My Pulp preview of Ann Arbor playwright David Wells’ world premiere production, ‘Resisting,’ at Theatre Nova

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 11.29.57 AM.png“Resist” is not only a rallying cry of our political times; it was the seed of Ann Arbor-based playwright David Wells (“Irrational,” “Brill”) latest world premiere play at Theatre Nova.

Resisting, which runs Oct. 27-Nov. 19, grew out of a news story Wells read about what’s called “broken windows policing.” Born in New York City in the ‘90s, “It’s essentially a zero-tolerance approach, that was combined with ‘stop and frisk,’” said Wells. “(Broken Windows) started with a scholarly paper that suggested that … if one window in a building is broken, and it’s not fixed immediately, all of them will be broken. … So the police were compelled to start ticketing or arresting people for every little infraction, no matter how small — whether it’s jumping a turnstile, or jaywalking, or spitting in public. This led to a more antagonistic relationship between the police and the citizens they were supposed to serve. And these policies also only seemed to be applied in low-income neighborhoods.”

The article Wells read tracked the legacy of these policies, including a 2012 Baltimore incident involving Makia Smith who got stuck in traffic while coming home from a doctor’s appointment. When she saw police beating a young black man, she started filming the incident with her phone (which is legal). One of the officers involved grabbed it from her and smashed it, and she was charged with various offenses (resisting arrest, obstructing an officer, etc.).

“I used that story as the play’s jumping off point,” said Wells. “So much of what I was learning about was how much systemic racism there is in our justice system. And I thought, if I don’t know much about this, than most other people don’t, either.” READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp preview for U-M’s beloved annual Halloween Concert – this weekend!

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 11.26.23 AM.pngSunday’s 40th annual Halloween concert at Hill Auditorium — which combines the Campus Symphony Orchestra with the Campus Philharmonia Orchestra — will mark conductor Kenneth Kiesler’s 23rd time on the podium while in costume. (What he’ll be dressed in this year is under wraps.)

But what you might not know is that he and the student musicians get one chance each year to raid the theater department’s costumes.

“They have a huge warehouse,” said Kiesler. “You could get just about anything you want.”

One legendary U-M Halloween concert costume, apparently, involved conductor Richard Rosenberg who, in the late ’80s, dressed as a bat and directed a selection from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus while — you guessed it — suspended upside down.

Believe it or not, some in Sunday’s audience may be able to provide a first-hand account. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp recap of Charles M. Blow’s keynote address at Rackham

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 5.18.12 PM.pngReading a long list of sponsors doesn’t usually prompt a standing ovation; but because celebrated New York Times op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow couldn’t hear, while backstage at Rackham Auditorium on Friday evening, what was being said while waiting to make his entrance, he gamely emerged before his official introduction had even gotten underway.

Not that the adoring, full-capacity crowd minded the miscue in the least. Presenting the keynote speech of a Humility in the Age of Self-Promotion Colloquium at U-M, Blow spoke for 40 minutes on the topic of Trump, arrogance, and democracy, and answered audience questions for an additional half hour.

Though some in the crowd strained to hear Blow — whose tall, lanky frame kept him farther-than-usual from the lectern’s microphone — his insights on the President, the election, the media, and race regularly drew nods and murmurs of agreement, as well as applause.

“Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down,” said Blow, quoting a passage from Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, that read, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call this truthful hyperbole.” Socially, or in business, Blow noted, this practice may simply operate as an exaggeration. “But in politics, that’s called propaganda, and it’s not so innocent,” said Blow. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp Q&A with Welcome to Night Vale podcast creator/’It Devours!’ author Jeffrey Cranor

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.19.30 PM.pngOne article about the popular, fiercely beloved Welcome to Night Vale podcast begins with the line, “Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of” the show.

But until I’d received a copy of the novel It Devours! written by the podcast’s creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and researched Night Vale in preparation for a recent phone interview with Cranor, I’d been one such under-the-rock dweller.

Yet because the podcast could be described as the David Lynch version of A Prairie Home Companion — focusing on a fictional desert town in the American Southwest, where all conspiracy theories are true — I asked Cranor if any of Night Vale’s residents also live under rocks.

“No, but one of the characters is a rock — the dean of the Night Vale Community College, Sarah Sultan,” said Cranor without missing a beat, referring to a character who communicates via telepathy.

Well, then. At least I might have some company. READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (Pulp): Théâtre de la Ville’s ‘State of Siege’ looks slick, but feels leaden

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Théâtre de la Ville’s “State of Siege” achieves a nightmarish look and atmosphere, but fails to have much emotional impact.

I once spent a summer reading just about everything Albert Camus wrote. Not exactly beach reading, I know — I jokingly referred to it as “my crazy summer” — but I’d been hired to write the preface of a book about the French writer’s work, so I dove in.

I hadn’t counted Camus’ seldom-produced 1948 play L’Etat de siège (State of Siege) among my favorites of his writings, but I was intrigued to learn that Théâtre de la Ville was staging it. Having seen previous Théâtre de la Ville productions courtesy of University Musical Society (UMS), including Ionesco’s Rhinoceros in 2012 and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author in 2014, I was hopeful the Parisian company would find a way make Siege sing.

And yes, Theatre de la Ville’s take on Siege at the Power Center on Friday and Saturday looked slick and offered some truly inspired moments of stagecraft, but Camus’ heavy-handed political allegory still ended up feeling pretty leaden. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp recap of Christo’s Penny Stamps Lecture at the Michigan Theater

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World-renowned sculptor Christo spoke at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater last Thursday, as part of the Penny Stamps Lecture Series. (Photo by Jenn McKee)

On Thursday evening, world-renowned sculptor Christo, 82, told a huge crowd — packed into the Michigan Theater to see him — what might be the best, most succinct courtship story of all time.

Of his longtime partnership with Jeanne-Claude, with whom he collaborated on his massive art installations (and who died in 2009), Christo said, with a shrug, “I was very young, we make love, and we like each other. That’s all.” Moments later, he added, “She was very pretty.”

But Christo — dressed in dark slacks, a collared white shirt, and a big-pocketed beige jacket that hung off his lean frame — initially kicked off his Penny Stamps Speaker Series lecture with a few parameters: “I will answer all questions, but I will not talk about politics, religion, and certainly not about other artists. I talk about myself, my work, and anything that I can tell you about my work.” READ THE REST HERE

My latest Visit Ann Arbor! blog post, highlighting community and cultural events (October)

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 10.14.42 PM.pngAfter experiencing some dog days of Indian summer in September, fall in Michigan – with its emphasis on cider mills, colorful leaves, fleece, and football – will finally click into high gear when we reach October. The area always offers loads of opportunities to eat great food and have a good time in the days leading up to Halloween.  There are many local Halloween events throughout October, including performances, children’s activities, and outdoor fun. Plus, this year, you could help break a world record by dressing up as Rosie the Riveter on October 14!  Start planning your events schedule, and be sure to post your photos and videos on social media and hashtag #VisitAnnArbor! READ LOCAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS HERE

My Pulp interview with People I Want to Punch in the Throat blogger/author Jen Mann

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 2.58.56 PM.pngWhen you put the wrong date in your calendar for an interview with Jen Mann, the blogger/author behind People I Want to Punch in the Throat, you kind of fear that you’ll be added to the list.

But Mann — who will be coming to the downtown library for a moms’ night out event on Wednesday, October 11 at 7 pm, as part of a book tour to promote her latest humorous essay collection, Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat — couldn’t have been more understanding, despite her famously feisty, tell-it-like-it-is persona.

Mann first appeared on most readers’ radars back in 2011 when her caustic blog post about failing to keep up with other Elf on the Shelf mommies went viral. The response took Mann (a realtor at the time) by surprise, but she also knew that she needed to act fast if she wanted to keep her new readers engaged.

“I had a lot of emotions,” said Mann. “On the one hand, I was terrified. I’d never had a million people read something I’d written. And while most responses were positive, there were also five percent of them that were people who were threatening my children and things like that. … I decided then and there what to do. I wouldn’t post photos of them or use their real names on my blog. But I’d also wanted to be a writer since I was five, and I had 17,000 fans by the end of that first night, so I had to figure out how to keep them fed.” READ THE REST HERE