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A 40-something man, thick-haired and pudgy, balances his video camera in one hand while instructing a young, pretty woman on what to say to his lens. He’s making a film about local artists, he says. She’s a painter stationed in front of her canvases. He feeds her lines: “Say that you’re a local artist,” he begins. “Then say what you do. You know, talk about your work.” Folks pass, beers in hand, jostling her or blocking the camera’s eye.
This is not the Factory. It’s last Saturday’s Red Party at Studio 1017. An arts happening. Or an attempt at one.
Local filmmaker Liz Langston decided to throw the party as a benefit—there’s a $10 cover—for herself. She’s making a trilogy of films about women’s romantic relationships that she’ll submit as contenders to next year’s Rosebud Film and Video Awards. She and co-producer Mark Ruppert, whose family owns the 7th Street NW building we’re partying in tonight, decided to rally the troops in support of local art. They figured a good party would bring together the disparate elements of the D.C. arts scene—music, film, poetry, and visual art. And, to judge from the size of the crowd, folks are hungry for a party: By 9:30, more than 100 people are cramming into four rooms, with more arriving by the minute.
Langston enlisted her old friend David Lee to book the bands. Tonight, Lee plays comic relief. Sporting a tomato-red ruffled tux shirt, circa 1973, and black-rimmed glasses, he’s buzzing around checking on the small side stage. His prized flamenco dancers canceled just a couple of days ago. Now the acoustic guitar player scheduled for 8:45 hasn’t shown up. A whole lot of people are standing around facing a blank stage. “It’s a chance to reflect,” quips Lee.
Or go out back for a film. In the parking lot behind the building, short films are screening on a brick wall near the Jiffy John. In one, a woman swirls around, swaddled in tulle, sighing: “I don’t always like to be alone. Sometimes it’s just easier that way.”
Back inside the 85-seat theater where the bands will play, folks sit on wood bleachers waiting for something to happen. Two guys in hats and black Vans light up Marlboros. Both play in Clark’s Ditch, a local kinda-punk band scheduled to take the stage at 10:30. While they wait, drummer James Noll notes a pair of metal sculptures—a man and a woman who look more humanoid than human—perched above the wood stage. “If I were an artist,” he says, “I’d make everything out of duct tape.”—Jessica Dawson