Singing in South Africa

Teacher performs in opera with SMU


Peyton Proksch, Editor in Chief

Whoever said “He who can, does. He who can’t, teaches,” clearly never met Head Choral Director, Mr. Paul Doucet. Over the summer, Doucet performed in the South Africa tour of “Wading Home,” an opera about a New Orleans family struggling to reunite in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“Over the summer, I was a part of a small opera company that was working in conjunction with Southern Methodist University, and we presented a new opera that premiered in 2013,” Doucet said. “We premiered it in South Africa in three cities: Port Elizabeth, Capetown and Pertoria. I played Grady, which is the friend of the lead male character, Julian. I was the person to kind of help nurse him back to not only physical health, but mental health.”

This summer’s performance allowed Doucet to reprise his original role from the 2014 premiere at the Dallas City Performance Hall. A graduate school teacher suggested he audition for the role because he’s a Louisiana native and the opera is set in Louisiana.

“My voice teacher from SMU reached out to me and asked me would I be willing to audition for a role, she thought it would be a good fit,” Doucet said. “I auditioned at some point in 2013 and didn’t hear anything back for a couple of months, thought I didn’t book the gig, and then I got a call saying they were finally ready to move forward and they offered me the role.”

Although he was familiar with the role, training for the summer performances was no small task for Doucet, with six to seven hour rehearsals throughout the spring.

“Since most of us had already done the opera before, when it premiered properly, we only started rehearsals right after Spring Break, pretty sparse in March, and then we went full force the end of April,” Doucet said. “We were rehearsing from 1-7 or 1-8 most days in April and then in May it was morning, noon, and evening.”

Doucet performed in the opera alongside a wide range of people, from Grammy-winning opera singers to college professors.

“There were people as old as 74 and as young as 19 with us,” Doucet said. “Professional opera singer Donnie Ray Albert was in the cast, he won a Grammy in the 1970s for his portrayal of Porgy in ‘Porgy and Bess’. There was a professor at the University of Arizona who was a part of it and a professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Most of the other performers were freelance, that’s all they do.”

Between performances, Doucet was able to enjoy being in South Africa, an experience he described as truly cathartic.

“It was nice to see so many different types of people working together and just living life, which is quite refreshing because you don’t always see that in Dallas,” Doucet said. “Being on Table Mountain, and having the opportunity to just relax on the mountaintop and seeing where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean was pretty cool.”

Working and traveling with a diverse cast allowed Doucet to make memories with people from different age groups and backgrounds.

“The dinners that we had together at these wonderful restaurants, laughing and having a great time with people from various walks of life and age groups, to be able to see people across the generations have fun, genuine fun, together, that was excellent.”

After this summer experience, Doucet plans to bring some of the things he’s learned back to the classroom.

“I feel like I’ve found my joy again,” Doucet said. “I feel like I’m a happier human being this year, I feel like I want to share my passion of singing and performing even more with my students.”