Adam Goldstein talks Artistes Nouveaux and the emergence of the Aurora Cultural Arts District
Adam Goldstein is the curator and a performer in this weekend's Artistes Nouveaux.After spending time living and studying abroad, singer and musician Adam Goldstein returned to America with a newly acquired passion -- performing Irish pub ballads. Unsure he would be able to find a venue in Denver for his catalog of unique drinking songs, he eventually discovered Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret -- which has been his performance home for the last six years.
This Saturday, June 28 at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, Goldstein presents Artistes Nouveaux, a one-night-only Vaudeville-inspired show featuring a cadre of performers he's brought from his entertainment family at Lannie's. Entertainers include Naughty Pierre, magician and mentalist Professor Phelyx and world-renowned burlesque queen Orchid Mei and more.
In advance of the old-time show, we spoke with Goldstein (who is also a Westword music writer) about his desire to bring Vaudeville to life and the importance of showing off Aurora's Cultural Arts District.
Westword: The cast of Artistes Nouveau includes a wide variety of performers. How did this show come together?
Adam Goldstein: About six years ago, I started performing at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret. I was doing Irish drinking songs -- the situation was really unlikely, because I had learned all of these songs playing pubs in Europe and they are traditional folk songs. When I came back from living abroad, I thought I would never find a place to do these songs in Denver, [but] somehow I did. (Laughs)
Somehow I got an opportunity at the club -- the staff was very welcoming and they kind of let me blossom and that includes Lannie and Jefferson Arca who is the co-owner. For the past six years, Lannie's has become my home base. Through the club, I have privilege of meeting a whole wealth of performers -- from burlesque performers to mentalists to magicians to jugglers. I tell people that I have a carnie family; I feel lucky to have that.
Fast-forward to now -- we have been through so much and the productions there have grown so much. With that kind of in context, at the same time I have been working for the Aurora Sentinel doing theater reviews for the past six years. Over that time, I have been able to get to know the staff from the Aurora Fox Arts Center. This show is kind of an intersection of those two worlds. For the Aurora Arts Festival this year, I was asked to bring a sample of the kind of variety and entertainment that we do down at Lannie's and package it in a way that was friendly to community theater.
That's when the prospect of Vaudeville came up. From the history I looked to in order to create the kind of dynamic that would work, Vaudeville was the root for all of the great elements of entertainment. From comedians like Burns and Allen to the Marx Brothers to Jack Benny, to music to dancing to anything under the sun. That's kind of the spirit we are looking to create with this show.
With that in mind, we assembled the top regulars from down at Lannie's and also the greater variety scene in Denver. That includes myself and mentalist professor Phelyx a mentalist, Tatiyana Tata, an aerialist who has performed all over the state and Smirk, a group that includes Reid Belstock who is a world champion juggler and his partner Warren Hammond, who has been on Stupid Human Tricks on David Letterman.
We have the house piano player Larry Wegner who has been playing music for over sixty years. He will be doing some Gershwin and Cole Porter and tunes that harken back to the era. Then we have Naughty Pierre who is the regular MC at Lannie's, who will come in and give a taste of what he does, as well as offer some context about the history of Vaudeville.
So is this show the replication of a show you might see at Lannie's? Or is it its own event?
One of the things about the Aurora Cultural Arts District is that it has been developing -- it has roots in city efforts from more than a decade ago. They put up a lot of specific funding tailored to creating this vibrant arts district. It has come along in leaps and bounds and they've got several theaters, art galleries and restaurants. The mission was to show an audience who might not know what Vaudeville is or a variety show is or even burlesque, and kind of let them know what is going on the other side of town at Lannie's.
We wanted to offer kind of a sampling of this entertainment but also wanted to craft a unique show so we aren't just offering a carbon copy. We're putting this together in the spirit of a showcase with kind of a bent more toward the Vaudeville than a straight-up burlesque show. Focus on the variety aspect and the comedy with a turn-of-the-century feel, just to give it a unique flavor and distinct structure. It's a one-night only thing so we really wanted to craft something that was unique to that evening and special for the night.
Orchid Mei will perform at Artistes Nouveaux.
What is it for you as performer and organizer that attracts you to putting on something like a Vaudeville show?
The roots of the art form go so deep -- it is a fundamental part of the history of entertainment in the United States. I mean, I mentioned all of the big names from the early days of televised comedy and comedy on film -- they honed their craft on these Vaudeville stages. It was kind of a similar story for me; I returned to Denver in 2003 after living abroad and I had had some experience playing music. But it was really about taking part in this wonderful and diverse array of talent that I feel like I found strength and direction as a performer in.
The opportunity to bring these members of my carnie family to a venue that is just beautiful and perfect as the Aurora Fox is very exciting. The history of the Fox itself is great -- it used to be an old movie palace and it was converted into a community theater in the 80s. It still has that Art Deco, very vintage vibe to it and we couldn't have asked for a better house to spread the message in.
Aurora has a rich history itself and I think sometimes, it isn't that well known to people.
I think there are just misconceptions about East Colfax in general; Charlie Packard, who is the executive producer over at the Fox, has been working tirelessly to rid people of that misperception. He says that a lot of people think of that part of town as "the haunted forest."(Laughs) But once you actually venture east, you can see that it doesn't live up to all of the horrible stereotypes.
It is very interesting how these ideas persist. People are moving to Colorado in droves and it is hard to keep track of everything. You see it with all of the things that are happening in this neighborhood at the Fox and the Vintage Theater and all the galleries. There is a really vibrant energy going on right now and it is very exciting.
The one-time-only presentation of Artistes Nouveaux happens this Saturday, June 29 at 8 p.m. at the Aurora Fox Arts Center; Tickets are $20 to $24, with discount options for groups. The show contains adult content and is recommended for those eighteen and up. Visit the venue's website for more information.
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