Sunday, May 06, 1990

If the World's a Stage, A Theater Can Be Home

NY Times
May 6, 1990
If the World's a Stage, A Theater Can Be Home
By RON ALEXANDER

LEAD: A few Friday nights ago, Erik La Prade climbed three flights of stairs to the West 30th Street loft that is both home and theater for Doloris Holmes. For a contribution ($6 was suggested), he and some four dozen others saw ''Fish Joy and the Goddess of Red Mud,'' a play written by, directed by and starring Miss Holmes.

A few Friday nights ago, Erik La Prade climbed three flights of stairs to the West 30th Street loft that is both home and theater for Doloris Holmes. For a contribution ($6 was suggested), he and some four dozen others saw ''Fish Joy and the Goddess of Red Mud,'' a play written by, directed by and starring Miss Holmes. The next Friday, Mr. La Prade, who is 38 years old, journeyed farther down Manhattan to Duane Street and up five flights of stairs to the home-cabaret of Tom Weiss. For his $4 contribution, Mr. La Prade joined some 60 or so others who got to hear Louis X's Nightmare, a three-piece (guitar, bass and percussion) group; a two-piece blues act, and an orator-poet. Guests wandered into the kitchen for free munchies; they were on the honor system when it came to paying for beverages - beer, wine and soft drinks.

''You can't beat this,'' said Mr. La Prade, an editorial assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who regularly attends home-cabaret evenings. ''I may see a Broadway show once or twice a year: it's too expensive to go more often. This is the current scene, an intimate meeting place for writers, poets and musicians; a safe, relaxing environment with an element of uncertainty as to what's going to happen next. It's like a revival of the 60's.'' For the Ages
Miss Holmes, who has named her loft the White Mask Theater, isn't fond of the 60's association. ''My play is timeless,'' she said. ''Welcome to a new version of a play I wrote 17 years ago,'' the author-director-actor-jazz singer announced before the play began. ''Even then it was 30 years ahead of its time.'' The play, she said is ''a voyage inside a Spanish cave, inside a womb, inside the heart and spirit, with lunar notations, dripping water, flashlights and the spirit of a sacrificed young woman.'' The cast of characters include a woman who rolls around on the floor and cries a lot, a man with a horn sticking out of his head who crawled around, didn't cry but spoke only French, and a woman called La Senora who was dressed all in red.

The audience, seated in bridge chairs or on the floor, was attentive and enthusiastic. ''Excellent,'' said Phyllis Marino, a retired waitress whose son Jay Byrd did the impressive lighting and props. ''I go to all his gigs,'' his mother said proudly.

Allan Goldschmidt, an accountant who plays the flute and writes poetry, said ''Fish Joy and the Goddess of Red Mud'' was the first play he'd seen since ''Cats.'' ''I found this one to be a bit more complex,'' he confided. Relating to Youth
Michael Gunderson, age 11, came along with his father, and was having the better time. ''I like it,'' he said to the person sitting next to him. ''What does it mean?'' Michael was asked of the line, ''My umbilical cord is wrapped around the entire earth.'' ''It means that I may fall asleep soon,'' Michael replied. Fortunately, he never did, quite possibly because of the peppy pounding of La Senora's red shoes during an enthusiastic flamenco dance. The dance also seemed to be the reason the tenants below raised the volume of their stereo. Miss Holmes said, though, that she's never had any trouble with her neighbors.
Miss Holmes, who is also a social worker, said her theatrical life was ''influenced by all those women who had salons in Paris,'' but also Anais Nin; Jacqueline Klauber, who founded the Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art on Staten Island, and Sarah Vaughan. Miss Holmes was named for the actress Dolores del Rio (''I changed the 'e' to an 'i' to Anglicize it.''). Her ultimate goal is to tape her play ''Dilating Pupils of the Banana Tree Eyes.'' ''It's a futuristic love story,'' she said. ''Fish Joy and the Goddess of Red Mud'' will be performed tonight at 8 P.M. (for information, call 212-683-9332). A New Show Each Week
The performances in Tom Weiss's thickly carpeted loft change weekly (212-334-9847). The carpet is in response to neighbors who may not appreciate acoustic guitars: the majority of the performers at the Weiss loft, the Up Front Muse, are musicians. The host sees to it that the music stops by 11 o'clock or so. He said police and fire inspectors who have shown up have assured him he was ''code compliant.''

Mr. Weiss, 47, works for a refugee-settlement organization. The loft performances, he said, ''evolved from my love of music and an awareness that in New York there is an amazing amount of talent that never gets heard.'' The music ranges from avant-garde jazz to classical to folk and blues. Mr. Weiss is also fond of poetry readings. Performers share the door contributions.
The other evening, the program began with Michael Strong, the orator-poet, who wore a sleeveless black T-shirt emblazoned with a golden eagle and who favored words like ''hipsomatic'' and ''cat.'' He was followed by Ross Owens and Ira Levy, who performed blues. Louis X's Nightmare, the last act, consisted of Louis X himself and a New Orleans-based rhythm section, Joyce Grimes and J. J. Juliano.

''People are tired of having to deal with going out to clubs; it's so taxing,'' said J. R. Getches, lead guitarist of the group Native Tongue, who was in the audience. ''There's a trend toward intimate places, away from stadium performances.''
His group is getting more and more requests for protest and folk music, he said. ''The 60's have suddenly become accessible.''

''Clubs can be too rowdy,'' Louis X said. ''Playing in Tom's loft is a joy. It has nothing to do with the record business and hype. Best of all, there are no velvet ropes!''

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