Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Toast to the Fallen Woman

Danielle Rice, executive director of the Delaware Art Museum, hosted a delightful open discussion about fallen women of the Nineteenth Century and asked the audience why the theme permeated literature, music and art of the time. She started the ball rolling by showing slides of art depicting fallen women. Her first example was William Holdman Hunt’s The awakening conscience since it had been completed in the same year as Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata (the fallen woman). Her partner in leading the discussion was Lee Kimball, general and artistic director of Opera Delaware, who will present La Traviata at the Grand Opera House on November 7, 12 and 13. The two are friends, which made the lively discussion even more fun. Mr. Kimball bravely pointed out that usually it is the fallen woman who gets killed or arrested or punished, while the fallen man tends to walk away with only a few regrets.

After the discussion, the crowd mingled and enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks which they brought to the entrance hall of the museum, where the grand piano was waiting for Jeffrey Miller, chorus master and associate music director of Opera Delaware and Colleen Daly, soprano and Alak Kumar, tenor. The two will be singing the lead roles in La Traviata and if this foretaste in which they sang La Brindisi is any indication, the next time we hear those two could be at Lincoln Center.

The intimacy of the setting, the lively discussion and the informal concert made it feel as if we were attending a party at Barone Douphol’s house watching Alfredo flirt with Violetta in front of her rich lover…

Having had the hors d’oeuvre, my appetite has been whetted for the main course. See you at the Grand.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

UD Orchestra in Puglisi Hall

Although I was slightly disappointed not to find Edgard Varese’s Ameriques on the program on October 20, hearing the Stravinsky arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner and his Scherzo a la Russe provided an equally eclectic salute to the United States and the fascination of European composers for the freedom and wildness they saw in this country in the first half of the Twentieth Century. The big band flavor with which Stravinsky had spiked his film music was a great vehicle for the large brass section of the college orchestra and Yael Hernandez did a fine job with the piano part.

Robert Brandt’s rendition of the first set of Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs showed his extremely strong baritone voice. He almost knocked me out of my chair with his ‘Hi-ro, the boatman’ but he lacked the playfulness of the fine solo passages by Tara Rozanski on the flute and the great trumpet and trombone entries in Simple Gifts. The viola section was superb in their entrances in I bought me a cat.

But in Dvorak’s late Nineteenth Century tribute to the country which had just begun to tolerate the wild sounds of Brahms and Beethoven, the UD Orchestra hit their stride. Their intensity and musicality showed the skilled leadership of Dr. Brian Stone. The second movement’s soulful melody was played beautifully by Bryan Walker (English horn) and the brief duet by first cellist Rachel MacLeod and concertmaster Eliza Krivo seemed magical to me. But as I worked my way through the mass of exiting musicians to congratulate them, I interrupted the conversation between English horn teacher Lloyd Shorter and soloist Bryan Walker. They patiently waited for me to utter my compliments and as I walked away, I heard Mr. Shorter say, …"and one more thing…"

Well, they are students after all.


Drawing Marathon Draws Artists

DCAD held its sixth Drawing Marathon on October 16. Over 70 artists participated in this day of figure drawing. The event, which was open to the public, began at 9 am and ended at 9 pm. Faculty, students, alumna and both the amateur and professional were all in attendance.

Cloth backdrops-some colorful and one all white- were artfully arranged, with still-life objects placed around to create the illusion of spaces in a house. When I arrived, the poses were already well underway. Artists were painting, drawing-even sculpting! It was inspiring to see so many levels of ability, styles and mediums all in one place. There was a quiet hush over the room, as the artists enjoyed the day, sharpening their skills and working their visual “muscles”. The poses ranged from 20 minutes to six hours in length.

One artist was creating a fabulous bust from clay. Another used the “20 minute pose” to create a drawing of the same figure in various poses. I enjoyed seeing the variety of ways the artists could use a figure and still life in their pieces, and wished I hadn’t brought a note pad, but a sketchpad instead.


Vivacious Vivaldi

It was a perfect afternoon for Brandywine Baroque’s Venetian Carnival. A warm breeze was blowing the leaves from the trees outside the Barn at Flintwoods. The program was sold out, and the concert manager had to add more chairs to accommodate the extra guests. All told, over 100 people were fit into the intimate performance space to enjoy the concert. An all-Vivaldi concert is surely what people want to hear, these days. Often light and airy, this music is the antidote to our everyday worries.

First up was the lovely Sinfonia Alla Rustica, RV151. In three movements, the piece quickly transported us to Venice, with its ornate, textured lyricism. It was a thrill to hear Grant Herreid on the guitar, with his beautiful tone penetrating the full-bodied music. For other pieces in the concert, Herreid performed on his theorbo, a large, lute-like instrument with 14 to 19 courses or strings. The unfretted bass-strings or “bourdons” make it the perfect figured bass instrument for a small Baroque ensemble.

Cynthia Freivogel and Martin Davids performed together in the Concerto for two violins in A minor/RV 523 and the Concerto for two violins in D major, RV 511. Accompanied by the small chamber “orchestra”, these two violinists played flawlessly and perfectly in tandem. At times, their tones and phrasing were so similar and well-blended, it was hard to tell who was playing. They were paired with Douglas McNames and Donna Fournier (cellos), for the Concerto for two violins and two cellos in G major, RV 575. McNames and Fournier performed the Concerto for two cellos in G minor, RV 531. A winning piece, the two cellists played it with both warmth and gusto.

It’s always a treat to hear soprano Laura Heimes. Her silvery voice floated through the motet Nulla in mundo pax sincera. The standard repeats were the perfect opportunity for her to showcase her agile trills and ornaments.

Vivaldi exploited the rich, romantic timbre of the cello in his Concerto for Cello in B minor, RV 424. McNames handled the long, legato lines of the Largo with sensitivity and attention to phrasing. There were moments when it seemed Vivaldi had vaulted right out of the Baroque period and into the early romantic period: the structure of the phrases are lyrical and often brooding, and the thematic development is sophisticated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Digested: Another Fringe Wilmington Recap

 I wanted my time at the second Wilmington Fringe Festival to be as bizarre, surreal and extreme as possible; unfortunately, it's impossible to see everything. I set my interary with the 48-Hour Film Festival at the center, plus some offbeat live performances, as well as the Visual show.

On Wednesday, I kicked things off with a tour of the Visual Fringe Gallery at the Shipley Lofts. The work ranged in visual media, from installation to video, illustration, painting and sculpture. It was a strong show overall for sure, with some standouts: Stephanie Bell's "Anxiety" series confronted viewers as they entered, with a gas mask-wearing woman with "guts" of wire spilling out of her stomach. Downstairs, I was most fascinated by Tiernan Alexander's "Cuddle," a wood cradle strewn with braided human hair and Daniel Potterton's pieces, which appear to be collages of found objects (things like take out menus, tickets, torn pieces of product packaging), but on close inspection are completely, intricately created by hand. An installation/performance piece by Ron Longsdorf was projected on one of the walls - a live Skype stream of the artist and a friend having a conversation in a cafe in South Carolina. Skype makes an interesting art medium, especially as viewers realize that they are also being video streamed to the other side (more on the piece here). For a full list of Visual Fringe artists, click here.

Splendid Spelling!

Bootless Artworks’ season opened with the spirited 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This farcical show, with music and lyrics by William Finn and Book by Rachel Sheinkin, worked well on the cafetorium floor of the Reach Academy for Girls in Claymont, Delaware. The four-piece orchestra, conducted from the keyboard by Musical Director Brittany Fisher, played behind the actors. Directed by Kimberly Pryor, choreographed by Alyssa Novello, and produced by James Fuerst, the show included guest “spellers” from the non-profit and arts community. The night I attended, playwright Matt Casarino, AIDS Delaware’s executive director, John Klein and the Draggillious girls lent their orthographic talents.

This sweet little musical has it all: drama, intrigue, improvisation, unrequited love and dysfunctional families. Leaf Coneybear, played endearingly by Justin Walsh, wears capes and flared pants he designs himself. Each turn at the podium, the poor guy (self-described as “not that smart”) must spell rodent words like “Capybara” and “Acouchi”. After he stumbles on “Chinchilla”, he sings a goofy, impassioned goodbye song with the help of his bass-voiced rodent at the microphone.

Logainne SchwartzandGrubeniniere, whose long last name is the result of having two dads, is a kind-hearted competitor who traces words on her arm. Ashli Rice is adorable in the role, lending a perky, innocent touch. She tries hard to please her two self-involved dads (Wade Brodsky and Justin Walsh) but finally asks them, “What about me?”

The first to lose the bee is Chip Tolentino, played convincingly by P.J. Schweizer. His crush on Coneybear’s sister inspires an “erection destroying perfection,” distracting him from his spelling. An all-American boy scout, he returns to haunt the other contestants well after he is eliminated. His ultimate demise is his job hawking candy and potato chips to the audience.

The nimble Jeremy Gable is a neurotic and peanut-allergic William Barfee (that’s “BarfAY!” The accent ague is there for a reason!), who sweeps the shape of every letter with his agile foot. Even while dodging water on the floor, he manages to collect the trophy.

Rosanne DellAversano, the company’s artistic director, is excellent as Rona Lisa Peretti, the bossy head of the bee. A bumbling Vice Principal Panch (William Swezey) is consumed by a hilarious burst of violent rage as he bemoans his “assistant” principal title. As the lovable thug on parole, Mitch Mahoney (Wade Brodsky) gives out juice boxes to the losers of the bee. The versatile actor also appears as several dads in the production.

“The I Love You Song” is one of the most moving numbers in the show. Here, Olive Ostrofsky (Caroline Rhodes) sings sweetly about things “chimerical”- her spelling word – as she grapples with feelings of abandonment. Another character to find herself during the show is Marcy Park (Ahn Truong), a girl expected to do everything perfectly. Her quirky song “I Speak Five Languages” takes us on a whirlwind tour of talents in sports, languages and academics. When she flubs a simple word on purpose, she suddenly feels free.

The show’s theme of self-discovery peeks subtly through its sub-plots. Different every night because of the guest spellers and the improvisation, the show is truly entertaining!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fresh Thymes Joins the Loop

Fresh Thymes Art Show Program
Fresh Thymes on Lovering Avenue in Wilmington shared some of their creative eats at the Bite of the Fringe in September -- now they've jumped into the Arts scene full-on, as they hosted their very first Art Loop show on October 1st. Featured was the painter/printmaker Nicole Kristiana FitzGibbon, who showcased her series of fantastical creature prints. Some of the wildly-patterned animals come from fantasy, others are fantastical versions of real animals, from cats and rabbits to an anthropomorphic frog to gryphons and dragons.

The prints are made using a modern printmaking style, a combination of hand painting the outlines and colorful patterns separately, then combining them using a computer. Each detail is a small part of a larger intricate pattern, in a collage of brushstrokes.

In addition to the prints on the wall, all of the pieces can also be printed on a microfiber handbag, and samples of the custom-made bags were also on display. The bags, as well as a large selection of prints, are available in FitzGibbon's Etsy shop.

As for the space, Fresh Thymes is a charming little cafe with bright walls and great fresh food -- no doubt, the free hors d'oeuvres were part of the attraction.

First Friday at Fresh Thymes is a hit -- according to the artist's blog, the show at has been extended through November 30. And if you're disappointed about missing the opening, she'll be back for an encore First Friday at Fresh Thymes on November 5th.

Fresh Thymes Cafe
Lincoln & Lovering

Fringe Wilmington: Fantastic Fun!

Tongue & Groove and First State Ballet Theatre Photos: Joe del Tufo

Fringe Wilmington 2010 went off with a bang at preview night. Performers gave the audience short snippets of their shows, and I was able to figure out quickly which were the shows not to miss.

Also opening that night was the Visual Fringe, in the Shipley Lofts. Much of this work begged for interaction, with “in-your-face” tactile qualities. Melinda Steffy’s wonderfully textured contributions added warmth and depth to the installation. Brookes Britcher is as fascinating as his work, “Life on Paper is a Series of Decisive Moments”. The artist, who began as a photographer, explained to me how this work had developed from a large framed family photograph he had found discarded on the street. Britcher feels photography, as an art from, is still stuck in its “representational” phase. This sculpture, created from an empty postcard display stand, luminescent tape, duct tape, confetti, colored silly-string, a light, extension cord, along with the framed photograph, is an exploration of the abstraction of photography. The faces in the photograph are shadowy, barely visible behind the tape, and the postcard stand is empty, serving as architecture and perhaps stability in Britcher’s whimsical, powerful piece.


Friday and Saturday, I squeezed in as many events as I could. I managed to catch the 48-hour film competition screenings, the 21st Century Ballet, improvs by Tongue and Groove, adult plays by Shel Silverstein, Mosaic’s Slave Narratives, the Sharp Dance Company’s exciting Addictive Fragility, and the hilarious film, 200 Characters or Less.

The First State Ballet Theatre was in top form with the luscious Nonsense in the Sense of Innocence choreographed and scored by Viktor Plotnikov. Music of Vivaldi, Beethoven and others was altered, and electronic blips, creating a foreboding theme, were wound into the familiar tunes. A long, flexible knit “dream” cap on the dancer’s head, connecting her to the ceiling, wound a beautiful, stretchy blue/green thread. The images created by this ever-changing line were endless and dramatic. The image of the cap constantly reminded us the dances embracing her and unfolding on stage before her were products of her dream life.


The Philadelphia based Improv troupe Tongue & Groove was wonderfully fast-paced and entertaining. They used material solicited from the audience: “What is something you wanted to tell someone, but never did? Write down an unusual email or text saved on your phone.” With our answers, the troupe created overlapping scenes and dialogue. I was thrilled when an actor created an entire rant out of my submission, “You need to whiten your teeth.” (Yes, I find myself zoning out, looking at people’s teeth sometimes. Sue me.) Skilled ensemble actors, they did not shy away from the serious or macabre.


Riveting was Mosaic’s Slave Narratives. Created by Ed Shockley, a Philadelphia writer/actor, the show consists of vignettes of narratives and letters-from Mordechai Vanunu, Galileo, the American slave trade-to the Montgomery Bus boycott. Though the work was a window into individuals and their experiences with slavery, there was a unifying theme-a message about slavery and how it traps and hurts not only those enslaved, but the entire community. lary moten was touching and funny in his various roles. moten brought the audience into the show, clapping and chanting, “I cannot be denied” in Shockley’s tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.


SCO Productions entertained us with some wildly funny short plays by Shel Silverstein. Ever the linguist, Silverstein develops scenes around rhymes and puns. Dana Michael is hilarious and bawdy in Buy One, Get One Free, a naughty tale in which everything must end in the sound “eeee”. In Smile Jim Burns, Kevin Regan and Gordon Holmes play a bunch of dumb hit-men, who terrorize Gibby (Matt Casarino) for his creation of a “have a nice day” and other insipid expressions. Silverstein is at his absurdist best in No Skronking: an unsuspecting diner (Jason Fawcett) prods his server Bertha (Kerry Kristine McElrone) to explain what “skronking” is, since it’s forbidden.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Spooktacular Rocks

The Art Loop came smack in the middle of the Fringe Wilmington festivities on Friday, making it almost more art and weirdness than we could handle -- as if! We took a detour from the downtown activities to check out the Talleyville Frame Shoppe & Gallery's "Spooktacular!" Halloween Art Show featuring spooky art and live music. It was well worth it -- this show wound up being one of the highlights of the weekend.

Coffin Fly at Talleyville Frame Shoppe & Gallery. Photo: Holly Quinn
The mood was relaxed, the art intense, including Newark-based artist and children's book author Kristen Margiotta's distinctive paintings of big-eyed characters and horror icons such as the Mad Hatter and, my favorite -- Vincent Price holding his own head on a platter;  Ric Frane's paintings of horror movie monsters paired with pinups, including the devilish "Self Portrait with Mate;" and Pinup model and glitter artist Asia "The Glitteress" DeVinyl's tryptich of glittery, glamorous and creepy pieces; Wendy Mitchell's wicked mixed-media art; Stephen Blickenstaff's colorful, comic-style paintings; and Kevin Herdeman's mixed-media monster art that not only puts the frame into consideration, it completely incorporates it.

In addition to the art on the walls (plus all the other cool art, cards and jewelry the shop carries regularly) the opening featured Coffin Fly, a trashabilly trio out of the University of Delaware. After a minor delay, they kicked into their set, and I'm sure glad I caught it! Ghoulish lyrics and rockabilly beats complete with stand-up bass and washboard. For those who follow Delaware's underground music scene, this band is one to watch.

"Spooktacular" runs through October 28. The show is brought to you by the minds behind this year's multi-artist Zombie A Go-Go Rock 'N Roll Art Show -- we hear that another ZAGG is planned for late winter/early spring '11, so keep an eye out.

Talleyville Frame Shoppe & Gallery
3625 Silverside Rd.
Talleyville Center