Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #78

December 23rd, 2009  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report

Contents
HOLMES DESIGNS FIRST NIGHT BUTTON
PRINCESS TIANA SAYS: FOLLOW YOUR DREAM
BAKER IN BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
‘PRECIOUS’ A HARD BUT HOPEFUL STORY
MANDELA UNITES NATION THRU RUGBY
MEN’S BOOK OFFERS MOMENTS OF TRUTH
EVERY DAY PRINCIPLES OF KWANZAA
HAPPY HOLIDAYS
UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFORMATION


HOLMES DESIGNS FIRST NIGHT BUTTON
by Kay Bourne
FREE TO BE (click the image to visit www.ekuaholmes.com)

668 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78EKUA HOLMES was taken by surprise when Boston’s First Night phoned her to say that they’d like to use her art for the graphic on this year’s button. The country’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve celebration is supported by sales of these buttons which are also the wearer’s “ticket” to inside events (the outdoors events are free).

“It was a complete surprise when they called me,” said Holmes.

Lois Roach,who has served as the project manager for First Night’s Neighborhood Network partnership with over twenty-seven community organizations since its start in 1994 that gets all of Boston active the night of the festivities, confirmed that she had recommended Holmes’s work, which can be seen on Holmes’s website, but that the artist was also the suggestion of other people connected with First Night.

The collage made from cut and torn paper from which the graphic was plucked is called “Free To Be,” one of the works from a series Holmes recently created on the subject of girl bonding when she was growing up, contrasted with girl bonding today.

“The joy of being with a friend, not having any particular toys but having each other’s company and that alone was a source of great fun. It’s comparing having chalk and a sidewalk with ‘gameboys’ and electronic games.”

The collage will be on display New Years’ eve at the Hynes Convention Center.

The First Night button caps a rewarding year for Holmes who had an artists residency in Vermont this past summer and this fall learned that her work was the illustration for the cover of the prestigious Boston Foundation‘s annual report. The Boston Foundation also made her a philanthropist-for-a-day, able to make money awards to a group or groups of Holmes’s choice totaling $2000.

“That too, was totally unexpected,” said Holmes, who is delighted with the opportunity.

Among the some 200 performances, from Shakespeare to a live monsters wrestling spectacle that begin at 1pm and continue through midnight, is “Top of the Rox” a mini film festival curated by The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. (which publishes the KBAR).

“Top of the Rox” presents five of the best films from that year’s Roxbury Film Festival (which is produced by ACT Roxbury and The Color of Film). Two of the films are set in Roxbury: the documentary about the impact of a mother and wife’s death (from complications of the AIDS virus) on the family she leaves behind “Calling My Children” and a narrative feature directed by Kemal Gordon and produced by Ken Gordon and Magnolia Gordon about how a negative example can inspire a positive success. The screening of the films, at the Hynes Convention Center, begins at 7pm.

Official Website of First Night Boston


PRINCESS TIANA SAYS: FOLLOW YOUR DREAM
by Lisa Simmons
669 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78 Behold! our first African American Princess in a major motion picture! as a positive thinking, mind-of-her-own, animated character. A beautifully crafted film with stunning effects and amazing singing set in the Jazz Age era, the musical “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” (Walt Disney Animated Studios) gives it all in bringing the character of Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) to life. She’s depicted as a hard working waitress whose dream is to own a restaurant of her own and cook some of the best food to be found in New Orleans’s culinary cordon bleu French Quarter. The basic story-line of princess kisses frog to release prince from an evil spell is drawn from the fairy tale by the Grimm brothers.

Tiana doesn’t want to marry a prince and become a princess in the traditional sense, she wants to be happy, and being an entrepreneur will make her happy she believes. While following her dream, however, she happens to meet a guy, who happens to be a prince (Bruno Campos). His life of privilege has made him unaware and aloof, qualities Tiana finds unattractive. The prince is changed into a frog by a magician (Keith David). The frog mistaking Tiana for a princess persuades her to kiss him. Bad luck! Instead of his shedding his froggy persona, she turns into a frog too.

Overlooking the fact that Tiana spends most of the film as a green frog, the story tells some important moral lessons for both kids and adults to take in. Wishing upon a star is one thing but it won’t get you your dream, you need to put in some hard work for it all to come true. That hard work is exactly what Princess Tiana does and it is because of that she is able to follow her dream all the way to fruition. Not to mention with the man who leaves his crown behind to help her get what she has always wanted. She’s a smart woman, that Tiana.

There has been a lot of talk about the Prince not being African American and stereotypical images like the voodoo character and the overweight “fairy godmother” (Jennifer Lewis) but come on, what we do have is a positive African American female character who in a multicultural world falls in love not with a man who she has selected because of his race or ethnicity but because of his caring and kind nature and his understanding of her dream. All the other characters in the movie are classic Disney and yes, the Voodoo guy (David Keith) can be a bit scary for children four and under, but no scarier than Skar in “The Lion King” or the Beast when he gets mad in the “Beauty and the Beast.” This is a Disney film of a new era, a new generation but with old style 2D animation which washes over you like butter. It is beautiful, unconventional, and wonderful to watch for the little girl inside of all of us. The music is by Randy Newman.

Official Website of the Princess and the Frog


BAKER IN BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
by Kay Bourne
(l to r: Sebastien Lucien, Jeannette Bayardelle, Gregg Baker, Cleavant Derricks.
photo credit: Marcus Stern.)

670 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78

A leading baritone with the Metropolitan Opera and many other American and European opera houses, currently the lead actor/singer in an R&B and gospel version of Shakespeare at The A.R.T., the imposing GREGG BAKER once dreamed of playing pro football.

“BEST OF BOTH WORLDS,” in which Baker sings the role of a king who flies into a jealous rage, continues through JANUARY 3 on the Loeb stage of the American Reperatory Theatre, 64 Brattle Street in Cambridge, MA.

A wide receiver for his high school in Chicago, the six foot, six inch sturdily built Baker says “I didn’t even sing around the house. I was headed for the NFL.”

A desire to take senior year easy got in the way, however. Baker recalls that his buddy advised him to sing in the choir, which rehearsed before school started, a position that would net him credits toward graduation. “I don’t know how to sing,” Baker demurred, but his friend said just lip sync. When Baker auditioned, the choir leader had him sing scales, then repeat the request. Wowed, he brought Baker into the choir which led to Baker singing as a principal with NBC’s New Performers associated with the Chicago Symphony.

A career underway, Baker relocated to New York.

“I’ve been very lucky,” he says. “I’m headed to my 40th year. It’s been a great ride. I’ve done a lot of things. I’m still growing as an artist and actor.”

From the performance in the jazzed up version of Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” Baker goes to Germany to take on one of the most challenging singing roles in opera repertoire, the title part in Wagner’s “Parsifal” at the Stuttgart Opera House.

Early on, at age 20, Baker joined the all-Black cast of the 1978 Broadway musical “Timbuktu,” a reworking of “Kismet” starring Eartha Kitt with costumes and choreography by Geoffrey Holder which ran for 243 performances.

“She became my stage mother and removed every doubt I might have had that I could do the role. She gave constant sage counsel: how to work, how to focus, how to take command of the stage. She and Geoffrey guided me.”

In 1975, he came to Boston with the national tour of the musical based on Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin In The Sun,” “Raisin” playing the lead Walter Lee Younger. Baker evaluates the role as “one of the best in musical theater I’ve ever played. Through it you see the entire plight of the Black man in America.”

“Best of Both Worlds” is a revisioning by Diane Paulus with her husband Randy Weiner of Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” using an all-Black cast. The psychological drama that devolves into a comedic romance contains Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Mostly sung in this version, the music is from Deidre Murray, a Pulitizer Prize finalist and two time Obie winner whose current projects include “Sweet Billy and the Zooloo’s” with writer Lynn Nottage for Colored Girl Productions.

“Best of Both Worlds” begins with the arrival of a company of actors traveling in a purple Cadillac, sort of reminiscent of Motown artists on the road, who then put on the play. Paulus, who directed the production and who is the new artistic director of A.R.T., “pitched” Baker to join the company as Ezekiel who misguidedly convinces himself that his wife has been unfaithful and outraged sets a tragic series of events in motion. Jeannette Bayardelle, who sang the role of Celie in tours of “The Color Purple” plays the Queen, while Cleavant Derricks, who originated the role of James Thunder Early in the Broadway production of “Dream Girls,” narrates the story (and plays The Bear).

Bakers observes that African Americans feel a “connection with Shakespeare’s work. “The angst he describes can be readily applied to the African American community who well grasp ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ (“Hamlet”)”

Best of Both Worlds ticket info


‘PRECIOUS’ A HARD BUT HOPEFUL STORY
by Joseph Crowley © 2009
(l to r: Mariah Carrey, Gabourney Sidibe, Lee Daniels, Monique, Paula Patton)

671 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78Based on the novel “Push by African American poet SAPPHIRE, “PRECIOUS” (Lionsgate) is possibly the most devastating, haunting film of the year. A grim account of the cycle of childhood physical, as well as sexual abuse, and poverty, the powerful, gritty story is presented by director Lee Daniels in a sure-handed, matter-of-fact way. Daniels, also African American, who produced “Monster’s Ball” that won Halle Berry a Best Actress Oscar in 2001, had his directorial debut in 2005 with “Shadowboxer” that starred Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Claireese “Precious” Jones (Gabourney Sidibe), an obese 16-year-old, already has a Down’s Syndrome child as a result of her father’s rape and is pregnant with her second child, also sired by her father. Her mother, (stand up comic Monique – in an Oscar-worthy turn) is a monstrous woman who never misses an opportunity to physically strike Precious or tell her how stupid and worthless she is.

A film not only about the effects of childhood sexual abuse, “Precious” also uses fantasy sequences in which we see the teenager go into another world in order to cope with her hellish day-to-day life. In these fantasy moments – in which people are actually kind to Precious – we see our heroine as a princess, a movie star – as a figure worthy of positive attention.

In truth, however, the overweight, illiterate Precious has very little positive in her life. She has been told her entire life that she deserves to be abused by the two strongest authority figures in her life – her mother, and her father. The fact that Precious has not given up on life – that she actually has hope – is attributable not to good parenting (obviously), but to the inner strength of one child (remember, she’s only 16) who has been raised to believe her only worth is in concert with her parents’ worst, most sociopathic instincts.

Her fortune changes when Precious is transferred to a special learning school led by a kindly teacher (Paula Patton) in a standout performance, who sees through Precious’s severely disaffected depression and offers a beacon of hope. Precious responds, which sets her on a path to a new and better life.

“Precious” contains award-worthy performances from Monique, Gabourney Sidibe, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey, who shows impressive, active chops in the decidedly unglamorous role of a Harlem social worker. Director Daniels’ blending of the fantasy sequences with the raw, tragic life of Precious is beautifully orchestrated. An important, raw film, “Precious” will not soon be forgotten.

Official Webite of The Film Precious


MANDELA UNITES NATION THRU RUGBY
by Lisa Simmons
673 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78Ok, so I am a sucker for these kinds of movies: Transformation of characters, countries, and the world through some kind of sporting event, in this case rugby. “INVICTUS” (Revelations Entertainment/Warner Brothers) has all the elements of this genre of filmmaking and its producer/director, CLINT EASTWOOD, once again proves he is a powerful storyteller.

The film is based on John Carlin‘s book “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation.” It takes two characters, the then president of a South Africa ravaged from the years of apartheid, the heroic Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and the South Africa rugby team captain, super athlete Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) as a prism through which to see a way to unite a divided country. We never get too ingrained in the lives of these two individuals, rather Eastwood uses them symbolically to portray exact opposites so as to tell the story of bringing together a divided country through Mandela’s ploy of cheering on an underdog sports team.

Not knee deep in emotional turmoil or the political rhetoric, “Invictus,” (the title comes from a short poem by William Ernest Henly which Mandela read to himself while in prison on Robben Island) shows us how we all can look within ourselves in the face of adversity and find something that might inspire, teach, or lead those around us. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” were the lines he read, over and over.

If you’re looking to be inspired in these difficult days, “Invictus” is a film you’ll want to see.

The Official Website of The Movie Invictus


MEN’S BOOK OFFERS MOMENTS OF TRUTH
by Joseph Crowley © 2009
674 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78Every one of the thirty-one essays contained in “THE GOOD MEN PROJECT: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood,” edited by JAMES HOUGHTON, LARRY BEAN and TOM MATLACK, contains a “moment of truth”, as it were, that altered each man’s life ever after.

The unique, intriguing, endlessly fascinating collection runs the socio-economic ratio from a former gang banger (Julio Medina‘s BLOOD-SPATTERED, a story which, of itself, would make a great film, not unlike the current release PRECIOUS) to a CFO (co-editor Tom Matlack‘s sharply written CRASH AND LEARN) and just about every other type of male experience out there in America today. Black, White, gay, straight, poor, rich, ex-con, men from each of these categories open their hearts as they pen their own personal spiritual awakening.

The stories here are very brief. In their brevity, the writers astound as they demonstrate not only how words can be powerful – but also how just a few beautifully written sentences can resonate with every reader out there – whether they be male or female.

People often ask: “Why don’t men open up more about how they feel?” THE GOOD MEN PROJECT is not a mundane answer or self-help instruction book. Rather, it shows us how men – in their own words, not psycho-babble or New Age speak – really talk and think. The stories are so varied and accomplished, it’s hard to mention one over another. Here are a few of many standouts:

Norm Appel‘s PLUM ISLAND is the story of his older son’s overdose death. Appel, in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction himself, tells his story in a just-the-facts writing style, which makes the material all the more touching. Appel’s conscious choice to write sparingly about his son’s death and the pain that followed makes for heartbreaking, powerful storytelling.

Regie O’Hare Gibson‘s TALKING SHOP – about his childhood in Chicago, listening in his mother’s beauty shop to her African-American female clientele discuss men and relationships – is hilarious. His highly entertaining take on a little boy’s observations of some very opinionated ladies – and how these woman shaped his view of all women – will have you howling out loud.

SILENCE, Joe D’Arrigo‘s award-worthy story about his thirty-five year relationship (from high school onward) with his late wife is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve read in years. His story focuses on the last year of his wife’s life, after she was diagnosed with cancer, yet manages to tell the reader everything one needs to know about their entire relationship with a few carefully chosen scenes from their lives. D’Arrigo – writing for the first time here, at age 66 – proves it’s never too late to grow in new ways, a lesson his late wife would surely appreciate.

From laugh out loud funny to crying, THE GOOD MEN PROJECT is something to be read by all. It is also a 54-minute documentary film. Each can be ordered online, a perfect way to start a discussion in the New Year for the men in your life – and for the women who want to know how men really think – and feel – about life.

Official Website of the Good Men Project


EVERY DAY PRINCIPLES OF KWANZAA
675 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #78The seven days of KWANZAA, a non-religions holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, is celebrated from DECEMBER 26 to JANUARY 1, as a time to reconfirm one’s dedication to the family and community while recounting the seven principles of KWANZAA:
  1. Unity (Umoja),
  2. Self Determination (Kujichagulia),
  3. Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima),
  4. Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa),
  5. Purpose (Nia),
  6. Creativity (Kuumba) and
  7. Faith (Imani).

Click here to view host Janet Cormier and guest De Ama Battle of The Art of Black Dance discuss the history and traditions of Kwanzaa on a Somerville Community tv episode.

Also, Brother Rumas, founder of Life Symphony Inc.’s presents a free community KWANZAA event on Saturday, DECEMBER 26 from 2-4pm at Dudley Branch Library, 65 Warren St. Roxbury. Bring a drum and join in, all ages welcome. Refreshments served. For info call Dudley Branch Library, (617) 442-6186 The Official Kwanzaa website


HAPPY HOLIDAYS
All of us at KBAR want to wish you and your families a very happy holiday season. Thank you for being such loyal readers and for all of your notes and kind words. We work hard to bring you the most interesting, unique and in-depth stories that not only affect you, but we hope, inspire you and motivate you to participate in the incredible arts programs and institutions in our Commonwealth. From all of us to all of you. Thank you.


UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFORMATION
The Museum of Fine Arts, presents a FREE Community Day on Thursday, DECEMBER 31, 10am – 4:45pm, 465 Huntington Avenue, offering free admission to the museum’s permanent collection as well as special exhibitions such as The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC; For info, call 617-267-9300.

Authors Without Borders, a consortium of published authors, presents the panel discussion “New Age Challenges in Writing and Publishing” at Jamaicaway Books on Friday, JANUARY 8, at 7pm. Five local authors, Willie Pleasants, Michael J. DeCicco, Patricia Perry, Alberta H. Sequeira, Joyce Keller Walsh, offer advice to aspiring writers covering topics such as: the impact of e-books on writing and publishing; the advantages/disadvantages of agents, traditional publishing, and self-publishing; and how to market your work. For more information, call Jamaicaway Books & Gifts, 676 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain at (617) 983-3204.

The Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Intensive Community Program (ICP) presents a free, community Martin Luther King Day Family Concert at Faneuil Hall, starting at 3pm, featuring music and readings from MLK speeches. Presented in association with The Museum of African American History and The City of Boston.

Black masculinity has been embattled since the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Artist CULLEN WASHINGTON, JR.’s paintings conjure up a new mythology pitted against that brooding past with “Hero’s Story,” a new exhibit of his work currently on display at the Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists, 300 Walnut Avenue, Roxbury, until JANUARY 10. For more info click here or call the Museum at 617-442-8614.

The RaNdOm CuTs Film Series is accepting submissions of short films, including narratives, docs, animation and experimental films by independent, established, and amateur filmmakers, as well as Digital Media and Digital Film students. For guidelines and more information, contact Prof. MJ Peters at mpeters@umassd.edu or 508-999-8304.

The Boston Public Library is seeking works for its Made in Massachusetts, local filmmaker screening series held every week in 2010. Interested filmmakers should contact Kathy Dunn, Communications Department, The Boston Public Library – Copley, at 617-536-5400 x4319 for submission guidelines.

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