Archive for May, 2012

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman

Posted in AMERICANA, BOOKS & AUTHORS, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , , on May 31, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the Poet of Democracy. In my youth I was not crazy about him.  I found him prosaic – -I was deceived by the apparent simplicity of the writing. It seemed to me like just a lot of lists. (My favorite poet when I was 19 was Dylan Thomas – -I was looking then for the jolting effect, the thrill of disorientation.) But in my twenties I first read Leaves of Grass in its entirety….and realized that’s what must be done to appreciate it. For it’s a poem about everything, the entire cosmos. And then title of the book begins to sink in.

It gradually became one of my favorite books, and I return to it often. I’ve paid stylistic tribute to it on many occasions (most recently in a section of The Strange Case of Grippo the Apeman). And I’ve included an overt parody of him in my new play The Fickle Mistress. (Don’t miss Theatre Askew’s workshop production of it at Dixon Place this July 25!)

ADAH

“Ode to the New Freedom: A Composition in the style of Mr. Whitman”

 

Roll Free, You Incandescent Planets!

Drink deep the heady mead of freedom. Empty the flagon!

Rub elbows with working men, breathe deep the aroma,

For their sweat is your sweat, and vice versa!

No man is better than woman!

No woman is better—(she scratches it out)

Throw off all shackles!

Hurl the tablets bearing commandments until they shatter.

We will make new commandments for a new continent!

Commandments immutable, unspoken, written on the clouds!

Throw off all rhyme and meter! From now on my life like my verses shall be free!

Your Bible is not the only Bible!

What of the Baghavad-Gita? What of Confucius and Zoroaster?

What need have we of books, holy or otherwise?

What of direct communion with nature?

What of direct communion with the spirits?

Ghost Line

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Dance, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on May 31, 2012 by travsd

Choreographer Cori Olinghouse and film-maker Shona Masarin want you to know about their terrific-looking new project Ghost Line: a 16mm experimental film that invokes the spaces of Vaudeville through a Dada/Surrealist perspective.

Inspired by ghost towns, silent era clown films, voguing, slapstick, and eccentric dance, the ghosted figures in Ghost Line conjure a vaudevillian past as traces – remnants; as if rising from the dust, transmitting signals of light and shadow.

For more info, check out their Kickstarter page here.

Stars of Vaudeville # 482: Nate Leipzig

Posted in Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on May 31, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the great sleight-of-hand master Nate Leipzig (Nathan Leipziger, 1873-1939), His illusions are still studied and taught all over the world; just Google him and see. He was born in Sweden and spent his early childhood there. When he was about ten the family moved to Detroit. Not until he was 30 did he quit his day job and move to New York to break into show business. For a time he worked with the Berol Brothers, and called himself Nate Berol. He broke in as a solo at Proctor’s 5th Avenue and then worked the Keith Circuit. He seems to have met and studied under every major magician of his time. His autobiography is available to read for free online (and it’s short). Just go here.

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

Posted in African American Interest, Dance, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , on May 25, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the incomparable Bill Robinson, a.k.a “Bojangles”. (For my full article on him, go here. It happens to be the first vaudeville article I ever wrote; the first work I did on No Applause). Here’s Robinson doing a version of his famous stair dance:

To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Doug

Posted in Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Melodrama and Master Thespians, Silent Film, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on May 23, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the great Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939). For some on his early career, including his vaudeville background go here. And for a sample of what he did best, a snippet from Robin Hood (1922):

To find out more about  the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. Also please keep a look out for Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies From Nickelodeon to Youtube, coming out in September 2012

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Artie Shaw’s Nightmare

Posted in Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Music with tags , , on May 23, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of Artie Shaw, the Thinking Man’s Big Band Leader (1910-2004). The famously difficult Shaw went through 8 wives, including Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. Some insight into his character may be derived from the fact that he called his theme song (still one of his best known tunes) “Nightmare”.

Ritz Bros. Chicken Plucking Routine

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Hollywood (History), Jews/ Show Biz, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on May 22, 2012 by travsd

Today is also Harry Ritz’s birthday (full bio here). What’s that you say?  Aren’t they triplets? How is Harry any different from the other two that he gets a different birthday? Don’t ask me, I’m not their mother! Anyway, here is their chicken plucking number from The Three Musketeers. I find it mortifying, nearly impossible to watch, but it’s good for us to face our fears.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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