CSU Summer Arts unloads a month of improv, animation, art, theater and film on Monterey County.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
There’s a flood of arts and culture coming to the Peninsula, and its headwaters are building up at CSU Monterey Bay. The California State University system’s Summer Arts program, which began in 1986 and has resided at various CSU campuses over the years, are 14 two-week-long workshops taught by luminaries from the worlds of art, music, new media, dance, theater, film, writing and animation.
The visiting artist-faculty live on campus in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria with their students, while teaching up to 12 hours a day, every day. It’s intensive, immersive training that has, cumulatively, enlisted hundreds, including Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet and David Ligare. It’s been hosted by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Humboldt State, CSU Long Beach and CSU Fresno (which, through budget wrangling, had it for 13 years). Last year, CSUMB was awarded a five-year residency. It begins next month.
“It’s fantastic,” says Ilene Feinman. She’s worked at CSUMB for 16 years (the past year as the dean of the colleges of Art, Humanities and Social Sciences) and is, effectively, dean of Summer Arts.
“It’s been a several-year campaign to bring Summer Arts here,” Feinman continues. “When the Summer Arts [committee] did their tours to look at prospective campuses, one of the things they said was our arts facilities were smaller, but the support from the community was overwhelming.”
That community – from theater, art, museums and music – showed up in force April 2011 at a reception for the committee, invited in by campus faculty.
“Our faculty from the Music, Teledramatic Arts and Technology, and Visual and Public Arts departments have connections in the community already,” Feinman says. “[Summer Arts] will create this heightened nexus, a long range way to strengthen the arts curriculum and community connection.”
It’s a win for the school and for the students who enroll (tuition is $1,611, with scholarships available). But the windfall for the community is substantial in two ways. For one, at the end of the students’ immersive workshops, they’ll create a work – photography, comedy, sculpture, animation, dance, etc. – that they, sometimes in collaboration with their teachers, will present for free to the public all day on July 14, 26 and 28. They are called Culminations.
“They are the equivalent to [CSUMB’s] Capstone,” Feinman says. “It’s the final project. You have all kinds of interpretations of the mediums and lessons learned over the two weeks. That’s going to be really something.”
The second windfall for the public, though, arrives nearly every day. Except for the Fourth of July and Sundays, the visiting artist-faculty, in addition to teaching, do public performances or presentations at CSUMB’s World Theater and Tanimura & Antle Library.
That’s a panoply of stuff like journalist and filmmaker Cari Beauchamp and film music and sound composer Michael Mortilla showing (ironically, for Mortilla) silent film footage accompanied by piano and discussing women’s roles in silent film (7pm July 3, $10). There will be comedy by faux lounge act The Lampshades (7pm July 7, $20), comprised of Scot Robinson (Anchorman) and Kate Flannery, who you might know as morose and quirky redhead Meredith in The Office. There’s avant-garde hip-hop dance by Rennie Harris Puremovement (7pm July 27, $25).
William Kanengiser is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, who’ve taught and performed at Summer Arts for six summers between 1987 and 1998. They’ve circled the globe several times in the intervening years – four Asia performances of a Japanese tsunami benefit piece for a 400-guitar orchestra by Japanese classical guitarist Shingo Fujii last March, and in August, they’ll tour Germany, then perform with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House – but they’re back to open the public performance portion of CSUMB’s Summer Arts on the World Theater stage (7pm July 2, $30).
“At our core, we’re classical musicians,” Kanengiser says. “We went to conservatory, but we have strong [emphasis] in American jazz, African folk, Brazilian sambas, mixed in with more traditional guitar. The starting point is classical technique and phrasing, the sonorities of the instrument, texture and color as part of the palette, and ensemble playing. Once that’s established, we encourage students to explore a more classical style.”
They’ll apply all that to a music program at CSUMB of African and Brazilian pieces, a suite by Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis/John Coltrane, Leo Brouwer and Georges Bizet. The quartet, proponents of the Pepe Romero tradition who played here in 2000 under the auspices of Chamber Music Monterey Bay, will guide the audience through their dynamic music palette.
“We tend to be very personable and we like to talk,” Kanengiser says. “We’re all very dedicated to the idea of not just being performers, but role models for students. We try to use our standing in the guitar world to foster education.”
Aubry Mintz is a professor of art, illustration and animation at Cal State Long Beach and has worked on the films The Mummy and Final Fantasy, and done commercial work for MuchMusic (Canada’s MTV) and General Mills. He is spearheading the animation workshops and brings in Jason Spencer-Galsworthy, who’s worked on the Madagascar films and Megamind (he lectures 7pm July 19, $10), and NYU acting and movement coach Orlando Padotoy. Every public performer/lecturer teaches, though not every teacher performs or lectures.
“For the Culminations, we’ll have probably 30 animated performances,” Mintz says. “[The students] will learn acting techniques from Orlando, then work with a DreamWorks animator [Spencer-Galsworthy] to turn them into character animation. Some software’s onsite, and we’re bringing in tablets and downshooter cameras.”
According to David Razowsky, “These students are going to come out [of Summer Arts] inspired, dazed, shocked, joyful and knowing their voice better than they had ever known before.” He’s an improv theater and comedy performer who’s worked with The Second City Training Center, Steppenwolf, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris. He’s coming to CSUMB to teach and perform (7pm July 11, $20) Chicago-style improv comedy, along with actor, director and writer Eric Hunicutt. Razowsky, who started off as a journalist for Associated Press and Columbia Journalism Review, co-assembled the Chicago-style comedy workshop.
“You absolutely see that [Chicago] training in Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert,” Razowsky says. “One of things you learn is the organic acting style of honesty and truth. In all the characters they do, they have a very strong point of view and truths. If you look at The Office, the old cast, you have a lot of Chicago improvisers on that show. What I see in Stephen are strong political points of view, truths, play, intelligence. You learn that in Chicago, too.”
Unlike local improv comedy teams like Gerry Orton’s Monterey iMPRoV and Women of Whimsy, Razowsky and Hunicutt won’t take audience suggestions in their performance, but will instead do a “long form improvisation.”
“We jump up and start,” Razowsky says.
Joanne Sharpe is the assistant director of Summer Arts and has worked for the organization, headquartered at the CSU Chancellor’s office, for 18 of its 26 seasons. She’s here with the Summer Arts team, guided locally by CSUMB Community Relations Specialist Rob Klevan and supported by Music, TAT and VPA faculty and staff, and an army of student assistants. Sharpe says she attends almost all of the public performances, and though she says they tend to blend together, some stand out.
“I’m an administrator, but I learn about classical arts from Summer Arts,” she says, citing previous performances by Alexander String Quartet. “The Lampshades were at Summer Arts last year and they were just hysterical. Rennie Harris… those people have more dance in their pinky than most people have in their whole body. The dance [programs] are consistently one of my favorites.”
“Almost everybody stays in the dorms,” she continues. “We’ve had Emmy, Tony, Academy award winners eating with students and staff. These artists make connections that carry over.”
Maybe into the community. The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet are friendly with AlmaNova Duo, who perform at Magic Circle Theatre this Saturday, and Razowsky has done workshops at Henry Miller Library. And as artist-teachers come to the Seaside campus and experience the local landscape, they may carry their experience into their own spheres.
“We know Monterey and Carmel very well,” LAGQ’s William Keningiser says. “Very early in our careers, one of the first real guitar retreats we had gone on [was Summer Arts]. Up until that point, we would blow in and out of town. To get to spend a solid week at a beautiful location and be part of the community and students, was really relaxing and fulfilling. We hope to have that same experience in Monterey.”
“The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet promises to be mind blowing,” Feinman says. She’s also got her eye on the one-woman performance by Heather Raffo (7pm July 16, $25), actor and mime Bill Bowers (7pm July 23, $20), the theater performance of The Actor’s Gang (7pm July 20, $20) and others.
“They all promise to be amazing,” she says. As for the student portion, she says, “Success depends on if the students come away renewed, inspired and well-trained. If history is a judge, that’s a done deal. I don’t think we’ll have a problem there.”
CSUMB’s Summer Arts program runs July 2-28, at CSUMB’s World Theater and Tanimura and Antile Library, Seaside (and All Saints Episcopal Church and National Steinbeck Center). $10-$30/performance or lecture. 262-2714, www.csusummerarts.org, see schedule in insert.