10 April 2014

Frank and Ava THIS SUMMER, anyone?

Spend part of this summer with Frank and Ava at Central Connecticut State University!

ENG 214: Studies in World Literature – Frank and Ava
First Summer Session 2014 MTWR 10:15 AM-12:15 PM
Professor Gilbert L. Gigliotti, Department of English

Course Description
By focusing on one of the 20th Century's most high-profile and explosive couples and by using international and American works, this course examines the ways writers the world over have created and employed their own Frank Sinatras and Ava Gardners, as individuals and as a couple, in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama. The course focuses on the techniques, expectations, and possibilities that each genre offers and some of the cultural attitudes that shape the literature. (Fulfills Study Area I literature Requirement and bears International designation.)
Course Objectives
By the end of the course, students should be able to:
Discuss effectively the literary principles and practices of a variety of contemporary authors from around the world;
Write coherent and cogent analyses, using textual support and appropriate academic conventions and language, of 20th and 21st- century literature in its many genres (poetry, nonfiction, drama, fiction, film etc.);
Know the outline and significant milestones and achievements in the lives and careers of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra; and
Recognize the international significance of American popular culture. 

08 April 2014

Idea for a Night of Theatre: Financial Backers Welcome!

BreakFast and Furious (a cross between Edward Albee and "Chopped")

A homemaker tries to get her husband and four children out the door with a hot meal, using only marshmallow peeps, hardtack, Limoncello, a side of beef, fire, and her bare hands.

A Long Day's Journey into Lunch

A Tableau Vivant featuring the Jan de Bray's Haarlem Painters Guild, a hoe, two loaves of bread, and a stick of pepperoni.

The Girl with the Tattoo You Lp 

An all-female Waiting for Godot, as the two characters listen to the entirety of the Rolling Stones' 1981 album, mistakenly thinking "Beast of Burden" is the very next track.

Is it just me, or does this read like a very weak imitation of Woody Allen from his Without Feathers phase?

05 April 2014

"I'd Rather Be Dancing" at Playhouse on Park": a review

As a college professor who distributes course evaluations to students in each class at the end of each semester, I have found the only two questions that really help me think productively about the success of a class are those I regularly add myself on the back of the standard form:

1) What worked?

2) What didn't?

And, this is how I've been thinking about Stop/Time Dance Theatre's new show, I'd Rather Be Dancing, that opened last night at Playhouse on Park and runs through April 13.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should note that I've been taking tap classes from Darlene Zoller, the show's creator/choreographer and Stop/Time's founder, for a while now. With that out of the way, here goes...

What worked?

Anytime Tyler Knowlin or Spencer Pond were on the stage, they had our attention.  Mr. Knowlin, a remarkably compelling tapper, earned his "special guest" program designation by making it all look so easy and taking ownership of the best parts of both acts.  Mr. Pond, who was on stage throughout the show -- even at it's most crowded -- always commanded it. Both lithe and quick-witted, he always left this audience member wanting more.

Act II's company-wide "Tap Jam" and the trio on Bob Fosse's "Steam Heat" (with an especial shout-out to Constance Gobeille).

The energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that Stop/Time dancers always bring to their shows.

The chemistry between angels Hillary Ekwall and Victoria Mooney.

The simple poignancy of the choreography for "Remember Me," s song written by Music Director Sean Pallantroni

What didn't work?

The concept: something about Heaven and Hell, angels' getting their wings, a dead guy's (Rick Fountain) getting a second chance, and a grumpy god's (Gail D. Schoppert) complaining about the help -- all of which, I'm afraid, have been done before to death.  And who, exactly, was singer Becky LaBombard supposed to be -- since she was apparently not the dead man's high school girlfriend, college steady, fling on Cape Cod, or wife?

Too much recorded music.  If I had Colin Britt, and a pit band, on stage for a whole show, I'd have used them a lot more.  Relatedly, if there's going to be recorded music, don't lip-sync.

"Time Traveler," "Grow Old with Me," and "I'd Rather Be Dancing" are just not very interesting songs, no matter who's singing them.

And "Stairway to Heaven," even with the multi-talented Spencer Pond's choreography, is still a dumb song.

The take-away

If a good dance show is one that highlights talented dancers in a variety of styles, then Darlene Zoller and Company have provided the audience with that (and more).  Sure, it's not perfect, but, when you go, you'll be rewarded by the sheer joy that the performers bring to the stage.  And, if perchance you like disco, you'll enjoy it even more.

I may know nothing about theatre, but I'm pretty sure that having any character, at the end of Act One, say, "Oh dear, it looks like all of Act One has been a waste!" is not a good idea.  What if the audience agrees?