Photo of the Week

RedwoodsBobCR

“Redwoods” © Bob Corn-Revere

Of Note

mcostiganMarguerite Costigan is the new poet laureate for San Luis Obispo County. Costigan, 69, has lived on the Central Coast since 1970 and is both a poet and painter. She will read from her work at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 7, at the new Atascadero City Library, 6555 Capistrano Avenue. Admission is $8. Costigan’s reading is part of the upcoming  31st Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival, scheduled November 2, 7, 14, 15, and 16. Featured readers in this year’s festival include Jack Foley, Glenna Luschi, Jerry Smith, and Christopher Buckley. Festival  co-directors Kevin Patrick Sullivan and Patti Sullivan have published an anthology of poets from the first 30 years of the festival. Copies of Corners of the Mouth: A Celebration of Thirty Years at the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival will be on sale at all festival events.

November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Thousands of scribes across the country will toil over their computers to try and write a novel in less than 30 days. Anne R. Allen has a few suggestions about how to turn this exercise into a fruitful writing project. Anne R. Allen

taprootThe Taproot Foundation has created an online marketplace it calls the “Match.com of pro bono.” Taproot+ links nonprofits to skilled volunteers with expertise in areas like marketing, database design, and strategic planning. Taproot Foundation employees will review proposals and help improve any unclear project descriptions. Professionals looking to share their skills can browse projects on the site. Nonprofits may ask for in-person help, or may use volunteers working remotely.  Taproot+

Are you an artist looking for opportunities to show your work? Are you a volunteer who wants to find a great nonprofit organization? Are you looking for funding for the arts? We have a place for you! OPPORTUNITIES in the Arts features notices about jobs, auditions, calls for entries, grants, skills training and more. Here’s a sample: a free panel discussion, “Meet the Grantmakers: What’s Trending in the Arts Funding World?” will be offered at the Founation Center in San Francisco on Wednesday, October 29 . . . but you don’t have to travel anywhere to participate—watch via live stream beginning at 10 a.m. Two for the Show: Opportunities

craftmarketThe San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is gearing up for its annual Craft Art Fair. This year’s market, in its 27th year, runs from November 20 to December 31, 2014 in the museum’s Nybak Wing. High quality jewelry, handbags, scarves, home décor, ceramics, holiday ornaments, glass, small-scale photos, prints, or painting, folk art, and other handmade fine craft items will be available.

ChicagoGood seats are still available for the road tour of the Broadway smash musical Chicago at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center on November 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. If you haven’t seen it, this show has everything that makes a Broadway musical great: a universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; one show-stopping song after another; and some of the most astonishing dancing you’ve ever seen.  Purchase tickets here.

Meagan Friberg takes you on a tour of the upcoming Paderewski Festival, November 5-9 in Paso Robles. Paso Robles Daily News

winetourismconferenceFollowing the Paderewski Festival, SLO County plays host to the fourth annual Wine Tourism Conference November 12-14, with most conference events happening at the Paso Robles Inn. An estimated 200 wine and tourism leaders are expected to attend.

interstellarThe countdown continues to Friday, November 7 and the release of the Next Big Movie—Christopher Nolan’s InterstellarCheck out the official trailer and this initial review from the Hollywood Reporter (“a grandly conceived epic that engrosses but never quite soars”). Nolan, who directed the acclaimed Batman trilogy, has said that 2001: A Space Odyssey is his favorite movie. Let’s see how the two compare.

Review

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Scary Poppins: No frights—just fun, laughter and joy

By Charlotte Alexander

October 22, 2014 (Oceano, CA) – So . . . if Halloween means lots of fun instead of lots of frights for you and your family, the most fun you will find on the Central Coast this month and next is at The Great American Melodrama in Oceano.

The fun comes in the form of Scary Poppins, a musical spoof that introduces the batty and bizarre twin sister of everyone’s favorite super-nanny. The title role is played to perfection by the super-talented Eleise Moore, who has returned to the Melodrama stage after a six-year absence. Moore and the other six perfectly-cast and perfectly-funny players make this one of the Melodrama’s most delightful parodies in recent memory.

ScaryPoppins1Picture young brats Jack and Jill (Alex Sheets and Katie Worley, whose athleticism and timing are finely honed), living in Edwardian London with their widowed father (Philip David Black, who has never been funnier) and servants-with-agendas-of-their-own Jeeves and Prudence (newcomers Cody Jolly and Meggie Siegrist, who fit into the Melodrama family smooth as silk).

The stage is set when the opening number introduces the family with the lyrics “Here on Cherry Tree Lane” set to the tune of (sing along now) “Here on Gilligan’s Isle.” The characters who show up to meddle with this dysfunctional family are straight out of a ’60s sitcom as well, including Lady Malarkey and the Baron Nogoodnik, both played by Noah Kaplan, who endures enthusiastic and appropriate boos and hisses from the audience with just the right amount of disdain and aplomb (even coming up with snarky off-the-cuff retorts when necessary).

ScaryPoppins2And of course, swooping in with the aid of her magical umbrella (in a pretty hilarious arrival sequence that you have to witness to ever-so-thoroughly enjoy) comes Scary Poppins herself to save the day. She gets some help from Dirt (Cody Jolly in his second hilarious role of the evening), who lives in the sewers below London with at least one rat to keep him company.

Yes, the sewer is one of several settings for this production, including the family’s fancy London home (inside and outside) and a warehouse roof. These artful sets are thanks to the meticulous attention Brian Williams pays to set design and execution. The clever costuming, rendered by designer Renee Van Niel, is so appropriate that when the father refers to “the woman wearing the upholstery,” you know exactly who he’s talking about (and yes, Scary Poppins’ wardrobe is the most handsome use of drapery since Scarlett O’Hara transformed her curtains in Gone with the Wind). The lighting design (by indefatigable stage manager Amanda Johnson) works so seamlessly you practically take it for granted.

This attention to detail contributes to the elegant sense of timing that director Eric Hoit (sharing choreographing credit with Leah Kolb) and musical director Kevin Lawson have obviously worked hard with their cast to achieve. The sense of delight surrounding this production shows up in the audience appreciation for its many well-chosen and well-executed song parodies – everything from “Put a Ring on It” (just too, too funny) to a lively “Dancin’ in the Streets” (or in this case, “underneath” the streets).

Because it showcases so well the great amount of fun and laughter and joy The Great American Melodrama brings to an evening of family entertainment, Scary Poppins is the perfect kickoff to the theatre’s 40th anniversary season. If this is an example of what to expect from the Melodrama in the next 40 years, bring it on!

Asked & Answered

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Ynana Rose: Singer/Songwriter

“I find myself writing about lust, dying, longing, faith, persever-ance, everyday tragedies and miracles. . . songs are like puzzles of the heart that I have to solve in order to sleep well at night.”

YnanaRose1

October 24, 2014 (San Luis Obispo, CA) — Singer-songwriter Ynana Rose is more than ready for her close-up, with a little help from her friends. After playing with a number of local bands, Ynana decided it was finally time to take a solo leap. The result is the self-titled CD, Ynana Rose.  Here’s her state of mind as she prepares for a second CD release gig.

David Congalton: How are you feeling as we count the days to your CD release party? What’s in your head?

Ynana Rose:  I’m excited to bring the “release” part of the CD to a close. I scheduled two CD release parties, and the first one at D’Anbino in Paso Robles earlier this month with Songwriters at Play was a big success. Damon Castillo graciously shared the bill with me and the combination of our crowds packed the place. I’m glad that I have another one scheduled because some people weren’t able to get in. CD release parties, by their nature, are kind of a love fest because the audience is usually there to cheer you on and share in the celebration of a milestone. So it is guaranteed to be a good time. I’m also looking forward to playing with Kenny Blackwell (mandolin) and Dylan Johnson (bass)— both of whom I have played with before, but never together. I love Steynberg Gallery and have seen some wonderful shows there over the years, so I feel honored to be taking the stage.

DC: Share with us a little bit about the project. How did Ynana Rose come together?

YR: The CD came about as a response to the very real need to get recorded music available online in order to be employed. Oddly enough, I never had the focused dream of “I hope to record my own CD some day.” It just kind of suddenly was in front of me and clearly had to be done. These days everything works on a “click and see if I like it” instant gratification basis, so I needed to get into the game as a solo artist. A band that I had been involved with for several years, The Swingin’ Doors, closed and I was able to focus more on my solo project. I have been playing locally as a solo artist for several years now, honing the craft of writing and performing solo. Rose is my middle name, so “Ynana Rose” is my stage name, and became the name of the CD by default.

DC: What about the actual recording of the CD? How did that work out?

YnanaRose2YR: The recording process was incredibly challenging. I had never recorded before, other than lending vocals and guitar here and there to a couple of demo projects I had been involved in, so the learning curve was very steep. Honestly, every single part of it stretched and challenged me. I was completely surprised by how much work it required: the pre-recording work at home, being 100 percent “on” in the studio, recording vocals, recording guitar, writing harmonies, figuring out the right production and arrangement for each song, communicating what I heard in my head to the studio musicians, the process of mixing, choosing a mastering company, the graphic design of the CD, choosing which photos to use, writing the liner. . . umm. . . is there anything I left out?

DC: I have no idea of the emotional challenge involved in such an undertaking.

YR: Sure. I was also surprised by the degree of spiritual fortitude that the intense creative process required. At times I felt like it was a crushing experience—as in, you get your best juices out, but it’s not entirely pleasant. I didn’t choose a creative path until I was in my late 30s, so the cycle of intense creativity and fall back into real life, and doing that over and over, was really fascinating and unsettling. I was so fortunate to work with a dream team of people at each step of the way: Damon in the studio, studio musicians that were professional and supportive and so talented, photographers Carolyn Eicher and Andy Zink, my godfather John Campbell who created the stained glass art for the CD package, and graphic designer Erin Inglish. Once I got into it I was determined to make it something I can live with comfortably in 20 years. Not like anyone ever sits around and listens to their own CD—you work on it on such a microscopic level that you can’t really ever enjoy it like you would fresh music, but I did feel like regrets and “I should have”s and “I wish I had just”s etc. were not an option. So yeah, it was probably my most challenging experience since my first year of motherhood and the early “non-sleeping” years of my second child—but it was incredibly rewarding and I would do it again in a second! Well, maybe in a few more years.

DC: You acknowledge local favorites Damon Castillo and Inga Swearingen. How did they help you?

YR:  Damon and Inga are similar people in a way: so talented that they just kind of floor you, but also so kind and warm-hearted and approachable that you just feel good being around them. Like most people, when I hear Inga perform I am blown away, so of course she is inspiring to me as a vocalist. But there is a way that she is so joyful about her music, truly one with it, and the pleasure of creating in the moment, that is really unique and a wonder to behold. So she inspires me hugely in that way. I took two voice lessons from her a few years ago, and she really helped me focus on my voice as an instrument. She encouraged me to pursue further study with Jackie Kreitzer, her own vocal coach, when I was ready for more. Jackie is a vocologist at CalPoly, and she completely rocked my world. Damon was recommended to me by both Inga and Bob Liepman. Damon has this great policy in the studio in that he has learned from his own recording experience how important it is to find a good fit between the artist and the recording engineer/ producer. It doesn’t matter how experienced they are, how many other people love them or how many Grammys they have, it’s about the connection. So we recorded one song fully, with other musicians and full arrangement etc., to make sure we both wanted to do some serious time together. He has this amazing even keel energy, combined with an impressive realm of knowledge and skill in the control room. It’s so personal, and he is very respectful of that. He’s also really light-hearted and funny, which balances out my tendency to be kind of heavy in the creative process. There’s something about him that makes you want to put on your big girl boots and do your best. He brought a level of production to my project that I never, ever could have done alone.

DC: You’ve said that “songwriting keeps me honest.”  How so? What are the themes that draw your attention? What do you find yourself writing about, and is it easy for you to write songs?

YR: Songwriting really demands honesty. I think any kind of writing does. The story, the characters, the emotion needs to be authentic and not self-indulgent. Your ego doesn’t have a place in the song, so you have to constantly try to rise above it. One of the most important things, in my opinion, is to be able to scrap a song that you have spent countless hours on. It’s that Catch 22 of it needing to be about the process in order to get a good product. For me, the writing process is usually one of bursts of inspiration followed by a significant amount of hard work. So through multiple revisions, you can see where your lack of knowledge or fear or desire or attachment etc. is hindering the song, and pushing through that is important. It’s really a mysterious process. I love this quote by Rosanne Cash: “You have to show the muse you are serious.” Poet Mary Oliver says it this way: “You have to show up.” I don’t by any means think that I have this all figured out—but I love the journey. Right now I have so many songs that are yelling at me to be finished; I haven’t been able to focus on writing since I started recording in April. Common themes for me are love and loss. I find myself writing about lust, dying, longing, faith, perseverance, everyday tragedies and miracles. The trick is to write about what you are emotionally connected to so that the potency is there, but universal enough that it appeals to a wide audience. I don’t think I’ve figured that out yet either. No, it’s not easy. It’s like an adrenaline rush of inspiration followed by a frustrated pounding of the head, then maybe a hike or bike ride to clear the mind, followed by a breakthrough idea and another adrenaline rush. For me songs are like puzzles of the heart that I have to solve in order to sleep well at night.

DC:  You’ve enjoyed such a wide background as a performer. How is it now for you to step out more into the spotlight with this self-titled CD? Is there more pressure on you?

YR: Yes there is. I do love a good microphone and the stage, but this is a whole new game. I have been involved in music off and on since I was a child, but mostly singing other people’s songs. There’s a safety net in that, but I definitely reached the point where I just had to do this. I don’t mind the vulnerability of it. What is a little uncomfortable is the assumption that I am saying, “I have arrived! Look at me!” because although I’m proud of the CD, what I mostly feel is that I am finally on the right path. I appreciate looking into the audience and feeling the connection that lets me know they are on the path with me. Music is a communicative art, and this is my offering.

DC:  There are several lovely songs on this CD, but I smiled when I saw you included “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” by Dolly Parton. What a great song. There must be a story here.

YR: Oh yes. I love Dolly. We go way back. I grew up in very Northern California, Mendocino County, totally off the grid, living on a small mountain with pristine year round water and gorgeous sky. When we had enough working “C” batteries, I was attached at the hip to the radio, a little black boom box that got one FM radio station, and it was country. The late ’70s and early ’80s were a wonderful time in country music, and I grew up with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Emmylou Harris, so many more. I knew every single song  and sang them to the trees and my dog as loud as I could. Dolly was clearly singing “The Coat of Many Colors,” “To Daddy,” “Jolene,” etc. directly to me. I do feel that my brain was permanently imprinted with that music. Damon and I both felt that we didn’t want to include a cover tune unless we had something original to say with it. My two favorite versions of this song are on “Trio II” by Dolly, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris (go buy that album if you don’t have it, and “Trio I” while you are at it) and “Just Because I’m a Woman: The Songs of Dolly Parton,” a Dolly tribute album, covered by Joan Osborne. It was a fun song to produce with Damon too, because it was one of the few tunes that he strong-armed me (in his gentle way) into leaving the guitar and vocals very naked, and adding gentle piano to class it up. My friend Dulcie Taylor added dulcimer as a nod to the Appalachian roots of the song. I was born nostalgic, and the theme just fits me well. Dolly is a supremely elegant songwriter; I hope to study her lyrics and chord progressions for a lifetime.

DC: Songwriting is one challenge. Performing, actually going on stage, has to be quite a different experience. What’s the secret to being comfortable on stage and what have you learned along the way about how to stage a concert?

YR: Now that the CD is finished, my big project for this next year is fully sinking into the performance piece. I don’t have a band with a lot of time logged in already, so the feeling of newness and anticipation and nervousness is still a very real part of the experience. One of my goals for this year is to play with different people that I admire and are interested in my music, to figure out who is a comfortable fit. I veer into a few different genres within a given set, and while that makes sense musically to me, I’m sure it’s not the easiest thing to accompany well. This is a wonderful community of musicians, and I need to be flexible in terms of ensembles appropriate for each gig and venue. There are many secrets to finding your comfort zone onstage, and I’m still figuring mine out. I have learned a few tricks over the years, but it’s always a challenge. What works for me are EFT exercises (a tip from vocologist Jackie Kreitzer), which relieve anxiety through gentle tapping on the head and chest. Also remembering to find my gratitude before taking the stage and while performing. If I can fully feel my heart open in gratitude at the opportunity to share and connect through my music, it helps immensely. Because if I can do that, then my ego and fear kind of stand down, and I can be fully present in the joy of the experience. It also helps to remember that the audience is there for a show—so my internal drama is not what they are there for at all! It’s an honor to play for one person or a full house, as long as there is connection.