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Everyone Looks Gay in Italy and Other Observations with Matteo Lane

by Steve Desroches

There’s a famous photo of a young Bill Clinton shaking President John F. Kennedy’s hand in 1963. It’s just a snapshot of a moment in time, but one that records a flash of not so much destiny, but perhaps the gravitational pull of excellence meets ambition plus inspiration. You just never know what a passing encounter can do to the trajectory of someone’s life and what they might accomplish. Consider Matteo Lane. When the up and coming standup comic was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago he had plenty of options. A talented visual artist he also speaks five languages, has a singing range of six octaves, and is also a trained opera singer. But on one night in Chicago he went to see the legendary Joan Rivers. She undoubtedly changed his life, he says. Sitting there in the dark he felt compelled, even called, with a sense of certainty that comedy was what he wanted to do. And so he did.

Beginning his career in 2011, as a gay man, he didn’t have very many role models in standup comedy. There have obviously been gay men in the field, but gay people have more often been the punchline rather than in the spotlight. Starting out it was Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin, two comics who worked pro-LGBTQ+ material into their routines, that motivated Lane to keep at it, even when faced with homophobic hecklers or comedy club owners. But over the past decade things have changed, particularly in New York City, Lane’s home, where he performs at the Comedy Cellar and other venues nightly. No longer are LGBTQ+ comics staying in the closet, and there is little to no need to adjust material for a majority straight audience. People aren’t laughing at him because he’s gay. They’re laughing at his material because they can relate even if they aren’t gay.

Photo: Alex Schaefer

“My material transcends no matter the make-up of the audience,” says Lane. “Yeah, I might change a bit of the material if the audience is mostly gay. Maybe I can spend five full minutes on Liza Minnelli and people will care. But straight audiences are very open to queer stories. Ten years ago things were different. It’s refreshing to go out and have this conversation. I’m in the trenches. I’m doing the work. I’m seeing things change.”

His vantage point in comedy continues to new heights with appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and more recently on Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup. While the pandemic had him sidelined for over a year, venues are opening back up and Lane is hitting the road starting a tour of North America here in Provincetown at the Pilgrim House this weekend. Lane made his Provincetown debut in 2019 for a one-night-only gig while in port as a performer on a VACAYA cruise that was in town overnight. He came back later for a vacation and fell in love with the place. He’d been to Fire Island and didn’t care for it, especially, he says with a laugh, because he once bombed there…hard. But Provincetown felt much more laid back with more to offer and a friendlier vibe. He’s working a lot now, largely straight through to the New Year. But he’ll make sure to come back both as a comic to work and as a visitor to relax.

Whether it’s his hatred for Starbucks coffee, and the people who like it, wishing white women wouldn’t drink on Tuesdays, the coworker who can’t get over he’s gay, how everyone looks gay in Italy, or that being called an anti-gay slur from a moving car can be funny, Lane’s humor is in that sweet spot, combining universal experiences through a gay prism. Comedy heals, and there has perhaps been no time like the present when we’ve all needed to laugh. These are also perilous times for comedians. A joke that bombed five years ago or an edgy attempt at humor that offends a blogger can haunt a comic, even the most seasoned. It’s as if the public has forgotten they’re jokes. But Lane takes it all in stride.

“Context, nuance, subtlety seem to be forgotten,” says Lane. “Now people are digesting 20-second clips of comedy online. They miss the show. They miss the context. They aren’t building empathy for the comic if you see it that way. When you’re there it humanizes [the comic], you build a relationship so when you go into darker territory the audience will go with you because they feel comfortable with you. It’s unfair to comedians to take a quick clip and judge their work by that. It’s the comic’s job to be ahead of the culture, to grow and learn. There are jokes I’ve told in the past that I wouldn’t tell now. The times have changed and so have I. There are no subjects off limits in comedy, but that being said you have to pay attention to the culture.”

Matteo Lane performs at Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, Saturday, August 7, 9 p.m., Sunday, August 8, 7:30 and 9 p.m., and Monday August 9, 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($32) are available at the box office and online at pilgrimhouseptown.com. For more information call 508.487.6424.

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ST33LE

Photo: Jaiden van Bork

The colorful button-down, iconic short shorts, and even the swim brief are staples of the vibrant men’s fashion found on the streets of Provincetown on any given day. This unique fashion culture here is thanks to the vision of local and worldwide designers, quality retailers, and unique brands and labels. Originally an exclusive line carried by BodyBody, ST33LE is one such brand. An offshoot of Marc Jacobs, ST33LE offers stylish and comfortable athleisure-wear and swimsuits made from high-quality, durable materials. The brand has achieved extreme popularity in Provincetown and abroad, and has now opened its own location in place of the former Marc Jacobs store at 184 Commercial Street

Look up and down the Provincetown streets on a busy day and you will undoubtedly see some ST33LE merchandise. The key to the brand’s success is in the fabric. Made from breathable combinations of linen, cotton, silk, and the sustainable, eucalyptus-based Tencel fabric, ST33LE’s clothing is durable, quick-drying, comfortable, and stylish. Offering shirts, shorts, swimwear, accessories, and more, ST33LE has already made itself a core part of Provincetown fashion. And now, with its beautiful new space, inspired by the interiors of a contemporary Japanese farmhouse, ST33LE has carved out a home of its own for shoppers to explore.

For store manager, Keith Labasbas, men’s fashion is at a pivotal moment. “Men are still learning to put things together”, says Labasbas. “They want to go outside of the box—especially after this pandemic.” For the men of Provincetown and anyone else who’s interested (Labasbas notes that men are not always his only customers), ST33LE offers stylings that will allow you to comfortably explore your own sense of fashion.

ST33LE
184 Commercial St.
508.413.9098
st33lebrand.com

 

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Review: Salvatore Del Deo

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Entering the Mary Heaton Vorse House, you are always transported back in time to old Provincetown. The authentic creaking floors, narrow doorways, impossibly narrow, steep staircases, and absolutely gorgeous antique wooden furniture set the perfect stage for an art exhibition intrinsically connected to Provincetown’s artistic past.

The work of Salvatore Del Deo offers an exceptionally rich history of the artist colony, extending back to the 1950s and forward to today, with landscapes, narrative paintings, and portraits of notable Provincetowners past and present. Having Del Deo’s work hang in the former home of the late writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse, a friend of Del Deo’s, creates a kind of conversation you’d miss in a traditional gallery or museum setting. Del Deo’s paintings of fishing vessels, a commemoration of the Patricia Marie (Homage to the Patricia Marie III), fishermen and artists—including himself, and the wharf fire that destroyed the Provincetown Theater in 1998 (Fire at Skarloff’s Wharf) are powerful reminders of Del Deo’s deep connection to this town. His work over the 60 years or more on display is varied in approach as well as in subject. Many impressionist portraits feature dark palettes, while landscapes and fishing boat scenes are often brightly colored and vivid.

The faces and figures are beautifully expressive, creating strong connections even when you don’t know the story of these individuals. But in this show, it’s not about quietly walking around and absorbing it all on your own. Here, viewing the exhibition is combined with a docent tour to clue you into not only the narratives and biographies of the subjects depicted, but also of the house itself.

But this is no mothballed house museum, as Gene Tartaglia of the Provincetown Arts Society and sometimes other guests live in the house, so it is very much alive. Each room has been lovingly restored and interior-designed by Ken Fulk and the exhibition was curated by the director of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum Chris McCarthy and Tartaglia. Part of the curation process, according to McCarthy, who was my guide when I went, involved selecting and hanging work in accordance with architectural and design features that already existed in the space. In this way the artwork is truly integrated into the space and it feels like these works were just there to begin with.

The 93-year-old Del Deo still works and shows at Berta Walker Gallery, who has provided the works for this show.

Salvatore Del Deo’s work is on view at the Mary Heaton Vorse House, 466 Commercial St., Provincetown through August 15, by appointment only. To reserve a viewing between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, e-mail [email protected].

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Red Hot Mama

Ginger Minj Makes Provincetown Debut

by Steve Desroches

Ginger Minj is proof that you can plan for success, but it still comes as a surprise when it arrives. Hailing from Orlando, Florida, the stand-out queen from season seven of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the ongoing season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Ginger has distinguished herself in every area of competition as well as on the stage wherever she performs live. Getting cast on the show in 2015 Ginger, also known as Joshua Eads, thought he’d be “gaymous,” that is, well-known in LGBTQ+ bars and cabarets in the United States. But of course the show has a global reach with fans downloading it in various ways from as far away as Slovenia, Vietnam, and South Africa. Now wherever Eads goes, in and out of drag, Ginger is recognized. It has him shaking his head in disbelief and laughing in contentment with a bit of glee.

As a drag queen Ginger is stellar in comedy, performance, and all around show-queen-ship, getting laughs for his outrageously theatrical ways. But with a name like Ginger Minj he’s a particular hit across the pond as that nom du drag is British slang for what we’d say in the United States is a “red beaver.”

“I’m a big hit in the UK, for sure,” says Eads. “Ginger is really just an extension of me, she’s my voice. When I was younger I was told to stay quiet and not embarrass anyone, so I was always afraid to speak my mind, but Ginger does that for me. Unlike me, though, I’m pretty sure she’s aging backwards!”

Like a lot of drag performers, developing a character became a way of both overcoming the homophobia that can silence LGBTQ+ youth by driving them to the point of near invisibility, and finding a unique way to harness artistic talents where there isn’t a clear path. Ginger was initially born out of a love for theater, which abounds in the tourist-based economy of Central Florida. But as Eads, he didn’t quite fit in as he also had a love for drag performance, which in Orlando are two “very different worlds” says Eads. So he made his own scene starting a Broadway-themed brunch that mixed theater and drag. And the rest is “herstory,” he says.

Ginger first made a splash in the drag pageant circuit, a specific type of drag culture in presentation and performance as it’s based in competition. One of the effects of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the subsequent international incarnations with franchises in the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy is that it’s given a platform for the numerous types of drag that exists in the world and within the United States. Prior to the show’s debut in 2009 there was no way to see regional forms of drag other than to travel, often having queens from various parts of the country feeling like a stranger in a strange land among other drag performers. What worked in San Francisco didn’t in Atlanta and what got the crowd hopping in Chicago left them flat in Houston. But with Drag Race queens can become students of various styles and then on the subsequent tours that often come their way, they can become universally beloved giving them more opportunities than ever. At almost 100 years old, the Provincetown drag tradition is heavily based in theater, making Ginger a perfect fit.

“Before Drag Race the only type of drag I really knew was from the southern pageant circle,” says Eads. “Since I’ve been able to travel, I’ve gotten to see every type of entertainment that falls under the drag umbrella and it’s so exciting! Drag should be fun and as long as you’re not hurting anyone, I’m here for it!”

Eads still can’t quite believe all that’s come his way since leaving small Leesburg, Florida, for Orlando and then the world. He’s been featured in the pageant comedy Dumplin’ alongside Jennifer Aniston, the Netflix series AJ and the Queen, portrayed drag icon Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show at the famed Woodlawn Theatre in San Antonio, Texas, released the album Gummy Bear in June, and is filming a new TV show in Los Angeles that he can’t talk about yet, all the while being still very much in the game for winning this season of All Stars. And then there’s coming to Provincetown to make his debut, something that’s been a longtime goal of his. He’s found personal happiness, too. All of this joy and satisfaction helps with what can be a grueling schedule as well as keeping him on his toes, always evolving, always prepared. It’s been a wild ride since he first shantayed onto the mainstage at RuPaul’s Drag Race and he’s ready for more.

“Well, I’m almost 10 years older than my original season,” says Eads. “I’m married to my husband, CJ, I’ve done TV, movies, and world tours, I quit drinking, and I’m just a lot more aware of who I really am. I had to shake all of those insecurities and just flaunt the fun I feel inside.”

Ginger Minj performs at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., Provincetown, Wednesday through Saturday at 9 p.m. starting August 11 through September 11. Tickets ($40/$45/$75) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.

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July 29 2021

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Legacies of the Body

The portrait of David Wojnarowicz by Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowicz Manhattan - Night (II),1985 is available at Albert Merola Gallery, 424 Commercial St., Provincetown.

David Wojnarowicz’s Overdue Provincetown Debut

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Top Image: The portrait of David Wojnarowicz by Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowicz Manhattan – Night (II),1985 is available at Albert Merola Gallery, 424 Commercial St., Provincetown.

At 445 Commercial Street last month, a unique show opened without much fanfare, despite the enormous importance of the featured artist. In an exhibition called Tidal Motion, art consultant and gallerist Joe Sheftel presents the work of David Wojnarowicz, a key American artist of the late 20th century. Given Wojnarowicz’s importance as a queer voice in the culture wars of the 1980s and as an artist working with themes of masculinity, the body, sexuality, consumerism, and AIDS (from which he died in 1992), and his close proximity in New York, it’s somewhat surprising to learn Sheftel is the first to bring his work to Provincetown. But here it is, and of course, it makes perfect sense for his works to hang in Provincetown, which has also played such an important role in American art and in the AIDS crisis and ensuing activism. Sheftel, who has been coming to Provincetown for a long time but only recently began living here year-round during the pandemic last year, feels it’s an important step toward something for Provincetown as an art colony. He brought the works once last summer for a small showing at the Mary Heaton Vorse House, and now he has mounted this full season-long show in cooperation with New York’s PPOW Gallery, which handles Wojnarowicz’s estate.

Untitled (Face in Dirt), 1991/2018 (pigmented ink print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308 gsm, 16 x 20” Edition of 25 )

“Lots of people are doing great things here and I didn’t want to double down on what they’re doing, but I thought there was some space to show artists from an international context or from different contexts who aren’t necessarily showing here. And I thought that’s something that could be of interest to local artists. Like I’m sure local artist—and a lot of artists—talk at the galleries about the Wojnarowicz show. And it’s something that fits in here, too… you know, this is very political art from the 80s, and this town was super-politicized in the 80s and such a place of AIDS activism and public health activism,” he says.

Coincidentally, right down the street, the Albert Merola Gallery just took down a show of work by Wojnarowicz’s longtime friend, lover, and artistic mentor Peter Hujar, which included a portrait of the late artist. While it was recently discovered that Hujar did come to Provincetown and take photographs here, there is no evidence that Wojnarowicz accompanied him or came here on his own, however his work is thematically simpatico with the Provincetown of that same era in the 1980s.

Untitled (man with primitive mask), 1979 (color photograph, 8 x 10”). Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz; Joe Sheftel Gallery; and P•P•O•W, New York.

His work is deeply personal and reflects the difficult childhood and abuse he and his siblings sustained. It points out hypocrisy and cruelty and manages to simultaneously be about shame and pride in one’s body and identity. His outsider status allowed him to clearly see the pretensions in American life, the layers of conformity and intolerance that continue to stunt us as a people, as a culture. He worked in various media and the show here reflects that, with photographs, prints, paintings, collage, and mixed media.

One of the things that draws Sheftel to Wojnarowicz is how collaborative his work was. “There’s always this kind of interaction with other artists in his work and keeping the legacy of Hujar intact. So I love how you know Hujar was in the catacombs in Italy with his grant, and the bodies start showing up in his work from all these bones and corpses, and that figures in [artist Paul] Thek’s work, and then you see it also in Wojnarowicz’s work. So these legacies of the body come through.”

Untitled (Genet, after Brassai), 1979/1989 (lithograph, 35 x 47 1/2” Edition of 10)

Sheftel is rotating through a roster of more than a dozen young artists whose works often connect to Wojnarowicz’s through these ideas about the politicization of the body. A great example of this is the work by Nash Glynn, who is transgender but prefers the term “transdisciplinary artist.” In the gallery currently is a nude self-portrait that invites conversation about gender and the ways in which one’s body is expected to conform to the binary. Other artists, such as Jonathan Lyndon Chase (whose works should be on view some time this month), are less direct but reference not only aspects of the body and gender but also Black identity.

Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s Glass Table Reflection (2020, acrylic paint, chalk, pastel, marker, collage plastic on muslin, 40×40” ©Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Courtesy the artist and Company Gallery)

“There are a lot of great artists in town and there’s this incredible legacy of art in Provincetown. It was the center of the American art world, and it is still important and there’s still great artists here, but it’s not necessarily taking part in the conversation in quite the same way,” Sheftel explains.

To that end, Tidal Motion is not just about Wojnarowicz. The work of the other artists from around the world extend that sense of sociopolitical commentary, interest in the personal as political, and art that both references and responds to life in all its complexity. Sheftel explains his desire is not to do what other galleries are already doing—which is also relevant, but perhaps in different ways. He wants to make sure that Provincetown’s vitality is maintained through continual exposure to artists outside its local canon, artists who have provocative contributions to many of the issues and ideas we talk about here, and whose work is also artistically challenging, as Wojnarowicz’s was in his time and also continues to be in many respects.

Sam McKinniss’ Gabriel and Slam (2021, oil on linen, 8 x 10.25” ©Sam McKinniss, Courtesy the artist and JTT Gallery)

Speaking about the artists chosen for this revolving roster, Sheftel explains, “These were artists whose works I’d seen in my travels as an advisor, doing artist studio visits from galleries who I respect, and I’ve been really excited about their work. With some I have a personal relationship and some I don’t. And they were all really interested in showing in the context of Wojnarowicz, in that there’s this legacy of activism and the body and creating work during challenging times, and all those elements. One of the things we’re living with in a magnified way right now is how does government and health interact?…He was really at the forefront of questions around identity and community at that point, so these artists all have that conversation, but are kind of forwarding it for this moment,” he says.

Anthony Cudahy’s Gil and Another (2021, oil on canvas,36 x 24” ©Anthony Cudahy, Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery)

But he also wants to make clear that he’s not alone in wanting to do this. Without naming names, he says, “There are lots of organizations that are interested in bringing younger artists and people who might not be showing here and different perspectives to town…It’s also to get them connected with the town because that’s the type of person, these are the type of creators and interesting people we want at our dinner parties and all, as neighbors, as renters. It’s keeping that dialogue and keeping people who are not maybe the typical July 4th profile, and the people that have always made this town the community, which are really artists. And artists from all walks of life.”

David Wojnarowicz: Tidal Motion is on view through Labor Day at 445 Commercial St, Provincetown. The gallery is open on Fridays 6 – 8 p.m.

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Announcements: July 29, 2021

HPC Launches 20th Annual “Backpack-to-School” Program

The Homeless Prevention Council (HPC) is partnering with the Nauset Rotary Club, Orleans Police Department, Nauset Marine, and Staples for its 20th Backpack to School program. 

2020 was a challenging school year for all of us, and especially hard for our children. HPC and its partners are making this year’s Backpack to School program extra fun and special for over 200 students in need, grades K-12 on the Lower and Outer Cape.     

Families with children in need on the Lower and Outer Cape who would like to participate in this year’s Backpack to School program should call HPC’s office at 508.255.9667 and ask for the case manager of the day. The community can also join HPC in making our students return extra special. For a list of needed supplies, visit hpccapecod.org.

 Starting August 1, 2021, school supplies can be dropped off at:  

• HPC office (14 Old Tote Road, Orleans), 

• Orleans Police Department (99 Eldredge Park Way)  

• Nauset Marine (45 Cranberry Hwy, Orleans) 

• Nauset Marina East Marina (235 Main Street, Orleans)

• Staples (136 MA-6, Orleans)

The Homeless Prevention Council is an independent, non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. Founded in 1991, its mission is to provide personalized case management solutions to promote stability for all who live in our community.

If you are interested in contributing, please visit the website or send a check to Homeless Prevention Council at PO Box 828, Orleans, MA 02653. 

Concerned about the impact of climate change in Truro?

Truro’s Climate Action Committee is sponsoring three sessions to gather input from year-round and seasonal residents. The purpose is to hear from you, the residents of Truro, on what you believe should be their priority climate actions over the next five years and to understand what information you need to respond to climate change.

The Truro Climate Action Committee (CAC) is charged with developing a Climate Action Plan.  One step in creating the plan is to get input from the residents of Truro.  The first session is this Saturday, July 31, 10 – 11:30 a.m. and will be followed by two more: August 28, 3:30 – 5 p.m. and September 25, 10 – 11:30 a.m.

These sessions, which will take place on the back deck of the Truro Public Library at 7 Standish Way in North Truro,  will cover:  1.  High-level background on climate change and actions already taken in Truro, 2.  Brief survey with close-ended questions about climate action priorities and what information residents need to address climate change, and 3.  An open-ended discussion about addressing climate change. The information from these sessions will be used (along with other inputs) to develop the Climate Action Plan.

For more information e-mail the Committee [email protected]

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REVIEW: Hawthorne, Hofmann, and Hopper—Preserving a Legacy

Charles Hawthorne, His First Voyage

by Rebecca M. Alvin

You might think from the title of this show currently on view at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) that it’s an exhibition of just the works of these three giants of the Provincetown artist colony legacy: Charles Hawthorne, founder of the Cape Cod School of Art; Hans Hofmann, legendary abstract expressionist artist and teacher; and Edward Hopper, arguably the most widely known artist to be affiliated with Cape Cod. But the second half of the title aptly points toward the real goal of the show, which is to clearly demonstrate the legacy of these artists beyond just their own stunning bodies of work. To that end, PAAM features work by more than a dozen artists whose works reflect the influence of one or more of the three Hs— including work by a fourth H of historical importance, Henry Hensche, and a contemporary artist, the fifth H, Robert Henry, who continues to make a significant contribution to art in Provincetown. Beyond that, it’s also about Provincetown and the depth and range of its artistic legacy, which is after all, part of the mission at PAAM to promote.

On the far wall when you enter the exhibition gallery is His First Voyage (pictured above), one of Hawthorne’s most striking paintings. The large piece features deep, dark and rich oils, and the remarkable facial expression of the subject hints at two of the possible emotions in the young man’s innocent, blue-green eyes: fear or trauma, depending on whether you read the painting as a depiction of his preparation for or return from his first voyage. The others in his painting look down, except for the little sister to the right, who stares right at him as though she somehow gets it completely.

It’s a beautiful work in an entirely different way than the Hofmanns and Hoppers, which are also exceptional. Hofmann’s students are well represented, including Robert DeNiro, Sr., Selina Trieff, Wolf Kahn, and others. The abstract works are varied, some with more fluid lines and others clearly exploring geometric shapes, unabashedly. Most of the Hoppers are pencil drawings and studies, but the exhibition also features a selection of fascinating personal letters between the Hoppers and various other artists and Provincetown folks, giving a glimpse of the social life and artistic circles of mid-20th-century Provincetown.

It’s an exhibition with a wealth of evidence as to Provincetown’s artistic lineage, and although there is scant information about each piece, it invites further investigation and works as a perfect Provincetown art primer.

Hawthorne, Hofmann, and Hopper—Preserving a Legacy is on view at PAAM, 460 Commercial St., through August 29. Admission is by reservation only at this time. Call 508.487.1750 for more information or visit paam.org to reserve a time.

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Notes of Optimism

Photo: Colin Stark

By Steve Desroches

Top Image: Photo: Colin Stark

“So long sad times
Go long bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times
Cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past”

The intro lyrics to the classic 1929 song “Happy Days Are Here Again” capture the imagery of dark clouds beginning to part as the sunshine pokes through. A rousing anthem of optimism, it became the campaign song in 1932 for President Franklin Roosevelt’s successful first run for the White House. To paraphrase a joke by comedian Kate Clinton, “As Che Guevara once said, ‘Optimism is the weapon of the true revolutionary’…. or maybe that was Cher.”

Current headlines may have us singing the blues, but we are getting there. Brighter days are on their way. Musician Edmund Bagnell believes that as he points out where we were this time in 2020, not just with the pandemic, but socially and politically. Progress has been made and there is more on the way. We just need to feed our spirits to make it so. Thus his brand new show at the Crown & Anchor Happy Days Are Here Again isn’t a declaration of an outcome, but the joy of believing we can make things better, together.

“Coming out of last year we do have to recognize what has improved,” says Bagnell. “Over last year I found music helped me tremendously. I listened to all kinds of music. Changing genres can change your mood. I listened to disco, yacht rock, that kind of 1970s soft rock, 80s dance music, country, classical. A lot of feel good stuff. For this show I picked the music that makes me happy.”

In a way Happy Days Are Here Again is Bagnell’s pandemic and political tumult playlist meant to maintain a sense of hopefulness over gloom and doom. Bagnell is perhaps best known as the lead violin and vocalist from the Provincetown-born classical pop phenomenon Well Strung. After a decade of touring the world, the group is on a hiatus as the members pursue solo projects. Last year Bagnell presented his first one-man show with He Plays the Violin, a scripted evening of music and stories in collaboration with the Art House’s Mark Cortale’s New Works Provincetown, a developmental theater lab. With Happy Days Are Here Again Bagnell presents a looser concert with songs like Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”, Tom Jones’ “Its Not Unusual”, The Drifters’ “Up On The Roof” as well as a disco medley and a few original works.

 Bagnell has shaken off the nerves of going out on stage alone after years of performing with his three Well Strung compatriots. It’s just him and his violin, an instrument he fell in love with years ago growing up in tiny Lexington, South Carolina. When he was in second grade his grandparents bought him a violin. But it was a full size instrument, too large for a young child to learn on. He was nevertheless completely charmed by it and his parents decided he should have lessons on an appropriate sized violin. While he hated practicing, he loved performing. And the only way to perform was to practice. So he did, and in high school he began to study vocal performance, too. All of that hard work led to New York University where the small town kid flourished in the big city. During his senior year he landed the role of Tobias Ragg in the national tour of John Doyle’s visionary revival of Sweeney Todd. That led to more roles and opportunities in New York City and around the country. But it was in 2012 that he, Chris Marchant, Daniel Shevlin, and Trevor Wadleigh, along with Cortale, captured lightning in a bottle when they formed Well Strung based on an idea Cortale and Marchant had to turn the latter’s Provincetown busking into a smash hit show.

“It’s kind of amazing, I don’t know how to word it, it’s not that it was easy, but how quickly Well Strung took off,” says Bagnell. “There was just this immediate path that opened up that just blew my mind. I’m so grateful. I love performing with those guys. It was such a special experience.”

Based on original photo by Michael von Redlich

Well Strung landed the guys on the Today Show and performing with Broadway superstars Kristin Chenoweth and Audra McDonald as well as performing for Hillary Clinton when she came to Provincetown in 2015 for a fundraiser for her presidential campaign. Small Provincetown provided each with big opportunities. Like everywhere, the pandemic put a halt to performances for musicians and actors, but Bagnell used that time at home to work on new projects and record, releasing a Christmas album last December. He also recorded a disco track titled “Pink Lemonade” and an homage to Provincetown called “The Water” as well as an EP set to be released in September called The Road. That album is aptly titled as he’s hitting the road again after Provincetown starting in Kennebunkport, Maine, then several dates at New York’s 54 Below before heading out west to Arizona and California. But no matter where he travels Provincetown isn’t far from his mind as the world really opened up from here for him.

“Oh my gosh, I adore Provincetown to put it mildly,” says Bagnell. “I came here in my twenties and I’d heard of it, but I really didn’t know much about it. I quickly learned what a great community it is. How supportive of the arts and artists it is. It’s so welcoming. It’s the most beautiful place to make music.”Edmund Bagnell performs Happy Days Are Here Again every Tuesday at 6 p.m. through August 31 at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St. Tickets ($35) are available at the box office and online at onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430

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Undie Rock!

The Skivvies Blend Burlesque and Cabaret

by Steve Desroches

In the musical Gypsy the soon to blossom as a burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee gets sage advice from veterans of the stage when they perform the comedic showstopper “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” Broadway actors Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley may never have appeared in the iconic musical on the Great White Way, but they nevertheless took that advice to heart. Almost 10 years ago the two best friends were preparing to record a stripped down version of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” on the bass and the ukulele to post on YouTube. Molina was walking around her New York apartment wearing only a bra and underwear when she asked Cearley what outfit she should put on for the video. He jokingly replied that since they were doing a stripped down version of the lush dance hit she should wear just what she had on, to which her boyfriend yelled from the kitchen that they should do it and call themselves The Skivvies. And so they did and the video went viral instantly. In the decade since, they’ve toured the country with their burlesque cabaret act as it turns out The Skivvies are a huge hit.

“It’s the oldest trick in the book: you just need a gimmick,” says Cearley. “We are very much in on it.”

With a touch of camp and comedy Molina and Cearley present a night of music and surprises as they literally strip down themselves and their arrangements when they take to the stage at the Post Office Cabaret. They’ve been performing in Provincetown each summer almost as long as The Skivvies has been around, much to the delight of both audiences and themselves, as the town “just gets us,” says Molina. Playful, but never raunchy, it’s a whimsical show for those with a sense of humor and an appreciation for really great music. Very quickly the fact they’re in their underwear goes largely unnoticed as the crowd laughs and sways. With impressive theater resumes, it’s this show that really propelled the two to new heights.

“I’ve had a really nice career,” says Molina. “But I am most recognizable for The Skivvies. It’s opened up opportunities to perform in cities I’ve never performed in before. Both from the live shows and videos we’ve gotten offers for roles in other shows. We’ve had guest stars who got gigs from performing with The Skivvies. Laura Benanti got booked on the TV show Nashville and Andrew Keenan-Bolger was booked on Looking. It’s crazy.”

The two met as young actors in 2003 when they were cast in Theatreworks USA’s national tour of Just So Stories, a children’s theater piece in which they both earned their Actors’ Equity cards. Driving around the country in a van the two became close friends and soon musical collaborators. They performed frequently in New York as a duo, with their clothes on, as well as in productions of All Shook Up and Little Shop of Horrors for Cearley and Rock of Ages and the national tour of the most recent revival of Sweeney Todd for Molina. And once again touring with The Skivvies led to the thrilling opportunity at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for Cearley and Molina to work together on a revisioned revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in which the actors play the music rather than an orchestra.

The pandemic of course put a hold on their work, like it did for everyone. So the duo formed a bubble and began focusing on virtual performances and recording. And for two who perform in their underwear a lot there is one show that inevitably keeps bubbling up into their world: The Rocky Horror Show. Cearley and Molina first played Brad and Janet in 2013 at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, a performance that is of course performed almost entirely in underclothes. Born on Halloween, it’s one of Cearley’s favorites and he and Molina have developed a special Skivvies Rocky Horror show they perform every October. But with stages dark, the two focused on recording the soundtrack during lockdown and have recently released it as an album. And they’ll perform a few tracks as an homage to the patron saint show of scantily clad performers.

“I’m just in love with the show,” says Cearley. “Being born on Halloween I’ve always had an affinity for the spooky and horror. And of course The Skivvies are perfect for it.”

“It was exactly what we needed during that terrible year,” says Molina. “It was such a great experience to be in the show with Nick. The music is so pop driven and fun. What I love about Rocky Horror is that it’s a show with such abandon, it so wild, carefree, silly. It embraces the outsider. It’s a perfect fit for us.”

So, too, is Provincetown. While a hit wherever they go, The Skivvies are a particular favorite in Provincetown for their playful sexiness, comedic timing, and bona fide musical chops. It’s the gig they look forward to most when going on tour. The natural beauty, the art colony, and the free spirit nature of the town make it a must for The Skivvies every summer. It’s a place they don’t take for granted as it’s been so supportive of their act and a place that recharges the creative batteries.

As they prepare for even more shows, as hopefully the country will get Covid under control, they’re working on new material and recordings. And it may come as a surprise, but also their wardrobe. They don’t just wear their everyday underwear, but of course treat them like any theatrical costume when it comes to cut, color, and design. And it all matters, as you definitely want to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions. For Molina there’s been the occasional “nip slip” and the one time when removing her shorts she half mooned the audience, but nothing that was a “big deal” she says, but adds, “ask about Nick’s ball.”

“Yeah, we did this show once in gold underwear and I didn’t have time to try them on first,” says Cearley. “My underwear was a bit lose and I did most of the show with one ball out. I didn’t even know until later when we were looking at shots from the show the photographer took and there it was, one ball hanging out. No one said a thing the whole show! I asked him to air brush it out.”

The Skivvies perform at the Post Office Cabaret, 303 Commercial St., Provincetown, Monday, August 2 and Tuesday, August 3 and Monday, August 9 and Tuesday, August 10 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets ($40) are available at the box office and online at postofficecafe.net. For more information call 508.487.0087.

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