The PennyPan Cabaret
During a conversation that took place in early 2016, as is her sometime custom, my wife was attempting to expand my infinitesimal classical music database, this time regarding Britten’s “Six Metamorphoses After Ovid”. Once I grasped the nature of it, I began referring to the piece as “Pan On The Skids” and joking that it was a vaudeville about the profligate Pan hitting rock bottom and giving up wine (which it ain’t, btw). That idea intrigued me though and I started jotting down some ideas along those lines. As the notion took root, I also began doing research, dusting off my long dormant recollections of Greek Mythology, most of which dated from the days of hiding out back in the reference section of my high school library to cut class. At first the story didn’t even have its own dedicated notebook; it was simply a diaspora of lines and words and flocculent phrases, scattered across whatever pad I happened to be carrying around. Once I committed to naming a composition book for the show in the summer of 2017, there was no going back.
I saw great parallels between the Greek god Pan and the character of Don Giovanni (from the eponymous tragicomic opera) and the dialogue I wrote for Pan is liberally peppered with lines in the original Italian from Da Ponte’s libretto, which our “Pan” Max Wingert, tackled with daring and aplomb. The work which came to be “Pan On The Skids: a spoken-word operetta in two acts” involves the immortal libertine becoming disillusioned with his life of drunken debauchery in Arcadia and leaving his world to follow the lovely nymph Syrinx to Bushwick, where she lives with her boyfriend, an open-mic comic. Ultimately, the play finds Pan complacently washing dishes in an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, the setting which both opens and closes the piece. As the title mentions, the story is told in two short acts and runs about 50 minutes. "Pan On The Skids" is the second act of the show after intermission, closing out The PennyPan Cabaret.
The first half of The PennyPan Cabaret consisted of a combination of a short story called “The Busker” and one short-story-cum-short-play entitled “Pennies From Heaven?”. “The Busker” draws on my vast and varied experience playing guitar in the subway and tells the tale of a man who came to NYC to seek the spirit of his lost mother but found himself a life and a calling in the process. It is narrated and interspersed with snippets of songs by the man in the story.
“Pennies From Heaven?” covers four separate scenes taking place in an alley of the Financial District wherein people find pennies on the ground that greatly affect their lives in some way. It has themes of love, longing and causality, all buttressed by the inconvenient fact that we don’t control the outcome of our plots and intentions.
The first run of the show opened on November 8th, 2017 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on 3rd st in the East Village. Founded in 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe began as a living room salon in the East Village apartment of writer and poet Miguel Algarin along with other playwrights, poets, and musicians of color whose work was not accepted by the mainstream academic, entertainment or publishing industries. By 1975, the performance poetry scene had started to become a vital element of urban Latino and African-American culture marked by the release of a “Nuyorican Poetry” anthology, and Miguel Piñero’s “Short Eyes,” which was a hit on Broadway. By 1981 the group had overflowed the living room and moved into their current location on E. 3rd St, a large showroom with a movable stage, lights, sound, art work, exposed brick walls, standing room balcony and seating capacity for up to 120 people. Nuyorican is dedicated to helping and supporting the work of new and emerging artists.
The Swiss graphic artist known as Desert Grinder made these acrylic on canvas prints inspired by the stories in The PennyPan Cabaret. You can check out his work at www.desertgrinder.com and hopefully right here on our future collaborations.