Home Sweet Second Home: They Might Be Giants at the Michigan Theater

MUSIC REVIEW

They Might Be Giants

The offbeat, thoughtful, melodic, and often hilarious music of They Might Be Giants clearly suits a town like Ann Arbor, and the band seemed to treat Wednesday’s show as a bit of a homecoming.

“We are super excited to be back at the beautiful Michigan Theater, our home away from home here in Ann Arbor,” co-leader John Flansburgh said early in the show. “I’m a little disappointed that like nine-tenths of the used bookstores have closed.” After wondering aloud about a possible Wikipedia edit and noting someone in the audience would probably make the change before the night was out, he added, “I have a sneaking suspicion we are performing for some of the highest-SAT-scoring individuals among our fan base.”

The flattery was hardly necessary, as the adoring crowd was fully engaged for every note of the nearly three-hour show. Flansburgh and co-leader John Linnell have always made a great partnership, with complementary personalities and voices that blend in a perfectly geeky harmony.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's "Arsenic and Old Lace" revels in horror and humor

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Original 1941 edition of Arsenic & Old Lace

The first trade edition of Arsenic and Old Lace was published by Random House in 1941.

Arsenic and Old Lace, Joseph Kesselring’s classic dark comedy now being staged by Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, provided director Alexandra Duncan with her first-ever stage role in high school -- though it wasn’t a particularly lively or demanding part.

“I was Adam Hoskins, the dead man in the window seat,” Duncan said.

Sound bizarre?

Welcome to the Brewster family home in Brooklyn, where writer Mortimer Brewster wants to marry the girl next door. Problem is, he’s just learned that his sweet old spinster aunts have been murdering lonely old men with poison-laced elderberry wine; plus, his delusional uncle, who believes he’s Theodore Roosevelt, has been providing graves by digging locks for the Panama Canal in the house’s cellar.

Acts of Amore: "Love Has a Thousand Shapes" at A2 Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Paintings by Patrick Burton and Judy Bowman

Left: J'aime Qui M'aime (I Love Who Loves Me) by Patrick Burton
Right: American Gothic: On the Black Hand Side by Judy Bowman

Love Has a Thousand Shapes is an intimate look at the works of five artists, curated by Andrew Thompson. In the exhibition announcement, the exhibition’s inspiration is cited as having come from Virginia Woolf’s character Lily Briscoe in To the Lighthouse. The name of the exhibition draws from the text itself, in which the phrase described her art-making was an act of love itself. The exhibition, a partnership between Literati Bookstore and the Ann Arbor Art Center, draws inspiration from literary allegories, the announcement also referencing Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard in which a character creates “his final painting, a masterwork of love.” The work in the exhibit explores love “between lovers, friends, family, and with pets, places, and the past. The act of making artwork can be considered an act of love in and of itself.”

With the selection of only five artists, viewers are allowed a more in-depth look at a single artists’ work. 

Love Is All Around: An interview with curator Andrew Thompson

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Adrienne Lesperance painting

Being Seen by Adrienne Lesperance

Some art must be seen and experienced in person to get the full effects of its power. This is particularly true of the exhibit Love Has a Thousand Shapes at the Ann Arbor Art Center. Every piece in the show expresses a different aspect of love. Curator Andrew Thompson says that the inspiration came from a phenomenal experience he had in an independent study that he taught at Antioch College. “We read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and looked at the artwork of Ann Hamilton,” who created art based on this story. “The character of Lily believes that love had a thousand shapes. She believes that the making of art is an act of love. This statement, this belief, served as the inspiration for the show.”

This message also influenced the pieces that Thompson, who is also a lecturer at U of M’s Stamps School of Art and Design, selected.

UMMA's "Beyond Borders: Global Africa" asks what it means to be an artist from the continent

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Diop's Belley and Wiley's World

Left: Omar Victor Diop, Jean-Baptiste Belley (1746-1805), 2014, pigment inkjet print on Harman by Hahnemühle paper. Courtesy of Mott-Warsh collection, Flint, Michigan and MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris, © Omar Victor Diop.
Right: Kehinde Wiley, On Top of the World, 2008, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Aishti Foundation, Beirut © Kehinde Wiley.

UMMA’s exhibition Beyond Borders: Global Africa extends a conversation recently addressed in Unrecorded: Reimagining Artist Identities in Africa. The newer exhibit asks the audience to consider the roles of contemporary artists, as the subtitle Global Africa suggests, along with a reconceptualization of previously narrow definitions of “African art” or “African artists.” UMMA director Christina Olsen states that the pieces on display, many of which belong to UMMA, “ask questions about what it means to be an ‘African’ artist and make ‘African’ art.” Included in the show are photographs, paintings, installations, and sculptures. This exhibition includes “approximately 40 works of art drawn from UMMA's African art collection and from private and public holdings around the world, including the eminent Contemporary African Art Collection assembled by Jean Pigozzi of Geneva, Switzerland.” 

Where It Starts: A conversation with Miles Okazaki about Thelonious Monk

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Miles Okazaki by John Rogers

Miles Okazaki by John Roberts

Miles Okazaki is among the greatest living improvisers on the guitar. An assistant professor of jazz guitar at the University of Michigan, he has his own deep and well-conceived ideas about rhythm, harmony, and melody. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Okazaki to discuss his latest release, a massive six-volume solo-guitar project entitled Work in which he recorded every song by Thelonious Monk -- 70 in total -- with no effects, overdubs, key or time changes.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Monk in American music. His approach to harmony, melody, and especially rhythm has influenced virtually every musician who has followed him. It was a privilege to be able to get into the weeds with Okazaki on the topic of Monk’s music.

Our conversation is below, with some edits for flow.

Ann Pearlman's "Infidelity" shares true tales of generation-spanning marital betrayals

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Ann Pearlman and her book Infidelity

Certain topics are so intensely personal that people tend to shy away from discussing them, but sometimes they must be talked about; sharing stories can lead to understanding, healing, a new life.

Adultery, something that is often hidden under the proverbial rug, is one of those topics. But a recently re-released book by a local author explores this topic in prodigious detail and with great empathy. 

Ann Pearlman's Infidelity shares the true tales of three generations of marital betrayals. Dzanc Books recently re-released the book and Pearlman "was thrilled and surprised they wanted to reprint it. The launch has been scads of fun.” Infidelity was originally released in 2000 and was the inspiration for a 2004 Lifetime Movie Network film with the same name, albeit the roles are reversed: the marriage therapist is unfaithful in the film.

In many ways, Pearlman was the perfect person to write this book. The Ann Arbor resident has worked as a psychotherapist and marriage counselor, serving in schools, women’s prisons, child guidance clinics. Along the way she married, becoming half of what she thought was the perfect couple.

Big, Tall & Fashionable: Michael Anthony Spearman blogs high-style ideas for everyday people

PULP LIFE INTERVIEW

Michael Anthony Spearman

Michael Anthony Spearman is The Big Fashion Guy.

As a blogger and stylist, Spearman writes his take on style trends and guides his clients on how to be dapper. And as a budding designer, he is aiming to start a fashion line for big and tall gentlemen who are in need of stylish choices.

Bred in Detroit, the style savant has been featured in various notable publications including BuzzFeed, Hour Detroit, and BLAC Detroit magazines. Spearman has been cultivating his brand for years, and with over 35,000 followers and counting on Instagram, he has plenty of people keeping up with his style.

Spearman divides his time between the Detroit/Ann Arbor and NYC areas, therefore he has plenty of tasks on his to-do list. Spearman earned his undergraduate degree in fashion design and merchandising at Wayne State University and is currently earning his graduate degree in menswear fashion design at the Academy of Art University.

We talked to Spearman about his take on body confidence, whether Detroit and Ann Arbor are style cities, and more.

Theatre Nova’s "Stone Witch" meditates on elusive creativity

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

The Stone Witch

Dennis Kleinsmith as Simon Grindberg in The Stone Witch by Shem Bitterman at Theatre NOVA. Photograph by Golden Record Media Company.

Theatre Nova continues a season of World and Michigan premieres with the first Michigan staging of Shem Bitterman’s meditation on creativity, ambition, and aging, The Stone Witch.

The title refers to a children’s book by a young but struggling children’s book author and illustrator. Peter Chandler has the talent but is unable to sell himself or his cherished first book, based on an old folktale told by his mother.

An editor at a prestige publisher offers Chandler a deal. They’ll consider his book if he can help them encourage their famous star children’s book writer and illustrator to finally break through and end a 12-year-long creative block.

Phillip Crymble’s poetry collection "Not Even Laughter" offers more questions than answers

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

 

Phillip Crymble and his book Not Even Laughter

The word “measured” would describe poet Phillip Crymble’s poetry collection Not Even Laughter well. This far-reaching collection embraces music, film, and places around the world, while also homing in on specific instants via careful wording. Crymble’s other interests make appearances in his poems, too: vinyl records, vintage audio equipment, travel, hockey, and others. It is the sort of collection in which you notice something new or pick up on something else each time you read.

Cyrmble is no stranger to Ann Arbor, where he lived from 2000 to 2010. He and his wife both studied at the University of Michigan, from which Cyrmble received his MFA and where he then taught. His son was born in Ann Arbor, too. Crymble now lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick with his family and is a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of New Brunswick. Crymble serves as senior poetry editor for The Fiddlehead, a Canadian literary journal. 

He has lived around the world and studied literature extensively. Born in Belfast and raised in Northern Ireland until 7, he also lived in Zambia for two years. Then, with his father and brother, he moved to Canada and attended middle school and high school in Milton, Ontario. His first undergraduate degree in English came from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. After spending a gap year in Europe and Donaghadee in Northern Ireland, he studied creative writing at York University in Toronto, Ontario.

Recently, Crymble has started to write and speak about having a disability. He lost his arm in an industrial accident during high school. 

Crymble reads at Literati Bookstore on Tuesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. with Ann Arbor poet Sarah Messer. Here, he shares about his life, poetry, and memories of Ann Arbor.