History From the Margins: UMS is bringing Druid Theatre's productions of Sean O’Casey’s "Dublin Trilogy" to the Power Center
“The whole world’s in a terrible state of chassis!”
Juno and the Paycock
In 1916 a large part of the world was in chaos and crisis. World War I was tearing Europe apart, and in Ireland, the leaders of anti-British forces saw an opportunity to rise against a pre-occupied British government and attempt to finally drive the British government from Ireland.
The deadly events of what is remembered as the Easter Rising were the beginning of a violent eight-year period that would in time free Ireland from British rule but at a high cost. Following the Rising, a war of independence began, ending with a treaty to give Ireland Free State status while still bonded to Britain. That treaty led to a civil war pitting defenders of the treaty against those who believed the treaty was a betrayal.
Playwright Sean O’Casey grew up in the tenements of Dublin. He was a self-taught reader, a laborer, a railway worker, and eventually, a writer with a keen ear for the language of his native city. In the 1920s, he created three plays that covered the period from the Easter Rising to the Civil War. Each play centers on the lives of tenement dwellers in the Irish capital who become caught up in the frenzy and frustration of the long-running domestic war. O’Casey’s plays are both comic and tragic as well as deeply humane.
The University Musical Society (UMS) is presenting the Druid Theatre’s production of O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy, under the direction of Druid founder and artistic director Garry Hynes, October 18-21. The Galway-based theater company is bringing the play to New York City and Ann Arbor only.
Hynes was artistic director for Druid Theatre from 1975 to 1991 and again from 1995 to the present. From 1991 to 1994, she was the artistic director of the famed Abbey Theatre, where many of O’Casey’s plays premiered.
In a telephone interview, Hynes said O’Casey’s trilogy is about the working people of Dublin living in the tenements.
Sobering Thought: Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Remember a Late Friend’s Determination to Overcome Alcoholism on “Liquor Store” Single
The bluesy new single from the Ann Arbor folk-rock band addresses the daily struggle Nelson Whitehorse faced while trying to fight addiction and follow a path to recovery.
“He was from St. Louis actually and moved to Ann Arbor to be in a band with me, and we lived together for a year,” said Zindle about Whitehorse, who passed away several years ago. “We lived on the west side of Ann Arbor and he had been an alcoholic since childhood.”
Throughout “Liquor Store,” Erin Zindle and bandmates TJ Zindle (electric and acoustic guitar, vocals), Loren Kranz (drums, vocals), and Shannon Wade (bass, vocals) chronicle Whitehorse’s ongoing challenge of having to walk past a liquor store each day to visit the local Alano Club.
Ominous keys and drums follow Zindle as she sings, “You said ‘Grace is new every morning’ / As you stared into your black coffee cup / Today you’re gonna make it past the liquor store / To get to the Alano Club.”
“I saw that battle play out over and over every day, and sometimes he made it, and sometimes he didn’t,” she said. “The daily work is just getting there every day.”
The track also helps Whitehorse’s family and friends to take comfort in his memory as a “hilarious, loyal, giant-hearted friend” as Zindle noted in a Ragbirds’ Facebook post.
“The message I hope people will take away is that today you’re going to make it,” Zindle said. “It literally is just that one day at a time. I’m so grateful that the song came to me, and it came with that wisdom to know not to add any message to it.”
We recently spoke to Zindle about the band’s new single, its strategy for releasing new songs and an upcoming album, the inspiration behind several tracks, the creative process for writing and recording them, a Halloween show at The Ark, and additional plans for new material.
Dress for Success: Costume designer Suzanne Young clothes actors for local, national, and international theater productions
It was 1981 when Suzanne Young, 21, moved to Boston from her native England.
“It was a bit of a culture shock,” she recalls. “Police came to the costume rental shop for Santa costumes. I wasn’t used to seeing people with guns on their hips or to hearing people tell me how much they loved my accent.”
She’s gotten used to this side of the pond, settling with her husband, Larry, in Dixboro, a village just outside Ann Arbor, and became a go-to costume designer for area theaters including the University of Michigan, Purple Rose, Wild Swan, Performance Network, and more.
The Youngs found their way here circuitously, with time spent in Europe and different states. But wherever they went, Suzanne created opportunities to work—from opening a school to teach English to French children to developing a wedding gown company.
The Ann Arbor District Library's Fifth Avenue Press, which started in 2017, helps local authors produce a print-ready book at no cost—from copyediting to cover design—and the writers retain all rights. In return, the library gets to distribute ebooks to its patrons without paying royalties, but authors can sell their books—print, digital, or audio—in whatever ways they choose and keep all the proceeds.
The Fifth Avenue Press event is part of the A2 Community Bookfest, which runs from 10 am to 5 pm at AADL Downtown, also on September 10, with a full schedule of renowned authors including J. Ryan Stradal, Sonali Dev, and Stephen Mack Jones.
Four new Fifth Avenue creators answered a questionnaire to help readers understand a bit more about the press process and their journey as authors. Also below is a list and descriptions of all the other Fifth Avenue books available on Sunday; click the titles to visit the books' web pages for more info on each. Many of the authors will be there to do readings and signings, too.
This story originally ran on May 30, 2023. We're featuring it again because Timothy Monger State Park plays an after-hours show at AADL’s Downtown Library on September 9.
Long known as one of the leading talents on the local music scene, Timothy Monger has always had a distinctive songwriting voice. The names of two of the bands he’s led—the late, lamented Great Lakes Myth Society and the current Timothy Monger State Park—give some clues to the subjects of his songs, which often look to the outdoors, history, and other rootsy pursuits.
Those sorts of themes show up again on Monger’s new album, his fourth as a solo artist, which is simply titled Timothy Monger. Yet as he always manages to do, he finds fresh perspectives and new approaches, and the result stands out from his previous body of work.
The album is literally the result of Monger returning to his notebooks and fleshing out ideas found there, recording the songs entirely at his home in a style he describes as “homespun psych-folk.” A few of the songs are snippets of less than 30 seconds, but that’s all they require to tell their particular story. Others bring characters to life, such as a fictional “Cub Reporter” or the real-life theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, who Monger memorably describes as “the one who finally gave the ghosts a voice.”
“Shadow of the Weka” is a charming instrumental with Celtic overtones. And there are several nods to Michigan, including “Cranberry Bog,” “Luna Pier,” and “Sa-Wa-Quato.”
Monger recently answered a few questions about the new recording, which comes out on June 2, the same day as his album release show at The Ark.
Utility Player: Jonathan Hammonds performs and books all kinds of music at Ziggy's in Ypsi and beyond
Classical, jazz, R&B, music of the Arab world—this range of musical styles could be a description of the diverse concert offerings one expects in southeast Michigan.
But it is actually a summary of genres Ann Arbor-based bassist Jonathan Hammonds has played in his career.
“I’ve always been interested and pursued different genres of music,” the 33-year-old Huron High School grad says about his eclectic skill set.
Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Hammonds earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical bass performance from the University of Michigan and Yale University, respectively, before returning to Washtenaw County in 2014 to gig and teach private lessons.
Currently, Hammonds performs as a member of the Ann Arbor Symphony and an extra player for the Toledo Symphony. He also gigs throughout the region with his jazz trio and has been part of Dearborn’s National Arab Orchestra since it was formed in 2009.
The Dating Game: Julia Argy’s Debut Novel “The One” Chronicles the Fallacy of Finding True Love on a Reality TV Show
“‘I’m actually in the market for a new opportunity,’ I answered, and thus my journey to find love began.”
So starts The One, a novel by Julia Argy, a University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program alum. The main character, Emily, embarks on a whim as a contender on a reality television show, which is designed to whittle a group of women down to the individual who the male love interest, Dylan, selects to marry. Emily describes the show and the book’s premise:
At the base level, this is all a psychological experiment with a desired economic outcome: trap thirty people together as they fight for a limited quantity of the same thing, something everyone wants, true love, and the result will be scintillating enough to attract millions of viewers to sell advertising. And that, the real hypothesis, has proven true, season after season.
Emily must learn how the program works as it goes along because she has not watched past seasons, so she takes a critical approach rather than suspending her disbelief. As Emily further reflects, “Maybe the first set of contestants are meant to showcase the vast scope of women who desire Dylan, like going to a big-box store where at the head of each aisle is a sample stand, enticing you down to the rest of the similar wares. I need to figure out what brand of woman I’m supposed to be.” The “brand” she turns out to be is not what she expects.
No “mountain” is too high for Adam J. Snyder to scale.
The Ypsilanti singer-songwriter and guitarist overcomes life’s obstacles to follow a new path on Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea.
“I’ve been pushing against myself, and I feel like I’ve been in the weeds my whole life. I’m in a pretty good place now, and I’m heading in the right direction of where I want to be,” said Snyder about his latest folk-pop EP.
“I went to Nicaragua in March, and I got to spend some time in the mountains. Then I got to spend time surfing on the beach and hanging out. Something about [that] just felt like where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, so that’s my goal.”
As part of that goal, Snyder shares that positive outlook on Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea, which features soft, breathy vocals; concise lyrics; bluesy influences; and percussive, rhythmic, and fingerpicked acoustic guitars.
Those elements create a comforting sonic experience and reflect the hope, encouragement, and determination embedded in the EP’s five tracks.
“I’ve just been feeling a little more in touch with that kind of stuff when I’ve been writing,“ said Snyder, who grew up in Dexter and previously fronted the now-disbanded Dirty Deville.
“When I come across an idea or things that feel right … or I’m just doing what I enjoy, which is playing guitar, I feel more connected to that kind of stuff. I feel like things are in alignment.”
For Joanna Sterling, Queen of Wands represents an emotional journey filled with self-discovery, authenticity, and courage.
The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter reveals her inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a trans woman on her sophomore release.
“It’s very autobiographical, and I did have to cultivate a lot of courage to even write some of these. If you had asked me five years ago would I ever open an album with my boy name before I transitioned—like no, absolutely not,” said Sterling about her new folk-pop album.
“I wanted to open with that song ‘Joey’ because it took a lot for me to be like, ‘You know what, I want to accept my full self, not just me as a post-transition woman, but also who was I before and how that person is still very much a part of who I am today, and my journey that I had to take to become the woman that I am.’”
Sterling documents that journey through 13 cathartic tracks—which range from confessional ballads to rallying cries to melancholic tales—on Queen of Wands. She connects with listeners through honest lyrics, nature-filled imagery, and folk-inspired instrumentation.
“I feel like a lot of the themes that are explored on this album aren’t just about being transgender. They’re really about the journey we all have to take in order to accept ourselves,” she said.
“I feel like I was able to strike a balance by being really honest about some of the specific things I’ve been through, but also make them accessible and relatable to others potentially.”
We recently spoke to Sterling about her background, the album’s tarot-inspired title, the stories behind several of the album’s tracks, her collaboration with producer Chris DuPont and other local musicians, her album release show, and plans for new material.
Head Full of Ghosts packs a magnitude of sound into a short amount of time.
The Ypsilanti quartet of James Henes (vocals, rhythm guitar), Geoff Loebe (bass), Ken Ball (lead guitar), and Bryan King (drums), shares hard-hitting, alt-rock instrumentation across a concise EP aptly titled 654 Seconds.
“When we initially got the EP finalized, it came out to 654 seconds [or about 10 minutes in length],” said Henes, whose band also released its debut EP, 321 Miles, in 2021.
“Once again, it's another testament to time-stamping [in terms of] where we are as a band at this moment. We have always enjoyed when things have a reoccurrence, so the number thing will most likely be a part of us as we move forward.”
Head Full of Ghosts also incorporates prog-rock sensibilities throughout 654 Seconds, which features three contemplative tracks about authenticity, inner struggles, and change.
To learn more, I talked with Henes about the EP’s tracks, the creative process for the EP, the band’s new lineup and electric sound, the band’s musical influences, and upcoming plans.