Preview: The Ark's 29th Annual Storytelling Festival

PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD THEATER & DANCE

Storytellers Kevin Kling (left) and Yvonne Healy (right).

Storytellers Kevin Kling (left) and Yvonne Healy (right).

Humankind’s oldest art form is also the basis of one of The Ark’s longest running events. This year marks the 29th Anniversary of [http://www.theark.org/shows-events/2016/feb/27/arks-29th-annual-storyte…|The Ark’s Annual Storytelling Festival], a two-night event that brings the oral tradition from the primordial bonfires of yore to The Ark’s warm and welcoming concert hall. Saturday night this year’s featured storytellers will spin yarns geared toward a mature adult audience, and Sunday afternoon they’ll switch gears to entertain an all ages crowd.

Over the years the festival has welcomed a bountiful mix of perspectives and storytelling styles, and this year is no exception. This weekend’s three featured storytellers -- author, playwright, storyteller, and NPR correspondent [http://www.kevinkling.com/|Kevin Kling]; acclaimed musician and children’s entertainer [http://www.billharley.com/|Bill Harley]; and local Irish performer [http://www.yhealy.com/|Yvonne Healy] -- spoke to me about what kinds of stories they will tell each night, and how their work has changed with the rise of radio storytelling shows like [b:1437776|The Moth] and [http://snapjudgment.org/|Snap Judgement].

Headliner Kevin Kling is known for his humorous personal stories about his Midwestern upbringing and his experience with physical disability. Though he has been featured regularly on [b:1334757|NPR’s “All Things Considered,]” Kling says he prefers performing in front of a live audience.

“Garrison Keillor really put us on the map, and somebody said, I thought very accurately, that he plays a microphone like a Stradivarius,” Kling says of his distinctly Midwestern colleague. “He's so wonderful on the radio. He really has found that medium. I'm a bit different in that I love a live audience. There's something visceral and chemical, something that happens on stage that neither sound waves nor lightwaves can quite fill. That to me is the magic of a live performance. You don't see a lot of standing ovations in front of the radio.”

Kling says he always knew he wanted to be a performer, but early on he had no idea he would get paid to simply stand on stage and talk about his life. He says his professional career as a storyteller began in that most fabled of artistic proving grounds: the dinner party.

“I was in the kitchen at a party, you know that's always the best place, and I was just blabbing away,” he says. “Little did I know there was a theater producer in the kitchen and she said, ‘Do you want to be in our season next year?’ And I said, ‘Doing what?’ And she said, ‘Just what you did in the kitchen.’ Before I knew it, before I knew what I was, I was on stage telling stories in a theater in Minneapolis. And then I went to Seattle, and then off-Broadway, doing pretty much what I did in that kitchen.”

Kling says he doesn’t know exactly which of his two-hundred-plus stories he will tell this weekend. He likes to show up to a venue with a good chunk of his repertoire in mind and read the crowd before deciding where to take the audience for the evening. One topic he is certain he will touch on, though, is disability, something he’s an expert on. Kling was born with a deformed left arm, and he lost the use of his right one after a near-fatal motorcycle accident. Still, he assures us he’ll keep things as light as possible no matter how serious the subject matter he chooses to delve into might be.

“It will be done with humor,” he says. “That's the best way for me to get through that because you can laugh at something that doesn't control you anymore. Everybody in the audience knows loss. People say, ‘What's the difference between stand-up comedy and storytelling? You close a door with a joke with comedy, but with storytelling you open a door with a joke. It's like you're saying, ‘Now that we're all here, let's get to it.’’

Joining Kling on stage this weekend is another nationally renowned storyteller, [a:Harley, Bill|Bill Harley]. Dubbed “The Mark Twain of contemporary children’s music,” Harley pairs wit, humor, and song to embellish tales of his childhood, coming-of-age, and family life.

When asked why he is drawn primarily to telling stories from his youth, Harley responds, “I find that if I talk seriously about childhood, then everybody usually comes along. That's the birthplace of our disaster, so that's pretty fertile territory.”

Harley says he probably won’t tailor the topics of the tales he chooses for the adult and family sessions this weekend, but rather the manner in which he tells them.

“It's not so much structure as it is language, nuance and subtext,” he says. “If you talk about childhood or coming-of-age seriously, those experiences we carry with us through our whole lives, everytime we touch on those experiences it brings up something that touches us, that reaches adults just as much as it does younger kids. Obviously with the family show, I'm less likely do to do a 40-minute story. With a family show you can't mess around. You've got to keep your pedals moving and your foot to the floor and be very aware of what`s going on. With adult performances, there's a lot more nuance, and there's a lot more chance for discovery.”

Harley’s performances will ensure the melodic comfort The Ark typically traffics in won’t be entirely lost for the weekend. He says audiences are often surprised and delighted by the way he flirts with the intersection between song and spoken word.

“When you sing a song, people go, ‘Okay, we know that,’” he says. “And then you put your guitar down or you're holding your guitar and you start to talk, and all of a sudden people are kind of waiting for the talking to end and the music to begin again. And slowly, they realize this is something other. I always have people come up to me and say, ‘I haven't been to something like this for years. I can't remember the last time I sat and listened to something like that.’ It's an amazing experience.”

Local Irish storyteller Yvonne Healy rounds out this weekend’s bill with a rollicking blend of traditional Irish folklore and mythology and flamboyant tales of her own personal experience. Healy, now a resident of Howell, was born in Ireland and raised in the U.S. She says her upbringing straddled the cultural mores and traditions of both countries and gave her a master class in the art of storytelling.

“Inside the house was Ireland, and outside the house was the United States,” she says. “So inside the house we spoke Irish, and we danced Irish dances and sang to Irish music. We behaved in an Irish way, and part of that is learning to tell stories properly, with proper accent and proper detail. I learned by rote, phrase by phrase.”

Healy’s father had a profound influence on her interest in telling stories. She describes him as an alternately charming and argumentative contrarian who could worm his way out of any situation with a good yarn.

“I asked him one time, ‘How is it that you never get beat up?’ And he said, ‘Well I got beat up once. Now, whenever I get to that point, and I like getting them to that point, then I tell them a story and confuse them. And then they let me go.’ So really, talking is a martial art.”

Like this weekend’s other two storytellers, Healy says she doesn’t yet know exactly what stories she’ll bring to the stage. She says Sunday she will stick to traditional folklore and mythology because she believes children, who are are developing their perspective on life, need the neatness of literary devices and literary structure. For Saturday night, she says she will cull stories from her own life. With more and more people being introduced to live storytelling via NPR, she says that seems to be what people want to hear these days.

“I think it’s because we have such an educated populace,” she says. “We can figure out where stories are going to go, but real life is not neat like a fictional story is. Real life is messy and doesn't have those kind of fictional constructs, and so that's very interesting to us. We spend a lot of time alone or with screens in our contemporary society, and I think having deep, real conversations with other people face-to-face is very moving for everybody.”

Healy elaborates on that last remark. Live storytelling, she says, is a conversation between the performer and the audience.

“The story changes depending on how the audience reacts,” she says. “If you're losing some people in some place, you kind of come back and go back into the thread and go off on another digression, but only if the audience is responding to it. A story is really co-created by everybody in the room.”


Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer, and he would love to tell you the story about the time he saw a UFO.


The Ark’s 29th Annual Storytelling Festival runs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. & Sunday, at 1 p.m. The Ark is located at 316 S. Main St. Tickets are on sale now through the Michigan Union Ticket Office and at The Ark's [http://www.theark.org/shows-events/2016/feb/27/arks-29th-annual-storyte…|website]. Tickets are priced at $20 for the Saturday evening show and $10 for the kids’ show on Sunday afternoon.

Preview: Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Author Visit on 2/23

PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Christina Henriquez will discuss this year's AA/Ypsi Reads title, her own The Book of Unknown Americans

Christina Henriquez will discuss this year's AA/Ypsi Reads title, her own The Book of Unknown Americans.

This year's [http://aareads.aadl.org|Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads] selection is [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/search/title/The%20Book%20of%20Unknown%20Am…|The Book of Unknown Americans] by [http://www.cristinahenriquez.com/bio|Cristina Henriquez].

The Book of Unknown Americans is the story of a family who leave their lives and business in Mexico to come to the United States seeking better health care options for their teenage daughter, Maribel, who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. When Mayor, a young immigrant from Panama, falls for Maribel after a chance meeting, their families become entwined by a web of relationships, love, and responsibility. It is a refreshing perspective on the immigrant experience and an eye-opening examination of the hopes and priorities of parents of disabled children.

The author, Cristina Henriquez, will speak about the book at a special [http://www.aadl.org/node/324630|Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads event] on Tuesday, February 23, at 7 pm at Washtenaw Community College's Towsley Auditorium. She will discuss her approach to the subject matter and her process of writing The Book of Unknown Americans. After her talk, books will be available for sale and signing.

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads is coordinated by several area organizations, including the [http://aadl.org|Ann Arbor District Library], the [https://www.ypsilibrary.org/|Ypsilanti District Library], [http://washtenawisd.org/|Washtenaw Intermediate School District], [http://www.nicolasbooks.com/|Nicola’s Books], [http://stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2107|Barnes & Noble], [http://www.literatibookstore.com/|Literati Bookstore], [http://www.emich.edu/|Eastern Michigan University], [https://www.umich.edu/|the University of Michigan], [http://www.wccnet.edu/|Washtenaw Community College], and many others.


Sara Wedell is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


This event will take place Tuesday, February 23, 2016 from 7-9 pm at the Towsley Auditorium in the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor. Books will be available for sale and signing at the event. More information about the Read can be found at [http://aareads.aadl.org|aareads.aadl.org].

Preview: Clybourne Park, U-M Department of Theatre & Drama

PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Bev (Madeline Rouverol) attempts to give a chafing dish to her maid Francine (Blair Prince) in Bruce Norris’s comic drama Clybourne Park

Bev (Madeline Rouverol) attempts to give a chafing dish to her maid Francine (Blair Prince) in Bruce Norris’s comic drama Clybourne Park.

We all have regrets in life. Roads not taken….opportunities missed.

One of my major theatrical regrets of the last decade is that, in February 2010, I had the opportunity to see a new Off-Broadway play that had just opened to outstanding reviews, but chose instead to see an alternate show. I cannot remember why I chose the play I attended, or even the title; however the one I passed up won the Tony Award for Best Play (when it transferred to a successful Broadway run), the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best New Play for its London production.

The New Yorker called it “superb, elegantly written and hilarious. A master class in comic writing.” The New York Post raved that it was “Absolutely sensational! …Dazzlingly written.” The New York Daily News gave it “Four stars” calling it “A superb world premiere!”

The play was, of course, [b:1388896|Clybourne Park], the masterful and insightful examination by Bruce Norris of racism in America set in the house soon to be inhabited by the Younger family (of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic [b:1031064|A Raisin In the Sun]). With a plot spanning half a century (Act I is set in the 1950’s; Act II is 50 years later), the play brims with humor, insight, and pathos.

Local audiences can now experience this critically-acclaimed work, a classic in its own right. Award-winning Director John Neville-Andrews leads talented U-M students in [http://www.music.umich.edu/performances_events/productions/2015-2016/cl…|a new Department of Theatre & Drama production of Clybourne Park] that promises to be an outstanding night of theater.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances run from Thursday, February 18 to Sunday, February 21 at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N University Ave, Ann Arbor. Following the Friday performance there will be a post-performance discussion moderated by Neville-Andrews with members of the cast and artistic staff. For tickets, visit [http://music.umich.edu|music.umich.edu] or call the Michigan League at (734) 764-2538.

Preview: Guys and Dolls, Huron High School

PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Huron Players prove they can do with a production of Guys and Dolls

Huron Players prove they can do with a production of Guys and Dolls.

This weekend [http://huronplayers.weebly.com/current-show-guys-and-dolls.html|Huron High School's Huron Players present the musical Guys and Dolls], with direction by Jeffrey Stringer and music direction by Dr. Richard Ingram.

Guys and Dolls was adapted from [b:1265123|two short stories] by author and journalist [a:Runyon, Damon|Damon Runyon], whose colorful lifestyle beyond the pen as a chain-smoking gambler with a 40-cup-a-day coffee habit and close friends with gangsters, hustlers, and chorus girls shaped the endearing “Runyonesque” lowlifes that populate his tales with their distinctive gangster slang.

With music and lyrics by [a:Loesser, Frank|Frank Loesser], Guys and Dolls follows small-time gamblers Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit as they wager with Lady Luck on the streets and back alleys of New York City. A big hit when it opened on Broadway in November 1950, the musical went on to win a Tony Award, inspire a [b:1205522|1955 film adaptation], and has seen several successful revivals over the decades.

"More I Cannot Wish You" but you’ll double your odds of catching more Guys and Dolls on the Power Center stage in April when [http://tickets.music.umich.edu/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=2514|the University of Michigan Department of Musical Theatre & Dance takes a chance on the show].


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Guys and Dolls runs Friday, February 5 - Sunday, February 7. Tickets: $15 for Adults and $10 for Students/Seniors/Staff. For more information and tickets, visit: [http://huronplayers.weebly.com/current-show-guys-and-dolls.html|the Huron Players website].

Preview: The Bard at the Michigan Theater

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO

The Michigan Theater presents a film series dedicated to the work of William Shakespeare.

The Michigan Theater presents a film series dedicated to the work of William Shakespeare.

Starting tonight, Monday, February 1, the Michigan Theater presents a film series dedicated to the work of William Shakespeare. [http://www.michtheater.org/bard/|The Bard] will celebrate Shakespeare’s works through a range of film adaptations of his plays. Alongside the more traditional performances interpreted by [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1187651|Laurence Olivier] and [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1297288|Kenneth Branagh], you’ll find remixes of Shakespeare’s works that cross the barriers of culture and time, such as [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1204796|West Side Story].

The lineup of films selected for The Bard reveals the flexibility of Shakespeare’s writing, and celebrates the universal themes explored through his timeless plays. If you’re new to Shakespeare, a lifelong fan, or if you haven’t thought about him since high school, any one of these films would be an excellent way to experience classic Shakespearean storytelling.


Audrey Huggett is a Public Library Associate at AADL.


Most of the films will be screened on Monday nights at 7 pm, with the exception of Romeo + Juliet which will be showing on Saturday, February 13th. Take a look at the [http://www.michtheater.org/bard/|Michigan Theater's website] for the full series schedule.

Preview: Chesapeake, Theatre Nova

PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Politics finds its natural bedfellow, dognapping, in Theatre Nova's Chesapeake.

Politics finds its natural bedfellow, dognapping, in Theatre Nova's Chesapeake.

A highlight of last year’s theater season was [http://www.theatrenova.org/|Theatre Nova]’s critically lauded production of the Off Broadway smash comedy Buyer and Cellar, featuring a delightful Wilde-award nominated performance by Sebastian Gerstner. Local audiences will be excited to hear that Gerstner and the Buyer and Cellar creative team return to the Yellow Barn to kick off the 2016 season with a production of Lee Blessing’s political comedy Chesapeake.

Directed by Daniel C. Walker, this Michigan premiere showcases Sebastian Gerstner’s comedic skills in another hilarious one man show, this time as a performance artist so outraged by a conservative Republican senator and his anti-arts campaign that the he plots to kidnap the senator’s beloved Labrador Retriever. The caper does not unfold as planned, however, to amusingly disastrous results.

The play is inspired by a true event: the 1989 challenge by Jesse Helms over First Amendments rights and the National Endowment for the Arts. The play premiered in New York in 1999 and has since been performed throughout the U.S. The Chicago Sun-Times highly recommended Chesapeake, calling the play “hilarious, provocative, and blisteringly smart,” while the Baltimore Sun praised it as an “enriching play that entertains audiences and…redefines what a complete theater experience can become.”


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances of ​Chesapeake begin Friday, February 5, and will run throughout the month, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. For information, visit [http://www.theatrenova.org|www.theatrenova.org] or call 734-635-8450. All Theatre Nova shows are pay-what-you can, with a suggested donation of $20. Theatre Nova is located at The Yellow Barn, 416 W. Huron in Ann Arbor.

Preview: The Electric Baby, Kickshaw Theatre

PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Kickshaw bursts onto the scene with The Electric Baby.

Kickshaw bursts onto the scene with The Electric Baby.

Kickshaw means “rare delight.” The term now also refers to [http://www.kickshawtheatre.org/|Kickshaw Theatre], Ann Arbor’s newest professional theater company, whose first full production, The Electric Baby, by Stefanie Zadravec, opens on Thursday, January 28.

In alignment with their core values, Kickshaw Theatre has partnered with local organizations, including the [http://interfaithspirit.org/|Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth], the [http://www.annarborstorytelling.org/AASG/newhome.htm|Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild], and the [http://www.lamazefamilycenter.org/?module=Home|Lamaze Family Center], to bring this magical drama to the Ann Arbor audiences.

The dark comedy The Electric Baby received its World Premiere in 2012 and, in addition to other awards, received the American Theatre Critics Association’s Francesca Primus Prize for an Emerging Female Playwright. Talkin’ Broadway raved that the play was “richly entertaining;” and The New York Times praised The Electric Baby as “gently touching” with a “mix of expressionism and magical realism.”

The plot revolves around six characters (Will Bryson, Peter Carey, Mary Dilworth, Julia Glander, Michael Lopetrone, and Vanessa Sawson) whose lives collide after a tragic car accident, forcing each to confront the secrets, hopes and fears that consume them, and helping them to find love, strength and forgiveness through a mysterious baby that glows like the moon. Kickshaw’s premiere production is directed by the Theatre’s artistic director and founder Lynn Lammers.

Take a chance to view this magically delightful new play with Ann Arbor’s brand new professional company!


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances of The Electric Baby will run from Thursday, January 28 through Sunday, February 21 at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, 704 Airport Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. There are also several special performances featuring post- performance conversations with special guest organizations. For tickets, visit [http://kickshawtheatre.org|kickshawtheatre.org] or call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006.

Preview: Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO MUSIC

Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North.

Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North.

My guess is Inuk throat singer [http://tanyatagaq.com/|Tanya Tagaq]’s unnerving, primal singing style isn’t exactly what filmmaker [a:Flaherty, Robert|Robert Flaherty] had in mind to accompany his silent masterpiece, [b:1183117|Nanook of the North] (1922). But when she was commissioned in 2012 to provide a soundscape to Flaherty’s legendary cinematic landscape, Tagaq, an outspoken advocate of aboriginal rights, was put off by the film’s racial stereotypes and so conceived a soundtrack meant to reclaim the film with a 21st-century filter.

Flaherty’s documentary methods, including some staged sequences, have come under criticism over the decades. But the landmark film, still stunning nearly 100 years on, has an authenticity that overrides these complaints. (And to be fair, there was no documentary or ethnographic film-making to speak of before Flaherty; he can arguably be said to have invented the genres. And as such, there was certainly nothing remotely resembling later-day Cinéma vérité.)

Above all, the miracle of Flaherty's achievement in Nanook of the North - aside from the fact that he pulled it off with one camera and no lights in the freezing cold - is in documenting a remote way of life never seen before during a decade of the 20th century noted for ratcheting up nationalistic fervor and suspicion of outsiders across the globe. [http://ums.org/performance/tanya-tagaq/|In her upcoming performance], Tanya Tagaq’s evocative style, full of throaty breathing and influenced by electronica, industrial, and metal, should lend as much to the stunning beauty of Nanook’s arctic landscape as it does in calling out the film’s racially charged clichés.


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.



"[http://ums.org/performance/tanya-tagaq/|Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North]" takes place on February 2, 2016 at 7:30 pm at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University, Ann Arbor.

Preview: Performing Arts Technology Seminar: DJ Carl Craig

PREVIEW MUSIC

DJ Carl Craig

DJ Carl Craig will give a talk at the Walgreen Drama Center, Stamps Auditorium.

This Wednesday [b:1320486|Carl Craig], Detroit-based producer of techno music and one of the most influential members of the second generation of Detroit techno artists, will give a talk at the Walgreen Drama Center, Stamps Auditorium on the North Campus of the University of Michigan. He founded the Planet E Communications label and, through this, has provided support for many young techno artists from Detroit and beyond. Craig's talk promises to be a free-flowing perspective, in a Q&A setting, touching on techno’s past, present, and future.


Anne Drozd is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Craig's talk begins at 7:30 pm at the Walgreen Drama Center, Stamps Auditorium, University of Michigan North campus, 1226 Murfin Ave. Free - no tickets required.

Preview: Matthew Dear at the Blind Pig

PREVIEW MUSIC

Matthew Dear

Matthew Dear is back in Michigan.

In the past year or so, [a:Matthew Dear|Matthew Dear] has returned home in many ways. He's got serious Ann Arbor roots, as the first artist to sign to Ghostly International in 1999, and the Blind Pig is a familiar place for him. He grew up in Texas, but moved to Michigan to pursue a degree at the University of Michigan, where he met Ghostly’s founder, Sam Valenti. For me, as a local and an employee of the label, it’s wonderful to see him back in the town where his musical career began to take off.

Matthew Dear has left an indelible imprint on the fabric of popular music history that Ann Arbor has woven. He has been a part of the newer breed of musicians building a career after getting their feet wet in this college town that’s always been supportive of musicians who are a bit left of center, like [a:Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Musical group)|Commander Cody], [a:Mayer Hawthorne|Mayer Hawthorne], the [a:Chenille Sisters|Chenille Sisters], [a:Iggy Pop|Iggy Pop], Pity Sex, [a:Rationals|Scott Morgan], [a:W. K., Andrew|Andrew W.K.], and Wolf Eyes, among others.

Since leaving town, Dear's been busy. He's made moves to Detroit and New York, gotten married, started a family, toured with [:catalog/search/author/Depeche%2BMode%2B%2528Musical%2Bgroup%2529|Depeche Mode], performed both as a solo artist and with a band and as a DJ, performed a seemingly endless string of live dates, and now, Dear has actually moved back to the Ann Arbor area. This show may be a bit of a homecoming of sorts, an expansion and translation of the sets he DJ’d for parties while attending school, honed by nearly 20 years of experience on the road, soundtracking delightful evenings for his fans.

I’m hoping you’re as excited to see his blend of experimental and front-forward dance music as I am. It's been ages since I've seen Matt perform, and I’m just as giddy about his return to The Blind Pig's familiar stage as I was to hear him play at the first Ghostly show I attended, years and years ago.


Jeremy Peters is Music Publishing Director for Ghostly International and Ghostly Songs, and Co-Founder of Quite Scientific.


Matthew Dear will perform at the Blind Pig on Saturday, January 23, 2016, doors at 9 pm.