There are few things as intimate as the public display that is live theater. Unlike a film, where you are strictly a spectator (no matter how emotionally involved you are in the story), with live theater you are a part of the story. You are watching events unfold in real time. It's all happening right before your very eyes, as they say.
Now, there are many levels and layers to theater. Operas, ballets, musicals, one-man shows. Broadway extravaganzas, high school plays, local playhouses. While it is easy to say that most Broadway shows are amazing and most school plays are like torture to sit through (both true), there exists a rarely acknowledged sweet spot and that is small theaters full of talented individuals. And within that arena is an even smaller sub-group of players who specialize in vaudeville and melodrama.
In the small, beach town of Oceano on the Central Coast of California sits a colorful, if modestly sized, building with a tall sign in the parking lot drawing you toward The Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville. A year-round company, they put on about half a dozen different shows a year that run about a month or two each and range from well-known hits like Steal Magnolias and Treasure Island to parodies like Pappa Pia and Scary Poppins, each one followed by a vaudeville revue. They're unique, they're heart-warming, they're fall out of your seat funny and the talent flies out from the stage onto the audience like it's being shot from a confetti canon.
But that's not all. At The Great American Melodrama, it's all about the team effort, so when the curtain goes down for intermission, the cast (still in costume) comes out onto the floor or back into the concession stand to serve up snacks! It doesn't get much more intimate than having Rip Van Winkle hand you a box of popcorn.
If you've ever admired the exquisite artwork in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, then you've admired the work of Eyvind Earle. To celebrate the work Eyvind Earle, the Elverhoj Gallery in Solvang, California held an exhibit featuring the most wintery pieces of the one-time Solvang resident.
In his career, Earle not only worked on animated features, he also did book illustrations, magazine covers, commercials, and designed over 800 Christmas cards. That last one came as a surprise even to Earle, as he said he never intended to become a Christmas card designer. "To me, every day is Christmas," he said. "Every creation is divine. Cover the ugliest run-down shack with snow, and it becomes a magic vision of purity."
His winter scenes are breathtaking. Bold lines, vibrant colors, and that characteristic Eyvind Earle whimsy. The Elverhoj not only hung some of his most beautiful paintings of snow covered trees and barns, they also displayed a book of his Christmas cards and played his self-titled documentary on a loop to give a more well-rounded view of the man and the artist.
"I've painted paintings and I'm constantly and everlastingly overwhelmed at the stupendous infinity of nature. Wherever I turn and look, there I see creation. Art is creating... art is the search for truth." ~Eyvind Earle
When art jumps off the canvas out into the real world, that’s when it really turns into an adventure. What is often a solitary activity for the artist, or a quiet, reverent activity for the viewer, suddenly becomes something that can be actively participated in. A few things may come to mind here: street art, dinner theater, flash mobs, cow parades.
Sorry, what was that last thing? Did we say Cow Parade? Yes, yes we did. Right about now you’re probably wondering what the heck a cow parade is and what one would have to do with art. Allow us to enlighten you.
According to CowParadeSLO.com, “CowParade is an international moo-ving public art exhibit that has been featured in major world cities including Paris, Hong Kong, Athens, Moscow, Milan, London, New York, Cannes, Rio, Rome and beyond. CowParade has been staged in over 75 cities and towns, bringing smiles to more than 250 million people worldwide. Each CowParade shares a few common elements – community involvement, sponsors, artists, charities, beautiful cows, increased tourism, and notoriety.”
Van Gogh sought notoriety, but didn’t achieve much of it in his lifetime. Maybe someone should have told him about cow parades.
CowParade started in 1999, has put 5,000 unique cows on display, and raised $30 million for charity. Each life-sized cow is made of fiberglass and weighs 120 pounds and there is currently a herd of a hundred such cows roaming San Luis Obispo County on the California coast.
To give you an idea of the artistic expression allowed by this event, local artist have painted cows to look like the Incredible Hulk and a John Deere tractor, cows covered in monarch butterflies and colorful handprints, cows with clothes, cows with clockwork insides, and cows with regional agricultural depictions. There’s even an Adventure Cow that’s been zip lining!
The SLO Cow Parade began in a field at the Madonna Inn and then slowly dispersed, with each cow taking up residence in a new location. One of the best things about these fun, artsy cows is stumbling upon one unexpectedly. Here are a few of our favorite discoveries: