Out of the Ether: Nancy And Beth conjure musical beauty from the fifth dimension

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Nancy and Beth

Most of us know Megan Mullally as boozy, unapologetically solipsistic Karen Walker on Will & Grace, and also perhaps as Parks & Recreation star Nick Offerman’s real-life partner, but not as a former dancer and Broadway performer. 

This is likely why you’d be surprised to learn that Mullally, in recent years, has teamed up with another multi-talented artist, Stephanie Hunt (who played lesbian bass-player Devin on Friday Night Lights), to form a music duo called Nancy And Beth, which will perform at The Ark on Monday, April 23

Where did the arbitrary names Nancy And Beth come from (complete with a capitalized And)? The answer will tell you a great deal about the two women’s soulmate-like friendship.

“The ether,” said Mullally.

“I was going to say ‘the ether’!” cried Hunt.

Loud and Clear: Marcus Wicker's socially conscious "Silencer" poems are anything but quiet

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Poet Marcus Wicker and his book Silencer

Marcus Wicker's poetry doesn’t mince words. He keeps it real.

Mixing hip-hop rhymes with poetic prose, Wicker's books deal with tough topics such as racism, classism, and police brutality -- subjects American society swiftly tries to hide from. Wicker, an Ann Arbor native, challenges those in power with every phrase he puts on the page. 

A Pushcart Prize winner and two-time NAACP Image Award nominee, Wicker received fellowships from Ruth Lilly and Cave Canem to name a few and has written articles that have appeared in The Nation, Oxford American, and Boston Review. He currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Memphis and is the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review.

All accolades aside, the most impressive things about Wicker are his ability to call readers to action and his ability to mix modern communication and hard-hitting wit within his work. He even injects humor as a great contrast to the serious topics. 

Smooth Souls: Cory Wong, Antwaun Stanley & Jacob Sigman at The Blind Pig

MUSIC REVIEW

Cory Wong

After seeing Theo Katzman at The Blind Pig a few weeks ago, I had been restlessly awaiting the concert there by a couple of his Vulfpeck bandmates, guitarist Cory Wong with vocalist Antwaun Stanley

When I got to the gig there were around 40 people milling about, mostly men in their 20s and 30s. As the night went on, more people arrived and the room filled up until we all standing shoulder to shoulder. 

Generation A: U-M's United Asian American Organizations feted the diaspora in song & dance

MUSIC REVIEW

Minji Kim by Brian Lin

Minji Kim of Seoul Juice on stage at the University of Michigan’s Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Photo by Brian Lin.

On April 7, over 500 of the University of Michigan’s Asian Pacific Islander America (APIA) students gathered in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre for the 23rd annual Generation APA Cultural Show. Organized by the student-run coalition United Asian American Organizations (UAAO), GenAPA is a pan-Asian cultural show that features traditional, modern, and fusion performances of different Asian backgrounds to celebrate the dual diversity and unity within the Asian diaspora.

This was my fourth year attending and the second year performing as a part of Seoul Juice, a Korean-American singing and instrumental cover group, alongside performances like Vietnamese and Chinese fan dances, Korean traditional percussion and pop, Indian classical dance and song, Mongolian instruments, spoken word, hip-hop dancing, and more. 

U-M's University Philharmonia Orchestra closed its season with a Spanish tinge

MUSIC REVIEW

U-M's University Philharmonia Orchestra logo

U-M's University Philharmonia Orchestra wrapped up its 2017-2018 schedule on April 17 with a sonic Spanish tapas along with an exploration of a once-controversial French piece steeped in Germanic influences.

This was my first time in the magnificent Hill Auditorium. While I was reading the program before most of the orchestra came out, I heard a deep, stirring, bellow of a note from the stage. As a bass clarinetist myself, I recognized it as one of the lowest notes that can be played on the instrument. For me, the sound signified that it was going to be an enjoyable night.

Still Lifes Are Anything but Still: Poet Diane Seuss at Literati

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Diane Seuss with her book Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl

"Self Portrait with the Ashes of My Baby Blanket":

Ashes because she set fire to it in the burn barrel.
Leave her alone, with your newfangledness.
I was a clingy, fearful thumb-sucker, and she knew I needed reinventing.

She tore it away and I screamed and she burned it.
Begone, soft, pale yellow. She knew if I kept it I’d stumble over it
The rest of my life, how far I would travel without it,

And how many strange birds I would trap
in the story of its burning.

At a Literati reading this past Friday, poet and professor Laura Kasischke introduced Diane Seuss by reading one of her poems, “Self Portrait with the Ashes of my Baby Blanket.” The poem centers on Seuss’ mother, who is an important figure in her new book of poems, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl. The first and last poem, "I Have Lived My Whole Life in a Painting Called Paradise” and “I Climbed Out of the Painting Called Paradise,” introduce the reader to a heavenly, creative world that Seuss is able to inhabit but one that her mother, who is not a writer, cannot. Seuss “leaves” the painting to rejoin her family at the end of the book. 

"Gruesome Playground Injuries" continues Kickshaw's dedication to challenging theater

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Kickshaw Theatre's Gruesome Playground Injuries

Doug (Michael Lopetrone) and Kayleen (Dani Cochrane)flirt with romance and self-sabotage in Gruesome Playground Injuries. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Fittingly, Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, now being staged by Kickshaw Theatre at Ann Arbor’s trustArt Studios, starts in a parochial school’s infirmary, where a deep, lasting friendship takes root between a girl and a boy who recognize in each other a common compulsion toward self-destruction.

The boy, Doug (Michael Lopetrone), is a reckless, thrill-seeking daredevil, while the girl, Kayleen (Dani Cochrane), suffers from stomach problems and later develops a serious cutting habit. The 80-minute play shows glimpses of these two characters at several different ages, between 8 and 38, but it jumps around in time, inviting us to piece together the puzzle of Doug and Kayleen’s intense connection by shifting from childhood to adulthood and back again.

Art and science come together in Civic Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia"

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A2 Civic Theatre's Arcadia cast

L-R: Kate Umstatter as Hannah Jarvis, Laura Lilly Cotten as Thomasina Coverly, Chris Grimm as Septimus Hodge, and Russ Schwartz as Valentine Coverly in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. Photo by Lisa Gavan | Gavan Photo.

Melissa Freilich loves Tom Stoppard’s plays.

“Tom Stoppard always asks you to think and feel as well,” she said.

Freilich is directing the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of Stoppard’s Arcadia, opening April 19 at the Arthur Miller Theatre.

It’s a play that combines entertainment with thought-provoking discussions of everything from poetry and mathematics to thermodynamics.

Shaman Sounds: Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater

MUSIC REVIEW

Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor

Detroit baritone saxophonist Alex Harding (pictured far right) joined Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya at the Michigan Theater. Photo by Christopher Porter.

Abdullah Ibrahim's concert at the Michigan Theater on April 13 began like all his shows: the pianist alone on stage with his instrument, playing a meditative piece filled with sustained chords, floating harmonies, and a sound that slipped naturally from Bach to blues. Then Cleave Guyton (flute) and Noah Jackson (cello) joined Ibrahim for the chamber-jazz piece "Dream Time" from 2014's Mukashi.

It was in these solo and trio moments that listeners could best appreciate the 83-year-old Ibrahim's piano playing -- because otherwise, he didn't play much at all.

Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither: UMGASS delights with "Iolanthe"

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

The Fairy Chorus and Iolanthe Herself

The Fairy Chorus of Iolanthe at the Mendelssohn Theater.

This weekend, the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (UMGASS) stages Iolanthe, bringing Thirsty Fairies, Peer Pressure, and one long strange trip of a dream sequence to the Mendelssohn Theater. Iolanthe is the seventh of Gilbert & Sullivan's 14 comic operettas, steeped in the class divisions and political satire of the day, with a hearty dollop of supernatural weirdness.

Directed by Greg Hassold and featuring an extremely solid pit orchestra led by Thomas Burton, this wonderfully busy production has a lot going on in every scene and is just dripping with the talent of fresh-faced leads, seasoned supporting characters, and a chorus that is plainly having a wonderful time.