The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Jacob Sexton and David Jackson, graduates of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Lafayette High School, are leading a new show steeped in Kentucky history into the New York City International Fringe Festival. The show is Panoramania; Or The Adventures of John Banvard / An O’er True Tale, which is described on the show’s Facebook page as a “multi-media, folk-infused tragicomedy.” Banvard was an actor and panoramic painter regarded as the first motion picture producer for his scrolling painting of the Mississippi River. But his exploits were outdone and undone by P.T. Barnum, and he died in obscurity.
Jackson wrote the book for the musical, with music and lyrics by the New York-based band PartyFolk, and Sexton is directing the production, which features fellow SCAPA alum Blake Sugarman, Henry Clay High School graduate Emily Rose Prats and Sayre School graduate Kabby Borders in its cast.
The production was developed with a grant from Fordham University, and it raised $8,435 in a Kickstarter campaign that concluded Tuesday.
The production will premiere Aug. 11 at the Fringe Festival.
Jackson’s former SCAPA theater teacher Paul Thomas says Jackson is also slated to appear in the upcoming season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and will be traveling to England to play poet Allen Ginsberg in a new play called A Four-letter Word.
Note: This story was updated at 8:15 a.m. Aug. 1 to report the results of the Kickstarter campaign.
Sunday night, I was about to turn in around 11 p.m. when I decided to stay up a few more minutes to see what Gabby Douglas was all about. She was on the cover of Time magazine and had been one of the main names that bubbled up in chatter about the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
So, I watched her performance which was good, but included a noteworthy stumble. But soon, I was immersed in the drama of Jordyn Wieber and Alexandra Raisman, U.S. teammates and friends locked in a competition for the final U.S. spot in Tuesday night’s all around finals with Douglas. Wieber, a reigning world champion, also had a noteworthy stumble in her floor routine and Raisman was fairly flawless in her performance, which propelled her into the final.
Raisman giving her victory interview to NBC while Wieber stood behind her, inconsolable, was one of the more excruciating images I have seen on TV recently, and it also exemplified why the Olympics draw us in and interest us in sports we normally do not collectively pay attention to. It is the work of a lifetime coming down to a few seconds or steps. Even if we don’t understand the intricacies of gymnastic competition or other sports highlighted in the Olympics, we get that concept of a life’s work coming down to make-or-break moments. And for many of these athletes, this is it. Except for, say, a few sports like tennis and basketball, they don’t have the outlet of a professional championship to affirm their work. This will be the answer to “was it all worth it?”
Then there is the fascination of seeing some events we normally don’t catch in our steady sports diet of football, baseball, basketball and NASCAR.
Sunday afternoon, I found myself involved in the water polo match between the USA and Montenegro. The hour or so I devoted to watching that match was more than I ever paid attention to water polo in my life, save for times we attempted to play it in high school and college — games which usually were more about not drowning than scoring points, making it all the more fascinating to see people who could play water polo competently.
The Olympics get us and a lot of people to do things they would not normally do. Do you think Queen Elizabeth II would have appeared in a James Bond short that had her supposedly diving out of a helicopter if it wasn’t for the Olympics?
Even away from the games there is the whole #NBCfail drama boiling over on Twitter and other forums about NBCs coverage of the games. Once again, the Peacock is being plucked for showing events on tape-delay, an argument now amplified by the relative ease of getting results and even live video on the Internet, and some notable gaffes like omitting the tribute to victims of London’s 7/7 terror attack in its broadcast of the opening ceremonies.
True, NBC might need to think about how to handle these gaping time differences before the 2014 winter games in Russia (Rio 2016, fortunately, is only an hour ahead of Eastern time), though I also have to wonder who all these people are that would be available to watch major events midday, when most of us are working.
The Olympics sort of exist as an anomaly in this world that seems to collectively favor the familiar. But they succeed because even more than that, we love drama.
Frankfort’s Grand Theatre has announced the lineup for its 2012-13 season, its fourth year of bringing marquee entertainment to the state capitol’s downtown since reopening in 2009.
Grand President Bill Cull said, “We believe it represents a step forward in establishing the Grand as one of the state’s outstanding performing arts venues,” in a news release announcing the season. The lineup is:
Sept. 11: Robert Earl Keen, Texas singer-songwriter
Sept. 25: Tommy Emmanuel, guitar virtuoso
Oct. 4: 1964: The Tribute, Beatles tribute show
Oct. 12: Henry Rollins, spoken word artist
Oct. 26: Felix Cavliere’s Rascals (two shows), 1960s group whose hits include Groovin’ and It’s a Beautiful Morning.
Nov. 16: Etta May, Kentucky-based comedian
Dec. 6-9: Bluegrass Theatre Guild’s Christmas Belles, comedy
Jan. 11: The Brotherhood, a cappella gospel
Jan. 25: Stirfry Musette, acoustic Latin, Gypsy jazz and Celtic music
Feb. 12: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, legendary South African a cappella group
Feb. 15: Dance Kaleidoscope, presenting Old Blue Eyes: Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack
March 1: Mandy Barnett, presenting Always … Patsy Cline
April 11: Jack Hanna Into the Wild, unscripted show of exotic animals
April 26: Livingston Taylor, singer-songwriter and brother of James Taylor
Season tickets are $240.30 to $432 depending on seat locations and they are available at the theater box office, 312 West Main Street, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, by calling (502) 352-7469 or visiting grandtheatrefrankfort.org. Single event tickets will go on sale later this summer.
Joining the lineup are The Jesus and Mary Chain, ’80s and ’90s modern rock favorites who reunited in 2007 with brothers Jim and William Reid at the helm; Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel fame; erudite hip-hop artists Das Racist and experimental artists The Music Tapes.
Also joining the lineup, which already included Deerhoof, Baroness and Negativland are Cloud Nothings, Saint Vitus, Weedeater, Five Knives, dance band Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, Hive Mind, Dinosaur Feathers, the audio-and-visual collective X A M B U C A and Lexington’s own Merkaba – who describe their music on their website somewhat accurately as, “Death’s Chariot coming for you.”
If you want to see all of those, you have some diverse tastes. Then again, that’s sort of what Boomslang is all about. To take it all in, passes are now on sale for $70 to the general public and $40 for University of Kentucky students through Ticketmaster.
As rounds of beer were served at West Sixth Brewing Co., couples whispered to one another, conversations were held and a dog sat dutifully with its owners while the chamber quintet played.
By Saturday night, this kind of setting was nothing new to the musicians of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington’s July Series, which spent a week staging surprise performances in unexpected locations. They included next to the funnel cake stand at the Lexington Lions Club Bluegrass Fair, in the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza and in a bar where you’d probably expect to find a rock band or acoustic guitarist playing.
The series was billed as “flash-mob”-style concerts to promote the coming festival, which is Aug. 27 to Sept. 2.
What it really was about was getting chamber music in front of people who don’t normally listen to it or even know what it is.
“We were directly taking music to the people, where they are,” festival manager Richard Young said after the July 21 concert. “A lot of people think of classical music as being aloof.”
This performance was anything but hoity-toity.
The concert program paired each piece with a suggested West Sixth beer and menu item from the Fork in the Road Mobile Galley. Example: Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major was paired with the Smithtown Brown Ale and Ravel’s Cubano sandwich.
The loose atmosphere also lent itself to moments like this: When the clarinet in Osvald Golijov’s Klezmer-inspired The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind started reaching high notes, a dog in the audience started barking, and everyone laughed.
And then there was the finale. Composer-in-residence Danny Clay bought in his pink toy piano to play a piece called Toy Piano Music, though earlier in the week it had been identified on WRFL-FM 88.1 as Monster Burger for String Quartet and Toy Piano. As he played the hard-driving piano part, he took a few sips of his beer.
The musicians dressed casually in jeans, their shirts untucked, or, for violist Erin Rafferty, in a summer dress. They looked like the twentysomething graduate students they are.
“If they had come in wearing tails and concert attire, that would have ruined it,” Young said.
He said the July Series was meant to attract audiences to the festival’s August concerts, which are more formal yet more casual than many would expect. But first, people need to be introduced to the sounds to get the idea chamber music is something they would make a special trip to see and hear.
From the musicians’ standpoint, the July Series was unlike anything they had participated in or seen before, and they were very enthusiastic.
“It broke down barriers, particularly with younger audiences,” violinist Nick Montopoli said. “It felt like a very open environment.”
Young and the musicians acknowledged that the performances were not flash mobs in the traditional style of a large group of people suddenly erupting into song or dance. They were more like pop-up concerts, with short notices being texted and tweeted to people interested enough to sign up for alerts.
Rafferty recalled a warm reception at the Bluegrass Fair, noting in particular a little girl who danced as they played. She also said she and the rest of the musicians were excited about having a composer as part of the group.
That is only natural for the Chamber Music Festival, which has commissioned a new work for each edition since its second season in 2008.
And the July Series seemed only natural for an event that has a lot of support from long-standing classical music patrons but that has worked to innovate and has influenced the local music scene with things like its co-commissioning project with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.
Thanks to the festival, chamber music in bars and by funnel cake stands no longer seems like such a crazy idea.
Actors Guild of Lexington’s 2012-13 season features four shows that have not been produced in Lexington before and, for the third straight year, an open slot at the end of the season so artistic director Eric Seale can pick something timely and intriguing. It also includes a mix of directors from a visiting artist to two Kentucky directors building national reputations.
Nov. 1-11: November by David Mamet, directed by Bo List. Seale has strategically placed this play about a President in an uphill battle for re-election on the weekends before and after the 2012 election. List is a Lexington native who has been directing nationally and has several engagements in Central Kentucky this year.
Jan. 24-Feb. 3: Red by John Logan, directed by Jerome Davis. The 2010 Tony Award winner for best play looks at an artist’s journey creating a definitive work. Davis is the director of Burning Coal Theatre in Raleigh, N.C., and was previously seen at Actors Guild last fall performing Conor McPherson’s St. Nicholas.
Feb. 28-March 10: Seminar by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Chrisena Ricci. Tensions and romance between four writers and a professor play out over the course of 10-week seminar. Ricci studied theater at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., and is currently assistant to the artistic director at Actors Guild.
May 9-19: William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead by John Heimbach, directed by Eric Seale. To quote the release: “A comedic homage to zombie films and a carefully researched drama about Shakespeare and his authorship.”
The final play in the lineup will be announced later in the season. This year, that strategy brought Mike Daisey’s controversial The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs to the AGL stage.
Season subscriptions are $90 for adults, $67 senior adults and students. Call 1-866-811-4111 or visit actors-guild.org for tickets.
Pioneer Playhouse presents Elizabeth Orndorff’s High Strangeness a play inspired by the alleged alien abduction of three women on U.S. 78 between Stanford and Hustonville, Ky., in 1976. In this scene from the show, which opens tonight (July 24) and runs to Aug. 4, the women (actresses Mary Hodges, Katie Nykanen and Patricia Hammond) report their experience to a government official.
Watch for more on the show later this week here and at LexGo.com.
Sunday afternoon I was perusing Kentucky.com’s Facebook page to see what was up and what people were talking about, and I clicked on the comments to the post that asked, “Do you agree with Penn State’s decision to remove the statue of Joe Paterno?”
One reader replied with the link to one of the most striking reporter confessionals I have ever read. It was from elite sports journalist Rick Reilly for ESPN.com. He was an initial defender of the late Penn State football coach when revelations about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilla came to light. But the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, which said Paterno knowingly covered up Sandusky’s actions to protect Penn State’s football program, was apparently a come-to-Jesus moment for Reilly.
“What a stooge I was,” Reilly wrote of his defense of Paterno. “I talked about Paterno’s ‘true legacy’ in all of this. Here’s his true legacy: Paterno let a child molester go when he could’ve stopped him. He let him go and then lied to cover his sinister tracks. He let a rapist go to save his own recruiting successes and fundraising pitches and big-fish-small-pond hide.”
The part that really struck me though came early in the piece, when Reilly recounted visiting State College in 1986 to research a Sportsman of the Year piece on Paterno for Sports Illustrated. A Penn State professor called him irate, saying he was turning the coach into a saint.
“You don’t know him,” the prof said to Reilly. “He’ll do anything to win. What you media are doing is dangerous.”
You don’t know him.
That statement in the context of whole situation solidified one of my longstanding beliefs and gripes with journalism, particularly celebrity journalism.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington‘s “flash-mob” ensemble gave its penultimate performance Saturday night at West Sixth Brewing playing pieces by Brahms, Ravel, Golijov and, to end the evening, composer-in-residence Danny Clay. For the finale – thought there was an encore – Clay sat down at his pink First Act toy piano to play a piece he had dubbed Monster Burger for String Quartet and Toy Piano in a Wednesday night appearance on WRFL, though by Saturday it had been toned down to Toy Piano Music.
“When I thought about actually expending ink to write ‘Monster Burger,’ it just didn’t seem right,” Clay said over West Sixth brews Saturday night after the concert.
We sat down with the whole group, which wrapped up its Lexington stand today with a concert at the Chandler Medical Center, to talk about the whole experience of the last week and what they thought. Copious Notes will have a post on that early this week, meanwhile, enjoy Monster Burg … er … Toy Piano Music. (We endorse the original name and long to see ink expended on putting it in a Carnegie Hall program someday.)
Read and see more:
- Feature: When Evan met Ellie
- Notebook: Comparing Streetcars
- Gallery: A Streetcar Named Desire
- Video: Scene from Streetcar
Rain and lightning finally cleared away enough Friday night for SummerFest to open its production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Still, steel gray clouds and gusty winds made for an appropriately stormy atmosphere for one of the American stage’s greatest works and one of its greatest drama queens, Blanche DuBois.
The Arboretum stage has not hosted Williams before, though it has presented many great Shakespearean tragedies including King Learand Macbeth. Streetcar certainly deserves to be on the same stage, and all three have been helmed at the Arboretum by Lexington’s master of drama, director Joe Ferrell.
The play is tough stuff, made all the more searing by Williams’ ability to create excruciatingly human characters and put poetic truths in their mouths. See the first scene between Blanche and her little sister Stella. As Blanche tells Stella how she lost their family home, her self-defensiveness is at an aggravating fever pitch, but she describes enduring the deaths in her family with vivid truthfulness.
That is Blanche, a woman who is infuriatingly arrogant but also clearly a victim of the circumstances of her life, raised in the refinement of a Southern plantation but now facing a much less accommodating world. She expresses astonishment that Stella, who is not having similar problems adapting, does not have a maid for the two-room apartment in New Orleans’ French Quarter she shares with her husband, Stanley.
That sets the tone for the world Blanche longs for compared to the one she is in.
Stanley exemplifies that new world as a self-assured, sometimes primal and violent man for whom Blanche is really no match, particularly as her stories begin to unravel.
Stella has the unenviable task of refereeing these two, who are constantly pulling her to their sides. Ellie Clark makes Stella a self-assured woman who still has to bend to the wills of these strong personalities. Bergman plays Stanley as a gregarious fellow who too easily slips into his dark, violent side. But through his charisma, you see why people are attracted to him, from his bowling buddies to his loyal wife.
Bergman and Clark are a real-life couple, and they bring palpable chemistry to their performances. They lead two of this production’s best scenes: when Stanley airs his suspicions about the loss of Blanche and Stella’s family home, and later, when Stanley tells Stella what he has learned about Blanche’s life back home in Laurel, Miss. In both instances, Bergman manages his tone beautifully to highlight key portions of the scenes and come across as reasonable, albeit barely.
We have no doubt he does not like his sister-in-law.
And in Bess Morgan’s performance, Blanche is really hard to like.
Moments after appearing, she is operating at a shrill tenor, and for the most part stays there through Act I. Blanche is histrionic, but this one-note interpretation makes it difficult to muster much sympathy for her, something we really need for the play to have its full impact. Act II brings more nuance from Morgan, and a couple of engaging scenes including the one when she makes advances on a paperboy (Rob Schrader, acting appropriately weirded-out) and her recounting of her husband’s death. But Blanche’s charm never comes through the mumbling drawl Morgan developed for her character.
Tim Hull is perfectly cast as Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s sad sack suitor Mitch, one of numerous victims in this tragic tale.
The design team, including set designer Dathan Powell and costumers Joyce Anderson and Dennis Smail, give the show a solid but unobtrusive look. One great prop is the old-fashioned fan sitting atop the refrigerator, which on Friday frequently turned at full speed powered only by the wind.
In Streetcar, SummerFest has brought a good production of an American classic to the stage, but it would help if it, and particularly its leading lady, operated more like that fan that occasionally slowed down when the winds let up.
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