Monday, October 31, 2005

An illuminating Light

I spent a great 70 minutes in the theater last night with Beijing Modern Dance Company's Rear Light. The videotape I watched was a very poor facsimile of the live experience. I really wanted to find thier management and beg them to do a clean DV camera shoot of the show and take some performance digital stills to help them better sell the show here in the US.

I am not usually the biggest fan of modern dance, but the Pink Floyd and chinese connections really interested me. I was amazed at the precision, the athleticism and the grace of those dancers. Modern dance often comes across the same as improvised jazz to me (something else I'm not typically fond of) - just a little too loose and unfocused.

I can't say that at all about Rear Light. What a great story they told last night. What a great opportunity for Tampa. I was glad to see the house about half full, but this will be one I am telling folks for years to come that they really missed out on.

If anyone is interested, here is a review that printed in today's Tribune:

And now I get to look forward to opening night of One Man Star Wars Trilogy tomorrow. Time to dust off the light saber ...

Happy Halloween, folks. Eat some candy for me.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Egg hunts

Nov. 1 is a big day for Tampa's Star Wars geekdom. It seems also that the Tampa Squadron of the 501st Stormtrooper Garrison will have their hands full that night at video and gaming stores for the releases of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Battlefront 2 as well as providing "security" for our grand opening of the One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

One of the more fun aspects of collecting DVDs is the advent of what's known as Easter Eggs. On DVDs these are basically hidden treats imbedded in the menus, featurettes or even the movies themselves. I found one this morning that's just wrong, or completely hilarious (all depending on how you look at things) involving my personal favorite SW character - Jedi Master Yoda.

It's a chunky file, so it may take a bit to load. If you want to access this on your copy of Revenge of the Sith, on Disc 1, access the language selection, then highlight the THX logo. Press 1 1 3 8 on your remote and press ENTER.

Hope you enjoy the real DJ Yoda ...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Think you're well read?

Time magaine critics just listed the "All-time 100 novels," the best -- they say -- 100 novels since Time started publishing in 1923.

By my scrupulous count, I've finished 33 (not started and quit as with "Gravity's Rainbow" and "Infinite Jest," but actually finished).

How'd you do? And what novels published since 1923 would you have recommended that didn't make this list?

-Michael K

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Life imitating art imitating life

Sunday New York Times headline: In Argentine Election, 2 Battle to Wear the Mantle of Evita

Apparently, the current first lady of the country and her predecessor are both claiming to be the spiritual heirs to Eva Peron.

Typical boast: "What is at stake is ... the party founded by the genius of Peron and the soul of Evita."

Eva Peron, wife of Argentinean General Juan Domingo Peron, died in 1952 at 33 and became a symbol for the poor people of Argentina because of her many charities in their behalf.

Her life became the script for the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical "Evita."

Now two real-life politicians are following that script in an attempt to seize political power.

-Michael K

180 degrees of separation?

A London photographer of produced a book of celebrity portraits based on the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game developed by three college students.

(You know the deal, right? Start with any actor and connect them to Bacon through other actors they're worked with in less than six steps. I don't play the game myself, but here's one online example:

Carrie Fisher was in Star Wars with
Harrison Ford, who was in The Fugitive with
Tommy Lee Jones, who was in Batman Forever with
Val Kilmer, who was in Heat with
Robert DeNiro, who was in Sleepers with

The London photographer Andy Gotts spent $160,000 on the project, which resulted in the new book of 180 photographs, "Degrees," and a London exhibit. He started with one British actor who gave him a name who gave him another name until he finally was referred to Bacon.

Gotts had been concerned about the reaction from Bacon, who is a serious actor in such troubling and thought-provoking films as "The Woodsman" and "Mystic River," but he was cool with the project, according to The New York Times.

The actor who got Gotts to Bacon: Christian Slater.

-Michael K

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Wall endures

One of the more unique offerings at TBPAC this season is a new dance piece from the Beijing Modern Dance Company. The piece, Rear Light, is wholly inspired by and set to Pink Floyd's seminal album The Wall.

From the videotape that I watched and the promotional materials I've read, the piece explores an issue highly relevant to Chinese society today - a young Chinese generation's struggle to reconcile its traditional culture with western influences and a thirst for freedom.

Imagine a company of beautiful, athletic chinese dancers - half of them dressed in school uniforms and the other half in suits and trench coats - manifesting the epic struggle that coarses through Roger Waters' powerful lyrics. The titular rear light is used throughout the show creating breathtaking silhouette effects as the dancers leap, climb and enact a universally human struggle. The tape I watched was a copy of a copy, and converted from PAL to NTSC to boot, so I can't wait to see this show live.

In our post-Tienanmen world I often forget that the Communist Chinese government still has supressive control over that culture, regardless of the economic gains the country has made in recent years. I was reminded of this again when I read a news story on a Chinese national/Australian citizen that had toured to China with the Sydney Dance Company. The dancer was stopped and detained in Shanghai for handing out "pro-democracy" materials, and was said to be a member of the Falun Gong spirituality (a practice that shares teachings with Taoism and Buddhism) which is currently facing a tremendous amount of persecution by the Chinese government.

Falun Gong has groups across the world trying to gain support and exposure. My boss mentioned going to New York with his wife and seeing members holding a rally and spreading information via pamphlets and conversing with passers-by. The president of TBPAC also saw members in Beijing, but in a much more subdued setting as they had simple, quiet dawn services along with morning Tai Chi exercises. She would have never even known who they were, particularly considering how common morning Tai Chi exercises are in that country, but a local pointed them out to her.

Speaking of the president, she tells a great story about her trip to Beijing, where she discovered this company and this show. While in China on an ISPA conference, many of the organizations present were told about this young, dynamic company. They ended up pressing their local hosts as to how to find the company, then chartered two busses and set out for a trek. She said the drive was very long and they ended up arriving at a location that looked like a ill-equipped high school gymnatorium. Immediately, several of the conference attendees felt perhaps they had wasted their time on the excursion, but once the performance started they were all blown away.

All agreed that the performance was exquisite and had elevated the dance genre to a new level. The bus ride back to the city was spent discussing how these various performing arts institutions could band together and bring this group to the United States. It took two years to make these dreams manifest, but now Tampa has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this immediate, relevant work.

So how did the inspiration come for the piece? The choreographer says that he'd never even heard of Pink Floyd, but a friend purchased the film version as a gift knowing he was a big fan of animation. Watching the movie and hearing the power of the music - even without an understanding of the lyrics at the time - he immediately knew that this was a story that represented the Chinese struggle and set forth on his work.

-David J.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lavin master class

The first performer in our Club Jaeb series, Christine Lavin, graced us with her wisdom and sage advice yesterday. I was so amazed by the completely captivated audience of faculty, staff conservatory students, ticket holders from the previous night's performance and the general public. It was a fantastic experience that was a blend of her stories and songs and theirs.

Christine is quite an accomplished performer with an impressive resume who did not hesitate to lend her beautiful hand-crafted guitar to one of the students to perform a song he had written. Her unique guitar is featured in Guitar Maker's Canvas, a book highlighting well-crafted guitars. She was very down-to-earth and not only shared honest and earnest advice with the crowd, but also made sure everyone left with a copy of her 31 tips for songwriters and her recipe for Petit Pan Au Chocolat, featured in the song "Sunday Breakfast with Christine (and Ervin)".

She also shared stories of Birdland in NYC and other venues that offer an outlet for songwriters to try out new material and suggested that we start our very own here at the Conservatory.

Afterwards we toured the Center and Patel Conservatory, where she took great joy in observing the Youth Orchestra, Rock School and Classical Ballet rehearsals.

Upon leaving, she made sure to give everyone who helped with the evening a huge hug and a big thanks.

We send a big hug right back to you, Christine!

-Ami C.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Club Jaeb opens

As most of you know, The Center started a new music series last night called Club Jaeb.

About 220 people laughed, screamed, sang along and -- perhaps a few -- winced when Christine Lavin kicked off The Center's new Club Jaeb music series tonight. Oh, yeah, and a few of them knitted, too.

Lavin's the first act in the monthly series that resumes in November with Jen Chapin and continues with David Jacobs-Strain in December, Patty Larkin in January, Catie Curtis in February and, just announced tonight, Americana Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year Mary Gauthier (pronounced Go-shay) in March. Tickets for Gauthier aren't available yet.

Club Jaeb's first night drew an enthusiastic and varied audience downtown on a Monday night. At least one of the attendees at the "Baby, Please Don't Go" artists discussion next door in the Shimberg said the Jaeb series is exactly what he envisioned when he moved to Tampa.

That's what we hoped.

-Michael K.

Monday, October 17, 2005

GREEN with Envy? - Welcome to Culture Shock

Welcome to Culture Shock, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s web log! Today is our first official day online and we are pretty excited about it, I have to say.

The TBPAC website is usually the color we like to call “Center Blue,” but you may have noticed that all of a sudden the website is GREEN. We decided to turn the website green for the week leading up to the on-sale of WICKED (in honor of the green girl Elphaba). After the show is on sale to the general public (Oct. 23), we will go back to “Center Blue.” But in the meantime, it's quite a different look for us. It sure was fun working on the color switch-over.

Feel free to send us comments to the posted blogs and let us know what you think!

Tonight's the night

We've been planning and talking about our new Club Jaeb for months now, and it's finally here. New York singer-songwriter Christine Lavin kicks off our monthly Monday series of folks, blues, zydeco, Americana and more. Thanks to our friends at WMNF radio for playing her music and getting behind this new concept at the Performing Arts Center. See you at the show!

-Michael K

Sunday, October 16, 2005

We can't wait for the acceptance speech

British playwright Harold Pinter, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Oct. 13, is known for his precise use of language.

The New York Times says: "So precise and pared down is his prose, so artful his use of pauses and omissions to invoke discomfort, foreboding and miscommunication that he has his own adjective, Pinteresque, signifying a peculiar kind of atmospheric unease. ... Mr. Pinter dispenses with the easy comforts of fluent speech and has his characters speak in non sequiturs and sentence fragments, interrupt one another, fail to listen, fail to understand. He uses language to convey miscommunication and lack of understanding rather than share comprehension."

I've only seen one Pinter production live, a lesser 1976 work called "No Man's Land" almost 20 years later at the Criterion Center Stage Right in NYC. It involved Jason Robards, Christopher Plummer and a lot of drinking. (On stage, not in the audience.) But it was, indeed, Pinteresque.

For a local spin on Pinter, check out UT professor Francis Gillen's Pinter Review here.

-Michael K

What was Ludwig doing in Philly?

A handwritten, 80-page musical score by Beethoven was found in a seminary in suburban Philadelphia. News reports say it will bring in $1.7 million to $2.6 million when it's auctioned on Dec. 1.

-Michael K

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The sounds and the fury

April 27, 1945-Oct. 2, 2005

"People talk about an artist having an eye. With playwrights, it's the ear that counts. Mr. Wilson had a peerless pair. His writing comes closer to the sweep of Shakespearean music than any of his contemporaries. Edward Albee creates intense and elegant chamber pieces; David Mamet, machine-gun jazz; Sam Shepard, rhapsodic plainsong; Harold Pinter, monastic chants; and Tom Stoppard, jaunty concertos. But these days only Mr. Wilson has written plays that sound like grand opera -- and it is not contradiction to say that is is opera rooted in the blues." -- The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2005

I only had the privilege of seeing two of Wilson's plays ... "Seven Guitars" in New York, and "The Piano Lesson" here at the Shimberg. I expect I'll have plenty more chances since his reputation will continue to grow. Meanwhile, the next time I'm in New York I'll go stand outside the former Virginia Theater, which will be renamed the August Wilson Theater, and offer up my thanks and a quick prayer.

-Michael K.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Now with more Geekiness!

An addition to my previous entry about One Man Star Wars Trilogy, coming here in Nov.: I just got agreat news today that sci-fi writer and Star Wars legend Timothy Zahn will be a VIP guest to our opening night show and will sign autographs following the show.

Timothy Zahn has won mulitple Hugo Awards and his novels have made it to the New York Times Best Seller List. He will be appearing in Tampa the weekend before our shows at Necronomicon '05 (a local sci-fi/horror convention).

-David J.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Of Math and Movies

"Proof," which featured a luminous Mary-Louise Parker when it opened on Broadway in October of 2000, has been reborn as a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, who played the same role in London. Tampa audiences may have seen the CanStage production in TBPAC's Ferguson Hall in Jan. of 2003.

The plot of David Auburn's play involves a mathematical proof, but the real story is a suspenseful and meaningful meditation on certainty, truth and trust. It's nice to see Hollywood adapt something with some intelligent weight behind it. The movie opens in the Tampa Bay area today.

-Michael K.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Beware of falling angels

John Berendt, author of the best-selling "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," has turned his sharp eyes to Venice, a city of "melancholy, nostalgia, romance, mystery, and beauty." Instead of a murder, there's the mysterious burning of the Gran Teatro La Fenice, one of the most beautiful and most significant opera houses in the world. The same mix of elegant, quaint and curious real-life characters turns up in Berendt's keenly observed and languidly revealed tale of "The City of Falling Angels."

-Michael K.

Geek Love

I am currently working with members of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion, Florida Garrison, to help us make the experience of the One Man Star Wars Trilogy just that much more fun.

Before investigating, I didn't even know these guys existed. It's a nationwide organization and in addition to attending Star Wars related events and conventions, they do a fair amount of community service and charity work as well.

You learn something new every day.

The Tampa Bay Squad has already been very helpful in assisting us in spreading the word.

I'm sure if any of my bosses were able to cruise behind my desk this week they'd think I was totally slacking off, as I'm always on Star Wars fan sites, looking through photo albums from DragonCon and all sorts of other internet doodling to find all my geeky Star Wars people. Good times, indeed.

-David J.

Music Release

Lovers of Sir Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman will crash some chandeliers on Oct. 25 when her new CD, "Love Changes Everything," is released. The New York Times reports the all-Webber release includes a Spanish version of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," from Evita.

-Michael K.

Got Bebe?

I was flipping through my latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens and saw a new GOT MILK ad featuring Bebe Neuwirth. She is still hot after all these years!

-Leeann D.