Monday, April 5, 2010

Two Big Shows in Bogota

March 29--The world theatre festival in Bogota continues and today I will talk about two very big shows—one held in a sports stadium and another in a public park. As I have been zipping around the city all this week in yellow mini-Hyundai taxis, it has been exciting to see how everyone in the city is participating in the festival. Everywhere there are full houses. Though nothing ever starts on time, audiences like to clap and cheer before the show to let the cast know they are ready and pumped for what’s to come. In the case of The Aluminum Show from Dollbeat Productions in Israel, the 4,000 or so people packing the stadium were treated to a 75 minute exploration of anything and everything that can be done with aluminum piping and sheeting. Eight Vegas-style beautiful young things dance with the giant pipes, puppeteer them, and send them out like enormous snakes over the crowd all to an ear-splitting beat and rock concert lighting effects. There is no attempt at any story. You’ve heard of art for art’s sake. Well, this is special effects for special effects sake.

In stark and stunning contrast to Dollbeat’s nonsense is Teatro Biuro Podrozy’s outdoor adaptation of MacBeth from Poland. A wood and steel structure is set up in a foot-ball field-sized dirt clearing in Parque Simon Bolivar. Hundreds of Colombians submit to the frisking required to enter the park for security reasons and stand or sit before the stage. Macbeth and his followers enter on motor cycles, dressed in fascist type military gear. Shakespeare’s power-mad murderer is pursued by terrifying 15-foot witches on stilts. Fire-works go off into the night sky as Macbeth is crowned. Ultimately, he throws himself into the flames of his own castle as more actors on stilts advance with telephone pole trees—the ominous Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane—as young Fleance, Banquo’s son and the next anointed king, looks on from his little tricycle wearing a crisp white shirt. The contemporary imagery in this powerful production speaks clearly to the Bogota audience about the price men pay for greed and violence. In a country where cocaine cartels still rule large parts of the country, this updated production of MacBeth is an up-to-the minute and all-too-relevant morality tale.

--Janet Stanford


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Janet's "Blogota," part dos

Today, the festival was all about The Odyssey. I saw two completely different treatments of the Greek classic, one by the Ish Theatre Company from Israel and the other by Teatro de los Andes from Bolivia. The first was a delightful comedy about a man caught between caring for his old father, his argumentative wife, and his crying bambino. All the dialogue in this clever show was gibberish, wittily laced with universally recognizable phrases from Italian, Spanish and English. Whenever our latterday Odysseus became too stressed with the pressures of his daily life, it would morph into the hero’s epic journey. Two actors and one actress told the entire story with wonderful movement, broad characterizations and a handful of props. This piece was inspiring in its simplicity.

Equally brilliant was the ensemble from Bolivia under the direction of internationally acclaimed director Cesar Brie. In his hands, Odysseus is an immigrant, forced to leave his wife and son in order to support them. On a set made entirely of bamboo poles that move on multiple tracks to create walls and jungles, the story unfolds showing the loneliness and vulnerability of those left behind, the struggle to stay connected to home, and the cold-hearted indifference of the authorities. In one poignant moment, everyone in the company takes out a photograph of a loved one who is far away and talks about it, all the voices overlapping until you have the sense of the whole continent of South America suffering from the pain of mass immigration. In the final image, the cast lay at the front of the stage, each with a small candle before them. With their first two fingers, each shows a pair of legs walking slowly, slowly through a bed of sand towards their little light. It was a beautiful image that represented for me the movement of people through time in pursuit of a better life while at the same time acknowledging the high cost in human suffering.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Janet's "Blogota"

Arrived in Bogota last night for the XII Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro as a member of a US delegation that has been sent here by the Theatre Communications Group. I am one of 30 American Artistic Directors attending the festival. Over the next several days I will be seeing plays from all over South America and learning, in particular, about the state of the art in theatre-making for young people. Since it was pitch dark when my plane came in, I had a cheerful surprise this morning when I awoke to a sunny day and view from the hotel dining room of two great craggy mountains to the East and a sprawling, if somewhat haphazard looking, city of 70`s-style skyscrapers and old houses with terra cotta roofs.

Two welcome discoveries so far: 1) you can actually open the hotel window to let in fresh air and 2) I treed some amazing fruit at breakfast that looks like an orange but behaves more like a pomegranate with a mess of gooey black seeds inside. I will have to learn what this is called. I am hoping to fit in some sightseeing between the children`s shows, street theatre events, South American versions of Waiting for Godotand The Odyssey, and the late-night cabarets. Apparently, there is a Gold Museum and funicular ride up one of the mountains that are not to be missed! Watch this space for more about what’s happening right now in Bogota.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Feeling Grateful in Trying Times

We at Imagination Stage feel very fortunate that the arts are well supported in the state of Maryland by Governor Martin O’Malley and the State Legislature and in Montgomery County by County Executive Ike Leggett and the County Council.

On March 15, Mr. Leggett presented his recommended FY11 Operating Budget which included a 10% reduction in funding to AHCMC's budget for grants and administration. Given the state of the financial crisis and the many demands on the County's budget, we are encouraged by the Executive's recommended support and are grateful that the reduction was not more severe. As the County Council turns its attention to the budget, Council members need to hear from constituents!

Show your support by going to to "Give the Green Light to the Arts and Humanities" and ask your County Council member to approve the County Executive's 2011 appropriation.

What the cut means to Imagination Stage: a $30,000 reduction in funding in 2010-2011, which we will look to our friends to make up. Thanks for your action and support.

--Bonnie Fogel, Executive Director

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Expand your Circle of Friends by Joining ours

If you’re reading this blog, you are probably already a fan of Imagination Stage. The only thing better than being a fan is being a FRIEND. Right now, in honor of our 30th Anniversary, you can join our Friends Circle at the introductory rate of only $30!

Here are some of the cool benefits of being a Friend:
--An invitation to a dress rehearsal for one of our upcoming shows! This is a really unique experience that you won’t forget! Be the first to see the set and costumes and watch as the actors, artistic team, and technical staff work together to bring the show to life!
--10% Discount at the Just Imagine Gift Shop! If you’ve never been inside our gift shop, you are really missing out! You can find a unique gift for a child of any age!
--Two words: Dance. Party. Get a free ticket to our 1979 Dance Party (in honor of the year Imagination Stage was founded). You won’t want to miss this exciting event for the whole family!

Joining the Friends Circle is the perfect way to support Imagination Stage while expanding and enhancing your experience!

Learn more about our Membership programs
Become a Fan of Imagination Stage on Facebook


Thursday, February 25, 2010

PETER playing to packed houses

Making up for lost time, Peter & the Wolf is playing to packed houses at field trip and weekend general public shows! Here are quotes from the four reviews that have come in so far:

“The performers are engagingly exuberant.”—The Washington Post

“The updated interpretation of the classic Peter & the Wolf at Imagination Stage is beautifully produced and energetically performed.”—

“For those who are willing to accept a major departure from the original, under David Leong’s strong direction, with its live action, foot-tapping musical numbers and talented cast, this adaptation of Peter and the Wolf is worth seeing.”—

“This play is such a wonderful success due to the adroit directing by David S. Leong who manages some superb chase scenes...which is always loved by the youngsters and gets audience guffaws. This is a highly successful production and highly recommended for family groups. It should be a huge success so get your tickets ASAP.”—

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

PETER & THE WOLF: In temporary hibernation!

We are so excited about our current production of Peter & the Wolf! Problem is that with Rounds 1 and 2 of Snowblast, 2010 having caused unprecedented closures at Imagination Stage, the show has had only two performances so far, with 8 (and counting…) canceled. Classes have been canceled for 6 straight days, too.

We are taking it day-by-day, but hope that everything will be on a normal schedule by Saturday. We’ve added an 11:00 performance on Monday, February 15, which is President’s Day and will be looking for other opportunities to add performances to make up for the ones which have been canceled.

Meanwhile, rumors are that Bird and Duck have migrated south, that Peter and his Grandfather are sipping hot cocoa in the farmhouse and that the show’s stage manager is stranded in Baltimore.

Fingers crossed that we will all meet up soon at the theatre. Meanwhile, stay warm and safe.

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