Black History Month is drawing to a close: the perfect moment to enjoy Hidden Figures (an inspiring dramatization of the NASA careers of three brilliant African American women at the time of both the "space race" and the Civil Rights Movement) and to visit the African American Museum in Philadelphia (and read pages from Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" that include the quote "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.") Week #52 is also the end of Jeff and Cynthia's first year of living in Philadelphia: the perfect moment to press the pause button, take a breath, and reflect upon whether or not this podcast is serving the purpose for which it was intended. The jury is still out, audience.... and you are the jury!
Our podcast population triples this week, as we simultaneously welcome Guests #10, #11, and #12 - A Whole Family of Guests! Trey Lyford (is he a clown pretending to be a magician, or a magician pulling of the illusion of being a clown?) and Suli Holum (writer, maker, performer, and oral historian in the making) recently moved to Germantown with their nine-year-old daughter Coralie (currently studying Harry Potter and Star Wars, while preparing for her role as Scar in The Lion King) and join us to report on how the transition is going. In response to Coralie’s request for a “protest song,” Cynthia offers up a family-style-folk-choir version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin.’”
Wellness is pursued from the outside in and from the inside out. During the healing process that results, it becomes tricky to diagnose which fabulous experience is most responsible: was it the colonic (or “bowel irrigation”)? The flotation tank (or “forced relaxation”)? Or could it have been a performance artist's impersonation of a physician (or “fake doctor”)? But the more crucial question may become: can America achieve “integrated wellness"? The song of the week (a medley of national anthems and Civil War hurrahs) offers old-timey suggestions.
Fabulous living systems architect Frances Rose (Guest #9) discusses K is for Kitchen, the community supported kitchen run out of faer home. In response to faer request for a song of the week about how cross pollination is fun and sexy, Cynthia presents a cover of a song by Ethan Lipton titled The Flora and The Fauna (Lipton’s fantastic version can be found via iTunes, from his album Mr. Softy - thanks Ethan, for making fun and sexy songs to inspire and delight during dark, scary times!)
We welcome Guest #8 Silke “Sunshine” Tudor, survivor of a California hippie commune upbringing and current activist on behalf of all sorts of human rights and social justices, to give us hope for the future in the wake of Trump’s very, very poorly attended inauguration.
Cynthia forgets to describe the title event this week, due to a episode-length tangent about constipation. Is her constipation a direct result of spending a week working in New York? Is it due to anxiety about an impending "job" interview? What is Cynthia's constipation trying to communicate? Will its message ever be accurately fact-checked? And will Cynthia's bowels ever move again, or will they end up preserved in a glass jar at the Mutter Museum, alongside other fatal pathologies?
The ghost of a deceased performance work (in the form of criticism of Cynthia's portrayal of a ghost in that performance work) comes back to haunt Cynthia at a critical juncture.
Mmmm...2017 is rung in to the tune of Mummery & Mexican Modernism. This week's sonic offering, a cover of Aerosmith's "What It Takes," has nothing to do with any of that
Congratulations, audience: you have survived the 2016 winter holidays! It is time to bid a slightly preemptive, melancholy good riddance to December and to the whole sad year of 2016, and along with it the many brilliant artists who left the Earth this year, including Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, and Merle Haggard. Homage is paid to Mr. Haggard through a cover of Cynthia’s favorite Christmas song “If We Make It Through December,” and an anti-capitalist mantra is offered to help you survive the remaining days of this commercialized holiday season.
All the feelings (good, bad, ugly & otherwise) triggered in Cynthia by two weeks of intensive improvisational experiments working on Michael Kiley's project Prescription are discussed, as well as the challenges and potential rewards of improvisational practices in general, in generative and performative forms. Jeff describes what it was like to be on the audience side of the improvisational performance, after working in the totally opposite realm of creation (a Broadway Musical)
Seven is indeed a lucky number: Guest #7 is Jill Stoddard, master of Zen Buddhism, brilliant painter of strange horses, peacefully eloquent peace advocate, and extremely recent transplant to Philadelphia. Jill recounts her journey to home ownership, including encounters with squirrels, mice, and more devious internal demons. Jill's request for a cover of the George Michael song “Freedom” is honored in a spontaneous mashup with another George Michael song “Faith.”
The piano has arrived, Jeff has returned, and Cynthia goes back to work. This week we went to see Neil deGrasse Tyson speak about science and movies at the Kimmel Center and Cynthia went to see Annie Wilson at FringeArts. We end the week with a discussion of depression...from the inside and the outside.
A play about drag queens inspires this week’s song, originally conceived as a ballad for Cynthia’s theoretical drag king persona (a cross between Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Tommy Shelby, the lead character of the TV series Peaky Blinders) (or possibly, alternatively, simply a version of Jesus Christ as if he were indeed a woman in drag come back to the future to reveal that significant truth to the modern-day world) yet evolved mysteriously into a ballad for Cynthia’s theoretical drag queen persona, who is not-so-secretly underneath-it-all a “natural woman.”
In the wake of two extremely disheartening events (the defeat of the most promising - and not only because she’s the only - female presidential candidate in history by the most openly jingoistic, sexist, and racist person ever to be elected President of the United States; and the passing of brilliant poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen) Cynthia and Jeff scramble to find some rays of light in all the darkness: first by interviewing ward leader and political science professor Carol Jenkins, asking “how did this happen?” and also “what can we do now that it is happening?”; and second by offering up a song for the week that is all about finding light in the darkness, quoting the late great Mr. Cohen’s beloved phrase “there is a crack in everything - that’s how the light gets in."
Cynthia and Jeff spent the week working on Articles of Faith in a residency at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, Maryland. The intensive period proved very fruitful and culminated in two performances over the weekend. Meanwhile, Cynthia struggles with her English accent finding inspiration in the series "Poirot", based on the famed Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. Returning to Philly at the end of the week, they are back home and take part in election day here in the "swing state" of Pennsylvania!
The Even hotel in Rockville is actually a little odd… and that’s where this week’s podcast is coming to you from. Even odder are the odds for ongoing battles between sports teams and presidential hopefuls. But the oddest odds of all may be Jeff’s odds for reinstating good credit at the word bank deep within the recesses of his mind, not to mention the odds of Cynthia treating her inner critics with patience and compassion… these unknowns hang in the balance along with the show Articles of Faith, as it is crafted piece by piece, day by day, leading up to the day it is scheduled to be presented to a live audience of possibly friendly strangers, mere days away from today…
A soothing instrumental outdoor concert is attended at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, but the main attraction turns out to be the craft table, where diddley bows are custom made. The calming effects of coloring are experienced, serving as an antidote to a fit of rage ignited by someone cutting in line. The song of the week is a soothing instrumental cover of a song composed for a previous podcast episode, possibly to be used as background music for a monologue in Articles of Faith. The term “articles of faith” is explained.
photos can be found on Instagram!
Folks, it turns out to be archive month. Let’s celebrate! Light is projected through images of Florence Nightingale, trees undergoing surgery, baby animals in zoos when zoos were just a bunch of barren cages, native peoples of Borneo, the period rooms of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Hercules company (specializing in explosives!) Along with old-fashioned imagery, what becomes illuminated is subcultures of humans who appreciate such displays. An ode to the natural world and its appreciators - particularly the author of the miraculously rectified childhood diary of a girl named Opal - is sung.
What is it like to become trapped in someone else’s version of time and or space? Cynthia learns first hand during this week’s explorations - of Ann Hamilton’s Habitus installation at Pier 9, and the Shoe Museum at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine - and attempts to convey the experience to you without trapping you in her version of time and space.
a reminder that the pics are on Instagram!
The legacy of Rizzo (who served as mayor of Philadelphia for two terms, putting into practice the ruthless “law and order” approach Trump promises) is re-enacted on stage; a Revolutionary War battle is re-enacted on the streets of Germantown; a film is re-enacted as an opera; and a Civil War song is re-enacted as an Iraq war song.
On display are an externalization of the internal experience of tinnitus (and other examples of the amazing elasticity of the body and mind), two of the most interesting museums in Philadelphia (the Mutter and the Barnes), live judgement of dog clothing at a former burlesque house (as well as a dispute about the proper way to ride a triceratops), and squirrel-infested attics.
Cynthia sings praises to all the artists who’ve ever inspired her to be an artist, especially Jerome Bel, whose show Gala - which Cynthia saw last week at the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival - she attempts to describe, and through that description unravel the mystery of its sublime glory.
Cynthia reports (with some help from her cat Lucy) on recent adventures including exploration of an underwater cave in the devil’s pool, exorcism of doubts during a birthday ritual in Germantown, and restoration of faith in creativity inspired by the work of Maria Irene Fornes, in whose honor the song of the week is composed (in support of Michelle Memran’s Kickstarter campaign to finish her documentary about Fornes “The Rest I Make Up.”)
pics on instagram
This week we welcome Guest #6 Michael Kiley: composer, sound designer, and teacher of a vocal technique he calls personal resonance. The song of the week is a collaborative exploration of “head voice” improvised by Michael, Cynthia, and Jeff. Under discussion is the consideration of the comfort of performers and audience during the experience of live theater, and on display are spontaneous demonstrations of musical numbers (from musicals in which they performed way back when they performed in musicals) by all three participants in this “interview.” Also reported on is Cynthia & Jeff’s recent tour of the newly built Mormon Temple in Philadelphia (time is running out to take this free tour, by the way, unless you are a practicing Mormon in "good standing") whose Baptismal and Sealing Rooms, with their enormous emphasis on eternal life, prompt a revival of the “joke of the week.”