Monday, December 30, 2013

Thank You

Roses for Beauty by Robert Gould
Just a quick post to say thank you so much for each and every kind expression of sympathy regarding our loss. I have passed on your care, love and comforting words, and each was very much appreciated. Thank you for your support at this difficult time.

I will be returning to daily posts shortly.

Gypsy Thornton

Note: Apologies for the incorrect title of Mr. Gould's illustration. I can't find any reference to it anymore. My memory is that it was inspired by the Beast waiting for Beauty to return.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ask Baba Yaga: Last Year I Met the Love of My Life During Harrowing Circumstances

Baba Yaga - Artist unknown
I imagine Baba Yaga gets sent a lot of questions about love and loss. Her answer: tough love.

This week's question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

Not so many comments on Baba Yaga's words this time, so much as sharing stories of similar woe and heartache. But there was this, that I felt apt:
  • "Where would you put it?" Indeed, Baba. Indeed. (stonefruit)
I'm getting images of tornadoes, whirling, whirling, collateral damage and in the end, a swath of devastation overlaid with too much quiet; heartbroken people standing stunned in the middle, love plastered to them as inconveniently as duct tape that got stuck to itself. Yet she says, "waiting  you must not do... nothing is coming for you..." O.o

Like wading through a mess of duct tape,this love stuff, is tough!

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

In Memorium

Our family suffered a great loss this week: our beloved brother passed away early this Thursday morning.

Please send thoughts and prayers for his dear wife and two wonderful boys, in particular.

As a fire fighter he saved many, many lives and will be dearly missed, not only by his regular family, but by his extended fire-fighter-family and local community as well.

Though we had some short notice and were able to tell him how much he meant to us and to say goodbye, (he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just 3 months ago), at only 48 he is gone far too soon.

We miss you John.

[Note: Posting may continue to be erratic for a little while but I will continue to bring you fairy tale news as I can.

Thank you for your understanding. And tell the people dearest to you that you love them, every chance you get.]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Improbable Theatre's "Beauty and the Beast" - A Taboo-Busting Love Story of a Natural Born Freak & An American Beauty Queen (& A Very Unique Fairy Tale Retelling)

Someone should applaud what this theater company are doing - and I don't just mean the audience, who clearly have no trouble doing that. Improbable Theatre decided to explore the dark side of the heart of the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, and to look at the naked truth of love and what it means to be human, metaphorically but also literally. I think it's an interpretation Angela Carter - and Greta Garbo - would applaud as well. (There is a wonderful image that is a perfect representation of the production at the end of the post... but I'll get to that in a bit.)
This is the true love story of a natural born freak and an American beauty queen who got married. 
Internationally acclaimed and award-winning duo Mat Fraser, British disabled actor/writer and Julie Atlas Muz, American burlesque star/Miss Coney Island, bring you an adult fairytale like no other. 
Created with Phelim McDermott, artistic director of Improbable, Beauty and the Beast explores the naked truths and half-truths told in the name of love. (from the official blurb)

Improbable Theater's lead and Beast for the show, is Mat Fraser, a well renowned disabled performing artist who was born with phocomelia as a result of his mother taking Thalidomide while pregnant to counter morning sickness. His Beauty, and real life wife, is Julie Atlas Muz, aka the queen of neo-Burlesque, former Miss Coney Island and Miss Exotic World. Together they conceived the show, the themes being very close to their hearts, and brought the fairy tale to the stage to ask hard questions about love, marriage and sex, especially with regard to disabled peoples - with a good dollop of humor and honesty, both!

He has foreshortened arms and no thumbs; later in the show, Fraser will point out that it is the human thumb, some say, that separates us from the beast. (The Guardian) 
Disability arts remain something of a ghettoised scene in Britain. When they breach the mainstream, such works are often celebratory, concerned with understanding, even making disability palatable. (“Heart of gold charity orgies,” Fraser calls them.) When, for example, theatre company Told By An Idiot staged the same fairytale in 2007, Beauty was played by Lisa Hammond, an actor of restricted growth. 
Fraser and Muz take the opposite approach, confronting the perceived “beastliness” of disability and sex head-on. It’s the combination that pushes taboos. As Improbable Theatre director Phelim McDermott asks: “Sex and disability is a big issue. Can you show it on stage? Can you even talk about it?” 
McDermott has also pushed the couple to entwine personal material with the enacted fairytale. Sometimes, he says, you can’t differentiate between Beauty, Beast, Muz and Fraser. “What’s beast and what’s beauty?” he asks. “They’re all parts of ourselves. There’s a part of me that’s beautiful – somewhere. There’s a part of me that’s beastly.” That gives added weight to Fraser and Muz’s determination to change the fairytale’s ending. The original ends with a transformation, which Fraser likens to sanitised Victorian versions of King Lear. “I feel we’ve all been peddled this fake happy ending and what we’re doing is finding the original: she falls in love with the beast, dammit.” (excerpted for length from Financial Times)

I highly recommend reading the whole Financial Times article on Beauty and the Beast and disabilities in The Arts HERE. Seriously, it's an excellent article and gives you a good perspective on how non-inclusive we still are in this age of "equal rights", and how good we are at avoiding our most basic drives: the need for love and sex.
Here's a trailer in which the creators and cast take you behind-the-scenes of the show and discuss their approach (don't worry, no nudity or suggestive scenes included):
Yes - the show does carry an X-rating but from all reviews and reports*, it's for good reason (that is, it's not due to shock-value nudity and explicit scenes). Unlike a previous attempt to tell this (and their) story, in which the results came across as freakish and the nudity gratuitous, this production has been meticulously re-written and designed to put the spotlight where it should be: looking at our preconceived ideas of love. humanness and wholeness.

And here's a special fairy tale folk piece of trivia I think you'll like as much as I do: apparently, in order to do this (get the right balance in the tale and production), they needed to get back to the fairy tale-ness of the story. Without the fairy tale bones, the true meaning got lost and the nakedness of the actors on stage, rather than exposing the truth and themes as they originally intended, instead covered up the real meaning. (Ironic, yes?) Putting the fairy tale core back in, however, it made it clear what the focus is and why this is an important story to tell. (This is why fairy tales are so special and this production is a good example of why we need them.)

There's an interview with Julie Atlas Muz HERE which explains the initial concepts and production attempts in more detail, as well as how the show eventually got to where it is now. (Bettelheim's Uses of Enchantment was apparently a key influence.) Along with the Financial Times article, it also gives additional background on Muz and Fraser's relationship, which directly impacted the show concept in the first place.

As far as the production goes, of which you can see some lovely pics here (I omitted the adult shots, of course, but you can see some more in the gallery HERE - no gratuitous nudity included, though there is one shot in which one of the characters has been body-painted and you can see painted breasts - nothing your art classics haven't already shown you in more detail)...
There are nods to Jean Cocteau and Disney in Phelim McDermott's production, which cleverly entwines appealing, homemade animation and puppetry (fine work from Jess Mabel Jones and Jonny Dixon) to create a show that both celebrates great gothic romance and also strips away all the artifice to reveal the workings underneath. The show lures you in with dreaminess and then gets all beady-eyed and goaty. 
The moment of transformation here is not when the Beast is suddenly revealed as a prince, but on a New York street in broad daylight when Fraser and Muz realise they simply can't wait to get into bed with each other. Even so, it's not plain sailing for the former Beauty Queen (Miss Coney Island) and the man who realises the career-advancing possibilities of prosthetic arms: Fraser uses them to perform an erotic strip. Muz's mother enquires of her daughter: "Are you sure you want to marry a cripple?" The answer is a resounding yes in a show that takes disability out of the theatrical ghetto and presents it full frontal. (excerpt from a review in The Guardian)

This "adult fairy tale" not only contains full female and male nudity, it has some explicit scenes as well. The actors themselves will remind you that despite it's name and how fairy tale the production is, it's not a family show and is recommended for audiences 18+ only. Beauty and the Beast will be playing at the Young Vic in London until December 21st. You can find more information and tickets HERE.

PS Now that you've read what the show is about, how great a pic is this? Though I'm in no hurry to see people naked together this image blatantly says so much about both the fairy tale and the show's themes. It's actually perfect for the production and, as I wrote above, I wanted to use it at the head of the post but was concerned it would turn people off reading about it. Even if you don't opt to see the show, should it play locally to you, I think this is an important production to be aware of - and not just for fairy tale folk either. If anyone sees a play transcript floating about, I'd love to read it!

*Note: just because the nudity and explicit scenes aren't your average adult show titillations, doesn't mean it's for every adult either. It should just be clear that these aspects are used for a specific reason in this show, and that, in this case, it works.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Buster Keaton Meets David Lynch in LA Opera's New "Magic Flute" (Multimedia-fest & Silent Era Tribute Spectacular!)

If Mozart's fairy tale opera, The Magic Flute was a silent film, animated by David Lynch it might look rather like LA Opera's special production Magic Flute...

I LOVE this! Coming from theater, I can't help but get excited by innovative staging and multimedia presentations of old works. When it freshens a fairy tale I'm about ready to do backflips!

This production, currently being premiered and performed by the LA Opera, originated with the Komische Oper in Berlin and uses silent film devices, projected animation for the artists to interact with, a lot of humor and parodies the pre-talkie era with great panache. 

The concept for the production was developed by Australian director Barrie Kosky and the British theater company 1927, founded by animator/filmmaker Bill Barritt and writer/performer Suzanne Andrade. Emerging in 2005 from the London cabaret scene, 1927 specializes in mixing live performance and music with pre-recorded animation and film. The company's aesthetic has been described as "a perfect combination of all the things worth loving: silent movies, Weimar cabaret, David Lynch and the Brothers Grimm" (The Guardian, UK - quoted on the official video)

Take a look at this wonderful trailer showcasing some of the inventiveness of the production:

✒ ✒  ✒ (click the "Read more" link below this line for lots more pics & a review excerpt) ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Breaking News: "Jupiter Ascending" (A Sci-Fi Snow White) Trailer Released

I've been waiting to show you this today and was beginning to think they wouldn't make the end-of-day release window they'd promised, but it here it is, Jupiter Ascending's first official trailer. (It looks like a pretty huge movie!)

To remind you, this is a sci-fi version of Snow White created and directed by the Wachowski siblings (creators of The Matrix). You can read a lot more about it in my earlier post HERE.

Although it's a little difficult to see Snow White's bones in this trailer, I assure you, they are most definitely there. There's also no doubt it's sci-fi, and a big (BIG!) action adventure.
Take a look:
Jupiter Ascending is the latest film from Andy and Lana Wachowski (Cloud Atlas, theMatrix trilogy) starring Mila KunisChanning TatumEddie RedmayneSean Bean,Douglas BoothTuppence MiddletonTim Pigott-Smith and Doona Bae. 
The future-set sci-fi film is set to hit theaters on July 25, 2014 and centers on Jupiter Jones (Kunis), a character born with signs predicting she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning toilets and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along -- her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

If you like action films (like I do) this could be a very fun ride!
What are your first impressions?

Source: HERE

Sunday, December 8, 2013

(Old) Animation Development Art for "Wicked" by Disney Artist Minkyu Lee

Do you remember a week+ ago I posted an article highlighting a new Tumblr titled "Wicked Leaks" with news of an animated Wicked in production at a major animation studio (and that it wasn't Disney)? Well that Tumblr has since disappeared. No notes as to why and we can only speculate... BUT....

Not long after that, on December 4th, one of the trio of artists originally interested in bringing Wicked to animation, Minkyu Lee posted his old visual development portfolio on his personal Tumblr for an animated Wicked, done in his student days while still at CalArts. Now working for Disney, Mr. Lee was one of the trio of (then-budding) animation artists who loved Wicked and thought it would make a great animated film.

It was his friend, Heidi Jo Gilbert who storyboarded the Wicked song Defying Gravity in her spare time as a personal project and has garnered much positive critical attention ever since she released an animatic video (a "movie" of the storyboard with soundtrack). (You can see it in my post HERE.)

Just yesterday, December 7th, Broadway World picked up Minkyu Lee's Tumblr posts and once again, within days and weeks of renewed interest in the idea, word is buzzing about the possibility - and the potential - of a feature-quality animated film based on the musical.

From Broadway World:
Minkyu Lee, an animator and visual development artist for Disney whose credits include The Princess and the Frog and Frozen, revealed on his blog sketches based on a possible animated version of the Broadway blockbuster musical WICKED. Check out images from his developmental portfolio! 

Lee first created these WICKED concept drawings while studying at CalArts and interning for Disney. Aside from his work on 'Frog' and Frozen, Lee directed the Oscar-nominated short film Adam and Dog, which he also wrote and animated.

The only problem I see is that, after seeing Frozen last night (yes, I'm working on a review for you), it's pretty clear that the themes are rather similar, not to mention the way they're executed, using Wicked's most famous Elphaba, Idina Menzel, as one of the stars. A misunderstood enchantress with Idina Menzel Beautifully singing her lungs out would be a difficult pitch to Executives at any studio at the moment with Frozen quickly becoming the current youngest generation's new favorite animated film.

Let's hope the idea doesn't get completely shot down though. From the response to Frozen, to the Wicked animation artwork on the Tumblrs and the current upward-trends in misunderstood villains at present, I have no doubt it would be a win. Make it a truly great animated feature and you'll have an instant-classic making cash hand-over-fist at the box office, not to mention the merchandising potential. I'd love to see this happen if it was done with love, passion and excellence!
All images are from Minkyu Lee's personal Tumblr blog and (unfortunately) do not represent any current production in development.