One Summer

Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Theater, which draws from salsa, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop, was a high-energy show at last year’s Summer Arts.

Has it been five years already? That’s how long the California State University system’s month-long Summer Arts program will have made its home at CSU Monterey Bay after this summer. Then it moves back to CSU Fresno for a spell.

Summer Arts are immersive two-week classes in myriad disciplines of arts, taught by CSU faculty and guest artists. Each class features a public performance or presentation – dance, comedy, lecture, music, etc. – by said faculty and guest artists as well as students, one after another, almost every day for a month, at the campus’ World Theater, starting this Monday.

Some of the people who make those public shows happen reflect here on their lessons of past summers of art, which in turn points to upcoming performances you might want to see yourself.

It’s about the students.

This will be the fourth year that CSU Northridge teacher and artist Samantha Fields has put together a Summer Arts class. “It’s full immersion,” she writes via email. “Students work, eat and live on campus with guest artists, so everyone is incredibly focused. I describe it like arts boot camp. It’s very intense and in my experience, student work grows by leaps and bounds.”

That depth and intensity should show up in the four free Student Showcases, where they get to show off all they’ve learned. Those performances happen back-to-back all day July 8, 9, 22 and 23.

Writing is learning.

Portland, Oregon-based writer and teacher Jerry McGill was a guest artist who taught a group of “highly diverse and talented” student writers, calling the experience “wonderfully illuminating.”

His only lament: “The time allotted with students was so short (four days) and the students so plentiful (over 30) that it made it difficult to give individual attention and make deeper connections.”

The public gets plenty of time with writers in three public presentations including memoir and essay, literature, and writing and media. That last one is at 7pm July 1 by David Goetsch, a co-executive producer and writer on The Big Bang Theory.

All the world’s a stage.

Mark Vallejo, a recent CSU Long Beach grad, took Summer Arts classes in acting and stage combat, and Contra-Tiempo’s Urban Latin Dance, from 2012-15.

One year, after he finished his Student Showcase with his fellow Contra-Tiempo classmates, Vallejo thought they had left him behind at the World Theater. But when he went to the dining hall, they greeted him with cheers and a Soul Train dance line. “[Dancing] down the aisle, in the glorious dining hall, that moment I felt like I belonged, loved, appreciated, a superstar,” he writes.

Some guest artists know that kind of exuberance and adulation. Dancers Eva Karczag and Lisa Kraus will talk about their work in the avant-garde Trisha Brown Dance Company 7pm July 18.

Fake fighting is cool.

L.A.-based stage combat instructor Anthony Carreiro says his craft is not just relevant to Shakespeare and The Three Musketeers.

“In shows like Kill BillUnderworldThe AvengersX-­Men, we see that Hollywood expects women to be as skilled as men in this art form,” he writes. He cherishes the time his movement and combat workshop collaborated with a class taught by Foley sound artists who worked on Game of Thrones and Gladiator.

Carreiro kicks off the first presentation of the whole bunch (more than 25 public presentations) when he demonstrates the choreography, illusion and safety behind stage combat 7pm June 27.

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Speaking on it rules.

Modesto Junior College student Summer Krafft took memoir writing in 2013 and 2015, social action writing in 2014, and solo theater performance in 2015. Having found her creative family, she’s coming back for essay writing. “When I was taking social action writing, I ended up being adopted into the Chekhov acting course, attending many of their sessions and writing several pieces in their [Student Showcase],” she writes.

Alexandra Billings (Grey’s AnatomyTransparent) was one of the first transgender actresses to play a transgender character on TV. She does a solo performance that marries entertainment to social action 7pm July 16.

Taking it all in counts.

John Mayer chairs the theater department at CSU Stanislaus, and has worked for Summer Arts for 14 years. He says Summer Arts is “probably the most successful educational program” he’s worked with, but recognizes they likely “hoped to have more people [come] to campus for events.”

Among his most memorable experiences: “Taking walks every morning at 6am with my students from campus down to the ocean – something that will stay with me for a long time.”

Mayer has followed Steppenwolf Theatre company since its inception and has written a forthcoming book about the celebrated Chicago company. He gives a book talk at 7pm on July 7.

SUMMER ARTS public performances run daily June 27-July 23, at various locations at CSUMB, Seaside. Full schedule inserted in this issue. $8-$20/performance; free/student performance. 582-3499, www.csusummerarts.com

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