Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #59

July 29th, 2008  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
(Ruby Dee in a scene from “STEAM”)

518 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59At 84, RUBY DEE shows no signs of slowing down professionally. Last year was a biggie. She won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album (a tie between Dee and her husband Ossie Davis for “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together,” and former president Jimmy Carter.) And, she was nominated, as well, for an Oscar for Best Supporting Role for her portrayal of Mama Lucas in “American Gangster” making her the second oldest nominee for that award behind Gloria Stewart who was 87 for her role in “Titanic.” It was her first Academy Award nomination in a film career spanning some 68 years.

As well, Dee has a featured role in the indie film “STEAM,” which brings her to the ROXBURY FILM FESTIVAL. At the Sunday, AUGUST 3 screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Closing Event for the 10th anniversary celebrating independent film makers of color, Dee will preside over a Q & A. For more info about the festival which is screening some 85 films, you can go to www.RoxburyFilmFestival.org.

“There are so many spaces between my projects, it seems like more work than it really is,” said Dee reached by phone at Emmalyn, the production company she and her husband founded in the early 80′s named in honor of Ruby’s mother who had recently passed away with the addition of a letter each for the couple’s children: L for Laverne, Y for Guy, and N for Nora. Dee and Davis often worked together in films, on stage and in TV over their 57 years of marriage. Their life and careers is thoughtfully pondered in a joint memoir published by William and Morrow And Company in 1998, “With Ossie & Ruby/In This Life Together.”

In 2007, Dee also made the indie films “All About Us” which screened at last year’s Roxbury Film Festival and “Flying Over Purgatory.”

Dee reconsiders her comment about the amount of work she does saying that perhaps she’s unaware of the sheer volume of her activity since “I’ve been at it for so long. It’s what the fabric of my life is made up of.”

She’s enthusiastic about “Steam,” which follows the lives of three women who’ve each come to an important juncture in their lives.

At the start of life is Elizabeth, portrayed by Kate Siegel (“Curse of the Black Dahlia”), a young adult from a protected family environment whose Christian values have kept her pinned in emotionally. Once at college where she begins to explore personal options, she realizes that she is probably a lesbian. Allie Sheedy (“The Breakfast Club” “Noise” “A Good Night To Die”) plays Laurie, a middle aged woman who finds herself in a custody battle with her ex-husband for her son. She is broke, desperate, and single. Dee’s character is Doris, an elderly woman mourning the recent death of her husband.

Steam” was shot in and around Kyle Schickner‘s hometown of Brunswick, New Jersey, where his dad is the Wilkes University shuttle bus driver. A fifth film for Schickner, who produced, wrote, and directed the movie, it runs close to two hours. Dee praises the whole notion of the film and in particular the character’s life she was asked to portray. “There are not enough films about older people who become friends and lovers, and what’s at stake at the end of life. It’s such a tender time.”

The only scenes where the three women’s lives intersect are in the steam room of a health club. “In those moments,” she said, “it all comes together with profound endings plus new beginnings implicit in everybody’s crisis, a kind of resurrection. It’s a delicate kind of story that unfolds. I am impressed with the quality of Kyle’s direction.”

Dee has an impressive pedigree acting in independent films; her first outing was in 1939 on the eve of World War II, “What A Guy.,” which predates her initial Hollywood film that brought her national attention, “The Jackie Robinson Story,” by some 11 years. She then made a motion picture for the U.S. Army Morale Division in which she played an innocent looking girl who had venereal disease. There were calls from Toddy Productions and the Smith twins from Harlem, Morgan and Marvin, all of whom made short, cheaply produced films for theaters in black communities around the country.

As Dee looks back over the long string of indies she’s made she says ultimately there’s a philosophical thread that ties them together.

“Common to all independent films is a uniqueness of concept, idea, and execution” she observes. “It’s like a clearing in the forest, not where the trees are already hacked down. They have different outcomes than what you anticipate. They take the human condition towards more unexplored pathways and conclusions. They’re daring in their concepts and imaginations.”

But there are disappointments sometimes as well. Early on in her film acting career, Dee was in an indie film by the renowned Black director William D. Alexander. His company, the Associated Producers of Negro Motion Pictures (founded in 1946) had offices at 212 E. 49th Street in Manhattan. Alexander was responsible for more indie musical films than any other Black film producer including movies about the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstine, and is the only Black filmmaker to cross over to mainstream Hollywood producing “The Klansman” in 1974 with Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, Lola Fulana, and O.J. Simpson.

Even with his successes, however, Alexander had some serious money flow problems, as was the case with the 1949 film “The Fight Never Ends” starring Dee and boxing champ Joe Louis as a trainer for kids in a Harlem boys club. When Alexander had money problems during the filming, Dee put up the money she’d made touring in the stage play “Anna Lucasta,” and further, when it came to money difficulties completing the film, she urged Ossie Davis, at that time her boyfriend, to take his savings from the show which he was planning to use as tuition for Columbia University to do the same.

However, matters went from bad to worse, as Dee recalls. There were lawsuits and the seizing of footage. They got no return on their investment. To this day, Dee wonders what happened to the film, which she would dearly love to see. “Could we save it if we could find it?” she wonders. She keeps the two sheets that were advertisements for the film showing Joe Louis.

Hollywood was another kind of iffy situation for Dee and Black actors generally because of racism that was pervasive throughout the industry. Moreover, Dee has seen herself as “still out of the bowels of a place called Harlem” rather than a denizen of L.A. no matter how many films she has made there.

She said of the Oscar nomination. “It startled me. I had dismissed from my consciousness early in my life belonging to Hollywood because I didn’t think Hollywood wanted me. When I started out the images there were “Step ‘n Fetchit” and “Cabin in the Sky.” I stayed in Harlem and found another way.

“Oscar night was exciting but when I didn’t win I wasn’t surprised. I was telling myself I wasn’t in the race anyway. I didn’t feel disappointed. I thought of Hattie McDaniel and the controversy of her attending the ceremony,” she said.

“I was thrilled to be nominated but to tell the truth, I was relieved not to get it.”

STEAM ticket information

by Kay Bourne
523 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59Young actor NIK WALKER portrays a role in the disturbing musical “ASSASSINS” that would give many a seasoned player pause – and it’s Walker’s debut on the professional stage to boot.

Set in purgatory, the audacious show about the notorious men and women who tried to assassinate U.S. presidents continues through AUGUST 9 at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, in Boston’s South End. For more info phone 617-933-8600.

As the Balladeer, Walker says he provides “the narrative of the piece” and is the “representative of the American public.” The perspective the Balladeer provides, he says, “opens a discussion of what kinds of things in a country puts forward the thinking or mind set that would cause people to act that way.”

The songs he sings in this dark musical are portraiture tinged with admonition, such as “The Ballad of Booth,” a duet with John Wilkes Booth who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. In the lyrics, Walker as the Balladeer ponders, “How could you do it, Johnny, calling it a cause? You left a legacy of butchery and treason we took eagerly, and thought you’d get applause. But traitors just get jeers and boos, not visits to their graves. . . Damn you, Johnny! You paved the way for other madmen. . . “

The difficulty for Walker as an actor will be to give a human slant to the men and women who have become merely demons in Americans’ minds.

The Brookline native, and son of broadcaster, minister, and social activist Liz Walker, Nik got his first taste of theater in the second grade when he played the part of a bunny in the Wheelock Family Theater’s production of “Winnie the Pooh.” Walker recalls that as a child “I was all over the place and my mother put me in the program to give me a focus, which it did. It was nice to have that direction: ‘Stand there. Do that.’”

The show also gave Walker his first mentor, Manzur who had the role of Pooh. “He was a wonderful actor and really nice to me. I was so scared and he made it so comfortable for me. Theater became a playful atmosphere where we were all doing something we loved. I’ll always remember that production,” said Walker, who continued at Wheelock throughout elementary school playing a spider in “Charlotte’s Web” and being in the children’s ensemble in “Stuart Little.”

At Brookline High, Walker met up with two of Company One‘s stalwart members, Shawn LaCount who teaches in the school’s theater program (and is the director of “Assassins”) and Mark Vanderzee who is the tech director there and acted in a show Walker performed in. “Before working with them, acting for me was saying lines; working in ‘West Side Story’ with Mark he began to show me technique. We were in three scenes together and in rehearsals we’d try different approaches. It opened my mind to the idea that there are so many ways to do a role. I still check back with him when I’m doing a show and I dedicate this performance in ‘Assassins’ to him.”

Walker, who was graduated in 2006, applied to only one college. “Probably that wasn’t wise,” he admits, “although, there couldn’t be a better place for me.” He is going into this junior year at NYU’s Tisch Drama Program in the Stella Adler Studio of Acting section. He has also benefited from studies with Robert Honeysucker whom he met through the Performing Arts program at the Lincoln Elementary School. He sang “Going Up Yonder” at a concert I was part of and I knew I had to take lessons from him. So my mom phoned him and he took me on. It was the ninth grade and I went over to the Longy School.

“I have lots of energy and sometimes I get ahead of myself. He taught me relaxation. His singing flows from him like honey. He would tell me ‘relax your tongue. It made my singing much more free and easy.”

Company One website

By Kay Bourne
(“Put on a Happy Face” – NSMT transformed its stage into an old fashioned turntable.
Photo by Paul Lyden.)

519 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59The wryly comic view of teen idol worship in the 50′s “BYE BYE BIRDIE” gets a marvelously rambunctious production from North Shore Music Theater. The gentle spoof of Elvis-hysteria is a song- filled dance-athon splendidly choreographed and sprightly directed by Michael Lichtefeld whose large dance scenes are kaleidoscopic. He’s also designed solos for the central characters that are sometimes breathtaking. As well, Lichtefeld, who is new to NSMT, has brought in numbers of local youth for ensemble work and you’ll be hard put to tell them apart from the professional dancers.

When word gets out that Conrad Birdie has been drafted into the Army, teens across the country are devastated. And so too is Birdie’s agent and songwriter Albert Peterson who envisions the management company Almaelou (named for his domineering mother) he put together to promote Conrad going under financially. His secretary Rose Alverez, who loves Albert, sees how to make gold out of dross, however, by staging an event in middle America that will be so memorable Conrad can do his two years and return as popular as ever. She suggests a farewell kiss from a teen to the accompaniment of a new song written by Albert (who loves Rose but is firmly tied to momma’s apron strings).

There are a number of songs from the 1961Tony winner that we’re still humming and that are great fun to hear done so well, such as “Put On A Happy Face” sung by James Patterson as Albert to a teen down in the dumps over Conrad’s departure, Mara Newbery; “A Lot Of Living To Do,” performed by Eric Ulloa as Conrad singing about his last night before boot camp with Aleesa Neeck as Kim, the Mid-Western teen chosen to receive Conrad’s good-bye kiss; and the hilarious “Kids,” a parental complaint sung by Kim’s mom and dad (Madeleine Doherty and Robert Saould) despairing of what they see as a wild streak in their previously docile daughter.

Bianca Marroquin relishes in portraying Rose who has at long last lost her patience with Albert’s putting aside their dream of his becoming an English teacher and she his devoted spouse. Her grace as a dancer is charming while her skill wows, especially in a scene where she dances on a round table top whose center is a large hole she could so easily have fallen through. She brings that edginess to her performance throughout which makes her magnetic. She’s well matched with James Patterson as Albert who’s a good hoofer. Mary-Pat Green gives a crowd pleasing performance as the frumpy, interfering mom. There’s really no weak link in this outstanding cast. This is a gold standard production of the pleasing, family entertainment musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Official Website of North Shore Music Theatre

by Jessica Kerry
(McCaela Donovan (Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme) and the cast of ASSASSINS
photo credit: Company One)

520 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59The assassination of a president is the ultimate American sacrilege; history remembers its perpetrators either as villains or nutcases, isolated cases in an otherwise noble national psyche.

But in the musical “ASSASSINS,” those villains play a crucial role in our legacy: their desperate acts say as much about our collective shortcomings as they do about the reaches of individual despair. With music and lyrics by the legendary Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, “Assassins” humanizes the impulses behind that violent gesture in a non- narrative collage of vignettes, which mix biographical detail with some pretty creative hypotheses. If the presidency is the premier symbol of the American Dream (“Any Kid Can Grow Up to Be President,” as the line goes), then assassination is a symbolic gesture, an indictment of a dream so often deferred

The musical walks the line between humor and pathos, poking fun at the assassins’ delusions while revealing the genuine pain behind their crimes. Company One‘s production of “Assassins” achieves this delicate harmony on the strength of its fine performances and terrific singing. Directed with effective subtlety by Shawn LaCount, the Tony Award- winning musical runs through AUGUST 9 at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street.

Failed dreams are the common thread that unites the assassins and would-be assassins from different periods in American history. Booth (David DaCosta), the pioneer and ringleader of the bunch, laments the loss of the South he loved and a country he no longer recognizes (although, the play suggests, he may have killed Lincoln “because of bad reviews”). Polish immigrant Leon Czolgosz (Ed Hoopman) finds an outlet for his despair as a factory worker after Emma Goldman’s anarchist philosophy inspires him to assassinate William McKinley.

The ensemble cast handles Sondheim’s overlapping vocal melodies with aplomb, bringing to life an eccentric cast of characters that includes Charles Guiteau (Jeff Mahoney), an evangelist and author who claimed that God instructed him to kill James Garfield; Guiseppe Zangara (Blake L. Pfeil), an Italian laborer who tried (and failed) to assassinate Franklin Delano Roosevelt to avenge his chronic stomach pain; Squeaky Fromme (McCaela Donovan) and Sara Jane Moore (Elizabeth Rimar), the Manson acolyte and the five-time housewife who both attempted unsuccessfully to murder Gerald Ford; and John Hinckley (Nathanael Shea), who believed that shooting Ronald Reagan would win him Jodie Foster’s love.

In a standout performance as Samuel Byck, would-be plane hijacker and Nixon assassin, Mason Sand strikes just the right tragicomic balance. Dressed in a filthy Santa Claus costume and drinking cans of Bud out of a paper bag, Byck records his frustrations on cassette tape in a one-sided conversation with Leonard Bernstein (he also addressed tapes to Jonas Salk and Hank Aaron). The monologue is hilarious; but Byck would be too easy to dismiss if he were simply crazy, and Sand never lets us, the audience, off the hook. Giving poignant glimpses of the anguish behind the lunacy, he suggests that Byck’s desperation is as much a part of American heritage as the institution he tries to annihilate.

The assassins’ individual stories are woven together by the balladeer (Nik Walker), an omniscient narrator who keeps the audience abreast of historical context. Walker, the son of former WBZ News anchor Liz Walker, successfully navigates his tough singing role with a rock-tinged flair. This production reinterprets the balladeer character, however, which the original script described as “a Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger-style folk singer.” Instead, Walker wears a blue tie and shirtsleeves, losing the allusion to Americana’s down- home idealism and sacrificing the balladeer’s function as a counterpoint to the assassins’ rage and despair.

In a surprise twist at the end of the play, all of the assassins congregate at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas to egg on a reluctant Lee Harvey Oswald, played with unnerving innocence by Jonathan Popp. Ultimately persuaded by the prospect of his future infamy (Booth notes that Hinckley would later study every book ever written about him), this Oswald suggests that the Kennedy assassination resulted from the pull of historical inevitability-not just the madness of an isolated individual.

Official Website of Company One

(by Josiah Crowley © 2008)
521 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59In a recent interview, legendary Cambridge comic JIMMY TINGLE recounted one of his strongest motivations to get clean and sober (at age 33) was: “I started going to a lot of (friends’) funerals…people around me started to die: committing homicide, going to jail. Committing suicide. Overdosing”. And he realized this could be his (sooner than later) fate.

In JIMMY TINGLE FOR PRESIDENT running through AUGUST 9 at Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, Tingle recounts his transition from one of Boston’s most uproarious stand up comics of the ’80s into his present self – a still hilarious comic combining social commentary. In his present show, Tingle uses the forum of “Presidential candidate” to “endorse” his serious, smart and, yes, comic points of view as he comments on current events.

Citing the widespread criticism candidate Barack Obama – “My choice for President” (in the unlikely case Tingle isn’t elected as the next Leader of the Free World!) “because he most accurately represents my values” – received for his association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Tingle points out that “this country was founded, in part, on freedom of religion.” After he went into recovery from drugs and alcohol, Tingle returned to his childhood religion, Catholicism, mentioning that during the height of The Crisis in the Catholic Church “in my experience, no one was more upset” (about the pedophile priests’ crimes ) “than fellow active Catholics.”

Tingle manages to deftly combine in his “platform”(comedy performance) the tricky balancing act of his political beliefs (he “encourages people to do whatever we can to change things in our communities, our families, our schools, work”) and his humor without ever being strident or (God forbid for a comedy audience) dull. He explains that after he got clean and sober, he put himself – a white, liberal Cambridge native – in the “seat” of the minority for the first time in his life; thus, gaining empathy for all minorities.

A once promising stand up, Tingle has transformed himself into the Will Rogers of the People’s Republic. This is one night out you do not want to miss. (Tickets for JIMMY TINGLE FOR PRESIDENT can be obtained at 617-923-8487.

by Josiah Crowley © 2008
(Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski.
Photo Credit: Peter Mountain)

525 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59MAMMA MIA! the film version of the phenomenally successful ABBA stage musical, is the perfect anecdote to the current humid weather! It’s light, airy entertainment: a load of fun and laughs. Escapism at its purest, as one sits down in an air-conditioned theater and listens to old hits WATERLOO, THE NAME OF THE GAME, S.O.S., THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL, etc.

Never for a moment does the film take itself too seriously. The filmmakers’ goal surely is to provide good old-fashioned entertainment. And it succeeds at every moment: the glorious Greece settings; the kitschy ABBA music (sung with enthusiasm by Meryl Streep and the rest of the cast); the outrageous costumes and over the top supporting turns by Julie Walters (who nearly steals the film) and Christine Baranski.

Newcomers Amanda Seyfried (Sarah on the Mormon tv drama, BIG LOVE; who proves to have a strong set of pipes) and Dominic Cooper (film and stage versions of THE HISTORY BOYS) provide the young love interests and are an engaging screen presence. But it’s Streep (is there anyone else in film that has shown her range?) that has the best set of lungs.

If you’re in the mood to escape this hot spell (and who isn’t?), I’d suggest racing to your local multiplex for a great night at the movies!

Official Website of Mamma Mia the Movie

by Robin Saunders
524 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59With such a vast selection of movies, documentaries, shorts, features, comedies and youth-produced films, in addition to the actors’ workshop and health disparities panel discussion, African themed features and documentaries, music themed documentaries, on top of the impressive roster of special guests, it seems, difficult to choose which films and features to see during next week’s Roxbury Film Festival. I figured I’d lay out my list of top picks, and who knows, maybe we’ll see each other in the lobbies for some of these:

Monday, JULY 28 PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL is a pre-festival documentary screening, presented in conjunction with The Coolidge Corner Theatre at 7pm at The Coolidge. PRAY THE DEVIL recounts the story of the brave Liberian women: Christian and Muslim – mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters – who came together, in peace, to stage peaceful protests during the recent civil war in Liberia. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions to save their young boys from becoming child soldiers, and their families from becoming victims. This moving documentary puts forth the question: Does a bullet know Christian from Muslim? Official theme song “Djoyigbe” by Angelique Kidjo. Call The Coolidge Box Office for ticket info at (617) 734-2501. It also repeats on Sunday AUGUST 3, noon time at Wentworth’s Blount Auditiorium.

Thursday, JULY 31 the opening night film, of course! OF BOYS AND MEN starring Robert Townsend, Angela Bassett, Victoria Rowell. A family movie, with all the real life emotions of a family of three kids and a hard working dad, collectively trying to deal with day to day life while individually attempting to deal with the sudden death of the mother in a car accident, as seen and told by the middle son who’s about 11 or 12 years old. Robert Townsend will be at The Museum of Fine Arts for Q&A immediately following the screening. Click here for OF BOYS AND MEN ticket info.

Friday, AUGUST 1, is the first year anniversary of the DINNER & A MOVIE series at Haley House Bakery Cafe, so to celebrate, we’re moving the event out doors, in the Haley House parking lot. Chef Didi Emmons will prepare a scrumptious summer feast featuring produce from the Noonday Farm, Haley House’s organic farm in Winchendon, MA.
We start at 7pm, with dinner and dessert between 7:30 – 8:30. On the menu will be:

  • Appetizer: Bruschetta with Green Olives, Preserved Lemon and Tomato
  • Dinner: Sliced Tri Tip Steak (Vegetarian option: Roasted Quinoa)
  • with Roasted, organic vegetables from Noonday Farm (potatoes, carrots, chard, bok choy, etc.)
  • Dessert: Banana Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

Then the featured film, JELLYSMOKE starts at 8:45pm. JELLYSMOKE stars MICHAEL EALY as a bi-polar man in search of romance. Actor Michael Ealy and director MARK BANNING will be in attendance for Q&A moderated by NINA LaNEGRA of the Roxbury Media Institute. In case of rain, the event will be held in Hibernian Hall. DINNER & A MOVIE featuring JELLYSMOKE ticket info here.

Saturday at Hibernian Hall is dedicated to youth and families, starting at 10am with WORD GIRL and an ANIMATION WORKSHOP for children ages 6-10, that’s where I’ll be with my two children. Then there’s a teen acting workshop by Hollywood acting coach TROY MICHAEL ROWLAND at noon, youth-produced films until 5, and at 7pm, is CUTTIN DA MUSTARD, a comedy chronicling the lives of young, aspiring actors, in the process of creating a community theater company.

The African-themed films and documentaries in this year’s festival are bold and intense and on Saturday AUGUST 2 my choice is prime with AFRICA UNITE , 3pm at Museum of Fine Arts, a documentary of the Marleys’ first-time-ever family trip to Ethiopia in 2005/concert tribute celebrating Bob Marley’s 60th birthday/humanitarian documentary with glimpses into the all-African youth conferences taking place at that same time with discussions on peace and unity. Yes, there’s rare footage of Bob Marley but most important, there’s rare footage of Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie. Ticket info here. Repeats Sunday, AUGUST 3 noon at Mass College of Art.

Later Saturday afternoon, producer CHARLES BURNETT discusses AFRICA IN FILM TODAY at 5:15pm at the Museum of Fine Arts. For tickets click here. Then his new film NAMIBIA screens at 7:30pm, starring CARL LUMBLY and DANNY GLOVER, Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation tells the rise to power of Samuel Nujoma (Carl Lumbly), a prominent leader in Namibia’s struggle for independence from South Africa, and that country’s first president. Followed by Q&A. NAMIBIA ticket info here.

Sunday, AUGUST 3 at the Museum of Fine Arts 1:20pm is THE PRICE OF SUGAR documentary. In the Dominican Republic, a tropical island-nation, tourists flock to pristine beaches unaware that a few miles away thousands of dispossessed Haitians have toiled under armed-guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, much of which ends up in U.S. kitchens. Click here for PRICE OF SUGAR ticket information.

And I wouldn’t/ couldn’t leave the festival without seeing and hearing from RUBY DEE at the closing festival film, STEAM at 5:30pm that evening, also at The Museum of Fine Arts.

Visit the festival’s website. Download the full schedule, and read descriptions of the more than 80 films in the festival…I’m curious how you’ll plan your week at the 10th Annual Roxbury Film Festival.

Roxbury Film Festival JULY 28 – AUGUST 3

526 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #59 This Monday, JULY 28 at 2-3pm, tune in to “Art Is Life Itself!” TV program, live on BNNtv, (Boston Comcast channel 23) as host Nina LaNegra spends time with the soulful singer ASHANTI MUNIR and BLACKSOLE in the first half. Click Ashanti’s picture to the left to visit her website. Then in the last half hour, Nina talks with filmmakers: Evelyn Brito (producer: PRIME OF LIFE) and Dawn Morrissey (GREEN GRASS) and Jibril Haynes (MAN OH MAN, YOUR DAUGHTER’s FIRST DATE, and THREE SIXTY 360) about their films in this year’s Roxbury Film Festival. And remember The Roxbury Media Institute & The Haley House Bakery Cafe invite you to ‘aRt IS LiFe iTSELF! A Performance Series: Embracing Art, Culture & Spirituality’ a Multicultural, Intergenerational, Humanistic experience, every Thursday night, starting approximately 7pm at The Haley House Bakery Cafe, 12 Dade Street, Roxbury, near Dudley station. Call 617-445-0900 for details on who’s performing each week.

Tuesday JULY 29 10 – 11pm, watch ROOTZ TO RHYTHMtv on Boston Comcast channel 23 for the best in urban and reggae music videos, and special this week, get a chance to preview a few selections from the Roxbury Film Festival, such as AFRICA UNITE, PLAYING FOR CHANGE, and MANDATORY SENTENCE a feature produced by Boston’s own EDO G. and directed by MIKE KING. For information call ROOTZ Promotionz at 617-282-1234.

COLORSTRUCK – Women in Color in Comedy is Saturday, AUGUST 2, 8 – 10pm at the Midway Cafe, 3496 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain. Tickets are $15, click here for more information, or call 617-524-9038.

Everyone’s invited for free, NEIGHBORHOOD NIGHTS full of art, music and family fun at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum 5 – 8pm on AUGUST 7, make your own rice dough animals with artist Chuan Dao. Test your skill with the ancient Chinese puzzle Tangrams; Listen to the unique sounds of the vocal jazz group SYNCOPATION, and be astounded by dancing lions with the GUND KWOK dance troupe. For information click here.

BACK TO THE ROOTS in its new location at 493b Blue Hill Avenue, Grove Hall is hosting a African Drumming starting Sunday, AUGUST 10, led by PAPE CHEIKHOU GUEYE of Senegal. This first date is a free class for children 4 and up and adults. For more information to register for following classes call Paula at 617-959-0795.

Saturday, AUGUST 16 is a MULTICULTURAL FESTIVAL, 12 – 6pm at Mary Hannon Park, on the corner of Dudley Street and Howard Avenue, Dorchester. Performances, Games, ethnic food, music, arts and crafts for the whole family, sponsored by Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. For info call 617-442-9670 x 16.

The Franklin Park Tennis Association offers free tennis lessons every Saturday until SEPTEMBER 13 at the Shattuck Grove courts on the Shattuck Hospital side of Franklin Park. Children’s lessons are noon – 1:30pm and adults’ 1:30 – 3pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 – 11am. For info, call 617-374-0655 or click here.

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