Fabulous Fiction Firsts #628, Parts 1 & 2


"If you are here today ... you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it through hell and are still standing? We bear a different name: warriors.” ~Lori Goodwin.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #628, Pt.1

Two extraordinary debut novels set during WWII came out on Valentine's Day, and both speak to the capacity of the human spirit to endure in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moment.

We Were the Lucky Ones is based on the true story of the Kurc family of Radom, Poland. In 1939, prosperous and educated, Jewish merchants Sol and Nechuma were trying their best to live normal lives with their family as war was looming, observing religious holidays and doting on their new grandchild. When Germany invaded Poland, Sol and Nechuma decided to stay with daughters Halina and Mila, while their sons Genek and Jakob joined the Polish army.

Middle son Addy, an engineer and budding composer was stuck in France and was eventually conscripted. Over the course of the war, the three generations of Kurcs were flung to distant points on the globe, from the jazz clubs of Paris to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro to Kraków’s most brutal prison and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, they were driven by an extraordinary will to survive and to reunite.

Roustabout Theatre Troupe's "Shakespeare, You Sexy Beast" Was Refreshingly Risque


Shakespeare, You Sexy Beast

The Bard got positively bootyful in Roustabout Theatre Troupe's show.

Who knew Shakespeare could be so racy?

On February 9, Roustabout Theatre Troupe presented a sold-out performance titled Shakespeare, You Sexy Beast!, a montage of scenes and sonnets all centered around the theme of sweet, sweet love. (The show was also repeated February 10-11.)

As a local, it’s always exciting to see live theater in the Ypsilanti community. This used to be a rare opportunity, but now with Roustabout Theatre Troupe, Neighborhood Theatre Group, and PTD Productions live theater in downtown Ypsi is an actual “thing.”

Niceland and Forest Art House Are Using the Old Tiny Buddha Space for Pop-Up Art Events



Niceland popped-up a weekend of art, including this forest faun mask by Lavinia Hanachiuc. Photo by Patti Smith.

Art is everywhere in this town; you just need to know where to look. The Niceland art show, a pop-up exhibit that took place last weekend, is a perfect example of how tucked away spaces can be transformed into showrooms for painters and sculptors.

The Tiny Buddha Boutique was previously above Totoro at 213 S. State Street. But the shop, which specializes in yoga wear, recently moved to a new location inside Babo in the Nichols Arcade, though Tiny Buddha still has rights at the moment to use the old space.

"We wanted to take advantage of the space while it is available," said artist Helen Gotlib (sister of Tiny Buddha Boutique owner Risa Gotlib) to display works by local artists.

That led to the Niceland art show, which ran February 10-13. The show featured work from local artists Dylan Strzynski, Lavinia Hanachiuc, and Gotlib.

Behind the Black Star: Jonathan Barnbrook's Stamps talk at the Michigan Theater


Jonathan Barnbrook

Despite its simple presentation, Jonathan Barnbrook's cover for David Bowie's final album, Blackstar, is full of hidden surprises.

Designing album covers for a legendary musician has its perils and its perks. According to Jonathan Barnbrook, they're sometimes one in the same.

"Can you imagine how scary it is to have David Bowie sitting next to you when you're listening to his album?" the British graphic designer asked the audience at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater on Thursday, February 9. "He's going, 'What do you think?'"

As the crowd laughed, Barnbrook's tone shifted from comedic to grateful: "It's actually fantastic."

The self-described "non-designer" was in Ann Arbor as part of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker series. In addition to his collaborations with Bowie, Barnbrook's often-humorous talk covered highlights from his career, including his anti-corporate work with Adbusters magazine in the early '00s, the creation of several well-known fonts, and political and socially minded exhibits and campaigns, including his logo for the Occupy London movement.

Penny Seats Theatre Company kicked off its 2017 season with the ebullient "Sing Happy!"



They sure do look like happy singers.

When Lauren London started the Penny Seats Theatre Company in 2010, it was with the idea that Ann Arbor should be brimming with “high-quality, live theater that doesn’t break the bank.” That’s exactly what you’ll get if you see the new Kander and Ebb revue Sing Happy! -- Penny Seats' first show of its 2017 season -- playing in the Celtic Room of Conor O’Neill’s pub and restaurant on February 9, 14, 15, and 16.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work of Kander and Ebb, they wrote the musicals Chicago and Cabaret, among many others. The four women who star in this revue are remarkably gifted, and the songs and arrangements that director Thalia Schramm chose are consistently beautiful, moving, and show-stoppers.

I’ve now seen Sing Happy! twice and recently asked producer Lauren London and director Thalia Schramm some questions about the production and the Penny Seats Theatre Company's upcoming season.

Shock Values: Duane gets political, goes electric as Jet Black Eel



Duane is an all-American provocateur. Photo by Megan LaCroix.

If there's any doubt what Detroit musician and performance artist Duane Gholston is up to with his new look and sound, the snippet from a Don King speech that opens his recent single, "When the Eel Accepts Your Invitation" is a pretty solid clue.

"You got to try to imitate and emulate the white man, and then you can be successful," the notorious boxing promoter -- and Donald Trump supporter -- is heard saying, before a classic honky-tonk shuffle and meandering lap-steel lick ushers in Duane the Jet Black Eel, the 24-year-old's latest persona and "first truly conceptual project."

"It's a young queer person of color taking on the classic vision of America (when it was 'great,' according to some red hats, LOL)," Duane wrote in an email to Pulp. "A bunch of rock 'n' roll songs taking on both conservative and neoliberal politics, homophobia in the black community, and systematic racism in America."

Shine On: Timothy Monger's new album, "Amber Lantern," is full of illuminating moods



Timothy Monger's Lantern is a light that never goes out. / Photo by Doug Coombe.

Singer/songwriter Timothy Monger's career peaked in middle school.

Despite three albums during a decade-plus run with the acclaimed folk-rock band Great Lakes Myth Society and a solo career that has also produced three records, including the new Amber Lantern, Monger said the loudest cheers he's ever received was when his middle school band, All the Young Dudes, rocked his former elementary.

Perhaps Monger's fans will take that as a challenge and make some noise when he celebrates the release of Amber Lantern at The Ark on Wednesday, February 8 at 8 pm. (Caleb Dillon of Starling Electric will open.) The album is slightly more rock-oriented than his past works, but Monger also made a conscious decision to set aside his guitar at times and experiment with instruments outside his wheelhouse, such as an organ, a hurdy-gurdy, and a Pocket Piano synth, which he checked out from this library's Music Tools collection.

Monger, who grew up in Brighton and lives in Saline, recently answered questions about his new songs, crowdfunding rewards, never finishing Moby Dick, and the world's greatest elementary school rock concert.

Dreamer & Disrupter: Sophia Kruz uses her films and nonprofit to help women worldwide


On Wednesday, February 8 at 6 pm, "Dreamers and Disruptors" will invade the University of Michigan campus. That's the theme of this year's TEDxUofM event, which aims to “showcase some of the most fascinating thinkers and doers from the University of Michigan community.” (The event is sold out, but it will be livestreamed for free.)

Sophia Kruz, a filmmaker and Ann Arbor native, is one of this year’s dreamers and disrupters, and she'll give a talk about her new movie, Little Stones. In an email conversation with Pulp, Kruz described the film as "an uplifting story of four women artists in India, Brazil, Senegal, Kenya, Germany, and the U.S. courageously working to end female genital mutilation (FGM), extreme poverty, sex trafficking, and domestic violence through art -- dance, graffiti, fashion, and music."

We talked to the Los Angeles-based Kruz about her project, how it’s changed since the inauguration, her new nonprofit Driftseed, and more.

Outer Devotion: “Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers” at UMMA



Prajnaparamita and Deities, outer face, upper cover for a Prajnaparamita Sutra, vol. 25, Tibet, 15th century, wood with paint and gilding. MacLean Collection.

First times are always special. But a first-ever of something is especially special. Such is the case with the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s exhibit Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers From the Maclean Collection.

Mounted in the UMMA’s Irving Stenn Jr. Family Gallery, this display not only presents us with an incomparable iconographic delight, it’s also the first time this art form's been exhibited in the United States -- and one of the first times these artworks have been seen by the public. So, yes, Protecting Wisdom really is special.

As the guest curator, Dr. Kathryn Selig Brown (U-M Ph.D. in Tibetan History of Art), tells us in her introduction:

Review: Encore’s “Noises Off!” delivers a hilarious back-stage romp


Cast of Noises Off!

Noisy cast. "> Photo by Michele Anliker.

The Encore Musical Theatre Company is taking a break from musicals to offer up a double dose of farce.

Slamming doors, fractured romances, comical confrontations, and lots of sardines happen on stage and off in Michael Frayn’s witty send-up of the theatrical life Noises Off! and the Encore company deliver a laugh-filled romp.

A very British theater group is traveling the countryside with a country house farce called Nothing On. Frayn’s play begins with a dress rehearsal that suggests the troupe is not quite ready for prime time and then takes us to two performances that devolve into chaos, one from the backstage view and the other from the stage view. It’s an affectionate but also biting view of theater types -- just the sort of thing theater types love to do.

Director Tobin Hissong keeps the verbal and physical action moving at breakneck speed. This is a play with a lot of witty dialogue and slapstick and mime. Hissong has a fine cast and he gets exactly the right comic effect from the various stereotypes Frayn uses for the play within the play and his portrayal of actors.

Daniel A. Helmer is the suave, sardonic Lloyd Dallas, the poor man assigned to direct Nothing On, a naughty sex farce. Helmer affects a just right Cary Grant snap in his English accent and a slightly florid set of gestures. At the beginning of the play, he’s a disembodied voice patiently and then less patiently taking his cast through their paces. Helmer has a winning charm that makes his character’s complicated romantic life believable and funny.