Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lori falls hard for the Philharmonic

Well, I will start off with two major confessions. One I am a virgin to blogging and two I am a virgin to the SC Philharmonic. But look at me, I am growing.

So last week we met with the conductor of the Philharmonic and two of the instrumentalists: first chair clarinet and first chair viola. Confession number three: I have a crush on all of them. Let me tell you why.

First, the Japanese conductor is a ball of what appears to be buzzed-on-adult-beverages energy, but I asked around and the guy was sober. He was hilarious! I heard him say the word shit, kinda priceless for a grown man that carries around a tiny little baton. He also explained that conductor jokes are to lawyer jokes as viola jokes are to blonde jokes. I found these both interesting as I considered the parallels and as I was simultaneously catapulted to my GRE analogy studying days. The clarinet guy was mister sauvé himself. First he has been doing this, playing music, forever. He has like 12 clarinets and I think one cost like 5,000 dollars. Plus he played for us this super cool little piece that made his face turn really red, which I for one totally appreciated the effort. Lastly, is my boy Jared. For some reason his is the only name I remember. Does this mean I like him more? I can’t say, maybe I shouldn’t say. But anyhow, Jared was super informative and really witty. Picture this: a professor/instructor that you didn’t mind listening to, who actually said things that were funny and during breaks he played a little ditty on the only viola he owns, not too bad.

Also, we learned that the SC Philharmonic operates on a budget of about a million dollars. Holy cow! And mostly they get their money from generous donors. Now how do I get these donors to donate to the Lori Student Loan Foundation? Ok I digress. So, the short of the long is that it takes a lot of money and a lot of talent, and being cute and funny goes a long way.

Ok, so I want to say something about last night. Last night we watched them all rehearse for the first time for this weekend’s performance. Did I mention that we first ate yummy dinners courtesy of Tio’s? I still have half a wet burrito in my fridge. Dinner fantasies! Focus Lori. So, during rehearsal there was this older man playing the drums and cymbals. The guy was a riot. First, he didn’t have any shoes on and I pretty sure his socks were purple. Secondly, the guy was dancing. Moving and shaking the way I only do after throwing back a few. Actually, he did way better than that. He definitely had Salsa Meringa rhythm. Mad props drum player!

And though we only heard one piece during the hour and a half rehearsal, the piece is like 22 minutes long. And watching our Japanese conductor man was fun. I am pretty sure his legs are sore after a rehearsal because he moves around a lot. Apparently being a conductor is kind of aerobic. Favorite parts: when mister conductor man shrieked from pretend pain, or maybe real pain, from the cello section, at least I think it was the cello section; when mister conductor man made a joke about pirates, which was funny because the thought it was hysterical; and when a light went out and he thought it was a bat, a flying black bat.

So in summary, the Philharmonic rocks! Roadies rock! And I can’t wait till Saturday to go see the performance. And I leave you with this mild yet jovial threat: be there or be square, because my ticket purchases are a drop in the ocean of a million dollar goal! And PS apparently you can wear jeans!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

John Experiences the Power of Imagination

Last night with the Power Company really answered this big question for me:
When you think of modern/contemperary dance do you think of lots of random movements with no apparent story line? This was my intepretation of this mysterious art form...before i met The Power Company.

As cloudy as it seemed this mystery was clarified when I was informed that I did not have to understand a single thing. It was perfectly ok to come to a performance, sit through each piece, and not understand a single thing or relate to anything. This in and of itself could be your experience.

However, I found it really helpful to have some emotion handy when I watched these rehearsals. You see, each audience member will have their individual experience and interpretation of the performance. Everyone has their own emotions and imagination and to bring this to a modern/contemparay dance performance is exetremly important. Let your emotion sit on one side of you and your imagination sit on the other and you will have a great advantage in interpreting the art form. Personally, I was better able to get something from the rehearsals when I pumped a little imagination and emotion into what my eyes were seeing.

Think of it like watching an old TV show with the sound turned down and making up your own story.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Power (Company) to Change Minds

As a football-loving, carnivorous, heterosexual male, I thought that a
trip to see a contemporary dance company would be equivalent to castration
without the benefit of anesthesia.

I couldn't have been more wrong if I told you that five plus two
equals bagel. Quite frankly, I was more engaged and interested in this artistic
medium than I ever imagined I could be.

Allow me to elaborate: As someone with a background in physics, I
marveled at the dancers' ability to craft motion to music. More
specifically, and interpretative motion formulated by a human mind in
response to a mechanical wave passing through matter which, in itself,
generates its own motion.

Could I grasp the entire story behind the dance? No! And I didn't
want to, either. As the proud owner of a scientific mind, I was
delighted to be presented with a performance that would be organic,
mysterious, unique, and yet choreographed to the most minute detail.
Life is no fun if the answers are spoon-fed to us. I found the Power
Company provided a vibrant and enigmatic artistic medium that even a
die-hard gearhead like myself could appreciate. I look forward to
their performance later this month!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rachel Wraps Up our Time at the Museum!

As if a trip to "the vault," a sneak peek at Dale Chihuly's exhibit, and an invite to the show's official opening, where we had the chance to rub elbows with Columbia's elite all the while stuffing our faces with yummy finger sandwiches (but stuffing in an "artsy" way), weren't enough, the New Audience Road Show had one more treat for us at the Columbia Museum.

On our third visit to the museum we were treated to a private and guided tour of the permanent collection. The tour began after a very interesting talk on the business end of running a museum—where the funding comes from, how it's marketed, where it fits into the community (apparently much of the funding comes from the money we, the citizens, spend in the community—the taxes on things like eating out goes to funding the museum. So when I eat at a local restaurant, not only am I saving myself the hassle of cooking, I'm also becoming a patron of the arts. Bonus!).

After this talk, we broke into two groups, my group was led by the lovely and charming Leslie, and were given some inside scoop about the works in the permanent collection and some helpful insights that made understanding and appreciating the art easier.

Inside scoop: one piece by Remington had been totally stolen in a real life Thomas Crown Affair-esqe art heist. It was eventually recovered, obviously. Incredibly exciting and I never would have know that without this tour.

Interesting detail that led to a better understanding: I've been to the museum a few times and always loved the armoire with the wooden cat perched on the top. I had never noticed, however, that the inlay on the piece—moving from the bottom to the top—depicts a movement up the food chain. At the very bottom of the piece is a grasshopper, further up are some birds, and topping it off is the cat.

We also talked about details like framing a piece—or "marrying" a frame to a work of art. You want the frame to enhance/match the art without distracting from it. I'd never given this much thought but knowing that even this detail is considered really gave me a deeper appreciation of just how much work goes into presenting an exhibit. They make it all so seamless.

And I have to thank our docent (museum tour guide) Leslie. Often when I go to a museum am I either too timid or too proud to ask for a docent tour, but this really showed me how worthwhile it is. I will definitely ask for the tour on all future trips to any museum

Of course there is much more to tell about our Road trip to the museum—but this is just a blog. If you want every juicy detail, you'll just have to Roadie yourself next time J

Can't wait to see what's in store for us next!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hollar for the Road Show - Herbie Hollar, that is

Wed 9.3.08: Are You Roadie for Art?!

First day of New Audience Road Show (NARS, or Road show, or just Roadies). The free food each time we meet was a surprise, but for the post-college pre-prostate check guys, it is just one of the fabulous reasons to be in the Road Show.

So we Tuesday night met at the Columbia Museum of Art, the first time all Roadies together, munched on food from Wild Wing (I think), then learned about glass. No kidding. But this is glass you've never seen before. (Neither had I.)

Although we did not get to meet the awesome glass artist Dale Chihuly, the super smart art peeps at the Columbia Museum of Art took us around the galleries, beginning with Chihuly's.

Sea forms.

Think of giant clams crossed with jelly fish crossed with brilliant coral, in cool clear dark tropical water lit from the sun above.

Although we ogled and dared not touch these fabulous glass sculptures, we learned more about the design and preparations for art exhibits, from the color on the wall to the type and intensity of lighting. Everything depends on the art.

We also discussed how art etiquette, especially, how close is too close? About a foot is enough before the security guards throw you out the cargo bay doors. Pointing is iffy, best to keep those greasy fingers away from the art. And be cognizant of what you might back into or lean against. No need to topple over a sculpture and watch it smash to pieces in slow motion, horror struck across the faces of everyone who heard the merciless crash...

Anyway, We roadied pretty quickly through other galleries and saw this hideous glass chandelier, As Ed Maddon put it, big fat drag queen on stage ready for the spot light. The Museum had assembled this--thing--based on their own research since the donor had no photos of it. It is cool for its historical value. But that's about it.

And then the vault. Think of a data center, but it's art, not servers in the climate controlled racks. Or a library for books no one sees, except once and a while. This is where donated art goes to die.

Not really.

Most of the museum's inventory is in the vault, but they cycle the pieces on display once and a while. Although, some work in the vault will never make it onto the floor upstairs. (sniffle)

So, coming up this Thursday, day 2 of this roadness, is the CMA's opening celebration for the Dale Chihuly exhibit. Free food, and free beer and wine.

Oh, another great thing about being a Roading -- yeah, the free beer and wine at art events!

Brent blogs about the Columbia Museum of Art - One Hot Piece of Glass

The Inaugural Meeting of Columbia’s New Audience Roadshow Class of 2009

At 6:30 P.M. on Tuesday, September 02, 2008, the latest class of Columbia’s New Audience Roadshow entered into the Columbia Museum of Art at the corner of Hampton and Main Streets in downtown Columbia. One of C-NAR’s alumni members named Mark, who gave us a pre-printed nametag to wear during the evening, promptly greeted us. (Good job on the nametags, Mark--they were large enough to read from a distance and had sufficient glue to remain in place for the entirety of the program.)

Shortly after arrival, one of the Museum’s staff members named Leslie escorted us into a back room that featured tables and chairs. In fact, it was one of the “classrooms” that you can witness young children creating art in if you walk down Main Street during the right-after-school-hours between 3-5 P.M. As we watched ballerinas from the Columbia Ballet School walking to cars and construction workers getting into trucks after finishing their jobs on Main Street, another C-NAR alumnus, Lauren, arrived with the food for the evening. She brought a nice spread of fantastic all-white-meat chicken nuggets, Cole slaw, potato salad and macaroni salad, all provided by Wild Wing. The food was as delicious as the company was. There were three or four tables filled with members of the new class, all getting to know each other and realizing that we have a common goal—to increase our awareness of arts happenings in Columbia and how to greater appreciate the arts events that we already attend.

After eating, the program started with “Coordinator Katie” laying the ground rules for the evening and telling us what we could expect tonight and on Thursday. Then, Leslie introduced herself and told us about what she does at the museum (coordinator of programs). Next was Mark, who works in the curator department and is in charge of installing all of the exhibits. After Mark, Grant introduced himself to us. Grant works alongside Leslie and is involved in teaching the classes at the museum. He documents the happenings at the museum and is in charge of “about face,” a group that meets every week and paints models and landscapes. Grant also organizes the podcasts and cell phone tours that you can take during your museum visits. He will be talking with us more next week. Lastly, alumnus Lauren spoke to us about what she got out of last year’s visit to the museum, what changes have been made to the program, and the advantages that she has seen because of her Columbia Museum of Art membership.

We found out the crux of the evening was going to be a tour led by Mark through all parts of the museum, including the brand new exhibit of glass art done by Dale Chihuly. We left the room with the food and went straight to the padlocked main exhibition space. I am not sure if it was locked just to be locked because it was after hours, but I prefer to think that it was locked up because it is so secret and well hidden from Columbia’s arts community. Before entering, Mark reminded us not to touch the artwork, and after rounding the corner it was obvious as to why.

We were gazing at some of the most beautiful blown glass that I have ever seen in my life. I mean, I’m not one to brag about all of my glass-blowing experiences, but we have all been down to the “Market” area of Charleston where they make funky candles and blow glass ornaments while you stand and gawk. Well, this stuff makes those glass blowers look like daggum child’s play. I was not aware that you could physically get the size, shape, and color manifestations that Dale Chihuly has achieved in his exhibition at the CMA. Mark explained the process of how to set up the exhibitions, how to set the lighting, and how even the colors on the walls are important to the overall experience. He answered all questions that we lobbed toward him, and he did so in a calm, knowledgeable manner that made us comfortable and contented. He described his concerns about when the show is open to “John Q. Public” on Thursday, how they go about making signs and tags about the artwork, and what still needs to be finished before opening night rolls around.

Mark and Leslie were able to answer all of our questions about the glass art exhibition, and then they led us through all of the other exhibit halls. They told us interesting stories about some of the most popular permanent pieces in the museum (ask Leslie about how a chandelier became a drag queen one evening), and showed us a “work in progress” that is just about to be re-set up in a few days.

Next, Mark took us to “the vault,” where the museum stores the permanent pieces in its collection. We entered a climate-controlled room in the catacombs of the museum where artwork, sculpture, and even pianos were being stored for future exhibitions. At this point, all of the new class felt at ease asking Mark and Leslie anything that we wanted to know about the museum, its contents, and how to go about enjoying a piece of art and what to look for when meandering through the museum. We were able to ask everything from what differentiates “real” art from “non-museum-quality” art to what is appropriate to wear to Thursday night’s opening gala. By the time Mark led us back up to the street level of the CMA, we all were grateful that he took his time and was so thorough with us in his tour. Leslie took us back to the lobby, where she briefly explained the benefits of becoming a member at the CMA (we will get more information on that next week) and more of what to expect and look forward to on Thursday night.

We concluded our evening back in the room where we began, by Katie rehashing what we did, what we will do, and figuring out where the “after party” was going to be held later that evening (the new Sheraton Hotel’s martini bar, located in the basement of the new hotel on Main Street). We left the museum feeling much more comfortable about how to go about attending an art show and feeling generally knowledgeable about what goes into putting on such an exhibit. I personally also left excited about telling my friends about the insanely impressive glass art that they will have to see and will be able to view on Thursday night and for the next two months in the main exhibition space at the Columbia Museum of Art. I even left my nametag on in case anyone wanted to know what I was doing at the museum after hours while I was walking to my car.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Trustus - Act 2

It seems fitting that the last official behind-the-scenes meeting for the inaugural season of Columbia’s New Audience Road Show took place at Trustus Theatre. As our small group is like a band of explorers searching for the bastions of the Muses & Graces, Trustus is the full embodiment of that frontier and spirit as Columbia’s only professional theatre and a citadel in the Vista.

Before I begin to recount our second trip and last behind-the-scenes night at the theatre, I must confess something. I am not the kind of guy that likes to read entertainment reviews. It never fails an earnestly enthusiastic (or overly clever) writer/reviewer always drops a spoiler when you least expect it. Okay, I admit it, I still read ahead when Entertainment Weekly warns "SPOILER ALERT". It is impossible not to! But, still I genuinely enjoy being surprised from my entertainment. So, now having confessed my distaste of the spoiler, I was apprehensive to look behind the literal curtain at Trustus. Not out of the naïveté of disillusionment, but from genuine affection for the magic of the theatre, especially this theatre. Over the past few years, just a few of the memorable things I have seen from the audience include Snoopy die of rabies and Charlie Brown kiss a man in "Dog Sees God", a tabloid photo come to life in "Bat Boy", Sally Bowls belt out life is a "Cabaret", a "Dirty Blonde" declare, "Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.", an icy shell of a mother forgive her child’s murderer in "Frozen", and Hedwig decry her angry inch.

So I came tonight to the second sneak-peek rehearsal of "Rabbit Hole" not wanting to spoil the mystique of what promises to be a compelling drama with realistic and bittersweet humor surrounding a family’s struggle to find balance after the loss of a child. NEWS FLASH – the play was not ruined. (That last sentence did not officially count as a spoiler, more like a side bar or some friendly reassurance.) We started the evening in the Black Box Theatre with a discussion, led by Chad Henderson, on the process of fully producing a play, and then we were able to watch rehearsal at a more advanced place than last week.

Chad is an innovative director ("Hedwig" & "Dog sees God"), Trustus Company Member, as well as an interesting and lively speaker. He took us from script selection, to choosing a director, casting actors, set design, lighting, stage manager duties, music, the rehearsal process and schedule, through opening night, the run, closing night, and then striking the set. (If you don’t feel like an insider you should now, striking means to take down the set and clean the theatre.) Chad answered questions and peppered the discussion with some pivotal lessons in the history of theatre and the more modern trends in the industry. After the discussion he led us in three activities or warm ups for rehearsals. First, we practiced a breathing exercise. Breathing can actually be hard when you do it and think it about it. Second, we danced in a circle as a mood elevator/humor inducing exercise. One person started the dance moves, (as extravagant and self-effacing as possible) then the group would follow the moves until the leader picked the next person to lead. Third and last, we gathered in a circle to practice "ZIP, ZAP, ZUP" a timing/improv activity.

After many laughs and a good round of applause we retired to watch a second rehearsal.
At this more advanced rehearsal all actors were "off book" (no longer reading or using the script for lines) and no requests for "line"s were needed. The costumer, Diane Wilkins, was there for some garment fittings, the stage manager, Becky Hunter, was busy making notes on cues and blocking. Jim Thigpen, the director, was giving feedback and notes to the cast. It was interesting to see the cast as their characters then leave character and gather round Jim to process his notes, share laughs and snacks. It was also amazing to hear Jim call out a fragment of a line and an actor rattled off the rest of the line (without the aide of the script). The play, which opens March 28th, promises to be an engaging and moving one. The actors, E.G. Heard, Vicky Saye Henderson, Kay Thigpen, Alec Grooms and Glenn Rawls are wonderfully cast and make their hard work seem effortless. David Lindsay-Abaire’s dialogue is seamlessly delivered by these stage veterans.

Because of my aversion to the spoiler I left before the final act was rehearsed so that I will be pleasantly surprised on opening night. Please join me at this wonderful cultural treasure we have to experience in Trustus. You come to the theatre to be entertained –to laugh, to cry, to dream, along the way you can be renewed, challenged, and inspired. Support this non-profit organization with your patronage. Travis