The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Role in OSU’s ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ brings back past for SH alum


February 23, 2016

KIMBER PARKER, center, rehearses with the cast in “Kiss Me, Kate.”

When Kimber Parker got involved with the “Kiss Me, Kate” production at Oregon State University, she ran into someone she hadn’t seen since her last role in a play, a decade ago at Oak Heights School in Sweet Home.

As it turns out, they share a common passion – arts in education.

“I don’t remember any of (the first play she was in), except I did remember Craig (Farrell)’s face,” Parker said. “He was the artist in residence for ‘Robin Hood,’ and he’s in ‘Kiss Me, Kate.’"

Parker, 21, approached Farrell and reminded him about their acquaintance when she was in the Oak Heights production of “Robin Hood.”

“I went up to him and said, ‘you probably don’t remember me,’” Parker said.

He did not, but was glad to see her again.

“I loved that moment when Kimber recognized me and shared with me her memory of our work together when she was in sixth grade,” Farrell said. “To see her come so far was a validation of all the things I care about in arts education and how doing something creative and fun can impact a community.”

Parker, who graduated from Sweet Home High School in 2012 as Kimber Swanson – she has since married – is playing Lilli Vanessi, one of the lead characters in “Kiss Me, Kate,” based on the music of Cole Porter in a musical version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

It is the story of how egotistical leading man Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, Vanessi, when the two are forced to play opposite one another in a new production of “The Taming of the Shrew.

In addition to Parker, the principal cast includes OSU students Quentin Kirk as Fred Graham; Eldon de la Cruz as Paul; Steven Evans-Renteria as Nicely-Nicely; Taylor Fahlman as General Howell; Phillip Hommes as Harry the Horse; Samantha Johnson as Lois Lane; J. Garrett Luna as Bill Calhoun; Anna Patch as Hattie; Emily Saalfeld as Madam Baptisa; Cory Warren as Ralph; Alex Weingargen as Gremio; and Eric Zittel as Hortensio.

The ensemble cast includes OSU students Robert Best, Blair Bowmer, Caitlyn Douglas, Sedona Garcia, P.J. Harris, Jade Kasbohm, Sydney King, Pam Mealy, Sophia Morrow, Emma Nissen, Taylor Siling, Rachana Son, Kelsea Vierra, Yu Wang, Larissa Zens, and Wenqing Zhang.

Farrell joins the cast as Pops.

The production is directed by Theater Professor Charlotte Headrick with musical direction by music instructor and pianist Lauren Servias and choreography by Megan Skinner.

Parker is a music education major at OSU and plans to complete her master’s degree in 2017.

She hopes to teach at the high school level, in a low-income, and preferably rural, school district.

“I play the piano but I want to teach choral,” Parker said. “That’s the tradition I grew up in.”

Choir is an inexpensive activity: “You use your voice,” she noted.

The declining presence of arts in schools, particularly in the lower grades, saddens her.

“It’s really depriving kids of an experience and of a way they can express themselves in a healthy way,” she said. “Music and visual arts and theater – it really gives words to things, deep emotions, that you can’t necessarily verbalize.”

As for her own involvement in music, Parker said things could have turned out differently.

“Actually, in sixth grade I missed the day of band sign-ups,” Parker said. “If I had not missed the day of band sign-ups, I might have been an instrumental music education major right now.”

Starring in a musical wasn’t something she had planned, either.

A professor recommended she audition for the part after hearing her sing German lied (a song for voice and piano) in a master class.

“I kind of saw (Visiting Professor Marc Callahan) react in the back row, but I didn’t know what he was thinking,” Parker said.

When she went to her voice lesson the next day, she learned Callahan wanted her to audition.

Parker had not considered participating in the musical and, in fact, she didn’t even know what it was about. So she Googled it.

“I was like, ‘Oh, “Taming of the Shrew!’’ I really like the “Taming of the Shrew,”’” Parker said.

She recalled watching a movie version where Elizabeth Taylor starred as Katherine, who is the Shakespearian play’s counterpart of Lilli Vanessi.

“I loved the character,” Parker said. “I thought it was awesome. I liked how powerful she was – she had these eyes that would just glare.”

“I play the divorced woman,” Parker said. “She’s engaged to another man and she’s having the worst time in this production with her ex-husband being Petruchio.”

Parker faced some difficulties of her own in playing the part.

“Something that’s difficult is understanding how to say lines,” Parker said. “I’ve done operas in the past but when you sing an opera line, they give you notes to tell you the inflections of how they want the line said.”

Reading from a script does not offer the same guidance.

“It feels really bare, not having music behind you,” Parker said. “And to not have the clear notation of how they want the words pronounced.”

To overcome that, Parker did a type of Meisner exercise.

“I just started repeating the lines over and over,” Parker said. “Then suddenly when I’m on stage, it’s not so weird. It’s much more natural.”

The singing parts were easier for her.

“I really love to sing and I get to sing so much in this play,” Parker said. “It’s been really fun.”

The experience will help her in her teaching career as well, she said.

“A lot of choral jobs also include working on musicals, and I’d never done anything before,” she said.

Her desire in teaching choir is to create a safe and supportive environment for her students.

“I want to turn my classroom into a safe place where (students) can express themselves freely,” Parker said. “When I went to Sweet Home, I knew a lot of people who said they would not have graduated if it weren’t for the music program.”


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