On weekends beginning this Friday, Mar. 9 through Mar. 24, the Magic Circle Players Theater in Montrose will present Dearly Departed, a comedic farce about the sudden death of family patriarch Bud Turpin (face first in his cereal bowl) and the kerfuffle that surrounds his funeral and burial. The play’s authors, David Botrell and Jessie Jones, are Kentucky natives, and their comedy, populated by colorful dysfunctionals – a chronically under-employed nephew, an aspiring singer who thinks she’s good but isn’t, and a King-James-thumping aunt among them – is set in the Bible Belt. You might say these Southern playwrights know their stereotypes.
Back in Montrose, Dearly Departed’s director, Merrilee Robertson, warned her cast there might be a few audience members offended by the play’s irreverence. But she isn’t troubled by the idea. “Everyone has someone in their family who [vaguely] resembles one of these characters, “ she says. “I have no guilt.”
Plus, it’s high time for a comedy, particularly when you consider that every play this season (Magic Circle’s 52nd) has involved the end of a life. “We’re calling it the season to die for,” Robertson says. The body count began last September in The Final Toast, in which Sherlock Holmes not only investigates a murder, but becomes the killer’s target. More recently, the Players took on terminal illness and the notion of passing with dignity, in Brian Clark’s Whose Life is it, Anyway? “That was a very deep play, about a topic a lot of people don’t want to talk about,” Robertson says. “Dearly Departed, people will laugh at.” The humor will morph from buffoonery to mordant in Sweeney Todd, the company’s final production of the season. Stephen Sondheim’s musical about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street opens May 12. “It’s already in rehearsals,” Robertson said cheerily. Tickets for Dearly Beloved are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. For more info., visit magiccircleplayers.com.
Joffrey Film at The Palm
A new documentary by independent filmmaker Bob Hercules about the Joffrey Ballet screens this Sat., Mar. 10 at the Palm Theatre. Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance tells the full story of the ups-and-downs of one of the most revered dance companies in the U.S., from its early days, when the company toured the country in a borrowed station wagon, to the works its founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino commissioned by seminal choreographers Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp and George Balanchine, to its bankruptcy and rebound. Telluride ballet instructor Valerie Madonia, a former principal with the Joffrey, will be on hand to answer questions following the film.
The screening will benefit the new, non-profit Palm Arts Dance Program, which began last fall after the for-profit Telluride Ames Conservatory shut its doors after only a year. Ames “was a flash in the pan,” the Palm Theatre’s Executive Director Heather Rommel says. There was still a lot of interest in dance – nearly one out of every five students in Telluride studies it – “so we stepped in to try to help.”
For a while, using the Palm Theatre’s stage seemed like a fine idea. But the Palm is a busy place, and “dance classes started getting bumped.” Enter the Telluride school’s new Principal Kyle Schumacher, with his fresh eyes and love of the arts, who found “a beautiful, huge room” being used for storage behind the Palm’s boardroom. Valerie Madonia, Palm Dance’s artistic director, had been looking all over town for the right spot – “It’s very hard to find a big space with high ceilings and no pillars,” she says – when Schumacher spotted the perfect one, right under everyone’s noses. Now the challenge is to raise $50,000, to cover the costs of, among other things, putting in a proper “Marley” dance floor of heavy, slip-resistant vinyl. Madonia hopes the movie about her former troupe, combined with the new space, will be the start of something big.
“We’re very isolated in Telluride. There are not a lot of dance companies coming through,” she notes. “You’re dancing, but you don’t really understand what it all means. I hope this film will give people a small idea about the struggle” of being a ballet principal in a major company, “and the reward.”
Tickets to Mavericks of Dance are $12 ($8 for students), and available at the Palm’s box office.
Mark Fischer Poetry Contest
Submissions are now being sought for the 2012 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, named for Telluride’s “much-loved poet, lawyer, skier and raconteur,” in the words of Telluride Arts, the organization which is overseeing the contest. “Mark Fischer was a daring experimenter who combined a polyglot’s command of languages with a quirky sense of humor and a passion for obtuse words. In that spirit, prizes will be awarded to the entry that best exhibits the qualities of originality, novelty, complex meaning, linguistic skill and wit. The wilder the better. All styles and content matter are acceptable.”
The winner of the contest gets $200. But of course, the award is worth much more. Kierstin Bridger, the winner of last year’s prize (and this year’s judge), says she had always written, taught workshops and even published a bit, but winning the Fischer prize was exhilarating – and inspiring. “It was like a talisman to me,” she says. “It propelled me to put more of my work into the world. It gave me the confidence to aim a little higher.” Bridger plans to begin studying for her MFA in creative writing this spring, and hopes to teach at the university level.
San Miguel County Poet Laureate Rosemerry Trommer was the first winner of the Fischer prize. She tells a similar story. Trommer had never won a contest or published a book before winning the Fischer award. “It was affirmation to me that I had a voice worth hearing. It meant a lot,” she says. The best part may not have been the recognition, but was something intangible. “I think the finest thing about having won was the bond it gave me with Elaine [Mark Fischer’s widow]. I got to learn more about her, her husband, and her family. It was so wonderful to weave into her world that way.”
The contest is open to residents of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona; deadline for applications is 5 p.m., Friday, April 6. For complete submission guidelines, visit telluridearts.org.