John Waters is the celebrity headliner for the seventh Ocean City Film Festival, featured in a live performance on Saturday, March 4, which he calls The End of the World. Let’s hope he’s kidding.
But if you want to see one of Waters’ explicitly recallable films, look for them streaming somewhere. The OC Fest showcases movies, shorts, and documentaries from around the world, including the Delmarva Peninsula, most of them from the last two years. John Waters’ most recent film was a 2007 remake of his hit Tony-winning musical Hairspray, based on his 1988 film of the same title.
So before we get to the films you can see at various Ocean City venues March 2-5, allow me to share my favorite John Waters quote from an interview with him for Newsday on Long Island around the time of Hairspray’s 2003 Broadway opening.
“That’s the most subversive thing I’ve ever done,” he said of creating Hairspray.
“Why’s that,” I asked.
“Now every time someone who’s seen Hairspray on Broadway and then finds one of my films listed on late-night cable, they’ll say, ‘Oh, a John Waters film. That must be cute.’ ”
Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972), with its literally filthy ending, and Female Trouble (1974), starring his favorite onscreen accomplice Divine (from a movie of the same name), aka Glenn Milstead, were anything but cute. Funny, yes, if you share Waters’ warped sense of humor and irony. Of his first-ever live performance in Ocean City, he says his monologue will be an irreverent but insightful riff on “all of today’s despair and disease, desires and desperation.”
Baltimore native Waters also recalls Ocean City summers as a teenager living under the Boardwalk and “dreaming of making weird films,” adding: “Now I’m back,” at age 76, “having done just that.” As for the film festival, the outlier who now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame says, “That’s what these festivals are all about – inspiring creative lunacy.”
Which brings us to the films surrounding Waters’ End of the World show.
Among the feature films: Against All Odds: Surviving the Holocaust, Isatis, an archeological travelog to the ancient desert city in central Iran; Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game, the true story of Roger Sharpe who in 1976 helped overturn New York City’s ban on pinball; Worst Laid Plans, three tales of vacation-themed horror, and The Automat, a documentary on the once-maligned, now-extinct commissary-style urban eateries fondly remembered by Mel Brooks and the late Carl Reiner. So it’s gotta be funny. Then there’s The First Step, a political docu-commentary about black activist Van Jones, whose attempts to be a “bridge builder” during the Trump presidency predictably fails in divided America, and The Innocents, a supernatural thriller taking place in the long days and short nights of a Nordic summer.
Among opening night highlights are a pair of films of local origin: Hedgehog, produced by Dave Messick of Unscene Productions, focusing on Stephen Decatur High School graduates in nearby Berlin. Biggest Little Farm: The Return, a 30-minute documentary directed by Ocean City native John Chester, is a follow-up to his award-winning feature that debuted at the 2019 OC festival tracing the farm’s transformation.
In addition, dozens of showcase shorts under varied themes ranging from Maritime Life to Sex, Love, Romance & Intimacy will be screened nightly at venues including Ocean City Performing Arts Center, Flagship Cinemas, Fox Gold Coast Theater, and Ocean City Downs Casino.
Ocean City Film Festival
For tickets, dates, and times to these and other events, parties, and awards night presentations, go to OCFilmFestival.com
Music director Michael Repper conducts his first Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra concerts since winning the Grammy Award with the New York Youth Symphony for Best Orchestral Performance.
The opening night of the three-concert series is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9, in Easton at the Church of God, followed the same time the next evening at the Community Church in Ocean Pines, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach. The program for each concert opens with Brahms’ Tragic Overture. Next is Henri Vieuxtemps’ Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor, featuring the winner of MSO’s recent Elizabeth Loker Concerto Competition, violinist Elizabeth Song as honored guest soloist. After intermission, the orchestra performs Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1.
As the first African-American woman to have a composition performed by a major classical music orchestra – the Chicago Symphony – Price has been an in-demand Black History Month choice by orchestras across the United States. All the music on the Grammy-winning album recorded by the young musicians Repper nurtured during the height of the COVID pandemic was by African-American women – Price and two living composers, Jessie Montgomery and Valerie Coleman.
“My entire mission as a conductor,” Repper said just after his February 5 Grammy triumph, “is to connect people through music. I’m so proud that this project brought people together during the challenging time of the pandemic, and thrilled to have been able to share this tremendous music by Price, Montgomery, and Coleman.”
At 13, violin prodigy Elizabeth Song is about the same age as the younger musicians in the Repper-led youth orchestra. Song will play the piece that won her the $2,000 top prize at her live performance at the competition finals on January 12 in Easton.
Song played 19th-century Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps’ Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor, recognized in competition circles as a challenging concerto that allows performers to display their virtuosity. Young Song played it with beyond-her-years confidence and expressive nuance.
Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Concerts
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9, Easton Church of God; 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 10, Community Church, Ocean Pines; 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, Epworth United Methodist Church, Rehoboth Beach. midatlanticsymphony.org
“Don’t let it be forgot, that, for one brief, shining moment there was Camelot.” Jacqueline Kennedy recited that emotive lyric shortly after her husband’s assassination on November 22, 1963, in Dallas and for months and years after that. It was from her husband’s favorite Broadway musical that opened the year he was elected president. The 1960 Broadway musical encapsulates the fleeting idealism of a fictional court and castle in the 12th-century legend of King Arthur.
Years later, Clint Hill, Jackie’s Secret Service agent (who climbed out of the vehicle trailing the presidential limousine to push Mrs. Kennedy back in her seat) wrote that Jackie purposefully cultivated an immortal myth about her husband’s presidency. “Camelot” came to represent the youth, hope, and optimism of JFK and his thousand-day administration.
Previews of a Broadway revival of “Camelot” in a new version created by Aaron Sorkin and Bartlett Sher begin March 9 toward an April 13 opening. I can’t imagine it’s an accident that this “Camelot” debuts on the 50th anniversary year of the JFK assassination. If it runs through November 22, which I fully expect it will, there’s a matinee on that date beginning within the hour, Eastern time, when those of us who remember first heard the awful news.
Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot
Aaron Sorkin and Bartlett Sher collaborate on a new version of the classic musical. Previews begin March 9, Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Lincoln Center, Manhattan, opening April 13. broadway.com and discount sites such as seatgeek.com and stubhub.com
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts critic and editor now living in Easton.