New York Botanical Garden ‘Holiday Train Show’ Lights up The Season

Applied Imagination, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory replica completed in 2014, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Holiday Train Show is always a spectacular reaffirmation of what is beautiful, shining and creative in the human spirit. This year seems more so against a backdrop of tumultuous, grimy political scandals and redundant “breaking news” moments that jar the nerves and chill one’s core. I heartily appreciate an escape from the unsettling thesis of chaos to the antithesis of children’s screams of laughter and twinkling, colorful Holiday lights of assurance. The felt innocence is more lovely than the low details of worldly goings on. And I am uplifted to remember that throughout the labored struggles of men and women who strive to retain power, there is something more worthy and spiritual in the human soul that the season reminds us to seek and direct our attention to.

Holiday Train Show, G-scale trains, NYBG, Applied Imagination

All trains (more than 25 varieties) are G-scale, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ by Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Passenger train speeding over Brooklyn Bridge, above the Coney Island exhibit, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Applied Imagination, NYBG, Holiday Train Show

Locomotive with engineer in at the helm, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Thus, for me especially this year, and for the friends I visit with, The Holiday Train Show in the New York Botanical Garden is a sanctuary of refinement, a haven of peace. Amidst the lovingly arranged pageantry, the plantings strike poses between  the stunning miniature replicas of New York’s icons, historical landmarks and stupendous structures of the gilded age, made into museums or torn down because they were too expensive to maintain.

Paul Busse, Applied Imagination Senator William Clarke, Clarke's Folly, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Senator William Clarke mansion (Clarke’s Folly) the end of the Gilded Age, finished 1911, demolished 1927, created by Paul Busse and his team at Applied Imagination, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Paul Busse, Applied Imagination, NYBG, Holiday Train Show, Senator William Clarke mansion, Clarke's Folly

Detail, Senator William Clarke’s mansion, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ by Applied Imagination and Paul Busse (Carole Di Tosti)

Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, NYBG Holiday Train Show Senator William Clarke mansion

Window detail of leaves, twigs, berries, bark on the replica of Senator William Clarke mansion, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

As I note the complexity of the constructions from plant parts as tiny as a barely seed and as large as a gourd, and wander slowly in amazement at the specificity of creation, solace is delivered in cupfuls and happiness in bushels. I take picture after picture, trying to stir my memories about the location of the recreations in previous years.

Poe Cottage, the Bronx, Applied Imagination, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Replica of Poe Cottage, Fordham in the Bronx, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

If I take my time without rushing to the show finale, my memory serves me. The Poe house is situated more prominently this year on the opposite side of the central theatrical showcase.  I am glad because I am writing a play about Poe and I feel akin to this replica. For example, I know that Poe’s wife Virginia Clemm died of tuberculous in Poe Cottage which is in Fordham in the Bronx a few miles from the Garden. The replica is modest, a no frills structure which is a miniature facsimile of the real Poe Cottage. The Poes were impoverished for all of their marriage a terrific irony considering just one of Poe’s short handwritten letters brought in almost $100,000 at auction a few years ago.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, Stephen A Schwarzman Building

Replica of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (NYPL), NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ by Applied Imagination team (Carole Di Tosti)

Applied Imagination, Coney Island Exhibit, Paul Busse, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Coney Island Exhibit, Brooklyn Bridge, Wonder Wheel, Luna Park and more, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Elephantine Colossus, Cyclone, Coney Island Display, Applied Imagination

Coney Island display, Elephantine Colossus, Cyclone, train of plant parts, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Applied Imagination, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Paul Busse

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Coney Island Display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ by Applied Imagination team and its founder Paul Busse (Carole Di Tosti)

I see that the New York Public Library (Stephen A Schwartzman building) is up front and center as it should be. The Fifth Avenue Manhattan library with the stentorian lions  is under renovation and receiving technological updates that will be completed by 2020. I note that the Coney Island display is prominent with the Elephantine Colossus, Wonder Wheel (now a film of the same name by Woody Allen about Coney Island and gangsters), The Steeple Chase, Luna Park, the Cyclone (with moving parts) and more. These structures backdropped with waterfall and reflecting pools are encircled by sauntering trains lazily enjoying their pace in the 360 degree central showcase of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Last year they were in the Palms of the World Gallery.

Coney Island display, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, Brooklyn Bridge, Paul Busse

Coney Island display, Wonder Wheel, Lighthouse, Brooklyn Bridge, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ by Applied Imagination team (Carole Di Tosti)

As I appreciate the Elephantine Colossus so carefully and brilliantly created out of variously shaped gourds and other plant pieces, I consider Leslie Salka’s (Director of Applied Imagination whose creations we love) comments about the construction of the replica of the Elephant shaped hotel. The unusual structure was an example of the period’s novelty architecture, designed by James V. Lafferty to bring in tourists. The seven-story building, which served as a hotel, concert hall and amusement bazaar, stood above Surf Avenue from 1885 to 1896 when it burned down. Leslie decided they should include the hotel in the Coney Island display in memoriam of Topsy the female elephant who was electrocuted in Coney Island’s Luna Park in 1903.

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show,

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica at Coney Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Mushrooms, gourds in detail of Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Coney Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica

Detail of plant parts, Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Coney Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Topsy’s demise had been all but forgotten until someone noted a film had been made of her electrocution and clips of it were included in a Ric Burns documentary about Coney Island. After Burns’ film the subject of Topsy’s death has been featured in popular culture and media and has been the subject of poetry, fiction, songs and journalist Michael Daly’s book about her. Contrary to belief there is no purported direct association of Topsy’s death at Luna Park with Thomas Edison. Though Edison did electrocute animals 15 years earlier during the War of Currents when he was attempting to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current, he was not responsible for Topsy’s death. The Elephantine Colossus replica is gorgeous and the backstory of Topsy’s life and death, the preservation of the film clip, and her rise to celebrity is a notable piece of history found in The Holiday Train Show if you enjoy digging deeper.

Holiday Train Show, NYBG, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse

Macy’s sign is made up of white barley seeds and cayenne pepper flakes, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Novelty car, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Painted butterfly on novelty car, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

What I particularly appreciate about The Holiday Train Show is that there is something for everyone young and ancient. Children see the trains and love to hear and watch them. Adults see the history, and depending upon their day and mood go deep or gloss over the displays. No one sees all of it during each visit. If you glean 20% of the entire production which pays homage to history, trains, New York, the five New York City boroughs and their landmarks interspersed fancifully throughout the Garden’s botanical kingdom, you will have walked away with a treasure.

Angel of the Waters replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Angel of the Waters replica, Central Park display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Angel of the Waters detail, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Detail berries, mini pine cones, seeds, leaves, twigs, bark, pods, Angel of the Waters, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Show is overwhelming. So one may jaunt through it appreciating the overarching dazzling spectacle and briefly glance at the replicas, taking a few moments to identify the name of a particularly striking recreation. Or you may more closely observe, inspect and take a leisurely microscopic view of how each of the replicas was assembled ingeniously with twigs, varieties of flower and grain seeds, pine cones, stems, leaves, nut shells, acorn caps, pods, gourds, varieties of moss, mushrooms, flowers, herbs, spices and more.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

streetcar over Brooklyn Bridge, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

And the trains? Use your phone video feature to capture the particularly cool passenger trains or trolleys flying over the Manhattan or Queensboro bridge high above your head. Most NYC bridges (five out of the nine) are featured. Or snap the cute novelty cars painted with butterflies or other insects trolling back and forth over the tracks. All of the trains are G-scale, whether ancient or modern, whether locomotives and freight cars or diesel engines, electrified passenger trains, trolleys and streetcars. There are over 25 full fledged train set ups clanging, whirling, zipping, steaming, chugging, purring and careening over 1/2 mile of track situated between rocks, over bridges and water features, through tree stump tunnels and under low hanging tree branches throughout the conservatory.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Trains coming out of historic Penn Station, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Hudson Valley train station, since demolished, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti0

Applied Imagination, Penn Station, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Historic Penn Station demolished in 1963, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

In the 3000 foot 360 degree display whose extension was added a few years ago, you’ll see a grand memorial to traindome.  You’ll note various New York historical station replicas that are throwbacks to a time when travelers stayed at inns before they journeyed to relatives. These have since been torn down to make way for flat-looking, rectangular, unappealing buildings signifying what has been lost to progress. You will note Grand Central Station saved by Jacqueline Onassis and the magnificent station that developers couldn’t wait to get their grimy hands on, the Beaux Arts beauty, built in 1910, Pennsylvania Station. The Applied Imagination replica is a memorial to history, grand architectural effort that remains timeless though Penn Station itself was torn down in 1963. But there the miniature building stands for us to admire at The Holiday Train Show. Just consider that for a second or two.

Palms of the World Gallery, mid-town Manhattan display, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery, mid-town Manhattan display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Palms of the World Gallery exhibit is the glorious conclusion that sends you out into the sterling night of stars if you go to Bar Car Nights (December 22, 23, 29, 30, January 6, 13) with a date, friends or are just slumming by yourself. Or if brushing by the palm fronds with goodbyes to Garden staff dressed as train engineers you slip from the tropical paradise into the bright, cold atmosphere and sunshine with a beaming smile on your face because the final exhibit is just…just. Well! You’ll have to go and see the show and come up with your own descriptors. Marvelous? Rising? Scintillating? Neat? Memorable? Illustrious?

Ellis Island display, NYBG Holiday Train show, Applied Imagination

Ellis Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse

Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, GE Building replicas renovated as new. NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, St. Bartholomew replica

St. Bartholomew replica, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Statue of Liberty drape is made of bamboo, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

It’s all of that and more as the display in the large reflecting pool glimmers and splits into double images which lengthen the buildings and set them skimming across the water. This segment in particular memorializes why Manhattan is its own tribute to itself: skyscraper-particular, iconic, architecturally astonishing, mesmerizing, glowing. Whether its Rockefeller Plaza, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the GE Building, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, St. Bartholomew’s Church, this is what tourists, natives and even botanical adventurers love about New York City.  Take some time to especially view the last four replicas listed here, all of which are new.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Reflections in water, Empire State Building replica, St. Bartholomew replica upside down, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Upside down reflections, Queensboro Bridge in mid-Manhattan display, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

I was struck by the extravagant details and was rather gobsmacked at the illusion which is created in this gallery. These buildings effect their namesakes, but are built with completely organic, sustainable materials, unlike their reality of concrete, glass and steel. The effect will draw you in as you remember the essence of the Applied Imagination’s vision to set a monument to nature’s ineffable and infinite botanical variety and the wonder of at plants’ creative usefulness as building blocks for humans. Read that sentence again, to ken the full meaning. Heart!

NYBG, Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Mid-town Manhattan display, another view, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Laura Busse Dolan, Palms of the World Gallery, Applied Imagination, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Laura Busse Dolan, owner of Applied Imagination, daughter of Paul Busse. NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Palms of the World Gallery (Carole Di Tosti)

There is no leaving the Palms of the World Gallery after the first minute of arrival. You leave when you receive the full effect of the display upon your senses and decide that The Holiday Train Show is a celebration of the best of who we can be as creators and lovers of nature’s bounty of which we are an integral part.

For all the intriguing programming during the Train Show, from the Evergreen Express and family events, Billy Collins poetry reading and more, go to the Garden website HERE.  For BAR CAR NIGHTS, HERE. To learn about Paul Busse artistic visionary, founder and 25 year creator of Applied Imagination replicas and themes with his team click HERE.

 

 

 

Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Nominations

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I am taking out the time to post this release on my site because I agree with the spirit of this online film society. I have seen a number of the nominated films in festivals across the nation. Other films they overlooked were smashing. For example, Last Flag Flying (screenplay, performances) and  Wonderstruck  (art design, music). And Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is noteworthy because of superb performances by Annette Bening and Jamie Bell.
Last Flag Flying, Darryl Poniscan, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, NYFF 2017

(L to R): Darryl Poniscan, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston at NYFF Q and A, ‘Last Flag Flying’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, HIFF 2017

Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Q & A ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,’ HIFF 2017 (Carole Di Tosti)

And of course, there are some nominations with which I do not agree. Lady Bird, I believe, is overrated; the performances are uneven, the characters stock and predictable.  The humor is pressure-cookered and not organic. Also, I would have added to the Best Actor category, Armie Hammer. His portrayal in Call Me By Your Name is easily underestimated.  It is more complexly rendered and must be sussed out, more so than his co-protagonist Timothée Chalamet, not to take away from Chalamet who is incredible. LAOFCS picks are below.
Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name, NYFF 2017, Nigel M. Smith

(L to R): Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Director Luca Guadagnino in ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Q & A at NYFF 2017, hosted by Nigel M. Smith (courtesy NYFF Talks)

Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name, NYFF 2017, Nigel M. Smith

Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, NYFF 2017 ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Q & A hosted by Nigel M. Smith (courtesy NYFF Talks)

The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Announces Its Inaugural Year’s Nominations:
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water leads with 11 nominations while Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird lands in second place with nine and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in third with eight.

(Los Angeles, CA – December 4th, 2017) – The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society (LAOFCS) is pleased to announce that their Awards Ceremony will be held on January 3rd, 2018, at which time the winners will be announced.

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water, HIFF 2017

Richard Jenkins ‘The Shape of Water,’ HIFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Fox Searchlight’s The Shape of Water tops the nominations list with eleven nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay while Lady Bird earns nine nominations and Dunkirk earns eight. Jordan Peele’s massive hit, Get Out scores nominations for Best Male Director and Best First Feature.

Ruben Ostend, The Square, NYFF 2017

Ruben Ostend, director ‘The Square,’ NYFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Studio films such as Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Blade Runner 2049 are also among the nominations scoring five nominations each.

A few smaller released films have found their place on the nominations list including Neon’s Colossal, Trademark Films & Break Thru Films’ Loving Vincent, and the Sundance Institute’s Columbus.

Diane Kruger, In the Fade, HIFF 2017

Diane Kruger, ‘In the Fade,’ HIFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet are each nominated for Best Actress and Actor as well as Best Performance by an Actor or Actress Under the Age of 23.

The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society is pleased to announce that it is the first ever critics group to feature two Best Director categories; one for female and one for male. “There has been so much conversation about the power of female filmmakers and we wanted to embrace it,” said Mantz. “There is a Best Actor and Best Actress category as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress, so why not have a Best Male Director and Best Female Director category?” asked Menzel. Good idea considering more attention must be given to the exceptional work of female directors who are often closed out in favor of their male counterparts.

In total, the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society members have nominated over forty different films ranging from smaller art-house releases to major blockbusters.

Sam Rockwell, HIFF 2017, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell, HIFF 2017 ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Nominations for the first Annual Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Awards:

BEST PICTURE

The Big Sick
Colossal
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out
I, Tonya
Lady Bird
Molly’s Game
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Bryan Cranston, Last Flag Flying, NYFF 2017

Bryan Cranston, ‘Last Flag Flying,’ NYFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

Dee Rees, Mudbound
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit
Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman
Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Steven Spielberg, The Post

Jamie Bell, Film STars Don't Die in Liverpool, HIFF 2017

Jamie Bell, ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,’ HIFF 2017 Q and A (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST ANIMATED / VISUAL EFFECT PERFORMANCE

Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
Doug Jones, The Shape of Water
Dan Stevens, Beauty and the Beast

BEST EDITING

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Post
The Shape of Water

Annette Bening, HIFF 2017, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Annette Bening, HIFF 2017 Q & A ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,’ (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST SCORE

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
War for the Planet of the Apes

BEST STUNT WORK

Atomic Blonde
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
John Wick: Chapter 2
Wonder Woman

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS UNDER 23 YEARS OLD

Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project
Dafne Keen, Logan
Jacob Tremblay, Wonder
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

BEST SCI-FI/ HORROR

Blade Runner 2049
Get Out
It
It Comes at Night
The Shape of Water

Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, NYFF 2017, The Florida Project

(L to R): Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, NYFF 2017 Q & A ‘The Florida Project’ (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST ACTION/WAR

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
Logan
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

The Big Sick
The Disaster Artist
Girls Trip
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Kogonada, Columbus
Jeremy Gasper, Patti Cake$
Jordan Peele, Get Out

Armie Hammer, HIFF 2017, Call Me By Your Name

Armie Hammer, HIFF 2017 Red Carpet, ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

The Big Sick
Colossal
A Ghost Story
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

Beauty and the Beast
Dunkirk
Logan
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST DOCUMENTARY

An Inconvenient Sequel
Jane
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
Step
Whose Streets?

Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, Last Flag Flying,

(L to R): Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne in ‘Last Flag Flying,’ (courtesy of the film)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

BPM, France
First They Killed My Father, Cambodia
In the Fade, Germany
The Square, Sweden
Thelma, Norway

BEST ANIMATED FILM

The Breadwinner
Coco
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell, David Nugent, HIFF 2017, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

(L to R): Sam Rockwell, David Nugent, HIFF 2017 Q & A ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, & Walter Fasano, Call Me by Your Name
Michael H. Weber & Scott Neustadter, The Disaster Artist
Scott Frank, James Mangold, & Michael Green, Logan
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees, Mudbound

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Idris Elba, Molly’s Game
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name
Patrick Stewart, Logan
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Williem Dafoe, The Florida Project

BEST ACTRESS

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

BEST ACTOR

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Tom Hanks, The Post

‘Desperate Measures’ An Exceptional, Hilarious Musical Tweak of ‘Measure for Measure’

Nick Wyman, Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Lauren Molina Conor Ryan, Gary Marachek, Desperate Measures, York Theatre Company, Peter Kellogg, David Friedman, Bill Castellino

(L to R): Lauren Molina, Peter Saide, Conor Ryan, Nick Wyman, Emma Degerstedt, Gary Marachek in ‘Desperate Measures,’ York Theatre Company (Carol Rosegg)

Shakespeare’s comical plot of Measure for Measure radiates with riotous and melodic, exceptionalism in the glorious musical Desperate Measures. The musical currently at the York Theatre shines like no other rendition of Shakespeare’s work because of the adroit skill of the playwright Peter Kellogg who wrote the book and lyrics. Coupled with the musicality and memorable compositions by David Friedman, Desperate Measures is an incredible hit that is biding its time to make its mark on Broadway.

The comedy is non stop. The brilliant, clever story twists run rampant throughout.. Indeed, the Western update of Shakespeare’s work is lifted to satiric high farce.  Set to an illustrative musical songscape which is both appealing and profound, Desperate Measures delivers moment to moment fun and enthralls with good will and joy.

Thus far, I have taken my measure of this production twice. Each time I’ve appreciated the specific, brilliant direction by Bill Castellino. His acting ensemble’s choreographed movements during the musical numbers are reminiscent of the amazing work of the great Graciela Daniele. Additionally, the six-member cast portray the spin-off Shakespearean characters with invested realism and inventiveness that revves up the humor and makes it a stand-out. The cast’s unparalleled singing and cavorting through the setting of the 1890s Old West transforms many of the fantastical elements into searing present-day themes.

Desperate Measures, Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan, York Theatre Company, Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare, Peter Kellogg, David Friedman, Bill Castellino

(L to R): Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan in ‘Desperate Measures,’ York Theatre Company (Carol Rosegg)

For that reason alone. this production must be seen. Uplift and encouragement suggest hope throughout each Act. Above all Desperate Measures brings us the wonderful reminder that laughter provides goodness like a wholesome medicine. And bitterness dries up the bones. So! You need a dose of healthful chortles? This show sheds them in abundance.

In ‘The Ballad of Johnny Blood” the ensemble and Johnny (an adorable, multi-talented, effusive and expertly winning Conor Ryan), introduce the conflict. Prisoner Johnny will hang for the love of a woman who unwittingly caused his downfall when he shot his rival in self-defense. However, Johnny has an advocate in the Sheriff (the equally adorable, smooth, brilliant, reserved, heroic Peter Saide), who guards him. The Sheriff creates an effective plan to soften the law and order governor of the territory (the hilarious, preening, fascist, sexual predator Nick Wyman). The softener, Sister Mary Jo (the exquisitely voiced and excellent Emma Degerstedt), will plead for her brother’s release.

To convince the Sister to visit the governor, the Sheriff sings “That’s Just How It Is.” The superb lyrics of this tuneful, beautifully rendered song by Saide carry one of the vital themes of the production. The unfair culture creates economic injustice. The rich prosper. The children of the poor suffer. Rarely can one upturn this dynamic. However, every now and then a time comes when goodness can prevail.  If people take a stand and “speak up,” they can make a difference. The demure and innocent Sister Mary Jo, persuaded by the Sheriff’s challenge decides to ask for her brother’s pardon.

Conor Ryan, Lauren Molina, York Theatre Company, Desperate Measures, Peter Kellogg, David Friedman, Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare, Desperate Measures

Lauren Molina, Conor Ryan in ‘Desperate Measures,’ York Theatre (Carol Rosegg)

Of course the novitiate, has no idea of the nefariousness of the governor. We recognize his qualities immediately with Wyman’s Governor’s “Some Day They Will Thank Me.” In the song, the arrogant, presumptive, martinet reveals he is a blaggard. As the Sheriff prompts her to be more convincing with the Governor, Susanna sings “Look in Your Heart.” Unfortunately, Wyman’s Governor confirms our worst fears about those in power.  Because Susanna persuades him with her lyrical loveliness, the Governor ties her up in a Gordian knot. He will release Johnny for one night of Susanna’s love.

In the beautifully wrought “Good To Be Alive,” (a high-point among many in the show), Johnny begs his sister. Trade her chastity for his life. The humorous debate that ensues leaves Johnny facing death. And Susanna’s refusal to give her chastity to the Governor over her brother’s pleas appears cold-hearted. Nevertheless, once again, the brilliant Sheriff comes up with an ingenious (and hysterical), plan to obtain the pardon.

However, will this ridiculous and incredible plan work? To encourage themselves, Johnny the Sheriff and Susanna (Sister Mary Jo’s real name) are joined by the alcoholic atheistic priest (the hysterical Gary Marachek), to sing the uplifting “It Doesn’t Hurt to Try.” Indeed, since the risk of life and death is great, any plan that can stave off the hangman’s noose for Johnny is a boon. Thus, off Susanna and the Sheriff go to set the plan in motion eliciting the help of Johnny’s love Bella (the wonderful Lauren Molina), whose occupation as a saloon singer gives her special talents to work a miracle for Johnny’s life.

Following the basic plot of Measure for Measure, yet giving it a modern Old Western twist, Desperate Measures follows with the parallels yet adds its own flavor through the lyrics and tuneful songs. For example, in order to train Bella for her upcoming role where she switches places with Sister Mary Jo, the Sheriff assists Sister Mary Jo in teaching Bella how to present herself in “The Way You Feel on the Inside.” Additionally, as the situation to save her brother’s life has thrown the Sheriff and Sister Mary Jo together, we recognize a budding romance between them which neither wants to acknowledge. The Sheriff especially, a proud man, doesn’t even want to contemplate that he is attracted to Sister Mary Jo, who will be taking her vows to be a nun in the next few days. The memorable “Stop There” recalls the fear of unrequited love and identifies the reality of the pain of falling in love and allowing one’s imagination to run away before the love interest accepts being loved.

Desperate Measures, Conor Ryan, Gary Marachek, Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Peter Kellogg, David Friedman, Bill Castellino

(L to R): Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan, Gary Marachek in ‘Desperate Measures,’ York Theatre Company (Carol Rosegg)

To conclude Act I the ensemble joins in the thrumming song “In the Dark.” As each individual identifies that the darkness is the place where anything can happen, they encourage themselves to hope for their desires. For Johnny it is his release. For the Governor it is a fulfillment of his passion for Sister Mary Jo. For Bella who is duping the Governor, she hopes for the ability to  pull off the deception that she is Sister Mary Jo.  For the Sheriff and Sister Mary Jo (Susanna) they secretly yearn for the hope that they might be able to love one another. The musical number beautifully caps the conflicts and themes of Act I and establishes the set up for the resolution of the conflicts in the second act.

The Governor’s fabulous seduction scene, the ensuing hi-jinks and the heroic actions of Johnny’s love, Bella, transport us to comedic heights. How the conflicts thread their way to the conclusion, bring the characters together and apart again. And they resolve in a hysterical climactic scene which brings down the house. The music of the second act is as heady as is the first. And once more, the various songs resonate as does the clever rhyming dialogue.

Memorable and engaging, this is a production where the smarmy villain receives his commuppance. And where an alcoholic, atheist priest manages to redeem himself.  There is love, unique heroism, surprising justice, and redemption for even the wicked. Perhaps! As for the specifics, this review holds no spoiler alerts. You will just have to see this most superb musical production to discover the incredibly clever rhymes and production’s tremendous vibrance for yourself.

Peter Saide, Lauren Molina, Emma Degerstedt, Desperate Measures, Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare, Peter Kellogg, David Friedman, Bill Castellino

(L to R): Peter Saide, Lauren Molina, Emma Degerstedt in ‘Desperate Measures,’ York Theatre Company (Carol Rosegg)

Can there be a better rollicking, musical update of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure? I think not!

I cannot say enough about the music (folks have asked when the CDs will go on sale), and the lyrics and book by this prodigiously adroit team of Kellogg and Friedman. The functional and minimalistic Western sets trope the humor, time and place, as do the costumes. Their simplicity carries the farce and comedy yet makes room for the dark, ironic undertones in the themes. Thankfully, the characters in this production suit the measure with which they have bestowed grace and beauty. However, such does not occur in life, as Kellogg reminds us and Shakespeare reminds us in Measure for Measure.

Nevertheless, the show’s currency resonates timelessness. Heroes may thwart villains. Innocence may triumph over corruption. Love may save. Justice might win out despite overwhelming odds. Does absolute power corrupt in Desperate Measures? Indeed, as it corrupts in Measure for Measure.  Both works reflect the vicissitudes that confront individuals whether in the Old West 1890 or in our current world. However, when good men rise up to stand against lust, avarice and overweening privilege, the light of truth can disperse the darkness. That it does so tunefully, memorably, riotously in Desperate Measures is very welcome for us at this time.

Kudos to the musicians David Hancock Turner, Justin Rothberg, Joseph Wallace, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman. And accolades to the design team James Morgan, Nicole Wee, Paul Miller Julian Evans for their creative exploits on Desperate Measures. A word to the wise. The production most probably will be moving to a more expensive venue. This New York premiere has already enjoyed two extensions. See it now, so you will be able to see it again. You will be thrilled you did.

Desperate Measures runs with one intermission. It will be at The York Theatre (619 Lexington Avenue) until 26th November.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off Broadway Theater Review: ‘Wood Calls Out to Wood’ at The Tank

Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, panel# 1, Wood Calls Out to Wood

Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’ panel #1, courtesy of this site.

Hieronymus Bosch’s 15th century triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” never fails to amaze and intrigue. In Fisher Stevens’ exceptional Before The Flood which examines global warming/climate change and shadows Leonardo DiCaprio’s quest as United Nations Messenger of Peace on climate change, Stevens references Bosch’s work.

Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delight, panel #2

Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’ panel #2, courtesy of the site.

The Garden of Earthly Delights which hung over DiCaprio’s bed when he was a kid becomes a the monumentally symbolic metaphor at the central point of Before the Flood.. The director elucidates the triptych and reveals Bosch’s progression from panel to panel. Mankind was given the power of the beautiful Garden (our planet Earth) and in seeking forbidden knowledge of good and evil, created a nightmare world that his very nihilism and self-hate (sin) currently is effecting the destruction of his own species, every other species and the eco-systems of the planet, which results in a hellish state (panel three).

Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, panel # 3

Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’ panel #3, courtesy of the site.

Corinne Donly’s Wood Calls Out to Wood, directed by Sarah Hughes currently at The Tank until 12 November presents a different interpretation of Bosch’s work. However, before one travels to The Tank to see the production which translates Bosch’s work from wood and paint into a live play creation, shimmering, colorful, fanciful and more, acutely review the Bosch triptych.

The assumption the playwright makes is that the audience carries around the detailed visual memory of the three panels and with that prodigious knowledge can correlate the dialogue, actors, sets, costumes and objects used with the various panels. I admit my own failing. Without nary a projection of Bosch’s triptych, I became hard pressed to recognize various associations. However, I gather, that was one theme of this work, as abstruse, opaque and self-possessed as it was.

Connor James Sheridan, Tanyamaria, Lanxing Fu, Will Dagger, Sarah Hughes, Corinne Donly

Foreground: Connor James Sheridan, L to R background: Tanyamaria, Lanxing Fu, Will Dagger in ‘Wood Calls Out to Wood,’ by Corinne Donly, directed by Sarah Hughes (Sasha Arulyunova)

The often poetic dialogue and nonsensical ramblings of the characters inspired by a few figures in Bosch’s work kept one interested by its sheer dense ridiculousness. Experimental theater reaching out for someone to make sense of it, to hang a truth on? OK. I can move with surrealism and absurdism. But even surreal, “out-there” work hangs on a point of revelation throughout and most importantly at its conclusion. Indeed, if the production was meant to end in a whimper, or a fabulous new insight, I confess, I missed it.

I do appreciate the exertions of the actors who seemed to have their sense memories and in-the-moment behaviors lined up appropriately. And the couple who love and comfort one another were adorable.

Connor James Sheridan, Tanyamaria, Wood Calls Out to Wood, Corinne Donly, Sarah Hughes

Connor James Sheridan, Tanyamaria in ‘Wood Calls Out to Wood,’ by Corinne Donly, directed by Sarah Hughes (Sasha Arulyunova)

Of course the irony in all of this remains that Bosch’s triptych replete with spiritual symbolic significance of man’s own inhumanity to himself was no where to be viscerally found. Wood Calling Out to Wood exists as an exercise. It is an exercise in the fun, lively, innovative, experimental, weird, often incompletely executed extrapolation of the three panels because that is what it is attempting. In the attempt it becomes the esoteric for esoteric’s sake. A Foucault for those who would attempt to make meaning of it and get tripped up on their own inadequate philosophies. It perches on the edge of Fuzzy Thinking as a mind blowout for those who will go there. If one will, make sure to have enough rest. It may be a flip to follow along. But you may also flip into the unconscious and post haste, fall asleep. Have coffee beforehand, and preferably not decaf.

My reading of the script helped me to understand what the playwright had intended. If the production could be given a proper mounting, with visual projections of Bosch’s work for those like this obtuse writer, I do think that Corinne Donly’s Wood Calls Out to Wood might find itself marvelous.

As it is, if you enjoy supporting The Tank (312 West 36th St), and favor the sheer nonsensical fun of attempting to make heavy-duty meaning out of the curious, you will enjoy the silly, frenetic quality of Wood Calls Out to Wood which runs for 50 minutes without an intermission. As for Bosch? Well, don’t expect any of his magnificent visuals, so review his works, exercise your memory and go prepared.

Chihuly and Pumpkins at New York Botanical Garden’s Fall Weekend

Chihuly Exhibit, 'Sol de Citron,' NYBG 2017, Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Nights (Carole Di Tosti)

Chihuly Exhibit, ‘Sol de Citron,’ NYBG 2017, Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Nights (Carole Di Tosti)

Last weekend at the New York Botanical Garden was my last time to say goodbye to the Chihuly Exhibit. I have visited the exhibit a number of times, but each time is fresh and different. One reason is because Dale Chihuly’s outdoor sculptures refract and reflect the changes in sunlight during the changing seasons, from spring to fall.

Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Exhibit, NYBG, Chihuly Nights, Chihuly Chandeliers

Stunning Chihuly chandeliers at the NYBG Chihuly Exhibit, Dale Chihuly, New York Botanical Garden, Chihuly Nights (Carole Di Tosti)

Chihuly Exhibit, NYBG, Chihuly Days, NYBG Garden Shop

Dale Chihuly’s art glass for sale in the NYBG Garden Shop, Chihuly Exhibit, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Dale Chihuly’s Macchia Forrest (2017), Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden, summer concert series

Dale Chihuly’s ‘Macchia Forrest’ (2017), ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ NYBG summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Dale Chihuly, Macchia Forrest, NYBG 2017, Chihuly Nights

Dale Chihuly’s ‘Macchia Forrest’ (2017), another view, Chihuly Nights, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

 

Another reason is because no matter how closely you look at a piece, you will notice something unique every time. Perhaps it is the way the colors merge into each other on some pieces or the way the glass curves or projects starkly upward. With the sculptures that are housed indoors at the Enid A. Haupt conservatory, for example Macchia Forest, 2017, Chihuly’s vibrant colors startle in multi-colored  tulip-shaped cups arising from iron-like stems in the conservatory’s indoor pond and fountain gorgeously arranged with hanging flowering plantings. One could remain there all day or in the evening with a drink during Chihuly Nights. The rich ambience delights and the sounds of water splaying in the fountain soothe. As with all of Chihuly’s sculptures thoughtfully arranged in or around water, the reflections dazzle and enthrall with their multi-dimensional views.

C, NYBG 2017, Dale Chihulyhihuly Exhibit, 'Sapphire Star,' 2010

Chihuly Exhibit, ‘Sapphire Star,’ 2010, NYBG 2017, Dale Chihuly (Carole Di Tosti)

Sapphire Star 2010, NYBG 2017, Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Nights

‘Dale Chihuly’s ‘Sapphire Star’ 2010, NYBG 2017, Chihuly Nights (Carole Di Tosti)

I will sorely miss this exhibit which stirs the imagination toward infinite and graceful fantasies that one conjures up in brilliant dreams. I have become used to catching the falling sunlight at dusk as it stirs the effervescence and evolving, sparkling, deep blue, shimmering hues on Sapphire Star 2010, NYBG 2017 amidst the darkening shadowy green of the landscape and deepening black shapes of the trees. Sapphire Star 2010, installed at NYBG 2017 is my favorite. I enjoyed seeing it in high noon brilliance or in the surrounding darkness enhanced with a few ground lights along the Garden path that is out of the Chronicles of Narnia. My imagination runs wild. And if I were indeed alone without anyone near me, I would expect a unicorn or centaur to jump out from behind a tree and admiringly gaze at this groundling star whose other-worldy beauty beckons.

Chihuly Exhibit, Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 & 2, Chihuly Nights, NYBG 2017

Chihuly Exhibit, ‘Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 & 2,’ Chihuly Nights, NYBG 2017 (Carole Di Tosti)

Chihuly Exhibit, Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 & 2, Chihuly Nights NYBG 2017

A closer view! Chihuly Exhibit, ‘Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 & 2,’ Chihuly Nights, NYBG 2017 (Carole Di Tosti)

Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Exhibit, Float Boat and Koda Studies # 1 & 2, NYBG 2017

A closer view!! Chihuly Exhibit, ‘Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 & 2,’ Chihuly Nights, NYBG 2017 (Carole Di Tosti)

 

This past weekend I also strayed beyond the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden to visit the Native Plant Garden where Chihuly’s Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 and #2 herald all that might be accomplished when the creative spirit is allowed to run wild amidst a natural platform. Again, Dale Chihuly combines contrasting shapes, sizes and forms. There are the comforting huge glass balls of every shining hue imaginable displayed in a an oblong vessel held up by a flowing water pond.. In the nighttime, the view widens its depth. Which is is solid? Which is fluid? And indeed physics will explain that both are double images of each other for all contain infinitesimal atoms which spin at incredible speeds and play havoc with what appears to be real but which is something else entirely. A true mind-blast and pageantry of excellence.

Chihuly Nights, Dale Chihuly, Native Plant Garden, NYBG

Guitar player accompanying our views in the Native Plant Garden, NYBG, Chihuly Nights (Carole Di Tosti)

That evening a guitar player shared his repertoire as we hailed the Chihuly’s Koda Studies # 1 and 2. Chihuly designed these specifically for the exhibit, honoring his original Artpark installation designed with friend Seaver Leslie in Lewiston, New York in 1975. That significant installation launched Dale Chihuly as a glass artisan and he has been flying into glory ever since.

NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, Chihuly Exhibit, Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Nights

Walking to the Native Plant Garden we encounter spooky pumpkins on the way. NYBG, Chihuly Exhibit, Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Spooky pumpkins, NYBG Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

As we sauntered along the path viewing Chihuly’s muted dark fuschia, red and yellow glass panes pinging off the lengthy water display in the Native Plant Garden, our senses were regaled. The native grasses, wild herbs, shrubs and dying foliage exuded gorgeous aromas released in the humid night air. There was a sense of freedom and exploration I felt. Tell me where else in New York City can one travel safely along landscaped, tree-lined paths in the nighttime breathing clean air with heavenly scents except at a NYBG evening exhibit.

Everett Children's Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG

Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG (Carole DI Tosti

Everett Children's Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Children's Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Everett Children's Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG

Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Everett Children's Adventure Garden, NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG,

Pumpkin grown by the Synders, from Bessemer, Pennsylvania weighs 1,261 pounds, NYBG Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

During the daytime I walked amongst the still-green trees which are here and there beginning to prepare for fall and winter. I stepped into the fun-filled Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and watched the kids enjoy themselves everywhere they went. The Children’s Garden was packed. The humongous pumpkins patiently sat as children scrambled on top of them and families posed for pictures. Each of the gigantic specimens were record-breakers. (see below for stats) Families sought and found enormous pumpkins, gourds, and squashes – it was also Giant Pumpkin Weekend, and families came to see these incredible natural wonders.

NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Conquering a record-breaking pumpkin, (2,269 lbs) from England at NYBG Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Conquered! Record-breaking pumpkin, (2,269 lbs) from England at NYBG Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

Kids and parents took pictures standing on them, climbing them, sitting on them, and standing next to them. Giant Pumpkin Weekend, arranged in collaboration with the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, showed off the growers’ skills at nurturing the hugest (I know that’s not a word), most fantabulous (or that either) pumpkins. Each of these record-breakers from around the world weighed in at more than a ton.

How these pumpkins’ DNA allows them to expand boggles the mind. Importantly, growers come to share how this happens in the growing process during Q&As.

Recapping the record-breakers and their growers for 2017.

This year’s largest pumpkin traveled from Sumner, Washington, bringing with it the North American all-time record. Nurtured by Joel Holland, the “Great Pumpkin” weighed in at 2,363 pounds.

The second-largest pumpkin ever grown came from the United Kingdom, with that country’s all-time record of 2,269 pounds. Ian Paton and Stuart Paton grew this lovely.

Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG

Largest squash grown, 2,118 lbs, NYGB Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

Finally, at the entrance of the Leon Levy Visitors Center you will find the largest squash grown in the world this year. This all-time record-breaker grown by Joe Jutras hails from North Scituate, Rhode Island. It weighs in at 2,118 pounds.

NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Pumpkins everywhere in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG

Pumpkins everywhere in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

Giant Pumpkin Weekend, Everett Children's Adventure Garden, NYBG

Pumpkins everywhere in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Carole Di Tosti)

If you missed this annual fun event the weekend of 21-22 October, don’t worry. The display continues through 31 October. And if you can’t make it this year, next year the Garden will be hosting amazing record-breaking specimens again. You know they will be even larger.

Another fun event at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden involved costumes and goodies. Children dressed in costumes visited the Whole Foods Market® Trick-or-Treat Trail. Since Whole Foods offered the treats, you know they had to be nutritious and delicious. No candy corn could be found anywhere on those Whole Foods Market tables. Additionally, children could decorate a bag to collect their goodies, which included a “children’s sized” baby spider plant anxious to receive a new home.

Creepy Creatures of Halloween, Everett Children's Adventure Garden, NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Reptile wrangler with Sheldon a beautiful turtle, NYBG, Creepy Creatures of Halloween, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Giant Pumpkin Weekend

Petting Skittles the milk snake, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Giant Pumpkin Weekend, NYBG

Petting Wilma a very sweet and popular lizard, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

One event I particularly enjoyed took place at the Clay Family Picnic Pavilions. Kids and parents came curious to see what creepy, spooky creatures of Halloween might crawl around, fly, or calm down to be petted. The live animal presentation revealed interesting reptiles from everywhere, perhaps even some backyards upstate or in the South.

In the photos are the popular Wilma, a lizard who sustained the children petting her with peace and calm, and Skittles the milk snake who also was petted by the children and remained peaceful throughout. One can see the various creatures Saturdays and Sundays, 1 & 3 p.m. until 29 October.

Chihuly Exhibit, NYBG

A Chihuly piece for sale in the NYBG Garden Shop, Chihuly Exhibit, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

The New York Botanical Garden contains a fabulous and beautiful world of treasures for everyone. If you can catch the Chihuly Exhibit during the day, you will be thrilled. Unfortunately, tickets to Chihuly Nights have been sold out for the last week. However, if you go during the day over the weekend, make sure to get there early. The parking is limited. And even if it is a bit colder, New Yorkers and out-of-towners want to take a last breathtaking look at the NYBG Chihuly exhibit before it leaves. Thankfully, I took many pictures in remembrance. When winter approaches in earnest in New York City, I will look back at this article and my pictures in fond remembrance.

For events at the NYGB, CLICK HERE.

 

Shouldn’t Women Have a Greater Place at the Table They Have Set For Decades?

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Harvey Weinstein certainly enjoyed his power at the Weinstein Company.. He was the privileged man of the hour and could do no wrong for his Board, insuring a fine bottom line and Oscar winning productions. Unfortunately, instead of honoring his treasured position, he self-annihilated, immolating his sterling career. As he threw his Board and the company into jeopardy with his perverse sexual appetites and addictions, accomplices, co-conspirators and enablers, ceded their power to him, allowing the abuse to continue for many years. Finally, the media community vilified Weinstein and the Board fired him. But will such predatory exploitation of women cease? Not if men can risk exposure and get away with the same bullying threatening behavior continuing the glittering wall of silence.

Tuesday, October 24th (doors open at 7 pm)

The Playroom Theater, 151 W 46th Street, 8th floor

The entertainment industry’s legacy of sexual abuse for decades fueled the terrible sickness of sexual exploitation. Such nefarious behavior has been sanctioned as “an alpha male- thing.” Whether in the business or the entertainment world where men are preminent, predation has been the tribute many have sustained for moving along in one’s career.

Tuesday, October 24th (doors open at 7 pm)

The Playroom Theater, 151 W. 46th St. 8th floor

 If the entertainment industry (film, media and theater) were more equitable and afforded women the same opportunities as men, would this predation have gone on for decades? Probably not. Strong women in leadership positions have the talent and ability to provide better working relationships and higher standards of artistry.  Surely, when women  enter the “brave new world” of producing, directing and establishing careers in all areas of the arts as men have done, they watch out for each other.

Tuesday, October 24th (doors open at 7 pm)

The Playroom Theater, 151 W. 46th St. 8th floor

The more power they have, the better. It has been shown that they assiduously fulfill their responsibilities more completely than their male counterparts.  As Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize for founding Grameen Bank) discovered, when women were granted loans, they husbanded them wisely, paid the money back and got themselves out of debt and made a profit.. On the other hand, when men were granted loans, they squandered it on leisure activities, women, gambling, alcohol, etc.

Tuesday, October 24th (doors open at 7 pm)

The Playroom Theater, 151, W. 46th St., 8th floor

Men often control the financing disproportionately. What would happen if  more women took on greater responsibilities as producers?
Times have been changing.  The younger generation of women and men are stepping up, raising standards and obviating paternalism and all the negatives that have abided for decades.. This positive behavior can only benefit everyone. Certainly, much more needs to be done.
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The women pictured above are mavericks in their own right. And they are encouraging other women to join them for a night of discussion about the state of the industry, producing and how women can be the forefront of artistic change and profitability in these times of transformation and potential renewal.

Tuesday, October 24th (doors open at 7 pm)

The Playroom Theater, 151, W. 46th St., 8th floor

Moderated by TRU Vice President and Co-Founder Cheryl Davis, this evening is presented in association with Women in the Arts & Media Coalition. The speakers include all of the women above, each an experienced dynamo in her own right. The discussion will confront the questions raised above and additional ones. For example:

1. Do women producers offer a different esthetic from their male counterparts?

2. Might more women producers mean more works by women and more women-centric stories?

3. Is commercial theater or not-for-profit theater more welcoming for women?

Doors open at 7:00 pm for networking and refreshments. Roundtable introductions of everyone in the room will begin at 7:30 pm. Come prepared with your best one-minute summary of who you are and what you need.

The evening is free for TRU members. For non members: $12.50. For members of Women in the Arts & Media Coalition  $5.00.

For more information on each of the speakers, CLICK HERE, or visit THEATER RESOURCES LIMITED and become a member.
Visit TRU for the events calendar.
FOR RESERVATIONS CALL 212-714-7628   OR EMAIL:   TRUStaff 1@gmail.com
 
 
 
 

 

‘Jazz and Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ New York Botanical Garden Summer Concert Series

Jazz & Chihuly, Damien Sneed, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden

Damien Sneed and musicians in ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ at the New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

Considering the Charlottesville, Virginia August 11th incidents and the tragic loss of one woman’s life, up through the president’s press conference of Tuesday, August 15th, these days of August have been tumultuous and divisive. Indeed, taking a stand to uphold human rights and decry hate groups that seek mainstream political power appears to be more vital than ever as protest marches this past weekend indicate.  Symbolic action, whether it is through protest demonstrations or concerts is a reminder to all that Love trumps Hate. A great majority of Americans are committed to upholding the sanctity of every life, regardless of race or religion.

New York Botanical Garden, Koda Study No. 3, Dale Chihuly, Damien Sneed, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

Chihuly sculptures (“Koda Study No. 3”) in the New York Botanical Garden water lily and lotus pond backdropped by the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, after the summer concert series, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ with Damien Sneed,  and his ensemble and guest Keyon Harrold (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Palms of the World Gallery, Chihuly’s Persian Pond and Fiori (2017), Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

NYBG Palms of the World Gallery, Chihuly’s ‘Persian Pond and Fiori’ (2017), ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Palms of the World Gallery, Chihuly’s Persian Pond and Fiori (2017), Jazz & chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden, summer concert series

Detail, Chihuly’s ‘Persian Pond and Fiori’ (2017), ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Palms of the World Gallery, Chihuly’s Persian Pond and Fiori (2017), Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, NYBG summer concert series

Detail, NYBG Palms of the World Gallery, Chihuly’s ‘Persian Pond and Fiori’ (2017), ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Serendipitiously, the final summer concert series at the New York Botanical Garden on Friday, 18 August was a majestic reminder of this citizen commitment. Despite the threatening thunderstorm and intermittent periods of rain throughout the day, the turnout to embrace Jazz and Chihuly, “Songs of Protest & Reconciliation” was overwhelming.

Damien Sneed, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, NYGB summer concert series

Damien Sneed, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden

The audience for ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ the concert series at the New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

The tent was packed with a diverse crowd who were there to enjoy the all-star musical group led by award-winning pianist and vocalist, Damien Sneed, guest trumpeter Keyon Harrold and the other prodigiously talented musicians and vocal artists. Together, these individuals presented an evening of entertainment that was poignant and joyful. And after joining with them in celebrating some of the best songs created by greats of jazz, soul, gospel and contemporary music (including two composed by Damien Sneed), the audience was sent out into the night sans rain to appreciate the luminous Chihuly sculptures presented throughout the grounds and in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Chihuly's Red Reeds on Logs (2017), Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden

Dale Chihuly’s “Red Reeds on Logs” (2017) part of the special concert series ‘Jazz and Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ at the New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

Sol del Citron, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer series

“Sol del Citron” at ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Sapphire Star, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer series

‘Dale Chihuly’s ‘Sapphire Star’ ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

New York Botanical Garden summer concert series, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower (2017)

Chihuly’s ‘Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower’ (2017), ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

This final concert in the summer series was co-produced by the Catskill Jazz Factory and Absolutely Live Entertainment. The Catskill Jazz Factory encompasses a dynamic jazz program whose mission is to aid some of the finest young jazz artists with year-round workshops, concerts, residencies and world-class performances in the Hudson Valley. Absolutely Live Entertainment is a festival, tour and concert production company spearheaded by Danny Melnick. Malnick is the Producer of the Newport Jazz Festival and the Artistic Director of Carnegie Halls’ The Shape of Jazz series.

Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series, Damien Sneed

Damien Sneed rouses the crowd at ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Damien Sneed, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Damien Sneed on piano and vocals at ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Damien Sneed is a master of practically every musical genre and a 2014 recipient of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence honor which is presented annually to emerging Black and Latino leaders in classical music. His facility with jazz, gospel, pop, R & B, opera and musical theater and his work with Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross have served him in excellent stead.

Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Ensemble vocalists, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden, summer concert series, Damien Sneed

Damien Sneed and ensemble musicians at ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Sneed facilely shepherded the ensemble of vocalists Chenee Campbell, Anitra McKinney, Djore Nance, Tiffany Stevenson, Matia Washington and musicians Stacy Dillard (saxophone) Corey Wilcox (trombone) Julius Rodriguez (Hammond B3 organ) John Matthew Clark (bass guitar), Mark Clark, Jr. (drums). The songs of protest “I Wish I knew How it Would Feel to Be Free” (Nina Simone), “Oh Freedom,” (African-American spiritual), “Follow the Drinking Gourd (Underground Railroad) and “Freedom (excerpt)” (Duke Ellington) for example, emphasized every individual’s yearning for freedom and what freedom means collectively and personally.

Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Vocal ensemble, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

During the first half of the evening, an audience member brought up a T-Shirt and draped it on a music stand. The T-Shirt had the logo, “Black Lives Matter.” Her action was spontaneous and unstaged.

Interspersed with these songs of protest were the songs of reconciliation: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon and Garfunkel), “God Bless the Child, (Billie Holiday & Arthur Herzog, Jr., “Proud Mary,” (John Fogarty), “Is My Living in Vain,” (Twinkie Clark & The Clark Sisters) and more. Each number featured a powerful solo by one of the vocalists. The audience showed their appreciation with standing ovations.

Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Powerful solo performances by the ensemble garnered standing ovations at ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

During the second portion of the evening, Keyon Harrold performed a song he had composed. Harrold presented “When Will The Killing Stop?” as a dedication to Michael Brown and all the young, black men who have been killed for “no good reason.” His playing was at once soulful and poignant, his talent incredible. It is no wonder he has been featured on nearly 100 albums with a wide music range from jazz to R & B, from pop and gospel, to blues and hip-hop.

Keyon Harrold, Jazz & Chihuly Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Keyon Harrold trumpeter at “Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Keyon Harrold, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Keyon Harrold, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Damien Sneed, Keyon Harrold, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, NYBG summer concert series

(L to R): Damien Sneed, Keyon Harrold, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

By the conclusion of the evening, the storm and rain had stopped and the audience had been refreshed and uplifted by the development of the program from seeking soul freedom to the process by which that freedom evolves: forgiveness, reconciliation and love.

Dale Chihuly’s Macchia Forrest (2017), Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden, summer concert series

Dale Chihuly’s ‘Macchia Forrest’ (2017), ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ NYBG summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Chihuly's White Tower with Fiori, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation

Chihuly’s ‘White Tower with Fiori.’ central showcase, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, New York Botanical Garden, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Dale Chihuly’s Macchia Forrest (2017), Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, NYBG summer concert series

Dale Chihuly’s ‘Neon 206’ ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation,’ NYBG summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life with Chihuly's Blue Polyvitro Crystals, Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation, New York Botanical Garden summer concert series

Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life with Chihuly’s Blue Polyvitro Crystals, ‘Jazz & Chihuly, Songs of Protest & Reconciliation’ New York Botanical Garden summer concert series (Carole Di Tosti)

On this night the evolution was inspired through music and exceptional artistry which united and uplifted a community of jazz, botanical and Chihuly enthusiasts. For audience members it was a clarification of the last few weeks and exemplification of all that is best in human hearts, further embodied by our wonderment at the fantastic, illuminated Chihuly sculptures.

 

 

‘A Wall Apart,’ A New York Musical Festival Theater Review

A Wall Apart, nYMF, Lord Graham Russell, Sam Goldstein, Craig Clyde, Keith Andrews

‘A Wall Apart’ at the NYMF, Music & Lyrics by Lord Graham Russell, Book by Sam Goldstein & Craig Clyde, directed/choreographed by Keith Andrews (Michael Schoenfeld)

It was a frightening time, the height of the Cold War! It was the division of Berlin into two sectors divided by a mammoth wall of concrete and barbed wire. West Berlin embraced everything economically viable through a market economy representative of Western culture.  East Berlin was controlled by the East German police (the hated Stasi) who were the engines of the government of the German Democratic Republic, a repressive communist country beholden to U.S.S.R. ideologies. How does one resist oppression and the repression of personal freedoms? How does one deny adherence t and subservience to the state? A Wall Apart reveals that the resistance was established prominently in two ways: rock music and love.

In A Wall Apart, a thrilling production which premiered at the New York Musical Festival (Music and Lyrics by Lord Graham Russell of Air Supply; Book by Sam Goldstein and Craig Clyde), we recognize that in the twenty-eight years which spanned the time of the Berlin Wall and the oppression it represented, that  rock music promoted the resistance against Communist tyranny. It did this subtly through its brash sounds and clashing, free-wheeling lyrics. Rock music expressed the yearned for liberty already inherent in the minds and souls of the younger generation. Its expression was life itself and in its clanging, smashing vibrations there could be heard the clarion call to revolt.

Maddie Shea Baldwin, A Wall Apart, NYMF

Maddie Shea Baldwin and the company of ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

Perhaps more importantly, this production also reveals the power in resisting with love. In A Wall Apart we see that love and family unity ultimately triumph over allegiance to an oppressive government and the acceptance of its lies that subvert one’s humanity. From the opening song “Our City” we are reminded of the dreams of liberty that are inherent in every soul and which are the driving force that cannot be overthrown ,despite the attempt of governments to control that force through external structures and the threat of destruction.

Emily Behny, Josh Telle, Jordan Bondurant, Maddie Shea Baldwin, A Wall Apart, NYMF

(L to R): Emily Behny, Josh Tolle, Jordan Bondurant, Maddie Shea Baldwin in ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

This force is manifested in each of the characters, perhaps most symbolically through Mickey (Josh Tolle gives a powerful sustained performance throughout) whose rock band plays at The Bunker in West Berlin. The Bunker is the place of symbolic birth, life and hope in the liberty of the rock music of the West. Mickey’s band, The Angels, represents all the goodness of Mickey’s own character. It has led him to a loving relationship with Suzanne (Emily Behny’s portrayal is soulfully rendered) and collaboration with his brother Kurt (the excellent Jordan Bondurant). It is at The Bunker where the bond between Kurt and Esther (the superb Maddie Shea Baldwin) is initiated, and all seems to be going swimmingly except for the rumors that Berlin is being divided, revealed to Kurt by their brother Hans (Darren Ritchie gives a bravura performance as the Stasi who must negotiate the conflict between love and obligation to the state in his own heart).

Jordan Bondurant, A Wall Apart, NYMF

Jordan Bondurant and company in ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

The most stalwart and loving of the characters is Tante (Leslie Backer is nothing short of astonishing). She is the glue that holds the family together; she mediates the troubles among the brothers and provides wisdom when Kurt and Mickey are caught in the East after the Berlin Wall is built and there is no getting out. Kurt and Mickey cannot abandon Tante who raised them when their parents were killed. Kurt especially is pressured by circumstances for he has left Esther in the West and will not join her but instead, joins the Stasi with Hans so that together they can put food on the table and obtain greater stockpiles of coal for heating. It is a devil’s bargain.

Jordan Bondurant, Darren Ritchie, A Wall Apart, NYMF

(L to R): Jordan Bondurant, Darren Ritchie in ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

Material safety and support are not enough for Mickey who has to be free to express his being though his artistry and music. With Kurt’s information about which routes to take to get over the Wall, Mickey and a pregnant Suzanne make an escape attempt. What happens is irrevocable. And once again, we are reminded that individuals are willing to take grave risks when freedoms and personal identity are at stake. Ultimately, the risk is worth it for a difference is made in the lives touched by sacrifice.

Josh Tolle Jordan Bondurant, A Wall Apart, NYMF

(L to R) Josh Tolle, Jordan Bondurant in ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

A Wall Apart follows the resistance of the family and Hans’ conflict at having to perform the obligations of being a Stasi when his heart is elsewhere. It journeys with Kurt’s resignation from the Stasi and his affirmation to join the revolt from within East Germany to bring down the totalitarian structures external and internal which would oppress individuals’ rights to follow their own path. And somehow, the love between Kurt and Esther finds a way to grow though the wall divides them physically. It is intriguing how this occurs and as there is no spoiler alert here, you will just have to see the production when it moves to another venue (which it should) at some point in the future.

Maddie Shea Baldwin, Leslie Becker, A Wall Apart, NYMF

(L to R) Maddie Shea Baldwin, Leslie Becker in ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

This is a finely wrought production whose music (Lord Graham Russell of Air Supply created the music and lyrics) is gobsmackingly good in its variety, its power and its touching poignancy.  The book by Sam Goldstein and Craig Clyde highlights the period. It is aptly enhanced through the staging, sets, props and visual projections of archived black and white photographs, and video newsreel clips of the time. The fictionalized chronicle of one family’s struggles through tremendous economic and social upheaval is not only a vital remembrance of the past, it is a reminder of the tyranny of walls and what might happen in the future if fascism (in the guise of communism or any ism) is allowed to rear its ugly head.

A Wall Apart, NYMF

The company of ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

The production is incredibly current. As we understand the uselessness of the Berlin Wall to serve its mission, we acknowledge that the inhuman, fascist separation of humanity is fear for fear’s sake. Fear is counterproductive, restriction retards innovation and stops the move toward progress. Regardless, freedom will triumph, love will triumph whether the resistance be through music or any means possible. Walls are symbolic of powerlessness in the face of humankind’s indelible desire for freedom and betterment. Barricades don’t work. Indeed, they inspire others to seek freedom despite the risk to themselves.

Jordan Bondurant, Maddie Shea Baldwin, A Wall Apart, NYMF

Jordan Bondurant, Maddie Shea Baldwin in ‘A Wall Apart,’ NYMF (Michael Schoenfeld)

I would hope that this production sees a continuation elsewhere. It is that good especially in that its themes presented through the music and book are profoundly transcendent. Kudos to the skillful, adroit and versatile musicians (Jonathan Ivie, Matt Brown, Lavondo Thomas, Daniel Ryan, T-Bone Motta), exceptional ensemble and the uber talented Keith Andrews, whose direction and choreography was insightful and spot-on great. I loved this production, for what it says and how the design team, ensemble, musicians all shepherded by the director collaborated to say it! A resounding yes, you get my vote!  A must-see which I am counting on seeing again.

 

Interview With Director Lorca Peress About ‘Temple of The Souls’

Lorca Peress, director, Temple of the Souls, NYMF, New York Innovative Theatre Awards

Lorca Peress (director, Temple of the Souls) at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards Celebration, photo courtesy of the site.

After attending the last performance of the superb Temple of the Souls at the  New York Musical Festival, I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with its director/producer/writer Lorca Peress who discussed how she and her team evolved the Broadway quality, award-winning production which was honored in its competitive acceptance at the New York Music Festival. (see my review of the production by clicking here)

I am most curious to know how this wonderful production evolved. I know that is answering so many questions with one. This would cover.

How did you, Anita and Anika work the collaboration for the book?

Anita Velez-Mitchell, Temple of the Souls, NYMF

Anita Velez-Mitchell, co-writer of the book of ‘Temple of the Souls,’ photo courtesy of the site.

Anita Velez-Mitchell was born in Vieques, Puerto Rico in 1916.  Anita is Anika’s and my grandmother. Anita and I began working on the opera libretto of Temple of the Souls in 2009 through my theatre company MultiStages’ Script Development Series. We presented a reading of the script (no music existed) and received a standing ovation from the audience of over 100 people. In the audience, were 25 members of one of the Taino tribes in New York City. Anita had been working with the Taino Cacique chief on cultural authenticity, and he and his tribe members jumped to their feet at the end of the reading. During the Q & A that I moderated with guests Anita and the Cacique, one of the audience members said, “We are all descendants of Guario and Amada.” They applauded and I knew then that we had something special, novel, and important.

Anita asked a composer to write music to the opera libretto of Temple of the Souls (it took him one year to write 2 arias), and he said it was too big a task for him to complete given her advanced age. In 2010 Anita suggested we contact Anika and Dean to be the composers. Anika had written music for several MultiStages productions, but Dean had never been involved in or composed for musical theatre. I flew out to meet with them in Los Angeles, and pitched/performed the script, discussing what type of song might exist here, who sings it, etc. They wrote the Temple finale first. They sent it to Anita and me by email. We listened to the song and burst into tears. We knew this was it!

Temple of the Souls, New York Musical Festival

Poster for ‘Temple of the Souls,’ courtesy of the production.

We decided a musical would be better than an opera, and Anika began working with Anita on the lyrics (much done via phone as Anika and Dean live in LA). Anika eventually joined on the development of the book, and she and Dean wrote several of the songs/lyrics independently as well.

Who had the original idea for the story and how was it developed?

On Anita’s last trip home to the Island, she visited the caves and El Yunque Rain Forest. She told me she felt the cries of the Taino souls and heard their tears dripping from the stalactites. She felt their spirits surrounding her and wrote a poem called “Totem Taino,” which she then turned into an opera libretto (described above). Anita had always been fascinated by the history of the Taino people, but for me, a Puerto Rican born in NYC, I was not as aware of the culture as I wish I had been.

Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Multistages, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Lorca Peress

‘Temple of the Souls’ at NYMF a Multistages and Dr. Judy Kuriansky production (John Quilty)

Once I read Anita’s story, I went on a research mission. After reading books and finding information online, I flew to Puerto Rico to meet with Anita’s friend, Dr. Ricardo Alegria in San Juan. Dr. Alegria is an anthropologist and archaeologist, Wikipedia calls him the “father of modern Puerto Rican archaeology.” I was honored to interview/question him in his home surrounded by relics, art, and the history of our people. I was also given a private tour of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture which he founded, and learned even more. My trip to the El Yunque Rain Forest was eye-opening. I saw where the Tainos had taken refuge in the mountains, and where thousands took their lives by jumping off the mountain cliffs. Back in New York, I visited the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian which also has a good Taino collection (though not as extensive as the one at the Institute in Puerto Rico) and Museo deo Barrio, which I had been to numerous times.

The Temple of The Souls, Multistages, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, NYMF, Lorca Peress, Anita Velez-Mitchell, Anika Paris, Dean Landon

‘The Temple of The Souls’ presented by Multistages and Dr. Judy Kuriansky at the NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

One of the most fascinating things I have learned about the culture is the great debate over how many Tainos existed, and how many were killed, died of disease, or took their lives. We have seen records as large as hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands killed. The Sixteenth Century census  was limited because so many people hid in El Yunque and were never counted. Suffice it to say, the Spaniards decimated the majority of Tainos. Those who live as Tainos today are mostly genetically mixed. But, how one personally identifies and lives is what keeps traditions and culture alive. And today there are thousands of Puerto Rican and Dominican natives in NYC and on the islands who live their lives as Taino.

As multicultural director, it is important that we understand the responsibility of stepping into another culture and world. I feel blessed and honored to bring elements of the Taino history to life in our musical, which has received great support and praise from the Taino community in NYC. Anita and I each received a Taino Award, and were honored at a Taino Areyto at the Museo del Barrio.

Lorca Peress, director, Temple of the Souls, New York Musical Festival

Lorca Peress, director of ‘Temple of the Souls,’ at the New York Musical Festival (photo courtesy of the site).

Some background on development:

TWO SHOWCASES AND AWARDS – 2011-14

AEA Showcase in December 2011 at the West End Theater, NYC, produced by MultiStages, directed by Lorca Peress. Talk backs with: Taíno tribe member Jorge Estaban, lecturer and co-curatory of The Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian Institution; and Cacike Cibanakan (NY Taíno Tribal chief) and members perform a music/dance demonstration. We were honored at an Areyto (a Taíno ceremony) at the Museo del Barrio.

Awards:

  • MultiStages receives Manhattan Community Arts Fund Grant from LMCC/DCA.
  • 4 HOLA Awards (Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors): 2012 Gilberto Zaldivar Outstanding Production Award, Outstanding Choreography and Lighting, Special Recognition for Music for the production.
  • Anita Velez-Mitchell and choreographer Milteri Tucker receive the Taíno Areyto Drama Award.

AEA Showcase in September 2014 at Theatre for the New City, NYC, produced by MultiStages, directed by Lorca Peress. Talk Back and Taíno musical demonstration with Roman Guaraguaorix (Redhawk) Perez, Cacique Chief of the Maisiti Yukayeke Taíno, a tribe of the Taíno Nation in the Bronx, NY.

Awards:

  • MultiStages receives Manhattan Community Arts Fund Grant from LMCC/DCA.
  • Six Innovative Theatre Award Nominations: Outstanding Production (MultiStages and Co.), Outstanding Original Music (Dean Landon and Anika Paris), Outstanding Original Script (Anita Velez-Mitchell, Lorca Peress, Anika Paris), Outstanding Innovative Design (masks, Marla Speer), Outstanding Costume Design (Marla Speer), Best Lead Actress (Debra Cardona).
  • Lorca Peress receives a Taíno Areyto Drama Award at the NYC Bronx Museum of Art in recognition of her work in support of the Taíno culture and its legacy.
  • Anita Velez-Mitchell receives the proclamation from the Governor of Puerto Rico at the memorial concert in her honor, with songs from Temple of the Souls.

2016 – DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS CONCERT

We are invited to perform selections from Temple of the Souls with narration, at the Diversity in the Arts event at Hunter, NYC.

2017 – NEXT LINK PROJECT OF NYMF 2017

We are chosen as a Next Link Project for NYMF (New York Musical Festival). Only 10 Next Link Project musicals were chosen from over 200 submissions. An interesting marketing phenomenon to note, 80% of the ticketing audience for Temple of the Souls is of Latino heritage. We are highlighted on several Taino Facebook pages, and have a broad audience of followers over the years.

Lorca Peress, Temple of the Souls, League of Professional Theatre Women, New York Musical Festival

Lorca Peress, Vice-President of League of Professional Theatre Women, director ‘Temple of the Souls,’ NYMF (photo courtesy of the site).

When the songs were created, were they added after the book was first created? Or was it a holistic process?

The majority of song lyrics came from the book. We continued updating the script, and new songs and lyrics were added.

How many years were you working on this together? separately?

Anita died in 2015. Lorca and Anika began reworking the book in 2016. Anika and Dean joined the project in 2010, Lorca and Anita began collaborating in 2009, Anita completed the first draft of the libretto in 2007.

Had you always planned to bring it to NYMF?

After the two showcases I produced and directed in 2011 and 2014 through MultiStages, we wanted another opportunity to present the piece and introduce it to theatre producers. I applied to NYMF and we were accepted as a Next Link Project (only 10 were chosen as Next Link Projects from over 200 submissions, which included a dramaturg and a $5000 grant toward the NYMF production).

Andres Quintero, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

Andres Quintero in ‘Temple of The Souls,’ at NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

What was the casting process like?

We attended a NYMF open casting in May, and cast one ensemble actor. We hired Michael Cassara, who had cast the 2014 production. We kept the two leads Noellia Hernandez as Amada and Andres Quintero as Guario, and two ensemble members, Theresa Burns and Miguel A. Sierra from the 2014 production. Lorraine Velez (Nana) was introduced to me through a mutual colleague and we were thrilled when she accepted the role of Nana. We opened the auditions for the remaining roles, and built a terrific cast.

Noellia Hernandez, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

Noellia Hernandez in ‘Temple of The Souls,’ at NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

Did you have to cut songs or other scenes to bring it in under the NYMF time limit?

We cut some songs, added in a few, created a stronger underscore and incidental music, and made it one act. We had the orchestrations that Dean created transformed into musical parts for a four-piece live orchestra.

Did Dean Landon and Anika Paris come onto the project early on? How are you familiar with their work? (I thought the music was smashing).

Discussed above. They are brilliant platinum and gold song writers and we are thrilled with their music.

Lorraine Velez, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

Lorraine Velez and the company of ‘Temple of The Souls,’ NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

What is the most rewarding part of the process? The final product or the journey?

For me personally the greatest reward has been to collaborate with my family. We have all had professional careers independent of each other, so collaborating on this piece has been so personal to us. Losing Anita has been very difficult. We love her dearly, but feel she is with us as we continue sharing her story and making music and art to share with all. At the sitz probe session (first opportunity for the cast to sing with the band), I pulled up Anita’s photo on my I-pad, and had her on the table during the session. In the play, we talk about souls and ancestors, and thoroughly believe she is still a part of this musical and our world.

Where do you plan to go from here?

We are setting up meetings with producers and experts who have gone through the process of moving a musical forward to brainstorm and find the next best direction for the show. There are many possibilities for this musical and we look forward to continuing its development. We are interested in international tours and want to translate the musical into Spanish.

How did you fund the production?

We raised funds through private donations from over 100 generous people and received grant support. We held a fundraising event in May where cast members sang a medley of songs, and we presented an example of the dancing Enrique was choreographing. The guests wrote checks and gave us their blessing. This NYMF production has been the most expensive I have undertaken as a producer to date. There is much more to raise going forward and we’re building a team.

WEBSITES:

www.multistages.org
www.templeofthesouls.org

To learn more about Lorca Peress, click HERE.

 

‘Temple of The Souls’ a New York Musical Festival Review

Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Multistages, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Lorca Peress

‘Temple of the Souls’ at NYMF a Multistages and Dr. Judy Kuriansky production (John Quilty)

The New York Musical Festival is one of the most anticipated theater festivals in the city for good reason. The musical productions are top drawer, professional from start to finish. People enjoy seeing which shows are shepherded along to eventually make it to Off Broadway, Los Angeles, and Regional Theater. And sometimes Broadway producers are interested, though considering what it takes to mount a Broadway production these days, it would seem to be an incredible dream. But dreams do come true.

One offering that I do hope will be shepherded in this fashion is the profoundly moving musical Temple of The Souls which ran from July 17-  23rd at the Acorn Theater, one of the venues where the New York Musical Festival is taking place until 6 August. The multiple award winning Temple of The Souls is absolutely smashing. I don’t want to even consider that this production may not not continue to garner a wide audience.  It is superb.

The Temple of The Souls, Multistages, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, NYMF, Lorca Peress, Anita Velez-Mitchell, Anika Paris, Dean Landon

‘The Temple of The Souls’ presented by Multistages and Dr. Judy Kuriansky at the NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

The stirring, enlightened book by Anita Velez-Mitchell, Lorca Peress and Anika Paris and entrancing, vibrant and hypnotic score (music by Dean Landon & Anika Paris, lyrics by Anita Velez-Mitchell & Anika Paris) warrants support beyond its New York City run at the NYMF. The time for such a production to gain a larger audience is fast upon us because of  interest in the historical record of North America’s beginnings and the influences that have helped to shape our nation’s  and its territories’  greatness.

Temple of The Souls is not only grounded in historical fact, the iconic, forbidden love story between a man and a woman of two disparate cultures, is reminiscent of love stories through the ages. Indeed from Scotland to Rome, the people of various tribes and societies have been joined together with offspring from forbidden love arrangements. Such stories resonate for us today because of their inherent truths. Love does not see with the materialistic eye, it sees with the heart. Unbounded, love seeks an exalted level away from embedded social folkways that encourage hatred and violence. The triumph of love to unify nations and dispel racism, discrimination and hatred is the key theme of this incredible musical. How worthy, how wise, how current for our times.

Danny Bolero, Lorraine Velez, Jacob Gutierrez, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

‘The Temple of The Souls’ company with Danny Bolero, Lorraine Velez, Jacob Gutierrez at NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

Temple of The Souls begins in the present on a tour of the mysterious El Yunque, the magical and gorgeous rain forest in Puerto Rico at whose top on an outcropping of rock and a high cliff, there exists a cave and area known as the Temple of The Souls. The tour guide (Lorraine Velez), explains the significance of the area. Lorraine Velez also portrays Nana and as the symbolic earth mother encapsulates beautifully the movement of this production in her presence from its beginning to its conclusion. She is breathtaking, exquisite, poignant, brilliant.

As the guide, Velez tells of the legend of love between Guario, a Taino (an indigenous native of the island) and Amada, a nubile sixteen-year-old, whose Spanish father represents all the abuses of Colonial Spain and its goodness as well. When Guario and Amada fall in love, taboos are broken, folkways are destroyed, and the spirits of the island who oversee the history of Spain’s horrific murders, rapes and enslavements, encourage the melding between old and new: the culture of violent bondage and the culture of pacific freedom, the paternalistic society and the gender friendly Taino society of men and women as partners.

Lorraine Velez, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

Lorraine Velez and the company of ‘Temple of The Souls,’ NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

The guide shares the history which underscores that many Tainos refused to bow to the oppression of the Spanish and instead committed suicide by jumping from the cliffs to their deaths in the sea. Suddenly, the scene is transformed. We no longer hear the echoes of the Tainos’ music and drums or see the spirits of the Tainos watching the guide and tourists. We are flashed back to the historic time of  the 15th century in a Spanish colonial settlement on the verge of El Yunque.

It is a colorful, joyful day, the first day of celebration of La Fiesta de San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist announced and Baptized Christ as the embodiment of love). The celebration is ironic for the oppressive culture and religion do not represent the alleged Christian values in their discrimination, abuse and violence toward the Tainos. However, the production reveals the turning point when things begin to change and hope arrives in the union of love between Guario (Andres Quintero’s singing and acting talent establish him as a rising star; he’s just great)  and Amada (Noellia Hernandez’s superb performance, sustained with power and lyricism throughout, is his equal).

Andres Quintero, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

Andres Quintero in ‘Temple of The Souls,’ at NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

Quintero’s Guario is part of the oppressed class who rejects his servitude and goes to El Yunque and the Temple of the Souls to discover who he is. During his travels through the town to eventually get to his destination, he runs into Nemesio (the excellent Jacob Gutierrez), and his cabal of repressive, abusive and discriminatory Spanish overlords. They threaten Guario and warn him not to return, a command reaffirmed by Amada’s father, Don Severo (the amazing Danny Bolero), the conquistador who governs the town. However, as Guario leaves, he and Amada see one another; it is “love at first sight,” or at the least curiosity at first sight. Nevertheless, the spark is ignited and the burning passion which grows between them creates a cataclysm that engulfs Guario’s, Nemesio’s, Amada’s, Don Severo’s and Nana’s lives and brings about the recompense of innocent bloodshed, the blood which cries out for a cessation which can only be delivered by love.

Noellia Hernandez, Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

Noellia Hernandez in ‘Temple of The Souls,’ at NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

The next hour and one-half flies as we watch the characters struggle with themselves and against each other in conflicts still being experienced today between indigenous populations and “the colonials”-us! From moment to moment we are enthralled with the acting and voices of the fine ensemble, the gorgeous music, the theatrical spectacle and the intensity of the story’s dynamic between love and hate, lies and truth, oppression and freedom, lasciviousness and genuine, sincere love.

Temple of The Souls, NYMF, Lorca Peress

The company of ‘Temple of The Souls,’ at the NYMF, directed by Lorca Peress (John Quilty)

The director and artistic team have filled our senses and one cannot help but be moved to empathy, even to feel for Don Severo (Danny Bolero is commanding, vibrant, appropriately wicked, yet loving in his redemption) and Nemesio (Jacob Guitierrez’s “Nobody Makes a Fool of Me” is superb) who are the chief architects of evil, yet who reveal that they too, have compassion and are human.

Andres Quintero, Noellia Hernandez, Temple of The Souls, Lorca Peress, NYMF

Andres Quintero and Noellia Hernandez and the company of ‘Temple of The Souls,’ directed by Lorca Peress at the NYMF (John Quilty)

The sterling balance of humanity which the writers crafted for these characters so that the actors might more easily breathe life into them captures us. We readily identify with them as people we know and take to heart.  Each character is rich, each manifests complex shadows of multifaceted good and evil.

A fallout of this great writing of the book and lyrics and attendant music scoring is that the multiple themes are clearly, simply revealed. One theme is that oppressors ultimately destroy themselves with their own oppression. An additional theme is that there is no lie that should be allowed to separate familial relationships, because of the sickness and wickedness of the external culture. A third is that there should be no room for divisiveness which embitters and destroys everyone it touches.

These are indelible themes the audience recognizes. Thus, they are able to walk away inspired but chastened, moved but counseled to reaffirm the love within their own lives.  The production above all reminds us of our ancestry and whether it is colonial or indigenous native, all of us are related if not by blood, by empathy as human beings.

I can only capstone this review by suggesting that the production is in hiatus until the next time. Look for it and if it is produced in another venue which is anywhere near you, see it. You will be uplifted and enlightened and reminded of all that is a blessing in your own life. The Temple of The Souls is wonderful entertainment with a vital message that all of us need to hear and see again and again.

 

 

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