Sunday, May 22, 2011

Prepare to be Deceived & Delighted at DAM

Photos courtesy of Delaware Art Museum
By Mara Goodman, PR Intern, Arts in Media

If you’re in the mood to go out on town, throw on some heels and a blazer, feeling sophisticated enough to have your mind impressed by its own limits, then the Delaware Art Museum’s “Perception/Deception: Illusion in Contemporary Art” exhibit would definitely be the place to go. But, if you’re in the mood to experience “funky” pieces of art, perhaps be perplexed by its meaning—which, let’s face it—is sometimes is a headspace we frequent, then you should definitely check out the DAM’s exhibit as well.

This exploration of contemporary art features four artists, Chul-Hyun Ahn, Larry Kagan, Robert Lazzarini, and Mary Temple, all of whose artwork creates three simultaneous responses. The first, confusion about how these pieces of art could possibly be created; the second, what they mean to creator and viewer; and the third, where does one stand when looking at each? Don’t expect to passively examine a painting in this exhibit; these pieces of art are not just 3-D, but involve a dimension of participation on the viewer’s part.

But don’t let participation scare you off: you don’t have to be a lover of art to enjoy and understand this exhibit. Lary Kagan’s work was by far my favorite, as its unique sculptures create shadows through a meticulous combination of steel welding and lighting. At its core, each piece is a collection of steel shapes, which, when examined unaccompanied appears to be a labyrinth of triangles and circles, but when partnered by the perfect lighting set-up and positioning, transforms into a wonderful image of shadows outlined on the wall. You’ll be surprised to find that it is not painted, as I initially assumed.

In particular, check out the collection of mosquitoes—two dead ones, and one alive, featured at the far wall of the exhibit. Never before have I been so interested in the structure, shape, and—surprisingly enough—the beauty of a mosquito. Normally I am too quick to kill the bugger before it bites me to look at the form of its body, but I found myself staring at these pieces for minutes on end trying to piece together the way each shape in the steel reflects the wing or the eye of the bug. Math, in every significance of the word, is really morphed into art in this exhibit. I never thought I would see the day that the math I learned in school was actually applied to something of such beautiful substance.

And the surprises don’t stop there. Especially if you check out Chul-Hyun Ahn’s work, which really challenge the idea that art is flat. These innovative creations are pretty indescribable, but they present, somehow, someway…infinity. If you never thought you could understand what infinity looks like, try peering into the doorway of one of these works. These pieces begin before your eyes and seem to never end, dissolving into a complete illusion of eternity.

Also be sure to keep an eye out for Mary Temple’s works. You may be confused to see on display only one of her sculptures, but don’t be deceived: the rest are hidden throughout the galleries. Her paintings feature the environment and the way that nature is reflected on our windows and walls; as faint shadows of the outside world. Her skill is irrefutably impressive, and fun to find.

But don’t let the thought of “modern art” frighten you. The stereotype is completely disregarded here—all these artists are both innovative and extremely talented. And if you feel like you need a little “classic” artwork afterwards, the museum is filled with plenty of fantastic Wyeths and Howard Pyles to balance out your visit. But as Danielle Rice, the director of the museum, described at the opening, there really is a high “wow” factor to these pieces—it is nearly impossible to understand how they are made and become what that they are. You can’t help but feel wowed. So, next time you feel sophisticated or ready to experience something new and different, make your way over to Rockford Park and prepare to be amazed!


Zoo Story takes Delaware to AACT Competition

For the second time ever, Delaware has an entry in the American Association of Community Theatre festival. Andrew Mitchell directs Brian Turner and Patrick Cathcart in Edward Albee’s Zoo Story – a one-act story about human contact in a New York City park.

Patrick Cathcart plays Jerry, an edgy, nervous guy who has just about given up on positive contact with all living creatures when he spies Peter, a happy, humdrum middle class father of two girls with his happy middle class job, middle class home and middle class habit of sitting on a park bench and reading every single weekend.

Cathcart is so completely Jerry that he has that wild and hungry look as he starts up a conversation with the reluctant Peter. His jerky gestures and perfect New York accent are exactly what you heard on the subway platform on your last trip to the city. Jerry teases and cavorts with Peter so engagingly that Peter is soon lost in the threads of Jerry’s life and couldn’t get away if he had to.

The result is a maelstrom of emotion and events, which Director Andrew Mitchell and the two actors have polished to perfection.

They compete on Friday, June 24, 2011 at the Geva Theater in Rochester, New York. Whether they win or lose, Delaware theatre lovers can be very proud of the excellent representation in the national event.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Delaware Valley Chorale and Delaware Symphony at Immanuel Church

David Christopher conducted members of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and his Delaware Valley Chorale in a performance May 15 at Immanuel Church on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Gloria by Lee Hoiby, an American composer who died at age 85 this past March, was harmonically conservative. Hoiby was often accused of having the same style as those who preceded him a century before. Yet, he was called to Curtis by Gian Carlo Menotti after one of his friends showed his work to the famous composer and teacher at the Curtis Institute. Hoiby went on to have a long and successful career.

Written in memory of the brother of one of the DVC members, this piece has a lovely trumpet, trombone and timpani orchestration with organ obbligato that is tightly written and worked beautifully in the large stone sanctuary.

The Brahms Requiem had the support of 52 instrumentalists which sometimes overwhelmed the chorus, but sounded so good that you forgot about that right away.

Soloist Grant Youngblood had no problem holding his own against the group, mesmerizing the audience with his full, rich voice and his ability to communicate the Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord, make me know) and the Denn haben wir keine bleibende Stadt (For we have no continuing city).

Soprano June Suh’s mellow, rounded sound also carried over the orchestra without a hitch. Her high notes seemed effortless as she sang with quiet poise. Her solo melted away but the note continued on the flute in a transition so seamless no one knew where the soprano voice ended and the flute began.

It was a great idea to have players from the Delaware Symphony support this impressive chorale performance.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Sweden and Free Energy Tear Up the Arden Gild Hall

New Sweden @ Arden Gild Hall. Photo: Joe del Tufo
The idea behind bringing Philly rock gods Free Energy to the Arden Gild Hall was simple: to draw a younger crowd to the breezy venue, which usually boasts a more solidly mature audience. And, of course, a local band kicking off the night was a must. Enter New Sweden, easily one of the most buzzed-about bands in Delaware right now. On every level, this XPN-sponsored show was a success, from the generationally diverse crowd to the choice of bands to the enthusiasm that filled the room through the night.

If you haven't seen New Sweden yet -- and I hadn't -- they are a band that has earned the hype. They play folky, foot-stomping rock, sometimes light and airy, sometimes hard, with viola, banjo, mandolin, pump organ and glockenspiel added to the traditional rock instruments. It's sort of like Burl Ives meets Cowpunk. Very cool. New Sweden is the kind of band you can sing along with, even if it's your first time seeing them. I can see why they've got the passionate following they have -- they put on a great show.

Free Energy @ Arden Gild Hall. Photo: Joe del Tufo

While we at DE Arts Info always focus on Delaware artists, headliners Free Energy deserve mention. I'll frame it like this: Delaware, and Arden in particular, should be very proud to have hosted this band and this show. Free Energy, whose sound can be described as modern "70s rock" -- think Sweet meets Teenage Head meets the Stooges meets the Stones in the 21st Century -- had the entire room dancing through the night. Not moving, but full on dancing, from the kids to the seniors, and that's not something you see every day.

New Sweden will be playing NON-COMM at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Friday, May 20; on June 4, they will perform at the Baby Grand; they'll return to The Queen to headline on July 29th (see their band page for full schedule and information on their upcoming album). Free Energy will be touring the US this summer; their album, "Stuck on Nothing" is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

NINE is a Winner

City Theater Company has a winner with NINE, a musical by Arthur Kopit (book) and Maury Yeston (music and lyrics). The character Guido Contini is loosely based on Federico Fellini’s autobiographical character in the movie 81/2. A wonderfully humorous-and sometimes sobering journey into the troubled filmmaker’s psyche, the production is crisp and vibrant. Director Michael Gray assembles a terrific cast and makes creative use of the black box space. The small orchestra, led by Chris Tolomeo, aces the difficult score, which ranges from jazzy numbers to baroque-style recitative.

Guido (Michael Gray) is a simpatico, self-absorbed womanizer. When he sings Only with you, he caresses his wife and his mistresses with tender words of faithfulness. As his career is foundering, he finds himself under the thumb of his producer, Liliane LeFleur (Karen Murdock). She constantly badgers him for a script and hires her lover-who despises Contini’s work-to be his assistant. Murdock is terrific in the role with her show-stopping Folie Bergeres and pompous French attitude.

The all-female ensemble functions a sort of Greek chorus. They echo Guido’s thoughts and gush with the admiration he so desperately craves. As Guido’s mother, Ruth Bailis is convincing and her Italian accent and mannerisms authentic. With her strong presence and rich voice, TS Baynes is ideally suited for the role of Guido’s neglected wife, Luisa Contini. As she sings Be on your Own we feel the depth of her suffering and sense of abandonment. Eleonore Thomas is vocally and dramatically riveting as Saraghina. She sings Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian to the young Guido (Nolan Moss), coaching him on matters of love and sex. Moss does an excellent job in the role of the young boy, both overwhelmed and intrigued by the powerful female forces that surround him. Also entertaining were Corinne Grosser (Claudia Nardi) and Ashley Harris (Carla Albanese) as Guido’s two mistresses.

Though much of the music light-hearted and often silly, Yeston builds some very complex, layered songs. For each character he creates unique musical themes, which weave together nicely into larger ensembles. The Bells of St. Sebastian is a haunting, rich first act finale. The songs also serve as a vehicle for character development. In Luisa’s My Husband Makes Movies the veneer of her denial is shattered, and by the end of the song her distress is more exposed.

Be sure to check out this gem, which runs through May 21, 2001 at the Black Box at OperaDelaware.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hail Cinema Jams at the World Cafe

Hallowed Cain
Photo: David Norbut Photography
The World Cafe Live at The Queen is the kind of venue Delawareans used to have to drive to Philly or DC (or any bigger city, really) to experience. If you haven't checked it out yet, think The Trocadero meets the TLA, only a bit more intimate -- a size that's completely appropriate for our small city. The downstairs stage, which hosted The Battle of the Bands: Cinema Jams on Saturday, April 30, is a beautiful restored relic of a movie theater, highlighted by its original organ pipes and ornate stonework, the delicate decorative paint faded by time. Quite literally, you're watching a show in 20th Century ruin of sorts - one that's spotlessly clean, well-lit and lined with a 21st Century bar.

The World Cafe boasts some big names coming through, and it's primarily a venue for touring artists. On this night, though, the stage belonged to local acts The Hold Up, Stallions, Hallowed Cain, Rubber Skunk and My Friends, for a battle royale unlike anything I've seen. The concept of Cinema Jams was a Film Brothers brainchild: each band does a set of their own songs, in the theme of a movie. So, costumes, interludes and video all played a part, and the audience -- I don't know if it was sold out, but it was certainly packed -- voted for the  top band of the night.

The evening started with one of my local favorites, The Hold Up, in full "Fight Club" ensemble, doing their old school rock 'n roll flavored tracks like "On Hallowed Ground" and "Zombies Ate My Neighbors." The Stallions set their classic modern rock sound with "No Country for Old Men." Funk fusion Rubber Skunk officially did "An Inconvenient Truth," with a humorous "powerpoint" show, and wound up featuring others such as Charlie Sheen, Shaft, Nosferatu, Indiana Jones and "Snakes on a Plane." My Friends were fully decked out for their "Aladdin" theme, complete with a trumpet-playing red parrot and a genie on percussion. It was Hallowed Cain, though, who stole the show, and won the night, with their fully integrated "Clockwork Orange" theme, including video, costumes and props, which worked perfectly with their heavy, intense music.

A great night all the way through. We hope to see more shows like it in the future!

More: World Cafe Live at The Queen

Check out David Norbut's amazing photos of the show here!