An Evening of Stories and Song
On March 14, leading members of the philanthropic, veteran, and arts communities came together in in southeast Portland at sunset to celebrate The Canticle of the Black Madonna. To cheers and standing ovations, members of the military community shared how the opera had touched their lives, each and every one.
1st Sergeant Miah Washburn—dressed in casual shorts, his only “civilian clothes” since he’s currently living on base in preparation for a summer redeployment to Afghanistan—spoke passionately about seeing the opera performed at the University of Oregon in February 2013. Washburn emphasized the emotional authenticity of the opera and shared how theater had literally saved his life during his darkest days following his third combat tour of duty.
Former Sergeant First Class Sean Davis shared his deep commitment to the The Canticle of the Black Madonna as our Veteran Service Coordinator, saying that, eager as he is to see the opera premiere at the Newmark Theatre on September 5, he wants to linger even longer on the friendships he’s building with the combat veterans and military families who are participating in the opera and receiving direct services such as art therapy and an exclusive free showing of the opera for military families.
Echo Townsend, whose father served in WWII, brothers served in Vietnam, and whose ex-husband is preparing for his second combat tour in the Middle East, shared the pain of working with suicidal patients as a public health worker, only to come home to her husband’s PTSD each night.
And author and national leader on post-9/11 veterans Stacy Bannerman spoke with heartfelt urgency about the realities of domestic violence among returning veterans. You could have heard a pin drop when she finished.
Later in the evening, as gourmet desserts and wine flowed freely, cast member Lindsey Cafferkey sang a stunning rendition of “Mara’s Lament” from the opera, receiving a standing ovation.
To end the night, Executive Producers Richard Gordon and Lisa Brazelton pledged to match all donations, and the enthusiastic guests responded enthusiastically with plentiful contributions throughout the evening.
Photography: John Rudoff