By Matt DePietro
Whether it be acting, dancing, singing, or otherwise, trying to make a living in the arts is not exactly the safe road to take when it comes to a career. Even the most talented people don’t always catch their “big break” so to speak.
Redding’s own Isaac Martin Lerner has beaten the odds in pursuing a career in the theatre. The Barlow graduate is currently continuing to excel in performance dance, and now choreography.
Most recently, Lerner worked to choreograph the opera “Rusalka.” The show was produced by the Des Moines Metro Opera at the Blank Center for Performing Arts in Indianola Iowa. Showing five times during the 46th Summer Festival.
“Rusalka” is an opera that tells the classic story of the “Little Mermaid.” As part one of the leading creative minds behind the show, Lerner gave insight into the process, and collaboration with the show’s director Chas Rader-Sheiber.
“It’s a classic story and a prewritten opera. A large part of the work is finding new and refreshing ways to tell the story— And then finding a way that dance can fit seamlessly into it. Not so it’s dance and opera at the same time, but facilitating more of the story with dance,” said Lerner.
“A lot of it is about walking in with a really good plan. Although I did not want to walk in with too many specific steps, you need that room for space,” he said.
Lerner also stated that his musical background gave him a staring ground. “I’m lucky I played the piano when I was younger, I walked in with the score,” he said.
Being able to read music is a skill not all people possess. To the untrained eye the notes on the page might look like hieroglyphics or a cryptic code of some kind. Carrying that skill over to opera would certainly give Lerner a deeper understanding of how the dance routines should look within the story.
Lerner expanded on his background in the preforming arts, and growing up around the theatre.
“I started at dance at age four. I came home after school one day and asked for ballet lessons. My parents signed me up for a creative movement classes, which was fine, but I still said, okay when can I start ballet,” he said.
“I stopped for a little while, then in high school started again. Worked at the Ridgefield Conservatory for Dance, and studied dance at the Hartt School, getting my BFA in dance performance before working mainly freelance in New York. I toured with David Parker for a while as well,” he said.
Lerner also comes from creative parents. His mom, Joni Johns Lerner, a textile artist, has been painting fabrics for theatrical costumes including Broadway, opera, dance for over 30 years including “The Lion King.” She is also Assistant Professor of Costume Technology at Western CT State University. His dad, Richard Lerner is an artist producing abstracts and more traditional photography
“Growing up behind the stage, I always had a love for the theatre,” he said.
As someone who has excelled in both being a performer, and now behind the scenes as a choreographer, Lerner is asked to look through multiple perspectives.
“It’s definitely challenging to switch back and fourth and look at the show with an outside eye,” he said.
Adding on to that preparing for a dance routine is not only mentally challenging, but physically demanding as well.
“I imagine it’s much like being a professional athlete. It’s a lot of knowing how to take care of yourself. It’s definitely a vigorous process,” he said.
In the crowds the audience watches shows, like “Rusalka”, and is taken up in the performance and along the story of the show. It is a credit to Lerner, to be such an important role in the great creative undertaking behind what comes out in a seamless show.