A Day at the Ballet

Nick and I went to see Snow White at the Koger Center on Saturday. On Sunday, I met one of my professors for coffee and she asked me how it was. My response was something like, “It was a ballet.” To be honest, I struggled a bit to understand what I saw.

I watched my first ballet over the winter break. Ovation TV was showing The Nutcracker as performed by three different ballet troupes. I came in about 2/3 of the way through the first and couldn’t follow the story at all. I should add that this was not a story I was told as a child so I don’t have any familiarity with it. This led me, thinking I had missed something key, to sit through a second rendition by another troupe. Nope, still didn’t get it. Where the hell did the mice come from and who are all of these people at the Christmas(?) party? I figured Snow White would be better, especially since it is a story I know well.

If you ever go to a narrative ballet, you have to read the program otherwise you’ll have no idea what is going on. I was surprised at how many scenes take place in the “Royal Bed Chamber.” (Including a disturbing scene where the King tries repeatedly to get his new Queen into bed but she won’t have it – he eventually succeeds). The ballet opens with the birth of Snow White and the death of her mother. The story then moves forward sixteen years. On the stage, this meant they showed a picture of a castle and then the words Sixteen Years Later. R’ok. I thought I missed something because a late patron opened the side door but no, nothing happened.

There were a lot of scenes like that. Dancing in front of the mirror = the mirror tells the Queen that Snow White will soon be more beautiful than her or twirling around with a box and then opening it = the Queen eats the false heart. I wonder if there is meaning in the movements that is lost on me and that there is more to ballet as a storytelling art that I am just not aware of. There were a lot of children in the audience and I kept hearing them asking their parents what was happening. They also couldn’t tell key figures apart because the costuming was similar.

I just don’t get the large parade of people scenes at, say, the royal wedding. I’ve seen this sort of thing in The Nutcracker too. Here’s a group of five dancers dancing before a group of eight dancers dance before a group of four dancers dance before the main characters actually get married. I just kept thinking of Monty Python “and the people rejoiced.”

A note about the story, the seven dwarfs were seven knights/princes including Prince Charming. They all live in a small cottage in the woods where they later let Snow White live with them. I don’t think she would be marriageable after living in a cottage with these guys, no reputation can withstand that (especially not in a marriage plot!). I also wonder why these men were living together in the forest anyhow? Was it like a royal frat house? Also, why let Snow White live there? Are they keeping her tucked away like a dirty little secret? What really killed me is the scene where the knights/princes go off to “work” for the day. They take their fancy swords into the forest. What kind of job do they have in the forest? And what kind of job in the forest requires a fancy, fencing sword? You need an axe yo. Get down to business choppin’ down trees and shit.

So, I still don’t get ballet. It was beautiful and the dancers were amazing athletes. I just think I’m missing something critical because it felt like when you put on a movie and something key happens when you are in the bathroom or getting a snack that leaves you perplexed and bewildered for the remainder…except I didn’t get up once, not even during intermission. Hopefully this explains my answer of “It was a ballet.” I’m glad I went, I just don’t know what to do with it as an experience.

Beauty and the Beast – The Columbia Marionette Theatre

theatreAs part of my support the local arts resolution, my husband and I went to go see Beauty and the Beast at The Columbia Marionette Theatre. Coming up to the castle, yes it is in a castle, was like stepping into a wonderland. The inside was filled with displays of other puppets (some from classic tales, some not) and an array of small marionettes available for purchase. In the theatre itself, there are four birthday party areas (all of which were full on the day of our trip) though the Oz setup was my favorite.

There is a map clearly marking where adults are to sit but one thing I found a bit disappointing was that this is not enforced. This is a side note but I wonder if this is part of the 24-7 helicopter parent issue but many parents would not let their children sit by themselves so those behind them could see. Perhaps such parents would be offended to be asked to move? I don’t know. As a child, I had been to plenty of events where children sat in one place and the parents in another (within view of course). I could see fine, so it didn’t bother me, but I could hear children that were in back of some of these adults telling their own parents that they couldn’t see.

Back to the show, I was glad to find that it more closely resembled the original French tale but was nicely condensed into an hour long presentation. Gone was the loss of fortune and the move to the French farmhouse but one of Belle’s sisters (both of whom were completely omitted in the Disney version) made an appearance. Fitting with the original, this sister was selfish, which provides a nice contrast to Belle and developing her character much more quickly. There were a lot of special effects I did not expect, smoke and a painting from behind which the Beast speaks to those who enter the castle, along with some truly stunning puppets. The main characters were lovely but I was particularly enchanted (cough) by the laden table that walked.

Yes, there were a lot of children there (this is a marionette theatre after all) but they added to the magic of the show. In one scene an enchanted wardrobe and dressing table make a spinning, dancing entrance. For the children, this was pure magic. It was as though they didn’t even notice the strings. So lovely to see. The show is an audio recording but the puppets themselves didn’t always behave so it really gave it the feel that no two shows are alike, very much akin to theatre.

I hope at some point they get a microphone so the audience can actually hear the introduction and conclusion of the show. A non-cell phone notice would be great too (so many bright lights in the audience from people texting and what-not). All in all, I loved it and will go again. It’s made me excited about puppetry – not something I would ever thought I would say. I would love to get a good look at their workshop.

The show runs until April and tickets are just $5. If you’d like to read a more in-depth review, check out this one from local arts magazine Jasper.

Drawing Bug?

Anisa - Watercolor Pencil 2010

The movers came out on Monday and gave us an estimate to move out to South Carolina for my graduate program. They want just under $3,000 which is wonderful because PODS wanted $4,700 and I would have to load and unload it myself. The representative from National Van Lines was very personable, great experience with her. She saw my paintings and asked if I was given a scholarship by submitting my artwork. What a compliment. For those of you who don’t know, I draw, paint, sculpt, and crochet (which is an art damn it!).

Today, after looking at the Fuck Yeah Moleskines blog, I feel bitten by the drawing bug. I really want to start drawing again. Back when I was in art school, I wanted to do illustration, comics, and video game design. Feels like that was ages ago. I guess it was (2003). I learned how to do process painting a couple of months ago which was a wonderful experience. I am a total control freak so it was nice to learn how to let go. For some reason, I just don’t draw or paint as often as I would like to. With drawing, I feel intimidated. I can paint intricate designs but drawing is harder. Wish there was a class I could take before I leave for SC. Speaking of which, my move-in date got changed to August 1st so I will be leaving on the 29th of July.

Kindle Can Do

My dad bought a Kindle about a year ago and I thought it was awesome but when I bought my iPad I was so excited because I felt like it could do anything. My husband bought me a bluetooth keyboard for it for Christmas and I started using it for writing and taking notes in school. A couple of weeks after we got them, my husband started bugging me for a Kindle. To be honest, that pissed me off a little (seeing as I had just dropped $1500 on the iPads). He wanted it to read on but the iPad has its own bookstore, numerous pdf viewing programs, and access to the Kindle store.

For graduation, I received a Kindle. I have to admit, the e-ink screen beats the iPad backlit display. I just can’t read on the iPad for long periods of time, even with the brightness turned down. This made it hard to get through scholarly articles for school assignments too. After a while, I just couldn’t look at the screen anymore. Also, whenever I read on my iPad at the library it was very hard to angle it so there was no glare. So, those commercials that have been coming on slamming the iPad and promoting the Kindle are right. Now, I still think my iPad is a dream come true, but I plan on reading exclusively on my Kindle.

On a side note, I was up until 3am downloading free classics on the Kindle site. I quit at 150. It is the perfect gift for an English Literature major. I guess I should also mention that I graduated on Friday. I will try and get some pics up soon.

Good Interruptions

I was planning on attending a poetry workshop on Saturday at Finding Our Voices. It is a group for sexual abuse survivors and their allies who use art and writing as a way of healing. On Monday, I got a call from one of the directors (I think that is her title) letting me know that their facilitator had an emergency and would not make it to the workshop. They asked me to facilitate and I said yes. I was excited and had some ideas from the moment I got her message. My primary focus right now is trauma theory and how creative writing can be used to facilitate personal and community healing.

So, that is where I have been for the last week. I had a hands on project to prepare for, as well as typing in and formatting poems I wanted to share. Even for more informal workshops, I like to type out my notes so I can introduce poets and remember what it is I wanted to say. I find that bullets are especially effective for this. If I have a wall of text, I can’t scan it quickly enough.

Anyway, the workshop went so well that I was asked to present it at the annual art exhibit they are having. I am excited to be working with the group. It is amazing the stories that people will share with you if you are willing to be open first. Anyway, that was where my week went. Well…that and school.

On Tuesday, we had the lowest temperature in the country at -16. I still had to walk across campus which was horrible. The wind made it around -32. UCCS is at the bottom of a bluff and there are no windbreaks so the wind is terrible. They closed on Wednesday, which kind of sucked because I missed my food writing class and my senior portfolio review. I have to start on a writing project for next Wednesday. Not sure what I am going to write about yet. It has been a lot of fun to think of food as a central theme for stories.

A Secret

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I judge MFA programs based on the quality of the printed materials they send me. I know, it sounds terrible but think about it. What does it say about a school that doesn’t take the time to put together quality materials. I know it sounds arbitrary but with so many programs…it helps narrow things down.

I received a packet from Ohio State University today. It was in the form of a comprehensive handbook. It’s large, has a clear typeface, table of contents, and a sleek cover. I’m impressed OSU. I plan on applying and hope to get one of the fellowships so my tuition will be waived. I also like that MFA students can take the literature seminar courses offered by the English department.

Why does Taylor Antrim hate Memoir?

In an article for The Daily Beast, Taylor Antrim trashes memoir. He states “Too often, memoir seems to me an excuse to be fragmentary, incomplete, narratively non-rigorous.” This seems like an unfair attack to me. He argues that some memoirs, particularly Happy and The Ticking is the Bomb, would be better off written as novels.

Pardon me, but I think the reason a memoir should be written as a memoir is that it is a true account. Mind you, creative non-fiction provides some wiggle room. Yes, you may not remember the exact conversation you had with your psychotherapist in 1963 but if you get the gist of it, who gives a crap? We read memoir because we are interested in other people’s lives. We want to identify instead of merely escaping (although good authors can excel in both whether it be CNF or fiction). If memoir was a failed medium that cowers in front of fiction, why is it so damn popular? I think if memoir was just an excuse for lazy writing, it would’ve been done away with long ago.

Here’s a short reply from The Rumpus that is also worth a read. What do you think though, is Antrim right or is this a publicity stunt? Maybe this is a jab back at an industry that criticised him harshly. The reviews of his book The Headmaster Ritual on Amazon.com are positive but also point out some flaws. The New Yorker states that “he does not entirely succeed in illuminating the resonance of all this for his characters’ interior lives.” Wait, I’m confused, in his diatribe on memoir he accused memoirists of not developing characters enough. Reed Business Information states “the climax is marred by a chain of events that defies reason.” Hmm…

Happy: A MemoirThe Ticking Is the Bomb: A MemoirThe Headmaster Ritual

Ah Ubik, How You Taunt Me

I just finished reading an article about Philip K. Dick and his years in Orange County. If you don’t know who Philip K. Dick is, well you’ve been living under a rock. He was a prolific sci-fi writer, responsible for A Scanner Darkly, Blade Runner (Four-Disc Collector's Edition) and Minority Report (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition). Plus many other works. I personally like The Man in the High Castle. My ultimate favorite is Ubik.

I would explain the plot, but it is available on Wikipedia and frankly I’m tired. What I am more interested in is Ubik the film. In 2008, it was announced that Celluloid Dreams would produce Ubik. We’re still waiting. There is a mention of it in the article by the L.A. Times but no website listed. A search of IMDB turned up nothing nor did YouTube or Google. What the hell is going on here? The Times lists the film as debuting this year but I can’t find any information. Has anyone heard anything?

In an amusing side note, some Philip K. Dick fans actually call themselves Dickheads. That is too funny. If you haven’t read any of his work, you definitely should. I’m not even a sci-fi reader and I like his work.

Ubik

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Hits the Stage

I wish I was in New York City because Haruki Murakami’s book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel has been turned into a stage production. The stills in the gallery look amazing, they have that sort of ethereal/metaphysical quality that is seen in Murakami’s work. There’s also a trailer. It is running until January 30th at the Ohio Theater. Hopefully it does well and travels. I’m skeptical that it will land in Colorado though.

It would be interesting to see some of his other works, like Norwegian Wood or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International) (my personal favorite) hit the stage. If you aren’t familiar with Murakami’s work, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel is a great place to start.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A NovelNorwegian WoodHard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International)

Blocks


I started this week with a great writing meeting. Every so often, I meet with friends from last summer’s creative nonfiction class. I was pretty happy that we actually talked about writing this time, normally we just socialize. Anyway, we met last week and assigned a prompt (write about a current event), then this week we were to bring work to share. Despite being unwilling to work on it most of the week, I managed to write 2.5 pages. I went to the coffee shop early and wrote before the meeting. While I was there, we talked a lot about blocks. For me, it isn’t that I don’t think I have anything worthwhile to say or that I don’t have any ideas. I have plenty of ideas and have come to accept my viewpoint as valid and worthwhile. When it comes to writing…well I just don’t want to.

I know I need to write, but I somehow can’t bring myself to sit down and do it. A friend of mine suggested that it might be an environmental problem. That is entirely possible. When I am at home, I am distracted by other things I could (or think I should) be doing instead. My friend recommended going to a coffee shop at a designated time in order to write. She says I need to treat it like a job. It would be interesting to see if my output increases if I get out of the house. I’ll try it.

What I’d really like is to be motivated to work from home. The environment is more comfortable and the tea is better (not to mention free). If you are listening, Pikes Perk on North Academy, your green tea is horribly bitter. Any ideas on motivating myself to work at home?

Image from The Wandering Eater