The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series brings free Friday concerts throughout the summer

MUSIC PREVIEW

Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series

Between 1982-2001, Ypsilanti’s Frog Island Park hosted a jazz, blues, and zydeco festival sponsored by WEMU 89.1-FM. I remember seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra there on June 24, 1990, and hearing Ra talk about being from outer space during an interview broadcast on the station blew my young mind.

The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series won't have any outer-space vibes; it will evoke more of a classy nightclub or a tropical beach—or perhaps even a Depot Town breeze—rather than interplanetary travel because the artists who are appearing in the series are in the smooth jazz, groove/blues, and straightahead veins.

And because of flooding, it looks like the series won't even be held at Frog Island; it's now at nearby Riverside Park, 5 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti, though there's been no official update on either the series' website or Facebook page.

Organized by guitarist John E. Lawrence, who was an instructor and chair of the music department at Washtenaw Community College through 2014, The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series will feature a concert nearly every Friday between July 2 and September 3 (there's no show July 23). Lawrence and his group will open every gig, all of which are free. The series schedule is:

Helicon Haus' "Into the Abyss" explores the bottomless chasm of multidisciplinary art

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Helicon Haus's Into the Abyss

Helicon Haus is a student-run organization associated with the History of Art Undergraduate Society at the University of Michigan. The group hosts annual pop-up art exhibits, publishes writings, and creates arts-related world travel opportunities for its members. But for Helicon Haus' annual art exhibition, anyone may enter.

This year’s call took place in April 2021 and resulted in the online exhibition Into the Abyss, which is the second year in which the submissions were presented a virtual format.

For photosensitive viewers, there is a warning: “This website features flashing images.”

The title Into the Abyss is derived from the French term “mise-en-abîme,” which means “placing into the abyss.” Though each finished work suggests its own interpretation of the abyss, the Helicon Haus collective outlines their definition of the abyss in their “Thoughts on the Abyss.” The Abyss refers to nesting heraldic imagery or the “image within the image.” Artists “dove into the abyss of digital space to create their synergistic works. Displayed virtually, these works are placed into the abyss themselves.” The internet and virtual spaces are defined as an abyss within the parameters of the project. Visually, the concept of the abyss is reinforced with the inclusion of the “black hole” portals on the exhibit homepage. 

Go Behind the Scenes of "Temping," a One-Person Performance Starring You

THEATER & DANCE INTERVIEW

Get a behind-the-scenes tour of Temping, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's ongoing, immersive, one-person theater experience. AADL interviews designer Asa Wember and director Michel Rau, giving viewers a glimpse into this wildly imaginative experience.


"Temping" is written by Michael Yates Crowley, designed by Asa Wember and Sara C. Walsh, and directed by Michael Rau. It is hosted by the Ann Arbor Summer Festival from June 15th through July 3rd in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library. You can register for your session here 

Related:
➥ "Face to Interface: A2SF's Temping is an uncanny, moving performance for one" [Pulp, June 16, 2021]

Friday Five: Kenyatta Rashon, Matthew Milia, Andrew W.K., No Author, Tanomura

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 06-25-2021

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features R&B from Kenyatta Rashon, roots rock by Matthew Milia, techno-metal by Andrew W.K., techno via No Author, and jazzy electro-pop by Tanomura.
 

Friday Five: Sean Curtis Patrick, weretwins compilation, London Beck, Lightning Love, Jamie "Pops" VanEffen

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 06-18-2021

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features ambient from Sean Curtis Patrick, an experimental compilation from the weretwins label, progressive R&B from London Beck, indie rock from Lightning Love, and psych-rock from Jamie "Pops" VanEffen.

 

Face to Interface: A2SF’s "Temping" is an uncanny, moving performance for one

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Ann Arbor Summer Fest's Temping

I double-checked that I was at the correct address, but the unmarked doors to the office building were locked.

After I tried the handles one more time to see if there was something I had missed, an extremely polite office worker let me in and gave me a welcome packet and some paperwork to sign.

At my appointed time, I was ushered into an isolated cubicle with the usual setup—computer, printer, shredder—but also, family pictures, sticky notes, and office cartoons.

However, I was not here to work but to watch a performance. Or was I the performer?

This is Temping, a show for one that is part of this year's Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

Much like an actual temp job, the show plunks you down into an already-established office eco-system and gives you little training or context for the tasks you are asked to complete. As you receive voicemails, printouts, and emails, you begin to understand your new job: filling in as an actuary for the firm Harold, Adams, McNutt, & Joy. While Sarah Jane Tully is on vacation, it is now your job to mark her clients’ employees deceased or estimate their life expectancy.

Detroit native and U-M grad Shannon McLeod’s new novella, "Whimsy," tells a different kind of teaching story

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Shannon McLeod and her novella Whimsy

Shannon McLeod’s new novella, Whimsy, depicts the perils of those post-college, early career years through the main character for which the book is titled, Whimsy Quinn, who narrates in first person. McLeod is a Detroit native, University of Michigan graduate, and now high school teacher in Virginia. 

Whimsy, who got her name because her parents wanted to name her something “that exuded light-heartedness,” works as a middle school teacher in Metro Detroit, copes with the aftermaths of a car accident that she was in, and navigates dating. She tells her story of how she weathers her setbacks, and it becomes clear how they strengthen her. When asked to describe teaching, for instance, Whimsy notes, “I told him I didn’t have much to compare it to, but that it seemed I had less free time and less money than people with other careers.” It is not a glowing description, but she also does not hate it. 

Much of the novella situates Whimsy in the classroom. Her profession brings both humor and growth for her. Of running a classroom, she reflects, “I don’t know if you ever recover from the feeling of thirty pairs of eyes staring at you in concert.” That description may sound nightmarish to those of us who do not want to be the center of attention. Yet, Whimsy gets through the first few days of the school year and finds that the students’ levels of observation fade because by "Halloween you’re at the bottom of the students’ lists of interests.” A welcome change. 

Teaching is fraught with challenges, though, from getting scolded by an administrator who questions Whimsy’s dedication to catching students passing notes in class, serving as a cafeteria monitor during lunchtime, and socializing with other teachers. Whimsy takes all these situations in stride. When she needs to be away from the classroom, she reveals, “I’d learned quickly not to expect my students to get anything done with a substitute teacher in the room.” A matter-of-fact and responsive character, Whimsy is well-suited to teaching even if she finds herself chagrined at times. 

While Whimsy is a self-aware and descriptive narrator, the prose remains sharp and tight. Scenes unfold and shift. The reader sees along with Whimsy what’s really happening, such as at a wedding where Whimsy drinks too much. She attends it with a journalist, Rikesh, who she’s seeing. When she finds herself crying in the bathroom, Rikesh finds her, and Whimsy notes, “He said he would take me home.” Yet, the next sentence shows a different outcome because, she thinks, “I thought he meant he was coming home with me.” The chapter ends there. Disappointment is palpable but not explicitly stated. The endings of all the chapters are poignant, each like a short story coming to a conclusion.  

I interviewed McLeod about her novella, participation with the Emerging Writers Workshops at the Ann Arbor District Library, the Wild Onion Novella Contest that Whimsy won, and what’s next.

Friday Five: A.D.D., Rudolf Steiner High School students, JDSY, Ma Baker, Barbaric Yawps

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 06-11-2021

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features rap/R&B by A.D.D., music from Rudolf Steiner High School students, video-game soundtracks via JDSY, jams from Ma Baker, and progressive world-jazz by Barbaric Yawps.

 

Ann Arbor Summer Festival announces 38th season, "Stories From the Top" podcast

MUSIC THEATER & DANCE

A2SF logo

Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) has a full slate planned for its 38th season:

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) announces a mix of new, in-person, and digital events that kick off on June 11. A2SF’s season anchor this year is a pop-up concert series Live Here Now presented by Toyota and will take place in public parks and spaces throughout Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. A2SF is engaging a diverse group of community partners throughout the two cities and presenting many in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) this summer.

In-person events include Live Here Now pop-up neighborhood concerts, RSVP-based concerts and movies at Fuller Park in Ann Arbor, a downtown Ann Arbor theater installation for one audience member at a time titled Temping, a community-based Indian dance event Garba360, and Sidewalk Chalk Day featuring local favorite David Zinn. 

Digital events include the premiere of an A2SF new commission by New York-based Theater in Quarantine, an interactive performance by Brooklyn-based 600 Highwaymen titled A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call co-presented with University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), and the second season of the A2SF podcast: Stories from the Top.

A2SF is working closely with local officials on event safety protocol for all limited capacity, in-person events. All in-person events will follow current safety guidelines from the State of Michigan, Washtenaw County, the City of Ann Arbor, and other local municipalities as well as national best-practice.

Reservations and tickets to most programs will become available at a2sf.org.

Kirstin Valdez Quade’s novel "The Five Wounds" expands on her New Yorker-published short story

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Kirstin Valdez Quade and her book The Five Wounds

Author photo by Holly Andres.

All of the characters in Kirstin Valdez Quade’s new book, The Five Wounds, are going through something major. While the challenges—teen pregnancy, addiction, cancer—are not uncommon, the ways that each generation of the family handles their circumstances drive the novel.

One character, Angel, has a son at age 15 and quickly becomes aware of how the adults around her do not actually have their lives together. Not only does she have that insight but she also must persevere when she doesn’t get the support that she needs and when she has to instead support the people who are supposed to be helping her. 

Yet, Angel proves herself resilient, even from a young age. Her mother, Marissa, informs Angel:

“When you were three you said, ‘Mama, can you tell me all the things I don’t know?’ You were so impatient to learn and make your own way.

Angel smiles. “I don’t remember that.” 

Knowing things does not comprise all of Angel’s learning, though. Along the way, she gains wisdom on what people are like and how to interact with them. 

Her father, Amadeo, tries and tries to get his life together but keeps succumbing to alcoholism. He acts before he thinks. An accident caused by his carelessness and drinking miraculously results in only minor injuries, but it is the only thing that can convince him to get his life on track, not just for himself but for his family, especially as the whole family dynamic shifts when people enter and exit their lives.