The Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

MVAAFF

The Run&Shoot Filmworks Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

The 13th Annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

The thirteenth annual Run&Shoot Filmworks Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, August tenth through fifteenth, 2015, screened and promoted some of the most outstanding and emerging feature, documentary, and short films produced by and starring African Americans from across the World!  All of this summer’s screenings and events took place again at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center, located adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School at 100 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, with the addition this Season of an inviting grand party and reception tent on the grounds outside the theater.  It seems that founders Stephanie Rance, Floyd Rance, and Karyn Parsons were even able to import the weather this year, as the atmosphere inside and out the sold-out hall glowed warm and sunny for all film fans in attendance to Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, during the often sticky dog days of middle August.  Ticket holders are greeted by friendly attendants, and helpful and informed ushers.  A great many moving pictures shown at this festival are traditionally exclusive sneak peaks and World-premiers, and this year was of course no exception.  The list of producers, actors, directors, and filmmakers includes veritable unknowns, and also features an absolutely fabulous array of A-list Hollywood celebrities, many of whom attend these screenings, engaging with the audience in a panel discussion format after the respective films – an attribute that, outside of Tinsel Town or perhaps New York or London, is something that can be said to be one of those things that ‘only happens on Martha’s Vineyard.’  Amazing, truly amazing.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Audience members are treated to an incredible selection of films spanning many genres.

The highlight of #SummersFinestFilmFestival is, in collaboration with Home Box Office, the HBO Short Film Competition and Award Ceremony, held on the last day of the festival, Saturday. ‪ Among this year’s commendable entries was a film made by Mz. Rain Pryor, who’s father is comedy icon Richard Pryor, a submission entitled, “That Daughter’s Crazy,” directed by Elzbieta Szoka, and produced by Sam Adelman and Daryl Sledge, illustrating Pryor‘s own star beyond the shadow of her legendary father, as an original, bold, and energetic voice, who defines influences of her upbringing with a deep love and respect for her dad featuring footage, photos, press clippings of Mz. Pryor’s life and career, as well as various interviews.  A social commentary, the film explores themes of diversity, relationships between parents and children and a profound perspective of one entertainer’s journey.  Winner of this year’s competition was a film entitled “My Second Life: The video diaries of Molotov Alta,” a film about a man who disappeared from his home in California, and subsequently sent video messages from social media platform, Second Life.  Douglas Gayeton, the film’s creator, explores various sub-cultures that can be found within Second Life.  Here is discovered a compelling glimpse into new media and communication in an ever-isolating culture of pretense and no privacy, and how life and virtual life can sometimes switch, revealing the truth of the individual in this rapidly changing society we all now live.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Acclaimed Director Spike Lee greets fans prior to an exclusive sneak peak of his latest film!

Access level packages are scaled differently, but everyone has access to the stars at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival!  In Oak Bluffs, acclaimed Director Spike Lee greeted filmgoers prior to an exclusive sneak peak of his latest film, “CHI-RAQ,” a stark narration of the gun violence that grips our nation, focussing specifically on the parallels in American death and violence of the war in the desert and the South side of Chicago, Illinois.  Mr. Lee points out that there are more American casualties at home in multiple cities across the Nation than on the battle fields half way across the globe.  Spike Lee continues to present popular art with strong social commentary – he is a true visionary.  This film, starring Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, and Dave Chappelle, is based loosely on the Greek play, “Lysistrata,” about one woman’s effort to end the Peloponnesian War by persuading all women to withhold copulation from their husbands and lovers until peace is negotiated, and is adapted for modern audiences as utilizing the metaphor of urban thug life, mirroring the futility of all violence, especially violence against one’s neighbor.  While the imagery of this film is bright and engaging, the message for peace is brighter.  Kudos to the director.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Comedian Damon Williams commends filmmaker Spike Lee for another amazing piece of art.

Audience members are treated to an incredible selection of films spanning many genres.  And the filmmakers are treated, too, to thoughtful questions, poignant praise, and critical questions with interactive dialogue between moviemaker and movie fan.  On the Vineyard, everyone is treated as equals.  Stars and simple folk, alike, can be seen rubbing elbows in comfort at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center.  Names from the entertainment, sports, and political Worlds vacation here, so it’s no surprise that you may find yourself next in line behind comedian Damon Williams as he commends a director for another amazing piece of art, or see yourself seated next to a National Basketball Association star like Ray Allen, who is often noted to be golfing with the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  Unlike on the mainland, famous people are politely acknowledged and mostly given their space in this laid-back environment.  But a few frenzied fans advanced forward, and the stars are gracious and relaxed here on-Island.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

NBA star, Ray Allen, his wife, actress and singer Shannon Walker Williams, and son.

Festival organizers Stephanie and Floyd Rance are agents of change.  All too often, festivals of this caliber are left to the cities.  Mr. and Mrs. Rance, who along with Karyn Parsons, known most famously for her character, Hillary Banks, from the Will Smith situation comedy television series, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” have created an annual event that is truly World-class!  Included also this year is a performance by Ronald K. Brown‘s “Evidence,” a dance company, at The Yard in Chilmark, Massachusetts.  This live action component adds a refreshing third dimension of depth to the sometimes flat feel of film.  Witnessing this movement display left a viewer feel as though all who were there now shared a reference directory of physical vocabulary for the remainder of the festival.  It is a natural fit and complement.

That physical vocabulary was used at the annual Lola‘s ‘All White Party,’ for sure.  Community is key for the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, you see.  Nearly every single person in attendance wore white, most enjoyed a house cocktail, and we all danced the night away singing along to familiar tunes.  Some of the people in attendance only see each other on Martha’s Vineyard in the summertime.  These relationships extend to create new networks back in the cities, and alumni organizations become stronger, too.  This Island is a unique place in that way.  It gives one perspective and pause to reassess one’s assessments of life.  On Island time, peering onto another time and space up on the silver screen, the viewer is receptive to ideas with a freer flow than perhaps any other time in that person’s year.  When we are on the Vineyard, we are all together.  This is where the President vacations, you know.  This is where Vernon Jordan has his birthday party.  This is where Nick Cannon chills on the beach.  We are all lucky when we are afforded time on Martha’s Vineyard Island, and we are all stars shining.  Luckier still are Mr. and Mrs. Rance, who for thirteen years have created something that is so beloved and gains more and more renowned as each new film Season approaches.

Applause!  See you next summer-

From left: Spike Lee, Teyonah Parris, Stephanie Rance, Floyd Rance, Nick Cannon, and Father Michael L. Pfleger.

From left: Spike Lee, Teyonah Parris, Stephanie Rance, Floyd Rance, Nick Cannon, and Father Michael L. Pfleger.


Written and photographed by Daniel J. Adams for MVPBS

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Opera Theater company tours “Impresario Now!”

Impresario Now!” by Nicole Aiossa, David Richmond, and Wendy Taucher.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Robert Mack is a tortured delight as “Vincenzo Birdwhistle.”

In its fourth Season in residency at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, the Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater company presents “Impresario Now!,” a fantastically entertaining focus of musical theater on tour across America scheduled for performances on Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, in Boston and New York City, and on Key West, premiering here on Martha’s Vineyard Island! Featuring a talented cast of both established thespians and fresh stage performers, this thrilling and hilarious collaboration stars the distinguished television and live stage actor, Donovan Dietz, who’s played along side such names as Al Pacino, Tony Shalhoub, and Jack Klugman, setting this smart script sailing with a soft command of the stage. Even in blue jeans, Mr. Dietz‘s performance cannot be dated in neither the 18th nor 21st centuries as his plea of and from the scene could not be more timeless or more relevant. All the World’s a stage apparently, and the reality of dealing with the ego and money involved in performance art has always been. In many ways, the life of art is a sorry second to the art of life. The exchange of interaction mixed with the solitude of life and loneliness is displayed along side one another in grand concert here in “Impresario Now!

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Powerful character performances portrayed by both Erika Person and Lisa Williamson.

Money and fame have always been gold chained together, it seems.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had been residing in Vienna for a few years when he began drafting “The Impresario.”  In private correspondence, Mozart wearily lamented of the superficiality and pretense wealth facilitates into art – that rather than supporting art, it often interfered to the detriment of the so-accepted fine art.  Patrons and politics are played purposefully in “Impresario Now!” as everyone has their own agenda, and no one is who they seem.  Powerful character performances portrayed by both Erika Person and Lisa Williamson illustrate divas in different periods of their respective careers.  As youth and experience diametrically oppose one another in a same artist simultaneously, industry worth drives personalities to the edge (of each other’s throats)!  Backstage boils over in a familiar fashion today as it did then, and always had.  What we want, who we are, and how we see ourselves is reflected in the distorted mirror of pretense.  She’s not the infatuation of a one of the producers – she’s a star!  He’s not a womanizer with money – he’s a man of the World.  Always acting, the players behind the scenes assume they’re centre stage, always striving for more glory.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

The bold and funny tenor, Blake Friedman, and the captivating soprano, Maria Alu.

The premise of Mozart‘s comic singspiel is that “Frank,” the impresario, along with a singer who assists him, auditions two actresses to be part of a new theatrical company.  Although both are hired, they then argue over who will get the prime role, and whom would be paid more.  Each performs an aria to back her claim.  An agreement is reached.  Subsequently, the tenor intervenes.  Further compromise is then agreed upon with each receiving ‘large salaries and star billing.’  The Maestro Master’s work then concludes with the quartet, “Every Artist Strives for Glory.”  The original composition lasted over three hours and is filled with anachronous language foreign to today’s audience, however, the premise is funny and Mozart‘s music is undeniably splendid.  Co-authors, Nicole Aiossa, David Richmond, and Wendy Taucher, have adapted this concept for the modern stage beautifully!  The open set presentation blurs the line even further between stage and stage door and the audience is among the artists, inciting the audience member to feel like a fly on the wall privileged to true A-list gossip.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Donovan Dietz sets the script sailing with a soft command of the stage.

Michelle Trovato‘s soprano is like a bird in flight ascending on to heaven.  An aria was made (interior reference) for the captivating soprano of Maria Alu, too!  Reprising the role of “Isolde Goldentrill,” Alu separates herself as soloist of supreme gifts, every bit living up to the innuendo of her character name.  The bold and funny, Blake Friedman, sounds out by giving somehow charming character to the slimy sort that was his role in “Impresario Now!,” with a strong, husky vocal performance that will not soon be forgotten – an outstanding tenor, indeed!

Who’s playing whom?  While titles mean everything, somehow a title can mean nothing.  Whom is the ruler?  Whom is the star?  And who’s getting paid what?  The jovial James Martin plays “Fredrico Goldentrill,” a character pulled and pushed in so many directions, the poor fellow doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going sometimes.  Mr. Martin expressed the frustration of a man in the middle well.  While seemingly in the middle, too, is Frank’s assistant, “Buddenbrooks Buff,” portrayed with an undercurrent of longing looking to burst up to the surface by a the brave baritone of Justin Ryan, who along with James Martin, blew the flaps of the grand tent on the bluff apart.  Robert Mack is a tortured delight as “Vincenzo Birdwhistle,” a principle actor who is more a pawn then a player in life.  The sweet, sad, sorrow in Mack‘s vocal tones of a person alone in a crowded room.  Dietz‘s performance of the man in control of everything and nothing at the same time is as fresh and relevant as his character doesn’t feel.  Frank doesn’t know whether to sod it all or not.  As principal of “Impresario Now!,” Dietz is reduced the frustration of near tears throughout, demonstrating exhaustion and dissatisfaction all while supposedly maintaining a simple, all-is-well, smile.  The complexity of Mr. Deitz‘s character performance is as earnest as Frank is duplicitous.  It was a true delight to witness.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

The bold baritones of both Justin Ryan and James Martin blew the flaps of the grand apart!

Brava to Director, Choreographer, and Co-Author, Wendy Taucher!  This adaptation of Maestro Mozart‘s backstage farce is as much Hollywood or Washington in the twenty-first century as it may have been Vienna in the mid-eighteenth century, or perhaps Rome in the days of the Caesars, or Egypt during their golden age.  The message is timeless, and yet this telling is distinct and thought provoking from its own inclination.  The Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater company is captivating and talented, and “Impresario Now!” should not be missed.  On tour now across the country, scheduled to appear at Art Week in Boston for September, 2015, in New York City for separate engagements, and on Key West early in the new year of 2016, this troupe ensemble’s talent is a treat rarely seen this side of Broadway.  Mozart abides this classic theme brought to the present as a refreshing, thoughtful and funny lark, peering into an industry driven by carefully cultivated imagery.  It is especially exceptional to poke the fun one is being made of and at the same time not be part of the joke, as it were.  It has been done here in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard Island.  The best talent does not exclude those same individuals from exhibiting the worst behavior, nearly driving the impresario to the brink of collapse.

However in the end, all things are as they were in the beginning – the show must go on!

Brava to Director, Choreographer, and Co-Author, Wendy Taucher!


Written and photographed by Daniel J. Adams for MVPBS.

– Service Dogs on Martha’s Vineyard

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TV.’s #TheWhiteDog

 Martha’s Vineyard via T.V.’s #TheWhiteDog

   Many residents of and visitors to Martha’s Vineyard Island are pet owners.  Some canines, as is T.V.’s #TheWhiteDog, are service animals.  The Amazing Dazey, known to the world as T.V.’s the White Dog, is a federally-registed private service companion in addition to being a media icon.  That is,  she has a nationally-recognized civil right to be naked and leash-less so long as her trainer or servicee can produce her credentials upon request.  The White Dog, as are all service companions, is allowed any public place that her human may go because her behavior is as reserved as any patron, and she is needed as medical aide.  The Amazing Dazey  commands the highest distinction of license in the land by earning it, the respect and rights due her honor, and commendation and recognition coast to coast to sandy-shored coast. 

   Special Service animals earn their license through rigorous training and nationally-standardized testing.  While many service animals are harnessed, it is out of necessity for the human, for blind or autistic persons or whatever the need.  In the Amazing Dazey’s example, she is the companion of a person with a medical condition that needs a helper who can quickly bring medical assistance in the case of an emergency and does not wear a tether, as it could prevent her from performing her primary function potentially becoming ensnarled in the scrub oak that dominates the Island.  T.V.’s #TheWhiteDog is specially trained for this purpose.  She also possess a special understanding of nearly two dozen hand signals that enable complete communication and safe control without the interference or distraction of noise.  

     

   Dazey is is the first truly Galaxy-class non-homosapien to reside on Martha’s Vineyard!

   While almost any and every pop-culture icon vacations on Martha’s Vineyard or Chappaquiddick Islands, T.V.’s #TheWhiteDog is the first non-human of an internationally famous caliber to live on-Island; as neither Lassie nor Rin Tin Tin every had a dog house here. That is, if there were a selection of canines to exemplify the best of what planet earth has to offer, she would be named one of the world’s best.  She is truly a wonder to behold – and she was a rescue!  

   Being also that her servicee lives on Martha’s Vineyard, and of course because she is so beautiful, she just naturally became the icon of Martha’s Vineyard’s only noncommercial television, for the good of the Island, and for the entertainment of Martha’s Vineyard fans the world over.  She regularly gets fan mail from now all-six inhabited continents, not to mention all six towns:

Vineyard Haven

Oak Bluffs

West Tisbury

Edgartown

Chilmark

Aquinnah

   When you see our star this summer, no handshakes or autographs, please; she is on duty and/or working for film.  She does, however, pose well for photography.

   

The Star of the Show, the Queen of the Island

The Star of the Show, the Queen of the Island

   And please stay tuned to Martha’s Vineyard Public Broadcasting Station, the Island’s #1 source for news in the arts, culture, entertainment, and education; featuring exclusive film.

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Martha’s Vineyard Potluck

The Potluck Jam at the Chilmark Community Center featured local cooking, music, and fun for all who attended this growing Martha’s Vineyard institution!

Residents and neighbors gather in Chilmark to share covers of favorite songs that stitch generations, and original songs that reflect the sensitive, harmonious attitude of Martha’s Vineyard towards their precious, little island.  Mothers and daughters, friends and lovers, and devotés of the the arts support this local symposium of culture with little more than their attendance, love, and attention.

…and on Martha’s Vineyard, it works!

Peace on Love (and music)

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Martha’s Vineyard Radio: Past, Present, and Future

In the beginning, there was no sound…

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Durring the second World War, Martha’s Vineyard was a strategic air and naval base, as it was so far east. Also being that Martha’s Vineyard is tall and alone at sea, it was deemed a good place to broadcast allied radio signals. Since then, vacationers of all sorts have flocked to this tiny, glacial deposit for respite of all sorts. One of them continues to be a respite form normal radio transmission, as the airwaves from Martha’s Vineyard Island have been alive with audible oddity and delight all the while.

A brief and colored recent history on-Island

In June 2001, Martha’s Vineyard Community Radio Inc. was formed after what would become WVVY received a cease broadcast order for their then unlicensed, pirate signal. In December 2004, WVVY received final approval from the FCC to operate the low-power FM station, servicing the Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs communities on Martha’s Vineyard with non-profit, non-commercial, volunteer-offered radio programming by locals of the Island featuring their personal favorites.
WMVY was born on May 1, 1983, with owners Bob and Linda Forrester of Edgartown; later purchased by Philip Kelly and a group from the Midwest in the early 1992, the station is currently owned by Aritaur Communications, whose president and CEO, Joe Gallagher of Newport, Rhode Island, bought the station in 1998. WMVY will attempt to stay alive as an internet station, and look to purchase a new signal outlet for broadcasting its programing.
Signs that the station was struggling were evident in May 2007 when the station announced that, faced with a sizeable increase in royalty payments, it would transform its internet business model from an advertiser-supported business to a listener and corporate underwriting-supported station similar to public radio called “Friends of mvyradio.”
Despite this, WMVY has sold its broadcast signal at 92.7 FM to Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBUR who will simulcast their Hub signal, and will no longer broadcast on the air in FM, as one might listen in their automobile.
Noted NPR producer Jay Allison initiated the idea for WCAI when he moved to the Cape and couldn’t hear his stories on the region’s airwaves. That was twenty years ago, and by 2001 WCAI was up and running under the management of Boston NPR station WGBH. Since then the station has expanded its signal presence to WNAN on Nantucket and WZAI in Brewster, establishing a public radio presence growing ever since.
The one and only Island-wide radio on Martha’s Vineyard this #MVsummer will be the NEW Vineyard Public Radio, a non-commercial FM specializing in Jazz and Martha’s Vineyard simulcasts of such things as Sharks baseball games, fishing and beach reports, and Vineyard Events, coming on-air at 88.7 FM this spring! Stay Tuned, Martha’s Vineyard-
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portions of this post credit Steve Merick, the MV times