Monday, October 5, 2015

KISS ME, KATE: Opening October 16!

Is it real or is it Shakespeare—or is it both? High-spirited singing, dancing and a classic Broadway-sized orchestra take you back to a 1948 theatre stage, where couples behave badly but love conquers all in Cole Porter’s most applauded musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate. 

Kiss Me, Kate is performed in the Van Duzer Theatre on Friday and Saturday October 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday Oct. 22-24 at 7:30 with one matinee on Sunday Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 seniors, students and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928.) Kiss Me, Kate is a co-production of the HSU Music department and the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance department.
“It’s a big musical the way big musicals used to be,” said director Susan Abbey. “It’s not the spectacle-based musical of today—it’s driven by a great story that’s fun and funny, celebrating the magic of theatre and the power of love.”

Adding excitement for audiences is an orchestra of 20 community and HSU musicians, playing the original arrangements as they were performed on Broadway—an increasingly rare event. Though this music was meant for a full orchestra, “often it’s watered down to a combo or a few synthesizers and a drum machine,” said musical co-director Paul Cummings, who conducts this orchestra. “That’s even true for most musicals in New York today.”

The original Kiss Me, Kate opened in 1948 and won multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical while setting box office records. It is generally considered to be the best musical of Cole Porter’s long and legendary career.

 “People know these Cole Porter tunes,” said musical director Elisabeth Harrington, “even if they don’t know they are from this show.”  

Kiss Me, Kate: The Story

Fred Graham (played by Gino Bloomberg) is an actor eager to get back to the big time by producing and directing a new version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew --improved of course, with songs for the 1948 tryout town audience.

Naturally he'll star as Petruchio, but the show needs a box office draw as Kate.  So his movie star ex-wife is persuaded to take the part.
Lilli Vanessi (Anna Duchi) has seen her Hollywood stardom fade since she got a reputation for being hard to work with. So she agrees to star as Kate.  But it's more than "Another Opening, Another Show." Besides getting back to the big time, there's the possibility of getting back with Fred, even after a year of divorce. And even though she's engaged to another man.

At first it seems the sparks between them have reignited, and everything is "Wunderbar."  Until Fred's roving eye drives Lilli into epic anger.  Can anyone blame her when she--as Kate--sings "I Hate Men?"
Fred makes indiscreet overtures to Lois (Tossa Hayward) who is playing Bianca in the Shakespeare play.  She is involved with Bill (Christopher Moreno) who plays Lucentio.  And maybe one or two others.  But she is "Always True to You In My Fashion."

Meanwhile Bill has lost at gambling to the local gangsters but signs Fred's name to his debt.  When the gangsters come to collect, there's even more trouble.
   So from Shakespeae's sunny Padua to their Baltimore backstage, Lilli and Fred are fuming and fighting, as are the characters they play (Kate and Petruchio), and it becomes hard for everybody to tell the difference.  A few more twists in the plot, many more songs and dances, and lessons are learned so that true love can triumph.

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Cast

Lilli/Kate: Anna Duchi
Fred/Petriuchio: Gino Bloomberg
Lois/Bianca: Tossa Hayward
Bill/Lucentio: Christopher Moreno
General Harrison Howell: Matthew Atkins
Gangsters: Ivan Gamboa, Mickey Thompson
Harry/Baptista: Bob Service
Sadie/Priest: Janet Waddell

The following members of the cast play multiple roles and/or are members of the Company:

Makenna Baker, Joshua Banuelos, Justine Bivans, Camille Borrowdale, Ambar Cuevas, Tyler Ewell, William English III, Ethan Frank, Erin Henry, Christopher Joe, Stephanie Lemon, Magdelinda Leyra-Garcia, Luz Meja, John Pettion, Fuafiva Pulu, Carolina Rios, Elio Robles, Samantha Kolby, Noah Sims, Ayanna Wilson, Jonathan Wisan, Britney Wright.

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Production

Tossa Hayward, Veronica Brooks

Director: Susan Abbey
Musical Directors: Elisabeth Harrington, Paul Cummings
Choreographer and Dance Director: Sharon Butcher
Scenographer/Scenic Designer: Derek Lane
Lighting Designer: Santiago Menjiver
Costume Design: Alexander Sterns, Izzy Ceja, Veronica Brooks
Props Designer: Brynn Allen
Stage Manager: Heidi Voelker
Asst. Director: Chelly Purnell
Asst. Music Director: Jessie Rawson
Asst. Orchestra: Starsong Brittain
 Asst. Scenic Designer: Maggie Luc
Asst. Stage Manager: Sarina Rodriguez

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Director

Director Susan Abbey remembers the first time she went backstage. It was at the high school in her hometown of Burley, Idaho. “This was potato country, and a high school show was as good as it got.” She was in junior high and a girlfriend’s older sister was in the production of Oklahoma.

 “Seeing the structures of the set, the mechanisms and lights, and the actors back there--in a way it was just as magical as the illusion that was created out front,” she recalls.

 She wanted to tap into that feeling by showing this perspective to the audience of Kiss Me, Kate, partly for the magic but partly to suggest the importance of the theatre itself in the lives of these characters.

 “The people in this play, especially the two leads Fred and Lilli, have lived their lives on the two sides of the stage. Their marriage ended in a theatre world, and it is through the play they are doing, The Taming of the Shrew, that they see themselves and their relationship in a different way.”

 The shifting perspective is part of Derek Lane’s design, reflecting not only the backstage sometimes becoming the stage, but in other ambiguities and reversals.

 “I love Escher’s work, especially when things seem like they’re going up when they’re really going down,” Abbey said, “or the Rubin’s vase, which is either a vase or faces depending on how you look at it. Sometimes when we look at things one way, whether it’s a stage set or a relationship, all it takes is a shift in perspective to see it differently.”

 But what’s also onstage is singing and dancing, almost all the time. “Gino Bloomberg (Fred/Petruchio) is a real triple threat—acting, singing and dancing. Anna Duchi (Lilli/Kate) has a beautiful voice, and a lovely elegant quality about her. Tossa Hayward (Lois/Bianca) brings this Debbie Reynolds energy in contrast to Anna’s elegance.”

 “It’s been a great collaborative process working with Elisabeth Harrington on the singing and Sharon Butcher on choreography. Both of these powerhouse women have really honored the storytelling process. They keep coming back to me and asking, are we telling the story you want to tell?”

 That story particularly involves the relationship of Fred and Lilli, which sometimes spills over into their portrayals of Petruchio and Kate—and then spills back. Telling their tempestuous love story is more difficult given the expected gender roles of Shakespeare’s time, as well as of 1948, the year in which the story is set.

“How you work with the misogyny is again a matter of perspective. Shakespeare’s women are often the smartest ones in the bunch—he seemed to have a real affinity for the female soul. So I look for the truth under the connotations.”

 “Fred is egotistical and proud, and Lilli is angry and proud. But things happen to them in the play to change their perspectives. For one thing, Lilli is involved with the General, a real chauvinist, and Fred sees how badly he treats her, and wonders about himself.”

 “When they both get to the moment that they realize what they’ve done, and realize that if they are both willing to let those go, they can find their truth and strength in each other. They come to a sense of equality—we suggest this visually—and of a choice they both make.”

 “Directing this so those moments are there and clear is really important to me,” Abbey said. “It’s about owning all that you are, as opposed to a role. In this story, two human beings come together and are willing to honor each other and serve each other as equals. It comes from a place of honor, not need. It’s not about the fight. It’s about the willingness to put the armor down.”

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Choreographer

“This is a show that is really dance intensive,” said Sharon Butcher, choreographer and head of the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance department dance studies program. “We made decisions on dancing numbers and singing numbers to allow our students to shine but also to keep the integrity of the work.”

 “We have a small number of core dancers but we do incorporate everybody in the bigger numbers. Background dancers can provide a nice counterpoint visually and rhythmically to the main dancers. We try to get as many people involved as possible because they are just so willing, so enthusiastic. When they aren’t in a dance—because we can’t use everybody all the time, the cast is just so large—they are genuinely disappointed. Even those who are music and theatre-based are so eager to dance!”

 “Because the play spans eras, there are dances reminiscent of those times. When we’re in the 1940s, there are dances indicative of the Lindy Hop and swing, stylized jitterbug and Big Band social dancing. In the Shakespearian scenes, references to the pavane and old English folk dance styles. Because the play lends itself to quirkiness we blend a lot of that into it, even in The Taming of the Shrew parts. Even though they’re in Elizabethan dress, we take liberties of adding elements of modern surprise into those dances.”

 “The show is utterly hilarious and absurd, each character is really two characters and sometimes when they’re trying to be one of them, the other slips through—so that’s fun to work with in the choreography.”

 “All the while, movement also expresses character development, and what aspects of personality should be highlighted at a particular time. When I’m working collaboratively with the dancers who contribute their sense of who they are, I always have to check with Susan Abbey, the director: does the movement help to tell the story? I also have to be aware of the blocking—where dances have to start and where they have to stop.”

 “We’re also limited by directions in the script itself which can be very specific about particular cast members doing certain things during the dance numbers.”

 “But Susan is a very inspiring and nurturing director. She’s not just product-based but she constantly reminds us that the quality of process is so important to her, to keep everyone’s minds open to it and redirect behavior so that the process is a really enjoyable one.”

 “I did musical theatre for a living in my early 30s, and I have forgotten the rigors of these night-long rehearsals after a long day of school or work. I’m amazed at the students’ commitment to do that. I can feel how hard it is on me. But when I had a night off when I could do my laundry and my dishes and take a bath, I was at home missing being in the theatre. I missed being in the theatre with the gang.”

Kiss Me, Kate: The Composer

“People know these Cole Porter tunes,” said Elisabeth Harrington, music director of the HSU production of Kiss Me, Kate, “even if they don’t know they are from this show.”

"Another Opening, Another Show," "Too Darn Hot," "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" and "From This Moment On" are just a few of the enduring songs from Kiss Me, Kate.

 But there are other Cole Porter songs that might be a surprise.  "Anything Goes," "You're the Top" may be familiar as Porter songs, but how about "Don’t Fence Me In,” “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Let’s Do It,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “True Love?”

They are all Porter compositions—and they are all from his Broadway shows or Hollywood musicals. These and other songs have been kept alive through recording and reinterpretations by several generations of singers, from Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald through Elvis Presley, George Harrison, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Carly Simon and Celine Dion to U2, Annie Lennox, K.D. Laing, Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow and Diana Krall. Lady Gaga has recorded several Porter songs, and calls him one of her favorite composers.

“In a way no other songs of the period quite did,” wrote journalist Walter Clemons, “Porter’s created a world.”

 But the man who personified continental elegance and Manhattan sophistication grew up in a small Indiana town on the banks of the Wabash River. Its only distinguishing feature was as the winter home for a circus, and it was watching circus acts rehearse for the next season that young Cole got his first taste of show business.

 His maternal grandfather made a fortune, starting with a dry goods business supplying miners during the California Gold Rush. His mother was born in Brandy City in Sierra County, California, now a ghost town. His grandfather was determined that Cole would be a businessman, but his parents--especially his mother--supported his artistic expressions.

Cole went to Yale where he wrote over 100 songs and was the center of most musical and theatrical activity. His grandfather insisted he study law, but after a disastrous first semester, the Dean of the Harvard law school himself suggested Cole pursue songwriting, and sent him over to the Harvard School of Music.

He continued his musical studies in Paris, where his social circles intersected with Picasso, Stravinsky and Scott Fitzgerald, and where he met and married another American, Linda Lee. Though Cole Porter was gay and this marriage was in part a cover, he and Linda remained devoted to each other until her death. He relied on her judgment for every song. Said Saint Subber, producer of  Kiss Me, Kate, “Linda was the air that made his sails move.”

 His songs won praise in the communities of artists and wealthy sophisticates in 1920s Paris and New York but they were not mainstream enough for Broadway. Popular tastes caught up to him in a big way in the 1930s, resulting in steady work and a string of hit musicals on stage and screen.

He had hit shows and movies well into the 1950s, with songs introduced by Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Mary Martin, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.

But in the mid 1940s he hit a dry spell. Though it had been nearly 10 years since a riding accident crushed his legs, he was still in near constant pain. He saw that musical theatre was changing, and he wondered if he could change with it. Then a writer he’d worked with before came to him representing an idea for a Broadway musical based on, of all things, a play by Shakespeare.

Kiss Me Kate: The Play

Alfred Drake & Patricia Morison in original
production of Kiss Me, Kate
There’s disagreement on who came up with the core ideas for Kiss Me, Kate—producer Arnold Saint Subber or writer Bella Spewack, but one thing is uncontested: it wasn’t Cole Porter. 

Saint Subber claimed that it came to him when he observed offstage arguments between the legendary Lunts (Alfred Lunt married to Lynn Fontane) during their production of The Taming of the Shrew.  Bella Spewack insisted that she came up with the idea of the backstage story that parallels the play.

Eventually she wrote the story and script, with her husband Samuel. That process was complicated by their marital split, when Sam ran off with a ballerina. Whether he was inspired by this play’s plot or the other way around, it adds another dizzying layer to the play within a play.  (And in musical comedy fashion, they later reconciled.)

 In any event, Cole Porter had to be persuaded to participate. He wondered if Shakespeare could be the the basis of a Broadway entertainment. But as well as doubts about this specific show he had doubts about himself.  His last show had been a flop, as was last movie (The Pirate with Gene Kelly--now a classic.) He noted that in the latest shows, the songs and story were more integrated than in his musicals.  He wasn't sure he could do it.

But once he committed to the project, he was more than just the songwriter. He was involved in casting, attended rehearsals and suggested staging. Perhaps most importantly, he raised money for the show—which took a long time, because, sure enough, it was hard to persuade people that a musical with Shakespeare in it was a likely Broadway hit.

 He wrote 25 songs, dropped several in rehearsal. When the choreographer complained about a song, Porter substituted another. When a secondary lead complained he didn’t have a song, Porter wrote one for him.

He must have found a kindred spirit in Shakespeare, at least when it comes to double entendres of a sexual nature.  Porter outdid the Bard, especially in the delightful "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

 After so much doubt, the show went to Philadelphia for a tryout and was such a triumph that not one song was changed or dropped. It was a hit on Broadway from opening night. Reviewers especially noted how well Cole Porter had integrated the songs with the story.  One reviewer also complimented Porter for attuning himself "to a counter-melody of the play, the strain of gentle romance that underlies the boisterous comedy."

Kiss Me, Kate broke box office records when it ran for more than two years, and became one of the first Broadway shows with more than 1,000 first-run performances. It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score for Cole Porter, Best Author for the Spewacks, Best Producer for Saint Subber and his partner Lemuel Ayers.

The original cast album received a special Grammy Award. The show made a star of the previously unknown Patricia Morison (who played Lilli and Kate.) Porter had worked with her and championed her for the role.

In addition to other musicals, Morison played this role many times on stage and television over some 30 years. This year she celebrated her 100th birthday, and is the last surviving member of the original cast.

 Fifty years after it opened, a 1999 Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate again won multiple Tonys. The script was slightly revised and a song added.  When the producers for the 1953 movie version wanted another song, Porter gave them “From This Moment On,” which had been dropped from another show by the director.  It's become a Porter classic, and is now part of the stage version of Kiss Me, Kate.

  Kiss Me Kate was produced successfully in London in 2012, and has been performed in Italy and Greece, among other places. It is still regarded as Cole Porter’s best musical.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Coming Up!

Watch this space! for photos and info on the HSU production of the Cole Porter musical comedy Kiss Me, Kateopening for two weekends on Friday October 16 in the Van Duzer Theatre, a co-production of the HSU Music and HSU Theatre, Film & Dance departments.

 First, a few posts on some of the classic show’s curious history...

Kiss Me, Kate: Offstage, On Stage: All the World's a Stage

Shakespeare featured a play within the play in Hamlet, when the Prince of Denmark gets involved in the play that the traveling players will perform: "The play's the thing/ to catch the conscience of the King."  The players not only perform their play but have roles outside of it in the main action.

Kiss Me, Kate stretches this play within a play convention across the entire show (and in the process is much funnier.)  The main action consists of a theatrical company preparing an altered production of The Taming of the Shrew.  We see scenes from this production, as well as offstage antics that hilariously mimic the couples conflict in Shakespeare's script, which erupt on stage.

The idea of showing offstage mischief juxtaposed with the play onstage would be done again and again— notably in the Tony-winning comedy Noises Off.  Playwright Tom Stoppard constructed a play-around-the Shakespeare play in his first stage play, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, and then built a story around a theatrical production of another Shakespeare play in the Oscar-winning movie, Shakespeare in Love. It concerned the original production of Romeo and Juliet, with Shakespeare himself in both the play-within-the-movie and the main action of the romantic comedy film.

 But the mold was made by Kiss Me, Kate.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate Meets Cinderella

What would a hit musical be without a Cinderella story? In this case it wasn’t in the plot but in the original production.

 After several opera stars turned him down, Cole Porter found himself without a leading lady. The show’s director suggested an unknown: Patricia Morison, a working movie actress in supporting roles, from B pictures (Queen of the Amazons) to a cut above that. (She has the distinction of performing in the last film of three popular series: the Thin Man, the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan and the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes.)

 Though she sang for soldiers on USO tours and at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II, she hadn’t sung a note in the movies. Cole Porter invited her to sing for him at his house in Hollywood. Her agent told her it wasn’t for any particular role, and she did it just for the contact and the experience. But according to Porter, as soon as she walked in he knew she was the one—if she could sing. He accompanied her on piano, and discovered, yes, she could.

 After she’d worked on some of the show's songs and brushed up her Shakespeare, Porter was even more convinced. He believed that overnight she might become “a great new star.”

 But the producers were still considering other possibilities, and the writers had to be consulted. Unfortunately they were all in New York, and Patricia couldn’t afford the plane fare.

 Then out of the blue she was invited to sing at a Bob Hope USO reunion concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The producers and writer Bella Sprewack were in the audience, and they all were convinced. Patricia Morison got the role as Lilli Vanessi.

 She was a great success. At the opening night party, after the rave reviews came in, she told everyone that she felt Cole Porter “has just lifted me out of my pumpkin coach.” It was a Cinderella story for real.

After 1,077 performances on Broadway, Patricia Morison starred in the London production for another 400 performances.

 Morison had another success in the original production of The King and I, both on Broadway and on its national tour. She subsequently sang in many touring musicals, and performed her starring role in Kiss Me, Kate many times, including in a television movie in 1964, onstage in Seattle in 1965 and for the last time, in Birmingham, England in 1978—30 years after her Broadway opening.

 Patricia Morison turned 100 earlier this year, and is the last surviving member of the original cast of Kiss Me, Kate. She lives in southern California.

Monday, September 21, 2015

3-D Kiss

When the Broadway show finally closed, production of the film version of Kiss Me, Kate began. Produced by MGM, it featured two of the studio’s contract stars, Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson, as well as dancer Ann Miller.

 Kiss Me, Kate has a special place in movie history: it was one of the few musicals to be filmed in 3-D. 

The first version of 3-D hit movie theatres in the early 1950s. It depended on special 3-D glasses but even more, on skillful projection. Not many movie theatres could bring it off, and somewhere between Creature From the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature, 3-D died a quick death.

 Though this version got good reviews, in the end not many audiences actually saw Kiss Me, Kate in 3-D. Its premiere at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan was in its standard version.

 One lasting contribution of the movie, however, is the Cole Porter song “From This Moment On.” When the movie producers wanted another song, Porter gave them this one. It had been cut from another Porter Broadway show by its director. It became a Cole Porter classic, and was added to the 1999 Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate. It’s been in the show ever since.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Blazing Mirrors

Kiss Me, Kate original Broadway cast
Kiss Me, Kate follows the romantic entanglements of two couples acting in a provincial production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, in comic counterpoint to their characters in the play itself. Eventually the offstage antics spill onto the Shakespearian stage.

 Kiss Me, Kate celebrates theatre, while it reveals what everyone who has ever participated in making theatre already knows: that the real drama—and comedy—is often offstage.

That truism was reflected in the show's original production, and the gossip about it has come down through the ages.  One of the writers reputedly hated one of the producers, the director and choreographer didn't get along, and there was at least one problem drinker in the cast.

composer Cole Porter & writer Bella Spewack
Some of the shenanigans resembled the plot of the play. In Kiss Me, Kate, the fictional actor/manager is caught by his ex-wife (and lead actress) making advances to a younger actress.

  Meanwhile, in the real world: while they were writing this musical comedy, Samuel Spewack left his wife Bella Spewack for a ballerina. And after some vocal anger and bitterness, in true musical comedy fashion, they later reconciled.

Friday, September 11, 2015

He Didn't Want to Do It

Cole Porter didn’t want to do it.

 The legendary songwriter didn’t want to take a chance on a musical comedy based on, of all things, a Shakespeare play. How could that entertain a Broadway audience?

 He’d written his biggest hit, Anything Goes, some 14 years before. Musicals were changing, and he wasn’t sure he could change with them. Besides, he didn’t think the writers he worked with, Bella and Samuel Spewack, would want to mess around with Shakespeare either.

 He was right about that. When the producers approached them, Bella retorted that she hated The Taming of the Shrew—or at least she did when she read it in high school. Definitely not interested.

But producer Arnold Saint Subber had a vision. While still a young stage manager, he observed an offstage argument between the lead actors in a production of The Taming of the Shrew—who happened to be the most celebrated acting couple of their time, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

 The couple's conflict was an unintended but hilarious counterpoint to the scripted couple's conflicts in the play they were performing. He had his inspiration: a comedy that wove together offstage antics with this Shakespeare play could bring together the brightest and funniest of both worlds.

 In the end his enthusiasm overcame all the objections. The Spewacks came up with an ingenious script, and Cole Porter wrote 25 songs—17 made it into the show—for what would be his most successful musical.

 Kiss Me, Kate opened on Broadway at the end of 1948 to ecstatic reviews, and was an immediate hit. It ran for more than two years, and became one of the first Broadway shows with more than 1,000 first-run performances.  It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score for Cole Porter, Best Author for the Spewacks, Best Producer for Saint Subber and his partner Lemuel Ayers.  Fifty years later, its Broadway revival also won multiple Tonys.

Monday, August 31, 2015

2015-16 HSU Theatre, Film & Dance Season

Musical comedy based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by Susan Abbey
Musical direction by Elisabeth Harrington & Paul Cummings
Van Duzer Theatre October 16-17, 22-25

Contemporary comedy by Jane Martin
Directed by Rae Robison
December 4-5, 10-13 Gist Hall Theatre

Dance: Choreography Projects
 December 8  JVD Theatre

 Evening of Dance
 December 10 JVD Theatre

Drama-fantasy based on stories by Rudyard Kipling
Adapted by Edward Mast
Directed by Troy Lescher
February 26-27, March 3-6  Van Duzer Theatre

Artistic Director Sharon Butcher
April 7-9, 14-17 JVD Theatre

 Faculty Adviser Susan Abbey
 April 20-23 Minor Theatre, Arcata

Contemporary comedy by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Michael Thomas
April 22-23, 28-May 1  Gist Hall Theatre

Dance: Dance Fusion
 May 3 JVD Theatre

Evening of Dance 
May 5 JVD Theatre

Monday, August 17, 2015

Salmon Is Everything Returns: Book of the Year Onstage

“Tribes Blast Federal Klamath River Plan” said the newspaper headline early this August, as local tribal members fear that today’s conditions are similar to those that resulted in a massive salmon die-off in 2002.

 Earlier this summer, Humboldt’s U.S. Representative Jared Huffman petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to have more water released from the Trinity River to prevent another such fish kill on the Lower Klamath River, which could happen at any time now—in 2015.

 The 2002 die-off is a central event in Salmon Is Everything, the play created and produced at HSU in 2006, to deal with many issues—scientific, political, spiritual and human—that arise in connection with the past and future of salmon and people on the Lower Klamath River.  The related book with the same title is the HSU Book of the Year for 2015-16.

 Excerpts from Salmon Is Everything will be performed as a staged reading on Sunday August 30 at 2 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre. The program also includes a talk by the book’s author Theresa May. There is no charge for admission.

Darcie Black and Mary Campbell in
the 2006 HSU production
An ad hoc group of concerned Native and non-Native community and HSU community members worked for two years to develop this play. Some original cast members will participate in the reading.

Several public readings elicited suggestions and stories from audience members that became part of the script. The play was first produced in 2006 at HSU, and subsequently performed elsewhere in the region. A new production was mounted in Oregon in 2011.

 The script, along with essays about the background and process of creating it, has since been published in book form. This book, also called Salmon Is Everything, is the 2015-16 Book of the Year at HSU.

 The reading on August 30 is directed by HSU student Anthony DePage. It is supported by a coalition of organizations and individuals, including the STEM program of the HSU College of Natural Resources and Sciences, a Diversity and Inclusion grant, the Book of the Year Committee, HSU Library and members of the HSU Theatre program.

Salmon photo above:By Josh Larios from Seattle, US (DSC02252.JPG) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Media: Mad River Union, Times-Standard URGE.

Friday, March 20, 2015

April 2015: OF BREATH AND BODY Dance Concert

Amethyst Weburg, Walter Fogler, Lisa Drew in "Of Mist and Mercury" by Emily Steele
Ballet, hip hop, modern, postmodern...Influences from Mexico, Africa, Egypt, Asia...Themes of identity, relationship, inner turmoil...How a hunter feels about animal prey, how women endure the Dust Bowl... All explored and evoked in movement, in expressions Of Breath and Body. 

Of Breath and Body is on the Van Duzer Theatre stage Thursdays-Saturdays, April 9-11 and 16-18 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday April 19. Tickets are $10/$8 seniors and students, with a limited number of free seats for HSU students at each performance, from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Sharon Butcher, Artistic Director. Produced by HSU Theatre, Film & Dance.

Media: Cover: Urge Magazine of Eureka Times Standard,Mad River Union, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now
Allie Phinney in "Reverence"
Seven student choreographers and three faculty members present their latest works in this year’s HSU dance concert, Of Breath and Body.

The ten dances range from a solo by senior Allie Phinney (“Reverence”)... 
Shannon Adams, Nikia Klat, Matt McGovern, Camille Ruiz, Walter Fogler in "Standing Here, With Red Feathered Gods" a work for 24 dancers by Artistic Director Sharon Butcher (“Standing Here, With Red-Feathered Gods.”)
Lauren Baker in Amethysts Weburg's "Signal the Shake"
“Signal the Shake” by senior Amethyst Weburg won the Audience Choice Award at the fall 2014 Choreographer Showcase. “She’s from a multi-generation Arcata family,” Sharon Butcher said, “and she’s got a great work ethic. It’s great to see her have fun with this energetic dance celebrating women.”
Fiona Melia and Dante Gelermino in their dance, "Variations of Two."
Fiona Melia and Dante Gelermino explore personal relationships, while Claire Patterson is inspired by Dorothea Lang’s photographs to evoke the lives of women enduring the 1930s Dust Bowl.
Lauren Baker, Claire Patterson (standing) in Walter Fogler's "The Life We Choose"
Several students this year are science majors combined with dance majors or minors. Walter Fogler, a graduating Cellular Molecular Biology major (along with Interdisciplinary Dance) explores the flow within human relationships in “The Life We Choose.” Senior Emily Steele, who majors in biochemistry, evokes the flow of natural processes in “Of Mist and Mercury.”  Majoring in Marine Biology, Emily Pinckney looks at inner turmoil in “Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.”
Allie Phinney, Hannah Moss, Nathalie Mostrel in Shoshanna's "Hepcat Hafla"
The faculty-created dances share an accidental theme of crossovers. “Shoshanna always plays in that Middle Eastern crossover area, and this year Linda Maxwell, who has done a lot of study in Mexican Folklorico, is doing something of a crossover with modern Latin jazz,” Butcher said. “Eugene Novotney from our Music faculty introduced me to a score by Christopher Rouse that uses hula rhythms. So my dance is to that music, with a nod to the things I love about traditional hula.”


Camille Ruiz, Nikia Klat, Cassandra Cree, Lauren Baker, Lisa Drew
        Signal the Shake

 Choreographer: Amethyst Weburg
Dancers: Allie Phinney, Camille Ruiz, Cassandra Cree, Emily Mensing, Julia Kandus, Lauren Baker, Lisa Drew, Nikia Klat, Samantha Ortega.

 A fusion of jazz and tap with a nod to East Indian dance traditions, celebrating women.
Claire Patterson and Walter Fogler
  Voces...del pasado y del presente 

Choreographer: Linda Maxwell
Dancers: Ambar Cuevas, Amber Rivas, Cassandra Cree, Claire Patterson, Fiona Melia, Hasti Srabi, Ingrid Hodel, Jonny Wisan, Matt McGovern, Nikia Klat, Samuel Hernandez, Shannon Adams, Walter Fogler.

 “Voices...past and present” explores traditional Mexican folklorico dance as it meets contemporary Latin styles, with traditional music from Veracruz and a Mexican techno band.
Amethyst Weburge, Lisa Drew, Walter Fogler, Claire Patterson
  Of Mist & Mercury

Choreographer: Emily Steele
Dancers: Allie Phinney, Amethyst Weburg, Cassandra Cree, Claire Patterson, Lauren Baker, Walter Fogler.

Combining ballet and modern dance to explore flowing currents in such natural phenomena as mist and mercury.