The days of summer may be dwindling, but County cultural offerings still maintain a full-steam-ahead pace. A friend asked recently why he hasn’t seen us at some events; to which I don’t have a better answer other than it’s really hard to keep pace; writing about and photographing events, working on websites and graphics projects, working in the studio, and, most importantly, having time to enjoy these things now and again. But, as I’ve reflected here previously, it’s a nice problem for a citizen of the County to have.
To the theatre it was then, this past Wednesday, for the press opening of “His Girl Friday” at Barrington Stage Company’s Boyd-Quinson Mainstage. Directed by BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, this production is adapted by John Guare from “The Front Page” by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, as well as the Columbia Pictures film, “His Girl Friday.”
A broadly spun slapstick farce, the piece also has a layered comedic range that moves rapidly, with many elements often working cohesively together at once; sight gags and pratfalls often happen in the same breath as subtle, seemingly throwaway lines which provide in-the-know texture for the wary (and, for that matter, the unwary) viewer.
Photograph by Kevin Sprague.
Set in 1939 Chicago in the Criminal Courts Press Room, the work sits astride a worldwide cauldron of change and introspection. And amidst the fire and brimstone, life goes its own way here; machinated or not, in all its both measured and flailing visceral glory.
As with “Lost in Yonkers”, the previous mainstage offering, “His Girl Friday” is unmistakably rooted nostalgically in its time…fondly, darkly, and whimsically. The stage is heavily populated with well-worn and symbolic tools of the trade; wooden chairs that kick back jauntily, ancient typewriters that clack self-assuredly to the touch, desks that…well, never mind.
Once the jazzy, muted trumpet, ambience music fades and the house lights go down, the typewriters take over, historically and symbolically, with slouch-hatted, vested players toning in to set the scene.
And again, as with “Lost in Yonkers”, a significant period of lead-in and setup time is played out to let the reputations of the chief protagonists build. When Walter Burns (Christopher Innvar) and Hildy Johnson (Jane Pfitsch) make their respective entrances, the wheels are well-greased for the divorcees’ fencing match…
As the story wades in deeper, so do the twists and turns that the proverbial car, as the stage, needs to negotiate; with grand entrance after grand entrance, the stage almost seems like a clown car, if not for being juxtaposed with the seriousness of prevailing events. True, the ground covered here is both far and twisty, but to my read, this work isn’t meant to be absorbed all at once. Rather, only over a period of days and in conversations with fellow theater friends does it reach full appreciation.
“His Girl Friday” is the last mainstage production before the darkened stages of September at BSC. Sunday, August 30, 5PM is the last performance.
Following a couple of self-imposed quiet days, a road trip seemed in order to take in a show in Hillsdale, NY. “Exquisite” opened as a boisterous success in the little venue known as LABspace, which is located behind the Hillsdale General Store.
Here we have a tour de force in collaborations from an eclectic smorgasbord of artists residing in and around the tri-state intersection, along with some from afar as well.
Answering an open call, teams of three artists each were given a sheet of 15”x22” paper on which to build their collaborations. Every team was responsible for determining their own rules of engagement for their works. What developed was interesting and varied to say the least. Many stayed true to the constraints of the paper’s boundaries and several, artists that they are, creatively strayed beyond the boundaries into their own realms in exciting and inventive ways.
The show’s title, “Exquisite”, refers to “Exquisite Corpse”, a pastime evolved via the Surrealists from the parlour game “Consequences.” In “Consequences”, players folded a piece of paper to conceal part of a sentence, then passed it on to other players to complete the sentence. The Surrealists adapted the game to use imagery as well as text. The name comes from an early game during which the sentence, “The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.” was derived.
The LABspace edition is great fun and shows a wonderful breadth of inventiveness and adaptation. As most of us know, collaborations can be quite challenging indeed, but these come through with flying colors, as the artists rose to the challenge and morphed their own individualities to suit the team efforts for these new and exciting works.
Artists collaborating in “Exquisite” include: Anonymous, Cory Arcangel (appropriated), Cynthia Atwood, Agnes Barley, Roberley Bell, Martha Bone, Dawn Breeze, Germaine Brooks, Dina Bursztyn, Thea Carlson, Kelli Cain, Christian Cesari, Henry Chapman, Nicole Cherubini, Leona Christie, Jennifer Coates, Christin Couture, Beth Dary, Lucio DiBenedetto, Steve DiBenedetto, Carol Diehl, Daniella Dooling, Peter Dudek, Dahlia Elsayed, Diane Englander, Ellen Hackl Fagan, Alyssa Fanning, Alison Fox, Kathryn Frey, Cora Glasser, Charles Goldman, Ross Goldstein, Ernest Goodmaw, Joan Grubin, Catherine Hall, Meg Hitchcock, Tom Hlas, Dana Hoey, William Holton, Brece Honeycutt, William Hosie, David Humphrey, The Internet, Susan Jennings, Erick Johnson, Inju Kaboom, Zak Kitnick, Black Lake, Dennis Leder, Michael Lee, Les LeVeque, Meg Lipke, Kristin Lucas, Rita MacDonald, Nicole Maloof, Heidi Marben, Karen Margolis, Cameron Martin, Susan Meyer, Alice Momm, Slink Moss, Sue Muskat, Gina Occhiogrosso, Vicky Palermo, Will Pappenheimer, Caroline Parks, Jon Rajkovich, John Riedman, Jennifer Riley, Matthew Ritchie, Russell Roberts, , Alexander Ross, Ana-Miren San Millan, Lisa Sanditz, Katia Santibanez, Michael Scott, Steve Schmitz, Michelle Segre, Dee Shapiro, Julie Shapiro, Karen Shaw, Suzan Shutan, Amy Sillman, Lauren Silva, Oscar Smeraldo, Alan Sondheim, Monika Sowsnowski, Joseph Stabilito, Jeff Starr, Kurt Steger, Laura Stein, Linda Stillman, Derek Stukuls, Suzy Sureck, Erica Svec, Amy Talluto, Melissa Thorne, Kyle Thurma, Matt Tiernan, Jill Vasileff, Oliver Wasow, Matthew Weinstein, Ann Wolf, Mie Yim, Andrew Zarou, Tamar Zinn, and more…
Some time ago, I had the pleasure to visit a previous space LABspace Director/Curator Susan Jennings was involved in; Ursa Major Arts while it was located in Great Barrington. I wish I had visited more to see the shows there and I hope to have chances to visit more here because there is some wonderfully good stuff going on only a fun drive away. (LABspace is one of the exciting venues that will be a part of the upcoming Hillsdale Artswalk on September 12, 10AM-4PM. It would be a nice idea to go!)
As is now the custom of this blog, I’ll leave off with a look at what’s going on in the arts indie home studio. We’ve been relatively busy up here on Rt. 7 in New Ashford. Tammara is nearly finished with her next large piece.
Her fabulous “Women are the Wonders of the World” for “Reimagined! An International Show of Comic and Cartoon Art” is currently on view at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, MA, along with the first chapter, “Eden, Inc.”, of her graphic novel “Growing up Wilde.”
Photograph by Karen Schiltz.
“Reimagined!” runs through August 29. Special festivities, including face painting, comic art making, and fun super hero costumes, will be part of the upcoming “3rd Thursday” event this August 20 on North Street in Pittsfield.
Speaking of 3rd’s, I finished the 3rd piece in the current series I’ve been working on. At 36”x48”, it is slightly larger than the last and has a more direct composition than the last two. All three are seen below with a segment of our woodpile as backdrop.
I’ve also been working a bit on my iPhone photography. Having come across some wonderful instruction material online, these have worked to re-spike my interest. (Please feel free to click HERE for a really good instructional article.) So as a side project kind of distraction, I’ve been having fun now and again delving into some of the fascinating apps and techniques available to iPhone enthusiasts.
One recent series focused, and unfocused, on a row of Black-eyed Susans planted on Pomeroy Avenue in Pittsfield.
Another, perhaps ongoing, series consists of abstracts. Though I generally lean towards representation and narrative in much of my work, these, along with my recent paintings, are efforts to loosen things up and to be more spontaneous.
Also perhaps ongoing is this series of self-portraits. As someone that’s extremely shy, I usually don’t like to be photographed, so these are a way to step out of my comfort zone somewhat.
So, that’s it for now. Lot’s of things still happening as we wend our way towards the end of the summer cultural season. Oh, and if you get a chance, one last quick reminder, I still have a piece in the Fresh Paint Gallery of the Berkshire Artist Museum. This will hang there until the end of August. Three super shows running concurrently up there, along with the permanent collection, so if you have a chance…
Image courtesy of the Berkshire Artist Museum.
Article by Leo Mazzeo. Photographs and images by Leo Mazzeo except where indicated.