Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #75

September 3rd, 2009  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report

Contents
WILSON’S FENCES COMES TO THE HUNTINGTON
COLTRANE CONCERT CELEBRATES 32 YEARS
BRANDON MATTHIEUS TALKS ABOUT JERSEY BOYS
AN INTERVIEW AND REVIEW ON JULIA CHILD FILM
PONYO DELIGHTS BOTH KIDS AND ADULTS
UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFORMATION


WILSON’S FENCES COMES TO THE HUNTINGTON
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Dwight D. Andrews)

642 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75When DWIGHT D. ANDREWS, then the youthful resident music director of the Yale Repertory Theater and a theology student, sat down with aspiring playwright AUGUST WILSON in 1984, it was a match made in theatrical heaven – and one that has lasted through the years, even beyond the playwright’s death. Andrews, now 57, sat in the rehearsal hall at the Huntington Theater recently reminiscing about that professional friendship that saw original music from Andrews for six of Wilson’s plays, and now for “FENCES” (which opens at The Huntington SEPTEMBER 11, with KENNY LEON at the helm who is popularly famous for directing “Puffy” Sean Combs in “A Raisin In The Sun” on Broadway and TV).d

Famed director (debut of LORRAINE HANSBERRY‘s “Raisin In The Sun” on Broadway) and the head, then of the Yale Repertory Theater, LLOYD RICHARDS had brought Wilson to Yale to stage “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (which would go on to Broadway and inaugurate the mighty decade by decade outpouring of plays about the Black experience in American in the 20th century). Taken from the title of a song by Ma Rainey, referring to the Black Bottom dance, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” takes place in a Chicago recording studio where she and her band members have arrived to record a new album of her songs. In an early form it had been staged in 1982 at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center where Richards also directed. The play is the only one of the ten-play cycle Wilson would eventually write that doesn’t take place in Pittsburgh and one of the five that was birthed at the Yale Repertory Theater.

“We sat in a small office, Lloyd, myself, and August, who held a yellow pad on which he would make notes,” recalls Andrews. “August was adamant that the actors had to be real musicians who could play the instruments. That was the first thing he said.” As a result of that edict, CHARLES DUTTON, a third year acting student at the drama school who was cast as a central character, Levee, moved in with Andrews to concentrate on learning to play the trumpet – Dutton and Andrews have remained close friends to this day. Wilson has famously said that his major influences are the four B’s – writers James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka, painter Romare Bearden, and the blues. “As a student of the music and the culture,” said Andrews, “I knew the music he wanted to know about, and also I was a student of religion and he always had questions about the Bible. Where is it in the Bible about the dry bones? he asked me at one point. (In Ezekiel 37: 1-3, there is the story of the resurrection of a dead nation from dry bones strewn in a valley.) Eventually that reference found its way into ‘Joe Turner’s Come And Gone.’ Wilson takes such references for his own purpose in a fascinating way.” The music for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” reflects both an early jazz period that Ma Rainey sang and a more sophisticated jazz from the next generation that Levee wants to play. Andrews says the first problem was to recreate Ma Rainey’s bluesy sound “in a way that would be effective for the 1980s. To that ear, her authentic sound would come across as crude and antique. She was one step out of the tent shows and one foot out of minstrelsy. Then there was Levee’s music so we needed a sound that points up that he’s the new music, the Louis Armstrong figure, and she’s the old. I poured over thousands of historical recordings and the other blues singers so I could come up with the music, the style, and continuity with the past.

“That’s why I had such a long relationship with August (my scholarship). “The other thing, is to resolve problems in a drama, we’d keep working at it. That was the other thing (that made our relationship such a good one),” he said. However much music Andrews brought into a show, “August himself set the limit. He was sensitive to his method of story-telling. He was always careful not to let the music overwhelm the drama.

“He was very clear that he was not writing musicals, he was writing plays,” said Andrews. “He regarded the play as the thing. He did not have a high regard for musicals. His preference and his passion was drama.”

The Pulitzer Prize winning “Fences,” which takes place in 1957, is the story of the embittered Troy Maxson a former Negro League baseball star who couldn’t migrate into the majors because of racism. Working as a garbage man, he is resentful of a world that denied him the national success he believes he deserved. Troy’s son Cory, an emerging football star in his high school, has offers based on his athletic prowess but his father refuses to support his son’s ambitions and gets in the way of Cory’s dreams. Troy’s wife Rose yearns for a more loving relationship with her husband, while Troy’s brother Gabriel, a mentally disabled war veteran who sacrificed for the same country that denied Troy his opportunity, offers a very different perspective on their world.

Andrews was the music director for the original production of “Fences,” some six months after “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that had taken all of the artists involved to Broadway. As Lloyd Richards describes in a forward to the play, “‘Fences’” encompasses the 1950s and a black family trying to put down roots in the slag slippery hills of a middle American urban industrial city that one might correctly mistake for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For “Fences,” Andrews has added some “continuity music that makes the scene changes seamless to the play, the music is a border and a bridge.” One example of the new music reflects on Sam Cooke in his gospel period before “You Send Me” when he sang with the Soul Stirrers: “Jesus Be A Fence All Around Me Every Day” recorded originally on SAR Records is a Cooke composition reworked by Andrews.

There will be a number of events in conjunction with the show that runs through Oct.11, including one at Roxbury Community College. On Mon, Sept. 14, a program, August Wilson’s Legacy,” will be at RCC’s mainstage at 7:30 pm. The free community event (which needs no reservation) will be led by Kenny Leon, director of “Fences” and a play later in the season by Lydia R. Diamond “Stick Fly.” Scenes from both plays will be performed.

Official Website of the Huntington Theater Company


COLTRANE CONCERT CELEBRATES 32 YEARS
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: john coltrane concert flyer)

643 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75The force in music that was John Coltrane has been celebrated by an annual concert now going into its thirty second year! This edition, “The Believer,” takes as its theme Coltrane’s concern with spirituality.

Saxophone player Leonard Brown, who has importantly been one of the people who kept these concerts coming since the tribute’s beginnings in a tiny loft near South Station, said that the title of this year’s weekend of events comes from Coltrane’s 1957 album (originally released by Prestige in 1963). He added that Coltrane had an epiphany at about the same time as this album was recorded which recognized the role of music as a force for good. Recovering from drug abuse now began to explore music for its spiritual resonance, eventually coming up with such master performances as “A Love Supreme.” Coltrane himself said in the liner notes of that album that “during the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.” In the 1965 album “Meditations,” Coltrane wrote about uplifting people, “to inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life.”

Brown also pointed out that with this emphasis on the spirituality Coltrane was linking into a significant theme explored by jazz musicians such as Jay McShann, who told Brown once that in the early years (late 1930s in Kansas City) “he wanted the band to sound like the mourner’s bench.” Perhaps, the best known example of the impact of spirituality on composition in the jazz world prior to Coltrane is Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” sung by Mahalia Jackson in the 1940s.

The opening concert at Northeastern University, Sept. 26 at 7:30 pm will be played by the John Coltrane Memorial Ensemble consisting of Carl Atkins, Leonard Brown, Sa Davis, Mark Harvey, Tim Ingles, John Lockwood, Bill Lowe, Jason Palmer, Bill Pierce, George W. Russell Jr., Syd Smart, Stan Strickland, Alvin Terry, and Gary Valente. There will be a special tribute to longtime curator and director of the Museum of the National Center Of Afro American Artists E. Barry Gaither. Co-producer with Brown of the weekend Emmett Price (the head of the African American Studies Dept at Northeastern University) says that Gaither’s ability to lead the NCAAA Museum for 40 years well evidences “a belief in that possibility” that art has a similar role to play as music in the lives of people.

The following day, Sunday afternoon at three pm, Sept. 27, the event moves to Hibernian Hall, the home of ACT Roxbury at 184 Dudley St. in Roxbury near Dudley Station. That concert features the playing of Stan Strickland, John Lockwood, Laslzo Gardony, and Yoron Israel alsong with appearances by Bill Lowe, Syd Smart, Jason Palmer, and Leonard Brown. Both concerts are hosted by Eric Jackson whose popular program on WGBH radio “Eric In The Evening’ has brought jazz to listeners for 28years.

In conjunction with the music programming is an exhibit of art works from artists currently with the African American Master Artists in Residence Program (AAMARP), a program run by Northeastern University since 1977. The art installation on the walls at Ryder Hall Atrium, 11 Leon St. on the Northeastern campus opens Sept. 1 and will be held over through Sept. 28. Participating artists include Gloretta Baynes, Susan Thompson, Hakin Raquib, Walter Clark, Shea Justice, Khalid Kodi, Don West, and L’Merchie Frazier, all of whom are responding in their work to jazz and other music. The John Coltrane Memorial Concert, now operating under the auspices of the Dept. of African American Studies at Northeastern, has been in residency at the university since 1986.

Price comments that the concerts, the recognition of E. Barry Gaither, and the exhibit of art by the artists of AAMARP all signal “the belief in the possibility of change” and is an important message for our times.

Official Website of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert


BRANDON MATTHIEUS TALKS ABOUT JERSEY BOYS
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Brandon Matthieus)

644 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75In the musical about four white singers from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey “The Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, black music takes a big bow as well. That considerable assignment belongs to a single actor Brandon Matthieus.

A one-man band, so to speak, Matthieus performs six roles from a French rap artist to a soul singer to a police detective and record executive and others – and does ensemble work as well.

“I’m given 45 seconds in what’s my quickest costume change,” he said in a recent phone conversation. Matthieus described getting out of one outfit of shirt, coat, and slacks, and getting into a pair of jeans, a sweater, and a hat, then getting up the stairs so he can enter at the opposite side of the stage from where he just exited.

He’s very grateful for the wardrobe people, those largely unsung heroes and heroines who insure his costumes are clean, pressed, and ready to wear. He works without the help of a dresser, however. “I learned from my three and a half years doing ‘The Lion King,’ on Broadway where I’d have to get from the puppets to the ensemble that it was much easier just to let me to it myself. (Matthieus played Simba on the first and second tour of the show).

Northwestern University majoring in voice but found that what had been a hobby for him came under constant critiquing which took the fun out of it. He transferred to Stanford University, “which had a better climate.” He thought at that time he’d go into film making, “I wanted to be a film editor,” but by chance a fellow classmate, former child star Danny Pintauro, introduced him to his agent. “They needed African American actors for a tour of “Rent” and then “The Lion King.”

At an early stage in The Four Seasons career when they were trying to get a record contract, one executive rejected them with the words, “come back when you’re black.” It was against the back drop of the ascension of black music in the broader American scene that the Four Seasons also climbed the charts. Matthieus first appears in the musical as French rap star Yannick who in 2000 had a hit with “Ces Soirees-La” (Oh, What A Night), a big song for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Later Matthieus also enacts Hal Miller of Hal Miller and The Rays doing “An Angel Cried.”

Official Website of Citi Center


AN INTERVIEW AND REVIEW ON JULIA CHILD FILM
by Joseph Crowley © 2009
(pictured: Julie & Julia book)

645 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75Judith Jones is the delightful 85-year-old former Knopf editor who discovered Anne Frank’s writings in a rejection pile, leading to the publication of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. She later edited Julia Child’s first book, MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING (co-written with Simone Beck and Louisete Bertholle) and formed a lifelong friendship with Child. Recently in town to talk about the film based in part on the life of Julia Childs, JULIE AND JULIA, Jones talked about Child, Meryl Streep who plays her and the new Nora Ephron film.

An American living in Paris, Jones met fellow US citizen Child, whom she called “a life force” and a “woman who insisted on having fun”, while Child was living with her US government employee husband. She thinks a great part of Child’s appeal on television was her “down-to-earth qualities … people really believed she was cooking and washing the dishes; indeed, they watched her do this ! “

Jones marveled at Streep’s interpretation of her close friend Child, calling the performance “a magical job”. And she got a kick out of the camera angles which make the 5’6″ actress pass as the 6’2″ French Chef. “Clever camera angles and special boots” Streep wore (off-camera) made the actress tower over her co- stars.

Invited early on in the project for input, Jones mentioned being grilled as to what books to place on the Child’s bookshelves in the film (“a very detailed woman” she said of Ephron) and visiting the film’s set. Ephron wanted to know how accurate Child’s film home was and had the set designer listen to Jones’s input.

Also, Jones added that Stanley Tucci’s performance as Child’s husband (a performance overshadowed by the two actresses) is “spot on. Paul was a very private man. He didn’t show emotions … Tucci is perfect.”

Finally, the spry, sharp Jones says the reason Child was so well-loved by the public is the chef, on camera, was “responding to the fun of cooking”. And that fun was contagious!

FILM REVIEW: Julie and Julia
by Joseph Crowley © 2009

The film follows the women’s stories. Child, the life of a US government employee living in Paris in 1949 and bored with her life, discovers cooking and forges ahead with a new interest that will eventually radicalize how Americans perceive food (this film focuses only on Child’s early cooking years). Confident and filled with life, Child ignores her first cooking teacher’s statement that she has “no talent”. Streep has a ball as the flamboyant Child and her fun is contagious.

Half the film is a fun, entertaining film with Meryl Streep (a knockout performance as the joyous, fun- filled Child), the film bogs down with the story of Julie Powell (Amy Adams in a role written as an annoying self-pitying whiner), who was inspired to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first cookbook within 365 days. Powell started a blog detailing this endeavor; it eventually prompted a best-selling book that inspired this film (which is also based on Child’s own memoir, MY LIFE IN FRANCE).

JULIE AND JULIA is two separate stories of very different women, half a century apart, frustrated in their lives who grow to find happiness as they pursue a creative outlet that changes their lives. It’s meant to be a light, frothy summer entertainment and it succeeds, with limitations.

Adams, a wonderful actress, has the tough assignment of portraying Powell (working a mundane job in post-9/11 Manhattan and living in a dumpy Bronx apartment with her husband). As written, Julie is not very likable, which bogs down a great portion of the film.

Still, at its best, JULIE AND JULIA is a delightful film that produces a lot of laughs, especially for locals who recall Child’s WGBH-TV’s widely-syndicated cooking show, THE FRENCH CHEF. Streep’s vocal skills are once more present, as she hits Child’s warbling voice and familiar mannerisms. The camera angles which make the 5’6″ Streep tower over most of the cast are hilarious and while the film may not be ultimately “nourishing”, it’s a good meal.


PONYO DELIGHTS BOTH KIDS AND ADULTS
by Faylis Matos
646 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75Hayao Miyazaki reclaims his title as “one of the most influential and admired directors working in animation today” with, PONYO, a delightful film for both children and adults. The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy Sōsuke and wants to become a human girl.

PONYO was a joy to watch and very heart warming. It would have definitely been the movie I watched over and over again as a child.

Initially, I thought PONYO would be a cheesy G-Rated, film, and difficult to sit through, but I found myself laughing at various scenes and smiling throughout most of the film. Miyazaki has a great eye for color, each scene was a like a story-book painting with extravagant uses of royal blue.

While some commentators refer to PONYO as the ‘Japanese version’ of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” it was nothing like the Disney classic. Although PONYO is a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s mermaid fairy tale, aside from the theme of love joining two worlds of land and sea, PONYO is a completely original idea in comparison. It was refreshing to see such a well done and exceptional children’s movie that deserves to be called a classic.


UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFORMATION
(pictured: Urban Nutcracker)
641 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75Urban Nutcracker Children’s Auditions Sunday, September 13, 2009 Auditions start at 1 pm and run through 3 pm: Ages 8- 10 Auditions start at 3 pm and run through 5 pm: Ages 11- 18 *Two years’ previous dance experience required. Limited to the first 200 children present. We are located at: Tony Williams Dance Center The Brewery, 1st Floor 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 Free parking. Close to Stony Brook T stop on the Orange line!

The World Premiere of Holy Ghosts, a rock opera by Larry Bell based on the play by Obie-winning playwright Romulus Linney, will be given Tuesday, September 15, at 8:15 at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. The opera, the first to be presented at the Berklee College of Music, features international operatic luminaries, baritone Robert Honeysucker, tenor Matthew DiBattista, and baritone Philip Lima, as well as rising stars Natalie Polito, soprano, and Ulysses Thomas, baritone, in a cast of 23 singers. All roles are sung by operatically trained singers, while the accompaniment is a rock band: electric guitar, electric bass, piano, synthesizer, and drum set. Composer Larry Bell will conduct. Please visit www.LarryBellmusic.com.

Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival-Boston’s largest and most popular outdoor festival-has expanded to nine days and nine stages at locations in Boston and Cambridge. From September 18 to 26, superstars and local artists will come together in free and ticketed offerings that have drawn upwards of 70,000 people of all ages from every neighborhood in Boston and all over New England. Tickets for all shows are on sale now, and will be available at the BPC box office at 136 Massachusetts Avenue, and through Ticketmaster at 617 931-2000 and ticketmaster.com. Call 617 747-2261 or visit berkleebpc.com for more information.

PLAYWRIGHT AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATED AND HIS LEGACY DISCUSSED WITH NEW GENERATION OF ARTISTS AT “AUGUST WILSON’S LEGACY,” FREE PUBLIC EVENT SPONSORED BY HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY AND ROXBURY COMMUNITY COLLEGE WHAT: In conjunction with the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Fences, director Kenny Leon and a panel of theatre artists discuss Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s legacy and look ahead to the next generation of playwrights at August Wilson’s Legacy, an event co-sponsored by the Huntington Theatre Company and Roxbury Community College that will be hosted by WCVB-TV’s Karen Holmes Ward. WHEN: Monday, September 14, 2009, 7:30pm WHERE: Roxbury Community College, Mainstage at the Media Arts Building, 1234 Columbus Avenue, Boston TICKETS: FREE and open to the public. No ticket required, but reserve a spot at huntingtontheatre.org/WilsonEventRSVP

(ähts): The Boston Arts Festival Celebrates its 7th Year Mayor Thomas M. Menino and presenting sponsor TARGET have announced that the 7th annual (ähts): The Boston Arts Festival will take place Friday September 11 from Noon – 7 pm, Saturday September 12 & Sunday September 13 from Noon to 6 PM, at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. “As we mark the 7th anniversary of the Boston Arts Festival with increased programming, I am proud to say that it has become one of the most anticipated events in Boston’s annual arts calendar. Our city is home to so many gifted visual and performing artists, and we look forward to celebrating their vast talent and work,” said Mayor Menino.Affectionately dubbed (ähts), The Boston Arts Festival is designed to launch Boston’s arts season and showcase more than 60-juried artists and Boston’s contemporary arts scene. Visual artists will exhibit and sell one-of-a-kind and limited edition works of art, covering a broad spectrum of creativity, in a specially designed artists’ village.

LET’S GET IT ON By Jill Nelson Now, in the spicy and raucously satiric follow-up to bestselling Sexual Healing, Jill Nelson returns with a smart and wickedly funny send-up of what women really want – and what can happen when they get it. In LET’S GET IT ON, (Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins, June 2009, $24.99, Hardcover) Beaucoup and her friends Acey Allen and LaShaWanda P. Marshall decide to franchise and open a new spa on a luxurious yacht moored off the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard. In addition to massage, facials, and reflexology, the women who summer on the island are a short boat ride away from fabulous, multi-orgasmic, safe sex from men trained to please women. It’s no surprise when the spa is an immediate success. But no good deed goes unpunished, and along with sexual ecstasy all hell breaks loose in LET’S GET IT ON. The women’s plan is soon complicated by insatiable clients, extortion, dodgy employees, and a desperate President who wants to outlaw recreational sexual activity. LET’S GET IT ON is the hilarious, bawdy, tale of women who challenge stereotypes and chew the scenery in pursuit of sexual and personal power. An Essence Book Club Pick, LET’S GET IT ON is a sensual delight. In the satirical tradition of Christopher Buckley, Ishmael Reed and Carl Hiaasen, Jill Nelson tackles politics, women’s sexuality and class pretension with honesty, insight and scathing wit.

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