Tuesday, February 28, 2023

About this year's Kansas Silent Film Festival:
Give me more, please!

Denise Morrison at the podium during this year's Kansas Silent Film Festival, held Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

Is it just me, or is the Kansas Silent Film Festival each time going by faster and faster?

Really—in recent years, it seems like things have just barely gotten started when the musicians get called up for the final end-of-show bows.

It didn't used to be that way. When I began attending the Kansas festival (on a whim back in 2000, and every year ever since), the event was confined to Saturdays only. But with one movie after another, the day seemed to stretch to infinity. 

Now it's two days (and last year was three!), but it still seems to zip by at a more rapid pace every time I head out to Topeka.

My theory about this: it has to do with how we perceive time as time itself goes by. 

As an example: remember those long endless summer days when you were a kid? Now, it seems we're no sooner done with Memorial Day when the Fourth of July whizzes past, and wait—there goes Labor Day, and it's over.

What happened? You got older, which changes your perception of time. When you were young, a single summer was a good percentage of your entire life experience. Now, many years later, a single summer is just one of many you've lived through, and proportionally a much smaller part of your overall life experience.

Familiarity may or may not breed contempt. But certainly breeds acceleration. 

In the same way, attending the Kansas Silent Festival two dozen times in a row means each time is proportionately a smaller part of the whole. And I think as the iterations accumulate, it has an effect on how each additional one is experienced.

And by and large, it seems to speed it up, even if the elapsed time is the same as always. A similar thing happens on a smaller scale when you drive somewhere new. Doesn't the drive home often seem shorter? 

Well, all of this is kind of a backhanded way of giving the Kansas Silent Film Festival a compliment. What I'm saying is, "It's over too fast. I wish there was more!"

And isn't it one of the eternal truths of show business to always leave them wanting more?

And so it is with me. I want more films with live accompaniment by the likes of Ben Model and Marvin Faulwell and Rodney Sauer and Bill Beningfield.

I want to play the White Concert Hall's gorgeous Steinway D concert grand (the best piano I play all year) more, especially as a long feature film unfolds on the big screen and I have time to develop and really work with material. 

I want to do more last-minute collaborations with percussionist Bob Keckeisen such as what we did this year with Douglas MacLean's 'Bell Boy 13,' working a sprightly tune with dingy bell punctuation into the score.

I want more ridiculously friendly Kansas hospitality. I want more breaded fried pickle spears at the Hanover Pancake House. (This year's serving is at right.) I want to browse local real estate listings and laugh at the inexpensive housing. (Compared to New England.) I want to buy more ties at Topeka's many fine thrift stores.

I want to sit in the dark and lose myself in films I've never seen before. (Even after nearly a quarter century — almost as long as the silent era itself — they always program titles I've not seen before.) I want to hear the big audience reaction, such a rare thing to behold these days but an essential element of the silent film experience.

I want to spend more time with the festival volunteers—people I see online all the time, but I actually see just once a year. 

I want to hog the attention of festival guests such as this year's Lara Gabrielle (at left), author of the recently published 'Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies,' which I am now devouring. It's a terrific book.

In this last case, I may get my wish, as Lara is open to coming out to New England for screenings/book signings if we can arrange it. Stay tuned! 

I also want more time to take photos. This time, I managed to only get a handful, in between watching films and chatting with people out front and at the cinema dinner and running on-stage to pound the horse teeth for yet another short comedy or drama. 

It's a good thing that several volunteers never fail to take a huge number of images during the festival. They'll get edited and posted pretty soon at the festival's Web site: http://www.kssilentfilmfest.org/

Am I being selfish to just want more, more, more? (Or just sounding like Daffy Duck?)

Well—lucky for me, and for all of us, they've already set the dates for the next one. Mark your calendars for Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Only 361 days to go!

Seriously: thanks to everyone at the Kansas Silent Film Festival for making me, a once-a-year blow-in, feel like part of the family. 

There are just too many to name without the risk of leaving someone out. I thank you all for a creating a brief but important ritual that has become a mainstay of my annual calendar.

Which brings us back to where we started: at the end. I've come to think it's unfair, kind of, that only the musicians get to take a bow at the festival's conclusion. 

The dozens and dozens of people who work all year to make this festival possible should all take a bow, too. 

I know that would add time to the festival...but with it flying by so fast, that would suit me just fine!

And in a final nod to time flying, how about something unexpected? I discovered that the Hanover Pancake House had just taken on board its first-ever robotic server. Check out the video:

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. It seems like it is over as soon as we get there. It’s always great to see you and hear your beautiful music scores.