Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The "It" Factor

Continuing on the thread of the last post, it looks like the six-week graphic design course I have been eyeing is ON! I'm very excited-- I have been wanting to take a course on the subject again for some time (I had started college focusing on this and illustration, but moved away from it). In some ways I feel like graphic design has been a missing element needed to advance my work.

Of course another thing that would be helpful is a new camera. We had a TV crew stop by the Museum yesterday to work on an upcoming Christmas special, and the cinematographer (JP Lipa) was using one of the famed Red cameras. I was envious... not only of the work, but the equipment. There are a number of options for shooting high definition video nowadays, with using a Digital SLR camera being one of the more interesting. I have started doing some research, but it's going to take some money. I do think it would be wise to upgrade soon though, as I have been getting several inquiries about helping out on various projects in the coming months.

One of the higher profile works that Lipa had been involved with was shooting rehearsal footage for Michael Jackson's This Is It. Cool for me to hear about his experience, being the music obsessive and documentarian that I am (although my preference for the artist is concentrated from the Jackson Five to Thriller days). Sounds like MJ was quite interested in learning about more about the camera equipment being used. Lipa also told me about how in the weeks leading up to the musician's death, Jackson seemed extremely frail offstage, but could still "bring it" once he took the stage (he said that MJ weighed like 85 pounds during filming-- is that possible?). Some of this rehearsal footage made it into the final movie, which shows the process of Jackson rehearsing for the tour he never had a chance to complete. I'm not sure how intimate of a portrayal it could be (knowing how reclusive Jackson was), but I bet it is interesting. That reminds me... I still need to learn these moves:



Zombies... now that's interesting (and hip)!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weddings by Design

I spent part of the day in Saratoga Springs yesterday, riding a trolley decorated with flowers and blasting "Going to the Chapel." Yeah... I broke down and went to the bridal show (you owe me, SK). Actually, it wasn't that bad-- I had a chance to look at different wedding invitation styles, photographers, and videographers-- the latter was interesting, because I am usually the one filming other peoples' events.


The new HD cameras look great, and it was interesting to see each videographer's style. It ranged from the personal to more "corporate" feel (eh, not sure a camera crane will be necessary). The ones I liked best tried to emphasize telling the couple's story-- interviews with the bride and groom, their families and close friends. You could tell the cameramen who "got it"-- even when the subjects weren't speaking, you could get an idea about their personalities or emotions just by watching the visuals.

Early 60s Porsche-- now where's that registry gun?

Part of this bridal event was being staged at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, which was helpful when I started to glaze over at some of the sillier aspects of the day... at least I had some sweet vintage cars to look at. It's true: they sure don't make them like they used to, and I did not realize the number of automobiles designed right here in New York State during the early 20th century-- some 100 different automobile manufacturers, with names like the Pierce Arrow and The Cooley. Apparently even Rochester and Buffalo got in on the action.


The day was interesting for me in terms of judging design: be it vintage autos, wedding dresses, rings, invitations or desserts-- each trying their hardest to impress you.


On that note, I haven't quite figured out where I'm heading with this blog-- personal, professional or self-interest? Who am I trying to impress? Is it working?!?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wedding License and Registration, Please

Yesterday Sarah and I started another interesting process in the planning for our upcoming marriage: opening up wedding registries. I have to say that being artists and working in the non-profit world, it felt a little strange to us.
Oh dear. Getting "zap-happy."
We're both used to being frugal, so it was hard to wrap ourselves around the idea of picking out whatever we wanted or could imagine having. At times we hesitated-- sure, we could use a paper shredder, but is that really a "romantic" gift? Here was a case where we were supposed to be thinking of ourselves, but it was hard not to consider our own guests-- I guess we're like that.

After awhile, we did start to have fun with it. We were given big scanning guns, and went around zapping our most desired items. If only this could be used beyond the department stores: new creative, well-paid work? No problem-- just zap it! Lose ten pounds? Zap away!

I found it amusing that as we embarked on this registry safari, we came across other couples on the hunt as well-- interesting that it was usually the brides who wielded the gun, while the grooms walked a few paces behind with a clipboard and resigned "yes, dear" look on their faces. We all formed our own little subculture, and I wondered if a battle might ensue over the last upright mixers or goose-down pillows. That might have been fun-- ten paces, turn and... FIRE!

Starting a wedding registry can be hard work!
Thank God for the goose-down pillows.
After awhile we were both exhausted, and decided to end our hunt for the day. Sarah is at work today, but I have been told of a bridal show happening out in Saratoga, with lots of vendors and the opportunity to win free wedding bands and other goodies. That's all well and good, but I
find it hard to shake the reality of the "here and now." I wonder if my time might be better spent looking at ways to make more money or perfecting my craft, so that we might enjoy a more comfortable and satisfying future by our own design. The fairy tale aspect of weddings is fun, but before you know it the clock is chiming and you need to get to work before that new ride turns back into a pumpkin.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Strange Effect on Me (and I Like It)

With Diego Garcia and cellist Daniel Bansi at the Linda,
Albany, New York, 1/27/12. Photo by Jeremy Clowe.
All rights reserved.
Happy Saturday. We had a great time last night checking out Diego Garcia perform at the Linda Norris Auditorium in Albany, New York. It has been awhile since I have been at the venue, and they have really turned it into a nice, intimate venue-- worked great for Diego's music... his band was top-notch, with a cellist and talented guitar player creating some sweet sounds from nylon strings-- I wonder about the band's influences, which seemed to incorporate the romantic troubadour spirit of latino music, 60s pop, and some modern indie styles as well.

In addition to material from his beautiful album Laura, he squeezed in a couple of covers, including a version of the rare Kinks' song, "Strange Effect." Well, it had a quite an effect on us... Sarah thought we should consider it for a wedding song. We met Diego after the show, and he offered to record a version for us-- not sure how serious he was about that, but that would be amazing!


I actually had the chance to meet Ray Davies of the Kinks a couple years ago, following his own show in Albany. Certainly he ranks up there as one of the all-time great songwriters in pop music, and has influenced many of the bands I love.

With Ray Davies at the Egg, Albany, New York, 11/24/09
Photo by Jeremy Clowe. All rights reserved.
So hearing all this great songwriting and musicianship gets me inspired, and I wonder about my own potential. I have picked up the guitar here and there, but I really would need to devote more time to practicing, before I could reach the level of Zeke Zima, Diego's guitarist last night. In their review, The Albany Times Union said that he "wove his fretboard work around Garcia’s passionate songs like lacework." Too true. It's amazing when all these elements come together so seemlessly--songwriting, musicianship, and performing-- how could one resist the desire to dance to such a spirit. I know I have the soul and passion that could be directed towards music-- just need to spend time with it... as with anything I guess. 

Eat your heart out, Diego! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

DJ Rock The Mic!

Ok, feeling better since the last post... the skies have cleared (thanks A-ha). Sarah also reminded me of the value of sleep.

I did have some good news yesterday in the form of an email from WEXT Radio, an independent station located in the Capital Region. They want me to come in and do what they call "My Exit," where you get to play DJ for a set. It should be fun-- as I mentioned previously, I used to DJ back in Rochester (WBER), as well as during college. I kind of miss it.

I actually visited WEXT a year ago to record a two-hour tribute show for A-ha. This was at the request of their programming director, who had learned about my documentary. Well, it has yet to air, but maybe that serves me right... perhaps once I finish the documentary they will finally give it a spin. 

"The Exit" has pretty good taste in music-- it is where I first heard Fitz & The Tantrums, The Sam Roberts Band, and Diego Garcia-- we're actually on our way to see the latter act perform in Albany tonight. I love latin music, and Diego has a romantic, sort of "indie latino" vibe (apparently he used to play in the latin alternative band Elefant). The first song I hear from him was You Were Never There, and I loved it. Sort of a '60s thing going here as well:


The weekend is here! Looking forward to it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Swing of Things

Imagine having the perfect view, but knowing you are in the wrong place... Yup. That's me today. I'm afraid I again have a case of the melancholies.

In times like these I turn back to music, which has always helped me when I am feeling down, and no music artist has ever served that purpose better than the band A-ha. Most people know the Norwegian rockers for their ultra-80s hit Take on Me-- in fact, many in North America might think that was all they had up their Swatch watch infested sleeves. But for me, and many others, the band has meant the world and continues to play an important part in our lives.

Delve a little deeper into A-ha's catalogue (which lasted for over 25 years) and you will find a perfect mix of melody and melancholy. I was hooked pretty early on: raised on the Beatles, I recognized a similar songwriting thread from this 80s band that was also influenced by the sound of the 60s. I wore out tapes of their first album Hunting High and Low, which perfectly mirrored the feelings of an introverted teen striving to break free. Their second album, Scoundrel Days, was even moodier, and showed the band's rougher side... this album also came out right before I lost my father. I could never thank the band enough for the support they gave me (through their music) during a very grey and challenging time.



I actually had the great fortune of interviewing the band in 2005 before they performed a sold-out concert in New York City's Irving Plaza. They were just about to release Analogue, one of their strongest albums, and seemed in good spirits-- especially to be back in the U.S. again, where their profile had basically disappeared through the years. I learned many things about their career: how their record company viewed them as difficult for not trying to duplicate their early pop hit; how they remained popular throughout much of the rest of the world, even setting a world record in 1991 for the highest-attended show in Rio de Janeiro... but above all, it was amazing to be sitting next to these artists who had created a body of work that has had such a lasting impact on me.

In 2010 the band decided to call it a day, after releasing another critically acclaimed album, Foot of the Mountain. They returned once again to the U.S., for a final string of shows, before playing around the rest of the world. I was fortunate to make it to each of the American gigs, but felt a little embarrassed that I hadn't quite managed to finish the documentary I had been working on about their music. Part of the delay was due to it being an independent project I had to fit in between regular work, but also... how do you accurately sum up the career of a band that has meant that much to you personally? I did manage to produce a rough version, which I shared with the band, some fans, and with members of the press, to promote their shows in North America. You can view several of the clips here.

2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of A-ha-- they formed in Oslo, Norway back in September 1982, and became the biggest act ever to make it from the Scandinavian country. Artists such as Coldplay, Sondre Lerche, Keane, Kings of Convenience, Morrissey, and even U2 have cited them as an influence. Still, many people only know them for one or two songs in this country. I feel this is the year I need to finish this documentary, and share not only the band's story, but a piece of my own. As they sang back in 1986: Oh, have I come to the point where I'm losing the grip, or is it still time to get into the swing of things...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Humpty Hump

Just got back from another improv rehearsal-- we have been holding them on Wednesday nights, and it proves to be a nice way to break up the monotony of the work week. The new members continue to add a nice flavor-- Dave is British and has a unique sensibility about him, and Neil adds a new, youthful energy-- not to mention, music. We did another game where we ended up singing the scene, and I found myself continuing to hum the song that we had just made up on the spot.

It has become pretty obvious to me by now that I feel so much better when I am engaged in some kind of music-- singing, playing the guitar, even dancing. If I could spend my whole day doing this... no, interacting with everything like this (like one of those old movie musicals), I'd be a happy man.





Continuing this thread, I found out today that the Muppet or a Man song I liked so much from The Muppets movie is up for an Oscar. Apparently it was written by one of the guys behind The Flight of the Conchords. I have had so many people telling me I should be watching this show, that it would be right up my alley. Truthfully, I have never been a big fan of jokey bands like the Barenaked Ladies, but I think one of the members of the Conchords played Nigel, the evil bird in Rio, and I liked the song he performed. Guess I better "check-check-check-check it out..."

We also played a fun exercise called the Beastie Boys warm-up: "This guy Jeremy, his last name's... Clowe! Give him a chance he'll steal the... show!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Background and Experience

Interesting article in The Wall Street Journal today about how many companies are bypassing the traditional résumé and looking at online presence and social networking to learn more about their job candidates. Interviewed for the article, Union Square Ventures associate Christina Cacioppo says that "we are most interested in what people are like, what they are like to work with, how they think." Google's Todd Carlisle adds that a "candidates' early work experience, hobbies, extracurricular activities or nonprofit involvement... often provide insight into how well an applicant would fit into the company culture."

Well, OK then. Let me make it easier on those who might consider hiring me to work on arts/video/film production projects. Easy as a click of the mouse: here are ten awesome but true things you might not know about yours truly!

Another early role: as the baby JC. I was truly blessed.
Photo by Ma + Pa Clowe,  Dec. 1970. All rights reserved.
1. My first film role was in the hospital when I was just a newborn-- a training film for Johnson & Johnson. I think I've been a "ham" ever since.

2. As a kid I used to draw, write, and create my own comic books. My Dad, who worked for Xerox, would print tons of copies of these books, which I would then share with my eager classmates (I even had subscriptions!).

3. During high school I joined members of my church youth group on a mission trip to Jamaica. One of my proudest moments (helping to build houses and interact with neighbors in local communities), it was also a little painful (ouch, bad sunburn).

4.  I studied film for a year (1991-1992) at the University of Southern California. At the end of the year I found myself in the middle of what seemed like a disaster film-- the campus was right in the middle of where the L. A. riots took place, following the verdict of the Rodney King trail. Sad developments, and a little scary in retrospect. The experience gave me an even deeper insight into ongoing tension behind race relations.

5. While at school in California, I threw my hat into politics-- so to speak. I served as a representative for my school's student government organization, and also created weekly political cartoons for the campus newspaper.

6. During the mid-90s, I traveled to New York City to answer an open-call to become an MTV VJ. I made it to two rounds, but "decided to forgo the big time" and became a DJ for alternative radio station WBER, and later host my own music TV program. Does MTV even play music anymore?...

7. In addition to Habitat for Humanity and the Meals on Wheels programs, I spent a few years volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters. My little brother, who I am still in touch with, was named Jeremy... I only later found out that he also shared my middle name: Robert!

8. Go green! A co-worker once hired me to do a cross-country trip to retrieve some house plants (yes, this was legal). I drove from Amarillo, Texas, back to Western Massachusetts with a van-filled with huge potted plants... and lots of oxygen. A first for me, I filmed this odd road-trip (and the characters I met along the way) for a documentary I swear that I will release someday.

Networking with Zoolander in NYC, '08.
Photo by Jeremy Clowe. All rights reserved.
9. While networking in New York City, I once ran into both Ben Stiller and Tina Fey... on the same day! Fey asked me "are you an actor?..."

10. Performing in various theater, video and film productions over the years, I also had the opportunity to work as an extra for the feature films War of the Worlds (2005) and Taking Woodstock (2009). Immortalized in both films, I also made some sweet money and was offered the chance to join The Screen Actor's Guild-- not bad! Working for two big name Hollywood directors on professional film sets was also a valuable education.

##


So there you have it! Keep reading this blog for more shocking revelations. And for you traditionalists, I can still dust off the old resume at your request...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Creative Partnership

So this past weekend Sarah and I were busy designing our invitations and a website for our upcoming wedding. It was fun, and struck me that my romantic partner might also be a promising creative collaborator in the future-- it hadn't really dawned on me before that!

Yup. Sarah painted this. She interned at the
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum during college,
and the artist has been a big influence.
Me jealous?... Artwork by Sarah Klein.
All rights reserved.
You see, as many similarities as we have, we can also be quite different. I tend to be the "ham," while she gets absorbed in great books; Britpop and classic soul caught my ear, while she was raised on folk; I tend towards design and keeping organized, while she is more craft-minded and likes things where she can reach them. We're both artists, but we have different approaches. This became all too clear to me when we attempted to carve a pumpkin together one Halloween. Wow... now that was a "challenging" exercise!

But we are still artists in temperament, and that is a common bond that is hard to ignore. We met on the dance floor, and sometimes have to remember the "give and take"that is necessary in a partnership. The fact that we are getting married proves that ultimately we realize how good we are for each other. In fact, Sarah has been great for my perfectionistic streak. I remember a few years back when we took our easels up to Olana State Historic Site, the former home of Hudson River School founder Frederic Edwin Church; we took advantage of a beautiful summer day to paint "en plein air" in the style of the artists that came before. We had a stunning view of the Catskill Mountains, but I was a little intimidated-- more about the process than the scenery. Sarah was inspiring to watch as she emptied her oils on to her palette, and just began painting... effortlessly! Maybe I have been hanging out in "Norman Rockwell world" too long, because I was much more methodical about my process, and was not really enjoying it as much as I should have. It was only when I started to follow my painting partner's example that I loosened up and could enjoy the day. I may be a little too hard on myself, as oil painting is something I haven't really done too much... but I sure did admire Sarah's approach-- it definitely made an impression on this ambitious soul!

Sarah has made me slow down a bit, and not be so concerned with having all the details in place.
Pumpkins in love (I'm pretty sure this is how we looked
when we met)!
I can already feel the great potential that we have as a couple. How nice then to also realize that "creativity," which is so important to me, can also be shared. This past Halloween we bought two pumpkins, but had each of our carvings relate to one another-- "pumpkins in love," Sarah's mother commented. The seeds are certainly there... here's looking forward to my life blooming in many new and unexpected directions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Last Kodak Moment?

Sad news this past week as the Eastman Kodak Company officially announced bankruptcy. This news is depressing for me not only as a film-lover, but also as a proud Rochesterian--I was born and raised in the Western, New York city where George Eastman based his revolutionary company, and I know I'm not alone in expressing a certain degree of bewilderment that such developments could come to pass.

Of course there's the obvious: digital has surpassed traditional film. It is inevitable that existing technology needs to change following the arrival of new innovations, yet surprising that Kodak could not anticipate the restructuring it needed to remain a leader in the photographic industry. Even more unbelievable, it appears that Kodak actually created the first digital camera prototype back in 1975!

I was just a kid back in the 1970s/80s, and Kodak's presence was felt everywhere-- from taking school trips to their inspiring headquarters and office park, visiting friends' families who owned their own darkrooms, or learning about the history of photography at the George Eastman House (where I had the opportunity to lecture last year!). Although my father worked for Xerox, one of the other great innovators in town, it was hard not to feel a certain amount of pride when you considered that such an important part of the people's everyday lives was manufactured in your own backyard.

Photo taken of Detroit skyline, 2004. Like the Motor City,
hopefully Kodak and Rochester can weather the storm.
Photo ©2004 Jeremy Clowe. All rights reserved.
It must have made more than an impression on me, as I would go on to pursue photography and filmmaking to some degree during my professional career. I have been kidded by many that I always seem to be taking pictures. I actually had a chance to work with Kodak early in my career, on a TV commercial for the EastHouse rehabilitation center in Rochester. I visited Kodak's main headquarters, and utilized their stock film library to find time-lapse footage of a flower degrading over time. With Kodak's help, I reversed the footage to match a narrative describing how visitors to EastHouse could go on to rehabilitate themselves and lead productive lives. I was proud of the spot, and thankful for the assist from Kodak, who always seemed very generous to the community in their own right. Like the flower coming back to life in my spot, I hope the iconic company that has given so much to the world (and my hometown) can find a way to reorganize and remain relevant in the digital age.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights

"Soul Men" (Jeremy, Neil, and Frank) karaoking last night!
Photo courtesy of Michael's of Stockbridge.
Our improv show went well last night. I enjoyed performing again with my old friends, and a couple new members. Neil Von Flatern is a nice addition to RBIT, bringing a new musical element to the troupe-- the finale where Frank La Frazia and I played singing firemen to Neil's accompaniment was a highlight for me. I left the theater with our impromptu song stuck in my head, and managed to keep the vibe going by doing some karaoke with the gang at a local bar afterwards. Let's just say that the ham in me was fully satisfied that evening-- as Frank asked me during one of the skits "where have you been all this time?"


On the theme of reunions, Sarah and I finally got to see The Muppets today. I was a little concerned that they were going to ruin the spirit of the original movies and TV show (I have fond memories of watching the old Muppet Show with my family every Saturday night), but thankfully it was a real joy... and proved that Jim Henson's creations seem far more real than all the "sophisticated" CGI that is doled out nowadays. It was refreshing, as was the story which dealt with the Muppets reuniting to save their old theater, with help from new muppet Walter, his human brother Gary (Jason Segel), and the always adorable Amy Adams, who played Gary's long-time girlfriend Mary. There was a lot of music in the film, including this hilarious tune sung by Segel, after his girl gives him an ultimatum: "are you a man or a muppet?"



The rest of the day I spent with my own gal, working on trying to design our own wedding invitations (we're playing off of our love of waterfalls). It's not as easy as it sounds-- we quickly realized that there was a lot to consider in terms of finding the right fonts and images. I think we're off to a good start, but hope I can figure out a way to take advantage of some more graphic design courses in the near future. Yeah, that would be good for me-- I'm the kind of guy that actually gets excited by good design and fonts (that's both serif and sans-serif).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Let's Stay Together... in 2012!

In light of my recent post on soul music, I found this video clip amusing--President Obama singing Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" during a fundraiser at New York's Apollo Theater yesterday. The Commander-in-Chief actually has a pretty decent voice-- not sure I could picture Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich pulling this off!



Apparently soulsters Green and India Arie had just performed at the legendary venue, and were in the audience as well. I have to say that the Apollo has a great vibe-- I caught Morrissey there a few years back, and I couldn't help but imagine all the fab soul artists who had performed in its halls.

Speaking of performing, I'll be back on the boards with the Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe (RBIT) in just a few hours. I'm looking forward to it... and perhaps I'll be singing some Reverend Al at karaoke afterwards! I've had a good run of workouts this week, and feeling centered and well-supported... so I hope it bodes well.

On a different kind of supporting note, I worked as a volunteer in Albany, New York, on Obama's election campaign back in 2008, and although it hasn't been a perfect four years, I'm proud of many of the things he has managed to achieve during this time. I haven't decided whether I will campaign for him again, but I'm strongly considering it (a little Al Green doesn't hurt!). Also, I might have a multimedia project coming down the pipeline in the next few months that looks at his presidency so far-- will keep you posted. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back on the boards!

Well it turns out that I WILL be performing tomorrow night with The Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe-- hooray! Here are the details:

Friday, January 20, 7:30 p.m. at the Spectrum Playhouse, 20 Franklin Street, Lee, MA. 
$12, cash or check. Reservations: 413.394.5023, ext. 12

Come join us for some "unscripted comedic genius!"


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Standing In The Shadows?

So we have our co-officiants, Sarah has her dress, flowers have been ordered, and now we have chosen a DJ for the wedding. Last night we spent some time clicking through YouTube to figure out some songs we would like to include. Suddenly, I noticed a trend-- many of my favorite bands specialize in "sad songs." I prefer to call it melancholia, but yeah... even the Temptations. Dilemma: I need to hear some classic soul on my big day!

Ok, so there's "My Girl" and "Get Ready," but what made me fall hard for the Tempts about ten years ago were such agonizing classics as "(I Know) I'm Losing You," "I Can't Get Next To You," and "I Wish It Would Rain." When I think about it, a lot of those old soul songs are so sweet because of the combination of seemingly upbeat music and heartbreaking lyrics-- "Standing in the Shadows of Love" says it all. Last night I realized that even Fitz & The Tantrums, one of my current retro-soul faves, continues the tradition... huh!

I don't know what it is that attracts me to the bluesier side of music. I guess part of the charm of the Temptations was lead singer David Ruffin's impassioned vocals: "I know you wanna leave me... but I refuse to let you go..." However, I want to start my wedding off "on the good foot," so I guess I'll need to dig a little deeper. Actually, Stevie Wonder had some great hits back in the early days that still managed to have some edge (thanks in part to the Funk Brothers).  And come to think of it, there IS a great Eddie Kendricks/David Ruffin duet by the Tempts that would work perfectly for the occasion... for my everything. Ok, I'll be fine: signed, sealed, and delivered!

Oh, and one more thing to add to this year's to do list: finish my Motown documentary- seriously. Here's a preview clip:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Artist Portrait

This week at the Museum we have been busy preparing for an upcoming exhibition on portrait artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, who began his career as an illustrator. I believe the Museum is offering an auction to have your portrait done by the artist during the run of the exhibition--I'll see about filming that. 

This past summer we had a special exhibition featuring a local artist named Sol Schwartz, who sketches at the various cultural events in the Berkshires. You could say that he is a portrait artist of a different sort, documenting musicians, actors, and dancers in action. I added some music and clips from Tanglewood, one of the locations Sol frequents--the footage was originally filmed for my TV music show Berkshire Soundstage (if you look closely at the opening sequence you will see Martin Scorsese sitting in with John Williams and the Boston Pops during their annual film night!).


It was nice to learn more about Sol's work-- over the years he and his wife Elayne had been pretty active supporters of the arts in the Berkshires. Sadly, Elayne passed away this past fall. I had the chance to meet her when we filmed the interview with Sol earlier in the year, and even had her sit in to have her portrait created by her husband. Sol's family appreciated the document, and requested a copy of the footage to play during her memorial service. I also reedited the exhibition video slightly to pay tribute to Elayne during the remainder of the show's run at the Rockwell Museum. One of the instances where my work has served an even greater purpose, and it made me feel good to do so.

The artist's website: solschwartz.com

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pride (In The Name of Love)

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Keep the dream alive!


Here is a video interview I conducted a few years back with Ruby Bridges for Norman Rockwell Museum. Ms. Bridges was one of the first African American children to integrate the elementary schools in New Orleans back in 1960. Her historic walk inspired artist Norman Rockwell, who three years later painted The Problem We All Live With.






"Golden Rule," Norman Rockwell, 1961. ©1961 SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. Photographs from Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL. "The Problem We All Live With," Norman Rockwell, 1963. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: NIles, IL.Video produced by Jeremy Clowe for Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Coming on Strong

As of today, there are exactly six months until our wedding. In some ways it seems like a long way off, but it was about five months ago that I proposed to Sarah, so I know how fast the time can go! Sarah is looking up wedding songs at the moment-- I have pretty strong ideas about what I want played, but I have to be fair and give her a chance to also make some decisions... I guess! ;)

Today I finally managed to get back to the gym here in Schenectady. It has been a busy year so far-- with weekly trips back and forth to New York City, and working on various theater and video productions-- apart from taking some long walks during my lunchtime in Stockbridge, I haven't managed to get back to throwing some weights around. I do well with bench marks (no pun intended), so it is fitting that this day that looks forward to six months would be the day I start back in...

The truth is that I do so much better when I am exercising regularly. I feel more relaxed and in control--both emotionally and physically. I notice my posture, my breath support... that is especially true when I need to serve as a spokesperson at the Museum, and when I try to sing. I really would like to do more singing this year, and gaining that extra support from strengthened muscles around my diaphragm is crucial. In fact, if the improv thing takes off, I would benefit from the same.

I feel good... a little tired near 10 p.m., but that's a good thing-- I'll hopefully sleep better (and my girl is always telling me I need to get to bed earlier). The tricky thing is when to get these workouts in. It takes me about an hour drive back and forth to work, so the best time often is to get it in before I head to work. That means an early day-- getting up around 5:30 a.m. to hit the gym by 6 a.m. If I can manage, it's great-- I don't have to worry for the rest of the day.

One thing I need to figure out is when I am back in Hudson A Planet Fitness gym just opened there, and I paid them a visit last Monday to check out the scene. To be honest, it was a little odd. They bill themselves as a "no-judgment" zone, but I think their efforts are a little heavy-handed. You walk in the place and there's a big sign that says "check your egos here," but I didn't see a coat rack. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign... telling all of their rules. Apparently the chain has a "no grunting" policy, and there have been some news stories about guys getting kicked out for, well, being guys! It's a little strange. I'm no fan of the whole "musclehead" thing, but there's something a little ironic about a place marketing  itself as non-judgmental being one of the most discriminatory I have seen:



But maybe I will look into it-- Hudson's such a small town, so there's not many options (and the $10 a month membership is hard to beat). But I will be sure to boycott their pizza nights, Tootsie Rolls, and other silly things that seem to be the antithesis of what a "real gym" should be all about.

Anyway, I'm back on track, and looking forward to getting into great shape-- and now I have one more thing to keep track of on this blog.... arrrgh.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Process

We had a great time in the city yesterday. Sarah and I met with a woman we have been considering as a rabbi to co-officiate our wedding, and she seems quite warm and accommodating. Things are coming together, but we are aware that there are exactly six months until the big day--there's quite a bit more to do.

round and a round and a round
we go... where the world's heading
nobody knows...
During our visit we stopped at the Museum of Art and Design. Located near Columbus Circle, the museum explores the blur between art, design, and craft. We were impressed with the variety of objects they had on display--everything from jewelry, metals, wood, fiber, and videos documenting many of the artists' process.  It became clear that this was the main focus of the museum--to showcase the skillful development of art in its many different forms. To further drive home this message, the museum offers visitors the chance to observe and even interact with a live artist set up in one of their studio spaces. Both being artists, we appreciated the creativity on display, and admired the presentation.

Afterwards we ducked into an Irish pub, further courting luck (this time of the Irish), on Friday the 13th. Dinner hit the spot, and the impromptu Irish folk singing by some customers was a welcome surprise--you could tell that their hearts were really into it.

Later that evening we met up with one of Sarah's college friends, whose husband was showcasing some of his own video production work during a networking salon being held at a bar in Greenwich Village. There were some real characters there, as well as people with a variety of creative talents. We were treated to filmmakers, actors, singers--some of it was hit or miss, but it was cool to see what people were developing.

Breik, Kim Hyun Soo, 2008. Human hair, oil color,
waterpaint, epoxy, steel. 61 x 59 1/16 x 36 1/4"
Courtesy of the artist, and Museum of Art and Design
website. All rights reserved.
I believe that this was the through-line of the day, and what made it so enjoyable--we were witnessing the process of creating work, from both visual and performing artists. Even if I was not completely won over by all of the artists work, I still must respect the time and effort they put into their own creative exploration-- you can't fault someone for that, and must appreciate that there are true moments of beauty found along such journeys. Yes, it is worth it--and so was our trip.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I should be so lucky...

Happy Friday the 13th! Sarah and I are tempting the superstitious fates by heading back to New York City today to take care of some business. It's a sunny day... my girl is by my side... there's even a poster staring at us on this train for Dustin Hoffman's new show on HBO: Luck! What could possibly go wrong?...  :) Crossing my fingers just in case, and I'll try not to step on too many cracks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Interactive Imagination

I have been looking at new ways of using video. I like the idea of video art, and started getting some ideas during my trip to New York City last week. I'm heading back tomorrow, so maybe we will have a chance to visit MoMa again, or see some other interactive displays.

At work the talk is all about mobile apps, a way of enhancing the visitor's experience through technology. Of course I am all for it, and have developed quite a bit of material-- video, writing, photography, to support the creation of new, multi-layered content. An idea of what is possible is this interactive timeline for Norman Rockwell's years in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which I co-directed and produced much of the content for (we won a 2007 "best website" award for this mini-site from the New England Museum Association).

Interviewing Ralph H. Baer in Manchester, New Hampshire,
October 18, 2011.
This past fall I had the chance to meet a man who was thinking about interactive content back during the very early days of the television medium. Ralph H. Baer is generally considered the "grandfather of video games." Back in the late 1960s, this creative engineer developed the first of a series of games to play on a television screen, including the popular ping-pong game. A few years later he teamed up with Magnavox to release Odyssey, the first home video game console, based on his original “Brown Box” prototype. Baer continued to experiment with technology in the 1970s, creating the immensely popular music game SIMON. At age 89, this pioneer is as active as ever, serving as a consultant for engineering and the video game industry, and still hard at work on new ideas. 

I had the pleasure to conduct a very long videotaped interview with Ralph for the Norman Rockwell Museum Archives, and it was a true pleasure-- very inspiring for me. Hopefully I can share more of this interview at a later date. In the meantime, you can read more about Ralph in this blog I created for the Museum-- get your game on!


Ralph H. Baer's website: www.ralphbaer.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just Say Yes (and)...

Careful what you wish for! As I wrote before, I have been itching to get back to doing some performing again... so imagine my delight in learning that my old improv group The Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe (RBIT) was going to start doing a series of shows in my old town of Lee, Massachusetts (about 15 minutes from work). My buddy and RBIT co-founder Frank La Frazia texted me last week to see if I was interested in getting back on the boards... YES was my excited reply! 

Brother's gonna work it out! My last gig with RBIT
at The Rockwell Museum, 2008. Yes, we are getting our
"dance" on. Photo by Sarah Edwards. All rights reserved.
I had my first rehearsal with a couple of my old improv pals tonight. It was good fun, and I remembered what a kick it gave me in the past! To give some background: RBIT was formed back in 2001, performing live improv and theater games to an enthusiastic public. There was something that appealed to me the moment I read about the group in the local paper, and I went out for an audition. Ten years later: 
I have met some of the nicest people/friends, and enjoyed so many hilarious and "educational" gigs as a result. I wouldn't have stopped, but the rehearsals had been a little far for me since I had moved to New York State. The "education" I talk about has been in terms of performing-- what a useful tool to learn how to open up, accept what is being offered to you onstage, work to make creative partners look good onstage, and tapping into creative energies and impulses. It has freed me up in many ways, and not only as a performer.

RBIT will be performing every third Friday of the month at the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee, Massachusetts. First shows starts Friday, January 20, at 7:30 p.m., with shows scheduled up to June. Visit the Spectrum Playhouse website for more details. I'm not sure if I will join them for the first show or not, but I am excited about the chance to flex my improv muscle again. 

Here's a clip I found from the old days. Hopefully bigger and better things on the way...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Topical solutions

I have been issued a creative assignment this week: to reinterpret the news. Whoa... didn't I just finish that with The Spoken Word Almanac Project (S.W.A.P.)? Well yes, but this is a different request. Thank God I keep up on the news... New Hampshire Republican Primaries? Nuclear threats in Iran? The high schooler whose photos are too sexy for her yearbook? And the week has only begun!... Things change so rapidly nowadays, and there are so many new, faster outlets from which to retrieve information. I still prefer my news the "old-fashioned way"- we're talking clear-headed, in-depth journalism that takes time to tell an accurate story. So here's to you, NPR and New York Times... it can't be easy to do what you do, and still attract new audiences in this "instant age."

Ok, while I get that thought around my head this evening, here's another collection of visuals I created for poems performed during S.W.A.P.'s December 17, 2011 year-end show, covering everything from protesters around the world; Superman giving up on his American citizenship; the uprising in Egypt, to the death of Gaddaffi. Not always an easy task or for the squeamish (and I'm not talking about Advocate of Wordz's Superman undies)! As they say, "viewer discretion is advised."


Monday, January 9, 2012

I'm in love. What's that sound?

Continuing on the music vibe, I was pleasantly surprised to read this article today in The Albany Times Union about how Hudson, New York, is becoming such a "musician-friendly town." The article interviews Tommy Stinson, a new Hudson resident and former bassist in the influential rock band The Replacements.



Pretty cool. And he's not alone... apparently Meshell Mdegeocello lives here, as does Melissas Auf Der Maur from the band Hole, members of indie rock band Vetiver*, and my stepfather says he even ran into Sonny Rollins one time. Wow.

Producer Henry Hirsch (Lenny Kravitz)
has opened a new studio in this converted
1869 church in Hudson. Can I get an amen?
It means much to me because Hudson is where my family is from-- both mother and father, and I still have several aunts and uncles in the area. I'm actually living part-time at my grandparent's old farm property at the moment, and it has been nice to revisit the town that I have such fond memories of growing up.

I don't know if my family or I would have guessed that downtown Hudson would turn into the scene it is today. Over the past twenty years or so I have seen it grow into quite a creative hub--art galleries, trendy restaurants, and the thing that started it all, antique dealers. It makes sense-- it is an easy train ride to and from New York City, and sort of centrally located (like the Berkshires) from NYC, Boston, and Montreal. It's kid of ideal... if you can make a go of it. I never found much work here in Hudson besides the odd part-time job helping out at art galleries, but many New Yorkers now claim it as their own-- second homes, or even commuting.

I hope the city doesn't get too spoilt by this-- as the article describes, it does have a sort of "real" quality about it. Believe me, you don't really get that in the Berkshires. Music is the way to cut through that though, and while I am here I look forward to hearing about new creative artists, and seeing how Club Helsinki takes off (recent acts have included Tift Merritt, Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Wow).

The Piano Man + Songbird. My two
favorite musicians (Holland, MI, c. 1963)
For me it is especially sweet because music brought my parents together. My Dad was a pretty accomplished pianist, and my Mom had a lovely voice-- I used to enjoy hearing them perform together in the churches where they both worked as an organist and choir director (I was in the teen choir). Ok, now my family's town is reminding me again it's time for me to step it up in the music department! I'll see what I can do... In the meantime, local musicians in Hudson, please get in touch-- I'd love to at least look into having you on my TV music show, which has been mostly New England-based up to now. Time to bring it all back home...


Related Link: 

Hudson, N.Y.: Where Bands Feel at Home, New York Times


More about producer Henry Hirsch's studio


*Note: The lead singer of Vetiver, Andy Cabic, is one of the many artists featured in A Concert for Loved Ones in Haiti, which I filmed at The Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, MA, back in February 2010. Here is a short clip with the previously mentioned Tift Merritt. Watch this space for more details on an upcoming broadcast.







Sunday, January 8, 2012

Born To Rock!

I saw double just the other day at MoMa
thankyouverymuch! Artwork by Andy Warhol,
1963. (c)2011 Andy Warhol Foundation
for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society
(ARS), New York.
I must say that I was little envious of the poets I have worked with over this past month. To write their own material, and then get up onstage and perform it in front of an audience seems like a pretty sweet deal. It has been too long since I have been actively performing, and I think it would be great to get back up on stage. Don't get me wrong, I still "perform" in a sense-- we have a great time hitting the karaoke circuit now and then, and "music" seems like a natural form for me to take part in more seriously.

I am always amazed this time of year when I remember that two of the world's biggest musicians ever were born on the same date: "The King" Elvis Presley (1/8/35) and "The Thin White Duke" David Bowie (1/8/47). Only 12 years separated these artists (not bad, Sarah?), and you can see a few similarities in the way they worked and were received by the public. As a mad music fan, I must admit to spending some time studying both Elvis and Bowie's music and careers; they would both make for excellent interviews for my music show, so if either of you are out there reading this!...

I was turned on to Bowie in late high school-- being a huge new wave/Britpop fan, he was the name I heard these musicians always citing as being a tremendous influence. The album that first really got me hooked was 1983's Let's Dance-- it had that infectious big '80s sound, with a bit of trademark Bowie weirdness thrown in (I generally miss this mix of elements in today's pop music). Since this was my starting point, I first scratched the surface of '80s Bowie, which in retrospect wasn't really his high point. The early stuff is where he really broke ground, and kept us all on the edge of our seat with his quirky, art rock, and larger than life persona-- Ziggy Stardust anyone?


(I can rock this one out at karaoke. I'm just sayin'.)

Similarly, Elvis Presley was an unbelievable performer and musician. He started as one of the first high-profile rock and roll artists, fusing elements of country and rhythm and blues-- I guess you might more correctly call it "rockabilly" (which I love!). There is something absolutely infectious and raw in those early recordings. Check out The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters, which captures a young, hungry (no pun intended) artist on the rise, from Sun Studios to RCA. There was no holding him back, and his intense performances (with sneer and shaking pelvis) shocked everyone. Mothers, lock up your daughters!

There was nothing safe about either musician starting out. It was only after the army and Hollywood for Elvis, and the huge commercial success of Let's Dance for Bowie that the artists started playing it "safe" (although Bowie began to rectify this after the '80s, and produced some great later work). I guess both are examples of the dangers of "fame... makes a man think things over..." They both, however, remained influential and unequalled performers.

Channeling this guy circa early 50s, in the early 2000s.
He really was pretty cool back in the day, and so was I!
Need to find a photo of me in "Elvis" mode. I'll post later.
Photo 1956 by Roger Marshutz. (AP)
I was never really into Elvis growing up-- I only really knew him as sort of a caricature, and the Beatles were the classic artist that first grabbed my attention at the age of 10. It wasn't until I was around 30 and actively working as an actor, that I began listening to Elvis more seriously. Initially, it was sort of a joke-- I began doing impressions of Elvis to amuse an older co-worker who was a musician, and loved his work. This eventually inspired us to do a few gigs with his karaoke machine, where we both traded off on singing "The King." We even had a bit of a theme where he would start singing, and then I would gradually walk in (wearing dark shades and jacket) and accuse him of being my brother Jesse, who took over the music after I was cryogenically frozen in the late 50s (rescuing me from the post-war years!). It was good fun, and definitely tapped into my "inner rockstar." I'm that way anytime I get up onstage with a microphone-- I sort of lose track of what I'm doing... in a good way!


Of course I never had a chance to see the real Elvis live (except for an odd concert in 2002 where his old backing band played against a virtual "King" live on the big screen). I have had the chance to see David Bowie a few times in concert: 1990's Sound + Vision Tour, 1995's Outside tour with Nine Inch Nails, and 2004's Reality Tour. My first was supposed to be in 1987 during his "Glass Spider" tour in my hometown of Rochester, New York. Unfortunately, that was cancelled... due to illness? Poor ticket sales? Or was it a resentment of the Flower City?

He'd rather not be in Rochester (to riff on an old ad campaign).
Rochester Police Department mugshot of Bowie in full-on
1976 "alien mode!"
I have since learned that Bowie had an "eventful" time in Rochester back in March 1976, when he was arrested (along with Iggy Pop) on a felony pot possession charge following his concert in the city. It resulted in this bizarre mug shot, which seems fitting for the flamboyant performer, who was probably more likely to be high as a kite on cocaine back at the time. He was also at the height of his strangeness--anyone who has seen the remarkable sci-fi movie The Man Who Fell to Earth by Nicolas Roeg knows what I'm talking about-- it's Bowie at his most alien (perfect casting). By why hold it against my hometown? It sounds like Bowie's kicked the habit, but has yet to return to Rochester... neither has Elvis... "The King" actually played one of his final concerts in the city on May 25, 1977. A few months later he would be gone, the result of his own substance abuse issues.

But both Elvis and Bowie "live"-- even though the latter has been in retirement for a few years, and the previous has been for even more (although some say he's still out there!). I am still frequently referred to as "Elvis" at the Museum where I performed so many years ago, with many inquiries into another comeback. Yes, it would be "good to be back," something I used to say at the start of each of my impersonations. Maybe 2012 is the year I finally tap into my own inner Bowie and rock some of this blue-eyed soul. I was born to two musicians myself, so it would be a shame not to. In any event, watch this space for news on upcoming performances (musical or otherwise). Off now to listen to the birthday boys....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Force To Be With Reckoned With

I had a great time in New York City yesterday. The Spoken Word Almanac Project (S.W.A.P.) 2011 encore show went over very well, and we performed in a beautiful theater called Wild Project. This venue had a different feel than the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, where we had performed our year in review show last month. Both sites had their advantages-- The Nuyorican is a renowned poetry club, where the audience really responded to our work; and Wild Project was more of a theater setting, with stadium seats and a separate lobby area (the venue actually reminded me of the former Main Street Stage theater in North Adams, Massachusetts, where I had performed over the last ten years as a company member).

Wild Project also had a huge back wall, where we projected my visuals. They looked great-- particularly the Debt Ceiling piece performed by poet Advocate of Wordz. For this poem, I chose to run footage I had shot of the debt clock in Manhattan. It was a more simple, "abstract" visual, and I find myself wanting to move more in this direction, when possible.

After our tech rehearsal in the morning, I had some time to kill before picking up Sarah at Grand Central Station. I decided to run over to The Museum of Modern Art and have a quick look at their latest offerings and permanent collection. The Diego Rivera show was interesting, and I also enjoyed looking at some of the Pop Art on display. I think this was the first time I had been back to the museum since their renovation, and the place really looks great. I even stumbled upon a unique video presentation-- it looked as if it was documenting an artist's day on dozens of screens lining the gallery space. I'll have to look more into it. As I said, this was a quick trip to get inspired, and I was happy for the reciprocal program between my museum and others, which lets me take in such things for free.

It was fun to do the show again after a couple weeks off. I spent some time talking with the producers about the next steps for 2012, and enjoyed hanging out with the performers after the show. Sarah and I got back to the Hudson Valley very late, and so today has been a rather sleepy, laid-back day-- perfect for watching movies.


On that note, here is a film-related clip from the December 17th S.W.A.P. performance at the Nuyorican. In 2011, filmmaker George Lucas once again updated his original Star Wars trilogy with enhanced computer generated imagery. Now, a lot of us were greatly inspired by these films growing up, and take great exception to their need to be updated... including yours' truly! I have a lot of problems with CGI in general-- it is so overused, and really distracts from the moviegoing experience, in terms of story and quality. Bring me back to the innovative days of the 70s/80s where such incredible sci-fi films had an organic quality, and just as much care has been put into their story!

The "Open Letter to George Lucas" poem, co-written by S.W.A.P. poets Adam "ShadoKat" Bowser, Justin Woo, and Caroline Rothstein, was a lot of fun to work on. I found some fun images, including a cryogenically frozen George Lucas-- take that! I hope he soon learns that we don't need his "excessive use of Force" (pun intended), and would like our childhood inspirations kept intact.

The poem following this is by the talented Scott Raven Tarazevits, and deals with a recent trip he took to Ireland to shoot an infomercial for the country's Tourism Bureau. As he filmed a scene about the local cuisine, where the producers had laid out an unnecessarily gluttonous feast, he opened the newspaper to find a story about the ongoing famine problem in Somalia. A little different in tone from the Star Wars piece, obviously, but just as interesting. We actually updated this one for the encore show, including a few personal photos from Scott's trip to make it more clear.

So, that's a wrap for another year of S.W.A.P. I once again enjoyed my time being a part of the artistic scene in New York City.

Friday, January 6, 2012

control

Speaking of Adam "ShadoKat" Bowser, here is a poem he created for the Spoken Word Almanac Project (S.W.A.P.) on the topic of gun control. It was actually written in response to the news of the assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, representative of Arizona, back in January 2011. The tragic shooting actually happened a year ago to this day... so it shows just how early the poets start their work.





This poem made it into the year-end show--and for good reason. It has all the elements of the best S.W.A.P. pieces, which I described in the previous post. An emotional response from the audience, and for the poet--equally invested.

The process starts like this: first the poet chooses a news story each month. From there, they write the poem, eventually sharing it at a monthly meeting of the entire group. In this early stage, I start to think about visuals that might accompany the piece, and wrap my head around not only the story, but also the idea/tone the poet is trying to convey.

I like Adam's delivery: it gets more intense, more heightened as the poem goes along. I responded by making the imagery more and more alarming, and the cuts a little more frantic. I thought this one really captured the feeling of an idea gradually unravelling--losing control.

As good as this piece was, there are only so many works that can be included in the final show. It was decided to switch this out for the encore performance, so that Adam could have a chance to deliver his poem about Troy Davis (see last post). I am reminded of my years working in TV news, where the stories prepared for a live broadcast would sometimes get shuffled around last minute--or a new story would need to get cut. I have memories of frantically running back and forth from the studio to the editing room to facilitate such requests. Thankfully, things aren't quite that "last minute" with S.W.A.P., but we all need to be on our toes. That is the exciting thing about the live performance--I have experienced it on the stage as a performer, and here, behind the scenes as S.W.A.P.'s media designer.

Well, I have a train to catch--see you tonight in NYC!

Details:

The Spoken Word Almanac Project 2011 Encore Show
Friday, January 7, 2011, 9 p.m.

at Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street (between Ave A & B), New York, NY 10009
For more information: http://poetictheater.com/festival

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sensitized

I'm getting ready to take part in the encore performance of The Spoken Word Almanac Project's 2011 Year In Review show, that will be taking place at The Wild Project in New York City tomorrow, January 6, starting at 9 p.m. There has been one last addition-- a poem written about Troy Davis, the man who was executed this past year after a long drawn-out fight to determine his innocence. This is one of the interesting photos I have found during my research, and I'll be using it as part of the visuals I have collected to accompany the poem (created and read by the talented spoken word artist Adam "ShadoKat" Bowser). It's an intense poem, guaranteed to stir up some emotions, and at its best, that is what S.W.A.P. is all about.


For the record, I am against the death penalty. I feel it is a flawed tool used to exact revenge in the name of "justice." I think I actually had my mind made up by art. When I first moved out to the Hudson Valley, I volunteered at the innovative community arts organization Time & Space Limited. Based in Hudson, New York (where I currently reside, and my family is from), the company offers a mix of the arts, theater, community activism, and a progressive forum for discourse. Their 2000 exhibition Condemned dealt with Sing Sing's death row, and included mug shots of some 130 people who were executed at the Ossining, New York correctional facility, along with copies of their final letters, autopsy reports, menu for a last meal, and other memorabilia-- it was quite striking and alarming. According to The New York Times, "between 1891 and 1963, the year of the last legal execution in New York State, more people -- 614 -- were executed at Sing Sing than at any other prison." In very simple yet bold design, the exhibition showed how many death row inmates were falsely accused and sentenced, with proof of their innocence showing up after it was too late. Read The New York Times' June 21, 2000 review of the exhibition here.


I hope that the multimedia I create to accompany the S.W.A.P. poets' work might achieve the same result-- make the audience think, and above all feel for the subject matter. It is the personal that interests me, and it is a beautiful thing to be able to use your creativity in a way that contributes to the greater good of humanity-- no matter how small.


Learn more about the Poetic License festival and buy tickets to the S.W.A.P. encore at:
www.poetictheater.com
(friends, please use the "SWAP10" discount code to receive special $10 tickets)