One Thousand Words that Serve Two Purposes

A quick confession… this post is pulling double duty. It’s my one thousand words for the day, but it’s also a report for a travel grant. I figure that if I’m going to write about my trip, I might as well kill two birds with one stone, even though I hate that saying.

I’ve been attending the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference in New York for over ten years and each year I have experienced at least disappointing showcase or production. The 2012 conference was the exception because I enjoyed every single show I attended.

I started the conference by heading to BB King’s with a colleague to see the Becca Stevens Band. BB Kings is one of my favorite venues in the city, although I admit I have limited experience. But I really appreciate the feel of the room and the history of legendary performers that have appeared on the stage. Plus, it’s BB King’s and who doesn’t love BB King?

The concert was in Lucille’s Grill, the smaller stage. The Becca Stevens Band defies easy classification. Jazz, folk and singer/songwriter all seem to fit. One review calls her “an angular, oddly syncopated Joni Mitchell” and another states that she has found “a sweet spot where jazz phrasing and improvisation meet classic acoustic folk harmonic structure and indie rock panache.”

No matter what you call it, the band is interesting and thoroughly enjoyable.

Next on the agenda was the Broadway production of Godspell. I was a little chagrined to admit to my hip colleagues that I had bought a ticket for this show. It’s just not a “cool” show. But as the first musical I ever directed, it is a sentimental favorite and I couldn’t resist seeing a professional production of it.

I was not disappointed. The production was current and updated, and even included my favorite Godspell song “Beautiful City,” which was not in the original production.

The most impressive element was the staging. There were no fancy, super expensive effects, but there was a pool of water (which John used to baptize folks and Jesus later walked upon), and each cast member had their very own mini-trampoline which they jumped on during one of the particularly exuberant songs.

My favorite element in the show was the crucifixion. I have taken on two crucifixions in my limited experience as an amateur director. One in Godspell and the other in Jesus Christ Superstar. Each time, I felt the scenes should be stark and startling, to highlight the gruesomeness of what occurred.

Truth be told, I’m a little fascinated by the whole idea of the crucifixion. It’s just such an awful to do to a person. And Christians go around wearing little replicas of this instrument of torture. Am I the only one that finds that disturbing?

Apparently the director of this production agreed with me about being stark. After his betrayal, Judas pulled on a giant chain and an industrial-looking pipe was lowered on to the stage. Jesus was then strapped onto it and then the pipe was pulled back up by the same chain with Jesus on it. The effect was absolutely chilling.

Godspell
wasn’t the only Broadway show I attended while in the city. I was also able to see Book of Mormon thanks to the generosity of a colleague who shared one of her complimentary tickets with me.

I had a feeling I would enjoy Book of Mormon, but I had no idea just how much I would enjoy it. The show was irreverent, funny and extremely well sung.

I’m not a South Park viewer, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Book of Mormon. I had heard that it was funny, but that’s about it. I was pleasantly surprised that was more than crude comedy. It had a message as well and relayed that message skillfully. I truly appreciated the balance of comedy and meaningfulness, as well as the talented cast and high production values.

After Book of Mormon, I attended a showcase in the hotel presented by blues musician Corey Harris.

I’m a blues lover but wasn’t familiar with Corey Harris’s work, even though he was featured in the Martin Scorsese film about the evolution of the blues from its African roots and has toured with some of the most legendary names in blues music.

Even before knowing about the film, I thought that Harris’s music had a global feel. It was somehow different from other blues music, although I couldn’t put a finger on exactly why. An African beat, a reggae feel. Whatever it is, it works.

I was back in the same hotel suite on Sunday morning. This time for an early show by Trout Fishing in America.

I have considered booking Trout Fishing for years, but it never seemed to work out. I met with the agent on Saturday and he told me that the band was publishing a book and cd, so I thought it was time to consider them again. I was hoping that the book would mean the show would make sense for our school series.

The first thing you notice about Trout Fishing in America is that one member of the duo is close to seven feet tall while the other measures in at about five and a half. It’s a striking visual, especially when you throw an upright bass into the mix.

Trout Fishing in America is a fun band. They obviously have a great time doing what they do and their enthusiasm is infectious. They even got a roomful of arts presenters (who I think make the absolute worst audience members) clapping and singing along with them at 9:30 in the morning.

I don’t think the show is appropriate for our school series, as I had hoped, but it was fun and maybe we’ll bring them to the venue for a family show.

I’m at my one thousand words and I’ve only made it through Sunday morning of my trip. I’m sensing a part two!

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