Preview: The Bard at the Michigan Theater


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. The Bard will celebrate Shakespeare’s works through a range of film adaptations of his plays. Alongside the more traditional performances interpreted by Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh, you’ll find remixes of Shakespeare’s works that cross the barriers of culture and time, such as 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 Michigan Theater's website for the full series schedule.

Preview: Chesapeake, Theatre Nova


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 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 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


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 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 Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild, and the 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 or call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006.

Preview: Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North


Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North.

Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North.

My guess is Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s unnerving, primal singing style isn’t exactly what filmmaker Robert Flaherty had in mind to accompany his silent masterpiece, 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. 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.

"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


DJ Carl Craig

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

This Wednesday 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


Matthew Dear

Matthew Dear is back in Michigan.

In the past year or so, 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 Commander Cody, Mayer Hawthorne, the Chenille Sisters, Iggy Pop, Pity Sex, Scott Morgan, 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 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.

R.J. Fox Turned His Life into Art and Wants to Teach You to do the Same


R.J. Fox will discuss how to craft a memoir at the Ann Arbor District Library

R.J. Fox will discuss how to craft a memoir at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Once upon a time, an aspiring writer/filmmaker named R.J. Fox traveled to Hollywood, California to attend a series of screenwriting workshops. During a cold and rainy day off, he decided to visit Universal Studios. And that was where he first met Katya from Ukraine. They became pen pals and several months later—on a whim and without telling another living soul—he purchased an engagement ring and traveled halfway around the world to propose. Fox’s adventures in Ukraine are documented in his new book Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine.

This humorous, poignant, and memorable expedition centered on life in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine—the former center of Cold War Soviet missile production and a city that, until the mid-1980s, was closed to foreign visitors—is punctuated by a colorful cast of characters, adventures, and cultural mishaps and misunderstandings, from irate babushka women to hard-drinking uncles. He talks about the experience in more detail and reads from his book in his December appearance on Michigan Radio’s Stateside with Cynthia Canty.

As Ann Arbor native Davy Rothbart, author of My Heart is an Idiot and founder of FOUND Magazine , says, "Love & Vodka is an honest, funny, and deeply heartfelt story about a young man who drops everything to pursue an epic romance. If you’ve ever done something crazy in the name of love, R.J. Fox’s adventures in Ukraine will strike a chord. This book is a delight!”

Fox, currently an English and media teacher at Huron High School, is also the award-winning writer of several short stories, plays, poems, and fifteen feature-length screenplays. Two of his screenplays have been optioned to Hollywood.

On Monday, January 11 at 6:30 pm, Fox will teach a memoir-writing workshop at the Downtown Library, where participants can learn to mold their own stories using topics like story structure, dialogue, character development/arc, and how to infuse your writing with literary elements traditionally associated with fiction. Participants will apply the skills taught during the workshop through various prompts and activities designed to spark creativity, with the aim of mining material that can later be developed into various forms of memoir and creative non-fiction, from short essays to long-form works. Copies of Love & Vodka will be available for purchase and signing.

Patty Smith is a desk clerk at the Ann Arbor District Library.

R.J. Fox's talk, Memoir Writing:Turning Your Life into Art (Or is it the Other Way Around?) will be presented in the Multi-Purpose Room in the Lower Level of the Downtown Library at 343 S. Fifth Avenue on Monday, January 11 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Preview: Company, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre


Robby Griswold will be in good company as he stars in Ann Arbor Civic Theater's production of Company

Robby Griswold will be in good company as he stars in Ann Arbor Civic Theater's production of Company.

Ann Arbor Civic Theater will open the New Year with a sparkling new production of the beloved musical Company, which is, according to its seasoned AACT director Rachel Francisco, “about relationships…interactions between spouses and the deep feelings that underlie many marriages.”

The plot centers on Bobby (Robby Griswold), who on the eve of his 35th birthday, questions his bachelor status. Married friends surround him, full of advice about relationships. But is marriage the best option? Will it lead to happiness? His current and former lovers (Kimmy Elliott, Chris Joseph, and Kate Papachristou) make his choice even more difficult.

When Company opened in 1970, it was a landmark in Broadway musical history. A “concept” musical composed of short vignettes, it was the first collaboration between two theater legends: composer Stephen Sondheim and director/producer Hal Prince.

Nominated for 14 Tony Awards, the production won six, including Best Musical. Sondheim’s music for the show (including “Being Alive,” “Another Hundred People,” and the Elaine Stritch showstopper “Ladies Who Lunch”) was sublime. New York Times critic Vincent Canby, reviewing the 1995 Broadway revival, raved that Company contained the most “dazzling and bittersweet show tunes Mr. Sondheim has ever written.”

Jennifer Goltz is the Music Director for this first show of the 2016 year and choreography is by Rachel Francisco and Emily Olson.

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

Company runs Thursday through Sunday, January 7 - 10 at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave, 48109. Tickets are available online at Ann Arbor Civic Theater's website, by calling the A2CT office at 734-971-2228, or at the door. Additional information is available by visiting the theater's website.

Preview: Mittenfest X


Mittenfest X's lineup includes (clockwise from upper left): Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, Frontier Ruckus, Chris Bathgate, The Kickstand Band, and The Bootstrap Boys

Mittenfest X's lineup includes (clockwise from upper left): Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, Frontier Ruckus, Chris Bathgate, The Kickstand Band, and The Bootstrap Boys

Bid adieu to 2015 and welcome 2016 in with Mittenfest X: the 10th annual installment of the five-day music festival that raises funds for local creative writing nonprofit 826Michigan. Starting December 29th and continuing through January 2nd—including shows on New Years Eve and New Years Day—Mittenfest X will be held for the first time this year at Ypsilanti’s Bona Sera café. The opening night lineup partially and purposefully mirrors the lineup of the first ever opening night of the original Mittenfest 10 years ago: Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, the high-energy “stomp and holler” folk of Frontier Ruckus, and Fred Thomas are all back a decade later to kickoff the festival. All the performers are from Michigan, with most hailing from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti, and a few coming across the state from Grand Rapids to play. With 7 acts each night, the first going on at 8:30 pm and the final act taking the stage at 1:00 am, Mittenfest is known for its fast pace and wide variety of music. What can attendees look forward to this year?

Detroit band Bonny Doon released their debut EP last winter under local label Salinas. The four band members, most of whom also play in one or more other Detroit-based bands, have described their music together as “subdued punk.” Sometimes even delving into a country rock sound, the band jams loosely on stage, experimenting with their songs and preventing things from getting too precise. The band often plays with Fred Thomas who, as mentioned above, will be one of the headliners on Mittenfest X’s opening night. They’ll play on the second night of the festival, December 30th, at 1:00 am.

2015 will come to a close to the sounds of sunny basement rock (yes, that can be a thing) duo Gordon Smith and Allison Young, better known as The Kickstand Band, who take the stage at 11:30 pm on December 31. They first got together in Detroit in 2011 and released their debut album Puppy Love. Since then, they’ve put out an EP and another full-length album is in the works. It remains to be seen if they’ll be bringing their homemade lightshow (!) along to Mittenfest X (it has come along to several outdoor music festivals in the past), but lightshow or no lightshow, The Kickstand Band's performance ought to open 2016 with a bang.

One of the bands making the trip across the state to play Mittenfest X is The Bootstrap Boys, who are currently just finishing up a tour playing at various Michigan breweries. They just banded together in early 2015 and have a rollicking repertoire of four-part-harmony country songs which, they claim, will have you asking: ‘Y’all like to shoot whiskey?’ Their EP, Country Songs for Sale, was released in October.

Indie folk singer and songwriter Chris Bathgate, a staple on the local music scene for over a decade now, will close Mittenfest X, taking the stage at 1 am on January 2nd. He’s released 5 studio albums, and has received national acclaim performing at SXSW and recording an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. His newest EP, Old Factory, is set to be released in early 2016. Bathgate is sometimes compared to folk musician Sufjan Stevens, who completed an entire album about Michigan. Somewhat similarly, Ann Arborites will want to listen for references to local sites in some of Bathgate’s songs.

You can view the whole Mittenfest X lineup here.

Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Mittenfest X runs Tuesday, December 29, 2015-Saturday, January 2, 2016 at Bona Sera Café, 200 W Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI, 41897. Performers play from approximately 8:30 pm-2 am every evening. $10 cover per night.

Review: Elks Pratt Lodge's DEEP FREEZE


Fred Thomas & Mike Dykehouse were two of the DJs at this year's Elks Pratt Lodge Deep Freeze
Fred Thomas & Mike Dykehouse were two of the DJs at this year's Elks Pratt Lodge Deep Freeze

The majestic Elks Pratt Lodge looms over Ann Arbor from its perch at the top of a grassy (or sometimes by the time of DEEP FREEZE, snowy!) hill on Sunset Road. Nestled in Water Hill neighborhood, the Elks members made the decision in the late 2000s to allow the community to book events there that are open to the public. Since then, various live music and DJed concerts and dance nights have been held over the years, as well as barbecues and social justice events. Minimal décor and a cash-only bar keep events there simple, but a typically eclectic crowd is unfailingly enthusiastic for whatever is going on.

On Saturday, December 12, Elk members and the public attended DEEP FREEZE, a winter dance night featuring prominent local DJs and other special guests. Fred Thomas, the frontman of indie pop band Saturday Looks Good to Me, was one of these DJs. He just released a new album this past year, All Are Saved, which fans loved and even Pitchfork reviewed favorably! Mike Dykehouse, another prominent local artist who achieved wide acclaim after playing at the first ever Detroit Electronic Music Festival, was also one of the DJs that performed at the Elks Lodge on the 12th. Dykehouse played on Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International’s summer 2002 tour, and even has ties to the Ann Arbor District Library; he DJed at our Mini-Moog fest this past July. His 2004 full-length debut album is titled Midrange. DJs Chuck Sipperley, who’s performed at Top of the Park, Mittenfest and many other local events in the past, and Jason Lymangrover, were also there for DEEP FREEZE.

One of those most fun things about events at the Elks Lodge is the way that the building is lit up. Strings of lights are hung on the porch and from the rooftop, making the mansion a sort of beacon as you approach it from any direction. Upon entering through the back of the lodge, guests are ushered downstairs to the bar, and nearby, the dance floor. A lot of the music was dance mixes of 80s and 90s tracks, which suited the crowd of twenty and thirty-somethings perfectly. The dance floor was fun, friendly and active for much of the night, and when people weren’t dancing, groups still enjoyed the music in the deep booths that surround the floor. With so many DJs, there was never a break in music and guests trickled in and out, enjoying the unseasonably warm night on the porch of the Lodge, and then wandering back in to dance more or grab another drink.

Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.