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Fresh at FLEFF

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 11:40PM   |  2 comments
Cynthia Henderson, actress for performance of Josephine Baker project, Siren of the Tropics

Signature Events

FLEFF boasts some signature events.  Well, maybe not for everyone, but they are the ones that are original commissions. And ones that make us feel priveleged to be programmers.

And one of the biggest treats of FLEFF  is writing, producing, inventing spoken word, live music and silent film.  And collaborating with long-time FLEFFistas.

NOT TO BE MISSED:  Siren of the Tropics (France, 1927), starring the dazzling, incredible, black superstar Josephine Baker.  With live music by Fe Nunn and Friends and performance by Cynthia Henderson. If this year is like past FLEFF's, our original commissions of live music for silent film almost always sell-out.

So our advice is simple: get to Cinemapolis early, at least 30 minutes before the screening, get in line, grab some food, and talk cinema to whoever you end up next to.

Enter Cynthia Henderson and Fe Nunn

This year, we're excited to be collaborating again with long-time FLEFFistas Cynthia Henderson and Fe Nunn. Cynthia is an equity actress on the Ithaca College Theater Arts faculty. She has a long resume of experience in television, film, Broadway, off -Broadway, Europe, Africa. 

Fe Nunn is a jazz pianist with a quartet he's played with for decades called Fe Nunn and Friends.  Fe is the longest-running FLEFF silent film/live music collaborator--we started working with him in 2004 on a project exploring African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux's  WITHIN OUR GATES.

Cynthia and Fe are some of the best people to work with: they relish the give and take of collaboration, they love to be in a group and brainjam ideas, and they are NOT afraid to tell Annie, Phil, Tom and I when one of our ideas is, well, less than brilliant.  We always look forward to rehearsals with them, because we never know where we are going to end up. But we always know it will be somewhere much, much better than we had thought while pounding out emails and writing scripts and thinking abstractly about what music goes with what.

Meet Josephine Baker

This year, we're all collaborating yet again on a very very special project: live music and spoken word/performance for Siren of the Tropics (France, 1927) the first film starring an African American woman.

And that woman was Josephine Baker (she appeared in a previous posting by Tom Shevory, who was lucky enough to speak with her direct from Paris:)  )

Josephine Baker was Madonna before Madonna, Beyonce before Beyonce, and one of the most important singers and dancers of the 20th century. But as an African American, she faced racism and hardship. She moved to France. And it was there she became the first black superstar during the age of Paris Noir, in the 1920s.

Here's a sneak preview of part of the spoken word script for Cynthia Henderson, just to give you a taste. But it's NOTHING, trust me, it's NOTHING, without Cynthia's acting moxy and brilliance and Fe Nunn's jazz riffs. You just HAVE to come to the performance--ONE TIME ONLY, Sat, April 16, 7 p.m., Cinemapolis:

Read the Sneak Peak of the Prologue we wrote for the performance ( Patricia Zimmermann and Cynthia Henderson)

So, here’s the deal.
Here we are at the CHECKPOINT.
You and Me.

You and Me and Josephine. 
At the checkpoint. 

So I do indeed know you. Oh yeah, I know you. I know what you’re thinking.

You’re asking, what’s a checkpoint?

Josephine will tell you.

Checkpoints: crossing over to a different place.
A place you didn’t know.
A place not on one side or the other
but on the checkpoint where it is both and neither.

A checkpoint is a check-in-- and check-out.

Josephine knows. Josephine is a CHECKPOINT.

She was one of the highest paid entertainers in theatrical history.
She was nude. She was clothed.
She was the other and she was the center.
She was fetish and she was fact.

She was a checkpoint.

At Josephine’s funeral, a fan shouted “elle est morte. Elle est immortelle.” 
She is dead. She is Immortal.
Elle est morte. Elle est immortale. She is dead. She is immortal. 

Covering her funeral in 1975, attended by 7,000, Nice Matin reporter Arlette Sayac observed:
“Josephine didn’t have the petty faults they know about,
the stinginess, the rudeness and sniping.
Her faults were on a grand scale—megalomania, unbridled egotism and wild squandering—faults that are beyond the imagination of le petit bourgeois.

So they only say the good things about Josephine. To them, she was a goddess.”

Check, checkup, checkmate, checkpoint, checked, spot check, checkered, checking, boiling point, border point, match point, point, pointer, pointing, flashpoints—principles of operation and crossings to somewhere else.

Josephine Baker was a checkpoint. 

She checked in. She checked out. She crossed over. Checkmate.

Josephine broke all the rules.

Checkpoint. I said, CHECKPOINT. Josephine Baker says CHECKPOINT. Josephine says, cross over to another place that is never one place.

Picasso said, YES, PICASSO SAID “Josephine Baker is the Nefertiti of now.”


2 Comments

The FLEFF interns got a sneak peak this week at Cynthia Henderson and Fe Nunn's performance and it was absolutely amazing! Beautiful and thought provoking, Professor Henderson's acting is incredible. The cycle of energy that they describe as revolving between themselves and the audience, it is honestly overwhelming to consider what goes into a performance like this one. It is not to be missed!

Karlita, you really captured the magic of the moment of that rehearsal last night where Cynthia and Fe started riffing on each other and conjuring up our dear Josephine. As Cynthia said, JOSEPHINE IS HERE. And that was just a rehearsal...just wait for the performance...dazzling and breathtaking....see you there? Great comment!



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