Let me tell you the story of the first Ada’s Night Out.
It begins shortly after we opened in November, 2014. Stefan and a group of his friends were among our first regulars. They populated the compass table and programming room multiple nights in a row, working on their hexagonal chess board and Mushroom Role-Playing Game. By the second or third week of their coming to Ada’s, Stefan said to me, “Let’s do an animation show and fill this space with joy and smiles.” A seed was planted. Over the following 8 months, Stefan and his team worked tirelessly on producing Both Worlds Two, while the staff at Ada’s began putting together the package in which the night would be delivered. Stefan and Co. drew stills, sections of animation, re-worked pieces, and turned stacks of hand-drawn scenes into a digitally captured movie. Ada’s put together the posters, a menu, sold tickets, made seating arrangement diagrams, and figured out the logistics of bringing it all to life. At 7:30 pm on Thursday, July 3rd, the first guests arrived, gave their names to Vel at the door, and the first Ada’s Night Out began.
Guests entered through our courtyard into a transformed space. The cafe area, usually occupied with tables, had been filled with only chairs. A bed-sheet-screen hung over the front end espresso bar. The area in front of the mantel, home to our big cozy couch, was filled instead with the Compass Table, topped with a spread of Black Bean Sliders, Mini Quiche, Baba Ganoush, Ricotta Cake Muffins, and other treats made by Crystal, Jessi, Nikki and the rest of the Ada’s kitchen staff. Danielle worked the espresso bar while John helped guests find a good seat, or a good book, and I helped Stefan finalize the A/V equipment. Meanwhile, Guinness posted up in the Programming Room and put the finishing touches on Both Worlds Two before it was released to an excited audience.
Shortly after nine, I introduced Stefan and the show got under way. Stefan began with doing some Psychic Portraits with some brave audience members. Based on the person’s name, energy, and the colors they chose as their palate, Stefan used his special psychic ability to render an animation, live, that captured that person’s being.
First up was Atticus. Using colors like Mango and Peach, Stefan drew a family of earthworms, moving, swirling and teleporting about. Happy with the choice of earthworms, Atticus shared how he always wondered why worms came out when it rained, positing the question, “If they’re happy in the dirt when it’s not raining, why aren’t they happy in the dirt when it is?”
Second up was Gaelyn, with rich shades of Purple and Green, who Stefan described as centered and into healthy snacks. His portrait began as a spinach donut, that morphed into an avocado, and slowly became a made-up eye right for the face of Gaelyn as he proclaimed, “Can’t we all just be dragons?”
Byron was the final portrait. Stefan described a transformation he sensed in Byron over recent years. His life, formerly like an escalator going down, was once consumed by the minute details, like toothpicks trapped in the side-track, had recently spread open into a panoramic view populated by a carefree feeling, not unlike the Peanuts character Snoopy.
All of the portraits were received in joy and good humor, regardless of their accuracy. As a final step, Stefan showed all three animations layered. He then displayed some older layered portraits. One of which was a collection of 63 animations he did while driving across the continent, to Montreal and back, doing portraits all along the way.
Next, Stefan showed us his newest animation up until now, Edible Rocks. A heart-warming piece relating a true-story about a little white lie that took root and refused to budge from the heart and mind of Stefan’s younger brother.
Before getting to Both Worlds Two: The Look of Music, Stefan took us through a brief history of the works that helped create and populate the Both Worlds universe–A world of a valley of mountains, focusing on Jake and Viking, as they tend to their particular mountain tops, contending and cooperating with the creatures and features that populate their surroundings. All the films in the Both Worlds contextual suite were accompanied by music created specifically for the piece. Some of them had speaking characters, but most emphasized bouncing and responsive sounds that enriched and imbued the animation with an additional level of ebullience.
We started with Anaelle, another true story about a little girl Stefan met when living with a family in France. Stefan and Anaelle formed a bond, despite their language barrier, and one day found themselves floating in a pool, scooping ladybugs out of the water, bringing them to dry land, and gently blowing on them, wishing for them to come back to life, until they did. Anaelle makes a appearance in Both Worlds as a messenger from Jake to Viking.
Next, we watched The Petting Zoo and The Petting Zoo II. The first installment was a flowing, dynamic portrait of the liberator, a curious character exploring the twists and turns of a city-like mind, interacting with the animals and other characters within. We were introduced to the bottle-head creatures who capture animals and other things in their empty heads, though not necessarily for better or for worse, but potentially either.
Leashlessness followed, in which the bottle-head creatures from The Petting Zoo I&II are placed in the rolling green hills of Both Worlds–the first time Stefan explored the landscape. This piece follows two dogs, curious about one another, but confined to their walks, drug about by their bottle-head owners. A man who looks not unlike the liberator sneakily undoes both of the dogs leashes, permitting the dogs to hug and run off together, then ties the leashes together, attaching their bottle-head owners to one another.
The final film before the Both Worlds films was Thought City, in which tiny ant people make cardboard boxes for cities. Their world is a network of activity, teeming with vibrant colors set to synthesized jazz music, constantly moving and building.
Both Worlds brought us in to the Valley of Mountains through the eyes of Jake. Stefan provided live voice over and music for the film, permitting the piece to react to and interact with the audience and experience being created in the moment. In the spirit of organic creation, Stefan unhinged his work from a rigid soundtrack and used instead a guide that was able to flex and bend when appropriate, such as when a moth flew to the screen while Jake took inventory of his ducks and rabbits (and moth).
The premiere of Both Worlds Two gave a peek into the universe through the eyes of Viking, who has a bulbous head, wings, and the legs of an elephant. Unlike Jake, Viking keeps his mountain very clean and clear. He tries to plant, and asks the audience to sing a song to help stimulate growth, but to no avail. A fictionalized version of Anaelle brought one of the many plants (parts) of Jake from his mountain to Viking, hoping to lend Viking a hand. Viking, however, resisted. Despite his desire to have a full, and lush mountain, his compulsion to keep his space clean and clear was too powerful. So powerful that he had to fly into outer space to escape the little cities that began to form around the base of his mountain.
After the show, we all said a warm good evening and headed out into the night full of warm energy and covered in big smiles.
Stefan’s work communicated to me an array of emotions. I felt the familial bond through the stories of Edible Rocks and Anaelle that may seem inherent yet can be wrought with complexity and conflict. The Petting Zoo I&II, Leashlessness, and Thought City, not only gave a peek into the work flow and long-term creative process informing Stefan’s work, but also stimulated feelings of desire to deconstruct and escape the confines of a social structure that incessantly impedes creation and satisfaction. Thought City in particular, for me, captured the feeling of anxiety that often coincides with the pressure of preserving an appropriate persona for whatever social engagement one finds themselves in. Jake and Viking of Both Worlds I&II communicate a dichotomy it seems many people balance, i.e. the conflict between the part of our personality that wants to create the most lavish and vibrant existence possible, pleasing all, forever peaceful, and providing everything and everyone with a rich and delicious experience of the fullest life, and the part that wants to clear all of it away to just get some time to think. The camaraderie Stefan depicts between Jake and Viking, despite their clear contradiction, gives hope that there is a harmony one may be able to capture, no matter how elusive it may sometimes seem.