Monday, December 16, 2019

Lost & Found: Tinkering with Intent

Take a peek into Blair's bizarre and beautiful world. In a remote corner of New Zealand's South Island, tucked away among the last remaining tracts of native forest, lies a little-known place of wonder. It is the life's work and extraordinary creation of inventor, artist and self-confessed tinkerer, Blair Somerville.

For over twenty years Blair has single-handedly owned, operated and ceaselessly expanded the Lost Gypsy Gallery, his wonderland of homegrown wizardry and a playground for kids and adults alike. Using only recycled materials, Blair takes DIY to artistic extremes. His creations are ingenious, interactive, and often hilariously impractical. They take many shapes and forms and share an uncanny ability to amaze, entertain and inspire.

Art and entertainment don't need to be expensive. Sometimes the most fascinating and wonderful things come from the most peculiar places.

Blair Somerville lives in the remote town of Papatowai, on the South Island of New Zealand. He uses found materials and other curious objects which he re-purposes into magical moving artworks.

Blair realized early on that he didn't need a lot to live, and that money and material possessions were not important. Instead he has chosen to value happiness, creativity, and well-being.

If you'd like to visit Blair, please note that he is open summers only, November - April, 10am to 5pm. Closed Wednesdays

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Old-Time "Moving Pictures"

A listing of 16 different late 19th-century "Boy's Own Panoramas" for home entertainment, from H. G. Clarke and Co. in London. These 19th-century crankies include moving panoramas about John Gilpin, Dick Turpin, Punchinello, Punch and Judy, and views of the Thames embankment, the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, and a state procession with Queen Victoria. From the back of a racist galanty (shadow figure) show script inspired by Christy's Minstrels (an American blackface minstrel group which toured in England from 1857 to the turn of the century). Thanks Matthew Isaac Cohen for sharing this source.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Pontine Theatre Review: Storytelling at its Best

Review: Pontine Theatre’s ‘A New England Christmas’
By Jeanné McCartin
Posted Dec 2, 2019 at 9:27 AM

Pontine Theatre’s “A New England Christmas” is a brimming cup of holiday magic and cheer. Two people on a largely blank stage act out two intriguing short stories with minimal props in an easy, designed manner that transfixes their listeners. It’s rare so little offers so much.

This year, co-Artistic Directors and the company’s sole actors Marguerite Mathews and Greg Gathers adapted two short stories for their holiday fare: “A Neighbor’s Landmark,” by Sarah Orne Jewett, and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” by Dylan Thomas.

The most outstanding aspect of Mathews and Gathers work is its deliberateness. Every move is designed for effect, every gesticulation is poignant and graceful. Every prop, toy element and sound used is calculated for effect. They are masters of their art. 

They begin each piece with an informal setup that contains a bit of information about the author, their style, and the origin of the selection. 

The stage backdrop is a black curtain. The props are a small table, set a few feet before another, where the story’s backdrops are placed. Beneath both, hidden away, is a collection of small toy theater pieces and a handful of props. 

That’s it, a few visuals, two people and a lot of talent that bring a pair of entirely different stories to life. 

“Landmark,” set in Maine, is about a struggle to preserve two majestic, old pine trees. The trees’ owner is offered a tempting price for their lumber and leans toward felling them. His decision divides his family and sets his neighbors against him. In the synopsis, not so interesting, in the hands of Pontine, the tale very much is. 

The piece is blissfully colored by the rich language and dialogue of Orne Jewett, who had an astute ear for Down Maine dialect. The performers’ delivery demonstrates an equally canny ear. The sound alone is captivating. Coupled with Mathews and Gathers usual flawless performance, it’s simply mesmerizing. 

The structure of the piece is like a well-arranged musician’s set. Alone on stage with few props, they keep it interesting with their usual use of toy theater characters, mixed with performances by the actors without their aid, and the marriage of action between both. 

One of the funniest moments is when the two “row the boat.” It’s most poignant - at a suspenseful juncture - has the pair turning pages of an over-sized book, advancing the story in silence through its illustrations. 

“Child in Wales” is equally captivating. It’s a sweet, humorous story, told with fewer props still, but is no less fascinating for it. This one offers even more of the picturesque movement of the two performers, who take you back to childhood and Christmas through the eyes of a child. 

Pontine’s “A New England Christmas”  is storytelling at its best. It’s a gentle, bewitching hour and a half, offering something different for the holiday. This is definitely worth your precious, discretionary time.

Pontine Theatre
November 29 - December 8, 2019
Fridays 7pm, Saturdays 3pm, Sundays 2pm