ZAPOURA NEWTON-CALVERT, FRONT DESK | MUSICAL THEATRE PARENT
If you’ve been at the studio on a Thursday afternoon, you may have been greeted at the front desk by our newest volunteer, Zapoura. While Zapoura is new to volunteering at CPPAC, she is quite familiar with the world of music and theatre. I interviewed Zapoura during one of her shifts at the front desk, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of students coming and going to and from classes, the sounds of piano tinkering and dance music in the background. Amid the “wonderful chaos” that is front desk at peak hours, I learned about Zapoura’s background in the performing arts and how she came to be involved with our organization. Read on to learn more about Zapoura!
Q: What brought you to music or theatre?
A: Well, first of all, I was a theatre kid, so I did musical theatre and singing my whole life, pretty much, and I sang in a band. But, I love musicals–love, LOVE musicals–so, the kids have been listening to them in the car forever, and Vera [my daughter] is taking musical theatre class, and she loves to sing and perform at home. So, when I saw this opportunity I thought we should definitely be here–this is where we belong.
Q: What was your favorite show you did when you were doing theatre?
A: [Doesn’t skip a beat] Into the Woods. I was the Baker’s Wife, and it was awesome. I thought maybe I wanted to be an actress for real, and then I went to college, and all the drama people were too much, too much…drama. So, I was an English major instead. Which is kind of one step over, still narrative. But, I always sang and was in the choir and was in a Cuban band here in Portland.
Q: What was the name of the Cuban band you sang in?
A: Cubaneo was the name of it. It’s not around anymore. And, that’s where I met my husband. It was good times.
Q: So, were you the lead singer?
A: Yeah, I was!
Q: What voice type are you? Soprano, alto, mezzo?
A: I like to sing in the middle range, but I went back to take voice lessons before the kids were born, because I wanted to do some jazz and other stuff, and he (told me) “You’re totally a soprano!” When I actually practice I can stretch my voice, but I like to sing middle parts when I’m singing with others because that’s more interesting.
Q: What is something else we should know about you?
A: I run a really awesome, robust Little Free Library on N. Central and Polk, and it’s dedicated to just books for kids and youth. I have a project that I call “Reading is Resistance” where I’ve been fundraising to put more books in there that represent the diversity of our neighborhood. So, they’re marked specially. It’s a little political, in that I felt like I needed to take some action. We buy books with more protagonists of color, a continuum of genders, feminism, and they go out into kids hands, and then hopefully parents read [the books] with them.
Q: What brought you to the NW?
A: I’m from here. I know, so weird. A unicorn.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I grew up in NE. I’ve gone to lots of schools: I went to Jason Lee, Harvey Scott. Those are in NE Portland. Then I went to Holy Family, a Catholic School where my mom was working in SE. I went to St. Mary’s for high school. And then I went to Whitman for my undergrad and came back here for grad school.
Q: What do you do for your career?
A: I teach at Portland State University. I started out as a composition & rhetoric teacher, teaching writing, and now I teach capstones, which are community-based learning courses that are required at our school. Mine is called “Social Justice in K-12 Education.” We volunteer in underserved schools and learn about issues that impact equity for kids. Very important, really awesome, never boring. It’s a good job, I like it a lot.
Q: What do you appreciate most about that job?
A: I have really amazing, compassionate colleagues who are really thoughtful about their work. So, I’m always surrounded by people whose work and values are aligned. I feel really lucky that what I do, I believe in. It’s like all the things in my life line up in a way that makes sense to me. That feels nice. It’s not always the case, so I’m glad.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not making music, volunteering, and doing shows–when you’re not here at our studio?
A: I love to garden. I really love to garden. We have fairies that live in [our garden] and little special places for them. I love flowers–we have a cut flower garden in the back that we’re making, and I have plants that were from my grandmother and my great-grandmother’s garden. There’s some awesome heritage there. And, it helps me with my anxiety–singing too–but gardening helps me feel at peace. So, I love that. And I love to go to Powell’s, and I love to read books. Those are my main hobbies.
Q: What is one thing you like about volunteering here at the front desk?
A: I love this community, so I like meeting all the different families, talking to the parents or the kids, knowing who everyone is, seeing people walk by on the street, just feeling more invested in St. Johns.
Q: What is your favorite thing about the studio here– the Performing Arts Collective?
A: I love that it’s a total variety of students, that there’s access to music and theatre for any kid or person who wants to have that. It’s an important part of the well-being of our community. You guys are the most wonderful and engaging teachers. [Loud clamoring as doors open and students pass by.] It’s wonderful, fun chaos.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.