Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Inside I" Gives an Insightful Voice to Autism

In the State of Georgia, 1 in 68 children are born in the spectrum of Autism

Inside I, a world-premiere now showing at 7 Stages Theatre, brilliantly showcases a portion of the life—birth through 18—of one young person living on a more misunderstood side of Autism, one who also is a lovable character and one who endears compassion, empathy and understanding.

One of the things that you'll learn about Autism in this experience is that "If you've met one person on the spectrum, you've met ONE person on the spectrum." That's to say that every person who lives with Autism is living a different experience.



I Direct Myself is a magnificent 15-minute show presented before Inside I, written by and starring Sam Gross, a 7 Stages intern living on the spectrum who has been working at the theatre for a long time.

Sam's passion for acting is immediately apparent. His performance is wonderful and wholly brilliant. This young man is also quite brave...he's doing something I've never, ever considered doing—acting on stage before a live audience. 

I believe you're going to love his performance...for which he received a generous round of applause at the performance I attended. Congratulations, Sam!



Inside I utilizes multiple technologies, including live-feed camera, large-screen projection and smartphone technology, and is performed, rather surprisingly, via masterful and magnificently acted puppetry.

This story features episodes of the life and dreams of character named Ben, from birth to age 18, who lives on the spectrum and it tells the tale of his obsession with, and escape into the world of video—early on with his mother's smartphone and later with one of his own.

The large-screen projections feature Ben's perspective via projections from his smartphone—his view of the world...giving "voice" and image to life on Autism's spectrum of unheard and unseen effects, including the heartbreak and love of family and the bullying of kids who have no understanding of what they're seeing.

This play delves deep into one of the many possible experiences of Autism, offering an insight unlike any other I've ever seen.





I had the honor of meeting a number of the actors, as well as Michael Haverty, one of the creators of Inside I, immediately after witnessing him bringing food to a peaceful homeless person on the street. Michael didn't see that I saw him, that I saw an act of friendliness and compassion. It was a touching moment and the conversation with him afterward about the play was insightful and quite riveting.

Of the actors I met, and I'm grateful for every one that I met, it was a great honor to meet Suzi Bass Award-winner Matt Baum, who performed the role of Ben, the main character. Talk about range...it's not often that you see someone on stage perform the role of a character from birth to 18. Matt did so brilliantly and quite convincingly. His wife was also in attendance and is wholly delightful.

On Saturday, May 7 at 2:00 p.m. there will be a sensory-friendly performance of Inside I. Feel free to call the theatre for more details about this particular performance.




I also encourage you to listen to this interview with Inside I co-creators Michael Haverty and Erwin Maas.

While Inside I is geared to a neuro-typical audience—people not living on the spectrum—many who have Autistic children, know someone (or many) who live on the spectrum, research Autism, are caregivers, and advocates, are showing great interest in the show. 

I personally have known a couple of mothers of Autistic children, but my exposure has been extremely limited, so I'm grateful to 7 Stages for bringing this show to the Atlanta community...I learned a lot, enjoyed the performances immensely and left equipped to better understand, sympathize and share 7 Stages' mission with this play to help spread awareness of Autism.

You can see I Direct Myself and Inside I at 7 Stages Theatre now on stage through Sunday, May 8, 2016.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reminiscing Ancient Greece...and Zorba

At the invitation of my sweet friend Maria, with Lykion Ton Ellinidon Atlanta, I recently attended the regional premiere of the newly restored Academy Award-winning film (7 nominations, 3 wins) Zorba the Greek, featuring guest speaker Katherine Quinn, widow of actor and star of Zobra the Greek Anthony Quinn.

The film was screened in White Hall on the campus of Emory University. Across the quad from White Hall is the Michael C. Carlos Museum, which has a magnificent Greek art collection that spans thousands of years! Loving a themed excursion, I stopped by the Museum before going to see the movie.  


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

I first met Maria at the annual Atlanta Greek Festival in 2013. We talked enthusiastically about the more than two years that I lived in Greece, when I was 19, and she has since very kindly kept me aware of Greek cultural events around town. Her kindness is exactly the kind of hospitality I experienced when I lived in Greece. So many wonderful memories! 


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

Katherine Quinn shared with us the mission and some of the accomplishments of the Anthony Quinn Foundation, of which she is the Founder and President. She was wholly delightful and excited to present to the sold-out, nearly 100% Greek audience. 


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

The Foundation's mission is "to advocate for the important role arts education plays in personal development and in the overall improvement of social, economic and cultural systems".

I learned, as I believe did many that day, that Anthony Quinn was a prolific artist. In fact, he did not want to be an actor, but wanted to be an architect or a painter. His acting life also was quite prolific, as well, starring in 180 films and winning two Academy Awards and one Golden Globe...all the while painting and sculpting more than 5,000 pieces throughout his life.


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

Quinn, who was born in Mexico—he wasn't at all Greek—to parents who fought in the Mexican Revolution, was raised in Los Angeles. In high school he won an architecture competition, the prize for which was being mentored by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright! Wright had Quinn enrolled in acting classes to improve his speech—for future professional opportunities in the architecture arena. As many of us have experienced, a single action can direct a lifetime.


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Stele of Glaukotas | Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

The film, Zorba the Greek, takes place on Crete, the largest island of Greece. Crete was the last of my many, many excursions when living in Greece, and was one of the most fun! 

The film, as brilliant as it is, brings to light certain archaic social injustices, which were difficult to watch. The magnificent Crete I knew in the mid 1980s was quite a different place from what was depicted in the movie. Again, the acting was brilliant and definitely deserving of its three Oscars, but my experience was nothing like what I saw on screen! 


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Discus | Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

The above artifact, in the Greek collection at the Carlos Museum, is a discus. Seeing it immediately took me back to my visit to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and farther into the future when I attended some of the 1996 Olympic Games right here in Atlanta. That's to say that seeing the Greek collection on every visit to the Michael C. Carlos Museum is a special event for me. 


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

As many know, Turner Field—home of the Atlanta Braves for one more season—was our Olympic Stadium in 1996 before being converted into a baseball stadium. With the move of the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County next season, the fate of our former Olympic Stadium is uncertain. I for one hope that it does not meet with the wrecking ball, as does too many of our treasures. In the meantime, I highly recommend a tour of Turner Field!


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

Whether a visiting tourist or a local, I encourage you to avail yourself of the many arts and cultural programs offered at Emory University through Arts at Emory, which features film, dance, music, theater and more.


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

This wasn't my first time to see a movie in Emory University's White Hall. In fact, I saw quite a few there when they hosted a series last year titled, "Movies Made in Georgia".


Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection
Michael C. Carlos Museum | Greek Collection

If you've not been to the Michael C. Carlos Museum, make your way there. You'll not only get to see their magnificent Greek collection, you'll see art and antiquities from all over the world, including quite a few Egyptian mummies!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sex With Strangers is soooo HOT!

Yes, yes, you can have sex with strangers in lots of places, but Sex With Strangers at Horizon Theatre is incredibly hot! Especially with Megan and Michael steaming up the stage. 


Sex With Strangers, Horizon Theatre Company, Olivia (Megan Hayes) and Ethan (Michael Shenefelt), Photo: Bradley Hester
Sex With Strangers | Horizon Theatre Company
Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) and Olivia (Megan Hayes) | Photo: Bradley Hester

This is the Atlanta premiere of Sex With Strangers, an engaging play created by House of Cards writer Laura Eason. Its title actually comes from bad boy blogger Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) who is famous for his blog-turned-New-York-Times-best-seller book "Sex With Strangers" and his second book, also a New York Times best-seller, "More Sex With Strangers".

Don't worry...you won't be disappointed. Yes, it's peripherally about a blog, but there's sex, too. Not "actual" sex, but if you haven't figured it out yet, this play "contains mature language and situations", just for the record. Not surprisingly, it's one of the most produced plays in America for the 2015-2016 theatre season! Thank you, Horizon Theatre, for bringing it to Atlanta!


Sex With Strangers | Horizon Theatre Company
Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) and Olivia (Megan Hayes) | Photo: Bradley Hester

Olivia (Megan Hayes) is a brilliant writer, idolized by Ethan, but an unknown entity to cyberspace, and social media is light years from being on her radar. 

When Ethan appears, at a mutual friend's snowed-in cabin, Olivia is at first riddled with trepidation about the stranger who has arrived to stay the night at the writers getaway—and food and wine come into play almost immediately. Fascinated with Ethan's Internet popularity—which he can't prove because the Internet is down at the cabin—and his flirtations, garments begin to fall away.


Sex With Strangers | Horizon Theatre Company
Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) and Olivia (Megan Hayes) | Photo: Bradley Hester

From the sensuous beginning (who am I kidding...it's sensuous throughout) to the raised eyebrow, life-is-short mischievous curled lips at the climax, this play is a story that sets the stage with fame, cyber identity and huge ambition, begging the question, "What would you do, and who would you become, to get what you want?"

As a blogger and want-to-be writer, I totally identify with Ethan. As someone who has a glimmer of talent and wishes more people would notice, I totally identify with Olivia. Both of these characters speak to me, as a person with ambition and as someone who loves to write. As far as the steamy parts go, no admissions here, but...


Sex With Strangers | Horizon Theatre Company
Olivia (Megan Hayes) and Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) | Photo: Bradley Hester

"Cyber vs. real identity is at the core of the very contemporary story of love and ambition.  Expect a fiery emotional and intellectual ride in our intimate space with plenty of heat between these two talented, charismatic actors and Eason's crackling writing," says Co-Artistic Director Lisa Adler.

I absolutely love Lisa's in-person introductions to new plays at Horizon Theatre. She does so fearlessly, without seeking sensationalism, but with gusto and gumption. You have to love a woman with gumption...and a woman who courageously brings so much spectacular contemporary theatre to Atlanta!  


Sex With Strangers, Horizon Theatre Company, Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) and Olivia (Megan Hayes), Photo: Bradley Hester
Sex With Strangers | Horizon Theatre Company
Ethan (Michael Shenefelt) and Olivia (Megan Hayes) | Photo: Bradley Hester

I love the Horizon Theatre tradition of getting to meet and greet and make photos with the cast after performances. On Opening Night, after Megan and Michael had a chance to freshen up, we got to meet them at the Opening Night Reception, just down the street.

I immediately fell in love with Megan. She's totally engaging and incredibly sweet...and wait until you see her resume! Among her many, many accomplishments, she was in one of the Hunger Games movies. Her range is beyond impressive. I just wish she lived here! "Thank you, Megan!" for coming back to Atlanta to bring us Sex With Strangers.

Michael, too, is engaging and quite charming. On my way out of the Opening Night reception, I interrupted (trying to do so politely) his table conversation to share with him how much I enjoyed the performance, and to let him know that I also am a blogger (knowing that he's not, but his character is) and he was genuinely interested. I can't tell when actors are acting, but "Thank you, Michael!" for taking an interest...and thank you for your Horizon debut performance—you are magnificent! 

I briefly chatted with Megan and Michael after seeing the play a second time and they were just as charming and delightful as they were the first time. If I see them listed in the cast of anything else in town, I'll be there!  


El Bandido Mex Mex Grill | $5 Off Coupon
El Bandido Mex Mex Grill | $5 Off Coupon

When I found out that El Bandido Mex Mex Grill would be hosting the Opening Night reception, I was so excited! I started dining there about a week after the restaurant opened and have since been...oh, approximately 10 times, or more! It's that good! The food is consistently delicious, the service is consistently remarkable (Xavier, Christian, Chilango...all awesome!), and the atmosphere is festive. Clip the above coupon and give them a try!

Date Night? Sure! Girls Night Out? Sure! For a hot, steamy evening on the town? Absolutely! Do not miss this show...go see Sex With Strangers at Horizon Theatre by Sunday, May 1, 2016.

Be sure to subscribe to Horizon Theatre's social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) to be sure you don't miss a single event! Of course, a subscription is best way to ensure you hear about and see everything!

Coming up at Horizon...

The City of Conversation, May 20 - June 26: Being a former resident of our nation's capital, this D.C. politics-centric comedy promises to be as hilarious and entertaining as this year's presidential debates! 

The Toxic Avenger, June 9-12: That's right! Toxie, Sarah and the Mayor of Tromaville (who I saw FOUR times earlier this year) are back for a three-day run in Piedmont Park. General Admission will be free, the reserved section (near the stage) is only $15, and tables will be available for $30.

'Da Kink in My Hair, July 15 - August 28: Set in a salon where women are getting their hair done for dates, jobs and upkeep, there's more than hairdos going on here!

Freed Spirits, September 23 - October 30: Just in time for Halloween, this world-premiere mystery-comedy is set in Atlanta's own stunning Historic Oakland Cemetery (performed on stage at Horizon).

There you go...a whole season of magnificent theatre! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Upcoming at the Atlanta Botanical Garden...

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and there's a lot to celebrate! I'd like to share a few highly anticipated upcoming exhibitions and events, and I hope you'll enjoy these recent photos I made at the Garden during its Atlanta Blooms! exhibition.


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Chihuly in the Garden opens next weekend with approximately 20 installations throughout the Garden, and it will be the largest outdoor exhibition by Dale Chihuly yet! 

I was living in D.C. when the 2004 Chihuly in the Garden exhibition was here, but I've since come to believe that that was the exhibition that sealed Mary Pat Matheson's legacy as the greatest Executive Director (now President & CEO) the Atlanta Botanical Garden has ever seen. Witnessing all the changes that have happened since I returned to Atlanta in 2010, I can only imagine what she has in store for us next! 

Chihuly in the Garden will be open during the day Tuesday-Sunday, and separately during evenings Wednesday-Sunday. The Garden is closed on Mondays.


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Dwarf Peach | Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Linton's in the Garden opens April 28! I've had the honor of meeting Chef Linton Hopkins on a number of occasions. I admire his food philosophy and commitment to fresh, local ingredients. And I've watched the construction of the new restaurant, from the ground up...it's magnificent! I can hardly wait to dine on the open-air rooftop in company with the Garden's tree canopy and Atlanta's magnificent skyline.


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Concerts in the Garden opens soon for its 14th season! In this year's line up I'm most looking forward to Phillip Phillips. And the Gainesville location has a concert series, too. In their line up I'm most looking forward to Loretta Lynn, a surprise to many—given my punk rock history and love of dance music—but I grew up listening to Country music and Loretta was always a favorite.


Ladybug | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Ladybug | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour has been on my to-do list every year, and hopefully I'll make it this year. Even without having been, this is something that I highly recommend for all garden/gardening enthusiasts and I think it'd make a lovely Mother's Day gift, too. You'll get to explore 10 private gardens over Saturday-Sunday, May 7-8, something you don't get to do every day!


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

The 2016 Atlanta Rose Show is Saturday-Sunday, May 7-8, a wonderful outing for Mother's Day! 

The Garden hosts quite a few flower and plant shows throughout the year. Keep an eye on their calendar for a show featuring one of your favorites!


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

I've not yet visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville, but friends of mine who have are saying wonderful things. And they've already had some pretty awesome programming—exhibitions, events, concerts, etc.!


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden


Alston Lectures are free to the public, a wonderful offering from the Garden. The next Alston Lecture, on Tuesday, May 3, is being given by Andrea Wulf, titled, "The Invention of Nature. Alexander von Humboldt's New World", followed by a book signing. 

I've attended a number of Alston Lectures and every one of them has been fascinating!


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Cherry Tree Blossoms | Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Free, docent-led Garden Tours are offered Tuesday-Friday at 1:30 p.m. I was a volunteer docent at Atlanta Botanical Garden for a number of years and still know many of the tour guides. They're a wonderful group of people and each is passionate about the Garden. Treat yourself to this free tour (free with Garden admission) of one of Atlanta's top attractions! 


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

New for the 2016 Olmsted Plein Air Invitational, a gathering and competition of 36 of the world's greatest plein air artists, visitors to the Atlanta Botanical Garden on Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29 can see artists in action, painting scenes in our beloved Garden

I attended the kick-off party at the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlantic Station and can attest that this is going to be a magnificent 6-day event...go to as many of their events as you can and definitely stop by the Garden on the 28th and 29th!


Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Blooms! 2016 | Atlanta Botanical Garden

There's a lot more to explore at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, but if you did just the ones I've listed here, you're in for a most wonderful Atlanta spring and summer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Mother's Shattered Heart...

The show Serial Black Face, the currently running brilliant world premiere play at Actor's Express, is set during the time of the Atlanta Child Murders in the 1970's through early 80s, but the show isn't about the murders. It's about one mother's shattered heart and how she deals with her missing son, her lonely, distraught daughter, and a mysterious, suspicious new man in her life.

Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Tinashe Kajese-Bolden convincingly plays the role of Vivian, a mother of two, whose son has disappeared during the Atlanta Child Murders of the late 1970s-early 80s. Your heart will break right along with hers...her love for her only son is reinforced daily by mementos (on stage props) of his impact on her life, as well as the fact that she doesn't know the fate of her son.

I'm not a father and I'm barely an uncle these days, but I vividly recall the pain and turmoil my own mother went through when a former husband of hers physically threatened her three children. It was a tumultuous, emotionally confusing time, a time that I'd sooner forget than recall. I do not remember being afraid, but remember with great clarity the fear and trepidation she felt as a mother. I can't possibly imagine what it must feel like to lose a child...but Tinashe brings you damn near to those emotions.   

By the way, I said of Tinashe Kajese-Bolden in a previous wanderlust ATLANTA post, "...she's a gem for our city!" Was I ever right!

I had the great pleasure of seeing her in the 20-year anniversary production of "Blues for an Alabama Sky" last year (twice!), when she played Delia. The 1995 world premiere of that play is one of my all-time favorites, the 20th anniversary production a beloved favorite, and now Serial Black Face is one that I will see again and again, largely to the magnificent performance by Tinashe. Again, I say, follow her career....she truly is a gem for our city.


Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

We've all seen the movies where parents have lost a child and their other child or children suffer the fallout...they are left alone. Such is the case with Vivian's daughter Latoya, emotionally performed by Imani Guy Duckette. She acts out—a perfectly human response to emotional abandonment, but she rebounds, ever hopeful for a brighter future with a loving mother.

This is another young actress whose career I highly recommend you keep an eye on. She's brilliant, intuitive and one who demonstrates emotions with great insight. 

Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

A dramatic play about a serious topic, there is some comedy relief now and then in the form of Vivian's coworkers, Gladys (Drea Lewis) and Damita (Kelli Winans). They're a little catty, disconnected, yet in the end feel the heartbreak of Vivian's situation. They will make you laugh, and then bring you back to the gravity of the topic at hand.


Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Serial Black Face | Actor's Express | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Some have been thrown by the name of this play, but it's not what immediately comes to mind for many. In an ArtsATL interview, playwright Janine Naber answered the question about where to the title "Serial Black Face" came from saying, "It is about repetition. It's a story of black people, black faces, that are repeatedly being taken away and there's no way to stop it." 

I totally get where Naber's coming from, I truly do, but I couldn't help but feel that this play is not fully about black people, but more about a mother's shattered heart and how she deals with the loss of a child. I wouldn't wish that on anyone and my heart bleeds for any mother who has lost a child. Race, creed, social status...none of that matters in the affairs of one's love for a child, let alone the loss of a child.

I highly recommend seeing Serial Black Face, at Actor's Express through Sunday, April 24. It's one of the more true-to-life, serious plays I've seen in a long time. Don't go to laugh, but you will...don't go to be somber, but you'll probably cry...don't go to see an award-winner, which it probably will be...go to see brilliant theatre performed by superb actors!

I'd like to offer a special "Thank you!" to Actor's Express for the tickets to the show, and a reminder to my readers that all opinions I express in my blog are my own, always. I'd also like to thank my new friend Jacquetta who joined me for the show. She's a person whose charm, intelligence and friendship I've immediately grown to cherish. Thanks for sharing this touching experience with me.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

"The Princess & the Goblin" Has Come Home

Atlanta was a young city of only 25 years when the children's fantasy novel The Princess and the Goblin was first published in 1872 by English author George MacDonald. Fast-forward 140 years to February 10, 2012, when Atlanta Ballet presented the world premiere of Twyla Tharp's "The Princess & the Goblin", which met with rave reviews.

The Princess & the Goblin has come home to Metro Atlanta, currently being performed by Atlanta Ballet on the same stage as their world premiere, with many dancers reprising their roles. 


Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Kim Kenney
Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Kim Kenney 

Twyla Tharp's (now 74, living in New York City) "The Princess & the Goblin" was in 2012 co-commissioned by Atlanta Ballet and Canada's Royal Winnepeg Ballet. Today, the piece is being co-produced by both ballet companies.

One significant difference is that instead of Ms. Tharp being on hand to stage the ballet, with Tharp's full blessing, Atlanta Ballet Mistress Sarah Hillmer, who was Tharp's assistant in the 2012 world premiere, has restaged the show, and done so brilliantly! 


Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Kim Kenney
Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Kim Kenney 

This performance was a delightful surprise. That's to say that it was so much more than I could have even imagined.

The dancing is so enrapturing that I didn't even notice the overall minimalism of the sets—however the sets that were used were breathtaking. Walking to the car, still in a daze at what I'd just seen, I was asking myself, "How did they do that? How did they hold my full attention for 82 minutes?" The answer revealed itself as wholly obvious...it was the dancing! That and that the dancing told a story.   

While I've not read the book, Atlanta Ballet tells the story through the formality of ballet and the emotional expressiveness and wit of modern dance. It's a story unlike most...the Princess is not in need of rescuing, she in fact is courageous and daring, acts with purpose and is determined.


Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Charlie McCullers
Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Charlie McCullers 

In Tharp's version of the classic fantasy tale, Princess Irene (Alessa Rogers) has two sisters, Stella and Blu (Maya Arena and Elise Halkos). The sisters are captured by the Goblins and without the help of her not-at-all-engaged father, King Papa (John Welker), Princess Irene sets off to rescue them herself.

She does get some help along the way, from her new-found commoner friend, Curdie (Benjamin Stone) and her great-great-grandmother (Nadia Mara) through a magical piece of thread. Yes, this is a fantasy tale, but the courage, sisterly love, morals and the reward of helping those in need are indeed prevalent in the story, as is an inevitable happy ending.

"The Princess & the Goblin" was the first full-length ballet in which Twyla Tharp used children. A significant note given that her career at that time spanned 50 years. Tharp uses the child as the driving force and moral heart and soul of the enchanting tale. Most of the central characters, general narrative line and moral themes remain true to the MacDonald's 1872 story.

The world premiere included included 13 child dancers from the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education in West Midtown, as does the 2016 run, with one child reprising her role!


Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Kim Kenney
Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin | Atlanta Ballet | Photo: Kim Kenney 

This show included one of the magnificent opportunities to hear the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra play live for a performance. I don't know what it is about live music accompanying a live stage performance, but when it's as wonderful as our Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, it help brings the story to life, mesmerizing eyes and ears!

While the 2012 world premiere ran over a period of eight days, the restaged version is running for only one weekend, April 15-17, 2016, on the same stage at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. I sincerely hope you've had the opportunity to see Atlanta Ballet perform Twyla Tharp's The Princess & the Goblin this weekend. 

And do check out their other shows throughout the season...they always have something coming up that I am looking forward to with great enthusiasm! Also, keep an eye out for the announcement of this year's Wabi Sabi performances...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Walk in the Park...

Have you ever been to the park for a 5:00 p.m. picnic? I have, just recently.

It turned out to be the serendipitous perfect time to picnic at Sweetwater Creek State Park, followed immediately by a multi-mile walk to explore and get a little exercise, outshined only by having a camera to capture some beautiful images at dusk, including the moss and sprouts pictured below.

Sweetwater Creek State Park
Sweetwater Creek State Park

We'd just visited Patak Meats in Austell, Georgia, only one exit past Six Flags Over Georgia, on I-20 West. We believe the best place to buy European meats in all of Metro Atlanta, they're open only one Saturday a month, the first Saturday. It's an excursion we look forward to every month we can make it happen. 

They're open during the week, but not late enough for someone who keeps regular office hours in the city. That's quite alright...otherwise I'd spend half my paycheck on the awesome meats and other deli items they offer! 

Our picnic the day of this visit was sandwiches made of fresh, just-cut Corned Beef, Swiss cheese and Polish sauerkraut, all from Patak, on classic rye bread with some potato salad on the side. In retrospect, we didn't even think about dessert...the freshness of Patak's treats were so incredibly delectable, that was treat enough! 


Sweetwater Creek State Park
Sweetwater Creek State Park

When you visit Sweetwater Creek State Park, be sure to stop by the award-winning Visitors Center. There's a whole museum, live animals and a pretty awesome gift shop, not to mention park maps, which you're going to want to peruse before you go walking/hiking, especially if you're on your first visit, all hosted by friendly Park staff.

We'd had our picnic on the shore of the lake where it was quite windy. I actually went back to the car for a jacket, not a surprise in early spring. But, once we got to the trails farther inside the Park, it was perfectly comfortable without a jacket.

By time we got halfway to the New Manchester Manufacturing Mill ruins, the sun was going down, so the lighting was spectacular. I especially liked the bright green colors of new spring leaves reflecting on the deep blue water of the Creek, pictured above. The extra ripples of the wind added interesting texture.


Sweetwater Creek State Park
Sweetwater Creek State Park

Don't worry, you won't feel like you're in the Blair Witch Project. The red on the occasional tree lets you know that you're on the "red trail", the "history" trail. There are many paths at Sweetwater Creek State Park, some of which I've yet to explore, each color coded and easy to follow.

In the background of the above photo you see the New Manchester Manufacturing Mill ruins, which was a filming site for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. That's one thing you'll learn if you're a new visitor to our state...we're huge in movie making! My friends at Atlanta Movie Tours can help you discover more about that.

The color coding his an awesome tool for gauging what route to take if you're in a pinch for time or if you have all day to hike your heart out.


Sweetwater Creek State Park
Sweetwater Creek State Park

Water levels tend to be higher in spring, as they were on this particular visit, which typically translates into calmer waters, yet don't rob you of the white water that many visitors look forward to seeing. In this shot (above), I was most fascinated by the lone bright white dogwood tree on the other side of the Creek.

During this particular visit we saw a Great Blue Heron, sitting and then flying. They're such a beautiful avian. When you visit, have your camera at the ready for other birds, too, as well as water creatures, woodland animals and other wildlife. You're going to see a lot on the more than 2,500 acre Park on their 12 miles of trails!


Sweetwater Creek State Park, Eastern Red Cedar
Sweetwater Creek State Park

One of the first sights you'll see when departing from the Visitor's Center is the remains of a spectacular Eastern Red-Cedar, which isn't a cedar at all, but a member of the Juniper family. It's unique shape, which will conjure images of the Game of Thrones iron throne for some, I thought is definitely photo-worthy!

Sweetwater Creek State Park features quite a lot of adventure, including trails, hiking, campsites, picnic shelters and "yurts". I didn't know what a yurt was before visiting this park and I've not yet experienced one, but if you're into glamping, Sweetwater's yurts are evidently the way to go! There's a "Yurt Village" of 10 yurts along the Creek that house six people each.  

Whether an out-of-town visitor or a local, I highly encourage you to visit one of our many beautiful State Parks, especially nearby Sweetwater Creek State Park.