2010 Marginal Arts Festival Celebrates Paper Engineering and Opera

Last year’s First Annual Marginal Arts Festival featured a crazy-fun parade, high-energy acrobatic dancing, great music, graphic arts and performance art. Beyond the magic of the moment, it set the stage for an even better festival this year.

Speaking to a capacity crowd at the Taubman Museum’s Box Lunch Forum on Friday, February 12, Colette Fu (daughter of “Local Colors” founder Pearl Fu) introduced the audience to the art of pop-up books for adults, which dates back to the 13th century and enjoys an appreciable European following today. The art form requires the skills of a paper engineer as Fu fuses her award-winning photography with computer graphics designs and the crafting of intricate foldout mechanisms. Fu’s work is eye-popping gorgeous.

Using pop-up art as a vehicle for content has resulted in art that both delights and enlightens her audience.  Her first series of pop-up books offers a visual essay on fears and anxiety as communicated through pop-up photographs of unsettling, haunting images of landmarks found in historical Philadelphia. Her latest series focuses on her study of 25 minority ethnic tribes (some on the verge of extinction) in southwest China’s Yunnan province, where her mother lived as a child. In 2008 she visited the province as a Fulbright scholar, but it was Colette Fu, the daughter of a member of the Yi tribe, for whom the gates of hospitality were opened,  and the people shared with her their tribal legends, religious beliefs, and customs.

The Q&A at the end of the lecture (accompanied by a photo presentation) gave Fu the opportunity to share the experience of her journey to a remote province of China. Her purpose was not to engage the people with political philosophies, but to tell the stories of the people…ultimately by means of pop-up book art.

Brian Counihan, Marginal Arts Festival Director, who was seated in the audience, received enthusiastic applause when he was introduced — the crowd showing appreciation for his part in putting together an amazing festival that would culminate at the Fat Tuesday Party at the Jefferson Center on February 16.

The next evening at the Dumas Theatre, Marginal Arts Festival goers were treated to a shortened, uncostumed debut of “Miss Lucy, A Folk Opera in Two Acts,” which will be presented in a world premiere in the spring.  This opera, written and directed by Les Epstein, drama teacher at Community High School for Arts & Academics, has it all:  the coolest of bluegrass background music played by Blue Mule, operatic music composed by Tom Ohmsen and William Penn and directed by Kevin Smith, outstanding singers including Karl Lindevaldsen, Idara Aquaowo, Drew Dowdy and T.J. Anderson, and a riveting story line laced with humor that combines local history, the Supreme Court ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson  (“separate but equal”), the building of the railroad, and two characters that represent opposite poles of  late 19th century  Roanoke citizenry – the very real Miss Lucy Addison and fictional Confederate War veteran Captain J.T. Burke.

At the conclusion, an appreciative audience filed out, filled with excitement that comes when something wonderful is in the works; performances of “Miss Lucy” are scheduled for May 2010.

By Gail Tansill Lambert
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