Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The art of storytelling with Carmen Agra Deedy

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Carmen Agra Deedy
  • Carmen Agra Deedy

It takes true skill to tell a 45-minute story and never lose your listeners' attention. Carmen Agra Deedy succeeded in this task on September 24 at the Storytelling Arts of Indiana's season opener, “Mama Mia!” Deedy shared the bill with Donald Davis; I'll talk about his performances on Friday.

The crowd was much smaller than I was expecting; the theater in the Indiana History Center (450 W. Ohio Street) was only about half-full. It made the evening more intimate and rows of blocked-off seats allowed me to sit close enough to the stage to see the performers' expressions — paramount, I soon discovered — but I was still surprised that more people weren't partaking of the evening.

Deedy excelled at relating to her audience. She asked that the house lights stay on and repeatedly addressed the crowd, which broke down any barrier between us. She spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl, and flew between various accents throughout her story, including her mother’s thick Cuban and a nasal voice to indicate herself as a child, and wove in plenty of sound effects. (My favorite was the rapid-fire duh-duh-duh-duh to indicate a table being opened to make space for a leaf.) Most importantly, she laughed at her own stories. Halfway through one of them, she revealed that a mean girl her mother had forced to play with as a child was actually her cousin. Moving from creative nonfiction to outright truth didn’t hurt at all, especially because Deedy kept switching from the girl’s pseudonym to her real name and cracking up the audience. The icing on the cupcake was that Deedy’s equally-mean aunt had allegedly not given her niece a good gift in 40 years, especially after finding out her daughter was the subject of one of the stories sweeping the country.

The performance was so well done that I was disappointed Deedy was only going to tell one story. That’s when I realized how much time had passed. Catch up with Deedy via her website and know that I am compelled, by the power of the pun, to say yes inDeedy, I am a fan.

Visit for information about upcoming performances.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

An Evening with Eric Ripert (and Anthony Bourdain)

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 2:15 PM

If you haven’t heard yet, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert are coming to Clowes Memorial Hall in just a few days. Most excitement for the event has been focused on Bourdain, which doesn’t entirely surprise me.

His part in the 21st century revolution of street food lovers is considerable. What’s more, he’s captured American audiences’ hearts with his nonchalant coolness. More than that, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to food.

What’s slightly disappointing is how little is being said about Monsieur Ripert, who is just as big and dare I say, bigger in the culinary world than Bourdain. He began his remarkable career at La Tour d’Argent, one of the oldest and most revered restaurants in Paris when he was just 19. After working as Sous Chef at the Watergate Hotel, he eventually became the Executive Chef and Owner of the prestigious Le Bernardin in New York.

Under his tutelage, Le Bernardin has won the maximum 3 Michelin stars and is the only restaurant to receive 4-star New York Times reviews four years consecutively. Ripert himself has won a monstrous four James Beard Awards and is arguably the greatest living seafood chef in the world.

In Season 5 of Top Chef, the top 6 contenders were asked to reproduce Ripert’s best dishes from Le Bernardin. While some competitors came close, the judges found themselves raving more about Ripert’s original dishes than the duplicates. Host Padma Lakshmi joked, “Congratulations Eric; you are Top Chef.” He became a permanent judge on Top Chef this year and brought a breath of fresh air to an otherwise flat season.

What makes me really anticipate the event this week is how close these two men are. They’ve been friends for decades and between Ripert going on No Reservations and Bourdain guest judging on Top Chef, I know they have a good chemistry together. And it doesn’t hurt that they have over 50 years of culinary experience between the two of them. It’s going be a great night.

Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. Tickets are quickly running out, so make sure to get yours ASAP. Visit for more information.

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Yusef's luscious lyricism

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 9:13 AM

Yusef Komunyakaa
  • Yusef Komunyakaa

A few years ago, I saw an episode of "Inside the Actors Studio" that featured Whoopi Goldberg. The host of the show, James Lipton, interviewed the actress for a while and, near the end of the show, turned to the audience and announced, "We are in the presence of greatness." I believe it about Ms. Goldberg and I believe it about Yusef Komunyakaa, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who spoke at Clowes Hall (4602 Sunset Avenue) on Thursday evening as part of Butler University's Visiting Writers Series. I can think of few other words I would use to describe the experience.

The Krannert Room was filled to capacity — in fact, people had been turned away from the reading, which is surely a poet's dream. If you are or have befriended a lesser-known poet, you know that audiences are often small and comprised of people the poet already knows. It's hard to imagine Mr. Komunyakaa starting out this way, but he must have. Probably not in a Barnes & Noble like some of us, but you never know.

The deep timbre and lilt of Komunyakaa's voice was intoxicating. In "When Eyes Are on Me," he is a lion who "smell[s] the blood of a king." “Blue Dimentia” finds "another dark-skinned man who... walked out of himself dreaming… yeah, honey, I know something about talking with ghosts.” Many of the poet's words made my breath catch in my throat, just as it did when I first spotted Komunyakaa at the front of the room. "Unnatural State of the Unicorn" was one of those works:

"Before embossed limited editions,
before fat artichoke hearts marinated
in rich sauce & served with imported wines,
before antics & Agnus Dei,
before the stars in your eyes
mean birth sign or Impression,
I am a man.


Inside my skin,
loving you, I am the space
my body believes in."

I could wax romantic about Komunyakaa's talent until the Internet runs out of space. I'll end with this, a few lines from the fast-paced, slam-style "Polite Non-Soutre for the Perfomance Poets of Herald Park Hotel" that got a nice response from the crowd:

"You gotta get into it so deep...
you gotta get hooked into every hungry groove...
'cause if you want to dance this boogie
be ready to let the devil use your head for a drum."


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IVCI: Competition afterthoughts

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 12:13 AM

Having just completed a full attendance of the two-week-plus marathon that is the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, I’ve queried myself about my reactions to hearing one fiddler after another, many playing much the same repertoire, with the idea of who did this piece better, or, simply, who played better overall? On the one hand, that’s for the jurors to decide — not me. But after three decades of critiquing music and music performance, the urge to form opinions becomes irresistible. But I couldn’t be happier that it’s over, and moreover delighted that the next one won’t be for another four years.

But yet, while I was attending, I almost couldn’t stay away, despite a certain level of listening fatigue and the overarching itch for me to determine who’s better — even who’s best. Does part of this drive result from the raison d’etre of competitions? Because no matter how much ours wishes to soften its competitive aspect: calling the players participants instead of competitors, treating them far better than most older music competitions, it’s still a contest with winners and losers.

This element of competitions was rather severely dissected 20 years ago by Joseph Horowitz in his treatise, The Ivory Trade, which dealt with the seamier side of a particular Van Cliburn Piano Competition, the U.S.’s largest for that instrument. Just how much of Horowitz’s competition critique has an IVCI counterpart, I couldn’t say. Other than that the people running this one work hard, are all very likeable and were personally more-than-helpful to me in doing this past two-week blog marathon.

Would Horowitz and others of his like mind be more satisfied if we had, say, in our case, an International Violin Festival of Indianapolis? (Of course we do have music festivals: Aspen, Salzburg, etc. But they aren’t concentrated, either in concert frequency or devotion to one instrument.) Should we bring in some 40 young players looking for a way into the big time to play for our usual violin cognoscenti with no contest, no jurors, no winners or losers? And with all being granted concert engagements (each on a much smaller scale, of course) and other perks — just for being judged “festival” worthy, by the mailed-in DVD auditions we currently have?

I don’t think so. Contests of skill in any field have been a part of human history for as long back as we have it recorded. It’s this element that lubricates both the contestants and the viewers, that locks them in. The aphorism, “Everybody loves a winner” is no less true in the highest aesthetic levels of contested artistry than in the brutality of battling Roman gladiators — or American football (which I admit to having a weakness for). Once contestants and observers are locked into artistic events by their marketing of the “who’s best” notion, the other aesthetic perks come along for a free ride. In our case the savoring of first-rate violin playing by a mass of young hopefuls. That’s what coerced me into desiring to return, day after day.

But there is one significant difference between a sporting and an artistic contest: The winner of the former is usually attached to a score. The disputes arising from sports contests are less ephemeral than the decisions of nine jurors, who now are totally unaware of how each other voted; only the computer knows — at least during the course of the event. Though the now outdated method of jury-by-consensus is clearly less fair in giving each juror a choice unbiased by any of his/her colleagues, we never get to learn what each was thinking. This presumes that each person doing the judging is as equally qualified as any other person so involved. Though the IVCI’s jury selection process does this, I’m sure, as well as anybody, I’d personally be interested to know how each juror weighted his criteria, which by itself, could cause him to vote at least somewhat differently from his fellow juror.

What I appear to be concluding is that decision-making about artistic worth, even by the most knowledgeable people obtainable — those with decades of teaching and playing behind them — all have a subjective element in their psyche: Their training backgrounds are different as are their aesthetic values. One juror I happened to know personally from many IVCIs ago remarked to me some time after the six laureates were announced: “Well, that’s not exactly the way I voted,” a statement not-at-all surprising. Perhaps more surprising would be to learn how closely some groups may have voted.

But we will never know. Why would a juror want to divulge what he/she assigned as a score (from 1 to 25 in the IVCI) to a particular player—especially if it failed to match the composite vote of all nine turned out by the number crunching machine? But hey: We live in an imperfect world. And every four years we can savor — in the flesh — what few cities in the world can offer. That is good enough for me.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

IVCI: 2nd - evening Finals; winner(s) announced

Posted By on Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 11:23 PM

It’s 10:45 p.m. Saturday as I start this blog. I just returned from the Hilbert Circle Theatre following Soyoung Yoon’s fantastic performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. She followed Benjamin Beilman, who opened the second-evening Finals, also with the Sibelius and Haoming Xie performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. At this point I do not know who the nine jurors, headed by Jaime Laredo, have ranked the six finalists, but I expect to know before I finish writing.

My view at this point remains with Yoon as the the best performer of the six. She proved it to my sensibilities a short time ago with her Sibelius, a continuation of her making her instrument emit the most beautiful sounds of any of the finalists. She also had absolute technical command of what has become in my lifetime as standard a violin-concerto warhorse as Mendelssohn, Brahms, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky’s. Beilman also played it very well, but had more edge to his tone, in comparing the two. Xie’s reading of the Tchaikovsky was not as good as his Mozart No. 5 two evenings earlier, slowing his tempo excessively in the more lyric passages and in the first-movement cadenza, as well as displaying a thinner, more nervous vibrato.

But just now, I’ve obtained the the jury’s selection. I’ll list them without comment:

Gold Medalist: Clara-Jumi Kang
Silver Medalist: Soyoung Yoon
Bronze Medalist: Benjamin Beilman
4th Place Laureate: Haoming Xie
5th Place Laureate: Antal Szalai
6th Place Laureate: Andrey Baranov

The Gala Awards are scheduled for Sunday (Sept. 26) at 5 p.m. in the Scottish Rite Cathedral Auditorium.

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IVCI: 1st - evening Finals

Posted By on Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 12:28 AM

Tchaikovsky, Bartók and Beethoven—an almost novel composer concatenation with which to display the first three finalists for the big event of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis: the Finals—an almost absurd redundancy (Finals needs a defining adjective before it). Nevertheless, there it is, and Friday evening, there it was. A well filled Hilbert Circle Theatre first heard Andrey Baranov of Russia play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, followed by Antal Szalai of Hungary performing Béla Bartók’s daunting Violin Concerto No. 2 and last, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, played by Clara-Jumi Kang of Germany and S. Korea. This time Samuel Wong led the entire ISO.

Whereas two nights earlier in the Classical Finals, the playing caliber slightly improved as we progressed from finalist to finalist, the change for these same players on Friday proved far greater between Baranov and Szalai. Baranov gave the well-loved Tchaikovsky a muddy texture with a very wide vibrato, straying enough into adjacent pitches to become actually nerve wracking. Regrettably that one negative feature distracted sufficiently from other elements of his playing — technique and phrasing — that I couldn’t abide the performance. Who’s taught that one has to widen one’s vibrato to that degree when switching from Classical to Romantic music. For comparison, listen to Hilary Hahn’s new CD of the Tchaikovsky, along with Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, premiered the season before last by Hahn and the ISO. That is how it ought to be played.

With Szalai at the bow, the Bartók went fairly well, with the Hungarian performer using minimal vibrato throughout. Filled with craggy shifts in modern harmonies masterfully crafted, the Bartók seemed to be in keeping perfectly with this Hungarian’s bowing. Szalai could always be heard above the orchestra in a work filled with orchestral gems and other perorations. Though I can’t say how his tone would work on other 19th and 20th-century standards, Szalai seemed in kindred spirits with his fellow countryman.

For the Beethoven, Kang produced the most pleasing sound, but it was, on occasion, too soft to be heard above the orchestra. Plus adjusting to hearing Beethoven’s continual use of diatonic scales and perhaps an excess of common chords — after the Bartók — was a bit disconcerting, with no fault given to Kang here. I’d say this evening was a toss-up between Szalai and Kang, as providing good accounts of their concerto choices.

Tomorrow contains the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Following the last three finalists’ bestowing their respective talents, by half an hour or so, the medalists and laureates will be announced. And you’ll see them printed here very soon thereafter.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Heartland Film Festival Lineup

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 6:37 PM

For 19 years, the Heartland Film Festival has recognized and honored filmmakers whose work explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life.

While last year’s festival had a record-breaking 87 films, this year will showcase a whopping 102 American and International films. Over $100,000 in prizes will be rewarded to the very best films.

The five dramatic feature Award-winning films that will vie for the $50,000 Grand Prize are Bilal’s Stand, Café, The Space Between, Ways to Live Forever and The Yankles.

Five documentary feature Award winners will compete for the Festival’s $25,000 prize for Best Documentary Feature. These films are: Freedom Riders, Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good, Mister Rogers & Me, Thunder Soul and Waste Land.

In addition to dramatic and documentary feature competitions, Heartland will present the $10,000 Vision Award for Best Short to one of the seven Award-winning short films. The films in this category include: The Butterfly Circus, Frog in the Well, God of Love, Jamaa, The Road Home, Sun Come Up and Waiting for a Train: The Toshio Hirano Story.

Official Selection films included under the dramatic features category are: The 5th Quarter; Alabama Moon; Among Us; Ashley’s Ashes; Beyond the Pole; Black, White and Blues; Cast Me if You Can; First Dog; Fort McCoy; Harvest; I Am Kalam; Main Street; Mars; Obselidia; Paradise Recovered; Raspberry Magic; The River Why; The Rock ’n’ Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher; Rust; Starring Maja; Summer Eleven; and Waiting For Forever.

Official Selection films under the documentary features category are: 10 Mountains 10 Years; 140; Bag It; Bouncing Cats; Come Together; The Desert of Forbidden Art; Don’t Quit Your Daydream; Dumbstruck; For Once in My Life; Hand Held; HIS & HERS; Learning From Light: The Vision of I. M. Pei; Little Town of Bethlehem; Looking for Lurch; Mozel; My Vietnam Your Iraq; The Parking Lot Movie; Pelada; Rabbit Fever; Sequestro; This Way of Life and Walk of Redemption.

Finally, Official Selection films within the shorts category are: 11 Weeks; Ana’s Playground; Appointment in Vancouver; Billy Baxter and The Mystery of Dr. Amazo; Boom Squad: A Beat in the Street; Displaced; El Salon Mexico; Goldstar, Ohio; Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man; Jacked; Jeremy; Last Stop; The Love Song of Iskra Prufrock; More Than Walking; The Nature of Fall; North & South; Piano Story; Poppy; Save the Farm; Touch; Twice as Bright; Two Hours in the Dark; When the Ground Stopped Shaking; Wounded Healers and Zero Currency.

The Festival will start Oct. 14 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (4000 Michigan Rd.) with a screening of Snowmen, starring Ray Liotta, Bobby Coleman and Christopher Lloyd. Visit for ticket and show information.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

IVCI: 2nd - evening Classical finals

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 11:37 PM

Well, it won’t be long now. Two more Finals nights at the Hilbert Circle Theatre, and it’s all over but the shouting. That will be done in force the next day (Sunday) at the Scottish Rite Cathedral — the awards, the speeches and music by the finalists in the Auditorium and the reception in the Ballroom. But tonight (Thursday) at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, we heard the second of two evenings of Classical Finals, featuring the last three of the six finalists: Benjamin Beilman, 20, U.S., Haoming Xie, 20, China and Soyoung Yoon, 23, S. Korea.

Beilman deviated from the other five in selecting a Haydn Concerto (No. 1 in C from 1769) rather than the expected Mozart 3, 4 or 5. The Haydn is for string orchestra and uses a harpsichord, the latter more for tradition’s sake than any other reason. It also sounds earlier than having been written just six years before Mozart’s famous five. Beilman played it at about the level that Clara-Jumi-Kang played Mozart No. 5 on Wednesday evening, both with just a bit of tonal inconsistency. But Beilman had a better orchestra to work with on Thursday — yes, both evenings saw the Indianapolis Symphony, but this was almost the other half of the ISO’s 86 players, and for some reason these people were consistently on target whereas Wednesday’s weren’t.

Xie followed with Mozart No. 5 in A, K. 219, his sound immediately sweeter and more refined than his predecessor. In the Adagio he honed in on Mozart’s iridescent beauty and in the “Turkish” movement he brought out the rustic drama-dance.

But it was 25-year-old Soyoung Yoon of S. Korea who captured the evening—and the Classical series—with her Mozart No. 3 in G, K. 216, though she made a slightly smaller sound with her instrument. Whether she took “that” phrase or “this” passage the way you might or might not have preferred, she delivered as consistent a beauty-of-sound as just about any one of the 40 original participants.

They all had technique to spare. They all had their musical ideas about shaping and phrasing, which some you might like better than others. If they keep practicing, they’ll keep their technique. As they grow in musical judgment and wisdom, they will become better musicians. But what doesn’t appear to change all that much are their tonal qualities. Those who have them keep them; those who don’t fail to get them later. It is for this reason that I weight a player’s tonal quality — e.g. the sound of his/her “vibrato” — so strongly.

Based on the above considerations, I’ll stick my neck out and share my rankings of the six finalists, as they’ve sounded to me from Sept. 12 to Sept. 23. I don’t expect them to match the jurors’ rankings (the "final" Finals have yet to take place); they are the ones who establish them as “laureates” and award the three medals, plus all the other inducements. I disagreed with their choice of finalists to some degree, but I’ll base my rankings on the six we have. I wonder how many other faithful attendees have done the same thing:

1st: Soyoung Yoon
2nd: Haoming Xie
3rd: Benjamin Beilman
4th: Clara-Jumi-Kang
5th: Antal Szalai
6th: Andrey Baranov

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AwareFest: A Green World — Oct 1-16, Bloomington, IN

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 3:30 PM

As fall approaches and the trees begin to blush red at the thought of shedding their leaves in the winter, the Bloomington Playwright’s Project (BPP) announces its schedule of artistic an environmentally aware events for this year’s AwareFest: A Green World.

Anchored by the BPP’s Mainstage production featuring 8 new 10-minute plays by some of theatre’s biggest names, AwareFest will host auxiliary events and projects related to the theme of “The Green World” across the entire city during its three-week run.

The BPP will also be hosting a different not-for-profit organization for every performance. Groups like the Local Growers Guild, Discardia, Wonderlab, and the Center for Sustainable Living will all produce special events at the BPP free of charge.

Events and Projects

AwareFest Collaborative Art Project by Joe LaMantia
September 16 - October 16
Downtown Bloomington

Joe LaMantia’s community-wide art piece with local schools will be on display around the Bloomington downtown square. In collaboration with area students, LaMantia created street signs depicting student interpretations of environmental issues.

Windfall Dancers present Reduce; Reuse; Redance!
October 1 from 5 — 8pm
Courthouse Lawn

Windfall Dancers will perform some pieces from their show “Reduce; Reuse; Redance!” which will include recyclable materials as part of their performance.

3-D Weavings by Martina Celerin
On Display: October 1 — 16
Bellevue Art Gallery
107 W. 9th St.
Mon — Fri (9 — 5pm)

Bloomington Bagel Company
113 North Dunn St.
Mon - Sun (7am - 7pm)

Martina Celerin’s creates jaw-dropping 3D tapestries using recycled materials. These hand-made works of art are sure to make you smile.

AwareFest Miniatures by Diana Hoffman
October 1 — 16
Mon — Fri (9 — 5pm)
BPP Lobby
107 W. 9th St.

Diana Hoffman’s small-scale interpretations of the AwareFest plays are on display in the BPP lobby. Ninety percent of the materials and objects used in her work are recycled materials. To create interactivity, Hoffman has created a scavenger hunt to go with the sets.

Ryder Film Series presents The Cove
October 1, 2, 3, 8 & 9 (7:30pm)
IU Fine Arts Theatre
1200 East Seventh Street
Tickets $4

In this pulse-pounding eco-thriller, a crack team of divers, activists and special effects experts infiltrate a secret cove in Japan that is populated by dolphins. Winner of the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival (92 min)

Bobbie Lancaster presents Music For Little Folks
October 14 - Lakeview Elementary
October 15 - Childs Elementary

Bobbie Lancaster will educate and entertain with a live music performance for students grades K — 3. All songs are original and highly interactive. The children will learn about the animals and plant life that we share our planet with, how we are all connected, and what we as people can do to make sure our environment stays healthy.

Twisted Limb Paper Making Workshop
October 1 & 8 from 7:30pm — 10pm
For children of all ages

Twisted Limb Paperworks Studio & Showroom
1122 South Morton Street
Bloomington, IN 47403
Free (with tickets to see that evening’s performance of AwareFest at 8pm at the BPP)

RSVP to or 334-1188 by the preceding Thursday at 5pm

Drop your children off at Twisted Limb Paperworks newly-renovated studio for a fun-filled evening of papermaking. Students will receive a tour of the studios, a brief history of paper, and a hands-on papermaking workshop that will teach them how to make postcards from recycled paper scraps.

Discardia “Trashion” Show
Saturday, October 9
BPP Lobby
107 W. 9th St.
Free (with ticket to that evening’s performance of AwareFest: A Green World)

Discardia is a budding root of the Bloomington Center for Sustainable Living. This creative consortium is refashioning oddments from reclaimed materials that would otherwise be discarded. Discardia has a goal of stopping textiles and other reusable materials from going to landfills.

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Easy A

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Quite by accident, I received free passes to go see Easy A last week. Someone at NUVO mentioned the movie and a quick “I want to see that!” slipped out of my mouth. I was a little embarrassed because the movie’s demographic is teenagers; given that I’ll soon be 37, I felt like I was admitting I still wanted someone to buy me a pony. It didn’t matter, though — the movie looked cute and I wanted to see it, even if I could have given birth to some of the people who were sure to be in the audience.

The movie screened at AMC Castleton Square 14 (6020 E. 82nd Street) and proved in the first few minutes that it was going to be funny throughout instead of the kind of flick whose magic is solely in the previews. The protagonist, Olive, played by Emma Stone from such movies as The House Bunny and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, dispelled teen angst over identity crises while the credits were still rolling and got the audience laughing. I breathed a sigh of relief; even if it was free, I was still glad it wasn’t going to suck.

The premise is that Olive helps out her friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd from "Cougar Town"), who is being bullied for being gay. The two hit a popular classmate’s party and pretend to have sex in the host’s bedroom. Olive is floating high on the newfound popularity that a rumor has brought her and doesn’t mind fake-rocking Brandon’s world. Brandon emerges a seemingly-straight stud and Olive quickly develops a reputation as the go-to girl for a good time. Unfortunately, as you might suspect, things backfire pretty quickly — the movie covers a two-week period in Olive’s life — but it’s all handled with witty retorts and a thankful lack of Lifetime movie moments. What I liked: The demonization wrought by the very Christian and very funny Marianne, played by Amanda Bynes (Hairspray, "What I Like About You"); Olive’s parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as Rosemary and Dill, respectively) who seemed mostly realistic as hip parents; references to ‘80s movies; the phrase "mostly guys;" and the fact that the movie had several messages that were delivered without beating the audience over the head or, again, Lifetiming things. When the movie ended, I thought, “I would have happily paid $10 to see that,” which is always a good sign. I leave you with the trailer for the movie because Emma Stone’s delivery of her lines is just priceless. I unofficially give it four stars. If you disagree with me, you have to answer to Tom Cruise.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

IVCI: 1st - evening Classical finals

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 3:55 PM

For those either having forgotten or are unaware, the Classical period in music was about a 75-year transition between the Baroque and Romantic periods—roughly lasting from 1750 to 1828. Three giant figures in music defined the period as Classical: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, with Gluck and his operas thrown in at the earlier end and Schubert delving into Romanticism, especially with his some 600 lieder or art songs. Beethoven was a forerunner of the Romantic movement in extending the size and scope of his orchestral works, though he himself was strictly Classical, his sense of form having never left him—even in his highly exalted late works.

Mozart, however, was unarguably Classical, extending none of the genres he inherited, but often creating a perfection of form and content within them. His five violin concertos all date from 1775, when he was 19, with his final three small-sized masterpieces, offering more concentrated beauty than the bigger, noisier works of the following century, which tend to attract bigger audiences.

On Wednesday evening we heard the first of the International Competition of Indianapolis’ Classical finals, featuring the first three finalists playing in the order maintained since the preliminaries. Andrey Baranov, a 24-year-old Russian, began with Mozart’s Concerto No. 5 in A, K. 219. He was followed by Hungarian born Antal Szalai, 29 (the oldest of this year’s 40 participants), who chose Mozart’s No. 3 in G, K. 216. No. 5 was then repeated by Clara-Jumi Kang, 23, of Asian heritage but German born and later moved to S. Korea for advanced study. Two horns, two oboes and a select group of strings from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra were conducted by Samuel Wong.

The performance differences of K. 219 between Baranov and Kang strongly favored the latter. Kang’s phrasing throughout revealed more Mozartean touches, especially in the final (“Turkish”) movement. Her jauntier pace remained lucidly fingered throughout. But it was Kang’s “singing” tone which ruled the evening in No. 5’s bewitching slow movement. Neither Baranov nor Szalai could muster that kind of sound.

Baranov also had the misfortune to be plagued with a number of accompanying orchestral slips. These—mostly bad horn entrances—were endemic throughout the evening but appeared most often with the Russian. Whether this had an effect on his playing, I can’t say. But his and the orchestra’s account created a non-synergy, getting Baranov off to a worse start than he should have preferred.

Szalai managed No. 3 better, and so did Wong’s ensemble. Szalai’s phrasing made the final two movements sing, even though his violin tone didn’t—quite.

On Thursday we will hear the other three IVCI finalists playing both Mozart and Haydn: Benjamin Beilman, Hoaming Xie and Soyoung Yoon. Based on her playing in the semis, I expect Yoon to do especially well.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spin a yarn

Posted By on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 10:09 AM

I’ve honestly never really given storytelling much of a thought, despite the great tales I’ve heard from family and friends and the fact that I once shared a stage with local favorite and internationally known storyteller Khabir Shareef. Stories have just been, well, those moments that stitch together time when hanging out with friends and the words I’ve read in books. In reality, they are, if I think about it for even a second, so much more. They preserve family history, make people laugh (cry, weep, want to give you money), and are just one of the ways to bring a community together. My next chance to hear professionals who believe fiercely in the power of the story is September 24, when Donald Davis and Carmen Agra Deedy take the stage at the Indiana History Center (450 W. Ohio Street) at 7:30 p.m.

Davis and Deedy are, among other things, a former minister and a children’s lit author, respectively. They’ll present Mama Mia! as the opening performance of the Storytelling Arts of Indiana’s season. With such strong familial ties — Deedy immigrated to America from Cuba with her parents in 1960 and Davis was inspired by his uncle to become a storyteller — I would guess that their anecdotes will revolve around those wacky folks known as relatives, especially given the stories the two will tell on the next day: Free Range Childhood (2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.) and The People That We Love (7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.). Check out the following video of Deedy sharing a story at a TED conference in 2005. I was hooked in to the comedy and poetry in her performance and was surprised the audience didn’t react more. Hopefully the audience at Friday’s event ($20 in advance and $25 at the door) will be more appreciative. Visit or call 317-232-1882 for more information.

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