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Friday, July 20, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 4

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, Wyoming

"My whole novel feels like a salvage operation at this point," I just told a fellow artist here. He was kneeling on the pavement in front of the artists' studios (where I lurk for the wi-fi), disassembling a cast, gone awry, of his own head. It looked like he was pulling out insulation from a head-sized hole punched in a wall. "Polyester resin," he told me. "Very toxic."

And now another wide-eyed urban writer will attempt to say something meaningful and original about the Wyoming landscape, this green valley in the long evening shadow of the Bighorn Mountains, which loom at the southeastern horizon like a megalithic wall, the peaks a series of belvederes, snowy even as we in the valley roast, treading carefully between air-conditioned studio and air-conditioned house, blade-perfect links a buffer between us and the grass that obscures a civilization of snakes. Biking up Lower Piney Creek Road two nights ago I nearly ran over a pair of bull snakes, three and four feet long. I thought they were rattlers, but they had no rattles, no venom-packing jaws, and they were unconcerned with me as I approached, didn't coil or otherwise move apart from the flicking of their little red tongues. On my way back they were gone, but the grasses offered a rattling tattoo, echo of serpentine mimicry.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.

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