Shakespeare in the Arb gets to the roots of "Romeo and Juliet"

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Shakespeare in the Arb's Romeo & Juliet

Flower children: Romeo and Juliet make eyes in the Arb.

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.

To the Moon & Back: Nashville's Moon Taxi kicks off Sonic Lunch

MUSIC REVIEW

Moon Taxi at Sonic Lunch

Liberty Plaza was put into lunar orbit by Moon Unit in the kickoff concert of the Sonic Lunch series. Photo via Sonic Lunch.

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.

Art & Artifacts: "Unrecorded: Reimagining Artist Identities in Africa" at UMMA

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Yinka Shonibare's dollhouse & Osei Bonsu's parlor piece

Left: Yinka Shonibare MBE, Untitled (Dollhouse), 2002, wood, fabric, paper, plastic, metal, resin, offset lithograph. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Peter Norton Family Foundation, 2002/1.236 © Yinka Shonibare MBE. All Rights Reserved, Peter Norton Family Foundation, 2018. Photography: Charlie Edwards.

Right: Osei Bonsu, Parlor piece, ca. 1950, wood. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron, 2001/2.33. Photography: Charlie Edwards.

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.” 

Still Righteous: Ani DiFranco kicked off the Ann Arbor Summer Festival at The Power Center

MUSIC REVIEW

Ani DiFranco

Folk-punk icon Ani DiFranco opened the Ann Arbor Summer Festival on Tuesday with a show full of feeling and fire.

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.”

Raining in the Race: Conquering the 2018 Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon

PULP LIFE REVIEW

The author at the 2018 Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon

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. 

Middle School Memories: Bo Burnham's "Eighth Grade" at Cinetopia

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade

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

A Heavenly Gaze: Allie McGhee's "Cosmic Images 2000" at Rotunda Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Allie McGhee's Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine, 2009.

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.

Theatre Nova’s "Mrs. Fifty Bakes a Pie" is a smart comedy about a serious issue

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Theatre Nova's Mrs. Fifty Bakes a Pie

All eyes on the pies: Patrick O’Lear (John, Mr. Milk) and Jeannine Thompson (Marta), along with Sarah Burcon (Fiona), star in Theatre Nova’s Mrs. Fifty Bakes a Pie.

Fiona is 50 years old, a bit shy and retiring and married to an abusive, arrogant, and philandering husband, whose love she still craves.

She needs help and her friend Marta knows just what she needs to feel empowered.

Detroit playwright Linda Ramsay-Detherage’s Mrs. Fifty Bakes a Pie is a whip-smart comedy just right for the #MeToo moment.  The play is being given its world premiere at Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova under the astute direction of Daniel C. Walker. 

Music Phest: Cavani String Quartet Plays Mozart and Ravel at Kerrytown Concert House

MUSIC REVIEW

Cavani Quartet by Robert Muller

Friday evening the Cavani String Quartet made an appearance at the Kerrytown Concert House, presenting a balanced program of Mozart and Ravel. Playing to a packed house -- following a champagne reception and a brief pre-concert talk -- the four musicians found an enthusiastic audience.

Formed in 1984, the Cavani Quartet has been hailed for its artistic excellence and been the recipient of numerous awards, but the group has also shown a strong commitment to music education. Throughout the years, Cavani has been an ensemble-in-residence at various festivals and universities, and since 1988 has been the quartet-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, one of the preeminent conservatories in the Midwest. Cavani's appearance in Kerrytown on Friday, May 25 was part of another such residency, as the musicians are the artists-in-residence at this year’s PhoenixPhest, a chamber music educational festival run by the Phoenix Ensemble. One of the organizers of the festival moderated the pre-concert talk.

Knowledge Rules: KRS-One at the Blind Pig

MUSIC REVIEW

KRS-One
    
KRS-One is a hip-hop legend. The man born Lawrence Parker left home at 16 to start making music and experienced a lot of hardships, including homelessness and the death of his friend and Boogie Down Productions cohort DJ Scott La Rock. After La Rock died, KRS-One stopped rapping about drugs and violence in favor of more politically conscious material, and he also led the Stop the Violence Movement. KRS-One persevered through the adversity and has released more than 20 albums and three books. 

The crowd was buzzing as early as 9 pm before Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone's May 23 show at The Blind Pig. KRS-One didn’t play until around 11 pm, but several hip-hop artists took the stage for the first couple hours. My favorite was Ann Arbor's own Nickie P, who rapped about love and loss and the importance of respect and honesty in relationships. Another Ann Arbor MC, Duke Newcomb, took the stage and immediately connected with the audience, saying 15 years ago he was one of us, one of the audience members at a KRS-One show, thinking he was too old to start rapping. "Remember that tonight I am you," he said. "You are me."