This article originally appeared in Issue 33:6 (July/Aug 2010) of Fanfare Magazine:
“I think music should be fun, moving, mysterious, beautiful, funny, and frightening. I don’t expect it to be all of those things on the same CD, however. Nevertheless, this CD is all of those things and more. . . “Still Point” is an ecstatic love sonnet, and it demonstrates Dillon’s sensitivity for a sung vocal line. The writing for viola (here realized by Hsin-Yun Huang) and piano (Thomas Sauer) also is highly evocative. . .If you have any interest in contemporary American chamber music, you really should hear Appendage and Other Stories.”  --Raymond Tuttle

Classical Voice North Carolina raved about Still Point: “Simpson’s sonnet about the fleet passing of life and time served as the text …The prominent viola part was gorgeous. This was a very successful song.” 



From Classical Voice North Carolina:

Peril on the Red Planet at the North Carolina Museum of Art
by Scott Ross
August 28, 2010, Raleigh, NC:
The Open Dream Ensemble’s newest theatre piece for young audiences, Peril on the Red Planet, presented at the N.C. Museum of Art, was vivid, lively, often charming and — most important — never condescending to its. . . very appreciative young audience.

Peril, written with a refreshing lack of guile by Mollye Maxner, Shona Simpson, and Brian Sutow, holds some very basic human concerns — communal and environmental — and offers what we now call “life lessons,” and imparts them with a breeziness that puts more earnest, pedantic efforts to shame.

The pitfall of such theatrical endeavors as this lies in the creators’ talking down to their audience, of which the Open Dream Ensemble is never guilty. The company uses a certain amount of gentle repetition to keep the themes and the story fresh in young minds, and the action is full of broad strokes, spirited action, a couple of duels, and moments of slapstick humor. But Peril on the Red Planet is as far from the dread of well-meaning pedagogy as it is from the inanity that so often accompanies the phrase “children’s programming”. . .Aided by James Stewart’s evocative music and occasional songs, Ren LaDassor’s boldly colorful costumes and the sets, both expressive and functional, of Jennifer O’Kelly, the show’s directors, Joshua Morgan and co-author Brian Sutow, keep a lively pace that yet locates moments for stillness and even a few tears along the way. Throughout, intelligence and bracing imagination are the by-words.

Peril on the Red Planet
was my first experience of the Open Dream Ensemble. I hope to encounter it again, and strongly encourage families with young children to do likewise.

Here is a link to the complete review.

From Winston-Salem Monthly: Dream Weavers

Julianne Harper as Abeona by Linda Webber
October 2010:

"Open Dream Ensemble, a multidisciplinary troupe of actors, singers, dancers, and musicians who perform for elementary and middle school students, is having a dress rehearsal.  I've been invited, but I'm not sure Peril on the Red Planet is my kind of entertainment, so I plan to drop by for 10 minutes and leave.  But in less than 5 minutes there, I'm 13-year-old Diana's biggest cheerleader as she carries out her quest to save Mars from Zartok, a machine gone berserk.  Entertainment value aside, the play operates on a whole other level."
J. Sinclair photo  

Here is a link to the complete review.


Student Reviews

Here are some reviews from the students who saw the play at their schools:

"I loved the performance of Peril on the Red Planet… because there was a lot of action in the show. I want to see that show again."  — Fourth-grade student, White Oak Elementary School, Cape Carteret

"Thank you for the performances you did in our school. I really liked them! I thought that it was funny when the robot was dancing." — Third-grade student, Ward Elementary School, Winston-Salem

"Wow is what I said to my friend. The whole school was talking about your play. Seven days later they’re still talking about it." — Student, Manteo Elementary School

"I love the shows you put on for my school. I really like the scientist who only likes video games!" — Third-grade student, Ward Elementary School, Winston-Salem

" I liked Peril on the Red Planet. It was so good and so funny. The Mars police were so funny that I was laughing. It was the best show I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like that." — Fourth-grade student, White Oak Elementary School, Cape Carteret

"You are really talented and creative! I liked the costumes. I also liked how still the robot was. Please please come back and perform at our school.”  — Third-grade student, Ward Elementary School, Winston-Salem



Shortly after I moved to North Carolina, Carla Finger Coghill, Artistic Director/Choreographer of Sidelong Dance Company, set a dance to the spoken-word text of one of my poems. “In Twinning, poet Shona Simpson read her work from a podium on the stage while [the dancers] performed an engaging reflection on dependency and individuation.  At times, they mirrored one another in their movement; at other times, they moved apart. Simpson’s words wove through the movement, and the movement wove through the words--another way of illustrating the theme: When does friendship or a mentor relationship or love help us, and when does it hold us back?” (Winston-Salem Journal, Nov. 11, 2000).