Of Lentils and Nudity

I dropped by C4 Workspace in the evening last week. I’d planned to capture some video on a project I’ve set too long on the back burner. The problem was there was a table read underway for a theater piece. It was an, um, musical. My utter contempt for musical theater is no secret. This is an adaptation from a locally produced kitschy, intentionally bad feature film. No huge surprise that some would see it as ripe for morphing into a kitschy, intentionally bad musical. Now don’t get me wrong. I think it will be a huge success. People will indeed turn out and watch it. Most likely they will love it. But then again, people are imbeciles. Broad cornball comedy where the bulk of expository dialog is conveyed via the singsong delivery of bad puns, the wiggling of eyebrows, and the slapping of thighs, is, in my opinion, a tiresome waste of time. Just because the low budget productions (stage and film) of Rocky Horror and Hedwig can amaze and amuse is no reason to assume it’s a simple game to play.

After the eighth tedious rhyming couplet wafted into my distant corner of the C4 space, I had to pack it up and get the fuck outta there.

It’s odd, but as I seem to lack both the musical theater gene as well as the sport gene, I seem to exist in a no-man’s land of no men, neither fancy boy nor he-man.

I should point out that I do have a soft spot for a few musicals. In fact the two mentioned above I find enjoyable enough to have seen multiple times. And then there is American Astronaut, which I still haven’t seen all the way through. Only a few clips on YouTube. What I’ve seen is a perfect interdisciplinary multi-genera mash-up. It’s a punk rock interplanetary western. I can groove on that.

The Billy Nayer Show, a punk band fronted by Cory McAbee, is at the heart of American Astronaut. I’m listening to this great song right now off their more recent film, Stingray Sam. It’s a great pop song. Even the truncated and flatly recorded live version here rocks all manner of awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=833X4reI96k&feature=youtube_gdata

So, unless you’re some genius autoharp-playing post punk rocker and filmmaker, give it some thought before subjecting humanity to another god damn musical.

I find it inexplicable that when a filmmaker has access to 2.2 million dollars he or she thinks that what the project really needs is to be shot in 3D. And, conversely, it seems that when a filmmaker who only has access to a budget of, um, say, 2.2 dollars, he or she snaps to attention and shouts out: “I know, let’s make a musical!”

A pox upon the both.

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The other week I helped Deborah move a couple of her lights from her studio to the mansion in my neighborhood where she’s been house-sitting. She had a photo shoot planned for an art project. She wanted to do the shoot in the house instead of her studio at Blue Star. Her studio and her temporary mansion home are maybe six blocks from one another. But her car is dead. And the lights also come with stands. And, besides, I can never say no to her.

After we unloaded the lights, she invited me in for a meal. Late lunch, or maybe early dinner. Deborah heated up some lentil soup and pulled a leftover salad from the refrigerator.

When we were cleaning up, I happened to peek out the kitchen window.

“Hey,” I said. “There’s a girl taking her clothes off across the river.”

Deborah dried her hands and came over to look.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve happened to see young willowy women unconsciously undressing in public for some sort of fashion (or, perhaps, “fashion”) shoot. I assume it’s because I tend to live in urban, arty areas. This is one of the reasons I like professional models and performers…I find their lack of self-consciousness a very liberating and beautiful thing to witness.

Deborah, who’s almost as big a voyeur as me, stationed herself beside me. We soon fell into critiquing the photographer who, from our point of view, was shooting some damn lame images.

Next Deborah fixed some coffee and we headed out to the side porch. And as we talked about this and that, we occasionally looked out to see what was happening with the fashion shoot.

It just seemed rather boring and uninspired.

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The counterpoint to watching some half-assed photog making a mess of things on the right bank of the San Antonio River was brought to me the following day. Deborah’s own photo shoot went quite well. She showed me some of the images she took of a beautiful young tattooed woman (tattoos being a current theme in her portrait work). The images were beautiful, moving, and just so damn breathtakingly subtle in their eroticism.

In Deborah’s work the model is almost totally nude. She’s on the left bank of the same stretch of river that the previous day’s hack photographer was working. This is art; this is beautiful; this is good. In short, Deborah’s images are the sorts of images one would expect from an artist shooting a model who is presented as both vulnerable yet comfortable in nature.

Deborah Keller-Rihn is creating a new and very strong body of work.

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Later that day I had my own shoot. Artist Suchil Coffman-Guerra wanted me to help put together a video presentation of her most recent version of her installation / performance piece, Retro Kitchen Goddess.

Suchil showed up in a U-Haul around 1:30 in the afternoon. It was bad timing. The city has been tearing up the street in front of C4 Workspace. It’s a fucking mess. But, coincidentally, Suchil knew one of the contractors working on the historical house next door. She was able to slip her rental truck inside the construction zone, and we quickly unloaded.

While Suchil was setting up her art work in front of a neutral wall, I headed over to Deborah’s place to pick up a couple of lights. I also roped Deborah into coming and helping me out.

I had another helper. Rod Guajardo, a local filmmaker whose web presence I’ve been following for maybe nine or ten months.

Rod had made a comment on FaceBook (or maybe he sent me an email–I can’t remember). He’s seen that my shoot with Suchil was listed on the C4 calendar. If I wanted help, he was offering it.

Now Rod is, as best I can figure, a filmmaker, yet in the sense of a hobbyist. Having said that, I should point out that he’s better than most folks in town who call themselves professional filmmakers. He has embraced the new paradigm of DSLR filmmaking. He has a great eye, a clear sense of rhythm, and clearly a of love of experimenting with the media. His blog is a must for DSLR filmmakers.

http://foursandyfeet.com/

Rod’s a very gracious guy, thanking me for letting him come on set. He wanted me to know that he welcomed the chance to learn from me. But, really, I want the opportunity to learn from him. He does damn fine work. I hope to wrangle a PA position on his next production.

For Suchil’s presentation, I decided to use my DVX. The problem came with the lighting. I do believe a couple of soft boxes might have given me what I needed. But that wasn’t an option. Probably I should have staged Suchil’s pieces about ten feet away from the wall. But, because the cement slab of C4 is all wonky, it would have thrown the three major pieces into strange angles. Therefore, we were stuck with setting the pieces against the wall, and thus forced to deal with the shadows thrown by our lights.

Ultimately, Suchil’s way-cool art coupled with actress Rebecca Coffey’s amazing performances pushed the questionable production values somewhat to the back burner.

Before I get to Rebecca, I should explain Suchil’s installation. And please keep in mind that my interpretation is my own.

There were three major pieces. A refrigerator. And two kitchen counter tops. They are full sized. And best of all, they are damn light, as they are constructed of fabric over wooden frames. There are domestic items such as a blender, an electric mixer, and an ironing board. All these are embellished with crafty elements such as cloth, sequins, bows, yarn, etc.

Neither words nor pictures do it justice. Trust me here–it’s really fucking cool.

And then we have Rebecca. She’s an actress I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. She’s connected with the Overtime Theater. And though I’m sure she’s a powerhouse with the more traditional method of working with a memorized script, I have to say that as an improvisational artist she is phenomenal! (In fact, the Rebecca’s of the world is why I hate ensemble improv comedy–because when someone this clever and quick has to work with some lesser performer the whole endeavor immediately turns to shit.)

It was a great intersection of Suchil’s wonderful domestic art and Rebecca’s brilliant and nuanced dance of words, expressions, and impeccable timing.

Yes. It was quite a pleasant way to send a few hours. Now, I need to edit the work and see how it comes together…..

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One thought on “Of Lentils and Nudity

  1. Wow, thanks for the wonderful comments Eric!! I really appreciate you taking me in, a stranger for the most part, and allowing me to learn from you. I can only hope I can pay back the favor one day!

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