Local Woman Sees Star Wars: The Force Awakens

REVIEW FILM & VIDEO

Local Woman Sees Star Wars

The Hairy Space-Bear and The Guy Who Wears The Leather Jacket were both in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Two weeks ago, the long-awaited Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, hit theaters like a ton of space-bricks. Hordes of people of all different ages, all kinds of backgrounds, and varying levels of nerdiness flooded theaters on December 17th to see what this latest installment had to offer. They showed up to theaters two hours before the movie. They stood in lines that stretched out the door, around the corner, and possibly into the street. They ate popcorn by the bucketful and shouted over each other to answer the theater staff’s trivia questions and win free movie tickets (most likely for return trips to see this exact same movie). And, lucky me, I was one of the many, standing in line at 9 pm with my ticket in hand, waiting for the theater doors to open. There was really only one thing separating me from the eager crowd of fans humming with excitement around me:

I had never in my life seen a Star Wars movie.

I know. Suddenly my “space-bricks” comment makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? I know exactly zero things about Star Wars, so for all I know space-bricks are totally relevant to this fandom.

I am fully aware that every person in the world has seen Star Wars. I’m pretty sure they screen it for newborn babies in the maternity wards at hospitals. It’s been around for almost 40 years, but somehow I had managed to stumble through life without ever seeing it. I never accidentally watched one while at a friend's house or in a waiting room or settled on one while flipping through channels—you know, back in 2008 when people still had cable.

So when the new movie came out, and friends invited me along, I decided, “Yeah, ok. That could work. How important is it REALLY to have seen the other movies? I mean, I know stuff about Star Wars.”

This line of thinking was pure folly. A group of Star Wars-loving co-workers showed me just how wrong I was with an informal, pre-movie interview. Here are the things I “knew” about Star Wars before seeing the movie - spoilers ahead, but only for people as Star Wars-sheltered as me:

[begin embarrassing transcript]
So, what are you pretty sure you already know about Star Wars?
Luke and Darth Vader are related.

They sometimes fly around in ships and shoot at things, like giant desert rats.

One of the planets is, like, a desert planet.

Han Solo shot first. The internet was pretty adamant about that one.

Yoda talks funny and is green and small and…him and Luke were buds?

Jar Jar Binks is a gold robot. No, wait, he's the guy with the weird face!

There's a scene where there's deserts! Or planets.

Ok, what do you know about the general plot of Star Wars? Give us a summary.
Luke Skywalker is the Chosen One of some kind. He lives on a planet that is not Earth and fights some dudes. Not really sure about his motivation. He hangs out with Yoda and Han Solo and they teach him how to use a lightsaber. He goes to fight Darth Vader because no one likes that guy. They go to the Death Star, which is round and has a dent in it. Darth Vader wants to kill him for... reasons? Then there are storm troopers and they wear white and there are other kinds of storm troopers that look similar but are different. And they fight them? And they win? And Darth Vader dies? But first he says "Luke, I am your father." And that's all I know.

Who is Jabba the Hutt?
He's a fat guy who has Leia in a gold bikini. I know that because of Friends. Wait, is that guy blue?

What do you know about Boba Fett?
I don't remember. Is he an alien? He's not a person. Not as crazy looking as Jar Jar Binks. Is he a robot?

What about Obi-Wan Kenobi?
I used to think Harrison Ford was Obi-Wan Kenobi. But actually, he's Han Solo. I just assume they are both Harrison Ford.

How do you think the ewoks enter into this?
Oh. Yeah. Is Chewbacca an ewok? They are some sort of space animal…that are either Chewbacca or…I'm imagining them smaller? Like the footstool in Beauty and the Beast. You know that little dog?

Who is Anakin Skywalker?
That one I know! That guy is Darth Vader. He was a nice guy once and then his face got jacked up. So under his mask he has a jacked up face. What's his motivation? What's that guy up to? Is he trying to take over the universe? People are always trying to do that.

Who's the Emperor?
Is that different than Darth Vader?

Who is Lando Calrissian?
He is from across the Narrow Sea and has dragons and wants the Iron Throne?

Who does Natalie Portman play?
She was Princess Leia, right?

No.
Really!? Wow. I was like 80% sure she was Princess Leia.

What is the Force?
It's like chi? Energy. You use it for... fighting? With lightsabers? You should use it. I know you use it. And also that sometimes it is with you. Can it be good or bad? I think it's good.

What's a Jedi?
Oh, a Jedi is like an auror in Harry Potter. They fight crime and stuff and they wear brown robes. Also like Harry Potter! Wait, lightsaber color is important. I don't know why I know that. Do they have different powers? Do people have powers in this movie? Um, I know Jedis can return. They went somewhere and came back. Is Jedi plural? I think it's a job.

[end embarrassing transcript]

Yup. So, clearly I was starting on a solid foundation of very correct facts. I’m pretty sure by the end of the conversation, I was just directly quoting from movie titles. I am still not totally sure how wrong my information was, but I could kind of gauge it by how horrified my co-workers looked after each answer.

And so, armed with all of this very factual knowledge, I went to see the seventh Star Wars movie. I waited in line for two hours with a horde of die-hard Star Wars fans wearing quippy t-shirts. Some were dressed up as That One Character Who Wears Gray, or That Person With the Brown Clothes, or Princess Leia (nailed it). And lots of them were toting around what I thought at the time was some kind of zany orange and white space-hat (but was apparently a robot called BB-8). I watched my Star Wars-obsessed friends answer trivia questions and yell at a guy who dared to wear a shirt with a Star Trek font. I ate two pretzels.

And then it was finally time for the movie. We flooded into the theater, the lights went out, and the magic began.

Considering that I barely knew who anyone was or what was going on, the movie kept me completely hooked from beginning to end--aside from a very brief couple of seconds when I fell asleep because, well, it was almost midnight and I was basically full of pretzel cheese.

I thought the movie was funny, exciting, and incredibly realistic for a space opera. Spaceship chases? Yes, please! Lightsaber fights? Bring 'em on! But there were also real feelings, real relationships, and real stakes in this movie. Who'd have thought?

The main characters were just impossible not to root for. Finn, the stormtrooper who's been trained to kill for the dark side, but decides run off and fight for the Resistance; Rey, the clever, solitary junkyard girl who accidentally gets swept into this epic battle between good and evil; and BB-8, the world's most adorable space-hat, who is being hunted by the Republic.

Now, I'm not sure if a stormtrooper turning his back on the dark side and running away to fight for good is something that has ever happened in the Star Wars universe. If I'm honest, before Finn pulled off his helmet in the movie I didn't even realize stormtroopers were people. If I'm really, really honest, I didn't even know stormtrooper was one word. But the revelation that stormtroopers could have feelings and weren't all just soulless killing robots felt like a pretty new and exciting leap in character development to me--and a pretty cool introduction to the universe. All my preconceived notions, few though they were, were just blown to bits and suddenly it felt like anything could happen. If stormtroopers could be good maybe C-3PO would pull off his face to reveal that he's the Emperor. The possibilities were endless!

Rey was a joy to watch as she went from impoverished junkyard scavenger to lightsaber-wielding, butt-kicking fighter for the Resistance, and her chemistry and banter with Han Solo was so much fun. Kylo Ren, with his motivations and backstory left intentionally foggy, managed to seem well-rounded, and the relationships that were hinted at gave his character some great depth. As far as I can tell, Star Wars isn't known for making two-dimensional villains, and they certainly haven't started with Kylo Ren.

These allusions to histories and relationships between the movie's characters felt like completely new revelations, not old references that I just wasn't getting. But it was interesting how easy it was to pick up on the things that were old inside jokes. I didn't get any of them, of course, but I could tell when some classic Star Wars thing had happened because suddenly the camera would pan around to a nondescript, decrepit spaceship and everyone would start screaming and cheering. Or Han Solo would stop and say something completely unremarkable and the entire theater would explode into laughter and applause.

The combination of old references and new information made something incredibly clear, though. While I could probably say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good movie--I enjoyed seeing it and only fell asleep the one time--it would be impossible for me to say just how good it was without having seen the other beloved (and less-beloved) films in the series. Are these ideas, these characters, these plot lines original and revolutionary and surprising, or are they overdone tropes? Are they carefully planned and well-thought-out tie-ins to plot lines from the previous movies or have they kicked the old plot lines to the curb? Is this the continuation of one great big, epic story or an entirely new story with some familiar faces tacked on?

On a great big list of "Things I Don't Know About Star Wars," these questions have all risen to the top. Right below the biggest question of all: Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens really a good movie?

I think so. But I can't know for sure until I've seen the rest. And so, with the next movie in the franchise looming on the horizon, it might be time to give in to the gravitational pull of the Star Wars universe and just…watch the movies already.


Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and if she had to rename The Force Awakens, she would call it Star Wars: Stormtroopers Have Feelings Too. Or maybe, Star Wars: Everyone In Space Has Daddy Issues.



Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters everywhere, all the time.

Great Profile on the Ann Arbor Comics Scene

WRITTEN WORD VISUAL ART

Ann Arbor Comics Scene

Ann Arbor artist Jeremy Wheeler shows off his artwork and his Wolverine impersonation skills.

Natalie Burg had an excellent piece in Concentrate earlier this month about the Ann Arbor comics scene.

From the article:
"With so much local talent making waves from the internet to Hollywood, Ann Arbor's comics and graphic novels scene—no matter how well connected the artists are with one another—is having a big impact on comics fans, both locally and around the world."

Many of the artists who appear in the article are represented in the AADL catalog, including:
- Katie Cook
- Jerzy Drozd
- Jim Ottaviani
- Pete Sickman-Garner
- Bruce Worden

AADL has been happy to work with some of the artists on projects like making Ottaviani's titles available in our Downloads collection, or Drozd's Nerd Nite talk on 1980s cartoons or his Comics Are Great! video podcast series.

So check out the article, and discover a new appreciation for your local comics artists!

The Other Kind of "Pop" Music: A2SO's Holiday Pops

REVIEW MUSIC

Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Pops concert

"Pop!" went the music as Measure for Measure joined A2SO's Holiday Pops performance.

On December 11th the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra celebrated the Christmas season with their 4th annual Holiday Pops performance. Combining music, song, and some audience-provided sound effects, the show captured all the best things about the holidays: cheer, togetherness, and good music.

I went in expecting the good music, so I wasn’t surprised when they started with some classic wintery waltzes, ballet pieces, and a host of other refined orchestral numbers that made me feel like I should have worn fancier clothes. It was beautiful and stirring and, after getting over the amazing sight of the instruments at work, I listened to most of it with my eyes closed. But I was pleasantly surprised a few songs in when the show revealed itself for what it really was—pure holiday ridiculousness in a fancy suit.

The conductor took a break from his straight-laced conducting for some charming holiday banter, ironically reminding the audience to go out and play in the snow and to see the heart-warming holiday film “Krampus.” Then he and the orchestra launched into a second wave of pieces that were just as beautiful, but far jollier. One song that perfectly combined the feeling of sophisticated symphony with festive silliness was the “Champagne Gallop,” an upbeat piece that included regular pauses for an exuberant “pop!” sound, mimicking the popping of a champagne cork. Technically, this sound was supposed to be made by the percussion section—but what fun would that be? Instead, the conductor asked the audience to create the popping sound themselves with the trusty finger-in-the-mouth trick. Suddenly, a song that would have been a pretty good time all by itself was made even better by the hilarious sound of 500 audience members making popping noises every time the conductor waved his hand in our direction. It was, in a way, like being a part of the orchestra—if there was a section of the orchestra designated to ridiculous sounds you can make with your mouth.

But generally speaking, there is not. I checked.

Partway through the program, the orchestra opened its doors and ushered in a flood of choirs: the Boychoir of Ann Arbor, Measure for Measure, the Skyline High School Choir, the Ann Arbor Youth Chorale, and the Greenhills Choir. The orchestra’s performance was made all the more buoyant by the addition of song as each choir took its turn and, finally, joined the audience for a good, old-fashioned holiday sing-along. As the evening ended with the audience belting out verses of "Jingle Bells," "O Christmas Tree," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," the performance went through one last transformation, taking on the feel of a fun and cozy family get-together—complete with cheerful, off-key singing in my ear and children kicking the back of my seat.

Ah, Christmas.


Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian and she actually has no idea how to make that finger-in-the-mouth popping sound.


The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra's next big event will be their Mozart Birthday Bash at the Michigan Theatre on January 16th. Tickets are available online from their website.

Review: Come As You Are

REVIEW VISUAL ART

Nikki S. Lee Punk Project (1), 1997: Fujiflex print, edition 5 of 5 // Mark Dion Department of Marine Animal Identification of the City of San Francisco (Chinatown Division), 1998: Mixed media

Nikki S. Lee "Punk Project (1)", 1997: Fujiflex print, edition 5 of 5 // Mark Dion "Department of Marine Animal Identification of the City of San Francisco (Chinatown Division)", 1998: Mixed media

I’ve been waiting a few years now for the day that the 1990s are far enough behind us that we can start to look at that decade and the art that came out of it with a more objective eye, and the Come As You Are installation at UMMA seems to imply that perhaps that day is finally here!

The best thing about the installation, located in a large exhibit space on the second floor of the museum, is the diversity of mediums that comprise it. Paintings, sculptures, film, photographs, and large-scale multimedia installations are all represented. And, despite the bright colors, sounds, and even quick movement (!) of some of the pieces, they all come together to create an unusual sense of peace in the room… with a distinctive ‘90s aura.

Upon entering, viewers are directed to turn to their left (although I am sure many will be distracted, as I was, by a piece to the right featuring an office chair spinning at seemingly impossible speeds). The decade is broken into three segments for purposes of organization of the installation, beginning with 1989-1993, a time when the United States was rampant with debates about multiculturalism, race, and the “American identity,” and when issues of gay rights and feminism were just beginning to be truly discussed in the public sphere. As the introduction to the exhibit points out, it was dramatic political and social events that pushed these issues to the forefront of the media in the early 1990s: the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court decision, the Los Angeles race riots and Rodney King beating, and the continued AIDS crisis. The art pieces from these years reflect these issues well. "Synecdoche", by artist Byron Kim, is a grid of monochrome painted panels that doesn’t necessarily catch the eye at first. I was fascinated to read, however, that each panel represents exactly—or at least as close as Kim could get to—the skin tone of an individual that Kim invited to “sit” for a portrait. With “synecdoche” referring to a part that stands for a whole, Kim’s piece makes a simple, yet interesting commentary on a racially diverse society.

Prior to this, however, is a case of Rolling Rock bottles enclosed in bright orange plexiglass—a remnant from one of the performative installations of 1991 by the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, who invited people to sit and share drinks and a meal together while discussing issues of the day. Other moving pieces from the early 1990s include a velvet couch embroidered with the words of a suicide note left by a single immigrant mother to her daughter, and two enormous dresses with unnaturally long arms—a piece entitled "Famous Twins", by Beverly Semmes, that comments on skewed perceptions of the female body image. I didn’t quite “get” "Lick and Lather", by Janine Antoni, which features two self-portrait busts of the artist, one of soap and one of chocolate, but was absolutely fascinated—and somewhat horrified—to find out that Antoni formed them by licking away the chocolate and lathering away the soap.

Janine Antoni Lick and Lather, 1993, Two self-portrait busts: one chocolate and one soap, Photo by John Bessler

Janine Antoni "Lick and Lather", 1993: Two self-portrait busts: one chocolate and one soap / Photo by John Bessler

The mid-1990s mark the advent of the digital age, and the art in this portion of Come As You Are does, too. Digital photographs and several short films make up most of the art in this section. For one of the films, viewers actually step behind a dark velvet curtain for an enclosed viewing experience, a sharp contrast from wandering through the bright white rooms that house the rest of the pieces.

In the late 1990s, the focus of the art divides somewhat. About half of the pieces make statements on American cultural stereotypes in the latter portion of the decade, while others turn outward and focus on globalization and America’s role in the global economy. Nikki S. Lee has a series of self-portrait photographs on display, in which she portrays women who “typify” late-1990s American culture: a punk rocker, a Latina woman on a sunny city street, and a woman in an Ohio trailer near a confederate flag enacting a “white trash” stereotype. Nearby, Jeanne Dunning brilliantly contrasts a close-up photograph of a skinned tomato with an adjacent photograph of a mischievously-smiling woman, tomato juice running out of her mouth, inviting viewers to contemplate how women are often portrayed sexually in art—and that when a piece of art portrays a woman, it’s difficult to not see sexual undertones, even when none are intended.

Concluding the room are two vastly different pieces: the first simply a television screen with a screenshot of an actual Ebay auction from 2001: that of “Keith Obadike’s Blackness,” which will allow the purchaser to “gain access to ‘high risk’ neighborhoods” and acquire the ability of “instilling fear.” The second and final piece is a large, room-sized multimedia installation entitled "Department of Marine Animal Identification of the City of San Francisco (Chinatown Division)". Artist Mark Dion and his team actually researched and identified both the biological and geographical origins of the fish sold on a given day in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1997, a perfect sort of microcosm of the global economy. The art installation looks like a laboratory, with fish samples, files, and notes scattered about. This is the first time the piece has been exhibited since the year it was created.

I might be a little biased because I’m fascinated by the political and social events and the unique culture of the 1990s, but I found Come As You Are to be a particularly interesting, thoughtful, and special exhibition of art. As the first major museum installation showcasing the art of the decade, it really is a must see—even for those who remember the ‘90s less fondly than I do.


Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.


University of Michigan Museum of Art: Come As You Are will run through January 31, 2016. The UMMA is located at 525 S. State Street. The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 am-5 pm; and Sunday 12-5 pm For information, call 734-764-0395.

I'm Dreaming of a Non-Holiday Holiday Movie Fest

FILM & VIDEO

Hans Gruber falling

The holiday season means different things to different people. To my sister and I growing up, it meant it was time to pull out the Christmas special VHS, which contained A Chipmunk Christmas, The Smurfs' Christmas Special, and, my personal favorite, He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special. We didn't love them for their holiday messages, because frankly, they all fail to have a cohesive or believable plot. I think we loved them just because they were part of the season and also because my mom forgot to pause recording on the commercials, which meant re-watching holiday ads that got weirder and more dated with each viewing. Anybody else remember ice-skating Ronald McDonald? It just goes to show that movies made for Christmas can sometimes, you know, suck.

As more and more people each year identify Die Hard as their favorite holiday movie, I asked my fellow co-workers and Pulp contributors to share their favorite non-holiday holiday movies. Please enjoy this list of movies in which Christmas happens but isn't why the film exists in the first place.

Evelyn recommends Nick Offerman's Yule Log, the lowest-key of seasonal viewing experiences, featuring no action, no dialogue, and just the crackle of a fire and the enjoyment of a fine Scotch to admire.

Sara suggests The Thin Man - come for the martinis and mystery, stay for Nick shooting balloons off the Christmas tree with his new airgun and Nora's Christmas threat:

Amy, our classic film buff, suggests The Apartment, Meet Me in St. Louis, and The Lemon Drop Kid, in which a small time crook played by Bob Hope attempts to pay off an angry mobster with a bell-ringing Santa donation racket. This film also featured the debut of the holiday standard "Silver Bells."

Anne has some recommendations that celebrate the 80s and early 90s at their cinematic best. First up is Gremlins, which you should definitely watch if you are tired of Christmas carols:

And then there's Batman Returns, featuring this moment, which has Christmas lights, Santa references, and gifts being hurled through the air. Tim Burton must have had a thing for incorporating Christmas settings (Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas) into his movies.

Eli voted for The Ref, which is probably the second-most popular home invasion-themed holiday movie in which a burglar is a main character. Because the first has to be Home Alone, right?

Oh wait, I almost forgot about this guy:

Erin came up with a whole mess of movies in which Christmas makes a passing appearance, including In Bruges, Go, Little Women, and Bridget Jones's Diary - mmm, turkey curry, my favorite.

But my favorite of her suggestions has to be Trading Places, complete with Dan Ackroyd's filthy Santa suit.

Andrew's picks included L.A. Confidential, because what says "holiday spirit" better than a prison beatdown scene, and Holiday Inn, because Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby singing and dancing to Christmas tunes to impress a girl really does say "holiday spirit".

So from all of us on the Pulp team here at AADL, we wish you very happy movie-watching, from our couches to yours!


Sara Wedell is a Production Librarian at AADL and would like to note that Auntie Mame also features a very sweet and touching Christmas scene amid the zaniness and camp that makes up the rest of the film.


Preview: Mittenfest X

PREVIEW MUSIC

Mittenfest X's lineup includes (clockwise from upper left): Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, Frontier Ruckus, Chris Bathgate, The Kickstand Band, and The Bootstrap Boys

Mittenfest X's lineup includes (clockwise from upper left): Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, Frontier Ruckus, Chris Bathgate, The Kickstand Band, and The Bootstrap Boys

Bid adieu to 2015 and welcome 2016 in with Mittenfest X: the 10th annual installment of the five-day music festival that raises funds for local creative writing nonprofit 826Michigan. Starting December 29th and continuing through January 2nd—including shows on New Years Eve and New Years Day—Mittenfest X will be held for the first time this year at Ypsilanti’s Bona Sera café. The opening night lineup partially and purposefully mirrors the lineup of the first ever opening night of the original Mittenfest 10 years ago: Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, the high-energy “stomp and holler” folk of Frontier Ruckus, and Fred Thomas are all back a decade later to kickoff the festival. All the performers are from Michigan, with most hailing from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti, and a few coming across the state from Grand Rapids to play. With 7 acts each night, the first going on at 8:30 pm and the final act taking the stage at 1:00 am, Mittenfest is known for its fast pace and wide variety of music. What can attendees look forward to this year?

Detroit band Bonny Doon released their debut EP last winter under local label Salinas. The four band members, most of whom also play in one or more other Detroit-based bands, have described their music together as “subdued punk.” Sometimes even delving into a country rock sound, the band jams loosely on stage, experimenting with their songs and preventing things from getting too precise. The band often plays with Fred Thomas who, as mentioned above, will be one of the headliners on Mittenfest X’s opening night. They’ll play on the second night of the festival, December 30th, at 1:00 am.

2015 will come to a close to the sounds of sunny basement rock (yes, that can be a thing) duo Gordon Smith and Allison Young, better known as The Kickstand Band, who take the stage at 11:30 pm on December 31. They first got together in Detroit in 2011 and released their debut album Puppy Love. Since then, they’ve put out an EP and another full-length album is in the works. It remains to be seen if they’ll be bringing their homemade lightshow (!) along to Mittenfest X (it has come along to several outdoor music festivals in the past), but lightshow or no lightshow, The Kickstand Band's performance ought to open 2016 with a bang.

One of the bands making the trip across the state to play Mittenfest X is The Bootstrap Boys, who are currently just finishing up a tour playing at various Michigan breweries. They just banded together in early 2015 and have a rollicking repertoire of four-part-harmony country songs which, they claim, will have you asking: ‘Y’all like to shoot whiskey?’ Their EP, Country Songs for Sale, was released in October.

Indie folk singer and songwriter Chris Bathgate, a staple on the local music scene for over a decade now, will close Mittenfest X, taking the stage at 1 am on January 2nd. He’s released 5 studio albums, and has received national acclaim performing at SXSW and recording an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. His newest EP, Old Factory, is set to be released in early 2016. Bathgate is sometimes compared to folk musician Sufjan Stevens, who completed an entire album about Michigan. Somewhat similarly, Ann Arborites will want to listen for references to local sites in some of Bathgate’s songs.

You can view the whole Mittenfest X lineup here.


Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Mittenfest X runs Tuesday, December 29, 2015-Saturday, January 2, 2016 at Bona Sera Café, 200 W Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI, 41897. Performers play from approximately 8:30 pm-2 am every evening. $10 cover per night.

Review: Elks Pratt Lodge's DEEP FREEZE

PREVIEW MUSIC

Fred Thomas & Mike Dykehouse were two of the DJs at this year's Elks Pratt Lodge Deep Freeze
Fred Thomas & Mike Dykehouse were two of the DJs at this year's Elks Pratt Lodge Deep Freeze

The majestic Elks Pratt Lodge looms over Ann Arbor from its perch at the top of a grassy (or sometimes by the time of DEEP FREEZE, snowy!) hill on Sunset Road. Nestled in Water Hill neighborhood, the Elks members made the decision in the late 2000s to allow the community to book events there that are open to the public. Since then, various live music and DJed concerts and dance nights have been held over the years, as well as barbecues and social justice events. Minimal décor and a cash-only bar keep events there simple, but a typically eclectic crowd is unfailingly enthusiastic for whatever is going on.

On Saturday, December 12, Elk members and the public attended DEEP FREEZE, a winter dance night featuring prominent local DJs and other special guests. Fred Thomas, the frontman of indie pop band Saturday Looks Good to Me, was one of these DJs. He just released a new album this past year, All Are Saved, which fans loved and even Pitchfork reviewed favorably! Mike Dykehouse, another prominent local artist who achieved wide acclaim after playing at the first ever Detroit Electronic Music Festival, was also one of the DJs that performed at the Elks Lodge on the 12th. Dykehouse played on Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International’s summer 2002 tour, and even has ties to the Ann Arbor District Library; he DJed at our Mini-Moog fest this past July. His 2004 full-length debut album is titled Midrange. DJs Chuck Sipperley, who’s performed at Top of the Park, Mittenfest and many other local events in the past, and Jason Lymangrover, were also there for DEEP FREEZE.

One of those most fun things about events at the Elks Lodge is the way that the building is lit up. Strings of lights are hung on the porch and from the rooftop, making the mansion a sort of beacon as you approach it from any direction. Upon entering through the back of the lodge, guests are ushered downstairs to the bar, and nearby, the dance floor. A lot of the music was dance mixes of 80s and 90s tracks, which suited the crowd of twenty and thirty-somethings perfectly. The dance floor was fun, friendly and active for much of the night, and when people weren’t dancing, groups still enjoyed the music in the deep booths that surround the floor. With so many DJs, there was never a break in music and guests trickled in and out, enjoying the unseasonably warm night on the porch of the Lodge, and then wandering back in to dance more or grab another drink.

Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Preview: Winter Dance Sharing

PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Dance out the winter blues with the Winter Dance Sharing

Dance out the winter blues with the Winter Dance Sharing

Let the music move you! If you enjoy meeting performers and interacting with them, this event is designed with you in mind. To kick off the Winter Dance Sharing, Christina Sears-Etter (Artistic Director for the People Dancing Company) will teach a sample SOMAdance class in a workshop format. SOMAdance helps dancers use their bodies to express imagery, which can be enhanced by increasing mind body integration. You do not need prior dance training to enjoy and benefit from this workshop. SOMAdance is designed for teenagers and older. On-site childcare will be provided during the workshop with advance reservations.

Following the SOMAdance workshop, you can enjoy live performances in the studio with works choreographed by Sears-Etter and Abigayle Cryderman.


Heide Otto Basinger is on the Board of People Dancing.


Winter Dance Sharing will take place on Saturday, December 19, 2015, from 4:30-7:30 pm at the Arts in Motion Dance Studio (6175 Jackson Rd., Suite B). The suggested donation is $8.

I'm Dreaming of a Stockingful of Holiday Stuff

Dash through the snow (dirt?) to these holiday events!

Dash through the snow (dirt?) to these holiday events!

December is upon us and, like the giant rolling boulder in that one Indiana Jones movie, the holidays are rumbling ever closer.

If you need some tips to help you celebrate the season, here's a handy list of festive holiday things going on in the area:

Dickens: An A Capella Carol
Friday, November 27th - Sunday, December 20th
Performance Network Theater - Ann Arbor, MI

National Theatre of Scotland: A Christmas Carol
Thursday, December 17th - Sunday, January 3rd
Power Center for Performing Arts - Ann Arbor, MI

Ypsilanti Community Choir's Annual Holiday Concert
Thursday, December 17th
Washtenaw Community College - Ann Arbor, MI

Gifts of Art presents Holiday Harmonies with Counterpoint
Thursday, December 17th
University Hospitals - Ann Arbor, MI

Home for the Holidays! with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Friday, December 18th - Sunday, December 20th
Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Detroit, MI

The Corner Christmas! (Not Your Family's Christmas Party) at the Corner Brewery
Saturday, December 19th
Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery - Ypsilanti, MI

Krampus Costume Ball
Saturday, December 19th
The Dreamland Theater - Ypsilanti, MI

Scones and Shopping at the Eyrie
Saturday, December 19th
The Eyrie - Ypsilanti, MI

X'mas Explosion 4 feat. Archimime, Meridians, Scapegoat and The Path Of Exile
Saturday, December 19th
The Maidstone Theater - Ypsilanti, MI

Museum of Natural History Planetarium: Season of Light
December 19th-20th, 27-30th
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History - Ann Arbor, MI

Winter Solstice Celebration
Tuesday, December 22nd
Cultivate Coffee and Taphouse - Ypsilanti, MI

Gifts of Art presents Sweet Sounds of the Season with Wanda Degen
Thursday, December 24th
University Hospitals - Ann Arbor, MI

Black Christmas Feat. The Suicide Machines, The Black Dahlia Murder, BIGWIG, Mustard Plug, Koffin Kats
Saturday, December 26th
The Majestic - Detroit, MI

Mittenfest X
Tuesday, December 29th - Saturday, January 2nd
Bona Sera Cafe - Ypsilanti, MI


Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and she's been listening to Christmas music since July.


Review: Henry IV, Part I, University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance

REVIEW THEATER & DANCE

UMSMTD gives the devil his due in their production of Henry IV

UMSMTD gives the devil his due in their production of Henry IV

Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I isn't really about King Henry IV. It's about the rivalry between Henry's son, Prince Hal, the future Henry V, and the heroic and headstrong Harry "Hotspur" Percy.

The play is full of jolly roistering and clashing swords, but its theme of delayed maturity seems to fit well for a university production. And the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance offers a perceptive and action-packed production.

The heir to a much-disputed crown is happier in a tavern than on a battlefield and his father worries that Hal will never assume his proper role. Meanwhile, the son of one of his allies, Hotspur, has won acclaim for his daring. Hotspur and his father and aunt (a change of gender for the role) will soon change allegiance and lead a rebellion. Will Hal meet the challenge?

Not if an old, soused knight named Falstaff has any say in the matter. Falstaff is of course one of Shakespeare's great creations. He's a lecher, a drunk, a buffoon, a coward, and a great party animal. He's a "bad influence" but closer to Hal than his own father and something of a modern day cynic.

Director Priscilla Lindsay pulls all these elements together in a rousing, traditional staging of one of the Bard's most popular works. The production moves smoothly from the bawdy confines of the Boar's Head Inn to the royal court to the bloody fields of battle. Shakespeare's language is a challenge for young actors and the clarity of some of the actors is less than it should be. But Lindsay gets some excellent work from her three major actors.

Robert M. O'Brien is a handsome, charming, and playful Hal. He speaks the language well, he moves gracefully and, crucially, he makes a convincing move from party boy to a leader of men. He conveys some of the sadness and loss that that move will cause him.

The plum role in any production of this play and its sequel is of course Sir John Falstaff. Graham Techler may need padding to fill the obese profile, but he is a superb Falstaff. He handles both the rapid verbal wit and the complex physical comedy excellently. He's hilarious, but in his famous comments on "honor," he also conveys a deeper understanding of what he's saying.

But, the real find here is Caleb Foote. His Hotspur is a raging revelation. He is fierce, rapid-tongued, and physically athletic and on-edge. Foote's command of Shakespeare's language is amazing. He understands perfectly that the best approach is to speak it naturally as your own and in this case he even gives it a rough north English accent. When he is on stage, he commands the stage. He bears himself like a young Jimmy Cagney, which is perfect for the reckless if honorable warrior he plays.

Key roles are played by Larissa Marten as Hotspur's ambitious aunt, Matthew Provenza as the title character, Elyakeem Avraham as a Welsh lord and Jesse Aronson, Samuel Bell-Gurwitz, and Sten Eikrem as Hal's Boar's Head companions.

The complex battle scenes are excellently staged by fight director Robert Najarian. Costume designer Christianne Myers helps define the players by putting the king's men in golds and tans and the rebels in silver and gray.

The production concluded Sunday at the the Power Center on the central UM campus.


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.