Arts News: March 2007 Archives
There are as many answers to that question as there are classics themselves. However, a textbook answer is that it has themes that are universal and endure beyond the moment of the play's first staging. Arthur Miller's The Crucible falls into the category, even when it is sometimes pigeonholed into being "about" the Salem Witch Trials or McCarthyism.
The director of The Crucible is also Artistic Director for the Peppermint Creek Players, a group that also opened Hedwig and the Angry Inch last weekend. It was a show that also had new relevancy for area theater-goers. In recent weeks, Michigan has had a hate crime killing of a gay man, a business that supported the LBGT community forced to close down, and a transsexual professor fired from Spring Arbor College.Â Perhaps sometimes we could wish that art didn't need to be so relevant.
While interviewing the director of an upcoming opera at Michigan State University, we got sidetracked into a conversation about how exciting cultural events are constantly taking place outside of the major cultural centers. Next weekend, MSU is performing the university premiere of a Spanish-language opera, Florencia en el Amazonas.
It's a show that has created a lot of buzz for them within the opera community all around the world. In addition to several performances with preview lectures by the composer, Daniel Catán, they will be webcasting live the April 1 performance. They've also opened up a blog that all cast and crew members were invited to contribute to throughout the process.
Director Melanie Helton has had several conversations with the composer in the weeks leading up to the performance. One of the things that he told her was that the New York Metropolitan Opera already has plans to program this opera in the next couple years--after they find the perfect soprano. Helton pointed out that Lansing audience can leave "with the idea that they've got a little bit of a jump on the Met."
Not that I need to tell the audience of this blog that exciting cultural events are taking place outside of New York.
I wanted to add this clip of a local theater troupe, because I could. Technology is wonderful. Seriously, this is a case in which young actors newly graduated from an art school taking the risk of creating theater that's challenging and sometimes downright weird. And it's working. High schoolers are being drawn to the theater. High schoolers! Something is right.
A Seattle art critic accused of trading reviews for art: An ethics lesson for all of us, and a sign of a greater need for transparency, accountability and trust -- even from critics.
"In the last 20 years, daily-newspaper editors have lost interest in critical reviews, asking writers for more trend pieces, profiles, and investigative reports. Last year, when [Matthew] Kangas wrote 20 reviews of regional exhibitions in the Seattle Times, the staff art critic Sheila Farr wrote only five, according to the paper's online archives--she wrote other kinds of stories, such as a three-day series about Dale Chihuly, which she worked on with another reporter and a team of researchers. Given this disparity, Kangas can be seen as a friend to the art community in Seattle.
"The emphasis on reporting instead of criticism, or in addition to criticism, has dragged critics into the same spotlight reporters work under, where lapses of judgment are firing offenses. Today, being embedded is looked at with suspicion, and being detached is more in vogue. Each position certainly has its merits. But the industry is still struggling to combine the two approaches in a way that keeps critics passionate, engaged, and knowledgeable, without allowing their biases to be, or to appear to be, personal or financial.
(Thanks to Jen Graves of the Seattle Stranger)
Throughout the NEA Institute, we constantly heard how theater is an ecosystem, not a hierarchy.
I'm coming to believe the same of newspapers, especially when it comes to arts coverage. In Lansing for the past week and a half, arts coverage has focused on the murder of Robert Busby, a beloved artist, businessman, and community leader. His memorial service this past Tuesday drew more than 1,100 people on a cold afternoon in the middle of a workday.
The coverage of the events from the finding of his body to his memorial was truly outstanding. At the daily paper, there were numerous stories (more than 35 in a 7-day period) written from several different departments--feature stories, crime, entertainment, columnists, and the editorial page. There were videos posted on the Website and several mid-day updates each day. Nearly every single story had reader response to it. In letters to the editor, readers described the coverage as giving them solace.
Most importantly, the coverage focused on Busby himself, with only minimal coverage being given to his killer. Instead, the newspaper covered his death, the impact he had on the community, and what his loss is going to mean to Old Town, to jazz musicians, to visual artists, and to theaters. The coverage showed a deep understanding of the community and why this quiet man who was rarely in the headlines before his death meant so much to so many people.
Eight days after his death, the weekly newspaper that used to have its office two doors down from Robert's apartment and gallery came out with its dedication to him. His picture adorned their front cover and I picked it up wondering what more could possibly be written that hadn't already been said. What I found was coverage of a different sort. They printed a lengthy biography of the man, a historical retrospective on his life. They emphasized his role as an artist and patron of the arts.
Yes, the Lansing State Journal and the Pulse are competitors, but in this case, both of them had something valuable to contribute to the biggest and most heart-rending arts story of the year in Lansing. The community would have been worse off without either of them.
Art and the Patriot Act collide
"The legal battle with the Department of Justice that artist Steve Kurtz is embroiled in has implications not only for artists but, by extension, for anyone engaged in outside-the-box public discourse that challenges established convention. ... In May 2004, Kurtz's wife died in their Buffalo home. Police who responded to his 911 call noticed scientific materials, including petri dishes, in the house and notified the FBI, who confiscated Kurtz's computer, books and components of CAE projects under the Patriot Act. Analysis showed that his wife died of natural causes, and that the microorganisms impounded were harmless and readily available from biological supply houses. Lacking bioterrorism evidence, the FBI charged Kurtz with mail fraud and wire fraud -- based on his alleged receipt of the bacteria from University of Pittsburgh scientist Robert Ferrell -- and each of them faces a possible 20-year sentence."
(Thanks to Mary Thomas of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
What an individual can mean to a community
The philanthropist, politician and newspaper publisher of the Riverton Ranger in Wyoming, Bob Peck, is honored by educators, state legislators and journalists.
(Thanks to Joan Barron of the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming)
Finding the personalities in a national celebration
"James Nowlan had never played the bagpipes or any other instrument when he joined the Territorial Irish Army, which is similar to the National Guard in the United States. He was 16 when he joined -- not unusual then for a lad from rural Ireland -- and by the time he turned 18, he was skilled enough to play at a wedding or funeral. By age 19, he was good enough to be appointed as pipe major of the Irish Army Pipe Band. Now 76, the Lancaster resident is one of the region's most renowned pipers and is the founder and pipe major of the General Michael Collins Memorial Pipe Band. ... For years, Nowlan has been a star in the annual Lexington St. Patrick's Day parade."
(Thanks to Margaret Buranen of the Lexington Herald-Leader)
New conductor to take orchestra into the future
"Andreas Delfs, conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, will become principal conductor of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra next season. He takes over a program that has been without a permanent conductor since Samuel Wong stepped down two years ago. Delfs will take the podium for half of the Halekulani Masterworks series this fall. Delfs is known for pulling orchestras into the technological present and performing future, for example, by placing the Milwaukee symphony on iTunes."
(Thanks to Burl Burlingame of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
Something more than stand-up
The one-man show "The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?" manages to reach beyond the superficiality of stand-up with its storytelling. It's a show that riffs on female logic and macho instincts.
(Thanks to Michael Morain of the Des Moines Register)
Also from Des Moines, a group has formed the 711 Theater Project, an endeavor in which playwrights have seven days to write and produce an 11-minute play. It's part of a trend where more and more groups are holding what amounts to speedwrighting contests.
(Thanks again to Michael Morain of the Des Moines Register)
She swashes buckles with the best of them
It's not surprising that the Society of American Fight Directors has given a woman status as a Fight Master. What is surprising is that it took them until 2006 and they have only one.
(Thanks to Jackie Demaline of the Cincinnati Enquirer)
Fringe depends on where you are
When discussing the Fringe Festival in
(Thanks to Jackie Demaline of the Cincinnati Enquirer)
Fairies and food fights
Kalamazoo artists plan to make mischief with a performance that combines fairy tales and food fights. The artists? The Ballet Arts Ensemble and the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. They've definitely found a way to present something different to draw new audiences.
(Thanks to Nicolas Stephenson of Kalamazoo Gazette)
Anna Nicole isn't alone
"A lawyer for James Brown's partner says an agreement has been reached over obtaining DNA samples from the late soul singer's body. Brown's trustees wanted DNA samples to help sort out several paternity claims made against the singer since he died two months ago."
(Thanks to The State, the daily of Columbia, S.C.)
Remembering a local legend
"[Lewis Anderson] Muse was black, the rest of the Tides were white. Although he appeared with the Tides only a few times -- never on television -- Muse was a popular entertainer who sang, played the ukulele, danced and told tall tales for two generations of fans of all colors. His mix of blues, country and pop standards made him a radio and festival favorite for six decades. This year marks the 25th anniversary of his death, but his voice and music can still be heard on CD and on the Internet."
(Thanks to Ralph Berrier Jr. of the Roanoke Times)
The (literally) crumbling state of arts education
"The Cleveland School of the Arts needs help from Halle Berry, Paul Newman and, especially, you. After all, the kids there are among the best and most talented attending the city's public schools. I can't think of a reason anyone would deny them firstrate classrooms and performance spaces. Every morning, some 630 students journey from every corner of the city to enter a 97-year-old building that is falling down around them. Literally. It's one of the worst school buildings in the region."
(Thanks to Sam Fulwood, columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Work by former columnist for altweekly made into major play
"'Your Negro Tour Guide,' the one-woman play adapted from the personal archives of University of Cincinnati professor and former CityBeat columnist, Kathy Y. Wilson, is scheduled to be performed Monday night at Playhouse in the Park. The play is adapted from her anthology, 'Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White,' a collection of columns tackling the issues of race, class and gender in and beyond Cincinnati."
(Thanks to Ryan McLendon of the University of Cincinnati student newspaper The News Record)
In one of the NEA Arts Journalism Insitute sessions, Ben Cameron expounded on how the original vision for theater non-profits is that shows would begin on Broadway and then make their way out to the non-profits. Instead, the opposite has happened. Shows are now being created in regional theaters and then make their way to Broadway, a place where only the safe, money-makers appear.
So it's not too surprising that people who for many years made their careers in New York are heading back to their hometowns. Mark Ruhala, an artist who choreographed some of NEA Chairman Dan Gioia's poetry has returned to his hometown where he is bringing experimental dance and minimalist theater to young people. This weekend they open the critically acclaimed Once On This Island, a musical the town has yet to see.
Earlier this week, the composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty hosted a benefit for Katrina victims and the documentary "After the Storm," a film version about how Katrina survivors produced their musical one year after the hurricane:
After The Storm is a non-profit Film/Theater project designed to bring hope and financial aid to children and young adults of New Orleans. A feature documentary follows a company of young, non-professional actors from New Orleans as they stage a musical play one year after the levees broke and changed their lives. The film will then be used as a springboard to launch a nationwide program encouraging high school drama clubs and community theaters to raise money for the established 501(c)3. All proceeds from both the play and the film will go to After The Storm Foundation.
Is Welser-Most headed home?
"The announcement [last week] that Ioan Holender will step down as head of the Vienna State Opera in 2010 has revved the rumor mill about his successor. The two earliest, and likeliest, names being tossed in the air are Franz Welser-Most, the Austrian music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Neil Shicoff, the American tenor who appears often at the Staatsoper, as the opera house is called."
(Thanks to Donald Rosenberg, classical music critic of the Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Norman Rockwell goes to Roanoke
"The Art Museum of Western Virginia took the wraps off a whole bin full of previously undisclosed pictures and paintings Monday, including one by someone almost everyone has heard of: Norman Rockwell. The famed illustrator, who painted hundreds of covers for the Saturday Evening Post, has become increasingly prized by serious art collectors in recent years. The humorous, tables-turning "Framed," which depicts museum portraits gazing at an unsuspecting museum worker, is one of several Rockwell did on museum subjects. It was purchased for the museum, apparently in 2002, by the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust. The trust has bought dozens of paintings for the museum in recent years."
(Thanks to Kevin Kittredge, arts reporter for the Roanoke Times and a 2006 fellow of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music)
Critic bemoans samey season of orchestral music in Dallas
"One doesn't want to belabor political correctness, but in a city that's a gateway to and from Latin America, shouldn't the DSO feel a little guilty about not programming a single composer from south of the Rio Grande? And can it really be going a whole season without a single work composed by a woman?"
(Thanks to Scott Cantrell, classical music critic for the Dallas Morning News)
Still no laurels for Chicks in the South
"Yes, the Dixie Chicks got a big publicity boost and a show of support from their peers when they picked up five Grammys this month, but their controversial Bush-bashing remarks in 2003 still leave them on the outs when it comes to radio airplay. It's a kind of perpetual banishment that leaves Chicks fans questioning the consequences of free speech, although at least one fan doesn't place the blame on radio stations. "It's not the radio stations. It's the listeners. If they (stations) play the Dixie Chicks they get all these people who complain. It's just crazy," says veterinary pathologist and Chicks fan Dr. Kelly Boyd. Boyd said the pressure tactics are like a form of domestic terrorism. "They're terrorizing these people for exercising their freedom of speech -- all in the name of patriotism. If you're patriotic, you should be able to say anything you want."
(Thanks to Michael Lollar of the Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Bart Cook, right-hand-man to Jerome Robbins, speaks freely
"Robbins died in 1998, and Cook -- in Houston last week to set The Concert at Houston Ballet -- still bristles when he remembers Robbins' studio methods. 'Many roles were done on me and given to other men, which was not very nice," Cook said. "He was a complicated man. ... He could be explosive and make people cry.'"
(Thanks to Molly Glentzer of the Houston Chronicle)