raising the bar on experimental work - Cambridge Chronicle

Chris Mascara is raising the bar on experimental work at the Lizard Lounge
with his new series of shows called 'Scara's Night Out.'

 

Cambridge Chronicle and Cambridge TAB
Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Making it up: Chris Mascara brings variety back to Lizard

By Matthew S. Robinson / Correspondent

From theatrical sax man Jeff Robinson and the professorial trio known as The Fringe to comedy, poetry slams and whatever else you can legally do in a basement, The Lizard Lounge has built a solid reputation for one of the most diverse and all-encompassing entertainment venues around.

Local superstar Chris Mascara is going to take that reputation to the next level with the launch of a new series of ridiculously random revues called "Scara's Night Out" on Jan. 15.

"I want to get my music out and also to get people to come out and experience new things," Mascara explained. "That is where the title comes from."

Known as the dramatic front man of his eponymous Rock trio and also as the titular star of Boston Rock Opera's outstanding staging of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and other BRO shows, Mascara came to Boston from the "cultural wasteland" of southern Florida in 1986 to study religion at Tufts.

"That plays interestingly into my having played Jesus," Mascara said, "because, hey, what better role is there?"

A child prodigy at the classical organ (which he continues to play at the Tufts chapel and other venues), Mascara picked up his father's guitar as a teenager and has been rocking out ever since.

"It's such a power trip to play the organ," he said. "The only thing that comes close is loud Rock guitar."

Despite the exclusiveness of this "power" duo, Mascara has picked up other instruments along the way. Joining the BRO as a sitar player for the 1995 production of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," Mascara has been with the group ever since. Through them, he has come to know a wide variety of musical and theatrical performers.

"There is such a rich performing arts scene here," he said, "and hopefully this new series will pull them all together and catch even the people who fall between the genre cracks." "Scara's Night Out" will not only introduce new acts to the Lizard, but it will also offer combinations never before attempted, even at the liberal Lounge.

"I was first thinking of a different kind of band residency," Mascara explained, "something that would frame the eclectic and theatrical elements of my band¹s show just right."

Calling the new series "the alternative to the alternative" (no cliché intended), Mascara listed an opening night roster that includes comedic emcee Sinus Brady, hammered dulcimer virtuoso Larry Meyerhoff, blues maven Ted Drozdowski in rare solo gig without his talented band The Devil Gods, Count Zero's Peter Moore, the trailblazing duo Binary System, and Portuguese/English hip hop artist Sandro G.

"I have been a fan of Roger Miller and Binary for a long time so I am thrilled to have them," Mascara said. "The rest of the set is all over the place, but they are all friends of mine and all great performers with something to share, so this opening night will definitely exemplify the adventurous theme these nights will have."

When asked where he first came up with the idea, Mascara recalled soirees that he and his theatrically-minded wife used to host which would follow a similar arc.

"We used to have these get-togethers for birthdays and things where we would have a singer, then a poetry reading and then something else," he said. "So this is our way of taking our private parties public."

In so doing, Mascara hopes to help the various performers meet and mingle while sharing performance ideas and audience members.

"I want to give them a place to show their stuff," he said. "It's a crossover scene between music and art genres and styles and hopefully it will appeal to everybody."

As many of the artists who are scheduled to perform in Night Out are on the esoteric side, Mascara is hoping that his series will help them grow their audiences.

"I have no manifesto, per se, but I believe that people expressing themselves with integrity will reach their audience," he said. "So I hope that this series brings people out and mixes a wide array of audiences."

As Night Out is all about variety, when it came time to choose a venue for the new series, Mascara says that the Lizard was a natural.

"The Lizard is known for its diverse and radical performing arts underground," he said. "The series will try to capitalize on the atmosphere down there and appeal to those with a taste for the eclectic."

Though Mascara admits to taking a few tips from his musical friend Rick Berlin, who had a successful run at the Lounge with a variety show called "Marlena Loses it at The Lizard," he also points out some key distinctions.

"Rick would perform, but he was not with his band at the time," Mascara said, alluding to Berlin's current outfit, The Shelley Winters Project. "I am in a band and we are performing as the anchor of each show. The idea is to have an opener, Mascara and then some off-the-wall closer to give the night a nice contour and a punchy finale."

Sounds ambitious, and also a bit confusing.

"Think of it as Zeitgeist Gallery smooching with The Abbey Lounge on the fire escape at Mobius Arts Center," Mascara explained. "That's the vibe I am going for."

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A Night Out

"Scara's Night Out" launches on January 15 at The Lizard Lounge (1667 Massachusetts Avenue). For more information, call the Lizard Lounge at 617-499-6992 or go to www.mascaramusic.com.