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ST. JOHN IS LOCATION, INSPIRATION FOR NEW ART

April 4, 2001? Mainland dancers, a choreographer, musicians, a composer, synchronized swimmers, a storyteller and assorted technical and administrative personnel are beginning a week's worth of cultural and natural history immersion on St. John Wednesday in the process of creating new performance works of art.
What they create will be filmed on location through April 11 and presented both live and via video on Sept. 8 before an audience expected to number about 5,500 people outside of Washington, D.C., at Wolf Trap, America's National Park for the Performing Arts.
Later, millions of other people across the nation and those visiting from abroad will be able to view the presentation on videotape and, if all goes according to plan, on national television.
The program is the second in an open-ended series called Face of America that is being produced by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts under the guidance of its president and chief executive officer, Terrence D. Jones.
It adds up to the kind of promotion ? for St. John, and by extension for the entire Virgin Islands ? that money can't buy, and in this case it hasn't cost the Virgin Islands a penny. In fact, while the Wolf Trap entourage is on St. John this week, they will be putting money into the local economy, as all good visitors do through outlays for accommodations, meals, transportation and creature comforts.
Also, in this case, the decision was weighed and made by Wolf Trap management and staff with minimal input from the V.I. National Park and none from the Tourism Department or the territory's advertising or public relations agencies. It was simply a matter of being the right national park ? among some 380 of them ? at the right time.
It was Terre Jones who proposed Face of America, saw the first program through two years of development to performance last September, and is the guiding force for the St. John project. "When I came to Wolf Trap five years ago, we began talking about how we would celebrate the millennium," he explains. "There were ideas about recognizing the distinguished history of Wolf Trap, but the more we talked, the more I wanted to look forward, not back, and this idea just dawned on me."
Promoting the arts and the parks
In essence, "this idea" was to foster "the creation of art for the next generation" while at the same time working with and focusing attention on the country's other national parks and the role they play in preserving and interpreting the United States' diverse history, land and culture.
The Face of America 2001 artists are choreographer Donald Byrd, with his dance company, The Group; jazz musician Steve Turre, with his conch-shell-playing ensemble, The Sanctified Shells; choreographer Ronald K. Brown and his dance group, Evidence; storyteller Alice McGill; and five members of the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team. All but Brown and his group are on St. John developing their new performance works. Turre's music will accompany Byrd's choreography and perhaps also the swimmers' underwater performance.
The presentation in September will feature all but the swimmers performing live on stage, plus video images of the V.I. National Park and the artists now being shot on location that will be displayed on three high-definition television screens 20 by 20 feet in size.
Last year's program, focusing on Yosemite National Park, showcased the premiere of a work by Project Bandaloop, an aerial dance company (simultaneously performing live on stage and scaling the rock faces of Yosemite on video), the premiere of music by Native American flutist Robert Mirabal, and a performance by American Indian Dance Theatre.
Wolf Trap, located in Virginia 20 minutes outside of the nation's capital on 100 acres of donated farmland, was designated as a national park in 1966. Its first facility, the Filene Center, an indoor/outdoor theater with seating for over 7,000 (six times that of the Reichhold Center on St. Thomas), opened in 1971. For Face of America, because of line-of-sight limitations for the giant video screens, seating is reduced to about 5,500.
While two years of planning and preparation went into the production of the first presentation, this one gets only half that time. "We weren't prepared to begin the second one until we knew the first was successful," Jones says. "As a result, we're really having to put things together in a pretty quick fashion."
Picking the park and the artists
The process of selecting the park to be showcased each year is in-house and rather informal, he says: "The artistic staff and I sit down and go through what it is that we are trying to accomplish artistically, then we look at which parks best complement that goal. After we select the park, then we begin selecting the artists." For this, he says, a search process comes into play that is "less structured than a request for proposals."
Jones has been in performing arts production and management for more than 30 years, "and I have a very talented artistic staff," he says. "Once we get a sense of the park and its cultural and natural history, we talk about which artists we know, or know of, who could creatively fit into that environment and interpret it artistically."
Take Turre: "We were familiar with his jazz, but I wasn't aware that he has a group that uses conch shells to play jazz music," Jones says. Or Byrd: "I have commissioned work before with him. He's one of the leading choreographers in America today, and I thought this would be an ideal opportunity for him."
The choice of McGill as storyteller was based on "who could gather and tell, in an effective and entertaining way," the traditional stories of St. John's cultural community. "We did talk to some St. John storytellers," Jones says. "We went with a person accustomed to performing before large crowds." On St. John this week, he says, McGill "will go to local storytellers and talk with them."
The idea of engaging a precision swim team came about because the host venue officially is the Virgin Islands National Park and Coral Reefs National Monument. To integrate an underwater element into the program, Jones and his staff decided that the best approach would be via aquatic dance. "We will not be using them in the traditional form," he says of the Olympic swimmers. "It will be something much more freestyle."
Wolf Trap personnel and some of the artists have been visiting St. John off and on for months. Jo Hodgin, the foundation's director of planning and initiatives, arrived last weekend after having made her first site visit last fall and another since. Byrd came down early this year with members of The Group "to get a feel for the space and what he wants in the dance," Jones says.
Wolf Trap, which presents more than a hundred shows in the summer, including children's theater, attracts a "mostly regional audience drawn from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia," he says. "We're looking at 15, maybe 20 percent tourists." Last year's performance, promoted in the D.C.-area news media and at a nearby mall, was a sell-out. "This was a show with no big-name stars, and it was word-of-mouth that worked," he says, adding that he expects the St. John production to be an even easier sell.
One night and a lot more
"I think we can safely say it is the most ambitious thing we do during the year," Jones says of Face of America. "It turned out to be a wonderful away to kick off the millennium, but also a great way to tell the stories of the national parks, many of which people are not familiar with." Indeed, he says, a National Park Service survey found that the average person could name only three national parks. "Through the performing arts, we need to help people unde
rstand that there are more," he says.
The budget for last year's production was "around $400,000 to $500,000," he says, including artists' fees, travel, filming and production costs. "One of the most expensive items was renting the hdtv projectors," he notes.
What the public gets for that outlay is "not quite as one-night as it might seem," Jones says. For one thing, the NPS is planning an interactive display on the St. John project at the park visitor center in Cruz Bay. For another, Wolf Trap is working with both Yosemite and the V.I. park to develop videos that would be available at visitor centers and could be used as "an ongoing part of the interpretive part of the park's mission" and could also be made available to schools, libraries and other entities.
Meanwhile, the foundation is looking for support to develop a television series incorporating both the Face of America performances and behind-the-scenes accounts of their development. "We shot something like 40 hours of footage at Yosemite, and I expect we will have even more in the Virgin Islands," he says.
In addition, the Internet offers another opportunity for exposure. For Face of America 2001, "we are creating a web adventure with still clips and video clips and links to the Virgin Islands National Park," Jones says ? and Wolf Trap's site "has something like 500,000 hits a week." Finally, "the actual pieces created by the artists will go into their repertoires."
Although last year's premiere presentation was a huge success, Jones says, there "hasn't been a lot lobbying" from other parks for consideration. Park No. 3 hasn't been selected yet. "We're hoping this next time to announce a series of the next five or so," he says.

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April 4, 2001? Mainland dancers, a choreographer, musicians, a composer, synchronized swimmers, a storyteller and assorted technical and administrative personnel are beginning a week's worth of cultural and natural history immersion on St. John Wednesday in the process of creating new performance works of art.
What they create will be filmed on location through April 11 and presented both live and via video on Sept. 8 before an audience expected to number about 5,500 people outside of Washington, D.C., at Wolf Trap, America's National Park for the Performing Arts.
Later, millions of other people across the nation and those visiting from abroad will be able to view the presentation on videotape and, if all goes according to plan, on national television.
The program is the second in an open-ended series called Face of America that is being produced by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts under the guidance of its president and chief executive officer, Terrence D. Jones.
It adds up to the kind of promotion ? for St. John, and by extension for the entire Virgin Islands ? that money can't buy, and in this case it hasn't cost the Virgin Islands a penny. In fact, while the Wolf Trap entourage is on St. John this week, they will be putting money into the local economy, as all good visitors do through outlays for accommodations, meals, transportation and creature comforts.
Also, in this case, the decision was weighed and made by Wolf Trap management and staff with minimal input from the V.I. National Park and none from the Tourism Department or the territory's advertising or public relations agencies. It was simply a matter of being the right national park ? among some 380 of them ? at the right time.
It was Terre Jones who proposed Face of America, saw the first program through two years of development to performance last September, and is the guiding force for the St. John project. "When I came to Wolf Trap five years ago, we began talking about how we would celebrate the millennium," he explains. "There were ideas about recognizing the distinguished history of Wolf Trap, but the more we talked, the more I wanted to look forward, not back, and this idea just dawned on me."
Promoting the arts and the parks
In essence, "this idea" was to foster "the creation of art for the next generation" while at the same time working with and focusing attention on the country's other national parks and the role they play in preserving and interpreting the United States' diverse history, land and culture.
The Face of America 2001 artists are choreographer Donald Byrd, with his dance company, The Group; jazz musician Steve Turre, with his conch-shell-playing ensemble, The Sanctified Shells; choreographer Ronald K. Brown and his dance group, Evidence; storyteller Alice McGill; and five members of the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team. All but Brown and his group are on St. John developing their new performance works. Turre's music will accompany Byrd's choreography and perhaps also the swimmers' underwater performance.
The presentation in September will feature all but the swimmers performing live on stage, plus video images of the V.I. National Park and the artists now being shot on location that will be displayed on three high-definition television screens 20 by 20 feet in size.
Last year's program, focusing on Yosemite National Park, showcased the premiere of a work by Project Bandaloop, an aerial dance company (simultaneously performing live on stage and scaling the rock faces of Yosemite on video), the premiere of music by Native American flutist Robert Mirabal, and a performance by American Indian Dance Theatre.
Wolf Trap, located in Virginia 20 minutes outside of the nation's capital on 100 acres of donated farmland, was designated as a national park in 1966. Its first facility, the Filene Center, an indoor/outdoor theater with seating for over 7,000 (six times that of the Reichhold Center on St. Thomas), opened in 1971. For Face of America, because of line-of-sight limitations for the giant video screens, seating is reduced to about 5,500.
While two years of planning and preparation went into the production of the first presentation, this one gets only half that time. "We weren't prepared to begin the second one until we knew the first was successful," Jones says. "As a result, we're really having to put things together in a pretty quick fashion."
Picking the park and the artists
The process of selecting the park to be showcased each year is in-house and rather informal, he says: "The artistic staff and I sit down and go through what it is that we are trying to accomplish artistically, then we look at which parks best complement that goal. After we select the park, then we begin selecting the artists." For this, he says, a search process comes into play that is "less structured than a request for proposals."
Jones has been in performing arts production and management for more than 30 years, "and I have a very talented artistic staff," he says. "Once we get a sense of the park and its cultural and natural history, we talk about which artists we know, or know of, who could creatively fit into that environment and interpret it artistically."
Take Turre: "We were familiar with his jazz, but I wasn't aware that he has a group that uses conch shells to play jazz music," Jones says. Or Byrd: "I have commissioned work before with him. He's one of the leading choreographers in America today, and I thought this would be an ideal opportunity for him."
The choice of McGill as storyteller was based on "who could gather and tell, in an effective and entertaining way," the traditional stories of St. John's cultural community. "We did talk to some St. John storytellers," Jones says. "We went with a person accustomed to performing before large crowds." On St. John this week, he says, McGill "will go to local storytellers and talk with them."
The idea of engaging a precision swim team came about because the host venue officially is the Virgin Islands National Park and Coral Reefs National Monument. To integrate an underwater element into the program, Jones and his staff decided that the best approach would be via aquatic dance. "We will not be using them in the traditional form," he says of the Olympic swimmers. "It will be something much more freestyle."
Wolf Trap personnel and some of the artists have been visiting St. John off and on for months. Jo Hodgin, the foundation's director of planning and initiatives, arrived last weekend after having made her first site visit last fall and another since. Byrd came down early this year with members of The Group "to get a feel for the space and what he wants in the dance," Jones says.
Wolf Trap, which presents more than a hundred shows in the summer, including children's theater, attracts a "mostly regional audience drawn from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia," he says. "We're looking at 15, maybe 20 percent tourists." Last year's performance, promoted in the D.C.-area news media and at a nearby mall, was a sell-out. "This was a show with no big-name stars, and it was word-of-mouth that worked," he says, adding that he expects the St. John production to be an even easier sell.
One night and a lot more
"I think we can safely say it is the most ambitious thing we do during the year," Jones says of Face of America. "It turned out to be a wonderful away to kick off the millennium, but also a great way to tell the stories of the national parks, many of which people are not familiar with." Indeed, he says, a National Park Service survey found that the average person could name only three national parks. "Through the performing arts, we need to help people unde rstand that there are more," he says.
The budget for last year's production was "around $400,000 to $500,000," he says, including artists' fees, travel, filming and production costs. "One of the most expensive items was renting the hdtv projectors," he notes.
What the public gets for that outlay is "not quite as one-night as it might seem," Jones says. For one thing, the NPS is planning an interactive display on the St. John project at the park visitor center in Cruz Bay. For another, Wolf Trap is working with both Yosemite and the V.I. park to develop videos that would be available at visitor centers and could be used as "an ongoing part of the interpretive part of the park's mission" and could also be made available to schools, libraries and other entities.
Meanwhile, the foundation is looking for support to develop a television series incorporating both the Face of America performances and behind-the-scenes accounts of their development. "We shot something like 40 hours of footage at Yosemite, and I expect we will have even more in the Virgin Islands," he says.
In addition, the Internet offers another opportunity for exposure. For Face of America 2001, "we are creating a web adventure with still clips and video clips and links to the Virgin Islands National Park," Jones says ? and Wolf Trap's site "has something like 500,000 hits a week." Finally, "the actual pieces created by the artists will go into their repertoires."
Although last year's premiere presentation was a huge success, Jones says, there "hasn't been a lot lobbying" from other parks for consideration. Park No. 3 hasn't been selected yet. "We're hoping this next time to announce a series of the next five or so," he says.