The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, June 13, 1991, Image 5

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e na or for ft, ai s-Romert ?s. irs and fti< a y career/ • v from k. ■hed some reward fo, n the Hop 1 powerful serious g; n the spiri; ch are ret ottonwood Taale, com, nesses and es. Thursday, June 13,1991 u'ld lone Mick f ha((, are lild early I Hall, 34, year, al- r-year-old )-year-old One-act By Julia E. S. Spencer If William Shakespeare were a Texan, would he be known as Cow boy Bill? This is just one reflection suggested by local actor/director/ playwright Robbie Taylor's 'Texas Voices," which premiered with another one-act drama, "Self-Por- trait," at AnNam Tea House Tues day. "Voices" is a collection of monologues, perfonned by Taylor and six other talented local actors, and loosely connected with com mentary by down-home philoso pher and bard aficionado Cowboy Bill, played by George Weir. Bill's introductory monologue made some good points about how people discriminate against those of us whose accents are less than Shakespearean - and by the same token - those who deviate from the "norm" in race, religion or sexual persuasion. Bill then offered us a new perspective on Texas and Tex ans in the form of seven rather unusual and unorthodox charac ters. The ensuing monologues achieved varying degrees or suc cess. All showcased Taylor's rather sardonic, extremely verbal wit and his ability to get a handle on the foibles and expressions which make an individual unique. The frequent humor of the pieces was certainly very entertaining, but the dramas open at AnNam conclusions drawn often seemed rather fuzzy and, with a few ex ceptions, the insights a bit trite. Taylor's interpretations of his own material were energetic and his characterizations of a trigger- happy cop in "Robocop" and of a country-wisdom-spouting drag queen in "Miss Thing" were dead- on. These bits were good for some comic riffing a la Robin Williams, and some commentary on urban law enforcement cowboys and the importance of not hiding behind a facade. "Polyhymnia," perfonned by Anna Barron, was a look at the ways music can become an exten sion of a person's character and a common ground for bringing a family together. The idea was good, but the expression was a bit awkward and could use some fleshing out. Charles Pitman's turn as a tax- dodging Jimmy Swaggart-type evangelist in "Reverend Jim" was hilariously apt, appropriately cra ven and hypocritical, and had the audience in stitches. Hearing the preacher's rationale for his actions (the IRS is Satan) was clever, but this material has been covered be fore on Saturday Night Live and numerous talk shows. "The Lover," a longish mono logue about a young man's vari ous romantic encounters was witty and observant, and was also an audience-pleaser. After recount ing a dozen failed relationships, actor Tommy Newkirk concluded that any attempts at being "sensi tive and caring" were misguided and that women really wanted John Wayne. Newkirk was fine in the role, but his irresistably dimpled smile made it hard to believe he was having trouble getting dates. 'Tanhandle Hiker," portrayed by Jessica Lowe, was a few min utes in the life of a frustrated hitch hiker as she thumbed for a ride and dispensed salty wit and wis dom, concluding that people who know how to take care of each other are a dying breed. "Second Childhood," a piece about a transplanted Scotsman learning to cope with the heat and frequent provinciality of Texas demonstrated the beauty of cast ing to type, sinceactor John Caimey is himself Scottish. His evolution from resentment at constantly be ing defined by his accent to com ing to terms with the people and climate and even defending them, was eminently realistic and cred ible. Some nice points were also made about identity and belong ing, tying in with the Cowboy Bill' s reassuring closing comments about how people's similarities are always more numerous than their differences. "Self Portrait," the one-act play that followed the intermission, was more consistent and coherent, and gave the actors more time to ac quaint us with their characters. Done as a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards illustrating the life of the artist, it is billed as a "self portrait that takes place in the mind of the artist as he searches for the proper image of himself." Lou (Newkirk) is the main character, a would-be comic book illustrator struggling with his need for artis tic expression while trying to please a tyrannical, often irrational father, and afraid of repeating with his own wife the hostility of his par ents' marriage. Various scenes illuminate key points in his life, and slowly reveal the often painful conflicts which are pulling him in opposite direc tions. The actors' portrayals are very convincing, even within the limits of the stylized direction and minimalist staging. Charles Pit man is teriffic as the boorish, hen pecked father who cannot accept his son's artistic leanings, or un derstand his vivid imagination. Jessica Lowe is plenty shrillas Lou's shrewish mother, and George Wier displays an effective mix of resig nation and resentment as Lou's gay uncle who must endure the insults of his brother-in-law. Anna Barron displays talent as Lou's long-suffering wife. Caimey also provides expert support as Lou's friend/manager, Lee. middle- i Marvef- ieattmd commu- )f assault Of Local artist contributes talents to workshop for beginning artists anate Ap- a voted m Inder the collider i for con- n'llion to- mm, fl- 3 million lyearin- By Yvonne Salce Surrounded by a group of overzealous 5- year-old girls and the shrill but enthusiastic sound of their chatter, Maruta Kajaks-Grots can't help but wonder if all this is just a coincidence or good karma. "I need your signature on it," says Kajaks- Grots in a soft-spoken voice to one of the girls. "Put your name on it," she adds warmly, while looking over the child's artwork, a positive and negative image produced through black-and- white drawing techniques, or as Kajaks-Grots puts it "an image of reality and fantasy created on magic paper." onstruc- n Jleveland bond at man ac- iths of a student o. Frank iliceman i suburb 3 county h "enter SE ;CR3) Maybe it was just a matter of sending her resume to the right place at the right time. With her husband working on his Ph.D. here at Texas A&M and Kajaks-Grots working as an associate professor of arts and humanities and as head of the art department at West Shore Community College in Scottville, Mich., she sent her resume to the Arts Council of Brazos Valley in hopes of spending the summer with her husband. The fact that the Arts Council was looking for an experienced artist to restructure their summer art program seemed too coincidental. And the fact that the summer art program meant working with children, a passion Kajaks-Grots has always had, put the professional artist right at home. Immediately she was taken in as the Art Council's artist-in-residence. Later Kajaks- Grots and her husband, both Latvian and fluent in the language, discovered they could serve as translators for the Texas Music Festival, who plan to feature the Latvian Philharmonic Cham ber Orchestra. For Kajaks-Grots, guiding students to dis cover their own artistic talents, whether they be children or adults, is all the same. "The magic and the 'awe' of wanting to see results is not limited to age," says Kajaks-Grots. "Obviously they are on different levels, but the immediate reaction is the same. There's that same 'spark in the eye' reaction. "Everyone starts with a single blank sheet of paper and pencil. It's what you do with it that's different." Kajaks-Grots believes you are never too old or too young to start learning art. The important thing, she says, is that you start. As overseer of the Arts Council's "Summer Art Spectacular," a series of art classes for all ages, Kajaks-Grots will instruct an adult class entitled "Portrait Drawing for Beginners." Work ing from photographs of family and friends, Kajaks-Grots will guide students through the basic techniques or charcoal portraiture. "It doesn't matter if you haven't drawn be fore; the technique I teach covers all the basics first. Then we learn to customize those skills, making it into a portrait," Kajaks-Grotsexplains. Kajaks-Grots says her class is also for the person who has a little experience because of the feedback and interaction that results.Much like a child's amazement, there is that "Hey look at what I did" type of response, she says. Oftentimes adults may be apprehensive about taking an art class because of the fear of being ridiculed or criticized. RICHARD S. JAMES/The Battalion Local artist Maruta Kajaks-Grots teaches children's art classes offered through the Brazos Valley Arts Council. Her own handiwork decorates the walls of her apartment. "To dare to expose yourself is a frighten ing thing," she says. She understands self-consciousness, and stresses that students need to learn to start from the bottom and work their way up. She works with each student on a one-to-one ba sis, never expecting the student to draw her way, but rather helping that student develop his or her own skill. Yet, she doesn't deny that art puts one in a vulnerable position. "Being an artist and showing your work in public is like raising your skirt and hoping you remembered to put on underwear that morning. You won't know until it happens." It is that same kind of boldness and unex pectedness that Kajaks-Grots uses in her own artwork. Being a working artist herself, pri marily with watercolors but always open to different media, she uses nature-oriented ab stractions, such as plants, flowers, clouds and landscapes. "Nature is power," says Kajaks-Grots. "Just look at an abandoned building and how it is eventually overtaken by leaves. Look at the sidewalk and how grass is forc ing its way through the cracks. "I don't have flowers in vases. I concen trate on that flower and how it is growing. Is it bending, plopping over or dying?" On the outside it may look like a pretty picture, but deeper into the picture lies a twist and a point about nature. Kajaks- Grots' reverence and respect for nature is apparent. Her work tends to be forceful and bold, but at the same time exhibits a sensu ality, strong but gentle in contradiction. Her ideas come from nature, its powers and her acknowledgement of that power. See ARTIST/Page 6 Pages f SONORA N. ROBBINS/The Battalion Robbie Taylor, dressed as a woman, performs “Miss Thing” from “Texas Voices" al AnNam Tea House Tuesday night. Scenes where Lou is trying to choose between pleasing his fa ther and pleasing himself and where Lee comes to announce a tragedy were wrenchingly real, extremely affecting and very be lievable. The father's blustery, pathetically macho character re called Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman," and while the play isn't very long, it does a good job of portraying three-dimensional characters. Although there were a few rough edges, future performances promise to be more polished. Per formances will be Tuesday and Wednesday of next week at 8 and 8:30 p.m. respectively at the Tea House. Texas Music Test continues with Pro Arte Quartet By Timm Doolen mance with the fourmovements of Dvorak's "Quintet No. 3 in E- Four artists a t the top of their Fla t." form, all working towards one The Pro Arte Quartet is cur- musical goal. That was the scene rently celebrating its 50th anni- atRudder Theater Monday night versary as theoldest ensembleof when the Pro Arte Quartet its kind and was the first string played three classical composi- quartet to establish residency at tionsaspartoftheongoingTexas an American university, the Uni- Music Festival. versity of Wisconsin at Madison. Norma Paula and Jae Kim Next Monday the Latvian on violin. Parry Karp on cello Philharmonic Chamber Orches- and Richard Blum on viola were tra,directedbyToviLifshitz,will all in fine form as they played take the stage to play pieces by selections by Ernest Bloch, Jean Mozart, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sibelius and Antonin Dvorak. Peteris Vasks and Bla Bartk. The The quartet opened with orchestra is from Riga, Latvia, Bloch's "Two Pieces for String USSR, and performs regularly in Quartet," in two movements, the Soviet Union, which in all honesty was musi- The following week, the cally a little harsh for my tastes. Symphonic Brass Quintet from The quartet next settled into the University of Houston School the more palatable "Intimate of Music will perform in Rudder Voices" in five movements by Theater. Sibelius. Tickets are $8 for non-stu- After the intermission, dents and $5 for students per Lawrence Wheeler on viola performance. More information joined the players to make a can be obtained from the MSC quintet, finishing the perfor- Box Office at 845-1234. AnNam -plans friendly 'Battle of the Bands' By Jeffrey Brown Local bands will showcase their talents on Friday and Sat urday nights at AnNam Tea House's first-ever "Battle of the Bands" - that is, a peaceful battle of the bands. The gathering will include a variety of musical styles, from solo acoustic guitar to reggae to heavy metal to pop-rock. "The battle or the bands is not a competition; it is a group of bands who want to help sup port the teahouse," T.C. Nguyen, proprietor of AnNam Tea House, said. The idea is to attract several local bands togetherand to have a good time, not just to win a contest, Nguyen said. "The bands are not inter ested in money or prizes," Nguyen said. "They just want to get together and play." Even though winning is not the goal of the shows, the so- called best of each night will be awarded prizes. The grand prize will be four to six hours of re cording time at Airplay Studios in Bryan. Depending upon the attendance for the two days' fes tivities, AnNam will possibly award four to six more hours of recording time at Airplay. Win ners will be determined by two judges and, of course, by the audience's response. Brian Gutowski of Black Mass, one of the bands sched uled to perform, said to call the event a battle was a misnomer because of the variety of music styles. "It is impossible to say that one group is oetter than another because the styles are different," Gutowski said. "It's (the contest is) just to give the groups some good exposure." Christy Claxton of Dream Horse, another performing act, said that she sees the battle of the bands as a good chance to check out some of the new local acts. See ANNAM/Page 6