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Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008: Annus ambivalence


January 5 New Yorker cover Among so many other embarrassments that go with the territory of being me, I discovered a new one at holiday parties this year - having had such a kick-ass year when everyone around me was losing their health, boyfriends, homes, jobs, retirements, shirts, etc. I had my share of year-end mortifications and am far deeper into penury than most people I know, but 2008 in sum was truly an annus mirabilis both creatively (OH MY GOD, Cal Performances, Southern Circuit, St. Bart's, Grace Cathedral, Jacaranda-LA, Stephen Pelton Dance Theater, Orchestra Hall-Minneapolis, the three Chicago screenings and Christopher Taylor's shattering performance of the Vingt Regards, Library of Congress and the Betts Stradivarius, the rest of the fall tour, an unexpected anthology publication), politically (Obama, the George Bush sewage plant) and personally (married, again!). I was so convinced I was going to blog about other highlights, specifically three ecstatic gatherings of the Radical Faeries (July above Cazadero, September in Tennessee, December at Cell Space), the annual Trannyshack Reno boozestravaganza, and a bizarrely fun 20th high-school reunion, that I never did it, and now I add embarrassment to procrastination in deciding not to - 2008 provided a literal embarrassment of riches. As George Dusheck used to say, if I had blood I'd be blushing.

Still, false modesty has it limits and I have to close out 2008 with two new pieces of great press and one piece of news I haven't blogged about. Alex Ross, a longtime friend of Apparition of the Eternal Church, made a lovely mention of the film in his Jan 5th Carter-Messiaen essay in The New Yorker. And Chicago Sun-Times critic Andrew Patner included the film in his year-ender on the best of the Chicago music scene with one of my favorite quotes in the film's whole press packet, calling it "Paul Festa’s knock-out Messiaen-on-acid documentary."

For the record, nobody in the film was on acid at the time of the interview and Messiaen never tried it. At least as far as I know.

The news is that in less than a week I depart for a three-month filmmaking residency in Paris at the Centre des Recollets, on the banks of the Canal St. Martin, right by the Gare de l'Est. James will join me for a couple of weeks when the residency is through -
so if you know anyone who wants to swap an apartment pretty much anywhere in Europe for a darling Mission/Noe flat just over the hill from Dolores Park March 24 to April 7, hook us up!
Then I leave for Israel, or what's left of it, for two weeks with my sister and her six kids, one of whom was born since my last visit in June 2007. Then I return to Tennessee for the spring gathering of the Radical Faeries, and after two weeks there I stop overnight in Oberlin, OH, where my film will close out the conservatory's six-month Messiaen centenary celebration May 5th.

I have mixed feelings about the upcoming tour. Obviously I'm thrilled with every destination and opportunity and reunion, but four months is a serious slice of the year to spend away from loved ones, especially one just diagnosed with a terminal illness and another who has proved incapable of responding to video chat even when his snout is pressed up against the computer monitor. James is midway through a job search that will most likely result in our leaving San Francisco at some point in the summer - which means that my time remaining in my hometown can probably be counted in weeks or months at the most. I haven't decided whether the three months of creative seclusion (such as it will be in the heart of Paris) will result in my becoming a dedicated blogger or an even flakier one - for the answer to this question, check this space.

Here are some photos from the year, in no particular order, to fill in where blogging failed:

Trannyshack Reno - Auburn pitstop - Metal Patricia


Auburn, with Space



In Tempe with organist Kimberly Marshall and music critic Alex Ross (above) after Alex and I spoke on an ASU Messiaen panel with composer Bill Bolcom (below)




With Miranda Barry and Charlotte Sheedy after the DC premiere of my film on Halloween at the Library of Congress's Pickford Theatre



Self-portrait on a Frank Lloyd Wright carpet (Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, Tempe, AZ)


With Wolfie Silver-Fang at the November Faeposium in San Francisco, where she apparently won some sort of Oscar for her performance



Eisa Davis onscreen, accompanied by ASU student organist, Gammage Auditorium, Nov. 11th


Last Trannyshack at the Stud, August 19th - Heklina yuks it up with Bevan Dufty


After Eisa's Passing Strange Broadway opening, with her mom Fania and Manoel Felciano



With James, listening to toasts at our wedding reception in June. My cousin Lynn Rothman is behind us.



Six men stood around while the sole woman in the group fixed a flat on that nasty road above Cazadero.



Enough film coiled up at the Library of Congress archive to circle the earth



Justin Bond responds to Messiaen in St. James Cathedral in Chicago, October 8th



I made rubbery ravioli for my mom's birthday party. Party theme: 67 is the new 50.



Pianist Jerry Lowenthal, after New York rehearsals for our DC concert, shown here with his Liszt and Wagner manuscripts



Minneapolis's stylish and vast Orchestra Hall before the Minnesota premiere there of Apparition of the Eternal Church



One of a few high-school reunions this year - this one at Medjool, with the lovely and talented Ocean Berg



Another Reno bus photo - the fashion show, which I lost despite three arduous days of crash-dieting



Easter Sunday in Auburn



In the kitchen on Navarro Ridge with Arty, iii and James



Above Cazadero: Chris, iii and Arty


Chris climbs out of the water...


...and plays with fire


At the Passing Strange party - Marian Seldes reads aloud the Times rave review


"Saint Paul" etched into the Washington National Cathedral with my birth year



Fall gathering with Christopher and Sister Mish


Jewish Christmas party with Sister Dana and high school classmate Daria Pennington



Rehearsal for Heklina's final number at the Trannyshack Kiss-Off Party



Ziggy with the yellow plums at Buena Vista Park that I would turn into a souffle for Heklina's farewell dinner



Photo by pool wizard Bob Byrne of me in front of a house in Dubuque, IA



Bob and an unidentified sister. It's really quite amazing to me how much of my year was spent in churches and with nuns.


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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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