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Posts Tagged ‘theater’

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Photo: NTV
Led by a grandmother, an amateur theater group in Turkey is raising awareness about climate change and the lives of rural women.

Wherever you live, whatever age you are, you have the power to do something valuable for the world. A grandmother in rural Turkey understood that from an early age and is making her voice heard.

The BBC garnered this story from NTV, the Turkish television news channel.

Dilay Yalcin and Krassi Twigg reported, “A 62-year-old grandmother from rural Turkey who rose to national fame with her all-women village theatre group is now set to stage a play raising awareness about climate change.

“Ummiye Kocak from the village of Arslankoy in the Mediterranean province of Mersin recently began rehearsals for her new play ‘Mother, the Sky is Pierced!’

“She told Anadolu news agency that she wanted ‘people to realise just how serious it is.’

The climate crisis is ‘not only our problem, it is the world’s problem,’ she says. ‘I am shouting as loud as I can — this world is ours, we need to take good care of it!’

“Ummiye Kocak has written plays for many years, always aiming to change perceptions. Her previous works have tackled issues from poverty and domestic violence to Alzheimer’s Disease. … In 2013 she won an award at a New York festival with a film focusing on the difficulties of women’s lives in a Turkish village. …

“Ummiye Kocak grew up in a conservative rural area, and only got primary education ‘by chance — as each family was required to send one girl to school.

“But she says her father was open-minded enough to take all his children to the cinema at a time when no other dad in the village would, sparking her love of drama.

“She says that when she first arrived in the village of Arslankoy as a young bride, she noticed that women there had to do all the work — in the fields as well as in the house. She thought that wasn’t right and told herself: ‘Ummiye, you have to make the voices of these women heard!’

“Her village doesn’t have a stage, so she gathers her performers under a walnut tree in her garden for rehearsals while they do their domestic chores. …

“People in other parts of the country want a piece of the action, issuing invitations on social media for the group to perform locally.

“One woman in Istanbul wrote: ‘I’m proud and honoured on behalf of all women every time I see you, Aunt Ummiye. … I hope all women lead their lives knowing they have this power like you do.’ ”

More at the BBC, here.

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Photo: CNN
A group of service dogs attend a performance of
Billy Elliot: The Musical as part of their training.

Service dogs must learn to go everywhere with their person and be unobtrusive in settings like concert halls and theaters. That’s why trainers are getting creative about giving dogs practice. One place they get performance-attendance training is at the Stratford, Ontario, Festival, where Sandra and Pat’s great niece has been performing the last two summer to great acclaim.

Scottie Andrew explains about the dog training at CNN. “When the cast of a Canadian production of ‘Billy Elliot: The Musical’ took their final bow after a recent show, the audience didn’t make a single sound — not even a woof.

“A polite crowd of about a dozen future service dogs attended an August performance at Ontario’s Stratford Festival as part of their training. While a silent curtain call might disappoint actors, the dogs’ spellbound stillness is a great sign for their future handlers.

“The event was part of a two-year training program by K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, head trainer Laura MacKenzie told CNN. The future service dogs have toured zoos, subways and crowded fairs to acclimate them to the unfamiliar lights and sounds, rapid movements and bustling crowds they might encounter with their handler, she said.

“At the theater, the dogs are expected to sit under the seat or curl up at their handlers’ feet while their humans enjoy the show, she said.

“They stayed calm and quiet throughout the performance, but a few curious pups peeked their furry heads over the seats to catch a few minutes of the show, she said.

“Ann Swerdfager of the Stratford Festival told CNN that many of the theater’s patrons bring their service dogs to performances, so the company was ‘thrilled’ to host the dogs for training. The non-profit theater company hosts ‘relaxed performances’ designed for audiences sensitive to light, sound and noise — a perfect training ground for service-dog hopefuls.” More here.

Such a well-behaved audience! Nine-yeat-old Sadie Markowitz, recognized as the new Emily Post, would approve. She’s received attention on social media lately with dictums like “never sing along.” It’s just as well that my grandchildren didn’t read that advice before they went to the Lion King in October. They would not have been able to follow it.

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Photo: The Toronto Star
A Canadian theater critic interviewed actors who give 10-minute dramatic performances in people’s cars.

More than five years ago, I wrote about actors creating theater in taxis in Iran and linked to a separate article on taxi performances in New York (check out the post). So that’s just to say there is no new thing under the sun.

Still, people think up creative ideas for their own reasons and don’t necessarily know about similar efforts anywhere else. In today’s example, providing entertainment in cars was devised as a way to bring theater to Toronto suburbs where there are large Asian populations that seldom brave the downtown scene.

Karen Fricker wrote at the Toronto Star about picking up a series of actors in her car who put on 10-minute plays for her as a demonstration.

“[I] picked up three actors who directed me around streets previously unknown to me in downtown Markham and its environs, and who each made me believe in ten short minutes that their situations were really happening.

“I did this as a test driver for fu-GEN Theatre Company’s wildly ambitious show Fearless, which involves micro-performances for individual spectators in their own cars, and a web app which lets the show work, as artistic director David Yee describes it, like ‘Uber in reverse.’

“Fu-GEN is a Toronto-based company dedicated to reflecting Asian-Canadian experiences. This show ‘began as outreach, as a way to engage with the large Asian Canadian community who live in Markham, Richmond Hill, North York, etc., who we know exist, but don’t make it downtown to see our work,’ says Yee. …

“The goal of the project is to give Markhamites something new and curated for them … “Fu-GEN commissioned [writers] to author short scripts that address the themes of fear and fearlessness, and at the same time found a developer, Shawn Li, ‘who works at Microsoft during the day, then builds us a weird little theatre-in-cars app in his off hours,’ says Yee.

“From my user perspective I found the show streamlined and easy to navigate. In order to participate, you need to have a car you are insured to operate. You book online, choosing between a series of timed slots, and are given a link to an online app you can use from a browser on your phone (you don’t have to download anything).

“When the app goes live, photos of the 20 performers appear on a live map along with the titles and authors of their shows and a one-sentence description of the content. Once you confirm your choice of performer, the app guides you to their location — and you know it’s them because they’re wearing a bright yellow backpack (and they know it’s you because you’ve uploaded a photo to your online profile). The performer disappears from the live map during the ride and reappears once you’ve dropped them off. You then start over by clicking on another performer photo. …

“Yee says that safety was one of the core tenets of the project. ‘Every aspect of this experience, from the ground up, has been built with both audience and performer safety in mind. … How eerie is it for a stranger to greet you by your name? It can be comforting or it can be unsettling; all that potential is alive in just having that information at hand. The writers had the choice to use that for whatever purpose is useful to them.’ ”

For me, this experience sounds like fun, but I am also not afraid to go downtown for a show. I really wonder if people who are afraid of something that simple and distancing would pick up a stranger for an in-your-face performance.Would you try it?

More here.

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Photo: Dezeen magazine
Note the Nebraska storefront lowering itself to become a movie theater.

I don’t know much about Nebraska other than that some friends who grew up there said that New England’s trees and mountains made them feel too closed in, but now I have a reason to think about going there. That’s because I just love the idea behind a new cinema and would like to see how it works.

Sebastian Jordahn writes at Dezeen magazine, “Artist Matthew Mazzotta says the success of The Storefront Theater, which won him Architecture Project of the Year at the inaugural Dezeen Awards, comes down to the way the local community has made use of it.

“The Storefront Theater is a retractable theatre disguised as a shop. It was built to re-invigorate the main street in the town of Lyons, Nebraska, and create a community space for its residents.

“Mazzotta told Dezeen that local community has embraced the structure, using it for a variety of activities. …

“Using two hydraulic cylinders, a false storefront folds over the sidewalk of Lyons’ Main Street and rolls out seating for 100 people. A rollable screen can then be paired with the structure in order to create a public theatre.

” ‘Basically it’s a facade that bends down over main street, bleachers come out, a screen comes in and turns main street into a movie theatre,’ Mazzotta said. … ‘They’ve had events that are anti-bullying, they’ve had movies and concerts. Recently I went to one where a very prominent Egyptian musician came and played. …

” ‘Once I learned that one of the buildings downtown was just a storefront, it had no building behind it, [that’s] when we started taking that as the site.’ …

“The architect’s motivation was to reinvigorate Lyons Main Street, which according to Mazzotta has seen a decline in community life due to economic pressures and globalisation.

” ‘This project came about through investigation with the people. They told me how downtown was the centre of the community life and how that has been destroyed over time by globalisation that has pulled all these businesses away,’ Mazzotta said. …

” ‘Architecture has an enormous power over how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to each other. I think architecture is expanding beyond the envelope and I think it starts to think about who feels welcome in these spaces,’ he added.

“Mazotta’s theatre was also named for Rebirth Project of the Year at the inaugural Dezeen Awards ceremony last year.”

More here.

Video: Dezeen
Note the tractor pulling in the movie screen.

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Photo: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
Two French photographers spent years capturing the new uses of old movie theaters, like this one. Now a gym, the building was once famed as the Alhambra Theater of San Francisco.

Sometimes spectacular old buildings simply cannot be returned to their original purpose. Times change. But as I learned from pictures by two French photographers, many people value the old movie theaters and are giving them new life.

Michael Hardy writes at Wired, “Between the 1920s and the 1950s, Hollywood studios built thousands of ornate movie palaces in cities across the United States. Warner Bros., Paramount, RKO, MGM, and others competed to build the biggest and gaudiest cinematic cathedrals to showcase their big-budget blockbusters. In this vertically integrated era of filmmaking, when the major studios tightly controlled the production, distribution, and exhibition of movies, these palaces served as the showrooms in which they displayed their wares. Seating thousands of spectators, the theaters were decorated in a fanciful array of styles, including art deco, art nouveau, and ancient Egyptian.

“In 1948 the US Supreme Court found that such vertical integration violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and ordered the biggest movie studios to divest themselves of their theater chains. The decision spelled the end for the era of the movie palace, as the studios were forced to sell or close their theater holdings. Television and suburbanization — the grand old theaters were mostly located in downtown areas — provided the coup de grâce.

“One of the grandest of the old palaces was Detroit’s United Artists Theatre, a 2,000-seat, Spanish Gothic–style venue that showed movies from 1928 until the 1970s. French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre stumbled across the abandoned theater in 2005 while working on a series about the effects of deindustrialization on the city.

“Stunned by the building’s fading grandeur, Marchand and Meffre began traveling the country, seeking out other abandoned theaters to photograph.

‘The amount of fantasy and detail are amazing in some of the theaters,’ Meffre says. ‘I don’t think we have anything comparable in Europe except for our cathedrals.’ …

“After discovering some tastefully repurposed palaces, such as Brooklyn’s cavernous Paramount Theater—now used as a gymnasium by Long Island University—they expanded the scope of their project. Not all renovations were so sensitive. Marchand and Meffre shot palaces that have been transformed into grocery stores, office buildings, even school bus depots. …

“Because the palaces are so expensive to tear down, many have survived more or less intact, a process the photographer calls ‘preservation by neglect.’ ”

Funny. Here’s to life-saving neglect!

More at Wired, here.

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Photo: All Nippon Airways
In addition to the male Kabuki performers, there’s an onnagata (man in female role) in the in-flight safety video of a Japanese airline.

After seeing one too many airline safety videos about how to buckle a seat belt, passengers tend to tune out. That is, unless the video is really entertaining. Consider this safety video using Kabuki dancers. I know that would make me pay attention.

Andrew Bender wrote about it at Forbes. “Let’s call it like it is: those airline safety presentations have always felt a little like a kabuki dance, no? Now Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways, has taken that literally, with actual kabuki performers in its newest in-flight safety video. I, for one, can’t stop watching it. …

“Supervised by a kabuki performer, the four-minute-plus production opens with an ANA flight attendant wearing a red-and-white striped kabuki mask, before the striped curtain behind her (in the traditional kabuki colors of black, deep-green and the orange-red the Japanese call persimmon) slides to reveal an airplane cabin set.

“Kabuki actors stow their elegantly lacquered bamboo boxes in the overhead bins and under the seats (not in the aisles, thank you), fasten seat belts over their elaborate kimono and dutifully turn off electronic devices displaying scenes from classic ukiyo-e woodblock prints on their screens. The same style is used to show how high heels, in this case chunky wooden geta sandals, can tear the evacuation slide.

“In another section, an actor wearing an oversized wig and robe and fearsome makeup tries on the oxygen mask, and a child in the classic pure white face makeup demonstrates the ‘brace for impact’ position. And it’s quite a sight to see an onnagata (male performer in a female role, a longstanding kabuki tradition) perform the life vest demonstration.

“Kabuki theater traces its roots to 1603, the early Edo Period, and is on the UNESCO list of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Among its unique features are stunning costumes, stylized dialogue and poses (immortalized in ukiyoe woodblock prints, kind of like iconic modern-day movie posters; see 1:38 in the video), a revolving stage and musicians who sit onstage and animate the action with music and narration. Many of the leading performers have family lineage in kabuki going back more than a dozen generations.

“At various times the safety video shows another feature of kabuki, on-stage assistants covered head to toe like ninjas. Called kurogo, they’re typically dressed in black implying that they’re not visible onstage, but in this video they’re instead in ANA’s signature blue and white. …

“ANA’s safety video debuted late last year and went worldwide on flights this January. As a bonus, a behind-the-scenes video of the production plays during deplaning.”

More at Forbes.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A Wan Smolbag Theatre youth show. The Pacific islander drama company is celebrating its 30th year.

Any troupe that corners the market for theatrical productions in a particular geographical area might understandably be inclined to rest on its laurels. Not the one in this Pacific archipelago. It provides many services besides entertainment and even manages to stay humble.

Nick Awde writes at the Stage, “Wan Smolbag Theatre takes its name from ‘one small bag’ in Bislama, the South Pacific nation’s lingua franca. ‘It stems from our idea in the beginning to show that theatre could be made from what you could carry in a small suitcase,’ says artistic director Peter Walker. And for a nation spread across 70 islands, that’s a handy ethic.

“ ‘Obviously, we have to choose between being an “in-out, do a show” kind of group or working with individual communities and islands in a more detailed way over a longer period,’ adds Walker. And so the latter course was duly chosen.

“Walker, who did an East 15 postgraduate course in 1981, started the company in 1989 with partner Jo Dorras. Now, 30 years on, it is the South Pacific’s only full-time theatre group in which all the actors are Pacific Islanders. …

Based in the capital and largest town Port Vila, Wan Smolbag is also the biggest local NGO in Vanuatu. It employs more than 100 people, 40 of whom work in theatre and film, and runs other services, such as clinics, a nutrition centre and youth centres with a thriving hip hop scene. Theatre led to film-making in the mid-1990s, which brought a Pacific-wide audience. …

“For its 30th-anniversary season, Wan Smolbag is producing a play with 60 volunteer actors with some of the main group, all set in the main Port Vila market. Also participating is UK director Laurie Sansom, artistic director of Northern Broadsides, who has already made two visits to run workshops. …

“Meanwhile, there are plans for visits from New Zealand’s the Musical Island Boys and Australia’s Djuki Mala.

“How does training work? ‘Basically by doing. Over the years we’ve had occasional workshops with people from overseas in different performance styles … but the whole year is spent acting in plays from January to July and film from August to November – the dry season,’ says Walker.

“ ‘Some actors have been with the group for more than 20 years and as there are no other professional groups most are loath to leave. … We do take on new actors every three or four years. In recent years they have come through the youth centre drama club, which does a production every year, usually featuring 30 or so young people not in school who perform it for schools around Port Vila.

“ ‘There was no theatre of this kind when we started in 1989. There was an expat amdram group that did musicals or dramatisations of Fawlty Towers episodes, and local church youth groups would put on skits with the devil having all the best lines. To be honest, I’ve never thought of us as anything but a community theatre group who over time have become more professional and skilled.’ ”

More at the Stage, here. And if you are still on Facebook, you can keep up to date at the troupe’s page, here.

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