Devised Performance Art Show 3/14

devised poster

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been participating in an excellent devised theatre performance workshop hosted by E.M.P. Collective and led by dramatist, musician, and filmmaker Jason Chimonedes. The class, which includes participants from a range of artistic sensibilities and experience levels, has been extremely helpful to me in exploring different approaches to live storytelling, such as the incorporation of movement, music, film, audience interaction, etc.

This Saturday, March 14 at 7pm, the workshop will formally come to a close with a public performance of works-in-progress by the participants. The program includes:

  • An audio mosaic and multimedia storytelling work by Leah White based on recorded stories about people’s scars, both physical and psychological;
  • A shadow theatre piece from puppet artist Christopher Holmes, inspired by the Popol Vuh;
  • A spoken word performance by Suzie Doogan of the band Boy Spit;
  • A snippet from a food-themed cabaret in development by performance artist Laure Drogoul;
  • My meditation on Renaissance-era curiosity cabinets;
  • Other performances;
  • Beer.

After the devised performance show, stick around for N\A\P Works in Progress by EMP resident artists. All art, all night, all free.

Snowmelt Coffee

abby4

In February 2010, during the winter of what much of the Mid-Atlantic region came to call The Snowpocalypse, my friend Abby and I got trapped on a sheep farm in the northern Shenandoah Valley for four days.

At the time I was living on my own in East Baltimore. News of the impending blizzard conjured bleak images of my being stuck inside my tiny apartment alone for days, most likely in the dark (it took little more than a stiff breeze to knock out the electricity at that place), subsisting on canned beans and a dwindling supply of alcohol, with only my cat for company. Resolving that if I had to be snowed in, it should be in the company of other humans, I rang my friends John and Kelly, who live on a small sheep farm in rural Virginia, and asked if I might ride out the Arctic blast at their place. They agreed, so I bought a pound of single-origin coffee and a six-pack of decent beer, and took to the highway on the wings of the coming storm.

sheep

Along the way, I stopped in Washington, D.C. to collect Abby. By the time we left her place, travel conditions had already deteriorated to an alarming degree. We inched our way along increasingly treacherous roads that were all but invisible in the whiteout. As we navigated around stranded vehicles and strained to make out the lane dividers, we buoyed our spirits with thoughts of a relaxing couple of days with our friends.

Here’s what we were expecting: Abby and I would get to the farm, eat lunch, say hi to the animals, enjoy good conversation with Kelly and John, read books, brew up some of my fair-trade coffee, build a snowman, watch movies, get tipsy, sleep in, shovel out the driveway, and head home.

Here’s what happened. Shortly after we and our jangled nerves finally reached our destination, the inclement weather brought down power lines, which left the house without light. Because the switch that controlled the water pump was electric, the four of us found ourselves also without running water. The snow accumulated with unnerving speed, rendering the narrow country roads impassable and effectively cutting us off from the outside world. We were imprisoned on the farm.

Weathering a major winter storm without electricity or water is an inconvenience, to say the least. But we also had a flock of about two dozen sheep to worry about, including several newborn lambs, as well as assorted chickens, ducks, farm cats, and a dog, many of which would surely perish if we didn’t work quickly to safeguard them against the cold.

Since Virginia’s climate is reasonably temperate, there’s usually little need to worry about animals’ exposure to the elements. But with temperatures dropping and some three feet of snow expected to fall, we needed to act fast. We spent much of that first day reconfiguring the sheep barn, segregating the nursing ewes from the rest of the flock, and trying to move as many animals as possible under shelter.

Nor could we humans overlook our own biological imperatives. John converted the tool shed into an outhouse by dumping out a bin of sheep feed and filling it with kitty litter, and knocking together a toilet seat out of two-by-fours. For some reason he also brought out a stack of back issues of the ‘New Yorker’ magazine, as if any of us was going to be taking a leisurely time on the privy with our sensitive bits exposed to the bitter cold while surrounded by five-foot-high piles of snow.

tractor

The days that followed were humbling exercises in priority-setting. Our first responsibility – before breakfast, before brushing our teeth – was to check on and feed the animals. Then Abby would stoke the fire in the hearth and the house’s two woodstoves while Kelly prepared food and I collected buckets of snow to melt for drinking and washing both dishes and ourselves. John spent a lot of time shoveling and making sure the pipes didn’t freeze. He dug out his John Deere tractor in an effort to plow the driveway, but the little machine proved no match for the daunting mounds of snow in its path.

snowmelt

We ate a lot of lamb stew, which Kelly kept replenished and bubbling aromatically atop the wood stove. She found an antique coffee mill handed down from some Italian relative, and I used it to grind the fair-trade beans I had brought with me from Baltimore. I mixed the grounds with melted snow and brewed it in a steel kettle.

A couple of the lambs died. We lost one on the first night of the storm. Abby discovered its little corpse stiff and strangely angled, as if it had been flash-frozen in mid-leap. The adult sheep stamped and bleated their distress. Abby lifted the frozen lamb by its tail and trudged out to the edge of the property, where she hurled the carcass over the fence. Some days later, after the snow had receded, we returned to see if the corpses were still decomposing there, but scavengers had done their work quickly and efficiently, and had left only scattered bones.

dead lamb

In the evenings, after dinner, we lit candles and sang shape note hymns from the Sacred Harp. We drank wine and told each other stories in the firelight. We learned that each of our lives had been shaped by rebellion against our parents, whether it was their patrician disdain for manual labor, or their pathological lies, or their alcoholism, or their depression.

Outside, black branches susurrated in the northeasterly wind and the blazing moon cut across glittering pastures of white.

Ester-LiverpoolThe rhythms we fell into were ancient, older even than the ones my farmer friends were accustomed to. Rise before dawn. Care for the animals. Dispose of the dead. Feed the fire. Feed yourself. Drink something hot. Tend to the dwelling and the grounds. Piss. Shit. Sponge yourself clean with frigid water. Wrap yourself in blankets. Sing songs and tell tales to push back the darkness and the chill. Sleep. Dream dreams.

We did make one concession to 21st century technology. John dug a track between the front door of the house and my car so that I could charge my smartphone. Once the power indicator had turned sufficiently green, I brought it inside so that we could huddle around its pale blue light while I read articles from the New York Times aloud, like the lector in a Cuban cigar factory.

It was past midnight on the fourth day when the electricity was finally restored. Kelly and John had long since gone to bed. Abby and I lay on the floor on our stomachs in front of the fire, sharing secrets. When the lights jumped back on, our first reaction was elation. Then we looked at each other in silence.

After a moment I got up and switched off the lights and we returned to murmuring in the dark.

snowpocalypse

Letitia VanSant Album Release Show w/ Potluck Storytelling 2/27/15

bonafides fb cover

Potluck Storytelling is thrilled to partner with Letitia VanSant and the Bonafides for the release of their new album, “Parts & Labor,” at the Creative Alliance on Feb. 27, 2015.

Letitia VanSant & the Bonafides are a Baltimore & Washington, DC-based quartet that straddles the boundary between acoustic string band music, roots rock, and the confessional folk of a singer-songwriter. Ms. VanSant’s heartbreaking soprano has been compared to a steeple bell ringing “strong and true through the discordant noise of an urban soundscape.”

Here’s what the band has to say about its new album.

When you return to a garage to pick up your car after repairs, you are handed a bill for “parts and labor.” The “parts” are things like spark plugs and oil-drain pans, while “labor” is the hours spent by the mechanics. But you seldom see the mechanics at work, so it’s tempting to think of the gadgets and workers as interchangeable cogs in the great machine that keeps society running.

“Parts & Labor,” the new album from Letitia VanSant & the Bonafides, fights that temptation with all the considerable skill and passion the folk-rock band’s four members can muster. The ten original songs—eight by lead singer Letitia and two by drummer Will McKindley-Ward—work hard to proclaim that we are all much more than parts and labor to the machine of our economy.

At the release event on February 27, Baltimore storytellers from different walks of life will share tales of work, the economy, and living through challenging times. Join the Bonafides and Potluck storytelling for a rich evening of story and song.

Purchase tickets

Facebook event page 

Potluck presents: The Art of Risking Your Neck 12/2/14

The Art of Risking Your Neck - 12/2/14

Potluck Storytelling presents

THE ART OF RISKING YOUR NECK: Baltimore writers read and tell the stories behind their work

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Area 405
405 East Oliver Street, Baltimore 21202
$5 at the door (cash only); attendees warmly encouraged to bring snacks

RSVP on Facebook!

Eudora Welty once wrote, “No art ever came out of not risking your neck. And risk — experiment — is a considerable part of the joy of doing, which is the lone, simple reason all [writers] are willing to work as hard as they do.”

Where do writers get ideas? How do they turn inspiration into words on a page? What keeps them motivated? Bring $5 and a snack and join Potluck Storytelling for an interactive evening of poetry, short plays (volunteer readers needed!), essays, and fiction by five local writers who will read from their written works, tell the stories behind them, and talk about how they risk their necks for their art.

Storytellers:
Rodney Foxworth, essayist, recovering journalist, advocate
Justin Lawson Isett, playwright, bringer of the ruckus
Amanda Rothschild, purveyor of mostly true things
Kristine Sloan, poet
Marceline White, woman of many letters

Hosted by Kevin Griffin Moreno.

Storytelling Workshop at Single Carrot Theatre 11/15/14

silhouette

Single Carrot Theatre Workshop: Storytelling with Kevin Griffin Moreno

Saturday, November 15, 2014
12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Single Carrot Theatre
2600 N. Howard St., Baltimore, MD 21218

$50 (20% off for Single Carrot Theatre members)

Storytelling is our species’ most unique and indelible gift. Since the very beginnings of language, humans have used stories to forge relationships with each other and find meaning in the world around them. Join storyteller Kevin Griffin Moreno, host of The Potluck storytelling and arts series, for a lively, interactive workshop designed to help you find your storytelling voice. Share your words with others, and learn how to engage a group while painting a verbal picture.

SCT offers low-cost courses for community members of all experience levels over the age of 16. Enroll now!

[poem] Blessing, for Adote Akwei

Adote Akwei, by Paris Johnson

Blessing
for Adote Akwei

Bless means “to sanctify;” blesser means “wound.”
Their roots are watered in ancient blood.
It is difficult to be sanguine when
The heart pumps so far from home.
But our ancient roots cover oceans and
Course with the blood of the Lamb
Who blesses our hearts, sanctifies our wounds.

– Kevin Griffin Moreno


Adote Akwei immigrated to the United States in 2005 with his wife and five children. A union organizer and human rights activist in his native Togo, Adote is active in his church and in the community at large as a champion of West African emigres in Maryland.

Adote Akwei - photo by Jessica Keyes

Photo by Jessica Keyes

This poem is one of seven 49-word poems written as part of the Autumn Leaves Project, a multi-part, intergenerational art and performance exhibit conceived and curated by Baltimore artist and activist Peter Bruun. Each of the seven poems is dedicated to a member of the Autumn Leaves Chestnut Group, and was performed by students of Muse 360 Arts at the Chestnut Group’s event on October 14, 2014. The event was hosted by Pamela Eisenberg and Kevin Griffin Moreno. Portraits of the Chestnut Group members were painted by artist Paris Johnson.

To learn more about the other groups, writers, and artists associated with the project, visit the Autumn Leaves site.

 

[poem] The Word is Freedom, for Tamra Settles

Tamra Settles by Paris Johnson

The Word is Freedom
for Tamra Settles

When word comes down, you will spring
From bed with your shoes already tied.
You refused to crumble like stale bread
Or dash away your own stinging tears.
Hope struck you and you kept ringing.
Take a step forward. Remember to breathe.
You will astonish yourself with your singing.

– Kevin Griffin Moreno


Tamra Settles is, in her own words: “tantalizing, amazing, morally correct, magnificent, intelligent… a mother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a woman… motivated, full of life, spiritual, thoughtful, caring, honest, forgiving, strong, an overcomer, but mostly free.” Tamra spent over two decades in a Maryland state penitentiary before receiving a gubernatorial pardon.

Tamra Settles - Photo by Jessica Keyes

Photo by Jessica Keyes

 

This poem is one of seven 49-word poems written as part of the Autumn Leaves Project, a multi-part, intergenerational art and performance exhibit conceived and curated by Baltimore artist and activist Peter Bruun. Each of the seven poems is dedicated to a member of the Autumn Leaves Chestnut Group, and was performed by students of Muse 360 Arts at the Chestnut Group’s event on October 14, 2014. The event was hosted by Pamela Eisenberg and Kevin Griffin Moreno. Portraits of the Chestnut Group members were painted by artist Paris Johnson.

To learn more about the other groups, writers, and artists associated with the project, visit the Autumn Leaves site.

[poem] Voices, for Marc Steiner

Portrait by Paris Johnson

Voices
for Marc Steiner

Studs, in his wry manner, once observed
“I am celebrated for celebrating the uncelebrated.”
Let us then celebrate the aging prisoner,
penniless actor, slam poet, asylee, wildcat striker,
laid-off steelworker, digger, ranter, veteran, Panther,
Celebrate their strong and restless American voices
and the interlocutor who gives them air.

– Kevin Griffin Moreno

 


 

Marc Steiner has spent 50+ years of his life working on issues of social justice. He began working as a Civil Rights organizer at age 14 and was a Maryland Freedom Rider at age 16. For the past 20 years he has hosted the radio program, The Marc Steiner Show.

 

Marc Steiner - photo by Jessica Keyes

Photo by Jessica Keyes

 

This poem is one of seven 49-word poems written as part of the Autumn Leaves Project, a multi-part, intergenerational art and performance exhibit conceived and curated by Baltimore artist and activist Peter Bruun. Each of the seven poems is dedicated to a member of the Autumn Leaves Chestnut Group, and was performed by students of Muse 360 Arts at the Chestnut Group’s event on October 14, 2014. The event was hosted by Pamela Eisenberg and Kevin Griffin Moreno. Portraits of the Chestnut Group members were painted by artist Paris Johnson.

To learn more about the other groups, writers, and artists associated with the project, visit the Autumn Leaves site.

[poem] Shehecheyanu, for Zina Rosenberg

Portrait by Paris Johnson

Shehecheyanu
for Zina Rosenberg

Come, I will show you such lands
As you have visited only in books.
Not that our travels will be easy:
Storms scatter dreams, lovers’ faces are forgotten,
Widows sell their old letters for sustenance.
Still, amazement calls us to new cities
Where sunset stains white marble to gold.

– Kevin Griffin Moreno


Zinaida Rozenberg was born in Riga, Latvia, just before World War II. “What I remember of my childhood is only hunger and starvation,” she recounts. “In May 1945, we learned my father at age 27 had been shot on the streets of the Ghetto. All my extended family was murdered.”

Throughout her life, Zina nursed dreams of becoming a tour guide to cities she had never visited. Now in her seventies, Zina leads tours of Russian-speaking travelers to Washington, D.C. and other places in the U.S. She is a lifelong lover of poetry, particularly that of Pushkin and other Russian poets of the 19th century.

 

Zina Rosenberg - Photo by Jessica Keyes

Photo by Jessica Keyes

 

This poem is one of seven 49-word poems written as part of the Autumn Leaves Project, a multi-part, intergenerational art and performance exhibit conceived and curated by Baltimore artist and activist Peter Bruun. Each of the seven poems is dedicated to a member of the Autumn Leaves Chestnut Group, and was performed by students of Muse 360 Arts at the Chestnut Group’s event on October 14, 2014. The event was hosted by Pamela Eisenberg and Kevin Griffin Moreno. Portraits of the Chestnut Group members were painted by artist Paris Johnson.

To learn more about the other groups, writers, and artists associated with the project, visit the Autumn Leaves site.

[poem] Afternoon Run, for Mel Holden

Mel Holden, by Paris Johnson

Afternoon Run
for Mel Holden

Yesterday, listening to red leaves crunch underfoot
And recollecting that first time we kissed,
I thought I detected a faint vibration
At the center of things, a cadence
Like breathing or the rhythms of love
That keep our pace on the path,
Regulated and wild as two beating hearts.

– Kevin Griffin Moreno


 

A track star in high school and college, Melton Holden’s university years were interrupted when he was drafted during the Vietnam conflict. Despite no formal training in computer science or business, he had a successful career with IBM managing large government contracts for the IRS, DHS and DoD. He enjoys being quietly amazed by the diversity of people he meets.

Mel Holden - photo by Jessica Keyes

Photo by Jessica Keyes

 

This poem is one of seven 49-word poems written as part of the Autumn Leaves Project, a multi-part, intergenerational art and performance exhibit conceived and curated by Baltimore artist and activist Peter Bruun. Each of the seven poems is dedicated to a member of the Autumn Leaves Chestnut Group, and was performed by students of Muse 360 Arts at the Chestnut Group’s event on October 14, 2014. The event was hosted by Pamela Eisenberg and Kevin Griffin Moreno. Portraits of the Chestnut Group members were painted by artist Paris Johnson.

To learn more about the other groups, writers, and artists associated with the project, visit the Autumn Leaves site.