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HomeNewsArchivesSCENE & HERD -- MARCH 24, 2000

SCENE & HERD — MARCH 24, 2000

BIG SCREEN SCENES: This weekend's "Cinema Sundays" offering, the Thelonius Monk documentary Straight, No Chaser, was scheduled to conclude the first year of the film series at the Reichhold Center for the Arts. Now, however, movies have been scheduled through the first three weeks of April.
The next Sunday after that is Easter, and the one after that kicks off Carnival week, and then the Reichhold stage will be claimed by STARfest VI — for rehearsal the first Sunday in May and for a performance on the second one. But after that, coordinator Karrl Foster says, he expects to resume bringing "retro films" to the amphitheater's big screen — although not necessarily on Sunday nights.
Straight, No Chaser was produced in 1989, seven years after Monk's death. San Jose Mercury reviewer Reese Erlich found it to be "as quirky and enjoyable as the music of Thelonius Monk itself." The executive producer was Clint Eastwood who, Erlich said, "became the behind-the-scenes power broker to help raise money and get the film distributed." (Eastwood also produced the Charlie Parker documentary Bird that same year.) Monk, like Parker and Dizzy Gillespie a seminal figure in the emergence of bebop, studied piano at the Juilliard School but got most of his jazz smarts in the clubs of New York. Again according to Erlich, he wrote many of his best compositions before the age of 30. More than 20 of them get played in the 90-minute film.
The documentary credits Christian Blackwood as director of photography and includes a good deal of footage he shot of Monk performing for German television in 1967-68. It includes "some rare backstage footage of Monk being less than mellow," Erlich said. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, half that for kids up to age 12.
Here's what's on tap for the first three Sundays of next month:
April 2 — Pink Floyd's The Wall.
April 9 — Superfly plus a short, Afros, Macks and Zodiacs.
April 16 — A Clockwork Orange.

And here's what's happening on St. John's big-screen scene: Foster says last weekend's turnout for Speaking in Strings and The Girl who Sold the Sun at the Westin Resort was a bit sparse on Friday, which was St. Patrick's Day, but good on Saturday — as was Sunday's showing on St. Thomas at Sugar Bay. It seems that the $10 ticket price was acceptable on St. John, given (1) that proceeds were to benefit the new V.I. Film Society and (2) that it would cost as least that much to get to a St. Thomas cinema and back.
As a result, Foster will be taking The Buena Vista Social Club, shown March 5 at the Reichhold Center, to the Westin on Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1. The evenings will start off with an 18-minute short, Hollywood and Vine, a Sundance Film Festival award winner about a streetwise pickpocket barely making it on the world's most famous boulevard while avoiding the pitfalls of love. Showings will again be at 7:30 p.m. and admission will again be $10.
By then, we'll know whether Buena Vista, Strings or one of the other nominees got the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. They give out the awards Sunday — and Foster says that, no, there won't be a party at the Reichhold after Straight, No Chaser to watch the opening of the envelope.
St. Thomian Lilibet Foster, producer of Strings, was joined in Los Angeles by her parents, John and Claire Foster, Wednesday evening, and yes, they were able to get tickets to the presentation. Lilibet also said violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the subject of her documentary, will arrive on Saturday and also will attend the ceremony. It airs locally starting at 9 p.m. on ABC affiliate WSVI/Channel 8.
THE PLAYS ARE THE THINGS: The odds of two community theater plays being mounted on the same weekend and a third opening the weekend after that on St. Thomas have got to be slim. But there you have it — the Danish West Indies musical "Jankombum" runs through Saturday at the Reichhold Center. The Trinidadian carnival comedy "Play Mas" opens Friday and continues through Monday at the Little Theater, also on the University of the Virgin Islands campus. And "Power Plays" opens Thursday, March 30, at the new Pistarckle Theater in Tillett Gardens.
For a preview of "Jankombum," see the separate article in this "Things to do" section of the Source.
"Play Mas" is by Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura, who also wrote "Playboy of the West Indies," presented on the Little Theater stage four years ago. Set in Trinidad in the 1960s, "Mas" focuses on an East Indian-Caribbean tailor, played by Stacy Mather, and his African-Caribbean apprentice, played by George Silcott Jr. Curtain time is 8 p.m. Friday through Monday. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for everyone else.
THREE FOR ONE, FOR OPENERS: To inaugurate its new home in Tillett Gardens, Pistarckle Theater is presenting "Power Plays," a trio of contemporary one-act comedies written to be performed ensemble by Elaine May and Alan Arkin, who also starred in their debut Off-Broadway two years ago.
May — longtime partner of Mike Nichols, in her first collaboration with Arkin — wrote the first piece, "The Way of All Fish." It's a dialogue over an impromptu dinner between a self- absorbed female executive and her rather drab female secretary. The exec's "condescending graciousness" fades as her mousy minion details her fantasy of gaining notoriety by killing someone famous and successful, such as her boss.
Arkin wrote the next play, "Virtual Reality," which has to do not with electronic imaging but with confusing fantasy and fact. It's about two workmen who are waiting for the delivery of some equipment. "The one in charge is a by-the-books type who wants to do a dry run inventory of the contents of the expected crate," a synopsis states. But the hypothetical exercise segues into a "wacky and sinister autonomy that transports the men to a remote, frozen wilderness."
The third play is May's "In and Out of the Light," a free-wheeling farce about a dentist trying to score in his office after hours with his assistant, a former porn star. (Like we said, it's a farce.) Interfering with his plans are the unexpected arrival of a neurotic psychologist patient with a pain phobia and of the dentist's son, who drops two devastating nuggets of news on Dad.
"Power Plays" adds up to "very contemporary, very adult" entertainment in terms of both themes and language, Pistarckle producing/artistic director Nicola Emerich says, so consider that at least an R rating. Trudy Tucker is directing the whole show. The actors are Dena Elliott Benson, Randall Doty, Greg Fowler, Amy Huentelman and Tucker.
The new theater, located in the lower level of the former Pennysaver Printing facility that was once Jim Tillett's silkscreen center, will itself be a work in progress for this production, Emerich says. "Phase 1 is to get open and operating," with the stage, lighting and sound systems in place and up to code, she says. Donations of all sorts are welcome, she says, noting that "We have a liquor permit, but we need a bar."
Thursday, March 30, is "pay-as-you-can" night. Friday, March 31, will be a $50 fund raiser combining the show with a pre-performance "house-warming party." Performances continue Saturday, April 1, and Friday through Sunday, April 7-9. Tickets are $22 for all but the first two nights. They're sold at Bumpa's and the West Indies Coffee Co. in Charlotte Amalie, Polli's Mexican Restaurant in Tillett Gardens, and Marina Market and East End Secretarial Services in Red Hook. For charge card purchases and more information, call 775-7877.
COLOUR COORDINATION: The St. Thomas-St. John Arts Council will open its 12th annual Caribbean Colour fine art exhibition with a reception on Friday, April 14, in the Port of Sale mall in Havensight. This year's opening will be more gala than usual, with a band and a live remote radio broadcast. In addition, the Havensight Merchants Association will be hosting one of its Friday night Jamborees just next door as an enticement to passengers on cruise ships staying into the evening hours at The West Indian Company docks.
Cash prizes will be awarded in five categories: oil paintings, watercolors and acrylics, three-dimensional works, "everything else" (drawings, pastels, etc.) and work in any medium by students. Any Virgin Islands artist may enter a single self-selected work in as many as three categories — and in recent years upwards of 80 adult artists from throughout the U.S. and British Virgins have been represented. All work must have been completed within the last two years, and all pieces must be for sale, with the Arts Council to receive a 20 percent commission on purchases. The entry fee is $25, except $5 for students, and all exhibitors must be or become members of the Arts Council, a not-for-profit arts advocacy group. The rules and regulations on dimensions, framing, etc. are spelled out in the application form.
The deadline for submitting applications and fees is April 3. Artwork is to be delivered to the exhibition site on April 12. To obtain more information and/or request an application form (faxed, e-mailed or snail-mailed), call Arts Council president Susan Edwards at 774-0105 or e- mail her at susanedwards@islands.vi.
SATURDAYS OFF AND ON: This weekend's St. John Saturday mini-festival in Cruz Bay Park will be the next-to-last in the monthly series that started three years ago as an attempt to attract visitors and residents to shop for locally made arts and crafts. The final fest is set for April 22.
One of the founders, pepper jelly purveyor Cheryl Miller, and St. John administrator Julien Harley agree that the fairs no longer serve the purpose for which they were started. Many local vendors who took part in the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn have dropped out, Miller says, and nowadays itinerant sellers are pushing imported merchandise. But the main reason St. John Saturday is about to shut down is that it apparently violates some new regulations.
In her capacity as co-president of the sponsoring St. John Action Committee, Miller has been asked by Harley and the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department to end the fairs because under the new rules and regs, "no for-profit businesses can sell in the park." The Action Committee has federal 501(c)(3) non-profit status, she says, but the St. John Saturday practice has been to sell booth space to for-profit entities.
Meantime, the new monthly Saturday Garden Party arts and crafts mini-fairs in Tillett Gardens are catching on with both exhibitors and the public. The third one, coming up April 8, will feature a fashion show of one-of-a-kind casual wear items adorned with carnival theme images painted by Marsha Stein. The overall theme for the day is carnival — and the fair will end in plenty of time to get to the Caribbean Music Night concert that evening at Lionel Roberts Stadium. Exhibitor space is $25 for the day. For further information, contact ceramic artist and beadcrafter Lynn Piccassi-Berry at 776-0901.
SOON NOT TO BE SEEN: St. John will say farewell in coming weeks to an art gallery and an art gallery owner. The Island Made arts and crafts cooperative will close its doors in Palm Plaza on April 22, and Wicker Wood & Shell owner Aase Pedersen expects to turn that business over to new owners on May 1.
Island Made opened in February of 1996 with 11 artists committed to the cooperative concept, founder Diana Hecht says. At this point, their number has dwindled to three, and one of those is about to move off island. So, although "we've had a pretty good season," she says, the time has come to close up shop. "With the amount of time it takes to run a cooperative," she explains, "there is just not enough artist participation to make it work."
Sales commissions and artist participation fees paid the rent and utilities, but "all staffing is volunteer," Hecht says. "I volunteered the bookkeeping — but my own jewelry business has just taken off, and I don't have to time to do any more. It would have been nice if more artists had come and participated, but they didn't."
Pedersen opened the Wicker Wood & Shell gift shop in 1978. When the upstairs was added in Mongoose Junction in 1995, she added the art gallery. Now, she says, it's time to retire. She has a contract to purchase the business signed by a Minnesota couple "who have been vacationing on St. John for the last 12 years and know the island and know my shop." She adds, "We plan to go to closing on May 1."
Especially pleasing to Pedersen is the new owners' intent "to keep the shop and gallery just as they are, and to keep my staff." She's planning a "hello/goodbye" party on May 1 for "suppliers, customers, artists, anyone, everyone, to say goodbye and introduce them to the new owners." Later in May, she'll be hosting "five of my dearest friends from kindergarten days" who are coming for a 10-day visit from her native Norway. She'll travel with them when they return home to "spend at least my summer in Norway with my family." After that, her plan is to be "footloose and fancy free for a while" — but she adds, "I don't think St. John has seen the last of me."
SWAY SOON FOR CARNIVAL: The official kick-off of V.I. Carnival 2000 is a mere two weekends away. The opening event, on Saturday, April 8, is a Caribbean Music Night concert in Lionel Roberts Stadium. The headliners are Jamaica's legendary Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
When Bob Marley was a struggling young musician, Byron Lee was probably the best- known Jamaican band leader in the world. Lee formed the Dragonaires in 1956 when he was a mere 20 years old. The group quickly made its mark as a kind of big-band equivalent of the calypso singing that Harry Belafonte popularized in the late 1950s. The band specialized in calypso and the ska, but its musicianship was impeccable in any idiom, with a big-band trumpet and sax section and Lee's distinctive bass.
The 14-piece Dragonaires, who sometimes performed as the Ska Kings, got international exposure in 1962 in the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No," playing the song "Jump Up" in a pivotal nightclub scene and on the film soundtrack. Two years later, Lee bought a Jamaican recording company and renamed it Dynamic Sounds. "Jump Up" was the band's first release on a U.S. label, Atlantic Records.
Although their style would later be criticized as watered-down ska, Lee and the Dragonaires did much to popularize Jamaican music in the 1960s. Dynamic Sounds was the top recording venue in the Caribbean by the early '70s, attracting the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Eric Clapton. In that decade, Lee's music evolved from ska to reggae to soca. He and the Dragonaires have maintained a following into 21st Century, their dancehall-influenced sound continuing to delight carnival crowds.
Second billing for the Lionel Roberts show goes to Edgardo Cintron and the Tiempo Noventa Orchestra, a nine-piece Latin jazz group whose name translates to "Time in the '90s." The band has been featured at the Cape May, Trenton, Newark and Atlantic City Jazz Festivals. It's second and current CD is "Straight, No Chaser."
Although Cintron was born in Kansas (in 1958), both of his parents are Puerto Rican. He started out playing percussion in his father's band, Los Tropicales, on the U.S. East Coast, and counts Charlie Parker, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana and Tito Puente among his greatest inspirations. He has performed with
Santana, Puente, Maynard Ferguson, Spyro Gyra, Ramsey Lewis, McCoy Tyner, Sarah Vaughan and Grover Washington.
This year's Carnival theme is "Jump Up and Sway — It's Carnival for Y2K!" Tickets to the opening show are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. For a list of ticket outlets and a complete listing of the four weeks of official events, click here.
CURRENT HANG-UP: Alexis St. John's exhibit of acrylic paintings at the Color of Joy gallery in Red Hook doesn't take up a lot of wall space, but it can require a sizable chunk of time to absorb intellectually. All but three of the 14 pieces are small enough to fit into an attache case, and the others are of medium size, but they are strong on imagery and long on introspective appeal.
St. John, who moved to St. Thomas from Portland, Ore., three years ago, often visualizes a spiritual presence and then undertakes to interpret it in two-dimensional terms. Several of the pieces in the show are populated by her semi-amorphous beings that convey a benevolent karma. The largest work, "Junior's Guests," pictures a child's bedroom at night with a fetal little fellow asleep, three "spirits" keeping watch at the foot of the bed, and yet another lively being peeping out of a mouse hole across the room. It's fantasy stuff, yet comfortingly companionable.
Two paintings are in a boldly colorful pointillist style. Two others have ephemeral archeological imagery. One called "Ice Cave" features thick spatula applications of paint in shapes that suggest the angels one makes lying down in the snow if one is a child in northern climes.
Some of the paintings bear a signature that appears to be Greek letters or perhaps hieroglyphics — but in fact consists of the capital letters O plus H followed by two zeroes. This, St. John explains, is her "other" signature in "my own shorthand of 5,000 symbols. Only I can read it." The two zeroes represent the year 2000, she explains, and the OH is the portion of her surname that she uses in her shorthand.
With an undergraduate degree in Asian studies and philosophy and graduate study in archeology, St. John spent seven years in the northwestern United States illustrating site maps at archeological digs. That kind of work is "a great single life — living in hotels, or deserts, working 12 days straight, 10 to 12 hours a day," she reflects. Then she moved into fine art, finding market favor in rainy Portland even though "everybody was griping about my bright colors," she says with a chuckle. "They wanted grays and blues, and I was doing all these reds and yellows."
Here in the Caribbean, where St. John has settled, married and found new inspiration, that hasn't been a problem. Pricing ranges from $200 to $675. The show will hang for a month.
TO BE SEEN: Scene & Herd reports on arts and entertainment events open to the public on St. Thomas and St. John. To have material considered for inclusion in the weekly column, submit it in writing by the Monday before desired posting. Fax to 776-4812 or e-mail to jetsinger@viaccess.net.

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BIG SCREEN SCENES: This weekend's "Cinema Sundays" offering, the Thelonius Monk documentary Straight, No Chaser, was scheduled to conclude the first year of the film series at the Reichhold Center for the Arts. Now, however, movies have been scheduled through the first three weeks of April.
The next Sunday after that is Easter, and the one after that kicks off Carnival week, and then the Reichhold stage will be claimed by STARfest VI -- for rehearsal the first Sunday in May and for a performance on the second one. But after that, coordinator Karrl Foster says, he expects to resume bringing "retro films" to the amphitheater's big screen -- although not necessarily on Sunday nights.
Straight, No Chaser was produced in 1989, seven years after Monk's death. San Jose Mercury reviewer Reese Erlich found it to be "as quirky and enjoyable as the music of Thelonius Monk itself." The executive producer was Clint Eastwood who, Erlich said, "became the behind-the-scenes power broker to help raise money and get the film distributed." (Eastwood also produced the Charlie Parker documentary Bird that same year.) Monk, like Parker and Dizzy Gillespie a seminal figure in the emergence of bebop, studied piano at the Juilliard School but got most of his jazz smarts in the clubs of New York. Again according to Erlich, he wrote many of his best compositions before the age of 30. More than 20 of them get played in the 90-minute film.
The documentary credits Christian Blackwood as director of photography and includes a good deal of footage he shot of Monk performing for German television in 1967-68. It includes "some rare backstage footage of Monk being less than mellow," Erlich said. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, half that for kids up to age 12.
Here's what's on tap for the first three Sundays of next month:
April 2 -- Pink Floyd's The Wall.
April 9 -- Superfly plus a short, Afros, Macks and Zodiacs.
April 16 -- A Clockwork Orange.

And here's what's happening on St. John's big-screen scene: Foster says last weekend's turnout for Speaking in Strings and The Girl who Sold the Sun at the Westin Resort was a bit sparse on Friday, which was St. Patrick's Day, but good on Saturday -- as was Sunday's showing on St. Thomas at Sugar Bay. It seems that the $10 ticket price was acceptable on St. John, given (1) that proceeds were to benefit the new V.I. Film Society and (2) that it would cost as least that much to get to a St. Thomas cinema and back.
As a result, Foster will be taking The Buena Vista Social Club, shown March 5 at the Reichhold Center, to the Westin on Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1. The evenings will start off with an 18-minute short, Hollywood and Vine, a Sundance Film Festival award winner about a streetwise pickpocket barely making it on the world's most famous boulevard while avoiding the pitfalls of love. Showings will again be at 7:30 p.m. and admission will again be $10.
By then, we'll know whether Buena Vista, Strings or one of the other nominees got the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. They give out the awards Sunday -- and Foster says that, no, there won't be a party at the Reichhold after Straight, No Chaser to watch the opening of the envelope.
St. Thomian Lilibet Foster, producer of Strings, was joined in Los Angeles by her parents, John and Claire Foster, Wednesday evening, and yes, they were able to get tickets to the presentation. Lilibet also said violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the subject of her documentary, will arrive on Saturday and also will attend the ceremony. It airs locally starting at 9 p.m. on ABC affiliate WSVI/Channel 8.
THE PLAYS ARE THE THINGS: The odds of two community theater plays being mounted on the same weekend and a third opening the weekend after that on St. Thomas have got to be slim. But there you have it -- the Danish West Indies musical "Jankombum" runs through Saturday at the Reichhold Center. The Trinidadian carnival comedy "Play Mas" opens Friday and continues through Monday at the Little Theater, also on the University of the Virgin Islands campus. And "Power Plays" opens Thursday, March 30, at the new Pistarckle Theater in Tillett Gardens.
For a preview of "Jankombum," see the separate article in this "Things to do" section of the Source.
"Play Mas" is by Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura, who also wrote "Playboy of the West Indies," presented on the Little Theater stage four years ago. Set in Trinidad in the 1960s, "Mas" focuses on an East Indian-Caribbean tailor, played by Stacy Mather, and his African-Caribbean apprentice, played by George Silcott Jr. Curtain time is 8 p.m. Friday through Monday. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for everyone else.
THREE FOR ONE, FOR OPENERS: To inaugurate its new home in Tillett Gardens, Pistarckle Theater is presenting "Power Plays," a trio of contemporary one-act comedies written to be performed ensemble by Elaine May and Alan Arkin, who also starred in their debut Off-Broadway two years ago.
May -- longtime partner of Mike Nichols, in her first collaboration with Arkin -- wrote the first piece, "The Way of All Fish." It's a dialogue over an impromptu dinner between a self- absorbed female executive and her rather drab female secretary. The exec's "condescending graciousness" fades as her mousy minion details her fantasy of gaining notoriety by killing someone famous and successful, such as her boss.
Arkin wrote the next play, "Virtual Reality," which has to do not with electronic imaging but with confusing fantasy and fact. It's about two workmen who are waiting for the delivery of some equipment. "The one in charge is a by-the-books type who wants to do a dry run inventory of the contents of the expected crate," a synopsis states. But the hypothetical exercise segues into a "wacky and sinister autonomy that transports the men to a remote, frozen wilderness."
The third play is May's "In and Out of the Light," a free-wheeling farce about a dentist trying to score in his office after hours with his assistant, a former porn star. (Like we said, it's a farce.) Interfering with his plans are the unexpected arrival of a neurotic psychologist patient with a pain phobia and of the dentist's son, who drops two devastating nuggets of news on Dad.
"Power Plays" adds up to "very contemporary, very adult" entertainment in terms of both themes and language, Pistarckle producing/artistic director Nicola Emerich says, so consider that at least an R rating. Trudy Tucker is directing the whole show. The actors are Dena Elliott Benson, Randall Doty, Greg Fowler, Amy Huentelman and Tucker.
The new theater, located in the lower level of the former Pennysaver Printing facility that was once Jim Tillett's silkscreen center, will itself be a work in progress for this production, Emerich says. "Phase 1 is to get open and operating," with the stage, lighting and sound systems in place and up to code, she says. Donations of all sorts are welcome, she says, noting that "We have a liquor permit, but we need a bar."
Thursday, March 30, is "pay-as-you-can" night. Friday, March 31, will be a $50 fund raiser combining the show with a pre-performance "house-warming party." Performances continue Saturday, April 1, and Friday through Sunday, April 7-9. Tickets are $22 for all but the first two nights. They're sold at Bumpa's and the West Indies Coffee Co. in Charlotte Amalie, Polli's Mexican Restaurant in Tillett Gardens, and Marina Market and East End Secretarial Services in Red Hook. For charge card purchases and more information, call 775-7877.
COLOUR COORDINATION: The St. Thomas-St. John Arts Council will open its 12th annual Caribbean Colour fine art exhibition with a reception on Friday, April 14, in the Port of Sale mall in Havensight. This year's opening will be more gala than usual, with a band and a live remote radio broadcast. In addition, the Havensight Merchants Association will be hosting one of its Friday night Jamborees just next door as an enticement to passengers on cruise ships staying into the evening hours at The West Indian Company docks.
Cash prizes will be awarded in five categories: oil paintings, watercolors and acrylics, three-dimensional works, "everything else" (drawings, pastels, etc.) and work in any medium by students. Any Virgin Islands artist may enter a single self-selected work in as many as three categories -- and in recent years upwards of 80 adult artists from throughout the U.S. and British Virgins have been represented. All work must have been completed within the last two years, and all pieces must be for sale, with the Arts Council to receive a 20 percent commission on purchases. The entry fee is $25, except $5 for students, and all exhibitors must be or become members of the Arts Council, a not-for-profit arts advocacy group. The rules and regulations on dimensions, framing, etc. are spelled out in the application form.
The deadline for submitting applications and fees is April 3. Artwork is to be delivered to the exhibition site on April 12. To obtain more information and/or request an application form (faxed, e-mailed or snail-mailed), call Arts Council president Susan Edwards at 774-0105 or e- mail her at susanedwards@islands.vi.
SATURDAYS OFF AND ON: This weekend's St. John Saturday mini-festival in Cruz Bay Park will be the next-to-last in the monthly series that started three years ago as an attempt to attract visitors and residents to shop for locally made arts and crafts. The final fest is set for April 22.
One of the founders, pepper jelly purveyor Cheryl Miller, and St. John administrator Julien Harley agree that the fairs no longer serve the purpose for which they were started. Many local vendors who took part in the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn have dropped out, Miller says, and nowadays itinerant sellers are pushing imported merchandise. But the main reason St. John Saturday is about to shut down is that it apparently violates some new regulations.
In her capacity as co-president of the sponsoring St. John Action Committee, Miller has been asked by Harley and the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department to end the fairs because under the new rules and regs, "no for-profit businesses can sell in the park." The Action Committee has federal 501(c)(3) non-profit status, she says, but the St. John Saturday practice has been to sell booth space to for-profit entities.
Meantime, the new monthly Saturday Garden Party arts and crafts mini-fairs in Tillett Gardens are catching on with both exhibitors and the public. The third one, coming up April 8, will feature a fashion show of one-of-a-kind casual wear items adorned with carnival theme images painted by Marsha Stein. The overall theme for the day is carnival -- and the fair will end in plenty of time to get to the Caribbean Music Night concert that evening at Lionel Roberts Stadium. Exhibitor space is $25 for the day. For further information, contact ceramic artist and beadcrafter Lynn Piccassi-Berry at 776-0901.
SOON NOT TO BE SEEN: St. John will say farewell in coming weeks to an art gallery and an art gallery owner. The Island Made arts and crafts cooperative will close its doors in Palm Plaza on April 22, and Wicker Wood & Shell owner Aase Pedersen expects to turn that business over to new owners on May 1.
Island Made opened in February of 1996 with 11 artists committed to the cooperative concept, founder Diana Hecht says. At this point, their number has dwindled to three, and one of those is about to move off island. So, although "we've had a pretty good season," she says, the time has come to close up shop. "With the amount of time it takes to run a cooperative," she explains, "there is just not enough artist participation to make it work."
Sales commissions and artist participation fees paid the rent and utilities, but "all staffing is volunteer," Hecht says. "I volunteered the bookkeeping -- but my own jewelry business has just taken off, and I don't have to time to do any more. It would have been nice if more artists had come and participated, but they didn't."
Pedersen opened the Wicker Wood & Shell gift shop in 1978. When the upstairs was added in Mongoose Junction in 1995, she added the art gallery. Now, she says, it's time to retire. She has a contract to purchase the business signed by a Minnesota couple "who have been vacationing on St. John for the last 12 years and know the island and know my shop." She adds, "We plan to go to closing on May 1."
Especially pleasing to Pedersen is the new owners' intent "to keep the shop and gallery just as they are, and to keep my staff." She's planning a "hello/goodbye" party on May 1 for "suppliers, customers, artists, anyone, everyone, to say goodbye and introduce them to the new owners." Later in May, she'll be hosting "five of my dearest friends from kindergarten days" who are coming for a 10-day visit from her native Norway. She'll travel with them when they return home to "spend at least my summer in Norway with my family." After that, her plan is to be "footloose and fancy free for a while" -- but she adds, "I don't think St. John has seen the last of me."
SWAY SOON FOR CARNIVAL: The official kick-off of V.I. Carnival 2000 is a mere two weekends away. The opening event, on Saturday, April 8, is a Caribbean Music Night concert in Lionel Roberts Stadium. The headliners are Jamaica's legendary Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
When Bob Marley was a struggling young musician, Byron Lee was probably the best- known Jamaican band leader in the world. Lee formed the Dragonaires in 1956 when he was a mere 20 years old. The group quickly made its mark as a kind of big-band equivalent of the calypso singing that Harry Belafonte popularized in the late 1950s. The band specialized in calypso and the ska, but its musicianship was impeccable in any idiom, with a big-band trumpet and sax section and Lee's distinctive bass.
The 14-piece Dragonaires, who sometimes performed as the Ska Kings, got international exposure in 1962 in the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No," playing the song "Jump Up" in a pivotal nightclub scene and on the film soundtrack. Two years later, Lee bought a Jamaican recording company and renamed it Dynamic Sounds. "Jump Up" was the band's first release on a U.S. label, Atlantic Records.
Although their style would later be criticized as watered-down ska, Lee and the Dragonaires did much to popularize Jamaican music in the 1960s. Dynamic Sounds was the top recording venue in the Caribbean by the early '70s, attracting the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Eric Clapton. In that decade, Lee's music evolved from ska to reggae to soca. He and the Dragonaires have maintained a following into 21st Century, their dancehall-influenced sound continuing to delight carnival crowds.
Second billing for the Lionel Roberts show goes to Edgardo Cintron and the Tiempo Noventa Orchestra, a nine-piece Latin jazz group whose name translates to "Time in the '90s." The band has been featured at the Cape May, Trenton, Newark and Atlantic City Jazz Festivals. It's second and current CD is "Straight, No Chaser."
Although Cintron was born in Kansas (in 1958), both of his parents are Puerto Rican. He started out playing percussion in his father's band, Los Tropicales, on the U.S. East Coast, and counts Charlie Parker, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana and Tito Puente among his greatest inspirations. He has performed with Santana, Puente, Maynard Ferguson, Spyro Gyra, Ramsey Lewis, McCoy Tyner, Sarah Vaughan and Grover Washington.
This year's Carnival theme is "Jump Up and Sway -- It's Carnival for Y2K!" Tickets to the opening show are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. For a list of ticket outlets and a complete listing of the four weeks of official events, click here.
CURRENT HANG-UP: Alexis St. John's exhibit of acrylic paintings at the Color of Joy gallery in Red Hook doesn't take up a lot of wall space, but it can require a sizable chunk of time to absorb intellectually. All but three of the 14 pieces are small enough to fit into an attache case, and the others are of medium size, but they are strong on imagery and long on introspective appeal.
St. John, who moved to St. Thomas from Portland, Ore., three years ago, often visualizes a spiritual presence and then undertakes to interpret it in two-dimensional terms. Several of the pieces in the show are populated by her semi-amorphous beings that convey a benevolent karma. The largest work, "Junior's Guests," pictures a child's bedroom at night with a fetal little fellow asleep, three "spirits" keeping watch at the foot of the bed, and yet another lively being peeping out of a mouse hole across the room. It's fantasy stuff, yet comfortingly companionable.
Two paintings are in a boldly colorful pointillist style. Two others have ephemeral archeological imagery. One called "Ice Cave" features thick spatula applications of paint in shapes that suggest the angels one makes lying down in the snow if one is a child in northern climes.
Some of the paintings bear a signature that appears to be Greek letters or perhaps hieroglyphics -- but in fact consists of the capital letters O plus H followed by two zeroes. This, St. John explains, is her "other" signature in "my own shorthand of 5,000 symbols. Only I can read it." The two zeroes represent the year 2000, she explains, and the OH is the portion of her surname that she uses in her shorthand.
With an undergraduate degree in Asian studies and philosophy and graduate study in archeology, St. John spent seven years in the northwestern United States illustrating site maps at archeological digs. That kind of work is "a great single life -- living in hotels, or deserts, working 12 days straight, 10 to 12 hours a day," she reflects. Then she moved into fine art, finding market favor in rainy Portland even though "everybody was griping about my bright colors," she says with a chuckle. "They wanted grays and blues, and I was doing all these reds and yellows."
Here in the Caribbean, where St. John has settled, married and found new inspiration, that hasn't been a problem. Pricing ranges from $200 to $675. The show will hang for a month.
TO BE SEEN: Scene & Herd reports on arts and entertainment events open to the public on St. Thomas and St. John. To have material considered for inclusion in the weekly column, submit it in writing by the Monday before desired posting. Fax to 776-4812 or e-mail to jetsinger@viaccess.net.