"I am an angel; we all are . . .
you cannot fly with one wing.
And I consider myself invincible
when I'm twirling, because who's
going to stop me?"
Who is S.K.Thoth?
Thoth is a street performer who "prayforms" his "solopera" (sometimes at a set locale, sometimes on walkabout, as he calls wandering performances) as a way of finding inner peace, and he is more than willing to share this gift with you. He calls his part-rehearsed, part-improvisational hauntingly beautiful performance pieces: "vocalizing, puzzle, aerobics routine, monologue, language deconstruction, alchemy, theater, healing ritual, sacred dance, all accompanied by solo violin and complex percussive rhythms."
The performance itself is a combination of opera, dancing and instrumental music, all done by Thoth at the same time. He begins by purifying his performance space with burning sage, and then swinging a contraption on a string around, while standing perfectly still. Suddenly, in mid-swing, he lets out a few high-pitched yelps, and then it’s time for the solopera to begin. Taking violin in hand, Thoth sings (he can sing accurately and well through three vocal ranges) in a language he has invented for the fictional country, The Festad. At the same time, he plays classically inspired melodies and stamps out rhythms using the ground as a giant drum.
A large part of the solopera is the costume, which is not only eye-catching, but also functional. Thoth says that the outfit comes from The Festad, but it seems to have aspects of Egyptian and Mayan dress in it. It consists of a black belt, a gold loincloth, various chains and a red feathered headdress. He says the colors represent his spirituality. The red is passion of expression, the gold is spiritual and physical prosperity and the black represents all colors. The costume surrounds Thoth’s charkas, focusing them. The most important part of the costume is the footwear. His sandals have chunky heels, and the straps are covered in bells of various sizes. In his performance, he uses the heels percussively and manages to keep the bells in rhythm while spinning like a top.
Thoth currently supports himself only through his performances. He lives in Queens with his mother but has a blonde fiancé in San Francisco who he hopes to share an apartment with sometime soon. He enjoys riding his motorcycle, cooking, drawing and using the computer. He continues to work on the encyclopedia of his mythological land, The Festad.
"I've gone from street person to
the so-called loftiest place in the
material world, which was extraordinary
and enlightening. People are the
same everywhere, they have the same
hopes and fears. Now I can
communicate through all ranks."
Who was S.K.Thoth?
Thoth was born Stephen Kaufman to a Jamaican mother and a Russian-Romanian father. His mother was a timpanist, and the first African American woman to play for the New York Philharmonic. The family lived in New York, and Stephen was often ridiculed for being biracial, which caused him embarrassment. When Stephen was ten, his father, a doctor, deserted the family and never contacted them again. This sent the boy into an introverted state that only subsided when he started to explore music in depth.
He had been given piano lessons from an early age, but hadn’t practiced. Then, after a particularly moving dream, he was inspired to take up the violin. Because of his mother’s connections, he was able to study under Mara Dvonch (first violinist of the American Symphony Orchestra) and Harry Glickman (first violinist of the NBC String Quartet, and assistant concertmaster of the NBC Symphony Orchestra). It was Harry Glickman who made the strongest impression on Stephen, teaching him to really feel the rhythms while also perfecting technique.
After graduating from La Guardia Highschool of the Arts, he and his family moved to San Francisco where Stephen continued to study violin under David Schneider (second violinist of the San Francisco Symphony). He then became disillusioned with the dull and dusty orchestral repertoire, and decided to focus on writing and dancing. He graduated from San Francisco State with a comp-lit degree, and worked as a club dancer, but then returned to the violin with a fresh outlook on improvisational performing. He began creating his own works, focusing not just on the music, but also on visual aspects and telling a story.
When his mother lost her job with the San Francisco Symphony because of racial discrimination, Stephen tried to commit suicide, but decided to live when a voice came to him and said: "It's not your time yet. You have work to do." After that experience, he chose the name Thoth (after the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom) and started down the road to accepting his bisexuality and racial identity. He eventually found himself able to express himself as both male and female, and gay and straight; he considers himself a "mixed being" and a "spiritual hermaphrodite".
(The story of his life was made into a documentary by Sarah Kernochan and it won an Oscar.)
"I am able to change the vibrations
wherever I pass; because I'm
unencumbered by electrical implements,
I am the most electrical thing--
I'm able to open up a portal for
everyone. I'm trippy!"
He has a number of CDs out, which can be purchased from http://www.skthoth.com/SKTHOTH/CDs_etcx.html. The solopera itself is called The Herma: The Life and Land of Nular-In, and is the story of Nular-In from Festad. In the story, he escapes the evil lord Pansu-ga with the help of a flying xentar (your guess is as good as mine), but then falls in love with his brother Tito. When Tito learns that Nular-In is a hermaphrodite, he almost kills him. The rest of the opera apparently focuses on more image-driven elements.
Where to find him:
He can currently be found prayforming at the Bethesda Terrace Arcade (between the Literary Walk and the Angel Fountain) in Central Park, Wednesday through Sunday, from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. He is also available for private parties if a compensation fee ($250/day) and all room and board needs are provided for. He can be reached via email at email@example.com and via telephone at the Thoth performance hotline: 1.917.826.8190. His mailing address is :
P.O. Box 670232
Flushing, NY 11367