Puzzling Pieces




This weekend saw the opening of a very puzzling art exhibit at the Machines with Magnets studio in Pawtucket. Part bar, part performance space, part gallery and part recording studio, Machines with Magnets could be a called a puzzling environment on its own. In the gallery section of the space, you can now view recent work by Umberto Crenca. Crenca, the founder of Providence-based arts organization AS220, is known in the community as a champion of the arts and an advocate for unjuried art exhibitions. In his own work, he’s known for his use of art as social commentary. This show displays a recent part of his puzzle piece series, a decades-long endeavor that encompasses about 135 pieces created by Crenca. Not literally puzzle pieces – although those make some appearances – this series is really an exploration, in two dimensions, of social and political topics that intrigue, frustrate, or simply puzzle the artist.

“Some of them are saying something pretty clear,” says Crenca, “and if others seem ambiguous, well, they might be. Some of them certainly approach issues I’m a little confused about, and that probably comes across – I hope it does.”

The show is titled “Puzzled: Ode (Owed) to Channing?” and includes a large blow-up of Crenca’s first review, decades ago, by Providence Journal critic Channing Gray. Crenca credits the sometimes scathing review with inciting the creation of AS220 and a deeper dedication by Crenca to his own work. (see a TED talk on the subject here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD-T4LIddtE )

Compositionally, some of the work is striking, some deliberately off-balance or disturbing. All of it is visually and mentally intense – the sort of work you want to get up close to, to examine the details and numerous levels of meta-reference.

“That’s Gaddafi’s severed head. The Black liquid is oil, the red is blood. I think that one’s pretty straightforward,” says Crenca, contrasting two of the pieces. “This one, though, takes a lot of explaining. I’m sure there are things in here that only mean something to me,” he says, rattling off a list of authors whose thoughts are represented in various abstract ways. Oh, and the numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are carefully scattered about that canvas as well.

Some pieces feature tiny thought bubbles, on others you’ll find referential figures tucked in the corners. One piece includes a lot of glitter. Figuring out each theme can feel like assembling a puzzle in your mind.

While the puzzle analogy has numerous applications to this collection of work – from pun to metaphor – it also seems like the artist may be hoping that someday, the collection as a whole will fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, granting insight into the conceptual and emotional makeup of the artist, complete with contradiction, confusion and clarity.

A series of  pieces and one very large work are on display from now until April 27th at Machines with Magnets, 400 Main St. Pawtucket, RI – www.machineswithmagnets.com


Wisdom of Music Mentors


Novice Musicians Take Note

Approaching an instrument for the first time can be intimidating. A number of people are curious, yet hesitate to start because of the fear of making a mistake or being ridiculed for beginner steps. But aren’t you truly your own worst critic? Within music is an adventure for your soul.  Take a chance and pick up a tool that will lead you toward the unknown. The moment you do something different, your life can move into a completely new direction.

Then once you get comfortable playing on your own, how do you move to the next step — performing in front of others? If you learned an instrument and hold back from showing your craft on the stage, focus on the positive aspects of such an endeavor. The courage you exhibit when showing your passion creates empathy in the crowd. You become something larger than yourself once you contribute to others.

I wondered what compelled some people to showcase their talent while others just watch. What advice would recognized musicians give to someone who dreams of playing on the stage, yet pauses when they should just push play?

I asked a few performers, “What would you say to a novice musician? Or someone who has never played at all?” Their responses follow.

MIKE BAKER – Sgt. Baker, The Cosmic Factory, Population Paste

“Do it. If you’re not learning, you’re not fucking up, and you’re not living. I understand that people don’t want to play in front of a crowd. It scares the shit out of me every time. Still to this day it’s kind of a release, and it’s made me sing and feel a lot better.”  Mike’s basically saying ride the wave of life, and understand that wiping out at some point is part of the journey. Making mistakes is often the only way to see how to improve and advance.

ERIC BLOOM – Lettuce

“It’s very difficult to make money thru music, so you have to do it for the LOVE of the music.” Eric is right; it’s about the real pay. Don’t ever make monetary gain your goal from performing. When you do something that you love, you receive the greatest wealth and financial gain seems even less than secondary.

STUART BOGIE – Superhuman Happiness

“Study yourself and your own impulse. And use that for all your investigation.” Stuart is such a uniquely interesting person, and I’m always amazed at our discussions. I think his desire to bring his truest self through music has absolutely been achieved. Perhaps this is one of the secrets to moving music into a completely novel direction.

SHANE MANZI – Fungus Amungus, Free Funk Allstars

“Find a hero. They can help you find yourself. We didn’t learn to speak on our own, and music is a language.”  Everyone needs a mentor, and I’m sure Shane has been one for many aspiring artists.  Music is a form of communication and if we think of how children learn to speak, it’s not by being instructed, but by being immersed in experience. Novice musicians should surround themselves with well-spoken musicians. The experts will embrace you.


“There’s nothing to be afraid of. What do you have to lose? You will find solace in it, and love for your passion. The only thing you can ever so is try, and if you don’t you’ll regret it.” People tend to regret things they never did, and Chelsy speaks to taking chances in life. Taking chances moves your fate into another direction, and if playing music is meant for your future, the universe will conspire with you to make that happen.


“I’d say to just get out there and play as much as you can for whoever is willing to listen!!” Eli sums it up perfectly. Let everyone hear what’s in you. It’s why you are here. Let your soul shine through the notes you play. Once you take the first step, the fear is left behind.

401 Counterculture: Heroin: The Plague On Our Streets

An attempt to understand the recent rise of dangerous drug use

Bodies are accumulating. A populace is scared. Poison flows in the streets with impunity. It is almost as if a deadly plague were spreading through our homes and backyards. An infestation that crosses social, racial and ethnic barriers. An epidemic that has claimed dozens of lives in Southern New England in mere weeks. Instead of a flesh eating bacterium or violently elegant viral strain, this plague is an addiction to the powerful and long misunderstood drug heroin.

In the past two months, public awareness of the heroin epidemic, boosted by Governor Shumlin’s State of the State address in Vermont and the death of beloved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, has skyrocketed. But with the exposure, questions have risen. Why now, in 2014, is heroin, long  associated with 1970s post-Vietnam urban drug decay, a deadly threat in the Ocean State and New England as a whole? Why now, in a time when marijuana has taken the failed War on Drugs public spotlight, is a drug like heroin such an extreme threat to the lives of our citizens?

The answers to these questions are simple and impossible at the same time. The American obsession with the chemicals that alter our thoughts and feelings is a fascinating and terrifying field of higher thought and a social commentary on our way of life. Drug overdose has become so common that there exists a national debate as to whether police, firemen and other first responders should carry medicine to counter the overdose and save lives. Why are we so prone to dangerous drug use? Is it backlash from the evolving understanding that the American Dream was a bill of goods sold to several generations that turned up far short of our expectations? The public battlegrounds of the War on Drugs have been ever-evolving. Weed and LSD in the ’60s turned to heroin in the ’70s turned to crack in the ’80s turned to meth and ecstasy in the late ’90s turned to prescription pills in the pre-teens turned back into a full fledged heroin resurgence. Are we doomed to repeat the vicious cycle claiming the lives and health of our neighbors, crippled by our own ignorance of the disease of addiction and criminal versus public health driven approaches to it?

For the heroin addict in RI, these questions are far from their minds. Political rhetoric, intellectual addiction think tanks and dry congressional hearings are far removed from the heroin addict’s daily pain and anguish. Like a nightmare they can’t wake from, the heroin addict sees reality deteriorate in front of their eyes and feels powerless to stop it. For those who don’t imbibe, it is easy to cast judgement. Many have been burned by the destructive actions of addict friends or family members and have no further capacity for sympathy. “Why even start?” they say. “Just another junkie, good riddance!” is a popular sentiment on social media when a headline announces the overdose death of another local or celebrity. We look down on addicts as a thieving criminal class of lower citizens, but how many do we truly understand?

It was this desire for understanding that compelled me to travel to an undisclosed inpatient women’s rehabilitation facility in Rhode Island to talk to Kristen S., a 23-year-old local currently undergoing her second round of treatment for heroin addiction. I sat down with her over coffee and we discussed what it means to be addicted to one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet.

Adam Schirling: Hello Kristen. Thank you so very much for sitting down with me. Where are we right now?

Kristen S.: This is a women’s residential alcohol and addict treatment program. It was originally long term, like 6 months to a year program, but recently due to insurance issues, it’s cutting down to a 3 to 6 month top program, which is unfortunate for me because long term is definitely more effective than just a  30 day ‘spin dry’ sort of thing, you know?

AS: How long have you been here?

KS: I’ve been here… Well, the first time I came here was November 14, 2012. I stayed 10 months, and graduated August 26 2013. I moved next door into the sober house, and I ended up relapsing like 2 months into it for about three months, which brought me back here New Year’s Eve of this year.

AS: What made you come in on New Year’s Eve? It seems like an unusual time for someone to seek help. For most people it’s a time for partying and they’ll get better the next day…

KS: I was just to that point, you know, where I needed help again. It was very quick. The progression of the disease is really quick, no matter how much clean time you have it’s still right there. Luckily it happened in a pretty good way because I came New Year’s Eve and January 1 was the start of the whole insurance change (ACA). I wouldn’t have been able to claim a 6 month bed like I am now, just by coming a day beforehand, so that turned out to be something good. But it was just the day, where I was mentally. It didn’t matter what day it was, you know? New Year’s Eve or Christmas or just a regular day. It was just the day that I needed to get help.

AS: When you checked in, what substances were you here for?

KS: Heroin

AS: Strictly heroin or anything else?

KS: Strictly heroin.

AS: How long have you been taking heroin?

KS: I started with Oxy when I was 17, which gradually turned into heroin within two months. So I’ve been using since I was 17 and I’m 23 now.

AS: What made you try the heroin after you had been on Oxy for a while?

KS: I couldn’t get a hold of Oxy at the time, and they were expensive. My body… when I had first taken Oxy, I didn’t realize my body was going to be hooked on it. I thought it was like a Vicodin … not so heavy. My boss was giving them to me. I had a lot of back pain, sciatic pain. I took them to help my physical pain and it just got out of control. I met some people, I guess, who were somewhat in my group of friends, who were selling cocaine and heroin. I just ended up trying it and… it was a wrap. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame that on my disease of addiction, because I was definitely using uppers like cocaine, and ecstasy was my thing from when I was 13, until I was 17. I got into opiates for my back pain. So, you know, I already had those tendencies in me, but I never was into downers, or heroin, or pills. I just liked uppers…

AS: So it was easier to find the heroin than it was the Oxy at that point?

KS: Oh yea, absolutely. Especially when they changed the Oxycotin to the new formula where you couldn’t crush them … the time release.

AS: Right.

KS:  They seemed a bit weaker, but I didn’t even honestly end up trying the new Oxy just from what I heard. I just ended up trying heroin and I was hooked right off the bat.

AS: Is heroin easy to find in Rhode Island?

KS: Absolutely.

AS: All over the spectrum of Rhode Island or is it centralized more to the Providence area?

KS: I would say everywhere. From Mass to RI…  I’d know many many towns, West Warwick, Providence, Fall River… that’s mainly where I got it from.

AS: Tell me about the first time you tried heroin. What was your first high like?

KS:  I snorted it that first few times. I snorted it for like a month. In my head I thought… Well for one I never thought I would be doing heroin and I never thought I would shoot anything. That was kind of like a drawn line just for me in general, due to my stepmother having that same addiction and just witnessing how she lived her life and what it did to her. But i snorted it the first time and I threw up, but even though I threw up i immediately wanted more, and the moment I was done puking I felt like Superman. I just felt amazing and everything was just… everything was ok.. everything in the world was ok.

AS: So have you been using continuously from age 17 to 23?

KS: Well, the first time I stopped and realized I needed help for addiction in general was November 14, 2012.

AS: How hard was it the first time you came in to the facility to get help? What did it feel like?

KS: Well, I did a cold turkey detox because I didn’t want my body to be chained to suboxin or methadone and the detox was horrible, physically and mentally. Once the physical sickness was over, the mental was just as horrible. I couldn’t sit still. My thoughts were all over the place. I felt completely alone, uncomfortable, uneasy. Every negative feeling in the human condition was possible and was just there. All the negativity just was overwhelming me.

AS: Now when you were clean for 10 months, did that feeling ever subside?

KS: It did. After a few months, it became easier and easier. I did have a couple slips, you know, where I used one night and then told on myself, and they gave me another chance because of how honest I was. And I did truly want help, you know. I just didn’t know how at that point. you know? Like right off the bat I put the drugs down and was kind of just soaking up all this negative and I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t handle it so I just used again. I say 4 months in, I remember standing in the backyard and I was smoking a cigarette. I remember it was getting a little nice out. It was cold but the sun was out, and it was the first moment in my life that I felt… not alone in the world… and it wasn’t the people, it was just this feeling like…. I’ve always believe in a higher power, but i felt like my higher power finally saw me, you know? I was standing outside and I felt everything was going to be ok. I had never felt that way before unless it was drug induced.

AS: So that was the first time you ever felt that euphoria sober?

KS: Yes. That was the first time I felt that in my life that was genuine, you know it wasn’t drug induced. I had such comfort inside of me that I knew everything was going to be ok as long as I stay on this path and not use.

AS: How has the heroin use affected your work or personal relationships?

KS: Before getting into treatment? I worked hard to get into the union because I love painting and construction and I finally got in in 2010. It was awesome. It was great pay, benefits, security, but I had to lay myself off on October 2, 2013, a month before I came back into treatment, because I became a safety hazard. I was nodding off, falling down, I was driving a lift and nodding off and I’d bang into walls and have to patch it up real quick before my boss would see it. I was just a mess, and everyone knew. They would just keep asking me if I was ok. I was wicked underweight, falling asleep everywhere.

AS: Did a supervisor ever approach you or did anyone suspect?

KS: I heard from a couple people that they thought I was on pills or something. No one guessed it was heroin until I told them when it had gotten to the point that I realized I needed help. I went to the office after work one day and told my head boss, you gotta lay me off I need treatment. I loved my job, but i was not loving my job anymore. It had become something where I had no passion in it. I wasn’t doing the things I needed to do and I was becoming a safety hazard. Toward the end, I was in debt even though I was getting paid well because all of the money went up my arm, and days that I couldn’t get dope and I was sick, I would literally go up to the top of the building and curl up in the fetal position and just cry.

AS: Can we backtrack for a minute? I remember when you said you first started you were snorting heroin. What made you switch to shooting since you said you had this mental barrier that you didn’t want to cross that line? What made you switch?

KS: The funny thing is, it was in the summertime and for some reason my bag of powdered heroin that was snortable was in my pocket. I don’t know if it was due to the humidity or what, but it became really moist and clumpy and it was like an $80 bag, like 2 half grams, and I just happened to be in a room with people who were shooting Adderall and Percocet for some reason, and they had  clean needles. I wasn’t going to waste my $80 bag at that point, and I ended up taking a needle and shooting it and I fell in love. I never snorted again. I never saw a point in snorting it anymore.

AS: What was the difference in the feeling between injecting and snorting?

KS: It was extremely instant. You literally feel it go throughout your whole body and just the mental euphoria as well as the physical is just a lot better than snorting it.

AS: I’ve heard a lot of heroin users say that after that first injection, they never had a high like that first time they injected it. Was it like that for you?

KS: No. I  loved shooting it, loved the setup and everything about it. I’m probably addicted to the needle itself. The feeling was the same until it turned on me. Each high was just as good and toward the end, right before i realized i needed help, you know when your tolerance matches up, that’s when you say, ok I’m never going to feel the same high.

AS: And how long did it take for you to reach that point?

KS: I’d say like 2012. A few years.

AS: Even when you’re sober like you are now, what does your craving feel like? Is it gone or still there? Do you think about it?

KS: Since I’ve been back, since New Year’s, almost 3 months now, is the first time I haven’t had a desire to use. But the last stay, when I was here for 10 months, every couple of weeks I would envision it. The desire. It wasn’t there fully, but it was always on my mind in some way. There were times where I slipped, like I said..

AS: Does it come at different times during the day? Does it happen in the mornings or more at night? Is there anything that triggers your cravings? A thought, smell, or memory?

KS: I think feelings are what triggered a lot of mine. When i was really trying my best to stop, it was the moments where I was overwhelmed or extremely anxious and fearful. Those are the moments I would go to using again. But the desire itself, it could be a good day, a bad day, morning, night, didn’t matter, you know?

AS: How did you feel about yourself when you used? Not during the actual high, but after the high wore off. How did you feel?

KS: I didn’t feel anything until I came to the realization that I needed help, which would be around October/November 2012. I would actually have to spend days sick because I was in so much debt to my dealer. I was selling everything I owned, I was ready to steal from my family. Those days that I spent sick, the physical effect was so bad, that it would bring me to do things that I would never do on a normal day, you know? To get more and not be sick.

AS: Anything particular you want to mention?

KS: Well, my best friend and her mom, they took me in when I was 14. They are my family. They aren’t blood related, but they’re my family. They’re the people who love me unconditionally. I bought them iPod touches and xboxes and stuff and when it came to the point when I was in their house and ready to pawn those, that’s when I knew I needed help. I called my best friend and I was in her house and I was like, “You need to come get me. I’m about to rob  the shit out of you,” and I was crying. I knew I was gone and the insides of me were gone and all my values and morals were out the window.  There were times I would sell my own things. xboxes, pawn them, buy them back, pawn them again, pawn my cell phone. The real desperate times, I would do sexual things with my dealer, and you know… I don’t normally do sexual things with men at all. Those times hit me. Those were shameful times and disgusting to myself, but all I needed to do to make that go away was get high.

AS: Let’s scale back for a second. What’s your opinion on the heroin use in New England skyrocketing in the past couple years?

KS: I think that since the Oxy situation … I don’t know exactly what happened, but it’s a lot harder to get Oxy around here. So I think people were hooked on that and because their bodies are so physically addicted to that, they needed something to replace it when they couldn’t get the Oxy anymore. The cheaper, more potent thing next to Oxy is heroin. And because it’s cheaper, I think a lot of people switched over. I have no idea why there is so much heroin here. I had never known there was heroin here before because  I was into ecstasy and cocaine, but it’s everywhere.

AS: Did you ever reach the point where you wondered what was the end game? How much longer could you maintain?

KS: Honestly, those thoughts weren’t there. Because I had maintained for so long, I just was going through the motions and I guess I settled. I am such a fearful, nervous person, I always believed I needed to be high to function in society. I had that liquid courage and that was the cure-all. I was very much so not present, though. I would go through the motions and go to work and thought I was happy. I thought I was in the right relationship and thought I was doing the right thing by finally getting into the union, my dream job, and you know, buying a car, and all that stuff. I never took the time to stop. And honestly, the years flew by. I thought I was only using heroin for maybe a year and a half when I came into recovery. I didn’t even realize how long I was using it until I went back into my myspace messages and started reading really old messages. That’s when I realized that I had been using since 17. It just felt like it hadn’t been that long. Like the days ran together. One day turned into three days. There were times I had mini overdoses and I’d wake up three days later and have no idea when I even fell out.

AS: Have you ever had any legal troubles because of your addiction?

KS: I got into a car accident,  a bad one, toward the end. I was in a lot of debt even though I was making a lot of money and I had let my insurance drop. I let all my bills drop. So I’m driving my truck to and from work with no insurance, and I was coming back from Springfield, Mass., one day and I nodded off at the wheel two blocks from my house in Providence. I was about to smash into a car that was at a stop light, about to turn left. and right as I woke up, I swerved left, tapped the car that was in front of me and knocked their tail light out and swerved into oncoming traffic and totaled that car. That was with no insurance, and I owe $42,000 to the insurance companies. No one was hurt, which I’m blessed for because I don’t think I would have been able to live with that. I walked home, got high, called my boss and said, “I don’t have a vehicle. Can we carpoo?” I ended up completely dismissing what I had just done like it hadn’t happened.

AS: After 10 months of being sober before, what made you want to start using again?

KS: I honestly didn’t want to, but i had back surgery a month before i graduated, in July 2013. I had a lumbar fusion, which caused more pain, and due to the pain and the fear of having to go back and have another surgery, well, instead of facing it, I ran from it, like I run from everything in my life. I chose to use, so I could go and be somewhat productive and it was a conscious choice. Before I came into recovery, it wasn’t a conscious choice. I started so young and that was just what life was. I had this belief that without drugs I couldn’t function in this world. That’s something I had to learn in recovery. I learned it’s not a lack of will power or self knowledge. I learned the tools to not use again that 10 months. I learned what I needed that 10 months. I learned how to go to a sober house and function with a little bit more freedom. It wasn’t an accident, you know? I consciously made that choice. I was lying in bed and thinking, “Should I take that pain without painkillers  because i am a heroin addict, or should I just say fuck it and say, ‘I tried my best,’ and just get high and go back to work. I tried that. And it only lasted those three months and that first month, honestly, I was so lonely and depressed, and those feelings I felt right before I came into treatment, that desperation was right there. I ended up doing everything I could to get back into here and thankfully I did because, I couldn’t do it alone.

AS: After you left the 10 months sober, during your relapse, were you thinking you were going to be able to control it more?

KS: I don’t think so. I learned that there is no such thing as control. I know there is no such thing as a “social IV heroin user,” you know? I have two people inside of my brain. There is the disease part of my brain that says, “Yes you can use one more time.” And I learned a way to face that voice and not really block it out but to tell it you know,  “No. There is no way I can ever use in safety. One is too many and one thousand isn’t enough.” Or I will be in that place where I feel that desperation, where you are ready to end your life and that’s when your human instincts kick in and you decide to fight.

AS: Sober now, how do you feel mentally?

KS: I feel guilty and shameful that I chose to run from my problem again and that I couldn’t face the fact that I have a physically disabling condition right now, with the surgery going bad, and I could have just faced it at that time instead of running from it. Had I faced it right away, I probably would have had the surgery by now and I would be on my feet and getting better.

AS: Do you have any other friends or relatives who are involved in heroin in RI?

KS: Just my stepmother. We aren’t connected anymore, though. I just remember growing up and seeing her with marks and and burnt spoons and nodding out…

AS: You said you were 17 when you first started getting high and you said even then it was easy for you to obtain heroin in Rhode Island.

KS: Oh yeah. I wasn’t in school and none of my friends used heroin except for my dealer, and there was this kid I knew who was using heroin. He introduced me to his dealer and I started going through him. And then he would give me a number to another person if he wasn’t around and then another and it was like the shake of the tree and it spread like that.

AS: Like a network?

KS: Yeah. At any point for a majority of the time that I was using I went through at least six dealers. I would never go without. Unless I had no money.

AS: What is the cost of heroin compared to Oxy?

KS: Say an 80 mg Oxy is like 80 bucks a pop and you can get a 1/2 gram of heroin for like $40, wich will get you further than the Oxy would. It’s half the price and more potent.

AS: Now that it’s in the public light, what would you want the average person reading this, someone who has no experience or knowledge of the world of heroin use, to know about what it’s like to be a heroin addict in RI?

KS: I would have to say, heroin is the only drug that has grabbed me, you know? It’s taken hold and just literally my whole life went downhill. I fell apart in a matter of five years. I was so sick of using and so sick of that chase. I didn’t know how to stop, though.  I didn’t think I could. And a lot of people never do. Heroin addicts stay heroin addicts until they die. I know it is the most evil drug out there. I know because I’ve tried them all, you know? And nothing, nothing grabbed me like heroin did. It killed my spirit, everything that made me alive, a person, it killed me, and I didn’t care. I know it’s all over. I have Facebook and I’ll put up or post inspirational things about addiction and people from high school will contact me about how they need help, but then they will disappear and I don’t hear from them again. And it’s sad. A lot of people are dying. A lot of people very young. It’s very sad.

AS: One of the biggest news stories lately has been a rash of heroin deaths because of heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful opiate. If you were still a daily user and you saw that there were these fentanyl laced deaths in Rhode Island, would that keep a heroin addict such as yourself from wanting to use?

KS: I wish I could say yes, but I know that when I’m in active addiction, that nothing will stop me. No human being. On heroin I feel like someone could take anything I had, my home, if I had kids, my kids, I would give up anything and nothing would stop me.

AS: How do you feel about your future now?

KS: I have hope. If I didn’t have hope I wouldn’t be here. It’s scary. I know that if I continue on this path, and  choose to stay in recovery, I will be rewarded. That a more fulfilling and honest life, a life that is genuine, will be there. As much as it’s hard to be hopeful, I have it inside me. Thank God for this place. I can recover, and my plan is to go back to work and even if I end up in a wheelchair, I would become a substance abuse counselor. But I have learned that I am not in control, they taught me that here. But I feel hopeful. I tested it out with my last relapse, but with what I know, I know there is not point in going back again. I have never felt truly alive. It was synthetic, until now.

AS: Do you have any last things you want to say about heroin?

KS: I know there is controversy, I know some people don’t see this as a disease. If you were to ask me when my addiction started, I know that it was way before I picked up a drug. Probably when I was 5 or 6 years old I felt those first feelings of not being good enough or that nervousness, and I was such a fearful person. I always had this belief that me being able to function in this world was only possible if I had drugs. The first time I did a drug I was 13. And I knew I felt comfortable. I could talk anyone, I could go to a job interview and talk to someone and that was alright. That fear was paralyzing and the drugs were feeding that belief for a long time. It went to the point that I was living when I was using the drugs. I believed those were actual feelings and emotions, but I was completely empty inside. And eventually it got to the point that I didn’t want to live anymore. It does turn on you.

Heroin will turn on you. It will never be the same.

True Love Is All Around You

 Live music becomes a gateway to love

heartHeadphonesIt’s easy to become consumed with finding the right partner. Our primal urges combined with ego fulfillment turn love into something to be obtained, rather than something that is all around us. As a conscious being, will you ever truly be happy fulfilling these animal instincts? Joy does not come only from human relations, yet many people seek to fulfill their need for love solely through companionship. Those who pursue love in this fashion tend to feel unfulfilled or even dependent on others.  But you must first love you and your unique life experience before extending true love to anyone else. Find what drives you, and let your passion take you down a road of love. When you stop looking for love from another person, you’ll start to see love is everywhere you look.

So what does love have to do with music? It’s one of the simple joys in life. You can love it and sometimes feel the love in it. Music can be a mood booster and whether performed or simply heard, can be salvation to those feeling desperation. Every live show is a unique moment in time that will never happen the same way again.

The core of your spirit comes from new experiences, so it’s important to keep your soul expanding by being open to inspiration and new experiences, like live shows, which allow for appreciation and wonder, the gateways to love. When people feel sad, the simplest explanation is they are disconnected from the universe. If you’re not enjoying what’s happening in your life, find a way to eliminate the bad and bring in something that gives you joy.

When the music plays, some people become so entranced with finding a dance partner that they forget to appreciate the beauty of the notes being played, just like some people are so consumed with the tanned bodies at the beach they miss the beauty right in front of them.  The ocean endlessly kisses the sand, giving love with every wave of hesitation and progression.

As we enter February and approach Valentine’s Day, couples are reminded to show appreciation to each other and single people are often reminded of their lone status.  For the solos, it’s often hard to appreciate that the greatest love for yourself should stem from your experiences.  That’s the difference between loneliness and solitude. When you appreciate you are part of the grand universe, loneliness naturally dissipates.

February also has a lineup of fantastic shows in Providence for you to experience. Lettuce has their Providence debut at Fete on February 6.  Umphrey’s McGee will have their first show at Lupo’s on February 7. Resin Ed and Elephant have a double album release at The Spot on February 8. Use any one of these performances to see the love surrounding music.  Will you seek to find the love in music, nature, art, even silence, and transcend into a different mindset? When you love and appreciate your existence, the universe’s light shines on you. Let that light guide you on your journey, and may the music have you dancing along the way.

Funda Turns Sweet 16

fundaFestChrisJohnsonUPRhode Island Black Storytellers’ (RIBS) annual event welcomes in its 16thyear as the state’s premier, longest-running and only black storytelling festival: Funda Fest

I have been on both sides of the stage with Funda Fest as both a performer and an audience member, and I have to say the sheer power of this viva voce marvel is guaranteed to move you. Stretching across the state, caravaning in the week of January 19 through January 26 will be 10 of the most heartfelt and exciting storytellers you could possibly ever want to be responsible for your unguarded imagination.
Along with favorites Teju Ologboni from Milwaukee, Grammy nominated Christylez (pronounced Chris Styles) Bacon, and renowned storyteller Eshu Bumpers, making their debut appearance in the state and headlining the festival will be will be the performance duo of In the Spirit (vocalist Glenda Zahra Baker and storyteller Emily Hooper Lansana) along with the celebrated cast of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers.
More than 20 years ago, Emily Hooper Lansana and Glenda Zahra Baker came together to form Performance Duo: In the Spirit. They have developed an extensive repertoire of stories that carry us on enthralling journeys. Each performance celebrates the power of the word to connect, uplift and transform. Their interactive, spirit-filled stories and songs engage audiences in a memorable, soulful way.
Highlights of their performance history include: The National Association of Black Storytellers Festival and Conference, The National Storytelling Festival, The Illinois Storytelling Festival, Dance Africa Chicago and a number of museums, community and educational institutions across the country.
I first witnessed this production in 2006, when the featured performers hailed from New Orleans, in support of the tragedy that happened there. The night totally changed my perception of storytelling. The orator’s voice connected everyone in the room until in the silence was weaved a people quilt held together by the single thread of the storyteller’s voice. This is not just for bedtime; because of the magic and level of coziness crafted by orator after orator, by the end of the evening a village was molded from the raw clay of strangers. Now seven years later I can say the momentum has not let up. Year after year I have been thoroughly inspired and I can’t wait to see the gifts brought by Funda 16
I asked Valerie what was the impetus that sparked Funda Fest (Funda meaning to teach and to learn in Zulu and KiSwahili) 16 years ago. “In 1999, The Rhode Island Foundation had an initiative to celebrate black arts and artists in Rhode Island. For years previous to that, RIBS would travel every year to the National Association of Black Storytellers Festival (NABS) and a group pondered having such a thing in Rhode Island.” she said. Storytelling is how we inspire blacks to tell our story in all the dimensions of being human. It’s what gives us hope, and what makes us black while bringing a broader image of being black. She finished.
For full festival Information, join Rhode Island Black Storytellers on Facebook or check the website at www.ribsfest.org

Yoga: Good For What Ails You?

yogaAsMedicineUPThe art, practice and health benefits of yoga

Yoga has been practiced in India for thousands of years; however, the modern practice of postures that we know as yoga is less than 100 years old. Yoga once consisted of breathing exercises (pranayamas) and meditation, spiritually grounded in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy such as non-violence and loving kindness. Postures were developed in the 20th century. Some yoga teachers believe that the physical exercise was created to help Western practitioners sit in meditation because achieving stillness for Westerners may be predicated on a certain degree of physical exhaustion. In India, practitioners follow a number of teachers whose differences are often philosophical, while in the West, schools of yoga often have different approaches to the physical practice: different series of postures (Bikram), the use of props and attention to alignment (Iynegar), the temperature of the studio (hot yoga), a dependence on an aerobic and strenuous series of linked postures (Ashtanga), and a seemingly endless series of variations representing fusions of Eastern and Western exercises, such as acroyoga and yoga with weights. However, the core practice generally consists of breathing exercises, physical postures (asanas) and seated meditation.

Yoga teachers and practitioners always touted the physical and mental health benefits of yoga practice. For many years these claims were accepted as true by believers and doubted as unlikely by non-believers, as if yoga were a religion that required faith for benefit to accrue. Only in the last two decades have researchers applied Western scientific empirical approaches to yoga in an attempt to investigate some of the health benefits. Some of the first work was performed in India and published in their medical journals. In 1999, the National Institute of Health, which funds a large body of academic medical research in the United States, established  the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to support research on yoga and other medical practices, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, mindfulness, meditation and massage therapy. The Western medical literature now contains several hundred studies examining the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment. The results have been very impressive and uphold the beliefs of yogis.

Yoga has been shown to be an effective treatment for many physical and mental disorders. There are randomized controlled trials (the benchmark of Western empirical scientific proof) demonstrating that yoga improves symptoms in patients with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, chronic pain syndromes, insomnia, schizophrenia and ADHD. Yoga improves breathing in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It decreases episodes of abnormal heart rhythms such as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. As an exercise, sun salutations, a basic series of linked, rhythmic yoga postures, has been shown to improve endurance, body muscle composition and strength.

Yoga also has been effective in addressing metabolic syndrome, which leads to adult onset diabetes, increased blood lipids or fats, high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  Sedentary adults enrolled in a yoga program were more likely to participate and to continue with yoga after the program was over than adults enrolled in a regular exercise program. Elders enrolled in yoga showed improved strength, balance and muscle tone with an improvement in mood and mental functioning. Yoga decreases stress in adults caring for elders with dementia and decreases performance anxiety and stress in adolescent musicians. Yoga has been shown to decrease symptoms in patients with lower back pain and to decrease pain and improve functioning in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful disorder of the wrists often associated with repetitive motion stress. Yoga has been effective in quitting smoking programs and in treating drug addiction. Yoga has been shown to decrease depression and improve mood in prenatal women and in patients with cancer. It decreases stress and depression in college students. Yoga has been used successfully to help children with asthma, anxiety and depression, obesity, and cancer.

Recently, advancing brain imaging technology allowed researchers to investigate the bigger question, “How does yoga really work?” Magnetic spectroscopy of the brain has revealed that yoga practice leads to increased vagus nerve tone and increased gamma-aminobutyric acid levels in the thalamus area of the brain. The vagus nerve, the so-called wandering tenth cranial nerve, supplies fibers to the brain and many organs in the body including the heart, lungs, intestines and pancreas. It may very well be that the increases in circulating prana, or yogic energy, touted by yogis is not an increase in mystical energy, but rather a measurable neurochemical event.

It seems like yoga is a universal cure-all, good for every medical problem. No matter what the patient has, just prescribe yoga and expect a miraculous recovery. Unfortunately, this is not true. It is important to step back to regain perspective on all this science. Yoga can decrease symptoms like pain, stress, tension and anxiety. It will increase fitness, endurance, strength and aerobic and anaerobic capacity. It will not cure or even prevent most diseases. It is a preventative strategy or an adjunct therapy that should be used to help maintain good health or to support mental and physical well-being in addition to specific treatments for particular diseases. For example, cardiac catheterization will relieve a blockage of the arteries supplying the heart.  Yoga after this procedure may improve exercise ability, endurance and strength, and may help the patient with stress, depression and anxiety that often accompanies heart disease. Yoga, like all good medicine, is most effective when prescribed by a skilled teacher who is trusted by the patient, and if it is performed with proper technique, adherence to the prescription,  follow-up, and appropriate expectations for benefit.

Was It Worth It?

worth” Almost one-third of returning veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, and that is taking into account only those who honestly answer screening questionnaires and exams. A culture of silence, an omertà among warriors, regarding PTSD has long been a plague of the U.S. military.”

Along with hundreds of thousands of other veterans of the war in Al Anbar Province Iraq, I recently watched as Al Qaeda successfully captured the city of Fallujah, with Ramadi surely soon to follow. I watched as the same buildings I, and thousands of others, stood on now swarmed with mask-clad terrorists attempting to calm the local populace despite light resistance from local tribes. As I watched, the same angry sadness welled up inside me when anyone talks about Al Anbar for a bit too long. As they cheered on the TV in front of me in my warm suburban New England living room thousands of miles from those dirty streets, a stray tear fell and I thought about the friends who I lost and the ones I will continue to lose to the fighting that occurred on those streets. But for all the tears we who returned shed for our fallen brothers and sisters, we certainly are not out of danger, as the physical and mental tolls of deployments accumulate on our hearts and souls and strike us down like random bolts from vengeful gods. And when we see what is on TV right now, we have to ask ourselves, just what did we accomplish and at what cost?

Veterans’ health is an easy topic to make as bland as possible. It could read like a textbook entry in some vague college pre-med class – sterile, clean and full of detached pity. However, the health of our returning war fighters is anything but neatly packaged into various categories for the unknowing public to judge and lament at their leisure.

That red-blooded American youth returning from combat service in a foreign land can look forward to myriad health problems to plague him the rest of his life, long after glowing homecoming ceremonies and proud backslapping from relatives and neighbors subside. The nightmares and insomnia usually begin soon after coming home. They’re not even clear ones, but result in the kind of restless paranoid sleep that ends with a violent wakeup and fearful howl. Almost one-third of returning veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, and that is taking into account only those who honestly answer screening questionnaires and exams. A culture of silence, an omertà among warriors, regarding PTSD has long been a plague of the U.S. military. Too many fear diagnosis and treatment as a threat of being removed from units, placed on vague federal watchlists, or carrying a stigma of being mentally weak. And this culture of silence has led to epidemic levels of combat veteran suicides.

On the night of Easter Sunday 2011, I crawled into a bathtub in Middletown to die. I, like hundreds of thousands of other OIF and OEF veterans, had been diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety attacks. The symptoms of these, along with a growing addiction to the pills being fed to me to fight them, and a fierce thirst for alcohol that had become a bottle-a-day habit, left me a despondent mess barely able to hold together my personal life. I swallowed every pill in my cabinet and waited for the end. I fortunately survived that night; however, the majority of my brethren in arms who chose to take that last and horrible step when the pain, fear and loneliness overtook them just one time too many, did not.

Anger will also rot the homecoming hero – anger toward the enemy, other units, people back home we used to care for, anger toward wives, friends and even the dog. It is a burning, resentful anger that simmers deep and leads to problems with high blood pressure and anxiety throughout life. This anger and resentment often leads to substance abuse used silence demons and build a lubrication to the world around us. Unfortunately, self medication along with the zealous prescription of strong medications often leads to disaster.

But not to worry, fellow veterans, recent studies have noted a strong link between suffering from PTSD as a young person and developing dementia later in life. So, maybe one day we can look forward to at least forgetting what we are so angry about.

Despite the sexy popularity of PTSD awareness, and more recently TBI awareness, among Americans during our generation’s war, there exists in American society an entire generation of youth who are just plain broke down and tired. Combat service and training, especially among the infantry and combat support units, is a physically strenuous activity even among those not wounded in battle. Musculoskeletal injuries, chronic arthritis, torn ligaments and dislocated joints are commonplace in the warrior profession, and those coming home, despite being at the peak of health and fitness, may suddenly find themselves struggling to keep up with their peers who don’t deal with pain. These ailments, when coupled with an already higher than average national unemployment rate among vets, hinder many in finding the type of jobs essential to post-war reintegration.

Then we come to the mystery ailments that the paranoid veteran underground likes to speculate on. Vietnam saw Agent Orange, and The Desert Storm had Gulf War Sickness, but what will be our war’s enduring lethal legacy? The asbestos that filled every building we stepped in and blew apart? The long-term exposure to foreign pathogens and old world diseases that most Americans have never been exposed to? Or perhaps the murky legality that surrounded the suddenly mandatory anthrax inoculations that began in 2007?

My money has always been on the burn pits. Any of the older vets can tell you of the time when everything in Iraq was burned next to the outposts, sometimes feet from sleeping and eating areas. Wood, clothing, old electronics, human waste, food, any and all garbage, old meds – you name it, into the burn pit it went to constantly smolder and melt as we inhaled the fumes night and day. Lawsuits have already been filed by service members against the large corporations like KBR and Halliburton who maintained the large burn pits at the large bases in Iraq.

Iraq and Afghanistan are not easy wars to be veterans of, not that it’s easy to return home from any war. We deal with the misunderstood stigma of combat veterans being violent assholes. We deal with watching a war we fought come apart on the evening news. And we deal with a confusing and often incompetent system of healthcare from the V.A.

As one Rhode Island combat veteran told me, “You don’t get PTSD from going to war. You get it from coming home.”


Groove to the Music

Did you know the Earth emits frequencies? It has a vibrational beat. Even though we can’t feel it, there is a confirmed relationship between the Earth’s resonance and the human brain. The human mind, in its relaxed Theta state, moves to the same beat that the Earth pulses to without effort. Everything around us is made up of frequencies and vibrations. Every planet has a harmonic signature. Quite simply, we live in a musical universe. But the real question is, are you in tune with your own planet? If you aren’t, how do you get there?

Music might just be the answer. There’s nothing like live music. No matter the genre, every performance evokes an emotional response. Music is something we all can appreciate.  Even infants move to a well-played beat. We are part of the earth, part of this universe, and harmony is the storyline to our tale. Several nights a week, I expose my soul to a live performance.  Some people might find this excessive, but how many hours do most spend with their HD cable stream? A number of people have forgotten that live music holds something incredible that will connect you to others without effort. The amazing thing is that it’s available almost every night, no matter where you live.

I recently listened to Fungus Amungus’ drummer, Joe Jannarelli, go on a seemly endless and epic solo at the Max Creek Family Picnic in West Warwick. The crowd moved, smiled and enjoyed his symbiotic relationship to the tool of his talent. This band has been around and evolving over the past decade, with different members transitioning over time. There’s an evolving funk scene in Rhode Island and Fungus has assisted in its development.  Seeking other feel-good jam music? Local bands like Daddie Long Legs and Viral Sound only continue to gain fans and expand their popularity, and catching them live is the best way to appreciate what they do. Only once you see them can you acknowledge the happiness music brings. When the music hits you, you feel no pain. The earth softly plays her harmonic melody and these great bands amplify her song by exposing their inner creativity. In New England, there’s a ton of musical talent. How do we draw in other bands to foster, support and inspire our local musicians? Bands like Dopapod make songs that touch the edge of curiosity.  But how do we keep them coming back to this fine little state? That’s easy – we pay attention to them. Anything you pay attention to grows. That’s the secret of life.

So, when did you see your last show? When did you dance so hard it hurt the next day? Live music will feed your soul and support your own creativity. So come out sometime.  Funk is my therapy. Find the music you like and it will change your existence. After all, we live in a musical universe.

2nd Story Previews Impressive Sons of the Prophet


2nd Story Theatre’s dominance of the East Bay continues as they solidify their expansion in Warren with a production of Stephen Karam’s 2012 Pulitzer finalist, Sons of the Prophet. Having just concluded a magnificent showing of Dancing at Lughnasa in the main theater (UpStage), 2nd Story’s new space downstairs (DownStage) follows the celebrated Lobby Hero with this intimate, yet expansive tragicomedy. 2nd Story is no stranger to Karam’s work, having delivered the exquisite Speech and Debate a few summers back, and Director Wendy Overly adds her distinctive touch to a piece that seems wild and mundane in one fell swoop. Motif was invited to attend the first preview performance to get a sense of what is in store for audiences by the time the show enters its official run. Regardless of how the piece gels and settles in after further performances, Overly and company have managed to fulfill Karam’s desire to illuminate suffering and loss with pointed humor and dogged perseverance.

Unlike the ebullient Speech and Debate, however, Sons sputters after its initial exposition peters out. The script concerns the Douaihys, a Lebanese-American family suffering compounded loss and adversity in the wastes of eastern Pennsylvania. The sons, Joseph and Charles, navigate the recent, somewhat bizarre loss of their parents as they struggle to care for their aged, ailing Uncle Bill. Both sons are gay, Uncle Bill is an ardent bigot and Joe’s acerbic employer, Gloria, is blackmailing him for a career boost (or prescription drugs … or both). This setup leads to a somewhat dizzying array of plot twists and amusing secondary characters as we glean what seem to be overtly autobiographical details from Karam’s script. What is set up as a cathartic race to the finish, symbolized most poignantly by Joseph’s phantom pains that have curbed his Olympic dreams, ends up more like a studied stroll across the finish line. Karam seems to tell us that life simply doesn’t work like a Lifetime movie – we laugh, we love, we die and everything in between can get very, very messy.

So it goes, and Overly’s cast takes a very difficult script and makes the most of it, succeeding, in some cases, spectacularly. Out of an overall solid cast, featuring many 2nd Story regulars (including Paula Faber who rallies to channel an inner Carol Burnett in a tour de force toward the end of the show), the standout here is Vince Petronio as the willfully inappropriate, yet heartfelt, Uncle Bill. While it would seem that Joseph’s Job-like struggles to frame his own suffering would be the play’s through line, it is Petronio’s Lebanese Archie Bunker who becomes a pivot point for all concerned. The two sons must care for him while struggling with their own issues: the loss of their parents, their socio-religious identity and the challenges of homosexuality in a small town. Gloria intrudes on their home and winds up as a sort of uneasy ally and Vin, the culprit of the accident that took away the family stability must seek acceptance, if not approbation,  from Bill more so than Joseph. This may not be what Karam intended, but his forceful, memorable performance serves to make the wonderfully realized chemistry between Joseph (an understated Jed Hancock-Brainerd) and Charles (a delightfully sardonic Andrew Iacovelli) subservient to Petronio’s grounded, yet perfectly crafted character work. Charles Lafond (seen recently in Counter Productions’ Speed the Plow) does a neat Anderson Cooper take while Sharon Carpentier and Susan Powers handle the background comic relief in a play that needs all it can get, lest we start weeping.

Trevor Elliot’s sets for 2nd Story never fail to amaze, and here, with Moe Assad, he delivers yet again. Audiences enter the DownStage space to a deceptively simple room, a two-tiered monolith that comes alive through clever use of projections and lighting with the flexibility of moveable set pieces and carefully choreographed changes that create a wide variety of tableaus. Lighting designer Steve McLellan creates pockets of reality within these confines and allows us to make the necessary leaps in time and space required to keep up with the constantly shifting scenes and scenarios. Special notice for costume designer Jessie Darrell Jarbadan, who manages to make the appalling Uncle Bill seem cuddly while Gloria’s awful, yet flattering dress in the first scene allows us to forgive the inanity of statements like, “You’re white the way a Jewish person is white.” The absurd is the norm in Nazareth, PA. Small towns hide a litany of stories and most of them are sad. We laugh at the plight of the Douaihys even though nothing truly funny is occurring. Tragedy wears a clown nose and bigotry wears animal prints. Sons of the Prophet may well be titled Sins of the Father, since no one here chose their suffering, only the manner in which they approach it. Wendy Overly and her cast didn’t write Karam’s hilarious, yet plodding script, but their choice in handling it triumphs over all adversity. DownStage at 2nd Story is shaping up to be a worthy companion to its UpStage predecessor; it may be time to schedule even more drives out to Warren and remember that some of the best professional theater in the state is way out on the East Bay.

2nd Story Theatre presents Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet October 31 through November 24th in their DownStage playing space. 28 Market Street, Warren, RI, 02885. Call 401-247-4200 or visit http://2ndstorytheatre.com/downstage/#/sons-of-the-prophet for more tickets and information.


Scene and Heard

Rhode Island films have national ties

Amidst the blue, blue skies, the deep amber sunlight, the long afternoon shadows, the … WAIT!

Ok Rhode Island — I’m baaaaccck! But, I’ll really be back in the middle of this month. I’ve missed you dearly. I’ve been so busy with my own film projects – a crazy mockumentary by the brilliant  Raz Cunningham, which merits its own write-up soon, and I’m wrapping a web series with that always-producing  Seth Chitwood – whew! It feels good to take a break and chat up some film news. This is just a teaser (aw, you know me). There’s in-depth info on this stuff  below, and more to follow. Always.

As I was waxing poetic above – the air is cool and crisp, rife with the smell of burning leaves. Okay, enough of that. I want to go jump in a pile of leaves – preferably NOT burning – right now. The low fires and embers of some very hard work have blazed into a roaring bonfire for some of our local filmmakers in Rhode Island.

Almost Human

The film Almost Human, a horror flick written by former Coventry residents Joe Begos and Josh Ethier and produced by Anthony Ambrosino and Nick Delmenico, has come full circle. The film was picked up by IFC at the Toronto Film Festival. I knew when I first saw the trailer in June 2012 that the film was a cut above and would go places. I’ve been pushing it ever since and knew that it would play a part in putting Little Rhody firmly into the indie film world. It’s a very impressive piece of work, and we’ll let you know when you can catch the film on IFC in the near future.

Breakfast with Curtis

Laura Colella, one of those walk softly, but carry a big stick individuals, has written and produced a film called Breakfast with Curtis. Laura is a Sundance Lab alum, filmmaker and a RISD film studies professor currently on sabbatical. She’s also pursuing a master’s at Brown. Breakfast with Curtis was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, won a distribution grant from Jameson at the Spirit Awards, and was presented by none other than Paul Thomas Anderson for a screening/Q&A in LA. (Yep, the same PTA who wrote and directed There Will Be Blood, The Master, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights.) Laura’s film will be screened starting November 22, 2013, at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, RI. But more on that later, as we have an interview with Laura that you won’t want to miss.

Right Where?

Nathan Suher and his company IM Filmworks is proud to announce that its most recent film, Right There, is complete. Its premiere on Friday, October 18, 2013, at 8 pm will be screened at Speed of Thought Playhouse Café (39 North Washington St., North Attleboro, MA).

Right There is a romantic comedy about a simple man’s persistent attempts over the course of 30 days to gain the attention of a beautiful woman eating lunch on a park bench. “This isn’t your average romantic comedy,” says Nathan Suher, director. That’s because Right There is a silent film. Nathan says that this film was heavily influenced by early-era filmmaking. “I’ve always been a gigantic fan of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Our film’s goal was to recapture this golden era of cinema.”

Right There was filmed last May, primarily in downtown North Attleboro, as well as in Mansfield and Rehoboth. Says director Nathan Suher, “Filming in my hometown was a huge benefit, as many local vendors and residents supported our film in a multitude of ways.”

Suher hopes the premiere will launch a successful festival run. Right There has recently been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, and there are immediate plans to submit it to several other festivals this fall.

For more information on IM Filmworks, their movie Right There and Nathan Suher, visit https://www.facebook.com/imfilmworks

Live to Save?

Fatally ill, Garvey thinks he figured out how to die. But when his beloved wife Evelyn goes missing, he must live to save her. This is the synopsis of Bereave from former RI’ers  Evangelos and George Giovanis,  brothers who are putting together this film starring Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, The Artist), Neve Campbell (Scream, Wild Things) and JJ Field (Captain America, Centurion). They launched an Indiegogo campaign a couple months ago and in 48 days managed to raise about $26,000. They launched on Kickstarter as well with even more success. In less than 48 hours they  managed to raise more than $21,000. These guys have a quite the history. Evangelos and George Giovanis self financed all of their films by building, working in and then selling small restaurants. Needless to say, they almost bankrupted the family (sorry mom and dad!) in pursuing their dream. Much more on these resourceful brothers and their past films, and an interview to come!

Creepy Stuff

Self Storage, by Tommy DeNucci and the Woodhaven Production Company, is a locally shot feature film that will be available through Redbox, Netflix, Walmart, Target, Amazon and Video on Demand. That’s major international distribution  for them, and kudos for making it happen in RI! Stay tuned for a more in-depth story on Tommy D., Verdi Films, and their next film in pre-production right now called Bleed for This – the story of the comeback of none other than boxer Vinny Pazienza.

More creepy stuff!

Normal, is a flick about that not-so-normal guy, Jim (Michael Reed), a lonely, troubled guy who works as an apartment superintendent and replays his tortured past. Through a series of flashbacks and interactions with the mysterious tenants who surrounds him, we not only learn of his dark secrets, but also what it means to be normal. The answers he finds in his journey will shatter not only his perceptions of the past, but also his fragile grip on reality. Directed by Richard Marr Griffin and written by Lenny Schwartz, the film will make its debut in January. Can’t wait for that one! In addition to Michael Reed, it stars a host of others from right here in RI. We’ll send you a reminder before the film premieres – right around Halloween to scare you a little. Marr-Griffin is currently in production on his film Future Justice, which will premiere sometime in 2014.

I hope you enjoyed this teaser of what’s to come. And don’t forget to look for us soon on “Take Two,” Motif‘s own film review show. We’ve been busy, Nick and I – he with his own show called Nick’s Sci-Fi Corner – but we will return soon for a new episode, with a new spin on things, and some interesting people.


Remember: film is rolling. Especially in RI.