Purple Rose’s “Harvey” reveals poignancy along with whimsy


Purple Rose Theatre, Harvey

Purple Rose Theatre's Harvey is oh so pleasant.

Mary Chase’s Harvey has been entertaining audiences with its gentle humor for more than 70 years. It’s a play we think we know well.

The new Purple Rose Theatre production of this Broadway classic reveals a deeper, richer, and more focused Harvey. It’s still funny, still frantic at times, but so much more.

We are most familiar with James Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd. He’s a sweet charmer and he drinks a bit but has a sense of the whimsical and a good heart. He can see eye to eye with a six-and-a-half-foot rabbit, or more precisely a pooka, a Celtic spirit with an affection for rumpots and others.

Now imagine instead a different kind of Elwood P. Dowd. He’s still a charmer with a whimsical streak. But he’s a smaller man and maybe he drinks a little more than he should and those ideas he floats about life might just be worth our attention.

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Hunger for Life: Roxane Gay at Hill Auditorium


Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay shows strength via her ability to be vulnerable in her writing. Post-It crammed book photo by Sherlonya Turner.

Roxane Gay is an endurance performer.

She is a professor, essayist, fiction writer, and cultural critic. Any pair of these things could fill or even overwhelm a professional life, but she does not stop there. As a person who at times fetishizes achievement, I am awed by the sheer quantity of pages that she has loosed into the world. And that is before we consider her Twitter presence or the volume of reading that she does, evidenced by the book giveaways that appear on her Tumblr from time-to-time.

I know that Gay’s smarts help fuel her accomplishments as do her talents, but when I think about her -- like, big picture her -- I just think, "Damn, she works hard. She hustles."

At Gay’s reading for her new book, Hunger, on June 16, I took a seat toward the back of Hill Auditorium and watched the audience file in. I've never been someone who needs an excuse to gawk at and examine other women’s bodies, and I was wondering who would join me to hear excerpts from Hunger, which tells the story of Roxane Gay’s body.

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O say did you see the Ford Library's “Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life”?


The Star-Spangled Banner

Jimi Hendrix plays the "Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock.

“O say can you see” takes on a whole new meaning at the Gerald R. Ford Library’s Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life.

Part of the presidential libraries system of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Ford Library collects, preserves, and makes accessible a rich body of archival materials focusing on the Ford presidential administration. The Library also hosts a series of temporary exhibits that focus on American history.

This exhibit -- curated and organized by University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague and Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Ford Museum -- traces the 200-year history of America’s national anthem through 10 interpretive panels and four display cases filled with historical documents.

And what a busy 200 years it has been.

In a recent interview, music professor Clague dispelled a number of common myths about the anthem as well as a clarification of the anthem’s place in American history.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #640 & #641



Fabulous Fiction Firsts #640

Winner of the prestigious Prix Renaudot in 1988 and available for the first time in English (translated from the French by Kaiama L. Glover), Hadriana in All My Dreams * * * by Rene Depestre, combines magic, fantasy, eroticism, and delirious humor to explore universal questions of race and sexuality.

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Penny Seats' light and funny "Renaissance Man" is a theatrical amuse-bouche


Penny Seats Theatre Company, The Renaissance Man

Toil and trouble mixes with fun and weird love in Penny Seats Theatre Company's The Renaissance Man.

The resistance wears elf ears.

At least, it does in Joseph Zettelmaier’s Renaissance Man, now having its world premiere via Penny Seats Theatre.

A riff on Macbeth and staged outdoors -- at West Park, in front of the band shell -- Renaissance tells the story of behind-the-scenes unrest at a fictional Renaissance festival called Gloriana. Longtime knight Martin Mackabee (Patrick Loos) and art school dropout/face painter Emma Murtz (Kelly Rose Voigt) connect partly through their shared frustration that the fair is not more historically accurate, and bristle against the inclusion of anachronisms like drench-a-wench, elves, leather corset vendors, gypsy fortunetellers, and turkey legs. Gloriana’s benevolent, permissive “king,” Chuck Duncan (Robert Schorr), earns the pair’s scorn, and Emma takes action, entrapping Chuck so that he must resign from Gloriana.

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Rhiannon Giddens brought tough truths and stunning songs to the Power Center


Artists have a long history of transforming pain (communal or personal) into something beautiful -- and right now, no one does that better than celebrated roots musician Rhiannon Giddens, who played an Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage show at the Power Center on Wednesday night.

Giddens, who first drew mainstream attention as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and now appears on the TV drama Nashville, opened Wednesday’s two-hour set with her haunting take on Bob Dylan’s “Spanish Mary,” during which Giddens’ gorgeous vocal storytelling countered the song’s heavy, thumping drumbeat; and “The Love We Almost Had,” a jaunty chronicle of longing and regret that Giddens concluded with some grade-A scatting.

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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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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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