Arvada Center Blog

Building the world of Bright Star

Building the world of Bright Star

By Leslie Simon

How do you transport audiences from a wooden stage in Arvada to different locations and decades in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina? Award-winning Scenic Designer Brian Mallgrave puts deep thought and colorful imagination into creating immersive environments, something he has done for over 100 Arvada Center productions.

Brian’s latest work is for our fall musical Bright Star, by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. His designs for this musical take the audience to a specific place – Appalachia – and portray the passage of time as the musical flashes back and forth between the 1920s and 1940s.

Brian Mallgrave – Bright Star set color rendering

“The main vision of the setting envelopes the story through the use of a vintage 1930s map wall to “marry” all periods and locations- ascending into a silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flooring is representative of the porches and decking attached to our various cabin dwellings, grounding all moving scenic elements.”

Brian uses the floor to create various locations as well as add extra symbolism. “The flooring creates the symbol of a connecting star in the center- as all characters connect and grow- and starfields illuminate the sky areas above to encompass our Bright Star theme.”

In general, the set is representational – meaning it creates an illusion of reality rather than fantasy. Lighting creates an extra dimension in the two-dimensional buildings and cabins.  “Much of the play is memory, and the cabin slatwork, being semi-transparent, offers interesting opportunities for lighting, representing the layers of transparency and fragments that our story often revisits.”

This use of light and movement works with the movement and passage of time in the musical. It covers a span of over 20 years – moving back and forth in the story. “There are many moving parts in the line set (used to move things up and down), background structural elements, and castered (rolling) furnishings that move to parallel the storyline as it seamlessly transitions through time periods.”

Based on music, book and lyrics written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star’s bluegrass and Americana-tinged sounds influenced the stage design that Brian created. “The musical style is a big motivator and regional influence, thus the band is featured onstage, to reinforce the impact of this element.”

Whether you are a lover of bluegrass or just a fan of a good story, there is something for everyone in Bright Star. Tickets are on sale now – it opens September 6! 

7 Arvada Center classes you’ll fall for this season

7 Arvada Center classes you’ll FALL for this season

By Leslie Simon & Amberle N.

All photos in this blog post by Matt Gale Photography 2019

 

Classes for adults

1. The Cup Challenge

Monday, November 25 – December 16, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, 4 weeks

This workshop focuses on the endless design possibilities of the thrown cup. Students are challenged to develop ideas for form, function and surface, and create 20 unique cups from clay.

2. Hot Class Pumpkins

Saturday, October 5, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm / Saturday, October 19, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Held at The Furnace, A Glassworks

Celebrate autumn in this class where you make your own glass pumpkin while working with professional glass artists. Color and sculpt your creation to your desire, no prior experience necessary.

Classes for adults and children

  1. Caricature Workshop

Saturday, November 2, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, One-day workshop, ages 14-adult

Join us in this one-day workshop, conducted by caricature artist and illustrator, Jason Sauer and learn how a professional caricature artist draws those funny pictures of people!

  1. Wearable Technology for Costumes

Wednesday, October 2 – October 23, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, 4 weeks, ages 12-adult

Students design and fabricate wearable technology components for their favorite Cosplay or Halloween costumes learning how to make costumes come to life with light and sound.

  1. Teen/Adult Contemporary Dance

Monday, November 4 – January 20, 6:30 – 7:30 pm, ages 14-adult

A fusion of lyrical, jazz, hip hop, modern, and ballet, Contemporary Dance allows students to explore organic powerful and emotional movement.  For teens and adults with just a year or more of any style dance training.

Classes for children

  1. Theatre Explorers

Sunday, September 15 – November 17, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, 10 weeks, ages 4-6

A great beginning class for creative kids to discover theatre. Students are led on an imaginative journey each week, creating environments and characters.

 

  1. Cartooning: Anime and Manga

Tuesday, September 10—November 12, 4:00—5:30 pm, 10 weeks, ages 9—15

In this class, students delve into the world of sequential art and animation, bringing life to their own ideas and stories through the art of Japanese cartooning.

The Making of Bright Star

The Making of Bright Star

By Amberle N.

The story of the musical Bright Star begins with garlic crackers. 

Steve Martin met a rather shy Edie Brickell at a dinner party and offered her some, causing the renowned comedian and the indie music legend to become fast friends that night. Such a small story of breaking the ice set the stage for their friendship. In 2011, after listening to Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers’ album Rare Bird Alert, Brickell praised his songs and proposed writing music together. As Martin would admit to Stephen Colbert – though he’d written songs on his own and played banjo for other people’s songs – he had no idea how to write a song with another person from scratch but he went ahead and said yes. 

Martin and Brickell

Their musical partnership resulted in the 2013 album Love Has Come For You. In 2014, the title song won the Grammy for Best American Roots Song – a vindication of Martin’s musical talent with the banjo and Brickell’s return to the music scene after a long hiatus.

The idea for the musical came while Brickell and Martin were composing the album. One of the banjo compositions they created inspired the writing of a “train song,” and Brickell’s curiosity led her to discover a fantastic event in the history of the Iron Mountain Railroad. The traditional folksong “The Iron Mountain Baby” inspired Bright Star and forms the core of its narrative – an ideal story for the event of a lifetime.

Describing her appreciation of the Iron Mountain Baby to CBS, Brickell said “I love miracles and I read that story and said, it’s such a beautiful miracle and it’s so weird that anybody can do such a thing. And it just did – it sparked my imagination.” 

“So Familiar” Album Cover

The songs of Love Has Come For You are themselves a set of tiny stories, some funny and some serious. The album’s songs heavily inspired Bright Star, capturing the adventuresome highs and lows of the setting and serving as a point around which many characters were crafted. 

In a 2016 interview with Steven Colbert, Brickell described her experience of Bright Star’s lyrics as “singing a character’s heart,” in terms of who they are and how they feel. Martin sent her banjo compositions and she would sing to them until a song solidified, and that spirit carried into Bright Star as the two of them composed songs around the characters.

One of the first lines from the musical is, “If you knew my story, you’d have a good story to tell,” and the entire narrative occurs as a deeper look into the lives of characters who are stepping out of a background role as writers for others to tell their own story. It’s a story that does the work of paying attention to love, and the musical carries a sweetness that is rooted in tradition and the optimism of post-war America.

Bright Star plays at the Center from September 6 – 29.

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Five fun facts about Justin Hayward

Five fun facts about Justin Hayward

by Leslie Simon

Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues is an enduring talent that has helped to define the times in which he worked. At 17, he answered an ad in Melody Maker Magazine, successfully auditioning for UK Rock hero Marty Wilde and immediately hitting his stride writing classics such as “Nights in White Satin” and “Fly Me High.” The Moody Blues may be a household name – but did you know these five facts about Justin?

1. His musical career kicked off by answering an ad in popular UK rock magazine Melody Maker. After auditioning for acclaimed UK rock hero Marty Wilde, 17-year-old Justin landed a position in Marty’s band The Wilde Three. While on tour, Justin shared a room with a stand-up comic who started the day “with a stiff drink”.

2. In the 1970s, The Moody Blues (or as Justin affectionately calls them “The Moodies”), played Madison Square Garden twice in one day. They were given the “Golden Ticket” award for selling the most seats.

3. When he came to America, one of the first things Justin did was visit Lubbock, TX, the home of his musical idol Buddy Holly.

4. Justin still uses the 1965 Fender Sunburst Telecaster guitar that he played on the first two Moody Blues albums.

5. The song “Nights in White Satin” was intended to have the double entendre of “Knights in White Satin,” with the band even going so far as to have a knight on the album artwork.

 

Justin Hayward performs at the Center on August 14 as part of his “All The Way” tour.

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Storytelling tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Storytelling tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains

by Leslie Simon

Deep in the “hollers” of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can hear the sound of stories old and new being told in kitchens, on front porches and in the farm fields. When electricity was hard to come by, instead of radio and TV you provided entertainment with storytelling. This oral tradition is an important aspect of Appalachian life, with generation after generation passing down stories that teach us about life through historical fables, metaphors, and exaggerated tall tales. Listen closely and you will hear unique speech patterns like double negatives, clever wordplay, and unique spellings (“I’m a-goin’ down the mountain”) that involve much of the language of Colonial America.

This unique tradition of the Appalachian people combines tales from Celtic and European folklore, myths of the Cherokee, fables from African American slave culture, magical tales about meeting oversized animals with supernatural powers, and the ever-popular “Jack Tales” that follow the adventures of the trickster Jack. These Jack tales are kin to popular stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and they teach important lessons in cunning behavior and believing in yourself.

This generational passing down of stories allowed for some very old topics to be kept alive in what residents called “the Back Country.”  When folklore archivists like Richard Chase and Alan Lomax traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains area after the Great Depression to record these stories for cultural preservation, they found themes and subjects that went as far back as medieval knights and seafaring adventures. Often starting with the mother sharing stories with the children while working around the house, these tales were passed down from generation to generation, a vibrant tradition that still continues to this day.

Ray Hicks, Storyteller

In Bright Star, we see this storytelling tradition carry on. Inspired by the old folksong “The Ballad of the Iron Mountain Baby,” Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have created a story of love, loss, and the hope for a better life that keeps us going. Watch and listen as we follow Alice through years of her life, striving to create a home for herself while pondering over past life choices. We hope Bright Star leaves you with a story that you can pass on to others.