Monthly Archives: June 2011

Hollywood Fringe Re-cap

Is it three weeks already?  Seems like the days and night blew by.

Well, even having to compete for a second time in a row with the Los Angeles Film Festival, The 2011 Hollywood Fringe had a damned good turnout and was bursting with talent.  I was fortunate enough to experience some of the truly special offerings for which I feel  satisfied enough to repose in the lush, vivid, haze of my theatrical jubilee for  at least the next few months.  Plus, there are some movies I am dying to catch up on before they leave the theatres.  I will not be culture-free!

So as promised, here is a recap of my own reviews, along with the many others written by fellow journalists during this year’s run.  Thank you to all involved from the players, to the volunteers, to the dedicated mascots who walked Santa Monica Blvd overdressed in temperature elevating (and I don’t mean sexy) costumes, to the audiences who did show and everyone else.

What did I learn?  People everywhere are dying for an “experience.”

So go out and “GET SOME CULTURE!”

See you next year…

     Beneath the Rippling Water at Theatre of NOTE

     A Horse
      Blood Fruit at The Lounge Theater
     A Mess of Things at Fringe Central
     Lost Moon Radio at Fringe Central
     Honor and Fidelity:  The Ballad of a Borinqueneer
     American Addict
     N’afia at Fringe Central
(I got the lead review on this day!)
     The Audition at Fringe Central
     Deity Clutch at the Complex
     Sister Mary Liar at Fringe Central
    The Next Best Thing

The Model Critic Reviews ABT’s Giselle

Giselle                                                                                                                                         American Ballet Theatre                                                                                                       Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

As one of the most brilliant jewels from Ballet’s Romantic era, Giselle still manages to illuminate a deep spiritual impression on audiences today.

Diana Vishneva, the quintessential Russian-trained ballerina, possessing beautiful, clean, and effortless artistry; paired by the very astute and accomplished, Marcelo Gomez, take us on a fantastical journey of newfound love, the pathos of betrayal and death, to a sublime and ethereal reconciliation and transporting forgiveness.

In Act 1, the philandering Count Albrecht, disguised as a peasant, Loys, seduces the young, innocent Giselle while on a hunting party.  At the same time, Count Albrecht is already engaged to Balthilde, the Prince of Courland’s daughter.

During the Middle Ages, in a Rhineland village, the peasants are celebrating the wine harvest. Giselle, fragile and shy, reluctantly joins the festivities, dances tentatively with Albrecht, and both are smitten.  Hilarion, the gamekeeper, also in love with Giselle, but unnoticed by her, suspects Albrecht’s identity. He intervenes, declares his love, but is dismissed. Hilarion then finds Albrecht’s sword and hunting horn nearby, and tries to warn Giselle. The hunting party arrives, Albrecht hides, and drinks are offered to the distinguished royal guests. Bathilde (Kristi Boone) finds Giselle sweet and charming, and they share their joys of being in love; she offers Giselle her necklace as a token of their bond. The party departs to good cheer, and the villagers crown Giselle, queen of the wine harvest, as all dance and celebrate. Giselle’s mother warns her not to dance too much in her fragile state, and has a dark vision of Wilis, unmarried spirits, or shades, who roam the forests at night, dancing men to their death.

Choreorographically, Act 1 serves more as a narrative or exposition, than a vehicle for displays of dance. Villagers enter, and depart, a few gambols, and much pantomime from the main characters.  The classic pas from Giselle solos, however, are textbook ballet moves, simple, and performed with vulnerability and precision by Vishneva.  With Albrecht, they softly enfold, while Gomez shows powerful restraint, as he tenderly woos Giselle. However, the total effect is somewhat confused and muddled, with certain inertness in terms of dance. The story must be told, and the divertissements are kept to a minimum.  The “Pas de duex des Juenes Paysans,” or Peasant Pas de Duex, is an exception, danced brightly by Maria Riccetto and Jared Matthews, but can seem a bit out of place, more formal than pastoral. But as we see, the table is being meticulously set for what eventually ensues. In a ballet, conceived with original choreography, libretto and music, all elements seem to be dealt with balance.  One notices, for instance, the musical leitmotivs for each character–when certain measures are played, you are aware that Hilarion is nearby. But for the most part, Act 1 serves as prologue to the meat of Act 11.

Hilarion, accusing Albrecht of duplicity in front of all, blows Albrecht’s horn, and a retort is heard far off.  As the royal hunting party reenters, they greet Albrecht.  Bathilde makes it known they are betrothed. Then, in perhaps of all of Ballet’s most heart-rending moments, Giselle is gradually struck with the crushing awareness of her fate, and is overcome with confusion, grief, and despair.  As she becomes undone, she spins around the stage in an otherworldly madness, hair disheveled, dragging Albrecht’s sword, and dies of a broken heart.

Act 11 opens as Hilarion visits Giselle’s grave in the forest to place a cross. All is dark and mysterious, as the Wilis, appear from their graves and weave across the forest floor, leaping quickly and again dissolving into the trees.  As Hilarion becomes aware of their presence, they surround him, and at the behest of the Queen of the Wilis, Myrta (Veronika Part), they proceed to dance him to death. There is no escape.

Later, Albrecht arrives bearing an armful of lilies, and places them on Giselle’s grave. In his grief, he senses an ethereal glimpse of Giselle as a brief, gauzy apparition in the dark night, and it befuddles his soul.  He imagines himself dancing with Giselle once again, and she seems to appear and disappear in his imagination.  As he muses, she is transformed, as in a dream, and they dance together tenderly.

Giselle, dressed in white, is to be initiated into her sisterhood that evening.  And while they dance in a sweet adagio, with small lifts and delicate carries, Vishneva is perfection in her control, beautiful line, and expressive quality, filled with love and forgiveness.

The ballet, Giselle, is a study of juxtapositions. We have the brightest sunlight– darkest night; festive celebration– mournful despair; overflowing love–bitter betrayal; total loss–deepest redemption. All of these elements create an artistic flight of emotions that is quite stunning.

The Wilis once again appear and are ordered by Myrta to dance Albrecht to death.  They encircle, intertwine, crisscross, and surround him with dazzling and crisp choreographic detail, and force him to dance to exhaustion. In one spectacular moment of dance virtuosity, they force him to perform multiple entrechat six jumps. Here, Marcello Gomez is brilliant with the height, beats, and landings.  In some performances, Albrecht performs brisé, but were amended in this performance.

At the last moment, Giselle intercedes and pleads with Mytra to spare Albrecht. Myrta, seeing true love exist and has prevailed, releases Giselle of her spell, to rest forever in peace.  Dawn is breaking and the Wilis must return to their graves. Albrecht is left standing alone in the forest clearing.

Choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa

Libretto by Theophile Gautier

Music by Adolphe Adam

Giselle                                 Diana Vishneva

Count Albrecht                Marcelo Gomez

Hilarion                               Gennadi Saveliev

Myrta                              Veronika Part

Bang! Out of the (Black) Box

“And we’re off!”

The Hollywood Fringe Festival has begun and right from the start shows are putting their best feet forward.  I am pleased to say that I probably had the very good fortune to see one of the best playing in the next two weeks that Fringe has to offer.

THE NEXT BEST THING written and performed by Antonio Sacre was a powerhouse that not only touched my heart but tickled me pink with its humor — some of which takes place in my own home town (Boston, MA).  A must see for — and this will be a surprise — all men heartbroken or destined to be.  Read my review on LA Theater Weekly for more…

CULTURALLY SPEAKING: “Am I an Expert?”

When can you really say, “I am an expert?”

For years, I’ll admit, I’ve struggled with the concept of myself as a high level, “expert” performer, entertainment professional, saleswoman, sportswoman, and just about every thing I’ve been religiously grinding away at (which is why I currently wear the badge, Veteran Artist, awarded to me by my good friend, Hollywood correspondent, Gayl Murphy).  And even though I had been the best, notated by awards, certificates, medals,  merits, trophies, crowns and citations in my chosen fields and within my groups, of course there was someone “better.”  Worse, there was also a someone telling me I wasn’t as good.  I needed to work harder, have more, do more — be MORE.

That’s extreme I admit.  But I guess I am wondering if calling ones-self an expert in this day and age is really just a question of self-esteem rather than experience, technique or talent?  For as it stands today, we can find literally hundreds of thousands of people claiming to be experts at something.  Their resumes, degrees, client testimonials, agents and public relations managers will confirm this to be true with each TV appearance, radio show, speaking engagement, press release and feature article written by them or about them.

So does that mean it’s true?  Or are the rest of us just gullible enough to believe it?

There are so many well-educated, knowledgable, experienced, well-spoken, informed individuals out there.  How does expertise get defined by the standards of today?  What is it exactly that sustains the new criteria?  And most of all, when do I get to call myself one after adding up an extraordinary number of years, experience, education and talent in innumerable related fields all thrown together in the boiling pot of — ME?

New title:  Expert Human Being.  (is there a sash for that?)

Thank you for saying so…cial networking 101

The guys over at North Social really got it right when they said hyper-updating is not a strategy.

Bored with your chatter.

I have often gone to my own friends and clients Facebook and Twitter pages to find that golden rule broken over and over again.  I’ve occasionally done it myself.  Some people say it works.  So ok.  I can see your logic.  But the truth is I’d like to be included on occasion not just told what to do.  What about you?

Below I’ve re-printed the latest blog from THE DROP.  Overall, it’s good advice.  And yeah, I did say so…after all…what are “friends” for?!

Does Your Brand Make Good Company?
Can you think of anyone in your social circle that you can only take in small doses?  Really, really small doses?Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to name names, we just want you to visualize that person yapping away nonstop on a dinner date.Be careful not to over-message your fans, or like your chatter-happy dinner companion, you just may find yourself hanging out all by your lonesome at the end of the evening. BTW – Hyper-updating is not a strategy. It’s annoying. It doesn’t result in creating brand experiences, it only leads to brand exhaustion.While it’s tempting to act like Tarzan and pound your chest about your brand over and over, don’t do it.  Your self-promotion shtick will grow old real fast.No one logs on to Facebook to read advertorial copy. Nobody wants to get a coupon from you twice a day. They want to participate in something meaningful.  So let ‘em.Work towards a brand voice where consumers want to hang out with you, make them happy by letting them take a breath once in a while.

What dreams come true…

My aunt Rose always said I was a writer.  From the time I could hold a BIC Ballpoint Retractable, to the first book I wrote in grammar school, “The History of Man” (I was very ambitious) to being a published poet,  my first newsletter and finally, (but not lastly) WordPress account,  I suppose the desire and under current of writing has always been there.  “But who am I?”

That’s what I’ve told myself over and over again through the years.  Deliberately holding back from stepping into a part of my strength.  I’ve believed the label snobs, the degree snobs, the employment snobs and so many others who had an opinion about why I am not, nor could, nor should attempt to be taken seriously.

But lucky for me the digital age arrived in force and not so long ago, I decided to “pen” my first blog.  “Ok, if I am not a writer yet, I can certainly practice.  Who knows maybe someone might even listen.”  The rest is current history so far.

But next week my future has been revealed.  I have been invited to be a key reviewer for the LA Theatre Review during the 2011 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

June 6th - 26th, 2011

So I guess that makes it official.  A really super editor, whose door I’ve been knocking on for some time, has shot a thumbs in my direction and oh, how good being published is going to be.

I am looking forward to finally diving into Hollywood theater culture full force and encourage you to do the same.  Or at least follow along here.  Previews start this week and the festival continues to the end of the month.

So I’ll probably be referring this blog to the online mag for a bit.  And why not.  I’m excited to be recognized by a fellow theater lover.  “Auntie, I guess you were right.”

Ithaca – an exerpt by Constantine Petrou Cavafy

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.                                                                                 To arrive there is your ultimate goal.                                                                                    But do not hurry the voyage at all.                                                                                             It is better to let is last for long years;                                                                                    and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,                                                             rich with all that yo have gained on the way,                                                                       not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.                                                                Without her, you would never have taken the road.

~ Cavafy