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John Sayles Retrospective & Homecoming

It’s such a good idea, it’s surprising that it hasn’t happened before. Internationally renowned indie-filmmaking legend John Sayles is being feted in his hometown—which, in case you didn’t know, is our own shining Electric City, Schenectady.

Beginning today (Thursday, Sept. 9) Proctor’s is hosting a retrospective of Sayles’ films, including The Brother From Another Planet, Lone Star, The Secret of Roan Inish and The Return of the Secaucus Seven. This all leads up to Sept. 18, which will see the “John Sayles Homecoming” and the premiere of the writer-director-editor’s new film, Silver City, on the big Proctor’s screen.

As part of the festivities, Sayles will do meet-and-greets with the public, take part in a panel discussion on politics and the arts mediated by critic Dan DiNicola, receive the key to the city (or something like that) from mayor Brian Stratton and, with his producer-partner Maggie Renzi, be celebrated at a post-Silver City debut celebration.

Whew.

Reached by phone, Sayles chuckles and says, “I know they’ve got almost a full day planned.”

The cause is just, however: the renovation of Proctor’s Theatre, and the establishment of scholarships to benefit students studying film. “I’ve seen it work in some other places,” Sayles says, “and be a great addition to the community. It’s something I’m happy to support.”

Sayles, who made the incisive City of Hope about a gritty, down-on-its-luck city, is aware of and sympathetic to Schenectady’s problems: “I know it’s had some hard times, just with General Electric retreating year after year . . . and the [general] shrinking [in size], with one high school instead of two, and the population going down a little bit.”

His new film, Silver City, is a political comedy with a healthy dose of drama and satire. It’s the story of a not-too-bright scion of a Colorado family pushed into state politics by men with money, and the murder mystery that complicates his campaign for governor.

“The character that Chris Cooper plays,” Sayles explains, “is very much based on George Bush when he was first running for governor of Texas, when he really was a total political neophyte, with a very famous political father and a lot of money behind him.”

You couldn’t mistake the man Cooper plays for anyone else: The Academy Award-winning actor pulls off an uncanny recreation of W.’s swagger and speech patterns.

Sayles points out that “the arc of the character during the movie is a guy who is learning to stay on the script—he’s not very good at ad-libbing and just talking off the top of his head.” Much like W. when he started out. Like W., too, Cooper’s character is a quick study.

The film isn’t all comedy, however.

“It also gets into fairly serious stuff about what’s going on in the country,” Sayles says, “and the news media.”

Particularly, Sayles explains, the crucial issue of media ownership and censorship (see this week’s feature story, for instance). It’s about “who they belong to, and who they’re working for.
. . . It gets into the whole thing that we all have to deal with, which is what’s presented to us as truth.” Truth that later proves to be a lie, he says, adding, “and why that information was not presented to us in the mainstream media.”

The John Sayles retrospective begins today (Thursday, Sept. 9) with 5 and 7:30 PM screenings of The Brother From Another Planet, and continues through Sept. 17 at Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). The John Sayles Homecoming and Silver City premiere will be on Sept. 18. For the full schedule of events, ticket prices and times, visit the Proctor’s Web site at www.proctors.org or call 346-6204.

—Shawn Stone

Roy Kuhlman and the Grove Press Covers

It was one of those happy accidents that might, reasonably, be mistaken for fate. In 1951, avant-garde artist Roy Kuhlman interviewed for a job with Grove Press’ new owner Barney Rosset. The interview did not go well, but, as Kuhlman was leaving, some of his more “abstract” works fell out of his portfolio and . . . Rosset loved them. (“This is what I want!”)

Kuhlman designed covers for Grove for the next 20 years: from Samuel Beckett to Eugene Ionesco, from Herman Melville to Jean Genet, Kuhlman brought a modernist sensibility to his work that usually complemented the content within. A selection of this work will be on display beginning today (Thursday) at the Opalka Gallery. Curated by Barbara Rietschel, Roy Kuhlman and the Grove Press Covers highlights some of the artist’s most distinguished, and innovative, work.

Roy Kuhlman and the Grove Press Covers opens today (Thursday, Sept. 9) at the Opalka Gallery on the Sage College campus (140 New Scotland Ave., Albany) and continues through Dec. 10. There will be a speaker panel and reception on Sunday, Oct. 24 from 1-3 PM. For more information, call 292-7742 or visit www.sage.edu/SCA/opalka.

The Fly-Bottle

In 2007, the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute will open a new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center—but the folks at RPI are far too excited to wait until then to begin celebrating. So, they’ve chosen to collaborate with producer Bruce Bouchard and the Lenox, Mass.-based Shakespeare & Company to commemorate another more immediate RPI initiative: Beginning Saturday, at the behest of EMPAC, Shakespeare & Company will perform David Egan’s play The Fly-Bottle to honor the opening of the new Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Building at RPI.

The play re-creates a famous argument that took place at a meeting of the Moral Science Club at England’s Cambridge University in 1946: The philosopher Karl Popper had been invited to speak before the club to an audience that included the club’s chairman, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Bertrand Russell. At some point in the evening the three men engaged in a brief, private conversation, which lasted a mere 10 minutes or so before Wittgenstein stormed out in a fury. Rumors began circulating quickly about the exchange, and about the exact manner in which Wittgenstein wielded the fireplace poker during said talk—there’s a fine line between “gesturing” and “brandishing,” and who better to draw fine lines then three of the century’s most prominent philosophers?

The interaction has been debated by partisan Wittgensteinians and Popperians ever since, and it’s that very evidence of passionate attachment to inquiry that the presenters believe makes this such a perfect play for the occasion.

Shakespeare & Company and EMPAC will present The Fly-Bottle at the auditorium of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (RPI, 15th Street, Troy) beginning Saturday (Sept. 11), running through Sept. 18. Tickets for the 8 PM shows are $15, $8 students/seniors. Call 276-4135.


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