The Red Priest opened Friday

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JOSHUA TREE, CA — The Hi-Desert Cultural Center’s latest Playhouse professional production opens this Friday, February 2nd, with a lavish set and costumes, custom-designed lighting, and spectacular music created to envelope audiences in a true theater-in-the-round dramatic experience—unique solely in the Hi-Desert to the Cultural Center’s Blak Box Theater.  The award-winning play THE RED PRIEST (Eight Ways To Say Goodbye) by Mieko Ouchi is crafted around the music of the Baroque master Antonio Vivaldi and stars Equity actor and Playhouse Artistic Director, Howard Shangraw, and Playhouse favorite, actress Haley Kooyman.  Funded in part by the generous support of the Vivaldi Society, the production will feature members from the Joshua Tree Philharmonic strings section performing selections of Vivaldi’s most treasured music prior to each performance.
Vivaldi, called the “red priest” because of his flaming red hair, died poor and largely forgotten in Vienna in the year 1741.  During his lifetime Vivaldi’s popularity quickly made him famous; however, that popularity later dwindled, and after the Baroque period Vivaldi’s published concerti were largely ignored and forgotten.  Even Vivaldi’s most famous work, The Four Seasons, was unknown in its original edition.  In Mieko Ouchi’s beautifully imagined play, THE RED PRIEST (Eight Ways To Say Goodbye), the year is 1740, one year before Vivaldi’s death.  Broke, desperate and aged, Vivaldi agrees to teach a young unnamed woman trapped in a loveless marriage, forced by her husband (a rich patron of the virtuoso violinist), to learn the violin and perform a concerto within six weeks for the opulent court of King Louis XV.  All is for a bet.  The delicate, complex and quietly combative journey they embark upon not only decides her fate but also changes them both in ways they never imagined.  Canadian playwright Ouchi has created a sumptuous world of words to tell her sensuous and bittersweet story of unconsummated love, set in counterpoint to the Baroque master’s music.  The romantic drama is written in movements, not scenes, and plays out with a simple elegance much like Vivaldi’s music where strict melodic lines allow a world of emotion to exist underneath.  Far more than a carnal romance, THE RED PRIEST, tells a story of nuanced affection through the healing power of music.  Directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Howard Shangraw, the play is staged in the round with the audience becoming at times voyeurs, at times confidants, and sometimes characters that never appear on the stage.  The two character play stars Haley Kooyman as “the Woman” and Shangraw as Antonio Vivaldi.  The lavish set is designed by Michael Mora and the richly textured lighting design is by James Ernst.  
Performances are February 2, 3, 9, and 10 at 7pm, and Sunday February 11 at 2:30pm.  Doors open one half-hour prior with live music.  To purchase tickets or for more information, patrons may visit, visit the Hi-Desert Cultural Center Box Office in person Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm, or call the Box Office at 760.366.3777.  The Hi-Desert Cultural Center is located at 61231 Hwy 62 in Joshua Tree, CA.
PHOTO CAPTION: Howard Shangraw stars in the role of Antonio Vivaldi alongside actress Haley Kooyman in the Hi-Desert Playhouse’s latest professional theatrical production, THE RED PRIEST (Eight Ways To Say Goodbye), opening Friday, February 2, at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center.
With its multi-venue performing and visual arts centers located in Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley, California, the Hi-Desert Cultural Center (HDCC) is a 50+ year non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation (Federal Tax ID# 23-7425816) that serves as the regional performing and visual arts organization for the gateway communities of Joshua Tree National Park.  The Cultural Center owns and operates its own performance venues and facilities and produces award-winning community and professional live theater, concerts, art exhibits and galleries, festivals, the Joshua Tree Philharmonic symphony orchestra, an artist residency for veterans, an extensive educational arts and technology academy program for youth and adults, and more.  The Cultural Center is the largest and oldest non-profit arts organization in the region with several million dollars in assets, employing over 30 full-time and part time employees with an annual budget exceeding half a million dollars.  Having achieved GuideStar Gold status and recognized as an organization of artistic excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, it instructs over 700 adults and youth weekly and operates a significant financial aid and scholarship program so that no children are turned away from programs due to their socioeconomic situation.  Learn more at:

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