Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #66

January 18th, 2009  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
(Click above image of CAMILLE MUSSER for ticket information to WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS)

584 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66PAMELA TANNER BOLL‘s absorbing documentary film is a feminist twist on a classic torch song: it cost her a lot but there’s one thing that she’s got — it’s her art.

The close-up-and-personal documentary “WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS” delves into the lives of women driven to make art whether or not their husbands buy into the compulsion. “He understood it to a certain point,” comments one of the women. By and large, the children more easily take mom’s sculpting, drumming, painting, or acting in stride, and some of the children are her greatest supporters, although most of them seem merely to bear with it. Never mind.

It’s hearing from the women themselves about how and why they stay true to the passion which animates them, but that art history and the art world today largely discounts, that makes Pamela Tanner Boll’s film emotionally involving and of import.

The film is also visually striking. Her camera lovingly exhibits the women’s art for the viewer; also, and even more significantly, she lingers on the women themselves as they talk and move about and make art. This time around in the art world women are not being objectified, rather they are acknowledged as human beings who are gifted and, sadly enough, too often paying a heavy price for exercising that gift.

“(Making art) was the person I wanted to be and I wasn’t and the call gets louder,” says one of the women. “I always knew there was more to me than singing a song or two before my husband preached,” says another, the wife of a minister.

“Who Does She Think She Is” screens intermittently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through JANUARY 18.

Two of the artists featured in the film are local: painter CAMILLE MUSSER of Cambridge and actress/singer ANGELA WILLIAMS of Providence, Rhode Island. The other spot-lighted artists are ceramist JANIS WUNDERLICH, a Mormon mother of five working out of a home studio in Ohio; sculptor MAYA TORRES, of Taos, New Mexico, a 13th generation Taosian; and printmaker/social activist MAYUMI ODA, a Japanese born graphic artist now heading a back-to-the-earth commune in Hawaii. They range in age from 27 to 65. There’ll be Q & A with the filmmaker and others following most screenings.

Interspersed with commentary by art critics and feminist scholars, these women’s biographies personalize the plight and possibilities, the history and present-day opportunities for women who strive to be professional artists. The statistics are daunting, for while a large majority of students in art schools are women, only a tiny percentage get gallery representation and at MOMA, for instance, only four per cent of the artists being shown at the time of the film’s shooting were women (versus 75 % of the nudes in the art). These points and more are pertly made in the film.

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Cheryl Singleton)

585 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66Well into Spike Lee‘s breakthrough indie movie “She’s Gotta Have It,” (1986) lascivious heroine Nola Darling has a nightmare. Surrounding her bed where she has romped with three lovers are their girl friends ready for revenge. One of them leans towards the mattress and lights a match.

That incendiary role was played by Cheryl D. Singleton. And the Brooklyn transplant to Boston has continued her provocative ways. Cut from a flexible cloth, she is known to an unusually broad cross section of area theater-goers.

To offer a few examples of her adaptability, Singleton can currently be seen in “The Sea Gull” at the American Repertory Company. As well, she is a member of Ryan Landry’s Gold Dust Orphans troupe and acts regularly with Queer Soup, although she is not gay. She limned the enigmatic Dr. Condoleezza Rice in Zeitgeist Stage Company‘s box office smash “Stuff Happens.” She has performed with the New African Company and TheatreZone. She polished her acting skills doing improvisation performances with the likes of Musical Improv Co. and Improv Boston.

In Anton Chekhov‘s comedy “The Sea Gull,” written in 1895 and now a classic, friends and family attend an avant garde play that sends their lives into a tailspin. Singleton portrays Paulina Andreyevna, married to the estate keeper at the Russian farm where the little drama is being given a private performance. Paulina although married (and with a daughter who is rebuffing a suitor of her own), is enamored of the local doctor and is nudging him to run off with her.

“He’s vulgar,” Singleton says of Paulina’s husband; “she’s stuck with him and doesn’t want to be with him.” As to the doctor, “they have a past but he is convinced that his Don Juan days are over. She doesn’t believe it.”

Singleton is enjoying developing the juicy role under the direction of the internationally famous director Janos Szasz. Previously at A.R.T., Szasz staged Chekhov‘s “Uncle Vanya” (2002) which featured then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s daughter, Linda Powell; the production won both of them Independent Reviewers of New England (I.R.N.E.) award recognition. The Budapest film and stage director has also staged the well received “Desire Under the Elms,” Mother Courage and Her Children” and “Marat/Sade” at A.R.T. The translation of “The Sea Gull” is by Paul Schmidt who makes a point of using colloquial American speech thereby setting his version apart from various translations by Brits that have the characters seem less down to earth than Chekhov wrote them.

Singleton slips into a Hungarian accented English as she applauds Szasz’s manner of direction: “You try it,” he says if you have “found things about the character you’d like to try out. He likes it, he keeps it; he doesn’t, he doesn’t.”

Developing the character of Dr. Condeleezza Rice, Secretary of State under George W. Bush, for the David Hare’s satiric “Stuff Happens” was a revelation for Singleton, she said.

“I was looking for how to get the laughs but actually I gained respect for her and how she got to where she is. I learned new information about her; I didn’t know she was a Democrat and switched parties (in 1982) because she didn’t like President Carter’s Russian policy, for one.” (Zeitgeist Director David Miller) told her the important consideration was that Rice be “a real person. So I went for the attitude and physicality, how she carried herself but I was not trying to be a look alike. I like the challenge of difficult things,” said Singleton.

Singleton, an Amherst College graduate class of ’81 has been in Boston for the past 25 years. She feels she has been truly fortunate in the mentors that have come along. Among them are actor Larry Coen whom she met doing musical improv, as well as, Margaret Ann Brady of the first improv troupe with whom Singleton performed. They have often recommended her for acting jobs.

Following “The Sea Gull,” Singleton will join the Phoenix Theater (formerly Way Theater) in collaboration with Company One to do John Kuntz and Rick Park‘s “The Super Heroine Monologues” in April.

“The Sea Gull” ticket information

by Kay Bourne
(top: Tory Bullock, Terri Deletetsky, Mike Cognata; middle: Danny Balel, Lois Roach; bottom: DJ Reazon, Nik Walker, Marvelyn McFarlane)

586 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66LOIS ROACH can cut another notch in her theatrical belt with the new Company One production. “ARTiculation,” a pastiche of poems and thoughts by young artists associated with the edgy theater company, is getting rave notices. Roach, who has been directing professionally since 1980, is a rara avis on the Boston theater scene: a woman of color asked by the major Equity companies to direct a play in their season. Her last Company One show was the world premiere of John Adekoje’s “Six Rounds, Six Lessons”

Roach, a resident of Roxbury, says that she has never added up the number of plays she’s directed over the years but calculates that “there are well over sixty with a mix of Equity and community ventures.” Among the companies the Emerson College graduate has directed for are SpeakEasy, New Rep, and the Lyric Stage Company, including “The Old Settler” which won her an Independent Reviewers of New England award for Best Director and an Elliot Norton Award for “Outstanding Production – Small Theater” She directed the debut production of Our Place Theater’s African American Theatre Festival, “A Soldier’s Play,” as well as, several productions of “Back To Black Women” at the Strand Theater.

As the productions roll on, she says the lessons learned are “patience, the power of listening, and trusting your gut.” As to the future, Roach paraphrases a proverb: “I may create my plans but a Higher Power sets my course.” One venture she’s definite about taking on, however, is a tour of “ARTiculation.” In its initial run, “ARTiculation” continues Thursdays through Sundays until JANUARY 24 at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. For more info you can call 866-811-4111.

ARTiculation ticket info

by Kurt Hogan
587 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66Fan of rap music or not, this heart felt cinematic biography is a modern tragedy.

BIGGIE SMALLS is considered by many music fans to be the most masterful rap artist of our time. In his 24 short years Biggie, also known as The Notorious B.I.G or his real name CHRISTOPHER WALLACE managed to rise from the depths of poverty, hustling on the ‘druglier’ streets of Brooklyn, to heights never before realized by such an unlikely Super Star.

Obese and far from handsome, he quickly became a folk hero and icon for the disenfranchised, the drug dealers, and middle class suburbanites alike. His real life story is the subject of his poetry; the universal dream of the most unlikely to succeed.

We follow the young, overweight kid on his adolescent quest for manhood, played with touching finesse by Wallace’s real life son CHRISTOPHER WALLACE, Jr. He is being raised by his big-hearted, yet heartbroken single mom, portrayed with stern tough-love by ANGELA BASSETT.

And though gifted with extraordinary intellect and potential, circumstances steer young Christopher from his mother’s arms to the streets, his prolific ability now channeled to his writing and rhymes.

The adult Biggie is played masterfully by newcomer and Brooklyn rapper in his own right, JAMAL WOOLARD. He carries this film with seemingly remarkable ease for an acting unknown, and narrates throughout, as if Smalls himself has returned from the dead to tell his story.

His anti-hero image and unique sound is marketed with great success by SEAN “Puffy” COMBS played by DEREK LUKE (“Antwone Fisher”) We also delve into the relationship between Biggie and his new friend, mentor and eventual nemesis, TUPAC SHAKUR played by ANTHONY MACKIE. (“We are Marshall”)

Thrust into the epicenter of a new culture overflowing with money, gratuitous sex, violence, and drugs; survival, success and jealousy within the industry becomes itself inspiration for the music.

The driving soundtrack includes CRAIG MACK, JUNIOR MAFIA, KURTIS BLOW, and of course Biggie and Tupac.

The film ultimately takes us behind the rumors of the media fueled East Coast vs. West Coast feud that pit rappers against rappers, fans against fans, and inside the manufactured rivalry that sold millions of records and magazines in the ’90′s.

Director GEORGE TILLMAN, Jr., (“Soul Food,” “Men of Honor”) uses his camera and set design with great skill.

Hip Hop fans will be pleased by supporting performances delivered by NATURI NAUGHTON as the hot tempered, sexy vixen ‘LIL KIM, and ANTONIQUE SMITH, who turns in an astonishing portrayal as Biggie’s infamous wife and singer FAITH EVANS.

MARC JOHN JEFFERIES plays Biggie’s good pal ‘LIL CEASE and SEAN RINGGOLD as SUGE KNIGHT of Death Row Records, implicated by many in the conspiracy surrounding Smalls death.

The film does not attempt to fully answer who murdered Biggie after the LA Music Awards show in 1997. Instead, we are faced full frontal with the forces behind the climate which surely contributed. Told from the point of view of insiders who were close; Sean Combs and VOLETTA WALLACE, (Biggie’s mother) both served as producers of the film.

It is constructed with deep care and homage. There are scenes of great power and hope, and at times you may find yourself choked up knowing what’s coming in the end for the charming hero with the imposing size, who dared to dream big like his name.

Official Website of Notorious The Movie

by Josiah Crowley © 2009
(pictured: Nancy E. Carroll)
photo credit: The Lyric Stage Company of Boston

590 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66JOAN DIDION‘s autobiographical one-woman play, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING at the Lyric Stage through January 31, contains in NANCY E. CARROLL‘s performance, the best acting – solo or otherwise – Boston theater has contained in several seasons.

The play takes place in the year following husband John Gregory Dunne‘s sudden death, while their only grown child is hospitalized with a severe, ultimately fatal, illness. This is not light theater, but a beautifully realized theater experience. Carroll’s performance as the highly intellectual Didion – not prone to emotional outbursts – is both powerful and heartbreaking in its restraint. A lesser actress may have slipped into the tear ducts. Carroll – surely Boston theater’s best local actress, bar none – stays true to character all the way. In her restrained manner, arched body language and steady voice, Carroll manages the impressive feat of being dignified, overwhelmed with grief, confused, scared, angry and in denial – all this while seated in a chair (Carroll only rises from the chair for a few minutes).

Having been impressed with Joan Didion’s memoir which inspired this play, I had my doubts it would translate well to the stage. But it works well as a theater piece. When stage characters are written as grief-stricken, it, generally, leads to great histrionics onstage which, true, can be effective. But MAGICAL THINKING works well on the stage , in part, because Didion is such a cool customer. Unlike many a stage character previous to Didion, she isn’t predictable. The theater goer is pulled in, unsure of where this play is going; this makes for great theater.

Director ERIC C. ENGEL does well by the play – keeping the set simple. The focus is totally where it should be – on Didion’s words, shock and pain, searingly enacted by Nancy E. Carroll in the tour de force acting work of this, or any recent, year. For theater lovers who appreciate challenging, intelligent theater and superlative acting, get to the Lyric before the month is over.

The Lyric Stage Company website

by Josiah Crowley © 2009
588 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66 For some of the best acting on screen all year, be sure to catch REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, based on RICHARD YATES‘ novel of a repressed married couple in 1950′s suburbia stuck in mundane, boring lives who decide to make a radical change in their lifestyle.

Initially, it might seem like yet one more film about how “painful” it is to be white and middle-class in America (oh, the pain of it all!), but, wait, there’s more to it than that.The film, like the 1962 novel, is an astute, critical look at the choices a young couples makes in order to have “the American Dream,” only to realize they are not happy. Youthful love has led to, – yes, the house and car – but also 2 children, responsiblity, the grown up job for him (this being the ’50s, the wife doesn’t work) and a life not stimulating to these two creative types.

The storyline focuses on their new choice – and how it changes them as they plan their upheaval. To say more would be to give away too much of the plot. But the film features astute looks at how society in the ’50s treated women, the mentally ill (NY stage actor MICHAEL SHANNON – as KATHY BATES’ mentally ill son – will knock you out), and the class system. Kathy Bates is fine as the realtor who lands the young couple their dream home, introduces the young couple to her mentally ill son, home on a hospital pass after 27 shock therapy sessions. He is most unstable.

First, there’s that cast: KATE WINSLET (is she ever less than riveting on screen?), LEONARDO DICAPRIO (growing into a stronger actor with each film) as the couple. The rest of the cast – probably the best utilized supporting cast in a studio film this year – is headed by the always terrific Bates and includes DAVID HARBOUR (last seen in Boston in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? with KATHLEEN TURNER), RICHARD EASTON, ZOE KAZAN (Elia’s granddaughter) and character actor DYLAN BAKER.

For a beautifully realized, accomplished film, get out to REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.

Official website of Revolutionary Road

by Lisa Simmons
589 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66BARACK OBAMA: The Man and His Journey will be released on JANUARY 20, 2009 in honor of his historic inauguration. Produced by CODEBLACK ENTERTAINMENT and EBONY JET ENTERTAINMENT, the dvd features MARTIN LUTHER KING III, BLAIR UNDERWOOD, GEORGE LOPEZ, HILL HARPER, ROLAND MARTIN, LINDA JOHNSON RICE, CONGRESSMAN JESSE JACKSON, JR. and BRIAN MCKNIGHT‘s original song “Yes We Can.”

KBAR had the opportunity to talk with Brian McKnight about the new DVD and how he came to write and record and now perform his song at the inaugural ball. as well as his amazing career, his sons, and why he’s not going anywhere.

Sometime after the election, McKnight got a call to write a song for the Barack Obama DVD and without hesitation, he said yes and set it aside while he continued working on other things. After all, he gets lots of requests to pen songs for individual artists, as well as programs and projects. He thought he had time. About two and a half weeks later, he got another call asking him if the song was finished and he realized then that he needed to focus and come up with something quick. That night he spent writing and came up with the song not to long after. McKnight’s inspiration for the “Yes We Can” song came directly from Obama’s campaign he really wanted to parallel the things that he went through and the perspectives we, as Black people, have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. He also felt strongly that he didn’t want to take a modernist approach to the song, he really wanted to make it sound like a song that was written in the 60′s.

The song, when he was writing it, wasn’t emotional it was a process of writing line by line as he does with any song but when he put it together and read it then recorded it he felt the emotion and that is when he realized that it was pretty powerful. You can catch him singing that song live on Sunday evening at the pre-inaugural ball on HBO.

His sons, who are talented musicians and who have spent the last two years on the road with him, learning and understanding what it takes to build a career in this business and not just be a star, are recording their first album as this column is being written. They understand the importance of this election but they, like most kids in their teens and younger generations, can only listen to the stories of the struggles. His kids he says, “have probably never ever felt true prejudice, they see what is happening and they have to go back and talk with the grandparents about what it was like,” which is actually a good thing because it is another way to get the older generations and the younger generations talking.

McKnight’s career has taken him in so many directions from award winning singer to the Broadway stage, to talk show host to writer of songs for many, many “stars”. His career has spanned almost 30 years and he shows no signs of stopping. For him he just doesn’t think about it and and he takes on opportunities that present themselves. He says that there is always a sexier choice, a new star, more famous, but not always reliable. He is reliable and he understands the importance of the burning candle and not the rocket to the sky. “You have to do the work because without the work there is nothing that is going to sustain you and you have to do it at a high level and you will be around for a long time. McKnight says that you have to make a decision, “do you want to be a star or do you want to work?”

For his sons, they write every day and work on their craft everyday. That’s what it takes.

For Brian McKnight, this advice is advice that he has lived by and the reason that he gets the call, gets the work done and gets the respect that he deserves.

To get your copy of the collector’s edition dvd BARACK OBAMA: The Man and His Journey click on the dvd image above. Another keepsake to commemorate this amazing journey and place in history.

BARACK OBAMA: The Man and His Journey info

(pictured: Robby Jenkins, one of this month’s featured artists at ORGANIX SOUL Boston)
591 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #66

PAINTINGS by BOSTON area AFRICAN AMERICAN PAINTERS in the “PAINT – BLACK on CANVAS” will exhibit at THE ART GALLERY AT THE BUNKER HILL COMMUNITY COLLEGE. For info call 617-228-2093. . Exhibition dates: JANUARY 19 – FEBRUARY 28, at the Visit the gallary’s site here.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, ORGANIX SOUL Boston invites you to its monthly live music showcase of up & coming soul, R&B, jazz and soken word artists fron across the country, held at The Holiday Inn, 1374 North Main Street, Randolph, MA. (next to Lombardo’s). This month’s 2 hours showcase of PURE SOUL starts promptly at 9pm featuring ABBY DOBSON from Freeport, New York; ROBBIE JENKINS from Stamford, CT; and poet LYNNETTE JOHNSON. Tickets are $25 advance and $30 at the door, $50 per person at VIP tables, or $200 VIP table of 4 with complimentary bottle of champagne. Doors open 8pm. Networking & prize giveaways 8 – 9 pm. LIVE Music Showcase 9 – 11pm, followed by an afterparty with DJ Nelski spinning the best in classic and current hits. For details click HERE. KBAR READERS EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT: to receive $5 off the $25 ticket price, enter “KBAR” in the discount code when ordering tickets in advance here.

The Harvard Art Museum presents an M. Victor Leventritt Lecture: In Conversation: On Rotimi Fani-Kayode Thursday, JANUARY 29, 6pm at the Harvard Art Museum/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, MA. Free admission, reception to follow. Fani-Kayode was born in Nigeria in 1955 to a prominent Yoruba family who left Africa as refugees in 1966. After receiving his formal education in the USA, he settled in the UK in 1983, where he lived and worked until his death in December 1989. Intensely personal and politically engaged, Fani-Kayode’s oeuvre is central to various critical discourses in British photography of the late 20th-century. This discussion and the related exhibition, Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989): Photographs at Harvard’s Rudenstein Gallery, mark 20 years since Fani-Kayode’s death. A founding member and first chair of Autograph ABP, the exhibition is closely linked to the establishment of Autograph ABP’s Archive and Research Centre for Culturally Diverse Photography

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), in collaboration with the Family-to-Family Project presents the Boston Premiere of Where God Left His Shoes, starring JOHN LEGUIZAMO on Thursday, JANUARY 29 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 general admission; $9 members, students, and seniors. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (617) 478-3103. Where God Left His Shoes (2007, 96 minutes, 35mm) is the story of a family that refuses to break apart during the darkest time of their lives and discovers that they will survive as long as they have each other. The film was directed by Salvatore Stabile and stars John Leguizamo and Leonor Varela. When Frank, Angela, and their two children are evicted from their New York City apartment, they have no choice but to move into a homeless shelter. After a few difficult months, good news comes their way on Christmas Eve: a nearby housing project has an apartment available immediately- however, Frank needs a job on the books in order to qualify. While the rest of the city prepares for Christmas, Frank and his 10-year-old stepson roam the cold streets of New York trying to find a job by day’s end. The Cambridge-based Family-to-Family Project has been aiding families that are losing or have lost their homes since 1988. For more information, visit the Family-to-Family website here.

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