Monday, March 30, 2009

Terry “Big T” Williams
Awarded 2009 Blues Guitarist of the Year

Terry “Big T” Williams was named "Blues Guitar Player of the Year 2009” on Sunday, March 29, by the Bay Area Blues Society's West Coast Hall Of Fame.

From the time he was born, in 1962, Big T was listening to the blues that poured forth from the radio at home where he lived with his parents and 15 siblings. His grandmother told him stories about her friends Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. And he’d listen to musicians play at the home of Ike Turner, who lived just one block away.

At age 11, Big T met Johnny Billington, a renowned Delta blues musician and music teacher in need of a bass player. Billington put a bass in the young boy’s hands, and said he had been chosen to become his next bass player. While only in elementary school, Big T made day trips with Billington to play at clubs in nearby towns and small cities around the Delta. Four years later, Big T dropped out of high school and began traveling the country, touring with The Jelly Roll Kings, and later with The Stone Gas Blues Band, and Big Jack Johnson.

While on the road, Big T taught himself to play guitar, and in 2000 he began fronting his own blues band. His musical influences include traditional blues, disco, funk, and hip hop. He has performed at blues clubs around the world, and has played at numerous blues festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, Wash., and the Russell City Blues Festival in Oakland, Calif.

Big T has recorded five CDs, and has sat in with Albert King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and CeDell Davis.

Additionally, Big T has served as a teacher at the Delta Blues Museum’s Arts and Education Program, training young children and adults to play the blues.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mingus On Mingus

Sue Mingus, widow of one of the all-time great bass players and composers, Charles Mingus, is doing all she can to carry on her late husband’s compositions consisting of more than 300 tunes. Having studied classical and jazz, Charles Mingus was at the forefront of avant-garde music. Ballet companies have danced to his music, and pop icons Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello each individually partnered with him to play and write lyrics to his tunes.

Before he created his own band, Mingus toured with bands such as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, and Lionel Hampton, and recorded with the all-stars, including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Duke Ellington.

Since his death at age 56 of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 1979, Sue has carried on his legacy, creating three separate Mingus bands devoted to playing the composer’s music. While any of the bands might tour throughout the year, The Charles Mingus Big Band will be playing April 4 in Atlanta at The Rialto Center for the Arts. It will also be giving a free master class.

Sue Mingus talked to me from her office in New York.

SA: I understand you have three different Mingus bands: the Mingus Big Band, the Mingus Orchestra, and the Mingus Dynasty. In what ways do the bands differ?

SM: We have a residency every Monday night in New York at a club called the Jazz Standard. The bands take turns performing different Mondays. We started off originally many years ago with The Mingus Dynasty, which is a seven-piece band. It performed Charles’ master work, “Epitaph,” which is a 2½-hour composition that was conducted by Gunther Schuller and written for 31 musicians. After hearing the heft and power of this music on a grander scale, we doubled The Dynasty and it became the Mingus Big Band, a band of 14 musicians, rather than seven. This probably is the best-known version of the band. It played at a club here in New York called Fez for a dozen years before they closed down. The other band (The Mingus Orchestra) grew as the result of the club owner wanting a second band to play at another of his clubs in New York City, which seemed a little odd, like it was cutting the baby in half. Rather than just repeat the big band, I got together with some conductors and arrangers and we tossed ideas around, and we came up with an ensemble, which is a bit more exotic and unique in jazz, with instruments that aren’t so common, like French horn, bassoon, bass clarinet, and so forth. So it’s a different sound. We concentrate a little more on the compositional aspect of Mingus music, less on the soloing. We’re doing an event this coming Monday, a collaboration with actors that will be reading from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” We’ll have two big American voices, Mingus and Walt Whitman’s facing off with one another. We have different projects and events that involve these different bands.

SA: I wonder if mixing music with poetry is becoming a trend. Two incredible jazz musicians, Don Davis, a sax player, and pianist and composer Joe Deleault, are just some of the musicians who have teamed up with poet F.D. Reeve, the father of Christopher Reeve, to create a poetry-jazz project. And Sophie Auster (author Paul Auster’s daughter) reads poetry to the music of Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp of the band One Ring Zero.

SM: I know at the Jazz Standard, where we play, about a year ago, it brought back a jazz and poetry event with two of our former poet laureates: Charles Simic and Robert Pinsky. And there were lines around the block. One wondered if there could be a kind of hunger for this kind of experimentation. And I have gone out recently to hear poetry and music events just to see if there were any good ideas I could steal. But it can be dangerous to bring two marvelous things together and enhance them both rather than diminish them, because it doesn’t always work. Sometimes they step on each other. And poetry gets diffused if the music doesn’t work with it.

SA: How did you feel about Joni Mitchell putting words to Charles’ music?

SM: That’s a different way of combining it, when you’re writing lyrics for music that exists, or writing music for lyrics that exist. What we’re doing now is bringing (together) two things that already (pre)exist. Yeah, Joni wrote lyrics and Elvis Costello wrote lyrics for Charles’ music. Wonderful lyrics!

SA: It must be expensive to take 14 band members on the road and come to Atlanta. How do you decide which band tours?

SM: It depends on which band is requested. It depends on what (the booker’s) situation is and what their festival is all about. The Mingus Big Band and the Dynasty are the best known.

SA: What type of systems are in place for the bands to continue after you leave the helm?

SM: I wish you hadn’t asked that question. I don’t know. I think the music has entered into the general consciousness. The music is out there. I don’t think it needs me. I may have helped speed up the process, but Charles left one of the largest legacies of compositions in 20th century American music, second only to the great Duke Ellington. Charles gave us over 300 compositions. It’s such an enormous variety and such personal music. It’s unique in its own way, and I think it will be carried on the way any great music lives on. There are many aspects to what we do. There’s a publishing arm. We have a publisher, Hal Leonard, the largest music publisher in the country, and they do all our publishing. We publish educational books, fake books, play-alongs, charts, a number of Mingus Big Band charts. We started a series a couple of years ago called Simply Mingus, for beginning students, that makes the music a little more accessible to somebody who’s just learning. That took off like wildfire. A lot of band directors buy those charts for high schools and colleges. And we just started our first Charles Mingus high school competition (a free 3-day summit in Manhattan where children learn to play Mingus’ music), and we hold clinics and workshops run by different musicians who play in the Mingus repertory bands. So, you see, this is a sprawl. It doesn’t need one person behind it. We also have a booking agency. The Big Band just came back from the Far East, where they were in China, Australia, and New Zealand. And we’re going to Italy in May. And this summer The Dynasty will tour Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, England, and the Netherlands.

SA: Tell me how the music has changed over the years.

SM: The music changes with the musicians the way Charles intended it to. You know, there are a lot of open spaces in his music, and room for musicians to come in and bring their own sound and interpretation of the music, which is what keeps it modern and moving forward all the time. It changes and grows as the musicians approach the music. The music is that wonderful combination of written composition and all this freedom to bring in individual interpretations of the music.

SA: You were a journalist in the sixties. And your memoir, “Tonight at Noon,” which came out in 2002, was named Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Are you writing anything now?

SM: Yes. I’m working on another book.

SA: Can you tell me about it?

SM: No. It involves the music world. It’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction.

SA: Can you tell me about the newspapers you worked for?

SM: One was called The New York Free Press, a political paper back in the sixties. And then another paper called Changes, which was a music magazine. It came out at the time Rolling Stone started in San Francisco. They were on the West Coast and we were on the East Coast. We wrote about rock, jazz, classical, all music.

SA: I heard that Mingus hung out with some abstract expressionists in the sixties. Do you know how they might have influenced his music?

SM: I think everything around influenced him, a leaf falling from a tree, whatever is around you, the art of the time, and the different kinds of music around. As you know from his music, he drew from classical forms, Latin music, bebop, pop, rock, Dixieland. Whatever was out there (he used). That magic chemistry fused everything into Mingus music.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Robert Klein Can’t Stop

One of the most popular comics on the circuit in the ‘70s, Robert Klein, is back on the road perfecting his act, preparing to tape his ninth HBO special. And at age 67, he’s still funny.

Klein performed two nights, March 24-25, at Atlanta’s most renowned comedy club, The Punchline, to an audience mainly of baby boomers.

Whether you have seen Klein live before, there are plenty of reasons to see him in your town: Foremost, he is a legend. Klein honed his craft at the premier training ground for comedic actors of his day, Chicago Second City, where he worked with Fred Willard and Peter Boyle. He has starred on Broadway, has penned an autobiography, “The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue,” has hosted “The Robert Klein Radio Show,” an internationally syndicated comedy-rock show, has performed at the White House and in a dozen films, has hosted “The Tonight Show,” and “Saturday Night Live” (where he starred in the first “Cheeseburger” sketch with John Belushi and Dan Akroyd), has performed stand-up comedy at the original “Improvisation” club, and has hosted “Arts and Entertainment Review” on the A&E Network. Additionally, he is seen regularly on “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Although you may have seen some of Klein’s material before, on HBO or live, much of it is new, as he covers the latest in politics (Larry Craig, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, and President Obama), religion, sex, aging, erectile dysfunction, Greta van Susteren and Larry King. One of his most side-splitting and least controversial bits is about Cesar Milan, aka “The Dog Whisperer,” who on TV rehabilitates aggressive dogs with a whisper. Klein’s version of what the TV cameras don’t show is too comical.

The most hilarious number in the show is his 2001 Emmy-nominated song, “Colonoscopy,” featured on his seventh HBO special. With help from his keyboardist and musical director, Bob Stein, Klein sings the Broadway-style show tune as if he were acting out a scene on the stage with a lover. The lyrics and music are genius. A Broadway veteran who has performed in musicals, including “They’re Playing Our Song,” for which he received a Tony nomination and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Klein still has a wonderful voice, and sings a couple of other comedic numbers—an R&B tune and a blues tune. He closed the show with his classic blues routine made famous on “Saturday Night Live,” “I Can’t Stop My Leg.”

Former 99X morning DJ Jimmy Baron emceed the event. Since he left the station in 2006, he has co-hosted “Atlanta & Company” and plans to be back in radio soon. In addition, he recently launched his own video company, which records personal stories of individual’s lives.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lance Krall Crawls to the Top in Hollywood

No one will ever match Sid Caesar’s portrayal of hundreds of comedic characters that he created on his sketch-comedy show with Imogene Coca in the 1950s, but Lance Krall comes mighty close. And just as TV hailed Caesar with his own show, so it does for Krall, as Vh1 launches the second season of “Free Radio,” which will run eight consecutive Thursdays at 11 p.m. beginning April 2.

Although in “Free Radio” Krall sticks to one character--versus the hundreds of them that he easily slides into in a heartbeat when he performs with an improv troupe--no one, not even Krall himself, knows what his self-titled character, Lance, will do. Playing a moronic morning radio host who interviews A-list celebrities, such as Kiefer Sutherland, Tony Shalhoub and Ray Romano, Krall and his guest improvise the entire show.

Krall started his acting career in Atlanta at Whole World Theatre, an improvisation troupe he co-founded a year before graduating in 1995 with a B.A. in Film and Theater from Georgia State University. As a student at Whole World, I saw his versions of characters that seemed as real as anyone you’ve seen at home, at a mall or at a park. His ingenuity lies in mimicking a person’s voice, facial movements and postures, as well as in putting his wide variety of characters in uncanny situations, giving them certain ticks, and making them say and do things that are hilarious.

I wasn’t the only one gushing over his talent at Whole World. After a Hollywood talent agent spotted him there and suggested he move to L.A., he did in 2000, and landed his first acting job in an NBC sketch-comedy show produced by Steve Martin called “The Downer Channel.” It was a downer, and lasted only four episodes. From there, Krall portrayed “Kip the Gay Guy” on “The Joe Schmo Show,” a faux-reality show on Spike TV, and then created his own show, “The Lance Krall Show,” which also ran on Spike.

Krall has been acting and writing since he landed in Hollywood. If you want to laugh really hard, click on the YouTube links provided. On the first link you can see a trailer for the show. On the second link you'll see him on Conan O’Brien explaining why the CIA shut down three airports to look for him. It really is a true story. An interview with the actor follows.

Lance Krall on Conan O'Brien

Q&A With Lance

SA: Who conceived the idea of Free Radio?

LK: Vh1 approached me after “The Lance Krall Show” (which aired on Spike TV—in 2005 with many former members of Whole World Theatre) to do a show for them. My manager and I came up with some ideas, and he said, ‘Why don’t you do a show set in a radio station and interview celebrities and stuff?’ So we had a setting and what I would do. Then I had to figure out why anyone would want to watch me in a radio station. So I said, what if my character (an intern) is completely ignorant to what a radio DJ would be? I came up with this back story of a shock jock leaving the radio station to go to satellite radio. When David Lee Roth took over for Howard Stern he was completely abysmal at what he did, but he was also in a totally thankless position because to follow in Howard Stern’s footsteps, no one is going to succeed in those conditions. I thought if that happened again in the fictional world where our character Rick Rebel leaves to go to satellite radio, they would have an impossible task of finding a DJ because it’s such a thankless job. So I figured that would be a way the intern could sneak in there and take the reins until they could find someone.

SA: How did you go about getting celebrities like Kiefer Sutherland to come on the show?

LK: We were going to live or die based on whether we could get real celebrities to come on the show. It’s a tall order to get people who are not has-beens to be on Vh1 because that’s the brand Vh1 had created for a while, all B-list and rehab celebrities. We had to shoot a pilot for the show to prove to celebrities and to their PR people that the show’s actually really cool and it wasn’t like we were making fun of them. It was more like I was the idiot and they were along for the ride. We shot a pilot using a few friends we had who were well known, celebrities, to give us credibility. We had Angela Kinsey who plays Angela on “The Office,” and we had Jack Coleman who plays Horn-Rimmed Glasses on “Heroes.” And it really worked out and the PR people loved it, and we ended up getting people you would have never dreamed of seeing on Vh1 before our show. The first season we had Keifer Sutherland, Tony Shalhoub from “Monk,” and Zach Quinto from “Heroes,” Melora Hardin from “The Office,” Penn and Teller, Ray Romano. People you wouldn’t normally see on Vh1.

SA: Did you know any of those guests before you had them on?

LK: Aside from Tony Shalhoub, who I had worked with on "Made-Up" (a flim Shalhoub directed) and "Monk" (the TV show), no. I met all these people for the first time. Quite a few of them are people I really admire, and I’m really excited to meet them for the first time. We all take pictures with each other afterward. I’m in this ridiculous Members Only jacket and this horrible hair, so in all my pictures with all these celebrities I’m dressed like a complete idiot.

SA: You’re used to doing so many characters when you do improv. What are the challenges of being just one character on this show?

LK: When I did “The Lance Krall Show” I got to be all these different characters and it was fun, but it’s a whole other challenge to be one character and maintain him through two seasons. When you’re doing many characters you focus more on the highlights of the person and the loud moments, those that are bigger than life, and you’re done. With this (show), you have to find the levels and complexities of the character without betraying who he is. There are times when we have people come on, and my character is really, really bad at impersonations, so I have to pretend that I can’t do Christopher Walken and all these other people that I’m actually quite good at. But it’s fun. I enjoy seeing people through his eyes. The character has the ability to say whatever he wants to say and do whatever he wants to do. I’m more respectful and I wouldn’t dream of meeting Kiefer Sutherland and telling him he has a Jeffrey Dahmer face. But when I’m in this character, I get to do it.

SA: Was any of that scripted?

LK: No, the whole show is improvised. From the interviews, to the behind the scenes stuff, the entire show.

SA: What about the woman who came over and slapped you? Was that scripted?

LK: Her name was Mary Lynn Rajskub. She’s on the show “24.” She was a cast member of “The Downer Channel” with me. But I hadn’t seen her since then. When she agreed to come on the show, I told her: Do whatever you want to do, feel free to do it.
At one point in the interview it was getting so heated between my character and her that she just decided to get up and slap me. And it was so funny. We thought it was hilarious. And at the end (of the show) I got up and surprised her and slapped her. She chased after me and we play-fought. None of it was planned or scripted. That’s the beauty of the show. It feels very in-the-moment because it’s in the moment for the actors. We don’t know what’s going to happen. You watch these talk shows these days like David Letterman and stuff, you can tell half the time that the guest on there has a scripted or outlined interview, and it’s all going toward this punch line at the end. You feel gypped because you feel that whole thing was orchestrated. This show is by the seat of our pants. Once the celebrity gets in there, you never know what’s going to happen.

SA: Some actors aren’t great improvisers, they’re great actors but they need a script. Do you ever get actors in there who aren’t good at reacting to the spontaneous antics?

LK: There’s definitely people who come in that have a lot of fun with it, and then there are those who are completely lost and go what the hell is going on. But that’s fun to watch too, when they’re outside of their comfort zone, and they’re not in their element. Mine and Anna’s job to bring the funny.

SA: Anna, who plays the show’s co-host, you and she worked together at Whole World Theatre in Atlanta. Do you two take that experience of how the MC or audience threw suggestions out to you, and you became characters in situations. Do you and Anna do that together, throw out situations you could place yourselves in when you’re planning episodes?

LK: Me and Loren Tarquinio, (Anna’s husband who also worked with them at Whole World Theatre) he is my co-writer on the show. We brainstorm ideas and come up with the bulk of (scenario) outlines. Once we get into the recording booth and we do our scenes, all that stuff usually goes out the door and we find better stuff in the moment and just improvise. Once we get into production, we often still don’t know what celebrities are going to come on. Sometimes we don’t know what celebrity is coming on until the day before we tape. That’s the scary part of shooting the show.

SA: How will this season differ from your first season?

LK: All the actors have fallen into their characters, my character is now a successful DJ at a successful radio station, so it (the season) opens up with us being an award-winning radio station, although the award is a lame award, just an L.A. weekly reader’s choice award, but of course my character totally blows it out of proportion. We are now a successful radio show this season, so we had to show that. Lance no longer wonders if he’s going to remain there, and James (who plays the show's producer) no longer has the ability to fire him. Because I’m more cocky and into thinking that I’m all that, the aggression between me and the guests gets a little bit bigger. The first season was quiet but this season has a lot more things going on, like a boxing match between me and Anna.

SA: Can you tell us who the guests are?

LK: We have Dominic Monaghan from “Lord of the Rings” and "Lost;" David Cook, winner of last year’s American Idol; Ed Begley Jr., John Stamos, Henry Rollins, (actor and musician); Cheech and Chong, Sugar Ray Leonard. It’s a really exciting season.

SA: How many episodes will there be?

LK: There will be eight episodes this season starting on April 2 at 11 p.m. on eight consecutive Thursdays. It’s a bit of a short season. For me, to do more than eight would be really tiring, because I’m executive producing, I’m writing, I’m acting, I edit the show myself at my house. It’s an unbelievable amount of work.

SA: How long does it take to do eight episodes?

LK: We shoot them in about a month and a half, and then I edit it about a month and a half, we write for about a month before that, so it equals four or five months.
If we had a larger budget we could have more man power and more people speeding things along, but I’m such a control freak I probably wouldn’t let them do it anyway. I love doing it myself.

SA: What were you doing between “The Lance Krall Show” and this show?

LK: I got some development deals for writing pilots for Fox and ABC Family. We did a show called “The Other Mall.” It made it to pilot but (it) did not get picked up for a series. I’ve been fortunate enough to have employment in the industry since I’ve been out here.

SA: I saw the promo you did with Dr. Drew Pinsky. Is he going to be a guest on the show?

LK: After we met with Dr. Drew (who did a promo for the show after the season was filmed), he wanted to be on our show next season, and he invited us to be on “Love Line” (Dr. Drew’s radio show where he gives advice on love and sex). I’m going to be dishing out advice to young teens as Dr. Moron Lance.

SA: Are you already planning for season three?

LK: We have no idea if it will be picked up. We’ll see what the ratings are for this season, and we’ll probably know in a month or two if it gets picked up again. If not, I’ll just move on to the next thing. I don’t know what that next thing would be though.

SA: What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?

LK: I’m really doing what I love right now, which is creating my own projects. So if I had to create another project, I’d love to create a film. That’s a totally different world with different pressures, but that’s definitely a challenge I’d love to jump into. But for right now, I’m enjoying working in television because it’s challenging, it’s exciting. It’s hard but it’s fun. It’s good training and eventually I’d love to jump into doing some offbeat sort of films. I’d like to keep the scale low though, keep it small, find some fun, small stories that a handful of people like, and grow from there. I definitely wouldn’t want to jump into some big budget thing right away cause I don’t think my sensibilities are mainstream enough to warrant the kind of budget a big budget film would have.

SA: How does an aspiring performer get to be so successful?

LK: “The Downer Channel” ran only four episodes. It was the first thing I auditioned for and I booked it, and I was like: Oh my god, I’m on top of the world. I’m on a prime-time network sketch-comedy show produced by Steve Martin. The checks are gonna just keep rollin’ in. And it got canceled and I was like: Oh, OK, it’s not that easy. But if it wasn’t for that experience, I would not be doing what I’m doing right now. The reason is that when I was on that show I expected everyone there to know what they were doing. I expected to be blown away by the comedy and television knowledge of the people that were involved in it. And as I was on that show I kept thinking, I could do this. These people don’t know anything I don’t know. It brought me to a realization about Steve Martin, that he’s good at what he does, but there’s no instinct that he has that I found life enlightening to where I was like, oh my god, that’s why he’s Steve Martin. Steve Martin knows how to do Steve Martin, and that’s something that I learned quickly: Lance Krall needs to learn how to do Lance Krall. I need to learn what my thing is. And the only person who’s going to figure that out is myself. Once that show got canned, I was a little pissed, just upset that it wasn’t as good as I thought it could have been. It could have been better. There were talented people on it. It felt like a show done by committee because there were so many producers on the show, and so much money riding on it that they had to try to please everybody. So (afterward), I took it upon myself to shoot “The Lance Krall Show,” and we shot that on my home camera with the cast from Whole World Theatre just as an experiment to exercise my demons a little bit. Then we put together an awesome pilot, for like nothing (low cost), and Spike TV eventually picked it up as a series. It made me realize that no one out here knows what the hell they’re doing. You just have to do it (your projects) yourself. The people that make it out here are the ones who go: My instincts are better. My instincts might not be right for this person, but they’re always right for yourself. You just have to figure out who you are and what you do. I’ve gone through four different agencies out here. When you come out here and you think you’re going to get with an agency you go, 'Wow, this agency is going to solve all my problems. They’re an amazing agency. They’re the biggest agency in the world!' And then you get in there and you realize that they’re not creative people. They’re boardroom guys, and for the most part, they don’t know what the hell they are doing. It’s truly disappointing. As long as I can deal without having an agent, I will. I have a wonderful manager, Rory Rosegarten, and a fantastic lawyer. And that’s all I need, just one guy to open the door for me, and I go in and create my own projects, and have a great lawyer to watch my back. I’m definitely disillusioned with the Hollywood power structure. It might work for big celebrities who already have a career, but speaking for myself, I have found agents to be utterly worthless. And as a producer, when I have to deal with booking actors, I’ll deal with certain agents, and you’d be amazed at how the agent will make you hate the actor, and it has nothing to do with the actor, but the agent is trying to show how big their cock is, and they’re doing no service to anyone and they’re making me hate their client, who is a nice person, but the agent makes me hate their client. Not all agents are terrible, but the percentage of bad ones out here is discouraging. Agents love feeling like they have the keys to the castle, and the truth is, they don’t.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Women Directors Premiere Six Short Films

Six locally produced short films, all directed by women, will have their Atlanta premiere at The Plaza Theater – 1049 Ponce de Leon Avenue – Friday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 22 at 2 p.m.

For many of the women, this is their first-time directing, although all are experienced film professionals who work as producers, writers, actors, assistant directors, and casting directors. The 2009 Woman’s Angle shorts feature “A Peacock Feathered Blue” by Jenna Milly; “Playgirl” by Melanie Mascioli; “Wheels” by Tracy Martin; “Love Happens” by Dellis Caden Noble; “Flights of Angels” by Kimberly Jurgen and “Happy Hour” by Angela Barnes Gomes.

All films were shot in Atlanta in 2008 and are self-financed. The directors served as volunteer crew members for each other’s films in various roles to learn from each other and strengthen their networks for future projects. The screening promises a mix of comedy, kitsch, drama and experimentation.

The Woman’s Angle educates, mentors and promotes women directors, and relies on the support and guidance of highly respected film industry professionals to lead intensive workshops for men and women filmmakers in Atlanta.

Tickets for the 90-minute screening are $10 and include a party with the directors after the show. Reservations are recommended. To order, visit The Woman's Angle.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trey McIntyre Project Dances Très Chic

If you missed it tonight at the Rialto Center for the Arts, go see the Trey McIntyre Project somewhere, sometime. In its first year as a full-time dance company, the TMP will perform in 25 cities around the U.S., as well as in a few countries, including Hungary.

Trey McIntyre’s eclectic choreography consists of a mixture of contemporary and ballet styles, which his dancers make their own with style and feeling. At any moment, had you taken a snapshot, the perfect ballet lines of the bodies and the emotion were all there, as the dancers flowed together effortlessly.

The first half of the program featured dances choreographed to children’s folk songs, such as “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It closed with a more serious tune by classical avant-garde composer Henry Cowell.

The second half of the show featured a mixture of songs by The Beatles that the choreography melted into, highlighting a sense of fun, humor and grace.

Two of the dancers, John Michael Schert and Chanel DaSilva, engaged in a talk-back session at the end of the show. Schert originally hails from Valdosta, Ga., where he began his dance education at a local dance studio. He leapt to the North Carolina School of the Arts and later danced with the American Ballet Theatre. DaSilva, from Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the company along with three other of the company’s eight dancers, immediately after graduating from The Julliard School.

Due to its success over the past three years as a summer touring company, TMP’s patrons and sponsors convinced it to become a full-time, year-round company. Before starting TMP, McIntryre had choreographed for numerous dance companies around the country, including American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and New York City Ballet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tomáš Kubínek Brings Back Vaudeville

Mime, clown, magician, storyteller, acrobat, actor, musician. No one word could quite describe Tomáš Kubínek.

Kubínek, who performed at the Rialto Center for the Arts Saturday in Atlanta, transforms himself from a Vaudevillian performer to a Dickens-like storyteller. He recalls his childhood growing up so poor that all eight children shared one piece of hard candy that his grandmother gave them. The children would line up in a row, and each child would get 10 seconds to suck the piece of candy and pass it down the line until it got to the wee, youngest, Tomáš himself, who would suck it for a full 20 seconds before passing it back up the line to the oldest child and back down again until it had totally been dissolved. Kubínek acts out the telling of it in such detail, milking the moments, miming everything so perfectly, you can almost see all the children lined up waiting for their turn to suck on the candy.

While performing a magic act, Kubínek borrows from The Marx Brothers’ film “Animal Crackers,” in which Harpo, another mime, has stolen a slew of silverware and gets caught when one by one the pieces fall out of his sleeve. Groucho then says, “I can’t imagine what’s holding up that coffee pot.”

Kubínek’s version is a little bit different. He ventures into the audience climbing on the backs of the seats in which patrons sit, and carries a woman’s purse back onto the stage with him. He riffles through it while delivering humorous commentary on its contents. Finally, he dares to look inside her wallet and amazingly finds the red scarf he earlier had made disappear. Just as he is about to return the purse, he spots something, and slowly, one by one he pulls out nearly a dozen pieces of silverware which he repeatedly drops onto the floor, and ends with a remark about a coffee pot being in there somewhere.

Throughout his act, Kubínek engages the audience, and even brings one unsuspecting patron to the stage to perform an acrobatic balancing act. And, like Groucho before him, Kubínek is a master at firing back snappy quips to the audience.

Clearly Kubínek borrows from Vaudevillian masters, but he makes everything he does his own. In one scene he straps on an awkward contraption with four feet that he buckles around his knees, and walks around on six feet. Strange, nutty, and funny! He also performs an amazing acrobatic feat without using his hands. All while balancing a glass of red wine on his forehead, he whistles and plays a tune on the ukulele, balances on one leg, drops down and reclines on his back, uses only his knees to raise the wine glass from his forehead and places it behind his head, does a somersault and picks up the glass with his mouth and drinks it dry. A toast to Tomáš Kubínek.