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  • 02/13/17--11:34: Gender Progress in Ballet
  • Dana Genshaft's, Chromatic Fantasy set to the music of Dave Brubeck's Chaconne from Chromatic Fantasy premiered Friday night at the NYU Skirball Center. Ms. Genshaft was looking - actually squinting - at the sun one day and saw all the colors of the rainbow wavering before her. The ensuing ballet and her search for the right music sprung from this moment. Six dancers - three men, three women - from the ABT Studio Company dressed in different chromatic colors weaved in and out of the music, at times with it and at others at a contrapuntal rhythm. Pairs swapped with ease and trios emerged only to dissolve quickly. The dance propelled, though there were quieter sections, and the colors flowed. A work of beauty and energy resulted.
    This work is Genshaft's first for ABT. Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of ABT, to his and its credit, is making a concerted effort to commission new works by female choreographers. Last fall it premiered Jessica Lang's, Her Notes, set to the music of Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of Felix. It was a total success and has been added to the ABT repertoire. Other commissions by female choreographers are in the works at ABT, which is determined to smash the glass slipper. Genshaft more than proved her chops on a program that also featured such luminary choreographers as Frederick Ashton, Helgi Tomasson, Kenneth MacMillan and Liam Scarlett. That she was the only female choreographer is worthy of note only because usually there are none on the programs of any American ballet company. Genshaft was previously a soloist at San Francisco Ballet and teaches choreography in the school there. She is richly deserving of more commissions, including from her home company, which has yet to recognize her home grown talent. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie and ABT for doing so. And kudos also to ABT for commissioning its star, Marcelo Gomes, who gave the New York City premier of his ballet set to Kabalevsky Violin Concerto.

    The gender disparity starts early in ballet. The Saturday afternoon performance was family friendly and there were, by my guess, over 100 children in attendance. I counted three boys. The rest girls. Change needs to come at all levels of ballet.

    Note: the author is a trustee of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, which funds commissions of choreographic works by emerging female choreographers.

    -- 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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    A week ago, I saw a play, and I'm still thinking about it. This hasn't happened in a long time. The play was Terror by best-selling author and lawyer, Ferdinand von Schirach. I'm not the only person this play has struck a chord with - fifty-nine theatres programed the show during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, from Berlin to Tokyo to Miami (where I saw it at Miami New Drama, and where it will play until February 19th).

    The premise is as follows: A military pilot has shot down a hijacked airliner carrying one hundred and sixty-four passengers. She's done this to prevent the plane from hitting a stadium of 50,000 people, who have no idea the plane is headed straight for them. In shooting down the plane, and killing the hijacker along with the innocents on board, however, our pilot, now on trial, disobeyed superior orders not to shoot.

    So now the question is: Is she guilty or not guilty?

    The show plays out as a courtroom drama. Each audience member receives a set of cards with their program (one reads "guilty," the other, "not guilty"), and with these, each audience member exercises their "vote."

    It's this, I believe, the fact that the show's outcome is in your hands as an audience member, that has been sending ripples around the world. It's important to note that this is not a gimmick, it's, instead, a seed that goes back to the core of art, theatre, and democracy - a democracy that's currently being put to the test in the United States and around the world, which is what makes the play important. Current.

    During the first act, we the audience (we, the jury) listen to opening statements by both prosecutor and defense attorney. We listen to testimony, and we hear from the pilot herself. We listen to the judge, who reminds us that "law and personal morality must be kept separate." We listen to questions about the value of human life - whether one life weighs more than any other. Philosophies mount and angles spin, helping to mold your stance, guiding each person to their place on the spectrum: Is our pilot a criminal or a hero?

    For me, it was very clear that she was guilty. She asserted her own individuality or ego above a line of command that perhaps had more information at hand that she did, placing herself above the greater good. For me, as I watched, I couldn't help but think of president Trump, signing one executive order after another, ignoring due process, and creating what Boston College history professor, Heather Richardson, signaled to in a viral Facebook post as a "shock event." As I experienced the play, I thought about how extreme individualism holds the potential, in other words,to kill democracy.

    I, however, was not in the majority. My audience in Miami Beach voted not-guilty, as did, per the play's website, the majority of audiences across world. Out of 968 performed trials, 91.6% churned out a verdict of not guilty. This seems to show a leaning toward placing personal morality and personal codes above the law. Something which, paradoxically, points to the fragility of democracy itself. Or, perhaps, even more to the point, to the complexity of individualism within the American system.

    Because, perhaps, in fact, I'm wrong -- and here's where things start to spin again. Perhaps the only way to fight the tyranny of ego and/or individualism is to assert more democracy, more power to the people, more individuality. It's complicated, you see. It goes in circles. And the action and/or drama happens in your mind. Your brain is the scene of the battle. Eventually, this thought process is meant to lead to some kind of action, but not without a lot of simmering first.

    The power here lies not in the plot-driven drama of the late 20th century, or the American realist stage, but in choice. In audience interaction. This is an idea that is both ancient and totally contemporary. The idea that theatre can rewire you brain and, therefore, the world, and that it needs you, the audience, to be active in order to create change. Gone are the days of passive viewing. This revision of Catharsis is a 21st century idea that will play out in multiple ways as theatre takes on virtual reality, extends further into the realm of site specific work, and pushes audiences further into new arenas, both real and imaginary.

    What this is all telling us: We can no longer be spectators, we can no longer stand by the sidelines and watch elections pass us by, or theatre play out before us without personal investment, because, if, as the great bard once said, "all the world's a stage," then we must make ourselves useful, and always think before we act.

    -- 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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    "When you're 'a working tourist' in Vienna you see all these smells of the past and not all of them are disgusting." Hear why German painter Daniel Richter prefers Vienna - where he works as professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien - over Berlin.

    Richter, who is based in Berlin, has been a professor at the art academy in Vienna since 2006, a "working tourist" of the Austrian capital. A crown jewel of the Austria-Hungarian empire, Vienna is a reminder of "the decadence of the monarchy, the derangement of mankind on a very high luxurious level," says Richter. But Vienna is not only home to glorious buildings and decadent pasts, it is also the city of the avant-gardes, of Klimt and Kokoschka, Einstein and Freud. In Richter's opinion "the grand history of culture is embedded in the people of Vienna, more so than the Weimar past is a part of the Berliners."

    Daniel Richter (b. 1962) is a German painter whose strongly coloured, often slightly surreal paintings convey current events and art historical issues with an irreverent and energetic approach. A professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, Austria, his work is widely exhibited, among others at Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Belgium, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany and Victoria Miro Gallery in London, UK. Richter's paintings can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Centre Pompidou, Paris and elsewhere.

    Daniel Richter was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in his studio in Berlin, Germany, and at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, in July 2016, in connection with the exhibition 'Lonely Old Slogans'.

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

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

    -- 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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    2017-02-09-1486675329-7561952-donaldtrump1copy.jpg


    By Helaine Feldman, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, February 14, 2017

    He was 23 years old, had a degree from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and had an extremely profitable family business waiting for him.

    But Donald Trump thought he would like to be a Broadway producer. He met with David Black, a successful producer (George M! with Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters; The Impossible Years with Alan King; and Ready When You Are, CB! with Julie Harris, among others) and they joined together--Black providing the experience and know-how and Trump putting up a sizeable chunk of the money--for a new comedy, Paris Is Out, slated for the 1969-70 season.

    The play starred Molly Picon, who in 1962 received a Tony nomination for her appearance in the Jerry Herman musical, Milk and Honey and was a popular performer who began her career in the Yiddish theatre, and Sam Levene, a Broadway veteran, the original Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls and star of the classic, Three Men on a Horse. The playwright was Richard Seff, who was adding a new credit to an already impressive resume.

    2017-02-09-1486674384-5827948-ParisisOutPlaybillcopy.jpg
    From original Playbill program; courtesy of PlaybillVault.com


    Richard remembers: "I did not actually meet young Trump, except briefly and informally, for he was an investor and I didn't even know he was involved until after we opened. I do recall standing next to him on two occasions during our 13 week run, at the back of the orchestra, where we both stood, watching the play. He had arrived on his own, in his white convertible, stayed awhile, then drove off."

    The play had a modest run, but ran into some bad luck along the way. Variety had a headline around the ninth week of the run which read: "Broadway down, Paris Up." "For each week that we ran," says Seff, "despite mixed reviews, our gross was creeping up to the point where the house manager told me, 'If we get through Easter and Passover (traditionally bad for business), we'll be here all summer.' Alas, on Easter Sunday, there was a blizzard in New York and three 'nervous hits,' (Broadway talk for a production that was always on the edge of closing), were forced to shut down the next week. They were Noel Coward's Private Lives with Tammy Grimes and Brian Bedford; Sheep on the Runway by Art Buchwald, and my Paris is Out!"

    All of us had about three months. We ran for 104 performances (including previews); audiences loved the play, and Brooks Atkinson, the dean of American critics (for whom a theatre is named), offered us a great quote: 'A delightful family comedy in which Molly Picon and Sam Levene are in top form.' Only we couldn't use it because Mr. Atkinson had retired as New York Times critic and he did not want to undermine his replacement. Not a good break for us."

    The play did, however, have an afterlife. With original star Molly Picon in it, it broke house records at the Philadelphia Playhouse in the Park after closing on Broadway. Film star Pat O'Brien somehow was sent the play, loved it and toured for 48 weeks in dinner theatres around the country. "People thought it was a Jewish play because of Sam and Molly," Seff told an interviewer, "but it had a 48 week tour with Pat O'Brien and his wife. Suddenly it was about an Irish family--without one line changed" Ann B. Davis (from TV's The Brady Bunch), toured it, too. And, Seff adds, "A couple of years ago, 40-odd years after we closed on Broadway, a dinner theatre in Paradise, Pennsylvania played it for 11 weeks with great success."

    Today, of course, Donald Trump has gone on to other things...

    But, what about Richard Seff? Now 89, he has been the quintessential hyphenate: an actor, agent, playwright, librettist, novelist, memoirist and critic. His book, Supporting Player: My Life Upon the Wicked Stage, catalogues his long career. "I have done everything in theatre," he says, "but sell tickets." His apartment reflects this and is filled with memorabilia: books, records, CDs and photos, lots of photos, of his friends and former clients including Chita Rivera and lyricist Fred Ebb (Chicago and Cabaret, to name a few). His latest gig is writing reviews of New York theatre for the website DC Metro Theater Arts.

    2017-02-09-1486674669-768500-RichardSeff.jpg
    Richard Seff; photo courtesy of artist


    In 2004, he created an award, the Richard Seff Award, presented by the Actors' Equity Foundation each year to a character actor and actress, supporting players, who have devoted at least 25 years to their profession, have not achieved "stardom," but continue to work as featured players--like he was--and is!

    Cover: Donald Trump in 1976; photo: Bettmann Archive.
    _________________________

    Helaine Feldman, a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc, writes about theater performance and related features.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    The Public Theater and The New Yorker Team Up to Talk Trump

    'Outside the Box' Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    The Honest, Touching Emotion of 'Milk and Honey' at the York

    Pedrito Martinez--A Look Back on the Journey Thus Far

    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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  • 02/14/17--07:47: The Sleeping Giant
  • 2017-02-03-1486134057-8998093-Fundacao.jpg


    The Fundação Edson Queiroz in Fortaleza, Brazil-- home of the Airton Queiroz Collection: "fueled with resources and vision"



    THE FIRST EXHIBITION of the year that really struck an emotional chord was viewing Itaú Cultural São Paulo's permanent exhibition of 17th- and 18th-century maps and books, watercolors, and illustrations chronicling the Portuguese discovery and colonization of Rio de Janeiro. The installation delivers an emotional punch by tracing an historical arc reaching from the natural wonder encountered by Brazil's early European settlers -- the breathtaking 20-foot watercolor of Rio's harbor is but one gem -- to the nation's economic development created through the heart-wrenching savagery inflicted on enslaved Africans. It's a remarkable time capsule that left me hungry for more of the Brazil story. And that's when I recalled the much broader historical reach of the current exhibition "Airton Queiroz Collection" in Fortaleza, at the Espaço Edson Queiroz.

    The Fortaleza exhibition is drawn from the extensive collection of Brazilian businessman Airton Queiroz and gives a powerfully touching perspective of the sweep of Brazilian history from the Portuguese colonial period--the painstakingly detailed landscape paintings of Dutch painter Frans Post are a revelation in their almost cinematic sweep--up to the years between the 20th century's two world wars, when Brazil's independent artistic vision was first coming into focus. Numerous works among the collection's extensive holdings are of standout interest: poignant portraits by Candido Portinari, who is best known in the Northern Hemisphere for his epic War and Peace murals to be found at the United Nations; an in-depth selection of geometric abstractions of the 1950s and '60s, by such legendary figures as Lygia Clark, Mira Schendel, Iberê Camargo, Abraham Palatnik, Alfredo Volpi, and Hélio Oiticica; and several recent works by Beatriz Milhazes and Adriana Varejão that knowingly bring the collection full-circle, as they touch on earlier historical themes while centering on current concerns. Thrillingly, the harmony and parallels between the works of Frans Post and Adriana Varejão give a perspective about Brazil that I haven't seen elsewhere.

    2017-02-03-1486133647-3187782-FransJanszoonPostFramed.jpg


    2017-02-03-1486133691-4677189-GeometricAbstraction.jpg


    From the Airton Queiroz Collection: at top, a Brazilian landscape by Franz Post (1612-1680); and a selection of works by Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988)


    It's always fascinating to meet someone who has been a passionate, life-long art collector and has fueled that love with resources and vision. Airton Queiroz began collecting as a young man, when he traded his first car for artworks by Antônio Bandeira. In those early days, his family's now colossal business empire was but a mere fraction of what it is today. Based in Fortaleza in Brazil's northeast, Grupo Edson Queiroz has grown to encompass more than 14,000 employees in sixteen companies, and is an integral part of the nation's business culture, listed in the ranks of Brazil's hundred largest companies. Through its subsidiaries and more than 35 constituent brands, Grupo Edson Queiroz is a diverse conglomerate operating in liquid petroleum gas distribution, mineral water and beverages, mining and real estate, farming and agro-industry, media communications, and education.

    This vast and successful enterprise represents an important side of the Brazilian personality, alongside the popular images of São Paulo's fast-talking city slickers and Rio de Janeiro's beach-focused samba sybarites: the much maligned, rough-and-tumble Nordestinos-- people of the country's northeast. (For American television audiences, think "Dallas.") Begun in 1951 by Airton Queiroz' entrepreneurial father Edson, who sold propane out of the back of a pick-up truck, Grupo Edson Queiroz today is recognized as a leading national asset. But achieving this has not been without tragedy. In 1982 Edson died in what was, at the time, the largest air disaster in Brazil's history. His wife Yolanda stepped up to company leadership along with two of her six children: Airton and his brother Edson Junior. At the time of Yolanda's death, last year, Wikipedia ranked her as the 23rd wealthiest individual in Brazil, with $3.6 billion.

    2017-02-03-1486133817-1131503-Bicho.jpg


    From the Airton Queiroz Collection: a bicho of Lygia Clark (1920-1988)


    What's fascinating about the Queiroz legacy is that it's more than an entrepreneurial success story. It's also a story of a family with a vision much larger than just business. It's also a legacy of philanthropy that cries out for exposure and for connections with audiences hungry for cultural insights.

    The Queiroz family has championed education, supporting the University of Fortaleza UNIFOR, which was founded by Edson in the mid-1970s and today embraces 25.000 students annually in undergraduate and graduate studies in business, law and medicine. Airton Queiroz and his family have also championed Brazilian culture not only with his formidable art collection, but with the Edson Queiroz Foundation, which supports exhibitions both at their museum on the UNIFOR campus and in sponsored exhibitions of high curatorial excellence in museums across the country, including shows of work by Adriana Varejão, Beatriz Milhazes, and Hélio Oiticica.

    And there is so much more that is possible, building on the unique resources of the Airton Queiroz Collection. Selections currently on view in Fortaleza, while powerful in scope, don't come close to telling the greater cultural story of Brazil that could be told if more of the Collection's works were on view and/or toured in exhibitions. The unique scope and depth of the collection cries out for more exhibition space and an international audience commensurate with the collection's riches. To a foreign visitor who regularly probes exhibitions on four continents for new cultural stories and insights, it's clear that works from the Queiroz collection would find a wide and rapt audience on the global level.

    This is a time of great evolution in the world, when people are attentive both to new cultural stories and to new insights into enduring stories. Whoever codifies the Brazilian legacy story viscerally for a pan-global audience will enhance the world's interest in and understanding of the Brazil of today. One hopes that now, when so many North American European museums are looking more closely at Latin American art of all periods and places, that the Airton Queiroz Collection, like a sleeping giant, will awaken to its full power.


    Below, the Queiroz family celebrates Airton's first birthday, 1948


    2017-02-14-1487086589-5026744-QueirozFamily.jpg

    -- 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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  • 02/14/17--11:00: What Impresses a Collector?
  • There are ways in which meeting a new collector is similar to applying for a job: An artist wants to show expertise and an agreeable personality; presumably, the artwork itself would reflect competence and achievement, but it is not uncommon to indicate that, like a job reference, others have regarded the artist's work highly as well. This is the reason that clippings of past reviews or feature articles are put out for visitors to an exhibition to peruse. It may not even matter whether or not the write-up is favorable, just that the artist's work has drawn the attention of a publication that saw some previous exhibit as important enough to publish a review, although as a practical matter most reviews in all but a tiny number of periodicals are quite positive.
    Beyond reviews, artists may wonder what else a visitor wants to know, what might add to their prestige. Perhaps, having received an art degree (Bachelor's of Fine Arts, Masters of Fine Arts) from some noted art school or university art program might seem significant, although it is not clear how important this information is to prospective collectors (potential employers might be interested in whether someone graduated from college) and, besides, so many other artists have the same degrees. Having studied with a particularly renowned artist may have greater standing with collectors.
    Signature Letters?
    An artist's prestige may also be suggested through the use of "signature letters" at the end of the artist's name. A form of nonacademic credentialing, these letters that follow artists' names refer to the membership society to which they belong. Both the American Watercolor Society and National Watercolor Society divide their members into two levels. The National Watercolor Society has both associates and signature members--the first group may join without jurying, the second requiring acceptance into the society's annual exhibition and then an additional jurying of three more paintings--while the American Watercolor Society has sustaining associates and active members. At the highest levels, members are permitted to include AWS or NWS after their names for professional purposes. The National Academy of Design also has two levels of membership, both of which include signature privileges: The first is an associate member (ANA), who is proposed by a current associate and approved in an election by at least 60 percent of the entire associate membership; the second is an academician (NA), who is chosen from the associates and elected by 60 percent of the academicians. Unlike the national watercolor societies, no jurying of individual works of art or acceptance into past or current annual exhibitions is part of the entry process.
    Signature letters have no specific value. To be a signature member of the Florida Watercolor Society, allowed to use the society's initials (FWS) after his or her name, for example, one must have been accepted into three of the society's juried exhibits. There are two other levels of membership to the Florida Watercolor Society that do not permit the use of signature letters: The first is associate membership, which can be anyone who is a Florida resident and pays the membership fee, and the second is participating membership, enabling one to vote for officers, policies, and venues for the society's annual juried exhibition, and these artists must have had one painting in a juried show. Other societies, on the other hand, allow anyone who pays the annual dues become a member and use the group's signature letters.
    Prizes and Awards?
    In another quest for professional standing, some artists choose to list on the biographical pages they offer visitors to their exhibitions or studios the prizes and awards they have won. All of these visual arts awards and prizes have far less value to the artist than an Oscar or Tony. It is not uncommon that someone is described as an "award-winning artist" without ever noting which award(s) the artist has won. That may be just as well, as few people would have heard of the particular award anyway. Receiving a Grumbacher medal does not assure a visual artist that a line of patrons will appear at his or her door the next day, or that the artist will appear on the cover of People magazine or be ranked among the top artists of one's time. In fact, the most lionized and successful artists, whose works are featured in museum retrospectives or whose faces adorn the covers of ARTnews or Art in America are unlikely to ever enter the competitions that offer prizes and awards. It was not even much of an event, for instance, when a Jasper Johns won the top prize at the 1988 Venice Biennial, as his standing in the art world was already greater than that of the award.
    Still, thousands of artists compete annually for awards and, for many, the awards and prizes area on their resumes is quite expansive. However, there is a wide range of opinion concerning to whom these prizes actually matter. On one end of the spectrum, there is a belief that prizes and awards do not matter at all. "Winning an award is nice when it happens for the artist," Janelle Reiring, director of New York's Metro Pictures gallery, stated. "It makes the artist feel good, I guess. It doesn't make any difference to me or to the collectors I deal with. Our collectors are certainly concerned with what critics and museum curators think, but not at all with what prizes or awards the artist may have won."

    -- 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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    Water, sky, sand, warmth, refraction, hands, lips, breasts, ocean, touch, light dancing on the female form. These words describe the debut solo exhibition of multi-media artist Allison Harrell at The Ward Nasse Gallery in New York City.


    2017-02-13-1487024938-7405994-2.jpg


    I was privy to view the works pre-opening and their soft surrealness and comforting qualities are difficult to describe concretely. One part sensual with nude model Monique Berarducci swimming in waves and filmed from all positions above and below the surface the work takes on a subliminal quality. The type of quality one might have when alone with ones thoughts when swimming below the surface in the ocean, or gazing at the wonder of the stars above the night sky.

    Some works are viewed through specially crafted viewing portals shaped like crystals. What makes her art unique is the redefinition of light and how it impacts the senses.

    There is an official opening to the public this Thursday February 16th from 5-7pm at the Ward Nasse Gallery at 178 Prince Street, New York New York. Music has been specially composed for the exhibition by notable recording artist "The Adversary" who is Ms. Harrell's fiance.

    I sat with her recently to ask how all this came about? I was surprised to learn she discovered the gallery two years prior. One day while shopping in Soho she came upon the gallery and went in to purchase a piece of art as a gift. She engaged in conversation with the curator and soon a friendship grew which led to some of Allison's work being included into a group show, and now this solo exhibition titled "Silent Partner."

    2017-02-13-1487024887-4594785-1.jpg


    The Gallery itself is a type of collective with further rooms displaying many different artists work behind the front gallery space. It has the feeling of a collective and I'm told the space is owned by an art enthusiast who believes in putting all profits back into the gallery and toward the artists. It's an unusual non-profit mentality.

    The exhibition runs through February. PR inquiries Sharon Ellman Momentum Media 917-292-7471

    -- 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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    Larry Gagosian, Daniel Templon, David Zwirner, and Arne Glimcher are the top art dealers to date. Undoubtedly successful, with Gagosian's revenue hitting $925 million, how much influence do they have on the art market?

    A lot. These top art dealers have major billionaires and new money individuals as their clients. What makes them successful is their expertise in the art market as well as being a great salesperson. A good repertoire of clients is a must, but so is the ability to maintain and continuously sell to the same circle of clients time and time again. To do so, they must understand each client on a personal level, what they like and dislike, buying and selling behavior, and tastes. They must also understand whether or not the client is buying art for investment or lifestyle value, especially since art is becoming increasingly commercialized and buying art is no longer all about taste. Instead, it is treated increasingly as a tradeable asset, specifically by buyers under the age of 50, who buy art with a investment view. According to the Deloitte and ArtTactic Art and Finance Report:

    "Art increasingly accounts for a larger proportion of individual wealth: wealth managers see the evident rise in art prices and values in both absolute terms and relative to their client's' overall portfolio (art in wealth portfolios is estimated at US$ 1.5 trillion), as a strong argument for starting to offer services and products to help clients manage this new wealth"

    Another essential quality of a great art dealer is his or her ability to consistently sell works of art. The art market is not as stagnant as it may seem. Statistics from Art Economics (2016) show that works of art under $50,000, which account for 89.5% of the market, are the most liquid segment.. On the other hand, works of art sold above a million dollars only account for 0.88% of the market.

    2017-02-14-1487108558-6430286-VolumeofSalesArtMarket.001.jpeg
    Source: TEFAF AMR 2016

    Daniel Templon started his own gallery with zero background in the arts. He started from humble beginnings as an gym teacher, but eventually became one of the most prominent art dealers in Paris, situating his gallery in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. He is known to exhibit both local and international artists, from Martin Barre to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

    Similarly, Larry Gagosian started his career as a poster salesman. Now, as the top art dealer, he has 15 galleries in cities across the world. His most important clients include Christie's Francois Pinault and billionaire Steve Cohen.

    Dealers and their galleries are the tastemakers of the art market - what they say goes. As the mediator between the artist and the buyer, they have the authority to pick and choose which artist to represent and at what price they sell the works of art for. Unlike auction houses, galleries are not obliged to release information on sales and,as a result, some investors view the art market as unregulated and speculative.

    2017-02-14-1487108669-4272045-ALTASSETGRAPHS.008.jpeg

    The valuation of art assets are unlike the valuation of stock prices. There isn't a formula, as each work of art is unique and is subjective to every viewer. Therefore, overtime, several galleries and collectors have risen and gained the label as tastemakers of the art market.

    Auctions help determine prices for the art market, since all sale records are readily available for the general public. Regardless, an artist's success is helped along by strong marketing, which can drive up and even manipulate prices. Since galleries are players in the primary market, they can manipulate prices through the secondary market - by driving prices up at auction.

    Nonetheless, there is a set standard to valuate a piece of artwork: authenticity, condition, rarity, provenance, and value.

    -- 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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    Happy Valentine's Day, my friends. Let's make a toast to everyone and everything that we love. I've been looking for something joyful and inspirational to share with you on a day like this. And look what I found. The just-released documentary "Mr. Gaga" has nothing to do with the Lady of the same name. 'Gaga' is a particular style of dance invented by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, leader of the Batsheva Dance Company based in Tel Aviv.

    2017-02-14-1487115185-1158705-1_Composite_GAGA.jpg

    "Mr. Gaga" (2015). Dir: Tomar Heymann


    A charismatic and complicated man, Naharin began to study dance unusually late, at the age of 22, after finishing mandatory military service in Israel. He studied with Martha Graham and then joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for a single unhappy year. This documentary shows Ohad Naharin slowly developing his unique, psychologically complex dance vocabulary that is miles away from the refinement of classical ballet or modern dance. Like a poet who is not satisfied with the confines of the mere 26 letters in the alphabet and invents dozens of new letters, Naharin invents an incredible amount of never before seen body movements. These movements are not beautiful in a traditional sense, but they are absolutely magical and transcendent. The documentary "Mr. Gaga" is currently playing at select Laemmle Theaters.

    2017-02-14-1487115212-3907038-2_FR_Mejico_Mexico.jpg

    Frank Romero, ¡Méjico, Mexico!, 1984 | Courtesy of Cheech Marin


    Are you ready for more drama and more passion? Then let's jump on the freeway and make our way to Long Beach, to the Museum of Latin American Art. That's where you will find a sprawling retrospective of legendary L.A. artist Frank Romero, encompassing 50 years of his career. With a unique sense of humor, Romero depicts freeway jams and drive-by shootings; singing cowboys and singing skeletons. Everything in his art is a spectacle of the highest order.

    2017-02-14-1487115283-8093276-3_FR_ClosingofWhittierBlvd.jpg
    Frank Romero, The Closing of Whittier Blvd., 1984. Oil on canvas | Courtesy of Cástulo de la Rocha and Zoila D. Escobar


    When I arrived in L.A. in the late 70s, I had never driven a car before. I was horrified and, at the same time, mesmerized by being on the freeway. At night, during the traffic, red lights of thousands of cars in front of me looked like a stream of rubies, while the headlights of oncoming traffic came across as a flow of diamonds. Looking at the monumental paintings by Frank Romero always reminds me of my initial response to the dramatic scale and theatrical spirit of our City of Angels.

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    Frank Romero, History of the Chicano Movimiento , 1984. Acrylic & graphite on canvas | Courtesy of Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard


    As a young artist in the late 1970s, Romero became known as a member of the celebrated Chicano artist collective Los Four, along with Carlos Almaraz, Gilbert Lujan, Roberto de la Rocha, and Judithe Hernández. Later this Summer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present a major retrospective of paintings by the late Carlos Almaraz. It seems like it took a few decades for our museums to recognize the unique and important contributions of these Chicano artists to the American, and specifically to the Los Angeles thriving art scene.

    2017-02-14-1487115508-9112014-5_Composite_FrankRomero_MOLAA.jpg Left: Homage to Kienholz, Back Seat Dodge, 1991. Oil on canvas | Courtesy of Cheech Marin
    Right: Freeway Wars, 1987. Oil on canvas | Courtesy of LACMA


    In one of his paintings, Romero pays homage to the famously infamous sculpture by Ed Kienholz, Back Seat Dodge (1964). When Kienholz's sculpture was initially shown at LACMA in 1966, police shut down the exhibition on charges of obscenity. The reason was its blatant depiction of sex between a life-size sculpture of a man, made out of chicken wire, and a woman -- legs splayed open -- whose body was cast in plaster. Frank Romero's painting of the same scene is not so much trying to shock the viewer as it is attempting to infuse the scene with absurdity and dark humor. It's difficult not to giggle while looking at this painting. However, my advice would be to not to have your grandma at your side while you're standing in front of this painting, which happens to be on loan from the extensive collection of Chicano art owned by comedian Cheech Marin.

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    Installation view, "Dreamland: a Frank Romero Retrospective" at the Latin American Museum of Art, Long Beach





    ___________


    Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.

    To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read more about his classes in the New York Times here, and in Artillery Magazine.

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    “It’s hard to hate up close.”  ― Dr. Oz


    I have spent the last several months immersed in a documentary for National Geographic called “Gender Revolution.” The entire process was life-changing and mind-altering for me and hopefully for others who watch. The impetus for making the film was simple: I screwed up.  


    When I hosted a daytime talk show (”Katie” ― how original!) I did an interview with Carmen Carrera, a trans fashion model. And yes, I asked her a highly offensive question about her “private parts.” When the show was being edited to air on a later date, I asked the producers to keep the offensive question in so others could realize, with the help of another guest on that same show ― Laverne Cox ― how grossly insensitive it was. My efforts to provide a “teachable moment” for my audience failed miserably, and the backlash on social media was loud and harsh. Clearly, I had a lot to learn. 



    I have come a long way since I asked Carmen that intrusive, 'cringeworthy' question.



    Some people might have thought I was crazy to go there again. But the more I saw gender issues becoming increasingly front and center in the news, the more I realized there was so much I didn’t understand. And I wanted to. One of the many reasons I chose to pursue a career in journalism is because I like to take complex topics and deconstruct them, in hopes that they can be better understood. It may seem like a no-brainer, but knowledge can be incredibly powerful and empowering. And in a media landscape that employs sound bites and tweets to inform us on a whole array of topics, I thought it was important to take a deep dive. 


    Needless to say, I learned a lot. That gender is not as black and white, or pink and blue, as I once believed. That scientists are just beginning to understand the biological factors that contribute to gender identity. That sexual orientation is a completely different ball of wax. That there’s a huge generational gap in the way millennials and baby-boomers view gender. That societal expectations vary from culture to culture, and full acceptance of those who live beyond the binary exists in places like Samoa. I learned why asking someone about their former self (dead-naming) can be so painful to those able to finally embrace their true selves. That “woodworking” wasn’t something done in my brother Johnny’s shop class, but the only way a trans person like Renee Richards could survive when she underwent gender confirmation surgery in the 1970s. 


    I didn’t get everything right. When I saw Gavin Grimm, whose case is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court on March 28th, he told me he liked the film, but added, “I wish you hadn’t said I was born a girl.” The person I was before making this film might have said, “Don’t be ridiculous!” The person I have become understands how hurtful such a description can be.


    I used to feel that the LGBTQ community could do more to help the rest of us understand. I often wondered, why can’t they be more patient as we grapple with this new normal? (Whatever normal means.) I even asked Gavin about this when I visited him at his home in Gloucester, Virginia. Preternaturally mature for 17, he told me in essence, it wasn’t his job to teach the world why he is the way he is. It made me realize what a burden it would be for me to have to explain myself to everyone I meet. No, thank you. 


    I have come a long way since I asked Carmen that intrusive, “cringeworthy” question. In fact, after the DC screening of the film, I told Sarah McBride of the Human Rights Campaign and the first trans speaker to address a national political convention, that I was at times embarrassed by my naiveté and cluelessness during the film. She assured me that witnessing someone’s evolution is very helpful in promoting social change.   


    I’m still learning. But I’m grateful to everyone I met met along the way. They were brave and generous, and greeted my curiosity ― and at times, ignorance ― with kindness and yes, patience.  Up close, they were just people who I’m now proud to call friends. No other qualifier necessary.  


    ―-


    “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” is currently available for free on YouTubeFacebook and National Geographic through February 21.


    Educators and organizations can also sign up for a free DVD and discussion guide here.

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  • 02/15/17--05:44: Welcome Back, William Inge
  • 2017-02-09-1486676028-9991692-WilliamInge_cropped.jpg


    By Helaine Feldman, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, February 15, 2017

    Although he won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama along with many other awards, had five plays produced on Broadway during the 1950s--which were later successfully adapted for the screen, William Inge remains largely underappreciated. But happily, not by Off-Broadway's Transport Group.

    This award-winning theatre company is presenting two of Inge's finest plays--Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba--in rotating repertory at The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, from Thursday, February 23 through Sunday, April 16. The cast includes Michele Pawk (featured in the Transport Group's 2007 revival of Inge's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs), Emily Skinner (Billy Elliot), Heather MacRae (I Remember Mama), Joseph Kolinski (Follies), John Cariani (Something Rotten) and Hannah Elless (Bright Star).

    Encouraged by Tennessee Williams, whom he met when he was a drama critic at the St. Louis Star-Times in 1943, Inge had his first play produced in Dallas in 1947. His first play to be produced on Broadway was Come Back, Little Sheba in 1950, which starred Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer, both receiving Tony Awards for their performances. The 1952 screen version starred Booth, who won an Oscar for her role, with Burt Lancaster.

    Picnic ran on Broadway from February 19, 1953 to April 10, 1954 and brought Inge the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play also marked Paul Newman's Broadway debut. It, too, was adapted for the screen and the stage version has been revived several times over the years.

    This was followed in 1955 by Bus Stop, which was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award and was made into a film starring Marilyn Monroe.

    Next up was the Broadway production of The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, which was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Play, and was adapted into a film in 1960.

    Inge closed out the decade with his 1959 play, A Loss of Roses, which was not as well received as the earlier four plays, but is distinguished for featuring newcomer Warren Beatty in the cast.

    William Inge may not be well remembered on Broadway, but he is celebrated annually in his home town of Independence, Kansas where, since 1982, Independence Community College's William Inge Center for the Arts has sponsored the William Inge Theatre Festival to honor playwrights. Inge also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and a black box theatre named for him at the University of Kansas.

    Since its founding in 2001, Transport Group has produced 23 shows--13 new works and 12 revivals, including 12 plays and 13 musicals.

    For tickets, schedule and information on these not-to-be-missed revivals of Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba, click here.

    Cover: William Inge; photo: courtesy of William Inge Center for the Arts
    _________________________________

    Helaine Feldman, a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc, writes about theater performance and related features.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    Donald Trump--From Broadway Producer to President

    The Public Theater and The New Yorker Team Up to Talk Trump

    The Honest, Touching Emotion of 'Milk and Honey' at the York

    Pedrito Martinez--A Look Back on the Journey Thus Far

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

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    Since the early 1990s, German artist Wolfgang Tillmans has earned recognition as one of the most exciting and innovative artists working today. In 2000, he was the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize. Tillmans spent many years in the UK and is currently based in Berlin. Wolfgang Tillmans' current show is Wolfgang Tillmans's first ever exhibition at Tate Modern and brings together works in a variety of media - mainly photographs, but also video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music.



    The show has its focus on the artist's work produced in the fourteen years since his exhibition at Tate Britain. The year 2003 is the exhibition's point of departure, representing for Tillmans the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. The social and political form a rich vein throughout the artist's work. This video provides you with an exhibition walkthrough on the occasion of the press view of the show.

    2017-02-15-1487168448-3865185-IMG_7660.jpg

    For more videos covering contemporary art and architecture, go to VernissageTV.

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    The world is happy for you, Beyoncé, no doubt. And that includes the Association of International Boudoir Photographers. There is no doubt that you are a marketing genius, to have done a throwback-style of Kiddie Kandids, a "nod" to Sears Studios, or hey - maybe even Blue took the photo.

    There is also no doubt that you're stunning, talented beyond words, and that there isn't a single person on Earth who wouldn't want to have lunch with you at Popeyes or Ivy. Who doesn't love fried chicken and fifteen minutes of fame?!

    When you posted your maternity image, however, the photography forums went up in a blaze of commentary about the style, appeal, and well... pretty much everything from the flower wreath to the shade of green (?) veil on your head.

    From our award winning boudoir/maternity photographers in AIBP to a slew of hobbyists and weekend-warriors-alike, there are probably three million people who could assist you in wall-art and Instagram likes. We, at AIBP, could totally get you a list of amazing talent that would like to help you out by offering you another chance at a debut of your growing twins.

    From Jennifer Rozenbaum, Susan Eckert - or if you prefer a male, there's award-winning Shawn Black... and our list goes on and on ... we have amazing photogs on six continents.

    I'm sure you have your "go-to," preference, but just know, that we got your back, and would be more than happy to help scrub the net and pretend your image never happened.

    It's okay - we all make mistakes. Props to you for going with unique... but honestly, I just can't see that portrait hanging in any of your abodes or yachts.

    What say you? We're here for ya.

    Sincerely,

    AIBP

    -- 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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    Over the Christmas holidays I was privileged to perform with the Philadelphia Festival Orchestra on its first tour abroad and my first time playing with them.

    It was the best orchestra I ever performed with as well as one of the greatest French horn sections I have ever experienced. I have worked with our conductor, Jed Gaylin, before as a member of the Bay Atlantic Symphony. He was his usual energetic and precise self and provided us with inspiring leadership not just musically but spiritually as we endured a grueling schedule with ten concerts in twelve days with long travel on planes, trains, and buses.

    Every concert was excellent, even those at the end of the tour when half the orchestra members were suffering from flus and sore throats.

    We experienced many enthusiastic sold out crowds that wanted two or three encores each time. There were also many children in the audiences that displayed exemplary behavior (not sure we would have experienced that here in the USA.)

    The condition of the venues we played in varied from Carnegie Hall-like to dusty and cold or poor acoustics. Most were high quality. The tour provided the string bassists, harpist, and percussion section with instruments from the hall or local orchestras. This provided quite an adventure for these musicians, especially our harpist. The cellists were also provided instruments when we arrived in Shanghai that they were responsible for lugging around for use on the whole tour.

    Kudos to these musicians for performing on such a high level on instruments they were unfamiliar with. We only had one rehearsal the day of our first concert and I could tell immediately that this was a special orchestra and it would be a joy to perform with them. There were some complications that first rehearsal like no conductor podium and not the right chair for the harpist and some music scores missing for the timpanist and a freezing, cold hall as well as not enough time for dinner. Our piccolo player had a nasty fall in an unlighted hallway. But by concert time all was sorted out and the concert went well, even though we all had jet lag having arrived the day before.

    This was on Christmas Day and to my surprise, China does celebrate the holiday (at least the commercial part of it) and there were many cute children with Santa hats in the audience.

    They were an appreciative group as we presented a New Year's Eve type program with Strauss Waltzes, "Sleigh Ride", "Star Wars Medley" (ironically Carrie Fisher passed away while we were on tour), "Oklahoma Medley", three popular Chinese works including "I Love You, China" which was sung beautifully in Chinese by our guest soprano from Poland, Maria Antkowiak. Maria also performed "Musetta's Waltz" from Puccini's "La Boheme." The moment she began singing in the rehearsal we all had our breaths taken away by the power of her pure, lyrical voice and we knew this would be a great two weeks musically. "I Love You, China" was very well received with the audiences often erupting into applause in the middle of the piece. I believe the work has a similar impact on the Chinese people as "God Bless America" has in the USA.

    Congratulations also go out to Ping Liang, our principal bassoonist who contracted the orchestra and managed the tour. There were a dozen or so Chinese Americans in the orchestra that stepped up and translated for us as well as helped coordinate our travels. It was a total group effort. I also am grateful to Mr. Chen and others from China that arranged the trip.

    All of our hotel accommodations were first class and we were treated very well by the staffs and those hosting us at each concert. We felt like celebrities and I personally was heartened to see how the arts are respected and appreciated there. Often, Chinese women dressed in brightly colored, gorgeous long dresses would host the events.

    The food was great and organic. My stomach was happy. All was paid for including our hotels and plane and train tickets.

    My main regret is that our schedule did not allow for much sight seeing. I took many pictures from our bus including the Yellow River and a huge statue of Genghis Khan on the top of a mountain. The weather varied as we traveled far north to Wuhai and Harbin where we saw ice sculptures and snow and to the south to Nanning near Viet Nam where there were palm trees.

    Before our last concert a woman and her husband came up to me and our bass trombonist as we were sitting outside near the entrance and asked me in English if she could get a picture with us. We obliged and I got one too. A little later an adorable young girl wearing a Snow White costume walked by with her father. I asked her if I could take her picture and it is a favorite when I share the photos on my cell.

    One of the negatives was the smog we experienced everywhere we went. I believe that contributed to many of us getting sore throats. Most of us ended up wearing face masks a lot. It makes me glad that President Obama got China to sign a climate change pact and that the Chinese government has a 10 year plan to deal with it. It also makes me sad and worried that our current president has promised to end climate regulations and shut down the EPA. Could this smog happen here in a decade if we do this? It seems we are going in the wrong direction.

    But overall, it was a very successful trip and a great musical adventure. I made a lot of new musician friends and was grateful that we were such a patient, inspiring, and cooperative group of people (reflecting our conductor's positive attitude) and we all made it a meaningful, uplifting experience.

    The forty seven member orchestra itself is made up of a very diverse group of young and middle aged, women and men, Asian, Jewish, Christian, Brazilian, and Russian from Philadelphia as well as NYC and New Jersey. We served as a good cross section of the world as music is the international language. I regret there were no African Americans but I know this was not intentional however I found it strange that I saw not one black person in China.

    Overall, I see us as ambassadors for America and we represented our country very well. I was proud to have been a part of this inspiring and excellent adventure and hope the goodwill displayed on our tour will not be dampened in the future by our present leader's constant criticism of China. This experience made me feel we are all one people in this world and we have so much in common and we need to put our differences aside and work for peace and the health of our planet. I can honestly say "I love you, China."

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    Long before Anthony Bourdain and a host of celebrity chefs made the pursuit of exotic foods an armchair adventure, American tourists had a strange reputation. Whether they were traveling in France, Japan, or other countries known for their culinary arts, many gravitated to their safety zone: McDonalds.


    With the open-mindedness of the Obama administration gone from the White House, the rampant xenophobia exhibited by insecure, power-hungry white nationalists has resulted in a bungled refugee ban, threats to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities (as well as privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting), and a new wave of anti-intellectualism.


    The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education tested millions of gag reflexes across the nation. From satirical articles like Grizzly Attacks School of Salmon ― Dozens Dead and Betsy DeVos Tosses $10 Million Into Capitol Reflecting Pool For Luck to Michelle Olson’s A Thank You Letter to Betsy DeVos From a Public School Teacher, people have not held back in venting their opposition to Trump blatantly rewarding rich and incompetent political hacks with jobs for which they are supremely unqualified.




    The impact of Trump’s refugee ban is being felt throughout the arts community, with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival having to process canceled ticket orders from groups of Canadian students who make annual treks to its theatres in Ashland, Oregon. Many international artists may end up canceling appearances in American cities because of the risks to themselves, their support staff, and their musicians.


    Inspired by The Ghostlight Project, on January 19th, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. in each time zone across the United States, people gathered outside theaters to create a “light” for the dark times ahead and “to make or renew a pledge to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” Two weeks later, the leaders of multiple nonprofit theaters in the San Francisco Bay area released the following statement:


    We, the artistic and managing directors of Bay Area theaters, feel we must speak out against the executive order that would deny the freedom and safety that we know as Americans. This new generation of immigrants deserves the protection and opportunity that America has always provided. Our great American theaters would be far poorer without the authors, playwrights, actors, directors, technical staff, administrators, and audiences who come to us from all over the world, enriching our lives and the lives of those who experience our work. Theater has always provided a bridge between cultures. There is no theater without empathy and compassion ― that is the very nature of what we do. We call on our government to show the compassion and generosity that have done so much to make the United States a haven for the oppressed and a beacon of freedom. We take our responsibility as global citizens extremely seriously and urge the President and his administration to rescind the executive order and reestablish an open exchange between artists and audiences from all over the world.

    It’s gotten so bad that Bill Maher could no longer restrain himself from venting about the tsunami of stupidity and insensitivity sweeping the nation.





    Ironically, trying to put a damper on the arts only makes artists more determined to use their creativity to fight against ignorance. The 2017 CAAMFest features a screening of a poignant full-length animation feature entitled Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming. The promotional material describes the film’s story as follows:


    Rosie Ming, a young Canadian poet, is invited to perform at a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran. She lives at home with her over-protective Chinese grandparents and has never been anywhere by herself. Once in Iran, she finds herself in the company of poets and Persians, all who tell her stories that force her to confront her past: the Iranian father she assumed abandoned her and the nature of poetry itself. It’s about building bridges between cultural and generational divides. It’s about being curious. Staying open. And finding your own voice through the magic of poetry. Rosie goes on an unwitting journey of forgiveness, reconciliation, and perhaps above all, understanding, through learning about her father’s past, her own cultural identity, and her responsibility to it. This is a film filled with poetry and stories. While the narrative of the film is presented in one particular style, the poems and histories will be created by different artists, to both accentuate and blend the myriad of differences in cultures, philosophies, time frames and poetry. It is a film about identity and the imagination. This film is our small effort to try and add a little more peace, love, and understanding to our increasingly complex and conflicted world through art, poetry, history, and culture.




    If timing is everything, then the world premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns received a blessing in disguise from the Trump administration. Based on the 2007 best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini and adapted by Ursula Rani Sarma, the play puts faces on people whose lives have been torn apart in Afghanistan and focuses on the plight of women and girls in a severely repressive culture.



    This co-production between American Conservatory Theater and Theatre Calgary has been spearheaded and directed by Carey Perloff, with handsome sets designed by Ken Macdonald, costumes by Linda Cho, and lighting by Robert Wierzel. Unlike many dramas, which might rely on a local dramaturg, the creative team also includes cultural consultant Humaira Ghilzai, who explains that:


    The main role of a cultural consultant is to bring cultural literacy to a project in order to create an authentic portrayal of Afghan people, their customs, and their languages. I work closely with the playwright, director, costume designer, set designer, props team, marketing team, voice coach, and actors to achieve authenticity in every aspect of the production. You might say a headscarf is just a headscarf, but I’m here to tell you there’s much more to it.


    Hosseini's epic novel focuses on multiple generations of Afghan women struggling to survive in modern-day Kabul.


    • After a mortar shell destroys her home, Laila (Nadine Malouf), finds herself unmarried and pregnant. With her Tajik parents dead and their residence destroyed, she is forced to marry her older neighbor, Rasheed (Haysam Kadri), in order to survive.


    • After Laila gives birth to a baby girl which she names Azizah (Nikita Tewani), her daughter's thirst for learning is threatened when the Taliban seizes control of Kabul. When Laila goes into labor with her second child, a boy who will be named Zalmai (Neel Noronha), an emergency Caesarean section is performed by a female doctor (Denmo Ibrahim) who refuses to wear a burqa while performing surgery.


    • Throughout their adult lives, Laila and Mariam are haunted by memories of their mothers, Fariba and Nana (both played by Denmo Ibrahim), who tried to warn them about the evils of men.





    Because of its status as a melting pot whose inhabitants celebrate diversity, Bay area audiences may be more open to stories from exotic cultures. Many other Americans, however, might be shocked by the misogyny and brutality directed at women by the men portrayed in A Thousand Splendid Suns. As Perloff explains:

    "War has a way of creating strange bedfellows. When Laila and Mariam are thrust together in Rasheed’s house, it is impossible to predict that, over the years, the women will save each other again and again from the depredations of a violent husband and an even more violent culture. Their journey seemed ripe for theatricalization."


    As the play begins, the audience is captivated by the sight of people being dragged across the stage while seated on large pieces of fabric. One of them is David Coulter, who wrote the music for A Thousand Splendid Suns and is first seen playing a musical saw.


    I own maybe a dozen different saws (including a gold-plated and rhinestone-encrusted one made in 1921). For a carpenter’s hand tool, a saw is capable of producing a vast and wide array of sonic possibilities. When played well, it is capable of indescribable beauty. It contains passion and tenderness. The opposite extremes are also possible: it can be used to create horrific and excruciatingly ugly sounds. All my saws are essentially produced with the intention of being used musically. I often play readymades (regular woodworking saws as found in a store). But for precision and the concert stage and recording studio, I nearly always use a saw made by a company called Mussehl and Westphal based in East Troy, Wisconsin.




    “As a sound artist, I try to create sound meditation. A musical exploration of resonance. Playing with time. A creation of space. An exploration of emotions to create vivid images," Coulter explains. "For A Thousand Splendid Suns, I wanted to create sonic backdrops as the concrete thing that will be there every time, but to allow and factor in a methodology whereby I can still keep myself fresh by playing variations of themes and phrases. I will obviously be playing saw, but also bells, octave violin, drums, various jaw harps, thumb pianos, pitch pipes, some new metal and water percussion instruments, old rusty springs, etc. There are also little bits of flute and saxophone, played by Ralph Carney, that will be creeping in here and there. It is obviously crucial to have concrete and sometimes countable elements in the score for precise cueing of lighting and scene changes as well as for actors who will be expecting a sonic familiarity to each performance.”



    How does Coulter balance his technique with the cultural demands of the play? “I have listened to a huge amount of Afghan music and have closely researched the sounds of the country, but I have made a very conscious decision not to replicate or imitate what I have heard," he says. "The music of the country is so intricate and varied by region that it would be a very tall order to create something that would do it justice and not fall into parody. I have drawn on rhythms and modes and tried to create my own vocabulary and palette of sounds from which to draw. The most crucial thing as a composer for this story was to make sounds that reflect the undercurrent of the characters of the piece, not to try and make my own version of Afghan music.”



    Coulter’s contribution to the production (backed by the superb sound design by Jake Rodriguez) goes a long way toward establishing the soundscape for A Thousand Splendid Suns. This is especially critical considering the fact that Hosseini’s novel initially gained popularity through the power of its words. In adapting the book for the stage, Ursula Rani Sarma and Carey Perloff whittled away some of the novel’s scenes to focus on the relationship between Mariam and Laila. As the playwright explains:


    The theater is one of the best mediums with which to explore complex human relationships like the ones at the center of A Thousand Splendid Suns. It’s about the immense strength and endurance of women and how they can survive tremendous suffering to keep those they love alive. It is also about how love can grow and sustain the human spirit beyond all pain and hardship, even in the darkest of times and places. There simply isn’t enough room in a play to go into depth explaining the complicated history and culture of Afghanistan, so I chose to include only what was necessary to best serve the characters and their evolution throughout the piece. As in the novel, the relationship between Mariam and Laila (trapped in a violent home, reaching out to each other) forms the spine of the play. The difference is that, on the stage, the characters will take on a physical existence while an audience bears witness to their extraordinary journey. From a practical perspective, the majority of the conflict unfolds indoors, in confined spaces, so many of these scenes make for great theatre because they are dramatic, tense, and emotionally engaging.


    The result allows for a surprising amount of lyricism to co-exist with Rasheed's domestic violence; even allowing Mariam's execution to provide a sense of redemption in death similar to Marguerite's transformation in Faust. Compare that to the style of heavy war porn on display in this trailer from the as-yet unreleased screen adaptation of A Thousand Splendid Suns.





    With several actors (Barzin Akhavan, Jason Kapoor, Denmo Ibrahim) cast in multiple roles, Perloff has done an excellent job of keeping the narrative flowing. As always, Ibrahim is a commanding presence onstage while Pomme Koch's portrayals of both the young and mature Tariq are especially touching.



    Haysam Kadri plays the abusive Rasheed as well as the aged, kinder Talib with equal skill while Nikita Tewani shines as Azizah. However, the evening's suffering rests on the shoulders of Nadine Malouf as Laila and Kate Rigg as Mariam, with both artists doing impressive work to show the emotional suffering and intellectually stifling treatment of women in a severely oppressive, male-dominated culture.


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    2017-01-27-1485483932-3771515-Untitled_Artwork14.jpg

    'Looking Inside Yourself 2'
    iPad drawing by Adam James Butcher





    The Creative message

    If you're one of many artists who don't think you have a powerful story, then you probably haven't uncovered the all important creative message behind your own. Chances are, you've let your negative voices become your barrier to achieving a clear sense of direction and mission as an artist. Lack of faith in your experience and ability, have affected the confidence you have in your creative process.

    Identify with this?

    Then I'd like to take you quickly through my own story and share some insights into why recognizing and giving life to your creative story, is the first step in achieving recognition as an artist.

    My Creative Story

    I'm 12 years old, my passion is making art. I have a super privileged life and my parents are the perfect role models. But then something happens that has such an impact on my life. My parents sit me down and explain that they no longer love each other and are going to get a divorce. In that instant my world crumbles. An already shy child, I develop a deep sense of low self esteem that stays with me all my life and becomes both my curse and my gift.

    At 21, I leave university with the degree in fine art that is going to ensure my success. Once again my lack of self belief returns to haunt me. Alongside many other artists, I work in isolation as a struggling artist for three years and one day I hit my all time low. I can't afford to continue making art and take a low payed job. A few months later, I'm finishing a long gruelling day selling sandwiches in central London without achieving any commission at all. I wonder where all my dreams of becoming an artist have gone. What is the point? I quit and in desperation, I contemplate ending it all on the journey back home.

    Somehow I make it through to the next day and I remember that text from a friend about her amazing experience of taking her teacher training. What could I loose? It' was after all free. So I enrolled, achieved my teacher status and chose to never return to that hell state again. And over the next 15 extremely challenging years, I became an award winning head of art in a top central London Arts Academy.

    The lessons I learned along this journey became the very key breakthroughs I needed in allowing me to take that big leap of faith and become the professional artist I have always been destined to be.

    And here I am today, living the dream in the Mexican Caribbean, working full-time as a fine artist, writer, speaker and coach. An amazing journey has just begun, not only for me, but for the artists I help reach new heights.

    The Creative Vision

    The moment I unleashed my authentic creative story, my purpose and vision began to solidify. As well as making art, I also achieved a deep sense accomplishment by supporting other artists.

    With the tools and insights taken from my own journey, I've developed a 7 Step Blueprint, that I now use to help artists around the world, break through their creative barriers, so that they can achieve the fulfilment and recognition they deserve.

    Your creative story is your first step and what will define you as an artist. It's a reflection on the barriers and breakthroughs you have experiences along your life journey and it's what gives you your clarity, uniqueness and vision.

    When we hear a person's life story, in most cases it tends to be a set of linear facts that lead them to where they are now. In the telling of our stories, we often avoid digging deeper and revealing the underlying message. We miss the point of a good story and are in effect re-writing our resume or personal record. The way we share our stories is weak and this can inevitably reflect back in our lack of self worth and higher purpose.

    The Creative Mindset

    A tip - don't see your story as being in the past. After all there has always only been the now. When you tell it as if its happening now, it becomes so much more powerful and relates to the actions you and the people who are listening to it, will take next. The way you shape your story can have a big effect on how you perceive the future and your life vision. Your life experience up until now is a fixed element and can't change, however, you have the ability to perceive it as either a positive or a negative experience, whatever the hardships you have gone through.

    In fact, drawing out and understanding the deeper message in your story, can be an incredibly therapeutic process. Understanding the reasons why we went through what we did, can help us develop a clearer creative purpose. In my experience, getting to the point where you are confident enough in yourself to make an impact on others is the answer to becoming truly fulfilled.

    The Creative Sharing

    The secret to unleashing the powerful story that lies within each of us, is focussing on how it inspires, moves, encourages and creates value for others. Our story must connect and touch other lives. Being able to open up and share our true vulnerability is what makes us human in the eyes of others. People relate to and empathize with your authentic life experience. More than this, the way you present your story validates the unique qualities that you can draw on to help others.


    You can join the 'Tools for Creative Breakthroughs' community where you'll receive my free training video on 'The 3 Secrets to Unleashing Your Unique Creative Story'.

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    It’s funny. With all of the furor over Beyonce’s losing the Album of the Year Grammy for the third time, you’d think Katy Perry or Britney Spears had snatched the prize out of Queen Bey’s outstretched hands. But people, she was beaten by Adele.


    While I personally think there wasn’t much to 25 beyond “Hello” (for me, 19 remains Adele’s strongest album-length work), are we really going to start slamming an artist as important as the Brit with the big, booming voice ― one who apparently also doesn’t think she’s worthy of her second Album of the Year prize in as many tries?


    Everyone, including Adele herself, has been asking what Beyonce needs to do to win Album of the Year. It’s a valid question, and this five-part answer has nothing to do with the quality of her music or her race. #GrammysNotSoWhite


    1. She needs to release an acclaimed hit album with at least one monster single.


    Lemonade was not the “cultural movement” everyone keeps saying it was ― not unless you spend all of your time reading online think pieces. Here in the real world, 2016 was all about “Hello.” The 25 power ballad was everywhere. It was the song that launched countless homages/parodies and had us all reminiscing about past loves. Even non-Adele fans can probably sing its opening line.


    But here’s a task for those who aren’t dedicated to the Beyhive: Quick, name one song on Lemonade. While you consider that for a moment, also consider this: Lemonade didn’t spawn a single runaway smash. Even “Formation,” for all the internet obsession, only made it to No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (a position it held for one week before tumbling to No. 19).


    In fact, Beyonce hasn’t scored a Hot 100 No. 1 since 2008’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” from her first Album of the Year Grammy nominee, I Am...Sasha Fierce. And if we’re being completely honest, it was the last time a Beyonce song was a bonafide cultural movement. You didn’t have to be in the Beyhive to get all those “put a ring on it” references.


    For all of Sasha Fierce’s chart success, critics were not totally on board. It never stood an Album of the Year chance against Taylor Swift’s better-reviewed Fearless. If she’s going to finally snag the big prize, Beyonce is going to have to find a way to be a singles lady and a critical darling.


    Still trying to come up with a Lemonade title? “Becky with the Good Hair”? No, that was the publicity hook. The title was “Sorry,” and it debuted and peaked at No. 11 on the Hot 100. The cheating track was bigger in the tabloids than on the charts. Now I challenge you, casual Beyonce fans, to sing one line from it.


    2. She needs to take it down a few notches.


    While I don’t completely agree with Carlos Santana’s assessment that Beyonce is “not a singer, singer,” I do understand where it’s coming from. I’m reminded of George Clooney, who has been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar three times, but has still only won in the supporting category.


    People say he always plays the same character, but anyone who has actually seen his Best Actor-nominated performances in Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, and The Descendents knows that is not the case. Clooney, like Cary Grant before him, simply makes it look too easy. His Oscar-winning turn in Syriana aside, you don’t see the sweat in his performances... so that must mean they can’t be quite Daniel Day-Lewis caliber.


    Beyonce has the opposite problem. She tries too hard. All of the dancers, the costumes, the props can sometimes be too much. It’s a gorgeous and gaudy spectacle, one that’s more likely to find favor in MTVs Video of the Year competition, where Beyonce has won twice. Understatement tends to have a better shot in Grammy races.





    3. She needs to prove herself as a songwriter.


    There’s long been speculation about just how much Beyonce goes into her music, and it’s unlikely to go away as long as her songs continue to be written by committee (several Lemonade tracks are credited to at least a dozen songwriters).


    For an artist who has been around for such a long time, we know very little about Beyonce. Her songs are like masks. We pick them apart for clues (note the aforementioned tabloid hoopla over “Becky with the good hair”), because we’re desperate for a morsel of revelation.


    Then there is the alleged political statement of Lemonade. While Beyonce deserves credit for encouraging black women to be proud of their black beauty, she had to go and muddle that powerful message with irrelevant lines about having sex and eating at Red Lobster later. It dilutes the power of her social statement, and lyrically, it’s awkward as hell.


    India.Aire covered similar ground with far more finesse and far less fanfare in “I Am Not My Hair” ― and she backed it up with a public image that was considerably less airbrushed than Beyonce’s. It’s hard to take a supposed statement about embracing natural beauty seriously when it’s coming from someone who epitomizes glamor-squad celebrity.


    Beyonce, listen to 1999’s Album of the Year, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (and take a closer look at what your Grammy-anointed sister Solange has been doing). If you ever dare to release an album that is a stunning a singer-songwriter showcase ― one that doesn’t need a TV special, a “surprise” release, and a fake tabloid scandal to grab attention ― Album of the Year is as good as yours.



    4. She needs to let go of the gimmickry.


    In other words, just sing.


    Everyone talks about how Beyonce and Lemonade represent a music-marketing revolution. They were released on the sly without months of build-up publicity. While that may have been true of her 2013 self-titled opus, it wasn’t true for Lemonade.


    Beyonce’s latest album practically begged us to drink up and shell out even before we knew there was an album. She pulled the ultimate marketing ploy by getting to plug it with an HBO special right before its “surprise” release. It was a genius commercial move, but not necessarily the kind of move that wins the big Grammy, which, as I’ve mentioned before, tends to go for understatement.


    5. She does not need to be white.


    It’s really hard to buy that old fallback argument about the Grammys being racist when Beyonce is the most-nominated female artist in its history (with 62 nods, including her cited work with Destiny’s Child). She’s also the second-most-awarded woman, with 22 wins, right behind Alison Krauss’s 27, and ahead of Aretha Franklin, with 18, and Alicia Keys and Adele, both with 15. (Clearly it pays to have a name that begins with A or B.)


    Saying Beyonce is due to win Album of the Year is a bit like saying Annette Bening is due the Best Actress Oscar. (Does that A-B thing only work with the Grammys?) Both may have been deserving in the past, but when I think of due for the Album of the Year Grammy, I think of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Prince. There are so many notable performers, ones who are even more iconic than Beyonce, who have never won Album of the Year.


    Bob Dylan, arguably the most esteemed singer-songwriter in history, didn’t win until Time Out of Mind in 1998, and when Robert Plant finally won, it was for his work with Alison Krauss (on Raising Sand), not Led Zeppelin.


    When you think of the Grammys’ history with black Album of the Year winners, it’s hard to cry under-representation. Stevie Wonder won three times in the ‘70s, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie won consecutively in the ‘80s. Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Outkast, Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock won in the ‘90s and the noughties. Not exactly a Grammy blackout.


    Despite the recent dominance of Taylor Swift and Adele, two artists with very little in common other than their whiteness, the Grammys have actually shown a lot of diversity in its Album of the Year choices over the decades.


    The last time Beyonce was up for the honor, she lost to Beck, who had lost 15 years earlier to Steely Dan, a duo more than two decades past its creative prime at the time. In other words, the Grammys have been doing inexplicable forever.


    But as travesties go, the 2017 Album of the Year race was not one of them. Sorry, Beyhive. Better luck next album.

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    Fifty years have passed since a double bill by Peter Shaffer opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on February 12, 1967. Directed by John Dexter (with a cast that featured Michael Crawford and Lynn Redgrave in their Broadway debuts), Black Comedy/White Lies turned out to be an audience pleaser that ran for 337 performances.

    Black Comedy was a droll farce that began in a young man's apartment at 9:30 on a Sunday night. Although people on both sides of the footlights were in complete darkness as the play began, the confused audience could hear the voices of Shaffer's characters carrying on a conventional conversation at a cocktail party. Once the apartment's electricity suffered a short circuit, the lights came up onstage and (as if by magic) the audience could see everything that was happening while the cast had to pretend that their characters were stumbling around in the dark. Thanks to Shaffer's gimmicky approach to what happens during an electrical blackout, much hilarity ensued.



    In 1979, when Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street premiered at the Uris Theatre, audiences were faced with a grisly tale of vengeance set to Stephen Sondheim's greatest score. By the end of Act I, when Mrs. Lovett (Angela Lansbury) and Sweeney Todd (Len Cariou) launched into "A Little Priest," the audience was in on the joke and, although shocked and delighted, along for the ride.

    In Act II, after Sweeney had slit several throats, a tense moment occurred as a man entered his tonsorial parlor accompanied by a small child. The audience got a huge laugh as the disappointed serial killer, realizing that a witness was present, realized he would have to give the man a shave without the perverse thrill of slitting his throat.



    In Pablo Greene's fetish fantasy novel, How to Kill a Superhero: World Without Daylight, after Roland has healed from his underwater struggle against the six-limbed supervillain known as the Crimson Hand, he gets a ride from a sadistic couple who think nothing of using tasers on him as they begin to mutilate his body in preparation for a decapitation.

    After escaping their clutches, he walks across the Australian Outback at night. Stopping to rest one night, he falls into a deep sleep. As he awakens from a terrifying dream, he takes solace in once more staring at the stars in the sky and listening to the sound of snakes rustling in the grass. But as Roland monitors the sound of his breathing, he becomes aware of another set of lungs inhaling air very close to him.

    "The moonlight shone over a face that lay just inches from mine, like a lover in bed. I had seen this face before -- his deep-set eyes, the pinpoints of white that shone without any pupils, and its mutilated black lips that hung in tatters over its sharp teeth.  'Miss me, lover?' said the Crimson Hand. I screamed again."


    While Julie Andrews may have taught millions that "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down," comedy often serves as the lubricant which helps sarcasm and suspense become surprisingly palatable. In her recent article on the BBC News website entitled When Political Comedy Is a Case of Life or Death, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong stresses that:

    "Comedy may get bleak, but it never dies. With clowns in the ascendant, we may find ourselves, paradoxically enough, in need of some seriously subversive humor. As the case of Muammar Gaddafi shows, only one thing can kill the instinct for political satire: the demise of a dictator." 

    Two recent productions used black comedy to lighten the darkest of scenarios. In one, a brother and sister whose father had had two successive wives, battled their incestuous desires during an intense showdown in a motel room near the Mojave Desert. In the other, a demonic puppet caused enough physical and emotional damage for people to wonder if the devil had indeed made them do such horrible things.

    * * * * * * * * *

    If you've already had the singular joy of reading Christopher Moore's hilarious novel, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, you know that strange things can happen to people when a mysterious force invades a small and relatively clueless community. If you don't believe me, watch this delicious clip of Robert Smigel and his puppet, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, interviewing Trump supporters at the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.





    Berkeley Repertory Theatre is but one of 13 American theatre companies producing Hand to God (a gleefully diabolical comedy by Robert Askins) during the 2016-2017 season. Set in a Texas church whose pastor (David Kelly) is a horny hypocrite, the action revolves around Jason (Michael Doherty), a troubled teen whose mother, Margery (Laura Odeh), is trying to help the church's youth group by supervising Jason and his friends as they create and learn how to work with puppets.



    There's just one problem. Jason is a very angry young man whose father recently died and whose mother seems to have lost interest in him. His best friend, Timothy (Michael McIntire), teases him mercilessly and has the hots for Jason's mother. His sympathetic classmate, Jessica (Carolina Sanchez), is aware of Jason's pain but is not quite sure how she can help him.

    That leaves Jason's unpredictable sock puppet, Tyrone, with an opportunity to help the neglected teen vent his anger at the world around him aided by some shocking special effects. Although Askins wrote Hand To God long before the 2016 election, he doesn't hesitate to liken the foul-mouthed Tyrone to Donald Trump.

    “A large portion of this country has been fucked," he states. "Even if people aren’t paying attention to it, something is happening and the dickhead is saying it. Even if the dickhead is wrong, the emotional content is not inaccurate. I see people who get what they want and they are predatory. They are evil. What if all these hypermasculine, out-of-date ideas about the masculine were put in the mouth of a puppet?”



    It doesn't take long for Tyrone to turn Jason's world upside down and inside out. Brazenly insulting everyone he encounters (and forcing them to act out on their deepest, darkest secrets), Pastor Greg is easily exposed as the kind of slimy predator who would take advantage of a vulnerable congregant like Margery. Tyrone soon has Jason's mother grabbing Timothy's crotch and subjecting her son's friend to the kind of physical pain he never knew he craved.



    Ironically, it's the mousy Jessica who comes to the rescue with her own sock puppet, providing Tyrone with the kind of raunchy puppet sex that makes the puppets in Carnival! and Avenue Q seem as innocent as cherubs. The uproarious scene in which two puppets fuck their brains out on a tabletop is an example of black comedy at its finest. David Ivers, who directed the production, is quick to explain that:

    “The sock puppet is probably the most universal, most innocent, most accessible way that any person, at any time, can make an alter ego (everyone’s got socks for the most part). We’re also aware the whole time that it’s being manipulated by someone. The idea that the devil can actually get inside that hand and that person and take over that puppet is petrifying because we’re all aware of the conceit."


    "You put the puppet on the hand of someone who is the most vulnerable, which is this kid. He’s already got some issues socially. He’s lost his father and is in a broken situation, in a basement in Cypress, Texas. And this isn’t some poor, southern town. Cypress is a suburb of a major city; there’s a high median income. The characters are hanging on so tightly to their systems of belief that every one of them gives in to the same version of evil. It’s subversive, delicious, and has a structure that is heightened and superior. It terrifies me for all the right reasons.”




    There are times when an audience is having so much fun watching what’s happening onstage that it’s easy to forget that the actors are doing some really fine work. I tip my hat to Michael Doherty, who works his ass off (as well as his vocal cords) while voicing Jason and Tyrone. Following close behind is Laura Odeh as his frustrated mother, a woman who is shocked out of her state of hopelessness and helplessness and transformed into a raving vixen who has suddenly found an outlet for venting her anger and feeding her sexual appetite.


    Michael McIntire’s transformation from a darkly-dressed slacker into a horny teen who suddenly finds himself mounting the MILF of his dreams provides some great physical comedy while David Kelly just keeps getting creepier as Pastor Greg. Although Carolina Sanchez’s Jessica may not seem like the most interesting character onstage, if you watch her as she works with Doherty to build up to the sexual frenzy in which her puppet gives head to Tyrone, you’ll notice a combination of craft, cooperation, and comic timing that has been carefully rehearsed.


    Using an impressively flexible unit set designed by Jo Winiarski (with costumes by Meg Neville), Berkeley Rep has staged Hand to God for maximum effect on an audience desperate for some comic relief from current events. The lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols and sound design by Joe Payne go a long way toward strengthening the special effects that accompany Tyrone’s provocative antics. Designed by Amanda Villalobos, Tyrone begins and ends the show as the kind of friendly puppet anyone could love. Just be careful not to encourage him unless you’re willing risk the consequences.



    * * * * * * * * *

    It should come as no surprise that a young playwright from Texas like Robert Askins should have an avowed soft spot in his heart for Sam Shepard, whose tales of tormented souls laden down with emotional baggage from their acutely dysfunctional families has earned him a solid place in the literature of the American theatre. As part of its 50th anniversary season, Magic Theatre is presenting a legacy production of Fool For Love, which received its world premiere from the company on February 8, 1983.

    While many screen epics have been dubbed as "sword and sandal" adventures, Fool For Love is the kind of story that falls clearly within the "loin and groin" genre of drama. Magnificently directed by Loretta Greco, this revival features stark scenery and simple costumes designed by Andrew Boyce.



    Though Fool For Love may have a running time of only 75 minutes and employ a small ensemble of four actors, it delivers emotional fireworks from start to finish. The story may seem simple, but it most definitely is not. May (Jessi Campbell) and Eddie (Andrew Pastides) have a long history of not being able to live with or without each other.

    There's just one problem, a small, technical glitch most lovers never have to worry about. May and Eddie may have come from different wombs, but they were spawned by the same father. The Old Man (Rod Gnapp) had two wives and, although his offspring frequently address him (in their minds), there is no escaping the fact that part of May and Eddie's attraction to each other is not just lust, but incest.



    After several disappointing years of living in a trailer with Eddie, May is attempting to live sober. Holed up in a motel room near the Mojave Desert, she is trying to maintain a desperate grasp on reality when the ever-impulsive Eddie shows up wearing his cowboy duds, twirling his lasso, and claiming that he's going to take May back and take good care of her.

    May knows that Eddie's slick promises are bullshit, but he has that kind of lizard-like charisma and animal magnetism that makes a woman hunger for his touch while hating the honey-coated sound of his voice. Whether she finds herself on the floor, tightly wrapping her arms around Eddie's sturdy legs to prevent him from walking out the door, or pouting in a chair with her legs akimbo as she struggles to get rid of him, their genetic attraction is difficult to defuse.

    Eddie believes in himself in a kind of goofy, macho way. A skilled rodeo rider who knows how to rope a steer (and doesn't hesitate to intimidate his half-sister by practicing rodeo tricks such as lassoing the bedposts in her motel room as the two of them keep arguing), he's not quite as smart as he'd like to think he is. While Eddie's mating dance includes some bowlegged strutting, his performance is like that of an engine that frequently misfires.



    Complicating matters is the fact that May is awaiting the arrival of Martin (Patrick Russell), the relatively spineless man with whom she has a date. Meanwhile, Eddie is fleeing a vengeful woman who is determined to destroy his truck and the trailer that contains his horses.

    With so much sexual tension sparking between May and Eddie, it should come as no surprise that Martin and the Old Man bring a kind of sly comic relief to the proceedings. Jessi Campbell's May burns with a furious determination not to let her brother barge in and ruin her life again, with Patrick Russell doing some fine character work as the befuddled Martin. As Eddie, Andrew Pastides is the embodiment of what some Texans call "a tall drink of water." Though Eddie may no longer be young, he's still charmingly dumb and full of cum.



    Much of the black comedy in Fool For Love stems from the nervousness of ex-lovers caught in an uncomfortable situation. The amount of hilarity which erupts during each performance is a testament to Greco's solid direction. This so-called "legacy" production does full justice to Shepard's work as a major American playwright and his professional history with Magic Theatre. In addition to the ensemble's fine work, this revival gets a great deal of its dramatic impact from Christopher Akerlind's superb lighting and Sara Huddleston's frighteningly effective sound design (which frequently convinces the audience that the building is being rammed by an angry female driver seeking revenge on Eddie's cheatin' heart).

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  • 02/16/17--08:44: CITY SLICKER NO.1
  • E,

    I don't know what the desert has done to you really, but I find it like a breath of fresh air compared to the "it's all well and in good-order" types of boohoo it's-just-business-babe so please blow-me-on-my-birthday Bobs and Bills I'm surrounded by in the city. There's only really one city, the rest are metropolitan, they're like New York themed cocktails. I find myself using words like civic and municipal. I think it's something to do with that big buck altitude high, some air born cloud-9 complex born from a lot of time spent looking down on people (I don't feel guilty for killing ants). I would blame them if I didn't get the same sick, green-paper kick in the gut everymorning from my fat boss. They way you talk now, E, makes me think you've forgotten quite a lot, and I envy you for it. When we were younger I kind of had the idea that you'd be making fake-phone calls in the swivel chair and I'd be somewhere hot hissing at rattlesnakes and whatever other animal sounds you've been making out there. But even on its worst days I find myself, dick in hand, jerking it and thanking the fouled pavement for swallowing and smiling after all of this gummy white "love". I imagine one day some wretched sewer drenched, money grubbing infant will make its way through the gutter and into my warm, compliant arms. 6am Fog hovers cold and impolite. I am a fake! A wound-up figment of my own abandoned fantasies... drinking champagne on a yacht with seven lucky Brazilians...my mind wanders to fleshier things. When love seems no better than vertigo, and is even less classifiable (as what, a phobia? Some boring medical term, or worse, a therapist's "thoughtful" diagnosis??), I sit there generously sweating, squeezing ego-shot blood from my forearms. I want a lot more to come out but I'm a coward. I sit and rot amongst my neat set of contrived dichotomies and catalogues with robotic alarm clocks and one thin stack of cheating porn. In my dream I wake up to my hot alarm-clock wife talking in rain sounds that progress into ambulance sirens, saying she loves me, that she'll fuck me, that I should throw that porn away because she's here now in perfect punctual titanium glory. I wake up from the dream turned on in a fanatic rush.

    I have an ancient confidence that lies in my foundation, a dirty blend of emerald and pale skin, beat-up bits that pressed together, compacted over centuries, have left me in this marked up eternal state. I am wound up so tight I see double; I see into a past that never happened.

    I think I'll come visit in May.

    Yours,

    S

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  • 02/16/17--08:45: WILD WEST NO.1
  • S-
    get something out onto the paper, your spit maybe, or the rancid longing that has become a situational hazard, and a worm in the rose kind of virtuous shit-show which means a fuck ton to me and probably very little, if not nothing at all, to you. what a glorious day to support your brothers and sisters! ive got you feeling righteous, maybe we can do it in the dirt later. i feel like myself again, i feel my corpulent butter-fuck skin, and its sweet Paula Dean shit- but hell its still better than most. Im out in the wild wild west and im riding horses and learning to use a lasso. you always told me it was bullshit that horses can sense your nerves, but now I know that I'm right, and all the horses know is that im the boss and I'm quite good with a lasso, if not just a bit of an entitled bitch sometimes. it's time for action. finger-to-nose action if you ask some of my friends. ive been sneezing all week and the only one who's noticed is my fucking horse.

    i think it would be so hot to secede from the union. we could be on our own without thinking any evil thoughts anymore. imagine drinking sun-warmed Lagunitas and going down on me all day long in our own private country. you could even be president. i don't care much for titles as long as you figure out how we can grow my red roses in the desert. maybe build a greenhouse or use GMOs or just have them imported from the U.S. fuck being self-sufficient, and fuck getting haircuts, too.

    anyway the west is wild and I've stopped reading books because I've started to think other people's thoughts and its making me go bat-shit. Ive been keeping a pet scorpion and I have no clue what it eats but I'd like it to drink milk like a kitten.

    this whole "well, someone has tuh do it" attitude is terrible. i sure as fuck don't want to clean the manure from the stalls at the end of the week but I don't see why anyone else should do it either. i think robots will be great because they'll start off doing their jobs like we order, and then once everything is nice and spruced-up spick n' span godly-groomed and easy on the eyes they'll wipe this race out all together, and then self-destruct. my horse is a stallion and I bet he would rise up and rule the desert.

    S, words turn into worms here. I have this dream where I'm an old bison about to die, and all I want is to be killed by Buffalo Bill, but every time he finds me he just says; After crossing the Smoky Hill River, I felt comparatively safe as this was the last stream I had to cross. It is so fucking boring. i used to have a real thing for the inane, but now ive got a thing for black and white, tell-all, see-through right to the nipples sanity. Last night for the first time Bill turned to me and said; We got more provisions for our whiskey than the same money, which we paid for the liquor, would have bought; so after all it proved a very profitable investment. i really don't think it's the kind of dream i should ever consider much.

    i carry an unloaded rifle and i walk different now too. im not taking it easy although easy does it, as you like to say.

    when I close my eyes theres a furry tiger cross and a golden dick and two rose petals (one crispy brown and one that sexy Indian red) and the feeling that someone is laughing very hard, right near me. could you tell me what it means? sometimes i think you don't know me at all anymore.

    S, you aren't a "lone wolf", and while your collegiate love-me-anyway shit used to get me all hot, now I've got the mean desert sun for that, and my skin is red red chili red all on its own.

    Will you come visit anyway? there are certain hot things the sun cant do.

    -E

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