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Flynn Center Blog

Gilberto Gil Heats Up the Flynn with Dazzling, Intimate Performance

by Brett Sigurdson, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Gilberto Gil at the Flynn on April 20, 2015. 

It was a cold, rainy night in Burlington Monday, but Gilberto Gil kept things hot, hot, hot in the Flynn.

The legendary Brazilian Tropicalìa pioneer was a regal presence as he sat under the muted lights of the Main Stage. Surrounded by his small, crack band—Domenico Lancelotti on drums, Mestrinho on accordion and percussion, and Bem Gil on multiple instruments—the legendary artist was often ensconced in light smoke at center stage, as if a spiritual presence was emanating from him.

In some ways, it was.

The concert was a tribute to a mentor of sorts, João Gilberto, a seminal Brazilian singer and guitarist and the godfather of bossanova. Many of the night’s songs were from Gilberto Gil’s latest album, Gilberto’s Samba, which features Gil reinterpretations of João Gilberto standards.

Singing with a voice as subtle and powerful as his earliest albums, the 72-year-old Gil paid respect to João Gilberto while also adding his own touch to the master’s music. Often this took the place of subtle percussion flourishes from Lancelotti in standards like “Eu Sambo Mesmo” or “O Pato” or “Voce e Eu.” Yet, sometimes Gil’s interpretations brought other surprises, such as subtle electronic percussive sounds in “Desde Que o Samba É Samba.” The most satisfying additions to João Gilberto’s songs came compliments of Mestrinho and his accordion solos, which added tasteful, funky flourishes to songs like “Tim Tim por Tim Tim.”

While most of the intimate, two-hour performance consisted of earnest acoustic samba explorations, Gil unleashed some of the joyous energy of his own songs toward the end of the set, most notably in “Chiclete Com Banana,” in which he got the crowd enthusiastically chanting  “bop bop bop she bops” over and over.

Gil’s band, his mastery of guitar, and his amiable banter with the crowd made the cold night an afterthought. In fact, it might as well have been summer in the Flynn as the crowd basked in the warmth and light of Gil’s brilliance.

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Wendy Whelan, in the Flow

by Colleen Ovelman, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature at the Flynn on Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

You can get into heaven, but for only five minutes. —Abraham Maslow

We must, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow, “give up the notion of a permanent heaven,” and accept that in our peak experiences we will have short, wonderful glimpses of the divine. Heaven on earth. It is, as the Buddhists’ call it, the miracle of mindfulness, when the identity melts away and there is only the purity of the experience. Maslow believes those who create might get there: masters in their field; those who have studied and practiced for thousands of hours.

Those like Wendy Whelan.

For over 25 years, Wendy Whelan performed with the New York City Ballet. She is one of the most captivating ballet dancers of our time. Although she has retired from the New York City Ballet, we still have a chance to be enraptured by her artistry. She has collaborated with four uniquely talented choreographers to create a show entitled, Restless Creature, which comes to the Flynn on April 30th. Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo each perform a duet with Whelan that weaves its own tale of beauty, of longing, of a restlessness that seems to yearn for something both simple and infinite.

At 47, Whelan has done the hours upon hours of work to perpetually hone and craft her artistry. The treat for us, in the audience, is that Whelan regularly seems to be tapping into what another psychologist and successor of Maslow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls the “flow state,” a state of pure happiness, where the art simply flows out. In this state, Csikszentmihalyi says, “existence is temporarily suspended.” Think John Coltrane in the middle of a solo. Think Allen Ginsberg in a bout of spontaneous, unedited poetry.

Think Wendy Whelan, and be prepared to glimpse heaven in the sinewy movement of a leg, in the disappearing space between her body and her partner’s back.

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The Seymour Sisters

by Carole Vasta Folley, Vermont Artists’ Space Assistance Grant

Carole Vasta Folley of Essex Junction is the newest recipient of the Vermont Artists’ Space Grant. During the 10-week creation process, Carole works to develop a work-in-progress theeater piece that premieres on Saturday, May 30 in FlynnSpace. Apply now to be considered for the next Vermont Artists’ Space Grant.

Walking up Main Street to the Flynn the day of our first studio session, I smiled as I read the Flynn marquee. Sister Act was playing.  How apropos for my new play, The Seymour Sisters, and what a fine sign to begin.

Beginning is always the same for me.  The creative process ignited while being in the space of “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  Yet.  So many possibilities exist.  But while the unknown is a realm a writer needs to test the depths of, what is also true for me is what happens at some point in the writing process – a spontaneous, intuitive vision of the finished product.  I can sense the feeling captured in the theatre, my heart literally pulses with it.  This is what I love about theatre.  How we can create authentic experience through story, character and relationship.

The writing process for me begins with character.  They appear.  Gift of the muse or whatever luck one might call it.  At that starting point, I write down everything I know about them.  Then I put the characters together and they communicate to me what is happening and, even better, who they are at a deeper level.  Further magic happens when doorbells ring and someone arrives I didn’t yet know.  It all is a surprise, unraveling as I write.  I have at times been writing when I have to stop to cry because what my character just said, broke me.  Or other times, laugh out loud, because they are just so damn funny.  I used to credit all of this to my favorite mechanical pencil, that it was magical  – until my daughter convinced me to join this century and write on a laptop.  She said it would be more efficient and she was right – usually is.  And so, whenever I have the time.  Correction, make the time, I write to see what happens.

The concept of The Seymour Sisters was born unexpectedly.  I wanted to test myself and write a play for two characters.  They appeared as sisters and then as the story unfolded I understood what the two sisters were really grappling with:  What it means to have siblings as adults.  What, if anything, do we owe our siblings?  And if we choose to have relationships with our them, how do we negotiate the past and resolve different interpretations of the same experience?  Can we be anew and present with a sibling who has traveled by us for so long?

I am thankful to the Flynn for the Artist’s Space Grant.  Being able to workshop this piece, explore possibilities, find new threads to follow, to “play the play” is such a gift.  The studio space feels immediately like an incubator.  Things are already happening.  I look forward to telling you more as we go. By the way, incubator is Latin for “one who lies in or upon (something).”  So, it is that I am lying upon a story of sisterhood and longing, of a painful past and uncertain future, of two women who endeavor to see if the at the core, there is indeed more.

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Primordial Shadows in Molten Fire

by Erin Duffee

Review of Miwa Matreyek at the Flynn on April 15, 2015.

Miwa Matreyek’s, This World Made Itself, felt especially poignant to me following a conversation I’d had the same morning of the show, regarding the evolution of humans and our environment. It all began when I brought up the increasingly severe drought conditions in California, quickly drawing a connection to greater environmental changes worldwide, and finally making my way to the, “we’re all doomed” part of the conversation. My friend and divine conversationalist, Andrew, patiently waited for me to finish my predictions (natural disaster, famine, uninhabitable environments, overpopulation) before he casually piped up, “Isn’t it all just a form of evolution anyway? New life will thrive on this planet at some point. Maybe it’ll benefit from what we’ve left behind. After all, decayed dinosaurs fuel the world as we know it.”

The conversation went further, but Andrew’s overarching philosophy was this: Things change. All the time. The human race was both born into, and will likely be destroyed out of, environmental causes that we have very little control over. Historically, our planet has run the gamut, in terms of climate, ranging from molten to iced over and everything in between. The temperate climate of which the human race was born has only existed for roughly 14,000 years. Sounds like a long time until you further consider that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.

The Earth is currently home to 10–14 million species of life. Estimates on how much longer the planet will be able to continue to support life, range from 500 million to 2.3 billion years. It is very possible that a new strain of life will dominate the Earth’s next Era.

(These fascinating numerical facts are brought to you by Wikipedia. If you ever want to have your mind completely blown, without leaving the comfort of your apartment, spend about two minutes on the Wikipedia “Earth” page.)

As I watched Miwa Matreyek’s primordial shadow emerge from the molten fires of a still forming earth, I was struck by how well the image served to backdrop that morning’s conversation. I imagined that molten environment teeming with bacteria and single-cell organisms, slowly multiplying and diversifying, eventually leading to primitive sea creatures, land creatures, and eventually mammals such as myself.

Matreyek seems to embrace the realities of evolution, as her shadow transforms itself again and again. Animations envelop her silhouette, as she walks across mountains ranges, oceans, and eventually human cities, like an otherworldly giant. Animals and plants inhabit her body, showing how old life is always becoming new in some form or another.

At one point, Matreyek’s shadowed hand lays out along the sandy beach, reaching towards the waves. A bright red snake slithers up and pops through her hand, causing a sudden gush of blood. As the salty waves wash over her, cleaning and exposing the wound, butterflies and moths gather to feed and lay eggs. In the next movement, Matreyek shifts from biology to fantasy, as a bright star beams light from the same wound. With the next wash of a wave, her hand becomes a simple shadow again, darting out to catch a fish.

As Miwa’s show unfolded before me, I felt a level of comfort in the unknown, which I am not sure I have ever experienced before. When I considered the vast history of the earth, my short life included, I didn’t feel the usual cold tingle of butterflies in my stomach. I felt grateful to be a part of such and immensely beautiful and incomprehensible thing. What a miracle to be alive at all.

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An Odd Phenomenon

by Erin Duffee

Preview of Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, and Anna Bass’ Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host on the MainStage on April 25, 2015. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Act one: the job of being a performer.

Act two: falling in love and what it means to stay in love.

Act three: nothing lasts forever.

Ira Glass is a radio producer and broadcaster, best known for This American Life, a weekly radio show featuring journalistic non-fiction narratives. Monica Bill Barnes is the artistic director of the Monica Bill Barnes Dance Company, based out of New York City and focusing on original dance, performed in unusual places. Anna Bass is the associate artistic director of MBB Dance Company. Glass, Barnes and Bass all share a common mission—exposing the nuances of everyday life in creative ways, which both inform and excite the rest of us. In 3 Acts, 2 Dancers, 1 Radio Host, the trio presents a full-length performance combining Glass’s storytelling with Barnes and Bass’s dancing.

“It’s an utterly ridiculous idea for a show,” Ira Glass admitted to the Minneapolis St Paul Magazine at the early outset of 3 Acts national tour, in 2013. “We thought it would be fun, and we started making the show,” Glass continued, explaining how he and co-collaborators, Barnes and Bass, really just skipped over the pitch and approval part of the creation process. “If we had to pitch it to someone, how would the answer have been yes?” he asked. The trio chose to self-produce the show, a familiar gamble for Glass, who recently took his radio show This American Life independent, after 17 years of production under Public Radio International.

Two years later, no one can deny the results—a hilarious and heartfelt show that’s received nothing but rave reviews since opening night at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. As any creative worth their snuff will tell you, the line between ridiculous and brilliantly original is not so obvious. A willingness to take risks is a necessary part of the creative make-up. You have ideas, you work them out, and you hope they resonate. Playing it safe is a good way to guarantee that they won’t.

As a dancer, I think that the premise of 3 Acts is brilliant. The most common question heard from any audience after a dance performance is: what was it about? The question is inevitable, though hearing it out loud will make most choreographers recoil, like a snake poked in the gut. For many dancers, the narrative is a slip of inspiration, not meant or even able to be shared. 3 Acts is a most brilliant solution, pairing narratives delivered by America’s favorite storyteller, with original dance choreography by Barnes and Bass. It is a complimentary accompaniment, with dance stepping in where the words cannot take you further and words providing a structure to hang on to in the midst of all that beautiful movement.

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Wendy Whelan’s “Restless Creature”

by John Killacky, Executive Director

An evening of duets with Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo; Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 pm, MainStage. Get tickets at www,flynntix.org,

“It’s the time in my life for me to do this—I don’t think I have anything to lose. I have only things to learn and places to grow, and there’s so much untapped artistry and expression in me. These collaborations can tap that artistry and expression in a new way for me.”

Wendy Whelan is arguably one of today’s greatest ballerinas. Recently she retired after spending 30 years at New York City Ballet, dancing virtually all the major Balanchine roles and working closely with choreographers Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Shen Wei, and Wayne MacGregor. She was Wheeldon’s muse in particular, appearing in 13 of his dances.

In 2012, she began developing projects for the next chapter in her esteemed career. “Being a ballet dancer I was feeling the end of something, and I needed the beginning of something else. ‘Restless Creature’ is an exploration for me. I chose four young male choreographers from the contemporary world to make works for me to dance with them. I needed some new inspirations and some new challenges in my life.”

The works created by these four dancer/choreographers—Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Bryan Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—premiered in August 2013 at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and is performed at the Flynn on April 30.

“She’s uncompromising, generous, bold, enthusiastic, adult, at the same time decisive and investigative. Few dancers in any genre show better that a work should be a process of self-discovery.” —Aliastair Macauley, New York Times dance critic on Restless Creature

In January 2004, Baryshnikov thrilled Flynn audiences with his virtuosity and grace. Now Vermonters have the opportunity to experience another dance great as she evolves and expands her aesthetic range and artistic vision.

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Love Can Turn the World

by Anne Averyt, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of African Children’s Choir at the Flynn on April 16, 2015.

The audience was as exuberant as the children on stage when the African Children’s Choir preformed at the Flynn Center Thursday night.  There was an uproar of applause and cheers to greet the children as they first came onto the stage. Throughout the concert, hand-clapping and foot-tapping was as prevalent off-stage as on. Singing songs of hope and radiating joy, the children won the hearts of everyone in attendance.

The evening was short as the visiting troupe performed only 12 pieces and one encore, but no one seemed to mind.  These were young performers, girls and boys, 7 to 11, and the show was a demanding one; a tribute to their energy and enthusiasm as well as to their singing.

Led by music teacher and conductor, Specioza Nabisubi, the children performed traditional African music and tribal children songs as well as western offerings such as He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and This Little Light of Mine.  With simple props all 18 children danced the Can Dance, while a handful of boys awoke the audience with a rousing drum performance.  There was also an interactive performance of song and mime celebrating a fishing expedition and an elaborate presentation of an eastern Uganda initiation dance which is a traditional coming of age rite for young boys.

Accompanying the children’s choir on their U.S. tour are Auntie Specioza, Uncle Eddie and tour leader Emily Gronow from Wales. All three took turns introducing the music and paying tribute to these “remarkable children” who demonstrate the power of “hope and faith” to transform lives.  During the second half of the show each of the children introduced themselves and told what their hopes were for the future.  Some want to be doctors or nurses, others accountants, a policeman, soldier, teachers or a lawyer.

Throughout the show there were numerous video testimonials by former choir members who have achieved success in life thanks to the opportunities for education and mentoring they received as part of the children’s choir organization.  Since its inception in 1984, more than 1000 children have toured with the choir and tens of thousands of children in seven African countries have benefited from the programs funded through the choir’s international outreach.

Tour leader Emily Gronow praised the Flynn Center audience as the most enthusiastic the choir has encountered on their tour. Those in attendance, young and old, were clearly captivated by the young visiting performers who entertained with their joyful songs and animated dance.

Perhaps the evening and the choir’s message was best summed up in the words of the song entitled Love Can Turn the World …

We’re different as night and day,

                                  but the same in every way.

                                  We can be anything we want to be…

                                  because love can turn the world.

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Sleight of Hand

by Lindsay Rae, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Miwa Matreyek at the Flynn on April 15, 2015.

Miwa Matreyek is a modern magician.

Her performance was like sleight of hand: something I kept trying to figure out or a trick I kept trying to catch. I repeatedly asked myself, “How does she do that?!” Creativity, technology, and talent are the answers, I realize, but like a good magic trick, I was never able to determine exactly how she made it all happen.

The stage seemed pretty unassuming when we first sat down, just a small screen with the curtains pulled in close on either side. I deliberately didn’t do much research on Miwa and her work prior to seeing her performance, but from what I had seen, the screen’s small stature was a surprise to me. The modest set-up that greeted me when I entered the theater only added to the sense of wonder I felt while watching her performance. I was impressed by how that humble screen seemed to grow until it filled the stage throughout the course of the show.

What completed this immersive aspect of the experience was the totality of the illusion that Miwa created. Her silhouette blended seamlessly with those of the diminutive creatures that she encountered during her digital adventures. Through some trick of technology, Miwa placed herself between and among layers of animation that moved and shifted around her. This effect placed her directly into the moving, dreamlike vignettes so that you couldn’t separate fact from fiction. More than once, Miwa had close, personal encounters with some of the miniature inhabitants of her imaginary world. On all fours, her back became a campground for a little human she rescued from the depths of an ocean; standing among skyscrapers of a bustling city, another miniature bridged the gap between the roof it stood on and Miwa’s mouth, crawling inside of it and then down into Miwa’s own depths before disappearing into the floor. Miwa’s movements echoed the exaggerated, slightly disjointed movements of her otherworld companions. If I allowed myself to become completely engrossed watching this interplay between the real and unreal, for just a moment, I almost wasn’t sure which was which.

Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of her performance was the timing that was obviously required to create the full experience of Miwa’s semi-reality. While she remained otherwise in silhouette, the human hands you knew were behind her shadow-puppetry seemed to expose themselves through the front of the screen. In reality, of course, the “human hands” we were seeing were only images. The positioning and timing of her real arms and real hands had to coincide precisely with those of the animated hands in order to complete the effect. I wondered how many times she had rehearsed these movements to cement them into muscle memory, or if she had cues marked off on stage that we couldn’t see from the audience. There was obvious thought, planning, and consideration that had gone into each series of actions. In any case, I was still wondering just how she accomplished these visual feats.

When I left the Flynn after attending Miwa Matreyek’s recent performance of her latest solo work, This World Made Itself, I was feeling pretty blown away. I was expecting a show unlike anything that I had ever seen before, and Miwa delivered the most vibrant and stunning series of visualizations I’ve maybe ever seen. Miwa Matreyek’s mind would be a delightful and fantastical place to visit. Watching her made me feel as if she gave the audience a glimpse into her psyche and how it works. This unique showcase is one that I would urge anyone to attend if they have the chance.

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The Soul of Brazil

by Brett Sigurdson, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Gilberto Gil on the MainStage on April 20, 2015. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

I first encountered Gilberto Gil in the back of a VW Vanagon under the shadow of the Rockies outside of Denver. My wife and I were working for the Forest Service and we lived in government housing with roommates who often squabbled. To get away, one roommate would spend nights in the back of the van listening to music and I occasionally joined him. He had developed a fascination with early Brazilian psychedelia music—called tropicália—and bands like Os Brazos, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Os Baobás, and others.

I remember falling into the housemate’s seats as the music engulfed me; this spacey, tropical, jangle-pop-boogaloo echoing out of his speakers like a transmission from another planet. It all sounded as if a tight bassanova band had taken captive Ian Anderson and his flute, Jorma Kaukonen and his boogie guitar, and Keith Richards, who was forced to play the lead guitar part of “Paint it Black” in every song. It sounded like everything and nothing I’d heard before.

But then my roommate began playing Gilberto Gil, who sounded positively pop compared to all of the psychedelic noodling. His voice had a rakish presence—smooth, knowing, in command. Even over cheesy string arrangements, his voice maintained maximum charisma and credibility. At times, Gil’s music seemed a complete departure from the “Os” bands and their tropicália, like his sound was based in the buttoned-up office suites of 50s Tin Pan Alley rather than the patchouli streets of 60s San Francisco.  But then an out-of-nowhere key change or whistle or other musical diversion would remind me that Gil had the experimental heart of his tropicália peers. He just couched it in a catchy pop sensibility informed by the tight rhythms of rock, reggae, and funk, as well as those of his native Brazil.

Gil’s sound, his restless artistic sensibility, as well as his politically conscious outlook, have kept him perpetually relevant and always interesting. Indeed, with 52 albums released, 12 gold records, 5 platinum albums, 7 Grammys and more than 4 million records sold, he is a certified legend—a huge world artists whose acclaim is perhaps neglected stateside.

Personally, I’ve neglected the Gil albums in my collection for too long, so I’m looking forward to reconnecting with that special moment of introduction to his music in the back of my housemate’s Vanagon. I’m not sure what favorites I’ll hear when the master takes the stage at the Flynn—“Touche Pas À Mon Pote,” “De Bob Dylan A Bob Marley – Um Samba Provocação,” “Rebento”—but I know it will sound better in person than out of those VW speakers.

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Heaven Knows, Anything Goes

by Josh McDonald, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Broadway musical Anything Goes on the MainStage on Monday, April 27 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Times have changed. So says Cole Porter in the opening line of the song Anything Goes – a featured number in some musical or other. I forget which one.

He goes on to lament that, in olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking – now, Heaven knows, Anything Goes.

It’s a common complaint, especially among the older generation. “What’s the matter with kids today?” asked a different lyricist for a different show, some thirty years later, but the sentiment is the same. Today’s youth are out of control.

Like when your daughter is all set to marry a British nobleman (a marriage which would, conveniently, help save the failing family fortune), and they’re on a ship to England to seal the deal, but then she falls for a young stowaway who has hooked up with a couple of two-bit mobsters (and may or may not actually be their mob boss), and the three of them seem determined to woo her out of her profitable relationship. And to further complicate matters, the nobleman may or may not be having an affair with the shipboard nightclub singer (who had feelings for the stowaway but is now falling for the nobleman instead…?).  Suddenly a simple marriage of convenience seems less simple and most inconvenient.

But then, what can you expect when the world’s gone mad today, and good’s bad today, and black’s white today, and day’s night today; when most guys today that women prize today are just silly gigolos? Things were just a lot simpler back in – well, let’s see, that was written in 1936 so… back sometime before then, I guess. But in any case, wouldn’t it be nice to just go back to whenever it was that life was simpler?

Unless, of course, you happen to be someone who enjoys complicated Gordian love-affairs with misunderstandings and mistaken identities and all the hijinks that ensue. If you’re into such romantic shenanigans – if driving fast cars you like, if low bars you like, if old hymns you like, if bare limbs you like, then something like this might be your cup of tea.

So when every night the set that’s smart is intruding on nudist parties in studios… (wait, this is a family show, yes? Just checking…) Anything Goes!

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Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
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