Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

Archive for the ‘Creating’ Category

In The Smoke Of The Sting .. a journey of ‘otherness’ for Pianist & Baritone

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..woke now -to the changes in directions buffeting country and personal journey..

Fully woke. And working.

It is my honor to be in process of collaborating with two esteemed artists -Ms Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan, and Jarrod Lee- in a performance piece I have written for Washington National Opera entitled “In The Smoke Of The Sting”, a music journey which threads the words, determination, and courage of three Champion boxers -Joe Louis, Emile Griffith and Muhammad Ali- through music and poetry, and arias from operas written about these men.
The intimacy of this salon piece invites us all to experience the nature of discrimination that was a daily fight to these men, who endured the truth that being titled ‘Champion’ did little to stop the public’s disquiet at such prominent ‘otherness’.
Current dates/locations of presentation that I will update should there occur any changes:
2/14/2017, 10:30 am, Anacostia Library
2/15/2017, 12:00 pm, National Postal Museum
2/18/2017, 2:00 pm, Takoma Park Library
2/22/2017, 10:30 am, Francis Gregory Library
2/24/2017, 6:00 pm, The Sitar Arts Center
2/26/2017, 3:00 pm, Westminster Presbyterian Church
2/28/2017, 7:00 pm, Shaw Library
3/1/2017, 7:00 pm, Petworth Library
3/2/2017, 2:00 pm, Bellevue Library
3/7/2017, 7:00 pm, Woodridge Library
3/9/2017, 7:00 pm, Mount Pleasant Library
3/14/2017, 7:00 pm, The Hill Center
…the energy and focus of Dana and Jarrod speak to how fierce artists work under & through all conditions – and capture attention, with fierce artistry!

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Ensemble Studio Theatre is giving BREATHING ASH breath..

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..exciting -excited! -and feeling proud.

Through longstanding support of Bob Jaffe, Ensemble Studio Theatre is giving my play Breathing Ash a workshop, and then rehearsed reading, on Tuesday the 25th October.

The company have gathered a terrific group of actors, and I have a fearless and deep thinking director in Christopher Burris!

More to come on the details and journey of this work, whose themes and narrative profoundly resonate, in the chilling nature of culture today..

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

September 22, 2016 at 8:51 AM

NPR does a profile of my students in the NPG Portraits Alive! program

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..in this season of unprecedented politics, my students in the National Portrait Gallery’s program Portraits Alive!, bring their concepts of leadership to the fore -and are profiled by NPR..

An incredible group of hard working young minds, making sense for themselves, a way in which the past resonates in the shape of the future..

I am so proud of them!

 

NPR Profile: At The Portrait Gallery, Students Tell The Stories That Pictures Can’t

Youth’s take on leadership

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I am fortunate; it is my third year with the National Portrait Gallery’s program Portraits Alive!

Having the opportunity to participate in the construct of what students will be addressing this year, I sought to find the model by which to investigate their concepts of ‘civic duty and ‘social responsibility’.

Students would choose sitters, whose portraits are part of the NPG collection, who best exemplified such ingredients of character and informed their definition of ‘leadership’.

With these choices made, students were to create 2 to 3 minute monologues of characterization, in the aspect of their sitter, which would then be delivered in front of the corresponding portrait and enacted as part of an open opportunity for the museum’s daily audience.

These presentations are well publicized and have a faithful following –but it is always a delight to find impromptu interest drawing in the many unsuspecting others who have happened into the museum on the day! Whether families, tourists, summer school excursion groups, or local workers seeking a lunch hour refuge –the experience of the Portraits Alive! Student voices tour offers a dimension of exhibition as entertainment, which is very much a part of the NPG’s array of enrichment programs designed to engage a broad breadth of audience who visit the museum with a diversity of interests.

This summer our young presenters weave a tapestry of expression and social consciousness that resonates with the state of America; moving from portraits of Richard Nixon, to Sylvia Rivera, Russell Means and Jane Adams –to name a few- students give expression to different decades of cultural engagement, across passionate personalities, who ultimately wind up articulating the wrestling tensions of scope that continue to seek to twine into our national narrative of political character and democracy.

 

The 2nd session’s presentations will be given in the first week of August, and are open to the public.

 

The initial session’s presentations were given in the 2nd week of July. These are some photos of the journey!

 

Some costumes

Some costumes

 

Captivated crowd

Captivated crowd

 

Ensemble and audience

Ensemble and audience

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

July 22, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Kennedy Center Millennium Stage: Washington National Opera preview of APPOMATTOX

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..ahead of the current production premiere of Philip Glass‘s opera APPOMATTOX, I was asked by Washington National Opera to sculpt a thread of narrative to give some context to music, and resonant issues of civil war/civil rights.

 
The result was an entirely collaborative effort with WNO’s music Administrator, Ken Weiss, participation by Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists, and Greg Watkins, as the event’s Narrator, in a program of readings and song, presented on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

 
The evening’s performance was streamed live by the Kennedy Center.

Cedar Hill

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..it was in 2010 when I was first at Cedar Hill having created an enrichment program for Washington National Opera, in collaboration with DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. That presentation was called Black Women In Opera Celebrate Black Women In Community.

On October 24 2015 there is to be another gathering at Cedar Hill, with new partners and ongoing collaborators. This event is an original enrichment for Stanford in Washington, and is being shared as programming enrichment with Stanford in New York; to be creating for these two constituencies of students is a marvel for me, as well as an incredible opportunity for facilitating connection to DC history, as well as threads of a national, historical narrative, through the life of the last resident owner of Cedar Hill, Frederick Douglass.

Several skeins of education weave through this event, by way of Douglass.

In November 2015 WNO is mounting a production of Philip Glass’ opera Appomattox. Though its initial incarnation was premiered in 2007 with the San Francisco Opera, there was work to be done on the piece and the Washington National Opera commissioned Glass to re-visit it. It is this reimagined creation which will receive its premiere in DC.

With this unique event I found myself in a position to pull several threads of opportunity into one tapestry; SIW has kept to a track of offering enrichment programming on issues and paradigms of diversity. In seeking to further expand their students’ view into contextualizing conversations on race, civil liberty, and our nation’s gripping tatter, into the harrowing march of civil war, the fact of the opera and the site of Cedar Hill became cause of a mutual exposition.

Cedar Hill was Frederick Douglass’ house and acknowledged home from 1877 to 1895. Here he would often have evenings of song performed in his parlor with the windows opened wide, so that his community could enjoy the music too. This was a purposeful exchange of society, as it was meant to offer opportunity to singers and musicians of color, so that all could see that music, in itself, held no barriers, but was available to be performed for anyone who would take it up.

Douglass, a man of exacting proportions of intellect and endeavor, by the late 1800’s was very widely traveled and accustomed to a wide variety of music; he shared knowledge easily, and with a deliberate taste for assortment.

Salon opportunities of socializing at his home included the music of spirituals as well as ‘parlor songs’ -a term for the American response to the fashion of European ‘art songs’, and performed by singers in the intimate settings of recitals, or salons.

Here are some selections of spirituals, and ‘parlor songs’ that might have had moment on Cedar Hill.

 

 All God’s Chillum Got Wings -Spiritual

Ain’t That Good News -Spiritual

Think On Me -composed (1850’s) by Alicia Ann Scott

 

Douglass would have heard original “art songs” in his traveling through Europe, and during the period of 1885 – 1887 he would have come across the songs of Johannes Brahms who was contemporary to this time, prolific and well known as a composer of the German art song called “lied”..

 

Sommerabend – composed (1885) by Johannes Brahms

 

At twilight the summer evening lies

Over green fields and forest;

Golden moon in the blue sky

Shines down, hazy, fragrantly refreshing.

By the brook chirps the cricket,

And the waters are stirring,

And the wanderer hears a ripple

And a breathing in the stillness.

Yonder, alone, by the brook,

The beautiful mermaid is bathing;

Arm and neck, white and lovely,

Shimmer in the moonlight.

 

Though not heard on Cedar Hill, Charles Ives is an American composer creating at the beginning of the 20th century. He took the many models of Europe, but sieved the form through American folk music and American ethnic rhythms into a style of classical interpretation that spoke of American origins and ‘soundscapes’.

Ives utilized the model of ‘art song’ to inform a growing musical language, reaching into atonality.

 

Afterglow –composed (1922) by Charles Ives

 

Moving forward into the musical landscape of American composer Philip Glass ..

Appomattox presents us with many of the characters of the civil war period, but central to this narrative is the character of Frederick Douglass. In its entirety  the opera skews time and weaves a tale that presents dynamics of power, with issues of civil liberty, through an assortment of historical characters that include President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, as well as President Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Philip Glass’ musical idiom is essentially referred to as “minimalism”, in that his use of orchestration and rhythmic dynamics are spare and utilized to accentuate and articulate patterns of speech and sketch specific emotion.

At first fully embracing this style of idiom, Glass, as he progressed from enfant terrible, to eminence grise, emended his identity to that of “being a composer of music with repetitive structures”.

These are some samples of Glass’ music.

The piece, Dance, was created in 1979, and was a work done in collaboration with Lucinda Childs (choreographer) and Sol LeWitt (artist); it was premiered in Amsterdam, then at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

 

Dance 8 – composed (1979) by Philip Glass

 

Moving closer to composition of Appomattox, Glass’ Symphony No.8 was written in 2006.

 

Symphony No.8  – 1st movement (partial) -composed (2006) by Philip Glass

During the program at Cedar Hill on the 24th October, along with a selection of parlor songs performed by local performing artists, there will be selections from Appomattox presented as well.

..in seeking to create this full program I have revisited a great deal of Douglass’ writings and speeches..

These are two which resonate with the wide dynamics of compassion and Abolitionist fire that was embodied within the man..

 

Douglass the Abolitionist; content of ‘July 4th’ speech (1852)

 

Douglass as Statesman; giving the oration at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument, in Lincoln Park (1876)

Creating Unique Programming

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Creating. Unique. Programming.

…set against one another each of those words can wreck havoc in that they speak to something without precedent; something out of the ordinary; something, yet to be in an index table for “standard”.

One of the perks for being my age is that creating unique programming falls well into my paradigm of permissions I’ve embraced as ..well, as being my age.

It also comes while walking a fine line between ‘hubris’, ‘experience’ and ‘facilitation’.

That’s the other thing at my age: I’ve come to embrace all the gray in the dynamic needed to successfully engage the imagination of others, and move an idea across a threshold that often is sighted as cause for trepidation and anxiety – that “step” off the footpath, onto untrammeled concepts and terrain.. where “successful” comes proportionate to ones availability to being ‘unsure’, if not down right vulnerable.

If I am strong enough to appear foolish, I can encourage others to be less afraid of moments of awkwardness and ‘different’. At least, that’s the condition I use when shaping the grid to lead an expedition into something unique ..because going to such a place requires trust, beyond courage and bravery and an open mind; trust – that, sometimes, being willing to appear foolish is the right way to be strong.. and as dividend: learn something new; or at the least, glean what there is to be discovered along the way there..

I know this might thread as a rambling metaphorical falneur ..or ‘high falootin’ intellectual babbly-gook’ – but it is in the process of being able to find ways to articulate the, as yet, ‘unexpressed’, that discoveries are identified, and given concept; and given speech; and shaped, through words, to be offered as the solid steps into an unknown.

______________

Concepts need words of great sensitivity, and should be robust in their expressiveness, as each word, one against another, etches the ‘new found’, and goes a long way to desensitizing, delineating, defining the breadth of a unique thing..

But this process –this contextualization is not about purging “unique” of its qualities, to make that word an easy one.

It is about articulating the dimensions; it is about – exploring.

Explorers are intrepid; they are willing to dare; this does not mean they do so without fear.

Fear when stepping into the unknown is a healthy caution; it is a form of respect – and in this is a glimmer of the ‘multifacetness’ of language, as the very word “fear” usually halts any step – as it is a word that usually resonates with “fight or flight”..

But an intrepid explorer knows that fear informs fortitude – this leaves them on their toes; it courses energy into every fiber of their awareness to press them to gently search, or touch the boundaries of where they stand, discerning what is ahead, what is solid, what is unique, what is new, and what needs other articulation for mapping.

Once back in lands where a population awaits news of adventure, explorers are deemed “brave”, having survived their discoveries.

..but for the explorer.. when alone, in that place of discovery, trying to inch a foot, one step ahead of another.. – is “brave” the word they use in speaking to themselves, standing on the uncertain ground of “new”..?

I imagine them all tensile energy ..teasing out their awareness’s ahead of their body ..using their eyes ..their ears ..their previous experiences, their full senses to ‘echo image’ the defining contours of the ‘new’ that is before them.. – and relishing the fear which guides them forward to establish new as worthy.

__________________

Creating

Unique

Programming

is a platform for exploration that perhaps begins at a ‘given’, or at something ‘known’, but leads, ultimately, each of us, to somewhere new.

The next year is shaping up full of expeditions, and foolish, I search along to lead.

 

 

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

August 10, 2015 at 6:57 AM