Britt Festival Orchestra talks music in a new era

Teddy Abrams, Music Director and Conductor of the Britt Festival Orchestra is also Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky. Abrams, members of the Louisville Orchestra, and other prominent musicians have been performing at the Britt Festival for the past eight years.

This year, we can stream live videos of past performances preceded by a discussion with Abrams, orchestra members, and guest artists at 3 p.m. every Friday through August on Facebook’s Britt Music and Arts page. Abrams chatted with me from Louisville over Zoom. This is part one of a two-part column. The second will be published on Aug. 17.

EH: What are your current activities?

TA: We are planning the season for next year, which is taking a very complex form of what we call: “The Season of Innovation and of Public Service.” Continue reading Britt Festival Orchestra talks music in a new era

‘The Odd Couple’ stars call play a ‘bro-mantic comedy’

Rick Robinson and Stephen Kline play Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar in “The Odd Couple” on stage at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre through Sept. 6, 2020. In Neil Simon’s hilarious comedy, mayhem ensues when two friends with opposite personalities move in together. I visited with Robinson and Kline on Zoom.

EH: What’s the significance of laughter?

RR: It is good medicine. I think it’s something that’s missing during this difficult, heavy, weighty time. It’s good for your soul and good for your health.

EH: What’s the chemistry between Felix and Oscar?

RR: It’s sort of a bro-mantic comedy. There’s tumult. And the chemistry between the two characters is as important as in a romantic comedy.

SK: What’s unique about the two men is that they have gone through the same experience of separation, but they have responded in two completely different directions. The Yin and Yang is what helps them help each other with what they’ve been through. Continue reading ‘The Odd Couple’ stars call play a ‘bro-mantic comedy’

Oregon Cabaret Theatre rolls with the punches

Oregon Cabaret Theatre is opening for theater and dining. I chatted with Artistic Director Valerie Rachelle one recent morning on Zoom.

VR: We are opening July 16. We got the green light from the state of Oregon and the governor’s office, that live theater can happen here. They have guidelines that we are going to follow. Since we have restaurant seating, it’s a lot easier for us to have parties together that can then socially distance from everyone else. I’m so glad that we have our beautiful, lovely, large theater of 6,100 square feet, because we can really distance people. The third row of the audience is now our front row. The patrons are 12 feet in all directions from the stage, and then six feet around each other to separate the parties. The restaurant will be functioning.

We have permission from the state that actors don’t have to wear masks on stage during the show, but we are going to ask that the audience members do wear their masks while the actors are on stage. Continue reading Oregon Cabaret Theatre rolls with the punches

Fringe Festival directors pivot to virtual Fringettes

The Oregon Fringe Festival has gone virtual this year with Volumes of Fringettes playing monthly on You Tube.

The Oregon Center for the Arts has traditionally produced the Oregon Fringe Festival as a multi-day event in the spring to “celebrate unconventional art in unconventional spaces.”

After the cancellation of the 2020 Fringe Festival, the event’s production team began producing monthly video premieres called Fringettes. I met co-directors Paige Gerhard, Jade Hails and Jared Brown one afternoon on Zoom. Continue reading Fringe Festival directors pivot to virtual Fringettes

Rogue Award winner talks about her films

There was a thematic chronology, in terms of tracking Asian American history during the 20th century. There were also the different people I met along the road. The road itself was the driving thread of the whole film.

EH: What impact does film bring to the audience that other media don’t?

RTP: It’s emotional, and it evokes the human side of an issue or event. It’s not a historical text. There’s a different logic to it. In film, we’re more interested in visual storytelling. If I watch a film, I always remember the cumulative emotional impact: being immersed in a place and in people’s lives. That’s where documentary film has a lot of power.

EH: How does film influence politics?

RTP: I don’t think films create social change. I don’t see films as the driver of social change, people are. People have to be on the ground working at different levels of organizing. People organize, and they move history. I think that films can be a part of it. Films can communicate the human story. Social change depends on empathy and being able to make connections, being able to see yourself in other people, even if they are different people. That’s one of the roots of solidarity, films help to build that.

Renee Tajima-Peña received the Ashland Independent Film Festival’s Rogue Award for her “films of lasting significance and current relevance.”

Her films, “My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha” and “No Más Bebés,” were screened on the second weekend of AIFF2020’s three-week virtual film festival.

“No Más Bebés” tells of immigrant mothers who sued doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and ’70s.

A Harvard graduate in East Asian studies and sociology, Tajima-Peña is professor of Asian American studies and filmmaking at UCLA. We visited by telephone.

EH: How did you become a filmmaker?

RTP: I was a student activist in high school and college. In college I got interested in filmmaking with other activist students; we did our own videos. We decided to make videos about things we cared about. We did that as part of being activists. It was very rudimentary. Continue reading Rogue Award winner talks about her films

Filmmaker David Byars talks about ‘Public Trust’

David Garret ByarsFilmmaker David Garrett Byars’ monumental documentary “Public Trust” will be shown June 12, at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

AIFF has moved online and extended the festival to 24 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impetus for the making of “Public Trust” was President Trump’s proclamations dismantling two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in southern Utah. The move stripped legal protections from nearly two million acres of federal public lands.

“Public Trust,” produced by Robert Redford and Patagonia, is cinematically breathtaking in the magnitude and beauty of the landscapes.

Byars’ first feature film, “No Man’s Land,” which depicts the 41-day occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, is now available on Prime Video and YouTube.

EH: You didn’t go to film school, you just learned on the job?

DB: Every time I make a film, I learn more and more. If I do have one skill that makes me uniquely suited to be a director, it’s that I know I don’t know everything, and I need to learn it. I really do count on the people I work with in a very collaborative way to put their fingerprints on the film and make it better than merely the sum of all our efforts.

Continue reading Filmmaker David Byars talks about ‘Public Trust’

The story behind ‘Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack’

Filmmakers Deborah Shaffer and Rachel Reichman have produced a masterful documentary, “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack,” to be screened at the AIFF2020 Virtual Film Festival.

Beginning May 22, we can see the AIFF films over a period of three weeks in the comfort of our homes. “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack” will be streamed all day Wednesday, June 3.

Audrey Flack, now in her 80s, is an American artist whose works include abstract expressionism, new realism, photorealism, sculpture and drawing.

Both Shaffer and Reichman have had successful careers in the film industry. Shaffer, whose work reflects social and political activism, won an Oscar for her documentary “Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements.”

Reichman’s recent films include “Hitchcock/Truffaut” and “ISIS and the Internet.” We met via Zoom.

EH: Why a documentary about Audrey Flack?

RR: She’s really an engaging person, you are intoxicated by her. She’s a great storyteller. Her work is really bright and symbolic; it’s intense graphically; it’s accessible. You can fall in love with it without having to know a great deal about art, because there is just so much readily there for you to embrace. I had really strong feelings about the art history aspect of it and the art context of it. But there’s a lot of meat there in terms of the period, the post-War era. Continue reading The story behind ‘Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack’

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