Thursday, September 13, 2018

Live On Stage: The Ziegfeld Poems

August 20th came more quickly than I could ever have imagined, and whether I was ready or not, the evening of my presentation at the Omega Institute arrived. I billed it as a sort of lecture/reading, which perhaps might have frightened people less. There is a built-in fear of poetry readings that, having been to a few myself, I can totally sympathize with. Somehow the word “lecture” doesn’t have the same effect, so I was able to sneak a few poems into the presentation with the pressure of having the poems be the center of attention. Except of course they were, to me at least.

The meeting space upstairs at the Ram Dass Library is simply elegant and round, and no mic was necessary. Luckily, because all the mics were being used by Bobby McFerrin for his “Circlesongs” workshop that week. My plans to play a CD of Follies tunes while the crowds moseyed in was thwarted by technical difficulties, as was the use of a remote slide changer. For this event, I put together my very first PowerPoint presentation, using photos of the “cast” to help listeners make the connection between the poems and the people involved. I’ve since purchased my own combination remote changer and laser pointer for future presentations for a mere $20, so my Handler will get the night off. For now, he did me the great good favor of looking for my cues, and advancing the photos smoothly.

It is sometimes difficult for me to explain what I know about the Follies without skipping parts. I have to keep reminding myself about how little most people remember about that time today, without being condescending or overly detailed. I interspersed short biographies with photos and poems, and tried to create a brief narrative that I hope hung together. I was spared the agony of being corrected by anyone who was more knowledgeable about the Follies than I am, because they’re out there. They just weren’t with me that night. I’m sure I made some factual errors, and certainly perpetuated one or two long-standing myths that I hope to put to rest in the future. I see where I need to fill in gaps, and where the poems themselves could use some fine tuning.

There were about a dozen people in attendance, and even a few that surprised me. Still others were merely participants interested in my project. I was grateful for all. It was very beneficial to hear the work out loud, and to see if it would play in Peoria. I believe it will. Now, back to the desk, the books, the research, to make this project the best possible I can, one-hundred years after the fact.