Thursday, September 24, 2009

Old plays made new, touring Shakespeare, erotic art, and music, electronic music, art at the rapids

Director takes a new
view down a long nose

This summer director Robert Richmond was thinking about noses.

He was reworking Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac” for a Theatre South Carolina production when Michael Jackson died.
Cyrano, a great poet and soldier, was hampered by his extravagant nose; Jackson was known for his ever-shrinking nose.

“It was a real inspiration in a creepy way,” said Richmond, a visiting professor at USC.
Nearly everyone, when they look in the mirror, sees something they’d like to change, he said.
“We all have something about Cyrano in us,” Richmond said.

As is usual with Richmond, doing a standard-issue of the play about a man with a romantic heart and great love, but hampered by his looks, was not in the cards. He decided to re-write much of the play, set it in the late 19th century rather than the original 17th century and pull out all the stops on the production design.

As associate artistic director of the Aquila Theatre Company, which was in residence at USC in the early 1990s, Richmond (left) was known for simplifying and bringing new life to classics. Staring his third year as visiting professor at USC, Richmond, has continued that innovative approach for “As You Like It,” “A Tale Told by an Idiot,” “The Skin of Our Teeth,” and “A Cabal of Hypocrites” at the Theatre South Carolina at USC and “Elephant’s Graveyard” at Trustus Theatre.

As Richmond did with “Oh, What A Lovely War” in 2007, he has transformed Longstreet Theatre. A theater-in-the-round, it will be more of a vertical theater for “Cyrano” with the show occupying the theater from basement to the lighting grid high above the stage. (The look is somewhat influenced by “steam punk,” a kind of style that melds 19th century technology, such as steam engines and cast iron, with futuristic content. ) The set is by Kimi Maeda, who holds a master’s degree in theater design from the university and works at the Columbia Marionette Theatre.

The play also reunites Richmond with Anthony Cochrane, who is playing Cyrano. The two were college roommates in Great Britain 30 years ago and worked together for 15 with Aquila. Now an independent actor, Cochrane played dozens of roles in Aquila productions and was also the company composer. He has performed in number of off-Broadway plays.

"Cyrano" starts Friday and runs through Oct. 4. Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. A Sunday matinee takes place at 3 p.m. Oct. 4.

Something new for Theatre South Carolina are performances at 7 and 11 p.m. Saturdays. The 11 p.m. show is half-price. Longstreet is at Sumter and Green streets. (803) 777-2551.

(The theater department has another unusual show coming up next week - Louis Nowra’s “Cosi” about a group of mental patients staging a production of Mozart’s opera “Cosi Fan Tutte.” Like the opera in the play, the play will be performed in a gym. It's Oct. 1 – 4 in Hamilton Gym at Pickens and Pendleton streets)

Thursday, Sept. 24

Shakespeare on the move
A touring company from England makes a stop for some Shakespeare in Columbia.

The group from Cambridge University will stage “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at Columbia College. The group has been coming to the states for a decade, but as far as anyone tells this is the first time they’ve been to Columbia.

“Two Gentlemen” is one of Shakespeare’s early comedies and like all his comedies it has a lot of mixed up stuff going on in it, some cross-dressing, several confused lovers, two clowns and a dog.
The show starts at 7:30 and admission is $10. (803) 786-3850.

Landscape art
The About Face art group opens a show of landscapes from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady St. remains on display through Sept. 29.

Friday, Sept. 25

Making music with odd things
Electronic music duo, Beatrix Jar, turns on the juice at 8 p.m. using beats, sound samples and noises from toys, circuit boards and radios. It’s at the Columbia Museum of Art. $10 or $8 for museum members.
If you’re really into what they’re doing you can take a workshop with the Minneapolis group the next day for $62.50. (803) 799-2810.

Saturday, Sept. 26

Up the river with art
Get in a boat at the east coast and head inland on a river. In a hundred miles or so you’ll have a hard time going any father upstream. You’ve come to the fall line.

And for hundreds of years people have met the river rapids that mark the fall line, got off the boat and settled down. This is where sand and mud of the coastal plane meets the upland bedrock.

If you want to get a good idea of where the fall line falls get out a map and connect there dots - Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Fayetteville, Cheraw, Camden, Columbia, Hamburg, Augusta, Milledgeville, Macon, Columbus. It’s the line where the water falls – and is a good place to set up a grist mill or sawmill run by the water’s flow.

The S.C. State Museum examines life along the fall line in the exhibition “From the Pee Dee to the Savannah: Art and Material Culture of South Carolina’s Fall Line Region.”

The exhibition will include decorative and fine arts as well as more utilitarian objects. (Pictured is an early 19th century painting by Eugene Dovilliers of Columbia seen from the west side of the Congaree River.) The exhibition, a project of the South Carolina Fall Line Consortium, a group of museums and libraries, runs to March 22, 2010.

Many museums free today

This would be a good day to see that show at the State Museum because you can get free admission there as part of a the Smithsonian Institute's Museum Day. The Columbia Museum of Art, the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery in Greenville, the Morris Museum in Augusta and various historic houses and sites are taking part.

To get a list of participating place and print a pass go to

Sunday, Sept. 27

Music and art
You have a choice of musical events at 3 this afternoon.

The first Art of Music program at the Columbia Museum of Art and the next to last Cornelia Freeman concert at the USC School of Music.

For the first, music historian Peter Hoyt will talk about William Bouguereau’s painting “Far From Home.” The painting shows two young girl musicians begging for a few pennies, but the talk “Victorian Eroticism and Bouguereau’s Bohemian Violinist” will examine the sexual content of this work and others. Music for will be provided by violinist Neil Casey, assistant conductor of the Augusta Symphony Orchestra and the USC Symphony Orchestra.

Bouguereau was one of the most famous artists in the world during the late 1800s. His paintings dominated by perfect female bodies with were popular in his native France, throughout Northern Europe and in the United States.

He mainly created extremely realistic, highly finished scenes from history and mythology with forays into subjects like “Far From Home” portraying peasants and farmers. He even did religious subjects - you've never seen the Virgin Mary like this before.

But, Hoyt said, “the division between the secular and sacred in his work is hazy.” The paintings are often loaded with sexual symbols.

Nearly every major art museum owns his paintings. “Far From Home at the Columbia Museum is on loan from the Art Museum of Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The art of Bouguereau and other academics fell from favor with the rise of the Impressionism and modern art. “BouguereautĂ©” became a derogatory term for old-fashioned paintings.

The program is suggested for mature audiences. Free for museum members; $7 for everyone else.

Other Art and Music programs are “American Images in the South” with High Lonesome bluegrass band Nov. 3; “Wide Open Spaces: A Sacred Harp Gathering,” Jan. 17; and a viola d’amore, a rare early violin, concert Feb. 14; and “The Great American Songbook” with the Ron McCurdy Quartet May 7. Times and prices vary. Contact the museum for details. (803) 799-2810.

Just music
At the same hour, USC music faculty will start playing “Pastorale” by Igor Stravinsky (left); "Choral Fantasy" by Jan Koetsier; “Summer Journey” by Eric Ewazen “Music for Brass Instruments” by Ingolf Dahl; and several Frederic Chopin piano pieces.

As with the previous concert on the series, most of these works are from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The concert has a couple of vocal works, obviously from the title a piece for lots of brass, and most intriguingly, one that is for tuba and organ.

What ties all the music together, says series organizer Peter Kolkay, is they all explore themes of fantasy.
Hear it at the USC music school. Tickets are $12. (803) 777-4280.

Tuesday, Sept. 29

Speaking Spanglish
“Migration Letters in Spanglish,” an art installation by Alejandro GarcĂ­a, opens at 701 Whaley at 6 p.m. The project uses an alphabet designed to reflect issues of immigration. Garcia is a native of Colombia who lives in Columbia.
The show will be on display through Oct. 15 at 701 Whaley St. It then travels to two Georgia galleries. (803) 397-7686.

1 comment:

  1. It is both fitting and criminal that Bouguereau was vilified in his time. In my mind, he achieved an apex in classical painting not likely to be overtaken. He was absolutely amazing - perhaps the best who ever did what he did. You have to see his work in person to fully appreciate it. So why would artists continue in this milieu? After him, what was left to accomplish? I love the impressionists, and all that changes in art that followed. The time was certainly ripe for a break from tradition, and what a wonderful break it was! However, I still say is a shame Bouguereau was dissed so badly in his time. He deserved better.


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