Archive for March, 2011

Dreaming of Spring

March 18, 2011


Dreaming of Spring-by Kerry Hartjen

Mother Earth has a mind and rhythm of her own. She is powerful. No matter what we humans do to her, she still dominates. We are but specks on the back of an elephant. It is hard for us to wrap our heads around such tragedies as we see how powerless humans can be. My heart goes out to the families in Japan as they try to cope with the unthinkable. At the same time, minute by minute tragedies happen all around us, the bus that overturned, the young mother who miscarriages, the daughter who watches her father slip away to Alzheimers, the young soldiers lost in war. All this is also part of the narrative and rhythm of life. One person’s loss is no more important than another and each is heart wrenching.

And, then there’s my latest sale of two pairs of shoes on eBay, just concluded 30 minutes ago to a repeat customer from Japan. Life does go on.

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March 15, 2011

This is called The Frankfurt Kitchen 1927 from the recent exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art: Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen.

Yesterday was a “city” day for me. I went to the Museum of Modern Art for a short visit. When I visit museums I only go see one show at a time. I am member of all of the museums so that I can “museum hop” without feeling pressure to see everything for the entrance fee. This exhibit had kitchen utensils from the 20’s that were considered modern, like the Chemex Coffee Maker, blenders, hard-boiled egg slicers, juicers. It also had a small kitchen set up, called the Frankfurt Kitchen-1927. Every space was thought out from the bins in the right of the picture, which would hold flour, rice, sugar, to the rack on the top left of the picture that would be where you would put your plates. I loved how everything was compact, simple, and stark and accentuated by the shadows.

On the way to the Museum of Modern Art, I stopped by Times Square to watch as they filmed a sequence for an upcoming movie with Robert DeNiro called “New Year’s Eve”. It’s fun to see how mundane filmmaking actually is, a lot of “hang around and wait” if you are an extra. New York being New York everyone is nonplussed by the filming.

And on the way to the restaurant after the museum, I stopped by David Letterman’s stage door to watch Alec Baldwin arrive in his limo.

Just your average day in NYC

National Puppetry Festival-July 12, 2011

March 13, 2011

I submitted a workshop application for the National Puppetry Festival, held this year in Atlanta, July 12-17 and it was accepted. Since I think I started the only high school class devoted to all forms of puppetry in the United States, I wanted to share my knowledge with others who may be interested in keeping the craft alive by introducing puppetry to a younger generation. My workshop entitled “Puppetry Curriculum for Schools” will be about how to take existing state and local educational standards and combine that with a puppetry curriculum. My way to teaching puppetry was a bit roundabout. As an art teacher and gifted educator, I was able to infuse the making of puppets in the art classes, and the making and performing with puppets into the gifted curriculum. It did not go unnoticed by the powers that be in the school hierarchy that students were totally focused and engaged, and all “levels” of students worked side by side towards a common goal. I was actually approached by the Curriculum Director and the Assistant Superintendent of Schools and asked if I would be able to design and write a puppetry curriculum. For the last 6 years of my teaching career I had a viable puppetry program, packed to the rafters with students. Not only did they learn about shadow, hand, rod, and marionette puppets, they made them, wrote scripts and performed and were filmed. I also had a puppet troupe who regularly performed 6-8 shows a year, commissioned by the community, and local elementary schools. They also competed in the local Teen Arts Festival, would win on the local level and went to the state levels. In fact, a former art student of mine is now the puppetry teacher and the puppet troupe is preparing their show for the local Teen Arts Festival on March 17th. My first head puppeteer who accompanied me to two National Puppetry Festivals, is now a student at the University of Connecticut’s Puppetry and Acting program (he is a dual major by choice).
My workshop will cover strategies on developing programs, set out guidelines, timelines, and will show how to actually write a curriculum that will satisfy the academic side, but will thrill students and introduce them to a craft with a distinguished history, especially in American Television.

Training to NYC

March 9, 2011


The indoor platform waiting room

Between costuming I am running (actually taking the train) into New York City to go to the theater. I saw “How to Succeed in Business without Trying”, and it was excellent. Daniel Radcliffe carried the show with great skill, and John Larroquette has the skills of a mime in his face and hand movements. I must say that the choreography is amazing, fresh and really makes me want to see it again because there are so many physical nuances happening at once. The scene in the mailroom, and the football scene are simply amazing. Rob Ashford kept the material as is, and tweeked it with sharp crisp direction. Daniel not only sings, but boy can he move as well, and although he doesn’t consider himself a dancer, he holds his own with the chorus. The show is a complete vindication (IMHO) to Ashford’s tepid “Promises Promises”.

Last night I saw Mandy Patinkin in “Compulsion” a completely riveting play about Meyer Levin’s (called Sid in the play) obsession with Anne Frank, her diary, her life and his fight to represent her on the world stage. He is raw after the end of WWII and feels Anne’s diary gives voice to the holocaust in a way that will make the world understand. He is a fierce fighter, and emotionally connected to the work. Who better than Mandy Patinkin to bring this work to life? Also, Anne Frank is represented by a marionette (Meyer Levin ran a puppet theater at one point in his life so this is not a stretch). Eric Wright and Emily DiCola from the Puppet Kitchen are on the bridge working Anne Frank. (remember I took a puppet workshop with Eric at the Puppet Kitchen?). The use of the puppet is a nice touch and counter balance to Mandy’s emotional rantings and posturing. The puppet represents Anne’s intent and voice, and in the end helps to “silent” Sid.
On Thursday of this week, I will be bringing a former student of mine to see “Driving Miss Daisy”. My friend is an actor/puppet major, and I want him to see James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines. These actors take a dated piece and give it meaning. When I saw it I thought there wasn’t a word, movement or detail missing. Revisiting this piece will be like rereading a novel, I will know what is coming, but be riveted none the less.
Next up? “Catch me if you can”, on Monday with Norbet Leo Butz. I have seen everything Norbet has been in, and he never disappoints, even though sometimes the play does (think “Thou Shalt Not”). Norbet lives in New Jersey not far from where I live. Last time my husband was in the hospital, I met Norbet in the hospital cafe, his wife had just given birth to his daughter. I have also seen him on the train, the same train that brings me to New York City, and then takes me home.