Unicorning: Samantha Irby & Scaachi Koul at Literati


Samantha Irby, Scaachi Koul

Samantha Irby and Scaachi Koul induced some unicorns at Literati on Tuesday.

Unicorn should be a verb. As a verb, this would be what you do when you project all sorts of magical qualities onto somebody else.

But I recently read an essay called “Samantha Irby Needs to Talk About Some Sh*t” and I was hooked. We’re talking immediate Google stalking. That’s how I knew that I could -- despite the title of her new release, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life -- meet her in real life.

On Tuesday, June 13, Irby and Buzzfeed culture writer/essayist Scaachi Koul appeared at Literati where they read selections from their books and answered questions to a full house.

I really, really tried not to unicorn them.

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Pink Martini brought fearless musical exploration to the Power Center


If you’re at a concert, and during the course of the evening, one of the performers says, “That last song was in Turkish, and this next song is in Armenian,” it’s a pretty sure bet you’re seeing world music super-group Pink Martini. (Lucky you!)

A sold-out crowd packed the Power Center on Tuesday night to see the 11-member, Oregon-based band, which filled the second slot in this year’s Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage season after Diana Krall kicked things off last week.

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"Reach: A Stamps Faculty Exhibition" is a rich and diverse collection of art


Anne

Metal. Anne Mondro constructs intricatley crafted human hearts and anterior organs out of copper, silver, and bronze wires. Photo by Elizabeth Smith.

In March of this year, University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design opened the Stamps Gallery on the first floor of the McKinley Towne Centre, 201 S. Division. The new space offers an accessible art-viewing experience in downtown Ann Arbor and features large glass windows, which particularly impacted my viewing of the sculptural works on display by Anne Mondro as part of Reach: A Stamps Faculty Exhibition.

Her hanging sculptures, intricately constructed from tiny copper, silver, and bronze wires, represent various human hearts and anterior organs. Three hearts hang austerely in a row in the front of the gallery, which immediately drew my interest. I visited in the evening, on a sunny day, a perfect time to catch these sculptures illuminated by the setting sun.

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Double, Double, Fun and Trouble: Penny Seats Theatre Company's "The Renaissance Man"


Penny Seats Theatre Company, The Renaissance Man

Penny Seats Theatre Company's The Renaissance Man is modern rewrite of Macbeth.

Penny Seats Theatre Company's The Renaissance Man is a lot of fun, but that’s to be expected. After all, this is a play about a Renaissance festival, with actors traipsing about Ann Arbor's West Park dressed as pirate knights and gypsy elves. And if you’ve ever seen any Penny Seats show, you know before reading this that you’re in for a good time.

“First and foremost, I want people to walk away having had fun,” said Joseph Zettelmaier, playwright and director of The Renaissance Man, which is a modern comedy based on Macbeth. “I said from the jump that I want people to watch the play, and even if a Renaissance faire isn't their thing, I want them to get why people would want to do it. There are other themes throughout, but I'd rather people see it and decide what they are for themselves.”

What comes as a bit of a surprise, though, is that The Renaissance Man is overtly a play about the importance of fun. It bounces nimbly between wit and philosophy, but that fun is tempered just a touch by something more melancholy and far more beautiful. (Full disclosure: I have worked with the Penny Seats on its past couple of shows, including The Renaissance Man, in minor capacities.)

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Past Imperfect: Parisa Ghaderi & Ebrahim Soltani at YES!


Underdog

The manipulated photographs of Ebrahim Soltani (left) and Parisa Ghaderi help explore the messiness of memory.

Photographs are haunting; they are aching evidences of our relations with those who are gone. However, through photographs, we do not remember the past: we invent the past.”
--Parisa Ghaderi & Ebrahim Soltani

For the month of June, YES!, an experimental gallery located at 8 North Washington St. in Ypsilanti, will host Waiting for the Past, an installation of videos and photographs created by visual artist Parisa Ghaderi in collaboration with social scientist, writer, and photographer Ebrahim Soltani. The exhibition is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation and will provide the space with permanent sound and lighting equipment to support future public art projects at the gallery.

Waiting for the Past is the first collaboration of this creative team. Asked if they plan to work together in the future, Soltani replies with an enthusiastic “Absolutely!” They say they particularly enjoyed writing the poetry that dots the wall of the gallery and they hope to continue to create work for a publication.

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Clutch of Grit: Keith Lesmeister reads from "We Could Have Been Happy Here" at Literati

Keith

In We Could Have Been Happy Here, Keith Lesmeister puts characters in impossible situations to see how they react.

Keith Lesmeister's debut collection, We Could Have Been Happy Here, features a "gritty, emotionally sensitive clutch” of short stories, according to Kirkus Reviews.

That description that can be applied to a lot of Midwestern writers and Lesmeister fits the bill. He grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and currently lives in Decorah, which he describes as “much smaller -- a rural community located in the far northeast corner of the state.” The author's life experiences hum in the background of this collection, but the stories aren't autobiographical. What he learned from diving deeply into Iowa, he said, is how to better connect with people whose experiences are immensely different than his: “I spent a lot of time with characters whose lives are unlike mine in many ways -- I’ve never driven around with my suicidal grandmother; I’ve never experienced a deployed parent; I’ve never felt betrayed by a twin brother; and so on and so forth.”

On June 16, Lesmeister reads from We Could Have Been Happy Here at Literati. We chatted with him about Iowa, what makes a good short story, and more. Spoiler: Lesmeister’s so excited to read in Ann Arbor that he might even bake a cake.

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Pages From the Past: Book of Love returns to Necto 30 years later


The last time Book of Love played Ann Arbor, the Necto was the Nectarine Ballroom and The Michigan Daily led its preview of the show with a Walkman reference.

That concert was March 3, 1987.

Now, 30 years later, the melody-driven synth-pop group is returning as part of an ongoing tour that kicked off last year with the release of MMXVI – Book of Love – The 30th Anniversary Collection.

“We call them anniversary shows,” said primary songwriter Ted Ottaviano who tours with singer Susan Ottaviano (no relation). “We’ve had reunion shows where we’ve had the (founding) four members, but that’s not easy to pull off. We’ve only done three of them and we specifically did them in the three major cities throughout our career.”

The other original members, Lauren Roselli (keyboards, vocals) and Jade Lee (keyboards, vocals), are still a part of Book of Love officially, but with busy lives outside the band, they can’t hit the road with the other two. “It essentially works because you have the lead vocalist and I’ve been the main songwriter, so the essence of the group is intact,” Ottaviano said.

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The Understorey will showcase its eclectic sound at Top of the Park, Ann Arbor Art Fair


Ann Arbor band The Understorey is a labor of more than one kind of love.

There’s the obvious care and attention the band puts into its music, an engaging blend of folk, rock, and soul. But there’s also the fact that the core of the band is a married couple, Matt and Jess McCumons, whose public debut as performers came at their own wedding.

Both of them had musical backgrounds, so the idea of performing together came naturally. Their wedding debut featured Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day,” and that smoothly led to the creation of The Understorey in its first incarnation as a duo, with Jess on vocals and Matt on guitar.

For the last several years, though, they’ve performed as a full band, and that’s the format that will be showcased at two iconic elements of summer in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park Rackham Stage, and The Ark stage at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.

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"Right to Carry, Right to Live": Exploring the Second Amendment in songs and scenes

Right to Carry, Right to Live

Mason Van Gieson (left) and Right to Carry, Right to Live creator Julia Glander go for "go for potent, not preachy" in their exploration of the Second Amendment. Van Gieson photo by Richard Rupp Photography.

One woman lost her father, who shot himself. Another can’t get a 30-year-old school killing out of her mind.

Many have never experienced gun violence directly, but in the wake of so much of it, some families worry just a little when they send their kids off to school or take a walk at night.

Right to Carry, Right to Live, an evening conceived and produced by actor/director/educator Julia Glander, offers a variety of responses in different genres to the right to bear arms. Some will tell their own stories. Others will perform songs, scenes, or poems, each no longer than five minutes. There’s also an art installation. After the performances, which should total about an hour, there will be time for discussion. Seating is limited for the free event at Zingerman’s new Greyline space, where the bus station once was on Huron.

Glander decided to “go for potent, not preachy.” She organized the evening into three parts, dealing with the gun culture in America, actual incidents of gun violence, and finally, the aftermath. “Survivors of gun violence are among us,” she says.

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Cozy Up: Meg Macy’s "Bearly Departed" at Nicola's


Meg Macy, Bearly Departed

Meg Macy’s Bearly Departed is in the classic "cozy" tradition of English mysteries.

Most everyone had a favorite teddy bear growing up; some of us maybe had 10 or 12 or 15 of them. And how many of us imagined what it would be like to work in a teddy bear factory?

Silver Hollow resident Sasha Silverman, the main character in Meg Macy’s Bearly Departed, actually does work in a teddy bear factory, but it's not all fuzzy snuggles on the assembly line. She also must solve the mystery of who killed the villainous sales rep and left his body in her factory.

Local readers will note that Sasha’s teddy bear factory has some similarities to the one formerly located in nearby Chelsea. “I got my first bear (a Paddington) from Harrods, shortly before my daughter was born. That started my collection," Macy said. "I have all kinds of stuffed bears, Beanie baby bears, figurines, plaques, embroidered bear pictures, and a silky Chelsea bear.”

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