Preview: Young People's Theater presents 'Crazy For You'


Crazy For You

YPT is Crazy For You to come and see their show.

You can’t go wrong with George and Ira Gershwin, especially when you pull together some of their best material from old musicals (“Embraceable You,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “I Got Rhythm”) and repackage it with Fred-and-Ginger Broadway glamour, wild west shenanigans, and a wispy thin plot that demands a Mickey-and-Judy let’s-put-on-a-show production number.

Such is the case with 1992’s Crazy for You, with a book by Ken Ludwig, a romantic musical comedy based in part on the 1930 musical Girl Crazy.

The plot, such as it is, centers on Bobby Child, a wealthy Manhattan ne’er-do-well and would-be song and dance man, who ends up in a broke Nevada mining town, falls in love with the local girl, and decides to rescue its bankrupt theater. Directed by Caroline Huntoon, with music direction by Seth King-Gengler and choreography by Erika Jost, Crazy For You is an uplifting jaunt presented YPT style for audiences of all ages.

For more information, visit http://www.youngpeoplestheater.com.


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


YPT’s Crazy for You runs Thursday, November 17 - 20 at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, University of Michigan, 911 N. University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109. Tickets available through the Michigan Union Ticket Office (MUTO) by phone: 734-763-TKTS; in person at 530 S. State, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 - UM Michigan Union; or online at http://www.muto.umich.edu.

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Preview: Poetry Night in Ann Arbor 11/17


Poetry Night

Featured guest poets will step up to the mic at Rackham Auditorium on Nov. 17.

The Neutral Zone in conjunction with the Helen Zell Writers Program at The University of Michigan will present Poetry Night in Ann Arbor 2016 at the Rackham Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 17, 2016.

This annual event celebrates words and ideas and features Ann Arbor’s spectacular youth poets sharing the stage with nationally renowned writers. This year's guest poets include:

Fatimah Asghar is a student in the Hell Zell Writer’s Program, nationally touring poet, performer, photographer, writer and thinker. Her literary work hovers between prose and poetry, examining fact through a lyrical lens. Her work has appeared in POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, The Paris-American, The Margins, The Offing, Word Riot, and many others. Her chapbook After was released a year ago on Yes Yes Books.

Chace “Mic Write” Morris is a poet, emcee, educator from Detroit. He is a 2013 Kresge Literary Fellow, 2-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam champion, writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Program & 1/4 of the Hip-Hop collective Cold Men Young. Mic has been featured on Mother Jones & The Grio, and his poetry published or forthcoming in Freezeray Press, Radius, and Muzzle Poetry Journal.

José Guadalupé Olivarez is a Chicano poet and educator. Born on the south side of Chicago, he is a graduate of Harvard University and a teaching artist for Young Chicago Authors. Jose has taught writing workshops and performed at schools, universities, and poetry slams across the country. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Specter Magazine, The Acentos Review, The Harvard Voice, and Chicago Public Radio.


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


The Neutral Zone and the Helen Zell Writers Program at U-M present Poetry Night in Ann Arbor 2016 at Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St, Ann Arbor on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 7 pm. Tickets are $5 for students/$10 general public in advance; and $7 students/$12 general public at the door. To reserve tickets, contact Jeff Kass at eyelev21@aol.com.

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Review: HERsay at Pointless Brewery & Theatre


HERsay at Pointless Brewery

An evening of pointless HERsay.

When Patti Smith emailed Pointless Brewery & Theatre Co-founder Tori Tomalia last year to find out if she could collaborate with the venue to hold HERsay there, she expected Tomalia to be skeptical, or at least questioning. But Tomalia was gung-ho for the event right away and the evening of storytelling, comedy, improvisation, theater, and visual art show’n’tell—all created and performed by women—debuted this past Thursday evening for a sold out crowd. Smith was inspired to create HERsay when she heard the story of a former SNL cast member who claimed “women can’t be funny.” She felt that women could most certainly be funny, and wanted to provide an opportunity for women to be heard with the HERsay event, which she now hopes will become an annual celebration of women and the art that they create. This year, half of the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to Planned Parenthood.

HERsay featured twenty different women performers with a range of ages, backgrounds and experience. The best part of the event was the diversity of performances and the emotional ups and downs that each performer created with their work. Jenn McKee delighted the crowd by reading excerpts from her middle school diary, in which she “got in touch with her early nihilism.”

Patricia Wheeler, local coordinator of the Ann Arbor and Detroit Moth StorySLAMs, followed McKee with a heartbreaking story of her fiancè’s suicide that left much of the audience in tears.

Artist Debra Golden displayed her gorgeous paintings of a single street in northeast Detroit, near Martin Park. The houses on the street ranged from multimillion dollar mansions (some now in disrepair) to a tiny 900-square-foot ranch at the end of the block. As Golden shared her memories of Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s, many audience members nodded along, shouting out memories of their own, of roller coasters on Boblo Island and of the Lodge slicing neighborhoods in half.

Later in the evening, Jean Leverich performed a riveting piece about a woman dying of cancer who tries marijuana for the first time in an attempt to ease her pain. She’s delighted by the experience, and Leverich’s stunning depiction of the joy and sorrow that the woman experiences was heart-wrenching.

This writer also particularly enjoyed performance poet Callie McKee, who performed two of her pieces for the HERsay audience. Her witty turns of phrase and animated stage presence were captivating. Her first piece, about preparation, left the audience smiling with the final message that there are some things we simply can’t be prepared for, no matter how hard we try. Her second—and very timely—piece dealt with a “distinctive lack of Hillary,” in the days after the election. Omnipresent in the news in recent months as she ran for president, McKee talked about her surprise after the election when she woke up and Clinton was virtually gone.

A multitude of other storytellers, comics, and artists performed at HERsay, coming together to create a warm, welcoming and positive environment for both the audience and the performers themselves. Pointless Brewery, which opened earlier this year, offered an intimate, friendly venue for the show, the only drawback being its small size—tickets sold out quickly. If the success of Thursday’s show is any indicator, Smith’s dream of HERsay becoming an annual event will surely come to fruition, perhaps on an even grander scale next year.


Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library who is much too mortified to revisit her own middle school diary.


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Preview: Skyline High School presents 'Les Miserables'


Les Miserable

Squad Goals. (Front row, left to right) Connor Dalton as Joly, Andrew Coleman-Brewer as Feuily, Gabe Hill as Gavroche, Riley O'Brien as Courfeyrac, (back row) Matt Rupp as Marius, Trevor Minor as Enjolras, and Daniel Kennedy as Combeferre, the student revolutionaries in Skyline Theatre's production of Les Miserables. / Photo by Lisa Gavan.

Ann Arbor's Skyline High School Theater presents Les Misérables: School Edition, beginning this weekend and running through November 20. Adapted for high school performers and produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI), this musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic novel is a timeless story of human kindness, cruelty, revenge, love, and the survival of the human spirit.

“This is our most elaborate production to date,” says Anne-Marie Roberts, Skyline Department Chair for Theatre Arts. “We are so excited about staging this wonderful production that combines the drama of a pivotal time in history with an inspiring story of sacrifice, faith and love.”

Les Miserable collage

Theo Billups and Amanda Wilhoit as Monsiuer and Madame Thenardier / Zori Martinez as Eponine. // Photo by Lisa Gavan.

The story centers on escaped convict Jean Valjean after he breaks parole and is pursued relentlessly by police inspector Javert. Valjean is soon forced to leave his past behind in order to keep his promise to raise the orphaned Cosette, but as Javert closes in and revolution kindles the Paris Rebellion of 1832, Valjean ends up sacrificing everything to protect those he loves.

“Community support of these events is critical,” adds Roberts. “It means so much to our students to have friends, families and neighbors attend these events, and support their long hours and the hard work they have put into creating a terrific production. And ticket sales are vital to ensuring we can continue to provide our students with great opportunities to showcase their incredible talent. We hope everyone will come and “hear the people sing’.”


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


Show times are November 12, 18, 19 at 7:30 pm, and November 13 and 20 at 2:30 pm. Ticket prices are $25 for VIP seats (reserved seats in the front rows with a treat); $15 for adults; and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available online at http://www.skylinehstheatre.org/cart and will also be available for purchase at the performances. Skyline High School is located at 2552 N Maple Rd, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103.

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Preview: Pioneer Theatre Guild's The Hunchback of Notre Dame


The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Henry Kiley is Quasimodo and Sanomi Croos-Dabrera is Esmerelda in PTG's The Hunchback of Notre Dame / Photo by Myra Klarman Photography.

Pioneer Theatre Guild's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a special production: First, PTG is one of a handful of American schools piloting the musical before its rights are released to theater groups across the country. Second, they may well be the first to perform it, with a few other venues performing the musical during winter and spring 2017. So it's not only an Ann Arbor premiere, it's also a sort of world premiere as well.

In preparing for the show, PTG has been fortunate to have the technical assistance of University of Michigan Professor Peggy McCracken, whose expertise in France during the Middle Ages has helped the students and directing staff understand this period and place as well as the motivation of their characters. Then, to even top this unexpected source of expertise, the production group has had the opportunity to Skype with the show's musical composer, Alan Menken, for additional pointers.

The show's haunting, beautiful music -- featuring a full choir that helps narrate the plot and give a historical feel to the theater -- showcases the timeless and powerful story of Quasimodo and his love for the beautiful Esmeralda against the backdrop of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral. Set in 1482, a time of mystery and havoc, the story follows Archdeacon Claude Frollo’s dark past and how he came to raise the disfigured child Quasimodo who is prohibited from ever leaving the Notre Dame environs. Others among the bustling city of Paris below the church bells are the aforementioned Esmeralda; the war soldier Phoebus; and the unexpectedly heroic Clopin Trouillefou.


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


The Hunchback of Notre Dame runs Friday, November 4, 7:30 pm; Sunday, November 6, 2:00 pm; Friday November 11, 7:30 pm; Saturday, November 12, 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 13, 2:00 pm. (Note: No show Saturday, November 5 because of U-M game across the street.) Tickets: $10 (Students, 65+ Seniors, PHS Staff); $15 (Adults). Reserved Seating Tickets will be available in advance at http://showtix4u.com, beginning on October 24, 2016. General Admission tickets will be available at the door starting one hour before each performance. All performances in Schreiber Auditorium.

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Preview: Kickshaw Theatre To Stage Readings of "Milvotchkee, Visconsin" and "Hir"


Kickshaw Staged Readings

Kickshaw kicks out a couple staged readings in early November.

One of the more intriguing scripts I’ve read recently is Hir, by Obie-winning playwright and performance artist Taylor Mac, which opened last fall at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. A black comedy about a truly, truly dysfunctional family, the play caught my attention with its high profile review in the New York Times, which called it “remarkable, audacious, uproarious … a daring combination of realism and madcap absurdity.”

Time Out called Hir a “dizzying theatrical Tilt-a-Whirl, in which sections of the play spin wildly on a steadily revolving base” and TheaterMania praised it as a “remarkable examination of gender and identity in contemporary America.”

Local audiences can experience this madcap new play when Kickshaw Theatre, Ann Arbor’s pop-up professional theatre company, brings Hir to Ann Arbor as a staged reading on Friday, November 11, at 7pm at Espresso Royale, 214 South Main Street. The previous week, on Friday, November 4 (same time and location), the company offers a reading of another recent play: Milvotchkee, Visconsin by Laura Jacqmin - a “comedy about a tragedy.”.

“These are not predictable plays, to be sure,” explains Kickshaw Theatre’s artistic director Lynn Lammers. “The staged readings will give audiences and artists a chance to get a taste of Kickshaw’s aesthetic. These two plays are wildly imaginative in their structure and style, which translates to stories that unfold in surprising ways.”

Milvotchkee, Visconsin follows the fascinating journey of a woman experiencing various stages of dementia. Directed by Sara Lipinski Chambers, the professional cast features Ruth Crawford, Hugh Maguire, John Seibert, Casaundra Freeman, Brenda Lane, and Aral Gribble.

In Hir, war veteran Isaac returns home to the suburbs to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. Michael Lopetrone, Henry Schreibman, Emily Sutton-Smith, and Hugh Maguire are featured in this reading, directed by Lynn Lammers.

Kickshaw is Ann Arbor’s new non-profit professional theatre and operates under an agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. Kickshaw prides itself on exciting the curiosity of audiences and artists with plays that represent humanity in all its complexity and multitudes.


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


The staged reading of Milvotchkee, Visconsin will take place November 4, at 7 pm, Espresso Royale, 214, South Main Street; the staged reading of Hir will take place Friday, November 11, same time/location. There is no admission for either reading. For more information, visit http://kickshawtheatre.org.

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Halloween Events Around Ann Arbor

Halloween Events This Weekend

It's the Great Pulpkin, Charlie Brown.

If you're looking for some fun events around town for the Halloween weekend, read on for creepy cemetery tours, devilish dance parties, shadow puppet theatre, and more Halloween arts & culture:

Book-Themed Halloween Costume Contest
Monday, October 31st - 10:00am-9:00pm
Literati Bookstore - Ann Arbor, MI

Halloween at the Market
Saturday, October 29th - 12:00pm-2:00pm
Ann Arbor Farmer's Market - Ann Arbor, MI

Highland Cemetery Lantern Tours
Sunday, October 30th - 7:00pm-9:00pm
Highland Cemetery - Ypsilanti, MI

Shadow Puppet Double Feature
Saturday, October 29th - 9:00pm-11:00pm
Triple Goddess Tasting Room - Ypsilanti, MI

Cultivate Masquerade & Costume Bash
Friday, October 28th - 8:00pm-12:00am
Cultivate Coffee & Taphouse - Ypsilanti, MI

Black Cat Cabaret - Neighborhood Theatre Group
Friday, October 28th and Saturday, October 29th - 8:30pm
Bona Sera - Ypsilanti, MI

Halloween Treat Parade
Monday, October 31st - 11:00am-5:00pm
Main Street Area - Ann Arbor, MI

A2DC Presents: Hullabaloo Halloween Spooktacular
Sunday, October 30th - 6:00pm-10:00pm
Ann Arbor Distilling Company - Ann Arbor, MI

The Bang! Halloween Dance Party
Saturday, October 29th - 9:30pm
The Blind Pig - Ann Arbor, MI

Nightlife Arcade Gaming Spooktacular
Friday, October 28th - 6:00pm-9:00pm
The Forge by Pillar - Ann Arbor, MI

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Review: Civic Theatre Gives Othello a Contemporary, Feminist Twist


Othello

About to abuse Othello's ear.

Directors are forever trying to make Shakespeare more relevant for contemporary audiences. They place the Bard’s plays in new settings, emphasize themes that seem more relevant, sometimes even tinker with the text to clear up muddy passages.

Director David Widmayer makes an interesting attempt to breathe new life into Shakespeare’s tragedy of jealousy and rage Othello for the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. His conceit is to move the play from its Renaissance time and Venetian setting to Saigon in 1969 and American soldiers preparing to fight in the jungle war with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong.

Widmayer also shifts some thematic emphasis, while staying true to Shakespeare’s language. The play is primarily about Othello as a stranger in a strange land, a black Moor in a white European city (here meant to represent Washington D.C.), who has emerged as a critical military leader. The Venetians (the government) need him but also never let him forget that he is not one of them. This leads to a fatal insecurity in his relationship with his new wife, Desdemona, daughter of a senator. The racial implications remain but Widmayer puts emphasis on two other themes: male aggression and blind ambition and the manipulation and disregard for women.

Shakespeare is always a challenge for community theater groups and for established professional repertory theaters alike. The plays are primarily in verse, the structure is awkward to modern ears and some passages are difficult to decipher. But the challenge is worth it for the rich beauty in the verse and deep insights in character and relationships.

Few relationships are more intense then the one between Othello and his conniving subordinate Iago, a man as jealous of Othello as he makes Othello jealous of the loyal and loving Desdemona.

Widmayer succeeds in drawing attention to other the themes and, in some aspects, bringing a modern attitude to the portrayals. He keeps the place names the same, as the program notes, to preserve the meter of the verse but this somewhat defeats the change of place. A 60s soundtrack between scenes is nice but doesn’t quite do it either.

The acting styles do not all mesh well though there is commendable effort throughout and some performances perfectly match what Widmayer sets out to do, make the play more contemporary.

The play’s plot, of course, revolves around Othello’s rapid advancement in the military. He marries a senator’s daughter and the senator is irate but tempered by the impending military crisis. Iago is a lieutenant to Othello and a man who uses his tongue and his wiles to poison Othello into believing Desdemona is having an affair with a rising young officer and Othello aide, Cassio. Iago uses his bright and loving wife Emilia and a former suitor of Desdemona, Roderigo, in his plot.

In the two major female roles, Annie Dilworth as Desdemona and Carol Gray as Emilia find that sweet spot that Widmayer was aiming for. They read Shakespeare’s language naturally, conversationally and without broad gestures. They also move with the ease and self-possession of modern women. These are women who are sorely wronged by their men. Dilworth makes Desdemona a witty, kind, and loving spouse whose later despair and resignation is all the more tragic. Gray’s Emilia is not the nagging wife of many productions but a spirited woman expecting to be treated as an equal partner by the man she loves but doesn’t really know.

Russ Schwartz as Cassio also speaks the language naturally. He portrays Cassio as a vulnerable subordinate wanting to prove himself but not quite at home in the uber macho military environment. Schwartz seems to combine a boyish charm with a deep insecurity. Greg Kovas brings humor to the role or Roderigo, a loud-mouthed drinker with a clumsy man-to-man bonhomie attitude.

Sean Sabo’s Iago is performed in a more traditional style. His gestures are broader, the language less conversational. He seems a bit stiff at first but as he outlines his deadly plot, Sabo digs deeper into the character. In many ways, Iago has the greatest burden of language and complexity of character. In his mind, he is a man denied who must bend to someone he sees as an inferior. But he conceals his evil with a sly and twisted charm and show of innocent good will. Sabo makes that difficult connection.

Justin Gordon brings a ferocity to his portrayal of Othello. He struts with the bravado of a man who knows that what matters is how he shows himself to these men who will always regard him as a lesser man no matter how much they depend on him. However, Gordon does not project or enunciate clearly enough, and in the final scenes he doesn’t capture the tension or sadness of realizing fully the mistake he’s made. In earlier scenes, he shines in showing a playful side to Othello’s relationship with Desdemona, but overall, the play’s crucial bitter sweetness is lost.

This is a good effort and worth seeing for the interesting shift in emphasis, especially at a time when male attitudes about women have played a prominent role in our current presidential election. As in Othello, the personal and the political have become sadly entangled.


Hugh Gallagher has written theater and film reviews over a 40-year newspaper career and was most recently managing editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in suburban Detroit.


The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of Othello continues 8 pm Oct. 28-29 and 2 pm. Oct. 30 at the Arthur Miller Theatre on the North Campus of the University of Michigan. For tickets and information, call the box office at (734)971-2228 or go online to http://www.a2ct.org.

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Events Roundup: Theo Katzman, Ofrenda Altars, & More


Theo Katzman

Hard workin' Theo Katzman works hard.

UMS Wallace Blogging Fellow Adam DesJardins recommends some great upcoming musical performances and art installations. From the Arab-American National Museum's exhibit of graphic novelist Leila Abdelrazaq's work to a Blind Pig appearance by Vulfpeck's Theo Katzman and collaborator Joey Dosik, he's got your early November booked.

“Thou shalt bringeth the funk” is a quote no one ever said to me. Luckily, funk-bringers Theo Katzman and Joey Dosik will be doing just that when they grace the stage at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor on November 5." writes DesJardins, in case you needed more of a reason to buy tickets for the show.

Catch more of UMS Wallace Bloggers DesJardins and Marissa Kurtzhals in their weekly roundups!

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Preview: Macbeth comes to Huron High School


Macbeth

Mitchell Salley is something wicked.

Something wicked this way comes to Huron High School beginning Friday, October 28, when the Huron Players present Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Celebrate the spooky season, enjoy some epic battles - and get extra credit in an English class - with the Shakespeare play where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

This classic tragedy of greed gone bad begins when Macbeth, a Scottish general, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Spurred on by his vicious wife and and consumed by his own ambition, Macbeth’s fate is cast when he murders King Duncan. And from there things get much worse.

To learn more about the cast and crew visit the Huron Players website.


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


Macbeth performances are October 28th, 29th and November 4th, 5th at 7:30 pm in Huron's New Theater, 2727 Fuller Rd. Tickets: $6 students/seniors and $8 general admission. Some themes may be unsuitable for children.

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