“Femme Pyre,” Saturday night’s carnival themed fancy dress party at Camera Ambassador, prompted hundreds of guests to keep going until Sunday morning. This may have been due to the fact that there was a kissing booth, tarot card readers and at least three different kinds of dancers (belly, burlesque and go-go); but still, the event actually made “networking” fun.
Created by the collective film network Women of the Now, the Pyre served as an inaugural event for the group of Chicago-based industry professionals dedicated to empowering their femme identifying sisters and brothers.
“It’s good to become inclusive in all the different movements that are going on,” said photo stylist Analise Rahn. “So it’s not just ‘women of the now,’ it’s ‘humanity of the now.’”
Rahn performed one the evening’s first dances, a belly-tripping tribal fusion piece choreographed by Christina King from Eastern Groove Studios. “It was to “Trust in Me” by the Dead Brothers, which is from The Jungle Book,” she said. “It’s the song the snake things.”
She and the other entertainers performed on two separate raised stages throughout the night. Their moves were highlighted by colorful swirling lights and complemented by art installations. Among them was “a sort of cloud triangle light installation with dream catchers and light crystals” and “the corner pentagram piece with additional lighting” created by Andrea Garcés, a curator and set and stage designer.
“I have a thing for LED lights,” she explained.
Like many of the attendees, Garcés met WOTN cofounder Steph MacDonald through the artistic collective known as Canvas. She is the owner of production company Sonidos Collective, and recently returned from a shoot with Chicago-based rapper Towkio — who is a member of the Savemoney crew with Chance the Rapper — in Mexico.
She attended Femme Pyre with Zac Hall, a floral designer and installation artist.
“I built the kissing booth, the ticket booth, DJ booth, photo booth,” he said. “All in kind of like a Carnival theme out of palettes and, like, super raw, low-budget materials.”
Hall satisfied WOTN’s preference for a red and white color scheme by placing gold-dipped bunches of roses throughout the space. “Floral design is my first love,” he said.
He enthusiastically explained that a collection of his work is scheduled to show at a Westside gallery event on March 25, but he could not remember the exact name of the place. That was okay because the owner of the place, actress Hannah Kopen, was also at Femme Pyre.
“It’s called Maitri and it’s at North and Western, right in Wicker Park,” she said. “Maitri is a Buddhist Sanskrit word that means unconditional love of the self and, then, an active interest in others.”
The event will emphasize “a new perspective to political action combined with art,” a destination that Kopen’s been moving towards since November 8th. It will feature the work of artists, photographers, poets and musicians. Part of the proceeds from sales and concessions will go to Planned Parenthood.
Kopen is also an actress currently finishing production as the lead in The Girl At The Library, an eight-minute short directed by Bridgette Johnson. She got to know WOTN through its original founder, actor/director/writer Layne Marie Williams’, who cast her in the lead of her 2016 short, Dollface.
She wasn’t the only party guest who had gotten to know Williams’ on set.
“I know Layne because we worked on a film together that Grace McPhillips directed a couple years ago,” said Steve Scholz, former president and current member of Chicago Acting in Film Meetup group (CAFM). “I met her at a meetup in 2015.”
Although CAFM is currently busy with the task of electing a new board, as it does every year at this time, Scholz hinted that the organization may host a ten-year anniversary party in mid-August, and there will be more of its popular actors’ meetups along the way.
Sculptural artist and professional metal fabricator Margaret BoBo Dancy has a more spiritual connection to the founder. “We met on my roof during a red blood moon ceremony I was hosting,” she rememberd. “Layne just kinda showed up and I fell in love with her immediately.”
Besides regarding Williams as a “good old friend and future collaborator,” Bobo Dancy lent a number of pieces from her cast glass Transverberater series to the Femme Pyre ambience.
Midway through the event, a music video written and shot by Williams introduced the “pastel girls,” a trio of energetic teenage confidants who will star in her next short, Scutly. Hair stylist and makeup artist Ederik “Eddy” Inocente worked with the director to achieve the Pastels’ upbeat style.
“Our expression the entire time was to make them look like glazed doughnuts,” he said. “We wanted them to shine. We wanted them to sparkle. We wanted some color. It was awesome.”
To see ReelChicago’s photo album of Femme Pyre, click here.