The first thing I attended today was the Pecha Kucha (a fast paced session in which presenters show 20 slides for 20 seconds each to tell their unique
stories) session: What Great Acts Have Happened in Our Communities? It was enlightening to see the many ways that great people have used the arts and culture to change and , in the case of Braddock, PA, literally save their communities. The session was moderated by the incomparable Ben Cameron and included such names as:
- Retha Cilliers, Chief Executive Officer, Field Band Foundation
- John Fetterman, Mayor, Braddock, PA
- Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Performance Artist
- Linda Nelson, Executive Director, Opera House Arts
- Diane Paulus, Artistic Director/CEO, American Repertory Theater
- Josephine Ramirez, Program Director, The James Irvine Foundation
After the Pecha Kucha ended, I took a stroll through the expo halls to see the many organizations that were present, all of them looking to book another venue or tour, of course. While walking, I was accosted by someone from the Upright Citizens Brigade. He asked what I was doing tonight and proceeded to try to convince me to come see their long form improvisational comedy show…and of course, sign them to a contract. Indeed, I would have attended their performance had I not already made plans to attend Rockapella’s show tonight.
The rest of the day was spent attending showcase performances:
- First, I heard the Prodigals, an Irish folk rock band, perform. Very good, upbeat music.
- Second, I headed over to see the American premier
of Circassian Circle, a dance group from the mountains of Eurasia. The earthy, gliding masculine force of the male dancers along with the ethereal, floating grace of the female dancers provided quite the stunning dance dichotomy. Though I had to leave early to get to my next appointment, Sarah Wedgewood (who had quite the day, more on that later) stayed and said that it got “interesting” later on.
- I left early to run ten blocks over to the Gerald Lynch Theater to see my third showcase, Les 7 Doigts de la Main (7 Fingers). This was the highlight of the day. The one man contemporary circus delighted the audience with Andy Kaufman style
humor along with what I can only describe as “acrobatic pantomime with props.” The performer also played up the “nervous performer” character perfectly, allowing us to connect as well as laugh at the character. The highlight was when Patinoire (the performer) stacked four large speakers on top of each other (loosely, mind you) at an angle on top of a chair, which was on top of a folding table (that had just fallen seconds earlier). Then he proceeded to climb up the speakers and balance at the top before falling backwards in a comical “slip-and-fall” prat fall. I would definitely recommend seeing him if you ever have the chance.
- The evening culminated with a trip to the Florence Gould Hall to see Rockapella, the famous no-instrument vocal band, in concert. The show was wonderful, as expected, but I did notice that Scott Leonard, the lead singer (and also the founder, I believe), is showing the effects of a successful multi-decade career. His voice just doesn’t have the pop that it used too. But it didn’t by any means detract from the show. Jeff Thatcher, in my opinion one of the foremost vocal beat-box artists in the world, was amazing again.
The highlight was when fellow AU grad student Sarah Wedgewood was pulled onto the stage and serenaded by the band, and then asked to sing to them, and then serenaded again. She hammed it up, though, by dancing with the band members and forcing one of them to kiss her cheek before she would leave the stage. The audience was in stitches and she became an instant celebrity on the block of 59th and Park.
Overall, the showcases are proving to be quite enjoyable, as each artist or group is putting their best foot forward in hopes of landing another contract. I look forward to more tomorrow.
– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”