Affleck! Penny Seats Theatre Company's "Matt & Ben" satirizes with good will

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Actors Allison Megroet and Allyson Miko in Penny Seat's production of Matt & Ben

Bourne & Batman: Penny Seat's production of Mindy Kaling's "Matt & Ben" features Allison Megroet (Damon) and Allyson Miko (Affleck).

The Penny Seats Theatre Company has never been afraid to produce shows that are daring, out of the mainstream, or sometimes both at once. The troupe's upcoming production, Matt & Ben, written by Mindy Kaling of The Office and The Mindy Project fame, with her friend and The Office writer Brenda Withers, combines both of these elements. The play, set in 1995, tells a hilarious story: then struggling actors/writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, receive a fortuitous boon when a script (which becomes Good Will Hunting, the movie which launched both of their careers) falls from the sky into the apartment they share. 

Kaling and Withers, who starred as Affleck and Damon respectively, in the original Off-Broadway production of Matt & Ben, wrote the satire with the intention that the two male roles be played by women. This, combined with the absurdity of the plot, creates an evening of theatre that is sure to have the audience thinking, considering social norms, and laughing uproariously, all at once. 

I spoke with Allison Megroet and Allyson Miko, who will play Matt and Ben in the Penny Seats production, which opens at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Ann Arbor on April 5.

Diaspora Dimensions: The films in URe:AD TV grapple with black representation

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

“The diaspora is a cultural continuum. An ever-evolving consideration of Blackness is its vehicle.”
--Ashley Stull Meyers

The United Re: Public of the African Diaspora Television (URe:Ad TV) special program at the Ann Arbor Film Festival was an experience. 

URe:AD TV is a network of creators who make print and audiovisual work by and for the African diaspora. Curated by Shani Peters and Sharita Towne, the works grapple with the meaning(s) of black representation. By "grapple," it could be said that these works record meaning, and make meaning.

Pat Thomas reconstructs the revolutionary history of Jerry Rubin in "Did It!"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Pat Thomas' biography on Jerry Rubin, Did It!

As an archivist, Pat Thomas is focused on letting the subject speak or sing unadulterated. So, whether it's working on album reissues for the Light in the Attic label and others, or writing about the Black Panthers and other political movements, Thomas wants voices and ideas to be presented as the artists and activists intended.

Thomas' latest search for the truth is Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary, which follows his other graphics-heavy book for Fantagraphics, Listen, Whitey!: The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975.

"As One" opera explores a trans woman's journey to find her true voice

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

As One composer Laura Kaminsky. Photo by Rebecca Allan.

As One composer Laura Kaminsky says the work didn't follow a typical path for creating an opera. Photo by Rebecca Allan.

Those who don't closely follow the opera world may not think of the artform as a medium that addresses issues any less than a century old. But the 2014 opera As One, which will run April 6-7 at the Kerrytown Concert House, addresses one of the biggest social issues in our current public discourse: the experience and rights of transgender people.

U-M's "Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches” mines complex humor & heartbreak

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

The cast of U-M's production of Angels in America, Part 1

The cast of U-M's production of Angels in America, Part 1. Photo by Kyle Prue.

It’s amazing how, when a brilliant script is masterfully executed, three and a half hours can seem to pass in the blink of an eye.

Yet that’s the experience you’ll have if you’re lucky enough to catch the University of Michigan Department of Theatre and Drama production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches -- which is so terrific that it’ll remind you all over again why the play has earned its status as a timeless masterpiece.

Kind of Blues: K Edmonds channels a sassy Bessie Smith at Theatre Nova

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Theatre Nova's The Devil's Music

“I hate to see de ev'-nin' sun go down.”

When Bessie Smith sang those opening lines of "St. Louis Blues" the world took notice. Here was a voice to be reckoned with -- deep, resonant, and profoundly emotional.

Smith proclaimed herself "The Empress of the Blues" as a taunt to Ma Rainey’s "Queen of the Blues" title. No one would ever dispute Smith’s right to the crown. But popular music’s first great diva lived out those blues in a life that was both a celebration of free living and a reckless disregard for the dangers of that freedom.

The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith is part cabaret show of Smith’s music and the alternately comic, melancholy, angry, and defiant story of Smith’s life from a shack in Tennessee to become one of the first major recording stars of the 1920s, as told by the irrepressible Smith herself.

Yvonne Rainer channeled Apollo to deliver a witty political rant at the Michigan Theater

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Did you know that Greek sun god Apollo was a cat guy?

Yvonne Rainer, called a “true interdisciplinary artist” by Ann Arbor Film Festival Associate Director of Programs Katie McGowan, gave her Penny Stamps lecture/performance at the Michigan Theater on March 22. Speaking as the oracular god, Rainer delivered a multi-part letter titled "A Truncated History of the Universe for Dummies" chronicling Apollo’s quest to help the mere mortals of Earth.
 
Dressed in a shirt matching the ruby red curtain behind her, Rainer hypnotized a mixed audience of students, professionals, and appreciators of art for more than 40 minutes with vivid and violent imagery.
 

Ephraim Asili’s "Diaspora Suite" explores the influence of African culture throughout the world

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

Ephraim Asili The first time that I really thought about the African diaspora was in college. During a Caribbean literature class, the concept of diaspora was ever present. Despite having taken several American history classes, considering the Caribbean diaspora is what led me to attempt to understand myself as a part of the African diaspora. 

Ephraim Asili’s Diaspora Suite -- shown March 22 at the Michigan Theater as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival -- presented an excellent opportunity to examine someone else’s take on the topic. This collection of five films explores the interaction of past, present, and place it relates to the African diaspora. The films were shot in a variety of locations, among them Ethiopia, Harlem, Ghana, Philadelphia, Brazil, and Detroit. 

"Labors of Love and Loss" exhibition explores race, gender, and class with mixed media

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Lisa Olson's Split mixed-media art

Lisa Olson's Split (aquatint etching and found photograph).

The U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Department of Women’s Studies exhibition Labors of Love and Loss is a collection of mixed-media pieces exploring gender and race and "considers the intertwined lives of caregivers, their dependents and charges.” The exhibition presents the works of Marianetta Porter and Lisa Olson, featuring processes such as letterpress combined with found objects. Though Porter and Olson’s works differ in some respects, they create a cohesive, important dialogue about the history of women’s work and the intersections between race, gender, and class, expertly portrayed through text and object. 

What exactly is the exhibit, and what are the Labors of Love and Loss that the title refers?

Our Secret Stories: "Notes From a Public Typewriter" captures anonymous odes & anecdotes

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Michael Gustafson & Oliver Uberti with their book Notes From a Typewriter

Literati's Michael Gustafson teamed with designer Oliver Uberti for a book capturing dreams and desires left on the bookstore's typewriter.

When Michael Gustafson, co-owner of Literati Bookstore with his wife, Hilary, put a typewriter out for public use in the basement of the store, he wasn’t sure what would come of it. 

"There was no concrete plan,” he says. “It was more of an experiment.”

Literati’s logo features a typewriter based on a Smith Corona that Gustafson inherited from his grandfather, and he decided it would be fun to give customers the chance to use a typewriter when they visited the store.

He had no idea it would be as popular as it is.