Fabulous Fiction Firsts #612
A Hundred Thousand Worlds * by Bob Proehl is a mother-son cross-country road trip through the world of comic-cons,
New York actress Valerie Torrey, who has a successful run playing Bethany Fraser in a syndicated X-Files-ish TV show called Anomaly is taking her 9 year-old son Alex on a road trip to LA where his father Andrew lives.
Along the way, Val agrees to make appearances at comic book conventions. From Pittsburgh to Cleveland, from Chicago to Las Vegas they are increasingly being drawn into the lives and drama of the other regulars - artists, writers, agents, publishers and a strange world of "cosplay" (costume play), mostly young women who dress up as comic book characters.
For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.
Debut novelist "Proehl has done an excellent job of integrating all of the story lines and creating memorable characters to populate them. Though not without its melancholy moments, the story is deeply satisfying and will delight both comics fans and general readers." (Booklist)
* = starred review
Interview: Mark Mothersbaugh on Pee-Wee Herman, Thor, and America's ongoing de-evolution
Mark Mothersbaugh is best known for his indelible contributions to pop music as the frontman of Devo, but his work with the darkly humorous New Wave group represents just a fraction of his diverse artistic output. Since the late '80s Mothersbaugh has composed music for hundreds of movies, TV shows, video games, and commercials. His visual art includes thousands of pen-and-ink postcard-sized drawings, rugs, sculpture-like musical instruments, and eyeglasses. This broad body of work, including the music and early music videos he created with Devo, is the subject of a new traveling museum exhibit, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia. The exhibit currently is not scheduled to stop in Ann Arbor, but in a way we'll be getting something even better. Mothersbaugh will appear at the Michigan Theater on September 29 for the Penny Stamps Speaker Series, engaging in conversation with Adam Lerner, who curated the Myopia exhibit and wrote the accompanying book.
In advance of his Ann Arbor appearance, Mothersbaugh chatted with Pulp about maintaining a sense of subversiveness despite corporate interference, his enduring friendship with Pee-Wee Herman creator Paul Reubens, and Todd Rundgren's enviable fashion sense.
Q: You'll be in conversation here at the University of Michigan with Adam Lerner, who curated the new retrospective exhibition of your work and edited the accompanying book. As you've had these opportunities to look back on your work recently, have you had any new realizations about your evolution as an artist over time?
A: [Laughs.] You know, yeah. You do pick up information along the way of being a human, I've found. To me, when I walk through the show ... it's kind of interesting to see what things are the same and what things never change. When I look back at the arc of all my visual art, I can say, "Well, in a way it's permutations on a theme." It really goes back to when I was at school at Kent State. I hated public school. The first 12 years of my life in school were horrid. I was at odds with other students, with the teachers, with everybody. It was just totally unpleasant and I almost ended up at Kent State on a fluke, but it turned out to change my life in a lot of ways. I gained a respect for education, among other things, and I just loved having access to tools that I never had access to before ... There was very limited art teaching in public schools in the '50s and '60s, so it was kind of this amazing world that got opened up to me when I all of a sudden found out about all the things you could do, all the empowerment that came with being in college. I loved it.
But at that time period, I was there for the shooting of the students at Kent State. We had all joined [Students for a Democratic Society] and we were going to help end the war in Vietnam and then things took a dark turn. ... That was in my sophomore year, and [I was] questioning that. I was collaborating for about a year before that with a grad student that was an artist at Kent State named Jerry Casale. Questioning what we'd seen, we decided that what we'd seen was de-evolution, not evolution. I understand that there's different ways for artists to evolve and mature and to fall apart or to build. I think in my case, I think my life as an artist has always been kind of seen through the eyes of someone that was always kind of hopeful, but paranoid at the same time. Or worried about it. Hopeful, but concerned. We saw de-evolution as a vehicle to talk about the things that we were concerned about on the planet, and I feel like my work has been sort of permutations on that theme.
Even kind of shifting into the belly of the beast and moving into Hollywood and scoring films and television, between Devo kind of slowing down at the end of the '80s, I started doing gallery shows. I did about 125 or 140 shows at mostly smaller pop-up galleries and street galleries, just because being in Hollywood made me distrustful of organized entertainment, so to speak. I've found all the smaller galleries to be, a high percentage of them, filled with authentic people that loved and were concerned about art and reminded me of what it was like to be in Devo when we were starting it. We thought we were doing an art movement. We thought we were doing Art Devo. We were like an agitprop group who worked in all the different mediums and were spreading the good news of de-evolution around the world. That was our original goal.
When we signed with Warner Bros. and Virgin Records, they kind of did as best a job as they could of shoving us into a little box that they could understand. ... Even in the late '70s, it was a struggle to convince them to let us make our short films. They had no idea why we wanted to make films with our songs. There were so many things that were a struggle that were needless. As Jerry would say, we were the pioneers who got scalped. But it was like the early days of people recognizing artists that put ideas in front of the actual techniques that they used. A technique was just a vehicle to help you solve a problem or create a piece of art. Being a craftsman was less necessary than ever before in our culture.
Now it's totally amazing how far it's gone. Kids that have ideas now about art, they don't have the barriers that we had or I had. The Internet is such an amazing, wonderful gift and tool for kids. I'm so jealous I'm not 14 right now. I watch my kids – they're 12 and 15, and I watched them make little movies on an iPad when they were even younger. It's totally transparent to them and they're laughing and running around the house. They're making a movie like a little kid would make, but they don't even know that 30 years ago – was it 30? '76, that's like, what, 40 years? Jesus. Forty years ago. It took a year of work first to make the money to pay for $3,000 worth of material and then to find time in editing bays where we could go in and make our seven-and-a-half minute film. And it's not just my kids. It's all over the world. Cell phones and iPads, things like that, are so inexpensive now that you see kids in the Amazon playing with this stuff, taking pictures of things around them and making music on iPhones. You not only don't have to own a guitar or a piano or a set of drums. You don't even have to know how to play it. My kids found this app where they could play drums by just making drum sounds into their phone and it would translate that into one of 30 different drum kits. ... Art has become so democratic. On some levels it's astounding. Anyhow, I don't know how I got to that after you were asking me about my art, but there you go. That's the danger of talking to me after a cup of coffee.
Q: That's okay. It was an interesting answer. I want to ask you a little bit more about the concept of de-evolution, since that was of course so important to the formation of Devo. How has that concept played out for you as time has gone along? Do you see de-evolution continuing to play out? Is that concept still as relevant to you as when you were younger back in the '70s?
A: I think all you have to do is look at this current election season in the U.S. It's like Idiocracy has arrived, for real. It's not even ironic or funny anymore. It's reality. It's kind of impressive and depressive at the same time, because we were never in support of things falling apart or the stupidity of man getting the upper hand. We just felt like, if you knew about it and recognized it, you could be proactive and change your mutations carefully, choose them on purpose instead of just letting them be pushed on you and accepting them.
Q: I want to ask you about a couple of more recent projects. You most recently scored the new Pee-Wee Herman movie. Did Paul Reubens bring you back in on that project personally, and did you guys remain in touch in the decades since you worked on Pee-Wee's Playhouse?
A: It's kind of funny. ... Right when he was first creating the Pee-Wee Herman character, we'd already met. This was '70 – I don't know what, '70-something – and my girlfriend at the time, her parents, her mom was instrumental in starting a comedy group out in Los Angeles called the Groundlings. Her name was Laraine Newman. She was one of the original cast members for Saturday Night Live. She would take me to the Groundlings and I saw Paul while he was working on developing this character. We kind of knew each other and he had asked me to do his first movie, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, but I was so deep into Devo and we were touring. I didn't do Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, but he called me up after that and said, "Well, okay, how about now? Would you do my TV show?" It just happened to be that Devo had signed a bad record deal with a record company that was going bankrupt. We were just like rats on the Titanic, along with about 20 other bands that were just sitting on the bow. It seemed like the perfect time to work on a TV show.
I'd been in this situation where I was writing 12 songs, rehearsing them, then go record them, then make a film for one or two of the songs and design a live touring show, and then we'd go out on tour and a year later we'd come back and write 12 more songs. When I started doing Pee-Wee's Playhouse they would send me a three-quarter-inch tape on Monday. Tuesday I'd write 12 songs. Wednesday I'd record them. Thursday I'd put it in the mail and send it to New York, where they were editing the show. Friday they would cut it into the episode of Pee-Wee's Playhouse for that week. Saturday we'd all watch it on TV. Monday they'd send me a new tape and I'd do the process over again. I was like, "Sign me up for this! I love the idea of getting to create more and write more music as opposed to spending all my time sitting around in airports waiting to get to the next venue."
So now, all these years later, [Reubens and I] have stayed friends. He's probably the only guy – other than my mom and dad, who are both passed away now – but he was the only other person who remembered every one of my birthdays and sent me something. That was kind of nice, even if we didn't see each other all the time. So we stayed friends and when this came up, it was kind of like coming around full circle to get to work with him again. I ended up recording the London Philharmonic in Abbey Road, which has kind of turned out to be one of my favorite studios. I've done maybe a dozen movies or so there. And I don't know if you saw the movie or not, but he does a pretty good job of looking like Pee-Wee did 40 years ago.
Q: He does, yeah. It's surprising. You're also scoring the upcoming Thor sequel. How did you get involved on that project and how much work have you done on it so far?
A: That's an odd one for me to talk about, and the reason is because I just happened to casually mention it in Akron. I was reminded that I had signed an NDA, a non-disclosure agreement, with Marvel, and most of the time what people are concerned about is they don't want you to give away the plot of the film. They don't want you to give away any spoilers or tell them any of the details of the movie before it comes out. Well, Marvel quickly picked up on that I had mentioned I was working with Taika Waititi, who is the director. I happen to really like his work. Somebody asked me if it was Thor and I said yes, and they reminded me that I'm not allowed to talk about the movie. So I either am or I am not working on a movie with this guy. He had a lot to do with attracting me to the project just because his movies are super-creative. I really liked his new movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Musically, it's really creative. That's what really caught my interest.
Q: You've done so many different scores over the years, and you mentioned how much you enjoyed that way of working. What appeals to you about that kind of work? How much creative limitation do you feel that kind of work imposes on you and how do you respond to that limitation?
A: Much less than when you're in a band. The first couple albums with Virgin and Warners were great. They signed us just because they wanted the bragging rights of, "Brian Eno paid for this record to be recorded. David Bowie hung out with them in Germany the whole time they were recording it." [Bowie] had called us "the band of the future" in Melody Maker back before we had released anything, just based on tapes we had managed to get backstage to him while he was playing keyboards for Iggy on a tour back in '77 or '76. Where was I going with this story?
Q: I was asking you about creative limitations.
A: Yeah, the first couple albums they left us alone. Then we unfortunately had a radio hit and Warners then looked at us as gold. They had made a bunch of money off of us and then they started showing up at our rehearsals and our recording sessions. We'd be working on something and then some guy would pop up with a mullet and go, "Hey, do anything you want on this record, you guys. Feel free to do whatever you want. Just make sure you put another 'Whip It' in there!" And it changed our whole relationship with the recording industry, because where we enjoying being slightly anonymous and our feeling was that we were able to be kind of subversive, all of a sudden we had all this pressure and people commenting on our choices.
On that album that they were coming to listen to, we had done a cover version of "Working in a Coal Mine" and they fought to take it off the record. The record company pushed it off of our album. So we gave it to some movie called Heavy Metal, because we thought, "Oh, we're going to get a free ride with all these heavy metal bands when they put out their album. Our little weirdo song will get a free ride with Van Halen." We thought that was funny. Then that turned out to be the song that went into the top 20, so we pulled all these lame heavy metal songs along for a ride, which the joke was kind of on us. Then Warner Brothers panicked because right as they were about to release our new album, we had a record that was in the charts playing. They freaked out. They pressed singles with "Working in a Coal Mine" on it and stuck them inside the album as an afterthought. They just did the most nincompoop things.
So working in film and TV, you're much more anonymous as a composer. There's not a magnifying glass on you and you have so much more freedom. Pop music back then is the same as it is today. From song to song the variation is very small. It's like the fashion industry. There's like 50 pairs of the same jeans coming out from different manufacturers. The label's a little different, and some of them have a stitching thing where they put a loop in them, and then somebody else has one button that shows at the top of the pants, and then somebody else has a pocket that zips shut or something. But they're all exactly the same. It's all the same stuff. Pop music is like that to me and still is. So when I went into working on Pee-Wee's show, it was a whole different world. I could do punk hoedown music on one episode. I could do South Sea Islands goes into Ethel Merman with Spike Jones stylings in it for the theme song for the show. It was all wide open and I loved that so much, coming into this world now where you have such a wide palette. In so many ways it's superior. For me, I always had two brothers and two sisters, and Devo had two sets of brothers. So the idea of collaboration was always a part of my art aesthetic. I always liked to have people to collaborate with. So having a director that has ideas, and he tells you what he's trying to do with his film and you help him see that finally or you help him hear it, is very satisfying to me.
Q: You mentioned the broad range of creativity you were able to express through something like Pee-Wee's Playhouse. How do you manage to still express that broad range of creativity, or express that subversive element you mentioned earlier on with Devo, in some of the more conventional movies you've done, say a Last Vegas or something like that?
A: There's really super-literal ways to do that, if you have something you want to say or you want to talk about. Subliminal messages are so easy and nobody pays attention to them. [Laughs.] It's really funny. I remember the first time I was doing a Hawaiian Punch commercial. It was my first commercial and I was kind of not sure how I felt about doing TV commercials, but I liked the idea of being in that arena. It needed a drumbeat and I put, "Choose your mutations carefully." [Imitates drumbeat.] Bum-buh-buh-bum, bum-buh-buh-bum. And Bob Casale was my longtime engineer and coproducer on all this stuff. I remember we were in a meeting with Daley and Associates, the ad agency that was representing the commercial. We played the song and in this room I'm hearing, "Choose your mutations carefully." I'm looking at a guy over there tapping his pen on the table and as soon as the commercial ends I turn bright red and Bob Casale looks at me like he wants to kill me, like we're going to be in so much trouble. And the guy is tapping his pen and as soon as this commercial ends he goes, "Yeah, Hawaiian Punch does hit you in all the right places!" He just shouts out the main line from the narrator at the very end. We just look at each other and I'm like, "It's that easy?" We did it for years and then I got caught by a picture editor who said, "I know what you did." He called me out. He said, "I know what you're doing. You should take that out." I think I put "Question authority" in something like a lottery commercial or something, so this guy made me take it out. But the ad agencies never called me on it. And I even talked about it in articles before, and I still get hired by ad agencies to do commercial music. So they must not really care.
Q: So you haven't stopped that practice then?
A: Well, it depends. You have to have a reason to do it. Usually the more sugar that's in something, the better the chance that I'm going to say "Question authority" or "Sugar is bad for you." That's one I've done a couple of times. It's easy to do. They're easy to find, too. You can find them if you know which commercials you're looking for. You can look them up. And you hear it, too. Once you know that it's there, then you hear it. If you don't know it's there, your mind doesn't want to make it happen. It just goes in there like malware. What's the opposite of malware? What if it's there to help you out? I guess that's an antibiotic. It's like a covert antibiotic.
Q: A probiotic?
A: Yeah, probiotic. That's it! It's a probiotic.
Q: You certainly have plenty of non-Devo work going on and have for a long time, but Devo also still gets out there and tours from time to time. How do you feel about the band's role in your life these days?
A: I only have one really big problem with the band, and that is that we still play as loud as we did when we were onstage in Central Park or at Max's Kansas City or whatever that place was that we played in Ann Arbor. I think it was a bowling alley. I can't remember. It was some stage where it had a proscenium around it that looked like a TV screen. ... What I remember about that night also ... is that Todd Rundgren had shown up to see the band and he had a suit made out of tan oilcloth plastic. I was like, "How did he get that done? That is so awesome!" I remember being so jealous of this suit that Todd Rundgren was wearing. While we were talking I just kept staring at his suit the whole time and then looking around to see if I could tell if it was possibly a commercially made thing, which it wasn't, I'm sure, in retrospect. But it was the first time I'd seen a tailored suit made out of plastic. [Mothersbaugh likely recalls Devo's 1978 show at the Punch and Judy Theater in Grosse Pointe Farms in 1978, which coincided with a Rundgren show in Royal Oak.]
Q: You were saying, then, that today your only problem with the band is that you play as loud as you did back in the day?
A: Yeah, we play so loud and I have tinnitus. It's hard for me to go play 10 shows in a row with Devo and then go back to my studio and try to listen to the woodwinds from an orchestra. It takes me like a week or so for it to calm down enough that I can go back to work. It's not worth the tradeoff for me to go deaf just so I can play 50 more Devo shows, to be honest with you. We'll do one here and there. We did a benefit earlier this year. Will Ferrell talked us into it. It was like the worst thing for me because I'm standing onstage and they're wheeling all these drummers out onstage. Part of the thing was a joke that they had 12 drummers all at once, so not only did they have my drummer, but Mick Fleetwood was onstage and Tommy Lee was onstage. They were all playing simultaneously, like a dozen drummers, the Chili Peppers drummer and all these. I'm standing there going, "This is the worst thing that could have possibly happened." I went home from that and it was like gongs were going off in my head. So that's the thing that makes Devo where I have to draw a line. I can't do a big tour again.
Q: So if you're going to be onstage these days you'd rather be doing something like you will be here in Ann Arbor, where you're just having a quiet conversation onstage.
A: Preferably. Yeah. That's totally different. And all I ask is that people in the audience ask questions. Speak clearly.
Patrick Dunn is the interim managing editor of Concentrate and an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer whose work appears regularly in Pulp, the Detroit News, the Ann Arbor Observer, and other local publications. He exercised considerable restraint in asking Mark Mothersbaugh about anything other than Pee-Wee Herman.
Mark Mothersbaugh will appear at the Penny Stamps Speaker Series Event, presented by the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, on Thursday, September 29 at 5:10 pm. Free of charge and open to the public.
UMS Artists in Residence 2016-2017 Announced
The theme of the 2016-2017 UMS Artists in Residence program is "renegade art-making and art-makers" and the artists have just been announced. According to the announcement, the "five artists (including visual, literary, and performing artists) have been selected to use UMS performance experiences as a resource to support the creation of new work or to fuel an artistic journey."
The artists for 2016-2017 are:
Simon Alexander-Adams - a Detroit-based multimedia artist, musician, and designer working within the intersection of art and technology.
Ash Arder - a Detroit-based visual artist who creates installations and sculptural objects using a combination of found and self-made materials.
Nicole Patrick - a musician and percussionist who performs regularly with her band, Rooms, and other indie, improvisation, and performance art groups around southeastern Michigan.
Qiana Towns - a Flint-based poet whose work has appeared in Harvard Review Online, Crab Orchard Review, and Reverie, and is author of the chapbook This is Not the Exit (Aquarius Press, 2015).
Barbara Tozier - a photographer who works in digital, analog, and hybrid — with forays into video and multimedia.
Congratulations to these artists - and look for blog posts and engagement with the artists throughout their term on the UMS site.
Preview: Dark Star Orchestra at the Michigan Theater
Grateful Dead fans (or “Deadheads”) come in more colors than a tie-dyed T-shirt — from connoisseurs who obsessively trade concert bootlegs to casual listeners who mainly admire the band’s more mainstream early albums like Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. The Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra (DSO) aims to please them all.
Formed in Chicago in 1997, two years after the death of Dead lead singer and guitarist Jerry Garcia, the band channels the spirit of the Dead by recreating complete sets from throughout the legendary jam band’s history. The DSO uses period-accurate gear to emulate the original concerts’ nuances as closely as possible. Every few nights on tour they play an “elective set,” building their own unique setlists which draw from the many disparate eras of the Dead’s storied career.
True to the Dead’s spirit, the DSO is also notably prolific. To date the band has played over 2,500 concerts -- more shows than the original Dead performed in its entire 30-year run. Members of the Dead have also performed with the band throughout the years, including rhythm guitarist/singer Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh, giving the DSO implicit approval.
The DSO plays the Michigan Theater this Saturday. The band’s current lead guitarist, Jeff Mattson, formerly of The Zen Tricksters, replaced founding member John Kadlecik in 2009 when Kadlecik joined former Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s band Further. When we spoke with Mattson last week he declined to reveal what the group has planned for their gig in Ann Arbor. He did, however, discuss performing with founding Dead members and the role his local library had in turning him into a Deadhead.
Q: How did you first discover the Grateful Dead?
A: It goes way back. I heard "Casey Jones" on the radio, and I went to the library, of all places, and I took Workingman's Dead out. I liked what I heard, and I followed that up soon after that with American Beauty, and I really liked that. I was really taken with "Truckin'."
Then someone loaned me a reel-to-reel tape of Anthem of the Sun. It was a little too heavy for me at the time. I like it, but it just kind of scared me. I said, "Oh, I'll have to come back to this" [laughs]. Because it's just a very deep, psychedelic record. Very different than Working Man's... and American Beauty.
And then I took it from there, buying the records. I saw my first show in 1973 at Nassau Coliseum and never looked back. I was really taken when I realized how different the songs were live. That can be a nonstarter for some people, but I grew up in a household listening to jazz. My father's a jazz musician. So I just kind of got improvisation, and I just dug the fact that it was different every night.
Q: Being such a big fan, what was it like to eventually get to play with Phil Lesh many years later?
A: That was my first experience playing with any of the members of the band, so it was just like a dream almost that I never dared to dream come true. He's such an incredible musician, so to play that music with him, and to play some of the songs he wrote ... I thought, "Oh my god. I've been playing this song for years, but this is the man that wrote the song!"
I've gone on from then to have played with all of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead at one time or another. I really look at those experiences as being highlights of my musical life. There's just something so exciting to play the music you love with the people who originally created it.
Q: How did that opportunity come about?
A: Actually, it was not that many years after Jerry Garcia passed away. It was 1999, and Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995. Phil got in touch with us based on hearing -- and when I say "us," I mean me and Rob Barraco, who was my keyboard player -- my band at the time, The Zen Tricksters. He heard one of our CDs of our original music and was taken by our ability to jam in the studio. He was really impressed with that. He said in his words the Grateful Dead could never really do that, jam in the studio. I don't know if I really agree with him on that. There are some really beautiful jams on some of their studio records.
But nonetheless, when I came to play with him I don't think he realized we had been playing Grateful Dead music. It was a little too close I think, at the time, to sounding like Jerry. I think that was unnerving to him at the time. He didn't say that, although he did say things like, "Oh, you don't have to play so much like Jerry." I don't think he wanted to be perceived that he was trying to replace Jerry or something like that. Of course, I was just excited to use my acquired skill set [laughs] in that context. But it all worked out fine. I got away from playing too much like Jerry, and I guess [Lesh] was okay with it.
Q: How did experience inform your work with Dark Star Orchestra?
A: When I'm in the context of playing the Grateful Dead, I have a tendency to be a little more purist about the Jerry Garcia influence. I saw from playing with Phil that he wasn't trying to recreate that. At that time he was also singing most of the songs, so he was changing the keys on them … He was really interested in coming up with new feels for them. I saw at the time that there was a lot of room for playing with the art form, although as you mentioned that's not what we're really about in Dark Star Orchestra.
Having said that, Phil sat in with us two or three times with Dark Star. That's been a lot of fun. As has Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann and Donna Jean Godchaux. I can't speak to how much they approve of what we're doing, but I guess we got their approval by having them sit in with us.
Q: Being that Dark Star Orchestra alternates between performing recreations of specific Dead shows and also building your own sets, what can we expect when you come to Ann Arbor?
A: About every third or fourth night we do what we call an "elective set," where we make up the setlist just to help keep it fresh and hit on the songs that weren't really getting hit on the tour. Our fans come down somewhere in the middle about what they prefer. There are some people who prefer to hear us do [purist] sets, but there are some people that love that when we do elective sets that we can cross over eras, playing songs that maybe they only played in 1969, then go into a song they played in the '90s. Things that never really happened in Grateful Dead land, we can experiment with that.
Q: How much work does it take to faithfully replicate a Dead show?
A: The difference is that when we play a 1969 show, we set up the stage and we use the gear that fits, and use the arrangements as they were in 1969. Likewise, if the next night we're doing a show from the '80s, we'll have quite a different set-up, with different instruments, all the extra percussion and stuff that was part of that set-up in those years.
We still don’t do everything exactly. It would be impossible to note-for-note recreate a show every night. Even more so, it would be quite against the spirit of the music, which is to improvise in real time. We do that, of course. The arrangement and everything else might belong to the period, but the notes are our own. We're playing how we feel in the moment.
Q: What kind of feedback do you get from your fans? Do they often pick up on the nuances you try to replicate in your performances?
A: It depends on the listener. There's a whole continuum. There's people that can spit out line and verse of the setlist of a show of any particular date. It's just remarkable how detail-oriented Deadheads can be. And then there's people who might be a little more casual listeners who might be baffled that the song sounds so different from what they're used to hearing. But I think they get it that we're trying to play it like it was played in that particular era.
Steven Sonoras is a casual Dead fan and writer living in Ypsilanti.
Dark Star Orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 24 at the Michigan Theater, 602 E. Liberty St. Tickets are $25-45. Call (734) 668-8463 or (800) 745-3000, or visit the Michigan Theater’s website for more information.
Preview: Jerry Mack Keeping Blues Flame Alive
Very few local blues-based musicians have stayed in the area to ply their craft since the glory days of the late 1960’s Ann Arbor Blues Festivals, the then thriving club scene, and the alternative newspapers that promoted and supported them. Since white audiences adopted the blues as the roots of rock and roll, and Boogie Woogie Red presided every Blue Monday in the basement of the Blind Pig, venues have come and gone, while many authentic artists passed away or left town for greener pastures.
Veteran guitarist and vocalist Jerry Mack has seen all these changes, remaining in Ann Arbor to not only perform regularly with his band The Terraplanes, but to host the longstanding electric post-war blues radio show Nothin’ But The Blues on WCBN-FM, 88.3, every Saturday afternoon from 3-5 pm. He'd also added the acoustic vintage folk blues program Yazoo City Calling Monday nights on WCBN from 7-8 pm. Both presentations are highly regarded by local listeners still in search of the real thing. He also wrote a semi-monthly blues column for Current Magazine.
Formed in 1993 as the house band at the Blind Pig, The Terraplanes were named after the Essex Motor Company aerodynamic car in a song “Terraplane Blues,” written by the legendary Robert Johnson in 1936 about a pernicious female partner and her similar qualities to the quirks of the short-lived automobile line.
Even Jerry Mack acknowledges the blues has changed into a more commercially-driven entity, and readily admits to changing with the times. That does not mean he has abandoned the electric guitar-based Chicago style blues that inspired him in the first place. In fact, he’s more driven to assure the public keeps this music uppermost in mind as an influential African-American art form, still at the core of most music we hear.
There are other blues radio programs in the area, the most prominent being Joe Tiboni’s Big City Blues Cruise on WEMU Sunday late afternoons. Radio is a different animal in terms of listenability, as most people use it to complement other activities at home, or traveling in the car. Mack has been on WCBN since 1977 and in a recent interview he remembered, “I had friends who worked there, who said I had a good radio voice and was into music. Why not put those things together.”
The spin-off show Yazoo City Calling started in 1988. “I discovered this music was never played on the radio, except the King Biscuit Flower Hour in the late 1930s and early 1940s. All the race music, the artists were only noticed by word of mouth. So I took it upon myself as a mission to play the songs of the Leadbelly/Robert Johnson era. It was time to branch out because it still is relevant, and the University of Michigan later started an academic program covering the early blues artists some 15 years later after I established Yazoo City Calling.”
Mack and the Terraplanes released their independent CD Well Tuned in 2000. It was a turning point for the band. “Since then,” Mack commented, “we’ve had quite a few changes, not only in personnel but how we approach what is the blues and strongly blues-based music,” referring to rhythm & blues, rock, soul and funk. “In the club circuit that currently exists locally in Ann Arbor, you have very few people that go out to hear a pure blues band. You can do that but people want to be entertained differently.”
Since then Mack has realized the difference between live performance and any purist aesthetic the public wants in terms of entertainment and danceability. “My philosophy," he continued, “is to change the music to get people interested in the blues, to add the peripheral music which is old school, swing, and Motown that people know and dance to. Then we throw in 'Big Leg Woman' by Freddie King or 'Boom Boom Boom Boom' by John Lee Hooker. People like to dance to that - Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, and The Rolling Stones.”
Some prominent band members over the years have included well respected guitarist Rick Humesky, electric bass guitarist Gwenyth Hayes, lead electric guitarist Loren Hseih, harmonica and trumpet expert Dave Cavendar, the late keyboardist Martin Simmons and the late drummer Mike Adams. Current personnel includes electric bass guitarist Al Kalaf, keyboardist Jim Merte, and drummer George Eberhardt Jr.
Where Guy Hollerin’s, the Zal Gaz Grotto, and Mash Bar are local clubs that present blues, the Metro Detroit scene has fallen by the wayside. Some casualties include famed venues like The Soup Kitchen, Sully’s, and Tenny Street Roadhouse in Dearborn. Callahan’s in Auburn Hills and the Blue Goose in St. Clair Shores are active but a long way to drive. Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig is well past presenting any blues, Enzo’s is long gone, as are any major venues past The Michigan Theater, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival stages, and on a rare night the Necto, Live, or the Yellow Barn.
“I don’t know if it’s the fault of the media coverage, or something else in our lives coming up. The thing that I find unique these days is very few people who have made successful lives in rock have little interest in spreading the word like they used to. Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy deserve great credit, and even John Mayer does what he can, but I find there are good guitarists who lack a lot of soul.”
So at least we have people like Jerry Mack and other die-hard individuals who are doing all they can to keep this music alive and as well as can be expected.
Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.
Jerry Mack & The Terraplanes perform at the Mash Bar, 211 E. Washington St. at 10 pm Friday, September 23; and at Guy Hollerin’s at the Holiday Inn East, 3600 Plymouth Rd. at 8 pm. Saturday, September 24.
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #611: Spotlight on Psychological Thrillers
An August pick on Indie Next and LibraryReads lists, and a runaway UK debut bestseller, Behind Closed Doors * by B.A. Paris is one of the most terrifying psychological thriller you are likely to come across.
London attorney Jack Angel - movie-star-handsome and successful, sweeps Grace Harrington off her feet when he offers to dance with Millie, Grace's Down-syndrome younger sister under her care. The first sign that things are not what they seem to be is when Millie tumbles down a flight of stairs on their wedding day. On their honeymoon, Jack made clear his psychopathic plans, using Millie as leverage to ensure Grace's cooperation.
"Debut-novelist Paris adroitly toggles between the recent past and the present in building the suspense of Grace’s increasingly unbearable situation, as time becomes critical and her possible solutions narrow. This is one readers won’t be able to put down." (Booklist)
All the Missing Girls * , the first adult title by YA author Megan Miranda, is about the disappearances of two young women a decade apart. It has been 10 years since Nic(olette) Farrell left Cooley Ridge after her best friend, Corinne Prescott, disappeared without a trace. Now a cryptic note from her dementia-ravaged father brings her home. Within days of her arrival, her young neighbor Annaleise Carter disappears, reawakening the decade-old investigation that focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne's boyfriend Jackson.
Told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1 since Annaleise's disappearance, Nic works to unravel the shocking truth about her friends, her family, and ultimately, herself. "Miranda convincingly conjures a haunted setting that serves as a character in its own right, but what really makes this roller-coaster so memorable is her inspired use of reverse chronology, so that each chapter steps further back in time, dramatically shifting the reader’s perspective." (Publishers Weekly)
The Trap by East German debut novelist Melanie Raabe is a fast, twisty read.
Reclusive novelist Linda Conrads hasn't left her home since she discovered her sister's body 11 years earlier. When she sees the face of the murderer on television, the same face that she saw leaving the crime scene, she goes about setting a trap by crafting her next thriller utilizing all the details of her sister's murder. But her careful plan goes horribly awry.
Film rights sold to TriStar Pictures.
* = starred review
Preview: The Stellars Album Release at the Blind Pig
The Stellars say one of their biggest problems is convincing their friends that they’re a “real band,” but their new record Interthestellars should put those concerns to rest once and for all.
The duo is comprised of University of Michigan Juniors Erez Levin and Dan Sagher, both 21. The two met at a rock summer camp in the summer of 2004, and they became best friends through middle and high school. They formally became a musical duo in summer of 2015 after their previous band, The Euphorics, broke up. Their first full-length release as The Stellars, which will debut at midnight before the band’s upcoming CD release show this Friday at the Blind Pig, is a well earned payoff to years of friendship, enthusiasm, and hard work.
The band cites a diverse range of influences, from classic rock to funk. Their first band, Soul Transit, blended their shared love Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix with Michael Jackson and James Brown. More recently, The Stellars say they’ve been listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, The 1975, The Strokes, Weezer, Green Day, and John Mayer. The Stellars also have a lovably snotty, confessional punk streak, ala The Replacements. That mode is best exemplified in the lyric, “I wrote a song in 17/8, but if it’s not 4/4 then I’m not getting laid” from “Interthestellars” charging lead-off track “Don’t Wanna Sit Around.”
Last week we chatted on the phone with Levin and Sagher about how they got their new record made, what makes their live shows stand out, and trying to break into the Detroit scene.
Q: You guys play with a full band live, but you’re essentially a duo in the studio. What’s the division of labor on the new record?
Erez: About half the songs I wrote pretty much on my own, and then Dan and I arranged together. The other half we wrote from scratch sitting in my parents' basement or on the porch. We recorded the album, I played the drums and sang and played my guitar parts from what we do live, and Dan played all the lead lines.
Dan: Our friend Sam Collins played bass. He was in The Euphorics.
Q: Who rounds out the live band?
Dan: We've been playing with a bunch of different music school musicians, but it's basically show-by-show. We see who can do what, when. We have our obvious favorites, but we take it on a show-by-show basis: Who can play with us? Usually it's a pretty consistent crew, but sometimes our favorite drummer will be busy, so we find another really talented drummer, or same with the bassists.
Q: I was struck with how clean the production is on the album, especially for a debut. Where did you record these tracks?
Dan: We recorded at the U of M studios. Duderstadt Center has a really nice couple of studios.
Erez: We also did a bit of it in the attic of my house.
Dan: Erez's house he's living in has a bunch of PAT students, which is the Performing Arts Technology program within the music school. They built their own studio in their attic. We recorded some there, but the bulk of it was recorded in the Duderstadt Center. We also have a wonderful PAT student who's been by our side since the days of The Euphorics. His name is Ben Factor. He engineered, mixed and produced our entire album.
Erez: I actually met [Factor] at my freshman orientation in 2013. We found that we have really similar taste in rock music, and he mixed our high school band. We had a recording that was as-yet unmixed, and he then went and mixed it just because we became homies. He did such good work on it. With the Euphorics we hit him up for all of it, and we still do because we just love working with him. Honestly, he's the third member of the band.
Q: He’s involved with setting up your live gigs as well, right?
Dan: He takes care of all the lights and sound at our shows. He's really into elaborate light shows.
Erez: He's inspired by the light show that the jam band Umphrey's McGee has, and he's gone and had the chance to meet the guy that does lights for Umphrey's. We're lucky to have him for that, because we know that even when we play co-op shows and house parties we can give people something a bit unique, because not every band has a professional light show behind them.
Q: What formats are you releasing the album on? And is there any plan for a tour once the record is out?
Erez: We have a CD release party at the Blind Pig on September 23, which is the release date. So that will be popping up on Spotify, Apple Music, and whatever other big internet entities for streaming there are on midnight that day. And we've got CDs, we've got some shirts, stickers. We've been going all out on the merch.
Dan: Once we get music out we're going to try to play as many shows in Southeast Michigan as we can to create a local following.
Q: How supportive has the Ann Arbor scene been to you? Do you feel you’ve built enough momentum here to move on to other cities in the region?
Erez: The Ann Arbor music scene is super important to us because we're from here. We went to Community High together. We grew up playing shows at the B-Side at the Neutral Zone, which was incredibly important to our development as musicians. As professionals we know how to carry out a live show because all through high school we were practicing at this amazing all ages venue, which we're amazingly lucky to have. We love the scene here, we're really grateful for it, and we're really excited to contribute to it.
Dan: Recently we hooked up with a business dude who's really interested in music management, and I think that's what he wants to be doing. His name is Ben Schechter He's the one who's putting on our CD release show. He's the founder of the music blog What The Sound. He wanted to reach out to bands outside of the city, outside of the state, to open for us to create relationships with bands in nearby Midwestern places.
Detroit is probably the next frontier in terms of our outreach. We know a fair amount of people in Detroit, we know some bands in Detroit. The same reason we didn't play shows last year is the same reason we haven't played in Detroit. We don't want to do a cool show in Detroit and then when people say, "Hey, can I buy an album?" it's like, "Sorry, we don't have anything for you."
Q: Let’s talk more about “Interthestellars.” You’ve been working on some of these songs for quite a while. How do you feel about the final product? Are there any tracks you’re particularly proud to finally have out there?
Dan: The thing about this album is there are so many songs that are so different than the last. I'm mostly excited for a large amount of people to get their fix from this album, because it has a little bit of something for a lot of people. It's not a one-sound album. There's no song I'm particularly excited for, in that I'm excited for all of them to be released.
Erez: I'm excited to have finally released a good version of this song "Start This Over." I wrote it in high school, and this is the third time it's been recorded, and I feel like we finally got it right with this recording. And I love that song just as much as all the others on the album, but for me that one's been around for so long and I'm finally glad that we finally get to say, "We did it. Here's the song. I can write another song now," [laughs].
Steven Sonoras is a writer living in Ypsilanti.
The Stellars perform with The Kickstand Band and Andrew Solway ft. San Cristobal on Friday, September 23 at the Blind Pig, 208. S First St. Tickets are $7 18 and up and $10 21 and over. Call (734) 896-8555 or visit the Blind Pig’s website for more info.
Review: Falling Up and Getting Down, UMS Season-Opening Live Skateboarding + Music Celebration
The professional skateboarders at Falling Up and Getting Down, University Musical Society’s (UMS) season-opening event on Sunday, September 11, at Ann Arbor Skatepark, riveting as they were, were just part of the event's attraction. Jazz trio Jason Moran and the Bandwagon, joined by saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, were improvising on a stage behind the bowl. Instruments were in conversation with each other, and the conversation included the skaters too.
The skaters’ own improvisations didn’t respond to individual musical statements, at least not that I could perceive; rather, the feel of the music infused all the skating with its particular energy. The edge of the stage proved a highly permeable boundary between music and skateboards; skater Chuck Treece joined the Bandwagon on guitar and skater Ron Allen took the mike to layer rhyme over the music. Early on, Tom Remillard launched himself up and over the lip of the pool to briefly plant a foot on the edge of the stage before hurling himself back down the steep face of the pool like a wheeled stage diver, a maneuver that other skaters riffed on later.
The skaters were the main attraction for me. Having surfed but never been on a skateboard, I imagined their ride to be like catching one constant wave. What a rush it must be, plunging down into the trough of the concrete “bowl” and then decelerating as they ride up its concave side. Sometimes they immediately cut down again, sometimes they skated along the crest, sometimes they hit a divine moment of suspension at the top—airborne, or upside-down balanced on one hand, the other hand fixing the board to the soles of their feet. There was wow-inducing virtuosity (and good-natured rebounds out of the failed attempts at that virtuosity), but what I found most hypnotic was the fact of the ride: that ongoing forward propulsion, and the pendulum energy of their recurring drops into and ascents out of the bowl.
Hot skateboarders and hot music together: that’s a lot going on. But there was still more, something about the people assembled in the park. “Community” comes to mind, but I rush to justify that worn-out word and provide examples of what I have in mind. My twelve-year-old daughter attended a girls-only skateboard session in the morning and got personal instruction from 17-year-old pro Jordyn Barratt. At the event, Barratt mugged for a photographer as she rode her board in an arc over the head of Ken Fischer, UMS President, who was seated at the bottom of the bowl. My daughter was star-struck (over Barratt, not Fischer!), telling me how cool Jordyn is and, I think, hoping to catch her eye. Meanwhile, local skaters weaved among the pros.
There was a sociable, we’re-all-here-together vibe, and that must be at least partially attributed to UMS’s desire to “give back to the community” with this event. “Community” often means connecting with audiences outside the older, wealthier population usually associated with concert halls, and if that’s the definition in operation here, certain elements of Falling Up and Getting Down were particularly effective. It was free and in a public park. The “free” part is not to be underestimated, especially given the often-prohibitive price tag on concerts in theaters. The “public park” part is also powerful; this was not just any public park with lawns and swing-sets, but a skatepark with cement hills and paths and loops.
There were also a fair number of teenagers, and tattoos, punk rock t-shirts, Chuck Taylor sneakers, and dreadlocks, alongside people with grey hair, tailored clothing, and sensible shoes. I acknowledge how odious generalizations based on appearances are, but admit that I surmised that this older set came for the jazz more than the skateboarding. The fact remains, though, that there were assembled people who looked really different from one another, and their difference was made more striking by the fact that they were side by side at the skatepark. We were all listening to the Bandwagon, and regardless of who considers themselves jazz connoisseurs or knows Jason Moran’s reputation, the sounds they conjured were bewitching. We were all watching the skateboarders fly, and regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Tom Remillard, it was inspiring and gladdening.
My husband, impressed with the scene, commented how cool it is that our town has a skatepark, that when he was a teenager, skateboarding was on par with doing drugs, wearing black leather jackets, and generally getting in trouble. Skateboarding was not just teenagers, it was bad teenagers; any business with a promisingly inclined stretch of sidewalk posted a prominent “no skateboards” sign. Some of that has obviously changed, either with the time or the place; witness the number of people of all ages on skateboards and the family-friendly vibe at Ann Arbor Skatepark. However, skateboarding still has a reputation and often a feel of angry rebellion and intimidating cool; pro-skateboarder Andy Macdonald’s clean-cut image is an exception that the press makes much of, and I feel instantly old, dowdy, lame, and conservative when I encounter skateboarders on the street.
And the skateboarders didn’t seem off-puttingly cool; they offered one another encouraging high-fives and praise, and shared the limelight with respectful turn-taking. If the situation were reversed, I hope that the clothing and attitudes of the concert hall that might be intimidating to outsiders would be similarly mitigated by friendly and polite interaction.
Anyway, it was a situation in which people of apparent difference found common ground—a true and apt definition of community, compelling me to remove the cynical quotation marks from around that word. While the unusual combination of jazz improvisation and skateboarding—both of the highest quality—was the attraction that drew these people, I think the secret ingredient that enabled this particular instance of community was the setting: the shared public space. And so, I’m impressed with my new home, not just for bringing Jason Moran and Andy Macdonald here, but for bringing them together and for making this happen free of charge in a public venue.
From 1993-2004, Veronica Dittman Stanich danced in New York and co-produced The Industrial Valley Celebrity Hour in Brooklyn. Now, PhD in hand, she writes about dance and other important matters.
Preview: POP-X AAWA Installation
The second annual Ann Arbor Art Center community festival and art extravaganza POP-X is set to open on September 22. This multifaceted, multi-disciplinary, multi-artist event will run for 10 days and 10 nights in 10 pavilions right downtown in Ann Arbor's Liberty Square Park.
Each pavilion features the unique vision of an artist or art collective, ranging from poetry to video to floral installation to caricature. There's even a mini-pub serving craft beers, and as if that weren't enough, the spaces outside the pavilions will feature art demonstrations, musical performances, social gatherings, panel discussions and participatory art making throughout the run of the festival, which ends October 1.
The goal of POP-X is to present work that actively engages the community, and this year’s POP-X artists have interpreted this in their own unique ways. Ann Arbor Women Artists, a 300 member non-profit artists' organization, has chosen to implement this vision in the broadest possible way, designing and executing a comprehensively inclusive art installation that cuts across barriers of age, gender, race and disability. Their art installation, Side-by-Side, is the result of many collaborative art-making sessions where professional artists were paired with non-professionals to create the painted faces that will fill the AAWA pavilion on September 22. Project partners range from the very young children of En Nuestra Lengua to the high schoolers of Girls Group, to seniors of the Silver Club and residents of Miller Manor, an apartment for the disabled, and others. Ann Arbor Art Center President and CEO Marie Klopf attended a session held at the Art Center, as did Omari Rush, their Director of Community Engagement. Three City Council Members, Sabra Briere, Chuck Warpehoski and Julie Grand also took time from their busy schedules to be part of the project.
"Our plan was to reach out to individuals in the Ann Arbor Community, despite on-the-surface differences, and to create an art installation which honors both our unique individuality and our shared humanity," –Elizabeth Wilson, Lidia Kaku, Mary Murphy (co-chairs).
Community arts projects are a strange, hybrid beast, part crafts project, part encounter group, part social club. The success or failure of any project of this kind depends on the planning and design of the installation and its constituent parts. The faces made by artists and their partners will be mounted on a framework on the interior walls of the pavilion, with mirrors incorporated to allow visitors to see themselves in the installation. A sound loop of music will be interwoven with short clips of conversations from pairs talking about the work they are doing and discovering more about each other in the process.
Barbara Melnik Carson, a core member of the working group, maintains that Side-by-Side has been the best example of cooperative art-making in her wide experience. "Everyone worked so well together–there were no egos getting in the way, which isn't always the case," she says. "Each member of the core group has different strengths, and they have all had an opportunity to contribute in their own way."
The members of the project Side-by-Side don't see the completion of this installation as a mission accomplished. They see it as a pilot project for an ongoing community engagement program which would organize citywide pop-up events with the purpose of building lines of communication throughout Ann Arbor.
"We plan to bring the whole world together one portrait at a time," says Barbara Melnik Carson.
K.A. Letts is an artist and art blogger. She has shown her work regionally and nationally and in 2015 won the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award while participating in the TAAE95 Exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. You can find more of her work at RustbeltArts.com.
POP·X runs Thursday, September 22 – Saturday October 1, 2016 from noon to 8pm at Liberty Plaza Park, 255 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor. To learn more visit popxannarbor.com or the POP•X Facebook event page. POP•X is free and open to the public.
For more information about Ann Arbor Women Artists, visit their website.
AAWA POP-X Committee Members are: Elizabeth Wilson (co-chair), Lidia Kaku (co-chair), Mary Murphy (co-chair), Barbara Melnik Carson, Barbara Bach, Barb Maxson, Joyce Bailey, Lucie Nisson, Marie Howard, Susan Clinthorne, and Sharon St. Mary.
Preview: Wild Swan Theatre's 2016-2017 Season
Wild Swan Theater’s 37th season includes their award-winning Rosie the Riveter from last season, plus a couple classics and a holiday favorite--all family-friendly, as all Wild Swan productions are. Each production is staged by professional actors, dancers, musicians, and ASL performers who strive to make performances accessible to audience members who have auditory, visual, or mobility impairments.
The Ugly Duckling (Ages 3-9)
Thu, Oct 27, 10:00 am; Fri, Oct 28, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, Oct 29, 11 am
"Resident playwright Jeff Duncan puts his spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who is looked down on by everyone around him until, much to his delight (and to the surprise of others), he matures into a majestic swan. Jeremy Salvatori portrays the Ugly Duckling, with Sandy Ryder, Michelle Trame Lanzi, and Barbara Scanlon rounding out the cast. Shelly Tocco and Erin Parrish of Synergy on Stage provide the American Sign Language interpreting. Backstage touch tours and audio-description are available for blind theater patrons. These services are free but must be reserved by calling (734) 995-0530."
A Christmas Carol (Ages 8+)
Thu, Dec 8, 10:00 am; Fri, Dec 9, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, Dec 10, 2:00 pm; Sun, Dec 11, 2:00 pm
"Based on the novel by Charles Dickens and adapted for Wild Swan by Jeff Duncan with original music by composer Tom Schnauber, Wild Swan's version of this wonderful holiday classic has been especially created for family audiences and is appropriate for children in 3rd grade and older. A Christmas Carol tells of the astonishing transformation of miserly old Ebeneezer Scrooge after he is visited by three spirits on the night before Christmas."
Owl’s Winter (Ages 3-9)
Thu, Jan 19, 10:00 am; Fri, Jan 20, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, Jan 21, 11:00 am
"A delightful collection of stories for young children based on Arnold Lobel's Owl at Home. A first introduction to theater especially created to draw young theater goers into the world of theater arts with these carefully chosen and shaped stories. Special activities provided by Leslie Science and Nature Center."
Drum Me a Story (Ages 3-9)
Thu, Feb 9, 10:00 am; Fri, Feb 10, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, Feb 11, 11:00 am
"A delightful collection of African tales performed through storytelling, acting, dancing, and drumming. Colorful costumes, masks, and traditional music will delight and teach our young fans, with lots of opportunities for audience participation!"
Rosie the Riveter (Ages 9+)
Thu, Mar 9, 10:00 am; Fri, Mar 10, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, Mar 11, 2:00pm
"An original musical written by playwright Jeff Duncan and composer Brian E. Buckner, Rosie the Riveter tells the remarkable story of the women who came to Michigan from all across the country and all walks of life to fill thousands of factory jobs left empty by men suddenly called to war. With their determination, strength of character, and backbreaking labor, these extraordinary women rallied a nation as they produced B-24 bombers, a plane an hour, day in and day out for the duration of World War II. This is a production that not only brings history alive, but will inspire respect and admiration for the capacity of these Rosies to accomplish more than anyone could have imagined."
Jack and the Beanstalk (Ages 3-9)
Thu, Mar 23, 10:00 am;Fri, Mar 24, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, Mar 25, 11:00 am
"This lively rendition of a classic tale presents a humorous giant, appropriate for young theater-goers. In Wild Swan's version, Jack's journey up the fantastical beanstalk not only leads to his encounter with a very silly giant but to the rescue of his long lost father as well. Special activities provided by Growing Hope. Thank you to Domino’s for their sponsorship of Jack and the Beanstalk."
Marketplace Stories – Folktales from the Arab World (Ages 6+)
Thu, May 4, 10:00 am; Fri, May 5, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm; Sat, May 6, 2:00pm
"This new and original production developed in collaboration with the Arab American National Museum and the National Arab Orchestra is inspired by folktales from the Arab world. See this vibrant world come to life through timeless stories and music, passed on from country to country and from one generation to another."
Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.
All performances take place at Towsley Auditorium, in the Morris Lawrence Building on the campus of Washtenaw Community College. Purchase tickets online at http://www.wildswantheater.org or by phone at (734) 995-0530. Discounted group rates are available to parties of 10 or more. Tickets are on sale now!