Bipolar disorder is not the usual musical fare. But the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal joins such recent topical musicals as Avenue Q, Rent, Dear Evan Hansen, and Hamilton as a forum for dealing with current issues using music and words to drive home tough lessons.
The Encore Theatre production of Next to Normal, with music by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, will not send you home whistling a tune, but it will leave you with a better understanding of the pain, confusion, and challenges faced by those with bipolar disorder and the family and friends around them.
(I'll give you a second to recover from that high-end wordplay.)
And it's not just because I trudged across the University of Michigan's campus through piles of snow in sub-20-degree weather to view the Detroit-based U-M grad's mixed-media sculptures and drawings at the East Quadrangle's RC Art Gallery.
(I'm really going in on the cold/frost thing here. Take a deep breath.)
Like having no ice cubes in the freezer, it felt like something was missing in this small gallery's exhibition.
(Sorry, like you, I've been cooped up for days. I'm *this close* to reenacting Jack's death scene in The Shining. But I'll let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door on all these chilly puns. The cold never bothered me anyway. .)
I'm not sure if it was the lack of an artist statement to contextualize the works or that there were no title cards giving some sense of the materials used and whether the pieces had names, but something about The Smell of Lint and Frost wasn't landing in my frozen brain.
Youngblood's work is minimalist and austere, and in this exhibition, the pieces range from monochromatic gestural paintings and fine-line drawings of spirals with accompanying complementary sculptures that appear to consist of wire and plaster.
It wasn't until I left the gallery and read a bit more about Youngblood's working methods and then went to see the exhibition again that The Smell of Lint and Frost made some sense to me.
Kerrytown Concert House’s “Winter Meditation” offers austere ambiance from Kirsten Lund, Ann and Fred Ringia
It may initially seem surprising that winter can inspire artists. One would think the nippy climate would discourage creativity.
Yet it’s also fair to say that an austere contemplation can foster art during this most challenging time of the year. Given the ambiance, temperature, and the chilly weather conditions, it’s little wonder that mediation would be a key factor for many artists so inclined.
As the Kerrytown Concert House’s Winter Meditation exhibition shows us, three local artists -- textile artist Kirsten Lund and husband-wife photographers Ann and Fred Ringia -- have in particular found inspiration in this most meditative of seasons.
Chamber of Secrets: Purple Rose Theatre's "Never Not Once" pulls no punches as it explores a family's difficult history
We often hear that people shouldn’t be permanently defined by their worst decision or act. But on the other end of that equation, all too often, are men and women who are irrevocably shaped by the violence committed against them.
Carey Crim’s latest world premiere play at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre, Never Not Once, directed by Guy Sanville, treads rather boldly across this ethical minefield.
When Rutgers student Eleanor (Caitlin Cavannaugh) comes home unannounced, with boyfriend Rob (Jeremy Kucharek) in tow, and announces to her two moms that she aims to track down her biological father, her birth mother, Allison (Michelle Mountain), balks, insisting that the one night stand that left her pregnant in college was so inconsequential that she never even learned the man’s name. But when Eleanor’s other mom, Nadine (Casaundra Freeman), secretly supplies Eleanor with a possible clue regarding her father’s identity, the search narrows, and Allison is forced to revisit a trauma from her past.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but Never Not Once is an intense 90 minutes of live theater, despite some moments of levity in the early going. It tackles some tough stuff, and for the most part, it doesn’t pull its punches. But then, it can’t afford to. If you’re going to “go there,” as Crim has chosen to do, you’ve got to have the guts to go all in. So don’t go to the Rose expecting to passively sit back and be entertained by Never. It’s more a grab-you-by-the-lapels kind of show.
University of Michigan's Ellen Rowe is the world's first female chair of a major university jazz department, and last year she was one of four faculty members to be honored as an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. Interim Dean Melody Racine said Rowe engaged in “concrete and repeated steps to build a sense of teamwork, mutual support, and collegiality within the department."
That desire to cross bridges and engage with people extends to Rowe's music, too, and is particularly evident on the pianist's new album, Momentum: Portraits of Women in Motion.
Recorded at the U-M studio in the Duderstadt building, each of Momentum's eight compositions is dedicated to a woman or women who have influenced Rowe.
"What was fun was to pick women that really mattered to me and who had made a difference in my life from the time I was 8 or 9 up til now and write music for them," Rowe said in a video interview about Momentum.
"Some of the readings I was doing about race and social justice, I just came across really incredible women that I had no idea about, who started NAACP chapters, they started schools, they started colleges, they had been at the forefronts of the civil rights marches, and yet we don't hear about them," she said. "Women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Amelia Boynton, Septima Clark, Mary McLeod Bethune, and I just thought, 'Where are these women?' We need to know about these women -- I need to know about these women. And certainly, young women -- and part of this project, of course, involves mentoring -- I want to be able to talk about these women when I go out and play this music."
Great Lakes Soundtrack: Sean Curtis Patrick and Benoît Pioulard team up for an LP that feels like destiny
Ann Arbor musician and video artist Sean Curtis Patrick is teaming up with Haslet, Michigan native Benoît Pioulard (née Thomas Meluch) for a concept album that these prolific ambient musicians were destined to create. Avocationals is about nine shipwrecks on the Great Lakes and Patrick posted a teaser video on Instagram:
Here are a series of articles on Ann Arbor, Michigan culture in the late 1950s and 1960s. It is mostly some history of the time from my view and experience. I could add more to them, but I’m getting older by the day and I feel it is better to get something out there for those few who want to get a sense of Ann Arbor back in those times.
I hope there are some out there who can remember these times too. As for those of were not there, here is a taste as to what Ann Arbor was like back then.
Long before he became a software pioneer who created astrological programs and, later, the All Music franchise and its spinoffs, Erlewine was an integral member of Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene as co-founder of blues band The Prime Movers, which eventually featured Iggy Pop on drums.
A round-up of Washtenaw County arts and culture news.
Ann Arbor musician and Ghostly International co-founder Matthew Dear spent six years crafting his latest solo album, Bunny, which came out Oct. 12, 2018.
But for his contribution to FACTmagazine's "Against the Clock" series, Dear put together a song in 10 minutes.
Check out that Dear video below, plus the promo clip for the album single "Bunny's Dream," along with news on the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the suddenly thriving Washtenaw County music club scene, and the AADL archives team recall a 1969 theatrical production that was accused of indecency.