I’ve been in school for acting for almost four years now. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing or what an acting class would entail. When I took my partner to see Montana Repertory Theatre’s production of “Circle Mirror Transformation” by Annie Baker this weekend at the Downtown Dance Collective, it had completely slipped my mind that neither did she. I could feel her initial confusion matched only by my excitement of recognition.
Acting exercises are funny. There’s not much else to it. They’re just plain weird. Jumping around and making noises, having nonsense conversations, stretching and meditation and active listening exercises seem like they’d be more at home in a support group or some sort of interactive-therapeutic-yoga regimen. It’s only when you work with one group of people and buy into the work that they become. . .not so strange. The transformation of strange to normal happens in tandem with "stranger-to-friend."
This is the audiences’ ride during the play, part of MRM’s new Visions and Voices initiative, an attempt to bring back theater to the downtown arts community in a more viable way than before. Theatre has changed dramatically in the past twenty years in art centers in metropolitan areas, and Missoula is struggling to catch up. Greg Johnson at the Montana Rep has said that he hopes that Visions and Voices will engage new audiences in story-telling experiences that they’re not used to.
Once the audience acclimates to the strange and intimate setting of an adult community acting class, the small insights into each of the characters’ lives feel so special and specific to the audience that it’s hard to remember that what you’re watching isn’t real; and to be honest, that’s the true mark of a good production.
Performances today and tomorrow at Downtown Dance Collective, 121 W. Main St, Feb. 22-23 at 7:30 PM, with Saturday matinee at 2 PM. $15/$10 for students.
The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival jury has spoken.
Best Feature: A World Not Ours, "an intimate and funny portrait of three generations of exile in the refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh, in southern Lebanon. This one was made by filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel about the Palestinian refugee camp where he grew up. The judges called it "highly personal and strikingly universal.”
The Big Sky Award: Uranium Drive-In, "the gripping story of a once-booming Colorado mining town as it grapples with the prospect of a return to the mining industry that offers a conflicting mix of economic prosperity and environmental and health challenges." Directed by Susan Beraza. The judges said, “The filmmakers took great care with the subject and the characters and the result is a powerful story about life in the west.” (They also got a cash prize of $1000 sponsored by the Montana Film Office.)
Best Short: The Record Breaker, "the funny and surprisingly heartfelt tale of Ashrita Furman, the man with the most Guinness World Records of all time." Directed by Brian McGinn. The judges called it, “witty, fast-paced and accomplished."
Best Mini-Doc: Eugene, "tracks the last days of a homeless man living in the outskirts of San Francisco." Directed by Jordan Olshanksy and Jason Stanfield.
(Both the Short and Mini-Doc films are eligible for consideration at next year's Oscars.)
Artistic Vision for Feature Film: Trucker and the Fox, directed by Arash Lahooti.
Artistic Vision for Big Sky: Transmormon, directed by Torben Bernhard.
Artistic Vision for Short: Prison Terminal, directed by Edgar Barens.
Artistic Vision for Mini-Doc: Adrift, directed by Frederik Depickere.
If you missed them, you can catch screenings of the winners at the Wilma Sun., Feb. 23. We also recommend checking out "Movies You Missed," which includes films that have been popular with audiences at this year's festival. Those include:
Art is War
Herd in Iceland
Shaped on All Six Sides
Mistaken for Strangers
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker
Beyond the Divide
There's always some gems in that lot. Those screen at the Crystal and Top Hat on Sun., as well. Visit bigskyfilmfest.org for a full schedule.
Missoula-based filmmaker Rale Sidebottom made a short film about Sad Boy Sinister, a South Bay hardcore band, and it screens tonight as part of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. It's a portrait of a punk band trying to keep punk alive post 1988 and it includes interview with the lead singer Tony D., who talks about what it means to be punk and how that changes as you get older and have kids.
Along with a few cool interviews you get a chance to hear some good old dirty punk music, and see shots that give a nice slice of an old scene. Check out the trailer below. You can catch the 29-minute film at the Crystal tonight, Thu. Feb. 20, at 6:45. It plays along with a few other shorts, including a collaborative animation film designed by top Canadian artists using yellow sticky notes and Who Shot Rock and Roll, which tells the stories behind some of the most iconic rock and roll photographs.
On Dec. 20, 2007, the Indy printed a review by Andy Smetanka of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. As Smetanka was prone to do, the review went down an unconventional path—this one ending up as a love letter to the film's star.
In light of the actor's death Sunday morning, the review, "Still the Best: Adoring Philip Seymour Hoffman," captures a great deal of what people will miss about the actor. An excerpt:
We love him as a warped moral mirror and a medium for exorcising our feeblest, most cowardly hankerings by acting them out on our behalf.
You can read the full review here.
"Oh honey, tramps like us/baby we were born to run," and other lyrics from the Boss serve as the backdrop to Glenn Marx's story about Whitehall, Mont. Marx is the former publisher of the Whitehall Ledger and his new book, Talk About a Dream, gives a little insight into growing up in a small town, though it's fiction. The book takes place in 1986 and it's about many things: football, family, music, rural living. All proceeds from the book go to saving Whitehall's last remaining movie theater, the Star Theatre. He signs and sells books today from 1 to 3 PM at Missoula's Fact & Fiction.
Here are a few questions I asked Marx about the book and his obsession with Bruce.
How did your love for Bruce Springsteen turn into a book?
Glenn Marx: What evolved into a book started as a story to my two kids. They were both raised in Whitehall and both went to Whitehall High School and they both ended up in college at NYU. They left Montana and it was unclear when and how or possibly even if they were even going to return. And so I wanted to tell them a story to show them how lucky they were to have been raised here in Montana—that not everybody has that good fortune. That was job one [in writing the book]. Job two was I wanted them to understand how music and lyrics and art can truly impact you. And certainly music is art and even rock and roll is art. I'm 58 and I can remember hearing "Born to Run" in my college dorm room and the guitars and the drum went through my body and into my heart and 40 years later that song still does that. For me there’s two kinds of music on earth: There’s Bruce Springsteen and there’s everything else.
What are some of your favorite songs of his?
Marx: He has a suite of songs that have the word “land” in them" "Badlands," "Promise Land," "Jungleland," "Land of Hopes and Dreams," "Hard Land." My favorite song depends, well, it depends on where you are and who you're with and what your mood is.
What's the significance of 1986 to Talk About a Dream?
Marx: I wanted to tell a story pre-technology. I wanted to tell the story before there were significant technological upgrades in weekly journalism. And I wanted to set the story in a meaningful Bruce Springsteen phase. This was right after Born in the USA came out.
Tell me about your drive to raise money for the Star Theatre.
Marx: The town of Whitehall has had economic misfortune in recent years. We had a cataclysmic fire in spring of 2009 when a major section of a commercial area burned down. And since 2009 it has not been rebuilt. It is a major vacant lot on the corner of what ought to be the most prosperous corner of Whitehall. So when the Star Theatre sent a signal that they needed to get new technology or the theater might have to close the thinking was if the theater closes it will never reopen. The theater is not just a business, it’s a place of entertainment and where kids can go. It’s a hub. It keeps people in town. It would be a quality-of-life blow if it closed. So immediately there was an effort strated called Save the Star. And I had this story that I had sent to my two kids. At that time it only existed in a word document—that was as public as it got. I called up the movie theater owners and Save the Star [and offered the book so that] every penny that’s generated from sales should go to the Star. save the star. They looked at it and liked it. It’s a nice synchronicity that it’s book about Whitehall with scenes in it that pertain to the Star Theatre. We put together funds to get the book printed. And to show there's even more synchronicity in the world we ended up with a printer in Naples, Fla., called Whitehall Printers. We need $80,000 and Save the Star has raised just over $70,000. I think we're going to get the job done. It would be a nice success story for the community of Whitehall.
Why, as a newspaper guy, did you decide to do a novel?
Marx: I wanted to let my imagination wander. There were stories I wanted to tell and examples I wanted to give that didn’t happen in real life. I was in Whitehall last fall and an old lady came up to me and she said, "I was down at the beauty shop and we were trying to figure out who the floozy is based on." I had to laugh and tell her the person she categories as "the floozie" isn’t based on anybody and there’s a lot of characters in the book not based on anybody. But that has not stopped Whitehall residents from trying to figure out who's supposed to be who. it’s become kind of a game.
How do your kids feel about Springsteen?
Marx: I had the good fortune a couple of years ago of going to New York and seeing Bruce Springsteen in Albany with my daughter. There’s a song called "Out in the Street" that's very much an audience participation song where he sings and the audience sings and the audience has to carry the bridge of the music from section to section. I can remember during my daughter’s early teenage years, she had a bit of a rebellious streak, and "Out in the Street" was playing and I was singing it and I turned the sound down and turned to her and I said "Wouldn’t you like to be
in a crowd of 50,000 people all singing along the lyrics of this song...?" and she turned to me and said, "Not if I was standing next to you." Which she might have meant at that time, but years later, when we saw Bruce in Albany...Springsteen played it and my daughter and I put our arms around each other and sang along to the whole song so life turns out good. You’ve got to mark those great moments that bring you great joy. And that was one of those moments.
Way to go, Barb and all. A life of its own. Well begun, well continued…