Apr
28

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Film Focus: Cavedigger (2013)

Editor’s Note: The Film Focus trailer series is part of AOTR’s rural cinema project, SMALLSCREEN. SMALLSCREEN is a multimedia project dedicated to mapping all forms of rural independent cinema exhibition and highlighting rural productions, place-based documentaries, and filmmakers who have an eye on the rural. Along the way, project designer Jessie Sims will develop a variety of cultural materials and contribute to the formation of an online rural film community. Most of all, Jessie is working to “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”- Robert Bresson]

By Jessie Sims

This Oscar-nominated short follows the extraordinary process of artist Ra Paulette. For more than 25 years, by intense, solitary labor, Paulette has turned sandstone cliffs in Northern New Mexico into transformative space. He is self-taught and uses only hand tools.

Before Cavedigger, Paulette’s underground art was largely unknown and his labor sorely under appreciated. Director Jeffrey Karoff gives us an inspiring picture of Paulette, his material constraints, and what drives him to do his work despite it all.

Since 2008, Paulette has been working on his magnum opus, Luminous Caves. Since he’s determined to realize his own vision, this final cave complex isn’t a private commission. He describes it as an environmental and social art project:

A mile walk in the wilderness becomes a pilgrimage journey to a hand dug, elaborately sculpted cave complex illuminated by the sun through multiple tunneled windows. The cave is both a shared ecumenical shrine and an otherworldly venue for presentations and performances designed to address issues of social welfare and the art of well being.”

Luminous Caves, he says, “is a culmination of everything I have learned and dreamed of in creating caves.”

Read more about Paulette’s final work and its rural social context on his official site. Cavedigger is available on demand from iTunes and Vimeo.

 

Apr
28

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Stories, Human Flourishing, and Spaces of Abundance in BETSY!

B_S_Woodson_Photo
Roadside Theater Artistic Director Dudley Cocke facilitates a story circle. Photo by Jim Carroll.

[Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of April, Art of the Rural shared a series of new writing and multimedia from HowlRoundabout the twenty-one-year artistic collaboration between Pregones Theater and Roadside Theater. The collaboration bridges two vast geographies and cultures, Puerto Rican and Appalachian, and two distinct aesthetics. Curated by Imagining America’s Jamie Haft and Dr. Arnaldo López of Pregones Theater/PRTT, the series explores the creation of BETSY!, a musical about a Bronx singer and performer uncovering the secrets of her family’s history. The musical premiered off-Broadway and completed its three week run on April 26, 2015. BETSY! offers an important lens on a long-term rural-urban exchange and the many threads of commonality along America’s rural-urban continuum. This series is part of a strategy to develop new scholarship and multimedia about the vision, values, practice, and complexities of intercultural artistic collaboration, which will eventually be digested into a learning guide for teaching BETSY!. This is our final post in this series, and we’re proud to share the work of HowlRound, Imagining America, Roadside Theater, and Pregones Theater.]

Today we share excerpts from Stephani Etheridge Woodson’s essay “Stories, Human Flourishing, and Spaces of Abundance”, in which she discusses her interest in the “how” of how arts and culture builds stronger communities. She talks about building collective efficacy and expanding community networks, and about transparency and effective documentation. She also talks about “how stories build homes and social places for human flourishing”. Mostly, she reminds us that art and theatre can “develop abundant communities through their focus on the narrative wealth of a community, community efficacy, and community meaning-making”:

“Human flourishing does not function as a zero-sum game or a set of inputs for defined outputs (x + y = happiness). A focus on flourishing grows from understanding communities as sites of plenty, not sets of risks. Pregones and Roadside are partners and even catalysts, framing their communities as spaces of power.”

“Theatre companies like Pregones and Roadside function as public intellectuals and cultural development institutions. Their focus on stories, on connections, on the messy reality of the human condition and U.S. American ideologies of self and other don’t offer easy answers.  But they move in a space of abundance in the communion of art.”

 To read Woodson’s full essay, visit: http://howlround.com/stories-human-flourishing-and-spaces-of-abundance

Apr
15

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“I Can Hear You”: Appalachian and Puerto Rican musical collaborations in BETSY!

The Music of BETSY! An interview with Ron Short and Desmar Guevara. Video content by Zhivko Illeieff

[Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of April, Art of the Rural will share a series of new writing and multimedia from HowlRoundabout the twenty-one-year artistic collaboration between Pregones Theater and Roadside Theater. The collaboration bridges two vast geographies and cultures, Puerto Rican and Appalachian, and two distinct aesthetics. Curated by Imagining America’s Jamie Haft and Dr. Arnaldo López of Pregones Theater/PRTT, the series explores the creation of BETSY!, a musical about a Bronx singer and performer uncovering the secrets of her family’s history. The musical premiered off-Broadway last week and continues through April 26, 2015 (purchase tickets by clicking here).

BETSY! offers an important lens on a long-term rural-urban exchange and the many threads of commonality along America’s rural-urban continuum. This series is part of a strategy to develop new scholarship and multimedia about the vision, values, practice, and complexities of intercultural artistic collaboration, which will eventually be digested into a learning guide for teaching BETSY!. We’re proud to share the work of HowlRound, Imagining America, Roadside Theater, and Pregones Theater.]

Ron Short in BETSY at Pregones Theater in the Bronx, 2006. Photo by Erika Rojas.

Today, we are pleased to share excerpts from Jonathan Bradshaw’s essay “I Can Hear You: Cross-Cultural Music and Complicated American Identities”, where he interviews musician Syvia Ryerson and musician/playwright Ron Short from BETSY! Within his narrative, he explores the challenging process of collaboration across cultures and genres:

“One of the reasons we have so much difficulty in understanding other people and other people’s cultures and religion is we’re not willing to loosen the choke-hold we have on our own, to give up some part of ourselves to learn something new about ourselves.”

“Appalachian writer and musician Ron Short first began writing the play for Roadside Theater by recovering his own great-great-great-Grandmother’s story as a prostitute and a part of a system of forced Scotch-Irish servitude in the late 1700s. “When I started looking for her,” Ron told me, I found that she had been buried in [. . . ] the Cumberland mountains there between Kentucky and Virginia—and they had not put a marker on her grave [ . . .] So I started looking for her grave and I couldn’t find it. And I was determined to do something and so I said, ‘Well, I’ll make a marker for her. I’ll tell her story.’… Ron’s marker became BETSY!, the product now of multiple collaborations.”

“My banjo teacher, Warren Waldron, once told me of playing traditional Old-Time music: “If you want to play music this old, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” I’ve always loved that idea—that being situated as we are in this moment does not mean we’re ahead of our heritages. Uncovering and recovering the voices that inform who we are requires a lot of intentional creative work. The story of BETSY! is one of uncovering voices and multicultural identities.”

To read Bradshaw’s full essay, visit: http://howlround.com/i-can-hear-you-cross-cultural-music-and-complicated-american-identities