Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Film: Ken Feit in Performance

[post 291]

This is the last of four posts in remembrance of the life and work of Ken Feit, "itinerant fool."

During his lifetime, Ken Feit personified the live performer. He rarely went to movies, was never fond of cameras, and preferred to perform in an intimate setting, sitting on the floor surrounded by a small circle of friendly folk, usually also sitting on the floor. I was thus surprised to learn a while back that Ken had been featured in a 40-minute film, Fools for Christ, directed and edited by Jim Friedrich, that documents his work as well as that of Nick Weber's Royal Lichtenstein Circus. I had despaired of ever getting a copy of such an obscure VHS tape, apparently only owned by a couple of libraries in the midwest, when I noticed that my old friend Jim Jackson was listed on the credits. Long story short, Jim put me in touch with Nick, and you see the results below. A hearty thanks to both, plus a plug for Nick's new book, The Circus that Ran Away with a Jesuit Priest. And a thank you to Ken for letting the cameras in! It is bittersweet to see him "live" again, but mostly sweet. It will bring a tear to the eye, but I am sure this footage will mean a lot to his old friends, and serve as a nice introduction to those who never saw Ken in person.

[Had problems with playing this as one file, so now it's two, one on Vimeo and one on YouTube. Don't ask! To play the first half full screen, you have to first click on the Play button and then on the icon immediately to the left of "vimeo."]


excerpted from Fools for Christ (Cathedral Films, 1978)

Although he was a highly visual performer who made use of several of the clown's tricks of the trade, Ken was obviously not a typical physical comedian. Margie Brown, in her forward to Foolish Wisdom, wrote "he told me that he knew that he was fluid and graceful with his upper body in performance, but he felt klutzy in his lower body, which is why he sat cross-legged on the floor to tell stories, enchanting everyone for three full hours using only his head and arms and minimal props. Always one to dare himself and others into incongruous playfulness, it was only in the month before his death that he was able to bring himself to disco dance at a bar with a group of friends, and then only because he could relate it to African tribal rhythms. But he felt silly—this man who could harmonica and soap bubble his way down the streets of Paris."

Dancer or not, what matters is he used his strengths to create his own unique and highly personal performance and teaching style. And viewing this video, you can actually see what he meant by "sound poetry," so I will append one more article, one in which Ken explains his explorations with words and sounds.

Sound Poetry
That brings me to the end of my four-part remembrance of Ken Feit, but if new material surfaces I will be glad to share it on this blogopedia. And if you know anyone who knew Ken back in the day, please do share these four posts with them. Thank you!

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