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Saturday, July 2, 2011

April 7-20: flyover fever

Some impatience is coming over the transom that I haven't posted my Beltaine pictures yet. How can I do that, when the blog is only up to April 6th of my road trip? My sensible idea to post frequent short updates until I'm caught up yielded predictable results so here's my life in captions between Kansas and Illinois - next stop Tennessee.

FYI the violin lesson film is now provisionally called Tie It To My Hand, after the e.e. cummings line, from the introduction to New Poems, about the painter “who said to those near him,when his fingers would not hold a brush ‘tie it to my hand.’”

With Tie It To My Hand violin teachers Alan Harlock and Lee Becker, Lindsborg KS

Lee with one of her roosters

Tie It To My Hand violin teacher Natasha Zaretsky, professor of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, on campus before SIU's  Outside the Box New Music Festival screened a double-header of Apparition of the Eternal Church and The Glitter Emergency. SIU is a bit of an ancestral homeland for me, since both my parents got degrees there - a fact that struck the audience as virtually implausible.

With Natasha's angelic son Julian

With Julian's precocious and charming older brother Daniel

With Natasha and her mom Linda. Linda and I live five and a half blocks apart in San Francisco, and yet had to travel to Carbondale to hang out (in our defense, the five and a half blocks include a couple of serious hills. Southern Illinois: not so hilly).

After the Carbondale screening, Natasha's SIU colleagues Susan Felleman and Peter Chametzky hosted a reception, a highlight of which was artist Cheonae Kim's handbag made of aluminum can tabs.

I don't use handbags, myself, but I was sorely tempted to buy this one on sale at a Kansas gas station. Those are real rhinestones, people.

I consoled myself with this belt from the same gas station - much more practical. Worn here with Glitter Emergency tutu (consider this a Beltaine sneak preview).

En route from Carbondale to Dubuque.

Natasha, who was my best friend in high school, during the period I started having trouble with my hand, gave a sensational violin lesson and the longest to date - five 63-minute tapes over two days. Dubuque, IA, was just as productive - six interviews over three days, including with my dear friends Robert Byrne (the pool and billiards authority, memoirist, engineering-project-disaster novelist, McGoorty biographer, quotations compiler and ex-Jascha Heifetz son-in-law) and his wife, the painter Cynthia Nelms-Byrne. Here's a production still from the violin lesson they gave me.

Bob usually indulges me in a few games of nine ball and then spends the rest of the afternoon showing me trick shots.

Another Dubuque violin lesson was with Marina O'Rourke and Tanya Bechenova. They run Dubuque's Academy of Ballet. Tanya danced seven seasons with the Ballet Russe de Basil.

Tayna in Fokine's Prince Igor

My home away from home in Rogers Park. Goddess bless the Radical Faeries.

Among the charms of The Castle, as it is called, is the upstairs kitchen linoleum - a greenish twin of the yellow stuff I grew up with on 14th Avenue in San Francisco.

Only the Faeries could get me into church on a Sunday morning - organist Gleeman (far left) scored me a gig playing my first St. Matthew Passion at the Community Church of Wilmette. We're here with music director Winifred Brown and Pastor Tripp Hudgins, who sang a mean Jesus. Gleeman can sightread like an evangelist and the two of us gave an impromptu recital, for dinner guests, of the Schumann a minor sonata. Together with a successful opening-night screening of The Glitter Emergency at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, with live musical accompaniment to that, two films by Kenneth Anger, and Carl Theodor Dreyer's mindblowing 1928 Passion of Joan of Arc, Chicago was a musical extravaganza.

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About Me

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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.