Saturday will see the premiere of “Scenarios,” a new dance piece by Lawrence Arts Center dance education resident Eleanor Goudie-Averill, at Lawrence’s Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St.
Inspired by the UK-based art duo Gilbert & George, the choreography evokes “a strange kind of time warp between Baroque classicism and comedia dell’arte and mime,” with what Goudie-Averill refers to as “Space Age-y movements.”
The Topeka native — and niece of longtime Arts Center artistic director of performing arts Ric Averill — has spent the past six months working with young dancers at the Arts Center as part of her residency.
Aside from a 2014-2015 teaching stint at the University of Iowa, where she received her master’s degree in dance performance, Goudie-Averill has spent the bulk of her career in Philadelphia, performing in several dance companies and co-directing the Stone Depot Dance Lab.
“Most of the work I’m doing at the Arts Center is basically for children and with children, which is wonderful, but I wanted to make a piece that was a bit more adult and followed the work I started with my dance company in Philadelphia,” Goudie-Averill says.
She also wanted a chance to collaborate with Juliet Remmers, whom she first met as an instructor at the Lawrence Arts Center several years ago, before the dancer and Kansas University guest lecturer’s upcoming move to Taiwan.
“Scenarios,” she explains, is actually a duet comprising two simultaneous solos, with the dancers moving between the venue’s two gallery spaces as characters reminiscent of Harlequin, the comic servant from Italy’s commedia dell’arte theatre.
Adding to the juxtaposition of time periods: live renditions of jazz standards (think Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock) by Lawrence musician Adrian Rees.
A series of four dance films, produced by Tori Lawrence + Co., will also be screened during the performance. The films, which in total run about 20 minutes, all feature a rural, Midwestern setting — one, “Man and Woman With Plants,” is a sort of “contemporary Grant Wood,” while “Husk” takes inspiration from real-life portraits of women at the Iowa Women’s Archive.
In recent years, Goudie-Averill says, “dance has been moving more toward the digital.”
“Your framing is chosen for you in a film — the way you see the body and from what angle is chosen for you,” she says, whereas at the Cider Gallery performance, “You can choose your own framing. You can be view it walking around or see it sitting or standing.”
Her goal with “Scenarios” is to create the appearance of the dancers being installed in the space. The Cider Gallery, she says, makes a perfect location to debut the piece.
“Another goal,” Goudie-Averill says, “was to make a duet that could be split into solos so if we wanted to, we could perform it alone,” whether that be here in the Midwest, in Taiwan, or in New York City — Goudie-Averill says she’s not certain where her post-residency life will take her.
Goudie-Averill and Remmers will also dance together later this month in the Arts Center’s production of “Peter and the Wolf” before Remmers heads off to Taiwan, Goudie-Averill says.
“It’s amazing, because I saw her grow up through the end of high school,” she says of her student-turned-peer. “When I was at grad school at Iowa, she came to audition there as an undergrad, and watching her, I just realized, ‘Oh, here’s an adult person, and not only an adult person but a really mature dancer.’ And we’ve become good friends.”
Live performances are scheduled for 7 and 8 p.m., with film screenings throughout the evening beginning at 6:30. Entry is a suggested donation of $5 at the door.
Ad Astra Theatre’s ‘Visions of Right,’ based on Westboro Baptist Church, to make Lawrence debut Friday
If you grew up around northeast Kansas, or anywhere in the Sunflower State, you’re probably familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church, the Phelps clan and their picketing of military funerals, gay-rights organizations and just about everything else under the sun. The church, classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, has a wide reach, and not just in Kansas, obviously.
Before the Phelpses and their followers head west to picket the Golden Globes ceremony in Los Angeles and a public high school in Redondo Beach, Calif., this weekend, its members will make a stop in Lawrence — this time to protest a play based on the Westboro Baptist Church and its controversial tactics opening Friday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.
Staged by the Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble and penned by award-winning Topeka playwright Marcia Cebulska, “Visions of Right” tells the story of a Topeka-bred photographer, who, spurred by tragedy, returns home from New York and finds herself — and her art — the subject of protest by the Zion Primitive Baptist Church, a fictionalized version of the Westboro congregation.
Friday marks the Lawrence debut of the play, which premiered last fall in Topeka to critical praise (the Chicago Dramatists, where Cebulska developed the script, applauded its “moments of transcendence, of epiphany, of illumination") and condemnation from the Westboro Baptist Church, calling it “blasphemous,” naturally.
“There was an appetite for more performances, and Lawrence is a different market,” says Darren Canady, an assistant professor of English at Kansas University and director of both productions. “We just really believed in the piece and what it said about life here in the Midwest and how we think about right and wrong.”
The story of the Westboro Baptist Church is inherently Midwestern, says Canady, who grew up in Topeka and, not unlike “Visions of Right” protagonist Christina, spent time in New York City before moving back to Kansas.
Christina, after hearing the attacks on her Jewish husband and gay best friend by Rev. Noah Jones, a character modeled off of Westboro Baptist leader Fred Phelps, throws herself into a crusade against the church.
But Christina ultimately begins to question her fight. No character, including Christina, as she ultimately realizes, is completely “pure,” Canady says. Instead, “Visions of Right” explores the gray area of humanity.
“The power of the play is that Rev. Jones is not presented as a boogeyman. Even if there’s not a rational basis for what he does, in his mind, he’s carrying out the will of his creator,” Canady says. “It’s easy for Christina to be dismissive of the reverend, but when she starts to wonder, ‘Why did certain things happen to me, and what has that done to my husband, my friends, my art?’ she begins to realize, ‘Maybe I’ve been looking at things in the wrong way.’”
In many ways, Christina's return to Topeka represents a misconception that Canady says he experienced with New Yorkers — that culture originates on the coasts and then makes its way to the Midwest. Not so, says Canady, who likens Kansas in particular to the country’s “laboratory.”
“Whether you’re talking about Bleeding Kansas or Brown v. Board or Westboro Baptist Church, things touch off in Kansas before they roll downhill,” he says. “The populism that’s part of the heritage in Kansas means that Kansas is at the forefront of a lot of social and political discussions.”
After the play’s premiere in Topeka, Canady and others involved with the production participated in a series of conversations with audience members.
Topics ran the gamut from personal responsibility (“How did they ignore the Phelpses as long as they did within the larger Topeka community?"), to the role of art in political and social issues, to marriage and how withholding secrets can affect relationships with those closest to us.
Canady hopes this weekend’s production will generate conversations of its own.
“I think that we talk at each other a lot, but discussion and discourse, I’m not sure of, so if actual discussion and discourse happen at all, I’m happy,” he says. “But if there were something that I’d want people to really take away from this, it’s discussion of, ‘What makes us human? What pushes us to act in the ways we do?’”
'Visions of Right' runs Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. the Lawrence Arts Center. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and $10 for students, and can be purchased online at www.lawrenceartscenter.org or by calling 843-2787.
Whether you're a kid (or a kid at heart), you won't find a shortage of fun and creepy things to do this Halloween weekend in Lawrence.
Here are just a few ideas — check out our Datebook for more.
A Festival of Magic & Mystery
5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive
Not in the Halloween spirit yet? This family-friendly event at Theatre Lawrence should get you there.
Among the attractions: magic shows from renowned illusionist Tom Burgoon (he’s performed in all 50 states, and even for President George W. Bush) and Kansas City’s own Korso the Curious.
Also, shadow puppetry for younger kids, a jack-o’-lantern contest and display featuring the work of Van Go Inc., Pinot’s Palette and local artists, and plenty of grub ranging from sweet treats to barbecue.
General-admission tickets cost $10, or $5 for kids 5 and under.
For more information, including where to buy tickets, visit www.theatrelawrence.com or call 843-7469.
Kansas University Symphony Orchestra Halloween Concert
Concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Lied Center of Kansas, 1600 Stewart Drive
A beloved tradition returns Friday evening with the KU School of Music’s Halloween Spooktacular.
On the program this year: plenty of magical and macabre music, from “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky to Richard Wagner’s “Overture to the Flying Dutchman” to “Suite from The Fellowship of the Ring” by Howard Shore.
Festivities begin with an “instrument petting zoo” for kids at 6:30 p.m. in the Lied Center lobby. The annual children’s costume contest will be held during the concert, with prizes for the winners.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and students, though kiddos (we’re talking up to 18 here) wearing their costume get in free.
For more information, call 864-3436 or visit www.music.ku.edu.
Spooktacular Four-Person Scramble
1 p.m. Saturday, Eagle Bend Golf Course, 1250 E. 902 Road
Join in on some sporty yet “spooktacular” fun with this four-person, nine-hole golf scramble.
Being that this is Halloween, costumes are encouraged, and teams with all members in costume will receive a five-stroke advantage. Prizes await, both for top performers in the golf portion and in the costume-judging contest.
The cost is $100 per team, and includes green fee, cart and prizes. Call 748-0600 for details.
Trick or Treat at the Watkins
5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
“Meet the ghost of J.B. Watkins as you make your way down Massachusetts Street,” this kid-friendly (and free) event promises.
We’re not sure how the late Lawrence financier plans on making his appearance Saturday, but the museum that bears his name should remain lively long after closing time with trick-or-treating and a special scavenger hunt. And yes, prizes will be awarded.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/watkinsmuseum or call 841-4109.
Downtown Lawrence Halloween Trick-or-Treat
5 p.m. Saturday, along Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence
Celebrate Halloween in the heart of Lawrence (i.e., along Massachusetts St.) with this family-friendly event. Downtown merchants will hand out treats from 5 p.m. until the candy runs out.
Lawrence Arts Center productions
Various showtimes Friday and Saturday, Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.
The Arts Center’s spooky stagings of “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers” and “A Midnight Visit to the Grave of Poe: A Grotesque Arabesque” both close on Halloween.
Catch them while you still can with showtimes Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively, for “Shivers,” and 7:30 p.m. both nights for “Midnight Visit.”
“Midnight Visit” tickets range from $10 to $25; “Shivers” tickets range from $8 to $12. For more information, visit www.lawrenceartscenter.org or call 843-2787.
Once every year for seven decades, a shadowy figure dressed in black paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the author’s grave in Baltimore.
This mysterious ritual — which involved a toast of cognac and a gift of three roses left at Poe’s grave — occurred in the wee hours of the morning every Jan. 17 from 1949 until the day of Poe’s bicentennial in 2009.
The “Poe Toaster,” as he (or possibly she, I guess?) is affectionately known, could still be out there, for all we know.
In fact, Ric Averill even contemplated inviting the unnamed Poe fanatic to his newest production at the Lawrence Arts Center, though even the longtime artistic director of performing arts admits the plan may be a long shot.
That’s too bad, because Averill’s original creation, “Midnight Visit to the Grave of Poe: A Grotesque Arabesque” is, as you might’ve guessed from the title, inspired by the Poe Toaster’s ritual.
Averill describes “Midnight Visit,” which opened last week at the Lawrence Arts Center, as a “total operaesque experience of the life and works” of Edgar Allan Poe.
Nearly 15 years in the making, the show combines “musical theater, modern dance, opera, rock sensibilities and spectacular digital imagery” in what Averill calls a “very Freudian psychological exploration” of a deeply troubled — yet brilliant — man.
(Oh, you mean Poe had issues beyond the fact that he married his 13-year-old cousin?)
“The idea I had as an artist was to see if the Poe Toaster came to the grave one night and instead of just laying down the roses, he actually encounters the ghost of Poe,” says Averill, who wrote the script and the music (it’s got an “earthy, contemporary sound” that mixes traditional rock instrumentation with a Steinway piano, synthesizer and cello) for the show.
“Midnight Visit” is told in six movements, five of which are based on famous works by Poe: “Morella,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “Eleonora” and “Annabel Lee.”
Running through each is “this sense of loss and grief” triggered by the death of Poe’s mother, whom he lost at the age of 3 to tuberculosis.
Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe (she and Edgar’s father, David Poe, were both actors) died young, at 23. So too did Poe’s cousin-wife Virginia Clemm, who also succumbed to tuberculosis at 24.
Both women — or some fictionalized, abstract versions of them — appear as ghosts in “Midnight Visit” accompanied by modern dancers and Averill’s five-piece rock/classical band.
“There’s this theme of this beautiful mother that echoes through Poe’s work,” Averill says. “It’s this tragic theme of using the young woman who comes back from death to haunt (the protagonist) and to say, ‘You should be loyal to me and never love another.’”
By the end of the musical, the midnight visitor leaves Poe’s grave with a greater understanding of the man and his stories.
The show moves fast, Averill says, and with the constantly moving backdrop of creepy digital images created by artists Clare Doveton and Jessica Kolokol, “there’s always something going on”
As for the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe’s death, no one knows for certain. The author’s alcoholism and opium addiction probably took a toll, Averill guesses, but he can’t be sure.
Averill says he’d love to see “Midnight Poe” enjoy a long life onstage. Right now, he’s thinking of following up on a couple of connections he’s fostered in Kansas City and Chicago.
“He was his own worst enemy,” Averill says of Poe, but, “What always fascinated me about Poe is just the beauty that can come out of that pain and that agony. It’s just astounding.”
"Midnight Visit to the Grave of Poe: A Grotesque Arabesque" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, aka Halloween (when guests are invited to wear their "best gothic Halloween costumes"), at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.
Tickets range from $10 to $25, and can be purchased at the box office, 940 New Hampshire St., or online at lawrenceartscenter.org.
For younger folks
"Midnight Visit," per Averill's description, is geared more toward adults and "sophisticated teens" than kiddos.
The Lawrence Arts Center's other spooky yet family-friendly production, "The Boy Who Left Home to Find out About the Shivers," also runs through Halloween. Tickets range from $8 to $12.
Expect plenty of decomposing eye sockets, severed limbs, and maybe even an undead doggie or two when the ninth annual Zombie Walk returns to wreak havoc downtown Thursday evening.
The event is slated to begin at 6 p.m., with participants dressed in their finest zombie attire gathering at South Park. Then, when the sun sets, they'll shuffle north on the east side of Massachusetts Street to Seventh Street before making their way back on the west side of Massachusetts Street.
The “zombies,” of course, aren’t just there to freak out unknowing passersby — they’re also raising money for the Lawrence Humane Society, with all proceeds and collections going toward the organization. (Though, given the level of enthusiasm some folks have lavished on their costumes and makeup in recent years, a few good-natured scares are a definite possibility.)
“It’s kind of like trick-or-treating for grownups, in a way. This is your chance to dress up and participate in that Halloween fun,” says Sally Zogry, executive director of Downtown Lawrence, Inc. “People go all out.”
All ages are welcome to participate in the festivities, which include a costume contest, food and drinks, photo shoots and more. Admittance is free, though “zombies” looking to add some authenticity to their getup can pay extra for a splash of fake blood or an undead makeover from professional makeup artists.
Official Zombie Walk T-shirts and koozies will also be available for purchase.
An afterparty in the “Zombie Safe Zone” next to The Granada Theater and the “Fallout Shelter” inside the Granada’s lounge is set for 7 to 10:30 p.m. This shindig is free, and family-friendly.
If you’re really planning on making an evening of it, the Granada will also stage an 18-and-up performance (you may want to leave the kids at home for this one, unless you’re lax about stripping and raunchy humor) by Lawrence-based Foxy by Proxy burlesque troupe at 10:30 p.m. Tickets for the show, aptly titled “Foxy Zombies,” cost $10 and can be purchased online at www.thegranada.com.
Last year’s Zombie Walk drew more than a thousand “zombies” and revelers to downtown Lawrence, Zogry says. She’s hoping for more this time around.
“Let’s face it — it’s fun to be scared, I think,” says Zogry, who’s made a tradition with her kids of watching zombies pass down Massachusetts Street every year. “And it’s something you can do together with friends and family.”
In other hair-raising news
Looking for even more spooky, kid-friendly things to do this week? You’re in luck.
• Friday marks the debut of the Lawrence Arts Center’s production of “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers.” Adapted from a classic Brothers Grimm tale, this local staging has transformed the Arts Center’s humble Black Box theater into a creepy haunted house.
The show opens at 7 p.m. Friday and runs through Halloween. Tickets range from $8 to $12, and can be purchased online at www.lawrenceartscenter.org, in person at 940 New Hampshire St. or by calling 843-2787.
• Also on the docket this weekend: AIM Dance Co.’s performance of “The Masque of the Red Death,” slated for Saturday at 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m.
This interactive performance invites audience members to travel from room to room of the Castle Tea Room, 1307 Massachusetts St., as the Edgar Allan Poe tale unfolds, encountering a new dancer — and a new piece of the story — at each stop along the way.