Archive: June, 2011
Each week, Emily Apisa puts together a rundown of book-centric events that’ll keep you “lit” like a firecracker all week long.
[ Wednesday ]
➤ Last Word Birthday Party
For years, Last Word has given a voice to Philadelphia’s creative minds, and on this third anniversary a celebration is in order. Featured performers and those taking advantage of the open mic will provide some of the entertainment, but not all. DJ Maggy Thump is in charge of music, and birthday cake will satisfy any guest’s sweet tooth. St. Skribbly LaCroix is the host of the evening, so clink his glass when you give three cheers for three years. Wed., June 15, 7 p.m., $5, Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th St., 215-735-9600.
[ Thursday ]
➤ Mighty Writers Open House
Nestled in South Philadelphia is a center fostering literacy and inspiring a love of writing in our city’s youth. This event allows the students to showcase their work that ranges from comic books to plays. Every writer must start somewhere, and because these kids get writing help on their own accord, I’d say their one step ahead of the game. Thu., June 16, 5-7 p.m., free, Mighty Writers Inc., 1501 Christian St., 267-239-0899.
[ Friday ]
➤ Utpal Sandesara
This UPenn med student and her co-author, Tom Wooton, are hosting a discussion on their collaborative book No One Had a Tongue to Speak: The Untold Story of One of History's Deadliest Floods. The book details the relatively unknown disaster that killed 25,000 Indians when the Macchu Dam crumbled and monsoon rains flooded the region. Interviews and extensive research flesh out the novel, bringing a forgotten tragedy back into the public eye. Fri., June 17, 5-6 p.m., free, UPenn Bookstore, 3601 Walnut St., 215-898-7595.
Critical Mass contributor Ryan Carey put his iPod on shuffle. This is where it led him ...
1. Phish - "Taste"
I've always said, "If you wanna know what the best Phish songs are, never ask a Phish fan." More importantly, never listen to live cuts. I've seen them live once and I'll never go back. But the weird truth is that Phish is capable of writing transcendant pop-fusion and jazz-rock tunes that, within the confines of a studio setting, come together with a completeness and profundity that's hard to find elsewhere. This is an example from Billy Breathes, my favorite album ever. That's right, a non-Phish fan's favorite album is a Phish album. Just to give you an idea of its importance ...
2. They Might Be Giants - "Till My Head Falls Off"
An old fashioned rocker from the nerd-elite, this is the definitive anthem of the adult ADHD generation (read: me).
Theatre Exile prides themselves on avoiding common theater stereotypes, so they're hard to pinpoint. When pushed, however, artistic director Joe Canuso jokes that you can count on them to be “dependably unpredictable” in their choice of plays, themes and styles of acting. Theater Exile is a provocative, avant-garde group of local artists that perform rarely-seen, challenging productions that are intended to promote imaginative theater and avoid monotony. This past season their work has included That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Saturn Returns.
On Friday, they're taking a break from preparations for their upcoming Fringe show, Aliens, to host "Cabaret of the Exiled," a fundraising event featuring music, comedic sketches and monologues penned by local playwrights. Mentioning there will be special appearances by Jane Fonda, Frank Sinatra (ahem) and Martha Graham Cracker, Canuso says guests can expect the production to be as unpredictable and outrageous as always. “We like to take risks in our programming," he says. "We believe in a very immediate, dangerous style [and] we like to carry that style into the fun things we do — like this Cabaret."
Fri., June 17, 8 p.m., $35, Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St., 215-218-4022, cabaret-exiled.html.
Neighborhood Watch looks for Philly’s most fashionable. This week, Diana and Kelsey chat up two ladies who have an affinity for pricey trinkets — and puppies.
Megan strikes a pose in Market Blooms
We spotted Megan (23) meandering through Reading Terminal Market toting a fab Marc by Marc Jacobs bag, which, she proudly told us, was paid for by taking on extra hours at work. “I feel much classier when I have it on," she said. The California native is a gallery director at a jewelry store in Rehoboth Beach. She often shops for clothes at J-Crew and Anthropologie, which mirrors her fashion inspirations like Reese Witherspoon and Maggie Gyllenhaal. She assures us, however, that the West Coast is her greatest influence. This summer Megan is on the prowl for “flouncy, lacey tops, and a-symmetrical patterns.” If her current taste in fashion was a popsicle, she says she'd describe it as "mango-chocolate" because of her obsession for mustard yellow teamed with brown.
The ultra-precious syrup-pop of Kathryn Calder (who you may know as Neko Case's replacement in The New Pornographers) performs at World Café Live tonight. Her album, Are You My Mother? — named after P.D. Eastman's classic children's book — is a disc full of could-be kids songs. This is not to say, however, that her solo debut is thematically immature. Recorded while attending to her ill mother, bursts of nostalgia show through the mild collection of mid-tempo folk-pop. But there's a thoroughly harmless consistency of sonic cuteness, which definitely complements her stage persona. If you're into whispery, Celtic-esque bubble gum tunes, you'll enjoy the never challenging but always endearing Calder.
Joining Calder is the more rocking but still gentle Bird of Youth, whose new album Defender was produced by Okkervil River's Will Sheff.
Tonight, 8 p.m., $15, World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.
On July 3, the historic Barnes Foundation will close its Merion doors for the last time. The Foundation’s controversial move from its current location (the original residence of the gallery’s benefactor, Albert Barnes) to a new space on the Ben Franklin Parkway is slated for later this year or 2012; this month is patrons' final opportunity to see the gallery in its original splendor.
And splendor it is. The 12-acre estate houses many of the most famous post-Impressionist and early modern works in existence, as well as a world-class arboretum for education and exploration.
Although the second floor of the house is closed, the more than 1,500 works on display in the main gallery (including about 50 works by Pablo Picasso and more Renoirs and Cézannes than you can count) sufficiently illustrate the Foundation’s pre-eminence in the art world.
Twenty minutes into New City Stage Co.'s production of Marsha Norman's Night, Mother, one of the play's two central characters announces she is going to kill herself before the end of the night. Heavy stuff. At 90 minutes with no intermission, Night, Mother offers a candid portrayal of suicide and family drama. Theatergoers looking for light entertainment, beware — this is not for the faint of heart.
Night, Mother, directed by Rosey Hay, takes place in a farmhouse somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. The play unfolds in one act and revolves around the dialogue between a mother, Thelma (Cathy Simpson), and a daughter, Jessie (Wendy Staton), after Jessie finds her father’s gun, and states — matter-of-factly — that she plans to take her own life at the end of the night. Simpson and Staton give strong performances and seem well-matched as mother and daughter, with neither actress overshadowing the other. As a daughter determined to end her own life, Staton exudes self-assuredness, broken only by occasional moments of self-doubt, making audiences wonder whether Thelma will be able to persuade her daughter to rethink her decision. For her part, Simpson delivers a convincing portrayal of a mother on the brink of losing a child, alternating between moments of disbelief, hope and despair.
One of the most interesting elements of Night, Mother is the stage design and the characters’ interaction with their environment. Made to look like the interior of a living room and adjoining kitchen, the set is meticulously constructed, with enough small, decorative touches — like the gallery of family portraits carefully hung on the wall behind the couch — to make it seem as though a real family inhabits the space.
Simpson and Staton take full advantage of the set to add interest to their performances. Both actresses appear at home on stage, and move through the two rooms performing a variety of mundane tasks throughout the evening. After telling Thelma that she intends to kill herself, Jessie sets to work accomplishing a checklist of household chores — refilling the candy jars, leveling off the sugar container and washing the dishes. It seems both natural and disturbing that she would continue to perform such routine tasks on this particular night. Staton’s use of space, in particular, makes her character seem more believable and even ordinary.
The sense of banality achieved through the interaction of the characters with their surroundings subtly but powerfully reminds the audience that this could be any family. Safe inside our cozy homes, we all have demons to struggle against.
Night, Mother runs through July 3 at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St., newcitystage.org.
Sunday's Odunde Festival was packed and hot, but that didn’t deter the vibe one bit. The streets only became more filled and more local groups carved out their corners to play or perform. “On days like these, I thank God for deodorant,” said the announcer. He couldn’t have been more right.
The only funk at Odunde was musical, and the smells that filled the streets were of vendors selling Jamaican, African and African-American cuisine. I heard that many people came just for the food. This made a lot of sense because all sorts of deliciousness were in abundance. There were countless vendors frying, jerking and candying. Many people were walking around with tubs, not cups, of freshly brewed iced tea and pink lemonade. I was lucky to enough to order curry crab. All I have to say is: Lawd have mercy.
There were bargains galore for people looking for handmade jewelry (I bought a pair of earrings that I saw for double the price on Etsy) or moisture-rich skin or hair products. There was plenty of stands selling waxes and oils, offering their own takes on Beyonce Heat, Halle by Halle Berry and scents named after the Obamas. Eau de Barack, anyone?
Black Music Month rolls on. All June long, Critical Mass will be featuring videos of some of our favorite artists from now and then.
There was time when Whitney Houston was flawless. Sure, most memories of this are hazy. They’ve been overpowered by bizarre behavior on pilgrimages to Israel, television appearances when her frame was practically skeletal, and ever-too-quotable declarations to Diane Sawyer. But before all of that, Whitney was perfection.
In the late ’80s, Whitney gave practically faultless vocal performances on television like it was nothing. It’s not coincidental that during this period she broke The Beatles’ record in releasing seven consecutive number one hits, a feat that hasn’t been matched since. “Saving All My Love for You” was the first number one in that record-breaking run, her first number one ever.
There are singers who take easy songs and perform them really well. That wasn't Whitney's style. Her hits were extremely difficult to sing and she belted the hell out of them. Of course, she can’t sing at this level anymore. It seems that Whitney has smoked more than anyone with her larynx ever should have. However, you’ll be hard pressed to think of anyone who can sing like this today.
This is my favorite of her live performances. One of my best friends thinks it’s her greatest TV performance of them all, and I agree. But, this is totally arguable. This video, this video and this video are all in the same realm of stunning. Whitney just had it like that.
Once home to a diverse immigrant community of merchants and craftsmen, Northern Liberties was a vibrant and fairly prosperous community during the 19th and early-20th centuries. The neighborhood’s vitality significantly declined, however, when large numbers of residents left the area following construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. With a dwindling population, NoLibs took a turn for the worse as residences were increasingly left vacant and local businesses struggled to stay afloat.
Where others saw blight, however, longtime NoLibs resident Jennifer Baker saw opportunity. Drawn to the area by the lure of cheap housing prices, she set up a studio in Northern Liberties in 1978 and began documenting the changes taking place in the neighborhood through oil painting. Nine of these works make up “Northern Liberties: A Transformation,” the current exhibition at Projects Gallery that depicts the rise, fall and regeneration of the neighborhood through a series of works by Baker and ten other local artists like Ira Upin, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen, Ray King and John Thornton.
The pieces displayed on the cherry red walls of Projects Gallery's front room range from oil on wood panel and mylar to monoprints on rice paper – a type of printmaking where a single imprint is made from an etched plate or block. Many of the works show the exterior of various buildings or public spaces in Northern Liberties at different stages in the neighborhood’s development. One work, titled Inside the Tannery, 55 Gallon Drums, depicts massive steel drums presumably filled with chemicals used to tan leather sitting somewhere inside the Burke Brothers Tannery, which used to stand on American Street in Northern Liberties. Another oil painting, Liberty Lands, shows the community-owned park built on the site of the old tannery after the building was condemned by the city in the 1990s. Each work portrays some aspect of the history of Northern Liberties while also chronicling the transformation currently going on there.
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