Monthly Archives: February 2017

Spinning Sisters: The Revolving Stage

By Colleen Cook

When you look at our staff list, the reality is that our titles are a little misleading. While we are each responsible for our primary job functions, each of our staff members possess unique and specialized skills and talents that overlap into many other areas of our organization, and are frequently showcased.

Mike Miller, for example, in addition to being President & CEO, is a talented sound engineer as well as a performer. Dauphne Maloney, in addition to being our Education Assistant and director of MY Theatre, is a skilled costumer. Her creations are seen in nearly every theatrical production on our stage.  Steven Au is our very gifted graphic designer and also happens to be an outstanding violinist who frequently plays with our Mansfield Symphony. And Jason Kaufman isn’t just our Facilities Manager, he also happens to imagine and build incredible sets for our productions as a set designer and carpenter.

Jason’s designs have created beautiful sets like we saw this season in Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol. You might know Jason from Main Street Books, or perhaps you’ve seen some of his sculptural work around town – one of our favorites is the heart sculpture at Relax, It’s Just Coffee. Or maybe you’ve just admired his work from our audience – who will ever forget the haunting beauty and intricacy of the willowy branches in Beauty and the Beast in Summer 2016?

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Colleen Cook: When and how did you get into set building here at the Ren?

Jason Kaufman: The first set I worked on was Mary Poppins, I think. I wasn’t really lead on that, but I did pitch in quite a bit. I ended up as lead set builder when we had a staff member leave and we had a void where no one was really taking the lead and I just sort of ended up in that place. I really enjoy that position and I wanted to step into that. We had a really great intern for Mary Poppins, Abe Swanger, and he did such good work that we ended up hiring him and he became my assistant set builder. Abe is very skilled and our personalities meld very well, and we also have an unspoken understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we just know what needs done with very few words. It’s been a very seamless partnership.

CC: Can you tell us about your background in visual art?

JK: I’ve always been interested in art. I went to college at Kent State and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. I thought maybe art education, but after a few classes I realized that wasn’t for me. I started taking all kinds of arts classes and landed in glassworking program at Kent. Their program is very sculptural-based, where you use glass with other materials, so less focused on craft-based vessels and blowing and more fine art based. I ended up getting a degree in studio crafts with a focus in glass-casting, and then I have a minor in fine arts.

CC: What’s one of the most challenging set pieces you’ve gotten to build to date?

JK: Definitely the revolve for the Sister Act set. It is built in a modular way, with a 12-foot wide disc that can be disassembled into 10 segments, made by creating our own tongue-and-groove pattern so they all slide within one another and are bolted together. But, that required a significant amount of engineering. Everything needed to fit precisely and has to be put back together exactly the same way each time. And then, once that was put together, we had to figure out how to motorize it, which took a lot of trial and error to get the gearing right on the motor and the drive wheel.

View from above: The Revolving Stage

View from above: The Revolving Stage (Photo by Jason Kaufman)

I had a lot of help from my dad Rick Turske, because I’m not as mechanically-inclined as he is. It was a lot of trial and error, and we actually found an old treadmill that we were able to remove the motor from and since the variable speed adjustment was already attached to that, we could use that. Once we got the gearing right with the wheel driving the turntable, it spins easily and smoothly. We’ve had five or six people on it spinning.

Here’s a sneak peek of the incredible revolving stage in action!

Sister Act runs March 4-5, 11-12 and will be incredible – learn more and get tickets to this awesome show here.

Please silence your phones

Please Silence Your Phones: True Confessions of a Multitasker

By Colleen Cook

I used to pride myself in my ability to multitask. I could be watching a show on TV, making dinner, discovering a new recipe, checking email, replying to a text, and carrying on a conversation with my husband all at once – what a marvel!

Yet, what I’m feeling is anything but “marvelous.” I feel tired, exhausted by the constant stream of information and ideas and notifications. I feel like I never have time to do anything. I have a friend who recently reined in her habit of checking social media throughout the day to only once per day and she was able to read 10 books in a month in that same time.

The longer we live with devices in our hands and our pockets, though, it seems that ability to “multitask” is just a recipe for overwhelm and disengagement. When you’re doing everything, you’re focusing on nothing. No one gets your full attention, you’re engaging with the world in a way that is broad, but extremely shallow.

While many of us can remember a time before the internet, we are quickly approaching a world in which the adults have never lived without digital technology as a part of their everyday life. Michael Harris writes about this in his book The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection and in this Huffington Post Article, “Why We Must Teach Digital Natives How to Be Alone:” 

“Emily, 13, wakes up and rolls over to kiss her smartphone good-morning. Not an actual smooch, naturally, but a virtual kiss of attention, a kiss of grazing fingertips as she calls up 34 missed messages. The swarms of comforting “contacts” deliver new material — texts about a sleepover, photos of Slurpees, links to new cat videos — and the possible solitude of the morning is banished. The question that drives her is not “what shall I do today?” The question (more passive) is: ‘what did I miss?'”

The reality is, we’ve only had the internet in our pockets for less than a decade, and the generations living today haven’t yet developed best practices for moderating this luxury, so what’s happening is a form of digital obesity – we over-indulge in this endorphin-releasing technology and when we do that, we’re missing out on the real life right in front of us. Psychologists and neurologists are finding evidence to exactly this:

Psychologists have hypothesized that the constant demands of emails, notifications, and general busy-ness put a significant burden on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the region involved in multitasking and higher-order thinking (like critical thinking and problem solving). Those small demands add up to drain our attentional resources, making us distracted and cognitively fatigued—which in turn makes it more difficult to focus, think deeply, and come up with new ideas. – Carolyn Gregoire, “The New Science of the Creative Brain on Nature”

When you come to the theatre, we implore you, “Please silence your phone,” for a very practical reason: it’s disruptive to our performance to have noisy, shiny devices going off among a crowd of hundreds. But, maybe the performing arts have had this right all along. Perhaps our constant connection is disruptive to our day-to-day, and it’s time to put our devices in their place.

When we turn off our phones, spend time with those most dear to us, and simply engage with a piece of art, it’s like giving ourselves a breath of fresh air. It’s allowing our brains for once to “uni-task,” to disconnect, to be fully present in time and space with the people we love. And, our children depend on us learning the values of silence, solitude, togetherness, and full engagement so that they might be passed down to future generations.

Further listening: one of my favorite podcasts, Sorta Awesome, has a great episode talking about this topic that you can check out here.

Announcing the 2017 Summer Musical!

by Colleen Cook

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The Summer Musical has become a celebrated community tradition. Each summer in the last weekend of July and the first weekend of August, our region’s finest actors, singers, and dancers come together and perform a Broadway musical that dazzles and delights audiences each night.

After our success last summer with Beauty and the Beast, and Mary Poppins the season before, we wanted to continue to offer a show that would give families an opportunity to wrap up the summer in style. That’s why this summer’s show is none other than one of Disney’s most beloved musicals…

 

The Little Mermaid will be on stage July 29 at 8 PM, July 30 at 2:30 PM, August 5 at 8 PM and August 6 at 2:30 PM. Auditions will take place Sunday April 23rd from 12-5, Monday 24th from 4-7, with Callbacks Tuesday 25th from 4-7.

Tickets will go on sale to Renaissance Members only beginning March 1st. Tickets will be available to the public beginning April 4th. Interested in becoming a member? You can join when you call the Box Office (419-522-2726) to order your tickets.

This summer, our Artistic Director Michael Thomas will be unavailable, so we’ve invited director Kris Kyer to step in to direct. Kris Kyer’s career spans over three decades as an actor, performer, teacher, singer, and director in every medium of the entertainment industry.  Most recently, he has directed THE LITTLE MERMAID, ADDAMS FAMILY, ELF JR. MARY POPPINS, PETER PAN (starring as Captain Hook), and SUPERMAN at the Grove Theatre in Upland, CA.  

For nearly two decades he was the director/owner of THE KYER WORKSHOP FOR ACTORS in Burbank, CA. Thousands of young actors began their careers and studied under Kristopher to have successful careers in film, Broadway, stage, and television.  Mr. Kyer was also the “on set” acting coach for ABC-TV’s BOY MEETS WORLD; MAYBE THIS TIME; and GRACE UNDER FIRE; the Bruce Willis film HOSTAGE; and personal acting coach for Jessica Simpson on THAT 70’s SHOW for FOX-TV. You can learn more about Mr. Kyer here.

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How I Fell in Love with the Symphony

by Llalan Fowler

When I was a kid and just getting into music, my grandmother started taking me to all the Sunday matinees with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. The whole experience of going to the Renaissance Theatre was a “to-do,” as she might say. Dressing up, buying drinks and popcorn, getting escorted to our seats like we were important.

I was just learning how to listen to music — how to pull apart an orchestra and listen to one section at a time. There’s the low brass, there’s the high woodwinds, I think that’s a viola? And how to watch an orchestra, too — how to see the players watch the baton of the conductor, the rows of string players watching the first chair, the percussion section watching everything. I was learning a new language. I could already read music, but reading a new language is quite a different thing than understanding a conversation.

I wonder if perhaps you have to grow up with symphonic music to continue seeking it out as you age. My elementary school music teacher was a passionate man. Passionate enough to throw blackboard erasers into the chatty percussion section, gesticulate so wildly as to dislodge his comb over, and to rain insults and spittle down upon the first unlucky row of flutes. Most of the kids hated him. I would have, had he not kept playing fantastic recordings for us: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing, and Gershwin. I took a tape of Rhapsody in Blue out of the library and listened to it again and again in my room, letting the music take shape and color in my mind.

My grandmother loved that I was exploring the big band music of her youth and encouraged me with her own stories of the bands that played when she was a young woman. She still remembered all the words and sang along in her ageless soprano to my CDs of Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Andrews Sisters.

As I got older and my tastes refined, my grandmother took me to even more shows. We saw one of Mel Tormé’s last concerts and even saw Yo-Yo Ma, whose luggage had been lost so he and his accompanist wore lumberjack flannels. We spent several summer evenings on a lawn in Columbus, picnicking and listening to The Canadian Brass, laughing at their jokes even if we’d heard them last year. I played trombone and wanted to be the first lady in the brass quintet.

I played in high school — symphonic band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band — and continued to play through undergrad. I worry that music is accessible only to those who already speak the language. Those of us who recognize all the different voices that combine to one. Those of us who have felt the power in that moment between the last note and the applause. But how much knowledge and history behind a certain piece do you need to “get it?” When I look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I know little of his life and of the story behind the piece; but I do know it is crushingly beautiful.

I want to share the beauty of this music with others, but don’t always know how to convince my Millennial-aged peers to come to an orchestra concert with me. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of them do come, but I greedily want everyone to try it. I don’t know if it’s some presumption that symphony-goers are stuffy and pretentious or if it’s intimidation by the unknown that prevents more people my age from joining me there. I certainly don’t know everything about each piece that’s played in a concert. Rather than feeling ill-educated and uncomfortable at the end, however, I feel refreshed and new and as if I learned something just by sitting there. Like the first time I heard Rhapsody in Blue, I didn’t feel stuffy and pretentious — I felt like something bold and new was let loose inside me.

This Saturday, I will be going to the “When Swing Was King” pops concert, and I’ll be bringing my now-91-year-old grandmother. We will dress up, we’ll go to the Altered Eats catered dinner beforehand, we’ll gets drinks, and we’ll be escorted to our seats. We’ll sit in the dark and listen as the chaos of tuning instruments transforms into the asymmetrical jive of Shaw, Miller, and Dorsey. I suspect we’ll sing along.

 

 

Cheers!

Recipe for Love: Damiana Chocolate Rose Love Cordial

By Nicholas Copley of Lionheart Medicinal Gardens (& Altered Eats)

You will absolutely fall in LOVE with this aphrodisiac influenced cordial! Damiana is a wild shrub native to Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies that has been historically used as an aphrodisiac. Damiana is still used as an aphrodisiac today, as well as supporting relief of: headaches, bedwetting, depression, nervous upset stomach, constipation, and boosting mental and physical stamina. Damiana has also been used to enhance dreams. Chocolate and rose are known aphrodisiacs. Cacao contains phenylethyamines, which work similar to dopamine and epinephrine, creating heightened senses of well being.

Try this cocktail and an entire feast of farm to table goodness at the Altered Eats pre-concert dinner on February 18th!

First before we make this cordial I would suggest making this delicious chocolate syrup. This syrup is dairy-free and does not contain any refined sugar.

The Best Chocolate Sauce

  • ¾ cup raw cacao powder ( or unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup REAL Maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Pulse together cacao powder, coconut sugar, and salt into a food processor until well combined.
  2. With food processor spinning, pour boiling water through feed tube.
  3. Stop processor, scrape sides, add the maple syrup and vanilla.
  4. Process again until consistently silky smooth.
  5. Transfer to a glass container and place in the fridge to cool for a few hours.
  6. Enjoy over ice cream or in this next recipe!

Damiana Chocolate Rose Love Cordial 

  • 1oz dried Damiana leaves
  • 2 cups brandy or vodka (I used Brandy)
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 3 TBSP rose water
  • ¾ cup of chocolate syrup (the recipe above is the best)
  1. Soak Damiana leaves in alcohol for 1-2 weeks. Strain and reserve liquid in a clean glass jar/bottle.
  2. Soak alcohol drenched leaves in filtered water for two-three days. Strain and reserve liquid.
  3. Gently warm the water extract (over low heat) and stir in honey. Remove from heat and add the alcohol extract. Pour into a clean glass jar and add vanilla, chocolate sauce, and rose water.
  4. Use your best discernment on the amounts of rose water and chocolate sauce. Adjust to you liking.
  5. Allow it to mellow for a few weeks. It definitely gets better with age. Store in fridge for several months.
  6. Enjoy!