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The Standard-Times/ April 10, 2003
 
Play about Portuguese immigrant experience comes home
By David B. Boyce
Standard-Times Correspondent
 
While Greater New Bedford is known for the diversity of its visual artists, especially in the last few years, the SouthCoast has also spawned several writers, with a few playwrights among them. Produced and directed under the aegis of New Bedford's Culture*Park, and sponsored by the UMass Dartmouth Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture and the New Bedford Cultural Council, "Amarelo," a play by New Bedford native Paulo A. Pereira will have a two-performance run, at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. "Amarelo" will be staged in Room 153, the recital hall of the College of Visual and Performing Arts building on the UMass Dartmouth main campus. The Sunday matinee performance will be followed by a discussion with the show's author, Mr. Pereira, director Patricia A. Thomas of Culture*Park, and the play's cast members. Ms. Thomas first became aware of Mr. Pereira when he was a student at Bishop Stang High School and she was directing its drama club. After his graduation, Mr. Pereira went on to MIT, where he held a double major, one in theater arts. "The play originated there as Paulo's thesis work," Ms. Thomas states, "and about five years ago, when he was living in New York, there was a production of it mounted there. When I read it, I thought it had such a significant amount to say about the Portuguese immigrant experience in New Bedford that it was a natural for us to produce it locally." "It's a memory play about making life choices," Ms.Thomas continued, "and it's about home life, family  expectations, and our connections to our native cultures. We all have our own versions of this kind of story, so everyone can relate to it. Its universal messages are strong."  Though Ms. Thomas stresses that "Amarelo" is an ensemble piece that requires a well-meshed cast, its focus is the tale of a passionate Azorean woman named Conceicao, who struggles to achieve her dreams through the unexpected joys and sorrows of her life. Asked about how she is staging the play, Ms. Thomas replies, "Well, the physical production is done simply, with a minimum of sets and costumes, which puts the onus on the actors. It's a sweet story and the simplicity here works to its benefit. Ivone Rego is the assistant director of the play, and her insights have been very helpful." Three local performers in the cast are Shannon Gracia as Natalia, Michael Ventura as Luís, and Matthew Lecuyer as Manuel. Both hailing from Providence, Susan Perfetto plays Conceicao, and Ben Jolivet is Alexandre. Rounding out the cast is actor Fred Cabral, a New Bedford native living in New York City, who plays the Man. Asked what he feels the reaction of the Greater New Bedford audience will be to "Amarelo,"  Mr. Pereira is hopeful, generous and direct. "Some Azorean-American members of my parents' generation may see parallels to their own experience, but others may have a very different reaction. As a writer, it would be a benefit to the Azorean-American community if contrary reactions to 'Amarelo' prompted people to write their own experiences. I feel we need more representative writers from our community, especially writing in English, to help build stronger bridges to the larger English-speaking community and to get our stories out there. I hope the play is inspiring for all who see it." Mr. Pereira and his wife now live outside Boston and are expecting their first child soon, which will likely alter their lives. Will this development affect his writing? "I don't write as much now as I once did, but I do pen some poems and lyrics occasionally," Mr. Pereira states. "Theater keeps re-entering my life in somewhat unexpected ways. Last year, I produced MIT's first-ever alumni show, and now this New Bedford (area) production of 'Amarelo.' If I were to devote more time to writing, it would probably be play writing." Tickets for the Culture*Park production of Paulo A. Pereira's "Amarelo" are priced at $5 and can be purchased at the door, or reservations can be arranged by calling Culture*Park at (508) 990-7779.
 

"The title means "yellow" in Portuguese but the recent production of Amarelo, by New Bedford's Culture Park, was pure gold."
                                    __ Providence Journal

The Standard-Times / January 2001
Performing Arts group launched and experience comes home
By David B. Boyce
Standard-Times Correspondent
 
Though Herman Melville's Ishmael came but grudgingly to New Bedford to begin his famous adventure, on "a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold and cheerless," it took only the light of the next day for him to gain an appreciation for the city. In its time, New Bedford embraced the novel as its own, recognizing its detailed accounts as a documentation of the industry it had come to dominate.  With the turning of the calendar to this 2001 millennial year, the Whaling City begins a celebration of "Moby-Dick" and its 150-year longevity. Quite coincidentally, New Bedford is poised on the brink of a renaissance that holds exciting possibilities for the arts in the area, and, with the novel's anniversary, SouthCoast residents will be seeing and hearing a great deal about Melville over the coming months. Among the first of these offerings are two performances of a new short play at the Whaling Museum theater at 6 and 8 p.m. Thursday.  These performances are presented under the auspices of The Whaling Museum and AHA!, and are free to the public. "The Everlasting Itch: Meditations on Water and Longing" is a multimedia production by a new creative entity called Culture Park, based in New Bedford, and founded by native Patricia Thomas and her creative partner Rebecca Schade. According to its mission statement, Culture* Park is a performing arts collaborative seeking "to promote and nurture the rich and diverse cultural life of New Bedford through theatre and the performing arts." In addition, it intends to provide support for emerging performance works by local artists, as well as to offer creative workshops  and classes for the general public. Ms. Thomas and Ms. Schade have extensive backgrounds in theater, and the visual and cinematic arts. Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Bishop Stang High School, was a music major at the University of Lowell, and trained with the Trinity Rep Conservatory in Providence, where she was cast in such productions as "Cloud Nine," "Translations," "Dead Souls," and "Baby," and several of its productions of "A Christmas Carol," among others. She has acted, directed, and taught internationally in Switzerland, Japan, and Russia. After four years abroad and returning to Boston, Ms. Thomas worked with City Stage, the Theater Offensive, Boston Center for the Arts, Emerson College, Coyote Theater, Hasty Pudding and Theatrics! Ms. Schade, a native of eastern Maryland, has worked in film, video and graphic design for 20 years, winning several national and international awards. She is also a songwriter and the author of a new screenplay.
Drawing on Melvillian literary themes, and the correspondence he conducted with fellow writer and mentor Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Everlasting Itch" employs photographic and video projections, music, and the talents of Providence actor Chris Perrotti. The "itch" alludes to the lure, mystery, and romance of the sea, and to Ahab's obsessive hunt for mastery and control. Distilling the essence of these considerable subjects into a 20-minute presentation could be a daunting challenge, but the inherent possibilities of a multimedia performance offer a flexible vehicle for impressionistic strokes and licks. "The Everlasting Itch: Meditations on Water and Longing" will be presented by Culture* Park at the Whaling Museum theater. Under the auspices of AHA!, admission is free. For further information about Culture* Park and its programs, call (508) 996-0122.

 


Standard -Times / Southcoast Living  / Saturday May 10, 2003

Cultivating Culture
Organization fosters performing arts in the community
By JASON PEREZ-DORMITZER
Standard-Times Correspondent
 
Culture*Park came to the city to "highlight the richness of Greater New Bedford through the performing arts." Two years later, the non-profit organization is well on its way, although it still doesn't have a stage to call its own. "From docks to demolitions, we perform wherever we are needed to be," said Culture*Park Executive Director Rebecca Schade. "But, we are continuing to look for a theater space, a permanent space." The organization is run by Ms. Schade and Artistic Director Patricia Thomas out of an office at 88 Hatch St. in New Bedford. Located in a large mill building, there is 2,500 square feet of rehearsal space in addition to the office. The women say Culture*Park's presence in the community would be enhanced if they had a permanent location for performances. They are looking into spots, including the old Orpheum theater adjacent to Route 18, to possibly open up a "black box" theater. "This would be a traditionally small theater space that is completely transformable to meet the needs of whatever is being performed," Ms. Thomas said. So far, Culture*Park has connected local talent with outside expertise to produce several pieces in the area. These include
"Amarelo," a play written by New Bedford native Paulo A. Pereira that chronicles the travels of a young woman from the Azores to the city. It was performed in April at UMass Dartmouth. Culture*Park also sponsored a marathon of 18 short plays written by local authors, and oversees the ongoing Cabo Dance Project, a group that splices Cape Verdean dance with contemporary styles. Gallery X and the New Bedford Whaling Museum have been the settings for other performances. Culture*Park's most recent endeavor is the Fathoms Project. A series of interviews with fishermen and family members, collected through the summer, will cull information about the history and culture of the industry and will be made into a play to be performed later in the year. Activity within the organization has been accelerating as more groups call upon Culture*Park to collaborate on projects. The group's chiefs say there is also a major need for more volunteers to help with tasks such as grant writing. But although they say the growth is good, the focus is to keep expansion "organic." "Our aim is to grow out of something that is real," Ms. Schade said. "We want to touch a chord with people from the community. We want to be a part of the community." With that in mind, Culture*Park wants to make its name synonymous with performing arts in Greater New Bedford. Ms. Thomas said not enough people know what the organization offers, such as theater training for children and adults. They hope in 10 years that 80 percent of the population is "confident" that Culture*Park brings out the area's culture through performance. "I think people need to express themselves through movement. This is why the performing arts are so important," she said. Culture*Park, the two women explained, was inspired by a community of artists in Russia of the same name, pronounced Park Kultury. Ms. Schade worked in this section of Moscow, which is home to a collection of performance spaces, art galleries and other artistic outlets at the park. "I was inspired by the passion the Russian people have for all art forms. Art means everything to them," she said. Ms. Thomas, who joined Ms. Schade on the two-year trip, said the community had access to the performance opportunities through several small theaters located throughout the park. "Culture Park was for the people. It's what we are doing here," she said. For more information about Culture*Park, call (508) 990-7779.

 


The Standard-Times - November 14, 2002

Troupe to dance a tribute to Cape Verdean women
By CYNTHIA GOMEZ
Standard-Times staff writer
 
 
The rhythmic and sensual beat of Cape Verdean music will fill the air as a group of Creole dancers pay homage to the women of their homeland and of their world through a fusion of traditional and contemporary dance Saturday. The Cabo Dance Project is an ensemble of Cape Verdean dancers and choreographers living in the area. Under the direction of Zezinho Semedo, a choreographer and former professional dancer who has toured internationally, the group will present "Pano Terra," an hour-long program of interpretative dance, at the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford. The "pano" is the shawl used by Cape Verdean women for a variety of purposes. They are wrapped around waists to suppress hunger when food is scarce, used to cradle babies when they are born, and donned for protection from the weather. "Pano Terra" is a play on words loosely interpreted to mean "shawl of the earth" for all of the traditional wrap's uses in Cape Verdean culture. "I am trying to bring the real world -- the real world of Cape Verde,
I mean -- onto the stage," said Mr. Semedo in broken English. "Cape Verde is not like the U.S., where men and women go 50/50 on everything. There, women are the center of life. They give life, they take care of the family, provide the food. ... And the shawl is what carries them through life." That, he said, is the inspiration for the performance. The ensemble of female dancers will recreate traditional and modern life for Cape Verde women through dances that symbolize birth, familial bonds and friendships, and the struggles of living in an impoverished country. The performance is a work in progress, said Mr. Semedo, but it has come a long way from what was once no more than an artist's vision, especially for a group as busy as this. Mr. Semedo himself must balance rehearsals with school and work, and most of the other dancers are either University of Massachusetts Boston students or working full-time. "It has been a lot of work," said Mr. Semedo. "Some of these girls have never danced for show, but they learned very quickly. I think, everything considered, it should be a good show." Those who caught the troupe's 15-minute performance during one AHA! night in the spring and another in front of the Whaling Museum in August got just a taste of the group's upcoming performance. Since, they have held rehearsals several times a week. Last Saturday, as the group tweaked their act during their afternoon practice, bare feet pounding on the stage floor resonated throughout the nearly empty auditorium in the parish house and bodies moved about in graceful unison. From the back of the auditorium, Culture*Park co-founders Patricia Thomas and Rebecca Schade enjoyed the preview. "Culture*Park is about promoting and nurturing diversity in the performing arts, so when we came across this, we knew it would be a perfect fit for us," said Ms. Schade. "This particular piece has a lot of kinds of dance sort of woven into it, and each frame kind of flows into the next, so it's really great to watch." After pursuing careers with different performing arts companies, the women decided two years ago to create the Culture*Park collaborative. With its wealth of cultural diversity, New Bedford seemed like a good place to set up shop. "We felt that there were enough requests in the area for more performing arts sorts of things, and since New Bedford has so many cultures, we thought this would be the perfect place for something we had long envisioned," said Ms. Thomas, a New Bedford native. "Pano Terra" will debut in its entirety at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door or can be reserved by calling (508) 990-7779.  They will also be available at the church from 6:30 to 7:30 tonight, during AHA


The Standard-Times - October 25, 2002

LIGHTS ...  CAMERA ... ACTION:  
New Bedford Film Festival unspools with help from key cinephiles
By CYNTHIA GOMEZ
Standard-Times staff writer
 
 
Rebecca Schade calls them "bad light days," those days when the ambient light is too harsh, too flat or simply too uninspiring for artists. And she should know. As a film designer, multi-media artist and photographer who frequently moved around the globe, Rebecca depended heavily upon light for her artistic livelihood.
As a film design undergraduate of Arizona State with graduate studies at the Sorbonne and Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Rebecca had an impressive resume with which to find work in various international cities. From stage productions in Moscow to designing the world's largest multi-image installation (at the time) for the Kentucky Derby Museum in 1985, Rebecca has excelled in every artistic endeavor she's ever undertaken. With more than 40 national and international awards from New York to Zurich in over 25 years of two- and three-dimensional design projects, her choice of New Bedford as a living and working environment might appear to be a curious choice. On the contrary, she insists this city is the perfect place to have both a theater and performing arts collaborative such as Culture Park, which she co-founded with Patricia Thomas, as well as the French Curve Design Studio, which she initiated herself. "New Bedford was the place to be," she says. "I really wanted to live in this area." Thus, when Rebecca Schade moved here a year and a half ago, she became yet another in a long line of transplanted artists to reinforce what has been called New Bedford's artistic renaissance. New Bedford's light is absolutely captivating, Rebecca says, and that makes it an ideal place for artists of all media. "I haven't had a bad light day since I moved here," Rebecca trills jubilantly. "It's called 'Cape light' and you can see why artists want to be here." In addition to her artistic work, Rebecca Schade is director of The New Bedford Film Festival (NBFF) and it's that hat she's wearing as she speaks with me on this recent October afternoon. The four-day festival, in its second day today and concluding Sunday, was an offshoot of a Regional Community Congress meeting a few years back which addressed items SouthCoast not only wanted, but desperately needed in order to move ahead culturally. The NBFF, co-produced by Culture Park and the NBFF Committee, was as high a priority as the AHA! nights advocated at those same meetings. "I'm considered the festival 'director,' " Rebecca chuckles, making the universal quotation mark sign with both hands.
"But we have a committee; Elizabeth LeStage, Claudette Menard, Tom Sexton and Patricia Thomas." She gives full credit to Elizabeth as the primary reason the New Bedford Film Festival exists. "Elizabeth's son is a filmmaker, and she really pushed for it ... but, that said, everybody was pretty much on board with it." Each person on the committee does a wonderful job and brings his or her own expertise to the table, Rebecca says. And this year's schedule reflects this eclectic, yet knowledgeable, approach. The series offers, in four locations, a number of short, medium-length and longer films in a variety of formats. Last night at the Cherry Building in downtown New Bedford, in addition to a grand opening ceremony featuring jazz stylist Lisa Soares, there was a variety of experimental VHS-format films. At 7 tonight, the series switches to the Zeiterion Theatre for a combination 16mm/VHS program. At 11 a.m. tomorrow, the series continues at Fairhaven's Bijou Theater, concentrating on 35mm films. Sunday's program at The Whaling Museum, scheduled to start at 11 a.m., promises to be the longest, with 15 pieces of varying lengths in both DVD and VHS formats. Tickets are $5 for each day's offerings. "One of the reasons for moving around is to have different types of projection available," Rebecca explains before I can even ask the question. "We have short subject videos and experimental films from 3 minutes to half an hour in length, by both local and national film and video-makers." Some are being seen for the very first time, while others have been shown at other venues such as the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Three hundred people attended last year's first-ever New Bedford Film Festival; she expects many more this year. "We feel we have a great line-up and we hope the community will support the festival as part of the ongoing arts renaissance." Renaissance ... there's that word again. It is precisely what drew Rebecca Schade to New Bedford, in the first place. "There's lots of positive energy here," Rebecca says. "With so many working artists here right now, it's exciting." Certainly, on a personal level, as a photographer, she's shooting more now than she has in a long time, Rebecca clarifies. Again, it all comes back to the quality of New Bedford's light. She simply cannot resist. "I've always shot stills," she explains. "Always had my own darkroom... I've shot black and white all my life." But besides the superb quality of light, New Bedford has an artistic heart and that really comes through, the designer articulates. Indeed, Rebecca Schade sums up with something many longtime SouthCoast residents have known all along: "It's so beautiful in this area that it's inspirational," she says earnestly. "The New Bedford area is the best kept secret in New England." For additional New Bedford Film Festival information, call (508) 996-0122.
 
Hank Seaman paints "Portraits" for you every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. Telephone: 508 979 4504. E-mail: hseaman@s-t.com
 
 
The Standard-Times Rebecca Schade is the director of the four-day New Bedford Film Festival, which is in its second day today. Ms. Schade -- a film designer, multi-media artist and photographer -- worked with a key group of movers and shakers to get the festival off the ground.