all day and all of the night: the 24-hour project.

24-Hour Project programsThe week leading up to the 24-Hour Project at Court Square Theater, I only worked one day. It was a teacher workday – we were finishing up first semester grades and planning for the second semester. I had a most productive day. I finished my grading and made a couple weeks’ worth of shiny, pristine, gorgeous lesson plans.

As usual, when I get ahead at work, we get a snowstorm, because the Universe can’t allow me to be fully and confidently prepared for tomorrow. So, we missed school the rest of the week. And each day, I thought, “Surely we’ll go back to school tomorrow,” so I made sure to be AS LAZY AS POSSIBLE that day, staying in bed as late as possible, returning to bed as often as possible, exerting as little effort as HUMANLY POSSIBLE. If I had known, lol, that I’d have a whole week off – man! I would’ve accomplished sooooo much more. I would have cleaned out the fridge, painted my kitchen cabinets, and laundered the linens on all five beds. Instead I ate Cheez-its, drooled on my pillow, and junked up on Dr. Phil. My mind grew as soft as the Playdoh my kids had dropped all over the family room carpet. Meh.

But Friday, January 24, I showered. I dressed. I did the hair and makeup. And I met Brandy at Capital Ale House for a sip before we embarked on the 24-Hour Project. Did we make it the whole 24 hours? Pffffffft. Heck no. For one, we got started a couple hours late. Two, I’d reverted to such an infantile condition that week that I worried what might happen if I wasn’t back in bed with a Binky by 11pm. So… this is a recount of what we actually saw.

When we got to the Capital Ale House that evening, the bartender immediately asked if we were responsible for “those love notes.” Did you see any of those? Someone (and no, it wasn’t us) sent love notes to local businesses. We could tell – based on handwriting and content analysis – that the notes came from a group of people. Creative people. People who could write a love note using the phrase “bloodless corpse” (Midtowne Market’s note). Dragonflies Toys and the Yellow Button also received notes, among other businesses. And Capital Ale House got this one:

Capital Ale HOuse love note frontCapital Ale House love note backWhat a nice ray of sunshine in that dreary week! Ah, Burg. You are so loved!

More evidence of Burg love: the attendance of and participation in that evening’s main event. The 24-Hour Project welcomed 46 acts (more than 200 performers!) who gave of their talents and time to put the Harrisonburg arts community to an “endurance test.” Could a theater stay open for 24 hours straight, managing back-to-back performances, patrons who arrived at all hours, and their own sleep deprivation? Yes. Could artists of all kinds get themselves to the theater and deliver a quality performances at any ungodly hour? Yes. Would patrons be so excited by the variety of performances that they would stay awake and attend the event for 24 full hours? Yes. And this 24-hour period is merely a microcosm of our arts community and the endurance needed to continually promote it and grow it.

We arrived at the theater, got a couple beverages, and found empty seats on the front row. I leafed through the program and read the descriptions of the performers. Some were quite intriguing, like Chris Howdyshell’s invitation to take a shower. Or Akota Chase: “the place you find yourself after drinking just enough to realize you’ve been conversing with the devil.” Or Crab Action, who managed to include “corpse paint,” “space opera,” and “uplifting” in their 40-word description.

First up for us was the JMU Horn Society, who for thirty minutes soothed and entertained us with several French horn pieces… from Handel’s Watermusik to a more playful number, “Hide and Seek.” In fact, JMU was quite involved with the Project, contributing eight performances and more than three hours of entertainment.

JMU Horn Society1 JMU Horn Society 2

Bourbon Barrel Congress hit the stage next, and if you haven’t seen these guys perform, you need to find out when you can and make arrangements. THEY ARE SO GOOD. Ethan Hawkins’ voice made me want to sob during the first number… sadness tinged with a weeeee bit of anger/vengeance/romantic tension: “I want you so bad… I want you so bad.” But then Chris Davis sang. Lordy. “I put some whiskey into my whiskey, I put some heartbreak in my heart” and that whole mournful thang. JUST STOP IT. We were mildly confused when they sang “Nothing Gets You Down Like Your Hometown”… Brandy pointed out that they must be from Staunton. Wamp! Good one!

Bourbon Barrel Congress 1 Bourbon Barrel Congress 2Luke Gibson and friends were… well, hilarious. I laughed continuously for their 15-minute set, even during the “uncomfortable silence” advertised in the program. At times he stood, at times he sat, at times other people came on stage… he joked about the stress of having to perform, his math teacher who sells drugs (it’s a JOKE, people), and delayed sentiments leading to heartache… None of that sounds funny as I read over it now. I guess you had to be there.

Luke Gibson 1 Luke Gibson 2I probably won’t adequately express how, ahem, funny Ivan Christo was, either, during his stand-up routine. He joked about how Virginia is just North Carolina upside down, what if hats could talk, and how some jokes only make sense in Wilmington, and his props (a piece of neon green poster board) added a much-needed element of awkwardness :) Punchlines included “drop your drawers,” “bald beagle,” and “it’s freakin meowt.”

Ivan ChristoDead Professional (aka John Harouff, aka the guy who’s also in Cinnamon Band) is just awesome. He does this thing with drum loops and two vocal tracks and his guitar. He harmonizes with himself. It’s part trickeration and part sheer talent… except it’s no trick: he’s responsible for all the sounds… playing music with his hands and feet and heart and lungs, all by himself.

Dead ProfessionalIt was getting kinda late and my Playdoh mind was wandering. Do musicians ever, during a performance, just get tired of singing? I mean, I love to sing, but I never sing for ninety minutes because I run out of hot water after like thirty. I also sing in the car while my kids cringe in the backseat. And even that’s never longer than thirty minutes or so… and even still I find myself saying, “Man, singing makes me tired!” Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

The last performance I saw on Friday night was Medicine Calf. They are the loudest two people I’ve ever heard. And I mean that in the best of ways. The drummer played with those giant Q-tip things, and the brushy things – I love that sound. I loved their complicated rhythms and tempos; I heard tones of Pink Floyd and Radiohead at times, and at other times, I’m not exactly sure what happened. But they were phenomenal.

Medicine CalfI got in the car. I was bushed. I thought about the many long hours ahead for the theater staff, volunteers, and performers. I thought how committed and caffeinated they must be. I resolved to return the next day, kids and all. There was too much good stuff; I didn’t want to miss more than I had to.

Growing an arts community isn’t easy. Many people have forgotten that art is a natural part of daily life. It brings depth and meaning to the rest of life. It softens the demands of work. The stress of family. The pinch of finances. Art suspends time, and that suspension is about as good for the soul as anything. After a long day of work, it’s sometimes hard to go back out just to see a couple paintings or a performance. But once there, you are infused with such energy that you want to return soon for more. And that’s why, after a week of Cheez-its and Dr. Phil, I NEEDED to get into that theater for an infusion. The arts cannot be looked upon as extra-curricular, as something one enjoys on a special occasion, or something reserved for those of a particular class. Harrisonburg works hard to provide regular, affordable access to all forms of art, and that work – the constant fundraising and promotion and creation – takes a level of endurance many communities just don’t have. Thankfully, our community does have it.

Stay tuned for the story of Saturday’s performances at Court Square Theater.

Court Square Theater nightCopyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

city kids: a guide to summer fun in the burg.

I don’t know about you, but during the school year, I am BUSY. And my kids are busy. The end of the year arrives none too soon, but still shockingly fast, and I often find I’m… unprepared. Come Monday, June 10, I’m going to have that “oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-with-the-kids-now” freak out. But this year, I’m determined to be prepared when they ask, “Mom, what are we going to do today?” So I’ve compiled this list — for myself, for you, for everyone who might find themselves in this predicament — of activities, camps and classes offered by Harrisonburg businesses and organizations to keep your kiddos busy allll summer long.

kids on a slip-n-slideSpitzer Art Center Children’s Workshops
Children ages 5 – 10 can sign up for one of many classes offered at the center. Register one week ahead for topics such as collage, drawing, water color, greeting cards, and more.

Larkin Arts Youth Summer Art Program
Kids ages 6 – 14 can attend week-long, 3-hour classes for $85. Classes include papier mache, sculpture, basket making, drawing, collage, photography, food art, painting, and a bunch of others.

larkin arts signArts Council of the Valley and Court Square Theater Summer Art Camp
These 3-hour, Monday to Friday classes cost $80 and include acting, characterization, script writing, choreography, improv, singing, dancing, poetry, filmmaking, comic creation, plus many more. Ages 6 – 15.

You Made It! also offers week-long camps, Monday to Friday for three hours, for $185. Ages 6 and up. Classes include clay, canvas painting, wheel throwing, pottery painting, fused glass, and several others.

kid in treeExplore More Children’s Museum offers 4-day classes, three hours per day, for ages 3 – 5th grade. Topics include LEGO engineering, Jedi training, Culinary Kids, Project Funway, Castles, Crowns and Catapults, Animal Adventures, and Construction Junction, to name a few.

kids hands holding LEGOSBlue Ridge Community College Learning Can Be Fun 
BRCC offers a zillion classes for grades K – 12, including art, music, dance, theater, culture, history, literature, nature, science, technology, sports and outdoor recreation. The classes run Monday – Friday for 3 hours each day, through the end of July.

James Madison University
JMU also boasts a large assortment of camps for summer kids, including baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, football, fencing and field hockey. They also offer band camp, diversity studies, poetry workshops, nonviolence seminars, and STEM classes.

Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation
In addition to spending some time at one of our many city parks, like Purcell, A Dream Come True, or Hillandale, your child can enjoy swimming at Westover Pool (open Monday through Saturday noon to 7pm and Sunday 1pm to 7pm) and a variety of classes. Some of their offerings include guitar, mountain biking, water adventure, adventure sports, rock climbing, rafting/kayaking, a ton of dance classes, archery, fishing, jump rope, skate boarding, and pretty much every major sport.

child in pool child at poolMassanutten Regional Library kicks off its annual Summer Reading Games, but you have to register THIS WEEK to get the free pass to the Massanutten Water Park. Other activities include Baseball Storytimes (Turks read to kids), Crafty Kids, LEGO Club, and Stitch and Knit, plus others.

RMH Wellness Center has full- or half-day camps on a weekly basis, for kids ages 4 – 11. Kids will learn about topics like dinosaurs, medieval times, the ocean, and space, plus participate in activities like swimming, rock climbing, indoor and outdoor games, playground time, crafts, fitness, and sports.

Library signYes, summer is about relaxing and decompressing after a stressful school year, but keeping your kids active will make them healthy, blah blah blah. Really, it’ll make them SLEEP WELL at night :) So sign up for something today! Consider it an investment in the sanity of your household. You’ll all be better for it.

child asleep in carCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISStaken identity: women in focus at court square theater.

Part Two of Four

future woman, in focus.

future woman, in focus.

The previous post, “Girl Talk,” summarizes my experience talking to women about issues facing women. It also underscores how totally confused I can get when faced with a complex topic. The remaining posts in this series — this one and two more — will explore the statistics presented in the documentary Miss Representation, the complexity of gender stereotypes, the mixed messages conveyed by the “media,” and ways of sorting it all out and moving forward. Maybe. ha ha.

I should re-iterate that this type of post is a slight departure from what we usually do, and everything you read here is what I see through my personal lens. That’s really all anyone can offer. So, I take full credit or blame for the ideas contained herein (official disclaimer).

After the Women In Focus social at the Dodger, I headed to Court Square Theater for the documentary. I must’ve gotten there earlier than I intended, because there were just a handful of people seated around me. But sure enough, just two minutes before the film was to start, a long line formed in the corridor. Now, ladies, do we have to be late for everything? And did we have to perpetuate a female stereotype at a film that explores the perpetuation of female stereotypes? So Michael Weaver politely took the stage and assured us that the film would start just as soon as they could get everyone through the ticket booth. And several women, ahem, just talked right over him. Eventually, the theater filled up: eleven men and a zillion women.

I’d like to share this synopsis from the Miss Representation web site in case you didn’t see the film:

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Writer and director Newsom, a former actress turned activist and documentary filmmaker who herself experienced debilitating body image problems, narrates the film. The film relays lots of disturbing statistics, some of which I’ll try to summarize and tie together here.

First, as a nation (according to the film), we spend more on beauty than on education. However, the film does not fully substantiate this claim. Does it mean that a lifetime of beauty products and procedures costs more than four years of college? And what if the student gets a scholarship or grant? There aren’t grants for beauty products, so I can see how those numbers might be unclear.

STILL, the statement implies that women value beauty over education, which IS a sad idea, no matter what you believe. If you believe it, then it stands to reason that, according to the film, sixty-five percent of women and girls will experience some form of eating disorder. If females value beauty so highly, then they’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve it. Newsom also implies that the MEDIA forces/conditions/brainwashes women (starting at a very young age) into valuing beauty over education. This is the part I struggle with. I think it’s safe to say that our upbringing and social/economic environments do shape our values as kids. But once we’re adults, we can choose our values, and if I value beauty over education as a grown-up, that’s my choice, not necessarily the media’s fault. What the film strives to do is make everyone aware that the media is manipulative (in many ways) and therefore, what the media “tells someone” about him or herself is not necessarily true. For many of us, this awareness occurs naturally as we age, but not for all of us. And even if we DO become aware, it’s hard to reverse the damage.

The documentary also gives statistics about females in the film industry. Only seventeen percent of protagonists in movies are female, and these roles typically “revolve around the pursuit of a man.” That IS a sad statistic, yes, but I can think of a few films where the female protagonist had an agenda other than something romantic: Jackie Brown (my all-time favorite); Million Dollar Baby; and The Silence of the Lambs, to start.

womeninfocus7The film purports that “women appear to be empowered” but any female protagonist is “very much objectified and exists for the male viewer.” Further, the film states that objectification leads to violence, like rape. I believe this to be true, but not purely in a man-objectifying-woman sense. As a culture we’ve become object-oriented and materialistic, and many times we mistreat others because of our view that they’re somehow disposable. We’re all collectively guilty of that. However, just because a man sees a sexy or scantily clad woman in a movie does not mean he’ll commit a violent crime. Plus, that would suggest that by wearing provocative clothing, women are “asking for it.” I don’t think Beyoncé was promoting rape during her half time show.

So, how is all this objectification occurring? Well, according to Miss Representation, women comprise only three percent of people in “positions of clout” in telecom professions. Essentially, men are the “puppeteers” and women are the “puppets.” But let’s not forget — women are accepting the Hollywood roles that they themselves are objecting to… right? I mean, women are PAID money to portray certain characters, who might then have a negative effect on a female audience. We can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths. A woman can’t rail against the chauvinism of a Hollywood film AND be its leading lady. I’m not an actress, but I do wear makeup. If makeup is a problem (and if you’ve seen a mascara commercial recently, you’ll probably agree that it IS a problem), then I am part of that problem. I am contributing to it by purchasing the product. The film, and the web site, asks us — all of us — to stop purchasing products that contribute to objectification in this way, very much like the way we’ve evolved to avoid products that harm animals or the environment. I can’t disagree with that philosophy.

But, I like makeup. I like feeling pretty. I like getting compliments. That doesn’t happen when I leave the house without my face on. Clearly, I am contributing to my own objectification and that of others. Uuuuuuugh. Like I need more to feel guilty about.

To me, all this data adds up to a bunch of mixed messages, which the film also explores, and which I’ll delve into next time. Thanks for reading. Please offer your comments! We are lucky to live in a nation where we can openly discuss topics like this, and we are doubly lucky to inhabit a city that encourages social debate, awareness, and progress. Thanks again to our Court Square Theater for unearthing the discussion.

artfuldodger2Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.