Last week, I got to semicircle up with over a dozen of the most amazing people in our arts community -- my fellow UA teachers. We convene for a week each year for intensive training and brainstorming, and this week was particularly engaging and inspiring for me!
DID YOU KNOW?
-The brain has the most synapses at 6 years old.
-By 14 years old, our brains have pruned out the vast majority of those synapses, retaining only those most-used (for better or worse.)
-Though the brain is technically finished developing by 24, it has the capacity to continue creating new synapses throughout life.
-People who dance regularly reduce their risk of dimentia onset and Alzheimer's Disease by 75%.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the information comes at an opportune time, as I'm about to speak for a new seniors group, OWLS, at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church. Between the local dance company Kairos who presented at our training, PBS' fascinating special "Arts & the Mind," ArtSage Minnesota, and many other available resources, I hope to continue learning more so that I can share some of this remarkable information with St. Philip's group, and others!
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to beginning a new teaching season with Upstream Arts next week! Here's to a healthy, body-brain-building year.
jiggety jig? Well, maybe not so much a jig. More like a scramble. It's always a bit jarring to return home after a long absence, to realize there is MUCH to be done. I opened the front door after debarking from the Florida flight home and it was almost as if one of those Jack-in-the-Boxes sprang open, scattering piles and projects and repairs and chaos just... everywhere. My first impulse was to turn around and head back out.
Being on the road is simple. Oh, I know, there's the whole suitcase thing, and being away from your friends and family and nest. But, for me, that one little carry-on for a month just highlighted how little of what I HAVE I actually NEED. And to only have to keep one little suitcase-full organized was – well, it was easy.
So, this month is about reorganizing, streamlining, assessing, purging, simplifying, and basically figuring out what is truly essential in my home (and life?) and what is just clutter, clouding my view and blocking my path. I have a little bit of free time to work on that now, and I'm hopeful that if I can get the clutter removed and the dust settled, the other side will present a clearer view of where I am and what comes next.
Here's to wonderful, fulfilling jobs away from home, and here's to bringing the wonderful back home too!
Beyond the Rainbow is playing to rave reviews and full houses at The Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach, Florida!
We're having a blast here with fearless artistic director-slash-intern extraordinaire Lou Tyrrell at Arts Garage, squeezing between audience tables in this cabaret-style setting and playing scenes with and among watchers-become-participators. Read reviews and check out some of Amy Pasquantonio's AMAZING photos HERE!
Our weather has been tremendous. Last night, a few cast members drove down to Miami for the Mariners-Mets game, and we've been noshing on Cuban food and fresh fruit to our hearts' content! Also a frequent haunt is DaDa, a nearby restaurant with great food, indoor/outdoor seating, live music, and movies under the stars on weekends. And, it isn't a bad deal to get to frequent the beach in between performances! Palm trees+ocean+warm weather=Nirvana for Norah! Below are some personal photos from my time in Delray Beach thus far. You'll notice many are of life forms other than human... bugs, lizards, birds, balloons, the ocean (definitely a living thing!)... I just couldn't help it; Florida is swimming (pun intended) with life, abundant, flourishing, and fascinating!
Thanks, Lou and all the stellar folks at Arts Garage, for putting us up in such great digs and showing us a great time in Florida!
What a treat it was to perform with such stellar talent (and kind people!) at the Guthrie's 50th Anniversary Fete concert, Behold! So great to see T.R. Knight and Peter Michael Goetz, and to meet and work with Brian D'Arcy James (a truly lovely and down-to-earth soul, besides being a talented performer.) Whoopi Goldberg made a fly-by appearance, and Peter Flynn as our fearless leader/director was an utter delight. (This is the kind of direector that helps performers feel truly joyful and proud to practice our craft.)
Lombardi rehearsals are already underway, and we leave town this Sunday for Alexandria, MN, ready to rock and roll another run of this fantastic play. We welcome Matt Rein to our insanity - he is doing a fantastic job taking over the role of Jim Taylor! I truly love, love, love this amazing cast and crew (fun from start to finish), and I'm looking forward to a festive week at summer camp! (For those who aren't familiar with Theatre L'Homme Dieu, it's worth a look. Pontoons, bonfires, cabins, and s'mores will abound.)
I will finish that run on Sunday, July 14, only to take off July 15 for Florida! Delray Beach should prove to be a fantastic time with Beyond the Rainbow -- I've heard the accommodations are beautiful, we'll be very near the beach, and Arts Garage is an intimate, cabaret-esque space which is exciting to all of us as we bring this very intimate and up-close look at Judy Garland literally into the laps of our audiences there!
I'll sign off with a few pictures of the Gala, as well as our June Rainbow tour -- it's a good summer so far!
Guthrie Theater 50th Anniversary Fete
Beyond the Rainbow Greater MN Tour
It's been a whirlwind around here, returning from Cuba and beginning rehearsals for Beyond the Rainbow's Minnesota tour just two hours after landing at MSP! We're now a week into rehearsals, and things are moving right along. We welcome Peggy O'Connell to our cast, replacing Cathy Fuller in the roles of Hedda Hopper, Ethel Gumm, and others. Peggy is doing swimmingly!
In the midst of it all, I've also had the great joy of performing at the Dakota Jazz Club with Nachito Herrera last Friday night. If you aren't familiar with Nachito, become familiar! Check out his website and work HERE. To watch him play from the second row in Cuba was a sight to NOT behold (his fingers were -- all kidding aside -- a blur to the eye); to perform alongside his brilliance was another treat altogether. Note to self: the next time you perform at the Dakota to a packed house amongst such greatness, don't choose to sing two brand new songs and then, just hours before you're on, decide to try them in Spanish and Portugese! #outofthefryingpan
I haven't even begun to upload photos or audio from Cuba; it will come. Suffice it to say that the breadth and depth of talent in Cuba was astounding, truly, and it was a great honor to be onstage alongside such performers. We are already discussing plans for a return visit in 2014 and other future collaborations!
For now, preparing for our History Theatre tour next week to Dawson, Grand Rapids, and Detroit Lakes, and then right into rehearsals for the Guthrie's 50th Anniversary Gala performance on Saturday, June 22 -- then, Lombardi the week after, then Rainbow in Florida, and...
Hold on tight -- this summer's a wild ride! Wheeee!
How many people knew that, to get to Cuba, you may only carry a total of 42 pounds? This is not just in your checked luggage; this is a total of EVERYTHING you are bringing. With one week of performances left in "This Side of Paradise" at History Theatre, my preparation is well underway for Cubadisco 2013! Robert Elhai is creating two brand new arrangements for me with full symphonic orchestration, to be premiered on both May 24 and May 25, and other orchestrations are being collected to bring on the plane! Anyone ever weigh orchestral parts?... I will be trading clothes for music!
My first performance will be Friday May 24, 2013, with Cuba's National Symphony Orchestra, and my second performance will be Saturday May 25, 2013, as part of the festival's grand finale, with a combined symphony orchestra of all of Cuba's professional symphonies, totaling 400 players! This day has been described to me as akin to our Grammy Awards, with many performances and presentations televised live across all of Cuba's major broadcasting networks.
I'll be in Havana for a full week, staying at the Hotel Presidente (the regular stay of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole - see video footage of the hotel here!), performing at the Karl Marx Theater (an enormous venue seating 5,500 people!) and the National Theater (recently completely restored, a venue of over 2,250 seats), touring a nearby tobacco plantation, frequenting the beaches outside Havana, sipping mojitos with colleague Nachito Herrera and family, and hoping my sunscreen doesn't run out!
Here are my program offerings for the two concerts, in no particular order:
"Italian Street Song (Zing! Zing!)" (from Naughty Marietta by Victor Herbert) - with original full orchestrations
"Cockeyed Optimist/Singin' in the Rain/Spoonful of Sugar/Make Someone Happy Medley" (a premiere arrangement with full symphonic orchestration, by Robert Elhai and inspired by my own original medley arrangement performed last month for Fairview Hospice's In Harmony for Life Benefit Concert)
"How Glory Goes" (from Floyd Collins by Adam Guettel) - the full symphonic version recorded by Audra McDonald
"On My Lips Every Kiss Is Like Wine (Meine Lippen)" (from Giuditta by Franz Lehar) - with original full orchestrations
"For Good/Not While I'm Around/You'll Never Walk Alone Medley" (a second premiere arrangement by Robert Elhai, again inspired by my Fairview Hospice program)
This is an unbelievably exciting venture, not only because I get to travel to Cuba as part of this very first group of Minnesota musicians in cultural exchange, but also because I get to premiere these new arrangements by Robert; and, to add to the excitement, that has inspired Robert and me to look at future collaboration possibilities -- ALWAYS a fun prospect, as I admire and respect Robert so much. If you don't know his work, just check out his resume, including orchestrations of 93 film scores including The Expendables, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Sixth Sense, and X-Men, not to mention his Tony nod for Broadway's The Lion King!
Can't wait to post pictures and stories. ¡Hasta la vista por el momento!
Tomorrow (today) is the long-anticipated annual benefit concert "In Harmony for Life" for Fairview Hospice. It's not often that I get to coordinate all the details of an event, especially one involving so many wonderful people. And it has truly been enjoyed. I have hired 5 fabulously talented performers, created a 17-song program complete with three medleys and a kazoo singalong, arranged dozens of instrumental charts (Finale and I have become closer friends, including all those little tiffs that happen when you really start to know someone), coordinated details from rehearsal space and time to A/V needs to where on earth to find a glockenspiel, played the Jenga of stage set up (did you know Augsburg Chapel's stage is made up of 60 movable 2x6' platforms and one permanently-fixed 4x6x1 platform?), scheduled many meetings, sent countless emails, and, tomorrow, I get to make beautiful music and hopefully bring great joy and also some poignancy to a very special event audience, with a very special team of people. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process – I am so proud to be on stage with these performers, but even more so am proud to be participating in an event supporting something as significant and important as hospice care. My grandmother lived be 105 years old, and it was in part due to hospice care that she was able to live out the final portion of her life in the comfort of her own home, cared for by her son and a team of dedicated and knowledgeable healthcare professionals. What an amazing gift that was for her, and for all of us. I wish Fairview Hospice a magnificent, productive, successful, and inspired the next year of service!
We're well underway -- in fact, almost finished! -- with rehearsals for This Side of Paradise. Some things you might not know about this side of the "it" couple of the jazz age:
1. Zelda published stories of her own, once writing a play called "Scandalabra." It was a comedy, and it was four hours long. Scott helped her make it shorter, but it was still awful. It was produced once and has never been performed since.
2. Zelda was quite the daredevil, diving at night from 30 foot cliffs into the ocean below with Scott in tow (she wouldn't allow him to choose otherwise; he couldn't be seen as weaker than she.) Her lack of impulse control and her destructive thoughts sent her reeling more than once over a rocky ledge, in front of a train, or into a medicine cabinet. Fortunately, someone was always nearby to hold her to this earth a little longer.
3. Zelda became obsessed with dancing as an adult, catapulting her into an obsessive spin which landed her in a sanitarium (code for psych ward.) Her last 8 years of life were spent in mental hospitals in the U.S. and abroad, until at 48 years old she would die tragically in a sanitarium fire, locked in a third-floor room.
4. Zelda was quite the creative thinker, designing her own clothes, and eventually focusing on her skills as a visual artist; her art still hangs in U.S. galleries and is published in some beautiful coffee table books.
5. In her later years, Zelda became quite religious; her zeal prompted her to write letters to many of her and Scott's old friends encouraging them to repent and save their souls. Much of her later artwork captures religious images and themes.
In our own little skit at History Theatre, in fact, every single night I will create a life-sized painting of a dancer, on plexiglass, as the show unfolds. It is an interesting phenomenon to watch a 6' x 2' painting Windexed away after each show, a reminder of the ephemeral nature of our art as performers -- we give our all to move and impact an audience for a few hours, and when we are finished, our art is gone and must be recreated each night to impact a new group of onlookers. Perhaps one of the most generous and selfless forms of art, leaving nothing behind but everything on the stage. Come be an onlooker -- this is a very strong cast and a very interesting couple to explore on stage each night!
Anyone ever heard that song, "Deep and wide, deep and wide, there's a fountain flowing deep and wide"? Well, let me tell you, that should be the theme song for Minneapolis' arts pool. In the past two weeks, I have seen 100 (count 'em -- A HUNDRED) shows, and by the end of this weekend you can add three more to that count. (Okay, if you don't count each piece in the One Minute Play Festival individually, it's been eleven. But still, folks, that'll make 14 performances since March 1!)
Here's the tally so far:
Or, – Park Square Theatre
Buzzer – Guthrie Dowling Studio
Courting Harry – History Theatre
Twelfth Night – Guthrie Wurtele Thrust
The One Minute Play Festival – Mixed Blood Theatre
The Taming of the Shrew – Guthrie Wurtele Thrust
Other Desert Cities – Guthrie McGuire Proscenium
Puppet Labs – In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
Cynthia Hopkins: This Clement World – Walker Art Center McGuire Theater
Elemeno Pea – Mixed Blood Theatre
Continuum:2013 by Michele Be – Pillsbury House Theatre
My next three, slated back to back this weekend, are:
Light in the Piazza – Theatre Latte Da/Ordway McKnight
Pat O'Keefe clarinet recital – Studio Z
Speed the Plow – Dark and Stormy Productions
I've already got some others on the calendar before I dive into rehearsals for This Side of Paradise on March 26, and I hope to get some others scheduled in there, too.
Now, before you start complaining that I didn't see your personal favorite (I know! I know!! I've already missed some doozies I really wish I'd seen!) let me just set the record straight. THERE IS A L.O.T. OF STUFF GOING ON IN THIS TOWN, FOLKS! I'm not going to give personal reviews here of all these shows, first because it would be waaaay too long and second because I'd rather just give everyone kudos for making our arts community so rich and colorful and vital. IMHO, it matters more that we're MAKING art – that we have things pressing on our spirits to say – than how polished it is. In this town, a lot of art is being birthed, and we all know how babies come out looking. But, still, with all that schmutz and the misshapen heads and the poop, we celebrate births. Because it's life! And art is little twinkles of life being born. And folks, our population is booming.
NOW you can tell me what your favorites have been. Don't be shy! I want to know -- what did I miss that I shouldn't've, or what should I absolutely get on the calendar before I begin my own rehearsal sequestration in 10 days? Lay 'em on me. Or, go see these. Or, go make art. Or a baby. Whatever you do, enjoy it. Life is good.
This week I'll be joining Gary Briggle's Musical Theatre class at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, doing some casual Q&A and then getting up on our feet as a group. I'm glad to have been teaching with Upstream Arts for these past 7 years, as my time in those classes has stocked my shelves with great ideas for interactive, creative, outside-the-box group play.
For those who haven't had the joy of this kind of energetic, safe-zone theater work, imagine the silliest, strangest, most creative moments that ooze out of you when you're all alone and listening to your favorite music. Or, perhaps, imagine being in the middle of a really difficult conversation and suddenly acquiring the flexibility to not have to use words anymore. Or maybe, imagine how happy the world would be if ALL the cars in that rush hour traffic would just move at the exact same time, eliminating all that snaking and stop-and-go! Ahhhh, nirvana. Anyway, not exactly sure yet which games will float to the top for this Friday's class -- but, looking forward to stepping IN to respectful risk-taking with a new set of faces and, in doing so, stepping OUT of our comfort zones together to make them just a little bit bigger.
Hooray for play!