Showing posts from August, 2016

"Gee, Donald, Ain't We Good to You": The alt-right, white nationalists, et al. remind the GOP candidate of their steadfastness and wonder about his

Castanets and tambourines: "Hernando's Hideaway" becomes "Hillary's Hideaway" in this song of worries

Is there any cause to worry about the clout of the Clinton Foundation in the face of a prospective Clinton presidency? This song, with facts from David Folkenflick's NPR reporting and accompaniment by Mantovani, attempts to address certain reasonable anxieties.

IndyFringe Festival, Days Six and Seven: Closing it out with reports on four shows

At least once a year, you can select a local leisure-time activity that is sure to plop you into the cliche of getting out of your comfort zone. That's what the 2016 IndyFringe Fest offers through Sunday, right on schedule. Even if you stick to selections you feel sure you'll like, there will be surprises. As a self-published critic, I run the risk of looking clueless — maybe even while covering genres I'm supposed to know something about. I invite you to be the judge of that in what follows. Despite appearances, Act a Foo' doesn't look down at its audiences. My last show put me in the pretty unfamiliar territory of African-American improvisational comedy, with Act a Foo' Improv Crew's Wednesday evening show at the Phoenix Theatre . Four actors and an emcee kept the audience-participation-intense performance super-busy and a challenge to follow.  I laughed heartily, if often uncomprehendingly, at the rapid-fire succession of games and sketches. My

Indy FringeFest, Day Five: Prophecy, curse, and religion in 'Sleeping Beauty,' ballet off the classical-romantic track, and naughty Las Vegas pizazz

Opportunities for going contrary to expectation on the one hand, reinforcing what you're known for on the other, and surprising and mystifying an audience on the third (an impossibility suggested by the show I'm thinking of) abound at the 12th annual IndyFringe Festival. The mainstage at Theatre on the Square is a welcoming arena for a dance show, but up to now, I've only caught Dance Kaleidscope on that stage. Monday night it was a pleasure to see the Indianapolis School of Ballet' s "Beyond Ballet" there. Victoria Lyras' 10-year-old organization is going from strength to strength, shown most recently in the announcement that the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will be playing for its "Nutcracker" production in December. I liked the refreshing application of ballet to classic jazz in "Waitin' for Katie" by Ben Pollack (in whose band Benny Goodman got his start). The "beyond" note was immediately struck as the audie

"Who's Sorry Now?": With apologies to the shade of Connie Francis, here's my response to Donald Trump's difficulty with apologies

IndyFringe Fest, Day Four: Tapping into history, macabre verse, and performance art

My Sunday visit to the 2016 Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival let me nibble around the edges of the typical gingerbread hut of stage performance. (Invited inside, I usually resist the urge to shove the resident crone into the oven.) I sampled classic light verse brought to life, cutting-edge testimony from the spoken-word and standup comedy scenes, and the art of tap dance historically considered. It's been decades since the verse of Robert W. Service, James Whitcomb Riley, Hilaire Belloc and Alfred Noyes has jangled around in my head. At the Phoenix Underground, "A Darkly Humorous Evening with Stephen Vincent Giles " rang those bells all over again with a flair I was never able to manage. Stephen Vincent Giles: Drenched in the comical macabre. Giles, with some funky wardrobe changes and low-tech projected title and author identification to one side, brings into fresh perspective the sounds of poetry meant to be understood and enjoyed at first hearing. Thi

IndyFringe Fest, Day Three: A trio of shows, two emphasizing the personal, one drinking deep in Shakespeare

We know so little about Shakespeare's life that every doubtful bit of gossip has its allure. One of them concerns his death at 52, shortly after the playwright retired to his native Stratford. It's said he got together with a couple of fellow literary stars — Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson — for a night of drinking that took on binge proportions. It proved mortal for the most securely immortal of the illustrious trio. "Suds fools these mortals be" — tying one on Shakespeare. In that spirit, EclecticPond Theatre Company is offering IndyFringe Festival patrons a bibulous take on the early romantic tragedy "Romeo and Juliet." It seems like a good choice, though I hope "Drankspeare" won't become one in a series. True, it might explain a lot if King Lear came on drunk in the first scene of his play. With much of its text intact, the earlier tragedy proceeds from street fighting that could be taken as a consequence of drinking deep on to the

IndyFringe Fest, Day Two: Fresh thoughts from DK dancers, a Westside arts community, and Earlham College

Something peculiar to the aura that pop divas gather around themselves engenders optimism, even when they move into torch songs and other expressions of doubt and pain. That probably accounts for the upbeat feeling pervading the nine pieces assembled for Dance Kaleidoscope' s 2016 IndyFringe Festival contribution, "Divas Workshop" on the main stage at Theatre on the Square . The key to happiness is the disposition to be pleased, the 18th-century man of letters Samuel Johnson says somewhere. This disposition triumphed in this program by DK dancers, and the result shows that being so disposed doesn't mean that happiness is easily achieved or held onto. (Artistic director David Hochoy will use Fringe audience response plus his own programming knack to decide which of the short works will be further rehearsed for DK's February concert.) The comic approach to Dr. Johnson's truth came through in Timothy June's "Enlightenment," with its busy, distra

IndyFringe Fest, Day One: Identity, Loyalty, and Illusion

Immersion in another IndyFringe Festival requires the kind of sorting that American shoppers have long been accustomed to at the supermarket. Matters of conscience, taste, and enjoyment jostle for priority in our diets and in our entertainment. So many choices! Should you spend more time — going with impulse or deliberation — eyeing fresh produce or snack foods, at the meat counter or among the wine shelves? (Fill in your own arts-and-entertainment counterparts to these store stops.) Program art for Timothy A. Taylor's Fringe play The difference with the Fringe festival is that shopping for price is not a factor. Night after night through Aug. 28, admission to each show is the same: $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, $8 for children under 12. The price conscious can by five tickets for the price of four shows with a Fiver Pass ($50). So much for consumer advice. On to the shows. As with many family shoppers trying at home to justify purchases as they empty thei

Silk Road Ensemble raises the Hilbert Circle Theatre roof

Silk Road Ensemble, with featured players Wu Man and Kayhan Kalhor seated to Yo-Yo Ma's left. The Hilbert Circle Theatre took on an unwonted intimacy Monday night as the full Silk Road Ensemble — 17 musicians under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma — welcomed a full house to its world, and to a significant part of the world. The theme was "home" and how it is defined in emotional, physical, permanent, and temporary terms. Music as a vehicle cruises easily over the verbal meanings of home, taking in cultures geographically remote from one another in ways that display their universal appeal. The annual summer tour of the group is focusing on the concept of home in connection with its new CD, "Sing Me Home." The recent showing here of the documentary "The Music of Strangers" also drove interest in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra' s presentation. A much-reduced representation played the Palladium in February. That gave Central India

Yo-Yo Ma sees the United States as the ideal arena for what the Silk Road Ensemble represents

Yo-Yo Ma (seated, left) with the diverse group of musicians known as the Silk Road Ensemble. The world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma considers the Silk Road Ensemble he founded 18 years ago a multicultural collective whose music represents values the United States embodies naturally. That's why the 62-year-old musician, born to Chinese parents in Paris and an American since childhood, describes the kind of concert a Hilbert Circle Theatre audience will hear Monday evening as American to the core. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is presenting the 16 musicians for one performance only. (Without Ma, 10 members of the Silk Road Ensemble appeared at the Carmel Palladium last February.) "I think what's interesting is that in the United States," Ma noted, "we make up 5 percent of the world's population and actually contain all the world's population groups." Speaking by cellphone on his way to an airport on the Ensemble's current summer tour

Preparing for the guitar-centric Indy Jazz Fest: Catching a couple of samples of club jazz

A fine guitar scene in Indianapolis today provides an apt context for celebrating the legacy of Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) in next month's Indy Jazz Fest. Bill Lancton added a well-seasoned voice to the powerful quintet, Avenue Indy. You can hear notable local guitarists frequently around town. I caught parts of two sets Wednesday evening in Indianapolis: Bill Lancton sat in with the Avenue Indy quintet at the Jazz Kitchen, and downtown at the Chatterbox, Joel Tucker performed with his brother Nick on bass and Kenny Phelps on drums. A secondary motivation for my first stop was my initial exposure to Avenue Indy, a powerful mainstream ensemble with Jeff Conrad, trumpet and flugelhorn, and Rich Cohen, saxophones, in the front line and rhythm section consisting of pianist Gary Potter, bassist Jon Block, and drummer Larry Sauer. A highly charged performance of Chick Corea's "Spain," featuring a blistering alto solo by Cohen, preceded Lancton's welcome to t

A playlist for the Donald Trump campaign: Why quarrel with rock stars when you can avail yourself of a dead Austrian's output?

This is supposed to be a performing-arts blog, but I seem to return time and again to the phenomenon of Donald Trump. I can't help it: it's like a tongue probing a sore tooth. My only excuse is that Trump commentary has gone way out of proportion with all sorts of social-media commentators. No one else can help it, either. It's too late to make amends, except insofar as I can tie the Republican nominee to a matter of artistic importance. That's what I will now do. I've been wondering why candidates, particularly Republican, run into so much trouble choosing recorded music for their rallies and other campaign appearances. The musicians unwillingly selected to have their music blasted at crowds eventually object. This goes back at least to the predilection of t he Ronald Reagan 1984 campaign for Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A ." The Boss told the Great Communicator to cut it out. Anton Bruckner's music could be put to an unexpected cont

Elder hostile: A G&S-inspired patter song, recommended for private performance, which attempts to come to terms with aging

Patter master W.S. Gilbert Surrounding the Brexit vote in June, I proved to be no master of the patter song in blog-posted parody videos setting the fast main sections of two Elgar "Pomp and Circumstance"  marches to satirical texts of my own devising. Gilbert & Sullivan 's seminal examples, along with derivative pieces requiring similarly confident blitheness and a nimble tongue,  require a technique I cannot hope to master at 70.  Speaking of which, I have decided to post only the text of my recent tribute to both advanced age and G&S. I recommend closet performance, if any, of this piece for those of my generation with similar lack of experience as uptempo vocalists.  Apart from the section marked "slower" (which corresponds to a change of pace in the original song from "The Pirates of Penzance"), this ditty should be performed presto possibile ("as fast as possible"), with the final verse and c