Neos Ballet fires up the Brickyard

A dance review by Mark Sebastian Jordan

 

Remember when people used to bitch about there being nothing to do in Mansfield? They were always wrong, but if anyone were to dare to say that today, it would be downright laughable. Not only is there a world of interesting things and people, we happen to be entering a golden age of creativity in north central Ohio. The opportunities are little short of astounding:

 

  • Fiery indie musicians like Chico’s Brother, Rust Pelts, 99 Spirits, Oddepoxy, and many more…
  • Challenging artists like Jason Kaufman, Jo Westfall, Thorn Monarch, Lucas Hargis, Neil Yoder, Luke Beekman…
  • Brilliant actors like Ryan Kiley, Scott Schag, Chevy Bond, Colton & Maddie Penwell, Renee Rebman, Ryan Shreve, Lindsey Saltz, Steve Russell, Katy Esmont…
  • Sophisticated classical and jazz musicians like Octavio Mas-Arocas, Condrea Webber, Jeffrey Boyd, Joel Vega, Kelly Knowlton, Wyatt Boggs…
  • Intense poets like Nick Gardner, Jerry Lang, Madison Shilliday, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Jason Kaufman (again), Lucas Hargis (again)…
  • Probing directors like Drew Traxler, Doug Wertz, Michael Thomas, Gretchen Ashbrook…
  • Powerful prose writers like Llalan Fowler, Tim McKee, Nick Gardner (again), Jason Kaufman (again again), Lucas Hargis (again again, too)…
  • Inventive filmmakers like Beau Roberts, Eric Sparks, Jennifer Enskat…
  • Engaging playwrights like Bryan Gladden, Michael Thomas (again), Nancy Nixon, Gertrude Brooke (though that’s a pen name for one of the names listed above)…

 

See what I’m getting at? And I haven’t even done justice to everything that is going on in those categories and the venues that host them. This place is on fire with creativity.

 

And if creativity is a flame, then there was a bonfire in the Brickyard in downtown Mansfield Saturday evening. Ballet @ the Brickyard was an evening of dance hosted by the Neos Ballet Theatre, with additional participation from the Richland Academy Dance Ensemble and the RNI Dance Troupe from Richland Newhope. The whole event was tied to an Art in the Alley art show, covered by Llalan Fowler here on VFTB. It is true that Neos no longer has a studio in Mansfield, but Robert Wesner’s troupe has made a commitment to maintaining an artistic presence here and providing this area with the highest quality ballet and modern dance.

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‘Newsies’ Dances Beyond the Ironies

A review by Mark Sebastian Jordan

The Renaissance Theater’s production of the musical Newsies is good, and that’s what I’m here to talk about. Let’s not dwell on the irony of a show about the rebellion of poor workers in the 1890s being created by one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world in the 1990s, the Walt Disney Corporation; nor on the assembly-line formulas of show composer Alan Menken (honestly, has he ever even heard any of the music from the 1890s?), nor even on the strange delight of watching a pro-union artwork in the middle of Trumpistan.

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The workers unite in an impressive scene from the Renaissance Theater summer production of Newsies, directed with an eye for the big picture by Michael Thomas. (Photo by Jeff Sprang, courtesy of the Renaissance Theater).

Happily, production director Michael Thomas is well aware of the work’s position, and includes an insightful commentary on the show in the program book (that is, if you can read the program’s microscopic print), regarding the Disney-fication of history. But a 1400-seat theater like the Ren is very limited on the type of shows that can be run in the main auditorium (though that won’t apply to Studio 166, the blackbox theater soon to open in an adjacent building). With a large house, the overriding consideration is getting butts in seats, and huge popular musical will do it.

So be it. On with the review.

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A Sorcerer Takes the Stage

A renaissance

Is a renaissance about to begin at the Renaissance? Octavio Mas-Arocas opens the season as music director of the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. (Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography, courtesy of the Mansfield Symphony.)

A review/commentary by Mark Sebastian Jordan

Last Saturday saw the beginning of a new era at the Mansfield Symphony and, I hope, in Mansfield itself. But before I comment on that, let me offer full disclosure: Not only do I give pre-concert talks for this orchestra, I was on the committee that selected its new music director, Octavio Más-Arocas. Beyond that, however, I want to caution that the thoughts expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the Mansfield Symphony, the Renaissance Theater, or any other organization.

The music director search committee met many times as we waded through almost a hundred applications for the position. Those who habitually run down Mansfield may be surprised to hear that statistic, but the fact is inescapable that Mansfield has an extraordinary orchestra for a community of this size. It was formed back when this town had an industrial base and the wealth that came with it. The money is scarce today, but passionate dedication has kept alive an ensemble that has a fine regional reputation because it is staffed by players from all over the state, many of them professors, independent teachers, or advanced students.

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Young Composer Featured at Academy

A concert preview by Mark Sebastian Jordan.

The music of the brilliant young area musician Wyatt Boggs will be featured in a concert Thursday Evening at the Richland Academy of the Arts in downtown Mansfield. At 17, Boggs is navigating just as packed a schedule as the editors of this blog, so we’re postponing a full interview until later this summer (early August is our target), but this event is too good to not preview. Boggs channels his restless energy into music of an often brooding intensity, often cut by jazzy wit. No question about it: he’s the real thing.

Wyatt Boggs 1I had the brief opportunity to pause in my schedule of work, writing workshops, poetry readings, and concert reviews to hear part of a rehearsal for the upcoming show. The Richland Academy of the Arts is hosting this week an honors band made up of student musicians from around the area, and they are working on premiering a set of original works by Boggs. And based on what I heard (and saw in the other scores the composer showed me), we’re witnessing the emergence of a vital new voice in the arts.

Wyatt Boggs 2The works being premiered are Galactic Fanfare, which arises from a questioning gesture into a glorious blaze; Pets, a playful suite of mischievous portraits; Pandora’s Box, a fascinating conceptual piece that unleashes extended instrumental techniques and strange dissonances; Prometheus, commissioned for the concert, which combines rich chords and otherwise sparse textures; and Rage, a dark, hypnotic work that adds synthesizer to the full band.

The concert will take place Thursday at 6:00 pm at the Richland Academy of the Arts, 75 N Walnut St, Mansfield, but will be preceded by music from the Euterpe Jazz Band, in which Boggs also performs.

Steps in the Journey: “Strangers on the Earth” at the Cleveland International Film Festival

A film review by Mark Sebastian Jordan.

Life is onward.

As I drove from my home in rural Lucas, Ohio, to the Cleveland International Film Festival to see Strangers on the Earth, Tuesday, April 4th, I received a text that I had just become an uncle (well, actually, great-uncle) again. My niece Michelle, the closest thing this crusty bachelor will ever have to a daughter, had just given birth to her first baby, a son named Javier. A new life beginning a journey.

On the return trip a few hours later, I received another message: My beloved friend Kimberly Orsborn had passed away in hospice care. She steered me to the newspaper job that gave me a port in the storm in 2007 when I was transitioning out of the corporate world and into the creative world. In 2009, Kim left that small-town rag and began life as a free-lance writer. That same year, she was diagnosed with a malignant, fast-moving breast cancer. The doctors gave her months. She made it eight years.

Kim beat the odds to live many more seasons because she kept moving, kept doing, kept finding ways around the fog of “chemo-brain.” Before she was done, she said that cancer had ended up being one of the great gifts of her life, something that made her stop and relish every moment of her existence, before continuing on, more aware of her surroundings than before. It deepened her journey.

SOTE the way

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrimage path featured in the documentary “Strangers on the Earth,” presented this month at the Cleveland International Film Festival. (Photos by Kayla Arend courtesy of Fisterra Productions.)

So, a film about a journey is a good forum for savoring the life in us and around us. But how many feet can walk a road before it becomes a stampede? Strangers on the Earth is a film by Tristan Cook about the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of northern Spain. Dedicated to the Christian Saint James (who is said to be buried in Compostela), the way actually co-opted an older Celtic sacred pathway and Roman trading route running from the Pyrenees Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.
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A Voice of Survival and Regeneration: A Review of “40; Hopscotchin’ Carcasses”

40; Hopscotchin’ Carcasses by Chico’s Brother

                    A review by Mark Sebastian Jordan.

You wanna hear America right now?

It ain’t some chest-thumping, dumbed-down recycled-classic-rock with a yella-dog-in-a-pickup-truck-with-a-red-hatted-good-ol-bubba making Merica meth again. It ain’t the scratchy skirl of a Scottish fiddle playing a weathered tune, it ain’t the trip-skittle of hard bop, not the altered states of a Mahler mind-field, not The Beatles, no Nirvana, and it sure as fuck ain’t the latest auto-tuned non-entity sliding across the charts of lucre.

You wanna hear America right now? This is it. Folk ‘n’ urban, sweet as candy, and ready to cut you. Chico’s Brother, harmonious and alienating, narrative and nonsense, avant-ghetto, is the expression of Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, resident of Mansfield, Ohio, and elsewhere. He’s a stew of ethnic and cultural storms, rich in voice, startlingly open and maddeningly elusive, like everything and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

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Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz is Chico’s Brother, the prince of Midwestern avant-ghetto. (Photo courtesy of Michael Pfahler.)

 

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What 4th Wall Review No. 2

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Click here for What 4th Wall experimental video No. 2

Cosmic Egg Bonus Link 2a: Pronouncement: An Invocation for the Standing Rock Benefit Concert, Mansfield, Ohio, December 9, 2016

Cosmic Egg Bonus Link 2b: Many Malabar Shrooms: Pholiota

I’m genuinely diggin’ the serendipity happenin’ in these posts.

All the sparrows are 1.

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Skunk Cabbage – Malabar ?Junglebrook? Trail [20160309]