Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:07AM - 537 Views
By Rich Howells, Weekender Editor

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With only a week before Pecha Kucha Night, Jeff Fowler and Ted Michalowski are still debating how to properly pronounce the Japanese term.

The words mimic the sound of conversation, or chit-chat, and have come to mean a six minute, 40 second presentation in which 20 slides are displayed for 20 seconds each. After hearing them tell stories during a Scranton StorySlam, another gathering meant to bring local personalities together, the pair were invited to make this very different type of presentation at The Vintage Theater on Saturday, Jan. 26, along with at least seven others.

Sitting in the café at Books-A-Million in Dickson City at around 9 p.m., they are spending their Saturday night preparing their Pecha Kuchas. Reflective of their personalities, Fowler, a Scranton-based filmmaker and co-founder/president of Community Film Project, has already completed his breakdown of ??80s teen movie stereotypes and recurring plot points. Michalowski, an illustrator and educator at Marywood University and Keystone College, has barely started his largely impromptu talk, still sifting through pictures of his 2010 trip to Poland as the store announces its impending closure for the evening.

??It??s a torturous existence to be a teenager in one of these ??80s films, and also in real life, I guess. You??re going to find support from your quirky best friend. You??re going to have to overcome the bully. You??re going to have to stand up to the jock; you??re going to have to outsmart him. You??re going to have to use your brain,? Fowler concludes as he runs through his final slides.

??Always remember you have science on your side, use a good montage if it??s available, and eventually, you may have the choice between your crush and your unwanted love interest, and you??ve got to choose wisely.?

The longtime friends met in 1981 as high school sophomores while working at a movie theater, so Jeff, who spent 12 hours on his PowerPoint, is honest with Ted as he attempts to narrow down thousands of pictures into 20 slides.

??You??re very long-winded. Have you ever noticed?? Fowler joked.

??Can I go 20 minutes each?? Michalowski responded, hoping the time limit isn??t enforced. ??That REALLY is a PowerPoint,? he continued, looking at Fowler??s work. ??Mine are just going to be images!?

This is Michalowski??s first PowerPoint, though he??s used to giving more traditional presentations to his students, who he will be taking on his annual ??Drawcore? trip to Poland this year. They may want to pay attention to his off-the-cuff Pecha Kucha, which is on how far you can get exchanging art as currency. It??s called ??Poland on Five Drawings a Day,? a play on the book ??Europe on Five Dollars a Day.?

??I give enough presentations at school where I??m talking about the history of illustration or work that I??ve done or somewhere in between. I was watching TED Talks, and all those guys are talking about things they??ve accomplished, so this is my TED Talk,? he said, noting the play on words with his namesake.

The photos of his travels with his friend and thereminist Jason Smeltzer tell 1,000 stories, and he can??t help but relate one about the time they got into a Polish bar after closing time.

??The (owner) says, ??Listen, I don??t care if you are American. There is no more. We are closed. This means same thing as it does in America.?? I said, ??Well, what if I do a drawing of you, and if you like it, you just let me have a round of drinks for my friends???? he began, talking in a thick Polish accent.

??He opened the whole place up, so everyone there was buying me drinks because I kept the place open. There was a pitcher that he emptied out and filled with a pint of vodka, and he filled the rest with Coke. He goes, ??There, American, super size!???

He returned the next year to find his drawing not on the wall, but kept securely in an empty drawer by itself.

??Why is it in a drawer?? Michalowski questioned. ??Because you are not the first American or person of any other nationality to come in here and ask for more drinks after we are closed. But now what we do is we say to the person, ??Yes, we are closed, but there is one way that you can get drinks here.?? He holds up the drawing. ??Can you do this? No? Then get out!???

Michalowski and Fowler would close out two more coffee shops that evening discussing their very divergent Pecha Kuchas, which they seem just as enthused to create as they are to present.

??I found it very exciting to attempt to synthesize all the different character types, and, for me, it brought back a lot of good memories and a lot of laughs and smiles,? Fowler commented.

??It??s a different take on what drawing can do, what drawing can teach, what drawing can share, as well as a different spin on European travel,? Michalowski added, summing up both his trip and, quite possibly, Pecha Kucha Night. ??Make art, make friends, and make an impact.?

Pecha Kucha Night: Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m., Vintage Theater (336 Spruce St., Scranton). $8 online at pechakuchascranton.whindo.com, $10 at door.

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