Wednesday, March 8, 2017

APAP 2017- Flow

Of the 33 performances I saw at the 2017 APAP Conference, the highlight of my APAP weekend was a performance of the Theater of War company. The experience was thought-provoking, inspirational and the most memorable.

Image result for theater of war productions
Bryan Doerries, Artistic Director of Theater of War
From the depression-era to the Cold War to the anti-war protests of the 60’s and beyond, American theatre has served as a platform for social commentary and action. Theater of War continues that tradition with community-specific, reader’s theater-based projects that address some of the most pressing social issues of our time. The company uses various plays to address such topics as PTSD, end of life care, police and community relations, domestic violence, substance abuse and addiction, gun violence and prison reform. Each dramatic reading is followed by a panel discussion between varied members of the community and a town hall style audience exchange.

We saw Theater of War actors deliver powerful scene readings from three plays: Antigone, Ajax and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The Artistic Director of Theater of War, Brian Doerries, provided the audience with a little background on the readings and how they have been used to facilitate growth and change in communities. Readings from the Greek tragedy Ajax are used to promote dialogue about war and PTSD. Long Day’s Journey Into Night serves as a springboard for discussion about substance abuse and addiction. Theater of War’s most expansive project to date is Antigone at Ferguson which uses Sophocles’ Antigone to forge conversations about the impact of gun violence on communities and healing between law enforcement and the citizens they serve. That program has been expanded to include a gospel choir in lieu of a Greek chorus. I hope to see the full program of Antigone at Ferguson at Dartmouth College later this year.

Among the scene readings we saw, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night seems the most relevant to students and families in Derry and surrounding towns. Even as I write this blog, hundreds of New Hampshire students are attending an opioid summit at the SNHU Arena in Manchester. With nearly 500 opioid related deaths in New Hampshire in 2016, the time is right to bring this particular Theater of War performance and panel discussion to the Stockbridge Theatre. I am excited to see that become a reality.

-Susanne Tartarilla, Associate Dean of Students, Theater Program Director

Friday, February 24, 2017

From NY to Derry

The cast of Doomsday Romance backstage at the Stockbridge.
If you’re wondering what caused the Flying Spaghetti Monster to invade the quiet rural neighborhoods of Derry a few weeks ago and land on the Stockbridge Theatre stage, ask the students who attended last year’s APAP conference in New York City.  Their enthusiasm for this talented Broadway’s Next Hit Musical group resulted in Pinkerton witnessing the creation of its very own musical, Doomsday Romance. Patrons roared at this talented and hilarious troupe’s creative spontaneity, and they were able to walk away with their very own souvenir, a download of the new locally world famous next Broadway hit, “The Flying Spaghetti Monster.”  If they wanted, they could purchase the entire score of Doomsday Romance, which the troupe created in mere minutes after the audience voted for its favorite from four “nominated” songs whipped up on stage based upon the song titles audience members had created and placed in a fishbowl as they entered the theater.  That night we sat in our seats hoping that our song name would be picked, experienced the thrill of a sorta somewhat actual awards show, and watched six people create a whole musical based upon that one slip of paper.  The audience rose to their feet at the end of that evening with sheer delight, all at our Stockbridge Theatre.

Jose Limon Dance captivated audiences with their new work.
And all because a group of our students and faculty rushed from one showcase to another in a three-day whirlwind APAP experience.  This year, to add to the excitement, Mother Nature threw in a major snowstorm that made us navigate slush and snowbanks to see the entire spectrum of talent that is available not only in America’s theater district, but from touring companies all across the world.  The highlights for me were certainly Elise Management’s dance showcase (for reasons that only a few of us PA attendees can appreciate!), particularly Limon Dance Company; the Estonian Piano Orchestra, with eight pianists playing four grand pianos; and the spectacular Cirque Eloize, which truly lived up to its billing as a musical acrobatic adventure. My first major takeaway, having attended a multitude of Broadway productions in my life, was the amazing talent that lies beyond the Times Square or Lincoln Center area.  I finally saw my first off-Broadway production, a spoof on Harry Potter that had Mrs. T and me laughing throughout—and fascinated by the two Potter groupies sitting in front of us.  I visited talent venues tucked away in buildings that the average tourist would only pass by on his or her way to St. Patrick’s or Rockefeller Center—one jazz concert at the Yamaha piano studio was particularly compelling.  Yes, I saw jazz. The second takeaway from all these experiences—especially as a result of visiting the three floors 
Displaying IMG_4679.JPG
Mr. Gaucher made sure that the students had ample snacks for the trip.
of talent exhibitions at the Hilton—is that the world of entertainment offers a wide variety of career opportunities for our students.  We focused on entertainers, but they are only the tip of the entertainment industry iceberg. Behind the scenes, the opportunities exist for artists and writers and business people and producers and designers and . . . the list goes on.  If our students want to work in a creative industry, there is a profession out there for them, and their experiences at the Stockbridge Theatre—and at the APAP conference—provide a great background for those who dream to be a part of the world of arts and entertainment.

-Peter Gaucher, English Department Head

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bonjour Montréal!

 The Canadian Olympic Committee Offices in Montreal
Last week, thanks to a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts, I attended the Conférence internationale des arts de la scène (CINARS) biennale in Montreal, Canada.  Since 1984, CINARS organizes every two years in Montreal, one of the most important international performing arts conferences in the world, with nearly 1500 professionals hailing from 40 countries including 360 presenters, some of whom are the most influential in the business. During one week, over one hundred and fifty shows from Quebec, Canada and abroad grace the stages while workshops, networking events, as well as an exhibition hall are teeming with participants. After 16 editions, the CINARS Biennale has become a key worldwide event in performing arts touring.

Image result for old montreal
Old Montreal is already decorated for the holidays
This was not only my first time at the CINARS conference, but also my first trip to Montreal.  Montreal is an exciting city.  With a population just under 4 million people, it is the fourth largest francophone city in the world.  And, while it certainly seems like a big city, Montreal has a number of really amazing old neighborhoods that make it very enjoyable to visit.  Much of Old Montreal (the city celebrates its 375 anniversary in 2017) feels more like Europe than North America.  There are wonderful restaurants, beautiful parks, and amazing performance venues.  The CINARS Biennale really takes advantage of all that Montreal has to offer.  Performances were hosted all over the city in some of the most impressive spaces I have ever seen (one space that would rival any we have in the state was located in a local library).    While there were a number of performances of theatre, music, and dance, I spent most of my days in Montreal attending performances by contemporary circus companies.

Montreal is probably the most important place for contemporary circus in the world.  Within approximately one city block in Montreal, you will find the headquarters of Cirque Du Soliel, the École nationale de cirque (the national circus school), and TOHU (one of the largest venues dedicated to presenting circus in the world).  I saw performances by circus companies from Australia, New Zealand, Hungry, Switzerland, Belgium, and Montreal.

Image result for 7 doigts de la main reversible
Les 7 doigts de la main's performance of Reversible

My two favorite performances were Reversible by Les 7 doigts de la main (the 7 fingers of the hand) at TOHU and A Simple Space by Gravity & Other Myths at the currently under construction Centaur Theatre.  The two performances featured some of the most incredible circus skills I have ever seen, but were presented very differently.  Reversible was a large scale piece presented in the massive theatre at TOHU while A Simple Space was an intimate piece with the performers just inches away from the audience.    Perhaps one of these companies will be on stage at the Stockbridge in the future.

In addition to attending performances, I was able to spend some time meeting with my fellow delegates from New England and presenters and government officials from Quebec.  It is my hope that these connections will facilitate future tours making stops at Pinkerton.  I will meet with this group again in a couple of weeks and then again at the APAP conference in NY in January.

I enjoyed my time in Montreal and look forward to returning in the future.

-Matt Cahoon, Director of Cultural Programming  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Truly "Enchanted" Show

Don't tell the PA Players to "Break a leg," they may take it literally.
Okay, it's not broken, but you will see a spotlight operator on crutches.
As many of you may know, Pinkerton Player’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has debuted to packed houses this weekend; however, we cannot say it went off without a hitch! This show has proven to be magical in every aspect whether it be music, set design, lighting, or performing; but, there has also been something of a curse on the production this tech week. Going into the week before show we already had a cast illness, a case of the flu, and some minor injuries, but we thought nothing of it as it is typical to have some disturbances before tech. Little did we know that a curse was brewing, much like the one cast on the Beast; our show was in for a week of trials and tribulations!
Getting Gaston ready:  Super volunteer Bea Shay
gets Gaston's hair styled prior to the performance.
The Friday before tech week came and went leaving one of our dancers concussed in its wake! Then on the following Monday we were left without a Gaston due to an accident on set!
 The crazy occurrences did not just stop with the cast either, a crew member was struck down only a rehearsal later with a leg injury, and one of our amazing pianists in pit was taken by the curse that same day! Despite the obvious hardships that came during tech week, the cast, crew, and pit worked diligently to craft an amazing show. Those who were down for the count pulled through amazingly well and are still active in the show.

It seems as though the curse culminated on Opening Night. Storms passed through Derry, rough winds cutting the Stockbridge off from power only two hours before the show. We were left without stage lights and there was no sign of the power returning, but we all still got ready for a brilliant performance, unknowing that soon a miracle would occur. All of us were gathered in the hallway at around 5:30 when our curse was lifted with a bang! A huge clap of thunder sounded through the building and with it the lights returned: our show would go on!
The stage crew fixes another casualty from opening night.
The trials of tech week have only made the cast, crew and pit closer and in the end, like the Beast’s curse, we were given a truly wonderful gift: a show-stopping performance!

Emily DeWolf Class of 2017 #VPPinkertonPlayers

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Cool" Strings at the Stockbridge

Turtle Island Quartet comes to the Stockbridge February 19th
Last January, I sat in a small ballroom in New York absolutely transfixed by the artists on stage.  Just a few minutes into the set, I sent Mike Adams a text that read, "If we book Turtle Island, they will be the best string players who have ever stepped foot on the Stockbridge stage."  In a response fairly typical of Mr. Adams, he wrote back, "Cool."  Well, the Turtle Island Quartet is cool.  Yes, I said it, a cool string quartet.  Trust me, I know that classical music is a hard sell and have been told that it is not for everyone.  I want those people in the seats when Turtle Island plays the Stockbridge next Friday night (2/19 at 7:00, More Info Here).  The guys in Turtle Island play their instruments in ways that I have simply never seen or heard before.  As comfortable with a piece by Bach as with something by Coltrane or even Hendrix (their rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" is mind blowing), the quartet's formidable skill on the strings is as impressive as it is entertaining.

For the concert at the Stockbridge, The Turtle Island Quartet will be playing one of their most popular new programs, Birth of the Cool.  In this concert, the quartet employs their signature groove-based rhythmic techniques to create brand new arrangements of cool jazz standards that prove that the line between classical music and jazz is much thinner than one might think. In addition to classics by Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Lenny Tristano and others, the quartet will premiere a brand-new work by founder and violinist David Balakrishnan. 

While we often discourage texting during our performances, I hope that you come to the show next week and find yourself in a situation similar to mine where you feel the need to let one of your friends know just how amazing this group is.  I've often said to my friends and family that you should never turn down the opportunity to see artists who are the best at what they do.  It doesn't matter if they are saxophonists or fire-swallowers, if they are the best in their field they are worth seeing.  That's how I feel about Turtle Island.  Come to this show, and even if you don't consider yourself a string aficionado, I'm confident the Turtle Island Quartet will blow you away.  You'll leave the theatre and won't be able to keep from thinking to yourself, "That was cool."  

-Matt Cahoon, Director of Cultural Programming

Monday, January 25, 2016

Student Perspective on APAP

When I first found out that I would be going to the APAP Conference, I knew it was going to be a great experience, but once I got there, it far exceeded my expectations. I didn’t realize how huge this was going to be. I thought that there would be a few showcases to see every day and a few hundred people, but I was excited to find that there was so much more than that. There were tons of showcases to see and so many more people. The overall atmosphere was wonderful and full of incredibly nice and helpful people, which was great since the process was a little overwhelming for someone who had never been before. I’m so glad I got to go with the school because I can’t imagine trying to navigate that by myself! 

The best part of the trip by far was seeing all of the different showcases. There were so many to choose from that it was impossible to see everything! Since I tend to focus theatre, most of the showcases I saw were theatre related. The first ones I saw were two children’s theatre productions. One was about Ellis Island and one was a clown show. They were adorable and the kids in the audience loved them! I also saw a show called Mad Libs live which was like something I’d never seen before. The audience got to participate by writing down parts of speech
Broadway's Next H!T Musical
and the actors used them onstage. This isn’t something I would be able to see every day in New Hampshire, so getting to opportunity to see such innovative acts in NYC. It was awesome to see something so unique and it was really entertaining! The last theatrical showcase I got the opportunity to see was Broadway’s Next H!T Musical. It was a hilarious improv musical with only six performers. They would take ideas about songs to make up from the audience and improvised all of the lyrics on the spot. Not only was this super funny, but it was extremely impressive! It never got boring and they came up with the funniest things to say.

The next morning, I saw a few jazz music performances. My two favorites were singers: Caesar and Alexis Cole. Alexis Cole was the first act that I saw and she sang her own version of Disney love songs in a jazz style. I could have listened to her voice all day. Caesar sang a few songs as well and he had a very warm, velvety voice. The music acts were relaxing to listen to for a while before we went and did some more business-type things.
Getting to go to the meeting where everyone said who they wanted to bring to their theatre and who they wanted to team up with was very interesting to me. I have always been on the performance side of the arts, so seeing this
APAP Expo Hall
was a new experience for me. I think it is important to be well-rounded in the arts and knowing a bit of the business side of things was helpful for me. Overall, the experience was incredible and I am so thankful for being able to attend this conference. Being able to see lots of performances, but also get a taste of the business side of performing arts was a great opportunity that I probably would not have gotten as a high school student otherwise. It is also a great feeling to know that attending this conference was to help better Pinkerton’s Stockbridge Theatre, which is a place I have grown in as a performer and have come to love. This conference was so beneficial for not only me, but for the Stockbridge, and I couldn’t have been happier to be a part of it.

Brittany Cardoza, Class of 2017

Friday, January 22, 2016

APAP 2016 Reflections

My first APAP conference was in a word, amazing!  The experience was both educational and enlightening.  As I continue to process the roughly forty hours of time we spent in NY, I have trouble fathoming the sheer number of artists who performed (the vast majority of whom we did not get a chance to see) and the incredible amount of talent who were gathered together in this one place.  As an educator and occasional performer myself, it is truly humbling to realize how much, music, dance, and theater is not only being performed in the country (and world), but also the quality of art that is available to share with the students and community of Pinkerton Academy.  With so much talent, how to best decide what to bring to Derry is a daunting task, but one I am happy to be a part of.
Amazing jazz trumpeter, Bria Skonberg.  

Also important is a re-evaluation of how I may approach students when they are seeking advice about music school.  APAP gives me a much different perspective about seeking a performance degree as I witnessed amazing group after amazing group with unbelievable artists.  Each group and musician deserves to be successful and because these folks have agents and representation they may have a good shot at making a life-long career from their talents.  What about the thousands more who are working to build a career on their own?  It must certainly be a tough road and one that our students at Pinkerton may not appreciate.

With the guidance of Mr. Cahoon (our cruise director), the idea of bringing additional faculty and especially students to the APAP was a good one.  In speaking with Mrs. Tartarilla, Brittany, and Julia on the train ride back to Connecticut, I know we will all be able to bring new insight to the process of finding great artistic and musical experiences to share with the Pinkerton community.  I saw many great artists and we are already in talks with some of them to bring them to Derry in the 2016-2017 school year.

Mike Adams, Director of Instrumental Ensembles