Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #85

September 17th, 2010  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


723 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #85 (pictured: Anthony Brown)
The ANNUAL JOHN COLTRANE MEMORIAL CONCERT is, for the 33rd edition, refreshed from the apparently bottomless well of this tenor saxophonist, band leader, and composer’s musical outpouring.
California drummer ANTHONY BROWN’s Asian American Orchestra will perform “India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane” at Northeastern University’s Blackman Auditorium, Saturday evening, SEPTEMBER 18, at 7:30 pm.
The Grammy nominated contingent was founded in 1998 with monies resulting from reparations paid to survivors of the Japanese-American interment program in California during World War II and seeks to educate the public nationally about that experience. The group’s recordings include the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn’s “Far East Suite” and “Monk’s Moods” with saxophonist Steve Lacy. Among the Asian instruments to be heard in the JCMC concert will be the sheng (Chinese mouth organ), the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), the sarod (North Indian flue), and the tabla (North Indian drums).
In recent years the JCMC has divined Coltrane’s legacy by presenting variously his son, post bop jazz saxophonist Ravi Coltrane; the rap artist Guru of Jazzamatazz fame and his musical reflections on ‘Trane; pianist McCoy Tyner who is the last living part of Coltrane’s greatest quartet; the traditional African dance of DeAma Battle’s Art of Black Dance And Music which focused on ‘Trane’s “Kulu Se Mama” recording, and Pharoah Saunders, whose multi phonic technique was developed while playing with Coltrane.
These artists were integrated into the traditional casting of Boston musicians who have participated in the JCMC since its beginnings in 1977 in a loft in Boston’s leather district. Percussionist Syd Smart, who staged that initial tribute in the Friends of Great Black Music Loft, has continued with the concert all these years and will be recognized for his musical leadership with a special lifetime achievement award at the Saturday night concert.
India and Africa figure largely as themes in Coltrane’s work in his later years. The recording “Live At The Village Vanguard” (1961), features India recognizing Coltrane’s spiritual quest and enlarged artistic vision. From Nigerian drummer, Babtunde Olatunji, Coltrane learned about musical traditions from West Africa, his ancestral homeland. Coltrane’s initial “Impulse” lp introduces “Africa,” a work featuring his extended improvisations. John Coltrane (1926-1967) had as his bedrock influences the music of his childhood community in segregated rural North Carolina and later the urban sounds of Philadelphia: African American gospel, spirituals, work songs, blues, jazz, and R&B.
“The concert goes forward as bigger and broader than the soundscape of Boston regulars because we are trying to be the interpreter for the different ways of looking at Coltrane’s influence,” says Emmett G. Price, III, one of the leaders of the team staging the concert and its allied events. Price is the chair of the African American Studies program at Northeastern University and an associate professor in the school’s music department. With Price at the helm is saxophonist Leonard L. Brown, an associate professor in the College of Arts at Northeastern who brought the JCMC to Northeastern 25 years ago when Brown began teaching at the school.
Coincidently the JCMC jibes with the publication of a book edited by Brown, “John Coltrane & Black America’s Quest For Freedom/ Spirituality and Music” (Oxford University Press). With essays from well known commentators on Coltrane’s music, from saxophonist Salim Washington who resided on Fort Hill when he wrote a dissertation at Harvard on Coltrane, to WGBH radio deejay Eric Jackson who often introduces a Coltrane recording with an insightful bit of background information, the paperback will be presented to the reading public as a JCMC event.
The book signing and symposium with contributors Emmett Price, Amthony Brown, Tommy Lee Lott and Eric Jackson (moderated by Leonard Brown) was held at the John D. O. Bryant African American Institute on the Northeastern campus, Thursday night, September 16. The book has a forward by renowned composer and musicologist T. J. Anderson.
Price notes that the book reemphasizes that there is a “right of passage” for musicians to be welcomed into the jazz fold. “It’s not only your chops,” he said, “but you want to know the pedigree and the repertoire. So if you play sax, for instance, you want to have studied, to name a few, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and John Coltrane.”
For those admirers of Coltrane and this concert series, the Friday evening event from 6-8pm should put them in a sentimental mood. Raytheon Auditorium on the Northeastern campus is the site for “Reflections: a 25 Year Retrospective on the John Coltrane Memorial Concert at Northeastern University,” which will include vintage audio and visual footage along with reminiscing. “Northeastern understood early on, the importance of the JCMC and supported it,” notes Price.

In essence, the JCMC “explores the observable fact about John Coltrane’s music that the more you know of it, the more there is to be known about it,” says Price.

By Kay Bourne
Official Website of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert

724 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #85 (pictured: Lindsey McWhorter)
History has its mysteries for actors, maybe especially for an actor of color.
LINDSEY McWHORTER as Abigail, a Zimbabwe woman, – confident, smart and ambitious – in the AIDS play “In The Continuum,” sinks into misery after she learns she is HIV positive. Her virtuoso performance of a woman infected by the man who is her sexual partner, chilled and moved audiences in the plucky Up You Mighty Race production directed by Akiba Abaka last season.
“It was really exciting for me as an actor,” McWhorter says, “almost a dream. I really got to create as long as it lined up with her vision as a director. It was so up front.”
SpeakEasy Stage Company returns McWhorter to the Boston stage, this time in a play set in an earlier century but again in a story of women at the mercy of the men in their lives. Sarah Ruhl‘s acclaimed Broadway comedic drama “In The Next Room (or ‘The Vibrator’ play)” is set in the 1880s following the Civil War in a spa town outside New York, most likely Saratoga Springs.
McWhorter says she’s doing research on the period, “but what I love about Sarah Ruhl’s writing is that it’s so intuitive. It’s very easy to access the emotions and throw myself into the role emotionally.”
The provocative 2010 Tony Nominee for Best Play is based on the historical fact that in this period, at the dawn of the age of electricity, doctors used vibrators to treat ‘hysteria’ in women and sometime in men. Ruhl’s play focuses on Dr. Givings, a specialist in gynecological and hysterical disorders, and how his practice of this new electric vibrator therapy affects his entire household.
McWhorter plays a wet nurse, Elizabeth, a married woman who has recently lost an infant to cholera (which like AIDS was a pandemic). She is hired by Dr. Givings to breast feed the Givings’s new baby (a custom of the day), when Mrs. Givings’s milk has dried up.
McWhorter said in a recent phone conversation that she finds it “definitely more difficult” portraying a black woman of the 19th century as compared with developing the part of Abigail who lives in the 21st century. Still, Elizabeth’s situation “hits viscerally and though you are a woman now, not then, you get what’s going on.”
“It requires more research,” she notes, giving as an example, “hand gestures. I talk with my hands but in those times, women kept their hands at their sides or crossed in front of them. The notion was that women were seen but not heard. That they were quiet.”
As to Elizabeth in particular, “she’s in a push and pull situation,” describes McWhorter. “She has her sorrow and her pain and she’s still trying to fill that emptiness (of losing a child) yet at the same time make a living.
“I love this role and it’s so challenging for an actress. The depth. The complexity. There’s so much in her relationship with Katherine (Mrs. Givings who is at once grateful her baby has nourishment but at the same time becomes jealous of the baby’s affection for Elizabeth).
‘Elizabeth has something Katherine needs yet she envies her and even so at some points we’re developing a friendship. I love Elizabeth,” McWhorter said.
McWhorter first gained a sense of the past for black women growing up in Alabama. Born in Atlanta, her family moved to Jasper, a small town outside Birmingham where the heat in the summer defies your understanding of how people slaved in the fields or crawled into the fiery hot mines when Birmingham was a center for the iron and steel industry.
A graduate of Alabama State where she earned a B.A. in Theater Arts, she went on to Brandeis to get an MFA in Acting. Here she bonded with Ramona Lisa Alexander as the two women of color in the graduate program. “We became extremely close,” says McWhorter who acted with Alexander in “As You Like It” and other classics in school and then with Up You Mighty Race Theater Company in the two women play “In The Continuum.”
“We trust each other,” says McWhorter about taking things to the max on stage. “It’s where-ever you go, I’m going with you.”
Following Brandeis, McWhorter, an Equity actor, has worked at the Hangar Theatre, Yale, and the Berkshire Theater Festival, among other regional stages.
“I’m drawn to acting,” she says. “I love telling people stories. Although I’ll never know if I changed a person’s life from a performance, the idea of that really makes me feel I can’t do anything but act. There’s nothing else I would want to do.
“Being on stage. Telling a story. Changing a life. There’s nothing better.”

By Kay Bourne
Official website of Speakeasy Stage Company

725 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #85 (pictured: L-R: Michael Borges, Lexie Frare, and De’Lon Grant ) Photo Credit: Mark S. Howard
The fun in the feel good “THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTRY SPELLING BEE” derives from the attributes and peculiarities of the six young finalists vying for a spot in the nationals: the hippie kid Leaf Coneybear with the sweet disposition who designs and sews his own clothes including a superman like cape; the super sized, obnoxiously self assured William Barfee (pronounced like parfait) with the permanently stuffed nostril and troublesome mucous as well as an allergy to peanuts who has the misguided belief he looks good in shorts. You get the idea.
O.K., laughs solely based on the oddities of these children, by itself, would be mean spirited, but we’re also clued in to the emotional backdrop that has produced such driven youngsters.
LISA YUEN is mind boggling as Marcy Park whose talents seemingly know no bounds from twirling a baton to playing the keyboards. SAM SIMAHK is outstanding as boy scout Chip Tolentino, whose latest badge would seem to be in sexual arousal. KRISTA BUCCELLATO plays the anxious Olive Ostrovsky with a touching sweetness. Leaf Coneybear is endearingly played by MICHAEL J. BORGES. DANIEL VITO SIEFRING plays the often insufferable William Barfee to a tee. LEXIE FRATE is perfect in the role of Schwatzy who’s trying to please two pushy parents.
Only one speller can win a place in the Big Time, but each of these misfits has a triumph before the evening’s out which really matters more.
The tightly knit production under the sensitive eye of director/choreographer STEPHEN TERRELL achieves that delicate balance of hilarity with pathos.
Terrell has apparently worked with many of the actors previously or has a sense of what they can do since most of them have a tie to Emerson College where he heads the musical theater program. So while the characters twirl in their own orbits, there’s a strong ensemble feel to the performance overall. The high point of his choreography is a hilarious Rockettes-like chorus line made up of the kids.
Additional spellers are recruited from the theater-goers waiting in the lobby before show time and their participation along with topical references woven into the dialogue gives the show an improvisational feel that kicks up the excitement a notch or two.
The adults associated with the spelling bee have their own issues, as for instance, the sullen Mitch Mahoney (played with a jaded weariness by De’LON GRANT) who’s been assigned to the bee as his community service. He functions as a counselor to the losers, ushering them out of the contest area.
KERRI JILL GARBIS plays host/emcee Rona Lisa Peretti with an appropriately unquenchable enthusiasm for spelling bees and the higher good they do. WILL McGARRAHAN gives Assistant Principal Douglas Panch, who may be only recently recovered from a nervous break down, just the right amount of shiftiness.
The one-act musical comedy, conceived by REBECCA FELDMAN with music and lyrics by WILLIAM FINN and a book by RACHEL SHEINKIN, has kept some of the characters and dialogue that, like ‘Chorus Line’, were developed in a series of preliminary studio and regional experiments leading up to the 2005 professional Off Broadway staging. There’s a sense of reality that keeps the eccentricities in check to the benefit of the show’s dramatic effect.
Real too is scenic designer MATT WHITON‘s gymnatorium with its bleacher seating and shellacked floor – you can almost hear the squeak of sneakers from the basketball team whose banner decorates the wall. JONATHAN GOLDBERG and his hidden orchestra offer wonderful musical support for a score that is more about cavorting than balladry. SHAWN E. BOYLE‘s excellent lighting is especially important to differentiate the fantasy scenes from the starkly lit gym.
Performed without intermission, the engaging “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” spells entertainment for adults and older children.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” continues through OCTOBER 2 at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarenton Street.

By Kay Bourne
Official Site of the Speakeasy Stage Company

726 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #85 (pictured: Gioia DeCari)
Will you be wearing your Donald J. Pliners to GIOIA DeCARI‘s show? The fastionista math whiz will be sporting DJPs, the ones with the leopard spots. She loves the couture and has several pairs of the same style “because I wear them out doing my play,” she confided to KBAR in a phone interview.
Writer/performer and recovering mathematician Gioia (Joy-ah) De Cari had set aside her theatrical romp into the exotic boys club of higher mathematics at M.I.T. after deliberating that feminism had resolved the issues faced by girls and women who are good at math.
Then Larry Summers, at that point, President of Harvard, suggested in a public forum that women are inferior to men in math and sciences. Donning her spikes, De Cari dusted off “Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze,” a solo performance you can enjoy in a return engagement through SEPTEMBER 26 at the Central Square Theater, 450 Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. For more info call 617-76-9278.
An honors graduate of the University of California-Berkeley, De Cari got her master’s in mathematics from M.I.T. in 1988 but quit the field while working for her doctorate’s, and went into theater. The show resulted from her asking herself ‘Why did I leave math?’
In the one-woman comedy she makes the most of the absurdity of being pawed by nerds, being asked to serve cookies at a seminar, and retaliating with fashion experiments. “Truth Values” is also a serious exploration of the world of elite mathematics and the role of women in science. At M.I.T. her master’s topic was “beyond the arcane,” she describes. “It was in multi valued logic. If you add other truth values to a true or false evaluation, such as ‘maybe,’ ‘possibly,’ ‘forget about it,’ what happens.”
She agrees that her research might have real applications but when she left mathematics, “I left. I was very young when I left and I haven’t looked back.”
The show, which she developed under legendary coach Wynn Handman, formerly of Off Broadway’s American Place Theater, has “a little over 30 characters.” Morphing from one to another, some only for a really brief time, is the challenge for De Cari, who has been directed by Miriam Eusebio, a winner of two Off-Off Broadway awards for excellence.
De Cari says she moves from character to character “by the barest movement with hardly the bat of an eyelash. There is no changing of hats, no props.
“Every character has its own little unique thing. I spend a lot of time taking them out of my toy box and playing with them. Even if the character has only one line, I go to the park with them. Each of them has a rich life fabric, where they’re from and so on.
“All I have on stage is my physical and my voice and my movement,” she said.
She believes that the audience’s willingness to believe along with her “gives us a sense of our shared humanity that’s really powerful.”
Her transfer from mathematics to theater has meant that she has largely left solitude behind in exchange for working with an audience.

“The solitude of doing math was hard for me. I enjoy time alone but with math there’s an awful lot of that. And it’s hard to share math with other people, even for mathematicians to communicate with each other.
“I’m a person who likes to touch people’s heart, to share emotional things with them, and to share the beauty of an aesthetic that’s accessible,” she said.

By Kay Bourne
. Official Website of The Central Square Theater

727 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #85 AFFLECK is up to it again, doing what he does best, directing. His latest work, “THE TOWN” based on a novel by Chuck Hogan”s “Prince of Theives” is crime thriller about four guys who grew up together “in the family business” in Charlestown, MA. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robber surrounds himself with his partners in crime, especially Jem (Jeremy Renner), who, despite his dangerous, hair-trigger temper, is the closest thing Doug ever had to a brother. Their relationship and everything they’ve known as “townies” is tested when MacRay falls in love with hostage and bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), from their recent heist job, and Doug begins dreaming of the possibility of new life with Claire and leaving his old one and the town firmly behind him. However, with the Feds hot on the gang’s trail, led by Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm), and Jem questioning his loyalty, Doug realizes that getting out will not be easy and, worse, may put Claire in the line of fire.
Go see “The Town,” it will not dissappoint. From the story, to the captivating car chases, Affleck skillfully creates the mood and the backdrop for his latest film and the relationships between the characters is authentic Charlestown. With a beautiful array of Boston’s neighborhoods, the film gives a bit of MA nostalgia from the North End to Fenway Park, it’s always nice to see a familiar place in a major Hollywood film.

by Colette Greenstein Official Website of the movie The Town

BEANTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL – September 15-25. Click here for info. Check out RIFF and The Color of Film Collaborative at a booth on Saturday September 25th 12-6pm.

THE FORD HALL FORUM announces its fall series of free public discussions, and invites you to join experts and opinion leaders defining our world today. Questions from the audience are provided equal time as the speakers’ remarks. Come listen, question, and take part in this series of conversations that has been at the heart of Boston’s cultural and intellectual life for more than a century:

  • SEPTEMBER 30 – “AIDS, Social Justice and The Politics of Transformation” * What does prejudice, violence, substance abuse, and poverty have to do with stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS?
  • OCTOBER 7 – WHO IS WINNING THE CHILDHOOD OBESITY BATTLE? * Who is responsible for policing childhood obesity and what are the unintended consequences of the methods we’ve tried so far?
  • OCTOBER 28 – “AN EXTRAORDINARY UPBRINGING” * How did Condoleezza Rice’s parents shape the life of this extraordinary leader? CONDOLEEZZA RICE discusses her new memoir
  • NOVEMBER 8 – “AN ACTOR AND A GENTLEMAN” – LOUIS GOSSETT Jr. discusses his new memoir

All events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Click here for details.
THE MAKANDA PROJECT, a jazz ensemble, will play at the ROXBURY FOUNDERS DAY, Saturday, SEPTEMBER 18, held annually in Roxbury Heritage Park, Eliot Square on Fort Hill. The group is dedicated to performing the music of woodwind player and composer Makanda Kenneth McIntrye (1931-2001) who grew up in Roxbury and went on to chair one of the first African American Arts Departments (State University of New York at Old Westbury).Other artists at the celebration at the Dillaway Thomas House include Boston’s Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, and author Rochelle O’Neal. The event is sponsored by the Roxbury Action Program and the Heritage State Park running from noon to 5 pm is open to the public and is free, and will include Writerways Institute Free Books for Children.
DISCOVER ROXBURY presents a Highland Park Harvest Walk. After the April showers, May flowers, and a summer of growing, find out what Roxbury’s harvest looks like. Three months after the spring Highland Park Garden Walk, return for a follow up with the Highland Park/Fort Hill gardeners on Saturday, SEPTEMBER 18, 10am-12pm Rain or shine. Bring your questions and learn tricks of the trade for preparing gardens for the winter. The tour is led by the aptly-named Tom Plant. Please wear sturdy, comfortable shoes for walking up and down irregular ground. Begin at the Cooper Educational Ctr & Community Gardens, 34 Linwood St. Purchase $10 tickets in advance by calling 617-427-1006.
“CAMELOT” at the Trinity Rep in Providence, until OCTOBER 10 King Arthur has everything – peace, prosperity and a happy marriage . . . but will the arrival of the handsome Lancelot change Camelot forever? Trinity Rep’s reimagining of this musical masterpiece is a rich tale of love, honor, and the quest to create a legacy. For tickets and information click here.
Marshall Hughes will direct “Of Mice And Men” John Steinbeck‘s classic tale of brotherhood and the lives of migrant workers set during the Great Depression for the Roxbury Repertory Theater. The director of Visual, Performing, and Media Arts at Roxbury Community College and a founding director of RRT was given. the Kenneth A MacDonald Award for sustained excellence and devotion to community audiences at this year’s Independent Reviewers of New England’s award ceremony. “Of Mice And Men” will have 11 performances OCTOBER 27 – 30 and NOVEMBER 4-6 at RCC’s main stage. For more info you can phone 617-541-5380.
The Boston Athenæum presents author TARIQ RAMADAN, who will discuss his book “What I Believe,” on Tuesday, OCTOBER 12, at 6 p.m. This event is open to the public and admission is $15. For more information call (617) 227-0270. Dubbed “a Muslim Martin Luther” by the Washington Post’s Paul Donnelly, Tariq Ramadan is one of the most prominent-and controversial-voices of Islamic reform. His passionate criticism of American foreign policy has earned him enemies: in 2004, the Bush administration denied him entry to the United States under provisions of the Patriot Act, a ban that was lifted in January of this year. His outspoken criticism of Shariah law and dictatorships has made Ramadan enemies as well. As of 2009 Ramadan was persona non grata in Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Syria because of his criticism of “these undemocratic regimes that deny the most basic human rights.”
SAVE THE DATE for OCTOBER 22 – DINNER & A MOVIE Screening of the film “American Faust: from Condi to Neo Condi” a documentary film that takes a look at the rise of Condolessa Rice from her segretated southern past to one of the most powerful women in politics. Doors open at 5:30, Dinner at 6, Movie at 7:15. More details in next month’s KAY BOURNE ART REPORT (KBAR).
In 1956, five teens from Roxbury recorded their original song “Ka Ding Dong.” It hit and the G-CLEFS became stars. The Doo Wopp Hall of Famers (one of the few groups performing with its original members) open for ’50s teen idol Bobby Rydell (“Volare”) at the “20th Annual Barry L. Price Center Fundraiser and Concert,” NOVEMBER 5, at the Brookline Holiday Inn. The non-profit rehab provides services to adults and teens with developmental disabilities. For more info call 781-239-1480.

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