Really Retro: Lauda Musicam Treats Couples to Love and Lust Medieval/Renaissance Style

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2012 By:

Joanne Mei plays the recorder and Darryl Payne the flute in Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

Chances are, if most people have any impression of romantic music in Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque times, it’s either courtesy of a scruffy bard at the Georgia Renaissance Festival or an image of a troubadour standing beneath Juliet’s balcony – the Really Retro version of a mariachi band. However, like the serious and silly love songs of jazz, blues and rock, romantic music was much more diverse and delightful than these stereotypes suggest. Contemporary Romeos and Juliets will have a chance to find out for themselves when local early music ensemble, Lauda Musicam of Atlanta present “Love and Lust: A Valentine’s Day Concert,” this Sat. Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. at Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur.

ATLRetro caught up with Joanne Mei, who plays the recorder in Lauda Musicam; about the 50-member instrumental ensemble of recorders, viols, harpsichord, sackbuts, shawms, harps, crumhorns, cornettos, and percussion, as well as the history and sound of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music; and why this Saturday’s concert will be a Really Retro romantic night to remember.

Any thoughts on the love song in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Were love songs different in an era of arranged marriages and stark class divides? Would a troubadour have sung one of these songs under my balcony window?

The Renaissance was a very romantic time if you weren’t dying of plague. The Catholic Church had a huge influence over the period which led composers to find unusual ways to express themselves. At the time, marriage for the upper classes had little to do with love. Courtly love as interpreted by poets and troubadours emerged as a way for people to express their passion. If you were a medieval noblewoman, you may have had a troubadour singing your virtues. If you were a washer woman, forget about it.

Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

Tell us why we won’t be bored and why seeing this old music performed live in 2012 is both fun and enjoyable and the perfect way to spend date night with your 21st century Valentine.

If you have never heard early music, as performed on reproductions of period instruments, you are in for a real treat. Take your true love back in time for a unique, romantic evening with Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

What does Lauda Musicam mean?  

It is a Latin phrase that means “In praise of music.”  Sometimes folks misspell it “Lauda Musicum,” which means “In praise of the musician.”  We certainly intend the former!

For most folks, I’d guess that the three musical periods run together in our minds, but are there distinct difference between each like jazz, blues and rock n roll? Or were there different styles coexisting like today?  

There were absolutely distinct styles and they were just as diverse as today. Unlike today, though, music wasn’t frequently heard in concerts. Rather, music served primarily a social function.  Early musicians often refer to Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque as the three major style periods, but they overlap greatly, and each period is represented very differently from region to region.

Many instruments we consider standard today didn’t exist in those days, like the piano and the guitar. Are these older instruments harder to play or why did they drop out of fashion?

Early instruments are fairly easy to play, but it takes practice to play well. These instruments were eventually replaced by technology – keys and valves made playing louder, higher and faster more of a possibility.

Liz Thomas plays the harp in Lauda Musicam.

Is there any story about how you become interested in/develop a love for medieval, Renaissance and baroque music, and joined Lauda Musicam?  

After earning my PhD and getting a job, I found I had some time on my hands.  One of my coworkers asked if I might like to try the recorder. Recorders are those plastic instruments you see in toy stores that so many grade school kids learn to play as their first instrument. I tried a soprano recorder in 1994 and got hooked!

Can you talk a little bit about the concert on Sat. Feb. 11? What will the group be performing?

LMA will be performing Love Music of the Renaissance at the Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur at 8 p.m.  Performing with LMA will be Uncommon Practice, an a cappella group that sings vocal music before the 18th and 19th centuries. Countertenor Adrin Akins will provide his unique voice to selections while John Maschinot will perform traditional Celtic folk tunes on the bag pipes.

Has Lauda Musicam done any recordings? Or is one planned?

Our performances are usually recorded. The Lauda Musicam of Atlanta website  is under construction but should have recordings available for download soon. Be our friend on Facebook!

What’s next for Lauda Musicam?

Our next two concerts will be geared to families and children. LMA will perform standard early music fare. Music by some of the most well-known composers will make this concert fun for the newbie and the enthusiast alike!  Members will lead a “petting zoo” after the concert for people to see and try instruments and to ask questions.

Join us either on Sunday, May 6  at 3 p.m., at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, [in] Covington. Or Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m. at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 1790 Lavista Road.

Robin Prechter, Joanne Mei and Patsy Woods of Lauda Musicam.

Are all Lauda Musicam’s concerts free?  

You can listen to all the hits from the 5th to the 18th centuries for free, but donations are accepted and appreciated.

What’s your day job when you’re not playing with Lauda Musicam, and do you play with any other musical groups?  

By day I manage a laboratory at CDC in Atlanta. I play recorders, Renaissance flute and the occasional percussion instrument. I also play penny whistles and sometimes perform Celtic rock music in pubs.

How do can someone become a member of Lauda Musicam of Atlanta?

Membership is open to amateur and pre-professional musicians with good music reading skills. Please contact [Lauda Musicam Director] Jody Miller at http://www.fippleflute.com/ or recorder96@aol.com.

 

Editor’s Note: Jody Miller also contributed some editing and checks for historical accuracy to this article. All photos courtesy of and copyright Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

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Really Retro: Tidings of Comfort and Joy: The Toast of Christmas Past Revives Traditional Caroling in Vintage Victorian Style

Posted on: Dec 13th, 2011 By:

A trio of carolers in The Toast of Christmas Past, including left to right: Rivka Levin, Geoffrey Brown and Fiona Leonard.

Other Atlanta vocal ensembles may sing carols, but local acapella group The Toast of Christmas Past is reviving the tradition just as it was performed in 19th century England by wandering groups of singing Samaritans dressed in bustles and bonnets, frock coats and top hats. All of which reminds that while some may consider Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL a great ghost story, but one need look no further than the title to see that the popular Victorian storyteller saw music as synonymous with the spirit of the season. Apparently contemporary audiences also long for simpler Dickensian customs as The Toast of Christmas Past tends to be booked almost every night during the holidays.

The Toast of Christmas Past is led by Fiona Leonard, an eclectic and energetic actress, singer, costumer, make-up artist and mistress of many trades well-known for her work with local theatre companies, film productions and attractions such as the Georgia Renaissance Festival where she sang in a rollicking pub band called Wine, Woman and Song. As a costumer, she started sewing and designing as a teenager and has won numerous awards and attained master class status at science fiction and costuming conventions. In recent years, however, Fiona has focused her creative energies more towards recreating the look of past eras than fantasy ones, and her caroling venture seems perfectly suited to a lady increasingly seen dressed in exquisite Victorian attire.

Curious about the origins of caroling, we asked Fiona if she would tell us what she knew about its link to Medieval wassailing and how the practice evolved into a mainstay of Victorian times. She also shared the story behind her own journey into caroling and Victoriana, as well as a bit about how listening to traditional holiday melodies seems to bring “tidings of comfort and joy” in this time of giving.

Geoffrey Brown, Fiona Leonard in red, and two other members of The Toast of Christmas Past.

ATLRetro: How did you first get the idea to start up an acapella caroling group, who are the group’s members, and why keep caroling alive in the 21st century?

Fiona Leonard: My dad [Al Leonard] and I worked at the Georgia Renaissance Festival for a number of years, and someone contacted them one year looking for carolers. They passed that on to my Dad and he put together a little quartet to do it. I replaced someone the next year, and we had several people ask us for cards at the event. So the next year I came up with a name and had cards printed up. We got three more bookings and The Toast of Christmas Past was born. From that point in 1994, we grew and in our best year had 55 bookings!

Each year I have anywhere from 12-24 carolers on call, who sing in trios and quartets. Most of my singers are musical theatre performers, so they have lots of personality and are good at engaging strangers. Although it is a great way to make extra money for the holidays, it is also a really great feeling to have people come up and tell you that your singing has put them in the holiday spirit. Making people feel something is really what performing is all about, and we really do get to spread joy wherever we sing. 

How did Christmas caroling door to door (or in public places) get started? 

Caroling comes out of several traditions, some going back over a thousand years. Religious songs composed for the common man to sing first started appearing around the 10th century, but really caught on as Protestantism began to spread around the world. But I think the most direct ancestor of our style of caroling is wassailing. This was basically legitimate begging. During winter holidays—whether solstice, Christmas or yuletide—groups of peasants or other poor would go from door to door, singing blessings on each house and demanding compensation in return. This was usually in the form of drink (hard cider, mulled wine or spiced ale), food (sweets, figgy puddings, cakes), money or at the very least a spot by the fire to warm up.

Everyone in The Toast of Christmas Past wears Victorian clothes and embraces that era. Why was caroling so popular in Victorian times, who did it, who did they sing for and how did Victorian caroling compare to caroling in previous and later times?

There was a great trend in the Victorian Era to romanticize things of the past and things from other cultures outside the Empire. Christmas trees as we know them became popular at this time, and the beginnings of Christmas as a commercial holiday come from that period as well. What was a fairly small celebration started adopting traditions from older times (wassailers, Morris dancers and pantomimes); strangers with gifts (magi, St Nicholas, Norse gods); sacrifices to older gods of meat, drink and produce (geese, roasts, horns of plenty, trees hung with fruit or even game); and evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe hung to repel evil spirits in the dark of winter. All of these combined to make Christmas the celebration we know today.

Caroling or wassailing is fun, it’s something the whole family can do, [and] it’s much more acceptable than straight begging, since you at least offer entertainment. Victorians did it for all those reasons, and Dickens set the practice in the public mind with his caroling urchins in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The story itself has become such a classic that we tend to think of Christmas as described by Dickens to be “classic” Christmas, something to hark back to and try to achieve. Really, this era has just as much tendency to romanticize the past as the Victorians.

Fiona Leonard dressed to carol.

What were some of the greatest hits of Victorian caroling, and do you limit yourself to songs dating from that era or do you throw in some more recent seasonal favorites, too?

We do not limit ourselves to Victorian carols, but some of the songs we sing that were popular then include: “Good King Wenceslas,” “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “We Three Kings,” “Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.”

When you were interviewed for PBS Radio [listen to it here], you talked about one of the reasons you enjoy caroling being actually turning around someone’s mood. Do you think caroling has a therapeutic effect on either the listener or the caroler or both?

I have always found singing to be therapeutic and cathartic. I think live carolers invite listeners to feel the music in a way that recorded music can never truly achieve, which makes the emotional impact very intense.

How do children react to your caroling in costume?

I get called a princess a lot! Kids really seem to like us and often want to join us, which we encourage.

Who hires a Victorian caroling group and at what kind of events do you perform? How can we hire you?

You can hire us by going through our website: www.toastofchristmaspast.com. We have been hired by malls, entertainment venues, museums, townships, business associations, property management, the airport and, of course, for plenty of private holiday parties. If you are traveling through [Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport] Monday Dec. 19 or Tues. Dec. 20, look for us between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Is it correct that you made your Victorian caroling dress? Did you make all the costumes for the group? If yes, how far did you go to ensure the clothes were period-accurate, and can you recommend a few online resources for Victorian costumers?

I do make my dresses and many of the other costumes we wear. Some of the other ladies have made their own dresses, and even one or two of the gentlemen have put together their outfits. My preferred period is 1878-1882, a brief window when the bustle was still present but very small. I just think the dresses from that period are very pretty and graceful. You can get away with a little lower neckline and 3/4 sleeves for that period as well, which I find more comfortable. Most of the ladies do wear corsets and petticoats with their costumes. There are all kinds of resources online, but mostly I just order corset supplies online, usually from Farthingales or dealers on etsy.com.

The Toast of Christmas Past performs at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

You’ve done a lot of Victorian costuming and performing. You’ve won awards for your work and regularly are a costume judge at Oakland Cemetery‘s Sunday in the Park annual event in October. In broad terms, what appeals to you personally about the Victorian era, and if there was one aspects of it that you wish had survived to the 21st century, what would it be?

Honestly, I just love how decorative things were. I love ruffles and fringe, and curlicues and flowers, and men in well-tailored clothing. Also I read way too much Barbara Cartland, and I am just sure some tail-coated dandy is going to sweep me off my feet if I have enough ringlets in my hair! If there was one aspect of the era I wish had survived, it would be the practice of giving dances and balls as standard social gatherings. I love a good waltz!

What’s up with Wine, Woman and Song?

We retired from the Georgia Renaissance Festival in 2002. We still perform together occasionally, usually for St. Patrick’s Day or historical re-enactments. We can still be booked through the Toast website.

What else are you up to performance and costuming-wise when it’s not the caroling season? Anything exciting coming up in 2012? 

I work full-time at Costumes, Etc…, which is a family owned business in Midtown off Cheshire Bridge Rd.They do rentals and retail, but they also take on a certain number of special commissions which I get to make a lot of. I will be costuming GUYS AND DOLLS for Habima Theatre at the MJCCA at the beginning of the year. I am hoping to actually get out and perform in a show or two next year, time permitting.

In 2012 I  hope to record a CD of The Toast of Christmas Past to make available for purchase. I am also considering putting on a Toast concert early in the season next year for the public.

Editor’s Note: All photographs are courtesy of The Toast of Christmas Past and Fiona Leonard.

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Really Retro: STEAMPUNK BIBLE Co-Author S.J. Chambers Muses on the Appeal of Alt-History & A Paranormal Fantasy at This Saturday’s Mechanical Masquerade

Posted on: Nov 10th, 2011 By:

When The Artifice Club presents the 2nd annual Mechanical Masquerade: A Paranormal Fantasy this Saturday Nov. 12 at Blue Mark Studios, a renovated 110-year-old church, they couldn’t have picked a better judge for their ghost story contest than S. J. Chambers, co-author with Jeff VanderMeer of the critically acclaimed THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (published by Abrams Image this spring). S.J., you see, suffers from Poepathy, a dread affliction whose symptoms include “daydreaming…reveries that include black birds, scents of an unseen censor or aberrant alliterative applications.”  She contracted it, she says mournfully (or enthusiastically, depending on your point of view), from excessive contact with the works of  seminal American horror author, Edgar Allan Poe, on whose works she has penned a frightful quantity of essays and journalistic works.

Lately though, S.J.’s journalistic adventures have sailed towards Steampunk, a fast-growing international movement whose participants dream of an alternate world powered by steam technology and resplendent with airships, corsets, goggles, mad scientists and other fantastical wonders of a Jules Verne-ian nature. Lavishly illustrated, THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is the first definitive guide to the wildly, weirdly imaginative literature, art and costuming of the subculture, which has a vibrant chapter here in Atlanta. A Tallahassee resident (she also treated us to the Cute and Creepy art exhibit review here), SJ also will be signing that esteemed tome at the Mechanical Masquerade, The Artifice Club’s most elaborate event yet—planned to play out like a story itself in which a supernatural-themed masquerade ball is staged on a magical rift accidentally created by one infamous Montague Jacques Fromage whle experimenting with a curious invention in service of her majesty Queen Victoria. And yes, masks are not just encouraged but required (come unfashionably without one, and we’re told you may be asked to leave or to purchase one from the lovely Dread Sisters). The fantastical festivities start with afternoon seminars on topics such as Steampunk Burlesque (see this week’s Kool Kat feature on Indigo Blue here). Then the main event runs from 5 p.m. to way past midnight and features a bazaar, libations, costume contest and performances by an eclectic ensemble of talent including the Mezmer SocietyDoc Volz and his Steampunk TrunkThe Ghosts ProjectVauxhall Garden Variety Players and the Fantasia de Mode Fashion Show presented by The Steampunk Chronicle.

ATLRETRO asked S.J. to demystify steampunk for the uninitiated, tell us what she learned about steampunk abroad on her recent book tour to England and France, and tease us with a sneak peek into her role in the Paranormal Fantasy. She not only kindly obliged, but then some…

What’s the origin story behind THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (Abrams Image) and how you personally became involved? 

It did some editorial work for Ann and Jeff VanderMeer with [surrealist flash-fiction anthology] LAST DRINK BIRD HEAD and some other miscellaneous projects, so my role with THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE began as an editorial assistant. However, Jeff loved what I was doing, and saw how much I was getting into the project, that he asked me to contribute to the writing. One thing lead to another and we were co-authors. I can’t say enough what a great experience it has been to work side-by-side with Jeff. He’s full of wisdom and one of the best writers alive, imho.

Why are you excited to be attending THE MECHANICAL MASQUERADE: A PARANORMAL FANTASY and what will you be up to while you’re here?

There are several reasons why I am excited about this event.  First, I have an extreme case of Dance Party deficiency, so I can’t wait for DJ Doctor Q to start spinning at midnight. Second, I’m excited about wearing a costume, which I don’t usually do.  The clothes I wore on tour are pretty much what I wear normally, even the more Pre-Raphaeliteish pieces, so this is my first true sojourn into Steampunk chic. Not sure how great it’ll be, as everything I touch seems to turn Regency, but it should be fun.

But vanity aside, what I am REALLY excited about is the ghost story contest that I am judging. From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., I am challenging guests of The Mechanical Masquerade to scare me! Contestants will have five minutes to spin a paranormal yarn—doesn’t have to be gruesome horror, but must have something of the unexplainable and strange.  If participants are reading this, I’ll give them a clue as to what endears me most.  I love stories—and this goes for any type of story really—that strike me emotionally. So, if you make me split my petticoat with laughter, or drown my veil in tears, you’ll get a lot of bonus points. Being the Poepathist that I am, some of my favorite tales involve haunted houses and dead lovers, and the more monsters the merrier.

In any case, we will have lots of prizes for winners, including a first prize of signed copies of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s wonderful, new anthology THACKERY T.LAMBSHEAD’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, which I have a sundry tale in, and a $25 gift certificate to Octane Coffee.  Not bad for five minutes.  If you don’t want to vie for a copy of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE via the competition, they will be available for purchase and signing throughout the night.

The Mezmer Society. Photo credit: Farad Rezei of Rakadu.

THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE seems to be thriving in a time when books and authors in general are having a tough time. You even had a whirlwind signing tour which took you through New England and to England and France. What’s the secret to its success and why is steampunk so popular right now? 

I would say publishing is in a state of transition right now, thanks to e-publishing, and in trying to figure out what that means in the grand scheme of things, on top of the recession, authors and books are having to work double-time to stay afloat. I definitely know that I, Jeff, our editor Caitlin Kenney, our publicist Amy Franklin, and the wonderful people at Abrams, as well as our contributors, believed very strongly and worked really hard on promoting this book. So, I attribute a lot of the success we’ve had to our collective sweat and tears.

The fact that, in this burgeoning world of two-dimensional and grey e-books, the THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is very tactile and visually pleasing hasn’t hurt. This is a book with a lot of textual as well as visual content, and it invites people to peruse it in both ways, which really appeals to readers.  I think this attraction ultimately ties into the same technological fatigue that is making the Steampunk spirit very resonant: the world is tired of being spoon-fed culture and knowledge. We need Steampunk in our lives because it promotes imagination and ambition, it promotes awareness of how things work and also sustainability. People think of Steampunk as a fashion fad or a science fiction trend, but it is an umbrella term for a lot of reactionary and revolutionary philosophies on modern life, which we try to touch on in the book.

Speaking of England and France. You even went to a steampunk convention over there, didn’t you? How do English and French steampunks or steampunk fans differ from the American variety?

While I did an event in London, and an event in Paris, I am afraid I didn’t make it to the Weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln.  Towards the end of planning the Europe Tour, an assignment in Paris came up, so I had to take those few extra days to make sure I had time to work on it.  I was sorry to miss it, as I had just met Jema Hewitt and Kit Cox who were going, and I would have loved to spend more time with them, as well as meet some of the U.K. Steampunk luminaries like John Naylor and Professor Elemental.

The differences between U.K., French and U. S. Steampunk are subtle. U.K. tends to be more Victorian-oriented because that’s where she reigned and that’s their direct history.  However, I think we over here in the states misunderstand U.K. Steampunk as nostalgists ignoring skeletons in the Empire closet, and I found that to not be true. At the Last Tuesday Society event, there was a lot of interest in multicultural Steampunk, and I think that dialogue is just waiting to burst through the gates there.  French Steampunk was very interesting because a lot of its participants are interested in CosPlay, but there aren’t really any venues for that. The fine folks of French Steampunk, like Morgan Guery and Franck Gouraud are trying to promote conventions around France, and I think that will contribute to a very strong and cohesive scene there. Also, just like U.K. Steampunk operates within their history, so do the French Steampunks.  Queen Victoria and the Empire is irrelevant, and while we had our Civil War, they were dealing with their own strife with the Paris Commune and the reign of Napeoleon III. It has led to a lot of beautiful and innovative art like Sam van Olffen, Futuravapeur and Anxiogene.

The “Sultan’s Elephant” at The Machines of the Isle of Nantes exhibit, Nantes, France. Photographed in 2009 by Yann Langeard - Le Chatrou Electrique.

What makes a literary work, piece of art, costume steampunk at the most basic level and do goggles have to be involved?

Ha! No goggles do not need to be involved, nor necessarily cogs, nor gears. Tor editor Liz Gorinsky explained Steampunk best when she compared it to porn—“I know it when I see it”—which perfectly encapsulate the difficulties of defining this aesthetic. I know I should have an elevator pitch-like answer for this, but the real answer is too complex.  It is why we wrote a book about it.

As just flipping through the book will show, there are a lot of characteristics that bind artists together under the umbrella Steampunk—like the iconic goggles, a retro ambiance, gears, cogs, rayguns, hoop skirts, leather corsets, mecha animals, steel and steam—but it is also an ever-changing and evolving aesthetic that can feature a lot of versatile and disparate characteristics informed by cultural history, and even era. What was once a retro-futurist movement that looked only as far back as the 19th century has participants looking back even further, evaluating our present on all aspects of past failures and successes. The Steampunk of today will not be the Steampunk of tomorrow.

To the uninitiated person who wants to experience steampunk, what three authors could they read and get a good sense of what it’s all about?

Jules Verne, Cherie Priestand Scott Westerfield. I know I am cheating with Jules Verne, but I feel like if you don’t understand Verne’s world, you are missing a key part of Steampunk history and its context. Also, since I’ve already cheated once, it won’t hurt to cheat again. I would say Steampunk newcomers would find a lot of guidance in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s two STEAMPUNK anthologies, as they do a wonderful job of displaying the movement’s full literary spectrum.

What was your favorite part about researching THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE?

Getting to talk with artists, makers and writers about their craft, and finding contemporary work that I really identify with.  The past 10 years of my life can be characterized as observing Remodernism, but not quite understanding where I fit in with it. THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE changed that for me.

S.J. Chambers.

What did you learn about steampunk that surprised you the most?

That most people working within the Steampunk aesthetic, icons like Jake von Slatt and Libby Bulloff, did not begin doing so consciously. Steampunk adopted them. To me, the fact that all of these disparate figures were unknowingly working within a common aesthetic attests more to the aesthetic’s importance. It’s a zeitgeist, not a fad.

The art direction on the book was stunning. Were you involved with that part or what can you tell us about that side of the book’s development?

Jeff and I were very much involved with the art direction. Jeff had the wonderful idea of the Jules Verne Hetzel cover, and Abram’s designer Galen Smith did a wonderful job of that.  We were responsible for gathering the images, and organizing them with the text.  The nice nuances that really tied it all together, like the margins, the font and chapter covers were all Galen Smith’s genius.

How’s the popularity affecting you personally and your career? Do you have any time left for Poe, and where else can we read your work?

This has been one of the most stimulating and positive experiences in my writing life.  There are numerous outcomes that I am thankful for, including getting to go on tour and meet people that have quickly become kindred spirits and friends. I have been busier than I am accustomed too, but it has been a good busy, and I’ve been able to begin a few projects that I hope will really pick up steam next year. One of them does involve Poe, but on that for nonce, I’ll say nothing more.

I try to keep my blog The Flightless Philosopher updated, but lately my Twitter [@selena_jo] has become a more immediate marquee for my whereabouts and publications.  You can also find other work in the wonderful and very curious THACKERY T. LAMBSHEAD’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, in which I adapted my “Poe-Bug” essay into a short story, and I’ve been reviewing a lot lately for Bookslut.

Tell me more about THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE, VOLUME 2.0?

Volume 2.0 is our sister site that has been running extra content from the book, like raw interviews, dispatches and exclusive interviews.  There is a lot in our archives, and I had to construct an automaton, Mecha Underwood, to help me manage and man the helm of this beastly webship. Poor Mecha! She really has it hard since I built her with a Lachrymose 5000 chip, and seeing Jeff and I gallivant around the states last summer has made her a bit morose.  She yearns for sand in her gears, and forgets to post sometimes, but I have found that a gauntlet of oil and some Keats poems rolled into her printing case cheers her right up.

Finally, what question has nobody asked you yet which you wish they had? And what’s the answer?

Is Spongebob Steampunk taking it too far?  [The answer is] I don’t know. It would depend on whether the movie version incorporating Spongebob Steampunk, Geary Gary and Colossal Squidward in a battle against Corporate Nemo’s Krabby Patty takeover will successfully capture the Steampunk Spirit. Can’t be worse than THE THREE MUSKETEERS (2011), but you never know.

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Really Retro: Lisa Stock’s THE JULES VERNE PROJECT Mashes Up Steampunk, a Sea Monster, LORD OF THE FLIES and Old-School Cinematic Slapstick

Posted on: Oct 16th, 2011 By:

In epic tales of man vs. nature, we find champions in MOBY DICK, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA: fierce battles to overcome insurmountable challenges from the deep. If these heroes can confront such odds, then surely we can take on whatever troubles we are facing in real life. We use these stories as illustrations of bravery, loyalty (to ourselves and others) and endurance. Literary symbols of courage when things get to be too rough.

Now, take that concept, add some slapstick, put it on the silver screen – and you have Lisa Stock’s next venture: THE JULES VERNE PROJECT. This short film aims to combine all the physical humor of Buster Keaton, the cut-throat survival tactics from LORD OF THE FLIES and the unblinking focus of a voyeur come across a scene of outrageous monster mayhem. ATLRetro readers will remember Lisa as the director who staged Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES in East Atlanta this past August (read our Really Retro piece on Lisa here). We recently sat down with Lisa to discuss THE JULES VERNE PROJECT and her crow-funding efforts to make it happen.

Ed. Note: If you’d like to be a part in bringing this film to life – an Indie Go-Go campaign to raise its modest production financing runs only until Friday Oct. 21! (details below)

ATLRetro: What is THE JULES VERNE PROJECT?

Lisa Stock: THE JULES VERNE PROJECT is a short live-action sea monster movie. I refer to it as: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT meets LORD OF THE FLIES meets Laurel and Hardy meets Jules Verne. It’s a story of shipwreck, bravery and the dire consequences of alienating your allies. Basically – we take a Strongman, a Deck Hand, and a Lady with a Parasol and strand them on a desert island with a big giant tentacle on the loose! Oh – and there’s a hot-air balloon shot out of the sky too.

How would you classify it? Comedy, adventure, silent film, steampunk, retro?

Yes.

Your creative projects, such as SNOW, GLASS, APPLES and TITANIA, have often been staged/filmed unconventionally. How is THE JULES VERNE PROJECT different in that respect?

Well, first of all we’re going to do the entire film in one take, one shot. No editing of multiple angles. The camera will even be stationary. So most of our tricks will have to be done “in the camera” – which is why I’m opting for a fabricated sea monster tentacle as opposed to a CGI one. I really want to push my boundaries as a storyteller and filmmaker and do something I’ve never done before.

There will be some effects done in post-production, such as the hot air balloon, but 90% will be done on a beach, one shot, all in one tableau – my actors and puppeteer are going to love me. Haha! But that’s the fun of it – we’ll all be pushed passed our normal limits, and who knows what we’ll discover.

So, if it’s all done “in the camera,” what won’t we see? 

Hopefully, our tentacle puppeteer! We’ll have to do this several times, I’m sure, to get a take that is mistake-free. But it’s short. And we’re going to have to do a lot of wiping footprints and tentacle marks from the sand in between each run-through.

In addition, I’m planning to do something really cool with the actual image in post – in terms of frame rate, that might be a nice surprise for our epic battle sequence.

What are you going to do with the film once it’s complete?

As much as I think film festivals are valuable to the indie realm, I want as many people to see this as possible. So we’re going to put it up online in April. There’s little to do in post, and that will give us a very short turnaround time. I want people to see it and enjoy it. The movie will also be a good example of what we (me, my cast/crew) can achieve as filmmakers, and it will give us the opportunity to tell a story that is hilarious and poignant.

Tell us about the Indie-Go-Go campaign.

We’re currently doing an Indie Go-Go campaign to raise funds for the film. But only until this Friday – Oct. 21! I did a Kickstarter campaign last year for my film THE TITANIA PREQUEL and was successful. I like getting my projects funded this way – because it comes directly from an audience I can give back to directly. No middleman to take away all their money, and take away all of my inspiration. So many independent artists are getting funded this way now. People who like your work or are interested in what you’re doing can donate. And what you see is what you get. I’ve supported a lot of projects like this myself. It’s important to let artists be artists – I think the results are much stronger.

We’re raising funds now mostly for the massive tentacle puppet. We need to get started on that for it to be ready for our April shoot date. And give ourselves ample time to rehearse with it. Donations for THE JULES VERNE PROJECT start at $1, $10 and go up from there. And this time we’re getting really creative and fun with our donor rewards! Everything from messages in a bottle to downloads and personalized notes and treasures from the set. To donate visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Jules-Verne-Project

You’re also giving 10% to a charity?

Yes, when I do a large project, I like to give back. A couple of months ago I lost a friend I’d grown up with. He was only 37. There was an animal rescue he was fond of and we’ve decided to give 10% of what we raise with this campaign to that animal rescue in his name.

Lisa Stock. Photo credit: Jaclyn Cook.

It seems you like the sea. Recently, you started an Internet radio show called SRN: THE SIGNAL.

That’s right! Sirens, sea monsters – the ocean inspires me! SRN stands for the mythic siren. The show discusses all things mythic, fantasy, fairy tale, sci-fi, etc. I’d like to say we have a traditional format with a twist – but as it’s looking each show will be really different. Our next broadcast is Oct. 30 and we’re discussing graveyards and ghost stories with some Atlanta-based cemetery caretakers. In future broadcasts, we’ll be talking to the folks at High Rez Studios about their forthcoming game, SMITE, based on Greek mythology, and we will also have some well-known writers and actors coming by. Hope you’ll tune in!

Anything else our readers can see of yours currently?

I have a poem being published in Burial Day BooksGOTHIC BLUE BOOK out on October 28. It’s all about the legend of the Wild Hunt and Furious Host. And, not currently, but in the spring, I hope to do a dark and scary stage version of HANSEL AND GRETEL.

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Really Retro: Why MonkeyZuma Dubs Charles Darwin the Original King of the Swingers and Other Survival Tips for an Island Adventure Martinis & IMAX

Posted on: Sep 29th, 2011 By:

OK, Charles Darwin doesn’t look like all that swinging a guy with that big bushy beard and Victorian suit, but DARWIN, a new special exhibition which just opened last weekend and runs through Jan. 1, 2012 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, reveals more than a few surprises about the 19th century naturalist who took a five-year sea voyage of discovery on the HMS Beagle and turned the scientific world upside-down with his theory of evolution. For example, his grandfather’s own radical writings helped inspire Mary Shelley to write FRANKENSTEIN, both his mother and wife hailed from the Wedgewood family of pottery fame, he got his stint on the HMS Beagle because Captain FitzRoy wanted “not just a naturalist but a gentleman,” on that trip he rode with gauchos in Patagonia and his letters home included such colorful language as describing an area “red-hot with spiders.” Excuse us, but eek!

Darwin’s most famous stop, of course, was the Galapagos Islands and the entire journey was an adventure, so it seems only fitting that Martinis & IMAX on Friday Sept. 30 has the theme of Island Adventure. Explore the exhibit, follow in Darwin’s footsteps via IMAX to GALAPAGOS, sip on a Galapagos Gimlet and strike a natural or unnatural pose at the Darwin Dress-Up Photo Booth. The evening’s ship of fun is captained by “Big Mike” Geier and notorious Atlanta tiki band Tongo Hiti. His crew inevitably includes some of the most glamorous gals you’d ever want to encounter on a jungle island – the Dames Aflame, featuring Atlanta’s closest connection to the missing link, MonkeyZuma.

We can only imagine what Darwin would have thought of that legendary simian-sapien, but you don’t have to imagine what MonkeyZuma thinks of old man Charles because, well, we asked her…

Are you the missing link, or what’s the origin of your species?

MonkeyZuma is half girl, half monkey-girl.

What do Charles Darwin and evolution mean to you personally?

Zuma loves Charles Darwin because he was known for bridging the gap between humans and animals.  He was the original king of the swingers, a jungle V.I.P.! His evolution theory means that someday, we’re going to have little bitty, really pointy fingers and thumbs so we can all clickity-clickity lickity-splickity on our smartphones and iPads and miniature-microwaves.

What do you hope to learn from the Darwin exhibition?

Zuma wonders: boxers or briefs?  Since he was a naturalist, probably neither!

What special plans do you have to get creative at this week’s Martinis & IMAX (with a little help from Kingsized and Dames Aflame, of course)?

MonkeyZuma never makes any plans. She is barely controlled chaos and will most likely be found sticking her finger in your nachos or knockin’ back several of Fernbank’s signature Pineapple Mojitos while Dames Aflame’s own Shockaboom and Chico teach all the local natives some exotic Island dances to the Tongo Hiti soundtrack.  It’s best not to look Zuma in the eye if she is approaching. Just bring some extra cash and buy the sexy simian some booze.  She’ll let ya “huele” her “dedo” and then be on her way, to destroy someone else’s date night.

All photos courtesy of Dames Aflame.

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Really Retro: Lisa Stock Explores an Older, Darker Side of Fairy Tales in Her Play of Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES

Posted on: Aug 22nd, 2011 By:

Carrie Anne Hunt as the Snow White Princess in Lisa Stock's play of Neil Gaiman's SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, which opens Aug. 24.

SNOW WHITE has a reputation for being a cheery story about a cute princess and seven mostly affable dwarves, but the only time I ever hid my eyes in a movie as a child was when the evil stepmother queen transforms herself into a hideous wicked witch in the Walt Disney version. Trust author Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN, AMERICAN GODS) to cleverly latch onto the darker side of that familiar tale and consider that mere jealousy might not be sufficient motive to drive the queen to murder by poisoned apple. And maybe the prince wasn’t exactly your normal kind of hero either. “I was reading Neil Philip‘s [PENGUIN BOOK OF] ENGLISH FOLKTALES, and a rereading of a version of SNOW WHITE made me stop and wonder what kind of person she was, and what kind of person sees a dead girl in a glass coffin and wants to keep her…,” Neil said in an email last week when asked what led him to write the short story, SNOW, GLASS, APPLES. Now Snow White’s white skin, blood-red lips and coffin-sleeping take on a new meaning with disturbing erotic implications, and the queen becomes a protagonist with a difficult moral choice.

Lisa Stock. Photo credit: Jaclyn Cook.

Originally published as a benefit book for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in 1994, SNOW, GLASS, APPLES captured the imagination of so many readers that it was reprinted in two anthologies—TWICE BITTEN: LOVE IN VEIN II (1997), edited by Poppy Z. Brite, and Neil’s own collection SMOKE AND MIRRORS (1998). One of those readers was Lisa Stock, who like the storytellers of old, had her own thoughts about taking the tale in a new direction from page to stage. Through a few mutual friends, the then-New York-based writer/director for theater and film politely asked Neil nicely for a chance to have some fun with his story of bloodlust and mistrust. Charmed by her vision, the idea of seeing his creation come to life and the fact that all proceeds would benefit charity (East Atlanta Community Association), he granted her wish. “I love live theatre,” Neil said. “There’s a magic you cannot get from anything else when it’s good.”

While this real-life fairy tale so far may seem more CINDERELLA, it’s Atlanta audiences that really are the lucky ones. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES has its world premiere here Wed. Aug. 24 through Sun. Aug. 28 in the unusual venue of the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, re-envisioned by Lisa as a dreamlike Spring Fair. Artists and photographers also will have a chance to draw and photograph cast members in costume and preview the phantasmagoric sets during a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Atlanta field trip on Mon. Aug. 22. Performances are rated “R” for simulated violence and adult themes, but a special family-friendly show will be held Aug. 28 at 6 p.m.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Lisa to find out more about what drew her to the dark story, crafting a truly unique audience experience, why it’s the perfect fit for a Dr. Sketchy and a little about her other mythic projects, including the upcoming independent feature film TITANIA.

For those unfamiliar with Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, without giving away too much, how is it different from the Disney version of SNOW WHITE we grew up with? And more like the original darker versions that date back to Medieval times?
For me, Neil Gaiman’s version reflects the earliest forms of the tale, some [of which] trace back to the myth of Persephone (eating pomegranate seeds and falling into a half-life in the Underworld). The tales were originally much darker in nature and true morality tales. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES for me is just that—a cautionary tale about trusting or mistrusting your instincts. It’s also about self-preservation in a brutal world, and how you deal with the choices that have been handed to you. Our protagonist doesn’t get saved and have all that’s hers by birthright returned to her. She makes her own decisions—for better or worse—and goes out to protect, on her own, what she holds dear.

How did you discover SNOW, GLASS, APPLES and what drew you personally to the story?
I discovered SNOW, GLASS, APPLES through a haunting illustration by Sarah Coleman of the princess that led me back to Neil’s story. I love new perspectives on old tales and those that speak to human instincts. Instincts are such a basic, fundamental part of being human, and yet we often ignore them. The Queen does that in this tale; I’ve done that more times than I can count. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been defeated. We all have. And I think this short story brings out a side of us we may not want to own up to—it talks about fear and failure, but also responsibility and integrity. Though Neil has made the Queen the protagonist, she hasn’t lost any of her edge or her darkness. Instead, with the perspective in her corner, we recognize that in ourselves.

I also love all the visual reminders of her fear in the story: the vampiric princess who keeps coming back to life, the princess’ heart strung above her bed, the forest folk disappearing, nothing is as it seems, reminders to look deeper. Think about it. What are you afraid of? It takes up a lot of your time and space. That’s our nature. And in Neil’s story, the Queen goes out to do something about her fear; whether she’s successful or not, she tries to survive it. Was it the right thing to do or not—that’s for each of us to decide.

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Really Retro: Heading for the 1890s: Living in the Weird, Weird West

Posted on: Jul 21st, 2011 By:

When most people think Steampunk setting, images of Victorian London likely come to mind, but across the Atlantic and a steam engine-pulled train ride inland stretched a vast frontier. This Saturday night, July 23, at THE WEIRD WEST SALOON, the fine folks at The Artifice Club transform The Solarium in Oakhurst into a steampunk version of that less polite society where the law often came down to the fastest draw.

Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. with the opening of the Trading Post Market with vendors of unique jewelry, weaponry, costumery and other unexpected ephemera. Then at 7 p.m., doors officially open for ticketholders. Chance your cash for charity in the saloon casino, test whether you’ll be caught dead or alive in a quick draw tournament and kick back an alcoholic beverage in period sets created by mad geniuses Sean O’Shea and Penny Dreadful Productions. Of course, there’ll also be entertainment aplenty from Blair Crimmins & the Hookers (read an ATLRetro interview with Blair here) to Mistress of Ceremonies/Sheriff Sabrina Pandora, tunes spun by DJ Swivel and Artifice Club maestro/founder DJ Doctor Q to a bevy of Atlanta burlesque beauties, dressed delightfully down as sexy saloon personas including Fonda Lingue, Ruby Redmayne, Tupelo Honey and Talloolah Love.

The tantalizing Ms. Love graciously consented to give all you ATLRetro cowboys and girls an exclusive sneak peek, as well as the scoop on a Friday pre-party and late night after-party for those who want to play in the Weird West beyond the Witching Hour.

How did The Artifice Club get the idea for a Steampunk Western theme night?
There are many cultures to pull from when you talk about the Victorian era. Many of us start out with the European influence because it seems the most natural. Since The Artifice Club wants to explore all advents of the art form, the American twist was where we went with it this time, and it seems like everyone is really jazzed about it. It’s something new, and a great excuse to whip out those sewing machines, spray paint and epoxies! It’s time to think about a new slant on a good costume and new props, because you can always use a new form of weaponry, just ask Bill Harrison! The West Coast does a lot of really cool wild west conventions as well but not on the East Coast. That should be remedied.

It’s often said that THE WILD WILD WEST 1960s TV series was an early example of Steampunk. Can we expect to run into Jim West (Robert Conrad), Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) or—yikes—Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless (Michael Dunn)?

You might, though I find that most of our Steampunks lean toward doing unique costumes. Though, you never know with this crowd, they tend to surprise me at every turn! I know that the burlesque portion of our show is most definitely inspired by movies with saloon girls, such as THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, RIVER OF NO RETURN, and even a little French import from CAN CAN. I think Doctor Q would do flips if someone did the 1960s version of Loveless or Gordon, but that’s my opinion.

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Really Retro: Step Right Up, Ladies and Gents, The Clockwork Carnival is Coming to Town

Posted on: Apr 15th, 2011 By:

Clockwork Carnival and Artifice Club ringmaster DJ Doctor Q

Long for a bygone era that never was of elegance, adventure and glorious gadgetry? Then you may be one of the steampunk subculture growing across America. In Atlanta, one of the prime organizers of activities for aficinados of steampunk is The Artifice Club, founded by DJ and master event planner Doctor Q. Over the past six months or so, the Artifice Club has put on a number of affairs both independently and as part of other steampunk and alt-history gatherings such as Anachrocon.

This Saturday April 16, however, The Artifice Club is pulling out all the stops to present The Clockwork Carnival, a veritable steampunk circus featuring a night full of gypsies, fire eaters and other curiosities at The Goat Farm. Featured acts encompass who’s who of entertainers in the vibrant local scene including The Imperial OpaHot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, the amazing aerial feats of Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, Thimblerig CircusPyro Salto of Birmingham, AL, music by DJs Doctor Q and The Davenport Sisters, and more. Also planned are a Vendor’s Market Caravan, photography sessions, The Circus Contraption Contest with prizes awarded for the most creative device you would need to work at a carnival, and a steampunk costume contest to crown the King and Queen of the Carnival. Festivities start at 4 PM and will last into the very wee hours of the night, we suspect.

ATLRetro askedRingmaster and DJ extraordinaire Doctor Q for a sneak preview of the fabulous festivities, and he kindly obliged…

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