The “Queen of the Cakewalk”, Aida Overton Walker addressed Black writers/critics’ disregard for and criticism of the acting profession in a December issue of The Freeman. After first addressing the main topic at hand, she proceeded to suggest proactive steps that could prepare up-and-coming black performers for the stage. Below is an excerpt from her article:

“I have stated that we ought to strive to produce great actors and actresses; by this I do not mean that all our men and women who possess talent for the stage should commence the study of Shakespeare’s works. Already, too many of our people wish to master Shakespeare, which is really a ridiculous notion. There are characteristics and natural tendencies in our own people which make as beautiful studies for the stage as any to be found in the make-up of any other race, and perhaps far more. By carefully studying our own graces, we learn to appreciate the noble and the beautiful in ourselves, just as other people have discovered the graces and beauty in themselves from studying and acting that which is noble in them. Unless we learn the lesson of self-appreciating and practice it, we shall spend our lives imitating other people and depreciating ourselves. There is nothing equal to originality, and I think much time is lost in trying to do something that has been done and "overdone,” much better than you will be able to do it.“

The Freeman (Dec. 28, 1912) - Link

In order to offer entertainment to the patients at the asylum, the planners of Norwich State Hospital built this elaborate theatre, with a stage for performances and, later, movies.  There was an organ to accompany silent films, and a full projection booth - from which this photograph was taken.  On the floor below was a rollerskating rink.  Sadly, a few years back, this building was demolished - along with the power plant and two of the most historic buildings on the campus - for little apparent reason.  Currently, nothing has been done with the space that millions of dollars were spent clearing these buildings off of.

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Doris & Mary-Anne Are Breaking Out Of Prison | Episode 2

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Women of the Edwardian Era circus and vaudeville, photographed by Frederick W. Glasier.

  1. Mademoiselle Scheel with Lions. 1905
  2. Charmion, Strong Woman. 1904
  3. Mademoiselle Octavia, Snake Charmer. 1901
  4. Gertrude Dewar, Mademoiselle Omega. 1908
  5. Nettie Carol. 1904
  6. Loie Fuller, Glorine, Butterfly Dancer. 1902

Before Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson, before Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan, there was Buster Keaton, one of the founding fathers of visual comedy. And nearly 100 years after he first appeared onscreen, we’re still learning from him. Today, I’d like to talk about the artistry (and the thinking) behind his gags. Press the CC button to see the names of the films.

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The Art of Busking with “Vaudevillian Extraordinaire” @karlamilugo

For more photos and videos from Karla’s artistic adventures, follow @karlamilugo on Instagram.

Performance artist Karla Mi Lugo (@karlamilugo) describes herself as many things: balloon portraitist, nonviolent piñata-maker, Billie Holiday impersonator and “vaudevillian extraordinaire.” Yet it’s her self-proclaimed identity as a busker that perhaps explains her art best.

“‘Busking’ comes from the Spanish word ‘buscar,’ which means ‘to seek,’” Karla explains. “You go out there seeking — most of the time money, because you need money to do anything — but also seeking truths, or seeking friends or seeking any kind of spiritual fulfillment.” She takes her art to the streets of San Francisco, Paris and other cities around the world, often playing accordion while singing and balancing on a circus ball, or serenading passersby with her handmade “whisholin” — a decorated cardboard violin played by miming and whistling. And it’s on the street where she finds inspiration from the shared community space.

“I’m longing for so much meaning in life, and also for connection and experience,” she says. “When I go out in the street, it’s undeniably going to happen if I open myself to what I will find.”

Bert Williams and George Walker, the vaudeville team “Williams & Walker” circa 1900s. I am proud to include these gentlemen in my next book, Vintage Black Glamour: Gentlemen’s Quarters which will be released in April 2016 (you can preorder at Williams & Walker billed themselves as “The Two Real Coons,” in order to stand out in the crowd of white entertainers performing in blackface. Only Williams, who was light-skinned, wore actual blackface while the dark-skinned Walker wore no makeup. The men conspired to add nuance and dignity to their performances by purposely having Walker play the suave “dandy” - the straightman to Williams’ comic character in blackface. A savvy businessman, Walker negotiated their contracts (Williams said, “Walker used to insist on having things decided his way - our way. In a business deal where the other party decided against us, I was usually willing to consider it settled rather than argue. Not so with Walker.”) Born in Antigua, Williams called their 1903 command performance in “In Dahomey” before King Edward VII “the proudest moment of my life” - but was offended by reporters who would attribute his talent to his non-black ancestry, often asking him directly “if all great negroes did not have white blood in their veins.” His response to one such inquiry: “White blood make a black man any smarter! I guess not! Why, what kind of white blood do we get! The very worse and lowest and meanest there is. And when a man with some of this in his veins becomes famous do you say the bad white blood did it - the blood of a race of … scalawags - or do you say black blood did it in spite of the corpuscles from some poor white trash.” Such an outburst was unusual for him but Walker was not shy about talking race to the media. As they grew in popularity and played bigger venues for white audiences, Walker made several statements to assure black audiences that they were not forgotten. “[W]e want our folks to like us. Not for the sake of the box office, but because over and behind all the money and prestige which move Williams and Walker, is a love for the race. Because we feel that, in a degree, we represent the race and every hair’s breadth of achievement we make is to its credit. For first, last, and all the time, we are Negroes.” Photo: Schomburg Center.


Episode 3 of Doris & Mary-Anne Are Breaking Out of Prison!

It’s about pets!  And cruelty!

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