Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery Rolls Out the Welcome Mat for Plein Air-2017

Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery welcomes Plein Air Easton! with special demonstrations by gallery artists and Plein Air Easton competitors watercolorist David Csont, oil painter Leonard Mizerek, oil painter Elise Phillips and Botanical artist Lee D’Zmura will be giving public demonstrations of their individual painting styles on Friday July 21 at the gallery. Csont, Phillips and Mizerek are competing in their 8th straight Plein Air Easton!

In addition, there will be a special Gallery Walk in Easton on Saturday July 22 with all galleries open until 8 pm and serving refreshments.

David Csont giving his demo in 2016

Leonard Mizerek nurtured his artistic love of nature while growing up in the Brandywine Valley. His early influence was with the Pennsylvania Impressionists and Brandywine School. Mizerek is one of 26 Fellows of the American Society of Marine Artists. Throughout the last few years,

Leonard participated in several invitational Plein Air events including Mystic, Annapolis, winning Honorable Mention and Easton Md. winning Second Place in the Quick Draw event. Len’s demonstration at the gallery will be from 10:30-12 at the gallery on Friday the 21st.

“Where most people see the ordinary, I envision a painting.” says award winning oil painter Elise Phillips. Elise was born in Wayne, Pennsylvania into a family with an extensive background in the fine arts. Her great, great grandfather founded Newman Galleries in Philadelphia in 1865, and today she is the fifth generation of the family involved in the arts. Her demonstration at the gallery will be from 12:30-2 on Friday the 21st.

Watercolor has been a passion of David Csont and is evident in his painting and illustration style. Over 25 years he has developed a colorful, painterly approach, rooted in the tradition of English watercolorists.. Ever cultivating his technique, he can be seen painting traditional plein air watercolors as he travels the world. David will be giving a demonstration at the gallery on Friday July 21 from 2-3:30 PM.

Botanical Artist Lee D’Zmura will be giving a demonstration of her technique at the gallery Friday morning from 10:30-12. Talbot County artist Lee D’Zmura is an award winning botanical artist whose experience in landscape architecture enriches her watercolors fine detail in her paintings is in part the result of years of technical drawing. Her watercolors are an attempt to capture the beauty and delicacy of the individual specimen with botanical accuracy.

In addition to demonstrations on Friday, Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery will be joining other Easton galleries for a special gallery walk Saturday July 22 from 5-8. For more information please call 410-310-8727. www.trippehilderbrandtgallery.com

 

Mid-Shore Arts: Working with Wood in Chestertown

Robert Ortiz has established himself as one of Chestertown’s most admired entrepreneurs, creating fine furniture that blends Japanese and Shaker traditions into something contemporary and distinctive. His two lines of furniture — named for his children, Daniel and Sofia — combine simple shapes and combinations of different woods.

A furniture maker for 30 years, Ortiz has had his studio in at 207 C S. Cross Street in Chestertown for the past 20 years. In addition to its primary function as a woodworking shop, it occasionally hosts concerts by the Pam Ortiz band, in which he accompanies his wife on percussion, guitar, and vocals. It has also doubled as “Olivander’s Wand Shop” during Chestertown’s Harry Potter Festivals.

Recently, Ortiz has launched onto a new aspect of his craft – passing along his knowledge and methods to others. Here’s what he told the Chestertown Spy about his new project in a recent interview.

Bob Ortiz with a table like those he shows his students how to build

“Since 2008 when the financial crisis happened, most people who have small businesses — if they’re not still recovering — are trying to figure out how to move into the future. . I spent about eight years trying to figure out how to survive in the furniture business, because like many small industries it’s completely different than it was prior to 2008.

I think of 30 years of making furniture as two generations.

“The first generation of people I made furniture for, they’re retiring, downsizing, moving into assisted living, in some cases passing on. I asked those folks, what are they doing with their artwork and their furniture, with their silver, china, and most of them tell me they’re taking it to second-hand stores. Their children don’t want it, their grandchildren don’t want it. The generation that’s replacing that older cohort are in a very different place than my parents or my grandparents were. They’re starting families much later; they’re moving through different careers, different jobs every year, so that stability isn’t there. They’re living with a lot more debt.

“So over the years, I’ve been asking myself, what’s the strategy here? Who wants furniture; who needs furniture? And the more I listened to people and read articles, I realized that there are two things going on. One thing is, that the generation that is just about starting to retire or recently retired they no longer want to buy art or craft: they want to make it. The other interesting thing is that their children and grandchildren are not buying hand-crafted furniture. So about a year and a half ago I came up with this idea that I call the Chestertown vacation workshops.

“Basically, it’s this: come and spend a week with me. It’s one on one, it’s not a group thing. Immerse yourself in the making of a beautiful object that’s useful. I’ve been making this line of furniture now for 20 years, and so my comfort with it, my ability to pass along what I’ve learned in those 20 years, is part of what the workshop’s about.

“I try to be real clear; this is not about starting a woodworking school. If you’re coming to one of my workshops, it’s about come, spend a week, we’ll go from soup to nuts. Picking out the wood, making the pieces, designing them, putting them together, and at the end of the week you get to take it home.”

Part of the Robert Ortiz Studio

Who are the workshops aimed at? Ortiz said, “I’ve had people with a little bit of woodworking experience, people with no woodworking experience. I’ve had men and women who spent their career behind a desk, who finally want to get out from behind that desk and make something. I’ve had several women who weren’t allowed to take shop in high school who finally said, you know, I’m going to make myself something.”

The Spy asked, “What kinds of skills are they going to need for the workshop?”

Workshop participant and project.

Ortiz said, “To a certain extent, when you come here, I don’t care if you’ve been a CEO, I don’t care if you’ve been a lowly worker – everybody is a private here, except for myself. The most important thing is for people to be willing and able to concentrate and to follow directions. The one skill that is really helpful is that you’re a problem solver. If you’re a good problem solver, it goes quickly. If not, we have to spend a little more time making sure that when it’s time to make a cut or put something together, that you’re able to do it right.

“Somebody who doesn’t have a lot of experience, or who has no experience, may wind up saying to themselves, well, gee, how am I going to take that workshop? Well, what I tell people is, you know all those people who are climbing up Mount Everest with a guide?  Most of those people – they’re not mountain climbers. They’re people who pay a lot of money to have somebody shepherd them up the mountain, hopefully they make it, hopefully they come back down the mountain and have a wonderful experience to talk about. Well, in my case, I’m shepherding you through the process of making a piece of furniture. My job actually ends up being to make all the test pieces to give the student the confidence that they’ll be able to make the cut.”

Ortiz takes a good bit of pride in the quality of work his students are able to produce. He said, “Back in October I had an alumni weekend. I invited everyone who had taken a workshop to come and bring their piece of furniture and have it out on the floor. It was during the studio tour that happens in Kent County, because I wanted other people to see what participants had made, and the quality of what people were able to achieve. On my website, I have lots of photos of things that people have made, and you’d be pretty amazed. And I had a CEO last week who told me his doctor told him he needed to find something to do as a hobby. So he hadn’t taken wood shop since high school. I was pretty amazed. He didn’t answer his phone once during the course of the week. So I think the most important thing is to leave your daily routine behind you and be able to immerse yourself in the craft and in all the nuances and all the focus that it takes in order to make something with your hands and make it beautiful.

Alec Dick of Chestertown making a table in an Ortiz workshop

“The process – most of these pieces take about five days. And in those five days, my hope is that people are willing to come into my world, see how I spend my day. And my day involves focusing on the work that I’m doing, focusing on the details, and trying to get my students, the folks who are taking my workshops, to focus on those details just as much as myself, so that at the end of the week they take home this piece that’s as good as, or nearly as good as, something that I’ve made.

“I mentioned earlier that older people are giving their furniture, their silver, their china to second-hand and thrift stores. The kids don’t want the furniture that their grandparents or parents bought. What he said took me by surprise and it opened up a door that I just wasn’t thinking was there. He told me he brought home the first piece of furniture that he made from the workshop, and in the course of a couple of weeks, his three sons came to visit. And each of them said to him, “I want that when you die.” So it became clear to him, ‘Well, OK, I need to make three pieces of furniture, one for each.’

“But what’s interesting to me is, now we’re talking about a heirloom that’s going to stay in the family, hopefully for several generations.”

Workshop participants and project.

Ortiz knows what that means. Among all the fine pieces in his shop, he showed the table his computer sits on. “That’s a table that my father made when we lived in a little apartment in Greenwich Village when I was a kid. My father had no workshop – he was a factory worker, he was a metal worker.  But that was a formica and metal table that he made. It’s always something that I’ve kept close by. And I guess to a certain extent the workshops are just a continuation of that. So – that’s what the workshops are about. The workshops are about legacy; the workshops are about coming and having fun; the workshops are about something, take it home, get to say every day, ‘I made that.’

The other thing that folks should know, I’m also willing to entertain other people’s designs. It sometimes costs a little more because I’ve got to figure out how we’re going to make them within the time frame.”

For more information about the workshops, and about Ortiz’s furniture, visit his website.

Furniture from the Daniel and Sophia furniture lines, made by Bob Ortiz in his Chestertown Studio:

   

   

 

     

Easton Sidewalks: Thinking about Anne Truitt on South Street

Anne Truitt childhood home in Easton

One of the more interesting projects that the Talbot Historical Society recently introduced was a running list of the most respected and well-known Talbot County residents over the last three hundred years or so. It’s a fascinating lineup but one can’t recall seeing Anne Dean Truitt’s name among the top one hundred.

There should be no surprize with that omission. While Anne Truitt’s sculptures and art are just a few degrees south of Andy Warhol’s work in commercial value these days, and the subject of more than a few major retrospectives at such places as the Hirshhorn Museum since her death in 2004,  it is still understandable that this brilliant art minimalist, who grew up on South Street, would not be on the tip of the tongue of most folks living in Easton these days.

Nor was Truitt in Easton that long. Her family left town when she was fourteen for Asheville, and never really returned to the Eastern Shore except to visit friends from time to time. The artist would move on to Bryn Mawr College, then training in psychology at Yale, and eventually marry to James Truitt, a Washington Post reporter who eventually became president of Newsweek.

Anne Truitt

One would think with that kind of biography, Anne Truitt’s Easton days would be a very limited chapter in her memory bank of experiences. But the truth was that the artist would continue to keep her memories of Easton and Talbot County very much alive as she matured as an artist.

We know this to be true from the publication of her best-selling journal, Daybook, which was published in 1982, where she recalls her life in Easton and documents the impact that the landscape of Talbot County had on her work.

Attention Rewarded: Anne Truitt

Whether it be on a farm just off of Leehaven Road or the family home on South Street, Truitt’s mother philosophy that, “children should be brought up like cabbages — with lots of sun and space and let alone to grow,” allowed Anne to roam as she pleased during the 1920s and 1930s. Or, as she wrote, “and so it was with the little town of Easton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: an orderly scattering of houses, mostly white clapboard, so small that even on my short legs I was able to encompass the town’s dimensions. ”

Truitt also fell in love with proportions as well as dimensions in Talbot County. She writes in her journal:

“The actual landscape, of course, remains, and I returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland now and then to look at it again. And at the houses in which I grew up.  The first of these is owned by a friend, and when I visit her I can see once again, by scrunching down, the proportions that taught me as a child. The house was probably built around the middle of the 18th century and is never been remodeled in any way. But what I remember is clearer to me than what I see today. I go back and yet cannot go back. Time has locked it all away from me as if I had died. I am irremediably thrust into my own mind, and there I find it all, in weights and lines and colors distinctively my own. Just as in my work I found it was the essence  rather than the objects that held me, so I find it is only the abstract part of my experience that is real for me. I wonder around the houses and gardens and see them with my physical eyes, while behind them glimmers the radiance of my vision. I have no home but me.”

Easton Sidewalks is an ongoing series of portraits of its streets and people

 

 

 

Mid-Shore Arts: Michael Kahn’s Labors of Love in Photography

While Michael Kahn’s photographs now on view at the Massoni Gallery in Chestertown stands out on a multitude of levels, the fact that he still produces these stunning images with such antiqued tools as film, negatives, and spending hours in a darkroom makes his work real labors of love as well as skill.

Armed with his trusty 1964 Hasselblad camera with its capacity to take only 12 shots per roll, Kahn has spent the last twenty years recording the remarkable beauty of ships and boats on the Chesapeake, in regattas, or lying still in small lakes the “old-fashioned way.”

Unlike today’s digital cameras and the computer software that has replaced the traditional darkroom, Michael has never been tempted to move into this new era of photography. Part of his reasoning is related to a sense of tradition, and the control he maintains in moving images from negatives to large format prints, but also because this process demands that one take time. There are no easy shortcuts, and for Kahn, that means better photos.

In his Spy interview, Michael talks about his lifelong commitment to the old ways of producing photography, as well as his enjoyment of the physical elements of creation that come with this process.

This video is approximately two minutes in length.  For more information about Michael Kahn’s show in Chestertown please go here

Michael Kahn | Summer 2017
Massoni Art Gallery
203 High St, Chestertown
June 24 – July 16

 

Review: FABRICation at the Academy Art Museum By Mary McCoy

Take your time when you go to see FABRICation, on view through July 9 at the Academy Art Museum. If you don’t allow yourself to stand and look and enjoy getting thoroughly lost in the colorful, animated details of its large-scale fabric artworks, you’ll lose out on savoring their intricacy, vibrant energy and thoughtful ruminations.

Erin E. Castellan, “Window,” acrylic, latex paint, thread, fabric

The show’s co-curators, Reni Gower and Kristy Deetz, are both university professors steeped in the history and practices of art. Their work and the work of the show’s other five artists is directly informed by art history—from Western art’s tradition of realism to 20th-century explorations of abstraction and cultural commentary. But all of it has to do with fabric and how the slow, physical process of creating art is becoming almost an alien activity in our fast-paced digital world.

Virginia Derryberry conjures complex stories about identity and the stages of life’s passages in her enormous quilts in which she combines traditional quilting, embroidery and trapunto with drawing and found object art, in this case actual dresses painstakingly stitched in place.

For Rachel Hayes, abstract painting and minimalism were the point of departure for her large fabric constructions. Her quilt, “Making Modern,” stitched from colored rectangles of fabric and vinyl chosen for their varying amounts of transparency, is bold and eye-catching, and its nuances entice you into looking closer. This is one of her smaller pieces and it’s worth googling photos of her large, outdoor works to see how deftly she uses “feminine” fabrics on a monumental scale to explore how power and fragility may be joined in a potent balance.

The exhibit offers a wide range of approaches. Susan Iverson’s graphic abstractions hand-woven into richly-hued strips of wool hung side-by-side form a quiet meditation on the lush trees and warm sunlight around her secluded woodland home. In contrast to her careful craftsmanship and formal presentation, Natalie Smith’s mixed media “Future Future Garden” is loose and casual. An amiable study of the process of bridging abstraction with the materiality of found objects, its simple brushstrokes painted in gray and green on unstretched canvas form a grid of small crosses that suddenly dissolve into a web of string and bits of cloth mimicking the brushstrokes yet occupying real space.

Reni Gower, “Fragments Encircled,” mixed media

In “Relativity Veil #1,” Deetz makes mischief with the Western painting tradition of realistic illusion. From a distance, her two wood panels appear to be wrapped with crinkled fabric but close-up, the illusion disintegrates into dense networks of small brushstrokes. To rub in the joke, she left a rectangle of bare wood in the center of one panel and a tromp l’oeil painting reproducing the same woodgrain in the center of the other.

In two exuberant, candy-bright works, Gower takes the energy of Abstract-Expressionism, Color Field painting and Pop Art to extremes with overlapping strips of canvas, cheesecloth, nylon and aluminum screens, plastic and anti-slip rug pads thickly brushed, splashed and printed with brilliant shades of acrylic paint. Artists such as Hans Hoffman, Jackson Pollock, Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns leap to mind but these pieces are veritable explosions of color and activity. So densely layered that their physical depth is almost sculptural, they offer a host of shifting perspectives. It’s fun to peer at them from different angles and see the changing relationships of the intricate, colorful details dancing across their variously solid and see-through layers of materials.

There’s a feminist aspect to this show in that all its artists are women and all work with fabric, but be advised, this is just a sub theme underlying and supporting the real thrust of the exhibit. Fully aware of the stigma, “women’s work,” historically attached to anything to do with cloth or sewing, these artists craftily play with concepts of the feminine as intuitive, nurturing and reflective in contrast to the cold rationality of our current technological culture. Their works are as large and bold as the work of the male artists who predominate in our museums, yet what they are communicating is not so much about gender and marginalization as about how art can be an antidote to the loss of our own humanity as we careen into constant immersion in the virtual world of digital technology.

Erin E. Castellan delights in the freedom she finds in saturating fabric with acrylic and latex paint highlighted with hand-stitching. Her two highly tactile works owe much to the accidental effects of the energetic gestures and free-flowing colors that the Abstract Expressionists reveled in, but to invite close and detailed observation, she augments the painterly patterns of drips and textures with dense patches of embroidery which pucker and pleat the cloth to hilarious effect.

The accompanying wall text reveals Castellan’s interest in “slow viewing,” a practice as essential to understanding and enjoying art as it is to life. In contrast with the passive states our various digital screens encourage, like the other artists in this show, her process of working is one of active experimentation and discovery. By being fully engaged with her physical materials and the effects they produce, she hones her awareness of how colors make us feel, about how certain shapes and gestures can reference landscape, human figures, physical sensation or emotion, and how art can take us into realms where it becomes possible to contemplate the complex relationships underlying the richness of human existence.

 

Spy Minute: Talbot’s Crashbox Theatre Company with Ricky Vitanovec and Kelly Bonnette

Crashbox Theatre, a summer program directed towards Talbot County youth, illustrates the unbelievable talent in theatre arts in our community and a direct link to the professional talents of New York City.

Richard (Ricky) Vitanovec, who serves our community as theatre teacher at Easton Middle School and Easton High School, is the Executive Director ~ Crashbox Theatre Company, and works tirelessly to develop relationships in New York that transfer to direct opportunities for local youth.

The latest partnership brings Brian Michael Hoffman from the SEUSICAL Off-Broadway show, loaded with experience from touring nationally with ANNIE, and Internationally with HERCULES, THE MUSE-ICAL. He even served on the film team for ANNIE and THE WIZ LIVE with Sony Studios and NBC’s PETER PAN LIVE. Hoffman specializes in Character Voices and Improv, while teaching expertexpert technique for acting for live audiences. Having his attention on our youth opens doors for the future.

Vitanovec attracts the experts due to his earned reputation in New York City as a serious talent developer and show producer and director. He holds a master’s degree in theatre production and has directed over thirty-three productions. He further contributes to our community by acting at Church Hill Theatre, Hugh Gregory Gallagher Theatre, Tred Avon Players and the St. Michael’s Community Center

The Spy sits down with Ricky  and Kelly Bonnette, the volunteer president of Crashbox, for an exclusive on what to expect this summer for our young actors and actresses.

As they say in theatre, the show must go on!

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Find out more about Crashbox please go here.

Spy Profile: Telling the Story of Veterans with Word and Music

The powerful synergy between the spoken word and music has been the source of some truly extraordinary moments in the history of storytelling. From symphony orchestras playing as the backdrop to poetry to prose interjected into rap songs, the human need to combine these powerful forms of communication into one is a time-honored tradition.

This form of fusion seems to have unlimited applications, but nowhere does it triumph more than when pairing the flexible range of jazz to a human being’s very special, and sometimes horrific journey after being at war.

A recent example of this merger can be found in Modern Warrior, a musical drama of a soldier’s journey towards post-traumatic growth. In this case, Dominick Farinacci, the gifted jazz trumpeter, composer and favorite performer at Chesapeake Music’s annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, connects through mutual friends with Jaymes Poling, a returning vet, to explore how Farinacci’s music may work collaboratively with the narrative of Poling’s moving war and postwar experience.

The early results of this teamwork appear to be a stunning success. Through the support of benefactors, many of whom make the Mid-Shore their home, Dominick and Jaymes have already created a “pilot” for the musical with a premier expected in New York City, and later Easton, at the end of the year.

The Spy caught up with the co-creators of Modern Warrior at Bullitt House last week to talk about the project.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Modern Warrior project please go here.

Church Hill Theatre: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”

 

Charlie Brown (Matt Folker) consults “Doctor” Lucy (Becca Van Aken)

Church Hill Theatre’s summer musical this year is “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” directed by Sylvia Maloney. “Charlie Brown” is, of course, based on the popular comic strip, “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Shultz, which in its heyday may have been the most widely read newspaper strip of all time. (One of its rivals for that distinction, “Li’l Abner,” was also the inspiration for a Broadway musical.)

The show was created by song writer Clark Gesner in 1966, near the height of the strip’s popularity. Gesner originally wrote a series of songs based on the “Peanuts” strip, but after Shultz gave his permission, he released a concept album with Orson Bean singing the title role. Eventually, “Charlie Brown” was developed into a full-fledged musical that appeared off-Broadway in 1967 and ran for 1,597 performances. It opened on Broadway in 1971, and had a short run, but the off-Broadway performances had already established it as a hit, A 1998 revival added new dialogue and songs, but the CHT production uses the original script.

The cast of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” performs a musical number

“Charlie Brown” has been one of the most popular shows for school and community theater – I know of at least two previous productions in the local area, one at Kent County High School (also directed by Maloney) and one at Centreville High School (directed by Shelagh Grasso). The premise of the comic strip – children performing their normal activities while expressing deeper, more adult thoughts – nicely translates to the stage, with adults cast in the role of the Peanuts characters. This is part of the fun – that traditionally all the roles are played by actors “remembering” what it was like to act and think like an elementary school or pre-school child. The youngest actor here is in junior high, while the oldest ones are over 50.

Like the newspaper strip, the play is largely episodic – there is no long-range plot, and the characters remained essentially unchanged over the course of the comic strip. It is, in effect, a series of brief gags strung together – some developed at a bit more length, and of course there are repeated themes, but if you go to the theater expecting a “story,” you won’t get one. Instead, it depicts typical activities of a child’s day.

That said, almost all the famous bits “Peanuts” readers would expect are here. Snoopy takes on the Red Baron in a World War I dogfight; Schroeder plays Beethoven on his toy piano; Lucy steals Linus’s security blanket; Charlie Brown pines for the little red-haired girl but never gets up the courage to go talk to her; and the gang manages to extend what must be the longest losing streak in baseball history. About the only iconic gag that doesn’t get portrayed onstage is Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick – and that really depended on its repetition over several years, which Charlie Brown falling for the same trick again and again.

Despite having been originally conceived as a song cycle, “Charlie Brown” does not have a particularly memorable musical score. The lyrics to the songs are undeniably witty – given the source, how could they be anything else? — and the CHT cast performs them with plenty of spirit. The ensemble numbers, including “Beethoven Day,” “The Book Report,” “The Baseball Game” and “The Glee Club Rehearsal” are probably the strongest. In the performance I saw, there were a few spots where the lyrics of solo songs got covered up by the orchestra – that’s too bad, because they really are the whole point of the songs, which are basically sung dialogue.

Schroder (David Ryan) plays Beethoven for Lucy (Becca Van Aken)

Matt Folker takes the role of Charlie Brown, and he does a great job with the character, making very effective use of facial expressions and body language. It’s a tribute to his acting that, in spite of being the tallest person on stage, he clearly projects Charlie’s vulnerability and insecurity. Another strong performance by one of Church Hill’s most reliable leading men.

Becca Van Aken plays Charlie’s nemesis, Lucy. She is superb in conveying the character’s bossy and crabby nature – an almost perfect bit of casting. And then, after the other kids responses to a survey convince her they think she really is crabby, Van Aken nicely conveys her crushed ego and sense of remorse – a surprising switch that many actors would have trouble portraying.

The role of Linus, Lucy’s younger brother, is taken by Elliott Morotti, a freshman in Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn. Despite his youth, he is already a veteran of musical theater, with appearances in several CHT performances and the Chesapeake Children’s Theater. His does a good job capturing the character’s combination of immaturity and philosophical depth.

David Ryan, who is pastor of First and Christ Methodist Churches in Chestertown, is making his CHT debut as Schroder after several roles at the Garfield. He portrays the character enthusiastically, really getting into playing Beethoven on the toy piano.

Sally, Charlie Brown’s younger sister, is played by Maya McGrory, a CHT veteran despite her young age. She gives a charming performance as the young girl who’s still struggling with challenges from jumping rope to school assignments.

Julie Lawrence takes the role of Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s super-talented beagle, and she turns in one of the best performances in the show. It’s a great comic role, with lots of physical schtick and mugging, and Lawrence takes it all easily in stride. As a bonus, she  has one of the best singing voices in the cast. I especially enjoyed her dance routine, Snoopy’s version of the old soft shoe, complete with top hat and a bone for a cane.

Snoopy (Julie Lawrence) does the old soft shoe

Another half dozen characters make up an ensemble, though they each get a few scenes where they can establish themselves. In the CHT production, Morgan Armstrong plays Frieda, Jarrett Plante plays Pig Pen, Samantha Smith is Peppermint Patty, Amy Gillilland is Violet, Faith McCarthy is Marcie and Katie Sardo is Woodstock, Snoopy’s birdie friend. They did a good job of portraying the moods and activities of young school children — skipping, agonizing over homework, licking lollipops, and playing games.

The orchestra for this performance includes Ellen Barry Grunden as pianist and conductor; Tom Anthony on bass; Ron Demby on clarinet and flute; Frank Gerber on percussion; and Jane Godfrey on violin. There were a few tuning problems early at the performance I saw, but the group came together and delivered a good performance overall.

Michael Whitehill and Brian Draper designed and built the set for the show, and it captures the spirit of childhood. Oversize items – a bench, Snoopy’s doghouse, building blocks – emphasize the fact that the characters are all supposed to be small children. So when Folker has to pull himself up on the bench, it makes it easier to forget that he’s six-foot-something instead of a typical first-grader.

The audience had a good time at the production I saw – Saturday night of opening week. A lot of them were clearly long-time “Peanuts” fans, and they empathized with poor Charlie and laughed at the antics of Snoopy and Woodstock. This is really a show that delivers a lot of laughs and sends the audience home with a warm feeling – just what the doctor ordered as an antidote to the evening news. It’s a good show for children, too.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” continues through June 25, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for CHT members and $10 for students. For reservations or more information, call the theater office at 410-556-9003 or visit the theater website.

Photos by Steve Atkinson

Mid-Shore Art: Howard and Mary McCoy in the Woods Again

The forest is an unending source of inspiration for environmental artists Howard and Mary McCoy. On view in the woods at Adkins Arboretum through Sept. 30, their show of site-specific sculptures is called Suggestions because each of its ten works was directly suggested by what they found there. They will lead a sculpture walk during the show’s reception on Sat., June 24 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Since these two Centreville artists first began creating outdoor sculpture at the Arboretum in 1999, their work has become more and more directly inspired by the trees and vines along its shady paths.

“This is our tenth biennial show,” said Mary McCoy. “Over the years, certain places in the forest have become so familiar, they’re like old friends. We want to draw attention to them and help other people to get to know them, too.”

When the artists were walking through the forest this spring planning their show, they stopped at a favorite pine tree unusual for its three trunks. Howard McCoy began to think of “Accumulation,” a sculpture from their 2015 show, in which the artists had suspended a massive pile of branches in the lower branches of a tall pine tree.

“So we created a kind of inversion of that,” he said. “Instead of the branches being tucked around the tree, we inserted branches between the trunks of this triple-trunk pine.”

Although the McCoys rarely use any materials other than the natural ones they find in the forest, two of the show’s works include words either printed on cloth or written directly on a fallen tree.

Mary is both an artist and a writer who has published reviews and articles on art since the 1980s. During a quiet walk alone in the forest, she listened to what the trees might have to tell her. Two short poems came from this visit. One of them, “History of a Tree,” is just four words long: “Earth, Sun, Rain, Wind.”

“I was thinking about what caused this tree to be lying here in the forest,” she explained, “how it grew up from a seed in the ground, matured and finally was blown down.”

The two artists had also wanted to make sculpture with some grapevines swooping high into the trees along a path to the Arboretum’s Nancy’s Meadow. Directly across the path was another site that interested them, a sweetgum tree that vines had pulled down low to the ground in a graceful arch.

“‘Linear Elements (Free Form)’ was suggested by swooping vines that were already there,” Mary said. “We added more long, curving vines. And that sweetgum arch was just begging to be sculpture, so for ‘Linear Elements (Structured),’ we decided to point it out with a row of straight sections of vine that suggest not only architectural elements but also the straight, vertical tree trunks in the forest.”

“It’s interesting how when we’re working in the woods, we’re always using basic art principles,” Howard commented. “All the formal things from drawing class, like balance, composition, texture, movement, all the things we learned in class that now we’re applying out there in the woods.”

“How fortunate we are to get to explore ideas out there,” he added. “We’ve had full support from the Arboretum’s directors over the years, and some of the other programs, certainly the children’s program and the journaling class, have used what we’ve done out there as inspiration. The forest communicates with us through suggestion. All we have to do is pay attention.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through Sept. 30 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410–634–2847, ext. 0 or info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

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Week Two of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival Opens with a Czech Concert

Pianist Robert McDonald

The second week of the renowned Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival will begin with a lively Czech-inspired concert and reception on Sunday, June 11 at 3 p.m. at the Aspen Institute, situated on the banks of the Wye River.  A Czech-inspired picnic will follow the concert and will include such delicacies as Czech-style latkes and meatballs, a variety of savory open-faced sandwiches and dips, wild mushroom tarts and salmon croquettes, as well as trifles, bread puddings and compotes for dessert.

According to Festival pianist Robert McDonald, “The Sunday concert at the Aspen Institute is drawn from the works of the three most important Czech composers—Dvorak, Janacek, and Smetana. Their styles succeed at being both strongly individual and complimentary all at once. National folk influences along with heartfelt emotional directness represent the defining strengths in their music.”

The Smetana G Minor Trio that closes the June 11 program is a tribute to Smetana’s beloved four-year old daughter who had died and, according to McDonald, is one of the truly memorable works in the Romantic chamber music literature.

During the week, Festival-goers will then be enthralled by the energetic music of Italian, French, Hungarian and Russian composers at concerts to be held at the Oxford Community Center, the Academy Art Museum and the Avalon Theatre.  And, after enjoying the music of Italian composers Vivaldi and Tartini at the Oxford Community Center on Wednesday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m., concert-goers can make reservations afterwards for an optional, Italian-themed dinner created by Chef Mark Salter at the Robert Morris Inn.

McDonald adds, “Though most concert programs that we play are constructed of works by composers from a variety of national backgrounds, it is always refreshing to put together recitals that draw exclusively from a single country as inspiration. This offers listener and performer alike a chance to compare the enormous range of musical styles that exist under the umbrella of a shared language, history, and national customs.”

Musicians performing at the Avalon Theatre at the opening concert of this year’s Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival. Photo by Cal Jackson.

The Festival wraps up with the Angels Concert at Watermelon Point in Easton featuring music of Latin America, with a catered reception by Gourmet by the Bay. The reception will feature such Eastern Shore favorites as crab-n-corn fritters with red pepper remoulade and charred vegetable gazpacho with lump crab, as well as such Latin favorites as fried plantains with a spicy pineapple relish and a tapas buffet including vegetable empanadas, chorizo stuffed mushrooms with queso blanco, and jerk chicken drummettes. Desserts will include salted dulce de leche tarts, banana coconut pudding shots, chocolate tres leches cake bites, and key lime raspberry tarts.

Sponsors of this year’s Festival include the Talbot County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, The Star Democrat, Talbot Spy, and What’s Up Media. Additional generous financial support from corporate, public and private benefactors enables Chesapeake Music to offer affordable tickets for Festival concerts and recitals; open rehearsals are free to the general public. 

This year’s concerts offer the opportunity to travel the world through an incredible variety of music with internationally-acclaimed artists right here on the Eastern Shore.  To purchase tickets, visit www.ChesapeakeMusic.org or call 410 819-0380. To make reservations for the optional fixed-price dinner at the historic Robert Morris Inn, call 410-226-5111. Registrations for the Angels Concert must be made by June 12.