Things to See: Pulp Art Exhibit Roundup for September

VISUAL ART

Ted Trower's glass artwork Red Dahlia is currently on view in the Emerge exhibition in Gutman Gallery.

Ted Trower's glass artwork Red Dahlia is currently on display in the Emerge exhibition in Gutman Gallery. Photo taken from Gutman Gallery's Facebook page.

With fall not too far away, we’re anticipating another season full of vibrant colors and landscapes. However, a lot of that color vibrancy can also be found indoors at several art exhibits this month in Washtenaw County. Check out this list of exhibits featured at local galleries in September. 

1968: A Folsom Redemption
September 1-October 20
Chelsea District Library, Chelsea

1968: A Folsom Redemption is a collection of photographs and memories of two journalists—photographer Dan Pousch and writer Gene Beley—lucky enough to be among a handful of eyewitnesses to the historic Johnny Cash concerts at Folsom Prison. The exhibit is available to view in the library's McKune Room.

A Colorful Dream
September 1-October 20
Ypsilanti District Library, Ypsilanti

A Colorful Dream is a family-friendly exhibition by fine art photographer Adrien Broom. Designed to evoke and capture a sense of childhood fantasy, Broom’s work is deeply rooted in fairy tales and mythology, taking the viewer on a journey through the entire spectrum of the rainbow. The exhibit is available to view at the Whittaker branch during library hours.

Friday Five: Timothy Monger, Jojo Engelbert, Fred Thomas, Josh Woodward, Latimer Rogland

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

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

This week features a music video by Timothy Monger, pop-punk by Jojo Engelbert, a reissue from Fred Thomas, jazzy folk-pop by Josh Woodward, and ambient by Latimer Rogland.

Utility Player: Jonathan Hammonds performs and books all kinds of music at Ziggy's in Ypsi and beyond

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Jonathan Hammonds performs on his bass at Ziggy's in Ypsilanti.

Jonathan Hammonds performs at Ziggy's in Ypsilanti. Photo via Hammonds' Facebook.

Classical, jazz, R&B, music of the Arab world—this range of musical styles could be a description of the diverse concert offerings one expects in southeast Michigan. 

But it is actually a summary of genres Ann Arbor-based bassist Jonathan Hammonds has played in his career.

“I’ve always been interested and pursued different genres of music,” the 33-year-old Huron High School grad says about his eclectic skill set.

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Hammonds earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical bass performance from the University of Michigan and Yale University, respectively, before returning to Washtenaw County in 2014 to gig and teach private lessons.

Currently, Hammonds performs as a member of the Ann Arbor Symphony and an extra player for the Toledo Symphony. He also gigs throughout the region with his jazz trio and has been part of Dearborn’s National Arab Orchestra since it was formed in 2009.

The Dating Game: Julia Argy’s Debut Novel “The One” Chronicles the Fallacy of Finding True Love on a Reality TV Show

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

The bright pink book cover of "The One" is on the left and a photo of Julia Argy wearing a white sleeveless blouse and red pants is on the right.

Julia Argy photo by Sejal Soham

“‘I’m actually in the market for a new opportunity,’ I answered, and thus my journey to find love began.”

So starts The One, a novel by Julia Argy, a University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program alum. The main character, Emily, embarks on a whim as a contender on a reality television show, which is designed to whittle a group of women down to the individual who the male love interest, Dylan, selects to marry. Emily describes the show and the book’s premise: 

At the base level, this is all a psychological experiment with a desired economic outcome: trap thirty people together as they fight for a limited quantity of the same thing, something everyone wants, true love, and the result will be scintillating enough to attract millions of viewers to sell advertising. And that, the real hypothesis, has proven true, season after season.

Emily must learn how the program works as it goes along because she has not watched past seasons, so she takes a critical approach rather than suspending her disbelief. As Emily further reflects, “Maybe the first set of contestants are meant to showcase the vast scope of women who desire Dylan, like going to a big-box store where at the head of each aisle is a sample stand, enticing you down to the rest of the similar wares. I need to figure out what brand of woman I’m supposed to be.” The “brand” she turns out to be is not what she expects. 

Closet of Secrets: PTD Productions' "Perfect Arrangement" opens the door to address homophobia in 1950s America

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

PTD Productions

Andrew Packard as Jimmy Baxter and Gary Lehman as Bob Martindale in PTD Productions' Perfect Arrangement. Photo by Paul Demyanovich

Would you be willing to hide who you are in exchange for being more accepted by society? Or would the lies and facade crush you?

Perfect Arrangement, written by Topher Payne and set in the 1950s, follows two married couples that are trying to live the life they want while showing the world the life that is expected and accepted. PTD Productions is staging the play at Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti.

Bob Martindale (Gary Lehman) is a government employee who works in a unit to find communist sympathizers hiding within the U.S. government. His wife, Millie (Rebecca Lane), is a homemaker and poetry writer. They are best friends with the couple that lives next door, the Baxters, but everything is not as it seems. 

Norma Baxter (Skye Earl) works as Bob’s secretary for the government unit and has to deal with all the accusations and confidential files that come across his desk. Her husband, Jimmy Baxter (Andrew Packard), is a school teacher. Both couples seem happy and in love but we quickly learn that it is all a hoax. Bob and Jimmy are the ones who are together and madly in love, as are Millie and Norma. They have created this elaborate scheme to protect themselves from society’s extreme scrutiny and fear of homosexuality.

It might seem like this arrangement is drastic, but Norma and Bob find themselves in danger at work when they are told to sniff out any employees that could make the government look bad. This includes any “loose women,” deviants, and anyone thought to be a homosexual. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, they must fire their gay coworkers while still pretending not to be like them to keep their own jobs.

Friday Five: Martin Babl, KUZbeats, MEMCO mixes, Tried, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

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

This week features keyboard and synth explorations by Martin Babl, cinematic composition channeled via KUZbeats, two MEMCO dance mixes, melodic hardcore by Tried, and a country-tinged rocker by Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.

Scale Up: Adam J. Snyder Overcomes Life’s Obstacles on “Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea” EP

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Adam J. Snyder sits on a wooden bench with his acoustic guitar outside a white house.

Adam J. Snyder creates a comforting sonic experience on his Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea EP. Photo courtesy of Adam J. Snyder.

No “mountain” is too high for Adam J. Snyder to scale.

The Ypsilanti singer-songwriter and guitarist overcomes life’s obstacles to follow a new path on Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea.

“I’ve been pushing against myself, and I feel like I’ve been in the weeds my whole life. I’m in a pretty good place now, and I’m heading in the right direction of where I want to be,” said Snyder about his latest folk-pop EP.

“I went to Nicaragua in March, and I got to spend some time in the mountains. Then I got to spend time surfing on the beach and hanging out. Something about [that] just felt like where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, so that’s my goal.”

As part of that goal, Snyder shares that positive outlook on Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea, which features soft, breathy vocals; concise lyrics; bluesy influences; and percussive, rhythmic, and fingerpicked acoustic guitars.

Those elements create a comforting sonic experience and reflect the hope, encouragement, and determination embedded in the EP’s five tracks.

“I’ve just been feeling a little more in touch with that kind of stuff when I’ve been writing,“ said Snyder, who grew up in Dexter and previously fronted the now-disbanded Dirty Deville.

“When I come across an idea or things that feel right … or I’m just doing what I enjoy, which is playing guitar, I feel more connected to that kind of stuff. I feel like things are in alignment.”

"Books Across America" documentary visits 50 places in 50 days, including Ann Arbor

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

Mason Engel standing against a white background, leaning against a pile of fake books whose spines each list the name of a state.

Literati Bookstore has a relatively small physical footprint. But what the space lacks in size, it makes up for in reputation and has become one of the most beloved independent bookstores in the literature world.

That's one reason why writer and filmmaker Mason Engel picked Literati in Ann Arbor to represent the state of Michigan in his upcoming film, Books Across America.

Scheduled to come out in 2024, the documentary tracks Engel—a self-described "struggling writer"—traveling to 50 states in 50 days to interview 50 authors about 50 books. His Literati / Ann Arbor stop includes an interview with author and University of Michigan professor Peter Ho Davies.

Some of the other authors who appear in Books Across America include James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Joyce Carol Oates.

The press release calls the film a "real-life version of the Great American novel," and says the "characters are all obsessed with books, and they’re all searching for a happily ever after."

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Engel explained the reason why he decided to make a film rather than write about his experience: "[T]he film is to introduce or to depict reading to people who typically don’t read in a way that makes them want to pick up a book. I’m trying to meet people, my target audience, where they are—which is not in a bookstore, but on Netflix, on public television, on anywhere you find movies and shows."

Books Across America is wrapping up its Kickstarter campaign soon, with the film scheduled for release in 2024. After costs are covered, the film's proceeds will benefit Read Across America.

Watch the trailer below:

Her Story: Joanna Sterling Chronicles a Trans Woman’s Journey on “Queen of Wands” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Mel Clark, Adam Har-Zvi, Joanna Sterling, and Anthony Marchese stand in a grassy meadow with a wetland in the background.

Joanna Sterling, center, shares her experiences as a trans woman on Queen of Wands and features collaborations with Mel Clark, Adam Har-Zvi, and Anthony Marchese. Photo courtesy of Joanna Sterling.

For Joanna SterlingQueen of Wands represents an emotional journey filled with self-discovery, authenticity, and courage.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter reveals her inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a trans woman on her sophomore release.

“It’s very autobiographical, and I did have to cultivate a lot of courage to even write some of these. If you had asked me five years ago would I ever open an album with my boy name before I transitioned—like no, absolutely not,” said Sterling about her new folk-pop album.

“I wanted to open with that song ‘Joey’ because it took a lot for me to be like, ‘You know what, I want to accept my full self, not just me as a post-transition woman, but also who was I before and how that person is still very much a part of who I am today, and my journey that I had to take to become the woman that I am.’”

Sterling documents that journey through 13 cathartic tracks—which range from confessional ballads to rallying cries to melancholic tales—on Queen of Wands. She connects with listeners through honest lyrics, nature-filled imagery, and folk-inspired instrumentation.

“I feel like a lot of the themes that are explored on this album aren’t just about being transgender. They’re really about the journey we all have to take in order to accept ourselves,” she said.

“I feel like I was able to strike a balance by being really honest about some of the specific things I’ve been through, but also make them accessible and relatable to others potentially.”

We recently spoke to Sterling about her background, the album’s tarot-inspired title, the stories behind several of the album’s tracks, her collaboration with producer Chris DuPont and other local musicians, her album release show, and plans for new material.

Make the Trek: "Return to the Forbidden Planet" reimagines "The Tempest" as a campy sci-fi musical

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Penny Seats Theatre Company's Return to the Forbidden Planet

If you’re drawn to the idea of outdoor theater and goofy jukebox musicals that combine elements of Shakespeare and Star Trek—well, Scotty, the Penny Seats Theatre Company is currently staging a show in Ann Arbor's Burns Park that will likely beam you right up.

Return to the Forbidden Planet, by Bob Carlton, first hit London stages in the 1980s, and the show comically reimagines The Tempest with an assist from pop songs of the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as the campy sci-fi film classic Forbidden Planet (1956). 

Captain Tempest, played by a Shatner-esque Cordell Smith, has just launched with his crew (and the audience, otherwise known as the ship’s “passengers”) when the ship, the Albatross, finds itself in a meteor shower—thus cueing up “Great Balls of Fire,” naturally—and then drawn to the planet D’Illyria. There, a long-marooned father and daughter, Doctor Prospero (Will Myers) and Miranda (Ella Ledbetter-Newton), come aboard, as does their robot assistant, Ariel (Allison Megroet). Prospero tells his back story while pleading/singing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

Soon, a huge, tentacled monster attacks the ship; past relationships come to light; schemes are hatched; a love triangle develops; and a grand sacrifice is made—conveyed via cardboard cutouts on sticks, in a kind of whimsical puppet show.