Ken Matthias - CCAB - www.creativeab.ca
March 4, 2017
Mary Poppins is an enduring tale based on the series of books written by P.L. Travers (Pamela Lyndon Travers). Travers began writing the series in 1933 at just over thirty years of age, producing one new story per decade until her final chapter published in 1988 being just shy of ninety years old.
The story of Mary Poppins has to be one of the most adaptive tales to be told, first in book, a 1946 television play, then multiple movie adaptations including the famous and award winning Walt Disney production in 1964 starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Travers did not believe the film industry did justice to the story and held back selling the stage rights as a result until certain guarantees could be given; English writers only, no Americans and no one from the movie industry involved.
The world premiere of the Musical stage production Mary Poppins took centre stage at the Bristol Hippodrome in September 2004. Since then, it has found its way onto professional, amateur and school stages around the world.
Most recent, Stageworks Academy of the Performing Arts (Leduc, AB) brought the story to life in amazing fashion. Playing March 3-5, 2017 as well as March 9-11, the full cast captures the essence of the story throughout the two and a half hour production.
Not enough can be said about how entertaining and capturing the performance was. Every actor was well cast and has the ability to command the stage when prompted. Melissa Blackwood as Mary Poppins would have made Travers proud, embodying everything we have come to expect Mary Poppins to be and more. Nine year old Fiona Rutledge as Jane Banks charmed her way into the heart of the crowd with her feistiness, Jonas Osness as Michael Banks brought much laughter with his blunt observations and Levy Poppins entertainingly portrayed Bert, Mary's cohort in the Bank's family domestic catastrophe. Mr. and Mrs. Banks were well represented by Doran Werner and Monica LeFurgey, touching hearts with the struggles of the adult world as well as capturing the bond between husband and wife.
This only touches the surface of the many excellent performances by the entire cast, primary actors and background actors alike, singers and dancers as well. Special mention has to be given to the extensive tap dancing number by the 'brotherhood' of the chimney sweeps, clearly exemplifying how much work and practice went into this praiseworthy production.
Another mention has to be given to the fantastic stage (design, creation and management), light and sound crew who, despite the occasional mic issues, created a believable and professional environment for the actors to shine. Costumes, makeup and choreography was an immense undertaking and well appreciated.
If you can, find your way to next weekend's remaining performances; it will be a memorable outing. www.stageworkstheatre.com
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Honoring the Telharmonium
Ken Matthias - CCAB - www.creativeab.ca
February 28, 2017
If you have not yet watched Netflix's original series, The White Rabbit Project, starring the hosts of Australia's Mythbusters scientific entertainment series, you should.
Episode nine includes a glimpse into a past that suprises viewers with technology that almost foreshadows the future, predating some of our percieved new tech by sometimes a decade.
Despite a modern retro tech and fashion craze, we have all but eliminated the idea of owning the music we listen to. Over the years we have discarded the record collections, the cassette tapes and the CD's to instead stream our music from paid or free online services. This is not new.
Introduce the Telharmonium... in a retro kind of way of speaking.
Invented by lawyer Thaddeus Cahill and patented in 1897, the telharmonium was a remarkable blend of science, emerging technology and music that filled the entire floor of a Manhattan building. The two hundred ton machine (yes... you heard right) used two keyboards that were attached by wire to rotors and generators to transform signals into sound waves. Those sound waves would then be accessible by anyone with a paid subscription and a telephone.
Subscribers would simply call up an operator and request to be connected to the telharmonium. If the twenty cents per hour subscription was confirmed, the operator would plug your line into the signal coming from dowtown Manhattan, you would place a paper cone by the handset to 'amplify' the sound and you could listen and dance to the world's first live streaming music.
Back at the Telharmonic Hall, as it was known, two musicians played continuously, available to anyone, anytime. Considering the telharmonium predated the radio by over a decade, the new technology was revolutionary.
Mark Twain was one of the first more well known patrons and proponents of the machine. Twain wanted to be the first private subscriber to the service wanting to glory in the fact that he would be, "the first man to have telharmonium music turned on in his house - like gas."
This idea of music on demand, able to be turned on and off like gas, was truly revolutionary to the way people had access to music, currently only by attending music when and where it was being played.
The telharmonium, though an amazing creation, was handicapped by the need to produce music at massive power levels to effectively be heard throughout the city in a pre-amplified world. It was further hindered by the occassional cross signal of the music interrupting telephone conversations on other lines. It soon became apparant that the telharmonium would be an expensive and unprofitable endeavour and was disbanded in 1916.
The impact of the telharmonium however cannot be dismissed as easily. Hammond Hayes from AT&T used emerging amplification technology and the design of Cahill's telharmonium to create what was known as the Hammond organ in the 1930's which would evolve into the synthesizer, electronic keyboard and currently, digital piano. The concept of Cahill to bring music into the home by paid subscription was the seed that did not fully find fruition until almost a century later.
No Limits Showcase
Ken Matthias - CCAB - www.creativeab.ca
March 2, 2017
Performing Arts breeds confidence in young people. The regular act of singing, acting or dancing before a crowd of people, connecting with them on an intimate level only the live stage can present, cannot help but produce life enriching skills that can be applied to personal and business endeavours.
Such confidence was once again displayed at the Stageworks Academy of the Performing Arts' No Limits Showcase, held March 2nd, 2017 at the Maclab theatre in Leduc.
The Academy's various dance classes, duo's and solo performances took to the stage, showcasing their skills in preparation for the year's competitions throughout the province. The significant number of performances throughout the evening displayed the ambition and dedication of the young dancers as well as the high level of coaching and support each one has received.
What really stood out was the obvious strength of the team behind the dancers. Music selection, costuming and choreography all came beautifully together for each of the performances. Stories were told and understood well through all of the mediums utilized in a unified effort between dancer(s) and the instructors, parents and support team behind them.
What was also noticeable was the influence of the various styles of dance crossing over between performances, evidence of many of the dancers exploring a multi-discipline approach to their training. For example, the Acro dancers flexibility witnessed in Ballet or even Contemporary pieces.
A steady stream of Hip Hop, Jazz, Contemporary, Ballet, Tap, Lyrical and Acro danced their way through the evening, a short intermission was held where guests could bid on items in the silent auction fundraiser (100% of proceeds go towards scholarships for the dancers), and decorative cupcakes to be eaten in the lobby made for a wonderful evening for all who attended. Well done Stageworks!
Back row: Janet Enns, Dr. Megan Caldwell (Aboriginal Student Office, U of A, Augustana Campus) Vivianne Grue, Jane Ross, Ted Griffiths, Todd Kristensen (Heritage Art Series coordinator)
Front row: Colleen McGinnis, Glenys Smith, Cathie Bartlett, Jack Ross
Photo by Leon Strembitsky
The Alberta Heritage Art and Writing Series
History, Art & Story in Perfect Harmony
Colleen McGinnis - CCAB - www.creativeab.ca
March 22, 2017
History, art and story, based on the rich archaeological findings and culture of Alberta, have been brought together, thanks in large part to Darryl Bereziuk, Director of Alberta Archeology Survey; Art Series coordinator Todd Kristensen; and the Battle River Writing Centre.
The Alberta Heritage Art Series began several years ago as part of a research project spearheaded by Alberta Historic Resources, the University of Alberta and the Royal Alberta Museum. Its aim was to bring knowledge of Alberta’s unique historic sites to the general public with a focus on education, preservation and conservation.
In the beginning, Alberta artists were invited to create original art pieces that would represent the history of just four of those sites in an imaginative and creative way. Over time, the group grew to include 14 artists from many points throughout Alberta. And now, in 2017, another layer has been added with “Places that Matter” – prose, poetry and song created by 14 writers connected to Alberta’s Battle River region (stretching the length of the river from its headwaters at Battle Lake on the west to Battleford on the east).
With the assistance of Dr. Megan Caldwell and the Aboriginal Student Office, the collection of original artworks and related writing was presented the evening of March 9 at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus Library in Camrose. Several of the originals, reproductions of the remainder, and the writing inspired by these pieces are available for public viewing until March 29. Library hours are: Monday to Thursday 8:30am – 10pm; Friday 8:30am – 4pm; Saturday 1pm – 5pm; and Sunday 2pm – 10pm.
Participating artists are: Brenda Danbrook, Kelsey Stephenson, Shannon Ford, Andy Van Dinh, Sharon Hogg, Amanda Dow, Jason Carter, Anne McCartney, Gregg Johnson, Jenny Keith, Karen Bishop, Connie Jager, Micaela Dawn, and Jessica Desmoulin.
Participating writers are: Erik Johannesson, Niel Parker, Greg Zinter, Colleen McGinnis, Cathie Bartlett, Jack Ross, Ted Griffiths, Jane Ross, Lori Feldberg, Janet Enns, Vivianne Grue, Russell Schnell, Diana Zinter, and Jody Smiling.
More information on the Alberta Heritage Art Series can be found at:
For information about the Public Engagement process of the Alberta Heritage Art Series, contact Darryl Bereziuk, Director, 780/431-2316. And for the Battle River Writing Centre, contact Jane Ross, 780/672-9315, firstname.lastname@example.org
You are invited . . .
PLACES THAT MATTER
Thursday, March 9, 2017; 7 - 8 pm.
Battle River Writers will read their responses to the artworks.
Todd Kristensen and Ted Griffiths,
Project Leaders will be present.
The Alberta Heritage Art and Writing Exhibition
Augustana Library. 4901 46 Ave, Camrose
is open to the General Public fromFriday, March 10 to Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Monday -Thursday: 8:30AM - 10PM
Friday: 8:30 - 4PM
Saturday 8:30AM - 4PM
Sunday: 1PM - 5PM
Ken Matthias - CCAB - www.creativeab.ca
A Night of Fun
As a Christmas gift this year, our family purchased tickets to attend Jubilations theatre in West Edmonton Mall. Having been before multiple times, this was the first time I had the opportunity to experience the evening with my almost 'all grown up' children. Quite a different and enjoyable experience.
Dinner theatre fascinates me. It is remarkably different from almost any other event where the environment is more spectator driven. I spent some time to ask the question why? This is what I came up with;
First of all, dinner theatre is more intimate than other events. There is something about sitting with a group of people around a dinner table to experience an event rather than sitting beside them. Yes, I know from my sociology class years ago that this is simple cultural and spacial nuances at work. If you want intimate, the next time you enter an elevator, stand facing the other passengers for a treat of awkwardness. At a dinner table, it is difficult to avoid facing one another causing (or for other people, inviting) the opportunity to connect with others, even meet new people. For myself, it afforded the opportunity to view my children's and other guest's reactions to what was going on in the performance. Their enjoyment of the evening substantially increased my enjoyment of the evening.
Second, dinner theatre is typically more interactive. Many performers will leave the safety of the platform to move in and about the crowd. While not absent in many of the performing arts, it is more natural to a venue like dinner theatre. Many of us can attest to being at an event where the performer's connection with their audience seems rehearsed and part of some PR staffer's recommendations... not authentic, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Most intense is when the dinner theatre actors involve audience members (often without warning, and rarely with invitation) into the performance. By interacting with even a few of the audience, the guests en masse feel they were participants in the event instead of just attending it. In many dinner theatres, the players in the production are involved in the serving of the meal to the guests, making them accessible to the crowd and more personable.
Finally, dinner theatre by nature is pure fun. Symphony and Ballet, for example, target the emotions and soul. They move you in ways that sometimes you cannot define. Stage theatre and speech arts often will motivate people will their messages and morals. No such lofty ambitions with most dinner theatre. In general, it is meant to be a fun night out and this is not a bad thing.
I love deep message movies. Revolution against corrupt power, awakening calls to moral and social injustice, and tales of incredible tenacity and courage. But every now and then I put on Peter Berg's Battleship or the latest Marvel Avengers movie. Not to spoil the story for anyone, but these shows do not contain the deepest messages. There is a time to cry, but there is also a time to laugh. Dinner theatre gives us the opportunity to go out occasionally, not to be motivated or moved, but simply to enjoy an evening and share laughter with one another. I did this with my wife and three children and made another memory that we can call our own.