Sunday, November 19, 2006

Philharmonic Detour

If you were guided here by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic program: Welcome, and I hope you'll return regularly. But this blog isn't the usual place for philharmonic reviews. They will be found at the Gazette's main site at You'll find the review here.

(It's true that the review of the last concert — Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 and Grieg's Piano Concerto — is here at the blog, but that was due to my error.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Arts Overload (well, almost)

With the holiday arts season upon us, this weekend is as packed with intriguing arts events as any I can remember. Just a few highlights:
  • Through Saturday, the Manitou Art Theater presents spousal comedians Hannah Rockey and Jeff Harms in a new piece, “Tangled up in You.” Both are outstanding comedians with distinctily different styles. Rockey is a master of dialects and accents who brings her evangelism into her work in a way that's unusual, at least among comedians who are really funny. Harms is a more conventional stand-up comic, but he's one of the best.
  • Is potica an art? It is in Pueblo, where Italian families have made the traditional rolled sweetbread for generations. The John Deaux Gallery hosts its 6th Annual Potica Fest, 5-9 p.m. Friday at 221 S. Union Blvd. (719-545-8407). Then head next door for the opening of the annual exhibit of Palekh boxes (amazingly painted Russian folk art) at Nemick & Thompson gallery — 5-9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m Saturday (719-545-8933). If you want to combine this with a visit to the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center for the “Own Your Own” art sale — the region’s hugest holiday art show — keep in mind that the center closes at 4 p.m.
  • Two major art exhibits also open Colorado Springs on Friday — “Hot Off the Press,” a printmakers’ invitational exhibit at the Business of Art Center (opening 5-8 p.m), and Commonwheel Artists Co-Op's annual holiday market (but the opening reception isn't until December 9.
  • On Saturday, Christopher Lynn, the new director of UCCS’ Gallery of Contemporary Art, fires a shot across the Fine Arts Center’s bow with “Bad Chihuly Noon,” the first of what I hope will be many Bad Art Nights. For $3, armed only with melted LPs, acrylic paint, and eye patches (all supplied by the GCA), Chihuly wannabees can test their skill, or lack thereof, at Chihuly’s rippling style. The event is set for noon-2 p.m. at the gallery in the Science Building. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is at 1440 Austin Bluffs Parkway; 262-3567.
  • Good stuff always happens when Lawrence Leighton Smith conducts an orchestra. At 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic performs Haydn's bouyant and joyful Symphony No. 98, Beethoven's ultra-stirring Leonore Overture No.3, and Kodály's Galanta Dances, a rarely performed but approachable orchestral showpiece based on Hungarian folk music.
  • Last but not least, there are the two events previewed in Friday’s Go!: The Rep’s “The 1940s Radio Hour” (opens Friday) and the Cuban art exhibit at Cucuru (opens Saturday). I was not thrilled to see “Radio Hour” on the Rep’s season, but director Alan Osburn and music director Roberta Jacyshyn have actually made me want to see it.
  • And even more last, because technically it doesn’t open this weekend, on Nov. 21st and 22nd, Buntport Theater will premier its new theatrical sit-com, “Starship Troy.” The always-interesting Denver troupe’s new show appears to involve an interstellar garbage truck.

More about “La Belle Epoque”

“La Belle Epoque: 100 years ago in Colorado Springs” is very much a work in progress — but one that’s well worth further development.

Last week’s premier of Judeth Shay Burns’ and David Sckolnik’s theater piece at the Colorado Springs School’s Louisa Center moved fitfully at times, but the theatrical device of using a fictional singer to create a slice of life in 1907 is intriguing, and co-writers Sckolnik and Burns made the most of its possibilities.

The balance of talking and singing was excellent, but the script needs focusing: Simply mentioning historical figures isn’t the same as telling us something meaningful about them. And the stream-of-memory format amplifies the usual theatrical challenge of exposition. Every time a new character is introduced, the program comes to a brief halt.

Yet the piece already showed glimmers of brilliance. It creates a vivid impression of the period — not as sepia-toned nostalgia, but as something every bit as intense and alive as the present always is, and yet which we tend to imagine the past somehow was not.

Having a performer of Burns' ability is essential to the piece's success. Besides being a fine singer, she’s a disarmingly charming performer — I feel like a jerk just mentioning that her diction is occasionally pinched, as when a final “amour” came out as “a moo — and she’s a good enough actress to pull off the non-singing sections once she’s performed the piece a few more times.

The program was also my introduction to Mary Beth Shaffer, who was Burns’ accompanist. As a pianist, I’m sufficiently jealous to want to seek out flaws in other local pianists, but Shaffer won me over in minutes with her musicality, imagination and comprehensive technique.

Sckolnik’s theatrical innovation bumped up against one of his other innovations — the presentation of art in the Lousa Center’s lobby. As lovely as some of Ray Shaw’s wildlife paintings are — and they are distinctly uneven, some masterful and some almost naive — they added nothing to the atmosphere or setting. There are plenty of local neo-Impressionist landscape painters whose work would have been a better fit.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Devin Arnold at Artists Lair

I’m going to write a larger story on the Artists Lair Gallery later this month, when it features Bill Hyer, one of the region’s most compelling abstract painters. But before then, I want to get a quick plug in for the exhibit of work by Devin Arnold that opens today and runs for two weeks.

Most of the Artists Lair is a working ceramics studio — not a decorate-a-previously-thrown-pot studio, but one that rents space to artists. But it also provides exhibition space for local artists, and so far, it’s been conspiciously adventurous. Arnold is a member of the Bridge Gallery, the contemporary artist’s co-op, and his three-dimensional multimedia wall hangings could hardly be less mainstream. They’re energetic and spiky, and the colors are bright but also earthy, without a hint of prettiness.

The opening is 6-9 p.m. Friday at Artists Lair Gallery, 2766 Janitell Rd. E — in the strip mall just south of South Circle Drive. (Without the “E,” Mapquest will give you the wrong location. Trust me on this.) Call 576-5247 or 634-7080 for more information.