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What Is RetroLove?

Retro Love

Retro Love

June 29th & 30th, 2016 at 7:00PM

Drake Theater | 1512 Spruce Street | Phila., PA 19102

 

Beth Feldman Brandt is a poet whose writing has investigated such diverse themes as old maps, herbal remedies and, now, dating before the Internet.  She is the author of “Sage” and “Solace”, both collaborations with visual artist Claire Owen. Her song cycle, “Wind Rose”, is being set to music by Philadelphia composer Andrew Litts who collaborated on a earlier work, “Transmutation”, which was performed by Network for New Music.  She is the Executive Director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation that supports arts and cultural programs in Philadelphia and is Chair of the Poet Laureate Committee for the City of Philadelphia. Beth is a five-time artist-in-residence at the Ragdale Foundation where much of her work was created.

 

PJP recently engaged Philadelphia-area, poet/playwright, Beth Feldman Brandt in conversation about her upcoming project, RetroLove.

 

Retro Love

June 29th & 30th, 2016 at 7:00PM

Drake Theater | 1512 Spruce Street | Phila., PA 19102

Admission: $15.00

To Purchase Tickets: Click Here or call 267-259-3802

 

PJP: What is Retro Love? 

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: “RetroLove” is an evening-length performance of poetry, songs and jazz that capture relationships before the Internet.  Conceived and written by poet and performer me with Music Direction by Monnette Sudler, “RetroLove” will be presented by Philadelphia Jazz Project on June 29-30, 2016 at Philadelphia’s Drake Theatre.

 

BFBrandtRetroLove” is serendipitous meetings, Princess phones, Instamatic cameras, tissue-paper blue aerograms, transistor radios on a blanket at Jones Beach, scratchy vinyl 45’s, and static long-distance.  A first kiss under a streetlamp. A loved-strong life. The script includes poetry, songs, instrumental jazz,  and montages of the stages of relationships (the meeting, the first date, a favorite song, etc) compiled from “RetroLove” MadLibs submitted by the public to the project.

 

PJP: Can you briefly describe your direction as a writer and poet?

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: To me, the right image can put you in an exact moment of time or place, the way a scent can transport you back to your grandma’s house.  I use poetry to investigate all kinds of things I want to know about --  a rare text of herbal remedies, the history of the Bartram family of botanists, Charles Darwin.    I was in danger of becoming known as “that nature poet” so “RetroLove” is a big leap – a crazy, fun leap.  Oh, and this is my first time going from page to stage.


PJP: What and whom are pivotal influences on your creative approach?

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: Poets are typically solitary kinds of people and there are definitely times when I need to go away for a few days by myself and write.  But I am really inspired by collaboration.  I have done two major projects with visual artist Claire Owen that became part of exhibitions and am working on a song cycle with contemporary composter Andrew Litts. “RetroLove” is a collaboration with some amazingly talented people.  In terms of poetic influences, I wrote “RetroLove” totally under the spell of Nikki Giovanni’s poetry which is so deceptively simple but really packs a punch.

 

PJP: What inspired RetroLove?

 

BFBrandt 2

Beth Feldman Brandt: I was on vacation in Cape May in 2013 and totally stuck on another poetry project I had stopped and started too many times to count.  I was at dinner with my kids who are “twenty-somethings” and was trying to explain dating before the Internet, before cell phones, before answering machines.  It was like I was telling them about the age of the dinosaurs.  So I wrote “The Meeting”, then “After the Date” just for the fun of it thinking no one would ever read them.  Go figure.


PJP: Tell us about the music for the show and the people working with you.

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: I am so blessed.  The original music in “RetroLove” includes lyrics I wrote, set to music by Monnette plus her own songs and instrumentals. The  music ranges from  a swing tune, to 50’s girl group pop,  to ballads, blues and jazz.

 

From when I first started talking with PJP about making “RetroLove” into a show, I wanted to work with Monnette Sudler. The stars aligned when she came to a reading of the poems early on and sat down next to me which gave me the chance to ask her if she would consider being the Music Director on the project. In my book, Monnette is the real deal who can play, compose, arrange and sing in any genre you ask of her.


PJP: With this project, how do you manage the task of creating something that is fresh, new, and forwarding moving, while simultaneously exploring, celebrating and documenting the past?

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: Combining nostalgia and love as a theme is a minefield for writing work that could be sappy or sentimental.  Whenever I work with something from another time, I make sure that what I am creating is not a parody of the original but instead transports you to that exact set of senses.   I write about very particular moments that evoke a universal feeling – the feel of a dial phone in your hand, winding film in a camera, kissing under a streetlamp.

BFBrandt3

PJP: What advice would you give to your audiences to assist with greater understanding and enjoyment of this project?

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: As we developed the show, I performed the poems here and there to test them out.  Every single time, people come up to me and share their RetroLove stories.  Things like trying to talk to your girlfriend on the kitchen wall phone with your mom making dinner.  Or, of course, their RetroLove song.  People immediately get it.

 


PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, why work with Jazz and Jazz artists?

 

Beth Feldman Brandt: I think poetry and jazz have so much in common. There is the foundation of an underlying structure but then you mess with it.  Poetry and jazz are both about pushing the limits of rhythm and meaning in ways that are surprising, There is this delight in evoking a feel with just the right combination – words for me; notes for a jazz artist.

 

Retro Love

June 29th & 30th, 2016 at 7:00PM

Drake Theater | 1512 Spruce Street | Phila., PA 19102

Admission: $15.00

To Purchase Tickets: Click Here or call 267-259-3802

 

“RetroLove: The Book”, published by Greenleaf Poetry Press, is available at www.brandtwords.com
Design credit:  Deidra Greenleaf Allen
Photo credit: Amanda Brandt

 

 

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