The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Backstreet Boys and their fans got some big news this week The group, which includes Central Kentuckians Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell, learned it will be getting its star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year. The group’s fellow music honorees will include another huge boy band of the 1990s, New Kids on the Block, as well as Jennifer Hudson, Jane’s Addiction, Usher, Thalia and posthumous stars for Janis Joplin and Luther Vandross.
We talked to Richardson Tuesday for a story that will be in the Herald-Leader and online at LexGo.com Sundayabout what is going on in his career, and we took a moment to get his thoughts on the star.
“It is an honor, it’s a big honor,” Richardson said. “I grew up in Kentucky, and you grow up seeing star ceremonies on TV and stuff, and it’s a little surreal. It’s a huge honor. We’re joining some pretty good company there.”
Asked what company he’s excited about joining, Richardson said, “Pretty much anybody and everybody that you can think about as far as of great actors, great rock bands … Paul McCartney got his last year. They had a big live webcast right after he got his star, he went into Capitol Records and did a live performance and broadcast it over the web. So we’re joining some amazing artists. ”
Other 2013 star recipients will include Oscar-winner Helen Mirren, actor and director Ron Howard, James Franco, Viola Davis, and TV stars Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Lynch, Katy Sagal and Matthew Perry.
Richardson also talked to us about his film work including The Casserole Club, which comes out on home video Tuesday, July 3, and getting back together with the Backstreet Boys to record in London, next month.
Reading over appreciations of writer and director Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday after a battle with Leukemia, a theme quickly emerged: whether penned by an actual friend or not, that is what she was regarded as. Through her movies, which is what I knew best, and writing, people got a sense of a woman who understood them, shared their victories and disappointments and knew the poignant and absurd often kept close company.
For my money, her triumph was 1989′s When Harry Met Sally, a love letter to love and to New York City that in some ways almost out Woody Allened Woody Allen. Seeing it as a single college student, it was striking how Ephron simultaneously presented this beautifully crazy romance/friendship between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan but also celebrated romances that had lasted decades. You saw both the couple maybe you knew or would like to be and the ones you hoped to become. Through movies like Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) we saw these relationships that were not idealized but still seemed fantastic.
We felt like we knew her characters, therefore we felt like we knew her.
Of course, she shared more of herself in her books, her 2011 memoir I Remember Nothing having just shot to the top of my must-read list. Hearing people quote it over the last 12 hours indicates an empathetic voice that is even clearer than in her screenplays.
Maybe the most striking thing is that for such a seemingly regular gal, Ephron was a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, those hit movies just scratching the surface of what she created.
On Morning Joe today, publisher Arianna Huffington recalled how a month ago Ephron gathered friends together to celebrate the burgeoning singing career of actress and friend Rita Wilson. In her description, it almost sounded like a bit of an unannounced final gathering of friends, with the ringleader not drawing attention to herself.
Maybe that was the key to an extraordinary life that so resonated with us ordinary folk. Maybe that’s why this morning, we feel like we lost a friend.
Rootsy, retro, progressive … OK, hard to describe violinist Andrew Bird is coming to Singletary at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 – that would be a Saturday. Those who don’t know Bird’s work should, and his latest effort, Break it Yourself, is a great place to start. The album is a stylistic journey with meditations on topics past and present against an echoing backdrop and punctuated with Bird’s trademark whistling.
Reviewing the album, Bird’s seventh, Paste magazine’s Lindsay Eanet wrote, ”Break It Yourself will likely leave its listeners divided: some will call it boring; others will call it beautiful. There is a bit of longing for the dynamic sounds of which he is capable, but what the album does remind us is that above all, Andrew Bird is a highly skilled musician capable of crafting an album full of delightful little moments that make the album worth a fair listen, and more.”
Tickets to the Sept. 29 show are $25-$35 and go on presale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 26, at the Singletary Center ticket site. Use the password SCFA, which is case-sensitive and all upper case. Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, June 29.
Thursday afternoon, Fireflight lit up the main stage at the Ichthus Festival that was already scorching under 90-degree heat. Lead singer Dawn Michele made the edge of the catwalk her home, and the band, led by guitarist Glenn Drennen, seemed to relish the opportunity to play for the big crowd.
The Florida-based band was showing a maturity in performance and energy that fulfills some of the promise in its 2008 monster hit, Unbreakable. The song still sits near the end of Fireflight’s set, but it wasn’t the carrot to keep you listening that many hit singles turn out to be. This set was engaging in its own right, and it sort of made me forget how disappointed I was in Fireflight’s latest album, Now, which came out earlier this year.
It sounded like a band trying too hard, trying to recapture that dramatic energy of the breakout hit with histrionic – not dramatic – songs and performances. On the other end, there was too much gloss. “It sounds like Christian music,” my teenage daughter said in an assessment that was not meant as a compliment. To my ear, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t as authentic or engaging a statement as I was hoping for from a band this far into its career.
It felt like Fireflight lost edge and was starting to sound like the product of a Christian music machine that always seems to like things a little sanitized, even if fans and critics say that’s not what they want.
Thursday, the edge was back. There was an abandon in their performance and urgency in their message that overwhelmed the heat and the crowd to create one of the most bristling moments I saw at Ichthus this year.
It was a direction Fireflight should try to follow the next time they go into the studio, because they do have the makings of a great band.
See more: Photo gallery from Thursday at Ichthus.
You’d have to get up pretty early to beat a quintet of Winchester girls to the front row of the main stage at the Ichthus Festival. Thursday evening, before Family Force Five went on, Natalie Howe, Ashley Vanlandingham, Morgan Young, Samantha Hudson and Monica Curtis were holding onto a spot they claimed nearly 12 hours before.
There were some varying purposes for the Clark County teens half day vigils, starting at 8 a.m.: Howe and Vanlandingham’s dedication was to see Family Force 5, while the rest of the group was dedicated to Thursday night headliner Tobymac. For their enthusiasm, they were rewarded not only with a a front row vantage point to watch the boys from the dirty, dirty South and Tmac. Mainstage manager P.L. Mitchell was so impressed with their committment he gave them a backstage tour and festival personnel had first-in-line passes made up for them when they went to the fan tent for Family Force 5. Only Howe and Vanlandingham availed themselves of that privilege as the others were holding tight for Toby. But those girls got even more than they bargained for, getting to meet FF5 and have their pictures taken with the band.
It was all worth it, they said, particularly when Family frontman Solomon Olds, aka Soul Glow Activatur, went right over top of them in his crowd surfing bubble.
You might think after a very long day camped out in the 90-degree heat these five would sleep in on Friday morning. But no. Several will be up to regain that front row for Friday’s lineup including Red and Disciple. A few of them even did it on Wednesday for Switchfoot.
Fest officials may want to check with these girls before making the 2013 lineup, because clearly they inspired some dedicated fans this year.
The noon and 2:30 p.m. shows will launch a series of five Saturdays of movies, and free lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. for the first 50 moviegoers ages 18 and younger this Saturday and July 14 and 28. Noon shows are geared to kids while 2:30 shows are geared to adults. Admission is free to all patrons.
The full series is:
July 14. Noon: Chicken Run (2000), animated comedy about chickens breaking out of a chicken farm. 2:30: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Will Smith stars in the true story of a single father who works his way out of homelessness.
July 28. Noon: Akeelah and the Bee (2006), an inner-city Los Angeles student tries to compete in the National Spelling Bee. 2:30: Imitation of Life (1959), a drama about a black girl who rebels against her mother and tries to pass for white.
Aug. 18. Noon: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001), animated film that launched a Nickelodeon series. 2:30: Something the Lord Made (2005), Alan Rickman and Mos Def star in a drama about the inventor of heart bypass surgery and his gifted lab technician who struggles to receive credit for his contributions because he is black.
Sept. 8. The Great Debaters (2007), Denzel Washington stars in the story of the debate team from all-black Wiley College in Texas that faces Harvard in 1935. 2:30: Crash (2004) The Oscar-winner for best picture explores cultural clashes over a day in Los Angeles.
Studio Players has announced its 2012-13 season, which will kick off in September with The King — Elvis, baby.
Sept. 13-30: Elvis Has Left the Building by Duke Ernsberger and Virginia Cate. Colonel Parker has booked an important date for Elvis to play, but he can’t be found. Can anyone stand in for The King? Directed by Eric Seale, artistic director of Actors Guild of Lexington.
Nov. 8-25: My Three Angels by Samuel Spewack and Bella Spewack. In French Guiana, three escaped convicts show up at a shop intending to rob it but end up helping the financially distressed shop owners. The 1953-54 Broadway play was the basis for the 1955 Humphrey Bogart movie We’re No Angels, one of his rare comedies. Directed by Ross Carter, director of last season’s opener, The 39 Steps.
Jan. 10-27: Southern Comforts by Kathleen Clark. A New Jersey widower and Southern widow meet and fall in love during a rainstorm, though they have to overcome some pronounced differences. Directed by David Senatore, director of last season’s production of Bad Seed.
March 7-24: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Tim Kelly. Sherlock Holmes returns to the Studio stage in this production directed by longtime Studio artist Gary McCormick.
May 9-26: Funny Money by Ray Cooney. A comedy about a briefcase containing a fortune in unmarked bills. Bob Singleton, director of this year’s The Graduate, directs.
Before all that, Studio presents its annual summer musical, The Great American Trailer Park Musical with music and Lyrics by David Nehis and a book by Betsy Kelso. It opens July 12 for a four-week run.
DANVILLE — The sun was setting as the lights came up on opening night for the 2012 season at Pioneer Playhouse.
Patrons in line at the box office talked about how many of the summer stock theater’s 62 previous seasons they had attended. They exchanged smiles and handshakes with theater staff, including members of the Henson family, whose patriarch, the late Eben Henson, known affectionately as The Colonel, built and then ran the theater for five decades.
They danced to a band and got ready to laugh at the goofy season opener, Dracula Bites. Even Ernie Brown Jr., The Turtleman of Animal Planet’s Call of the Wildman fame, posed for pictures with fans.
At one point, he was mere feet from a memorial display for the person missing this opening night: Holly Henson, the artistic director of Pioneer Playhouse, who had died less than two weeks earlier after a long battle with breast cancer.
Many of those handshakes were held a few extra seconds with words of condolence and praise for the daughter who carried on her father’s theatrical dream after his death in 2004. At least one patron burst into tears when he heard the news for the first time upon arriving at the theater.
This is what it looks like as the show goes on in Danville.
“She was actually worried she was going to go this week, opening week,” Henson’s sister, Heather Henson, said the day before opening night. “She didn’t want her own passing to mess up the week.”
But it could not help but have an effect. A grand tradition of Pioneer Playhouse’s opening nights is a speech from the artistic director, and even as night fell, there seemed to be some question as to who would give that address until Heather announced she and her brother Robby would do it together.
“This theater is about history, this theater is about family, this theater is about comedy, and sometimes this theater is about tragedy,” Robby told the nearly sold-out crowd. “That did happen this week, but we are going on. The theater will go on strong, the family will go on strong.”
As he spoke, Robby was backed by his sister and her family; his brother, Eben Henson Jr.; their mother, Charlotte; cousin and Playhouse mainstay Eben French Mastin; and Holly’s husband, Tom Hansen, who moved to Kentucky with his wife last year after many years of living separate summers while he stayed in Minneapolis and she came home to direct the theater.
Just five years ago, if you were sitting at your campsite at the Ichthus Festival wondering, “What’s going on over there?” at the festival site, you’d have to get up and go see.
Now, you can whip out your smartphone or tablet, or just check your texts.
The annual Wilmore Christian music event’s social media strategy has been evolving continuously; it now incorporates Facebook and Twitter, apps for Apple and Android devices, a text messaging network and even an old-fashioned radio station.
Ichthus also has created more wireless Internet zones at the festival site and strengthened its cellular signal to keep the data flowing.
“The most exciting thing about social media is it gives us a direct connection to the people we serve in a public forum,” Ichthus director Mark Vermilion said.
Tim Gerst, the festival’s I-media coordinator, says, “We want social media to be our No. 1 marketing tool because, for the most part, it’s free.”
It is a network that has been building over time.
It seemed appropriate to end a week that started with two Kentuckians walking off with Tony Awards catching the work of another Kentucky theater artist who has gone off to create in a bigger playground.
This weekend Actors Guild of Lexington is hosting Danville native Rowen Haigh and her Baltimore-based White Flag Performance Group in a presentation of its original work, Really You Should Use Bullets. Yes, a graduate school-based theater collective on the stage of Actors Guild’s South Elkhorn Theatre is a long way from the lights of New York’s Beacon Theatre, where Ashland native Steve Kazee picked up a Tony for best actor in a musical for Once Sunday night and Elizabethtown’s Darron West was honored for best sound design of a play for Peter and the Starcatcher.
But it was abundantly clear that Haigh and her colleagues from Townson State University have an abundance of creativity that could someday blaze a path to much larger stages.
Bullets is a dark delight that starts with a sad clown committing suicide in a way that drew a combination of laughter and sniffs from the audience.
Immediately after arriving in the afterlife, Clown is stripped of her clown status because suicide in very unfunny and not worthy of a clown. Her nose and voice are amputated, and she is told by a terse, disembodied voice, “You are a mime.” That prompts actress Lesley Berkowitz to deliver a silent scream to rival Edvard Munch, starting her journey through heaven and hell, which we learn are both brought to us by Johnson & Johnson, Disney and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Amy Kronzer complements Berkowitz’s engaging miming with a hilarious cast of characters from the sinister sweet concierge in heaven to a snarky cellphone friend in hell to, who else, Marcel Marceau.
It’s a quick redemption tale that addresses the human longing to belong and its sometimes less than desirable consequences, life and death and annoyances — in hell, you have to watch Dane Cook woodshed new material three times a day.
White Flag was born out of a desire by Haigh and co-artistic director Sean Mahoney to create an artistic outlet outside of the graduate school curriculum. Their plans, they said Thursday night, are to continue as a traveling collective presenting innovative new works like Bullets, which is a growing trend in theater. Who knows where it will take each or all of them? As Haigh told us, the company name is an acknowledgement of the shifting world of theater.
But like Kazee and West, Haigh was raised in the theatrical community of Kentucky. And as those gentlemen demonstrated Sunday, with that as your basis, the possibilities are unlimited.
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