The Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is gearing up for an event Saturday, March 2, with a screening of “I Am a Noise” and a talkback featuring two of the film’s directors, Miri Navasky and Karen O’Connor, alongside a special appearance by the subject of the documentary herself — the legendary Joan Baez.
“I Am a Noise” began filming in 2013 and took many years to complete. Navasky and O’Connor, longtime collaborators, paused production for a time to work on another film, “Growing Up Trans,” for the PBS documentary series “Frontline.” They resumed work on the Baez film when she announced her farewell tour in 2017.
“We started again with the idea that there had to be something really interesting following a woman who has been famous for 60-plus years coming to the end of her career,” O’Connor explained. From that point on, the filmmakers were driven by a shared vision to create a documentary that eschewed conventional techniques and celebrated Baez’s unfiltered voice.
“We didn’t want to have talking heads or famous people interrupting a narrative to talk about how wonderful she is,” Navasky explained regarding some more typical devices used in documentaries. Instead, they sought to immerse audiences in Baez’s world through the use of what would become unprecedented access to Baez’s personal archive.
In an early scene in the film, Baez opens a rolling door to what is revealed as a treasure trove of archival materials — drawings, cassettes, recordings and letters, memories spanning her entire life and career. “We didn’t know the extent of it,” Navasky admitted. “Even Karen, who’s great friends with her, didn’t realize the extent to which she, her mother, her sisters and her father documented everything in her life.”
“It’s not just an archive,” added O’Connor, ”but an archive that had an arc starting at 5 years old all the way through.”
“Her family had done so much,” Navasky added, “not only documenting, but writing. It was a way of them sorting through their own stories. I think, in some way, they were constantly thinking through writing.”
Baez’s artwork emerged as almost another character itself, an immersive tool to allow the viewer into her internal world. Meticulously captured by the filmmakers and lightly animated by the team at the Ireland-based Eat the Danger, the viewer is given a glimpse into Baez’s creative genius and allowed a deeper exploration into her emotional journey.
Said O’Connor, who has had a 30-year friendship with Baez: “She is incredibly creative in every way. One of the things Miri, Maeve [O’Boyle, the film’s third co-director and editor] and I wanted to capture in the film was this kind of intense creativity. All those elements — that art, the photographs, the therapy tapes — we wanted each element to also have their own dramatic arc. So, you see the artwork from 5 years old all the way through. You hear the tapes from 21 to who she is now, so that you have a kind of trajectory of a life.”
Having three filmmakers is quite unusual but the collaborative dynamic between Navasky, O’Connor and O’Boyle was instrumental in shaping the film’s narrative. “We all have very different strengths,” Navasky reflected. “Having Maeve, who is more brutal with the edit, and Karen, whose relationship with Joan made the film, was crucial.”
Yet, navigating sensitive subjects like family trauma and personal struggles posed a unique challenge. “We had to make different choices as we made the film,” Navasky acknowledged. “We didn’t want to answer questions. We didn’t have the answers.” Maintaining ambiguity allowed the filmmakers to preserve the complexity of Baez’s story without imposing definitive conclusions.
Baez’s own reaction to the film remains a source of pride and reflection for Navasky and O’Connor. “Every time we have a screening, she watches it,” Navasky revealed. “Each time, she has a different reaction to different pieces of it. It’s been interesting to witness her perspective evolve.”
Baez will have another chance for yet another reaction March 2, when the film is shown at The Triplex. The cinema became a nonprofit in July when the community received word that the theater was closing in early June. Nicki Wilson, president of the board of directors of the Triplex, had a group of people in her living room April 1, where, she said, “we all decided we can’t live in a town without a movie theater.” The Save the Triplex movement was born, and by April 14, the group had formed a board and filed for nonprofit status. “Then we just started getting donations from all over,” said Wilson. “We put out the message in all the newspapers and, you know, donations started coming in at $20, $50 $1000, $100,000. It was insane.”
With this grassroots effort, the group was able to sign a $1 million deal July 24 with the owner of the theater, who holds the mortgage. Since then, the all-volunteer team, save for a few staff members who run the theater itself, has been working nonstop. The team has been able to redo three of the four theaters and the lobby, and opened Nov. 15, 2023, with a screening of “Maestro” that included a talkback by Nina Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein’s daughter.
Said Wilson: “We have done a few fundraisers since with local stars Karen Allen, Lauren Ambrose, David Rasche from “Succession,” Jane Atkinson. We’ve had a nice group of people supporting us from the beginning. It’s been quite the wild ride.”
Proceeds from the fundraiser March 2 will go into unrestricted funds that will help to pay the mortgage. It will also create youth programming, including free screenings for local students, symposiums and educational events.
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Now well into its 101st year of serving the community, the nonprofit Kent Art Association (KAA) opened its 32nd annual student art show Saturday, Feb. 10, attracting student artists, their teachers and the arts community to celebrate the wealth of young talent being nurtured in area public and private schools.
Participating in this year’s show were students from seven area schools, including Millbrook (New York) High School, Housatonic Valley Regional High School (HVRHS), Forman School, Marvelwood School, The Frederick Gunn School, The Hotchkiss School and The Kent School.
“We’re here to encourage, support and mentor regional talent,” said Debbie Shiflett-Fitton, KAA manager, speaking of the organization’s ongoing mission since it was founded in 1923.
The current show has been co-chaired by Carl Chaiet and Mike Spross. Key to the story of the student art show was the deep commitment of the late Constance Horton, who served as KAA president and is to be credited with beginning the student art show tradition. Spross recalled that he began by coming to the art show, then participating as a teacher, and is now hosting the show.
“There’s no getting around it,” said Chaiet. “Each year the artwork gets better.”
“People have no idea what to expect. It’s contemporary, using new technologies,” Chaiet said. Speaking of the young artists, he added, “They are up on everything.”
Seeing the show as a great experience, Michelle Cring, who teaches art at Millbrook High School, attended the exhibit with her husband and son, Maxwell, 1. She praised the value of gathering students’ works from area schools, noticing the variety of themes and materials. Maxwell seemed to prefer the more colorful entries.
One participating student, Ellie Wolgemuth, a junior at HVRHS, used conte, first introduced to the art world in France as a drawing medium in 1795. It is a powdered medium, harder than pastels or charcoal, that is mixed with a clay base, said to mix better in contact with paper.
Art teacher Warren Prindle was circled by his HVRHS students, using the exhibit as a teaching moment while appreciating and celebrating their achievements.
“We have motivated and talented students,” Prindle said, adding that the quality of the HVRHS art program is greatly enhanced by his colleague, Patricia Vanicky, who specializes in teaching photography and sculpture.
One work from each participating school was selected by the judges for top honor and awarded a certificate. For HVRHS, the honor went to Finian Malone; for The Kent School, Phoena Dadson; for Millbrook High School, Sarah Marchant; for The Hotchkiss School, Quisha Lee; for The Frederick Gunn School, Jake Pellicane and Tobin Connell; for Marvelwood School, Sebastian Killin; and for Forman School, Llewelyn Davis.
The exhibit will continue through Friday, Feb. 23. For more information, go to www.kentart.org.
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Feb 14, 2024
Just a few days ago it was raining so hard the bounce could fill your shoes.
Snow this week, though, with plenty of dark days still ahead giving good reasons for staying close to home.
Winter does have its pleasures, I think, although the foods of the season can pale a bit as it goes on. And on. Palates can tire. Mine has, anyway, although I like cold weather roasts and stews. But after a while there is a certain long-cooked sameness about it all, and the variety and abundance of summer’s fresh local produce can seem very far away.
Valentine’s Day offers one bright spot in the dreariness of mid-winter. Remember how exciting exchanging valentines was in elementary school? We all had our little crushes. And still, now, the day offers a chance to think for a moment about the loves in your life — friends, family, your dog if you have one. So do that — think the good thoughts about the past and the present, and make a plan to shake up an otherwise rote menu. One suggestion follows for how you might brighten a meal and the day, or any other day.
Winter Fruit Stew, Spiced and Spiked
Start this one day ahead. Easy to finish and keeps well.
2/3 cup bourbon or brandy
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dried mission figlets, sliced in half and hard stems cut off
3/4 to 1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 cup jumbo raisins, or regular raisins, yellow or black
3 ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled and medium chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
Vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
I have a friend who has a stall on the boardwalk in Atlantic City — beat that, by the way — whose more serious business is supplying nuts to casinos. He recommended a place called nuts.com to me and I have ordered regularly from them ever since. Nuts, dried fruits, etc.; organic options, very high-quality products and good service. You might try them, although, of course, all the ingredients can easily be bought locally, weather allowing. Guido’s has them, among many others.
Cook the bourbon, spices and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the figlets, apricots and raisins. Pour the mixture into a gallon-size zip-top freezer bag. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and chill for 24 hours. The next day, put the mix into a large, heavy pot along with the pears and ginger. Heat this to a simmer. You can serve at this point, or refrigerate and later dip out servings into a microwavable dish with a cover. For four servings, cooking about 3 and a half minutes will be enough. You’re looking for nicely warm, not hot. Sprinkle with the walnuts or pecans, and serve with vanilla ice cream.
So that’s the really good dessert. The advice? Love and happiness, I have learned, are a moving target. Sometimes you just have to take a shot. Go on.
Clarification: the end of my previously published column, Really Good Chicken and Rice, was altered from what I originally wrote. It should have read:
“Anyway, I was thinking about the grocery bagging. What you want to do is put the heavy stuff into small bags, and put those onto the floor of the back seat. Then take your big bag, which you’ve filled with good bread, soft cheeses, berries, tomatoes, potato chips — all the fragile things that make life worth living — and sit that on top. You can’t ignore what’s weighty, and these things are going to be there if you’re leading an examined life. Keep them under control and in proportion. But you’ve got to protect the things that bring you joy. Keep them uppermost. Don’t forget.”
Several sentences were deleted from this paragraph, so that it appeared to offer only very basic instructions about how to load groceries into your car. I’m assuming most people already knew how to do this.
Pam Osborne lives in Salisbury.
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