Posts Tagged ‘Bonnie Carpenter’

It’s About Time and Well, The Conways

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The set was spectacular with built-in bookcases and tall windows

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Since Time, with a capital “T” got top billing in the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department’s last show, “Time and The Conways,” (written by J.B. Priestly) you knew Time was going to be a big part of the show.

In fact, Time already mettled with the normal story sequence .

The time warp was outlined in the program featuring a sand timer on the cover: Act One began in 1919 at Kay Conway’s 21st  birthday party where you get to meet all of the Conways and their lovers. Act Two takes place 18 years later (after the Depression) when things went emotionally and financially haywire for the Conways. Act Three jumped back to later that same night of Kay’s 21st birthday, which helped to explain things.

Act One opens with a family game of charades, with Mrs. Conway, the matriarch (Jessie), and her daughters, Kay (Gemini), Hazel (Sasha), Madge (Emily) and Carol (Celeste), and her sons, Alan (Zen) and Robin (Daniel). Everyone is happy, and looking forward to the future, but without their industrialist father, who had recently died.

Alan, the eldest, seems to be apart from the rest of the family. To me, he appeared to be “slow.”

“He was the father’s favorite son,” explained Kent-Harris, who played Gerald, the Conways’ attorney. “We talked about this. Alan fought in the trenches during WWI, and must’ve had some trauma from it. And he was also devestated by his father’s death. He wasn’t ‘slow,’ his priorities had changed.”

As it turns out, Alan who comforts Kay when she awakes from a moment’s rest and is now aware of the family’s not-so-great future.

“Alan also received slights from his mother, who had definite ideas on the hierarchy of the Conway family,” said Kent-Harris.

Kent-Harris greets well wishers after the final performance Sunday

For his part, Kent-Harris said that it wasn’t hard to play the future and jump back in Time.

“Well, we had different clothes on, for one thing, and we practiced it at least six times before the dress rehearsal on Thursday night,” he said.

Rosanna, who played Joan Heiford, Robin’s wife, said that her character changed a lot, so it was easy to go back in Time.

“At first, I played Robin’s girlfriend, and was naive and idealistic,” Rosanna said. “But then, after years with an absent and alcoholic husband, you could say that I became a bitter woman.”

Time was not Rosanna’s friend.

An outsider, Joan was tolerated by the Conways, but Ernest Beevers (Lewis) was never fully accepted by them. He was poor and lacked social graces, but turned out to be the biggest surprise. Kent-Harris thought that Hazel, a great beauty, didn’t marry Ernest for money.

“He didn’t have any money in the beginning,” Kent-Harris said. “He only had one share of an old run-down paper mill. I think Hazel married him because of his persistence.”

(from L) Chase, Jessie and Sasha get tearful about their last stage performance

It appears that money was the motivating factor for Hazel, however. At the beginning of Kay’s birthday party, Hazel calls Ernest “a disgusting little man” and was rude to his face. However, only when Ernest manages to get a private moment alone with Hazel, telling her about his financial ambitions, does she start flirting with him.

But for Ernest, Hazel was not a person, but a prize to be won. She was the great beauty of Newlingham, and to obtain her, would increase his social status and lead him to financial success.

And when Ernest turns out to be abusive, Hazel doesn’t leave him. Why not? Because of the money of course! Since day one, Hazel was expected to marry a rich man and travel the world. Yet, in reality, it’s not always that easy to grab the Gadsby’s of this world.  And maybe she “could hear her biological clock ticking,” so she settled on Ernest, but will not leave–until the money runs out.

“I wish the play had another weekend run,” said Kent-Harris.

He said it just got better and better each time they performed it. After awhile, the actors weren’t just reciting lines or waiting on cues, but felt like actual family and friends talking to each other.

“What I would say next came naturally because that’s what I would say if I was Gerald,” Kent-Harris said.

(from right) Jesse greets a well wisher

He thought the British accent wasn’t difficult because he heard it firsthand during summer school last year in London. He also learned a lot from British actors. And his uncle is a British solicitor, but he didn’t base his character on him.

The day after the show, Kent-Harris was going with his parents to a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Nancy Pelosi. He said he didn’t have any immediate plans to get into politics.

“My parents support my decision to become an actor,” Kent-Harris said. “However, if I can’t make it as an actor, I can always become a politician. They’re pretty much the same thing, right?”

It would be wrong to sign off without mentioning the stellar set designed and built by Bonnie and Todd Carpenter. The set consisted of one large drawing room. It was opulant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, built-in bookcases and furniture that matched the maroon and green color scheme. In fact, it wasn’t wallpaper on the walls, but stenciling.

“At one point, it looked like blood had splattered on the walls,” Kent-Harris said with glee. “So that changed things. Carol didn’t die of TB, but was murdered!  Alan was the only one who could have done it! Which explains, in a sick way, why he kept flowers on her grave all of those years.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Shape of Things’ Twists The Truth About Art

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Edgy show poster

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The student reviews were out after Thursday night’s performance. “The Shape of Things,” a play by Neil LaBute and performed by the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department, was a hit.

“Fast-paced,” “Edgy with good music” and “Everyone was good,” were some of their comments. Yet, the bloodstained poster with a scapel and a bare backed guy made this Midwesterner nervous.

There were big changes for this play. Could only four actors, with minimal staging and props, command our attention for two hours? And, this was to be held “in the round” at Rush Hall on campus, a departure from our comfy IAF Theatre.

“There’s no bad seat in the house,” exclaimed Elias, who had already seen it twice, including the Understudy’s Show on Saturday afternoon (Starring Omid as Adam, Alexandra as Evelyn, Daniel as Phillip and Samantha as Jenny).

“They took out all of the sex scenes because we’re teenagers,” explained Arthur. “but there’s still some suggestive language.”

“You have to sit in the front row,” suggested Cynthia, a vocal music major. “Then you’re at arm’s reach of the stage. The actor’s like it because then they’re ‘one’ with the audience.”

Walking into Rush Hall for the final performance on Sunday, Jan. 24 was like walking into a New York Dance Club. The curtains were drawn, the walls were all black, and the floor was silver painted “in the round.”  A bright light shone from above center stage, while human “guards,” dressed in black, stood around it. As promised, seating was ample on all sides. I sat in front–just beyond arm’s reach of the stage.

The music was edgy and loud. The darkness, noise, and unfamiliarity were all intentional. No fairytale ending for this show, but I wanted to get out unscathed (which I did), but not emotionally.

For this was a modern tale about power, deceit, lust and tyranny–all for the sake of art. It certainly was a topical subject for an art’s boarding school because nearly everyone in the audience was an artist. Could we all stand a closer look at ourselves?

Yet, this show, according to director Howard Shangraw in the playbill, “presents an intense and shocking look into art and the artlessness of people. ‘The Shape of Things’ provokes us, disturbs us and may even seduce us. It is all subjective.”

The darkness, noise and chaos was intentional

I looked around for the nearest exit.

In a nutshell, ‘The Shape of Things’ was about four students at a small midwestern college, who seduce and sleep with each other. Along the way, there’s jealousy, control and transformations. Yet, it wasn’t just another entertaining drama. There was a deeper level, one about morality with religious undertones.

Throughout this play, Neil LaBute, the Canadian playwright and filmmaker, who attended Brigham Young University, reveals many Adam and Eve metaphors, including the spray-painted statue with fig leaves, Adam’s total transformation, even his “EAT” tattoo.

“I don’t like art that isn’t true,” states Evelyn, a graduate art student (beautifully played by Tierra) as she edges under the guardrail with her spray can. “What are the fig leaves covering? His ‘cluster’?”

This was the first time that we meet Adam and Eve, or Adam and modern-day Evelyn. You know the old story in Genesis, Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge after God told them not to. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the snake. They are naked before God, so they hide behind the fig leaves.

Strong-willed Evelyn spray paints a penis on God. What does that say about her? In the end, she claims she is someone who puts “art” above all else, including her fellow man, religion, family and community.

Yet, Adam (convincingly played by Dylan) falls in love with Evelyn, and miraculously changes before her. He exercises, lifts weights, eats better and tries new things, such as a haircut and contact lenses.

He doesn’t mind when Evelyn videotapes their sexual encounters.

He can’t believe that someone so beautiful wants to be with him. Typical guy, looking at the surface, or The Shape of Things, and not the psychopath that lies underneath.

Never mind that his best friends, Phillip (played by sophomore Dakota) and Jenny (played by Meghan, a senior), don’t like her. At first, they’re amused that he’s improving physically. Phillip is glad that he finally ditched his old corduroy jacket after three long years. Jenny, Phillip’s fiancé, loves the sparkle in his eyes that his new contacts bring. So much so that she sleeps with him. Yet, when Adam undergoes rhinoplasty (Evelyn’s suggestion), and lies about it, they become alarmed.

At their first group meeting, Phillip gets into a shouting match with Evelyn over the spray-painting episode at the museum. Evelyn defends the artist (herself), but never owns up to the deed. Why not? Especially since she felt so strongly about it. Likely, she didn’t want to get arrested before her “project” was completed.

“I knew what was going to happen,” stated Paul, a fashion major, after the show. “But I just didn’t expect it to be so cruel.”

(On right) Dylan, who plays Adam, is an experienced actor onstage and screen

Paul was among the many sullen faces in the audience during the final scene when Evelyn admits that she used Adam as her art thesis “sculpture.”

“As my grandpa would say, ‘He’s a real piece of work!'” Evelyn said as she unveiled photos of Adam’s transformation from nerd to stud.

Yep, she’s right. Adam looked better, was stronger and more confident. Yet, he was genuinely in love with Evelyn and wanted to marry her. He even put her initials on his hip, “E.A.T.”

“What? Could you not afford the word, ‘Me?’ Evelyn asked him earlier before the rhinoplasty.

“No, it’s your initials,” Adam said, unaware that he was being devoured.

Although there was a lot of dialog throughout the play, the best words came at the end.

“Sorry that you’re so upset,” said Evelyn, as she stood amongst her installation clutter, including the engagement ring and sex videos.

“You messed up my life and put it under glass,” shouted Adam. “F–k you, you heartless B–ch! You don’t see it as wrong?”

Evelyn claimed that she never loved him, and didn’t want a relationship. Yes, she seduced him, for art’s sake, but that was all. She should thank him, actually, because he’s better looking than before.

(At L with Sasha) Tierra showed her good-girl acting talents in "Jayne Eyre," but the darker side in "The Shape of Things"

Trying to force morality on someone who doesn’t have it is nearly impossible. All of Adam’s words were in vain. At the end of the play, he’s left alone, looking at their sex tape.

“That doesn’t surprise me that this play had a double meaning,” said Jesse, a theater major, after being told that the leads were named Adam and Eve. “All of Neil LaBute’s plays have duality.”

(Kat Factor, a poet and head of the Interdisciplinary Arts (IM) Department, mentioned the Adam and Eve connection afterwards. In turn, I told it to many of the students who saw the play, who all said, “Ahhh!”)

LaBute is known for his terse language (like David Mamet) and his cynical themes of love and lust.  In his first film, “In the Company of Men,” (1997) two men seduce and dump a deaf female coworker “for the fun of it.”

LaBute didn’t stray far from his cynicism and cruelty years later in “The Shape of Things.”

After the great performance Sunday, I was angry — at Evelyn, college boys and cynical playwrights —  for their unabashed cruelty. Not all artists are like Evelyn, so self-absorbed and mean-spirited, Neil.

But it also brought back a bad memory from my college days at UNL. One Saturday night, about 50 fraternity boys all went to the local bars. They were having a contest to see who could pick up the ugliest girl. Then they brought them all back to the frat house for a “party.” Left alone in a room for awhile, these ugly girls realized that their cruel “joke.” I wasn’t one of them, but I could have been.

Ah, The Shape of Things!

In this play, Neil LaBute shows us what one man was willing to do for “the sake of love,” or sex, and what one woman was willing to do “for the sake of art.”

That’s it.

It’s not about all fine artists everywhere. It’s just one person’s view. An entertaining and twisted view.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 24, 2012 @ 14:26

‘Seven Deadly Sins’ Student Dance Grant

Monday, January 17th, 2011

(from L) Ariann & Sorelle performing "Out of My Mind"

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Out of My Mind, Back in Five Minutes,” was the title of Ariann’s choreographed dance piece at Idyllwild Arts Academy last year.

It could have been stated by any one of her fellow classmates after an ACT, SAT or TOEFL test. Yet, this clever title showcased young inmates dancing at an insane aslyum. While Ariann and the others danced, in torn straight jackets to techno music, an oversized duck ran around them.

The show was a hit, especially with the young ones.

“Every time Bonnie Carpenter’s son sees me, and he’s three years old, he shouts, ‘Duck!'” Ariann said. “No one has forgotten that show.”

Ariann got a grant to choreograph her own show

Maybe because the subject matter, insanity, ties neatly into common feelings at this arts boarding school where only the best young artists, actors, singers, musicians and dancers are accepted. They carry a full schedule, have night rehearsals and classes on weekends. Yet, it pays off when they get accepted to the top colleges in the country.

“I knew then that I wanted to be a choreographer,” Ariann said, after her “Out of My Mind” piece.

Now, just after three intense days of working with choreographer Chad Hall, who taught a Master Class at Idyllwild Arts, Ariann was exhausted, but happy.

She was looking forward to choreographing her own show.

leva as an insane person

She received a grant from the Transatlantic Arts Consortium (which is a collaboration between CalArts, The Dartington Hall Trust and Idyllwild Arts Academy) to perform dances to the ‘Seven Deadly Sins.’ It’s the second one-man show of its kind at the school since Cyndi choreographed ‘SiJi,’ (which means ‘Four Seasons’) about Chinese dance in 2010 (see blog post, ‘SiJi: A Night of Chinese Dance,’ from May 20,2010).

Ariann said that she asked the Transatlantic Arts Consortium for $5,000, but received half. But she’s happy and will work within that budget. Most of the grant money will go towards creating costumes, props and original music.

The  “Seven Deadly Sins” include pride, greed, envy, lust, sloth, anger and gluttony, and Ariann will portray them in nine different numbers. One of them will have as many as 20 dancers.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Ariann said.

Bonnie Carpenter's son remembers the large duck

For the past few months, she’s been working with her friend, Axel, from Mexico, who is creating the original music for her ‘Deadly Sins’ performance.

“They (the grant people) told me to work with musicians at the school,” Ariann said. “But it’s too late. I’ve already begun working with Axel, and his music is great.”

Axel’s techo music is comprised of a guitar, drum and bass, Ariann explained. The beats are strong and fast, and they’re easy to dance to. But Axel also mixes this music with words.

This jibberish-and-music combo came out of a miscue from her “Out of My Mind, Back in Five Minutes” dance piece.

“Halfway through the piece, the music stopped. A nightmare for any choreographer,” Ariann recalled. “But the dancers didn’t stop. One-by-one, they each started talking jibberish. They saved the show, and no one in the audience was the wiser.”

Now, Ariann and Axel think the combination will work well for her ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ show.

A lot of the dances are forming in her head now, but she needs to get them down on paper. In the past, she performs the dances by herself until she worked them out.

“I get a lot of energy from the other dancers,” Ariann said. “I cannot wait until it all comes together!”

Her “Seven Deadly Sins” show is set for the spring, after student choreography, she said. No date has been set, but the work continues.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search