AAFF 2017 | Amazing Stories: "Following Seas" & more


[https://prod3.agileticketing.net/WebSales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=27007… Seas]
Amazing Stories | Features in Competition
My dad often bemoans the lack of color in today’s movies. Back in the day, he says, the colors were more vibrant and jumped out at you from the screen. The reds were deeper, the yellows brighter, and the blues like the color of the ocean. If Dad was not in Florida enjoying a well-deserved retirement, I would insist that he come to the screening of Following Seas. Filmed by the Griffith family on their epic around the world adventures in the '60s and '70s, the ocean blue smacks you in the face and you are happy to let it do so.

Bob and Nancy Griffith met while on their respective boats in Honolulu Harbor. A successful veterinarian, Bob retired early to fulfill a lifelong dream of sailing the world. He and Nancy fell in love, married, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime all the while shooting film and still pictures to document their travels.

The Following Seas documentary by Tyler Kelley and Araby Williams highlights the family's voyages with their young child on the Ahwahnee boat.

The Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon aims to balance the scales


Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

There will be no shouting at the Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon (because it's being held in a library, shhhh).

Women comprise about 51% of the country’s population. But according to the [https://wikimediafoundation.org|Wikimedia Foundation], they make up less than 13% of Wikipedia's contributors.

Fortunately, some folks aim to change that.

On Saturday, March 11, the University of Michigan Library, in conjunction with UMMA and the Ann Arbor District Library, will present the [https://events.umich.edu/event/38826|Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon] from 12-5 pm at the Shapiro Design Lab in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. The event started in 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and has grown to include over 175 satellite locations.

Ann Arbor organizer Meghan Sitar stressed the need for women-focused editing: “After Wikimedia reported that less than 10% of contributors identified as female, Wikipedia set a goal of increasing that number to 25% by 2015. That didn’t seem to happen, so what you have is a gender bias in what is covered."

Men and women really do see the world through disparate points of view, and those divergences show up in Wikipedia entries.

Wild Swan Theater's family concert truly is "An Afternoon of Ann Arbor’s Best" -- and its plays are pretty fun, too


Wild Swan Theater's Sandy Ryder

Wild Swan Theater's Hilary Cohen and Sandy Ryder are all propped up.

Sandy Ryder represents some of the best things about Ann Arbor. She's someone who came to town for school, never left, and then went on to create businesses and good works that she has generously shared with the community for decades.

After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in theater, Ryder taught, worked as a clown and a mime, and did improv with a children’s theater group. In 1979, she started Say Cheese Cheesecakes bakery (which [http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews/2008/08/owners_closing_say_cheese_sh…|closed in 2006] under different owners). Then in 1980, she cofounded [https://www.facebook.com/Wild.Swan.Theater|Wild Swan Theater] with Hilary Cohen.

Over the past 27 years, Wild Swan has distinguished itself as a place for all people, especially children with disabilities.

“My favorite thing is to have everything accessible -- workshops, traveling shows, everything," Ryder said. "We have ASL shadowed into the show, kids with visual impairments can come to a touch tour on stage. Everyone can share the experience together, everyone can enjoy the play.”

Mystery Summit: Loren Estleman, Doug Allyn, and Laura Joh Rowland at the AADL


Loren Estleman

Loren Estleman is very serious ... about writing good books.

It was a dark and stormy night as the attendees huddled in the library basement to hear three mystery writers talk about their new books. As the first author began to speak, thunder crashed, the lights went out, and a scuffle broke out in the dark. When the lights returned, the entire audience was kidnapped!

OK, I should probably keep my day job and leave the mystery writing to the professionals. Lucky for us, Michigan is the birthplace of some of the best mystery writers in the country and three of them -- Loren Estleman, Doug Allyn, and Laura Joh Rowland -- are [http://www.aadl.org/node/352520v|appearing at the Ann Arbor District Library's Downtown branch on Friday, March 3].

Niceland and Forest Art House Are Using the Old Tiny Buddha Space for Pop-Up Art Events



Niceland popped-up a weekend of art, including this forest faun mask by Lavinia Hanachiuc. Photo by Patti Smith.

Art is everywhere in this town; you just need to know where to look. The [https://www.facebook.com/events/1865463850355805|Niceland art show], a pop-up exhibit that took place last weekend, is a perfect example of how tucked away spaces can be transformed into showrooms for painters and sculptors.

The Tiny Buddha Boutique was previously above [http://totoroannarbor.com|Totoro] at 213 S. State Street. But the shop, which specializes in yoga wear, recently moved to a new location inside [http://www.baboannarbor.com|Babo] in the Nichols Arcade, though Tiny Buddha still has rights at the moment to use the old space.

"We wanted to take advantage of the space while it is available," said artist Helen Gotlib (sister of Tiny Buddha Boutique owner Risa Gotlib) to display works by local artists.

That led to the Niceland art show, which ran February 10-13. The show featured work from local artists Dylan Strzynski, Lavinia Hanachiuc, and Gotlib.

Ignite the Dance: FUSE teaches everybody how to boogie


FUSE's Mark Carpenter

Mark Carpenter gets everybody dancing.

They say you should dance like no one is watching. But sometimes it's helpful to be aware of your audience -- especially if they're master dance instructors.

[http://markandkelly.dance|Mark Carpenter] of Mountain View, California, and [https://www.facebook.com/TheMan0512|Barry Douglas] of Detroit will be in Ann Arbor from February 3-5 as part of [https://www.facebook.com/events/1251583318233297|FUSE], teaching dance classes for beginners and experts alike. Put on by [http://aactmad.org|Ann Arbor Community of Traditional Music and Dance] (AACTMAD) and [https://www.facebook.com/A2Fusion|A2 Fusion], the FUSE weekend includes instruction in fusion, blues, West Coast swing, and hustle as well as plenty of dance parties to test out your moves.

The AACTMAD page describes fusion as an “improvised lead-follow approach to dancing to any style of music that does not have a strictly defined dance aesthetic.” It incorporates a variety of styles to connect your movements with your partner’s movements and can either combine established dance styles or create an entirely unique dance experience.

“My version of fusion is a combination of dance styles and techniques," Carpenter said, "more than it is a dance in its own right, as in a basic step and mode of connection.”

Review: We Came, We Drank, We Polka Danced: It’s Oktoberfest Time in the City!


Das Boot // The Brat Pack / Photos by Kevin Sharp

Das Boot // The Brat Pack / Photos by Kevin Sharp

Even before I changed careers and became a teacher, fall has always felt like the “new year” to me. The weather changes, the trees look different and pretty, people buy new school clothes and there’s just a general feeling of settling into a new routine. And it's Oktoberfest time!

Every year, [http://www.arborbrewing.com|Arbor Brewing Company] closes down Washington Street and throws the party of all parties with brats, German potato salad, an Oom-pah Band, and of course, plenty of beer. Thirsty patrons, some decked out in lederhosen and dirndls, enjoyed the four beers on tap this year: Euchre Pilsner, Olde #22 German Alt, Festbier, and the Oktoberfest marzen.

The first Oktoberfest beer that I ever had was from the late [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_Bros.|Leopold Brothers] in Ann Arbor. The deliciousness of their beer prompted me to investigate more. A classic Oktoberfest should be malty but not overly sweet; have a light to moderate toasty malt aroma; low to moderate hop bitterness; and an overall smooth, clean, and rich malty character. Arbor’s Oktoberfest fit the bill perfectly. It was the choice of Events and Marketing Manager Elizabeth Cain-Toth. “It’s my personal favorite, perfectly balanced with spicy hops and sweet malts.”

Festbier, the newest beer, hit all the right notes. Made with paler grains and more hops than the marzen, this lager was crisp and clean all the way through. In addition to the two other beers, Oktoberfesters could also enjoy red wine or hot, spiced cider. [http://www.immigrantsons.com|Immigrant Sons] brought the music, playing German drinking songs, top 40 hits, and polkas.

As a special treat this year, two liters of beer were available for the taking if one bought an Oktoberfest “boot”. Beer boots began as a military hazing ritual, and they used actual boots to drink from! The tradition came to America along with the GIs returning from World War II. The boots are now made from plastic or glass, but the drinking remains the same. There are some rules to follow when drinking from the boot, including that one must pass the boot clockwise, one must drink again if one is splashed, and whomever lets the boot touch the table buys the next boot. (None of these rules were abided by me, because I got the brilliant idea of scooping beer out like it was a punchbowl. That sort of worked).

If you missed it, you can still enjoy the beers on tap at Arbor Brewing Company. Get a brat and create your own, private Oktoberfest -- but without the lederhosen, unless you are reallllly into it. Prost!

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. Visit her at [http://pattifsmith.com|PattiFSmith.com] or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

WordFest Review: Variety is the Spice of Life!


WordFest Review: Variety is the Spice of Life!

WordFest brought a variety of shows to the Ann Arbor Civic Theater stage.

Variety shows were a huge part of my childhood - Sonny & Cher, Sha Na Na, even Lawrence Welk - I especially loved Welk’s accordions, although the rest of my family gently teased me about this. These were the shows that we watched in my family. They offered enough variety (as the name promises) to entertain my Silent Generation grandparents, Baby Boomer parents, and a young me. Thus, it was an absolute pleasure to see a live variety show at the Ann Arbor Civic Theater this past Saturday!

WordFest One: A Spoken Word Variety Show was the brainchild of Lyn Davidge. Davidge says she made her stage debut at age 61 with six lines in an Ann Arbor Civic Theater play. She then met other actors and playwrights, and became fascinated with “how all the spoken art forms complement and contrast with each other, and how different artists had different ‘takes’ on their particular art form.” Conversations with her fellow artists inspired Davidge to put on an independent show. “My wish to do a variety show just evolved. I had time this summer, and just decided to do it!” Davidge said.

The sold-out event began with a charming story from Davidge, about her grandfather who made and sold rat poison all around the greater Midwest. Poet and storyteller Bob Brill followed up with a “flash fiction” (a story less than 1,000 words) story about a dying man who revisits some key moments of his life. Bob’s genuine, authentic voice gave so much to this story that I really began to believe that the man ran off to chase the moon with his five-year old self.

The last act in the first half was the reading of an original play by Glen Modell called Death of a Poet. This play also dealt with death, but in such a way that I felt hopeful and full of life. An elderly poet is finishing a poem and needs just a little bit of help, which comes in the forms of the human embodiments of other poems he has written throughout his lifetime. They—and the millions of other poems written throughout history—are all waiting for him once he finished that last line. Performers included Dave Keren, Glen Modell, Sanders Hamson, Susan Klein, Lorelle Otis, Jean Leverich, and Marilyn Scott.

The second half opened with stand-up comedy by improv actor Andy Jentzen. If you know Andy, then you know there were plenty of Santa Claus jokes mixed in. Next was a monologue written by Lori Reece and performed by Jean Leverich. This poignant and witty piece, Professor Parker on Pot, dealt with a professor whose first experience with marijuana coincided with her terminal illness. Lastly, the revue featured a play by Steve Daut, a riff on our reality show obsessed society that asked “so, who wants to elect a president?” The humorous one-act featured Don Pardo, played by Andy Jentzen, Bill Rodman, played by Dave Keren, Penny Salin played by Susan Klein, Clio Hill played by Lorelle Otis, and the narrator played by Sanders Hamson. We eventually got a president, but there were some fun twists and turns along the way!

WordFest One was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, just like the way I used to watch Lawrence Welk every weekend—and not an accordion in sight!

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. Visit her at www.PattiFSmith.com or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

Preview: Dancing in the Streets on 9/4


They're dancin' in Ann Arbor.

They're dancin' in Ann Arbor. / Photo from [https://sites.google.com/site/grfolkarts/dance|The Grand River Folk Arts Society]

As a kid, I flunked jazz, tap, and ballet. I could never quite get the hang of a shuffle or a step-ball-change. And forget the ballet positions. As an adult, I tried taking ballroom dancing, and while I didn’t flunk out, I still wasn’t able to master the one-two-three rhythm without stepping on my partner’s feet.

So I figured that dancing just wasn’t in the cards for me, until a few years ago when I happened to be in downtown Ann Arbor on the Sunday before Labor Day. The streets were blocked off and people were dancing in them. But these weren’t any dances I had ever seen before: someone was calling out the steps, minimal hopping around, and there certainly weren’t any chassés with jazz hands.

While I was standing there, someone asked if I wanted to do the dance. Immediately I told him that I couldn’t dance. He asked if I could walk. Um, yeah. “Then you can do this,” said my new friend. “Come on!”

And dance friend was right—if you can walk, you can do these dances! I later found out that the style of dance I was doing was called an English Country Dance. In this type of dance, the caller tells you to do things like take hands with your partner, turn all the way around, or skip up four steps. I followed the caller’s directions and sure enough, I was dancing! When I asked my dance partner what this wondrous event was, he told me it was called Dancing in the Streets because, well, that is literally what everyone was doing.

Lucky for all of us wannabe dancers, this event takes place every Sunday before Labor Day—September 4th this year!

If the English dance doesn’t get your toes tapping, there are many other fun things to do! There will be three Maypole dances, several swing dance lessons, and concerts from local acts including Annie and Rod Capps, Blue Caledonia, and Commonwealth Collective.

The North Main stage features the international dances where dancers can receive lessons in the dances of North Africa and the Middle East, belly dancing, flamenco dancing, and international folk dance; performances will follow the instruction.

The stage on East Washington showcases Anglo-American dances such as the Scottish dances, contras, and English Country.

With this much variety, there is something for everyone! Even for those of us who still can’t do a plié.

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. Visit her at www.PattiFSmith.com or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

Dancing in the Streets will take place in downtown Ann Arbor on Sunday, September 4 from 1:30-6:30 pm.

Sing, Sing a Song: Ann Arbor's Community Sing


Sing, Sing a Song: Ann Arbor's Community Sing

U of M's Men's Glee Club demonstrates the value of community singing outside of Hill Auditorium, January 1959. Image from [http://oldnews.aadl.org/N032_0011_010|Old News].

There are songs that move your soul, songs that make you want to dance, songs that fill your heart. But what about singing? Can singing—especially in a group—really make a difference in your life?

The answer to that question is a harmonious “yes!” Numerous studies indicate that singing changes our brains, both calming and energizing us. A 2013 [http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/16/singing-changes-your-brain/|article in Time Magazine] described group singing as the “perfect tranquilizer, (one) that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in one of the many community sings that have cropped up around our state, including one right here in Ann Arbor. Since last November, people of all different vocal abilities have been gathering at the [http://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/parks-places/senior-c…|Ann Arbor Senior Center] in Burns Park on the first Sunday of the month at 7 pm to belt out tunes ranging from Woody Guthrie to Bill Withers.

As someone who was kicked out of my high school choir class, I was a bit reluctant to attend. The ad said that it welcomed anyone—whether you sang in a choir or in your shower. Since I most definitely do the latter (with a rousing selection of [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/search/author/barry%20manilow?search_format… Manilow] songs), I decided to give it a try; I was put at ease almost immediately.

“How many of you were told to just mouth the words?” song leader Matt Watroba asked at the beginning of class. Since I technically was told that it was better to just mouth the words as my choir teacher was signing the slip to move me to a drama class, I raised my hand. Watroba then said the words that I didn’t know I needed to hear, “That’s nonsense. Anyone can sing.”

And Watroba knows a thing or two about singing. A singer, teacher, founding member of the National Folk Alliance, writer, former host of WDET’s Folks Like Us, frequent performer at The Ark—Watroba has contributed to the musical landscape of our country in ways that most of us can only dream of. Recently, he has focused his energies on community sings.

Inspired by the words of Pete Seeger, who said he always intended to put songs on people’s lips, Watroba set out to create and host these magical gatherings. The idea is simple—gather together, share songs, and sing. Even if you have been told you should transfer out of choir class immediately and go back to drama class. Singing is the “perfect excuse” to get offline and get back in touch with the healing brought about by being in a community.

Even after a few songs, I feel better. Research studies confirm this, finding that singing contributes to the quality of lives and lowers stress. It is considered an aerobic activity in that improves circulation by increasing oxygen in the blood. Singing also requires deep breathing, which is a key to most relaxation techniques. And honestly, it is hard to worry about your job when you are concentrating on the lyrics to some of the most beautiful songs ever written.
But why does singing, especially with others, affect us this way? Some researchers believe it may come from the endorphins and oxytocin that are released when we sing. The former hormone is related to feelings of pleasure; the latter enhances feelings of trust and bonding. Another study posited that singing is our “evolutionary reward” for working together cooperatively, rather than trying to fix something on our own.

The benefits of being in a group are also innumerable—the sense of belonging and acceptance, the absence of loneliness, the act of being welcomed. The Community Sing groups are especially welcoming, in that you don’t have to audition, and you don’t even have to be able to carry a tune.

So whether you are a trained opera singer, someone who rocks out to 80s hair bands in your car, or yes, even someone who has been asked to lip-sync in a choir, join us for our next Community Sing on August 7 at 7 pm at the Ann Arbor Senior Center. You will never be asked to just mouth the words!

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. She wishes she had even an ounce of musical talent so that she could join the Civic Band! Visit her at www.PattiFSmith.com or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

The [https://www.riseupandsing.org/singalongsongcircle/a2-community-sing|Community Sing] takes place Sunday, August 7 at 7 pm at the Ann Arbor Senior Center at 1320 Baldwin Ave. There is a $5 participation fee.