Opera Frontier repurposes a frothy Strauss aria (Klänge der Heimat from Die Fledermaus) to reflect America’s profound and self-evident need to be “more perfect”. It draws on both the appealing vision and the harsh reality of America, within which we find hope for our country’s future.

This page will be updated with comments about the Panel discussion that followed the January 17, 2021 YouTube Premiere of ACTIVIST ARIA: More Perfect Union. Joining Opera Frontier’s founder and artistic director Gail Simpson, are three panelists interested in the arts and activism.


The panel moderator is William Thomas Hodgson, Co-Founder of Oakland Theater (formerly Ubuntu Theater Project, www.oaklandtheaterproject.org), and most recently a 3-year company member with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His acting credits include roles at theaters across the nation, including Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, TheaterWorks, CalShakes, Mixed Blood Theater, and more. He is recognized as an important voice in the lively conversation about equity, diversity and inclusion in the arts. He also writes, directs and teaches.

The first time William saw “More Perfect Union” he wrote, “There’s an interesting gesture towards ‘a more perfect union’ within this piece, something about re-imagining our cultural works as we are re-examining our cultural values. I feel like I can speak to that with my experience in translating and interpreting European ‘classic’ texts like Shakespeare for modern audiences.”


Panelist Garrett McQueen works as an equity consultant, guest speaker, curator, and presenter at the intersection of race and “classical” music. He is Chair of the Equity Committee for the American Composers Forum. His tenure as the National Producer/Host of “Music Through the Night” (American Public Media) was abruptly terminated in September when he took a controversial stand on air responding to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McCain and many others.

Garret is currently the Executive Producer and co-host (with his friend Scott Blankenship) of TRILLOQUY the weekly podcast and arts initiative. “CLASSICAL MUSIC is widely considered a “white” art form, but we believe that all cultural music is classical.” Garrett shares the stories and compositions of people working to DECOLONIZE so-called “classical music”.

Additionally, Garrett is a classically-trained musician who records and performs as featured bassoonist with chamber ensembles and orchestras. Learn more at GarrettMcQueen.com


A fourteen time Emmy Award winner, Steve Shlisky has worked in Bay Area television for nearly 40 years. He is the past president of the San Francisco/Northern California chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) and a co-chair and instructor at Laney College Media Communications Department.

As NATAS Programs & Activities Chair, Steve works closely with Troy Espera, Chair of their Diversity Committee, to amplify diverse voices in the TV community. At their October Diversity Media Zoom Roundtable, Steve explains, “We gathered representatives from ethnic and minority media outlets, as well as leaders of organizations that support diversity in media, who discussed their work and shared recommendations on inclusive membership strategies, industry outreach, and for the Emmy® Awards.”