Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Auburn's ArtRageous Receives Top Award

Auburn’s ArtRageous: Artist in Action Art Fair received the top “Spotlight Award for Program Excellence” for Events, Fairs and Festivals from the Washington State Parks and Recreation (WRPA) honoring public agencies for outstanding and unique achievements. WRPA’s annual awards have become a coveted mark of distinction for parks and recreation professionals and organizations. The Spotlight Awards ceremony took place at the WRPA Annual Conference in Tacoma, Washington on the evening of April 15. Judged from entries across the state, ArtRageous was selected to receive this prestigious award based upon innovative, creative and exceptional service and benefit to the community.

ArtRageous initially was conceived of in 2009 as a one time event to recognize the 25th Anniversary of the Auburn Arts Commission. But due to popular demand, it will be offered again this year on Saturday, August 7, at Les Gove Park. The goal of ArtRageous is to offer a free fine-arts experience in an outdoor festival setting and to provide a wide breadth of art media that allow the public to have hands-on learning experiences alongside professional artists.

“We’re proud to have received this outstanding statewide recognition from the WRPA,” said Daryl Faber, City of Auburn’s Director of Parks, Arts and Recreation Department. “The arts are a key component of a healthy community and our Parks, Arts and Recreation Department continues to offer innovative programming that the Auburn community has embraced and is recognized throughout the state.”

The WRPA, an affiliate of the National Recreation and Park Association, promotes public support for parks and recreation and increasing awareness of the necessity to preserve, enhance, and utilize resources for a balanced lifestyle. The Spotlight award was established in 2005, and winners from years past include: Alternative Energy Fair - Lacey - 2009; First Night - Metro Parks Tacoma and Garden d’Lights, Bellevue - both 2008; Step Up to Health Summit, City of Kirkland Parks, Arts & Recreation Department - 2007; Battle of Idols - Metro Parks Tacoma - 2006; and Fantasy Lights - Pierce County - 2005.

In addition to the WRPA award, ArtRageous also received a Gold Medal Award for a Community Service Program through the Washington Festivals & Events Association (WFEA) in March of this year.

For more information on the ArtRageous: Artists in Action Art Fair, contact City of Auburn, Parks, Arts & Recreation at 253-804-3045, or visit www.auburnwa.gov/arts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Peek Behind the Curtains at Centerstage

by Maureen Hathaway

As I sit quietly in the theater, I hear the humming of subdued conversation. The patrons quietly thumb through their programs and eagerly await for the curtain to go up. My mind wanders. I imagine myself in the director’s shoes. I can almost sense the anticipation of the cast and crew, and their nervous excitement of the first scene. Will the audience be pleased to see actors from previous Centerstage productions? Would the director have preferred more rehearsals prior to the opening performance?

I look up into the dim lighting and try to imagine how the eventual bright lights and sound effects will cast a spell upon the audience. What is actually happening behind the scenes? Has part of the set malfunctioned? Has and actor found a torn seam in their costume? If so, how will the show go on with last minute problems and the frantic activity taking place behind the long, draping curtain?

I quickly check my program and see that all of the performers and crew have extensive theater backgrounds. The will somehow climb over any hurdles and mesh together in this magical moment with everyone beating their drum to the same cadence.

To answer some of these questions, fellow Federal Way Arts Commissioner Linda Pratt and I asked Alan Bryce, Artistic Director of Centerstage, if we could observe rehearsals, take pictures, and interview the cast and crew. Many hours were spent backstage and at performances prior to the April 11th closing of Centerstage’s wonderful production of “Enchanted April.”


The Knutzen Family Theatre at Dumas Bay is where Centerstage presents its productions. “Enchanted April” had been an Academy Award nominated film based on the best-selling 1921 novel of the same name. “Enchanted April” was director Cynthia White’s fourth play at Centerstage. What drew her to this play was knowing and working with actors she had worked with before in addition to working again with Centerstage staff. She noted “that if you know how someone works, then you can kind of cut to the chase. The ensemble has a connection with everyone and you are not spending half of the rehearsal learning about each other - it’s a bit of a coming home quality. An important part of any play is the cohesiveness of the cast.”

The casting was done at Puget Sound Theater at Seattle Center. Both Alan Bryce and Cynthia chose the ensemble, Bryce noting that there are more theatrical groups per capita in this area than the rest of the nation, so the pool of talent is deep. Eva Doak, Dean Wilson, and Rosalie Hilburn had been selected before auditions began, so they read opposite the actors who were auditioning. There were two auditions to select the rest of the cast.

Actors received the script around October/November 2009. Actor Dean Wilson said, “I had about fifty pages to memorize and each night my aim was to work on a page or two.” According to Rosalie Hilburn, “blocking the stage movement is set fairly early so the actors can memorize this with the lines. It often changes when we move into the actual theater.”

The director oversaw the members of the creative team until they all had the same artistic vision of the play. This included coordinating research, costume design, lighting, sound, acting, props and set design. In the beginning, the director was the most knowledgeable about the play but by the end of rehearsals, the actors intimately knew their characters and the director turned the play over to them.

After opening night, the director moved on to the next project and the stage manager ran the process, making sure the show maintained the director’s vision and ran smoothly. For "Enchanted April," that was Anna Blindheim. She sat up in a booth behind the audience and cued the sound effects and lighting. Other duties included calling of rehearsals, assembling and maintaining the prompt book, and the technical running of each performance.

The actors rehearsed for three weeks, six days a week, until the week before opening - tech week. This was when lights, sound effects, props, and costumes were added. It was also when the tech crew came in and practiced their part with the actors.

Ron Leamon was the costume designer. He has an extensive background in costume history, construction, art history, and fashion. In addition, he has experience in theater, film, and television. A talented designer, he gets inside the mind of a character and finds the perfect clothes that will help tell the story and assist the audience in understanding the character. All clothing, hats, shoes, ties, etc. were authentic to the period of the play. Most of the costumes were vintage 1920’s garments which came from the University of Washington costume stock as well as Ron’s own collection. They were very fragile and in selecting them he had to keep in mind which ones would survive the run of the show.

The set designer was Greg Heinzle of Seattle Scenic Studios. The set for “Enchanted April” was built at Knutzen Family Theatre and then painted. The furniture and backdrop were rented. The transformation from the bleak London set of the first half of the play, to the bright and cheery Italian castle in the second half, was breathtaking and had the audience gasping with amazement and delight.


After the performance I watch as everyone stands up and I hear the sound of appreciation in the hearty clapping of hands. The cast widely smiles as they bow in unison. Most of all, I feel proud and happy that Federal Way has a top notch professional theatrical group right here in my community. I hope that Federal Way will continue to support all of the precious arts groups that inhabit this beautiful city! Centerstage’s upcoming musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” will be showing May 22 - June 6. For tickets or more information call (253) 661-1444 or check their web site: www.centerstagetheatre.com.

Maureen Hathaway is a member of the Federal Way Arts Commission.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Through May 12 - Vote Early and Often

by Barbara McMichael

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express have announced that 25 Puget Sound area landmarks are eligible for restoration grants totaling $1 million. To help them decide how to allocate the money, they are inviting people to go on-line between now and May 12 and cast votes for their favorite landmark. There are many wonderful sites in the running, but only one of them is located in South King County.

Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park in Kent was designed a quarter of a century ago by one of the last of the Bauhaus masters, Herbert Bayer. It is internationally known as a prime example of "earth art" and it also functions as a working dam, but the sculpted forms that provide storm water detention need to be restored to preserve both their functional use and artistic value. In these challenging economic times, that grant money would be a boon!

Over the years, Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks has been a popular festival and concert site. On Thursday, April 22, from 7-8:30 PM, the Park will be the site for a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, with music, dance and site-specific art installations. Then again on May 2, from 1-4 PM, the Park will host an Open House featuring site tours, art workshops, and performances. Mark these dates on your calendar, and plan to come explore and enjoy this fascinating park!

And here's how you can support its bid for some of the grant money being offered by American Express and the National Trust: once a day between April 15 and May 12, you can go to www.PartnersinPreservation.com to cast your vote for one of the nominated landmarks -- the top on-line vote-getter will be guaranteed funding. This is a great chance to bring much-needed dollars into South King County and to support one of our local historic and artistic treasures. Let's go viral with this -- please contact any and all of your friends who care about arts and heritage in South King County and tell them about this opportunity! Let's make sure the people handing out the grant dollars hear from us!

Barbara McMichael is administrator for SoCoCulture.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Renton Pianist is a Finalist in KING Radio Contest

by Linda Petersen

Michael Messer is a Renton native and a busy high school senior. He will graduate in June from both Kentridge High School and Green River Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. He plans to major in piano performance and has many scholarship offers in consider before he enters college this fall.

Michael has studied piano for 10 years and is currently a student of Dianne Nichols of Renton. He has won awards at many piano competitions and has performed at the Washington State Music Teachers Association State Convention for the past three years. Performing, competing and serving at his church keeps him musically challenged. He says, "There is a reason they call it 'playing' the piano. Music is a gift to be shared and enjoyed!"

Michael is one of 20 finalists on www.king.org "10 Grands Young Artist Awards" - you can vote for him by going to the website and then page four, number 16 where you will see and hear him play. I heard him play in person a few weeks ago and was captivated by his music. Good luck Michael!

Linda Petersen is Chair of SoCoCulture.