Archive for May, 2011

Unusual Sculptures at Senior Art Show

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Lian talks to another about her 8-foot magician with multiple bunnies

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The last senior class visual art show at Idyllwild Arts showcased some unusual, life-sized  sculptures, along with some standout photos and paintings. Samantha, Ben, Chloe, Veronica and Lian each outdid one another with imagination and artistic skill.

For one of her sculptures, Chloe asked fellow visual artist Sofia to stand on a pedestal and pose for about an hour.

“Originally, Chloe had asked a dancer to pose, but they all were in rehearsal during the visual art show,” Sofia explained. “Someone told her that I had danced before and she asked me.”

Sofia wore a natural colored dance outfit, and Chloe painted over the material, and even her skin with acrylic paint.

“It took me days to get it all off!” Sofia exclaimed.

She said that Chloe left it up to her asto what poses she wanted to perform during the art show.

“She told me just to go slow,” Sofia said.

Sofia became one of Chloe's life sculptures

Another large sculpture was created by Lian. It was part of a series that showcased animals.

In her piece, Lian created an 8-foot magician with bunnies coming out of his pockets, pants and everywhere.

The piece showed Lian’s “dark side,” another student said.

“I think it’s great!” exclaimed Mallory, on the art staff. “It’s expressive and a little edgy.”

Mallory said that Lian coupled the magician along with other circus-type pieces, including a wolf with one eye, and a circus acrobat and clown.

“Lian even added the music, which sounds like circus music,” Mallory said.

She added that all of the seniors had submitted their presentations early on, which were approved by the art staff.

Mallory went on to talk about Veronica’s paintings, which focused on sushi.

“Don’t touch it, it’s still wet!” Mallory exclaimed as I edged closer to a painting that featured a woman’s nude torso with what looked like rose pedals.

“No, they’re sushi,” Mallory said.

She explained that Veronica liked sushi a lot, but was also nervous about its potential to make her sick.

The other two paintings showed a woman’s torso similar to the other one, and rows of different kinds of sushi on a plate.

A sculpture-and-video combination by Veronica personified the “sickness” part of sushi. Mallory didn’t say whether Veronica had gotten sick from sushi before.

On the back wall were a series of student photos by Ben. He hand selected several of his classmates from Idyllwild Arts to act as models. Underneath each close up portrait was a statement about their lives.

Ben showcased photos that revealed his classmates secrets

“I belonged to a religious cult for the first 12 years of my life,” admitted Bram, a theater major.

Later, he explained how the photos came about.

“Ben asked me to model for him, and bring along several ‘secrets’ on pieces of paper,” Bram explained. “The one about me belonging to a cult was considered the best.”

As a theater major, Bram is used to “exposing” various sides of himself.  But he was surprised how few people asked him about the cult.

“I think they being too polite and don’t want to pry,” he said.

Bram is open to talking about the experience. He said that belonging to a cult seemed normal, until he turned 12 and rebelled. He tries to take the best out of the experience, including shunning materialism.

Since the leader of the cult died recently, Bram feels a sense of closure. But he’d like to use the experience in his theater art sometime.

“Perhaps I’ll do a monologue and explain how things really were,” he said.

The other photos by Ben talked about personal things as well, such as inability to trust other people.

Ben enlarged the images, and then emphasized some of the features with a collage. Bram’s eyes were emphasized, while Rebecca, an outspoken writer’s mouth was the focal point.

The largest one along another wall featured Deliah, a pretty blonde girl with black mud on her face.

“Her face and hair were so white, that I had to do something different,” Ben explained.

He projected Deliah’s portrait to enlarge it to about four feet wide.

Lian (at L with camera) in pink wig with friends at the art opening

Right now, there’s another visual art show at the Parks Exhibition Center on campus. It’s a group show featuring a variety of work. It will continue until June.

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

Copyright Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

All photos courtesy Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Published on: May 21, 2011 @ 16:31

“The Spitfire Grill” Musical This Weekend

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

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

By Marcia E. Gawecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 19, 2011 @ 10:26

On the Raccoon’s Side

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Yard sign outside Idyllwild home warning about squirrels, bunnies and deer.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The other night, I was awakened by a loud crinkling sound coming from my kitchen. All three cats in my room were not alarmed, so I knew that it wasn’t a human prowler. It had to be a raccoon.

Awhile back, I researched raccoon behavior, and knew they were cheeky enough to come inside your house in search of food. They have nimble fingers that can turn knobs, open doors, and basically make a hefty mess. But they also will be very aggressive if you box them in.

I calmly walked down the stairs, turning on lights, and making lots of noise. The perpetrator met me at the corner of the kitchen. He stood up on his hind legs to look bigger than he was. Still, he was only two feet high. I’ve seen him outside on my porch many times eating birdseed and bread crusts that I’ve left out for the birds.

He must’ve come in through the open window. Since I was standing in the pathway of his only exit, I quickly backed off, and went upstairs. I could hear him noisily crawl over the couch and out the window. After a few minutes, I closed it and inspected the damage.

This small raccoon had been reaching inside my large, 15-pound bag of cat food that was left on the floor. He didn’t use his claws or teeth to tear the bag, but calmly reached into the small opening to grab handfuls of kibble at a time. It was all pretty tidy, with none spilled on the floor. However, the banana muffin that was in a plastic baggie on the table was gone, with crumbs were spread across my laptop. I breathed a sigh of relief. No cupboards open or trash overturned.

The little guy was out on the porch now, looking for more food. So I scooped out a couple of cups of Friskies onto a plate. When I opened the door, he backed away onto a nearby tree. I sat down in the dark and watched him eat through the screen door. He never took his eyes off of me once. He would blindly reach sideways and grab the kibble off the plate and bring it to his mouth to eat.

Raccoons are nocturnal and live in oak and pine trees in Idyllwild.

I’m sure this was the son of the blind mother raccoon who had come into my kitchen before through an open door (See blog post, “Blind Mother Raccoon Thrives,” posted June 9, 2010). It was hard to imagine that anyone would want to kill or hurt him.

Yet, people actually hunt raccoons for sport. My mother said that my grandfather (whom I never met) “hunted ‘coons” in Ohio. He and his friends would shine bright lights into the trees at night, and then blast them with their guns. I’m sure the pelts weren’t worth anything with large bullet holes in them, and the meat couldn’t be tasty either. It all seemed pretty barbaric and senseless.

I had forgotten all about it until I read a story in Rolling Stone magazine about Steven Tyler, the charismatic frontman from Aerosmith who is creating a sensation on “American Idol” these days. I love Tyler’s music, and appreciated his heartfelt comments about the Season 10 contestants, especially our own Casey Abrams.

However, when I read that he wears several raccoon teeth on a chain around his neck, my blood went cold. The article didn’t go into detail about the incident, only that Tyler hunted raccoons as a kid, but still wears the necklace. Was it some right of passage? Kill a raccoon, skin it, knock out his teeth and make a necklace?

It’s not like teeth from a bear or a shark that would have given him a fair fight.  Raccoons are not carnivores, Steven, they’re pine cone eaters. They “coo” to each other like birds, but will snarl like dogs if they’re cornered and fighting for their lives. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that sound.

I’ve let out a string of profanity minutes before I thought I was going to die in a car crash. I was never so scared in all my life. And I’d be just as nasty looking down the barrel of a shotgun. That raccoon that Tyler killed likely was standing up, snarling, and bearing his teeth. But, he was likely cornered with no way out. Otherwise, he’d be over the fence and up the nearest tree.

Raccoon teeth are nothing to brag about, Steven.  It wasn’t a fair fight. You shined a bright light into the “home” of a pine-cone eating tree hugger, cornered, shot him, and took his teeth. I’m sure you tell a good story. That coon was acting as vicious as he could be.  After all, he was fighting for his life, and you were a kid hunting for sport. But it’s time to put away childhood things.

Granted, I’m annoyed when raccoons knock over my water cans, leave paw prints on my rugs and even tear my clothes off the line. But I  just shrug my shoulders and repeat what many folks in Idyllwild would say, “Well, they were here first.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Student Dance Choreography This Week

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Adrianna (center) will be among those showcasing her choreographic dance talents this week

By Marcia E. Gawecki

This week, the junior and senior dancers at Idyllwild Arts Academy will showcase their choreography talents. The same shows will run Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights at 7:30 p.m.

For me, choreography has always been the “brains” behind the physical side of dance. You could have beautiful, talented dancers, but if the piece wasn’t interesting, then it didn’t work. Lucky for all of us who attend the dance performances at Idyllwild Arts, the choreography has always been top notch.

However, I took it for granted, until just recently. Eight dancers from Idyllwild Arts were invited to perform a modern dance piece at The Colburn Shcool’s Spring Dance Concert on May 7.  The students included: Adrianna, Gina, Giovanna, Madison, Michelle, Gerard, Annalise and Morgan.

Maybe it was the fact that the program was heavily laden with ballet numbers (eight suites from “Coppelia” started the show). But when the eight dancers from Idyllwild Arts took the stage, it was a like a breath of fresh air.

“Here come the professionals!” the other driver whispered to me.

“Episodica,” choreographed by Stephanie Gilliand and dancers, opened with a bold, red backlight. In silhouette, three dancers began pulling, twisting and contorting their T-shirts in many ways as they moved across the stage. The backbeat of the music was strong. There was a hushed silence from the audience, just like the start of many Circus de Soleil events.

The T-shirts took many forms, from pregnancy to a shroud. Did “Episodica” have political undertones? Was it about transitions? Transformations? No one knew for sure.

Throughout the next 10 minutes, each of the dancers ran from the sidelines, leaped into the air, and pulled and pushed each other. Some looked like physical struggles, while others personal agonies. At one time, all of them were lying down on the stage, while one pulled herself up from the carnage.

Each of the dancers were physically fit. Some performed handstands, while others leaped off the backs of other dancers. All I could think of was, “Yikes, they’ll all be feeling the bruises tomorrow!”

During intermission, the students all got into the van, talking enthusiastically about the experience. It was good for them to perform on another stage and before a new audience. Instead of being tired, they were elated. Many of them had started the day taking the four-hour-long SAT test.

No one knew what “Episodica” was about, but said that they had performed it once before at their own Spring Dance Concert. I longed to ask Stephanie what her motivations were for the wonderful choreography. How long did it take to create it? And did it change after it was performed? Was it a challenge to create such a fast-paced piece?

Some of the dancers began talking about the Student Choreography dances that will be showcased starting Wednesday, May 11.

“Sorelle’s piece is so fast,” exclaimed Adrianna. “You’re only off stage for a tenth of a second, and then back on again!”

“But that’s so like Sorelle,” another said. “She likes everything to be so physical.”

Each of the juniors and seniors who created the dances got to hand select their dancers. Most will create a piece and dance in two more.

If last year’s student choreography was any indication, audience members are in for a real treat. Each piece was as diverse as the dancers who created them. Some showcased traditional tango, while others were moody dream sequences. One paid tribute to a friend who was recently expelled, while another featured inmates in an insane asylum. (See “The Brains Behind 13 Dances” blog entry dated May 16, 2010).

The beauty of living in a creative environment like Idyllwild Arts is that students can draw upon the talents of their peers.

For Olivia’s piece, Ryturo and Mitch, both theater majors, will be dancing hip hop.

“I choreographed the hip hop part, while Olivia choreographed the other dancers,” Ryturo said, before going to Tuesday’s technical rehearsal.

Ryturo was excited about dancing hip hop again on stage. He started when he was about six years old in Singapore. Mitch just started a couple of years ago, Ryturo said, but he’s pretty good. The two will add an edgy element to Olivia’s choreography.

For Wills piece, he asked his friend Kai, a film major, to mix his music.

“We took about five Lady Gaga songs and made them sound like one,” Kai said.

Will, who has dressed as Lady Gaga for Halloween before, will showcase her again in his choreographed piece.

Student Choreography will be held Wednesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Fischer-Lewitsky Dance Studio (across from Bowman) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The event is free and open to the public. But seating is limited, so you may want to arrive early. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 10, 2011 @ 16:40

New Music Tonight, then Redcat Saturday

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Music Director Peter Askim's viola concerto will be showcased tonight

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Tonight, in celebration of the school’s 25th Anniversary, the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra will showcase New Music by several contemporary composers. However, some compositions are only a few weeks old.

“I need to finish my orchestra piece,” Peter Askim, music director and composer-in-residence had said during Spring Break in March.

His new viola concerto was specially created for Roger Myers, a notable violist and chair of the strings department at the University of Texas at Austin. Myers is regarded as one of the foremost performers and teachers of his time. He will be performing the piece for the first time tonight.

Chris, a classical viola student at Idyllwild Arts, will be paying special attention to Myers performance from his orchestra seat. Chris took a master class with Myers earlier in the year, and plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin because of him.

“He’s an awesome teacher and performer,” Chris said. “I can’t wait to hear him perform with us.”

When asked what they think of Peter’s new viola concerto, some string students say that it’s difficult to play. But then again, all of Peter’s pieces have been known to be difficult.

For the orchestra students, New Music is a great diversion from their classical repertoire. In preparation for a piece, some students go to the library or purchase the song online.  That way, they can listen to the music  in the quiet of their practice room. However, for these New Music pieces, there is no record, CD or track to refer to, and it can be a little nerve wracking.

“We don’t just listen to songs written by dead people,” Peter chided students before a New Age concert they attended at the LA Philharmonic last year.

Besides Peter Askim, the works of three other contemporary composers will be featured at the New Music orchestra concert tonight. They include: Rufus Reid, Pierre Jalbert and Jan Radzynski.

“Spanning traditions and crossing genres, the program is a microcosm of the world of Contemporary American Music, and a celebration of the diversity of cultures and styles that Idyllwild Arts represents,” states copy on Peter Askim’s web site.

The program includes the World Premiere of a new orchestral work by renowned jazz bassist Rufus Reid. “A recipient of a Guggenheim Award, Reid’s new work blends and blurs the boundaries of jazz and classical orchestral music,” Peter’s web site states.

“Recipient of the Rome Prize, the BBC Masterprize, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Stoeger Award and a 2010 American Academy of Arts and Letters award, composer Pierre Jalbert’s astonishingly beautiful music is at once immediately accessible and refreshingly new.

“A native of Poland and former resident of Israel, Jan Radzynski writes music that transcends borders, cultures and time itself. His new work for violin and orchestra is intellectually probing, cross-cultural and deeply moving.”

There will be two chances to listen to the New Music Concert this weekend. It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Saturday, April 7, at the IAF Theater on campus. The concert is free and open to the public. Then at 4 p.m. on Mother’s Day, Sunday, April 8, the group will perform at REDCAT at Disney Hall in Los Angeles. General admission ($25) or student tickets ($10) are available at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd Street in Los Angeles or by visiting

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 7, 2011 @ 12:21

Casey’s Beard Will Stick with Him

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Casey performing as part of an Idyllwild Arts jazz trio at the LA Club

By Marcia E. Gawecki

During this past week on Fox 11’s “American Idol,” I expected Casey Abrams, the heartthrob from Idyllwild, to shave his beard.  After all, he had to do something to top the Jennifer Lopez kiss.

Throughout Season 10, columnists, bloggers and reporters have been obsessed with Casey’s beard. Early on, he was compared to popular comedic actor Seth Rogen, but lately, some have been less than kind, calling him “a bearded doughboy.”

What is the big deal about a beard?  It looks nice on Casey. Does a beard always have to give the impression that a man is hiding something?

“He looks a little bit scruffy,” admitted  my mother when I asked her to watch the show.

My dad, a gynecologist, shaved his face every day of his professional life.

“Patients won’t come to me if I have a beard,” he said. “Medical professionals must be clean shaven.”

Probably the only one who could wear a beard without reprisal would be a psychiatrist. After all, Freud had one.

In an interview after he was cut from “American Idol” last week, Casey was asked about The Beard again. He admitted that “American Idol” judge Steven Tylor, the frontman from Aerosmith, caught his eye once and did a mock shaving motion.

“I really appreciated that gesture,” Casey said.

Casey said that he didn’t want to shave his beard because he has a receding chin.

Well, that makes sense. A beard would cover that up nicely.

During one of the show’s short videos (rather, the Ford commercial), each of the final six contestants got to poke fun at each other. When it came to Casey, everyone wore Abe Lincoln beards and talked about his zaniness. Jacob Lusk called him “odd,” but a “musical genius” at the same time. That night, even show host Ryan Seacrest, wore a mock beard.

Yep, Casey takes the beard chiding all in stride. Perhaps he takes cues from his father, Ira Abrams, a bearded film teacher at Idyllwild Arts Academy, where Casey learned his jazz moves.

Another interviewer asked Casey what his first album would look like.

“It’ll probably have an upright bass on it,” Casey said. “And a beard.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 4, 2011 @ 16:04