There were so many patrons in the Morrison building that I wondered if the fire marshal would arrive to kick some of us out. I had arrived ten minutes before show time and I met Jason Truby at the door. Outside, Max was talking to guitarist Mic Nicosa and as I searched for my wallet, photographer Lisa Gonzales arrived. Though we are facebook friends and I am a great admirer of her work, Lisa of LSG originals and I had never met before tonight and once again I was grateful for the power of Keith Paul’s Desultory Theatre Club to draw so many creative people to one spot in Torrington.
Once inside I spotted Poet in the Pantry herself, Carrie Vibert who was talking to Doreen and I joined them in the conversation. From my vantage point at the front I could see Glum Puppet performers Lana Peck and Kurt Boucher in the front row as actor Cole Sutton joined them. Fashion model Sarah B sat on the couch and actor/writer/director Michael Medeiros found a chair. Kris Roberts of Performance Hub and Timothy Alexandre Wallace of Studio 59 Live Arts were there and before the show, Julia Autumn Ford arrived. Keith brought out more chairs for what was then a standing room only.
Bruno from the Republican American was working on the story, interviewing the performers, and seeking quotes from Keith and Jason. Singer/Songwriter Hannah Fair set up her trunk on the table with CDs . Tracy Walton had set up the stage and said hello to the guests, there were a lot of Tracy Walton fans in the house and I was one of them!
Jason Truby sat at the controls on the raised platform. He was ready.
Keith Paul shut off the lights on the side of the room and made his way to center stage to applause as he said his greetings. We applauded. If I were not already standing I would have stood up at that point.
He thanked his guests and assured us that this was not the end of the DTC, just a bump in the road as the landlord was raising the rent beyond what could be sustained by them. I considered the fact that as Keith spoke to a standing room only crowd, that even if every event of the DTC had been filled to capacity, such as it was on this night, the DTC would still vacate the Morrison building because the rent was cost prohibitive. Keith thanked his long standing friends and partners in the initiative, Max Tieman and Jason Truby. Then, as always, Keith promised a great show and introduced the first act of the bill, Hannah Fair.
Before this night I had only seen some of Hannah Fair’s work on youtube videos that were shared about the event but I was impressed with the raw power of her voice and looked forward to the performance and Hannah Fair delivered. With a shock of white hair and wearing a black ensemble she tore through the set like fire. She does not hold back on her vocals, hitting the notes with an energy that commands attention. Performing songs both old and new, Hannah Fair excelled in sharing personal stories quickly to accompany the music selection. She sang On the Other Side, a song she had written for her friend, a former guidance counselor who encouraged her music career. Hannah Fair rocked the house with a Beyonce’ cover song, which was a fan favorite for the crowd. And she closed her set with two songs, one of the first songs she ever wrote, a love song, and the other was a more introspective song from the new album. The set was excellent and there was a long line to get her CD which she kindly autographed for those who asked.
Intermission time meant mingling; those who smoked went to the smoking section (which was outside the building standing at the corner of Water and Prospect). And then I saw friends come in who had previous engagements earlier in the evening and had come to show support for the DTC. Photographer Sheila Ivain, entrepreneur Julia Sloan and musician Preston Parrish all arrived. Jay Roberts arrived as well after finishing his gig judging the Northwest Connecticut Idol contest at Coe Park.
Tracy Walton took the stage and the audience sat up in attention. As he tuned his guitar he joked that it would be epic if Mic and he decided to close their partnership on the same night as the closing of the DTC and with straight face Mic got up to leave to great laughs. Tracy knew the gravity of the situation and of the moment for as a veteran rock performer he’s seen venues close before and he spoke to the audience candidly about it. Such a personal moment helped us share the experience together as we shared in the community of the last party of the Desultory Theatre Club at the Morrison’s hardware building.
Tracy threw Mic some curveballs during the show. They played raucous versions of They Say You Can Never Go Home” and Shake the Blues and softer songs such as Think You Do, a cover of Tom Waits’ Time Slips Away in Our Hands and the Tracy Walton classic: Songs For You. Mic went to the old piano (which was not tuned and was more decoration) and played which was one step removed from the initial plan of setting it on fire and playing it as it rolled down Water Street. Before closing out the show, he praised Keith Paul once again. “You did something here, man”. Walton reminded us that this is the place where people will be talking about in years to come.
It’s true. During the past 365 days, no other cultural venue in Torrington put on as many public events/shows which meant our community received the enormous benefit of cultural opportunity. Some filtered out into the night sky-it was late, past 10 pm. Others stayed and talked to Keith and Jason or with each other. There were many events that evening in July, but this was the place to be if one could make it there.
What is the future of The Desultory Theatre Club? It is limited only by the imagination of Keith Paul, Jason Truby with their friend Max Tieman and with their creative friends who want to help their vision thrive. But it will also take the tangible actions of those in the community with resources who will be willing to step up and help make it happen. The DTC will need space for a venue. They will need to be able to make money from their efforts. They need the community support to show up and take part in the experience.
Torrington has become an arts community. I’ve bought into that premise whole heartedly. Now today there is an effort for informal branding of the city by a private company to name the city ToHo in recognition of the arts and they’ll be putting that on a public building at the heart of the Five Points. I don’t care for the name but they have a right to put any four letters on their own building and giving some other four letter options, perhaps we’re all very lucky. But if we believe in what the branding of the name ToHo (Torrington: Heart of the Arts) actually represents, that phrase will ring hollow if the future of the Desultory Theatre and Artwell community (which was in the same building and will be in planning stage for the next year) is not set.
In my heart of hearts I am an optimist, with a belief in my fellow community members. That belief was shown to bear fruit on this last night of the Desultory Theatre Club because with so many people in the venue, it showed what was POSSIBLE. And as I wrote earlier in this piece, if this happened for every single show, the DTC would still leave the Morrison building because of the rent, not because of lack of interest in the community. But during darker moments I have thought of Torrington as the home of 36 thousand people…and the forty who show up.” Those in the community who hold cultural opportunities know what I’m talking about and some may put that number even lower.
I know what it’s like to have the life of driving to work, coming home and one’s experience of their home town is relegated to getting gas and going to the grocery store. I do get it. What breaks that cycle? Awareness of opportunities for one…awareness that is almost twenty to thirty times to one before one takes advantage of the opportunity, encouragement of friends is another and the ability to make new friends at these opportunities. Perhaps it’s need. Perhaps it’s recognizing what the need is for a community or a personal need to contribute to society. If we need to make our community better, then we need to take part tangibly in its re-creation.
It takes showing up.
What is the future of the Desultory Theatre Club? The future will happen as it always does. It is up to the community to reach out and be a part of that future to better their community. It is in our hands. It is up to us.