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Showing posts from 2015

Edwards keeps his Christmas story properly dark

Not everyone knows this, but Seattle playwright Nick Edwards has "a sticky relationship with Christmas." For one thing, it’s his birthday and like all kids born on Dec. 25, he has strong opinions about the hoopla that traditionally surrounds the holiday. "I find myself really drawn to Christmas stories that have a dark side," he admitted. "Some of the most heralded holiday stories start and trudge through some pretty dark stuff. "It’s A Wonderful Life" essentially starts with a suicide attempt. "A Christmas Carol" begins with a cold, cruel miser being haunted. Rudolph is bullied and ostracized by everyone he knows. The best holiday stuff is great because it doesn’t hide the flaws. It embraces them and tries to do it good despite everything. That’s heart."

At the same time, he’s more than willing to disparage overrated Christmas tales, “probably the most egregious of which is "Love Actually." It’s a terrible mov…

Gordon loves playing a nice mom for Christmas

Macall Gordon has played many mothers over the years. In an Amazon original series airing online, "Man in the High Castle," she’s Anne Crain Walker, the mother of heroine Juliana and holder of a few secrets of her own. For Taproot Theatre’s production of "This Christmas," Gordon developed the character of Helen Masters, a character that she describes as good-hearted and a far more typical mother than women like Anne.

"I was thrilled to play a nice mom. It may sound strange, but a majority of Mom roles that I’ve auditioned for or played tend to be the ones that the other characters, teen or adult children, react against," she said. "It’s actually gotten a bit depressing at times. Is this all we have to say about women/moms over 45 or 50? They’re cold, or self-absorbed, or judgmental? I think there’s way more that playwrights could say about moms and motherhood across all ages."

In Anne Kennedy Brady’s play, Helen’s daughter Leah (playe…

Price Suddarth makes his mainstage mark at PNB

Forget “Chorus Line” or the many recent dramas about dancing in the corps de ballet. Being part of the group who normally back up the leads doesn’t mean being anonymous.

Price Suddarth’s newest piece, “Signature,” explores that dynamic of the dancers as individuals contributing to the art. “Simply being there is the dancers’ signature,” he explained. “No signal characteristic is unique—it is our entire person that makes us unique.” Of course being tapped to create a new work for a distinguished company's mainstage program when you’ve been dancing there for only five years might be counted as little more unique than normal. Suddarth became a PNB apprentice in 2010 and transitioned to the corps in 2011.

Suddarth choreographed his first piece while still a student at the School of American Ballet. “It was really small but fun. I realized that this is a puzzle that I enjoy.” Once employed at PNB, he participated in the company’s Next Step program, where the company's…

Inner Galactic unleashes creators’ inner geeks

An immersive performance incorporating, music, spoken word, and theater as well as homemade spacesuits, “Inner Galactic” is the latest creation of dancer/choreographer Maya Soto and musician/artist Nico Tower. In a yearlong journey to this weekend’s performances at Velocity Dance Center, the pair unleashed their inner geeks.

“This piece is our own space fantasy,” said Soto in an interview earlier this fall. “The place we travel to is our inner space, our emotional galaxy. There’s a visceral language in seeing somebody’s body move.”

“It’s a powerful exploration of dance. Dance is this super perfect container,” said Tower. “Maya helped create the container where I could feel the music through the dance.”

Soto has produced six evening length shows in Seattle over the last decade including the warmly received “Gathering Bones” in 2013. Over the past 13 years, Tower has released ten albums and presented her original works in more than 40 cities. However, “Inner Galactic” dem…

A literary Dracula proves a hit at Taproot

Taproot Theatre’s popular and literary “Dracula” fittingly closes on Halloween. In a brand new adaptation of the Victorian thriller, artistic director Scott Nolte wanted to resurrect the vampire as a monster, rather than a sparkly teen heartthrob. “A friend and I read the original 35 years ago as a dare,” Nolte recalled. What struck him then, and again in a recent dive back into the Bram Stoker classic, was how modern the material felt. “It’s a collection of letters, receipts, and journal entries. It’s presented as this evidence of this evil, proof that it really happened. You read it and it seems true.”
The "Dracula" cast falls into their roles with gusto. Jeff Berryman, Melanie Hampton, Anastasia Higham, Rob Martin, Pam Nolte, Chris Shea and Daniel Stoltenberg all look and sound properly Victorian. Aaron Lamb as the mysterious count deliberately shifts his physical age and his accent in the way that slowly terrifies his guests as they puzzle out why the count…

Patricia Barker brings her ballet company to Seattle

After leaving Pacific Northwest Ballet, former principal dancers Olivier Wevers and Patricia Barker followed similar if geographically separate paths. Wevers became artistic director of Whim W’him, a company that he founded in Seattle, while Barker relocated to Michigan in 2010 as the artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet. Now the two are back together in Seattle, with Barker’s company performing Wevers’ whimsical interpretation of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" this week at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Grand Rapids Ballet also will dance a mixed repertory program called "Movemedia" consisting of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s "Written & Forgotten," Penny Saunders’ "Slight," David Parsons’ "The Envelope," and Mario Radacovsky’s "Beethoven’s 5th."
“I wanted to choose ballets that highlight all the different choreographers that I have brought in over the years and that show the range of talent within my c…

More than a prince, Gaines takes final bow tonight

From the start, he was told that he didn’t look like a prince. “Your muscles are not long enough, you’re not tall enough,” Kiyon Gaines can tick off the discouraging phrases by memory. And the one mostly unspoken but obvious to the African-American teenager with the passionate love of classical ballet. “I’d look around the classroom and everyone else was white.”

Still, Gaines, who started ballet classes at age 12, was judged good enough to attend the prestigious School of American Ballet in his teens, and found a professional home at Pacific Northwest Ballet before he turned 20. Since then, he’s originated leading roles in Paul Gibson's “The Piano Dance,” Margaret Mullin’s “Lost in Light,” Susan Stroman’s “TAKE FIVE … More or Less,” and Twyla Tharp’s “Opus 111” and “Waiting at the Station.” On the classical side of the repertoire, he’s danced with acclaim in everything from George Balanchine’s “Agon” to Kent Stowell’s “Swan Lake.”

“I never set out to be a dancer, b…

Four moving as one in Swan Lake

Four women in white tutus crosslink their arms in front, then apparently move as one across the stage with head and feet synchronized. This "danse des petits cygnes" occurs in the beginning of "Swan Lake" and is as famous a moment in the ballet as the black swan’s fouettes later in the evening.

For Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, being part of this particular pas de quatre means both excitement and a few nerves, according to four "little swans" who discussed the company's production of "Swan Lake" during a break in rehearsals.

“It’s iconic. You have a sense of accomplishment when you do it,” said Jahna Frantiziskonis, who started as a PNB apprentice in 2012 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2013.

“It’s technical and fast, like what we do as corps (in “Swan Lake”) but so much more packed in one minute,” said Amanda Clark. She's danced at PNB since 2008, first as an apprentice and then as a member of the corps.

“Why my mot…

Take five with Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson will top twenty years with Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2014. While most people who recognize him on the street remember his dancing from 1994 to 2004, Gibson has enjoyed the last ten years as a ballet master for the company just as much.
“These days, I’m more into watching back stage or going out to the front of the house when it’s something that I’ve staged,” he said.
For the current program, Director’s Choice, Gibson coached the cast on the revival of “Take Five…More or Less” created by Susan Stroman for PNB in 2008.

“We have three casts for this 13-minute piece,” he said, “and the majority of them are dancing it for the first time.”

The work, set to the jazzy motifs of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, follow six women and five men through a whirlwind performance, full of big moments and impatient toe-tapping interludes. It’s fast, funny, and reflects Stroman’s award-winning choreography for such shows as Contact or The Producers, said Gibson. “There’s a musical…

PNB's Generosa finds joy in the moment

Tonight (Feb. 6), Angelica Generosa will dance Piccilia, a featured role in "Don Quixote." This member of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s corps joined the company in 2011. Her joyful interpretation and megawatt smile has lit up such pieces as Susan Stroman’s "TAKE FIVE…More or Less," and she has shown her classical chops in Peter Boal’s "Giselle" (peasant pas de deux), Ronald Hynd’s "The Sleeping Beauty" (gold and silver pas de trois), and Kent Stowell’s "Swan Lake" (Neopolitan dance shown in video above). Generosa recently originated roles in Twyla Tharp’s "Waiting at the Station" and former PNB dancer Andrew Bartee’s "arms that work" at PNB. Last year, artistic director Boal cast her in Molissa Fenley’s "State of Darkness," a work that required her to dance a 34-minute solo.

“I was very excited and so nervous,” she recalled. “So very nervous. It was really life changing.” But Dance Magazine marked her…

Chiang takes measure of Shakespeare's darkest comedy

The director of Seattle Shakespeare’s current production of "Measure for Measure." has had a lifetime relationship with the Bard. It began with her mother being "a horrible test taker," said Desdemona Chiang. After finishing in the bottom 5 percent of a national test to determine college placement, the Taiwanese government placed Chiang's mother "in theater school. She spent four years doing theater against her will – because she really wanted to be a journalist." However an encounter with Shakespeare’s "Othello," and a liking for the character of Othello's wife, led her to name her daughter Desdemona.

“So I’ve always being fascinated by Shakespeare because of my name. I first tried to read ‘Othello’ when I was 9,” Chiang recalled.

Although born in Taiwan, Chiang grew up in the United States and her own college career went a bit differently. “I remember calling my mother and telling her that I decided to major in theater…

Trekking into comedy at SET

The actors are pulling on their polyester uniforms again at Seattle Experimental Theater. The company’s hit homage to the original “Star Trek” TV series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” opens tomorrow (Jan. 8) at the Theatre Off Jackson.

These audience-driven episodes of the Enterprise’s continuing mission have played to serious fans at Emerald City Comicon and Geek Girl Con as well as at various improv festivals and theaters. The company, and the show, debuted in 2011. Fans pick key elements for every performance within the framework of “Alien Planet” or “Space Sickness” or, new for 2015, “Worthy Opponent.” In the latter, which will debut during the January performances, mysterious alien visitors defined by audience suggestions are beamed aboard and create tension on the Enterprise.

The crew for the January performances will be Tony Beeman, Paul Levy, Colin Madison, Cheryl Platz, Wayne Pishue, Jekeva Phillips, and Nicholas Schell.

Platz, who often plays Nurse Chapel or …