Saturday, November 29, 2008

Today's Date: Arts News & Notables

By Sharon McDaniel

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (1868), was born in Philadelphia on Nov. 29, 1832, and grew up in New England. An ardent abolitionist, she volunteered in the Civil War as a nurse and served for six weeks (1862-1863) at a Union hospital. (Photo: Nancy Porter Productions,; Louisa at age 20)

She also wrote Work (1872), an autobiographical novel exposing the exploitation of women workers and the harmful effects of the Industrial Era. Later in life, Alcott became an advocate of women's suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Mass., in a school board election. Alcott died in Boston on March 6, 1888, at age 55.
(An opera of the same title and story was composed by American Mark Adamo. Little Women premiered in Houston in 1998 to critical acclaim. Dozens of productions followed, with a debut on both CD and PBS television in 2001.)

More Nov. 29 News & Notables

1919: Pearl Primus, celebrated dancer, choreographer, and writer, was born in Trinidad on this date in 1919. Primus is perhaps best-known for her dance, Strange Fruit, in which she portrays a woman who witnesses a lynching. (Photo by Barbara Morgan, in Speak to Me of Rivers, 1944)

1915: William "Billy" Strayhorn, pianist and composer, and famous for his work in Duke Ellington's band, was born in Dayton, Ohio, on this date in 1915. His skilled songwriting was demonstrated in such songs as Satin Doll and Take the 'A' Train.

1924: Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer, died in Brussels, Belgium, on Nov. 29, 1924. His last opera, Turandot, still unfinished at the time of his death, was premiered in 1926 by conductor Arturo Toscanini.

1898: C. S. Lewis, Irish author, was born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast on Nov. 29, 1898. A prolific and renowned writer and novelist, Lewis was also a critic and scholar. He is best known for his fiction and nonfiction books on religion and is considered one of the most popular and influential 20th-century defenders of the Christian faith.
In his lifetime, The Screwtape Letters (1942) was the most popular. But from the 1950 story for children — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — grew the seven-volume series of popular children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia. This retelling of the Christian story in fairy-tale form became a popular film beginning in 2005. Lewis died in Oxford, England, on Nov. 22, 1963.

1877: Thomas Edison demonstrated the hand-cranked phonograph, a device that recorded sound on grooved metal cylinders on Nov. 29, 1877. Edison shouted verses of Mary Had a Little Lamb into the machine, which played back his voice.

1814: The London Times becomes the first newspaper to be printed on a mechanical press on Nov. 29, 1814.

1643: Claudio Monteverdi, Italian composer, violinist, singer and Catholic priest, died in Venice. His early Baroque music-drama L'Orfeo (Orpheus, 1607) is one of the earliest works to be called an opera. Like his other operas — The Coronation of Poppea and The Return of UlyssesL'Orfeo is still staged and recorded today.

Music calendar: 'Messiah,' times four

By Greg Stepanich

Almost since the day it was premiered in a long-ago Irish spring in 1742, George Frideric Handel's Messiah has been a staple of professional and amateur music-making organizations.

Along with Vivaldi's Four Seasons and the Brandenburg Concerti of Bach, Messiah is one of the three most popular and accessible works of the Baroque era. These three pieces more than any other Baroque works are able to surmount their contemporary archaisms and reach out to modern audiences, year after year. And while Messiah is really a piece for the Easter season, for the classical concertgoer in Britain and the United States of the past century and beyond it has not really been Christmas until we can hear the Hallelujah chorus.

Most choral groups don't do the entire oratorio, which lasts around two-and-a-half hours and requires some very nimble soloists and a chorus that can navigate strings of sixteenth notes spinning out like colorful banners meeting on a field of harmony. It's struck me in recent years that it's probably a little too difficult for the occasional singer and choir member, but there's something about performing Messiah that keeps everyone on his or her best vocal and instrumental behavior.

There are four local performances I'm aware of, though there might very well be other groups doing a Hallelujah or For Unto Us a Child Is Born somewhere. As far as I know, these performances are of the so-called Christmas portion of Messiah along with various other pieces from the rest of the oratorio. I don't know of any complete performances, but if there are, please comment here and let us all know.

Friday, Dec. 5: The Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale offers its annual Messiah performance at 7:30 p.m. in the church on North Federal Highway. Music director John Wilson will lead soloists, the church choir and an orchestra. Tickets: $15 and $20; students under 18 pay $10. There's also a pre-concert meal available for $15. For more information, call 954-491-1103 or 1-800-987-9818.

Sunday, Dec. 7: The Florida Atlantic University choral ensembles under director Patricia Fleitas in a performance at 7:30 p.m. in the University Theatre on the FAU campus in Boca Raton. Last year's performance was not particularly distinguished, but as this is a relatively new tradition for the school, it's the kind of thing that could keep getting better. Tickets: $15. For more information, call 800-564-9539.

Friday, Dec. 19: Seraphic Fire, the standout Miami-based chamber choir that has begun appearances this year in a series of Thursday afternoons at the Harriet Himmel Theater at CityPlace in West Palm Beach, offers its Messiah at 8 p.m. in the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami. The choir, which has recorded its version of excerpts from the work, will be joined by the Firebird Chamber Orchestra, all under the direction of Patrick Dupre Quigley. Tickets: $15-$75. Call 305-949-6722 or visit the group's Website for more information.

Sunday, Dec. 21: The Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches once again presents its singalong version at the Royal Poinciana Chapel on Palm Beach beginning at 5 p.m. Interested audience members who wish to augment the choir can sit in special pews at the front. The quality of the performance has varied over the years, but at its best Jack Jones and his forces present a memorable afternoon of seasonal music in a friendly hall filled with people in good holiday spirit. Tickets are $20, and $10 for students K-12. For tickets or more information, call 845-9696 or visit the group's Website.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Theater review: 'Avenue Q': Call it 'Sesame Street' with attitude

By Hap Erstein

As the snarky revue Forbidden Broadway puts it in song, to succeed these days in the New York theater, “You gotta have a puppet.” Sure, The Lion King and Little Shop of Horrors feature human-powered cloth characters, but the show that most relies on puppets is the very welcome, very adult take-off on children’s television, Avenue Q.

An unexpected hit on Broadway and an even bigger surprise winner of the best musical Tony Award four years ago, this lesson-heavy show currently at the Kravis Center through Sunday teaches us that clever writing and talented performers trump high-tech spectacle, box-office names and movie retreads every time.

Written and originally performed by a brash team of Sesame Street alumni, Avenue Q sings in infectious, bouncy melodies about the harsher realities of life that never quite made it onto the public television series.

Rookie Broadway composers Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx blithely express our collective inner thoughts with such chipper ditties as Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and The Internet is for Porn. And it would be hard not to relate to that perky anthem of misery, It Sucks to Be Me, almost as hard as keeping the tune from lodging in your brain.

Equal parts sweet and subversive, Avenue Q understands that a puppet can get away with uncensored thoughts and language much more easily than can humans. The cast, both puppet and human, co-exist in a seedy New York neighborhood, welcoming new arrival Princeton (voiced and manipulated by Robert McClure), an unemployable recent liberal arts graduate searching for his purpose in life.

That quest will be duplicated by the rest of the community — kindergarten teaching assistant Kate Monster (Anika Larsen), who quickly develops a crush on Princeton; self-denying gay roommates Rod and Nicky (think of Bert and Ernie with extra hang-ups); hopeless stand-up comic wannabe Brian (Cole Porter, no really that’s his name) and his Asian psychologist bride-to-be Christmas Eve (Sala Iwamatsu); porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster and, in one of the nuttier inspirations of book writer Jeff Whitty, Diffr’nt Strokes former child star Gary Coleman (Danielle K. Thomas), reduced to becoming an apartment superintendent when his show-biz fortunes waned.

The puppeteers are every bit as adept as the show’s original Broadway cast. They make no attempt to hide themselves, yet it is refreshing how quickly we focus on the puppets and buy into their emotionally expressive personas. Factor in Anna Louizos' cheery tenement set design and Lopez’s jaunty animation segments, and you have a very hip evening of musical theater.

If there is a drawback, it is that the Kravis Center’s Dreyfoos Hall is really too cavernous for this intimate show. Avenue Q plays many similar-sized or larger venues — it moves on to The Broward Center in January, for instance. But it really cries out for an auditorium on the scale of the much-missed Royal Poinciana Playhouse.

AVENUE Q: Kravis Center's Dreyfoos Hall, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Through Sunday, Nov. 30. Tickets: $25-$82. Call: (561) 832-7469 0r (800) 572-8471.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Art review: Get your 'art fix' before Basel bash

By Katie Deits

Art Basel opens in Miami Beach next Wednesday, and the buzz has already begun to build.

It’s not just about the celebrated international art show. It’s about the people that come from all over the world to see it, to be seen, to collect art, to discover the latest greatest “hot” artist, to party, party, party. It’s also about all the other events, gallery and museum openings that surround Art Basel. (Check out this blog next week, as I'll cover the events, visit MOCA and search out trends and the next art stars.)

In the meantime, you can get your art "fix" at several interesting shows in Palm Beach and Broward counties:

Fused glass: Don’t miss Betty Wilson’s exhibit of fused glass (through Dec. 23) at Mary Woerner Fine Arts, located at 6107 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. Wilson, who is also a ceramist, views glass as an extension of sculpture.

“I love the exciting interplay of light and color,” she said. “My fused glass faces give off so much energy that people say they make them smile.”

She has also incorporated fused glass into tables and furniture. A percentage of sales from Betty Wilson’s work will be given to the South Florida chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. For more information, call (561) 493-4160.

ArtServe: The Holiday Member Showcase and sale at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale runs through Jan. 9. Here are some of the works I noticed at the Nov. 20 opening:

A 4-foot-tall dramatic charcoal drawing of President-elect Barack Obama’s smiling face, by Hollywood artist Virginia Fifield, won ArtServe's People’s Choice Award. Fifield is best known for her large drawings of horses, dogs and wild birds. She said her Obama portrait (seen at the top of this post) makes a statement about unity.

“This portrait is drawn in my usual media of black charcoal on white paper, a natural metaphor for my hope that people, in spite of strong contrasts, can work together into a harmonious whole," she said.

Contrast that with the wild and woolly art of Jacklyn Laflamme, a glamorous native of Canada. Her kaleidoscopic painting, Stanley, pops off the wall and pulsates with vibrant color and movement. But there also is a narrative element to her work.

“This painting is part of a series that was inspired by my volunteer work at the Wildlife Care Center,” Laflamme said. “Stanley is a portrait of the most popular bunny. Everybody loved him because of his adorable personality. He had a wonderful life with his partner Gracie, but for some reason they always ended up back at the center, although they were adopted many times.”

Most appropriate for this time of year, fine arts photographer Michele Guarino’s print Thy God is a peaceful combination of architecture, chiseled message and clouds. It's beautifully matted and silver-framed.

ArtServe is located at 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. For more information, call (954) 462-8190.

Art Basel may not be until next week, but you don’t have to wait until then to see some exciting and interesting art.

Film review: 'Australia' an old-fashioned Down Under epic

By Hap Erstein

Say what you want about Baz Luhrmann’s big-budget epic Australia, but you can never accuse him of thinking small. Part mythic Western, part hot-blooded romance, part war movie and part racial melodrama, there are several different films densely packed into this $130 million, two-and-three-quarter-hour saga.

Although confined to the decade of the 1940s, Australia attempts by implication to tell much of the history of the rugged continent Down Under. That it does so through two towering characters played by a pair of that nation’s biggest homegrown stars — Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman — is a major part of the movie’s appeal. Having begun his career making intimate art films, director Luhrmann now serves up a huge, sweeping commercial vehicle that looks likely to be a genuine crowd-pleaser.

From her first appearance as Lady Sarah Ashley, a ramrod straight, formal Englishwoman far outside her comfort zone on the cattle ranch she will inherit, Kidman signals a willingness to kid her usual elegant screen persona. To avoid the threats to her ownership of the aptly named Faraway Downs, she will have to transport 1,500 head of cattle across northern Australia to the port of Darwin. That will require the talents of a macho cowpoke known only as The Drover (Jackman), who naturally takes an instant dislike to Lady Ashley, before falling passionately in love with her.

Luhrmann and his team of screenwriters consciously construct Australia from clichés of past movies, including frequent specific references to The Wizard of Oz and homages to the films of John Ford and, when Darwin burns to the ground, to Gone With the Wind. The center of the movie is that cattle drive, which allows cinematographer Mandy Walker to luxuriate in the Aussie terrain. The sequence climaxes in a stampede along the edge of a cliff, so exciting that the film quite recovers afterward, though there is plenty more story to come.

As uptight as Kidman’s character is, Jackman’s is in his element, at ease with the many perils they face moving across this uncharted land. If they are the film’s draw, young Brandon Walters is the emotional heart as a mixed-race Aborigine lad who narrates the tale. The refreshingly unmannered newcomer becomes the focus of events as he and other children of the so-called Stolen Generation are shuttled away during World War II.

While Luhrmann seemed intent on pushing cinematic boundaries forward in Moulin Rouge, with Australia he offers a they-don’t-make-’em-like-this anymore movie, but with state-of-the-art technology. Unapologetically old-fashioned and requiring an audience attention span from an earlier era, Australia looks likely to boost tourism on that continent, as well vie for plenty of awards.

Weekend arts picks

Theater: The world premiere of William Mastrosimone’s Dirty Business, a none-too-veiled fictional version of the political and private life of Sen. John F. Kennedy, ends its run at Manalapan’s Florida Stage this weekend. It deserves to be seen, if only for Gordon McConnell’s performance as charming mobster Sam Giancana. Tickets are $42-$45, available by calling (561) 585-3433. — H. Erstein

Film: Jamie Bell, introduced to film audiences in the title role of Billy Elliot, has grown into an accomplished actor, as evidenced by Mister Foe, a low-budget tale of an emotionally conflicted lad coming of age in Edinburgh, finding first love and first career in the hotel world. Plays Friday through Sunday at Emerging Cinemas, 709 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, the area’s best independent art house. Call the hot line, (561) 296-9382 for show times. — H. Erstein

Chameleon Musicians: For five years the fine Netherlands-born cellist Iris van Eck has been running a good string chamber music series at the Leiser Opera Center in the arts district of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Her new season opens at 3 p.m. Sunday with string trios by Beethoven and Schubert and the great E-flat Piano Quartet of Robert Schumann (with pianist Misha Dacic, a frequent guest), but the cognoscenti will be listening for van Eck to perform one of the three solo cello suites by Max Reger (all of which she'll record in the coming months). Tickets are $30, half that if you're a student. Call 954-761-3435 for more information or visit — G. Stepanich

Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches: It's an all-Bach program for this large (80 voices) professional-and-amateur chorus, now in its 30th season under the direction of the veteran conductor and organist Jack Jones. The Magnificat is paired with the well-known Cantata No. 140, Sleepers, Awake, with four soloists and a full orchestra, in a concert at 5 p.m. Sunday at St. Edward's Catholic Church on Palm Beach. Tickets are $20 and can be had by calling 561-845-9696. — G. Stepanich

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Theater Review: "Enter Laughing" worth a few giggles

By Hap Erstein

In 1976, Carl Reiner’s affectionate memoir of his earliest efforts to break into show business, Enter Laughing, was turned into a Broadway musical, redubbed So Long, 174th Street. Perennially boyish Robert Morse, then in his mid-40s, was miscast as teenage David Kolowitz — the Reiner character — and he became the scapegoat when the show closed two weeks later.

Fast-forward to today, when Avi Hoffman’s New Vista Theatre Co. dusts off the show, reworked under the play’s original title, hoping to open his season with an underappreciated gem. While it does yield some laughs, Enter Laughing has a painfully weak score and a predictable story line. The show is pleasant enough for the troupe’s Boca Raton audience, but it hardly lives up to Broadway expectations.

Most musicals fail because of problems with the script, but in this case that is the show’s strength. Joseph Stein has written a series of amusing skits, mostly lifted from his own original stage adaptation of Reiner’s story, first produced a decade before the musical. It is mainly old-fashioned comic stuff, but there is no denying its risible impact when David eventually makes his inept stage debut.

The songs, on the other hand, are musically primitive and lyrically simplistic. Although Enter Laughing traffics in fairly innocent humor, early on adolescent David sings a number in praise of breasts and in one of the show’s many fantasy sequences, a butler trills about David’s busy sexual schedule with a parade of screen stars.

The score is by Stan Daniels, who produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show and would go on to further television success with Taxi, leaving behind this sole foray into musical theater. There is occasional cleverness in his punch lines, even if you can see them coming from far away.

Newcomer Will Larche carries the show on his shoulders as David, a nice Jewish boy who yearns to become an actor, despite his guilt-slinging parents’ dream that he go to pharmacy school. Behind their backs, he lands a role with a dubious stage company, chiefly because he agrees to pay for the privilege.

Larche is capable enough, but has the show stolen out from under him by Gary Marachek as the troupe’s self-centered impresario. Also earning attention is Tony Award nominee Christa Moore (Gypsy, Big) as Marachek’s actress daughter, who croons a deadpan tune chock full of love song clichés.

Sally Bondi wrings some laughs from the stereotype of David’s manipulative Jewish mother, paired with Hoffman as the boy’s soft-spoken father. Hoffman also directs the production, which is scenically threadbare as well as musically, thanks to a thin, three-piece band led by David Cohen.

There are intermittent laughs to be had in Enter Laughing, but the show never really makes the case for why it needed to be turned into a musical.

ENTER LAUGHING, New Vista Theatre Co., West Boca Community High School, 12811 Glades Road, Boca Raton. Through Dec. 7. Tickets: $32-$40. Call: (888) 284-4633.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tribute: Happy Birthday, Toulouse-Lautrec

By Sharon McDaniel

I didn't know it at the time — the great painter was attracted to redheads.

I'm a musician, but hell: Beauty is beauty. In a dream-of-a-lifetime experience, I discovered a painting style that I'd never attributed to the French genius Toulouse-Lautrec.

Unlike his rowdier, oversize output, he barely shows you the face of the red-headed woman. She stands simply; her head turned away.

Nothing distinguishes her surroundings. Her clothing — unlike so much over-the-top costuming in the artist's Moulin Rouge posters — is simple: a rumpled white shirt with long sleeves. She is a prostitute.

But my connection to her on a human level is immediate. I remember promenading past other paintings, but every three or four canvases later, I'd return to the unnamed redhead.

I'm still wracking my brain to remember where or when I saw her. Perhaps an exhibit of the French Impressionists at the Norton Museum. (See there? If she were a musician, I'd have no trouble remembering.)

No matter; she's a part of my life now; she's the image that comes to mind when I think of Toulouse-Lautrec nowadays. His "noisier," livelier images — the splashy posters and eye-catching graphic arts — were my first introduction. But this silent portrait continues to speak.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born on this day: Nov. 24, 1864, in Albi, France. He died in Bordeaux on Sept. 9, 1901.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Music review: Michael Unger, organist

By Greg Stepanich

There are many neglected rooms in the mansion of music, when it comes to the average listener, and one of those rooms holds music for the organ.

This is unfortunate primarily because there is a rich and fascinating literature for the instrument, and on Sunday afternoon one of its rising young practitioners showed an audience at the First Presbyterian Church in Delray Beach how diverse that repertoire really is.

Michael Unger, a Canadian musician now living in upstate New York, appeared as a featured recitalist under the auspices of the Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami chapters of the American Guild of Organists. He proved to be a marvelous player, with fleet fingers and feet, a willingness to apply wide dynamic range in the sanctuary, and a strong, puckish sense of programming.

A good case in point was the piece that opened the second half, the Prelude et Danse Fuguee of the blind French organist Gaston Lataize, written in 1964. This is a wonderfully weird work, with an opening that lurches and stumbles across a harmonic field full of prickly plants and a disjunct melodic line that gets entrusted to the pedals. In that half Unger also programmed the Toccata alla Rumba, a clever piece by the Austrian composer Peter Planyavsky in which the rumba rhythm was topped by a slipping, sliding tune that sounded somewhat cartoonish, but none the less enjoyable for that.

Unger brought off both pieces in high style, as he did his entire program, which also included music of the German Baroque: The E minor Prelude and Fugue (BWV 548) of J.S. Bach, and the first theme-and-variations from Johann Pachelbel's Hexachordum Appollinis. He proved to be a strong Bach player, giving a forceful, majestic reading of this canonical masterwork, though it could have used a bit more shading and contrast in the fugue section.

In the Pachelbel, a much more delicate work than the Bach, Unger made full use of the varied registrations for each variation, though the whole thing did have a very appealing antique flavor. It served as a salutary reminder of how much of this composer's work has been overlooked in favor of the deathless D major canon.

But compelling variety was the order of the day for this recital, which also included a powerful passacaglia from one of the many organ sonatas of Josef Rheinberger (No. 8, Op. 132), played here with all-out Romantic tilt, and a sparkling, utterly French scherzo movement from the Second Symphony of Andre Fleury. That piece, a kind of perpetual-motion exercise, demonstrated Unger's ability to play an almost continual line of rising and falling scales throughout the piece and keep them smooth and unbroken.

The Canadian composer Hugh Bancroft's Pastorale of 1945 introduced a composer with a sense of modality and melody that recalled his early years in England, and Unger made a persuasive case for it. He closed his recital with three works by the Belgian composer and organist Joseph Jongen, and in this subset of the recital could be seen all of Unger's strengths again: sterling technique, a well thought-out concept of what the pieces were trying to say, and an ear for fresh repertoire.

Authoritative sources say only Jongen's organ music has any current hold in the repertory, and this is a shame. Here is a composer whose pieces have an engaging melodic profile and a good sense of narrative surprise; one isn't quite sure where the music is going, but is happy to go along for the ride. The Priere (op. 37, No. 4) has a lovely tune and a deeply meditative quality, and the Scherzetto (Op. 108, No. 1) had a light, bubbly theme that was closer in spirit to the meaning of the word scherzo — joke — than many other such pieces.

The recital closed with Jongen's Toccata, Op. 104, a big piece that summoned the spirit of Widor but also a had a sharp quality to its harmonies that was more forward-looking. Unger played the work with admirable strength and high spirits, and with untiring hands at the service of the toccata's always-on compositional motor.

Michael Unger is finishing his doctorate at the Eastman School, and it's clear he is already a very fine organist who undoubtedly has an impressive career ahead of him. And with adventurous, interesting programming like this, there should be no reason musically inquisitive audiences won't come out to hear him.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Commentary: South Florida’s Carbonell Awards in jeopardy

By Hap Erstein

The topic on the minds of most of the South Florida theater community at the moment, that has heated flurries of e-mails zapping back and forth through cyberspace, is the proposed suspension and likely subsequent demise of the controversial Carbonell Awards.

Without consulting with or giving advance notice to the army of volunteer nominators and judges, the Carbonell board of directors announced earlier this week that it intends to suspend its operations in 2009, to halt sending out adjudicators and give no awards for next year’s shows. That is surprising enough, but even more puzzling were the stated reasons: the price of gasoline, the untimely death of the awards’ executive director, Jack Zink, a rapid decline in the regional media pool and a failing economy that threatens donations to the organization and ticket sales to the annual awards ceremony.

Most of that list has the theater community scratching its collective heads. For starters, gas prices are tumbling and none of the nominators or judges can recall ever complaining about the transportation costs of participating in the
program. (An aside: I went up to Vero Beach last night to see Riverside Theatre’s production of Souvenir, with the same top-notch cast, director and costume designer as at Palm Beach Dramaworks this summer. I filled my car with gas at $1.87 a gallon. It was one of the highlights of the evening.)

Yes, Jack Zink’s passing creates a major void in the Carbonell organization’s leadership, but the former Sun-Sentinel theater critic, who worked so tirelessly on the awards up until his passing, would surely be appalled by the possible demise of the program.

I am one of those members of the media pool who has declined, but Palm Beach ArtsPaper gives me a reviewing platform again and I had always intended to remain active as a Carbonell nominator or judge, as have others. It is another non-issue.

The crux of the matter seems to be the awards ceremony, which is expensive and a great deal of work to produce. So as many have suggested, do away with the ceremony, but not the awards. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. One measure of a viable theater community is its awards program, and continuous operation is
crucial to its credibility.

Many area theaters are unhappy with the awards selection process and the resulting nominees and winners in recent years. But no awards program is perfect and what awards anywhere in the country is without a measure of discontent and disagreement? It is the nature of the beast.

Of course, the Carbonells can stand to be improved, but that can be handled without slamming on the brakes.

This Sunday, the Theatre League of South Florida, which used to jointly administer the Carbonells, will hold a forum to allow its members to vent their anger and suggest solutions to the crisis. Similarly, an informal group of theater critics is meeting Tuesday to forge a plan for the Carbonells to keep going.

The problem is none of us knows what is really in the heads of the board members, what the real sticking points are and what it would take to get them to rescind their decision to put the Carbonells on hold — perhaps forever.

Hello, and welcome

Welcome to Palm Beach ArtsPaper, a new blog by Palm Beach County arts critics that will provide coverage and reviews of happenings in the visual arts, theater, film, classical music and dance in and around the county.

Arts audiences are aware of the toll the struggling economy has taken on the nation's newspapers, which have provided the bulk of the nation's arts coverage and criticism for at least 100 years. But without that coverage, people don't know what's happening in these vital fields of human activity, and artists don't get the feedback and recognition they need to continue with their work. It's a lamentable situation for both sides.

We're trying to do something about that today by launching Palm Beach ArtsPaper. We're starting very simply on a commercial blog site, but eventually we'll have a more visually elaborate Website that we think will be fun to look at and that will make for compelling reading. But our content will be strong from the outset, as we think you'll see right away.

We would love to have your comments on each of these posts. The arts thrive when the conversation is lively.

We of the Palm Beach ArtsPaper believe coverage of this area's lively arts community, as well as of the arts in general, is crucial to the health of the whole community. These activities are critical expressions of our humanity, and we believe providing such coverage will help foster a better-informed, more engaged populace.

Again, welcome, and happy reading.