Paul Festa marries drag and ballet in The Glitter Emergency
Since he is comfortable in both worlds, Festa structured his 20-minute ballet film as "a mashup between silent film and music video." Growing up in San Francisco, he remembers every Friday night going to the Avenue Theater for its double bills of silent movies with live accompaniment. Interestingly, he thinks that silent film may be making something of a comeback, in part because of the work of Lady Gaga.
Though Glitter shimmers with rhinestones, confetti, and silliness, like a lot of ballets, its heartbeat is steady and strong. "Do not turn away from the magic inside you," exhorts one of the film's copiously strewn-about subtitles to which our Cinderella responds with the longest batting eyelashes ever seen on a would-be princess. It's a lesson she will apply when she finally meets her "better" self (SFB dancer Sylvie Volosov).
It's also a lesson Festa himself had to learn. And he too had a mentor. While still at Juilliard, focusing on becoming a concert violinist, he developed a hand ailment that stopped a budding performance career in music. At the same time, he entered a 15-year long friendship with one of his professors, Albert Fuller, a pioneer in advocating the use of original instruments, who also taught performance practice at Juilliard.
"He and I used to sit at his bar for hours late into the night and listen to music and he would narrate his theater of the imagination." A Schubert quartet would become a dramatic opera, a Poulenc organ concerto a horror film, and an old washerwoman would dance to Bach. But Fuller also taught him how to live his life. "He had a mantra that he kept repeating: 'fantasy comes before fact.' " It may take a wise old professor or an outrageously silver-clad violinist in seven-inch platform shoes to turn dreams into reality, but as Festa's Glitter attempts to show, it can be done. And we can laugh all the way through the journey.
Glitter will be shown with Festa's homage to Fuller, Apparition of the Eternal Church (full disclosure: I have family members who appear in Apparition), a film inspired by Olivier Messiaen's music.
THE GLITTER EMERGENCY AND APPARITION OF THE ETERNAL CHURCH
Thurs/27, 8 p.m., $10
657 Harrison, SF