Eric Church is coming to Rupp Arena in May

Eric Church performs at the American Country Countdown Awards at the Music City Center on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © AP/Invision photo by Wade Payne.

Eric Church performs at the American Country Countdown Awards at the Music City Center on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © AP/Invision photo by Wade Payne.

As often happens, after one country show wraps up at Rupp Arena, another one is announced. On the high-heels of Miranda Lambert’s boots, Rupp announced Monday that genre-bending country star Eric Church will be bringing his “The Outsiders World Tour” to Lexington May 7. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday for $25 to $61.50 at the Lexington Center Ticket Office, all Ticketmaster locations and, of course, online at rupparena.com.

Church attracted more than 13,000 fans to Rupp in 2012 when he came through town on his first headlining arena tour.

“This was a night where arena-size guitar rock, regardless of the country billing, clearly ruled,” LexGo.com critic Walter Tunis wrote of the show, echoing one of the primary characteristics of Church’s music.

“Church is arguably both the mainstream country artist of the year and the mainstream rock artist of the year,” the Memphis Commercial-Appeal wrote of his show and his latest album, The Outsiders, which dropped just under a year ago.

That album has Church in contention for three Grammy Awards on Feb. 8: best country solo performance and best country song (with co-writer Luke Laird) for Give Me Back My Hometown and best country album for The Outsiders. He’s also nominated for best country duo/group performance with Keith Urban for Raise ‘Em Up from Urban’s 2013 album, Fuse.

Brooklyn-based trio The Lone Bellow, whose new album Then Came the Morning comes out Jan. 27, will open.

 

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Listening too … Sleater-Kinney, ‘No Cities to Love’

Sleater-Kinney still are Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker.

Sleater-Kinney still are Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. Photo by Brigette Sire.

The question posed by Sleater-Kinney‘s first new album in nearly  a decade is, can you still be a group of riot grrrls when one of your members in now a red-carpet-walking celebrity and American Express pitchwoman and another is a mother of two?

150120SK-NoCitiesA few songs into No Cities to Love the answer is an emphatic YES. Like the band’s previous seven efforts, the new album is loud, proud and unapologetic. But it acts the band members’ ages, approaching 40-something life with a wise and weathered perspective. For S-K’s fellow-forthysomething fans, it is an affirmation that you can grow up and still approach life with the same attitude and vigor of your 20s. And for those whose only connection to the band is being fans of guitarist and singer Carrie Browstein’s sketch comedy show Portlandia, with Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen (himself the frontman for Late Night with Seth Meyers’ 8G Band), No Cities is confirmation that she once was and still is a formidable rocker.

With Brownstein reunited with singer and guitarist Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss, the trio pretty much picks up where it left off, though with a looser feel than 2006’s arena-aspiring The Woods. Price Tag sets an aggressive tone for the album as a middle class rant with Brownstein and Tucker tuned low — as usual, so we really don’t miss the bass — and Weiss pounding with authority. The ladies haven’t exactly been resting on their catalog since going on hiatus in 2006. Browsnstein and Weiss even reteamed in the quartet Wild Flag and Tucker has released solo projects, among other endeavors.

If there is a difference, it is a polished sound coming from more experience and resources. But in all, No Cities to Love is as strong and relevant a reunion record as we’ve heard in years. Sleater-Kinney serves as an affirmation that you can grow older, wiser and more experienced without losing your vital edge.

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Justified: Live and let die in Harlan

Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. (c) Photos by  James Minchin/FX.

Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. (c) Photos by James Minchin/FX.

There’s a promo clip for Justified in which someone, with gun drawn, is approaching a man sitting at a bar, who’s wearing a familiar tan hat. When the wearer turns to face the barrel, we see it is not lawman Raylan Givens, but outlaw Boyd Crowder. And the gunman is Raylan.

After an exchange of headwear, the two face each other in a standoff that gives us some confidence the producers of Justified will get this sixth and final season, which debuts Tuesday on FX, right.

The Kentucky-set series has always been about two men who grew up in similar circumstances and turned out remarkably different. Or did they?

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder.

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder.

From the very first scene of the series’ first episode, where Raylan comes to enforce a get-out-of-town order against a thug and kills him in a highly questionable shooting, we have understood Raylan to be an exceedingly confident Sinatra of law enforcement. He feels he’s justified doing it his way, which is pretty much how Boyd has gone about building his criminal enterprise.

And that’s what we need from this final season of Justified: an exploration of who these two men really are.

That’s what the show has always been about, even through seasons where other villains took center stage like Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) in Season 3 or Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale, in the series’ only Emmy-winning performance, to date) in Season 2.

But in recent seasons, the series has been, as I saw one critic put it, “treading water.”

Last season’s bad guy, Darryl Crowe, Jr. (Michael Rapaport), was a pretty sorry excuse for a villain — the writers, not Rapaport’s fault — and then the show’s creators had to scramble to re-create the storyline after an actor — Edi Gathegi, who played Jean Baptiste — decided to bail.

But there was a subtext running through Season 5: Boyd solidifying his position as the criminal kingpin of Harlan, finishing off interlopers from the North and South and local pretenders, to set up a Season 6 showdown. In the season finale, Rachel (Erica Tazel), standing in for an ailing Art (Nick Searcy), zeroed in on the persistent thorn in their side: Boyd Crowder, usually just enough out of sight to avoid prosecution, but pulling the strings.

And who’s in the middle of them: obviously Ava (Joelle Carter). You have to go way back in the series to remember this, but at one time, she was in Raylan’s bed before she and Boyd committed to each other. But as last season closed, she was being forced to help bring Boyd down to keep herself out of prison.

Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder.

Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder.

And in those scenes, we did see Raylan’s unflinching commitment to the law. But the question about him has never been whether or not he’s a lawman. It’s been about how he goes about enforcing the law. And it’s a safe bet that in this final season he will probably cut a few corners.

Boyd, meanwhile, has only been winding up the tension, as have Justified’s creators.

As they enter their final showdown, how much will they prove to be alike?

There are other things we will want to see: some resolution between Raylan and Art; where Raylan, Winona (Natalie Zea) and their daughter will end up. Rachel and Tim (Jacob Pitts) have their fans who want to see a role and resolution for them.

Every season, Justified ends with the Darrell Scott classic, You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.

And the question hanging over this final season is, will Raylan or Boyd defy that promise?

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2015 Oscar nominations at a glance

 Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the film, "The Imitation Game." Photo by Jack English.

Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the film, “The Imitation Game.” Photo by Jack English.

A few quick thoughts on the Academy Award nominations, which were announced this morning:

~ The Academy revealed a longstanding bias, and no, it’s not the one you’re thinking of. The Imitation Game was a moderately reviewed movie that seemed like it might be in the hunt, but wound up making a really strong showing in the nominations, with eight nods including Best Picture, best actor for Benedict Cumberbatch, best supporting actress for Keira Knightley and best director for Morten Tyldum.

Of course it did. Oscar over the years has repeatedly expressed a deep love for the Brits (see Speech, King’s). A World War II biopic starring the it Brit? How could Oscar say no?

Mark my words: In prognostication, Imitation Game will surge. I am not saying it will win. But its odds will rise, because these nominations reveal more love for the movie in the Academy than the movie intelligentsia at large.

~ Not so much for Selma. How to be nominated for best picture and still feel snubbed: Get zero nominations in the other major categories, including David Oyelowo, who was considered a shoo-in for best actor for playing the man we celebrate this weekend, Martin Luther King Jr., or director Ava DuVernay, who would have made history as the first black woman nominated for best director. Selma‘s only other nomination was for best original song for Glory by John Legend and Common, an award it just won at the Golden Globes.

David Oyelowo is Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo is Coretta Scott King in "Selma." Photo by Atsushi Nishijima.

David Oyelowo is Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo is Coretta Scott King in “Selma.” Photo by Atsushi Nishijima.

Less than a year after 12 Years a Slave won best picture, it feels like we are back in the 1980s and ’90s, when Spike Lee was routinely being snubbed for his groundbreaking work (note: there is quite a bit of profanity on that link) and The Color Purple (1986) was shut out at the ceremony.

Who really knows what happened here? Just casting the Academy as old white guys feels a bit too easy and useless. The “screener DVDs went out too late” excuse feels lame (Really? Academy members didn’t know they ought to watch the MLK flick?).  And despite some assertions that it was “best reviewed best picture nominee,” it was not quite so universally acclaimed. Roger Moore, the Tribune News Service critic we usually run at the Herald-Leader, said it was good but suffered from, “overreaching ambition and a tendency to rub the roughest edges off the principals.” I have not seen Selma yet, but am hoping to this weekend.

Whatever happened, it does feel like Selma supporters had good reason to expect more than the film got from today’s nominations. What added insult to injury was that this was the first year since 1998 there were no nominees of color in the major acting categories. Like I said, “old white guys” seems like a simplistic and easy charge, but sometimes the Academy makes it really easy.

~ I was expecting to see more backlash for Clint Eastwood’s best director snub for American Sniper. It may help that he has four Oscars already, a best picture and best director for Unforgiven (1993) and Million Dollar Baby (2005), and that he is a best picture nominee this year.

Ellar Coltrane at age six in a scene from the film,"Boyhood." Photo from IFC Films.

Ellar Coltrane at age six in a scene from the film,”Boyhood.” Photo from IFC Films.

~ That was all predictable. But seriously, for those of us in a certain generation, did we ever think we would see the director of Slacker (1991), Dazed and Confused (1993), subUrbia (1996) and School of Rock (2003) as a triple nominee for the best picture front runner? It probably took a unique project like Boyhood, filmed over 12 years with the same cast, to make it happen for Richard Linklater — his only other nominations were writing nods for the similarly-minded Before Sunset (2005) and Before Midnight (2014)Now, Linklater is up for original screenplay, director and picture. It feels bizarre, but it also feels right that one of the most visionary and unique directors of the last half century is finally in line to get some Oscar love.

And who woulda thought Beetlejuice and Batman Michael Keaton would be a nominee and front runner for best actor for Birdman, and a Wes Anderson movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, would be a co-nomination leader with Birdman at nine each.

The funny thing is that, to riff off George Clooney’s Golden Globes speech on Sunday, Linklater, Keaton and Anderson have all created indelible cinematic memories for us, long before Oscar deigned to recognize them.

Maybe that’s a consolation Selma and DuVernay can carry forward. It is a movie that will likely be remembered long after many of these are forgotten.

~ All that said, no matter how fun and well done it was, did you really think the snots at the Academy were going to nominate The Lego Movie for best animated feature?

~ Between George Clooney, Jennifer Lawrence, Johnny Depp and others, there have been some great years recently for Kentuckians at the Oscars, but this will not be one of them. There are no nominees from the Bluegrass State that we are aware of.

~ Final thought: Meryl Streep could sit in a white room and stare at the camera, and she would get an acting nomination.

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Notebook: The Lexington Theatre Company’s Concert with the Stars

Laura Bell Bundy performs "Proud Mary" with dancers Rachel Marie Snyder and Eliott Mattox. (c) LexGo.com photos by Rich Copley.

Laura Bell Bundy performs “Proud Mary” with dancers Rachel Marie Snyder and Eliott Mattox. (c) LexGo.com photos by Rich Copley.

More pictures: Click here for our Concert with the Stars photo gallery.

A new theater company announcing 42nd Street as its first show makes a statement that can be freely translated as, “We’re not messing around.”

The 1980 Tony Award winner for best musical is a huge production that hangs on precision dancing, bright acting and crack musicianship. It’s no small order for a new troupe.

But by the end of Saturday night’s Concert with the Stars at the Lexington Opera House, you had a sense The Lexington Theatre Company probably could pull it off.

Jonathan Groff and Darian Sanders lead a performance of the title tune from "Hair."

Jonathan Groff and Darian Sanders lead a performance of the title tune from “Hair.”

The concert, featuring Broadway stars Laura Bell Bundy, Mara Davi and Jonathan Groff and an ensemble of college and recently graduated triple threats, ran nearly three hours, but it was entertaining enough to barely notice, and some of the highlights came from unexpected quarters.

The evening featured five-song showcases by each of the headliners, who each brought their own distinctive flavors to the evening. Lexington-native Bundy delivered songs from some of her landmark shows, starting with Heart from Damn Yankees, her senior musical at Lexington Catholic High School. The centerpiece of her set was an “influences” medley, featuring formative shows and artists for Bundy including The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz (a spot-on Judy Garland impression) and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary.

Bundy pointed out that her career started on the Opera House stage playing a mouse in the Lexington Ballet’s Nutcracker when she was 4 and continuing through the years. Now with several Broadway roles and a Tony Award-nomination to her credit, the concert was a chance for her to perform some of her career’s greatest hits on her home stage.

Jonathan Groff pulled Shelby from Nicholasville out of the audience and had her stand in for his "Spring Awakening" and "Glee" co-star Lea Michele to sing the "Glee Medley."

Jonathan Groff pulled Shelby from Nicholasville out of the audience and had her stand in for his “Spring Awakening” and “Glee” co-star Lea Michele to sing the “Glee Medley.”

She opened the evening and Groff closed it with a set that showed the Tony nominated star of Spring Awakening, Frozen, Glee, Looking and other film and stage roles to be a consummate entertainer, hitting the stage with a swinging rendition of Movin’ Too Fast from The Last Five Years and moving renditions of songs from Spring Awakening and Annie Get Your Gun. But we will most remember him and local talent Darian Sanders leading the ensemble in Hair, the title tune from the musical the University of Kentucky Theatre will present later this spring, and him pulling a member of the audience, Shelby from Nicholasville, on stage for his Glee medley. Groff told Shelby she was standing in for Glee star Lea Michele before giving her a Lea Michele sign, wig and serenading her with songs such as Hello and Total Eclipse of the Heart, in which he kept moving around and directed Shelby to “turn around.”

Mara Davi sings "Disneyland," an original set to the tune of "Belle" from "Beauty and the Beast."

Mara Davi sings “Disneyland,” an original set to the tune of “Belle” from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Davi was the least known quantity to much of the audience, but made a great first impression with a set highlighted by Disneyland, a song she wrote about her experience playing Cinderella at the theme part set to the tune of Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle — suffice to say, being a Princess isn’t as glamorous as you’d expect.

Like Bundy and Groff, Davi spoke to the importance of regional professional theaters like the one artistic director Lyndy Franklin Smith and producing director Jeromy Smith are creating, saying they support artists, communities and, she added, give performers such as her a chance to perform dream roles in shows that, “won’t be revived on Broadway for years, when I’m way too old to be in them.” Then, she said she had already made up a list and given it to the Smiths.

Lindsey Austin sings "The Wizard and I" from "Wicked."

Lindsey Austin sings “The Wizard and I” from “Wicked.”

And that was what the whole evening was about, giving patrons a taste of the talent they plan to put on stage when the company launches in late July. And the concert showed there is plenty of talent beyond the marquee names. Recent University of Kentucky graduate Lindsey Austin may have drawn the biggest first-half ovation with her performance of The Wizard and I from Wicked, and Lafayette High School graduate and NYC resident Elliott Mattox burnished his triple-threat credentials with the hometown crowd in performances of I Can Do That and Extraordinary. Then there was locally-based talent Sanders going toe-to-toe with Groff in Hair.

The evening gave the impression the company can get the talent, and precedents such as the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s 2013 production of Les Miserables, in particular, indicate there is an audience in the area that will turn out for big musicals with talented young casts.

It doesn’t hurt that 42nd Street is a title that has not been produced by a local company, in recent memory, at least.

The selections in the show — winning numbers from recent shows including Beaches and The Bridges of Madison County — also showed artists who view American musicals as an active art form in the 21st Century, not a nostalgia act.

In The Lexington Theatre Company’s first presentation, there was a lot to like.

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Locally made film ‘Proud Citizen’ comes home, with honors in tow

Katerina Stoykova-Klemerin a scene filmed in Thoroughbred Park for the movie "Proud Citizen," which has its Lexington premiere Jan. 15, 2015 at the Kentucky Theatre. Photo by Thom Southerland.

Katerina Stoykova-Klemerin a scene filmed in Thoroughbred Park for the movie “Proud Citizen,” which has its Lexington premiere Jan. 15, 2015 at the Kentucky Theatre. Photo by Thom Southerland.

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer is known in the Lexington area for her poetry and her WRFL-FM radio show. But she never acted, until she got the lead in Lexington director Thom Southerland’s latest movie.

It helps that she inspired it.

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer in 'Proud Citizen.'

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer in ‘Proud Citizen.’

“I head Katerina’s voice on the radio on WRFL, on her Friday afternoon show, and I had never met her before,” Southerland recalls. “She was interviewing someone, and I was really taken with her voice and how she was communicating ideas on the radio, and I thought, well if her voice can do that, I wonder if her entire being can do that.”

Eventually, they met by chance, and Southerland and she began creating the story that would become Proud Citizen, which has its Lexington premiere Thursday night at the Kentucky Theatre.

The name comes from Proud Citizen, the 2002 Kentucky Derby runner-up who now stands at Midway’s Airdrie Stud. Stoykova-Klemer’s character meets the Thoroughbred in the movie and Southerland says it seemed fitting for the character’s pride in her home country of Bulgaria.

“He kind of let us play ourselves, for the most part,” Stoykova-Klemer says. “He didn’t put any of us in unnatural roles for ourselves.”

She immigrated to the United States from Bulgaria in 1995, initially working as a software engineer for high-tech companies. Late in the last decade, she earned an MFA in writing from Spalding University and has since published several books of poetry and prose in English and Bulgarian.

Blakeley Burger and Leif Erickson performing the play "Black Coat," a scene from the movie "Proud Citizen," which has its Lexington premiere Jan. 15, 2015 at the Kentucky Theatre.

Blakeley Burger and Leif Erickson performing the play “Black Coat,” a scene from “Proud Citizen.”

The character she and Southerland created is Krasi, a Bulgarian writer who comes in second in a playwriting competition. The winner gets to come to America with his family for a production in New York. Krasi gets to come alone for a production in Kentucky.

“Thom had the idea of seeing Kentucky through the eyes of a visitor,” says Stoykova-Klemer, whose own writing, a dramatic poetry collection called Black Coat, became the play Krasi brought to America.

Southerland is primarily known for documentary work, and while he wanted to create a feature film, he didn’t want to work from a script. So the story and the scenes were outlined, but the dialogue was improvised, which is why he went looking for actors like Stoykova-Klemer, who aren’t necessarily actors.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking for great actors,” Southerland says. “I was looking for people who were intelligent, willing to collaborate and quick witted, quick on their feet.”

Judy Sanders and Katerina Stoykova-Klemerin a scene filmed at Hannah's on Lime for the movie "Proud Citizen," which has its Lexington premiere Jan. 15, 2015 at the Kentucky Theatre.

Judy Sanders and Katerina Stoykova-Klemer in a scene filmed at Hannah’s on Lime for “Proud Citizen.”

The cast includes a number of familiar faces to Lexington theatergoers though, including former Balagula Theatre co-artistic director Ryan Case, theater artists Natalie Cummins, Leif Erickson, Sami Allison (and her 3-year-old son Elliott Moore Haynes), Seattle actress Judy Sanders and Blakeley Burger, who may be best known in Lexington for her violin and fiddle work with groups like the Hollow Bodies.

Most of the film was shot in and around Lexington, though Southerland also had footage shot in Bulgaria by a photojournalist based there when Stoykova-Klemer went to Bulgaria during filming. With a shooting budget of $7,500, which Southerland calls a microbudget for a film, there was no money for international travel, though he says the Bulgarian footage was vital for telling the story.

The film was shot in 2012, assembled in 2013, and spent the latter half of last year on the festival circuit, where it was the jury winner for narrative feature at the New Orleans Film Festival in October, audience favorite at the Knoxville Film Festival, best narrative feature at Weyauwega Film Festival in Wisconsin, best narrative feature and a special acting award for Stoykova-Klemer at Paducah’s River’s Edge Film Festival.

“Every single one of the screenings has been very special to me,” Stoykova-Klemer says. “Hearing people laugh, that’s awesome, knowing people are enjoying the film.”

Southerland says it has been particularly gratifying to be competitive with films that had budgets several times Proud Citizen’s.

And Stoykova-Klemer says that after she got over her fears of acting, she really enjoyed the experience.

“I really like doing this, because when I am writing a poem, I can only make it as good as I can write it,” she says. “But in group art, and this is my first experience with group art, it’s not like that. The film can become better than my acting, better than my part.

“One plus one can become much more.”

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Q&A with Concert with the Stars’ Jonathan Groff

Jonathan Groff photographed in January 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jeff Vespa, Getty Images.

Jonathan Groff photographed in January 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jeff Vespa, Getty Images.

The Lexington Theatre Company is launching with a bang Saturday night, bringing in three Broadway stars Laura Bell Bundy, Jonathan Groff and Mara Davi to perform solo and with aspiring local and regional talents.

We got to chat with Bundy and company co-directors Lyndy Franklin Smith and Jeromy Smith for a preview story in today’s Weekender section. We didn’t quite get answers to questions for Groff, who many of you may know best for his voice role as Kristoff in Frozen, until just after the story went to print.

But what are deadlines in the virtual world? To further whet your appetite for Saturday’s show, here’s a quick Q&A with the Tony nominee for Spring Awakening — the same year Bundy was a nominee for Legally Blonde — The Musical.

Tell us what persuaded you to come to Lexington to perform on this show?

Lyndy and Jeromy are my very good friends and I really believe in their dream to start a theater company in Lexington. 

What is on tap for you in this show; what are you most looking forward to doing?

The theater that surrounded me back in my hometown of Lancaster, Pa., totally changed my life and I am going to sing songs and tell stories that describe that journey and hopefully show how this new theater company can really give so much to the community. The part I am most looking forward to is singing the song Hair with some local kids from the area!  

You have been on the stage at the Opera House before. What are your impressions of the theater?

Yes! This will be my third time performing there. The first time was on the national tour of The Sound of Music. And the second was singing at Lyndy and Jeromy’s wedding! I think it is a GORGEOUS theater, certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been in.

What is the importance of projects and theaters like the one Lyndy and Jeromy have hatched up here? Have theaters such as this been part of your career?

Yes growing up with The Fulton Opera House and the Ephrata Performing Arts Center back home in Lancaster, Pa., completely changed my life. Not only do local theaters give local artists the chance to express themselves and work at an incredibly high level, having a theater company like this provides a great source of entertainment and income for the community that they can be proud knowing is brought to them by people from their own city.

Obviously the biggest project you have been involved in since we saw you here was Frozen. How big has voicing Kristoff been for your career? Do people recognize you for that role now, or is there a different dynamic in playing an animated character.

Frozen has been a dream come true! I grew up obsessively watching Disney movies as a child. My favorite part of the experience has been making voice memos for friends and family members’ children as the voices of Kristoff and Sven!

What is next for, stage, film or a little of both?

I’m in a show called Looking that has its season two premiere on Sunday night on HBO (10 p.m. ET), hopefully we’ll get to do another season of that! But I’ll be back in New York in June to do the City Center Encore’s production of A New Brain.

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Former UK viola professor Deborah Lander, an advocate for CPR training, has died

University of Kentucky viola professor Deborah Lander in MonTea, enjoying a cup of the Eternal Life blend on Dec. 3, 2012. Lander suffered cardiac arrest in February and has since dedicated herself to raising awareness of CPR, including holding CPR training at the UK School of Music. She and her doctors credit a bystander performing CPR on her when she collapsed walking to the Lexington Opera House with saving her life. © Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley | staff.

University of Kentucky viola professor Deborah Lander at MonTea, one of her favorite Lexington establishments, on Dec. 3, 2012. Lander was a professor of viola at the University of Kentucky and became an advocate for CPR training after she suffered cardiac arrest in February 2012. She died Friday in England. © Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley | staff.

Deborah Lander, the world-renowned violist who brought an Australian accent to the University of Kentucky’s string program and became an advocate for CPR training after her own cardiac arrest, died Friday in England. She was 49.

Her sister, Sara Allsopp Lander, wrote in a Facebook message that Lander’s death was “sudden and completely unexpected. She had had some minor health problems but nothing that seemed serious.” She wrote that the family hopes that an autopsy will provide a clearer picture of what happened.

Lander grew up in Sydney, Australia, and studied violin until she was 11. Then she  switched to the viola, attracted by its sound.

“Anyone who plays the viola will tell you that the reason they take it up is because they’ve fallen in love with the sound,” Lander said in a 2009 Herald-Leader interview. “It’s such a fantastic, dark sound, like chocolate – dark chocolate. It’s the best instrument, no question.”

She set her sites in joining the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and did it, residing in London, where she performed constantly for six years. She then returned to Australia, where she taught at the University of Newcastle and helped develop the nation’s viola curriculum.

Then the University of Kentucky called, seeking to strengthen the school’s string program. Lander was hired in 2008 as UK’s first tenured professor of viola, and she set out on a mission to raise the profile of the instrument, which often seems to play second fiddle to the violin.

“If you are a viola player, it is your responsibility to play the viola repertoire and promote the viola repertoire,” she said.

Daniel Mason, the Lexington Philharmonic’s concertmaster and Lander’s UK colleague said she certainly accomplished that goal through recordings and commissions.

“She left the viola repertoire much healthier than it was before,” Mason said Tuesday afternoon.

Her first year at UK, she and Mason performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola with the Philharmonic.

“That was a high point for me, to work with such a committed, passionate violist,” Mason said. “Her commitment to the instrument was great for the students to see and an inspiration to me.”

But a life-threatening emergency in 2012 put her on a different profile-raising mission. Lander was on her way to a University of Kentucky Opera performance when she collapsed on the sidewalk from cardiac arrest. Passerby Addison Hosea stopped and administered CPR, with the assistance of two other unidentified passersby, until paramedics arrived. Doctors later said the quick administration of CPR saved Lander’s life.

University of Kentucky viola professor Deborah Lander with Addison Josea, who is credited with saving her life by administering CPR after she collapsed on North Upper Street on Feb. 25, 2012.

University of Kentucky viola professor Deborah Lander with Addison Josea, who is credited with saving her life by administering CPR after she collapsed on North Upper Street on Feb. 25, 2012.

“Until you are in the position of having died and having someone save your life, you don’t realize what an amazing thing it is,” said Lander, whose story was featured at the 25th annual Central Kentucky Heart and Stroke Ball in 2013.

“It’s very hard to find the words to express what it means to meet the person who saved your life. The only reason you can meet them is because you’re alive, because of them.”

Lander’s sister wrote, “She loved Lexington! She loved that people were friendly but had good manners, she found the weather funny in its ability to change from snowstorms to tornado warnings without notice. She loved her knitting friends and scouring the yarn shop (Magpie Yarn), and of course she was so so grateful for the wonderful combined effort that Lexington provided in saving her life when she went into cardiac arrest. … She really felt that the United States was a land where talent and hard work was appreciated and where there was a commitment to excellence in education.”

Lander retired from UK after the 2013-14 school year and moved to London.

“She had a plan for about 18 months to move back to England, where she could play viola professionally again and be close to her musician friends and also her other sister and nephews,” her sister wrote. “The plan was to live on a narrowboat, play music, go to see Arsenal football team with her nephews and knit! Unfortunately she died before she could get all these elements in place. But she was living at a marina and spending lots of time with her nephews and we hear in the days before she died she had set up a social knitting club with new friends.”

Arrangements are pending, at this time. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Kitty Lodge, Inc., P.O. Box 1583, Mt. Sterling, KY 40353. Donations can be dropped at the Chevy Chase Animal Clinic,  600 Euclid Avenue.

Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET, Jan. 6.

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Fellow merchants support Wild Fig bookstore after break-in

It’s hard to keep an independent bookstore going in this economy. It’s even harder when crooks decide to smash your windows and take your cash and merchandise.

That’s what happened Dec. 27 to Wild Fig Books on Leestown Road. Owners Crystal Wilkinson, an author who also is writer-in-residence at Berea College, and Ronald Davis, a Lexington artist, were greeted with shattered glass and plenty of missing items Saturday morning. It was a definite setback.

Thieves broke into Wild Fig Books on Dec. 27. Photo courtesy of Tanya Torp.

Thieves broke into Wild Fig Books on Dec. 27. Photo courtesy of Tanya Torp.

But they said they have received help and support from neighboring businesses, including Pops Resale, Steepleton’s Billiards and Spas, and the Meadowthorpe Cafe. A downtown business will lend support when Lexington Diner donates 15 percent of its proceeds from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday. The cafe is owned by chef Ranada West-Riley and her wife and business partner, Karin West-Riley, and it aims to “take diner food to another level,” Ranada West-Riley said in a Herald-Leader profile last year.

Wild Fig, 1439 Leestown Road, opened July 20, 2011, and sells new and used books, and coffee, and it hosts area literary events. It is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 and 6 p.m. Sundays. It is closed on Mondays through February.

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Canceling ‘The Interview’ was a business decision

This image released by Columbia Pictures - Sony shows James Franco, left, and Seth Rogen in "The Interview."  Sony Pictures canceled all release plans for the film at the heart of the hacking scandal that exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents and escalated to threats of terrorist attacks.   (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures, Sony, Ed Araquel)

James Franco, left, and Seth Rogen in “The Interview.” Sony Pictures canceled all release plans for the film at the heart of the hacking scandal that exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents and escalated to threats of terrorist attacks. AP/Columbia Pictures, Sony photo by Ed Araquel.

While its public profile is often fun, artsy and, yeah, liberal, I am often prompted to remind people that Hollywood is at its essence a business, and a rather conservative one at that.

If it makes money, it’s in. If it loses money, it’s out. When it comes to that wing of showbiz, the bottom line is the bottom line, from the studios that make movies to the theaters that show them.

So, while last week’s decision by Sony Pictures to cancel the scheduled Christmas Day release of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview in the face of terrorist threats was couched in discussions of artistic expression, freedom of speech and international relations, it was ultimately a business decision to shelve the film. The studio and theaters looked at the risks of opening the film after threats of physical violence at theaters showing the film by the same group, which the FBI now says was the North Korean government, that had already hacked Sony computers to devastating effect and concluded it was too risky to actually open the movie. North Korean officials have denied involvement in the hack or the threats.

The potential costs of an attack or attacks outweighed the cost of shelving the comedy, which seemed to be a shoo-in to turn a profit.

In recent interviews, Sony directors have said they wanted to release the movie, but as major theater chains such as Regal and AMC announced they would not show it, they had no choice but to pull the release. Sony says it wants to release the movie but has no platforms, theatrical or digital.

Make no mistake, the terrorists have won here, whoever they are. By the sheer force of their threats, they have made several American companies shelve plans to launch a major product that was poised to be very profitable. What’s more, they have probably given like-minded people who want to stifle the sharing of ideas they don’t like a blueprint for how to shut them down.

This may all seem like an extraordinary amount of discussion and gravity for a Seth Rogen movie. But when you consider the implications for speech in a free society, it is very important. From producers to patrons, Americans need to figure out how to react the next time a group with little persuasive power except the threat of virtual and physical violence takes exception to a film, TV program or some other sort of production.

But that may require some counter-intuitive thinking by exhibitors.

If you own a movie theater and someone has threatened to unleash a 9/11-type of attack if you show a certain film, it is understandable you might conclude it’s a good idea to cancel that film rather than risk potential damage to your property and harm to your employees and customers. And it does not have to be 9/11-level mayhem to have an impact. One or two well-armed true believers perpetrating an attack like the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in 2012 would be enough to send the country into a panic and second guessing.

How do you convince people who went into business to show movies to entertain people and make money it’s worth that kind of risk to life, property and reputation to make a stand on constitutional principal. Is that reasonable?

Those are the sorts of questions that need to be asked as we process the aftermath of The Interview.

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