Monday, May 5, 2014

Water Cities

View from the Guthrie Bridge
Today we gathered at the Guthrie for our final day in the Artist Lab retreat, a bittersweet occasion as we would soon be saying goodby to our friends from Madison and Milwaukee.

I arrived early with one of our special guests, Harlene Appelman, Director of the Covenant Foundation. The foundation has played an instrumental role in the existence of the lab, recognizing the importance of this venture with its financial support and encouragement.

A film is being produced on the lab and it was soon my time for my turn before the camera. I have done many interviews of others for my various projects, but it did feel a bit different to have the camera pointing at me, a dose of my own medicine. Camera rolling, I shared the value of the lab as I experience it. It has truly created a welcoming Jewish community as well as an artistic engine. For our external audience it contextualizes some of the study with which we engage and often relates it to the world in which we live.

We then had the opportunity to do tours of the Guthrie, from costume rooms to rehearsal rooms. I love to gather odd facts and our guide offered some interesting tidbits that intrigued me.

* The familiar feeling of the thrust stage is because they used the same blueprints as the original.

* Except for a few special circumstances such as musicals, the actors are not "miked". Acoustical panels in the ceiling or walls do an excellent job at magnifying sound.

* Rehearsal rooms mirror the layout of the stages and the floor is taped with the layout. Actors only get on the actual stage two weeks before the production and can do everything as they rehearsed because of the identical layout.

* I was struck by the black Singer sewing machines in the costume room that looked so much like the treadle sewing machine used by my Russian tailor grandfather. Totally was not expecting that.

* One theater has seats and walls of a rich red. As they were debating the tone of red to use, one person raised their hand with the computer mouse in hand and they selected the red tone of the mouse LED.

Upon our return we tackled our business item of the day, deciding on our topic of next year. I must confess to being torn as I had been an advocate of the topic of community which encompassed how we separate ourselves from a larger community into insiders and outsiders, setting boundaries that determine who belongs where. I am also intrigued by how the level of responsibility we feel for others often is affected by whether they are viewed as part of our community and the need for a more global definition in today's world.  Another topic that spoke to me because of the work I already do is that of memory and legacy, or echoes of the past as it was phrased. Having said all that, I must confess to being swayed by Rani's eloquent articulation of the theme of water which captured the environmental group to secure the greatest support and become our topic for next year. Rani's words evoked ruach - God's breath upon the water in the beginning of the world, a child in the womb and even the fact that our three cities all sit upon the water.
 We closed with Jody interviewing Harlene about the focus and history of the Covenant Foundation and the extensive work they do in supporting Jewish education.  Two intriguing projects that were mentioned were Projecting Freedom, a cinematic interpretation of the Haggadah and G_dcast, animated Torah, Talmud and folktales for children (and maybe some of us grownups too).

 And so another Artists' Lab came to a close and off to my studio I went, infused with new energy to tackle my painting for our fast approaching deadline.

To view information on lab artists and lab discussion links and handouts, please go to theJewish Artists' Laboratory website.

*The Jewish Artists’ Laboratory is an arts initiative through the Sabes Jewish Community Center featuring 25 artists exploring the theme of Light through study and art making. The project is funded through The Covenant Foundation and similar projects are being done in both Milwaukee and Madison. Artists explore how the theme of Light is relevant to Jews and non-Jews, to religious and non-religious, to the community and to the individual, to the artist and the non-artist.

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