2008-05-09 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio Rockaway Artists Alliance

'Annie' A Must-See; Poets At RoCA
Commentary By Susan Hartenstein

"Oppression," a powerful mixed media sculpture by Esther A. Grillo. It is one of the artworks in "Of Women," on view at RoCa at Fort Tilden. "Oppression," a powerful mixed media sculpture by Esther A. Grillo. It is one of the artworks in "Of Women," on view at RoCa at Fort Tilden. Deadline for RAA's next exhibit is May 16. "Good & Plenty" will be the best work by RAA artists, revisited; and a member auction.

On a perfect sunlit day, as the ocean breezes wafted over audience and performers, poet/artist Shirl Holt hosted a special spoken word event at sTudio 7 Gallery. Gently cushioned on comfortable couches, surrounded by the artwork of exhibits "Black and White" and "The Human Figure," the attentive crowd was treated to seven writers reading their own words. A dream's spiritual footprints; achingly bittersweet echoes gently, eternally, inexorably linking our mothers and grandmothers to ourselves; memories of a long-ago Rockaway beach; the dance of autumn leaves; the allure of Rockaway. These were the images that filled an afternoon of poetry and prose.

The writers included Tommy Burke, Catherine Difflley, Susan Hartenstein, Shirl Holt, Jud Kessler, Martha Killian, Mary Meade and Sophia Skeans. Ellen Engelhardt ably read the words of Helen Fulton, who could not participate. RAA thanks these talented artists, the people who attended, David Schulman for his technical assistance, and Penelope Atheras and Janet Denver for making it "feel like home."

"Annie" is a must-see. The latest production of the Rockaway Theatre Company is a joy from beginning to end. You and your children will adore it. Just ask young Donavan of Roscoe, N.Y. He and cousin and sister sat behind me at the Saturday evening performance. They were among the numbers of children (young and adult) in attendance who sang along (silently, of course), swayed along and cheered along with the infectious energy, ringing notes and unsurrendering optimism that poured out from the stage.

Janna Sturgis, as Annie, is a wonder. In her first stage role, her poise and presence, acting, dancing and singing abilities took the audience by storm. The cast of leads, as well as supporting players, sparkled with sublime talent. Among them were Jai Sada, Jeanne Barra, Nicole Mangano, Bruce Rebold and Catherine Lieb. Musical director Anne Rebold deftly led the excellent orchestra. Credit for creating this thoroughly winning mixture are Kathy Valentine and Frank Caiati, who shared directing credits; and, as Caiati explained, so in sync were they with each other, they "shared one brain." Each has an instinctive feel for the musical genre and for channeling the talents (raw and otherwise) of young people. Valentine's choreography was clever, appropriately exuberant but never hectic, fully serving the plot.

Cynthia Peithman is the incredible cake baker of Cakeline, the official baker of RTC, and the mom of two young RTC actors. She commented to me how wonderful it is that, in New York City, we in Rockaway have a community theater where our children can grow, have fun and be in a "family." May I add, Bravo!

Among the most powerful pieces in "Of Women," which is on view at sTudio 6 and sTudio 7 Galleries, are four early sculptural works by Esther A. Grillo.

In the words of the artist, [They] "deal with gestures or narrative poses created to evoke specific emotional responses from the viewer." "Trophy" presents woman as an object, a "reluctant goddess" on a pedestal. Inside the cast nude clay figure, the cavity elicits a sense of inner turmoil. "Oppression," a contemporary translation of Death and African masks, symbolizes this crushing negative force present in the world.

Apregnant "Pat with Child" also has an interior view - an unwinding steel coil in the shape of a baby in the womb. The bronze cast, "Bresson Woman II," is Grillo's homage to Cartier Bresson's black and white pictures of Mexican prostitutes.

Grillo is an important contemporary artist whose work has appeared in prestigious venues that include P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center. She writes, "The pieces are not always aesthetically pleasing, in the traditional sense, but require time and thought to understand the multiple meanings."

CU@RoCA. RAA CONTACT INFO: Phone: 718- 474-0861; Fax: 718 474-4373; e-mail: rockart116@aol.com; website: www. rockawayartistsalliance.org

Forth Tilden Highlights

THREE RAA EXHIBITS ON VIEW: "Of Women," "Black and White" and "The Human Figure" Exhibition dates: Through Sunday, May 20; Location: sTudio 6 Gallery and sTudio7 Gallery, RoCA @ Fort Tilden, GNRA. Gallery hours: Saturdays 12-4 p.m., Sundays 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission. (FREE) THURSDAY OPEN MIC MUSIC NIGHTS: Every Thursday, 8 p.m.-12 a.m. at 7 p.m. in sTudio 7 Gallery, RoCA. Jamming with great local and non-local musicians and singers; open mic. LIFE DRAWING CLASS with live model. Every Thursday, 8-10 p.m. in sTudio 6 Gallery, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. Fee: $20 per class. No preregistration necessary. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. PAINTING CLASSES FOR ADULTS: Tuesday nights, 7-9 p.m.; Thursday mornings, 10 a.m. - 12 noon. sTudio 7, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. $15 per class, supplies included. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. FRIDAY NIGHT IMPROV: "No Shame Theater" performs theater games, improvised scenes based on written works; all are invited to join in. ROCKAWAY THEATRE COMPANY: The musical, "Annie." Performances: May 9, 10, 16, 17 at 8 p.m.; special Mother's Day benefit performance May 11 at 2 p.m., proceeds to North Shore Animal League of America. May 11 matinee sold out. Reserve tickets ASAP: 718-850-2450. Directors: Kathy Valentine and Frank Caiati; Musical Director: Anne Ribold.

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