Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Annual Student Film Screenings a Hit

May 31, 2010

(from L) Juwan sings, Caleb plays trumpet, as Gerry Billings laughs

It was like the Academy Awards, only that it was held two nights in Idyllwild, CA. The red carpet was rolled out, and stars lined the sidewalk, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Only they were the directors and producers of the student films. Attendees eagerly waited outside, dressed in formal attire. By 7 p.m., the line wrapped around the parking lot. To keep everyone calm, a jazz band played in the corner, and $1 refreshments were served.

It was Saturday nigh, May 29, and the second night of the annual Film Screenings from the students in the Moving Pictures Department at Idyllwild Arts.

Isaac Webb, head of the Moving Pictures Department, welcomed everyone, which included students, family, friends, alumni, Idyllwild residents, and perhaps some mucky mucks from Hollywood (who were invited).

He introduced his staff, including Ira Abrams, Jerald Billings, Will Springer, and Betty Bailey. And even thanked the dorm parents, the housekeeping and cafeteria staff, the security guards, and the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra. All of which were kept up late for film shootings, or had to rearrange their schedules to accomodate the film students.

“The film process takes a community to make,” Webb said.

Lastly, he thanked the film students, whom he said were now “bonded together” for artistic excellence.

“I admire their work and their work ethic,” Webb said. “And they have made me a better person.”

Before they screened the five short films, they introduced the trailers for three documentaries that were not quite finished yet. The documentaries included: “Who am I?” one student’s search for her missing father in Israel,  “Paranormal Idyllwild,” about ghosts and spirits that haunt this town, and “Kenza,” about one teen’s brave struggle with a spinal cord injury.

“Documentaries are sacred ways of introducing the human condition,” Abrams said.

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Drum & Piano Recital ‘Pure Entertainment’

May 29, 2010

Una played the marimba, while Keri accompanied her on piano

It was like having a recital the same night as the Academy Awards. That’s what happened to Idyllwild Arts music students, Una and Meiling, two juniors. Last night, Friday, May 29, was the same night of the student film screenings where they rolled out the red carpet, and the audience line went clear down the parking lot.

However, those friends, family members and faculty who came to Una and Meiling’s recital, got to witness “pure entertainment.”

You knew it the moment you walked into Stephens Recital Hall. Set up before us was a marimba, four kettledrums, and a snare-bass-drum-cymbals combo set. These large percussion instruments dwarfed everything around them, including Una, who weighs about 90 pounds.

Stephanie (L) on violin with Una on marimba

Yet, she obviously knew how to command these instruments. For Una’s first piece, “Furioso and Valse in D Minor,” by Hatch, she performed solo, hitting the large wooden marimba keys with her mallets.

For those of us who didn’t know until tonight, a marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. Keys or bars (usually made of wood) are struck with mallets and are arranged like those on a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys.

Marimbas originated in Africa hundreds of years ago and were imported to Central America in the sixteenth century. Needless to say, it’s a very large instrument, but it produces a soft, wooden and metal sound.

For her next piece, “Sonata for Marimba and Piano,” by Tanner, Una was accompanied by her classmate, Keri. Like many instruments that are generally the “backbone” of the orchestra, and never out in front, this was a nice piece. Keri’s piano didn’t drown out the marimba, in which Una played with two mallets in each hand. And Una had many moments in which the piano wasn’t playing.

Una's teacher talks to Una's father, as she looks on

Next, Una came out and stood behind the four large timpani drums. They looked like oversized copper metal pots covered with soft leather tops. You knew immediately that the sound coming from them would be commanding–and it was. It sounded like a jungle movie in which something was going to happen soon.

In a rare moment at Idyllwild Arts, brother and sister got to play together at the same recital. For this piece “Solo Impression for Four Timpani,” by Firth, Una was accompanied by her older brother, Rich, on piano. His piano part was frenetic sounding and sporadic, while Una’s drumming built up to a crescendo.

Although the timpani piece was a short one, two people in the audience couldn’t have enjoyed it more: their parents.

That night, Una wasn’t without accompanists. For her next piece, “Three Oranges,” by Hoffman, she was joined by Stephanie, a violinist, who is also Rich’s girlfriend. Una played the marimba, while Stephanie “plucked” at her violin. The overall effect sounded like harp music. Naturally, the song lead to larger sounds by both instruments. At times, Una used double mallets to get a larger sound.

For her final piece, “The Love of L’Histoire,” by DeLancey, Una changed instruments again. This time, she played the snare-bass-drum combo. In addition to the drums, there was also a wooden piece that sounded like horse clomping, a cowbell, and cymbals. The title, “The Love of L’Histoire,” suggested a French patriotic sound, but it was more “New Age,” space-type music with irregular rhythms.

But when Una got going, her arms were outstretched, and she was pounding on the snare and bass drums at the same time. It looked difficult, but she pulled it off.

“You should have seen her at the ‘New Music’ orchestra concert,” said Andrew Leeson, a teacher in the Creative Writing Department. “It looked like her arms were stretched eight feet wide. It was amazing!”

Afterwards, Una took two bows and received a standing ovation. She also got flowers from her brother and his girlfriend.

Una is looking forward to returning to Idyllwild Arts this summer. She’s received a scholarship, and will have a chance to work with new teachers and percussion instruments.

After a brief intermission, it was Meiling’s turn. Many of her fellow piano students moved closer so they could see her fingerings on the piano.

Meiling at the piano

For her first piece, she chose “Sonata K280 in F Major,” by Mozart. It started out fast, and Meiling played it loud and confidently. For the middle or “adagio” part, she played the piano more melancholy and quiet.

Her next piece included three preludes by Chopin, including “No. 1 in C Major,” “No. 3 in G Major,” and “No. 16 in B-Flat Minor.” The “No. 3 in G Major,” was the best of the three, because it was loud, intense, and I envisioned a flight of bumblebees.

For Meiling’s last piece, she was accompanied by Yifan, another pianist, on a grand piano set up next to hers. “Scenas Infantis,” or Memories of Childhood, by Pinto, included many familiar lullabies, including, “Ring Around the Rosy,” and “Sleeping Time.”

Although it sounded simple at first, it soon built into a nice, complex arrangement. And the dueling pianos gave it a commanding sound.

“She’s a good player,” said Ie-Seul, a senior pianist, who had played her Mozart and Chopin pieces, but didn’t know her final one.

After her second bow, Meiling received a hug from her boyfriend, Felix.

All in all, the instruments, the arrangements, were unexpected, and the musicians played with skill and confidence. It wasn’t the Academy Awards, but pure entertainment.

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Creative Writers Recite

May 28, 2010

Ruby and Joey perform a love song from Sunny's musical

It’s always better to hear an author read. It’s an authentic voice. And a treat, if they ever become famous.

Many times, I’ve sat in bookstores, listening to authors read. I close my eyes and try to envision what they are saying. Most of the deliveries were presented in a monotone voice. There was no three-piece band, singers, or accompanists to “jazz” things up. But that was then, and this is now. Even readings on the high school level, there is more of a “show” with actors and musical instruments.

“Senior Readings” in the Creative Writing Department at Idyllwild Arts began on Wednesday night, May 26, but I missed it. Two seniors, Dustin and Khalid, read poems and excerpts from their short stories.

Khalid, who attended the second reading on Thursday night, said that people in the audience Wednesday night got pretty emotional when he read, “At the Diwan of Rumi in Afghanistan.”

“They started to cry, then I almost cried, but I couldn’t because I had to keep reading,” Khalid said.

His sponsor wants to help him publish his last piece, “In Search of My Youth During the War.” She is a screenwriter with connections in Hollywood, and is eager to get started, he said. But he wants to wait.

“Because my parents aren’t here, and it doesn’t seem right,” Khalid said.

On Thursday, May 27, three seniors were slated to read, including Jordan, Sunny and Emma. However, before they began, Kim Henderson, head of the Creative Writing Department gave a little preview. She said she had been working with these three students for three years now, and what they were about to read was some of their best work.

Emma read her poems, short stories and excerpt from her novel

Each of them were required to read for 15 minutes, but they decided to break it up and take turns reading two pieces each until everything was covered.

Jordan was up first and read two poems, “Where It’s Warm,” and “The Lookout at Airport Mesa.”

Next, Emma read “Resurrection,” a short story about two friends on an Indian reservation. They would often watch Peter’s uncle carve animals out of wood, or would run errands for him. One day, Peter’s uncle came up missing, but they found his wrecked car. After awhile, the two went to investigate to add closure to the uncle’s life.

Then Sunny read two poems, “Death of a Stranger,” and “Inflation,” with great descriptions, such as “Days hung like sugared frogs,” and “Five dollars for your soul.”

When Jordan read from his novel (the title he didn’t give out), he got some great laughs from the audience.

“This story is about a guy named Westin, who lives off of a trust fund in New York,” Jordan began. “But he’s not attracted to his wife anymore.”

He went on to describe how Westin ran around Central Park, using people as mile markers. And he had the paranoid idea that everyone was following him, so he ran.

Jordan read from his novel about a guy who believed pigeons were following him

“What’s more, the fucking pigeon was following him,” Jordan said. “It was if he was running from nature itself.”

The pigeon ended up attacking Westin in the leg, and a woman in an orange suit defended it. “They are gentle things you know,” she said.

For her next piece, “Something,” Sunny played the piano and sang, as her mother beamed and took pictures from the front row.

“I know how to write poetry,” Khalid said later. “But I sure as hell can’t write songs like that! Amazing!”

Sunny read three more poems, “Adoption,” “Origin of Snow,” and “Sonnet,” which was based on Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “I Find No Peace, and All My War is Done.”

Then Emma read an excerpt from her novel about a married man attracted to a flower shop girl.

“Enough,” a haunting love song from Sunny’s “Fire and Brimstone” musical, was performed by Joey and Ruby, two musical theater majors. They sang without props right in front of the podium. Just goes to show you that you don’t need a lot when the content is good.

After Jordan recited his poem,” Melanesian Mythology,” he jumped right into an unusual good-bye.

“I’m leaving for NYU in the fall and Emma is going to USC, but we’ve never been together onstage at the same time,” Jordan said. “So I’d like to invite her up here to sing her favorite song, “Your Love.”

Sunny read her poetry and sang a song that she wrote

The two sang a duet, danced and camped it up for the audience. The music by The Outfield was prerecorded. There they were, two writers singing and dancing a farewell song that was sentimental, but not very good. But it didn’t matter because the audience, which was made up of friends, family members and faculty, loved it.

Then Sunny joined them onstage and they gave their final bow. They hugged each other like good friends, and then everyone was invited outside for ice cream.

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Two Screenings for Five Student Films

May 27, 2010

Poster for "On the Bright Side" student film

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The trailers for the five student films are already up on You Tube. The entire student body at Idyllwild Arts got to see them last week.  Now, everyone in Idyllwild can see all the films in their entirety at the “Moving Pictures Screenings” on campus this weekend. Like the Academy Awards, black tie is optional.

The five student films, all ranging from eight to 18 minutes in length, showcase the writing, directing, producing, editing, lighting, and camera work of the students in the Moving Pictures Department. Moreover, some of them even scored and acted in the films.

According to Malcom, a film student, the five short films include: “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” about high school dancers; “Shortcomings,” a comedy about a teen with a small whatchamacallit; “Practice Room Nine,” a horror movie; “The Other Side,” an art film that no one can really explain; and “On the Bright Side,” a comedy about an optomistic teen unwilling to break-up.

Besides the five films, there will also be trailers for some documentaries that didn’t get finished this year, added Malcom.

Marietta, who wrote and is producing a documentary about fashion designers, said that sometimes it takes three to five years to complete one. Her documentary started out featuring her mother, a Russian fashion designer. However, as a senior, Marietta wasn’t concerned about someone else finishing her work next year.

“Two students from our crew will still be working on the documentary,” Marietta said. “And I’ll come back to help them edit it.”

“Because you’re the only one who speaks Russian,” said her friend, Sofia.

“No, the  last part of the documentary will be in English,” she added.

“The films are better this year,” said Scarlett, who worked on nearly all five of them.

"The Other Side," is dubbed an "art film," because it's hard to explain

She said that “Shortcomings” and “The Other Side” were the most difficult to get out of the can. Mostly because of the weather changes.

Carter, a theater student who was one of the leads in “The Other Side,” said that it was freezing when they shot some of the scenes.

The students had built a “rain machine” and they were scheduled to shoot on one of the coldest nights of the year. Any delays in shooting “The Other Side” would put other films behind, so they had to push ahead with it.

“I was shivering a lot,” Carter said. “But it looks like I was just emotional on film.”

She said that it was harder to “play dead,” and not shiver.

“Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” Dhaivat’s 18-minute short film about ballet dancers, started out as a Kung Fu ninja fighters movie, with lots of death and fight scenes.

“But then Isaac (Webb, chair of the Moving Pictures Department) and I realized that the only ones on campus athletic enough to carry off a fight scene were the dancers, so we had to change it a bit,” he said. (See “Kung Fu Ballerina” post from April 20).

"Shortcomings" is about a guy with a small whatchamacallit

Most of the actors in the films are theater, film and dance students from Idyllwild Arts, including Dakota, Miracle, Ellen, Carter, Mykal, Kia, Juwan, Luke, Lea, Oscar, Jamie, Dylan and Laura, among others. Ana Lia Lenchantin, an Idyllwild resident, plays the ballet teacher in “Prima Ballerina Assoluta.”

Many Idyllwild landmarks will appear in the student films, including Fairway Market, the dance studio and dorms on the Idyllwild Arts campus, and homes in Idyllwild.

“We’re going to put out the red carpet,” said Laura, who wrote, directed and scored “On the Bright Side,” a short about a ridiculously optomistic guy who won’t allow his girlfriend to break up with him. Laura also played the female lead in another film, “Shortcomings.”

The Moving Pictures Screenings will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 28 and 29 at the IAF Theater (in the Bowman Building) on campus. All screenings are free and open to the public. Both evenings will show the same five films. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171. Check out the “IAA Trailers 2010” on You Tube.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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‘Inquire’ Student Art Show

May 25, 2010

Will Waddell, a teacher at Idyllwild Arts, views Angelica's sculpture

“Inquire, Negate & Repeat,” which featured the work of four student artists, were large, clean, and thought-provolking about nature, especially dolphins. The show included sculptures, ceramics, fiber art, paintings, and drawings. It opened at the Parks Exhibition Center at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 21, and will run until May 28.

The show’s title, “Inquire, Negate & Repeat,” came from a meditation, said Jade, one of the artists. The others included Anna, Angelica and Karina.

Ceramics by Anna entitled, "States of Mind" covered one wall

“Anna is the ceramics guru of our department,” said one student.

It was easy to see why they were in awe. Anna’s ceramics were outstanding. As you walked into the show, and looked to the left, there were a variety of her ceramic “flowers,” in variable dimensions with mirrors inside, all mounted to the wall. The arrangement was called, “Frames of Mind.”

“That would make a great statement in your home’s entryway,” said one Idyllwild resident.

Anna had four other equally outstanding ceramic pieces, including a large ceramic basket, with dainty flowers nestled inside. The piece also had fine wires for stems, and a rope edge to the basket.

Three other ceramic pieces by Anna were maddenly entitled, “Untitled.”

“I don’t know if artists don’t like to title their work, or if they just forgot,” said another art student later. “The titles should really help you understand the pieces, especially if the artist isn’t there to help explain things.”

The top of the larger “Untitled” ceramic by Anna (on the shelf) had a top that resembled a leafy vegetable. Like the flowers in the other flower basket, they appeared live, and not ceramic.

"Untitled" ceramic by Anna looked organic

“People 2010,” was Anna’s final ceramic installation, which resembled a chessboard full of kings and rooks. Or, a closed city made up only of castles with no surrounding countryside.

The finish on the “People 2010” pieces were crackled, or antique looking with neutral glazes.

“Angelica, your work is some of the best I’ve seen here,” said Samuel, a voice major in the school van later.

Angelica’s sculptures and ceramic painting were large, clean and thought-provolking.

The first thing everyone saw was the mixed media sculpture on the floor entitled, “Separation of Ego,” which had a deer’s head at the front, a woman’s torso with a maroon portrait painted on its chest, and a woman’s legs pointing upward at the back. Each of these sections was separated by panes of glass.

"The Glass Bead Game," a ceramic painting, by Angelica

The woman’s portrait on the torso of “Separation of Ego,” also appeared in her ceramic painting on the wall entitled, “The Glass Bead Game,” and in the alabaster sculpture, “The Shower.”

“It looks like a self portrait, but they could be different,” said Miriam-Grace, another visual artist, later. “I saw her working on it from a photograph.”

The ceramic portrait was sectioned off into squares, that looked like ceramic tiles. Attached in random places were ceramic flowers, in a pretty glaze.

Angelica’s final piece, a sculpture called, “The Shower,” was created in alabaster. The face was delicately carved, but the torso was left rough and unfinished. Its smooth and roughness beckoned people to touch it.

Wayne Parker inspects "The Shower" sculpture by Angelica

If you were to squint, the rough parts could be considered soap suds in a shower.

“I got a chance to carve a little bit on it,” added Miriam-Grace. “It’s not particularly a soft stone, but you have to be careful. There are many cracks inside, and pieces can come off in chunks.”

The show then switched from hard to soft sculpture with Jade’s “Knit Up in Sleep Performance,” a 24-foot black and white acrylic yarn sculpture that was draped over a black wire chair.

Jade's 24-foot yarn sculpture was slated to expand further

The title car read, “24 feet and expanding,” which gave the impression that she wasn’t finished yet. The balls of yarn left under the chair were also a good indication that she might finish it over the summer.

Along the wall next to the yarn sculpture were black and white ink drawings, all uniform in size, yet organic in subject matter. Some looked like amoebas or pieces of yarn under a microscope. They were all mounted to four large boards and entitled, “864-Static.”

As much as I like titles to pieces, “864-Static,” didn’t help me one bit. Was the number an equation? It certainly was more than the 100 or so drawings mounted to the boards. Was it an apartment number? Or the number of strokes from her pen?

Karina’s “Herd” installation, “Swarm” print, “Flock/Pod” drawing and “Burnt Ball” acrylic painting all had a focus on nature.

Luckily, she was still around talking to friends towards the end of the show. She said that  the 100 or so small antelope looking pieces were made of resin.

“I took a mold (of a plastic buck) and filled it with resin,” Karina explained. “As you can see, some of them turned out better than others.”

All were arranged in a swirling, migration formation, from right to left, and mounted on a light box.

Karina's "Herd" installation was made of resin pieces placed on a light box

“The light box was the hardest part to make,” Karina confessed. “I wanted to resemble a herd migration, like something that you’d see on the Nature Channel.”

Side by side on the far wall were two tall pieces, one a painting, the other a drawing on vellum. The drawing, “Flock/Pods,” showed a creative ariel view of birds (a flock) in flight over pods of dolphins swimming in the ocean.

Logistically, she put the flocks on vellum, as an overlay, to the drawing of the many dolphin pods underneath. Although only created in black graphite, the drawings were strong and solid. Her ariel view you could only see in a helicopter or plane. It was a God’s eye view.

It’s sister painting, created in bright acrylics, “Burnt Ball,” gave me pause. It was also an ariel view of a sun overlooking dolphin pods in the ocean. Although beautiful, something about it was unsettling. Karina and all of the other patrons had gone, and I was left alone with “Burnt Ball,” and my unsettling thoughts about dolphins and the Academy Award-winning documentary, “The Cove.”

Having an inquiring mind about animals, I wished Karina’s “Burnt Ball” was a statement about the depleting dolphin population in Taiji, Japan.

I had seen a viewing in Idyllwild at Movie Night at the Green Cafe (see Idyllwild Me blog post from March 30).

Karina's "Burnt Ball" reminded me of the dolphin demise depicted in "The Cove"

“Director Louie Psihoyos took home this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary for his stunning heist-like story that is about half Jacques Cousteau and half James Bond,” said Jeffrey Taylor, who showed “The Cove.” “A ‘dream team” of activists venture to Japan to expose the secretive work of a small community of fishermen who slaughter dolphins so they can sell the meat nationally and abroad.”

Richard O’Barry, who rose to popularity with “Flipper,” the popular TV show in the 1960s, said that he became an activist when one of the dolphins committed suicide right in front of his eyes.

“The next week, I was sitting in a jail cell for letting captive dolphins go,” O’Barry said in “The Cove.”

O’Barry collaborated with Psihoyos in creating “The Cove,” to get the word out of the massive dolphin slayings that are held each year from September to March in Japan. In a small cove in Taiji, fishermen herd dolphins in from the sea by forming a line of boats and making noises with metal poles. The process is known as “oikomi.”

“Dolphins are keenly sensitive to noise,” O’Barry said in the movie. “They are afraid of the noise and swim to the cove to get away from it. There, they are herded into nets and the bottle nosed dolphins like the ones in “Flipper” are sent to marine parks like “Sea World,” while the other dolphins are brutally slaughtered.

Many Japanese do not know that this is going on, and would likely not approve of it. In the documentary, tests prove that dolphin meat has toxic mercury levels, and is not good for human consumption. In fact, in the May 10th issue of the Japan Times, the National Institute of Minamata Disease (NIMD) stated that many Taiji residents as having unusually high levels of mercury. Taiji, where they have a tradition of eating whale and dolphin meat.

However, the more “inquiring minds”  know, the better the chances of stopping it. For more information, “The Cove,” visit, or text the word DOLPHIN to 44144.

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Hilarious & Irreverent ‘Spelling Bee’

May 23, 2010

One of the opening numbers at the Spelling Bee

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Today at 2 p.m. is the final show of the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a hilarious and irreverant comedy, by the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department. If the last two shows were any indication, you may want to arrive early so that you can get a seat.

The show centers on a middle school spelling bee in the fictional town of Putnam Valley. We get to learn a lot about its six quirky contestants, including Olive, a latchkey kid whose mother ran off to an ashram, played by Ruby; Logan, a German immigrant with a lisp and two dads, played by Erin; Barfee, an egghead who writes with his feet, played by Shane; Chip, an over stimulated Boy Scout played by Preston; Leaf, a simpleton tree hugger, played by Joey, and Marci, an Asian overachiever, played by Miracle.

Panch, the proctor, played by Devon and Rona the host, played by Paulina, add much of the adult humor and keep this musical comedy rolling along. Throughout the show, keep a close ear to Panch, who offers the words in an NPR-sounding whisper, yet provides raunchy examples when asked to use them in a sentence.

For her part, Rona is host, but she’s still living out her glory days as a spelling bee winner. The author, Rachel Sheinkin, likes to tell many of the back-stories in flashback, with lights, smoke, and characters that appear out of nowhere.

Meeche, played by Becca, is the “comfort counselor,” who is at the spelling bee because of her parole. Like many characters in this play, she’s a stereotype. She’s a macho Mexican gang member, who wears a bandana and leather jacket. She’s the one who ushers the students offstage when they lose. Yet, towards the end of the show, she reveals her tender side, wanting to give the students real life advice–instead of just a hug and a juice box.

Poster as seen on the Idyllwild Arts campus

The best part of the show is the audience participation. While standing in line, several attendees were asked if they wanted to be a “volunteer.”  That meant that they would go up onstage and participate in the spelling bee show.

This added a homespun element to all of the shows, including the one on Saturday, May 22. Among those chosen were students and teachers at Idyllwild Arts, including Macarena, a dancer; Martin, a violinist, and Molly Newman, a composition teacher. Ironically, Molly was eliminated early, while Macarena and Martin stayed on for at least four words.

Like the others in the show, Macarena, who is Mexican, was asked to spell only Mexican words, and Martin, who is from Singapore, was given only easy words, “because he just learned English a few minutes ago.”

Although this show is a farce–and you’ll see some surprises at the end–the author may have gone too far with Asian stereotypes. Marci, the Asian overachieving contestant, speaks six languages, twirls a baton and takes karate, yet only gets three hours of sleep each night.

However, Martin, the Asian volunteer, although cute, looked stupid, while Panch’s definitions for his easy words didn’t fit. It appears that Sheinkin borrowed from the racially insensitive humor of “Long Duk Dong,” an Asian foreign exchange student from “Sixteen Candles,” a 1984 teen movie starring Molly Ringwald. I sat next to a father and a young Asian girl, who didn’t understand any of it. Pity the poor Pop who had to explain things later.

Yet, no one minority group seemed to go unscathed in “Spelling Bee.” For example, Logan, the young German girl, who spoke and sang with a lisp, has two fathers, or a gay couple, as parents. They hover like helicopters throughout the show, pushing Logan to her stress limits.

“Don’t talk to me about stamina, Carl,” one of them quips.

In another scene, they take a picture of Logan to send to her “B.M.,” which is not poop, but an abbreviation for her birth mother, who naturally, lives in a trailer park in Kansas.

Although the contestants were the focus of the show, the parents of Olive (played by Melissa and CD), gave a heart-wrenching duet of their breakup.

No children or adults in the audience can ever spell all the words that the contestants were asked, including strabismus, capybara, boanthropy, phylactery, omphaloskepsis, crepuscule, flagellate and tittup, to name a few.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” won some Emmys on Broadway, including “best book.” To help with the show, the assistant choreographer from the Broadway show came up to Idyllwild for a couple of days to help out with the dance numbers. Brooke, who was a contestant and dance captain in the show, said it was great to have her there. You can see her professional mark on everything, including a slow-motion dance piece.

To add to the authenticity, all the songs, dance tunes and sound effects were played each night by musicians at Idyllwild Arts, including Patrick Doran-Sheeran, the conductor who also played drums; Nelms McKelvain, a piano teacher on piano; Georgina on keyboards; Una on percussion; Shen on clarinet and Monica on cello.

“It’s always a great experience to learn different types of music,” said Una. “It’s great for your resume, and at the end of the show, they give us pizza.”

The final show of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is at 2 p.m. today, Sunday, May 23, 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 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Motorcycle ‘Crash’ Sculpture Causes a Stir

May 22, 2010

Dore's crashed motorcycle sculpture is grabbing a lot of attention

Someone once said, “Artists are the first and last to speak.”

Well, one artist in Mountain Center is speaking out about the current state of traffic around his metal sculpture garden.

There’s too many motorcycle accidents happening there, he said.

About two years ago, CalTrans, along with a contractor, attempted to fix the curve on the road from Mountain Center leading up to Idyllwild. They widened the road and added caution stripping to the middle, but many accidents still happen there.

“They fixed the road, so people think they can go faster now,” said Dore Capitani, a metal sculptor whose shop sits at the end of the curve. He closes his eyes and sighs. He’s seen his share of motorcycle accidents.

One time, he said, the motorcycle rode right onto his property, near his metal building where he was working.

“The guy fell off it earlier, but the motorcycle came pretty fast around the curve and landed on my property,” Capitani said.

After a motorcycle flew into his yard, Dore put up a wooden barrier

After that, he wasn’t taking any chances. With the help of Josh Whitney, who owns a tree cutting business in Idyllwild, they stacked up several huge wooden tree trunks that act as a barrier to his property. It kept the motorcycles from coming in, but didn’t stop the accidents from happening.

So last week, Capitani decided to put up a life-sized metal sculpture of a crashed motorcycle and attach it to the wooden tree stumps.

“I had an old junker motorcycle, and about three wheels laying around,” Capitani said. “So I made a crash sculpture.”

Well, some Idyllwild townsfolk and at least one CHP officer thought it was real, and became alarmed.

Some motorcyclists told Dore that they didn't like the sculpture

“One police officer came over the wood pile looking for the body,” Capitani said. “These guys are used to fighting crime, but he couldn’t see that the motorcycle was welded to the wood!”

“Then Larry from the hardware store said that I better add something to the sculpture because people were concerned,” Capitani added. “So I added the word, ‘OUCH!'”

“Ouch!” is welded next to the motorcycle in bright, red letters, so there’s no more confusion. But there’s still bad feelings.

He said that several motorcyclists have stopped by his art garden and said they weren’t happy with his sculpture.

“They don’t have to like it,” Capitani said.

He hopes that it might make a few motorcyclists and drivers stop and think about going too fast on that curve. It’s clearly marked “25 mph” on either end, but most of them go 50 mph.

One CHP officer, who was assigned up in Idyllwild for years, grew weary of the motorcycle accidents. When he was writing up a report about one, he asked the kid how fast he was going. The kid, who had a broken leg, didn’t lie.

“I was going 50 mph,” he said.

“It’s marked 35 mph,” the officer scolded. “That means 35 mph, not 36, not 37, but 35 mph.”

That motorcyclist was lucky that he only sustained a leg injury, but his bike was “totalled.”

Dore's art garden has many more sculptures to see

Capitani’s motorcycle crash sculpture is located just after the curve in Mountain Center at 28815 Hwy. 243. Visit Dore’s Mountain Metals Sculpture Garden for other large metal and wood sculptures made by him or call (951) 659-0791.

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Art Show Focuses on Repetition

May 21, 2010

Art poster features the hands of those artists in the show

The final student art show of the year will be held tonight, Friday, May 21, at the Parks Exhibition Center on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

“Inquire, Negate and Repeat” showcases the work of four visual artists, who are also seniors at Idyllwild Arts Academy. They include: Jade, Angelica, Karina and Anna.

The show’s posters appear on doors and windows all over town, including Fairway Market and Cafe Aroma. It features the arms and hands of the four artists participating in the show.

“On one of the arms, it looks like there’s a tattoo,” said Jade, “But it’s not real. We just superimposed the words, ‘Inquire, Negate and Repeat.”

In fact, the bluish color of the overall poster was a mistake, but they kept it.

“When Brent (a student photographer) was taking our shots, he forgot to change the setting on his camera from indoor to outdoor light,” Jade explained. “But we liked the effect, so we kept it.”

The title of the show took some research and thought, Jade said. It came from a meditation technique.

“Each of us is focusing on an art project that requires repetitive motion. For me, it’s knitting rows and rows, but for others, its the constant turning of the ceramic wheel.”

A Chicago artist who created door-sized panels made up entirely of yellow Post-it Notes, once said, “There’s beauty in repetition,” such fish laying out to dry, or boats lined up on a dock.

Artist Andy Warhol loved repetition. Although he painted mostly portraits in a Pop Art style, he often made several versions of the same thing. Case in point: “Triple Elvis,” from 1963. Warhol depicted a full-length portrait of the pop icon in a cowboy outfit pointing a gun at the viewer. The altered image had three heads and six legs.

Jade has been performing a repetitive motion for months. She’s knitting a scarf that is now taller than she is. Attached to the oversized scarf will be a variety of small drawings.

She said that she likes knitting because it’s comforting, and it’s something she can do while doing something else, such as watching a movie or listening to music.

Earlier this semester, these four artists had to submit their proposals to Rob Rutherford, head of the Visual Arts Department at Idyllwild Arts. Together discussed the message, the means, and even if the project was feasible.

Karina, who has four large pieces in the show, including paintings and sculptures, said that her part of the show is nothing extraordinary.

“I’m going to show what I can do,” she said. “I don’t believe a senior show should be pushed to the limits.”

She wouldn’t be specific about her four pieces, but welcomed everyone to come and see the show for themselves.

Each of the artists will be on hand early to discuss their work. Many of them have family and friends visiting from afar.

“Inquire, Negate and Repeat,” opens tonight at 6 p.m. at the Parks Exhibition Center on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The show is free and open to the public. It continues until Friday, May 28.

For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171, ext. 2200.

Si Ji: A Night of Chinese Dance

May 20, 2010

Gina (front) and Geneva (behind) along with Macarena and Allison, dance to native Taiwanese and African dances

At the Idyllwild Arts Dance Department, they study mostly modern, ballet and jazz dance techniques–all Western styles of dance. However, for one night on Wednesday, May 19, a senior dance student introduced traditional Chinese dance–with all its history, drama, props and costumes.

“Si Ji,” which means “Four Seasons” in Chinese, was the name of the program that was directed and choreographed by Shih-Ching or “Cyndi.”

Cyndi got a grant from the Transatlantic Arts Consortium, which is a collaboration between CalArts, The Dartington Hall Trust and the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

At Idyllwild Arts (Academy), we have a big international population, and sometimes language is not an effective way for different cultures to communicate,” Cyndi wrote in the program. “I want to bring the community closer together by mixing traditional Chinese dances with those I’m learning at Idyllwild Arts.

“Six weeks ago, these dancers knew nothing about traditional Chinese dance,” Cyndi said to the audience of family, faculty and friends. “Now, they look like they’ve been doing it for years.”

She went on to say that all the dancers in the show had to practice for her show, in addition to the dance choreography show that was presented last week.

“What they’ve done here is nothing short of amazing,” Cyndi said. “They have learned a brand new style of dance and they are just beautiful.”

All of the dancers included: Adrianna, Dakota, Macarena, Kayla, Ellen, Anna, Mariana, Giovanna, Gina, Paulina, Hailey, Madison, leva, Justin, Olivia, Geneva, Alison, Sorelle and Ariann.

There were eight pieces in all to match the four seasons. Naturally, the first two dances focused on summer, including “Beautiful Sky and “Riverside.” For these two, Cyndi mixed the Double Fans dance with modern, and the Dai dance with jazz.

For “Maple Rain,” the third dance about fall, included ballet, modern and classical Chinese dance. The whole thing reminded me of the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Naturally, the costume colors were muted orange, yellow and cream. The dancers began by lifting up large strips of sheer fabric. The dancers ran with it, did cartwheels with it, threw it up and then twirled it around and around. One of the dancers (leva), even got wrapped up in it, and was carried away by Justin.

The music, by David Karagianis, was frenetic, yet matched the pace of the dancers.

The other standout piece for fall was “A La Ke,” which mixed native Taiwanese, African and modern dance. The costumes for this piece were simple, shredded or torn white oversized shirts, with black tap pants underneath and no shoes. Yet, it was the music that moved this piece. It was by Indian Tribal Spirit, and gave the impression of traditional “bird songs,” or chanting.

The four dancers danced together in a circle, holding hands. Then they’d break away, and lean down with their arms folded, getting closer to Mother Earth.

For “Adagio Sorrow,” the first winter, the pace was slower, and the costumes were white, trimmed in pale lavender. The piece opened with the dancers’ backs to the audience, and their hands over their faces.

Dakota wore the most ornate Chinese costume, with oversized sleeves that hung about six feet beyond her hands. It was called the “sleeve dance.” She threw them out like a slinky, and drew them back to her almost immediately. They transformed her into another being, a spynx, or a spider, with arms or legs with extraordinary reach. And all around her, with elegant ballet steps, were Adrianna, Giovanna and Paulina.

Spring Swings mixed traditional Chinese folk with the fan dance

For the second winter dance entitled, “Ullr,” or the “ribbons dance,” we were hypnotized. Ariann and Sorelle, the two dancers, moved their ribbons like an expert Chinese dancer. The approximately 40-foot ribbons of sheer material were draped around their necks, and handled with their hands.

Several times throughout the piece, Ariann made dramatic circular motions with the ribbon, creating a moon or world around her. Most of the time, they flipped them high into the air, in perfect synchronicity. They looked a lot like Circus d’ Sole dancers.

“It looks like there are sticks in the material by their hands,” said Simone Huls, an ESL teacher at Idyllwild Arts. “Otherwise, they’d be wiped out by all that movement.”

The spring dance, “A Girl from Tian Shan, was an Uyghur dance style, and featured only leva. It looked like a folk dance from eastern Europe or India. leva’s costume was colorful, in bright yellow, green and pink. It looked like something a belly dancer would wear, with a beaded top and bare midriff. To accentuate the beat, leva played a tamborine.

As a senior, leva knew how to dance and command the audience’s attention. Jim Bum, who was seated with friends in the audience, noticed the dramatic shadows leva was casting on the wall. It was as if there were two performances going on.

For the final number, “Spring Swings,” all of the dancers took to the stage with white outfits and colorful fans. The upbeat, flute music by Teresa Wong, was perfect. In essence, there was beauty in the uniformity of the piece.

Afterwards, the dancers received a standing ovation, along with whoops and hollars from the audience. Ellen Rosa, the head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, who was standing by the door, said that Cyndi did a great job.

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‘Spelling Bee,’ a Hilarious Homespun Comedy

May 19, 2010

Spelling Bee poster as seen on the Idyllwild Arts campus

OK, I hate to admit it, but going to a local spelling bee sounded pretty boring–like watching Nascar. But I had to go because it was assigned by the local newspaper. This all happened about three years ago.

At the Idyllwild School, the room was hot, sweaty and full of excited children. The teacher and the prompter read the rules out loud, and did everything by the book. The Idyllwild School Spelling Bee seemed to last forever because no one was misspelling any words.

Then the words got harder. They were ones that I didn’t even know, let alone could spell. I blushed, thinking I couldn’t have made it past the first round in an elementary school spelling bee. Thank goodness for Spell Checker.

As it turned out, two girls progressed to the next round that was to be held in Hemet about three weeks later. Of course, I had to write the follow-up story, and drove down the hill really early on a Saturday.

But this Spelling Bee had a different feel. It was held in a huge auditorium, with hundreds of excited kids running around. All of them were dressed up in their best clothes and acting on their best behavior. All the parents were taking pictures, and giving last-minute instructions. There were dozens of schools from all over the district.

Some of the spellers were serious-looking eight-year-olds walking around with video spell checkers, instead of video games. Others were hefting backpacks full of dictionaries, no doubt. I got the feeling that if a student didn’t do well at this Spelling Bee, it would alter his or her career.

“Yes, it’s too bad that Brittney never made it to medical school,” a mom from Hemet would confess years later. “She didn’t make it past the third round in the Hemet Regional Spelling Bee, and no decent medical school would take her. She should have studied harder.”

When I reported that one of the Idyllwild spellers got eliminated in the first round, and cried, I never heard the end of it.

“You shouldn’t have mentioned that part in the article,” Idyllwild residents would stop and tell me. “That’s so traumatic for that little girl, and have to be embarassed so publicly in the paper like that!”

I reported exactly the way it happened.  It showed how emotionally invested these young students were in the event. They didn’t want to lose. They didn’t want to disappoint their parents. They wanted to go to Harvard some day.

In short, the Idyllwild Spelling Bee and the Hemet Regional Spelling Bee were homespun drama at its best. Imagine what it would have been like if one of those Idyllwild School students made it to the Riverside County Spelling Bee! The drama, the terror, the tears! Well, now’s your chance!

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the final play of the year by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, will be held this weekend at the IAF Theater.

The story is set in the Putnam Valley Middle School, a fictional location. It was based on a book by Rachel Sheinkin, and centers around six quirky adolescents who compete in the spelling bee.

“Boring” is not a word that can be associated with this show. It’s a comedy, with dancing and singing. The 2005 Broadway production, directed by James Lapine, was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including “Best Book.”

In fact, a couple of weeks ago, the assistant choreographer for that Broadway show came to Idyllwild Arts and helped out the theater students for a couple of days.

Preston, one of the spellers, sings about his erection

“It was great getting help from a professional,” said Preston, who plays “Chip,” one of the six spellers, who is also a Boy Scout.

In the show, he misspells the word, “tittup,” which means “to behave or move in a lively or restless manner, such as an impatient horse,” and not part of the female anatomy.

“Preston misspells ‘tittup,’ and gets an erection,” teased Shane. “Then he has to sing about it.”

“It’s true,” Preston admitted, pushing up his horn-rimmed glasses. “After all, I’m an adolescent. And these things happen.”

Shane had to spell a couple of German-sounding words.

“I don’t know what they mean, I just have to know how to spell them,” he said.

The one who has to know about the correct spelling of all the words is Devon, who plays the prompter named “Panch.”

“Devon’s got the voice down to a tee,” adds Riley, who worked in the costume shop. “It’s kind of a NPR-sounding whisper. ‘And your next word is …'”

Ruby, who plays “Olive,” has a vested interest in the spelling bee. She believes it’s the key to her father’s heart.

“Her mother ran away to an Indian ashram,” Shane said.

“But she’s not sad, really,” said Ruby. “She just realizes the limitations of some adults. But she tries to get her father’s attention by doing well in the spelling bee.”

Riley said that working in the costume shop for this show was fun.

“We had to pick clothes that a 12-year-0ld would wear,” he said. “No, correction. What their parents would make them wear.”

Joey plays "Leaf," a speller who wears a cape

He said they lined up all the skirts in a row, and picked the ones that would look well together.

“But Joey’s costume was the best,” Riley said.

Joey plays “Leaf,” an eccentric kid who wears a neon green shirt, pink pants–and a cape.

“We try not to laugh at Joey, but it’s impossible,” Ruby said.

Besides watching these goofy characters, there’s more surprises in store, but you’ll have to come see the show!

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” will be held this Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22, at 7:30 p.m. and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 23. All shows are free and open to the public. The IAF Theater is located in the Bowman building on campus.

For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171, ext. 2200.

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