Monday, March 21, 2011

Teach Your Children Well

In case you missed him on the radio, check out Mr. Porter's blog to read about the love he gave to "A Thousand Clowns" in his latest review.

That performance arts training hotspot, SPARC, had another boffo event this past weekend. The faculty banded together to produce a cabaret spotlighting the significant talents of the staff. It was a great idea and made for a very entertaining show. In talking to some of the performers afterwards, some of them took the opportunity to do a piece they would never actually be appropriate for on stage, a good indication to me that the staff at SPARC aren’t just talented teachers, actors, dancers, and singers but also students of their respective genres. They could have phoned it in, just doing one of their usual audition pieces. But instead, they gave it their all, stretching themselves and providing a delightful show for everyone who attended.

The highlights from the show are really too numerous to single out. But it was a real treat to see Erin Foley in three monologues sprinkled throughout the evening and to learn that she’ll be in “Circle Mirror Transformation” at the Barksdale soon. Matt Polson was both tuneful and hilarious with his “I am Adolfo” and I liked that Ali Thibodeau and Robin Harris both got a chance to belt out a solo. The performance of “Without Love” begged the earnest entreaty: will someone do “Hairspray” here sometime soon? Please? And there was a dance/art/poetry piece that ended up being pretty entrancing. Given that it involved people getting paint all over their feet, it looked like a lot of fun too!

A real surprise to me was hearing such a big beautiful voice from Deb Clinton having only seen her on stage in straight plays. And finally, the whole evening was hosted by a coterie of SPARC’s most charming and talented students – Meg Carnahan, Allison Gilman, Jessie Jennison and Michael Thibodeau – who make me wish I was back in high school every time I see them together. When did theater kids get so cool?

Speaking of young Ms. Gilman, she is one of the kids featured in the cover story of the latest Richmond Family magazine that talks about SPARC quite a bit as part of talking about young performers in general. The issue has been out for a while so you may have seen it. Pick it up to read about Allison as well as Eric Pastore and Ellie Wilson (who played Gretl in “Sound of Music” not Liesl as mentioned in the article. Kinda funny though that the actress who played Liesl – Ali Thibodeau – is a teacher at SPARC). The article also features a somewhat hilarious juxtaposition, mentioning a certain Timberline kid and then following it by listing former SPARC student Jason Mraz and Tony-nominated actress Emily Skinner. Hmmm. Not exactly parallel in terms of their acclaim and accomplishments. Well, at least not yet…

One last SPARC-related tidbit: I just read today that Henley Street Theatre Company will be using SPARC’s black box space as their performance venue next season. Given the challenges of Pine Camp, I expect this will be a boon to Henley Street and probably not a bad thing for SPARC either. I love a win-win situation.


Foster Solomon said...

Of course I'm biased and I don't care. You forgot to mention the BRILLIANT Susan Sanford!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dave. Oh, and incidently, I thought the band was decent.--Tony Williams

Tony Williams said...

So were they singing a cappella or was there a band?