The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
We are in the midst of a little backstage drama at William Shakespeare’s new Globe Theatre in 1599.
The debut performance of Henry V has just concluded, and there are some congratulations, a lot of griping and colorfully spoken drama. Suddenly, a company member pops in, but he is far from himself. He’s lurching, his face is disfigured, and soon, he is chomping on someone’s arm.
Well, no one says “zombie,” because that word was not around in 1599. The Elizabethan characters, including Queen Elizabeth herself (Sharon Sikorski), conclude that this is a plague and lock themselves up in the Globe, much like Rick Grimes’ people take refuge in the prison on The Walking Dead.
And if you follow Lexington theater much, you know there is only one playhouse where you could see this: Eric Seale’s Actors Guild of Lexington.
To an extent, theaters become reflections of their artistic directors’ sensibilities, and Actors Guild has certainly reflected Seale’s interests theatrical (David Mamet’s November), cultural (The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs), and historical (The Love Song o f J. Robert Oppenheimer).
The good thing is Seale’s preoccupations are broad and interesting, so he is by no means wearing people out with his point of view. But knowing his love for Shakespeare and pop culture, Seale was the prime Lexington AD to program and direct William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead by John Heimbuch.
Horror and historical/literary mash-ups have become all the rage these days, with Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Heimbuch’s script is essentially a vehicle for the conceit. There aren’t really any great truths to be relayed or story to tell as much as Shakespearian dialogue and historical humor to string together the zombie attacks.
And, of course, the people who are well need to figure out how to fend off the zombies.
As the title character, Tim Hull has the most to work with. Through the ordeal, Shakespeare grows from being a sullen tool of the powerful in England to more genuine self-confidence. He finds that he can work with artists who initially threatened him, including tiring Falstaff actor William Kemp (Pete Sears), and stand up to bullies of the monarchy, such as Francis Bacon (Matt Seckman).
Seckman has the showiest role, save for bloody-faced zombies, trying to use Shakespeare’s work to advance his own concerns and burnish his position with the Queen. Quickly, the audience is rooting for him to be bitten.
The better you know your Shakespeare and Shakespearian history, the more you will be rewarded by the play, which constantly drops Shakespearian dialogue from all characters’ mouths.
Land of the Dead is a technically ambitious show from several standpoints. Costume designer Natalie Cummins has to outfit a much larger cast than usually traipses across Lexington stages, Jason Tate has numerous fight scenes to choreograph, and the makeup is elaborate and extensive.
The zombie action is a bit varied, from the docile Walking Dead types to some crazed, ravenous killers. Purists might demand more consistency.
But this really isn’t a show for purists of any stripe. It’s fun, and in his tenure as AGL’s artistic chief, we know that Seale likes to have fun.
Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch, items from the 1860 presidential election, and other Lincoln artifacts from the Kentucky Historical Society will be lent to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library for an exhibit this summer.
The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln will open at the Simi Valley, Calif., museum on June 1 and will run until Sept. 30. Included in the exhibit will be artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. The Historical Society’s contributions will include “Lincoln’s pocket watch, a campaign medal from the 1860 presidential election, a campaign ribbon from the 1860 presidential election, a World War I-era poster reading ‘Books Build Character’ that features Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and a print of Lincoln’s early home in Kentucky,” according to a news release.
The pocket watch was in the spotlight late last year when sound specialists from Steven Spielberg’s biopic Lincoln traveled to Frankfort to record it because Spielberg wanted sounds Lincoln heard in the movie.
Violinist Benjamin Beilman, guitarist Jason Vieaux, and the Escher String Quartet will bring a youthful vibe to the seventh annual Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Memorial Day Weekend at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Rounding out the lineup are pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, who have served as the event’s artistic directors since its inception in 2007.
In that short period, the festival has seen a number of changes, including the departure of one of the original co-presenters, Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, and a change in leadership at the Shaker Village. But the appeal of hearing musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center perform in the pastoral beauty of the Shaker Village and the directors’ affection for the venue have sustained it.
“It’s the community; it’s the setting,” Wu said last year, in an interview with the Herald-Leader. “Management will come and go, from our experience, but art, if you have a community to support it, if you have the audience and, in the case of the Shaker Village, that particular setting, it’s irreplaceable.”
While the Escher will play several times together in the four concerts over two days, there will also be several chances for the group to mix with other musicians on pieces such as Johannes Brahms’ Sextet No. 2 in G major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Two Cellos, which will close out the festival in the May 26 concert at the Meadow View Barn.
The event will open late on the morning of May 25 with Wu and Finckel, one of classical music’s celebrated couples, teaming up for Claude Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano.
That concert will also give Beilman a solo turn performing Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata in E Minor for Violin and the Escher will play Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimentos for String Quartet. The next morning, Vieaux will have the stage to himself with Isaac Albeniz’s “Sevilla” and “Asturias” from Suite española for Guitar. And then there will be plenty of mixing and matching over the four performances. The festival really is a chance to watch world-class musicians play, in several senses of the word.
Beilman’s star is rising quickly in the 2010s with appearances around the world, particularly in chamber settings, and an Avery Fisher career grant to his credit.
Vieaux has recordings of works by J.S. Bach and Astor Piazolla to his credit, serves as the head of the Guitar Department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he is a co-founder of The Curtis Institute of Music’s Classical Guitar Department.
The Escher String Quartet does take its name from the Dutch artist M.C. Escher, famous for works such as interweaving stair cases, and has racked up a distinguished list of venues and achievements over its eight years together, including being invited to perform at Itzhak Perlman’s summer festival. Its recorded catalog includes works by Alexander von Zemlinsky and Amy Beach.
Ralph Scott of Louisville and Sylvia Smith of London – the London — came to their first Derby wondering if they would even bet. But they looked at the odds and decided to put some bills on Orb and Revolutionary.
“I’m here for two more years,” Scott said of Louisville, where he is stationed in the military.
Safe bet, they’ll be back to the Derby. 6:35 p.m.
As the race approaches, people settle into where they are going to be. People who had holed up to avoid the rain all day took their uncovered seats. People unable to actually see the track piled into places where they could see TV screens, including a crowd ascending a picnic table in the paddock.
By the way, the reverent singing of My Old Kentucky Home does not take place in the paddock. They cheer it when it is done, but the singalong is absent. It is a reactive crowd.
One guy, with a Dollar General Bag on his head and swim goggles on his eyes looked at me and said, “My God. This is going to change my life.”
“You don’t want to catch a cold on Derby Day!” she yells, holding her wares aloft. “Get you ponchos!”
If it had not turned out to be a chilly rainy day, McShane and Jessica Ellrick would have been selling T-shirts Event Toyz outside the Downs. But there is always a rain plan to come in, as official vendors, and sell $5 ponchos if it rains.
“A lot of people came prepared to look awesome, they didn’t come prepared for this,” Ellrick said.
Among those types of folks were Armida Hoffman of Tucson, Ariz., and Jean-Paul Rousselle of Springfield, Mo., who looked like they put more than the week they claimed they devoted to putting together their crisp outfits that were under clear Walgreen’s ponchos.
“You do what you can to make it work,” said Rousselle. One of Hoffman’s strategies was a poncho over her flowing hat.
Seated in the grandstands, they said they tried to spend much of the day under cover. But they were making their way back to their seats for the Derby.
“We’ll be out there, even if it’s pouring,” Hoffman said.
- Here’s the fun thing about Churchill Downs in rain: people swarm to the covered areas. There was a point coming back to the press center from the red carpet that I realized no one was moving. It was just interconnected clusters of people standing together that we had to burrow through. It almost makes getting drenched seem like a better option. 3:57 p.m.
- Next to horse racing (and drinking) star-gazing is another one of the hallowed traditions of the Kentucky Derby. Today, it also gave fans about three hours they could stand under an awning, shout for their favorite celebrities, and keep moderately dry.
“If you’re not going to watch horses, you might as well watch celebrities,” said Jordan Moody of Greensboro, N.C. She had just made friends with Pam Allen of Boston on the front row of star gazers, just beyond the red carpet. Among their favorites were Kid Rock, Lance Bass and Michael J. Fox. Hint, stars: fans like it when you stop and smile at them. Ben Yapp of New Hampshire was stoked to see Scotty Pippin.
Consensus is the Derby is a big draw for reality stars, athletes and former boy band members, not necessarily in that order. Lance Bass said his former N Sync band ate Joey Fatone got him interested in coming to the race. “He’s the pro,” said Bass, who added he’ll lean on Fatone to pick a winner.
“And I’m really competitive,” Abby Zern said.
Caitlin Robinson said, “we’re just going around doing anything that’s under a shelter.” Sporting shorts and flannel shirts, the Chicago troupe was a bit more dressed for the weather than other Infield dwellers.
“We know how to dress for the weather in Chicago,” Shannon Phillips said.
Still Kristin Koller, a nurse from Eden Prairie, Minn., worried, “these are perfect conditions for colds.”
Snuggling her Bud Light Lime in her new Dodge Ram coozie, Zern said, “I’m pretty sure that’s not why I’ll feel horrible tomorrow.” 11:37 a.m.
- A snazzily dressed trio from St. Louis invoked a variation of Dori’s catch phrase from Finding Nemo to describe how they were dealing with the wet weather in the Infield Saturday morning: “Just keep drinking,” Bridget Walsh said, cradling her first julep of the day. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Jamie Dupate said of the modest imbibing thus far. Their only concessions to the rain were shoes – loafers for Bridget and Walmart boots for Jamie. But the pink hats stayed. “It’s Derby. You don’t ditch the hat,” Jamie said.
And you don’t change your bachelor party plans. Despite the weather, Colin Toolan of Philadelphia still had his friends gathered in the infield to celebrate his July marriage. Some of the gentlemen were completing a personal Triple Crown, though Al Kane of Denver said, “The infield here isn’t as rowdy as it was at Preakness, at this hour.”
So there you have it, Kentucky Derby Infield, you have some catching up to do. 11:05 a.m. (Thanks to the Vineyard Vines tent for Infield shelter to write this.)
- This is my 15th Derby, but I am still fully capable of turning a corner and wondering, “where the heck am I?” Also wondering if I should interview the guy with a couple beers, already staggering into door posts at 10:15 a.m. — and I haven’t even made it to the infield yet.
- I’ll be roaming The Downs working to give you a sense of the day – with a break to schmooze celebrities around noon. The red carpet is covered, so I may be really looking forward to that. If there’s anything you think I should check out, tweet me @copiousnotes. 9:33 a.m.
- Alright, I did not beat the rain out to Churchill Downs, so the slog starts now. I am on the luxurious media shuttle into The Downs, also known as what appears to be a 1970s era Jefferson County S school bus. Ah, the glamorous life of Derby media. 9:28 a.m.
Everybody loves a hometown hero. UofL basketball star Peyton Siva could barely do interviews for all the fans cheering SIVA! SIVA! as he entered the Barnstable Gala. He said he was enjoying the love and looks forward to coming back, even after he’s moved on to the NBA. Seems the party did save the best for last this year. We’re out. 11:05 p.m.
I was about to go, but Joey Fatone is here. 10:32 p.m.
Perennial Barnstable Brown Gala guest Travis Tritt pointed out that he sang the national anthem at the NCAA men’s basketball championship, which Louisville won. Therefore, he said he is definitely putting money on coach Rick Pitono’s Goldencents because, “he’s on a roll.” 10:27 p.m.
Valerie Harper, who is battling lung cancer, said she was doing well and, “I’m not going to waste my life worrying about when I’m going to die, so I came to the Derby.” Former UK football star and current Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb said he always enjoys coming to his “second home.” 10:17 pm.
When the stars come, they come fast at Barnstable brown. Among things we picked up in the last 45 minutes or so: Emilio Estevez is working on a movie about harness racing at several locations, including the Red Mile. “Thoroughbred racing is the sport of kings,” he said. “But harness racing is the working man’s sport.” He said he was dressed in jeans and a blazer because he lost everything at the Oaks. Josh Henderson acknowledged he drinks plenty of bourbon on Dallas. Stephen Amell acknowledged throwing back a lot of Guinness at Fourth Street Live. Larry Birkhead said he would like to get back on the other side of the red carpet, as a working journalists again. Revenge’s Christa Allen said she knew nothing about the Derby but, “I love horses.”
Accounted for so far: Morris Day, Freddie Jackson, Clay Walker and David Denman. Freddie stopped to talk to us and said he’s happy to have a “return engagement. You don’t always get invited back.” He sang a few Bars of “You Are My Lady” to Christa from the C-J And said he was going to rely on the ladies to pick Derby winner for him. 9:07 p.m.
Just talked to Christopher Brown, Tricia Barnstable Brown’s son, about his memories of the party, which include dancing with Brooke Shields when he was a little boy and getting his picture taken with Mark Harmon when they were both wearing white tuxedoes. Brown, who is now an attorney in New York, says his favorite guests are the ones that come back every year and, “have become family friends.” 8:10 pm.
Generally they don’t put reporters and photographers on the red carpet, but that’s where we are, waiting out a windy, pre-party shower. Some of the journalists are playing around getting shots in front of the branded backdrop, while fans huddle under coats and umbrellas. Not the place you want to have several thousand dollars with of AV or photo gear. 7:20 p.m.
It is hurry up and wait time here at the Barnstable Brown Gala. Media usually start to arrive late afternoon, and then we get to hang around until around 9, when the stars start streaming in. But the red carpet is freshly vacuumed, the tripods are set up, and it looks like we have national press from E! and other outlets. Fans are starting to line the fence lines. C’mon Miranda.
Louisville’s Barnstable Brown Gala will celebrate its 25th edition with plenty of old friends and some new faces Derby Eve.
Among the familiar faces at the home of The ‘Ville’s hostess with the mostess, Patricia Barnstable Brown, will be reigning country superstar Miranda Lambert, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, pop chart-topper Kid Rock, former ‘N Sync member and TV star Joey Fatone, and UK coach John Calipari, according to Louisville’s Courier-Journal.
New stars coming out this year include Josh Henderson, who plays J.R. Ewing’s son on TNT’s Dallas, Krysten Ritter, who plays the title role in ABC’s Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Stephen Amell of the CW’s Arrow, model Coco Rocha, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of The Social Network fame, Peyton Siva of the national champion University of Louisville men’s basketball team, and UK’s Nerlens Noel.
According to the C-J, Larry Birkhead, whose famously met the late Anna Nicole Smith at the 2004 Barnstable party and had a daughter with her, will arrive with a camera crew in tow documenting his Derby experience.
The Barnstable party always boasts the longest celebrity guest list of the Derby parties, and this year is no different. The celebs can generally be broken down into several categories.
Country music will be well represented by Clay Walker; Kix Brooks, formerly of Brooks & Dunn; Travis Tritt; Lee Ann Womack; and Eddie Montgomery, of Kentucky’s Montgomery Gentry.
R&B and hip hop will be represented by Freddie Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Morris Day of Morris Day and the Time fame, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC, Taylor Dayne, and Johnny Gill of New Edition. The presence of Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday means both actresses who won awards for playing Effie in Dreamgirls will be at Derby this year. Jennifer Hudson, who won her Oscar for playing the role in the film is appearing at the revived Grand Gala, Friday night. And Southern rock will be represented by Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Mark “Sparky” Matejka.
The acting attendees include David Denman of The Office and Drop Dead Diva, Terry O’Quinn of Lost, Mercedes Masohn of Chuck, Breakfast Club star Emilio Estevez, and American Pie star Jason Biggs.
And there are always plenty of human athletes in Louisville to watch the horses race: the NBA’s Anthony Davis and Darius Miller of UK’s 2012 national champion men’s basketball team, former UK and current Green Bay Packers star Randall Cobb, his Green Bay teammate linebacker Clay Matthews III, Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and Olympian Bode Miller.
The organization that presents the east and west coast Creation festivals will resurrect Central Kentucky’s Ichthus Festival, though logistically it could be a very different event from the one that played for 43 years in Wilmore.
Ichthus, widely regarded as the original contemporary Christian musical festival, announced it was closing in December and put much of its physical and intellectual property up for auction early this year, primarily in an attempt to pay off outstanding debt.
But at the Winter Jam concert at Rupp Arena in March, the crowd of nearly 17,000 was the first to hear the news that Ichthus would return, and more information would be coming soon.
Festival director Mark Vermillion said it took a little bit longer than he and the new festival owners had hoped, but this week they announced that Ichthus will return in late September 2014 as a three-day, Thursday to Saturday event.
“The thing I’m really excited about with Ichthus being part of the Creation team is that we have very, very strong values alignment,” Vermillion said of Come Alive International, which produces the Creation festivals, as well as other Christian music festivals and events around the world.
“The things that have been important to Ichthus throughout its history are very important to the Creation team as well. Those things would be a ministry focus, doing things with operational excellence and being culturally innovative.”
Creation Festivals executive producer Bill Darpino echoed Vermillion’s assessment that there is a unity in purpose and history between Creation and Ichthus that persuaded the group to acquire the festival.
“We’re really excited for the future of Ichthus and coming in and becoming part of that family,” Darpino says. “The history there, the legacy, the ministry component really just resonated with us.”
Creation Festival Northeast started in 1979 in a park in Lancaster County, Penn., and later moved to its current venue of Agape Campground in Mount Union, Penn. Creation Northwest started in 1998 in George, Wash., and is now held in Enumclaw, Wash. Come Alive also produces the Sonshine Festival in Willmar, Minn., as well as events in Haiti and Ghana. Read the rest of this entry »
Despair not, ye who desire to hear the Bard’s words in the midst of the warm breezes of summer.
Though SummeFest has decided to make Shakespeare in the park a biennial offering, Josephine SummerStage in Frankfort’s Josephine Sculpture Park is presenting its third annual Shakespeare show in June. This year, the play is As You Like It, the tale of Rosalind fleeing her uncle’s court to find love in the Forest of Arden. That, and the assertion that, “All the world’s a stage,” seem particularly well-suited to the park setting.
The play is directed by Louisville-based director Kathi E.B. Ellis, who is also directing the production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning TopDog/UnderDog next week at Balagula Theatre. Park artistic director Melanie VanHouten will again serve as the production designer, striving to integrate the play into the landscape of the park.
New this year will be three large scale sculptures commissioned from Louisville artist Andrew Marsh for the production.
Performances will be at 7 p.m. June 6 to 8 and 13 to 15 at Josephine Sculpture Park, 3355 Lawrenceburg Road. Visitors are invited to arrive early to picnic and look around the park. Tickets are $10 and $8 in advance at Kentucky Employees Credit Union and Completely Kentucky in Frankfort, and $12 and $8 at the gate.
The Kentucky Theatre has unveiled the first half of its summer classics lineup, which will sweep into the Main Street cinema May 29 with the quintessential movie, Gone With the Wind (1939).
The following week continues in the upper echelon of timeless classics with the 1952 Gene Kelly musical about Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies, Singing in the Rain on June 5.
June 12 brings a classic of the horror genre, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).
One of the classic westerns is next on June 19 with How the West Was Won, a two-hour, 44 minute epic with four directors including John Ford and deep, deep cast last topped by John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Spencer Tracy.
Next, on June 26, is classic romance — they’re covering all the bases here in the first half — with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in 1957′s An Affair to Remember, which had the meeting atop the Empire State Building plot that was echoed in 1993′s Sleepless in Seattle.
Rounding out the first half of the lineup July 3 is 1967′s Two for the Road, featuring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as a couple enduring the ups and downs of marriage, mostly in transit.
According to the Kentucky’s website, finalizing the schedule is taking longer than usual, “for a variety of reasons.” The post says the theater is still accepting suggestions for this summer.
Transylvania University’s May 25 graduation ceremony will have a dash of Hollywood: Actor and area resident Steve Zahn is to deliver the commencement address.
Zahn, who starred in films including Sahara; Happy, Texas; and Rescue Dawn, and the HBO series Treme, lives in Georgetown with his wife, theater artist and author Robyn Peterman-Zahn and their two children. They also are co-directors of The Rep, a Lexington-based musical theater troupe whose next production will be Georgie Boy! this summer.
Zahn took to the stage himself in December, playing the featured role of One-Man-Christmas-Show-Man in The Rep’s second annual production of Peterman-Zahn’s satirical revue Smackdown for the Christmas Crown at the Lyric Theatre.
On film, Zahn can next be seen in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey), an HIV/AIDS patient who created an underground resource of non-FDA approved AIDS medicines in the early 1990s. The film was recently acquired by Focus Features and is scheduled for release later this year.
Zahn attended the American Repertory Theatre’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University.
The commencement ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. May 25 on the lawn at Old Morrison on the Transylvania University campus.
Eastern Kentucky University made news earlier this month with the announcement that First Lady Michelle Obama will address its graduates on May 11.
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