Many thanks to Artists Without Walls’ cofounders Charles Hale and Niamh Hyland for another great Showcase at the Cell Theatre. The artistic presentations ran the gamut: Poetry, film, music and storytelling. Playing to a standing-room-only house, the skilled performers generously shared their talents with Artists Without Walls’ members, friends and guests.
The Michi Fuji trio, with Michi, violin, David Hofstra, bass and Joel Forester, piano, opened the show. The trio played two of Foster’s original compositions, which had the audience swaying and tapping their feet to the beat. Michi, a Japanese born violinist, who has found her niche in jazz, delighted the audience with her dazzling performances in both works.
Ron Vazzano followed with a poetry reading, a unique and nuanced performance, combining reading and singing skills. Ron either recited or sang a verse from a song, always relevant to the pithy poem that followed. His reading of “Comey Quartet,” incorporated lines from both Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.” Then, incorporating lines from Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” Ron created the warm sound of singer Nat King Cole. He then wrapped a poem around the music, which described daily life in a nursing home. His reading of the poem beautifully enhanced his poem’s message.
Next up was the lovely Christina Jolie Breza, who was accompanied by pianist Gabriel Charles. Christina presented the love story of her life in story and song. Her stories and choices of songs, “Basket Case” by Green Day and “Falling Slowly” from the musical “Once” held deep and special meaning; She was talking and singing about her husband, Gui. Christina’s presence and grace on the Artists Without Walls’ stage is always well received by the adoring audience.
After accompanying Christina on the piano, Gabriel took center stage. In the past, Gabriel has provided piano accompaniment for performers at Artists Without Walls’ Showcases but on Tuesday he made his debut as a soloist, backed up by vocalists Jasmine Brown and Jenna McDonald. Gabriel sang two songs from his recently released, inspirational CD “Free Falling.” It was the first time religously inspired music was presented at an Artists Without Walls’ Showcase and judging by the audience’s receptivity, it won’t be the last.
A surprise is always an unexpected pleasure and London’s Amanda Thorpe’s appearance was no exception. Backed by vocalists Serena Jost and Teresa Sareo, Amanda performed an impromptu, melodious tune, filled with harmony that was reminiscent of folk music’s heyday. Many thanks to Amanda, Serena and Theresa for this special treat.
Gary Ryan followed with a short story filled with vivid details from his childhood on the east side of the Mississippi River, in the hill country of Mississippi. The story centered on a “big old dog” that had been tearing up his family’s back yard at night and their effort to get rid of it. After hearing the story, it’s no wonder that the event has captivated Gary all these years later and that he felt moved to write about it. A compelling story in the hands of a compelling storyteller.
Artists Without Walls’ charter member, filmmaker and editor Sam Adelman delighted the audience, presenting an episode from “Don’t Shoot the Messenger,” a comedy series that can be seen here. The series explores the humorous side of communication between people who use signing as a language and those who don’t. Episode six, which delighted the audience, dealt with the humor that arises when a person thinks they know sign language, but doesn’t.
The duo of Anana Kay and Iraki Gabriel, who emigrated from Georgia in the USSR, wrapped up the entertainment portion of the evening. The talented couple presented a video of their work and followed with a song, “American Smile.” Anna and Irakli capped off a wonderful and varied AWoW showcase.
Join us for the next Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at The Cell on August 22nd. The doors and bar open at 6:45 and the performances begin at 7:30.
All photos by Vera Maura Hoar