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Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Long Center Marketing Intern Mari Stoner plays the character “Elisabeth” in the upcoming University of Texas  opera production, LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES by Philip Glass.

Opera, like most things, has its stigmas in modern culture. Although some say opera is a dying art form, perhaps it is simply in the process of evolving to reflect the times. As opera continues to search for its place in our fast-paced, technology-based culture, it becomes necessary to make it accessible to future audiences.  For me, a masters student in opera at the University of Texas Butler Opera Center, one of my goals is to promote opera through my performing.

I have received a fantastic opportunity to do this via my portrayal of the character “Elisabeth” in UT’s winter opera opening this Friday – Les enfants terribles by Philip Glass. This opera is in no way your traditional Mozart or Puccini opera. It is a bit more avant-garde, a bit more bizarre, and has incredible potential to attract a diverse audience.

Les enfants terribles or “The Terrible Children” is adapted from a novel written in 1929 by Jean Cocteau. The story centers on Paul and Elisabeth, a brother and sister living essentially unsupervised in Paris in the early 20th century. Abandoned by their alcoholic father and uncared for by their invalid mother, they spend their time living in their shared bedroom and engaging in a game of hypnotism to escape their mundane reality. Two other characters enter the picture as the show goes on: Gerard, Paul’s school friend, and Agathe, an orphan that Elisabeth meets when she secures a job with a seamstress. Before the children realize what is happening, desire and jealousy creep in among them, and suddenly the harmless game becomes a reality from which there is no escape. Consumed by hate in her struggle for power, Elisabeth must find a way to maintain control, even if that means she and her brother must die.

Both the music and staging for Les enfants terribles are unconventional with regard to standard opera. Composer Philip Glass conceived of the piece to be a dance-opera, in which a singer and a dancer portray the emotions of each character on stage simultaneously. Stage Director David Toro manages this hybrid art form by establishing the dancer characters as manifestations of the singers’ subconscious thoughts. From a musical perspective, the work presents challenges not found in standard opera repertoire. Glass’ music tends to incorporate repetition and a level of unpredictability that make it surprisingly complicated despite fairly simple musical textures.  According to Maestro Kelly Kuo, each of the twenty scenes in the opera present a “tableau of emotion” musically and dramatically rather than driving forward an actual progression in time. This assessment seems to match Philip Glass’ own perspective on Les enfants terribles:

“Here, time stands still. There is only music, and the movement of children through space.”

Opera buff or not, expect the unexpected with the Butler School of Music production Les enfants terribles, playing this weekend at the University of Texas McCullough Theater on Friday, February 22nd and Sunday, February 24th at 7:30 pm.

-Mari Stoner
Long Center Marketing Intern
 
FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION.

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Noel Coward’s provocative comedy, DESIGN FOR LIVING Feb. 6-24 at the Rollins Theater from Austin Shakespeare, professional award-winning theater.

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As Austin Shakespeare goes into its final week of production of Noel Coward’s witty comedy Design for Living, we thought it would be fun to take a second look at the characters from lead Helen Merino’s perspective.  In her interview with Artistic Director Ann Ciccolella, Helen gives us her thoughts on the show

What makes Noel Coward’s DESIGN FOR LIVING appealing?

Well, it’s an attractive world to start. It draws you into its serious ideas via sex, period clothing, enchanting music, and dazzling wordplay. It is a provocative, substantial, sometimes even painful journey but always in the close company of something sparkling, fun and beautiful. My only regret about being in it is that I can’t be in the audience to have that happen to me.

Why did you want to act in DESIGN FOR LIVING?

It was a combination of the script and knowing I would be working on it with Ann (Ciccolella, director). In general, I find it hard to turn Austin Shakespeare down. The experience is always the way I fantasize I’ll be treated as an actor in other companies but rarely ever am. There seems to be – not
just in Ann, but in the staff as well – a sincere, intelligent interest in what actors actually DO, so the odds of being able to DO it goes way up. I’m hired as a real colleague, employed and encouraged to do my best. They are the most satisfying company to work with because of it.

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Also, I fell in love with Coward’s three main characters. He manages to be frankly critical of them without ever losing the thread of what makes them beautiful. In the end it’s their beauty, their shameless, authentic devotion that carries them to their final convictions. They all have smallness in them that they fight against or give into throughout the show, each of them following the wrong solutions to what they need to be.  But I love that when they do the final math, they look simply to the truth. Coward lets real love and honor be the thing that carries them toward survival, not fear or whim. I think that’s what separates them from some of his more cynical, sexually addicted characters. I honestly don’t know how other people will take them, but I like them all very much.

What surprised you about Noel Coward’s DESIGN FOR LIVING?

Hands down, it’s the level of difficulty. It’s not just the language – which is some of the most difficult I’ve ever done, and absolutely the most difficult not written by Shakespeare. It’s the show’s hybrid style. Coward, sort of brilliantly, tells us the impossible story of helpless

21906_10151301655818253_1075770236_nlove for two people by using two different styles of drama; it’s part “Private Lives,” part “Brief Encounter.”  And he, like his characters, seems frankly, blindly in love with both methods of communication – it’s all hot and cold speech; each scene seems to exist simultaneously on two planets. The method of conveyance is sometimes a swift, cool, calculated bubble, then switches immediately into a savage, indecent, humiliating openness. It makes one feel a constant sense of, “what’s happening? is this right?”  It’s very hard to modulate, alternate, and find the right place to be, but when you do, you feel like the best of bareback riders.

For more information and Tickets to Design for Living at The Long Center.

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Power. Precision. Passion. Valentine’s Day weekend.
Music by Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Schubert.
Allegro Brillante – George Balanchine
Requiem for a Rose – Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
The Rite of Spring – Stephen Mills

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Long Center Founding Resident Company Ballet Austin presents The Rite of Spring February 15-17 at the Long Center. Here are some beautiful photographs from a recent dress rehearsal. Photo Credit: Tony Spielberg.

For more information and tickets to The Rite of Spring.

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As distinctive and dynamic as the city it calls home, Ballet Austin welcomes audiences near and far to participate in its “classically innovative” vision for the democratization of dance. With a rich history spanning five decades, acclaimed productions, a commitment to creating access to programs and one of the nation’s largest classical ballet academies, the organization is poised for an even greater future. From their home at the Butler Dance Education Center in downtown Austin, Ballet Austin and Artistic Director Stephen Mills actively engage the community, dancers, and audiences alike. The New York Times proclaims Ballet Austin “a company with big ambitions” originating work that is “absorbing.”

For More Information and Tickets to The Rite of Spring. 

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Editor’s Note: Long Center Resident Company Austin Shakespeare, a professional, award-winning theatre company, presents Noel’s Coward provocative comedy, Design For Living, February 6-24 in the Long Center’s Rollins Studio Theater.

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It’s difficult for us to realize the extent of the daring nature of Design for Living. Premiering in 1933, its treatment of sexuality in loving relationships was provocative for the time. Using a three-way love affair as the core of the plot, much of the play would still be considered eyebrow-raising today. Michael Miller plays the lead role of “Leo” in the production, and he also starred as “Mr. Darcy” in Austin Shakespeare’s recent production of Pride & Prejudice.

Ann Ciccolella: What does Noel Coward’s Design for Living say to you about relationships?

The play presents an aspect of human relationships that isn’t often discussed and may not be fully understood but, for all that, is similar to the situations in which many people do find themselves. Though our society values and presents coupling as the dominant and only acceptable mode of romantic relationship, Design For Living asks, “What do you do when you love more than one person at once?” But then, going further, it asks, “What happens when the people you love return your love but also love each other?” You might have stumbled on similar stories on Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, but I guarantee, the participants there didn’t explore their situation with nearly the amount of wit, intelligence, honesty (& healthy teeth) as these characters.

Why did you want to act in this play?

noel cowardI was excited to do the show because I’ve loved Noel Coward for years. I had the best time years ago doing two different productions of his Hay Fever in which I played the same character both times. I love his wit, language, music, elan and the fact that he was obviously, if not openly, gay (and therefore a kind of role model for me). And then there was the chance to work with Ann Ciccolella, Helen Merino & Michael Dalmon again. And although he signed on after I was cast, the addition of Martin Burke took that ‘triple treat’ and made it a treat to the fourth power.

What surprised you about the work?

designforlivingWhat has surprised me is the depth of the play. I think the common conception of Coward (definitely what comes to my mind, at least) is that of the urbane, quick-witted sophisticate. And there is that – the language is unlike any other writer’s and the humor singularly Coward’s. However, this can make him seem a little “too cute for school.” But the play is rife with honestly presented conflict and searing heartbreak. And then he gives the audience this challenge  – Design For Living starts where many plays, movies, TV shows, etc. end. In other words, without giving away too much, the first act ends where most other dramas end, but Coward keeps drilling deeper as he lets the characters continue to explore just how far their love for each other can go. And therefore, this play is far more surprising and courageous, I think, than most any other you could see.

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