Infringment, day 6: Mark Twain, nudity and a 'Midnight Death Interview'
Local video and performance artist Kendall rehearses for his piece in the Infringement Festival in July. Photo by Charlie Lewis / The Buffalo News.
Today, in what was by far the oddest moment of the Infringement Fest for me so far, I watched a man dressed as Mark Twain arriving for his performance at Squeaky Wheel. He was right on time, but Kendall, the local performance artist, was still in the midst of a theatrical performance piece featuring thumping music, a pulsing video projection and, not least of all, a bit of G-rated nudity.
A visibly disgruntled Twain, beer and cigar in hand, looked on from the side of the performance space and -- fully in character -- ambled off in a kind of ornery huff to wait his turn in the Squeaky Wheel lobby. This was a bit of extra, unplanned theater that epitomized the sense of the unexpected the Infringement Fest boasts: the possibility that a Mark Twain impersonator might bump into a naked performance artist at any moment whatsoever.
Kendall's piece, which I wrote about briefly here, was called "Elevator Machine Room." Though his description had given me high hopes, I have to say I came away form the piece more confused about Kendall's intent than moved, enlightened, or even intrigued. That being said, this piece ranks as the first in a series of four (called "Quadrant"), so it may be that he'll gain his artistic footing in this medium as he goes along. Kendall also announced he'd been awarded a residency at Squeaky Wheel, an honor that bodes well for this developing video artist.
As for Mark Twain, better known in local theatrical circles as Franklin LaVoie, he presented a spot-on pastiche of Twain's writing. It was stunning how well LaVoie mimicked the cutting satire and compassionate tone of Twain's writing, and how inventive a yarn he wove. The story, called "Incident at Deer Lick" and set in the Missouri of Twain's time, was a sort of fable about a man about to be hung for a crime he didn't commit. It's essential listening for the Infringer inclined to the literary arts, and it was the acme of foolishness for me not to record any of it. But don't fret, because LaVoie performs the piece again Wednesday at 8 p.m. at 96 Niagara Falls Blvd., Saturday at 5 p.m. in Rust Belt Books and at the Infringement-ending party on the rooftop of the Broadway Market on Sunday, at 1:30 p.m.
I also caught a performance of Jeffrey Coyle's short one-act comedy, the rather laboriously titled "Midnight Death Interview with Danger: The Adventures of Copper Peterson, Private Dick." It featured the talents of Steve Coppes, Michael Renna and others, and was essentially a send-up of the send-up of the Chandler-esque detective figure. Think Philip Marlowe filtered through the sensibility of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and you have a pretty close idea. It was fun, if not exactly original in its spoof-of-a-spoofiness. Copps, as usual, delivered a charming and funny performance as the play's bumbling hero.
Here's Coyle on the inspiration for the play, and how his process was helped along by the built-in audiences and artistic freedom Infringement provides:
To end my Infringement activities for the day, I tried to catch "Pyromancy," a performance of fire dancers that has become an Infringement fave in recent years. But they had wrapped up by the time I arrived (though they were listed as performing for a full half hour longer.) But no matter, as they'll be performing Wednesday and Sunday as well. Look for video of the fire dancers in this space tomorrow. Happy Infringing to all, and to all a good night.