News Column

The Virginian-Pilot Mal Vincent column

July 24, 2014

By Mal Vincent, The Virginian-Pilot



July 25--What exactly is going on at Norfolk'sTown Point Park this weekend?

An artistic event or a hodgepodge mess? A little of everything, but how much of any one thing? It boldly claims to be the first interactive performance art project for Hampton Roads, and, as such, introduces a large collaboration of diverse performing and visual artists -- local as well as from across the country.

It is called "Moon Take Thy Flight," which, quite accurately, describes its finale. The event is not over until the moon rises, and we actually meet the man in the moon -- who has two hands large enough to rival any giant of fiction past. Before that, the production can be many different experiences.

It's a trip to the moon, or, perhaps, just to the bar. It's puppets and huge "leaf ladies." It's a little of Shakespeare and a lot of imagination.

Co-sponsored and co-created by Festevents and Virginia Stage Company, it is loosely, very loosely, aligned to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and bills itself as "a midsummer fantasy festival."

Since it proudly admits to being nonlinear, you can expect that the "plot" as such is not detailed -- perhaps almost nonexistent. Most of the performers will not speak. The confused lovers of Shakespeare's romantic comedy will wander about yearning in arduous hopes. The trick is that their wanderings will be through sets and art creations designed to amaze as well as to bemuse.

Behind the costumed cast of 25 to 30 performers are seven commissioned artists who have created things like an enchanted forest. You can stop at the crab pot bar, a favorite hangout for the fairies of the land or visit the Pixie Ponderosa. Large-scale puppetry is evident throughout this makeshift realm. These puppets, though, are a far cry from Howdy Doody or Miss Piggy.

For a man who is assigned to bring all these varied ingredients together into one show, or experience, Patrick Mullins of the Virginia Stage Company seems remarkably calm as he sits in the lobby of the company's Wells Theatre. "It will all come together," he said, "but it has no prescribed formula. It is interactive in every way. The public has been visiting the park all week to talk with the artists and even help them in building the effects. It's expanding theater to the great outdoors."

Meeting with Mullins and the artists can net as many different versions on what will happen at "Moon Take Thy Flight" as there are ideas. Putting their versions together, we get the gist that you can experience this production in several different ways.

First, you can pick an actor and follow him or her from set to set and event to event. Or you can roam around at will and sample things in no particular order, like the bars and other refreshments. Children's events are also in abundance. So is beer, wine and gourmet treats.

Karen Scherberger, head of Norfolk's Festevents, says this midsummer vision is meant to build on the success of last summer's collaboration for Shakespeare's "The Tempest" but with a great deal more at stake. She calls it the largest collaboration of diverse performing and visual artists yet tried locally as a public project.

Of the performers, only two actors will speak: Anna Sosa as Puck -- who goes around claiming "Lord, what fools these mortals be" -- and Justin Sease as Oberon, king of the fairies who is embroiled in an argument with his queen, Titania. Titania is played by Levi Hull, a local gender-defying performer who is sometimes known as India Raquel.

Mullins admits that "those who are seeking the conventional plot may find it difficult to find. What we're going for is visual. It has to work more in the abstract than the specific."

The evening can last as long as three hours, if you choose. Most, though, will experience one of two hourlong "performance loops" that include the totality of the "pop-up" performances.

The event opens at 6 p.m. today through Sunday when the public can visit the sets and talk with the artists. Performances start at 7:30 p.m., leading up to a finale at 9:15 p.m. when all the elements and performers merge for the rising of the moon -- which is some 15 feet high and is operated by a stationary bicycle behind the scenes.

An after-party will continue in Town Point Park until 11 p.m.

The Enchanted Forest, through which guests will enter, is largely the work of bamboo specialist Wes Cheney, who points out that the bamboo is all locally grown. He's been working on the entrance, which he describes as a "three-dimensional one-half of a geodesic dome" or a "25-foot bamboo mushroom," for weeks off 26th Street in Norfolk.

Cheney, who builds bamboo bicycles for a living, said he started thinking about bamboo forests as a child because "I lived next to the zoo and could hear the lions and elephants at night. It makes you, even as a child, wonder about the forces of nature."

Inside, Mike Bell, a Virginia Beach artist and designer, has assembled a group of five diverse local artists to create the large art "environments" -- or sets. Included are Charlie Rasputin of Alchemy NFK as well as James Molloy and Nichole Ashikis, who is particularly involved in creating a place called Pixie Ponderosa.

The Core Theatre Ensemble has assigned itself to create such varied things as what Mullins describes as "an existential waiting room," "Bottom's dream," and a dream therapy tent.

The world of "Moon" will also use the outdoors as a setting -- particularly the Elizabeth River. Cheney points out that "being on the waterfront suggests being on the edge of something. That's just the right setting."

He speaks, though, for the question mark that still hovers over such a project when he points out, "How do we find a center to a universe that is always changing?"

Perhaps a visit to Pixie Ponderosa would help.

____

If you go

What A Midsummer's Fantasy Festival presents "Moon Take Thy Flight"

When 6-9:15 p.m. today through Sunday, followed by an after-party lasting until 11 p.m.

Where Town Point Park, Norfolk

Cost Free

More info www.festevents.com

____

Mal Vincent, 757-446-2347, mal.vincent@pilotonline.com

___

(c)2014 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters