Elly Griffiths' "The Chalk Pit" continues one mystery's best current series

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Elly Griffiths, The Chalk Pit

Deep inside The Chalk Pit is a strong female lead who is written so well that she feels real.

Secret societies, cannibalism, and ritual killings? Bones found in an old chalk-mining pit? Labyrinths and tunnels and a forensic specialist who keeps finding herself embroiled in murders?

Where do we find all of this?

Deep inside The Chalk Pit, the ninth book in the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

The novel finds our intrepid forensic archeologist far beneath the streets of Norwich, England. The seed for the setting of this book was planted when Griffiths gave a talk at an independent bookstore in Norwich.

“The manager happened to mention that there was a tunnel under the store and asked if I wanted to see it,” Griffiths says. “(The chalk tunnel) was low-ceilinged and damp and led off into darkness. (My research) found that you can walk the length of Norwich underground because there are so many old chalk-mining tunnels, crypts, and undercrofts.”

Purple Rose’s “Harvey” reveals poignancy along with whimsy

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Purple Rose Theatre, Harvey

Purple Rose Theatre's Harvey is oh so pleasant.

Mary Chase’s Harvey has been entertaining audiences with its gentle humor for more than 70 years. It’s a play we think we know well.

The new Purple Rose Theatre production of this Broadway classic reveals a deeper, richer, and more focused Harvey. It’s still funny, still frantic at times, but so much more.

We are most familiar with James Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd. He’s a sweet charmer and he drinks a bit but has a sense of the whimsical and a good heart. He can see eye to eye with a six-and-a-half-foot rabbit, or more precisely a pooka, a Celtic spirit with an affection for rumpots and others.

Now imagine instead a different kind of Elwood P. Dowd. He’s still a charmer with a whimsical streak. But he’s a smaller man and maybe he drinks a little more than he should and those ideas he floats about life might just be worth our attention.

Off-the-Cuff Comedy: Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie

PULP LIFE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie

Hand jive: Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie are always trying to crack each other up.

Whose Line is It Anyway? stars Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie -- appearing Saturday night at the Power Center as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival -- have been doing improv comedy together since they met in the early '90s, so they have a long-established, familiar rapport with each other. “There’s almost a sibling rivalry that happens backstage and on stage, and that becomes part of the show, watching us try to outdo each other,” said Mochrie. Sherwood, meanwhile, confessed that he’s always looking for the chance to make his improv partner laugh on-stage. “It’s hard, because (Mochrie’s) the most stoic of all of us,” said Sherwood. “He’s granite. … If I actually say something that makes him laugh, I’ll hear, under his breath, an involuntary spasm for half a second. But that’s about it.”

Virtuoso Vibes: Gwilym Simcock at Kerrytown Concert House

INTERVIEW PREVIEW MUSIC

Ever since Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano in 1700, virtuosos have found ways to leave distinctive marks on the instrument's 88 keys. Over the past 15 years, Gwilym Simcock has earned the virtuoso description through a series of recordings, concerts, and compositions that explore the full harmonic and percussive spectrum of the piano.

Simcock blends classical elements that can be traced to the instrument's inception alongside modern improvisational acumen that recalls the harmonically dense but intensely lyrical jazz of Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. It's an intensely personal but inviting sound: Even as your brain does flips trying to figure out what Simcock's playing as his hands blaze over the keys, your toes still tap in time to his undeniable grooves.

The pianist is an important part of working bands led by guitarists Pat Metheny and Wolfgang Muthspiel, but it's Simcock's solo performances that have brought him the greatest acclaim, including being nominated for the UK's most prestigious music award, the Mercury Prize, in 2011 for the Good Days at Schloss Elmau album.

Simcock will play solo at Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, June 24, and we talked to the British pianist about his work with major guitarists, the way he connects to audiences, how he discovered jazz, and what he teaches classical pianist students about improvisation.

Red Scare: Glenn Frankel's "High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic"

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Glenn Frankel, High Noon

Glenn Frankel's book recounts the Red Scare surrounding High Noon.

Each year we hear about how political the Oscars are, but this may have never been truer than in 1953 when High Noon scored big with critics and moviegoers the year before (and earned seven nominations), but also found itself in the crosshairs of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

“There was a campaign to make sure (High Noon screenwriter Carl Foreman) didn’t win, because that would be too embarrassing,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel, who just published High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.

Frankel will talk about his latest book at the Westgate branch of the Ann Arbor District Library on Friday, June 23 from 7-8:30 pm.

When Hitsville Hit Zimbabwe: Music scholar Joyce Jenje Makwenda

INTERVIEW PREVIEW MUSIC

Joyce Jenje Makwenda

Music scholar Joyce Jenje Makwenda is studying Motown's influence on Zimbabwean music.

It’s approximately 8,000 miles from Harare, Zimbabwe, to Detroit, Michigan. But music and culture scholar Joyce Jenje Makwenda feels like Motown’s daughter.

“Motown raised me,” she said. “I’m a child of Motown music.”

Makwenda owns one of Zimbabwe's largest archives of music-related documents, from newspapers and photos to vinyl records and instruments. The Joyce Jenje Makwenda Collection Archives allows scholars to research the rich history of Zimbabwean music, from folk music played on the mbira (thumb piano) and the township jazz that dominated much of the mid-20th century, to the modern protest sounds of Thomas Mapfumo’s chimurenga music.

She's also the 2017 Zimbabwe Cultural Centre of Detroit research resident -- in partnership with U-M's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series and Harare's Njelele Art Station -- which is why she's in Michigan this summer investigating the influence of Motown music on her home country.

Makwenda will discuss her research with EMU’s Dr. Melvin Peters on Thursday, June 22, at 6 pm at Cultivate Coffee & Tap House, 307 N. River St., Ypsilanti.

Hunger for Life: Roxane Gay at Hill Auditorium

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Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay shows strength via her ability to be vulnerable in her writing. Post-It crammed book photo by Sherlonya Turner.

Roxane Gay is an endurance performer.

She is a professor, essayist, fiction writer, and cultural critic. Any pair of these things could fill or even overwhelm a professional life, but she does not stop there. As a person who at times fetishizes achievement, I am awed by the sheer quantity of pages that she has loosed into the world. And that is before we consider her Twitter presence or the volume of reading that she does, evidenced by the book giveaways that appear on her Tumblr from time-to-time.

I know that Gay’s smarts help fuel her accomplishments as do her talents, but when I think about her -- like, big picture her -- I just think, "Damn, she works hard. She hustles."

At Gay’s reading for her new book, Hunger, on June 16, I took a seat toward the back of Hill Auditorium and watched the audience file in. I've never been someone who needs an excuse to gawk at and examine other women’s bodies, and I was wondering who would join me to hear excerpts from Hunger, which tells the story of Roxane Gay’s body.

O say did you see the Ford Library's “Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life”?

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The Star-Spangled Banner

Jimi Hendrix plays the "Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock.

“O say can you see” takes on a whole new meaning at the Gerald R. Ford Library’s Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life.

Part of the presidential libraries system of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Ford Library collects, preserves, and makes accessible a rich body of archival materials focusing on the Ford presidential administration. The Library also hosts a series of temporary exhibits that focus on American history.

This exhibit -- curated and organized by University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague and Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Ford Museum -- traces the 200-year history of America’s national anthem through 10 interpretive panels and four display cases filled with historical documents.

And what a busy 200 years it has been.

In a recent interview, music professor Clague dispelled a number of common myths about the anthem as well as a clarification of the anthem’s place in American history.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #640 & #641

REVIEW WRITTEN WORD FABULOUS FICTION FIRSTS


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #640

Winner of the prestigious Prix Renaudot in 1988 and available for the first time in English (translated from the French by Kaiama L. Glover), Hadriana in All My Dreams * * * by Rene Depestre, combines magic, fantasy, eroticism, and delirious humor to explore universal questions of race and sexuality.

Penny Seats' light and funny "Renaissance Man" is a theatrical amuse-bouche

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Penny Seats Theatre Company, The Renaissance Man

Toil and trouble mixes with fun and weird love in Penny Seats Theatre Company's The Renaissance Man.

The resistance wears elf ears.

At least, it does in Joseph Zettelmaier’s Renaissance Man, now having its world premiere via Penny Seats Theatre.

A riff on Macbeth and staged outdoors -- at West Park, in front of the band shell -- Renaissance tells the story of behind-the-scenes unrest at a fictional Renaissance festival called Gloriana. Longtime knight Martin Mackabee (Patrick Loos) and art school dropout/face painter Emma Murtz (Kelly Rose Voigt) connect partly through their shared frustration that the fair is not more historically accurate, and bristle against the inclusion of anachronisms like drench-a-wench, elves, leather corset vendors, gypsy fortunetellers, and turkey legs. Gloriana’s benevolent, permissive “king,” Chuck Duncan (Robert Schorr), earns the pair’s scorn, and Emma takes action, entrapping Chuck so that he must resign from Gloriana.