Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Charms of Vaudeville Meet The Charms of the Writers Festival.

The charms of an old Vaudeville-era theatre are never lost on me. There is always the haunting tapping presence of the "song and dance men," the proverbial echo of "the fat lady," who closed the show with a smile and a torch song, the well-appointed banana peel that made the most puffed-up of men fall to the ground in spastic indignity. So I felt a welcoming aura when the "Somerville News Writers Festival," commenced at the old "Somerville Theatre," on a mild night in November. And like any Vaudeville variety show we had an infinite variety of talent. Jennifer Matthews’ beautiful, lilting voice wafted to the rafters, and punctuated the particular energy of each of the readers. 80 years ago BARATUNDE, the host for the event, might have affected a straw bowler and a dandy of a cane, as he sprayed the audience with a steady stream of jokes, and comic asides. Much of the reading was laced with humor. From Steve Almond’s riff on being "ugly," to Robert Olen Butler’s strange obsession with severed heads, the audience never
had to wait long to laugh.

I was thinking at the reception in our modest editorial offices at 21A College Ave., how amazing it was to have such world-class writers like: Sue Miller, Franz Wright, Afaa Michael Weaver, Lan Samantha Chang, and all the others, milling around our story board, that housed a simple spread of cheese and crackers. And equally amazing was how willingly they accepted the offer to read at our festival, and for the most part for little or no monetary compensation.

Most importantly however, the festival met the approval of my mother’s critical eagle eye. She told me after: "Great show. Fascinating people." I think that’s the kind of seal of approval both Tim Gager and I were looking for.

--Doug Holder

No comments:

Post a Comment