Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur, Merlin and Queen Guinevere are everyday discussion topics for artistic director Kim Maselli, as are conversations about fairies, dragons and giants.
Pacific Festival Ballet premieres the legend of “Camelot” in a new and exciting production at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Saturday, May 18 at 2 and 7 p.m.
This is not a creative first for the company. Hollywood composer Eric Allaman and Maselli have joined forces for over a decade. In 2007, the duo premiered “The Sea Princess,” and in 2010, “Noah’s Ark.” These innovative full-length productions push the boundaries of traditional ballet by featuring original music, aerial performers and mixed media scenery.
“What excites me about our original work is to see the overwhelming response from the ballet novice and enthusiast alike,” says Maselli. “My goal is to inspire new ballet audiences by bringing this beautiful art form into the 21st century with a fresh twist.”
The creative journey into Camelot has been a long road. Five years ago, Allaman and Maselli sat down to embark on their third 90-minute score. Researching and gathering data on the legend of Camelot was critical to creating a storyline suitable for stage and telling this familiar story without dialogue. Once the scenes and characters were structured, the next nine months were spent building themes, melodies and intentions for the score.
“Kim and I spent quite a bit of time breaking down the scenes of the ballet and determining central characters and storylines,” explains Allaman. “Our ballets have a scored feel to them very much like a movie, so this creates an opportunity for the performers to story tell as well as dance.”
Through patron support and community fundraising, Pacific Festival Ballet sent Allaman to Russia two times to record the score of “The Sea Princess” and “Noah’s Ark” with a 50-piece orchestra. During the summer of 2016, PFB sent Allaman out once again, this time to Macedonia to record the melodic score of “Camelot.”
“Few regional ballet companies have the creative and financial resources to launch into original projects such as these,” says Maselli. “I feel grateful for the opportunity to bring ‘Camelot’ to the stage as well as to our community.”
Community support for Pacific Festival Ballet is felt both on and off stage. Talented individuals from all aspects of the theatrical world are combining their abilities in an effort to bring “Camelot” to life.
With a cast of 80 dancers, over 100 costumes have been purchased or made by local professional seamstresses and volunteer moms. Every Saturday there is a bustle of activity at California Dance Theatre, the training school of Pacific Festival Ballet, where studios are filled with rehearsing dancers and the upstairs loft transforms into a creative workshop. Costumes are fitted and embellished, medieval capes tailored and trimmed, fairy wings attached and molded.
Several enchanting elements of Camelot are the stallions belonging to the Knights of the Round Table as well as the mystical winged creatures that mingle with the citizens of the land. Elaborate headpieces have been designed and built by experienced and rising artists.
“When these eight stallions gallop across the stage, I want the audience to gasp and feel as if they are transported to an English countryside,” says community designer Paige Loter.
Daniela Iezza, PFB alumni and current Notre Dame Bio-Chem major, took on the task of creating dragon and gargoyle headpieces from her university dorm room.
“Science and the arts have always been a huge part of my life,” comments Iezza. “It was exciting to design headpieces for ‘Camelot’ that were durable and beautiful yet lightweight enough for the dancers. By combining techniques from special effects, cirque and material science, I feel I have achieved this!”
Set designer and community artist Michael Thompson built the set for “Noah’s Ark” and now brings his expertise to “Camelot.”
“I first worked on ‘Noah’s Ark’ almost 10 years ago,” says Thompson. “‘Camelot’ is very different and so am I. I’ve grown as an artist and set designer. This time, I was able to create many more elements and really stretch my creativity,” says Michael, adding, “I also had help from a young art student of mine, Daniel (15), whose sister, Tatiana (13), will be performing in ‘Camelot.’ It is exciting to see family talent from two different art worlds merge together in this one unique opportunity.”
With “Camelot” close to completion and this five-year creative journey coming to life, everyone’s goal is to get the word out.
“This original masterpiece is a theatrical experience created by our community and for our community,” says veteran theatre producer and PFB performer Mark Reyes. “Everyone needs to come to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza to witness the birth of this new production and experience the wealth of talent in the Conejo Valley.”
For tickets, visit the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E Thousand Oaks Blvd, or call Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000. Learn more at PacFestBallet.org.