Author Events: June 2017


April 2017 Author Events

Illustration by Comfreak/Pixabay

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of June 2017 author events.

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A guide to the 2017 Cinetopia Film Festival


Though most of us don’t sense a strong link between the auto and film industries, Michigan Theater executive director and CEO Russ Collins pointed out that the two essentially grew up together.

“In 1922, when Hollywood was deciding whether it would be based in New York or California, Ford Motor Company became one of the largest distributors of movies of anywhere in the world,” said Collins, at a recent press conference for the sixth annual Cinetopia Film Festival, which happens June 1-11 in various Ann Arbor and Detroit locales.

“Ford distributed so many educational films and newsreels that Detroit was second only to Hollywood in terms of the amount of film shot and processed. So it’s an art form that Detroit has long held dear," Collins said, "and it’s deeply built into this community, which is why we’re so happy to bring the world’s cinema passion back here to Detroit.”

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Redbud’s "Prodigal Son" will draw on fine-tuned acting for intimate drama

Redbud Productions, Prodigal Son

Liam Weeks stars in Redbud Productions' Prodigal Son. Photo by Jason Page.

When Loretta Grimes saw an off-Broadway production of John Patrick Shanley’s Prodigal Son in January 2016, she realized it had all the basic elements for a Redbud Productions staging. The cast was small, the story intimate, and the emotions intense.

She is directing the Redbud Productions' staging June 1-3 at the Kerrytown Concert House.

“For me, I loved the play in general, the characters were well-drawn, and the writing was excellent,” she said. “But I was mainly drawn to the main character, Jim Quinn, who is John Patrick Shanley as the play is autobiographical. I think what I like is that the character is such an underdog and I think we can all relate to that. He’s this rough, tough kid from the Bronx who goes to this prestigious Catholic school in New England, but it’s like fitting a round peg in a square hole.”

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Distorted Joy: Fuzz Fest 4 at The Bling Pig


Fuzz Fest 4

Posters for Fuzz Fest 3 and 4 by Jeremy Wheeler.

When Chris "Box" Taylor says "fuzz" is a "feeling," he's not being emo. He means it quite literally.

Fortunately for music lovers, he's not selfish with the joyous sounds of distortion.

If you live in Ann Arbor and you're into rock 'n' roll, you've likely crossed paths with Taylor, either by attending his annual Fuzz Fest, the long-running dance party The Bang!, or having witnessed one of his many bands tear up the stage at Woodruff's, The Blind Pig, or the now-defunct Elbow Room in Ypsi. Whether opening the blast doors with longtime cosmic rockers Mazinga, transporting you to "Sleeping Mountain" with his band Blue Snaggletooth, or simply whipping up a guitar frenzy as a member of Scott Morgan's Powertrane, Taylor carries that fuzzy feeling with him everywhere he plays.

I distinctly remember walking into Woodruff's in Ypsilanti the opening night of the first Fuzz Fest in 2014. The moment I stepped over the threshold and into the bar, each throbbing bass note rattled my marrow, and each kick of the drum was like a blow to the chest. The music was alive, and neither the thick boots on my feet nor the sturdy jacket on my shoulders could shield me from the penetrating soundwaves.

Meanwhile, as the four members of Bison Machine blasted away at their instruments in a blur of sonic fury, the psychedelic light show above turned my gray matter every shade of the rainbow.

This was an all-out assault on the senses, and it was glorious.

On June 1-3, Fuzz Fest 4 will take over The Blind Pig. With 33 bands preparing to descend upon Ann Arbor, with The Overhead Army on psychedelic light duties, it's a damn shame the students will miss out on what promises to be the kick-off event of the summer.

Fortunately for Pulp readers, Taylor was kind enough to take some time out from organizing this massive undertaking to give us a sneak preview of what we can expect once the amps are stacked, and the bands hit the stage.

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From the Sludgy Banks of the Huron: Bubak at FuzzFest 4


Bubak

Ypsi doom-rock duo Bubak are not scarecrow-looking creatures from Czech folklore.

If you feel lured by some mysterious wailing over the next couple of weeks, be warned. Like the shadowy, mythic figure of its namesake, Ypsilanti-based stoner-metal duo Bubak are skilled in deception, masking sinister riffs and morbid tales within hook-filled earworms from which you may never escape.

"Bubak is from Czech folklore: pretty much their version of a Boogeyman," said drummer Justin O'Neill by email. This "scarecrow-looking creature, whose face is usually obscured by its hat," hides out by riverbanks and makes sounds like a baby crying, which lures unsuspecting victims to it. "Bubak then kills them, weaves their souls into garments, rides around in a cart pulled by black cats ... y'know, like a Bubak does."

Also featuring Jeff West on bass and vocals, the band is effectively the rhythm section of defunct psychedelic-metal band Zen Banditos, which split up when guitarist Andy Furda left town.

Bubak released its debut EP late last year online. CDs are now available, too, and the duo still plan to press it on vinyl. Like its fantastic comic-horror cover art by Tony Fero, the EP's four songs are as fun as they are menacing, heavy on fuzzed-out chromatic bass runs, swaggering shuffle beats, and West's awesome growl.

We traded emails with O'Neill and West in advance of their Thursday, June 1, show as part of FuzzFest 4 at the Blind Pig.

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Writing in the Rust Belt: Mark Athitakis, author of "The New Midwest"

Mark Athitakis, The New Midwest

Mark Athitakis, The New Midwest.

Fiction about the Midwest, much like the region itself, often suffers from incorrect assumptions by outsiders and a dated external -- and internal -- monologue.

In The New Midwest: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt, author Mark Athitakis challenges those assumptions, and he points to authors whose work pushes against common regional tropes. He also sets the record straight about the Midwest itself, which boasts its own brand of cultural, racial, and political diversity, for better or for worse.

We spoke with Athitakis -- who will give a reading at the downtown branch of AADL on Friday, June 2 -- about his book and his own perspectives on the Midwest and its writing.

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The audience will decide "whodunit" at "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

The Session Room on Jackson Road was in a festive mood May 9.

The front of the restaurant/beer hall was taken over by what appeared to customers like a troupe of English music hall performers.

In truth, they were actors from the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre trying out their jokes, songs, patter, and various English accents in preparation for their upcoming presentation of Rupert Holmes’ musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, June 1-4, at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.

The show's director, Ron Baumanis, said the setting was perfect for getting his cast in the mood.

“Here we have this show with great musical numbers that can be lifted right out and done as an evening of entertainment,” he said. “Sessions is a beer hall and essentially music halls started out as beer halls then moved into theaters. But instead of seats, people sat at tables with their tankards of beer and did business or whatever they wanted to do.”

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Radical Collaboration: Allied Media Conference in Detroit


The 19th annual Allied Media Conference happens June 15-18 at Wayne State University in Detroit. The conference draws all types of media makers, with "media" being "anything you use to communicate with the world," so conference participants come from wonderfully diverse backgrounds. The conference is also organized collaboratively, so it’s different from year to year. Participants can expect to attend panels and workshops, but also screenings, tours, arts, and music events, strategy sessions, karaoke, and bowling. There’s a lot to take in, and the scope of the experience is inspiring.

Ahead of this year’s conference, we chatted with Katie Dover-Taylor, Ypsilanti resident and librarian, who has been involved with AMC for several years, about what you can expect from the conference, radical librarianship, and how AMC’s Detroit roots might provide an opportunity to experience conversations about Detroit in a different way.

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Kickshaw Theatre and AADL team up for a staged reading of the award-winning "Lungs"


Lungs, Kickshaw Theatre

Kickshaw Theatre actors Dani Cochrane and Bryan Lark will participate in a reading of Lungs at AADL's west branch on May 19.

On Friday, May 19, the Kickshaw Theatre is collaborating with the Ann Arbor District Library to put on a staged reading of Lungs, a new play by Duncan Macmillan. Lungs tells the story of a couple weighing the pros and cons of deciding whether or not to have a child in modern America, knowing all the current societal and political problems in the world.

Lungs premiered at Washington, D.C.’s Studio Theatre and has since been performed around the world. It was nominated for a Charles MacArthur Award for Best New Play or Musical and the British production won the Off West End Award for Best New Play. This reading will feature the actors Dani Cochrane and Bryan Lark.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to ask the Kickshaw Theatre’s artistic director and founder Lynn Lammers a couple of questions about the upcoming performance.

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Shades of Gray: Lori Rader-Day discusses "The Day I Died" at Aunt Agatha's


Lori Rader-Day

Lori Rader-Day photo by Iden Ford.

“This is a book that will get under your skin and stick with you,” said Aunt Agatha’s co-owner Robin Agnew of Lori Rader-Day’s psychological thriller The Day I Died. “It’s a book that shows multiple sides of the story, not in terms of black and white but shades of gray.”

On Thursday, May 18, at 7 pm, Rader-Day joins Aunt Agatha’s monthly book club to discuss her novel. The author is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. The Day I Died tells the story of Anna Winger, a handwriting expert who is called into an investigation of a missing toddler. Anna has tried to keep her secrets hidden in the past as she moves along in life with her teenaged son. But everything comes spilling out when her son disappears and she is forced to confront painful memories from a past from which she is still trying to hide.

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