Monday, April 26, 2010

Like an Animal or a Manimal?

The night started with a stripper name--Crystal Chandelier--shouted from the audience.

Theatre 99, Charleston's home for improv comedy, held a 3 on 3 Tournament Saturday night. Six groups of 3 took the stage in 10 minute intervals to win the audience's vote.

The Full Monterey Jack Cheese Quesadilla--a play on "The Full Monty" I presume--was a group of 3 boys who continually stripped off clothing. Until left only with the words "Magic" and "Last Layer" and some booty shorts.

Also in the first half were Wild Card, a group of three who put their name in a hat for an opportunity to compete, and So Good You'll Think There's At Least Four of Us. The latter--who dressed in tourist gear and walked onto stage saying "Hello, Charlestown! We're from Ohio! We love Hyman's!"--was the victim of an unruly, bandaged audience member who thought it a good idea to join the skit, which, at that time, was the firing of a baseball coach right before a game. One of the group's members says "I wanted to open up a trap door and just slide down. Only three people were allowed on stage!" The guys backstage were, by nature, quick on their feet and came on stage as "stadium security" to escort him off.

Brandy Sullivan, a member of the group Trio Loco and main fixture at Theatre 99, says "In all of the 10 years of the theatre, something like that has never happened. No one has ever just walked up on stage!"

The crazy man with a bandage on his hand was used as a punchline all night.

The most fluid performance of the evening came from One at a Time. Their 10 minutes started with three roommates reliving a party from the night before. Two of the three had slept together in true "party house" form, and shortly thereafter the girl roommate turned into an "animal."

Which garnered the question: Is she like an animal or a manimal? An animal-animal, or a man and an animal.

I guess the second is curable?

She was an animal-animal, and the skit went on to produce great animalistic one-liners like "She's like a gazelle that's a bat on the weekends," "I think we should mate and then you kill me," and "When you have the baby you can't eat it." In the end, the girl roommate tries to denounce her party animal ways.

Trio Loco was the night's winner.

Sullivan and her troupe members--one improv-ed it on the piano--sang, in thick Southern accents, about peel and eat shrimp and spearing ghosts.

Hidden behind the Bicycle Shoppe on Meeting, Theatre 99 is a comedic gem in Charleston. There are shows every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and Sullivan and hilarious member of One at a Time Greg Tavares also teach improv classes.

Sullivan says, "We teach all levels. There's something for everyone."

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Went to Outer Space.

They let you paint on the walls.

I've had my doubts about Outer Space--the venue voted "best hipster hang out in Charleston"--but as an art gallery, they won me over last night.

Anson Cyr, one of its co-founders, says he knows sometimes people can get "wigged out" by the intimate setting. "I think it just depends on what you come to," he says. And he's right. Before I'd only been to small music shows and swing dancing lessons, walked away feeling like the setting was far too intimate to enjoy--more like a living room full of people I didn't know singing and dancing around me. But as an art gallery, it has a laid-back feel that's refreshingly different from all those places where you're terrified you might knock something off of the wall.

Cyr says of his role as art director of Outer Space: "We're moving soon, and when we do, I hope to be less curator and more into helping artists transform the space."

The most recent artist to transform the space is Brian Bustos. In his show "Deux," Bustos had literary inspiration. "I read a lot of Jack Kerouac, and he writes spontaneous prose. I used that idea in my art. You know, your first thought is your best thought, and just get it done. Go with it."

And yes, he got to paint on the walls as part of his show. So cool.

Local musician Chris Thomas has also put together a show to compliment the art. Bustos' fiancee says of Thomas: "He's shaving his head and eyebrows, painting his face white, and wearing a blue hoodie to look like that guy."

That's dedication.

The art-side of "Deux" is mostly drawings, accompanied by words. Some are just "random thoughts" according to Bustos, others sentences clipped from old books. My favorite was a drawing of a person whose head grew into a roof. It read: "Thus we have a heaven presented to us as mansions in which we are to dwell." Then, at the bottom was: "It held no meaning."

Bustos felt the above piece--being able to paint a black dot on the wall to tie together the art and the writing--was "aesthetically pleasing." The display started with, ironically, a picture of a NASA spaceship and the wording, "They said I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. I wanted to go to space. Now I just draw unrealistic pictures of spaceships." Other introspective and quirky statements include: "I don't feel like a bear" and "Birds were probably really great people once. That's why they don't have to do shit all day. And they can fly."

Perhaps Outer Space was the perfect venue for "Deux." Bustos says of his chosen method: "Paintings you can change. Drawings are intimate."

"Deux" starts at 8 p.m. tonight, 623 Meeting Street.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Know That's an Old Camel Saddle, Right?

There was a sign on the door. "Hussey. Top Floor."

A part of me didn't want to go up, didn't want there to be any confusion. But I did, and found local artist Tim Hussey's "yard sale."

Hussey won me over with his Shrimp Records t-shirt and guacamole. A Chinese Acupuncture statue and rantings in his mother's direction to "Not cross the tape line!" Oh, and his art was pretty cool, too.

But back to why I was there. A yard sale. Ayoka Lucas, style editor of Charleston Magazine, was hanging out in the kitchen. "You've got to get to yard sales early," she says, "I got all the best stuff." She took me in the other room to show off her loot. One score was even better than she thought: A friend pointed out that a wooden stool was actually made out of a camel saddle.

Hussey's yard sale was really more of a moving sale. "I'm downsizing," he says, "I'm an artist, and I'm going to start living like one."

Hussey is known as a painter and photographer in Charleston. Represented at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery downtown, Hussey's work is the product of layering and found objects. He's been described as "puzzling and astonishing."

Every table--which was probably for sale too--was piled with jumbled iron letters, ceramic birds, rusted fans. Another local artist, Nathan Durfee, talked Hussey out of a neon orange chair that wasn't originally for sale.

"I feel like this space was like a painting," Hussey says, "And out of context, I don't think this stuff would work, so I'm selling it."

We helped Hussey's cause and left. Then just had to fit the standing birdcage, picture frame, neon orange chair, local artist, and his bookbag into the backseat of a Camry.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What a Wonderful World

This past Saturday the NNICU nurses of the MUSC Children's Hospital hosted the Neonatal Nurses Reunion. They filled the horseshoe with bubbles, ducklings, Disney characters, and cupcakes. Invited all the children who've ever stayed in their incubators, hooked to respirators or under the phototherapy lights, to come play.

Sheryl Bey, a NNICU RN, remembered a little girl from 15 years ago. "I didn't think I could remember that far back," she says, "She was premature, weighed 1 lb, 15 oz., and that was a big deal back then."

My nephew, David, had a two week stay in MUSC's NNICU right after birth. Elevated bilirubin levels caused brain damage, but since, in his hearing aids and leg braces, David has amazed us all. Walking on a treadmill during Physical Therapy and saying "Bye, bye" to his Speech Therapist. He's just the smiling child that makes this event rewarding: Lets the nurses see the positive side of their care.

Fellowship plays a huge part in the Nurses Reunion. Nurses reunite with their patients. Parents get to re-thank them. And to meet others that have been in their shoes.

From the crowd, we heard my sister's name, turned, and recognized--thanks to facebook, of course--a little boy named Sullivan who was diagnosed with the same rare hearing disorder two weeks after David. In silence, the two boys made friends, pointing and smiling.

Music played the whole time. Twice I heard "What a Wonderful World." Once by Louis Armstrong, once reggae-ed up. How could the lyrics not resonate? "I see babies cry. I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know." I was filled with promise. Of growth, what could be. Of David's possibilities.

When is a day not full of wonder?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shhhhh...Amos Lee was in town.

I went to the Amos Lee show at the Music Farm knowing two things about him: 1. My good friend Allyson said I would like him, and 2. He toured with one of my local favorites, Cary Ann Hearst.

So, he had to be good, right?

Allyson says it was a couple lines from Lee's song "Keep it Loose, Keep It Tight" that made her fall in love with him. "I'm in love with a girl who's in love with the world, and I can't help but follow. Though I know some day she is bound to go away and stay over the rainbow. We all need a place where we can go. To feel over the rainbow."

Lee walked onto stage virtually unnoticed. Started playing a mellow song sans his band. "Is that him?" I asked.

"I think. Yeah. Yeah, that's him," Allyson replied half-heartedly. And perhaps a lot of people were posing the same question, because after the song was over, Lee announced, through the whispering, "If you came to talk over me, I'm not with you."

Bold move. I'm still not sure if I like him more for it, or if I was rubbed the wrong way.

But, it was hard to dwell on an off-the-cuff comment when his planned words were delivered so nicely. Albeit, quietly, but that was actually a nice change from the normal, headache-inducing bands that headline the venue. The constant shush-ing in the audience in response was a bit much, but I guess he scared us.

Lee's guitar playing was effortless, and his range, even more impressive. His song "Colors" seemed the most popular. Probably earned the most shush-ing.

His cover of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" ended the show nicely--the crowd finally got to make a little noise.

That Allyson's always right.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Elements

SCOOP studios on Broad unveiled a new show Friday night during the French Quarter Art Walk.

“Elements” is a photography show that serves as a testament to nature's power. According to co-owner Colleen Deihl, “When something is left behind or abandoned, nature takes over, whether it be rain, snow, wind or sun, or the plants that continue to grow around. And even in the objects. This may not be the most beautiful picture to some, but to us it is gorgeous and fascinating.”

The idea came from a chat between Deihl and one of the featured photographers, Stewart Young. Young says his photography celebrates “the beauty of decay and decline.” His images made it seem like he had an affinity for rust. It was captured on tricycles, old gas pumps, cars. So--hence came the name of the show--his photography showcased the stress of the elements on the man-made.

Cyle Suesz took an interesting approach to the theme. He showed local models in their most natural state: naked. Deihl thinks that the true natural beauty of his work was in his picture “Dandelion.” “Cyle's driftwood trees in 'Dandelion' are constantly changed by the ocean, the salt, the wind and the sand.”

At the opening, I most liked the work of Sandy Logan. With bold colors and duct tape, Logan showed how that which is man-made goes to waste.

When I pointed to the above picture and said I liked it, Logan said it was “an old, ditched semi-truck.” I liked the word “ditched” because I instantly imagined the truck a true mess, left sideways in a ditch. Not just abandoned, though I know that's what he meant. In response to my being a fan of the verb, Logan said, “It was ditched. Because what really else can you do with a beat-up truck? You're not parking it.”

All of his photographs have the same forlorn feel and were the product of a trip to Wilmington, NC. Logan wanted new subject matter, and says that photo ops are everywhere. “My resume says I'm on a first name basis with most junkyard dogs.”

“Elements” will be on display at SCOOP, 57 ½ Broad Street, through mid-April.