Kool Kat of the Week: Rebecca Deshon On Living THE HOOPING LIFE

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2012 By:

Rebecca DeShon of HoopEssence. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

Hula hoops made of willow, grapevines and stiff grasses date back all the way to prehistoric times, but most people today probably think of them as the girls’ must-have plastic toy manufactured by Wham-O starting in the late 1950s. The quintessential toy, however, has made a comeback in recent years into hoop dance, and if you missed this twisting trend, you can catch up at the Atlanta premiere of the acclaimed documentary THE HOOPING LIFE (2010) at 7 Stages in Little Five Points on Friday Feb. 24 (doors at 8 p.m.; show at 9 p.m.).

THE HOOPING LIFE not only delves into hula hoop history but also tells eight extraordinary stories of hoop enthusiasts who have embraced it as an art form, a teacher’s aid and even an instrument of redemption. The screening will be accompanied by live performances including a spectacular aerial number by Emerald Dove (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret); hoop dance by Maria Valentin aka Riahoopaleena all the way from New York City; stunts by Luna Trix Hoops Performance & Fire Arts of Columbia, SC; hoops and juggling by James Abele; and acts by Gesche Anneliesa of Musee du Coeur and  Ashly Connor of Imperial Opa Circus.

The entire night’s festivities have been organized by this week’s Kool Kat Rebecca DeShon, proprietress of HoopEssence, Atlanta’s own Hoop Dance performance company and school. ATLRetro recently caught up with Rebecca, to find out more about THE HOOPING LIFE, as well as how she got into hooping, how hooping has transformed her life and what it’s like to live la vida hoop dance.

ATLRetro: Hula hoops seemed to be less popular for a while, but now are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts not just with girls but grown-ups, too. Why do you think it’s back in vogue?

Rebecca DeShon: Hoop dance and hula hooping have really exploded into so many scenes. What was once thought of as just a fad in the underground club scene has really blossomed into a tool for dance, self expression, fitness, meditation and so much more. In my opinion, we are only just beginning to see this full immersion of society in hula hooping. Some hoopers like to call it a “Revolution,” if you will. I think part of the reason it is becoming so much more popular is the development of hand-crafted hula hoops which open up hooping to people of all ages and fitness levels. Besides, it just feels like a lot of fun, which is more than you can say about a lot of other fitness routines. Who doesn’t want that?

For the uninitiated, what’s the difference between hula-hooping and hoop dance

Modern hoop dance has come such a long way since the stereotypical image most people think of from hula hooping in the ‘50s. People are now completely expressing themselves in dance both inside the hoop and using the hoop as a prop to tell a story through dance. We are repurposing an object that was only to be flung around the waist in endless rotation or simply rolled on the ground into what is now a vast array of styles and forms of hooping or hoop dance. Today we see hoopers not just simply flinging dozens of hoops around their waist like you see in the circus, but truly dancing in and with the hula hoop as a dance partner. It is now such an extraordinary companion for artistic self expression.

Hoop dance just means that we are actually dancing with our hoops and at times incorporating many different “tricks.”  Hooping has expanded so far between styles that we are actually seeing entire “genres” of hoop dance styles. It is an incredible art form! With the proper hand-crafted hoop, patience, practice and determination, I know that anyone can be a hoop dancer. I, for one, have no professional dance training, so I can assure you that you don’t have to be a “dancer” to become a hoop dancer.

I understand fans from all of the Southeast are coming to Atlanta for the screening. What’s so special about THE HOOPING LIFE as a movie?

We are thrilled to report that we have fans and performers coming from all over the US for this event! They are coming from as far away as CA, NYC and Texas! Chicago, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and all over the state of GA. THE HOOPING LIFE is a feature-length film that has been six years in the making. It is a labor of love in the form of a documentary film which has not been released for public screenings until Jan 2012. We have been waiting for this event for so long and are so super thrilled to see its final release. THE HOOPING LIFE documentary is important not just for hoopers but for those who don’t know its amazing life-changing benefits. The film has been shot all over the world by the hoopers themselves. This film covers eight story lines from eight very different aspects of just how dynamic hooping can be. It is the first film of its kind!

Will any of the filmmakers be there?

Currently the filmmakers are super busy working on the music video for “Hooping Life”, the original music by Basement Jaxx which was created just for this amazing film. While nothing has been set in stone, we have heard rumors of interest in them making the trip. Honestly, with an event like this, you really just never know who might show up! Surprise guests will be there and you just need to be present to see exactly who!

Rebecca DeShon hoop dances with fire at Hellbilly Family Reunion (Elliott Street Pub 2011). Photo credit: Erick Jara.

What else is happening Friday night at 7 Stages in addition to the screening?

We have a spectacular evening of entertainment planned for our guests!! Doors open at 8 with live entertainment right from the start! We will have hooping gifts, hoops and merchandise for your shopping pleasure, a “red carpet” photo session for guests, HUGE prize giveaways, a carnival-like atmosphere with jugglers/stilt walkers/hoopers and that is just the pre-show!! At 9 p.m., the stage shows begin with live performers for your pleasure Maria Valentin from NYC, Lunatrix Performance & Circus Arts (SC), Ashly Connor (Imperial Opa Circus), Emerald Dove on aerial silks (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret), Gesche Annelesia (Musee du Coeur) and many more performances. After the live performances, we have the Atlanta Premiere of THE HOOPING LIFE film. Directly following the film, we will invite all guests to come up on stage and give the hoop a twirl themselves for a huge hooper dance party. We also have visuals being projected on the screen from start to finish. This is going to be an incredible evening like no other in Atlanta.

How did you first discover that you loved to hula hoop?

I was actually gifted my first ever adult hand-crafted hula hoop in 2008 from a friend, Beki Bear, as a going away gift before embarking on a journey to New York for a while. That first northern winter, I found myself stuck indoors buried under snow and very cold with nothing but my hula hoop. I picked up my hoop, began playing with it and really found myself embracing it. I was so surprised at how much I was enjoying playing with the hoop. I felt great about learning a new skill and have always loved dancing so I was hooked right away, head over heels. I began searching online, hungry to learn more about hooping. At the time there were very few resources to learn from and, unless you lived in California or were willing to travel many miles, not many instructors around. I found a great resource called Hooping.org which I like to call “the holy grail of Hooping.” You can find endless information about hooping from this site. I didn’t realize then that I would use the hoop as a tool for self-empowerment or use it to help others to do the same.

How did you start performing professionally and what’s your favorite gig so far?

I guess you could say I just stumbled into performing during my hooping development. As a hoop dancer beginning my journey inRochester,NY, performing came pretty naturally for me. Hoop dance was so unique that people couldn’t help but stop and watch. I love what I do and want to inspire others to try it out and experience the joy, so performing just came with the part. My first gig was just a couple of months after beginning my hoop dance journey. I got to perform as part of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY. At first I was terrified, but I really enjoyed the crowd’s response and the adrenaline rush of performing so after that first gig I was instantly hooked. I have been blessed with a lot of really fun gigs.

Rebecca DeShon performs at The High for College Night with Dance Truck. Photo Credit: Matt Gilbert.

Many of my gigs are corporate events, which gives me the opportunity to perform in some really exciting venues. Last year I was hired to perform at The Georgia Aquarium dressed up as a mermaid. I also loved hooping at The High Museum of Art a couple weeks ago for College Night. Next month I am particularly looking forward to a gig at Chateau Elan for Verizon Wireless (we are conducting an LED Circus of sorts). I also participate in a lot of smaller gigs in club style settings as well as my work with charity organizations such as East Atlanta Kids Club, Atlanta Streets Alive and Atlanta Women’s Foundation.

On March 3, I will be performing and doing class demos for Atlanta Dance Marathon at Zoo Atlanta – which is a benefit for Atlanta Children’s Network Hospitals. I really love community-based work and feel hooping can be used as a tool for outreach on so many levels. It is simply a joy to share what I do! I dedicate a lot of time and energy into my practice, sometimes at the cost of sleep. It brings me so much joy to share the experience of hooping that I really find it is worth the effort.

You’ve said that hula hooping has changed your life. Can you talk just a bit about how and what is it about hula-hooping that you personally find so special?

Hooping or hoop dance has changed my life in dramatic ways and I continue to grow daily through what I learn inside the hoop. Initially I saw the physical benefits of hooping right away. My body is more fit and trim with great muscle tone – all from what I once thought of as just a simple child’s toy. Later, I noticed my stress being melted away from hooping, anxiety being relieved, and, of course, exercising produces endorphins that helped to naturally chase away any blues or depression.

Rebecca DeShon. Body paint & photo by Stephanie Anderson (Neon Armour).

Hooping gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, even when I am not performing for others. It is nice to feel good about yourself and what you are doing. Hooping has led me to make some of the most incredible friends and expanded into what is today a global community of hoop dancers. My life suddenly had direction and purpose once I began hooping. I found myself thinking and living more positively and healthier. The list goes on and on… I could speak for days about how hooping has changed my life: from the most simple things to complexities even I find hard to believe at times. Hoop dance has literally caused a chain reaction of positivity and prosperity in my life.

The hoop has a way of changing your attitude. Once you get the hang of hooping and get past the initial learning curve – this only takes a few minutes with the proper hoop and instruction – it is so unbelievably difficult to not be happy and giggle while hooping. You will find that if you are in the presence of hoopers, we are generally pretty happy and positive. I feel most of us work hard to spread that love to others. I am so fortunate to have found an outlet in hooping that lets me get past the miseries and frustrations that life puts in our way, and focus that energy towards something positive for myself and for those around me.

How did hula hooping grow from a hobby into you founding Hoopessence? 

Hooping began as a hobby that I discovered I just couldn’t keep to myself. I wanted to share the love and joy with everyone I met. So I learned how to hand-craft hoops and began teaching everyone who would listen. I found it is not hard to get others excited about hooping once they see you hoop and hear/see the magical benefits of it all; they want to try it too. I found that hooping and sharing the benefits was a calling for me. I became a certified hoop dance instructor within my first year of hooping and since then have built my own teaching style.

Now, my own HoopEssence teacher trainings are in the works. I just want to share the love with as many people as possible. So it comes pretty easy for me. Turning any hobby into a business is very challenging however. What you once did for fun can feel forced and unnatural once you try to earn a living from your hobby. It is a very delicate balance. I love what I do so much that I am willing to work hard and make sacrifices to do what I do. I am also really fortunate to be married to an amazingly supportive man who assists in any way he can with my business. He is constantly empowering me to excel and grow. For that I am thankful. If it was just me on my own, I’m not sure could not make a living from hooping; a business needs the support of a great team.

Rebecca DeShon. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

What types of classes do you offer at HoopEssence?

I offer classes in all things hoop at HoopEssence. Beginner basics, intermediate hooping, specialty hooping classes (i.e. minis, isolations, multiple hoops), workshops, hoop crafting workshops, private lessons, dancing in and out of your hoop, children classes and community jams. You name it, I hoop it! If you are just getting into hooping, I teach you all the basics of this great hobby in my Hooping 101 Series. Hooping 101 is four Sunday classes from 1-2:30pm with my next series starting March 4. You may find all the info about my next Hooping 101 series here.

I am also teaching intermediate and advance hoop dance classes at various locations throughout the Metro Atlanta area. You may find all the information and more through my website www.hoopessence.com. I am always looking out for new venues and private lesson students as well. If you would like to book a lesson or want to see hoop dance in your neighborhood, drop me a line and say hello. I am always here to help. With the upcoming spring and summer months, I have a lot of free outdoor events (called Hoop Jams) where I bring hoops, tunes and people can come join in on the fun with no obligations.

Any secrets to buying a great hula hoop?

A great hula hoop is a hand-crafted adult hula hoop. The hoops that you find in the dollar store just don’t cut it and can leave you feeling hopeless as a hooper. You can find hoops of all sizes and all the colors of the rainbow through my website  www.hoopessence.com/products-page. I hand-craft each hoop and fancy myself as somewhat of a “hoop sizing expert”. If you find yourself in the market for a new hoop or are just simply curious to what its all about, please feel free to call or drop a line with your questions. I would be more than happy to assist you in choosing. It can be a bit overwhelming for the beginner with all the options available from sizes, weight, colors, material, LED and even fire hoops. Check out my website and also be sure to sign up for my email newsletter where I send out coupons for deep discounts on all things hoop!

Tickets for THE HOOPING LIFE are just $15 when purchased online in advance before midnight on Feb. 21.  Any remaining tickets will be available at the door only for $20 each, but be warned, at press time, there were only 50 seats left so we highly recommend purchasing in advance here.

Find HoopEssence on Facebook and Twitter.

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Audio Wonderland: Imagining the Sounds of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS with The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company

Posted on: Dec 9th, 2011 By:

Ethan Hurlburt, Sara Lozano, Maddie Dill and Laurice White in ARTC's 2008 production of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks

 

Much is made of the visual aspects of the holidays—all the lights, the snow, Santa in his suit of red. But with, the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC)’s AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS, the sounds of the season take center stage Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18 at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates. In the spirit of the season, tickets cost whatever you can afford, even if that means free, so it’s a great opportunity to experience the Noel nostalgia of not just city holiday traditions but also an enjoyable performance art form that came close to going the way of the dinosaur but is now enjoying its own Retro revival. However, ATLRetro hopes you will give what you can to support this hardworking community theater in tough economic times, and ARTC is donating 25% of all ticket sales to the Center for the Visually Impaired.

Back in the 1930s and ‘40s families gathered together in the evenings to listen to the radio. Much more than music, less-than-funny deejays and pontificating talk show hosts, radio channels used to air a wide variety of programs from adventure serials with iconic characters like THE SHADOW to dramatic productions like the infamous WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast narrated by Orson Welles, soap operas like STELLA DALLAS to comedies to FIBBER, MCGEE & MOLLY. But with the advent of TV, radio theater became all but a lost art form.

ARTC was one of the first of a handful of companies around the country who have embraced radio theatre, and for more than two decades, its members have worked passionately to afford it a new lease on life as a live performance medium. While listeners still use their imagination to visualize the action, the live stagings, at theaters and also often at science-fiction conventions, afford a behind-the-scenes peek into what it would be like to visit a vintage radio station. Actors read their lines live, and sound effects and music are added on the spot. Of course, you can also purchase recordings of ARTC productions, which run the entire gamut from dramas to comedies to new takes on the old SF adventure serials, to further take yourself back to the golden age of radio. Seems like it’d be bound to make that long roadtrip home for the holidays go a little faster, and once you get there, wouldn’t it be nice to get everyone to be quiet, gather around the fireplace and listen to them, too?

ATLRetro asked David Benedict, vice president of ARTC and co-director/coproducer of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS by Thomas Fuller, why the holidays are such a perfect time to enjoy radio theater and why it should be preserved in a CGI-laden visual age.

Without giving away too much, what’s the basic story behind AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS?

The most basic summary I can give is that AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS is about Christmas inAtlanta. It is a series of short vignettes that detail how our unique city has celebrated the season throughout the years, beginning with the first appearance of the Christmas tree and continuing to modern day. It is framed by the image of a family gathered together for the holiday, passing their own memories along to their children.

David Benedict introduces AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS. Photo Credit: Caran Wilbanks.

This is ARTC’s 12th year performing AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS, so it’s becoming an Atlanta Christmas tradition itself. Why do you think this show has such enduring popularity?

Although the world has gotten smaller, people still hold a strong connection with their local community. AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS puts a sharp focus on the way the holiday and the way we as a city celebrate it has changed throughout the years, while also highlighting the things that remain constant: family, hope, renewal, and giving.

Why does the radio theater format work so well for this production?

Christmas, along with Halloween, are extremely imaginative times of the year and lend themselves well to the format. Radio theatre, or audio drama, calls upon the audience to use their imaginations to envision for themselves the settings and the appearances of the characters. We facilitate this through our use of well-written scripts, sound effects and music. During Christmas, people are more in tune with their imaginations, which is exhibited through our common references to elves at the North Pole, winter wonderlands and flying reindeer. These things, as well as the general joy and goodwill of the season, resonate extremely well with radio theatre.

Do you have a favorite scene in AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS—or should we say “segment”—and why?

It’s so hard to pick one. Thomas Fuller was a master at painting visual tableaus with nothing more than a well-chosen word or two. But if I had to pick just one, I would probably go with Davy Crockett and Me, which tells the story of two brothers who desperately want Davy Crockett’s coonskin caps from the classic TV show. The piece makes a point of contrasting the black and white television of the time with the colorful lights and decorations of the holidays that really stands out in my mind. Plus, I’ve performed it with my good friend Hal Wiedeman for the last few years. We’ve grown so used to the roles that we’ve taken turns being the other brother a couple of times, and we joke that we’re going to give the director a heart attack one year and try switching roles in the middle of the performance!

Jayne Lockhart and Rachel Pendergrass perform in the 2008 ARTC production of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks.

ARTC has performed many plays by Thomas Fuller, and he was a key player for many years with ARTC. Can you share a few words about his impact on ARTC and why ARTC continues to perform so many of his works?

It is hard to overstate the importance of Thomas Fuller to ARTC and the loss we felt at his passing. Thomas had a complete grasp of the potential of radio theatre. He wrote compelling characters, he understood the medium for which he was writing, and he could use sound very effectively. Moreover, though, he was constantly pushing us to greater excellence. He would take new writers and offer them advice, encouragement, and help them make the most of their story. As for why we continue to perform his work, I think you only have to listen to one of his plays to know that. His work stretches us, and as we continue to develop new writers, we often use Thomas’s work as the benchmark against which new work can be measured and the heights they can strive for. One of our (relatively) new writers, Kelley S. Ceccato, has taken to this challenge and is currently writing some of our most immersive, lushly soundscaped work.

It’s pretty unconventional and some would say courageous if you actually want to cover expenses to have tickets that are “name your price.” Why do you do that, and what guidelines should people use to decide what to pay?

Radio theatre was largely abandoned in the United States back in the 1940s and 1950s, and although it is enjoying a comeback of sorts in the modern Internet age, people still don’t often think of it as a viable entertainment medium. And yet when people are exposed to our work and the work of other radio theatres around the world, they find the medium very enriching. At this time of year, we want to give the gift of imagination to people who might not otherwise have the financial capability to come to live theatre. In this economy, leisure expenses are not always affordable, but we feel that at this time of year we have something to offer and want as many people as possible to be able to receive and enjoy the gift of audio drama that we have to give.

In addition to that, we are also making a donation of 25% of all ticket sales to the Center for the Visually Impaired. We feel it’s a very natural fit with this particular nonprofit, and we’ve made a donation to them for several years now as a part of this show. Patrons who are not sure how much they should pay for a ticket should do what feels most comfortable to them. We invite people to come see the show for as little as $0, but we encourage them to pay as much as they like. For the truly undecided, we have a suggested price of $10.

Radio theater isn’t thought of as a visual medium, so why is it so much fun to see it performed live?

Live theatre is always an adventure, and even though we aren’t doing re-creations of the classic radio dramas, preferring to write our own material and do original adaptations, there’s still a nostalgia appeal to seeing a group of actors creating a scene right in front of you using nothing but their voices and the audience’s imagination. There’s also an immediacy that’s difficult to re-create with a recording. How many times have you stopped and listened to a song you heard on the radio even though you could have listened to it on your mp3 player any time you wanted? Lastly, there’s the controlled environment of the theatre itself. Life moves fast these days and even in the car it can be difficult to tune out the distractions and give your imagination free reign, and when you can do that, audio drama is at its best. Being in the theatre allows you to close your eyes and forget everything else except the picture being painted in your mind.

David Benedict, Bill Kronick, Rachel Pendergrass, Jayne Lockhart, Laurice White. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks.

Plus, you never know what’s going to happen. One performance, which took place at Stone Mountain Park outdoors on a rainy day, called for a gunshot. We had a recorded sound effect ready to go for that, but as it turned out, there was someone at the festival demonstrating an actual black powder pistol and we worked it out with them to fire the gun on cue to add a little extra realism. We rehearsed it and it went off without a hitch, but during the performance the pistol misfired. You haven’t really lived until you’re in a situation where your sound effect hasn’t happened, there’s no way for it to happen, and your next line is supposed to be “She shot him!” As it turned out, on that particular occasion, he ended up poisoned.

How long have you been involved in ARTC, and what got you started?

I honestly don’t recall the exact date, but it’s been a really long time. Probably in the early to mid-‘90s. I’ve been a Dragon*Con attendee for many years and ARTC has performed at every Dragon*Con since the first one [1987], but somehow I hadn’t been to any of their shows. At one particular convention I happened across the name in the program book and made it a point to attend. As I recall the performance was COUNTRY OF THE BLIND or possibly THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Even though I had heard of radio drama before, I wasn’t aware that anyone was still performing it and certainly had never seen it done live. The entire experience just appealed to me, watching the sound effects being created on stage by the Foley crew, hearing the actors perform with as much passion and skill as any stage theatre or movie I had ever seen. I sought them out and got information about joining just as soon as the performance was over and have never looked back.

David Benedict. Photo credit: Ben Thompson, Alexandra Photography.

All of ARTC’s performers and technical team do this as a labor of love. What do you do as your day job, how did you personally get involved in ARTC, and why do you think the art form is worth preserving in a visual era?

Currently I work as an assistant manager in Guest Programs at the Georgia Aquarium. My team is the one you are most likely to interact with on a typical visit as we do exhibit interpretation and help people to better identify and understand the animals and conservation issues. As I mentioned, I first saw ARTC at Dragon*Con and was immediately drawn to them. I’ve actually gone through several jobs while sticking with ARTC the whole time and they have played a pretty major role in keeping me in the Atlanta area.

As Thomas Fuller once said, audio drama is probably the most plastic of all the art forms, which means that it can be molded by a skilled writer, sound designer and actors to be whatever you need it to be. Without suffering from the budget constraints that limit all but the most well-funded big studio filmmakers, audio dramatists can set whichever scene they want and there are dozens if not hundreds of people worldwide who are producing it in their own homes. It’s also a much more active art form. Well-crafted films can draw the audience in, but even the best films don’t really involve the audience the way audio drama can. By allowing them to set the scene, radio theatre makes the audience an essential part of the creative process and, we hope, encourages people to be more imaginative in their daily lives.

Many of your previous productions are available as recordings and make great gifts. What 3 productions do you recommend for someone wanting to get a good introduction to radio theater and ARTC, and how can one purchase recordings?

We have a wide variety of genres to choose from, so while we primarily serve the science fiction/horror/fantasy fan base, there’s really something for everyone and it depends on what you’re looking for. My personal favorites, though, are probably ALL HALLOWS MOON (an occult western) by Thomas E. Fuller, RORY RAMMER, SPACE MARSHAL: VOLUME 1 (a science fiction serial) by Ron N. Butler, and THE PASSION OF FRANKENSTEIN by Thomas E. Fuller. I think it’s also worth mentioning that AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS is finally out on CD this year. One of the hazards of an all-volunteer small-press audio publisher is that sometimes things get caught up in the production cycle and never find their way out. AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS took five years to complete, but I think the end result is totally worth it.

Recordings can be purchased on CD at our live performances or by mail order at www.artc.org. You can also download our material from Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon. And for those folks who aren’t sure what modern audio drama sounds like, they can check out our free monthly podcast at http://podcast.artc.org and download mp3s of our past live performances. We also appear on Aberrant Radio Monday nights at 8:30pm.

The cast of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS takes a curtain call, including Alton Leonard on guitar. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks.

What’s next for ARTC in terms of live shows and new recordings in 2012?

Our next live performance after Christmas will be March 3 and 4 at the Academy Theatre where we’ll perform THE TIME MACHINE by H. G. Wells, adapted by Thomas E. Fuller. After that we’ll be at LibertyCon inChattanooga, TN, in July and Dragon*Con in September. In between we’ll take a short break to get back into the studio. Titles for the studio sessions are still being finalized and we still have a bunch of things left from our last studio session to finish up, but I’m thinking strongly of taking in THE TIME MACHINE, which used to be in the catalog but is now out of print, as well as THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE by H. P. Lovecraft, adapted by Ron N. Butler, and if we get really ambitious we may attempt Brad Strickland‘s five-part adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s TREASURE ISLAND.

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Parades, Fireworks, Music and Beer: Our Patriotic Picks for a Retro Atlanta Independence Day

Posted on: Jul 3rd, 2011 By:

Want to spend your Fourth of July in the most classic Retro way? Here are ATLRetro’s top patriotic picks.

Parades

“I Love A Parade” go the lyrics of the classic Arden & Ohmen song, perhaps put to its most whimsical use in this zany1932 Merrie Melodies cartoon. ATLRetro couldn’t agree more that it’s just plain unpatriotic not to on the Fourth of July. Alas, the big Salute 2 America parade (1961-2007) has vanished into the realm of nostalgia. But while the floats and marching bands might not be as glitzy, several suburban parades compensate with homegrown small town star-spangled spirit. To see one of the largest in the area, hop in the car and be in Carrollton by 10, where the parade proves it’s all-American-ness by starting at the Dairy Queen and ending at Kmart. Or head east to Cumming for its Steam Engine Parade (also 10 a.m.), including antique steam engines, tractors and cars, which will be on display in the fairgrounds afterwards where you can ride carnival rides, munch on festival food and linger for evening fireworks.

Prefer to stay in town? Avondale Estates’ parade marches up Clarendon Avenue starting at 10 a.m. at Avondale High School. Marietta also starts up at 10 at the Roswell Street Baptist Church, followed by vendors, food concessions, carnie rides and entertainment in the Square.

Always wanted to be in a parade yourself? Line up at the First Baptist Church of Decatur at 5:30 p.m. for that suburb’s annual July 4th Pied Piper Parade, which officially starts at 6 p.m. and goes to the bandstand in the square where the Callanwolde Concert Band will play patriotic tunes at 7 p.m.

Fireworks

Among the big fireworks displays, Lenox Square‘s Salute 2 America Celebration has history on its side, because, well, there wasn’t even a Centennial Olympic Park until the Olympics in 1996. For sheer ooey-gooey patriotism, however, head to Stone Mountain Park’s Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision which concludes with a mighty fireworks display over the granite dome. It’s been updated this year by adding some Pixar-like CGI effects—yeah, that’s the Mountainvision. But there’s just something so ‘70s/’80s about seeing our nation’s patriotic heroes from Founding Fathers to firefighters in squiggly laser outline—remember when that was NEW technology! Yup, they still play Elvis’s “American Trilogy” and the cartoony “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and that trippy psychedelic rock sequence. If you still can drive there in that old Trans Am, you get extra points. Alas, family-friendly no longer means you can legally enjoy a beer during the show.

If you’re more into an old-time community fireworks display, sitting with your family on a picnic blanket or lawn chairs, head to the Decatur Square or surrounding streets. Every year we’ve been impressed that it lasts longer and is bigger than we expected. If you’ve got a bit of extra cash, fantastic views can be had from the front terrace of Café Lily, along with barbecue and other picnicky specials, DJ music and a glass of complimentary prosecco. OK the latter sounds a bit European, but hey, it’s family-owned by the Italian-American Pitillos and besides Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin really dug France.

We kind of also like the idea of watching the sky explode at scenic Avondale Lake with its vintage boat house and live music by Atlanta Blue Notes. And the Henry County Fireworks Extravaganza is at an actual battlefield, Nash Farm Battlefield Park. We’ll ignore that it was a Civil War battlefield where Georgians fought to separate from the Union, and just enjoy the pony rides, live music and Spirit of ’76 period actors on hand to help families “relive the excitement of when and how America was born!” Extra Retro points for enthusiasm and only 20 bucks a carload so pile those kids into the station wagon and head on down.

Live Music

The fireworks displays and community festivals have live marching bands and other patriotic entertainment. But to ATLRetro.com, nothing sounds more all-American than Hawgapalooza 2011—BBQ pork, beer and country music including kick-ass honky tonk duo Whiskey Belt at Hottie Hawgs BBQ on the Westside. Fun starts at 4 p.m. and concludes with a fireworks show in Whittier Mill Park.

Beer

Nothing’s more all-American Retro than beer, right? Red, White & Brew embraces the patriotic spirit of America’s favorite alcoholic beverage with a beer tasting from 6-10:30 p.m. Even if we’re not too sure about the Retro-ness of being the rooftop of the Georgia Aquarium parking deck, the location promises great views of the downtown fireworks. Gwinnett County may pretend to be all sugary wholesome, but The Mall of Georgia, in all-American consumer spirit, apparently has a Beer Garden planned where mom and dad can toss back a brewski while the kids feast on patriotic food offerings including bratwurst?! I personally prefer to stay ITP, so for more ideas, check out this piece I wrote recently for Metromix on some of the most All-American Bars in Atlanta here.

All photos are from the 2007 Decatur fireworks display and copyright ATLRetro 2011. For post-July 4 Retro action next week, be sure and check back for the regular This Week in Retro Atlanta on Tuesday July 5.

 

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Weekend Update, June 17-19, 2011

Posted on: Jun 17th, 2011 By:

Friday, June 17

Libby Whittemore

It’s an all-around jazzy evening at three Atlanta theaters, attractions and museums. Beloved Atlanta chanteuse Libby Whittemore returns to Actor’s Express for the second show in a four-day run (June 16-19) of LISA & LIBBY’S SUMMER CAMP, joining singer Lisa Paige and musical director/accompanist Robert Strickland for a summer-themed new installment to the Libby’s at the Express series. The show combines standards, Broadway tunes, and more, and in the second act, the 31st Ladyof Country Music Connie Sue Day. Shows start at 7:30 PM. Vocalist Marsha DuPree sings sweet, soulful cabaret and musical revue favorites at Callanwolde Jazz on the Lawn. Or head to the halls of the High Museum of Art for a night of art and Friday Jazz with Kevin BalesJoe Gransden brings his big band style of jazz to Jazz Journeys at Georgia Aquarium. If swingin’ blues is more your mood tonight, Jump’n Jukes are at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Or catch an IMAX movie and merengue the night away during Salsa Night with Salsambo Dance Studio at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Saturday June 18

What could be more retro than the first annual Rockabilly Luau at the Masquerade Music Park from noon to 8 PM, featuring a mix of rockabilly, psychobilly, surf and psycho-surf music by Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho DeVillesDaikaijuThe Pelvis BreastliesThe Mystery Men?The Rebel Surfers,The Go DevilsThe Atomic Rockets and C.N.I. COW. More performers include Blast-off BurlesqueDavina and the HarlotsThe Spinderellas and authentic Polynesian dancers and fire dancers. The total tiki day also promises Hawaiian BBQ and beer, a pre-1968 car show, Hawaiian pin-up girl and swimsuit contest, live tiki carving, lei greeters, a worst Hawaiian shirt contest, vendors and classic tropical drinks. All ticket sales support two local animal rescues. Catch ATLRetro‘s sneak preview with founders and this week’s Kool Kats Chris Mattox and Jessica Vega here and an exclusive interview with The Rebel Surfers here.

Papa Said Knock You Out and that’s exactly what Atlanta Rollergirls plan to do today in their monthly double-header at the Yaraab Shrine Center. First bout between the Sake Tuyas and Toxic Shocks is sold out, we hear, but tickets were still available at press time for the second match at 7:30 PM between Atlanta Rumble B‘s and visiting team Fort Myers Derby Girls. Then take the Highway to Hellbilly as world-famous mountain Dancing Outlaw Jesco White and country singer-songwriter Roger Alan Wade burn up Atlanta at 529 Club in East Atlanta. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno. And of course, ’80s metalheads/rockers will want to head to Lakewood Amphitheatre for Heart and Def Leppard.

Sunday June 19

Blake Rainey & His Demons headlines blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The EarlHall & Oates play Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

Closing this weekend

Ray Harryhausen's interpretation of the Cyclops in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

Sun. June 19 is the last day to see the original images which inspired Ray Harryhausen‘s amazing stop-motion cyclops, centaurs and other mythological beasts in the special exhibition, MONSTERS, DEMONS AND WINGED BEASTS: COMPOSITE CREATURES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University through June 19. The exhibition of monstrous art, drawn from the museum’s permanent collections, shows how the ancient Greeks were inspired by other Middle Eastern cultures in developing a vast repertoire of richly imagined creatures.

Kandace Christian as Margaret Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Melita Easters.

Find out about the headstrong, irrepressible early years and the human side of MRS. JOHN MARSH..THE WORLD KNEW HER AS MARGARET MITCHELL at the Ansley Park Playhouse. The well-reviewed hit one-woman show by Melita Easters and starring Kandace Christian has gotten some great reviews and even includes a rare perspective on her year at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts – the only time she ever left the Southeast. Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM.

Ongoing

MODERN BY DESIGN, the High‘s newest special exhibition opening on Sat. June 4, celebrates three key moments in modern design and also the Museum of Modern Art, New York‘s (MOMA) collection history. The works on loan from MOMA cover “Machine Art” (1934), “Good Design” (1950-55) and “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” (1972), with the latter addressing modernism in the context of 1960s and ’70s counterculture.

The ever irreverent Dad’s Garage Theatre takes a stab at the ’80s horror genre of camp slasher films in SLAUGHTER CAMP about a homicidal maniac terrorizing a theatre camp. June 2-25 on the main stage.

Get a rare chance to view original manuscript pages from the last four chapters of ATLANTA’S BOOK: THE LOST GONE WITH THE WIND MANUSCRIPTat the Atlanta History Center. The new exhibit, which opens today and runs through Sept. 5, is part of a series of activities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of the international bestseller and also includes foreign and first edition copies, the desk Margaret Mitchell used while writing it and select images.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool vintage-inspired happening, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.

 

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 13-19, 2011

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2011 By:

Monday June 13

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde Bar. Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 14

Watch Dennis Hopper battle crazed redneck cannibals as Splatter Cinema presents THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 at the Plaza Theatre tonight at 9:30 PM. Read Geoff Slade‘s bloody review here.  Hear UK ’70s hard rock band Uriah Heap at Variety Playhouse. Attend the Atlanta launch of THE SWEETEST THING, a novel about two remarkable women during the Great Depression, by award-winning writer Elizabeth Musser, author of The Swan House, at the Atlanta History Center. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 15

It’s only halfway through the work week, but Syrens of the South Productions are ready to make it go a little faster with Hump Day Honeys, a weeknight burlesque show at The Shelter featuring both local favorites, such as Katherine Lashe and Kittie Katrina, as well as hot out-of-town guests such as Burlesque Nouveau from Greensboro, NC. Shows start promptly at 10 PM, end at midnight, and include a raffle to benefit the Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 16

Slim Chance & the Convicts

Slim, Dangerous Dan and Tony Drummer reunite for the first time in five years and replay their very first set from June 4, 1986 to celebrate The 25th Anniversary of Slim Chance & the Convicts at Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. Opening for the Redneck Underground icons is Spooky Partridge. No cover charge, no smoking and all ages!

Beloved Atlanta chanteuse Libby Whittemore returns to Actor’s Express for a four-day run (June 16-19) of LISA & LIBBY’S SUMMER CAMP, joining singer Lisa Paige and musical director/accompanist Robert Strickland for a summer-themed new installment to the Libby’s at the Express series. The show combines standards, Broadway tunes, and more, and in the second act, the 31st Lady of Country Music Connie Sue Day. Shows start at 7:30 PM. Relive the pangs and pleasures of ’80s high school romance via John Hughes’ 1984 hit SIXTEEN CANDLES at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features He Sang She Sang and Hopfrog.

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