Friday, June 28, 2013

Interview with Carla Givan Motes – Louisville Orchestra

Carla Givan Motes and her husband, Barry, at Fanfara.
Photo by O'Neil Arnold.

Interview by Scott Dowd.  Entire contents copyright © Fearless Designs, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Having just completed the celebration of 75 years of making music in this city, Louisville Orchestra is now preparing for the opening of the new fall season. For nearly 25 of those years, Carla Givan Motes has been welcoming music lovers to The Kentucky Center for the Arts. Carla is currently in her twentieth season as the person in charge of ticketing and patron services for the Louisville Orchestra. Through good times and…less good times…Carla has provided Orchestra patrons the continuity and information needed to sustain their relationship with the organization. Recently Carla took some time from her busy season ticket campaign to talk about the Louisville Orchestra’s past, present and future. 

SD:  News about the Louisville Orchestra over the past few years has focused primarily on two groups:  the musicians, and the board of directors/management. We haven’t heard much about the people in the office who work hard just to keep things going – people like you. How are things for you these days?
CGM:  Things are okay, actually. Now that we have the contract signed, of course, it makes things a little bit easier for everyone. With the most important piece in place, we can work toward finalizing everything. As far as the staff goes, we are a lot smaller than we were; and a lot of us are wearing a bunch of different hats. 

SD:  A few years ago the Orchestra, along with a number of other groups, moved their offices into the ArtSpace building on Broadway. Has that changed anything besides your address?
CGM:  Actually, as we have reduced the size of the staff, we have also expanded our relationship with some of the other arts groups. Right now we share three major functions with one or more of them. 

SD:  Who is sharing what?
CGM:  Our finance department is doing work for Kentucky Opera and StageOne. The Orchestra and Kentucky Opera also share marketing and ticketing/customer service functions. 

SD:  Eliminating those redundancies should save the organizations a lot of money. But what are your challenges in getting the work done?
CGM:  It sounds like taking on three additional events for Kentucky Opera would not be that much of a challenge, but they have a very concentrated season. From September to February we are working with patrons of both organizations, and the subscription campaigns both run at the same time.

SD:  Which would be right now?
CGM:  Yes. We start in late winter and continue until just before Fanfara in September. The good news is that there is some crossover between the Orchestra and the Opera. That means patrons can call and talk to me one time. I even have a few who call here to get their Louisville Ballet tickets just because they are used to calling me. 

SD:  And once you have sent out the tickets, you won’t speak to them again until next year, right?
CGM:  No, no, no. I am in touch with our patrons all the time because patrons do their exchanges through us. We handle the logistics of accommodating the need for additional tickets. Things change, people can’t make it to their regular performance, or they have friends who want to join them for a particular show – we make it all work as seamlessly as possible. 

SD:  Twenty years ago everything was about the subscription. Arts organizations succeeded or failed based on the number of patrons willing to commit to a season ticket. Has that changed?
CGM:  Not really. The most important person to an arts organization is the subscriber/member. It’s the person who wants to marry us – they don’t just want to date; they want to be with us. There are not as many people who are willing to make that kind of commitment as there once were. The Orchestra has a ten-concert season, and that is a big commitment for someone. With Kentucky Opera, it’s three performances but they’re only there for a limited time. Broadway in Louisville does a run of shows over the course of a week or more, so there is more flexibility. That makes it easier for people to give that assurance. 

SD:  Once upon a time the Orchestra played classics concerts on Friday and Saturday night. 
CGM:  Correct. We used to package them into odd and even series: you could do Friday/Odd or Friday/Even, Saturday/Odd or Saturday/Even; you could do all Fridays or all Saturdays. We did a lot more concerts back then. Now we have Thursday morning and Friday or Saturday night. We used to do half the concerts on Friday and half on Saturday. Since it is either/or now, those decisions are based on venue and artist availability. 

SD:  That’s good for the artistic quality of the performances.
CGM:  It gives us some flexibility to negotiate with artists we want to bring in for sure.

SD:  How are you packaging them now?
CGM:  We have the A-Series and the B-Series. This season we will have two classics concerts in the Brown Theatre, so one of those will be on each series. They are also designed with programming in mind. 

SD:  Let’s talk about some of the concerts on the schedule for 2013-14.
CGM:  We are starting with Fanfara on September 7. Jorge Mester will conduct and Emanuel Ax is making his second appearance with the Orchestra. The concert is a little unusual in that it includes two piano concerti:  Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 and Beethoven’s Third. 

SD:  Mester just signed a new three-year contract. As much energy as he has, though, the Maestro can’t go on forever. Is there any thought as to a successor?
CGM:  That is an ongoing search. We are not bringing in guest conductors to audition, per se. But the search for our future music director is continuing.

SD:  The second concert of the season will feature violinist Midori playing Brahms’s concerto, along with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5
CGM:  The last time Midori was here she was a teenager. I’m looking forward to seeing her again and hearing firsthand how she has matured as an artist. 

SD:  Robert Moody conducts the Orchestra with pianist Markus Groh in October, and they will play one of my favorite pieces.
CGM:  Rhapsody in Blue. Gershwin is always popular with our audiences, and I am expecting a big crowd for that one. That concert also includes another audience favorite – Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.

SD:  Along with those two favorites is a piece composed in 2000 by Christopher Theofanidis called Rainbow Body. It is a beautiful piece with lots of solo work for the musicians.
CGM:  Jorge likes to show off the talent within the Orchestra as much as possible and give the musicians a chance to show what they can do. I think our audiences will find this piece very approachable as well. As a matter of fact, our concertmaster, Michael Davis, and principal horn, John Gustely, will be the soloists when Marcelo Lehninger conducts the all-Mozart concert in March 2014. 

SD:  That is one of the concerts at the Brown Theatre – a really nice choice for that program as it is reminiscent of the venues in which Mozart performed these works originally. 
CGM:  Exactly. I think our patrons will also enjoy having the Emerson Quartet perform the Brahm’s Double Concerto with the Orchestra later that month. The classics season concludes in April 2014 with an all-Beethoven concert.

SD:  Of course, classics aren’t all the Louisville Orchestra does. You’re also continuing with the WOW! Series.
CGM:  Yes, and for the first time in a while, we’re beginning the season with all three concerts booked. Two of the three shows are already on sale.

SD:  How are early sales?
CGM:  Great! The John Williams event that we’re doing is on sale just to Louisville Orchestra subscribers at this point. I fully expect it to sell out to subscribers. 

SD:  This is a bit of a rarity. John Williams doesn’t make many appearances as a guest conductor these days. 
CGM:  He doesn’t. But he and Bob Bernhardt are really good friends, so Bob was able to convince him that this would be something he would like to do. 

SD:  So you think this will sell out to subscribers before September.
CGM:  Yes.

SD:  If someone reading this were to subscribe today, could they get the John Williams tickets at the same time?
CGM:  They will have their choice of the best seats available at the time. 

SD:  I see you’re bringing in Natalie Merchant in November.
CGM:  Yes. She takes a long time to think about her albums, so she isn’t flooding the market. But when she releases something, it’s really worth hearing.

SD:  I love her song “Dancing Bear.” She has a way of blending traditions like klezmer and Celtic to make something completely original. She put out her album Leave Your Sleep in 2010, but that was pretty much the first since 2004. 
CGM:  Between those two, we have The Music of Pink Floyd, which will be here in October. That’s going to be great because our audiences love this group every time they come here. 

SD:  This is the 40th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon.  
CGM:  Yes, it’s a pretty big deal to have this concert during the anniversary. But, to answer everybody’s question:  They are not going to play only from that album, and we’re not screening The Wizard of Oz. But it will be a really cool concert. 

SD:  You said this group has been here before?
CGM:  Yes, this group did the music of The Who a couple of months ago and it was great! 

SD:  We mentioned Bob Bernhardt, and folks will be happy to hear that he is back as principal pops conductor. 
CGM:  And he will continue to lead the NightLites series. This season he’s planning something for one of the programs called “NightLites Insights,” which will be an examination and discussion of the music for people who want to know more about what they are hearing.

SD:  A portrait of Robert Schumann is the theme for that program. He will certainly have plenty to talk about – a very interesting person as well as a great composer.
CGM:  Last year he dissected Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and people thought it was a very nice program. 

SD:  Who is coming in for Pops this season?
CGM:  It’s going to be great! Ellis Hall is doing his tribute to Ray Charles; Audra McDonald will be here; and we will have the Canadian Brass, The Piano Men and, finally, Michael Feinstein. Based on past history, I feel confident in saying that this is going to be a very popular Pops season. 

SD:  It sounds like the Louisville Orchestra is back in business.
CGM:  I think it’s too early to say we’re completely out of the woods, and I wouldn’t want to take anything for granted. But with our patrons behind us – or better yet in front of us in the audience – I think we are positioned to keep making music in Louisville for a long time to come. 

For more information about Louisville Orchestra’s six series of performances and season tickets, call 502.587.8681 or go to

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Speed Museum Goes Local on East Market

Welcome Neighbors, Art from NuLu

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

The Speed Museum recently opened a satellite location to serve as a public face and outreach during the three years that the primary location will be closed to the public. The simple brick building on East Market, adjacent to Flame Run Glass Studio’s original location, has been labeled “Local Speed” in large block letters in a mural painted on the side of the structure by Monica Mahoney, indicating a commitment to Louisville artists that is certainly evident in the first exhibit, a concise selection curated by Green Building Gallery Director Daniel Pfalzgraf.
It is a welcome initiative, since the venerable institution has suffered some in its reputation among local working artists in recent years. Both the choice of a space in the NuLu district, with its concentration of galleries and studios, and the focus on showcasing local artists are notable changes in the Speed dynamic. Whether this effort continues not only during the closure but after the high-priced expansion is completed in 2016 will be a question of interest to many notable local visual artists who have previously been critical of the museum.

Fake Painting No. 1 (the queen), Thaniel Ion Lee, 2013.
Dye sublimation on masonite.

For this first exhibit, there is care to include a range of media with vivid, impactful paintings from Gibbs Rounsavall and Bryce Hudson greeting you as you enter. A fanciful, pop-art Wax Fang music video from Jacob Heustis and Ryan Daly plays on a wall monitor, and three intriguingly fluid and sensuous dye sublimation “Fake Paintings” by Thaniel Ion Lee are positioned on the parallel wall. These last pieces were particularly striking in their contrast to the artist’s previous work, some of which is on exhibit down the street at Swanson Contemporary. The echo of Francis Bacon is unmistakable, with a raw, primitive “brushstroke” pushing the images into abstraction.

Count, Philip Rodriguez, 2012. Blown glass, porcelain, manganese dioxide.

The rear portion of the room was occupied by a variety of sculpture that provided some of the most provocative work. Philip Rodriguez’s two pieces were a stunning balance of fundamental form and delicacy. In “Are You Paranoid,” slender glass threads extend from a porcelain shape as would limbs from an insect – a construction of such fragility that one holds their breath for fear of upsetting the elements. The same is true of “Count,” in which a glass dome is pierced by glass needles in a virtuoso display of technique and precision.

Balance, Shohei Katayama, 2013. Photo – Sasha Perez.

Shohei Katayama is represented by a large latex-and-oil marker wall piece, “Uzu,” that uses patterns reminiscent of weather radar but suggestive of much more. In his second work included here, “Balance,” he contributes to the striking sculptural portion of the show with a circular arrangement of iron filings on a platform. It sits low to the floor so that we are pulled down to inspect it more closely, as the filings are subtly adjusted in a perpetual kinetic action by a rotating magnet beneath.
Two larger installations are by Andrew Cozzens and twin brothers Matthew and Mitchell Bradley. The former is an intriguing machine of PVC pipe depositing threads of hot adhesive into mounds on the floor, or at least we presume it was during the opening. The activity is not ongoing and only the static result greets the viewer on any given day, but it remains compelling. The Bradleys’ work is made up of foam noodles, string, neon strapping and other materials that exchange their inherent innocence for a black light containment of sinister connotations. Standing within this installation proves slightly disturbing yet highly seductive.
Other strong work is featured from sculptors Michael Ratterman and Chris Radtke, and photographs from Sarah Lyon and Letitia Quesenberry, which rounds out a power-packed show for the cozy space with an industrial personality. There is also a classroom space and a front desk with video monitor showing details of the expansion plans. 

Welcome Neighbors, Art from NuLu
Thursday-Friday 5-8 p.m., Saturday 11-3 p.m.
Local Speed
822 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Try Your Hand at "Keanuing" As Point Break Returns to The Alley

Point Break LIVE! in rehearsal.

Point Break LIVE!

Created by Jaime Keeling
Directed by Scott Davis

Reviewed by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

There are difficulties in reviewing a show in its fourth go-round with the same company. It may be impossible to recapture the sense of discovery that came with the first production; and even the most generous comparisons may characterize the latest rendition as Johnny-come-lately.

It helps that this is only my second visit to the anarchic spoofery that is Point Break LIVE! I thought highly of the first production and, in theory, this is that same script. Yet this version seemed looser, less polished, even a little less professional in some ways; but it is also altogether edgier, as if infected by a devil-may-care virus.

The premise remains the same. Oscar-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow is mounting a stage version of her cult classic movie and elects to choose an audience member to play the Keanu Reeve role of injured football star turned FBI undercover agent Johnny Utah. The implicit criticism of any random choice being able to adequately substitute for the famously vacant gaze of Mr. Reeve is a funny idea. But it is just the jumping-off point for a satire that targets celebrity and cheesy, almost-B movies at a pace that never allows any jokes falling flat to slow down the proceedings enough for the audience to notice. Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey also starred in the original movie; and the actors are targets as much, if not more, than the characters or the story.

The Swayze role of Bodhi, the mystical bank-robber/surfer, is here essayed by Todd Zeigler with appropriate Zen empty-headedness, although I think he misses the opportunity to nail the arrogant, macho swagger that was a hallmark of that dearly departed movie star. Kimby Taylor-Peterson was commanding as Katheryn Bigelow, and her improv skills were well-employed as she kept the premise afloat while backstage preparations with the Keanu substitute were underway. Jamie Shannon was a game and energetic PA (Production Assistant) whose primary function is to manhandle the fake Keanu through the action and supply his lines on laminated cue cards. Chesley Sommer played Roach, a member of the bank robbers/surfer gang with perhaps a bit too much fevered energy; but he had some funny moments. Brian McKenery did yeoman work as a utility player, including operating the live video feed. As Tyler, the shared girlfriend/plot device for both Bodhi and Johnny Utah, Christie Troxell did her best with a thankless part, providing at least some Southern-fried sass to her underwritten character. Ben Unwin was a riot as Grommet and another gang member who was realized simultaneously as a puppet. This was a departure from the script necessitated by a last-minute drop-out from the cast, but it proved a welcome piece of fresh business that helped liven up the evening. And Kenn Parks was a suitably ridiculous Gary Busey stand-in as Angelo Pappas, the FBI agent running the operation. The evening I was in attendance, Jeremy Gernert won the casting call to be Keanu, and, besides being generally a good sport, he gave several line readings that were an unquestionable improvement on the original.

The first production divided the audience and identified an "action zone" closer to the stage – an area in which the audience was at great risk of being saturated with water and fake blood and were subject to a certain amount of forced participation in several scenes. Now staged in the cozy cabaret space, ALL seats are in the "action zone." There is no escape from the assault of liquids and actors practically jumping in your lap, so don't be shy about donning the cheesy plastic protective gear. And watch out for the laminated cue cards that Ms. Shannon tosses in every conceivable direction with abandon and force! In all seriousness, there is a real hazard to that element that makes protective eye wear or a hard hat a worthy accessory. Several audience members (including this reviewer) were struck directly or after a card ricocheted off the support beams and pipes above our heads, although there were no cuts or bruises suffered.

Drinking is allowed – nay encouraged – which makes sense since this may be the most foolhardy yet fun theatrical enterprise on a Louisville stage this summer. But this is a party show if ever there was one and, as such, has become a near-iconic staple of The Alley's programming. Check it out if you dare, but be prepared to defend yourself.

Point Break LIVE!

June 20-22, 28-29
July 12-13, 19-20

Tickets $20
All shows at 7:30 p.m.

Student "pay what you can night":  Thursday July 22
Industry Night:  $12 tickets – Monday July 8

The Alley Theater
1205 East Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Dead Man’s Cell Phone"

Susan Brooks and Dara Tiller in Dead Man's Cell Phone.
Photo – Theatre [502].

By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Gil Reyes

Review by Rachel White

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Rachel White. All rights reserved.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone opens in a coffee shop. A man sits below an abstract painting, facing the wall, perfectly still. A woman sits quietly enjoying a bowl of soup. Silence. The man’s cell phone rings. It rings again, and again, and again. The woman looks around. She addresses the man. He doesn’t answer. The phone rings again. 

This opening is perfectly timed and the scene is drawn out as long and uncomfortably as possible without losing the tension. The director, Gil Reyes, makes use of the silence and space between Jean (Susan Brooks), the woman, and the man (Gordon). Jean’s utter discomfort is made painfully obvious by Brooks’ wide expressive eyes and her clear, tentative voice. Everything about Brooks’ performance is heightened and filled, and she is especially interesting in this moment, holding the stage alone for several tense moments. When Jean decides to answer the phone herself, she begins her relationship with the dead man, his cell phone, and the family that is trying to reach him through it.

From here on is an absurd journey where Jean meets Gordon’s oddball mother, Mrs. Gottlieb, played with larger-than-life eccentricity by Becky LeCron; his widow, Hermia (Dara Jade Tiller); and his brother, Dwight (Ryan Lash). Love affairs ensue as well as trips to the other side as Jean realizes with disappointment that Gordon (Robert McFarland) – whom she loves in spite of his being dead – is not such a great guy after all.

The ethereal dreamlike nature of the play and its elements of absurdity make it a deeply challenging piece for the audience – and I’m sure for the performers. There are parts where the pace of the play slows, particularly toward the end of Act I. Because the piece itself is so ethereal, it can begin to feel as if it is meandering in places. This happens more when the actors play the absurdity of the situation, particularly in the dinner scene following the reveal of Gordon’s death. The performances are strongest when the emotions come from a place of real pain, as when Jean is caught in a purgatory-like place with Gordon. When she realizes it could be forever, her loneliness becomes palpable even though the situation is unrealistic.

However, there’s a great clarity in Reyes’ direction, a cleanness that grounds the play in its own reality; he finds a way to make sense of the odd situations the characters find themselves in. It is designed with a love for the theatrical, and both Reyes and Designer Karl Anderson have an eye for pretty details (the white origami houses opening on a clothesline) and simple touches that are intended to dazzle, and somehow they do.

Robert McFarland as Gordan is an unsettling presence on stage. He has been cast more than once as the smoothly confident, truth telling, not-quite-human being; his knowing smile and smooth confidence combined with his physical height give him an other-worldly quality. His description of the taste and texture of mushy and merely serviceable lentils is delivered with careful concern. I could imagine his disappointment that this should be his last meal, as Jean slurps the last drops of Lobster Bisque.   

It’s wonderful to see poetic work like this. It’s a departure for [502], but it feels like an inevitable one. They seem to favor the poetic, but past seasons have often been devoted to love and relationships. This play is a little more ambitious, a grown-up play grappling with the deeper philosophical issues of our age.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone

June 21, 22, 24, 28 and 29 at 8 p.m.

Theatre 502 at
The Baron’s Theater
131 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Tickets: $15