What they say it is:
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green and legendary indie rockers Yo La Tengo join forces to celebrate one of the world’s most brilliant inventors in the live documentary performance The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller.
Yo La Tengo’s stunning live score sets the stage for Green’s captivating in-person cinematic narration of his acclaimed documentary, which traces the life of R. Buckminster Fuller — the 20th-century architect/designer/futurist known best as the creator of the geodesic dome. Fuller, an early advocate for sustainability and conservation, lived his final years in Philadelphia. Join us for his unique homecoming, on stage at FringeArts.
This was a great way to spend Tara’s birthday–friends, music, film, and naturally, drinks. One of our closest friends contacted me a month before the show and pushed me to acquire advance tickets, and it’s good we did, because this was our first time attending a sold-out show at the FringeArts venue.
Once again, the venue offered complimentary beers in the unfinished ‘lounge’ area of the theater–this is an EXCELLENT way to promote positivity and fond memories in your audience. But I guess they know that, and is probably why they continue to do it. Brews in hand, we hung about, chatting with each other and a few other familiar Philadelphia faces until showtime, then moved our group of 5 to our (heavily-coated-and-unassailably-reserved) 2nd row seats.
If there were any complaint one might voice about this performance, it would be that the multimedia format of the show (live narration over prerecorded film, simultaneously scored with a live soundtrack) means you’ll inevitably have trouble taking it all in. The biggest ‘losers’ here might be, ironically, Yo La Tengo–the show’s biggest draw. I mean, let’s be honest here–how many ticketholders snapped up earlybird seating because they were excited to see an art film about a nerdy inventor-futurist? This isn’t to say the layered approach to artistic storytelling was the wrong way to go–because it was most definitely awesome–but it did leave limited time to appreciate all the simultaneous elements of the show.
The film–a varied assortment of clips showing Mr. Fuller throughout his (very) public life–rides a line between a documentary tribute and hero-worship, combining elements of a dreamy biopic with live narration by the film’s director. Mr. Green is a skilled speaker who is clearly passionate about his subject matter, and who spent the show providing commentary, explanation, history, and his own personal musings about Mr. Fuller. Occasionally, his monologue did feel so rehearsed that it had the unintended effect of making his lecture seem formulaic and somewhat less sincere. Still, overall, it was great. The film, combined with the narration, provided me with a great deal of information and inspiration in a relatively short amount of time.
Meanwhile, in perfect complimentary fashion, Yo La Tengo provided a sonic backdrop of meditative reflections, mechanical experiments, and moments of true poignancy. In fact, the band’s contribution was rendered with such seamless precision that it was easy to forget the soundtrack was live. But maybe the show was meant to function as a sort of chicken/egg situation, though–I’m betting the director wanted it this way. Perhaps our interpretation of the film–our emotional and cognitive reactions to it–were shaped by the subtler sounds of the band. The show was a celebration of a dreamer, embellished with dreamy, ambient music, narrated by a fellow who was, in fact, so inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller’s life that he went to the trouble of staging an entire show just to keep the dreamer’s dream alive. Hey, wait a second–I think what I’m saying is that the show succeeded at creating a true multimedia event wherein the various parts worked as a total, complete unit, each element supplementing and reinforcing the others. So, that’s a good thing, right?
Post show fun ensued; Fitch and Kate introduced the rest of us to the recently remodeled ‘Jerry’s Bar’, where numerous adult beverages were consumed and, as we are wont to saying, “A good time was had by all”. Cheers!
Instead of Tara’s typical blurb, in honor of her birthday, she’ll be honoring us with Tara’s Top Ten!
1. I like having a friend! Thank you for coming to visit on my birthday friends.
2. I like a live musical accompaniment, so thank you Yo La Tengo! I did not know of, or about you, but thumbs up–you make the good music nice to my ears.
3. I’m a fan of This American Life and other story telling programs, and I also love documentaries. so BAM. This pretty much filled the bill. If you like being a voyeur into someone else’s story, you would love this film/narrative/live music.
4. Buckminster- I am sorry to say I did not know you were the king of the geodesic dome or a futurist. I can easily admit that I have gotten schooled. You are a pretty cool dude. I appreciate that you may be the only other person who likes to talk more than my husband does–I sense I would have liked you too.
5. I love how small the world is . . . there was a woman at the production who had worked with Buckminster during his time in Philadelphia–how amazing! Go Philly!
6. Uh, it goes without saying that science is cool.
7. Thank you to our friend Kristen for inviting us to attend the show with her and being a Buckminster expert.
8. Jerry’s bar, you are a classy swanky place and i like your fries.
9. Hello to the girl at the bar also named Tara, it was not her birthday, but you can’t win them all.