Kaneza Schaal (Courtesy photo)

Theater, opera, and film director Kaneza Schaal says she loves making performances in every way there is to make performance.  The director of the opera “Highway 1, USA,” scheduled to run at the Los Angeles Opera from Feb. 24 to March 17, believes opera is merely another type of her performative expression.

“I’m excited about how we tell stories about ourselves and each other,” said Schaal. “Story builds the world, and it builds our architecture and our political and social interaction. It builds how we live and breathe,” said Schaal.

Related Links:



She says from a young age storytelling was always a part of how she understood being human.

Schaal says storytelling through opera was introduced to her at a young age. She remembers her great-aunt and uncle having season tickets, and if they could not attend a performance, the tickets would eventually trickle down to her and her mother.

“Working in opera has always felt very fluid to me because anything I’ve built as an independent theater maker, sound was always the structural starting point of how I would make a performance,” said Schaal.

Kaneza Schaal (Courtesy photo)

She reveals her process for directing an opera starts with collaboration, and for her she thinks about the team she wants to build.

Schaal says everyone involved in helping to bring a production to life, brings their own language or expertise. She must learn those different languages and then bring them all together to create the experience.

Schaal expresses excitement when speaking on her latest project for the Los Angeles Opera, William Grant Still’s “Highway 1, USA.” She believes Still’s symphonic works are probably his most performed.

William Grant Still was an African American composer known for creating symphonies, ballets, operas, choral works, art songs, and chamber music. Schaal says he was called “The Dean of African American Composers.”

“His operatic works have been ignored… for the most part his operatic works have not been staged, so this is an incredible opportunity to bring one of his mighty musical compositions to stage at L.A. Opera,” said Schaal.

According to Schaal, “Highway 1, USA” is about a couple who run a gas station along Highway 1 while putting the husband’s brother through college.

She says the couple makes many sacrifices to put him through school, but when he returns, they realize he’s squandering the investment that has been put into him.

“In some ways, the narrative itself is a love story, and it’s a simple story of this family’s struggle,” said Schaal.

Schaal believes African Americans are the most equipped to appreciate opera, because Black folks understand the battles, emotions, and situations often displayed in the art form.

For more information on the Los Angeles Opera and “Highway 1, USA,” visit https://www.laopera.org/performances/202324-season/highway-1-usa-the-dwarf/