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“Garrett, the Blue Giraffe”

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Ciongoli-Koepfinger, Coni (Russian-Italian American playwright, director, acting teacher, 1957-____), “Garrett, the Blue Giraffe,”

a 75-minute metatheatre fantasy in English original by Ciongoli-Koepfinger and in Italian translation by Alex Franchini, set in an urban park zoo, late morning, autumn, 1998,

2m or 1m1f,

© 1998 by Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger;  •  script available from Denny Martin, Managing Director, The Gemini Theater, 7501 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15208, U.S.A., telephone 412-243-6464 extension 5, e-mail dennymartingtc@aol.com;  •  rights available from Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger, 2282 Elmhill Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221, U.S.A., telephone (home and fax) 412-247-1029, (work) 412-268-3441, e-mail ck3@andrew.cmu.edu, http://www.playwrites.net/playwrights/1999/c_march/fw3.html.  •  Cited by Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger, via ftp January 2, 1999; Ciongoli-Koepfinger says,

  § Dramatis Personae Israfel (m), angel; Garrett (m or f), young giraffe, Israfels guest.

  § SynopsisThe brilliant sun streams on a lovely autumn setting in an urban park zoo. Piles of colored leaves adorn the grounds. . . . The trees in the background are bare. . . . A bright purple bench sits directly in front of a curious, crystal sculpture. It looks like some sort of creature is emerging from a immense blossom. . . . It desperately is trying to reach its companion who haphazardly sits high atop the tip of the vertical golden beam which stems from its core. Sounds of nearby traffic fade as the stagelights come up on Israfel, the heavenly messenger, dressed in flowing white robes; he sits placidly, slowly strumming his silver lute. His long, golden locks glisten and sway in gentle rhythm while he plays an amusing melody.  Israfel greets the audience with his charming smile, then begins to chant a medieval lovesong with bewitching passion. Garrett, a towering yet meek figure, comes forth from the wings. His frail humanlike physique cautiously approaches with intense timidity. Lopsided hair hangs over his eye on one side, accentuating his despondency and shyness. Israfel welcomes his guest with a warm and dazzling reception, for he knows that Garrett has come for this divine appointment. It seems that the young giraffe has a burning desire to become a rhinoceros and has finally come with the courage to question his fate and perhaps be granted molecular reconstruction. . . . Israfel awakens Garrett to a part of himself that has been asleep deep within his soul. There, they hear the lost chord of creation; and, alas, the dance of life begins!

  § Comment “‘Garrett, the Blue Giraffe is a metaphysical tale of a sad giraffe who longs to become a rhinoceros. This tale is for the 1990s what The Velveteen Rabbit was for the 1970s.  Every adult can identify with Garretts search for identity. The show has been workshopped both here in Pittsburgh and in New York and was recently  funded through a grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation/Howard Heinz Endowment Multicultural Arts Initiative. Garrett has been in development since 1996; it was read at The Beehive at Sunday Night Live, then later was directed by Elsa von Eckartsberg, Ph.D., as a staged reading at Vahalla Fine Arts Temple to an audience of about sixty people. At that time, people in psychology remarked it was a very healing play but needed its own music.  We found the music for it . . . but went even one step further, and found an artist who would create a visual as well.  Earlier this year Garrett played to a full house at The Brewhouse Space 101, in Pittsburgh. and was well received at Theatre 409, in New York, under the direction of Denny Martin.

Addendum, May 15, 2002: Subject: GARRETT- The London Premiere . . . . Another review for GARRETT which became an opera last summer and opened in London: http://www.hugill.demon.co.uk/garrett.htm. Reviews -From Opera magazine, October 2001 Garrett FifteenB Productions at Hoxton Hall, London June 9 Garrett by Robert Hugill is an opera about a shy giraffe with an identity problem—he has a burning desire to be changed into a rhinoceros. But an angel comes along and sorts out his hang-ups and sends him on his way a happier giraffe. It is an endearing story with philosophical and metaphysical implications but which can also be enjoyed at a simpler anthropomorphic level. Hugill based his composition on a play by the American writer Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger. They had previously worked together when Hugill wrote the incidental music for Candle Dancing. Their plan for a further collaboration on Garrett, the Blue Giraffe evolved into an opera when Hugill re-cast the play text into a libretto for two characters and scored it for a chamber group of five musicians (two flutes, viola, guitar and piano). The opera had its first performance in the slightly shabby but welcoming interior of Hoxton Hall, one of London’s historic music halls, built in 1863; it is now used for a catholic assortment of community and professional shows as well as the Hoxton New Music Days. Garrett was staged without scenery by the director and choreographer Darren Royston, but with lighting by Matt Haskins that encouraged the audience to use their imagination to conjure up jungle plains and herds of rhinoceros. It opened with the composer as storyteller, setting the scene: two characters, an angel and a giraffe, meet in a park, both having assumed human form. Israfel, the angel, was a beautiful androgynous figure with golden hair and wearing a dazzling white suit, Garrett a casually dressed, awkward young man. Israfel encourages him to explain why he feels out of place with his own kind and their conversation is interspersed with three flashbacks in which Garrett narrates the plight of a lonely giraffe who longs to change his form so that he can join a herd of rhinoceros. While the angel sings in flowing arioso accompanied by viola and flutes, Garrett’s contribution tends to be in broken half-formulated phrases backed by piano and guitar. And in spite of the obscurity and overblown imagery of the libretto, what I took to be its message came across thanks to the committed and convincing performances of the two singers. Damian Thantrey’s gangling diffidence was touchingly suggestive of the sad giraffe but in Garrett’s three passages of narration the baritone filled the hall with his richly coloured, expressive singing. The soprano Rosemary Forbes-Butler projected clearly as the sympathetic angel. Their dance to Hugill’s music of the spheres flute with guitar accompaniment—which sweeps the mists of confusion from Garrett’s troubled thoughts and echoes the release of his pent-up emotions was an imaginative touch and nicely executed. Malcolm Cottle conducted the five musicians whose unusual groupings were harmoniously apt. The opera ran for a well-judged hour.  •  Coni Koepfinger, Staff Assistant/Publications, Office of the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Carnegie Mellon University, 1060 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, U.S.A., telephone 412-268-3441, fax 412-268-8346.

                                   Coni Ciongoli- Koepfinger has taught theatre arts at The School for The
                                   Carnegie and other art centers, believing that creative energy is never lost, it just
                                   changes hands, and hearts, and minds.... Currently, Coni is one of the producers
                                   of Sunday Nite Live, a weekly play reading service, and is the host of Dionysus
                                   2000: A FORUM FOR THE ARTS IN PITTSBURGH, a live magazine the meets
                                   monthly to focus on the arts at The Cafe Decartes atop City Books on the
                                   Southside. Coni sings in a folk group and is a soprano in the St. Maurice Choir.
                                   She was one of the named "ones to watch" in Pittsburgh Magazine's 1996 Harry
                                   Schwalb Excellence in the Arts Awards. A review of her play SIDESHOW in The
                                   Pittsburgh Post Gazette compared her work to the mastermind of Twilight Zone's,
                                   Rod Serling.

                                   Koepfinger worked as an administrative assistant at Carnegie Mellon University,
                                   where she completed three graduate courses in dramatic literature. She received
                                   her bachelor of arts in theatre from Penn State University, where she had a
                                   staged reading of one of her full-length plays and was asked to design for a
                                   equity production. She enjoys a career as a freelance artist, teacher, and director.
                                   Constance and Joseph, her husband, have been blessed with daughters, Katie
                                   and Mary, who share in the daily adventures such as creative dramatics and
                                   preschool playgroups. In 1992, she was the director of an arts-in-the-park camp for
                                   140 children.

                                   Koepfinger's efforts in playwriting begame known to area audiences with
                                   Trialproof in 1984, presented to an applauding house at The New City Theatre.
                                   In 1985, All Good Dreamers was chosen for production at The Pittsburgh
                                   Playwrights Festival. In 1986,The Day Rudolph Ran Away to Pittsburgh delighted
                                   audiences young and old at The Frick Fine Arts on the University of Pittsburgh
                                   campus. In addition to her writing, Koepfinger has enjoyed working for many
                                   companies, such as: Allegheny Repertory Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre,
                                   Fisher Scientific, South Park Conservatory Theater, Laurel Highlands Regional
                                   Theatre, Fine Line Theatre, Civic Light Opera, Citiparks, The Famous Rider and
                                   Wilkinsburg Arts Theatre. As an independent filmmaker, she studied with the
                                   Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and has written industrial videos for Allegheny East and
                                   Carnegie Mellon University Dining Services. As artistic director of Playmakers
                                   Pittsburgh, Koepfinger produced an original adaptation of Cricket on the Hearth,
                                   the Dickens classic, Big Secret, a children's play that was performed in December
                                   1990. Ms. Koepfinger has been a member of The Acting Company since1983. In
                                   1992, Onrushing Angels , a baroque Christmas carol, was commissioned for a
                                   local schola concert . The Baldanzi-Koepfinger musical, THE SHADOW DANCER
                                   was showcased at The Apollo Community Theatre in October 1995 with grand
                                   audience appeal. This year, Koepfinger's full length drama, SIDESHOW, was
                                   chosen for production in The Upstairs Theatre's 1996 New Play Festival. Most
                                   recently, Koepfinger produced THE RED ROOM, an original radio play, for
                                   R.I.S., a reader's radio service that reaches over 5000 visually impaired listeners.
                                   Koepfinger has a deep regard for all art, realizing its vital importance to our
                                   society. COFFEEHOUSE MAGIK received great reviews at The Acting Company
                                   in Pittsburgh and at THE MUSEUM OF SOUND RECORDING in New York City.

                                                                         ORIGINAL WORK PRODUCED

                                    1980 *All in a Whispher Full Length Drama - Staged Reading Playhouse ,
                                   Penn StateUniversity
                                    1982 *Hands Off Experimental Feature - Student Film Pittsburgh Filmmakers;
                                   Pgh, Pa
                                    1984 * Trialproof - Absurdist Play - Staged Reading New City Theatre;
                                   Oakland, Pennsylvania
                                    1985 *All Good Dreamers One-Act Play - Production Pittsburgh Playwrights
                                   Festival *Of Rhyme and Reason One-Act Play - Play Reading Hemingways;
                                   Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania *Welcome to UDS Instructional Videos Series (6)
                                   Carnegie Mellon University; Pgh
                                    1986 *The Day Rudolph Ran Away Children's PlayProduction Frick Fine Arts ;
                                   Univ. of Pgh
                                    1988 *Growing Together Industrial Full Length Video American Cablevision
                                   A.E. M H M R; Pittsburgh,
                                    1989 *Suzie McSneezer Children's Play - Production Spirituality & the Arts;
                                   Pgh, Pa
                                    1990 *Moving through the Pain Collaboration - Production The Artery
                                   Mainstage; Pittsburgh, Pa
                                    1991 * Rudolph's Big Secret Children's Play - Production St. Maurice School;
                                   Pgh, Pa
                                    1992 *On Rushing Angels Baroque Choral Text - Performance St. Maurice
                                   Schola Concert; Pgh, Pa
                                    1993 *Journeys Operatic Collaboration - Performance St. Maurice School;
                                   Pgh, Pa
                                    1995 *The Shadow Dancer / Full Length Musical- Production ACT; Apollo,
                                   Pennsylvania * Jack and the Talkback Beanstalk / Children's Play ACT; Apollo,
                                    1996 * Birdbath A metadrama in Two acts - Staged Reading Sunday Night
                                   Live, Pgh, Pa * SIDESHOW Comedy Metadrama - Production Upstairs Theatre
                                   Play Festival, * The Red Room A one -act - Radio Play Radio Information
                                   Service * Garrett, the Blue Giraffe - Staged Reading Valhalla; Pgh, Pa *
                                   Trialproof - Absurdist Play - Full Production M&M Productions; Pgh, Pa * Saints
                                   in Revolt - Full Production Eckartsberga Art Center; Pgh. Pa * SIDESHOW-
                                   Comedy Metadrama - Production Community College of Allegheny Co.
                                    1997 * SLEEPING WITH DESTINY - Staged Reading Sunday Night Live, The
                                   Beehive * COFFEEHOUSE MAGIK- metadrama- Full Production Recorded Live
                                   @Museum of Sound Recording, NYC * COFFEEHOUSE MAGIK--Full Production
                                   The Acting Company / Pittsburgh, PA * TALES OF BOBBY DE BUG -Children's
                                   Musical Comedy Pops for Kids Series- Monroeville Arts Council
                                    1998 * CANDLE DANCING- staged reading The Acting Company / Pittsburgh,
                                   PA * SAINTS IN REVOLT * GARRETT THE BLUE GIRAFFE Brewhouse Space
                                   101 / Pittsburgh, PA * SAINTS IN REVOLT * GARRETT THE BLUE GIRAFFE
                                   Theatre 409 /New York, NY * JACK & THE TALKBACK BEANSTALK -Children's
                                   Musical Comedy Pops for Kids Series- Monroeville Arts Council * GARRETT THE
                                   BLUE GIRAFFE Lester Hamburg Studio / Pittsburgh, PA *SLAM, THE MAN * THE
                                   WORLD TOUR The Gemini Theater Company / Pittsburgh, PA.”

  § Themes angel, appointment, autumn, despondency, fate, Israfel, molecular reconstruction, rhinoceros, shyness, song, soul, transformation, urban park, zoo.

This Website continues under construction and welcomes new citations and comments.

Page mounted March 30, 1999, and updated September 3, 6, 1999, May 15, 16, 2002, by the site Webmaster.

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