By Allison Campbell-Jensen
In recent weeks, the dam holding back theatrical and musical productions in Minnesota has broken and one person benefiting is Bradley Greenwald, singer, actor, writer, and director.
Also a Friend of the Libraries board member, Greenwald recently took part in a Leonard Bernstein tribute with Dan Chouinard and Prudence Johnson at Crooners in Fridley. Theater Latté Da will be workshopping the original adaptation that Steven Epp and Greenwald have been writing of Puccini’s comic opera “Gianni Schicchi.” He’s writing a video piece for Lyric Opera of the North for their children’s school tour.
Plus, he’s reviving his winter solstice cabaret piece, “The Longest Night,” at Open Eye Theatre in December.
Those gigs and more are welcome changes after 16 months of very little work during COVID, which pulled his livelihood out from under him. Connections and community spirit enliven his career as they inform his participation in the Friends board.
His journey to the stage began when he opened up to vocal artistry.
The University as a springboard
As a German major at the University, Greenwald did perform: He played baritone in the U of M Marching Band. Then as a sophomore, he says, “I took voice lessons on a whim and that whole world opened up to me.”
He switched to studying music and became involved with the opera workshop run by Vern Sutton, a musicologist who later led the School of Music. Greenwald joins others such as Dominic Argento and Tyrone Guthrie in calling Sutton a “quintessential singer-actor” whom he considers a mentor.
“He was such a big influence on what it meant to be a singing actor,” Greenwald says. When the opportunity to tour with the Minnesota Opera arose, he took it, intending to return to the U to complete his degree. Instead, he began his “serendipitous career.”
He began on the stage with concerts and opera gigs, moved into operetta and musical theater, and then into straight acting. He found his passion not in the roles he filled so much as the entire collective experience of being a performer.
“There was something really special in the room for those two hours” of a production, Greenwald says. “It was thrilling. It was everyone involved; it was the piece, the performers, the direction, the spirit of the community of us, the way the audience reacted to it.”
Performances that allowed him to reach these exquisite heights were achieved with troupes such as the Minnesota Dance Theatre, the Jungle Theater, Open Eye Theatre, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Theater Latté Da, and VocalEssence. “The collective gang of people who get put together in a room to create something,” he says, make theater special for him.
Writing, reading, and Friends
Greenwald also has ventured into directing — “I’d like to do more,” he says — and writing. For the Twin Cities–based composer Libby Larsen, he adapted Madeleine L’Engle’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time.” For Theater Latté Da, he adapted “Cyrano de Bergerac,” writing the book and the lyrics. And he has written lyrics for other productions.
The solitary task of writing, he says, “is very different from the extroverted bag of tools you need to perform.” It suits him, however, as he says he is an introverted person by nature. When he took the Myers-Briggs exercise, in the introvert-extrovert category he scored only one point in the extrovert portion.
“That must have been a big point in order to get me out on stage,” Greenwald says. “It’s never easy. The trick is to make it look like it is, of course.”
Along with his talents as a singer-actor, openness to experiences appears to be one of his characteristics. It applies to his reading — “Whatever I’m reading is my favorite book, almost all the time” — and the invitation to become a member of the Friends of the University Libraries board. He was recommended by a friend, the renowned vocalist Maria Jette, for his connections to the performing arts in the Twin Cities.
He’s enthusiastic about the Friends.
“The work that the Friends of the Libraries does is important. Since we’re all volunteers, it’s work that’s done through love of the Libraries,” he says. “That love is apparent to every member of the board. It’s clear that they are there to serve something bigger than themselves, out of love.”
As is Greenwald, a great lover of the arts.