Showing posts from May, 2017

'Be a Clown': A peppy Cole Porter song serves to explain (?) recent Republican spin to redefine humor

Inspired by Dahlia Lithwick's column in Slate, titled "Constitutional Crisis in Comedy," I revived "Be a Clown" to comment on the strange attempt to make Republican gaffes and embarrassments acceptable as humor. The text: We'll remember forever When it first occurred to the GOP Bad utterances can turn (if you're clever) Into retrospective comedy. Be a clown, be a clown, And they can't put you down When you keep making gaffes Tell them it was all just for laughs. When the Donald said to Comey: Lay off Flynn — he's my homey, It was just a witticism taking the air Delivered with the president's usual flair — Only lying media could find obstruction there! Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown! And when Trump said the gun-rights folk Might deal with Clinton, that was a joke; And when he teased that Nikki Haley might have to go, They were rolling on the floor, though Nikki was slow To understand the firing threat was just a bon

2017-18 season at the Palladium includes new series in alliance with University of Indianapolis

The Center for the Performing Arts on Friday announced visiting shows of music and dance across a range of styles. Besides the Pop/Rock, Country, Jazz, Classical, Songbook and Holiday series (versions of which have been a staple of Palladium programming), the Center will present Passport, a new series with title sponsorship from the University of Indianapolis. The miscellaneous international flavor of Passport is indicated by its launch with the National Acrobats and Martial Artists of China (Oct. 29), going on to encompass the Dublin Irish Dancers (Feb. 3); Celtic Nights, a dance-based celebration of Celtic culture (March 16); popular genre-mixing ensemble Pink Martini (March 17), and classical guitarist Paul Galbraith (March 15). Violinist Damien Escobar has just released his first all original recording. Another Passport concert can be contrasted with the finale of the Classical Series:  Damien Escobar, an assertive crossover artist with roots in R&B and hip-hop (Dec. 1

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra ends 2016-17 season displaying its versatility

Growth in an artistic organization branches out into so many areas, but one of the most important measures is how much artistic range it can take in successfully. Alexander Kerr, Mozart soloist Founded in 1984, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra  continues to demonstrate its adeptness for this kind of growth. Through smart programming capable of engaging audience interest and challenging the musicians at the same time, Matthew Kraemer has shone a light on the path forward for the almost 34-year-old orchestra after just two seasons as the ICO's third music director. At Butler University's Schrott Center for the Arts Saturday evening, the ICO's season finale encompassed two works from the mainstream and a couple of short suites in which modern composers repurposed old material through their personal idioms. The range of sonority and textural complexity alone illustrated the ensemble's growth. The payoff for the audience was rich, not only because of how the progr

Janna Hymes' far-flung conducting career brings her back to Indiana as Carmel Symphony Orchestra music director

At home in both the musical and public-relations sense at the Palladium of t he Center for the Performing Arts ,  Hamilton County's mostly professional symphony orchestra has just reached another milestone in its 42-year history. Janna Hymes will start leading Carmel's orchestra in the 2017-18 season. Janna Hymes recently won the right to succeed David Bowden as the Carmel Symphony Orchestra' s music director, following his 17-year tenure. Hymes was the last of the finalist candidates to conduct a CSO concert this season (April 8), and a month later accepted the position that will bring her back to Indiana. She was associate conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for three seasons, ending in 2000. The CSO considered 130 applications for the post before deciding on three finalists near the end of 2016. “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Maestro Hymes to our organization,” said CSO President and CEO Alan Davis in a written statement. “The caliber of

Phoenix Theatre opens 'Hir,' a family drama of rough transitions

It's right up there with "Call me Ishmael" as the most famous opening sentence in fiction: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The second half of that sentence, with which Tolstoy gets "Anna Karenina" started, could be underlined, highlighted and sprinkled with glitter in the case of Taylor Mac's "Hir," which opened Thursday night in a Phoenix Theatre production. Paige gets a command performance from burgeoning banjoist Max. This family of four is uniquely unhappy, it's fair to say, and the two-act drama lays bare its wrenching sorrows, then raises welts from them. The resolution at the end is a paradigm shift, to use one of matriarch Paige's favorite expressions — a jolt that wraps up one phase of the household's existence with no promise of a transition to happiness. The transition theme is focused on the character of Max, who is well on the way from being Paige and Ar

In the company of cats, 'Feral Boy' hints at the appeal of cults to the self-isolated

Corbett confronts feral cats Orangey, Calico, and Striper in Catalyst Repertory show, "Feral Boy." Playwrights don't have to provide footnotes or attribution for facts they put into their characters' mouths, so at "Feral Boy" I began to suspect that the title character's sporadic way of sharing knowledge about feral cats by starting "According to Wikipedia..." was telling us something about him. Corbett's academically and socially successful college career strikes him as meaningless. Fascinated by a persistent company of feral cats in his neighborhood, he is drawn to learn more. But the creepy obsessiveness of his interest is signaled not by multiply sourced research about undomesticated felines,  but by his resorting to the first place most of us turn to nowadays to scratch the curiosity itch: Wikipedia. This bright boy is no scholar, but an obsessive starved for prepackaged sustenance. Wikipedia becomes Corbett's intellectual en

King Lear (President Trump) on the stormy heath: A prophetic parody

Triggered by an oblique reference comparing Donald Trump to  King Lear in yesterday's post, a song parody, I let my mind wander over the famous scene in Shakespeare's play, where the distracted, betrayed king, accompanied by his Fool, wanders  onto the lonely heath, convulsed by a thunderstorm. This is a drastic revision of Act III, Scene 2. As Karl Marx truly said, what begins as tragedy ends as farce. The heath, stormy. Enter King (Donald Trump) and his Fool (Sean Spicer). TRUMP Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow! See, I can handle this. It's so tremendous! And so I make America great again By being here, by my executive orders, Which I sign and then display to cameras. I smite flat the thick rotundity Of the law, of presidential norms I defy. SPICER Oh, nuncle, this is no place for a winner like you. No crowds to cheer you, to buoy you up and shout, to expand by many thousands in retrospect. Here's a night pities neither wise men nor foo

He's a Paperbag Tiger — full of hot air, predatory ferocity, and no qualifications or evident ability to be POTUS

A pro-impeachment rallying cry, borrowing a Beatles song:

'At a Prominent Club in Bedminster, N.J.": A song on the President's boast that he saved money by weekending at his golf club in New Jersey

Inspired by "In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus One Day" by X.J. Kennedy, I also borrow the tune he suggests, "Sweet Betsy From Pike," to comment on his claim of thrift ,

In 'Mother****er With a Hat,' love is a form of substance abuse

If you're a person not blessed with a firm intuitive gift about people, theater has a special attraction. A play presents you with all you need to know about the people embodied in front of you for an hour or two. The playwright may play games with your understanding, of course, and Stephen Adly Guirgis' "Mother****er With the  Hat" hardly lets up in that department. But how often we fall short of helpful understanding about people in real life! At least I do. We tend to be amazed such knowledge often comes to us too late. The characters in this play — the two conflicted couples at its center — are blocked in their mutual and self-understanding by the obstacles of drug dependency. They erect sloppy yet deliberate structures for hiding the destructive behavior and suspicious attitudes that their addictive behavior has forced upon them. Theatre on the Square has a torrential main-stage production of "Mother****er With the Hat" up through next weekend u

Two ISO debut artists make strong impression in three works

Matthias Pintscher, guest conductor In the midst of a spate of season-ending appearances by music director Krzysztof Urbanski, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has brought a first-timer as guest to the Hilbert Circle Theatre podium: the German-born conductor-composer Matthias Pintscher. Pintscher has remarkable distinction in his two spheres of activity, and since 2011 he has had an American perch as a member of the composition faculty at the Juilliard School. He also lives in Paris, where he directs the Ensemble Intercontemporain, founded by the late Pierre Boulez. Friday night he shared the stage with another ISO debutant(e), California-born mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, who performed the program's centerpiece, Richard Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder."  The often somber songs were quite an apt vehicle for her mahogany-colored voice. She displayed a contralto quality in music that has enough brilliant high notes to make assignment of the role to a mezzo-

Adventurous cellist and pianist conclude Ensemble Music season with a touch of charisma

When the programming is well-judged, recent music consorts very well on the same program with old music. It's been argued Jay Campbell, cello, and Conor Hanick, piano, concluded EMS season. that the conservatism of classical-music audiences tends to make such mixing inadvisable. And some new-music advocates find that receptive audiences make all the difference in concert quality, thus justifying segregation, in their view. In their season-ending concert for Ensemble Music Society Wednesday night, Conor Hanick and Jay Campbell made a strong case for letting "advanced" idioms of the 20th century (and on other programs, they don't neglect the present century, either) stand shoulder-to-shoulder with well-established ways of creating music. The best thing about the way they did it, besides performance excellence, is that the older pieces had something of an outlier quality with respect to the mainstream. Take the two Beethoven works the piano-cello duo programmed,

His daughter said it first: Joe Fiedler's music is "like, strange"

Trombonist Joe Fiedler has expanded his usual trio minimalism to a broader palette with "Like, Strange" ( Multiphonics Music ), adding guitarist Pete McCann and saxophonist Jeff Lederer to the group. Joe Fiedler: Whimsy and sass in quintet packaging The result is  both prickly and spacious, with a wide range of whimsy and assertiveness now spread over a five-man ensemble. The new band is firmly supported by old-hand Fiedler sidemen Rob Jost, bass, and Michael Sarin, drums. Fiedler is a resourceful composer, unusually sensitive to melody for a player given to skittery, high-register improvisations on the edge. When this quintet takes on "Yinz," a piece Fiedler specifically designed for free improvisation, he nonetheless provides a satisfying framework in a buzzing, slightly anxious theme that's returned to with gusto from untethered solos. That's the program-closer here. Fiedler's pieces often take off from the vernacular genres he has spent t

Digging deeper: Phoenix feathers its nest, breaking ground for new facility

Bryan Fonseca (center, without hardhat) and Phoenix stalwarts apply shovels. Closing in on its $8.5 million capital-campaign goal, Phoenix Theatre on Tuesday afternoon had both feet on solid ground — and shovels to dig it with — with a ground-breaking ceremony in the 700 block of North Illinois Street. "We've never raised this much money before," said producing director Bryan Fonseca, who founded the company with local like-minded theater artists 34 years ago. And such is the momentum behind the current campaign that it will be extended, he announced, to garner an additional $2 million as a contingency fund by 2020, with a further $3 million goal to substantiate the theater's solvency through 2023. Set to open next year, the new facility will  will include a150-seat proscenium theater, a black-box theater with seating up to 90, classrooms and rehearsal studio, plus a scene shop and a costume shop, among other features. Growth of Phoenix activities that will i