Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Althea Bock-Hughes live stream from Oberlin

Just watched a live stream of Althea Bock-Hughes, mezzo-soprano concert at Oberlin. It was wonderful. Just amazing voice, rich and warm. Great expression, great phrasing. The selection of pieces had a shape of its own and allowed Althea Bock-Hughes to show her skills to best advantage.  I really liked the Jake Heggie composition. "Of gods and Cats" from a poem by Gavin Geoffrey Dillar. The piano accompanist Jie Song was sensitive to both the composition on the page and the performer she was accompanying.

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

3 Puppet Pieces -3

Creator Performer: Ana Craciun-Lambru
Studio Theatre UCONN
24 March 2016

DUST is cubist theatre.
Elements of the work are looked at from several view-points. 
Those view-points sometimes come from different places or different times.

We often see the same moment in time from the perspective of different people.

Dust is cubist in many ways.
The story is passed from medium to medium as the play continues.  Sometimes the primary narrative line is passed from the actor, to the puppet, to the performing object, to the shadows that are being projected.
With all of this abstraction, metaphor and implication the story might be in danger of becoming diffused, but it does not.
One of the most important lessons in the performing arts is to “respect your audience.” Ana Cracuin-Lambru respects her audience and is not afraid to share her emotions, her history and her theatrical method. This is what we hope for, not just from puppet theatre but from all theatrical productions.

This work can be fully appreciated by both adults and school age children. It is also informative because it shows us that puppet theatre can be much more than a silly Punch and Judy show.

The opening trope of the work turns a sewing machine into a cow using high heel shoes as the horns then adding a cowbell and a milk pail.  The cow Craciun-Lambru builds on stage looks like a sculpture by Picasso.

Although the work is abstract it is full of emotion.  We feel anxiety for what
we know is going to happen next, hoping against hope that she escapes from the burning Triangle Shirtwaist Factory building.
Craciun-Lambru changes from a shy child, to an old father, to a young woman setting out to explore the world. She is a girl on an adventure.
The sewing machine becomes, among other things, a fire truck, a cow, and the Triangle Shirt waist building on Washington Square.

The earth-color tonalities that run throughout the stage picture help set the mood and attune our senses to the story being told. We see umber, burnt sienna, brown madder, and grayish blue. The combination of the lighting and the color palate helps draw us into the story and the mood of the piece

Dust is a work of American history and Romanian history and an essay on cubist historiography.

Lighting a stage for three different shows that allow very little time between pieces, in a theatre that has limited space for placement of instruments, is not an easy task.  It is one that lighting designer Daniele Vekennes manages with both creativity and professionalism. Sometimes frontlight was used to give a bright presence to the actors, puppets, performing objects, and set pieces, but when she wants a more sculpted look she comes in from the wings at a sharper angle. The angularity works particularly well in setting off the stark reality of tragical-history in Dust by Craciun-Lambru. The photos in my essays on this evening of puppet performances are all by Gerry Goodstein.

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3 Puppet Pieces -2

Kalob Martinez 
El Beto
writer, director: Kalob Martinez
performers: Martinez and Natalia Cuevas
composer: Lucas Gorham
3D modeler: Leslie Prunier
projections: Joseph Rosen
El Beto is a word with many meanings and implications. It can be a nick name. It might mean a large sexual organ, or a lucky person, or a crazy person. Either a king of Scotland or a drug lord in Mexico might acquire that nickname if they were big enough, crazy enough, and/or lucky enough. Martinez uses the story of Macbeth and images of Mexico to draw parallels between those two types of overwhelming ambition. He uses famous monologues from the Scottish play as the script of his drama. But sometimes he speaks in English and sometimes in Spanish. Often code switching in mid soliloquy. The effect is compelling; we hear the well known speeches in a different timbre.  Kalob Martinez brings the speeches from Shakespeare to life. He knows what the phrases mean and speaks them so as to help us understand how those words come together as a story. The puppets and projections hold our attention. This show would be a great introduction to Macbeth for a younger audience.
In the course of the three-play evening there were only four performers, two women and two men, both women moved with an awareness of their body that bespoke training in dance and consciousness of the fact that every part of the mise en scene is important, and that the puppeteer is part of the mise en scene. 

Although Natalia Cuevas did not operate a puppet but acted in El Beto, she was able to fit her body and her emotions into the production at hand. She moves like a dancer and has an awareness of her body and her character's orientation in the stage space. She seems to be completely fluent in both English and Spanish. Cuevas is capable of carrying a much larger role.

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3 Puppet Pieces -1

actor puppeteer: Gavin Cummings
music Gwendolyn Rooker
Studio Theatre UCONN
24 March 2016

The initial entrance by Gavin Cummins, carrying a bright light on a piece of wood, brings us immediately into the piece. He enters through the back of the house muttering to himself, the character seems insane, homeless, ragged  and we feel we are in a dangerous place. The character, Cummins, then mounts the stage and begins the body of the work. He uses shadows well and creates a stage on his chest against which is another shadow puppet.
The voice and intonation of Cummings leave us with a sense of emptiness and loss. It is a false cheer that we sometimes adopt in the face of tragedy that opens the heart of the audience to what is about to take place. There are several astounding images. The work would have been more dense if the spoken words had been a bit richer, although the repetition of the title phrase took on layers of tragic, and forlorn meaning as they were spoken over and over again. 
This performance was a preview and one expects that on opening night the elements of the piece were more tightly woven together.

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