The Money Frog: A potent symbol of Bay Area greed?

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In San Francisco's Civic Center Park, there is currently an exhibition of colorful-playful animal sculptures by the Taiwanese artist Hung Yi. The piece that most strongly resonates with me right now is the one pictured left, entitled "Money Frog." With a coin stuffed in its mouth and a totally bamboozled look in its eyes, the amphibian sculpture, fashioned out of baked enamel and steel plate, represents human beings' obsession with financial gain. As the description accompanying the sculpture puts it: "richness is a goal for most of … [Read more...]

Aaron Posner’s Chekhov update destroys the fourth wall


Aaron Posner's "Stupid Fucking Bird" transports Chekhov's "The Seagull" into the 21st century with ukulele songs, expletives and plaid shirts. The dramatist's mostly cosmetic updates makes Chekhov's angsty drama more approachable for modern audiences albeit in a thoroughly superficial way. There's some good acting and a fluid mise en scene to SF Playhouse's current production directed by Susi Damilano. But I don't think Posner's version, which hews fairly closely to the original in terms of narrative -- though bafflingly avoids the … [Read more...]

Room at the Table: Black female college professors tough it out in Idris Goodwin’s “Blackademics”


In The Los Angeles Review of Books this week, academic and journalist Minda Honey writes about how Issa Rae is addressing the paucity of roles for black actresses on television and film with her hit web series and best-selling memoir "Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl." Despite Rae's considerable creds, it's going to take more than one person to make powerful roles for women of color a normal occurrence in art and media though, as Idris Goodwin's 2012 stage drama, "Blackademics," so palpably suggests. The surrealist chamber play … [Read more...]

Doing old things in new ways: Geoff Hoyle’s “Lear’s Shadow” at The Marsh

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This morning, my first in San Francisco since moving back here after a two year hiatus in Denver, I ran to the top of Mount Davidson. I had never been to Mount Davidson before, much less run up it. In fact, the tree-covered Mount had barely registered with me during my first 13-year tour of duty in this city, I'm ashamed to say, because the views from the top are spectacular.  The climb up there is intense. But I guess the time I spent in and around the Mile High City has increased my lung capacity and I more or less sprang up that … [Read more...]

Keeping the lights on in a glorious old picture palace


Just like many urban centers in the U.S., the city of Birmingham in Alabama has seen its fair share of close shaves when it comes to the destruction of gorgeous old buildings. The crowning example is The Alabama Theatre, a magnificent moving picture palace in downtown Birmingham. It dates back to 1927 and -- unbelievably for a well-used public building that's getting on for 90 years old -- it still contains many of the original details in their original locations. Also, scarily but much more believably, the place was nearly knocked down … [Read more...]

After nearly two years in Colorado I’m moving on

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It was a bittersweet thing for me to sit down last Friday to watch the public television interview I did with "In Focus" host Eden Lane via webstream. The 30-minute-long segment originally aired the previous Friday, the day I officially announced my resignation as arts editor at Colorado Public Radio. My body language is mighty awkward as I try to answer Lane's questions as honestly and politically correctly as I can. We recorded the segment a couple of weeks before I left CPR and at that stage I didn't know whether I'd be moving on or not, … [Read more...]

Would you go to a Denver theater to watch an art exhibit in NYC?


Denver art lovers will get the opportunity on Jan. 13 to experience the movie version of a blockbuster exhibition currently at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The U.S. premiere of “Matisse from MoMA and Tate Modern,” is based on these museums’ joint, “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” show which runs through Feb. 10 in New York. The film is screening in several metro area theaters including Pavilions in downtown Denver, Lakewood’s Bel Mar cinema and the Regal River Point in Englewood. It's part of an emerging trend. Arts lovers have become … [Read more...]

Throwing out actor resumes at random? How unprofessional! Colo. stage directors say

Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Helen Tamiris watching music theater auditions. (Photo: Library of Congress, public domain)

Theater auditions can be stressful not just for an actor hoping to land a gig, but equally for a director trying to fill a role. I was reminded of this reality lately when reading an article by the British stage director Phil Willmott explaining how he goes about weeding out the thousands of resumes he receives when casting his productions. When faced with a teetering pile of headshots, showreels and curriculum vitaes, Willmott admits to employing a cutthroat strategy. "I was still about 50 people over so -- and this is horrible and … [Read more...]

Can dance work on the radio?

(Photo: Stephanie Wolf)

  Over the past few weeks, CPR's Arts Bureau has been collecting 30-60 second dance pieces created specially for the radio. In our effort to explore what the traditionally visually-oriented medium of dance might look like—or rather, sound like--on the airwaves, we've solicited pieces from great local companies and institutions including Wonderbound, the CU Boulder dance department and the Colorado Ballet to represent the diverse Colorado dance community on our airwaves and online. With the help of "This American Life" host Ira … [Read more...]

Alan Rusbridger’s “Play It Again” Makes Me Want To Attempt Impossible Things

Alan Rusbridger (Photo: Wikipedia)

Whenever I feel overwhelmed and overworked, all I need to do is think of Alan Rusbridger. I just finished reading The Guardian editor's lovely, heart-opening memoir, Play It Again: Why Amateurs Should Attempt the Impossible, in which Rusbridger comes across as being a disconcerting combination of human and superhuman at the same time. Rusbridger is a newspaper editor by day -- and, as it generally turns out, night -- and an amateur pianist by whatever few minutes he can squeeze into his relentless schedule in between the never-ending … [Read more...]

Young fiddle champs display a thousand yard stare


The annual National Western Stock Show is happening in Denver right now. I ambled through the show grounds on Saturday for the first time marveling at the rows of placid livestock, the myriad booths selling everything from bandanas to sceptic tanks, and the hoards of people dressed in western drag. Eventually, after wandering through an orderly meeting of unfazed alpaca, I stumbled upon the Colorado Fiddle Championships where I spent an hour, transfixed. The Junior Division of the competition had just gotten underway when I arrived. I … [Read more...]

Should news organizations foster greater transparency about their arts coverage?


I am conducting a small but important piece of research in order to find out how members of the arts community feel about how media organizations go about deciding what arts stories to cover. Here is the link to the survey: The aim is to discover how people in the arts view the typically secretive internal processes that go on at media organizations when it comes to deciding what arts stories deserve coverage and to what extent there might be an advantage to being more open about editorial views … [Read more...]