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CSU Theatre takes on Oh What a Lovely War with great success

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This weekend is the last chance to see CSU’s production of Oh What a Lovely War. As a history buff, I have a special attachment to the topic of life during the First World War, and so I am looking forward to getting another chance to see it this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The play, however, is much more than a historical account that only historians of World War One would care to see. It is actually chronicle of the war as told through actual songs, music, and documents from the time period. Authenticity is combined with drama, humor, and exceptional talent, to create an amazing collage of images and experiences that can move anyone.

First performed by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, in 1963, O What a Lovely War received the acclaim of London audiences and critics, winning the Grand Prix of the Theatre des Nations festival in Paris that year. It is now considered a classic of the modern theatre.

As a student in England, the 1969 movie version deeply impacted director Eric Prince. “People were shocked and amazed to see this subject matter on stage, presented in such a cleverly produced way, using humor to disguise the seriousness,” said Prince. “For the current generation, it would be akin to making a comical musical about Vietnam or the Iraq War.”

This show presents challenges for any production company. Director Prince, designer Price Johnston, music director Bruce Burbank, and choreographer Scott Wright collaborate on this immense project featuring stunning photos, archive images, iconic recruitment propaganda, and music, songs and dances from the time of the Great War of 1914-18. Advanced production uses hundreds of photos and films, making it a powerful, multi-level production.

It is not surprising that the highly demanding Oh What a Lovely War is rarely done at the college level. The cast at CSU is made of up 19 actors playing 130 parts, with some performers taking on 10 or 11 different roles. This musical gives students, including eight freshmen, rare opportunities for multiple character development and collaboration. Much of the difficulty lies in perfecting the wide range of British, Belgian, German, Russian, French, Austrian, Serbian, and American accents. To achieve accuracy, Prince relied on dialect coach Paul Meier. And the work of the CSU Theatre Department has already been recognized: Prince said that several of the original cast members he has consulted were “impressed that a university in the United States could even take it on.”

The play provides a great perspective to high school students, as well as college age and adults who have studied World War One, but ultimately it is a story that affects everyone. “Great plays deal with great subject matter, elevating OWALW beyond entertainment with something relevant for every viewer,” said Prince.
The CSU Theatre Department has turned their hard work and dedication into a musical like no other. This show reminds us of a history that cannot be forgotten, and teaches us a little bit about ourselves in the process.

For more information on Oh, What a Lovely War, including how to purchase tickets, please visit the CSU School of the Arts.

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December 10th, 2009 at 8:28 am

Raising a Creative Economy

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“the Creative Economy at its best, is about communities taking responsibility for their condition and creating meaningful work and a viable economy with the most powerful resources at their disposal. These include the distinct nature and culture of their place, and the creativity of the people — all the while welcoming and learning from those who pass through or who decide to stay” (Tom Borrup, 2009).

When we say someone or something is creative, what do we mean? Imaginative? Innovative? Inventive? Artistic? Fantastic?

Now imagine these adjectives combined with the word ‘economy’ (meaning management of the house)….imaginative economy, inventive economy, artistic economy, fantastic economy…. getting the idea?

The term and phenomenon of the “creative economy” describes industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation of ideas, products and/or services. These industries and activities are critical not only because of their contribution to the knowledge economy which is in the process of engulfing the globe, but also because of their capacity for urban and civic regeneration, the preservation of cultural heritage and cultural identity and the creation of places and communities as ‘destinations’. Tom Borrup consults, teaches, and writes about community transformation, cultural infrastructure, and the creative economy. He believes that the creative economy grounds itself in an active community of artists, an eternal and constant spring of respect for indigenous/multiple cultures, and finally and most importantly, cultural and economic equity.

In their recent report on the state of the arts in Colorado, the Colorado Council on the Arts issued some surprising statements on the nature of the creative economy in our communities. Indeed, it seems that Colorado is actually quite a creative state, ranking 5th nationally in terms of the concentration of artists overall; 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers. Interestingly only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont rank higher. Here in the Northwest of Colorado, we grow arts and music festivals, visual artists hang down in the Southwest corner where the red rocks, white snow, and green pines blind us with their beauty and the literati hang in the center of the state, inspired by the clear air of the mountains and lakes.

These creative activities, industries, communities and populations are sustained through their emotional and aesthetic appeal to others as they engage in work which is inherently creative and artistic. Why is such work meaningful? Because long before we were literate, art and our artistic endeavors formed the base of a universal language and a dominant form of communicating place, identity, purpose and membership. Tom Borrup believes that creative economies and communities hold onto the distinctiveness of place, remain open to learning and reinvention and accept new ideas from unlikely places, forming common and strong bonds between those involved in local cultural practices and the economic livelihood of their communities. Drawing from the Houston based Project Row Houses, Borrup proposes that in creative communities and economies, art and creativity are woven into the very fabric of life through rituals, ceremony and other utilitarian activities; quality education and strong neighborhoods sustain social safety nets for the community and facilitate social responsibility; economic development is essential for all residents both present and future and architecture as a social practice, should make sense of and preserve a community’s character.

So, make 2009 your year to raise the arts and creative life of your community – check out our website to see and experience the extraordinary offerings here for you – see a show, hear a speaker, go to a festival, and bring your friends!

With thanks to Amanda Woodward and *Sally M* for their fantastic art!

Kirsten Broadfoot