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

Poster: Fairy Tale Composers, Creators & Collectors

Fairy tale - composers and creators by secondlina
Here's something neat you don't see too often: a poster with a collection of influential fairy tale people in history! It's not a complete collection by any means and I would have added more but I love that quite a few often-overlooked but very important people are shown here.

If this has your research-antennae vibrating and you'd like more in this vein, I started a Pinterest board of Influential Fairy Tale People HERE. It's a long way from complete (there's only about 75 people there at present) and I'm actually not sure it ever could be complete!) but it's a good collection of faces behind the names of people we are all very grateful to for there passion and work in a field we love so much.

This is by Isabelle M. (aka secondlina on deviantArt) who has a number of fairy tale illustrations in her gallery.

She also has posters of the ":Fairy tale composers and creators" available for purchase ($10 for an 8.5 x 11) HERE as well. (Check the rest of the products on this page as well - there's a lot to appeal to fairy tale folk here - especially Wizard of Oz fans.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Panto Season! (And Ross Petty Tackles The Little Mermaid. On Roller Skates.)

It's Panto season! While this time of year is usually awash with Cinderellas, Snow Whites, Jacks, Sleeping Beauties and Puss in Boots among other tales (tails?), this sea-son Canadian Panto-vet, Ross Petty, is tackling The Little Mermaid (sea-son: their pun, not mine).

Niagara Falls, roller skates, Canada's mythical lake creature and drag... it's all in there. Yup - definitely a panto! I can't embed the video but you can get a short preview of the (wacky) stage show HERE.

What is Pantomime? Here's a brief summary, which should also give you an idea of what Petty's Little Mermaid is like:
Pantomime is a curious entertainment - a form of ritual theatre staged around the winter solstice. Originally silent (a form of mime), it is now anything but, with extensive vocalisation from both the performers and the audience.
The stories are generally well-known (drawn from popular folk-tales and similar sources), populated with stock characters, including a principal boy, generally played by a young lady with shapely legs, the heroine, also played by a young lady (which gives an added edge to the inevitable romance) and a dame, played by a man as a comic exaggeration of a middle-aged lady. Scripts change from year to year, but generally contain four strands of humour: visual, topical, corny and, occasionally, downright rude. In the UK this is considered to be family entertainment.
While the US has more musicals and obviously G-rated family friendly stage plays touring at this time of year, it's usually the British (and their friends) that take the turn into Panto territory. With the emphasis on irreverence and layered (but still family friendly) fun, it's easy to see why it became a strong tradition back during the dark, cold and (sometimes too long) Winters of the Northern Hemisphere.

There's nothing like a belly laugh to take away your Winter blues!

As for how Mr. Petty "panto'd" The Little Mermaid... I'm just going to put the blurb here:
For over 18 years, Ross Petty has created one of the longest-standing theatrical traditions in Ontario with his annual holiday pantomime, a truly unique creation that brings Canadian stars together on stage for a remarkable run of theatrical fun. Ross Petty Productions has Toronto awash with excitement to catch The Little Mermaid, a must-sea this holiday season! 
Petty and his team mark their first-ever foray into the fishy fairy tale, and in true Petty fashion, anyFIN goes! Chilina Kennedystars as the Little Mermaid. With an aquatic collection of friends by her side, the title character’s quest for true love and happiness is aided by Dan Chameroy’s sea-lacious Dame Plumbum, returning to the Elgin stage with his perennial persona as the Little Mermaid’s aunt. Starring opposite Kennedy as the handsome Prince, and the buoy of her dreams, is actor and Canadian Idol Season 1 finalist, Marc Devigne, Second City funnyman Reid Janisse, who also penned the O-FISH-AL script .One radiant redhead by the name of Jordan Clark, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 4,  while fan-favourite Eddie Glen returns as Petty’s reluctant sidekick. Petty himself is trading in his 
spanks for scales to tackle the role of Ogopogo, the evil serpent sea wizard.   
The Little Mermaid plays at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street, Toronto from November 22, 2013 (opens November 28) to January 4, 2014. Tickets can be purchased online by phone at 1.855.599.9090 or in person at the Elgin Theatre Box Office.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"The Silver Chair" Movie Snags "Life of Pi" Screen Writer

They're definitely going ahead with the fourth Narnia film, The Silver Chair and, as of Thursday (yesterday) they've just signed a writer to the project. This time the screenplay will be written by the Oscar nominated Life of Pi and Finding Neverland wordsmith, David Magee.

From Variety:


“I have always loved ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and I endlessly imagined myself finding my own passage into Narnia someday,” he said. “All these years later, I’m getting to fulfill that wish just a little bit by writing the film adaptation of ‘The Silver Chair’ and could not be more excited about it.” (Magee)


From HarperCollins Narnia Page:
Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis stated, “I have a great deal of respect for Mark Gordon’s work and am confident that together we can bring the beauty and magical delight that Narnia engenders in the hearts of those who read the books to the screen in ‘The Silver Chair.’ I am very much looking forward to diving once more into Narnia, this time with Mark Gordon and his team.”
Although Disney produced the first two (The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian) and Fox handled The Dawn Treader, neither will be producing on the fourth film. Instead it will be handled by a co-op of Producers led by Mark Gordon (a company that is better recognized for their TV credits than the four films they've produced).

I'm very curious to see how they handle the marsh-wiggle, Puddleglum as I was fascinated with the characters as a kid. The BBC series had Tom Baker in the role but I'm afraid my impressionable child-self could never see him as anything other than Doctor Who (the fourth Doctor, with the crazy scarf). I kept expecting a police box to appear in Narnia (or "not-Narnia") at any moment!
My favorite character from this book, though, was the Lady of the Green Kirtle, or the Green-Witch or the Emerald Witch. (I saw a discussion on when witches were first thought of as being green-skinned but I can't find it at present to link to - fascinating and not as clear to pin down as you might think.) This part of the book felt extremely "fairy tale" to me, what with her being deceptively sweet at the outset only to transform into a poisonous Green Serpent, not to mention her being called the "Queen of Underland".
Concept art for Dawn Treader which originally featured The Emerald Witch
Apparently the original screenplay and concept art from Voyage of the Dawn Treader featured the Lady of the Green Kirtle (shown above) and the set up is quite lovely. From a fan:
..more art that was prepared for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  One piece that I absolutely love is art that was done that would have set up The Silver Chair beautifully.  It was a divergent part of the story that was in an earlier screenplay for Dawn Treader in which the Lady of the Green Kirtle (aka Emerald Witch) appears.  It kind of cements the concept that the Green Mist was an extension of her / foreshadowing her as a greater problem.

I always found her somewhat mysterious and appreciated her attacks on all the senses (sight - beauty, smell - sweet powder thrown onto the fire, hearing - a lilting mandolin that made people drowsy when she played on it, not to mention her subtle yet effective brainwashing). She was an Enchantress who, though powerful and could resort to frightening means, lured her victims in through pleasure and altering their reality, much like the faery of the Unseelie Court legends and reminded me very much of the Faerie Queen of Tam Lin. SO much could be done with this character! I hope Magee recognizes this and writes something juicy accordingly.

You can keep up to date on what's happening with the movie via the Facebook page HERE.