Panel Discussion: "Cinema Guild and Campus Film Societies: Their History and Legacy"

FILM & VIDEO

March's 61st Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) was also the soft launch of Frank Uhle's new book, Cinema Ann Arbor, which officially comes out in June.

Uhle hosted a panel at AAFF, "Cinema Guild and Campus Film Societies: Their History and Legacy," a topic covered in the book, documenting the groups who brought cutting-edge films to the University of Michigan—and the controversies that sometimes ensued.

We interviewed Uhle about the film societies in a preview article for this panel discussion—check it out here—which included former U-M film society members Hugh Cohen, Dave DeVarti, Philip Hallman, and Anne Moray.

You can now view the panel discussion in the video above.

A Ghost Story: Purple Rose’s world premiere of the humorous but serious "In Common" explores friends struggling with relationships, past and present

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

The cast of Purple Rose's In Common gather on a stage set up like a living room.

Hungry Ghosts: Cyrus (Dez Walker), Melanie (Caitlin Cavannaugh), Vivian (Olivia Miller), Hal (Rusty Mewha), and Blair (Rachel Keown) have a lot In Common at Purple Rose. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

A young woman races about frantically trying on one dress after another. She’s going out to meet with friends who want to introduce her to a man. But she’s not sure she’s ready yet. 

Melanie is haunted by a memory. Her friend, confidante, and soulmate was killed after an incident in a bar. She watched it happen and saw him taken away by police. Melanie is white, her friend Cyrus was black. Another case of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people. 

Cyrus died, but to Melanie he’s still alive, still giving her advice, still making her laugh. Recreational drugs and prescribed drugs don’t relieve her sense of guilt. But now, with the help of her friends, she grasps for something new.

The Purple Rose Theatre is presenting the world premiere of playwright Quinn D. Eli’s In Common, a play that balances a caustic sense of humor with a serious look at complicated relationships in a complicated urban environment. 

Director Rhiannon Ragland and her excellent cast get the balance just right. The setting is, as Eli notes, “American, urban, Brooklynesque” and the time is “two years after Obama.” Things are more than a little uneasy, but Melanie and her friends are working through it.

Friday Five: Blind Liars, Same Eyes, Head Full of Ghosts, Turtle Heist, Suzuka

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

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

This week features indie rock by Blind Liars and Same Eyes, acoustic-leaning grunge by Head Full of Ghosts, and vaporwave/synth-pop by Turtle Heist and Suzuka.

Full of “Wonder”: The debut album by Ypsilanti’s Cracked & Hooked came together quickly

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Cracked and Hooked group photo with the four members standing their practice space.

Left to right: Alistair Dickinson, David Freund, Brad Perkins, and Andrew Peck are Cracked & Hooked. Photo courtesy of the band.

David Freund didn’t mean to start a band; he just wanted to learn how to play guitar during the pandemic.

“I’d bought my first electric guitar, having very limited ability to play guitar at all, and within a couple of months, I began to sound like I had some idea of how to play it,” Freund said.

The Ypsilanti resident posted his playing progress and nascent songs on social media and jokingly gave himself the band name Cracked & Hooked.

“I fully believed that it would only ever be just that,” Freund said. “Just me at home making a racket and sharing it online. Essentially, it was a game of pretend where I’m in a band and my home is my studio.”

What started as a personal project for Freund evolved into a full band in late 2022 when he had the opportunity to play live and was joined by friends Alistair Dickinson (lead guitar), Andrew Peck (bass), and Brad Perkins (drums) for the shows. Cracked & Hooked’s musical camaraderie developed so quickly, on Christmas day the band headed to Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios to record the album Wonder Out of Your Mind, released in February.

Action Pain-ing: The ghost of painter Jackson Pollock is a conflicted priest's confidant in Theatre NOVA's "SPLATTERED!"

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Splattered!'s Andrew Huff as Pollock and Artun Kircali as Justin.

Andrew Huff (Jackson Pollock) and Artun Kircali (Justin) perform in Theatre Nova's SPLATTERED! Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Conventional wisdom teaches us that “art heals,” but not usually via advice from a long-dead painter who suddenly reappears near one of his most famous works.

Nonetheless, this exact situation stands at the heart of Theatre NOVA's world-premiere production of SPLATTERED! by Hal Davis and Carla Milarch, directed by Briana O’Neal.

Set inside New York’s Museum of Modern Art, priest-in-training Justin (Artun Kircali) has snuck away from a wedding reception, with a champagne bottle in hand, to try and pull himself together. He’s just presided over the wedding of his cousin and best friend, Astrid (Marie Muhammad), but we initially don’t know why he’s drinking, cursing, and frantically praying in this gallery while confronting Jackson Pollock’s splatter painting “One: Number 31, 1950.”

But he’s not alone for long: Astrid soon finds him and, eventually, Justin’s old flame Sylvie (Allison Megroet) does, too. Yet it’s the surprise appearance of Pollock’s ghost (Andrew Huff) that provides Justin with an opportunity to unpack the unwieldy emotional baggage he’s carrying, which makes him reconsider his life choices and future.

SPLATTERED! runs a little over an hour, and other than two very brief Sylvie flashbacks, it unfolds in real time and the audience must work hard to piece together what’s happened between these characters in the past. During one early moment of confusion, I had initially guessed that Justin had been hopelessly pining for Astrid. Despite those initial thoughts, this short play doesn’t feel as fleeting as one might expect. 

BACKYARD BRAINS' GREG GAGE AND TIM MARZULLO HELP PEOPLE EXPLORE NEUROSCIENCE IN THEIR NEW BOOK, "How Your Brain Works"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

The "How Your Brain Works" book cover on the left with authors Tim Marzullo on the top right and Greg Gage on the bottom right.

How Your Brain Works makes neuroscience available to everyone. Authors Tim Marzullo (top) and Greg Gage offer humor alongside science via illustrative drawings. Artwork by Cristina Mezuk.

Have you ever wondered how sleep can improve memory? Or considered how your eyes perceive color? It turns out that you do not have to be a degreed scientist or even work in a lab to find out! 

These questions all pertain to neuroscience, and it is possible to research them yourself by conducting the experiments in neuroscientists Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo’s new book, How Your Brain Works. Gage and Marzullo, the founders of Backyard Brains in Ann Arbor, make neuroscience available to everyone via more than 45 at-home tests outlined in their manual. The chapters keep the reader on the edge of their seat with the questions that the authors ask and the methods through which they answer them. As the two neuroscientists write, “Scientific discoveries can happen anywhere.” Plus, it is not only science – Gage and Marzullo offer humor alongside the science via illustrative drawings.

Neuroscience has long been an expensive endeavor, but tools that appeared in the early 2000s changed the landscape and brought neuroscience out of institutions and into anyone’s hands, Gage and Marzullo write. The premise of How Your Brain Works hinges on these technologies: 

Friday Five: Henri Bardot, The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, Jib Kidder, Gvmmy

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

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

This week features delicate dream-folk by Henri Bardot, instrumental prog-metal by The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, altered tuning computer music by The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, tweaked tunes by Jib Kidder, and a brief techno-house jam by Gvmmy.

Sites and Sound: The Regenerate! Orchestra aims to fill the Ypsilanti Freighthouse with community-made music

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A black and white photo of J. Clay Gonzalez standing on top of a mountain with a river down below.

J. Clay Gonzalez's The Regenerate! Orchestra encourages music-making, no matter your skill level. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Ypsilanti Freighthouse was built in 1878 to host train-bound goods.

On April 26, it will host 85 musicians in The Regenerate! Orchestra for a performance that's part of UMS’s new concert and event series at the venue.

The ensemble will perform four or five works created by J. Clay Gonzalez, a composer who leads the orchestra. All of the music is improvisational to a degree and arranged specifically for the unique ensemble of 85 musicians, nonmusicians, and children that Regenerate! assembled for this event.

To accommodate the personnel's varied skill sets, and to achieve the freely structured sound that typifies Regenerate! Orchestra's aesthetic goals, Gonzalez prepares intricate sets of guidelines and instructions for each performer. These range from traditional music notation to text and images demonstrating how someone may make noise with a piece of paper, egg shaker, or found object. Flutists Michael Avitabile and Justine Sedkey, both University of Michigan alumni, will also appear as soloists for a new concerto-like composition.

All of the pieces in this concert were created specifically with the Freighthouse in mind.

“We will present a large number of musicians spread out in the 360-degree field and they will create these wild soundscapes that a lot of people will find immersive," Gonzalez says. “During the big piece, the audience will be invited to move throughout the space."

For Him the Bells Toll: Wild Up performed Julius Eastman’s "Feminine" at Rackham Auditorium

MUSIC REVIEW

Black and white side portrait of Julius Eastman.

Julius Eastman on the Stay On It album cover. Photo via Week—End Records.

The sound of countless bells, gentle and cloudlike, opened Los Angeles-based chamber ensemble Wild Up’s presentation of Julius Eastman’s Feminine in Ann Arbor’s Rackham Auditorium on the afternoon of Sunday, April 17, as part of UMS’s 2022-23 season.

The bell choir—made up of Wild Up’s members, local musicians, and students from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance—lined the auditorium’s semicircular back. Set against the room’s painted ceiling, in which a darkening night sky extends outward from an intricately designed sun centered above the stage, the bells became stars. Their ringing emerged from darkness once the hall lights dimmed, and the enveloping sound welcomed the gathered concertgoers to an astonishing performance.

Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was a gay, African-American composer and performer whose career involved collaborations with titanic figures in 20th-century classical music such as Peter Maxwell Davies, John Cage, Meredith Monk, Morton Feldman, and others. Yet Eastman struggled to find sustained support from his colleagues and the musical institutions with which he interacted. When he died in 1990, it took eight months for a public notice of his passing to be published, and his legacy as a composer faced similar precarity.

Wild Up is an international leader in the contemporary effort to revive, record, and perform Eastman’s compositions. The ensemble's performance on Sunday confirmed all the praise it has received for the Julius Eastman Anthology project it launched four years ago. 

University of Michigan drama professor Kate Mendeloff passes away from cancer

THEATER & DANCE

Kate Mendeloff laughs while exploring The Arb in Ann Arbor where she directed the annual "Shakespeare in the Park" plays for two decades. Photo from El Kronox's Facebook page

Kate Mendeloff laughs while exploring The Arb in Ann Arbor where she directed the annual "Shakespeare in the Arb" plays for two decades. Photo from El Kronox's Facebook page.

Kate Mendeloff, a drama lecturer at the University of Michigan who directed the annual "Shakespeare in the Arb" plays for two decades, died on Saturday, April 15, from pancreatic cancer. She was 69.

MLive.com staff writer Samuel Dodge wrote a wonderful obituary for the beloved educator, director, wife, and mother: