Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cutting up a la Picasso...the cast cont.

Sara (Germaine)


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cutting up a la Picasso...cont.

Introducing the cast order of appearance on stage: Jeff (Freddy)

Nick (Gaston).


the rest later.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cutting up a la Picasso

The cast of Picasso at the Lapin Agile got together last Friday to create their publicity portraits for display during the show's run in about three weeks. The task: create a cubist style self portrait in lieu of the traditional black and white publicity photo. A couple of friends who are both artists led us through an activity in which they first talked about cubism and showed some samples. Then we took b&w photos and then cut them up with scissors and experimented with arbitrary lines, displaced planes, and simultaneous perspectives. Here's yours truly.

It's titled, "I feel more like I do now than I did when I first got here."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Help Miss California Get Home

Jay Smooth, a hip hop radio personality and blogger gets to the heart of this nonstory.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Drinking up the profits

The kids got it in their heads that they'd make some money this past weekend selling lemonade. They began out in front of our house. We live on a quiet street to say the least. Pretty soon the kids became desperate and they began hailing down passing cars. People would slow down, concerned that something might be amiss, then size up the sales trap and speed away. Tess and Colm then asked me if they could go door to door. I spoke to them about location, location, location, and I suggested they go around the corner to a street corner where there was much more traffic. It worked like a charm. They spent almost the entire afternoon over there, coming home only to replenish the lemonade jug or the supply of paper cups. At the end of the day they reported sales to a policeman, a mailman, and a guy who paid in Canadian currency among others.

My own childhood memories include one afternoon when I set up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk in front of my house. I got robbed by a couple of older kids. I don't remember the details except that my dad got in his car and tracked the kids down. He pulled up to a house, told me to wait in the car and went inside. I don't know what happened in there. I'd like to say that I got my money back, but I don't remember that either. Maybe my father will read this and contribute his version. It's possible that I got the whole thing wrong.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Goodnight Virginia

We put Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf to bed last night. A nice performance run that was well attended and enthusiastically received. The cast: April Curtis as Martha, Greg Monahan as George, Greg Rawlins as Nick, and Cassandra Beers as Honey.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting squeezed

Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf opened Wednesday night at the Schwarz Theater at EOU. It's going well. For me it's a gigantic load off.

I've never been involved with a show with such a long drawn out rehearsal schedule. We cast the show in December and began rehearsing in January. Ten days ago the actors were on the verge of panic. Lines were still escaping them and stopping the actors cold in mid scene. Because this show was not part of the main season but was sponsored by the EOU theater club, it was cobbled together without a budget to speak of. I was fortunate to land a stalwart stage manager, Ginger Ranslam, who was indispensable to all of us. We kept salvaged the walls for the set of the production of Little Women that closed before our run and we made do with a black box approach.

The actors met regularly outside of rehearsal to practice. It was an exhausting process but this group was unfailingly kind to one another. Last week it finally came together. Now we're two nights from closing.

It's the nature of the beast to invest so much time and effort, to endeavor to create something, all the while striving to conjure a world that will shimmer for a few hours and then disappear altogether save for a few vestigal memories. My cast has really acquitted itself nicely in this project. They can hold their heads up high and I'm sure they'll get a lot of strokes from people who come to see the show.

It's interesting for me to watch the various audiences who come to the play. It seems to me that younger members laugh at the vulgarity and misogynistic material more than do the older audience members, particularly those who are female. I sense among the latter group a wincing recognition of a familiar reality. Conversely, they seem to like the play more than the younger folks who are impressed by all the sophisticated talk and all the drinking and the sheer audacity of the undertaking but who seem a bit perplexed by the characters themselves. The child that George and Martha create and then kill is not a locus of concern for them as much as it is a puzzle. I wonder if that's because they don't yet know what it means to be a parent.

So for me the squeeze of Virginia Woolf is relaxing. There are couple of other things out there waiting to wrap their tentacles around me after this weekend.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter video

Here's how our kids started off Easter Sunday today. Warning: 6 minutes of smarmy video containing adorable children, cute puppy, groggy father, fawning mother, and a cameo by a naked big toe.

Doing Picasso....Got props?

We're trying to track down some prop items to use in our productions. We would prefer to borrow them, but we'll consider renting or purchasing. Here's what we need:
  • 4 cafe style tables (small, round or square)
  • 8 chairs to go with tables (smallish, not dining room chairs)
  • 1 wooden tripod ( we'll mount a faux old fashioned camera on it)
  • faux or real old fashioned camera circa 1904
If you have a lead on any of the above, email the following address:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Oh, by the way...

In my spare time I've been directing another show. Here's the poster:

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Falling Down; Getting Up

Colm has been itching to try out his "new" skateboard. Ariel, the daughter of our good friends Tan and Jer in Portland gave him her skateboard during our last visit there a little over a week ago. Unfortunately, it has snowed here in La Grande almost every day since the end of spring break. Colm has been trying things inside the house, and last night he extracted a promise from us that we'd take him to the skate park. Before we went, I let him see a couple of Youtube clips, one that showed some basic stuff and another that had some tips from a mop haired kid on how to fall correctly. Oh yeah, I let him see another clip called "Worst Fall Ever" or something like that. Colm seemed unfazed, not me though.

Anyway, we got to the park and Colm immediately saw the skaters there not wearing any gear. He asked me what he had to wear. Beth had gone out and bought him full body armor. I told Colm the only thing he had to wear was his bicycle helmet. He seemed a bit anxious about that. I asked him what was up. He said, "I don't want them to see my unicorn helmet." I told not to worry and made him put it on. I asked about the elbow pads but Colm declined. I didn't push it.

There was a contingent of skaters and bmx'ers crisscrossing the park, catching air, cool and focused at the same time, not much talk but friendly all the same. A couple of kids stood out immediately. They flew by on the ground, they launched into the air, they seemed connected by an invisible elastic band to their boards. Colm took it all in without a word. I signaled to him to climb down into the bottom of the park where there was a short pyramid that looked relatively easy to practice on. My intention had been to join him and to try and document his maiden effort, but it took me a few moments to get Tess and Sam situated and when I looked up, there was Colm perched on the edge of the ramp, one foot on his board, the other ready to mount and begin his descent, just like he had seen on the video clip. Before I could say anything, he was off. I was stunned by the complete absence of any hesitation on his part. He started down and for a split second, I thought he was going to pull it off but then his weight went back, the board shot forward, and Colm was on his butt. I watched him from the perimeter of the park. Colm took a brief moment on the ground, seemed to gather himself, then he got up and grabbed his board. He didn't go back up on the pyramid, not right away; instead he skated over to the base of a quarter pipe, slid up the slope part way and slid back. It was his way of getting back in the saddle. I did manage to get some footage of him during this early stage of his first time at the park.

Around this time we say the really good skater take a really nasty fall. He had just swept down a steep ramp and was at full speed when his wheels hit a small rock. His board stopped, and he went flying. He hit hard on his side. I could tell right away two things: one, it hurt a lot; two, this kid was tough. He laid there for a few seonds, then got up. He couldn't move one arm but with the other he grabbed his board and limped up the ramp where he flung his board into the shrubs. I heard him say, "I hate rocks." He kept limping to the far corner of the park where he sat down alone and tried flexing his elbow. He stayed over there for about ten minutes. I went over to him and asked him if he'd broken anything. He waved me off, "It's alright," he said between clenched teeth. Colm looked over at him reverentially.
He got better, and so did Colm.

By the time it was time to leave, Colm was showing signs of imagining bigger and better things.

Banning Picasso at the Lapin Agile, part 18...the canard of divisiveness

It appears that the committee to review the school district policy regarding play selection at LHS will be encouraged to focus not on play content but on the process by which plays are selected. This policy orientation does not, at least in the minds of those organizing and running the committee, necessitate a further or final look at the production of Picasso, since in their minds the question is no longer, "Did we make the right decisionn?"; rather, it is the question, "How do we avoid this kind of divisiveness in the future?". The hope seems to be that there might be a policy and process-driven path to the latter question. The further hope seems to be that this committee can carry out its work without focusing on issues of content, specifically in this case, the content of Picasso.

On the surface, this seems like a perfectly reasonable intention, but it reveals I think an embrace of a fallacious way of thinking. Divisive is an interesting term. It denotes both discord and disagreement. The former sense conjures an atmosphere of mistrust and machiavellianism. The latter sense merely denotes a diverse range of perspectives...conflict, controversy.

The role of theater arts in high education ought not to have anything to do with promoting discord or mistrust; on the other hand, it is legitimately concerned with exploring conflict and controversy among other things.

So when we seek to avoid divisiveness in the community; we should be careful not to throw out the baby Diversity with the bath water of Discord. We should not get gun shy at the first sign of discontent and reflexively clamp down on expression. The potential for mischief here is enormous. It will likely be exploited by people who understand the asymmetrical nature public discourse. A small but well organized group of people can instantly create an atmosphere of discord, then sit back and lay the problem at the feet of the community at large which in the spirit of avoiding divisiveness will appease them. The net result of such a situation is the ability of a single element in a community to veto artistic projects by playing the card of divisiveness.

Ultimately, artitistic projects are inseparable from content. We entrust people in whom we have confidence to make sound educational choices for kids. It would appear that this trust has been called into question by some as a result of the Picasso affair. I know that there are some on the committee who would dispute this and who would point to other past productions which have triggered complaints, albeit less vocal and less high profile. They say that we just need a better process. To those people I would propose a simple thought experiment: What if I had chosen Our Town last December? Would there be a committee today?

This is why it's important that people on all sides of this issue go see the play. It's not about flogging a dead horse though I recognize that some people would like to see this subject go away. There are facts that have yet to be collected. Facts about whether this theatrical experience did in fact turn out to be a worthwhile educational experience for the young people who were involved. For all the high flown rhetoric about what is good and appropriate for kids, there has been precious little attention paid to the actual experience these kids have had, are having, and will have had by the time the show closes on May 18. To pretend that their actual experiences have little or nothing to contribute to the policy discussions of this committee is a strange way of trying serve their needs.

What is needed, I think, is an attempt at building a consensus in the community on the virtues of diverse forms of expression, and on the core value of excellence in all such forms. It is essential that the widest possible range of artistic expressions be afforded to our students, but it is equally essential that those endeavors be carried out with integrity. If people come to the show, they will see a production put on by high school age kids, amateur theater to be sure, but they will see, I predict, young men and women giving of themselves in a way that the adults of this community would do well to consider and reflect upon.

That's not to say that everyone will like it. But we can live with that, right?

Please come.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Doing Picasso at the Lapin Agile, part times

The show times for the three productions of Picasso at the Lapin Agile by the Loop Hole Stage Players have been set. All three shows take place at the Mackenzie Theater on the campus of Eastern Oregon University.
Here are the times:
Saturday, May 16 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, May 17 at 2:00 pm
Monday, May 18 at 8:00 pm

Please pass this info on to friends and acquaintances.

Note the Sunday matinee. There are efforts underway to host some sort of public forum on the controversy sparked by our efforts to do this play. The purpose of the forum will be to advance and improve the community discussion of the role of art in education. Such a forum, if it occurs will take place after the matinee performance of the play. It is my very earnest desire to see folks from all sides of this issue in the theater so that everyone can at least have a shared experience to reflect upon.

People seeking info on how to reserve seats for a performance should contact:
Linda Jerofke, Eastern Oregon University, 1 University Blvd., Ackerman Hall, La Grande 97850.
ljerofke@eou.eduThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call her at 541-962-3179.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Doing Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Now that the public controversy over this production has subsided, I find myself both wanting and needing to focus on the very concrete challenge rehearsing the cast and assembling the production elements for the show. I enjoy helping young actors puzzle over their parts and experiment with approaches to their scenes. The task of creating within the cast a collaborative spirit and a commitment to working hard is a subtle one. It's interesting to see the way different personalities and egos interact, and it's not always obvious how best to direct them so as to get the most out of each of them. It's also important to strike a balance between work and play, to somehow stay in touch with the pleasurable aspects of doing theater. If I've seen my own approach to directing change, it has probably been in this regard. I think I've been something of a taskmaster in previous productions, perhaps a bit too narrowly focused on the work. Rehearsals can be become something of a grind. Getting kids to work in a creative mode necessarily involves a flexible approach on the part of the director/coach. The thing I'm finding with this cast is that they really want to do a good job. They each bring something different to the table, something that can potentially make this show work. Part of my job is to create a process and a set of circumstances that will allow actors to discover what those things could be.

The other part of the process involves the production side of things. My main collaborator in this so far has been Sam Jacobsen, a guy with a lot of technical skills and a great eye. He has pitched me a set design that I like a lot. It's both minimal and aesthetically grounded in the play. I've tweaked it a bit, bringing on board some suggestions from Beth, my wife. Hopefully we'll be able to execute the plan. A lot depends on how much access we're allowed to have in the Mackeznie Theater leading up to the performance dates.

In the past few weeks I've gotten emails from artists and theater professionals from around the state offering help and encouragement. Regardless of whether I end up taking folks up on their offers, it's a great thing to encounter an extended community of artists and well wishers.

It's time to do it.