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Expect to be delighted and outraged by our incisive and sprawling coverage of culture and arts.

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    An embarrassment of riches in so many ways, the Wynwood Street Art and mural scene is outrageously sexy, flashy, ugly, posey, pretty, proliferate and quizzically content-free. The annual outdoor urban art visual carnival that accompanies Art Basel in Miami is full of hi/low expectation and spectacle, and it confidently delivers on both.

    2016-12-07-1481082125-5157862-brooklynstreetart1010jaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    1010. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    Long-limbed and shimmery sleek women are often working the sidewalks like runways, the men are carefully posing/not posing/posing with open shirts and genial braggadocio, and there are thousands, more likely millions of selfies taken in front of painted walls.

    International art fans are mixing with skater kids and hip hop heads and egg-headed social scientists and teenage marching bands and they are all gawking and interacting with loquacious mamacitas and bearded lumbersexuals; this is not your average clambake.

    Sometimes it is just weird; flourescence mixed with plaid, shot-callers and violins, strollers and stillettos, an undertone of aggression and sexual tension, salt-of-the-earth with self-admiring clubbers, perfect skin and aerosol painted hands, a whiff of weed and a sense of wonder waiting to be discovered.

    2016-12-07-1481082167-7671533-brooklynstreetartaudreykawasakijaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Audrey Kawasaki at The Hotel. Goldman Global Arts. South Beach. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    While there was a parade of 40 or so citizens and activists carrying signs and handing out flyers down the street to protest the oil pipelines taking sacred lands from native tribes and polluting natural water supplies, the thousands of art fans flooding the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami would have been hard pressed to find any Street Art talking about those topics.

    Ironically the political shockwaves this year in Miami seemed to emanate from behind doors at the fair with Sam Durant's "End White Supremacy" piece that many interpreted as a direct response to the election of a president whose followers include radical organizations that champion white supremacy. Alas, the piece was made in 2008, and although its hand-style emulates the hit and run scrawl of some graffiti on the street, it was a thoughtfully executed piece constructed as an illuminated sign.

    2016-12-07-1481082214-9674508-brooklynstreetartdavidchoejaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web3.jpg

    David Choe. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    With one very notable exception, the enormous and frightful mural featuring Donald Trump as Heath Ledger's Joker wielding a knife at the neck of the Statue of Liberty with the screaming headline "Come On... What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?" by 12 artists for The Bushwick Collective/Mana Urban Arts Project, the professionalization of Street Artists and their murals may be steering the paintings in Wynwood away from in-your-face activism.

    Granted, no one is thinking that commercially branded ventures that actually pay artists to paint will encourage the outright expression of social or political opinions - that may challenge or frighten potential customers and investors. Hotel lobbies need murals, sport cars need decorative painting, beer cans need labels. A number of liquor and lifestyle companies have invited artists here over the last few years and paid them to make their special events and products visually appealing, but little else.

    2016-12-07-1481082258-4440547-brooklynstreetartdavidchoejaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web1.jpg

    David Choe portrait of Martha Cooper and her cat Mélia. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    The newly refurbished Hard Rock stadium a few miles north of Miami features huge mural installations by international Street Artists that are curated by Goldman Global Arts, a division of Goldman Properties, the same real estate organization that has brought artists from around the world to the Wynwood Walls compound and featured their fine art canvasses in gallery expositions since the late 2000s. The pieces are opus works in an unusual setting and now sports fans are going to be up close and personal with some of the bigger names in Street Art right now.

    It would be hypocritical for anyone to expect that these artists should accept commercial work and yet disrespect guidelines about the content. Similarly, expecting artists not to seek commercial opportunities for fear of "selling out" is arrogant and unrealistic and often the convenient provenance of privileged youth who dabble in "slumming" as a rebellious lifestyle. Later they are bankers.

    2016-12-07-1481082310-5626707-brooklynstreetartdavidchoejaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web2.jpg

    David Choe. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    Even so, where's the anger right now? Why didn't you see a lot of furious diatribes, challenges to power, and mockery of small-minded thinking on the street in Wynwood - and what would it take for Street Art to embrace its power to affect social and political change?

    Just posing the question here now, again - as the topics of impending fascism, the increasing acts of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, corruption, oligarchy, state-corporatism, and a systematic eroding of respect for our institutions - all came up in conversations at bars, art openings, panel discussions, and roof parties.

    2016-12-07-1481082355-1533650-brooklynstreetartokudajaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Okuda. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    The murals you see here are often technically superb and their themes, while muted, may address some of the larger themes affecting society, but one wonders if there is an internalized censorship that we have accepted.

    These images are admittedly of a modest percentage of the hundreds of legal murals and illegally dashed-off pieces we saw this week, but that's only because we have edited for our individual aesthetics, not because of content. Also admittedly, as people in the arts, we are exhausted from the recent election and all it portends, and we were happy for some glorious eye candy to salve the psychic wounds - so maybe we were selectively seeing what we wanted to.

    Probably not too much though.

    For an art practice with some serious and proud roots in activism, the walls in Miami are curiously quiet. But they definitely look amazing.

    2016-12-07-1481082401-8364418-brooklynstreetartpixelpanchojaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Pixel Pancho. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082443-2943995-brooklynstreetartfindacjaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Findac. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082483-6583234-brooklynstreetartfaith47jaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Faith 47. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082528-2849574-brooklynstreetartfelipepantonejaimerojowynwoodwallsmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Felipe Pantone. Goldman Global Arts. Wynwood Walls. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082587-7565578-brooklynstreetartmartinwhatsonjaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Martin Whatson. The Raw Project. Enida M Hartner Elementary School. Wynwood. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082647-7347368-brooklynstreetartmrjunejaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Mr. June. The Raw Project. Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School. Wynwood. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082683-771498-brooklynstreetartinojaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    INO. The Raw Project. Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School. Wynwood. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082725-1284802-brooklynstreetartinowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    INO. The Raw Project. Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School. Wynwood. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © INO)


    2016-12-07-1481082768-3662530-brooklynstreetartshepardfaireyjaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Shepard Fairey. Mana Urban Arts Projects. Wynwood /Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082814-1395862-brooklynstreetartvhilsjaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Vhils. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082853-8873860-brooklynstreetartpichiavojaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web2.jpg

    Pichi & Avo. Detail. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082901-4834901-brooklynstreetartpichiavojaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web4.jpg

    Pichi & Avo. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082944-1734444-brooklynstreetarttristaneatonjaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Tristan Eaton. Detail. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481082995-7164078-brooklynstreetartthelondonpolicejaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    The London Police. Detail. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083035-2251618-brooklynstreetarthuemanjaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web1.jpg

    Hueman. Detail. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083081-8053318-brooklynstreetartjenstarkjaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Jen Stark. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083121-2530758-brooklynstreetartfintanmageejaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web2.jpg

    Fintan Magee. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083158-599465-brooklynstreetartfintanmageejaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web3.jpg

    Fintan Magee. Detail. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083197-1168278-brooklynstreetartfintanmageejaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web4.jpg

    Fintan Magee. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083235-5639333-brooklynstreetartavafjaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    AVAF. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083276-1208850-brooklynstreetartcasemaclaimjaimerojohardrockstadiummiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Case Maclaim. Goldman Global Arts. Hard Rock Stadium. Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083309-3140756-brooklynstreetartbordaloiijaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Bordalo II. Uninhibited Festival 2016. Wynwood /Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083341-6616201-brooklynstreetartpeetajaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Peeta. Wynwood /Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


    2016-12-07-1481083375-3878326-brooklynstreetartknarfjaimerojowynwoodmiamiartbasel2016web.jpg

    Knarf. Work in progress. Wynwood /Art Basel Miami 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)




    Our week's coverage on BSA:
    Wynwood Awakes: BSA x UN BERLIN ART BASEL 2016: Dispatch 1
    Police Arrest in Miami: BSA x UN BERLIN ART BASEL 2016: Dispatch 2
    You'll Need Good Shoes: BSA x UN BERLIN ART BASEL 2016: Dispatch 3
    Clubhouse Chemistry in a Warehouse : BSA x UN BERLIN ART BASEL 2016: Dispatch 4
    Paint, Protest, Party : BSA x UN BERLIN ART BASEL 2016: Dispatch 5
    Urban Contemporary Inside the Fair : BSA x UN BERLIN ART BASEL 2016: Dispatch 6

    This article is the result of a collaborative partnership with BSA and Urban Nation (UN).


    ____________________

    Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer's name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

    A version of this article is also posted on Brooklyn Street Art here.
    and here

    Read all posts by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo on The Huffington Post HERE.

    See new photos and read scintillating interviews every day on BrooklynStreetArt.com

    Follow us on Instagram @bkstreetart

    See our TUMBLR page

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    2016-12-08-1481227942-820501-Concertgebouw.jpg

    By Joshua Rosenblum, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, December 8, 2016

    During unsettled or troubling times, Mahler can seem like a spiritual balm, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's performance of the composer's mighty Symphony No. 5 at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, November 30, seemed particularly well timed. Mahler's towering, seventy-minute masterwork almost seems like it's three different symphonic worlds. The first two movements are the spiritual heart of the piece, with their mutually resonating and occasionally intertwining funeral marches. The third movement--at twenty minutes, the longest of the five--is a playful, succession of mostly upbeat waltzes. The fourth movement is the well-known, soulful "Adagietto," written as a love song to Mahler's soon-to-be wife, Alma. The concluding "Rondo: Finale" reasserts the sunny radiance of the third movement in a series of contrapuntally dazzling episodes.

    The famous C# minor trumpet call that opens the piece was rendered impeccably by Miroslav Petkov, who performed this and the piece's many other solo passages with the eloquence of a great storyteller. Conductor Semyon Bychkov then proceeded with a thoughtful, deliberately paced account of the piece's exquisite and profound opening theme. Only a few bars in, it already seemed like a sacred event. Bychkov's approach was reverent without being indulgent, as if he wanted to wring every drop of beauty out of the score; his scrupulous attention to inner voices brought forth lines I'd never heard before. The furious eruption at the beginning of the second movement was hair-raising, and the slow, mournful reprise of the funeral march in the cellos was heartstopping. When the full string section took up the theme near the end, it was like being at sea during a savage tempest.

    The long third movement can seem amorphous, but Bychko's ear for detail and the orchestra's precision made it difficult for the mind to wander. In the slower middle section, the musicians played their hearts out with a sense of personal involvement sometimes missing from American orchestras, and the movement's finale was full of bravura and excitement. The strings were opulent and enveloping in the "Adagietto," then shimmeringly soft. The fifth movement provided a welcome display of orchestral punch and snap. The ensemble playing veered off only slightly on occasion during one of the brisk fugal passages, but it can be difficult for players to hear each other across the vast Carnegie stage. All in all, the piece's large-scale progression from the almost painful melancholy of the first two movements to the exuberant celebration of the last had a palpably colossal impact in this memorable performance.

    Although a Mahler symphony is always going to be the main event, the twenty-minute piece that formed the concert's first half, Detlev Glanert's Theatrum bestiarum, Songs and Dances for Large Orchestra, was plenty eventful itself. After a hugely cacophonous opening chord, a growling melody for bass and muted tuba plays out against shivery interjections from upper-register violins. Subsequently, we are treated to an ongoing series of sporadic riffs and bracing orchestral sonorities that erupt into a wild funhouse ride. Glanert's treatment of his massive instrumental forces is wizardly, and the piece came off as one terrific orchestral effect after another. It almost spoiled the fun to read in the program notes that Glanert intended the piece to depict a visit to "a zoo of human beings," and that it's a "powerful symphonic commentary on inhumanity in our time." Well, there's no disputing that humans can sometimes act like animals, and the piece does have a disturbing undertone that surfaces periodically, but without the context, it emerges as a smorgasbord of the best kind of orchestral modernism, much of it very cinematic. Somewhere toward the middle, a gleefully dissonant organ chord comes smashing through the texture and cuts everything off, leading to back-and-forth between the organ and spectral echoes from the rest of the orchestra. In the concluding passage, the quiet, lush playing of a string quartet emerges from a series of slicing orchestral chords, as if a plaintive voice of humanity has broken through the harshness. This was the somber yet optimistic conclusion as the quartet faded to nothingness.

    The bows at the end of the concert were almost a show in themselves. Bychkov, who conducted the entire concert from memory, not only acknowledged the soloists but actually traversed the entire orchestra to embrace each one personally, including a trip all the way back to the bass section. It was virtuoso milking of the applause, which the roaring, standing ovation crowd was happy to provide.

    ____________________________

    The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in concert on November 30, 2016 at Carnegie Hall. Conductor Semyon Bychkov.

    DETLEV GLANERT: Theatrum bestiarum, Songs and Dances for Large Orchestra (NY Premiere)

    MAHLER: Symphony No. 5

    Cover: Semyon Bychkov conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; photo: Steve J. Sherman
    ____________________________

    Joshua Rosenblum, a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc, writes on classical music performance, theater, and related topics.

    For more ZEALnyc features, read:

    On the Birth of a Twentieth-Century Operatic Masterpiece

    Art Icons Explored in New Play 'Collaboration: Warhol & Basquiat'

    60th Anniversary of original Broadway production of 'Candide'

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    2016-12-08-1481230474-4541940-nutcracker.jpg

    ZEALnyc, December 9, 2016

    Tis the season for snowflakes and sugarplums, and if you enjoy holiday traditions, there isn't anything more traditional than attending a performance of the holiday classic The Nutcracker. This classic ballet features music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with a libretto adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by way of Alexander Dumas' adapted story The Nutcracker. The première was in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Over the years it has been restaged by an array of famous choreographers, and is even updated from time to time (see below), but it always warms our hearts and allows us to experience the holidays through the eyes of a child once again.

    Be sure to catch one of the numerous productions on view here in NYC this season -- you'll be glad you did.

    2016-12-08-1481230664-5511228-NYCBNutcracker_KrohnlaCour_c3503016.jpg


    New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker


    For a tried-and-true traditional production, the New York City Ballet presents its 'Balanchine' version which debuted in 1954 and has played virtually every year since. It runs the full month of December, with its last performance on New Year's Eve. All performances take place at the David H. Koch Theatre, Lincoln Center. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

    2016-12-08-1481230782-7981182-YorkvilleNutcracker.jpg


    Dances Patrelle's The Yorkville Nutcracker


    If you're looking for a New York-centric themed Nutcracker, then this one's for you! This year marks the 21st anniversary of The Yorkville Nutcracker set in 1895. Journey through Olde New York's most beloved landmarks including a holiday party at Gracie Mansion, dancing at the Crystal Palace in the New York Botanical Gardens and ice skating in Central Park. Performances take place at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on December 8-11, 2016. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

    2016-12-08-1481230898-2295123-GelseyKirklandTheNutcracker.jpg


    Gelsey Kirkland Company's The Nutcracker


    Former ballerina with both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, Gelsey Kirkland, established her own company in 2010 and it has been growing steadily ever since. Their annual performances of the holiday classic will take place December 10-20, 2016 at their home venue -- The GK Arts Center in Dumbo, Brooklyn. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

    2016-12-08-1481231001-6241041-TheHardnut_2000x762.jpg


    Mark Morris Dance Group's The Hard Nut


    For something completely different -- Mark Morris Dance Group's beloved retro-modern reimagining of The Nutcracker comes back to BAM for the holidays in the form of The Hard Nut. A cascade of wit and wintry beauty, this lavish, gender-bent love letter to the classic transplants E.T.A. Hoffmann's original story from the straight-laced 1890s to the swinging 70s, with raucous parties, dancing G.I. Joes, whimsical costumes, and a Waltz of the Snowflakes like no other. Based on the comic book art of Charles Burns and featuring Tchaikovsky's complete original score, performed live by the 53-piece MMDG Music Ensemble, Morris' lyrical, modern retelling playfully preserves the warm spirit of an essential holiday tradition. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

    2016-12-08-1481231122-5220856-NutcrackerRouge_photo_by_Phillip_Van_Nostrandp.jpg


    Company XIV's Nutcracker Rouge


    And now if you're REALLY looking for a different take on the classic, there's Nutcracker Rouge, presented by Company XIV. It is described as "a sexy and romantic take on the classical ballet featuring opera, circus, and burlesque." It is a "reimagining of the beloved Nutcracker tale told with erotic, sensual and opulent flair." Performances take place at The Irondale Theatre (85 S Oxford Street, Fort Greene, Brooklyn). For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

    _______________________________________

    Read more holiday features from ZEALnyc below:

    The Rockettes Shine in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

    Holiday Shopping -- Pop Up Style!

    Finding your inner Olaf at all the NYC area ice skating rinks

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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  • 12/09/16--07:49: The Bubble
  • 2016-12-08-1481226564-8977311-swedengothenburgfishmarket300px.jpgI was in Gothenburg Sweden recently just a few days after the US election. The occasion was the Annual Congress of the Association of European Conservatoires (AEC), which attracted some 350 delegates from 40 countries and 170 organizations. It may be called a European Association but the AEC also encourages and attracts leaders from conservatoires across the globe from Mexico and China, to Australia, Singapore and the United States.

    Gothenburg is situated on the west coast of Sweden and is the second largest city in the country with a population in the metro area of nearly one million. It's a very beautiful city, founded in 1621, with a style of architecture in the old part of town heavily influenced by the Germans and Dutch (the fish market in photo above). The people are charming and the food, in particular the fish, really quite exceptional. My only challenge was the weather, which unsurprisingly for November was very cold and wet. It reminded me of why I enjoy Mediterranean living these days!

    The annual Congress is always hosted by a member organization and this time the responsibility fell to the Academy of Music and Drama, which is part of the University of Gothenburg. It's a new academy founded in 2005 and now has 700 students studying the types of courses you would expect and some that you might be delighted to see developing like Music Improvisation, Folk and World Music. The students were very much in evidence during the Congress and we managed to hear them in different types and genres of music from classical to Middle Eastern.

    2016-12-09-1481297153-8469261-Pascaleandpicture300px.jpgThe AEC has a particular style and culture that encourages participation and debate with a gentle touch. Maybe this style comes from the President Pascale De Groote (in photo R), whose daytime job is Dean of the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp. Pascale is a former dancer whose warm words of welcome and commentary seemed to trace charming pirouettes around the assembly. She is a remarkable force for good in the music world and her tenure as President, which comes to a close this year, has been a great success. The AEC had planned for us a serious and absorbing three days with the opportunity to meet new and old colleagues and friends around the theme "Diversity, Identity, and Inclusion." Given events on the global political stage this theme seemed to come almost from another time and yet it provided us all with the opportunity to see and discuss some truly exemplary projects and programs.





    The Keynote speaker was the double bassist and improviser Anders Jormin whose talk really set the tone for all our discussions. He began by playing for us an improvisation based upon a Spanish folksong, which he embellished with colors and sounds I have seldom ever heard on the instrument. This is a musician at the height of his creative powers providing an innovatory path for the future of music. Then he began his talk and his arguments blended and improvised on the Congress' theme revealing its opposites of Uniformity, Conformity and Exclusion and then leading us to a resolution through Cultural Diversity, Cultural Identity and Ethnic Inclusiveness. His positive words, insights, and energy seemed to stay as a leitmotif throughout the Congress.





    Then there were the formal sessions, run in parallel so as to maximize opportunities for total immersion. I found myself attracted to discussions on the Challenges of Refugees and how music institutions could address their problems. Two quite remarkable students from the Prins Claus Conservatorium Groningen--Setareh Nafisi and Rosie Taekema, who are both just completing their undergraduate studies--were the presenters. The exceptional and highly professional video, which they have created and presented to us with such passion, was totally compelling and illustrated the Congress theme in Technicolor. These two students and their new organization The World We Live In deserve serious attention and the Prins Claus should receive many honors for encouraging such innovation and creativity.

    There were several similarly inspiring sessions such as More Music in the Classroom. This presentation focused on an innovative Dutch program that is returning the joys of singing to kids at elementary schools. I confess that I was not aware that such a simple and yet essential part of growing up had been withdrawn from nearly all the schools in Holland. The Director of this new program, Jantien Westerveld, has somehow managed to galvanize support from the great and good in her country through what I can only describe as sheer determination. She has managed to bring Dutch Royalty and a major corporate donor together to garner the necessary financial support as well as activating children, parents, teachers, musicians and even the government around the impact and power of singing in the classroom. I hope that this program will have long-term sustainability.

    The many other programs that excited me during the Congress included Beyond the West, Beyond the Classical, and The Musician as Creative Entrepreneur which both challenged orthodoxy and shared new models of practice. And surrounding all of these formal sessions were the creative collisions of networking, discussion and debate. And it was then that it dawned upon me:

    There were, in fact, two Conference discussions happening. One was in the Bubble of the Congress agenda and theme, reassuring in its structure and familiarity, redolent of tradition and history and now with the much-needed spice of new ideas and new developments. And the other was contained in conversations over coffee, dinners or a glass of wine. This conversation was about the geopolitical situation the World now faces, a time of major upheaval which seems to have the potent force of a historic change to our assumed trajectory. The US election that week was seen as the clarion call to arms for what has been described as the Populist movement, loosely defined as those totally opposed to the establishment, its social and economic elites and values.

    The US election and what this might mean for the future was central to discussions. This was added to by all the Europeans talking about the seismic shift in politics across their continent. This shift is most definitely to the Right as evinced by Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and the yawning chasms appearing with the forthcoming elections in France and the Netherlands. Even Sweden, that great bastion of Social Democracy, was not free from the rise of a third party on the Right. Italians talked about their Prime Minister's act of foolishness in calling for a referendum that might well further destabilize the EU and, indeed, on December 4 voters soundly defeated him and forced his resignation. And, of course, everyone was worried about the widening cracks to the structure of the EU created by BREXIT. Discussions were intense and concerned. But these Global political issues never found their way into the formal Congress sessions, which stayed within the Bubble. Until that is, the last session of all, the Congress dinner.

    2016-12-08-1481226500-8504979-StaffanRyden250px.jpgThe Congress had invited a local official to give a brief address. He was not mentioned in the Congress materials but I later learnt that he was Staffan Rydén head of cultural affairs of Region Västra Götaland. He was magical because with him the Bubble finally was blown away. We all sat at our places acknowledging that we are at an inflection point in the World's history, that things are about to change in ways we can't imagine as yet, and where long received and treasured values may be a thing of the past. Our speaker, with a quiet delivery devoid of any histrionics or colorful exaggerations, spoke of this time in our history as being about exceptional democratic change. But, he said, this change feels as though it has produced incompatible ways of looking at the world and its needs and at democracy. We now seemed to be faced with intolerance and exclusion, with a lack of analysis and a hatred of facts and experts. He did not predict where this would lead. He merely articulated for the whole Congress what we had all been thinking during our three days together. Is this Brave New World or the nightmare that only extreme politics can provide? The theme of the Congress was still very apparent and alive during his short speech--Diversity, Identity, and Inclusion. He quietly said his most important and most intelligent words, not reassuring us but allowing us to breath the cold air of reality. The Bubble left us as the chills of the Swedish night touched our blood.

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    I had a case of writer’s block this week. I just couldn’t get going on the two beautiful coffee table books I was going to write about. There was something bubbling just below the surface and it took me until this morning to tap into it. This blog is about art, literature, creativity and the gentle souls who are called to a life in the arts -- people whose contributions generally go unrewarded, unrecognized, and are even disparaged or ridiculed. Thirty-six (and counting) of those souls perished this week in the horrific tragedy of the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire.




    Often branded as flakes, losers or slackers, these are courageous people who turn their backs on corporate life, the slow death that a 9-5 job represents to them and the comforts that a regular paycheck bring. They live authentic lives and sacrifice greatly to do so. Instead of being rewarded for their bravery and the work that enhances all of our lives, they are forced to live marginally, often in dangerous environments.


    I’ve never been to the Ghost Ship and I don’t know anyone who has perished or is missing, but I have been one of them, know many like them, and have spent time in those environments. The Ghost Ship was a rich labyrinth of repurposed furniture, art, kilims, hanging lanterns, speakers, guitars, clocks, turntables, old pianos and pipe organs, scrap wood railings, impromptu sleeping lofts and intimate seating areas, ideal for long languorous conversation – in short, a greenhouse for creativity.


    This should not have been a place where so much vibrant young life was extinguished.


    Click here to see photographs of the Oakland Ghost Ship before the fire.


    Click here to donate to the Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghost Ship Fire.


    We all know, or should know, the role that artists play in revitalizing down-trodden neighborhoods. Artists go to those neighborhoods because it’s the only way they can afford to live and do the work they are compelled to do. After much hard work and sacrifice by artists, the neighborhoods suddenly become fashionable. Shops, restaurants and hipsters follow -- and inevitably the artists who breathed new life into these neighborhoods are forced out in search of affordable and often unsafe digs.


    Case in point is the Santa Fe Art Colony in Downtown LA. Funded by the Community Reinvestment Act, the Colony has provided rent-restricted live/work space to artists for 30 years in what was an industrial no-man’s-land. Now the area is booming with high-end art galleries, shops, restaurants and a construction boom. Sadly, the CRA restrictions are due to end soon at the Santa Fe Colony. The rent increases will force many of the artists out.


    Click here to sign a Change.org petition to help save the Santa Fe Art Colony.






    I often felt conflicted as director of a commercial art gallery. My heart was always with the artists, and I was uncomfortable in my role as go-between with collectors. Offramp Gallery wasn’t selling art at huge prices, and most of our collectors were good people who understood the circumstances of the artists. But there were those, one in particular (you know who you are), who relished trying to get that price down another five or ten percent, even while sitting in the artist’s humble studio, oblivious, salivating at the bargain he was taking away to his new mansion in Pacific Palisades.

    Another way artists are being regularly exploited is by being asked to donate works for auctions. They're already living at the poverty level, and then are asked to give their work away to raise money for various causes. It should be a standard practice for artists to receive a percentage of the proceeds (kudos to organizations that are already doing this), instead of donating 100%. They aren't greedy people, they're struggling to pay the rent.


    Let’s support art and artists in real ways. I’m not talking about headline-making auction prices, mega-galleries and the fou-fou see-and-be-seen art fairs. Click the links above to donate and support. Go on studio tours, support lower- and mid-range galleries, try to understand what artists are doing and why they are living the way they do. They deserve better and we need to see that they get it.


    Send me your art-related stories and links to your causes (janechafinsblog@gmail.com) and I will report on them.


    Cross-posted from Jane Chafin: Art, Books, Culture

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    2016-12-09-1481310644-8726689-Hansen.jpg
    Troubled teens are popular on Broadway.

    Dear Evan Hansen set in today's digital age, focuses on a socially awkward and isolated 17-year-old boy, while A Bronx Tale boasts a wannabe teen wiseguy in 1960s New York.

    Both musicals offer vastly different takes on teen angst.

    Dear Evan Hansen, at the Music Box, posits a sweet, but troubled boy. He's riddled with social tics and his caring, but overworked single mother (Rachel Bay Jones), has sought psychiatric help for his profound anxiety.

    One answer -- writing upbeat letters to himself -- has unintended consequences. Evan (an amazing Ben Platt) shows up to school with a broken arm and tellingly, no one has signed his cast. Connor (Mike Faist), a troubled loner dressed in "school shooter chic" remedies that oversight.

    But Conner's bravado masks inner torment -- and his suicide kick-starts the drama. By accident, he takes a letter Evan has written to himself. And suddenly, the wayward boy has a friend. Evan initially tries to correct the mistake, but when it gives him -- and other isolated classmates -- a new life, he's all in.

    Plus, the truth would alienate his dream girl, Connor's sister Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss).

    Snarky Jared (Will Roland) creates a false reality to cement the "friendship" and thanks to social media, where memory goes viral, Evan discovers purpose and identity. Connor's grieving parents (Michael Park and Jennifer Laura Thompson), heartened by the collective sympathy, get much-needed solace.

    In fact, this production is a paean to the lonely and isolated, a fervent and lyrical plea to remember that everyone matters. "Is anybody waving back at me?" ends the song "Waving Through a Window." The moving music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul touchingly capture the pain and heartbreak of kids left outside the circle.

    The ironies abound, and the nuanced performances underscore how we cling to meaning and purpose -- even when it has dubious origins. Fake news, murky truths contribute to this 21st-century story where community, however its defined, becomes everything.

    Michael Greif's charged direction, coupled with David Korins' spot-on set design and an excellent cast, deliver an absorbing show.

    The Hansen ethos -- "No one deserves to disappear" -- is memorable. And explains why audiences are gripped from the first moment to the last.

    Conversely, Chazz Palminteri's autobiographical A Bronx Tale, now at the Longacre, morphed from off-Broadway play in 1989 to Hollywood movie to Broadway musical. 2016-12-09-1481310687-9763119-Bronx.jpg
    The story takes place over eight years in the gritty Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, when young Calogero (a knockout Hudson Loverro) witnesses a murder outside his tenement.

    The shooter is Sonny (an appealing Nick Cordero) the neighborhood Mafia big shot who takes the boy under his wing.

    Sonny is treated like a king, as is Calogero, to the consternation of his father (Richard H. Blake), a decent hardworking bus driver who orders his son to stay away from Sonny and his crew, guys named Eddie Mush and JoJo the Whale.

    But in a tough neighborhood, the lure proves too great. "The working man's a sucker," Sonny tells the youngster.

    Once Calogero hits 17 (Bobby Conte Thornton) and high school, he hides his brains and ability, fearful his friends will mock him. But as he embarks on his own adult adventures, he seeks advice from Sonny, who balances menace with the occasional tender moment.

    While the story line poses a classic dilemma between good and bad, the execution is conventional and Sergio Trujillo's choreography, which was electric in On Your Feet!, seems tired. Alan Menken's pop score is melodious -- "One of the Great Ones," Sonny's tribute to women is especially catchy -- but the show offers little dramatic tension until the last 20 minutes.

    Still, the popular story, co-directed by Robert DeNiro and Jerry Zaks, has its fans and the solid cast, with strong performances from Thornton and the magnetic Cordero, won't disappoint them.

    Photos: Evan Hansen: Michael Murphy / A Bronx Tale: Joan Marcus

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  • 12/11/16--17:33: A Faint Resemblance
  • EDITOR'S NOTE: PLEASE USE THIS IMAGE FOR SOCIAL MEDIA THUMBNAIL
    http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2016-12-07-1481114354-5422817-3.jpg


    2016-12-07-1481114354-5422817-3.jpg



    "Ethemea" Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina | image by petroskoublis.com




    Memories are notes, sent to us by someone else.

    Who is the one that possesses these notes? Could it be our present self or the one who first experienced the event? Or someone else, maybe somewhere in the middle, the one who possesses a memory faint enough but not completely faint. If we can sense the difference between them, then how many selves could there be and why they are so different among each other, complete strangers within a sequence based only on a faint physical resemblance? None of them is.


    What do you have to do?
    Pack your bags,
    Go to the station without them,
    Catch the train,
    And leave yourself behind.


    Wei Wu Wei, Open Secret, 1965


    It may take a while to realize what already exists.

    It is easier to notice the temporary, to observe and acknowledge what acquires form before our eyes, than what preexists our experience. The Self is present before all forms take shape, solid and coherent, in a motherly connection with the whole existence, unmanifested within the absolute. It doesn't change its form because form is something that takes place within its essence. It doesn't get revealed because, instead, it is the actual force that reveals everything else. Aristotle, in his Metaphysics, talked about the Unmoved Mover, the primary force that moves the whole cosmos without the need of moving itself. It is something that causes all the manifestations in the universe without the need of getting manifested itself.

    ἐπεί δέ τό κινούμενον καί κινοῦν καί μέσον,
    τοίνυν ἔστι τι ὃ οὐ κινούμενον κινεῖ,
    ἀΐδιον καί οὐσία καί ἐνέργεια οὖσα

    And since that which is moved and is a mover is thus an intermediate,
    there is something which causes motion without being moved,
    and this is eternal, a substance and an actuality


    Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book Lambda




    Our physical presence follows a process of adaptation, first with the reflexes of our body, then with the functions of the mind. We witness the constant transition of our body from one stage to the other and we sense the transition of our mind, from one state to the other. An emotional connection is inevitably developed, a connection with what it was, what it is and what it will be, concerning the process of life as we experiencing it. Memories are an emotional value of this connection. To whom these memories belong though? Do they belong to who we were, to who we are, or to who we'll be? They really have no owner, because there is not one.

    The Self has no identity, because it already is before all things and not after them.

    As we grow older, moving with a steady pace from one stage of our life to the next, we keep finding ourselves behind a veil of identities. These are the identities our mind adopts after our private and social environment. During the second century AD, the Stoic philosopher Hierocles proposed the circle model of identity. This model states that we can actually see our identity as a system of concentric circles. The first circle is placed around the Self, the second one around the immediate family, then the extended family, the local community and eventually the whole humanity. Within these concentric circles we start to feel a sense of affinity, something that came to be known among the Stoics as Oikeiôsis. This process starts from our birth and gradually expands from the inner circle towards the outer ones. This is the way our identity is being developed. And it all starts from the birth. Hierocles, in his work Elements of Ethics, explains how this process is initiated, a mere act of perseverance.

    Kαι τοῦ πρός τό σωτήριον ἑαυτοῦ συν αἴσθησις ἐστιν ἡ λελεγμένη οἰκείωσις • δίο φαίνεται τό ζᾧον ἅμα τῇ γενέσει αἰσθάνεσθαί τε αὐτοῦ καί οἰκειοῦσθαι ἑαυτῷ καί τῇ ἑαυτοῦ συστάσει

    And the sense of self-preservation arises out of affinity , the so called oikeiôsis; an animal when it has received the first perception of itself immediately becomes its own and familiar to itself and to its constitution

    Hierocles, Elements of Ethics


    The mind adopts these identities in an effort to realize our very own existence. It tries to familiarize ourselves with our environment and this eventually becomes a process of acquiring an identity. Indeed, it is easier for the mind to notice the temporary, the occurring one, than what preexists its perceptive functions. In Hierocles' concentric circles, the only constant reference is the Self, since all the others are subject to unpredictable conditions. Awakening is the acknowledgement of this system and it means that we can reach back to the purity of our existence by abandoning the forced identities of our environment. We don't have to become someone else. We only have to look inside us.


    Ἄναγε ἐπί σαυτόν καί ἴδε

    Withdraw into yourself and look

    Plotinus, First Ennead, Sixth Tractate



    We are not the ones presented in our memories.

    There is a little story that the Greek biographer Plutarch shares with us, in his book about Theseus. It is a paradox that reflects on the nature of identity. He talks about how the people of Athens tried to preserve Theseus' ship, an effort to honor their beloved hero. They did a good job preserving it down to the time, it is said, of Demetrius Phalereus, the governor of Athens about a thousand years later. They had done everything that was possible but because of the bad condition of the ship they eventually had to take away the decayed old planks and replace them with new ones. After this happened, philosophers started questioning the identity of the ship, debating about either it was still the same ship or a different one. This paradox can be applied to our own identity, not only in terms of our constant physical transformation, but also in terms of how our mind is developed. Our mind changes its identity, influenced by its growth and environment. It can change over the years, a few or many times, but until we abandon this process and reach back to the purity of the Self, we keep following the tracks of this process.

    All these transformations of identity are in fact none, since identity is only a mental function and not an actual fact.

    When we return to the purity of what we are, free from identity, it is when we really understand that we didn't really own anything before that.

    We never were.

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    2016-12-07-1481131057-6647594-YNSphotoJanRegan.jpg Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the podium (photo Jan Regan)

    To finish out 2016 before traditional seasonal concerts commence, Philadelphia Orchestra musical director Yannick Nézet-Séguin programmed a weekend of raucous Russian masterpieces by those rebels with a musical cause- Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. This on the heels of a series of vibrant performances over the fall of French masterpieces by Saint-Saens, Ravel and Berlioz, the maestro warming up the Philadelphians for his three week mid-season French repertory festival.

    But this was a night for Russian icono-classics starting with Prokofiev's Piano Concerto no 2 composed at the beginning of the composer's international success as a concert pianist. The concerto reveals so much about Prokofiev's adventurous musical spirit, not to mention his display his concrete structural innovations.

    Pianist Yefim Bronfman has played this work with distinction with many orchestras and his interpretive artistry is all about Prokofiev's sensibility that includes the work's squirrelly precision in piano solos that build like a time-lapse musical tree that can go anywhere. There were moments in the first movement when he seems in his own zone scrambling piano-orchestral tempos. Bronfman's anvil fingers moving over the keyboard at mach speed.

    There is more piano-concerto clarity when Prokofiev's heavy atmospherics give way to airier orchestral architecture- in the second movement's spidery piano riffs, are child's play for Bronfman, even played with a hint of salon vamping. Precision edges return as the orchestra thunders in waves of symphonic density, momentarily burying the piano, then the orchestral halts, leaving the soloist mystically floating on. For many who just know Prokofiev's most frequently war-horse ballet-concert repertoire, this reveals another musical realm of the composer.

    As demanding as the concerto is, it was just a warmup for Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4, which is indeed, in its scope, a glittering world of musical truth and invention, Shostakovich at his most narrative and uncensored. He was forced to censored himself, pulling the piece from its premiere in 1936, after the disastrous reception of his "Lady Macbeth" after Stalin walked out of the performance and it was covered by Pravda, the official Soviet paper as "Muddle Instead of Music" in Pravda, the official Soviet paper. The composer not wanting to loose his income or risk worse His knew his 4th symphony would be heard with jaundiced ears as too musically liberated. The symphony wasn't premiered in Russia until 1961, long after Stalin's death. Eugene Ormandy conducted its US premiere with the Philadelphians in 1963.

    Indeed, Shostakovich's 4th just engulfs your senses and even though there are several concussive sections, its power has nothing to do with the volume. It is a fireworks display of Russian musical narratives that Shostakovich displayed in such film scores like his 1929 score to New Babylon exemplar of the composer's roiling cultural motifs. In the 4th symphony's editorializes with its blazing marches, drifting waltz-time, passionate abstractions and other ironic mise-en-scenes that would politically scandalize Stalin's regime. Yes, then as now, art is freedom's voice and weapon.
    Meanwhile, Nézet-Séguin turns this orchestra way up, but never at the expense of crystallized instrumentation, Shostakovich's under-streams do not disappear into the strings.

    The fast tempos of the string passages are masterfully led by concertmaster-violinist David Kim and associate principal Juliette Kang in tandem the breadth of the lower strings coming forth in vivid counterpoint. This symphony also a chance to show off the orchestra's technical artistry among the woodwinds and brass, repeatedly delivering in this performance, Shostakovich's musical, and often volcanic polemics.

    This season Nézet-Séguin is programming large, modernist works, that really rattles the artistic rafters and show how muscled this orchestra out of the safe symphonic concert zones.

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    If you think the choreography at Boston Ballet's transcendent, not to be missed Nutcracker, now at the Opera House, is awesome, you should see the choreography behind the scenes.

    Backstage is a city of darkness, movement, and organization, as if a great unseen hand were directing the movement of hundreds of dancers, twice as many costumes and props, stagehands, ballet masters, physical therapists, makeup artists...the list goes on and on.

    Here's what happens behind the scenes to make The Nutcracker come to life.

    At 10:45 on a recent Sunday morning, the entire Boston Ballet company gathered on stage at the Opera House for its daily 90-minute "company class," led by one of their ballet masters.

    Boston Ballet, like many other ballet companies in the USA, has a live accompaniment for each company class. Smaller companies may choose to sacrifice class accompanists as a cost cutting measure. A pianist affords the dancers the chance to practice performing to live music. It also gives the teacher extra flexibility in terms of tempo, but more importantly, music is the backbone of dance. It is a symbiotic relationship.

    Company classes typically consist of 30 minutes of stretching and barre exercises, followed by combinations in the center of the room and across the floor exercises. This allows the teacher to shape each exercise, finding the emphasis, tempo, and end goal of accomplishing the steps. You come away from a company class, watching the amazing ways in which the dancers can move, stretch, spin, simply get their feet over their heads, and the PGA slogan comes to mind.

    These guys are good.

    After class, the company, and the Opera House, ready themselves for two performances of The Nutcracker, which means that more than five thousand attendees will witness ballet magic over the course of the afternoon and early evening.

    More than 220 Boston Ballet School children are divided into three casts of 60, which means that on any given December Sunday, you've got 120 sets of parents dropping off and picking up kids in the narrow alley outside the Opera House's stage door.

    Now the dancers prepare. While there's no set order for who goes into costume and makeup at any given time, somehow all find their way into their costumes, hair pieces, and makeup for their first role in the show. Some of the dancers will perform multiple roles, which means costume and makeup changes in small, curtained off areas backstage.

    In the wigs and makeup room, the dancers create their transformations from normal, extremely fit-looking 20-somethings to the various characters they'll be playing. Upstairs, during those rapid costume changes, dressers using iPhone flashlights transform the dancers from one role to the next. Somehow, everybody is ready on time.

    In a room adjacent to the downstairs makeup studio, Boston Ballet has a physical therapy room where two full time physical therapists work with the dancers. They employ the same sort of muscle relaxation technology used by Olympic athletes. Ballerinas lie back on chaises, their legs ensconced in what look like long, black tubes, which break up lactic acid in their muscles and otherwise prepare them for a strenuous afternoon of dance. They're in makeup, they're texting, and they're chillin'. The equipment is called NormaTec, apparently because the mother of the creator of the devices is named Norma.

    Back upstairs, the musicians have taken their places in the rather spacious, by theater standards, orchestra pit. They put themselves through their final warmups of the Tchaikovsky score.

    "We do 43 performances, but thank God it's Tchaikovsky," says Maestra Beatrice Jona Affron. "If it had been a second-rate conductor like Minkus, December would be pretty miserable!"

    She jokes that she's better known for the back of her head, which faces the audience, than her actual face.

    The stage manager, who "calls" the show from a consule just offstage right, announces five minutes until show time. The dancers in the opening scene take their places. Stagehands make sure that the set and lighting (and props) are ready, and then as has been the tradition for centuries, they pull on the rope.

    It's curtain up, and the ballet begins.

    Backstage, most of the dancers are in fairly constant motion in the minutes before they go on stage, stretching, twirling, or otherwise practicing their routines.

    Ballerinas take over the large freight elevator that is converted into a warm-up area after load-in is complete, about 20 feet from the stage's right wings, and take time to stretch, text, and chat prior to their entrances.

    A gaggle of adolescent girls, in white reindeer costumes, complete with white antlers on their heads, gaze with fascination at the ballerinas, perhaps wondering if one day they will be as long and lean as the professional dancers.

    Children Supervisors bring lines of children of various ages up onto the stage for their scenes. Yes, there have been moments of fear for some of the kids, but today, everything goes off like clockwork.

    Early in Act I, a male dancer in a bear suit has his head fastened on by a dresser. Stagehands pack him into a box and moments later he's wheeled out on stage, where he explodes from the box and dances. Dancing with a bear head is hard because as you spin, you have no reference for the locations of the front or the back of the stage.

    Another stagehand says, "Merde, girls," the traditional ballet term for encouragement, to a group of teenage girls about to go on.

    Here are two girls, talking animatedly about moves they're about to make on stage, standing tutu to tutu.

    At the end of Act I, two snow machines, strategically placed high above the front and the back of the stage, drop fake snow. Because of the way they are positioned, it appears to the audience that the entire stage is covered in snow.

    In Act II, two principal dancers, a man and woman, finish after flying leaps, lifts, and other exhausting moves. As soon as they are safely offstage, they drop to the floor, temporarily exhausted.

    Six stagehands put ski boot-like stilts on the male dancer playing Mother Ginger and then pull on ropes; her vast "skirt" descends from its storage place 15 feet in the air and fastens around the dancer, in full women's makeup, corsets, and push-up bra. They then usher him toward the stage.

    Overall, the mood backstage, from curtain up through the taking of bows, is one of energized calm.

    Nobody needs to be told when to come in; if dancers know anything, it's how to listen for their entrances. The entire show goes off like clockwork. No flaws, no cases of nerves. The audience goes home enchanted. Before they are out of the building, the stagehands are already resetting the stage for the 5:30 show.

    The most amazing thing about life backstage at The Nutcracker is how seamless and invisible all this is for the audience.

    After having witnessed Boston Ballet's flawless Nutcracker from behind the scenes, the only remaining question is why anyone would miss the opportunity to catch one of the 30 remaining performances from "front of the house."

    For further information, www.bostonballet.org.

    2016-12-07-1481143011-2151602-IMG_2924.JPG
    From left to right: Michael Levin, Delia Wada-Gill (Clara), and Ji Young Chae (Dew Drop)

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  • 12/11/16--17:52: Everyone Needs Hope
  • There are many times in the course of an artist's life where they just cannot work, the reasons may be external or internal but it is a phase that must be ridden out or overcome.
    In the past few years I have had quite a few conversations with artist friends who have stopped working due to life circumstances. Chatting with a friend who is getting a divorce, after listening to her concerns and stories about the kids, the house, her plans for the immediate future, I ask how is your work going. "My work!? I am not working." I suggest that this is probably temporary, and she replies "I don't miss it. I think I'm finished." I thought to myself - oh no you are not, but of course I did not say that.
    I have a friend, a really great artist, who is a single mom with two children, one adolescent and the other pre-adolescent, she is so busy with raising them ("they suck the life out of me") and her work responsibilities,that she has not done any art work in a while. One day she spoke of her frustration, I promised to harass and encourage her to get back into the studio. Subsequently, we have gone together to open studios and openings to inspire and and encourage both of us. In going through a series of open studios, one day we met up with a woman of advanced years, still active still producing fantastic work. My friend discussed her distraction and frustration. The wise woman counseled my friend, telling her, it is still all there and will come out when you are ready. She told her start small, just some little activity, don't reach for high art, just start where you are and pretty soon it will open back up for you.
    I have been through those stages, I worked a full time job while in a marriage that demanded a lot of my time and attention, had a baby, went through a divorce and raised that wonderful child. Sometimes all you can do is put the creative process on hold and find satisfaction in what life brings you and know that your life experience is nourishment for the time that will follow.
    I did start back in the studio slowly and increase as time became more available. And by that I mean I grabbed time, made time, disciplined myself to work when sometimes I wanted to read a book or watch TV. I am not a saint or a hero, I just wanted to get back to painting.

    Time, attention, energy and focus, is what is needed for making art. People who do not make art, do not understand the level of energy that is absolutely needed. Physical, emotional and mental energy are all mandatory. No, you can not use time in the studio to relax from a long hard day at work or at life.

    The solutions to being blocked are as varied as the artists experiencing and working through a block.
    In my own life I have learned that sometimes I just can't work in the studio. I carry ideas in my head, sometimes I sketch, sometimes I take photos of something that inspires me at the moment, so I can have it later when I have the time and energy and focus needed to work.
    I can tell you that when I lived in the city and had my studio in my living space, I was literally living in the studio, I had to go out to get away from the art I was working on (and then I carried it in my head). When ever I was stumped, not knowing where to take a painting, or how to begin, I would just sit with the painting, sitting and looking, sitting and thinking, or sitting and reading (whatever the book of the moment was) or just sitting. Waiting to find the entry point to working and solving that problem.
    I am less likely to do that these days, as there are more partitions in my life these days. Now when I go into the studio there is always a period of acclimating to
    that environment. What is constant is the presence of the work in the back of my mind when I am not looking directly at it.

    Artists know that you must have the right balance to begin to work ( not a perfect balance , none of us will live long enough, you make do with what you have .
    Still when the balance goes off because of external factors or one's emotional reaction to life, and you finally have some time carved out to work and you come up dry, the reaction,more often than not, is to throw up your hands and worry what has happened? "How can I get back to my work?" Or to give up "I can't do this anymore."

    This reaction to external factors, is a variety of artist block.

    All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Maya Angelou


    I suppose there are as many reasons to paint as there are painters. For most of the painters I know personally, the act of painting is a means of making sense of the
    the shared journey of existence. And when that external shared journey is full of overwhelming events, well you get overwhelmed.

    The recent past has been particularly trying for many, and I have seen many postings and heard many discussions among artists saying they have no idea how to proceed.
    Last week when the events of the external world asserted itself, I needed to find an internal space from which I could face the world, from which I could do some work.
    Lots of mediation helped.
    Still, when I decided to get to work, I found that I could not continue with the paintings that were in progress in my studio. Sitting and waiting was not going to work this time. I decided to take a hint from that wise woman and start small. I also decided to work on something that was not trying to expand the work to places I had not explored yet, but to stay with comforting... images of sky and cloud.

    Nothing ground breaking here. But sometimes healing is the order of the day.

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    After hearing rumors around school that some of my students thought I'd 'tricked them' in my Making Art in the Internet Age class, and getting direct in-class blowback regarding my blogs here on Huffington Post, I thought it was time to turn this fifth installment over to my students. Here are their thoughts:

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    NINA ULETT


    "Upon reading Scott's third edition of the "Making Art in the Internet Age" on the Huffington Post, I was angry quite frankly. I found myself astonished that someone I respected would misrepresent me and my peers in a public setting. However I knew any rash response to this would immediately get me labeled as another "fragile," "wuss[y]," "coddled" millennial, as that was already happening in the comments section of Scott's Facebook post. Anything I had to say would be excused as the ramblings of yet another overly offended young person upset by "the haters," which is a whole other exhausting point in itself that I'll get to. So weeks passed and the class went on and every time we had a discussion I couldn't help but be aware of the fact that anything being said was potentially a story. I tried my best to take things at face value but instead I just became hyperconscious of my potential as a quote taken out of context. What finally made me change my mind about posting was rereading Scott's first article and realizing that maybe the odds have been stacked against me and my classmates from the very beginning. If Scott wants a critique than I'd be happily obliged to give him one." 

    The link to Nina's full blog is here on her Tumblr page.


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    CHARLIE ANTOLIN


    "First off, Scott is a great teacher and he is one of the most skilled artists I have ever met. I took this class because I admire him as an artist, but it turns out that social media may not be for me. It surprised me that Scott was teaching this class because I didn't realize he was so interested in social media. For many people in the younger generation, it seems that their social status depends almost entirely on their presence on social media. For myself, social media reminds me of my days at high school, and I desire to get as far away from it as possible.

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    Charlie Antolin drawing of the class in session.


    During the semester we have analyzed what kinds of imagery works online. It seems that images are becoming more simple and that group figure compositions, which Scott is known for, do not do as well online. Being able to witness Scott up close making a painting from life much better communicates his talent than a photo online. I think it is best to not be persuaded by what is popular on social media. People should do what they think is important without regard for social media trends, because it is hard to be sincerely passionate otherwise. I would rather paint like the old masters and be unpopular. Being unpopular is actually very liberating because I feel free to paint whatever I want and make mistakes. I understand that social media is necessary for the business side of the art world, and I do feel that this class has given me insight on how social media works. I am getting my education at LCAD because I am interested in traditional techniques which seem to have steadily lost popularity in the last 100 years. I am studying this type of painting not to get likes on Instagram, but because I find it genuinely interesting."


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    SHANNON FODY


    "You can't win the game if you never play. The Internet is like the lottery, and although some of us may never hit the "jackpot", have a post go viral and end up on the Ellen Show, that isn't to say there isn't anything to gain from creating an online presence. Scott Hess' Making Art in the Internet Age course proves just that. When I first entered the course I had 60-some followers and most of them were people I knew directly. A lot of my posts had at most 30 likes and my biggest fan was my best friend's mom. Life was good then, I have no complaints or regrets. However, what I was missing was the opportunity to share my art with people who would otherwise never get to see it. As I became more active on social media, I gained followers, feedback and confidence. I began to figure out what about my work people enjoyed and what works in general were more popular than others. Sometimes things that I really personally enjoyed flopped on the Internet and other times things that I didn't want to post (but did so anyways to meet the quota for the class) did surprisingly well. As we are slowly approaching the end of this course I have 650-some followers, I was a part of my first group show and was contacted through social media about a commission. These things probably would've happened eventually, or so I'd like to think, but the point is that they wouldn't have happened as quickly as they did without the help of social media and this class. To bring this back full circle, the Internet is a place of endless opportunity, but you must put yourself out there in order to receive them. This class has brought me not only success but also a method of practice that I will continue to enforce even after the course is over. Now if only I could have some success in the real lottery..."


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    YALDA SEPAHPOUR


    Yalda's Youtube video post about the class can be found here, and more of her work here.

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    JUSTIN TECSON


    Diagnosed with deafness at age two, I only knew of a world without sound. It seemed impossible to get past superficial relationships because people around me did not know how to communicate beyond "Hello" and "Goodbye." I was convinced my life would forever be lived in solitude. Painting bridged a realm that created opportunities for deeper relationships. Art eliminated the struggle for words and voice, and more importantly helped me to be seen and heard. Painting has defined who I am and opened new doors to new people to show them my personality, my thoughts, my emotions, myself.

    This class, Making Art in The Internet Age, has equipped me with strategies and tools to optimally utilize our prevalent Internet Age. The internet has established my artistic presence and propagated world attention by allowing me to showcase my work consistently. Social media such as Instagram has extended my outreach to as many people as possible. It lends a tremendous opportunity to be found by potential galleries for consideration and representation. As a consequence, it stamps out barriers of being deaf as I am solely evaluated by my abilities and capabilities through the display of my best work. For an emerging deaf artist like me, internet marketing will continue to be a critical role in my success.

    The uniqueness of the deaf disability is not limited to the inability to hear. It spawns a multitude of high-risk, at-risk, low-education standards. There are not that many of us who are college-bound, let alone successful in higher education. To learn of a deaf peer thriving on the world stage transcends disabilities. So, in and through my art I have defined myself and have dropped my pebble in the water of humanity, rippling, spreading and flowing into mine and others bright future.

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    "I create works with the perspective of admiration for nature. I believe that my job is to convey the richness of nature to viewers." Japanese artist Nobuo Sekine's sculptures defy gravity. Learn how he got the idea to elevate a rock - and make it fly.

    "Even in the simplest structures, multiple landscapes or thoughts can be expressed," says Sekine, whose work explores the encounter between natural and industrial materials, focusing on the interdependency of these elements and the surrounding space. His inspiration comes partly from Japanese landscape gardening, in which natural rocks feature as a main component. "One day, as one large rock that was on the ground was being moved and lifted into the air, at that exact moment, I had an epiphany that this action had changed the meaning of its existence and became a different entity. The experience translated into my work," Sekine explains about 'Phases of Nothingness' (1970), the sculpture seen in this video, permanently installed in Louisiana's sculpture park.

    Nobuo Sekine (b. 1942) is a leading Japanese sculptor based in Tokyo, Japan and Los Angeles, USA. He is the recipient of multiple prizes and represented Japan at the 1970 Venice Biennial. His work has been shown at major art museums worldwide, including the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan, The Guggenheim Museum, New York USA, The Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark.

    Nobuo Sekine was interviewed in his studio and on location in Los Angeles, August 2015. Questions by Christian Lund.

    Cameras: Robert Becraft and Pascual Sisto
    Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

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    In a culture full of digital images and copies, painting is a "singular lens with the capacity to reflect an individual's vision," says American artist Terry Winters. Hear how he applies a "painterly approach" to his work with printmaking and drawing.

    Painting, drawing and printmaking, says Winters, are all the same thing: "they come from a fundamental ambition to engage material and imagery in order to produce some sort of transformation." Active on the New York art scene since the 1970s, Winters lists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Barnett Newman as strong sources of inspiration. Painting, he says, "if anything, is part of a long, ongoing conversation in which one attempts to say something new inside of what has already been said."

    Terry Winters (b. 1949) is an American painter, draftsman, and printmaker. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2013 and his work has been shown at the Tate Gallery and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA, Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark.

    Terry Winters was interviewed by Anders Kold at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2015.

    Camera: Klaus Elmer
    Edited by: Klaus Elmer
    Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

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  • 12/12/16--06:48: The Handmaiden
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    Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden is a piece of Victorian pornography as postmodern novel in movie form. It immediately recalls Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac in the way it transforms self-consciously literary themes into filmic poetry. The Handmaiden, for instance, is composed of three parts which perform the cinematic equivalent of the unreliable narrator in a novel, with each part rethinking the narrative and presenting earlier scenes both with more information and from an ever so slightly skewed point of view. Like Nyphomaniac, The Handmaiden shares a fascination with the reticulations of perversion--the eroticism, in the case, symbiotically interwoven with the varying characters' ambitions. The grander theme is Art, in this case the art of deception or forgery. Under the veneer of beauty and a highly evolved esthetic the movie presents a crew of criminals who are each working a con. The assorted talents could easily fit the bill for a Korean version of The Threepenny Opera. The Handmaiden, Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) is a pickpocket, who is only posing as a servant, but her mistress Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) is running her own scam, playing the part of a kind of aristocratic rube when she turns out to be the exploiter rather than the victim in the scheme that underlies the plot. Uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong the sadistic book collector, who fashions himself a Japanese aristocrat, and Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) are examples of self-invention since neither is what he claims to be. All the artistic imposters recall Gide's Counterfeiters. There are side themes of training in art, obedience and actually lovemaking which coalesce around the character of Lady Hideko who is taught from a young age to read erotic literature at soirees organized by her uncle and who in the course of the film finds herself in a torrid relationship with her nemesis. The movie is complexly conceived and lush in every regard. It takes place at the time of the Japanese occupation in the l930's and Korean is conceived of as the demotic and less beauteous language. Both Japanese and Korean are spoken and the subtitles themselves appearing in either yellow or white depending on the language are cleverly used to create their own antiphony. In this regard the movie has the feel of a Gregorian chant with each of the strands unfolding competing narratives of corruption.














    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

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    My best of Jazz List for 2016:


    Another year has passed and many would say 2016 was a very tough year for music, especially with the loss of so many influential musicians this past year. The music has always been remarkably resilient and this year is no exception, with many fine new artists having fabulous debut albums, some mid-career artists giving encore performances, some of the music's elders still producing beautiful music and a plethora of recently uncovered archival treasures from some of the music's finest players in their heyday.

    This year I attended many fine performances given by a variety of musicians and I tried to further embed myself into the thriving, local Atlanta jazz scene, where I now reside. I give a special call out to two young musicians, Darren English and Morgan Guerin, who make Atlanta their home and who both had compelling debut albums this year.These young firebrands give us a glimpse into the future of jazz and from where I stand the future is very bright indeed.

    With the avalanche of self-produced cds being released these days, I find my desk overflowing with new material and frankly it's a daunting task to give each release the careful and thoughtful attention its deserves. That said, this is my very subjective choice for the of best of jazz in 2016. Wherever possible I have linked the albums to a video or audio clip that should be representative of the music on the album. I have been greatly privileged to have heard and enjoyed this music and I hope you too will find some if not all of it enjoyable too. I am happy to report that this music we call jazz is alive, well and moving ahead very nicely. Happy Holidays and happy listening to all of you.

    In no particular order, here is my picks for the best of jazz 2016.

    Rhythm Future Quartet: Travels

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    Orrin Evans: #knowingishalfthebattle

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    Warren Wolf: Convergence

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    Morgan Guerin: The Saga

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    Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens

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    Julian Lage: Arclight

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    Fred Hersch Trio: Sunday Night at the Vanguard

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    Darren English: Imagine Nation

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    The Claudia Quintet: Super Petite

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    Denny Zeitlin: Early Wayne

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    https://soundcloud.com/dennyzeitlin


    John Chin: Fifth

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    Larry Young: In Paris the ORTF recordings

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    Frank Catalano and Jimmy Chamberlin: Bye Bye Blackbird

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    https://play.spotify.com/artist/2Ulzem1pHVuPImib0aTHIv

    Matt Ullery's Loom/Large : Festival

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    Marc Copland: Zenith

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    Dave Anderson : Blue Innuendo

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    Lori Bell: Brooklyn Dreaming

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    John Beasley: Monk'estra Vol1

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    Herlin Riley: New Direction

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    Alyssa Allgood: Out of the Blue

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    Leboeuf Brothers + Jack Quartet: Imaginist

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    Jay Azzolina/Dino Govoni/Adam Nussbaum/Dave Zinno: Chance Meeting

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    Michael Blanco: Spirit Forward

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    https://play.spotify.com/album/427WEQY0kYEFx3H5GQQwWs


    Bill Evans: Some Other Time

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    Jeff Parker: The New Breed

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    Arthur Vint & The Associates: Through the Badlands

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    https://soundcloud.com/dennyzeitlin

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    Judging by the heaps of praise for projects, including Governors Island in New York City, Chicago's Navy Pier, the Lower Rainier Vista at the University of Washington in Seattle, and plans for Dallas' hugely ambitious 10,000-acre nature district, infrastructure is sexy. Moreover, these projects are evidence that landscape architects continue to grow as a leading force in shaping our cities, dealing with complex environmental issues and the locus of exceptional design.

    2016-12-10-1481329478-4729814-NY_NY_GovernorsIsland_51_CharlesABirnbaum_2016062220160622.jpgGovernors Island. Photo courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

    At Governors Island, the New York City and Rotterdam-based landscape architecture firm West 8 has created a hot, hip destination that also reflects the city's ambition; a large-scale civic experience that also provides moments of solitude.
    2016-12-10-1481328149-5824487-IL_Chicago_NavyPier_JCFO_SaharCostonHardy_07.jpgChicago Navy Pier. Photo © Shahar Coston-Hardy, courtesy James Corner Field Operations.

    In Chicago, the Navy Pier celebrated its centennial with a renovation by James Corner Field Operations, the lead design firm at the High Line in New York. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin concluded the effort rendered the 3,300-foot-long entertainment complex, that annually attracts some eight million people, "more authentic."
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    Lower Rainier Vista. Photo © Catherine Tighe, courtesy Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

    Lower Rainier Vista, the 6.3-acre Seattle project by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, works within the bone structure of the original early twentieth century Olmsted Brothers plan at the University of Washington's historic campus. Along with a new land bridge, ADA accessibility, and other features, it elegantly refines an iconic view corridor to Mount Rainier. The plans for Dallas include the approximately 220-acre Trinity River Park by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which is being championed by the Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster. "For the first time in a long time," Lamster wrote, "the city has been given a blueprint for the Trinity that is worthy of serious discussion, and by professionals with a proven track record of producing spaces of grandeur and vitality. It is time to foster the political will and financial muscle to make a new vision for the Trinity a reality."

    These projects would not have been possible without the pioneering efforts of two Modernist visionaries who redefined the art and scope of landscape architecture, and who were the subject of museum exhibitions.
    2016-12-10-1481328528-4226610-700.h.TJM_662Burle_Marx_F115BancoSafraHQ.jpg
    Roberto Burle Marx, mineral roof garden, Banco Safra headquarters, São Paulo, 1983. Photo © Leonardo Finotti, courtesy the Jewish Museum.

    The Jewish Museum in New York hosted an ambitious, compelling, and inspiring examination of the great Brazilian landscape architect Robert Burle Marx, whose voluptuous and eccentric Modernism had global impact.
    2016-12-10-1481328787-6472140-4_cropped_slide.jpgInstallation shot from the opening of The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin at the National Building Museum. Photo courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

    The National Building Museum in Washington, DC, is the inaugural venue for The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin (which my foundation organized). The Brooklyn-born Halprin, who once aspired to become a baseball player, settled in San Francisco with his wife, the famed choreographer Anna. During a 60-year career he pioneered designs and processes that are now commonplace - from "capped parks" over highways, to new strategies to safeguard environmental assets and invite community engagement.

    2016-12-10-1481328976-1563471-NY_Yonkers_UntermyerParkGardens_01_CourtesyUntermyerGC_2013.jpgUntermyer Gardens and Park. Photo courtesy Untermyer Gardens Conservancy.

    The future of this built legacy is innately tenuous and dependent on sound stewardship. This year saw the turning point for two public sites. The 46-acre Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, New York, is the remainder of a 150-acre estate designed in the early twentieth century by William Welles Bosworth for Samuel Untermyer, and now owned by the city. After years of decline, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, operating out of a one-room office, in partnership with the Yonkers Parks Department, has engineered a Lazarus-like resurrection of this great site by restoring major features, including the Temple of Love, the Walled Garden and numerous other significant components.
    2016-12-10-1481331506-2580236-1457120036384.jpg
    Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives

    Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Art, has overseen the restoration of the Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain and the renovation of its surrounding Clarke, Rapuano & Hollerman-designed landscape on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The bronze, Sidney Waugh-designed fountain was created to honor Mellon, who donated his world-class art collection to the nation and founded the gallery. At the fountain's dedication in 1952 Chief Justice of the United States Fred Vinson said: "Let us consider this fountain as another symbol of the inspiration and intangible values that have come to us through Mr. Mellon's contributions." Today, let us consider the Gallery's stewardship as an inspiration for what could be done elsewhere on America's Main Street, beginning with the rehabilitation of Pershing Park, the M. Paul Friedberg-designed site, determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year, that is presently threatened with demolition to make way for a World War I memorial.

    Protection of larger-scaled patrimony has also seen significant advances. During the past eight years President Obama has created some 23 new national monuments and expanded a few others, earning him the title of the "Monument Maker" in the New York Times.

    2016-12-10-1481329613-1816862-NEA_Creative_PlacemakingCover.jpg
    Cover image of How To Do Creative Placemaking. Photo courtesy the National Endowment for the Arts.


    Meanwhile, efforts to promote a more integrated approach to planning received a boost from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which issued How to Do Creative Placemaking, a free publication that their press release says is "intended as a primer for those interested in bringing the arts to the community development table as a tool--along with housing, transportation, public health and other sectors--to advance revitalization efforts in an authentic way." According to NEA Director of Design and Creative Placemaking Jason Schupbach, "We wanted to create something easy to use and full of options for communities to begin doing this work, or to improve what they have already started."

    2016-12-10-1481330780-8289922-HarrietPattisonPhotoDonHamermanSeenoteonuse640x360.jpg
    Harriet Pattison at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. Photo © Don Hamerman, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

    In 2016, Harriet Pattison, the 88-year-old Philadelphia-based landscape architect who, with Louis Kahn, designed the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth and Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Parks in New York City, finally became a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. It was a long overdue recognition for one of the most dignified members of the profession. A new monograph by landscape architect Kelly Comras reveals the genius of Ruth Shellhorn (1909-2006), who shaped Southern California Modernism in a diverse body of projects, including private residences, schools and universities, and commercial institutions such as Bullock's department stores. We also saw the passing of one of the profession's most respected members, Diana Balmori, who broke down the barriers between architecture and landscape architecture. The New York Times obituary for Balmori praised her holistic vision - that vision should be the ongoing aspiration for landscape architects and landscape architecture, to see "the urban fabric as an interweaving of human activity, natural forces and designed settings and buildings."

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    What tips Tim Urban should give to youngsters for unique writing? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

    Answer by Tim Urban, writer for Wait But Why - join their email list here to get new posts in your inbox, on Quora.

    If you asked me for great writing advice for young people twenty years ago, the answer would be much ickier. You'd have to decide on one of a few standard types of writing--novels, journalism, etc.--and there wouldn't be an easy way to get practice.


    Today is such a cooler time to start being a writer. First, what used to be a few stark categories you had to choose between is now a wide open spectrum of possibility. Second, publishing your own writing online is a perfect way to practice.


    I'm sure I'm biased by my own narrow experience in the writing world, but I'd say starting a blog is a pretty good first step for a young writer, no matter what kind of writing they want to do. "Blog" is an annoying word, but it's a great concept--a creative sandbox.


    Open one up and start playing in it.


    Don't worry about the quality of what you're doing, you're a newbie, you're supposed to be kind of a mess about it. If you handed Michael Jordan a basketball for the first time when he was twenty-fie, he'd be terrible at it until he spent some time on a court.


    The goal is to play and have fun and try weird stuff until you start to find a style that clicks for you. The phrase "shoving a square peg into a round hole" is relevant here. If your only options are traditional magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books, you're looking at three holes and you have to figure out which one is the best fit for your "peg."


    Today, writers have the luxury at treating themselves not like a peg at all, but a weirdly-shaped puzzle piece, because a blog allows you to invent your own medium--and there's nothing stopping you from carving out a hole that's the exact shape of your creative puzzle piece.


    It turns out that I really like writing 10,000-word articles on heavy subjects with cursing and stick drawings. That is a weird puzzle piece. Imagine me trying to find a job opening in 1995 looking for a writer to do that. Not happening.


    But today, I used the medium of the blog-sandbox to A) experiment, writing 300 posts on my old blog over a six-year span and now about 100 posts on WBW, which taught me, and continues to teach me, what my own creative puzzle piece looks like, B) build a publication in Wait But Why that is perfectly tailored to fit my puzzle piece, even as that piece morphs shape over time, and C) attract the exact weird audience whose taste matches the shape of my puzzle piece.


    A blog is so convenient because it's a sandbox that doubles as a media platform, so you can get feedback on your work as you go, and if you end up stumbling upon a groove that really works, readers will find you and it can turn into a career.


    This is really an even broader concept, where the concept of a "writer" is almost outdated today. Instead of writers and publications, directors and movie studios, singers and record labels, what you really have today are creative puzzle pieces using shapeless sandboxes like Wordpress, YouTube, and SoundCloud to carve a tailor-made hole for themselves.


    There is a much longer post in me on this topic, but for now, I'd boil my advice down to two steps:




    1. Open up a blog or a YouTube account or a SoundCloud account or some combination of those and just start having fun with no pressure. Just make stuff and be silly and experimental and push your boundaries. Alone, with collaborators, whatever feels right. Don't worry about how good it is or whether anyone notices it--if your work catches on early, awesome, but that's not the point of step 1. As you make stuff, follow the fun. If making stuff isn't fun, make something different. Over time, you'll start to figure out what your puzzle piece looks like. And don't forget--there are no rules. By the time you're done, what you're creating probably won't be quite like anything else that's out there.

    2. Once you stumble upon a puzzle piece shape you really like being, build the exact medium that fits that shape. Then start doing your thing on that medium obsessively. You don't need any kind of social media expertise or any digital marketing knowledge, just make sure that when someone whose "taste puzzle piece" happens to match the shape of your creative puzzle piece finds your work, it's super easy for them to follow you on social media, subscribe to your email list, and share your work.


    As for the natural next question, but how do I make any money creating stuff?, I believe that if you do the two steps above, and you work super hard at it, the financial part ends up coming together. If you carve out a medium for yourself that matches your talents and create on it obsessively, people will find you. And if people find you and value what you're doing and don't want you to stop doing it, there are plenty of ways to convert that into financial support for yourself. Patreons list of their most supported creators is a group of examples of people carving out their own medium and making a career out of it.





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    2016-12-12-1481573005-5557018-Candideonstage.jpg

    Max Adrian, Louis Edmonds, Barbara Cook and Robert Rounseville
    in original 1956 production


    ZEALnyc, December 12, 2016

    It's 1956: Dwight Eisenhower has been re-elected, The Ten Commandments opened in theaters, Elvis is crooning about his 'Hound Dog,' the best-seller Peyton Place is creating quite the scandal, Grace Kelly becomes "Princess Grace" and a smash-hit musical is running on Broadway called My Fair Lady. But on December 1st of that year, a new musical opens based on an eighteenth century French novel by Voltaire, with music by Leonard Bernstein and a book by Lillian Hellman. There are a number of lyricists, including James Agee (his contributions were ultimately not used), Dorothy Parker, John Latouche and Richard Wilbur. Who could have imagined at the time that the seed of this undertaking would grow and change and evolve into a work that defies definition (opera? operetta? musical theater?) and eventually gain "cult" status among musical theater aficionados in the process? The work we are referring to is none other than Candide.

    We celebrate this storied work and have brought together a group of artists for whom this piece has played a significant role in their artistic lives from the original Broadway production, through its revivals and morphing all the way to its much-anticipated production by the New York City Opera in January 2017. Read on for some memories, reminiscences, and a fun story or two along the way. We salute the journey of this now classic work -- in whatever incarnation you be familiar and love (or hate), as the case may be.

    Barbara Cook, Cunegonde in the original Broadway production in 1956

    "I am extremely proud to have been part of the original cast of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. I have two distinct memories of opening night in New York, December 1, 1956 at the Martin Beck Theatre. First is that the overture stopped the show -- people loved it, and to this day it's one of the most frequently played pieces by symphony orchestras around the world. My second big memory from opening night was Lenny coming backstage to wish me luck. He was just about to leave when he added, "Oh yes, Maria Callas is out front." I said, "Oh my God, I could have done without knowing that." Lenny laughed and said "Don't be ridiculous. She'd kill for your high E-Flats." The show did great things for my career. More than any other show, Candide has given me a certain musical credibility I wouldn't have acquired otherwise, especially within the classical music world."

    2016-12-12-1481573467-3091675-BarbaraCook.jpg

    Barbara Cook as Cunegonde in 1956 Broadway production of 'Candide'


    Harold Prince, Director of 1974 and 1997 Broadway revivals, and subsequent New York City Opera productions, including upcoming in January 2017

    "I was reluctant when the Chelsea Theatre Center at BAM asked me to do another adaptation of Candide for its small but much esteemed theatre. At the time I was on its board. Further, I should mention that I'm really saddened that the organization is no longer in existence. I was so reluctant that they went to Hugh Wheeler, one of my longtime collaborators, and he did a version of the piece which quickly won me over.

    It was based on the fact that though Candide was the #1 best seller in Europe when it was published, Voltaire denied authorship and said it must be some schoolboy's jape. That inspired Wheeler's treatment and we cast the show with young people, most of them in their early 20s. It was a huge success in Brooklyn and then on Broadway.

    Ultimately, Beverly Sills, a good friend, told me that I had to put it onstage at the New York State theatre for the New York City Opera. I said it was an impossible task, but Beverly being Beverly insisted and made it happen. We restored much of the material and put it in two acts. The opening night was spectacular and the New York Times said something like, "triumph at City Opera, disaster at the MET" (naturally I would remember that!). It continued at City Opera as its most popular attraction and the final performance of that august organization was a matinee of Candide. I attended and it got a huge and lengthy ovation.

    When the new management got the rights to reinstate City Opera they came to me, and I was delighted to accept the offer. In addition, it will not be precisely the same production that was last seen. I feel times have gotten even more serious. Obviously I'm influenced by the political atmosphere surrounding these months. So this version will be grittier and there will be a major reinterpretation of one of the most spectacular numbers in the show. I'll let it go at that because I want it to be a surprise. Also, I'm banking on a wonderful cast (Linda Lavin, Gregg Edelman, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Chip Zien, etc) to reinterpret the material as I envision it. We open on January 5 and I feel that it's more than a revival, its something of a rethink."

    2016-12-12-1481573863-6729835-HalPrinceJohnMauceri.jpg

    Harold Prince and John Mauceri in 1974


    John Mauceri, Music Director/Conductor of the 1974 Broadway Revival and numerous subsequent productions, including collaboratively creating the "opera house" version

    "Candide's journeys began, obviously, with Voltaire and somehow imprinted themselves on the journey of a Broadway show, which could be called, "The Flop That Would Not Die." My association with it began when Lenny and the other original creators had given up on it. From 1956 until 1971, there were a number of loving and creative attempts to "save" that show: a semi-staged national tour, a London production, a West Coast iteration that made its way to the Kennedy Center and died there. That's when Lenny got the call about a new, one-act version with a new book by Hugh Wheeler and a team headed by Hal Prince - and with Stephen Sondheim ready to add new lyrics. Bernstein, who had added one last song to the 1971 version, was busy (or weary of the whole thing). He asked me to be the music director. What I did not at first know, was that the script did not indicate what music would fill 50% of the script's requirements. After the overture, the script simply said, "Opening Number." What opening number? There was a call for an "Inca Ballet." What?

    Bernstein provided me with two volumes of music. This was every note he had composed over the years. Those volumes and the published piano-vocal score were to be my source for suggestions to Hal, Steve, and Patty Birch. In a way, once we ascertained what songs were in the script, I could look at was not there, to suggest music for Sondheim's lyrics. Thus, the "opening number" came from a song, "Dear Boy," as underscoring, and the "Venice Gavotte" for the various characters' first musical entrances. We could not use "Eldorado" because the lyrics were by Hellman, and the contract for this new Candide specifically required us not to use places and words that were hers. ("Here I am unhappy chance" for "Here I am in Paris, France" since Cunegonde sang the song in Lisbon in the new book.) That's when I found a song with no lyrics and suggested it for the sheep in Eldorado and the lion (as a kind 0f Ezio Pinza character) for the middle section. Again, Steve came through with brilliant lyrics that were in every way equal to the work of the original lyricists.

    Our streamlined Candide opened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, transferred to Broadway and won a lot of Tony Awards. When opera houses wanted to do Candide we all created an expanded two-act version of the little original in 1982. And this opened the book to include most of the missing music - but not all of it. We were still building a musical text on a book that replaced the original 1956 locales with those from 1973. Nevertheless, we managed the Venice Gavotte in Constantinople and the Paris Waltz in Cartagena, Colombia. I cobbled together a new version of the 1956 finale to Act One, and this time Richard Wilbur came to our rescue, returning to the music he had provided lyrics for in 1956. On the other side of the intermission, Hal needed an Entr'acte, and so I found unused music from the trunk and asked Wilbur to provide new lyrics to "Eldorado," as a ballad 'to the new world." These lyrics are precious in so many ways, because they epitomize imagery from a man who was once our Poet Laureate of our country.

    This "opera house" version was an enormous hit. Its recording garnered a Grammy for "Best Opera Recording," but the problem was that Lenny never particularly liked it. It was terrifically funny, of course, and there was more of his music in that version than had ever been heard in ANY Candide. But, the music was in the wrong place and it was never serious. Hal was always ambivalent about the uplifting ending, and preferred to have it undercut by having a cow drop dead of the pox after everyone had just raised their voices in an affirmation of life and honest work.

    Somehow, I felt responsible, since Bernstein had entrusted his music to me. I was always skirting the shoals between being "true" to Lenny and being a team player with people who knew a lot more than I did and had a very clear vision as to what Candide needed to be. During my time as music director of Scottish Opera, my colleagues asked me to bring one American work into the repertory each year. I decided to re-read Voltaire and took pencil to paper to see if I could put all of Lenny's music in the correct countries and hang all of it on the original journey, first published in 1759 and not a book that was created as part of a legal settlement with Lillian Hellman (who had passed away). I flew to Amsterdam where Bernstein was conducting to show him how we could put the French music in Paris and the Italian music in Venice, and so forth. Bernstein enthusiastically accepted the idea. We first went to Hugh Wheeler who was game to adapt his 1973 and 1982 books back to Voltaire, but his health made that impossible. With Jonathan Miller and John Wells as my colleagues, we created the last Candide in 1989. This version won an Oliver as "Musical of the Year," and a Grammy for Bernstein, who recorded it with the London Symphony in the months before his death in 1990.

    Not bad for a flop, of course, but a tale worthy of Voltaire, and a story that embraces my many years with Lenny."

    Maureen Brennan, Cunegonde in the 1974 Broadway Revival

    "I shall be ever grateful for Candide. The original production already had a cult following when I discovered it as a student. It started my career. I had the incredible opportunity to work with Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, John Mauceri, Leonard Bernstein, Patricia Birch and the talented ensemble of actors. I got to meet the inspirational, Barbara Cook. I wore out her recording of "Glitter and Be Gay."

    One story I enjoy sharing is about the staging of "Glitter and Be Gay" in our production. We were in an environmental set with platforms and ramps and trap doors. Hal's idea for "Glitter" was that the jewels for the song would decorate the beautiful powdered wig worn by the lady accompanying me on the harpsichord. She popped out of a trap door and sat in front of me while I sang. At varying times in the song, I would pluck the jewels off her wig until I was completely bedecked. During the run off-Broadway at the Chelsea Theater Center, I pulled the trap door open, out came the harpsichordist (Mary Pat Green). She plopped down and I noticed her powdered wig tilt to the left. I knew there was a chance that the wig could slide off. I was very careful, but with each pluck, the wig tilted farther to the side. I had to tap her wig with my toe to receive the last piece of jewelry. I did and the unthinkable happened--off fell the wig and Mary Pat was sitting in her wig cap looking at the audience. In character, Mary Pat gave me a haughty look that would kill, grabbed the wig, stuffed it back on her head and kept playing. I was hysterical. I could not sing--I just howled with laughter. Good thing the lyric at that point was 'Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!' The only note I could get out after that was the last high note. There was a chin strap sewn on the wig the next performance. I still laugh about it!

    The experience of being a part of that production of Candide was so rich. Forty-two years later, it remains one of the best and most extraordinary times of my life."

    2016-12-12-1481574354-5978349-Maureen_Brennan12.inlinevertical.jpg

    Mark Baker and Maureen Brennan in 1974 revival of 'Candide'


    Mark Baker, Candide in the 1974 Broadway revival

    "I lived in sin with the 1956 album while studying design at Carnegie-Mellon, and meeting June Gable there, a student mentor for my acting pursuits even then. It was to our great delight to be cast together with Maureen Brennan by Hal, to help Lew Stadlen and Sam Freed carry the comic ball, so to speak, while Deborah Saint Darr provided all comely pulchritude! Having the utter pleasure to get to work with choreographer Patricia Birch again on Candide proved a happy coincidence as well (she had cast me as Linus two years before in my debut into professional theatre, in the Washington, DC production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, where I accidentally slid up under Mrs. Johnson's ballroom chair on my blue blanket, another shaggy dog story for another time...).

    I had a hilarious bit of karmic biorhythm happen the day the Prince office called to offer the coveted title role. After eleven fascinating casting sessions (Hal later confided he had cast me initially all along, and was building an ensemble). I recall walking out from dear friend Robert Anton's Central Park West puppet art studio in a most highly elated state with my new status in a mind-bending theatrical leap of faith for all concerned, only to find Barbara Cook across the street waiting for the bus ! All caution to the fray, I proceeded to launch into autopilot with my portion of the musical's celebrated duet "Oh, Happy We!" where Candide and his beloved Cunegonde are reunited (the reprise). In apparent good faith, and with a most concerted personal whimsy, a very brave, wonderful Ms. Cook acceded my upstart vocal on-pitch please (I mean, after eleven sessions with Mr. Prince, I knew the material cold) and we sang the entire stanzas as traffic continued between us! When the green light allowed, I joined her at the bus stop, spoke of my new prospect and her continued musical theatre legacy, we tearfully embraced, and she got off the bus before my stop. Voltaire would have delighted in it, and probably Bernstein, too! Sure it would not have been lost on sardonic librettist Hugh Wheeler, either!

    Other than the thrill of a life time in the theatre, being integral in process of recreating a hit from a Broadway cult classic, I must say the trust, fun-loving confidence Mr. Prince bestowed, has served my own charmed Wikipedia show biz variegations, to date a career in theatre, film and television spanning over thirty seasons, including an unprecedented opportunity to appear as the solo American in a groundbteaking 1978 Cape Town, South Africa production so ably crafted by Mavis Taylor for the University at Rondebosch. The chance to share the antics and foibles of a hapless hero in an alleged Age of Reason so far from Our America was and remains a stark memory, far from The Great White Way and its glitter, the acclaim, the hard work and our soaring fantasy time together remains a seminal moment in a Charmed Life.

    Best loved moments? In all of it, I adored most cavorting with and kissing Maureen Brennan; what a deeply charming Early Broadway Baby!"

    Erie Mills, Cunegonde in the 1982 production at New York City Opera

    "In 1982 I made my NYCO debut in the "opera house" version of Candide. It was a new production directed by Hal Prince and conducted by John Mauceri. Singing Cunegonde in NYC at NYCO in a new production was the thrill of a lifetime. It certainly was a boost at the beginning of my career. I'd been singing "Glitter and Be Gay" since college and to be able to sing the entire role with a wonderful cast was SO much fun! I'm grateful for the piece and for all the performances."

    2016-12-12-1481574589-9883589-Candide.jpg

    David Eisler and Erie Mills in 1982 New York City Opera production of 'Candide'


    Jason Danieley, Candide in 1997 Broadway Revival

    "I made my Broadway debut as Candide in the 1997 Hal Prince re-staging of a Candide he did for New York City Opera and has subsequently restaged many times. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to play the title character in a musical that has such a rich classical, at least for music theatre, score. I studied voice classically and felt it would be a good fit for me and it was. Never since has my vocal technique and skills been used to their fullest potential.

    Since this was a restaging I really didn't get to create my Candide as much as be part of what was already thought out for me. Pity. But I was surrounded by some comic geniuses and learned so much from watching them; Andrea Martin, Jim Dale, Artie Johnson, Mal Z. Lawrence. I learned how to work on a bit until it's just where you like it and then mess with it some more. To never be satisfied, always working the audience. That stillness and seemingly not doing anything can be as funny, if not more than, doing a three-act-play for one gag.

    It was a tough debut to have after the fact. So many people, even those who work in our industry, still see me as the opened-faced, wide-eyed Candide, ever the optimist with a classical voice. It's been 20 years and I've had a plethora of varied roles to play but somehow that first impression sticks hard in people's minds. It's not bad to have that be people's first and lasting impression of you...unless you are a complicated and nuanced actor."

    2016-12-12-1481574729-5934700-Candide1997.jpg

    Harolyn Blackwell (Cunegonde), Andrea Martin (Old Lady), Jim Dale (Dr. Pangloss) and Jason Danieley (Candide) in 1997 revival of 'Candide';
    photo: Michael Cooper


    Eric Stern, Music Director of the 1997 Broadway Revival

    "Whether or not the book of Candide "works" will always be a matter for discussion. What is evident to anyone, though, is that the music sparkles and teases and stings and weeps and delights like nothing else ever written for the American stage. Bernstein pulled off an amazing trick: the score works as satire, biting and irreverent, yet has great heart, with the power to both move and inspire. I simply can't tire of this music, and I was grateful every night to walk into that pit to start the overture."

    Linda Lavin, the Old Lady in NYCO 2017 production

    "Working on Candide means so much to me in terms of the history--I listened to this album with my mother, who had been an opera singer, and every day we listened until we learned just about every song in the score. It is brilliant--thrilling and passionate and musically complicated and exciting--it's Leonard Bernstein! The collaboration of Sondheim and Hal Prince--its the original production team reunited to do this opera at New York City Opera at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center. And I get to play the character called "the Old Lady"--a woman who has been through so many wars, and been ravaged, and endured so much hardship, and travel and dispossession, and then she gets to sing a wonderful song called "I am so easily assimilated." I get to sing in a way I've never sung before on a Broadway stage--I get to sing in an operatic style. And I get to work with my mentor, Hal Prince, who is directing this show again, and his son, Charles Prince, who is conducting. So I get just about everything I've ever wanted!"

    2016-12-12-1481574975-7611865-LindaLavincopy.jpg

    Hal Prince and Linda Lavin; photo Cindy Ord

    ________________________________

    Read more features from ZEALnyc below:

    'Nutcrackers' in all shapes and sizes this holiday season!

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    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    2016-12-12-1481576085-7754223-nathaliestutzmannconducting.jpg


    One of the most anticipated highlights every year of the Philadelphia Orchestra's holiday calendar is Handel's Messiah. The world seems a little less divided when the audience stands up and sings the chorus of Hallelujah in unison. The Philadelphia Symphonic Choir, led by Joe Miller, will perform the oratorio with the orchestra this year on December 18 at 2pm at the Kimmel Center. French conductor and vocalist Nathalie Stutzmann will be making her Philadelphia Orchestra conducting debut. She has previously conducted the "Messiah" in Detroit and at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC to great acclaim.

    It's practically a Christmas miracle that Stutzmann will be conducting at all since her career as a conductor almost didn't happen. Her standing on the podium is a reminder that one should always pursue their passions and never take for an answer. Although she played piano, bassoon, and viola, she knew that she wanted to be a conductor from an early age. She said, "As a child, I was interested in conducting. I tried to enter a conducting class as a teenager in parallel of my studies. The teacher was a really big macho and he never gave me a chance to jump on the podium. I was following the course, but I quickly understand that it was impossible, at that time, to make anything serious as a woman."

    Unfortunately, that macho attitude is still prevalent in the music world. Women currently comprise only 1% of the world's conductors. The situation for musical directors in even worse. There are only 13 women employed as musical directors despite the thousands of orchestras in the world that could potentially employ them. The shame of it is that Stutzmann believes women would make superior conductors. She argues women, who are naturally more attuned to the psychology of others, would have an easier time motivating and working with the orchestra.

    Luckily for Stutzmann, her singing career began to flourish. "I won an international competition as a singer two years later, so I made the easier choice to pursue a singing career," recalled the singer. "I always kept in a little part of my brain the hope that I would be able to develop my passion for conducting someday."



    2016-12-12-1481575965-1117261-stutzmann.jpg



    It was a little tricky for her to try conducting again after becoming a celebrated soloist for fear that others would think she was making the switch because she couldn't sing anymore. World renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa, who was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors for his 29 year tenure as the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was the first to give her a break. "I asked Seiji Ozawa, who was an old friend, first," said Stutzmann. "I did so many concerts as a singer with him. I was singing with him. I told him about my dream to conduct. I told him also I would like to have his advice and to know if I had any capacity for it. I did not want to do it if I had no talent for that. He was very supportive and gave me an engagement with one of his orchestras in Japan as a test. It went very well. He decided to become a kind of mentor and to teach me, help me, and push me. He said you have to do it because you have the talent for it. You have the arm. He gave me courage to go further."

    Her next big break in conducting came two years later came when Sir Simon Rattle, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, saw her conduct. He wrote a supportive email promising to help her because "we need you as a conductor." Ironically, her singing career has helped her become a better conductor. "The best class you can ever have as a student of conducting is to watch the great conductors. That's what I did all my professional life sitting one meter from them," said the contralto.

    Stutzmann is a different kind of conductor. She believes her victory as a conductor comes when she finishes a rehearsal and the back of the orchestra is smiling as they play. She said, "If I give them the pleasure to play, if I remind them why they want to make music, if they are happy to play, they will give me everything."

    Tickets for Handel's Messiah on Sunday, December 18 at the Kimmel Center start at $35. They can be purchased at www.philorch.org , by calling 215-893-1999, or at the Kimmel Center Box Office.

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    0 0
  • 12/12/16--15:55: Prisoner #B57661
  • 2016-12-12-1481585902-2160548-reggiegracerehearsalstill.jpg
    Reggie Austin rehearsing with Grace Kelly in Taos NM. ©NC Heikin

    Over the weekend, I met NC Heikin*, a fellow filmmaker for a drink in Paris. She ordered a green healthy juice and I had a cosmopolitan, my toddler was sleeping in her stroller next to us, then we started talking about our projects as filmmakers usually do. NC told me she'd been following the story of Reggie Austin, a man who'd killed his girlfriend when he was high on heroine. He was given parole after 35 years in prison. I'm very aware of the issue of mass incarceration in the US and how it affects people of color over white people, however I never came so close to consider the story of a man who was guilty of something more than selling drugs, this was confronting to me. Why did she want to make a film about a murderer? I asked her, if she could forgive him and NC told me, it wasn't about forgiveness, it was about justice. Then I asked if Reggie is black, and she said he is. She also told me that "One of the reasons so many African-American men are in jail is because once they're in, they don't get out."

    Her film isn't about guilt or innocence it's about justice, a man who could have been an accomplished musician today works as a garbage man.


    This is an interview I did with her after.

    What did you feel the first time you met Reggie Austin?

    I met Austin in 2012 when he was still inmate #B57661. He was an imposing guy, but very polite and well spoken. He seemed really nice. When he told me he was in for second-degree murder, I literally backed away. I wasn't afraid of him, but I was definitely put off. He was not threatening, but I had never to my knowledge spoken with someone who had taken a life. He disarmed me by openly talking about his crime and that you "couldn't take away from the seriousness" of some of the San Quentin inmates' crimes, then impressed me with his cogent statement about how nevertheless there were abuses going on in the prison system. Then he said he needed a piano, and I felt like I was being conned, but really he was just saying he needed a piano and probably thought I could help.

    Why did you decide to make a film about a man who killed another person?

    What drew me to Reggie's story was the fact that he played with the band I had brought into San Quentin to do a concert. The concert itself was all about redemption--specifically of the late Frank Morgan, who spent more than his share of time in San Quentin because of drug abuse. We were all blown away by the experience-- the all-star jazz band, the crew, and most of all, the inmates in the audience. Incredibly, Reggie Austin knew Frank Morgan. He had the courage to get up and play with the all-stars, but afterwards he let me know that the evening changed his life. He felt reborn because of something I had brought about. That's when I felt I had a stake in his future, for better or worse.


    2016-12-12-1481585663-1283598-Reggiesolo.jpg
    Reggie Austin in 2012, playing with band in San Quentin Prison. ©NC Heikin



    Mass Incarceration is one of the most talked about topics in America today. Why is this story different?

    I'm approaching the problem from a new angle, and through a very personal experience. One of the reasons so many African-American men are in jail is because once they're in, they don't get out. A recent New York Times report found that in New York State, one in four white men get parole, while only one in six black men do. Black men are more likely to get life sentences and serve much more time on that sentence than their white counterparts. In the case of murder, we expect parole boards to want to protect public safety, but the same prejudices that occur among police toward black men, occur in parole boards toward prisoners petitioning for parole. Indeed, many of the people serving on parole boards are former law enforcement. The repeated denial of parole becomes de facto resentencing. Additionally, anywhere there are private corporations running the prisons, there is zero incentive to let an inmate out. Private prisons make money on each prisoner, so the more prisoners they keep, the higher their profits. With little oversight, they cut corners where they can to increase profitability. This translates into worsening conditions for the prisoners.


    What is the relationship between race and lifers in the US?

    In California alone, there are 34,000 lifers--quite a few more than the next highest state. Many of them were handed life sentences under the "three strikes and you're out" law, often for relatively minor offenses. The three-strikes law fell disproportionately on black men, who could be picked up for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana, that would not have resulted in prosecution for a white guy. Black men know they are a hair's breadth from being arrested almost all the time. If they are only slightly unlucky they can get picked up for disorderly conduct, possession of drugs, resisting arrest, all of which might not be construed as offences if the perpetrator is white. Once arrested, black men are typically counseled to cop a plea by public defenders who don't have the time to fight the system for all the disadvantaged people going through it. Without a good lawyer, chances are you're going to jail. Black men wind up convicted felons and in the system. Three of these and you're sent away for life. My personal statistical observation: I met eight lifers in San Francisco while filming for Life Crime, five still inside and three who had gotten out. Of the eight, seven were black.



    I know you spend your time between France and the US. Is the system in France any different?


    Notably, the French, like their European counterparts, do not have the death penalty. Their maximum sentence for truly heinous crimes, such as those involving terrorism, assassination, or the murder of a child, is life. But other murders have a maximum of thirty years or twenty years depending on the severity of the crime. Reggie Austin would probably have been sentenced to twenty years in France, and had he been as model a prisoner in France as he mostly was in the US, he would have gotten out after the twenty, if not before. The International Criminal Court sentences mass murderers to thirty years. Reggie was in for thirty-five!


    2016-12-12-1481586486-6243492-Reggieoutside.jpg
    Reggie playing outside in Marin County 2015. ©NC Heikin


    You talk about music/art as a way to change someone's life, but how?

    The minute you can focus a person's attention on something creative, you give that person an outlet. A prisoner has had all his freedoms taken away, but participation in any art form provides a kind of liberation. When you are completely involved in music, or dance, or writing, you forget your surroundings and immerse yourself in your art. This can only be good for a prisoner, to be able to experience that kind of release and realize he can do it at any time, that it is not dangerous to him or others, and that in most cases it fosters community with the other inmates on a non-confrontational level. The prisoner learns to work with others in a new way and gains confidence as well. (Think putting on that school play in high school.) Many prisoners are completely locked up inside--traumatized by what they have done on the outside as well as by being in prison. Playing music or putting on a show gives them an avenue of expression that can help them sort their feelings and feel a little joy. The punishment is being in prison. They don't have to also be punished with totally dehumanizing privation.

    In the end I asked NC how she was going with the film and she told me she was running a kickstarter campaign but it was really tough because it is a film about a guy who committed a terrible crime, it's not the typical story of an innocent man sent to prison, it's about the complexity of mass incarceration and how injustice is rooted within the justice system.

    I think is an important issue and I have donated to NC's campaign, if you like to donate here is the link, the campaign ends in three days.

    * NC Heikin's first documentary, Kimjongilia, about North Korean refugees, premiered at Sundance, won the One World Human Rights Best Film 2010, and has been seen by millions of people around the world. It is on The Documentary Channel and Netflix. Her most recent film, Sound of Redemption, The Frank Morgan Story, about a troubled jazz musician, was produced by bestselling author Michael Connelly and premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2014 and in NYC at Lincoln Center on August 2, 2015. Ms. Heikin lives in Paris, France and Yonkers, NY.

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