Mary B. Martin School of the Art’s fall 2016 season at East Tennessee State University promises to take audiences to locales as familiar as small-town life in Kannapolis N.C., and as far-flung and mysterious as the Scottish Isles and rugged landscapes of southern Siberia and Romania.
The school’s first half of its eighth season features passages of time back to the Depression era and the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as explorations of tradition, movement, media and the eternal tug-of-war – for artists of any kind – between art and business. Fall films will convey moviegoers through timely issues, hoaxes, humor, the surreal and magical and the mystic.
The fall lineup opens with documentary films focusing on two disparate American legends – Godfather of the Media Hoax Joey Skaggs and choreographer Paul Taylor. On Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in Martha Street Culp Auditorium, the ETSU audience will meet social and political satirist/activist Skaggs on and off the screen in the new documentary “Art of the Prank“ by director Andrea Marini.
Skaggs, Marini and producer Judy Drosd will hold a Q&A after the free screening that is followed by a reception, as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers series that MBMSOTA has partnered with for seven seasons.
The film, that is winning best of festival honors around the country, documents Skaggs’ 50-plus years of duping the media with fictions such as the Portofess mobile confessional booth, Celebrity Sperm Bank and the Cathouse for Dogs, including a new prank just for this film and its festival tour. “With this movie I’ve tried to create something that will inspire people as much as I have been inspired,” director Marini says, “and like Joey always says, ‘make them laugh and then make them think.’ ”
Later that week, on Thursday, Sept. 15, also at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, ETSU’s Martin School of the Arts will screen – in preparation for October’s dance concert – “Paul Taylor Creative Domain” – directed by Emmy-winning documentary producer Kate Geis. The 2014 film is a rare documentation of the creative process of one of the seminal artists of the 20th and 21st centuries as he choreographs a new piece.
“As prolific as ever, Taylor continues to offer cogent observations on life’s complexities while tackling some of society’s thorniest issues,” says the “Paul Taylor Creative Domain“ website. “He may propel his dancers through space for the sheer beauty of it, or use them to wordlessly illuminate war, spirituality, sexuality, morality and mortality.”
This film provides insight into the choreographer, Paul Taylor, whose process is both mysterious and practical, says School of the Arts Director Anita DeAngelis. “We wanted to introduce the public to the man who is the source of the work they will see when the Paul Taylor 2 company comes to perform for us at ETSU in October,” DeAngelis says.
East Tennessee’s Mountain Movers dance company will present an informal dance improvisation in the auditorium lobby before the free screening and talkback with filmmaker Geis.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, the multimedia “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait“ will transport patrons even further back in time, to Depression-era North Carolina, and in real time, introduce listeners and viewers to original music performed live to a film created from archival footage shot in the 1930s and ’40s by portrait photographer H. Lee Waters.
Joan Reinthaler of the Washington Post calls “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait” a beautifully coordinated melding of music and film.”
Seventy years after the footage was shot, composer/performer Jenny Scheinman was asked by Duke Performances at Duke University, where Waters’ archives is housed, to write music to be performed live to the “moving portraits” from one town, Kannapolis, just north of Charlotte.
Finn Taylor and Rick LaCompte were brought in to direct and edit, respectively, and create an hourlong film from the Waters footage to the accompaniment of Scheinman and her band – which in addition to the singer on violin, includes Robbie Fulks on guitar, banjo and vocals and Robbie Gjersoe on resonator and baritone electric guitars and vocals.
“Ms. Scheinman’s compositions,” says “All Music Guide,” “carry within them the mystery, history, heartbreak, and humor of the American experience as lived through one at the margins of culture, race, ideology, style and spirituality.”
Very much focused on the present and future will be Crista Cloutier’s “The Working Artist” talk, as part of the “Best of Tennessee Craft Exhibit” at ETSU’s Reece Museum Aug. 22-Dec. 2. The free presentation will take place in the museum Thursday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m.
Cloutier has sold millions of dollars of artwork to galleries, museums and collectors; run a gallery and nationally recognized studio; been certified as an arts appraiser and worked as an arts licensor; curated dozens of international exhibitions; produced an art documentary; and collaborated with many artists. Then she hit a wall artistically and decided to, as she says, “press the refresh button.”
“She really understands the business side of the art world and has been teaching ever since she walked away from the commercial world,” DeAngelis says. “She has been teaching workshops and developing programs and courses to help artists learn the business side of the art world.
“Why are we having this business person come in and talk during this exhibition? Well, as it turns out, helping craft artists market themselves is part of the mission at Tennessee Craft, so we thought it was important to have some discussions on this topic during the show.”
Modern dance is the journey’s vehicle on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m., as ETSU welcomes to the Culp Auditorium stage Taylor 2 of the world-renowned Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company. In 1993, Taylor established Taylor 2 to ensure his works could be seen by audiences all over the world, unhindered by economic or technical limitations.
“Taylor 2 is wonderfully intimate,” says The Berkshire Eagle. “Watching only six dancers perform Taylor works clearly reveals both structure and movement for an eye-opening appreciation of the master’s approach … It’s like hearing Mozart played on original instruments, or birds in the woods without traffic noise.”
This smaller company was Paul Taylor’s way of making his work accessible to smaller venues and providing the opportunity for master classes and workshops. “This is a perfect fit for ETSU,” DeAngelis says, “and I am sure their visit will get the attention of the region’s dance community and fans.”
The season’s second Southern Circuit independent film documents a musical pilgrimage by Baltimore beatboxer and vocal percussionist Shodekeh to Tuva, Siberia, to study their music and culture, while sharing his own vocal artistry. “SHU-DE! (Let’s Go!),” presents viewers with a sensory experience of music and landscape through the vastness of Tuva and the human voice, revealing the sounds that unfold with collaboration.
The documentary will screen Monday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, with filmmaker Michael Faulkner attending for a Q&A and reception after the event. “SHU-DE!,” like all the South Arts screenings, is free and open to the public.
Scotland – the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist – is home to multi-award-winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, who will bring “Music of the Scottish Isles” to the area on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Culp Auditorium.
“There are some voices that carry much more than a melody,” says the Evening Standard of London. “They transport you to another place, give you goose flesh and make magic out of thin air. Julie Fowlis has just such a voice.”
Known as a quiet torchbearer for her native tradition, she has brought Scottish Gaelic culture out of the past and into the musical mainstream – as the first solo Gaelic singer to be playlisted on the BBC, recording and performing with folk icons Mary Chapin Carpenter and James Taylor and singing the theme song to Disney Pixar’s animated film “Brave.”
“She is well known in Scottish music circles,” DeAngelis says, “and has been influential in Gaelic language restoration, and it is perfect timing that the East Tennessee Celtic Festival & Games at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton starts the day after her concert.”
A visit by the juror for this fall’s “FL3TCH3R Exhibit,” Dr. Eric Avery, will shift the focus from music and tradition to visual art and the impact of modern-day social concerns and public health on artistic expression.
The celebrated printmaker and recently retired physician and associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, specializing in HIV/AIDS, served as juror for ETSU’s fourth annual “FL3TCH3R Exhibit” of socially and politically engaged art – and will present a free and open artist talk on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 5 p.m. in Rogers-Stout Hall 102.
Avery’s sojourns in visual art, he says, change “the ordinary role of a doctor into an artist, inspired by healing, fusing the space between art and medicine.”
The “FL3TCH3R Exhibit” will run at Reece Museum from Oct. 10 to Dec. 19. FACE IT, a photography exhibition, including work by ETSU Art & Design professor Mike Smith, will also open Oct. 10 in ETSU’s Slocumb Galleries in Ball Hall, and run through Oct. 28, with additional exhibition time at Reece Museum until Nov. 22.
On Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, the fall semester’s final voyage begins in communist Romania and continent-hops to America in the experimental film “Hotel Dallas,” which actually features “Dallas” TV star Patrick Duffy.
Playfully mixing fiction and documentary, “Hotel Dallas” is a surreal parable of communism, capitalism, and the power of art. In the 1980s, in the twilight of communist Romania, “Dallas” is the only American show allowed on TV. The independent film follows the fictional Ilie and his daughter Livia as they build the “Hotel Dallas” in Romania and Livia moves to America to make films.
The film’s unorthodox, freewheeling style moves between fact and fantasy, found footage, poetry and musical numbers, while the actors slip into and out of character, from dramatic dialogue scenes to documentary interviews. Reviewers have called it “mesmerizing,” “a piece of history,” “magical” and “beautifully made.”
Mary B. Martin School of the Arts’ fall itinerary packs the magic of world-class modern dance, mystical Celtic music and multimedia visits to the past and present, as well as globe-ranging film and visual arts that illustrate the world and its complexities.
“Where can we go from here?” DeAngelis asks. “Anywhere!”
For more information about ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or to purchase tickets online for Kannapolis, Taylor 2 and/or Julie Fowlis: Music of the Scottish Isles, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587).