Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chili Salon 8: Longing and Dislocation

February's Chili Salon, hosted by Alison Ostergaard, Director of Jackson Repertory Theater, welcomed to the stage four local artists, whose diverse repertoire took inspiration from the street noises of New York and the comfort of the place(s) they called home: Sacramento, Ecuador, Corona, Jackson Heights. The evening was also inspired by the places we leave. The places our body leaves and how our body remembers childhood.

“We are all artists, some of us are just waiting to re-emerge.”
Poet-counselor-activist and mother Tania Romero recited these words, invoking the artists within all of us. Her first piece "During the Time of Lifeless Trees" began: I call on you imagination. These visions are ancient. Recounting stories from her native Ecuador to Palestine and the Bronx, Tania's rhythmic beats wove English and Spanish, as a Call to Action and a Call to Ancestors, weaving stories of gentrification, occupation and forced displacement,

Continuing the theme of dislocation, Sunny Knable sang longingly about his move to the big apple to take advantage of the musical influences of New York.  With guitar in hand, Sunny's playful lyrics took us through us through a musical journey from Sacramento to Queens, from boyhood to man.  Starting with the original tune: "Sacramento", a blue-grassy ballad about growing up and leaving home - all those people there are still waving goodbye, a boy began his life on a plane in the sky.  This was followed up with "Killing Time" a cross between Weezer, James Taylor and Stephen Sondheim, which is based on the book "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking, and attempts to answer life's big questions - I'm a dot on a sphere spinning round a light in a vast amount of space.  Sunny ended with "A Simple Kind of Life" - a good old fashioned pop song about unrequited love, whose narrator just wants a simple answer but only gets shades of grey - All we are is what we do and what we really say, forget your little lines in life's little play.  

Next up was Alison Roh Park, who recounted rides on the 7-Train and growing up on the sometimes mean streets of Jackson Heights, dodging comments from passers-by. Blending a traditional Korean children's song with spoken word beats, Alison cast a spell of enchantment over the audience.

Alison Ostergaard accompanied by Sunny on piano presented two beautiful renditions of Ned Rorem's work. Ned is a well known art song composer and diarist currently living on the Upper West Side. "Early In The Morning" (poem by Robert Hillyer) and "Ferry Me Across The Water" from the Nantucket Songs Cycle.

There has always been dancing. Singing. Poetry. In church basements, behind closed doors, late at night when the house comes to a quiet, in front of the mirror when we see ourselves, “outside of our heads”. So we concluded the chili salon, admitting that people are gathering as they always have, continuing the human impulse to share meals, sing songs, and articulate their dreams through the arts.

Sunny Knable is an award winning composer, pianist, songwriter and educator. He received his Bachelor of Music Degree from CSU Sacramento and is currently a student at the Aaron Copland School (CUNY), where he will receive his Masters of Arts Degree in Music Composition in 2011.

Alison Roh Park is a writer and performer from Queens, New York. She is a former artist-in-residence at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia, and performed a one-woman show “A Magpie Sang on the 7-Train.” Her work has appeared in: Yellow Medicine Review; Ozone Park Literary Journal; The NuyorAsian Anthology; and the Asian Pacific American Journal. Park is currently earning an MFA at New York University and works in non-profit communications.

Tania Romero is a poet, counselor, activist, and one of the Founders of Ollin

Alison Ostergaard is the Executive Director of Jackson Repertory Theatre in Jackson Heights and an actress. Her acting credits include Sally in Terrance McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart at the Westminster Arts Center in NJ. She was seen Off-Broadway in Women Beware Women with Red Bull Theatre and in Pride & Prejudice at The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey.