It was time for an Intermission
Transcendence performers’ pandemic pivot
By Shannon Lee
Full disclosure: I’m biased. I have a bit of a crush on the two people featured in this article, and some of you may too. Many of us in Sonoma Valley know Transcendence Theatre Company favorites David Gordon and Kristin Piro; we’ve seen them perform, we watched their love for each other grow, and we saw photos of their beautiful Sonoma wedding.
I met David in the summer of 2014, and we quickly bonded over a conversation centered on seasonal produce and tacos (us SoCal kids have opinions on that). When I saw him perform, I was quite literally in awe of his talent. I’m a huge fan of his voice, which can go from soaring and classical to gritty and soulful with ease. He also has the best smile ever. Kristin is a force of nature, a rare performer who excels all around. Often cast in the heavy dance roles with Transcendence, many of us were blown away when Kristin took the stage as Cassie in “A Chorus Line.” I’m still that little girl with big dreams of being a Rockette; I could just watch Kristin perform all day. I’m a bit smitten.
“I’ve only ever wanted to be a performer,” Kristin says. She started dancing at the age of 2 and started performing in musicals at 9. “I actually never even had that ‘a-ha’ moment that so many people talk about. There wasn’t one instance that made me say ‘I have to pursue this.’ It just was always there inside me. Never even a thought to do anything else.”
David says that he “started late” with voice lessons at 16, but in short order he landed the lead role of Mr. MacAfee in “Bye Bye Birdie” at Buena Park Youth Theater. He “quickly realized that doing theater was actually way cooler than [he had] thought.” Fast forward to 2021 and David just closed as the lead, Lonny, in a production of “Rock of Ages” in Aspen, Colorado. That role, along with the role of Huey in “Memphis,” were dreams for him, now accomplished. David doesn’t just sing and act, however — he also plays guitar, piano, and ukulele. He beatboxes, and has his own professional photography business.
Kristin and David first met in 2013 while on tour for “Flashdance the Musical.” David had been with the cast for a year, having originated one of the roles, when Kristin joined. Kristin is a legendary swing performer and loves it. “Swing is a role that takes a very specific type of performer and mindset to do well,” she says. “It’s a lot of work and your brain works super-fast.” That’s because a swing is responsible for knowing all the choreography, scene work, music, lyrics, costume changes, and on-stage traffic of each person in the ensemble. “In some shows I’ve swung as many as 12 tracks.”
They became good friends during their time with “Flashdance,” but departed from the tour and went their separate ways. More than six months later, in New York City, they reconnected at a cast reunion party and decided to go on a date. The rest is history, and includes their Sonoma-based wedding in 2019.
Pandemic pivot: from stage to wine
When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, Kristin and David were living in NYC and watching the chaos unfold first hand. When it was clear that the impact was going to be long term both for their city and for their profession, they left. Like so many others, they hunkered down with family and spent some quality time together. Eventually they landed in a place they love, Sonoma Valley. But what would they do? “I knew it had to be something that brought people together, something that was passion-driven, and something that incorporated artistic creativity,” Kristin recalls. “When the pandemic closed our shows, the wine world window was wide open, and all the pieces fell into place. As we learned more about each aspect of it, it felt more and more like a perfect fit.”
David began interning with expert winemakers at Deerfield Ranch Winery and Kristin started a job in the tasting room. One year and five months later, they have successfully launched a new wine label, Intermission Cellars, with four wines in their initial release. The first wine they bottled was “made from start to finish,” a white Rhone blend named Front Row. That wine is dedicated to their friends Chuck and Cathy Williamson, owners of the vineyard from which the grapes were sourced. The Williamsons are regulars at Transcendence Theatre Company performances who always sit in the front row. “Dedicating this wine to them was only a small token of appreciation that we hope one day to return tenfold,” David says.
One of their other releases is called Red Lip Zin and features a line drawing of Kristin’s face with bright red lipstick. “That was actually the design that prompted the idea to start our own wine label,” Kristin says. “We designed it for our wedding, and it got a lot of buzz and attention by many people in the wine industry.”
The stage calls
As Broadway starts reopening and tours are once again in motion, David and Kristin will continue performing. “It’s the root of who we are and propels us to continue making art in all sorts of ways,” David says. Throughout the pandemic, they have continued to audition via Zoom and video submissions, and have had the privilege to work as artists in various ways. Kristin says that “after a year in beautiful Sonoma, where we were privileged to be able to slow down, enjoy space, and fall even more in love with the hospitality of the community, we are vowing to bring that Sonoma ease and charm with us to the Big Apple.”
You can read more about these two and their journey, and take a look at their wines, at their website, www.intermissioncellars.com. Shannon Lee is a regular columnist for the Kenwood Press.