FlyOver: May 2008 Archives

Ain Gordon - Michelle Hurst.jpg

Actor Michelle Hurst and writer and director Ain Gordon  in Lexington's Downtown Arts Center where they are presenting In This Place . . . , a play inspired by the "alternative history" of Lexington. Copyrighted Lexington Herald-Leader photo by David Perry.

Jim Clark, the president and CEO of LexArts, invited stage writer and director Ain Gordon to come to Lexington to find a story in the city's history to tell.

It is the sort of thing Gordon has done in New York and New Jersey, and Clark has seen how it generated interest and dialogue in the communities where Gordon worked.

"I started walking around downtown and saw all of those historic plaques," said Gordon. "My first reaction was, it's all been taken care of. There's nothing for me to do. This town is covering its history."

But then he started to think about the plaques and how in most cases they couldn't possibly tell the whole story of what happened at each site. He also spotted a place that curiously did not have a marker: 245 South Limestone.

"It was as old or older than many of the houses that had markers, and it wasn't marked," Gordon said. "I thought, 'Why is that? Whose house is this?'"

Through his investigations, Gordon found the 1830s-era house was originally the home of Samuel Oldham, the first free African-American man in Lexington to own his own land and build his own house.

Now, Gordon is giving two unique markers to the house -- which was bought in 2006 by Coleman Callaway III and is being renovated.

First, there's a play, In This Place ..., which opened Thursday for a three-night run at the Downtown Arts Center. The one-woman play uses traditional theatrical techniques and multimedia to tell the story of the Oldham House through the owner's wife, Daphney.

Later this summer, a new-concept historic marker will be unveiled at the house. Rather than try to encapsulate the history into a paragraph like the familiar bronzed signs dotting downtown do, the new marker will direct viewers to a Web site full of research Gordon did while writing In This Place .... The site will also showcase video from and for the play's production shot by Lexington documentary filmmaker Joan Brannon.

May 23, 2008 10:08 AM |
CMFB - Han, Finkel.jpgWu Han (center) and David Finckel (right) at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, Ky., last year with their daughter Lilian. Photo courtesy of Finckel and Han. (Below) Meadow View Barn, a renovated tobacco barn, is the venue for the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass.


Last year, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center participated in a pioneering effort: The first Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass.

Presented by the Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts and its director, George Foreman, the fest was held at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Ky., off the beaten path for most concert goers, in a renovated tobacco barn, an atypical venue for musicians more accustomed to cozy concert halls.

And it was a smashing success.

The concerts were sold out, and the chamber music society's press representative says the musicians haven't stopped talking about Kentucky.

So, with the second edition upon us, we got on the phone with cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, co-directors of the Chamber Music Society, to talk about the second edition of the festival and their return to the Bluegrass.

Lexington Herald-Leader: Tell us about your trip here last year and what made it so great.

David Fickel: The most wonderful thing, besides being in Kentucky, and in such a beautiful place and having such beautiful weather and meeting all the new people and playing for a new audience was being present at the birth of a really exciting new project. These days, when classical music takes root in a new location and blossoms, it's wonderful news for everybody involved. We also look at our involvement at the Shaker Village there as being something that the Chamber Society is good at, something that we should do, being the kind of organization we are, we should go around and help people start new things because we can present great art in great programs and get people excited.

In the end, we all had a marvelous time. We made a lot of new friends, and we've really been thinking about it ever since.

Wu Han: In a regular concert, we usually hit a city and play for an audience of 500 to 2,000 and then we probably split the next morning and hit the next town. That's a performer's life.

CMFB - Meadowview Barn.jpg

So, to have the opportunity to base in such a gorgeous environment - it's inspiring to be in such a pure and spiritual place like the Shaker Village - and to have the opportunity to be involved in a festival is incredibly satisfying. Festival is a place you come to meet people to have exploration, to have a community that has the opportunity to mingle, to eat meals together, to talk and to share a space and exchange ideas. At the end of the festival, we know the presenters very, very well, we get to know the audience, we get to know where to eat locally, we get to hike a little bit and the audience bonded with us. We have so much to share and it's a very different sensation from just traveling from city to city and doing one night stands. The setting of the Shaker Village is fantastic. I don't have the TV to distract me with CNN and 30 minutes of updating in my hotel room. And everyday I would wake up in the same place and it is very close to nature and I get to meet my audience in the daytime.

That's unusual for musicians and I think it's unusal for the audience to be that close to the musicians.

And playing the tobacco barn is so unusual. It's very close to the earthiness of what we do using the chamber music form and its intimacy. It's a project I really treasure.

Q: Last year, before you came, you said you were curious as to what the venue was going to look like. How did the tobacco barn turn out as a place to play?

WH: I loved it. To have a little bit of cowbell and the birds flying around the Dvorak Piano Quintet is not a bad thing at all.

May 20, 2008 10:13 AM |

You can't talk to print newspaper reporters for very long these days without getting into the subject of online multimedia. It is not enough anymore, it seems, to just be able to scribble coherent and informative sentences. Now you must be able to collect audio, blog, shoot pictures and video, and edit them all together in coherent and informative packages for the Internet.
There are basically two camps on this:
  1. I'm a writer and I didn't sign up for all of this other stuff.
  2. This is an exciting way to explore new ways of telling stories.
Both sides have equally valid arguments. But arts journalists and editors should be leaning toward and looking for ways to execute No. 2. It is true, being a strong writer does not necessarily make you a good multimedia reporter. But the Internet has opened up a great new venue for arts reporting.
After all, what are the arts, except for literature: sight and sound.
But considering most local TV news outlets wouldn't cover an arts event unless the concertmaster shot the conductor or the theater burned down, arts journalism, at least in my nearly -- I hate to say this -- two decades of experience has been relegated to the written word. It's not that we don't love the written word -- look what I'm doing now -- but there have definitely been times that I have wanted to be able to show the readers how beautiful this voice was or how funny that scene was.
Budgets being what they are, a lot of midsized papers don't have resources to hire new videographers or other multimedia producers. But an industrious reporter can learn new tricks and maybe persuade some people to partner with them. At the Lexington Herald-Leader, I've enjoyed this trying to chronicle the final concerts of the Lexington Philharmonic's music director of 37 years, George Zack, in audio and video. The most recent was an audio slide show in which photographer Matt Goins and web producer Todd Van Campen enthusiastically collaborated, and the video, above, created by my former partner-in-crime, Jamie Gumbrecht.
No, they aren't perfect. But they are progress and they are showing viewers our local arts in different ways, maybe even generating some new interest.
Yes, there is a gloom and doom atmosphere in journalism in general. But in arts reporting, we should embrace the opportunities the web presents as a potential renaissance.
May 5, 2008 8:57 AM |
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