Dec 31, 2007

Bemis: Nurturing Kids' Appetites for Art

We got three-and-a-half pages of Bemis School of Art coverage in the January/February issue of Colorado Springs Style magazine, including five photos, telling the story of how the Bemis School of Art contributes to this community by writer Linda DuVal. Congratulations to Director of Education Tara Thomas, her teachers and staff for all the good work they do for the FAC and our community.

Dec 26, 2007

Ghost of Christmas Present signing off

This past Sunday saw the final performance of A Christmas Carol, at least for this year. And of course on Tuesday it was Christmas Day, and, as you all know the Ghost of Christmas Present's life ends midnight on Christmas Day.

So, it is with a little sadness that I mark the passing of my rendition of the Ghost of Christmas Present. It was a fun role to do, all the way from the first day I put on the stilts and wobbled my way around to the final performance when Scrooge and I took an extra beat at the end of our scene to say a silent goodbye.

Talking of those stilts, you also wouldn't believe the muscles that hurt after wearing them. There were several performances where my legs would be trembling from the effort in standing still as some action happened on some other part of the stage. You don't realize the effort needed until you don this 50lb costume with three layers of padding and then just stand there as the Cratchit's sing their song. At least I never fell down wearing them (which would have been an adventure, let me tell you), although there were a couple of times it was a close shave.

I'd like to thank the wonderful audiences we had throughout the run. Everybody seemed to enjoy it, although I must say it was the kids in the audience that seemed to enjoy it the most. I talked to a few of them after performances and they were fascinated with the whole production, how the smoke worked, how Marley came up out of the floor (and, better, disappeared into it), how the set flew in, and so on. Whenever there's an opportunity for kids to look behind the magic of the theatre, there's always a line of them waiting.

And of course thanks to those fine people at the FAC (you know who you are!) who let us Ghosts write about what was going on with the show. I certainly had fun doing these blog entries.

And with that, see you next time!

Cheers, Julian

Dec 20, 2007

GXP: "'Twas the last week of 'Carol'"

‘Twas the last week of “Carol” and every last soul
Was in full show mentality, ready to roll.
They’d survived fifteen shows, only five more were left
And they certainly planned for the last to be best.

They were gathered on stage: the fruit vendors and merchants,
Poultry sellers and cobblers, housemaids and street urchins,
Here a laundress, a charwoman, stagecoach conductor,
There the odd undertaker or school-house instructor.

There were ghosts of the Past, Present, Future, and Marley
(With his chains you’d have thought he’d come in on a Harley)
The Fezziwigs, young Scrooge, and Tiny Tim, too,
With his parents, the Cratchits, and their lovely brood.

And the prototype Grinch, our own finest of Scrooges,
In this role he could range from King Lear to Three Stooges
There were sixty-four characters, twenty-six players
They’d pulled through on caffeine, chocolate, hugs, and some prayers.

They’d survived the late nights, backstage accidents, too,
Snowy weather and ice and a Scrooge-like review,
But their faces were glowing, their hearts were replete
Knowing well-meaning strangers would fill every seat!

Peace to every heart,

(AKA Amy Brooks)

Dec 17, 2007

2007 Fine Arts Center highlight reel

Check out our 2007 Year-in-Review video, featuring all the highlights of the past year ... the grand opening of our new building, award-winning theatre productions, groundbreaking exhibitions, special guests and more!

Denver Post: Center's treasures revealed

The Fine Arts Center was featured on the front page of the Denver Post A&E section Sunday, complete with four articles and eight photos. About the FAC Permanent Collection, art critic Kyle MacMillan wrote, "The return of a little more than 200 permanent works to public view is among the most exciting aspects of the arts center's newly opened addition ... No comprehensive story of Colorado art, which for much of the 20th century was centered in Colorado Springs, can be told without including selections from the arts center's extensive collection."

"A major boost to those holdings came with the July announcement that 67 paintings from the extraordinary Colorado Springs collection of Katherine and the late Dusty Loo would be given to the institution. A selection of 27 pieces is on view.

"The Loos were highly discriminating in their purchases, managing to find a, if not the, definitive example of virtually every artist represented in their collection."

Center's treasures revealed: Rediscovering the Collection
Curating the Future: What's next for the Fine Arts Center
Miro and Monet: Impressionist and Modern Masters

Impressionist and Modern Masters wallpapers

Have you seen the Impressionist and Modern Masters exhibition at the FAC? If you have, you know that it includes one masterpiece after another. Almost too many. You need to take your time and study each work of art. Until your next visit to the FAC, download a free wallpaper to load on your computer ... Degas, Monet and LeBrun ... for your viewing enjoyment.

Dec 14, 2007

Cheyenne Edition: 'Exhibit ... will make your heart swell'

On Dec. 14, Cheyenne/Woodmen Editon columnist Lisa Matthews wrote of the Impressionist and Modern Masters exhibition:

"The newest exhibit at the Fine Arts Center will make your heart swell with pride. In a word, it is simply, “Wow!” Even the FAC security guards concur, “This is our finest exhibition bar none.” And they should know, it is their job to keep these million-dollar masterpieces safe.

"A painting by Claude Monet first greets you at the entrance. From there, you’ll find works by many of the major artists from the past 300 years including Picasso, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Matisse, Pollock and even Georgia O’Keeffe and Wassily Kandinsky. An oversized painting of Marie Antoinette – in its original frame and once hung in the Palace of Versailles – will virtually blow you away.

“I’d expect to be in Paris or New York, okay even Denver to see such works of art,” said one proud attendee. Truly something Colorado Springs has worked hard to achieve. “We’ve transitioned from a place with dust in the corners to something as elegant as this,” said Ann Winslow, a past FAC board of trustee member.

Week Three: Here we go again!

‘Twas week three after op’ning and all of the cast
Was exhausted and weary, their eyes at half-mast
But a feeling was brewing, a sense in the air
That a SaGaJi audience soon would be there.

They’d survived ten performances, ten more to go
With the crew and the costumers, all were in tow
The whole team was regrouping, and stoking their engines
For another attempt at the show, with a vengeance.

The singing and acting and dancing parts, too
Seemed sharper and clearer and easier to do
The effects were lots smoother, things coming together
(Now if only they’d have some good luck with the weather!)

They were psyched, in a word, to go at it again!
To perform for their fam’lies, co-workers, and friends
Now the only thing missing, to make hearts replete
Was a herd of warm bodies, to warm unfilled seats.

Come share in the Christmas fun!

All the best,
GXP (Amy Brooks)

Dec 10, 2007

Nine Denver Post Ovation Award nominations for Into the Woods

The Fine Arts Center Theatre Company's production of 'Into the Woods' was nominated for nine 2007 Denver Post Ovation Awards, including "Best Musical," "Best Ensemble" and "Best Director."

In a May 25, 2007, review entitled, "Colorado Springs troupe's Broadway-worthy musical," Denver Post critic John Moore wrote: "(W)ith its latest big-bang, big-bucks to-do, the FAC again proves that nobody, but nobody, does musicals like they do musicals to our south.”

Out of 154 productions reviewed or observed by Denver Post critics, 'Into the Woods' was the second-most nominated production in the state.

The nominations included:

Best Musical
FAC Theatre Company's Into the Woods

Actor, Musical
Kelly Walters, (The Baker)

Director, Musical
Alan Osburn

Supporting Actress, Musical
Mercedes Perez, (The Witch)
Sally Lewis Hybl, (Cinderella)

FAC Theatre Company's Into the Woods

Best Band
Roberta Jacyshyn

Musical Number
“Opening," Mary Ripper Baker and Roberta Jacyshyn

Set Design
Christopher L. Sheley

Finalists were culled from Colorado productions opening after Jan. 1, 2007, that were either reviewed or observed by Denver Post critics. Winners have been selected by theater critic John Moore and will be published Dec. 30. Readers can go online now and vote for their favorite in major categories for "Readers Choice" selections at

Dec 7, 2007

Ghost: Are you ready for a taste sensation?

A couple of weeks ago, I nipped into Whole Foods on Academy to buy something for dinner. As I wandered around the produce section, I was cornered by one of the produce guys who urged me to try out a slice of apple and a piece of aged Parmigiano Reggiano. He promised a taste sensation, so I did and yes by gum it was delicious. I chatted to him for a little while and throughout he was enthusiastic about this particular combination and about helping customers getting to love it too. So much so that I bought a pound of the apples and some of the cheese, so that my wife could try it too.

This got me thinking about my job as an actor. Through my performance I have to entice you the audience member to enter our made-up world, to suspend your belief, to be entertained, to feel as if you've had the best evening at a theater you've ever had. Anything less and I would be failing you. After all, I and my fellow actors have but 18 chances to woo you with our show. Come the evening of December 23rd, a mere three weeks away, it'll be all over and we'd have lost our chance.

When you come to one of our performances, I'll be there with my plate of apple and cheese slices -- at least in a metaphorical sense -- and inviting you to partake and enjoy the sensation. I am enthusiastic about this show and love becoming the Ghost of Christmas Present.

But, unlike the goods my friend the Whole Foods stacker was showing me, my performance is never quite the same. It's weird: you'd think that now we've rehearsed the heck out of this show, everything would be constant. But no, there are always slight differences in everyone's performance. We're always striving to find something new in the way we perform to make things clearer, to give more depth to the characters, to entertain the audience. So some nights, I look at Scrooge in a different way or at a different place than before or say my line in a slightly different way. Bob Rais, who plays Scrooge, will then play off that, and suddenly there's something more truthful about the relationship between the Ghost and Scrooge, something that will resonate better with the audience. The whole performance becomes heightened.

So are you ready for a taste sensation?

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present

Gazette: New FAC exhibition is 'jaw-dropping'

Fine Arts Center masters the masters
Gazette // Mark Arnest (Dec. 6)

If the sheer size of the Fine Arts Center expansion and its first post-expansion exhibit made a good impression, get ready to be really impressed.

Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Claude Lorrain: With its jaw-dropping, masterpiece-packed new exhibit “Impressionist and Modern Masters,” the Fine Arts Center solidifies its new position as a major player in the state’s art scene.

Dec 6, 2007

GXP: Ah! The things we do for the theater!

"A Christmas Carol" is officially open, and now the work begins! We made it through opening weekend, and things started to click by the end of the weekend. From Thursday's Preview audience through Sunday's matinee audience, the crowds were gracious and friendly, and seemed to enjoy the show. Some even stood at the end!

I have been brain dead and tired to the bone marrow this week, and I suspect I am not alone. Now we will muster our energy, re-gather our strength, focus our minds, clear our throats, and head into a five-performance weekend of shows. My skin hurts, thinking of all those make-up changes. Friday night, after the show, will be photo call. This will involve full costume and make-up changes, all over again, and photo poses late into the night. (May I confess, that while I am in favor of the creation of a photo archive, photo call night is not my favorite...).

Ah! The things we do for the theater!

We are now hoping for full and enthusiastic houses. The weather seems a little warm yet to feel Christmassy. Maybe our show will help folks along, and give them a touch of Christmas in their hearts to fuel them through the shopping madness. I'm excited to get to it again.

Cheers to all,
GXP (Amy Brooks)

Dec 4, 2007

Words of wisdom from Impressionist and Modern Masters

In preparation for this Friday's Opening Celebration of Impressionist and Modern Masters, the FAC Blog has gathered quotes -- words of wisdom, if you will -- from some of the artists featured in the exhibition.

I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don't need.
Auguste Rodin

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
Edgar Degas

In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters.
Paul Gauguin

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
Claude Monet

I do not judge, I only chronicle.
John Singer Sargent

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
Camille Pissarro

I think that if you shake the tree, you ought to be around when the fruit falls to pick it up.
Mary Cassatt

The pain passes, but the beauty remains.
Pierre Auguste Renoir

Everything starts from a dot.
Wassily Kandinsky

All good ideas arrive by chance.
Max Ernst

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.
Georgia O'Keeffe

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.
Henri Matisse

New needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements... the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture.
Jackson Pollock

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.
Pablo Picasso

When I see a head from a great distance, it ceases to be a sphere and becomes an extreme confusion falling down into the abyss.
Alberto Giacometti

I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.
Joan Miro

Nov 30, 2007

Three Ghosts interview with Cheyenne Edition

A Christmas Carol: Fine Art Center Festivity
By Chelley Gardner Smith

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and stores all over town have decked the halls and put up the lights with glimmering price tags to boot. It’s enough to make the elves weary of Christmas if not the humans, but there may be a little spot where you can go to reconnect with the meaning of Christmas and its message of love and hope.

“A Christmas Carol,” originally written by Charles Dickens, is being performed at the Fine Arts Center Nov. 30 through Dec. 23, five times a week and twice on Saturday.

Robert Rais plays the irascible old Scrooge. If you saw him in Hamlet as the grave digger, or Fisk in Zorro, you know that Rais is someone you don’t want to miss. Ornery and clever are too subtle adjectives for him.

And the best actors don’t stop there. You’ve seen Amy Brooks in many plays in town. She plays the Ghost of Christmas Past, and much to the envy of other actors, gets to fly about the stage. Says Sheley, stage production director, “She is amazing. I realized when she was on stage I was just hanging on her every word. Then between acts she comes out (to talk) to everyone and she’s like ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ Then she returns to the stage and, she’s right there. She is amazing.”

Julian Bucknall who recently played Polonious in Theatreworks, Hamlet, has joined the crew. He will be the Ghost of Christmas Present. Before being in Colorado Springs, he was a Londoner. He will wear stilts and be an amazing 7’ tall on stage.

Halee Towne, a Wasson graduate, under the fine tutelage of Ms. Vogel, is playing the very scary Ghost of Christmas Future. She went to college, then to China, and yes, she speaks Chinese, and then people in China encouraged her to get serious about theatre, so she went to London and studied there for a year. Says Brooks, “She has an amazing singing voice. Just the other day someone asked, ‘Where’s the girl with the great voice?’ that’s how she’s referred to.”

Brooks continues, “I’ve been reading the original ‘Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens to my daughter, Tess. She is enchanted by the story. It’s a story about second chances, and who doesn’t want a second chance? In a day of war, who doesn’t want a sense of hope; not in a corny way; but in a real way. I cry when I’m on stage watching the scenes. The play is very true to the original wording by Dickens. It doesn’t go to sentimentality. There are so many modern themes; overcoming poverty, not because of money, but because of love.”

Bucknall continues,” The story is so meaningful. Through the three ghosts, Scrooge can see what he has left behind, what he is missing in the present, and what could be if he does not change. It’s really about celebrating togetherness.”

“It seems like the Christmas Season is always so busy,” adds Towne. “The play feels like Christmas. It’s a place to come from all the craziness, sit down, rest, and reflect a little with others. If I wasn’t in the play, I’d come see it.” They all laugh.

GXP: ‘Twas the night of the op’ning

Enjoy an Amy Brooks' original poem ... found only at the FAC BLOG. "A Christmas Carol" opens tonight and runs through Dec. 23.

‘Twas the night of the op’ning, and all through the house
Every creature was stirring, even SaGaJi’s mouse.
The publicity team had been cranking the word
They did not want a cluster, they wanted a herd!

The box-office beauties were prepping with care
In the hopes that an audience soon would be there.
The ushers were grouping, programs at the ready
To escort the patrons, both strong and unsteady.

The stitchers were hemming and sewing and basting:
With some sixty-five costumes, no time could be wasting.
All for them that remained were the finishing touches
Like shoes, hats, gloves, aprons, scarves, trousers, and crutches.

The techies were scurrying with last-minute chores
To shore up all problems and seal up the pores.
They had sweated and labored and worked ‘round the clock
Like the finest of troops: they were ready to rock!

The prop team had gathered or made quite a stable
Of garlands and dishes and turkeys and tables
And bundles and chalkboards and Christmas trees, too:
They re-checked and pre-set and made sure to review.

The actors were scanning their lines and their lyrics
Some calm as a Buddha, others wrought with hysterics.
They were drinking their Throat Coat and donning their layers,
Singing scales, doing stretches, and saying their prayers.

The sound guys were checking all microphone switches
Reviewing their sound cues to head off all hitches.
The set-design team had hung flats from great heights
Every scrim, fly, and set piece just had to be right.

The lighting-design team was checking their cues
Would the spotlights be working? Had some lights blown a fuse?
From the wings all the fog machines stood at the ready
To be switched on on cue with hands sure-fire and steady.

The music director, with her baton in hand,
Was tuning and practicing songs with the band.
Whether tenor or alto or base or soprano
Roberta was hoping we’d hear the piano.

Choreographer goddess, our empress of movement,
Ms. Mary was hoping for signs of improvement.
We’d worked all the dances innumerable times
It was too late for fudging or falling or mimes.

Stage Manager Brantley, our resident deity
Had busted his back to mix order with gaiety.
He was tired and worn out and just a bit dazed
But he’d kept things together, and so BRANTLEY BE PRAISED.

The Artistic Director, with notebooks in hand
Was prepared for the worst but always in command:
With the firm hand of order, efficiency, reason
Alan helped lead the way to this Show of the Season.

And last but not least, Susan Dawn, the director
Our herder and helper, and tireless corrector
Was ready to sit back and watch this great beast
And with luck it would be for her eyes a great feast.

We have one common goal: to create local history
And when asked how it works we respond, “It’s a mystery!”
Mystery it may be but there’s one thing I know:
Happy season to all, and to all, a GREAT SHOW!

GoXMasPresent: This is going to be a great show

Ever wondered what it's like to use one of those truck runaway ramps you see on major roads over the mountains? The ones with about 100 yards of gravel designed to stop a speeding semi whose brakes have failed in, well, less than 100 yards?

Well, become an actor and you can get the same effect. Many statistical analyses -- well, OK, it's happened to me and it's happened to several actors I've spoken to -- have shown that there will always be at least one dress rehearsal where everything goes wrong and you run out of time before you run out of play. It’s as if you were purring along nicely when, Wham!, you’re all of a sudden brought to an abrupt stop, seatbelts straining.

Ours was Tuesday evening. Oh boy, oh boy. It seemed that if it could go wrong it would. It was also the evening when we started using a special effect, one that I'd rather let you see than describe. Of course, since it was the first time it had been used properly, it goes without saying that didn't work very well (it was much better last night though). Props got left on stage during a scene change. Scrooge's bed, which is on some mega-castors, acquired a mind of its own and went wherever it wanted to, rather than where it was being pushed. Flies came in too fast and thudded to the ground. Some flies seemed to have lost the markers on the ropes and just kept on coming in. Someone moved the Christmas tree from where I'd checked it earlier, meaning I came off stage to get it and... where the heck was it now? I also nearly managed to trip over the power cable to one of the foggers in my stilts, which might have brought a rapid end to my dreams of being a Ghost of Christmas Present, to put it mildly.

Murphy was truly alive and kicking on the stage that evening.

Yesterday's rehearsal, on the other hand, was much, much better. For the first time, I felt almost comfortable in my role, which augurs very well for opening night tomorrow. It may sound weird, but for me the putting on of a costume means the putting on of the character as well. It's as if the character is there in the fibers somehow. Prior to last night, the Ghost wasn't quite there yet for me, but last night, he seemed to have woven himself in the green robe. I/he was fairly prancing around the stage on those stilts and there was no time when I felt uncomfortable or unsafe.

Tonight is preview night for an invited audience; tomorrow night, opening. This is going to be one great show.

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present

Nov 29, 2007

GXP: Almost to the finish line ...

Do ghosts ever need naps? Do they have day jobs? This one (the Ghost of Xmas Past, a.k.a. GXP) sure does! It's been a long week of late nights and hard work. The feet are sore and the eyes are bleary, and I've lost the plot to my life several times today and all week. But the excitement is building: the Preview performance (invited friends and family, staff of the Fine Arts Center, sponsors) is tonight and I think we're ready. Not because the show is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But as they say, "There's nothing like the threat of death at dawn to focus the mind." And with that extra dose of excitement, mixed with a pinch of terror, we should be better able to focus and "bring home" the performance tonight on a Guinea-pig audience!

Tomorrow is opening night.

Last night went better than the night before; the kinks in the machine are getting fixed, one by one, bit by bit. There was some hilarity: Scrooge stripped off his night shirt at one point and stood, fearless, in his long-johns, when a needed blanket prop was not in place. That began a cascade of mischief, which you really had to be there for to appreciate, but suffice to say, I "lost it" on stage, and had to cover my face to conceal laughter. (With luck, Julian will at some point describe his shenanigans with poultry, but that may have to remain a backstage secret.) Out-of-character laughter is, of course, a no-no in performances. We must keep our character and our decorum no matter what is happening on stage and no matter how funny.

On another subject, I am reading the original Dickens "A Christmas Carol" to my 9-year-old daughter, Tess. Much of the text you will hear spoken on stage is taken verbatim from the book. I would recommend, as a delightful complement to seeing the play, that those with kids, or without, read the story first. It's a delight. Dickens' descriptions are so rich and vivid!!

That's all from the Ghost of Christmas Past for the day. Onward and upward! (With luck, not downward and backward!)

Happy days to all,
GXP (Amy Brooks)

Nov 28, 2007

GXP: It's beginning to look a lot like ... well, you know.

It's beginning to look a lot like ... well, you know. And it's beginning to feel a lot like Dickensian London at the Fine Arts Center. Sometimes dark and dank. Sometimes cheery and festive. Sometimes energized, sometimes downtrodden by heavy skies. And I'm just talking about the cast and crew of "A Christmas Carol." Weeks of work, rehearsing, building and perfecting set pieces, gathering props, sewing and altering costumes, creating sound and physical effects, are all coming together in a wonderful confluence of ... well, creative energies. The show feels BIG,
bigger than any I have ever been a part of.

It must be said that last night's rehearsal, which was halted at an early 11:15, was a difficult one, and there are still a good number of kinks to be worked out. (Hell Week, the final week before opening, is aptly named.) Things need to run like a well-oiled machine --- for reasons of safety and quality --- and the machine is a bit more of an industrial-era behemoth at the moment. Ah! But not for long. The only way to get things right is for them to go wrong at first, and then we try it again.
And again. And then again. And then -- aha! -- it works. This can apply to choreography, songs, stage machinery and set pieces, set changes... It is, indeed, a mystery how it all comes together.

We three ghosts were on the radio this morning plugging the show. Appropriately, it was a legendary / classic rock station. Classics set me thinking about traditions, and how they provide security for us, an underpinning in times of uncertainty. We come back to our long-established traditions, familiar patterns, to remind us what counts, and that there are, indeed, things in life that remain constant, reliable, steady. And that bring us real joy. Like an old Beatles song you've heard hundreds, even thousands, of times, that never loses its appeal.

Who knows, maybe the FAC's "A Christmas Carol" will become part of your yearly holiday tradition! An old familiar like you've never seen it!

So, we plunge headlong back into Hell Week tonight, with one more rehearsal to go until Preview. With luck and a lot of sweat, maybe we will get some of the kinks out of the machine.

Regards from GXP*
*Ghost of Xmas Past
Amy Brooks

GhostXMasPresent: I, for one, slept like a log

The first dress rehearsal - Eeek!

The other big event over this past weekend was the infamous first dress rehearsal. Yes, yes, we'd all been measured in all dimensions and we'd all had the experience of standing there like window dummies while the costumers tried out various items of clothing on us, but Sunday was the Real Thing. We all got dressed up in what we had been given and did a run through in the evening.

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? In reality of course it was nothing but. First of all there was the Costume Parade where we acted like catwalk models. We'd quickly put on one outfit, dash into the Green Room to have the Costume Designer tut over us, and stick safety pins in appropriate places, and then dash back to do the same for the next one. It was quite mad and all of a sudden backstage at the FAC turned remarkably Dickensian as we all milled about showing off our costumes to each other.

At last the Costume Designer considered herself happy, all costume notes had been written down ("Get So-and-so an Ascot", "Let out whatsisname's collar"), and we launched into a full dress rehearsal. With the band no less, so instead of just hearing the rehearsal piano, we were getting the full effect of the music. Considering by this time we had been working nearly 48 hours, apart from going to bed to sleep at night, it was pretty good.

But of course, being the first dress rehearsal, we became intimately aware that certain costume changes were extremely quick, a little too tight for comfort. For example, while the audience are imbibing their intermission cocktails, I'll be struggling to get into the full costume for the Ghost of Christmas Present, with the help of two dressers. The first time we did this in anger, as it were, it took all 15 minutes of intermission. Certainly habit will make this easier (pun intended!), but it's still pretty intense and doesn't allow for mistakes.

Other cast members had such a quick change that we have to rethink when and how they'll appear. For example, Steve Emily, who's playing Scrooge's dead partner Marley, had a change from Marley to a partygoer, and then back to Marley in Act I. He couldn't make the final change in time, and that was without worrying about applying makeup. Unfortunately, there was nothing for it but to remove him as the partygoer (it was a non-speaking role anyway.) Other tweaks like that were identified and put into place.

By the end of Sunday evening we were to a man, woman, or child, exhausted. But happy. There was a palpable air of having achieved something momentous by the end of that first dress rehearsal. I, for one, slept like a log that night.

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present

Nov 27, 2007

A 12-hour rehearsal marathon with pumpkin pie

Hello, this is your friendly Ghost of Christmas Past. The Ghost of Christmas Present has been very faithful about keeping you informed about our back- and on-stage shenanigans, so I will add a very short two-cents (or shillings) worth! We are having a chaotic blast. Sunday, Nov. 25, we added some more layers (as Artistic Director Alan Osburn is fond of calling them) to the mix: more props, costumes, sound effects, and a little make-up. During a 12-hour rehearsal marathon that took place while most folks were still digesting their pumpkin pie and watching the Broncos, we sang and danced and acted our little hearts out, trying to perfect and hone and streamline and get on top of things. The crew is working pretty much around the clock to practice moving set pieces and to get complex and multi-layered set changes down to a science. Our Stage Manager, Brantley Haines, also known as "God," is performing seemingly superhuman feats of endurance to keep us and the production and crew together and on track.

The sound effects are haunting, scary, wonderful. The costumes are sumptuous (I think some were rented from the Missouri Rep, and these are beautifully constructed Victorian-style costumes). The set pieces (most of them moving) are works of art unto themselves.

The dressing rooms are packed to the gills with people and costumes. The noise level backstage is earplug-worthy. It's sweaty and smelly and noisy and jovial. Each of has some 3 or 4 costume changes, not to mention make-up changes and microphone trade-offs (there aren't enough mikes for the full cast), so putting all the sequences together is challenging, to say the least. But that's why we rehearse, and we definitely need the coming days before opening to get it all in sync.

We are all working hard to get this production ready for you, our beloved public. If you enjoy it as much as I have --- on stage and watching from off stage --- you will definitely get your money's worth, and leave the SaGaJi Theatre with a warm holiday glow about you.

Happy days to all,

Amy Brooks
A.K.A. The Ghost of Christmas Past, and a number of other roles yet to be revealed!

Everyone on stage is alight with a new energy

This is my favorite time in the rehearsal process... the week leading up to the show. Something happens to me as I put on my costume for the first time and begin to step in to the character I have been discovering for the last few weeks. I walk just a little bit different. In my charity woman costume, I smile just a little bit more. As one of Fred's relatives, I stand more erect and speak with a higher pitch to my voice. In the ghost of Christmas Future cloak and in my stilts, I don't speak at all and I have to put forth effort to be nice to the sweet dresser who helps me change. Its not really a conscious decision, it is just what happens. After the show has run a few weeks, I can divorce myself from my attire much easier and be in the present, but not the first week.

I like that. The lines I have had memorized for a month become new and fresh. Everyone on stage is alight with a new energy, and the world we have been creating in our minds begins to take physical shape. The kids run around and make sure everyone has seen their costumes and how wonderful they look. Though if I'm being honest, I do the same thing. I made it a point to leave my dressing room after trying on each costume to parade around a bit to make sure others had a chance to see me in my Dickensian dress. I even went into our rehearsal space and joined one other adult woman in twirling around in front of the mirrors to see how high our dresses spun out. That is one great thing about being an actor... you don't have to grow out of playing dress up.

Halee Towne
Ghost of Christmas Future

Walls, windows whipping in from the fly space

Over this past Thanksgiving weekend, the production staff and the actors of "A Christmas Carol" have had a pretty busy time. So busy in fact, I've not had enough time to keep this blog up to date. Without further ado, then, here's the first part of what's been going on.

Friday and Saturday, we had a couple of lengthy rehearsals known in the trade as "dry tech". No, not because the Deco Lounge at the FAC was closed while we were rehearsing, but because the rehearsals were all about the tech stuff: the flying in of sets, the setting up of props, the lighting, and the sound. All of the technical things that wrap and enhance the actors' performance. In general, for a musical, there's lots of different scenes in various sets and hence lots of scene changes. When you're watching a show, you're hardly aware of this -- unless we've done our job badly -- and the sets seem to fly in and out almost magically. That magic takes a great deal of rehearsal of its own to make it seem smooth and effortless. And so that's what happened Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, time after time, we'd reset a scene and then rehearse whipping it out and bringing the next one in.

So, for example, in Act II, when the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge his relatives celebrating Christmas Eve, there's a scene change from Scrooge's bedroom to Fred's drawing room, Fred being Scrooge's nephew. The bedroom has a four-poster bed, a fireplace and mantel, and a window with a small balcony. These all have to disappear and Fred's drawing room windows, little occasional table (with drinks and glasses), and four chairs have to come in. Over and over we did this change, making sure that everyone concerned knew their place and what they were doing. It the end it was quick and flowing. Ditto for the next scene change: Fred's drawing room slips out and the Cratchit's house comes in.

Another aspect to this is a concern with safety. These walls and windows come whipping in from the fly space above the stage. They are heavy and the tech crew member doing the flying is doing this blind (the ropes have markers at the exact point where the fly operator should stop). They can't see the stage from where they're at and so can't see that someone happens to be standing just underneath. And so we have to ensure that anyone who is on stage is well away from the flies. And repeat to make sure. Several times, until it's drilled into people's heads where they should be during the scene change.

The problem for the actors and why a dry tech all seems to take so long is that these scene changes are not about them, they're about the tech crew. The actors are just standing in their respective places or are coming in as the scene changes. The repetition gets to be a little boring and tiring. But, as I said, it's all absolutely essential.

We also had some fun on Saturday afternoon, during the dinner break, when some of the cast recorded their voices for Scrooge's nightmare scene. In essence the scene happens at the end of Scrooge's interaction with the Ghost of Christmas Past, when he remembers in a swirl of half-forgotten memories all that she has just shown him. There's a crescendo of voices all overlapping as the characters all swirl around Scrooge. So our Sound Designer was recording certain phrases from the script with the actors concerned, and he needed a certain je ne sais quoi to the way they were said, with a different speed or timbre or inflection. So, it was kind if fun to listen to actors say that same phrase over and over again, a bit like the old exercise of how many ways you can say "I knew him well" or similar. ("I" knew him well, I "knew" him well, I knew "him" well, I knew him. Well! And so on.)

But in the end, we had some smooth efficient scene changes and it wasn't often that something was left on stage inadvertently. Then Sunday, it was the first dress rehearsal. Or to give it its true weight and importance, the First Dress Rehearsal. But that's for another blog post.

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present

Nov 21, 2007

The life and times of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 during the reign of King George III, but the reign he's most associated with is that of Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837. When Dickens was 12, his father was imprisoned in a Debtor's Prison, the first major calamity in Dickens' young life. He was sent out to work to help keep the family (there were 8 children and he was the second oldest). His experiences working in a boot-black factory formed the genesis of many of his themes in his novels. Later, after various jobs in the legal field -- from which he gained a thorough knowledge of the law, and a dislike for lawyers and injustices against the poor, all of which permeated his work -- he became a political journalist for the Morning Chronicle in 1834.

It was around this time that he started writing novels, which in the fashion of the time were serialized in literary magazines on a monthly basis. In fact, in the early days Dickens often had several serials on the go at the same time. For example, he was finishing off The Pickwick Papers (his first novel) at the same time as starting on Oliver Twist. His novels were notable for their finely drawn characters, sometimes described as grotesque, with bizarre names (some of which portend what the character is about), and with vivid, almost poetic. description. Most of all, as a constant subtext in the writing, there is the social commentary exposing the flaws and excresences of Victorian society.

Dickens had five novels (the above two, Nicholas Nickelby, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge) under his belt when he wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843. Apparently he had quickly dashed it off for publication in order to clear a debt, and never dreamed it would be as popular as it was. As it happened it sold 6000 copies in the first week and became one of the most enduring stories about Christmas ever written. Fellow writers and critics at the time also pointed out that the story was paramount in rejuvenating the Christmas traditions and spirit, which had been in decline for a while.

The underlying themes of the story, apart from the overlaid one of Scrooge's journey towards his redemption, are the usual ones for a Dickens tale: poverty and injustice. These themes come out the most in Scrooge's dream trip with the Ghost of Christmas Present, as the latter shows him how even the poorest people in the land celebrate Christmas with a sense of togetherness. Of course, in their travels they also visit the Cratchit's who are poor beyond belief: Bob Cratchit has to support his large family on a mere 15 shillings a week working as a clerk for Scrooge. And there's his son Tiny Tim who is crippled and walks with a crutch and for whom they cannot buy enough medical care. The Ghost even warns Scrooge that Tiny Tim would die if he didn't get enough medical attention, which of course meant money.

And right at the end of Scrooge's visit from the Ghost, the Ghost shows him two emaciated wolfish children that he called Ignorance and Want, epitomizing social injustice, warning Scrooge that his very world would be rocked to its foundation if these two were not taken care of.

Dickens lived until 1870, not particularly old perhaps, but it's generally thought he never recovered from a railway crash that had happened some five years earlier. Indeed in those five years his output was small. He completed one novel already begun (Our Mutual Friend), wrote a novel in collaboration with Wilkie Collins (No Thoroughfare), and started a new serialized novel called The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which was only half finished at his death.

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present

Nov 20, 2007

Julian discusses his 'blob of jelliness' at auditions

In this post I'd like to cover briefly how we all got here. First of all, I suppose, you can trace it all back to the brain of Alan Osburn, the Producing Artistic Director for the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company. Last year he came up with a 2007/2008 season and, of course, it had to have a Christmas-themed December show. This particular adaptation caught his eye, since it's not performed all that often (in fact we've not been able to find any cast recording of it) and it can certainly be called the quintessential story about Christmas. So, "A Christmas Carol" it is then.

Next on the list of things to do is get a director. Having applied for this position myself (I directed "Cabaret" at the FAC a couple of years back), it involves asking possible directors for their vision of the production. How would they like to present it to an audience, what do they want to concentrate on in the story, what aspects of the music do they want to bring out, and so on. All touchy-feely stuff. The result was that Alan picked Susan Dawn to direct.

Next up, is hiring the other "directors", those for music and choreography, for set and sound and lighting. Putting on a musical involves gathering together a whole bunch of talented people even before you get to think about the actors. So pretty quickly Roberta Jacyshyn and Mary Ripper Baker were signed up for music and dance, for which I am very glad, since I've worked with them before, most notably in "Anything Goes".

At this point, it's time for the auditions for the actors. You as actor get essentially 5 minutes or so: 12 or 16 bars of some song that you can sing and that shows off your particular voice and range, and a 2 minute monologue to show off your acting chops.

Let me tell you, an audition can be nerve-racking. I'm not a great singer, so my music auditions generally turn me into a blob of jelly. I'm much more relaxed about my acting auditions, be they monologues or just reading from sides (a theatre term: a "side" is a small extract of a play, usually photocopied from the script, that concentrates on one role in particular). The reason for that is simple, I consider myself much more of an actor than anything else and feel comfortable taking on a role, even briefly.

Sometimes, though it's worse. Worse? Say it isn’t so! The choreographer can insist on a dance audition too ("How quickly you can pick up a simple routine, Julian?" Glazed look from yours truly.). Given that I have at least two left feet -- I lose count sometimes -- my blob of jelliness will turn almost liquid by this point and I have to be mopped off the stage.

For the directors, auditions are a piece of cake. They sit out there in the auditorium in the gloom and bark commands at you. You, of course, hope it's not something short like "Next!" I remember one audition I listened to as director of "Cabaret", the poor girl decided to do a monologue from "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde, perhaps one of the most quintessential English plays in the repertoire. And she did it in front of an Englishman who'd appeared in it in a production a few years previously. And she did it straight without any appreciation of what the monologue was about. Ay yay yay, she didn't have a hope, but since she was the last audition of the evening, I took pity on her and talked to her about the play and about Gwendolyn, whose monologue it was. I then asked her to do it again. Since she couldn’t do an English accent, I asked her to be more freeform with it and do it as a Valley Girl (“Yah, I’m like way glad to say that I have never, like totally never, seen a spade. WhatEVER.”) and I have to say it was much better.

What isn't a piece of cake for the directors is making the decisions about who to cast. Sometimes it's easy, "So-and-so's just right", sometimes you've got two or three people who would do a part beautifully and you have to choose.

For some reason, Susan Dawn thought I'd be a perfect Ghost of Christmas Present and so here I am. I'd also have to say that overall she's made some excellent casting choices: we have some stellar actors and singers in this production. I'll have my work cut out to make an impression with the audience amongst all this talent, so maybe I'll resort to some ghostly subterfuge...

Cheers, Julian
The Ghost of Christmas Present

Nov 19, 2007

Why this Ghost is the English accent police

Today, like yesterday, was spent on stage for the first time, this time for Act II of 'A Christmas Carol.' Like putting Act I on stage yesterday afternoon, the process has been start and stop, start and stop, as we try out the blocking we'd already rehearsed for the past two or three weeks.

For some reason, today seemed to go relatively painlessly. At least that's so from my viewpoint, I didn't get a chance to have a chat with Susan Dawn Carson, our director, after the rehearsal to see how she perceived it.

Perhaps this ease was because we'd already seen the stage, had already seen most of the big flies, had already carted other scenery and props on and off stage.

For me and the Ghost of Christmas Future, it was our first time on stage on our stilts. Piece of cake you might say, but we suddenly realized that the orchestra pit was yawning open at the front of the stage. We don't want to fall in, that's for sure. So we practiced walking around the "safe" part of the stage, going through our own blocking and making sure we understood the sight lines. No costumes today though, it'll be next weekend when we kit up for good. I must say, on both our behalf, that we're getting a lot steadier on the stilts, at least compared to a week ago when we first started using them.

Another part of the rehearsal process is concentrating on our accents. The story of "A Christmas Carol" is set in very early Victorian London -- Dickens wrote it in 1843 and Queen Victoria had only come to the throne six years earlier -- and so of course we have to have English accents. Two types of English accents too: there's essentially the middle class, exemplified by Scrooge and his nephew and their relatives, and the working class, typified by the Cratchits and by the tradesmen. We're making things very simple here: the working class accent is Cockney and the other would be known as Home Counties in England, a posher accent with drawn out vowels and missing Rs.

Today we were encouraged to speak "English" all the time at rehearsal, even in the Green Room (the room that the actors use to relax in when they're not on stage). The entreaty was, to be honest, not well followed today: I'll have to be more vigilant about making sure the cast continue practicing.

And why me? Why am I the accent police? Well, if you've seen me in previous productions, you'll already know. I'm English. I'm hopeless at American accents, and so much so, directors tend to let me speak with an English voice. (For example, cast your mind back to "Arms and the Man" at Theatreworks a year ago. I played Major Petkoff, and had this speech about how dirty the English were. It was all the more funny because I was speaking in my normal voice.) So, by default, I'm the voice coach for this production.

All in all, as I said, the rehearsal was a success today, I think. Less than two weeks to go before opening on Nov. 30 though, so there's no time for complacency.

We have Monday and Tuesday off -- but have to continue running lines on our own -- and our next group rehearsal is Wednesday. In the meantime, during these two days off, I'll talk more about the story and how we got as far as we have.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (aka Julian M Bucknall)

Nov 18, 2007

Liveblogging on stage from rehearsal

Today's another big day for us 'A Christmas Carol' actors. We're on stage for the very first time, and it's a whole new world. Unexpectedly, it's as if this were a new play.

We've been rehearsing in a large room adjacent to the theatre, while the set crew build and hang and paint on the stage. Although the room is large by normal standards, it's no substitute for the actual stage. Furthermore, the sound in the theatre is very, very different from the room. The theatre, unlike the rehearsal space, has been designed and built for sound projection. The walls absorb the sound -- the back walls are in fact a thin veneer over empty space: take a look next time you're in the SaGaJi Theatre and tap on the back wall and the side walls to hear the difference.

Anyway, today is the first rehearsal on the stage. Our blocking suddenly has more space: we can move further downstage (that is, towards the audience) and also right and left. There's also scenery, the bane of actors. The other bane, props, we've been using for a couple of weeks now.

Everything is taking a long while. We have to be positioned correctly so that the audience can see, the musical numbers have to be recalibrated for the extra space, and we all have to rework things take account of the scenery.

Hence I have time to write this in the middle of the rehearsal since there are long periods when I’m not needed. Not quite liveblogging -- that means posting this text on the website as I write it -- but at least I'm writing this as we go along.

As it happens, a lot of us in the cast have multiple roles. We're relatives of Scrooge's nephew Fred, we're townspeople, we're merchants. So we're on and off stage even when we're not playing our primary role. As an example, I'm also playing one of the friends of Fezziwig in the first act and the poulterer in the second.

So far, all has gone pretty well. The flies are coming in and out smoothly (the flies are set and scenery pieces that "fly" in from above the stage). The only real issues concern the crowd scenes. For example, in Act I there is a scene of last minute shopping for food from a market on Christmas Eve. There are wheeled carts, shoppers, movement, singing, and last of all a huge Christmas tree. The rehearsal prop we're using for the tree is an old fake one. On lifting it, invariably it separates into two at the join, meaning that Ray and I struggle to control it as we bring it in and set it upright in the right place. The very top section of the tree drops off at this point, to the merriment of all.

Today it's Act I and tomorrow Act II. We've just completed this day's work and so I'm off home. Until tomorrow...

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present

Nov 17, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Present suits up

Part of the fun of acting and appearing in a show such as "A Christmas Carol" is the costume. You'd already forgotten the time a few weeks back when the costume designer measured you in meticulous detail ("You can stop sucking in your stomach, Julian: if you do, the costume won't fit."), when suddenly you have the magical moment when you have your first costume fitting.

It doesn't.

Well, in general it doesn't. Sometimes you, the actor, have put on weight, or, better -- healthier, maybe -- you lost some. In my case, possibly more the former than the latter. More often than not, the costume designer has a small catwalk collection of clothes for you to try on, to see how they all look together.

This time around, as the Ghost of Christmas Present, the costume was designed not to fit. It was designed to be put on me, for me to be clothed in it, yes, but under no circumstances should you assume the word "fit" had anything to do with it.

You see, the Ghost of Christmas Present is, in Dickens' own words: "a jolly Giant, glorious to see" and it "was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air."

A giant, eh? Or, rather, a Giant with a capital G, underlining the bulk and height. Somehow my six foot frame wasn't going to suffice. Enter stage left a pair of dry-waller stilts to raise my height two feet. Enter stage right, various garments with padding to add that extra bulk. And finally, oh so finally, the huge glorious green robe made to fit over all the padding and
reaching to the floor covering the stilts.

The first time it took me and the costumers a good ten to fifteen minutes to get it all on. I put the padding on (three layers, note), and then sat up on the table to put the stilts on. Duh, wrong way round: I couldn't reach the straps of the stilts for all the padding. So I sat there like Humpty Dumpty while the costumers strapped my legs in. Then the fun part: this huge heavy
green robe. Up over my head, pushing my arms into the sleeves. Then I had to stand -- oops, watch the light shade! -- so that the material in the robe fell around me to the ground. One of the costumers stood on a step ladder to zip me up.

And then... Lots of standing, very wobblily. I braced myself with my hands on the ceiling. Lots of fiddling around, pushing the padding hither and thither, trying to get a good look. Of course, the only way to do that was for the costumer to slip underneath the robe and manhandle the padding garments; a sensation I can't say I'll ever forget.

In the end, the costume worked and looks extremely good (and I even tried walking around a bit in it: very weird) but there were the inevitable bits to let out or tuck in, so there'll be more costume fitting in a few days.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (aka Julian M Bucknall)

Nov 16, 2007

Remembering the story of Scrooge

(The FAC Blog is proud to bring you the inside scoop on our next musical, 'A Christmas Carol,' which opens on Nov. 30. Told to you, our cherished blog readers, by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who will give you the unearthly inside skinny on the production.)

Yesterday evening, we three ghosts of Christmas had the opportunity of meeting the press to talk about the show we're in. Already, with the few hints I've given you, I'm sure that you've worked out that the show is "A Christmas Carol" and we three are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

The Fine Arts Center Theatre Company have given us spirits the opportunity of blogging about the show, the rehearsal process, the actual performances, and anything else related to all this process of putting on a musical about dear old Scrooge. Last night was our indoctrination, as it were: we were interviewed by the Gazette, Indy, and Woodmen Edition to give our viewpoint on the show.

One topic that came up a couple of times was the thought that "A Christmas Carol" was too well-known to attract an audience. Surely everyone knows the story, right? So why would they come to see our version?

Ha! Well, of course, for a kick-off you'll get the three of us, a friendlier or, for that matter, a more sinister triplet of spirits you'll ever be likely to meet.

In reality, though, would the audience really remember the whole story? Or do they just remember bits of it? Scrooge of course, and Tiny Tim, and "God bless us, everyone". Maybe they remember scenes from one of the many adaptations of the story there have been over the years, or, maybe, like me, they had to read the story at school.

It is the curse, if you like, of any "classic" text, be it play or book. Just like Scrooge, we've all heard of Hamlet and Holden Caulfield and Heathcliff, and we think we know their stories, but in reality all we remember are lines, some scenes, but the plot remains elusive. We need to remind ourselves of what these plays and books are about, to remember why they are classic texts and to share the stories. All good stories are about a protagonist and the events that change his or her life, and the best ones are the ones that strike a chord deep into our consciousness. The story of Scrooge is no different: the reason it does have such widespread recognition is that it does speak to us all, that a bad character can turn out good in the end.

Having done a version of Christmas Carol in the past at Theatreworks (12 years ago, and I played Marley), I'll admit the story remains one of my favorites. This adaptation remains extremely close to the original, to the point of the characters uttering Dickens' words. It has some extremely apt and well-written music and lyrics to help move the story along, dark and in minor keys at the start, with some flashes to lighten the gloom, until all becomes joyous and happy at the end. I guarantee that you'll leave with a smile on your face at the end.

And you’ll find that you do remember the story after all.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (aka Julian M Bucknall)

Oct 16, 2007

Brighton Beach on Springs Culture Cast

Watch the latest Springs Culture Cast segment on Brighton Beach Memoirs, featuring footage of the final dress rehearsal and interviews with cast members! See Brighton Beach Memoirs Thursday through Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons through October 28.

Sep 20, 2007

PPAC Awards

Watch Springs Culture Cast's coverage of the 2007 Pikes Peak Arts Council Awards for Excellence in the Arts, held September 9th at the Fine Arts Center. The FAC was honored in several categories.

Sep 14, 2007

RMN: Eclectic exhibit benefits from center's expansion

Rocky Mountain News art and architecture columnist Mary Voelz Chandler reviewed "The Eclectic Eye: Pop and Illusion" in today's paper.

"In short, the addition that opened in August, designed by David Owen Tryba Architects, offers beautiful spaces to view art, whether the more traditional Western pieces in "Colorado Sublime," or the numerous glass sculptures (and bright orange chandelier) the center acquired from artist Dale Chihuly, or the adventurous and provocative pieces from Weisman. It helps that the detailing is pristine, and the flow simple and direct."

"In "Eclectic," organized with a fair amount of wit by the late collector's wife, Billie Milam Weisman, the overall effect is, fittingly, a little bit of everything."

Read the complete review here.

'Manifest' opens at the UCCS Gallery

Curator Christopher Lynn makes his Springs' debut with "Manifest: Colonial Tendencies of the West" with an Opening Reception on Sept. 14. The exhibition features works by artists from around the globe. Each artist in Manifest takes the benign and aggressive aspects of Western colonization and makes manifest the resulting mixtures of culture, politics, and commerce.

Lavender Film Festival opens tonight!

The 8th Annual Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival will open tonight at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's SaGaJi's Theatre with a reception and the feature film, "Out at the Wedding," which won this year's NewFest (New York City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival) Audience Award. Saturday night's feature, "Itty Bitty Titty Committee," was the Opening Film at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Closing Film at the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival this year. Tickets are available at the door or by calling the FAC Box Office at 719.634.5583.

Sep 12, 2007

An International Celebration of the Arts

Our neighbors, the Money Museum, are kicking off a new exhibition on Sept. 21 and the FAC will host the opening reception and lecture. “The Medal is the Message: Global Ideas in Handheld Sculpture” is an exhibition of 1,400 pieces of medallic art and hand-held sculpture from around the world held in conjunction with the Art Medal World Congress, a gathering of over 100 international artists. Czech artist Otakar Dusek will present "Reflections: Artistic Freedom in the Czech Republic" at 5:45 p.m. A catered reception and open bar in the Deco Lounge follows with entertainment by the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

Brighton Beach Preview

Performing Arts director Alan Osburn sat down to talk about the FAC Theatre Company's season opening production, Brighton Beach Memoirs, which he is directing. The play by Neil Simon opens October 12 in the Fine Arts Center's SaGaJi Theatre.
Listen here (9:34)

Sep 11, 2007

'Into the Woods,' 'Katrina' earn PPAC awards

The Pikes Peak Arts Council honored the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company's production of 'Into the Woods' and the FAC MODERN exhibition, 'Katrina: Catastrophe and Catharsis,' on Sunday night at the SaGaJi Theatre, during its 7th Annual Awards for Excellence in the Arts ceremony.

'Into the Woods' earned two awards, including Sally Hybl for "Best Actress" for her portrayal of Cinderella and director Alan Osburn for "Traditional Production." The FAC's Roy Ballard also won for "Behind the Scenes: Set Design" for his work on '1940's Radio Hour' and 'The Last Night of Ballyhoo.'

"For someone who was raised on the FAC stage, to be recognized by the arts community in such a meaningful way is an incredible honor," said Sally. "Truly, being a part of 'Into the Woods' was an honor in itself, and the award is really a testimony to all of those involved in this amazing production."

The 2007-2008 FAC Theatre Season opens on Oct. 12 with a production of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

“Katrina: Catastrophe and Catharsis” earned an award in the Visual Arts category of "Out of Town." The exhibition was the first in the nation dedicated to the works of internationally respected artists responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, debuting at the FAC MODERN in March.

The current exhibition, “Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray,” closes on Sept. 30 and is followed by “Faces in the Crowd: Portraiture from the FAC Permanent Collection” on Oct. 12.

Aug 31, 2007

Tell us what you think in our online poll

On Wednesday we included a short online poll in our weekly email newsletter. We've been getting such great response that we decided open it up to our web visitors as well. So take 15 seconds to share your opinion with the Fine Arts Center! Here are some the comments with FAC responses.

Want to add your two cents? ... click here to participate

Aug 7, 2007

An interview with John Waters

For their 5oth segment, Springs Culture Cast covered the Fine Arts Center's Extremely Grand Opening; touring our inaugural traveling exhibition, The Eclectic Eye: Pop and Illusion - Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, as well as interviewing filmmaker John Waters:

Aug 6, 2007

UCCS Incubator Series continues on Thursday

Thursday, August 9, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
At Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts

This installment of the Incubator Series features media and publishing figures of the Pikes Peak region: Mark Arnest (Gazette), Noel Black (Newspeak), Kirk Woundy (Independent), Don Goede (Smokemuse/Soft Skull Press), Klayton Elliot Kendall (Springs Culture Cast), and Eve Tilley (Springs Magazine) with Christopher Lynn (moderator). This Incubator will be hosted at the Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts located under the Colorado Ave. Bridge at 218 W. Colorado Avenue.

Aug 5, 2007

Gazette: FAC opens with a bang

The Gazette's Emily Voigt reviewed the 14th annual Masterpiece Gala.

“I was more excited about this than my prom,” said Bettina Swigger, who manages the Summer Arts Festival at Colorado College.

Swigger gushed about the intimacy of the building and the high quality of the exhibitions. “It feels like you’re going over to a ritzy friend’s house and they happen to have a lot of art,” she said.

In fact, Billie Milam Weisman, the director and curator of the Weisman Collection of pop and illusionist art, said she had been overseeing the hanging of the traveling exhibition in the second-floor galleries herself.

A gray-haired woman stood studying the results in the cavernous El Pomar Gallery. It was Nancy Wirth, the daughter of the building’s original architect, John Gaw Meem.

“It’s so fabulous,” said Wirth, explaining that she’s emotionally attached to her father’s work and had only now come to see the new wing. “I think he’s up there smiling,” she said.

Gazette: FAC expansion raises bar for visual arts

"Entering the newly expanded Fine Arts Center, I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that I was somewhere else," writes Mark Arnest in a Gazette review. "Certainly no place in Colorado Springs had this feel of contemporary urban elegance."

Aug 3, 2007

'Colorado & Company' features the FAC

On August 3, a segment of 'Colorado & Company' on Denver's 9 News featured the Fine Arts Center's expansion and renovation. Dr. Michael De Marsche discusses the building's history and future, as well as this weekend's grand opening events.
Click here to watch.

The FAC hits Times Square!

It's like MOMA in the mountains.
The newly expanded Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

Aug 2, 2007

Mark Arnest, The Gazette: "Amazing"

The Gazette gave the FAC unprecedented coverage with a 1A story, online interactives and a first-ever "State of the Arts" special section.

· As opening nears, backers predict ‘wow’ moments
· Local artists give nod of approval to new wing
· Director made dramatic changes, and quickly
· Interactive Map of new FAC galleries
· State of the Arts overview
· Thomas Hoving: The man behind the big art show
· Alan Osburn: City offers plenty of variety
· Schedule of Events

Noel Black, Bon Vivant: “Elegant.”

Back to the Future: The Fine Arts Center grand reopening marks a new era for the arts

“Ultimately, the elegant and complimentary renovation by Tryba is not what’s most impressive about the grand reopening. It’s the art and events the renovation will allow the Fine Arts Center to showcase now and in the future that’s truly exciting. Like negative space in a well-composed photograph, the addition does not jump to the foreground, but frames the subject – the extensive and barely-seen permanent collection and the traveling exhibits to come – seamlessly. It’s the art that will take center stage and the architecture that will compliment it.

More Denver media reviews of FAC expansion

>> Mary Chandler, Rocky Mountain News: “Superb” "A Harmonious expansion"

>> Cheryl Meyers, 5280 Magazine: “A perfect centerpiece to a day trip in Colorado Springs”

· Springing to Life: The renovated Fine Arts Center makes Colorado Springs worth another visit (full-page article with five photos not available online)

>> Denver Post, Colorado Sunday: “If it's true that nothing succeeds like excess, the three Dale Chihuly chandeliers practically guarantee that the new two-story wing of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, opening this week, will be a contender for a future round of world wonders.”

· Lighten up! The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Michael Paglia of Westword: "Magical"

“During construction, Tryba also oversaw various improvements and restorations to the Meem, such as the careful and excellently carried out refurbishing of the spectacular theater and the removal of the offensive and ugly wheelchair ramps that had been added to the El Pomar Corridor. The elegant space, restored to its original splendor, hierarchically descends in stages, lending the area a ceremonial presence while also following the contours of the hillside on which the building sits. The ramps are now tucked away in what had been a set of galleries on the south side of the El Pomar, where new restrooms and a bar, the Deco Lounge, have been also located. For the first time in memory, the windows in these spaces, with their stunning aluminum elements, have been opened up, and the effect, in the Deco Lounge in particular, is magical.”

Well Done: The new Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center expansion gives plenty of reasons to applaud.

Jul 27, 2007

Denver Post: Running Lines with Joel Grey

Denver Post theater critic John Moore interviews theater legend (Cabaret, Chicago, Wicked) Joel Grey, who will be a special guest on Aug. 4 at the Fine Arts Center’s Extremely Grand Opening. Dr. Michael De Marsche will talk with Joel Grey on stage about everything from Cabaret and Wicked to his latest career as a photographer.

Tickets are still available for all of our special guest appearances! Buy tickets online or call 719.634.5583.

Listen to the Denver Post podcast here.

Independent Cover Story: Extreme Makeover

Superlatives barely contain the excitement: It's an "Extremely Grand Opening" and the "Greatest Art Event in the History of Colorado Springs." The emphasis is ours, but it's hardly misplaced. The grandiosity of this event is inevitable. This is the Colorado Springs art community's moment in the spotlight. View the article and links to other related stories.

Gazette: The man behind the big art show

Michael De Marsche has introduced Colorado Springs to the big honking art exhibition: Chihuly, Warhol, Peter Max — shows with mass appeal. It’s appropriate that in choosing his first speaker for the Fine Arts Center’s reopening, the center’s president and CEO went for the guy who invented the blockbuster art show: Thomas Hoving. Read the complete article here.

Jul 25, 2007

Bruce Guenther praises FAC expansion: "Masterful and exciting"

Bruce Guenther, the nationally-renowned Chief Curator of the Portland Art Museum, recently lectured at the Fine Arts Center and had this to say about the new addition:

“The Fine Arts Center expansion is one of the most masterful and exciting remodeling projects I have seen in recent years. The new gallery spaces are beautifully proportioned and elegantly restrained in their detailing…a perfect setting for the collections.

"The sensitivity with which the Center and its important historic rooms have been restored and extended with the new addition speaks volumes to me about the value placed on heritage and the future for the arts in Colorado Springs.

"I congratulate the leadership of the Center and their architect, David Tryba, for bringing this venerable institution and its magnificent collections into the new century in such grand style.”

More Early Reviews
John Hazlehurst of the Colorado Springs Business Journal wrote on his blog: "Tryba's addition is … both a subtle, perfectly rendered, and utterly sympathetic addition to John Gaw Meem's great masterpiece and, amazingly, a transcendent piece of architecture in its own right."

"Conclusion: a triumph that few of us could have imagined before Mike DeMarsche arrived almost exactly four years ago. Better still, it should cure the local arts community of Denver envy. The new FAC is an infinitely better, more user-friendly, and more beautiful building than the renovated Denver Art Museum … " The full article can be found here.

The front page banner headline of the Woodmen/Cheyenne Edition (July 20) was "In a word, spectacular!" Written by Dave Vickers, it begins with "Colorado Springs should get ready to be amazed." The full article can be found here.

Jul 5, 2007

John Waters' Hairspray comes full circle

Hairspray was a successful movie for director John Waters in 1988; and then was adapted into a very successful Broadway musical in 2002. Now another incarnation, starring John Travolta in the role originated by Waters’ regular, Divine, and featuring Mr. Waters in a memorable cameo, will be released, as a musical movie, on July 20. And Waters' film, Cry-Baby, is being reworked into a musical for the stage, debuting at the La Jolla Playhouse in November. John Waters is one of many very special guests attending the FAC Extremely Grand Opening Aug. 2-5.

Alexander Calder in Focus at MCA Chicago

Alexander Calder, an influential artist credited for inventing the mobile, and who designed and built set pieces for stage productions at the original 1936 Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center grand opening, will be featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in "Alexander Calder in Focus" from July 28, 2007 April 2008. Calder is one of many fascinating and talented personalities who have shaped FAC history.

Jun 22, 2007

Watch the Chihuly Chandelier time lapse

On May 30, the Dale Chihuly team began installing the Orange Hornet Chandelier, the third Chihuly chandelier in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center collection. Two full days later, 384 pieces, each resembling a hornet’s nest and ranging in length of 6 inches to 3 feet, were hung. The entire chandelier measures nine feet tall, weighs just over 1,200 pounds, and resides permanently on the first floor of your FAC.

Hoving pens Picasso article for L.A. Times

Thomas Hoving, a very special guest at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Extremely Grand Opening, Aug. 2-5, penned a story in the Los Angeles Times recently entitled, "Nothing Like This Picasso."

"PABLO PICASSO's great "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" is 100 years old this spring," writes Hoving. "Starting Wednesday, New York's Museum of Modern Art will show it after a painstaking cleaning, along with nine rarely seen pre-studies.

"I remember my first thought on seeing it for the first time. "Ugly!" The painting exploded in my eyes like some kind of pink, blue and beige bomb. I was shocked by its teeth-shattering primitiveness and downright brutality."

Read the whole story here. | Buy Thomas Hoving tickets here.

Jun 21, 2007

Local arts & culture online calendar launches

A brand new web site,, launched today. Thesite will serve as the Pikes Peak region's ultimate guide to art, culture and fun and will feature the region's most comprehensive calendar of events, arts organizations, venue and individual artist directories, classified listings and more!

KOAA: Study shows art community boosts local economy

A newly released study, Arts and Economic Prosperity III, shows that spending by nonprofit arts groups and their audiences make up nearly $94.7 million of the local economy in Colorado Springs. "Arts are an interesting phenomenon," FAC president and CEO Dr. Michael De Marsche tells KOAA. "They are often, in communities like Colorado Springs, hard to get started, but once you get started, and once they get going, it's hard to stop them." Watch the KOAA video here.

Gazette: A Jazz Affair

The Gazette's Jen Mulson profiled FAC employee Sylvester Smith about the Gottlieb exhibition at the FAC MODERN. "Sylvester “Smitty” Smith once walked miles from near downtown to The Broadmoor just to see Nat “King” Cole emerge from his car and walk into the hotel for a show. A security guard let the young Smith and his buddies hide quietly and observe. Smith called it the best day of his life." Read the complete article here.

May 22, 2007

KRCC interview FAC's Sylvester Smith on jazz

Sylvester Smith, known as 'Smitty', is a long-time Fine Arts Center employee and Colorado Springs native who has seen many of the jazz legends from Portraits from the Golden Age of Jazz perform live. He recently shared his memories while touring the FAC MODERN exhibition with KRCC's Kate Dawson. Listen to KRCC's interview (5:56)

May 18, 2007

Into the Woods is a hit

Mark Arnest of The Gazette writes, "'Into the Woods' shows that the Fine Arts Center is serious about making its theater productions every bit as good as its visual-art presentations. The first production by the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company ... is without a doubt the most ambitious musical theater production in the history of Colorado Springs." Read the full review.

May 9, 2007

Gottlieb Opening Night video

Portraits from the Golden Age of Jazz: Photographs of William P. Gottlieb opened at the FAC MODERN May 4. The exhibit features 71 photos of giants of jazz captured on film by a rookie photographer in the 1930-40s. New FAC curator Blake Milteer is interviewed for this Opening Night video from Springs Culture Cast:

May 8, 2007

Gazette: Jazz Visions

In Mark Arnest’s preview of the Gottlieb photography exhibit from May 3, new FAC curator Blake Milteer talked about Gottlieb’s ardent love of jazz, which enabled him to gain his subject’s confidence. “The show is about his close-knit relationship with the performers, before, during, after they were performing,” said Milteer. “They’re not studio shots. They’re reflective of the energy of the performance.”

Into The Woods Interview

Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece musical, will be performed by the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company at the SaGāJi Theatre May 11 - June 3. This is the FAC’s biggest production yet and features three Broadway actors in an outstanding ensemble cast. This interview features director Alan Osburn discussing the show, rehearsals and what to expect after ‘happily ever after.' launches

Our friends at the Downtown Partnership has launched a new website, called, which highlights the benefits of working, living and playing in downtown Colorado Springs. Naturally, visiting the FAC MODERN and Fine Arts Center at 30 W. Dale St. are listed under “Play.”

Independent: Looking Forward

A&E Editor Pete Freedman discusses the state of visual arts in Colorado Springs in an Independent cover story (April 26-May 2). “The Springs' newest visual arts advocates are optimistic about the future,” he writes. “Are they on to something?” FAC’s Dr. Michael De Marsche is quoted and says that with a little vision and confidence Colorado Springs could one day be on par with Seattle or Portland, Ore., when it comes to arts culture.

CSBJ: Separate and nowhere close to equal

The Colorado Springs Business Journal’s John Hazlehurst looks at public funding for the arts in Colorado Springs compared to Denver in this April 27 column. Dave White of the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., said that arts & culture plays a major role in attracting new business to the area. “Executives who are coming from L.A. or New York are used to a big, diverse cultural scene — we can’t just sell rock climbing and fly fishing,” he said.

Gazette: New state cash expected to lift Springs tourism

The FAC was mentioned prominently in Bill Radford’s April 18th look at the new money, $19 million, being invested in Colorado tourism. Terry Sullivan, Experience Colorado Springs’ CEO said, “The Fine Arts Center will become a world-class asset to this community.”

Independent: FAC is best cultural attraction

In the 2007 Independent’s Annual Manual: A Guide to Living in the Springs, the FAC is listed in the “Best of Attractions” section as the Cultural Attraction or Museum to visit. Did you know that the Indy has named FAC this city’s “Best Cultural Attraction” in 2005 and 2006?

Gazette: Building Blocks

The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects has named the FAC as one of the 20 greatest structures in the Pikes Peak Region. "This building won architect John Gaw Meem the coveted Pan American Prize of Architecture in 1940 by fusing art deco and traditional New Mexican Pueblo architecture. "