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Thursday, November 26, 2015

PREVIEW: "Toruk - The First Flight" this Friday at Altria

James Cameron's imaginary "Avatar" world comes to life via Cirque du Soleil.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 26, 2015 at 4:20 PM

James Cameron's "Avatar" franchise would like to add to its $2.7 billion dollar box office haul with a new Cirque du Soleil venture.
  • James Cameron's "Avatar" franchise would like to add to its $2.7 billion dollar box office haul with a new Cirque du Soleil venture.

Cirque du Soleil has figured out a fresh way to blow our minds, this time with a live immersive multimedia show inspired by James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

“TORUK - The First Flight” fuses cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft with a soaring cinematic score and Cirque du Soleil’s unique signature style to riff on James Cameron’s imaginary world. Narrated by a Na’vi storyteller, it’s a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film “Avatar” and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

Nick Beyeler, one of Cirque du Soleil’s acrobats, is part of the ensemble and also plays the Tawkami Clan Chief. He says he aims for the audience to have as much fun watching as they do performing.

During the show’s run, he and his fellow performers arrive at the Coliseum before midday, describing it as like stepping into a giant bee hive, with a large, busy team setting up the impressive Toruk set.

Their first priority is transforming themselves into Na’vi people by applying the blue Avatar makeup.

“We grab our makeup mirror case and do our own makeup,” Beyeler says. “It takes us one to two hours and involves crazy use of around 30 different brush sizes. It’s stunning and it even glows in the dark!”

The hours before the doors open to the public are a race against time filled with staging and rehearsals, sound checks, stretching and warm ups.

The performance itself is a rather hectic affair, with quick changes into and out of their elaborate costumes. “The attention to detail is incredible,” he says. “Oh, and yes, we all have blue tails that unexpectedly whip around and slap things.”

Once inside the Coliseum, the audience enters into the exotic and dangerously beautiful world of Pandora. For the audience, it’s an electrifying showcase of stage technology combined with a heroic story intended to wow them with visual splendor.

“It’s a playground for us performers and we fully enjoy living and breathing as the Na'vi,” Beyeler says. “To make audiences believe, to feel that the excitement is there, to perform for two of the biggest names in the entertainment industry - Cirque du Soleil and James Cameron - makes living out of a suitcase for the largest part of the year worthwhile.”

“TORUK – The First Flight” runs Nov. 27-29 at the Richmond Coliseum, 601 E. Leigh Street. Tickets 800-745-3000.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

LOCAL REVIEW: Jeremy Simmons' "Pie in the Sky"

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 12:30 PM

pie_in_the_sky_album_cover.jpg

Jeremy Simmons – “Pie in the Sky”

Perhaps it’s inevitable that an album that took 15 years to record would be timeless. Since the turn of the century Jeremy Simnons has been putting together “Pie in the Sky.” There are tracks laid down in different styles, in different studios, with different musicians. What could have been a hodgepodge is unified by Simmons’ cheerful, individualistic perspective.

Describing it results in the usual pretentious, incomprehensible, Pitchfork word salad: it’s blue-eyed soul meets Steely Dan meets Zappa-tinged funk on a midnight corner on Cary Street. In more everyday terms, it is a record that sounds a bit like a lot of things, but most of all like itself. And it is a credit to the local scene.

The production encompasses a pretty spectacular group of local musicians: DJ Williams on guitar, along with Andrew Rapisarda and Dan Sesseler. Kevin Simpson and JC Kuhl on horns. Jeremy’s brother Dusty Simmons, Kelly Strawbridge and Corey Fonville are featured on on drums. Sam Reed, Chelsea Temple and Buttafly Vasquez as backup singers? That alone is worth the price of admission. And these are only some of the players.

You can’t have a labor of love without love, and at the center of it all is one of the most lovable players on the local scene. In the videos of the recording sessions Simmons is either talking about how wonderful everyone else is or fixing up something up for everybody to eat in his Elephant Ears studio kitchen.

There are so many shots of delicious-looking homemade dishes that the food seems like a metaphor for the project. Have you ever had anything like this before? Maybe, but you haven’t exactly had this. It’s tasty now, and like all good home cooking, it’s even better the second time around.

CD Release party at Cary Street Café on Friday, Nov. 27 at 9PM. Special Guests: Kenneka Cook & Jordan Tarrant 21+ $7

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

McGlothlin's $200 Million Gift of American Art to VMFA Unveiled

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 2:00 PM

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Venetian Tavern, oil on canvas, The James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin Collection
  • John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Venetian Tavern, oil on canvas, The James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin Collection

Standing in front of Mary Cassatt’s softly impressionistic “Lydia Seated on a Porch, Crocheting,” with the sublimely complementary palette of “Moonlight, New England” by Childe Hassam hangs off to the right, a visitor can’t help but feel a frisson of excitement.

Because of collectors James and Frances McGlothin, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' American art galleries are 73 works richer and infinitely more fascinating. Originally intended to be donated to the museum after their deaths, the couple instead decided to share in the public’s enjoyment of the works by donating them now. It is nothing short of a transformational gift.

The scope of the collection, which the McGlothins started acquiring in 1996, significantly adds to VMFA’s American holdings. Chief curator Michael Taylor calls the collection a game changer.

“When combined with our extant holdings, the collection transforms VMFA into an important destination for the study and appreciation of American art. Future acquisitions will build upon this legacy to include new works by artists already in the collection, as well as artists not yet represented so that we can enrich and enliven our American narrative.”

That narrative is stirringly exemplified in the arresting “Yachting the Mediterranean,” a large 1896 piece by Julius Leblanc Stewart showing Americans – wasp-waisted Victorian women and dandified men -- aboard a yacht churning through water that seems about to spill out on the viewer.

In a rare circumstance, the McGlothlins’ collection was developed over the years in thoughtful concert with VMFA’s American art collection, resulting in a significantly larger representation of artists working in the century between 1830 and 1930.

Associate Curator of American Painting and Decorative Art Susan Rawles sees it as adding both breadth and depth in early American landscape painting and particularly in late-19th- and early-20th-century “Gilded Age” holdings.

The museum now has a body of significant works by marquee names such as John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase that reflect the full spectrum of their stylistic development. The same holds true for Modernism. The collection includes artists once absent in VMFA’s permanent displays such as Everett Shinn and William Glackens, while bringing noticeable depth to their holdings by The Eight and the Ashcan School, with works by Maurice Prendergast, Robert Henri, George Luks and George Bellows.

“This is an extraordinary combination, as the paintings merge seamlessly with our previous holdings,” Rawles says. “Together, the two collections provide a more holistic American art continuum. It’s really the coming-together of the two parts that makes the whole so powerful.”

VMFA’s American art department occupies a rare position among its peers across the country. The combination of the McGlothlin Collection and the J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art has set the museum on a trajectory virtually unique among art institutions.

“With our current collection and acquisition funds, we have the potential to become a leading force in the field and our audiences can expect to see new and important works of American art on regular display at the museum,” Rawles says. “We are very excited about our future.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Legendary Guitarist To Perform At Byrd

Marc Ribot to score silent Chaplin film "The Kid" on Dec. 13.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Guitarist Marc Ribot
  • Guitarist Marc Ribot

Revered New York guitarist Marc Ribot, known for his brilliant playing with the likes of Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, John Zorn and many others, will give a solo concert at the Byrd Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 4:30 p.m.

The Newark native will perform a mostly improvised film score accompanying a screening of the Charles Chaplin silent comedy-drama “The Kid” from 1921 (Chaplin's first full-length film as a director).

Organizers from James River Film Society tell me the idea was initially pushed by former Richmond musician Jim Thomson; and there is the possibility that another Ribot performance or workshop for the area may be scheduled, but nothing has been confirmed so far.

Tickets will be from $10 to $15 for adults and will be sold at Chop Suey and Video Fan as soon as they are printed up. They're not available yet but maybe after Friday. You can check the James River Film Society for updates.

Hybrid events like these have proven popular in the past. I can remember seeing the great Ohio punkers Pere Ubu perform a soundtrack for the sci-fi classic “X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes” (1963) at the Byrd years ago, and more recently, former Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas played an entrancing score to the Spanish-language film version of “Dracula.” (1931). Both were memorable shows that helped create a more active participation in the film from the audience.

Those not as familiar with Ribot’s wonderful playing should check out albums of his such as “Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos” and “Live at the Village Vanguard.” You can hear his playing featured below in this classic Tom Waits recording, “Jockey Full of Bourbon” from a scene in the Jim Jarmusch film, “Down by Law.”

And here’s a song by Ribot taken from his album “Silent Movies,” more the kind of motifs we'll be hearing at the Byrd.

Public Art Meeting Seeks Ideas

Consultants seek input on what makes Richmond unique.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 12:04 AM

[From right] Susan Reed, chair of the public arts commission, the city's public art coordinator Ellyn Parker, and consultants Gail Goldman and Gretchen Freeman.
  • [From right] Susan Reed, chair of the public arts commission, the city's public art coordinator Ellyn Parker, and consultants Gail Goldman and Gretchen Freeman.

About 60 art professionals, artists, designers, historians, and citizens gathered Tuesday night at the Science Museum of Virginia for the Public Art Commission’s meeting on Richmond’s forthcoming public art master plan.

“It’s critical that everything in the plan reflects what is unique about Richmond,” said Gail Goldman, one of the consultants hired to develop it.

The meeting was a brainstorming session centered on just that -- a congenial, informal atmosphere of attendees that mostly seemed to know one another.

The city has $3.2 million in a fund for public art, because of a mandate that earmarks 1 percent of every municipal construction project over $250,000 for such a purpose.

With a $150,000 contract from the city, Goldman and Gretchen Freeman will develop the master plan. They've worked together before on such plans elsewhere, including San Antonio and Calgary.

At the Science Museum, Goldman and Freeman showed slides of public art projects around the world: tourist attractions such as Cloudgate in Chicago, interactive alleyways, large-scale projections, innovative parks, re-purposed abandoned spaces, and temporary light sculptures.

They also noted artists’ additions to built infrastructure like bridges, convention centers, parking garages and airports.

The room hit a lively groove when Goldman and Freeman, who are from San Diego and Phoenix, respectively, asked the crowd what makes Richmond unique.

Answers ran the gamut: the pipeline, the Pump House, Maggie Walker, Teresa Pollack, the rapids, the triple crossing, Hollywood cemetery, Shockoe’s collapsed train tunnel, the 17th & Main slave graveyard, tattoos, street festivals and the trolley system.

Richmond Magazine’s Harry Kollatz corrected and elaborated on others’ histories and urban myths at will. He told the room a parable about stolen diamonds, which Freeman dutifully added to the board.

“Right now we’re in the research phase,” Goldman said. “It’s all about community input.” She and Freeman attended InLight at the VMFA while in town for this meeting.

By April, they will “identify emerging values and themes” and a rough draft will appear next fall.

In the meantime, Ellyn Parker, hired in July as the public arts coordinator, is tasked with collecting and communicating these ideas to Goldman and Freeman.

“Basically anybody with a group of five or more, I will come to your meeting and collect ideas,” she said.

And now they say there's no bad idea. People can take the Public Art Commission’s survey here until February.

Monday, November 16, 2015

InLight Richmond Announces Winners

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Local artist Eva Rocha won the New Market People's Choice Award for her "Object-Orientalis" which explores objectification on multiple levels.
  • Local artist Eva Rocha won the New Market People's Choice Award for her "Object-Orientalis" which explores objectification on multiple levels.

This year's InLight Richmond at VMFA was a success judging by large crowds on both Friday and Saturday nights.

Small protests by Virginia Flaggers of the Confederate Chapel being used as part of the art installation didn't amount to much at all. For the most part, people were wondering what all the fuss was about.

Today 1708 Gallery announced the winners of this year's InLight Richmond: Best in Show went to artist Alice Pixley Young's "Lightgeist" which was selected by juror Alex Baker, director of Philadelphia's Flesiher/Ollman Gallery. And, selected by the InLight audience, the New Market People's Choice award went to local artist Eva Rocha and her Object-Orientalis (pictured above).

Here's more from the press release on the winners and their work:

Alice Pixley Young studied at Ringling College of Art and Design and the New York Studio Residency Program, and received an MFA from the University of Maryland and an MA from the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Her work has been exhibited at Bullseye Projects in Portland, Oregon, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the 21c Museum in Cincinnati and Louisville, and the Currents International New Media Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In Young’s work, ideas of nature, place and memory are experienced through the layering of media and visual information. Lightgeist addresses the idea of systems, cycles and the change of light within the season. Through a small cityscape “set” and a projected video of flocking birds, she explores the way memory effects the construction of both our psychic and physical environments. Video projection marks autumn moving into winter, overcast days and crepuscular hours- dimming late afternoons and evenings and murky dawns.

In Object-Orientalis, Rocha explores the correlation between the de-humanized commercial relationship we have developed with the contemporary art object and the ways we have allowed ourselves to objectify other humans. Rocha is interested in how object-oriented views relate to other social issues, particularly the objectification of women and its implications for human trafficking.

Eva Rocha, a multimedia artist from Brazil, is a graduate student in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She brings together her studies and her early experiences as an actress in avant-garde theater in Sao Paulo to create her current work, which utilizes video performance and mapping projection to explore the relationship between objects and cultural perspectives. She was awarded the Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts in 2015. Her work is in prominent private and public collections in the US and Brazil.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Word and Image: Stories from Battery Park

Longtime resident Rosalind Jones remembers her youth.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2015 at 9:50 AM

Longtime resident Rosalind Jones stands on her porch in Battery Park.
  • Longtime resident Rosalind Jones stands on her porch in Battery Park.

Rosalind Jones, 86, moved to Battery Park with her family as a 19-year old in 1950. Then a student at Virginia Union University, she recalls an idyllic time when her family didn’t bother locking doors when they left because pulling up the screen door was enough.

More of Jones’ stories, along with others from long-time Battery Park residents, will be the focus of the second edition of Battery Park Stories: Reflections of Our Neighborhood, a storytelling event about the historic North Side neighborhood followed by a potluck dinner.

Jones: "Battery Park was a nice neighborhood, mostly professional people, doctor, teachers and lawyers. It was safe so I could walk to VUU for cheerleader practice. One year while I was a cheerleader, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson led the Union homecoming parade. He just strutted right up Leigh Street!

We went to teenage dances at the Monroe Center on Leigh Street and at the A.D. Price Funeral Home on Friday nights from 8 to 10. We listened to Nat 'King' Cole, Billy Eckstein and Sarah Vaughn. And, oh, those chaperons! They kept couples apart. They made it their job to make sure no one danced too close. Those were the good old days.

I had a very good Mom and Dad. They never talked to us about other races, never put any fear in us. But I knew when I got on the trolley -- it was seven cents for a ticket back then -- or the bus, I always had to go to the back. That’s the way it was.

Back then, when musicians like Billy Eckstein and Lionel Hampton played the Mosque, they stayed at Slaughter’s Hotel on Second. My girlfriends and I would go to those shows but in that time, we had to sit up in the balcony. We weren’t allowed to sit downstairs, but we still had a good time.

Oliver Hill lived across the street from us. One night, my mother -- her bedroom was at the front of the house -- woke up to a blinding light in the window. It was during the Brown versus Board of Education case and the KKK was burning a cross on Mr. Hill's lawn to scare him. He got a lot of threatening calls, but he was a very good lawyer.”

Michael Lease, Kimberly Wolfe and their young son moved to Battery Park two years ago, aware they were a part of a nationwide trend of whites buying homes in traditionally black neighborhoods.

Historians at heart, they were welcomed warmly by neighbors and decided to capture the stories of long-time residents, piggy-backing on a short-lived oral history project begun by residents Karen Wylie and Debbie Jackson after Ernesto’s flooding devastated the neighborhood in 2006.

“We hope these stories make people aware of past experiences and lives,” Wolfe says of the public event, Battery Park Stories: Reflections of Our Neighborhood. “To know that we're all building upon something that was here before us and to help bridge any real or perceived divide caused by age, race and class.”

Battery Park Stories: Reflections of Our Neighborhood is Sunday, Nov. 15, from 3-6 p.m., Partnership for Families, 800 W. Graham Road. Check out its Facebook page here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

City Helps Offset CenterStage Rental Rates

Organization receives $240,000 grant.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 11:10 AM

CenterStage has already begun doling out money from a $240,000 city grant to its local resident companies. The money should last through the arts seasonal year, says a spokesman.
  • CenterStage has already begun doling out money from a $240,000 city grant to its local resident companies. The money should last through the arts seasonal year, says a spokesman.

The resident arts companies at CenterStage have started taking advantage of a grant from the city aimed at offsetting the rising rental rates that have driven some groups away from the nonprofit’s venues.

Money has been going out to local companies for about a month and the $240,000 grant should last through the current season, CenterStage spokesman JaySmith says. So far, the organizations which have used it include the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, and Modlin Center for the Arts.

“It’s to be used primarily to offset rental rates. It wasn’t stipulated that it had to be for resident companies although that’s the target,” says Smith, who notes that CenterStage can oversee how the money is spent at its venues.

CenterStage oversees four venues: Altria Theater, Carpenter Theatre, Rhythm Hall and the Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse.

Rental rates are different for each one, but CenterStage won’t disclose them, Smith says, because “it’s [like] a commercial venue.”

“In essence our rental rates for resident companies went up this year,” Smith notes. “But this grant helped lower it from what they paid last year.”

Resident companies include the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, Quill Theatre, Elegba Folklore Society, City of Richmond Department of Parks & Recreation and SPARC. CenterStage reports to them how much of the city grant they used and how they benefited.

CenterStage is working with Ryan Ripperton, director of the resident company association, for ways to help all of them, Smith says -- “though understanding that we want to attract the smaller companies back.”

For shows running six days of production, Smith notes, the help could add up to two or three thousand dollars -- “which can make an important difference.”

CenterStage has received help from the city before, including a bailout on delinquent tax funds in 2014. So how else might the venue use the $240,000?

Smith cites the example of resident company Richmond Forum, which holds its shows at the Altria Theater. The Forum asked that instead of reducing rent, the money be used to buy 200 more chairs for the ballroom, where overflow ticket holders watch the event on a video screen.

“They sell hundreds of more tickets than seats on every show,” Smith says. “So this way, the extra seats meant more money for them. It’s a small cost for us, and they make more then they would’ve saved on rent. Cookie-cutter solutions are not good with the [different-sized] resident groups.”

So far, most of the money has been put toward offsetting rental rates. Style left a message with Ripperton and others for comment and will have updates.

Groups such as Quill Theatre -- formerly Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare -- are considering returning to CenterStage in 2016 after moving shows to other venues because of high rental rates. Managing director Jacquie O’Connor says it was too late to change the current season.

Any remaining grant money will roll over to next season, Smith says.

CenterStage hopes to show that resident groups increased their use of the venue to apply for more money from the city. But no discussions have started about future grants, Smith says, and other methods such as joint fundraisers likely will be necessary.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Nature Boy" Coming to Powhatan High School

Sixteen-time world champion to raise money for wrestling team.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 1:30 PM

Ric Flair is coming for you, Powhatan.
  • Ric Flair is coming for you, Powhatan.

If Mr. Bloomberg really wanted his money to help sway the Senate election, he probably should've known his audience better. Instead of throwing millions at a gun-control push, he could've broke a little something off for this man right here, and won in a landslide, at least in Powhatan County.

Yes, I'm talking about Ric "Nature Boy" Flair, 16-time world champion, who will be appearing on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Powhatan High School with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat as well as Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, otherwise known as The Rock and Roll Express. Also on the night's card are Scotty "2 Hotty" Garland vs. Gangrel plus Flex Armstrong.

The event is a fundraiser for the Powhatan High School Wrestling Team and starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are available now at btwtickets.com, Blackhawk Gym, County Seat Restaurant in Powhatan, and Hooters of Midlothian. Because where else would high school kids get their wrestling tickets but at Hooters?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Confederate Chapel to Get Trippy Makeover During InLight

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 at 1:00 AM

The Confederate Memorial Chapel near VMFA was built in 1887 by Confederate veterans.
  • The Confederate Memorial Chapel near VMFA was built in 1887 by Confederate veterans.

The annual InLight Richmond will transform the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts next weekend. But perhaps the most electrifying reveal will be the wholesale transformation of the Confederate Memorial Chapel.

The light and sound installation, happening Nov. 13 and 14, promises to put a twist on one of Richmond’s most divisive public-relations problems.

The artists behind the exhibit, John Dombroski and Ander Mikalson, say they were inspired to probe the chapel’s socio-political significance.

The contentious building, which has a side adjacent to Grove Avenue, has been a magnet for people devoted to waving the Confederate flag — which no longer is allowed to fly at the chapel. In June, the museum took control of the chapel’s lease from the Lee-Jackson Camp No. 1, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It will become a focal point of InLight, with the artists planning to turn the memorial into a trippy funhouse full of disorienting light, sound and shadow.

“By illuminating and amplifying the building and visitors’ presence within it,” Dombroski tells Style, “we will create a heightened sensory experience that invites investigation and introspection.”

The artists plan to install several cinema-grade lights on tall stands to illuminate the exterior of the chapel. The interior will be illuminated solely by the light cast through the stained-glass windows. An array of shadows will form on the ceiling, walls and floor.

There’s a sound component, too. The movements of visitors will be captured by a network of microphones installed on the floorboards, pews, doorways and walls — sounds the artists will amplify and reverberate throughout the space using delays and panning.

Dombroski says the sound of a visitor’s step will be emitted seconds later by a speaker behind the pulpit. Visitors’ shadows will dance around the pews.

“All art work has the potential to be political, even if it’s Disney-like,” says InLight juror Alex Baker, director of Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia.

“It’s more than just spectacle, it’s something to engage with,” says Emily Smith, executive director of 1708 Gallery, which organizes the event.

Some readers leaving comments weren’t about to embrace the idea. “How sad. This is a chapel and not a theater,” one wrote. “Where is the reverence that is befitting the place where Confederate veterans worshipped?”

Another commenter, saying they were no fan of the Confederate flag, wrote: “I assume that next on the agenda is doing something similar to a Muslim house of worship?”

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