Monday, September 20, 2010

Event Roundup and Preview--And I Wrote So Much About the Former, that There's Hardly Anything About Our "Rio de Sangre" Preview.

I'm not saying every event we have a doozy. I'm not going to tell you which one was more snoozy. (Nothing recently, of course. You can gossip among yourselves if you were there.) This post was supposed to be about how excited I am about Tuesday's preview of "Rio de Sangre", but it wound up being a recap of four very rewarding events last week. So here we go.

Events are as emotional as opera. Lots of highs, definitely lows. Sometimes the low is because the event didn't measure up, but other times it's just because we didn't find the audience to what was a very interesting talk or performance. Totally my fault--I'll just say that up front!

After the madhouse of Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman at Villa Terrace for Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes (the endorphins were shooting for all of us, and Connolly and Wasserman very graciously gave us a wonderful bouquet as a thank you, while the Historical Society's Melanie started dreaming up opportunities for an encore event for this sold out performance about the joys of Wisconsin architecture, and yes, I periodically spell "Connolly" wrong and I humbly apologize) and a very satisfying double event with Neal Pollack for Stretch: The Making of a Yoga Dude (a yoga class at Invivo and a talk with demo at the store*), we were brought back down to earth with our weekend events.

Saturday we hosted Paule Buhle, retired Brown professor, who spoke about Comics in Wisconsin. It was a small but spirited crowd (under ten, but enough that the event was held instead of being just chatting). I learned that much of Wisconsin comics history is the work of one man--Denis Kitchen. Fortunately we had just gotten in Dark Horse Comic's new beauty, The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen. I couldn't tell exactly which audience we should have hit but didn't--graphic novel fans, old lefties, young ziners. It's kind of tangential to all of them, and as with all these things, you never quite known what you're programming against. Wish I'd gotten more of them--didn't help that scheduling this event took way longer than we expected...close to a year!

Sunday we doubled our turnout for our joint event with Isabel Sharpe** and Jean Reynolds Page. Sharpe is local, and had already done several events in the market, while Page is new to the state, having recently moved from Seattle to Madison (like Buhle, Madison is a fertile source of authors for Boswell. Mad props to Mad City for helping us out here.) What was nice about this event is that the authors wound up playing against each other in a very rewarding way, particularly at the Q&A. One of the fascinating revelations was that their writing styles mimicked their housekeeping styles. Has this been studied further? Who wants to get on this?

We also sort of introduced them--they met last Friday when taping WTMJ's Morning Blend interview show, and I suspect they will keep in touch. Half the battle is getting press, and I was happy that in addition to the TV gig, the Shephered Express ran an interview with Sharpe. For me, it was an introduction to Page's work, who was previously off my radar.

Tonight's (Monday, September 20th) event is with Niraj Nijhawan, a Aurora Sinai anesthesiologist (who was in medical school with my friend Bill. Hi, Bill! How's Fresno?) whose new book, Modern Medicine is Killing You, is a blunt assessment of the current healthcare crisis, with very helpful tools for getting through the maze, and using both traditional and alternative treatments to their best advantage. He's a wonderful speaker (he pretty much tested the talk on me at the store, or at least a mini version) and I look forward to the event. As we are event crazed, it's understood that some of our events will get more press than others. I guess I'll find out what broke as the day goes on. One thing we noticed is that health and fitness events are very tough to get press on. It's hard to find the right shows, and the Journal Sentinel, which is incredibly supportive and local in other areas, uses almost all wire service for their Tuesday Cue section. Did you ever notice this? (Sigh, I wish they could do more local pieces in this area, but looking at other papers, we have way more local coverage than other cities of our size).

So this whole thing was a wind-up to talk about Tuesday's event, our Florentine Opera Insights with Corliss Phillabaum and the Florentine Opera Studio presentation of the World Premiere "Rio de Sangre." Don Davis, the composer, has a storied career, and though you'd best know him for the score of all three of "The Matrix" films, he's done so much that I lazily link to him here.

The Florentine Opera events are a hidden gem, a chance to enjoy the emotional resonance of opera with someone helping you along. The singers are great (Scott Johnson and Julia Hardin are back, joined by Matthew Richardson and Erica Schiller), and we've even been told that we have particularly good acoustics! The show is in October (get your tix here and yes I know we have perfectly wonderful events during their performances, but weren't going to attend all of our events anyway, but it does make it sad for me, as I can't go) and once you hear the show, both the Florentine and I are certain you will tell some friends about the wonderful experience.
For book people, Cindy at the Florentine told me the experience is much like reading South American magical realism. So hey, if you like Gabriel Garcia Marquez...

Hey, then we have two days of no events, then my book club preview with Eric Puchner of Model Home fame (wonderful Journal Sentinel write up here) and then our double bill of Joshua Ferris (Then We Came to the End and The Unnamed) and Patrick Somerville (The Cradle, Trouble, and the forthcoming The Universe in Miniature in Miniature) on Saturday 9/25 at 2 PM. If I don't get a crowd for this one, I may have to rethink some of these Saturday afternoon events. You said you wanted 'em. Now you have to come to 'em. Plus you can meet my sister Merrill, who is back in town for another visit.

*One point of satisfaction is we had substantially more people than a certain city towards which we're rather competitive. Eh, we're competitive with all of them.

**In other parts of the country, they talk about football widows, but in Wisconsin, women seem much more likely to be football fans themselves. Downer was definitely the least footballish of the Schwartz stores (circa 21st century) but I still always think about who might not have shown up because of the game. Of course I also think about who might not have shown up on Saturday because of Yom Kippur observance. It's one of these tricky things--especially when you have a lot of events, they fall where they fall and you hope for the best.

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