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The Chamber


This week, hip-hop artist RZA will be trippin’ back to his childhood, even as he progresses into a mature phase of his career.

When he live-scores his favorite film of all time, the 1978 martial arts classic “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at the Castro Theatre, RZA will hark back to 12-year-old Robert Fitzgerald Diggs — later to front the influential rap group Wu-Tang Clan as RZA and much later launch the 36th Chambers clothing line— who first saw the Hong Kong chop-socky on VHS and became a superfan of star Gordon Liu.And when he hits the Castro stage, the 48-year-old rapper, hip-hop artist, record producer, musician, actor, author and now film director will be accompanied by two of his old hometown friends, who have helped him perfect the presentation.

“This film means a lot to me personally,” says RZA (pronounced Rizza) by phone. “Also, a lot to the Wu-Tang universe, shall we say? Some samples from this film have found its way into my music production. Kind of following that same thing here, finding the quotes and the energy that made sense to my music production. Taking the same approach and reversing it now. Finding the cool tracks that will match the sequence of cool events happening in the film.

“And, of course, most importantly, have fun and give the audience a new experience of seeing the film.”

Many, including RZA, think of the movie directed by Lau Kar-leung as the “Citizen Kane” of martial arts films. Not only is there wall-to-wall action, but also there is a strong thread of spiritual development in the tale of legendary 17th century Shaolin master San Te.

RZA first live scored “36th Chamber” about two years ago, but he was overwhelmed and felt something was not right. So he brought in two high school buddies from Staten Island, N.Y., DJ Skein and Tom Shannon, to assist him and revamp the show. They’ll accompany him at the Castro on Thursday as they finish a five-city April tour.

“I’ve definitely faced some technical challenges doing this,” RZA says. “But I’ve learned. The first two or three times was very taxing. … After about the third or fourth date, I was like, ‘I need help.’”

RZA credits Shannon as inventing live scoring, back in their high school days.

“So this is like 1987. I’m a pretty good DJ at this time. DJ Skein is pretty good. Tom — he’s not that good,” he recalls, with a laugh. “He loses the battles with us. But he daisy-chained some VCRs together, along with his turntables, and he would dub Looney Tunes with old James Brown or Bill Johnson breakbeats.

“Then he would play them. Guys coming over, drinking beer, smoking weed … and it was incredible. Technology never allowed that to happen in any other format, until video DJ-ing.”

Whereas film used to inform RZA’s music, now it’s his music that is informing film. Live-scoring “36th Chamber” is part of a slow artistic transformation into full-time filmmaking.

RZA starred in and directed his first film, the martial arts homage “The Man With the Iron Fists” (which had a Liu cameo) in 2012. Now he’s ramping up his directing career. His second film, “Love Beats Rhymes,” about a struggling female rapper (real-life artist Azealia Banks plays the role), was released last year. He is in postproduction on his third film, “Cut Throat City,” and in preproduction on his fourth, “Blood Brothers.”

“I think as a director I’ve found my pure, true, all-encompassing creative energy,” he says. “It satisfies every creative nerve in my body. … You get to take every element and put it in a film, and transit yourself. It’s super thrilling, and so fulfilling as an entity.”

RZA wanted to stress that he wanted the “36th Chamber” tour to end in San Francisco, one of his favorite cities. A New Jersey resident, he was here in September at the Asian Art Museum to drop his 36th Chambers clothing line and the first track of Wu-Tang Clan’s latest album, “Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues.”

“Every once in awhile, if you go down Haight Street, you might catch me,” RZA says. “I kind of sneak away to San Francisco every once in awhile. Me and my family love it. We love the art that it has there, we love the culture … and performing there is a joy for me.”BELPRE – The community came out Monday for the annual Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo at the new site of Boxers Bed & Biscuits along Washington Boulevard in Belpre.

Many came out to get their first look at the new facility for Boxers, located in the former Middleton Doll building.

“Everything is shaping up great,” said Boxers owner Angie Beck. “We are very proud of the facility.

“We couldn’t wait to show it off.”

A number of people commented to Beck that the facility looked great and they couldn’t wait to see the whole thing.

Monday’s event was a “sneak peek” for the new facility, a limited view, Beck said.

Boxers is planning to have a grand opening event on May 19 from 2-5 p.m. where people will be able to come and tour the full 50,000-square-foot facility. The new facility will include a 24-hour vet clinic open to the public with consistent pricing throughout the day; obedience training; and a dogbone-shaped swimming pool which many in the community are looking forward to seeing. The pet enclosures will be two-tone wood grain with all glass fronts.

“All of the dogs will be treated exactly the same with all luxury suites,” Beck said. “Everyone will be treated the same and treated well.

“I don’t think I or my staff could treat one dog better than another.”

The grand opening will have the theme of “Hollywood Hounds – Take 2” with a red carpet walk, people dressed as their favorite movie characters and more.

On Monday, the staff of Boxers concentrated on the expo.

“Right now, we are concentrating on hosting the business expo and we are very honored to be hosting that,” Beck said.

In previous years, it has been challenging to find the right venue to hold the expo with the amount of space and parking needed.

“It was a no-brainer,” Beck said. “Our biggest worry was if we could make it on time.”

There was also a lot of interest in the building.

“The community loves this structure,” Beck said. “They always have.

“When people found out we were buying it and converting it, from dolls to dogs, everyone was supportive of it,” Beck said. “We wanted to invite other businesses to come and celebrate their success with our own.”Belpre Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Waller said people were lining up a half-hour before opening for Monday’s expo. The parking lot filled up quickly.

“People are moving through,” she said. “People are finding the businesses they want to talk with.“People are amazed with the facility.”The expo had around 30 businesses, nonprofits and displays this year. The expo was put on by the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.Waller credited Beck with taking the initiative to turn the facility into something that will be a draw for the entire region.

“There is color, there is light, it is clean and it is safe,” Waller said. “It will be a wonderful place for animals to be.“Right now, it is a wonderful place for an expo.”Many people had looks of amazement on their faces when they came in to see the transformation the building has undergone, Waller said.“People are seeing businesses I don’t think they realize are serving this community,” she said.Ann Troutman, Advertising Director for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, said there was a great turnout for the expo with a lot of the participating businesses having a lot of interest shown.

“It is exceeding our expectations,” she said. “Boxers is exceeding our expectations.

“It is going to be a great addition to the community. It is a great opportunity for us to have the expo here.”

The expo featured business displays highlighting industrial, marketing, retail, realty, financial, medical, nonprofit and service businesses as well as local restaurants offering items for sample and sale. The event pulls from businesses throughout the area, not just in Belpre.

“We are thrilled and proud to present this,” Waller said. “We consider this a tri-city business community.

“The three chambers have always worked together well. Our friendship and partnership is only improving.”

Sisters Robbin Alton and Tammy Morton’s father, Robert Morton, previously owned the building and sold it to Beck.“We wanted to see what she had done with it,” Morton said.“We saw the before and we want to see the after,” Alton added. “We are really excited about this happening.“We think this is the best thing that could of happened for this building. We are so excited and wanted to see it.”

Chris Scyoc, of Marietta Health and Wellness Center, one of the businesses showing at the expo, said they were participating in the event because they liked getting out in the public, meeting people and letting them know what they do.

“We have been steady since we opened up,” he said. “There are a lot of chiropractic and massage places. Not everyone knows about us or where we are located.“We do a little bit of everything. We are trying to get our name out there and helping people out the best we can.”