The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Feb28Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Balagula Theatre, Betsy Baun, Guignol Theatre, Jeremy Kissling, Larry Snipes, lexington, Lexington Center, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lexington Opera House, Not I, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Play, Roseanne Mingo, Ryan Case, Samuel Beckett, Southeastern Theatre Conference, University of Kentucky
Usually, as February turns into March, many Lexington theater practitioners are packing their bags to head south to the Southeastern Theatre Conference‘s annual convention.
But this year, they’re keeping their clothes in their closets, preparing to play gracious hosts as 4,000 theater folk descend on Lexington.
“Most years I spend all my days in auditions and callbacks,” says Larry Snipes, producing director of the Lexington Children’s Theatre. “This year, we’ll be busy managing a festival site.”
The Children’s Theatre will be in the heart of the action for the four-day event, which runs Wednesday through Saturday.
Roseanne Mingo, destination sales account executive with the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau says taking up six hotels and numerous venues, SETC is one of the larger conventions to come to town. She says she conservatively estimates its economic impact at $1.2 million.
For the most part, the convention will take place in the blocks along Broadway between High and Short streets. The University of Kentucky’s Guignol Theatre will also be a venue for the SETC high school theater festival, which will include Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School as a participant.
A quartet of theater festivals – children’s, high school, college and community – is one of the major facets of the festival, which also includes massive auditions where theater companies from across the country hire actors, and more than 300 seminars and workshops.
“It is a busy, busy, busy three days,” Lexington Children’s Theatre education director Jeremy Kissling says.
SETC director Betsy Baun says Snipes and the LCT crew were keys to attracting the convention back to Lexington for the first time since 1978.
Feb27Filed under: Country music, Music, Reviews, Rupp Arena; Tagged as: Back When, Brad Warren, Brett Warren, Charles Kelley, Dance Hall Doctors, Dave Haywood, Don't Take the Girl, Down on the Farm, Felt Good on My Lips, Grammy Awards, Hillary Scott, I Run to You, If You're Reading This, It's a Business Doing Pleasure, Lady Antebellum, Let it Go, Lookin' for a Good Time, Lost Trailers, Need You Now, Our Kind of Love, Real Good Man, Rupp Arena, Southern Voice, Tim McGraw
The rap on country music is that it’s forgotten where it came from. It has left its heroes behind, all sounds like 1970s rock now and boots out established stars for the latest pretty young thing at the drop of a cowboy hat.
None of these accusations would explain the 20-year-plus career of Tim McGraw, at least 15 of which have been spent atop the country charts.
But his concert Friday night before 16,400 screaming fans at Rupp Arena sure did.
First and foremost, the man can put on a great show. For nearly two-hours and 24 songs, McGraw worked the edges of the stage and a catwalk giving equal attention to the people with outstretched arms in front of him and the fans near the rafters. He even took a split second to autograph a picture for a little boy at the end of the show.
In that rousing set were hints of the country roots that have sustained McGraw’s career for a couple decades. One of the greatest testaments to the 42-year-old’s ability to put on a show was that he put himself in jeopardy of being upstaged.
Coming into the concert, the smashing success of Lady Antebellum’s January release, Need You Now, made McGraw’s four-month-old Southern Voice feel so last year. And the vocal trio acquitted themselves nicely in an 11-song opening set that followed a quick, generic warmup by the Lost Trailers. Our Kind of Love and Lookin’ for a Good Time were great Friday night party performances, and vocalists Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott and multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood endeared themselves to the crowd by donning University of Kentucky jerseys for the closer, I Run to You – for the record, later in the evening, McGraw did a little John Wall dance.
The centerpiece of Lady Antebellum’s set was Need You Now’s intimate title tune, with Kelley and Scott taking opposite sides of the stage and slowly moving closer together to dramatize the song’s forlorn late-night phone call. They manged to recreate the tension and avoid the revved up rendition that ruined Lady A’s Grammy Awards performance of the song.
Out of the gate, Lady Antebellum dragged a bit, not really kicking into gear until bringing their band into the act with Our Kind of Love. The group has great promise but also needs to learn some lessons about playing to big crowds.
Those are lessons McGraw learned a long time ago.
He started his show with a four-song sprint from Real Good Man to Let it Go, before taking a moment to introduce himself, his band the Dance Hall Doctors and declare that they would be the entertainment for the remainder of the evening.
Emphasis on they.
In his trademark black leathery hat and tight blue jeans, sporting a full beard, McGraw was clearly the star. But he constantly yielded the stage to the musicians he readily admitted, “can play better than I do.”
That reference was specifically to brothers Brett and Brad Warren, who joined McGraw for an acoustic set at the middle of the concert that included the war-casualty ballad If You’re Reading This, which McGraw co-wrote with the Warrens.
In his career, McGraw has always known the importance of writing and choosing great songs, and he has three greatest hits albums to show for it. Even packing in two-dozen songs, he left out some biggies including his first No. 1, Don’t Take the Girl, and Southern Voice‘s first single, It’s a Business Doing Pleasure.
But there was little time to miss them while McGraw and his 10-piece band were raising the roof with homages like Back When and Down on the Farm, and more contemporary fare like Felt Good on My Lips, essentially three-chord rock with a “woo-hoo” chorus.
At the end of that song, McGraw raced along the catwalk asking, “Do you feel the spirit of country music filling this place,” so much like a revival preacher you expected him to start healing folks.
And yes, that spirit was alive in Rupp Arena — country past and future — because McGraw is a perfect conduit for it.
Mei-Ann Chen, the final candidate to audition for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra‘s music director job, has been named music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Chen was one of the favorites for the Philharmonic post after her March 2009 audition. But shortly after her appearance, she pulled out of the race on the advice of her manager who said she should not take on the Lexington job in light of her rapidly growing career. Chen, then assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, had already been named as a candidate for the Memphis post when she auditioned in Lexington.
In winning the job, she beat the other Lexington candidate who pulled out of contention, Alastair Willis, who auditioned here in February 2009.
Scott Terrell was named the Philharmonic’s new music director in April 2009, and continues his inaugural season at 8 p.m. March 5 with piano soloist Anne-Marie McDermott performing Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major in the Singletary Center for the Arts.
Feb24Filed under: Bluegrass Community and Technical College, comedy, Downtown Arts Center, slide shows, Theater; Tagged as: Allie Darden, Beth Kander, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Downtown Arts Center, Kathy Swango, Katie Jo Cox, Leah Dick, Philip Sharkey, See Jane Quit, Tim X. Davis, Zach Dearing
Beth Kander takes fellow playwright William Shakespeare’s quote that “all the world’s a stage” one step further.
“In the world of the stage, it’s a really small world,” Kander says.
And that helps explain why her play See Jane Quit, which won the 2008 Mississippi Theatre Association Playwriting Award, is having its world premiere in Central Kentucky.
Kander’s boyfriend is old pals with Tim X Davis, director of the theater program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Recently they were visiting, renewing an old acquaintance that started when they met directing theater in Biloxi, and Kander mentioned that she wrote plays.
Davis says, “Almost as an afterthought, I said, ‘Well I’m always looking for new scripts. Why don’t you send me something?’”
Kander sent two scripts, and one of them, See Jane Quit, immediately clicked with Davis.
BCTC’s production opens Feb. 25 and will continue through March 6.
It is the second world premiere for the young BCTC theater program, which presented the world premiere of Davis’ Dancing With Dani in 2008. It’s also the second world premiere by a Lexington college theater troupe in less than a month; University of Kentucky Theatre just presented the initial production of Aleks Merilo’s Blur in the Rear View.
BCTC student Leah Dick, who plays the title role in See Jane Quit, says, “I’m really excited being able to set a precedent for other people to follow.”
Veteran Lexington actor Allie Darden, who plays Jane’s best friend, says, “So many times, you go out to audition for that great play like Steel Magnolias, and then you get a role that was made famous by some great actress and you think, ‘I couldn’t possibly do as well as they did it.’
“In a world premiere, you birth it. It’s your part.”
Adding to the excitement of presenting a world premiere is that next weekend’s performances are during the Southeastern Theatre Conference, which will bring more than 4,000 theater professionals and serious amateurs to Lexington from Thursday to Saturday.
Sometimes I have to remind my 42-year-old self that Tobymac is three years and a month older than me. To this day, no one is bringing hip hop — which dominates mainstream pop — to the Christian market with as much authority as T-Mac, and by doing that, he earns legions of fans less than half his age.
But Tonight, his fourth studio effort since parting with dctalk, is a bigger reminder that he and I hail from the eight-track era. That’s because on Tonight he brings the funk and a lot of soul, all echoing from those old record stores in the mall and radio stations with smooth talking DJs.
Funky Jesus Music is a delirious throwback to the days when someone could say the title without a bit of a giggle, with support from Beckah Shae and Siti Monroe and funky staccato guitar licks. Wonderin’, with Relient K frontman Matt Thiessen, delivers some sweet harmonies from two of the biggest names in Christian pop, and Start Somewhere and Break Open the Sky, with Israel Houghton, are ska and Island inflected pleasures near the end of the album.
Of course, Toby is always up to date. Hold On has an old soul feel, but also incorporates vocoder effect that is inescapable in hip hop these days. And this album has its fair share of straight up arenaburners like ShowStopper, which stands up with the best anthemic jams in his catalog like Extreme Days and Boomin‘. After well-over two decades in music, T-Mac knows what his audience, particularly the live audience, wants. But he also gives listeners something new on each album, and on this one, he’s giving us a sample of where he came from.
Laura Bell Bundy is looking for five great dancers to be in a reshoot of her Giddy on Up video, which will be shown on CMT and CMT.com.
Entering is pretty simple. Well, if teaching yourself dance moves somewhere between line dancing and a Broadway chorus line is simple for you — people like me need not apply. The deal is you watch the video (currently at No. 3 on CMT’s chart) and teach yourself the choreography. Then you make a video of yourself performing it, upload it to YouTube, submit the entry form and wait for your tickets to Nashville — if you win. The entry deadline is March 1.
The Top 5 dancers will be flown to Music City the week of March 22 for a reshoot of the video. Giddy on Up is the first single off of Bundy’s debut album for Mercury Nashville, Achin’ and Shakin’, which is set for release in the spring.
The Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra strings and Lafayette High School Choir joined with soloists Ben Sollee, Everett McCorvey, Cynthia Lawrence and others for The Concert of Hope, organized by CKYO cellist and SCAPA student Jacob Yates for Haitian earthquake relief. The event was Feb. 21, 2010 at Centenary United Methodist Church, and it raised $5,000. Photos by Mark Ashley.
Feb20Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Theater; Tagged as: Alliance Construction, Downtown Arts Center, Doyle Gibson, Gregory Fitzsimons, Jeanne Miller, Joe Ferrell, Joe Salsman, Julie Wright, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Nanci Barnhart, Short Street, ts. Peter and Paul School, W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation
West Short Street is on the verge of becoming a veritable Lexington theater district.
Already it is home to the active Lexington Opera House and Lexington Children’s Theatre. Come next fall, it will have a new 250-seat venue, in a school.
In addition to creating state-of-the-art classrooms for students in the Sts. Peter and Paul School, an $11 million expansion will include the renovation of the theater that sits at the front of the nearly 100-year-old school building and a gymnasium with an elevated walking track. (The building has housed only the middle school, sixth through eighth grades , but when it reopens in August, it will house the whole school, grades 1 through 8.)
The gym and theater facilities will be open to the public, at specified times after school hours.
While the school will of course have first crack at the theater space with its own active music and stage programs, Principal Julie Wright says she envisions the space being available to the community, somewhat like the gymnasium at Calvary Baptist Church on High Street.
“That’s always been our hope,” Wright said on frigid morning tour of the new space. “We want it to be a real community theater.”
For the community, the theater could fill a void that many artists and arts administrators currently see between the black box theater in the Downtown Arts Center, which seats 100 to 200 people in most configurations, and the 866-seat Lexington Opera House.
Walking into the theater, it still retains its 1913 allure. A scalloped proscenium arch ends in a cross over the center stage that, legend has it, would occasionally be illuminated by sunlight bouncing through a vent in a projection booth, which is no longer there.
The auditorium is wide and will have removable seats, because the school will want to use the space for a variety of events. Tall windows on each side fill the space with natural light, though in the renovation, it will be outfitted with blackout curtains.
Leading up to the theater from the Short Street entrance is a winding split-level staircase that finishes in the theater’s modest lobby.
School leaders, including its fine arts coordinator, Nanci Barnhart, say they have communicated with theater experts such as SummerFest director Joe Ferrell, about what needed to go into the theater. Among the recommendations were expanding the wing space and providing a space for set design and storage.
Bluetree is an Irish worship band that has written one of the most popular contemporary praise anthems in recent years. One day last year, they thought they were something else: dead.
“We got smuggled into Burma illegally,” the band’s frontman, Aaron Boyd, explains from his home in Ireland.
They bribed the Democratic Karen Buddist Army to smuggle them into the country so they could minister to people in a refugee camp. They thought this was a safe journey because they had an army on their side, and the larger Burmese army had not been through the camp they were visiting in years.
“We went to the school and visited and brought in the hymnals and Bibles, and it was brilliant,” Boyd says. “On the way back, the general of the army wanted to meet us. So we all got out of the car — and I didn’t want to get out of the car, I just wanted to get out of the country, because it is really tense and really frightening.
“While we were there, the other army that wasn’t bribed came in off of boarder patrol, and this argument ensued over our lives with this other army saying they were going to slit our throats.”
In the midst of all this, Boyd was handed a guitar and he started singing that signature worship anthem, God of This City.
“I’m singing God of This City to these people who kill Christians, singing, ‘Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in your city,’” Boyd recalls.
Since the group is coming to Immanuel Baptist Church on Sunday, they obviously got out alive. They will be presenting a few songs at the 9 and 11 a.m. worship services, and then returning for a longer set at the 6 to 8 p.m. young adult service.
It should be a fairly friendly environment for a band that has been used to playing in unfriendly places —though not necessarily places where armies argue over their lives.
God of This City was born in a very dark place in Burma’s neighbor, Thailand.
Feb18Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Current Affairs, Music, Opera, UK; Tagged as: Centenary United Methodist Church, Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra, Concert of Hope, Cynthia Lawrence, dagio for Strings, Elizabeth Dorsett, Everett McCorvey, Haiti, Harry Pickens, Jacob Yates, Kayoko Dan, Lafayette High School Choir, Mark R. Calkins, Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, Ryan Marsh, Samuel Barber, School for the Creative and Performing Arts, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
Click play to hear a conversation with Concert of Hope organizer Jacob Yates.
UPDATE: Ben Sollee has been added to the lineup for this performance.
Jacob Yates found the sheer numbers of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti — at least 230,000 dead and 1 million homeless — staggering, and he wanted to do something.
“I started thinking of ways I could try to help, even though I’m a 17-year-old in high school,” said Jacob, a junior at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Lafayette High School. “I decided since music is pretty much what I do with my life, that’s the direction I needed to go. I decided on a benefit concert.”
Impresario is a new role for Jacob, a cellist, pianist and singer. But he made his initial move like a veteran producer: He secured a star.
“The first thing I did was go upstairs and e-mail Everett McCorvey,” Jacob said. “Even though there were no details, he agreed to do it. And once he agreed, we got the place, and we just went from there.”
McCorvey, director of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and one of Lexington’s most visible artists, said, “When he called me and explained what he wanted to do, I wanted to help. I am so impressed with this young man and his desire to make a difference.”
The Concert of Hope on Sunday night at Centenary United Methodist Church boasts a marquee lineup, including emcee Elizabeth Dorsett of WKYT (Channel 27); Louisville-based jazz pianist Harry Pickens; the Lafayette High School Choir, directed by Ryan Marsh; the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras strings, conducted by Kayoko Dan; and new UK voice professor and international opera star Cynthia Lawrence.
Like McCorvey, Lawrence feels a personal connection to the tragedy in Haiti.
She said she and her husband, Mark R. Calkins, a voice teacher at Berea College and Centre College, “know of friends who are still digging out in Haiti and feel a bit helpless here. … If a performance of mine can encourage people — even in hard times, here — to help, that will be the success.”
Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Versailles-based Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich