all in a day’s (and a night’s) work: the 24-hour project.

24-hour project mike and laurieAfter the awesomeness of Friday at the 24-Hour Project, Brandy and I decided that Saturday we’d return, this time with Michael and some of the kiddos in tow. We scoured the program, reading through the descriptions of the 24 performances scheduled for day two, and with input from all involved, decided to try to make it to the theater in time for Mike Hudson at 1pm, because according to the program, he was “a guy you haven’t heard of” who “plays songs on the piano that you haven’t heard, in ways you haven’t heard.” Our curiosity wouldn’t allow us to miss THAT.

So after some breakneck-speed sledding down a steeper-than-we-thought hill, we raced home to put on dry clothes and then raced to Court Square Theater. We managed to score seats right up front again. I don’t know why more people don’t sit in the front row. We love the front row: I love the leg room, and Brandy likes to be able to get where she’s going without awkwardly squeezing between seats, bonking people on the back of the head with that giant lens.

Mike did exactly as promised: he played songs on the piano — some we’d never heard. A sad one called “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face” about a quiet exit from a relationship. An unusual assortment of other covers, from “Music for a Found Harmonium” (Penguin Cafe Orchestra — you might recognize it from Napoleon Dynamite) to a Belle and Sebastian song, to Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” As many times as I’ve heard that old number, I’d honestly never heard the lyrics so clearly as when Mike sang it. A primitive protest song. At one point Mike told the sound booth he’d “feel a lot more confident if I could get a little more in the monitor.” They made the adjustment, but take it from us in the front row: we detected no such lack of confidence.

The female vocal ensemble Shekinah (which means, roughly, God’s presence among the people) performed next, bringing with them only a bongo, a tambourine, and a chair. At first I thought the chair was just in case the pregnant lady needed to sit down… but no, it was for the bongo player. Brandy and I saw these ladies at the Our Community Place Christmas Concert in 2012. Cal was enthralled and loved their purple dresses. I remember he asked me if he could “pet” them. ??? Anyway, they dressed in purple on this day, too.

Shekinah proves with their voices that the human being is the greatest musical instrument in existence. I can’t understand the concentration required to do what they do. Each of them must somehow hear only herself, because each woman seems to sing a distinct part, but she must also pay attention to the group so she doesn’t veer off and end up somewhere else. Not only that, but they sang ten songs in seven different languages, including a Dolly Parton cover, a traditional Irish children’s song, a Finnish song based on Psalm 100, and a sassy Bulgarian number.

After Shekinah, we took a little break at the Explore More Children’s Museum. The beauty (well, one of the many beauties) of the 24-Hour Project is that you could come and go. When the kids finally got all their wiggles out, we returned in time to see the Ears to the Ground Family take the stage.

ears to the ground family 1Any time you get a chance to see this band, you MUST. I mean this sincerely — I can’t believe how great they sound. Beautiful harmonies, clear as bells, never a sour note, never a lackluster performance. It’s probably not a priority to be “famous” or whatever, but they totally could be.

They have a few instruments — guitar, trumpet, bongo — but they also make use of their hands and feet, shoes and skin. My favorite of their set was Nichole’s song for her mom, in which she repeats, almost chants, like a prayer, “With a love like this, I will not despair.” Also, “Prison Cells,” a song about, essentially, forgiveness (and hypocrisy) inspired by a judicial system that just won’t “let them forget what they done wrong.” And the song about time: “Why waste so much precious time when we can float downstream in the living water, be grafted to the vine?” Thank you for that reminder!

ears to the ground 2Lastly, Chris Howdyshell took the stage. Yes, he was the last performer. The closer. By this point, a certain… euphoria hung in the air. Maybe it was sheer loopiness emanating from everyone who’d been up for 24 hours. It became clear that Chris’ job was to keep everyone from keeling over in exhaustion. He was their Red Bull. And really, there’s no better person for that task.

chris howdyshell 1He sang a few songs… “He Is a Friend of Mine,” accompanied by the story of Oliver’s birth. The one for Mariana, with the Alan Watts backstory. The song about workin’ and money and family — mighta been called “Walkin’ With the Devil.” But no, it’s actually called “Happiness.” But mostly he just talked to us. He entertained with a string of meandering anecdotes, like how he once ran into Nick Melas at the community health center, and even with a mask on, Nick was the “best looking guy in the place.” He also recalled the history of Open Mic at Little Grill… let’s see, it started with Ron Copeland, then Jay Zehr hosted it, but “only for a year because he got old,” and then Chris took over in the year 2000 until he left the Grill a year or two ago to become a restaurant manager.

chris howdyshell 2Which led to a story of his near-death experience. He’s taking phlebotomy classes, and during class, students “practice” on each other, and someone accidentally pushed IN on the syringe. Chris expected to die instantly, but he didn’t (obviously)… but his hand, where the needle went in, did swell up and get huge and black and horrifying… and after that big, long story he reminded us that he “paid money for that!” And the last thing I remember was  something about a wicked book from elementary school that scarred him for LIFE.

I wonder, next year… could there be a 36-hour project? Or 48? <cringe> Or, how about this — have a 24-hour project every quarter. This one was so much fun, I’m sure people will be eager to participate and attend the next. Here’s hoping that happens soooooon!

24-hour project survivors 2Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

 

prepare to be euphemized: rocky horror picture show 2013.

rocky horror picture show posterOr maybe euphenized. Whatever. What I’m saying is, this blog is usually rated PG. And what I saw at the Rocky Horror Picture Show — on screen and in the audience — was NOT.  So I’ll be putting some things mildly, if you know what I mean.

Gahd, I love this town!

Brandy and I planned for WEEKS to attend Court Square Theater‘s presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d never actually seen it on the big screen… I’d only surreptitiously viewed bits and pieces of it long before I was old enough to, and the last time Brandy watched it was when she got it through the BMG video club. On VHS. Yes. Needless to say, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew it was “weird,” and racy, and interactive… but I did NOT expect the level of participation I witnessed that night.

When we arrived at the theater, I noticed people were dressed up. Not “dressed up” like fancy… but dressed in costumes. Everyone was feathered and painted, horned and sequined, glossy, ruffled, glittered, laced, fishnetted, fedora-ed, boa-ed, suspendered, party-hatted, and even slightly naked.

rocky horror picture show costumes BW rocky horror picture show costumes2I was beige. Sitting in the middle of the theater with my glasses and notebook and clicky pen, wearing beige pants and a slightly darker beige sweater. BEIGE. I was immediately recognized as a first-timer by this gal…

rocky horror picture show JK… and promptly tagged with a big red V. I felt a little better when I had two Three Brothers Great Outdoors-es in my hands. I carried them and our baggie of props — assembled and sold by the theater for a totally-worth-it five bucks — to our seats. The baggie included rice, a rubber glove, a noisemaker, confetti, a page of newspaper, even a water gun (egads!), and I’m sure some items I’m forgetting, plus a set of instructions for when to use said items. The teacher in me was excited to organize our supplies while the emcees (Julian “J” Kline — the V lady — and Tony “Left Skate” Lopez) welcomed the ever-burgeoning crowd.

rocky horror picture show bag contents rocky horror picture show bag listBefore the show, everyone who dressed up (which was pretty much everyone, except Brandy and me) was invited to participate in the costume contest. First, the Magenta competition. All the Magentas filed onto the stage. Tony gushed, “So many French maids! I’ve never wanted my home cleaner than I do right now!” The audience cheered to indicate their favorite Magenta.

rocky horror picture show contestrocky horror picture show maids BWNext up were the other characters… the Brads, Frank-N-Furters, Rocky’s, Riff Raffs and such… and here are the winners!

rocky horror picture show costumesThen all the newcomers, like me, had to stand up while everyone yelled “Virgin!” at us. I felt something reminiscent of middle school shame… Then, the giant lips appeared, and the ride had begun. Don’t worry. There are no spoilers here. While I was thoroughly entertained by the film and the audience, there were several times I didn’t know what the heck was going on. Plus I was so consumed by the baggie of props and being ready for the next activity that my attention was divided. I mean, I wore the rubber glove for like ten minutes because I didn’t want to fall behind.

rocky horror picture show riceAND, right at the moment I was supposed to squirt water all over people, I DROPPED my water gun and was completely defenseless. No worries. J came down the aisles and sprayed everyone. No one escaped. It sounded like a flock of geese in there when the noisemaker part happened, and Brandy and I were both nerdishly concerned about the mess after the confetti landed all over the wet floor.

Based on the colorful words everyone was screaming at Brad and Janet, I guess they weren’t the hero and heroine, but I kinda felt sorry for them. Innocently having car trouble, innocently approaching a house to ask for help, innocently having silhouetted encounters with others behind a sheet. Wait.

rocky horror picture show lipsAnd right when I thought those two would never make it out of there alive, Meatloaf showed up. And I had to pee. Did I? Hell no. Meatloaf was on, singing his fat head off. And everyone was dancing in the aisles and it was AWESOME! Then the film took a violent turn, and Meatloaf, as Brandy said, became hamburger. Toward the end, the characters took a friendly dip in the pool and sang “Be It, Don’t Dream It,” which was rather touching, and all the frozen characters were electrically unfrozen. And after all he’d been through, being held there against his will and all, a forgiving Brad asked about Frank, “But what’s his crime?” Really, Brad? You’re soaking wet and wearing a corset. And then there’s a bizarre return to the home planet where everyone’s hair is awful. I still don’t know what the point was of that neckless narrator guy.

See? No spoilers!

When the film ended, the room exploded in applause. It’s weird to clap at a movie, because it’s not like the actors are going to come out on stage and take a bow. But we all clapped and clapped and clapped some more. The last time I clapped at a movie was at Rocky (the one with the Russian). Or maybe it was Return of the Jedi. Either way, I was a kid and my dad was sawing logs in the seat beside me.

rocky horror picture show tony JKThanks to Court Square Theater for hosting the show and making those goodie bags. I’m sorry to the folks who had to clean that up, but thank you to them, too. And thanks to Tony and J for enthusiastically and energetically emceeing the event. And thanks to all the Burgers who dressed up and made us smile!! You ROCK!

Today and tomorrow at Court Square Theater, you can catch Enough Said at 5:30 or 7:35, and next week is the SuperGr8 Film Festival, Wednesday and Thursday! Yay! If you’re curious, here’s what happened at last year’s festival.

See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISStaken identity: women in focus at court square theater.

Part Two of Four

future woman, in focus.

future woman, in focus.

The previous post, “Girl Talk,” summarizes my experience talking to women about issues facing women. It also underscores how totally confused I can get when faced with a complex topic. The remaining posts in this series — this one and two more — will explore the statistics presented in the documentary Miss Representation, the complexity of gender stereotypes, the mixed messages conveyed by the “media,” and ways of sorting it all out and moving forward. Maybe. ha ha.

I should re-iterate that this type of post is a slight departure from what we usually do, and everything you read here is what I see through my personal lens. That’s really all anyone can offer. So, I take full credit or blame for the ideas contained herein (official disclaimer).

After the Women In Focus social at the Dodger, I headed to Court Square Theater for the documentary. I must’ve gotten there earlier than I intended, because there were just a handful of people seated around me. But sure enough, just two minutes before the film was to start, a long line formed in the corridor. Now, ladies, do we have to be late for everything? And did we have to perpetuate a female stereotype at a film that explores the perpetuation of female stereotypes? So Michael Weaver politely took the stage and assured us that the film would start just as soon as they could get everyone through the ticket booth. And several women, ahem, just talked right over him. Eventually, the theater filled up: eleven men and a zillion women.

I’d like to share this synopsis from the Miss Representation web site in case you didn’t see the film:

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Writer and director Newsom, a former actress turned activist and documentary filmmaker who herself experienced debilitating body image problems, narrates the film. The film relays lots of disturbing statistics, some of which I’ll try to summarize and tie together here.

First, as a nation (according to the film), we spend more on beauty than on education. However, the film does not fully substantiate this claim. Does it mean that a lifetime of beauty products and procedures costs more than four years of college? And what if the student gets a scholarship or grant? There aren’t grants for beauty products, so I can see how those numbers might be unclear.

STILL, the statement implies that women value beauty over education, which IS a sad idea, no matter what you believe. If you believe it, then it stands to reason that, according to the film, sixty-five percent of women and girls will experience some form of eating disorder. If females value beauty so highly, then they’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve it. Newsom also implies that the MEDIA forces/conditions/brainwashes women (starting at a very young age) into valuing beauty over education. This is the part I struggle with. I think it’s safe to say that our upbringing and social/economic environments do shape our values as kids. But once we’re adults, we can choose our values, and if I value beauty over education as a grown-up, that’s my choice, not necessarily the media’s fault. What the film strives to do is make everyone aware that the media is manipulative (in many ways) and therefore, what the media “tells someone” about him or herself is not necessarily true. For many of us, this awareness occurs naturally as we age, but not for all of us. And even if we DO become aware, it’s hard to reverse the damage.

The documentary also gives statistics about females in the film industry. Only seventeen percent of protagonists in movies are female, and these roles typically “revolve around the pursuit of a man.” That IS a sad statistic, yes, but I can think of a few films where the female protagonist had an agenda other than something romantic: Jackie Brown (my all-time favorite); Million Dollar Baby; and The Silence of the Lambs, to start.

womeninfocus7The film purports that “women appear to be empowered” but any female protagonist is “very much objectified and exists for the male viewer.” Further, the film states that objectification leads to violence, like rape. I believe this to be true, but not purely in a man-objectifying-woman sense. As a culture we’ve become object-oriented and materialistic, and many times we mistreat others because of our view that they’re somehow disposable. We’re all collectively guilty of that. However, just because a man sees a sexy or scantily clad woman in a movie does not mean he’ll commit a violent crime. Plus, that would suggest that by wearing provocative clothing, women are “asking for it.” I don’t think Beyoncé was promoting rape during her half time show.

So, how is all this objectification occurring? Well, according to Miss Representation, women comprise only three percent of people in “positions of clout” in telecom professions. Essentially, men are the “puppeteers” and women are the “puppets.” But let’s not forget — women are accepting the Hollywood roles that they themselves are objecting to… right? I mean, women are PAID money to portray certain characters, who might then have a negative effect on a female audience. We can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths. A woman can’t rail against the chauvinism of a Hollywood film AND be its leading lady. I’m not an actress, but I do wear makeup. If makeup is a problem (and if you’ve seen a mascara commercial recently, you’ll probably agree that it IS a problem), then I am part of that problem. I am contributing to it by purchasing the product. The film, and the web site, asks us — all of us — to stop purchasing products that contribute to objectification in this way, very much like the way we’ve evolved to avoid products that harm animals or the environment. I can’t disagree with that philosophy.

But, I like makeup. I like feeling pretty. I like getting compliments. That doesn’t happen when I leave the house without my face on. Clearly, I am contributing to my own objectification and that of others. Uuuuuuugh. Like I need more to feel guilty about.

To me, all this data adds up to a bunch of mixed messages, which the film also explores, and which I’ll delve into next time. Thanks for reading. Please offer your comments! We are lucky to live in a nation where we can openly discuss topics like this, and we are doubly lucky to inhabit a city that encourages social debate, awareness, and progress. Thanks again to our Court Square Theater for unearthing the discussion.

artfuldodger2Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

in recent exposure: lurid pictures.

People usually think of filmmaking as glamorous business. As a director or producer, you’re surrounded by famous actors who hang on your every word, you get to show up when you want and leave the dirty work to the rest of the crew, and there’s enough food provided by craft services to feed a school-full of ravenous teenagers. But when you and your friend alone are the writers, directors, producers, costumers, sound engineers, editors, and everything else, glamor quickly unravels into endless sweaty hours of toil and sporadic meals of semi-gelatinous Ramen noodles, brightened by spurts of creative energy. Still, when the film is finished, it’s soooo worth it.

This is the reality (okay, well, maybe slightly embellished) for Alex Kent and Wade Vanover, founders of Lurid Pictures. To back up a bit, Brandy and I first hatched this blog post at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival back in April, because she wanted to use Lurid Pictures to create a promotional video for her upcoming Art Lotto project. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the beer festival, I didn’t remember the conversation with Alex and Wade… at that particular moment, I was busy squishing mud between my toes. At any rate, here it is a couple months later, the promo video is completed and it all worked out. :) She is perfectly pleased with the final cut and YOU get to see it here today!! ….keep reading, keeeeep reading…..

Alex and Wade first worked together on a short film for one of Alex’s classes–it’s called Mechanics, and, told by a character named “Isaac” after Isaac Newton, it’s an endearing film about life lessons against the backdrop of Newton’s laws of mechanics. From then Alex and Wade continued to collaborate here and there, both with the hopes of one day making full-length feature films (Wade’s even written a full-length screenplay). For now they are getting their feet wet with a diverse medley of shorter projects. For example, they’ve made a music video for the song “Wonder” by Eternal Summers (watch for a new music video for the song “You Kill,” coming soon!); last fall, they created this intermission film for the SuperGr8 Film Festival; they’ve dabbled in wedding videography. They produced this really cool commercial for Harrisonburg’s Wonder Records, and they’ve done a few promotional videos, too, like this one for Larkin Arts, a community art store, studio, exhibition space, and school.

~ an image from Lurid’s Wonder Records video

~ an image from “Drunko Nart”

~ Eternal Summers music video

More recently, and the reason we met with Wade and Alex Tuesday night at the Blue Nile, they completed this two-minute promotional video for Harrisonburg’s first ever Art Lotto–a portrait show of artists by artists, conceived by Brandy Somers and Denise Allen. 

~ pictures of the filming of the Art Lotto promo, taken by Brandy…
… and here we are watching the finished film!
and HERE IT IS! Everyone, stop right now and watch it. I’ll wait. In fact, I need another beer anyway. Come to think of it, if you wanna give me a longer break, go ahead and check out all the links so far, plus Lurid’s Vimeo page here.

 

Art Lotto 2012 from Lurid Pictures on Vimeo.

If you’re wondering about that music, it’s by Andrew Barnes, whom you might also know from Gifts from Enola and Equestrians. The Blue NIle graciously loaned their basement to Lurid for about three hours to shoot the Art Lotto film.

Which brings me to something Alex and Wade mentioned to us: the willingness of people in the Burg to help out with projects, to lend whatever talents, resources, space, time to contribute to something important to someone else. There’s a sense of community here that might be absent in larger cities. We all want art to succeed, and we do what’s necessary to make that happen. Another reason I, and Brandy, and Alex and Wade, love our Burg. Along those lines, what Alex and Wade produce, using the priceless help of others, serves to promote not just themselves as filmmakers, but the valuable endeavors of other Harrisonburg-ians, like Larkin Arts, and Art Lotto, and the SuperGr8 Film Festival, and Wonder Records. There’s this recursive effect.. where one person’s project promotes another and another in such a way that the effect on the community is much greater than the scope of the original project. Does that make sense? It’s late and I’m soooo rambling… Let me simplify: here, it’s not “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It’s “I’ll scratch your back for nothing, and voila! it’s repaid ten-fold.” And that’s how it should be.

In their day jobs, Alex and Wade actually produce videos for Health Bites, a health-related website from the Virginia Department of Health, funded by a grant through JMU. Unfortunately, the grant runs out in November, so they’re working hard to grow Lurid Pictures between now and then. These other projects I’ve mentioned are in addition to their full-time jobs at JMU. They’re clearly passionate about their art, and we talked a bit about that Tuesday night at the Nile. We talked about how selling one’s art is like jumping off a ledge. Alex and Wade love their craft, and they get deeply involved in every project, wanting to provide the best possible product, not just for the satisfaction of their clients, but for themselves, too, as artists. They have learned to navigate the middle ground between meeting the clients’ wishes and honoring their own artistic vision… applying their unique stamp while bringing to life the client’s idea. And so when they present the finished product to the client, they bare a bit of soul. So far, no client has been dissatisfied. And I think it’s because Alex and Wade care so much about their craft.

Please consider Lurid Pictures for your next video project. Their work is gorgeous and they understand how important their clients’ needs are. And, they love their Burg, just like the rest of us.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.