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Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Austin Dance India presents Bharata Natyam Solos and Duets at the Long Center Rollins Studio Theater, March 28-31. We asked Austin Dance India’s Artistic Director, Anuradha Naimpally  to give us some insight on this classical style of Southern Indian dance.

Often I step back mentally during the busiest moments of the day and always
find myself amazed at what I am doing. At times it is in a studio teaching a class. Other times it is performing in a school cafeteria to 500 kids and Journey-Sunday-041teachers. On occasion it is under the bright lights of a proscenium stage. But wherever I am, I am doing what I love most in this world — dance. And specifically, bharata natyam dance, a classical style from southern India.

I’ve always loved to dance and studied the usual ballet, tap, and jazz while growing up in a remote northern Ontario city. But when I saw bharata natyam for the first time when I was 12 years old,
I instantly knew this was the dance for me. There was just something so familiar about it that I was drawn to it like nothing I have ever felt before. With two of the most supportive parents, I had the opportunity to eventually travel to India and live there to study professionally with incredible masters in Mumbai. I haven’t looked back since.

I have traveled far and wide teaching and performing bharata natyam. I have received many honors which are wonderful but always seem like icing on the cake because I don’t ever feel like this is work. It is hard to fathom that this dance just keeps getting more beautiful and richer in depth as time goes on. An ancient text on bharata natyam states that the performer is doubly blessed because they themselves obtain such joy from this art and they can also share it with their audience through performances. How true.

What is incredulous is that this form, that dates back to ancient times the likes of the 3rd century B.C.E., still finds relevance in today’s modern world. This is what amazes me! Bharata Natyam portrays universal values, aesthetics, human emotions, and situations to which any person can relate. A jilted lover, longing for one’s beloved, playful pranks of a child, young love, spiritual joy are just a few experiences that are portrayed and explored in bharata natyam dance.

I am excited to be presenting an evening of new works with my daughter, Purna, now a lovely young dancer. She was born, and has grown up in Austin and studied bharata natyam with me since she was very young. Our performance, Two Generations, One Tradition: Bharata Natyam Solos and Duet, is a culmination of all that amazes me during those moments of stepping back; I am performing bharata natyam in Austin, TX in 2013; I am performing with my daughter; I am performing at The Long Center; I am performing for all of you! What a blessing indeed!

Anuradha Naimpally, Austin Dance India

For tickets and more information on Austin Dance India’s Bharata Natyam Solos and Duets at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, March 28-31. 

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Words of Wisdom from Charlie Ross, Creator of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy


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Charles Ross, star of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, is performing his one-man act of the entire original Star Wars Trilogy this weekend at the Long Center! We asked Charlie just how he came up with the idea for his original show, and this is what he told us:

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This is me, at the age of eight years old. Not much of an achiever, as you can see by my total lack of merit badges.

Okay, I lie. I did receive one badge for house keeping- there’s a vacuum on it. It’s about as prestigious as the “Breathes Oxygen”, “Carbon Based Life Form”, and “Takes Up 3 Dimensional Space” badge.

Now, if you look very closely at my face you’ll notice the glazed look of a boy who knows too much about Star Wars.  My head is somewhere off in space.

At this time, I lived on a farm, in a far, far away, remote-ish, part of Canada.The TV and radio reception at our farmhouse was even worse than my badge count. Our entertainment came from Winter sports, books, a record player and a VCR. The videos we had were the original Star Wars, the Blue Lagoon, and the eight part miniseries of James Clavell’s novel Shogun (except we were missing the last 20 minutes of the last episode).

Now- it doesn’t take Eagle Scout to figure out- that nine times out of ten, when I chose something to watch, it was Star Wars– sorry Brooke. After three years of watching the film an incredible amount of times, we moved away from the farm, to an artsy little mountain town called Nelson. It was there that I discovered Acting. Behavior that used to get me kicked out of class suddenly had some value- I wasn’t being a disruptive jerk- I was a budding Thespian.

Flash-forward fifteen years later, I was a University grad with a BFA in Acting. I was living the bohemian, poverty-line life of an actor, and I longed to gain some autonomy with my “career”. The question was how? The answer was a one-man show.

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It’s all very involved, but in not so many words I put together my One Man Star Wars with my best friend and colleague, TJ Dawe. TJ had already written, performed and toured a couple autobiographical solo shows- he was the only person I trusted to work with. Plus, he knew Star Wars.

Once my show felt ready, I toured it on the North American Fringe Festival circuit. At the end of my tour, I was invited to perform in Chicago, at the Noble Fool Comedy Theatre.

Suddenly, stuff started to get pretty serious. The media liked my show’s concept: one hour, one man, three films, no props, no costumes, and no set. Then “POOF!” Lucasfilm contacts me: what’s going on? I respond: please don’t kill me?

They didn’t. Instead, they invite me to come perform at Star Wars convention. The little Boy Scout who couldn’t earn a merit badge for anything, suddenly found himself as an adult, performing for 4000 hardcore Star Wars fans per show.Once my show felt ready, I toured it on the North American Fringe Festival circuit.

At the end of my tour, I was invited to perform in Chicago, at the Noble Fool Comedy Theatre. Suddenly, stuff started to get pretty serious. The media liked my show’s concept: one hour, one man, three films, no props, no costumes, and no set. Then “POOF!” Lucasfilm contacts me: what’s going on? I respond: please don’t kill me?

To hell with your badges! I keep this picture to remind myself that while it may be worth a thousand words, none of them would describe who I am on the inside. I turned one person’s idea of a “waste of time” into “career research”.

I was a definitely terrible scout, but I’m a kick ass dreamer.

Charles Ross, Creator and Performer of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy now at the Long Center. 

For Tickets and more information about One-Man Star Wars Trilogy at the Long Center. 

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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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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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Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Beth Burns is the Master of Company and Theatrical Deviser for The Hidden Room Theater in Austin, Texas.

We all sat there, mouths agape, heads tilted.  I suspect I looked like I’d just tasted something I couldn’t describe.  Suddenly, actor Robert Matney started to laugh.  Then we all did, and with great appreciation.  We’d just learned our first magic trick.InvisibleInc18Web

Invisible, Inc. is a crackling play by Paul Menzer about feuding magicians in depression-era New York.  It’s absolutely filled with twists, turns, and lots of magic.  I fell instantly in love with the script, but was also a bit baffled by how we could make these illusions come to life.   Our magic consultant JD Stewart (http://jd-stewart.com) quickly got on the task, and began training our performers on how to make magic real.   Now almost a year later, our actors look like pros, and as I watch them, I still feel a sense of amazement. InvisibleInc15Web

How do we do it?  We’ll never tell.  We took a magician’s oath of secrecy with JD when we got started, and we simply can’t divulge.  But we urge you to join us January 11-20, and see if you find yourself in the same puzzled position the Invisible, Inc. team found ourselves in a year ago, as you enjoy this snappy, sexy noire mystery.  Come see us before we disappear into thin air.

PrintStarring Robert Matney, Liz Fisher, Joseph Garlock, Todd Kassens, Julia Lorenz-Olson, Laurence Pears.  Featuring an original score played almost-live nightly by Graham Reynolds.  Directed by Beth Burns, set by Ia Enstera, costumes by Jamie Urban, lights by Megan Reilly, and props by Justin Cox.  Livestream show closing night at www.hiddenroomtheatre.com.

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Guest Blogger Chuck Smith is an Austin native and Executive Director of Equality Texas.

So, we currently call it the Long Center; however, “Austin’s Creative Home” has been operating, in one form or another, for my entire life.Riverside_Palmer_web

I remember the smell of peanuts and elephants that filled the ‘Austin Municipal Coliseum’ when the circus came to town when I was a small child.

I remember seeing Richard Nixon on stage at the ‘Austin Municipal Auditorium’ in 1968 as he campaigned for the United States presidency. I was twelve years old at the time. Apparently, Nixon played the piano for those in attendance. I don’t remember the piano playing. I do remember that Nixon shared the stage with Paul Eggers, a Republican candidate for Texas governor. In those days, Republicans didn’t win statewide elections in Texas. But, what I most remember is that Eggers had cheerleaders! E-G-G ! E-R-S! Eggers! (At age 12, I hadn’t yet realized I was gay. In hindsight, it was all so clear!)Nixon

I remember addressing my classmates in May, 1974 from the stage of the Austin Municipal Auditorium as the city’s largest senior class was graduated from David Crockett High School. I also remember having the distinct honor of receiving my diploma from my father, who served as a trustee on the Austin ISD school board.

I remember May 1, 1975, when I served as a freshman member of Alpha Phi Omega and an usher for UT student events. The raucous crowd at a Beach Boys concert had the ‘Auditorium’ balcony heaving up and down so much that the plaster on the walls began to crack and fall to the ground. I snagged a chunk of the falling debris and kept it throughout my college years.beachboys

Since those days, I’ve enjoyed all kinds of amazing events at the Long Center. Things like Trailer Food Tuesdays, Tap Dogs, Ballet Austin’s Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project and many others. My most recent experience at the Long Center was over the 2012 holiday season. Two generations of my family filled a fabulous mezzanine box as we watched the Cirque Dreams Holidaze show…just like generations before had done and many more will continue to do, making memories at Austin’s creative home.

–Chuck Smith

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