FlyOver: May 2007 Archives
When Lansing, Michigan's resident professional theater company, BoarsHead, faced the loss of state budget money, donor money from the death of a patron, and other unexpected revenue losses, it was forced to change its season mid-year. Their final show originally featured a guest director and a larger cast. Instead, that show was replaced with a one-man show called Underneath the Lintel and was directed in-house by the Artistic Director.
The resulting show is a fascinating one that certainly stands up to the rest of the season's offerings. While it was brought in as a cost-saving measure, it is still an outstanding production.
What's interesting, though, is the number of people calling in for reservations who then decide not to reserve when they learn that the show has changed. Given that neither show was particularly well-known or famous, it surprises me that so many people would decide not to come.
Perhaps it is the reservations about a one-hander. While many one-person shows can be entertaining, they are also hit or miss as they rely so heavily on the talents of one actor--an actor who then has no one to feed off. It's a type of show that audiences are likely to see a whole lot more of as arts budgets tighten and theaters are forced to look everywhere they can to save a dollar.
Down the road from BoarsHead, Williamston Theatre has been forced to cut short the run of its final show in the season. Money that they were promised was frozen along with all other arts money in the state.
Given the ongoing budget crisis in Michigan and in other states--and the general mood of the populace which is a hostility toward any taxes--arts organizations may need to start finding ways to survive without public money.
It seems to be a growing trend. Community bands are reaching out to adults who haven't played their instruments in years. Whether it is a senior band or one for all ages, adults are rediscovering their love for instrumental music.
(Thanks to John Sinkevics of The Grand Rapids Press)
If you're not the type to buy self-help books, watch daytime talk shows, or attend support groups, perhaps you'd like to indulge in the self-help genre by attending an original children's ballet. A ballet company in Holland, Michigan (a small Dutch town on the western coast where the annual Tulip Festival is held) is putting on an original ballet based on Max Lucado's book, You Are Special.
(Thanks to Sue Merrell of The Grand Rapids Press)
One of the crucial roles artists play in our society is in giving us a language to talk about important, societal issues. They may not be the experts, but they can capture the emotion and help clarify issues for us. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the North Lakeland Discovery Center has created a traveling exhibit of 20 artists addressing climate change in Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.
(Thanks to The Daily Press in Ashland, Wisconsin)
A Native American woman wrote a play based on stories her mother told her of Native Americans whom the government placed into residential schools. A staged reading of it is being directed by her sister and being performed in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It handles pretty intense material.
(Thanks to The Green Bay Press-Gazette)
A grant has brought a composer into the middle school where he is helping seventh graders to compose a symphony which they will soon perform in concert. He had each student compose a three to five note melody for their instrument. ""He names the movements after what the music sounds like," said (band instructor Connie) Root. The four movements are "Brett's Solumn Vow" by Brett Ducharme, "Martha's Dorian Dance" by Martha Muchlinski, "Jake's Lament" by Jake Blair and "Kaitlyn's Canzona" by Kaitlyn Young. Together they make up the composition "Motive Alliance.""
(Thanks to Hudson Star Observer)
Geri Parlin's column is fun to read because of the genuine excitement about what is happening in the city's theater community. There is also a strong identification with the community and what speaks to its residents. For her, it's the upcoming summer production ofMusic Man, a musical that deals with small-town concerns.
(Thanks to Geri Parlin of La Crosse Tribune)
How do you keep attendance up at performing arts venues? The new director of Madison, Wisconsin's Overture Center has searched for several answers that he'll be trying out in the upcoming season. Some of it includes dropping classical performances in favor of others in the community who are doing them as well as changing pricing structures.
(Thanks to Jacob Stockinger of The Capital Times)
...being a 60-something teenager. Especially not if your family is far more screwed up than you are. This delightful review in a weekly newspaper proves their having fun with theater in Nebraska.
(Thanks to Steve Eskew of The Reader)
"Two of downtown Omaha's independent spirits again are coming together in the name of art. As part of the Bluebarn Theatre's upcoming production of Six Degrees of Separation, the Bemis Center will present, in tandem, a show of contemporary portraiture in the theater's art space called Separate Selves. Bemis Curator and Assistant Director Jeremy Stern brought together regional and international artists for the show; through many approaches they artfully explore the idea of self. Artists are based in New York, Omaha and from countries around the world. The shows open April 19 and offer the perfect opportunity to get a double dose of creativity in one night. "
(Thanks to Sarah Baker of The Reader)
I tend to follow news of the East Lansing Arts Festival pretty closely. Not only is it one of the city's major events of the year, drawing 70,000 people during the weekend, but I also exhibit at the Michigan State University Arts and Crafts Show that takes place concurrently across the street. In fact, until I became an exhibitor, I had no idea that they were technically two separate shows--nor do most people who come down.
One of the fascinating things about the show (other than that they decided to go electronic for all their applications--a huge convenience for most artists), is that they've created an Emerging Artists Exhibit. For a show that receives 515 applications from around the country and accepts only 225 artists, it can be difficult for young artists to be accepted. The high entry fee can also be a barrier to a prestigious, juried show.
Emerging artists are identified as students currently in an arts program at a university or those who have graduated from one in the past two years. It's a great way to encourage artists to pursue their art in a way that is often considered financially risky.
The trend for shorter and tighter seems to be everywhere.
I've heard many people complain whenever a show goes over 90 minutes. I've sort of scratched my head over that in the past. If the show is good, I'll gladly sit for three hours--especially since most theaters still have intermissions for longer shows. At the point I've made the effort to come to see a show, I want to be entertained and I'm willing to sit for however long it takes to tell the story (provided the show is compelling).
Yet, many audiences don't feel that way. I was recently talking to a director who had abridged George Bernard Shaw's play St. Joan. He rightly pointed out that few people today would sit through the three and a half hour version unless you had star-quality actors. Even with celebrity-name actors the longer shows can be a hard sell.
It's a shame, really. When we cut things down to the bare minimum we often sacrifice the subtelty and complexity. We feed into the movement toward a soundbite society that is incapable of layered decision making and limited in its critical thinking.
Putting it on the line in high school
Talk about kids taking risks: For an end-of-year fundraiser, they're doing a talent show fund-raiser featuring Broadway songs about teenagers. The audience gets to vote on the winners.
(Thanks to Lori Holcomb of the Battle Creek Enquirer)
Finding New Spaces
After the owner of their performance space was murdered in February (during a run of the ironically named world premiere, "Fatal Error"), Icarus Falling needed to find a new space for the rest of their season. They landed in a conference room of a local Internet services provider. It somehow seems apropros for a group whose season was themed "dot human."
(Thanks to Mike Hughes of the Lansing State Journal)
Sometimes it takes a person
Perhaps it is the nature of art itself that arts communities so often thrive on the work of individuals. It is usually the passion of individuals rather than the corporate underwriting or governmental support that makes the arts scene flourish or wither. In Aurora, one person with that sort of passion is gallery owner Dan Hites. "Hites believes Aurora already has a vibrant arts scene, and it just needs some nurturing. He sees himself as a facilitator -- that's what he did with Dreamerz in Wicker Park, he said, by giving away second floor space to theater groups and poets, and featuring local bands on his stage; that's what he hopes to do with River Breeze."
(Thanks to Andre Salles of The Beacon News)
Don't sit in the front row for this performance. At least, don't sit there unless you're OK with being the target of inflatable people and flaming torches. "The show is unique in its dizzying combination of magic, ballet, juggling, bad jokes, physical comedy and the inflatables. At one point, Garbo -- a Maine native who has performed this show for 17 years -- climbs inside a large orange inflatable box and moves around on stage, oozing into the audience every chance he gets."
(Thanks to Benjamin Ray of Hillsdale Daily News)
Ballet Company turns 20
In a city currently obsessed with its returning American Idol finalist, the local newspaper hasn't forgotten its local ballet troupe, a company that turned 20 this year. It's a story in which dancers share some of their fond memories as they celebrate their anniversary with their spring concert.
(Thanks to Carol Azizian of The Flint Journal)
Reaching Out to Smaller Towns
Lansing is far from a metropolis, but its Wharton Center for the Performing Arts is certainly one of the largest performing arts venues in Michigan and in the top ten centers (at least as far as box office is concerned) in the country. According to this Traverse City article, they're now reaching out to bring their programs into communities around the state.
(Thanks to Traverse City Record Eagle)
American Idol at the high school level
I love having multiple critics inthe same town--it's always interesting to read multiple takes on the same show. While I often find myself in agreement with my fellow critics, I sometimes scratch my head and wonder whether we saw the same show. Such as:Â My take on Music from a Sparkling Planet. My colleague's take on Music from a Sparkling Planet. Surprisingly, the critic from Detroit made it out to the small Lansing suburb and also reviewed it.