Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog
ARTS AND MOVIES NEWS: Updated at sevendaysvt.com

14 posts categorized "Theater"

April 02, 2012

Mike Daisey Returns to the Stage in Burlington

Daisey4An anecdote in "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," the monologue about Apple by Mike Daisey, took on a new resonance on Saturday night. It's the part in which Daisey is in China, planning out his visit to a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen where electronics are built for Apple and other electronics companies. Daisey tells his translator that he's not a businessman — he just plans to pose as one to get into the factory. The translator, Cathy, asks him if he's going to lie. Daisey reples, "Yes, Cathy. I'm going to lie to lots of people."

When Daisey spoke that line at the Flynn Center during his performance, it seemed to hang in the air a little. Not as long as the painfully drawn-out pauses when Ira Glass was eviscerating him on "This American Life," but long enough to let it sink in. I heard a couple audience members chuckle under their breath.

Saturday night marked Daisey's second "Agony and Ecstasy" performance since "This American Life" busted him for inventing and embellishing some details about his trip to Apple's Chinese factories in his ostensibly nonfiction monologue. It was his first in a couple of weeks, since the scandal began to cool down and Daisey had a chance to rethink and rework parts of the monologue.

Sure enough, there were some differences: The guards at the factory gates didn't have guns. Daisey didn't meet a 12-year-old worker. He did not claim that someone saw his iPad turn on and called it "a kind of magic." Daisey did still say that his taxicab came to a stop at a highway exit that ended in midair.

Somewhat surprisingly, Daisey did not address the controversy directly in his monologue. It wasn't until after the show, during a Q&A with Flynn Center executive director John Killacky and UVM Lane Series director Natalie Neuert, that the scandal actually came up — and even then, no one simply said, "Mike got in trouble a few weeks back because he said untrue things on 'This American Life' and Ira Glass really didn't take kindly to it."

Continue reading "Mike Daisey Returns to the Stage in Burlington" »

March 25, 2012

An Interview With Embattled Monologuist Mike Daisey on His Apple Show

DaiseyYou may have heard about Mike Daisey by now. He's the monologuist who's spent the past year and a half performing his new monologue, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which examines the links among Apple, industrial design and overseas manufacturing. Pieces of the monologue focusing on the harsh working conditions at Apple's Chinese factories were excerpted on "This American Life" earlier this year. It made for an incredibly compelling hour of radio.

And then this happened. Daisey made a repeat apperance on "This American Life," this time to answer to charges that he made a bunch of stuff up about his trip to the factories in China. It was compelling, too — this time in a raw, incredibly uncomfortable way as a Hulking-out Ira Glass deconstructed the lies.

After that show aired, Daisey gave a talk at Georgetown responding to the controversy (transcript here, audio here). He sounded defensive, even angry as he defended the greater impact of his work and condemned the media for focusing on him instead of the factories.

But when I spoke to him a few days later, he seemed contrite, content and ready to move on and fix his mistakes as best he could. It should be fascinating to hear him perform "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" at the Flynn Center on March 31. Will Daisey's tale still resonate emotionally with the audience? Will people still care to listen?

Click here to read the full interview with Mike Daisey.

Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus

March 19, 2012

Montpelier Playwright Tackles Ridgeline Wind Debate


DSC_3248Feuding neighbors. Life-altering decisions. High tempers and even higher stakes. If Vermont’s pitched debate about ridgeline wind power doesn’t have the makings of a drama, I don’t know what does.

Lesley Becker thought so, too. The Montpelier playwright turned to the conversation about wind power in the Northeast Kingdom for inspiration for her latest play, Winds of Change. The play makes its debut on March 27 as part of the Fourth Tuesday Reading Series sponsored by the Vermont Playwrights Circle

Becker’s recipe goes something like this: Take one powerful utility company, add a landowner who has fallen on hard times, and mix. Her two-act play examines life in a town not unlike Lowell, Vt., before and after the installation of a utility-scale wind project. 

Becker stumbled on the story largely by happenstance. She works as a prevention coalition coordinator in the Northeast Kingdom, and about two years ago she was helping a group of teens in Craftsbury design a media campaign to discourage underage drinking. That’s how she found herself at a select board meeting where she heard an expert testify about the proposed Kingdom Community Wind project, now well on its way to completion.

“I was very inspired by the local people who were willing to take on this battle between the little guys and the big guys,” says Becker. She has an opinion — and not a favorable one — about the Lowell wind development, and expects that readers will pick up on the bias in her play. Becker says she didn't come at the project as journalist, but instead as a playwright trying to tease out the experiences of people living in and around the proposed project — those in favor and those against. 

Becker has been writing plays for eight or nine years, by her estimation, though she established a background in theater earlier in her life. She turned her back on that world for a time, disillusioned about theater’s relevancy.

“It seemed like theater was very far from what was important to anybody and what could make a difference,” she says.

She’s changed her tune now, having regained some faith in what the medium — and, she hopes, Winds of Change — can do. 

“I want to try to honor the people [in Lowell], and shed some light on the issues,” Becker says. “It would be very powerful and effective if it got out to enough people to be educational.”

Becker’s play will be read by a contingent of actors on March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier. The event is free and open to the public.

Photo by Kathryn Flagg

February 29, 2012

Male Call: Joan Rivers Needs a Date

JoanJoan Rivers is looking for a man.

The comedic icon, performing at the Flynn MainStage on Thursday, April 26, often tabs local comics to open her shows wherever and whenever she tours. And, sorry, ladies, she prefers the company of … er, the talents … (hoo boy) … she uses … (is it getting hot in here?) … men. She likes men. Wow, there's really no tasteful way to put that. Let's move on.

Anyway, to fulfill her unusual contract request, the Flynn is hosting an all-male comedic revue at the FlynnSpace on Thursday, March 22, dubbed "Win a Date With Joan Rivers." Ten local (male) comedians will vie for Rivers' hand, and a 20-minute set as her opening act at the Flynn.

The hopefuls represent some of the area's finest standup talent, including 2012 Higher Ground Comedy Battle winner Kyle Gagnon, 2011 HG Battle winner Nathan Hartswick, Levity owner Ryan Kriger, Colin Ryan, Tony Bates, Jason Lorber, Kevin Anglin, Justin Rowe, Ben Porter and Abhi Kulkarni.

Here's a clip of Rivers on the hilarious FX sitcom, "Louie."

 

And here's a Rivers classic from the "Ed Sullivan Show" in 1963.

  

November 16, 2011

Flynn Center Artistic Director Arnie Malina to Retire

Arnie MalinaIt's big news when the artistic visionary of the state's largest performing arts center decides to call it a career. According to a press release issued by the Flynn today, Arnie Malina will retire at the end of January 2012.

"He's been there 15 years, 50 percent of the time the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts has existed," said executive director John Killacky by phone shortly after the announcement. "He's planning  next season, and we've written our grants, so a lot is already in play for next year," he added.

Malina spent many years running the Myrna Loy Center for the Performing and Media Arts in Helena, Mont., before arriving at the Flynn in 1997. During his tenure — and that of prior ED Andrea Rogers — a successful capital campaign transformed the Flynn from a "theater" to a "center," renovated and restored the art-deco facility, added the smaller FlynnSpace, and generally raised the profile of the organization.

Malina's passion for popular, experimental and international arts translated to a huge variety of shows coming to Burlington, putting the relatively small city on a much broader cultural map.

Vermonters have benefited, too, from a number of residencies at the Flynn, enabling locals to interact with, study, listen to and watch artists in the act of creation. This kind of connection apparently gives Malina a particular thrill.

Continue reading "Flynn Center Artistic Director Arnie Malina to Retire" »

August 15, 2011

Actor Needed: Calm Demeanor, Good Stage Presence, Current Distemper Shot a Must

200px-OfMiceAndMenThere have been times when Green Mountain thespians have complained that Vermont theater is going to the dogs. This week, that's not an entirely unfair observation.

The Middlebury Actors Workshop has put out a casting call of the four-legged variety. Specifically, they're looking for a mangy old mutt for an "important role" in the upcoming production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

"We are looking for an extremely old, docile shepherd or mutt, although any medium- to large-breed dog would work," the notice reads. "The dog is described in the script as being on its last legs. Most important is that it is calm and not too distractible. No appointment necessary."

What constitutes an "important role" for a canine that doesn't involve sniffing out explosives on planes or finding lost children? As Director Melissa Lourie explains, Steinbeck's classic novella, about Depression-era fieldworkers George Milton and Lennie Small, includes an old ranch hand named Candy, who has just one hand. Candy has an ancient, smelly dog who is stinking up the bunkhouse. Eventually, the other ranch hands force Candy to put the old dog out of its misery.

"It's kind of a foreshadowing of the death of Lenny and hits on those themes that when you're old and useless, you get taken out and shot," Lourie explains, "which is what Candy is afraid will happen to him, too."

Continue reading "Actor Needed: Calm Demeanor, Good Stage Presence, Current Distemper Shot a Must" »

July 21, 2011

An Estranged Son of Westboro's Fred Phelps Wants to Help Drive 'The Bus' to Topeka

250sota-JimLantz What do cult filmmaker Kevin Smith and Burlington playwright James Lantz (pictured) have in common? They're both taking on the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., with their latest projects — and drawing support from estranged members of preacher Fred Phelps' family.

Smith screened his movie Red State — which features a fictional antigay preacher extremely similar to Phelps — in Kansas City. Lantz wants to bring his play The Bus — a drama about teens, religion and small-town homophobia — to the "front steps" of the WBC itself.

Smith has fame capital to invest in his mission. Lantz doesn't — he's raising money on Kickstarter. But he does have the public support of Nate Phelps, who's been estranged from his father and the WBC since he left home at age 18.

Continue reading "An Estranged Son of Westboro's Fred Phelps Wants to Help Drive 'The Bus' to Topeka" »

May 19, 2011

James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka

TheBusThePlayPromo A few weeks ago I wrote a "State of the Arts" story about Burlington playwright James Lantz being invited to take his play, The Bus, to an off-Broadway venue called 59E59 Theaters. In the piece, I mentioned that Lantz would be fundraising to make that happen. He was a little vague at the time about how that was going to work; he was still brainstorming on it, Lantz told me.

This week, he announced his plan, and it has a surprising twist. More on that in a sec.

The unsurprising part is that Lantz decided to use Kickstarter, a web funding platform that helps people who have a creative idea, but no money, to raise some. Actually, the site helps people help themselves by describing their project/need and inviting other people to send them pledges. And despite all the scams and evil in the world, loads of generous folks are indeed sending in bucks to support ideas they like.

Of course, now that CNN's Anderson Cooper (among others) has done a piece on New York City-based Kickstarter, every person in the entire world who believes he or she has an idea worth funding will be using it. But good for Kickstarter; it's a great idea that saves the unmonied from the humiliation of begging bankers (or mom and dad) for loans, not to mention the huge bummer of being rejected. Those who don't present good ideas on Kickstarter, though, may be surprised to find that altruism only goes so far.

Anyway, Lantz has a good enough reason to solicit money: getting his small indie play from Vermont to a NYC stage would be pretty cool. But he's not relying on good will alone. Lantz's twist relies on rousing the power of hatred. Let me explain.

Continue reading "James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka" »

May 02, 2011

New Plot Twist in Mac Parker Film Fundraising Story

BOI The real-life saga of storyteller Malcolm "Mac" Parker continues to prove itself a better script than the original movie that prompted his legal and financial troubles.

The movie, "Birth of Innocence," is currently only a five-minute trailer online, though a longer version is apparently screened for investors.

As “Fair Game” readers may recall, Parker is under investigation by state and federal authorities for possible violations of securities laws stemming from a more than 10-year film fund-raising effort that netted at least $14 million from hundreds of investors and no finished film.

Parker was charged with violating state securities law and scheduled to go on trial in state court last November, but Vermont Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford delayed the trial six months to allow the feds to complete their probe. That six months has come and gone and no charges have been filed. So officials at the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration recently sought, and won, a request to delay the trial until October, so both sides could learn if federal prosecutors plan to file charges against Parker and others involved in the fund-raising scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has interviewed Parker, film investors, Parker's original editor and reportedly others involved in the movie.

Meanwhile, a group of Parker's investor allies are raising money to complete the film, and have hired a couple of Vermont filmmakers to do it. Christopher White, a Parker ally, told Seven Days that the groups needs to raise another $15,000 to $20,000 to complete the film. Per court order, Parker is barred from  handling the money.

Continue reading "New Plot Twist in Mac Parker Film Fundraising Story" »

April 22, 2011

Vermonter Named to Kennedy Center Board

StetsonCloseBill Stetson, a Vermont filmmaker, has been named by Pres. Barack Obama to a key committee that advises the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Steton's official title is Member, Advisory Committee on the Arts for the Kennedy Center. As part of his role, however, he will serve as the key liaison between regional artists and performing art centers and the Kennedy Center.

In short, Stetson hopes to bring a little of Vermont to the progamming of the Kennedy Center and a little bit of the Kennedy Center programming to Vermont.

Stetson is a longtime political friend of the president who helped raise millions for Obama in the 2008 election, including hosting a 2007 primary fundraiser at his and his wife's Norwich home that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. His wife, Jane Stetson, is currently the finance director for the Democratic National Committee. The couple, who have a home in Norwich, also own one in Washington, D.C.

"I plan to use my friendship with the president to really pitch to him the creative economy in Vermont, and put our state and its artists and creators on the national stage," Stetson told Seven Days. As well, Stetson will be able to help bring Kennedy Center programs to cultural centers in Vermont and New England.

Continue reading "Vermonter Named to Kennedy Center Board" »

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684