Thursday, February 4, 2016

Performing Arts ~ The Hunchback of Seville at Trinity Rep ~ Providence

Trinity Repertory Company
201 Washington St.
Providence, Rhode Island
(401) 351-4242

People with any kind of literary background (e.g., they paid attention in high school English class) might expect The Hunchback of Seville to be a mash-up of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Barber of Seville.


This is the story of an actual (fictional) woman, Maxima Teriblé Segunda, with an actual hunchback (they were still using 'hunchback' in 1504 Spain) who lives in enforced seclusion in actual Seville.

Hunchback is a farcical fictional retelling of the impending death of Queen Isabella of Castile (funder of Columbus, uniter of Spain, founder of the Inquisition), and the scramble to find a successor. Her daughter, Juana (an actual person in history known as Juana la Loca, or Joanna the Crazy), is clearly unfit to rule.

Most of the play takes place in Maxima's rooms, in a well-appointed set. The action moves into the aisles, and the fourth wall is thrown out the window, which clearly delighted the audience.

Racism, religion, and persecutions small and large were major themes throughout, peppered with plenty of laughs, as well as quite a few groaners. Things move quickly. The play is only 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Nicole Villamil plays Juana in a delightfully awful gigantic white and pink dress and frizzy, bedraggled blonde wig. She alternately talks baby-talk to her doll/prince, screams, canoodles audience members, and has moments of frightening lucidity. Just as her antics start to become irritating, she changes it up, a sign of some smart tactical directing.

Maxima is as intelligent and well-read as Juana is crazypants. So as Juana screams and/or sings in baby-talk to her doll about all the pretty gold, Maxima is learning the terrible cost that colonialism is inflicting on the natives of Hispañola. Who wants to be in charge of that? Other than Juana, of course. Maxima is wry, witty, and direct. She's played with arch inflection by Phyllis Kay.

There were good, solid performances all around, with a special nod to Jessica Ko, who was charming as Innocenzia, Maxima's sweet, simple new maid.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Artists ~ Jan Cal ~ Providence

Artist's Name: Jan Cal
Shop Name: Yesterday Gets Better

1. Tell us about your work:
About my work: I design and make one-of-a-kind jewelry. Unique mixed-media pieces handcrafted one by one with any combination of natural stones, freshwater pearls, precious metals, silk velvet, as well as mint-condition vintage jewels and ornaments from Rhode Island's history as "Costume Jewelry Capital of the World," along with my own chainmaille, wirewrapping and beadwork.

2. Is there a story behind the name of your business?
The name of my business, Yesterday Gets Better, comes from a Charlie Brown cartoon I saw decades ago. I only remember that in the final panel Charlie responds he is still waiting for yesterday to get better, and that idea both tickled and intrigued me. It is well-suited for my work, which often combines new and old, and frequently looks "vintage."

3. How did you come to be a professional artist/crafter/designer?
I knew by age five that I was an artist. What my media would be, that has changed and evolved throughout my life. I studied painting and sculpture at four art schools, but I turned to jewelry design about 20 years ago, and have stuck with it longer than any other art form.

4. Where do you draw your inspiration?
My inspiration most frequently comes from the materials themselves -- I usually start a piece by selecting an exceptional natural stone, and then design a piece around it to showcase it. Other influences range from Stephen Sondheim's music to the textiles of William Morris.

5. What’s your favorite item to create?
My favorite item to create would be a necklace with a rare and evocative natural stone, like a chalcedony rose that really looks like a rose frozen in stone, for instance, or an especially nice lodolite pendant that looks like a magnified tidal pool scene.

6. What’s your best seller?
My best seller? Since each piece is one of a kind, I don't have any..

7. How long have you been in Rhode Island?
I moved to Rhode Island in 1988, a lucky year for me! I love it here.

8. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island?
What struck me straight away about Rhode Island was that I'd never before seen a place that combined farms and the seaside -- there are places here where farmland meets the sea.And everything is so close by, so you can live in a capital city and yet the beach or the woods is a half hour's drive away. The best of all worlds!

9. Favorite place to take out-of-towners?
Favorite place to take out of towners would be Horseneck Beach and then to a Portuguese restaurant.

10. Any advice for new/wannabe makers?
Advice for new makers: make what you like; you'll get better at it as you go.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Drink local ~ Rhode Island Brewfest ~ Pawtucket

Rhode Island Brew Fest
Pawtucket Armory Arts Center
172 Exchange St.
Pawtucket, Rhode Island


Let's get this out of the way straight off: I really don't like beer. I don't have a moral objection to beer, I just never got a taste for it. But I love Rhode Island, and supporting Rhode Island makers. That's why I went to the 4th Annual RI Brew Fest.

I'm unlikely to buy beer for myself, but I did want to try local breweries. This is the perfect opportunity to sample small amounts without committing to a glass, can or bottle. My dad enjoys trying new microbrews. Since he's in Long Island, anything I bring him is new to him, and it's become a tradition that I bring him a local brew when we visit.

Of course I was mostly interested in Rhode Island brewers for my trip, although there were labels from as far away as Colorado. You can see the full line-up here.

I tried a lot of beer. These are just a few examples.

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My dad, who wasn't with me for BrewFest, but has sampled a number of the brews I've brought him over the years, really liked Big Mamie Pale Ale from Narragansett Brewery. He's an IPA guy. At BrewFest I learned that I prefer less hoppy brews.

I enjoyed Whaler's Brewing's Blueberry Berliner Weiss, Tilted Barn's Second Harvest, Long Live Beer Works' Heck Hound, and Crooked Current's Hawaiian Robust Porter. They ran from a pale yellow to thick black.

It wasn't just beer, either. There were booths with clothing, a whole fermented foods vendor, the Rhode Island Brewers Association, and a homebrew kit business. A couple of beer bus/tours businesses were represented, too.

I learned that there's more to beer than bitters, and may choose one with my next piece of pizza or weiner. Maybe.