Monday, May 30, 2011

Writers' Retreat

On Friday and Saturday, seven friends and I set off to Bainbridge Island, just over the water (but apparently in a separate cloud system) for a writers' retreat. Laptops were powered on; feet were sunned while reading; photographs were taken; food and wine and revelry flowed. I also got to catch up with another writer friend of mine who lives on Bainbridge and we talked plot and character development concerning her novel-in-progress. I left feeling very rejuvenated, and yes, I did get some writing done. I also indulged my side-hobby of sticking my camera lens very close to weird (and often dead) things. Enjoy these salty, sea-gifted fruits.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Shelved

As part of my (continuing) self-education about Croatia and Greece, I began these two books before and during my travels, and just wrapped them up over the past couple of weeks. Both were delightful reads, and added so much richness and depth to my experience of these places. A well-read tourist is a happy tourist!

The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of YugoslaviaThe Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia by Brian Hall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is incredible--the feats of understanding and compassion that can be achieved simply by talking to people. This remarkable book holds a glass to the multiple voices of the Balkans, just as the former Yugoslavia was beginning to dissolve into violence and genocide in the early nineties. Hall, like a novelist, presents us with people and their stories first. He asks difficult--sometimes explosive--questions of those he meets while traveling throughout what is now Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. He doesn't give us an easy "answer," but he provides us with portraits, and in so doing, troubles the notion of nationalism and ethnic divisions everywhere, not only in the "impossible country." It is a deeply moving, lovingly written book.

Prospero's Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of CorfuProspero's Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Corfu by Lawrence Durrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the Northerly wind blows, find solace here, in some of the most beautiful writing you could read. You will taste the olives. You will feel the sunshine. Corfu of the late 1930's will come alive. And you will even learn some things about Greece, and about silence.

"Presently the carbide lamp is lit and the whole miraculous underworld of the lagoon bursts into a hollow bloom--it is like the soft beautiful incandescence of a gas-mantle lighting. Transformed, like figures in a miracle, we gaze down upon a sea floor drifting with its canyons and forests and families in the faint undertow of the sea--like a just-breathing heart."

--Durrell, "Ionian Profiles"

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Images From Barnstorm

Here are some shots I took at the Barnstorm Cabaret last night. I stayed until closing and had a fabulous time! The post-it shots are from artist Clare Johnson's entrancing autobiography piece. Tonight is the last night, and I highly recommend you check it out before this pop-up event is folded up and carted to a new location sometime in the future.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Barnstorm Preview!

I wait at the bus stop at 3rd Ave and Virginia quite a bit--almost daily--and yet I've never noticed the empty glass storefront facing the Bed, Bath, & Beyond until today. It turns out that this space has remained empty on its ground floor for at least the last ten years. Airy, full of exposed brick, and deceptively large, it seems like an ideal space for...something. A show space, an art space, a mingling space? Arts production team extraordinaire Quiet Heroes On A Rainy Night is actually aiming to combine all three, giving the cabaret tradition a modern kick in the pants and elevating 1927 Third Ave into a laboratory for art, celebration, and audience participation.
I got the chance to tour the Barnstorm: Cabaret Re-Imagined site with Bond Huberman, a Heroes board member and producer for the event, who gave me a peek at what will be in store for Cabaret attendees this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 6pm-2am. Let me tell you: it is a lot. I poked my head through a cordoned-off section in the back of the space, my head brushing the fronds of a light installation hanging from the ceiling--a space Bond informed me had been created by artist Jessie Wilson to explore Ars Moriendi, or the art of death. During Barnstorm, this will be a living art installation drawing in cabaret-members who are curious, morbid, or simply want to pull back the curtain. In addition, a square of neatly-assembled post-it notes currently cover one section of wall, and will cover more. This is artist Clare Johnson's 5 year autobiography-in-process. Glossy, large paintings were also hanging on the wall and snagged me in for a closer look.

More traditional performing space, however, will dominate the center of Barnstorm, where a raised stage holds court among low tables and chairs (the image I always have for cabarets myself). On this stage, a variety of acts will titillate, provoke, and engage Seattleites, with acts ranging from electronic music to tango to a multimedia play featuring cartoon stereotypes. Bond wanted to make it clear, though, that in the spirit of true cabaret, the audience for any of these pieces is decidedly not supposed to sit in an attitude of polite, golf-clapping appreciation. Oh, no, no, no. Think raucous laughter, conversation, and well, generally having a fabulous time. QHRN Productions aims for an audience that blends with the performers and crosses that aqueous space between self, art, and the consumption thereof. In that spirit, a section dubbed the "soft spot" has been created in the style of a cozy sitting room in order to pull cabaret attendees back from the wooden stage and into something else--perhaps a transfixing piece of artwork, a conversation with a stranger, or maybe even a kiss. Here's hoping.

As they often are, my eyes were drawn to the hand-built bar, which wraps itself in a sinuous curve around the edge of the long room. This baby, like everything else involved in the extensive Barnstorm buildout of 1927 Third Ave, is a labor of love created from donated or salvaged materials, and constructed by dedicated volunteers and the production team. Its surface is scrawled in charming, hand-painted letters by another talented volunteer and friend of the organization. Funded by a small city grant, a Kickstarter grant, and QHRN's own savvy thrift, Barnstorm is a great example of low cost, high impact art-making. The team found an empty space (which was donated for the event) and fundraised, borrowed, and made everything else. It's a venue built from scratch--a crucial difference from producing an event in a readymade venue. Bond noted that this aspect came with a steep learning curve, but has been an invaluable experience for all of the artists and producers involved. And the coolest part? All of the presenting artists are getting paid. A non-profit venture, this was always a major part of Barnstorm's goal.

So, now, a neglected building in the heart of downtown Seattle gets a new coat of paint; a cast of artists, performers, and writers; and a dedicated team of fellow artists to facilitate the magic. The only missing element is you--the audience. You are the last olive in the martini, the Alka-Seltzer tablet that makes the glass of water fizz, and the top-billed actor in the performance. You are kind of a big deal at Barnstorm: The Cabaret Re-Imagined. Better hightail it over there before your chance is gone.


Barnstorm is running May 5, 6, and 7 at 1927 Third Ave from 6pm-2am. There is no program--that's sort of the point. Come any time you please! $5 gets you in at the door and if you want to plan ahead, advance ticket sales are HERE. Need more info? Please check out Barnstorm's official website. 21+

In case I didn't mention this, there will be a bar and catering. Yum. I will be attending on Friday night and hope to see you there!