Vancouver Sun

Salome packs pow­er­ful punch for ti­tle char­ac­ter

Ac­claimed poet and com­poser con­tem­po­rize a flawed clas­sic

- STU­ART DERDEYN Entertainment · Arts · Movies · Frank London · London · New York City · York City F.C. · New York · Oscar Wilde · The Greatest Showman

There is a Wilde con­nec­tion in the story of how ac­claimed poet Adeena Kara­sick and Grammy Award­win­ning com­poser Frank Lon­don met. Both New York City-based artists, the fire­brand wordsmith and the trum­peter/com­poser had is­sues with Os­car Wilde’s 1891 tragedy Salome.

Misog­y­nis­tic, anti-Semitic and loaded with ad­di­tional messy sub­texts, the play had be­come some­thing of a jug­ger­naut over the decades, with film and stage adap­ta­tions aplenty. Its ti­tle char­ac­ter — the daugh­ter of King Herod and Hero­dias — is a Bib­li­cal big­gie, whose name had of­ten be­come syn­ony­mous with “deadly fe­male cun­ning.”

Any time that be­comes your tag line, it’s prob­a­bly time for reap­praisal. The spo­ken word opera Salome: Woman of Valor aims to do just that.

“Frank heard me per­form and called me up to be the po­etry co­or­di­na­tor of the KlezKanada web­site, which he was artis­tic di­rec­tor of for five years,” said Kara­sick.

“From that, we dis­cussed col­lab­o­rat­ing and came upon the idea of work­ing on Salome be­cause we both re­ally felt that she had been hard done by his­tory as a pow­er­ful Jewish pres­ence. I wrote the text, he would go cre­ate mu­sic for that poem/piece and it grew into this beau­ti­ful, in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate, twisted dark love story that re-in­serts Salome into his­tory as some­thing other than a vic­tim.”

Salome: Woman of Valor serves up the story of the lead char­ac­ter on a dif­fer­ent plat­ter than the ver­sion most have come to know. Which, as Lon­don and Kara­sick both note, is ac­tu­ally the Wilde and not the Bib­li­cal ver­sion.

There are some pretty mas­sive dif­fer­ences and the duo de­cided it was time for a cre­ative, ex­pan­sive re­vi­sion.

Here is a tale with its share of var­i­ous in­tense trans­gres­sions, but with un­der­ly­ing fe­male em­pow­er­ment and a re­fresh­ing new take.

In­cor­po­rat­ing Kara­sick’s in­tense po­etic de­liv­ery, Lon­don’s com­po­si­tions and live dance, their Salome: Woman of Valor will have its pre­miere March 8-10 at the 2018 Chutz­pah! fes­ti­val as one of this year’s high­lights.

“These big projects that I do per­co­late for a long time and when they won’t go away, they have to be achieved,” said Lon­don.

“The in­ter­est in Salome came when Jenny Lon­don showed me the 1923 Charles Bryant si­lent film ver­sion of the story, which has be­come a to­tal cult clas­sic in queer cul­ture be­cause not only was every­one who worked on it gay, but it’s so com­pletely over the top and campy.

“That started the juices flow­ing and I was also in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing a new dance piece, so the story of Salome is all about dance, ob­ses­sion and the con­se­quences of both.”

Both Lon­don and Kara­sick were both­ered by the way the story was told, how­ever; Wilde was to blame.

“She is just this pouty, spoiled char­ac­ter and there should be a dif­fer­ent take on her,” said Lon­don. “And I knew Adeena with her aca­demic pur­suits would tell the story dif­fer­ently.”

“It’s this in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate, messed up and ob­ses­sive love story that has been re­assessed,” said Kara­sick. “Now she can be seen as pow­er­ful and seen as some­thing other than a weak, mis­treated vic­tim.”

With Kara­sick’s pow­er­ful po­etry and script, orig­i­nal live mu­sic per­formed by Lon­don with In­dian per­cus­sion­ist Deep Singh and Mid­dle Eastern key­board player Shai Bachar and chore­ographed and per­formed by New York­based dancers Re­becca Mar­golick and Jessie Zaritt, the show also in­cludes video by Eliz­a­beth Mak, which recre­ates mo­ments from Bryant’s 1923 film. Alex Aron (cocre­ator of A Night in the Old Mar­ket­place) di­rects and the per­for­mance is pre­sented in as­so­ci­a­tion with The Dance Cen­tre.

“It’s en­abled us to play to each of our spe­cial­ties with my fo­cus on text in­cor­po­rated into the lan­guage and screen with play­ful avant­garde tech­niques,” said Kara­sick. “Then there is Frank’s bril­liant mu­sic and all the other con­trib­u­tors to make some­thing that has many parts and is on its way to be­ing a re­ally ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I’m not usu­ally a team player, so it has been a re­ally ex­cit­ing learn­ing curve to col­lab­o­rate on some­thing of this scope.”

Both the lead cre­ators say they can’t imag­ine a life out­side of Salome at the mo­ment and are look­ing for­ward to it be­ing pre­sented. Kara­sick went to see The Great­est Show­man and thought, “Salome needs trapeze, I think.

“So I’m cer­tainly look­ing to have it pre­miere and go on tour,” she said.

“The text has al­ready been pub­lished and toured and trans­lated and I toured that book all over Europe. The li­bretto just was pub­lished and will be avail­able for pur- chase at the show for any­one who wants to fol­low along.”

 ??  ?? Poet Adeena Kara­sick and com­poser Frank Lon­don have col­lab­o­rated to pro­duce the spo­ken word opera Salome: Woman of Valor.
Poet Adeena Kara­sick and com­poser Frank Lon­don have col­lab­o­rated to pro­duce the spo­ken word opera Salome: Woman of Valor.
 ?? RICCARDO PANOZZO ?? Italy’s MM Con­tem­po­rary Dance Com­pany will per­form Bolero and the Rite of Spring at the Chutz­pah! fes­ti­val.
RICCARDO PANOZZO Italy’s MM Con­tem­po­rary Dance Com­pany will per­form Bolero and the Rite of Spring at the Chutz­pah! fes­ti­val.
 ??  ?? Adeena Kara­sick
Adeena Kara­sick

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