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Showing posts from April, 2015

Guess He's Not On Our Side: A Response to Garry Trudeau's Criticism of Charlie Hebdo and His Narrow View of Satire

Guess He's Not on Our Side (with apologies to Bob Dylan, but not to Jane Pauley's husband) Posted by Jay Harvey on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 Inspired by Garry Trudeau's puzzling speech at the Polk Awards Ceremony on April 10, 2015

Theatre on the Square's 'Rapture, Blister, Burn': 'Who's gonna shoe your pretty little feet?' updated

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"I don't need no man," is the woman's firm answer in the folk song quoted above, which is played over the sound system before the show and between the acts of "Rapture, Blister, Burn," a deep-delving comedy about contemporary relationships between the sexes, now at Theatre on the Square through Saturday. As a social movement, American feminism has not been able to come up with so categorical a  dismissal of the male sex, tempting though that must be at times. It's probably more vital for women to advance their interests and accommodate their longings to the male power structure in their actual lives. Besides, the Woody Guthrie song is about a particular rejection; it's not a policy agenda, though it may do as a pleasant fantasy. Gina Gianfriddo 's play probes the vulnerability of Catherine Croll (Carrie Ann Schlatter), a romantically unattached feminist scholar who takes time out from her celebrity as a public intellectual to come home to her

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir premieres an Arab-American composer's plea for peace

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Mohammed Fairouz, composer Mohammed Fairouz is a prolific, widely admired composer who seems determinedly engaged with the world outside music — particularly the world of his heritage, the Middle East. He has used the Psalms common in the wider religious heritage of the Abrahamic religions as a basis for an oratorio, "Zabur," which was premiered Friday night at the Hilbert Circle Theatre. The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir presentation, conducted by its artistic director, Eric Stark,  also included the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Children's Choir. With elaborate tilling of the ground for a new commissioning project (detailed in a short video shown before the concert), the ISC connected with the 29-year-old Arab-American. His interest in outreach plus a remarkable resume clearly led to the expectation that the new work would have an aura of community-building wrapped up in an artistically comprehensive package. Truth be told, "Zabur&q

In pursuit of the White Whale: NoExitPerformance enters the maelstrom of 'Moby Dick' — and survives

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Stage adaptations of monstrous, venerated literary works are not as rare as one might expect. The challenge to extract theatrical values from famous prose narratives is irresistible, and instant name recognition of the adapted material amounts to a marketing boost from the get-go. NoExit Performance , valiant and imaginative among the smaller theater organizations in town, entered the second and final weekend of its "Moby Dick" production Thursday night at the Wheeler Arts Community just south of Fountain Square. Julian Rad's adaptation of Herman Melville's leviathan book hits all the major themes, judging from my memory of having finished reading it in January. (My first reading was in my teens; this time, I was appalled to see the word "omit" penciled in on the first page of each chapter that digresses from the main narrative thread — and ignored that immature directive.) The nearly abstract look of the set, which is also turned to practical use, s

Musings about jazz — related to the new Palladium season and to the American Pianists Association — as April, officially Jazz Month, draws to a close

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Out on a limb, in the spirit of jazz, I'm going to start this post with a retrospective judgment on the outcome of the 2015 Jazz Fellowship Awards of the American Pianists Association . I say "out on a limb" — and I hope without sawing off the part I'm sitting on — because I missed both the semifinals and finals in person due to an out-of-town trip. And I didn't hear all five of the Premiere Series sessions earlier this season at the Jazz Kitchen, either. But, thanks to the Eskenazi Health series of solo mini-recitals plus my YouTube viewing of the March 28 finals, here are one fan's impression of the far-and-away winners. And I'm focusing on how the finals struck me (throwing some earlier impressions, when available, into the mix). The Hilbert Circle Theatre event presented the five young men in two outings:  one song accompanying Dianne Reeves, the other selection an arrangement played with the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra. No pianist comps

Two worlds of J.S. Bach are sketched in Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra concert

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The marketing image Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra has associated with "J.S. Bach: Sacred and Secular, Vocal and Instrumental" is a good deal jazzier than that sober concert title. J.S. Bach: Baroque dude It's worth noting that the composer's artistic profile finds more consistent expression across the sacred-secular divide than the jarring superimposition of shades, stingy-brim hat and hipster facial hair on his image suggests. But contemporary marketing follows its own laws, and if it can attract more people to two repeat performances elsewhere of Monday night's program at the University of Indianapolis , more power to it. The 11-piece ensemble, exuding neatly deployed energy and refinement throughout, was led by its artistic director, Dutch-born early-music flute virtuoso Barthold Kuijken, who was also soloist in three of the four works. The program's centerpiece for exhibiting the skills of both Kuijken and the band is the Orchestral Suite in B

Shadows over paradise: IRT's 'On Golden Pond' is a comedy about loss held off

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Few serious family comedies of the past 40 years have held the stage as successfully as "On Golden Pond." Indiana Repertory Theatre 's season-ending production of the Ernest Thompson play supports its durability, thanks to a unity of vision and a stylistic restraint that avoids underlining the story's sentimentality. Those of us who have never accumulated a half-century of memories about an idyllic summer home are ready to experience them vicariously as soon as we lay eyes on Robert M. Koharchik's set — sturdy, rustic, lived-in and backgrounded by a glimmering vista of sky and water. Whatever may threaten Norman and Ethel Thayer's continued happiness in their lakeside Maine home we are rooting for them to keep at bay. Norman Thayer ignores Ethel's steady enthusiasm. Trouble is, one of those threats is Norman's attitude as the couple return to their spacious, memento-rich cabin for another summer. The shuffling patriarch's mind is bent on hi

Complexities of the German symphonic tradition sketched in ISO concert at the Palladium

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Christoph Altstaedt, ISO guest conductor All-orchestra concerts have a reputation for not drawing as well as concerts featuring guest soloists, and that truism seemed to be the case Friday night at Carmel's Palladium . Lots of empty seats did not keep the fascinating program on paper from being brought to life well. Young German conductor Christoph Altstaedt, bouncy yet reserved, led the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in pieces by Bach/Webern, Richard Wagner, and Felix Mendelssohn. Some American sass was contributed by Stephen Bachicha, a composer associated with Rice University in Houston and the winner of this year's Marilyn K. Glick Young Composer's Showcase. Bachicha was on hand to acknowledge the applause after the ISO performed his "Allusions, Illusions & Delusions." Companion to bustling strings in new work. Bachicha's lively melange of salutes to composers he admires ("allusions") and a bumptious phantasmagoria ("illu

Playing on the nerve ends, which music does best, Butler's ArtsFest delves deep with a program of musical monodramas

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Ministering to minds diseased: My pre-concert talk for Butler ArtsFest's "Stark Raving" program

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 Method — and something beyond it — goes into operatic madness More explanations for the increasing oldness of the core opera repertoire could be put forward and defended than there is time for here. But it’s doubtful that strong claims can be made for permanent additions to the canon since World War II except for Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” whose protagonist, by the way, perfectly illustrates how readily being an outsider shades over into outlaw status. Many viable operas have been composed in the past 70 years, but for various reasons composers’ interests often have tended elsewhere. One direction in the 20 th century was for composers to opt for portrait sketches in a cabaretlike or music-theater format, with instrumentalists cast as characters, doffing their role as accompanists. Let’s briefly consider a couple of noble ancestors: The violin helps portray the Soldier in Igor Stravinsky’s “Soldier’s Tale” (1918); the nature of the violin’s dominance

Butler ArtsFest: Angela Brown, our hometown diva, puts a "mad" program of opera excerpts over the top

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Always reliable in delivering the utmost to her public, Angela Brown presented an operatic recital at the Schrott Center for the Arts Tuesday night that included strenuous grappling duets. Angela Brown (photo: Roni Ely) A well-attended presentation of this year's Butler University ArtsFest, "Angela Brown and Friends: Mad Scenes!" took in music from the core opera repertoire, including "Tosca," "Aida," "The Flying Dutchman," and "Porgy and Bess." The Indianapolis-born soprano, who finished her formal education as a graduate student at Indiana University, brought to bear the savoir-faire acquired in an international career together with her well-schooled natural gifts. The "mad-scene" theme cast a wide net, including mad passion and simple anger. She was assisted by soprano Jane Dutton , tenor Thomas Studebaker (director of Butler's opera program), baritones Darren Stokes and Galen Bower , and pianist Kelleen

Lady, Be Better Than Good: The steep climb to respect of American jazzwomen is documented on film

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Chances are that the International Sweethearts of Rhythm or Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears will never be subject to the perpetual nostalgia-tripping that the Glenn Miller Band enjoys. Kay D. Ray (left), with the film's narrator, Patrice Rushen. For one thing, the tributes would come too late, and they would probably be seen as sexist. But, as Kay D. Ray 's 80-minute documentary, "Lady Be Good: Instrumental Women in Jazz," makes clear, a lot of big-band history involved all-female ensembles, and along the way, there were many individuals who demonstrated that women on the bandstand shouldn't be restricted to their warbling sex appeal. The film was shown at Central Library Monday afternoon, preceded by an appetizing mini-set by the Monika Herzig Quartet. With the tireless advocate for jazz in Central Indiana and women's contributions to it at the keyboard, the group was capably filled out by Amanda Gardier, alto sax; Jennifer Kirk, bass, and Arianna

By ones, twos, and threes, Butler musicians 'embrace the outsider' in an afternoon ArtsFest concert

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Pieces that have in common only that they seem to come from outside the mainstream don't lend themselves easily to generalization. As "Embracing the Outsider: Chamber Music" unfolded Sunday afternoon at the Schrott Center for the Arts, the program's aptness for the theme of this year's Butler ArtsFest, "Outlaws & Outsiders," was evident. The works belonged together mainly because they showed how vast a terrain "outside" can be. A fresh "inside" was thus created only by their presence in the same concert. Pianist Anna Briscoe The oldest work, Henry Cowell's "Homage to Iran," was part of the American composer's gradually influential attention to non-European music. Using two Western instruments (violin and piano) plus a hand drum, Cowell laid out his alternately lyrical and perpetual-motion tribute in exotic terms. The piano, with repeated notes inflected by hand-stopped strings, is frequently the drum'

Old friends combine in first-time trio as Christian McBride visits Butler University

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Christian McBride showed his expertise at Butler. Thoroughly adept musicians who have proved themselves individually and in groups over many years unsurprisingly jell quickly in new combinations. It wasn't startling, then, to hear unalloyed excellence from the "new" Christian McBride Trio Saturday night in a Butler ArtsFest concert at the Schrott Center for the Arts. The genial bassist, a virtuoso of deep pizzicato sound and ingenuity, brought to the stage an old Philadelphia friend, pianist Orrin Evans, and a veteran collaborator, drummer Carl Allen. "This is a world premiere trio," McBride announced, taking charge after a guest appearance with the Butler Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Matt Pivec. Evans proved capable of being effective in a conventional jazz grouping where the bassist is the boss. Pianists normally predominate in what are usually called piano trios, but Evans was neither too deferential nor helplessly in the spotlight. Withou

With rising star Alice Sara Ott, Krzysztof Urbanski and the ISO mostly hit the mark with an all-Beethoven program

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Despite his aptitude for works that make a splash (like the Shostakovich Seventh Symphony earlier this season), Krzysztof Urbanski's keen musical intelligence won't allow him to think routinely about the meat-and-potatoes repertoire. So it was Friday night at Hilbert Circle Theatre, when the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's music director led an all-Beethoven program, with a touch of young-star quality added in the local debut of pianist Alice Sara Ott . Alice Sara Ott played the majestic Third Concerto The German-Japanese pianist, playing barefoot, was the soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor. Her interpretive manner was primarily seductive and lyrical. It was also robust when called for (particularly in the cadenza Beethoven provided) and dreamy in the cloudy spiritual depths of the Largo. Though her rhythmic sense was incisive, there was an odd lack of synchronicity sometimes with the accompaniment, though Urbanski gave every indication of being att

'Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea' answers the siren call of the sunken past

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Dontrell reads a letter from his grandfather that had been hidden in a pair of boots If we didn't hide the most crucial clues to who we are, it's possible our hold on everyday life would be more tenuous than it usually is. Plumbing the depths of identity is not for the faint of heart, "Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea" seems to be telling us. In the National New Play Network "rolling world premiere" that opened Thursday at the Phoenix Theatre, the title character can't let those clues lie dormant in dreams. They must be acted upon. His grip on the life he lives in a prickly, stressed-out family is less than firm, so he's already in the habit of addressing a featureless future on a handheld recording device. The bright 18-year-old has won a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University in his hometown of Baltimore. It's a big deal to his family, but to him it stands in the shadow of his need to get in touch with something deeper, looking in b