Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

“The Spitfire Grill” Musical This Weekend

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

With its jazz banners, Cafe Aroma is swankier than "The Spitfire Grill," but a favorite hangout of the three leading ladies

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Many of us know “The Spitfire Grill” as that great little restaurant near the airport in Santa Monica. It was started by a USAF lieutenant in 1954 so his fellow pilots would have a good place to eat. Today, it still promotes the area’s aviation history.

Moviegoers may know “The Spitfire Grill” as the 1996 sleeper about a young woman who moves to a small town after being released from prison. Her chance at a fresh start is nixxed by many of the townsfolk. Both the girl, the grill and the town end up changing in the end. The shows strong female characters are played by Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden and Alison Eliott.

But “The Spitfire Grill” that I’m talking about is a high school musical by James Valcq and Fred Ally that starts this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Paulina, who plays “Shelby,” one of the leads, didn’t watch the movie on purpose.

“I didn’t want to mold my character after anything that I saw in the movie,” Paulina said. “I want it to all come from within.”

You may have heard Paulina, Becca and Melissa (shown far right) in last year's musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

Paulina’s character is a hard luck case herself.  She is shy and is verbally abused by her husband. Although she doesn’t have a shy bone in her body, Paulina said that she has observed others who are.

“But, with the help of her two good friends, Shelby triumphs in the end,” Paulina said.

Bram, who claims to be onstage “for about 30 seconds,” plays one of the male characters in this female-centric story about the spiritual path of turning pain into joy.

Bram admitted to watching the movie and liking it. However, he was skeptical at first of turning “The Spitfire Grill,” a drama with a dark side, into a musical. After the first rehearsal, however, “The Spitfire Grill” musical won him over.

The three leads, played by Melissa, Becca and Paulina, all have incredible voices with wide ranges. You may have heard them in last year’s musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

They are all friends at Idyllwild Arts, a close-knit boarding school set in a small town in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Each weekend, the three of them board the van to Idyllwild, where they’d buy groceries and eat at local restaurants. Cafe Aroma is one of their favorites, although it’s a lot swankier than The Spitfire Grill in Gilead.

“The Spitfire Grill” musical opens at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, May 20 at the IAF Theater on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Saturday’s show is also at 7:30 p.m., but Sunday’s show starts at 2 p.m. All shows on campus are free and open to the public. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 19, 2011 @ 10:26

Shakespeare-Adapted Shorts Ends Sunday

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

C.D. plays the lead in the Shakespeare-adapted short, "Pericles," which ends Sunday

Billed as “An Evening with Compact Shakespeare,” the latest performance by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, features the well-told tale of star-crossed lovers,”Romeo & Juliet,” and “Pericles,” about the spellbinding nautical adventures of the Prince of Tyre.

The third and final show will be held on Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theater.

In the playbill, director Abbie Bosworth sums it up: “The versions you are about to see retain almost all of the original language of the full-length plays, but are presented in a style that will appeal to a younger audience.”

It worked for senior Dance students, Adrianna and Christy, who had seen the Shakespeare show Saturday night.

“You’ve got to see it!” exclaimed Adrianna. “There are some parts that are really funny.”

Peter, a Visual Arts student, was looking forward to seeing the show Sunday. Initially, he was concerned about understanding the language of Shakespeare.

“They say it’s got a modern twist, and it’s easy to understand,” Peter said.

However, not all of the students were expecting to like the modern take on Shakespeare.

Will, a senior Dance student (and former Theater major) shook his head.

“I’m a purist when it comes to Shakespeare,” Will said. “And you shouldn’t mess with it by putting it into a modern setting. Especially with ‘Pericles.’ It just won’t work.”

Nevertheless, Will plans to attend Sunday’s show, and try and keep an open mind.

Director Abbie Bosworth expects to win over all the skeptics.

“We often use direct address storytelling, and reference a fairy tale to portray our various villians, heroes and loveable rogues,” Abbie wrote in the playbill. “We have included music, and as many swashbuckling high jinks as possible, not to mention just a little bit of kissing.”

The cast for “Romeo & Juliet,” and “Pericles” are the same, but interchangeable. For example, Tuli, who plays the female lead in “Romeo & Juliet,” is a (male) pirate in “Pericles.” Perhaps the gender role change is fitting for Shakespeare. In his day, male actors also played female roles.

Dylan (right) is used to playing romantic leads. He plays Romeo in Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"

The rest of the Shakespeare cast includes: C.D., Dylan, Chase, Jessie, Ryutaro, Dakota, Zen, Gabrielle, Michell, Lewis, Samantha, Tierra, Cynthia and Gemini.

Cynthia, who sings in the chorus, also gets to play the flute.

“I played classical flute for six years before coming here,” Cynthia said.

The director admitted to drawing inspiration from the cast.

“I had a huge amount of fun working with this cast, who has brilliant ideas for the silly bits, and plenty of good ideas for the serious ones too,” she wrote.

The third and final show of”Romeo & Juliet” and “Pericles” will be presented this Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theater (in the Bowman Building) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. All shows are free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Apr 23, 2011 @ 23:42

Audience Tears Flowed for ‘Eurydice’

Monday, January 24th, 2011

(from L) Nelms McKalvain and Howard Shangraw and friend converse after the show.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At the final bow, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Some of the audience members were loudly blowing their noses. One woman clasped her had over her mouth to keep from sobbing.

“Really? People were crying? I couldn’t tell,” said Juwan, who played Orpheus, after the show.

However, you could tell that he was impressed. Any time a high school theater cast brings an audience to tears is an accomplishment.

The final show of “Eurydice,” a modern take on the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl, was held on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m at Idyllwild Arts Academy.

“I think it was our best show,” said Juwan, after striking the set. “Everything seemed to gel together.”

You didn’t have to know anything about Greek mythology to appreciate and understand the play. It’s been done hundreds, if not thousands, of times. But Sarah Ruhl made it more interesting and palatable.

“I’m glad that it was set in the 21st century,” said one student.

Brooke, a senior who played “Eurydice,” brought Nelms, a piano teacher at Idyllwild Arts, to tears. He stood out in the courtyard with huge tears rolling down his face. Everyone around him smiled. It was rare to see such open emotion from a middle-aged man.

“Brooke just broke my heart,” Nelms said.

Brooke was the happy-go-lucky pretty thing that was in love with Juwan. As a musician, he listened to the “beat of a different drummer.” She loved words, and he loved music. Somewhere in between, they connected.

“There was a lot of kissing going on at the beginning,” exclaimed Juwan’s mom, who came all the way from Kansas, to surprise him.

“I’m glad that Juwan finally got a lead role,” another student said.

Juwan played the heartbroken Orpheus

Juwan played Orpheus, the heartbroken bride groom, to the hilt. He sent music, and wrote letters, to the Underworld, and delivered them via worms. He told his bride of his dreams, in which her hair was made out of faucets. It only made everyone cry harder.

“Please come back!” he begged.

In one of his scenes, he’s talking to a telephone operator. He’s trying to connect to Eurydice in the Underworld. The operator on the other end is confused and exasperated.

“This is a special case,” Juwan tells her. “She’s dead.”

How can he connect to a dead woman? The audience cries harder. Somehow they’ve been there before. Asking an operator for help beyond reason.

When Juwan first saw Sarah Ruhl’s play, he thought it was a kind of dumb. Then he listened to Howard, and drew from his own experiences of heartache, to play a believable role.

Brooke (as Eurydice) might have broken Nelms’ heart with her letters home.

“Don’t try and find me again,” Brooke wrote after they flubbed up the voyage back. She called out his name and he looked back, so that was it.

“I’m sorry,” she wrote to Orpheus. “I was afraid. But don’t come looking for me again.”

In her open letter to her husband’s next wife, Brooke demonstrated her emotional range.

“Be sure and feed him often, because he forgets to eat,” she recited out loud. “And be sure and notice that he blushes pink when you kiss him. If you kiss his forehead, I will thank you for it.”

What woman would want her husband to be happy with another woman? Eurydice had matured while underground.

Everyone expected Joe Spano to steal the show. After all, how can high school theater students measure up to a professional actor with an Emmy nod and many successful shows under his belt?

Stones Dylan and Angela pose for pictures after the show

“He was great, but he didn’t steal the show,” said some theater students.

It wasn’t a slight. What Joe Spano did was elevate “Eurydice” to the next level. Everyone stepped up their game. Because they already had it in them.

Brooke, Juwan, Jake, and the Stones were just as good as Joe. And that’s the way it should be.

He was fun to watch, no doubt. Especially when his daughter was adjusting to being dead. He built her a makeshift room out of string that he tied to umbrella handles hanging from the ceiling.

“That was the saddest part,” said Chris, a music major who saw the show on Friday night.

For others, Joe’s saddest moment was when Eurydice left to follow Orpheus home and said, “With her gone, it’ll be like a second death to me.”

Jake, who played an “Interesting Man,” (who must’ve said “interesting 100 times) was really just a letch, who lured Eurydice to her death.

By the way, Brooke’s slow-motion fall was eerie, but effective. Kudos to Howard Shangraw, the director, and the set designers for making it happen with lights and poles.

I’m not sure why Ruhl created the Lord of the Underworld (also played by Jake) as a pre-teen, but it took away some of his bite. Running around on a trike with oversized shoes and a lit-up umbrella hat was entertaining, but typically, I like my demons older. His youth made it hard to take him seriously.

But, in the end, little Lord Fontleroy on the trike, had the final say.

“I just got chills all over,” said Chris Pennock, an Idyllwild actor best known for his “Dark Shadows” days.

His wife was the one who covered her mouth to keep from sobbing.

“It was so amazing,” she said, wiping away her tears.

Joe Spano (partially obstructed) and his daughter, Liana, a stone, talk with audience members after the show

Outside, Idyllwild residents took pictures Joe Spano and the other actors. It was nice having a celebrity amongst them.

“We grew up watching Joe Spano on ‘Hill Street Blues,”” one resident said. “It was nice to see him live on stage today.”

Spano, who played Eurydice’s father, and his real-life daughter, Liana, played a stone that guarded the Underworld.

“This was the best experience,” said Milan, who was Spano’s understudy. “He improved my acting performance by a mile.”

“Eurydice” played to packed houses on Friday and Saturday nights, Jan. 21 and 22. The Sunday, Jan. 23rd audience stood on their feet to show their appreciation. On Apella Drive, the road out, past the parking lot, a few women were walking home. What a testament to the show! Without a car, they arrived on foot rather than miss the show.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search

Joe Spano Stars in Idyllwild Arts Show on Sunday, Too

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Hill Street Blues” and “NCIS” star Joe Spano will also star in the final performance of “Eurydice,” by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. It’s a correction to the earlier report (on Idyllwild Me blog post dated Jan. 20) that the understudies would take over that performance. Theirs was held on Saturday, Jan 22 at 2 p.m.

Today, at 2 p.m., will be the final performance of “Eurydice,” Idyllwild Arts production of the Greek tragedy about Eurydice and Orpheus in the Underworld. Spano starred as Eurydice’s father to packed houses on Friday and Saturday nights.

Milan, a senior Theater major, credits Spano for adding professionalism to the show. It is the first time this crew has worked alongside a well-known actor.

“His choices onstage has given everyone involved with the show a huge acting lesson,” Milan said. “And him being in the show has absolutely effected the quality and professionalism of the show.”

He said that Spano had also taught him to slow down and take his time with each scene.

Brooke, another senior who plays the lead, Eurydice, admitted to being timid around Spano at first.

“I had never worked with a professional actor before, let alone one as famous as Joe Spano,” Brooke said. “But he treated me like an equal.”

Both Brooke and Milan had not seen Spano during his “Hill Street Blues” hey days, but their aunts and uncles gave them an earfull.

“My aunt just loves Joe Spano, and thought he was terrific in ‘Hill Street Blues,” Brooke said.

Milan also researched the shows online.

Juwan plays Orpheus in today's final performance of "Eurydice"

Although the father role may have been missing in other versions of “Eurydice,” Sarah Ruhl’s take is different. She focuses more on the circle of life.

“The father is the second, if not first most important role in the play,” said Milan, who has watched Spano rehearse for weeks. “Without the father, it would not be the same story. He goes through many obstacles, such as memory loss, but had the courage to let his daughter go.”

The set of the play is also top notch with a rain shower encased in an elevator. It’s the work of guest set designer Steve Hudson-Mairet, head of the Theater Department at Marquette University, and Todd Carpenter, the technical director at Idyllwild Arts (see “Help with Eurydice Set,” Idyllwild Me post, dated Jan. 14).

The final performance of “Eurydice,” starring Joe Spano as the father, Brooke as Eurydice, Juwan as Orpheus, Jake as the lord of the Underworld, and Liana (Joe Spano’s daughter), as a stone, will be held today, Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m.

The show is free and open to the public. The IAF Theater is located inside the Bowman Building on the Idyllwild Arts Campus, located at the end of Tollgate. For more information, call (951) 659-2171 or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search

Joe Spano to Star in High School Play

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Joe Spano will appear in a high school play this weekend.

This Emmy-nominated actor, best known for his role as Lt. Henry Goldblume in the popular TV series, “Hill Street Blues,” is not playing a detective, an agent, or even an astronaut this time, but something closer to home.

He’s playing a father.

“Having daughters of his own must’ve effected the way that he created his character,” said Milan, an Idyllwild Arts theater student, who plays Spano’s understudy in “Eurydice.”

Sarah Ruhl has taken the classic Greek myth about Eurydice and Orpheus of the Underworld, and changed it to emphasize the circle of life. Ruhl’s take is both entertaining and provocative.

Wait a minute! Eurydice had a father?

According to Milan, the father is the second, if not the most important role in the play.

“Without him, it would not be the same story,” Milan explained. “He goes through many obstacles, such as memory lapses and seperation from his daughter. And has the courage to let her go knowing that it’s the right thing to do.”

With Joe Spano playing the father, you get a better image of a ‘father’ than if a student were playing the role, Milan adds. However, Milan will have a chance to perform, along with the other understudies, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22.

For the past several weeks, Milan has watched Joe Spano rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

“He has a great, positive attitude and a strong presence onstage,” Milan said. “Him being here has absolutely effected the quality and professionalism of the show.”

Brooke, as Eurydice, admitted to being pretty timid at first.

“I had never worked with a professional actor before, let alone a famous one like Joe Spano,” Brooke said. “But he has treated me like an equal.”

One thing that Milan learned from Spano is patience.

“He has taught me to take my time!” Milan exclaimed. “Lots of actors think they need to rush scenes or moments of the show. Joe has taught me the importance of taking my time and not rush anything.”

Another actor who has likely learned a lot from Spano is his daughter, Liana, who plays one of the three talking stones.

“Joe and Liana have a great relationship,” Milan said. “It’s very clear to see.”

However, onstage the two are all business.

“During rehearsal, you rarely ever see them talk,” Milan said. “Both are focused and ready to work.”

So why is Joe Spano acting in a high school play this weekend? Because his daughter asked him to? Or because Howard Shangraw, his old reperatory acting buddy, who heads up the IA Theater Department, begged? No one really knows for sure, but its likely, after a successful TV and movie career, Joe Spano is doing what he wants.

But for Milan, Brooke and the other teenage actors, the experience has been priceless.

“Eurydice” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21 & 22, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23. The understudy performance will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan.22. All shows are free and open to the public. They’re held at the IAF Theater (inside the Bowman building) on the Idyllwild Arts Campus (at the end of Tollgate Road) in Idyllwild. For more information, call (951) 659-2171, or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search

Help with ‘Eurydice’ Set

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Even the poster for 'Eurydice' emphasizes water

By Marcia E. Gawecki

With every production, the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department takes it up a notch.

With ‘Eurydice,’ Sarah Ruhl’s modern take on the tragic Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the Underworid, they’ve landed a top-notch actor and set designer.

“We got Joe Spano!” exclaimed Howard Shangraw, head of the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department. “It helps that his daughter, Liana, goes to school here.”

Spano, an Emmy-Award winning actor, is best known for his stand-out characters in the popular TV series, “Hill Street Blues” and “NCIS.” For the ‘Eurydice’ production, Spano plays the father.

Secondly, the ‘Eurydice’ set, which features two live water sources (an enclosed waterfall and a well) is being created by professional set designer. Stephen Hudson-Mairet is a longtime friend of Todd Carpenter, IA lighting and technical director. Steve heads up the theater department at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

He plans to be here 10 days to help Howard and Todd with the set, which is already partially built.

About two months ago, Steve came to the Idyllwild Arts campus to see the student production of “Jayne Eyre.” He wanted to see firsthand what the stage and the IAF theater looked like, and needed to meet with Howard and Todd and get their ideas.

“The IAF Theater is barrel-shaped, like an airplane hanger,” Steve said. “But every theater has it’s challenges. I’ve seen a lot of them and none are perfect.”

After the meeting, he went back to Milwaukee and did his homework.

“Before I even think about drafting a design, I read the play three times,” Steve said. “It gives you ideas that you cannot get anywhere else.”

Juwan, who plays the lead Orpheus, backstage at another event

The second the third read gives him practical ideas about where the actors will stand and step.

For his “Eurydice’ design, he incorporated ideas from Howard and Todd, and came up with a full-color sketch.

“I never leave anything to chance,” Steve said. “Because blue has many shades, and we all need to be on the same page.”

So he attached color swatches to the diagram, which was approved.

“The main part of the stage is framed by an oversized triangle,” Steve said. At the apex, an elevator opens up to a waterfall encased in an elevator.

“The water should rain straight down,” Steve said. “It acts as a barrier into the Underworld.”

Although there are pipes everywhere overhead, he wasn’t sure how the water was going to flow inside the elevator. He had to check it out firsthand.

“I also have to think about what we’re going to do about the water puddling onstage,” Steve said. “And if there would be any long-term water damage underneath the stage.”

These water issues are why Todd and Howard hired a set design professional like Steve. In the past, he has created set designs for massive theater productions like “Hair,” with life-sized 60s cutouts onstage, and “Frog and Toad,” a smaller student production, based on the popular children’s books.

On Thursday afternoon, Jan. 13, Steve was headed to rehearsal, to see the actors in action. And today, he’s going to paint the set along with the students. Among the many challenges will be building an arc and painting a river on the floor.

“In the show, one of the actors rides a tricycle around the stage on an arc,” Steve said. “We’re hoping to make it work for him.”

He wasn’t sure how the arc was going to be built, but was certain that it would work before the ‘Eurydice’ curtain goes up next weekend.

“One of the best things about set design is the collaboration of ideas,” Steve said. “We always come up with something better together.”

Painting a river on the floor was one of the first things he’ll tackle.

Howard Shangraw, head of IA Theater Dept. Courtesy photo.

“It’s going to be ‘river-esque, not raging” Steve said. “Like everything else on the set, it’s a symbol.”

Other symbols include a variety of Asian-style umbrellas that will be suspended from the ceiling. He pulled several from his suitcase to add to Todd’s collection.

“The umbrellas will give Todd something to throw a light on,” Steve said.

During their college days, the two have worked on sets together.

“Todd always takes my ideas and makes them better,” Steve said.

After the final ‘Eurydice’ show, Steve will help the students break down the set. He has no attachments or regrets for a set that he’s been working on for two months.

“I’m used to designing and building sets, and taking them down in six weeks,” Steve said.

His only keepsake is a couple of photos. Most of the set pieces of ‘Eurydice’ will be recycled into other sets.

‘Eurydice’ shows will be held on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21 & 22, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 23, at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theater on campus. All shows are free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Custom Search

Jayne Eyre: A Moving Masterpiece

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Bram and Melanie show off their magnetic chemistry in "Jayne Eyre"

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last weekend’s performance  of “Jayne Eyre,” by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, was nothing short of stunning. It looked like a Rembrandt painting set to life. It was dark and moody, yet memorable.

All those who have seen “Jayne Eyre” onscreen or onstage before, know that it’s just downright depressing. Your heart aches for poor Jayne, with no money or station in life, spending years being bullied and starved to death in a repressive school. Her only friend is left to die so terribly young. Yet, in spite of all that, you have to give Jayne credit for her self confidence and self worth.

Melanie and Sasha, best friends for years, play Jayne and little Jayne.

“We’ve been waiting our whole lives for these roles,” Sasha said weeks before the show.

Like many others in “Jayne Eyre,” Sasha played two other roles besides young Jayne, including Blanche, a snobby socialite, and a country girl narrator.

“Playing two roles tests your meddle as an actor,” said Juwan, a theater major, who has played double roles in the past, including “Learned Ladies.” “In effect, you’re doing the work of two people, and you can’t get them mixed up.”

Isaac as the mean headmaster scolds little Jayne, played by Sasha

Sasha said that she was a little worried about mastering her British accents, especially since she had to learn the lower-class cockney accent and the upper class one too. Yet, in the show on Sunday afternoon, her cockney accent was pronounced, and her upper crust had the perfect lilt.

During practice one day, Howard Shangraw, head of the Theater Department, brought it an expert–Amy Sue Fall, a Hollywood linguist.

Bram, who plays Mr. Rochester, the romantic lead, was happy to have her help.

“She helps big name stars like Leonardo Di Caprio,” Bram said.

Amy Sue told Bram to lengthen and shorten his vowel sounds.

“Every word has to be a journey,” she said.

Then Howard told Bram that he needed to work on being more sexy.

“I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that,” Bram said.

(From L) Ari as Aunt Reed and Sasha as young Jayne square off

Somehow, by showtime, he had mastered the sexy mystique of the elder Mr. Rochester, head of the manor. His low voice was commanding, yet gentle when he bantered with Jayne, the governess (played by Melanie).

“Do you find me attractive, Jayne?” he asked her, as she sat sketching outside.

“No,” she replied, and kept on.

He must’ve found her amusing. Here she was, an impoverished employee, one who relied on him for her entire livelihood, yet she refuses to flatter him!

The encounters where Jayne and Mr. Rochester get to know each other, and then later express their intense love for each other, were incredibly romantic. Bram and Melanie had chemistry onstage, even before the big kiss. They made holding hands sexy.

Melanie admitted to being nervous before the show.

“I have to convey some really intense emotions, but I can’t jump around, scream and shout,” she said. “I have to say a lot with just some simple gestures.”

Mrs. Fairfax, played by Ari befriends Jayne, played by Melanie

Yet, Melanie successfully conveyed those intense emotions, against her Aunt Reed (as told to her maid played by Jessie), and toward Mr. Rochester, her greatest love.

Nothing against author Charlotte Bronte, but I found it a little strange that Jayne kept calling Mr. Rochester “Sir,” even when he told her that he wanted to marry her–as an equal partner.  I know it was Victorian times, and she was years his junior, but even when she inherited a load of dough, she kept calling him, “Sir.”

The underlying undertone of their bantering and arguments was the great respect they had for each other. They listened to what each other had to say and didn’t bully to get their way. You just wanted to watch them spar all day long, like two gladiators in a ring or two lions in the wild ready to mate, headstrong yet decidedly weak for each other.

Everyone should be so lucky to find a mate like that.

It could have ended unhappily for Jayne, if her rich uncle hadn’t died. That’s the Hollywood twist in this tale that seems a bit far fetched, Bronte. Jayne ran away because Mr. Rochester was already married to a crazy lady that he stashed in the attic, right?  He’s a liar and a potential bigamist. End of story in Victorian England.

So when Jayne inherits $200 million pounds, she takes off searching for him. Nothing has changed, dearie, except your finances. Guess she was hoping that things might be different, and luckily for her, they were.

Excellent job by Ariana who played the mean Aunt Reed who abandons Jayne and the pleasant Mrs. Fairfax, (Rochester’s housekeeper) who befriends her. Ariana plays the perfect matron without a wrinkle.

First encounter between the leads, Bram and Melanie

Good job by Milan for playing Lord Ingram, Reverand Wood and St. John Rivers. Not only did his costumes change, but his accents and entire demeanor shifted with the titles.

Well done by Isaac in playing the sadistic Mr. Brocklehurst, head of the school, and a mason who gets savagely attacked by the lunatic Mrs. Rochester. These are two meaty roles successfully commanded by a 14-year-old. Alas, some actors are just born “old souls.”

First tears in the play were shed over the death of Helen (played by Tierra), whose real name means “earth.” How wise and confident she was at a tender age. Happy to rid herself of her sorrow on earth. She also pulled off the classie French lassie, ward of Mr. Rochester. Tierra played two young girls close in age, yet their station in life set them worlds apart.

The tweedy and determined John Reed, the attorney, played by Conor, was a welcome sight in the middle and end of the show. For the first time in our lives, we’re rooting for the attorneys.

The “Best British Accent Award” goes to Kendra, a sophomore, who commanded the snobby Lady Ingram with great aplomb. Every British syllable hit dead on. It was a lovely, yet brief song.

Kendra was also one of the best dressed on the set. The color of her satin gown stood out like a rose rising out of a crack in the desert. All night, we were longing for color, yet, we wanted to gag her with that feathered fan!

Of course, credit for all of the morose and fanciful costumes go to Minnie Christine Walters, the show’s talented costume designer. Every costume was superb, from the gray rags of the schoolgirls to the opulant dress of Lady Ingram and Jayne’s wedding dress.

“We didn’t have to do much to them,” said Jacob, a senior specializing in theatrical costumes. “We just had to take them in here and there. All credit goes to Minnie.”

Hats off to Bonnie Carpenter and Todd Carpenter for their outstanding light and scenic designs. Yep, they pulled off the perfect Rembrandt painting. They made the sets moody and dark, yet interesting. Their use of hysterical sound effects were eerie, and kept everyone on the edge of their seats. The lighted curtain panels offered motion without use of video for a ghastly ghostly impression.

It was a splendid show, Jayne Eyre. A moving masterpiece.

Copyright Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved..

Custom Search

Student Learns from ‘Burning Man’ Event

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Morgan, who wants to be a professional clown, learned a lot at Burning Man

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The students are coming back to Idyllwild Arts now, full of stories about what they did during their summer break. However, one student’s story stood out from the rest.

“I learned how to eat fire this summer,” said Morgan.

It happened at “Burning Man,” a weeklong arts event held Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. The event has a strong emphasis on pyrotechnics. Attendees bring all of their own food, drink and lodging, and must leave nothing behind. It’s considered a “commerce free event,” meaning you can only buy coffee and ice there. Everything else must be traded. According to the Burning Man web site, the event attracted 48,000 people this year.

“There’s young people and old people, kids, naked people, some strung out on drugs or alcohol,” Morgan explained. “But if you don’t drink or do drugs, that’s OK with everyone too.”

It was the fourth Burning Man event that Morgan, now a senior, has attended. This time, he went with his father.

“It’s hard to explain what Burning Man really is all about,” Morgan said, after he arrived at Ontario Airport with dusty luggage. “You really just have to experience it firsthand.”

He said that the dirt will likely last about a week. It’s coated his skin. He also burned his tongue and the hair off of his arms.

“We also played fire baseball,” Morgan added. “The ball and bat are on fire. We don’t really keep score or anything, but it was fun trying to catch a burning fly ball.”

He said that eating fire wasn’t really hard, but afterwards, he couldn’t taste anything for about a week. His tongue blistered, he said, but didn’t have any lasting effects. When he stuck it out, it looked pink and normal.

“The trick of fire eating is to make sure that it stays mysterious,” Morgan said. “If everyone in the audience knows how to do it, then no one is going to pay to watch someone do it, right?”

He said that he also learned how to breathe out fire, much like a fire-breathing dragon.

“But you have to be careful not to breathe in because the fire could go down into your lungs, and you know what a disaster that would be,” Morgan said.

Morgan approached Burning Man like a student going for an internship. You see, Morgan wants to be a clown when he graduates from Idyllwild Arts. He hopes to go to a special clown school in Australia, that he visited before coming to Burning Man.

At Burning Man, he also learned to juggle with fire, something that he cannot practice on a heavily-wooded campus within a national forest.

“At school, they frown upon anything having to do with fire,” he said.

Morgan learned how to eat and breathe fire

He admitted that Burning Man, has an emphasis on fire, and attracts many pyromaniacs.

“One year, I saw them blow up a fuel tank, which sent a mushroom cloud into the air for about 200 feet,” he said. “Only people crazy about fire would want to do something like that.”

On the Saturday night before Labor Day this year, they burned a 100-foot image of a man that can be seen for miles. Check out some spectacular photos on the Burning Man web site,

For his senior year, Morgan took a big step and switched majors from theater to dance.

“I still love the theater,” Morgan said. “But, if I want to go to clown school, I have to work on my strength, and switching to dance was the way to do it. In theater, you just don’t move around a lot.”

Part of his college clown auditions include holding up other performers, much like cheerleaders do. He practiced a little bit of his strength training at Burning Man. At 6 foot something, he says he is not too tall to be a clown, but prefers being the one on the bottom holding everyone up.

Clowning comes naturally for Morgan who “grew up in the Renaiessance Fair.”  His father played a pirate, and his mother played a witch. In fact, he was named after the famous pirate, Captain Morgan, one of the most dangerous pirates who worked in the Spanish Main.

All in all, the Burning Man event turned out to be a good experience for this would-be professional clown. After college, he wants to join Circus de Soleil, or another one in Europe.

Custom Search

Master Chorale’s ‘Cole’ Was ‘De-Lovely’

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Many of Cole Porter's show tunes showed his bawdy side

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Idyllwild Master Chorale’s “Cole,” a wildly entertaining tribute to musician and lyricist Cole Porter, featured 28 of his songs in two acts, with interesting narratives, Broadway songs, short dance numbers, glitzy costumes and bawdy humor. Locals who went to see the show on Saturday night, July 24, laughed, sang along and gave the troupe standing ovation.

“This show was a lot of fun,” said Rosemary Barnhardt, who came early with her husband, Ken. She is a friend of Phyllis Brown, one of the cast members.

“Phyllis told us to sit in the front row, because she’d might sit on Ken’s lap during one of her solos,” Rosemary said with a giggle.

Phyllis Brown camped it up for her Cole solo, "The Laziest Girl in Town"

As it turned out, Ken had his legs crossed during Phyllis’ rendition of “The Laziest Girl in Town,” so she just flirted with him and laced her feather boa around his neck.

Besides Phyllis, the other cast members included: Scott Fisher, Lisa Furugen, Bella Gioeli, Justin Patrick Holmes, Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, Larry Kawano, Steve Kunkle, Linda Lackey, Lori Palmer, Barbara Rayliss, Jay Rubin and Mike Sebastian.

Interestingly enough, those 28 songs were created with only two instruments a grand piano and a bass. Ed Hansen played the piano and Marshall Hawkins, from the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts, was on bass.

Dressed in a black sequin dress, Lori Palmer sings her heart out in "What is this Thing Called Love?"

The staging was minimal, reminiscent of the Broadway productions, with Egyptian columns, and black tiered steps that you could dance on. The back stage was used for the larger group numbers, while the front stage, close to the audience, was used for shorter numbers. More than likely, the shorter song-and-dance numbers were a distraction while the cast changed clothes for the next number.

Act One featured 16 songs from Cole Porter’s early life, including his time at Harvard and Yale.

“He was editor of the school magazine at Yale, and could have gone into lumbering, farming or mining, but he went into Harvard Law School,” said Larry Kawano, who was acting as one of the narrators. However, Cole, who was named after his wealthy grandfather, graduated from Harvard’s Music Department instead.

Cole wrote more than 300 songs at Yale, including “Bingo Eli Yale” and “When the Summer Moon Comes ‘Long,” from 1902 that were sung early that night.

“Cole was a rich man, but also a hardworking one,” said Scott Fisher as another narrator. “’See America First,’ his first attempt on Broadway was not successful. “Everyone hated it, even the cast members.”

When they sang “Lost Liberty Blues,” from Des Ambassadeurs in 1928, the pianist, Barbara Rayliss, in a Doris Day wig, was also sporting a foam green Liberty crown, along with the four guys who sported black robes, the foam crowns and torch flashlights.

(from L) Lisa Furugen sings, "Mrs. Lowborough, Goodbye" with an oversized martini glass

Unlike his contemporaries, Cole Porter was known for his bawdy humor and keen lyrics. According to Will Friedwald, on a CD dust jacket of “The Very Best of Cole Porter,”

“The durability of the songs themselves is proof that he succeeded. A Porter song could tell a whole story, and, like that other great American art form, the Blues, Porter could often communicate with what he leaves out of a song than what he puts in.”

Lisa Furugen, who also co-directed the show, did a hilarious rendition of “Mrs. Lowborough, Goodbye” from 1934. Wearing a red curly wig and dressed in a black sheath dress with lots of feathers, Lisa delighted the crowd when she drank from an oversized martini glass. Her voice started clear, then got increasingly more slurred as she imbibed more gin. Her “gulping” sound effects made the crowd giggle and cheer.

“I’m a Gigolo,” from Cole’s 1934 “Wake Up and Dream,” was made popular in its day for its clever lyrics, such as “I’m pushing ladies with lifted faces around the dance floor.” However, Mike Sebastian took it to another level with his tap dancing. He started from the top tier and danced his way down the steps to the front stage. The audience broke out in spontaneous applause.

'Cole' divas (from L) Phyllis, Linda & Lisa

Lisa Furugen and Steve Kunkle gave a memorable “I Get a Kick out of You,” from “Anything Goes.” Lovebirds Lisa and Steve, looked deeply into each other’s eyes, as they danced and sang.

After the conclusion of Act One, some of the cast members came out and spoke with friends and family members in the crowd. Phyllis, still in character, was wearing her black dress with the pink feathers on the fringe, was “looking for a date” and playing up the call girl role. She followed “Love for Sale,” in Act One with “The Laziest Girl in Town.”

This group sings, "Brush up on Your Shakespeare" to impress women

Act Two started out with signature songs by Cole, including “What is this Thing Called Love?” and “You do Something to Me” from 1929, the year before Cole hit it big with Fred Astaire in “Gay Divorce.”

“Hollywood is like living on the moon,” said Larry of Cole.

“In 1940, when screen legend Greta Garbo asked Cole Porter if he was happy, he said, ‘yes,’” Larry said.

“’That must be so strange,’” was her reply.

“But, by the time he attempted to perform Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” on Broadway, the Cole Porter era was over,” Larry said.

Linda Lackey (with Marshall Hawkins at Rt corner) used to sing professionally

In a barbershop style harmony, Larry, Steve and two others sang, “Brush up Your Shakespeare,” that delighted the crowd. Instead of backstage, they exited down the front aisle, and hurried back to finish the last number, “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” from 1944, that included the entire cast. By the time it was over, the audience of about 50 people, were on their feet.

Custom Search

IA Students Also Take Summer Classes

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Kitty with William, a fellow music student, was a TA for a piano class

Some familiar faces are seen on the Idyllwild Arts campus this week. They’re not former teachers or alumni, but regular Idyllwild Arts Academy students who are taking summer classes. They’re bored watching TV at home, or just want to hone in on some dance, acting, or music skills, before classes resume in the fall.

Jacob, who will be a senior, is a teacher’s assistant for the Costume Shop, and his first assignment is to outfit the play, William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.”

“I’m really excited to be here,” Jacob said. “I was at home (in Utah) for a few weeks, but I really missed this place!”

Naturally, all of Jacob’s classmates won’t be back on campus until early September, but for many who attend Idyllwild Arts, this full-time boarding school is considered “home.”

As a theater student last year, Jacob became enamored with costumes. So much that he now wants to switch majors and focus on the Costume Shop, instead of acting onstage.

For the “Student Choreography” dance sessions held at the end of the year, Jacob helped out Ariann, a dance student, with her costumes. (See “Student Dance Choreography,” post from May 11, 2010).

“I saw her struggling with shedding the costumes, and I offered to help,” he said. “She was grateful because she needed to get back to the choreography.”

Jacob simply cut the short dresses in strips and pulled and worked with the material.

“It’s all about the material. The cuts needed to move freely when the girls were dancing,” he said.

The most notable part of the costumes was the “straight jacket effect,” in which the dancers arms were confined.

“That was a little tricky,” Jacob said. “Afterwards, everyone said they loved the costumes.”

However, it’s a giant leap from dancer’s costumes to MacBeth, but Jacob is ready for the challenge.

He also was happy to see his other classmates around campus, including Andie, Christine, Haley, Dakota, Kitty, Karina and Dom, among others. Some were visiting, while others were working summer jobs at the cafeteria or in the offices. Yet, most of them were taking summer classes.

“If an Idyllwild Arts student takes a summer class, then their summer tuition is taken off of their academy tuition,” said Diane Dennis, the Summer Program registrar. “It’s called, ‘Pay Once, Learn Twice.'”

According to the “Pay Once, Learn Twice” brochure available in the Bowman main office, Idyllwild Arts students who attend this Summer Program, will receive 100 percent reduction of their summer tuition from their academic tuition. However, it’s only available to IA students who apply to the summer program and are accepted.

Christine, a theater major who graduated in June, is a perfect example. She attended the Idylwild Arts Summer Program for three years, before she spent her senior year at Idylwild Arts Academy. Last year, she said, she received a tuition reduction.

“I wish I would have come to Idyllwild Arts Academy sooner,” Christine said. She was on campus visiting her former theater teachers. “It’s great to be here, and I hope to come back next summer as a teacher’s assistant.”

Andie, who is taking “Song and Dance,” a two-week musical theater workshop, hopes to improve her vocal and dance skills this summer. She will be a junior Theater major in the fall. She said she’ll ask Howard Shangraw, head of the Theater Department at Idyllwild Arts, to attend her final performance.

Diane said that Lina, another Theater student, is enrolled in “Theater Adventures,” a two-week class that begins July 25. There, students will act, dance, improvise and perform a short play.

For these Idyllwild Arts students, Summer Program classes can improve their skills, and “break up the monotomy” of a long summer.

Kitty, who will be attending Rice University in the fall, came back to Idyllwild Arts to help out with a summer class called the “Piano Workshop.”

Since she’s already graduated, tuition reduction is not applicable. But Kitty is happy to be back on campus.

Her plans to travel and perform in Poland were sidelined because of the economic downturn.

“She was really looking forward to visiting Poland. She really loves to travel anywhere,” said Kitty’s mother. “But those who gave her the scholarship said that they couldn’t afford to send her right now.”

Kitty won the MacNeal Award, one of many. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts

Kitty, who has won many musical awards and contests, will likely perform for music students during the summer.

Jacob is going to be a teacher’s assistant for three weeks. Look for his handiwork in the upcoming play, “MacBeth,” that will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, July 30-31 at the JPT. For more information, visit the Idyllwild Arts web site at, and click on “Summer.” And for more information on the “Pay Once, Learn Twice Program,” contact Tara Sechrest at (951) 659-2171, ext. 2345.

Custom Search