The University of Michigan Museum of Art’s exhibition Exercising the Eye: The Gertrude Kasle Collection presents an array of works by influential artists of the 20th century. Many of these artists, as pointed out by the exhibition organizers, were, in part, brought to prominence in the Midwest by Gertrude Kasle’s (1917-2016) promotion of their works.
“Trust me when I tell you this isn’t a white savior story. This is a white nightmare story.”
If I were a moth, the story of white men reckoning with race in America would singe my wings every time. With that in mind, I was not disappointed when I went to see Travis Wilkerson’s Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? on March 24 as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In fact, there are about eight pieces I could write about this film, which was one of the 10 features in competition at the year's fest and ended up winning the Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
The best thing a film about languages can do is let the speakers speak for themselves.
Those Who Come, Will Hear, a Canadian documentary that shines a spotlight on several indigenous languages of Quebec, not only gives voice to languages that are endangered (such as Innu-aimun and Inuttitut) but also deftly illustrates how language is so tightly woven to culture and tradition. (The film is one of the 10 features in competition at this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival.)
Theo Katzman's show at The Blind Pig sold out weeks before the show date. When I say that people were excited to see Katzman's return to Ann Arbor, I mean it: The line at The Blind Pig was already snaking its way down the block 20 minutes before doors opened.
Theo Katzman studied jazz at the University of Michigan in the early 2000s. Since then Katzman has toured with the band Ella Riot, created the trio Love Massive, and released his first album, Romance Without Finance, in 2011. Katzman is also a prominent member of the funk band Vulfpeck, which has toured with Darren Criss and played on The Late Show with Steven Colbert. In 2017, Katzman debuted his latest album, Heartbreak Hits.
Katzman's no stranger to playing The Blind Pig and fans were happy to have him back. I spoke to one woman who said that she hasn't missed one of Katzman's shows since she got her license in 2012. Once, she saw Katzman play at The Blind Pig and then drove to Chicago the next day to see him again.
On March 9 and March 10, Yoni Ki Baat, an organization that seeks to educate the campus about the issues pertaining to South Asian women and all women of color, produced Resistance, a show inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.
In fact, Yoni Ki Bat is Sanskrit for “talks of the vagina.”