Despite fewer performances, the Carmel Performing Arts Festival now has venues spread throughout Monterey County.
Thursday, October 11, 2001
Depending on how it is viewed, the CPAF is either growing or shrinking. When artistic director Robin McKee founded the festival five years ago, it featured approximately 100 performances, all of which were produced in Carmel. This year, despite the festival''s expanded geography, there are actually fewer performances. According to McKee, the number of performances have been pared down over the years so as not to overwhelm audiences with choices.
McKee says the CPAF, a blend of local performers and national acts, each year receives about 250 applications from groups or individuals who wish to perform. McKee and her team then cull the list down to 20 or 30 finalists and add performances by local production groups that are already scheduled during the time period of the festival. Flipping through the schedule one finds theatrical productions such as Pacific Repertory Theatre''s Richard II and Thomas of Woodstock and concerts at the Jazz and Blues Company that were independently scheduled but brought under the CPAF umbrella to fill out the festival''s lineup.
Looking through this year''s lineup, one discovers the festival''s strong local roots. Nearly every major production and concert in Monterey County in October is included in the CPAF, taking advantage of established audiences and publicity, providing a cost-effective technique of developing audiences for both the CPAF and the production companies that are taken into the festival''s fold.
According to McKee, expanding the CPAF beyond Carmel''s borders has been a goal from the beginning. "We''ve always wanted to expand to other places," she says, adding that one of the reasons there are now venues in Monterey, Pacific Grove and Salinas is because the audience has grown. Also in some cases, performing groups needed specific types of venues, such as a large stage for dancing, and those places could be found outside Carmel.
"Next year, we''re going to change our name to California Performing Arts Festival so we can cover the whole county. Locals know that Monterey and Salinas are just as wonderful as Carmel, and we want the rest of the audience to go see them, too," McKee says.
While local artists and groups make up the core of this three-week extravaganza, very talented outside acts give a fresh feel to the county art scene.
The a cappella group SoVoSo, which has worked with Bobby McFerrin in the past, is the highlight of this Saturday evening, mixing pop, soul and world beat music using a "circle singing" technique. They''re also leading a vocal workshop that afternoon.
In addition to SoVoSo''s showcase production, other opening-week choices are primarily local productions. Thomas of Woodstock and Richard II at Pacific Repertory Theater are ending their runs, so tickets to those classic plays may be scarce. Pride''s Crossing at Salinas'' Western Stage is the story of an independent- minded woman swimming the English Channel in the World War II era. Local drama teacher Marcia Hovick presents Some Shaw, classic scenes by witty playwright George Bernard Shaw.
In the second week, Flying Foot Forum comes to the Monterey Conference Center on 10/19, combining percussive dance styles such as Irish step with jazz and folk dance, flamenco, and innovative ballet.
Also that second week, BoxTales performs "Waters of the Earth" about life in the sea. BoxTales hails from Santa Barbara, presenting multicultural family fairy tales using masks, colorful costumes and expressive movement.
McKee mentions the Watsonville Taiko drum group on 10/24 as something she looking forward to for a personal reason. "I just had a baby about three months ago and the first time I felt my baby kick was listening to a rehearsal of the taiko drums."
Despite the plethora of performances, McKee says the CPAF team has curbed a desire to include more entertainment. "One thing I''ve learned in five years doing this is not to do too much. Sometimes there''s too much choice. At first we had somewhere around 100 performances. We want to keep the high quality and not be overwhelming."
"I think the entire package of the festival is very exciting and diverse," says McKee. "We want to get entertainment that you can''t normally see on the Peninsula, something a little different."
Two acts that certainly fall into the category of "a little different" include a reading of works by Henry Miller on 10/21 at Jack London''s Grill and Taproom, by Magnus Toren, director of the Henry Miller Library and a walking encyclopedia on the topic of the controversial author. And on 10/26 at 9:30pm at Morgan''s Coffeehouse, a troupe from Oakland called Pagliacci''s Fools performs a "late night erotica show of classic-style radio plays" featuring readings from classic erotic authors.
On Oct. 27, McKee should be able to fully enjoy her success. A special benefit Masquerade Ball is planned to close the festival, with live music and DJs, costume contests, food and wine, and plenty of merriment. "All through the festival, I''m running around but I get to see a little of everything." McKee says. "All the time, I''m hope the planning is good but at the closing party, everyone gets to relax and have more fun. We hear what people loved and disliked. It''s my favorite part."
Carmel Performing Arts Festival tickets and series passes may be bought at Bay Books, Bookmark, or the CPAF box office in The Crossroads. A full pass (up to 27 performances) is $155; a Flexipass for six performances is $80; and a five-show pass is $65. Individual events range from $6-40 and some are free. 624-1692. for schedule and more info, go to: http://www.carmelfest.org