THE HISTORY IN ROXBURY’S PUBLIC ART
by Kay Bourne
There’s more to the public art in Roxbury than meets the eye. Gain an insider’s view on the intriguing statues and wall murals that dot the terrain of Roxbury and the South End when noted curator E. Barry Gaither leads a trolley tour.
The Discover Roxbury program is set to roll this Saturday, JUNE 2. Meet the trolley at 9 a.m. at Back Bay Station, or at 9:30 a.m. at the Dillaway Thomas House, 183 Roxbury Street, in John Elliot Square in the Fort Hill neighborhood of Roxbury. Pre-registration is required. For more info visit www.discoverroxbury.org or call 617-427-1006.
With Father’s Day right around the corner, you’ll be particularly touched by John Wilson’s bronze, “Father And Son Reading.” Mr. Gaither will doubtless point out that the life sized work situated on the Roxbury Community College campus is a loving tribute to the bonding between fathers and sons and to learning.
The way the artist presents the arch type is showing the father endorsing the son and sheltering him, while the son nestles inside his dad’s arms.
They are, however, both looking at a book, whose purpose always is to take us away from where we are.
“This is a safe place of learning for the son,” Gaither has noted, “but there are also infinite possibilities through the book.”
Gaither who knew the work through drawings the artist had shared with him before it was cast into bronze recommended the statue to the college. He has said his reasoning beyond the wonderful aesthetics of the statue is that “in a community where issues of male bonding remain problematic, the piece is affirmative of fathers’, sons’ and grandfathers’ relationships. Wilson‘s statue models a way to be a father by caring and participating in the life of a son. There is a real sense of engagement between the father and the son.”
Other works designated to be viewed on the tour include Jameel Parker’s mural on the Harriet Tubman House which depict well known figures who reside in the South End and musicians who played at the Hi Hat Nightclub which stood immediately next door to where the settlement house now stands. You’ll see other murals as well, some in not as fine condition as Parker’s. Mr. Gaither may well mention that he is involved in a national mural restoration project and will be suggesting Boston murals for work. Perhaps, you will want to offer some thoughts on the subject.
Artists whose work you’ll see on the tour include: Fern Cunningham, Mike Womble, Heidi Schork, Gary Rickson, Vusi Maduna, Dana Chandler, Kofi Kayiga, John Ewing, Valerie Maynard, Meta Warrick Fuller, and Reginald Jackson.
PIECES BECOMING A WHOLE
by Kay Bourne
The whole family, even little children, can enjoy Maya Freelon‘s light hearted thesis for her degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She has employed colored tissue paper for the construction of two installations and some hangings at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists as her final paper. How’s that for whimsy!
Maya Freelon’s “Enter-ACTION” continues through JULY 8 at the 300 Walnut Avenue, Roxbury, historical mansion.
Her often playful use of arts’ least expensive media – tissue paper – is a lesson in itself. Keep alert to what’s at hand when you want to be creative.
So while the show does veer into social activism with a plea to reconsider the case of Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal (a multi media exhibit that takes up one alcove), for the most part, Freelon‘s one-woman show is a lark for artist and viewer alike.
The notion that tissue paper held a myriad of artistic possibilities came to the artist when she happened upon packages of it that were stored in her grandmother’s basement. The paper had gotten wet. The colors had blended and migrated in ways that fascinated Freelon. One of the projects she undertook at the museum was to turn one gallery into a grotto of bits and pieces of paper she had wet so that the colors resemble batik cloth. Once you’re in the cave of many colors you too can see the intrigue that artist felt as your eye is caught by this or that layer of tatters and shreds of tissue paper.
Underlying the blithe air of the exhibit, however, is a serious theme for you to contemplate. The idea Freelon is playing with is that while individual pieces may be scraps and unimportant, these same torn fragments can be assembled into a transforming whole.
Freelon is a young artist at the beginning of her career and that shows in her work which lacks the mastery of a more mature hand. Her daring and her exhilaration and her sense of fun are qualities that make this exhibit worth a visit, however.
The director of the Museum, E. Barry Gaither says that the Freelon exhibit is the beginning of a series of shows he plans to do featuring emerging artists in the area. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday. from 1 – 5pm. For more info you can phone the museum at 617-442-8614.
NEGATIVE IMAGES GO ON TRIAL
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: l to r: Kortney Adams, Valencia Hughes-Imani, Anich D’Jae)
Here’s courtroom drama as riveting as anything you’ll see on TV. In Karani M. Leslie‘s empowering play, middle management exec, Victoria Dryer takes on two caricatures of Black women from the Jim Crow past who to her dismay have lingered on in films and elsewhere. To the modern African American woman’s consternation – and ultimate redemption -the women behind these pernicious echoes from slavery times refuse to allow the victims to be blamed, once again.
The enlightening “The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Manny Louise and Safreeta Mae” gets a superior production from director Jacqui Parker and virtuoso performances from the outstanding cast. The Roxbury Crossroads Theatre production of Leslie‘s provocative drama continues through JUNE 9 in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston’s South End.
With capable actress Kortney Adams as the fashionably coiffed and clothed Ms. Dryer, the drama is perfectly centered. The ordinarily poised Dryer grows progressively alarmed as the targets of her distress refuse to accept her acrimony as a just response. Dryer is the audience’s portal into a past few Americans have willingly entered. Shrugging off the history of slavery is, of course, the problem. Adams hits all the right notes with her well modulated performance.
In a sly bit of writing (or casting?) insightful actor Jeff Gill plays multiple roles which the audience comes to see are but the two sides of a single coin. The actor throws himself into both the character of the smarmy film director/producer called as a witness for his use of movie scripts that carry on the stereotypes of Black women invented in minstrel days, and, as well, the part of the blatantly racist Ole Massa from a Southern plantation who takes the stand. Gill‘s persuasive enactments are as mesmerizing as watching a slithery cobra uncoil from a basket.
The court is presided over by Talaya Freeman as the Honorable Mable Wilson who occasionally loses her cool but never her control of the proceedings. Marvelyn McFarlane is hilarious and very effective as the attorney for the defense, while Valerie Lee for the prosecution is properly broadsided by a turn of events she didn’t foresee. Cristian De Jesus plays a number of roles with verve.
Valencia Hughes-Imani as Mammy Louise and Anich D’Jae as Safreeta Mae are excellent in roles which strip down from outrageous stereotype to emotionally painful realism. The process is gradual like paring the skins of an onion, paper thin layer by paper thin layer, until the core is bared. Through these marvelously intricate portrayals the audience can accept the shocking realization of what the courtroom actually is.
Veteran scenic designer Peter Colao has again magnificently accommodated the story with his craftsmanship and imaginative construction.
“The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae” is reportedly the opening salvo of an inaugural season for Roxbury Crossroads Theatre whose artistic director is noted playwright Ed Bullins. The company has set a high standard for itself.
A PIRATES LIFE FOR ME
by Lisa Simmons
Pirates, Pirates and more Pirates, this is really what Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End is really all about. Nine pirate lords that come together to battle the evil Captain Beckett who now has control of The Flying Dutchman (Captained by the infamous Davy Jones) and therefore, the sea. His quest, to make the sea free of all pirates. There are deals being made, distrust among the pirate lords, surreal moments with walking crabs that look like stones, and a creepy (not in a bad way) knowledgeable Caribbean Priestess who guides them on their journey to and from Davy Jones‘ Locker.
If you have not seen Pirates I or Pirates II you will definitely be a little lost in this story but the adventure is still a trip. I have to say, I have seen them all and I had to rely on my 13 year old son (who was of course disgusted in my lack of knowledge) to help with some of the finer details that I had missed in prior films.
There is Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) always just on the edge of a burgeoning romance that never quite gets itself off the ground, ( I mean I guess it’s hard to maintain a relationship while you’re constantly in, or about to be in, a swashbuckling battle) but in this Pirates III they come close. Will spends much of the movie selflessly trying to free his father Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgard) from eternal life on the Black Pearl and is willing to risk anything to set him free while Elizabeth spends her time becoming a pirate.
Johnny Depp‘s Captain Jack Sparrow is a bit less wobbly this time round and as always provides constant entertainment from the moment he is rescued from world’s end to the return to the land of the living. A true pirate, he manipulates, cajoles, and bargains for what he needs and what he wants without regard to others. We do get to see a more human side of Jack Sparrow when he interacts with his father (played by Keith Richards on whom Depp based his character) who is the keeper of the Pirate Code. There seems to be some kind of father/son theme going on here or maybe father/child theme as Elizabeth is left to mourn the unexpected loss of her father which in turn strengthens her ties to the pirate world as she becomes not only a pirate lord but the pirate king.
None the less, Pirates does what you expect it to do, it is a raucous good time, with lots and lots of nonstop adventure, and action. . . Jerry Bruckheimer fans will not be disappointed.
Post script: Interesting bit of information for Pirates fans, did you know that Captain Jack Sparrow used to work for Beckett and the East India Trading Company as captain of one of their ships. Sparrow was ordered to pick up cargo in Africa and bring it to the West Indies. When Jack learned that this cargo was slaves, he set them free in Africa and in turn suffered the revenge of Beckett who sunk Sparrow’s ship and sentenced him to prison and life as a pirate. Of course you did. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Pearl)
JAMAICAN THEATER COMES TO BOSTON
(Story excerpts printed by permission from EVERYBODY’s CARIBBEAN MAGAZINE – May, 2007 – Brooklyn, NY)
(pictured: OLIVER SAMUELS in blue shorts)
Frank, ridiculed as THE FREAK (played by Courtney Wilson), has been violently evicted from his home and community, accused of terrorizing its citizens with his gross ugliness, and forced into an existence of a homeless, scavenging vagrant. A chance meeting with the lovely university student, CUTIE (played by Camille Davis), on the banks of the Gordon Town River, unleashes a tale that winds its way, like the idyllic river, through an exciting terrain of twists and turns.
CUTIE’s father, TINY, played by Jamaica’s funny man, OLIVER SAMUELS, is an old-fashioned, self-made social climber and strict, single parent, who sets out to destroy the relationship between the Freak and his sheltered daughter.
“CUTIE & THE FREAK” is a Jamaican staged version of the fairytale, “Beauty and the Beast”.
“Who would have guessed that a Jamaican spoof of the classic, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale would turn out to be such a funny piece of work? But leave it to Patrick Brown to re-imagine such a famous story and pull it off with visual wit and class – a testament to his skill, experience and ambition,” writes Tyrone S. Reid in the Jamaica Observer newspaper.
Trevor Nairne, who has worked in theater houses across the Caribbean, Canada, Europe and Latin America, directs the play. Like other Patrick Brown/OLIVER SAMUELS plays, CUTIE & THE FREAK is family-oriented and punctuated with life’s experiences. “At a time when love is superficial and Hollywood defines ideals of beauty, CUTIE & THE FREAK explores unconditional love in the most odd of places,” explains Carolyn Johnson in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.
The central theme is located around finding true love in the unlikeliest places. It takes us to the bowels of human nature and enforces the widely held notion that “if you see with your heart, anything is possible.”
After a five month run in Jamaica, CUTIE & THE FREAK expands to its overseas tour, that started earlier this month. Beginning in Brampton and Scarborough, Canada, down to The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium, New Jersey, Queens, The Bronx and Philadelphia this weekend, Bridgeport, Hartford and Boston the first weekend of June, then continuing to Florida, Trinidad, US Virgin Islands, Guyana, Tortola and St. Maarten, CUTIE & THE FREAKwill leave many families laughing with delight and leaving with a good lesson learned.
OLIVER SAMUELS and these Patrick Brown/Jambiz Productions have annually performed in Boston (usually at the Strand Theatre, which is currently closed for renovations), this year, on Sunday, JUNE 3 being the first time at The John Hancock Hall, also known as The Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Street. Doors open at 6pm, showtime 6:30pm. Tickets are on sale now for $25 general admission at Hip Zepi’s downtown Boston, Flames Restaurant 746 Huntington Avenue; Taurus Records 617-298-2655; Kay’s Hair Salon 1117 Blue Hill Avenue; Island Style Restaurant 617-288-8300; Natural Vibes – Brockton 508-586-0314; Jamaica’s Flavor – Lynn 781-477-9517; Boston Universal 202 Washington Street, Dorchester, De Hot Spot across from Franklin Park Zoo, Pam Spencer 617-265-4780 and Ms. Roslyn 617-524-6546.
Validated parking is only $7 at the 100 Clarendon Street garage. For more information on group discounts, childrens tickets or any questions, call 617-282-1234.
When Margaret Johnson, a middle aged mom, takes her brain damaged but alluring daughter to Rome, she is alarmed when Clara (played by Katie Rose Clarke, pictured to the left) falls for a dashing young Italian who’s just as smitten. The two can’t speak each other’s languages but they’re so wrapped up in their ardor just as the audience is swept up in the glorious music and the twists and turns of this unusual love story. “The Light in the Piazza” continues at the Colonial Theatre through JUNE 9. Tickets for the limited engagement are available through Ticketmaster at 617-931-2787 or the Colonial Theater box office, 106 Boylston St., downtown Boston.
Soul music legend Howard Tate appears in concert at the National Heritage Museum, Saturday, JUNE 2 at 8 p.m. Tate recorded the original versions of classics like “Get It While You Can” (made famous by Janis Joplin) and “Ain’t Nobody Home.” Elvis Costello calls his unique voice “the missing link between Jackie Wilson and Al Green,” and his recordings have been covered by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and The Band. After living in a shelter, dependent on drugs, Tate turned his life around in the 1990s, and has since released several acclaimed recordings. This show is the New England debut of his new acoustic group, featured on the album “A Portrait of Howard”, which tells his life story through music. Tickets are $25 in advance; $27 at the door, and can be purchased by calling (781) 861-6559 Click here for more info.
The Young Professionals of Boston (YPB) present A Conversation with Cora Daniels acclaimed journalist and author of the book ‘GHETTONATION’, Cora Daniels, takes on one of the most explosive issues in our country today in this thoughtful critique of America’s embrace of a ghetto persona that is demeaning to women, devalues education, celebrates the worst African American stereotypes, and contributes to the destruction of civil peace. Join YPB for this interactive discussion with the author on Saturday, JUNE 9, 2-4pm at The John D. O’Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern University, 40 Leon Street.
Project STEP, the acclaimed music training program for exceptionally talented African-American and Latino students, celebrates 25 years of sending its students into the classical music profession on Sunday, JUNE 10, at Symphony Hall. Created by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1982 and now primarily supported by the BSO and the New England Conservatory, STEP provides professional guidance, instruments, and funding for the best instruction and supplementary activities available in Boston. In turn, the students bring talent, perseverance, and the commitment required for success in the competitive field of classical music. Tickets: $25, Balcony Seating only, general admission$150, Seating at tables on the floor, dinner served following program. All ticket holders invited to a pre-concert reception at 2 p.m. in the Hatch Room, Symphony Hall For tickets and information, call 617-267-5777 or visit www.projectstep.org.
CHANGING THE PUBLIC DISCOURSE ABOUT RACE Community Change Inc.’s Brown Bag Film/Discussion presents a screening of Byron Hurt’s ‘HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES’. A riveting examination of manhood, sexism, homophobia and racism in hip-hop culture on JUNE 21, Noon-1:30PM at the Community Change Library on Racism, 14 Beacon Street Room 605, Boston. Discussion facilitated by CCI staff, Film shown promtly at Noon. Please bring your lunch. Beverages will be provided. $5 contribution requested RSVP at 617-523-0555.
THE HARLEM BOOK FAIR returns to ROXBURY, MASSACHUSETTS WITH A CELEBRATION OF BLACK LITERATURE on Saturday, JUNE 30, 12 – 6 pm at Roxbury Community College, 1234 Columbus Avenue, Roxbury. For more information contact Ms. Hicks at Roxbury Action Program (RAP) (617) 442-4400.
SAVE THE DATE for The 9th Annual Roxbury Film Festival: August 1- 5.