Wednesday, January 5, 2011

And the winners are ... Top 10 arts events of 2010

by Janet I. Martineau
Back when I was the arts/entertainment editor at The Saginaw News, I used to close out each year by listing my picks for the Top 10 arts/cultural events for the year  --  concerts, plays, lectures, art exhibitions and special events I had attended, from community theater to professional shows making a stop in Saginaw, Midland and Bay City.
So now that I have moved into the world of blogging in 2010, why not continue the tradition?

1. 42nd Annual Region II Kennedy Center/American college Theater Festival, held in January at Saginaw Valley State University.
Granted this five-day festival was not totally open to the public, but attending it and seeing 1,300 collegians from 79 midwestern schools present, collectively, seven full length plays, an evening of scenes, assorted 10-minute productions and compete for acting solo honors was an event that cannot be ignored -- nor can SVSU’s stamina in carrying it off with but only few glitches (including a nasty winter storm).
A woven tree by Rosalind Berlin
We still are mulling over Western Michigan University’s production of  its own “Good Death,” a look at Jack Kevorkian and the issue of assisted suicide through the lens of real life cases and testimonies. It was a life-changing play and a script with roots in Michigan.

2. “Growing Green in the Forest Glen” exhibition/Restoration Theater production of “The Tempest,” at Midland’s Creative 360 in April.
Nearly 200 of Saginaw Township fiber artist Rosalind K. Berlin’s woven fiber trees, which had been on exhibit at Creative 360 since March 5, served as the “set” for the newly formed Restoration Theatre’s inaugural show,  of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” beautifully directed by Carol Rumba.
The cast wove in and out of the colorful hanging trees, some of them 15 feet tall, with the audience seated  just at the edge of the forest. And the night was about as magical as things can get as the world of visual art and dramatic theater collaborated. 

3. “A Streetcar Named Desire,” at Saginaw Valley State University in November.
This classic by Tennessee Williams is tough enough stuff for professional theater companies to pull off, let alone a cast of collegian thespians still learning the craft. But director David Rzeszutek worked a miracle here with this grim and tortured play.  Amanda Mueller as Stella, Rusty Myers as Stanley and Danielle Schoeny as Blanch led a stellar cast and an inventive and detailed set completed the picture.

4. Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra’s “A New Season Begins” concert at the Temple Theatre in September.
OK, in May the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra had chosen 30-year-old Brett Mitchell as its new maestro and back then he and the orchestra kinda played second fiddle during an ABBA tribute concert. So what would his “real”  inaugural concert four months later deliver? 
Ah, goose bumps and fireworks, folks. It just  kept building ...from the fun “Millennium Canons” by Kevin Puts to Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 to Mahler’s marvelpus Symphony No. 1.
Mitchell said in program notes that he  “wanted to make a statement with this first concert.” Well, he and his musicians certainly did that to the rousing cheers of an appreciative audience.

5. Pit and Balcony Community Theatre production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in May.
Guest director Michael Walling updated this dated musical into a magnificent visual treat. Who will ever forget Jennifer Tesoro as the  swaggering leather-clad dominatrix  Pilate, the high priests clad in grey with designer suits and purses, the masses looking like punk rockers, the angled black and white set. 

6. Saginaw Choral Society’s “Time to Look Around” concert at the Temple Theatre in October.

Glen Thomas Rideout

It was an electrically charged night as the choral society kicked off its 75th season with guest conductor (and job candidate) Glen Thomas Rideout leading a musical trip around the world. Rideout sang a little solo, led the choral to new heights in its sound, exhorted the audience to help create the sounds of a rainstorm and was witty to boot. And before the concert, various ethnic groups set up cultural display tables to compete the world tour.
As the new year began, the choral society picked the 25-year-old Rideout as its new artistic director/conductor. No big surprise given that night in October.

7. Tribute: The Eagles concert starring the group Grefe Gaus & Grefe with Gottlieb Roberts Gottlieb & Grefe, at Pit and Balcony Community Theater in April.
In 2009, this Saginaw group of friends and family members formed to perform sold out shows featuring the music of Crosby Stills and Nash.
They got back in the groove to soar with the sounds of the Eagles and once again the seats were filled during three shows. No wonder no seats were left because they create one hell of a sound. Coming up in 2011, they’ll return with a “One Hit Wonders” outing.

8. Pit and Balcony Community Theatre’s  production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” in December.
Guest director/choreographer Mark D. Lingenfelter kept everything simple in this show -- the set, the dances, the costumes, the performances -- and as a result created a blockbuster retelling of an old movie classic. Oh, and he also found some of the best singing voices Pit has showcased in years. 

9. Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” at Creative 360 in Midland in December.
"The Merry Wives of Windsor"
For the past couple of years, this small company based in Grand Haven has presented wonderfully entertaining “in your face” productions at Creative 360  -- in your face meaning there is no barrier between them and the audience during their high energy performances. And with each show they get better and better. “Wives” sported an upgrade in costuming as well as tons of laughs.

10.  Peanut Gallery production of “The Snow Queen” at Midland Center for the Arts in December.
A cast of 36, elementary to early high schoolers, was clad in costumes to die for, a set and staging that was as clever as all get out, and direction from Denyse Clayton and Kristiina Pilnik that was rock solid in making most of them  sound and look mighty good.
Also worthy of note in 2010 were:
-- “Artfest 55 Senior Moments” talent show at Midland’s Creative 360.
-- Center’s Stage’s production of “Our Town” at the Midland Center for the Arts.
-- Ah! Tempo concert for Concerts at First Presbyterian series in Saginaw.
-- “A Christmas Carol,” presented radio theater style, at Saginaw Valley State University.
-- Regional Biennial Sculpture Exhibition at SVSU’s Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum.
-- “An Evening of Elegance” at Midland’s Dahlia Hill, a fund-raising dinner atop the hill as the sun set over 3,000 dahlias at their peak amid Charles Breed’s accompanying sculptures.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for keeping the tradition going for picking the top ten arts events within the year. Stan Teliczan