Sixteen-year old magician Stanley Zhou, originally from China, has audience members, including Penn & Teller, scratching their heads. He does a card effect the plotline of which is well-known, but contains elements–especially the finale–which will have even well-posted magic fans “fasten-ated.”
If you’re not totally glued to your computer email 24/7 you may have noticed that the US Postal Service mail delivery has been getting more and more chaotic and sporadic over the last few decades. Filmmaker Jay Galione has come out with a documentary film that helps to unravel the labor battleground that is the US Postal Service in a deeply personal film, The Great Postal Heist. I was happy to interview Jay for Arts Express radio.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
A while ago we brought you an excerpt from Manuel Tiago’s The 3rd Floor, stories of the Portuguese Communist resistance under fascism. Now Eric Gordon has translated into English another book of Tiago’s called Border Crossings, a collection of short stories about the everyday lives of those who worked for the party resistance and had to flee from town to town and country to country as they carried out their assignments.
Tiago, whose real name was Álvaro Cunhal, based these stories on his longtime experiences in the Portuguese Communist Party. As Eric Gordon writes in his introduction, “One theme that pops up in story after story here is that of communication, cooperation and collaboration. No one makes these journeys alone. They are aided by a global support system that recognized the critical importance of these crossings.”
I would add that these stories taken as a whole add up to a three dimensional portrait of ordinary people doing heroic things in extraordinary times.
Here’s one story from Border Crossings called “Women over the Soajo.”
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the story as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
Here he is in one of his most masterful performances as Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
The play was originally directed on Broadway by Lloyd Richards, the first Black director on the Broadway stage. In their lean days as struggling actors, Richards and Poitier would pool their money to buy and split a hot dog. They promised each other that if one got an opportunity, they’d bring the other along. When Poitier got Hansberry’s script, he insisted that Lloyd direct the play. Lloyd worked intensely with Hansberry to shape the play and then cast and directed the play perfectly. The stage cast, many of whom were also in the film– and who you can see in this clip from the film–included Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Claudia McNeil, and John Fiedler.
I saw Mario the Maker Magician by accident some years ago; he was giving a full outdoor performance in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, and it became apparent to me that he was the best children’s magician I had ever seen. His inventiveness, love of children, and inspirational aura put him into a class by himself. Watch this clip to see how he gets the children’s attention and then switches over into a wonderful positive message about artistic experimentation.
BTW, he makes all of his own robots and teaches children how to do the same.
Monday morning, going to the window to hear those kids and birds singing. A great haunting cover of The Train Song by Kelly, Josh and Carson, performing a once obscure song by Vashti Bunyan. Vashti Bunyan’s musical journey is an interesting one in itself: this song was originally recorded in 1966, and released on an album in 1970; the album flopped and Vashti left the music world. Thirty years later, her music is rediscovered, she gains a measure of fame, and now she is playing music dates again.
There’s a long history of actors and variety performers who have had their first taste of theater with a basement childhood puppet stage. But actor Robert Brock of Lancaster PA was determined to make good on his childhood dream of building a marionette theater for the public and living in an apartment upstairs. Now in a new documentary, director Alexander Monelli brings to life the joys and woes of Robert’s single-minded adult pursuit of his childhood dream in Monelli’s new film Marionette Land.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview with Alexander Monelli, as broadcast yesterday on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
As we begin a New Year, here is the editorial I printed in the latest Arts Express Magazine talking about how art may help in the coming year.
A year ago, we had hoped that the worst days of the COVID pandemic were on the wane, and that the Democrats would offer perhaps an eyedropperful more in the way of healthcare and economic help. But even with our low expectations, the new regime managed to disappoint still further, and we had yet another year of deaths and hardships.
In the midst of this, it’s worth asking what is the role of art, both the performing arts and the visual arts in all this? How can they help us in our circumstances?
As we see it, on the most rudimentary political level, art can teach us; it can tell us stories of resistance, struggles for equality and justice, rising up against oppressors, uncover unknown stories that might prompt us to action. Art can also provide us with courage and inspiration, as when we sing in unison with our comrades, or cheer a protagonist in a film. These are important aspects of art, but we want to advocate, too, for some of the less acknowledged qualities of art, equally important, as opposed to the more overtly political.
The very making of art means that an artist is a human who observes the world, interprets it, and responds to it. The artist is an active agent in making the world rather than just accepting it. The act of sharing is important too; the artist says: the world looks this way to me, how about you?—even if we’re just talking about a bowl of fruit. We can only understand this life by checking with others what their experience is, and sharing our own.
Crucially, though, in art we use our imaginations to tell the stories of others. In that act of imagination, artists explore the experiences of others, try on new roles for themselves. Although we only present a tiny slice of what we are and can be in our “real lives,” we begin to understand that each one of us contain multitudes. The real freedom artists allow themselves in creation is a wake-up call to the rest of us that most of the time we are walking around half-blind: blind to the possibilities of the world around us and blind to the possibilities within ourselves as human beings. That realization alone brings hope–and battles despair–as we try to live our fullest lives. We wish you all a happy and healthy year full of possibilities.
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