Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nature Coast Performances

Mary and I do something we call "the two-year-old dance." We hold onto each other and bob up and down. It looks and feels incurably silly, which is the whole idea. It's like a Snoopy dance but less coordinated, although the emotions behind it are the same. Actually, it's probably considerably less coordinated than something a real two-year-old would do.

I initiated one around midnight Friday into Saturday, for a variety of reasons that have all met in one big, happy smoosh, and that started even before the open mic....

After Inverness Writers and before the Woodview Coffeehouse open mic, I stopped into the natural foods store near the library where IW meets. As I was waiting to check out I noticed the staff was having trouble setting up a template in Word, so I offered my assistance.

One of the store's employees went to school in New Jersey and worked in lower Manhattan's Fashion District for a while, meaning that we had shared many of the same old haunts. She was very familiar with the open mics at the now-defunct Beat'N'Path Cafe in Hoboken. I mentioned the open mics I've just discovered here, and she blurted, "We need a newsletter!" She commutes from Hernando County, just south of here, so she doesn't get much news of what goes on.

Back in Cambridge my friend Michael holds an annual "artistic potluck" as part of his birthday celebration, and another friend (who moved to New Mexico over a decade ago) held extraordinary parties that were one big jam session among artists, writers, and musicians. Someone I met a couple of weeks ago, who just moved here from San Francisco, had similar experiences and was also looking for something like that here. She's gone ahead and started the ball rolling to open a new performance space in Dunnellon, right over the line in Marion County just north of here, and is in talks with the city.

As I drove home via several errands, I started mentally putting together a way to network area artists. This county and surrounding ones have various groups, but I'd seen little coordination outside organizations and among different artistic media. A print newsletter would incur expenses, which means I'd want to look for sponsors and advertisers if not actual subscribers. I'm not discounting the idea entirely, but I've started with an interim step:


The text below is taken from an e-mail I sent out to my local artistic contacts at, oh, about four on Saturday morning:
I've begun a group called Nature Coast Performances because I saw the need (my need, at least) for a way in which creative individuals and supporters can keep each other informed of events throughout the Nature Coast and West-Central Florida.

Three things led me to start this forum. First, thanks to a listing in the St. Pete Times' "Citrus Times" section, I learned about the Performers Circle open mic at the Nature Coast Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. At that gathering I learned about the Woodview Coffeehouse at the Unity Church of Citrus County. I'd been looking for open mics for years, just hadn't looked in the right places.

Second, I know someone who is in the process of starting up a new performance space in the area, and I wanted to offer a forum to get the word out when that space is up and running. (Stay tuned.)

Third, I am writing this less than 12 hours after I was told, "We need a newsletter!" by someone looking for information about performance spaces, and who added that people living outside Citrus County often don't get news of some of the events occurring within Citrus. Likewise, I'm sure there are art and performance events happening outside Citrus of which I'm unaware. (This message is going out to people in several counties.)

I hope that Nature Coast Performances can serve as a bridge among counties, organizations, and art forms. Some of my most memorable experiences have involved cross-pollination among different art and performance media.

If you want to publicize a performance (e.g., theater, spoken word, music); book signing; exhibit; class; creative group; festival; performance venue; etc., please consider joining the group. If you want to start something new, if you are looking for people with whom to collaborate on a creative project, or if you just want to ask if a particular type of gathering already exists in the area, I hope the group can facilitate that as well.

Nature Coast Performances is a collaborative work in progress and is open to suggestions! If there's something you'd like from this network that I haven't covered, please let me know or join and post to the forum. Please also mention the group to people whom you think might be interested in joining.
Over the weekend I've been building up the group calendar and links section with events and organizations I know about, along with a list of press contacts for people who want to promote their work or event. Several people have joined so far. I've placed a link in the sidebar of this blog's front page.

Then there was Friday's open mic.

Two Fridays ago I'd gone to Performers Circle and gotten a great reception. This past Friday night it was the considerably larger Woodview Coffeehouse. PC is pure open mic. Woodview has a sandwich format: open mic, the featured performers, then another open. I signed up for the open after the feature. The feature was a terrific duo, Ellie Daulton and Doug Travers, who came up from "around Tampa" and who have an eclectic song repertoire that they perform using guitars, banjo (Doug), and mandolin (Ellie). They stayed around for the second open mic. Wonderful performances throughout. I had a blast.

As I had done at PC, I opened with my scat singing, read a small section from Covenant (I gave the same pitch as I had at PC but read a different excerpt, since there's overlap between the groups), and closed with a poem. Performers are limited to 15 minutes, during which time they can do up to three pieces.

At the end of the evening Ellie came up to me, took both my hands in hers, and said, "You're not going to believe this." Turns out she and Doug live on Kimbo Savino's land. Bo Savino is COO of Koboca Publishing and the woman I met at Necronomicon, to whom I gave my pitch package. Ellie added that Bo has been raving about my work to her (big grin).

One of the musicians also asked me if I'd be willing to join him on stage to add my vocals to his, since he liked what I'd done at PC, when we had a jam session. I told him I'd love to. I do that stuff at the drop of a hat.

I'd added my contact info to the e-mail list at Woodview, and on Saturday morning I got a glowing message (and a great poem) from one of Friday night's emcees, who had also performed at both Woodview and PC. I let him know about the Yahoo group. As if one "small world" experience weren't enough, when I arrived at Woodview on Friday night one of the first people I met was his wife, who's a former student of mine. She told me she's still keeping her journal.

The poem I read was one published in the We'Moon calendar for 2005. In this year's calendar, the "Year at a Glance" for my sign Libra says:

"In the last couple of years, you've brought some of your highest aspirations into fruition, so 2007 is an excellent year to set your sights upon new goals. Seek out allies and co-conspirators to help you achieve the seemingly impossible....Take advantage of new technologies to make more profound and widespread connections. Your insights cut beneath the surface of things, and combined with your natural diplomatic persuasiveness you could inspire just about anyone into seeing things your way. Integrate art or music into your message for maximum influence. Do pursue opportunities that arise for specialized education or teaching status...."

Hmm. D'ya think? :D


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