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How Watsonville Taiko Group developed a performance with 200 people about the drought

Posted by on August 27, 2014

As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR), Joyce Smith of Watsonville Taiko Group writes about their experience developing a co-creative Taiko performance for our 3rd Friday: Games & Folklore event. Check out pictures here.

In May our business manager, Taeko, told us about a grant from the MAH for a family event, August 3rd Friday’s Games and Folklore. We knew there needed to be audience participation in the performance, but more so than our usual community performances that involve a performance followed by an opportunity for kids and adults to try out the drums and learn a simple song.  Each of our members will be actively participating with the audience in the creation of this performance at the MAH.

playingWe knew there would be a number of meetings with the museum staff to develop the program, that there would be workshops and then a performance. Our first job? Come up with a basic theme or story for the event.

Ikuyo chose Tolstoy’s story, “The Big Dipper.” The girl’s kindness and compassion, the magical elements, and the story revolving around a drought all make this the perfect starting place. Ikuyo asked me to take the short translated story and play with it.

Ikuyo, Taeko and I met up with MAH staff members, Emily and Stacey. What a fun meeting! Ikuyo shared comments/goals, which lined up perfectly with the vision of the museum staff. We shared the basic story line, discussed possible workshops, and the schedule for the day, etc. Ideas flew between the five of us. Thunder tubes … fish crafts … sandpaper makes a nice dry brittle sound … How much should Watsonville Taiko (WTG) drum … Taiko history … a very productive first meeting. I went home and started working on a rewrite of the story.

I have been working on a California version of the story, connecting Tolstoy’s themes and plot into a California setting. WTG will drum a song that Ikuyo wrote called Takinobori. This song is based on a Japanese legend about a fish fighting its way upstream and over waterfalls. I want to incorporate this song because it can represent our local Salmon as well as the carp of Japan. Salmon, coyotes, and horses became part of the tale.

Emails went back and forth with Ikuyo and Taeko… clarifications from Ikuyo of her artistic vision … revisions… editing … more emails and more changes … watching a YouTube version of the Big Dipper … visualizing the emotions and sounds Ikuyo hoped to create. Over the next few days the story started coming together. I sent off another version and another. By our next meeting with the MAH, we have a working script. At class that night we share the script with our drummers, their first real introduction to the project.

In July we gathered at the museum, and worked on refining details.  We looked at the number of people it would take to man the workshop tables, choreograph our young fish and stars, and teach the music and rhythms to our audience performers. Adjustments are made, activities refined.

After a quick dinner break it was off to Watsonville for Friday classes. We learn that we will be working with the script with the community performers on Saturday.

booksWe practiced drumming for an hour, then started looking at all the percussion instruments– cymbals, rain sticks, bowls with pebbles in them, chimes, bells, all colors and shapes. As a group we start signing up for different activities and workshops. We plotted it all out, discussed, laughed, and experimented. Bonnie’s summer kids workshop could possibly drum the sound of the horses.  Sandy has learned a wonderful way for people to create rain sounds with their hands and bodies.  Suzie is a dancer, Kay a primary school teacher. They will choreograph the stars and the fish.  Hiroshi will lead the origami workshop.  On and on it went. Such a great community feeling!

After an hour of class time, we practiced songs for the Church Street Fair, which was coming up in 2 days.  Then at 9:00, when the drums must go silent, we worked on the MAH project.  Shifting of assignments, more instruments passed out, and a very rough run through of the story. We were joined by several GreyBear drummers as well as Kathie’s granddaughter.

Taeko tried out teaching folks to play Twinkle Twinkle with the colored bells, and we all had fun becoming happy coyotes.

Bonnie’s kids had their first class the previous Sunday, and were finding their way around the practice drums.

peopleIn early August, I prepared for a meeting at 2pm with the museum staff. Looking around my computer room I saw scripts, “cast” lists, and instruments– so many instruments. The event was one week away.  Will we be ready? Will it go smoothly? Only time will tell, but it has been a wonderful experience so far.

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You’ve still got time. Dolkas Awards submission deadline is September 1st

Posted by on August 14, 2014

If you’ve got a local history project, we’d love to help you! Apply for a Dolkas Award. You’ve still got time.  Submissions must be turned into the MAH by September 1st. Go for it! http://www.santacruzmah.org/wp-content/uploads/Dolkas-Application-2014.doc

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History Journal #7 looks to split the history of redwood logging and conservation

Posted by on June 17, 2014

History Journal #7 editor Lisa Robinson discusses the new MAH publication and why it’s a great read.

Mountains of Santa Cruz 1875-1880 by Jules Tavernier

Redwood Logging and Conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains – A Split History

This month, the long awaited Santa Cruz County History Journal #7 was released. Three years ago this journal was initiated by historian Stanley D. Stevens, then chair of the MAH publications Committee, because there was no single, comprehensive, book on the history of the lumber industry in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As the contents for the journal evolved it was clear that there were many angles to this story, all intricately entwined, and all needing to be told. Three years later this journal, with 21 authors, 34 articles, and an amazing 128 illustrations, delivers to the reader:

  • Local ethnographic history, cultural history, art history, and natural history. After all that is what we are about- right?
  • Contested history, including all the citations so you can dive deeper in to the material and judge for yourself.
  • Alternate lifestyles. This is Santa Cruz!
  • The growth of the preservation movement, which began much earlier than you might imagine, and the untold important roles played by Santa Cruzians in the formation of California’s first Redwood State Park.
  • The foresight and leadership of the lumber industry in Santa Cruz County and their pioneering methods.
  • Cutting edge research. Pardon the pun.
  • Oh and yes, a sprinkling of fun, tragedy, and romance.

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I visited Big Basin Redwoods State Park this week and took this photograph. It depicts the loggers’ spring board holes that were cut into the truck using an auger to create a platform on which the choppers and fallers stood in order to fell the giant old-growth tree. This remnant stump isn’t in some remote part of the park, but adjacent to a picnic area not too far from the park headquarters. But what say you – “I thought Big Basin was saved from the loggers.” Ah! Another great reason to read the journal.

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Artist in Residence, Cid Pearlman is creating a participatory movement experience with teens, interns, professional dancers and visitors.

Posted by on June 12, 2014

As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR), Cid Pearlman invites visitors to co-create a participatory movement experience for all ages at Art that Moves, Friday June 20th 2014 (click here for more info).

by Cid Pearlman

MAH’s Subject to Change Teens rehearsing with PPAIR artist Cid Pearlman

MAH’s Subjects to Change Teens rehearsing with PPAIR artist Cid Pearlman

Over the last month I have been working with MAH’s Interns and Subjects to Change Teen Program, three of my dancers, and MAH’s fabulous staff to create Knotting the Broken String for Art that Moves on June 20th.

Early on in the process Stacey Marie Garcia, MAH’s Director of Community Engagement, asked me to set some goals for my project. I wrote: “I’d like to imagine big, and then scale down to do-able. I’d like to get my hands dirty and make things. I’d like the museum to feel mysterious and full of possibility, with surprises behind every door.”

The MAH has given me a lot of freedom, I am having a great time, and I think we are getting somewhere interesting. The big challenge is to figure out how to get visitors moving their bodies on the day of the event. We’ve come up with a variety of ways folks can participate as performers.

We are creating three installations that museum visitors can contribute to and inhabit: The World of Newspaper & String; The World of Plants, Rocks & Things; and The World of Forgotten Technologies & Birds That Sing.

The Interns – Charlotte, Lisa, and Kelsey – have been helping me create the three environments. These are a few of our early ideas:

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Three amazing dancers – Sara Wilbourne, Cynthia Strauss, and David King – will act as “Dance Ambassadors” to each world, helping participants with translation and how to navigate the terrain.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn two set dances. The Memory Map Dance, considers what we take with us and what we leave behind as we move through our lives. This simple movement poem engages with some of the themes in Belle Yang’s Crossing Cultures: A Story of Immigration, which opened last week at the MAH. And David King will also teach a rhythm step dance that everyone can do.

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MAH Intern, Kelsey Mathews wearing newspaper costumes.

Throughout the event folks will have the opportunity to make a variety of things to wear and to contribute the performance environments. Most everything we are using is recycled/repurposed, and it’s been fun to find new ways to use old things.

And to top it off there will be a parade – where you can show off the things you’ve made and learned throughout the day.

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Cid at Viinistu Art Museum, Estonia, with “100 Kohvrit” by Marko Maetamm & Kaido Ole

When I returned from my Fulbright year in Estonia in 2010, I began a series of works examining landscape, memory and community. This project for the MAH is an extension of this area of exploration.

…and suitcases continue to make appearances in my dances – so be on the look out for them at Art That Moves on June 20th.

 

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Artifact of the Month: Donuts and Diplomas, Eva Whinery’s Graduation Dress, 1896

Posted by on June 10, 2014

Eva Whinery's graduation dress, 1896

What Eva Whinery’s 1896 graduation dress looks like now

A few weeks ago, Nina brought in to work a lovely box packed with donuts. She bought them at Ferrell’s on Mission Street and wondered who else went there for donuts. “Well, it used to be a local hangout,” I said. “In high school we would go there after prom.” Nina wondered if that was still a rite of passage, so I decided to do a little research.

My niece, Kat went to the prom last month. On the big day, I asked her if she was thinking of going to Ferrell’s afterwards. Was that still the thing to do? Kat said she thought maybe it was, but she was going somewhere else.

While shopping for her dress, Kat texted me images of her options. I don’t think we have any prom dresses in the MAH collection, but we have Eva Whinery’s dress when she graduated from Santa Cruz High in 1896. It is a lovely confection of cream satin and lace, with its wonderful long sash still intact.

The MAH also has a photograph of Eva posing in her dress, holding her diploma. It’s curious to note that in the photo Eva’s dress has larger, leg-o-mutton sleeves (yes, that’s a fashion term), a style quite popular in late Victorian fashion.

Eva Whinery with diploma and leg-o-mutton sleeved dress, 1896

Eva Whinery with diploma and leg-o-mutton sleeved dress, 1896

The dress we now have has been altered. Eva probably wanted to get some extra mileage out of the dress and had it updated to go with the times. I think my niece might make some changes to her prom dress too. Chop off a few inches, and its life could extend in the form of a snappy cocktail dress (or so her mom hopes).

Another thing about Eva Whinery: she and her parents are buried at Evergreen  Cemetery near Harvey West Park. Evergreen was also a local high school hangout back in the day (but I’m not going to get into that now).

Back to the donuts: I think Farrell’s is still going strong even if it’s no longer a go-to post prom tradition. It seems fairly busy when I drive by and its Yelp reports are pretty favorable. There’s something about how they fry those donuts just right that keeps their customers coming back.

My niece graduates from Santa Cruz High this week, the same school Eva Whinery received her big, rolled up diploma so many years ago. Times have changed, hangouts shift, but every once in awhile it’s okay to take a picture in a fancy dress.

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