All dressed up for the operaOn a typical weekend, most...


March 20, 1994|By Mary Corey

All dressed up for the opera

On a typical weekend, most families go out for pizza or take in a movie. Not the Gradets.

For the last 10 years, this Pikesville family has been acting as supernumeraries -- or extras -- for the Baltimore Opera, filling in as everything from priests and soldiers to courtesans and slaves.

"Some families go off on ski vacations together," says the family's 47-year-old patriarch, Howard, who heads the English department at Forest Park High School. "We put on crazy costumes and makeup and wigs."

Mr. Gradet and his wife, Barbara, began their stage lives after responding to a Baltimore Opera request for volunteers. Their children -- Alex, 17, and Regan, 20 -- got into the act because bringing them to rehearsals proved easier than finding a baby sitter.

Although the Gradets do not sing onstage, their roles are still demanding.

As a super in "Norma," for example, Mrs. Gradet, 45, lumbered around in 10 pounds of synthetic fur. The children made their debuts covered in soot and rags as street urchins in "Dialogues of the Carmelites."

But that pales compared to what Mr. Gradet faced in "Aida." He played an Egyptian slave, covered in red body paint and swathed in only a diaper.

Why do they put themselves through all this, without even getting paid?

"I'm not a bungee jumper," says Mrs. Gradet, the director of volunteers for St. Joseph's Hospital. "This is exciting to me. You get to pretend you're somebody else."

For Mr. Gradet, who's currently in the Baltimore Opera's "Macbeth," there is another draw.

He says, "To stand in the absolute middle of this gorgeous music is an incredible experience."

There are normal people. There are triathletes. And there's Patrice Malloy.

Logging thousands of miles on foot, bike and in the pool is as vital as breathing for the Mass Transit Administration's marketing manager.

And she's good at it. "I believe that you should use a talent if you have it," Ms. Malloy says during a rare moment of repose.

You may have seen her in the dawn's early light, striding along Roland Avenue. You also can see Ms. Malloy, 35, on the cover of the April issue of Runner's World magazine. Inside, she's profiled by former Olympic runner Hal Higdon and receives customized advice from experts.

Ms. Malloy is hard on herself, they say. Not enough calories, runs too far too fast, wears beat-up shoes. It's a little embarrassing, she admits, to be admonished to eat more fat in a national magazine.

Then again, she was the one who contacted Runner's World in the first place. That's when she was still the Baltimore Zoo's marketing and public relations director. A profile was a clever way to promote the annual Zoo Zoom 5-miler, she figured.

Ms. Malloy has always found a way to combine athletic fanaticism with work. In fact, she is planning the first MTA Light Rail Run Sept. 18.

Now focusing on 5K races rather than triathlons, Ms. Malloy still sticks to her punishing schedule of rising before 5 a.m. and squeezing in workouts before and after work. The sacrifice is worth it, she says. "I love to run. I love to fly."

Stephanie Shapiro

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