Singer lets her hair down in new production
Brinn Krabbenhoft is living a fairy tale.
Well, that's if you overlook the 16-hour days, occasionally squabbling kids, being surrounded by divas and wearing a hot itchy wig.
But she gets to vent in a way that would make any overworked mom envious. She transforms into a crazed psycho, screaming and wandering around.
Typical Grimm's fairy tale. Great stress reliever.
Brinn is one of the leads in the Northern Light Opera Company's (NLOC) upcoming production of "Into the Woods." She plays Rapunzel in the Stephen Sondheim adaptation of characters from Grimm's fairy tales.
Brinn takes the rehearsal stage after she's put in a 10-hour day wiping runny noses, refereeing disputes over trikes, patching up boo-boos and getting six kids to and from swimming lessons without losing socks, undies or wet towels.
She runs a daycare in her "spare" time out of her home. Many days she and her assistant have 14 pre-school age kids.
"It's a tremendous commitment," she said of the opera production. "But the musical is less stressful. This is familiar stress," she said, keeping a constant eye on the pint-sized dynamos running all over her yard.
Throughout it all, her musical voice never wavers. The tone is always cheery, upbeat and infinitely patient. She gets tugged on, interrupted constantly and sorts out the high-pitched voices all speaking at once, all vying for attention.
Maybe daycare is the perfect training ground for opera singers. Brinn loves working with lyric sopranos. And maybe some that are just shrill.
Music rehearsals for opera productions usually begin in May, so her free time starts getting gradually reduced.
By June, blocking rehearsals begin, so the singers know their places on stage. Rehearsals start about two nights a week and gradually increase to five to six nights a week. Saturday the opera company rehearsed until 10:30 p.m.
"You have to have a pretty supportive family," she said. Her husband Jason takes charge of the couple's daughters, Johnna, 6, and Brielle, 3. They're musical divas in the making.
Little Brielle says she wants to be a singer. Johnna is already a master of dark fairy tales. She spoke about entering the "electric forest," which sprouted not from Jack's beanstalk, but from her young fertile mind. Brinn has to warn the daycare kids that Johnna is just pretending when some seem spooked. They run off happily content.
"She's harnessing her inner actress," mom explains of her first born. "They have better imaginations than any adult.... You're doing great, Michael!" she says, interrupting her own stream of consciousness to praise a child whizzing by on a bike.
Brinn has infused her daycare charges with music and opera. "We sing all the time here," she said. "I'll sing opera. Some plug their ears. Some say it's really neat."
Kids can be the toughest opera critics.
Brinn often rehearses her lines during daycare. "They hear it once and memorize it," she said. "It's amazing. There's one section they all know."
Listen up, Paul Dove (NLOC artistic and musical director). Your 2020 cast is already waiting in the wings.
Brinn, a 1993 Park Rapids Area High School graduate, began pursuing a college music degree. Her first year was "magical, relaxing, enjoyable," she recalls.
The second year she delved into music theory. "It became mathematical" and rote, she thought. She chafed at the constricting regimen. She needed more creativity.
"I've always loved kids," she said. "My grandmother had a child care center for 38 years and I'd go there after school and help out."
She switched colleges and degree programs, graduating with an associate degree in child development. She established Brinn's Building Blocks Preschool and Child Care and married Jason, her high school sweetheart.
She'd sung in madrigal choirs in college, and she longed to resume her musical life. Three years ago when Brielle was still a baby, Brinn joined the opera company, appearing in "Oliver" and last year in "Oklahoma."
She admits to being a "detail-oriented person" so she took copious notes her first night of rehearsals three years ago, filling numerous Post-It notes. She went home that first night, studied her notes and returned prepared the next night.
The directions went out the window and the director started all over. "It was hard for me," Brinn admitted, but she "chucked the Post-Its" and went with the flow. She learned to enjoy the creative process.
"It's an absolute joy to meet new people who are working together to create something that takes hours of sweat, and yes, sometimes even tears," she said. "The volunteers backstage put in a tremendous amount of work, yet they get no stage glory. These are the people that truly do this as a selfless act for the love of music theater."
As a girl Brinn dreamed of growing her hair long enough to wind around her childhood home.
Be careful what you wish for. The Rapunzel wig is 12 feet long, cumbersome and hot as the dickens.
"Into the Woods" will run July 25, 26, 31, Aug. 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. A Sunday matinee July 27 begins at 3 p.m.
Brinn might have 14 little faces in the audience, but they'll no doubt be singing along with her. After all, they've memorized her part.