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Conjunction junction, what's your dysfunction?

The husband and wife duo that bring you Lizzie and John Cree on stage.

A Message from Katy and Keith

We are Katherine “Katy” Pracht and Keith “Keith” Phares, your Lizzie and John Cree. We play a deeply dysfunctional couple on stage (she literally KILLS him), but we’re happily married in real life…we thought it might be fun to share our story and some random thoughts with you, the West Edge audience!

We met in 2009 in an opera production of Der Kaiser von Atlantis (Viktor Ullmann). We were each married to someone else, and Keith’s twins had just been born, so he was commuting home. We don’t remember having a conversation lasting longer than 20 seconds...normal scene, end gig.

Katy in Greenwich Music Festival's Der Kaiser von Atlantis.

Then, the same opera production was remounted in 2013 with nearly the same cast. By that time, we were both recently divorced, met each other anew, and became a couple. We took things very slowly, remaining effectively long-distance for 6 ½ years. FINALLY, Keith moved to be with Katy in Philadelphia in 2018. No sooner had we found the joy of waking up together in the same place than Keith was offered a tenure-track position at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. We got married, moved to Bowling Green, and here we are…celebrating our 2-year wedding anniversary on July 22nd.

Keith and Katy in Greenwich Music Festival's Der Kaiser von Atlantis.

Being a married couple on a gig - it’s a rare, wonderful opportunity to find a new routine! At home, we’d be listening to a Phillies game or music, heavy on the classic jazz and R&B. We started taking 6-mile walks to mitigate our emotional eating and binge-Netflix-ing during COVID shelter-in-place…those walks have become one of the highlights of our day.

Out here, of course, the scenery has changed. We trade the vast corn and soybean fields of Bowling Green, for the majestic cow-, turkey- and (occasionally) llama-studded hills of Orinda. After spending 6 hours each day rehearsing outdoors, Katy frequently feels ambivalent about spending more time outside. Their post-rehearsal conversation usually goes something like this:

KATY: I’m not going.

KEITH: That’s cool, I’ll just go by myself and listen to my tunes.

*Keith and Katy stare intently at each other*

KATY: Okay, I’ll go.

These walks are an invaluable time to decompress and debrief.

The idyllic eucalyptus groves of Cal Shakes pose an acoustic challenge (there’s little to reflect sound, and the white noise of leaves in the wind makes hearing ourselves difficult; and don’t even get Keith started on the amplified electric piano), but we trust each other’s ears and guidance to solve specific problems. Sample conversation:

KEITH: I can’t hear my voice. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to sing. I think they’re going to fire me.

KATY: You haven’t forgotten how to sing. They’re not going to fire you.

KEITH: *pause* okay.

We make a good team.

When we’re on the road in separate places, we pause our home-life until we can be in the same room together. Here in Orinda, we have the best of all possible worlds, getting to do what we love as opera singers and maintain our “best life” routine with our favorite person.

Northern California’s wide-ranging weather changes also posed a challenge (requiring 5 layers of clothing on one day and, on another, finding the surface of the stage so hot it had melted the soles of our shoes—this didn’t actually happen to us, it happened to our “Little Victor,” Joe Myers). Keith and I just noticed that we’ve talked a lot about nature. We believe it was the great Will Ferrell as the great Robert Goulet who said, “That’s why I come up here...NAAATURE…Goulet.”

All joking aside, it’s a miracle that this is happening at all; and it’s to West Edge Opera’s credit. Their bold vision and determination to produce live opera during a pandemic has brought us all together. We are so grateful, and we think you will love the result! Kevin Puts’ and Mark Campbell’s ELIZABETH CREE is brilliantly staged by Sam Helfrich with the equally brilliant Bob Mollicone conducting; we feel ready to meet the eyes and ears of our West Edge Opera audience. Please look for us after the performances, we’d love to meet you!

Shout-out to our home-stay hostess, the amazing Christie Jordan, who tuned her piano for our arrival, spoils us with beautiful food, and shares her gorgeous home and pets with us. She treats us like family, and we are very fortunate West Edge placed us here with her! We’d also like to take a moment to give a shout-out to Christie’s cat Isla, who brings us decapitated carcasses of birds and mice, but also brings us a lot of joy and good times. You’re the best, Isla. Also, thanks to the WEO team for providing us with rides around Orinda: Renee, Valden, Mark, Steve, Terri (love those salads!) and Sarah Coit (Varvara in Katya Kabanova…Sarah also loves Isla).

We hope you enjoy the show!

Photo Credits: (Greenwich Music Festival images) Joanne Bouknight

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