Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #13

April 20th, 2006  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report

Contents
ARTS, MENTAL HEALTH, AND THE COMMUNITY
SENSORY BEE BOP
RAGTIME SETS THE STAGE WITH A MIGHTY CAST
AKEELAH INSPIRES, DARES TO DREAM AND SOARS
OPERA, COMEDY & KIDS
BUY INDIE FILMS THRU TCOF
THE FIRST WEEKEND CLUB – NOW IN BOSTON
APRIL 20 – RELIVE THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
UPCOMING EVENTS
PLAYWRITING CONTEST


ARTS, MENTAL HEALTH, AND THE COMMUNITY
by Nina LaNegra, founder, Roxbury Media Institute
left: RHONDA ROSS

92 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 After battling depression for decades without telling anyone, public relations mogul, TERRIE WILLIAMS stopped suffering in silence. And she discovered that speaking out about her condition was a path to her recovery.

Recently she sat on a panel at the Harvard University Science Center, “Inform Your Mind. Fuel Your Spirit: Mental Awareness in the Black Community.” Other notables joining the discussion were Dr. ALVIN POUSSAINT, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (and advisor to “The Bill Cosby Show,”) Dr. ALTHA STEWART, president of the American Psychiatric Foundation, and Emmy Award nominee actress, singer and writer RHONDA ROSS.

Ross said it came as a shock when she learned that the man she called “Dad,” was not her biological father and that while her sisters were bi-racial, she was not. Her mom, Diana Ross, told Rhonda, then age 13, that Berry Gordy was her “real” father.

Rhonda, who wrote about her adjusting to a new identity in “Essence” magazine last fall, said that sharing her story helps her find a wholesome life view and self esteem that had been shaken.

Williams, whose talent agency represents a who’s who in the entertainment business, now also works toward removing the social stigma attached to mental illness and bringing solutions to light. “Depression is at the root of so many issues in our community,” she believes: “In the way we over eat, drink, suffer from diabetes, heart diseases and other illnesses, have irresponsible sex, and kill each other. Suffering in silence gives our problems greater power over us.

A good resource for information and support is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that can be reached at www.nami.org. A representative attended the panel which was sponsored by the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. The event was funded by a grant from Eli Lily.


SENSORY BEE BOP
by Kay Bourne
90 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 “See, Hear, Feel the Music!” read the profoundly apt come-on for LISA THORSON‘s recent concert “JazzArtSigns.” As Northeastern faculty member, Janet K. Marcous so joyfully described the night, “it left me feeling incredibly happy and with a sense of freedom that I don’t often feel because I am deafblind.”

The capacity audience that wended its way that night, March 9, into the Wheelock Family Theatre (a sponsor with Very Special Arts of Massachusetts) had a sizeable component not seen often enough at art events. The word was out that individuals in wheelchairs were welcome as were the visually and hearing impaired and folks with other disabilities. Perhaps too, they identified with vocalist Thorson who is herself wheelchair bound. Then too Wheelock Family Theatre, now in its 25th year, has all along had the vision of making arts available to everyone.

“Tonight we’re going to have an elegant taste of what is possible,” said Wheelock Family Theatre producer Susan Kosoff. How right she was!

So with ASL interpreters Jody Steiner and Misha Derissaint in place on stage on a platform behind the performers and audio describer Vince Lombardi situated in the audience ready at the keyboard to transcribe what was said and sung so it could be read as running text on a lit marquee, the music began. Oh! and not to forget, also on stage was improvisational artist NANCY OSTROVSKY (pictured above) who stood before a huge canvas at the ready to paint her impressions of the sounds she heard in colorful and lavish acrylic splashes and sweeps.

The music was a bee bop love fest with lyrics that encouraged and soothed, “if you count your blessings, life will be good to you.” Thorson connects with the audience and has a wonderfully melodic band of sidemen: Cercie Miller on sax, Doug Johnson on piano, David Clark on bass, and George Schuller on drums. Think of a sunny day boating on a river, engaged by the people you’re with and the scenery floating by.


RAGTIME SETS THE STAGE WITH A MIGHTY CAST
by Kay Bourne
From left, MAURICE E. PARENT (as Coalhouse Walker, Jr.) and STEPHANIE UMOH (as Sarah).
Photo by Rick Lombardo.

87 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 The time is set to the turn of the century, as the late 1800s give way to the 1900s, when the lives of a prosperous White family, a Black musician’s family striving to enjoy America’s economic promise, and an immigrant Jewish family newly arrived here, all intersect.

The New Repertory Theatre’s smash musical “RAGTIME” raises some knotty questions, as it entertains: How do race and class continue to divide, and how has this division defined American history? What causes an intelligent young man to transform from an idealist to a terrorist?

New Rep’s production features a fine cast of 33, an 8-piece orchestra, and a scenic design that includes a car on stage.

Performances begin on APRIL 30 and run through MAY 21. The final performance, Sunday, MAY 21, will be ASL interpreted, and on, Friday, MAY 19, “Ragtime” will be transliterate. The New Repertory Theatre is in residence at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street in Watertown, accessible by the #70 or #70A bus. For tickets, call 617-923-8487.

Buy RAGTIME Tickets here


AKEELAH INSPIRES, DARES TO DREAM AND SOARS
by Lisa Simmons
91 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 DOUG ATCHISON, KEKE PALMER and her father sit in a small room at the elegant Four Seasons hotel, in Boston to talk about their upcoming film AKEELAH AND THE BEE.

Inspiring, refreshing, smart and risky, this film covers it all. When eleven year old Akeelah Anderson is reluctant to compete in a school spelling bee, her principal persuades her to do it, amidst teasing from classmates and a mother (played so passionately by Angela Bassett) who is not very supportive. Akeelah sets out to prove to herself and the world, that she can spell.

Writer/director Atchison followed his heart with this film and took the time to make sure it was made right. When the movie studios wanted to change the characters, make Dr. Larabee white, maybe a woman, he stood his ground. “They were looking for a marketing angle that had historical precedence.” Atchison was however, totally opposed to that, he felt that it was important to have Dr. Larabee (played brilliantly by Laurence Fishburne) be a black man with a PhD and who had experience in the world of the spelling bee. Atchison was right, it makes all the difference. A risky choice for a writer/director who had a few smaller movies but no real clout in Hollywood. But a good story will got him through the door and his strong conviction got his movie made. It also took alot of patience to find the perfect girl to play the staring role of Akeelah Anderson. Doug saw many young girls, from across the country but no one had quite captured Akeelah’s tenacity, spirit and innocence.

Then, in walks Keke Palmer, who was ten years old at the time and had what it took. Once you see the movie, you may think, as I did, that Ms. Palmer has been acting a long time, at least since she was a baby. Well actually, she started with her first audition at age nine when her parents read about Lion King auditions in her home town of Chicago and she wanted to give it a try. She didn’t get the part but she was 15 out of 400, and from that moment she wanted to keep going. Her mother found her an agent, and it has been non-stop ever since, with appearances in Barbershop 2, Cold Case, ER, Madea’s Family Reunion and now her biggest role, Akeelah and the Bee.

“This is the first film that I know of where it is a major theatrical release on the big screen by a major studio where an African American girl is virtually in every scene of the movie and carries the whole film.” says Atchison.

So, what keeps this young girl, who has been in movies with Queen Latifa, Tyler Perry, Angela Basset, Laurence Fishburne, grounded? “Christian values.” says her father, “she will always be our daughter and not Keke Palmer, the star.” Both her parents were professional theater actors in Chicago and although her mother didn’t really want her to pursue this career, with all its heartache, she sees how much Keke loves it and how good she really is at it.

As for any advice this twelve, almost thirteen year-old can give to aspiring actors, “take all the opportunity you can because if I hadn’t done Lion King then I wouldn’t have gotten Akeelah.” As for the Scripps spelling bee folks, they loved the movie, Doug said because they liked the way “it encourages kids to take the risk.” So what’s Keke’s next big move? She just signed a record deal with Atlantic records. Hmm, so to borrow a phrase from Nike, “just do it,” because it’s better than not doing it, then wishing that you had. AKEELAH AND THE BEE opens in theaters nationwide on April 28 AKEELAH AND THE BEE website


OPERA, COMEDY & KIDS
by Caldwell Titcomb
88 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 Bass-baritone, FRANK WARD JR. will perform in OPERA NEW ENGLAND’s production of Donizetti’s “THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT,” in the important role of Sergeant Sulpice. As part of BOSTON LYRIC OPERA‘s educational outreach division, this one-hour comedy, fully staged and sung in English with BLO’s live orchestra, is primarily aimed at school children, grades 2 through grade 8.

Two free performances for 2600 pupils will take place at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester on APRIL 27. There will also be two family performances at John Hancock Hall, 180 Berkeley Street, on Sunday, APRIL 30 at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.

The opera concerns an orphaned girl who is taken under the wing of a troop of French soldiers who, eventually save her from an arranged marriage and ultimately unite her with her true love. Written in 1840, this charming work about a girl who had an army of people telling her what to do, has pleased audiences ever since.

Ward, a native of Richmond, Virginia, graduated from Morehouse College and the University of Michigan, and has had wide experience in solo recitals, opera and oratorio both in America and Europe.

Tickets to The John Hancock Hall family performances, are $15 for adults, $10 for children. Call Boston Lyric Opera at 617-542-6772 to reserve tickets.

Visit DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT website


BUY INDIE FILMS THRU TCOF
41 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. & ROOTZ TO RHYTHM tv thank all who attended our Special Event, The Official dvd & cd RELEASE PARTY of the film ONE LOVE, in March at RCC where we had the co-star of the movie, CHERINE ANDERSON as our special guest, along with Boston’s talented reggae performers: IGINA, D!ARRYVAL and ANDREW G.

Here are some comments from those who attended the screening: “…Thank you for opening that movie to the Boston community. It was REALLY good! Hopefully, more quality movies like that will come out of Jamaica and marketed abroad…” “Fantastic. I loved it.”

“…a complete experience to come to a public setting and see a Black love story that ends on a positive note with such talented young people…” “…Better than The Harder They Come…”

“It was really an immense pleasure to attend the ONE LOVE event. I enjoyed watching a bunch of our young, Black people show-casing their talents. Also, I enjoyed the movie, including the young woman from Jamaica who played the lead role…She was wonderful…” “…Proud to be a Jamaican tonight.”

The Official ONE LOVE dvd and cd are the first of many quality, independent films and products available to you, through TCOF. Hopefully, these remarks will move you to support this independent film by ordering your own Official ONE LOVE dvd for $20 and Official soundtrack for $16 by emailing an order to robin@coloroffilm.com. As the only distributor to donate proceeds from sales of the Official ONE LOVE product to The Jamaica Hurricane Relief efforts, we ask you to take up this cause with us, leave the bootleg copy at the barber shop and get an OFFICIAL copy for your home library, from The Color of Film.


THE FIRST WEEKEND CLUB – NOW IN BOSTON
16 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 THE COLOR OF FILM joins the First Weekend Club ©, sponsored by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) to promote the idea to Boston movie goers, the importance of going out to see a movie on the first weekend of its release, which is the crucial Hollywood moment. Club members pledge to support movies on the first weekend of release, and encourage other filmgoers to do the same. The Club is designed to financially advocate approval of African American themed films, in addition to those that portray people of color in a more diverse, three-dimensional way. The importance of BHERC is seen in its national appeal. Since its inception, club membership has increased to more than 37,000 filmgoers, with chapters in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, North Carolina, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Sacramento, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, D.C. and now, Boston, with the efforts of The Color of Film.

To join the TCOF/First Weekend Club, email your name and phone number to robin@coloroffilm.com with First Weekend Club in the subject line.


APRIL 20 – RELIVE THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
by Robin Saunders
61 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 The lexis and language of DOROTHY WEST actually are ‘stimulating and enlightening.’ Ms. West is like that one favorite, great aunt you loved to go visit with your mother and grandmother, some Saturdays when you were a kid. Her recollections are humorous, thoughtful and thought provoking, reminiscent of a sweet, carefree, time-gone-by. Yet, some of her memories, sadly and strangely, resemble life, as some know and feel it, even now.

How has life and the pursuit of happiness and The American Dream changed, or not changed, since the early 20s 30s and 40s, for African American families and artists residing in Boston? Compare and decide for yourself, on Thursday, APRIL 20, 6:30pm at Roxbury Community College’s Media Arts Center, for The Color of Film’s screening of SALEM MEKURIA’s documentary on DOROTHY WEST, “AS I REMEMBER IT” as part of TCOF’s “Monthly Screening & Staged Readings Series” at RCC.

“AS I REMEMBER IT” explores this rich history through Dorothy West’s eyes and words. We see the Boston of “THE LIVING IS EASY”, the Vineyard of Dorothy’s numerous articles, and short stories; we relive her intimate memories of the Harlem Renaissance; travel with her to Russia; and meet some of those brilliant women who refused to be crushed under the double yoke of rampant racism and sexism. Weaving this story with extensive archival film footage, photographs, correspondence and news clips of the Harlem Renaissance, Russia and early Boston, “AS I REMEMBER IT” presents a story that is not only fresh but stimulating and enlightening.

SALEM MEKURIA, is Associate Professor of Art at Wellesley College. A filmmaker, Professor Mekuria teaches art history and studio courses in film history and video production. Mekuria, originally from Ethiopia, now based in Boston, is an active film producer, writer, and director whose work is exhibited internationally. For a number of years, she worked with NOVA, PBS’s premier science documentary series, and with numerous international film productions focusing on issues of African women and development. She has produced several award-winning documentary films and a video installation. Her work-in-progress includes a feature film screenplay and a video installation project for the Ethiopian millennium celebration in 2007.


UPCOMING EVENTS
93 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY, Inc. invites the community to STEP FEST 2006, Saturday, APRIL 22, starting at noon, in Northeastern’s Matthew Arena on St. Botolph Street. Purchase tickets Here.

After the Step Fest, The Brothers of KAPPA ALPHA PSI FRATERNITY, Inc. invite you to The 9th Annual Kappa Kruise, APRIL 22, midnight to 3am, aboard the Luxurious Spirit of Boston Cruise Ship!! Pre-boarding Mixer at the Seaport Bar and Grille begins at 9pm. Tickets $40, This is a 21+ event. For ticket info call Peter at 857-544-0500

All are invited to The MUSEUM OF THE NATIONAL CENTER OF AFRO-AMERICAN ARTISTS this Sunday, APRIL 23, 5-8pm to celebrate the presentation of THE FAITH QUILTS PROJECT, with music by Children of the INSPIRATIONAL CHILDREN’s CHOIR, JANICE ALLEN, director; hosted by CHILDREN OF THE BLACK PERSUATION. Free and open to the public, for info call NCAAA, 617-442-8614 or click here. The Museum is located at 300 Walnut Avenue, Roxbury.

WORLD MUSIC presents a family event on Saturday APRIL 22, 8pm and Sunday, APRIL 23 3pm at Berklee Performance Center with THE CHILDREN OF UGANDA, pictured above. With boundless exuberance, pulsing rhythms, and songs of joy and hope, these 20 award-winning ‘Children of Uganda,’ ages eight to eighteen, perform an exhilarating program of East African music and dance, as ambassadors for Uganda’s HIV/AIDS and war-related orphans. Tickets available from the Berklee Box Office, Ticketmaster and World Music for $37 $32 and $28 Group rates also available. Call 617-876-4275 for more information.

The DAVIS MUSEUM at Wellesley College presents AN AFRO-FUTURISM FESTIVAL: “FROM THE MOTHERSHIP TO THE MOTHERLAND: THE SECOND GENERATION”, APRIL 26-30. The Festival will explore futurist themes in African American culture, with technological innovation changing the face of African American art and culture. Films include Zeze Gamboa’s “The Hero” (Angola), Winner of Sundance’s 2005 World Cinema Dramatic Jury Prize Competition; and on Thursday, APRIL 27 at 9:30pm there’s “Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth” – a documentary about Boston-based, Parliament Funkadelic’s keyboard synthesizer genius, BERNIE WORRELL, plus other films from South Africa, Ghana, Angola, Chad, Guinea and France.
FAMILY DAY on Saturday, APRIL 29 features a hands-on African instruments workshop with Zimbabwean Albert Chimedza and a screening of the film “Kirikou and the Sorceress.” ALL EVENTS ARE FREE. For program info click here.

The annual Boston-area STAGESOURCE auditions will be held June 19, 20, 26 and 27, and the registration deadline is APRIL 28. Over 50 theatre companies, casting directors, and film producers from Boston and the surrounding New England area are expected to attend this event to see over 400 auditioning actors and singers in four days. If interested in learning more about the Annual Auditions call 617-720-6066, or click here for membership info and audition applications.

The YOUNG PROFESSIONAL NETWORK’s (YPN) first annual TEEN PROFESSIONAL SUMMIT is Saturday, APRIL 29, 8am on Northeastern University’s campus, consisting of various professional development workshops FREE and open to all high school students in the Boston area. While some conferences offer direction on college and others offer direction on careers, this summit will focus on the “in between”. Workshops include “Networking for the High School Student”, “Best Interviewing Practices”, and more! Breakfast and lunch are included, however space is limited and students MUST pre-register. For more info email Nancy at: ypn@ulem.org

INSIDE::OUT – WEAVING ARTS INTO THE URBAN FABRIC is a design competition for the public spaces at the BOSTON CENTER FOR THE ARTS. Seeking exciting ideas from the entire design community to help transform the urban campus of the Boston Center for the Arts. ::Ideas::Phase 1 is open to all, registration deadlilne is May 9. Professionals, students, artists and community members are invited to share their ideas and apply. Click here for more info.


PLAYWRITING CONTEST
63 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #13 A $1000 cash prize and a staged reading of your play await the winner. AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATRE (A.R.T.) in Cambridge announced a new playwriting contest “DISCOVERING JUSTICE THROUGH A.R.T.,” which the Harvard Square based theater says it intends to make an annual event. The contest is co-sponsored by DISCOVERING JUSTICE, a group interested in civic education.

Here are the rules: The winning entry will be an historical, educational theater piece suitable for students in grades 8 – 12, with interest for adult audiences as well. The one-act play will be at least 45 minutes in length, but no longer than one hour, and will be able to be performed by no more than 5 actors.

You must chose between two topics for your script: 1) The 1781 case of slave Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mum Bett (pictured above) and the 1783 case of Quock Walker and their significance in eventually abolishing slavery in Massachusetts; or 2) Shay’s Rebellion which was against unsettled economic conditions and against politicians and laws which were grossly unfair to farmers and working people in general.

Should the winning play win lots of applause, then a fully staged version will be produced at the Zero Arrow Theatre and then go into residence in the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse or the John Adams Courthouse (home of the Massachusetts Supreme Court), both in Boston. The play will become a part of a program to connect students with their nation’s legal history. Deadline for submission is Sept. 1, 2006. DISCOVERING JUSTICE website for details

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The Color of Film Collaborative is a non-profit organization that supports and fosters the individuals and organizations in the creation of diverse images of people of color in film, video, theater and other media, by providing artists with opportunities to exhibit, distribute and find funding for their work, as well as provide a supportive environment where they can share and develop their ideas, their vision and their work with their peers. About Us

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