Buster Keaton Ends Month of Austerity/Captures Hearts.

Alex and I officially ended an arduous month of austerity last night. Unofficially it was broken when we celebrated a friend's birthday last week with "one drink only!" at Saloon in Davis Square. I really appreciated that one drink.
ps. I had a delightful beverage with wheat whiskey, lemon, wheat grass, bitters, and ginger beer. Healthy, yet deviant.

In an attempt to offset major financial commitments including my sweet little sister's wedding and our quickly approaching Grand Tour, we decided to test our skills in economy and penury. No unessential purchases or entertainment outings allowed for thirty days. We even went two weeks without a major grocery shopping trip. Instead we creatively stretched our pantry as a kind of exhilarating challenge. The outcome was some pretty inventive meals that shook up our routine recipe staples. All around, good things.

To ease the transition we went small, a beer and a casual night with the Not So Silent Cinema at the Somerville Armory. We had first seen the band/collective last year around Halloween when they showed Nosferatu (we may have even seen them much earlier back in Philadelphia when some of the band members were part of the West Philadelphia Orchestra: hey dance party!). It was a memorable evening, especially since Nosferatu had been accompanied by an original, live musical performance.

We were excited to see what was in store this time. On the bill: three Buster Keaton shorts. I had never really given Keaton much of a chance, even though I love the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, and plenty of other more modern slapstick, physical comedians. The first film, High Sign, was marvelously entertaining and a good lead into the equally satisfying One Week and The Goat. 

High Sign, 1921.

The results of a "build your own home" kit in One Week, 1920.
Keaton figures out the best way to put the chimney on. 
The Goat, 1921.

Thanks to the Not So Silent Cinema crew I have a crush on Buster Keaton. I suspect that I am not alone. That mournful face, those sweet eyes, and how absolutely badass he is with all of those stunts. Swoon. I'm pretty sure Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan modeled themselves after this guy. 

We look forward to seeing what the Not So Silent Cinema have planned for their next show! We want more!


Break For The Theatre!

For the past few weeks I've been mixing art history with a little theater. Since I do have a degree in Theater Design and I have always dreamed for the chance to work simultaneously with costumes and art history, the current situation is close to sublime. Two consecutive offers have fallen into my lap and I am pleased to dip back in to my old realm, even if I'm feeling a smidge rusty and overextended. 

 Black Comedy, 1961. Starring: Albert Finney and Maggie Smith.

The first play I'm working on, Black Comedy, was written and set in the 1960's. An era that I adore. So many of my favorite films, silhouettes, styles, and sounds come from that time. The experience has pulled impressive live performances from the archives of my mind. Probably the first performance that I still think of frequently is Oyster, by the Isreali group Inbal Pinto. This dance theater piece incorporates, among other inspired things, Tuvan throat singing. I actually learned how to do this in my ethnomusicology course at Hunter College. I'm not that good.

Oyster, Inbal Pinto

Philadelphia: While we lived there, we saw a number of productions by Pig Iron Theatre Company. The members of this collective often collaborate or perform solo in side projects, so you get a real sense of the wide ranging community after a few shows. Some of the actors/musicians work with Cynthia Hopkins and in NY, with the legendary Wooster Group.

Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle in All Wear Bowlers, 2005, Philadelphia.
We liked this so much, I think we saw it twice. 

Largely New York at the Tony Awards, 1989.
The visionary inspiration Bill Irwin,
who I was so very lucky to meet and work with in Philly on The Happiness Lecture 
(I sewed his costumes!).

New York: I'm hoping to see the latest from Lyford and Sobelle, entitled Elephant Room, now playing in Brooklyn at St. Ann's Warehouse. Follow the link to read the latest NYT review and the Wall Street Journal review here includes an interview from John Collins of Elevator Repair Service.

Cynthia Hopkins

The last time I was at St. Ann's, three years ago, I got to see The Success of Failure (or, The Failure of Success), Part III of Cynthia Hopkin's Accidental Trilogy. Part I, Accidental Nostalgia, is definitely one of my favorites. Her particular style is breathtaking and I love her ideas on the dangers of memories and nostalgia, things that I try to keep a healthy distance from. She performs with live musical accompaniment, on either side of the stage. The musicians sometimes, seamlessly, crossover into the main action. In the video below you can see Jim Findlay doing just that. Hopkins also effectively integrates pre-recorded and live film.

Accidental Nostalgia. I also saw this twice, once in Providence, RI and once in Philadelphia.
The video freezes after four minutes but it's still great.

Cambridge: In my three years here I've seen exactly one play. It's not that Cambridge or Boston is lacking in this area, quite the contrary. Blame it on grad school. My one and only foray was six hours long and a thrillingly memorable marathon adventure. Conceived of by Elevator Repair Service (see above WSJ link), Gatz is a complete theatrical reading of the Great Gatsby. This review gives you a good taste of the experience.



Relics From My Unsupervised Youth.

Here are a number of serendipitous findings that propelled me outward bound in my younger days. As a teenager far from the metropolis (and before the internet) I somehow got my hands on various media that set me daydreaming, no looking back. The commercial below is today's inspiration.

Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi Dancing in the Windows. This is amazing!

1. Mondo New York: first seen at age 15.
My favorite. It's bad, who cares. At the time I adored this. I recently re-discovered it, only available on VHS, at the one video store in all of Cambridge. Luckily my wonderful neighbor was keen to play it on his VCR. The performances below, and many others, are featured in the film. I can't believe that this isn't on DVD. It's an outrage. There is no better documentation of this part of New York at that time. The artists highlighted are some of the most important in terms of the downtown performance scene. Criterion, come on!

Joey Arias, Fish Out of Water
(sorry for the lame commercials on the above, it's worth it though)

Dean and the Weenies, Fuck You

Karen Finley, I Hate Yellow

The Dictator's, New York, New York
 Billed as Manitoba's Wild Kingdom, this song is played briefly though the band is not shown.

2. Emergency Broadcast Network: first seen around age 15.
I have been trying to explain this to people for so long. It's the kind of thing where you're not sure if the memory is real or not. But thanks to my local video store I now know that it really happened and I can finally put a name to it. Viewing was often interspersed with USA's Up All Night and onetime, Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. That came on during a slumber party. I didn't have my contacts in so the imagery was hazy, but some parts are very clear in my memory!

I didn't know it back then, but these EBN collages were made by a group of RISD artists. 

Get Down, Get Down

Don't Back Down

3. Kid Creole and the Coconuts. I found one of their cassette tapes in a thrift store (downtown Watertown, right next door to Dino's Shoe Service). I had read an article in Sassy or Seventeen about a magical place called the East Village where the greater collective of this band was based. That page was torn out and added to the growing collection of "someday!". I was thrilled to find this old tape, since it wasn't something you could get easily at the mall. 

Stool Pigeon

Lifeboat Party

After living in New York for less than a year I managed to wiggle my way (underage) into the classy Bar d'O for a Joey Arias cabaret show and later I had a chance to see Kid Creole and the Coconuts perform in Central Park. Aha! Dreams do come true.