New musical vibes coming to Ophelia’s Jump

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Entering the tinted glass front door of Ophelia’s Jump Productions and stepping into its blue lobby, one notices a long black drape blocking the view into a jewel-like 50-seat theater. The drape calls out, “There’s something cooking behind me.” And indeed, there is.

Later this month, the Upland nonprofit performing arts group will transform its former main stage area into a musical lounge, complete with table seating, charcuterie snacks, cocktails, and, of course, live music.

Beatrice Casagrán, OJP’s producing artistic director, said the idea to create a music lounge has been brewing for years. The seed germinated as their friends and audience members would tell Casagrán that they would like to see live music at the theater. The idea’s roots grew stronger as Casagrán and their husband, Randy Lopez, who is OJP’s CEO, became frequent patrons of New York’s storied Village Vanguard jazz club.

“That kind of no-frills place where you see amazing musicians, sit and have a drink, that is the kind of vibe, that basement vibe, that I wanted,” Casagrán said. “The thought was we could reach a wider audience base who would come to these, and then maybe also being open to seeing the theater because they kind of trust the level of some of the stuff that we’re promoting.”

The stage will host emerging original artists like Studio City-based singer-songwriter Sonja Midtune, who christens the venue at 8 p.m. Friday, August 26. General admission is $30, or $20 for students with ID. To purchase tickets, visit opheliasjump.org.

Midtune, a Cal Poly Pomona professor who teaches songwriting, said she and her band — bassist Tim Fenton, drummer Quentin Purviance, and guitarist and backup vocalist Sam Marsey — are planning an intimate show. She will be performing some of her popular songs like “Pretty Please” and “October,” as well as tracks from her upcoming album.

Though she’s played 1,000 seat venues such as Woodland Hills’ Valley Cultural Foundation, she also enjoys gigging at smaller spots.

“They’re equally fun,” Midtune said, but “I think I’m going to have a little more fun playing the intimate show because I feel like I got a little bit more control and can connect with people.”

Before the COURIER could even ask the question, Midtune explained why OJP’s music lounge, and venues like it, are vital.

“Spaces like this are super important, especially in the greater Los Angeles area,” she said. “It’s such a great way to learn about new music or theater productions. Sometimes when there’s too many options in the big city of L.A., and if all the venues feel the same, it becomes hard to make a choice.

“Having a theater that’s really dedicated to quality and membership and finding the best acts for their members, I think it’s super cool.”

 

On Tuesday, Beatrice Casagrañ, Ophelia’s Jump Productions producing artistic director, smiles inside the 50-seat theater’s soon to be transformed musical lounge. Stop by the lounge on August 26 at 8 p.m. to see its debut act, vocalist Sonja Midtune along with her band. Tickets are on sale now at opheliasjump.org. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

 

Due to a combination of factors such as having to temporarily shut its doors due to COVID-19, low subsequent attendance, and impacts associated with California Assembly Bill 5, Ophelia’s Jump’s production costs have more than tripled since reopening in 2021, Casagrán said. This has forced OJP to create revenue streams outside of theater.

As Casagrán explained the uphill battle OJP has had since reopening last year, tears filled their eyes.

“I can’t make …” Casagrán said before her voice broke. “I can’t make any show budget out. We used to make 60 percent of our shows off ticket [sales]. Attendance is down and costs have tripled. Now we’re really making 20 to 40 percent, and we have to fundraise the rest. So, we’re going to have to sit down at the table and just reimagine [OJP].”

Casagrán hopes the musical lounge can pull in younger audiences with an interest in the arts who are eager to see what small theater groups can do. They also hope the new music venue will attract artists who might not regularly perform in such an intimate theater space.

Ophelia’s Jump and the musical artists who play the lounge will split the proceeds evenly, Casagrán said.

“Hopefully it will also be a way to generate revenue that will help underwrite our other costs,” she added. The money, “will go to putting up productions and keeping the lights on.”

To purchase tickets for Midtune’s August 26 show, or “Black Superhero Magic Mama,” which opens September 9 on OJP’s main stage, go to opheliasjump.org. The theater is at 2009 Porterfield Way, suite H, Upland, CA 91786.

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