Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Silent Roar – Directed and Choreographed by Zina Bethune

By Joe Straw

In 1998, I had the good fortune of attending the Academy Awards.  It was Titanic's year.  But, the highlight of the evening was Stanley Donen accepting an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work. Charming and charismatic, I remember him saying, “You show up and stay the hell out of the way. But you gotta show up or else you can't take the credit and win one of these guys."

Showing up is winning half of the battle and on this particular night at the El Portal Theatre, somebody didn’t show up, and as theatre goes, anyone who is a part of the show is an important person in the show.

Well, this particular technician did not show up.  Something happened.  This was opening weekend and someone was going to have to call someone and get a crash course on how to use a technical gizmo thingy.

The show continued, late, but the show went on. What fortitude!   

The Annenberg Foundation & Theatre Bethune presents Silent Roar A Whale’s Journey directed and choreographed by Zina Bethune at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, California through October 16, 2011.

First of all, the El Portal is a beautiful theatre and perfect for this dance presentation. There’s plenty of street parking if you get there early and parking across the street for four dollars. 

It isn’t often one sees a dance presentation with the dancers representing whales and other sea creatures but Bethune has never been one to do the mundane.

Silent Roar is the sound no human hears. It must be a focused attention when looking out to sea. Listen carefully and the life that is under the sea will come to you.  

This is a story told in dance about grey whales and their migration south to the Sea of Cortez and back north to the coast to Alaska. 

This is a life captured, an escape into a wonderland that is the sea.  A life of unexpected treasures and tragic beginnings. Simply put, the whales mate in Alaska, have their babies in the Sea of Cortez, and then return to Alaska. But along the way, and at every step of the way, they encounter difficulties in unimaginable proportions.

Whale Hunters (Ryan Anderson, Korey Knecht, Aaron Misakian) kill the Dominate Male (Patrick Loyd).  The Female Grey Whale (Cindy Ricalde) and the Subordinate Grey Whale (Raydel Caceres) try to save him but cannot. They move on to the Sea of Cortez.

Along their perilous journey, they swim into Orca Whales (Vicky Lambert, Patrick Loyd, Jacob “Kujo” Lyons) and all sorts of sea creatures like Dolphin (Stephanie Kim), Manta Ray (Vicky Lambert), Sea Horses (Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, Sarah Moser), Sea Turtle (Stephanie Kim), a funny pair of Harlequin Shrimp (Jorge Arceo and Patrick Loyd), Garibaldi (Raydel Caceres), Seals (Abby Avery, Stephanie Kim, Julia Rodriquez-Olsen).

Also, they encounter Strip Miners (Ryan Anderson, Korey Knecht, and Aaron Misakian).  There are two types of strips miners in this presentation, those who don’t care what they kill in the process of blowing up things and those who have a soul. I prefer the later.

In the Sea of Cortez, Baby Whale (Paxton Brake) is born and he is immediately is threatened by a group of Hammerhead Sharks (Abby Avery, Albertossy Espinoza, Vicky Lambert, Patrick Loyd).

This is just pure fun for the whole family. The visuals are spectacular and the play among the sea kelp is stunning. 

Cindy Ricalde, Raydel Caceres, and Patrick Loyd were fantastic and very watchable. Jorge Arceo was equally amazing as the Teen Whale and the Harlequin Shrimp.

Vicky Lambert was amazing as the Manta Ray. 

Paxton Brake as the Baby Whale gave us a very nice interpretation.  He is dancing and acting well beyond his years. And it is always nice to see a dancer giving it his all even at the tender age of eight.  Jobe Belles as Differently Abled Boy on a crutch was equally fascinating to watch taking a scientific approach as opposed to an emotional one in saving the whale.

The baby dolphins (Gaby Aguilera, Lizzie Arlington, Carissa Edwards-Mendez, Gianna Gomez) gave a lot to this performance.  It is wonderful to see the young coming up and giving so much of themselves to this performance.

The otters were amazing and the highlight of the show as they danced among the sea kelp.  The aerialists were Teresa “Toogie” Barcelo, Rebecca Freund, and Sarah Sporich.

The other wonderful dance performers in the cast are Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, Sarah M. Moser, Albertossy Espinoza, Stephanie Kim, Abby Avery and Julia Olsen-Rodriguez. 

The actors including Whale Hunters and Watchers are Korey Knecht, Araron Misakian, Ryan Anderson, Rachael Bergen, Ayelet Firstenberg, and Justus Perry. Not much dialogue here as most of the action is in dance. Still, they filled in the gaps when filling in was needed.

Zeljko Marasovich was responsible for the Original Composition. Wyland gave us the beautiful Video and Mural Artwork. Tod Hillman was responsible for video design, although the videos were not as sharp as they could have been.  Ric Zimmerman was the Lighting Designer. David Goldstein was the Scenic Designer and Melanie Gomez did a wonderful job on the costumes for the dancer.

One has to applaud Zina Bethune, the Writer, Director and Choreographer for staging a marvelous piece of work.  It was a visual feast. And one must also applaud her for being color blind to this wonderfully racially diverse cast.    

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