Sunday, April 17, 2011
"We Are Different Here In The Present" - Stephanie Barber & Megan McShea at The Benevolent Armchair
It was a glorious sunny, breezy Spring day after a Saturday of Biblical proportion flooding and howling winds. I had been to the Benevolent Armchair readings, hosted by Chris Toll in Baltimore and Barbara DeCesare in Pennsylvana, many times when it was called The Upward Spiral and was held at the El Rancho Grande coffeehouse on Falls Road, but I hadn't made it to their spot at the Bromo Seltzer Building. Mostly because Sunday afternoons are my time to haunt the dog parks with Max. And today being so beautiful it was tough to cut our jaunt short, but it was well worth it for the refreshing word craft provided by Megan McShea and Stephanie Barber and for perusing the various "dirt soaps" down in the first floor gift shop. Love the smell of dirt and the ironic thought of cleaning with it, but if I am paying a whole $15 for something to feverishly rub against my unclean body it must be something over the age of 18 and wearing either a nun's habit or a sailor's cap. Sadly, I crept in a little late, having to stop for a cold caffeine fix on the way and being overwhelmed by the old grandeur of the Bromo Seltzer building and the refurbished Hippodrome. I missed the open mic portion of the reading and the very beginning of Megan's reading, but luckily she did one of the longest most generous readings I've seen her do. Usually she pulls a Kool Keith and whips through one or two of her evocative micro-tales and then beats it to her trailer to feast on all the riders in her contract. There was a funny moment when she was flipping through pages, obviously reading a portion to herself and deciding to edit it from the afternoon, when an audience member encouraged her: "Why don't you read them out loud."
(Above is audience member and publishing mogul Adam Robinson sporting a handsome Normal's Books & Records 20th Anniversary t-shirt). Megan's reading was followed by a brief question and answer period and then Stephanie Barber joined Megan for a reading of some great collaborations they had done. Hopefully at the bottom of this post is a working video of this portion of the reading. (It has now been about an hour and the video hasn't loaded so I'll try a separate post for it tomorrow).
Stephanie read about twenty short pieces which were all descriptions of photographs. This was a great concept that Stephanie really brought a lot of life to - the evocative, mysterious nature of life being frozen for that split second. During her Q&A, Adam asked if the photographs were real (I like a chucklehead laughed at first, thinking he'd jokingly asked if the poems were real). "Some of them," Stephanie answered. The oldest piece had been written four years ago, the most recent was written yesterday when she was compiling what she was going to read for today and she received a photograph of her nephew.
Below is host Chris Toll engaged with the sweet Lynchian retro microphone. Co-host Barbara DeCesare was occupied peering in the window of a wedding reception in Red Lion, PA that the Elvis impersonator she is stalking was performing at. The day was somewhat bittersweet because now that I'd finally caught a reading at the nice new space it turned out to be the last one of the season until September or October.