Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #39

May 24th, 2007  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
343 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 A necklace by African American jeweler, ART SMITH is the signature piece in a dramatic collection of studio jewelry on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The exhibit featuring nearly 200 pieces, “JEWELRY BY ARTISTS: THE DAPHNE FARRAGO COLLECTION,” displays some of the outstanding examples of a recent gift to the MFA by Daphne and Peter Farrago of more than 600 pieces of contemporary jewelry by leading American and European artists. At a press tour of the striking, wearable art, the MFA director Malcolm Rogers said that the new acquisition means that the museum now has “the most comprehensive collection of contemporary jewelry in the world.”

Rogers added that viewers of the exhibit, which opened May 22, will likely agree with Daphne Farrago that “jewelry is a miniature version of sculpture.” Farrago had special cabinets built into her Rhode Island and Florida homes to hold the pieces.

Farrago has not given up all of her studio art jewelry as yet, and one of the “promised” pieces she held back because she wants to continue to wear it is the Smith necklace pictured above. The swirl of sterling silver implanted with semi-precious stones is an excellent illustration of the bio-morphism style the innovative jeweler was famous for. The organic shapes which appear to have the capacity to grow has its imaginative roots in African and Mezo-American cultures. The necklace is the first piece you see as you enter the West Wing gallery.

Other pieces by Smith are in a display case with jewelry from Sam Kramer who was also one of the early jewelers to operate their own shops and make a living from their craft.

Smith, who was a native New Yorker, maintained his jewelry shop for 30 years at 140 West Fourth Street. He’s studied art and design at the Cooper Union in New York and apprenticed to jeweler Winifred Mason in Harlem. Smith was 64 when he died in 1982. His work is also in the permanent collection of Arts and Design in New York.

Some of Smith‘s best known work is identified with dancers. He produced body ornaments for Pearl Primus, an early proponent of the African dance renaissance in America, and for the dance company of Talley Beatty, the choreographer of “The Road of Phoebe Snow,” among other famous works, and the initial director of the ballet of the National Center of Afro American Artists, the Elma Lewis School Fine Arts in Roxbury. Smith was the vice president of the Duke Ellington Society, a group of enthusiasts who put on a concert of Ellington’s music every spring.

The exhibition presents jewelry masterpieces by modern artists such as Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, and Pablo Picasso, and also includes a dramatic pair of gold earrings designed by Man Ray and worn by French actress Catherine Deneuve in a famous photograph by Ray. More recent pieces include mixed media assemblages by Robert Ebendorf, and magnificent twined gold forms by Mary Lee Hu.

The studio jewelry movement evolved after World War II and continues today. Lectures related to the exhibit will begin in September; the exhibit continues in the MFA’s Studio Craft / Lee Gallery until March 2008.

Museum of Fine Arts official website

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Karani Marcia Leslie)

344 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 Black women have been bedeviled by stereotypes since the days of the minstrel show. At first, men entertainers in black face mocked African American women with demeaning images of mammy and jezebel.

These characterizations of how Black women think and behave, however, have carried into the present in depictions on TV and in the movies, in the imaginations of people in the workplace, and well, everywhere!, which tees off playwright KARANI M. LESLIE.

In her comedic play, “THE TRIAL OF ONE SHORT SIGHTED BLACK WOMAN vs. MAMMYLOUISE and SAFREETA MAE”, Leslie has her say on the matter. The drama produced by Roxbury Crossroads Theatre with Lisa Simmons opens Thursday, MAY 24, for a three-week run in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA), 539 Tremont Street, in the South End. For more info, you can go on-line at www.Roxburycrossroadstheatre.com.

“There are so many negative images on television,” observes Leslie, who ought to know. The graduate of Northwestern University in Speech Communications works as a TV formatting technician in LA, where shows are made ready for airing.

They just formatted “Smallville,” for instance; she’s done all the “CSI” shows, “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” and so forth. ‘Formatting’ basically consists of putting in the breaks for commercials, putting captions on the shows, shortening an episode by condensing scenes, all of which they do in conjunction with the programming and sales department. After which, an assistant director looks at the work and then it’s shipped to New York for broadcasting. “Formatting is technology, not creative work,” says Leslie.

The playwright says when she first began developing her play, stereotypes were more “blatant” than they are now on TV, “but there’s still a dearth of images where we can truly see ourselves on screen.”

She has found that not everybody is as upset as she is when a role in a show is a stereotype. “My play came out of conversations in my living room. Sometimes there was anger, but sometimes not, as these images are comforting and comfortable to everybody who’s not offended by them. Take the mammy image for example. She cooks. She’s large. She’s jolly. For some people, What’s not to like!

“I think if they knew the history and the purpose of these images they’d feel differently. They say, ‘oh, get over it.’ They don’t understand, there’s a bigger problem because the images aren’t put into the context of history. These images affect our lives” says Leslie.

In “The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman,” Victoria, a successful African American TV producer sets out to sue two stereotypes of American Black women: the subservient mammy and the lascivious slut. The play was listed by Newsday as one of its top ten hits for 1999. The show was staged by Woodie King’s New Federal Theatre in New York, a production that received six AUDELCO Awards. Jacqui Parker directs the Boston premiere.

Karani Marcia Leslie’s Official Website

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Jacqui Parker (front) and cast of “Caroline, or Change”)

345 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39The Elliot Norton Awards, now in its 25th year of celebrating excellence on Boston area theater stages, presented its awards MAY 21, acknowledging the recent theatrical season and in four special cases, twenty-five years of sterling service to theater. The first of four 25th anniversary awards went to Mayor Thomas M. Menino whose efforts helped rebuild the Opera House and two new theaters at the Boston Center of the Arts. Also celebrated for being in on the long haul were Jon B. Platt for spearheading the 3-year renovation of the Colonial Theater, Robert Woodruff of ART recently retired from directing the Harvard Sq. theater, and Jon Kimbell, who took a scruffy summer stock tent in Beverly, MA and made North Shore Music Theater a national leader in presenting classic and brand new musicals.

A special citation went to the Harvard Theatre Collection which, since 1915, has housed performing arts memorabilia, now in the many millions of items which it makes available to the public through exhibits.

The awards to theater artists were thoughtfully selected and acknowledged work done at most of the area houses with Stan Strickland winning ‘Outstanding Solo Performance’ for his autobiographical saga about almost drowning “Coming Up for Air: An AutoJAZZography” performed at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Among the awards, Larry Coen won ‘Outstanding Actor for a small/midsized company’ for five performances this past season including two with the Gold Dust Orphans. “Staff Happens,” which took a close look at the current Bush administration, won ‘Outstanding Production by a Fringe Company’ for Zeitgeist Stage Company led by David Miller which performs at the Boston Center for the Arts. David R. Gammons won ‘Outstanding Director’ for a powerful staging of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in a cellar in Harvard Square. And ‘Outstanding Musical Production went to “Caroline, or Change” with Jacqui Parker in the title role produced by SpeakEasy Stage Company with North Shore Music Theater at the BCA.

The Elliot Norton Awards were founded by Caldwell Titcomb, a regular contributor to the Kay Bourne Arts Report, who brings together important working critics for the annual selections.

More on Norton Awards at StageSource.org

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: OrigiNation’s IMANI, Jr. Dance Troupe)

346 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 OrigiNation‘s entertaining recent recital “Salutes Broadway!” was a textbook perfect example of how to show off students’ accomplishments.

The program at the Back Bay Events Center, MAY 19, moved right along with none of those interminable pauses between the numbers of which there were 32! The choreography gave a lot of instructors at OrigiNation, as well as OrigiNation managing director Musau Dibinga and her sister artistic director Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga an opportunity to show their skills, which are excellent. And the material was lively, appealing, and brief with tap and interpretative dance interspersed with a tae kwon do demonstration, hip hop, Broadway strutting, and jazz dancing.

Four aspects of the recital stand out for this writer: Impressive in the face of some coarse movement that is all too common on dance videos was (1) the feminine quality of the little girls and young women whether they were tapping or engaged in athletic hip hop routines. (2) There was an emotionally moving interpretative dance solo by the graceful and skilled Kayla Dias choreographed by Shaumba-Yandji Dibinga to the song “Listen” from the movie “Dream Girls”. (3) Brother to the Dibinga sisters, Omekongo delivered some of the telling verse which took to task the ‘bling bling’ culture. Finally, (4) the program which was structured from classes of 6 and 7-year olds to high school seniors coming at the conclusion clearly evidenced that teaching at OrigiNation builds on skills learned and hours of disciplined practice.

OrigiNation’s official website

by Lisa Simmons
341 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 The new Greek and Roman galleries at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) are awash in beauty. MAY 10th marked the opening of this not to be missed collection at the MET. From the moment you walk down the halls of greco-roman pottery towards the towering stone columns that stand at the entrance of the galleries, you are entranced.

With beautiful light filtering in from the ceiling, the room is bathed in a soft glow that serves its residence well. From Aphrodite to Hercules to a beautifully intact Etruscan Chariot (the chariot, like a handful of other pieces has not been shown since the 1990′s because of a dispute with the Italian government over ownership. It is now on loan at The MET.), you are taken on a journey of Greek and Roman life, art and culture.

The opening of these galleries after five years means so much to not only scholars and avid museum goers but to people from all walks of life. The new space allows for The MET to display all of it’s 5,300 piece collection of ancient Hellenistic artifacts, many of which haven’t been seen for almost half a century.

If you get the opportunity to visit the MET while you are in New York, be sure to make these galleries a destination spot. Plan on spending some time there though because the number of statues, artifacts and artwork can be overwhelming, but still nothing less than amazing.

Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website

by © Josiah Crowley 2007
347 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 To watch the amazing ‘AWAY FROM HER’ is to see the difference in an intelligent, low-budget Canadian movie vs. the typical Hollywood product. If this short story by Alice Munroe concerning a 65-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the effects it has on her 44-year marriage had been filmed by a major studio, it would have resulted in a completely different film — and probably would’ve wound up as a LIFETIME television movie, sentimentalized with “big” moments. Instead, what we have is a truly independent movie that intrigues as the viewer never knows where it’s leading.

In a difficult role, Julie Christie‘s award-worthy work never strikes a false note. The actress doesn’t have a dishonest moment; one never catches her “acting”. Christie, a great beauty and accomplished Oscar-winning actress of the 60′s & 70′s Hollywood, never shows us Lara her character in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO up on the screen; rather, she creates the role of a woman who realizes she’s “losing my mind.” This is a performance of intelligence, that takes risks. I can’t think of a Hollywood actress even half her age who would allow themselves to be filmed looking this raw as she disintegrates into the later stages of Alzheimer’s. Her courageous approach to the role pays off for the viewer, as well as the actress. At each turn, she takes us by surprise. Where a lesser talent would “indicate” or overact, Christie and the script is consistently fresh: one never knows how her character will react, respond; what she’ll say or do. It is in the day-to-day moments of her life, as her illness grows, that the truth of Alzheimer’s is shown. There is no melodrama, only realistic slices of life.

While Christie will surely receive much-deserved praise for her tragic role, co-star Gordon Pinsent must be singled out for a role that is also difficult and, in its own way, equally tragic, as the Alzheimer patient’s husband – a man consumed with guilt over cheating on his wife throughout much of their marriage. A flawed man. That is to say, a real character rather than a one-dimensional role typical of mainstream Hollywood fare.

First-time director Sarah Polley shows an assured and creative hand. She has directed a movie which tackles the emotional needs and sexual desires of senior citizens in a mature and serious way. When was the last time a Hollywood movie treated mature sexuality without smirking or making lewd jokes? Polley, a talented young actress (THE SWEET HEREAFTER) shows even greater promise as a director. AWAY FROM HOME is currently at the Coolidge Theater in Brookline and the Harvard Square Theater in Cambridge.

Away from Her official website

by Lisa Simmons
348 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 It must be hard to keep making the same movie over and over again, you lose your sense of self, your sense of imagination, your sense of what audiences really want. So why does Hollywood do it? That’s the million dollar question and the question could really fall on any given Hollywood release these days, this time it just happened to fall on Shrek.

Funny at moments, SHREK 3 gets lost in trying to copy itself instead of reinventing itself. The premise is that Shrek is soon to be made king because his father-in-law has just passed away but Shrek doesn’t want to be king so he set out to find the only other heir to the throne, Arthur. In the meantime, Prince Charming who is fed up with performing at dinner theater, comes back to claim his ‘rightful place’ as king bringing back with him all of the fairy tale characters who were left out of “happily ever after.” A battle ensues and in the end, well it is a Disney movie and all.

A family film that you rarely find at the movies now a days, might be one reason to venture out to the big screen, but if you miss it, it’s ok to wait for it to come out on DVD.

SHREK 3 official website

Story excerpts printed by permission from EVERYBODY’s CARIBBEAN MAGAZINE – May, 2007 – Brooklyn, NY
(pictured: OLIVER SAMUELS in blue shorts)

349 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39 Frank, ridiculed as THE FREAK (played by Courtney Wilson), has been violently evicted from his home and community, accused of terrorizing its citizens with his gross ugliness, and forced into an existence of a homeless, scavenging vagrant. A chance meeting with the lovely university student, CUTIE (played by Camille Davis), on the banks of the Gordon Town River, unleashes a tale that winds its way, like the idyllic river, through an exciting terrain of twists and turns.

CUTIE’s father, TINY, played by Jamaica’s funny man, OLIVER SAMUELS, is an old-fashioned, self-made social climber and strict, single parent, who sets out to destroy the relationship between the Freak and his sheltered daughter.

“CUTIE & THE FREAK” is a Jamaican staged version of the fairytale, “Beauty and the Beast”.

“Who would have guessed that a Jamaican spoof of the classic, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale would turn out to be such a funny piece of work? But leave it to Patrick Brown to re-imagine such a famous story and pull it off with visual wit and class – a testament to his skill, experience and ambition,” writes Tyrone S. Reid in the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

Trevor Nairne, who has worked in theater houses across the Caribbean, Canada, Europe and Latin America, directs the play. Like other Patrick Brown/OLIVER SAMUELS plays, CUTIE & THE FREAK is family-oriented and punctuated with life’s experiences. “At a time when love is superficial and Hollywood defines ideals of beauty, CUTIE & THE FREAK explores unconditional love in the most odd of places,” explains Carolyn Johnson in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.

The central theme is located around finding true love in the unlikeliest places. It takes us to the bowels of human nature and enforces the widely held notion that “if you see with your heart, anything is possible.”

After a five month run in Jamaica, CUTIE & THE FREAK expands to its overseas tour, that started earlier this month. Beginning in Brampton and Scarborough, Canada, down to The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium, New Jersey, Queens, The Bronx and Philadelphia this weekend, Bridgeport, Hartford and Boston the first weekend of June, then continuing to Florida, Trinidad, US Virgin Islands, Guyana, Tortola and St. Maarten,CUTIE & THE FREAK will leave many families laughing with delight and leaving with a good lesson learned.

OLIVER SAMUELS and these Patrick Brown/Jambiz Productions have annually performed in Boston (usually at the Strand Theatre, which is currently closed for renovations), this year, on Sunday, JUNE 3 being the first time at The John Hancock Hall, also known as The Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Street. Doors open at 6pm, showtime 6:30pm. Tickets are on sale now for $25 general admission at Hip Zepi’s downtown Boston, Flames Restaurant 746 Huntington Avenue; Taurus Records 617-298-2655; Kay’s Hair Salon 1117 Blue Hill Avenue; Island Style Restaurant 617-288-8300; Natural Vibes – Brockton 508-586-0314; Jamaica’s Flavor – Lynn 781-477-9517; Boston Universal 202 Washington Street, Dorchester, De Hot Spot across from Franklin Park Zoo, Pam Spencer 617-265-4780 and Ms. Roslyn 617-524-6546.

Validated parking is only $7 at the 100 Clarendon Street garage. For more information on group discounts, childrens tickets or any questions, call 617-282-1234.

EVERYBODY’s Caribbean Magazine official website

(pictured: MEGATRON of The FLOORLORDS)
350 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #39Megatron and Shallow, co-presidents of Something Different, Inc. and co-founders of Boston’s legendary Floorlords dance crew invite you to Something Different, Inc.’s “UNITY & RESPECT 2″, a weekend Hip-Hop dance battle extravaganza featuring worldwide talent and cash prizes, on MAY 26 & 27 noon to 10 pm at the Charlestown Community Center; It will be positive event, raising awareness of non-violence by encouraging an extended network of new friends for all and taking the battle from the streets to the dance floor. Tickets are $25 a day or $40 for both days, available at the door. Click here for more info.

Join The New England Conservatory Community Gospel Choir as they prepare for a joint tour to South Africa with the New England Conservatory Millennium Gospel Choir in their 2007 Annual Recital “Taking Gospel Music to the Next Level” on Tuesday, MAY 22, at 7p.m., Williams Hall In the Jordan Hall Building of the New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Avenue. Suggested Donation $10 adults, $5 for seniors and students. Silent Auction. Refreshments Served. Donnell L. Patterson, Director, Amina Michel Lord, Manager, Calvin Hicks, Director Community Collaboration. The purpose and mission of the NEC Community Gospel Choir is to explore and master the full spectrum of musical mood and styles that encompass the Gospel music genre, and the share this music with the broadest possible audience. For information call 617-899-2138 or 616-797-9180.

“Unique Lives & Experiences” are pleased to present Dr. MAYA ANGELOU at the Boston Opera House Thursday, MAY 31 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $29.95 – $79.95 and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 617-931-2787.

The Young Professionals of Boston (YPB) present A Conversation with Cora Daniels acclaimed journalist and author of the book ‘GHETTONATION’, Cora Daniels, takes on one of the most explosive issues in our country today in this thoughtful critique of America’s embrace of a ghetto persona that is demeaning to women, devalues education, celebrates the worst African American stereotypes, and contributes to the destruction of civil peace. Join YPB for this interactive discussion with the author on Saturday, JUNE 9, 2-4pm at The John D. O’Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern University, 40 Leon Street.

CHANGING THE PUBLIC DISCOURSE ABOUT RACE Community Change Inc.’s Brown Bag Film/Discussion presents a screening of Byron Hurt’s ‘HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES’. A riveting examination of manhood, sexism, homophobia and racism in hip-hop culture on JUNE 21, Noon-1:30PM at the Community Change Library on Racism, 14 Beacon Street Room 605, Boston. Discussion facilitated by CCI staff, Film shown promtly at Noon. Please bring your lunch. Beverages will be provided. $5 contribution requested RSVP at 617-523-0555.

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