The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Sep9Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Arts administration, Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, LexArts, Lexington Singers, Music, Musicals, Opera, Studio Players, SummerFest, The Rep, Theater, Visual arts, Woodford County Theatre; Tagged as: Ann Tower, Everett McCorvey, Jefferson Johnson, Larry Snipes, Robert Morgan, Robert Parks Johnson
In my column in the 2012-13 Arts Preview section of the Sept. 9 Lexington Herald-Leader, a handful of Lexington arts leaders who have been serving 15 years or more offered their opinions on how the arts have changed in the area over the last decade and a half and the current state of the arts. Of course, the print edition offered limited space for responses, but as we have said before, the web is a different story. So here are the unedited replies.
I am going to start with University of Kentucky voice professor and director of the UK Opera Theatre Everett McCorvey, because he answered in the body of the questions I posed, so it will let you know what everyone was responding to.
Q: This year, I was interested in hearing from folks who have been active here for a long time to get your impressions of how the arts in Central Kentucky have changed and stayed the same.
A: I love Kentucky and the appreciation for the arts. There are so many talented artists in our midst and it’s great to be in a city that supports artists and their work.
Q: What sorts of things have happened you never thought you’d see, or maybe you wish you’d never seen?
A: For me the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Alltech FEI 2010 World Equestrian Games were amazing. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to serve as the Executive Producer of a world event. I was very honored to have been asked. I was equally as proud of the local artists, technicians, businesses and volunteers who we were able to engage to perform and participate in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Everyone stepped up to the plate in an amazing way. It was a memorable event.
Q: What has been most surprising, affirming or disturbing?
A: When I arrived in Lexington, I was told by someone … “Everett this town will never support opera! Go somewhere while you are still young that will support opera.” I’m happy to say that this person was wrong! Lexington truly is an opera town. UK Opera Theatre was recently recognized by the Richard Tucker Foundation of New York as one of the top twenty opera training programs in the country for young singers. Pretty amazing!
Q: What is the state of the arts in the Lexington area, from your perspective?
A: We must guard very carefully our love and participation for the arts and not let the economy, video games and decreased legislative funding dim the importance of the arts in a community. Lexington is the community that it is because of the arts. The arts bring a vibrancy, an excitement, a sense of life and happiness to a community. The arts bring people together and they help us grow as human beings. I have long thought of doing research on towns that have high crime rates to try to discover how much hands-on art that particular city might have. I’ll bet the lower the participation in the arts, the higher the crime rate. The higher the participation in the arts, the lower the crime rate. When you take arts out of the schools, you take the reason that some students get out of bed in the morning to get to school. I was in the band when I was in elementary school. It was the excitement about being in the band that got me up every day and got me to school. It was music that carried me through my classes and helped me to appreciate the importance of discipline and responsibility so that I could practice my art. It is proven that children in the arts do better academically and are more successful in their chosen field, even if they choose to pursue other careers. The quality of life is improved by a community actively engaged in the arts. An active arts community draws more creative, fun and intellectual people to the city. Great cities also have great art. I think that’s been proven over and over. Please Lexington, don’t change. Don’t lose your fantastic appreciation and support of the arts. The arts make Lexington special.
Jefferson Johnson, director of choirs at the University of Kentucky and music director of the Lexington Singers
From my perspective I am really proud of the “choral culture” that has developed in central KY. Since I came to Lexington in 1993 (this is my 20th year as Director of Choral Activities at UK) I have witnessed a proliferation of strong choirs at every level. The high school choirs in this region have gotten stronger–several of them are conducted by former students (I’m proud to say).
The community choruses are thriving as well: the Lexington Bach Choir is a fabulous new group, and the Lexington Chamber Choir is doing extremely well, as are community choruses in Georgetown, Winchester, and Richmond, to name a few. The Kentuckians barbershop chorus is thriving.
Of course I’m most proud to be only the third director in the 55-year history of the Lexington Singers. We have grown from 110 to 180 voices over the past 15 years and have performed at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Cathedral of Notre Dame, and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City while taking concert tours to Europe, South America, and within the U.S. We started the Lexington Singers Children’s Choirs (under the Artistic Direction of Dr. Lori Hetzel) in 2004. That organization has grown to include four choruses, touring annually.
Our choral program at UK has grown from 2 choirs (65 voices total) to 7 choirs with over 200 students involved each year.
When we started the acoUstiKats in 1993 there were no other male a cappella groups in central Kentucky that I could find. Now they are a feature of many high school choral programs and nearly every area college. Our choral music education graduates, expertly shepherded by Lori Hetzel, are teaching throughout the state and running many of the best choral programs.
The level of music in area church choirs is also very high, and these church music programs frequently serve the area with gracious use of their facilities.
It would be interesting to see how many people in Lexington are singing in some kind of a choir. I would guess over 5,000 easily.
Outside of choral music, I have noticed a flourishing of musical theater groups. Paragon, the Rep, Grand Night, and other groups and events have put on high quality shows (including the Lexington Singers annual Pops concerts). SCAPA and other schools are doing amazing things with musicals.
The UK Orchestra, under John Nardolillo, has become a major player in the arts scene. John’s ability to attract internationally acclaimed artists to play with the UKSO has transformed the local arts culture. Chamber music is also making a statement in central Kentucky with two annual festivals.
In summary, I am very proud (and somewhat surprised) that a city with the population of Lexington has been able to foster and grow so many high quality arts groups–especially in light of the cuts in state and federal funding. Its a tribute to the hard working artists but also to the philanthropic individuals who have supported these artistic endeavors. The financial support of the arts by corporations and individuals has long been a hallmark of strong artistic societies. I think we have one here in Lexington.
Robert Parks Johnson, actor and contributing Herald-Leader arts writer
Since our arrival in Lexington in 1995, I don’t remember there being as many really fine companies doing consistently good work. Our community was once dominated by a handful of personality cults. You were loyal to this director or that one, this company or another. Actors are much more willing to go where the work is exciting, and right now, that’s just about everywhere.
Casting is still much too white. The theatre community has failed to encourage and develop African American and Latino artists. There is still a sense of novelty and tokenism when we see anything other than Caucasian faces in lead roles.
LexARTS has grown into an expensive organization whose contribution to the community seems disproportionately modest. I’m sure they do more than this, but their most visible activities seem to center around raising money and being landlords. Companies like Actors’ Guild and Balagula are proving that theatre can work in non-traditional spaces, but much of that effort is made necessary by the prohibitive costs and burdensome rules of producing at the Downtown Arts Center. I don’t know the numbers, but it seems to me that an awful lot of pennies go to overhead for each dollar that LexARTS raises.
I am delighted to have witnessed the resurrection and renaissance of the two companies that are dearest to my heart. A nearly terminal case of mission creep brought Actors’Guild to the brink, but thanks to the vision and seemingly inexhaustible energy of Eric Seale, the company is back at work making good theatre and developing a new generation of artists. The Lexington Shakespeare Festival’s demise was short lived, thanks to a group of veterans who stepped into the void when that fine company closed for the last time. SummerFest at the Arboretum is more successful than ever, and continues to be the most unique and festive theatre experience in the Bluegrass.
My greatest sadness about our theatre community is that we seem to have given up on Shakespeare. Actors and audiences who love the Bard have one chance a year to play together. There is no way to develop a corps of actors with the skills and experience to play the classics well when there are only a dozen opportunities to practice. The result is work that is frustrating for artists and audiences alike. I wish there were more chances for our artists to scale this pinnacle of our language’s contribution to the world theatre.
The best development in Lexington theatre has been the influx of new young talent. The “Old Guard” and the “Usual Suspects” are still around to share stories and what wisdom we may have collected over the years, but gifted, committed young artists are driving the bus now. That as much as anything makes me proud of my legacy and hopeful for the future of our art in this wonderful town.
Robert Morgan, artist and former gallery owner
I would like to celebrate all the little guys who take on the task of doing world class art and putting on truly creative projects in Lexington. We are the ones setting the bar for the community. We work without any money are support from arts organizations and produce far more excitement in the community. I am talking about the likes of Gallerie Soliel (Morgan’s former gallery) and Institute 193. We are and were working with a budget far less than most organizations postage budget for a yearly programming. When I meet young folks in the arts who seem blocked into a corner I tell them to just take control and make it happen without local resources. I tell them they are in many ways better off creating off the grid, there are no restrictions! One day I wish the local money bags would create a slush fund just to give to young and creative artists to do what they do best — light fires all over this town and shame us with what they can do with their spark and vision. Spark and vision are severely lacking in almost all of our art organizations and institutions.
Ann Tower, artist and owner of the Ann Tower Gallery
Over all, I think things have changed for the best in Lexington over the past 10 years. When I opened in April 2002, Main St was pretty bleak and empty. We had the new library and the new courthouses, but there was still a lot of construction obstructing sidewalks and roads, and there weren’t many restaurants, and it was difficult to get people to come downtown. Today, we have lots of restaurants, but I’d love to see more art galleries and more retail businesses in general on Main St.
21C opening here is the single most exciting thing that’s happened, or scheduled to happen, for the visual arts in Lexington. At last, an art hotel on Main St that celebrates the adventurous art collection built by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. It will be a magnet for art lovers, as well as the curious, and whether they like the art or not, there will be plenty to discuss and think about. I expect those same visitors will also venture out to see what else our city has to offer, and maybe, some will think about starting their own art collections, or at least a buying a painting or a photograph or something. Obviously, all the arts need patrons and benefactors to thrive, and I think having 21C here will set an example.
Larry Snipes, producing director of the Lexington Children’s Theatre
Since I arrived in Lexington about three years after the Opera House re-opened, much has changed some for the good, and some which causes me concern.
Obviously, I have to start with LCT, we have grown from a small community arts organization that produced only three shows and a few education programs to a professional theatre for youth that serves over hundreds of thousands of young people. Our budget was around $40,000 when I arrived as the only full time employee. Now our budget is over a million dollars and we employ 14 full time staff and 30 or 40 part-time artists and interns to produce over 300 performances of 11 shows each season.
As for impact on the community, I would have to say that a prime catalyst for the growth of LCT and many other organizations was the creation of the Fund for the Arts in the 1980s. The Fund provided a stable base of support for many organizations and allowed us to concentrate on what we do best, creating the art. In addition to funding, the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council as, LexArts was called then, also supported community arts organization with professional development and assistance with best practices in arts management. I know I learned a great deal about the business side of the arts with each of those early trips before the allocations committee. They made us better at the business side of the arts, which in turn freed us to take risks and be creative with our artistic endeavors. It wasn’t perfect and still isn’t today, but it works.
As for the current state of the arts, I would have to say we have a boatload of dedicated artists and organizations that are working day and night to bring the best work to Central Kentucky audiences. I am thrilled with the variety of theatre, dance, music and visual art offerings in Lexington. Just look at this arts calendar, I dare you to find a weekend where there is nothing going on in the arts. In the theatre world in addition to our work at LCT, we have solid long standing groups like Studio Players and Actors’ Guild as well as newer groups like Project See, The Rep, KCT and the innovative work and concept that is Balagula.
As for my concerns, I worry that we may have seen the last of arts philanthropists like Lucille Little and W. T. Young. Those two alone have had a tremendous effect on the art we see in Lexington today. Where are their successors?
I really worry about the state of arts education in Kentucky. Over the years I have seen things improve a bit and then have the rug pulled out from under them. When I came to Lexington the Fayette County Public Schools had the Arts in Basic Education Program that had specialists in all disciplines who worked in elementary schools to help teachers integrate the arts into their classroom. Sadly that program was phased out. Arts have gone from being four questions on a yearly test to merely an assessment of schools arts activities to “insure schools provide a vigorous arts and humanities program” and improve on it every year. Actually improving on it every year sounds good, but the thing is, in practice, if you start at zero, improvement each year is pretty easy. After the change to assessment only, art teachers were cut across the commonwealth. Arts were no longer on the test. Not on the test equals not important. I wonder if our young people will be provided opportunities to participate in and see arts performances or will we continue to chip away at the creative fabric of our society?
Rich’s P.S. Thanks to all the folks who repsonded to this request and those who chose to reply. If you would like to add to the conversation, please comment on this post.
Aug12Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, dance, Downtown Arts Center, fundraising, Kentucky Theatre, LexArts, Lexington Art League, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Theater, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington; Tagged as: 2012 Campaign for the Arts, Community Arts Grants, General Operating Funds, LexArts
LexArts set a new record in its 2012 Campaign for the Arts, raising $1.05 million to be distributed among area cultural groups for general operating support and Community Arts Grants. But LexArts President and CEO Jim Clark said he plans to nearly double that take within the next five years.
Clark said a significantly larger haul of $2 million will be necessary to support the work of a number of groups that are pursuing ambitious goals such as the Living Arts and Science Center, which is undergoing a renovation that will double its space. Clark said campaign goals will likely increase incrementally over the next few years as LexArts works to bolster the donor base with organizations both in and out of Lexington.
“We’re doing national-level work and it deserves national funding,” Clark said.
He said the quality of work by local arts groups has been a big reason why the campaign raised more than $1 million for the seventh consecutive year, despite the recession.
“The product is strong, and it’s attracted strong supporters,” Clark said.
Along with the campaign haul, LexArts announced recipients of general operating support and community arts grants.
General operating support went to:
- Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, $22,500
- Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, $165,000
- Lexington Children’s Theatre, $120,000
- Lexington Art League, $60,000
- Lexington Singers, $9,000
- Living Arts & Science Center, $102,000
Recipients of Community Arts Grants, given for specific projects, were:
- Balagula Theatre Company, $9,000 to support its upcoming season of five full length plays, including a world premier
- Kentucky Ballet Theatre, $9,000 to support its 2012-2013 Season
- Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, $8,000 to support its Kentucky Great Writers Series
- Chamber Music Festival Festival of Lexington, $8,000 to support its weekend festival and the “July Series,” informal pop-up concerts around town performed by young artists
- KY Women Writers Conference, Inc., $8,000 to support the annual conference
- Central Music Academy, $5,000 to support free music lessons for financially disadvantaged youth ages 8 to 18 years old
- LexingtonChamber Chorale, $5,000 to support its 2012-2013 Season
- Headley-WhitneyMuseum, $5,000 to support its Improbable Baubles art program for middle school students
- Common Good, $2,500 to support a youth arts initiative blending traditional storytelling with digital multimedia design
- KentuckyMighty Wurlitzer Project, $2,500 to support the 90th Anniversary Celebration at the Kentucky Theatre
- Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, $2,000 to support the creation of abbreviated love letters to the city of Lexington, installed as temporary works of street art along Limestone.
It occurred to me Tuesday watching the final dress rehearsal of SummerFest’s production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire that this is the first time in 14 years covering theater in Lexington I have seen the same show presented two times by the same director.
Joe Ferrell directed Actors Guild of Lexington’s production of Streetcar in 2003 at the Downtown Arts Center’s black box theater, and he is directing the production that is trying mightily to get going in the Arboretum – the first two attempts at an opening night, Wednesday and Thursday, have been scuttled due to rain and lightning.
Rehearsals are not performances and this is not a review, but looking at this production, it was striking how similar yet different this show was from 2003.
There certainly was that signature Joe Ferrell style — a reverence for the playwright’s words and eye on crisp storytelling. You always know with a Ferrell show that everyone onstage will know what they are saying and why, and interesting interpretations will come out of that.
Contrasting the productions speaks to the impact casting and venue have on a play.
Ferrell noted in an interview earlier this summer that as big a title as Streetcar is, it is something of a small, intimate show for the vast Arboretum stage. The essential drama plays out between four people — Blanche, Stella, Stanley and Mitch — and there are just a few other ancillary characters. The setting of a modest New Orleans apartment is also fairly low-key for SummerFest.
But Tuesday, lead actors Evan Bergman as Stanley and Bess Morgan as Blanche (photo, above) were crafting big performances that filled the space and maximized the drama. Nine years ago, Kevin Hardesty and Lisa Thomas were giving decidedly different interpretations of the same characters. Hardesty’s Stanley was more arrogant than primal, making Blanche’s characterizations of him seem to be part of her fantasy. Thomas’ portrayal was less demonstrative and she and Hardesty seemed to be engaged in more of a psychological struggle.
And that really worked for the black box, a a venue that seats a couple hundred at most and fewer, I believe, for the Streetcar production. That take may have been lost in the Arboretum, but that is where venue comes into play. And good actors know where they are playing and make adjustments accordingly — both Thomas and Hardesty have brilliantly led productions in the Arboretum, as have Bergman and Morgan in the Downtown Arts Center.
It really speaks to the elasticity of a script. It sets out the words and essentially the story and emotions, but it is when the director, actors and designers come together that the play really comes to life, and it is different every time, even when some of the same people are involved.
Chicago has a road to New York City that starts on stages such as that of Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Louisville, of course, has Actors Theatre and the Humana Festival of New American Plays, which is this month.
Members of the for/word company are paving a similar path with their troupe, and this week, Lexingtonians can see one of the shows the troupe plans to take to New York: Little Book, a new play by company member Jennifer Schlueter about author E.B. White and the writing of his classic, Stuart Little.
“I read an article in 2009 about this conflict between E.B. White and this woman Anne Carroll Moore, who was the first children’s librarian at the New York Public Library,” says Schlueter, an assistant professor of theater at Ohio State University. “She did not like the book Stuart Little at all. She was appalled by it. So we started investigating that story.”
This is for/word’s modus operandi. Company members search for primary source information such as letters and journals, and build their plays, putting their characters’ own words in the mouths of the actors playing them.
Lexington got its first look at for/word last year when the company presented North, its take on a meeting between Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of aviator Charles, and French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known for The Little Prince.
The company plans to make its off-Broadway debut with North and Little Book in rotating rep at the 59E59 Theaters in New York from Oct. 4 to 28.
Lexingtonians will be able to say they saw the shows here first because of company member Christina Ritter, a theater lecturer at the University of Kentucky who moved here three years ago with her husband, Jack Schieffer, an assistant professor in UK’s agricultural economics department.
Ritter will play White’s wife, Catherine, in the play, which also focuses on the author’s struggle to write. Lexington actress Patti Heying plays Moore. Moore’s objection to Stuart Little stems from one of the book’s first lines, which says the mouse was born into his human family, which Moore took literally and found disgusting, so she worked to prevent it from being published. Little Book looks at that event and at White’s struggle to write.
In Lexington, Ritter and Schueter say, they have found a base where creating theater is not such a struggle.
Two of Kentucky’s longstanding summer theaters have announced plans to expand their offerings around the calendar.
In Lexington, SummerFest will produce its first indoor, school-year show with a production of Tracy Letts’ Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning August: Osage County, Oct. 13-23 at the Downtown Arts Center. Sumerfest and its predecessor, the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, have produced indoor shows in the past, close to the time of the outdoor festival in July at the Arboretum. The most recent was June’s presentation of Spencer Christensen’s The Impersonation of Being Earnest by SummerFest’s parent group, Kentucky Conservatory Theatre, at the Downtown Arts Center. And there have been talks of year-round offerings in the past, but this will be the first venture outside the summer months.
The University of Kentucky Theatre has previously announced a production of August: Osage County at the Guignol Theatre Feb. 23 to March 4. It will be directed by former Actors Guild of Lexington director Vic Chaney.
There’s a Lexington connection to Letts as one of his frequent collaborators is one-time Lexington resident and Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon.
In Pikeville, Jenny Wiley Theatre has some huge ambitions, signing an agreement with the city to build a new space in downtown Pikeville that will offer productions in the fall, winter and spring. According to a news release, the fare will include, “musicals, comedies, children’s theatre and educational programs, as well lunch/dinner performances. The indoor facility will also be available for area meetings and conferences. The new facility will also house a box office, gift shop, rehearsal space, and the possibility of a café.”
It is billed as a mutually-beneficial move, expanding cultural offerings in Pikeville and giving the theater, based at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, a chance to expand its year-round offerings. It has been offering some school productions and educational programs.
“Jenny Wiley Theatre has been an important contributor to the culture, tourism and economics of Eastern Kentucky for almost fifty years,” Executive Director Martin Childers said in a news release. “We want to ensure that we continue to adapt to the needs and circumstances so that we are here for another fifty. The ability to produce shows all year long is an important step in that direction.”
The Pikeville space, a 300-seat theater, is slated to begin construction in January and be completed by December 2012.
Jun4Filed under: dance, Downtown Arts Center, Film, Photography, Visual arts; Tagged as: Amy San Pedro, Casey Gregory, Contemporary Dance Collective, Downtown Arts Center, Emily Hagihara, Jason Thompson, Kurt Gohde, Marcel Cabrera, Mary Carothers, Matt Dooley, Robin Burke, Stephanie Pevec, Theo Edmonds, Lennon Michalski
When Stephanie Pevec arrived in Lexington, she saw a glaring hole in its arts offerings: modern dance.
It wasn’t a complete surprise to her; she says the form is much more prevalent in big cities.
“You go to Chicago, and you can find a modern class just about anywhere, and you can take an amazing class,” Pevec says. “One and a half to two hours of technique, which is mostly what you’ll find in a professional college program. But when you graduate with a performance degree, and you go to a city the size of Lexington, there isn’t an outlet. There isn’t a system set up to study technique in a way that you know you need to. So you find ways to adapt.”
Some dancers take hip-hop, yoga or other forms of dance and physical training, even adult ballet. Pevec and other modern dancers in the area have done all of those.
But she’s now involved in a much more overt form of adaptation. Pevec has formed the Contemporary Dance Collective, which will have its second performance Friday and Saturday at the Downtown Arts Center. She had worked on the project for the past couple of years while devoting herself to her day job as executive director of the Lexington Art League.
And the word dance is in the group’s name, but like Pevec’s life, the collective is a multidisciplinary presentation.
“It was the perfect compliment to this process of talking to artists that I know and respect about their work and saying, do you want to make something original together?” Pevec says. “So, there’s a variety of visual artists working on this concert. … Over the last four weeks, we’ve brought in our musician, Emily Hagihara, who plays with Chico Fellini and studied percussion at UK, and she’s been in with her percussion set. She wrote three pieces for this concert.
“Really, honestly, every work in this show is a combination of several artists working together.”
Jun2Filed under: Downtown Arts Center, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Charlie Sheen, Downtown Arts Center, Ellie Clark, Henry Layton, James Bond, Jesse Hungerford, Ke$ha, Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, Nick Vannoy, Osama bin Laden, Oscar Wilde, Spencer Christensen, The Importance of Being Earnest, YouTube
It started with a fight.
Last summer at the Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, fight director Henry Layton choreographed a fight to a scene from the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest.
“It was really exciting to everyone involved, and they had some idea how they could mount that show and turn it into something else,” writer and director Spencer Christensen says
It turned into something else entirely. Exhausting action is at the center of The Impersonation of Being Ernest. But it is also a big pop culture commentary combining Wilde’s words with James Bond’s sensibility spiked with lyrics from Ke$ha, videos from YouTube, references to Osama bin Laden and Charlie Sheen, all set in Orange County, Calif. – identified here, of course, as The OC.
“We played on every sort of spoof that we can,” Christensen says. “We’re spoofing a lot. And because The Importance of Being Earnest is sort of a social commentary on Wilde’s time, that’s what we’re doing. So we’ve got YouTube videos here left and right. … It’s very up-to-date. And then we’ve got sword fighting in the show and dancing. I mean you watch these people do this for 83 minutes and wonder, ‘How do they survive it?’”
The show, which plays through Sunday at the Downtown Arts Center, is in part a recruitment tool for the conservatory, now renamed Kentucky Conservatory Theatre.
“Trish wanted to mount a show to really showcase the people who have worked in KCT, who have taught in it, who were in the program and have left it and are still working, and that was the idea,” Christensen said, referring to KCT director Trish Clark.
They include Christensen, who actually helped create an early education arm of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, the event that preceded KCT’s SummerFest as the July theater festival in The Arboretum. (He will also play Victor Frankenstein in SummerFest’s production of Frankenstein.)
Other distinguished faculty and alumni include Ellie Clark, who starred in last summer’s production of Pride and Prejudice and is alumna of the apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Nick Vannoy, who played Collins in last summer’s production of Rent and will play the creature in this summer’s Frankenstein before heading off to the ATL apprentice program. Ernest also stars Layton, the event’s longtime fight coordinator, and Jesse Hungerford, who played Romeo in SummerFest’s age-appropriate production of Romeo & Juliet in 2007.
“It’s done to showcase whatever their talent is, whatever their strength is,” Christensen says. “As I started to know who was in this show, I started to write for them.”
If the show sets a goal of creating physical comedy, rehearsals demonstrate what a hard bar that is to reacg. Before the final dress rehearsal, Christensen and his actors run and rerun scenes trying to nail the timing on lines and actions for maximum comic effect.
“For a long time, I thought about writing sketch comedy, et cetera,” Christensen says, “so there’s a lot of that in here.
“When you create something like this, there are times that you ask, ‘Am I pushing it too far?’ But you have to trust your gut, and I feel like people will want to come because there’s so much in there.”
May9Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Musicals, New York, Paragon Music Theatre; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Berea College, Diana Evans Pulliam, Eastern Kentucky University, Gypsy, Katie Owen, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Paragon Music Theatre, Robyn Peterman-Zahn, Ryan Shirar, She Loves Me, The King and I, The Sound of Music, Tracey Bonner, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Coming Thursday on LexGo: Mama Rose came at the right time for Katie Owen, though at first it did not seem that way.
For years, Lexington musical theater artists have wondered how long Central Kentucky could keep Ryan Shirar.
A multitalented musician, Shirar played in a wide variety of formats and locations, wrote orchestrations that enhanced productions of some of the great musicals of the American stage, and showed songs in new lights. He ultimately brought Lexington something it had not had for years: a theater company dedicated to presenting traditional Broadway-style musicals.
But with Paragon Music Theatre‘s presentation of Gypsy next weekend, the question has been answered. Shirar, 29, will leave his posts as executive and music director of the theater to pursue a master’s degree in orchestral conducting, specializing in theater, at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
The prestigious music school scouted out Shirar and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It’s a free degree,” Shirar said Monday over lunch. “It’s a full-tuition scholarship, plus stipend. So it’s very hard to turn down an offer to a conservatory for that.
“Ultimately, I love what I do now in Lexington, but even if I stay here and do what I’m doing, I need a graduate degree in order to have a little more stable job. It was the perfect time and perfect opportunity. Things had lined up, and it was almost like … ‘I put it all together for you. You’ve just got to go.’”
Robyn Peterman-Zahn, Paragon’s stage director, says, “Ever since I came here to work with Ryan — and I came because I am so blown away by his talent — I’ve been telling him he needs to leave.”
Peterman-Zahn, who has national stage and film work on her résumé, says Shirar’s talent rivals that of musicians she has worked with across the nation, including New York and Los Angeles.
“Ryan has a musicality you just can’t learn,” she says. “It’s a really special gift.”
Along with choreographer Diana Evans Pulliam, Peterman-Zahn and Shirar formed a trio that helped drive Paragon to some great heights, including a spring 2009 production of The King and I and last summer’s presentation of The Sound of Music.
The company started in 2004 with a production of State Fair, with Tracey Bonner as stage director. Read the rest of this entry »
Mar30Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Musicals, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, Theater; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Broken, chool for Creative and Performing Arts, Exile, Garden District, Hairspray, Lexington Philharmonic, Studio Players, Tennessee Williams, The Rocky Horror Show, University of Connecticut Huskies, University of Kentucky men's basketball, Walter May
It used to be that area performing arts groups would go to great lengths to avoid presenting shows that would conflict with a University of Kentucky men’s basketball game.
But Saturday night, despite the fact that they will overlap with a portion of the Wildcats’ first Final Four appearance in 13 years, area theaters say they will go on with their shows as planned. The game against the University of Connecticut Huskies is scheduled to tip off at 8:49 p.m. (8:47 was too early?)
Among the shows that will be going on are:
~ The School for Creative and Performing Arts’ production of the musical Hairspray at the Lexington Opera House, curtain time is 8 p.m.
~ Actors Guild of Lexington and Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s production of The Rocky Horror Show, 7:30 p.m.
~ Exile’s concert to benefit the National Drug Endangered Children Training and Advocacy Center at the Singletary Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m.
While it might seem to make sense to move out of the way of a major event for the community, Actors Guild Artistic director Eric Seale says moving a performance can often create as many problems as it solves.
“The real problem isn’t people who already have tickets, because you can call them up and tell them you’re making a change,” says Seale, who is overseeing two shows that conflict with the Cats – Broken and Rocky Horror. “But the people who are just planning to walk up and buy tickets, you have no way of contacting them.”
He recalled a production when Actors Guild was at the Downtown Arts Center that had to be cancelled due to a problem in the building. He said all patrons were called and understanding, but one couple that walked up planning to buy tickets at the door was really upset about the change.
He also notes that while some people may welcome a change that lets them see the show and the game, others who aren’t as fixated on basketball may not like it.
Last weekend, of course, there were also shows that went up against the Cats games Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Seale says the Friday night performance of Broken did have a light turnout, but the second nights of shows often do, and most area residents could have seen both the play and the Ohio State-UK game in their entireties.
The Lexington Philharmonic also reportedly had most of its audience in their seats for its entire performance last Friday night, which overlapped with the first half of that game.
Mar23Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Philharmonic, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Awadagin Pratt, Downtown Arts Center, George Gershwin, Kevin Cole, Kicked-Back Classics, Lexington Philharmonic, Scott Terrell, Singletary Center for the Arts
The Lexington Philharmonic has announced that there will be a change in soloists for this week’s nearly sold-out concerts.
Awadagin Pratt, originally scheduled to perform music by George Gershwin at Thursday’s Kicked Back Classics concert at the Downtown Arts Center and Friday night’s Classics concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts, has had to bow out due to a family emergency. Taking his place at the keyboard and playing the same program will be Kevin Cole, a critically acclaimed pianist who specializes in 20th century American repertoire.
In a news release, Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell said, ”we are so fortunate to be able to engage Kevin Cole, especially at this late juncture. I have no doubt he will thrill our Gershwin fans and bring a contagious excitement to the performances.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich