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Lyric Opera’s Proximity Panel on March 26th Will Be Dedicated to the Memory of Joseph London Smith, Grandson of Chaz and Roger Ebert | Chaz’s Journal


The panel is being hosted by Lyric Unlimited and Tarah Ortiz Durnbaugh, director, creative engagement for the Lyric Opera, and will include four panelists. One of the panelists will be Barrett Keithleya producer of culturally moving art experiences best known for his paintings/murals and nonprofit, Paint the City, which impacts social justice issues. The Lyric Opera of Chicago commissioned Keithley to create three original mural installations in the spirit of its other world premiere this season, “The Factotum.” 

Also on the panel will be William Estrada, an arts educator and multidisciplinary artist who explores power structures of race, economy, and cultural access in contested spaces. Shawn Wallacea composer and arts educator who studies how music can enhance the story creation and storytelling process; and Karen Slack, an operatic soprano whose advocacy focuses on making the field more inclusive of people of color and women, round out the panel. 

“Proximity” is an inventively creative departure from the traditional opera form as it consists of three mini-operas with three different composers, but the structures intersect with each other. Each story tackles timely topics such as the difficulty to forge a human connection in a technologically driven world, the urgency in protecting our planet’s dwindling natural resources and yes, the shattering loss caused by gun violence in cities and neighborhoods across our country.

The three works featured in “Proximity” are “The Walkers,” composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain with libretto by Anna Deavere Smith; “Four Portraits,” composed by Caroline Shaw with libretto by Caroline Shaw and Jocelyn Clarke; and “Night,” composed by John Luther Adams with libretto by the late John Haines.

Joseph and his cousins during intermission at the theater in London during their special evening with Grandma Chaz.

Moderating the panel will be bittersweet. My grandson Joseph was a photographer and filmmaker whose life was cut short on August 3rd of last year while scouting locations for a music video in Atlanta. He was an innocent bystander in a random shooting. Joseph was only thirty years old. We honored the innumerable gifts he brought to the world here.

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