I caught up to the real Matt Newman to discuss the idea of RCC’s comedy store. And it’s simple business sense. “We can take the money we’re spending for three different types of events and spaces and put it [in] one place and also have more control over what we do more, and go from two shows a month to two shows or eight shows a week. It opens more doors and makes for creativity benefit. We have these fantastic people with ideas for shows, and because we’ll have our own space, we can push at the walls of what we do. We can have shows put together by the troupe, or people who just want to get what they're doing up in front of an audience. It’ll provide room for more experimental material, maybe not quite as safe.”
Two weeks ago, auditions brought in 20 more comedians, doubling the size of the group in anticipation of needing to staff more shows. The RCC training center is in its third year of turning out students seeking to perfect their comedic abilities.
“The Kickstarter ask is really for the build-out for the space that we want, the lighting package, heating, painting, the finish for the stage. If for some tragic reason we don’t get there, we’ll still be taking that next step, we’ll have chairs and lights, but we’ll have the very baseline of the version we want.”
RCC is on a current two-year lease with the space through the Walter Parks architectural firm just around the corner. “We’re the kind of activity they want to see around this part of town. They were kind of hoping, though, that the frozen yogurt signs we had up were real.”
Here’s an excerpt from an RCC Richmond Famous show that joshes with regional personalities by acting out scenes from their Facebook pages. This one involves Sherry and John Petersik, the couple from the blog “Young House Love,” and concerns the naming and possible future of their daughter.
The harp performance ensemble is combined with the Virginia Choristers and the boys and girls choirs of St. Bridget Church.
Tonight at 7 p.m. is the last local concert by the group before heading off to the big lights. It’s free and open to the public, but you’ll probably want to donate after you’ve heard them. The concert is at St. Bridget's Catholic Church, 6006 Three Chopt Road.
Funds raised at this concert, and others soon following, will help to defer expenses when the harp ensemble, the Virginia Choristers and the St. Bridget Parish Choirs travel to New York City on April 27 to make their debut at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. There’s a Kickstarter campaign to assist in defraying the cost of transporting the musicians and instruments.
Development director Leath Hiegel explains that although the the harp ensemble was invited to perform for the first time at Lincoln Center, there are still costs involved. “We’ve never tried a Kickstarter before," she says. "Unless we reach our goal [of $5,000] we don’t get anything.”
A total of 65 performers will be upon the Lincoln Center stage. Getting them there requires a bus, a truck transport and a small van.
If you want to catch them after tonight, they’ll be performing in free concerts April 25, 7 p.m., at Hood College, 401 Rosemont Ave., Frederick, Md., and April 26, 4 p.m., at Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, 145 W. 46th St., New York City (Times Square).
The performance at Alice Tully Hall (1941 Broadway) will be at 2 p.m
The concert is a ticketed event: $57 for balcony, $95 for orchestra seats. For ticket information call 212-239-4699.
Griffith explains that the film originated from his wife, Rosemary, having opened a shop in Mathews featuring all-Virginia products. “I’d been searching for an independent project and I had several ideas. Rosemary said to me, ‘You should check out these people who supply us with free-range chickens and eggs.’ I’ve had an interest in this sort of farming.” In late 2010, he met Brian and Julia and immediately knew that they had a good story.
“That was the big part. The other was that I had to commit to a year of time, to follow the seasons, with little seed money, and [I] jumped right on it.” What followed was snow, heat, Hurricane Irene and hours and hours of tape. Griffith put together 58 hours to begin the painstaking process of whittling them into an 80-minute feature documentary film. He credits assistant Todd Raviotta, a filmmaker in his own right, for “staying in the trenches.”
“I think this whole thing about making documentaries with this kind of close proximity is about trust,” Griffith says. “It was mutual. We got comfortable around each other. A lot of people would say to me that Brian is the real strong, silent type. They were very surprised we got him to open up like he does on camera. I averaged, at the end, three days a week every week for a year.”
Critical to the film, having that full year of seasonal changes, is that that the couple is part of a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) group. People give money in advance of the product. “If Mother Nature treats [the farmers] cruelly, and people have paid already, people understand it’s a gamble, but Brian and Julia feel responsible. The CSA is their financial savior; they started with two members and now they have 75. These are financially modest people. These are regular people with a tough work ethic doing extraordinary things.”
Brian worked in dairy farming in upstate New York and he went out West for some time. Julia’s family background includes many people of the land, and she also gained experience in greenhouse nurseries. They are both encyclopedias of agricultural knowledge.
“Julia gobbles it up,” Griffith says. “She’s constantly studying, she articulates it willingly and rapidly, she loves sharing her knowledge. They’re trying to encourage people to think and be present about food and look around to how this can impact their own backyard and community.”
Funding for the film came from public and private sources, but for the first time, Griffith turned to the online Indiegogo, through the suggestion of his son.
Maybe you will, too.
Tickets for the Saturday showing are $5. If you can’t make the one at the Byrd, there’s another showing at the Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg on May 18, 2 p.m., complementing a vigorous farmers market held in Merchants Square.
Griffith wants to get Seasons into as many festivals as possible, attract attention and possibly get it on television. In the meantime, he’s working on a short film for the state about people with severe physical disabilities to be completed by mid-summer, and then he’ll try to raise funds for his next independent project. In this way, he's growing his own.
She’s referring to the noon Saturday screening at the Byrd Theatre of Lloyd’s 1923 classic Safety Last!, restored and shown using a state-of-the-art Digital Cinema Package. It’s part of the ongoing 20th James River Film Festival. Tickets are $8. Film professor Ted Salins hosts.
If you can’t recall that you’ve ever viewed an entire Harold Lloyd film, you may have seen one of the most iconic images of cinema history — that of a rather exasperated willowy man in a suit, glasses and a straw boater, hanging from the hands of a clock tower several stories above a street. That’s Lloyd in Safety Last!
Lloyd is the third pillar in that triumvirate of classic silent-to-sound comedians, the others being Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Chaplin, unfortunately, was kicked out of the country and Keaton died broke (though in his last appearance, he was persuaded to do a surreal film by Samuel Beckett — screened a few years ago by the James River Film Society).
In the end, Lloyd made more movies (200) than his brothers in Thespis and earned more money. After his halcyon days, Lloyd didn’t become a bitter recluse or live a Sunset Boulevard demi-life between delusion and reality. He was too busy for that; he was a man relentlessly curious about the world, and he was fascinated by the possibilities of 3D photography and the invisible life of insects.
He was also most visible as a spokesman for the Shriners Hospitals, for which he traveled extensively. He took to the lecture circuit and in 1969, opened the American Film Institute Conservatory with students Paul Schrader and David Lynch in the audience.
Lloyd and his leading lady, Mildred Davis, raised three children including Suzanne Lloyd’s mother, Gloria. And Suzanne grew up at his Greenacres estate, now a National Historic Site.
“We played games all the time,” she recalls. “He loved having my friends over; he’d take us out to see the latest [James] Bond movie. When I was a little girl, he’d carry me around on his back, playing ‘Grizzly Bear.’ He came to all my school plays."
But at the same time, he became a serious businessman, he ran hospital charities and delved into his interest in 3D photography. His subjects included Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe, but when they weren’t around, he’d photograph the grounds of Greenacres, visitors, Suzanne and his Great Danes. He loved classical music and jazz, and ultimately collected some 10,000 recordings. He went and did and experienced.
“He didn’t sleep much,” Suzanne Lloyd recalls. “I’d hear him down in his studio blasting music until 2 a.m. and he’d be up taking breakfast at 8 a.m.”
He was far from silent.
Harold Lloyd’s career almost ended before it really started during a 1919 gag photograph. The set-up called for him to light a cigarette with a prop bomb — the round, black type you might see in cartoons. The bomb exploded, blew open a 16-foot hole in the ceiling, blinded him and left him with most of his right hand missing.
“They didn’t expect him to see, much less work again,” Suzanne Lloyd says.
His sight returned (he never actually needed glasses until age 60), the scars healed, and he crafted a glove to hide his injury from his public. An avid athlete and dancer, he felt that his audience would be concerned for his safety and not laugh at his antics if they knew about his misfortune. He wore the glove in every movie he made afterward. Much like the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who was left only two good fingers on his left hand, he created work far beyond the capablities of most people who have all their parts.
On screen, Lloyd moves with a dancer's athletic grace. Willowy and about 5-foot-10, he'd participated in track and field and even boxed as a younger man. Though trained as an actor, he conveyed his physicality into his comedy. He delighted in both sight gags that fooled the eye and mind, and outright slapstick. Unlike Chaplin, who assumed the Tramp character, and the "Great Stone Face" of Keaton, Lloyd represented the irrepressible go-getter, and the ordinary guy who ends up in extraordinary circumstances. "He once bet his crew $10,000 toward charity that he could walk 10 New York City blocks in the middle of the day, in his hat and glasses, and go unrecognized. They thought he was crazy. But he went out and walked, and nobody stopped him." He fit right into those anonymous faces of the bustling U.S. city streets.
Lloyd possessed boundless enthusiasm for life and that included making movies. He loved his crew and paid them even when they weren’t actively producing. His respect for the form also may have kept him out of the eye of a few generations.
“He wouldn’t sell the rights of his films to television because he didn’t want them chopped up for commercials,” Suzanne Lloyd says. He didn't feel the need to dwell in the past, either. In Stanley Kramer's 1963 homage to films like Lloyd's, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Kramer and good friend Spencer Tracy tried persuading him to join in the forced antic fun. "Well, he didn't want to do it," Lloyd says.
At age 19 when her grandfather died in 1971, Suzanne Lloyd inherited his entire collection of films and photographs and began a joyful mission of restoring the old nitrate-based movies and introducing his work to new viewers. He had started this conservation in the 1940s, realizing that this legacy could vanish if something wasn’t done. The Turner Classic Movie Channel came along, and she’s co-hosted Lloyd film marathons. She will again, on May 23, when TCM presents 15 newly restored Lloyd shorts. She sits next to Ben Mankiewicz, “just a great, down-to-earth guy who knows everything about movies,” she says.
For the kid in you or the kids you bring with you, see Safety Last! Go at 10 a.m., though, and catch a program of Superman cartoon animation from 1941 to 1942 by brothers Max and Dave Fleischer. Then the chief rivals of Disney, and makers of Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, the Fleischers made these wonderful Techicolor films prior to the U.S. entry into World War II. It’s hosted by Tom De Haven, author of numerous books and essays, including the Derby Dugan trilogy, the rattling good novel It’s Superman!, and a book-length study, Our Hero, Superman on Earth. Tickets are $8.