reviews

Please Sign up for Stage Movement: Part 4

Today’s plea for those of you who can, to take my Stage Movement class at Metro, surrounds the class blog.

Those of you who have taken any class with me knows that I assign blogging as a venue for reading responses. Stage Movement is no different: I have the reading responses due to one all-class blog, as well as any performance reviews and video analyses, etc. The blog is here, and you can see several semesters’ worth of students are still authors on it, which makes it a very cool artifact of course material that they can still access if they like (or even continue to add to).

One big advantage to having a public blog for much of the course work is that it opens up the classroom beyond ARTS 271 in Denver, to the entire world of the professional field in study. This post in particular shows what a good thing technology can be when it’s used well. I couldn’t a) afford to fly Jeff out here from New York to be a guest speaker; and b) couldn’t rig his aerial silks in our classroom if I did. Because of our use of a blog, though, the students could not only see his work in progress, but as you can see if you read the comments, actually interact with him as a professional in the field in which they’re studying.

And here’s a homework post from the clowning unit that you might enjoy.

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The pale green pants with nobody inside them were spotted after the last meeting of the last class, disposed of with ceremony….

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NiB Review re-post: A Dance in Blood Velvet

Here’s the sequel to A Taste of Blood wine, that I was talking about earlier, lovely lurkers. These books do stick with you after experiencing them. This one in particular hit me in a particular way, as I was in a place where I guess you could say I needed it when it came across my desk.


Book Review: A Dance in Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington

Review by Prof. Jenn

 

dibvThe re-publishing of Warrington’s lush vampire epic continues with A Dance in Blood Velvet–a story that takes place after They Lived Happily Ever After. Because hey, vampires really do have literally the opportunity to do so. However, as former humans with every human foible still intact, it’s not so simple. Relationships become tautly intertwined as Karl’s former companions reawaken and challenge what Charlotte has found and begun with her new life as a vampire. Charlotte herself is learning what sort of a vampire she is becoming as well as dealing with searing jealousy which finds manifestation (or retaliation?) in her obsession with a ballerina.

Warrington has a gift for portraying realistic strong feelings and is an excellent author of character. Because of this, what we get in this sequel is not over-ornate romanticism but powerful driven characters, going for their objectives no matter what. The reader finds it hard to put the book down, as long as it is, because she must find out what happens next. As far as how it reads as a sequel, I can imagine someone coming into this story without having traveled with the characters before, as there is enough explanation (without info dumps) and opening discussions between Karl and Charlotte that one could hit the ground running without having read the first one. Though, you’ll want to read the first one too.

This book ends with a potential serial villain much in the vein of Batman’s Catwoman–definitely an antagonist and dangerous, but surprisingly not always not on our heroes’ side…and we are left with the idea that yes, we will be seeing this villain again.

Bottom Line: this series is extremely well written–A Dance in Blood Velvet is a taut, tense, exhilarating read.

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NiB Review re-post: Sherlock Holmes & the Island of Dr. Moreau

More refurbished repostings of reviews that first appeared on soon-to-be-defunct site Nerds in Babeland.

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I’m a Sherlockian nerd of the first water–I’ve read the Doyle stories countless times, adore the Brett and the Cumberbatch versions of him, and love researching all about the culture surrounding the phenomenon. One thing Sherlockian I’ve never been able to abide, however, is Holmes stories written in that time and world, not written by Doyle (the BBC series is an exception, but it’s not Victorian, you see). I do this canon-snob thing with Star Wars too. Okay, maybe I enjoyed The Seven Per Cent Solution marginally. But I digress.

Guy Adams’ new Sherlock Holmes novel, The Army of Dr. Moreau, may be nearly an exception to this rule of mine. Nearly. 

I do enjoy literature that plays with remix, however, like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, and Kim Newman’s vampire novels. Adams’ new book does a great job with this fun admixture of Holmes and Moreau (of course narrated by Watson as all good Holmes stories are), but by also adding in such illustrious Victorian fantastic fiction cast members as Professor Lindenbrook, Professor Challenger, Abner Perry, Edward Prendick, and Professor Cavor. This makes for some delightful literary Easter egg hunting, but doesn’t just throw these characters all in there just to hear the fangirls squee, like Star Wars Episode 1. No, these characters are all vital, and all make perfect sense in their roles as the mystery of the hybrid animals unravels. Oh come now, the title has Moreau in it, it’s not like that’s a spoiler.


Most of this book is just the right combination of mystery and action that Doyle would be proud of, and mostly in Watson’s (very authentic) voice. It’s a lot of fun to hear his meta complaints about how difficult it is working with editors, and that rabid fans are the worst editors of all. It’s also fun to hear more of Watson’s emotional reaction to Holmes being, well, Holmes–he gets rightfully angry and frustrated with him more than once, and more than societally correct Doyle would have written him. But it’s not so un-Doyle-ish that we nerds can’t read it and suspend our disbelief. It’s a thrilling mystery, and in fact quite an intricate plot. Until.

Until Part 6, the last section of this book, which is where the quality of it as a Holmes book falls way short. This section suddenly is told in even shorter bursts than the already short chapters, from every character’s POV. It’s apparent why we are not in Watson’s POV exclusively at that point in the story, but to jump from character to character is just too jarring, and doesn’t have anything in the way of consistency with the rest of the book. If we had stayed in Holmes’ POV during our non-Watson time, that would have been more in keeping with the tone and style of the rest of the book, but the POV jumps are too much. Also, the way in which the story concludes just seems too unrealistic, especially compared with the intricacy of the rest of the story. I don’t want to spoil the end for you, so I’ll just say that a certain character does something which I don’t buy, and it basically concludes the book. It’s too simple, over the top, and frankly feels rushed. It’s such a fun, great book until then! 

Bottom Line: Sherlock Holmes, the Army of Dr. Moreau is a fun addition to any Holmes fan’s library. I just wanted more from the ending.

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BIFF Review #4: Mysto the Magi

Fringe Fest Review #4: Mysto the Magi

Review by Jenn Zuko

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Ta-daaa……or ta-don’t.

Those of you that know me personally know that I love watching Columbo. You know, that fantastic police procedural featuring the rumple-coated detective who disarms his 1970s murderers with low status strategy? Well, my favorite episode has got to be “Now You See Him,” wherein Jack Cassidy plays a suave stage magician who kills his blackmailer while in the middle of a grand illusion. This ep is so fun largely because of the cheesiness of the magic tricks they show. Obviously Cassidy is an actor and not a magician so when we clearly see The Great Santini place a scarf in Columbo’s pocket before “magically” pulling it out, we can be a forgiving audience. And when we might roll our eyes at the cheesiness of the thimble trick, or him pulling playing cards out of Columbo’s suit, we can suspend our disbelief.

When I am told via postcard and website, however, that I have never had more fun than at this magic show, and that the magician in question has been in professional practice for 30+ years, won awards, and etc., I am not likely to be such a forgiving audience when I witness clumsily performed tricks clearly taken from magic kits. When the person I attended the Mysto Mysto show with could clearly see the playing cards clipped inside Mysto’s jacket, when Mysto dropped props to the floor left and right, stumbled over awkward patter, and when it’s like pulling teeth to get anyone from the tiny audience (in the hot, stuffy room) to join him onstage, and finally, when objects are clearly visible palmed in his hands, I find myself surreptitiously looking at my watch to see if the show is over yet.

That sounds, harsh, yes I’ll admit it. What I also noticed about Mysto’s show, though,  is that a good number of people in the audience were enjoying themselves hugely. They were having a fantastic time, and were delighted by what they saw. So, you can chalk this review up to a jaded audience member if you so choose. However, this reviewer can’t recommend the Mysto show based on what I experienced. Sorry.

RATING: 2 stars out of 5

BIFF Review #3: EllieIda

Fringe Fest Review #3: EllieIdaReview by Jenn Zuko

Wow!! 

Okay, so, if I had been teaching my Stage Movement class at this time, I would have demanded, nay, required all my students to witness EllieIda. Why? Because this show, and especially these two actors’ performing this show, epitomize the concept of physical characterization. Let me explain:

Two women perform eight roles in this show. And of those eight, two of them span ages in a way that Ian McKellen’s Sherlock Holmes barely rivals. And the show does not take place in chronological order, oh no. The plot jumps back and forth in time from flashback to silent film slapstick to the two central characters at age 100, drinking and fighting over the remote in a physical way that only very highly trained clowning skill can achieve. What makes this show even more astonishing is the fact that, as an audience, you know each character immediately and thoroughly, not because the two actors change costume and makeup and hair in the blink of an eye, no. Because they both embody each character completely using posture, gesture, facial expression, and voice. In some scenes, each woman plays both the central characters and a third character, switching back and forth in a way that anyone less physically well trained would render confusing as all get out. This audience isn’t confused, though, because the physical characterization is so spot on, we know exactly who we’re looking at, even though the other actor was just playing her literally seconds ago.

image from the Boulder Fringe Fest website.


I’m trying my best, in each show review, to find something that could use improvement. You know, just to be totally honest and not be *that* reviewer that does nothing but glow and rave. I’m having trouble finding something less than positive to say about EllieIda though. Oh wait, I know!: as a stage combat professional and fight director, I do have issue with the use of the full-contact slap to the face. Even in a teensy, intimate space such as the CDC, I never think that the “authenticity” of contact slaps are worth the risk. And yet, having said that, I could see very clearly that neither woman was at all being unsafe, and the slaps did not a) stop the action with being too discombobulating, or b) look fake, with flinches, too-quiet sounds, etc. So. Maybe this is the exception to my slap rule? Naw, I’ll never succumb…..

Bottom line? As you may guess, I absolutely highly recommend EllieIda. If you have to be selective, or miss any of the shows at the Fringe, do not let yourself miss out on this one.

RATING: 5 stars out of 5.

For more of these (and other) performances, go to Boulder Fringe.

IPA Reviews #48-53

IPA# 48: Big Eye

  • By Ballast Point
  • 7% ABV
  • smoky, strong
  • Somewhat of a sweet aftertaste
  • I’m not fond of the flavor profile

IPA #49: Onslaught

  • at Mountain Sun
  • 9% ABV
  • Belgo-American IPA
  • not as Belgian-y sweet as most
  • Bitter aftertaste

  
IPA #50: Enjoy By 7.4.15 Double IPA

  • by Stone (on tap at Mountain Sun)
  • 9.4% ABV
  • very rich and cloying
  • Too strong and sweet
  • Very cool premise though

IPA #51: Escape to Colorado

  • by Epic Brewing
  • Pleasantly bitter
  • 6.2% ABV
  • grains and hops in the flavor; no citrus 
  • Very crisp and sharp bubbles

IPA #52: Delicious IPA

  • on tap at Mountain Sun
  • Crisp, lightly hoppy
  • lemon drop hops
  • Gluten reduced! I didn’t taste this.
  • 7.7% ABV

IPA #53: ? from Nebraska Brewing Co.

  • 6.9% ABV
  • in 12 oz cans
  • Rich, a little sweet, tastes like an imperial
  • Meh