U-M's production of the musical tragedy "Bernarda Alba" mixes period costumes and an abstract set to confront contemporary issues facing women
Fredrico Garcia Lorca wrote The House of Bernarda Alba in 1936, shortly before he was murdered by a nationalist firing squad during the Spanish Civil War. Michael John LaChiusa shortened the title to Bernarda Alba when he set the play to music and added lyrics; he made some changes to the play while keeping the essential story:
Bernarda Alba assumes the role of family head after her husband’s funeral. She orders her five unmarried daughters, ages 20-39, to mourn for eight years, as her mother did before her. It will be as though the house is bricked up; even crying is forbidden. One problem is that three of the sisters are enamored with the handsome Pepe el Romano—the eldest is engaged to him—and jealousy takes center stage. But what exactly can the sisters do under the circumstances? Turns out, some life-altering things.
When the musical tragedy opened at Lincoln Center in New York in 2006, the scenic design was drab, a realistic depiction of this closed and lonely home.
For Linda Goodrich's production of LaChiusa's Bernarda Alba adaptation that's running November 10-13 at the University of Michigan, scenic designer Jungah Han dropped the drab for what Goodrich calls a “wildly inventive” set. The stark red floor is bordered by a black playing area, with a kind of ceiling that descends to oppress the characters. Actors step out of character and onto the rim at times to witness the action or to narrate.
Fox on the Run: U-M Department of Voice's "The Cunning Little Vixen" was a feast for the eyes and ears
For the weekend of November 3-6, the Power Center at U-M was transformed into a magical, wooded wonderland for the Czech opera The Cunning Little Vixen. The U-M Department of Voice and the University Symphony Orchestra came together to present this whimsical tale composed by Leoš Janáček, with the reduced version arranged by Jonathan Dove.
The original libretto was adapted from the 1920 serialized novella Liška Bystrouška by Rudolf Tésnohlídek and follows the story of a Vixen (female fox) and a Forester. While out in the woods, the Forester falls asleep and when a playful Frog wakes him up, he sees the Little Vixen, traps her, and takes her back to his farm. We move ahead in time and the Little Vixen has grown up, now referred to as simply the Vixen, and is treated as a pet at the Forester’s farm. There is conflict on the farm and she is tied up after defending herself against the Forester’s son and his friend.
Bill Edwards prefers to keep his songwriting in perspective—though not necessarily his own.
The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist pens sentimental narratives from different viewpoints on his new Americana album, Thirteen Stories.
“Sometimes [people] listen to or see a singer, and they assume the song you’re singing is from your own perspective. It doesn’t always have to be; that’s very limiting I find,” Edwards said.
“You can use your imagination and sing from somebody else’s perspective. It’s all colored by my personal experience, and some of it’s very personal, but not all of it.”
Throughout Thirteen Stories, Edwards channels the mindset of a hall of fame baseball player, a seasoned songwriter, a nostalgic boater, a distraught wife, and other compelling characters.
“I want [listeners] to get outside themselves a little bit and experience emotion from somebody else’s point of view,” he said. “Can you identify with this even though it’s not necessarily my point of view or their point of view? Do the songs communicate well enough what somebody else might be going through?”
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features drum 'n' bass by X-Altera, funky fusion-pop from Mr. Vale's Math Class, orchestral indie rock by Kingfisher, hip-hop beats by 14KT, and neo-proto punk by Iggy Pop.
Jonathan Crayne’s debut EP is like a self-pep talk the Adrian alt-rocker wrote to tell himself every little thing’s going to be all right.
The six-song Oknow chronicles Crayne’s emotional resilience and personal growth after experiencing previous challenges in life and love.
“I wanted it to be character pieces that depict going through different stages—whether it’s being a kid or trying to persevere—while ending things on a high note,” said Crayne, who’s also a guitar, bass, and percussion instructor at Ann Arbor’s School of Rock. “I write a lot of sad stuff, but I don’t want to leave anyone like that.”
He delivers on that promise across Oknow’s six insightful tracks, starting with the hopeful opener, “The Good Kids.” Alongside contemplative electric guitar, Crayne sings, “I think I finally found the meaning / Now it’s time to tell yourself / This will not end!”
To further explore his optimistic mindset, we recently chatted with Crayne about his musical journey and latest EP.
Swimming was not just swimming for Ann Arbor author and visual artist Kim Fairley.
The sport was layered with physical challenges, abuse from coaches, and family expectations that exceeded what was reasonable, all of which she depicts in her new memoir, Swimming for My Life.
At the start of her book, Fairley shares an early, positive memory of swimming at the beach where she struggled in the waves and remembers, “The ocean reverberated in my head, but when I glanced up at Dad, I saw his pride: my daughter, my oldest.” Following that experience, Fairley’s parents encouraged her to join a swim team in third grade in Cincinnati where she grew up. While Fairley did not immediately love swimming even back then, her attempts to stop were not heard even though she tried to tell her father:
Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" gets a contemporary update with new music at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
"Therefore play, music."
—Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing
It’s become customary for directors to find ways to make Shakespeare more accessible.
When director David Widmayer proposed the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing as the play to welcome audiences back to the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, he embraced Benedick’s call for music.
“My original pitch was to replace the violence in the show with the metaphorical violence of a battle of the bands,” he said.
That proposal was turned down, but music remained a key element for the production, including some cast members creating original compositions for Shakespeare’s verse.
Widmayer has performed in several Shakespeare productions at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. This is his second time directing a Shakespeare play.
“I was looking for something that basically we could have fun with and get the audience back into the theater,” Widmayer said.
In Widmayer’s reimagining of Much Ado, musicians and artists go off to war but when they return they lay down their arms to return to the arts. The time is now, but the titles and arrangements of Shakespeare’s world exist in this imaginary version of modern times.
“It’s a place where people can come and perform music and find joy in that art together,” Widmayer said.
Ann Arbor’s beloved harmonica virtuoso Peter Madcat Ruth recorded a new album, Cosmic Convergence, with his genre-jumping C.A.R.Ma. Quartet, which is playing a concert at The Ark on Sunday, November 6. The Quartet gets its name from the initials of the band members’ names: John Churchville (drums); Brennan Andes (bass); Dan Ripke (electric guitar); and the Ma taken from the first two letters of Ruth’s longtime Madcat alias.
Ruth's a musical explorer whose career goes back five decades and includes recordings with everyone from jazz pianist Dave Brubeck to funk king George Clinton to classical composer William Bolcom to word-jazz artist Ken Nordine. Cosmic Convergence continues Madcat's exploratory ways, moving in all sorts of satisfying directions by deftly incorporating elements of Indian music, folk, blues, jazz, Americana, and more. (The album isn't streaming yet, but CDs will be available at the show and vinyl at a later date.)
In a recent phone conversation, Ruth talked about the origins of the C.A.R.Ma. Quartet, his nonexistent retirement plans, and the inspiration he got from playing music with Brubeck.
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features hip-hop from Athletic Mic League, chamber rock by Kingfisher, emo-punk via Normal Park, art-pop by Michael Abbey, and an Ypsi jam from Chirp.
The 35th Annual Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival features seven Ann Arbor authors and many more Michigan and international writers
The 35th Annual Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival features 31 authors in a mix of online and in-person events, November 6-18. Three of those evenings feature Michigan-based authors, including seven writers who live in Ann Arbor—two of whom we've interviewed recently.
Michelle Segar and Scott Hershovitz are the writers who spoke with Pulp about their new books, and they're joined at the festival by fellow Ann Arbor authors Ken Wachsberger, Ann S. Epstein, Julie Goldstein Ellis, Nancy Szabo, and Phil Barr.
Most of the in-person events are at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, but the Ann Arbor District Library will host children's authors Ruth Behar and Sarah Sassoon, and a local authors gathering will be at the new Ann Arbor shop Third Mind Books.
Get the full list of events below, with each author's event web page linked in the book title for registration and more information: