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Vireo: Q&A with Star Rowen Sabala

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"Vireo" opera star Rowen Sabala. Photo by Bernie Wire.
Photo: Bernie Wire

Vireo, the groundbreaking made-for-TV opera, is now available for streaming. Watch the 12 full episodes and dive into the world of Vireo through librettos, essays and production notes. Find more bonus content on KCET.org and LinkTV.org.

Seventeen-year-old soprano Rowen Sabala plays the title role in "Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witches Accuser," which recently wrapped filming for its third and fourth episodes at The Actors' Gang Theatre in Culver City, California. Rowen was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experience in these latest episodes.

 Q&A with Rowen Sabala

Vireo: Between the singing, acting, physical movement, and everything you have to execute as the lead character, which aspect is the most fun for you? The most challenging? The easiest for you.

Rowen Sabala: The best part of the process, to me, is the singing for sure. But furthermore, actually learning the music. I get so excited about learning brand new music for the show because I always end up loving it. The most challenging part, however, is actually putting everything together; the staging, acting, and singing, all at once. But each bit helps me with another piece of the puzzle. The acting helps with the staging and the staging helps with the singing. The easiest part is the staging because it is a slow process which allows a lot more time for us to digest and really dial in the blocking.

V: What was it like working with director Charles Otte? Is his direction focused more on the music, the acting, the staging, all of it?

RS: Charlie is great. He is very focused on the action itself. He really wants it to look good and he will change it until it is right, which I find really admirable. While he's very hardworking he will allow time for us to goof off or pitch in other ideas which is also great. He is an amazing director!

 Q&A with Rowen Sabala

V: What effect did having a live audience in for sections of the tapings have on your performance?

RS: The audience really helps me when I'm performing, as Lisa says, we "Step it up" when there's an audience present because it puts us in full performance mode. Running scenes and music with just a camera can feel a little bit dry. The audience amps up our focus as well. It is harder though in a way because we have to run everything in one shot instead of breaking it up... mistakes must be minimal!

V: What ways, if any, do you feel the story of Vireo is reflected in your own life?

RS: Vireo is very different. She wants her safe haven and it seems as though the only safe place she has is with the Voice/Pernette. When I was younger I was the artsy kid at my elementary school and I found my safe haven at the school I have been at for six years now, OCSA (Orange County School of the Arts). It is where, as my mom would say "all the misfit toys gather together." Unfortunately, Vireo doesn't have that stability. Also I connect to Vireo emotionally in some ways, though she is much more complex. Haha!

This story was originally published September 1, 2015.

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