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On Screen/In Person film looks at life of an artist

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What do actor Peter Coyote, filmmaker Barbara Hammer, literary theorist Harold Bloom and poet Robert Pinsky have in common?

Not one of them is a violinist.

That doesn’t stop them from offering a violin lesson to a classically trained musician in Tie It Into My Hand, the latest offering of the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture’s On Screen/In Person film series, set to screen Friday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre.

Tie It Into My Hand, directed by Paul Festa, takes an unprecedented look at the life of an artist through more than 100 interviews with directors, filmmakers, artists, writers and performers. The filmmaker challenges each of the artists to teach him a violin lesson, though none of them is a violinist, prompting fascinating discussions on the joys and challenges of life as an artist.

Festa, once a promising violin virtuoso before incurring a hand injury, serves as the student, performing passages from Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and responding to the often-outlandish suggestions and comments from his “teachers” – actor Alan Cumming (pictured), for example, instructs Festa to “play something for me on the violin that you just make up out of your head.”

Through these insightful and humorous conversations, this 90-minute documentary offers a kaleidoscopic look at the life of an artist. Festa’s use of the violin lesson as an interview technique elicits insights from the “teachers” on the creative process, the relationship between student and mentor, and the intersection of music with theater, dance, history and film. These artists recount stories from their own creative experiences while also commenting on Festa’s own music and film career.

Following the screening, the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture will host a discussion on the film with Festa. Festa has directed or produced several acclaimed films, including Apparition of the Eternal Church, The Glitter Emergency and Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco. As an actor and violinist, he has performed with Albert Fuller’s Helicon Ensemble, the Stephen Pelton Dance Theater and the North Bay Shakespeare Company. An accomplished writer, his essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Daily Beast, Salon and other anthologies.

For more information on Tie It Into My Hand, visit Tickets for the screening are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $1 for Mercyhurst students with ID. Tickets can be purchased by calling 814-824-3000 or by visiting