Browsing articles tagged with " mass appeal"

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.


Create your own Culture Month

Aug 28, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Career, Creative Discontent, Culture  //  1 Comment

Okay, my readers. I want you to do something for me. But I’m not going to tell you what quite yet. First, you need a little background and a lot of links.

I just came from a press conference where Mayor Dave Bronconnier declared September as Culture Month in Calgary. It’s pretty exciting stuff, coinciding with the fact that September 18-20 is the second annual Alberta Arts Days, with all kinds of free events taking place province-wide. September starts with the 2009 WorldSkills Competition in Calgary, which is kind of like the Olympics of the trades (and is actually the largest international competition after the Olympics themselves, and Colin and I are planning to watch some of the competition), and then leads into Alberta Arts Days, the Mayor’s Evening for Business and the Arts, and ends with the Calgary International Film Festival, which, this year, features the largest monetary prize in a North American competition.

And, of course, in between all of that, the arts season is kicking off in a big way, with theatre companies launching new seasons, galleries and museums bringing in new exhibits, community organizations auditioning for their 2009-2010 seasons, and way more. It’s an exciting time of year — the excitement and forward motion of a new academic year carries through even if you’re not in school. All the coolest stuff runs on a September start date, right? 🙂

I’ve been totally immersed in Culture Month this summer — it’s everything that my internship is leading up to. Half my time is spent on Culture Month initiatives themselves — things like helping with a magazine that’s just been released, highlighting the fall arts season in Calgary (which you can find here), pulling together other support material, and getting outside and handing out postcards and other marketing materials.

And, of course, getting the new arts and culture website, ready to launch. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few weeks inputting events and making sure that the calendar is as up-to-date as possible before we launched this week, and my inbox is full of emails of even more events that need to go into it. It’s an exciting site, and if you’re in Calgary, you should really bookmark it, sign up for the newsletter, and make sure you submit your own events to it. It already is — and will continue to become — the hub for arts and culture news in the city.

The other half of my time has been spent working on the Mayor’s Evening for Business and the Arts, an awards night that recognizes the partnerships between arts organizations and the businesses that support them, celebrating the fact that these two components are such a significant part of what makes any city what it is. It’s going to be a fun evening (and will really be the end of my internship — I leave for California two days after the event!), and I’ve had a lot of fun working on the steering committee, meeting people from across the arts sector.

So this is Culture Month. Calgary is the first city in Canada to designate an entire month to publicizing and advocating the arts. Several provinces have provincial arts days, and there are some long-term plans to create a national arts days, celebrating arts and culture across the country. We’ll see what happens with municipal arts days, and how other cities take up the challenge to put their arts and culture at the forefront of the city’s collective mind for 30 days.

The thing is, there’s all kinds of amazing work happening all year, and September is just the kickoff. It’s a city-wide celebration and a fantastic way to honor the creative industries that form the heart and soul of the city.

So here’s my challenge to you:


It’s the little things

Aug 25, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, The Arts, Theatre  //  No Comments

A few things that are disappointing me (just a little bit) right now:

Standing Ovations

We saw two shows this weekend. One of them deserved a standing ovation. The other was okay, but not brilliant. However, they both received ovations.

It’s sad that the power of a standing ovation has been lost — it’s expected, for the most part, that an adequate performance will receive a standing O, and the power of that collective moment of awe that drives the audience to its feet has been lost.

As an audience member, the automatic expectation of an ovation takes away my power to respond in some way to a performance that deeply moves me or is in some way excellent enough to be acknowledged beyond simple applause. As a performer, the ubiquity of standing ovations takes away that next level of connection with the audience. It removes the breathlessness of knowing that this show garnered a reaction above the ordinary.

When standing ovations lose that power, what’s left? Standing on the seats to elevate the praise to another level?

I don’t stand for every curtain call. I’m not letting the fact that everyone else is standing up take the power of my own reaction away from me. It does, however, mean that I don’t always get to see the curtain call, which kinda sucks.


Or rather, what Facebook tells me about people. The Lion King has been on tour in Calgary and Edmonton this summer, and a lot of people have gone to see it. We saw it on Sunday, and it was fantastic. Truly. I’d been wanting to see it for years, but when I lived in New York, I didn’t have the opportunity, so it was finally time. Definitely worth it, and it’s the kind of show that it’s been great to hear people talking about, knowing that so many people are going (and taking their kids) to the theatre.

However, all summer, I’ve been seeing people’s Facebook statuses updated about how amazing Lion King is — which it is — but those updates seem to be at the expense of seeing the Fringe Festival or Shakespeare in the Park or the Folk Fest or the cultural festivals or any of the other — local — shows and events that are going on. I’ve seen exponentially fewer updates about those events, even though there have been a summer’s worth of festivals and things to see, than I have about one show. It’s a sad day when it’s a tour, as opposed to local work, that gets the most attention.

Broadway Tours

More specifically, the fact that Calgary is a place where things are seen on tour, 10 years after they’ve been something cutting-edge and on the cusp of what’s big and groundbreaking. I love this city, but there’s something to be said for living in a place where you can see those shows when they’re a) just opening, or b) (and even better) being developed and still just outside the realm of really being big. By the time they’re on tour, there’s really no more street cred to them. They’re just part of the mainstream culture, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but I like being ahead of the game.

That’s it. Nothing earth-shattering. Just a few little things I wanted to get off my chest.

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:


Unseen heroes

Jul 10, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Theatre  //  2 Comments

Last weekend, we went to the Stampede and saw the grandstand show, which is essentially a big, expensive variety show that happens every night of the Stampede and involves music, dance, 130 (dancing and singing) kids, aerial gymnasts (Cirque du Soleil-type), extreme motocross bikers, and $45,000 of pyrotechnics each night. In other words, quite the production. It’s always fun; we love the whole spectacle of the thing, and we make sure to go see it pretty much every year.

Given a show that size, it’s pretty obvious that it requires a high-caliber staff — everyone from the producers to the stage managers to the designers to the composer to the choreographers to the crew. Especially when it comes to each individual show, there are too many elements for things to be only half-done. I mean, they have kids suspended in birdcage-type things above the stage and pyrotechnics in the near vicinity of many, many kids and teens. There’s definitely a large potential for things to go very wrong, if the work is done incorrectly.


Parading through tradition

Jul 2, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, Real Life  //  2 Comments

The Stampede parade is tomorrow, kicking off 10 days of free pancakes, fireworks, and free concerts. And, of course, we’re going to the parade on Friday morning and to the grounds. Twice.

A lot of Calgarians have a love-hate relationship with the Stampede, but we love it, cowboy cliches and all. Colin and I are both third-generation Calgarians, which is increasingly rare in this booming, diverse city, and my great-grandfather was at the first Stampede in 1912. We’re looking forward to the 2012 Stampede — I’m not sure if there has been a member of either of our families at every single Stampede in the last 100 years, but I’m sure it’s close, and barring any extreme circumstances, we’ll be well-represented at the centennial.


Everyone and no one

May 12, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Theatre  //  1 Comment

I directed a show a few years ago that still sticks out to me very vividly, not because the show was particularly memorable, but because of the reactions it got and my own reaction to it.

It was a Christmas show (200… 4? Yeah, it had to have been 2004), which we’d ended up starting from scratch at the end of October. As in, we had no script or anything. We’d started rehearsing a different script (which I’d still like to do one of these years) in August/September, but for various reasons, it just wasn’t the right show with the right people, so we scrapped it and wrote something entirely new, six weeks before it went up. Well, I didn’t write the new script, but a new script was written, and I pulled together a completely different cast and started directing it with less than six weeks to go. (Keep in mind, this is a volunteer cast, so six weeks of rehearsal when you’re only rehearsing once or twice a week for 2-3 hours at a time means something very different than it does in a professional setting where you can put in 30-40 hours of rehearsal a week and 4-6 weeks is a normal rehearsal period.)

To be honest, it wasn’t any of our greatest work — actors, writers, me. Artistically, it didn’t push any boundaries, and the concept was okay, but not great. The staging wasn’t what we wanted it to be (some of our decisions were overridden by people higher up the food chain than us), and the laughs, while genuine, were sometimes a bit cheap. It served its purpose as the church’s Christmas production that year, and it had a good turnout, as always, but there was something about it that left a stale taste in my mouth.

I found that there were three distinct reactions to the show. First, there were friends that I’d invited who just loved it. They laughed, the whole family had a good time, and they had a nice evening out that didn’t ask much of them. Second, I had colleagues who came who gave me those very reserved congratulations. You know; the kind that are masking their real opinion while trying to find something nice to say. It wasn’t that they thought it was an awful show, but they knew that I had the talent and skill to do something better. Third, there was my team’s reaction. The core team had pulled through a lot to get the show up, and we were proud of the fact that the show came together, despite everything. We knew it wasn’t the best work any of us had done, but we also knew what it took to make, and because of that, the experience glowed a little more than it would have otherwise.

So whose opinion counts?


Dec 3, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Music, Reviews  //  1 Comment

This weekend, one of the things I got to do in Calgary was see Ambrose University College’s Messiah, which Colin, Mom, and Dad were all singing in (with the AUC Community Singers). It was good, overall, but disappointing in places. The first, biggest, thing was that it was held in the gym of the college that was hosting it. That wasn’t the director’s choice, but the school just built a brand-new campus, so of course the administration wanted the Christmas concert to show it off. Unfortunately, there’s not a large enough concert hall for the event, so they set up the gym.

The sound was quite good, and it didn’t have the terrible acoustics that most gyms have, but the aesthetic was terrible. The mood and formality of the event was really compromised by having it in the venue that they did. I get why the administration wanted it there; I’m also completely on the director’s side, who has said that he’s going to fight to make sure it never happens in that location again. It’s why I will not have my wedding reception in a community hall or something similar. No matter how much you try to dress it up, it still looks like a high-school dance, and that’s an aesthetic that isn’t appropriate for a concert like that.

The Saturday night concert was a sing-along, which I was really excited about, but it was far from meeting my expectations.


Your argument for Disney’s level of evil leaves something to be desired

Nov 18, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, Music  //  2 Comments

I was browsing through some random websites earlier this week, and I came across a site was full of “evidence” of how evil Walt Disney was (and Disney as a corporation is). It had some of the more common stories, but the one I found most amusing is that “Walt Disney was evil because he chose music by dead composers for Fantasia so that he wouldn’t have to pay for the music.”

While it’s true that Disney (as a company) has an incredibly powerful legal team that understands the inner workings of copyright law better than just about anyone else anywhere, it makes me laugh that using public domain music is evidence of evil. How is it not an artist’s prerogative to choose to either have new work commissioned, support currently established composers, or reintroduce the public to classical works? Any of those three options, especially with the scope of Disney’s influence, had the potential for significant ramifications within the artists’ careers (if new work had been commissioned or contemporary work used) and the public consciousness and awareness of the music scene, even though the film was originally not as well-received as hoped.


Improv Everywhere

Nov 1, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Reviews  //  No Comments

I’m kind of in love with Improv Everywhere. It’s a New York-based performance art group that takes large-scale pranks out into the public, and the whole “improv” concept is rooted in the way the audience responds to the performers’ actions. It’s kind of like a cross between Punk’d, candid camera, and performance art, and the result is really cool.


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