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The Cerebral Variety Circus 2011

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 3rd, The Straddler and several of its contributors gathered at IRT Theater in Manhattan to put on a show. Our first-ever Cerebral Variety Circus (“Yes, it’s cerebral, but it’s also a circus—) went off in true Straddler style, with performances, readings, comedy, and art by current and past contributors representing a wide range of voices and performance styles.

Cofounders Dan Monaco and Elizabeth Murphy introduced the afternoon’s performances.  Ms. Murphy read an excerpt from Olga Nikolova’s experimental essay, “Entries,” whose query, “Where can one find more sketches?” seemed a natural starting point for a showcase of works—both in progress and complete—by Straddler talents.

Poet Nate Gunsch gave a lively and moving reading of poems using themes from his service as an officer in the U.S. Navy.  Classical saxophonist Philipp Stäudlin played Eric Chasalow’s recently premiered piece “Are You Radioactive, Pal?”, based on poem “51” from John Berryman’s Dream Songs. Playwright, fiction writer, and actor Todd Pate gave the poem a fitting reading to lead us off.

We were also joined by Boston-area writers, poet Jessica Murray and fiction writer Peter Brown, each of whom brought along their most recent work: in Ms. Murray’s case, compelling and at times humorous poems about her life and work in New England; Mr. Brown read striking translations by two quite different minds—the French poet Louis Aragon, and the Spanish poet Claudio Rodríguez.

Under the direction of Mr. Monaco, whose 2008 essay “Send up da Clowns” provided an interpretive framework, Carol Thomas, as the blind prophet Tiresius, rendered a breathtaking performance of an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”

Throughout the afternoon, classical cellist Fabrizio Mazzetta punctuated readings and performances with musical grace and style, performing solo pieces for cello.  A true Straddler, Mr. Mazzetta also accompanied a surprise performance by comedian Kenji America and his sidekick, Japanese street artist Nozomi Ninja of the Tokyo Circus.

All the while, projections of visual art by Straddler artists Eleanor Stride, Sam Duket, Mark Ostow, and Megan Reed scrolled continuously across the far wall of the large, black-box theater.

A poem by the late poet Rane Arroyo, read by Ms. Murphy, brought the afternoon to a close.

What The Straddler’s editors had envisioned—an event that would showcase the spirit and breadth of the magazine, but in a live format, on a stage, with an emphasis on performance—exceeded expectations thanks to the talent and dedication of the performers and the engagement and generosity of the audience.

Thank you many times over to all who joined us.  We had a wonderful time.  We’ll see you next year.

Carol Thomas as Tiresius performing a selection from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” 2011

Nate Gunsch performing original work, 2011

Fabrizio Mazzetta and Kenji America peforming “Pennies from Heaven,” 2011

Jessica Murray performing original work, 2011

Philipp Stäudlin performing Eric Chasalow’s “Are You Radioactive, Pal?”, 2011

Peter Brown performing original translations of Louis Aragon and Claudio Rodríguez.

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