The TriArts Sharon Playhouse summer season is ending with “The Little Mermaid.” Most of us read the Hans Christian Andersen story as children. Many saw the Disney film. Since the Broadway production closed in 2012, after a four-year run, Alan Menken has added new songs and writer Doug Wright has expanded several of the roles. As a result the version opening Thursday in Sharon promises to be even better than the original.
John Simpkins has been the artistic director of TriArts for the past two years, after serving as guest director for four years. He explained that TriArts is one of the only theaters in our part of the world to employ actors at all levels of talent and experience. TriArts casts are usually composed of a couple of Equity actors as well as some non-Equity young professionals in paid positions. The ten college students who come for the entire summer appear in two productions, which earns them two credits from New York University (NYU). Talented people from this area also have a chance to try out at the auditions Simpkins holds in February. As Simpkins says, the mix of performers gives everyone the chance to learn from each other.
An awed audience heard the premiere of a one-singer opera written by Michael Hersch at BAM last Wednesday (June 25), based on poems written by a Romanian poet, Martin Sorescu. The performance by the sole singer, Ah Young Hong, under the direction of Roger Brunyate, was captivating. She reached to the depths of feeling. She bared her soul, she opened her heart; she asked existential questions; she took us through the poetry’s agonizing experience of death by cancer. This sounds morbid, but we were taken beyond existence into the galaxy of stars, into spaces beyond our world, into feeling beyond the present into timelessness. Ah Young Hong’s voice ranged from piercing high notes that filled the hall to rich, mellow tones to intimate whispers. She held her audience, enveloping them with a power that transcended acting: her feelings became your feelings.
The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center in Poughkeepsie was the scene of a gathering of musicians and composers and their supporters last Sunday afternoon, as a new music series had its inaugural concert. It is the brainchild of Josh Groffman, composer and pianist. It drew a good crowd, and it looks like Groffman has the momentum to make things happen.
The word phantasmagoria describes Alex Shundi’s paintings. Fiery angel wings ablaze with electric blue eyes, enmeshed hands holding Pinocchio’s nose, lascivious-looking pomegranates, a stork carrying a piece of prociutto, eyeballs with three pupils, knuckles grasping earlobes, nebula connected to beating hearts, flying fish that become swallow-like à la M.C. Escher, pictures that come out of their frames to shake hands and a panoply of hidden symbols abound in work that looks like it was done by a surrealist Harry Potter.
Alex Shundi’s current exhibit, “Antenna” is up until March 27 at the Warner Gallery of the Millbrook School. The word ‘antenna’ refers to the artist’s ability to be receptive to images which speak to him. His memories and imagination dialogue through that interaction to allow other shapes, memories and archtypal stories to unfold.
“Each artist approaches their point of creativity from the center of their own universe,” said Shundi at a lecture for Millbrook School art students on February 26 in the Holbrook Arts Center.
Musically, Oliver Kennan is an outfielder. He’s not a strong-armed pitcher or a quick-footed shortstop. He’s the reserved one who is paying more attention to the game than everyone else on the field, waiting for his chance. The 23-year-old is a full-time musician singing the lead vocals and playing guitar for the band Outfielder, which released its debut EP on Christmas Day.
TMI caught up with Kennan in the same Millbrook house that was used as the band’s creative sanctuary in the summer months.
Kennan attended high school in the city, at York Prep School, where he sang in the school choir, he says. He tried drums and then guitar and started writing his own songs. Kennan’s musical inspiration in high school was any musician at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival, from Hendrix to Joplin.
Kennan said he was shy in high school, with little interest in anything other than music. He made friends when he started the band Stale Air, which now he is a little embarrassed to mention.
“I wrote my first songs, we couldn’t sing, we couldn’t even keep a beat,” said Kennan. “It was a great learning experience.”
The colorful music of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, played by the American Symphony Orchestra at Bard’s Fisher Center on Saturday, seemed inseparable from the ballet for which the music was composed. Images of the puppet becoming humanlike and then human, dancing with the ballerina that was the puppet’s muse, their love and charm and the enlivening of the other puppets in the puppeteer’s studio danced across memory as if they were on stage. The music is so endowed with memory, even to its creation when the legends of ballet Stravinsky, Michel Fokine, Alexandre Benois, Vaslav Nijinsky, Serge Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes came together in the heady days of 1912, shortly after Firebird, to create another legend that has endured as a classic ballet and a classic piece of orchestral music. All these names floated through the music as it was superbly played by the members of the ASO under the devoted attention of Leon Botstein.
April is the two hundredth anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth. Under the direction of Leon Botstein, Bard mounted a modest tribute to the lasting influence of Wagner on twentieth-century music. I prefer the lineage of Berlioz, Verdi, and Puccini (and Tchaikovsky, Bartok, and Prokofiev), yet over the last hundred years those lines appear to have withered, while Wagner’s influence marched on through Strauss, Glass, and others. That influence depends on the device (some might say gimmick) of elongating dramatic intensity by withholding a note to resolve a chord. At times this technique may become ponderous and pretentious, yet it may also function as an effective foil to create magnificent and memorable crescendo.