Complex characters [with video]

Complex characters [with video]

Rose Csorba’s six performers hang from their ropes in her basement McGuffey Art Center studio. Among them is Skillet, a tanned, turbaned man from the cast of They’re Heeere!!!, a play that “links the Bush administration to a killer cicada plague, the Dixie Chicks’ manager [Skillet’s role] and sleeper cicada cells,” according to an old performance flyer from Csorba’s studio.

Skillet is pulled from his hanger and begins to dance while his creator speaks with Curtain Calls about Skillet’s experience with world travel. It is a few days before First Friday, and Csorba is planning a guerrilla marionette show to raise funds for a trip to Spain to perform in schools, theaters and bars from Cadiz to Seville to Madrid. According to Csorba, the McGuffey staff isn’t expecting a show. Whoops.

Strings attached: Skillet (left) and Soldier, two of puppeteer Rose Csorba’s marionettes, loosen up for a First Fridays gig.

Strings bound carefully around a brace, body wedged between pillows in a box less than a foot long, Skillet travelled to Morocco last December with Csorba and Matteus Frankovich, who was on a mission to purchase a few rugs for his new Tea Bazaar in Staunton. While she had no trouble carrying Skillet with her during her trek, Csorba is trying to decide which marionettes to bring with her to Morocco.

Video from Rose Csorba’s marionette show at First Friday.

There’s Slipper, the horse-headed gal that Csorba compares to actress Marlene Dietrich; Paris, Slipper’s male doppelganger, who croons the Melvin Van Peebles tune “Eyes on the Rabbit” for a lost love; and Koal, who has performed “Give My Love to Rose,” an old Johnny Cash number, with Sarah White and the Pearls. Csorba considers each, claims that she’ll “def-initely” take each and moves on.

Curt asks Csorba what her plans are following her return from Morocco, and she mentions meeting author Beatrix Ost and her husband Ludwig Kuttner, former CEO of apparel company Hampshire Group Ltd. and current president of Hampshire Investments, at the Artini party. Csorba made quite an impression: After performing at Kuttner’s 61st birthday party, she was invited back with her high-strung cast to perform at the annual Kuttner Easter egg hunt.

Csorba moves to pick up another marionette and Curt takes a peek at her Spain itinerary. Between gigs listed for venues like La Pistola (The Pistol) and El Corazón (The Heart) are notes: “Stress the simplicity of the ‘simple engineering involved with strings/design.’”

Stay still, will ya?

“I have natural feng shui,” says Cindy Leal, a Shentai alum and James Madison University theater/dance major, as Curt sat beside her at the Mudhouse, clutching a cuppa. Leal has carefully selected seats and placed an admirably multisyllabic drink order, not to mention spent the last few months planning Still Life,” a performance installation at McGuffey’s First Friday reception. All to say that Leal is nothing if not a meticulous planner.

After making the drive from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville and back twice a week for contact improvisation classes with Brad Stoller (who teaches frequently in town), Leal nabbed the lead in Anna Karenina at Live Arts, her first lead role. “I thought, ‘Now I have to move here,’” says Leal.

Leal’s planning for “Still Life” began last November during a trip to New York City for the anniversary of her grandmother’s death. Riding the subway, Leal focused on a looping map of New York’s finest transit option and the idea of life as a series of sensory frames struck her: Step off the train at a stop and greet new sounds, objects, obstacles to move around. Freeze it and frame it as a three-dimensional, five-senses-reeling moment, hop back on the train and move on.

“The information I’ve absorbed in my body has informed my life,” Leal says. “It lets me be less judgmental of the commonly beautiful.”

Video from Cindy Leal’s "Still Life" at First Friday.

Still Life” features three performers, among them BozArt member artist Kris Bowmaster and Ali Cheff, one of Leal’s friends from JMU. The three performers move across a 25′ by 25′ vinyl canvas, painting with their feet and improvising movements with their bodies as they encounter and circumnavigate one another, all set to a score of found sounds by Bowmaster’s brother, Kelly. The result is a series of isolated moments—specific motions, parts of a painting, clips of noise—elevated from the profane to the sacred. Feng shui in performance. Or, that’s how Curt got it.

She turns to wave at current Zen Monkey Project director Kelly East as East heads to the counter to leave a flyer for Art for Lunch, a free weekly performance by ZMP at McGuffey each Tuesday at noon. East passes a flyer to Curt before she splits—we’re there!

Flags of our artists

Aaron Fein surrenders. To his muse, to his country and to everyone on the Downtown Mall, Fein is waving white flags like his life depends on it.

Roughly five years since he began “Surrender” (not named for Curt’s favorite Cheap Trick song as was first assumed), and Fein has completed the construction of eight all-white flags from countries around the globe, among them the U.S., Israel and, er, either Italy, Mexico or Ireland. CC isn’t sure, and that is just the effect Fein is banking on.

“I pledge allegiance to the…wait just a darn minute!” Aaron Fein surrenders within his circle of white flags on the Downtown Mall.

Taking the phrase “These colors don’t run” and (cover your heads: incoming pun) running with it, Fein is dead set on completing a set of all 193 national flags, arranging them according to patterns, creating a long spectrum of flags that appear quite identical. Search for Fein somewhere along the Mall on Thursday for a glimpse.

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