PREVIEW: sometimes something

The  Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design will hold their 2020 MFA Thesis Exhibition, sometimes something, from March 13th – May 2nd at the Stamps Gallery at 201 South Division St in Ann Arbor.

sometimes something will showcase projects by Sally Clegg, Kim Karlsrud, Erin McKenna, and Abhishek Narula. The art projects feature themes such as social and urban ecosystems, privacy, self pleasure, creation, and our digital world.

I am excited to see the artistic works this cohort has created. The online exhibition preview features sneak-peak images from the projects, and each artist looks like they have created work that is both enticing and stimulating.

Coming out to support these graduate students in their MFA Thesis Exhibition is a perfect way to get out of the house and escape from the strange world we are currently experiencing!

 

PREVIEW: The Captive

The Residential College Players, better known through campus as the RC Players, is presenting their first full-length play of the semester, “The Captive” this Friday and Saturday, at 8:00p both days, in East Quad’s Keene Theater! Originally written in 1926 by French playwright, Edouard Bourdet, the three-act melodrama was shut down after 160 performances on Broadway because the lesbianism portrayed in the play was considered “obscene”. The story depicts a young woman, Irene, who is hopelessly and painfully in love with the unseen character, Mdme. d’Aiguines, despite her imminent engagement to a young gentleman, Jacques Virieu. Her love for Mdme. d’Aiguines keeps Irene captive, in more ways than one.

Be sure to stop by the Keene Theater this weekend to catch this one-of-a-kind performance!

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PREVIEW: Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche

Presented as part of student organization Basement Arts’ mainstage season, “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche”, directed by Sydney Prince, is bound to be one of the craziest plays you’ve ever seen! Playing in the Newman Studio (located in North Campus’ Walgreen Drama Center) this Friday at 7:00p and 11:00p, and Saturday at 7:00p, “Five Lesbians…” by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder invites audiences into a 1956 meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. The annual quiche contest is upon the society, and the only thing getting in the way seems to be the imminent threat of nuclear war. 

Of the production, director Sydney Prince, a senior FTVM and LSA Drama double major, says “Recently, I have felt like there is a lack of comedy at this school so primarily, I wanted to find something that would make people laugh and make people think.” When asked about why she proposed the play to Basement Arts, Prince said, “I’ve never read a play that so wholeheartedly embraces its world and is able to develop such a sentimental and real story about something that is so comedic and strange.

Be sure you don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind piece of theatre, this Friday, March 13th at 7:00p and 11:00p, and Saturday, March 14th at 7:00p. As per Basement Arts’ mission, this event is free to the public! 

 

REVIEW: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was commissioned for the re-consecration of Britain’s Coventry Cathedral, a beautiful church tragically destroyed in a World War II bombing. Britten himself was a staunch pacifist who had registered as a conscientious objector during the war, and the unique combination of these two elements gave birth to a piece that cuts through the gloss of glorified war stories into the more complex, tragic truth of the raw destruction of war. The text of the 80-minute choral piece is assembled from the Latin Mass for the Dead and the poems of Wilfred Owen, a World War I soldier who was killed just a week before the armistice at the young age of 25. Owen’s poetry is plainly anti-war, and the first of his lines in the piece is the chilling “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?”.

 

The requiem was presented as the collaboration between the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the UMS Choral Union, the Ann Arbor Youth Chorale, as well as three vocal soloists. The addition of the children’s chorale as specified by the original work adds a uniquely haunting aspect to the piece, a reminder that war ultimately results in a great deal of innocence lost, and the sacrifice of young lives with full futures ahead. Britten alternates between dissonant chanting mixed with layers of percussion and smooth, lyrical passages as the piece glides from movement to movement. Yet throughout the entire piece, the atmosphere is solemn, almost haunting. Britten refuses to let the audience forget why the piece was conceived, as a response to a tragedy brought about by the senselessness of war. It is impossible to hear the words of Owen echo through the auditorium in the rich tenor of soloist Anthony Dean Griffey without feeling an acute sense of what we have lost to the cruelty of war. Owen himself was a poet who garnered an abundance of post-humous acclaim despite his short career and the few poems he wrote; his career was brought to an abrupt end by a premature death on the battlefield.

 

Owen is merely one of many young talents, or simply young people, or people in general, whose lives were stolen from them by the merciless combat between sides. War Requiemserves as a haunting reminder that war is not a necessary evil, nor is it one we can afford to distance ourselves from. In the United States, it is perilously easy to turn a blind eye to those suffering from wartime brutality in other countries and in the modern age it is perilously easy to designate war as a “necessary evil”, a tragic yet inevitable byproduct of civilization. Yet as Britten wants us to remember, in a society as advanced as ours, the fact that we have accepted senseless violence over superficial causes as the price of civilization ought to haunt us, and we ought to remember that we have more power over our fates than we like to admit.

REVIEW: Violet

Looking for something to do to help you forget about the stress of exams and assignments this weekend?  Violet is the perfect musical to do just that!  The University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, & Dance brought to life this story that has hilarious, beautiful, and heartbreaking moments interwoven in.  Even on a Thursday night, the audience was completely standing at the end after being left speechless.

Violet is about a young woman (Natalie Duncan) whose face was disfigured when her dad (Jamie Colburn) accidentally hit her with an axe.  She grew up her whole life with people staring at her scar, or even worse, refusing to look her in the face.  She finally decides to travel to meet a television preacher (Ben Ahlers) who she hopes will heal her scar.  Along the way she meets Flick (Justin Showell) and Monty (Charlie Patterson), two soldiers on the road.

Natalie’s voice couldn’t have been any more fitting for the role of Violet.  One must have a decent Southern accent and some killer vocal chords to captivate the audience; and she did just that.  The audience was laughing while she was singing “All to Pieces”, about how she wants her physical features changed up like those of celebrities.  They got chills during the strong performance of “On My Way” done by the cast.  And they sobbed during Violet’s solo of “Look at Me”.

I typically recommend shows here and there to see, but this one cannot be missed.  It is such a beautiful story with a cast who did not disappoint.  The expected, but still shocking, amount of talent in this show blew the audience away.

There are still three shows left at the Arthur Miller Theatre: 12/9 at 2pm and 8pm, and 12/10 at 2pm.  Tickets are $20 for General Admission and $12 for Students with ID.  More information can be found at http://tickets.smtd.umich.edu/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=3355.

REVIEW: Loving Vincent

A painting in motion — Loving Vincent. Brushstrokes that mimicked the iconic artistry of Vincent van Gogh’s own paintings moved to tell the biography of Vincent in a never-before-seen feature film. An hour and thirty-four minutes of animated paint, in the style of Vincent van Gogh, was an exquisite film that I felt honored to behold with my own two eyes.

It was a rainy Sunday night, with the typical wind chills of early November in Ann Arbor, when I went to see the film with some of my colleagues. We had just come from a fantastic dinner of pizza, including margherita pizza — my favorite kind of pizza — and joined the ranks of Loving Vincent moviegoers lined up outside of Michigan Theater.

Luckily, we had arrived just in time not to miss the beginning of the film itself. The whole lot of us settled upstairs in the balcony, appreciating the extravagance of the Michigan Theater’s classic theater setting and ambience. As soon as we settled into our seats, the lights dimmed and the screen flitted between trailers of upcoming indie films and the like. And then, at long last, Loving Vincent painted itself across the screen.

In a word, Loving Vincent was…divine. Artistic. Exquisite. Every second of it, quite literally the epitome of a painting in motion, enraptured the audience with its imagery.

Honestly, the second the movie opened, I was already mesmerized by the names rolling on the screen through their careful and immaculate brushstrokes. I was watching the lines of colors, imitating Vincent’s illustrious and iconic style, move across the screen in unison to depict movement. It was enrapturing.

I felt chills go down my spine.

The movie opens with the most renowned and perhaps most well-known work by the artist: Starry Night — hooking every audience member with its fine brush work and celebrated imagery as one of the most historically reputable works of art. It was so meaningful to see that be the opening scene to a film revolving around the artist, to whom the film is dedicated for, I was just captivated and touched by it. And then, when that Starry Night picture began to actually move, animated brushstrokes depicting the scene, my heart melted. Such an extraordinary picture transformed into a setting for a narrative to take place. It was the most fitting way to tell the biography of Vincent van Gogh.

As for the narrative itself — the story follows Armand Roulin, who is to hand-deliver a letter from Vincent to Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s brother. In this narrative, Armand learns more and more about the late artist Vincent, who had been a new artistic sensation in Paris at 28 but took his life while at the verge of his own impending success as an artist. Although skeptical and critical of Vincent in the beginning, Armand slowly grows wistful and fond of him. In fact, Armand even comes to Vincent’s defense when bad gossip arises and surrounds his death and reputation.

I’ll spare you all the details, but basically — the film follows Armand, a man who seems far detached from having any relation or kinship with Vincent van Gogh, and Armand’s journey to find the truth behind Vincent’s death — whether it was a suicide or a murder, what his motives were, who Vincent van Gogh truly was.

Ultimately the film really is a biography of Vincent van Gogh, which doesn’t lend itself to having that much opportunity to deviate from reality and express creativity and imagination as wildly as possible, as one might expect from an animated film. I have heard criticisms of the writing in Loving Vincent that claim the story is hard to follow, but they heralded the artistry of the film itself. Animation is a breathtaking craft, and it’s painfully difficult, and being able to dedicate an entire feature film of animated oil paintings for Vincent van Gogh is truly the only way to express his biography, I’d say. I personally don’t have a bad opinion of this film, having been so mesmerized by the immaculate craft of the moving pictures.

Now, my colleagues and myself hail from the art and design school at the University of Michigan, and inevitably we were drawn by the uniquely beautiful craft of the film, especially because we all express an interest in the art of animation. Safe to say we were all very moved and absolutely amazed by the sheer amount of work and effort required to make Loving Vincent and transform his most distinguished and impactful works of art into moving pictures.

If you have not seen Loving Vincent, I hope you at least consider it! If not for the story or biography of the great artist Vincent van Gogh, then for the beautiful craft of the film and its hundreds of artists who carefully painted and animated each frame of the film.

Go and love Vincent!