Friday, October 10, 2008

The Flynn Names A Winner of the 2008-2009 Season Ticket Raffle!

Photo: Frederic Silberman

Barbara Lande Bronfman of South Burlington is the winner of the Flynn Center's 2008-2009 Great Big Whole Kit N' Kaboodle Season Ticket Raffle. For $100, Barbara entered to win two tickets to every show the Flynn presents this season. Congratulations, Barbara!

Barbara was kind enough to share how she felt after receiving the good news:

Wow! I never win raffle prizes (not for lack of trying) and now I feel like I hit the jackpot. What an incredible prize—two tickets to every Flynn production for a whole season!

I didn’t hear anything the day of the drawing, so I assumed the $100 I spent on the raffle ticket was just money well-spent in support of the Flynn. The next day, I called home to check on my sick daughter and said, “I have a surprise for you. Do you want to know now or later?” Being young at heart and still trying to acquire a taste for delayed gratification, I said, “Now!” What a wonderful surprise it was.

The Flynn has so much to offer and I am looking forward to a variety of performances. I am also planning to use some of the tickets as gifts for friends and family, and to donate tickets to some of my favorite charities for them to use as raffle prizes.

What a great opportunity!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fair to Midway

by A.J. Fucile
Flynn Box Office Manager

The arrival of Labor Day marks many things: the end of summer, the start of school, and the culmination of another Champlain Valley Fair. Each year, the fair offers a choice of six different concerts plus three or four motorsport events which are staffed by the FlynnTix Box Office. Some years, the shows seem to blend into each other, and other years certain shows stand out. This year was a little different, in that just about every event seemed to have something that made it special.

Day one of the fair is always exciting, partially due to the natural nervousness from taking on a big event (never mind 10 of them!). The 10,000-plus seats at the exposition are certainly a change from our approximately 1,500 seat theater. This year started with Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, which brought a crowd that is probably more familiar with events held at the Shelburne Museum. One telling sign was the traffic pattern. For a typical fair event, people will arrive a few hours early to walk the grounds, eat some fried dough (or other fair food), and generally just take in the sights. On this Saturday night, folks arrived closer to show time, which slowed the entry onto the grounds and into the event as things start to back up. Once the show started, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet the grandstand was. Normally, when there are about 3,000 sitting up there, it’s hard to miss them. But as I walked out of the box office that night, I had to turn around and look up to confirm that people actually had taken their seats. I think it was the quietest crowd I have noticed in years.

Sunday and Monday featured two more concerts: American Idol’s Daughtry and Danity Kane. Both were fairly low key, bringing out loyal fans on two beautiful days. The whole week was blessed with good weather, a relief after such a rainy summer. After that, the next couple of evenings featured two motor sport events, starting with the Extreme Motorcycles show. I first caught a glimpse of this a year ago while riding the Ferris wheel as the act warmed up during the day. I wasn’t really sure what the event was like, but seeing these riders jump off ramps a couple of stories high, doing flips in the air, and then landing as if they had never left the ground was amazing. If you haven’t seen this event, it’s well worth checking out.

But I must admit that my favorite event of the week was Wednesday’s “Demolition Derby.” I also must confess that when I first heard of it, I couldn’t understand what it was that drew thousands of people to witness it. And then I attended one. The rules are fairly simple—avoid the driver’s side door, and make contact with another vehicle at least every 60 seconds. There are approximately four different rounds where eight to twelve cars line up on the track, and then proceed to ram into each other until only one car is left that can move of its own accord. There is then a runner-up round consisting of any non-winning car that can still move, and then a final championship round consisting of each winner. One of the contestants, car number 77, just refused to stop moving. It was smaller than most of the other cars, and quickly became a crowd favorite. It looked like a pancake, with its back trunk and back seat directly behind the driver. It then lost its front left wheel, and then it’s back right wheel. Its right front wheel lay in the wheel well horizontally. And it kept running, and smashing into other cars. The back left door fell off. Then the back bumper. And this car kept delivering hits! The car we had picked as the winner at the start of the match looked like a sturdy Lincoln, and even it couldn’t seem to stop this car’s momentum. Each time car 77 either gave or took a hit, and then continued to drive, the howls of laughter and approval just roared from the stands. It was the little engine that could—but shouldn’t. In the end it didn't win the match, but it was by far one of the highlights of the evening.

On Thursday night there was a free event with the Marine Corps Marching Band, which gave the box office a bit of a breather. I didn’t hear much about the event, other than the next morning when I went to the bank and the teller told me how much she had enjoyed watching “those cute Marines.” The feedback was very good, and kept the positive energy at the fair in motion.

The final weekend of the fair started with a shot. On Friday, I had walked up to the will call booth at the Red Gate to check on someone’s tickets, when another customer slammed his arms down at the window and barked at us, “I ordered four tickets, and there are only three here, and I ordered these a LONG time ago!” The man’s arms were larger than my legs, and he wore a white tank top that showed his strength. I looked at him and asked, “If you ordered these a long time ago, why didn’t you check the order when it arrived?” His response caught me off guard for a moment, “Check them? I threw them in my gun safe as soon as they got here!” Right. We were, after all, dealing with a show that featured a very outspoken NRA supporter, Ted Nugent. I assured the man that I would rectify any error that had been made (luckily, I had four seats returned from the act that came in very handy at that moment). Once he realized that things would work out, he was very appreciative, and gave me a thank you-handshake that almost took me off my feet. I think we both left smiling though, and I certainly understood where he was coming from. This event meant a lot to him, and he had planned for it for months. Sometimes, we just get lucky; others, there isn’t much that you can do other than to accept the situation and to make the most of it. I was glad that I didn’t have to try to convince this gentleman of the latter!

Toby Keith brought the usual crowd and excitement that I have come to expect from country stars. This is perhaps his fourth time performing at the fair since I have been here, and he and his group seem right at home from the moment they arrive. I appreciate a good performer who can (literally and figuratively) rally the troops. I didn’t see the show, but I read in the Burlington Free Press review that Toby brought three members of the armed services up on stage at the end of his encore, and then left them there in front of nearly ten thousand people who erupted in applause. THAT was something that I wish I had seen.

And then what seemed to be the show of the fair arrived: The Jonas Brothers. I knew when the show went on sale that this would be big, as we had lines around the building that morning. The show featured a stage extension that reached into the seating on the track, allowing the Brothers to walk deep among the fans. We had done our best to guesstimate which seats might be affected by the extension, but of course we were conservative in our estimate, which meant that once the extension was actually set up, we had a few choice seats to sell. I arrived at the venue early to sort out which locations might be released, figuring that after that I might be able to run an errand or two before returning for the event that evening. I had greatly underestimated the size of the crowd. By a little after 11 am the parking on the grounds was already close to full, and at 2 pm we started to shift to off-site parking. I cannot remember a time when this has happened this early—often it does not occur until one or two hours before the show, and the Jonas Brothers were not due on stage for another five hours! Needless to say I didn’t go anywhere during the day, as we worked through sales, “meet and greet” passes, and other show details. Finally, show time arrived. When the show started, I walked into the venue to see what it was all about. The stage was fantastic. It had hydraulic lifts raising certain parts of the stage, ramps around the stage and into the crowd, dazzling lights and a section of background singers in risers that were also leading cheers, holding up signs, and generally just looking like they were having a ball. The three brothers were pros, striking rock poses and running around creating all kinds of excitement. And then I turned around and looked up at the grandstand. I felt this wave of excitement nearly knock me over; the energy was contagious. You couldn’t avoid it.

And then finally, Labor Day, which to those of us that work the fair means only one thing—the Tractor/Truck Pull. We open at 10 am that day and for the most part sell tickets right until around 3 pm or so. It’s another event that has a devoted following, and consists of vehicles trying to see who can pull a tractor the furthest distance without blowing an engine. It’s quite amazing if you have never seen it.

To top it all off, on Monday, the Flynn’s Assistant Box Office Manager, Leeeza Robbins, was presented with the "Star of the Day" award. This award is given each day to a person involved with the Fair for service above and beyond the call of duty. A Champlain Valley Expo department superintendent nominates someone that they see doing something exceptional. The winner is announced on one of the stages and they are presented with a prize pack and certificate of appreciation. In Leeeza's case, she was nominated for her exceptional patience and courtesy in dealing with several unhappy customers at one of the shows. Not only was this witnessed by the nominating person, but they also apparently witnessed her being complimented by another customer further down the line. Thank you Leeeza!

Thanks to all of you that came out during the week plus of the Champlain Valley Fair. I enjoy it more and more each year, and look forward to seeing you next year!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Local Artist Shares War Veterans' Stories

Sound Off: Combat Stories Revealed, a new creative performance and documentary theater work developed by Flynn Center New Art Space Assistance (N.A.S.A.) Grant recipient Jen Berger, explores the stories of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Berger, who runs a campaign at Burlington’s Peace & Justice Center that provides truth in military recruitment/enlistment education to high school students and community members statewide, incorporates her experiences working with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in this work-in-progress showing. “Their powerful stories have angered, saddened, and inspired me in my work and life,” remarks Berger. “I have carried these stories with me and share them in my work to highlight the differences in what the media portrays what is going on overseas and what is happening from a soldier’s perspective.”

During the emotional process of producing this work, Berger kept a journal of her experiences collaborating with actors and war veterans, which she was kind enough to share here on the Flynn Center blog.

It’s getting a little easier and the intensity is releasing. The first few meetings we had were so emotionally intense. We started with a really difficult story about issues surrounding suicide in the military. Everyone had a strong reaction to the story. How can you not? This isn’t an easy subject matter to work with, and there is no way to lighten it up. I don’t think we should either—it’s about as real as life gets. I kept thinking about ways to keep everyone motivated—not despairing—and wanted everyone to experience the stories fully. Motivation comes in different ways. One of my motivations for this piece, and to share these stories, is to bring the info to a larger audience. The information is catalytic, I believe, and it was for the actors as well. We all share the belief that this occupation is wrong on so many levels, and we want to make an impact. This performance will provide the info to whomever comes to see it and will have some impact. I love this work. I love seeing people’s minds at work, and their thought processes. I love the dialogue that happens within the group, whether about the exercises, the material, the script, or the politics and history. Everyone is so engaged.

I received an email today with a headline that read: “Suicide hot line got calls from 22,000 soldiers.” I couldn’t read it. I printed it out, but I haven’t read it yet. I scanned it, but I already knew what it said. I couldn’t wait for rehearsal.

Tonight’s dialogue was interesting. We are planning on doing a story that touches on issues that women face in the military. There are four actors in the group, two male and two female. We wondered about the men playing women, especially on a topic so sensitive and central to women’s lives. Both the men in the group were willing to play another gender, but we wondered if it would be confusing for the audience, or diminish its impact. We did some improv exercises with the characters that will be portrayed. Once the jokes subsided, everyone understood and connected with their character on a human level. At one point, Jeremy’s improv about “not being able to tell” moved me so deeply that I got goose bumps and almost teary. It helped me decide that if the characters are introduced early as women, then, while it might be slightly distracting at first to identify the men as females, once the dialogue begins, the stories speak for themselves. Robert said it’s a good exercise for people to connect with each other without the lens of gender. I agree.

Last night, Drew and Jon (my veteran friends) came to teach us drill and ceremony/roll call/formation. It looks a lot easier than it is. The guys were serious, and they knew the drill like it was part of them. Jon did an excellent job walking us through it. Drew’s creative streak helped block the pieces to use in the performance. They went through each piece individually, and then had us "fall out." We mingled amongst ourselves, anticipating what came next. Knowing that something was going to happen kept me on my toes. All of a sudden, a strong, deep and very loud “Fall in!” was heard. We all literally ran into our places with a strong fear of not getting it right. We all felt it. Over the last few years I have mentally, and sometimes emotionally, tried to put myself in the position of the vets. I have tried to imagine their experience as my own. Last night, I felt it more deeply. I can’t imagine living in that state for four or more years. When we were “at attention” we had to clench our fists and keep our arms tight. They said that sometimes they stayed like that for half an hour. I felt my body’s muscles tense and my anxiety rise. Without all of the other trauma these guys have encountered, just the physiological response to the formation can create harm to the mind. We went through a few drills many times. It got easier as we went.

Jen Berger will share a work-in-progress performance of Sound Off: Combat Stories Revealed on Sunday, August 24 at 7 pm in FlynnSpace.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Shakespeare Lives at the Flynn

This spring, The Acting Company embarked on a national tour to share their productions of Moby Dick Rehearsed and William Shakespeare's The Tempest. The group visited the Flynn MainStage in May, where they put on a superb, memorable performance of The Tempest. Throughout the tour, actress Kelley Curran kept a journal of each performance, and said this of the group's visit to the Flynn:

"Burlington, Vermont and the Flynn Theater: one of my absolute favorite stops on tour last year! I was thrilled to be back in town performing in this beautiful, old house! As it is Vermont’s largest city and home to UVM, the town has a thriving, active arts community. That was made particularly clear when the 1,400 seat Flynn Theater was filled for our performance of The Tempest! It was our largest audience to date for either show. The presenter at the Flynn glowed when he said that Shakespeare himself would be thrilled that on a Friday night in Burlington, VT, over 1,000 people were attending one of his plays nearly 400 years after it was written."

"It was a special performance for me, too, as three of those audience members were family—my mom, dad, and little brother (who was seeing the show for the first time). There were also several local artists and residents in the audience who had participated in an “Acting Clues” workshop with Timothy, Michael, and Robb earlier in the day. They all made for an incredible audience and an exciting performance of The Tempest. Our crew also had a great experience as the local crew of the Flynn was incredibly efficient, capable, and fun."

"It was here, too, that we had our first full day off, without traveling, since Fairfax, Virginia. We were able to spend the day hiking, walking the waterfront of Lake Champlain, and sampling the coffee and fare of the delicious restaurants in town. Now we drive on through the Berkshires to the beautiful mountain town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts for another Tempest."

The Acting Company will return to the Flynn MainStage on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at 7:30 pm to perform another Shakespeare masterpiece, Henry V.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rocket Man Blasts into Vermont

Sir Elton John is about to cross Vermont off his list of states in which he hasn't performed, and some fans waited all night for tickets. FlynnTix Box Office staff predicted today would be the largest onsale in the box office's history.

John, 61, and his band will play the Champlain Valley Exposition's grandstand in Essex Junction on July 21 as part of the Rocket Man • Number Ones tour, and he'll perform his greatest hits as well as more recent songs.

In a news release Monday, David Grimm, general manager of the Champlain Valley Exposition, called Sir Elton the "biggest name in entertainment to play at the Exposition in our 87-year history." John is continuing the fairgrounds' recent habit of hosting music giants, following Paul Simon in 2006 and Bob Dylan last year. [excerpted from the Burlington Free Press]

Eager fans began queueing up for tickets as early as 5:30 last night, camping out under the Flynn marquee and on Main Street sidewalks, in a festive line that snaked down St. Paul Street, to the King street intersection, this morning.

“This will be the biggest name in entertainment to play at the Exposition in our 87-year history and we’ve had some very big stars play in the Coca-Cola Grandstand over the years,” Grimm said. “This is going to be a night to remember. A chance to see someone of this legendary caliber playing in Vermont doesn’t come around very often.”

Concert promoters noted that with the July 21 concert, Sir Elton will have played in all 50 of the United States. “We’re honored to have that distinction,” Grimm added.

Elton John and his band—including members Davey Johnstone on guitar, Guy Babylon on keyboards, Bob Birch on bass, John Mahon on percussion, and Nigel Olsson on drums—will play his greatest hits and more recent songs from his latest release, Rocket Man • Number Ones. Elton John has sold more than 200 million records and continues to add innovative work to his personal repertoire of 29 consecutive Top 40 hits, 35 gold, and 25 platinum albums. Rocket Man • Number Ones, released in March 2007, debuted in the top 10 and features newly compiled and digitally mastered greatest hits spanning the first three decades of the singer-songwriter’s career.

Burlington fan photographs by Gloria Ormsby, Flynn Director of Information Systems, and Lani Stack, Flynn Marketing Manager. Both Glo and Lani lost their (non-monetary, bragging-rights only) "wagers" for when fans would begin queueing outside.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Site-Specific Show Brings Surprises

posted by Leigh Chandler
Flynn Marketing Director

Several Flynn staff members had the opportunity to preview advance performances of Back to Back Theatre’s small metal objects at the Association for Performing Arts Presenters’ national conference in January, held in New York City. The Flynn Center will bring the Australian theater company to South Burlington’s University Mall on Saturday & Sunday, May 17 & 18, at 12 & 4 pm for four site-specific performances. The 4 pm performance on Sunday will be audio described and will have ASL interpretation.

Getting to the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan was pretty easy. Figuring out where the Whitehall Ferry Terminal is wasn’t. Having grown up outside of Manhattan, I knew the Staten Island Ferry Terminal as The Staten Island Ferry Terminal—a not-so-clean place to buy candy for the short trip over to Staten Island. It’s now a glorious, light-infused building that must be a joy to relax in while waiting for the next ferry. My trip, though, was different than most. I was going to the Whitehall Ferry Terminal to see a performance of Back to Back Theatre’s small metal objects.

It was a typical Friday evening at the ferry terminal. There was the hustle and bustle you’d expect at 6:30 pm. I got my ticket for the performance and walked around. The huge departure hall had a few rows of seats spread out lengthwise for travelers awaiting departure; a restaurant, advertising cheesecake and mochas; and a small convenience store packed with people buying magazines, water, and snacks. In front of me, though, was a raised platform with 10 rows of seats, arranged like bleachers. Each seat had a headset. The audience would be seated soon.

I was excited for this performance—
the Flynn Center is bringing it to Burlington, and I was anxious to preview it. I didn’t know too much about it, other than that it will take place at University Mall in May, and that it’s a mysterious transaction that two friends get caught up in. How would the throngs of people coming and going play into the performance? Could I concentrate? Would I be bothered by people in my sightline?

Finally, show time. Others around me—people who I assumed were waiting for a departing ferry—rose up and handed in their tickets. “Don’t be shy of the first row,” said a ticket-taker. “They won’t come near you.” I resisted despite the reassurance. I took my place in the middle of the second row, and chatted briefly with the person next to me. After confirming that our headphones worked, the show began.

I didn’t know where to look. I heard music, but I also heard people talking. The ferry terminal was so busy, but I knew they were out there—somewhere. And then I realized that people are looking at ME. They’re looking at everyone on this bleacher-type stage. I’m listening to two people talk, through my headset; the performance has started. But people on the floor are coming up and snapping photos of us on their cellphones as they await their ferry departure. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but they don’t even really appear to be talking to any of us in particular. I decide to try to ignore them, but I’m still a little stunned—I didn’t expect to be the entertainment.

I’ve found the performers. It’s been about five or 10 minutes and I now see them walking toward us. They’re practically the only people in the terminal ignoring us. They’re having a conversation, and I want to hear it. No one else in the crowd seems to notice them, but everyone in the audience is watching them. I’m starting to get involved in their conversation when it happens: a man, seemingly homeless, but definitely drunk, comes up to the stage. He’s standing about five feet in front of me and I’m grateful I didn’t listen to the ticket-taker about sitting in the front row. He speaks loudly, but his words are slurred and jumbled. He starts to belt out Amazing Grace. As he sings he gestures widely; he’s pleased to have an audience. I try to hard to concentrate on what I hear in my headphones, although the person sitting next to me is laughing. The action of the performance is heating up—another actor has joined the two others. I try harder to concentrate. I can’t help but smile when the drunk man moves into It’s Now or Never, by Elvis. I didn’t know what—whom—to watch. My gaze goes back to the actors, but when the drunk man finishes his song, he begins a monologue. Looking at us, lifting his arm up in the air, he slurs, “Let me tell you….” I can’t make out anything else he says. I start to wonder if he’s part of the performance. But the play is continuing; the story keeps moving, and this man is oblivious. I think he just has no idea why we’re there, but because we are, and we seem to be looking at him (at this point he’s directly in my sightline), he’ll perform.

After about another 10 minutes I’m able to really refocus on the play. It’s interesting and I start to get angry at the drunk man since I really want to keep up with what was happening. I’m able to block him out and I get caught up in the story. I don’t even really notice the hordes of people in the Ferry Terminal looking at us anymore. A fourth actor has been introduced and it’s getting tense. I’m drawn in. I’m watching a stage that’s not a stage. I’m the one on stage, but I forget. I’m watching something unfold in the crowd, the way that my conversations unfold when I’m with friends.

The drunk man finally sits down. Someone in the crowd has given him some juice and a bag of potato chips. We all relax a little, but the play ends shortly after. Miraculously, the ferry terminal has cleared out, and the four actors approach the audience. They bow, and they gesture over to the drunk man to bow.

I’m charmed. I can’t wait to see it again, this time at University Mall. I wonder if they’ll bring the drunk man.

photographs by Jeff Busby for
Back to Back Theatre

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fans Flock to Flynn for Jonas Brothers

posted by A.J. Fucile
Flynn Box Office Manager

When a show goes on sale for the
Champlain Valley Fairgrounds, it’s always an event in itself. The venue holds approximately 10,000 people, and national acts play there every summer during the week that leads up to Labor Day. So the date that a show goes on sale is always exciting.

The latest show to go on sale was
The Jonas Brothers, which went on sale this past Saturday. When I received the phone call informing me of the event, I had to ask who they are. I was told that the demographic for the show was teens aged 13-17, and that they were currently one of the largest acts in this genre. A quick Google search turned up their home page, and I checked their summer tour dates. “Amphitheater” was a common word in the venues they would be playing, and once I saw Madison Square Garden listed, I knew this would indeed be popular. Before the event had even been announced officially, I started to receive emails and phone calls inquiring about the event. Another sign that this would be big.

So I began doing all of the things that need to be done when setting up an event. The main twist with this one was that there would be a thrust stage extension that cut straight through the audience, leading to a “mini-stage” right in the middle of the Gold Section. We’ve had similar set ups before, but for popular country shows, not a teen event. It was decided that standing room towards the front would not work quite as well for this audience, so the event coordinator at the fairgrounds sat down with me and we carved out which seats would be sold, and which would be held back to make room for the stage.

Tickets went on sale when we opened at 11 am. I arrived at the
Box Office approximately an hour before that, and immediately headed to the front doors to see what size line we had, and to let people into the lobby and out of the cold. As soon as people saw me coming towards the door, they let out a large cheer. The mood was definitely festive. I unlocked the front door and asked the woman who was first in line what time she had arrived. “6:30 last night!” I told her she should be a candidate for parent of the year! I unlocked the doors and asked people to line up at the window and to circle around the kiosk in the center of the lobby. I peered at the street outside and saw lawn chairs, thermoses, and vans full of people parked at the meters lining the sidewalk. In less than a minute the entire lobby was packed. I took a moment to run through some of the information regarding the event (ticket limits, the stage set up, etc.), fielded questions, and headed to my office.

The surge at 11 am was huge, as expected.

Our website was slow, which is not uncommon when hundreds of people at the same moment attempt to purchase the best seats in the venue. We had our IT staff on site, and we noticed that we were being bombarded by large requests from a few specific locations outside our state. Automated programs were trying to secure seats that would eventually end up on secondary sales sites. And at the rate they were doing it, our systems slowed. We kept up with the orders as best as we could, and did our best to block any automated programs from obtaining seats. At noon, I noticed systems started improving almost instantly. My presumption is that the automated ticket programs had been programmed to hit our site hard for exactly one hour, and when they stopped, normal traffic had an easier time getting through. We continued filling orders through the afternoon. The first sign that the majority of the rush has passed is when we received our first non-Jonas Brothers ticket order. We breathed a collective sigh of relief in the Box Office—we had staff from multiple departments alter their schedules to pitch in and make the day a success, despite the incredible demand! It was an excellent example of team work, and made me proud of my staff and coworkers.

Even though there is still snow and ice on the ground, summer isn’t as far away as it seems.
Tickets purchased in advance of the show date include free gate admission to the fair, a $10 value. Don’t miss out on the other shows coming to the fairgrounds this summer! See you there!

photograph of the Flynn ticket window by Steve Mease

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

N.A.S.A in the Funnies

Burlington comic extraordinaire and participant in Rachel Siegel's N.A.S.A. dance piece James Kochalka cleverly recalled a recent rehearsal gone arwy in his blog American Elf:

Kochalka, Siegel, and other parents will dance with their children in an informal FlynnSpace showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

Thanks to James Kochalka for letting us repost Ice Dance! Check out his comics every day at American Elf and every week in the print editions of Seven Days!

A Wild Ride

posted by Rachel Siegel
Siegel is one of two current N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

I’ve been sick for the past 11 days. I’m much better but far from healthy. Blech. I’ve managed to muddle through the group rehearsals but cancelled my solo work. I’m really hoping to be back in the studio this week.
Yesterday I got together with a group of kids at the Rose Street Artists’ Coop. I wanted photos for the marketing that the Flynn is doing, so we tried a couple of ideas I’ve had in my mind and got some pretty fun pictures. First we practiced having the kids literally run, en masse, over my prone body. Then, as a group, they physically lifted me up and carried me away. My choreography is not subtle, I know.
I really do feel bulldozed and trampled by my kids on a daily basis and, sometimes immediately after, feel uplifted by them to an extent that is too corny to write. It’s a wild ride.

My next rehearsal with the Stars is going to be our first full group rehearsal with kids in the mix. I can’t wait to see how they disrupt the choreography and what they add to it. I know some people have been practicing with their kids at home. Other kids will be seeing it for the first time. It will be chaotic if nothing else! Let the experiment begin.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Coming Together

posted by Joy Madden
Madden is one of two current N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

Lida has joined us and we are now a complete set. She will be dancing in the second section, a trio. The two of us met for rehearsal on Sunday while Autumn was on vacation. We all met (Lida, Autumn, and I) for the first time on Wednesday. I'm very pleased with the piece so far. It was great to see both sections coming together. I'll spend today reviewing the rehearsal tape and making any changes before meeting again on Sunday.

I'm meeting with Peter, my sound guy, on Saturday. We'll work together to incorporate audio from interviews with my daughter with music for the piece. I'm excited to hear how all this turns out. By the way, he has a radio show from 11 am to noon every Tuesday on 105.9, highlighting Vermont musicians called Audio Radiance for the Radio Audience (love the name).

Overall, I'm feeling really good about it. I still have the occasional panic attack, but that's to be expected.

photographs by Autumn Barnett

Monday, March 03, 2008

Autumn Springs into Action

posted by Joy Madden
Madden is one of two current
N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

Things are really starting to come together. My finished piece will be an evening-length work with several vignettes. For the April 13 showing I am focusing on two sections. The first is a duet which I have been working on with my dancer, Autumn, for the past few weeks. The second will be a trio. I'll be meeting with a new dancer this week. We are all recovering from various illnesses and will hopefully be 100% soon. Autumn was a trouper last week, spinning and jumping through rehearsal at the tail end of the flu.

I've been gathering a lot of material for many weeks now. Interviewing my 3-year-old daughter and going through hours of audio has been both time consuming and delightful. As I said before, this is the most fun I've ever had, but it's without a doubt the most challenging. Not the least of which has been trying to read my own journal entries—yikes. The practice of writing every morning for the last several years has done a number on my handwriting. It's been a long slog. But hey, it's for art.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Staying a Step Ahead

posted by Rachel Siegel
Siegel is one of two current N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

These dance rehearsals are the highlights of my week. I am so happy to be making art again. What a relief to get out of the minutia that makes up most of my time in charge of little kids and a household.

Here is some of what I’ve been working on:

I wanted to get away from the hierarchal feel of the two groups being called A and B, especially since the A group was the group with more dance experience. So they are now called the Stars and the Moons. (Then it was pointed out that “stars” has a connotation of fame….) Each group is fabulous to work with. They’ve learned almost all of the movement vocabulary and we’re working hard to iron out the details of how to make the phrases work in a round. The spacing and the timing need to be just right for it to work. Working with the Stars is challenging since most of them have not done this kind of work before and learning to use peripheral senses (vision, sound, “group sense,” inner clock) takes a lot of practice. Working with the Moons is hard because it’s a little content heavy. Since I’m really interested in the relationships we can represent using the dance phrase, not the phrase itself, we’d be able to represent a lot more variations with less content. Too many variations on a three-minute theme and we’ll end up with a five-hour showing. Yikes.

I’m trying to stay a step ahead of the participants and have been working out what I consider to be the “collage” part of the choreographic experience. That is, I’m coming up with the exact variations of how the dance phrase will be done (e.g., James and Winnie in unison upstage simultaneously with Laura and Kirsten in a round downstage, everyone in chaos, everyone in unison except one person, etc.) and then stringing all the parts together. In another week I’m going to actually teach this sequencing to the participants. It’s hard to believe I’m that far along in the process already.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dance for Change

posted by Joy Madden
Madden is one of two current
N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

I was awarded the N.A.S.A. grant and I’m very excited to be creating my first dance in Vermont. I moved to the area last May and had my second child in July. My family and I have spent the last several months navigating through these changes and many more. I am collaborating with my 3-year-old daughter in a study on change. The challenge is to see our changing world through her eyes instead of just my own.

I have been interviewing my daughter for several weeks and will continue to do so throughout the process. These conversations along with my journal entries from the same time period will inform the movement. So far, my concept of what the piece will be has changed wildly as I attempt to map the mind of a preschooler. It has taught me a lot about stepping back and letting the dance show itself. This is the most fun I have ever had making a dance. The dance/theater piece will combine spoken word, music, and movement.

Rehearsals have begun with one (very talented) dancer. I may be looking for at least one more dancer to perform at the April 13 showing at FlynnSpace. I will post any audition notices here.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jazzed by Jazz Masterclass

posted by Alexander Stewart, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Music
University of Vermont

Dr. Alexander Stewart sent the following note to the Flynn's artistic director, Arnie Malina, after a special FlynnArts Piano Masterclass with jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran, part of Moran's residency activities while in Burlington. Moran's visit culminated in a thrilling MainStage performance of Milestone, a theatrical, multimedia jazz suite inspired by the work of conceptual artist Adrian Piper.

Dear Arnie,

Thanks for making the Jason Moran event happen! My students were enthralled, fascinated, challenged by the masterclass. Talk about thinking outside the box—Jason had them (and me) hearing and thinking about music in a totally new way. How often does that happen? In my experience, only a few times in one's life!

Many of the students also attended the concert and I have heard nothing but raves for him and the group.

This is the kind of thing that makes jazz feel young again—something that happens only too rarely these days.

We all express our deepest gratitude to you and the others who made this possible.

Alex Stewart

Alexander Stewart, Ph.D.
Jazz Studies/Ethnomusicology
Associate Professor
Department of Music
University of Vermont

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Choreographing Life While Creating Dance

posted by Rachel Siegel
Siegel is one of two current N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

I have created the bulk of the dance material that I need, recruited participants, scheduled rehearsals, and I’m ready to roll.

It’s been a lot of organizing lately and I’m really excited to get back to the dancing. Particularly, to see what happens when I actually try to do each of the phrases with the two different groups. This Friday, Group B (the “no-experience-necessary group”) is dancing. In a week from that, Group A (the more technical, experienced group) will meet. I have 15 participants confirmed and another half dozen or so that are likely. This makes me happy. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get as big a group as I wanted, and I’ve already exceeded my hopes.

It’s an extra organizational challenge because I’m offering childcare to participants. We’ll be dancing in one studio while the kids play in another one. It’s the only way many of the participants are able to come solo. Usually in my life, I’m involved with things that kids are welcome to. However, it would not work to do the “before and after” idea that I have for the dance if kids were present for the earlier “before” rehearsals. (They’ll join us part way through the process to shake things up.) I’m currently trying to get an accurate count of kids who will be there so I can get an appropriate number of childcare providers. I don’t want to get too many providers or I’ll be shelling out money needlessly. So, I haven’t been focused on the physical dancing so much the past couple of weeks.

Luckily, I did get to the Modern III dance class at the Flynn last week and loved it! And I’ll be in the studio again on Thursday, to work on some solo material I started the last time I was there.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mother, May I Dance?

posted by Rachel Siegel
Siegel is one of two current
N.A.S.A. grant awardees. She will be blogging about the progress of her work in progress, leading up to an informal showing on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

I was awarded a N.A.S.A. Grant from the Flynn Center and am thrilled to be working creatively again. The piece I’m making is about life before and after becoming a parent. I would love to have more people involved. There is room for people with no performance experience as well as experienced dancers/performers.

The main portion of the project is a movement sequence that can be done by a group in unison or as a round. When done in a round, if the movements are done in close proximity to one another, they fit together intricately like a puzzle. If they are done close but not just right, the movements collide. It is a representation of my experience going through life—sometimes I felt like I was part of harmonic experience and sometimes quite the opposite.
Next, in the performance and in my life, come the kids. After learning the movements with other adults, we will try to repeat the choreography with the kids that some of us have—in slings, backpacks, holding our hands, copying us, attached to our legs, asking to borrow the car. It will obviously change things. I’m curious what will stay the same, what will be improved, and what we will have to give up.

Modern dance is often off-putting to viewers who feel like they “don’t get it.” I aim for transparency in my work and want to find ways to make dance more accessible to audiences and to participants. I have historically worked mostly with “non-dancers” believing that anyone can dance and that performing can be transformative for all. I plan to create two performances following the outline above—one with more pedestrian movements and one more technical. I am interested in seeing if the experience as collaborators will be the same in each group and if the work will read the same to the audience.

I have spent the time in the studio the past couple of months choreographing the two movement phrases. I am ready to start rehearsing with adults. If you are interested in being involved, please email me at Rehearsals will be minimal and childcare will be available on site for those with young ones. There will be a work-in-progress showing at the Flynn Center on Sunday, April 13.

The next New Art Space Assistance (N.A.S.A.) Grant deadline is Monday, April 7. This grant provides Vermont artists, working locally, with the development time and space in which to engage in process and thus to create new and meaningful work. NA.S.A. Grant awards include six hours of creation time per week for 10 weeks in either the Chase Family Dance Studio or the Hoehl Studio Lab and an opportunity for an informal public showing of the new work in either of the two FlynnArts studios or in FlynnSpace. Potential applicants can download a N.A.S.A Grant Guidelines & Application Packet. To receive the N.A.S.A Grant guidelines and an Application in the mail, email or call 802-652-4537. Please provide your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address.