Daily Archives: November 8, 2010

Experience Design in Philadelphia – Salon Movie Night @ The Plastic Club, Piffaro the Renaissance Band – The Royals’ Baptism & Ballet and Macbeth @ The Wilma

Late in October, Piffaro the Renaissance Music Band, Philadelphia’s, if not the world’s, premier early music ensemble, opened their 25th season with a transporting experience that began early in the evening at Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square.  The spectacular space with the Tiffany stained glass dome was the backdrop to a once in a life time collaboration between Piffaro The Renaissance Music Band, with their ethereal recorder harmonies, Blue Heron Choir‘s excellent, eclectic renaissance vocals, Parthenia’s viols which sounded like an entire orchestra in the lush acoustics of the church rivaling the sound quality of the Academy of Music, built around the same time. The music was A Royal Baptism: Stuttgart 1616, 80 minutes of entrancing music based the elaborate celebration of a royal baby christening but was actually a party to honor the father, forget the baby.  The extensive information in the catalog for the show illustrates dancers emerging from giant heads while musicians played, escorting the Royals in their fancy horse drawn carriages.  But this was just the beginning, after the concert the audience broke for dinner (DoN dined at the Irish Pub with super-friends and Piffaro volunteer coordinator Dody Magaziner & Len Blumenthal) and then the audience came together again for part 2 of the evening at Trinity Center for Urban Life @ 22nd & Spruce Streets, the entire orchestra was already there plus the most excellent soprano Laura Heimes and the New York Historical Dance Company.  A stage was set up in the high vaulted chamber of the old church for the dancers in full period costume who demonstrated courtly moves, poses and jigs while the players and singers created a deeply resonate beat, music that played in DoN‘s head long after the concert was over.

Piffaro‘s masterminds, Joan Kimball & Bob Weimken have been creating divine musical experiences in Philadelphia for ages but The Royals Baptism & Ballet was not just an exploration of historical music but an adventure into a world of high art, enthralling architecture, acoustic perfection and unique artistic collaborations combined with a civilized dinner break to spend time with friends, old & new, in beautiful Center City, then with a short walk resume deep immersion into another time and space in a different place.  The evening of music, dance, food and drink was so civilized and refined, eclectic and amusing, big yet accessible – an experience designed to delight the senses and educate the mind.

Halloween Eve, the Salon @ The Plastic Club, hosted by Anders Hanson, ran a double bill movie and cartoon featuring The Thing From Another World, the original 1951 black & white Howard Hawkes production and Bubba-Hotep, based on the Bram Stoker Award nominee short story by acclaimed author Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-tep tells the story of what really did become of Elvis.  “We find the King (Bruce Campbell) as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his “death”, then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds”.
Between movies the audience talked about how The Thing influenced their childhoods, causing kids to sleep with their heads under the covers for years.  The scene when the dead dog falls out of the cabinet still draws gasps from the crowd.  And in Bubba Hotep, recommended by the inimitable Rick Wright, seeing fat Elvis played by macho heart-throb Bruce Campbell trapped in a nursing home after switching identities with an impostor is a wonderful metaphor for fame & art stardom.  Sitting in the dark with art friends, watching movies, laughing and drinking is casually convivial to conversation and friendship, especially when the comfortable backdrop is one of the most historic art clubs in the USA.

The production of Macbeth @ The Wilma Theater is like being in a live movie with an intense intimacy, dark corners, hand held lighting and high tech special effects.  The play could be set at any time in the past present or future, DoN imagined David Lynch’s Dune must have been an influence with the ancient/future vibration running through the designs.  The industrial two tiered set, designed by Mimi Lien with lighting by Tyler Micoleau, was conducive to intimate conversations by candle light to wild battle scenes accompanied by gore and gasps.  A techno squeal represents the screech of a cat screaming at night, halogen lights through the fog like a scene from Alien and abstract music by Pavel Fajt transports the audience far away to an imaginary Scotland.  When Lady Macbeth, realized by actress Jaqueline Antaramian, appears in a puplish gown amidst the stark black & white set and drab costumed men she is luminous in the darkness like a Sargent painting.  When the witches appear, their throw-away entrance is so amazingly confounding that the whole former Warner Brothers cartoon image of witches stirring a kettle from DoN‘s childhood has been over-written by a dream-scape inhabited by peasant Earth mothers with spiritual powers.

The ancient and the future live in Philadelphia, as a culture vulture, DoN views the options and variations of art, theater and music to be as cosmopolitan and extravagant, elite or accessible, classic and contemporary as any place in the world, that there is literally something special happening nearby every day.  Support your local arts.