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Daybreak's Highlights of 2011: Art and stage

Published December 26. 2011 4:00AM
"Chestnut" by Sean Flynn

STAGE

"Show Boat" at the Goodspeed Opera House

There's a reason this show had audiences packed into the Goodspeed Opera House for every performance. It wasn't just the set - which, granted, was pretty impressive in creating a semblance of a riverboat on Goodspeed's teeny stage. It was also the superb cast, led by always-genius director Rob Ruggiero, in a still-potent story. And, hey, having a score boasting "Make Believe," "Bill" and "Ol' Man River" is never a bad thing.

- Kristina Dorsey

David Dorfman Dance "Prophets of Funk: Dance to the Music"

This February performance was cool. No, wait. Super cool. Choreographer David Dorfman - who is the dance department chair at Connecticut College - called upon his love of Sly and the Family Stone's music for this piece. He said "Prophets of Funk" reflected "the funk of everyday life, the joy of everyday life" and how everyday people still hope and still aspire. The dance and the dancers captured all that beautifully.

- Kristina Dorsey

Flock Theatre's "Little Women"

I love going to Flock Theatre's performances in New London's Shaw Mansion. It's such a small space that you almost feel as though you're watching close-ups of the actors. While Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" doesn't have quite the wit of "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Pride and Prejudice" - works Flock had previously staged at the Shaw Mansion - it has warmth and depth, and Flock created a sterling production. If you missed it last winter, you're getting a second chance. Flock is presenting "Little Women" again at the Shaw Mansion starting Jan. 3.

- Kristina Dorsey

"In the Heights" at the Garde Arts Center

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: our region is a little hotbed of theater. Exhibit A: "In the Heights" was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in 2005. It went on to the win the Tony award for best musical. Its tour came back here in October and blew the roof off the Garde in New London.

- Kristina Dorsey

Westerly Shakespeare in the Park

So glad to have you back! After a year off due to financial issues, The Bard was back in Wilcox Park, in fine form, with "The Tempest" this summer.

- Kristina Dorsey

ART EXHIBITIONS

"Face Off: Portraits by Contemporary Artists" at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum

The title says it all, and yet it doesn't begin to hint at the exciting range of work here. A visitor could wander from Jan Beekman's mixed-media portraits of Nelson Mandela to Chuck Close's image of composer Philip Glass formed solely by fingerprints. David LaChappelle's "American Jesus" series - envisioning Michael Jackson as a Christ figure - was intentionally provocative. Since the phrase "face off" came from hockey, the exhibition even brought into the fold a series of hockey photos by George Kalinsky, the official photographer for Madison Square Garden.

- Kristina Dorsey

"The Exacting Eye of Walker Evans" at the Florence Griswold Museum

There's still time! (Until Jan. 29, to be exact.) Get to Flo Gris to see this fascinating exhibition about famed photographer Walker Evans - who lived in Lyme for years before his death in 1975. Evans was renowned for his iconic shots of sharecroppers during the Great Depression, but this show reveals so much more. You'll learn about his fascination with signs and his experimentation with Polaroids, and you'll see how his art did, in short, create an eloquent portrait of America.

- Kristina Dorsey

Sean Flynn photography show

The truly standout photography of Norwich resident Sean Flynn was included in a group show at The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery in Groton (Sept. 9 to Oct. 23). Flynn is senior graphic designer for the University of Connecticut and this show reflected his eye for clean, simple compositions in which shape, texture scale and perspective are beautifully balanced.

The series featured in the show captures the nuances in the smaller forms in nature-a jewel-like open milkweed pod with elegant silky white strands protruding from its center?a grouping of three pitcher plants beautifully back-lit highlighting every tiny vein?smooth red chestnuts bursting out of prickly brown cases.

Flynn finds himself wanting to zero in more and more on his subjects-highly magnifying them and illuminating the things one doesn't see with the naked eye. He said he isn't done exploring this new direction, so hopefully we'll see a whole new body of work in this series in the new year.

-Amy Barry

"Common Ground" at The Hygienic Art Galleries, New London

In an exhibition titled "Common Ground," (April 2011) The Hygienic Art Galleries brought together six of New London's most talented and culturally diverse artists to celebrate the city's fascinating history, multiple layers and angles, from their varied perspectives.

Michael J. Peery, an accomplished oil painter, highlighted New London landmarks such as The Garde Art Center and portraits of such renowned New Londoners as Eugene O'Neill, while Don Eccleston's fluid, intuitive watercolors depicted the city less literally, through shapes and colors, memory and imagination.

Filmmaker/photographers Ted Ciesielski and Pola Esther, both Polish born, brought their unique world views to the exhibit-Ciesielski with multi-screen video installations that implemented time-lapse photography to show New London in an intriguing new light; and Esther with her interactive, mysterious and mystical installation focused on the city's many places of worship.

Troy Zaushny's large mixed media piece featuring the AT&T radio tower and a tsunami wave on a shower curtain overlaying multi-colored panels was a real show stopper, and the written word was interspersed between the artworks in poetry by Yibing Huang (known in the U.S. and China under the pen name Mai Mang), relating directly and indirectly to New London to create a narrative.

-Amy Barry

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