What Is Essential Is Invisible To The Eye

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly” – Saint Exupéry

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Deconstructing opera’s mega-material roots is a challenge.
Sharing an opera live with a group of roving wireless-headphone-wearing audience members? Sounds near impossible.
And yet, The Industry ambitiously tackled all this and more through its Invisible Cities project in LA’s Union Station.

Composer and librettist Christopher Cerrone’s adapted a 1972 novel of the same name by Italo Calvino. The story depicts a host of fantastical cities the explorer Marco Polo narrates to Kublai Khan – unreal cities of desire, of memory, of the imagination.

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You check in and trade your license for a pair of headphones before following a drove of listeners into a large room where an orchestra sits, no singers in sight. The overture sounds forth and even before the final notes of this first movement end, individuals exit through the large glass doors to search for the rest of the opera. There’s no traditional stage here. The train station itself houses the characters, and like a living giant that seems to expand and contract as singers reveal themselves from the shadows.

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A man hunched over in a wheelchair, dressed like many of the homeless souls that take shelter in the station, begins to sing. And you realize that the performers are not so much hidden at all. Instead, you did not know what you should have been seeking.

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  A lofty soprano tone sounds from another room. Many turn to rush to find the source of the music and discover a janitor – with a voice of gold.

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You traverse cities of the living, cities of the dead.

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You follow in Polo’s footsteps and happen upon a dance core (seven dancers from LA Dance Project) as they guide and affront the viewer through a collection of miniature vignettes.

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You wander into a hallway – the station’s old ticket lobby – and see no action, just a mist of light fog…

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…Only seconds later to be bombarded by a procession of singers and dancers as the opera’s final scenes culminate around you.

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You notice how each person in the room is now a character in the piece as well. An old man in his own wheelchair is not altogether different from the singer at the start.

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The piece challenges the viewer to realize that the eye creates what it wishes to see. At every new port – there is a promise of hope, discovery, release. But we bring ourselves with us wherever we go, thus in order to find new things, we must truly see with new eyes.

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Lizzie’s Back

The team behind the raucous rock retelling of Lizzie Borden released their concept album this month. Few things will prepare you for October thrills and chills as well as this CD.

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Based on the most notorious “unsolved” murder case of the 1800s, this Cheslik-DeMeyer, Hewitt and Maner tuner is currently getting a treatment in Houston’s TUTS Underground season.

The album’s powerhouse voices and catchy belt-along-numbers are made only more delightful by some thoughtful sound editing that infuses tense moments with an extra dose of terror. A terrific adrenaline-infused ride from start to finish.

For a taste of the show for those not familiar, check out the clip below:

 

Reasons why this montage from last year’s Cleveland production might rock your world a little:

Lizzie ________ Borden. Who knew that the real life Borden had such intense daddy-issues?

Look at what they’re wearing. Uptight Victorian dresses devolve into Versace-inspired rock wear. Leather, lace and tulle give this 19th century retelling a vicious bite.

Look ma! No Men. They effectively tell the entire story employing only female characters – Lizzie Borden, her sister Emma, the housemaid and the girl-next-door/maybe-secret-lover.

You will never think of hairspray cans in the same way again. Brilliant take on Borden burning up an old dress, one of the pieces of potential evidence.

Four ladies fierce screlting their faces off. Enough said.

Happy Accident

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How could we have known
that time would slow and gasp for air –
we could steal a few moments extra
while her back was turned?

Who was there to warn us
that the space behind our eyes had room for rent –
we would move in uninvited,
never asking the other to leave?

Would we have known
the perfect place if we had found it –
when we already were living
in our favorite version of home?

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Bite-sized Wisdom: Keller

Doubt sneaking in? Remember that you have a powerful tool at hand that is ready to go into action for you at any time. Words from this wise and empowering woman:

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Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.

– Helen Keller


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Bite-sized Wisdom: Nash and Weill

Need a tune to hum? Look no further than the songwriter combo of Nash and Weill.

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“Time is so old and love so brief
Love is pure gold and time a thief.”

– “Speak Low” Ogden Nash & Kurt Weill

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Bite-sized Wisdom: Stroman

Repping the female directors of Broadway today with a little wisdom from Susan:

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“Whenever I found myself in a conundrum I looked to my father for advice. And always he offered the same encouragement: ‘Ask yourself, What’s the worst that could happen? Someone might tell you no, but there’s no harm in that.’ Just take a chance. Ask the question.”

– Susan Stroman

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Who Knew Seneca Was So Zen?

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“I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself—as if nothing is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap—in fact, almost without any value. People are delighted to accept pensions and gratuities, for which they hire out their labor or their support or their services. But nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing. But if death threatens these same people, you will see them praying to their doctors; if they are in fear of capital punishment, you will see them prepared to spend their all to stay alive. So inconsistent are they in their feelings. But if each of us could have the tally of his future years set before him, as we can of our past years, how alarmed would be those who saw only a few years ahead, and how carefully would they use them! And yet it is easy to organize an amount, however small, which is assured; we have to be more careful in preserving what will cease at an unknown point.

No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.

Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. Listen to the cry of our greatest poet, who as though inspired with divine utterance sings salutary verses: “Life’s finest day for wretched mortals here/Is always first to flee.” “Why do you linger?” he means. “Why are you idle? If you don’t grasp it first, it flees.” And even if you do grasp it, it will still flee. So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.”

Known for being a titular Roman figure around 55AD, these thoughts come from his essay “On the Shortness of Life.” Ready, set, grasp the present – for all it’s worth.

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Art of the Iceberg

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We often take things at face value. It’s easy to, we’re human. But about what happens under the surface?

Life is 90% about process, 10% about that surface result.

Those people who have that “perfect life” – fulfilling relationships, work, creative endeavors – didn’t happen upon success by luck alone. They had to live through the process. The ups and downs, struggles and heartbreaks that the world wasn’t privy to at the time. They put in the time and held themselves to high standards. Nothing less would suffice.

Just take a look at the architecture of these natural curiosities – the beauty of the underwater base alone is enough to give pause.

So next time you’re wondering how to change what the surface of your life looks like, realize it may be time to take a plunge and explore what it looks like beneath the edge. Build upon whatever small strength you find until you have a foundation that will allow for those once-lofty dreams of success to come with ease.

And like nature itself, there will be things that challenge your personal ‘berg – forces that threaten what you worked hard to build. Hungry warm waters crave the coolness of ice. Seek out smoother currents.

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Oh, Digital Age

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Reaching out to touch someone is different than it was before.
In a matter of clicks we are displacing electrons.
Instead of misplacing hand-drawn ‘do you like me’s,
A page (in a book with no pages) allows us to affirm or deny:

Leaving digital trails, crumbling microchip cookies.

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Why There is Always Enough Time

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Time’s boundaries are not relegated to any intervals other than the ones that we have assigned them. If you give yourself a year to finish a task, you’ve set out to complete your goal within 356 rotations of the earth. A day? A handful of hours.

But what about the unplanned moments? You meet someone and suddenly an evening has gone by or you stumble upon an idea and wrestle with it for the better part of a day.

Those moments when the edges of time start to fade are always worth recalling. Because they remind you of the freedom inherent in each moment.

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Taking Painting By Numbers To a Whole New Level

This past weekend while exploring Portland (which is an awesome, fun and foodie city), I wandered around the Saturday Market and happened upon an artist whose work is the epitome of that fascinating intersection between art and science.

Sienna Morris specializes in Numberism, a term she coined to describe the way she draws with numbers. But the numbers she chooses are anything but arbitrary. Each subject comes to life through the  repetition of equations and numbers that give that thing the ability to exist in real life.

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“Fibonacci’s Snail” drawn with the Fibonacci’s Sequence to mathematically represent the Golden Spiral
The sequence starts in the center with “0” and continues along the shape of the spiral.
0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610…

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“Schrödinger’s Cat” drawn with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

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Bio“Bioluminescene” where the fireflies abdomens are drawn with a chemical formula for their Bioluminescence, C13 H12 N2 O3 S2.
The light coming off the fireflies and bouncing off the jar is drawn with the speed of light, 299792458 meters per second.

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Drawn and shaded with only the numbers 1-12, marking the hours of the clock. 
Used Numberism technique to draw a moment with all four dimensions, including time
“Even if we choose to do nothing at all, we are still moving through time.”

Image Sources: Sienna Morris’ site 

Leggo My Ego: Mindfulness in the Time of Frozen Waffles

How to Become an Egotistical Monster in 7 Steps or Less!

1. Become Ravenous for Online Attention. Base your mood on whether or not someone liked, commented, or championed something you wrote (or that you found and appropriated as your own). Question everything about yourself if you do not receive the stamp of approval you desperately seek.

2. Assume that Other People’s Emotions or Actions Have to Do Entirely with You.  Ignore the fact that others might be caught up in their own lives and that could seep into their exchanges with you. Treat a negative conversation as an excuse to start feeling sorry for yourself indefinitely.

3. Steer All Conversations Back Towards You. You’ve got the most interesting life anyways, right? Act surprised when others are suddenly disinterested in a person who takes no interest in getting to know them.

4. Spend All of Your Time Patting Your Back Over Past Successes. Get comfortable with the idea that you’ve already grown as much as a human being can grow. Rest on those laurels now.

5. See Everyone as a Competitor. Get angry if someone else receives a gift or an opportunity that you have been coveting. Convince yourself you deserved it more and find no possible way to feel happy for that person, let alone inspired by them.

6. Forget that Someone Else May Know More Than You. Be ashamed to ask for help and assume that you can outsmart anyone in a room. Flaunt this God-like intelligence and try to constantly catch others in their folly. That’ll show ‘em.

7. Practice those Do, Re, MeMeMeMeMeMe’s. Sing the song of your own brilliance, hog the mic and never let the spotlight hit anyone else. Barely notice when your world starts shrinking to include just a faint glow around yourself.

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