Germantown art gallery doubles as rehearsal space for new public-access TV show

Terri “Nightowl” Lyons’ idea started out as a script-read for play. After a month of planning, it transitioned into plans for a weekly television series called “Accent-U-Ate” that is expected to soon air on the PhillyCam public-access channel.

During rehearsals at Germantown’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery on Wednesday night, Lyons, the show’s leading act, described the 30-minute episodes as emotional and historical performances that will engage viewers through its content.

“Accent-U-Ate indicates a feeding of the soul, of the mind, of one’s experience, of history, the whole range of humanity,” Lyons told Newsworks.

“But as the producer [Donald Farmer] and I were talking about how I was going to present the poetry and prose,” she continued, “it occurred us to enrich the program by adding music, by adding singing, by adding more of humanity to bring some underpinning of the message that I’m trying to convey.”

A live-gallery audience in Germantown

With a camera set up in the middle of the room, people gathered in the main gallery amid wine and snacks while the trumpeter warmed up in another room.

There’s a reason why Lyons and the producer decided to host a rehearsal-night performance at the Greene Street gallery.

“iMPeRFeCT Gallery is the trendiest place to be in Germantown right now,” Lyons said.

“It is a hot spot for artists of every hunger, every dream, of every aspiration, of every talent,” she continued. “The proprietors, Renny and Rocio, are the most open and warm people, and they graciously allowed me to use their space. How can I say no? It’s my second home.”

Love for artists

Through networking at the weekly “Coffee After Dark” open-mic night at Wired Beans Cafe, Lyons met guitarist Osiris “Wildfire” Aikens, trumpeter Victor Puentes and songstress Bethlehem Nelson. Lyons asked them to perform with her at the rehearsal.

“We kind of played around and improvised,” Lyons said. “Victor would get up on the trumpet and I would say a little something. Osiris and I, we just jive together so well like peanut butter and jelly. The first time I heard Bethlehem, I fell in love with her. Her voice just knocked my boots off. And I’ve been in love with that child ever since.

“If I have an opportunity, I don’t want it just for myself. I have to bring my artist brothers and sisters along with me.”

Nelson, a Germantown born and raised singer and entrepreneur, grew up listening to gospel and southern quartet-style music. She said she patterns her vocals after male singers like Sam Cooke. So, when Lyons asked her to be involved with the show, Nelson said she was excited about getting out of her comfort zone.

“This is the first event that I’m in that will be aired on TV,” Nelson said. “The song selections that [Lyons] has me singing, especially ‘Solitude’ by Billie Holiday is a challenge, which is good.

“I could never really get into Billie Holiday’s voice because it has a melancholy tone and I’m more upbeat and high spirited. But, when Ms. Terri Lyons broke it down to me and said, ‘You know Beth, in her voice, she expresses pain, but you still hear strength in it.’ So I hope in my own way, I can have the same effect.”

The show

Video from Wednesday night’s rehearsal will be uploaded to YouTube and, from there, aried on PhillyCam, which can be seen on Comcast (Channels 66/966) and Verizon FiOS (Channels 29/30).

Hopeful that it will air sometime in March, Lyons described her vision for what viewers will see.

“What people can look for is addressing issues that we’re not supposed to talk about: Anger, frustration, loneliness, our joy, how we search through our trials and tribulations,” Lyons said. “And many times, these are situations that don’t come to us if we don’t get a grasp on them until the second half of our lives.

“So they can look for some reassurance, some confirmation, some encouragement, some inspiration, some visceral power to walk their mile in a more powerful way.”

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