NE PLUS ULTRA

NE PLUS ULTRA: Dancers - JO, TARA, Katherine, Adrian, Sydney and Liz. by Nathan Webster

For this version of NE PLUS ULTRA I have interviewed some of our dancers. We have been so privileged to be able to work with extraordinary performers during these last 5 1/2 years and six of them are featured in this interview: Jo Blake, Tara McArthur, Katherine Lawrence, Adrian Fry, Sydney Petitt and Liz Ivkovich.

As a choreographer, I kind of fall in love with my dancers because they carry, inhabit and transform my work in ways that were intended and in ways that I never anticipated. The dialogue and trust that is generated in the creative process is uniquely intimate and personal and the dancers who I keep returning to are the ones who wear my vocabulary in their bodies. A process that allows me to not speak and to do and present physical tasks that are innately understood… is rich and rewarding. When we took “Exodus” to Denmark, my family came to watch the show both in Copenhagen and in Odense and they mentioned the fact that Tara’s interpretation of the choreography was like watching me but from a perspective that was uniquely different, thereby adding another dimension to the work and I think that sums up what I seek in a dancer, someone who understands, inhabits and transforms the work. And all of these dancers featured in this article alongside Kate, Brad, Jenn, Yumelia, TJ, Ted and Brian have that indefinable quality that makes them stand out as - artists.

Please enjoy this interview!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background; when did you know that you wanted to become a dancer and why?

Tara: After hitting my head on the coffee table as a young child from dancing around the living room to the movie Dirty Dancing, my mom enrolled me in jazz classes. I did the usual recitals and even competitions. I loved performing and taking class, and it gave me a sense of community and belonging throughout my awkward and otherwise lonely teens years. I was also part of a pretty rigorous dance program in high school which taught me a lot of discipline, but there wasn’t much exposure to how people moved forward in their lives with dance. I entered university as a dance major without much sense of where it would take me, and at first had somewhat of an adjustment period being introduced to modern dance for the first time.  It wasn’t until I did a study abroad program one semester in Australia, and found myself in tears watching the Bill T. Jones Dance Company. I knew in that moment that it was a necessity for me to be a dancer. That I wanted to move like that and be in a company of that caliber. I came back to my university with new direction and fervor for pursuing contemporary dance. For me, this field calls upon an intuitive, somatic intelligence, which I find really exciting, and is generally lacking in our world. It has given me a sense of power in times when I didn’t feel that way otherwise. I think when I’m performing it is among the few times in my life when I am truly and purely present.

Jo: In high school, Joe was performing a floor routine for the birds, fawns, and mice friends that would come out of the woods to observe. Little did he know that the local high school theater teacher was on the other side of the ravine watching him tumble to “Phantom of the Opera”. (The nosy teacher was with her daughter attending a Girl Scouts event.) The following day, the teacher asked Joe (he now goes by “jo”) if he would audition for “Pippin” because they needed a gymnast. It is then that he learned choreography . . . and it is then that his life changed FOREVER (cue the laughter of Count von Count of “Sesame Street”).  

Joe would later audition for Pom Pons, another name for dance team, and become a team member of the all-female squad.

Time goes by . . . he trained in a competition studio for a bit (never competed), attended his first modern and ballet dance classes at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (first stage dance performance), moved to Germany (taught jazz in a tiny studio to Paula Abdul “Vibeology” on a record player), accepted a scholarship to the University of Wyoming (best little town in the West), transferred to the University of Utah (met a woman by the name of Joan Woodbury, who would later become his boss), and auditioned for a company by the name of Ririe-Woodbury Dance where he met, danced for, and became friends with Charlotte Boye-Christensen (CBC).

 Charlotte and Jo together in rehearsal.

Charlotte and Jo together in rehearsal.

Liz: I am always reconsidering where dance lives in my life. I started dancing because a friend was in ballet class. I stopped dancing after high school because I felt that dance was “too bougie” as I was becoming aware of the real issues facing the globe. I became a dancer again in my 20’s when I came to understand that dance and social change are inextricable. Today, I think a lot about how dance informs the way that I approach my work as a development professional.  

Sydney: I am originally from Utah where I grew up training in all genres of dance. My mother put me in dance as a child and I became serious about the art form when I turned my focus to ballet. Although I believe I’ve always wanted to be a dancer; it wasn’t until I decided to pursue a degree in dance that I feel like I made that choice for myself.

Katherine: I grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut with my parents and two younger brothers.  When I was four years old, my mom put me in dance classes because I loved to dance around the house.  I immediately took to ballet.  I was a very shy child socially, but dance provided me with a means to express myself, to shed my shyness.  I have been asked before when that pivotal moment was when I knew I wanted to make dance my career, but I never had that moment.  I have always had the feeling that I have to dance.  It is a part of who I am.  The ballet school that I attended when I was young was connected with a small company and so I always new that dance was a career possibility.  I guess that I just took it for granted that I would have no problem making it my career. 

Adrian: Like many ballet dancers, a holiday visit to the theater for the Nutcracker inspired me to want to be a dancer. At 5 I saw Ballet Omaha’s Nutcracker and I was enamored. After that initial viewing I acquired a cassette tape of the Nutcracker suite and played the Russian Trepak track endlessly as I energetically cavorted in the basement of my childhood home. I eventually curated those moves into a succinct dance and performed it to my elementary school during the Spring Talent Show. Dance lessons followed shortly after that performance.

I started taking classes at a local, small town school. By the time I was 13 I was looking for more of a challenge so I started taking classes with the Omaha Theater Ballet (formerly Ballet Omaha). I eventually became an apprentice with the company while still in high school. After I graduated I spent a year in the Professional Division with Pacific Northwest Ballet, then spent four years dancing with the Oregon Ballet Theatre. I just started my 9th season with Ballet West. 

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process - how do you learn new choreography?

Jo: When I learn choreography I stand behind the choreographer and pretend that they know what they are doing. (jk) And, with as little energy as possible, I will experiment with the choreography. (jk) Do I like to dance? No, not really. (jk) Do I want the choreographer to know that I am passionate about dance? Naaaah. (jk) Do I LOVE the creative process in the studio with the choreographer and dancers? HELL YEAH!! I live for the creative process!!

Katherine: I sometimes feel like I have a difficult time picking up choreography quickly because I get stuck on the details.  I want to learn new choreography "right" the first time, so I can inhabit the choreographer's movement style and language right from the beginning.  Once I learn the basics, I then try to explore the movement and make it a part of me, much like breathing.  By the time I am performing a role, I want it to feel as natural as possible.  I no longer want to have to think about the role, I want to become it.

Tara: My creative process is a constant evolution, shifting from project to project. When learning new movement I get really curious about the transitions between movements, shapes, or concepts, not only as a way to string it together and solidify it in my mental and physical memory, but also to find my own creative voice within a certain structure. When learning movement from someone else I like to try and imagine what the movement must feel like to them, what it would be like to be in that particular body, and then use that information to inform how I approach the choreography. If I’m asked to generate material, I feel most successful when I am able to fully immerse myself and ‘buy into' the world the choreographer is trying to create. Some people work from the fined tuned details out— I tend to start in broad strokes and narrow in on subtleties as I go. I am definitely movement driven as opposed to shape. My instincts are to blur the lines a bit.

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Tara in rehearsal.

 

Adrian: When learning preexisting works, we learn tribally, meaning a person teaches us what they’ve learned before us. During my whole career we’ve had technology (DVDs) to learn off of as well, but we’ve always had a stager in the studio with us guiding the process. I’ve learned two ballets so far from stagers who have no experience dancing professionally but they are versed in either Laban or Benesh notation which was a fascinating experience. They have the choreography written out in a score and are able to read it like a map.  

Sydney: When in a new creation process I try to be as pure of a dancer as possible for the choreographer. I desire to serve their vision. I also aim to move expansively within the realms of the choreography if it calls for it. I find big, full movement to be the most satisfying, so I try and keep that in mind when dancing either classical steps or in a new creation. 

I’d say I am a visual learner. When learning phrase work it helps me to see it first before I put it into my body. However I’m learning to approach choreography kinesthetically by trying it on, and allowing my body to process before I over-think.  

Liz: I almost have no answer here -- I am embarrassingly bad at learning new movement. I used to learn really quickly (ok, like in high school, but whatever, I’m only 32, so it’s recent history) and now it takes me so much mental labor to retain choreography. I absolutely have to do it full out a lot of times / I watch what other dancers are doing in the mirror until it settles into my body.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

Jo: First and foremost, performing in NOW-ID’s premiere performance, The Wedding, will always be one of my memorable career highlights. Not only was I able to perform one of my favorite works of Charlotte’s, but I also attended their wedding prior to the performance. Other highlights in my career include: dancing at the Teatro de La’ Ville in Paris; teaching students dance in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Ecuador, Nepal, and Thailand; developing my skills as a performer, teacher, and company member with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company for almost a decade; and creating my own work as a collaborator/choreographer.

Photos from “The Wedding”(2013) featuring both Jo and Katherine.

Liz: I am thinking of four recent highlights: Performing in A Tonal Caress with NOW-ID this summer -- a transformative, healing, deeply enriching experience. After several years of fieldwork, publishing a scholarly article about Ananya Dance Theatre’s work in the Journal of Environmental Studies & Sciences. I am an adjunct at SLCC where I teach a Dance and Culture course that is both a diversity and a fine arts general education course. We have lots of intense discussions about difference. Recently a student wrote: “This assignment [researching the Bachata] has helped open my eyes about the effects of American immigration policies… it restore[d] the aspect of humanity to undocumented immigrants for me.” I just started my a new position as Development Director for Utahpresents, a multidisciplinary presenter who brings diverse performances to the University of Utah and the region. I feel like I’m living the dream right now.

Sydney: Performing with Kidd Pivot under the direction of Crystal Pite at City Center, a Chance to Dance with the BalletBoyz, filming the “The Mistle-Tones”  and “A Tonal Caress” with NOW-ID

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Photos from NOW-ID’s “A Tonal Caress” at Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, July 2018.

Tara: The moments that stand out thus far in my career are most often when I have been on tour. The excitement of traveling with your close colleagues, sharing works with new audiences and experiencing different performance venues. When I danced with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company we went on a 2-month tour through France performing the works of Alwin Nikolais. Although I didn’t love wearing unitards, the memories I shared with that group of people will last me a lifetime. Other highlights include performing at the Copenhagen Opera Festival with NOW-ID just after a downpour, and performing as part of a structured improvisation in an old Blacksmith shop with headlamps as our only light source in San Francisco for Hope Mohr Dance. 

Katherine: I have been blessed with a long, exciting career.  It has included some amazing experiences that I could never have dreamed of when I started dancing professionally twenty years ago.  Many of those experiences have included traveling to parts of the world I may not have been able to go to otherwise.  I would certainly have to include touring with NOW-ID to Denmark to perform Exodus at the Copenhagen Opera Festival, touring with Ballet West to Cuba to perform Nicolo Fonte's Presto at the 25th International Ballet Festival of Havana and Scotland to perform in an all Antony Tudor program at the Edinburgh Arts Festival (my first program with Ballet West), and touring across China and Taiwan with Ballet Internationale, Indianapolis.  My career has also introduced me to some of the most interesting, inspiring, and diverse people I know.  Most importantly, I met my husband when we both began our dance careers with Ballet Internationale, Indianapolis, and most of my closest friends are artists who have inspired me throughout my career.

Adrian: The first highlight is that I’ve been able to live as an artist for the last 13 years. The longer I dance the more I realize how much of a gift it is to be a dancer. It’s very extraordinary. Other highlights include dancing with NOW-ID in the Copenhagen Opera Festival in Denmark; Ballet West being one of the first American companies to be invited to the 25th International Ballet Festival in Havana, Cuba; getting promoted to Principal Dancer with Ballet West in 2017; and most recently, performing in George Balanchine’s Diamonds with Ballet West was a career highlight. 

Photos from NOW-ID’s production and tour of “Exodus” to the Copenhagen Opera Festival and the Funen Opera House in Odense, Denmark, August 2016..

 

Without naming names what was the worst experience you have had as a dancer and what was the best?

Tara: Some of the most challenging experiences I’ve had as a dancer was when I really doubted myself and felt insecure about how I was dancing or contributing, which therefore put me too much in my head and overly focused on trying to please instead of following my instincts. Anytime there is toxic energy in rehearsals whether it be with the director or between dancers it takes a lot of energy to try and put a barrier up around yourself to as not absorb the negativity. Although sometimes this kind of tension can still produce an interesting result, so sometimes it really just depends. My best experiences have been when I fully believed in the piece I was in, felt interdependent and energetically connected with the other performers on stage. Moments that felt like markers in my development as an artist.   

Katherine: One of the worst experiences I have had was dancing for a choreographer who continued to drastically change their choreography every rehearsal up and through the piece's opening night.  Even worse, after dress rehearsal my partner and I, who for weeks had been thinking our duet was a light-hearted, smiley affair and had rehearsed it as such, were yelled at and told, "And why are you smiling?!  This isn't supposed to be happy!"  It was that nightmare situation where on stage and I felt like I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing.   The choreographer clearly lacked direction and confidence.  Instead of owning up to it, the dancers took the brunt of the blame.  It was a highly unrewarding and nerve-wracking experience.

Sydney: In the past I worked for a company that was primarily image based. I started to lose my passion for dance when it became more about how I looked on the exterior, opposed to how I was performing. Our director had a harsh approach that I feel pushed beyond the limits of professionalism. The environment felt toxic and unnecessarily extreme. Generally, any environment where I feel supported as an artist and challenged as a mover is a fulfilling experience for me. However, one of the happiest times in my life was when I had the opportunity to perform all over Germany, Switzerland and Austria. An opportunity to travel and do what I love is something I will almost never turn down. 

Adrian: One of my worst experiences as a dancer became the one of the best experiences. I was performing a show of the Nutcracker and I didn’t make a lift with my partner. This lift worked in the studio and even on stage the night prior in the dress rehearsal. But we were not coordinated in the performance. Even though this lift worked in the studio, it was still a maneuver that I dreaded: I danced the whole Grande Pas de Deux worrying about the press lifts that happen at the end. After that performance I really changed how I approached my work. It ignited a deeper work ethic in me as I was in the studio everyday with my partner practicing in order to make it permanent. That event was more of a mental hurdle for me than a physical one. It was a shedding of ego and an embrace of my weakness that created a different kind of confidence in myself. Dancing invites me to confront my insecurities daily. My dancing partner claims that it was one of the best things to happen to me because it launched me to a place of mental and physical strength that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

Liz: The worst experience was the process of getting my MFA. But the best experiences and relationships grew out of those challenging days, so perhaps it was actually the best experience in disguise?

Jo: Worst: Being trapped in a silver mylar bag (performing a trio where I am unable to see any of my fellow dancers). . .on a bench . . .on a raked stage . . . with the music track skipping. This was during the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. Positive moment, after the tears and personal freak-out, was being told that it was the best performance we have done thus far.

Best: Returning to NOW-ID after a two-year hiatus (graduate school at the University of Washington). I will always cherish the creative process with CBC, dancing alongside some phenomenal beings (Liz, Sydney, Walter, Karen, Mark, and the men), and re-discovering my passion for dancing. Also, was lovely to create work with fellow artists who have a passion for life, community, and the power of the personal voice (km).

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?

Tara: The first choreographer I worked for and my former professor, Keith Johnson, has been a mainstay of inspiration, mentorship and friendship for me in my career. The training I received from him and the aesthetic of his work has influenced and shaped not only my dancing, but the lens with which I view other work from. Another highly influential person has been you Charlotte! Your work has always struck me with its highly articulate and specific movement vocabulary while simultaneously carrying so much velocity and wild abandon. The rigor and physicality inherent in the movement has motivated and pushed me along with just being struck by how prolific you are in creating! In addition I’ve been inspired by the style and aesthetic of Doug Varone, the intelligent and deeply researched work of Hope Mohr, the epic and sensual work of Pina Bausch, the liquidity and brilliance of Crystal Pite and William Forsythe. 


Jo:

CBC — obvious.

Damian Lejat

Crystal Pite

Marina Abramovic

They are all creative powerhouses. They all use their physical voice to make a statement.


Sydney: Crystal Pite -- the energy brought to a room through the creative process/branching out to work with all types of artists. Ohad Naharin -- his inventive nature/explorative movement based off of sensation. Charlotte Boye-Christensen -- collaborative achievements/focus on finding movement vocabulary that supports the intention and voice of the piece.   

Katherine: Recently I have found a lot of inspiration from my son.  Watching him learn to navigate the world and experience so many firsts has granted me a new perspective in my job as an artist.  Dancers spend countless hours in the studio trying to perfect our art so that we can accurately portray a character, a relationship, an idea, or an emotion.  But in doing so, we sometimes lose the realness, the rawness of life.  He has helped to remind me of this.  I have also found inspiration from the vast number of dancers, choreographers, musicians, and artists I have worked with throughout my career.  There is always more to explore, new perspectives to take, boundaries that can be pushed further and we all have different ways of approaching those challenges.  Observing this in others inspires me in my work.

Liz: Dr. Ananya Chatterjea and the artists of Ananya Dance Theater have taught me so much about social justice, the attention to craft that dance requires, and the power of ensemble.

Choreographer Sara Shelton Mann described dancers as “the shamans of Western society” and that inspires me -- the energy work we do through performance is important in ways that I don’t fully know how to articulate.

My friend and choreographer Maya Taylor as built an inspiring freelance career in LA and NOLA in ways that are innovative and cross disciplines. She represents the kind of artist who just gets into the studio and WORKS. I respect that rigor 150%.

Adrian: Underneath a dancer’s hard work is more hard work. I’m inspired by my Ballet West colleagues each day. I’m inspired by dancers who work tirelessly and curiously and who love dancing. I’m inspired by my wife, who is also a dancer, and is also a tireless worker in all realms of her life. She is fully dedicated to curating beauty everywhere and that energizes how I work each day. 

 

What is the project that you have always wanted to do?

Jo: I have always wanted to . . . be a resident choreographer for a contemporary modern company. I have always wanted . . . to teach at a university. Now, I want to close my eyes and sleep.

Katherine: It is the one that I haven't thought of yet.  For instance, when Charlotte asked me about dancing in NOW-ID's first project The Wedding, it was unlike any project I had been involved with before and was completely off my radar of possibility.  But I grew and learned so much as an artist that summer, in ways I could never have anticipated.  Those are the types of projects I want to do.  

TheWedding_656.jpg

The artists featured in “The Wedding” (2013).

Adrian: I would love to be a part of more dance on film. I think videos are a key way people receive information and art these days. And I love the marriage of different mediums: music, design, production, dance, and film all meeting together. I’d also like to be a part of dance education in some way or another because I think there are a lot of unawakened dance lovers in the world. I think just giving people a few keys with which they can view dance can change their whole experience.

Tara: In my fantasy world I would love to be in a work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaekerr. I would also love to perform in a large modern art museum at some point.

Liz: I have a book that I want to write about dominant aesthetics and subaltern dances in Utah, which I keep thinking of as a PhD dissertation that becomes a book. Maybe the other way around? Eventually, I hope to see Utah become a hub for new work and scholarship in environmental dance and theater. That’s a big project that I dream about a lot.

Sydney: Since I can remember, I’ve been interested in dancing for MOMIX. The inventiveness, physical strength and focus on classical/contemporary techniques the company offers, is something that I am constantly searching for. Each production seems to work with various elements that are really exciting to me; whether it be through the use of props, optical illusions, or really pushing the limits of the physical body.  


Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

Jo: In 25 years??? I cannot even think about what I want to do in 5 years. One of my goals, currently, is to live in the moment. And that is what I am doing. I am living, loving, and laughing right NOW. (you see what I did there.).

Sydney: Twenty-five years from now, I’d love to have my own company continuously working towards developing my own voice/vocabulary of movement. It is important for me to remain creative in my work as I identify with the world around me. Collaborating with other artists is something I value, as well as pushing the boundaries of dance as an art form.

On the other hand, I greatly enjoy being involved in academia. In college I remember turning to my mentors and thinking, “this is what I want to be doing.” If I can continue to teach while working professionally, that would be ideal. Being a Dean or Director of a Fine Arts Program where I am constantly advocating for the arts, is something on my radar as well.

Katherine: I would love to be working as a ballet master for a ballet company, or promoting dance in some manner.  For a long time, dance has enjoyed a tradition of passing down choreography from one generation to the next, while also evolving to reflect the current societal values and trends and to push barriers.  When my body can no longer take the vigorous lifestyle of dancing all day every day, I still want to be in the studio, helping the art to continue to move forward.  

Adrian: I hope to own properties and businesses with my wife, Jordan. Maybe we’ll have a grown child or two. Maybe I’ll teach a little bit of ballet on the side. Maybe I’ll choreograph a dance piece or two a year. And we’ll have a Scottish Terrier. 

Tara: In 25 years I want to have a healthy body that can still express itself through movement. I hope to still be performing in some capacity, but being more on the creating/directing side. I also want to own a tiny cabin in the woods. 

Liz: Staying fortified!

NE PLUS ULTRA: FILM ARTIST JAN ANDREWS by Nathan Webster

 Jan Andrews.

Jan Andrews.

Jan Andrews is a creator of video art and documentaries. She has received numerous awards in both categories. Her documentary on poet Joseph Brodsky was an official selection of the 2010 Venice Film Festival, and a 2010 Visual Arts Fellowship was awarded to her from the Utah Division of Museums & Arts for her video art.


Jan has worked on several film projects with NOW-ID, on films that were documentation of performances and also promotional videos. To be able to collaborate with your editor is such a gift and Jan is the gift that keeps on giving - she is intuitive, curious, creative and profoundly skilled and we are grateful to work with her.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background. When did you know that you wanted to work as an artist and how did you choose you preferred medium? 

I began making films in 1983 when I returned from Egypt as I wished to return and make a film of the extraordinary culture of the Bedouin I had been studying in the Sinai Desert. I had been taking photographs since I was a child and had taken many interesting photos of Egypt but I really wanted to show the movement of people and animals in that stark and seemingly barren environment. Some of my first films, shot in 16mm, which was the format of the time, were of anthropological issues but I made them more as experimental meditations than a strict documentary. My first films were well received and played at many festivals and art galleries so I was hooked. Sadly, I never returned to Egypt to make the film that still hovers in my dreams.

You originally studied Anthropology - has that area of research figured into your creative work?  

I did study anthropology and drifted into paleontology and forensic work as I found the dead more interesting than the living (and, with limited exceptions, I still do).  I approach most of my work from a different tier or perspective but I have made documentaries whose stories unfold more traditionally because the subject matter required a more direct approach such as for a famous writer of nonfiction nature books who was struck twice by lightening and a Russian Poet exiled from his homeland and his language who won the Nobel Prize in literature and became a poet Laureate of the U.S.  But I still try to apply a certain way of story telling that may lift my work from the ordinary.

You are such a prolific artist: doing short films, documentaries, photography, which format do you prefer and why?

I really enjoy all of these mediums. Being diverse in one’s interests leads you to want to express ideas in different ways. When I was in high school I did drawings and sculpted in clay. I find that even though I now put a camera between myself and the subject I am still drawing and sculpting. How you frame a subject, how you follow and frame the action, using available light, etc. is emotionally quite similar to those other art forms.

 Jan Andrews

Jan Andrews

Can you talk a little bit about your creative process, where do you look for inspiration?

I usually always have a camera with me and have shot hours and hours of video (including many strips of outtakes of 16mm). When I have an idea for a piece I go through a multitude of clips and often find enough shots to tell a story. For example, I made an experimental film about the Kamikaze pilots when I found a booklet the Japanese Government had given them to guide them to their certain death and I used images of birds I had shot through the years as a metaphor for the planes.

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?

There are many documentary and fiction filmmakers I admire; however, the major influence on my work can be laid at the feet of Chris Marker, a French filmmaker of exquisite, profound and personal films that reveal the essence of human nature. The topics of these films are universal and as relevant today as when they were made. His style was unique and the stories were told as if someone was reading you letters about what they had seen and experienced and philosophical viewpoints of the state of the human condition.  Because of this, in my early films I never had a narrator but let the images and the people I filmed tell the story. This strategy is also due to my love of Ingmar Bergman’s films.  He told simple stories of human behavior and carved into them wider meaning that touched, in profound ways, what I had studied in anthropology about societies and how some people adhere to norms but others, the interesting ones, create their own individuality which can succeed or lead to utter failure. 

What do you consider to be some of the highlights in your career so far?

One of my early films was accepted into the Sundance film festival. It also traveled the world playing at festivals, shown in art galleries and had a limited theatrical release. I also received an NEA grant for that film and for the following film. It used to be much easier to get funding for creative work that was more artful and experimental. My last full-length film was about the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky who was exiled from his country in the 1970’s. He lived in New York and became friends with Mikhail Baryshnikov who invited the film to be screened at the Baryshnikov Center and he also curated it into a couple of festivals. When I met him he told me it was the best film about Brodsky that he had seen. I have met some very interesting people making these films and some of them have remained friends and friendship is a way one’s own life grows larger.

 "JOSEPH BRODSKY: IN THE PRISON OF LATITUDES".

"JOSEPH BRODSKY: IN THE PRISON OF LATITUDES".

Traveling seems to be important to you - can you talk a little bit about why traveling is a source of inspiration for you in your work and describe a couple of your favorite travel destinations?

I became an anthropologist with the idea I would travel to exotic locals and live among the locals; however, as I changed my area of interest to skeletons, they usually hang out in archeology labs... I traveled nonetheless and, as I mentioned in the beginning, eventually traveled to Egypt and was there for several months. When I made the Brodsky film I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia and Venice, Italy where he was buried and where my film premiered. In general, I enjoy travel just to be taken out of myself and into another world. When I return I find that I am rejuvenated and ready for a new artistic adventure.

You are an established artist in Utah and have worked here for many years. Do you think the city has changed a lot over the years in terms of the type and quality of work that is being explored and presented? What companies or artists working here excite you and why?

I do have friends who are artists and do interesting and exciting works. One of my oldest friends, Gary Vlasic, is an inspiration for his variety of talents from performance to his interesting art pieces. He appeared in an early film of mine in which he used choreography to interpret schizophrenia. The film also included Linda Smith of Repertory Dance Theatre who portrayed someone with amnesia. I of course must mention NOW-ID as I have edited many of your recent works and have been intrigued by the process of creating a dance/theatre piece. They always tell a story in a strange way like an experimental documentary film. Trent Alvey has a wide range of formats from installations to paintings. There are many local artists I admire and I should not try to name them because I am sure to leave someone out.

 "In Suspect Terrain" (1996) featuring Gary Vlasic and Linda Smith.

"In Suspect Terrain" (1996) featuring Gary Vlasic and Linda Smith.

Who do you consider to be three of the most significant artists in the world (living or dead)?

Anselm Kiefer. Marlene Dumas. Ai WeiWei.  

Looking towards the future, where do you see yourself as being in 25 years? 

Ashes spread in the Southern Utah Desert.

NE PLUS ULTRA: ARTISTS BONNIE SUCEC AND SUSAN BECK. by Nathan Webster

 Title:  “Behind You Will Be A Life / You  Will Never Want To See Again”

Title:  “Behind You Will Be A Life / You  Will Never Want To See Again”

Bonnie Phelps Sucec is the creator of spiritual and imagist works and also an art educator. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sucec first studied with Don Olsen at Jordan High School. She then studied at Brigham Young University from 1960 to 1962, at California College of Arts and Crafts from 1962 to 1963 and last but not least at the University of Virginia Commonwealth University for two years. Sucec earned an MFA in painting drawing from the University of Utah in 1984. Her work is nonrepresentational and her preferred medium is gouache. The War and the World, Life Line, and Fluid Vision are examples of her work. Her work is included in the collection of the Salt Lake Art Center, the Utah Arts Council, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.  The Phillips Gallery represents her work.

http://bonniesucec.com

Susan Johnson Beck is a mixed-media artist, painter, and educator. She studied at the University of Utah where she earned her B.A. in 1965, and her M.F.A. in 1968. She also studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts. Teaching experiences include the University of Utah 1969-present, Utah State 2001-present, S.L.A.C. 1969-70, 23 years at Rowland Hall, Artist in Education Program of Lollapalooza (a children's art program), Salt Lake City Arts Council, and some private instruction. Beck is an excellent teacher with extensive training in traditional painting technique. Described as a portrait specialist in the mid-1970's, she was painting a series of detailed still-life objects by the end of the decade. Yet her ideas have drawn her increasingly toward the use of mixed media and a wider range of expressive forms in more recent years. Her work has been shown at the Phillips Gallery, Salt Lake Arts Center Faculty Exhibition, Utah Biennials, Utah Arts Council shows, The Springville Museum of Art, Weber State College, and at S.L.A.C. with Bonnie Susec and Meredith Moench Summer 1997. 

http://www.art.utah.edu/faculty-2/faculty-list/susan-beck/


I have worked with both Bonnie and Susan over the years and consider them to be two of my dearest friends. Both of them have strong artistic convictions and unique creative sensibilities. They are fearless and soulful in their work and have boundless curiosity, energy and intuition . They are also just incredibly lovely and generous human beings and actually created my wedding cake back in 2013 - the most extraordinary wedding cake anybody could have asked for.

Bonnie and Susan have been friends for many years and developed a unique show together at Finch Lane Gallery back in 2014 titled "Short Stories", which was later expanded to a larger exhibition at Kimball Art Center in Park City in 2015 titled "Out Of Sight/In The Mind". These exhibitions were the inspiration for this interview.

Please enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


 

Tell us a little bit about your background; when did you know that you wanted to be an artist?

Susan: I have loved drawing as long as I can remember loving anything. It was something I have been able to do well and has driven my interest in exploring art techniques and concepts. It is helpful when teachers and acquaintances praise ones work because it can support an interest and move it forward into a commitment. I attended the University of Utah for both my Bachelor and Master degrees. I was also able to spend a year between degrees studying art at the California College of Art and Design. This experience was very important in expanding my view beyond Utah. I had a very ordinary childhood with one exception. My brother died in an accident when I was 17. It was a very important event in my life and has affected every choice I have made.

Bonnie:  I always thought I was an artist, of sorts, because I made stuff out of boxes, ribbons, junk, and magazines.  It wasn't until I went to High School and my teacher was Don Olsen, he was a well-known abstract painter, that I thought that maybe it was possible to to just be a painter.

 Bonnie Sucec.

Bonnie Sucec.

Can you talk a little bit about your creative process? Do you start with an idea, an emotion, energy, an image? Do you have specific rituals when you paint?

Susan: I usually start with an image developed in drawing notebooks; usually they are figurative but not always. From there, it is a process of adding on until the surface is fairly complex and can then be developed by refining with color, value, texture and additional contextual elements. The emotional quality involves conscious decisions that usually relate to observations in nature, and how imagery makes me feel when I experience various qualities. The original drawing dictates the direction of the piece throughout the process, which can be chaotic at times. I like this part the most. 

Bonnie: My teacher was an abstract painter, so that is how I learned to paint. This was in the late 50's.  I start with moving the paint and then I concentrate on color, shape, patterns, movement. I became familiar with the abstract artists work, there was an expression of energy and movement.  I painted on everything and work on a large scale.   

 Title: “During The Week She Doesn’t Eat Much / She Only Eats Like This On Sunday” Susan Beck (top), Bonnie Sucec (Bottom).

Title: “During The Week She Doesn’t Eat Much / She Only Eats Like This On Sunday” Susan Beck (top), Bonnie Sucec (Bottom).

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?

Bonnie: I admire the work of lots of artists of all kinds...but I would say Don Olsen, Shari Urquart, and of course Susan.

Susan: I love children’s artwork for the spontaneity found there as well as the uninhibited spirit of their work; ditto for outsider art and primitive art. Also other artists who are close friends because I see their process and the development of their work on an ongoing basis. I also love other forms of art including dance and music. There is a kinship of spirit and intent that I feel close to.

 Susan Beck.

Susan Beck.

You have been friends for many years, how did you meet? Do you feel that you have inspired each other's work through the years and if so how?

Susan: I met Bonnie because of her work. She was selling the most delightful painted dough figures at the Utah Arts Festival in 1977. I was working at the Art Festival through a CITA program called Artist’s In The City. I bought several of the figures, which I still have, and arranged to meet her at her home to get several more after the festival was over. Once I was in her home, I recognized a sister of the head, and when I left for home, it was with several additional pieces of artwork, a guinea pig named Faye, and a lasting friendship. We have done many big and small activities together: Lallapalooza, a children’s art agency that developed experiential, discovery art projects, teaching through the Utah Arts Council, visiting galleries and exhibits, and most importantly, we have always drawn together. There are so many aspects of Bonnie’s work that hold my attention: her freedom of expression, her daring use of color, her obsession with textures, her unusual compositions, but mostly her sense of humor.  

Bonnie: Susan makes me disciplined. I would have never done the kind of work we did together if it wasn't for her persistence.  Susan and her work challenge me.  I am grateful for that.

 

Talk a little bit about the project that you were both involved with and that evolved over a seven-year period. Why was it an important project for you to do together and what discoveries did you make about each other as artists and friends in the process? And what did you discover about yourself?

 "Out Of Sight/In The Mind" at Kimball Art Center in Park City, 2015

"Out Of Sight/In The Mind" at Kimball Art Center in Park City, 2015

Susan:  This project developed rather naturally through our drawing together. I think artists are always looking for some device to jar them out of their myopic view of their work. Bonnie and I have a very similar aesthetic appreciation, and I think I can say, we truly like each other’s work. We were both at a point of wanting a challenge in our work, and this seemed to be an interesting, workable idea. Drawing from verbal description has many layers. First, your own habits and preferences, then your strangely biased idea of the other person’s work, then the challenge of setting those aside to find a fresh yet personal approach to the elements of art used to create any piece of artwork. You are trying to stay true to yourself but respectful of the other person’s description. Since I use a lot of black and white in my work, I often found I would over exaggerate Bonnie’s description of color. If she said pink in a described area, I saw magenta when it actually could turn out to be pale peach. Describing a piece of artwork is difficult and is as much about mood and meaning as it is about technical aspects. In fact probably even more so. There is also an interesting thing with composition. I was often surprised at how similar that component could be in our interpretations. It made me think there are some overriding compositional elements that drive our choices. My most important discovery was to find how much I could trust both Bonnie and myself through this work. She never disappoints.

Bonnie: Our work is very different: images, style, color, patternmaking, and message are sometimes quite opposite.  It was at times hard for me to work from Susan's verbal explanation of her painting.  Sometimes I thought I just couldn't do it.  Mainly because of course I wanted my paintings to be good, as she did as well. It was a challenge.

 

I love the introduction to this show, where you stress " strong partnerships initiate and excite experimental approaches to materials, imagery, and compositional devices as part of a larger practice. The goal was not to duplicate but to achieve a greater personal vocabulary within a very complex visual arena." Susan - can you talk about what insights you had from a form (craft's) perspective about your own work and Bonnie’s?

Susan: Because my training was heavily based in using materials to recreate the “real” world, I rely on that skill for success. That pretty much had to go out the window in this project. So my work is light and shade defining objects, fairly colorless, a lot of depth of field, horizon line, that kind of stuff. Bonnie’s work is colorful, textural, relatively flat, no attention to a horizon line or associated size relationships. Her work is full of humor for all to see, I think my work is funny, but most people see it as deadly depressing and morbid. The cross over into more of her world was so good for sense of humor. She really got me into the beauty of oil pastels, which I hadn’t really used much before we did this project. It turned out they are so flexible for layering, changing existing images, and creating unusual colors and textures to achieve complex, interesting surfaces.


 

You are both such established Utah artists. What characterizes art in this State - is there a unique Utah art movement and if so, what and who epitomizes that for you and why? And why is work that is developed here important to have included in the National and International discourse about art?

Bonnie:  There is a strong tradition for landscape and figure art in Utah. It makes sense. I also think by not being influenced by popular trends, there is a creative energy here.

Susan: It is difficult to be an artist in this state. The culture here does not include a lot of visual art, and there seems to be no involved audience for more challenging work. Even artists who are more within the range of what one would think of as acceptable find a very small market for their work. Still, there are a surprising number of very interesting artists working here. Fortunately, there are several non-profit venues that show more experimental work, thus the importance of funding for arts organizations. Art is a reflection of culture and Utah needs to be included this cultural documentation in all its forms. 

 

Both of you are great teachers of art, has teaching in any way helped you define your own creative voice? And what makes a good teacher of art?

Bonnie:  What makes a good teacher of art is listening and being aware.  Also compassion - that goes for everything in life.

Susan:  Teaching has been a microscope through which I try to look at all the many aspects that make up art. The challenge in teaching is to articulate what makes artwork in all it’s many facets and helpfully impart that information for the student to use, as they will. It is always exciting to see what students come up with to solve problems. That is what one spends most of the time doing - looking for solutions to problems. Very much like putting a puzzle together. A good teacher loves and understands the subject and appreciates the many facets of each student, then looks forward to what happens when these two come together.

 

Where do you look for inspiration?

Bonnie:  I see inspiration everywhere.  I love to look at art.  I'm inspired creatively. 

Susan:  Everything is capable of inspiring but I especially love music, dance, nature in all forms, surprise encounters with the visual world, weird books with or without pictures, other artists work, the newspaper.

 

What moves you?

Susan: Honesty.

Bonnie: A unique idea. An unexpected surprise. Passion. A dedication to discovery, hard work and gentle acts.

 

Who do you consider to be three of the most significant artists in the world and why?

Susan: Very hard, if not impossible, for me to answer. So much of what we see is a product of time and in each time period there are innovators and refiners, experimenters and technicians, realists and explorers of imagination. Who can say? We have probably forgotten more important players than we remember or never knew about - so many more. I am reading a book titled “Ship of Theseus” which refers to a long forgotten war and the ship with which the conqueror waged his battles. The ship was honored by vowing to preserve it for all time. As time passed the ship began to disintegrate, and it was necessary to replace rotting boards. Well once you replace parts of it, is it the same ship or is it something else?  The more boards you replace does it become less what it was and more something else? I see this question like a long history of ships - building, repairing, and replacing, all-important and necessary and part of an evolution.

 

What is your favorite quote?

Susan: “I am more like myself than I used to be” from an old friend of mine.

 

If you hadn't become an artist what profession do you think you would have excelled in/at?

Susan: I would like to have been a musician, but that is out of the question because preforming in public paralyzes me. But I think, I could have been a good gardener or a park ranger.

Bonnie: Good question.  I don't know.

 

Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

Bonnie: I probably won't be around.  I am happy to have the time to do my work.

Susan: Out of the picture.

 Wedding cake created by Susan and Bonnie back in 2013.

Wedding cake created by Susan and Bonnie back in 2013.

NE PLUS ULTRA: WRITER DAVID KRANES by Nathan Webster

 David Kranes

David Kranes

David Kranes writes about magicians, gamblers, hit men, painters, casino workers. His characters are frequently displaced seekers with volatile emotions—but always human. He writes about the West. And his characters struggle and love in its surreal landscapes of Las Vegas casinos, Utah deserts, and Montana towns.  He exposes the magic in the mundane, the surreal in the simple, and the bizarre in the banal. 

As artistic director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Playwright's Lab for 14 years, David Kranes served as dramaturg and mentor for many now celebrated works in American theatre, including Pulitzer Prize winners Angels In America (Tony Kushner) and The Kentucky Cycle (Robert Schenkkan). He also worked with other renowned playwrights including Donald Marguiles, Milcha Sanchez Scott, and Philip Gotanda, and actors Kathy Bates, John Malkovich, J.T. Walsh, and theatre artist Julie Taymor.

With many stories anthologized, David Kranes is a Pushcart Prize nominee for “Blue Motel”; Pushcart winner for “Cordials” (1996)—this story appearing also in Best of Pushcart Anthology (2004); recipient of the Utah Governor’s Award in the Arts, CBS Playwrights Award, National Repertory Play Contest, and Wrangler Award for “Best Short Story Collection” for Low Tide In The Desert

I have known David for seven years now. Nathan and I worked with him on two separate projects, he is an inspiring mentor to us and a dear friend!

Please enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

   
Tell us a little bit about your background; when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
 

I grew up in a Boston suburb, surrounded by my parents' high-powered group of intellectuals: physicians, lawyers, economists, physicists....some of the Nobel winners. Many of these folk--on the side--painted, concertized, wrote. The message was: You do something SIGNIFICANT and, if you're anything, do some sort of art on the side. But you never do art to call attention to yourself.  It was a pretty amazing but intimidating circle. To say that I was intimidated doesn't touch what I felt.  So I acted out.  And, in doing so, discovered writing. A teacher encouraged me. So that's where it started. It wasn't until senior year in high-school that I got at all serious.  Which led to some good college acceptances. I was pre-med in college, took a left turn, went to Columbia Law School, had a breakdown and decided--for better or worse, with my parents blessing or not--I'd better do what I feel the fire of: write.  So--

What books inspired you growing up and why?  

Books?

    
You are such a prolific and diverse writer: doing screen plays, theatre plays, novels, short stories – which format do you prefer and do you feel that moving between formats makes you a better writer?  

In America, writers--as in so many professions--tend to be specialists. In Europe, a writer is a person-of-language.  Beckett wrote novels, plays, a film entitled "Film." Philosophers write novels and poetry.

If words are one's raw materials for expression, the European model makes more sense to me.


Can you talk a little bit about your creative process as a writer? Do you have specific rituals when you write?  

I drink coffee. Later in the day, I drink wine. I write every day (and did, even when I was teaching) for at least 2 hours. I "work out." Sometimes it's just the exercise of arranging and rearranging words.  Sometimes something-I-can't-name ignites. I have a general objective when I begin, but I give myself permission to "stray." Sometimes I do what I thought I'd do when I began. Sometimes I end up  in South Dakota.

    
Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?
  

The list is too long. Some have inspired me through the work they've done. Others have inspired me in their dedication.  I'm drawn to people with a gentle ferocity. I believe that art forgives....which is another way of wording Mr. Hemingway's, "Good writers aren't always good scoutmasters." Unfortunately there are too many whose art doesn't merit forgiveness. I'm inspired by artists who give almost as much of their energy attempting to be good people--good citizens in the world--as in being good artists. 

   
You are an incredibly intuitive teacher and mentor to many - what is it you get out of teaching and do you think teaching informs your writing?
 

I had many, many bad teachers -- mostly in secondary school but some in college as well. Always, when I was being "taught," I'd find myself thinking (of my teacher), "Don't you get it?! Don't you see that this is the way you should be teaching?  Why doesn't the teaching profession have the "Do no harm" ethic? What's the opposite of "harm?"  Mentors should be aiming to do that. When I teach well, I feel clean. It's good to write from that feeling, because I know I'm going to get awfully dirty in the writing.

You were the artistic director of Robert Redford’s  Sundance Playwrights Lab
for 14 years, serving as dramaturg and mentor for many now celebrated works in American theatre. Can you talk a little bit about how that came about and what you felt your contribution was to the Lab?
 

I'm trying to write a book about what's asked in this question.  I had a film project in the very first Sundance film Lab. I complimented Mr. Redford on his structuring of that Lab.  I said he'd done a lot to create "planned accident." Perhaps he liked what I said, because the following year I was asked to create the Playwright's Lab. My designing of the Lab followed two principles: (1) that it was a Lab--thus, what was worked on had no predictable or assured outcome. There would be informed work trying to make a promising thing exceptional....but without a deadline or assurances; (2) I shaped a process which was what I would want a play of my own--in the most ideal of circumstances--to be subject to.

  
Why is it important for new playwrights to be able to work through their material in that kind of context – what tools do you think it provides them with that they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten?  

The Sundance Process (1) removes any deadline for "opening" and (2) provides contact with thinkers and resource artists (dancers, painters, historians, etc, etc) that a traditional "rehearsal" process wouldn't provide.

   
Can you share some of the highlights from your period of time at Sundance?
 

First: Robert Schenkaan and Donald Marguiles returned to Sundance at points when they were deeply discouraged and wondered if they could ever finish another play. Both went on, after that, to win Pulitzers.  

Second: Tony Kushner arrived at Sundance with the 1st 40 pp. of Angels In America.  He wasn't sure he could get beyond those pages. They were worked on again and again for 2 weeks.  On the second-to-last day, Tony said, "I think I can write now," and left the actors to keep rehearsing the 40 pp.  On the night of his final reading, he came down the mountain at dinner time with the whole first draft of the first half of Angels.  

We read it that night.  Wow!


You have a side career, as a leading expert in the US on new directions in casino design - which is brilliant! How did you develop this interest and does it inspire your writing?  

The world of casinos is a world of craziness and improbability. That appeals to me. Also I have a very strong sense of design space.

What moves you?   

Fearless vulnerability. 

 Nathan, Ethan Phillips and David Kranes during the creation of the piece "But, Seriously".

Nathan, Ethan Phillips and David Kranes during the creation of the piece "But, Seriously".

Who do you consider to be three of the most significant
writers (dead or alive) in the world?  
 

Shakespeare, Cervantes, Samuel Beckett.


Are there important qualities that you believe an artistically successful writer has to have?  

The "artistically successful writer" should be unafraid that s/he will be judged mad.

 

What outside of literature, theatre and film inspires you and why?  

You mean, besides visual art, photography, dance, music, the ocean, the air, the rainforest?


What is your favorite quote?  

"The gift travels." 


If you hadn't become a writer what profession do you think you would have excelled in/at?  

According to a battery of tests I took at the age of 14, I should have been an architect.


Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?  

In 25 years?  C'mon, Charlotte: Get serious!

 

NE PLUS ULTRA: ADAM BATEMAN by Nathan Webster

  Adam Bateman

Adam Bateman

Adam Bateman received a BA in English and Spanish at BYU and an MFA in Sculpure from Pratt Institute. He is an artist and curator who has exhibited his work internationally, across the United Sates and at every major art museum in Utah. He is the 2008 recipient of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums Visual Artist Fellowship and the 2013 Joan Mitchell Fellowship. He has curated projects in Los Angeles and New York City as well as for a few venues in Utah including CUAC, a non-profit space that he operated for twelve and half years in Salt Lake City. 

Adam is a close friend and collaborator of NOW-ID - he even performed in our "NOWHERE" show back in 2015. It has been so inspiring to see his extraordinary commitment and generosity to the art scene in Utah and how incredibly significant he has been in shaping our community.  This interview is a tribute to him and CUAC!

Please enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

 

Tell us a little bit about your background; when did you know that you wanted to be an Artist? 

I grew up in Ephraim, Utah.  It was small and poor and had very limited opportunities in lots of ways.  Art opportunities in particular were limited.  My aunt Kathleen Peterson is an artist and I grew up next door to her and always thought I might want to be an artist, except I thought I wasn’t talented enough to do it.   

I lived for a year in Guatemala City when I was 23.  While there I discovered bohemian life… I would hang out at coffee shops and talk about Che Guevara, read poetry, and talk about art.  So clichéd.  I started making drawings.  When I returned to BYU I took a 3D design class from Brian Christensen who encouraged me to keep making sculptures and keep pursuing art as a focus of study.  This eventually led to my decision to go to Pratt Institute for graduate school in Sculpture. 

You chose to focus on Sculpture as your medium - why? 

I was an English Major with a Spanish Minor.  I discovered the world of ideas and of critical theory.   Through my sculpture classes that I took by accident, I found out that the world of ideas collided with the world of making things.  I had always built things my whole life.  It was a revelation.  

Tell us a little bit about your creative process - do you work conceptually or formalistically? 

I totally work conceptually—even though I think my work has a strong aesthetic/formal presence.  I almost always start with an idea then, through mental work, I develop a way to manifest those ideas in a visual way—the concepts also tend to engage with the intersection of visual culture and ideas.  I usually conceptualize what the artwork will look like before I start and then simply fabricate it.   Now that I’ve started painting, I feel like a “real” artist like never before, because I have much more of an intuitive process with them. 

Examples of Adam Bateman's work over the years.

What have been some of the highlights of your career as an Artist so far? 

That’s hard to answer because they range from personal breakthroughs to new ideas to museum shows and awards.  Maybe I’m most proud of being a Joan Mitchell Fellow.  That is a real honor. 

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why? 

Theorist Kenneth Burke through Greg Clark, and Greg Clark himself have been hugely influential.  Neither are in the art world but both write about symbolic language and identity—Greg Clark about how those ideas apply to the landscape and how it influences identity.  A graduate professor, Robert Zakarian, has influenced the way I look at art and the way I understand it.  Matthew Choberka and Jared Latimer helped me understand painting.  Elizabeth Tremante changed the way I think of landscape painting.  Countless conversations with Jason Metcalf, Aaron Moulton, Micol Hebron, Laura Hurtado, and Enoch Lambert about ideas and about art have shaped my ideas.

Who are your three favorite artists? 

Pierre Huyghe, Matthew Barney, Robert Smithson.  I guess. 

What do you think are the most important features that a successful Artist has? 

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this lately.  I’ve been redefining what success looks like.   By the numbers, only 0.5% of all MFAs in art ever hold a tenure track position.  Only 0.08% of all BFAs + MFAs (Bachelor of Fine Art + Master of Fine Art) ever make a living solely as an artist.   Those are ridiculously low odds.  I think success is being able to make art you want to make and exhibit it sometimes. I think if you’re able to continue doing that, you are contributing to culture and expressing yourself in a meaningful way. Reaching economic success and critical acclaim involves too much that is outside of an artist’s control.  

You have been so prolific in your career, working Nationally and Internationally - why was it important for you to come back to Utah and be based here? 

Ultimately my art is about place and identity.  It’s about how aspects of Americanicty have been institutionalized and made visual—how institutional architectural forms re-enforce American Identity.  My version of American Identity is tied to this place.  It’s tied to Utah. I also like that there is opportunity to make a difference here.   

Tell us about the idea behind creating CUAC - what role did you feel that it played in Utah and why was it originally based in Ephraim?

When I moved from NYC I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a community of people around me that understood contemporary art in the way I did. I felt like I had it within me to help create that community—to retain artists that might otherwise leave the state, to attract Utahns living elsewhere to return, to bring my colleagues from elsewhere to spend time here.  It was originally in my home town because I was able to inherit a 501(c)3 and a building and make it into my vision.  The door opened there.  

Having run CUAC for 12.5 years now, first in Ephraim and later in Salt Lake City - how do you feel that the arts community in Utah has changed over that period of time and having been such an advocate for the arts here, what do you think are the strengths but also the weaknesses of our community? 

When CUAC opened (as a contemporary art space), there were only two or three contemporary artists in Utah who were exhibiting their work outside of Utah.  Now there are about 40.  Since CUAC opened, BYU’s MOA and UMFA and Nora Eccles Museum and Utah State and the Harris Gallery at Weber State have all hired contemporary art curators; Salt Lake Art Center changed it’s name and focus to be UMOCA, GARFO and Kayo and NOX Contemporary and God Hates Robots and Granary Art Center have been open; Rio Gallery has hired a contemporary art focused Felica Baca.  Our little community has grown a lot.  I can’t say how much CUAC has catalyzed that, but we have at least been part of a shift in zeitgeist.  

I think the biggest strengths in our community are the strong programs BYU and Weber State have and the large number of ambitious and talented young artists that come out of those programs as well as UofU and Utah State (and Snow College).  There are lots of good artists here.  The weakness is the availability of venues for those artists to exhibit their work and get support.  There is still as strong feeling among financial supporters of the arts that is suspicious of contemporary art—not because of content, but because it competes with more traditional art that is strong in our state.  There is still a feeling that contemporary art is the weird anomaly compared to the big brother of traditional regional art without the understanding that the reverse is true with a global perspective.  

Images from CUAC (Central Utah Art Center) in Salt Lake City.

How could the community have helped in preventing the closure of CUAC? 

This is a tricky question.  There are two answers, at least.  The first is that for a cultural non-profit to thrive, it needs a solid, regular source of income that the organization can count on to cover things like rent and basic operations. ZAP Tier 1 recipients receive somewhere around 1/3 of their operating budget from ZAP each year. They can count on that as a baseline to raise money against.  They then seek funding to support programming.  CUAC lost that important component of our funding.  There isn’t much most people can do to replace that.  We have been super fortunate to have that support for so long.  That is what we lost. That loss is why we are closing.   

On the other hand, CUAC, and all non-profit arts organizations rely on community support for the other two thirds of our budgets. This support goes directly into programmatic community offerings, in CUAC’s case, exhibitions and education programming.  The costs directly related to exhibitions (e.g. shipping, artist travel, painting the space, printing postcards, etc) came to about $60,000 each year.  CUAC had about 12,000 visitors each year.   If each person who visited CUAC had donated $5 each year, we could have paid for our exhibition programming.  This is something I think most people don’t understand.  If people want cultural institutions to thrive in our city, they should give money to support them.  Even small amounts like $5 really help if there is a culture of supporting organizations we love and want to see continue.  I hope people in Salt Lake will read this and choose their five favorite non-profits and commit to donating $5 or $50 or $100 or whatever they can to supporting them.  If we all do this, important offerings will continue to exist and will even grow.

What is the next chapter in your life - tell us about some of the projects that you are working on these coming months? And is there a project that you have always wanted to do?

The month of May is about building a large sculpture that will go to Las Vegas for a museum show in September.  June is a residency at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans.  In July I’m installing a permanent sculpture at Southern Oregon University.  I’m hoping to do a lot of backpacking in the desert.  I’m hoping to go surfing in Costa Rica.  I’ll be applying for lots of jobs too. 

Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

I have no idea how to reasonably answer this question.  If I was independently wealthy I’d operate an exhibition venue in Salt Lake City and I’d make art.  If doors open the right way, I’ll be a famous artist and I’ll be engaged in the development of community through cultural organizations.  I feel like the reality is that there are forces outside of me that can impede those things from happening or they can make them happen.  I think a likely scenario is that like most other good artists, I’ll keep making my art and keep scrambling to pay the bills.  I thought that would have been in Utah.  Now it’s looking like it might be somewhere else.

NE PLUS ULTRA: MIME ARTIST YASS HAKOSHIMA by Nathan Webster

 Yass Hakoshima in "Maze". Photo courtesy of C. Wang.

Yass Hakoshima in "Maze". Photo courtesy of C. Wang.

Yass Hakoshima began his career while dancing with the Yokoyama Ballet troupe in Japan. His initial success led him to the United States, where he studied modern dance with Erick Hawkins and mime with Etienne Decroux. In the late ’60s Hakoshima made his stage debut in New York, and thereafter embarked on a 10-year tour of the United States, performing in over 400 cities in 49 states.

In 1976, he established the Yass Hakoshima Mime Theatre, incorporated as Danmari Ltd. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Suntory Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Soros Foundation, Deluxe Corporation Foundation, and from many other corporations and individuals. Mr. Hakoshima is now an international favorite, touring from New Zealand to Montreal, and Hong Kong to Berlin.

I have known Yass and his wife, the dancer Renate Boue for close to 20 years now and am completely inspired by their endless creativity and pursuit of artistic excellence. Yass is an extraordinary performer with an incredible amount of stamina and curiosity for the world around him.  

Please enjoy.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

 

 

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND; WHEN AND WHY DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BECOME A MIME ARTIST?

When I was ten or twelve years old, I was a good story teller. I explained stories in a convincing manner to my classmates and friends. In fact, I enjoyed doing this myself. During my life in Tokyo 1955-58, working at Tokyo Keikan, I took daily ballet classes with the Haruki Yokoyama Ballet and mime classes with Hieronobu Oikawa, who had just returned from Paris, where he had done studio work under Etienne Dercroux. While the Yokoyama Ballet Co. had been touring in Hokkaido for a 3-week engagement, I danced in “Coppelia” and “Swan Lake.”   As you can imagine, we always performed on large stages with wonderful audiences.  Somehow I got the idea to try out some of my created mime pieces. During the intermission after the first performance I proposed this to the artistic director and to my surprise, the offer was accepted. I would be performing my own choreographed solos! Because at that time very very few artists were showing European style mime, only at a few occasions Japanese people were able to see mime when they were watching European movies. Therefore my appearances were very unique at that time for Japanese audiences to see mime in a live performance, and it became a great hit during the Hokkaido Ballet tour. On a big stage, one person doing something called Mime was a great challenge. During that time I was also reading a lot of literature and constantly searching Western theatre history, and finding Western art forms, specifically about the art of mime, which at that time was very little known in Japan. Twice I was able to see Marcel Marceau perform in Tokyo, which confirmed my vision of getting more and more interested in the art form of mime.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR BREAK-THROUGH PART AS A MIME?

After many years of choreographing numerous performance works, I realized that one of the popular mime styles, the so-called 20th century classic short vignette, which is so beautiful and absolutely stark, sharp, direct and showing human expression. It holds a poignant deep meaning like a powerful black and white calligraphy. However to exist among the other “big brothers” like opera, symphony concert and many other types of theatrical forms, which use enormous visual effects like stage sets, costumes, fantastic songs, dialogues, all of which can over-whelmingly impress audiences with enormous excitement. Mime on the other hand, and especially soloist performing on the big stage, without song, no talking, just demonstrating body expression of everyday gestures in life, was not enough! I found one clue: ”visualization of music” could help me to step out of the short vignette style. I concentrated on 15 to 20 minute scenes of short stories or events, well edited, and still keeping a poetic sense and deep meaning. I listened to selected music over and over until the entire score was built into my body.  I enjoyed it so much because I finally found it: Freedom of Expression!

HOW DO YOU CREATE A CAREER FOR YOURSELF AS A MIME AND WHERE DO YOU FEEL THAT THE BIGGEST AUDIENCE IS FOR YOUR WORK?

 Yass Hakoshima in "Spell". Photo courtesy of Johan Elbers.

Yass Hakoshima in "Spell". Photo courtesy of Johan Elbers.

My career began originally in Europe when I lived in Germany and gradually began to create evening length programs that I could offer to various presenting organizations, such as universities, arts centers, theatres etc. When I moved back to the USA in 1966,  I had my NYC debut at the 92nd street Y and also at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, which were attended by several representatives of artist agencies. I was signed up with one agency. I stayed with them for over ten years, touring all over the USA in all states but one! It was a very hard touring time. Sometimes I toured in my own car, sometimes I flew, sometimes taking a bus! It was a very strenuous period, with one-night stands, visiting hundreds of colleges and universities, community concerts,festivals.

In order to make ends meet I had to be my own stage manager, lighting designer, performer, choreographer, music director, costume designer, mask maker, props creator etc etc.

All these performances were mostly one-night-stands, including also one- or two-week residencies. Eventually, in 1976, other agencies became interested in my work and I was represented by an International agency (Kazuko Hillyer International) in New York for 13 years.  Now I would be touring to larger festivals and theatres around the world.

Simultaneously I would also work with international agencies in Europe, as well as in Asia. And I was touring practically all year-round. The biggest audiences for my work are definitely in Germany and in Taiwan because I had so many performance tours in these countries. Also audiences in Australia and South America were equally receptive and understanding.

I SEE YOU AS SUCH A POWERFUL STORYTELLER - CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS. HOW TO CREATE A CHARACTER? DOES INTUITION PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR PROCESS?

Mime is the art of creating a world of reality. The performer re-creates the world around him as well as represents and expresses his own inner world for others to see. The “outer” world contains objects, people, animals, and organic life of all sorts, which become the sum of the performer’s environment. The “inner” world consists of his/her own feelings, thoughts, impulses and dreams. Illusion can be created objectively. Objective mime creates objects and environments around you. In subjective mime, you become the object itself, such as marionette, tree, flower or eagle.

One of the most important aspects of a mime performance is the creation of illusion. When a mime creates a fantasy — something that is there when it really is not - that is an illusion. When you see a mime perform, you will see many illusions - invisible objects such as a wall, a door, a chair, or movements such as the blowing of the wind, the rocking of the waves of the sea, an eagle flying in space.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR.

 Yass Hakoshima in "Melan".

Yass Hakoshima in "Melan".

One of the most recent highlights of my career has been my annual national tours in Taiwan, twelve times from 1983 to 2003. The Taiwan audiences named me “Shan Tao An” (Chinese for Yass Hakoshima). One of the most important stages I appeared on during my professional career was one week of performances at the Taiwan National Theatre, a 3000 seat fantastic theatre and wonderful audiences. Opening my career as professional artist were two special theatres in Germany: in Berlin the Akademie der Künste and the beautiful Rococo style Markgrafen-Theater in Erlangen. My first New York performance was at Kaufman Hall at the 92nd street Y and the same year (1966) I appeared at the Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival in a program with Edward Vilella and Carmen De Lavallade.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT MIME THEATRE?

Mime is simple body language to express a story or essay, events, illusions, crazy fantasies, fables or daily street scenes, dreams, etc. These are raw materials for artistic choreography.  However, how to break it down to simple body language format is the crucial point.

Marcel Marceau created most obvious and very common scenes of every-day-life in a poetic way, with comedic nuances and great facial expression. His creations were easy to understand.

However the simple way to express in an artistic way is always very difficult. After Marceau’s worldwide success from 1976 until around 2006, street mimes appeared on every corner in the USA to entertain and amuse audiences in comedic acts.

Of course, everybody enjoyed watching their plays and comedic acts. However those mime artists did not give the public a sense of the ART FORM of mime. Gradually people left from those acts and labeled these performers white-faced meaningless entertainers because it is so easy to start moving around without much training or experience, special talent or serious artistry. Anybody can copy actions in a white face, and therefore people gradually lost interest in the art of mime. The public does not know the various styles of exciting, high level of classic, abstract mime, dramatic or comedic mime performed in the theatre by artists who have been trained for many years, who can compete with other art forms like opera, spoken theatre etc. When we ask people "what is mime,” people usually answer immediately, “I know it, a white-faced street entertainer or comedian! They are so funny and cute!” Is that all?

 Yass Hakoshima in Melan. Photo courtesy of Raul Gil.

Yass Hakoshima in Melan. Photo courtesy of Raul Gil.

I have met so many people during my touring time, and at that point I thought seriously that I have to teach and educate people about the ART of mime. This encompasses the comedic act, to give laughter for a complete opposite situation, such as in the tragic drama of human behavior.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR WORK AND WHY?

Composer George Crumb, whose music has inspired me tremendously for many of my recent works. Stefan Odry, photographer in Germany. Akira Kurusawa, film director. Jean Louis Barrault, actor/mime. Comedie Francaise, Jules Dassin.  Film director, Vaslav Nijinsky. Igor Stravinsky. All of these have such explosive, artistic, creative energy, and yet they are very human.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE THREE MOST SIGNIFICANT FEATURES A GREAT MIME HAS TO HAVE?

A. Creative power to submerge into the concrete illusion or fantasy world.

B. Vivid memory – memorable, detailed events that the artist encountered throughout his/her life. (The power to submerge into your illusional world).

C. A physically and spiritually completely well-trained body.

 Yass Hakoshima in "Black Angel".

Yass Hakoshima in "Black Angel".

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?

Street scenes, daily events, films, video, museums, books, music, photographs.

YOU HAVE SUCH AMAZING COMEDIC TIMING, YET YOU ALSO MANAGE TO DO MORE DRAMATIC ROLES, WHAT DO YOU PREFER AND WHY?

Since 2001 I put all my energy and past valuable experiences into dramatic, abstract work, accompanied by music (mostly live music) and simple costumes, masks, sculpture and paintings. Adding my choreography, creating multi-disciplinary arts projects.

This is what I thoroughly enjoy!

WHAT COUNTRY IN THE WORLD DO YOU THINK HAS THE LONGEST AND MOST APPRECIATED HISTORY OF GREAT MIME?

Italy, France, China, Japan, India.

IF YOU HADN'T BECOME A MIME WHAT PROFESSION DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE EXCELLED IN/AT?

My mother was an opera singer, so I was introduced to music at an early age. I could have continued studying music. I love conducting and could see myself having become a conductor.

LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE, WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE AND WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE DOING IN 25 YEARS?

I will be continuing to create new work, teaching, lecturing in the US, Europe and other foreign countries.  I am also planning to publish a book consisting of tour memories, with photographs and essays. I am looking for a publisher now!

www.yasshakoshima.com

 Yass Hakoshima, his wife Renate Boue and Nathan in 2013.

Yass Hakoshima, his wife Renate Boue and Nathan in 2013.

NE PLUS ULTRA: Architect ED RAWLINGS by Nathan Webster

Ed's head.jpg

Ed Rawlings

 

Ed Rawlings has practiced architecture in New York City for the last 28 years. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he has led several award-winning projects, including Dance Theater Workshop/The Dance Building, The Roosevelt Island School, the Pedestrian Walkway Canopies at Newark Liberty International Airport, and 215 Sullivan Street. After starting his career in New York City at Michael Fieldman and Partners, Ed opened Rawlings Architects in 1998. 

I have known Ed for close to twenty years, as I went to Tisch School of the Arts with his wife, Jennifer Phillips, an extraordinary dancer based out of NYC. It has been inspiring to see Ed build his architectural firm in NYC with integrity and vision and to see the scale of the projects that he has successfully completed. I have always loved talking to him about the creative process and wanted to give you, our readers a window into the world that he has created.

Please enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

 

Tell us a little bit about your background. When, where and why did your interest in architecture emerge?

I grew up as a “corporate brat”- our family moved often as my father worked for American Can Company which had facilities all over the world.  I was born in Los Angeles and at the age of 4 we moved to American Samoa, then England, then Puerto Rico, then New Jersey and Connecticut for high school.  From each place we lived, we would travel extensively.  As I recall, a trip to Sydney, Australia from American Samoa in 1970 brought me to the Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon, which was still under construction, but clearly discernable as to what it would be.  I knew I wanted to be an architect at that moment at the age of 6.  Traveling extensively through Europe as a child also made a great impression on me and I have vivid memories of Rome, London, Paris, Barcelona, and Copenhagen.  I studied architecture at Rensselaer in upstate New York and have been obsessed with design ever since.  I guess a terse way to explain this might be that the opportunity to shape the world we live in and hopefully make it a better and more beautiful place is the role of the architect.  It is by nature a kind of naively optimistic endeavor, but it seems like something worthwhile nonetheless.

How long did it take for you to build your company Rawlings Architects to become a sustainable business and did you know quite early on that you wanted to start your own company and why?

After graduating from Rensselaer, I continued to teach design studio there for about a year and a half while working part time for the firm Architecture+ in Troy, NY.  I moved to New York City in 1988 and have lived in Brooklyn since then.  Working for Michael Fieldman and Partners from 1988 until 1998 taught me much about how to design buildings, run projects, and manage a practice.  I think most architects probably want to have their own firm, I certainly always did, as it allows the most freedom to work out design problems.  For me it began incrementally with side projects which I worked on during nights and weekends.  Michael Fieldman has always been very supportive of my work and we developed a unique transitional arrangement in 1998 when I opened Rawlings Architects.

What projects helped define your company and why?

I would say our defining project was the first project of the new firm which was the Dance Theater Workshop (now NY Live Arts).  We were originally hired to “peer review” a proposal that a developer had offered to enlarge Dance Theater Workshop’s two story former garage in Chelsea, in return for residential space above.  I saw an opening and produced an unsolicited alternate design, taking advantage of zoning code knowledge I had amassed of the years.  Our design had about 50% more sellable residential area and a larger theater and support space.  This was compelling of course, and led DTW to abandon the previous developer and solicit other proposals for our design.  When the dust settled we had landed our first new building in New York City and were the architect for the Dance Theater Workshop portion of the building as well as the residential portion above.  David White who was the director of DTW was extremely supportive and championed our design throughout the process.  And this project was also a labor of love - my wife Jennifer Phillips is a modern dancer trained at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, which is how I know you [Charlotte]!  The project was successful for both DTW and the developer and won an AIA award in 2005. Charles Blaichman led the development team and is friend and client who continues to commission our work. We have been fortunate to get most of our private sector work through word of mouth, we don’t actively market.

Above: Dance Theater Workshop (now NY Live Arts). Photo by Edward Hueber.

What is the most challenging aspect of running an architectural firm in NYC?

Money.

New York is an expensive place to do anything.  Producing good architecture is very labor intensive, so there are challenges of balancing things.  It is also more and more about collaboration and having a great team.  My partner Steven Kilian has collaborated with me since 1999.  One of our core principles is to search for an elegant solution which solves multiple problems simultaneously.  This kind of an approach can often lead to unexpected solutions. Sometimes I think getting a building built is analogous to putting together a movie or a performance piece - it takes a lot of people, with very different skills, and it takes a certain spirit of making something together.  Someone has to have the helm, but everyone needs to own it.

You have been involved in such a wide range of projects from Dance Theater Workshop's new building in Chelsea to the Thompson Boutique hotel - what type of projects do you prefer to work on? What projects would you like to work on that you haven't worked on yet?

Above: Thompson LES (now 60 LES). Photo by Edward Hueber.

We have been fortunate to have worked on many new ground up or major renovation projects in New York City including public schools which we have worked on since 1988.  Multifamily housing, hotels, and educational facilities are the 3 main project types we currently have on the boards and each have their unique qualities that often inform the others.  Our recent 215 Sullivan Street project which is an adaptive reuse and addition to a Children’s Aid Society building designed by Calvert Vaux is a recent award winning project I am also proud of. 

I don’t believe a firm needs experience in a certain type of project to design a great solution, just a willingness to dive in and ask a lot of questions and imagine scenarios.  Sometimes a cinematic imagining of inhabiting is a way to get at it.  Often it is a very repetitive process of testing iterations, evaluating, discarding and trying again.

As to possible future projects, I could say I would like for us to be doing more performance spaces, libraries, museums or higher education facilities – but really I think the more honest response that gets a little closer to our approach is that each project is unique and presents interesting intellectual and expressive opportunities and that there is always a compelling solution waiting to be discovered.

Above: 215 Sullivan Street project, NYC (photo by Alexander Severin).

I still have a candle stick holder that you designed twenty years ago do you have any products that you are thinking about right now?

We are currently very fortunate to be busy with buildings to design, so we are not working on any industrial or product designs at the moment.  We think of a building on a continuum from the smallest scale to the urban (and global as sustainability and energy become more dominant considerations).  I do have some ideas for things like a shopping cart and an eCup but they always seem to stay on the back burner…

Given the mission of NOW-ID - what is your experience designing for dance and theater - I remember seeing an installation you did for Ellis Wood Dance in NYC some years back, which was pretty extraordinary?

I have always been interested in dance and performance and the relationship and contrasts with architecture.  My wife Jennifer danced with Ellis Wood Dance for many years, and several times Ellis invited me to design sets for her pieces.   I loved the process of trying to find a balance of a set design that supports the work but does not upstage, creates a mood that reinforces or opens up the work, is also easily deployable and transportable, and is not expensive.  Some of the later sets became almost Sol LeWitt-like instructions for assembling things for a future tech crew.  One of my favorites was a piece that used colorful rock climbing rope, monofilament, fishing line weights and spring clips.  The rope was suspended a few feet above the stage forming a square in plan, the monofilament suspended the rope and the weights pulled it down, forming an irregular zig-zag when viewed from the audience.  It formed an internal architectural space, implied a landscape, and was really easy to transport and quick to assemble and strike.  Another favorite was a video piece I produced as a backdrop with incredible music composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain. I spent a lot of time with a digital video camera, taught myself video editing, and listened to Daniel’s music constantly.  It was a wonderful experience and a great honor to see Hurricane Flora performed at Dance Theater Workshop with Jennifer and the company performing on stage.

Above: Ellis Wood performing in Ellis Wood Dance designed by Ed Rawlings.

What or who inspires you in your creative process?

That is complicated as I think about it.  I guess it is a range of disparate things all rolling around.

Renzo Piano, my daughter Adeline, Stanley Kubric, the Carmen Herrera painting we saw yesterday, the way a cat walks out of the room, Nadia Sirota’s music, the Pantheon with rain coming in the oculus, what is dark matter really?  I guess for me, a way that seems to work is to immerse myself in a problem for a long period of time and then leave it and go for a run or visit a museum and then return to it and look at it again upside down.  

What are your ambitions for Rawlings Architects moving forward?

I would like us to design more things.  More importantly, I would like to grow the practice into something that can continue for more than just my tenure, and to establish a culture with the team that can endure for making the built environment a better place.

Where do you see yourself in 25 years?

Hopefully alive and with Jennifer and Adeline.  New York City.  Continuing to design and transitioning the firm to younger partners as Michael Fieldman did for me.  Continuing to be a guest critic at architectural schools.  A sailboat in the picture would be great too.

You can see more of our work at www.rawlingsarchitects.com

 

 

 

NE PLUS ULTRA: NANA BUGGE RASMUSSEN by Nathan Webster

 Nana Bugge Rasmussen

Nana Bugge Rasmussen

Nana Bugge Rasmussen is a Danish Opera Singer, who works with Lied as well as opera and church music. Already parallel to her studies she appeared as a soloist in both operas and operetta in Denmark and Germany.

Already as a child, Nana Bugge Rasmussen was greatly interested in singing and so she got her first vocal training in the Childrens Choir of the Royal Danish Academy of Music, where she started at eight years old. Parallel to private vocal studies with opera singer Anne Margrethe Dahl, she studied philosophy at the University of Copenhagen from 2005 to 2007, where she got accepted both at the Royal Danish Academy of Music (RDAM), Copenhagen, as well as at Universität der Künste, Berlin. She ultimately began her studies in Berlin and continued in Copenhagen and, in 2010, she gained her BA-degree from RDAM, and in 2013 her MA-degree. Already parallel to her studies, she had appeared as a soloist in both operas and operetta in Denmark and Germany. 

In November 2013 she won the 3rd prize at the competition Concorso Internazionale Musica Sacra in Rome and in September 2014 she won the 2nd prize at Concours International de Chant Baroque in Froville, France.

Also a keen lieder-singer, she has given numerous recitals and has a vast repertoire within the field of church music. Since July 2015 she is part of the programme 'Den Unge Elite', sponsored by the Danish Arts Foundation: a grant given to highly talented musicians with focus on building an international career.

I worked with Nana in 2014 on the Copenhagen based "Figura Ensemble's" production "Et Glimt Saa Er Jeg Vaek" at the Marienlyst Castle in Denmark and then later in EXODUS in 2016. She is an extraordinary artist and a lovely human being and it felt natural to include her in our NE PLUS ULTRA interview series.

Please enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background - when did you know that you wanted to become an opera singer and where did you receive your training?

I knew from from a young age that I wanted to become a singer; My father is an opera singer so I was influenced by him. I got my first training in the Childrens Choir of the Academy of Music in Copenhagen and I was sure I would become a soprano or, well, I was a soprano as a child, most children are, so I was greatly disappointed the first time I was told to sing the alto voice. The Queen of the Night, Violetta, Mimi and all the others left me that day and never came back but with time I learned to love the possibilities in the mezzo/alto-field. Later I got my training at the Universitet der Kunste in Berlin and at the Academy in Copenhagen.

I have now worked with you twice and you strike me as such a physical and dynamic yet precise performer. Was that part of your training and do you like to receive very specific blocking notes in the creation or staging of a piece or do you prefer to be able to be more flexible in your choices on stage?

Well, to me the creation of a figure on stage should always contain more than the singing. Opera is by nature not as naturalistic as acting on it's own, but this should not be an excuse to forget about the physicality of the figure and actually I think there are hardly any limits to what you can do. It just sometimes has consequences for the singing - you have to consider your priorities in a given situation. I danced classical ballet as a child and since then the physical elements of my education have mainly been added by myself, varying according to what was needed. I like blocking notes if I can manage to make them my own. If not, I like to discuss them. It might very well be my problem, and not a problem of the note in itself; however, my problem will eventually be a problem of the production, so discussion might be useful... at the right time, of course.

You never seem to pretend on stage, you really inhabit the roles that you do - what is your creative process in getting to that place and is collaboration important to you?

Collaboration is crucial and I am very sensitive to what I call energies on stage, perhaps too sensitive, but I am working on that. I think the creative process consists of several layers processing at the same time: There ís language - the language of the sung text and the pictures, feelings and mood it creates in you. It ís connotations and context. Also, on an auditive level: Sometimes I like to just repeat text many times in many different ways and just see what it does. Sometimes it goes somewhere absurd. Then there ís more classical research about a period, a person, some incident, inventing relations on stage. And then last but not least the music, everything you know about it together with the intuitions of harmonies, phrasing, where it wants to go. And, with all of the above, what is the extract, the core of it all when carefully mixed - that core is the drive in the end and it should be.

What have been some of the highlights so far in your career? I have had the great joy to collaborate twice with the amazing counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, who nowadays also conducts. He ís incredibly sharing and generous with his talent. Both times I sang Bach, a composer who ís for me out of this world, and with two fabulous orchestras, Accademia Bizantina and Kammerorchester Basel. In 2014 I sung Dido in Purcellís Dido and Aeneas - that ís a monumental role and it was wonderful to sing. 

Without naming any names can you describe an experience in your professional life with a director or a cast that was less successful and why that was? With this question I get back to the theme of energies - I have had a few times where the energies go in too many directions, that a cast simply doesn't aim at a common goal - or that the conflicts that might exist off-stage between set-designer and director go on-stage as a bad energy - and that ís really counterproductive for everyone. On the other hand I think it ís really rare that all of this works perfectly all the way through - and it might not be a big problem for the final result. 

What city in your opinion has the most exciting opera scene? It ís a hard choice but I think Berlin is amazing because there is such a vast amount of Opera houses with their various profiles. But perhaps I am also mentioning that city because I know it better than other cities. Theater an der Wien has a great profile when it comes to early music and they have made some beautiful productions in Oslo in their wonderful new Opera house there as well.

What do you think are the most important psychological features that a successful opera singer has? Mental and physical stamina, a good balance between creativity and discipline.

Where do you find inspiration for your work? I listen to other singers from many different periods. From great acting as well, and film, but mainly theater. And from art. Hieronymus Bosch has been a great inspiration in a lot of work, specifically with certain parts of Bach's music and generally with the church-music.

Who are some of the people who have inspired you the most in your work and why? Andreas Scholl with his musicality, my dad, always insisting that singing is not an excuse for bad acting and unnatural moves on stage, Sarah Connolly for singing exquisitely, my singing teacher Susanna Eken for being so consequential and honest. Well. There are many. But these are a few.

What is your favorite quote? I don't have one. But a good one is this, about what you do as a performer - Paraphrasing: A glass is not a mirror. You don't see yourself in it, you have to be able to look through and see the purpose of what you are doing, the audience, the responsibility towards the composer, the librettist. And the audience should be able to look through to you. You have to keep your glass clean to always stay focused on the purpose of performing, which is bigger than you - Janet Baker in conversation with Joyce DiDonato. 

Tell us about any projects that you have coming up and that you are excited about? Just now I am preparing a line-up of lied-recitals in November and May with a premiere of 4 songs written to Goethe's Mignon-texts from Wilhelm Meister by Swedish composer Filip Melo. It ís such a great program, apart from the premiere it consists of Schumanns Mignon-lieder, yes, to the same Goethe-texts, and of songs by Berg and Webern. It ís such a privilege to work on this gorgeously loaded music. 

Looking towards the future - where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years? I would like to have a healthy voice which can still sing, and I would like to be able to have a bit more influence on the projects that I do. I have so many ideas floating around in my head and I think it will take at least 25 years before I will be able to make them all come true.

NE PLUS ULTRA; ORE INC. by Nathan Webster

Following up on the recent and stunningly beautiful performance by Genevieve Christianson at NOW-ID’s annual gala House of Apocalypse, directors Charlotte Boye-Christensen and Nathan Webster recently met with Gen and partner Shane Larson of Ore Inc as subjects for our latest Ne Plus Ultra interview series. It’s a long one but a good one. We loved hearing about this exceptional company and their world class process, design and clients and we hope you do too. Please read below as Gen, Shane, Kim, Nathan and Charlotte cover Ore Inc, Lean Manufacturing, the Zen of Welding, parallels and contrasts in viewing art vs design and Ore’s upcoming pop-up event/panel/office/party ‘Ore Offsite’at the upcoming American Society of Landscape Architect’s annual conference in New Orleans. 

http://www.oreoffsite.com/

Enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen          Nathan Webster

Nathan: Shane - you also have a background in fashion. Could you talk a bit about that, and how did you go from that to metal?

Shane: I was in fashion. I had moved to New York and worked for Ralph Lauren for a couple of years and did window display at Bloomingdale's and worked on product at the mansion on Madison Avenue. I had worked in clothing in the fashion industry in Utah before I moved and focused on it out there. I got to meet a great group of people. We spent time at Marc Jacob's studio and I was good friends with a couple of the Armani models. I was living the 20 year old fashion dream in New York. It was awesome, but I got my fill of that and really got interested in furniture and architectural design while I was there. I still had a shop in Salt Lake and I knew how to weld. I knew how to make stuff and decided I wanted to make metal stuff specifically, and I couldn't do anything there so I moved back to Salt Lake and started working with metal. 

They were individual commissions, all custom, and most of it went to Deer Valley but over the years I branched out to projects in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and San Francisco and around the west. I ran that company for 15 years and and expanded my expertise in all metals and materials and methods of manipulation of all of those materials, so casting and welding, and all sorts of stuff. 

Charlotte: Do you mainly work with steel or do you work with many different kinds of materials?

Shane: Mainly aluminum, steel, and stainless steel, bronze, whatever it takes but, at Ore, definitely the majority is aluminum.

Nathan: And now you can bring all the learning from those 15 years about the material and making to something you are able to produce repeatedly, efficiently.

Shane: It's interesting how our work has become that. We have a catalog of standard things that we don't have to think that much about anymore because we have already figured it out, which is wonderful. Yet I still get the creative head scratching collaborative relationship with architects to figure out the really complicated things and solve them with our shop, so I get both. I'm lucky in that way. Then, for us, because it's a better business model, we can scale it and, also, now it doesn't all hang on me. Others are estimating things, we talk, my office is right there. We talk all day about the projects that are going on and the shop is seven minutes away and I talk with those guys all the time. I can help but I don't have to be the guy in a welding helmet. 

We're fortunate that we found an audience; we found a need out there for customizable landscape architecture related things. The timing of outdoor living as an interest on a consumer level has helped. People want to be outside, spend more time outside, and there's a lot more thought about the interaction of exterior architecture as it relates to large scale architecture, so architects and landscape architects are working closer together, or often times the architect just does the exterior as well.

Ore Products.

Charlotte: Do you find that you do most of your work locally or otherwise?

Shane: While work here is increasing, we are mostly in New York City, Washington DC, Boston and San Francisco. We specialize in roof top gardens, on high rises, both residential and commercial and those cities have a lot of these.

Charlotte: What is the concept of your upcoming event Ore Offsite, taking place in New Orleans on October 21 and 22?

Shane: The American Society of Landscape Architects have an annual conference that changes from city to city every year and we have participated every year for ten years. It's significant that a lot of our customers are in the same city, at the same time. 

At the last one, we had a massive, gorgeous booth and had lots of interaction and saw our favorite customers and yet we came away from it completely exhausted and wondering why we do it to ourselves. We do know that when we speak to people at the trade show and our customers, it's much more about the social interaction - talking about things more so than walking around and looking at every little thing and seeing how it all works. The most valuable part is that social component, so we thought, "Let's just throw a party. Let's have a social event." I'm generally opposed to fun. I didn't want to throw a frat party or just a cocktail party. It had to be a meaningful party. So, we developed Ore Offsite, and we're having it at the New Orleans Jazz Market. It relates specifically to the city, it's super cool.

We're going to open with a cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres and then we're going to retire to an adjoining auditorium where we'll hear invited speakers speak on public art and infrastructure. The panel will consist of moderator Liesel Fenner - public art program director for the state of Maryland, and the panelists include Cliff Garten - sculptor and landscape architect, Angela Adams - director of public art  in Arlington VA and Todd Bressi - public art and cultural planner based in Philadelphia.
The event won't be about an Ore sales pitch. Ore is presenting this opportunity for like-minded people to get together and essentially nerd out on landscape architecture. We all share this passion. I'm a metal dork but I love trees. This is what I do. It's a perfect blend.

  The invitation to Ore Offsite designed by 7d8.

The invitation to Ore Offsite designed by 7d8.

Nathan: It sounds like a great model, something we are into, blending social events with different forms of art or design or business, and in a meaningful way.

Shane: The last thing I want to hear is another sales pitch, and so we are bringing people together to  talk about stuff that we're into - the idea of using public art to invigorate a city. We'll have product there, but it's not to be selling. Then, the following day we will set private appointments for people who want to know more and need to meet with us. We get to pull them out of the drudgery of a trade show, bring them to a nice space where it's quiet and we can talk shop if they want to. 

Charlotte: We love the idea of engaging art to invigorate a city, at all scales. We were just in Copenhagen, to tour our show Exodus, and were inspired by the ways they build upon their network and lifestyle related to cycling.  In one project, a park called Superkilen includes pieces inspired by and inspiring the whole community... They've invested in the area, using art in a way where it isn't this additional thing but something that grows out of the place. Many of the objects have been specially imported or copied from foreign designs. They include swings from Iraq, benches from Brazil, a fountain from Morocco and litter bins from England. There are neon signs from throughout the world advertising everything from a Russian hotel to a Chinese beauty parlour. Even the manhole covers come from Zanzibar, Gdansk and Paris. In all, there are 108 plants and artefacts illustrating the ethnic diversity of the local population.

Superkilen in Copenhagen.

Shane: That's what's interesting with gardens, they come in all shapes and sizes. Cliff Garten (speaking at Ore Offsite) does pretty things in pretty places, and he also does some interesting stuff on freeway overpasses and stuff. We've actually manufactured some of his pieces. 

Nathan: In this example, are you guys talking about the concept together and then you guys produce the drawings for making it, cutting it, fabricating?

Shane: He's a unique relationship. I'm friends with the foundry in Lehi who does all of his work. They contacted me to make a lot of the pieces they were using to make his stuff, so I got to know him through the back door, and now we've worked on several projects and  become pals so when this event came up, I thought Cliff could come speak. He's not really doing the sales pitch either. He's speaking of concept and public art and infrastructure.

Nathan: As an architect, I am drawn to European projects and back east, where landscape design is more considered with respect to hardscape, compared to here. I love public places in New York, Toronto, Montreal, Lyons and Copenhagen, where they really finesse the details, and the integration with a city and buildings, and how spaces are used for living. Architects and landscape architects really bring things together. A lot of projects here, but of course not all, it seems landscape architects are oftent filling in the blanks and medians and laying out golf courses and that kind of stuff, more soft instead of hard...

Shane: For sure there's still the traditional types who are thinking about irrigation and drainage and slope and grade and all of that, but the clients we're chasing are a lot more considerate about building a neighborhood and the livability, all of it.

Gen: And the outdoors are equally as important as indoors.

Charlotte: Do you feel that is developing here in Salt Lake City?

Shane: For sure. For example at the new Eccles Performing Arts Center. We did the planters directly out front on Main St, and our stuff is specified on Regent St which may potentially get some sculpture, but that's all specifically considered green space and public space. That's happening. There's quite a bit of stuff that's happening - all of the residential places here popping up, all of the apartment buildings, all of them have public space, common space upstairs. Fortunately we've done four of those projects, so for sure it's happening but moreso for us on the national level.

I spoke earlier specifically about coming back to Utah to have access to a shop, but I am also here because I have to be on my bike and ski and snowboard. I have to do all that stuff that I missed that when I was back east. I love to be outside. I love to play. Here, we live in the city essentially and I can be on my bike and on a trail in ten minutes. It's awesome. That is a big part also, the lifestyle part, for us being here. I get my city fix all throughout the year as I do most all of the traveling for Ore, so I'm always in the city, which is awesome.

Ore custom made piece.

Charlotte: It's important to continuously have in mind what's happening in the rest of the world, with regards to your field but also in general. That global perspective is super important to our company. Otherwise I don't know what we're comparing ourselves to. 

Gen: That's how the Ore Offsite was born as well, with that in mind. It's a small world, yet it's huge with regards to landscape and architecture. We seek a collaborative process and to learn while we're doing it and we're here. Yes, we're Ore - We can help you come up with solutions and you can use our product; however, we want people to meet and interact. Our guests will continue to support ASLA, walk the floor but, for the same amount of money as participating, Ore will throw this amazing gathering.

Nathan: It'll be way more memorable for everybody, and you will stand out.

Gen: Exactly. Then people will have one-on-one contact with new customers and with our current line and people. As we found out, the last few years they've been coming to our booth and weren't walking around looking at new product. They would bring plans to our booth and want to talk about that. We thought, we don't have space for that, and then you have people that are taking pictures of our stuff and walking away. 

Nathan: It's fun. I like the model, that you have an event, but also have the day or times to meet individually with people like that, like a little popup office.

Gen: We hope that it continues. That's why Ore Offsite is so great, because it can be anywhere.

Charlotte: In all of your travels, what city strikes you as being the most conscious of urban planning and outdoor spaces?

Shane: New York is really good, it's really amazing what they're doing there, on that tiny little island, but space is hard to come by.

Nathan: Which space is coming to your mind as you're saying that, any in particular? Or planning moves in general?

Shane: Both, just the overall attitude there. It's always considered. The common area. The entrance to the building. Individual spaces and decks and how it all works. Right now in Manhattan, we're working on some amazing projects. We're working on our second Renzo Piano job. We're working on a deck for Jeffrey Koons, and we're doing a project for Robert Stern. We're all over the map.  

Gen: A lot of people hear about us from other firms. Something that's very unique about us is that we're very collaborative to work with. Our customer service is pretty awesome, and you get to talk to Shane to help come up with solutions for the dreams and ideas in your head. We can make that a reality. We have our own shop and we build everything from start to finish.

Shane: We also 3-d model everything we make. The manager of the Department is a licensed architect. We show 3-d models describing conflicts or problems and digitally our solutions, how it can work. We add a lot of value to these firms, who rely on us to take this and kick them back a list of problems and solutions.

Charlotte: It has to be interesting to work with so many different mediums: You're working with artists, you're working with architects, you're working with landscape.

Shane: I like that. For me, I'm a methods and material guy, so it doesn't matter if it's fabric - it's all different ways of manipulation. It's the same with metal, to create the end result, and the aesthetic is the driver - What methods and materials and how are you going to manipulate them to create that? That's really what we bring to our customers. Often times they're showing us the end result and we have to think, Oh, well, that's got to be aluminum or that's got to be bronze, or then it's going to have to be cast, or we figure out the methods to manipulate the material, whatever it is, to get to that. That's how my brain works. 

You guys, NOW-ID, what you do and what Gen does as a singer is a lot more nebulous. What's the end result is something we are trying to convey. I make something you can park your shit on, something that you can run into. You guys are trying to transcend something. That's the hard part. I can deal with a table.

Nathan: It's true. I see the intangibles, the indefinable. You're like, "Where's the hard table at the end of this? What am I holding on to?"

Shane: You don't know what it's going to be until it is over. That's horrifying to me. I can make something and stare at it and walk around in circles and pull it back apart and put it back together. I'm after the end aesthetic effect.

Nathan: I think Charlotte is too. It's fascinating for me to watch her process. It's so intuitive, different I'm sure than how you work, but she too is seeking an aesthetic and it is a making that creates a world. There's a world onstage.

Charlotte: There's a real craft too.

Shane: And quality right? At the very least it has to be interesting to look at or pretty and you are trying to move somebody with it.

Nathan: Yeah, but there is something there. It's also interesting just to watch how different people interpret. Some people want to understand, to know... the story, to say this is what I saw as the story. Others are content  to just feeel good through the whole thing.

Shane: Yeah, there's lots of discussion about art and the viewer. It's all about the viewer. It's the same piece but it could mean photography to one person, or it could be a really important social statement.
 
Nathan: It happens in the design world too. Most people don't have the language to describe it or understand maybe the history or proportion, but when they experience an object or a space, not necessarily foreground big shazam big designs... there's something about architecture or design that just is and is solid, and yet if someone does pay attention they realize there's something that went into that... There's again an unspeakable quality that comes out through the making, the story, that informs those things.

Charlotte: I think maybe because I grew up in Copenhagen, design is so much part of my/our DNA. The whole craft element of design is super important.

Shane: Yeah, it's social. There's an apprentice and there's a master. It's terrific. It's different in America. It's interesting. It seems to be, in the past also, there's a lot more utilitarian here. Think of Los Angeles, the river channels, the canals, these massive concrete structures that with a little strip of water and not appealing or attractive in the least, compared to the way they think about waterways and transport in Copenhagen. The US attitude is it holds water. At a society level it doesn't have to be pretty. That just costs more. It's the value of it, values are different.

Charlotte: Yeah that's so interesting, because the value aspect is crucial in that discussion?

Shane: Yeah, in the US it seems everybody can get to the practicality utilitarian way. It works.

Gen: You go to places like Italy and Copenhagen and France, you have to work with what you have and you better make it look good. That's only fair.

Shane: There's a lot more city living, people walking around. 

Nathan: That's what I was going to say too - how a society or individual engages with the city makes a difference. If you're always in your car you're not seeing things at the same way as if you're walking or biking on the Vancouver seawall or the harbor in Copenhagen. 

Charlotte: We were so excited to have Ore's support and to work with Gen as a singer at our House of Apocalypse Gala this year.  Can you tell us more about Gen's role at Ore?

Shane: She knows all of the front end of the business and has expertise in all that front end part of the business. Today we have a proper CFO with a proper education and work history and the whole bit and he's constantly in Gen's office asking for her help and taking advantage of her brain. Kim and I were talking about it yesterday buy we had an employee ask, What is Gen's title? Well, that's a good question.

Kim: Yeah we don't know. She does everything.

Shane: Yeah and does it well. She has a high personal standard. She's super helpful for me because I'm focused, like all humans, on my sharpest tools, so I always use my sharp tools, right? I leave my dull tools in the tool box. She has the sharp versions of my dull tools so her perspective is always very helpful and insightful.

Nathan: That's fantastic.

Charlotte: Does she miss singing though?

Shane: She doesn't miss performing and the stress of all of that. She doesn't miss traveling because she used to travel a lot.  She misses singing and she has never stopped. She just performs a lot less frequently but she always has something going on. 

She comes to life on the stage. It's so much fun to watch her do it. Whenever you watch a passionate, talented person practice their craft, it's awesome to watch, whether you are into the craft or not, to watch it happen. 

Charlotte: Was this where you originally started the company, out here, wherever we are, at the manufacturing facility?

Shane: No so we were in West Salt Lake, which turned into Orem and then a number of places. When I started, my family always had a shop so I had a space to work in. Then I rented storage space in Murray and I expanded a bunch of storage units together, I think it was maybe like 5,000 square feet.

We started out in one space here in North Salt Lake and now I think we have 8 spaces or so. This has been fine out here, it's been convenient and weíve been able to grow into additional space. It hasn't been the most ideal, how it's all set up, you'll see but we've moved things around enough time that it's nearly the most ideal. It's still close to our new office, but it's out of the way so the rent is competitive.

Kim: Have you talked about Lean Manufacturing yet?

Shane: It is a manufacturing philosophy on how to make things in an efficient manner. The current thinking in the Toyota manufacturing technique has revolutionized American manufacturing. Toyota, Japan had known of it for years and the manufacturing techniques that Toyota developed is the primary reason that they were able to destroy the US market competitively. They can produce a better product for a cheaper price, consistently, and fast. It's all based around this really philosophical method to the point you can now follow it. There's an instruction booklet.

It's all about identifying waste in a process and eliminating it so you're only doing pure process stuff. In this philosophy you have to identify what is value add time, value add time is what customers are willing to pay for. A customer wants their planter welded together, right? You have to maximize the amount of welding that you do in a day. The customer is not willing to pay for the fabricator walking over and picking the piece off the cart or looking at the blue print or moving it around, that's all waste.

It's literally about looking in a microscope at each and every process and figuring out how you can eliminate the unnecessary stuff so that the welder is squeezing the trigger on the welder as long as possible.

And when you can do that the results are extraordinary. Locally - OC Tanner has gone through the Lean transformation and has actually won awards in it. OC Tanner - they're not just the jewelry store - actually make little trinket things for award stuff and they have a many different variations. One of their products used to take 26 days from the time the phone rang to the time it went out the door. Now it happens in an hour. They tripled their throughput with the same number of people just by getting the unnecessary stuff out of the way. Herman Miller too, an Aeron chair comes off of their line every thirty seconds.

Yet, there is resistance in general to the whole concept, because it's so counter to the traditional American method of manufacturing in an assembly line.

Charlotte: Do you miss the hands on experience? Because I could imagine that would be kind of be therapeutic.

Shane: I do a little bit actually.

Nathan: It's zen for me to physically make things sometimes. As architects, we are often in the world of the screen, both finite but infinitely large, and it's fun to break from that reality, get dirty, use the body, to work around the house or something where I'm actually picking up a piece of wood and figuring out how it goes together and seeing that coming together of things. I think it's good for my brain too, to exercise different parts, think at a different pace.  Same for good old hand drawing.

Shane: Yeah, you're plugged in a different way. I was at the shop just the other day, and there were some things that weren't quite right, so I grabbed the sander and I was working on the finish and I thought God, I miss fine-tuning a finish.... you know, this is pretty good. Some of the guys have worked down there long enough that they've seen me put the welding helmet on and show them how to do it. 

Kim: Like that time that you were testing that patina, there was literally an audience of 15 people by the end of it because Shane had put on his wellies and we were like What's happening?

Nathan: That's awesome, though.

Shane: It is good. Everybody's had the boss that doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about and telling everybody what to do, but I actually know what the fuck I'm talking about, can speak shop speak, and I would rather operate from that level. I get to use all the language that I grew up with around job sites, and one of my favorites that everybody at our shop knows is, stop at perfect. Perfect is good enough.

Charlotte: Well there's also this whole, obviously, different investment, because it's also your company. You started this.

Shane: It's got to be right.

Charlotte: Sometimes that's sort of exhausting - I find that exhausting. You know what I mean? You want things to be freaking perfect. 

Shane: Right and that's the other critical part of Lean. The goal of Lean Manufacturing is more out the door at either the same acceptable or higher level of quality. You can't make stuff faster and give up quality. It has to be better quality, and faster through.

Charlotte: Also the fabricators, the guys welding stuff. They are artisans, right? They take stake in what their making. It's a craft to them. It is so interesting though, when I see people not doing what would make them more competitive globally. 

Shane: They don't believe. One of the books I'm reading right now makes the point that, in order to understand, you have to disagree. In order to get to the understanding, you have to say You're full of shit. That's wrong. You're wrong. Because this is how I do it and I know how I do it is the right way. So you have to go through that discovery.

Nathan: That's true. It's important to have those discussions.

Shane: So we as a company talk about it all the time. We have Thursday afternoon book club where all of the managers and all of the department leads are reading a specific book on Lean so we can get a universal language and a universal understanding about it.

It's awesome because one of the primary points of Lean is that it is not driven by management. It's the artisan. They know. They know how to make it faster. They know what's in their way. Management's job is to ask the right questions and to listen and then provide them with what they need to do their jobs. Period. That's all it is. You go out and ask the fabricators, what's a pain in the ass for them? 
They may say: I can never find a hammer. I say, Why the fuck don't we have ten hammers, a hammer at every station?

The biggest differences are the simplest things. In one of our patination processes, an oxidizing process, the person on the night crew had morphed it into his process which took ten hours. Heíd do it then put it out in the parking lot and it has to be in the sun four or five hours and then it comes back in and then you hand rub it and then you put the glaze on it. It was the most ridiculous thing. We can't have stuff sitting around for a shift.  But it was what was going on and needed a fix.

It was my patina process. I developed it, so we got the video camera, I went out there, took the same pot, took my jacket off, put my muc-lucs on and I patina'd a pot from start to finish in. Thirteen minutes. Now that video is the training video. You do it like this!

 

Ne Plus Ultra: Holly Addi by Nathan Webster

 Holly Addi

Holly Addi

Holly Addi (°1973, SLC, Utah, United States) makes paintings and mixed media artworks. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, Addi creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

She created and runs the boutique and art gallery Arte Haus Collectif in Salt Lake City together with product designer Heidi Jube. On July 29th NOW-ID together with Arte Haus will be hosting a "meet the Artists" dinner at this incredible store in Salt Lake City - come check out the amazing art and merchandise that is on display there. This is truly a jewel in Salt lake City. Learn more about Holly and Art Haus below.

Enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background?

Since childhood I have had an affinity for all things creative. I was very into writing, poetry, theatre, acting, design, costumes, and fashion. When it came to the artsy side of life I always had an opinion, I think my parents kept wondering just where I had come from. As a child I remember waiting for the Sunday paper to be delivered so I could devour the 'arts' section. I couldn't wait to see the next art news, play auditions, or exhibit. I studied psychology because I think it is fascinating.  Psychology is the backbone to the artist's mind. What artist do you know that truly isn't a little bit crazy?  It's kind of a necessity in this field.  Shortly after I graduated from the University of Utah at the age of 22 I opened a high end floral studio and boutique named 'Artichokes & Co.' which focused on the art & composition of arranging florals and gift design, and painted as well on weekends. Artichokes was a huge success, open for 15 years. I then took my designs national when I started a catalog company and offered these designs to the entire US. However, the idea of big business and pumping out fast paced concepts as the creative director, but all based around "money", I felt like my soul was being stolen. It was at that point I decided to get back to my roots and paint full time. For me, it was a wake up call. I think it is really important as an artist to nurture your talent and not let anyone turn that light off. Art takes digging deep. I see so many talented individuals who are bought and sold, and don't let their talents truly emerge.


Have you always been interested in art and design or did something/someone ignite that interest in you? 

I have always painted, and I'm captivated by good design and love working with color. I began painting when I was in high school. In my twenties I started painting more but it wasn't until my late twenties that I sold my first piece.

How did your store Arte Haus Collectif come about? Tell us a little bit about your collaboration with co-owner Heidi Jube, choosing location and shaping the design and concept of the store?

Arte Haus Collectif was a merge of my love for design and great things, and a place to flagship my art.  I teamed up with Heidi Jube who has a candle line, Monokle Collection, and decided to venture in the dwell shop together and it would be a beautiful curated collection of art and objects of desire for your home to make it beautiful. Heidi sells her candles exclusively in Salt Lake at Arte Haus. Our goal is to continue curating and grow the gallery organically. There really isn't anywhere like Arte Haus in Salt Lake City.

How do you choose the designers/artists who you are interested in presenting and do you guys always agree?

We choose designers and artists that have the same philosophy as we do- clean aesthetic, great color compositions and formations, and full of soul. We feel that art should be refined, but not complicated and mindful in it's direction, but not neurotic and methodical.  Letting natural talent exude in an imperfect way is showing it's true beauty. We are also very price conscious. We don't want Arte Haus to feel as though you can't afford it. Art and design should be for 'all.' People need beauty; it enhances a way of living.

There is such a unique flavor to the store – how do you walk that line of both wanting to present local work but also work from elsewhere?

We love the integration of local, domestic, and international. Being able to bring it all together and curate a space that feels right is perfection. And staying true to the philosophy is imperative to us.

I love your art – there is a real minimalist sophistication to your work – can you talk about your creative process? 

My works are based on life’s imperfections and how it all relates back to beauty.  Truly, life is so imperfect but there is that magical wonder how it all comes together.  The good, the bad, the evil, the weeds, the flowers, all of it. My art style is 'composition of perfectionism' and how to embrace the wonder, rather than question it. And at the end, you look at it, and see beauty through it all.

Who are some of your favorite designers and artists, who you look to for inspiration?  

Linda Rodin is definitely an Inspiration and role model - she is elegant and graceful. She defines herself, her style, and her philosophy. That’s my model. 

What city outside of SLC inspires you?  

There are so many! New York obviously but I love the way of life and aesthetic of the true Scandinavian style and smaller towns in Europe. I just love the aesthetic, my ancestors are from a little town in Italy nestled up by the Swiss Alps; maybe it's just inherent. In fact, we wanted Arte Haus to feel as though you had stepped inside a small quaint gallery and shop in Copenhagen, Paris, or Berlin.  

What are some exciting things that are coming up for Arte Haus or yourself that you want to share?  Heidi and I both have another passion - philanthropy. We are going to be teaming up with different foundations for 2017 and letting the art shine through these organizations and giving back. We will be hosting evenings and parties for these foundations with great hope to actually make a difference by donating a portion of the art sales!

What do you see yourself as doing and where do you want to be in 25 years?  

Wow, that brings me to the ripe old age of 68!  I hope to say I will have successfully raised my daughters to each become something greater than I ever was, and I will definitely not act as though I am 68. I think one thing that defines me as an artist is that I have a very child like approach to what I do. As many times as I keep falling down, I seem to always get back up. 

NE PLUS ULTRA: GARY VLASIC by Nathan Webster

gary vlasic

Gary Vlasic is an accomplished performer, artist, event-planner, designer and much much more! He brings an extraordinarily diverse background of mediums together to create unforgettable visual experiences. These encompass large scale events, interior design, art direction, performance, site specific design, and image making. For 12 years Gary performed with and was co-director of "A Company of Four" – C04. For the past 20 years Gary has worked extensively in the event and production design arena. His current project, V Project brings to life a studio experience with a diverse team of collaborators and talents to explore the boundaries of art, design, and architecture.

Gary Vlasic is a collaborator and Board member of NOW-ID. I have personally known Gary for 16 years - I met him in connection with one of my first projects in Salt Lake City in 2000. He is forever curious and pushing boundaries - his input and output is extraordinary and I adore having him as a friend and as a creative confidant. 

Gary is at the moment working on an art installation with fellow artist Colour Maisch titled "ALBEDO/NIGREDO. It opens at Finch Lane in Salt Lake City on June 17th, 2016 and runs through August 5th, 2016.

Enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Please tell us a little bit about your background? You trained originally as a dancer - how do you think that early training helped shape what you are currently pursuing as an artist and as an event planner? 

My dance training was from the University of Utah's Modern Dance Department. I had started with ballet training quite late and studied in a small studio on Floral Street from a teacher from Russia: Professor Ratimer Antik. Russian Ballet training for two years led me to the University of Utah. I started dancing at 21 years old and had little time to catch up and find my place in the dance world. I knew I wanted to do my own work and I partnered with my two friends Mark Lowdermilk and Susie McGee in a company we called CO4 / Company of Four. We had that dance company for 12 years. Our work became strictly Site specific work over the 12 years of exploration together. As I look at my art life and my work as an event designer and producer, I realize that my dance company experience and choreographic experience was the core of my business and art making. In the dance world I was able to wear so many hats, Choreography, Stage Design / Set Design, Lighting, Costuming. Architectural considerations regarding Site specific work allowed me to consider how that site influenced and informed the dance theater performances I created. I found a natural transition to Event production and design as these tools were exactly the foundation to my business and my art projects and art production.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process as an event planner, a designer, and as an artist? Are those three processes distinctly different or do you see similarities?

I have found that my design mind and design process works hand in hand with my art process. Creating from a design eye first actually helps me to frame my work and inform it in a way, where it has a strong structure. That said, I also believe that the art process is a completely different influence and has it’s own process and voice. I try to link these two worlds together. Sometimes it isn’t successful. For me, it all comes down to good theater that provokes and hopefully leaves us with an impression and moves people to tears.

I get the impression that music is important to you - can you talk about why? Who are two of your favorite composers/musicians?

I always begin with music and sound scores to all art and theater productions. It seems that a score or piece of music can inform the whole structure and core of a work. I find that soundscapes are my greatest influence and I look to composers, who create strong environments with sound. I am currently Influenced by Hans Peter Kuhn and Jonathan Belper. I am influenced by all classical music as well as pop. The tension and juxtaposition can be powerful.

What fashion designer do you look to for inspiration? What architect? What product designer? What artist? And why?

Fashion designers: Rick Owens, Sruli Recht, Craig Green and of course Alexander McQueen. Architect Inspirations: Rem Koolhaus, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and anything Brutalist. Product designers : Rick Owens Couture design in Furniture and Faye Toogood/Toogood design. Artists: Cy Twombly (his paintings make me cry) Neo Rauch (His paintings make me want to create theater around them), Anselm Kiefer (His work and scale inspire me to think big), Banks Violette (His work provokes and his materiality speaks to me).

I saw an interview recently, where you talked about the "Darker Edges" being interesting to you - what do you mean by "Darker Edges"? And why do you think it is important to embrace those sides of yourself?

I find that most of my artwork and process is informed by a dark edge. The dark exploration combined with emotional content can shake down and provoke us to dig deeper. It is our jobs as artists and theater makers to make people see things and feel things that an edge from a darker reference can move us and transform us to do. It is important to feel uncomfortable and restless in these visions. Within all darkness lies a thread of light and lightness.

If you weren't living in SLC, what would be your city of choice and why? What city currently do you think generates the most interesting art and design?

I am fortunate to have a dual life that allows me to be in NYC and home based in SLC. Of course, NYC offers me a huge luxury to see and experience the world of art and theater and allows me to do my constant homework. I seek inspiration all the time. I am blown away with the realization that so much good artwork and design is coming from great cities all over the world. I don’t see that one city or part of the world is any more inspired. We have the ability to connect to the world and experience all these good influences from our screens and that is very exciting.

I know that 'alone time" is important to you, what is it that you generate from being alone and do you feel that it is an important component in your creative process?

I find that my art process and internal process needs to find refuge in being alone. I admit that I feel more sensitive as I grow older and with that sensitivity is a need to protect myself and my process. I am less available and more economical about who and what I give my energy to these days. I am most true to myself and my process when allowed the luxury of time and space to create and to gather myself. I find that my work has clarity and meaning through process and time alone.

I love that your mind seems to be continuously creatively alert, how do you retain that curiosity in the world and act on your instincts? There seems to be very little fear in the choices that you make...

I appreciate your comment Charlotte. I do feel that I am always looking for the inspired moments and creative surge. It is all around us. I have always had a restless desire for looking and searching. It is my homework. I think it shows in peoples' work, when they don’t do their homework and see what is happening in the world and in their art forms. It is our job as artists to seek and question. It is a process of constantly unlearning what we know. Also, we must remind ourselves to be gracious to everyone in that process.

What is your favorite quote?

Artist : Teresita Fernandez :"Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth, the size of the world you make for yourselves, your ability to influence the things you believe in, your obsessions, your failures — all of these components will also become the raw material for the art you make."

If you could only bring 5 things with you to a remote island, what would they be?

1- Fire making, 2- Music, 3- Unlimited pencils and paper, 4- A companion, 5- A boat (haha).

Where do you see yourself as being and doing in 25 years?

I see myself surrounded with beautiful artwork, creating art and experiences and being sustained from this art life that I have been seeking and expressing. Sharing it with deep generosity. My life as a museum.

NE PLUS ULTRA: ALEXANDRA HARBOLD by Nathan Webster

Alexandra Harbold is a director/actor/dramaturge living and working in Salt lake City. She founded "Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory" together with actor Robert Scott Smith in 2013. "Flying Bobcat" produces and creates performance based works. Additionally Alexandra has worked with local companies: Salt Lake Acting Company, Plan-B and Pioneer Theater. Alexandra and Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory collaborated with NOW-ID back in 2014 on our dance-theater piece FEAST out at the Great Saltair.  

I had the privilege of working choreographically with Andra on FEAST and she has such powerful internal strength, vulnerability, fearlessness and integrity in the choices she makes in the creative process. On top of that she has an intuitive musicality, sensuality and intellect that she readily accesses and a natural affinity for movement. She is indeed a force to be reckoned with!

Enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen 


Tell us a little bit about your background - I know that you studied at Goldsmith's College in London amongst other places, why did you choose their program? And did you originally train as an actor? 

I did originally train as an actor. I went to the University of London Goldsmiths College after working with director Nesta Jones my senior year at Middlebury College, where I earned my undergraduate degree in Theatre. I wanted to continue training with Nesta and to have the opportunity to study in London.

What do you enjoy the most: acting or directing and why?

I truly love both, but directing is more intuitive for me. What I imagine creating is often beyond what I can do as an actor or as an individual artist. What Tamilla wrote about the actor’s art also resonates very strongly for me – and as an actor, I don’t think I’ve ever achieved the presence, risk, and alignment with the work that she articulates so beautifully – I do keep hunting and striving for it, and I am thankful for directors who challenge me to go further. I recognize it in other actors.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process as an actor and as a director- are there similarities? 

My creative processes as an actor and as a director overlap. Whether it’s an existing play or a devised project, once I’ve read the play, I start digging and hoarding research, images, and music which feel connected to the text - feeling around for my own instincts about the play, its core question. It helps me recognize the play-world of the production we’re creating, its idiosyncratic beauty and rules. As a director and actor, it feels like the process is to align your own curiosity and appetites to the living questions in the text. When I first started acting and directing, it felt like there was a mysterious and elusive “right” way to approach a text – a target that you either hit or didn’t (I often felt like I couldn’t see the target, full stop.) Now I’m hunting for the unique alignment of that text and that company of artists – recognizing the possibilities that are only present because of that gathering of creative minds. Rehearsal is a process of drafting, layers, and constellations.  

Why did you decide to create the company "Flying Bobcat" with actor Robert Scott Smith, what void did you feel that it was filling and can you talk a little bit about the philosophy behind the company? How do the two of you compliment each other?

Scott and I started collaborating together when he returned from NYC to serve as the Creative Director for the Leonardo Museum.  He had developed a program called POPUP@Leo to create devised work and invited me to play on the inaugural project. Our first project, SENSES 5, led to our collaborating on two other devised POPUP works in the same year, LOVE and MIND OVER MATTER. When we began, we started from the ground with only raw ideas about a point of departure or how we would develop the work; in a very short time, we’d forged a working method and shared language that we continue to use and expand upon now. We both respond very strongly to mythos, design, movement, and music. We were also hungry for the kind of work and experimentation that we saw in London and New York. 

I think we complement each other because our imaginations are both kindred but distinct, and we call out each other’s strengths and push each other. A strength I believe we share is recognizing collaborators who create the visual and aural worlds we dream about – we couldn’t do the work we want to do without them.

Our latest project with Salt Lake Acting Company and Dallas Graham’s Red Fred Project, Climbing with Tigers, is a perfect example. Scott asked our Feast collaborator, Playwright Troy Deutsch,to adapt Nathan Glad and Dallas’ book for the stage. He then asked SLAC if they could give the project a home. Scott’s asks and Troy and SLAC’s generous yeses led to the opportunity to assemble a creative force of artists.  

There is a strong visual, almost cinematic component to the work that you are doing with "Flying Bobcat" - is that important to you in creating new work? It doesn't strike me as being naturalistic theater that you are cultivating; instead it feels fiercely experimental, which is exciting - was that also why you called it a Laboratory?  

Both Scott and I are drawn to the immersive, shape-shifting play-world possibilities that working with film and projections creates. And yes, thank you! I love “fiercely experimental.” That’s exactly why we included Laboratory to our name. We wanted experimentation to be at the very core of our creative identity and company mission.

What excites you about being based in Salt Lake City as an artist and what do you miss from being based in a bigger city? Do you feel that there are limitations/restrictions in working here and also what are the benefits/sources of inspiration?

I find Salt Lake City exciting because there is an appetite for experimentation and the work that coexists with a strong sense of home and community. A bigger city would allow for greater cross-pollination of creative ideas. I think more exposure to artists from around the world would galvanize our own work and encourage us to take bigger imaginative risks.  

What city in the world do you see as having the most exciting theater scene and why?

I find London a thrilling and vital theatre city (Complicite, Frantic Assembly, the Court, the National, et al) – not only for the work created there, but for it as a crossroads for international theatre. It also feels like home to me. NDT and Ivo Van Hove’s Toneelgroep Amsterdam tempt me to visit Amsterdam.  

Tell us a little bit about the highlights of your career so far? Climbing with Tigers is certainly a highlight.  Working with Animator & Graphic Artist Jarom Neumann as he created the visual world of the projections was a particular joy. Tribes (Salt Lake Acting Company) and Picnic (The Grand) this year were also landmarks for me as a director. As an actor/performer, working with you, Scott, Jesper Egelund (composer/musician), Troy, Jo, Yumelia, Jenn (dancers) and Nathan on NOW-ID’s Feast. 

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?

I am inspired by Director Mary Robinson every time I get to be in the room to witness her work. Her attention and questions stir up something electric in the work – nothing is incidental. Anne Bogart and Tina Landau (The Viewpoints Book) have transformed the way I see space and staging – and they’ve taught me to embrace “exquisite pressure".  

Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s The Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre – their generosity with sharing their secrets so we can all experiment.   

What is your favorite quote? 

Two came to mind. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question” e.e. cummings.

I asked this question of Director Tamilla Woodard and I want to ask the same of you because I think it is an important one: Have you experienced sexism in your work as a Director and if so, how have you dealt with it? Do you see more female directors working in theater today compared to when you started? 

It is important. I’ve encountered sexism as an actor and director - some inadvertent - some more intentional - rationalized and self-justified, which feels more corrosive in a process. Directing offers creative agency and a defining voice in the process.  It also affords the opportunity and responsibility to imagine and to facilitate a different conversation in the room and in the work. I have had the opportunity to work with and witness the process of many incredible women directors: Mary Robinson, Karen Azenberg, Robin Wilks-Dunn, Adrianne Moore, Shana Gold, Julie Kramer, Anne Bogart, Cheryl Faraone, and others.  As a director and teacher, I work to support and mentor other female directors and actors.

As an actor - what director have you always wanted to work with (Dead or Alive)? As a Director - what actor have you always wanted to work with (Dead or Alive)?  

There are so many. As an actor and director, I would love to have the opportunity to work with Complicite founder Simon McBurney. As a director, I would love to work with actor Helen McCrory. 

Tell us a little bit about some of the projects that are coming up for you and that you are excited about?

There are two projects that I am excited to collaborate on that will go into production early in the fall.  I am dramaturging Pioneer Theatre Company’s The Last Ship, with music and lyrics by Sting and book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, directed by Karen Azenberg. I am directing the University of Utah Studio 115 production of Carson Kreitzer’s Self Defense, or Death of Some Salesmen, based on the story of Aileen Wuornos.  

Looking towards the future where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

Having adventures with (my husband) Joe and creating work with friends who challenge and inspire me.  

NE PLUS ULTRA: ROLF HEIM by Nathan Webster

 Rolf Heim, Director

Rolf Heim, Director

Born in Switzerland Rolf Heim trained as an actor at the Institute for Stageart in Sweden 1984-1986 and later as a director at The School of Stage Arts, Theatre Cantabile, 1989-92. With actor and playwriter Claus Beck-Nielsen under the name 20th Century Ghost he directed the plays: Andy Warhol, Rupies and Balls and Theatre Butcher. Rolf Heim is artistic director of the Boat Theater in Copenhagen, where he has staged numerous productions. Aside from this appointment there he has also staged Miss. Julie at the Kaleidoscope Theater for which he received the significant Danish theater acknowledgement: The Reumert Prize, and later the Nick Cave Theatre concert at Aarhus Theatre in Denmark.

Rolf is part of the collaborative team for NOW-ID's next big production EXODUS - we are excited to see his incredibly creative and original mind set in motion. Please see our most recent NE PLUS ULTRA interview here

Enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background; you originally trained in dance, why did you make the change to theater or was it more of an organic evolution as opposed to an intentional decision? 

I only worked for a short period of time with dance and as I am not a trained dancer, physical theater was always my main focus. Already as a child I expressed my emotions physically, when I was happy I had to run or dance and when I was sad, I went for long walks.

How do you think your background in movement has influenced your work in theater?

It clearly gave my work a very physical and visual expression. For me it was never enough as a director to have actors who only felt something on stage, I wanted to see that emotion in action, expressed through the body. My work on stage is seldom traditional or naturalistic - it always has a physical expression.

Your work strikes me as having a really strong stylistic point of view - interpreting a text through movement language seems important to you - can you talk about why? Also, on that note I loved hearing about your puppet theater piece "Jernring" (Iron ring) - what can Puppet Theater add to your form that you wouldn't have been able to achieve through human performance?

Theater is a "live" event, things are happening right now on stage for the audience. So energy is important. I want to see and feel the actors at the same time. To only pretend is not enough. 
Puppets are magical as they only come to life through animation. An animated puppet is still not a living human being, but it gets life, or becomes alive through the imagination of the audience. It is in the mind of the audience, that the puppet gets feelings and movement. On stage you see the actors, how they move a puppet, but as a spectator you choose to believe that the puppet is alive. We become like children again playing with a toy, giving life to it only by imagination. 
So engaging the public, without them being aware of it provides them with a more powerful experience. And a puppet is never embarrassing or too sentimental, etc., something, you can't always say about real actors.

Do you consider your work to be more performance art than Theater and in reality do these kinds of terms and distinctions even matter anymore in talking about performances? 

My work is very much influenced by Performance Theater. Meaning - there is no hierarchy between text, light, set, actions, actors, and so on, everything or any effect can be used in order to resolve a scene or tell at story. Normally in theater, the actor and his/her text is the most important thing, the rest is just decoration. 

Do you see a difference in the direction that theater/performance is heading in Europe compared to the States and can you talk about what those difference are? Also, what city in your opinion has the most exciting contemporary theater?

I do not really know so much about the theater in US. But in Europe, it differs from country to country. Avant-garde and Performance Theater are both very strong in Germany, The Netherlands, and in Belgium. All of their city theaters are working with directors, who think about art and not only about the entertainment value. Theater is seen as an art form in those countries, it is well funded and has a public, which appreciates innovative theater.

 Baadteateret

Baadteateret

Tell us a little bit about "Baadteateret" in Copenhagen? It is quite unique because of size and placement - how do these features play into the shaping of your repertoire?

It is a unique and intimate stage with only 80 seats on a boat situated in the middle of historical Copenhagen. Perfect for Puppet Theater! We can afford to be experimental, because we are so small. Ticket sales don’t really influence our budget, as there are so few seats. So we focus on developing puppetry, doing research and having a laboratory attitude towards our work. Ironically, that has made us very popular and we often sell out our shows.

Tell us a little bit about the highlights of your career so far?

I think those shows where I worked very uncompromised, not thinking about success or how the critics would receive the work. Instead just following my intuition and taste. Those have become huge successes, which feels in a weird way very cool. 
A show about Andy Warhol in the beginning of my career had that effect, and opened a lot of doors to the more established theaters for me. Then The Nick Cave Theater concerts became a huge thing some years later, and lately I would say “Jernring” (Iron ring), puppetry show on Baadteateret. So highlights for me are the ones where my innovative, artistic work reaches our audiences and critics.

What is your creative process like - is collaboration important to you and if so why?

More people have more ideas than one person. So I listen very much to my actors, sound, set, lighting designers. I always tell them that 80% of my ideas don’t work and that counts for every body. So throw in ideas, but do not insist on them. 
I always know one moment at a time what we are heading for, but not where we end. Having a team, which works under those circumstances, demands that you as a director really motivate and lead...

Who are some of the people who have inspired you the most in your work and why?

"The Wooster Group" (a New York City-based experimental theater company known for creating numerous original dramatic works) because of the way they rehearse - they keep on trying things out, until it works. They also taught me, what musicality is in a dramaturgy, and the basic rules of Performance Theater.

Robert Lepage (A Canadian Theater artist) in his early years, showing magic realism on stage.

Peter Brook (A British Film and Theater director), because the research of an artist never ends.

La La La Human Steps (A Canadian contemporary Dance Company under the direction of Edouard Lock, which has unfortunately closed down in 2015) because they produced shows which can’t be further away from what you normally see on stage, but it knocks you out...

Where do you look to for inspiration? Do you watch a lot of theater in your spare time or are there other mediums that interest you more? There seems to be a real cinematic quality to what you do, hence my question.

Film yes, visual art in general, museums of any kind, kids playing, watching every day life and of course theater - mainly abroad.

What is your favorite quote?

"This little finger, still doesn’t obey me". Pablo Casals, a world known cello player, who has won every award you can win in classical music, and played all over the world. The quote was his answer to a journalist, who asked him when he turned 80-years old. 'You have reached everything a musician can dream of, what is left?

This became or is my main motivation in work, 'keep on developing, never stop...."

Who is the actor that you have always wanted to work with and what is the project that you have always wanted to do?

Actors - none. Projects - lots. 
But my experience tells my, that when you after years of waiting finally are allowed to make your dream project, it becomes a disappointment. Dreams are here to be pursued but not to be fulfilled. So I turn it around and say, the project I work on right know, is the only one I want to do. And that works!!!

Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

I will be 70-years old, and the answer is quite conservative: looking at my children and being happy about who they have become. 
And besides that: painting, writing, taking a walk with my dog, ... and maybe doing a show once in a while.

NE PLUS ULTRA: TAMILLA WOODARD by Nathan Webster

 Tamilla Woodard and partner Ana Martineanu

Tamilla Woodard and partner Ana Martineanu

Tamilla Woodard is a theatre director who works both nationally and internationally. She is co-founder of PopUp Theatrics, a partnership creating site impacting theatrical events around the world and in collaboration with international theatre artists. Currently, she is serving as the Artistic Director of The Five Boroughs/One City Project, a multi year initiative of The Working Theater. The project will support the commissioning and development of 5 Playwright/Director teams working in collaborations and creating theatrical works in response to working class communities in all 5 boroughs.

She is a current Time Warner Directing Fellow at the Women’s Project Theater Lab, a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, alumnus of The Lincoln Center Directors Lab and artistic affiliate with New Georges. She graduated from The Yale School of Drama’s Acting program and is the recipient of The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists and The Josephine Abady Award from The League of Professional Theatre Women. Her work has been presented and developed at the Working Theater, NYTW, New Georges, HERE, The Lark, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, PS122, DR 2, The Culture Project, Urban Stages, Dance Theatre Workshop, The Kitchen Theatre and for festivals and theater’s around the US and Internationally.

I met Tamilla last year and again this year during writer David Kranes' New Playwrights' Lab at Salt lake Acting Company in Salt Lake City. She was one of the directors and I was the choreographer. She blew me away with her intuitive ability to reveal through her process what was truthful and therefore important in the translation of a script. I was inspired by her playfulness and generosity in working with all of the collaborators involved. And in talking with her I discovered that NOW-ID and PopUp Theatrics, the theater company she created together with her partner Ana Martineanu were investigating similar themes and forms and I am excited to share her thoughts on the work below.

Please enjoy.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background; you originally trained as an actor, when and why did you know that you wanted to move on to directing?

I went to two pretty good schools for actor training and at both always found myself looking for opportunities to direct. I have always felt like I was surveying the theatrical event from the outside, even while building my performance as an actor and I deeply desired more control over my creative experience. Now that I really only direct, I realize and actually treasure the fact that one never has full control over their experience as a creator anyway. In fact the act of creating is most intoxifying for me now, when the potentiality and the unpredictability of it is most palpable.
 
Do you feel that your training as an actor helps you in your role as a director?

Absolutely. I revere the actor because I know how difficult it is to do the job. It costs a lot and requires a lot to commit to tell the truth ever night, to give oneself over and inhabit another life, another’s story with honesty and veracity. Actors dare to feel the totality of the human spirit and experience, to shape that into a performance and then to tell the truth to an audience about what it means to be human in a single moment. That kind of empathy, courage, curiosity and attention to detail does not belong to everyone but it’s the mail tool of a good actor.
 
What is it that you most enjoy about directing?

Creating a playground for my collaborators and proposing the game for the day. I love shaping and packaging the collective brilliance of a room. I get great joy in making things with other people and in facilitating our collective visions towards an audience’s experience.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process in working with actors, playwrights and a technical team?

With PopUP, my partner Ana Margineanu and I spend a lot of time dreaming. Our favorite words are “What if..” We use this- I use this all the way to the premier. I insist on a lateral collaboration in my rooms. Meaning- we all have an expertise. I’m gonna be a 100% expert at my job and I need you to be 100% expert at yours. We will perform our jobs in response to each other not in service of each other. The only thing we serve is the text/concept that exists between us and belongs to all of us and we remake and re-image it constantly as we become more familiar with the tools that lie between us. Now, this doesn’t mean that I won't get up on the stage occasionally with the actor and say, ‘hey try it like this’, but it does mean that I never forget that the actor is an expert at filling the vessel of the text the playwright creates and the composition the director creates. I can’t do that for them. I can only provide inspiration, provocation, clarity, environment—those sorts of things that invite them to their job more fully. Lately, I’ve been insisting that my team use an online collaboration plateform that allows us to create a group notebook together. It’s more informal than dropbox and allows for different kind of artists to respond to shared material in different kinds of ways. I’m really visual so a picture is worth a 1000 words and rehearsing on our feet will get me closer to solving something than talking about it around the table. But if the artist I’m with has a different way of interrogating the material, that’s exciting for me too. I’m always up for expanding my POV as long as we all are in service of the same thing.

Why did you decide to create the company PopUp Theatrics, what void did you feel that it was filling and can you talk a little bit about the philosophy behind this company?

Ana Margineanu and I decided to create PopUP Theatrics because we love traveling, we had great collaborators waiting to work with us around the world and we wanted to create on a larger scale than was then available to us particularly in New York. Nobody was going to give us money to make anything or to go anywhere so we sat down to figure out how to create alliances that could pool resources to ultimately create work that would help pay for itself. The company has two main goals- to create work that is unique in its use and response to the performance space (site specific, immersive, site impacted) and to create work that encourages dynamic collaboration between artists of different disciplines, cultures and languages. I’m also really obsessed with the role of the audience in the theatrical event and our sited work allows me the opportunity to continually evaluate that relationship. We can’t imagine a better scenography that the sites we’ve created in –all without having to alter or change a detail of the natural environment. We can’t imagine richer stories than we have collective while talking with the real people who occupy those real spaces. Often times, our on-the-ground-work, that is research, rehearsals all the way to premier takes place in under 21 days. Most often 14. We’re like Kamikaze collaborators. Of course all of it requires a lot of pre-planning but also a lot of faith in the concept, in the collaborators and in the community in which we’re going. We jokingly and rather grandly say that the world is our stage. But it’s really true. I love the work that we do. It rejuvenates me and excites me and terrifies me. I am continually reminded of the power in being able to tell stories to each other face to face. 
 
What do you think are the strengths in site-specific work and why is this kind of work important? Our sited work is always also immersive work. We live in a world where people are more and more physically disconnected from each other and from their environment. There is a screen between us and just about everything. The ability to lay hands on a real object and a real person is tantalizing. In our work, we simply take greater hold of the idea that the theatre is a 3 dimensional art form. In theatre, we are all in one place TOGETHER, breathing the same air, hearing the same sounds but in site specific work, the experience is not limited to a stage many meters away. It is all round. For sure, in site specific work, I may have less control over an environment and therefor the gaze of the audience. But that small loss comes with a big gain. When we emancipate ourselves from those cushy red seats we gain the ability to connect the story before us more profoundly, physically to ourselves.

 Hotel Project

Hotel Project

I loved reading about your “Hotel Project” and that you have adapted it to hotels in various big cities – can you talk a little bit about this project, why you wanted to take on such an ambitious and what I can imagine would be a logistically challenging project? What did you discover were the differences culturally in doing it in Mexico and in NYC?

Hotel Project was our first big concept. We tried to do it first in NYC but couldn’t find the support or resources. And it only came about because good friends in Mexico City were intrepid producers used to making the impossible happen in that country. We learned a lot from them that first time out. They were like the embodiment of that NIKE slogan “ just do it!. We worked with an ensemble of actors attached to a wonderful company Sabandijas del Palacio located in Queretaro. We actually used three different locations: a gorgeous guest room at a small exclusive hotel, a room at a hostel, and one of the salons at the theatre. So audiences traveled from a luxurious lodging to a budget room to an improvised accommodation. We spent only 14 days on the ground from meeting the ensemble and making first drafts to rehearsals and opening. I was stunned by the inventiveness of this community of actors. They were so much more physical in expression. They were so much less cerebral in their responses to the work and less hampered by naturalism. And they amazed me with how emotionally connected and profoundly honest their work was. I had been wishing for this in New York. It was also the thing that I has initially loved about Ana’s work as a director and about my Mexican collaborators work’ Illusion that has the appearance of truth’! The most invaluable reminder I got in that 14 days was that theatre is a place of magic and that we have to give ourselves permission to leave the everyday world in order to create things of illusion that speak profound truth. A quick origin story: The idea of Hotel Project really came about because Ana and I were working with a directors collective at the time and we all wanted to create a vehicle for some international collaborators to get together to make something in NYC. But the price of renting a theatre – any theatre in the city – was beyond our reach. And then, we also couldn’t guarantee we could even get a decent sized audience even if we could rent the theatre. Because marketing was so expensive. Oh- and the production costs- you know, lights, sound, costume, sets- those were totally out of budget, too. Ana, rather seriously suggested to the group that the only thing we could actually afford to rent was a hotel room for the night and if we made a play for only one audience member at a time we would be sure to sell out. Well, that was the beginning! She has always been brilliant at turning a problem into a concept. So, it was her concept and after still many road blocks she and I shared the idea with our friends in Mexico City and they said, come back here in a few months and we’ll do it with you. So we mapped out the concept, content and logistics- how the audience would flow, what first contact looked like and what in fact was the contract we were making with them as spectators. These were some of the most important questions of our initial work together. Who are these other people called audience? What is to be required of them? Why only one audience member at a time? How do we make them feel special? We grabbled with these questions throughout this first project. To this day, we have to answer these same question as part of our consideration for any concept. In our work, the audience is privileged in some way at all times. We call it the audience superpower. What is the privilege or superpower we get to bestow upon them? How are they mores special here than in daily life?

  Long Distance Affair  in Buenos Aires. A Skype immersive for one audience member at a time. The woman on the screen is Bimbo. She is waiting to have an intimate chat.

Long Distance Affair in Buenos Aires. A Skype immersive for one audience member at a time. The woman on the screen is Bimbo. She is waiting to have an intimate chat.

I sense that the international component in PopUp is an important one. Why?

Well… frankly, we both suffer from severe wanderlust. We are also stupidly curious people. We are both Sagittarius, born only a few days apart though in different years and countries (so if you believe in that kind of thing there ya go!) We find ourselves attracted to the same kind of opportunities and questions. We like being the stranger, the outsider, and the naïve observer. We like learning new things- languages, customs and ways of working. We trust too many people. We are willing to go anywhere if we can make something with someone interesting for someone interested. We are refreshed by how different audiences experience the work and how different collaborators engage the work. I don’t know why we’d stay in one place, ever.
 
Tell us a little bit about the highlights of your career so far?

Oh man, so many wonderful things. Everything I’ve done with PopUp and my partner Ana Margineanu, and all of our over 100 collaborating artist has been a highlight in my career as a theatre maker.
 
Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?

Well, some of these you have never heard of- but they are my unsung hero(ines) Mariana Harta-Sanchez- incredible actress, playwright, who creates the most amazing worlds, has the power to inspire thousands and does it like its life and death every day of the week. Ana Margineanu- totally taught me how to do magic in the theatre; Tennessee Williams whose work reminds me that the theatre is a place for our demons and our angels; Victoria Santa Cruz, who taught me that life calls life; Shakespeare because whenever you do that work its imperative that you remember of the audience that “they’re there”; Evan Yionoulis who taught me how to act and therefore how to be a better director – that empathy, compassion and courage are things that matter. Frida Kahlo who reminds me that we don’t need feet when we have wings to fly; Miro, Picasso, Dali, Pollack, Kara Walker, Romare Bearden, because they can see they can see things I wish I could see; August Wilson, Suzanne Lori Parks, Mary Zimmerman and Jose Rivera because they insist that we are human and gods at the same time; and Ellen Langer, Slavoj Zizek and Joseph Campbell because they give me context, structure and permission for my wild imaginings. And then there is the everyday humanity around me which is always more theatrical than anything I can dream or imagine. Ever.
 
Watching you work with both playwrights and actors, there seems to be a real necessity for play, discovery, intuition in your process, is that something that has always been a significant part of your approach to the work? Do you plan a head a lot? Do you think that you have gradually grown into your way of directing and is it in constant flux depending on the project?

I think of myself as consistent because well, I’m always me in the room. But the room is what changes. I’m really focused on the other artists more than myself, so within the first few days of our work, I try to establish “our room”: A place that feels dangerous yet exciting, unpredictable yet generative to the artists involved. I plan A LOT. I am an obsessive list maker and graph maker. I draw terribly incomprehensive pictures and create excessively long excel files. But I also work very hard to disguise that. I want people to feel that there is room for them to work. I just make contingency plans all over the place so we can get to a moment that feels good at the end of the day for the artists in the room and that and ultimately get us closer to production and an audience.
 
What is your favorite quote?

What matters is not what’s real, but what’s perceived.
— Ellen Langer

What do you think are three important features to have to become an affective director?

Can there be just three? How about these 5? Excellent listening skills. Humor. Curiosity. Vision. The right amount of Ego at the right time.
 
Have you experienced sexism in your work as a Director and if so, how have you dealt with it? Do you see more female directors working in theater today compared to when you started?

Oh man, unfortunately, not much has changed. This is where the right amount of ego at the right time comes in handy. People’s demons and bias come out in the most unexpected moments when you are asking a lot of them. I like being liked but I’d rather the company like each other than me if they need something to push up against. I want them to do what I ask and sometimes that means that I have to remind them that I am not their mother, their lover or their wife. People don’t recognize their bias and sometimes throwing it their face is not the way forward. I know this as a woman and as an African American. So, Ultimately, I believe that history remakes itself at the moment of the standing ovation so if the play succeeds we all succeed. These may sound like contradictory things but well, being female, black and a theatre worker means you have to improvise.
 
What is the project that you have always wanted to do?

A project in Grand Central Station or on one of the abandoned subway platforms in New York City. We are working on it.

  Broken City: Lower East Side . A 'Street immersive' opens the show. Each audience member is then taken off by themselves on a journey through the streets of the Lower East Side.

Broken City: Lower East Side. A 'Street immersive' opens the show. Each audience member is then taken off by themselves on a journey through the streets of the Lower East Side.

Tell us a little bit about some of the projects that are coming up for you and that you are excited about?

PopUP Theatrics actually have two projects in New York City this season. In July/August we will make the third and last iteration of our Broken City concept for New York City. We coined the phrase ‘street immersive’ for this project. We also call it a love letter to the city of New York because it is staged on the streets of a particular neighborhood in New York City and seeks to make the audience fall back in love with a city that can be too fast, too harsh and too impersonal sometimes. This Broken City will happen in the Wall Street district and it is proving to be the most gorgeous and inspirational site we have ever intervened. We also have a new producing partner, Sorrel Tomlinson Barnard who is incredible. Next we’ll make our concept INSIDE in New York in the fall with frequent collaborator and now full partner Peca Stefan. He is a magnificent playwright. We are so glad to work with him on this AND on Broken City this year. We just received a generous grant to finally bring INSIDE, the project we’ve done in Madrid and Bucharest to NYC. This is a performance for two audience members at a time that gives unusual access both physically and physiologically to an iconic location in a given city. We are excited about the possible locations in New York. We are also excited that this year we will work with incredible international artists from playwright Peca Stefan (Romania) to Choreographers and street artists David Bower and Isolte Avila (UK) from Sign Dance Collective to director France Damian (Germany).
 
Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

Um. On vacation. Until then... lets keep making beautiful things together.

NE PLUS ULTRA: ANDREA BEECHER by Nathan Webster

Andrea Beecher is an extraordinary designer working in Salt Lake City - having designed homes, restaurants, offices and more. She has now additionally created an online presence with her company M3LD, which develops one-of-a-kind design pieces.

I met Andrea recently in connection with NOW-ID's House of Apocalypse fundraiser, where Andrea was generous to donate her design services to our auction. She has such a unique design sensibility, effervescent personality and a brilliant mind and as I wanted to know more about her, it felt natural to include her in our NE PLUS ULTRA interview series.

Please enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background; where are you from and how did you become a designer? 

I grew up here in Salt Lake City on the west side, the oldest of 4 girls in a Mormon family. I have always had the design bug. As a child I was constantly re-arranging my room, curating collections of bottles, rocks, vintage items, and “art” (mostly postcards from art galleries or magazine clippings that I would frame). My gallery wall, even as young child, was a reflection and expression of me and what I was interested in.  I also loved legos and was constantly building and designing different versions of my dream home. There is a home video of me at about age 9 on Christmas morning, absolutely thrilled because of the bedspread and matching curtains that Santa had left me. What kid at that age cares about decor so much so that they would rather receive that than toys? Clearly that kid was me. My bedroom was my haven and creative space. My parents are music lovers and instilled that in me. I had a record player in my room and would spend hours listening to their old vinyls from the 60’s and 70’s and creating mixed tapes for my friends. My room was mine and I loved all the things that it could do for me. I realized how important space was at a very young age. 

My mom says that it was clear at a very young age what each of her four girls would do when they grew up. Of course, penchant for interior design was obvious, but I also spent many hours playing "store" with my younger sisters. I would spend an entire afternoon merchandising and setting up a store in our bedrooms. Using the Sit-and-Spin as a shoe display, clearing shelves and other surfaces to curate collections and outfit moments, accessories and all.  Fast forward to a part of my life when I would spend many years in the retail fashion world designing floor sets, styling and merchandising for large fashion retailers. I had the opportunity to study interior design in high school at what was called the Academy of Interior Design at Kearns High. It was a program that would allow me to learn design fundamentals, design the living room of a model home, go on a couple design trips to San Francisco and Denver, were we shopped the design centers and showrooms, and finish school with some college credit. What an exciting experience for a teenager. When it came time to start applying for college, there was just no doubt what I would study. Although my Dad tried to talk me into a more “practical” career as I approached college, my parents, especially my Mom, always encouraged my creativity. 

What does it mean to be an interior designer and how do you see your role with a client?

An interior designer is one that brings meaning and function to a space. Meaning by creating an experience, evoking emotion, expressing, and telling a story. Function by creating a purpose or creating a space that will allow for tasks or a lifestyle one wants to live in that particular space. Layout, proportion, use of color and light. As technical as that can be, it is a very emotional experience and process for me. I find it a great honor and a very personal thing to be asked to design someone’s home or place of business. My role is to help my client channel what they didn’t know they wanted or what was possible for their space. My job is to ask all the right questions and then listen. I then extrapolate the information, however insignificant it might seem, and use that to build my design. Gaining trust from my clients is key. We are going on a journey together and if I can gain their trust, they will be willing to risk more and push comfort zones and ultimately get to a place they couldn’t dream they could have. I also feel that part of my role as a designer is to advocate for my client. With contractors, vendors, anyone that we are working with, my job is to be the voice of the client and do what is in their best interest. Help them meet their goals.

Are you chosen for a project mainly because of your aesthetic sensibility? 

I definitely think I get chosen by clients for my aesthetic sensibility. I have an eclectic range and have helped a lot of people with many different looks, designing a space that is uniquely theirs, but has my stamp. But I feel that the other big reason that my clients want to work with me is that I am intuitive and try to be fun to work with. I love people! I have the skill to merge the styles of couples who feel that up until now they’ve had different desires or felt that they had nothing in common when it came to their spaces in terms of what they wanted to use it for or how they wanted it to look. I feel I have the ability to make each feel like they got what they wanted and needed out of the design.

Why is there such an obsession with midcentury design and tell us a little bit about what midcentury design is and who you consider to be the most relevant designers of that period? 

I feel that the mid-century movement finally started addressing, in a real way, how people lived and how they wanted to live. Allowing the furniture and architecture to speak to function and aesthetic at the same time. Bringing nature in, and living out. The concept of indoor-outdoor living became a thing. Green housing concepts emerged. The kitchen at the center of the home and the center of entertaining became standard. Before that the kitchen was very separate from the rest of the entertainment space. The goings on in the kitchen were very much a behind the scenes element. The era began to focus much more on lifestyle and would go on to shape the way the modern family lives. It was an aesthetic that offered a unique and very different point of view, and offered that to anyone, even the average person with an average income. Especially as the tract housing and pre-fab homes became more of the norm. I think that made it very accessible. We learned that design can say more about who we are and that space can shape our lives. That resonated!

And although the concepts are simple and minimal, the pieces and spaces can be rich with color and texture. Mid-century modern also continued the notion of how the furniture could relate to the home itself, how it could be an extension of the home. The pieces are very architectural. Designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll and others have become so well known that there is a cache to owning an original piece from their wheelhouse. Furniture and architecture by certain designers from that era have come to be seen as works of art. If you have an original Eames Lounge, an Eero Saarinen tulip table set or own an original Richard Neutra home, it’s as cool as having a Pollock or Mondrian. And just as easily as you can collect a modern piece of art and mix it into a traditional space, you can do the same with those iconic mid-mod classics. Because the lines are cleaner the pieces can play or mix well with other styles. It makes it easy and less intimating than other aesthetics. Other favorite architects and designers from that era are Mies van der Rohe, Joseph Eichler, Le Corbusier, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner and Marcel Breuer.

What design movement is your favorite and why? 

For me it is undeniably modernism and the Bauhaus movement. The beginnings of modernism can be traced back to 1880. It was the idea that the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, the activities of daily life and even the sciences, were becoming irrelevant and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging industrialized world. "Make it new” said the poet Ezra Pound in 1934. How defining! My favorite modernist philosophy or way of thinking is that human beings have the power to create, improve and reshape their fate and their environment. There was little to none of that before the late 19th century. How that would inspire a whole new generation of artists and creators. 

The Bauhaus emerged out of modernism. It was an art school that started in Germany in 1919. It combined architecture, fine art, crafts, graphic design, interior design, industrial design and typography and brought them together. It has been the most influential in modern design. Everything was done conservatory style and all of the artists worked together sharing their talents and philosophies, artistic and political. The goal of founder Walter Gropius was “to create a new guild of craftsman, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.” He felt that art should meet the needs of society and there should be no distinction between form and function. I agree! If you are going to make something for a specific function there is no reason it shouldn’t be beautiful no matter how simple. Because modernism has radically simplified forms, Gropius and the movement felt mass-production could be harnessed by the individual artistic spirit. Making good design available to the masses for the first time. Their days were filled with radical experimentation of process and engineering in all the arts. That paved the way for designers like me who could come up with an idea and make it so.

What is the most important component to you in looking at design - function or aesthetics - should design ever be seen as being art?

As mentioned above, I think you can have both. I don’t think there is any need to separate them. There is always an ugly choice and a beautiful choice, both can be functional and both can be non-functional. It’s as simple as that. I do think that design should be seen as art. Art is a self expression of ones creativity or skill. That is interior design for me. Design is subjective just like art is. Design has significance, just like art does. It has influence on society, just like art does. 

 Judith Table Lamp by M3LD

Judith Table Lamp by M3LD

Is having a sense of humor important in design?

Most definitely! Design should inspire, titillate and excite. Design should be unexpected. It should make you think and make you smile. If space is meant to be an extension of ourselves and part of our self expression then it should highlight all of our quirks and oddities. It’s a reflection of ourselves. Design or the people creating design should not be too self important. 

Who is your favorite furniture designer? Fashion designer? Interior designer? Architect? Human being?

Respectively, Thayer Coggin, Balmain, Kelly Wearstler, Richard Neutra, and my husband Dan Beecher. He is one of the most intelligent, creative, funny people I know!

Philippe Starck had a design competition on BBC called “Design for Life” a couple of years ago, trying to find the next young British designer – do you think these types of shows can help educate people on how communities improve with inspiring and environmentally conscious architecture and design? 

I think the invention of the design show has educated the public about design, for better or worse. I feel that it has inspired the general public and taught them that good design is accessible. I think it has taken interior design beyond what just people with money can pay for. The desire for good design is greater than ever. Our generation realizes that it can be personal expression, an extension of ourselves, just like our personal fashion is. It has inspired people to improve their living quarters and given them a new sense of pride in their homes. 

Where design shows hurt or do a disservice to society, is that it creates a misconception about the design process. They see the design process from start to finish in one hour and half hour increments and it gives them a false sense of everything we designers do behind the scenes, how long things actually take, and doesn’t show that working with a client through the design process is much more complicated than the show portrays. I think this can undervalue us as designers. It also doesn’t show in any great detail that being a designer is way beyond having a great aesthetic or being able to make a room pretty. If you can’t collaborate with clients and all other people in the industry well, if you can’t communicate with those people effectively, if you don’t know the industry or have an understanding of the terminology and how things work, if you have no concept of how to budget and creatively make the most of the budget, then you won’t be a good interior designer. 

Denmark created their first National Design Policy in 1997, as one of the only countries in the world – Do you think that makes a difference in the evolution/development of new design and the role it plays in society and would you like to see something similar to that happen here in the States? 

I think the arts in general are under-appreciated in this country. So many other nations such as Denmark see the importance of the arts and subsidize it and foster it accordingly. Our country has a hard time getting on board with even just education and funding. As if it is less important than reading and writing. I feel it is so important for our young ones and society as a whole to be influenced by fine art, interior design, music, theater, etc. It will be what takes our culture forward successfully. It’s what makes us human. So much emphasis in this country is put on the wrong ideals instead of seeing art and design as an innovative industry that can help shape our future. I love that Denmark created an agenda or platform for creative ideas and collaborations and are proud to be known as a design country. That’s beautiful!

Tell us a little bit about your process? 

The first time I step into a space I immediately start imaging what might be possible or fun or interesting. I let the space speak to me and try to read between the lines with my clients by listening a lot. My design process is about being open to anything and everything.  Some think that because your budget is limited that your creativity has to be and that is not true. I think that if anything, challenges allow for me to be more creative. I consider myself a problem solver. I always tell my clients that I don’t want them to feel boxed in by their budget or any other limitations, it stifles the design process. I want to dream big with them and get them excited and invigorated, help them see what I see. We can back those big ideas into the budget and in most cases find ways to make them work, but we never would have gotten there if we hadn’t allowed ourselves to dream big the in the first place.

Quite often I tell people that being an interior designer means I am part designer, part mentor, part teacher, part therapist and part mediator. To take people through the design process you have to be all of those things. I help the client find their inspiration while sharing my inspirations for the space. It’s about trust and openness of communication. It should also be fun! My favorite part about being a designer is hearing from a client at the end of a project that I gave them everything they didn’t know they wanted and they love it!

When I design furniture, lighting and accessories with my M3LD business partners the process is a bit different than that of my interior design process. It is fun to have different outlets for my creativity. And the act of creating and designing with two other designers is fun. We start by sketching our designs on paper. Sometimes it starts with a shape or material. Then we make a prototype of the item out of cardboard, foam core and or poster board so that we can make sure the scale is right. It also gives us insight into how it might be assembled or manufactured. Then we do a technical sketch of the item. Piecing our design together with swatches for finishes, and all technical specs. Then we send to our manufacturers so they can produce samples for us to approve. For the arrival of the samples for our first collection, me Jason and Brian and our partners got together to open all the boxes. It was like Christmas. We cracked a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Seeing the actual pieces that we had designed in the real was one of the most exciting things in my life up to this point. So amazing!

Who do you consider to be the most significant designer of all time and why?

I’ll be honest, my head is swimming and arguing with itself about which philosophical route I should take or where to start. I probably don’t even know enough to even know the answer, even for myself and what’s influenced me over the years. Maybe I’ll stay bigger picture here and say that those responsible for film and other visual media and the means of distributing that media, i.e. the internet, are the most influential because they allowed the sharing of culture and knowledge on a global scale. We have the entire world at our fingertips and we don’t even have to leave our home. No longer are we in our bubble unless we choose to be. I think that is a huge gift. That kind of accessibility will continue to make more and more artists as a result.

Where do you find most of your inspiration?

Travel, without a doubt. It allows me to leave my day to day routine, which even for me as a designer can become mechanical. My days are busy and long and and are filled with back to back tasks or appointments. Its hard to make time or to justify taking time to just think. Travel for me is therapy, I owe it to myself and my clients. Travel creates open space, that would have otherwise been filled with those daily tasks, for new ideas and dreams. It allows me to entrench myself in a new culture and lifestyle. Meet the people, eat their food, enjoy their art and architecture. Observe the colors of a new place, the smells of a new place, the fashion of a new place. I want to go to all the places. They all have something different to teach me. The world is abundant you just have to be ready and open to it. 

What city do you see as having the most experimental and exciting design focus at the moment? 

Tokyo! It is a city who hasn’t forgotten who it is. Widely embraces its history and pays honor to it’s past, while at the same time creating an amazing and quirky modern culture. That makes for a exciting juxtaposition that produces some weird and really cool stuff. Their fashion boarders on costume. In most cases the men’s fashion and style is so much more crazy than the women’s. Blurring the lines between what is masculine and feminine. Their modern architecture, some clean and sleek, some eccentric and bizarre. All mixed in with ancient temples and cemeteries.  My feeling is that they are much more willing to think outside the box and redefine things. Not feeling limited to what the status quo is. They take pride in their city. As ancient and old as some parts of the city are, it’s the cleanest city I have ever been to. When you take pride in who you are you are less self conscience and willing to take more risk

Your favorite quote? 

“Nothing is fucked dude, nothing is fucked!” —Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

or...

“People who succeed aren’t super heroes. They are just a people that put their mind to something and did that thing.” —Paige Palmer

 Andrea Beecher,  Brian Garrett and  Jason Frederick of M3LD

Andrea Beecher, Brian Garrett and Jason Frederick of M3LD

Tell us about your new company M3LD – how did that come about? And what void do you think Meld is filling online and here in SLC?

M3LD is a company that I started with two of my best friends Brian Garrett and Jason Frederick. Brian and I met working in the design industry 13 years ago. We always geeked out over the same design stuff and always had ideas of designing our own product line. When we met Jason, who had similar goals and inspirations and who has 20 years of product management experience we decided to collaborate and make our dream into a reality.  Something that would have been very hard on our own would now be possible with the three of us working together. It has been a ton of hard work and an exercise in patience, but with the skills and creativity that each of us brings to the table helps compliment the dynamic. We work so well together. It is even more fulfilling to do something you find rewarding with the people you love and respect.

We love the modern movement and are inspired by a lot of different eras and schools of thought within that movement and philosophy. That said, our vision is to continually strive to be fresh and to challenge ourselves with every collection.  We will always be inspired by what has come before in modernism, but it all needs to be relevant to now, to be reimagined and reinvented for today’s context. We chose Brutalism as the inspiration for our first collection. Our next collection draws inspiration from a different modern aesthetic that we feel flows from our brutalism seamlessly.  It’s important to us to be true to our own design point of view, but we’re also keenly aware of what trends are happening, and we work hard to stay out in front of those trends. 

Our goal is to lead the charge for good design and design products that we would like to see on the market, but don’t. We also feel that design should be accessible to the those who seek it. Culturally, society has become much more aware of good design in recent years. Discerning tastes in fashion and food are building, and design is no different. We feel that our demographic, 32-55 is hungry for rich and unique home goods but can’t necessarily afford a $10,000 table. We want to give them access to beautifully designed products that don’t require them maxing out their credit card.  With our knowledge of materials and techniques that’s possible. We may do a higher end collection later on, allowing us to play with more expensive materials and manufacturing methods as a means of broadening our creativity, but I see us always having a range of products that the average person can afford. We don’t feel that you have to dumb it down for the masses. 

www.M3LD.com

Tell us a little bit about how you see the design consciousness in SLC changing?

I think that design consciousness here really started when people started changing their attitude about Salt Lake and started taking pride and ownership in where they lived. For so many years people were leaving our city in droves. It wasn’t cool enough, the dominant religion was oppressive. People were leaving for larger cities where “culture” had been established already, cities that already had a reputation for cool. It’s exciting that enough people started rethinking their plan. We realizing that if we stayed we could help create what other cities had done, and become something amazing. We could be a part of it from the ground up and do it our way. Be something unique and quirky and original. The people helping to make this city what it is are educated, creative and travel the world. We see what inspires us and then bring that back home, shaping and influencing the results. We want more and know that we can make it happen here instead of going somewhere else for it. And although the work is not done, (we are merely getting started) I think that we have an amazing burgeoning art culture, food culture, theatre culture, design culture. The Salt Lakers that I know are proud to say they are from Salt Lake. It will only keep snowballing. I think this city is the nations best kept secret. 

Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

In 25 years I want to have designed some high profile residences and commercial spaces. I want to have designed a boutique hotel and done some incredible collaborations in interior design and product design with other designers I respect. M3LD will be a world brand in the design industry. I will still be designing product, but hopefully from various locations around the globe as I travel with Dan and friends. I can’t wait for the next 25 years.

NE PLUS ULTRA: ETHAN PHILLIPS by Nathan Webster

IMG_0018.PNG

Ethan Phillips is an actor who grew up in Garden City, NY. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Boston University and later an MFA from Cornell University. He has had a prolific career in television, movies and on stage working with such directors as Milos Forman, Woody Allen, the Coen Brothers and actors Nathan Lane, Bryan Cranston and more. He played the role of "Neelix" on Star Trek: Voyager for seven seasons and was a member of "The Sundance Playwrights' Conference" for six summers. And this is just a fraction of his wide reaching work.

Nathan and I met Ethan four and half years ago when he was introduced to us through writer David Kranes. I immediately fell in love with his quick wit, intuitive brilliance and endless generosity as an artist and human being. We ended up doing a project together titled "But Seriously" and I hope to collaborate again in the future.

Enjoy!

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background; when did you know that you wanted to become an actor?

As a young boy watching a television show with my mother and sisters. The show was a short-lived series in the 50s called PANIC. On screen was a terrible accident about to happen: a car with a family inside was rolling towards a cliff where certain destruction waited - I was very upset and very frightened until my mother patiently explained to me that the people in the car were ‘actors’ and they were only pretending. That they were on a TV ‘set.’ In fact, she told me, these ‘actors’ would probably have a coffee break and then do the same scene again. I calmed down. At that early age I understood what she was saying. And it amazed me that grown ups did that for their job. While in High School, auditioning for a role in the school play, the director, a Jesuit priest, told me I was very good at it. In college I met people who wanted to do it for a living; I decided I could too. But ultimately like all actors I just had an urge to appear private in public. 

What do you consider to be your breakthrough role and why? 

The role of the painter Maurice Utrillo in Dennis McIntyre’s 1980’s off Broadway hit MODIGLIANNI at New York’s legendary Astor Place Theatre. Utrillo was a drunken emotional mess living on the edge of poverty with an immense need to express himself through his craft – painting. I was in a similar place (though by no means would I compare my skills to Utrillo, a great under-sung artist). Except instead of being in Paris in 1920, I was in Manhattan in 1980. I had the same needs he did except my craft was acting. I was able to use myself in a role in a way I hadn’t done before. Actors don’t run from themselves – they run to themselves. The show was a massive hit. I experienced acknowledgement as a professional for the first time.

What was your most difficult role?

Edgar in King Lear.

You have worked with such a diverse group of directors from the Coen brothers to Woody Allen, do you prefer to work with directors who are very specific about what they want or do you prefer to be left alone to discover who your character is? 

Any suggestions or ideas are welcome. I like to work with directors who provide a safe environment, a place to be creative and make mistakes. A director needs to be your biggest fan. In TV work though, if you see the director coming your way after a scene, look out – you don’t want that. All you want is to hear ”got it, moving on.’

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process - how do you prepare for a role? Does intuition play a role in your process? And what are the differences in performing on stage and on TV/Film? Which medium do you prefer and why? 

It depends on the medium in some ways. I find in television and film they basically want me, who I am as a package. How I sound, how I look. How I present: a small, bald, somewhat benign man – where the camera can sweep over me and the viewers can feel free to make their generalizations about the role. Theatre can give you more room to build a character who may be different from whom you immediately present as yourself. I like what David Mamet says: to paraphrase, ‘there is no character, just the actor; my aunt Betsy is a character.’ As for preparing for a role, it’s a self-hypnotic exercise – you convince yourself you can pretend well enough to get people to suspend their disbelief. In her new novel A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara calls acting ‘… a form of grifting, and once you stopped believing you can, so does everyone else.’

I prefer stage because of it’s immediacy and the power, though I like film and TV because I don’t get as nervous.

And my first instincts are often my best.

Tell us a little bit about the highlights of your career so far? 

The three times I’ve been on Broadway – Mamet’s NOVEMBER, Robert Schenkkan’s ALL THE WAY, and the musicalMY FAVORITE YEAR, are special because when you are on Broadway you are king. Going to that Broadway house each night, up to your dressing room, to perform on the Great White Way – nothing can beat the feeling. And working with Woody Allen. To be an actor and see your name in the credits with that font he uses – wow.

Without naming names what was the worst experience you have had as an actor? 

I did a production of a play which toured the Summer Stock circuit; there was an actor who was selfish and addicted to drugs. It was awful. There have been other productions with divas, and rarely but once or twice directors who were bullies. I did a TV pilot this year which required five hours of makeup and a two hour removal. When asked to do the series, I said no. I’d rather mainline bleach. But 99% of the time I have a blast!

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why? 

Because of their ability to be flawless, in no particular order, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Marlon Brando, Kate Winslett, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Widmark, Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert, Anthony Hopkins, Lee J. Cobb, Peter Sellers, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Rylance, and many others.

What is your favorite movie?

Two: A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim, and The Exorcist.

What do you consider to be the most significant film ever made? 

Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise)

Do you think that there is more creativity in television nowadays than perhaps 20 years ago and if so, why do you think that is? 

Much more. Due to long format continuity of plot. Plus because the money is better, it has attracted huge talent. 

How do you problem solve and have you ever experienced a creative block and if so how did you get through it?

The main question I always ask is: why am I still in the scene? Why am I still in the room? What do I want? 

I have experienced creative block. It usually is because I am doing too much. Or maybe the writing sucks. Sometimes picking up the pace helps. Sometimes taking your time helps. Often the answer is listening to the other actor.

What is your favorite quote?

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a great battle. (Plato)

You have such amazing comedic timing yet you also manage to take on dramatic roles, what do you prefer? 

Thank you for that compliment!! I like any role, which is well written. Or which pays.

What do you think are the three most important features that an artistically successful actor has?

You need three things to make it: Talent, Tenacity, and Luck. Without all three, you will fail.

Tell us a little bit about what Star Trek did for your career and what inspired you to start collecting jokes?

Star Trek gave me the financial freedom to do more theatre.

I’ve been collecting jokes since I was a young boy. My great uncle was a vaudeville comic and I adored him. Some kids get into magic; for me, the rabbit coming out of the hat was the punch line. And making people laugh gets me high.

You came to Utah to work at the Sundance Playwright’s Lab for six summers and I read somewhere that you helped develop “Angels of America” – how did you initially get involved with the Lab and what do you think that Sundance provided for such significant work to emerge? Also, along those lines can you tell us a little bit about “First Stage”  - the playwright’s Lab that you help found in LA?

I got into Sundance by a fluke. I was in LA and one of the Sundance dramaturges wanted to hear a cold reading of an obscure and complicated Ionesco play. I was asked to read the lead role by a friend who was helping cast this reading. It just so happened I’d done the play a few years before, in regional theatre. I didn’t tell the dramaturges that and my ‘cold’ reading was of course very well informed and realized. He thought I’d done the reading having seen the play for the first time and was so was very impressed and said ‘we could use you at Sundance’ and so I was invited. To this day I’ve never let on about my fib.

Sundance was simply a collection of very generous people who believed if it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing. And with our artistic director, David Kranes, we had the most compassionate, enthusiastic, and theatrically astute man anyone could want in charge. 

First Stage was based on the format of Sundance. New works are given a reading. The playwright finds that invaluable.

Who is the director (dead or alive) that you have always wanted to work with?

Top of the list is Stanley Kubrick. Martin Scorsese. Alfred Hitchcock. Kenneth Branagh, Pam McKinnon, Jose Quintero.

What is the project that you have always wanted to do?

MacBeth. But I’m too small. And now too old.

If you hadn't become an actor what profession do you think you would have excelled in/at?

I’d have liked to teach Latin.

Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

Alive and in New York City.

NE PLUS ULTRA: MARK HOFELING by Nathan Webster

"NE PLUS ULTRA" is an interview series curated by NOW-ID Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen to share the stories of local, national and international artists and designers creating extraordinary, inspiring and impactful work. The idea is to share a little bit about who they are, what their process looks like, who inspires them and how they conceptualize and shape ideas. 

The first interviewee in this series is the unequivocal Mark Hofeling.

 Mark Hofeling (Photo: Disney Channel Publicity)

Mark Hofeling (Photo: Disney Channel Publicity)

Mark (Production Designer/ArtDirector), has designed and art directed over 60 productions for film and television. Twenty of which were Disney Channel Original Movies, including the three most watched cable movies of all time; High School Musical 2, Wizards of Waverly Place the Movie, and Teen Beach Movie. Other Hollywood productions Mark has worked on include "The World's Fastest Indian", "Con Air" and “Army of Darkness”. Mark also designs furniture, objects, lighting and  spaces - and in that capacity has worked with various clients at the Sundance Film Festival, and various local organizations and businesses in Utah, including occasional collaborations with NOW-ID.

I have known Mark for close to seven years now and he is forever surprising, limitlessly creative/curious and has the fastest mind and quickest wit of anyone I know. It was obvious to choose him first for this series as I am forever inspired by his direct and uncompromising approach to life and his well of ideas and skills. Mark creates, builds, draws, writes and thinks like no one else and is one of the best in his field.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen


Tell us a little bit about your background; where are you from and how did you become a production designer?

I was born and raised in Salt Lake City. I was 9 years old when my dad took me to see the first Star Wars movie on opening day in the summer of 1977. To name-check Star Wars as an inspiration is obviously cliché, but the arc of my hyperactive, pre-teen creative mind and George Lucas' original masterwork intersected in the vast emptiness of the post Vietnam American wilderness. When the Millennium Falcon screeched across the screen, my dad leaned over and said, "There are people who make all that, you know?" And the spark was struck. I knew my path led behind screen and through the looking glass.

Despite that nascent moment of childhood ignition, my profoundly religious family and community life was colorless, fearful and extremely hostile to art and free expression. Before I understood the word "gay", there was a confusing part of myself I instinctively knew to hide as deeply as I could dig if I wanted to survive my family life. Taking not only myself but also my creative curiosity underground was my pathway to survival. Naturally, it was painful and confusing, so only in hindsight can I make much sense of it.

The mediocrity of high school led to a lackluster college life. While all I wanted to do was work in film, I had no tools, idea or help to get there. I was paying for an art degree with a swimming scholarship. Art and swimming were both extremely demanding and very divergent pursuits that I couldn't fuel indefinitely. I was depressed, in the closet, and frankly a far better swimmer than an artist.

To make a long story short, a massive pile of junk my family stored next to the freeway, led to a random opportunity to work as an unpaid production assistant on a low budget horror movie. I could have died. I tried like mad to impress the art director. Whatever I did worked, because he flew me to the North Woods of Wisconsin later that year to make three low budget horror movies. I had run away and joined the circus. I had found my tribe, my life was literally saved.

Once I was in, I found my purpose at last and ran as fast as I could toward the goal of being a production designer. I was granted my wish of designing my first movie a few years later.

What does it mean to be a production designer, what responsibilities do you have and who do you mainly collaborate with on set?

A great way to describe the job of the Production Designer is that we are in some way responsible for everything on screen that isn't alive. Not only is the designer in charge of set design and construction but also location selection, props, set decoration, color palette and an eye toward costume. As far as collaboration, the designer is the absolute nexus of creative and technical collaboration. 

The designer manages a huge department- the art department- that encompasses both white-collar designers and artists and blue collar carpenters, welders and painters. It is a negotiation between bean-counters and money-men in production and figuring out how to communicate ephemeral creative ideas to a guy operating a crane to move your set-pieces around, and pouring over piles of textiles, table legs and picture frames with your trusted decorator. It's discussing what kind of ashtray or suitcase or pistol a character might have with your prop master. More than anything, what the production designer and their vast stable of professionals do is create backstory. Our long hours of discussion and preparation result in the first few seconds of an image telling you more about a place or a character than pages of exposition can. As the architects of the visual and the narrative, we've usually thought more about who a character is and what their life so far looks like than most directors or actors ever do. 

As far as who a designer collaborates with on set, we are part the Big Three. That being the director, the designer and the director of photography (my DP friends will note my reclaiming the designer's rightful top billing). These three positions (minus the writer who is often no longer involved when a movie goes into production) are the creative troika that make the movie. 

While we three are backed up by a huge amount of money, muscle, genius and ability, we are generally the creative professionals that set the tone of a project.

Recently, I had you come and talk to dance students at Tanner Dance (a dance institute for children and teenagers at the University of Utah) and you spoke about your responsibility to create a space that is aligned with the choreographer’s vision (This was for the High school musical series) and yet also safe for the dancers – can you elaborate on that?  And does it help that you have worked with the same choreographer (Kenny Ortega) on a number of films and you know what he is looking for aesthetically?

Design for film is a collaborative discipline. While no two designers would read a script and end up with the same look, they would all still be reading the same script and follow the lead of the director. As for dance in film, generally the dance takes the lead, and as a designer I support and augment the needs of the movement. Obviously spatial requirements are key but, after a long learning curve I may know better than almost any designer how to make an environment safe and flexible for dancers and performers.

The process of choreography for musical film is amazing to be a part of. A musical typically has 10 or so choreographed songs. Once the audition process has been completed, the dance team usually has a month or less to conceive, workshop, rehearse and memorize all 10 pieces. This month is usually late in a movie's prep period and most producers and money people are accustomed to all the budgets being locked and finalized by this time. But as the dance develops, all kinds of requests start pouring in from choreography :- "we need a curved staircase that rolls away", "we need a dressing screen that tilts down and becomes a stage", "we need a giant Statue of Liberty head that turns around", "we need 50 fish puppets" and on and on. A designer new to the process would melt down under the demands. I've learned to try to coach production through this unusual territory, since we really have to give choreography everything we can.           

I have learned that the dancers, usually quite young,  are trained in the art of perfection, but always try to impress the director. So anything in a 50 foot radius that isn't built to be jumped on, swung from or used as a launching pad for a back flip represents a hazard. Every table, railing and chair in my environment is double thickness, has extra welded structure or is bolted to the floor.

I have learned an enormous amount in my five films with Kenny Ortega. He is a great friend and probably the most important creative mentor in my life. Having started my work life in the bargain basement, low budget world, I got used to automatically hammering my concept down to fit the modest means of small productions. 

Kenny reminded me to dream bigger. He always starts with what a thing ought to be, and then we figure out how to back into paying for it. By inviting me into the choreographic process starting with the first auditions, he helped me develop a completely holistic approach to designing for him.

Tell us a little bit about the highlights of your career so far?

Mark's 'bone bagpipes' from Army of Darkness (Photo: Mark Hofeling)

I am supremely fortunate to have had more highlights than the opposite. I have been crazy-lucky that way. 

One highlight that has really ripened with age is that I was a puppeteer on what would become the cult classic Army of Darkness. It is crazy the response I get when random people find that out. Not only did I puppet tons of skeletons and zombies, but if you watch the final battle, I made all the musical instruments and weapons for the puppets. It was a really fun show.

Another highlight was the first time on set that I saw a complete run through of a musical number. It was the first High School Musical. The number was called Status Quo, a big, bright full ensemble piece in a tiered cafeteria. I actually got chills. It's rare to see something on set that makes you want to applaud. 

Mostly though, the highlights for me are parachuting into a new city and meeting up with a whole new team who are going to go through the crucible for the next few months and help me achieve the vision. It is not a solitary life, and the social aspect is one of the real highlights of my job. I keep in touch with crew friends all over the place.

Can you talk about your process?

Designing for film is all about process. From beginning to end my involvement is less than six months. That's from the first time I read the script to me getting back on a plane to go home. In that time we ramp up, from the director and I scouting locations in a van, to more and more crew, until scores and scores of people are making the actual shoot happen. 

While a script is the skeleton of any show, it usually has precious little to say about what it's world looks like. It is up to me and my team, as well as several other departments to hang meat on those bones. After more than twenty years at it, I've really come to trust my first instinct when I read a script. And not only do I trust the basics of that first mental image, but I have become really good at communicating and selling it.

Once I've sold the director and production on it, then the real work begins: Creating actionable building drawings, budgeting, scheduling, and assembling the intricate puzzle of ten different departments getting into and out of sensitive locations and sets that are at the moment just piles of lumber and ambition. But from day one on a show, my internal process is to sit with an 11x17 vellum pad and let the pencil show me what is bubbling in the bottom of my brain. Along with pulling a couple key images from the Internet, the process of the sale begins with a few simple sketches on paper and the gift of gab to either convince or BS my way through critical early meetings.           

The other important part of the process is being a people person. Because of the high output and very short time in which movies are made, and the huge number of people required to make it happen, a designer has to be extremely capable of communicating clearly and quickly with a wide variety of people.

As a younger man I worked for designers who were weird about information, playing their cards way too close to their chests, controlling who knew what. I hated that method. If we are paying all these talented people for their time and experience, I also want all their brain power and experience to make me seem even better than I am, so I am all about getting as much information to as many people as possible. The walls of my department are plastered with drawings and photos covered with notes. I usually also make a detailed picture book I hand out to all my department heads with every set and location noted in detail. When you bring people inside the process, they are much more willing and interested in giving you their best ideas, making for a far better outcome.

What was the worst experience you have had as a production designer?

Honestly most of my worst experiences have been self-inflicted. Most of my bad days were a result of some insecurity having prevented me from speaking up in weeks prior about a red-flag or something the director thought he was going to get but I couldn't beg borrow or steal the time and money for. I started in my profession very young, so it took me a long time to find my confidence and my voice, and to learn to throw around the weight my position affords me. In the past five years or so I have found that voice and consequently have had far fewer bad days, however I'm sad to report my inner coward still lingers in the shadows, and so the work continues.

Who are some of the people who have inspired you in your work and why?

As far as known people, my friend Kenny Ortega, Julie Taymor, Ken Adam, Andrei Tarkovsky, David Eugene Edwards, Shane MacGowan, and the incomparable Wayne White. But my real inspiration comes from people I will never know. When I crack my knuckles and plow through piles of books and endless internet searches, my inspiration comes from nameless people whose house is wrong in the right way, whose office is so perfectly bland it sings to me, whose trailer is perched just so on the edge of a garbage strewn ravine, whose anonymous factory has the perfect combo of white tile and red and yellow safety striping. Huge personalities and geniuses make a lot of noise in the world, but it is inhabited by countless normal folk chipping away at life's labors. And those are the people from whom I usually take my creative cues.

What is your favorite movie?

That is a brutal question. How about a few in no particular order?

  • Blade Runner
  • Stalker
  • 2001
  • Evil Dead 2 (one of the most influential movies among other filmmakers. Someone who knows what to look for can see homages to Raimi's masterwork by other film makers. I've done one myself!)
  • Mishima (if you haven't seen it, it's a must)
  • What we do in the Shadows (a recent gem)
  • The Proposition (the Nick Cave one, not the Demi More one)
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (Leone's masterpiece)

What do you consider to be the most significant film ever made and why?

Oye... That is so incredibly subjective. I'm not much of a formal film historian, so I can only take a stab. My hunch would be the Wizard of Oz. The incredible artistry and technical wizardry (sorry for the pun) were unparalleled for long after its time. For a film of its achievement to be made before World War II is astonishing. 

What is your favorite piece of art?

Weirdly enough I've always loved the Venus of Willendorf. Something that paired-down, reductive and perfect form our collective pre-history is glorious to me. I've also always felt very close to Picasso's Guernica. Seeing it in person in Madrid was a revelation. Apparently I'm a sucker for primitivism. 

Who is your favorite Designer?

Hard to say. Dean Tavoularis  (Apocalypse Now, The Godfathers) is one of the great masters. The all time great in my opinion is Ken Adam (Dr. Stranglove, Goldfinger). My real personal favorite is also a dear friend of mine, Therese Deprez. She is an American treasure, having done Summer of Sam, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the Black Swan. I may be a little biased because we lived and worked together 25 years ago on three crazy horror movies when we were just kids. 

What is your favorite city that you have visited and why?

Another tough one. For a kid raised in the blandness of 70's Salt Lake City, there is something very special about Old San Juan, especially in the madness of the San Sebastian festival. I spent five months working in Barcelona, which also tops my list. I love Mexico City, I love Austin, and I found a way to love Atlanta. But my real favorite was Vancouver – somehow in five months there I missed the rainy part. It just clicked for me there. I hope to be back there next year for another extended period.

What do you think the biggest misconception is about making movies?

That it is glamorous. Making a movie may be fun and rewarding, but more than anything else it is like digging ditches. The hours are crazy-long (often times 14 hour days are the base) and, in the creative departments seven day weeks are not uncommon. Often times making it to a remote location for a morning shoot means getting out of bed at 3 a.m. porta potty's are too frozen to allow bare flesh to touch the seat in the High Uintas in December and dizzyingly toxic on the Salt Flats in August. On Army of Darkness, the giant lights attracted moths and all forms of pestilence in such swarms if you took your dust mask off long enough for a sip of water your mouth and nostrils would clog with insects. Junkies fling baggies of shit and piss out of the upper stories of their tenement motels on the film crews in the very cinematic alleys in Vancouver and Hamilton during night shoots. I had a plastic shopping bag of very liquid excrement explode on the tailgate of the truck I was walking into under the 1st street bridge in LA years ago, splattering my clothes and hair. When I looked up, the junkie who threw it asked if he could be an extra in the movie, and flashed me a hopeful thumbs up. Like the movies themselves, the glamor is an illusion.

What is your favorite quote?

"There's always money in the banana stand" - George Bluth Sr.

You are also an artist and a designer outside of the movie business, can you talk a little bit about some of the projects that were the most meaningful to you and why?

Most of my creative output over the past 25 years has been consumed by the film business. It's only been in the past six or seven years that I have realized that I needed to find other outlets for my creative urges. I have been bothering and horrifying my friends with stories from my Dickensian youth for years. A few years ago my husband Jesse wondered why I had never written them down. So I accepted the challenge and have found the task of trying to make the written word as amusing and engaging as the spoken word an incredible exercise. 

Untitled sculpture projects  (Photo: Mark Hofeling)

Since drawing is a very work-a-day part of my life, I rarely do it for fun or personal artistic expression. But I have recently picked up sculpting and have found it equal parts rewarding and infuriating. I started playing in clay to see if I could make the image I saw in my head appear. And happily I can, but I had no idea it would be such a damned emotional roller coaster. Over the years I have also made furniture and lighting as the fancy strikes me, something I need to get back into more routinely.

Survival and advancement in the industry requires a thick skin and a sharp tongue. If you can't throw some elbows, it's not a happy place. I've recently been very fortunate to be asked to guest host a podcast my friends Frank and Dan produce. Apparently there are people who enjoy hearing my acerbic take on life. Who knew? It can be found at TGIA podcast. That’s been another really enjoyable creative outlet.

You are currently in the middle of helping the Leonardo (A science museum in SLC) with an exhibit on Flight, can you talk a little bit about this exhibit and what excites you about working in that space and conceptually on that theme?

My friend Jann Haworth at the Leo has been trying to find the right project for me to engage with over there for a while now. FLIGHT is their first big, permanent exhibition. The name clearly describes the idea of the installation, basically how humanity has engineered it’s way into the air. My business partner Matias Alvarez and I made a preliminary pitch that I think hit the notes of boldness and physicality the Leo was looking for- something splashy, non-static and with multiple intellectual points of entry. Since I have spent a lot of my professional life engaged in dialogue with my inner ten year old, I knew what he would want in the experience. I pitched one word as an ethos -permission. 

With the Leonardo, as with every "civilian" ( my term for non-film industry) design project I engage in, the basics of my movie experience still apply. Whether it's a restaurant, a bar, or an exhibition, it's still show business. I think a lot of non-industry designers may not intuit that on a basic level. It's about creating an immersive, stimulating and satisfying experience where care is taken to never "see off the set".

The Leonardo project is particularly exciting because they are so open and unafraid of thinking big, of unconventional approaches to deconstructing the museum experience and embedding fun into every crack. And, for me, the idea of a tangible, permanent, tactile thing that so many hands can touch, and so many minds can recall for decades when they think of their first understanding of flight is an awesome responsibility and a fantastic opportunity.

Why are you based in Salt Lake City? I remember driving around with you at some point on the west side and you kept pointing out areas that have inspired you or that you see are changing – do you think SLC is in a transformative state at the moment and what are the main things that you would love to see happen in this city.

I was born in 1968, to people that found Salt Lake far too modern for their Byzantine tastes. 

I have long said that everybody's from somewhere. Napoleon Bonaparte was born in the Corsican sticks. Anton Chekov was born in a remote town by the Sea of Azov. Even Gene "the Demon" Simmons of KISS is from the small town of Haifa, Israel. And it's not their goddamned fault. I spent a long time being ashamed of the bland, conservative backwater I was from. 

But after fleeing from the culture that nearly killed me, and spending awhile in the limbo of new-found freedom and discovery, I found my real family here in SLC- people of worth who gave me space to find my way from the sloppy mess I was to the much more refined or at least tolerable mess I am now. 

I have lived and worked in so many places - LA, Atlanta, Puerto Rico, the wilds of Idaho and Upper Michigan, Wendover (no shit, I have spent almost a year of my life in that hellscape), Toronto, Vancouver, Wisconsin and even Spain. But some weird gravitational pull kept me coming back to the city I never really understood. 

What I didn't realize I had lacked in my many years in all those other places came into sharper focus after I really drilled down into what left me a little directionless out there. Whether I liked it or not, my personal creation myth is inseparable from the stupendously weirdand improbable existence of this Zion that was never meant to be. What I came to understand what this city gave me that none of those other places did was an obvious, all-powerful bad guy to live in opposition to. No other city I ever lived in had such a massive, singular force that spent 24/7 and zillions of tithing dollars trying to snuff out everybody else's fun and basic freedoms. For better or for worse, my life is defined in opposition to one of the world's great buzz-kills. But leaning against it is hardly lonely. The opposition to Mormonism’s 19th century, anti-progressive balderdash is an amazing community pot-luck of good folk of every stripe- straight, gay, black, brown, white, and every color of humanity's rainbow. 

We make fewer movies here than we used to (and we used to make a lot) but we still make some. Although I work here very seldom, it's where my husband and I have decided to call home. Salt Lake is a place where new ideas can still be workshopped and being in the creative community puts you into a fraternity of like-minded people. To all the rednecks and conservatives who love to tell people like me to leave, I say, “you fucking leave”. This shit is as much mine as anybody else's. People stronger than me in long, lonely years past made it a more and more tolerable place to be. It's up to us to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Who is the one person that you have always wanted to work with?

That’s a tough one. After the first time I watched Blade Runner 25 years ago I wanted to stalk Ridley Scott until he let me into his world. More realistically, I would love to work with John Waters or Wes Anderson. Such quirky, deliberate aesthetics are extremely attractive to me. I have been working every angle to try to get my foot firmly in the door with Matt Stone and Trey Parker should they get the Book of Mormon movie off the ground. I can't conceive of a more convincing reason for my existence on this earth than designing that.

Looking towards the future – where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 25 years?

Alive and well would be a good start. As much as I want to die with my boots on and be carried off set by the grips, the rigors of movie making can get pretty hard to endure late in life. So I do have a dream of taking my years of collected wisdom and creative near-misses and teaching at someplace like SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). Living in a small apartment off Chippewa Square in Savannah, wearing seer sucker suits and carrying a smart walking stick, passing on whatever of value I can to a generation yet unborn sounds like perfect final chapter to me.

To see more of Mark's work go to: http://www.markhofeling.com