Hula Lou

Multi-screen Performance Video Installation, 2007
Length: Two sections of three minutes each

Twenty dances performed to Sophie Tucker's recording of 'Hula Lou'. Responding to the iconic Broadway musical 'Chicago' and the local history that informs it, our story begins on April 3, 1924, when Beulah Annan shot her lover Harry Kalstedt. For over two hours, Beulah watched Kalstedt slowly die. She drank gin and listened to a popular song called 'Hula Lou' played over and over on her phonograph...

"Now you ask any sailor and he'll tell you
That this lady is the greatest dancer he ever knew.
There isn't a ship in the Navy
That I haven't got a friend in the crew.
There's not a cruiser on the waves
Without someone who is my devoted slave
And I don't care how nasty I may be
I'm the one gal the sailors all crave"

After Kalstedt finally died, Annan called her husband. She told him she had killed a man who had tried to make love to her. In a later confession, Annan admitted to Kalstedt's murder. Reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins covered this story and the subsequent trial for the Chicago Tribune. Years later, while studying playwriting at Yale University, Watkins wrote "The Brave Little Woman." Her play was inspired by several of the high profile cases she had covered as a reporter including that of Beulah Annan. We have come to know Watkin's play as "Chicago," the Broadway musical and Oscar winning movie.

Creative Response: The resulting multi-screen video installation consists of twenty "units," each composed of a single volunteer (a fellow artist, friend, or colleague) who was asked to dance to and with Sophie Tucker's song. Their gestures are not choreographed but left to chance. In the spirit of Fluxus art, our participants were given simple instructions and invited to respond. Their actions may hint at the possible motions Beulah Annan made while listening to this song in her Chicago apartment on April 3, 1924.

From April 11-June 3, 2007, 'Hula Lou' was projected on the exterior windows of the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Avenue in Chicago) as part of the installation project For Public Consumption, which invited pedestrians, cyclists and motorists into new engagement with myriad forms of performance.

More information here:

Production Credits

  • Conception
  • Conception / Editing / Camera
  • Additional Camera
  • Additional Editing
  • Production Assistant
  •      Trevor Martin & Kym Olsen
  •      Danièle Wilmouth
  •      Hiroshi Ashikaga
  •      Jerzy Rose
  •      Fred DeMarco