Formerly of Stewartville, Twin Cities dancer Jennifer Mackis back in town.
She is playing the role of Cinderella’s stepmother in this weekend’s Children’s Dance Theatreproduction of "Cinderella." While she did not choreograph her part, director and choreographer Matthew Keefeencouraged Jennifer to put her own mark on it.
She is enjoying the role "because it’s not super physically demanding and is more acting so you get to have more fun with fellow cast members."
Having spent her formative dance training years here in Rochester at Janet Lang Dance Studio and Rochester Ballet School, it is especially meaningful for Jennifer to return to the stage at the Mayo Civic Center. At a recent rehearsal, the mother of a young dancer brought her daughter over to Jennifer to reassure the little girl that the stepmother "wasn’t scary."
In the midst of the conversation, Jennifer realized she and the other woman had danced together with Children’s Dance Theatre as teenagers and had not seen one another since they were 16. Such unexpected encounters have made this production and role so special to Mack.
Jennifer can be seen performing in Cinderella at the Mayo Civic Center this weekend. Shows are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. today, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Born in Iceland, raised in Italy, and having lived in New York City and Washington D.C., world traveler Alexis Pattonnow divides her time between Rochester and Los Angeles.
After earning a degree in romance languages and literature from Princeton University, Patton worked as an actress and a writer. She then returned to school to study film and television production at the University of Southern California, where she is currently an MFA candidate.
As part of her coursework, Alexis was assigned to make a film in which one of the constraints was "no dialogue." The end result was her film "Angels in Disguise."
Patton wrote and directed this black-and-white short, gathering inspiration from Hebrews 13:2. ("Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.") It is the story of a young woman assisting a homeless man. She wanted to make an "inspirational film where the audience feels uplifted at the end."
With no dialogue, Alexis was able to "tell the story visually." But even without conversation between the actors, "sound becomes critical." Patton was ever so intentional with the selection of all sound in her film.
"Angels in Disguise" is receiving much acclaim worldwide. While at the Durango Film Festival in Colorado, Patton’s film was screened twice for local schoolchildren, giving them exposure to art, critical thinking, and an awareness of social justice.
Closer to home, Patton’s film was named an Official Selection at The Mespies 2018, a Minneapolis film festival. In addition, she was honored with nine nominations, including Best Short, Best Writing, and Best Directing.
"Angels in Disguise" will be honored at the 2018 Mespies Awards ceremony this evening at the Heights Theater (3951 Central Ave. NE) in Minneapolis. A screening of the film, free and open to the public, will be at 5:15 p.m. March 25 at the Heights Theater.
Some careers are driven by circumstance. As an undergrad studying drama with an emphasis on costume design at San Francisco State University, Heather Acerroneeded money to pay the rent. She took a job at the Ventura County Library and "forgot to leave."
Heather was no stranger to the Ventura County Library system. As a child, she frequently rode her bike to the local library.
"I remember visiting one summer with my pet rat Gmork (named for the character from "The Neverending Story")riding on my shoulder. He was very calm, enjoyed bike rides, and could even do a few tricks.
After several visits with Gmork, the librarian noticed him and let me know that pets were not allowed in the building. I left him home for future library visits."
Acerro went on to the University of Southern California to earn her master’s degree in library science. It was Rochester’s good fortune when she arrived here in 2011, where she now serves as head of Youth Services for the Rochester Public Library.
Heather’s good work has not gone unnoticed. Library Journal recently honored her as one of the 2018 Movers and Shakers. Specifically recognized in the category of "Change Agents," Heather has been instrumental in our community.
In 2014, she and her Youth Services staff along with community partners worked to "become a safe space for LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) youth and families." One of the highlights has been the Pride Prom, a summer event planned and hosted by q club, a teen group that resulted from the safe and welcoming environment Heather helped facilitate at the library.
What do librarians like to read? Heather’s recent choices include "non-fiction about minimalism and whole-foods, plant-based eating." However, soon she will only be reading picture books in her free time. Acerro is also serving on the 2019 Randolph Caldecott AwardCommittee. She and fellow committee members will have the honor of selecting the most distinguished picture book of the year.
Acerro says there is no typical day in the library. She might start her day in a staff meeting, followed by singing in the auditorium with kids and stuffed animals, and end up helping a child find a book for a school project. There was no mention of any pet rats accompanying her to work.