Viewpoint: In Series provides invaluable exposure to the performing arts

The In Series presented "Goyescas" in 2016. (photo by Angelisa Gillyard)

In a divisive world, it is theater, music and dance that remind us of our common humanity. Carla Huber — founder and producing/artistic director of the In Series — brings intimate, affordable opera, zarzuela and cabaret to those fortunate to know of her group’s productions at various D.C. venues, including many at the historic GALA Theatre in Columbia Heights. The In Series reflects Carla’s interest in new works and the synergy of the performing arts. Its source is the global culture and talent of our cosmopolitan city.

For shows at GALA Theatre, the size of the auditorium — about 267 seats — and the staging give one a visceral sense of contact and communication with the actors. Aesthetic distance is reduced. Sometimes audience members are seated at candlelit tables on the stage, like an evening out at a cabaret. For last season’s innovative musical, “Oberon,” fanciful characters lit up in white lights came down the aisles and mermaids with cascading pink/green hair sang from the balconies, while a chamber orchestra played near audience members. I was transported to a fairyland where things actually work out — a wonderful escape from reality, and a true midsummer night’s dream!

Carla, with her characteristic Chilean charm, welcomes each patron warmly upon entering the theater. She has committed her time, talent and gracious ways to the In Series for many years, but Carla has announced that she will retire after next season.

Carla’s career in the arts began as a concert pianist when she was a protégé of the great Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau. She has won recognition in Europe and Latin America as well as in her native Chile.

The In Series has enriched the lives of many students at D.C. public schools who have attended its performances. The exposure to fine theater, rare for a lot of these children, has been a valuable contribution from the In Series to its community. It is the hope of many of the group’s regular patrons that the In Series will endure and that Carla will know how much her contributions have meant.

The 2017-18 season of the In Series, known as “The Legacy Season” in deference to Carla Huber, will begin next month with Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at the D.C. Scottish Rite Temple. This masterpiece by Mozart and Schikaneder features princes, evil queens, dragons, young love and magical instruments in a story about the human search for wisdom. Rick Davis will direct the new English language interpretation, and Stanley Thurston will conduct the singers and chamber orchestra. Later in the season, “Duke Ellington’s Neighborhood” will arrive at GALA Theatre at Christmastime with great jazz piano and the story of how a local hero championed African-American musicians and shaped the cultural history of our city. For those who love Cuban melodies and irresistible rhythms, next April’s production of “Zarzuela a la Cubana: María & Cecilia,” also at GALA, offers one of Cuba’s most famous zarzuelas concerning interracial romance. I will be in the front row for that sizzling musical!

Carla Huber has opened my eyes culturally to the diversity and talent in our city. When I was growing up in D.C., I had few such theater options and little exposure to the issues the In Series addresses. One should not miss the opportunity to learn from and appreciate the remarkable experience of this program. I will relish this year’s program — filled with gratitude, and the fervent hope that Carla’s legacy will live on in the continuance of the In Series and the joy it evokes in our community.

Nan Huidekoper is a D.C. resident.