Preview: Bonnie & Clyde, Encore Musical Theatre Company



Mahalia Greenway and Adam Woolsey are Bonnie & Clyde at the Encore Musical Theatre Company / Michele Anliker Photography

Bonnie & Clyde opened the Dexter-based Encore Musical Theatre Company’s eighth season on Friday, October 2, and will continue through October 25.

The musical follows star-crossed lovers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, as they fall in love, rob banks, and kill a few people on their way to notoriety in Depression-era Texas. Frank Wildhorn’s compelling score - a mix of rollicking gospel, blues, and ballads - accompanies the outlaws’ reckless thrill-ride.

The musical Bonnie & Clyde has a special connection to Encore’s co-founder, Dan Cooney, one of the original cast members of the Broadway production. Director Ron Baumanis, and music director Tyler Driskill, reprise their work following Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s excellent Bonnie & Clyde production last year. This time around they’re accompanied by Wilde Award Winner Mahalia Greenway (Bonnie) and American Idol contestant Adam Woolsey (Clyde), with Peter Crist (Buck Barrow) and Elizabeth Jaffe (Blanche Barrow).


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Bonnie & Clyde runs through Sunday, October 25. For tickets, call The Encore Theatre Box Office at 734.268.6200 or visit the website.

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Review: UMMA The Art of Tyree Guyton and DAAS What Time is It?



"House of Soul" courtesy of the University Museum of Art [environmental art; mixed-media] // "The Twelve Hour" by Tyree Guyton [mixed-media; wood and security tape]

It takes exceedingly broad shoulders to craft an art that suits a specific time and place. This is because art is, despite itself, time specific. Art, however, also paradoxically seeks a timelessness that makes the work somewhat ephemeral to its actual situation. And that in turn makes grappling with the work's creativity a tricky proposition.

Yet perhaps not so much with two artful events taking place in Ann Arbor through this Fall 2015 season. The University of Michigan Museum of Art's The Art of Tyree Guyton: A Thirty-Year Journey and the U-M Department of Afroamerican and African Studies Gallery DAAS What Time is It?: Tyree Guyton, New Work have teamed up to give us a keen sense of how this contemporary Detroit artist has managed to grab the zeitgeist of our time by the throat to show us a controversial reflection that not all Detroiters prefer as a mirror. Add its Ann Arbor angle-and the art of Tyree Guyton is a unique homegrown Southeast Michigan adventure.

As far back as the late 1980s, one of Ann Arbor's most courageous champions of modern art, the late-Jacques Karamanoukian, was enthused (although overwhelmed might be a better way to put it) about Guyton's work-as well as by extension, Guyton's grandfather, Sam Mackey.

Karamanoukian-whose Gallerie Jacques loft and Kerrytown Le Minotaur Gallerie-served up a steady diet of Surreal Art and Art Brut in the 1980s and 1990s, seemingly met his match with Guyton's audacious Detroit-based Heidelberg Project. And in this, Karamanoukian has proven to be much farther sighted than the city of Detroit itself. It's therefore to the credit of the UMMA that The Art of Tyree Guyton: A Thirty-Year Journey skillfully traces this undertaking.

Started in 1986, Guyton's Heidelberg Project is a remarkable example of environmental art whose social and political intent is so gripping, it effectively dominates its ground with a vivacity few other contemporary artworks can match. Located in Detroit's McDougall-Hunt neighborhood, the artwork's evolving intent has been to heighten awareness of the city's urban decay and the State of Michigan's benign neglect in caring for the its inner-district. But it also isn't exactly a way to make friends and influence people in positions of power.

Now if Guyton and Mackie had been intent on crafting some latter-day cathedral or modernist architecture, they might have been able to avoid antagonizing Detroit's officials. But as both The Art of Tyree Guyton: A Thirty-Year Journey and What Time is It?: Tyree Guyton, New Work both show us by example-this wasn't and isn't happening.

Because it's likely not so much the Heidelberg's intent that's drawn the ire of Detroit (after all, both the Coleman Young and Dennis Archer administrations have bull-dozed chunks of the project with a decade of vandalism taking care of many other buildings). Rather, it's the kind of art that's the real problem. Both Mackie and Guyton (the former by disposition and the latter by inclination) are proponents of one of Modernism's most controversial forms of Art Brut-or to borrow from Karamanoukian's favored and vastly telling term: Outsider Art.

Guyton's most serious offense-and one aided and abetted by his grandfather, Mackie-has been the playing of art rules by not playing the social rules. Sam Mackie's two 1992 untitled wax crayon on illustration board and crayon on oil cloth male portraits at the UMMA are prime examples of an Art Brut that's 100 percent inspiration and zero percent artifice.

They might be confused for the art of a young child, but this is also the magic in the crafting. These two roughly drawn pictures crafted in Mackie's 90s (he lived 1897-1992) are channeling pure inspiration and this is an aesthetic that can't be taught. Indeed, once lost it is seemingly impossible to retrieve; Picasso tried all his life. And it's this profoundly naïve insight that makes Art Brut such a powerful form of art.

Guyton, by contrast-and DAAS' What Time is It? shows us this with a choice 16 artworks-is infinitely more polished while also paradoxically retaining its outsider edge. If anything, what Guyton shows us in this remarkable primer is how painstaking it must be to maintain this sort of Brut naivety. He's still got it, so to speak, by studiously not losing it.

For example, 2015's mixed-media “The Twelfth Hour” at the DAAS Gallery fuses together a handful of found elements with an artful balance whose placement belies Guyton's rush of inspiration in pulling his compositional elements together. A piece of green rectangular wood set horizontally to represent the face of a clock, Guyton had painted (through four applications) numerals with two overlaid pieces of black and white wood for big and little hands breaking the work's interior visual plane behind overlapping patches of police security tape.

We need make only two observations: First, the clock's hands aren't pointing at twelve; and second, it's the eleventh hour that's cautionary. For as the work tells us by abstraction-with the title's timely assist-twelve is beyond the nick of time. Hence, given the roughness of its creation and appearance, coupled with its title, Guyton pictorially articulates a pungent political statement.

Going back momentarily to the UMMA's The Art of Tyree Guyton: A Thirty-Year Journey, it's this very lack of aesthetic compromise that raised the disdain of Detroit's political establishment. Guyton's Heidelberg Project is too uncompromising to stand on its own because we're not talking Venus on the half-shell, here.

As soon as Guyton began crafting his mixed-media environmental art with exceeding large found objects (obviously considered detritus by its opponents), he passed the bound of artistic delicacy. As Guyton's UMMA Thirty year Journey clearly shows us: the gloves were bound to come off with each found object nailed in place: Take Guyton's “House of Soul” with Motown vinyl LPs (torched in November, 2013) or “The Doll House” with its myriad plastic baby dolls stapled to the exterior (torched in March, 2014). Both houses-like the seven other environmental mixed-medias burnt in these last few years-could be perceived as eye-sores.

But they're not eye-sores. Like it or not, they're art. For Guyton has made them art-and by the reckoning of Marcel Duchamp; father of neo-Dada, which the Heidelberg Project is a clear example-it's the artist who decides what is art.

It's not what politicians think-nor what art critics think--nor citizens, for that matter. As Jacques Karamanoukian well knew before most of us were aware of its existence: The Heidelberg Project (with its long-range goal of being an art center, museum, and artists' colony) is not art for art's sake. It's art for everyone's sake. Tyree Guyton just happens to be Detroit's messenger.


John Carlos Cantú has written extensively on our community's visual arts in a number of different periodicals.


University of Michigan Museum of Art: The Art of Tyree Guyton: A Thirty-Year Journey will run through January 3, 2016. The UMMA is located at 525 S. State Street. The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday 12-5 p.m. For information, call 734-764.0395.

U-M Department of Afroamerican and African Studies Gallery DAAS: What Time is It? Tyree Guyton: New Work will run through November 6. Gallery Dass is located at Haven Hall, Room G648. The Gallery is open Monday-Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. For information, call 734-764-5513.

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Drinking It In: A Reading of Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins



Claire Vaye Watkins talks with readers at Literati Bookstore (CC-by-NC)

At Claire Vaye Watkins’ reading on Wednesday, Sept. 30th at Literati Bookstore, the author summarized her book, Gold Fame Citrus, as being, “about the California drought, more or less." It also ties into what she classified as “two of her fascinations: nuclear waste repositories and mole people.” To be fair though, it’s more about environmental destruction, hope, and survival than it is about mole people.

In the book, a damaged couple who are eking out an existence in a wasted dystopian landscape take in a lost child, forming a little family. This is the catalyst for their decision to venture East into the shifting expanses of sand, where they will encounter more unknowns than they could possibly have anticipated.

This surreal and incredibly original book also comes with a drinking game! The official rules, as laid out by the author at the reading, are as follows:

Read the book.
Drink when you are thirsty.

This is the most sensible drinking game I have ever encountered.

For the Literati reading, Watkins selected “a deep cut” from within the novel, and shared that although the chapter is unnamed in the book, she originally titled it “Wasteland Wasteland Wasteland.”

Two things about her reading selection:
1) It held the entire standing room-only crowd completely captivated; I cannot remember a single cough or shuffle of feet.
2) It had a mole person.

Watkins is an assistant professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. Gold Fame Citrus has received many positive reviews, including ones from the New York Times and the Washington Post. If you missed the chance to see Watkins in person at Literati, you can check out her NPR interview and appreciate the story of her inspiration in her own words, and you really should. You can borrow Gold Fame Citrus, or Watkins’ 2012 story collection, Battleborn, at AADL.


Sara Wedell is a Production Librarian and fiction selector at the Ann Arbor District Library.

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Preview: Casting Session, Purple Rose Theatre



David Daoust and Tom Whalen star in Casting Session at the Purple Rose Theatre Company / Sean Carter Photography

It is hard to believe, but true. Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea is 25 years old.

The Theatre began in 1991 and its inaugural season included a play called Shoe Man by a new playwright: Purple Rose’s famous founder Jeff Daniels. The play won The Detroit News’ Best New Play Award; Purple Rose went on to become a leader in American regional theater and Jeff Daniels continued to write many more plays that premiered at the Chelsea theatre.

Local audiences should be excited! To celebrate its silver anniversary, Purple Rose kicks off its season with a brand new Jeff Daniels world-premiere comedy. Casting Session takes place in the world of professional theatre, as middle-aged rival actors Frank (Tom Whalen) and Ron (David Daoust) hilariously compete for the same New York City roles.

The play, directed by Guy Sanville, explores the humorous lengths actors will go to to get a part. Erika Matchie Thiede, a past Purple Rose apprentice who is making her professional debut in this production, rounds out the talented cast.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Casting Session performances run Wednesday - ­Sunday, through December 19. For information, visit www.purplerosetheatre.org or call 734-433-7673. Purple Rose Theatre Company is located at 137 Park Street in Chelsea.

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Preview: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Performance Network



John Seibert and Sandra Birch star in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Performance Network

George and Martha, the battle-weary duo made famous by Richard Burton and Liz Taylor in Mike Nichol’s classic Oscar-winning film, pay a month-long visit to Ann Arbor as Performance Network Theatre opens its season with Edward Albee’s Tony-winning play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This fascinatingly intelligent play, which also won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, will be directed by Suzi Regan.

Reviewing the 1962 premiere, the New York Times stated "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is possessed by raging demons. It is punctuated by comedy, and its laughter is shot through with savage irony.” Performance Network Executive Director John Manfredi states, “It’s a perfect start to our season. The dialogue, the games, the wit­ it’s writing at its best.”

Network veterans John Seibert and Sandra Birch play the disenchanted college professor and his unhappy wife who plan an intimate evening of cocktails, fun, and games with a naïve new couple on campus (Nick Yocum and Victoria Walters Gilbert). What begins with witty wordplay ends with a climax that still shocks modern audiences.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances of ​Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ​run Thursday - ­Sunday, October 1­ - November 1, with previews October 1­-8 and Opening Night on Friday, October 9. For information, visit www.pntheatre.org​ or call 734-­663-­0681. Performance Network Theatre is located at 120 E Huron St in Ann Arbor.

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Preview: Antigone, University Musical Society



Juliette Binoche in Anne Carson's new translation of Antigone at the Power Center / Jan Versweyveld

This upcoming weekend, the University Musical Society (UMS) presents Antigone, starring Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche in a contemporary version of Sophokles’ timeless tragedy of familial love caught in conflict with political obligation.

Directed by Ivo van Hove and translated by Canadian poet Anne Carson--a former U-M professor of classics and comparative literature (as well as MacArthur “Genius” grant winner)--this modern adaptation tells the story of a young woman, Antigone, who defies her uncle Creon, head of state in Thebes, when he refuses her brother burial on the grounds that he is a traitor.

In his review in the New York Times, theater reviewer Ben Brantley notes, “Ms. Binoche glows with the fever of fanatical, fixed purpose. She brings to mind the great Maria Falconetti in Carl Dreyer’s silent Passion of Joan of Arc, a film Ms. Binoche has cited as a major influence on her acting.” Check out a copy of Antigone.


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Antigone runs Wednesday, October 14 - Saturday October 17, 2015 at The Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor. Learn more and purchase tickets online.

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Preview: All My Sons, U-M Department of Theatre & Drama



All My Sons at the University of Michigan Department of Theatre & Drama

In honor of Arthur Miller’s centenary and the University of Michigan Department of Theatre & Drama’s 100th Anniversary, director Wendy C. Goldberg and other alumni of the Department of Theatre & Drama will present All My Sons, Miller’s first major success after graduating from U-M, a Tony Award-winner for Best Author, and winner of the 1947 Drama Critics Award for Best Play.

The New York Times called it “the most talented work by a new author in some time….To judge by the intellectual content and the dramatic workmanship of “All My Sons," Mr. Miller is here to stay….”

Like Death of a Salesman written two years later, the story follows a flawed everyman wrestling with the American Dream: Joe Keller is a successful businessman who may have knowingly sold faulty cylinder heads for aircraft engines in World War II that caused the deaths of 21 pilots. The play takes place over the course of a weekend three and a half years later when his youngest son, Chris, hopes to marry his deceased older brother's fiancee, Ann, the daughter of Keller's best friend Steve (his partner who was jailed for the crime).

The University of Michigan Department of Theatre & Drama will also present the Arthur Miller Symposium, a series of free talks and panel discussions occurring October 14-16. They include: “Miller into the Future” (7pm, October 14, Stamps Auditorium); “Miller as Touchstone” (4:30pm, October 15, Arthur Miller Theater); and “Miller in Production” (6:30pm, October 16, Stamps Auditorium).


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Performances of All My Sons run October 10-11, and 15-18, in the Arthur Miller Theatre on U-M’s North Campus. For tickets call (734) 764-2538 or purchase online.

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