Thursday, May 24, 2007

The medium is the message

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Thu, May 24, 2007 at 9:21 AM

Now this is interesting.

Yesterday the Lowbrow received the below image as an e-mail attachment from an anonymous artist. Remember my post yesterday about the City’s strange snipe fixation? Consider that earlier this week the Mayor’s office and local busybodies Keep Charleston Beautiful announced a new crackdown on graffiti. “Graffiti is not a question of creativity but a definite form of vandalism,” Hizonner remarked.

Somebody out there clearly begs to differ. It's not clear whether this is meant to be a poster (i.e. a “snipe”) or a spray-painted stencil. But either way, the message is the same. It might not be as subtle a tactic as street phenomenology. But as a creative statement, it’s pretty darn phenomenal. Somebody get Banksy on the phone, quick.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to assure a strip-search at the airport for the rest of your life

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Tue, May 22, 2007 at 8:23 PM

Last November, a group of — let’s call them “dissatisfied” — local actor-Americans made something of a stink when they produced an underground play called I’m Gonna Kill the President: A Federal Offense. The comedic political satire was written back in 2003 by a New York playwright who goes by the pseudonym Heironymous Bang and had originally been produced there during the Republican National Convention. It made a stink there, too, and although it didn’t do much to change the outcome of that election, droves of theatregoers hereabouts were more optimistic last November.

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With good reason, it turns out. Still flush with what they consider a personal victory seven months ago, the nameless producers are having another go of it during Spoleto, this time apparently just for shits and giggles, with no election hanging in the balance. The conceit of the play, of course, is that threatening the life of POTUS is in fact a federal offense, punishable by all manner of government-sanctioned, habeas corpus-less nastiness, and previous producers of the play are doubtless on scores of Master Government Shit Lists. The criminal hitch, obviously, is that you gotta mean it. Which this gang most emphatically, for the record, does not.

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“The Presidential Play,” as local producers obliquely refer to it, isn’t really a sendup of the current president, his administration, or even Republicans so much as it’s just a wildly funny, madcap escapade that follows a pair of incompetent anarchists across a landscape of government corruption, corporate hegemony, mass-market consumerism, the status quo, and a mainstream media in complete thrall to the almighty dollar. (On second thought, maybe it does have something against Republicans.)

Once again, flyers distributed around town announcing the play don’t provide a performance location, just a phone number. At last Saturday’s Cabaret Kiki gig, I recognized one of The Presidential Play’s original, and returning, actors — tipsy and talkative, as luck would have it — and buttonholed her for a quick chat. Take a listen:

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Stephen Colbert and Spoleto!

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Fri, May 18, 2007 at 2:24 PM

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BREAKING NEWS on next week’s Opening Ceremony, which goes down exactly one week from today. Last year, Spoleto organizers had hoped to lure Charleston native and international television supercelebrity Stephen Colbert back home for the festival kickoff, but it wasn’t in the cards. Finally, after a full year of wheeling and dealing, pulling strings, veiled threats, outright bribes, and a FedExed audio recording of all the Spoleto board members clapping their hands if they believed…Stephen Colbert is still not coming.

Sorry. You’ll have to settle for some palaver from Spoleto, Italy mayor Massimo Brunini and a teaser performance from Rubberbandance Group. What? You didn’t really think Stephen Colbert was coming, did you?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Josh Rosenblum beats around the Bush

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Thu, May 17, 2007 at 2:13 PM

We giggled ourselves into fits last year watching The Post and Courier pretend not to know anything about their new Spoleto critic Joshua Rosenblum’s creds as a card-carrying, Bush-bashing, blue-state Liberal. Rosenblum, you may recall (or not, if all you read was the P&C), was the writer and lyricist behind the NYC production Bush Is Bad: The Musical, a hilariously satirical savaging of The Decider and his administration cronies that was playing to sold-out audiences every week during Spoleto ’06. But while the paper trumpeted Rosenblum’s other writing and composing experience — most of which was in the distant past — they studiously avoided mentioning anything about his current critical success.

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At the end of last year’s festival, I got Rosenblum into the recording studio for my final podcast, and he happily opened up about the show (listen to that podcast at the bottom of this post). Later in the year, in October, Rosenblum mounted an updated production in New York entitled Bush Is Bad: Impeachment Edition. The same week that it opening there, local Democrats arranged to have the composer bring the show to Charleston Music Hall as a fundraising benefit for local Dems. The P&C finally, grudgingly, belatedly wrote a brief piece on the local event, in which reporter Brian Hicks allowed — literally in a parenthetical aside — that Rosenblum had been the paper’s Spoleto critic the previous spring. It was a little like watching the school principal trip and fall on his face, then stand up and try to pretend it hadn’t happened.

Rosenblum recently wrote me with the happy news that he’ll be returning to Charleston and the P&C next week as overview critic — and also with word that he's about to open yet another new incarnation of the hit show in New York, Bush Is Bad: Lame Duck Edition. In the meantime,last month Impeachment Edition opened in Los Angeles, and the initial box office numbers were so good they’ve extended the run for an additional two months. Congrats, Josh — I look forward to mentioning it in the coming weeks. Regularly and often.

Last year’s podcast with Josh Rosenblum: Audio file

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Wanted: Big Brother buffoonery

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Tue, May 8, 2007 at 4:01 PM

One of my favorite things about Charleston has always been the willingness of its artists to take subversive swipes at the establishment. Taggers, street artists, guerrilla designers, practical jokers, whatever you want to call them, they make things interesting. This, after all, is the city where Shephard Fairey, of OBEY fame, grew up and cut his satirical teeth. But with the 2007 festival just two and a half weeks away, I’ve yet to see or hear of a single underground, unofficial, unauthorized, or unsanctioned work of any kind that could present a needed commentary on the Oh So Very Establishment Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto festivals. (Actually, I have heard of one.)

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I’m not giving up, though. Last year, not long after Spoleto revealed the festival’s official poster image — a merch-friendly watercolor of a heart — local printmaker and graphic artist Johnny Pundt revealed his own Spoleto poster parody. (Note the tagline at the bottom: “I’m Lovin’ It.” If that sounds like a comment on the hegemony of corporate-owned and sanctioned art — can anyone say “the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Spoleto Festival Orchestra”? — congratulations, you get a gold star.) The posters were plastered onto windows across the peninsula for all of 24 hours (in flagrant violation of the City’s draconian anti-sniping regulations) before Spoleto’s merch machine caught wind of the parody and swept the city clean of them. As I noted then, I bet that predictable response was as much a part of Pundt’s meta-commentary as the poster itself.

Won’t somebody step up and do something wrong? Don’t make me beg.

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