'A Star Has Burnt My Eye' to be performed in Bennington

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BENNINGTON — A Brooklyn-based multi-platform artist will return here next week to perform his latest work.

Howard Fishman is a musician, playwright, and composer who has been featured at venues around the world alongside artists such as Andrew Bird, Esperanza Spalding, Odetta, Yo Yo Ma, Maceo Parker, Califone, Robyn Hitchcock, Madeleine Peyroux, and Nellie McKay.

The event is presented by the Vermont Arts Exchange, and will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the Masonic Hall, at 504 Main St. in Bennington. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $10 for students.

Fishman will be performing an original play, "A Star Has Burnt My Eye," which features the music and letters of Connie Converse, and had its world premiere at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, as part of the 2016 Next Wave Festival, in a production staged by Paul Lazar. There, it sold out its run and was featured as a New York Times editor's pick.

Converse, considered one of the pioneers of the singer-songwriter genre, was active in the New York City music scene of the 1950's. Converse disappeared in 1974 and her fate remains a mystery. Her music was not widely available to the public until recent years, when music historians began to take an interest in her work. "How Sad, How Lovely," which included 17 of her original recordings, was released by Launderette Recordings in 2009.

"In 1961, the polymathic songwriter Connie Converse grew disillusioned with music and New York, packed her bags for Ann Arbor, and eventually disappeared," says the VAE's press release promoting the event. "Her home recordings from the '50s have only recently come to light — vulnerable, literary songs about loneliness, sexual longing, and bad credit — but they were unclassifiable at the time and she vanished without an audience or album to her name. A Star Has Burnt My Eye considers Converse's music and life, pondering what it meant, and still means, to be an outsider artist. A treasure trove of recently discovered artifacts like personal letters, diary entries, poems, along with first-person recollections come to life alongside intimate performances on guitar, piano, violin and upright bass in tribute to this enigmatic songstress whose fate still eludes."

Fishman, who has performed at VAE events in the past, will be featured on vocals, guitar, and piano for the multimedia performance, and will be joined by Charlotte Mundy on vocals, Osei Essed on, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and upright bass, Dina Maccabee on vocals, violin, and guitar, and Nic Adams.

"He has made a connection with the Bennington audience, definitely," VAE Director Matthew Perry said. "VAE is excited to bring to the Bennington audience a different chapter of Howard Fishman as he immerses himself and us in the world of Connie Converse."

"Fishman is a frequent NPR guest, and has made feature-length appearances on 'Fresh Air' with Terry Gross, 'World Cafe' with David Dye, 'The Leonard Lopate Show,' and 'Soundcheck' with John Schaefer, among many others," reads Fishman's biography on his website, howardfishman.com. "He has also presented at TEDx in Brooklyn, and written for The New Yorker and The Huffington Post... Fishman has also been an Artist in Residence at the Hotchkiss School, Skidmore College, Connecticut College, and The Orchard Project."

Fishman's Bennington visit will be part of a December tour of upstate New York and Vermont, which will feature performances at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. on Dec. 7, 8, and 9, a performance at Castleton State University on Dec. 14, and a performance at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y. on Dec. 21. In April and March he will be flying to Europe to play four shows in Estonia and Finland.

The VAE is hosting another event this weekend, a reception with artist Alfred Perry, whose works will be on display at Brown Cow Cafe in Bennington until January 5. The exhibition, entitled "In Retrospect," showcases, "forty-six works in retrospect from Perry's early years of collage and commercial art, to the years of impressionistic painting, to currently being immersed in abstract expressionism, which is where he first began," according to Matthew Perry, who is Alfred Perry's son.

The reception is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 9. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the art will go towards to the VAE, to support its mission and programming.

For more information on these events or to learn more about the VAE, please call 802-442-5549 or visit www.vtartxchange.org.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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