A POET’S HONOR IS FROM THE HEART
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Askia Toure)
Poet/activist Askia Toure will be honored by this year’s African American Theatre Festival in a dramatic way.
For one performance only, Our Place Theater Company actors will perform ten poems from Toure’s newest book, “Mother Earth Responds,” which hits the stands in the weeks to come, following the opening of the festival. The author told KBAR, however, that he hopes to have advance copies of the collection available for sale that day in the lobby of the Stanford Calderwood Theatre Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts, where the festival takes place.
The “Ode To Askia Toure,” this Saturday afternoon at 2 pm, is directed by Kortney Adams and Jacqui Parker, the founder of the festival and the artistic director of Our Place Theater Co. which puts the festival on. The choreopoems star Melanee Addison and Alphonzo Moultried and feature dance artists Just-Us with Lorenzo Hooker, Isiah Beasley, and Ka-Leen Harrison. (For ticket costs and reservations for this and other festival performances click here or phone 617-933-8600.)
Toure said that he loves Parker’s idea to incorporate dance into the staging of the poems, a style reminiscent of traditional African theater. He noted that the subject matter of the 54 poems in the book is “the sacredness of the planet and of natural life.” It also honors indigenous people, “to remind us that we didn’t come into the earth riding on a jet plane.”
Toure is one of the pioneers of the Black Arts/Black Aesthetics Movement and of the Africana Studies Movement. In the mid 60′s, Toure taught African History in the first Africana Studies program at a major university, San Francisco State University. Among his fellow professors were celebrated writers Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez. The program was guided by Dr. Nathan Hare, who later became head of the department that evolved from those classes.
In letters, Toure is a co-founder of the Black Arts Movement, a renaissance of poetry and drama that flourished in the 60′s and 70′s. Internationally acclaimed, he is featured in many anthologies and has five books to his name, including “From the Pyramids to the Projects,” the 1989 American Book Award for Literature. His most recent volume “Dawnsong!” was awarded the Stephen Henderson Poetry Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society, an affiliate of the American Literature Association.
The 7th annual African American Theatre Festival opens January 26 with the drama “From the Mississippi Delta” by Endesha Ida Mae Holland. Co-directed by Valencia Hughes-Imani and Jacqui Parker, it features Parker, Valerie Lee, and Nicole Parker. It runs for 10 performances intermittent with Jeff Stetson’s “The Meeting” which imagines a meeting between the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Directed by Eric Coleman, the cast includes Michael Green, Lawrence Winslow, and Ron Wilks.
THE TRANSCENDENCE OF ALICE COLTRANE
by Soul Brown
(pictured: Alice Coltrane)
“People reach the same end by making a similar discovery at the same time.”â€”John Coltrane
The Transcendence of Alice Coltrane (Turiyasangitananda)
There is only light. . .
Bit by bit, we’ve experienced the diminishing earthly embers of our African American musical legacy forged during the social and artistic revolution of the 1950s through 1970s. Soon after saying a soulful goodnight to the hardest working man in show business, Godfather James Brown, we also noted the quieter passing of the ethereal pianist, harpist and composer Alice Coltrane on January 12, 2007. The widow of John Coltrane, she built her own resplendent catalogue of jazz and spiritual recordings â€” ‘Ptah the El Daoud’, ‘Journey in Satchidananda’, ‘Lord of Lords’ â€” while managing her husband’s estate and extending his polyphonic and spiritual influence.
Born Alice McLeod in Detroit 1937, Alice Coltrane later in life changed her name to Turiyasangitananda. Her early musical roots were formed in the Baptist church and Detroit’s jazz and blues scenes. It was her brother Ernie Farrow‘s introduction to vibraphonist Terry Gibbs that led to an engagement in Gibbs’s band that led to her meeting John Coltrane. Through Coltrane, she began experimenting with harp and avant garde improvisation.
Female instrumentalists have been rare in jazz. In part for this reason Alice has not been fully known. However, there are those who question whether her career was spurred by associationâ€”Coltrane divorced his wife Naima Grubbs and married Alice in Juarez, Mexico in 1965; the following year she replaced pianist McCoy Tyner in Coltrane’s quartet.
The tree is always distinguished by its fruit; the results of this pairing have been the perpetuation of Coltrane’s vision; three sons, including saxophonist Ravi; an ashram; and the John Coltrane Foundation that rewards young musicians with scholarships.
Alice kept pressing for that transcendent space where art meets devotion. In 1978, she left jazz altogether and composed solely for religious purposes. More recently, she reemerged in collaboration with Ravi on ‘Translinear Light’ and was working on ‘Sacred Language of Ascension’ at the time of her passing. She successfully fused jazz, classical, gospel and eastern music into a universal tapestry that she and Coltrane envisioned some forty years ago; the wisdom of the transcendence and beauty of art. An elevation service will be held January 27th in Agoura, California.
“The arts transcend limited social boundaries like class, race, and nationality.” â€“Alice Coltrane
PEABODY-ESSEX MUSEUM COMES ALIVE DAY AND NIGHT
by S.L. Hemingway
(image taken from ROSITA)
No! It wasn’t ‘Night At The Museum”, that sappy Ben Stiller flick currently hopping around local multiplexes. It was two days at the museum, in particular the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. which, last weekend, mounted its 2nd annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival. I don’t have to tell you that museums can be very boring, but if you took in all of the six international documentaries shown at the event, co-sponsored by the Coolidge Corner Theater and the MFA, funded by New Trade Winds/Echo, you may well now have a different opinion.
Take Rosita, for example, the Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater film tells the story of the rape of a nine year old Nicaraguan girl by an adult and her further deflowering by priests, government officials and doctors. The film shot in the luscious highlands of Costa Rica and Nicaraguan spoke about Rosita and her steadfast parents’ attempt to get her a therapeutic abortion. It also documented the brave efforts of a network of women’s groups who refused to let Rosita’s rights be abducted and deposited beneath the maze of injustice that still hovers over Central America. Evoking much emotion, the work’s careful editing and colorful photography, spiced with simple animation, never lost the element of drama. And, the image of Rosita was never shown. That dignity insured the success of the film. By the way, Rosita had her abortion. Film maker Janet Goldwater, who took questions after the film’s screening, explained, however, that since the incident, the Nicaraguan government has taken away the “loop hole” of therapeutic abortions, and the Church has “ramped up its efforts” to prevent the success of any future Rositas from happening.
In The Refugee All Stars, with filmmakers Zach Niles and Banker White we enter a West African refugee camp to find a group of Sierra Leone refugees who have formed a band to “carry-on”. Prior to the civil war in Sierra Leone (that began in the late 90′s) some of these refugees had been aspiring musicians looking for venues to perform their music. In the camp they found their calling. As band leader Reuben Koroma explains, “I want to put all the sufferings of these people (refugees) in my music.” And they do. The film is grainy and at times shaky, maybe on purpose, maybe not. It is not what you see that counts, but what you hear. It is the music of the Palm Wine style with its sweet and airy guitar riffs and its undercurrent of dance rhythms. But the All-Stars add to it the message of hope and healing. As the band’s bus with its broken windshield rumbles across the countryside to spread the message to other refugee camps, one realizes that their message is for all of us.
The Peabody-Essex Museum will present the BlackOut Step Team on Saturday, February 24, 2007 1-4 pm.
by Josiah Crowley © 2007
During rehearsals of Woody Allen’s off-Broadway play, WRITER’S BLOCK, actress-writer Annabelle Gurwitch asked the playwright-director what he thought of her comic performance so far: “About as much fun as the Nuremberg trial” was his response. She should’ve seen the writing on the wall: the following week, before the show opened (to terrible reviews), she was fired.
‘FIRED! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed’ (Touchstone) by Annabelle Gurwitch is the actress’s hilarious revenge on Allen. Gurwitch not only tells her side of the story (One co-star “was so obsequious to Woody, that it was as though he were performing a colonoscopy with his tongue”), but she asked friends in and out of the entertainment business to tell her their stories of being fired. She records them in these tales that are, by turns, outrageous and jaw-dropping. It makes for a very funny, entertaining read for anyone who has been fired or even just had a difficult work enviornment. And doesn’t that include all of us?
Like Gurwitch, actor Tate Donovan learned by phone that he had been replaced by Matthew Broderick after shooting had already begun on the film ‘TORCH SONG TRILOGY. Donovan received the news when he called the production office to find out his call time for the following day’s shoot. “What if I had never called? How would they have told me?” he wonders. To make matters worse, a great portion of the film was shot outside his apartment. He holed himself in for several weeks, disguising himself – so as not to be recognized by the crew he had worked with – in order to go grocery shopping. One night, as he lay in bed, he heard Broderick’s character get gay-bashed. As he listened to repeated takes of the actor being “killed”, he lay in bed, thinking: “I wish it were me being called ‘fag’ and ‘homo’.”
Actress Patricia Heaton describes working as a hostess in a restaurant while going through a deep depression (“It’s really not good when you have to talk the hostess off the ledge.”)
Robert Reich relates that though he was fired as a dog walker, it was good training for his future political career: “As the Secretary of Labor, I was the embodiment of the pooper-scooper.”
When actress Illeana Douglas worked as a coat check girl at a mob-owned restaurant, she was threatened with death after inadvertently insulting a customer, who informed her: “You are dead! You hear me, dead!” Instead of death, Douglas was fired by her manager – later listed as a “technical adviser” on the film ‘GOOD FELLAS’. Years later, Douglas was fired three times (!) in the same day by a network after she refused its President’s sexual advances.
Advertising agent Joyce Beber tells of being fired by Leona Helmsley. When Beber asked for monies owed, Leona’s response: “Sue me!” Beber was later fired by Donald Trump, who had one of his executives terminate her; this was a few years before his signature: “You’re fired !” became famous.
Actress Felicity Huffman had been told by her producer that Neil Simon wanted her fired from his play, but not to worry. After a difficult out of town tryout, the cast returned to New York, where rehearsals were to begin for the Broadway run. The day she arrived in NYC, Huffman discovered she had been fired from the play when reading it in the newspaper.
As a teenager, director-writer Paul Feig (THE OFFICE; ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) was chosen by MacDonald’s top level executives to play Ronald MacDonald even though he didn’t know how to walk in over-sized clown shoes. He was later informed that not many people audition to play Ronald MacDonald and it’s a fairly easy job to get. And hard to get fired from if one doesn’t mind being mauled by aggressive children, who would regularly pull off his wig, vomit on him and punch him.
All in all, a fun read. Gurwitch really does get the ultimate revenge. Years after WRITER’S BLOCK opened to withering reviews, Gurwitch has a best-selling, very funny book on the market. Her experience of being fired is paying dividends four years later.
SPANISH NARNIA . . . ONLY BETTER
by Mervan Osborne
(Picturehouse, a Time Warner Company)
What did you know about the film, Pans Labrynth’ prior to its release? That’s more than I did. This one crept up on us. But I did see director Guillermo del Toro‘s earlier film, a dark, high octane science fiction fantasy titled ‘Hellboy’ and it worked surprisingly well for me. Equal parts Alice in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia and For Whom the Bell Tolls, this new film takes place in 1944 is a rural Spanish settlement recently ravaged by civil war. General Franco has come to power and he has dispatched his lieutenants to the countryside to ferret out the guerilla rebels ensconced in the hills and forests. Captain Vidal (savagely and cold-bloodedly nailed by Sergi LÃ³pez of ‘Dirty, Pretty Things’) has brought his new wife Carmen and her ten-year old daughter Ofelia to live with him at the mill-turned-fortress that is his base of operations. Carmen is near the end of a difficult pregnancy and Ofelia has been driven inward since the death of her father in the war.
Hidden in the woods surrounding the mill is an abandoned labyrinth to which Ofelia is drawn by a magical dragonfly. Once there, she ventures into the maze where she meets the â€˜faun’, a creepy and thoroughly annoying and overdone horned fairy who informs her of her true royal and magical heritage, one that can only be restored upon her successful completion of three fantastic tasks outlined in a mystical guide book he hands her. The blank pages reveal their magical content to Ofelia when she is alone. Her tasks include forcefeeding a giant tree frog, retrieving an enchanted key and climbing through a magic door in the floor of her room.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Captain Vidal’s housekeeper, Mercedes, magnificently played by Maribel VerdÃº, surreptitiously provides aid and rations to the rebels, who are led her beloved brother. The Captain is ruthless in his pursuit, torture and execution of the rebels and as his confrontations with them deepen in intensity, he resolves to wipe them out completely. Del Toro has succeeded in creating a beautiful work of art with this film. The child’s escapist fantasy world provides her with the strength needed to sustain herself through the horror that has become her life. The atrocity of close combat and guerilla war is also masterfully presented. The production design should win an Oscar, just as VerdÃº should for her performance. As Ofelia, Ivana Baquero is perfect, self-assured and vulnerable without ever becoming tiresome as so many wide-eyed child actors can. The same cannot be said for Doug Jones in the role of â€˜el fauno’. He plays it for maximum sibilance and creep factor and is over the top from the first moment we encounter him; had his character played a more significant role, the film would have suffered for it. Good thing – he doesn’t get in the way of Pan’s Labyrinth’s brilliance.
UP-COMING EVENTS WGBH and Coolidge Corner Theatre host a free Sneak Preview of the documentary on Percy Julian in “Forgotten Genius” on Wednesday, January 31, 7pm at Coolidge Corner Theatre, followed by a Q&A with director and producer Llewellyn Smith. Then February 6 at 8-10pm, WGBH 2 debuts the documentary on tv.
JANUARY 31, meet world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma as he joins Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra for a Benefit Concert and Auction/Gala Reception. Tickets start at $75 For info click here.
Sweet Honey in The Rock and Dr. Cornel West raise their voices in distinctive harmony FEBRUARY 1 , Together for the first time, at Berklee Performance Center. Tickets are $25; seniors $18.75, available at the Berklee box office or through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 617-747-2261.
11th Annual National Black Fine Art February 1â€“4, Puck Building in SoHo NY City: Features 37 of the finest international exhibitors of work by African, African American and Caribbean Artists. All artwork will be for sale. SPECIAL NOTE: William Greenbaum Fine Prints in Gloucester, MA will be at the show and is exhibiting for the first time with work by Allan Crite, one of the first African-American artists to work for the Federal Arts Project. His work concentrates on religious themes. He did murals and other paintings for many churches, as well as illustrating several religious books, including “Three Spirituals from Earth to Heaven.” Allan Crite is not only a National treasure but a Boston treasure as well.
Old South Meeting House presents Author Kerri Greenidge speaking on her book Boston’s Abolitionists Friday, February 2, 12:15 P.M. â€“ 1:00 P.M. At Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street, Boston MA Admission is $5 adults, $4 students/seniors Book-signing to follow. Kerri Greenidge worked for eight years as a park ranger and historian for Boston African-American Historic Site, and is now a Ph.D candidate in African-American Studies at UMASS Amherst.
The Institute of Contemporary Art presents an exciting evening of music as two performers reinterpret works from the past, mashing them with the contemporary genres of electronica and jazz. Classical Mashup features Bruce Brubaker, who performs Haydnseek with composer/DJ Nico Muhly, and Donal Fox’s Mashups in Blue. The performance will be held at the ICA on Friday, Feb.2, at 8 pm. Tickets: $25 general admission; $20 members, students, and seniors. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 617-478-3103 or online at www.icaboston.org
Wheelock Family theatre, presents click Beauty and the Beast starring Angela Williams as Belle, FEBRUARY 2 â€“ MARCH 4. Tickets are $23, $19, $15 with group rates and performances during February school vacation week. For info call The Wheelock Family Theatre Box Office at 617-879-2300. Wheelock Family Theatre is located at 200 The Riverway. Discounted parking is available at 375 Longwood Avenue.
W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research Presents The Alain LeRoy Locke Lectures Proto-Blues: Secular Black Music Recorded in the Field Three Lectures by Paul Oliver Professor of Architecture Oxford Brookes University Tuesday, February 6 Barrelhouse Blues: Commercial Recordings, 1920-1930 Wednesday, February 7 “I Thought I Heard…” Recordings from The Library of Congress Archive of Folk Music Thursday, February 8 ‘Bout a Spoonful: Recordings by Collectors and Aficionados All lectures take place at 4 P.M. in the Thompson Room at the Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street, Cambridge. A reception follows each lecture. Free and open to the public. For more information, please call 617.495.3611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrate Black History Month at the Museum of Afro-American Artists Saturday February 10-10AM-noon You are in for a treat! Explore Boston’s only museum dedicated to contemporary and historical expressive arts from the global Black world with E. Barry Gaither, the Executive Director and internationally known art expert. Cost: $25 Meet at the Museum, 300 Walnut Ave, Roxbury at 10am or meet the shuttle at Back Bay Station at 9:30am. Optional lunch after the program at United House of Prayer–great soul food. Lunch not included in the cost. Shuttle will return participants to Back Bay after the program and after lunch. Pre-registration required. Click here to pre-register.
The Historic Twelfth Baptist Church presents The New England Spiritual Ensemble “Reclaiming Our History Through Music” Sunday, February 11, 2007, 4PM 160 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA., Arthur T. Gerald, Jr. Interim Pastor, Michael E. Haynes, Pastor Emeritus Tickets are $10.00 and $5.00 for children under 12. For more information call 617- 442 -7855
The MFA Film Program is pleased to present their annual African Film Festival, February 16-24. This year features two films and a program of shorts from the African Film Festival NY Traveling Series: the tender A Child’s Love Story and Dumisani Phakathi’s South African family documentary Don’t F*** with Me I Have 51 Brothers and Sisters. Actor Danny Glover will be present for opening night film Bamako on February 16. Danny Glover produces and appears in Abderrahmane Sissako’s latest film, and indictment of globalism. Other highlights include U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a South African version of Bizet’s Carmen. Countries from across the African continent are represented including: Mali, Senegal, South Africa, and Chad. Tickets are $8 for MFA members, seniors, and students; $9 for general admission. Call the Box Office at 617-369-3306 for ticket info.
ESSENCE MAGAZINE AND BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC ANNOUNCE THEIR SECOND NATIONAL HIP-HOP SONGWRITING CONTEST for teens, 15-18 yrs. old. deadline is March 9 and three winners will attend a high school music program at Berklee this summer. For complete contest rules click here.