Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sparkle Recognition 2016

As I See It . .

Once again, I have accumulated what I believe are unique, artistic achievements for the Season (September 1st, 2015 to August 31st, 2016) and awarded each of them a Sparkle Recognition mention in the list of about 100+ shows I personally review in a Season.  But, as you will note, unlike other award lists, I do not pick a “winner,” nor is my list confined to necessarily “5 nominees” in each category.  My list contains as many, or as few, as I deem “special” or “unique” in some way(s).

I do not believe you can compare, for instance, one actor’s performance in a play against another actor’s role in a totally different part and play.  Nor do I understand why there has to be only 5 nominees in category.  For example, I pick a person for a uniqueness that they seem to have, both as a creator and in the role/job they are performing.  That is not to say that there weren’t a wealth of fine artistic achievements done.  There were.  But these particular individuals and/or productions moved me in special, unforgettable ways.

Granted, this is my take alone on the shows this season and, I’m sure, you will note, doesn’t agree with most award lists of “nominees/winners.”  Also it doesn’t encompass all the fine theatres that exist in the Northwest.  All the theatres I do include, have invited me to review their shows.  And, being only one person, I can only review so many at a time.

Also I do not restrict in any way, the people/companies that I review or are included in my Sparkle list.  The list includes schools, professional theatres, semi-professional, community, et. al. in the Greater Portland area and as far South as OSF in Ashland, OR .  In my opinion a good performance/production is simply good, no matter its pedigree.  Here is a link to most of the theatres/productions I will be reviewing this season:

Dennis Sparks Reviews – production season -

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I unashamedly admit that I am a supporter of the Arts, having over 40 years myself in all aspects of it.  I attend a production expecting it to be good and, if it falls short, in my opinion, I try to be constructive in my criticism.  Also, you will note in my reviews, that I tend not to spend a lot of time describing the plot but, instead, try to give a flavor of the piece.  I, also, try to make comparisons to similar venues or historical, philosophical or personal histories of the times to, hopefully, enlighten the audience to what they may be seeing/experiencing.

Some of the most unique productions for this period are:   Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s musicals, Head Over Heels & The Yeomen of the Guard, both totally captivating staging and thoroughly entertaining productions and their Bio-play, the drama, Roe, a searing, fully engrossing production about personal rights and political issues.

Also worthy of noting are some rather “low-tech” shows, such as my favorites, Around the World in Eighty Days by Beaverton Civic Theatre and Peter and the Starcatcher by Portland Playhouse, both unique as they deliberately chose to trust the author’s words, the talent of the cast and the audience’s imaginations to fill in the missing “realistic” elements of their presentations.  The Young Professionals Company of Oregon Children’s Theatre is especially good at that, too, as well as very relevant stories for the youth of our time.  The musical, Cuba Libre, from Artists Rep., gets a special nod from me, too, for exposing us to the culture of our Latin earth-mates, just at a time when we should be building bridges between people (Not Walls!).   And OCT’s, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, was amazing as it takes one through the wonders and heartaches of childhood in a special way.  Bag & Baggage is always very inventive in their productions but their Moby Dick Rehearsed, was especially innovative, truly a classic novel brought to life before your eyes.  Finally, from Portland Center Stage, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, with Mona Golobek, a heart-wrenching story of love and survival.

Some personal observations regarding performance spaces:  I realize this is a capitalistic (bordering on greed in some cases) society but it is very important to preserve the Arts (and artists).  The Media gives a lot of attention to current events, sports and weather, etc. but almost none that focuses on the Arts.  Likewise, many land/building owners seem to be following that lead in downgrading the Arts and raising prices that, I’m sure they realize, Arts groups cannot afford in their extremely limited budgets.

Also parking is a problem in many parts of town and it would behoove a business or religious institution to reach out and offer their parking spaces when they are not in operation.  So, please, if you are one of these organizations or know one, go the extra mile and give this precious commodity, the Arts, a chance to survive!

My main objective is to encourage the viewer to attend Artistic events and support the Arts.  My blog now has over 180,000 views, which is not too shabby in the four years I have had my blog in existence (unending gratitude to my electronic muse, Jennifer, for creating and maintaining it).  A special “shout-out,” too, to Ronnie Lacroute and the WillaKenzie Estate, who may be the most priceless supporter local theatre has!  And when theatres/artists put links to my reviews on their sites, it only enhances the readership and, hopefully, your audiences.  In case you’d rather scan the list to find your own company, the theatres (right-hand column) are listed alphabetically. 

So, without any further exposition, may we have the envelope please . . .

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