on the grass along the water
Long Island City
3134 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11106
Take the N or W train to the Broadway stop in Queens and walk eight blocks west on Broadway (toward the East River) to the intersection of Vernon Boulevard.
|7:00 PM||Live Music by Shenandoah and the Night|
|8:30 PM||Film Begins|
Her Master's Voice (Nina Conti | USA | 60 min.)
You may think of ventriloquism as a stale vaudeville art: wooden dummies and even more wooden jokes. But Her Master’s Voice is not your grandfather’s ventriloquism. Nina Conti’s act is more off-broadway avant garde than Catskills comedian. Her intelligent (and hilarious) performances offer a kind of meta-theater examination of personality, humanity and reality—from the perspective of a fuzzy hand-sized monkey.
Conti had taken up ventriloquism years earlier as a means of creative expression that opened up strong new aspects of her personality. As the prodigy of legendary British theater instructor Ken Campbell, Conti became one of the leading lights of a modern ventriloquist movement. Though now, after years with her simple but charmingly outspoken puppet Monkey by her side, Conti is on the verge of giving up her career. But when Campbell dies and bequeaths to Conti his collection of puppets—including one eerily bearing his own bushy eyebrows and beaked nose—Nina is forced to reconcile her art form and her sense of self.
Amongst droves of other ventriloquists, the impressive array of clever puppets, vocal feats and behind-the-scenes tricks is endlessly entertaining. But the film is driven by Conti’s astonishing introspection, split among the several personalities of her puppets. Her conversations with her furry little alter-ego are startling for their honesty, as things Monkey says genuinely make Nina laugh and cry. Monkey even reveals intimate facts about Ken and Nina that the supposed puppet-master might rather have kept secret. The serious soul-searching and borderline tragedy is balanced by the droll absurdity of the adorable puppets, and in the end Conti’s personal journey and the resulting routine are charming and fascinating, giving voice to the inner life of a daring and unique artist in a story that will delight kids and adults.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg