By Glen MacDonald - Station Manager
This summer, the Pinocchio legend is retold, borrowing elements from theater and film. The creative team behind this endeavor are Wagner students, Dan Smith and Riley Bartolomeo, WCBG’s co-news director. Smith and Bartolomeo began their artistic partnership when Smith appeared on a broadcast of WCBG’s News Hour, hosted by Bartolomeo. With a shared love of the all things cinema and theater, the two set out to create entertainment for new audiences.
“I’m a storyteller by trade,” said Smith, “I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales, folklore, mythology- any kind of story that came from a place of urgency. I’m really drawn to classical stories, for the the fact that they’re part of that oral tradition of sharing information and communicating. Fairy tales are cautionary tales and Pinocchio is no exception.”
Smith identifies the larger thematic struggles of piece, including starvation, justice, and growing up. However, these elements also lend well to Smith’s other interest- theater.
“It is a series of parables of that are only strung together by a narrative of this one kid trying to become real,” said Smith. “I have always thought it would be fun to go to a room with these 35 chapters and explore them with an ensemble of college-aged artists. We are at this point in our life right now we’re trying to figure out who we are and what it means to be real.”
Smith and Bartolomeo hope to convey these experiences through theatrical techniques, as well as cinematic ones. Bartolomeo, a film major, hopes to add his skillset to their off-broadway production.
“I’m a big fan of the avant-garde genre,” said Bartolomeo. He cites artist Lori Anderson as the main inspiration for his mixed media approach. Fascinated by the idea of tapping into a new world, Bartolomeo hopes to engage with the audience on multiple levels.
“From day one, we wanted to fully integrate the media into the storytelling,” said Smith. “When we can no longer speak with the flesh and blood actors we then transcend into film and vice versa.”
It’s Pinocchio! is the first collaboration between Smith and Bartolomeo. Conscious of the nation’s heated political climate, the creative duo understands how to use art is a tool for social progress.
“I love artists that take risks,” said Bartolomeo. “Playing it safe is not great. During our time of Black Lives Matter, Times Up, and all of wonderful social movements going on, historians will look back at this time and ask, ‘what were you doing?’’
“Art is inherently political,” agreed Smith. “The violent thing about art is that you’re making a statement, which is violence in nature.”
Despite the heavy themes, Smith stresses their musical is a family piece.
“This play is for all of the dads who have dragged to a high production that their child was in,” laughs Smith. “At every juncture, at every turn, we are asking ourselves, how do we make this diet theater? How do we make this experience, with all of its theatrical and cinematic elements, accessible for a general audience? We are training non-theater goers to deal with a piece like this,” said Smith. “It’s also going to be familiar enough, American enough, for the audience to recognize what their watching. It’s going to be fun!”
The duo also enjoys the opportunity to direct. Smith, who aspires to continue directing theater in his post-grad life, is trying to have as much fun with the piece as he can.
“I don’t want this production to be full of itself,” said Smith. “I gave my company full permission to hit me if I every sound like I’m Jack O’Brien or another great stage director. I want to create something fun, hysterical, and just a little raunchy.”
For Bartolomeo, stepping into the theater realm is daunting task. Fortunately, he enjoys a challenge and benefits from their cast.
“Having many friends who are actors makes you a better director in any medium,” said Bartolomeo. “With every actor we have worked with, from the workshop phase to our current cast, just phenomenal people.”
Smith echoes Bartolomeo’s appreciation for their actors, particularly their diverse talents.
“This is my first time working with these actors and creating something from the ground up,” said Smith. “They’re so creative and so vocal and not afraid of bringing everything they go into the room. We got puppeteers, we got acrobats... they got skills I didn’t even know human could have!”
It’s Pinocchio! runs July 12-15 at Theater 54 (NYC 244 W54 St). Tickets go on sale May 10th. For more information, go on the It’s Pinocchio! Facebook page.
By Glen MacDonald - Station Manager
Hailing from Binghampton, NY, The Mudlarks consists of Eddie Compagnone (bass/guitar), James Baldassano (keyboard/trombone), Jeff Bagg (electric guitar), Jordan Finkelstein (drums) and Julie Quinn (guitar). The group performed at Wag-A-Roo 4: Tokyo Drift and became a definite crowd favorite. Afterwards, the band spoke out their music and other passions.
How did you come up with the name Mudlarks?
A Mudlark is someone who searches for treasures at low tide. We look for Treasures in the world- people, positive acts of kindness, dumpsters, and in the beauty of nature. As the Grateful Dead said, "one man gathers what another man spills."
What inspires you to create your music?
We just can't help but make music, it is a catharsis for us. We are lucky to work well together and enjoy each other's company genuinely. Many of our songs are focused on alerting our audience on serious issues that we face in our current day society. We sing about climate change, resource shortages, complicated love, adventures, and nature. Everybody has a unique song writing style within the group, and our collective efforts work in tandem to create songs that share elements across multiple genres.
What message do you hope to get across in your music?
We hope that we get people to dance to our music! The Mudlarks aim to get whoever is listening to be their best and help make positive change in the world in whatever way that means for them!
What other musicians/bands do you enjoy?
Hiatus Coyote, Gorrillaz, Frank Ocean, Thelonious Monk, Parliament Funkadelic, Pearl Jam, rage Against the Machine, Jimi Hendrix, No Doubt, and more things under the sun than we can possibly mention here. You know we live a good sea shanty though.
Do you have any upcoming tours/albums you want to promote?
Yes! We will be playing at the still grateful Fest at Mountain Sky in Jermyn Pennsylvania on May 12th from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. More shows in the works for the summertime! You can find us on Facebook, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp as the Binghamton Mudlarks. We will also be releasing an album shortly, so follow us on social media if you are interested! We had a blast playing at Wagner and we wish you all a successful close to your school year!