PREVIEW: Basement Arts and The Spectrum Center present BARE

Sponsored by World AIDS Week, Basement Arts presents “BARE: A Pop Opera.” I’ve heard so many great things about this show, and I’m so excited to finally get a chance to see it. And it’s FREE! Basements Arts with support from The Spectrum Center is putting on this sure-to-be-stellar musical at the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus, Studio One. UM Events website says, “A group of high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school faces issues of sexuality and personal identity…they struggle to come to terms with who they are, and who the world thinks they should be…” (UM events). It is sure to be a fantastic event; especially since the other event I went to sponsored by the Spectrum Center was absolutely amazing. I don’t think we will be disappointed.

The performances of “BARE” run December 1st 7pm-9pm, Dec. 2nd 7pm-9pm and 11pm, and Dec. 3rd 7pm-9pm. Attending is free and more information regarding World AIDS week can be found at their website:

Hope you can make it!

REVIEW: Broadway Comes Home

Our Women’s Glee Club president snagged free tickets for a few of us to go to the “Broadway Comes Home” concert Friday night, featuring Michigan alumni that have made it on Broadway. All I had to hear was Broadway, Gavin Creel, and free to nearly tackle our president, Allison, for a ticket to the show.

Rackham was lit up pink for the “walk the pink carpet” theme of the event. Fabulously dressed men took our pictures as we filed in and awkwardly avoided their lenses. Allison said it was formal attire required, so I felt especially classy in my slacks, boot, lacey top, and pearls. A man seated behind me was slightly classier, however, rocking a cocktail dress, heels, and sequined purse.

The event was dedicated to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Spectrum Center. The Spectrum Center is an organization on campus that actively supports the LGBTQ community in Ann Arbor, offering guidance and support in a safe and welcoming environment. Interspersed between performances, many active members in the LGBTQ community spoke about their experiences and how the Spectrum Center has influenced them. It was possibly the most inspiring part of the evening. I heard how so many people have been impacted by the Spectrum Center and motivated with the knowledge that “it gets better.” The speakers, including our past student body president Chris Armstrong, were incredibly uplifting, spreading love, strength, and pride. The messages were universal, and I doubt there was a single person in the audience who walked away uninspired.

The musical performances, as my initial reason for coming, were just as inspiring. Gavin Creel, tony-nominated Broadway star, recruited several other Michigan alumni to accompany him in performing at this event. Creel was absolutely amazing and kicked the evening off to an outstanding start with “Could Be” from West Side Story. His enthusiasm on stage was infectious. His voice was beautiful. His shining moment of the night was his concluding song, “Let the Sun Shine In” from the musical Hair he himself sang on Broadway. The freshman class of the musical theater program this year accompanied him, encircling the audience and wowing us with their powerful sound.

And Gavin Creel wasn’t even the best performer of the evening (it was a close tie between all the alumni, in my opinion)! Other returning Wolverines included Celia Keenan-Bolger, an incredibly adorable person with a beautiful voice, and Maddy Wyatt. Those two sang a song they wrote together about gay marriage that was both hilarious and powerful. Others included Daniel Reichard, who starred in Jersey Boys on Broadway and actually sang “Don’t go, Baby” from that musical while backed up by three men from the musical theater department. The other featured performer was Danny Gurwin. I know him as having played Laurie in Little Women the musical on Broadway and a few other notable roles. What’s crazy too about Gurwin is he is actually directing the Little Women production U-M is doing in December (I’ll be previewing and reviewing that performances as well – can’t wait!!). Towards the end of the evening, all these Broadway-bound alumni joined together to sing “Ordinary Miracles.” It was gorgeous and gave me serious goose bumps.

When speakers weren’t presenting or Broadway alums weren’t singing, the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble was performing. I’d never heard them before, but they were so talented. I was blown away.

As you can probably conclude, this night marked one of the most epic performances I’ve attended all semester. So many amazing performers, speakers, and musicians – it was fantastic. I was absolutely inspired and I hope you get a chance to go to one of the Spectrum Center’s events because it is an admirable organization that deserves all the recognition it has acquired.

P.S. For more information on the Spectrum Center and the resources available there, check out their website:

Preview: “Collapsing Borders—Einstürzende Grenzen.”

Sometimes, all the good stuff come at the same time. This week is one such week where there are  just so many great events to choose from. One  great event is the “Collapsing Borders—Einstürzende Grenzen” on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 between 6-8.30 pm.

This is a live digital audio-video jam session with Markus Guentner (from Regensburg, Germany) and nospectacle (Detroit- Ann Arbor, USA) at the Video and Performance Studio, Duderstadt Center, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd.

Guentner, hailed as “the inventor of pop ambient”, is a dj as well and is known for his work on Cologne’s Kompart record label.  Here’s a sample of Guentner’s music.

nospectacle is based right here in Detroit. The group is made up of  Christopher McNamara (who teaches at the U of M’s Dept of Screen arts and Cultures), Jennifer A. Paull, and Walter Wasacz and is an electronic music, video and DJ project.They play mostly McNamara’s original compositions.They performed  a set of music to Andy Warhol’s multimedia experience at the Cranbrook Art Museum.Here’s a link on youtube.

Both the artists are known for melding sound, art and visuals. As per the program flyer, “The point of focus is to show how art and entertainment technologies play a crucial role in transcending political, cultural, and psychological borders.”

This free event is followed by an after-party, 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. at Sava’s (in the space once occupied by Zanzibar), 216 S. State St., Ann Arbor. Called Sonic Subliminal, the dance-friendly event features DJ sets by Guentner, nospectacle and Forest Juziuk of Dark Matter. $5 for the party.

Hmm…electronic music and a dance party on a friday night after a hectic week full of studying appeals to me immensely. You ready to party too?

Krithika, for [art]seen

Review: The Difficult [Ring] Tone of ‘Cell Phone’

Jean and Gordon Kiss In The Laundromat.  Or Some Weird Metaphor Like That.
Jean and Gordon "Kiss" In The Laundromat. Or Some Weird Metaphor Like That. (Basement Arts Facebook photo)

Play reviews are difficult. It’s sort of like reviewing some shlops singing karaoke at the local tavern. Although the town drunk may have picked your favorite song (perhaps Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ or Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’), he’s still five drinks deep (cheap rum, most probably) and lacks both rhythm and pitch.

The Basement Arts production of Sarah Ruhl’s ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ was rather opposite of the karaoke dilemma.  Although the acting was, for the most part, stellar, it had a difficult time carrying a play that failed at developing a connection between the audience and its characters.  ‘Cell Phone’ is about a woman, Jean, who, annoyed at the incessant ringing of a cell phone at the next table at a diner, picks up a stranger’s cell phone.  Complicating the situation, she soon finds out that the man, Gordon, has not picked up his cell phone because he is dead.  Jean, in acting as his secretary and, soon afterward, his legacy-maker, speaks to his colleagues, his family, and friends.  In a string of lies, Jean personalizes Gordon in her own mind and conceives of a dieing Gordon to explain to his loved ones.

Unfortunately, although closely involving herself in Gordon’s affairs – attempting to assuage some pain, Jean never becomes more than a liar.  The playwright, Ruhl, attempts to personalize her in, among other ploys, declaring a love for stationary that she shares with Gordon’s brother, Dwight (a role similar to Buster of Arrested Development fame).  However, even Jean’s budding relationship with Dwight is built upon lies and stories.  To Ruhl, Jean is supposed to be a, slightly misguided, heroine.  Instead, she creates an internal mess of a mess.

This takes away nothing from the exceptional acting in the Basement Arts production of the play on Friday night (also performed at 7pm Friday and 7pm, 11pm Saturday) (Full disclosure- a close friend, Neal Kelley, played the role of Gordon.  Even fuller disclosure- although not necessary today, I am zero percent afraid of talking shit about my friends.  They probably deserve it.)  The actors’ performances on Friday night were truly great.   Grounded in an exceptional performance by Margot McGrath as the overly-emotional Mrs. Gottlieb (Gordon’s mother), the actors displayed a deep intimacy and knowledge of each other and each others’ roles in the play.

The ‘sold-out’ crowd (some mortals even sitting in the aisles for a two hour play!) at Studio One in the Walgreen Center ate it up, laughing hysterically at any sign of a joke.  Unfortunately, just as these are the same kids who speak to hear the beautiful sounds of their own voice, there were many members of Friday night’s audience who really wished they were on stage-they really wanted to be the center of attention-so, rather unnaturally, they chose to yell their laughs.  (My slightly intoxicated friends- whom I met there- enjoyed laughing at the flamboyant crowd more than the show itself.)

If nothing else, I’m now a fan of the Basement Arts.  Quality acting with a price tag of $free.fifty is unlikely to be beat in these parts.  Although not my choice of plays, I will, again, choose to make the trek Up North to the Walgreen Center for a Basement Arts production.

Oh yeah, and I would probably choose Al Green’s ‘Love and Happiness’ for my karaoke performance.

Bennett. ‘No Shirt, No Radio’ Wednesday nights, Midnight-1:30am, WCBN

Preview: UofM Basement Arts Presents ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’

Dead Man's Cell Phone Image

It may be old news that cell phones have changed our everyday lives and changed our culture as a whole (Check out David Brooks’ editorial this week on sexting and the like) however, Dead Man’s Cell Phoneeven further personalizes the cell phone’s power.  The show by American playwright and MacArthur Genius Award recipient, Sarah Ruhl, tells the story of Jean who answers the phone of a stranger sitting at the next table, who she soon finds out is dead, and her subsequent discussions with his friends and relatives. 

Ruhl is the author of ten original plays including, the Pulitzer Prize nominated, The Clean House.  In a statement honoring her MacArthur Fellowship, the organization states that she is a “playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war.”

This evening, Friday, November 6 at 7pm and 11pm and again tomorrow evening at the same times, the Basement Arts, a student-run theater organization, presents this new comedy with the exceptional talent of University of Michigan student actors, directors, choreographers.  Responsible for the now world-famous, A Very Potter Musical, The Basement Arts have a solid history of presenting free theater as a priceless experience.

Tonight, Friday, November 6 @ 7 and 11pm.  Tomorrow, Saturday, November 7 @ 7 and 11pm.  All shows at Studio One, Walgreen Drama Center (1226 Murfin), North Campus.   Free Admission!

Check out the trailer for the Basement Arts production of \’Dead Man\’s Cell Phone\’

Bennett. No Shirt, No Radio. Wednesday nights Midnight-1:30 WCBN