Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet Lucy at the DTC

Vivian is a woman who has journeyed to far off lands as an acclaimed anthropologist, but her journey with her 13 year-old daughter, Lucy, takes her -- and the audience -- to places more intense than the most exotic locale.

Damien Atkins' "Lucy," in only its second U.S. performance run, is visually, sonically and emotionally stunning. The first thing you notice, even before the play begins, is scenic designer Alexis Distler's striking set, an almost life-sized outline of a house. The design is sleek and stylized, almost evoking a child's drawing. When the actors are on stage, the set melts away, and its as if you're peeking in on a real family rather than watching a play. The script, directing and the acting, of course, makes this happen. All of the actors, under the direction of David Stradley -- Kate Eastwood Norris as Vivian, Andrea Green as Lucy, Charlie DelMarcelle as Lucy's father Gavin, Karen Peakes as Vivian's assistant Julia and  Ross Beschler as Lucy's therapist -- fit into their roles extremely well.

The script takes on the challenge of looking into the mind of an autistic girl by having Lucy speak to the audience as the play's narrator. Out of narration mode, she's written with the traits common to autism -- rocking, repeating phrases, recoiling from being touched -- a character that Atkins had researched with autism experts for more than two years.

This is about Vivian's journey more than anything else, though. When her ex-husband Gavin approaches her about helping to raise Lucy, Vivian is on an archaeological dig and hasn't seen her daughter in years. She initially refuses to take charge of Lucy's care and therapy for a year while Gavin establishes a new marriage, but eventually gives in. Back home, she seems out of place, and she is thoroughly overwhelmed by Lucy. With the help of Julia and Lucy's therapist, she attempts to deal with her new life. Desperate to find answers, her once sparse home becomes filled with books as she searches for the reason Lucy is the way she is. Then something clicks (or snaps, depending on how you look at it). It's no longer Vivian's journey alone, but a journey she takes with Lucy. The result is alarming at times and exploding with emotion and visual surreality.

"Lucy" brings forth different theories about autism, some you've likely heard before, and one in particular that is far from mainstream thinking, but it doesn't really "sell" any theory so much as it gives the viewer a lot to think about.

"Lucy" runs through February 6. In addition, the gallery at DTC features the work artists Jermaine "Jerry" Williams, Bess Lumsden, Louis Middleton and Tony Labate. The Baltimore-based studio arts program supports emerging artists with disabilities. A nice companion to the play, the art show stands on its own and is worth spending some time with while you're there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mélomanie Lights Up with FireDance

As always, Mélomanie takes the audience to new horizons. The ensemble’s winter concert included works by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, Diane R. Jones, J.S. Bach and Bohuslav Martinů.  The concert began with a lovely, airy quartet by the French composer, Louis-Gabriel Guillemain. Kimberly Reighly played the baroque flute, with Donna Fournier on viola da gamba and Douglas McNames on baroque cello and Tracy Richardson on harpsichord.

Diane R. Jones described to the audience how she was inspired to write FireDance, commissioned by Mélomanie, as she sat outside her house, watching the fire at night. I realized how lucky we were to hear a composer talk about her work. So often we must delve into history books, hoping musicologists have understood the hearts and minds of composers. In writing the piece, Jones became fascinated with the idea of crafting a modern work for period (baroque) instruments.

FireDance lives up to its name. The first movement, Sparks has short bursts of melody, with one instrument beginning and another taking over. Reighly (baroque flute) and Elizabeth Field (baroque violin) are so skilled at matching their tones that the melody flows effortlessly. The second movement Embers starts out with only strings. We can picture the fire being ignited, as instruments are added. Jones gestures to early music in the third movement, Flames. It begins with a violins solo, followed by sections of imitation and sequences-staples of baroque composition.

Douglas McNames tackled Bach’s Suite in E flat minor. On a Landophi instrument (built in 1750), strung with steel strings, instead of gut, and resting on a modern endpin, he played with precision and passion.

The Martinů Promenades for flute, violin and harpsichord is a jewel. Here, Elizabeth Field showed off some of her sweetest violin playing. The piece exploits the harpsichord’s nasal tones in a quirky way. Typical of many European composers from that period, Martinů drew on a rich store of folk music, infusing his works with colorful melodies and rhythms.

Be sure to check out the release party for both Mélomanie’s and Mark Hagerty’s CDs at the Shipley Lofts in downtown Wilmington on Friday, February 4, from 5:30-8:00pm!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Ark Chorale Announces Mid-Season Auditions

For its upcoming April 9 "Mass of the Children" concert, New Ark Chorale invites vocalists to audition to join as guest singers in the performance.

All singers are required to attend three of the four rehearsals, held March 8, 15, 22 & 29 at Newark United Methodist Church in Newark from 7:30-9:30pm, and attendance at the dress rehearsal on April 5 is mandatory.  There is a $20 participation fee. 

Auditions will be scheduled on an individual basis. Contact Michael Larkin at 302.475.5658 or or Joanne Ward at 856.371.6371 or

Rutter's Mass of the Children with Delaware Children's Chorus & chamber orchestra
Saturday, April 9, 2011, 7:00pm
Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main Street, Newark
The Chorale and the DCC collaborate in this program which will benefit Camp New Hope of Delaware Hospice.
Tickets $15 · $12 Seniors · $5 Students · Children 12 & under admitted free.
Purchase at the door or reserve by calling 302.368.4946 or purchase online at