its warm critical reception and ample media coverage, many
of you probably already are familiar with American Splendor,
the innovative biopic about comic-book author Harvey Pekar.
So we’re not spoiling anything when we mention the flick’s
clever use of interviews with the actual Harvey Pekar in
alternation with dramatic re-creations of biographical moments
in which Pekar is portrayed by the actor Paul Giamatti.
Nor will we kill any of the fun by mentioning that American
Splendor deflates the possible pretension of such a
device by including engaging scenes in which the actual
and the faux Pekars (and another factual-fictional pairing,
Pekar’s friend and coworker Toby with actor Judah Friedlander,
who plays Toby) interact. It’s a curious but surprisingly
affecting trick. And, now, for those of you who are agreeable,
MASS MoCA is going to wratchet up the metafictional element
yet another notch by screening American Splendor with
the actual Harvey Pekar in attendance to answer questions
about the onscreen Pekars. That’s a lotta Pekars.
Allowing himself to be depicted or envisioned by others
is not an entirely new process for Pekar: Since 1976, the
Cleveland native has been writing a semiautobiographical
comic book, also titled American Splendor, which
has been illustrated by a number of well-regarded comic
artists such as R. Crumb, Frank Stack and Joe Sacco. The
book’s presentation of the outspoken and crumudgeonly Pekar’s
worldview has won him a dedicated cult following, a following
reinforced by a handful of famously cranky and confrontational
appearances on Late Night With David Letterman. Don’t
lump Pekar in with stupid human tricks, however: Though
presented in comic form, his insights and writing are sharp,
pithy and deeply humane. In 1987, the series was awarded
the American Book Award, and his radio essays—a more recent
venture—also have garnered Peker notable awards.
The screening of American Splendor will take place
at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.) tonight
(Thursday, Dec. 18) at 8 PM. A question-and-answer session
with Harvey Pekar, his wife and daughter will follow. Tickets
are $5.50. For more information, call (413) 662-2111.
this time of year—you know, the holidays—three works of
seasonal art tend to dominate. Representing the literary
arts, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is regularly presented
in numerous permutations that range from readings of the
original text to theatrical reinterpretations. In dance,
there’s Tchaikovsky’s ubiquitous ballet The Nutcracker.
And in classical music, there’s Handel’s monumental Messiah.
Not to knock any of these beloved works—they’re beloved
for a reason—but it’s nice when something equally important
but less frequently performed takes center stage. That will
be the case this weekend when the Musicians of Ma’alwyck
present J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
Based on the accounts found in the gospels of St. Luke and
St. Matthew, the Christmas Oratorio consists of six
cantatas celebrating the birth and first days of the Christ
child. Bach weaves arias, ensembles and choruses together
to create a rich musical setting for the Christmas story.
And, as per the traditional German Lutheran custom, the
audience will be invited to participate in singing the chorales.
For these performances, the Musicians of Ma’alwyck will
be joined by guest singers from the Paris and Glimmerglass
opera companies, and world-renowned musicians from Boston’s
Handel and Haydn Society, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
and the early-music ensemble REBEL.
The Musicians of Ma’alwyck will perform tomorrow (Friday,
Dec. 19) at 8 PM at the First Reformed Church of Scotia
(Ballston Avenue, Scotia). Tickets are $18, $12 seniors
and $6 students. They will also perform on Saturday (Dec.
20) at 4 PM at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Amsterdam
(Guy Park Avenue, Amsterdam). Tickets for the Saturday concert,
which is a benefit for breast cancer research at St. Mary’s
Hospital in Amsterdam, are $20. For more information, call
temptingly easy to refer to an artist as groundbreaking
and innovative, and to hype an upcoming performance by said
artist as a rare opportunity not to be missed. This time,
in the case of Dewey Redman and his two shows scheduled
for tomorrow (Friday) at the Van Dyck, believe the hype.
The Guggenheim-fellowship-winning Redman (father of celebrated
fellow saxman Joshua) first came to world acclaim in his
seven-year stint with Ornette Coleman in the late ’60s and
early ’70s; previously and subsequently, he has fronted
his own bands. He has also collaborated with such luminaries
as Cecil Taylor, Elvin Jones and Charlie Haden. Down
Beat magazine has described Redman as “our greatest
living tenor saxophonist by several standards: endurance,
inspiration, burly tone.”
The Dewey Redman Quartet will perform two sets tomorrow
(Friday, Dec. 19) at 7 and 9:30 PM at the Van Dyck (237
Union St., Schenectady). Tickets are $15. For reservations
and information, call 381-1111.