Penny Seats Theatre Company’s two-show 2018 summer season -- cheekily called "Hail to the Victors" -- consists of two different takes on Mary Shelley’s classic horror story. Next month, PSTC will present Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s stage musical adaptation of Brooks’ 1974 film comedy Young Frankenstein, but the company first kicked things off this past weekend with a two-hour production of Joseph Zettelmaier’s The Gravedigger, directed by Julia Glander and Lauren M. London.
David Sedaris was his usual charming, generous self when gave a packed reading on Friday at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor in support of his new book of essays, Calypso. And, of course, he was hilarious, telling dirty jokes, cursing, and plotting revenge on his West Sussex neighbors.
In Calypso, Sedaris has returned to the humorous essay form with which he’s made his reputation. His siblings, parents, and boyfriend, Hugh -- familiar to long-time readers -- appear once again. But many of these essays are darker in subject and tone than Sedaris’s previous work. They describe aging, illness, and the unexpected death of his sister, among other things. In the book’s first sentence, Sedaris announces, “Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age.”
Sedaris didn’t read that essay on Friday, but he did read the text of a commencement speech he recently gave at Oberlin College, which touched on similar themes. Encouraging young writers to pursue their vocation (at any cost), he said, “At 22 you are built for poverty and rejection. And you know why? Because you are so good looking.” He also said: “Be yourself. Unless your self is an asshole.”
It’s perhaps a little surprising that over the 18 years that the University of Michigan Residential College has presented a Shakespeare play in Nichols Arboretum, this year’s production is the first time for Romeo and Juliet.
Of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s best-loved works, packed with some of his most memorable lines and phrases. Certainly, any play with romance at its core has a place in the idyllic Arb. So whatever the reasons that it hasn’t been done before, the important thing is that it’s being done now. For fans of Shakespeare, of the Arb, and especially of both, it’s a treat.
The weather, the vibe, and the music all felt like summer on Thursday for the first concert in this year’s Sonic Lunch series, as rising pop-rock band Moon Taxi brought its infectious sound to Liberty Plaza.
Although past Sonic Lunch shows have occasionally had an opening band, this year for the first time every show will feature two acts. Thursday’s opener, Nadim Azzam, is a talented Ann Arbor singer-musician-songwriter who combines indie folk and hip-hop -- and some other genres -- into a seamless mix. “Out of Air” highlighted the enjoyable five-song set, in which saxophonist Jacob LaChance backed Azzam.
Moon Taxi leader Trevor Terndrup greeted a crowd that easily numbered several hundred, and under a cloudless sky, the band launched into “Let the Record Play,” the title track from its major-label debut album, released earlier this year by RCA. The reggae flavorings of the song came to the forefront a bit more in concert than on the studio version.
The red walls grabbed my attention as soon as I entered the exhibition and the large text on one begins: “For most historical African objects in museum collections, the artist’s name is unrecorded.”
The artists’ names were rarely recorded, because, as the curators of UMMA's Unrecorded: Reimagining Artist Identities in Africa point out, the objects were considered "artifacts" rather than "artworks."
Organized by Allison Martino, the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow from 2016-2017 and Laura De Becker, Helmut and Candis Stern Associate Curator of African Art, the exhibition asks the viewer to question why these omissions are a common occurrence in museums. The 19th-century practice of “collecting significant objects to bring home” informed the Euro-American imagination through “the kinds of objects they acquired, as well as the information they chose to record.”
A truly excellent dive bar is an exceedingly special place. Slipping in through the door -- preferably dirty and unmarked -- one should lose all sense of time and place. The bathroom walls should be scrawled upon; the darts, the pool, and the jukebox should be cheap; and there should always be the sneaking suspicion that the bartender is watering down your drinks, even if all you’ve ordered is a pitcher of Labatt.
I’ve spent many a conversation lamenting that 8 Ball is the last true dive bar in Ann Arbor, once even making the bold statement, “If 8 Ball goes, I go.” After one of these conversations recently, I started thinking about other good dives in the area. I remembered fondly the summer afternoon I found myself at Fenders in Milan and wished for the umpteenth time that Powell’s in Ypsilanti was closer to me. But there had to be some other good ones that I was missing or -- gasp -- didn’t even know about, I figured. And that’s how the idea for this piece, in which I attempt to find the best dive bar in Washtenaw County, was born.
After making a list of all the potential dives I thought needed to be explored (and overcoming my disappointment that Zukey Lake Tavern is outside county lines), I asked my fellow dive-bar-loving friend to come with me on the journey. It turned out that the day that worked best for us to embark on the trip was a random Tuesday at the end of May. “Are dive bars open on Tuesdays?” I texted my friend. “They are if they want to be considered BEST OF WASHTENAW COUNTY,” he responded. “Excellent point,” I said.
Finding the best dive bar in any county is a marathon, not a sprint, so we started in the early afternoon at the county’s northernmost bar:
The concert at The Power Center opened with talented young singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx. Her original songs featured inventive imagery, warm vocals, and expressive guitar. She also showed an offbeat sense of humor, introducing one song as being about “how we’re all going to die, and that’s OK.”
DiFranco hit the stage in a burst of energy that barely let up throughout her set. When she momentarily got lost in the lyrics of her opening song, she and her band -- bassist/keyboardist Todd Sickafoose and drummer Terrence Higgins -- literally didn’t miss a beat, quickly recovering and leading DiFranco to joke, “Thanks for coming to rehearsal.”
The Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon (DXA2), which takes runners along the beautiful Huron River Drive, is a staple in the area the first Sunday of June each year. It’s a particularly special race because - unlike most races that have to be a loop or an out-and-back route so that the start and finish are in the same spot -- DXA2 takes runners from downtown Dexter to downtown Ann Arbor with no return. This requires much coordination by race organizers, as many runners opt to be shuttled on school buses from Ann Arbor to Dexter for the race start at Creekside Middle School. I’ve always been impressed with how smoothly this all works out.
I saw nine films over four days at Southeast Michigan's annual Cinetopia film festival, beating my record of eight last year. While I enjoyed many of movies, the one I truly loved was opening night’s Eighth Grade.
The film follows 13-year-old Kayla during her final week of middle school as she tries to overcome her classmate’s perception of her as shy. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at Sundance and is Bo Burnham’s directorial debut. If you recognize that name, it may be from Burnham’s early 2000s YouTube videos, successful comedy specials, or supporting roles in recent films including The Big Sick and Rough Night.
Paintings and public sculptures by prominent contemporary artist Allie McGhee abound throughout Detroit. His elegantly gestural Night Rhythms (1991) can be seen at the Detroit Institute of Art. The Michigan-Cass Avenue stop on the People Mover features his work, and right now, a small but exquisite sliver of his decades-long body of work, Cosmic Images 2000, is on view at the Rotunda Gallery in Building 18 of University of Michigan's North Campus Research Center in Ann Arbor through August 31.
McGhee was born in Charleston, W.V., but soon moved to Detroit, where he attended Cass Technical High school. He completed his undergraduate work at Eastern Michigan University in 1965. His early paintings and sculptures were figurative and even as he has moved toward abstraction, his work has retained the gestural sweep of his unseen arm.