Monday, February 28, 2011

Progeny discretion advised

Mom and Dad,  good sports throughout everything.

I took my mom and dad to NAU Theatre's "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" on Saturday night.  At dinner, I tried to prepare them at by telling them that it was a racy enactment of a court-room trial for Judas Iscariot. But as soon as the play started, I realized I hadn't done my job very well at all.

  My mom and dad are kind of conservative Lutherans.  So, when an actor dropped the f-bomb in the first line of the play, I could feel my mom stiffen up beside me.  It went from bad to worse during the litany by Saint Monica, where she drops "mo-fo" like a conversation filler.  I could see mum giving it a mental thumbs-down in her G-rated internal world.  It was kind of hard to enjoy the play when Moms was so disturbed.

  On the other side of me, Dad couldn't hear anything (he wears a hearing aid--I have to speak real loud.)  So I had to re-speak every other line, after the actors.  I think my favorite part was when I had to re-say Prosecution Attorney El-Fayoumy's line "That woman makes my organs quiver."  Real loud. (Seriously, if that line doesn't make you want to see the play, I don't know what will.)

  Sorry, neighbors.

  It was kind of funny, in a comedy-tragedy sort of way.
  At intermission, I was ready to hear my mom say that she wanted to leave.  But she didn't!  She stuck it out-- she wanted to see what Jesus would do.  (WWJD?)

   My dad laughed a lot after I told him what everyone was saying.  My mom started to relax a little, especially when Jesus started to speak.  It turned out that their boundaries were pushed open in a really positive way.  
  NAU Theatre has really been pushing the bar, in their ever-tasteful/win-you-over kind of way.  "Judas" is fresh on the heels of their summer Town and Gown production, "Psychopathia Sexualis," (all about a sock fetish) and then "Equus" (with onstage nudity) earlier this academic year. For their efforts, they were nominated for a Viola Award in Performing Arts this year.  ("Equus" also received the ever-prestigious Flag Live Editor's Choice 2010 award for "Best challenging theatrical production".)

  I think you should definitely go see the play before it ends, be prepared to be challenged, and come away with a new perspective. 

  And my parents...well, I'm glad I took the them, but hoo-boy.  It might take them awhile to recover, but I think they'll be okay.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"When I was your age, I had to drive through 18 inches of snow just to see a French film!"

Me and the family at the 5th annual Tournees French Film Festival.  Photo by Hanna Smolan.
 Last weekend I sat with my dear friend Janna Jones in the Wettaw building on campus to watch five french films.  Over 400 people braved the 18 inches of snow to watch them with us!!

  It was our fifth and final year for the Tournees French Film Festival.  I was really happy to have my mom and dad in town to watch a couple of films with me.  And it was fun that my son enjoyed the animated film (A Town Called Panic) so much that he came--to watch it again for the 3rd time! (It's somewhat gratifying that my offspring likes subtitled movies, even though they are animated.)

  So after trekking through the snow to get to the films, and driving adventurously to get home after it had been coming down for awhile, I felt like I needed to relax.  What did I do?  I poured myself a glass of wine and...turned on a film!

  For some reason, I appreciate film while I can't really stand television.  I think it's because film viewing is more interactive for me--I can start to appreciate the nuances of the work.  And even more than Hollywood, I really, really like foreign film.  I've gone through a Spanish horror movie phase, black and white French phase, Swedish-anything phase, and a Bollywood phase.  I also like shorts and animated films, and I think Europe is really good at both of these genres.

  A good film is challenging, like a good piece of art work, one that you can look at again and again and not get bored.  There's a sense of achievement when you "get" it, especially when you get it in another language and another culture. Jokes are funnier when you get them in another language, because you have to work a little bit harder to understand it all! Foreign films take me out of my everyday experience without having to travel.  I know that I will come away with a new understanding of another culture.  And I certainly know how to read subtitles, (it's easier than you think for those who criticize it!) 

  As I come to know myself better, I realize that what activities produce a good feeling in me, which things I will go to great lengths to be able to accomplish. Call me crazy, but an 18-inch snowstorm is no match for the good vibes I get from seeing good french film. 

Me and Hanna, student photog. extraordinaire



Monday, February 14, 2011

Lessons on love from NAU's opera director

  I sat down to talk with Nando Schellen, director of NAU Opera, last week.  Nando was recently nominated for the Governor's Art Award for an outstanding individual in Arts Education.  We were discussing his upcoming opera, "L'elisir d'amore" (The Elixir of Love) that he is preparing for the first weekend of April. "The Elixir of Love" is a comedy done by the Bel Canto composer Gaetano Donizetti.  (Bel Canto simply means "beautiful singing.")

  When Nando and I talk about his operas, we often end up talking about love.  As an opera afficionado, Nando is very philosophical about the human emotion.

  The Elixir of Love is a tale that touches on unrequited love. It involves a love potion and a love triangle between a wealthy woman, a peasant man, and a soldier.  It is, Nando tells me almost immediately, a love story.

  So my prompt reply was "Does opera deal with anything else besides love?"

  His answer?  "Nothing in the world deals with anything else but love."

 (What else could he have said?  Nando is in love with love.)

So then we talked about love.  "Love is a very small word that encompasses a lot of sides.  We've all had our parts," said Nando. Why doesn't love work sometimes?  "I think the mistake is that the partners are not equal."

  Take Jerry Seinfeld, he proposes.  All the girls Jerry likes aren't equal to him.  Or (I would add) they are way out of his league.  These situations inevitably lead to humor.  "A good comedy doesn't deny that we still have a lot of problems," said Nando.

  And if you are a man looking to attract a woman?  Perhaps you should become a soldier.  "Soldiers attract women like honey to a fly," said Nando.  He should know.  He was a young boy in occupied Amsterdam, and women went for the soldiers all the time, even though they were Nazis.

  So what does all this talk about love and opera have to do with us on Valentine's Day? I think that opera teaches us that despite all the changes in our daily lives, with ever-increasing  technology, mankind doesn't essentially change much. And it's good to laugh at ourselves. We should always laugh, and be reflective on our human emotions.

 That's why an opera from 1832 is still funny.

NAU Opera director, Nando Schellen, rehearses a dramatic love scene with graduate student Maria Lopez.
Photo by Jason Bullard

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lip Service hits the road

Gary takes a picture of the gallery at the House of Representatives at the AZ Arts Congress.

  Yesterday, Gary Walden, executive director of Theatrikos, Rebecca Cauthen, conductor of the Flagstaff Community Band, and I represented Flagstaff at the Arts Congress in Phoenix.  We met with Senator Steve Pierce and Representative Karen Fann to ask them to please try to stop the sweeps on the Arizona arts budget.

  Our state representatives were extremely gracious.  They said they would try to keep the money in the arts... but the reality of the state budget isn't too promising for that.

  So why do I still feel full of positive energy for the system and our arts in Arizona? 

  Mainly, it's because I started to remember that we live in a DEMOCRACY.  Our officials are supposed to listen to the people, to represent us.  And I guess, (well, I'll admit this to you now) I guess I kind of forgot that.  After listening to people in Egypt fight and protest for two weeks, I thought I might try to make my own voice heard for something that I care deeply about.

 So I broke out of my day-to-day world and started action towards the big picture.  The things that Gary, Rebecca, and I said may not make a difference tomorrow or next week.  But we believe that our presence started a ripple effect, that our awareness and concern helped our representatives see that we (and many others like us) care about the arts.  And they may remember that next time they have to vote for something.

  We get so stuck in our circles of influence--in our jobs, in our gang of peeps, in Flagstaff- that we forget the ways that we can expand our power.  I don't want to complain; I want to change!  If we aren't taking action towards our ideal future, then it must not matter to us that much.

 I'm just taking one more step away from lip service.  

With Senator Steve Pierce

Friday, February 4, 2011

Arts Congress 2011

On Monday I am going to Phoenix for the Arizona Citizens Actions for the Arts "Arts Congress 2011".  Arts Congress is an annual advocacy day, which takes place at the Arizona State Capitol on the first Monday in February. I will have the opportunity to speak to our legislators and tell them why I support the arts and how the arts have made a difference in my life.

  I'm so excited to be able to express my passion for the arts to politicians who are in charge of designating money and resources to the arts.   These are the things that they have asked us to focus on.

1.    Restore the $116,000 sweep from the Arts Trust Fund, dollars designated by the business
community to publicly support Arizona’s arts industry. Sweeps to dedicated funds are just wrong.

2.    Support the Governor’s Budget with the exception of cuts to the Arts Trust Fund.

3.    Make no more cuts to the arts.  The arts budget has been cut more than 60% over the past few years.

  What do you think?  Do you agree with these points?

See you on Tuesday, with an update.