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Bits & Pieces: Opera debut

SIMSPortland native Shalanda Sims considers herself a “theater geek,” singing in musicals and choirs, producing and directing and teaching and also writing plays.

But, an opportunity to sing for Portland Opera came up, and she auditioned and won the part of Isabel in “Pirates of Penzance,” which opens May 9 at Keller Auditorium.

“I’ve never auditioned for the Portland Opera,” says Sims, a former Jefferson High, University of Portland and Portland State student who owns her own theater company, Who I Am: Celebrating Me.

Now she hopes her participation in “Pirates of Penzance” will help bridge the gap between inner-city residents and students and the opera. Sims works with urban youth, including on productions at Jefferson.

“I’m hoping we’re able to do that,” she says. “We’re trying to actually get our group to come on education night,” a final dress rehearsal that students attend. “I’m hoping (students) like the opera.”

Soprano Sims has enjoyed rehearsals for the musical, a remake of an Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, but with opera singers rather than actors and singers. “I like that it’s different with different styles of music throughout the opera,” she says.

Sims hopes to audition for another Portland Opera production. “I don’t see why not,” she says. “I like it here. It’s been a great experience.”

The show is a first-time collaboration between Portland Opera and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The supers

The folks who don’t sing or speak in opera productions are called supernumeraries, or “supers.” And, in “Pirates of Penzance,” the nine supers take on more important roles, including handling large bird puppets.

Basically amateur character actors, supers are local people, such as Peter Wilhelm, a senior communications analyst for a public relations firm who has some movie/TV/voice-over

experience.

“I’ve been doing it for 8 1/2 years at Portland Opera,” Wilhelm says, “and I keep coming back. I get to stand on stage next to a soprano nailing an aria or somebody blowing the roof off the house. It’s a visceral experience.”

Adds another super, Larry Moiola, an 11-year opera vet who has performed various duties and works in a high-tech job: “Even if it’s a small role, it’s fun to see the greater process from rough sketch in rehearsal to polished production with orchestra, and reactions from the audience.”

Old planes

The “Memphis Belle,” a restored World War II B-17 flying fortress bomber, and a P-51 “Mustang” are both at the Portland-Hillsboro Airport and will be available for public flights and ground tours May 3 and 4. They’ve been brought here by the Liberty Foundation’s 2014 Salute to Veterans tour. Call 1-918-340-0243 to book your flight, and go to libertyfoundation.org for information. The planes will be at the Portland-Hillsboro Airport, Aero Air, 2050 N.E. 25th Ave., Hillsboro. Flights usually take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with tours given after the flights.

Poker, please

Portland musician Jen Bernard, who has played with The Stolen Sweets, The House of Cards Music and The Pete Krebs Quartet, plays a lot of poker as a side gig. And she has started “Poker For Dropouts,” beginner Texas Hold ‘Em classes at The Secret Society ballroom, 116 N.E. Russell St., on Sundays, starting May 4.

For info: www.thehouseofcardsmusic.com/pokerfordropouts.

Cobain and comedy?

The late Nirvana singer and his childhood home are the inspiration for The Kurt Cobain Museum and Youth Center in Aberdeen, Wash., spearheaded by longtime Cobain fan Jaime Dunkle. The effort has received publicity by NPR/OPB, KXL and Spin and Rolling Stone magazines. Helping raise funds to buy the home and open the museum/center, Portland will be part of things, as proceeds from the May 2 show at Sky Club’s “Funnier Than You” show, hosted by Richie Stratton, go toward the effort. The details: 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, Sky Club, 50 S.W. Third Ave., 503-223-1375, 21 and older. For info: www.gofundme.com/KurtCobainMuseum and www.facebook.com/KurtCobainMuseum.