Monday, March 25, 2013

The Folklore of Brothers

Sibling rivalry and brotherly love are at the heart of one of our most basic family relationships. Since the dawn of time, the details of fraternal workings have been explored again and again in myths, legends and folktales. Countless are the lessons they tell about how to – or how not to – resolve familial conflicts.

Romulus and Remus who founded Rome, the linguistic Brothers Grimm who recorded fairytales and the Harbaugh brothers who coached competing football teams in the Super Bowl spark our collective curiosity. What happens when each brother has his own idea about how to live life and about what is fair, right and wrong. What happens if they have differences that remain unresolved?

Cinnabar Theater brings the subject to light in their production of The Price, a 1968 play by Arthur Miller. In this piece Miller explores the conflict between brothers after the death of their father. Victor and Walter Franz are estranged. Choices made in the past come to light when they meet to take care of their father’s estate. The situation highlights each one’s sense of entitlement, responsibility and more.

I spoke recently with Charles Siebert of Healdsburg an award winning actor who plays the role of Gregory Solomon, an older Russian-Jewish antique dealer whom the brothers bring their father’s furnishings to about brothers, family dynamics and more.

Siebert’s noted Broadway appearances include the 1968 musical "Jimmy Shine," featuring Dustin Hoffman in the title role; Neil Simon's "The Gingerbread Lady," with Maureen Stapleton; and the 1974 revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," with Elizabeth Ashley and Fred Gwynne.

He has also appeared in a range of TV shows, including "Another World," "As The World Turns," and  "The Rockford Files." Following his performance as Dr. Stanley Riverside II, on "Trapper John, M.D.” he worked as a director for several successful television series including "Xena: Warrior Princess."

Q: This play is about family dynamics, in particular two brothers who have tensions about past decisions.  What does your character Gregory Solomon the antique dealer make of the sibling conflicts?

A: He's been around a long long time and has seen many conflicts of this nature before. He has the wisdom of age (his name is Solomon after all) and understands this tension. He tries to help the brothers understand that little will come of their continuing animosity towards one another but at the end he simply accepts the reality, shrugs his shoulders, and says, "What can you do?"

Q: Do you yourself have siblings? If so how does your own experience inform your role as Solomon? Issues between siblings is not new. Critical life passages (such as birth and death) can alter those relationships.

A: I am the oldest of four sons. Solomon resonates for me because of his heritage. He is described by the author as being Russian Yiddish. Essentially, my creation of the character is a channeling of our grandfather, Samuel Rosenblum, of Minsk (in what is now Belarus). My brothers and I have had our conflicts and estrangements over the years but all is well now.

Q: Your character understands the brothers’ have a strained relationship, yet he does not meddle in their affairs. Why not?

A: Solomon has lived a long life, seen much and is at philosophical peace with the world. He's not a hero either but simply a tough nut who has endured and continues to endure with a sense of humor and sagacity.

Q: What do you hope audiences gain from this production? 

A: The satisfaction of recognition. There is a great cathartic effect to experiencing a work of art in which the audience sees a life situation they know well, elegantly worked out in front of them leaving them with a satisfaction, not necessarily in how the problem resolves, but rather in the exhilaration of the shared experience. We all have the same emotions, thoughts, hopes, dreams, disappointments, tragedies, but art makes them a bit more bearable. This play touches us and brings, for the moment, closer together.

The Price, opened on Broadway in 1968 and over the course of its Broadway career was performed 429 times.  It was nominated for two 1968 Tony Awards, for Best Play and Best Scenic Design. In 1971 it was adapted for television as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame on the NBC network.
About The Play: Runs through April 7. 8pm Friday-Saturday and 2 pm on Sunday. Tickets: $15-$25. For reservations, call (707) 763.8920. Cinnabar Theater: 3333 Petaluma Blvd N., Petaluma. Details: Photo: Eric Chazankin

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Women's History: Performing Arts

March is Women's History Month. It is the perfect time to take a look at some of the women who  have made their mark on the performing arts. Here are three women who changed song, acting and dance:

Marian Anderson (1902-1995) - Anderson was the first African American to sing a leading role with Metropolitan Opera. This “baby contralto” was raised in poverty and trained herself to play the piano. 

She sang at prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall. When the racial divide stopped her from performing  at the Washington D.C.’s constitution Hall; she was invited by an outraged Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter. 1991, she was recognized with the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dorothy Dandridge (1923-1965). Dandridge was an actress, singer and dancer known for her roles in Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess. She was Hollywood’s first African American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in a lead role. Her work from the bottom to the top paved the way for African American actresses, such as Halle Berry. 

Isadora Duncan (1875-1929). Duncan is considered to be the "Mother of modern dance." This San Francisco, California native had a  poetic way of speaking about dance. Influenced by Greek and renaissance art, she wove walking and running in her modern dance language and was known for her ability to use improvisation. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Valerie Storey Bridges Creativity Paths

Valerie Storey is a writer and a artist who has not only found a way to bring these expressive pathways together but has managed to make the result into a bridge that other writers and artists can cross.

A Twitter friend (@valeriestorey) this Albuquerque, New Mexico resident recently took time out of her highly inspirational schedule to answer a few questions about one of her newest endeavors, Art Journal Tip. This creative blog offers insights and prompts for writers and artists of all ages and levels. It also provides how-to steps that are easy to follow.

Q: As a writer and artist your Art Journal Tips offer a visual pathway into writing. Can you explain briefly why you have chosen to provide these artful tips for writers?

A: Until recently, I used to teach creative writing on a regular basis. At the same time I started several writing groups for women in my area. For both of these activities I needed a continuous source of inspiration and motivation, and art journaling seemed the perfect way to achieve this. I found it to be so much fun that I now can’t imagine writing without pictures, whether it’s for my art journal or the draft of a novel. When I started my blog several years ago, I wanted to share that same visual enjoyment online.
Q: Share your writing journey with us. When did you first know you were a writer (what were the signs/were there any signs?).

A: I wanted to write ever since I was little. I loved reading as a child, and was often in trouble for reading instead of doing my homework. As a teenager I wanted to be a poet, which might sound a little naive—many teens love to write poetry—but I wanted to go beyond the “stream-of-consciousness, let all my feelings out” type of poetry. I read T.S. Eliot and e.e. cummings voraciously and I wanted to grab their lines and make them my own somehow. Unfortunately I had zero support growing up. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized (living) people really could write books, and maybe I could be one of them. I’ve been fortunate to have had several wonderful writing mentors along the way, people who said, “Just begin—keep a journal, don’t give up.” 

Q: What books have you written? Other writing credits?

A: My first published books were for young readers. They were about New Zealand and written under the name Valerie Keyworth. Later I switched to my married name, Valerie Storey, and wrote The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript as a text for my writing classes. I next co-authored a book with parapsychologist, Dr. William Roll: Unleashed, of Poltergeists and Murder, the Curious Story of Tina Resch, which was optioned for a feature film. This was followed by a children’s mystery, The Great Scarab Scam and a YA novel, Better Than Perfect. My most recent book, Overtaken, is a Gothic romance for adult readers. Last year I had the honor of being invited to contribute a chapter to Now Write! Mysteries edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson. 

Q: Please tell us about your work as an artist. What mediums/genres do you work with?

A: My journey as an artist is almost identical to my writing history. In the same way I was told I would never be able to become a writer, I was told that people like me didn’t become artists; I was just too ordinary! Consequently, I didn’t begin any artwork until I was well established in my writing and teaching career. Sometimes I think the reason I loved writing so much was that I could hide it better than my artwork. To compensate for my fear and longing, I studied art history and read as much as I could about the lives of artists and the various historical art movements. I also went to as many museums and art galleries as was humanly possible, but I had no belief or hope that I could paint anything myself. Finally after years and years of wishing I could draw I got up the courage to take private art instruction from a woman who was a professional potter. Not only did she teach me to draw and work with watercolors, but I discovered I loved working with ceramics too, maybe most of all. Now my daily art practice is so essential to me that when I look back on how terrified I was to even make a simple sketch, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. My current medium of choice is oil pastels. Other favorites include graphite and water-soluble pencils, watercolor paints, and any and everything that can be turned into a collage. 

Q: You mention in your blog that you have set yourself a goal of 52 paintings for 2013. How’s it going so far?

A: It’s going great. So far I’m in the middle of painting #7, and I’ve got #8 and #9 blocked out ready to start working on in a few weeks. A very important part of this exercise was for me to just paint and relax into the process and not judge whether a painting is “good” or “bad.” That said, I think it will be interesting to line them all up at the end of the year and see what subjects, color palettes, and mediums spoke the loudest to me, and what, if anything, I would want to change or perhaps keep working on.

Q: The online and free Art Journal Tips is beautifully done. The visual balance and poise are welcoming. Where there any special considerations you had to look at when creating it?

A: I truly appreciate you saying this—it means the world to me! Putting my designs and ideas online was a big step. I agonized for weeks prior to publishing my first blog and website. I think what finally pulled me through was keeping in mind why I was doing any of it—the same reason I taught creative writing: to support new writers and to help them feel good about their creativity. So when I post anything, whether it’s the text or the accompanying artwork, my mantra is: How can I help? I want people to feel relaxed and inspired to explore and develop their own potential. 

Q: Where can people go to learn more about you, your writing and your art?

A: The best place is or they can go directly to my blog The website has a link to my blog as well as to my Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts. I’m also setting up a special website to sell my artwork for the first time (!) and I hope to have that ready by the summer.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Whales: Mysterious Sea Creatures

In folklore (legends, tales and myths) animals play an important role. As representatives of the natural world they have freedoms and capabilities not available to human beings. This makes them either allies or foes and over the eons people have found ways to ‘work with’ these creatures in a way that will ensure a society’s survival. For cultures that exist along coastal shorelines, the whale is highly regarded as a source of supra-natural power. 

Whales have been considered to be monsters of the sea.  These 100-ton beasts are feared by many because of their size.   In other cultures they are allies who help bridge the distance between islands as well as between mankind and the mysterious world he lives in.

While some culture myths regard these great mammals as gods, others hunt them down as demons of the sea.  Over the decades many famous stories about whales have been created.  

Here are some popular stories about whales:
Moby Dick – This iconic whale is the subject of Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick.  After Captain Ahab loses his leg to Moby Dick, he becomes obsessed with revenge and dedicates the rest of his life to hunting down the great whale.  The story was inspired by the real whale, Mocha Dick, who swam the Pacific Ocean in the 19th century and survived over 100 attacks by whaling ships, even destroying a few with his great fluke.
Jonah and the Whale – In bibliography, Jonah runs away from God to Joppa and hides out on the sea in a fishing boat.  God sends a great storm throwing Jonah overboard and he is immediately swallowed whole by the whale.  After three days in the belly of the whale, Jonah seeks repentance and the whale spits him out onto dry land.
Yu –kiang – In Chinese culture it was believed that the whale, Yu-kiang, was a mythical creature who ruled the sea.  He had the hands and feet of a man and when angered, he would turn into a giant bird and cause devastating wind storms across the ocean.

Want some whale facts?
-Whales breathe through a hole on top of their head called a “blow hole.”
-Sperm whales have the largest brain on the planet.
-Whales eat 110-330 pounds of meat every day.

These magnificent creatures have become so famous over the years that some cultures even hold festivals to honor them.  In Little River, California, the Little RiverWhale Festival takes place March 9-10,2013.  The festival consists of sea cave tours, whale watching expeditions, great food from local chefs and more.