Artists' Television Access

The New Talkies: Live film narration 2008

a neo-benshi cabaret

Saturday, July 12, 2008, 8:00 pm, $10

The Kearneys talk back to Spielberg’s characters

David Larsen

Rodney Koeneke

Tonight’s program is inspired by the work of the katsudo benshi, the Japanese artist of cinematic narration during the silent movie era. Benshis were the actors, writers, and orators who accompanied films live in the theater to explain, voice and comment on the screen action.

In our neo-benshi adaptation of the format for a modern sensibility, each writer/performer takes a film scene, mutes the dialog, then devises a new script (sometimes with sound effects) to interpret, ventriloquize and even sing both with and against the film.  Their performances serve to subvert, amplify and hijack the original visuals.

In addition to several world premieres from local Bay Area artists, we are delighted to have been able to lure three performers from events in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, where we participated in neo-benshi cabarets over the last year.

The bill features performances by

  • Jaime Cortez – Guess Who’s Citing Donor Men?
  • Douglas & Nicole Kearney – A Ninja, No Dandies: the Temple of Doom
  • Rodney Koeneke – Sprain My Pop
  • David Larsen – Anglo Runs
  • Cynthia Sailers – A Fan’s Honest Piano
  • Erika Staiti & Konrad Steiner- Who’s Virginia Woolf Afraid Of?
  • Clive Worsley – Hi Major, Seen John?

Plus some other merriments to be added.

Neo-benshi at its best mashes up subversive written scripts, deft acting, and acrobatic mind-eye coordination.”  – Steve Dickison, The Poetry Center, SFSU

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