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.

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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.

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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

My APAP Experience

My APAP experience was truly amazing. I have been to New York several times, but I had never done anything like this. When we first arrived at the hotel, I could not believe that I would be spending a weekend there. Not only was the hotel one of the biggest and nicest places I’ve seen, but there were showcases going on all around the hotel. Because we arrived late, we only saw a couple showcases Friday night, but it increased my excitement for the days to come. We had an early start on Saturday in order to maximize the number of showcases we saw. I went with Mr. Cahoon, the Director of Cultural Programming, to the New York City Center. Sitting no more than ten feet from the dancers, we saw several companies perform. I saw Kate Weare Dance Company, Ballet Memphis, Koresh Dance Company, and many more. The amount of talent each company had was incredible. I got to practice forming a strong opinion about companies I watched. It can be a difficult thing to critique companies that are all very good. I had to find reasons that made certain companies stick out. This skill was improved in myself because I had to think about a lot of factors to help suggest possibilities to bring to Pinkerton.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
We had great seats!
Saturday evening, I had the opportunity to see the award-winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. This was the very first play I had ever seen and it thoroughly impressed me. The set design was intricate, innovative and well used. There was no lack of character development and the performance was spectacular. After the play ended, we went to dinner and discussed our day so far. One thing that made this experience especially enjoyable was that I was surrounded by people who understand and love the performing arts as much as I do. We discussed showcases in depth and I was constantly learning from what others had to say. Even though we all watched the same play, we all had different ideas to point out about it.  

That night we split up again. Mr. Cahoon and I covered dance, and other members of the delegation covered music and theater. I went to the Ailey Studios where a crowd was gathered outside the studio window trying to watch the performance while standing in the cold. I realized how special this opportunity was when I got to pass the crowd of people outside and actually enter the studio to watch the showcases. I saw ODC Dance Company, Eisenhower Dance Company, and Rioult Dance Company. ODC stood out to me because they had a clean and entertaining performance. Keeping ourselves busy, we went back to the hotel and saw a hip-hop performance by SonKiss'd Dance Theater. This energized me for the rest of the night after a modern-filled day. We headed back to the New York City Center as soon as that performance finished, to see Lula Washington Dance Company. When this was over, we walked back to the hotel where we saw Tap Kids and PUSH physical theater. The day had gone by so fast and I saw more companies than I could ever imagine. 

SonKiss'd Dance Theatre had so much energy.
On Sunday, I saw my last two companies of this trip, Jose Limon and Jody Sperling Dance Company at the New York City Center. Jody’s company was particularly unique because they surrounded their performance off the costumes they wore. Sunday was a day of meeting agents. Some agents in the EXPO hall were like vultures. We tried not to make eye contact with people in the booths to avoid being dragged over to them. However, some agents were polite and only approached you if they felt you were interested in their booth. I got to sit down with three other delegation members and meet an agent to talk about a potential workshop and performance at Pinkerton. This was a new experience for me and it was interesting to see the business side of the conference that was heavily about watching performances and critique. 

Sadly, Sunday evening we returned home. I am extremely grateful for this amazing opportunity. I saw numerous performances, learned about the arts from my fellow attendees, and got to experience much more than I thought one weekend would allow. This trip was one I will never forget.     

Julia Sylvain, Class of 2018


I was thrilled when asked to join the Pinkerton delegation at APAP 2016 and am still reeling from the whirlwind weekend. We saw our first performance showcases soon after our arrival in New York Friday night and didn’t stop until we left Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Adams, Mr. Cahoon, Brittany Cardoza, and Julia Sylvain
at the Astro Restaurant (a little PA reminder in NYC)
I spent a great deal of time with a former theatre student, Brittany Cardoza, attending performances at various Manhattan venues. We attended a series of jazz showcases, a sampling of children’s theatre and two musical comedies, Mad Libs Live! and Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, a totally improvised production! Naturally, both performances relied on audience interaction which was great fun. However, the theatrical highlight for all was a matinee of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Afterward, we had a wonderful discussion about the show over burgers and fries then back to the hotel and venues for more showcases.

Sunday afternoon, Matt and I met with Gwen Brownson, an agent for Literature to Life, to discuss the possibility of bringing one of their American lit inspired dramas to Pinkerton. We discussed English curriculum connections, workshops with theatre students and, of course, fees. At the end of the meeting, Gwen invited us to Portland next month to see a performance of The Kite Runner. If we are successful in bringing the production to the Stockbridge stage, I will be able to share the entire booking process with my theatre students. What an invaluable teaching tool.

The theme of APAP 2016 was Makers, “in recognition of the craft and contributions of artists and people critical to the process of making art and bringing live performances to communities worldwide.” Spending a weekend among so many talented Makers of the arts was energizing, exciting and inspirational. I can’t wait to share the experience with my Semester II theatre classes next week.
Alexis Cole with her band.  Beautiful jazz music on Sunday.

Susanne Tartarilla, Associate Dean of Students and Theatre Program Director

Monday, January 18, 2016

A New York State of Mind

So, I promised that we'd blog from the APAP conference and quickly realized that would be a difficult promise to keep.  The conference is so busy and the schedule so tight that there just hasn't been a free moment to collect thoughts in this format.  So, in lieu of live updates from the conference, in future posts, members of the PA delegation will share their reflections on the conference. I'm really looking forward to hearing from the students and faculty who attended the conference after they've had a little time to process the experience.

ODC Dance Company
I am still in NY and will be here one more day.  Thus far, I've seen the work of over 30 artists.  On Saturday alone, I saw showcases by 13 dance companies with PA dance student Julia Sylvain, class of 2018.  We spent most of the daylight hours on Saturday at New York City Center in one of two large studio spaces.  That evening, we went to see three more companies perform at Alvin Ailey Studios.  We saw such dynamic work and I was really proud that Julia was able to get this tremendous opportunity to see so much dance in person.  I joked with her that now she could claim to be more informed about the current dance scene than our dance educator Trish Harms (a joke Ms. Harms likely wouldn't find too funny).

Julia Sylvain '18 and Brittany Cadoza '17 
Between long stretches filled with dance, the entire PA delegation attended the matinee performance of the Tony award-winning play The Curious Incident of  the Dog in the Nighttime.  I had seen the show when I attended the conference last January and knew that it was a piece that would be wonderful to share with other members of the PA community.  The play is based on the novel by Mark Haddon and chronicles the adventures of a young boy with Asperger's syndrome who sets out on an adventure to determine who killed his neighbor's dog.  The show (and book) is told in the first person from Christopher's point of view and the production features incredible technical elements that serve to provide a glimpse into just how overwhelming the world can be for Christopher.  What I love about the show is that even with all its high tech effects, so much of the storytelling in the piece is accomplished through very intimate moments that are low or no tech.  It's a beautiful play and well worth seeing.  Following the performance we all went to an early dinner and spent a few minutes discussing the show.  I was surprised to learn that this was the first non-musical play that either of the students had ever attended.  What a first play! And, what a confirmation of the importance of this trip.

The weekend was full of so many great moments and wonderful opportunities to preview the work of companies from all over the world.  I look forward to hearing the reflections of the other members of the delegation.  I am so happy to be a part of an organization that truly values experiences such as this and I am confident that the long-term ramifications of this experience will reverberate across our campus for many years to come.  As I wrap up my time in NY, the real work will start with weeks worth of phone calls and contract negotiations ultimately resulting in a season of events that we'll be able to share with you by sometime this summer.  Based on the work we've already done at this conference, I know that we will have another wonderful season.

Matt Cahoon, Director of Cultural Programming
Jody Sperling Dance Company at New York City Center

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Off to APAP

For several years now, I have been attending the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference in NY.  The conference is the world's largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals. Mor​e than 3,600 presenters, artists, managers, agents and emerging arts leaders from all 50 U.S. states and more than 30 countries convene in the city for five days of professional development, business deals and exciting performances.  It is at this conference that a lot of the season planning for the Stockbridge takes place.  There are hundreds of performances over the course of the conference and it is impossible to get to them all.  In previous years, I've been happy if I can get to between 30 and 35 showcases.  

This year, I thought it was important to get more of the Pinkerton community involved in the process of season selection.  To that end, we created the Stockbridge Theatre Advisory Committee.  That committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Pinkerton Board of Trustees, some Pinkerton faculty, and a number of Pinkerton students, meets periodically to discuss issues pertaining to the Stockbridge including season planning but also things like equipment purchases and building maintenance.  I thought it would be a good idea to take a couple of the members of the Stockbridge Advisory Committee to the APAP conference this year and was thrilled to receive strong support from the administration for that idea.  Mr. Adams, the Director of Instrumental Ensembles, and Mrs. Tartarilla, Associate Dean of Students and Theatre Program Coordinator, were selected as perfect candidates who both bring a great deal of insight into different aspects of the performing arts.  

It was also clear, however, that student attendance at the conference would add tremendously to the process of planning the season.  With that goal in mind, the Stockbridge started a fundraising effort to support student scholarships to cover the costs associated with conference registration, travel, and lodging.  We were able to raise enough proceeds to invite two students to attend the conference this year.  After a very competitive scholarship application process, two PA students were selected to attend the conference.  Brittany Cardoza, a member of the class of 2017, and Julia Sylvain, a member of the class of 2018, will be a part of the Pinkerton delegation that will head to NY this weekend for what we know will be a very exciting conference.  

So, after many years of being the sole representative from Pinkerton at the APAP conference, this year we will have five members of the Pinkerton community in attendance.  I have set up this blog in hopes that they will join me in sharing some stories from the conference.  We really look forward to sharing our adventures with you. 

Matt Cahoon, Director of Cultural Programming