September 5, 2006

A&E: Spotlights 11-15

Spotlight on: Thrown Together pottery centerMeet Louisville’s ‘Martha Stewart of pottery’Rand Heazlitt is owner-director of Thrown Together pottery center, which is expanding.: photo by Kelly MackeyThe centuries-old craft of making wood-fired ceramics just got a major boost in Louisville — expansion of the unique Thrown Together pottery center is in the works. Thrown Together truly is a center for pottery, selling clay, chemicals and equipment for making art; hosting exhibitions; offering classes for adults and children with base clay materials included; and even workshops for the serious potter taught by guest artists from around the country. And once you pay for a class, you can use the studio anytime to practice the craft.Thrown Together has no employees; a dozen apprentices of all ages help keep the doors open and answer the phones, and about six teachers direct the class schedule.On a visit one Friday evening last month, potters of all ages and abilities were sitting around with wheels and throwing pots together. There was laughter and fun, but also support, encouragement and teaching among the group. One woman at the wheel said she was new to the craft but couldn’t get enough of it, often coming each evening right after work to get in an hour or so before closing time. The porch out back where the kilns are built provides a great view into the lush, green backyards of the Crescent Hill neighborhood.Owner-director Rand Heazlitt is fulfilling a lifelong dream and likes to consider himself the “Martha Stewart of pottery.” That is, throughout a career in non-profit administration, he wanted to pursue pottery full time. He plans to expand his outreach with construction of the Bluff Center for Wood Fired Ceramics on a 140-acre farm in Corydon, where he’ll offer more intensive workshop experiences.But Heazlitt is not alone in his passion for wood-fired and salt-glazed ceramics. His band of loyal students and teachers all want to be there — all the time. Potting seems to do that to people. Les Greeman, English professor/stockbroker/potter, is overjoyed to show the place off and explain how the kilns work while remaining incredibly patient with the 5- and 7-year-old potters spinning their clay into flat, lifeless lumps.On the horizon at Thrown Together are exhibitions of national and international work, a University of Louisville graduate thesis show, expansion of works for sale, including collections by national and international artists, and even a new line of Heazlitt’s own clay that premieres in October. A model clay residency program for the entire country that will be based in Louisville is also in the planning stages, focusing on functional and vessel-type pottery, with people making a living from it. So, move over Martha Stewart, the new “you” may just be Rand Heazlitt.Thrown Together is located at 1806 Frankfort Ave. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Call 896-1667 for more information.BY PENNY PEAVLERleo@leoweekly.comSpotlight on: Little Colonel PlayersLittle Colonel Players: 50 years of historyThomas Alan Menendez,: playing Barney Cashman, and Erin Block, playing Elaine Navazio, in the Little Colonel Players's 2005 production of “Last of the Red Hot Lovers.” Photo courtesy of Little Colonel PlayersWhen most people reach a milestone — say, hitting the big 5-0 — they celebrate (or have a mid-life crisis trying to re-affirm their youth, but that’s another story). However, when The Little Colonel Players, located in Peewee Valley, commence with their 50th season this year, they will take audiences on a stroll down memory lane.To celebrate the landmark year, the Little Colonel Players will fill this season by re-staging one play from each decade of their existence.Bill Baker, a member of the theater’s board of directors who has been participating with the Little Colonel Players since 1975, says members chose “top-notch plays people would like to see again.” That includes such fare as the musical “Nunsense,” “Ten Little Indians,” “Harvey” and “Crimes of the Heart,” the latter which Baker directed in 1983 and will direct again this season.The players originated in 1956 from a group of mostly Peewee Valley Women’s Club members, Baker says. Later, in May 1958, the Little Colonel produced its first full-length play, “George Washington Slept Here.” This play will kick off the 2006-07 season.One key component to its longevity, Baker says, has been the Little Colonel Players’ reputation among Louisville’s theater buffs.“I think it’s a tribute to the fact we have continuity; that we’re long-standing,” says Candy Thomas, another board member.Baker says over that the years the theater has faced its share of challenges (like maintaining an old building and competing with a growing number of community theater groups) and changed as more people have come from other cities in the region to be part of the casts and crews. He cites one actor who has driven from Sellersburg to be part of the productions. Even the Little Colonel Players’ current president, Wayne Muscar, lives in Shepherdsville and drives 26 miles each way for rehearsals, performances and meetings. “It’s worth the drive — just having a part and being on stage,” says Muscar, who has a part in “George Washington Slept Here.”Thomas attributes the success of the players to the dedicated individuals involved — past and present. “We have just some amazing people that play such a huge part in getting the theater started and keeping it going,” she says. “These people put up some of their own money just to get this theater off the ground.”Thomas also notes that the theater is truly open to the community and everyone is invited to participate. “I’m really hoping this season will be not just a tribute to history but also maybe something of a homecoming,” Thomas says. “I hope that people who have been involved with the playhouse — backstage, on stage, board members, audience members — over the past 50 years Thomas Alan Menendez,: playing Barney Cashman, and Erin Block, playing Elaine Navazio, in the Little Colonel Players's 2005 production of “Last of the Red Hot Lovers.” Photo courtesy of Little Colonel Players come out and see where the playhouse is now, what it’s like and just celebrate its history with us.”BY STEPHANIE SALMONSleo@leoweekly.comSpotlight on: Louisville OrchestraLooking for the Big Boom!Cellist Julie Albers: will perform with the Louisville Orchestra this season. Photo courtesy of The Louisville OrchestraIf four tympani drums are better than one, just think how great 14 will be!Louisville Orchestra concert-goers will find out all about tympani in the symphony’s first Classics Series concert, Sept. 28-29, when instead of the usual three or four tympani clustered around a percussionist stationed at the rear of the orchestra, 14 full-fledged kettle drums will be lined across the bow of the Whitney Hall stage for a performance of Philip Glass’ “Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra.”And instead of just one timpanist, two kettle boomers, James Rago and Jonathan Haas, will man the 14 tympani.By now you’ve guessed that new executive director Brad Broecker wasn’t kidding when he vowed to add visual stimulus for concert fans this year. (Not to mention that 14 tympani makes a sure-fire TV photo-op.)The symphony also is slated for a theatrical production of Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Oct. 27-28. The show includes the orchestra, a chorus and actors from Actors Theatre of Louisville.Broecker has also promised to utilize in-house video of conductors and soloists — just like rock ’n’ roll.And did we mention a marching band parade on Main Street in front of the Kentucky Center for the Arts? Sort of a 76-trombone fanfare for this week’s Fanfara festival that kicks off the orchestra’s 69th season. Fanfara will feature the showiest of all violin soloists, Itzhak Perlman.That’s a lot of chrome for a bow-tie-and-tails concert season. But it shouldn’t detract from the orchestra’s BIG musical news — the return of former music director Jorge Mester as the orchestra’s new music director. Mester, who led the Louisville Orchestra from 1967-79, will take a bow during Fanfara, then take the podium, himself, in the first Classics Series concerts, Sept. 28-29.Yes, with those 14 tympani.But don’t worry about Mester being upstaged by 14 tympani. He and the orchestra will have the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 — the famous “Pathetique” — to bring down the house. (And you can bet they’ll try.)In November, the symphony’s first trumpet, Jerry Amend, will be paired with visiting pianist Wendy Chen for the Shostakovich “Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra.” (No word yet whether Jerry plans to sit on the bench with Wendy.)Other season highlights include: an all-Beethoven concert Jan. 13, the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 on Feb. 9; cellist Julie Albers on March 3; violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg on March 16; a guest appearance by former music director Lawrence Leighton Smith on April 20; and pianist William Wolfram performing the Grieg “Piano Concerto” on May 10.BY BILL DOOLITTLEleo@leoweekly.comSpotlight on: Louisville Art WorkshopWhere are they now?Photo courtesy of Ed Hamilton: Artist Fred Bond at the Louisville School of Art during the early 1970s.Louisville is known as the home of a number of important African-American artists such as Sam Gilliam, Ed Hamilton, GC Coxe and Bob Thompson. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Louisville Art Workshop and its predecessor, Gallery Enterprises, was home to these artists, and it holds a significant place in Kentucky history and culture. Like the art “happenings” that populate Louisville galleries and studios today, these early pioneers created “happenings” of their own in the tradition of the 18th-century French salon soirees, cool “places to be” where art was taken seriously, but not too seriously.The group was founded by Gilliam, an abstract painter, and Robert Douglas, a painter who also became head of University of Louisville’s Pan-African Studies Program. Avant-garde painter Thompson was also a member of the Louisville Art Workshop, although he’d already relocated to New York City by the time younger members such as Hamilton came along. Douglas recalls an early encounter with Gilliam where Gilliam talked about his aspirations for black artists, saying that if they worked together they could change the discrimination that existed against them. Gilliam believed that all great changes in art in the last 100 years came out of group movements such as the Impressionists, the Hudson River School and the Expressionists. The group also believed that art was art and that there was no such thing as “black art” or “black artists,” only that some artists happened to be black-skinned.Evening beers at the famed Brown Derby Night Club at 10th and Chestnut streets eventually led the group to convince tavern owner Bob McCarroll to let them use the back third of the building as a meeting place and small gallery. The original group was composed of Ken Young, Fred Bond, GC Coxe and Eugenia Dunn joined by Douglas, Gilliam and Thompson. Several years later, Hamilton became associated with the group and credits it with being one of the three most important experiences of his life (the others being meeting his wife Bernadette and apprenticing with sculptor Barney Bright).Thompson died young in 1966 but left a legacy of work that includes holdings in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Brooklyn Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art, to name a few. Gilliam went on Washington, D.C., making a name for himself as one of the most inventive colorists of his time, represented in nearly every major museum collection in the world. Young had a successful career at the Smithsonian. Bond moved to Cincinnati and found success there. Coxe stayed right at U of L, influencing generations of students until his death in 1999, and finally achieving the art-world recognition he deserved. Hamilton has received local as well as national recognition as designer of the “Spirit of Freedom” monument in Washington, D.C., honoring African Americans in the Civil War. Douglas believes Hamilton’s success at home and away is a good example of the Workshop’s effect on Louisville artists and the Louisville art scene.A retrospective of Gilliam’s work was featured at the Speed Art Museum just last month.BY PENNY