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September 5, 2006

A&E: Spotlights 1-5

Spotlight on: Looking for LilithTheater group tells stories from women’s perspectivePhoto courtesy of Looking for Lilith: Charity Thompson (far left) of Looking for Lilith rehearses a play with members of the K'anjob'al Presbytery in San Jaun Ixcoy, Huehuetengo, Guatemala.Sure, we all know Eve’s story: made from Adam’s rib, succumbed to temptation, exiled from paradise. What about Lilith?Trina Fischer, 33, and Shannon Woolley, 32, founders of the Louisville-based theater group Looking for Lilith, know her legend well.Lilith was the original wife of Adam, banished from Eden because she was his equal, not his subservient. The legend is not widely known, however, and that’s where the idea of Looking for Lilith originates, says Fischer, the company’s executive director.“(It) comes from this idea of strong women’s stories, strong women’s voices being silenced over time,” she says.Fischer says Looking for Lilith was actually Woolley’s idea, which she came up with during college. The pair have been friends since they were 6 and 7, respectively, and they began working together in 2000 before officially co-founding the company in 2001.For the first five years, it was based in New York City, before moving back to their native Louisville.“We were getting very excited about the growing art scene, and especially the growing theater scene in Louisville, with all the small, independent, dynamic (and) diverse theater companies that are here now,” Fischer says.The company’s mission is to explore the female side of history.“If you look at the historical record, what we often know about is the men’s side of the historical experience, but we don’t know a lot about women’s side of historical experiences,” Fischer says. “We decided we wanted to hear what women were experiencing during that time. Those stories have Photo courtesy of Looking for Lilith: Charity Thompson (far left) of Looking for Lilith rehearses a play with members of the K'anjob'al Presbytery in San Jaun Ixcoy, Huehuetengo, Guatemala. been lost over time.”They currently have a one-woman play, “Women Speak Iraq,” in development. The piece is based on interviews and research about women who are in some way connected to the United States and Iraq, whether they’re military, peace activists or Iraqis.The company is also reprising its production “What My Hands Have Touched,” a look at World War II experiences from the perspective of a USO performer, a nurse, a pilot, a wife and a factory worker.The women of Looking for Lilith also spent time this summer and last in Guatemala, working with women in the Presbyterian Church, where they can officially hold positions of power in the church but are still being repressed, Fischer says.“There has been a lot of oppression of women, desire for leadership and desire to have their voices heard,” she says. “They were interested in us coming down and using theater of the oppressed techniques to help the women share their stories and get confidence to keep going forward in this fight to have their voices heard and for equality in their church and in their lives, and to feel OK in seeking power and leadership.”Although it’s still in the works, Fischer hopes the stories grow into a bilingual play that explores many institutions of faith and how they can both liberate (by offering a place of community and spiritual freedom) and oppress women.BY STEPHANIE SALMONSleo@leoweekly.comSpotlight on: LOOKVisual arts group keeps the focus on artScooter Davidson, president of LOOK since 2005.: photo by Kelly MackeyIt’s time to take another peek at LOOK, the gallery and museum organization of Louisville and Southern Indiana. LEO last wrote about the group in January 2005, when LOOK members said they felt successful in promoting art venues and getting people to participate in the monthly gallery hops. What was lacking — and what still seems to be lacking — was significant sales of art. Scooter Davidson has been president since 2005. She explains that the 34 LOOK members actually have “dual goals — the selling of art and educating people about art. No question is stupid. Buying art helps the artist, the gallery, Louisville. It even helps the person on the receiving end.”One idea has been to entice out-of-town guests (aka potential customers) by educating hotel concierge and sales staffs through private mini-gallery hops. LOOK also continues advertising art day trips in nearby cities.But local art lovers aren’t overlooked. LOOK has applied for booth space at the St. James and Ursuline art fairs. Its art gallery guide, useful to both local buyers and tourists, will be updated in 2007.Chuck Swanson, LOOK vice president and a longtime gallery owner, is in a position to observe the art scene from multiple vantage points. “There are things I really like about the gallery hops,” he says. “Artists can be assured that a lot of people will see their work. If the artist is not well known, it used to be only a tiny handful of people saw the work. There’s fun on the street and synergy; it creates buzz.”But he’s candid about reality and expectations. “Just because a lot of people see the work doesn’t translate into extra sales. The truth is, fine art — I don’t think a huge amount sells; it’s not a mass-produced thing. We’re not as sophisticated as we would like to think. Almost every city that dares call itself a city has a gallery hop now.”But there’s continued hope for Louisville. Swanson has heard stories that art majors in American colleges are at an all-time high. He’s noted “more artists running around Louisville now than I’ve ever seen, a lot of young artists.” Those are things that build a foundation; creative people are more likely to make, appreciate and buy art, which should ensure that a vibrant visual art scene only gets better.For more information on LOOK, go to www.looklouisvilleart.com. BY JO ANNE TRIPLETTjtriplettart@yahoo.comSpotlight on: The Kentucky Opera’s David RothThe road most traveled leads to KentuckyDavid Roth, the Kentucky Opera's new general director.: photo by Kelly MackeyCreative people frequently grow up with a nagging message: better have something to fall back on in case your arts career doesn’t pan out. There are those who let that voice pass; they persevere in their art while they wait tables to make ends meet. Other folks — like David Roth, Kentucky Opera’s new general director — heed the cautionary advice but still figure out a way to indulge that creative impulse.Roth grew up acting with various roles in musical theater performances. But at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he decided to take his parent’s advice and earned an accounting degree while pursuing a degree in vocal performance.As many of his artsy friends pursued their artistic goals and paid bills working as servers, Roth moved to Minneapolis. There he worked as an accountant while indulging his passion for theater by attending auditions and rehearsals. Accountants tend to have flexible schedules, he said, which helped. “I had better flexibility and better pay,” Roth said.With a background in both theater and business, and after a short stint with the Minnesota Opera, Roth began traveling all over the country as an independent stage director.After about 10 years on the road, Roth decided to settle down and took a job as production manager of the Fort Worth Opera in the fall of 2000. He applied his business experience in that position and was eventually promoted to finance director.Then, last December, the Kentucky Opera came calling. Although he’d traveled extensively, Roth had never been to Kentucky until his initial interview. He was pleasantly surprised to find Louisville’s arts community quite vivid for a city of its size.“I was very charmed by the city, the history, the legacy, the commitment to the arts,” he said. “I’ve been nothing but pleased to find that everyone I meet affirms that initial perception. … It’s a wonderful town.”As general director, Roth will oversee both the artistic and financial sides of the opera. He wants to build a stronger subscription base while continuing to develop “a very consistent, committed, high-quality product.”He’d also like to work with other operatic organizations to build new productions that could be performed by other operas worldwide. Besides being an ambitious creative endeavor, the move would help make some money for Kentucky Opera. “We need to develop new productions,” he said.Roth also spoke about increasing pay for operatic artists. “Pay has not increased over the past years,” he said. “We need to David Roth, the Kentucky Opera's new general director.: photo by Kelly Mackey so we can build and secure good artists for production and maintain very good relationships with a large supply of artists.” As we spoke, Roth’s excitement was apparent, both about helping Kentucky Opera live up to its full potential but also about being in Louisville: “Just look at the quality, variety, the number of restaurants. Look at Frankfort Avenue. Not one chain David Roth, the Kentucky Opera's new general director.: photo by Kelly Mackey along that stretch. David Roth, the Kentucky Opera's new general director.: photo by Kelly Mackey says something about the quality of the town and the quality of the people.”BY MICHAEL LICHVARleo@leoweekly.comSpotlight on: KET2’s ‘Louisville Life’New KET2 video mag will focus on LouisvilleCandyce Clifft: will host “Louisville Life,” a new weekly cultural affairs magazine show on KET2. Photo by Steve ShafferAfter a seven-year run on KET, “Mixed Media” is headed for reruns.In its place, so to speak, KET’s Louisville crew will offer “Louisville Life,” a brand new video magazine focused on cultural affairs. And while its predecessor shone its gaze on interesting creative folks from across the state, “Louisville Life” will stick to Louisville, the state’s largest city and also KET’s largest subscriber base.Hosted by Candyce Clifft, whose day job is as co-host of WDRB-TV’s “Fox in the Morning,” each half-hour show will include three segments shot in the Louisville area, plus one in-studio interview of a topical nature, conducted by Clifft. It will air on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 28, and run for 26 weeks. Each show will rotate amongst six ongoing themes, with each show touching on two. A third segment that is a signature story will begin the program. The themes are arts, history, neighborhoods, businesses, family-friendly, places of interest and events.“Louisville Life” will be produced by many of the same people who worked on “Mixed Media,” says producer-director Gary Pahler. Jayne McClew, who formerly worked on the WHAS-TV video magazine “Louisville Tonight Live,” will handle content production for the new show. She’ll report from the field, while Cliftt will be in the studio.Louisville native Andrew Willis, now a Boston composer, created an original instrumental theme song for the show, which Pahler describes as jazzy urban hip hop.The show aims to create partnerships with local organizations and institutions, such as the Metro government office of neighborhoods. According to its press material, it also promises to “include people who make Louisville interesting — not just the ‘typical’ players, but some of the emerging leaders, the community organizers, the unsung heroes, the eccentrics (and) people of all ages and ethnicities.”“This is a way,” Pahler says, “to let Louisvillians (learn) more about their city, and in a lot of ways, to be able to bridge the community and let people know what’s going on in other neighborhoods.”Early on, look for stories on the Keep Louisville Weird campaign, the Ali Center, refugee life in Louisville, up-and-coming restaurants and oddities such as the cavernous 4 million square-foot space under the Watterson Expressway and Louisville Zoo that houses vintage cars, boats and Hollywood films. And there will be regular snippets of interest: Did you know Louisville is the largest producer of disco balls in the United States? What about our role in creating the National Spelling Bee? Do you realize the significance of those numerous cast iron facades downtown?In short, some of the things people should know about their town but might not. “The show excites me because it’s a way to tell people some of the interesting stories in our city that might not make your average newscast,” Clifft says. “It will make people proud of their hometown. It will give them some new insights into what the community has to offer, and in some cases it will give them a new fact to share at the work water cooler.”Asked about her already full work and home life, Clifft shrugs it off. “Sure, my life is hectic, but this is a worthwhile project. I’ll be working on the show after my morning job and before it’s time to be in the carpool line.”BY CARY STEMLEcstemle@leoweekly.comSpotlight on: Wayside Expressions GalleryArt with a mission, in a MissionWayside Expressions Gallery founder Elmer Lucille Allen: with with artist Jack Norris, who recently exhibited his work at the gallery. Photo by Elizabeth KramerWayside Expressions Gallery, which is affiliated with Wayside Christian Mission, is an art gallery with a mission: to be an integral part of the East Market Street art zone. Moreover, it’s a constructive way to bring pride, self-esteem and even cash to the homeless residents of the Mission. The gallery began just more than a year ago, propelled by community activist and volunteer Elmer Lucille Allen. It opens each First Friday during the Trolley Hop and attracts some 250 visitors a month.The format of each evening is surprisingly familiar; guests mingle, visit and talk art while sampling appetizers and listening to music. The twist is that a local artist sets up his or her creations in half of the gallery space, while the other half is filled with work by homeless Louisville artists. The gallery shows art in a variety of media, from dream catchers to oil paintings and everything in between.Wayside depends on enthusiastic volunteers to fill the gap between all that needs to be done and available staff resources. That’s where Elmer Lucille Allen comes in. She’s an artist, grandmother, breast cancer survivor, chemist and force to be reckoned with. Bart Smith, education coordinator at Wayside, credits her with single-handedly keeping the gallery going.“You get out of the way, she designs everything,” he said. Allen spends hours in advance getting things ready, from cleaning the space — used for other Wayside functions when the gallery isn’t open — to working with artists, helping create art resumes and hanging art. With her can-do attitude, she makes each evening a celebration. And that’s rubbing off on Wayside residents. Smith mentioned one resident in particular who connected with the University of Louisville through the gallery, sold a piece of art for $350 and then got a job. It was life-changing.And being around Allen is energizing. She has a history of starting things, such as the Chickasaw Little League in the 1960s, which allowed African-American youths in West Louisville to play organized baseball. She saw that something similarly uplifting needed to be done at Wayside, so she just did it and took on another big commitment — and it’s survived so far and seems to be thriving.Wayside Expressions Gallery is located at 808 E. Market St., and is open every First Friday during the Trolley Hop from 5-9 p.m. For more information, call 584-3711.BY PENNY PEAVLERleo@leoweekly.com