From the Hartland: Purple Rose Resident Artist David MacGregor pens plays in Michigan

THEATER & DANCE INTERVIEW

David MacGregor

Playwright David MacGregor on the set of Gravity, staged by the Purple Rose Theatre in 2010.

“What the hell?” David MacGregor says from across a Formica table in Leo’s Coney Island in Hartland, Michigan.

This "what the hell?" is not coming from frustration or outrage, but from a sense of “what are the odds?” 

MacGregor says his story is entirely unlikely. After all, he is a successful playwright living and working in Hartland, Michigan, who has received international acclaim for his works Gravity, The Late Great Henry Boyle, and Vino Veritas, all of which have been performed by Jeff Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, where MacGregor is a Resident Artist.

In Extremis: Colin Stetson’s interpretation of Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 pushes it to the edge

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Colin Stetson

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 is nearly an hour-long dive into anguish.

But rather than sounding angry, aggressive, or atonal, the three movements that comprise Górecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” are stunningly beautiful.

Symphony No. 3 is filled with dolor, but the modal framework, simple harmonies, and gentile repetition give the music a familiar and comforting feeling despite being inspired by stories and songs of mothers and children being separated by war.

On the album Sorrow -- A Reimagining of Górecki's Third Symphony, Ann Arbor native Colin Stetson tweaks the mega-popular work in a way that stays true to the composition’s raw emotional state while also diving deeper into its deep well of gorgeous despair. (You can hear Stetson and 11 other musicians in the Sorrow band, including Ann Arbor’s Justin Walter (EVI, synths), Dan Bennett (sax), and Andrew Bishop (sax), perform the piece at the Michigan Theater on Saturday, April 14.)

Theater for the People: U-M's "Me and My Girl" is a rollicking populist musical comedy

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

U-M's Me and My Girl

Elliott Styles as Bill Snibson and Sophie Madorsky as Sally in the U-M Department of Musical Theatre’s production of Me and My Girl playing at the Power Center April 12-15. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

It feels a bit like director/choreographer Linda Goodrich, a professor in U-M’s musical theater department, has long had a date with destiny regarding the 1937 British musical Me and My Girl.

For although the show had long been one of Britain’s biggest home-grown stage musical hits, it didn’t make its Broadway debut until 1986 -- the same year Goodrich moved to New York.

“I remember seeing it on a marquee, but I never did see it,” said Goodrich. “In fact, I’d never seen it on stage before we started rehearsals. I’d always been familiar with the music and been curious about the show, but it just never crossed my path again.”

Real Cool Times: WCBN's "Local Music Show" has documented Michigan music for the past 20+ years

MUSIC INTERVIEW

WCBN Local Music Show logo

WCBN's Local Music Show's (LMS) is a staggering live performance archive of southeast Michigan music stretching back to 2003 -- and that's not even a complete archive of the program.

"It seems like no one really knows when it started, but I think it was at least the mid-'90s," says Shelley Salant, a longtime LMS host. Offering an eclectic mix of both recordings and in-studio performances by area musicians, the show has become something of an institution not only at its host station 88.3 FM but within southeast Michigan's music community itself.

U-M Gifts of Art spring exhibitions aim to revitalize and renew

VISUAL ART REVIEW

John Dempsey's acrylic painting at U-M's Gifts of Art spring exhibition

John Dempsey's paintings at Gifts of Art display surreal amalgams of environments.

Michigan Medicine’s Gifts of Art program regularly supports artists while working to “revitalize and enrich lives” of patients and visitors. The latest Gifts of Art series on display in various parts of University Hospital is available to view through June 10. The eight small exhibits in Gifts of Art's nine galleries feature the works of artists Tina West, Richard Light, John Dempsey, Mary Brodbeck, Aimee Lee, Re Kielar, f8collective, and WCC faculty, staff, and students.

Purple Rose Theatre delivers a hilarious send-up of Sherlock Holmes

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Purple Rose Theatre's Sherlock Holmes cast

Alternate Fictional Realities: Paul Stroili (Watson), Tom Whalen (Vincent van Gogh), Sarab Kamoo (Irene), and Mark Colson (Sherlock Holmes) mix it up in Purple Rose's Sherlock send-up. Photo by Sean Carter Photography

Arthur Conan Doyle purists may be shocked. But imagine an alternative universe in which Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes and “the woman” Irene Adler are lovers and live together at 221B Baker Street with Holmes’ trusted companion and chronicler Dr. John Watson.

That’s the set up for Detroit playwright David MacGregor’s hilarious Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear at the Purple Rose Theatre.

Pulp & PencilPoint TheatreWorks Presents the AADL Pub Reading Series

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Pulp Presents the AADL Pub Reading Series

Why do we bother going out to movie theaters -- with their expensive, salty popcorn and sticky floors -- when we could just sit in the comfort of our own homes binge-watching television? I believe it’s because there’s something nourishing in having a communal experience with others when we’re listening to stories. 

There’s something even more fulfilling in watching live theater, especially local and intimate theater, when you’re packed into a room listening to performers who have honed their craft. When done well, it feels deeply personal. 

This is the intention of the AADL Pub Reading Series presented by Pulp in partnership with PencilPoint TheatreWorks: a set of staged readings that will be performed at Conor O’Neill’s on the fourth Sunday of each month from April through July. All four of the plays chosen for the Pub Reading Series focus on connecting, and on people who struggle to form a community. They’re also each a witty and brilliant play in their own right. 

UMMA's "Exercising the Eye" shows how Gertrude Kasle expanded the Midwest art scene in the 1950s

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Grace Hartigan, Fells Point Florist painting

Grace Hartigan, Fells Point Florist, 1982, oil on canvas. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Bequest of Gertrude Kasle, 2016/2.90. © The Grace Hartigan Estate.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art’s exhibition Exercising the Eye: The Gertrude Kasle Collection presents an array of works by influential artists of the 20th century. Many of these artists, as pointed out by the exhibition organizers, were, in part, brought to prominence in the Midwest by Gertrude Kasle’s (1917-2016) promotion of their works. 

EMU's production of “Detroit ’67” brings the past into the present

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

EMU's production of Detroit '67

Brother and sister Lank (Darien Vaughn) and Chelle (Tayler Jones) face problems after they inherit their parent's Motor City home in Detroit '67. Photo courtesy of Eastern Michigan University Theatre.

Historical events, when presented as a series of statistics and dates, have far less impact on us than they do when integrated into a human story. 

This is why, of course, history is the backdrop for so many movies, plays, television shows, and novels. These entertainments let us briefly experience what it was like to be living when a specific historical moment was unfolding around us. And most recently, in our own backyard, the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Riots/Rebellion -- depending on who’s telling the story -- spawned a number of creative works that helped us revisit this pivotal moment in the Motor City’s history.

University of Michigan graduate (and Detroit native) Dominique Morisseau got a bit of a jump on things, premiering her play, Detroit ’67, in New York in 2013. The drama -- now being staged by Eastern Michigan University’s Theater Department -- won the 2014 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, and ended up being the first in a Morisseau-penned trilogy focused on Detroit’s past. (Paradise Blue and Skeleton Crew were the second and third.)

"Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?" is a film about threats -- racial and otherwise

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

“Trust me when I tell you this isn’t a white savior story. This is a white nightmare story.”
--Travis Wilkerson

If I were a moth, the story of white men reckoning with race in America would singe my wings every time. With that in mind, I was not disappointed when I went to see Travis Wilkerson’s Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? on March 24 as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In fact, there are about eight pieces I could write about this film, which was one of the 10 features in competition at the year's fest and ended up winning the Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film.