Independent Television Service (ITVS), Nashville Public Television (NPT) and the Nashville Public Library bring director Neil Berkeley's award-winning documentary "Beauty is Embarrassing,' a film focusing on the life of renowned puppeteer and artist Wayne White, to Community Cinema at the downtown Nashville Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 15.
The free film screening will be preceded by a catered reception and fun art-making exercise with Webb School art instructor and longtime friend of White, Mike Quinn.
The film screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Quinn and Brian Griffin, writer, educator and former Middle Tennessee State University roommate of White, who claims White still owes him a six-pack for eating all of Griffin's grandmother's blackberry jam in 1978 in a munchies-fueled episode. The Q&A is certain to be an event. Quinn and Griffin both appear in the film.
The reception and art-making event will start at 2 p.m., followed by the screening and Q&A at 3 p.m. The entire afternoon is free and open to the public.
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2012 Nashville Film Festival, "Beauty Is Embarrassing" is a funny, irreverent, joyful and inspiring documentary featuring the life and current times of one of America's most important artists. Raised in the mountains of Tennessee, White started his career as a cartoonist in New York City and then as a set designer and puppeteer on the NPT (then WDCN) show "Mrs. Cabobble's Caboose" with Quinn, Alison Mork and host Fran Powell.
He then quickly found success as one of the creative forces behind "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which led to more work designing some of the most arresting and iconic images in pop culture. Most recently, his word paintings, which feature pithy and often sarcastic text statements crafted onto vintage landscape paintings, have made him a darling of the fine art world.
"Beauty Is Embarrassing" chronicles the vaulted highs and the crushing lows of a commercial artist struggling to find peace and balance between his work and his art. Acting as his own narrator, Wayne guides us through his life using moments from his latest creation: a hilarious, biographical one-man show. The pieces are drawn from performances at venues in Tennessee, New York and Los Angeles including the famous Roseland Ballroom and the Largo Theater. At its core, "Beauty Is Embarrassing" is a reminder that we should all follow our passion. It is those creative impulses that will lead us to where we need to go.
Quinn met White in a drawing class at MTSU in the late 70's. "I'm pretty sure he got an 'A,' but I only got a 'C'," says Quinn. "We partied hard back then and had fun performing gonzo-Dada puppet shows."
After college Wayne asked Quinn to help out with "Mrs. Cabobble's Caboose," a music education show for first and second graders. He made the P.T. Pickens costume to Wayne's specifications and "danced around TV with Fran and the puppet gang; for 16 years or more in some states!" he says.
In 1987, Wayne went back to New York to work on "Pee Wee's Playhouse," and Quinn designed and built the set and puppets for Powell's sequel for third and fourth graders, "Music Funfactory," for which he won an Emmy.
"A few of years ago Wayne showed up to do a puppet building workshop with my students at the Webb School in Bell Buckle," recalls Quinn. "He had Neil Berkeley and Chris Bradley following him around with cameras and microphones. It turns out our crazy college puppet stuff was a bigger deal than I thought, and somehow was an influence on Wayne's now cinematic career. Those few days ended up as a small part of 'Beauty is Embarrassing,' and now I find myself falling through yet another door Wayne has opened while yelling, "Hey, get on in here...this is fun!"
Griffin is writer and educator living in Knoxville, who has taught creative writing at the University of Tennessee, Webb School of Knoxville, the University of Virginia, and other places. An award-winning fiction writer and poet with an MFA in Creative Writing from the UVA, he and Wayne and grew up in Hixson, Tennessee, where their fathers worked at Dupont nylon factory. They attended MTSU together and were roommates.
"We're bosom pals," says Griffin. "I spent several weeks with Wayne last summer helping with his "Big Lick Boom" installation at the Taubman Museum in Virginia. It was great to see him again and learn that he hasn't changed one bit from our college days."
ITVS Community Cinema Nashville, coordinated by Allison Inman, began in 2008 and has steadily built to an audience ranging from 70-200 per screening, with dozens of community partners contributing each month to reception activities and panel discussions.
The monthly screening series features upcoming selections from the Independent Lens season, which airs locally on Nashville Public Television. Over 90 cities across the country participate in the Community Cinema program, making a real contribution on a range of current social issues by connecting communities with organizations, information, and the opportunity to get involved.
The series is presented by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Nashville Public Television and the Nashville Public Library, with partners Nashville Film Festival and Hands on Nashville.