CSI Presents "Staten Island: Alive in Wonderland"

The College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts (CFA) presents Staten Island: Alive in Wonderland: A Love Letter to New York City’s Forgotten Borough on Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 8:00pm. The Richmond County Midway in the CFA Atrium opens at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20.

Staten Island: Alive in Wonderland is the latest installment of Sara Valentine’s live theatrical talk show, Little Miss Big Mouth. This one-night-only, special event is a wild and wacky love-fest about Valentine’s adopted hometown of Staten Island, New York. Celebrating the borough’s unique and distinctive culture, geography, lifestyle, and people, the show features guests from all aspects of Staten Island life. Whether artists, cabbies, musicians, shopkeepers, or community personalities, Sara Valentine is an equal opportunity interviewer! Produced in a television variety-entertainment format (think ’70s television classics such as Donny & Marie or The Carol Burnett Show), mixed with a hefty influence of late-night talk shows, anything goes during this evening of largely unscripted live theater.

Valentine (freelance curator, performing artist, and producer) and husband Kris Anton (technical direction and visual projections) inject other dimensions into the performance: animation, their own house band punctuating the action, interpretive dance, and who knows what else, as anything seems possible in this theatrical circus with the vitality and variety of a retro comedy burlesque.

You’d hardly guess, with all the action onstage, that some serious topics are being raised. How has the Island changed from its agrarian past to its suburban present, and what might possibly be its future incarnations? What is Staten Island’s role in the City of New York? And how do Staten Islanders define themselves in the midst of all this change? The show’s sincere inquiry takes place against a background of genuine celebration for the Island’s natural wonders, its unique history, its artistic and cultural life, its communities, and the day-to-day simplicities of Island living—in short, the characteristics that make Staten Island a wonderful and altogether unique alternative to the rest of New York City.

Richmond County Midway:
This incomparable theatrical event, (for it’s so much more than a show), begins the moment the audience arrives at the Center for the Arts and enters the “Richmond County Midway” in the CFA’s imposing Atrium. Booths will house attractions and information on various Island establishments and groups and create a carnival atmosphere that is so apropos for an evening with Little Miss Big Mouth. The Day de Dada performance group will greet the audience in the CFA Atrium, distributing stickers, pom-poms, kazoos, and heaven knows what other cheering apparatus, to prime the audience with some rousing cheers—campy improv at its live-best! Everything Goes Café, the eclectic bookstore/performance space and Internet café will be there, as will photographer Irma Borghese-Geisler. Mandolin Brothers, the center of the acoustic universe as one of the world’s largest merchants of American fretted instruments, will also join the party.

Featured Guests:
The show will feature a multitude of Island guests such as painter Jenny Tango, with her wry sense of humor and keen perception, both on and off the canvas; SI native Maureen Seaberg, journalist and author known for many years to Staten Island Advance readers for her immigration column; Deputy Borough President Ed Burke, who was instrumental in the publication of Staten Island Attractions: Big Apple Pleasures, Small Town Treasures, a cultural publication to help promote tourism for Staten Island; and Vernon Reid, guitarist, frontman, Grammy-nominated producer, and member of the multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning rock group, Living Colour will be there in cyberspace if not in person. Vernon and his wife Gabri Christa, founder/director of Danzaisa, are long-time St. George residents. Save Staten Island, creators of the Staten Island Yearbook and the producers of an upcoming documentary film about the Island, will discuss how they are exploring and fighting to change Islanders’ own stereotypes of themselves and expand people’s perceptions of what the Island truly is, and what it can become. Musician Milton Henry, legendary reggae artist and a native of Jamaica, will grace the stage with his musical partner Sugar Hayes, to present the world premiere of her song, “Let’s Join Hands Together,” composed for the first Annual Staten Island Black Heritage Parade in honor of visiting dignitary, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was sworn in on January 16, 2006 as Liberia’s President and Africa’s first female elected head of state. The Sisters Wijesinghe, Sri Lankan twins Nadisha and Madusha, represent the large Staten Island community of Sri Lankans with their classic and exquisitely choreographed dance. The Staten Island Pipers, local favorites, will regale the audience with their pipes and drums. Trish & Christoph, who compose songs with stories and anecdotes about Staten Island’s North Shore, will sing about nail salons and thrift stores, cats, raccoons, the ferry, and the harbor.

It’s an experience that you won’t want to miss, as the action evolves onstage and throughout the theater in a courageous act of unscripted marvel. The full stage set will incorporate visual projections and actual set pieces to recreate Staten Island’s landscape and landmarks.

It comes as no surprise that Sara Valentine, creator of Little Miss Big Mouth, should express her affinity for the absurd, for risk-taking, and for multilayered performance, as the circus tradition is in her blood and family genes. The daughter of former circus aerialists, Valentine is a lead performer with Hungry March Band, New York City’s global brass ensemble, with which she recently celebrated ten years. Behind the scenes, she has produced, curated, and promoted over 100 shows in the NYC region. She was the project manager for The Staten Island Composers Project, which was presented by the Council for the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island in October 2007 at the historic St. George Theatre. In 2004 and 2005, Valentine curated performance art events in Tompkins Square Park as part of the HOWL! Festival.

Little Miss Big Mouth, the live, theatrical, thriller-talk show, was created out of her women’s performances series of the same name, which ran at Meow Mix from 1997 through 1999, and included performances in Krakow, Poland in 1998 and 1999. Little Miss Big Mouth brings together the best of New York City’s performance, politics, and activist scenes for an eclectic piece of cabaret/theater that is not to be missed.

Tickets for Staten Island: Alive in Wonderland at the Center for the Arts, College of Staten Island, are $20 and can be purchased through the CFA Box Office, 718.982.ARTS (2787) or online at www.cfashows.com.

The CSI Center for the Arts 2007-2008 season is supported in part with funds from the Richmond County Savings Foundation; a gift by the Carnegie Corporation (made possible by an anonymous donor); the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the Office of the Borough President, Hon. James P. Molinaro; the Staten Island Rotary Foundation; the College of Staten Island; and by our many business and individual patrons.

Directions to the Center for the Arts, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314:

By Car: The Center for the Arts is located within a few minutes’ drive from the Verrazano, Goethals, and Bayonne Bridges. Take I-278 (the Staten Island Expressway and exit at Victory Boulevard, proceed to campus parking lots 1 and 2. Parking is free.

By Mass Transit: The Center for the Arts is served by the S62, S61, S93, and S53 buses, which are coordinated with the Staten Island Ferry schedule.

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