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.”
pictures on Instagram
It’s almost September, the month of Cynthia’s 44th birthday and also the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, in which Cynthia will present a small excerpt from her new work in progress Articles of Faith, as part of Catch Takes Bok. She also plans to see many exciting works in the festival by such inspiring artists as Ann Hamilton, Jerome Bel, Nichole Canuso, Nora Chipaumire, and Martha Graham Cracker, among many others. Cynthia will appear in next year’s Fringe Festival in two projects: one by Michael Kiley (scheduled to be our guest next week on Moving to Philadelphia!) and another by Big Dance Theater, the latter serving as inspiration for the song of the week, Bess’s Lament, written from the perspective of a young wife who has caught her husband having an affair with their even younger maid, according to the syllabic and chord-shifting structure of a song by My Brightest Diamond.
photos on instagram #MovingToPHL
This week Cynthia is away from Philadelphia, hard at work on Martha's Vineyard, rehearsing with Big Dance Theater... and also attempting to manifest the faith required to continue working on a new show that will be performed in small part as soon as September 17th (in Philadelphia, as part of the Catch performance series at Bok, within the Philadelphia Fringe Festival) and in large part also pretty darn soon, the first week of November (at commissioning venue American Dance Institute in Maryland) whose subject matter is itself faith: both the many uses of faith - as a form of hope to carry one through catastrophic adversity, as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, as an antidote to panic when facing deadlines that seem impossible to meet, as an energy source when creating something new (especially when one's livelihood has come to depend on one's ability to create new things) - and the extreme difficulty of cultivating faith when perfectly wonderful people suffer and die young and perfectly decent homes are destroyed by acts of God. For the first time ever, this week's podcast includes a "sneak preview" in the form of a mini-monologue from Articles of Faith, followed by a song about the difficulty of proceeding with the creation of a show called Articles of Faith.
The Photos are now on Instagram!
This week has been oppressively hot, and both Jeff and Cynthia have had to spend most of it working in mid-town Manhattan, the 9th circle of hell. Nevertheless the realms of fantasy are alive and well there and have rescued the spirits of these two folks from total despair: Jeff experienced Virtual Reality at Madame Tussaud’s, pretending to shoot at imaginary ghosts; meanwhile Cynthia accidentally has fallen in love with a fictional character (who is much too young for her, even if she happened to be single which she is not) from a “young adult” teen romance book she got paid to read out loud… Back in Philadelphia, the realms of the unreal (as some choose to call them) continue to rescue humans from oppressive heat and depressing politics, in the form of visual art (tiny paintings by Louise Fishman at the ICA) and music (songs of Charles Mingus performed live outdoors in Clark Park). And so, in spite of all manner of doubts, Cynthia continues to toil away at creating an escape from reality of her own - a show that is itself an homage to frames of mind that allow us to weather the pains of human life without being crushed by suffering (apparently, suffering is optional) - and offers up an a cappella version of a song called Spectacular Display, that may end up being the opening song of this new work.
This week we are moving the pictures to Instagram!!
What do a description of shooting stars, the IMAX movie about the National Parks now playing at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and Cynthia’s new project Articles of Faith all have in common? They are fueled by the energy of attempting an impossible task, which like all forms of energy is indestructible.
Topics you might become curious about by listening to this week’s report on multiple Philadelphia adventures include: what God hates, how lead can be organically removed from soil, what K stands for, how do witches and faeries define the terms witch and faerie, where and when free boating is offered in Philadelphia, whose 18th century garden is preserved and available for wandering through today, how to make a natural home-made hydrating beverage equivalent to Gatorade in its replenishing powers yet free of refined sugar, some of the many protests that took place during the Democratic National Convention last week, what is permaculture and why do people practice it, are there contemporary pagans and what do they believe and why, and how anarchists provide sonic support for an idea without clapping. The song of the week is inspired by and modeled after Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s performance of “Hope” at the Mann Center, and is titled “Structure of Hope."
Things get sweaty and messy in the closet with guest number five Amanda DeLeo, necessitating more than the usual number of “bleeps.” Under discussion are the benefits of Pennsylvania versus Amanda’s home state of Florida, the benefits of physical and spiritual fitness, the benefits of various sorts of recovery and how they can be mutually complimentary, the benefits of deep breathing (and what it sounds like), the benefits of community, and the benefits of getting in trouble with the law. Amanda and Jeff discover that they both set out initially to become doctors, and share about how and why they each re-invented themselves otherwise. Amanda provides a post-interview inspiration for the song of the week by sending Cynthia a link to the song “Chinese New Year” by SALES, from which the back-beat to “let’s talk about…” is culled. Additional inspiration for the song of the week is drawn from “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa, “Let’s Get Physical” by Olivia Newton-John, “Get On Up” by James Brown, “Give Me Back My Name” by the Talking Heads, and the current media circus surrounding Republican and Democratic National Conventions (the latter taking place currently in, yes it’s true, Philadelphia.)
The benefits of de-cluttering are noted in relation to good comedy, tiny houses, clean waterways, and economy of verse.
This week we welcome Guest Number Four, teacher of many things including yoga, theater of the oppressed, social activism, and just plain getting along better with one another Morgan Andrews (whom Cynthia considers “her” yoga teacher.) Morgan reveals the many reasons he decided to move to Philadelphia years ago (having grown up mostly in Boston but partly in his father’s Sufi community in West Philadelphia) and the ways in which his life and practices (creative and otherwise) expanded upon arriving here. He also reveals that the yoga studio where he teaches and Cynthia practices (Studio 34) was started by the owner of the house attached to the house Cynthia and Jeff now inhabit (their house’s “twin”) and that originally yoga classes were taught IN that house!! Furthermore Morgan reveals what he traveled to India to study (not yoga,) why Studio 34 is called Studio 34, who Augusto Boal was and what movement he started and why, and what some uses of puppetry are. Finally, Morgan supplies the inspiration for the song of the week, a cross-breeding between a Bengali folk song and “Fairytale in the Supermarket” by The Raincoats.