One of the wonderful things about dance is that you can tell a pretty fantastical story without CGI, relying instead on the imaginations of the choreographer and the audience to tell a story and convey dreamlike sequences.
Such is the case with Portico Dans Theatre's upcoming Combined Minds, a part of SummerStage.
"Essentially, it's a piece about a young girl coming of age and she doesn't want to grow up," said Portico artistic director Jennifer Alden. "There are bullies involved, and they make fun of her for having a doll and toys. Her toys come to life, and that's the bulk of it."
One of the unique elements of PDT is the company's use of aerial dancing -- you know, when you see dancers performing in a Cirque-style show when they wrap ribbon-like fabric around their arms and get lifted up and flown around the dance space. It's really fascinating to watch, and PDT makes great use of the technique.
However, there are limitations to where a theatrical feat like this can be performed. And limitations aren't always bad. Such is the case here, as PDT's need for a more intricate fly system has them performing in the John H. Williams Theater downstairs at the PAC -- the largest and most luxurious of the downstairs theaters.
"Usually, we're in the Liddy (Doenges Theater), but we needed that extra space to get everything in there that we needed -- the set, and this is probably the most aerial equipment we've ever used," Alden said.
The downside of the limitations, though, comes through in the troupe's rehearsal plans.
"We have two rehearsal places -- one for dance and one for aerial stuff -- so it will be interesting putting this all together in the Williams," she said. "We'll definitely get to combine this all together when we perform it, which will be great."
But the idea of combining when they get there implies something that makes directors a little nervous: so far, PDT has only been able to run the entire production -- with full-out aerial dancing and everything else happening at the same time -- at TU's Lorton Performing Arts Center.
"We've done it twice at Lorton," Alden said. "We have rehearsals all together, but the aerialists don't get to do their stuff because we don't have the equipment."
As for the show itself, Alden and co-artistic director Michael J. Lopez wanted to tell a story that addressed the violence present in our society. They strove to tell a story that emphasized the desire of most individuals to remain a child juxtaposed against the idea that the only real way to escape bullying is to grow up to get away from it.
There was also the idea of casting a kid -- a specific kid.
"We decided we wanted to do a show that was centered on a child character," Alden said. "We really wanted to do a show with Zoe Vogel because she's an amazing dancer, and we developed this story around her and what we could remember about being 12 and what happens when you're going through this transition in life."
Vogel is 12 in the show and offstage, as well. And while she shines in the piece, she is shining alongside a set that is much more art work than representative flats and backdrops.
"Our sets are more installation art pieces," Alden said.
"Our set designer is Glenn Herbert Davis, and these are living, breathing pieces of art he's making. We've got a huge toy box and all our aerial equipment. All of the costumes are definitely part of the story, and each character has their own costume that sort of addresses who their character is."
The 25-member cast takes the stage to bring to life Combined Minds July 19-20 at 8pm and July 21 at 2pm in the John H. Williams Theater. Tickets, as always, at 918-596-7111 or myticketoffice.com.
Pop Art Pops
One of the more laid-back people you'll ever speak to is artist Jason Lockhart. In speaking about his upcoming exhibition at Aberson Exhibits alongside artists Justine Green, Stuart Whitis, and others, he wasn't even sure how long his work would show.
"Like a month or so," he said, PBR in hand.
However, he is anything but lackadaisical when talking about his work, which often focuses on architecture elements and lettering.
"It definitely has, like, a very flat, poppy feel," he said. "The colors are not necessarily pop art colors, though. They're sometimes more sophisticated than pop art."
As for the letters that make frequent appearances in his work, Lockhart spoke from the experience many artists have growing up -- that of seeing things differently.
"Growing up, all my friends would see billboards and they would read what they said, but I would see the shapes and like the shapes of letters," he said.
Perhaps naturally, those billboard letters ended up forming a large part of Lockhart's artistic view of the world, and they make frequent appearances in his work.
"They don't even always express real words," he said. "I'll use partial letters, and they're be truncated in strange ways. It also provides a nice mind game. People want to figure out what it says, and it doesn't always say something."
And he said that last part with a smirk, and one can imagine him walking through the gallery, listening to art patrons try to sound out whatever non-word he's painted.
Although Lockhart classified his work as somewhat like Pop Art, he is cagey about being more specific -- as in what his work is about, or what tales individual pieces might tell.
"I generally just try to keep my themes within my visual language," he said. "I don't provide a whole lot of meaning or stories within the pieces. Just kind of the nature of Perception is like even if you and I went through the same experience, we'd come out with different things. I kind of just negate telling people what to think anymore and just give them enough so that they're able to put it together from their own story background. If you provide a baseball in your painting -- I grew up playing baseball and have a nice relationship with it, but if you're the kid who got hit in the face with a baseball, you're going to get something totally different out of that than I did."
Lockhart's work will be on display at Aberson Exhibits at 3524B S. Peoria Ave., with the opening reception held Thursday, July 18 from 6-8pm.
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Guthrie Green taking a break
"It's been really busy, and we maybe started too early," said Shirley Elliott, program director for the Tulsa PAC Trust. Throw in a weekend of the Center of the Universe Festival, and you've got a recipe for the Guthrie Green needing a little bit of TLC.
To that end, following the festival's closing this weekend, Tulsa's favorite green space will shut down for the rest of July in an effort to revive some of the grass, do some routine maintenance, and generally clean up the joint.
Regular activities are scheduled to resume in time for the August edition of the First Friday Art Crawl.
Tinkerbell's Greatest Hits
Continuing with its audience-favorite series of "stand-up theatre," Theatre Pops presents the latest incarnation of the Tinkerbell monologues. This one, true to its name, draws on audience favorites from the past, presenting work from authors as diverse as Shakespeare and David Mamet ("fairy dust is for closers"). July 26 at 8pm in the Norman Theater.
Children's Letters to God
Theatre Tulsa's SummerStage offering this year is a musical based on the best-selling book of the same name.
"It was compiled of actual letters that kids of a variety of ages had written to God," according to TT president Sara Phoenix. "You know, 'Hey, God, why are things like this?' It's a really fun, light musical, and it's great for adults and kids."
July 19-20 at 7:30pm and July 20-21 at 2pm.
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