Just a blind squirrel

… hoping to find a nut now and then

Posts Tagged ‘don’t judge me

Hello, Joey

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When SHN announced its 2011-12 season, I probably topped my circle of friends in my excitement about the seven titles, despite my disappointment at no “Memphis” and the inclusion of Hair, one of my least favorite shows. “Les Miserables” holds a special place in my heart as my first musical and I was unreasonably intrigued by “Bring It On,” due to its “In The Heights“/”Next to Normal” pedigree. But it was one of the two plays that most got me excited, much to the confusion of my less-theater-nerdy friends.

Joey at the Curran Theater preview event

Joey at the Curran Theater preview event

I was in New York on a theater binge when “War Horse” was in previews on Broadway, and it was already a hot ticket. Since I was in a musicals-only frame of mind, it wasn’t a big deal to skip battling for a way to see it. Or perhaps I’m psychic — less than two months later, the national tour was announced, and I fully expected San Francisco to get a stop.

At any rate, I’ve become borderline-obsessed with the show, which features a number of things that put it in my weird little wheelhouse. I’m intrigued by wars, in a scholarly way. My grandfather was a Civil War aficionado, so perhaps it’s genetic. And who doesn’t love English accents?

But first and foremost, I LOVE PUPPETS. I didn’t realize the degree to which this is true until my sister-in-law proclaimed the same thing and the world finally made sense to me. I love funny puppets, serious puppets, the Muppets (my ringtone is the Muppet chickens singing “Forget You”) — if it’s made of fur or wood or felt or paper and operated by a human, LOVE IT. (This also translates to mascots, for some equally strange reason. Stop looking at me like that.)

You don’t even have to be a puppet person to appreciate the stagecraft of “War Horse,” though. What the Handspring Puppet Company has done is astounding — trust me that it’s worth the 18 minutes to watch this TED presentation about the puppets.

OK, enough with the blather. This is just to set up how excited I was when I received an invitation for SHN subscribers to a preview event for “War Horse” that would feature Joey, the title character. As luck would have it, I was already scheduled to be off work that day, thanks to the horse puppet gods. Or something.

The Curran Theater doors were scheduled to open at 5:15, so I arrived a few minutes before 5 and found around 20 or 30 people already lined up.

Audience waiting at Curran Theater

Photo from SHN's Twitter feed

Book of MormonWhen the doors opened, I quickly picked up my tickets, got a free drink from the bar and met a disturbingly high number of SHN staff members who recognized me from Twitter or Facebook. (OK, it was two, but still …) The lobby also featured the big news from the previous day, already plastered eight feet tall (shown at left).

Despite not entering the theater for about 30 minutes after it opened, we still snagged seats in the front row — being accustomed to lottery and rush seating, we didn’t mind sitting on the side if it meant being close.

The event began with some of the beautifully haunting music from the show (check it out here), and then SHN marketing and sales VP Scott Kane introduced Finn Caldwell, the associate puppetry director and one of the puppeteers for the National Theatre production of “War Horse.”

Caldwell discusses "Tall Horse"

Caldwell discusses "Tall Horse"

Caldwell, with the most delicious South African accent, took the audience through a brief history of the Handspring Puppet Company, including an earlier show called “Tall Horse” that featured a giraffe puppet. And then he introduced the star of the show, Joey, operated by three puppeteers (Head, Heart and Hind, as they’re known — better Hind than “Horse’s Ass,” I suppose).

I already knew a lot about the amazing work the War Horse puppeteers do, thanks to a cool video diary series, available on iTunes, done by the puppeteer who plays Joey’s Hind in the West End (not going to touch that one). But to see the horse in the flesh, so to speak, was remarkable. Despite the harsh lighting, which my iPhone camera did not enjoy one bit, the puppeteers still seemed to vanish in the creature and it was barely a reach to imagine it as a living, breathing being. Indeed, the horse “breathing” is one of the movements the puppeteers use to enhance the realism.

Here’s a video I took of Joey’s entrance (with my iPhone, which does not like less-than-optimal lighting, apparently).

The event concluded with SHN’s own Carole Shorenstein Hays getting a ride on Joey (the construction allows the puppeteers to carry actors) and then a raffle for a photo opportunity with the horse. That was a prize I would have paid serious money to get, but alas, I wasn’t a winner.

Though I’d already figured I’d see “War Horse” more than once when it arrives in August, this event sealed that. In fact, I’m hoping to get a ticket for opening night, in addition to my subscriber night of Aug. 16. And hey, a third time might be in the offing, especially if I can somehow get a photo with Joey.

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Written by ChrisShut

February 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Awesome Genius Mix of shame

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One of the coolest inventions from the fine folks at Apple has to be the iTunes Genius Mix, where you select one song from your library and it automatically creates a playlist of 25 songs from your music library that eerily seem to go quite well together.

Sometimes I’ll do the equivalent of closing my eyes and picking a song at random and see what the Genius button spits out. One day, the waggling virtual finger alighted on Wham’s “I’m Your Man” (what? I was a teen girl once, you know), and the Genius Mix that popped out never fails to entertain me in a totally awesome and completely shamed way. Note that it was created when I only had my iTunes purchases loaded into that computer and not my ripped CDs, so that’s why there are so many duplicated artists, but I kind of like that.

Here’s the lineup, if you want to re-create this delight yourself (song, album, artist, because I’m too lazy to edit the iTunes listing). I dare you not to shake your tailfeathers at some point while listening to this:

1. I’m Your Man, Music from the Edge of Heaven, Wham!
2. Blame It On the Boogie, Essential Michael Jackson, The Jacksons
3. Never Can Say Goodbye (Tom Moulton Mix), The Best Of Gloria Gaynor, Gloria Gaynor
4. The One Thing, Shabooh Shoobah, INXS
5. …Baby One More Time, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, Britney Spears
6. Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely), I’m Not Dead, P!nk
7. Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), The Hits – Chapter One, Backstreet Boys
8. Boogie Shoes, The Best of KC & The Sunshine Band, KC & The Sunshine Band
9. I’d Really Love to See You Tonight, Rhino Hi-Five: England Dan & John Ford Coley, England Dan & John Ford Coley
10. Heartbreaker, Greatest Hits, Pat Benatar
11. Freedom, Make It Big, Wham!
12. Bad Influence, Funhouse, P!nk
13. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), Essential Michael Jackson, The Jacksons
14. Pretty Vegas, Switch, INXS
15. Boys (Co-Ed Remix), Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, Britney Spears featuring Pharrell Williams
16. Spiderwebs, Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt
17. The Game of Love, Shaman, Santana Featuring Michelle Branch
18. I Have Seen the Rain, I’m Not Dead, P!nk featuring James T. Moore
19. Last Christmas, Music from the Edge of Heaven, Wham!
20. As Long As You Love Me, The Hits – Chapter One, Backstreet Boys
21. If I Can’t Have You, All I Ever Wanted, Kelly Clarkson
22. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, The Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates, Daryl Hall & John Oates
23. Love Is Alright Tonite, Working Class Dog, Rick Springfield
24. Don’t Change, Shabooh Shoobah, INXS
25. Extraordinary, Liz Phair, Liz Phair

Just for kicks, I regenerated the Genius Mix on a library that now contains the bulk of my digital collection, including ripped CDs. It also packs in a fair amount of awesome:

1. I’m Your Man, Music from the Edge of Heaven, Wham!
2. Church Of The Poison Mind, Colour By Numbers, Culture Club
3. Thorn In My Side, Greatest Hits, Eurythmics
4. Cherish, The Immaculate Collection, Madonna
5. Never Can Say Goodbye (Tom Moulton Mix), The Best Of Gloria Gaynor, Gloria Gaynor
6. You Do Something To Me, The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Paul Weller
7. I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), The Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates, Daryl Hall & John Oates
8. Blame It On the Boogie, Essential Michael Jackson, The Jacksons
9. Knock On Wood, Disco, Amii Stewart
10. Freedom, Make It Big, Wham!
11. Nobody Does It Better, Greatest Hits Live, Carly Simon
12. Too Shy, White Feathers, Kajagoogoo
13. Tell Her About It, Greatest Hits, Vol. II (1978 – 1985), Billy Joel
14. Little bird, Diva, Annie Lennox
15. Just Good Friends, Bad, Michael Jackson
16. Together Again, Velvet Rope, Janet Jackson
17. There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), Greatest Hits, Eurythmics
18. Into the Groove, The Immaculate Collection, Madonna
19. Our Lips Are Sealed, Greatest, The Go-Go’s
20. Disco Inferno, Disco, The Trammps
21. One on One, The Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates, Daryl Hall & John Oates
22. Coming Around Again, Greatest Hits Live, Carly Simon
23. True, True, Spandau Ballet
24. Sledgehammer, So, Peter Gabriel
25. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), Essential Michael Jackson, The Jacksons

Written by ChrisShut

June 30, 2010 at 9:39 pm