From poets to punk bands: Variety is spice of ‘Live Art Magazine’ at Academy of Music in Northampton | ACADEMY OF MUSIC

By STEVE PFARRERStaff Writer

Thursday, October 24, 2013
(Published in print: Thursday, October 31, 2013)
  • In the past, it might have been called a variety show, and the idea behind it is roughly the same: Bring together a number of performers on stage, from comedians to musicians to jugglers, for a night of live performance and entertainment.

But the organizers of a new show that debuts Friday night at Northampton’s Academy of Music have updated the variety show for the 21st century.

“Live Art Magazine” is a stage show that brings together artists of all stripes — poets and writers, musicians, photographers, dancers — for an evening that’s designed not just to entertain but ideally to stimulate cross-disciplinary ideas among the presenters and the audience alike. And the lineup spans many ages as well, from venerable Pelham poet James Tate to the 20-something Northampton punk band Potty Mouth.

The idea, says principal organizer Amanda Herman, is to have the evening unfold like the structure of a magazine, with a general introduction, followed by short literary readings and then longer features, from music to dance to film and theater. And — perhaps most importantly — all the artists will present new work.

“We want artists to take some risks, to give them the opportunity to try something they haven’t done before,” said Herman, a Florence photographer and educator who’s the principal organizer and “editor” of the Nov. 1 event, which features some 15 performers or groups and lasts about 90 minutes. Most though not all of the artists are from the Valley.

“The idea is to present some new art in a live format, something’s that’s really designed for the moment — put creative people together in this sort of rolling narrative and see what happens,” Herman added.

Because all the work is new or in progress, no filming or photography is allowed. However, a team of illustrators, headed by Julia Handschuh of Northampton — she’s also one of the performers — will make a series of drawings of the events, which will be compiled for a zine, online and in print.

Shorter presentations last three minutes; “features” are eight minutes long, and time limits will be strictly observed, Herman says. There’s a bit of mystery to the event, she added: She has a basic sense of what each performer will do, but the finished presentations “are something I’ll be seeing for the first time along with everyone else.”

Live Art Magazine features a truly eclectic group of performers/presenters that you wouldn’t expect — ever — to see together, from academics, to a composer of ambient music, to a klezmer clarinetist, Ilene Stahl, who will perform with Rebel Base, a “sci-fi” heavy metal band from Greenfield.

Tate, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1992, will read two new poems. He’ll be followed by, among others, Wendy Woodson, an Amherst College professor of dance and theater who is also a choreographer and video artist. Matthew Glassman, the executive director of Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, will perform a monologue, while the punk-groove band Bella’s Bartok of Northampton will debut a song, which will also have a “theatrical element,” said Herman.

Tate, 69, who’s taught English and poetry for years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says he’s intrigued to be part of the lineup for Live Art Magazine. “It’s a new venue and an interesting event,” he said.

Herman says she’s especially interested in some of the collaborations that will be part of the show. Northampton writer and journalist Nell Lake, for instance, will do a reading alongside a classical pianist. “That’s something she’s never done before,” Herman said, “and I’m glad she chose to do it with us.”