.

His unforgettable memories of that time include being with the author on Sept. 11, 2001, as they watched the smoke from Ground Zero blowing upwind to the Hudson River Valley.

As a personal assistant, he did some research and office work for Morrison and served as a liaison between her agents.

“I was part of a team. I was the one who worked out of her home,” he said.

Describing Morrison as “probably the most famous author of our time,” he noted that her historical novel, “Beloved,” features a scene in which the title character rises from a river.

One day, after Hoppenthaler put up a porch swing at Morrison’s home, the author shared a special creative detail with him. “She pointed to a spot on the Hudson River and said, ‘That’s where I saw Beloved come out of the water,'” he recalled.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net

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