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Festivals Mean Business September 27, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in General Studies.
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This is a research report for the British Arts Festivals Association (BAFA) from 2000, subtitled “The shape of Arts Festivals in the UK.”

On their website you can download the 2008 version of this report, which I have not yet read but will. I hope that it provides more analysis than the 2000 report, which presents excellent statistics which have been thoroughly checked and qualified. The report, however, does little to present the significance of these statistics and what they might mean for the festival industry.

They would do good by checking out Theatre Facts, annually presented by the American team Theatre Communications Group. Theatre Facts tells you directly where the business is at and backs it up with the statistics.

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Batsheva performs Deca Dance 2008 September 27, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Academy of Ballet.
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It was terrific to see Batsheva perform Deca Dance 2008 as part of the Edinburgh International Festival this August at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Deca Dance is a performance that the audience will not soon forget. The performers are breathtaking in their maneuvering of beautiful contemporary dance which takes all the casual, provocative attitude of post-modern dance performance while wrapping it into some of the most skillful dancing you are likely to see. They bring a unique and provocative Israeli perspective in both their physical movements and the intellectual themes at play. This is Dance with a capital D that even the most illiterate yokels will love. The only problem with the show is that it’s 10 years old.

Deca Dance is a “Best Of” compilation of Artistic Director Ohad Naharin’s most famous dances choreographed for Batsheva over the years. I first saw Deca Dance at the Kennedy Center 5 years ago, when all the dances were already quite old. I need to emphasize this: I saw this show twice. That’s how good it is. I would happily pay money to see it again. It is that good. But I also want to see them do something new.

Of course, it’s the safest financial strategy for them to tour their best hits, but eventually we will want to see new work from them.

You can see one of the pieces from Deca Dance in the video above. There is a tasty dynamic of toying with audience expectations (dancers standing still for extended periods) and rewarding the audience with bravura displays of rich, emotional, athletic dance. They often work with game structures (repetition with slight alterations, mathematical build-ups) which gives dancers opportunities to break out phenomenal solos.

Calexico September 26, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Conservatory of Music.
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Yeah! Talk about some good old fashioned 90’s Southwest Indie Americana. Calexico was spectacular the other night at The Queens Hall. So good, in fact, that at times you almost forget that Britney Spears ever existed and instead fall under the impression that grunge rock is still on the radio, people care about global warming, Clinton is the prez, and it’s still cool to go to a liberal art college and major in philosophy (I don’t think it is anymore… aren’t “Media Studies” and “International Affairs” the new hip majors?).

Calexico brings us a Mexican American subculture of cheap tacos in dark cafes and old cadillacs lingering around back alleys. Combine this with lost, hip adults lurking around Tucson coffeeshops and railing against the government (remember that movie The Tao of Steve? People like that), and you’ve got Calexico–a welcome injection of grassroots international diplomacy from the days before “neocons.”

Oh, did I mention that they can play? They are gnarly musicians and come with a full band, launching into retro 50’s noir or upbeat mariachi.

Great show!

Bon Iver September 26, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Athletics.
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Terrific concert by Bon Iver at the Queens Hall the other night. Sold out house, and what a beautiful space. It’s an old church (what else is new in this town) converted into an intimate concert venue. The pews remain on a horseshoe-shaped series of stalls which wraps the orchestra, which surely once also held pews but now is a full-on dancefloor. I’m told for jazz gigs they also put out tables and chairs for a cabaret feel in the center section.

We didn’t know what to expect from this Wisconsin wanderlust whose retreat to a secluded log cabin has been endlessly promoted. We know he wrote his entire album in said cabin, alone but for a guitar, and later added drums and other bits, but how would he perform this dark romantic song cycle?

We were in for a treat. The band contained not one but TWO drummers, keyboards, bass, and various other bits and bobs, and Justin Vernon (aforementioned wanderlust) chose from a buffet of five unique guitars presented at his disposal. The resulting textures, ranging from hushed to screaming, delighted the enthusiastic audience.

The hermit schtick was maintained by Justin Vernon with sincerity and humility, and the crowd ate it up, until some of his other bandmates aped the Elliot Smith look with perhaps less credibility. I speak of the charming Mikey (as he was introduced), the backup guitarist who looked like he was 12 but who seemed to be channeling a heroin-chic with his pouty face and puppy dog eyes. We can forgive this, because it was kind of cute.

The 39 Steps March 25, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Theatre Department.
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p3923_m1.jpgGosh! go see this brilliant show. It’s terribly likable! Winner of the Olivier award for Best Comedy and you can see why when you see the show. This show is a big friendly dog that aims to please and succeeds in spades. It will lick you all over the face with uncontrovertial fun that is just clever enough to make you feel like not a total idiot for loving it so much.

It’s simple fun! And they must be making a fortune! It’s a 4-person cast who play every role brilliantly.

Des McAnuff is now sole Artistic Director at Stratford Shakes March 18, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Theatre Department.
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macnuff650.jpgRead the NY Times story here. Well, duh. Three Artistic Directors? That is the worst idea I’ve ever heard of. A friend recently proposed the concept that all major producing theatres orbit around one crazy person (the Artistic Director). The very definition of a good Artistic Director of a theatre is that they don’t take their marching orders from anyone except their own crazy self. Des McAnuff is perfect for Stratford, and I couldn’t be happier that he is stepping up to the plate.

Waiting for Godot March 9, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Theatre Department.
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2423.jpgBOOORING!!! That’s really all I need to say to convey my feelings about Waiting for Godot at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. It was a completely average, passable production, like hundreds of other Godots that have come before it. The set was fine. The acting was fine. Except for the guy playing Estragon, who put on this hideous aristocratic accent and was completely overacting. In the second act they tiptoed around the idea of playing it funny, as they tossed off minor physical comedy and almost went for slapstick but not quite. If they had just gone for it it would have been fine, but as it is the attempt at comedy just reaffirmed how boring the evening was.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream March 9, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Academy of Ballet.
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home_image_amsnd.gifamazing, fabulous, affectionate, imaginative, fantastic production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Northern Ballet Theatre at Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Original Mendelssohn and Brahms music set to a smart, snazzy and virtuoso new choreography by David Nixon. Contemporary Ballet as it should be. Do not miss this show.

Great transference of the action into 1920’s ballet troupe context. Our “Athens” here is a large professional ballet studio with the men and women of the company going through rehearsals as the action unfolds. Our four lovers are the ballerinas, Theseus is a Ballanchine-like director who fights with Hypollita, his prima ballerina, Puck is his assistant and the rude mechanicals are the crew.

At the end of Act One the whole company gets on a train to tour. Act Two takes place entirely in dreamland as the troupe slumbers on their overnight train. the set is a fantastic giant eyeball upstage which serves as an entrance with an upside-down train/spaceship floating in the air. Think Salvador Dali. The dancing in the lovers quarrels is some of the best ballet dancing i have ever seen. The choreography is hilarious, heart-lifting, and totally captivating, not to mention the fact that it captures the Shakespeare text almost line-for-line in tone and spirit.

Act Three opens with the cast taking their bows after performing their ballet, and as the curtain closes, the lovers and Theseus all get down on one knee and the whole crew cheers as they break into a 1920’s popular dance celebration. It’s a delightful backstage moment.

Hello Dolly! March 5, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Conservatory of Music, Theatre Department.
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hellodolly.jpgThis review of Hello Dolly! at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre is contributed here by a special guest writer to Goldblatt University, Dr. Joe Jeff Goldblatt, CSEP.

I saw the most wonderful production of Hello Dolly on saturday! It had a cast of 40 and a 10 piece orchestra that sounded like 30! The show a was at the Festival Theatre down the street from our home. This is a 100 year old theater and of course, gorgeous inside. It was a west end cast and starred Anita Dobson who is a big tv star here from the show Eastenders. She portrayed Dolly with a thick Yonkers accent as did the rest of the cast. The show began with a the curtain raised and a street scene of Yonkers and a marquee that announced “Hello Dolly” As the show began, the marquee sign flew out and the cast streamed in including a full size train carrying Dolly. During the “Parade” number the director brought in local children in victorian costumes and they ran down the theatre aisles with helium baloons and stood in front of the stage as spectators watching a parade. And during the final notes of the number he fired confetti cannons (arcade large format) over the audience. Although it was a matinee audience of mostly seniors, they roared with approval and I thought of YOU NOW WHO!

The waiters number was to die for! Such dancing I have never seen even in NYC. The only weak part was Dolly’s entrance. She wore a goregous gold gown with a black boa and black goves. The black look put a funeral pall on what is generally a joyous highlight of the show. Shoot the costumer! The rest of the costumes were gorgeous and uniformly excellent.

The lighting was old fashioned broadway with follow spots for the principals and subtle mood lighting throughout. I was impressed that a show that is playing about 15 cities in mostly OLD theaters could have such sophisticated lighting. What was most remarkable was that this old chestnut appeared fresh and new. At the interval I went to the bar and was humming a song when a 30 something year old man asked, “Did you like it?” “Yes, I loved it!” He said, “Is this a recent show?” I told him it was 40 years old and the Wilder play was almost 100 years old. He said, “I am amazed because the ideas and lines are so relevant today.” I suggested, “that is why they call it a classic or a masterpiece of theater, just ask Mr. Shakespeare!” He nodded and said that it was his first time to see the show and could not believe what he had missed all these years. Ah, the magic of the theater!

So, next up is Half a Sixpence. I wonder how long I can afford this fun? My ticket cost 8 pounds (about 15 US dollars) and was in the top balcony. The top ticket price was 22 pounds (about 40 US dollars). I moved to the front row after the first act as there were plenty of seats. Will keep this up until I get caught! Today is mummies day (mothers day) in Scotland and Sam is taking his mother, girfriend and me to see Ballet North in a production of Midsummer Nights Dream on Wednesday of this week in the same theatre. The tickets cost a whopping 10 pounds!

Scotland Creative Nation March 1, 2008

Posted by goldblatt in Film School, General Studies, Theatre Department.
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getjimdyson_sultan460.jpgexperienced a lot of great stuff and a lot of baloney at the Scottish Arts Council Cultural Summit 2008: Scotland Creative Nation. Overall, it was a fantastic event and I am truly lucky to be in such a creative nation where the arts are valued and well shepherded by the arts council. good work arts council.

highlights:

Suzanne Lacy‘s lecture about her work. She is fascinating! She’s a conceptual artist who goes around to communities and organizes events, dinners, art installations that have meaning for specific communities. i love the word community. great word. she celebrates, comments on, illuminates communities by creating rituals or milestones for the twenty-first century. loved hearing about her work and hope to hear more.

Per Ericsson talked about the Swedish Film Institute and their education initiatives. They use multimedia in school to engage students and he was very convincing about the benefits of relating to kids by talking about movies and giving a classroom a camcorder.

lowlight:

fascinating debate about “excellence” with Sir Brian McMaster and Joyce McMillan. Sir Brian has written a new scheme about evaluating which institutions are excellent. i’m sure it was well intentioned but it provoked a great deal of controversy in the crowd, and there was much skepticism. interesting debate, but i’m not sold on this excellence concept. i’ll have to read the report.

ultimate highlight:

chat with vicki featherstone and helen marriage about producing. informal and fun. unlike the other discussions which centered on buzzwords and business models, these gals just sat around and chatted, musing on the nature of the Arts Producer. As Vicki said, “this is the hippie shit.” or “artsy faggot bollocks” which is the new buzzword for this lecture. Helen Marriage runs Artichoke which clearly does cool shit like The Sultans Elephant and she told great stories about producing it. finally, real people.