WBEZ | Harold and the Purple Crayon http://www.wbez.org/tags/harold-and-purple-crayon Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 'Harold and the Purple Crayon' returns http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-30/harold-and-purple-crayon-returns-94448 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-30/HSD101013_266.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>“It’s great to see a six-year-old have their own moment with what’s onstage. Kids are great audience members—when they’re having a wonderful moment of catharis or immersion, they don’t care what they sound like.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-30/HSD101013_266.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px;" title=""></p><p>Matt Miller, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s lighting director, is reveling in the vociferous responses to Hubbard Street 2’s <em>Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure</em>, based on Crockett Johnson’s 1955 picture book and set to music by Andrew Bird. After sold-out performances a year ago, when the show debuted in Chicago (it opened first at the Kennedy Center), <a href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/events/2011-2012-season/harold-and-the-purpl"><em>Harold</em> is being remounted this weekend</a>—with some tweaks Miller made to his own lighting. “The audience probably didn’t care,” he says. “But it didn’t meet my standards.”</p><p>“Ryan [Wineinger] did the projections and scenery,” says Miller. “And he drew a lot of wonderful inspiration from the idea of folded paper, with the stage like a big white open book. The projections are the focus of the show, what the kids pay attention to the most. It’s like TV, but they also interact. They stay involved, seeing lines getting drawn, creatures taking shape.”</p><p>However, he says, “a white set is sort of a death trap for lighting. When you’re lighting a dance, you usually use black masking—the thing that keeps people from seeing backstage. But with <em>Harold</em>, the masking was brighter than the dancers. It gave me an interesting palette, and there were great moments where it worked, but… the design choices on the dancers were minimal.”</p><p>This year, Miller is putting the same scenic elements in a purple frame instead—“still like the book, but also like the crayon. In this business, you don’t often get a second chance! Now the colors are on the dancers, not the background.”</p><p>Wineinger says that, in some ways, his “set and projections were easy because they were a re-creation of the children’s book. But they also provided an opportunity to travel through the book, doing it through video. Harold travels through the landscapes, and sometimes draws them. He’s creating all these places, and the dancers are the spark.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-30/Matt-Miller.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 300px; height: 229px;" title="Miller working tech">“We wanted the scenic elements to be huge,” Wineinger adds—not only the projections but the oversize bed and window he designed. The result: the six HS2 dancers playing Harold, some of them pretty tall, look child-size.</p><p>Miller started out at Hubbard Street as the production manager for Hubbard Street 2. “I was a one-man song-and-dance,” he says. “I did the lighting, the stage management, driving the van, washing the costumes…. ” In his current job, as lighting director for both companies, he estimates that 60 to 70 percent of his work is adapting the lighting designs of pieces that HSDC has acquired. But he will be designing<a href="http://mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2012/744"> Hubbard Street’s January show at the MCA, “danc(e)volve,” </a>a showcase of new works by HSDC and HS2 dancers.</p><p>A self-described art geek, Miller says, “Whether it’s great design or choreography or cinematography, art that can move you is just so fantastic. Everyone can understand it, but we can almost never put our finger on it. Someone once told me, ‘Bad lighting is easy to see, but good lighting is not.’ At the end of the day, the goal is to make art.”</p></p> Wed, 30 Nov 2011 15:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-30/harold-and-purple-crayon-returns-94448 Holiday dance picks beyond 'The Nutcracker' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/holiday-dance-picks-beyond-nutcracker <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Coppelius.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lots of children go to their first ballet during the holiday season and generally that means they see <a target="_blank" href="http://www.nutcrackerballet.net/">&quot;The Nutcracker</a>.&quot; But if you want to mix it up a bit, this year you&rsquo;ve got some options!</p><p>Two local dance companies are performing unconventional takes on the holiday dance tradition. According to dance critic Lucia Mauro, these new works are sure to spark the imagination of young and old alike.</p><p>The first is Hubbard Street 2&rsquo;s &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.hubbardstreetdance.com/hs2_metro_performances.asp">Harold and the Purple Crayon</a>&quot; running Dec. 3 and 4 at the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/">Harris Theater</a> in downtown Chicago.</p><p>Then she reviewed the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.corpodance.com/Events.html">Corpo Dance Company</a> performance of &quot;Coppelius&quot; which runs Dec. 17 and 18 at <a href="http://www.linkshall.org/" target="_blank">Links Hall</a>.</p><p>Classical ballet, with its dancing snowflakes and sugarplum fairies, dominates the yuletide landscape. Rarely did contemporary dance dip its often unpointed toes into the mix, until now. Hubbard Street 2, the apprentice company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, uses modern moves to enliven a classic children&rsquo;s book. The troupe&rsquo;s director, Taryn Kaschock Russell, transformed &quot;Harold and the Purple Crayon&quot; into a 50-minute dance set to music by local indie rock composer Andrew Bird. After reading Crockett Johnson&rsquo;s book to her two-year-old son, Russell devised a way to bring life to the story of a boy who draws his adventures with a purple crayon.</p><p>The gender-neutral character of Harold is performed by six dancers. The dance begins with Harold restlessly awakened in his bed. He springs up, then rolls around before being yanked and pulled across a blank canvas. He makes his escape through a window and proceeds to draw birds in an apple tree. This prompts two dancers to perform a duet as the gentle winged creatures as they softly bob their heads and embrace.<br /><br /> Shortly after, Harold gets lost in the big city against honking horns and a rush of people jogging or talking into their cell phones. He communicates through a series of gestures that children in the audience are asked to repeat by frantically waving their arms and pointing in different directions. Ultimately, children are empowered to use their bodies to tell a story. <br /><br /> Corpo Dance Company also explores the creative process. Artistic director Christopher McCray premieres &quot;Coppelius.&quot; It&rsquo;s a modern ballet and break-dancing reinterpretation of the famed Romantic era ballet, &quot;Coppelia.&quot; McCray veers the story away from the mechanical doll and toward the temperamental toymaker, Dr. Coppelius, who created her. McCray has also recast the fantastical toyshop setting, giving it a slightly more jagged edge.<br /><br /> McCray is a great fan of steam punk, a subgenre of science fiction literature set during the Industrial Revolution. His inspiration is George Mann&rsquo;s book, &quot;The Affinity Bridge,&quot; which recalls Mary Shelley&rsquo;s &quot;Frankenstein&quot; and &quot;The Time Machine&quot; by H.G. Wells. So, it&rsquo;s not surprising McCray turns the intimate Links Hall space into the workshop of a mad genius during the age of steam-automated machines. Dr. Coppelius, an anxious inventor lost in thought, enters and waters his polished brass plants with an oil can against various cogs and wheels. The costume palette of black brocade and gray leather sets a smoky, vintage tone.<br /><br /> Over the course of the dance, we observe the inventor as he builds a series of mechanized dolls, both male and female. Both eventually smooth out their trance-like, herky-jerky moves into more natural gracefulness. But when Dr. Coppelius creates a doll that wins the affections of his girlfriend, he destroys his own work of art: a potent symbol of the artist&rsquo;s fragile ego.<br /><br /> So, during this holiday season, Both Hubbard Street 2 and Corpo Dance Company provide smart alternatives to the saccharine mix.</p></p> Fri, 03 Dec 2010 14:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/holiday-dance-picks-beyond-nutcracker