About Carl Romisher

Posts by Carl Romisher:

Altria Masterworks 7: Farkhad Khudyev

Altria Masterworks 7: Farkhad Khudyev

Cheer on Music Director Candidate Farkhad Khudyev as he leads the Richmond Symphony in an invigorating program based on poems and stories, including Rachmaninov’s The Bells, a choral symphony inspired by Edgar Alan Poe’s poem of the same name and featuring the Richmond Symphony Chorus. Also on the program is Grieg’s Lyric Suite, Opus 54, with the famous movement “March of the Dwarfs,” and Janáček’s Taras Bulba, a rhapsody for orchestra based on a novel by Nikolai Gogol about Cossack leader Taras Bulba and his sons during an uprising against the Poles in 1692.

Learn more about Farkhad Khudyev, Conductor.

Program Notes

The post Altria Masterworks 7: Farkhad Khudyev appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Aida

Aida

War. Egypt versus Ethiopia in the days of the pharaohs. She is a princess and he a soldier; if only they were on the same side…

Verdi’s epic masterpiece is the spectacle of opera on the grandest scale, yet focuses on the most basic human emotion-love.

Sung in Italian with English Supertitles.

Join Dr. Glenn Winters for his “Opera Up Close” pre-curtain talk forty-five minutes before each performance for his informative and entertaining insights on each production.

The post Aida appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Altria Masterworks 7: Farkhad Khudyev

Altria Masterworks 7: Farkhad Khudyev

Cheer on Music Director Candidate Farkhad Khudyev as he leads the Richmond Symphony in an invigorating program based on poems and stories, including Rachmaninov’s The Bells, a choral symphony inspired by Edgar Alan Poe’s poem of the same name and featuring the Richmond Symphony Chorus. Also on the program is Grieg’s Lyric Suite, Opus 54, with the famous movement “March of the Dwarfs,” and Janáček’s Taras Bulba, a rhapsody for orchestra based on a novel by Nikolai Gogol about Cossack leader Taras Bulba and his sons during an uprising against the Poles in 1692.

Learn more about Farkhad Khudyev, Conductor.

Program Notes

 

 

The post Altria Masterworks 7: Farkhad Khudyev appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

LolliPops 4: Appalachian Spring

LolliPops 4: Appalachian Spring

A pleasure for both eyes and ears, this Lollipops program features dancers from the School of Richmond Ballet ensembles, performing a newly choreographed work set to music from Aaron Copland’s timeless Appalachian Spring—a ballet containing the beloved Shaker melody, “Simple Gifts.” A pre-concert festival in Rhythm Hall will take place at 10 a.m., featuring our instrument petting zoo, Cook County Bluegrass, free face painting, and a craft from Children’s Museum of Richmond. All Lollipops concerts run an hour-long and are sensory-friendly

For more information about the School of Richmond Ballet, please visit: https://www.richmondballet.com/school/ensembles/

Join us at 10am for a free pre-concert festival, featuring our Instrument Petting Zoo and enjoy interactive activities for the whole family that will enhance your concert experience.

This hour-long show starts at 11 AM. An ASL interpreter is available at each performance, and these shows are now sensory-friendly!

Learn more about Valentina Peleggi, Conductor.

The post LolliPops 4: Appalachian Spring appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Aida

Aida

War. Egypt versus Ethiopia in the days of the pharaohs. She is a princess and he a soldier; if only they were on the same side…

Verdi’s epic masterpiece is the spectacle of opera on the grandest scale, yet focuses on the most basic human emotion-love.

Sung in Italian with English Supertitles.

Join Dr. Glenn Winters for his “Opera Up Close” pre-curtain talk forty-five minutes before each performance for his informative and entertaining insights on each production.

The post Aida appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Pops 4: The Apollo Hall of Fame

Pops 4: The Apollo Hall of Fame

For forty years, the Apollo Theater in Harlem showcased some of the finest black artists in American swing, jazz, R&B and pop. The lively and entertaining cover band Jeans n’ Classics will bring back these iconic sounds, performing songs of Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and many more.

For more on Jeans n’ Classics, please visit: www.jeansnclassics.com 

Tickets range from $10-$82 and can be purchased by calling 804.788.1212 or online at www.richmondsymphony.com.

 

The post Pops 4: The Apollo Hall of Fame appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Altria Masterworks 6: Valentina Peleggi

Altria Masterworks 6: Valentina Peleggi

Discover Music Director Candidate Valentina Peleggi as she leads the Richmond Symphony in an program giving a nod to her Italian heritage, including Rossini’s overture to the opera La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie); Respighi’s beloved Pines of Rome, inspired by the Roman landscape; and Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, Opus 32, a tone poem based on Dante’s Inferno. The program also celebrates women in music, with Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 7, performed by pianist Angela Cheng, and Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, No. 2, dedicated to Aaron Copland and “to women who take risks and are adventurous.”

Join us for a free pre-concert talk for all at 7pm.

Learn more about Valentina Peleggi, Conductor.

Program Notes

The post Altria Masterworks 6: Valentina Peleggi appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Q&A with the Byrd Theatre

Q&A with the Byrd Theatre

You have questions. We have answers. We’re breaking down the answers to some of your pressing questions. This installment is all about our programming. Let’s get to it!

Q: Are you becoming an art house theatre or a first run theatre? 

A: We’ve always tried to include a mix of films that you might not necessarily get to see in the more commercial movie theaters and we plan to continue to do that because we hear from our community that those opportunities are important. We program a mix of sub-run films and repertory films. The repertory films include our Big Screen Classics series, Marathon Mondays, Family Classics and other special events. 

Q: Seems like the films you showed in January and beginning of February feel different than your normal programming, are you sure you aren’t changing your programming?

A: January and February are tough times in the sub-run movie business. Sub-run is the majority of our screenings. Here’s a bit on how it works. The big distribution companies hold films in first run as long as they can if they have an Oscar nominee, which limits the number of available sub-run films. In addition, January tends to be a slower month in terms of releases in general. All this makes it incredibly difficult to get the big films or the Oscar nominees in this time period. Our strategy has always been look for other opportunities in this timeframe. We showed a documentary because it was getting some great reviews and had good attendance numbers and was an Oscar nominee. We chose the others based on what was available and what we thought would appeal to our community. This happens at this time every year as we struggle for good sub-run films. 

Q: I heard you hired a booker from Massachusetts to book the films. How is this person going to know this community? 

A: We did hire an experienced film booker who is based in Massachusetts. She works with many independent theaters all around the country. While she has excellent relationships with the studios and can help us score great films she’s not booking anything without working closely with us. All of our films are being thoughtfully chosen and curated for our audience by the programming committee. 

Q: What is this programming committee? 

A: The programming committee has been curating our repertory film programs for about 5 years. It is made up of board members, community representatives and theater staff. It originated  the family classics, big screen classics and the other repertory film series we do. More recently, the committee has been overseeing the selection of all of our films. The programming committee helps plan special events as well.

Q: What’s up with the big Capital One banner? 

A: Capital One has been a generous sponsor of our Family Classics Series for a couple of years now. We are so grateful to them and their support of our programming that we wanted to recognize them for their generosity as part of their sponsorship package. 

Have other questions? Email us at info@byrdtheatre.org 

The post Q&A with the Byrd Theatre appeared first on The Byrd Theatre & Foundation.

Cinderella

Cinderella

Being a princess can be exhausting! At least becoming one can… You get a mean stepfather (yep), meaner stepsisters (check), and a whole lot of chores to do! Of course, you also get a grand ball, instant and undying love, and a really great bracelet too (glass slippers are so yesterday and way too breakable). Break out your tiara and set a date with this ultimate Virginia Opera rags-to-riches tale, and get ready for a larger-than-life operatic fairytale that’ll have you floating on air and home by midnight.

Approximate Runtime: 2 hours, 48 minutes

Sung in Italian with English Supertitles

The orchestra for this production is provided by the Richmond Symphony.

Join Dr. Glenn Winters for his “Opera Up Close” pre-curtain talk forty-five minutes before each performance for his informative and entertaining insights on each production.

The post Cinderella appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Cinderella

Cinderella

Being a princess can be exhausting! At least becoming one can… You get a mean stepfather (yep), meaner stepsisters (check), and a whole lot of chores to do! Of course, you also get a grand ball, instant and undying love, and a really great bracelet too (glass slippers are so yesterday and way too breakable). Break out your tiara and set a date with this ultimate Virginia Opera rags-to-riches tale, and get ready for a larger-than-life operatic fairytale that’ll have you floating on air and home by midnight.

Approximate Runtime: 2 hours, 48 minutes

Sung in Italian with English Supertitles

The orchestra for this production is provided by the Richmond Symphony.

Join Dr. Glenn Winters for his “Opera Up Close” pre-curtain talk forty-five minutes before each performance for his informative and entertaining insights on each production.

The post Cinderella appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert

The Richmond Symphony will present a full screening of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ live in concert. Fans can now experience the thrilling third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, accompanied by the music of a live symphony orchestra as Harry soars across the big screen.

Tickets are $52.50-$82.50 and can be purchased by visiting www.altriatheater.com or by calling 804.592.3368.

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. WIZARDING WORLD trademark and logo © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s19)

The post Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Regarded by many as the pinnacle of classical ballet, Swan Lake opens on Valentine’s Day for four performances only. Xu Yan and Li Wentao, guest artists from the National Ballet of China, will share the stage with our incredible dancers, furthering the connections forged on our 2015 tour to China.

Featuring a spirited prince, beautiful swan queen, and evil sorcerer, this timeless tale of the struggle between good and evil has captivated ballet audiences for over 125 years. Tchaikovsky’s lush score and moonlit images of impossible grace weave together to create an unforgettable story of passion, illusion, and mystery.

The post Swan Lake appeared first on Richmond Symphony.

Tickets Available: IYKYK (if you know you know) 2019 Fall Senior Project Concert

Tickets Available: IYKYK (if you know you know) 2019 Fall Senior Project Concert

VCUarts Department of Dance and Choreography will present IYKYK  (if you know you know), the 2019 Fall Senior Project Concert, on Saturday, November 16th at 7:30PM at The Anderson (907 ½ W Franklin St.) and Saturday, November 22nd and 23rd at the Grace Street Theater (934 West Grace Street) Richmond, VA. Tickets are $15/$10 students with valid I.D. and free to VCU students with valid I.D.

Tickets are available now at Showclix.com or by calling 804-828-2020.

The performance on November 16 will feature a site-based work by senior Jenna Beardsley at The Anderson (no admission required), located at 907 ½ W Franklin St. The work will be performed three times between 7:30-8:30 pm, with 10 minute intermissions between the showings, followed by a one-hour dance party. The stage works, performed at the Grace Street Theater, will begin at 7:30 pm on November 22nd and 23rd.

IYKYK is a professionally-produced capstone experience that serves as the culmination of senior dance majors’ time creating and researching in the VCUarts Dance + Choreography Department. This show acts as a celebration of the individual artists’ voices, and serves as the official commencement of their future careers and influences as members of the global dance community.

VCU DANCE PRESENTS: IYKYK

Hello, and welcome to our IYKYK (If you know you know)page! This page will give you information and teasers for our upcoming show on November 16th (one week intermission), November 22nd and 23rd. We are also raising money to make everything happen, so please support us! Link is in the description. Here is our promo video, which includes the choreographers for each piece. Follow our page for more details!!!!!Our choreographers included are :Chaunci HannibalJenna BeardsleyOlivia AlsamadiElizabeth DrakeKasey GrigsbyTaylor BonadiesJulia Turgeon

Posted by VCU Dance Presents: IYKYK on Saturday, October 12, 2019

Through the lens of a Palestinian directly affected by the Israeli occupation, Olivia Alsamadi highlights the experience of being displaced in and from one’s homeland. A movement language derived from traditional Arab dance forms illuminates the resilience and community of Palestinian women facing the hardships of existing in a land that has been stolen and destroyed. In this work, Alsamadi uses the various textures of human connection to map new and old pathways within an occupied space.

You are invited! Come out and experience a queer utopian future that will be created and destroyed around you in The Anderson, transformed into an underground dance world. Serving you an immersive dance theatrical event, Jenna Beardsley has worked in collaboration with the performers to reveal their ephemera through playful movement vignettes where they will engage, dance, feel, build, and get lost, reorienting themselves as well as their audience. Come out and together we will contradict ourselves, conceive new worlds, and live fantasies.

In a process-oriented excavation of performance, Taylor Bonadies facilitates an opportunity and landscape for self-discovery through performative agency. Time slows and expands as the audience is drawn to participate in the energetic evolution of the performers; they each construct and articulate their distinct embodiment of performance. Their innermost intricacies are woven into the work through structure, texture, and embodiment as dancers draw the audience into their channel to taste the electricity themselves.

In what do we trust? Does faith mean we blind ourselves to conflicting truths? Do we linger in the dimness of ignorance, simply because it is the only light that others have shown us? These are the questions Elizabeth Drake is posing in Nodus Tollens. Set in Plato’s allegorical Cave, a community of nine dancers experiences a disruption in their group dynamic as one of them goes on a journey of spiritual self-discovery that leads to a clash between  individual and groupthink.

We make connections every day but how many of them sit with us? How many moments do we let ourselves pause and authentically connect with the people around us? Kasey Grigsby, in Unraveling Connections, investigates authentic connections through willingness and vulnerability. By sifting through the layers of life, she asks performers to cultivate a space and energy in which strength in softness draws out these moments.

Through empirical analysis, potentiality is not attained, but through investigation it will be explored. Within this 10 minute segment, certain humans will encounter a level, where their abilities will be pushed. Chaunci Hannibal’s work takes the form of the Human Experiment of Potentiality:
Scenario 1) Potential — Advantage + Privilege+ Fear=?
Scenario 2) Potential + Advantage+ Privilege — Fear =?
Scenario 3) Potential — Advantage — Privilege — Fear=?

(Advantage=Money)

Questions:

  1. Does privilege without advantage bring a sense of complacency that blocks ones’ advancement?
  2. Does privilege and advantage without fear give the rest of humans a sense of insecurity that inhibits them from reaching their abilities?
  3. Does disadvantage in life motivate or hinder the potentiality of a human being?

In Julia Turgeon’s A Tender Reflection, a multigenerational cast of dancers investigates the energetic connection between women and their maternal ancestors, pulling on the tether that connects them to their pasts and their futures. The dancers discover the circular nature of history as they fall through a time and space of simultaneity, their movement supported by the echoes of the women who have come before them.

Look for event updates on Facebook & Instagram

IYKYK is the fifth event in the VCUarts Dance + Choreography 2019-2020 performance season. Recognized by professional dancers and choreographers as “a place where things are happening,” Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Dance and Choreography offers a vibrant and stimulating atmosphere where students prepare for careers in dance.

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VCUarts Dance Presents 1st Annual Student Film Screening

VCUarts Dance Presents 1st Annual Student Film Screening

Rough Cut 2020 Features New Films by VCUarts Students From Many Disciplines, January 24 at 7:30 pm

VCUarts Dance is pleased to present ROUGH CUT 2020, the first annual student film screening, Friday, January 24, 2020, 7:30 pm at the Grace Street Theater, 934 West Grace Street, Richmond, VA. Admission is FREE and open to the public. Call 804-828-2020 or visit the event page for more information.

Rough Cut includes a fantastically diverse range of films created by VCUarts majors from both the Kinetic Imaging and Dance + Choreography departments. Dr. Kate Sicchio, Assistant Professor of Dance and Media Technologies,  facilitated curation of the screening with a panel of students and faculty.

Love On Tap, by Phil Archer, is a multimedia animation featuring a tap dance routine to Beyonce’s “Love on Top.” This piece showcases a wide variety of animation techniques and materials, including felt puppets, yarn, collage, and many others. The bright colors and feel-good vibes paired with the upbeat music result in a positive, uplifting viewing experience.

Taylor Colimore’s Arrival & Departure is a performance piece about being away from all the people you love and the moments when they arrive to visit and moments when the depart after visiting.

In Break, Michelle Dominado has created a 2D frame-by-frame rotoscoped animation of a b-boy.

In the Dark of Night, by Angie Gan is an expression of who we are when are truly alone. It is a dance that represents the freedom to live our deepest fantasies.

Anna George’s Interstellar Love is a sweet, fun love story of two stars dancing through space

What would you do if a million dollars appeared in your bank account? Kyana Harris’s film Money Goodt explores a baddie adventure that she and her girls take on when some extra zeros in their account cause them to go from drab to fab!

Unraveling Connections

Directed by Alexiana James and choreographed by Kasey Grigsby, Unraveling Connections investigates authentic connections through willingness and vulnerability.

tercet, created by Michael Shea and Chaunci Hannibal, explores the differences in tonality and movement quality that arise when three directors work with the same subject matter, environment, and material constraints. Each chapter of the film arose from a differing emotion; when viewed subsequently they form an abstracted glimpse into human consciousness and the cathartic power of dance.

Megan Siepka’s I Was Walking / Heap of Testimony depicts rage, discomfort, and reclusive behavior in the face of violation.

“Alone in the woods and a desire to capture the moments they decide to document their world.” Tay Williams’s film offers a dance rendition of Billie Eilish’s song everything i wanted.

Rough Cut is the sixth event in the VCUarts Dance + Choreography 2019-2020 performance season. Recognized by professional dancers and choreographers as “a place where things are happening,” Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Dance and Choreography offers a vibrant and stimulating atmosphere where students prepare for careers in dance.

The post VCUarts Dance Presents 1st Annual Student Film Screening appeared first on Grace Street Theater.

Tickets Available: VCUarts Dance NOW

Tickets Available: VCUarts Dance NOW

VCUarts Dance is pleased to present VCUarts Dance NOW, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday February 6th-8th at 7:30pm nightly plus a 2pm Saturday matinee at the Grace Street Theater, 934 West Grace Street, Richmond, VA. Tickets are now available online from our ticketing page or by calling our box office at 804-828-2020.

Tickets:
$15 General Admission
$10 Students (with valid I.D.)/Seniors
FREE for VCU students with valid I.D.

*VCU students: Email gracestreet@vcu.edu NO LATER THAN 12PM ON WEDNESDAY, FEB. 5 to request your free ticket. Be sure to use your VCU email address and include your V number in your email. Bring your mobile/printed ticket and valid VCU ID to be checked at the door. 1 free ticket per VCU student, only to be used by student. 

For 2020, this concert in two programs features new works by VCUarts Dance faculty, students, and guest artist Christopher K. Morgan.

Program A: Thursday 7:30pm + Saturday 7:30pm
Julian Kevon Glover, iCubed Visiting Scholar
Cristopher K. Morgan, Guest Artist
Scott Putman, Faculty
Eric Rivera, Faculty
Dr. Kate Sichhio, Faculty
Megan Siepka, Student
Sydney Wiggins, Student

Program B: Friday 7:30pm + Saturday 2pm
Joi Brown, Student
Sinclair Emoghene, Faculty
Michelle Knight, Student
Christopher K. Morgan, Guest Artist
Trebien Pollard, Faculty
Judy Steel, Faculty
Noah Zaner, Student

Recognized by professional dancers and choreographers as “a place where things are happening,” Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Dance and Choreography offers a vibrant and stimulating atmosphere where students prepare for careers in dance.

For more information about the Department of Dance and Choreography, please visit: www.arts.vcu.edu/dance.

For ticketing assistance please call The Grace Street Theater Box Office at 804-828-2020.

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Miyazaki ponders future of Earth in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”

Miyazaki ponders future of Earth in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”

The Byrd Theatre’s repertory theme for January is “The Future Is Now.” Personally, I spend a great deal of time worrying about the future. Not only my own, but the future of Earth. Humans have already destroyed so much of this planet, is it even possible to repair our home? 

I can tell this is a question that is also on Hayao Miyazaki’s mind. The Japanese writer and director is known for “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”, amongst many other animated classics. Miyazaki is a known environmental activist and the majority of his movies showcase his distrust in technology and manmade advancements, and feature spellbinding depictions of the natural world. 

Miyazaki's Sea of Decay from Nausicaa of the Valley o the Wind
The Sea of Decay

Released in 1984, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” is Hayao Miyazaki’s second film. It tells the story of battle on a planet on the verge of death. A thousand years ago, a global war called “Seven Days of Fire” has wiped out most of humanity and civilization. Toxic plants and gigantic mutated insects grow and form the Fukai, a sort of swamp of life and death. However, humanity still exists in scattered, small pockets. The film centers around Princess Nausicaa, a skilled, nature loving young warrior who reigns over The Valley of the Wind, a small island where the strong gusts of air from the ocean nearby serve to protect its inhabitants from the spores spread by the poisonous plant life and fauna within the Fukai. 

Nausicaa on her glider from Miyazaki's Naussicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaa on her glider

Miyazaki drew influence from Homer’s “The Odyssey” for his protagonist. When Odysseus shows up shipwrecked on the coast of Scheria, Nausicaa, native to the land and daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, discovers him and invites him to their home to recuperate. When Odysseus bids her adieu, she tells him, “Never forget me, for I gave you life.” Miyazaki based his Princess Nausicaa off of a Japanese translation of The Odyssey by Bernard Evslin, in which she is portrayed as a lover of nature. In this film, Nausicaa too creates life. She spends her time cruising on her glider into the toxic jungle, where she studies the growing plants and beings there and collects samples to grow in her lab for study. She has a way with animals, and can tame the feistiest of creatures. “What a mysterious power she has,” one warrior wonders to himself. Nausicaa can also communicate with Ohmu, giant caterpillar-like creatures who guard the Sea of Decay. 

Nausicaa in the battle scene from Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

In an article entitled “Nature and Asian Pluralism in the Work of Miyazaki Hayao,” Sugita Shunsuke writes; “By conventional human standards, the Sea of Decay is neither idyllic nor lovely to behold, yet Princess Nausicaä pronounces it beautiful. In Miyazaki’s view, there is far more to nature’s wonder than pretty flowers and trees. In the Sea of Decay, which continues to thrive and evolve amid discarded metal and ceramic objects and radioactive waste, Princess Nausicaä perceives a higher order of beauty, the sublimity of nature’s ever-changing vitality.” 

Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind landscape

Miyazaki wants to show us that the natural world is more powerful than humankind and everything we could possibly invent combined. In fact, his current project is the creation of a nature sanctuary. In 2016, Miyazaki announced he will be designing and opening “The Forest Where the Wind Returns,” a 10,000 square meter park within the Zendo Forest Park in Okinawa, Japan. It will be devoid of food courts, gift shops, and all capitalist ventures, and will instead be a dwelling where children can explore and grow enchanted with the natural world. It will also include a large library and sleeping quarters. The design will have little impact on the land and will outsource local labor and talent to make it all come to fruition. 

Miyazaki can effortlessly combine awe with social commentary. In movies like “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” he is simply reminding his audience of the magic around us. We cannot ignore our dying planet. We must recaptivate ourselves with the wonder that Miyazaki sees, and calls on all of us to see. 

“Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” will be shown at the Byrd Theatre on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 10 am as part of the Family Classics Series. 

The post Miyazaki ponders future of Earth in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” appeared first on The Byrd Theatre & Foundation.

The Polar Express and the Era of Motion Capture

The Polar Express and the Era of Motion Capture

“The Polar Express” is an early 2000s hit turned Christmas classic. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it tells the story of a young boy who takes a journey to the North Pole during the holiday season and learns that the Christmas spirit, and really the wonder of life in general, never fades if you believe.

It’s a beautiful story and includes some great songs/ musical numbers (“Hot Chocolate” is my personal favorite), but many have dubbed the film “a little creepy” because of it’s hyperrealism. The movie premiered in 2004, and it was still jarring to see such “real” animation. “The Polar Express” was the first movie ever made entirely with performance captured technology. Also
referred to as motion capture or “mo-cap,” this technological technique had been used before, in movies such as “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” but never for an entire film.

Motion capture actually dates back to 1915. According to an article by Jessica Conditt for engadget, “Max Fleischer, the animator behind “Betty Boop” and “Popeye,” invented a technique called rotoscoping, wherein animators would film an actor, project that performance onto a transparent plane, and then trace over their movements frame by frame.” This development set the wheel in motion, and later on, in the 1960s, “The Animac” was invented. Dubbed “the grandfather of modern mo-cap,” this machine utilized analog circuits and cathode ray tubes, so when performers were hooked up to the machine, the animators were able to record movement in real time. The actors essentially wore an early, more primitive version of a body suit similar to the sensor-studded ones that spring to mind when we think of mo-cap today. Movements were able to be recorded much more fluidly, and motion capture was forever changed.

Today, motion capture is achieved by using a combination of advanced cameras, body sensors, and various software tools to create uber lifelike movements and facial expressions for characters in animated films and video games.

There’s probably a good chance you have used motion capture before on your phone! “Memojis” – a popular tool on the new apple ios software is a very simple form of motion capture technology. By using your front facing camera, you can animate your own digital character. It simply copies the facial expressions you make and takes an audio recording of your voice, and viola! You have a motion captured avatar. We are living in the digital age, and with so many technological advancements launching all around us, it’s extremely easy to forget that this same technology was being used by the top animators, filmmakers, and video game makers just a few years ago. I personally think the “Memoji” feature is pretty creepy, partly because of how simple it is. It also seems invasive to me, and I constantly worry about what the cameras on our phones are receiving and doing…but alas, that’s a different story.

However, and I am glad that this tech is becoming more and more accessible, as that can only mean a new wave of animators and artists growing up with the tools they need to produce their work, and not having to worry about the cost of creation being exorbitant. That is extremely
important.

Tom Hanks actually performed six different roles in “The Polar Express,” including the Hero Boy, the Conductor, and the Father. The animators were able to create multiple vastly different characters in the design process, but relied on Hanks to bring them to life using exaggerated facial expressions and movements. Fifteen years ago, the sensors were not as strong, so the
motion captured performers had to be…animated themselves. Nowadays, sensors can record the slightest movement, so these more “theatrical” performances are no longer necessary.

The most difficult part of animating “The Polar Express” was creating realistic looking hair. You can’t attach motion sensors to hair, so the artists behind the film actually had to illustrate and create each and every strand from scratch, then animate it to move and fall in a realistic way. This process was extremely difficult and time consuming, but because the creators behind “The Polar Express” refused to neglect a single detail, the movie itself is so lifelike. It’s a real wonder.

“The Polar Express” will be shown at The Byrd Theatre on Saturday December 21, 2019 at 10am as part of the Family Classics Series.

The post The Polar Express and the Era of Motion Capture appeared first on The Byrd Theatre & Foundation.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night brings beauty to vampires

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night brings beauty to vampires

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a 2014 Persian-language film written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. Deemed; “A new vampire classic, one to treasure endlessly” by The Playlist, this movie does away with all the classic vampire tropes. Our unnamed protagonist is a vampire teenage girl who travels by skateboard and preys solely on men who harm and disrespect women.

The film contains such an enjoyable eeriness. Even the seemingly unsettling shots of the dark and empty streets of Bad City (the fictional Iranian town where the film is set) feel comforting. This is because the “monster” in this film isn’t a monster at all, instead she’s more of a Robin Hood figure, turning her thirst for blood into vengeance. And we’re rooting for her the entire time. I don’t think Amirpour intended to scare her audiences, but instead give them the same feeling of power that “The Girl” has. Watching this movie makes me feel like her – strong, cunning, observational, and calm.

And she is almost always silent. In fact, the entire movie is extremely quiet. Bad City is essentially a ghost town and there isn’t much dialogue either. Music fills the absence of words. The soundtrack, comprised of a blend of western compositions and inventive Middle Eastern rhythms is one of the best components of the film. The Girl and other main character, Arash,
form a bond because of music. Arash is hardworking, he looks after his drug addicted father and has no time for anything but work and taking in tunes. Until matters in the drug trade go awry, and Arash encounters The Girl. Although few words are exchanged between them, they form a
strong friendship. It’s not a silent film, but with its utilization of black and white analog, it sometimes feels that way. The cinematographer is Lyle Vincent, who also DPed Thoroughbreds, a 2017 film following two different murderous teenage girls. His camera makes the spaces depicted seem larger than life, and close ups are utilized to get a peek into the characters thought processes. Of course, the black and white effect adds another layer of
beauty.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was originally a short, and the feature was funded through an IndieGoGo campaign that raised 56,000 dollars. With a budget that small, it’s fair to not expect much. It just goes to show you that you don’t need a lot of money to create a masterpiece. Many reviews call it “strange” or “unusual” – but to me it makes perfect sense. It’s a gorgeously made blend of so many great elements. Vampires. Western style storytelling. And a powerful girl who kills cruel men.

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Rosemary’s Baby – A classic horror film

Rosemary’s Baby – A classic horror film

Rosemary’s Baby is a 1962 film directed by Roman Polanski, adapted from the novel of the same name by Ira Levin. It follows a young newlywed couple, Rosemary Woodhouse (played by Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy, who have just moved into a new apartment in New York City. Guy forms an immediate friendship with the older couple next door, Minnie and
Roman Castevet, who are almost comically welcoming. Rosemary becomes pregnant and there are multiple concerns that she encounters throughout the early stages of her pregnancy, so she seeks out a friend by the name of Hutch, who finds her symptoms strange and suspicious. He does some research and gives Rosemary a book on witchcraft, hoping it will help her discover what’s wrong. She researches using the book and other resources and deducts that Roman has ancestors who are satanists, and she is to give birth to the devil himself.

Aside from the obvious goosebumps that this move causes, it contains amazing design and style. Shot and set in the late sixties, it highlights some of the best fashion from the time. I marvel at all of Rosemary’s chic outfits and shift dresses. In an article by Olivia Singer for AnOther she writes; “(Polanski) employed costume designer Anthea Sylbert to, as she explained,
put people at ease and thus make the impact of the storyline even more disturbing… “He wanted everything to look ordinary. People are put at ease by ordinary…He didn’t want anything in the film to seem sinister.” And so protagonist Mia Farrow was dressed in a saccharine sixties wardrobe, her evil neighbours in garish embellishments and the result was indisputably brilliant.”

Mia Farrow also debuts her “career changing” pixie cut in the film. “It’s Vidal Sassoon. It’s very in,” Rosemary says. The cut cost the budget another 5,000 dollars, but, depending on who you ask, it was well worth it. The cut is iconic, and still referenced to this day. However, it was rumored that her then husband, Frank Sinatra, hated the haircut so much that he served her his divorce papers on set because of it. Although it is true that the couple went through a divorce during the shooting of the film, the haircut being the cause ended up to be a myth.

What I, and I’m sure many others, find so chilling about Rosemary’s Baby is the inevitability of it all. Abortion was not an option. The monster is quite literally inside her, growing within. The offspring is never revealed, which is one of the best choices in cinema history. When Rosemary blurts the iconic line “What have you done to its eyes?,” we don’t need to see the child to feel fear. The expression of sheer horror upon Mia Farrow’s face tells us
everything. It lets the audience paint a portrait of what they personally find horrifying. There are no jump scares, no crazy special effects, nor any screams throughout the film. It’s all psychological. The plot is quite close to everyday life. Again, we invent what scares us.

The film itself is even rumored to be haunted. Of course, Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate as well as four of their friends were murdered by members of the Manson family a year after the film was released. I believe this is coincidental timing but important to mention. Perhaps a creepier fact, Krzysztof Komeda, the composer of the film fell off a cliff in Los Angeles,
mysteriously. He fell into a coma and passed away a few months later, in April of 1969. He awoke only one while he was in comatose. When Rosemary’s Lullaby was played to him.

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