LAST PARTY OF THE DESULTORY THEATRE CLUB: Part One: JOURNEY BEGINS
By J. Timothy Quirk
I walked on stage as the friendly crowd embraced me with their well wishes expressed in their eyes and thanks to David Mamet’s script, the first few lines I delivered got some laughs. Keith Paul had cast me in his production of Revenge of the Space Pandas and I was one of many participants of the Connecticut cultural scene who received an opportunity thanks to the Desultory Theatre Club. How were we to know that just a month later, the Club was to hold the last show on July 19th at their current location, the Morrison Hardware building?
Marked by the hardwood floors, the string of lights along the side, the cork-board style walls with two awnings, the inside of the Desultory Theatre’s Morrison Building was iconic. One of the more interesting aspects of the space was the spiral staircase near the front that led to Jason Truby’s office which doubled as “the green room” for the burlesque performers during those popular evenings. The Morrison building at 63 Water Street had the historic landmark look on the outside which was perhaps a disadvantage as the signage on the front always remained “WH Morrison Co” which meant no one driving by on a Tuesday morning could happen upon a sign for the Desultory Theatre Club to then look it up on line and discover the amazing culturally rich venue on the inside.
The Desultory Theatre Club at the Morrison building had even more iconic sights than the structure itself. You could count on Max standing at the door and Jason Truby would helm the technical booth on the raised platform near the staircase. Keith would walk to the microphone and call the raucous crowd to order with a hearty welcome, news of upcoming events and an introduction to the performance we were lucky enough to witness. Luke Haughwout would videotape the performance and Mandi Martini would shoot the exceptional photos of the show. Carrie Vibert of PoetinthePantry would be there snapping photos, sharing events on the blog. Those in the seats were a community, bonded together by the shared experience of the evening.
The Desultory Theatre Club had a history before the building and will continue after it leaves that space. In 2011 Keith Paul had the idea of providing alternative entertainment to our community, the kind of entertainment highlighted in alternative newspapers in larger cities. To the amazement of his friends, in two weeks he produced his first show, a play called JUMPER, written by Matt Doyle, a Torrington writer who later moved to California to write for the major league soccer association. They held a burlesque show at Snapper Magees later that year.
In 2012 Keith directed two plays for the Warner Theatre and brought productions to the Artwell space when it was on Main Street. With Jason Truby at the technical controls, handling the sound, lighting and computer work, Keith brought the Snow Queen and Pocket Vinyl to Torrington, and both shows were extremely popular. By 2013, multiple shows had been produced at the Artwell location including Glum Puppet and they brought Pocket Vinyl back as the group established a fan base in northwest Connecticut.
The idea picked up momentum and in July 2013, a fateful meeting with Create, Here, Now provided Keith and Jason the opportunity to have their shows at their own physical location, the Morrison hardware building. The grant was for a year so the clock started ticking. They cleared the space and set to work. The grand opening and Info-Session/Pie Social/Art Show was on July 25th.
Throughout the year, a flood of acts came to Torrington, established ones and experimental ones. Tracy Walton taught the art of song, the play God of Carnage was performed, burlesque shows became a staple, drum circles, board game nights, puppet shows (Elmwood productions), movie screenings (Terrestrial Violence) and more. In December 2013, singer/songwriter Robert C Fullerton collaborated with Keith and Jason to produce “SONGWRITERS TAKE ON THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK”, which became a month a month event with different songwriters performing original works in between playing the songbook standards.
As 2014 arrived, the Desultory Theatre Club had an event nearly every week, sometimes twice a week. They hosted Julia Autumn Ford’s EP fundraiser/concert, concerts with Sarah Barrios, Jennifer Hill and Co, MaryLeigh Roohan,, Jay Roberts and Wise Old Moon, all the while the Songwriters Take On..’ series still continued with Krizta Moon, Mic Nicosia, Lys Guillorn and more. All the while the burlesque shows like the Fantasy Island and the DTC fundraiser were held. In June Keith produced Revenge of the Space Pandas of which I was fortunate enough to play a small part.
No cultural venue in northwest Connecticut held more performances or activities from July 2013 to July 2014 than the Desultory Theatre Club. The Desultory Theatre Club took advantage of having a physical space, transformed it and provided a venue for Torrington to commune together in an alternative art scene.
So let’s be clear; when a landlord raises the rent by 350%, it is not a reflection of failure of the tenant if they do not stay there, it is the unintended consequence of success. It’s taking a vacant space and filling it with a big idea, and reminding a community what’s so special about that location, making it important and essential because it had been given purpose and a spotlight. The Artwell Gallery (on the second floor of the Morrison building) is also leaving.
Tonight, July 19th will be the last party of the Desultory Theatre Club in its CURRENT form. Tracy Walton and Hannah Fair will be there to perform and it’s only 10 dollars a ticket. It will not be the last party ever, just the last of the DTC at the Morrison building. If you know anything from reading this post, then you know that the DTC knows how to throw a party. So let this post be a warning. Tonight is history. Tonight is an event we will remember. The idea of the DTC is actually stronger than it ever was. It’s a party to celebrate the opportunities of the past year. And it will be said that those who weren’t there will wish they were there.
Part two…tomorrow….after the party.