Explosive Comedy: PTD Productions celebrates its silver anniversary with "The Miss Firecracker Contest"

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

PTD Productions' Miss Firecracker Contest

Tessie (Cindy Franklin), Carnelle (Stacy Buck), and Elain (Mary Hopper) are a few of the explosively funny characters in PTD Productions' season debut production of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest.

Twenty-fifth anniversaries are usually celebrated with silver. 

But PTD Productions is feteing its 25th with firecrackers.

The Ypsilanti-based community theater group kicks off its silver season with Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest, a successful long-run Off-Broadway comedy that takes place in a small Mississippi town.

UMMA & Vault of Midnight team up for comic art in the "Age of the Internet"

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

UMMA & Vault of Midnight comic book club covers

UMMA's exhibit Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today tracks the impact of the web on visual art over the past 30 years. While comic books aren't represented in the exhibit, it is a visual art form that has been radically modified over the past three decades by digital culture.

Inspired by the exhibit, UMMA and Vault of Midnight - Ann Arbor are combining forces for a new comic book club: "The Age of the Internet in Comic Books and Graphic Novels." Vault of Midnight will host the meetups once a month in its Ultralounge, all of which are on a Sunday at 2 pm.

The series will include the following titles:

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series Winter 2019 lineup

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series collage of winter 2019 events

U-M alumna Penny W. Stamps died from leukemia on Dec. 18, 2018, but her dedication to bringing arts and ideas to Ann Arbor community continues with the school and speaker series named in her honor.

The winter lineup of U-M Stamps School of Art & Design's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series was announced Jan. 11 with 12 events, primarily at the Michigan Theater and many in conjunction with other performances and events at the university and in the community.

AADL 2018 Staff Picks: Books, Music, Movies & More

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD PULP LIFE REVIEW

2018 Staff Picks

You may come to the Ann Arbor District Library to pick up a book or movie or sewing machine or electric guitar knowing well in advance that’s why you’ve entered one of AADL’s five locations.

But if you come to visit us and you can’t quite figure out what you want to check out, you might ask someone on staff for suggestions -- and we’re always happy to oblige.

In that way, our 2018 staff picks for books, film, music, TV, podcasts, and more is one massive suggestion list.

We don’t limit our picks to material that came out in 2018; we list things that made an impact on us during the year, no matter when the media was released. Plus, we’ve added a Pulp Life category -- both on the blog and in this year-end roundup -- to note life experiences that we loved in 2018, from parks to restaurants.

So, next time you visit AADL, call up this page on your phone. (Or our lists from 2016 and 2017.)

And if you need help finding the material, or you’re looking for even more suggestions, just ask. We've already started making our lists for 2019. 

Musique Non-Stop: The 2018 Ann Arbor Synth Expo in pictures

MUSIC REVIEW

Photo by Josh Barnhart

Last weekend the Ann Arbor Synth Expo (formerly Mini MoogFest) returned to the basement of the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch for an afternoon of hands-on music-making and knob-twisting fun.

Approximately 350 patrons over the course of four hours had a chance to play with various synthesizers in the AADL Music Tools collection as well as talk to instrument and effects creators such as Vintage King, Zeppelin Design Labs, and North Coast Modular Collective. The day also featured performances and talks by Robot Rickshaw, Alex Taam (Mogi Grumbles) and Anıl Çamcı, and companies such as Sweetwater, ReverbPittsburgh Modular, Perfect Circuit, SynthCube, Electro-Faustus, Arrick Robotics, and more provided branded T-shirts, stickers, pens, screwdrivers, and more to the visitors. 

Below is a collection of photos from the 2018 Ann Arbor Synth Expo by AADL staffers Josh Barnhart and Christopher Porter.

Immersive India: Rasa Festival celebrates arts and cultural from the subcontinent

Rasa Festival 2018 logo

Building a month-long festival from the ground up is challenging enough when it focuses solely on one artistic discipline, such as music.

But last year's inaugural Rasa Festival was a multidisciplinary party with performing, visual, literary, media/films, and culinary arts from India, presented in various Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti venues.

It was a big achievement and the 2018 edition (September 1-October 7) looks to build on that success with more art exhibitions, dance performances, poetry readings, music concerts, film screenings, and a foodie event.

Here's the full calendar of events, many of which are free:

Melodies, musicians, and meditation with Ypsi trio minihorse

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Minihorse

Ride on: John Fossum, Ben Collins, and Christian Anderson are minihorse.

The rock trio minihorse was featured in Detroit Metro Times' “12 Detroit Bands to Watch in 2018," with the qualifier that the trio is actually from Ypsi.

The band is comprised of Ben Collins on lead vocals and guitar, AADL’s own Christian Anderson on bass, and John Fossum on drums who create loud, fuzzy songs that are rich in melody. Collins' lyrics are reflected in minihorse’s responses to my questions: vacillating between insightful self-reflection and cheeky humor. Take the standout track “Blueblack” from last year's Big Lack five-song mini-LP: “The mailman’s dressing in all black / at least that’s who I think it is through the pinhole. / That’s him tilting his head back / I think I should let him into my VIP.”

Over tea and biscuits, we talked with minihorse about the band's forthcoming debut LP, inspiration, meditation, and mental health.

Slicing Up the Cinema: Two Samurai series come to the Michigan & State

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

Lone Wolf & Cub and Seven Samurai photos

From Feb. 5 to April 16, the Michigan and State Theaters will be under the blade. Many blades, actually, as two film series exploring Japan’s historic warrior class will take over the screens.

Save for  The 47 Ronin, all the films in the Enter the Samurai series at the Michigan Theater were written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, the most celebrated moviemaker in Japanese history. Every film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, screened at the State, is based on the epic manga by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.

Enter the Samurai will occur weekly on Mondays except for March 26. Skipping a week gives viewers' sword scars a chance to heel since the Lone Wolf and Cub series will screen nightly between March 20-25. That’s hella consecutive days of samurai swords slicing up the cinema.

All 17 movies in both series are presented in Japanese with English subtitles. Written previews of each film are below courtesy of the Michigan and State, along with trailers and a link to the Samurai cinema in AADL's collection.

"Korean Cinema Now" returns to the Michigan Theater with 8 celebrated films

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

Korean Cinema Now 2018 at the Michigan Theater

The Korean Cinema Now festival, sponsored by the Nam Center for Korean Studies, returns for its annual occupancy in the Michigan Theater’s 200-seat Screening Room theater. This year’s screenings are two Saturdays per month at 1 pm from Jan. 20 through April 21.

South Korea is known for its robust film industry, and the eight feature-length movies being shown at the Michigan Theater represent many high points from the peninsula's 2016-2017 movie scene.

But the best part of Korean Cinema Now? It's free.

Check out the trailers, dates, and synopses below:

Ann Arbor Tech Film Showcase features 8 shorts that analyze the consequences of technology

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

A collage of stills from the 2018 Ann Arbor Tech Film Showcase.

The total combined running time of the eight movies in the first Ann Arbor Tech Film Showcase is 59 minutes -- which seems the perfect length in our age of hyper-accelerated information cycles. 

Sponsored by Duo Security, Ann Arbor SPARK, A2Geeks, and Q+M, the Ann Arbor Tech Film Showcase is at the Michigan Theater on Friday, Jan. 19, 5-9 pm. Its mission is “to increase cultural diversity and interest in tech films and to promote, discuss and educate in the medium of science fiction and technology. We encourage rich storytelling, filled with infinite possibilities that challenge us and question our perception of the future.”

The evening kicks off with a pre-screening meet and greet in the lobby and the night will include a panel discussion with the filmmakers whose movies “explore a selection of short films that highlight the consequences of technology.”

The Ann Arbor Tech Film Showcase is free, but you have to register for tickets.

Here's a rundown of the shorts being shown: