Day Three! (Best Day So Far)

Day three was, by far, the biggest whirlwind day we’ve had on this trip, as of yet. The day truly went all over the place, with us getting a little sample of every aspect of the arts.

            We woke up and had our daily morning meeting, before heading off to the first sessions of the day, which began at 9:30. I, with a few other trip members, attended a panel called “Fortune’s Bones”. Having not expected to attend this one, I was completely out of the loop on what it was. Turns out, “Fortune’s Bones” was a piece of music, composed by musician (and medical doctor) Ysaye Barnwell. The story behind her work is amazing. Fortune was a slave in the late 1700s who, when he died, was dissected by his physician owner. The remains still exist, as the doctor had preserved the bones to teach his students bone setting in the early 1800s. Currently in a museum, the bones are a subject of widespread debate, which formed the basis for the entire event that came from Barnwell’s work. Originally composed as a piece that would stand alone, a course of events swept up the music and created a multifaceted event, complete with dance troupes, drum circles, prayer circles, and even a wall for painting murals, all of which was opened to the public. The university in the area, which ended up hosting this event, was the University of Maryland. Historically, the surrounding neighborhood and the local community, predominantly underprivileged, had had a rocky relationship. The session addressed how the event pulled everyone together to create a successful program, which acted as the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work on the part of both sides of the argument.

            After a lunch break, we headed into an interesting event, held in one of the ballrooms of the hotel. This event was the “pecha kucha”, which is a presentation technique, coming from the Japanese word for chit chat, in which the presenter uses twenty slides, each up for twenty seconds, to tell a story. There was a panel of illustrious presenters, including musician DBR, playwright Young Jean Lee, “”projectician” Adam Horowitz, the agent for an Algerian musician, and even one of the leaders of the website Kickstarter. They spoke on a variety of issues, but, to me, the stand out presenters were DBR and Young Jean Lee. DBR is a musician who created a series of quick snapshots, both from his career and his personal life. Included were snippets on his son, his father, the art of touring, his work with children’s outreach groups, and even his collaborations, such as that with Lady Gaga. Young Jean Lee, who is, admittedly, one of my favorite playwrights, spoke as to her creative process. Completely hilarious and self-deprecating, she spoke of the importance of picking something that you are incredibly afraid of, and tackling it. The fear is what, ultimately, should guide you. When they opened the forum up for questions, a truly touching moment occurred, where a women stood to thank the representative of Kickstarter, who had backed her project, and gotten this woman’s vocal album produced. “I just want to touch your hand, as you made this all possible” was what she said. This, to me, was just as impressive as any spectacular show, as it showed what, ultimately, we as artists and programmers and producers can do for each other, even in the slightest way.

            Now, the moment you have all been waiting for! Or, at least, us. The expo hall had opened. This meant all the people looking for backers and presenters had set up booths on three separate floors, creating a literal maze of advertisements. Any and every kind of art was represented here, from the circus to dance companies, from Broadway to people in giant golden insect costumes (they were a children’s show, and very nice). This whole experience can be overwhelming, so we were told to travel in duos. My partner, Mary Marcil, and I developed a plan for approaching the exhibitors, as well as an overall strategy. First off, we simply did laps of each room, singling out one booth from each for our first round. Once we’d approached someone, Mary immediately began talking to them, as she is, by far, the more gregarious of the two of us. While she did this, I collected the brochures they had to offer, and then began to ask about opportunities, such as workshops and talkbacks, as well as the technical (and non-technical) demands of the exhibitor. Mary then came in with the clincher asking, as she put it, “That awkward money question”.  Standouts on the first day include The Portable Dorothy Parker (a one woman show), Endurance (a group affiliated with Shakespeare & Company, and friends of Mary), and the Lulu Washington Dance Company (a smaller company which we had the opportunity to see the night before).

            After a quick, and eventful, dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant, we headed to Here, to view the band Timur and the Dime Museum, which is an opera infused rock band being presented as part of the Prototype Festival, which is committed to presenting new opera theater works. This was, by far, my favorite thing we have seen yet. The band, consisting of six members, performed an incredibly vigorous, and diverse, set, all the while accompanied by projections of themselves, being filmed by a collaborator and then distorted using a device of his own creation. Clad in futuristic/fantastical military outfits (and a maid costume, a matador costume with boy shorts, and a sparkly suit), the band blurred the lines of what is rock, was it pop, what is electronica, and what is opera. While they performed mostly original works, they did perform covers of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, which the lead singer performed while, for lack of a better word, “flirting” with various members of the audience, including our own Mary Marcil. After their performance, the band, and their video collaborator, gave a talkback, answering such questions as “how do you relate your work to your classical training” and “What advice would you give a young performer”, the latter of which was asked by our MCLA student Jordan Cohen. Ultimately, Timur and the Dime Museum was an amazing experience. One that not only had many of us buying their music and t-shirts, but also had some of us, such as myself, thinking about what the future holds, and looking at places such as Here, and events such as the Prototype, as a place that could, conceivably, become somewhere we want to get involved. This feeling was only furthered by the fact that we were joined by Here staffer, and former MCLA student/APAP tripper Isabelle Holmes, who served as a guide for us, which was incredibly generous and eye opening.

            To close out the evening, we headed back to the Hilton to check out all the showcases that were occurring, all over the building. I ended p attending five separate showcases, only one of which I originally intended on seeing. The first was a group called the O Sole Trio, who performed a cabaret of songs written by Italian American artists, ranging from opera to Madonna to the theme from the film Rocky. Next was a revue of the various forms of Indian dance, featuring a sample of a dance reimagining of The Ramayana. Next came a group of Canadian singers called The Good Lovelies. The group consisted of three women, the vocalists, and one man, who did not sing, but who played upright base. Their harmonies were incredible, and the humor and ease in their performance was spot on. Following them came the most amazing showcase of the night; the Push physical theatre group. A small troupe, the Push group aimed to create highly physical performances that were more dance than theatre, but still completely awe inspiring. They performed a sampling of their current works, as well as held a première of sorts for a new piece. It felt great to be in the audience the first time “Red Ball”, their new work, was presented.  Lastly, but most definitely not least, came the group from Second City in Chicago. This well known comedy group was a great way to end the evening, as they were easy and humorous, but also were clever.

            Today, though a whirlwind, was an incredibly amazing day. Get ready for EXPO ROUND TWO, coming tomorrow.

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Posted by BCRC Admin on 01/13 at 08:04 AM
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