For Eleen Hsu, dedication is easy – it’s apathy that’s impossible. Recently, she appeared at the Hollywood Fringe Festival playing her first “dad" character (plus four others) in Skanky Me from Kankakee, a world premiere rock musical. Last year, she shot a playful commercial as mom, for Covered California, which is airing in over 6 languages, and more recently, she, along with The John Alexander Singers, was swinging on stage with Bill Cunliffe and his amazing band, Imaginación. Her artistic palate embraces diversity.
Next up are two endeavors on opposite ends of the dramatic spectrum: The haunting Ghost in the House, starring Tony Todd as Jack Johnson, the world’s first colored heavy-weight boxing champion, to which she’ll bring both acting and violin-playing talents; and Viva la Mamma, an operatic farce about stage mothers and the people they fluster, produced by Pacific Opera Project.
When it’s time to perform, Eleen is a little sparkle in the soul. As for her teaching style, picture a cross between the gentlest kindergarten teacher and a cat dancing on a high wire - that sums up Eleen, who completed directing her 9th children’s musical last spring.
Sure, when you first meet Eleen, she seems formal – that’s her Mid-West upbringing. But let a little time pass, and the priestess’ composure will break! You will find that if the lawn needs mowing at two in the afternoon or a birthday needs celebrating ‘til two in the morning, she’s your Girl Friday.
She likes to journey to foreign lands via books and on foot. Performances inspired by famous literature include The Fellowship of the Rings: Live in Concert, on tour with the Munich Symphony conducted by Ludwig Wicki, The Ten Commandments (by Patrick Leonard), The Scarlet Pimpernel (by Frank Wildhorn), and The Little Match Girl Passion (by David Lang). On the other side of the world, Eleen has also appeared – with twin sister, Jalin – on live Chinese Central Television in Beijing, China, where she turns up her Chinese persona; however, following a life-changing visit in gracious and beautiful Italy, she channels her “Italian Eleen" persona to get through stressful situations anywhere in the world.
In the homeland, Eleen has proudly premiered roles in three other all-American stage works – one, as a family-dividing mother in a Japanese Internment Camp, another, as a Korean-American “Juliet" falling for “Romeo" at UC Berkeley, and a third, as a gospel soloist in an MLK, Jr.-inspired tale.
On the operatic and musical theatre stage, Eleen has sung well-meaning moms in Amahl and the Night Visitors (mother), Into the Woods (Witch), and The King and I (Lady Thiang). Also, self-important working women in The Music Man (Marian) and 9 to 5: The Musical (a “small but mighty" Roz). And above-the-law gals from Carmen (Mercedes, cover) and Seussical the Musical (Sour Kangaroo).
In the vocal world, she recently was a soloist for Mozart’s Requiem, and she made her vocal jazz debut with award-winning quintet, Down 4 the Count. You’ll hear her on the critically-acclaimed American Voices recording by the John Alexander Singers, with whom she also premiered the innovative Jake Heggie “choral opera" called The Radio Hour at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (now an audio recording to be released Fall 2015.) Two especially heart-opening past projects include recording Frank Ticheli’s new choral-symphonic work, The Shore, in 2013, and touring Paris with an all-French repertoire in 2012.
On violin, Eleen has been a symphony and folk band instrumentalist, having toured Eastern Europe and the United States sharing both classical and Chinese folk-pop music. She played for super sexy Hawaiian superstar Keali’I Reichel at Walt Disney Concert Hall and Segerstrom Center for the Arts on his 2010 tour.
And as if proof of her choral ‘nerdiness,’ she’s sung the epic Mahler’s Symphony for A Thousand twice – once as a child with the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Joel Levy, and later with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel. Lastly, her inner pop- and popera-lover are elated to have sung with Andrea Bocelli and Reba McEntire, both at the Hollywood Bowl.
Aside from performing, Eleen enjoys yoga, eating chocolate, and a little DIY. Eleen is originally from Cleveland, OH, and Sacramento, CA, and is a graduate of Pomona College. As an American-born Chinese, her greeting is, “All-American looks different than it used to, and that’s fine by me."