by Dre Grigoropol
About four times a year, noted cartoonist Robert Sikoryak (Masterpiece Comics) hosts Carousel: Cartoon Slide Shows and Other Projected Pictures. This is an event where artists and writers present their comics though a slide show while vocalizing the dialogue and narrative, sometimes incorporating music and sound design. For those in attendance, the resulting experience comes closer to watching a play than a movie or an animation. Sikoryak describes it as “a cross-pollination of theater and comics.”
The first Carousel event occurred in 1997 at Dixon Place in the Lower East Side, where it is usually held now. The events are lively and laugh-filled—not only do you get to see comics being read by their authors, but attendees are exposed to new artists. “Robert always picks a weird variety of people,” remarked Lauren R. Weinstein, who presented at the most recent event. Indeed, Sikoryak selects a different group of cartoonists each time, and their work varies dramatically. At the last Carousel event, Jim Torok shared a twisted and humorous take on the crucifixion of Jesus. As synchronicity would have it, the first slide of Megan Turbitt’s presentation also portrayed a crucifix. While funny, her comics also deal with issues in modern day femininity.
The next presenter, Laurie Rosenwald, read some poetry about drab American colors. Playwright Amy Herzog presented autobiographical comics about her youth. And as a highlight for any feminist comics fan, Lauren R. Weinstein, unveiled her latest comics about motherhood and becoming more acquainted with the suburban lifestyle. The famous Dean Haspiel read part of his uber-amorous story “The Last Romantic Antihero,” followed by Sikoryak himself reading and vocally acting out The Crypt of Bronte: The House-Keeper in “The Heights” and ”The Depths,” featured in Masterpiece Comics. Supporting voice actors James Godwin and M. Sweeney Lawless accompanied Sikoryak, along with music from the 19th century, which served as a backdrop for this presentation.
“It was better than the musical Cats,” proclaimed Jim Torok when he was asked about how he felt about the show. Dean Haspiel had a more contemplative take on the event. “Performing a comic book challenges the presets of what’s intended to be read in your head… it frees me to experiment with narrative pace and the meaning of my words,” Haspiel continued. “Sikoryak’s unique Carousel series inspires me to write and draw comics that have cross-purpose potential.”
“For over 20 years, I’ve been involved in the performance art and downtown theater scene in New York. I’ve done poster designs and slide presentations for various shows produced by other people. And I’ve done many events where I’ve drawn or painted, at high speed, for an audience,” Sikoryak revealed. “The connection between comics and theater goes back very far. The most obvious example is Winsor McCay, who did vaudeville shows with his animated films — and of course, many cartoonists did chalk talks and other live drawings. I’d say those are all influences and precursors for Carousel”, Sikoryak said.
Be sure to mark your calendar for the next Carousel—sometimes the event also features live drawing and artwork. Check the website to find out more details. Original hybrid comics and theater experiences are ahead!
[Dre Grigoropol is an indie cartoonist and blogger. Her work can be viewed at www.dretime.org. Follow her on Twitter at @dretimecomics. Photos by Dre Grigoropol]
[Images via Carouselslideshow.com, and Dean Haspiel.]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.