Nevertheless Film Festival persists to show that female-identifying moviemakers are making great cinema

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Nevertheless Film Festival director Meredith Finch

Meredith Finch, founder and director of the Nevertheless Film Festival.

The film industry does not celebrate women as it should.

Only five women have ever been nominated for an Academy Award for directing. Less than a quarter of the top 100 grossing films have sole female protagonists. And way too many movies still don’t pass the Bechdel test.

But as a balm for these grim figures, we have the Nevertheless Film Festival, which runs July 11-14 at the Michigan Theater and is named after the feminist rallying cry “nevertheless, she persisted."

“Statistics are widely available about the lack of representation in the entertainment industry,” says festival director and U-M grad Meredith Finch. “But what I think is even more important than talking about the disparity in opportunities between men and women in Hollywood is saying, 'Women are out here making incredible work all the time.'”

Painting the Everyday: Sarah Innes' "Around the Table" at Ann Arbor Art Center focuses on the small moments in life

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Sarah Innes' painting Duncan and Arlo

Duncan and Arlo by Sarah Innes, watercolor on paper.

Ann Arbor artist Sarah Innes is a radical.

The fashion of the day in contemporary art is that we concern ourselves with the Big Issues: gender equality, climate change, gun violence, and the like.

Instead, Innes commits to painting only what she knows, deep in her bones.

She knows that life is precious and brief and consists of moments strung together like pearls on a necklace.  She knows that children are born, make fun and mischief, move away. Parents, friends, colleagues, and significant others visit and dine, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Pets appear under the table and nestled in arms. Sometimes there is a death.

Around the Table, a small selection of her intimate paintings, is on view now at the Ann Arbor Art Center through July 23. Innes employs the image of the dining table, both as an organizing compositional device and as a metaphor for her life. Minute changes in the menu, changing seasons and an ever-mutating cast of characters provide a travelogue of her journey through time. 

Pulp Bits: A Roundup of Washtenaw County Arts & Culture Stories, Songs & Videos

Christopher Jemison of Strange Flavors playing Fuzz Fest 6 at The Bling Pig. Photo by Chuck Marshall/Life in Michigan.

Christopher Jemison of Strange Flavors playing Fuzz Fest 6 at The Bling Pig. Photo by Chuck Marshall/Life in Michigan

A round-up of arts and culture stories featuring people, places, and things in Washtenaw County, whether they're just passing through or Townies for life. Coverage includes music, visual art, film & video, theater & dance, written word, and Pulp life (food, fairs, and more). If you're reading this in the future and a story link is dead, look up the URL on web.archive.org; we've cached every post there.

This is a music-crazy post. We have 28 links to various new albums, singles, videos, interviews, and more. Plus, several Ann Arbor Art Fair previews and stories about Washtenaw Dairy turning 85.

Chloe Gray’s Fun Girl dance company blends quirky movement with thoughtful activism in “Girlfriend”

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW INTERVIEW

Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray photo by Erika Ruch.

On June 22 at Riverside Arts Center, I had the pleasure of attending the first show presented by Fun Girl, a new Ypsilanti-based contemporary dance company created and run by Artistic Director Chloe Gray.  The company offers paid rehearsals and performances to their dancers, as well as apprenticeships, and acts as a platform for technically based dancers to explore quirky movement while applying thoughtful activism.  

Artistic Director Chloe Gray’s credentials are extensive, with her training beginning at the age of 6 with the Toledo Ballet and continuing at the Toledo School for the Arts throughout her high school years.  She graduated from Eastern Michigan University where she double majored in Dance Performance and Women’s and Gender Studies, and her choreography and dancing have been featured in performance opportunities through Kristi Faulkner Dance (Detroit), ARTLAB J Dance (Detroit), Koresh Dance Company (Philadelphia), and Side Street Art Studio (Chicago).

“I always thought that I was going to wait until I was older to start my own company,” says Gray.  “My plan was to graduate from college, move to a big city to dance, and then eventually come back to Ypsi to plant some roots. Through careful consideration and after falling in love with a Michigander, I decided to stay in Ypsi and go for it. We have to create in places and spaces where the art we want to see does not exist. If we all take off to big cities, how will art exist in our community?”

The show, entitled Girlfriend, featured four original pieces choreographed by Gray and performed by Fun Girl, as well as four pieces that were chosen through the Ypsi Dance Swap organized by Gray in January, in which choreographers from across the state could submit their work to be performed in a show at Riverside Arts Center.  Several of the choreographer’s pieces would then be chosen by a jury to be presented at Fun Girl’s Girlfriend recital in June. 

What's Love Got to Do With It: The Purple Rose's comedy "Welcome to Paradise" offers a dreamlike romance -- or is it real at all?

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

The Purple Rose Theatre's Welcome to Paradise

Rory (Ryan Black) and Evelyn (Ruth Crawford) trip the light fandango in The Purple Rose Theatre's production of Julie Marino’s Welcome to Paradise. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

In Julie Marino’s play Welcome to Paradise, a young man who has been backpacking through Europe helps an elderly woman who is having difficulty at the airport. Rory doesn’t just help Evelyn to her cab. He accompanies her to her beach house on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Sebastian, a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere. Exhausted, he tries to find an inexpensive place to spend the night, but accommodations are costly in paradise. She invites him for the night.

He stays a good deal longer. He rearranges her flowers. He rearranges her furniture to better see the sunset from the couch.  And just by being there, he rearranges her life. 

In a detailed and nuanced performance, Ruth Crawford embodies Evelyn, at turns feisty and flirtatious, basking in the attention of an attractive fellow as young as her grandson who caters to her needs before she knows she has them. Ryan Black is a fine Rory, thoroughly at home in Evelyn’s home and life.

A Brief History of "Hawking": The latest science graphic novel by Ann Arbor's Jim Ottaviani profiles the legendary theoretical physicist

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jim Ottaviani and his book Hawking

The subject of the book was a scientist who was also a New York Times bestselling author and affiliated with a renowned university. And the writer of this book ... was also a scientist, a New York Times bestselling author, and affiliated with a renowned university. It's only fitting that Jim Ottaviani -- preeminent writer of science comics, former nuclear engineer, and current librarian at the University of Michigan -- wrote a book about Stephen Hawking, the preeminent theoretical physicist and cosmologist.

Illustrated by Leland MyrickHawking traces the legendary scientist's life, from his groundbreaking work in theoretical physics to his best-selling book A Brief History of Time to his advocacy for rights for people with disabilities. 

To familiarize themselves with the source material, Ottaviani and Myrick combed through pages and pages of notes and references, dozens of books, and numerous print, audio, and video interviews. “We also spent a fair amount of time at Cambridge,” Ottaviani adds. “We visited Hawking’s offices, his environment … talked to his friends and coworkers” to get the best possible picture of the late scientist.

Art and "Soul": Honey Monsoon's new album looks for the light within

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Honey Monsoon by Miles Marie

Photo by Miles Marie

For local band Honey Monsoon, music and art spring from the same well of creativity. 

That dedication to artistic exploration comes through clearly on the band’s second album, Opal Soul, which offers an engaging, irresistible mix of neo-soul and jazz with some world-music elements neatly woven in. For the album, Honey Monsoon's core musicians -- Ana Gomulka, guitar, vocals, keyboards, music, and lyrics; Taylor Greenshields, drums, percussion, recording, and mixing; Sam Naples, guitar, vocals, and mixing; and Binho “Alex” Manenti, bass and keyboards -- are augmented by a horn section and other musicians for a full, layered sound.

Opal Soul is very much about reflection and finding the light within,” Gomulka said. “I'm madly in love with exploration, healing, and the journey back to my higher self. Listening to this music is an invitation for all to make the journey with me.”

Both music and lyrics on Opal Soul reward a close listen. One of the album’s highlights, “Sign of Life,” starts out as fairly straightforward pop, then the horns jump into an avant-jazz groove, followed by an acid rock guitar solo, with all the elements ultimately mixing into a cohesive whole. 

Gomulka sings: 
“Looking for a sign, looking for a sign of life / Looking for a way, looking for my way out / Looking for a sign, looking for a sign of life / Looking for a place, looking for a place where my roots can sprout.”

All the songs on the album deserve attention, but two other particular highlights are “Cloud,” an irresistible, neo-soul single full of gorgeous hooks; and “Clarity,” a compelling song about finding that precious concept and learning to let go of the past that builds to a rich, extended groove.

Gomulka took the time to answer a few questions about the new album via email.

Minimalism & Maximalism: The National and Courtney Barnett at Hill Auditorium

MUSIC REVIEW

The National at Hill Auditorium

The National at Hill Auditorium. Photo by Christopher Porter.

"How does it feel to be the king of sad-dad rock?" shouted a fan last night at The National's lead singer, Matt Berninger, as he entered the Bell Tower Hotel in Ann Arbor.

The band had just finished a 25-song, two-hour set at the venue across the street, Hill Auditorium, which was filled to its 3,538 person capacity with sad dads (and moms) -- heretofore collectively known as SAD-D.A.M.

Berninger was joined by an augmented version of The National that added four additional musicians to the core quintet and they filled Hill with a massive wall of sound.

But the opening act, Courtney Barnett, achieved a similar feat with just herself on guitar plus a bassist and drummer -- and it was her second performance in Ann Arbor that day: at 12 noon, Barnett recorded an episode of the syndicated radio show Acoustic Cafe at The Leon Loft. (Check out a clip here.)

Museum exhibit labels tell the stories of an eccentric curator and visitor in Matthew Kirkpatrick's new novel

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Matthew Kirkpatrick

Author photograph by Susan McCarty

The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art by Matthew Kirkpatrick is a novel in the form of museum exhibit labels. The labels reveal the art pieces in the museum, along with the curator’s unique relationship and what has happened to the Seagrave family’s daughter. In between the labels, occasional passages narrate a visitor’s exploration of and discoveries in the museum. 

Kirkpatrick teaches creative writing at Eastern Michigan University and previously studied at the University of Utah for his Ph.D. He also wrote a story collection, Light Without Heat, and a novella, The Exiles.

On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Kirkpatrick reads at Literati Bookstore with Joe Sacksteder (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Kirkpatrick about his interest in museums, his new book, and what projects he’s working on next. 

Psychological dramas and fragmented stories in Joe Sacksteder's "Make/Shift" push against form and content conventions

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jack Sacksteder and his book Make/Shift

A contestant in a game show where people are eliminated if they get aroused. Parents and kids enduring an overnight trip for hockey. A man in grief who sees letters in the sealant on the road. An international student and her hall counselor coming to understand each other’s perspectives. 

Each of these characters, among others, navigate the shifting situations of the short stories and flash vignettes of Make/Shift, the new collection by Joe Sacksteder.

Sacksteder studied and taught at Eastern Michigan University. He was a visiting instructor at Interlochen Center for the Arts and now serves as Director of Creative Writing there. 

On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Sacksteder returns to town to read at Literati Bookstore with Matt Kirkpatrick (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Sacksteder about his connection to Ypsilanti, writing, and upcoming projects.