Protect Your Neck: Author, throat puncher Jen Mann hosts a moms' night out at AADL


Jen Mann

Jen Mann's publishing career began when a blog post about Elf on the Shelf mania went viral.

When you put the wrong date in your calendar for an interview with Jen Mann, the blogger/author behind People I Want to Punch in the Throat, you kind of fear that you’ll be added to the list.

But Mann -- who will be coming to the downtown library for a moms’ night out event on Wednesday, October 11 at 7 pm, as part of a book tour to promote her latest humorous essay collection, Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat -- couldn’t have been more understanding, despite her famously feisty, tell-it-like-it-is persona.

Cantina Jams: A2SO plays the music of "Star Wars"


A2SO Star Wars

Return of the Jedis: Last year's A2SO Star Wars concerts were sold-out affairs, so the symphony brought them back.

Not so long ago -- last year, to be precise -- in a venue that’s close, close by, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (A2SO) played two sold-out concerts featuring John Williams’ music from the Harry Potter films. The audience response was so enthusiastic that A2SO immediately started making plans to perform two concerts featuring Star Wars music, and those concerts will happen Saturday night and Sunday afternoon (October 7-8) at the Michigan Theater.

“We were so overwhelmed (last year) ... and the audience, some of whom had never seen a live symphony concert before, told us that the music evoked powerful images for them, even though there was no visual component accompanying the music,” said A2SO conductor Arie Lipsky. “They also told us that they’d never thought that music had played such a vital role in the movies, and they thanked us for highlighting the music on its own. So many said, ‘Now we’re hooked on seeing live symphony orchestra shows,’ and we responded by investing in music from all the Star Wars movies.”

Visceral Violence: "Sweeney Todd" is Encore Theatre's finest production yet


Sweeney Todd at The Encore Musical Theatre Company by Michele Anliker Photography

Director/choreographer Matthew Brennan brings a distinctive vision to Sondheim's Sweeney Todd at The Encore Musical Theatre Company. Photo by Michele Anliker Photography.

In 2015, I pronounced Into the Woods to be Encore Theatre’s strongest overall production since the Dexter company opened its doors in 2009.

Well, move over, Into the Woods. There’s a new Sondheim show in town, and when it opened on Friday night, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street quickly established itself as the best thing yet to happen on Encore’s modest, black-box stage.

America's librarian, Nancy Pearl, penned her own novel for the stacks


Nancy Pearl

NPR regular Nancy Pearl wrote her debut novel after longing for the "perfect thing to read."

Nancy Pearl -- coming to Nicola’s Books on Wednesday, October 4 at 7 pm to talk about her new novel, George & Lizzie -- may be the only person in America who could be referred to as a “celebrity librarian.”

For she’s regularly featured on NPR, where she recommends and discusses books; and she was the model for a librarian action figure that boasts “amazing shushing action!”

But locals who’ve heard Pearl on the radio may not realize that she has deep local roots. Though she now calls Seattle home, Pearl grew up in Detroit and studied library science at the University of Michigan.

After cancelled flights, Darlingside hit the road to sing harmonies for The Ark



Real-close harmonies. Photo of Darlingside at The Ark by Andy Rogers.

In order to play at The Ark’s nearly sold-out fall fundraiser on Sunday night, Darlingside had to skedaddle out of Kansas City after a show on Saturday night. The Boston-based quartet packed into a minivan with its sound engineer and drove through much of the night.

This hadn’t been the original plan, but the sudden appearance of a 200-mile-wide storm system meant that Darlingside's flights, scheduled several months earlier, weren’t going to happen. “So we arrived in Ann Arbor this morning, badly in need of a shower,” confessed cellist/guitarist Harris Paseltiner.

Warm, interactive "Every Brilliant Thing" addresses depression and its fallout


Every Brilliant Thing

Every Brilliant Thing takes an openly candid --and frequently humorous -- approach to addressing depression.

There’s a moment in Duncan Macmillan’s play Every Brilliant Thing -- a University Musical Society presentation of the U.K.’s Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company production -- that straight-up gave me chills.

For actor/comedian Jonny Donahoe, playing the son of a woman struggling mightily with depression, briefly discusses how suicide tends to beget more suicide, and that the year after Marilyn Monroe killed herself, the rate of suicide in the U.S. rose by 12 percent.

Why did this pronouncement split the air in the Arthur Miller Theatre like a lightning bolt?

A2CT's “Seussical, the Musical” will transport viewers to a magic kingdom


Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents Seussical, the Musical

Rob Roy and Eric VanWasshnova in SeussicalM, which takes aesthetic inspiration from a Disney Cruise restaurant. Photo: Lisa Gavan | Gavan Photo

The fanciful world of Dr. Seuss will come to life on the Mendelssohn Theater stage this weekend when Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents Seussical, the Musical

“We were looking for a family fare kind of show,” said director Denyse Clayton. “Most every show for families is a ‘feel good’ show, but in the particular political climate we’re living in now, I think that to buy a ticket and go someplace magical to escape it all for a while feels particularly good.”

Leave the Kids at Home: Grown Folks Story Time at BookBound


Grown Folks Story Time

Clockwise from the upper left: Ken MacGregor, Patti F. Smith, and David Pratt will kick off the first Grown Folks Story Time on August 24.

As adults, we often forget how pleasurable it can be shut everything off, stop talking for a while, and just listen to someone read a story out loud.

But Ann Arbor educator -- and frequent Pulp contributor -- Patti F. Smith remembered that childhood joy while skimming local event listings.

“There were all these different storytimes for children, and I thought about how much I loved story time as a kid when I was in school,” she said, adding that she then noticed that a group of young Detroiters “had an event that had interesting people reading interesting things. I went to it, and a woman -- not an author -- brought a book she just really liked, a memoir, and read some quick little lines from it. There was a brunch with mimosas, and it was just a lovely event. It wasn’t political, it wasn’t deep, it only lasted about an hour, but it just made me remember that it’s really, really nice to be read to. So I thought, well, why not have something in Ann Arbor?”

With this in mind, Smith has planned Grown Folks Story Time at BookBound on Thursday, August 24, at 7 pm. The theme is “childhood,” since the three participants will read from books they loved as kids.

Ann Arbor in Concert’s "Spring Awakening" was lovely and heartbreaking


Ira Glass

Spring Awakening rehearsal photos by John McCarthy.

For a few moments during Ann Arbor in Concert’s production of Spring Awakening on Saturday night at the Power Center, all the heightened hormonal chaos, longing, joy, freedom, and frustration of adolescence was on resplendent display.

The number, which I’ll politely refer to “Totally F-ed,” arrives late in the Tony-winning stage musical, and in the words of Rohit Gopal (who played Moritz) during the talkback, “It’s a banger.” The entire cast embodies revolt through song, and at one point Christopher Campbell’s deft choreography clearly dictates that each performer “rock out on your own as the spirit moves you.”

And boy, does the overall effect work.

Controversy and Comedy: Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2017


Michigan Shakespeare Festival, The Taming of the Shrew

Michigan Shakespeare Festival's The Taming of the Shrew deals with the play's misogny without major script changes.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s board votes on the plays for a specific season -- pitched by MSF’s Producing Artistic Director Janice L. Blixt -- 18 months in advance of the curtain being raised.

So in early 2016, when MSF’s board voted to approve Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, and Chekhov’s The Seagull for 2017 (the season kicks off in Jackson on July 6), the company had no idea that it would be staging Caesar shortly after New York Public Theater’s production of the play (which depicted Caesar as Donald Trump) made national headlines and drew protestors.

“I expected Shrew to be the controversial show, where I’d be fielding questions like, ‘How are you dealing with the misogyny?’” said Blixt.