Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S8 E36 | FULL EPISODE

The Boston Theater Marathon & Opera Singer Davóne Tines

The program continues to bring art and cultural stories in new ways during the pandemic. The annual Boston Theater Marathon benefit presents their work—online. Then Harvard educated Opera Singer Davóne Tines on his career, his mesmerizing performance in “The Black Clown,” adapted from the Langston Hughes poem and his performance created for Open Studio. Also, Ohio sculptor Arthur Kettner.

AIRED: April 24, 2020 | 0:26:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

the Boston Theater Marathon adds some drama to your lunch.

>> The ten-minute plays, it's sort of like a...

Cracker Jacks, you know, you take one and...

(laughs): And you have to have another.

>> BOWEN: Then, singer Davóne Tines

using his unexpected downtime for reflection.

>> ♪ Freude

♪ Freude, schoöner Goötterfunken ♪

♪ Tochter aus Elysium

>> BOWEN: And a sculptor on his way with clay.

>> I like taking multiple elements in my artwork

and repeat those forms or design elements

and apply them in different ways.

>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.

First up, this was to have been the 22nd year

of the Boston Theater Marathon, an annual event

where some 50 ten-minute plays

are performed live in one marathon session.

Well, undaunted, its organizers have moved forward online,

everyday at noon on Zoom.

Here's a look at one recent rehearsal.

>> What can I do for you, Captain Dawes?

>> Hmm, you can call me Ganny, first of all.

>> Updating.

(computer tones playing)

As you wish, Ganny.

>> Oh... God almighty.

>> Sorry, I didn't quite catch that.

>> I forgot how boring you were straight out of the box.

>> I'm unable to contextualize that remark.

>> Yeah, I bet.

>> BOWEN: Kate Snodgrass, artistic director

of Boston Playwrights Theatre and the Boston Theater Marathon,

thank you so much for joining us.

>> Oh, you're so welcome.

I'm happy to be here.

>> BOWEN: So let me just start by asking...

This is a frenzy, the Boston Theater Marathon.

Uh, give us a sense, before we go into what's new about it,

what you do in this marathon every year.

>> Well, um, it is a frenzy.

You're right, uh...

We do 50 ten-minute plays in ten hours,

and each one is supported

by a different New England theater company.

So we get about 400 entries each year.

We weed them down to 50.

We get the, the best-known actors,

the most experienced actors,

and, and some of, even students who are

just starting their careers.

So it really runs the gamut.

And each theater company casts their own play.

So, you know, who they know, it depends,

and every actor in the, in the city is available.

>> BOWEN: Of course, this year, you had to change everything,

and, and I really applaud you.

I've seen what you've done,

because you were faced with a situation

where obviously, you couldn't present this in person.

As you've just described, you normally do all in one day,

but you put it on Zoom, you've done something different,

and it's working.

When did you decide to do, and how are you doing it?

>> It's really been sort of oddly fun,

in that each theater company sort of puts their play on,

but they use, some of them use sound,

some of them use setting, even.

Especially if it's a one-person play,

they can set it anywhere they want,

in a kitchen or a bathroom,

um, and they're using the medium.

>> (sighs): Thank you, thank you, God,

for making Stanley Benson

have to go to the bathroom at that moment.

I could not have made small talk with that man

for another second.

>> We're in our third week of performance now.

As we go along, they get more concise

and more, you know, apt for Zoom.

So it's been really interesting and fun.

>> BOWEN: What have you noticed about how people are joining in

and what the feedback has been?

>> Well, the feedback's been great.

I think one...

You know, we're all separated,

all alone in our houses.

And to come together like this has been really...

It's been a joy for me.

I was surprised, I thought, "No, this is work."

But it's not, it's not work.

It's what we love to do.

And we get to be together.

>> BOWEN: I remember when we spoke about this for radio

at the very beginning, and you wouldn't, you weren't sure

what would happen necessarily, with video as a medium.

So what have you seen?

What, what are the lengths to which people have gone now,

now they're not necessarily confined to a building

and/or a stage?

>> Right, um...

Well, one play comes to mind.

It was a one-woman play set in a bathroom

and she entered as, as the play would,

as going onstage, and then talk to the mirror,

as she would in the play.

>> Why was Stanley being so nice to me?

Was he really drunk?

He didn't seem thatdrunk.

Is he separated?

(scoffs): Not that it matters much anymore.

Stuart wouldn't notice or care if I had an affair.

>> So that play lent itself, you know,

to this medium.

You know, there was a fight on stage,

and the actors were grappling back and forth on Zoom.

Someone showed a flower,

that they smelled-- they've really...

It's been absolutely thrilling to see what people come up with.

>> BOWEN: What's the range of subject matter you see

presented in these plays?

And to go back to a point you made earlier, are they juried?

How do you decide who gets into the Boston Theater Marathon?

>> Well, they are juried somewhat,

because we do get 400 entries.

So, uh, we have readers that, that take a look

at all of the plays,

and then they come together.

They send the best plays

that they think are the best plays

to the final readers.

There's tragedy, there's comedy,

there's farce, there's satire-- political satire.

There's, you know, you can't, you can't lose.

Uh, the ten-minute plays, it's sort of like a...

Cracker Jacks, you know? You take one...

(laughs): And you have to have another.

Plus, the good news is that, that, you know,

in nine minutes, it's over.

If you don't like it, you can go on to the next day.

>> BOWEN: Well, I'm also very much intrigued about,

and this is your area of expertise, of course,

what can be accomplished in ten minutes?

How do you guide people, is there a rule of thumb,

or how do you, how do you characterize it?

>> Yeah, I think, you know,

I like to think of a ten-minute play as a, as a crisis point.

Usually, you know, the genre allows one thing to happen

and then the play is over.

So it's, it's deceptively simple

and deceptively hard at the same time.

You have to let us know who these people are,

what the problem is,

and then resolve the problem in ten minutes.

>> Stop doing it.

>> Hey, hey... >> Just tell me

when you're going to stop doing it.

>> Now-- now! I'm going to stop now.

>> I don't believe you.

>> BOWEN: Well, it just occurred to me, too, that the...

It's a challenge for the actors.

You, you have no time to ramp up.

You have no time to get into your character development.

You have to be there.

>> You have to know the backstory, absolutely.

And I think most,

most of the rehearsals of the plays have to do with that.

What has happened before the play begins?

Once you make that choice, then you're up, you know, up,

ramping up, as you say, to, to conflict.

>> No disrespect, but if a Parisian ate this,

they would vomit.

That's the unvarnished truth.

They would vomit all over your Target tea towels.

>> My mother made these towels, not Target.

>> Oops! Sorry.

I mean, the pattern looks generic,

I thought it was mass-produced.

>> BOWEN: The wonderful part of this, too, is that it benefits

the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund,

which is a fund, well, I'll let you explain

why that fund in particular is so necessary right now.

>> It's so necessary, yes.

We've been supporting

the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund

for 22 years now.

And, um, what it does is

allow theater artists in the area who are in trouble,

or theater companies in trouble,

to apply to the fund so that they can get help.

So it's, it's vital now, especially,

because we're all out of work

and theater companies are dark, and I, I worry

that we'll lose some theater companies because of it.

So we, we put in a link to the Benevolent Fund

and also to the theater company every day that we support,

where you can give to that company.

And everybody needs it, so...

I hope, I hope people will give.

>> BOWEN: Well, Kate Snodgrass,

thank you so much for being with us.

And for all of your innovation over the last few weeks,

congratulations.

>> Thank you.

>> BOWEN: Harvard-educated opera singer Davóne Tines

was scheduled to perform here earlier this month

with Celebrity Series.

Of course, now all of his concerts nationwide

have been canceled.

But he recently joined me to talk about his vision

for the performance of a religious mass

with an African American interpretation.

But first, a performance he devised just for us.

>> ♪ Joyful, joyful Lord

♪ We adore Thee

♪ God of glory

♪ Lord of love

♪ Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee ♪

♪ Hail Thee as the sun up above ♪

♪ Melt the clouds of sin and sadness ♪

♪ Drive the dark of doubt away

♪ Yes

♪ Giver of immortal gladness

♪ Yes

♪ Fill us with the light of

♪ Fill us with the light of day ♪

♪ Fill us

♪ With the light

♪ Of day

♪ Singing nobody knows

♪ The trouble I've seen

♪ Nobody knows

♪ My sorrow

♪ Singing nobody knows

♪ The trouble I've seen

♪ Glory, glory

♪ Hallelujah

♪ I'm sometimes up

♪ And I'm sometimes down

♪ Singing nobody knows

♪ My sorrow

♪ I'm almost level

♪ To the ground

♪ Singing glory, yes, glory

♪ Hallelujah, oh

♪ Nobody knows

♪ The trouble I've seen

♪ Nobody knows my sorrow

♪ Singing nobody knows

♪ The trouble I've seen

♪ Singing glory, yes, glory

♪ Hallelujah, oh

♪ Glory, yes, glory

♪ Hallelujah, oh

♪ Glory, glory

(holding note)

♪ Hallelujah

(holding last note)

>> BOWEN: Davóne Tines, thank you so much for joining us.

It's a pleasure to have you.

>> Thank you, it's a pleasure to talk with you.

>> BOWEN: So... just to start, we see you here

in kind of your origin story, I think.

Tell me about where we're talking to you right now.

>> Uh, right now, I'm in Warrington, Virginia.

It's a town near where I grew up.

It's where my high school is.

And right now I'm also in First Baptist Church,

which is a church that my grandfather

is one of the music directors for.

>> BOWEN: What place did the church have

in your finding music as a child?

>> The church was the first place

that I encountered regular music-making.

Everyone in my family was required to go to church

since, you know, you were born,

and since you could sing, everyone was required

to go to choir rehearsal and participate in choir.

So that's been a part of my life since I can remember, really.

>> BOWEN: I'm really intrigued by what you were going to do--

sadly, it was canceled-- for your Celebrity Series concert.

You were going to perform a mass.

But it's one that you have devised,

not something that would be so conventional

or that people would already know.

>> Definitely, um, yeah, there are a lot of influences

that led to kind of that realization

of what that program would be, um...

Especially growing up in the church.

And ever since I was young and sitting in gospel choirs--

like, playing violin once in, you know,

in symphony orchestras--

but then sitting in a gospel choir rehearsal

and hearing similar chord progressions,

hearing similar ideas,

I just wanted to communicate to people

how different musics from different traditions

and different peoples

can have a similar spiritual or emotional effect

to kind of show egality between these things

and show that, you know, ultimately we are all connected,

even though we express ourselves in very different ways.

>> BOWEN: What is the range of music that you--

and it will happen again,

we have that confidence, after this pandemic--

but that you will present in this program?

>> Uh, yeah, thankfully, I'm presenting the program

in a number of different places.

And although I'm disappointed

about the cancellation in Boston,

I do hope to perform soon in the area.

Um, so...

Yeah, the music spans a whole range from, you know,

traditional gospel, early Negro spirituals,

things that I grew up with or things that I came

to a deeper understanding of.

A lot of liturgical music, including Bach,

and then contrasting it with more personal compositions.

So hopefully a lot of different colors will come through.

But then people will also see how they connect.

>> BOWEN: You're a creator, as well.

Are you using this time to, as a prompt, to...

As a way to process,

especially recognizing how song connects us

and, and it is our way through society and through times?

>> Definitely, um...

I think a really special thing about this time is,

it's not exactly like it's been a huge impetus

to make a lot of new things,

but it's been the gift of a lot of time and space

to explore more deeply

things that I've already been interested in.

>> BOWEN: As I mentioned at the outset,

a lot of Boston audiences, a lot of Boston-area audiences,

will know you from The Black Clown that you did

at American Repertory Theater,

and then took on to New York.

>> ♪ From Africa

♪ To Georgia

(holding note)

(horns playing)

>> BOWEN: I understand that you're going

back to that project

and continue to work with it.

What are you doing?

>> Definitely, with my close collaborator and friend--

I kind of refer to him as my art husband-- Zack Winokur.

He was the director forThe Black Clown.

The two of us have been asked by Lincoln Center

to kind of open up a conversation

connected to that piece.

>> ♪ Freedom

♪ Oh, freedom

Whoo!

>> So right now we're kind of making something

for the digital space,

since that's where we all live right now.

That is a further... >> BOWEN: I...

I should just interrupt, actually,

and I should mention for people

who didn't have the opportunity to see the piece,

it is based on Langston Hughes' poem,

and what you've done with it,

how you've interpreted that piece.

>> Definitely, um, yes,

along with the composer Mike Schachter,

a collaborator I've known since college,

we dove really deep into that poem.

>> ♪ Oh, sometimes I feel

♪ Like a motherless child

>> ♪ A long way from home

>> And then figuring out how to realize it for the stage,

because that was kind of Langston Hughes'

initial, I guess, wish for the poem.

It's structured that way,

to be performed in front of people.

So we wanted to figure out, what is it to, you know,

put one's life experience into that work,

into those words, into that monologue?

>> BOWEN: Davóne Tines, such a pleasure to speak with you.

And we look, we all look forward to a time

where we'll be back in the concert hall together,

especially to see you-- thank you.

>> Thank you.

>> BOWEN: After serving in the United States Navy,

Arthur Kettner set his sights on art school.

Today, the Ohio sculptor finds himself in--

and making-- fine form.

>> My artwork is based around structure.

I like taking multiple elements in my artwork

and repeat those forms or design elements

and apply them in different ways.

Some of my artwork, like myBacteria series,

I'm using organic forms

and I'm tumble-stacking them together in this chaotic way,

and they're chopped up and reassembled into ways

that suggest a mechanical-ness to them,

but yet have an organic feel.

Clay wants to go natural.

So, working against clay's own predisposition has been,

has been a really interesting challenge.

After my service at the United States Navy,

participating in Desert Shield, Desert Storm,

and becoming a veteran,

I moved back to Ohio

and I completed my bachelor's degree

at Bowling Green State University

in ceramics, glass, and computer art.

I taught for two years at Sinclair Community College,

and it really set me up for wanting to go to grad school.

That I understood that there was more to ceramics

that I wanted to know.

I was accepted to Tyler School of Art

at Temple University in Philadelphia.

So, my wife and I moved to Philadelphia

so I could become a grad student.

During that time, my first child was born,

and I knew when I graduated that I needed to get a job.

After finishing my Master's of Fine Arts degree,

I started to work for industry.

For an artist to work in industry

is an interesting proposition.

So, I received a typical job,

like color-matching at a glass enamel place.

And, so somebody would say, "I want you to make this color."

So, I would use the chemicals and then we'd make a color.

During that time working in the industry,

I learned how to be more formulaic,

how I could use scientific method

to understand the materials I was working with.

A lot of these places, I did work under chemical engineers,

and I was a sponge.

They would start talking and I would just sit there and listen.

So, I really grew as a technical artist,

if that makes sense, in the way

that I could understand my materials better

and how to apply them in more effective ways.

During the past 14 years of working in the industry,

it's always been a challenge to make art.

Family obligations, work obligations,

and there are so many hours in a day, but somehow,

I always found time to make things.

Being the inaugural artist-in-residence

at the Rosewood Arts Centre

is very special to me.

I feel very fortunate that this opportunity

had presented itself.

To be able to come

into this wonderful community asset

and work with other artists of all levels

is just a wonderful opportunity.

A clear glaze on porcelain

is not gonna necessarily look the same

as clear glaze on a stoneware body.

I think that the Rosewood Arts Centre

is such a gem in this town.

There are so many opportunities here

for children and for adults

to really explore themselves in their art.

Because back in the day, before sodium silicate,

anytime somebody had to make a cup or a bowl

or anything like that,

they had to throw it on the wheel.

It's given me, an artist, a great opportunity

to come in and make work--

I have a little studio space--

and really make the work I'm making today.

This is pushing my skill limit

to the very edge of what my ability is.

I've been doing ceramics for around 20 years now.

And I love the medium,

but I want to explore some more things.

I've got more ideas

that don't lend themselves to ceramics, so, going forward,

it's gonna be interesting, because I have this great chance

after this residency program

to really evolve as an artist,

and really take things up to more of a sculptural level.

I want to be more of a sculptor

instead of just considered a clay artist.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, when art emerges from crisis.

I.C.A. director Jill Medvedow reflects.

>> I do find that there is some optimism in imagining that,

when this is all in the rear-view mirror,

many artists, I think, will let us walk in their shoes.

>> BOWEN: Then, a battle over building.

The story of how architect Mies van der Rohe's

famed Farnsworth House came together

before it came apart.

>> It's probably the best regarded,

the most highly regarded example

of Modernist residential architecture

of the 20th century.

>> BOWEN: All that and more next week onOpen Studio.

I'm Jared Bowen, thanks for joining us.

And as always, you can visit us online at wgbh.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

>> ♪ O Freunde

♪ Nicht diese Toöne ♪

♪ Sondern lasßt uns ♪

♪ Angenehmere Anstimmen

♪ Und freudenvollere

(continues singing phrase)

♪ Freude

♪ Freude

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