Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sinkane Brings A Distinctive Music Experience to Arden

By Guest Blogger, Alex del Tufo
Alex is a high school student attending Wilmington Friends School with an interest in journalism as a major. She is an editor for her school newspaper, has served as an intern at
Out and About magazine and has written for WXPN’s website. Alex hopes to expand her love of music and writing through helping with our blog.

Delaware’s local venue, The Arden Gild Hall, was honored to have Sinkane grace the stage on Friday, February 13. Sinkane is the stage name for Sudan native, Ahmed Gallab. He was accompanied by two backup guitarists and a drummer. The quartet’s individual skills accented one another perfectly. Sinkane’s unique musical style was introduced by Brooklyn band, Cookies. Their electronic style worked well with the electronic aspect of Sinkane, but Cookies’ female vocals and more pop sound contrasted in an interesting way.

I think that one of the most interesting parts of Arden Concert Gild performances is the variety. This was especially the case for Sinkane; I saw audience members ranging from teenagers to elders, all enjoying the music together. If you have never been to Arden’s Gild Hall, it is essentially an open room with a stage. For this performance, the room was about one-third chairs and the rest was open for dancing and roaming. I thought that this gave the show a laidback feel but let the audience appreciate the music more. Specifically, a few especially excited dancers enjoyed themselves in the back of the room.

Describing Sinkane’s musical genre is a near impossible task. I can say with ease that I have never heard anyone that has the same style or skillset as him and his band. According to wikipedia he is categorized as “krautrock, free jazz, and funk rock with Sudanese pop.” To tear that apart a little, krautrock is a style of rock with a more electronic sound. Although Gallab grew up in Sudan, he was born in London. This could explain his reasoning for the aspect of krautrock in his music, which has European roots. Free jazz is essentially a more unconventional style of jazz that fits well with the other genres of his music. The most complex part of his music style would have to be the Sudanese pop. This clearly was influenced by his Sudanese heritage. Sudanese pop is a blend of traditional Sudanese music -- violin, bongo, etc. -- combined with influences from American pop stars.

I thought that Sinkane’s distinct sound was not to be missed and their music combined with the atmosphere of the Gild Hall made for a perfect winter night. Sinkane and Cookies truly set high expectations for future performers soon to come to the Hall. I don’t think that Sinkane was for everyone just because of his “out-there” style, but I believe that anyone who is open to new music should really give him a listen. Spending my Valentine’s Eve with Sinkane was an excellent decision and, as an Ardenite, I hope to see him and the band return in the future.

See www.ardenconcerts.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Visual Interpretations of Oscar Wilde's Salome at Delaware Art Museum

Salomé, 2011, Barry Moser
Oscar Wilde had quite a reputation as a provocateur in late 19th Century Victorian England -- and it's that reputation, as well as his wit and his sexuality, that people commonly remember today, even moreso than his work.

In the early 1890s, shortly after the publication of his famous (and only) novel "The Picture of Dorian Grey," Wilde became a success as a playwright. The one-act play  "Salomé" was written in French after a conversation about the Biblical story of John the Baptist inspired him. Wilde, of course, was Irish, and he usually wrote in English. He chose the language because of his love of France -- the country he would retire to after he served jail time for “gross indecency with other men” just a few years later.

“Salomé” is short and brutal, centering around a beautiful young woman living with the stigma of her mother's accused incestuous marriage to get stepfather, Herod II. When John (referred to as C) insults her mother and spurns her, she exacts her revenge: When Herod offers her anything she wants if she dances for him, she chooses Jokanaan’s head on a platter. Literally.

Salomé Kisses the Head of Iokanaan, 2011, Barry Moser

The Dancer's Reward, 1906, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley 
Salome was first published in English in 1894, translated by by Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, and with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. The translation was more flowery than Wilde's style, the illustrations, compared to “the scribbles a precocious schoolboy” by Wilde himself, are sometimes over the top. In 2011, Salome was re-translated by Joseph Donohue, in a style that most agree more closely fits with the way Wilde originally wrote it in French. The illustrations for this version are by Barry Moser; the etchings, in contrast with Beardsley’s style, have an almost photo-realistic look.

The cistern, 2011, Barry Moser
The exhibit starts with Moser's work. This seemed backward to me at first, but as I went through the room, it made sense. Moser's illustrations, placed in chronological order tell the story in images. By the time you get to the last one, you have his idea of what Salomé was really about (the captions on the wall help if you’re not familiar with Wilde’s version of the story). Moser sets a dark mood, featuring a diverse cast of Romans, Nubians, Jews, and Nazarenes. The etchings convey the feel of a stage play, or at least the feeling that real people are being portrayed.
"Let me kiss your mouth," 2011, Barry Moser

“Let me kiss your mouth” shows Jokanaan, the object of Salomé’s desire, despite his almost emaciated appearance, refusing her advances. Wilde plays with sexual objectification — Salomé is seen on both sides of it, and she commands the power position at all times, at least in her own mind. After Moser’s interpretation comes Beardsley’s. The two collections couldn’t be less alike, but, while Moser’s etchings are stunning, Beardsley’s are not inferior — just wildly different.

The Stomach Dance, 1906, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley 
Beardsley’s illustrations have a look that more closely resembles political cartoons, and he was pretty clearly making some statements of his own that weren’t actually in Wilde’s work -- for example, there is homoerotic imagery where there was none on “Salomé,” and Wilde is caricatured more than once (and not in a flattering way). In a couple of instances, Beardsley’s original submissions were rejected for being too bizarre, sexual, or off the map; the Rejected and Accepted versions are displayed together.
The Peacock Skirt, 1906, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley 

Despite Wilde’s criticism’s of Beardsley’s work, the lithographs are quite beautiful and captivating. “The Peacock Skirt” look as if it could be a high fashion illustration, but it does highlight the almost detached interpretation, as it doesn’t directly refer to anything in the play. As an exhibit as a whole, “Salomé” bridges over a century, showcasing a great difference in aesthetic. Some might argue that the Donohue/Moser update righted the wrongs of the 1894 Douglas/Beardsley collaboration -- and there’s little doubt that the update more accurately captures Wilde’s words as they were intended. But to be able to look back on the 1894 artwork in conjunction with Moser’s enhances the timeliness of Beardsley’s work. It was both a reflection of and a rebellion against its time, which is something that can’t be truly captured in the 21st Century.

See www.delart.org

Fringe Wilmington Prepares for Its First Film Festival!

This post comes courtesy of a CityFest press release.

The City of Wilmington and Cityfest, Inc., the City’s nonprofit cultural programming organization, are excited to announce the FilmFringe Wilmington Festival that will take place from Tuesday, February 17 to Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Theatre N at Nemours, 1007 North Orange Street, in downtown Wilmington.

The 2015 Film Fringe Wilmington Festival will include the popular annual Extreme Filmmaking competition and screenings of independent films by local, regional, and national filmmakers.  Fringe Wilmington is Delaware’s only multi-day celebration of unconventional art.  In previous years, Fringe has been a single festival in the fall, which included live performances, film and visual offerings.  This year, the Fringe Committee has separated each of the disciplines into their own five day festival, starting with performing arts last November in Live Fringe, followed by Film Fringe in February 2015, and Visual Fringe in May 2015.

Film Fringe kicks off with a free Preview Party, where trailers will be featured for each film of the festival.  The Preview Party will also include a screening of the Extreme 5-minute Filmmaking entries, including an awards ceremony to announce cash prize winners of the contest, as well as Fringe-inspired cocktails by The Painted Stave Distillery of Smyrna, Delaware.

In Film Fringe Wilmington’s inaugural year the committee was excited to receive more quality entries than could be screened in the initial four days of programming allotted.  As a result, the Preview Party has been scheduled for Tuesday, February 17 to allow for a full five days of films. In the day’s following the Preview Party, film novices and enthusiasts may sample a wide variety of film genres, ranging from dramas to documentaries, comedies to action.  A few highlights include an entire evening dedicated to music documentaries on Friday, February 20 and ‘An Afternoon With John Evans’, the world-renowned filmmaker on Sunday February 22. 

Tickets are available on the Fringe Wilmington website at www.fringede.org and will be available at the Preview Party, as well as at the Theatre N box office immediately prior to each showing.  Individual ticket prices are $5.  Audience members can also purchase a 5-film pass for $15 or a 10-film pass for $25.  Fringe Wilmington continues its model of providing 100% of ticket sales to participating filmmakers.

To learn more about Film Fringe Wilmington Festival and see the 2015 Film Fringe Wilmington selections, visit www.fringede.org or call Jeni Barton at 302.576.2135.

Monday, February 9, 2015

WDL's "Leaves" Delivers Powerful, Poignant Message About Illness

By Guest Blogger, Alex del Tufo
Alex is a high school student attending Wilmington Friends School with an interest in journalism as a major. She is an editor for her school newspaper, has served as an intern at Out and About magazine and has written for WXPN’s website. Alex hopes to expand her love of music and writing through helping with our blog.

Wilmington Drama League (WDL) staged another outstanding performance this past weekend. Lucy Caldwell’s Leaves was a brilliant, heartbreaking portrayal of the effects of depression on a young woman and her family.

The play surrounded a seemingly average Irish family and their everyday struggles. It is revealed that the cause of many of their problems is the oldest daughter’s recent suicide attempt. I thought the storyline was extremely unique because of the focus on the effects of mental illness — not only on those who are personally affected by it, but also the impact on those who have known and loved them their entire lives. The damaged relationships and interpersonal disconnects are a side of depression not often discussed or presented. WDL did an excellent job of leaving off the “sugar-coat” to show the audience the truth about the widespread effects of having, or living with a person who has, a mental illness. The downplay of diseases such as depression is an enormous problem that I believe this performance is trying to help eradicate.

I don’t think WDL could have found a better cast to portray the intense roles required for the show. The cast ranged in age from 7th Grader to adult, and each of them equally talented. What made their performances even more impressive was the added Irish accents. Caldwell, the writer of Leaves and an Ireland native, would have been impressed by the authenticity in their portrayal of a typical Irish family.

In addition to the excellent cast, this play was significant for WDL because of the two young directors leading the show. Mollie Montgomery and Cassey Moore — both high school students — co-directed this show without the help of adults. I think this made the actors’ performances even more impressive. Their direction and interpretation was both inspired and unique. I don’t think that many adults have the skills that these two young students have.

An aspect of Leaves that made it particularly outstanding was the display of artwork by Emily Spiegel and Michael Curcio. Emily and Michael were two young local artists recently lost to suicide. Their works were displayed in the front lobby and added a more personal depth to the show that the whole audience could feel. There was also the option to buy tea for $1 to support ContactLifeline, a Delaware-based 24/7 suicide hotline. In addition, $1 from each show ticket was donated to the ContactLifeline. I thought that this was an excellent benefit to a beautiful performance.

I thought this production was excruciating in the most unbelievable way. This show was not for those looking for a relaxing night out. From start to finish, the show was intense and evocative, with glimmers of humor here and there. The ending came off as an "it's all better now" conclusion, but left me wondering what was implied for the character's futures. I think that Wilmington Drama League did an extraordinary job of executing this provocative production.

See www.wilmingtondramaleague.org

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nora, the Early Feminist, Shines at DTC

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s play about a child bride coming to sudden maturity and walking out on her family, caused quite a stir when it opened in 1879.

A century later, Ingmar Bergman — feeling Ibsen didn’t go far enough — reworked the long-winded script into a taut drama with only five major characters and re-titled it simply Nora.

The Delaware Theatre Company’s production of Bergman’s searing reduction grabs viewers from the outset and never lets go.

The play tells the story of the (seemingly) happy marriage of Thorvald and Nora Helmer. Through exposition we learn the backstory: Thorvald was ill and needed a year in Italy to recover. Nora, ever the good wife, took it upon herself to borrow money from the unscrupulous Krogstad whom Thorvald decides to sack when he gets promoted to bank manager. Krogstad decides to blackmail Nora to keep his position because not only is it amoral for a woman to borrow money (plus her husband abhors debt — an odd position for a banker) but he figures out she forged her father’s signature on the note (dated several days after his death).

When the truth comes out, Thorvald flies into a rage and disowns Nora, bemoaning his fate that now he has to acquiesce to Krogstad’s wishes because of her mistake. But Nora’s friend (Mrs. Linde) talks to Krogstad, who turns out to be her long lost love, and he agrees to tear up the promissory note. Thorvald is relieved and contented to go back to the way things were. But Nora has had an epiphany: She realizes she has been little more than a doll to her husband — a pretty doll that performs tricks — and that they are not partners, because a true husband would have taken the blame and defended his wife’s honor. She decides she has to stop being a doll and learn who she really is and what life has to offer. The play ends with a stunning climax which, for its time, was controversial to say the least.

Bergman’s script focuses on Nora, driving home the divisive (for its time) theme — women’s rights — even though Ibsen claimed he did not seek to promote the women’s rights movement. The play is concise and succinct and the action never abates. Thus the audience feels engrossed in the main story without getting distracted by a welter of subplots.

All five actors worked well as an ensemble. The standout was Kim Carson whose journey from naïf to mature explorer was clear, nuanced and genuine. David Arrow plays a domineering Thorvald who can at the same time be playful and sexy with his wife as he fulfills his role. His anger — laced at times with bewildered incomprehension — is scary but his loss at the end of the play is palpable. Kevin Bergen supplies a death-darkened and doting Dr. Rank; Susan Riley Stevens a world-weary almost embittered Mrs. Linde. Chris Thorn offered an effective Krogstad, ineffably moving at his pivotal points.

Alexis Distler’s set and Esther Arroyo’s costumes were aptly period. Christopher J Bailey’s judicious lighting design supported intensity levels agreeably.

Director Michael Mastro kept the show moving at a brisk pace with a consistent driving energy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

City Theater Company's "Barely Legal" is All About Improv

This review is reposted courtesy of The News Journal. Original article by Holly Quinn published 2/2/14. 

Photo by Joe del Tufo
City Theater Company is celebrating its 21st birthday, and you can join the party at the Black Box at OperaDelaware (still set up Irish Pub style from CTC's recent production of 'James Joyce's The Dead'). 'Barely Legal' is an evening of improv, featuring CTC's own Fearless Improv troupe and a rotation of Philadelphia improv acts, for an unpredictable night of entertainment. READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW >>>

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mélomanie at the DCCA with La Bernardinia Baroque Ensemble

Night Watch by Dan Jackson
A grey Sunday in February brought an overflow crowd to the DuPont 1 Gallery of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. The big crowd was made to order to create the most wonderful acoustic effect in the small room with the cold hard stone floor, so that Mattheson’s Sonata in G Minor for two harpsichords played by Marcia Kravis and Tracy Richardson sounded clear, crisp, rounded and exciting. Swirls of sounds flew as they traded fast scales and flying double thirds.

After the harpsichord duo, guest artists La Bernadinia Baroque (Donna Fournier, Rainer Beckmann and Marcia Kravis) performed the Ciacona allegro, also a Baroque piece by Benedetto Marcello –Following this, the entire Mélomanie ensemble playing Menuet-Fantaisie – a modern musical interpretation of Baroque music with a recurring motif passed from instrument to instrument, which they had commissioned Anthony Mosakowski to write in 2012. The composer, who introduced the piece, seemed as pleased as the rest of the audience.

The delightful and melodic Allemande and Sarabande, from a different harpsichord duo suite by Mattheson, brought us back to Baroque comfort and lute stops until we were blasted into the 21st century by Tracy Richardson and Rainer Beckman in their interpretation of Liduino Pitombeira’s Sonata for recorder and harpsichord no. 2, Opus 156. Mr. Beckman, who knows Brazil and the composer, introduced the piece and showed that he can make the alto recorder leap forward a few centuries to create a sound reminiscent to honor Stravinsky, Boulez and Bartok.

And, following that tradition of lulling us with Baroque delights and then rocking us out of chairs with modern sounds on Baroque instruments, the two groups played a delightful rendition of a Vivaldi's Concerto in G Minor, RV 107 in which the alto flute (Kim Reighley), soprano and alto recorders (Rainer Beckman) and Baroque violin (Christof Richter) performed as soli and Doug McNames (cello), Donna Fournier (viola da gamba) and Tracy Richardson and Marcia Kravis on harpsichords performed the orchestral continuo.

After the raucous applause for the great sound of the Vivaldi, the larger ensemble played an encore of a Chaconne by Jean Baptiste Lully. The experience was heightened by the surrealistic art of Dan Jackson on display in the gallery – the faces in his works so photographically alive and vivid that they seemed to have been listening as well.

See melomanie.org.