Monday, June 18, 2007

Ah, Memory

Oh, to have the memory of a child again.

I remember when I was young how easy and fast it was to memorize things. Even as recently as five years ago I could read a script and have lines memorized within a few weeks.

I set my son's script out for him this morning and reminded him that he should work on his lines. He told me he already had them memorized. I was skeptical and so ran through his scene with him. Sure enough, he had them all memorized as well as some of his "sister's" lines. He just needs to work on his cues. Nor does he seem the least bit bothered by the language.

I'm firmly of the opinion that the younger you are when you read Shakespeare, the easier it is. You're not yet stuck in modern language patterns and are more open to diverse word arrangements. You're also far more used to figuring out vocabulary from context.

My son is also pretty excited about his role. The Lady Macduff scene which he is in is being intercut with the Macduff/Malcolm scene. He is excited that he and his sister are going to get to build a Lego castle. He also asked the director whether they would be using fake blood. Quick as can be, Mr. Neville-Andrews answered, "No, it'll be real. Everyone here will be required to donate three pints and (my son's name), make sure all your friends come on the first night..."

His father and I had a good laugh about that, however, my son informed me that it wasn't very funny. He said he wouldn't want to get all splattered with real blood. He said it would be sticky.

Friday, June 15, 2007


The Thespies have been published!

And I've decided I'm not going to blog about them except to say that there were an impressive number of high quality shows to judge among and there were times it would have been just as possible to give several awards in each category.

For those of you looking for the Thespies online (and who don't want to follow my link above), they're not listed on the arts page today (at least, not yet). You'll need to go to the Hub main page.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Arts Community Board

I learned today that there is a community arts forum at the Lansing State Journal Website. I wonder how many other people know about it. Currently there are no posts there. That can only contribute to a perception that LSJ readers don't care about the arts.

What could we do to get more of a discussion going there?

(Actually, there are two spots. The one above is for arts news in the Noise. This one is for LSJ arts and does have some comments (including a string of deleted ones). Still, it seems to me that this would be a good place for people to talk about arts issues that they care about and would like the Journal to know about.)

The Nerd

Last night I went to see The Nerd at MSU's Summer Circle.

While Larry Shue's script is a little bit dated, it's still quite fun. He has some delightful lines and the situation itself is pretty funny--especially with the twists that he throws in at the end.

It helped that the weather was beautiful last night. It was warm, but not stifling and the fireflies came out to add a little outdoor magic to the production. There was also a birthday party of 11-year-olds (or, at least, the birthday girl was turning 11) who came and sat in the front. They all wore matching pink tank tops. What a fantastic idea for a birthday party--to take the girls out to free outdoor theater. They did become a little bored with the play, but there was plenty of room for them to go play games on the nearby grassy lawn.

This was primarily a student production, directed by Lorijean Nichols who had earlier directed the wonderful Expecting Isobel. It was a very competently done, entertaining show--a nice way to spend an evening. It was very clear that Daryl Thompson, who played Waldgrave, has professional outdoor acting experience as he was the most comfortable in his performance. He had the best vocal quality and was hilarious to watch. Some of the other actors struggled with finding the appropriate volume levels, though they were audible for most of the performance.

The chemistry between Tansy and Willum could have been stronger. I didn't really believe that they cared much for each other--certainly not enough to end up in each other's arms every time Axle left the room.

Rick Stedman reminded me most of Junie B. Jones.

Molly Taggert displayed wonderful physicality as the hunched, inoffensive but tightly wound school teacher.

It's easy to see why Summer Circle has been so popular through the decades. It's an enjoyable way to spend an evening.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Arts make a city thrive

There is no better indicator of the spiritual health of our city, its neighborhoods, and the larger region than the state of the arts. The arts deepen our understanding of the human spirit, extend our capacity to comprehend the lives of others, allow us to imagine a more just and humane world. Through their diversity of feeling, their variety of form, their multiplicity of inspiration, the arts make our culture richer and more reflective.

Jonathan Fanton, President, MacArthur Foundation

Based on Mr. Fanton's criteria, Lansing need not fear for its spiritual health. This past year saw more than 90 live theatrical productions. It saw major stagings of operas. It saw a vibrant and robust symphonic season. It saw a wealth of dance concerts.

Lansing's art scene is alive and well with a diversity that could make many of its larger brethren envious. It could, that is, if people outside of Lansing knew how richly diverse our community is in its arts. For now, it remains a well-kept secret.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Michigan Shakespeare Festival Picnic

Last night I went to the company picnic for the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. This year I went as a wife AND as a mom. It's going to be so cool seeing both my guys on stage this summer, though I'm certain that I'll get weepy when I see my son murdered.

The Dominator was nervous when we first arrived at the picnic, but he quickly made friends with the girl who will be playing his sister. He told me last night that now he wasn't as nervous about working at the Festival because he has a friend.

There weren't nearly as many familiar faces at the picnic as their usually are, though there were certainly quite a few. David Blixt is returning to the festival for the first time since 2000. Paul Molnar is also making another appearance--his first since 2002. From last year's company there was Tom Foley, Nathaniel Nose, and many, many technical crew, board members, and management staff. Mark Gmazel and George Angell weren't there, but they are returning to the festival this year.

Pamela Lewis, an absolutely delightful actress and human being, was also there. She'll be reprising her role as Lady Macbeth. She is one of the most amazing conversationalists I've ever met. I adore talking to her--she's amazing.

There was also a production presentation where a model of the set and costume drawings were shown. As usual, their production values are extremely high and both shows are going to be visual treats. Henry V is set in 2007 while Macbeth will be set timeless with elements from many periods being subtly woven into the costumes and designs.

I've seen Shakespeare done in a lot of places: Lansing, Stratford, Ann Arbor (including performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company), Atlanta, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Orlando; but nowhere have I enjoyed it as much as I do the productions of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. They have such commitment to every element of the production and I've never been disappointed in a show.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Local Awards

How did June ever get to be so busy?

I remember when June was a slow month in the theater community. That's certainly not true this year. Not only is there something going on every week, but the final two weekends will see six shows going on concurrently.

It's also a time for theater awards. The City Pulse announced its nominations and they'll announce their winners this evening. They'll be holding an awards ceremony at Gone Wired Cafe from 5:30 to 8 p.m. It's $10 at the door, a price which includes a light dinner as well as the awards presentation. Those awards cover nearly all of the Lansing-area theater (if my understanding is correct, they exclude The Gate, Starlight Dinner Theater, and such out-of-city limits groups as Holt/Dimondale or DeWitt) and recognize top performances by individuals as well as total productions.

Between the Lines also announced its nominations for the Oscar Wilde awards. However, you'll have to wait until August to find out who the winners are. Their awards cover all professional theater companies in southeastern to central Michigan whose runs last at least three weeks. Lansing made out rather well this year:

Best actress in a comedy: Carmen Decker in Holiday Memories at BoarsHead and Erin Noel Grennan, "Unnecessary Farce" - BoarsHead

Best actor in a comedy: Corey Reiger, "Holiday Memories" - BoarsHead Theater

Best actress in a drama: Amy Fitts, "Trying" - BoarsHead Theater

Best actor in a drama: John Peakes, "Trying" - BoarsHead Theater

Best supporting actor in a comedy or drama: David Girolmo, "Unnecessary Farce" - BoarsHead Theater and Gary Houston, "Voice of Good Hope" - BoarsHead Theatre and Richard C. Redman, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" - Michigan Shakespeare Festival

(and yes, while I'll happily cheer for either Mr. Girolmo or Mr. Houston, I'm most excited about my husband's nomination. Have I mentioned before how completely biased I am toward the man?)

Best local professional musical/opera: "The All Night Strut" - BoarsHead Theater; Lance Roberts, director

Best actress in a local musical/opera: Jennifer Joan Joy, "The All Night Strut" - BoarsHead Theater

Best actor in a local musical/opera: Jason Richards, "The All Night Strut" - BoarsHead Theater

Best duo or trio in a local professional production: John Lepard & Tobin Hissong, "Rounding Third" - Williamston Theatre

Best Comedic Gender-Bending Performance: Mark Gmazel, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" - Michigan Shakespeare Festival

(Mark is a Lansing-based actor with incredible comic skill. His Thisby was really a performance not to be missed. Absolutely hilarious.)

And, of course, the Thespies will be coming out before too long, but as a member of the committee, I won't be talking about that one until after the results are published--if then.

Oh, and I still owe a post on 1776, don't I? I'll try not to let another week lapse before I post again.

Friday, June 1, 2007

1776 & quoting people

I've often wondered how legitimate it is to post extensions of my column here. Many of the interviews that I do with people last anywhere from five to 90 minutes. It is far more common than not that I leave out much more than I put in.

This was certainly true of Riverwalk's 1776, for I ended up taking a very specific angle (that of the cast blog) rather than the broader preview that was covered by Mike Hughes.

However, I also like to be pretty upfront about what I'm interviewing a person for. Someone agreeing to be interviewed for the Lansing State Journal does not mean that they're agreeing to be quoted in my personal blog or in some other magazine article or whatever other source I happen to publish in.

It's one of those ethical issues that I currently take the safe route on--I don't use what there is the slightest possibility I don't have permission to. Perhaps in the future I could ask the permission, however at the moment that seems somewhat arrogant.

So, while carefully traversing the line of what is acceptable to share and what is not, I'd like to touch on something that I was not able to include in my column: Director Jane Falion's discussion on what a human show this is. It's something I'm looking forward to watching for, even though it likely won't be until next week given what my schedule looks like this weekend.

She talked about how one of the strenghts of this musical is that it puts a human face on people out of our history books. We see them as being very real and very funny. We also see their fears and their foibles.

....Sorry, got interrupted while writing this. I'll try to come back and edit it later this weekend. It's Be a Tourist in Your Own Town weekend and I'll be at the art show in Old Town all day Saturday.