Elsewhere on Parade

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The merry fools of Elsewhere parade down Elm Street.
The merry fools of Elsewhere parade down Elm Street.
The merry fools of Elsewhere parade down Elm Street.

by Brian Clarey

Here they come, those wacky kids from Elsewhere, spilling out the door and onto the street, one by one, with their prop-laden costumes and their intentionally vague picket signs — “No Power to the Tower!” — and their choreographed dances.

I caught them earlier out in the alley behind what was once George Scheer’s grandma’s thrift store but is now a genuine artists’ space, supplying the materials it took grandma a lifetime to collect as creative fodder. They were working on their moves.

And they’re not kids, the artists who take on the mission posed by this living museum and are right now making a parade of fools on the sidewalk in front of the building. Not technically. They’re all in their twenties and thirties, and one of them, my friend the filmmaker Harvey Robinson whose residency has just begun, has got to be pushing 40.

He’s catching the action guerilla style as the krewe of about 40 begins its disorganized romp down Elm Street to the enthusiastic cadence of the Cakalak Thunder drum corps.

Without hesitation, this band of misfits and orphans drunk on creative energy and unadulterated glee crosses the tracks by Barnhardt Street, over to the more respectable downtown environs, where the snare-drum rattle can echo in the man-made canyon.

They delve into the wandering crowd, not insubstantial on this warm April Fool’s Day night, handing out fliers for the arts collaborative’s upcoming 12th season, which opens on this day, and also candy. It’s subversive marketing genius, and people are starting to get into it: waving from across the street, pressing faces against storefront glass, issuing drive-by honks. People are reading the fliers, asking about the signs, recording these moments of absurdity with their cell phones and sending them out into the ether.

The season looks promising with a TV show called “Elsewhere TV” that should premiere on May 1, something called “auto-correct art practices” in which one word can be substituted for another throughout an entire work to change its meaning, and a seder that promises to be charmingly weird. This is part of it too, this event, today.

“This is an April Fool’s prank celebrating the fool’s day,” Scheer says, “and all the many fools we know.”

And on we go, down an alley where no one can see, no one breaking character as we move behind the buildings and emerge, with momentum, back onto Elm, past Triad Stage, past the Empire Room, past the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, picking up steam as the drums bang it home.

And good God we’re going right past Center Pointe.

At Festival Park, the merry April Fool’s Day pranksters make their stand: a boombox on the lawn, three lines of dancers, a spirited if inexpert interpretation of the “Electric Slide.” It’s ridiculous. That’s sort of the point.

Crouched on the periphery of the flash mob, Robinson unpacks his secret weapon: It’s a genuine, bona-fide, sanctified drone, with carbon-fiber propellers and a gyroscopic rig on the bottom to keep the camera steady. He just bought it — used it the one time as his B camera for a music video — and he’s still mastering the controls.

The drone rises off the lawn at Festival Park with an electric hum, hovers a moment then beelines to the dancers, catching their moves from a high angle, a poor-man’s crane shot, that the operator can see on the remote’s monitor,

“Yeah,” Robinson says. “I’ve got a drone.”

His residency at Elsewhere runs through the summer, which means he’ll likely be putting it to good use.

Greensboro, Elsewhere, parade, Elm Street