Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: see A2CT’s ‘The Wedding Singer,’ Sonic Lunch, Cinetopia, Taste of Ann Arbor and more

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Chip Mezo stars in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of “The Wedding Singer.” (Photo by Lisa Gavan)

Friday’s Judy Collins show at the Ark may be sold out, but if you look at both sides now (see what I did there?), you’ll see there are lots of other great choices for leisure activities this week. Check out some of your options below.

Aoife O’Donovan at The Ark. The former vocalist of a Boston neo-bluegrass outfit called Crooked Still, O’Donovan is a honey-voiced pop-folk singer-songwriter who’s regularly featured on “A Prairie Home Companion.” Her new CD, “In the Magic Hour,” is a collection of introspective explorations of memory and mortality written in the wake of her grandfather’s death. Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Ark, 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15 (members, free), available in advance at mutotix.com, theark.org, or by phone at 734-763-TKTS.

The Leastaways’ “West of Elsewhere.” This traveling theater troupe, founded by Ann Arborites, performs its multidisciplinary show that follows the intersecting lives of illegal train-hoppers during the panic of 1893, when a depression drove hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes in search of a better life. Interwoven with music, the story concerns American idealism, hardship, living in uncertainty, and the pursuit of belonging. Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Pointless Brewery & Theatre, 3014 Packard in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $10 at the door.

Sonic Lunch kicks off Thursday. One of the best things about being around downtown Ann Arbor in the summer is walking to Liberty Plaza on Thursdays at noon to see a free Sonic Lunch show. (In case of rain, the shows are held in the Ark on Main Street.) Performers in Sonic Lunch’s lineup range from local and regional favorites to nationally known acts, and this year’s series kicks off Thursday with Wild Belle. Enjoy seductive, musically sophisticated retro-pop with a reggae groove by this critically acclaimed band, led by the sibling singer-songwriter duo of vocalist Natalie Bergman and saxophonist/keyboardist Eliot Bergman, who founded the popular Afrobeat band Nomo when he was a U-M student. Thursday from noon-1:30 p.m. at Liberty Plaza, located on E. Liberty St. at S. Division. Free. Continue reading

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My EncoreMichigan.com review of Theatre Nova’s ‘Katherine’

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Melissa Beckwith stars in Kim Carney’s “Katherine” at Theatre Nova.

Kim Carney’s new play, Katherine, now having its world premiere at Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova, has a wholly apt tagline: “Herstory repeats itself.”

The one-woman show highlights five generations of women within one family. Thanks to an established tradition of naming the first-born daughter Katherine, we glimpse the carriers of that name (all played by Melissa Beckwith) over the course of about a century. Beginning with a farmer’s wife who addresses God one night in a barn, the play goes on to feature a single mother of five who’s desperate to find work during the Depression; a snarky, bored, alcoholic housewife who’d prefer a male therapist; an addict-turned-motivational speaker who finds God in a school community’s response to a natural disaster; and a contemporary single businesswoman who stands at a personal and professional crossroads.

The 90 minute play, directed by David Wolber, is structured in five scenes, with minimal props and nifty transitions that show us Beckwith, in silhouette behind a screen, transforming into the next Katherine. READ THE REST HERE

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: Classic Car Show, Memorial Day parades and more

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Things get quiet around town this week, as everyone prepares for Memorial Day weekend, but there are still some noteworthy events, including those that salute and celebrate our veterans. See all the details below, and have a safe holiday weekend!

Donald Sinta Quartet at Kerrytown Concert House. This ensemble of U-M alums, named for U-M sax professor Sinta, has achieved international recognition since forming in 2010 and was the first saxophone quartet ever to win 1st Prize in the NYC Concert Artists Guild International Competition. On Thursday night, they’ll perform a program of world premieres. Members include Dan Graser, Zach Stern, Joe Girard, and Danny Hawthorne-Foss. Thursday at 8 p.m. at KCH, 415 N. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15-$30 (students, $5), and reservations are recommended at Kerrytownconcerthouse.com, or 734-769-2999.

8th Annual Classic Car Show: Ann Arbor City Club. A show of more than 70 classic, sporty, unusual, and rare cars. Concessions. Rain or shine. Saturday from Noon-4 p.m. at Ann Arbor City Club, 1830 Washtenaw in Ann Arbor. Free admission. Continue reading

My Pulp recap of ‘Comma Queen’ and New Yorker copyeditor Mary Norris’ talk at AADL

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On Sunday, New Yorker copyeditor Mary Norris talked about her book, “Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.” (Photo by Jenn McKee)

At one point during Sunday afternoon’s 90 minute talk at Ann Arbor’s downtown library, Mary Norris, an author and a copyeditor for The New Yorker, said, “I’m with my people.”

As if to paint this as a vast understatement, an audience member (and fellow copywriter), during the Q&A portion of the program, held up a box of Palamino Blackwing pencils – which Norris had just noted as her copyediting instrument of choice – and proclaimed, “Blackwing 602s rock!”

More than 100 people showed up to hear from Norris about her new book, Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, and ask questions about semi-colons, non-gendered singular pronouns, “insure” vs. “ensure,” and more. READ THE REST HERE

My IXITI story about the Purple Rose Theatre’s 25th anniversary

purpleroseIn the 1980s, when Jeff Daniels and his wife, Katherine Treado, decided to raise a family in their shared hometown of Chelsea, MI, Daniels had a riddle to solve: how could he have both the low-key home life he wanted, and a local creative ecosystem in which to work?

Daniels’ and Treado’s solution to the riddle involved founding the Purple Rose Theatre, now celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The Beginning

Back in 1989, the building located at 137 Park Street in Chelsea was a dilapidated former used car and bus garage that had once been owned by Daniels’ grandfather; Daniels purchased it for $150,000, and after he and his “founding four” team (including Bart Bauer, Doug Beaumont, and Newell Kring) oversaw extensive renovations, the Purple Rose opened its doors to present Lisa Wing’s world premiere play, Blush at Nothing, in February 1991.

Much has changed since then, of course—most notably, a $2.2 million capital campaign to fund the original building’s demolition in 1999, as well as the subsequent construction of the Rose’s current building, which opened in 2001 (they staged shows at Detroit’s Gem Theatre during this period)—but some local artists and patrons started coming to the Rose early on and never left. READ THE REST HERE

My EncoreMichigan.com review of ‘Heathers: The Musical’ at Ferndale’s Ringwald Theatre

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The cast of “Heathers: The Musical” at Ferndale’s Ringwald Theatre.

In Shakespeare, ambitious men vie for crowns. In Heathers, the stage musical adaptation of the 1988 film now on stage at the Ringwald Theatre, it’s all about the red scrunchie.

Is it facetious to compare a teen-angsty black comedy, packed with pop culture references and profanity, with Elizabethan drama? After revisiting “Heathers” at Ringwald’s sold-out opening night, I’d argue “no.” High school, when you’re an adolescent, is its own brutal, bloody battlefield, with alliances that are made and broken daily; this is likely why, though the original movie tanked at the box office,Heathers nonetheless endured to become a cult hit.

Want proof? Ringwald’s opening night performance of Heathers: The Musical was sold out, and the enthusiastic crowd wasn’t solely made up of nostalgic Gen-Xers out for a fun night in Ferndale. To wit, Heathers doesn’t just have scrunchies and shoulder pads; it has legs. READ THE REST HERE

My Detroit Free Press story on author Steve Hamilton

secondlife.jpegThe release of an acclaimed new crime novel called “The Second Life of Nick Mason” also marks, in a way, the start of a second life for its best-selling author, Michigan native Steve Hamilton.

Why? Because after publishing novels with St. Martin’s Press for 17 years — books that earned Hamilton two Edgar Awards, inclusion on two New York Times notable books lists, a Shamus Award, an Alex Award and more — Hamilton, 55, walked away from his latest four-book contract with SMP last August, even though his agent, filmmaker-screenwriter Shane Salerno, had to pay $250,000 back to SMP to buy out the author’s contract.

The shake-up made headlines, in part because of the reason Hamilton left SMP: He was about to launch a new book series  by way of “Second Life,” and although SMP had promised him a strong marketing plan, Hamilton learned as the book was about to be printed that no such plan was in place.

So Hamilton — best known for his series about Alex McKnight, an ex-cop who lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — took a risk, and it paid off. After 10 publishers vied to publish “Second Life,” Hamilton signed a four-book deal with G.P. Putnam’s Sons. (Two will be Nick Mason books, two will be Alex McKnight.) And that whole promotion thing? Hamilton’s 28-stop national book tour for “Second Life” kicks off Monday in Detroit and includes  13 stops in Michigan. READ THE REST HERE

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: see Lesley Stahl, author Steve Hamilton, Picnic Pops and more

stahlThe Ark has numerous sold out shows this week – Sam Beam (a/k/a Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop on Tuesday; former J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf on Thursday and Friday; and Martin Sexton on Saturday night – but even if you’re not lucky enough to have tickets to these shows, there’s still plenty to do around town.

Lesley Stahl talks about her book, ”Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.” Veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl discusses her new book, a blend of memoir and investigative reporting. Signing. (I’ll be covering this event for Pulp, so watch for my write-up in the coming days.) Monday from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor. Free.

Bestselling author Steve Hamilton discusses “The Second Life of Nick Mason.” Presented by the Ann Arbor District Library and Aunt Agatha’s. Hopwood Award-winning U-M grad Steve Hamilton, a two-time Edgar Award-winning veteran mystery writer, will discuss his new book, a noir thriller set in Chicago about a man recently released from prison. Signing. (Check out my Detroit Free Press story on Hamilton here. The new book’s a true page-turner!) Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. in the AADL multipurpose room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. in Ann Arbor. Free. Continue reading

My Detroit Free Press story about Ann Arbor novelist Camille Pagan

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 10.29.46 AM.pngPuerto Rico has lately become a political football, but for the narrator of Ann Arbor novelist Camille Pagan’s “Life and Other Near-Death Experiences,” it’s a place to figure out what to do when everything’s falling apart.

In sharp contrast, everything now seems to be coming together for Pagan.

Some initial good news came last fall, when editors at Amazon chose “Life” as a Kindle First selection.

Each month, editors at Amazon choose six new fiction titles for Kindle First and offer them to Prime subscribers before the books’ official release dates. Subscribers may choose to download one of the offerings  free, while nonsubscribers can purchase them for $1.99. Pagan’s book was part of October’s Kindle First grouping, and  it soon topped Kindle’s overall best-seller list, staying at No. 1 for most of that month. (More than 2,600 readers have reviewed “Life” on Amazon, and their combined rating for the novel is an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars.)

Yet in the moment, when “Life” was riding high in Amazon’s Kindle rankings, Pagan struggled to believe it. READ THE REST HERE

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: see Ellie Goulding, Cyndi Lauper, ‘Station Eleven’ author and more

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Cyndi Lauper will play a concert at the Michigan Theater on Saturday night!

Ellie Goulding at EMU. Enjoy catchy electronic pop (with elements of dance music and ambient synth-pop) by this young British singer-songwriter who first gained attention with her 2010 hit singles “Starry Eyed” and “Guns & Horses.” She has a new best-selling CD, “Delirium.” Opening acts are Bebe Rexha, an Albanian American electropop singer-songwriter who co-wrote Eminem’s 2013 hit “Monster,” and Years & Years, a London (UK) synthpop trio. Monday at 7 p.m. at EMU Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt (north off Washtenaw) in Ypsilanti. Tickets $35-$59.50, available in advance at Ticketmaster.com and (800) 745-3000.

For Pete’s Sake: A Pete Seeger Birthday Tribute and Memorial at The Ark. This celebration of the late folk legend features in-the-round performances, with lots of sing-alongs and between-song stories. The all-star lineup of area singer-songwriters includes Chris Buhalis, Judy Banker, Billy King, Paul Tinkerhess, Matt Watroba, Annie & Rod Capps, and Gemini, an acoustic quartet now that twin brothers Laszlo and Sandor Slomovits have been joined by San’s daughter Emily and bassist Jacob Warren. A benefit for the Ark. Wednesday at 8 p.m. at 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15, available in advance at mutotix.com, theark.org, and 734-763-TKTS.

See “Station Eleven” author Emily St. John Mandel at WCC. Check out this reading by bestselling NYC-based writer whose 2014 novel, “Station Eleven,” was chosen as the 2015-16 Great Michigan Read (and it’s one of my favorite novels of recent years). Set in the aftermath of a future flu epidemic, the novel tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region. Wednesday at 7 p.m. at WCC’s Morris Lawrence Bldg., in Towsley Auditorium, 4800 E. Huron River Dr. in Ann Arbor. Free. Continue reading