An expansive tribute, the Asante Children's Theatre's LEGEND features songs by Michael Jackson and his contemporaries to trace the evolution of R&B, pop and soul. Deborah Asante's conception and direction pays homage to Jackson's versatility, continued growth as a song writer and performer, and his evolving sense of social justice and family relationships.
Particularly notable are the poetic tributes written and performed by Sonny Bates, Camea Osborn and Allyson Horton, each bringing dimensionality to Jackson as a person who endured physical and emotional pain along with wealth and acclaim.
The two-act production featured the dedication of over fifty performers, musicians and technical crew members. Vincent Howard earns merit for outstanding musical direction. Singing and instrumental playing were exceptionally suited to re-imagining the provided performing groups and the videos by Jackson.
LeToryia Gowdy provided exceptional choreography, performed with every intended nuance by well-trained and talented dancers who seem to intuitively grasp Jackson's complicated dance moves. Costumer Makeda Lands and light designer Matt Wilson brought to life scenes from Jackson's trailblazing music videos "Thriller", "Black or White" and "Bad".
Asante's genius has been and continues to be inspirational. For the past 22 years, she's maintained a training/performing company that helps children and teens learning discipline and theatrical techniques. And as LEGEND proves, the end result is often a show worthy of critical acclaim.
LEGEND June 14-17 at the Madame Walker Theatre Centre. All seats are $8.00 on June 14.
The Squidling Brothers delivered their unique brand of sideshow mayhem to the White Rabbit Thursday night. We would promise all this stuff would make sense in context, but that would make us dirty, dirty liars.
Squidling Brothers at White Rabbit (Slideshow)
Spring Equinox at IMA (Slideshow)
Heather Henson, daughter of master puppeteer Jim Henson, says her best memories of growing up Henson involved quiet times outside in a nearby wildlife refuge. So perhaps it's appropriate that her shows this weekend in Indianapolis took place at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 100 Acres Art & Nature Park, as part of “Spring Equinox: Celebration of Flight.”
“He’d be working so hard, and one of the first things he’d do when he got home was take me for a walk in the woods,” Henson said, in response to questions submitted by children prior to the show. “My dad was born in Mississippi, and he loved that style of music and the countryside.”
Among other things, the “Celebration of Flight” event was evidence of the top-class entertainment you can sometimes find in this city. It’s not often you’ll see a performance from the first family of puppetry, up close and free of charge, no less, as Henson showed her interpretation of a crane’s life cycle, from a single-handed puppet of a hatchling to a forty-foot-wide adult that required three people to operate.
Henson’s puppetry marked only one element of the performance; the master kitemakers from Guildworks provided a remarkable display of aerial artistry, guiding and steeting low-flying kites with such precision that it was hard to believe they were using string and not rigid poles to keep things under control. It's a lot harder to guide a kite ten feet off the ground than a hundred, and there's nothing quite like a couple of hundred feet of windswept cloth whizzing only a few feet above your head.
The whole thing brought together an effective combination of dance, puppetry and kites, with performers in dazzling white and green sprinting across the fields, closing out with Henson leading a small army of children flying their own handmade kites across the site. The kids certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. So did she.
Prince Julius Adeniyi, known nationwide as a teacher of Yoruba culture through music, dance, storytelling, food and the language of drumming, has been particularly loved by two generations of children, parents, teachers and friends in Indianapolis. He had lived in the city since 1971, raising a family and connecting the community at large with the growing presence of Nigerians who work here as professionals.
For many of us, Prince Julius has been a central figure at international and arts and music events, welcoming us into his circle of friendship. His warmth, joy of life and never-ending curiosity has inspired us to be open and eager to learn not only about his heritage, but our own.
With the late drummer Jack Gilfoy, in 1977, Prince Julius formed the performing-teaching group, Drums of West Africa. The group led to the development of the Omo Obukun African Cultural Resource Center, in what he liked to call “the heart of an ‘African Village’ in Indianapolis.”
His influence has transcended time and place as a master teacher with Young Audiences, which named him YA 2002 Artist of the Year, and with Traditional Arts Indiana, performing on the TAI Indiana State Fair stage, demonstrating, and working with apprentices in Yoruba drumming and drum making.
Prince Julius participated in the first Lotus Festival in 1994 at the Waldron Center in Bloomington, Ind., taking the stage late at night, and keeping us enthralled way past closing time. For many years we enjoyed Prince Julius’ cuisine at his Sambusa Hut restaurant at 40th Street and Boulevard Place.
For me, most memorable was his patience in teaching me to listen to and speak with the African drum. Prince Julius taught as he learned at age three in his Yoruba home, by placing his hands over the hands of his maternal grandfather as he drummed. Prince Julius lovingly spoke of being infused with his family’s drumming tradition through personal touch.
Prince Julius’ mantra lives on the Traditional Arts Indiana website, where he is quoted: “You don’t beat drum. You play drum. Every time you put your hand on the drum, you want that drum to say something.”
Prince Julius is survived by his wife, Margaret Adeniyi; his children, Julius Jr., Adedayo, Adedapo, Adetokunbo and Oluremilekun; his stepchildren, Melvin Bell, Ann Bell and Sharon Butler; and 27 grandchildren.
Visitations: Friday, Dec. 16, from 5-8 p.m. at Lavenia, Smith & Summers Home for Funerals, 5811 East 38th Street; Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church North Indianapolis, 880 W. 28th St., followed by A Celebration of Life at 11 a.m., followed by interment at the Washington Park North Cemetery.
This brief video interview was posted on the Storytelling Arts blog:
Pur burlesque at Blu (slideshow)
The ladies of the Pur Company warmed up a cold pre-Thankssgiving night with a mini-performance of burlesque at Blu downtown.
One of the best things about the neo-burlesque scene that has swept through Indy in recent times is that the form offers seemingly limitless variation. Consider for instance “Pur | The Company,” a prolific group with regular events throughout the city that hit Blu Lounge downtown with a three-member mini-show the night before Thanksgiving.
Led by former Las Vegas showgirl Evie LaRoux, the trio warmed up the chilly November night with an electric, jazzy routine that draws as much from modern popular entertainment as it did from the familiar burlesque elements of the past. The tack-sharp choreography, hair-tossing charm and rhinestone dazzle was an excellent match for the laser lights and glitter balls of Blu’s pre-holiday party. They entered the room with confident superstar cool and walked out like rock stars.
Anyway, the photos tell the story better than I could, so click through up above, and look for future issues of NUVO for more in-depth coverage of Pur. And if you want to see more, check out their next show, a full performance Wednesday night at Room 929.
A web project launched last September by columnist and author Dan Savage, It Gets Better now hosts more than 25,000 user-created videos which have received more than 40 million views. It's all in the interest of giving hope to young people facing harassment and bullying, including but not limited to LGBTQ teens.
Now the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus will do their part for the site by recording a performance of Aaron Copland's "The Promise of Living" tonight at 8 p.m. at the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center on the University of Indianapolis campus.
Indianapolis Men's Chorus interim artistic director Greg Sanders took on the project and organized the group’s performance.
“I wanted to do something to really give back to those who have supported us,” Sanders said. “This seemed like a good outlet for that.”
Copland’s six-minute “The Promise of Living,” from The Tender Land, is a fitting piece for the performance since the lyrics inspire unity for a common purpose, Sanders said.
“It’s really about growing up,” Sanders said. “We’ve all been there, so it’s a piece anyone can relate to.”
Sanders recalls a time when the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus was harassed. In 1991, the choir faced a crowd of religious protestors at Indiana Pride Day, where the group led off festivities on Monument Circle with a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Twenty years later, Sanders said the environment has changed.
“It’s still not the norm to be gay, but it’s not as taboo anymore, so there is a lot less hostility,” Sanders said. “But obviously bullying is still a problem and there are issues that need to be addressed.”
Gay-straight alliances from Butler University, University of Indianapolis and IUPUI are planning to attend the event.
“This is a new kind of project for the chorus,” Sanders said. “It’s something the public can really get behind.”
The video, which will be filmed and edited by WFYI, is expected to be up by the end of the January.
Crackers Comedy Club (Broad Ripple); through Oct. 30
Boo-lesque at Crackers (slideshow)
Indianapolis' Burlesque Show That Never Ends -- a.k.a. the entire autumn season -- continues to heat up with a spooky and deliriously entertaining Halloween show from Angel Burlesque.
The age of angels and demons and dress-up is the perfect time for burlesque; and indeed, the schedule is so packed it seems like the Indy Burlesque Show That Never Ends. The Angel Burlesque troupe continued what has been a fantastic season for all things fishnet and corset-y with "Boo-lesque: Things That Go Bump And Grind In the Night," which opened Thursday at Crackers in Broad Ripple and continues with performances at 8 and 10:30 Friday and Saturday.
Master of ceremonies Jeff Angel played the role of hapless husband to the hilt — think every man-of-the-house in a sitcom ever, from Tim Allen to Everybody Loves Raymond, except looking like they just stepped out of the ninth circle of Hell. And the general theme gave the troupe and its leader, Katie Angel, the opportunity to fine-tune every skit to a creepy hue — lots of serial killers, zombies, devil dolls and the old stabby-stab-stab were at play here. Seriously, who knew you could make Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" into a scary tune?
All-star burlesque performer Ray Gunn from Chicago joined in for a few routines that were simultaneously exhilerating and creepy, displaying a breathtaking skill at athletics and acrobatics and a subtlety that could change the mood with a turn of his head or a wink.
I particularly liked the pacing of the show — keeping things moving and interest high for a 90-plus-minute burlesque show is tougher than you think. Jeff Angel and company had great fun with the between-skit patter and a running joke about cheap candy, and I particularly liked the patient progress of the final half-hour, in which every lady took a quiet moment after each dance to don gloves and mask under red light. (You'll just have to trust me on that part — it sounds underwhelming to describe, but it's really cool in practice.) It all leads up to the finale of masked-and-gloved performers having their way with each other — a bit like all the scenes Kubrick didn't show you in Eyes Wide Shut. A bravura performance, and certainly a worthy one for Indy's finest burlesque season yet.
The folks who put together Sin’s Last Stand certainly knew what they were doing, right down to the cops in 1920s garb and the members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union who admonished anyone who was drinking before the show. After all, It's just not really a burlesque performance until the fuzz show up. And all kidding aside, the stagecraft effectively brought to life a history of burlesque in these United States, with a supplemental program answering the FAQ about the artform for the uninitiated.
Respect for all that's come before has always been inherent in the neo-burlesque movement. This event reached perhaps the zenith of that respect, as members of Bottoms Up Burlesque, Crème De Les Femmes and Angel Burlesque delivered their renditions of classic routines and brought to life classic performers ranging from Gypsy Rose Lee to Bettie Page.
The presentation itself was stunning, right down to the live music and singers. Watching a crooner in a tux belt out a perfect rendition of “Minnie the Moocher” while a dancer does a striptease behind a white screen really manages to sum up why burlesque was invented to begin with.
Burlesque in Indianapolis started more or less with a bunch of Punk Rock Night regulars sitting around in Punk Rock Night founder Greg Brenner’s living room with a stack of Bettie Page DVDs, trying to figure out how the hell to actually make this work. If Sin’s Last Stand is any indication, things have turned out pretty well for those intrepid founders.
For their exemplary work supporting the arts, Indianapolis’ Printing Partners was honored on Wednesday at Central Park Boathouse in New York City.
The Business Committee for the Arts (a division of Americans for the Arts) recognizes businesses of all sizes for their exceptional involvement with the arts that enrich the workplace, education and the community.
Printing Partners has a long history of arts support through sponsorships and its Partners Grants, which were initiated in 2004. Printing Partners President Michael O’Brien calls the grants “an opportunity for Printing Partners to provide in-kind marketing support to help clients leverage their marketing budget.” Since their inception, Printing Partners has provided grants totaling more than $1.5 million to support the not-for-profit sector.
In addition to its grants program, Printing Partners has provided support to numerous arts groups through sponsorships. It has been a sponsor of the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s Nutcracker for the last two years. Last year as part of its sponsorship, it arranged for Girl Scouts to attend a preview performance. In collaboration with the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Printing Partners has promoted Partners Night at the IRT to sell more than 800 low-cost tickets last season to individuals who might not otherwise have attended IRT performances.
Printing Partners is also the title sponsor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Printing Partners Pops Series. “Our Pops sponsorship is a great collaboration among the Orchestra,” O’Brien acknowledges, “and the sponsorship provides us many opportunities to introduce clients to the Symphony through the Printing Partners Pops, the Lilly Classical Series or Marsh Symphony on the Prairie.”
Ask the Sky and the Earth: A Cantata for the Sent-Down Youth
Butler University Wind Ensemble, Indianapolis Chinese Choir of ICCCI (with special guests)
Oct. 2, Clowes Memorial Hall
Open letter to the dude sitting next to me:
No, Ask the Sky and the Earth, a cantata for wind ensemble and chorus that made its Midwest premiere before a rather-full Clowes Hall Sunday, was not "propaganda." And you didn't have to scoff at any line that reeked to you of propaganda. Nor did you have to mutter negative remarks to your companion; that's just kind of rude, and it's ruder still to leave early (though at least you waited until the end of the number).
Still, I get where you're coming from, being a red-blooded American sensitive to the inadequacies of socialist realism. Maybe that's not how you'd put it. But let's put this in context. Ask the Sky is an attempt, as librettist Wei Su has put it in interviews, to reclaim and reinterpret his life (and that of others) as a Sent-Down Youth, someone who was relocated into the Chinese countryside as part of the Chinese Revolution's policy of re-education and, well, disorientation. It was a terrible period for many people, certainly; tens of millions of Chinese died in famines, as a result of persecution (both politically and ethnically motivated), from overexertion and as victims of natural disasters.
But, as Ma Joad put it — "We're the people that live; they can't wipe us out" — and Su, whose family was the subject of continued violence, recalls, in an interview with Yale's Daily Bulletin, not only the injustices of that time, but also the bright points: "I was shown many kindnesses during those years I grew up, and the memories of those kindnesses have supported me throughout my life." The kindnesses of, even, a soldier: "He told me that he could tell that I was a good boy, and he said, ‘Don't ever lose hope; don't ever lose hope.'"
Is it noteworthy that Su chose neither to directly criticize the Chinese government in his cantata nor to focus on violence done to the Chinese people or the earth? Yes, but it's a defensible choice — and it's essential to note that Su was a leader of the Tiananmen Square movement who was forced to flee to the U.S. after being blacklisted in 1992. Think of it as the Life is Beautiful approach, as contrasted with that exemplified by The Pianist. The former film focused on an effort to preserve some sense of common humanity when confronted with unfathomable evil; the latter showed what others do when faced with such situations — go into survival mode, view injustices from a distance, watch from a window as the ghetto burns.
Su, in epic poetry mode, insists on the hardy aspects of the Chinese people and the land: they learn from the "muddy soil" during a "thousand silver dawns"; they "stamp the ruddy clay," "crack open the rocks," "ravage the weeds" (note the negative sense of these words; that notion of the rape of the land); they praise the mountain which rises high above the turmoil of the seas. They do not dwell on setbacks; they have survived, and they must continue surviving. They love one another despite the political circumstances — and as such, they may look back upon the era with fondness.
Su's words are set to a somewhat-conventional score by Dong-Ling Huo that veers between lush Western film music and anthems with a pentatonic feel. The lows don't get too low, giving the cantata an even feel - even an elegy for 22 youth killed in a flash flood is rendered without undue sturm and drang. This is music calculated for a reconciliation and designed to allow those who were sent down to come to terms with the experience; it's doesn't seem intended to impart any further trauma or to illustrate the intensity of the experience.
If this cantata were performed in a different time, it might have registered as propaganda. But what would it be propaganda for — the Cultural Revolution is over, dude. Su and Huo have engaged with their past in the way they see most fitting — it's about the experience of youth thrust into a world and political environment that they may not quite understand, drawing on resources they didn't know existed, speaking in the poetry they learned from their elders. Leave it for other works of art to excoriate Mao and the whole lot.
Anyways, that's the way I saw it. I'm kind of out of my depth when talking Chinese politics, so excuse any errors. The performance of Ask the Sky and the Earth was quite an undertaking in itself, bringing together the Butler University Wind Ensemble — performing not only the cantata, but additional works, including a meandering 2010 slice of modernism, "Dragon Rhyme," no more than six weeks into the school year — and several choirs and guests, with the Indianapolis Chinese Choir of ICCCI sharing top billing, and additional members of Connecticut- and Chicago-based choirs pitching in. Regardless of one's take on the piece, it's exciting to see new music performed by groups that aren't obligated to mount such large-scale operations.
That's all I have to say now. Keep an open heart and mind. Mahalo.
[A+E] Written + Spoken Word
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums
[A+E] Theater + Dance
[A+E] Theater + Dance