Honorable Intentions and Wu

Jornada de una casa a hogar by Maritza Davila

Language makes beautiful music. And when it is spoken with an accent, it becomes even more evocative, and words, because they are singled out in the cadence, and sometimes even misappropriated, have an even more distinct and lively meaning.

Heading home from the Midsummer Night’s Dream production by Ballet Memphis, we discussed how to best offer advice or to coach an artist in a  constructive fashion. I asked Maritza Davila, because she teaches  at the Memphis College of Art, what she tells her students.

“Sometimes a student will come to me and they will tell me, ‘I don’t know what to do!'”, she answered. Maritza has a lovely and emphatic Puerto Rican accent, and her response was equally so.

“I tell them they and their work must have a sense of purpose, and a clarity of intention.”

“A clarity of intention.” Now that really grabbed me.

Clarity is such a marvelous word.  As for intention, I like it, too,  as it goes beyond motivation, and describes something ineffable. We all have something we want to do, would wish to do, or desire to do. Intent alone is not enough, you will wash around willy nilly until you figure out what it is you want; it is clarity that  refines the focus of ones energy.

Maritza also says she tells her students to do research, which for some reason surprised me, but it makes sense. One reads in order to write, so I imagine the same must be true of creating prints. One must know what one is going to create, and not all of that  can come from personal experience.

Teachers who live amongst us  are a gift, not only to their students, but to all of us. They add to the sea of knowledge and beauty that the rest of us swim around in.

The direction that Maritza offers her  students is good advice, and I think that there is proof of it in the amazing success I have experienced with the Wu Food Project.


Midsummer in Memphis

The mysterious maestro of IRIS and a midsummerly masked me wearing masks that I created for a GPAC Masked Ball.

I dream of you, to wake: would that I might

Dream of you and not wake but slumber on;

Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone,

As, Summer ended, Summer birds take flight.

In happy dreams I hold you full in night.

–from a poem by Christina Rossetti

This fall and winter we are in a for a long run of midsummer–or at least the dream of it.

He whose prose was always rightly seasoned,  wrote in one of his sunnier sonnets that summer’s lease was all too short. Maybe in merry old England, but not here in Memphis. Like the object of his sonnet, Memphis will have an almost endless run of midsummer, somehow, somewhere, and some way–almost until the March winds blow.

The first breath of midsummer was voiced by the Tennessee Shakespeare Company. Dan MeCleary dreamed up a unique presentation that put the REM into the words of MSND.

That was back in 2009, and now in 2010, we wake to dream again, this time with a production by Ballet Memphis that embodies the dream with a vivacious joy.

Ever had a dream that was so good that you wanted to go back to sleep just so you could dream it all over again? This is how their production made me  feel. I am kicking myself up and down Poplar for not having worked this into my schedule sooner. With any luck I will get to see it again on Sunday. Stunning. Magical. I don’t think I will ever ever forget it. If you read this before it ends, go go go see this production.

Man in the Moon Masque: Hand made Papier Mache with gold leaf stars and a crescent moon eye brow. I made this mask for the husband of a friend.

Of course, dreams rarely recur or unfold the same way, and 2011 will give Memphis yet  another chance to experience midsummer–this time with Michael Ching’s own version of the play, supported by  the combined production efforts  and considerable talents of Opera Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, and DeltaCappella and RIVA, the two powerhouse contemporary vocal bands who will make this dream a dream never dreamed before.

Ching’s operapella performed at POTS will be the world’s first opera performed with vocal bands in the orchestra pit instead of instruments. If you think this will be music as usual, check out the sound of DeltaCappella on i-tunes or on their website.An opera with beat boxing and vocal percussion! In a way the operapella is Ching’s own love letter to an art form that he discovered by hanging out with the twelve guys in DeltaCappella,  who have been happy participants in the genesis of Ching’s project.

From January 21 until February 13, Ching will be dishing up a midsummer that is a heady blend of beauty, humor, and confusion that all ends well; which pretty much sums up any real love story.

Our final chance to dream will come when we settle into the comfy seats of GPAC with conductor Michael Stern and IRIS. In addition to themes based on MSND composed by Gandolfi,  the goodly actors of the Tennessee Shakespeare Company will kiss the dream goodbye on February 26.

It bears examination, this  city’s preoccupation with a  Shakespearean dream had in midsummer, in which so much confusion ensues, and in which love is, seems, is not, and is. It makes me believe  that there  is a lot of love in Memphis. And a lot of beautiful  dreamers.