August 24, 2014 Centennial
Raton celebrated the centennial Wednesday of the laying of the cornerstone that began construction August 20, 1914, on the city's magnificent Shuler Theater. A commemoration ceremony featured remarks and history from Raton's Mayor Sandra Mantz (above left) and KRTN's "Billy D" Donati (above right). Pianist Peter Simon and the US Air Force Academy Winds (top right) provided great entertainment. (As always, click any image to enlarge it.)
The heartfelt standing ovation given to Bill Fegan (right) was a highlight of the evening. Bill came to the Shuler in 1963 and oversaw the theater's rebirth from neglect and decline. Wednesday night he shared with the large and appreciative audience his memories of those early years a half-century ago. There's a strong sense now that the Shuler Theater is on a strong financial footing with a future stretching at least another century, backed by loyal patrons and Raton's several arts foundations. Bill deserves much of the credit for all that the Shuler Theater is today.
Days before the centennial celebration, Raton's 37th Annual Lip Sync contest included a happy birthday song to the Shuler Theater, done in all the crazyness characteristic of that two-night event. In my photo at top left, Sean Green (in drag) pops out of a huge cake to sing the praises of the Shuler Theater. I love Raton!
August 23, 2014 Patchwork Phoenix
My friends Laura and Hal Brewer have opened a wonderful store on Raton's Historic First Street, extending a row of cool shops into a second block. Patchwork Phoenix offers fabulous Big Bend coffees--organic & free trade--along with a wide selection of ice creams. Their art gallery includes seven of my framed photographs along with Hal's photos and work by many of Raton's best artists. At the back is a quilting center. What more could you ask?
August 16, 2014 Faster Than a Speeding Locomotive
Although I've been back from California for two weeks, I was in Santa Fe and Albuquerque for one of those weeks, so I was away from local stories and away from my computer. All the work I've had this year has finally led me to buy a Macbook Pro, my first laptop, so in the future I'll finally be able to post blogs and other work from the road. Exciting.
Over the past three days, I've posted three blogs on the photography side of this site, but I've only got one here for the arts side. There's lots going on with our skateboard story. Yesterday's Chronicle-News included my first-person narrative, "Faster Than a Speeding Locomotive," for which I acquired this photo of me skateboarding down Pali Hill, taken by Palisadian-Post photographer Rich Schmitt.
It's the second time this summer I've had a manuscript published in which the meaning of the title wasn't made clear until the final sentence. ("Nine Nights a Week" in the August issue of New Mexico Magazine is the other.) A travel essay disguised as a skateboarding adventure, I included my round trip travel to California on Amtrak's Super Chief, and I used the Super Chief in my closing. I was disappointed that the editor didn't include this photo, taken with my iPhone 5 from my seat on the the train as we passed through the big S-curve a mile from where Christina and I lived at Serafina for three years at the end of the 1980s.
The new school year is about to tie me down for a while. I'm going to do that this year and probably the next, then turn my full-time attentions to writing and photography, freeing myself to travel to more stories and indulge myself in the life I've so enjoyed this summer.
August 1, 2014 Saying No to the Pavement
While shooting a film crew shooting skateboarding aerials at Venice Skatepark in California last week, I overheard skateboarders urging on Delilah, a young woman terrified to make her first drop into the pool. Someone gave her these two pieces of advice:
1) "Say no to the pavement;" and
2) "Go up, not down."
I loved the advice since I was about to break my own 47-year absence from skateboarding. My former teammate on Palisades Skateboard Team, Don Burgess, had a ten-member film crew working on a documentary built around 40-some minutes of archival 16mm footage and new interviews (including my dad, Jack Keller, in our old family home) and skateboarding footage of ten remaining members that gathered in Pacific Palisades for an unprecedented reunion.
Don went from skateboarding to cinematography, the director of photography (DP) for such films as Spider-Man, 42, Flight, and Cast Away; he earned an Academy Award nomination for his cinematography on Forrest Gump. Now he's producing and directing a skateboarding documentary on our team. We spent some days last week doing interviews and skateboarding all around Palisades High School and down "Pali Hill." Don's crew filmed us skateboarding en masse under the school's NO SKATEBOARDING sign, which wasn't there in our day. (Disclosure: Don obtained official permission for us to skate and film at the school; so much for our young punk credentials.)
In addition to interviews and skateboarding, Don and Bonnie Burgess hosted a big reunion bash with food, drink, and a screening of the archival footage. The Palisadian-Post sent a great reporter and photographer (Sierra Shafer and Rich Schmitt) to spend countless hours with us over two days, producing the paper's second full-page feature on the Palisades Skateboard Team in nine months (November 21, 2013 and July 31, 2014.)
I'm in two of the newspaper photos wearing my blue Palisades Skateboard Team t-shirt; in a third, I'm skating downhill in my black Raton Osos t-shirt, giving a shout-out back home to New Mexico. I'm thrilled to have had so much fun, and made some truly foolhardy skateboarding moves, and then come home exhilarated and uninjured. It's another of my life's little miracles.
July 31, 2014 Down the Rabbit Hole
The Santa Fe Trail School for the Performing Arts is revving up its annual summer children's theater production. Written by artist-in-residence Nora Leahy, "Wonderland: Adventures with Alice" will be presented August 8 through 10. The cast, above, has two weeks of preparation behind it and one week to go. Nora's script is based on Lewis Carroll's pair of Alice books.
I enjoyed shooting this photo for next week's Chronicle-News and the Raton Comet, getting up high on a ladder for fun--looking down on the kids in the rabbit hole, if you will.
July 18, 2014 A Pair of Roundups
What a thrill to receive my new copy of Harding County Roundup, the Summer 2014 issue, Volume 9, Issue 4, a full-size tabloid newspaper weighing in at 72 pages and made entirely by Donna Hazen's Roundup Technology students at Mosquero School. This one was published during summer vacation! I'm pictured on the cover helping Mya Vigil with her camera settings, then Page 3 (left, click to enlarge) is devoted to my April visit when I spent a full day as a visiting teacher of photography, writing, freelancing, promotion, website development--the whole enchilada. The students used my April 9 blog entry for the article's content. It was such a great experience that we're planning to make it an annual event. Thank you, Mosquero students!
Read the News page for details of the new Max Evans & A Few Friends 90th Birthday Book. I've enjoyed two long phone conversations with Max since the book arrived this summer. He's pretty thrilled with this collection of writings about him by his many friends. I stayed up reading well past midnight on the evening my copy arrived. It's a great read. My contributions are my magazine profiles of Max (in New Mexico Magazine and Western Horseman) and many photos, including the pair used to make the front cover, and a black-and-white version of Horses at Sierra Grande that graces the back cover and a two-page spread inside. Being a lover of horses and of Sierra Grande mountain, that one is Max's favorite, and he says a lot of other people have said the same. I'm looking forward to a book-signing celebration in Albuquerque August 30, where I'll get to meet many of Max's writer and artists friends that contributed to the book.
July 13, 2014 To See or Not to See, That Is the Question
After watching last night's opening performance of the Shuler Theater's challenging production of "The Turn of the Screw," I knew I faced a challenge this morning in writing my review. I thought about it throughout the night. The problem is that it's an uncomfortable play to experience, so why would anyone want to pay good money to sit captive and watch it? Basically, my review acknowledged the problem, then answered the question: It's great theater. Director Tom Evans has designed a set and coached his two actors in a manner that beautifully ramps up the tensions while providing much to admire. You can see here how the wall behind the characters is askew: the walls and the staircase are all canted, giving a slightly unsettling and surreal effect that complements the tale.
Tony Penna's lighting design accentuates the darkness and shadows, while the black set and costumes are accented in the chair and set trimmings with a color that is best described as blood red. The costumes are just right and suggest repression, an interesting twist in a story about trying to preserve innocence. The governess, played by Nora Leahy, becomes mired in a struggle of good versus evil. Although representing good, and innocence, she is costumed in a governess's black dress. Ian McCabe again plays multiple roles in a single costume and, again, he impresses. In addition to their formidable acting talents, the Chicago pair created the costumes and they are partners in Two Pigs Productions, which joined Raton's Shuler Theater in mounting the summer repertory season of four plays.
The unpleasantness of the experience--the story and subject matter--is offset by the production itself, which is a marvel of art design and great theater. I found myself simultaneously reveling in the production and wishing it was over--so imagine my relief when the play proved to be quite short and ended after only 72 minutes. The ending itself was ill-defined and unsettling, which seemed appropriate. The photos show what a gorgeous and intense show it was; my review addresses why we were so happy for it to end.
July 6, 2014 The Liar
After six years of previewing and reviewing most shows at Raton's Shuler Theater for The Chronicle-News, editor Bruce Leonard asked me last week to start reviewing shows produced in Trinidad by SCRT--Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre. I started with Saturday night's premier of the company's wonderful farce, "The Liar," translated and adapted just four years ago by acclaimed American playwright David Ives from the French original written by Pierre Corneille in 1643. Ives decided to keep the comedy in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter, then used the characters' struggles to rhyme as a frequent source of humor. He also mixed in lots of modern references and vulgarities, a sort of reverse anachronism.
I was so relieved to like my first play at SCRT! I'd hate to have my first review be a pan. I believe that small-town criticism should be primarily supportive, with criticisms constructive, but it sure helps me do that when the productions are good ones. I worked hard on this first SCRT review, spending 2-3 times longer than usual on it, so I'm thrilled to say that minutes ago, while beginning this blog post, I received an email from the editor who had just read my review: "Wow, Tim. Really impressive writing. Your piece is graceful and nuanced and knowing and enthusiastic and polished. No editor could ask for more." Because Bruce is himself a fine writer and exacting editor, this pretty much made my day.
Denver actor Jeff Jesmer stars in the title role opposite New York actresses Adelina Feldman-Schultz (right; click any photo to enlarge) and Jaclyn Rahmlow (in blonde wig above). Several of the eight-actor cast stood out, but New Yorker Chris Krenning particularly shined as a sort of host/narrator, the liar's new servant who, as it happens, is simply incapable of telling a lie. I enjoyed a moment when he channeled Jim Carrey's character in the movie "Liar, Liar." I was struck with the many uncanny similarities between SCRT's current production and the Shuler Theater's current "The Importance of Being Earnest" (below). For me, they made a great double feature two nights apart.
July 4, 2014 The Importance of Live Theater
Raton's Shuler Theater continued its winning ways in the second show of the annual summer repertory season. Thursday's opening night performance of Oscar Wilde's popular farce, "The Importance of Being Earnest," built audience laughter from a steady stream to a second-act crescendo. Known in the theater world as "the perfect play," Wilde himself called it "a trivial play for serious people." My review, coming next week in the Chronicle-News, calls it a perfect play for the age of Facebook and online chat rooms because Wilde's characters spend a lot of time talking to each other without ever knowing each other, or even much knowing themselves.
Blake White and Ian McCabe (here, from left) star as two friends who occasionally come to cross purposes. McCabe gets Wilde's best lines early on and threatens to steal the play, but gradually his role diminishes and White's expressions and physical acting come on to amp up the comedy and stand out in the play's second act. The friends' love interests are played well by Tamara Todres and Nora Leahy. Leahy will star in the next two plays, both two-character stories so her time to shine in Raton is approaching. Raton's own Sara Kowalski and Brenda Ferri join Barbara Farrar, Matt Campbell, and the above-named visiting actors to round out a cast that does a great job of acting extremely serious while being extremely funny.
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