Spotlight on: Clarksville Little Theatre
Clarksville Little Theatre:
60 years and counting
It was one of those scorching July afternoons when Gary Tipton arrived at the Clarksville Little Theatre playhouse, to open the doors and get things set up for that night’s rehearsal and board meeting. What he heard, shortly after turning on the new A/C unit, was something akin to worst-case scenario. Something popped.
It wasn’t that bad after all; a transformer had blown outside, and by the time I joined Tipton, workers were replacing it. But it was a stark example of the sort of low-level terror that community theater volunteers live with. It takes more than a few bucks to maintain a 53-year-old building, not to mention paying royalty fees and printing tickets and constantly upgrading something. They don’t need new things breaking before they’re paid for.
What it lacks in funding, though, the modest theater more than makes up for with human energy. These are not the vain and dysfunctional souls of “Waiting for Guffman,” but the folks who may teach your kid or process your loan or sell you some paint. Some have the performing gene and stay connected for a joyous outlet. Others aren’t interested in getting on stage, only in helping make sure there’s a stage to get on.
Still others, like Larry Chaney, a semi-retired Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineer, didn’t know they’d love the whole thing until they got drafted. Chaney was sitting outside the theater in his car one night 10 years ago, waiting for his wife, a choreographer, to finish rehearsal. Director Alan Weller walked out with her and snagged Larry to fill a hole in the cast. He and his wife, Kathy Todd Chaney, are still involved, and now their teen daughter is too.
Clarksville Little Theatre began in 1946-47, which makes this the 60th season. It is perhaps the only community theater in the Louisville area that owns its own building, and after starting out with three one-act plays, it’s presented five productions a year since before Eisenhower was in the White House.
It’s always drawn both talent and patrons from the Louisville side. Ned Beatty worked there. Ed Asner visited and wrote a profoundly nice note (“When the movie palaces have crumbled, the TV towers have toppled and Disneyland is back to pasture, it’s the little theatre — like you — that will be there to continue telling the tales and weaving the magic”).
There is a subscriber base, and there is the challenge of appealing to traditionalists while also having something for the younger-thinking set who appreciate a challenge. This season’s line-up shows admirable range — the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma” starts the season this weekend, followed by “To Kill a Mockingbird” in November, “Oliver” in January, “Urinetown” (!) in March and “Chicago” (!!) in May. The theater also produces a children’s show each summer, directed since 1996 by Deborah Rice Endris, who owns and operates Encore Performing Arts, a classical arts school in Clarksville.
“Even though we are amateurs, we are very professional in the way we approach our field,” says Tipton, the board president. He’s acted in and directed numerous shows since he first visited the theater 20 years ago after moving to Louisville. This season he directs “Urinetown.”
“Every time we do something unusual,” he says, “we have to do our homework and educate our audience. For example, (despite its off-color title) ‘Urinetown’ has no cuss words. It’s our duty to communicate with our audience.”
CLT is located at 301 E. Montgomery Ave. For more information, call 812-283-6522.
BY CARY STEMLE
Spotlight on: Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center
Center is picking up steam,
and that’s no baloney
How long does it take to transform an abandoned pork factory into a fully functioning arts center? Hard to say, but it seems to be getting closer.
When the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center opened three years ago in the old Fisher packing plant on the edge of Butchertown, local creative types were eager to sign leases for cubicles in the center’s flea market-like studio area. But with some phases of the sprawling project still unfinished, there was little to attract visitors. Artists sat alone in cubicles, waiting for promised foot traffic that didn’t come.
But those waits may be waning. Recent developments seem to indicate that Mellwood has turned the corner and survived early growing pains. Scooter Davidson, Mellwood’s marketing director, is excited about the center’s growth. The retail courtyard is now complete, and six shops opened in July, including Walnut Creek Rustic Living and the Jan Jobe Gallery. Artists and Craftsmen Supply, a national chain, opened an outlet there, its 13th; it fills two floors with all manner of art supplies at bargain prices.
Two special event rooms are now ready for wedding receptions, proms, bar mitzvahs and other gatherings, which, of course, also bring more foot traffic. With Mellwood’s open-view concept, event-goers can sneak a peak inside even if artists aren’t at work.
The center’s restaurant, A Little Peace Cafe, is now open for dinner and has live music. Soon to open is Buffalo Madison Cafe. Other additions include two dance studios: Absolute Dance and another devoted to Flamenco.
Some artists found the changes too late. For example, Jane Morgan, founder of the Plein Air Painters of Kentucky, was Mellwood’s first tenant; she recently relocated her gallery to the Brownsboro Road Center.
“I needed to move on,” she said. “The concept is wonderful — but it wasn’t moving fast enough for me.” She was disappointed by the lack of advertising and thought the studios were “too open.”
But things are moving on regardless. The remaining tenants in the center’s 188 artist studios and 20 retail spaces are watching improvements happen and hoping they do indeed generate visitors. Davidson said new artist spaces will be ready soon, but there’s already a waiting list.
Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center is located at 1860 Mellwood Ave. For more information, call 895-3650 or go to www.mellwoodartcenter.com. Contact Davidson at email@example.com. Retail shop hours are Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Artist studio hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
BY SHERRY DEATRICK
Spotlight on: The Civilians at Actors Theatre of Louisville
A little NYC theater
comes to Louisville
The New York-based theater company The Civilians will give Louisvillians a chance to see how they do things in The Big Apple when their original production “Gone Missing” comes to Actors Theatre Sept. 12-24.
“Gone Missing” is directed by The Civilians’ founder Steven Cosson and features music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. Peter Morris, who was educated at Yale and Oxford and frequently writes about theater for the English arts journal Areté, co-wrote the comedy about a hodgepodge of items — from a sock puppet to a severed head — that are lost and then found in unique circumstances. In the play, six actors play more than 30 roles — including a retired New York cop and a pet psychic.
Among the actors are Damian Badelt, graduate of the University of California, San Diego master’s program of acting, and Colleen Werthmann, whose credits include roles on “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Law & Order,” as well as DJ Mendel’s film “Make Pretend.”
Kyle Gorden, producing director of The Civilians, said they’re happy to be performing in Louisville. “‘Gone Missing’ is The Civilians’ most widely produced show to date. While it has appeared in larger cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London, we’re proud to have also taken the show to many smaller cities like Nashville, Providence, R.I.; and Davidson, N.C. (population 7,139). This capacity for a geographically diverse audience is one of the greatest rewards (and challenges) of being a touring theater company.”
The Civilians were founded in 2001 by Cosson, and they’ve since completed and performed four original productions all over the world. Currently they’re performing various shows in Edinburgh, London and New York.
They describe themselves as using “methods that combine documentary and artistic practices” to create “engaging shows that illuminate the interplay between the personal and larger social phenomena.” They intertwine multiple genres from cabaret to experimental theater, and work with a diverse group of associate artists to create brand new productions.
The Civilians also look forward to working at ATL. “ATL is widely recognized in the industry as a premier regional theater,” Gorden said, “and especially as a national leader in the promotion and development of new work. Actors Theatre, Jon Jory and Marc Masterson have had a dramatic and ongoing impact on the course of new American theater, and we’re proud to be working with the institution.”
“Gone Missing” isn’t the first collaboration between Cosson and Friedman. They worked together on The Civilians’ production “Canard, Canard, Goose?” about “a Hollywood movie and a lost flock of carelessly imprinted geese resulting in an eclectic show about disorientation, misplaced empathy and coming home,” and “Paris Commune,” a cabaret production about an actual concert that took place at the imperial palace during the 1871 revolution.
BY MICHAEL LICHVAR
Spotlight on: The Nebula 2006 exhibit
Fitting the heavens into
For millennia, the heavens have been a source of awe and inspiration. But a new exhibit is designed to inspire astronomers and others to pack away their telescopes and experience up close an interpretation of the heavens — in sight and sound.
Nebula 2006, on exhibit at the Chez Moi Gallery through Oct. 14, is a combination of visual art and music inspired by images from the Hubble Telescope. (The word nebula refers to any distant astronomical object, including galaxies beyond the Milky Way.)
“I thought this would be so amazing to make some of these nebulas because they are so beautiful,” says John Rutledge, who started the project with fellow artist Alexander King. “People just glimpse at
realize the greatness behind what’s going on with these nebulas.”
Rutledge saw a book on the universe at a bookstore, which prompted the project. He and King then began trying to figure out how to manifest what he had seen into a project.
“I realized I could take this fiber glass and make the forms of the nebulas out of it, then we could paint it and fuse it on to the canvas, then pull lights through the canvases to illuminate the actual nebula so it would actually give
a three-dimensional feel of the work,” Rutledge says.
Rutledge and King then joined forces with Richard Burchard by having him pen music to go with the exhibit’s images.
“I knew that
would be able to put something together that would make people be able to feel the movement of the nebulas. It’s just a combination of great sounds. Clashing like it is, it’s giving
the feeling of divine things happening in space,” Rutledge says.
Burchard, who teaches music theory and composition at Bellarmine University, describes the music for this exhibit as experimental, ambient or noise.
“I think that what we came to agree upon through the course of this project was to go with things that might lend themselves — sounds or colors — that might lend themselves more to things not of the earth,” Burchard says. “We have tried to avoid things that somebody might think about when we think about music — like melody, harmony and structure — so it’s a little bit more random and unknown and vast and surprising.”
Rutledge says the original idea was to get the show to a point where the artwork could be auctioned off for charity, but they are not sure what they will do with the it once the exhibition ends.
“You just put yourself into the situation and wait for it to take you where your journey is supposed to go,” Rutledge says.
BY STEPHANIE SALMONS
Spotlight on: John Waters
Waters, Waters everywhere
he forecast for the River City this fall: a torrent of events focused on John Waters, the one, the only American director and visual artist whom writer William Burroughs once christened “The Pope of Trash.” Waters will be in Louisville on Nov. 18 to speak at the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater, with preceding fluffer events, including an exhibit of Waters’ artwork at the 21C Museum Hotel and showings of select Waters’ films at Comedy Caravan.
Well, “torrent” may be exaggeration, given that’s only three events — but this is John Waters.
The starting point of this phenomenon came last spring when Dan Forte, Kentucky Center director of programming, was lining up artists for the second season of its LEO Presents A Little Off Center series. Even after he set out to bring in Waters, Forte thought there were more opportunities to bring the many facets of Waters’ work to the Louisville public.
“I had a sense that if we reached a little further we could create a synergy with the rest of the community, knowing he is an artist and we could reach into the art world with him,” Forte said.
Forte called people at the 21C Museum Hotel. Not only were they familiar with Waters’ visual art, but Steve Wilson (a proprietor along with wife Laura Lee Brown) had purchased five pieces of Waters’ art for the 21C Museum Foundation collection during this spring’s showing of “John Waters: Unwatchable,” an exhibition of photography and sculptural/installation at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City. 21C will exhibit those pieces, along with several others, from Oct. 6 through early December. Some of the artwork, like a 28-by-40-inch photograph titled “Art Market Research,” lampoon the art world. The piece displays answers to a public survey about art, including one response to the work of German photographer Andreas Gursky, which reads: “Too big to put over my sofa.”
Lest anyone forget the work that led Waters to notoriety, on Nov. 12-13 the Comedy Caravan will show his 1981 film “Polyester,” which starred Divine and Tab Hunter (and which was released in “odorama”), and “Serial Mom,” the 1994 film in which Kathleen Turner plays a loving mother who becomes a serial killer in defense of her family. (That cast also includes Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake and Patricia Hearst.) Both films bear Waters’ beloved hometown of Baltimore, and lampoon suburban life, religion and sex while showing a genuine tenderness for the most eccentric and downtrodden characters. Audiences at showings of “Polyester” in “odorama” will receive special scratch-and-sniff cards that correspond to particular moments in the film, such as when Divine’s husband farts.
Forte was wound up in August after he had purchased 240 of them on eBay for $100. “This whole project is insane,” he said, laughing. But when he speaks about Waters, with whom he and the people at 21C have been working to organize all of these events, he doesn’t laugh. “He is a class act. No subject is sacred to him except for decent human beings.”
BY ELIZABETH KRAMER