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!

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