When Suzanne Vega arrived on the scene in the mid-’80s,
it was immediately obvious that she was different. Yes,
Vega had a guitar, and yes, sang “folk music,” but she dressed
in black and had a real pop sensibility. Her cool delivery
often belied the deeply emotional content of her songs.
In the intervening years, she proved her durability with
a series of albums that saw her songs bent and stretched
into a variety of styles, but never overpowered by the arrangements.
Oh, and she’s terrific in concert. Her last more-or-less
local appearance, at MASS MoCA, was one of the best shows
of the last few years.
Vega will perform Monday at what will be a bittersweet occasion:
the last Second Wind Productions summer concert in Washington
Park. After a decade-plus of bringing a dazzling variety
of artists to the Lakehouse stage, Mona Golub is calling
it quits. (Though she will still book shows for Schenectady’s
Central Park, lucky them.) So, a tip of the hat to Mona
for making summer fun all these years.
Suzanne Vega will perform Monday (Aug. 16) at 7:30 PM at
the Washington Park Lakehouse (Albany). Melissa Ferrick
will open. Admission is free. For more information, call
terms of raw star-making audacity, Simon Cowell is a two-bit
amateur. After all, Cowell works with people possessing
obviously marketable talents to begin with. The whole process
is designed to weed out the risk. Where’s the fun, the challenge
in that? Now, let’s talk about the 25-inch-tall man and
his 32-inch-tall wife; let’s talk about an elephant so large
the national agency charged with its care is fearful for
the public; let’s talk conjoined twins, shall we? Let’s
talk P.T. Barnum.
Phineas Taylor Barnum, the 19th-century entertainment entrepreneur,
is still widely regarded as one of the great promoters of
all time. His skills at public relations, his ability to
work both a crowd and the press, and his tireless energy
in making a buck off a spectacle has earned him a rep that
is amazingly persistent, if not always spot-on accurate
historically (Barnum, for example, did not say, “There’s
a sucker born every minute.” That avaricious sentiment was
in fact uttered by a competitor of Barnum’s); but the great
success attained by Barnum in the marketing of such attractions
as the diminuitive Tom Thumb and his wife, and Jumbo the
Elephant, and the original “Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng,
and his creation with James Bailey of the circus known as
the Greatest Show on Earth, means that Barnum is far more
than a historical footnote. In some ways, for better or
for worse, Barnum helped establish the template for modern
advertising. But, don’t worry your pretty little head about
all that history; the good news is that Barnum’s life has
inspired more than just Madison Avenue hucksters: Tonight
(Thursday), Mac-Haydn Theatre begins its run of the award-
winning musical based loosely on the life of the superlative
Barnum begins tonight (Thursday, Aug. 12), at Mac-Haydn
Theatre (1925 Route 203, Chatham). Tickets for the performances
are $21.90-$22.90 evenings, $20.90 matinees. For showtimes
or more information, call 392-9292.
are many paths to becoming a successful filmmaker: For example,
there’s video-store geek, film-school nerd or MTV wunderkind.
O’Brien, who made a splash with the 1996 comedy Man With
a Plan, will tear himself away from his lambs long enough
to bring his latest made-in-Vermont picture, Nosey Parker,
to the Spectrum 8 Theatres tomorrow (Friday) for a special
weeklong engagement. Man With a Plan starred garrulous
octogenarian farmer Fred Tuttle; in a bit of brilliant publicity
for the film, Tuttle ran against (and lost to) U.S. Senator
Patrick Leahy, thereby gaining his Warholian 15 minutes
of fame. Tuttle has a cameo in this film, but Nosey
stars another of O’Brien’s neighbors, retired dairy farmer
George Lyford. On screen, Lyford is just as vivid a personality
as Tuttle, but he expresses himself in a charmingly dry,
laid-back, Will Rogers style.
In Nosey Parker, 80-something George (Lyford, pictured
right) goes to work as handyman for 30-something Natalie
(Natalie Picoe, pictured left) and her 50-something psychiatrist
husband. Natalie and hubby deserted suburban Connecticut
for bucolic, tiny Tunbridge, Vt., building a grotesque “trophy
house” that Natalie soon finds lonely and depressing. With
her spouse busy head-shrinking, Natalie pals around with
George: she enjoys his corny, funny jokes, and finds a friend
who makes her feel at home. And they have something in common:
They’re both “Nosey Parkers,” or busybodies.
Reached by telephone, O’Brien explains that “both on and
off camera, they were really—they enjoyed each other a lot,
so they didn’t have to fake any of that friendship. They
definitely became real friends, what you see there was authentic.”
Paired with this gentle comedy is sharper-edged culture-clash
humor, as expressed by genuine, non-actor, native Vermonters
aghast at the spendthrift ways of the newcomers, and short-term
residents who view shorter-term residents like Natalie with
smug yuppie disdain. The amateurs have a zest that actors
couldn’t capture. And this dialogue is guaranteed true-to-life:
“All those things [they say] I’d heard from various neighbors,”
The satisfying part, notes O’Brien, is that “both sides
actually like the film, too.” He explains: “I’ve had old-time
Vermonters come up and say that ‘George reminds me of my
father,’ and new Vermonters say ‘I had a guy like George
in my life, just like Natalie did.’ ”
The spectacular fall foliage is captured in all its radiance
on film—no digital video here.
(16mm) blow-up is really beautiful on screen,” says O’Brien.
Though, he notes, that while most of the film’s story scenes
were shot in 1997, he had to wait out a “couple of dull
falls” to get all the scenic beauty.
O’Brien’s next project, scheduled to begin shooting in a
month, is “a comedy about sustainability—green issues.”
A group of high school students try to turn one small Vermont
town into a completely sustainable community. They “fail
miserably,” O’Brien laughs. “That’s where the comedy is.”
There’s one final question that can’t be avoided: Does all
this movie business interfere with the farming?
does, yeah,” O’Brien chuckles.
coyotes have been killing my lambs right and left this summer.
It doesn’t really seem to matter whether I’m there or whether
I’m away, though,” he sighs.
Parker will be shown daily at the Spectrum 8 Theatres
(290 Delaware Ave., Albany) beginning tomorrow (Friday,
Aug. 13) through Thursday (Aug. 19). Director John O’Brien
will be at the 6:40 and 9:30 PM shows on Friday for an audience
Q&A. For more information, call 449-8995.