New Noises

Perry-Mansfield festival attracts musicians, performers, writers from New York, Los Angeles

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Erin Ragan

4-Points

Elisa Clark becomes instantly focused as the music begins. Her body starts across the floor, executing graceful yet stern movements. Her face mimics the melancholy of the music. Even her fingertips are performing.

Her dancing is flawless even though she is out of her element.

Clark is the company manager and dancer for the Battleworks Dance Company in New York City. Clark, along with other dancers from the company and its owner, Robert Battle, are in Steamboat Springs for The New Noises Festival of New Stageworks, hosted by the Perry-Mansfield Arts School and Camp.

"Instead of taxis, you hear horses," Clark said.

The unfamiliarity is echoed by most of the visitors here for the festival.

They are all acclaimed performers, writers, directors and musicians, most visiting from New York City or Los Angeles, said June Lindenmayer, the executive director at Perry-Mansfield.

"It's very special. It's very unusual," Lindenmayer said of the festival.

The festival is a way for Perry-Mansfield to foster new works in the arts, as well as benefit their students from the expertise of performance professionals, she said.

The 10-day event offers artists a chance to workshop new theater and dance projects, uninterrupted, in Perry-Mansfield's facilities. Lindenmayer said the serene landscape and peaceful lifestyle give the artists an opportunity to engulf themselves in their work.

"This is a bit of a luxury to these people," she said.

The festival was created in 1997 and is including a dance element for the first time this year. The public will be invited to presentations Friday through Sunday evenings.

These will be rough performances of the productions that will be workshopped during the week.

This year, there will be a dance presentation Friday, readings of the play "A Place at Forest Lawn" on Saturday and the musical "The Blue Flower" on Sunday.

The creators of each of the works are up-and-comers, but well-established up-and-comers, Lindenmayer said. Academy and Grammy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz is the festival's guest artist of honor. He visited the camp Monday to take a first look at the presentations, and provide the artists with critiques and advice.

He will be back during the weekend of the public presentations to offer final comments.

"It's a really big deal to have someone of his caliber," Lindenmayer said.

"The Blue Flower" is an unusual multimedia presentation that will include video, said musical director Andrew Levine.

"The musical has a really unique sound," Levine said. "Kurt Weil goes tete-a-tete with Hank Williams."

The play is set in the early 1900s, between World Wars I and II. Levine said the central thread of the musical is the disillusionment of lost opportunity.

The musical contains adult themes and will not be suitable for children, Lindenmayer said.

The play "A Place at Forest Lawn" can be compared to the movie "Driving Miss Daisy," said co-writer Jim Bontempo.

Luke Yankee, the other half of the writing team, said the play deals with friendship, forgiveness, growing old and preparing for death.

"It's very moving, and it's also very funny," Yankee said.

The two said their experience at Perry-Mansfield has been invaluable.

"It's extraordinary to have 10 days to focus on the work," Yankee said.

"It's all about the work," Bontempo said. "It's not about egos."

Robert Battle will choreograph the dance presentation.

"He's really starting to make his mark in modern dance," Lindenmayer said.

Levine said the festival is a great way for residents of Steamboat Springs to become familiar with aspects of the arts they would never be able to otherwise.

"They get an opportunity to look behind the scenes. It's about seeing the process," Levine said. "They have an opportunity to participate in that process."

The presentations the public will see this weekend will be raw performances, Lindenmayer said. Props and costumes will be very minimal.

"Keep in mind, none of the works are finished," she said. "It's not perfect because it's still in its infancy."

While at the camp, many of the visitors will be giving lessons to the camp's students. Topics will range from acting and dancing to writing and directing.

"The real benefit for us is its huge educational component," Lindenmayer said.

Some students and faculty have been selected to participate in the festival presentations, as well.

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