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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Back to the Future: Kevin Smokler, "Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to '80s Teen Movies"

Kevin Smokler, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to '80s Teen Movies

Kevin Smokler, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to '80s Teen Movies

The 2010 Academy Awards telecast devoted a nearly seven-minute chunk of airtime to commemorating the life and work of John Hughes, a director/writer/producer who never received an Oscar nod in his life.

Kevin Smokler's recent book, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to '80s Teen Movies, explains why those Hughes films stand the test of time. But his interests run much wider than just Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Throughout his enjoyable survey of the decade, Smokler persuasively argues that, during this time, setting began to matter more to teen films than ever before.

Smokler will return to his original hometown of Ann Arbor on Monday, June 12, at 7 pm for an appearance at Literati. I spoke with the author about Reagan-era high-points as varied as Risky Business, The Lost Boys, and Back to the Future, as well as the Hughes canon.

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Mitten Music: Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubadour


Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubadour

Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubadour.

Michigan's Troubadour will make a stop at The Ark on Sunday, June 11, at 7:30 pm. And, no, Michigan’s Troubadour is not a fanciful title, it’s Neil Woodward’s official designation, given to him several years ago by the Legislature of the State of Michigan in recognition of his more than four decades of presenting concerts of songs and stories of Michigan and the Great Lakes States in countless settings throughout the Midwest.

Woodward’s show at The Ark will celebrate the release of his 10th recording, My Huckleberry Friends. Woodward has long been the unofficial artist in residence at Flint’s Crossroads Village, a 19th-century historical town, and the songs on this CD celebrate the Village and one of its highlights, the Huckleberry Railroad. I asked him to tell us about his life in music, about this recording, and about the concert at The Ark.

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Still Grinning: Terri Tate defeats cancer with "A Crooked Smile"


Lori Rader-Day

Terri Tate's debut book, A Crooked Smile, helps cancer survivors laugh "through the hard times."

Some believe that there are two ways of looking at the world: as if everything is a miracle, or as if nothing is. Author Terri Tate prefers the former, and this belief guides her attitude and her memoir.

The Grosse Pointe native and former Ann Arbor resident will be reading from her debut book, A Crooked Smile, on Sunday, June 11, at 1 pm at Nicola’s Books. That Tate is here to share her journey with us is somewhat miraculous.

In 1991, Tate’s doctors diagnosed her with oral cancer and gave her a two percent chance of survival; however, “the book is not fundamentally a cancer memoir,” Tate shares. “It is mostly about the journey involved.”

Prior to becoming a writer, Tate worked as a nurse, a hypnotherapist (the first one in the Ann Arbor phone book!), and public speaker. And then came the oral cancer diagnosis.

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Cry of Joy: The Sea The Sea at The Ark


The Sea The Sea

Sea-faring couple: Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa make beautiful music together.

Sometimes the best way to describe a band is to let the musicians do it themselves.

"Indie folk/pop duo band! Harmony-based, lyric-driven, simple and true," the married couple Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa wrote in an email about their duo, The Sea The Sea. "But the best way for us to describe it is to just say, come to a show! We’d love to sing for you."

You'll have a chance to be sung to by The Sea The Sea on Wednesday, June 7, when the duo returns to The Ark.

The ambiance and intimacy of the upstate New York couple's music evokes old-time folk, the mellow side of modern pop, and the technical precision of something not quite classical but not far from it. When you add in their thoughtful, intricate lyrics and their impeccably blended vocal harmonies, you’ve got music and musicians that are engaging on many levels.

I reached out to The Sea The Sea to ask them about the couple's union, the source of the band's name, and Stanley's time in Ann Arbor as a U-M student.

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Not a Drag: Theatre Nova's "The Legend of Georgia McBride" is charming


Theatre Nova, The Legend of Georgia McBride

Nick Yocum stars as Casey and Georgia McBride and Vince Kelley as Miss Tracy Mills in Theatre Nova's The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Brandy Joe Plambeck.

Sometimes, when you’re down and out, you have to pull yourself up not by your bootstraps, but by a pair of sparkly platform heels.

As least, that’s one way to read Matthew Lopez’s comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride, which opens at Theatre Nova Friday.

The play -- which premiered in New York in September 2015 -- tells the tale of an Elvis impersonator, Casey, who performs regularly at a failing bar in Panama City, Florida. Just as Casey’s wife learns that the couple will soon be parents, Casey finds himself in professional freefall: the bar’s owner has hired drag performers to see if they can help turn the bar’s fortunes around. But when one of the new hires faints before going on stage, Casey finds himself reluctantly filling in, only to discover that he’s not so bad at drag.

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Full STEAM Ahead: Intermitten highlights the intersection of art and tech

A lot of folks blame the influx of tech companies in Ann Arbor as a prime reason for the rising rents that have gradually pushed portions of the creative community out of downtown. The Intermitten conference returns June 8 and 9 to remind us that artistic adventure and modern business success don't need to be mutually exclusive or adversarial (even if there's no immediate solution to the rent situation).

Now in its second year, Intermitten brings together speakers to discuss how "how creativity in both art and technology helps us add value to our home, work, and global communities," as stated on intermitten.org. "We're technology people with creative prowess and artistic people powered by tech, and we unite to discover the many ways in which working together and thinking creatively can help us accomplish our goals."

Trevor Scott Mays, co-founder of Intermitten and director of support operations for Duo Security, walked us through the event's brief history, current focus, and bright future.

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From Scratch: Neighborhood Theatre Group's "Dispatches From the Dumb Decade"


Neighborhood Theatre Group, Dispatches From the Dumb Decade

Neighborhood Theatre Group's Dispatches From the Dumb Decade is an all-original everything, from the script to the music.

Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG) is an Ypsilanti-based theater company that was founded by Kristin Danko and Aaron Dean, two transplants from the Chicago theater scene. And it’s not an accident that Danko and Dean are also the director and playwright, respectively, for NTG’s newest musical, Dispatches From the Dumb Decade, which runs June 2-4 at Bona Sera Underground.

“The ethos of the entire company is that everybody does a little piece of something,” says Dean. Which also explains why the NTG House Band arranged the music for Dispatches From the Dumb Decade. According to Danko, “Once we realized that we all had talents outside of theater -- we all play instruments, write music, and sing -- we decided to start a band. We’re called the NTG House Band, and it’s a great way for us to reach a more diverse audience, and the music scene here in Ypsi is outstanding.”

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Space, Race: Carey F. Whitepigeon launches "Daughter of Dawn & Darkness" at Nicola's Books


Carey F. Whitepigeon, Daughter of Dawn & Darkness: Book 1: Spark Aflight

Outta this world: Carey F. Whitepigeon ceelebrates her debut novel, Daughter of Dawn & Darkness: Book 1: Spark Aflight, at Nicola's Books on June 4.

Carey F. Whitepigeon's debut novel, Daughter of Dawn and Darkness: Book 1, Spark Aflight, tells the tale of a 17-year-old woman straddling two familial cultures. In this case, her parents not only come from different cultures but from entirely different planets!

"(The protagonist) Vivian grew up amongst her father’s people and knows nothing about her mother’s planet and people," said Whitepigeon, who grew up in Michigan and lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and three children. "After receiving a letter from her maternal uncle, she becomes obsessed with getting to know more about that side of her family.”

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String Things: Wire in the Wood goes on the record with "All Fall Apart"


Wire in the Wood

Wire in the Wood brings the strings to Taste of Ann Arbor (June 4) and ABC Microbrewery (June 5).

The Ann Arbor-based rootsy string band Wire in the Wood has been playing in various incarnations for around 10 years, building a reputation as a creative and skilled live act. But until this year, the group had never gotten around to releasing an album.

“At this point we probably have like 60 songs,” says frontman and guitarist Billy Kirst. “And maybe three years ago, I said, ‘I’m not booking any more shows until we record an album.’ So we didn’t play for a little over a year … and we recorded the album.”

Recorded at Jim Roll’s Backseat Productions and released earlier this year, the album, All Fall Apart, showcases Kirst’s songwriting and the virtuoso playing of all the band’s members, including Jordan Adema (violin), Ryan Shea (bass), and Michael Spaly (mandolin). The sound Wire in the Wood creates weaves together elements of bluegrass, swing, jam-band improvisation, and beyond.

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