Chamber of Secrets: Purple Rose Theatre's "Never Not Once" pulls no punches as it explores a family's difficult history

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Never Not Once at Purple Rose Theatre

Michelle Mountain (Allison), Caitlin Cavannaugh (Eleanor), Jeremy Kucharek (Rob), and Casaundra Freeman (Nadine) star in Carey Crim’s grab-you-by-the-lapels drama Never Not Once. Photos by Sean Carter Photography.

We often hear that people shouldn’t be permanently defined by their worst decision or act. But on the other end of that equation, all too often, are men and women who are irrevocably shaped by the violence committed against them.

Carey Crim’s latest world premiere play at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre, Never Not Once, directed by Guy Sanville, treads rather boldly across this ethical minefield. 

When Rutgers student Eleanor (Caitlin Cavannaugh) comes home unannounced, with boyfriend Rob (Jeremy Kucharek) in tow, and announces to her two moms that she aims to track down her biological father, her birth mother, Allison (Michelle Mountain), balks, insisting that the one night stand that left her pregnant in college was so inconsequential that she never even learned the man’s name. But when Eleanor’s other mom, Nadine (Casaundra Freeman), secretly supplies Eleanor with a possible clue regarding her father’s identity, the search narrows, and Allison is forced to revisit a trauma from her past.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but Never Not Once is an intense 90 minutes of live theater, despite some moments of levity in the early going. It tackles some tough stuff, and for the most part, it doesn’t pull its punches. But then, it can’t afford to. If you’re going to “go there,” as Crim has chosen to do, you’ve got to have the guts to go all in. So don’t go to the Rose expecting to passively sit back and be entertained by Never. It’s more a grab-you-by-the-lapels kind of show.

Relentless Forward Progress: Ellen Rowe's "Momentum" seeks to inspire women in jazz and beyond

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Ellen Rowe and her album Momentum

University of Michigan's Ellen Rowe is the world's first female chair of a major university jazz department, and last year she was one of four faculty members to be honored as an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. Interim Dean Melody Racine said Rowe engaged in “concrete and repeated steps to build a sense of teamwork, mutual support, and collegiality within the department."

That desire to cross bridges and engage with people extends to Rowe's music, too, and is particularly evident on the pianist's new album, Momentum: Portraits of Women in Motion.

Recorded at the U-M studio in the Duderstadt building, each of Momentum's eight compositions is dedicated to a woman or women who have influenced Rowe.

"What was fun was to pick women that really mattered to me and who had made a difference in my life from the time I was 8 or 9 up til now and write music for them," Rowe said in a video interview about Momentum

"Some of the readings I was doing about race and social justice, I just came across really incredible women that I had no idea about, who started NAACP chapters, they started schools, they started colleges, they had been at the forefronts of the civil rights marches, and yet we don't hear about them," she said. "Women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Amelia Boynton, Septima Clark, Mary McLeod Bethune, and I just thought, 'Where are these women?' We need to know about these women -- I need to know about these women. And certainly, young women -- and part of this project, of course, involves mentoring -- I want to be able to talk about these women when I go out and play this music."

Great Lakes Soundtrack: Sean Curtis Patrick and Benoît Pioulard team up for an LP that feels like destiny

MUSIC PREVIEW

Patrick & Piolard's Avocationals LP cover

Cover art by Sean Curtis Patrick’s father, Lynn Curtis Patrick: The Sinking of the Bradley, 1983. Created with graphite, charcoal, and collage.

Ann Arbor musician and video artist Sean Curtis Patrick is teaming up with Haslet, Michigan native Benoît Pioulard (née Thomas Meluch) for a concept album that these prolific ambient musicians were destined to create. Avocationals is about nine shipwrecks on the Great Lakes and Patrick posted a teaser video on Instagram:

Michael Erlewine releases a free PDF book that chronicles Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD HISTORY

Ann Arbor - The 1960s by Michael Erlewine

In a recent Facebook post, former Ann Arborite Michael Erlewine posted a link to his free PDF book Ann Arbor: The 1960s Scenesaying:

Here are a series of articles on Ann Arbor, Michigan culture in the late 1950s and 1960s. It is mostly some history of the time from my view and experience. I could add more to them, but I’m getting older by the day and I feel it is better to get something out there for those few who want to get a sense of Ann Arbor back in those times.

I hope there are some out there who can remember these times too. As for those of were not there, here is a taste as to what Ann Arbor was like back then.

Long before he became a software pioneer who created astrological programs and, later, the All Music franchise and its spinoffs, Erlewine was an integral member of Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene as co-founder of blues band The Prime Movers, which eventually featured Iggy Pop on drums.

Pulp Bits: Matthew Dear, A2 Folk Festival, Washtenaw music clubs, AADL archives Twitter

MUSIC THEATER & DANCE

Cast of Dionysus 1969

Two members of the cast of Dionysus in '69, the manager and assistant manager await fingerprinting and booking procedures in the Ann Arbor Police Headquarters. Credit: Ann Arbor News, January 27, 1969, via AADL archives' new Twitter feed.

A round-up of Washtenaw County arts and culture news.

Ann Arbor musician and Ghostly International co-founder Matthew Dear spent six years crafting his latest solo album, Bunny, which came out Oct. 12, 2018.

But for his contribution to FACTmagazine's "Against the Clock" series, Dear put together a song in 10 minutes.

Check out that Dear video below, plus the promo clip for the album single "Bunny's Dream," along with news on the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the suddenly thriving Washtenaw County music club scene, and the AADL archives team recall a 1969 theatrical production that was accused of indecency.

Plugged In: UMMA's "Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today" examines creativity in the Digital Age

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Francis Stark, My Best Thing, 2011

Frances Stark, My Best Thing, 2011. Video (color, sound; 100 minutes). Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome. © Frances Stark

The traveling exhibition Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today is on loan to UMMA from the Institute of Contemporary Art of Boston, curated by Eva Respini and Barbara Lee (chief curators) with Jeffrey De Blois (assistant curator). The exhibition premiered in Boston on February 7, 2018, and will next travel to New Orleans Museum of Art in mid-April 2019.

The significance of technology’s impact on lived experience is noted the exhibition announcement on UMMA’s website, stating: “The internet has changed every aspect of contemporary life -- from how we interact with each other to how we work and play. Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today examines the radical impact of internet culture on visual art since the invention of the web in 1989. This exhibition presents more than forty works across a variety of media -- painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video, and web-based projects.” 

Some of the influential artists featured in the gallery are Cory Arcangel, Judith Barry, Juliana Huxtable, Pierre Huyghe, Josh Kline, Laura Owens, Trevor Paglen, Seth Price, Cindy Sherman, Frances Stark, and Martine Syms. Many of the artists have worked with ever-changing technology for decades, but curators cite the year 1989 as a marker for the current global interconnectedness we experience as a result of new technologies. In addition, 1989 was the year of the first satellite that allows us to have the now-ubiquitous GPS, the year the World Wide Web was invented, the year the Berlin Wall came down, and protests in Tiananmen Square. Since social movements and identity politics have become more visible and accessible than ever before.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s "Dying Well" looks at his wife's well-lived life and how she handled the end

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Bill Kellerman and his book Dying Well

We are a society that doesn’t talk much about dying well -- heck, we don’t really like to talk about dying, period.

But Bill Wylie-Kellermann ponders both in a loving memoir about his wife, Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, which he will discuss at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, January 24 at 7 pm.

The love story began when Bill met Jeanie in 1982. Both were arrested and charged with conspiracy charges after protest actions at Williams International in Walled Lake, Michigan.

“We were both nonviolent community activists,” says Bill. “And we both were held at the Oakland County jail after the arrests. We had to go back and forth to court pretty regularly. We always tried to make sure we were handcuffed side by side in the van that took us to circuit court.”

Those close quarters eventually led to love and marriage as the couple continued their work in Detroit, where Bill was born and where he attended Cooley High School. Jeanie served as a journalist, filmmaker, and writer. Bill grew into roles as a writer, teacher, United Methodist minister, and community activist. They had children, settled into a meaningful life together.

But then in 1998, something happened.

High Lonesome on the Autobahn: Land & Buildings make cosmic Appalachian electronica

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Land and Buildings

Dominick Smith and Kendall Babl's lo-fi country-ambient duo Land & Buildings will rock your socks on.

The Appalachian Mountains and the German Autobahn are diametrically different creations in myriad ways: Earth-made vs. man-made; steep vs. flat; curvilinearly mysterious vs. linearly hypnotic.

But the duo Land & Buildings bring the sounds of Appalachia and Germany together in a way that is as natural as a mountain range or racing on a European highway.

Dominick Smith and Kendall Babl combine the high-lonesome sound of Highlands-inspired music with the gurgling cosmic drone of Krautrock on their second Land & Buildings album, Huron River Eclipse, which conjures the image of Will Oldham and Neil Young covering Cluster. I legit thought Huron River Eclipse's "Brandywine Harbor" was a Neil Young demo from 1972, while the title track evokes Conny Plank's Berlin studio in 1976.

Smith and Babel met in Chicago during what was supposed to be an MFA year together studying sculpture at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and they've been playing music on and off ever since. But it wasn't until 2013 that Land & Buildings became a thing, and in that same year the duo released its debut album, Hibiscus.

With Smith in New York state and Babel in Washtenaw County, it took a while for Land & Building to create its second album. Huron River Eclipse consists of mostly improvised jams that were later edited down by the band and Fred Thomas, who released the cassette on his Life Like label. It's a truly unique and gorgeous collection of lo-fi outsider folk and electronics.

I spoke with Smith and Babel about their kosmische Appalachian electronica.

"Works in Progress" is a celebration of beauty and chaos at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Sarrazin & Sobremesa

One of Natalia Sarrazin's works at the Ann Arbor Art Center's Works in Progress exhibition.

We live in a world of things. Each chair, cup, table, door, and car in our built environment is the product of human ingenuity, from concept to execution. Works in Progress, an exhibit on view now at the Ann Arbor Art Center, celebrates the creativity of 24 international and domestic designers, at varying stages in their careers, who bring functional works to life through fashion, graphic design, furniture, architecture, and industrial design.

Many of the products and designs on display feature high tech materials and methods not usually associated with what we normally think of as “craft.” The centerpiece for this non-analog approach is You Are the Ocean, a video installation by Ozge Smanci and Gabriel Caniglia, which takes up about a third of the entry room in Gallery 117. It’s not an object at all, but documentation of a computer-assisted visualization of how the mind can alter an image via computer, unmediated by the human hand or real-world material. Using the Unity Game Engine, the designers wrote code that creates a synthesized, uninhabited, and turbulent seascape. Clouds roll and waves crest in response to the subject’s brain waves in various states of concentration or relaxation. The resulting scene is both bleak and beautiful, exhilarating and disturbing. I can imagine that this is the kind of art our cyborg descendants will find beautiful, and it gave me a profound sense of my own obsolescence. 

Queer Eye for the "Gurl Groups and Boi Bands": Out Loud Chorus sings the hits

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Out Loud Chorus

You've got the girl groups, from The Supremes to En Vogue.

And you've got the boy bands, from The Temptations to The Backstreet Boys.

But for the Out Loud Chorus' annual winter concerts, you've got the “Gurl Groups and Boi Bands,” a program of music that plays to the ensemble's unique nature.

“We are unusual because a lot of gay and lesbian choirs are all men or all women,” says Out Loud Chorus board member Tim Hamann. “We have always been a mixed group, truly a community chorus.” 

During the January 18 and 19 performances, expect to hear music from Motown groups, '90s boy bands, Destiny’s Child, The Andrews Sisters, The King’s Singers, and more.

"'Gurl Groups and Boi Bands' will be set up like an episode of The Voice," says Hamann. “But we are calling it The Queer Voice. Then we will have skits peppered throughout the program.”