Sunday, November 25, 2007


Well I'm back in Newark. Beautiful Newark, New Jersey.
I'm here but my heart's in Alabama so the blog shall remain Garland Farwell In Alabama. The rest of my body will join the heart come the New Year.

My camera disappeared just before I left and it's too bad. I wish I could share what I saw in those waning days. The whole landscape took a stunning turn. The leaves exploded with colors I didn't know could exist in the South and the sky shifted into vivid and weird configurations. I wanted to film a train hollering through York and sweet smoke rising snake-like from a crooked chimney. That and more. But it wasn't meant to be. i think I got absent-minded in my busyness and forgot where I laid the camera. Oh well.

Going back and forward I've got other stuff to show.

I hit the ground running because there's only a few days left to present Compagnia De' Colombari's STRANGERS AND OTHER ANGELS. Headed by Director Karin Coonrod, Colombari is an international theater company that creates epic passion plays in the streets of Orvieto, Italy and Harlem, USA using professional actors, singers, and dancers along with local people. My task is to create a flock of 20 angel wings for performers large and small. But the idea is to flip the wings out; make them edgy and new somehow. We looked to early renaissance painter Fra Angelo for inspiration. Everything old is new anyway. And his angel wings were always far out and surprisingly original; pretty much unmatched in their trippyness.

I met Karin last spring when we began developing an Operetta, THE BLACKAMOOR ANGEL. Carl Hancock Rux wrote the libretto, Dierdre Murrey composed the music, Karin directed, and I did the visuals. We all spent the summer together at The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts upstate at BARD college. We created the first act and the whole thing remains a work-in-progress but it was great being up there surrounded by all this major talent, under a major director, major musicians, and real live opera singers.

THE BLACKAMOOR ANGEL tells the story of Angelo Soliman, an African in 18th-century Vienna and a friend of Mozart, via the performance of a Weimar-era traveling circus. The opera probes the secrets of the Moor’s relationship to Mozart, his involvement in Mozart’s final operas (Monostatos, in The Magic Flute, was based on Soliman), his mysterious death, and the reason for the heinous postmortem display of his body in the imperial Naturalienkabinett.

Because the opera takes place in the 30's, I wanted to create the objects and props as if designed by someone like Jean Arp, a DADA pioneer and influential Modernist. Many of the avant-garde plays in the early 20th Century were co-created by painters and sculptors rather than "set designers" so this approach felt pretty good.

Karin and I vibed splendidly. I share a lot of her ideas about art - where to do it, who to do it with, how to present it. This Community Art aspect of her work is right up my alley as well. I think we'll be working together for awhile. There's already much planned for the coming year and I'm hoping she'll really bring me over to Italy.

Soon as i get these angels flying I have just a week or so to help out my favorite HIP HOP geniuses, FULL CIRCLE, a dance theater group that keeps it very real.

I've known Kwikstep (far left) and Rokafella (center) since our summers up in Amherst years ago working with Project 2050. Man, we had some TIMES, I tell you. Anyway they have a big show in December at Dance Theater Workshop. Kwik and Roc are legends in the HipHop community and people have a lot of preconceptions about them. So this coming performance will be somewhat autobiographical but they're casting themselves as a kind of HipHop Ricky Ricardo and Lucy. This is interesting and great because, though the dance defies the laws of gravity and always lifts you higher, their work is usually quite serious.

Mario, a member of their crew, designed this graffitti bed. It's my job to make it 3-dimensional and functional - a real bed.
Whoa. Look at this thing. i have a lot to figure out here. But it's a fun thing.

I've been collaborating with Julio Leitau and his dance troupe, Batoto Yetu, on and off for almost 15 years and in that time I've built about a zillion masks, puppets, and set pieces for him and his fabulous kids.

Julio has established satellite companies in New York, Portugal, and Brazil but this summer he finally got back to his native Angola and did the same. He said it was the best, most inspiring experience of his career. He also brought with him to Angola almost everything I ever created for him. Now they want him to return in the spring but he has to have a new show so he asked me to produce all this new stuff by April and several things in the coming month. I'll definitely be building for Batoto Yetu down in Alabama but I gotta brush up on my Portuguese cuz I'm going to Angola.