Red Scare: Glenn Frankel's "High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic"

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Glenn Frankel, High Noon

Glenn Frankel's book recounts the Red Scare surrounding High Noon.

Each year we hear about how political the Oscars are, but this may have never been truer than in 1953 when [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1183109|High Noon] scored big with critics and moviegoers the year before (and earned seven nominations), but also found itself in the crosshairs of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

“There was a campaign to make sure (High Noon screenwriter Carl Foreman) didn’t win, because that would be too embarrassing,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel, who just published [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1505202|High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic].

Frankel [http://www.aadl.org/node/356761|will talk about his latest book] at the Westgate branch of the Ann Arbor District Library on Friday, June 23 from 7-8:30 pm.

Penny Seats' light and funny "Renaissance Man" is a theatrical amuse-bouche

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Penny Seats Theatre Company, The Renaissance Man

Toil and trouble mixes with fun and weird love in Penny Seats Theatre Company's The Renaissance Man.

The resistance wears elf ears.

At least, it does in Joseph Zettelmaier’s [http://www.pennyseats.org/event/679cefa08bab2c2a134ca896cbbeffd8|Renaissance Man], now having its world premiere via Penny Seats Theatre.

A riff on Macbeth and staged outdoors -- at West Park, in front of the band shell -- Renaissance tells the story of behind-the-scenes unrest at a fictional Renaissance festival called Gloriana. Longtime knight Martin Mackabee (Patrick Loos) and art school dropout/face painter Emma Murtz (Kelly Rose Voigt) connect partly through their shared frustration that the fair is not more historically accurate, and bristle against the inclusion of anachronisms like drench-a-wench, elves, leather corset vendors, gypsy fortunetellers, and turkey legs. Gloriana’s benevolent, permissive “king,” Chuck Duncan (Robert Schorr), earns the pair’s scorn, and Emma takes action, entrapping Chuck so that he must resign from Gloriana.

Rhiannon Giddens brought tough truths and stunning songs to the Power Center

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Artists have a long history of transforming pain (communal or personal) into something beautiful -- and right now, no one does that better than celebrated roots musician [http://www.rhiannongiddens.com|Rhiannon Giddens], who played an [http://a2sf.org|Ann Arbor Summer Festival] main stage show at the Power Center on Wednesday night.

Giddens, who first drew mainstream attention as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and now appears on the TV drama [http://abc.go.com/shows/nashville|Nashville], opened Wednesday’s two-hour set with her haunting take on Bob Dylan’s “Spanish Mary,” during which Giddens’ gorgeous vocal storytelling countered the song’s heavy, thumping drumbeat; and “The Love We Almost Had,” a jaunty chronicle of longing and regret that Giddens concluded with some grade-A scatting.

Pink Martini brought fearless musical exploration to the Power Center

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If you’re at a concert, and during the course of the evening, one of the performers says, “That last song was in Turkish, and this next song is in Armenian,” it’s a pretty sure bet you’re seeing world music super-group [http://pinkmartini.com|Pink Martini]. (Lucky you!)

A sold-out crowd packed the Power Center on Tuesday night to see the 11-member, Oregon-based band, which filled the second slot in this year’s Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage season after [http://pulp.aadl.org/node/361326|Diana Krall kicked things off] last week.

Diana Krall kicked off Ann Arbor Summer Festival with a night of sensuous songs

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Diana Krall

Diana Krall had "the best seat in the house" on Tuesday at Hill.

Chart-topping jazz pianist/singer [http://www.dianakrall.com|Diana Krall] kicked off the [http://a2sf.org|Ann Arbor Summer Festival]’s main stage season on Tuesday night by making the nearly packed 3,500 seat Hill Auditorium feel as intimate and cozy as The Bird of Paradise.

That long-gone Main St. jazz club, which closed in 2004 after nearly 20 years in business, hosted performances from Krall early in her career (which she mentioned early in the evening); and I’m likely not the only one who had flashbacks of being in that smaller space again as Krall opened Tuesday night’s show with her fun, flirty take on “‘Deed I Do,” and then, shortly after, applied delicate, quiet keystrokes on the Nat King Cole hit “L.O.V.E.” – a song featured on Krall’s latest album, Turn Up the Quiet just released in May.

Not a Drag: Theatre Nova's "The Legend of Georgia McBride" is charming

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Theatre Nova, The Legend of Georgia McBride

Nick Yocum stars as Casey and Georgia McBride and Vince Kelley as Miss Tracy Mills in Theatre Nova's The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Brandy Joe Plambeck.

Sometimes, when you’re down and out, you have to pull yourself up not by your bootstraps, but by a pair of sparkly platform heels.

As least, that’s one way to read Matthew Lopez’s comedy [https://www.facebook.com/events/1477363845619972|The Legend of Georgia McBride], which opens at Theatre Nova Friday.

The play -- which premiered in New York in September 2015 -- tells the tale of an Elvis impersonator, Casey, who performs regularly at a failing bar in Panama City, Florida. Just as Casey’s wife learns that the couple will soon be parents, Casey finds himself in professional freefall: the bar’s owner has hired drag performers to see if they can help turn the bar’s fortunes around. But when one of the new hires faints before going on stage, Casey finds himself reluctantly filling in, only to discover that he’s not so bad at drag.

A guide to the 2017 Cinetopia Film Festival

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Though most of us don’t sense a strong link between the auto and film industries, Michigan Theater executive director and CEO Russ Collins pointed out that the two essentially grew up together.

“In 1922, when Hollywood was deciding whether it would be based in New York or California, Ford Motor Company became one of the largest distributors of movies of anywhere in the world,” said Collins, at a recent press conference for the sixth annual [http://www.cinetopiafestival.org|Cinetopia Film Festival], which happens June 1-11 in various Ann Arbor and Detroit locales.

“Ford distributed so many educational films and newsreels that Detroit was second only to Hollywood in terms of the amount of film shot and processed. So it’s an art form that Detroit has long held dear," Collins said, "and it’s deeply built into this community, which is why we’re so happy to bring the world’s cinema passion back here to Detroit.”

Temptation: Yale prof Richard Prum on “The Evolution of Beauty" at AADL

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Richard Prum

For the birds: Richard Prum's new book documents his avian studies on mate choices in the animal world.

Yale ornithology professor [http://prumlab.yale.edu|Richard Prum] did his graduate work at U-M in the 1980s, but the two places where he spent much of his leisure time no longer exist.

“The Del Rio was a great place,” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Prum|Prum] said of the beloved bar that stood at Ashley and Washington for more than 30 years. "And I went to Borders, back when it was the only one in the whole world. It was such a great bookstore. I remember going to Borders and deliberately leaving my wallet in my office. Not that I ever had much money in it, anyway, but I didn’t want to be tempted.”

Temptation, as it happens, plays no small role in the former MacArthur “genius” fellow’s new book, [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1510080|The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World -- and Us], which he will discuss at the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown Branch on Thursday, May 18, at 7 pm. The book argues that mate choice in the natural world is often driven by a subjective desire for beauty instead of more pragmatic considerations, thereby complicating the long-held notion that natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life.

String Theory: Jas Obrecht is “Talking Guitar” at Nicola’s Books

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Jas Obrecht, Talking Guitar, Eddie Van Halen

Jas Obrecht and some guy in Van Halen.

Longtime professional music journalist [http://jasobrecht.com|Jas Obrecht] regularly tells his Washtenaw Community College creative writing students a story from early in his career.

[http://www.aadl.org/catalog/search/author/Jas%20Obrecht|Obrecht] was sent by Guitar Player magazine to a music festival to interview Canadian rock guitarist Pat Travers, who, flanked by two young women while snorting cocaine off a mirror in his dressing room, sent Obrecht away. Obrecht stumbled upon a basketball hoop and ball, and after a few minutes of taking shots, a wiry young guy approached and asked to play.

That guy was Eddie Van Halen, who’d recently released Van Halen’s debut, self-titled album; and Obrecht found a new subject for his article.

"Remnants" uses survivor stories to educate about the Holocaust

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Henry (“Hank”) Greenspan

Henry (“Hank”) Greenspan collected survivor stories for his one-man play Remnants.

U-M professor [http://www.henrygreenspan.com|Henry (“Hank”) Greenspan] likes to talk -- and thank goodness for that.

Greenspan has spent 40 years interviewing (and re-interviewing) Holocaust survivors, and from that trove of oral histories he compiled a radio-play-turned-one-man-show called [http://www.henrygreenspan.com/work2.htm|Remnants], which [http://www.aadl.org/node/357091|he’ll perform] on Monday, May 8, at the downtown library. He put together the radio play in the early '90s, using material he first started collecting for his dissertation in the 1970s.

“The first thing I did was call rabbis who had congregations in the Southeast Michigan and Toledo area,” said Greenspan, who noted that doing survivor interviews was an uncommon practice at that time. “They’d tell people, ‘This guy from U of M wants to interview survivors.’ So initially I’d used the rabbis as matchmakers, but that quickly became unnecessary because things snowballed. People would say to me, in the middle of an interview, ‘You have to talk to my friend Zoli.’ … So I’d make an appointment to talk with Zoli, and one person led to another.”