Improbable Poetry Tour's Cinematic Love Letter at The Cabot
by Chris Ricci
Images by Joey Phoenix Photography
There's a magic to cinema that is unique to everyone. Some people deeply admire the aesthetic of the theater itself, while others are enamored by the mystique of certain genres. Regardless of what it is for any giving person, it's safe to say that a movie theater is always a wonderful evoker of nostalgia. The Cabot Cinema's retro and historic feel has made it a quintessential point of reference when it comes to the city's illustrious past, and when it closed down, the void was felt across the North Shore. Growing up around the corner from the cinema, I've seen many different changes across the city. Despite any changes I've seen, The Cabot Cinema has always stayed consistent.
Fortunately, The Cabot was not only resurrected, but also rebranded to reflect the historic past that made it one of Beverly's most cherished landmarks. Of course, the movies have returned with force, but the stage is also being utilized in a myriad of ways to reflect the diversity of performance and art. Because of this, it's no surprise that Montserrat's Improbable Places Poetry tour chose The Cabot as it's most recent stop.
The concept of Improbable Places Poetry Tour is quite simple: a future location is revealed on their website (that, in the past, has included a swimming pool, an auto body shop, and a tattoo parlor to name a few) and all potential poets are tasked to create a piece based off of the location where they're reading. In short, the prospect of reading in such a powerfully nostalgic location must have struck a chord, because the lineup of readers, much like the audience turnout, was impressive to say the least.
Colleen Michaels, who not only runs the Tour, but is also the Director of the Writing Studio at Montserrat, took to the dimly lit stage and began a lineup of creative individuals that ranged from students to local legends. The event opened up with four visual poetry pieces, which utilized the newly refurbished Cabot screen flawlessly, and were all poignantly diverse. After a reading of Frank O'Hara's "To The Film Industry In Crisis" by Jim Dunn, the theme was set for the evening, and the readings began.
The readings were divided up into categories featuring a couple of poets apiece. The poems about experiences at the movies included a nostalgic retrospective on seeing movies at a young age from widely published author Tom Miller, and a love-letter to the Noir genre from Jennifer Jean. The section dedicated to specific movies featured works K.T. Landon's biting piece based on Dali and Buñel's "Un Chien Andalou," while Blaine Hebbel's "Movies" featured a list of movies he experienced over the years in a wide range of theaters.
The horror movie section featured a creepy retelling of Hitchcock's "Psycho" by Ryan "Rat" Travis, and a cynical take on stereotypical and sexist horror tropes from recent BFA in fiction graduate Meaghan O'Brien. Three poets read pieces in a section playfully called "Fan letters gone wild" that included Mary Ann Honaker's tribute to "Breaking Bad" anti-hero Walter White, Hayley Pike's letter to Meg Ryan and Anthony Corrado's letter to The Dude.
There were plenty of pieces pertaining to what goes on behind the scenes in films as well. Margaret Young's experiences working on the set of "Wonder Boys" were followed by Patricia Goodwin's experience when "Grown Up's 2" was being filmed in her town. Clay Ventre's fast paced piece about Russian director Andrei Tarkovski was followed by January O'Neil's memories watching "The Little Mermaid" with her child. Rebecca Summer's piece "Twelve" recounted her experiences seeing a Harry Potter movie at its premier, and Kevin Carry's nostalgic "Movie Family" reminisced on family films. The "Watching Movies in the Dark" section featured powerful pieces by Susanna Brougham and Lis Weiss Horowitz, while the concluding "Pulling The Curtain Back" section provided a coda in the form of Carol Seitchik's "Post Magic" and two pieces from New Jersey resident and teacher RG Evans (who drove six hours that day just to participate!).
In the end, the main focus of the evening was the reputation held by The Cabot and theaters like that around the country. A section on vaudeville that featured pieces by Priscilla Anne Tennant Herrington and Ray Whittier transported listeners into the world of classic theatrical burlesque and novelty vaudeville acts that once brought life to The Cabot, and local author Claire Keyes' poem about a foreign film she vividly remembered watching was one she actually saw at The Cabot years ago. A surprise in the evening came in the form of a letter Colleen received from an older woman and Beverly resident who not only praised the organization and the revival of The Cabot, but also included a poem based on her time seeing the magic show and watching the theater slowly begin to fade.
The irony of the Improbable Places Poetry Tour coming to The Cabot takes on many level. There was a period of time where something of this caliber would truly be improbable. The theater had fallen from grace in recent years, but it's clear that the memories never left. Now, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with an almost full house at the newly renovated theatre, its clear that some things can never truly fade. Though titled "Improbable," events of this magnitude at The Cabot are not only probable, but inevitable.