Soul Mining: Emily Roll speaks from the heart

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Emily Roll

Considering her namesake, Emily Roll was destined to be a writer.

"I was named after Emily Dickinson and always felt a strong connection to her poetry," said Roll. "When I got older I started writing poetry of my own and later took an extensive experimental acting class and realized that making my poems three dimensional was when I really found my creative voice."

The 3D came as spoken-word stories and poems, a form that the Ann Arbor resident has been exploring since 2012. She recently posted a large body of her work to Bandcamp and it's surprisingly musical -- and not just because she sometimes backs her words with synths and throws in a few cover tunes. Roll's voice invites listeners into her intimate world akin to what a singer does with a ballad.

High School Musical: Civic Theatre’s "Heathers" tackles tough issues with satire

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Ann Arbor Civic Theater's Heathers

Some people remember the carefree days of high school when everyone pulled together as a family to learn and have a great time.

Yeah, and then there were the rest of us, sealed off into our little niches in the social pecking order. High school was a place of snobs, bullies, introverts, social misfits, swaggering athletes, harassed scholars, self-proclaimed social arbiters, and queen bees.

In 1988, Wynona Ryder and Christian Slater starred in a wicked comedy that exposed the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Heathers was a stew of sharp comedy and violent mayhem that still rings true.

In 2014, Heathers, The Musical with music, lyrics, and book by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, opened off-Broadway to excellent reviews and has been a popular choice for theater companies across the country.

Ann Arbor Civic Theater will present Heathers, The Musical at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, June 7-10, under the direction of Ron Baumanis.

Sweet Smell of Success: Michelle Krell Kydd's Smell & Tell celebrates 6 years with a field trip

PULP LIFE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Michelle Krell Kydd

Michelle Krell Kydd is here to say one person's rank stank is another person's memory-jarring concoction that evokes almonds, butterscotch, fresh-cut grass, brown leaves, and lavender soap.

For the past six years, Kydd's hosted Smell & Tell events at the Ann Arbor District Library, teaching attendees how to get in touch with their sense of smell and explore all the wonders -- and horrors -- that come along with being aware of the scents that surround us every day.

In fact, her next Smell & Tell explicitly focuses on this: "Follow Your Nose in the Great Outdoors" has participants walk in the outdoors and whiff smells in the wild at County Farm Park on June 2 and 3.

If you've never been to a Smell & Tell, sign up now -- it's a true treat, guaranteed. Read my recap of her "Brian Eno Smells" event in February to get a sense of Kydd's smarts, humor, and passion. All of those traits come through in our email interview, which also puts her fantastic writing on display. (Read more of her words at glasspetalsmoke.blogspot.com.)

John Gutoskey’s “PULSE Nightclub: 49 Elegies" series honors those murdered in Orlando

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Selections from John Gutoskey's 49 Elegies series

Selections from John Gutoskey's PULSE Nightclub: 49 Elegies series. View them all here.

On June 12, 2016, 49 people died and 53 others wounded when a gunman opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was then the largest mass shooting by a single person in American history. 

John Gutoskey’s PULSE Nightclub: 49 Elegies is a series of monoprints that honor the lives lost at Pulse. The exhibit opens Ypsilanti's 22 North gallery on June 1, the first day of Ypsi Pride events.

Gutoskey has lived in Ann Arbor for many years, and he received his MFA from the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design and has lectured at the University of Michigan on different aspects of costume design. Now he runs his own printmaking studio in Ann Arbor, all the while exhibiting his work at galleries across southeast Michigan and beyond. Gutoskey’s subtle, mixed-media works are filled with color, arresting images, and a deeply introspective quality. I spoke with him about 49 Elegies, his work in general, and the importance of activism in art.

All in the Family: Redbud Productions' "If I Forget" finds the flaws

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Redbud Productions' If I Forget

Family affair: Melissa Stewart, Dave Barker, and Susan Todoroff play siblings who reunite to celebrate their ailing father's birthday.

Ann Arbor's Redbud Productions usually picks the plays it wants to produce via what co-founders Loretta and Tim Grimes discover during their regular trips to New York City. Next spring the group is staging The Herd and its current production is If I Forget. Both plays are about birthday parties, which are supposed to be fun and funny, but they're not.

“We choose a lot of plays about families," says Tim. "Both of these are happy birthday parties that aren’t actually happy.”

No Standard Standards: The Pherotones turn cover songs upside down and inside out

MUSIC INTERVIEW

The Pherotones

Phe-nominal group: (L to R) Ross Huff, special guest Randall Moore, Brennan Andes, Giancarlo Aversa, Michael Shimmin.

Versatility is key to a covers band's success, but The Pherotones' repertoire really takes that idea to the next level. In its Thursday night standing gig at The Last Word, the group puts a jazzy spin on a wild variety of musical eras and genres. A recent show found the group covering material ranging from a jazz standard ("These Foolish Things") to a century-old spiritual/protest song ("Down By the Riverside") to an '80s pop hit ("Everybody Wants to Rule the World") to a classic TV theme (The Muppet Show). 

The Pherotones' catalog rewards a deep and diverse appreciation of popular music in its numerous incarnations, and the band's musical approach to the material is similarly enjoyable. The jaunty arrangements add a dignified but fun twist to familiar tunes, with the whole band shouting out unamplified vocals on some selections. The players themselves form a distinguished local supergroup of sorts. Trumpeter Ross Huff and bassist Brennan Andes are well-known for their roles in The Macpodz (and countless other groups), and drummer Wesley Fritzemeier is known for his more folk-influenced work with the Ben Daniels Band and Thunderwude. Locals may know pianist Giancarlo Aversa for his proficiency in quite a different art: The Last Word's principal bartender. 

Although it's now been over five years since The Pherotones originally got together as Giancarlo and the Wedding Rehearsal Singers, the band's story remains something of a mystery. There's very little publicity on the band and little online record of its work. We tracked down Huff to ask about The Pherotones' origin story, how they've developed their repertoire, and how they respond to audience requests.

Musical Religion: Corey Strong reflects on the spiritual power of songs

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Corey Strong

Corey Strong is a classically trained adult contemporary/pop singer and songwriter with a rich baritone voice. He has released two albums so far -- Believer and It’s Christmas -- but Strong recently underwent a musical transition, from singing inspirational music to transferring over to the pop market.

Strong, who's a longtime friend, performs at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library on May 30 at 7 pm. I sat down for an interview with the multiple times nominated Detroit Music Award artist and we talked about many things, including his new single, Moments, which features the songs "Bring Him Home" and "Baby Mine." 

The Lucky Nows celebrate their debut album at The Ark

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The Luck Nows

Jen Cass has been developing a following as a singer-songwriter dating back to appearances at The Ark’s open mic night while she was a student at the University of Michigan. Since then she’s released three albums and done a considerable number of live shows.

But in 2013, she started dating fellow musician Eric Janetsky, and naturally, they started performing music together. That was the start of The Lucky Nows, which started as a duo but evolved into a full band. Now they are releasing Rise, their debut album as a group, complete with a release party at The Ark on May 31 -- which also happens to be the couple’s fourth wedding anniversary.

Scott W. Stern on Sex, Surveillance, and Suppression in "The Trials of Nina McCall"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Scott Stern, The Trials of Nina McCall

You've probably never heard of the American Plan. It isn't something that is talked about in most college history classes or in high schools’ curricula. The name sounds benign at first glance -- maybe it was a plan to help Americans overcome some obstacle or temporary setback in life?

Except it wasn't.

The American Plan allowed local municipalities, law enforcement, and health agencies to round up women suspected of having sexually transmitted infections (STIs), assumed to be prostitutes, or just considered “promiscuous” and throw them in jail to "treat" them. The women rarely received the benefit of due process and were often imprisoned for years, exploited and subject to abuse.

Playwright Joseph Zettelmaier takes center stage with three regional productions

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Joseph Zettlemaier

Joseph Zettelmaier is a busy man.

The playwright teaches at Eastern Michigan University, is executive director of a theater company, and will soon have three of his numerous plays on stage locally.   

Northville’s Tipping Point Theatre production of Northern Aggression opened May 17; The Roustabout Theatre Troupe production of All Childish Things opens May 31 in Milan; and The Penny Seats Theatre production of The Gravedigger: A Frankenstein Play opens June 14 in Ann Arbor. 

Zettelmaier has written more than a score of plays that have been staged regionally and as far away as Calgary, Alberta, and Dublin, Ireland. He’s written comedies, dramas, science fiction, mysteries, and horror.  

“I am an insatiably curious human being,” Zettelmaier said. “I have these little rules I’ve come up with for myself as a writer and one is never tell the same story twice and another is if you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not challenging your audience either.”