Feeling inspired…the May 2018 Artists Without Walls Showcase!
By Clyde Berger
By Clyde Berger
Deni Bonet and members of her band made a special Artist Without Walls appearance at AWoW’s Fourth Anniversary show, this past Tuesday evening at The Cell Theatre. Deni premiered four songs off of her soon-to-be-released rock instrumental album. Deni wowed the AWoW audience with her virtuoso violin performance, along with her band of accomplished musicians: Ado Coker on piano, Jonathan Linden on guitar, and Andy Mac on drums.
Deni kicked off the show with the title track of the record, “Bright Shiny Objects” – an up-tempo piece that reminded us of a cross between Aaron Copland and Disco Inferno.
Next up was “Primal Dream,” a song written years ago when Deni was a member of NPR’s Mountain Stage Radio Show, which started with solo acoustic guitar and surprised the audience as it built to a powerful climax.
“Einstein’s Brain” was a crowd favorite with its interesting time signature and infectious melodies. Following the performance of this song, one audience member exclaimed out loud, “This is my new favorite song EVER!”
Deni and her band finished off their tremendous set with the exciting tune, “Red Dog”, where Deni’s violin pyrotechnics left the audience breathless and wanting more – which is what they will get if they come to the Bowery Ballroom on March 23rd at 7:30 to catch her full show. Click here for more info and tickets.
Poet Liv Mammone returned for her third feature with AwoW to celebrate the anniversary. She debuted a collection of sparkling and smarting new poems, including open letters of love to Frida and of hate to Kylie Jenner that were more like open wounds.
In a night full of collaboration, both planned and unplanned, Liv had no one to pass the ball to but the audience, which she successfully drew into her experiences with a humor both generous and biting and an honesty that continues to shake us.
Desdemona’s death scene in Othello always comes with a high degree of difficulty and expectation. In the hands of Alessia Sushko and Sedly Bloomfield the audience was witness to a beautiful, passionate and moving scene. Love and fear was on display. Ms. Sushko’s beauty and Mr. Bloomfields’s presence left us wondering, “What would have happened if Desdemona had lived…?
Photos by Vera Hoar
Vera Hoar’s photos from Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at The Cell Theatre, Tuesday, February 23rd.
Come meet and listen to spoken word artist Liv Mammone at Artists Without Walls’ Anniversary Showcase at The Cell Theatre, 338 W23rd St., NYC, Tuesday, February 23rd.
Liv is an editor and poet from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her parents, brother, family of feral cats, and geriatric dachshund. She has previously taught creative writing at Hofstra University and Queens College. Liv’s poetry has appeared in wordgathering, Wicked Banshee, The Medical Journal of Australia, QDA: a Queer, Disabled Anthology and is forthcoming in the anthology, Grabbing the Apple. As a spoken word poet, she has featured at Sip This, Artists Without Walls, Tache Chocolates, and is the winner of Union Square Slam’s 2015 Nerd Slam. She is the third visibly disabled poet ever to place as a finalist for a national slam.
The Cell’s doors and bar open at 6:45.
This past Thursday, a select crowd, awash in warm yellow light from the small stage at Sid’s Piano Bar in Manhattan, exemplified the name of this organization we’re all so pleased to be a part of. The performers, each revealing what love means to them, dissolved the walls between themselves and the audience and played, instead, to dear friends. The evening became less about the love in each chosen piece than what we all feel for each other as Artists Without Walls keeps bringing us together.
Martina Fiserova kicked off the night of love laced songs with a beautiful rendition of her song “And Fly” while accompanying herself on guitar. She dedicated the song to the evening’s sponsor Marty Plevel and Marty’s good friend Max Siegel who was also in the audience. Martina then gracefully transitioned to the piano for two additional spellbinding original songs,
“Misunderstanding” and “A Well”. You could hear a pin drop as she tickled the ivories with passion while showing off her vocal range and unique phrasing. To round out her stellar set, she performed, for the first time, in honor of the occasion, a superb rendition of Joni Michell’s “Love,” which was originally released in 1982. As she wrapped up the song with the lyrics “Of faith and hope and love, And of these great three, Love’s the greatest beauty, Love, Love, Love” she set the tone for the evening and had the audience in the palm of her hand.
After accompanying Connie Roberts in her stirring reading of “Raglan Road,” cellist Noah Hoffeld opened his set with an original tribute to David Bowie, for cello and loops. He used the loop pedal to create an atmosphere of mystery and played a moving elegy for his departed hero. He was then joined by a great visiting guitarist, Nathan Finkel from London, who played on two rocking ballads from Noah’s album Play Human– ‘Stay the Same’ and ‘A Woman and a Man.’ Their highly distinct tones were filled with longing.
Annette Homann, though unsure of how her act would play out in the confined space of Sid’s, literally leapt from the stage in a whirl of glitter, stomp, and sway. Her “romantic partner” for the evening was a brand new electric violin, which she made wail on Marc O’Connor’s “Caprice No. 1 in A Major” for solo violin, “Feeling Good” and a medley centered around “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” that had us all grinning to split our faces and a few brave souls on their feet dancing. Annette herself was a dervish of Matrix-like leans and a grin that could have generated the bar’s lights. She filled the room with joy.
The day after our gathering, Charles Hale told me that he frantically whispered to Niamh Hyland during Annette’s wild joyousness, “Who’s following this?” She answered, “Don’t worry, it’s Liv. We’re covered.” I am still humbled by such faith, especially given that I was so unsure of my place at a performance on the theme of love. I chose a new piece for the occasion, “After Seeing a Facebook Post that Proclaimed ‘Stop Romanticizing People who Hurt You!’” and a piece written for my sister. While I cannot review myself, I saw a woman in the front row clutching her chest and shouting, “Oh my God!” What else can a performer hope for?
My mentor Connie Roberts then returned to the stage unaccompanied, as always the picture of elegance and refinement as she sparked life into WH Auden’s poem “Funeral Blues” with a slow, steady timbre that allowed each word to hit the listener like its own sharp pain. We poets were, neither of us, certain how to keep the sadness of love from our performance choices, but I am grateful Connie grounded us with this blessing.
I am never prepared for the voice and stage presence of Niamh Hyland, much less to have to describe it. (It’s very possible that I’ve written and rewritten an ode to this idol of mine that has been sitting around for months…) It is equal parts a warm hearth and a wolf growl. Backed by the expert fingers and almost unfair coolness of guitarist Shu Nakamura, Niamh treated us to Queen’s “Love of my Life,” got us singing with her on “House of the Rising Sun,” and
broke every heart with “Wild Mountain Thyme.” She then quickly decided that all the night’s musicians should return to the stage to lead the crowd in an improvised rendition of Bowie’s “Modern Love.” This, I believe, is what is best about Artists Without Walls. Not only is each voice deeply distinct, but it is the way that we all come together and lift one another. Nothing else exists like it.
Photos by Vera Hoar
Vera Hoar’s photos from Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at Sid Gold’s, February 4, 2016.
LIV MAMMONE’S “ARTISTS WITHOUT WALLS SHOWCASE at THE CELL” WRAP-UP
This month’s Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at The Cell Theatre really exemplified our organization’s core values of both diversity and community, bringing a set of fresh, new, young artists amidst seasoned veterans of the AWoW stage. The whole evening was filled with the warmth and the welcoming atmosphere we have come to expect from these gatherings. The Cell itself feels as though it’s growing smaller and more intimate with each passing month, as this family of faces come together to support, sustain, and shine. But the circuit never closes, always making room for more.
First up, Richard Stillman gave us all a laugh with two musically accompanied story recitations. One, a comical rhyme about a young highland lad named Angus with a prominent honker he puts to use in a bagpipe band; the other, a Peruvian pied piper tale about a young man who uses the forgotten tradition of pan flute playing to rid his mountain town of a scourge of slimy frogs and finds his place among them. Richard, too, has embraced an art form not seen often these days with his oral storytelling and showed us why it is still vivid and necessary. (How on Earth did he make that bubble sound?)
I.S. Jones shimmered with grace and grit reciting three spoken word poems; a gripping piece about racist language; the sensual “Kingdom of Touching”; and a gloriously uplifting ode to those forces in her life which have tried and tested her. I.S. had worried that her work would be “a little risky” for the audience, but we were jolted and moved by the elegant truth in her work. Her calmness and refined manner acts as a prism through which torrents of feeling are focused. Her risk was rewarded and we would welcome her future work.
Cellist, pianist, and songwriter Noah Hoffeld demonstrated his incredible range, favoring us with a melodic ballad, a rocking ode to the music that shaped his youth, and an utterly heartrending classically inspired solo to return us to his Juilliard roots. His vocals are reminiscent of Matthew Good, at once tender and rough-edged. It was a roller coaster of feeling to be witness to just a fraction of what he is capable.
In a happy accident, we were then joined by Eithne Nic An Riogh, just this week transplanted from Ireland. She had reached out to fellow University College Dublin alum Niamh Hyland looking for a cello and we were most fortunate that, instead, she wound up with a slot. Borrowing Noah’s, Eithne treated us to a million dollar smile and two beautiful pieces, a cello standard as well as a deeply moving Irish song about a woman who cannot be buried on the island of her choice. It was heartwarming to see how these fellow performers came together on a spur of the moment to share her talent with us.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if the Sopranos’ Chris Moltisanti was given the psychic powers of John Edwards? Character actor Nicholas Garr has finally given us the answer and it is as hilarious as you would expect. Watching how Nick has altered his body language especially is truly evidence of his gift. He left us in stitches. A pilot should be sent to HBO now that its gangster show niche has a void.
The second poet of the night, Alex Shapiro, was brand new to the AWoW stage, and brought a bouquet of lively, thought provoking, philosophical musings. These poems as quick and sharp as shots of whiskey. Alex inhabited his whole body for his reading, giving off an air of approachability and an enviable talent for memorization. We are lucky to have caught him before he heads out to the Midwest to continue his writer’s journey.
Ed Romanoff is never less than awe inspiring and was a perfect closer for our evening. Ed has performed a great deal with AWoW and is an integral part of its nature, but those who were in the audience last night hearing him for the first time are to be envied. He demonstrated his prowess as a lyricist and his signature sound–steady as a train and sharp like a razor–in three tracks. The first was new, the story of a boxer and his shiftless women. His second choice was a deeply personal gesture for fellow member Connie Roberts, a song called “Orphan King.” Niamh and Noah then joined Ed for his song “Two Yellow Roses,” giving an already breathtaking number a level of depth we as audience members were held in thrall by. It is always an indescribable pleasure when showcase performers come together in impromptu collaborations. This is part of the magic of the space and there is nothing else like it.
We hope that you could be present and that you’ll join us for the next Showcase on August 25th, at The Cell Theatre.
“I’ve been working as an actor for at least twenty five years now and I’ve never before been involved in anything quite like this. AWoW is a unique blessing. So happy to be a member.” Jack O’Connell, actor
“What a night…a jam packed evening of talent journeying from a Greek isle lutist, to an Ex ‘Mad Men’ like poet, to B-Boy Melding Irish Hoofers.” John Munnelly, singer/songwriter
Hammerstep co-founders Jason Oremus and Garrett Coleman, who have performed at Lincoln Center and the Palace Theatre in London, brought their incredible dance act to AWoW’s May showcase. (Rather than speak about it, check out the short video below.) As a company that strives to embrace traditional elements of culturally rebellious dance forms, while breaking down barriers to how they may be integrated and presented to the public, Hammerstep felt right at home alongside AWoW’s other genre-bending artists who like to think outside the box. “AWoW is a uniquely communal place for artists to celebrate and share in that common goal, and Hammerstep looks forward to having AWoW supporters at its premier run of the company’s NYC-based immersive theater experience INDIGO GREY, next Spring,” said Garrett. For updates on the company’s work, check out Hammerstep on Facebook or at their website by clicking here
Ron Vazzano offered a quartet of poems that played thematically with a couple of current pop culture events: the concluding of the Mad Men series—as Ron once toiled at an ad agency on Madison Avenue in the late 60’s —and horse racing, which is in the midst of its “Triple Crown” season. He ended with a “sendup poem” about our esteemed group (“…a gathering that called itself “Artists Without Walls”/Though they performed in a space called The Cell”) that was both hilarious and poignant, and enthusiastically received by an audience of fellow artists.
Maritri Garrett performed one of her hits from the album Soulfolk Experience volume one, “No Regrets,” an anthem for living life to the fullest. She followed that up with a compelling cover of “Royal” by Lorde, which takes on a whole different meaning when taken out of the teen demographic for which it was intended and sung by a mature artist. Maritri finished off her set with Police’s popular tune “Message in a Bottle,” by the Police, which had the audience singing along. This extremely talented women moves from the guitar to the piano to cello–all with a her beautiful voice–with shocking ease. And she’s a delight as well.
Liv Mammone is a poet who attacks life with a strange combination of joy and rage; humor and pathos. Improvising jokes to set the audience after an accidental fall, she then led them deep into her experience as a disabled woman in a variety of ways–a blues song about her chronic pain; a gripping letter to her grandmother about the death of her friend; a loose litany of images from the morning prior to an operation closed out with an encore of “Vagina Resigning” to lift us back up. With honesty and freshness of image, she shows us the universality of the body’s breakdown and how we rise above those changes.
John Munnelly compacted the life, times and death of Julius Caesar into a witty three verses and a very catchy sing-along refrain. John is as creative and as strong a writer as his award winning stripes attest to. He sang a paean to love while addressing the escapist daydreams we all have, finally realizing he would be ‘Nowhere without You’. For the final geography lesson John took us to the world’s most hipster borough in his song ‘Brooklyn’ for a gentle dig at the local hood sighing and singing though the eyes of a wide eyed newbie who ‘knew she’d like it here’ – now she’s living in Brooklyn. This one had the crowd laughing and singing along.
In the true spirit of multiculturalism, Dennis Demakos, who has been playing traditional Greek music and singing the tradtional folk music of dozens of countries from Europe, Asia, and the Middle and Near East for many years, began his performance with a traditional from the island of Karpathos-Gori To Maksellari Sou, My Lass, Your Pillow- a common themed tune in which a young woman usually gives an embroidered handkerchief to a young lad as a token of her affection. The second tune is a traditional from the island of Kassos-To Pathos, Passion- and is another common themed tune about the heartbreak of living in foreign lands away from one’s Mother and homeland. Beautiful and evocative.
The next Artists Without Walls’ Showcase will be at The Cell Theatre on Tuesday, June 23, 6:45pm. For more info on the group please contact email@example.com
Photos by Vera Hoar.
Vera Hoar’s photos from the Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at The Cell Theatre, May 26, 2015
“In bringing together diverse performers…it makes for an event the likes of which you will rarely, if ever, experience. A melding of artists within the walls…it was a memorable night. Yes, it was that good.” Ron Vazzano
Yes, as Ron says, an AWoW Showcase is always “that good.” May’s Showcase is shaping up as more of the same. And, Ron, a writer and poet, whose monthly on line “Muse-Letter,” a mix of essays, reviews, poems, quotes, wordplay, which has become quite popular among AWoW members and friends, will be one of the evening’s presenters. Ron’s essays have been posted on the Artists Without Walls’ website and he’s also read his poetry on a number of occasions at Showcases over the past year. In a former life, he spent some years as an actor appearing in theatrical productions in New York City as well as on the road. If past is prologue, Ron’s performance will be timely, witty and spot on.
The dance group Hammerstep has had successful international performances, including at New York City’s Lincoln Center and The Palace Theatre on London’s West End, as well as an online viral video of their recent appearance on America’s Got Talent. We’re thrilled that Hammersmith’s founders, Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus, will be performing for us on Tuesday. Traditionally trained in Irish Step dance as a child, Garrett has consistently found himself drawn to types of dance that are rhythmically innovative and that push the boundaries of athleticism through dance. Jason, originally from Sydney, Australia, Jason won 5 consecutive State and National Solo Irish dancing titles from 1999-2003. Both Garrett and Jason have toured with the world famous show, “Riverdance.”
Maritri Garrett recently performed at Rockwood Music Hall as part of AWoW’s “The Musical History of the Lower East Side.” Maritri played piano and sang a couple tunes from the American Songbook and then switched gears completely and accompanied Niamh Hyland on Blondie’s “Call Me.” A very gifted and multi-talented performer, Maritri also plays the cello and guitar. You can hear Maritri performing one of her original songs, “Rain” at the bottom of the page.
Back for her second appearance at an AWoW Showcase will be poet Liv Mammone, a vivacious young voice that will be heard on the New York performance poetry circuit for years to come. Using her background as a novelist, she uses various characters, including Venus de Milo, a fictional gangster, and a certain part of her own anatomy, to provide insight into what she calls “all the million ways one must be moved; the changes we make on our migrations through the world.” Anyone who heard and saw Liv’s laugh out loud, brilliant reading of her poem “Vagina Resigning” won’t soon be forgetting that experience.
John Munnelly, who is an award winning ASCAP singer-songwriter with a social conscience, will be making his first appearance at an AWoW Showcase. Born in Ireland now of Brooklyn, John is known for his witty & humorous nature, sometimes performing under the stage name ‘LaughJohnLaugh.’ John is a prolific writer in many music genres from Pop to the Prophetic releasing his ‘Hello World’ album in 2013 (available on iTunes) He toured Ireland to promote the album release in 2013. This will be John’s first appearance at an AWoW Showcase, which he says is, “Too good a show to miss – I’m playing three cracking songs. Hope to see you there.”
In the true spirit of multiculturalism, Dennis Demakos, who has been playing traditional Greek music and singing the tradtional folk music of dozens of countries from Europe, Asia, and the Middle and Near East for many years, Dennis will be making his first appearance at an AWoW Showcase. Dennis can be heard with two Bay Area California bands, The Disciples of Markos- disciplesofmarkos.com, and Balkalicious Fire Drive- bfdmusic.com. with whom he is pictured on the far right.
It promises to be a great night. Join us at The Cell Theatre, Tuesday, May 26. The bar opens at 6:45pm. See you there.