Twenty years ago I ran an arts festival that all took place in 30-plus venues at the same time for 9 hours on New Years Eve 1997 in Flemington. Ours was the smallest town ever to have a First Night. But it was big; the audience 3-times the population. Music, art, dance, comedy, theater, improv, orchestras, a town-wide art project and more. All night. Every conceivable space and Main Street itself transformed into performance space. I put on a helluva show.
When you’re the boss, the artistic choices are yours. We opened the world to our little town. Every continent. Representing USA was a spoken word performance of the work of my favorite poet, Langston Hughes, powerfully voiced by an actor who was black, in counterpoint with a jazz trumpeter, who was white. The first new thing we commissioned; good enough that it was part of New Jersey’s official Martin Luther King Day commemoration at Trenton War Memorial the next year. Enthusiastically received in Flemington, except for the one woman, who wrote: “I went to the Poetry at the Public Library. Can’t you have more American shows?” Sigh.
We brought in 1997 with fireworks. My fireworks were silver and white, timed to John Lennon’s Imagine, my choice, and a tribute to the indispensable local First Nighter David.
Today would have been John Lennon’s 77th birthday. Start your week off like I started 1997. This is Imagine. And it’s my politics, too.