Thursday, July 31, 2008

Open Air Circus, August 1-3 in Somerville, MA

My mime and commedia dell'arte students will be performing this weekend as part of Open Air Circus' 23rd annual show.

The performances climax 6 weeks of summer classes for the youthful performers.

All shows are are in Nunziato Field in Union Square, Somerville.

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This year's theme is "The British Invasion," a tribute both to Union Square's historical role as the site where George Washington took command of the Continental Army, as well as the British rock music of the 1960s.


Friday, August 1st @ 7pm
Saturday, August 2nd @ 2pm
Saturday, August 2nd @ 7pm
Sunday, August 3rd @ 2pm

Suggested donation is $3.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ian, Capocomico!

I am spending another summer teaching mime and commedia dell'arte to the children at Open Air Circus. Slowly, over the years, my classes have been attracting more and more students as kids from previous years keep returning to me, and bring new students with them, so this summer, I'm teaching two mime classes and one commedia class. The commedia class has gone from five students last year... eight this year, thus necessitating that I sculpt at least three more masks in time for or final show. In the mean time, feast your eyes upon the masks I made last summer worn by the students who inhabited these characters.

This is Arlecchino-- and this is the same mask I've come to wear this past year when I play the character with i Sebastiani. The motley on her head was made by my father as a gift and are the school colors of Boston College, which I was attending at the time.

This is Pantalone. I thought a formal brimmed hat might befit a more modern version of the character. My students often see him as the archetype for Montgomery Burns on The Simpsons.

Il Dottore is a parody of all learned professionals. The hat has been part of my collection since 1994. Once while wearing it at a coffeehouse, studying for exams, a woman called me "Il Dottore" and proceeded to introduce me to some of the characters of the commedia dell'arte. The girl playing Il Dottore is the sister of the girl playing Arlecchino.

Il Capitano is parody of every blustering, lying, narcissistic bully who ever walked the earth. He is often the villain and he is often from out of town. The pin that ties the cape was a wonderful borrowing from the player's mother since it features the faces of a number of commedia characters.

Franchescina is sometimes known as Columbina. Like most female characters, she is not traditionally masked in the commedia but I did not want anyone left out of the fun of wearing a mask so I invented something.

The story about the making of these masks can be found in this earlier post. Right now though I'm at work on three more masks: Pulcinella, Brighella, and Flaminia.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Golem of Church Street

One story that seems to never end for me is one that began when I ended my association with Bread and Puppet Theatre over a mural-sized series entitled "Independence Paintings" by Bread and Puppet founder, Peter Schumann, that juxtaposed the images and text of the Warsaw Ghetto with conditions in the Palestinian West Bank. I perceived both a provocative from of antisemitism and what is sometimes referred to as "soft-core" Holocaust Denial ("soft-core" in that it either minimizes the suffering of the victims of the Shoah, that it grossly misrepresents another event through comparison to the Shoah.)

I revisited the story this past September when "Independence Paintings" were exhibited in Burlington, Vermont as part of that city's annual Art Hop. While I was not present for the events in Burlington, I did follow the controversy that raged in the Burlington press for several weeks.

Perhaps the most moments were on the morning of Saturday, September 8th when Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP)-- whose website I discuss elsewhere-- the organization that sponsored the Schumann exhibition, presented a lecture by Joel Kovel drew protesters. There were many varied accounts of what occurred at that lecture, however, one thing that was clear was that there had been a breakdown in civility (elsewhere, I note that any breakdown in civility originates in misrepresentations made by Schumann and VTJP.)

Perhaps the most powerful image from that day was a flyer by local artist David Sokol that portrayed parading Bread and Puppet puppets, a recent victim of vigilante justice, and the text "Puppets Lynch the Jews." Sokol has since created a book of prints entitled The Golem of Church Street: An Artist’s Reflection on the New Anti-Semitism. The prints are currently being exhibited at the Burlington art gallery, Kasini House until August 9th.

I have yet to see the prints, but the interview that Sokal gave to Margot Harrison in Seven Days has made me excited to see the work. Much of the work, based on the description, presents many icons revered by progressives (of whom Vermonters are accustomed to describe themselves) but in the context of their complicity with antisemitism-- and this part of what is the "New" in the "New Antisemitism" the way that a hatred that has long been associated with theological intolerance, racial hatred, and right-wing extremism, has co-opted the rhetoric of Enlightenment humanism (though, I would note, it really isn't that new.) Sokol eloquently describes his stance towards the phenomenon here:

“My issue is not with the left. I’ve supported the Progressive Party. I’m trying to make a distinction between the left and the fundamentalist left. My definition of fundamentalism is that you no longer see the needs of other people, because your ideology gets in the way.”

I intend to set my eyes upon the prints in the immediate future.

(* Note: it is my practice not to hyphenate "antisemitism", my reason for doing so is that there is no contrasting ideology of "Semitism"-- this is a common practice in the scholarly community. The standard practice, however, is hyphenate.)