Terence Davies' film "A Quiet Passion" covers the life of poet Emily Dickinson
At first listen, Terence Davies' voice seemingly betrays his 71 years. Even with his charming British accent, the Englishman sounds gravelly, like he can't get as much air into his lungs as he might like. But then it takes about 30 seconds of hearing his words to understand age might not explain this condition as well as a literally breathless enthusiasm for whatever topic he's discussing.
I spoke with Davies about his latest film, A Quiet Passion, a biopic about Emily Dickinson that details her complicated family relationships, her unconventional religious beliefs, and her own self-esteem issues in order to celebrate a unique life and illuminate her poetry. The film opens at the Michigan Theater on Friday, April 21.
Older actors take center stage in Civic Theatre’s "Mornings at Seven"
Youth will be served.
In popular music, movies, and theater, young adults are usually the center of attention. Older actors will land roles as wise elders, cantankerous villains, or doddering comic relief. But the roles are sometimes few and far between.
That’s one reason why Thom Johnson wanted to stage Paul Osborn’s gentle, Midwest 1939 comedy Mornings at Seven for the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.
“I did this play 10 years ago with another group and in the intervening years, looking at shows I wanted to be in, I noticed a real lack of parts for older people,” Johnson said, “and this show except for the two ‘youngsters’ who are in their 40s, it’s all about older people. I think that’s what really sparked me into wanting to do it, an opportunity for older actors to get out there on stage and do their thing.”
Roxane Gay returns to Ann Arbor for her new book, "Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body"
Prolific author Roxane Gay returns to Ann Arbor with a Literati Bookstore-hosted event on June 16 at Hill Auditorium. Tickets were just announced in the Literati newsletter, and the seats are likely to fill up fast. If you're wondering why, here's a quick overview of Gay.
Michigan native and "Narcos" co-creator Doug Miro talks about the art of screenwriting
When I talked to him on the phone recently, Michigan native Doug Miro was driving around Bogotá, Colombia, looking for a good coffee shop. He was shooting a few episodes for season three of the Netflix show Narcos, which he and collaborator Carlo Bernard created along with their partner and showrunner Eric Newman. Miro and Bernard, along with a team of writers, pen the scripts, and the two take turns filming episodes in Colombia and California.
Miro and Bernard have worked together for years now, writing screenplays for Steven Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein, and Jerry Bruckheimer, scripting films such as Prince of Persia (which starred Jake Gyllenhaal), The Wall (starring Matt Damon), Tintin, The Uninvited, and the television series Narcos, which Miro describes as more of a “20-hour movie."
Miro will give a free talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on Wednesday, April 19, at 7 pm. The event is co-presented by the MOCAD and the University of Michigan's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.
U-M grad and NYT best-selling author Elizabeth Kostova gets dark in "The Shadow Land"
Bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian) may now be touring to promote her newest novel, The Shadow Land, but when she arrives in Ann Arbor to appear at Nicola’s Books on Monday evening, she may feel like she’s back home.
Why? Because after Kostova earned a spot in the University of Michigan’s renowned MFA program in creative writing, and graduated, she stayed in Ann Arbor until her family moved to Asheville in 2009.
“I’d intended to just stay (in Ann Arbor) for two years, then go back east and resume teaching there,” said Kostova. “But I loved it so much there that I ended staying. My family was there almost eight years. It was a great place to be for a while.”
Encore helps develop new musical take on ‘Into the Wild’
The Encore Musical Theatre in Dexter is participating in an exciting creative collaboration. Encore is offering its space and many of its talented actors and musicians in the “developmental premiere” of a new musical based in part on Jon Krakauer’s best-selling non-fiction book “Into the Wild” and in part on “Back to the Wild,” a photographic history of Chris McCandless’s journey by the McCandless Foundation.
Krakauer’s book told the story of Chris McCandless, who took off after graduating from Emory University on a cross-country tour in search of adventure and his soul. The adventure ultimately led to the wilds of Alaska and a brutal death and left more questions than answers about McCandless and his quest.
The book was later adapted into a critically acclaimed movie under the direction of Sean Penn.
Janet Allard wrote the book and lyrics for the new musical with music and additional lyrics by Niko Tsakalakos. Mia Walker is the director. She has worked as director or been assistant director on Broadway, off-Broadway, and touring productions.
Smooth Sailing: U-M’s "The Little Mermaid"
The seaway to true love is full of perils in Disney’s The Little Mermaid but, of course, the young lovers bridge land and sea for a happy ever after. And the magical production of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department carries us smoothly along to that expected Disney end.
The Little Mermaid production at the Power Center for the Performing Arts is light, airy, expertly performed and a fine display of how imaginative staging can turn fluff into gold. The production continues 8 p.m. April 14 and 15 and 2 p.m. April 15 and 16.
Encore Theatre goes "Into the Wild" with a musical about Christopher McCandless
The developmental premiere of the new stage musical adaptation of Into the Wild opens this weekend at The Encore Theatre. The play (and book that it’s adapted from) are based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, an Emory graduate who abandoned all of his possessions and stopped communicating with his family when he chose to hitchhike to Alaska.
Into the Wild is directed by Mia Walker, who has worked on some of the most influential plays in the musical theater world over the last ten years. She directed the current national tour of Pippin, acted as associate director for both Waitress and Finding Neverland on Broadway, and was the assistant director of Invisible Thread (previously Witness Uganda) at Second Stage Theatre.
The play is written by Niko Tsakalakos (music and lyrics) and Janet Allard (book and lyrics). Tsakalakos studied at Tisch School of the Arts under the mentorship of William Finn, composer of Falsettos, A New Brain, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Recently, I was extremely fortunate to have an in-depth email interview with both Mia Walker and Niko Tsakalakos, where I had the chance to ask them about both the show and their career paths up until this point.
A Model Modern Pirate Musical: UMGASS's "The Pirates of Penzance"
The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (UMGASS) hits the stage at the Mendelssohn Theater again this weekend with what must be their umpteenth production of The Pirates of Penzance. Pirates is far and away Gilbert & Sullivan's best-known work, well-represented in popular culture, as demonstrated by Muppets, Animaniacs, Kevin Kline, and even a complete production in Yiddish.
UMGASS takes Pirates seriously, which is to say, not seriously at all, delivering a delightful community production, loaded with talent and laughs, that stays true to the original work without casting it in amber.
The Great Eight: Banff Mountain Film Festival at the Michigan Theater
It’s been over 20 years since the Banff Mountain Film Festival launched its “world tour,” bringing various films from the competition to over 40 countries and hundreds of cities around the world. Ann Arbor has been lucky enough to be a stop on the tour for more than a decade.
The film festival, which takes place at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada each fall, features short films and documentaries about outdoor recreation of all sorts. Eight of the best films from the festival were shown at the Michigan Theater this past Tuesday evening.
This year’s selections offered a refreshing dose of unusual sports and unique humor. The festival opened with Metronomic, a 5-minute film from France about a team of “flying musicians.” The stuntmen swing off of tight-ropes and parachute off of cliffs, all while playing their respective instruments. Most amazing was the drummer, Freddy Montigny, who flew with his entire drum set.
Next was a film about canine sports, Dog Power, that covered much more than dog sledding. Focusing on the lasting relationships that form between athletes and their dogs in dog-powered sports, the film showed canicross (running with dogs), bikjoring (biking with dogs), skijoring (skiing behind a team of dogs), and various distances and team sizes of sled-dog racing. It was fascinating to learn about the breeding and care that goes into making dogs into athletes. One racer emphasized that the dogs are just as important a part of the team as the human. Banff Film Festival’s films often focus on skiing and snowboarding, climbing or mountain biking, so it was exciting and heartwarming to see a film like Dog Power.
Another feel-good film from the show was Four Mums in a Boat, the amazing story of four middle-aged British mothers who decide to compete in a race rowing a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. They all met one another while dropping their kids off at school, and took up rowing on the local river. After learning about the 3,000-mile race across the Atlantic, one of the mothers convinced the other three to sign up for it with her. The film showcases the trials and tribulations that the women undergo as they spend almost 70 days (20 more than planned) rowing across the ocean. From a loss of power (meaning they had to spend 10 hours a day hand-pumping ocean water through a filter to make it potable) and a broken rudder to rowing into Hurricane Alex, the women demonstrate admirable strength, endurance, and determination, and a great deal of humor.
Young Guns is a 30-minute film about two young rock climbers, was also a crowd-favorite. Kai Lightner was 15 years old when the film was made and Ashima Shiraishi was just 14. The two are gaining worldwide notoriety as the film opens, winning national championships and beating climbers much older than them. Friends both at the climbing gym and outside of it, they spend their spring break traveling together with their families to Norway, where extra challenging rocks put their skills to the test. Their quiet maturity and amazing climbing skills had the audience gasping with delight, especially when Shiraishi becomes both the youngest person ever and the first woman to climb a V15 boulder in Japan at the film’s conclusion.
Other films shown on Tuesday were Being Hear, a brief film about the importance of listening to nature, The Perfect Flight, a five-minute film about falconry, The Super Salmon, about the fight by many Alaskans to protect the Susitna River from being dammed, and Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out, a charming, amusing film about one man’s day mountain biking through rural Ireland. Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is locally sponsored by U-M’s Recreational Sports association, Moosejaw, and Bivouac, is a special treat each year. The films offer viewers the chance to see aspects of outdoor sports and life that often aren’t captured at the Olympics or other major televised sporting events, and the unique perspective that each filmmaker brings to his or her work casts each movie in a different emotional light. This year’s distinctiveness, with its focus on sports like falconry, rowing, and canicross, made for an extra special experience. Luckily for anyone who missed the festival -- or for anyone who is excited to see more outdoor films -- Banff Mountain Film Festival will be back in 2018.
Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour stops in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Theater every April.