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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lady Aston's BarnStone Salon: Michael Garcia Performs

(This series of posts describes the projects each of seven artists brought to "Lady Aston's BarnStone Salon," held in early February at my home in Charles City, VA. The first of the series was posted Feb. 7, 2011.) 

 I'll never forget the first time I saw Michael Garcia. It was in 1977. I was judging a poetry round at some long forgotten university, and Michael stood to perform. I don't remember what he performed; I only remember he blew me away. His performance was, as we say in the competitive forensics trade, a pen stopper. I put down my pen, sat back, and enjoyed the ride.

While his forensics days are long behind him (he holds the record for the most individual national championships, and in 1977, won Pentathlon at the National Forensics Association's national competition), he is still in the business of blowing people away with his performance skills. He has a Chicago theatre past, On Saturday night, while sitting in a chair and lit by a fire's glow, Michael BROUGHT IT.


Here's how he described the experience:

"Many, many times with this group of exceptional people I have been both
audience and performer. It is my role as a performer that I wanted to revive with this group. I wanted to see if I still had game; if the performance skills impressed on all of us 30 years ago were still accessible to me. Oh! It was great riding on that old interpretation bicycle again: Memorize something worth repeating, say it out loud to practice how it fits on your body, then perform it to share it with ceremony, respect, and reverence. It's what I do. It makes a difference in the world."


His first performance selection was from his one-man show entitled "Hold the Hot Sauce!: the Story of a Non-Spanish-Speaking Mexican Queer," which I saw many years ago in Norfolk, VA. This autoethnography chronicles Michael's wonder years and showcases his writing skills.

Next came the opening monologue to Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood:A Play For Voices. If  you'd like to hear Richard Burton read this, there's a 9 minute version on YouTube. Frankly,  I preferred Michael's interpretation. It was less strident and self-conscious, but no less powerful. I guess I'm saying it was intimate. For me, that intimacy gilds the language. I loved it.
 
Do you know the poem, A Tree Telling of Orpheus by Denise Levertov? If you want to, click on the hyperlink to access it.  In this poem, a tree is stirred by the far-away ripplings of music as the Greek god of Music, Orpheus, draws near. As the music (and the god) come closer, the tree swoons in ecstasy. When the god finally moves on, the tree is so overcome with grief it rips itself from the earth and follows. It is an excruciatingly  beautiful, memorable, and emotional tribute to the power of art. My soul soars each time I hear it. And when Michael performed, he created for me a moment I'll never forget. 

Michael ended his performance with one of Exeter's monologues, from Henry VI, Part 3, I think.

The Mister, who only met Michael that weekend and had not, of course, ever been privy to his talent, was riveted. "I did not expect that performance to come out of that man," he said.

I know. That's what he does. Like I said—pen stopper.

Today, Michael is a freelance graphic designer specializing in providing expert PowerPoint/Keynote support to a wide array of clients from the McDonald's Corporation to The Nature Conservancy. Click here for his website.

Somewhere along the way, Michael picked up a Nikon D50 SLR digital camera and photography became another area of creative expression. He took many of the photos I've included in the Barnstone Salon posts, and I'll be featuring more tomorrow.

Thanks, Michael. You kicked, my friend.

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