Posts Tagged ‘Howard Shangraw’

Idyllwild Arts Student Lands in Feature Film

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Dylan heads for the Seattle International Film Festival this weekend

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“My theater training at Idyllwild Arts definitely helped me prepare for this role,” said Dylan Arnold, as he headed for the Seattle International Film Festival this weekend to help promote “Fat Kid Rules the World.”

At the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) earlier this month, the feature film won the “Audience Award,” over  hundreds of other films. The crew is hoping for a good reception at the Seattle Film Festival too.

It took Director Matthew Lillard (Scoobie-Doo, The Descendants) nine years to get the film rights to the book by K.L. Going, “Fat Kid Rules the World.” Matthew was hired to read it for books on tape, and started crying after just a few chapters. He then scrambled to get the movie rights, Dylan said.

It’s about an overweight teenager who tries to jump off a bridge because of his miserable life, but then is saved by a popular kid who asks him to join his punk band.

When Matthew was ready to shoot his independent film in Seattle last summer, he called area agents looking for actors, and Dylan’s was among them.

At Idyllwild Arts, Dylan had acted in several student films, including “On the Bright Side,” “Shortcomings,” “Rockstars: The Pete Weaver Experience,” as well as theater productions, “Eurydice” and “The Shape of Things.” He said a friend of his recommended the Tiffany Talent Agency.

Dylan read lines on camera first, but then was called back for a live audition with the director.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Dylan said. “But if I didn’t make it, at least I got to meet Shaggy!”

Dylan said the audition went well, and he was asking Matthew if he should leave the script on the chair as he was leaving.

“Then Matthew said, ‘Yes, you’ll be getting a bigger one soon,'” Dylan said.

Dylan’s mother, who is in the business, said it was a good sign. And when Dylan’s agent called about landing the role, she told Dylan that he’d better get a replacement for his summer job.

On set, Dylan said that everyone was professional, but he kept looking around for the teenagers.

“At Idyllwild, I was used to working with a 17-year-old director, cameraman and script writer,” Dylan said. “It was weird working with just adults.”

The Seattle shooting last summer took five weeks, but Dylan’s part only took about two weeks. He played a high school jock who got all of the girls.

“I used to go to public high school before coming to Idyllwild Arts, and I used a couple of guys I knew there as inspiration,” Dylan said.

He said he also read the book, “Fat Kid Rules the World,” to give him a better take on his character.

Dylan has played the lead in student films

And since he didn’t know how to play basketball, Matthew Lillard got him a coach.

“I know how to play now,” Dylan said with a smile.

He said the other three actors in the movie, were great to work with.

“I really fed off of their energy,” Dylan said.

He said that the feature film experience has changed him.

“I now got a taste of what it’s like, and I definitely want to do it again,” Dylan said.

However, he is enrolled in North Carolina School of the Arts, an acting school, in the fall.

“I would never have gotten into that school if it weren’t for my experience at Idyllwild Arts,” Dylan said.

Dylan had come to the school as a summer theater student, and made the most of his two and a half years here.

At the South by Southwest Film Festival, Dylan got to walk down a red carpet, and was interviewed by the local press. He also got to sign his first autograph. It was from an adult.

“That was pretty cool,” Dylan said.

At the Seattle Film Festival this weekend, Dylan will be joined by his family and friends. He had to pay for the plane ticket, but they will pay for everything else at the event, he said.

Since it’s an independent film, Matthew Lillard is hoping to raise $150,000 to help with backing and distribution.

He’s also set up on Kickstarter, which has helped raise money for indy films, music, comics and other creative endeavors.

Look for Dylan in the “Fat Kid Rules the World” trailer on the Hollywood Reporter site, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/fat-kid-rules-world-trailer-298103.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Berlin to Broadway: Composer Kurt Weill’s Musical Voyage

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

'Berlin to Broadway' poster

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The lights in the IAF Theatre were still on late Wednesday night. You could hear show tunes wafting from under the door, the clomping of dancing shoes, while orders were barked out throughout. These were the behind-the-scenes moments that the audience will never see. The final details of Idyllwild Arts last production of the year, “Berlin to Broadway,” being hammered out.

The 3-day show runs Friday and Saturday, May 18 & 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the IAF Theatre, and closes on Sunday, May 20, at 2 p.m.  Like all Idyllwild Arts productions, it is free and open to the public, but come early to get a good seat.

“No one does Kurt Weill anymore,” lamented Howard Shangraw, head of the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department as he was shopping late at Fairway Supermarket one night. “I miss all of those songs from ‘The Threepenny Opera.’ You remember Mack the Knife?”

I immediately did a shark imitation with my hand. Who doesn’t love that song? But who the heck is Kurt Weill?

Like most composers, we remember their songs, but know little about their lives. Not this time, however. ‘Berlin to Broadway,’ gives us a musical glimpse into the life and genius of Kurt Weill.

A German Jew, Kurt Weill married the famous Austrian singer, Lotte Lenya. As their life in Germany became more precarious, they fled first to Paris, then the United States, where they were a success in New York and Hollywood.

Weill’s biographical journey (as told by a narrator) offers songs that have become standards in our Modern American Songbook, such as Mack the Knife, Lost in the Stars, Surabaya Johnny, September Song and My Ship, among others.

Lyricists Weill worked with include Bertolt Brecht, Alan Jay Lerner and Ira Gershwin, The student cast sings and dances excerpts from The Threepenny Opera, Happy End, Lady In The Dark, Street Scene, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and more.

All in all, there are more than 30 songs that are showcased in “Berlin to Broadway.”

“Not only does it demonstrate Weill’s extraordinary melodic gifts, but also his ability to transform his style to fit different environments,” Howard wrote in the program. “His music reflects both the influences around him and the moods of the times in which he lived and composed.”

Starting Friday, you’ll get the chance to know one of America’s most influential composers via “Berlin to Broadway” through songs and dances by the musical theater students. Then you’ll know why Howard liked him so much.

For more information, call (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org. The IAF Theatre is located on the Idyllwild Arts campus at 52500 Temecula Drive in Idyllwild.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Tweets to Help Recruit New Arts Students

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Emily tweeted Michael Jackson's son about attending Idyllwild Arts

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The faculty and staff aren’t the only ones who are helping recruit new students to Idyllwild Arts this year.

One enterprising theatre student recently targeted a Celebrity “A” List’s kid all on her own.

She tweeted Michael Jackson’s son, Prince, age 14, about enrolling in the Moving Pictures Department at Idyllwild Arts.

“Basically, I told him that he should look into the school, if he still likes film,” said Emily, 17.

Three days ago (Jan. 26), Prince and his two siblings, were in the news. They used their dad’s shoes and gloves and their own hands to make imprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

Emily couldn’t remember how exactly she got Prince’s email address, or how she learned that he was interested in studying film. She just wanted him to get the same great experience that she had over the past three years.

Celebrities’ kids are not uncommon at Idyllwild Arts. More recently, Actor Cheech (of ‘Cheech & Chong fame) Marin’s daughter was a visual artist; The daughter of Ed Catmull (from Disney and Pixar Animation) was a film student; and the son of Dennis Haysbert (‘The Unit’ and Allstate spokesman) was an actor. Michael Jackson’s son would be in good company.

The King of Pop's son is interested in studying film, not music. Illustration by Marcia E. Gawecki.

Prince tweeted Emily back, saying that he would consider coming to Idyllwild Arts his sophomore year. He’s currently a freshman at a day school in Calabasas.

That was the end of the tweet exchange, but maybe not the end of the story.

If Prince ends up going to Idyllwild Arts, maybe Emily should get a commission or at least a hearty thanks for starting it all with a sincere tweet. More than likely, the two will never meet.

As one of the 70+ graduating seniors, Emily is focusing on college. She just auditioned at Pepperdine University, and is looking forward to group auditions with her theatre classmates in Chicago next week.

For more information on Idyllwild Arts Academy, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 29, 2012 @ 0:17

 

 

‘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

More than Just Pretty Costumes

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

(from L) Gracie and Minnie discuss outfit options for the next show

By Marcia E. Gawecki

One of her best-known student productions was “The Learned Ladies,” by Moliere, in which she painted French words in oversized script letters directly to the fishnet on the girl’s ball gowns.

“That turned out pretty well,” said Minnie Christine Walters, who heads up the Costume Shop (part of the Theater Department) at Idyllwild Arts. “Howard Shangraw was pleased.”

Over the past seven years, Minnie has created the costumes for comedies, dramas, period pieces and anything Howard Shangraw, head of the Theater Department, would throw at her.

“We work well together,” she said of Howard. “He doesn’t scare me.”

Most times for the student productions, she has a limited deadline, a small budget, yet she has access to many resources. She has worked in the business for more than three decades, and has earned three advanced degrees. Besides Idyllwild Arts, she teaches at the Art Institute in San Bernardino, and can draw upon many sources to get her costumes.

(from L) Minnie discusses the colors Kent-Harris' character, Phillip, would wear

“Did you see ‘For the Birds?'” Minnie asks. “There were some showgirl costumes that I borrowed from a friend of mine in New York. It’s good sometimes when you don’t have to start from scratch.”

One of her more challenging productions was for Redlands College in which she had to create 4,000 dance costumes.

Oftentimes, she said, the costume designer is brought in late into the planning of the production. For this one, she designed the dresses on paper, but had all of them made in China. It took about a month.

“It would have been impossible to pull off any other way,” she said.

For the next Idyllwild Arts production, “In the Shape of Things,” Minnie and her Costume Shop crew had it relatively easy.

“There’s only four actors in the play, so each of the students gets to focus on one actor,” Minnie explained.

She had her Costume Shop students,Tenaya, Grace, Bess and Kent-Harris, all create “mood boards,” of magazine cut-outs of what each of the actors would wear. They read the script and broke them down scene-by-scene.

Mood boards help students in the Costume Shop stick to the script

“For example, Tenaya’s character, Eve (played by Tara) is a controlling black widow of a woman,” Minnie explained. “So we’re dressing her in red and black tight-fitting outfits with stiletto heels.”

With their mood boards and calculators in hand, the Costume Shop crew and Minnie drove to Hemet on Tuesday, Jan. 10, to hit as many thrift shops and outlet stores as they could find.

They ended up going to four, including two different Goodwill Stores, Marshall’s, and Angel View Thrift Shop. On the list was the 9.99 store, Target and Kohls, but they didn’t need to go there.

Minnie’s budget for five outfits for the four characters, including shoes, jackets and jewelry, was only $300.

“Oh, we’ll make it,” she said, unnerved. “We’re going to thrift stores where you can get purses and shoes for under $10.”

At Marshall’s, the first stop, Gracie showed her outfits to Minnie. She liked that the student kept to the show’s color palette–muted purple, fuschia, gray, black and red. She showed her a little purple “balloon” dress for only $10, but Minnie refused. Too much bare shoulders for her character, Jenny (played by Meghan).

Tenaya came over with glitter stiletto heels for Eve, but was also turned down by Minnie. At $40 a pair, they cost too much.

“I love them so much, I just might buy them for myself,” Tenaya exclaimed. “But my mom would kill me!”

(from L) Tenaya and Bess wait in line with their costume selections at Goodwill

Kent-Harris found a nice blue polo shirt for “Phillip,” played by Dakota. He offered a selection to Minnie, who picked the muted blue over the periwinkle blue.

“I love this color, but it’s too bold for your character,” she explained to Kent-Harris. “And we don’t want him upstaging Eve.”

Throughout the day, Minnie was continually reminding the students about the characters, and the script.

One of their bigger challenges was finding two Rock Star type T-shirts that looked exactly alike. In one scene for the next show, one of the male characters goes to bed wearing the Rock n’ Roll T-shirt, and the girl wears it the next day.

“We need two exact shirts because it’s a quick scene change, and we don’t have time to switch over one shirt,” Minnie explained.

When Tenaya was looking for a purse for Eve at the Goodwill Store, she showed two options to Minnie. One was a fuschia bag with a stylish flower on the side, and the other was a glitter bag with a black strap.

“I like the fuschia bag because it matches her outfits,” Tenaya explained. “But the glitter bag has a velcro clasp, and it would be easy to open and close onstage.”

“Remember, Eve will be taking the spray paint cans out of the bag,” Minnie added.

Kent-Harris would add up all of the prices on his cell phone's calculator

“The fuschia bag also has a snap, so it’ll be easy to open and close too,” Tenaya said. “And then you wouldn’t have that loud velcro sound.”

They decided to get both and let Howard pick the one he wanted.

And so the day went, looking at clothing, matching the character, and sticking to their budget. At each store, they would gather together and show each other what they wanted. Then Kent-Harris would add up the total on his cell phone calculator.

Sometimes, they would have to toss things back because of the price or the faulty material.

At Angel View Thrift Shop, Minnie found a potential dress for Eve. It was black, form-fitting with man criss-crossed lines in the front.

“I like this dress because of the web-like criss-crossing in the front,” she said. “Eve is a black widow spider, and this might be perfect for her.”

While they were waiting for Kent-Harris at Angel View, Tenaya, Gracie and Bess all tried on prom dresses. They had a dance coming up soon and the prices were great. Bess and Tenaya bought theirs for under $20.

After five hours of shopping, they broke for dinner. The only item still at large was a leather jacket for “Phillip,” Kent-Harris’ character.

“I’ll ask Howard if we can go to the Help Center in town,” Minnie said.

She also has outfits left over from other productions that she might be able to draw from.

Students would ask each other for input. Here, Tenaya holds up a sheer blouse for Eve.

Minnie said that they measured the four actors, but didn’t ask for their imput on their costumes.

“I’ve learned over the years that actors’ imput can just put a wrench in things,” Minnie said. “One actor that I knew refused to wear a green shirt because someone told him that he didn’t look good in green. But the green shirt is for the character, not the actor.”

Minnie’s background is strong for theater. She has a Bachelor of Arts in fashion, a Master’s degree in Musical Theater with an emphasis on Acting, and an MFA in Costume Design. She says sometimes people treat her like a “dumb seamstress,” but she sometimes has to mention her advanced degrees and put them in their place.

She admitted that most Theater students at Idyllwild Arts are agreeable with her selections, but they sometimes complain about things being itchy. Some of their selections for “In the Shape of Things” was wool and leather.

“Would it be too hot for the actors onstage?”

“I never worry about that,” Minnie said. “That comes with the territory of being an actor. There’s going to be hot  lights most of the time. If they can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!”

If anything Minnie and her crew have picked is ill-fitting for the actors, they can always sew it and make it right. When a jacket was the right style and the wrong color before, she’s spray-painted them.

“Some of the costumes end up not looking so great up close,” Minnie admitted. “But as long as it looks good to the audience, that’s all we care about.”

All the bags filled the back of the school van, and the students were giddy about their selections. Minnie advised them to arrange all of their outfits so that Howard could approve them the next day. However, as they headed for the Costume Shop (in the basement at Bowman), Howard’s car was parked outside.

(from L) Bess had to shop for a male character, Adam, played by Dylan.

“Guess we’re going to talk about the outfits tonight,” Minnie said.

During the “In the Shape of Things” set for next weekend, Jan. 20-21 and 22 at Rush Hall, Minnie and her crew will be in the basement, helping the actors with their costume changes.

“It’s a pretty sexy play,” Bess explained. “But Howard toned it down a bit because we’re teenagers. In my old school, they would never do that.”

“Yes, but we don’t want to embarrass the other students who are coming to the show,” Tenaya said.

Minnie just smiled. All of the costumes were nearly ready, but there was a lot more work to be done on show day.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 14, 2012 @ 11:22

‘Three Viewings’ Play Tonight

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Three Viewings is a comedy made up of three monologues. Courtesy art.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Isis Theatre Company will present, “Three Viewings,” a three-act play by Jeffrey Hatcher at the Quiet Creek Inn Gallery . Since this is a “Reader’s Theater,” everything is pared down to a minimal set, props and only three actors.

Yet, those three actors will make all of the difference. The show, directed by Suzanne Avalon, stars Isis regulars Howard Shangraw, Ann DeWolfe and Alicia Dufour. It’s a comedy set in a funeral parlor and comprised of three bittersweet monologues. Each of the three have just lost a loved one and talk about how they plan to cope with their lives.

They’ve lost, are longing and are uncertain. Yet, to pull it off, each of these actors must practice restraint.

For one, Howard Shangraw, will do a great job. He has to. He heads up the Theater Department at Idyllwild Arts Academy. A couple years ago, Howard wowed Idyllwild audiences in his portrayal as an East German transvestite in Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize Winning play, “I Am My Own Wife.” Onstage, Howard played multiple characters. Not an easy feat indeed.

Howard won’t have to play more than one person tonight, but you can bet that his performance will make you laugh, cry and cheer for him. After all, his theater students are returning from Winter Break this weekend, and this will be his last chance in the spotlight.

The Isis Theatre Company will present “Three Viewings” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Quiet Creek Gallery, located at 54300 North Circle Drive (next to the Rustic Theater). The Quiet Creek Gallery grants its gallery space for free for community events such as tonight’s show. Tickets are $12 and seating is limited to about 50.

For more information, contact Suzanne Avalon at (951) 692-9553 or visit www.isistheatrecompany.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Featherbrained Comedy Set for Nov. 4

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

(from L) Idyllwild Arts students Paul, Jake and Chase pause before they hang show posters around Idyllwild.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“… for the birds!” the next comedy by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, may be director Howard Shangraw’s “feather in his cap.”

It’s a new adaptation of Aristophanes’ comedy, “The Birds,” an ancient Greek play from around 14 B.C. in which the birds build a city in the sky, in hopes of reclaiming their rightful status between the gods and the humans.

Before you start thinking that this adaptation is going to sound like old English Shakespeare, remember that “for the birds” is a modern take written by Howard Shangraw.

For one thing, Howard is a great writer, actor, director who heads up the Theater Department at Idyllwild Arts.

About three years ago, he wrote a comedy called “The People vs. B.B. Wolf,”(B.B. standing for “big” and “bad”) which was performed by the South Coast Repertory Theater and the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department. Howard received a Target grant that helped them tour 3-4 public schools.

“All the kids loved it,” said Nelms MacKelvain, who had helped Howard with the show’s piano arrangements.

“Expect the unexpected,” said Jake, a theater major, as he hung “for the birds” posters around Idyllwild. “It’s going to be fun, colorful and a modern take on the play.”

Naturally, the play is going to be about birds, but these birds will have flair and personality. Some might even resemble notable TV stars, such as Suze Orman and Judge Judy.

The stage at the IAF Theatre on campus is not set up for any flying acrobatics or trapeze stunts. However, Todd Carpenter and his crew will likely improvise.

Chase said that he jumps up and down on a mini trampoline, giving the impression of a bird in flight.

Jake holds up the show's poster

When it comes to costumes, “Think more a Las Vegas spectacle than Shakespeare,” offered Kimber, a junior in the chorus.

Paul, a senior fashion design major, plans to help out Minnie Walters, the school’s costume designer. Last year, he received a grant to host his own fashion show at Idyllwild Arts.

Although Paul has never sewn with feathers, he’s had some first-hand experience with birds.

“On Mother’s Day last year, Evie, my mom’s cat, brought in a dead bird,” Paul said. “My mom told Evie to get that disgusting thing out of the kitchen, so Evie flung it at her face!”

Paul said he’s looking forward to helping out with the costumes, but nothing has been decided yet.

Until modern times, Ornamental feathers were more widely used by males than females. Princes and nobelmen tried to outdo each other in finding the most colorful and expensive plumage to put in their hats.

Robin Hood, the famous outlaw, always had a feather in his cap.

Although it’s a comedy, “for the birds” will also have music.

“But it’s not a musical,” warns Kimber. “There’s a difference. It’s a comedy with music.”

She explained that, in a musical, the music moves the plot along, but in this comedy, music is just an “addition.”

Some favorite bird-centric tunes, such as “Rockin’ Robin” will be performed, but not Michael Jackson’s version, they all insisted.

They also let it slip that there will be a few guest appearances.

“We’re all sworn to secrecy,” they said. “Howard wants it to be a surprise.”

“for the birds,” a new adaptation of Aristophanes’ comedy, “The Birds,” will be performed by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department Nov. 4-6 at the IAF Theatre on campus. Show times for Friday and Saturday will be at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday will be at 2 p.m.

Each performance is free and open to the public. For more information, call (951) 659-2171, ext. 2200, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Oct 11, 2011 @ 16:51

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Our Town’ Play Opens Friday

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Courtesy photo. Isis Theatre Company.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“‘Our Town’ is one of the most beloved American plays of all time,” said Suzanne Avalon, head of the Isis Theatre Company of Idyllwild. “We are Grover’s Corners.”

Suzanne was talking about a play which opens tonight, one that has many similarities to Idyllwild. It’s set in a small New Hampshire town and focuses on the daily lives of its residents. Although it’s set in 1901, Suzanne said it’s a timeless piece.

“Sure, we have a lot more technology now, but it’s about what we do in our everyday lives–our attitudes, how we cope and treat our neighbors,” she said.

“One thing that this play teaches us is that things go by quickly, and we forget to pay attention to how wonderful it al is,” Suzanne added.

The three-act play focuses on a young couple, as they go through life’s stages of falling in love, marriage and death.

“The playwright, Thornton Wilder, broke barriers with this play,” Suzanne explained. “He looked at things askew.”

“Our Town” is portrayed with minimal props and costumes, and audience members are not distracted by pageantry, thereby focusing on the words, she said.

Howard Shangraw (center) with Nelms McKelvain and friend

Gemini Anderson plays the female lead, Emily Webb. She is a current theater student at Idyllwild Arts, now on summer break. In fact, Howard Shangraw, who heads up the academy’s theater department, is also in the play.

“He plays plays Simon Stimson, a drunk choir director,” Suzanne said.

In the past, Howard has directed and acted in many Isis Theatre productions, including “I Am My Own Wife,” about an East German transvestite. However, this is the first Isis production for Gemini.

“Gemini is a treasure, and Rebecca, Zora and Chris,” Suzanne said of the young actors. “They found themselves and even though it’s a period piece, they have embodied their characters.”

In one rehearsal, Suzanne said she was so enthralled by their performances that she missed her cue. As a favor to the director, she’s going to play Emily’s mother. It’s also a tribute to her own mother who once played Emily.

There are 18 actors in the “Our Town” production, including many “extras” from Idyllwild.

“We had about a half dozen show up for the audition,” Suzanne said. “Some had never acted before, and wanted to try it and ‘see how it feels.'”

She gave many of them speaking parts, and only turned one or two away.

“I think it’s important to incorporate our town into ‘Our Town,'” Suzanne said.

Ana Lia Lenchantin, originally from Argentina, is in the cast of "Our Town."

Emily Heebner, a veteran Broadway actress, directs the show. Susan Hegarty is the stage manager and moderator. The cast includes Howard Shangraw, Suzanne Avalon, Marshall Smith, Chris Morse, Gemini Anderson, Jeri Greene, Jim Crandall, Duane Minard, Ana Lia Lenchantin, Chris Murphy, Zora Schoner and Chad Jones.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, July 8 and run through Sunday, July 10. A pre-curtain reception starts at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for general admission, or $15 for seniors and students. The Caine Learning Center is located at 54385 Pine Crest Avenue in Idyllwild.

For more information, call (951) 692-9553 or visit www.isistheatrecompany.com.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 7, 2011 @ 23:35

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‘Spitfire Grill’ Strikes Local Chord

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

'The Spitfire Grill' is set in a small town in the mountains, much like Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

After the Saturday night, May 21st performance of “The Spitfire Grill,” the audience was on its feet whooping it up. One might expect that from an audience made up of family, friends and faculty, but this one was made up largely of Idyllwild residents.

“I was told to bring tissues,” admitted Beth, one Idyllwild resident who is also an actor.

Others were drawn to the theater for the first time. What was the attraction to this performance about a small town in Gilead, Wisconsin, that struck a cord?

Perhaps it could have been a tale about Idyllwild.

“Didn’t it remind you a lot of Idyllwild?” Beth asked at intermission.

Yep, there were lots of similarities, good and bad. Small town gossips, rigid folks unwilling to accept newcomers, those harboring deep secrets, homeless folks living in the woods and  those who couldn’t wait to leave. But “The Spitfire Grill” also touched on topics that would interest locals like lost logging, natural beauty and escapism.

The story is interesting enough. It’s about Percy (played by Melissa), a young woman who leaves prison to start a new life in Gilead. She had seen a newspaper clipping of the changing fall leaves along Copper Creek. It seemed as likely place as any, yet most of the townsfolk don’t share in Percy’s plan.

Even her new boss/landlord  Hannah (played by Becca), a grouchy, bitter woman (who harbors a big secret) is strict with Percy and holds her at arm’s length. In spite of it all, Percy doesn’t buckle. As a newcomer, she appreciates windows without bars and  the beauty of her natural surroundings, even from inside a greasy grill.

(from L) Leads Becca and Melissa at another event. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

Speaking of grills, The Red Kettle in Idyllwild got a callout in the program. It reads: “Special thanks to Martha and the gals at The Red Kettle.”

In fact, the three leads in the show, Melissa, Becca and Paulina, all went to The Red Kettle a couple of weeks ago for more than just lunch.

“We just ate and talked,” said Paulina and Becca sheepishly.

Likely they were talking to Martha and her waitresses about what it’s like to own and work in a local grill, day in and day out. Martha would give it to them straight.

Well, their research paid off. The show had a homespun feel to it. (Just like looking in the mirror, Idyllwild). There were likeable characters, like Shelby (played by Paulina), a shy housewife who is bullied by her husband. And Hannah, who took in an ex-convict without waitress or culinary skills. And Joe, the town sheriff, (played by Milan) who initially resents being Shelby’s parole officer, but later opens his to the natural beauty before him.

The annoying cast members included Effy, the nosy postwoman (played by Savannah), whose gossipy ways made everyone cringe, and Caleb, Shelby’s verbally abusive husband (played by Jake), who resents living in his cousin’s shadow.

(from L) Jake played Caleb, the controlling husband, while Savannah played Effy, the gossipy postwoman.

“Jake cut his hair short for the sake of the show,” said Will, Jake’s friend.

Jake’s preppy locks were cut military-style to fit his angry, rigid personality.

“I just hated your character,” one woman admitted after the show.

“That’s a sign of a good actor,” said Will, proudly.

Like others, 16 songs in a two-hour show sounded a bit too much. The storyline was serious enough. Did it needed to be punctuated with song after song?

Yet, they made the whole story about The Spitfire Grill in Idyllwild, er Gilead, even richer. Anyone can recite dialog, but it takes talent to sing your way though a play, and make the locals laugh, cry and stand up and cheer.

You’re going to love all the lyrics by James Valcq and Fred Alley. You’d swear they’ve visited Idyllwild before.

Like “The Colors of Paradise,” sung by Percy and Shelby, as they wrote an ad about visiting Gilead and The Spitfire Grill. “Ever want to lose yourself/Come to a place where you can grow/where there’s people that you know/Own a piece of heaven where hummingbirds sing/and roots so deep into the earth, they’ll never pull away.”

Paulina singing at another event. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

Or “Digging Stone,” the song sung by Caleb, that could also reflect local frustrations about work and the economy.

“They kick you hard and make you crawl/A man is more than just blood and stone.”

But “These Wide Woods,” sung by Joe and Percy sums it all up beautifully:

“If these woods were mine/Dreams would come to me.”

Of course, none of the songs in “The Spitfire Grill” musical would be possible without the music. Instead of canned music on disk, this Idyllwild Arts musical had a live band. Five staff members and classical music majors played each sound effect, intermission music, set scene music and accompanying numbers for two hours. The band included: Nelms McKelvain on piano, Keth McCabe on guitar and mandolin, Patrick Doran-Sheenan on accordian, and music students Manje and Miley on violin and cello. When you see their tired arms after the show, tell them to take a bow.

You have one more chance to see “The Spitfire Grill” on Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus. All shows are free and open to the public, but come early to get a seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me.  All rights reserved.

Published on: May 22, 2011 @ 0:07

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