WLIW Arts Beat


WLIW Arts Beat - October 5, 2020

In this edition of WLIW Arts Beat, a musical that tells the story of the Transcontinental Railroad; transforming chunks of wood into wooden bowls; bringing images to life through animation; a hybrid theatre artist who makes memorable works of art.

AIRED: October 05, 2020 | 0:26:50



>> In this edition of

"WLIW Arts Beat"...

an inspirational musical about

the Transcontinental Railroad...

>> I'm hoping, number one, that

children will realize the great

achievement that was made by our

nation 150 years ago, that, once

again, they will see that people

from diverse cultures can

transcend any differences and

come together.

>> ...creating beautiful bowls

out of wooden logs...

>> I don't start with a certain

shape in mind because it's

depending on the piece of wood.

I like to turn stuff when it's

green, so you could literally go

out and cut a tree down, take a

piece of wood, put it on the

lathe, and you can make a bowl

the same day.

>> ...the power of animation...

>> This is an art, and it's a

business, and it uses technology

to flourish and build and grow

and thrive and everything.

It's a very important aspect of

our life.

>> ...a theater artist whose

work sparks wonder...

>> I like sort of keeping myself

on edge a little bit in terms of

what I dream up.

I like to shock myself a little

bit sometimes.

>> It's all ahead on this

edition of "WLIW Arts Beat."

Funding for "WLIW Arts Beat" was

made possible by...

Welcome to "WLIW Arts Beat."

I'm Diane Masciale.

As part of Utah's celebration of

the 150th anniversary of the

Transcontinental Railroad, the

musical "As One" tells the story

of those who constructed this

extraordinary railroad that

linked the East and the West.

In this segment, we go behind

the scenes of the musical.

>> ♪ And right now is our time

>> Then the Chinese rail comes


You're gonna be behind them.

>> I think the story of the

Transcontinental Railroad is

such a compelling story of the

people who made it happen.

I'm not talking about the high

rollers, not the money people,

the Leland Stanfords

and the Dodges and even

President Abraham Lincoln,

who put it all in motion with an

act that he signed but the

unsung heroes who were largely

outcasts of our society.

The Chinese laborers,

the Irish immigrants,

the freed African slaves,

and the Mormon pioneers --

they were all outcasts,

and those are the people who did

the backbreaking work and made

it all happen, and they became

as one.

The whole world should hear this


>> ♪ As one

[ Applause ]

>> 3...4...5.

That this goes off, the girls

have to be so fast.

I got a call from Craig Jessop,

and he got my name from

Mark Dietlein as somebody who

works with children and could

put this piece together.

And Craig Jessop being the

conductor of the

Mormon Tabernacle Choir --

to me, in my world, in the music

world, he's a rock star.

So when I got a call from him, I

was like, "It's Craig Jessop!,"

you know?

Anyway, he called me, and he

asked me if I would direct this

piece, and then they decided for

it to go in a slightly different

direction, and then he said,

"We need you write it,"

so that's how I first came on as

a director, and then I ended up

writing it.

>> I felt this should be geared

towards children and families.

The reason why is I'm a father

of 4 and a grandfather of 10,

and I know my grandchildren

don't know anything about this

at all.

I wanted to tell the next

generation about this story, and

when I presented that to the

steering committee, they liked

the idea a lot, and so we ran

with it.

>> ♪ For a break that never

lasts ♪

♪ Though we may seem we're all

at odds, there's one thing

we agree ♪

>> When we started doing the

research on this remarkable

story, ideas and themes and the

things that we wanted to

communicate through the music

started coming through.

We started doing some research

on composers and filmwork of

stuff that we thought was


We listened a little bit to a

musical called "Bright Star"

that was written by

Steve Martin.

We listened to the soundtrack

to a movie called

"Fievel Goes West."

It was part 2 of

"American Tail."

We resourced scores like this.

We didn't want the music to feel

too overly, like, boom-chucky,

and so it would feel cheesy.

We wanted it to really re-create

emotion for people when they

were listening to this music.

>> ♪ Doing all the work no one

else would take ♪

>> ♪ Left with the echoes

ringing ♪

♪ Ringing in our ears

>> You're just the man I've been

waiting to talk to!

This is Grenville Dodge.

He's a great engineer and


Dodge, what's the best route for

a Pacific railroad to the west?

>> It will start somewhere...

>> This is his vision from the

very beginning that it would be

about kids and that it would

appeal to children, especially,

like, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th,

that band right in there.

And I think the people that he

chose, Stephen and Anjanette,

were perfect to write this

'cause it's really catchy, and I

think kids are gonna listen to

it and want to sing with it

right away.

So, that was kind of our hope

and our idea.

This is the educational piece of

the entire celebration.

>> ♪ The proof is all around

us ♪

♪ That right now is our time

♪ We set our sights, now we'll

jump in line ♪

>> Children and especially

children actors -- I don't treat

them any different than


I might laugh with them and kid

with them a little bit more,

but if you --

They're professionals.

They know what they're doing.

These kids that are out there --

I don't have to teach them

how to behave.

I might, like, bend a little bit

or say, "Hey, the next time you

do a show like this," but I also

am a great believer in them and

their ability.

There's a lot of people who

think just 'cause they're little

they can't hold an audience.

It really has nothing to do with

how old you are.

It's a different ability.

A lot of people are just --

These kids are, like, born with

it, just like a grown-up.

I have a great faith in the

ability of a child to teach and

move people in theater just the

same as a grown-up.

>> It's good and flat all the

way to the Rocky Mountains.

The other railroad will start

east out of Sacramento,


Then they will meet here,

somewhere in the middle.

>> We will pay each railroad for

every mile of track they lay.

>> I really felt this is

important because this is a

community that didn't really get

the coverage they deserved, and

so it's kind of an emotional

experience for me to be able to

represent them.

>> ♪ You realize what you really

want ♪

>> It's been really, really neat

to learn about, you know, the

Irish immigrants that came and

left -- most of them left their

families to come and work on the

railroad and to help bring the

two railroads together.

It's been fun.

>> ♪ The proof is all around

us ♪

>> Hannah is the only woman that

saw the completion of the

railroad, so she was there from

when it started on the

West Coast to when it ended at

Promontory Summit.

And she was kind of this

motherly character for all

the men.

They would come to her house,

and she would fix them up.

She'd cook them dinner.

She kind of took care of them

along the way.

>> ♪ We're a raggedy group of

misfits with pride ♪

>> And so I think it's kind of a

cool thing to recognize the

freed slaves because they are a

part of our history, and they

need to be known, you know,

instead of somebody who's,

you know, kept under the rug,

as they were at that time,


And so I think it's great, and I

was all on board because I get

to be a part of showing that

type of story.

>> ♪ In the end, combined in my

hand as one ♪

>> As one!

>> Teamwork!

>> Remember...

>> I'm hoping, number one, that

children will realize the great

achievement that was made by our

nation 150 years ago, that, once

again, they will see that people

from diverse cultures can

transcend any differences and

come together and achieve

something greater than they

could ever do alone and how

people come together.

That's where true greatness is


>> The Mormons, the Irish, the

freed slaves, the Chinese --

they weren't best friends.

And yet, in spite of that, they

worked together every day with

respect and got the work done

because they saw that they were

part of something that was

bigger than themselves.

We can see that working

together, in spite of our

differences, we can get so many

amazing things done.

>> ♪ As o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ne

>> And now the artist's quote of

the week.

For the artist Scott Boris, wood

is his medium of choice.

With a lathe and a desire to

create, he takes chunks of wood

and spins, cuts, and sands them

until they become unique wooden


Take a look.


>> I can make a bowl out of any

log, but not every log will make

a really neat bowl 'cause I want

to capture that stuff that God

already put in the tree.

I would love to capture that in

my piece.



I am Scott Boris.

I am a wood artist.

So, I just started as a small --

stuff that we needed for the

house plus for other people, and

the turning came in when I got a

lathe and I just thought I could

do something with small chunks

of wood.


It's literally taking a chunk of

wood and spinning it and cutting

off everything that's not a



Carvers -- I think they can make

shapes that we can't do 'cause

we're kind of still stuck with

the rounder shapes, but it's a

lot quicker, because while that

thing's spinning, I can go,

"Vroom!" and send shavings


And it's very quiet.

It's not a "turn on the table

saw and put on your hearing


You just get the sound of the

wood being cut, and it is


Sometimes I have to be careful.

Turning too long, I get a little

hypnotized 'cause it's

"Tch, tch, tch, tch," and you

get the repetitiveness.

It's very relaxing.

I think that's one reason I do

this, is it's a way to relieve


Make a big pile of sawdust,

and the stress goes away.

So, if I split it there...

Wow! That works out well.

And this tree just grew last


There you go.

And this will give you the high

points and then the low points

on those bowls.

Yeah, fit right in there.

Well, that's the hope.

Maybe I'll take that in and we

can get started with that.

I don't start with a certain

shape in mind because it's

depending on the piece of wood.

I like to turn stuff when it's

green, so you could literally go

out and cut a tree down, take a

piece of wood, put it on the

lathe, and you can make a bowl

the same day.

You can't use it 'cause it's


I know the stuff I'm turning is

harvested properly.

I'm not cutting a tree down

because I want to turn a bowl.

It's the tree already came down.

A lot of the wood I get comes

from other people's firewood.

I need something that's long

enough, so I may have to lose up

to 6 inches off either end to

cut off the cracks, and then I'm

looking for limbs and other

defects that I might be able to


So, I had testicular cancer a

few years ago, so if I can find

tumors on a tree and turn them

into stuff, to me, that's,

like -- that's kind of fun after

what I went through.

Then cut it up into a blank

because my lathe can only fit a

20-inch-diameter something.

So then I have to whittle that

thing down so it'll actually


The tools we use are fairly long

so that we have more leverage.

Once I kind of get it up on the

lathe, then I need to create

what they call a tenon.

It looks like a little hockey

puck, and it allows me to use

something called a chuck, and it

grabs on to that bowl.

Then I start working on the

outside shape and get it to

where I want it.

And then it's just shape.

It's just, you know, whittling

it until you get the right shape

and then dry it.

So, when I turn my bowl, that's

not the final shape.

As it dries, it'll shrink, and,

usually, it'll warp and get a

little bit longer because of the

shape, and then I deal with it

after that.

After they're dry, then I do a

lot of sanding, shaping.

I got some fairly aggressive

stuff that makes clouds of


A lot of my final sanding is

done off the lathe, which is a

little untraditional, because I

like the oval shapes 'cause

people try to figure out,

how do you make an oval when I'm

spinning it, and it should be a

circle, but it's a lot of the

wood-drying process.

So, everything's done in my lap,

sanding with different things

that I've found, and, putting

the finish on, I don't want to

have sanding marks.


I think Wisconsin has a

wonderful mix of different woods

to use.

I have no desire to turn

anything from outside Wisconsin

anymore just because I think

Wisconsin's got a perfect

climate for the right types of



So, I love telling people where

their stuff grew and have that

connection and that story.

That's important to me.

I would love to have the bowls

stay empty.

If I can do something, find some

cool shape in a bowl that you

don't want to cover up,

then I win.

So, I leave it up to people how

they use it, but if they don't

use it for anything, I think

that's cool, too, because then

each -- you know, what's in a

tree is fun to show off.


I think this is a cool way to

take something that other people

burn for firewood and make art

out of it.


>> Explore more of Scott Boris'

art on his website...

Now here's a look at this

month's fun fact.

In St. Petersburg, Florida,

artist Esteban Valdez brings

images to life at his

animation-production company,

Echo Bridge Pictures.

Up next, we hear about his

artistic journey.


>> Animation as a whole, as an

idea, has a philosophy

behind it.

We've been doing this since the

Paleo times -- cave paintings.

We've always wanted

to tell a story.

We've wanted to tell a story


I remember watching cartoons as

a kid, and it was always fun.

I saw this film called "Akira"

by Katsuhiro Otomo, and I

remember it was playing in a


And I stopped and I looked,

and this was like 1997, '98.

I'm like, "I've never seen this

type of thing before,

this animation."

For the most part, I'm like,

"I've never seen that.

I don't know what it is, but

it's absolutely gorgeous."

So I remember going into the

store and buying a copy, and I

watched the hell out of that


I was just like, "This movie

speaks to me on so many levels,"

'cause I was really trying to

hone my skills, and I'm like,

"Who do I want to become?

What do I want to do?"

And when I saw that kind of

work, I'm like, "I didn't know

this was possible."

So, that's what really got the

love affair.

I went to the library.

I found a book on how to

animate, and I just figured it


I got to art college, and I

learned a little bit more there.

It was a religion for me.

I didn't just want to know how

to animate.

I wanted to understand what the

hell, like, this thing that we

do -- what is it all about and

what does it mean?

When I was coming up, I actually

watched the change because I

would do work on paper, I would

have celluloid -- we call them

"cels" -- I'd have a dipped pen

in ink, I'd draw right on the

cels, flip it over with acrylic

paint and paint over, and then

I'd have to film it, then get it

developed and get processed, and

then, as the years went on, the

camera equipment went away, the

celluloid went away, scanners

came into the picture, and then

tablets, and then that was that.

It was within like maybe five

years from when I actually got

in to when it was completely

gone digital.

The pros are that it's much more

accessible to do the work.

I like that idea, that it's

accessible to people, and that

if anybody really wants to learn

how to do it, they can.

I thin the con -- and it's a big

con -- is the fact that we've

got so used to the convenience

of tech and we've let that be

the driving force.

It's not so much about the

craft, the skill level that can

go behind it, but now it's more

about, "Well, I know this tech,

you know, inside and out.

I can practically do anything --

practically, but not anything."

This was back 2008.

I had just finished directing

animation on a show, and my visa

was running out in Canada.

I had to make a decision.

Do I go back home?

Do I try to go back to New York?

Do I go out to California?

I had an opportunity to go out

to Sendai, Japan, which, later

on, happened to be the Fukushima


I'm very glad I did not go.

When I got home, my parents had

told me the news that they

lost -- they lost a home.

They lost everything in the

housing crash.

The economic bubble just burst.

My parents' job in

Massachusetts -- they told

everybody, "Well, we're closing

down these offices, and so you

have a choice.

You can stay in Massachusetts

and, you know, take your

pension, or you can go down to

Florida and we'll continue on."

So, my mother went to Tampa

first, and then my father and I

stayed 'cause we thought we

could kind of rebuild and start

again, so Echo Bridge happened

right there at the house

we were at.

It was the name of the street --

Echo Bridge.

It was myself and two other

people at the time when we were

working on this project, and

when it came time for the client

to pay the bill, they had filed

bankruptcy, and we got the

notice, and it's like,

"Sorry, but we can't pay you."

So, at the end of it all, my

father and I had to head on down

to St. Pete.

Just before we were moving, I

made a short film, and I'd sent

it off.

I didn't know what was gonna


I just said, "I have something

to say...

and I just want to say it."

So all the move happens.

I get to the Tampa Bay area.

I set up shop, and the next

thing I know, I get a phone


It's like, "Hey.

You did this film, right?"


"Oh, man.

I just wanted to say it was

really nice.

It was really --

That's what we're looking for.

Like, I'm a producer for this

music band, and we want to do

something in a similar fashion."

In Florida, it just like --

It was like a fresh --

fresh topsoil.

The seed got planted, something

blossomed, and it's been good to

me ever since.

I mean, I'd never really

explored Florida at all.

I'd never explored the Tampa Bay


I'd never explored St. Pete.

And, you know, just over the

years, I started learning more

about the terrain, the culture,

the history, and it's like,

"Man, this is great!

This is really amazing!"

And, you know, the studio just

kind of -- it grew.

Art is always leading the way.

In fact, I think we're sort of

the scouts in society.

We travel alone, and we explore

on our own, and we come back

with like, "Hey, this is what's

going on, this is what's new,"

so if you take that concept and

you apply it to, like,

technology or you apply it to

business, you know, animation is

right there, because this is an

art and it's a business, and it

uses technology to flourish and

build and grow and thrive and


It's a very important aspect of

our life, a very important

aspect of being human.


>> To find out more, visit...

And here's a look at this week's

art history.

Visual art, puppetry, set

design, and performance.

In this segment, we meet a

hybrid theater artist who uses

her intuition and imagination to

make memorable works of art.


>> I think I have a deep desire

to create fantastical worlds.

>> Ohhh!

Look at all the...

>> [ Laughs evilly ]

>> I also have a fascination

with the human figure, which is

kind of a throughline through my

visual art, puppetry, set

design, and immersive-theater

work -- my performance.

>> [ Speaks indistinctly ]


>> At some point through working

with puppets, I was shoved onto

a stage and I loved it and I

realized that I love using my

own body to express my art

as well as my visual-art skills.

I like sort of keeping myself on

edge a little bit in terms of

what I dream up.

I like to shock myself a little

bit sometimes.

When I'm designing a set,

it tends to use a different part

of my brain than I use when I'm

performing, so in my designwork,

I'm often dealing with numbers,

I'm dealing with measurements,

and when I'm performing, I tend

to want to shut that part of my

brain off and be a much more

intuitive maker.

>> Oop!

>> The fun for me with these

owner characters in

"H.T. Darling's Incredible

Musaeum" was being able to

inhabit two characters

at once -- a puppet character

that I fabricated living on the

lower half of my body and a

human character that I acted

inhabiting the upper part of my



I have less of an end goal with

my art than I have a desire and

a drive to just make in the

first place.

>> To learn more about

Stoessel's work, visit...

That wraps it up for this

edition of "WLIW Arts Beat."

We'd like to hear what you

think, so like us on Facebook,

join the conversation on

Twitter, and visit our webpage

for features and to watch

episodes of the show.

We hope to see you next time.

I'm Diane Masciale.

Thank you for watching

"WLIW Arts Beat."


Funding for "WLIW Arts Beat" was

made possible by...








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