WEDU Arts Plus


Episode 921

Artist Lisa DiFranza of Bradenton creates daily sketches to help herself and the community process life during covid-19. Learn the history of a theater company that blossomed in an unlikely Colorado town. Historical photographs by Frank Hurley chronicle the adventures of legendary explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. The Amenda Quartet from New York, set out to play all sixteen of Beethoven's quartets.

AIRED: November 05, 2020 | 0:26:45

(bright upbeat music)

- [Narrator] This is a production of WEDU PBS

Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota.

Major funding for WEDU Arts Plus is provided

through The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

by an arts loving donor who encourages others

to support your PBS station WEDU.

And by the Pinellas Community Foundation,

Giving Humanity a Hand Since 1969.

{\an1}- [Dalia] In this edition of WEDU Arts Plus,

{\an1}a local artists completes hundreds of sketches

{\an1}to help herself and our community process COVID-19.

- [Lisa] Sketching came organically

because it's a way to process and share

{\an1}with the online community,

the experience of living on earth now.

- [Dalia] The roots of a repertory theater.

{\an1}- Coming out to Colorado, to the Rocky Mountains,

starting a theater, in an honest to goodness,

all West mining town,

this is an adventure.

- [Dalia] Historical photographs of an epic journey.

- [Alasdair] So where are we now?

{\an1}We're in a situation where we're all imperiled,

but we're still gonna keep recording documents

and what we do,

because that story is gonna be even

perhaps more important than the story of crossing Antarctic.

- [Dalia] And the palette of emotion

experienced through 16 string quartets.

- You would like to play Beethoven

because he expresses all aspects

of the human the experience.

- It's all coming up next on WEDU Arts Plus.

(bright upbeat music)

Hello, I'm Dalia Colon

{\an1}and this is WEDU Arts Plus.

When Lisa DiFranza got laid off

from her job due to COVID-19

the very next day she broke open

{\an1}in a set of gouache paints

she'd had sitting around the house.

Now more than 200 sketches later,

the Bradenton resident is using her daily art practice

{\an1}to help heal our community.

(bright upbeat music)

{\an2}- My name is Lisa DiFranza,

and I'm here today to talk with you

about the Sketch-a-Day project

that kind of emerged organically

out of this COVID-19 world health crisis.

(gentle music)

So when I got laid off from my job,

I started sketching and I didn't know it,

but it was going to be the beginning

of sketching every day

and posting it online.

(gentle music)

I come from a family of visual artists,

even though my sort of career and work life

has always been in the performing arts as a director

or as an educator.

But I think sketching came organically

because it's a way to process and share with the community,

the online community,

the experience of living on earth now.

(gentle music)

I started posting on Facebook and Instagram,

I added Twitter.

The response has been really interesting

and people were writing saying,

{\an2}"This is part of the way I'm processing through COVID,"

or, "Could I get a copy of this?"

So I began to work with Artsource Studio in Sarasota

to make fine art limited edition prints of the sketches.

So when that started to happen,

{\an2}I launched a website where you can see the sketches

and the odyssey of COVID through my eyes anyway.

(gentle music)

- So at this point I have purchased two of Lisa sketches,

Splashy Sunset Over Route 41 Motel

and Hopeful Moon Over Bradenton.

And what I found with her sketches,

{\an2}I was watching her posts these everyday on social media,

and they were so timely.

We are all experiencing this array

of emotions every single day

{\an2}and Lisa was capturing those emotions every single day.

And so there were some of those that she captured an emotion

{\an2}that I really related to.

And so those were the two I selected.

One of them, is a moon and it's beautiful,

but it's hopeful.

And she has that piece of it

{\an2}and, it's over the water.

{\an2}And the other one though is an old motel on Route 41

{\an2}and there was something really poetic about that as well.

And that, that wasn't that stereotypical beautiful scenery,

but she made it feel really beautiful.

And so I truly appreciate her ability

to capture all of these emotions

that we've been feeling during this time.

And I think even though she was doing it daily in the end,

when you look back on it and as a collective,

it truly encapsulates all of the things

that we've been feeling.

- As far as processing COVID goes,

I think tempest-tost is an image of the Statue of Liberty

that really to me, sort of emerged

from my confusion about the American experiment.

I've done a couple of theater images.

I miss theater.

{\an2}I recently did a remembering curtain call image

that just came out of missing that feeling

{\an2}of being in a live theater

for a live performance

and the energy and excitement of that.

And of course, I worked in theater

so much that it's so close to me

and I feel for all the workers in theater

who really have no work.

Also there's some of the sunrises and sunsets

that are close to me

because they're right from our neighborhood,

our doors and our dock and the river

and the river has just been so much

{\an2}a part of this time for me.

And I have never had the time to see and think in this way.

(gentle music)

I think sketching marks the day,

whereas everything else is blurry,

but sketching every day I wake up and I do this

and it marks a new day (chuckles).

(gentle music)

The other thing I think that's therapeutic

is being able through social media,

which is weird because I'm not a big social media person,

but being able to share with other people

and get a response.

{\an2}So I feel like that helps to process communally

even when we can't.

(gentle music)

- Well, I think what Lisa has been able to remind us all of

is that art has the ability to speak when our words don't.

And so whether it is relating to something that she created

or creating something on your own,

it really is therapeutic in so many ways.

{\an2}And when we're alone, as we have been so much recently,

that connection through art is even more vital

than it ever was before.

(bright upbeat music)

- I think there is nothing more gratifying

than making something from nothing.

And my advice would be just do it

{\an2}don't judge what comes out.

One thing that I've really gotten

out of the sketch of day thing

is sometimes I don't love the sketch

and it's really been very, very wonderful

to not get too hung up about it

because I know next day's a new day.

{\an2}I know I can start again.

{\an2}Another blank piece of paper, just produce it, share it,

produce it, share it.

(gentle music)

- Lisa DiFranza sketches are on display

at Art Ovation Hotel in Sarasota

through January 18th.

The exhibition is called "Timelapse 2020".

To see more visit

In the 1960s, the people of Creede, Colorado

{\an2}founded a theater company as a way to revive

and sustain a struggling mining town.

Now more than 50 years later,

{\an2}the company is a nationally

recognized theatrical enterprise.

(upbeat music)

- [Carrie] Christy Brandt commute to work is two blocks.

{\an2}Still, most days it takes nearly an hour to navigate.

Traffic can't be blamed for the delay.

Nope, Creed is not prone to that.

What holds Brandt up? Her fans.

- Hi babe, how are you? - I'm good. (kisses)

- I think some people that come here aren't necessarily

{\an2}that attracted to everybody knowing who you are,

everybody knowing what you do

and where you are every day.

I truly feel like I'm a part of this community.

- [Carrie] That sense of community has had

a more practical purpose too.

It has helped the Creed Repertory Theater to thrive.

♪ I got it all ♪

♪ Right ♪

♪ Here ♪

(crowd cheering)

Understanding that though, means looking back 50 years.

{\an2}- Well, and you see them, the mine had shut down

{\an2}and we was afraid that the town would dry up and blow away.

So we created this to keep the town a gone.

- [Carrie] I feel like it was 23 years old

when Creed Repertory Theater

put on its first productions in 1966.

{\an2}- This is the mining town

{\an2}and it was rough and tough.

And we had never seen anything like actual theater.

{\an2}So it was just mind boggling how those people

could remember all of those lines.

- [Carrie] But before a single line was spoken

{\an2}Liken and Jim Livingston had to pitch the theater idea

to its junior Chamber of Commerce

a foreign concept in the small community,

250 miles Southwest of Denver.

- Everyone fished and not everyone went around

and partied from ranch to ranch.

So there might be something in town

and it might be good for the economy

{\an2}and it might also be good for the local people

who didn't get to do a whole lot of things.

{\an2}- [Carrie] Creeds Chamber of Commerce agreed.

Still a key component was missing, the talent.

- I knew that if we were gonna do it,

{\an2}there was no frame of reference here for theater.

I knew a drama department at one of the major universities

would be able to supply that.

{\an2}And if someone were crazy enough to come here,

because we didn't have any money,

just a raw material

and an old opera house and few other things,

well then maybe we could pull it off.

- [Carrie] It doesn't theater students

{\an2}from the University of Kansas caught wind of the idea.

Crazy or not, Steve Reed was among those who embraced it.

- I was thinking, okay,

coming out to Colorado, to the Rocky Mountains,

starting a theater, in an honest to goodness,

old West mining town, this is an adventure.

{\an2}- We opened our homes in our community with those kids

to put those plays on.

{\an2}We gave them a chance and they gave us a chance

to learn what theater was all about.

{\an2}So it was a two way deal.

- I've never been to a place like this,

where you feel like people, once you're in their family.

- [Carrie] CRT garnered national attention

during Maurice LaMee, 12 years of leadership.

As former Executive and Artistic Director,

LaMee also helped expand its footprint,

{\an2}both in and out of Creed,

{\an2}adding a second theater and staging work in Denver.

- I think you have to be more cautious

when you're the Denver Center Theater Company

{\an2}or you're, a major theater company in a way.

There's more at risk

here you can kind of take chances

{\an2}no one's gonna know that you messed up (laughing).

- [Carrie] Jessica Jackson is Creed's

{\an2}current Artistic Director.

- I found an audition advertisement for the 2015 season

and it said, quote,

"We're hiring a family of artists."

Does that stem from the fact that the community

and the theater are so tightly knit?

{\an2}- When we bring in our summer company of about 90,

we're increasing the population of Creed

by 20 something percent.

And so we feel like we have a responsibility

to bring in people who are going

to not only be good company members,

but be good community members too,

because whether you like it or not,

{\an2}you are not anonymous here.

You are a member of this community.

- [Carrie] As a founding company member,

Gary Mitchell was among the first to experience

the close relationship between the theater

and the community.

{\an2}- Well, it was Mr. Roberts.

It was June 26, 1966

we'd been working on this play for 10 days,

but we'd also been working on building a theater for 10 days

and surviving as a company for 10 days.

{\an2}We were having so much fun finally doing a show,

even though the paint was wet.

{\an2}And there was this incredible feeling and energy.

- [Carrie] The theater has had

less than incredible moments too.

- But then in 1970, when the theater burned,

that could have been yet for me

I mean, the managing directors that year,

now they could have just said,

{\an2}"We can't do this anymore."

But they came out here

they met with some of the townspeople

and they all got together and say,

"We can do this, let's just do it."

- [Carrie] And they did restoring

the theater scorched interior in one month's time.

Audiences then, and now are eager to fill seats.

Jessica Jackson pointed out part of the reason

for strong ticket sales is CRT is longstanding

{\an2}and exceedingly rare choice

to run performances in Repertory.

{\an2}- There is the opportunity for audience members

to see six different performances in one weekend here.

And that is a monumental task for an actor.

That means being able to run four different shows

in one week.

(audience applauding)

- [Carrie] And for the production and technical crew,

it means this.

(bright upbeat music)

There's something else that sets Creede apart

from other theater companies,

instead of its actors slipping out the stage door,

after a show, they do the opposite.

{\an2}- This is a very valuable experience for Creed.

It makes everybody that comes to the theater,

feel more a part of the theater,

{\an2}and it makes us understand what this art can do for people.

{\an2}- [Steve] There've always been ups and downs

there always are,

but this community is just so amazing.

{\an2}- [Phil] I'm mighty proud of what they're doing.

And we had no idea that it would last this long.

- [Gary] It's grown beyond anything

that I ever could have imagined.

This is something great.

- [Carrie] But for Christy Brandt

{\an2}and everyone else at Creede Repertory Theater,

it's just another day at work.

- Find out more about this theater company

{\an2}by visiting

Legendary explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton

{\an2}undertakes a transient Arctic expedition with his crew.

Those treacherous times are brought

to life in historic photographs by Frank Hurley.

(dramatic music)

- He hired Frank Hurley to be as photographer,

who is the best of the best at the time.

They put together an amazing team,

but then they get stuck in the ice for almost two years.

{\an2}To me is an amazing story

and then to have them all make it back alive.

It's just an extraordinary story.

(dramatic music)

- The whole point I think, Hurley there

{\an2}was to then create the film and the stills photography,

{\an2}which would then be sold on their return to Britain

and the money from those sales

would effectively underwrite the cost

of the expedition for Shackleton.

(dramatic music)

{\an2}I think Shackleton's a very modern communicator.

He and Hurley have a real skill in communicating ideas

about what they're trying to do

and modulating what they are doing

'cause they failed in the idea of reaching

to cross the continent.

So where are we now?

{\an2}We're in a situation where we're all in peril,

but we're still gonna keep recording

{\an2}and documenting what we do

because that story is gonna be even perhaps more important

than the story of crossing the Antarctic.

{\an2}- Well, my grandfather was aware of the importance

of photographs and media

because like all expeditions,

they had Chubb, they had to pay their debts

so they could do that by lecturing

and writing and having exhibitions.

Also of course, above all, to get the story out of that,

because it was such a novelty.

{\an2}They're not quite vague about where the Antarctic was.

It was probably for polar bears with that.

- We think there were about 400

glass plate negatives that had been processed by Hurley

and we have 98 in the society's collections.

So there is, I think another 30 to 40

that have never been discovered.

{\an2}The reason why Hurley destroyed the glass plates

on the edge of the ship, has it saying

was that he didn't want the other men to take

from the souvenirs.

So he had done the pre edit on the photographs

{\an2}and the ones that he chose, I think are the best.

I think he did an edit

that was just perfect in terms

of the very best quality pictures.

{\an2}If you look at the Pantheon of great photographers,

Hurley is there.

And I know speaking to many documentary

filmmakers and photographers,

{\an2}they absolutely recognize his contribution.

Many of them have been inspired by him.

{\an2}And I think going forward over the next generations,

that won't diminish.

{\an2}The story of the leadership is such an exceptional one.

I think, we can all learn something

{\an2}from what Shackleton does.

And I do think it's a really modern approach.

I think, it could have happened yesterday

with the right people in charge

with the right set of skills

{\an2}and this idea of communicating with his man

and saying, "This is what we're gonna do

"We are gonna get to safety."

{\an2}It's a very modern concept.

(gentle music)

{\an2}There's a very famous picture called The Nightwatchman.

And if you look in the photograph,

there is this very ghostly fifth face now

that appears in the background.

The one thing we haven't been able

to use to identify who it is,

but that wasn't seen before.

And then in many of the photographs

{\an2}you see the kind of mid ground detail has just opened up.

The other ones that I love are the ones

where you have depth of field.

So the pictures of the interior of the ship,

the Reps, as they described it,

you can now see each of the different rooms,

each of the little cubicles and the names they gave to them.

And maybe the best one is a photograph

of the interior of Shackleton's cabin,

{\an2}which has all of the books from their library there.

Before you couldn't read the spines

now you know exactly what they were reading.

So you can see they how the whole set

{\an2}of Encyclopedia Britannica.

(gentle music)

- The sheer beauty of the images

gets most people are interested.

- These photographs are given an opportunity

to see what was like a hundred years ago.

But there's the whole art side of this,

the whole concept of these platinum prints

and how these glass plates survived

and how beautiful they really are.

{\an2}There is as fine as any black and white photography

I know of.

(dramatic music)

{\an2}- Learn about current exhibitions

{\an2}at the Bowers Museum at

Listen and watch as the Amenda Quartet

of Rochester, New York attempts to play all 16

of Beethoven String Quartets.

{\an2}We'll also see what they're learning along the way.

{\an2}(energetic quartet music)

- [David] Project Lord VIG is a project

of the Amendment String Quartet.

In fact, we formed for this project,

{\an2}which is to play all the Beethoven string quartets.

There are 16 of them.

{\an2}(energetic quartet music)

It's a gigantic project

and our excitement about it was such

{\an2}that we have been at it for almost six years now.

- [Mimi] Beethoven wrote 16 string quartets

and it's something that a lot of string quartet

want to do is to be able to play

all of the Beethoven instruments quartets.

- [David] I think most, maybe all the quartets

{\an2}I've ever heard of that have dared to take it on,

have been full-time string quartets.

Of course, we're all professional musicians,

but we all make our livings through many means orchestra

and teaching other projects, businesses,

even outside of the quartet.

These are extremely difficult works,

{\an2}and most full-time quartets will play almost every day

{\an2}rehearsal almost every day.

{\an2}We don't have that luxury.

{\an2}And so we have to be extremely efficient as we work.

{\an2}(energetic quartet music)

- We were playing the 16 pieces

over nine months between September of this year

to June of next spring

{\an2}and playing about one quartet every three weeks

and playing all the quartets in different venues

{\an2}around the Rochester area.

Music of Beethoven from all different periods

at the same time like we're doing today,

{\an2}you're learning so much about him and his development

{\an2}and the way that his music moves

{\an2}and it's different from the beginning to the end.

(gentle quartet music)

- We would like to play Beethoven

because at least for me,

because he expresses all aspects of the human experience

from exuberant joy and hopefulness to tragedy, despair,

and even anger, frustration,

it's all there in the music and all presented

with the most brilliant technique,

compositional technique as well.

He had it all, mind and heart.

(gentle quartet music)

- [Mimi] And a few of us have played

in full-time string quartets before.

{\an2}And we just decided we wanted to do this project

about five years ago.

- They told me it is incredibly relevant to us now

it's timeless music, it's beautiful music

and it touches people of all different ages

{\an2}and of all different times.

{\an2}Beethoven moves people in ways

{\an2}that everything in music

{\an2}and music is just universal.

{\an2}(energetic quartet music)

{\an2}- To rehearse with colleagues whose artistry

and opinions you respect so highly as I do,

my colleagues is a great pleasure.

It brings you to a better level of yourself

and as for me, there's nothing more satisfying

after all these decades of playing

and to get better

and to play more beautifully.

And so they told me and Patty and Mimi

all inspire drive that process.

{\an2}(energetic quartet music)

- [Mimi] Feel so fortunate to be able

to play this wonderful music

it's so delightful and so life affirming.

{\an2}(energetic quartet music)

- To hear more visit

And that wraps it up for this edition

of WEDU Arts Plus.

{\an2}For more arts and culture visit

Until next time, I'm Dalia Colon.

Thanks for watching.

(drum beat music)

{\an2}- [Narrator] Major funding for WEDU Arts Plus

is provided through The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

by an arts loving donor who encourages others

to support your PBS station WEDU

and by the Pinellas Community Foundation,

Giving Humanity a Hand Since 1969.

(bright upbeat music)