Browsing articles tagged with " aesthetics"

The Coffeehouse that serves no coffee

Jan 14, 2010   //   by Alida   //   Career, Creative Discontent, School  //  No Comments

By the time December 18 hit, I was pretty ready to be finished with school. I’ve loved it, but it’s been a long few years, made even longer by the fact that Colin and I were doing long-distance through the entire thing. No matter how ready I am to move on, though, there are always those things that are hard to leave behind. Things I wish I had a bit more time with.

Besides the obvious — friends, In-n-Out, my Starbucks employee discount, and the weather — it was hardest to leave behind the Coffeehouse Theater. I’d spent three semesters as resident producer, along with my good friend Michael, and if there’s one thing I wish I’d had more time to work on and leave my mark on, that was it. Read more >>

Take the Name

Nov 25, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Career, Creative Discontent, Faith, School, Theatre  //  No Comments

I can’t think of that ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” without my mind jumping to “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.” Two separate commandments, but they go hand in hand, to me.

More than just an admonition against swearing, particularly blasphemous utterances, that third commandment is a reminder that, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we literally take the name. Whether it’s identifying as God’s Chosen People or as Christians, something about our very identity invokes God’s presence. Read more >>

Through the wardrobe

Nov 20, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Reviews, Theatre  //  No Comments

Last week, I went to see PCPA’s production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was a decent production — technically very good, relatively strong acting overall — and while there were things that I nitpicked about it and directing choices that I would have made differently, I really did enjoy the show.

I’ve talked before about adaptations and maintaining the integrity of the work, and there are certain movies or adaptations that I won’t see because I enjoyed the original too much to risk being disappointed by an adaptation that falls short. If the story is misinterpreted or characters don’t look the way I think they should or the overarching themes are viewed differently than I’ve always seen them (not to mention the disturbing propensity for adaptations to change the endings of the original work), it can turn the experience of a beloved story into a bittersweet (perhaps more bitter than sweet) shadow of what it should be.

I realized last weekend, though, that while that may be my immediate reaction to many adaptations, it’s actually the middle ground for me. On the one side, there are adaptations where I have little or no attachment to the original. Most comic book movies, for instance. I have virtually no attachment to the generative works, and while I fully recognize that I am experiencing the work on a very limited level, I’m enjoying it on its own merits and I am happily ensconced in my ignorance of the work. Read more >>

Sweetness and light

Sep 9, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Movies, Reviews  //  No Comments

We saw The Ugly Truth last weekend — with friends; it was their choice of movie, not ours — and it was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. Lots of crude humor, lots of denigration of healthy relationships, and a very dim view of men.

Now, I don’t have a problem with most content in movies. Much to my mother’s consternation, I don’t filter my movie choices based on violence, language, sex, or other “objectionable” content. Those may, in the end, affect my enjoyment of a movie, but I rarely rule out a movie because I think that what I see, I won’t like. I’d rather base my enjoyment of the movie on its story, and those elements can all be used very effectively to tell the story and make a specific point. Often, the movies with the most disturbing content (think Monster’s Ball, Requiem for a Dream, or Pan’s Labyrinth) are the most beautifully crafted, well-told stories with the most to think about and take away.


Creative Discontent: The Explanation

Aug 11, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Faith, Real Life  //  No Comments

A few weeks ago, I changed the title of my blog from “Thoughts on Art and Faith” to “Creative Discontent”. “Thoughts on Art and Faith” was never intended to be the permanent title—I mean, come on, it’s a little too obviously descriptive, and while that may be what the blog is intended to be about, I’ve never wanted to make it that unimaginative. If this thing ever starts getting serious traffic (and if, somewhere down the line, I make the jump to being a professional blogger), I don’t want that to be the title I’m saddled with.

My favorite titles are short, sweet, and come from quotes or have some sort of non-obvious significance. They reflect something of the writer by being something other than “This is a Blog About My Life.”

The title I’ve used for my personal blog for several years has been “commas and ampersands,” and my blogroll/friends page title has been “they are like emeralds”. Both of those come from the song “I Hear the Bells” by Mike Doughty, and they both grabbed my imagination in very specific ways. I like the idea of describing the events of my life and the thoughts I’m mulling over as the “commas and ampersands” of my day-to-day life. It’s a way of punctuating life—finding the moments that both separate things and join them, and realizing some of the big before-and-after effects in retrospect. As for “they are like emeralds,” the phrase brings to mind the snowflake/individuality image (at least, to my mind), as well as the priceless/diamond image.

In any case, that’s the kind of thought process that goes into my blog titles, and “Thoughts on Art and Faith” was absolutely not right for me. It’s the kind of blog title that I’d skim over. I needed something else.

So I went digging for quotes. Partly, I was looking for some more to add to the quote rotator on the right-hand sidebar, but partly, I was looking for a phrase that stuck out to me. Something descriptive and enigmatic, all at the same time.


Harry Potter and the Generative Artist’s Intent

Jul 16, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Movies, Theatre  //  2 Comments

I’m a reader. Always have been, always will be. I started reading when I was about 3, and I’ve never looked back, and while reading was my first love (okay, second; I’m pretty sure that music was first), I have a distinct love for other, non-literary art forms. Of course I do. My life wouldn’t be what it is if I didn’t have that love. Theatre, music, film, dance, and visual arts are all art forms that I have a great deal of respect and passion for (and in the case of music and theatre, extensive training and a career built around), and they’re not necessarily based on the written word.

Read enough books, and you’ll soon come across movie adaptations of some of them. Take something successful and make it even more successful by making it accessible to a different audience! What could go wrong with that? I think it’s most prevalent in the film/TV adaptations of books and plays; then in plays that are adaptations of books or movies; and then novelizations of existing movies, TV shows, and plays.

(I think that music, dance, and visual arts tend more toward derivative works than toward adaptations; because their storytelling is less narrative and less linear, the relationship between those three and the other three, going both ways, is less of a direct re-telling of a story. That’s another conversation altogether; right now, I’m mostly concerned with the distinctly narrative art forms.)

Now, don’t misunderstand; I’m not trying to argue the superiority of books to their film adaptations. While this may be couched in a conversation that is primarily about books and movies, the scope is far broader than that. I’m talking about understanding the generative artist’s intent. Regardless of form or genre, that’s the most important thing to be aware of. A TV show can be superior to a book; a movie can be superior to a play. It’s not about which forms are more “valid,” because none is more or less valid than the others. They each require a different set of skills, they each have the potential to showcase truly great art and storytelling, and every single one of them is constantly adapted from and by other art forms. Books are not inherently better than television; theatre is not inherently better than film, and great culture and art can be found in all of them.

I think, though, that there are several important questions to consider:


Letting go, stepping back, giving up?

Jun 29, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Theatre  //  5 Comments

I made a decision yesterday.

I made the tough decision to step back from a project that I’ve been involved with — a project incorporates many departments, most of which are continually reaching new levels of professionalism and quality — because the element of it that I’ve been a part of is the lowest quality, the least professional, and the most resistant to change.

It was a tough call, and I’m still not sure I did the right thing, but if I’d stayed with it, I’m not sure that would have been the right thing, either. There is no right answer here, and I’m having a hard time reconciling that.

I place great value on not doing work that is below an acceptable standard, and that holds true for the work I do as an individual, as well as for organizations that I’m involved with. I don’t want my name associated with that particular sub-group of the project. I don’t want my reputation to be intertwined with it, no matter how little of an impact my involvement may have in the larger scheme of things, until the quality improves.

And that’s the thing. I’m still committed to the long-term success of the project as a whole — including this particular, less-than-quality element of it. There are many things that can, should, and must be done in order to up the ante and make it what it can and should be; they’re just not being done yet, and until they are, I don’t feel like I can be involved in a visible way. I’ll be working behind the scenes and offering support and help to those who are making the decisions and taking things in the right direction, but I don’t know that I can be the one to put my name to it.

And yet, Colin can. He’s staying on in the same capacity as he always has, and he’ll continue to be that presence, and that’s the right decision for him.

But for me? I don’t know. I’m unsettled, no matter what I do.

This is why we do it

Jun 12, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Real Life, School, Theatre  //  5 Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever not had an understanding of producing. There are some artists who don’t know or understand what it takes to actually put on a show (or an exhibit, or whatever), but that’s never been me. Yes, I have training as an actor and director, but I also have always put in the production work to make it happen, even when that wasn’t my primary role.

One of my jobs at CalArts is Resident Producer in the Coffeehouse Theater, which is an interdisciplinary space open to students to present non-curricular work. The committee acts in a curatorial capacity, as the Coffeehouse is primarily a presenting, not a producing, entity. That means that we work with a lot of artists who want to show their work, but have no idea what goes into producing it. Our job is to walk them through the process, step-by-step, and teach them how to work with a presenting organization, because those basic producing skills are things that every artist should know.

In any case, that side of things has always been, to me, an integral part of the art-making process, and I started doing it simply because no one else was. I needed to have a place to do work, and, like many artists who begin producing, it began with that simple need.


If there’s no room for you, where is there room for me?

Mar 20, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Faith, School, Theatre  //  1 Comment

It’s the responsibility of any artist to champion the creation of art that he or she disagrees with, doesn’t understand, or is offended by.

This is a theory that I’ve been mulling over for a while–about a year now, I guess–and I think that I can fairly confidently boil it down to that statement.

I subconsciously became aware of it when I was considering CalArts, but I actually put it into words last spring, when I was deciding whether I was going to take the job with the Calgary Fringe Festival for the summer. In that case, it wasn’t about whether I was artistically opposed to anything, but it was the fact that a lot of the work I’d have been associated with and working on would be work that I was morally, ideologically, religiously, and politically offended by.

Could I put my name on that kind of work professionally? Well, in a sense, I do it every day, simply by being at CalArts. A lot of what comes across my path is work that I don’t find very aesthetically pleasing, work that is in direct contradiction to my beliefs and the way I live my life, and even work that mocks the things I build my life around.



Dec 16, 2007   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Uncategorized  //  No Comments

I can remember being in kids’ choir when I was in elementary school, being the brat who would poke other kids when they weren’t doing things right.

(This morning, in church, the little kids sang a song, and there were a few of those kids, and it was just cute and fun to watch them.)

When I was in grade six, my friend Erin and I wrote a list of things in the choir that we thought needed to be changed. Stricter dress code, selected (talented) kids doing choreography, people who could sing on key doing the harmonies, more complicated choreography that looked more exciting than just hand actions.

Mom (who was the director) wasn’t too impressed with us, I don’t think, and there was definitely an aspect of snobbishness there, but looking back on that nearly 15 years later, I realize that was the beginning of the aspect of producing that we spend a lot of time on: developing a personal aesthetic. A big part of producing is knowing what you’re passionate about; what visuals and stories attract you; what makes you tick; what you want to invest your time, money, and professional reputation in; and so on. It’s developing the “Blink” effect (from Malcom Gladwell’s book “Blink”): being so secure in your expertise that you can make a split-second decision and trust your gut.


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