POSTED ON MARCH 21, 2012:
Gridirons, Night Skies and Medals
Creative forces generate a gamut of productions
The Kardashians cut to pieces to the tune of a Queen song? No, it's not a dream; it is part of the yearly comical roast of all things from the infamous downtown Tulsa glass palace to the White House by legendary local court jesters Tulsa Gridiron. Mock-U-py: Shakes on the Plains! stomps its way into the Doegnes Theater of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center with many years of merry making under its belt.
"It's truly a mind blowing honor to direct a show that's been going on over 70 years. It's an exciting challenge to honor the traditions while keeping the show current, viable and kickass every year," said Rebecca Ungerman, director of the 2012 Mock-U-py performance.
Political and social commentary might not be the goal of most theater companies in Tulsa, but for Tulsa Gridiron, it's the heartbeat of what they intend to achieve.
Don't Mock Me.
"The Tulsa Gridiron has a team of writers and two dozen in the cast, so to call directing the show challenging is an understatement. I feel my strength is as a crazy, psychic, show-biz visionary. I've always been able to 'see' a number fully blown in my head, even when it's still in the concept stages. I'm a good stager and people mover. The biggest challenges this year were cast illness and the Republican party -- but what else is new?"
All this poking fun is for a great cause as the Tulsa Gridiron provides money to support existing scholarships for journalism and communications students at local colleges and universities.
Dave Garcia, who has performed in everything from Christmas Carol to Othello, is performing for a third year with Tulsa Gridiron. How does one prepare for such fun flamboyant characters?
"Most of the characters are well-known public figures and each of the cast members have at least a passing resemblance (or not). We are familiar enough with them to mimic voice types, speech patterns, mannerisms, etc," Garcia said.
Music is the sugar that makes the satire go down.
"All the song tunes are popular country, rock, pop, show and oldies that the audience will easily recognize with the lyrics changed to reflect the events being satirized. Our writers are very witty and it makes for a hilarious evening!"
George Romero, local champion of the Youth Services of Tulsa group, is a newbie to Gridiron.
"This is my first year to be graced with an invitation to Gridiron, so I'm just trying to keep up with everyone else. At my first rehearsal, I walked in and put down my stuff -- about 90 seconds later I was singing. But the music behind the parodies is all very familiar, so the fast pace makes it pretty entertaining.
"If anything, I'm excited about the number of topics we get to cover in one show. The writers keep adding more fun things to it, almost as they happen, so we're going to be extremely current with the material," Romero said.
Tulsa Gridiron presents Mock-U-py: Shakes on the Plains! March 23 and 24 at 8pm. Tickets are available by calling 918-596-7111. General seating is $25, Cabaret individual seats are $25 and VIP Cabaret tables for eight are $500, which includes bottled wine.
The night sky in London might sound far away, but the message of Twinkle, Twonkle, presented by the Tulsa PAC Trust and produced by Tall Stories of London, will universally speak to youngsters as it descends into the Willams Theatre for two performances.
"The Tulsa PAC Trust believes that our youngest patrons are the future of the arts in Tulsa. Twinkle, Twonkle is not a fairy tale or story about a princess, but it does have some references to Mother Goose," said Shirley Elliot, program director of the Tulsa PAC Trust. "It is about two young, intelligent, curious siblings fascinated by the beauty of the night sky and who use their imaginations to explore there. The play is produced by Tall Stories of London, an innovative company that understands and respects young intelligence and has a good sense of humor. And all of our Imagination shows feature adult actors."
The PAC Trust, made up of some of the biggest names in the Tulsa theater landscape, generates a top-notch line up for the Imagination Series, which is essentially theater for a younger crowd.
"The Trust has been presenting the Imagination Series for more than 25 years. When choosing productions, we think of quality, relevance and diversity. The series provides young parents with excellent (and affordable) opportunities to bring their children to the PAC and to share the experience of live theater as a family. We always strive for high quality, professional productions that communicate a good story and inspire thought in our youngest patrons. We often choose titles from children's literature or from historic events, but not always, as in the case of Twinkle, Twonkle. The Trust believes our audiences want more than entertainment; they expect good storytelling, a strong moral, quality production values and to have a lot of fun. That's what we try to deliver."
This endeavor, while very great, is not without challenges, but the PAC Trust makes it clear they understand and appreciate the obstacles parents must overcome.
"The biggest challenge I think our family audiences face is how to spend their free time. People are so busy and there are so many demands on their schedules that it is very tempting for all of us to just want to stay home and relax when we have a free night. We truly appreciate the energy it takes to get the kids dressed and out the door to come to our productions. We believe our patrons make the effort because they want to give their children a special night out and an experience that doesn't require looking into a screen of some kind."
The Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust and Tall Stories of London present Twinkle, Twonkle at the Williams Theatre, March 23 at 7pm and March 24 at 11am. Tickets are available by calling 918-596-7111.
Peace Symbols at Gilcrease
There are only two weekends left to experience a fascinating exhibit at Gilcrease Museum titled Peace Medals: Symbols of Influence and Prestige in North America. The curator of this exhibit, who also wrote a book on the subject, is Robert Pickering, PhD. Pickering is the director of Cultural Affairs and Public Programs at Gilcrease Museum.
"Although royal and presidential peace medals represented noble aims and high ideals, the sad truth is that rarely did the Europeans or Americans honor their agreements. The Indians found that the European and American governments were more interested in obtaining land and less important in honoring the provisions of the treaties at which the medals were given," said Pickering.
LOUIS PHILIPPE I MEDAL SILVER, 1845, GM 6576.58
"However, the medals of King Louis Philippe of France stand out. The king gave a medal to each member of Ojibwa group who were part of George Catlin's European tour. These were personal gifts from the king, not official peace medals; he gave them to the women and children, too -- not just the leader of the group. Two of those medals are in the exhibition as well as a painting that depicts the Ojibwas and the royal French court in the Tuileries Palace -- what must each side have thought about the other?"
The exhibit also highlights many famous icons from history that all ages might recognize and appreciate.
"There are two medals, in the large and small sizes, that were made during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and carried by Lewis and Clark on their epic journey to the West Coast. Both were loaned to the exhibition by the Oklahoma Historical Society. These are the medals that were given to important leaders during the journey. The large medals were given to the first chiefs and the small medals were given to the third chiefs."
Peace Medals: Symbols of Influence and Prestige in North America is on display through April 1 at Gilcrease Museum, located at 1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Rd. Gilcrease is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm.
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