Restored “Porgy and Bess” Score to Be Showcased at Hill Auditorium

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Porgy and Bess

Left: Todd Duncan (Porgy) and Anne Brown (Bess), 1935. Right: John Bubbles (Sportin’ Life) and Brown, 1935. Photos courtesy the Ira & Leonore Gershwin Trusts.

The version of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess that will be performed at Hill Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 17, won’t be tremendously different from other renditions familiar to audiences through the decades. But it will be the closest thing anyone’s heard in quite some time to the “folk opera” performed just the way its creators intended.

Saturday’s opera is part of the Gershwin Initiative -- a long-term partnership between the Gershwin family and the University of Michigan. Presented by the University Musical Society and the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the event will mark the public debut of a new, scholarly edition of the opera’s score. Morris Robinson as Porgy and Talise Trevigne as Bess lead the cast; the performance will also include the University Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Kiesler; the UMSMTD Chamber Choir, directed by Jerry Blackstone; and the Our Own Thing Chorale, directed by Willis Patterson.

Natural Process: Hydropark expands on its hypnotic sound for a new EP

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Hydropark band photo

Hydropark blurs the lines between hypnotic 1970s German rock and 1980s British post-punk. Photo by Elliot Bergman.

Evolution is real, but it's usually something that's out of view, the process hidden over the course of many years. But the Ann Arbor group Hydropark evolved before our ears -- and quickly.

The band formed as a trio in 2013 when drummer Chad Pratt, keyboardist Chuck Sipperley, and guitarist/keyboardist Fred Thomas would get together and create noisy instrumental jams that focused more on texture than melody, hammering out aggressive, improvised space rock. You can hear these practice-room freak-outs on four cassettes the group released in 2013-2014, two of which are on Hydropark's Bandcamp page.

U-M's "You for Me for You" is a surreal, sensitive take on immigration

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

You for Me for You cast photo

U-M students Levana Wang (left) as Junhee and Amanda Kuo as Minheein You for Me for You by playwright Mia Chung. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

Time, space, and matters of the heart converge in Mia Chung’s surreal drama You for Me for You.

Chung’s 2012 play hits on two red-hot topics -- immigration and the tension between North Korea and the United States -- in a story of two loving sisters who become separated in time and space.

You for Me for You will be presented Feb. 15-18 by the University of Michigan’s Department of Theatre and Drama at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.

Art & Performance: Joseph Keckler returns to Ann Arbor as a multifaceted star

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Joseph Keckler

Joseph Keckler in Alyssa Taylor Wendt's feature film/video installation HAINT.

Joseph Keckler is a writer, artist, actor, musician, and singer with a three-octave range, and he often blends all those talents while creating his art. Because of his multidimensional skills, Keckler is frequently called a performance artist, which is fine by him.

“I didn’t intend to be one," the Michigan native said, "but it’s a good umbrella term for me and people like me who don’t fit into a particular discipline. ... So while I’m still not sure I am (a performance artist), the label has given me a great deal of permission to create my own way of working and to pursue certain traditions outside the traditional realm.”

Keckler graduated from the University of Michigan and he makes his triumphant return to Ann Arbor on Wednesday, Feb. 7 as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series where he'll read from his recently published book of essays, Dragon at the Edge of a Flat World: Portraits and Revelation.

Synthcity: U-M professor Anıl Çamcı creates a virtual universe with sound

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Anıl Camcı

Anıl Çamcı is a builder, but the materials he uses aren't wood and nails. The assistant professor of Performing Arts Technology at the University of Michigan creates worlds from soundwaves, constructing sonic cities with software and synthesizers.

This is Çamcı's first year teaching at U-M, coming from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory and, previous to that, Istanbul Technical University's Center for Advanced Studies in Music. But he's already managed to rework some of his compositions to take full advantage of the Chip Davis Technology Studio, a multimedia lab funded by the U-M grad and Mannheim Steamroller founder.

Penny Seats' "Edges" is a song cycle about navigating your 20s

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Detail of the promotional poster for The Penny Seats' production of Edges

Detail of the promotional poster for The Penny Seats' production of Edges, written by Tony-winning U-M alumni Benj Pasek and Justin Paul when they were 19-year-old sophomores.

The Penny Seats Theatre Company has a celebrated history of presenting high-quality productions of shows that may not be especially well known. Peter and the Starcatcher, and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well... are some of the just-out-of-the-mainstream productions the theater company has offered the last few years.

The Penny Seats' newest production, Edges, written by University of Michigan alumni Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (of The Greatest Showman, La La Land, and Dear Evan Hansen fame) is no exception. Edges is a song cycle, which means there isn’t much plot, but instead a central theme; in this case, navigating the adventures and struggles that come with being in your 20s. (The musical's best-known tune is "Be My Friend," aka "The Facebook Song.")

Edges is being staged at the Kerrytown Concert House from Feb. 8-16. I spoke with cast members Matthew Pecek, Kristin McSweeney, and Logan Balcom about the differences between working on a song cycle and a more traditional musical, the show’s relevance for people in their 20s and beyond, and more.

Ann Arbor's Jane Austen jones is sated with many bicentennial events

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: The first edition in this form was printed in October 1894; reprinted March 1895. The Austen drawing is from her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen, 1886, sixth edition. Both images are from the University of Michigan Library collection.

Jane Austen once said, “There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”

But Ann Arbor-area fans of Ms. Austen have no reason to stay home these days as local booksellers and libraries are honoring the bicentennial of the author’s death with book readings, workshops, and events celebrating the beloved author and her work. 

Black Lives Matter: Ebony G. Patterson's "Of 72" & "...and babies too..."

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Ebony G. Patterson's Of 72 & ...and babies too...

Ebony G. Patterson's complementary works at U-M Institute for the Humanities address violence, identity, and the forgotten. Foreground: …and babies too… (mixed media, 120" x 58" x 10", 2016). Background: Of 72 (mixed media on paper, 19" x 13", 2011). Photo by Christopher Porter.

On May 23, 2010, Jamaican police and military entered the impoverished Kingston neighborhood Tivoli Gardens, a stronghold of drug lord Christopher Coke, leader of the infamous Shower Posse. The United States had ordered the extradition of the now-convicted Coke, and at least 73 civilians were killed by security forces as they searched for the man more commonly known as Dudus. (He wasn’t captured until June 23.)

Ebony G. Patterson’s Of 72 installation, on view at U-M’s Institute for the Humanities through Feb. 9, addresses this “state-sponsored mini-Armageddon,” as writer Annie Paul called it, and it also explores the complexities of black identity as a whole.

Tangled Dreams: Jim Cherewick exhibition at Ferndale Library

MUSIC VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jim Cherewick, two paintings

Some art exhibitions are carefully curated to represent a theme or mark a period of time in an artist's working life. Other exhibitions are based on practicalities, such as Ypsilanti artist Jim Cherewick's show at the Ferndale Area District Library.

The paintings there are "whatever I haven’t sold yet or to show before the owner buys it," he said via email. "Mostly watercolor and ink drawings I’ve been painting lately."

Crayons are another medium in the exhibition, with neither an oil or acrylic painting in sight.

Surreal Songs Say So Much: Platonic Boyfriends

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Platonic Boyfriends

Left to right: Isaac Levine, Noor, and Klayton Dawson are Platonic Boyfriends.

Have you ever heard a band and just been confused?

That's the effect Ann Arbor's Platonic Boyfriends had on me the first time I listened to the trio's debut album, Pee on These Hands.

That confusion stayed through the second listen. And the third. And it's continued unabated through subsequent spins. But I keep listening, and listening, and listening, which is a testament to Platonic Boyfriends' puzzling uniqueness.

Noor (bass), Klayton Dawson (guitar), and Isaac Levine (drums, lead vocals) create a kind of countrified, performance-art-inspired, lo-fi indie rock that is smart, surreal, funny, disjointed, and sui generis. My simple brain wants to put Platonic Boyfriends in a genre box for easy categorization, but Pee on These Hands doesn't allow it.

Platonic Boyfriends will celebrate the release of Pee on These Hands (CD, cassette, Bandcamp) with a record-release show on Friday, Jan. 26, at a secret location (that you can find on the band's Facebook page). I emailed with Ahmad and Levine about the band's origins, influences, and the serious message behind their song "Don't Move."