Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Event Pick: Manual Cinema at University of Richmond on March 1

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 11:30 AM

With sophisticated shadow puppetry, Chicago troupe Manual Cinema is remaking the boundaries of theater.
  • With sophisticated shadow puppetry, Chicago troupe Manual Cinema is remaking the boundaries of theater.

Looking for something different for your hump day? The Chicago troupe, Manual Cinema, has got you covered . . . especially if you're a fan of puppets. Or live movies.

A 2016 Drama Desk Award-nominee, Manual Cinema is a performance collective, design studio and film/video production company that presents brilliant, cinematic puppet shows that can be downright spooky, or the New York Times put it, "phantasms to die for."

With stories that are told non-verbally, the group transforms the experience of cinema and makes a true hybrid with theater as a cast of six puppeteers use hundreds of paper puppets, seven overhead projectors, two cameras, and three screens to create a live “movie” in front of the audience.

Just check out this behind-the-scenes video for yourself:

Here's a little bit about the show, Mementos Mori, they will be performing this Wednesday, March 1 at the University of Richmond.

When Death takes an unexpected holiday, an elderly film projectionist finds a new lease on life; a ghost explores the afterlife with her iPhone; a 7-year-old girl discovers her own mortality. In Manual Cinema’s most ambitious show to date, a cast of six puppeteers use hundreds of paper puppets, seven overhead projectors, two cameras, and three screens to create a live “movie” . . . Accompanied by four musicians and live sound effects, the result is a rich mosaic of cinematic storytelling. Mementos Mori is a lively, beguiling meditation on death and dying.

Manual Cinema performs Wednesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Alice Jepson Theatre. Tickets range from $17 to $34 (adults). Go here to learn more or buy tickets.

Show Announcements: Elvis Costello and the Imposters at Classic Amphitheater this June

Funk legend Lee Fields among first artists announced for Friday Cheers.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 10:00 AM

North Carolina-born funk crooner Lee Fields recorded his first single in 1969.
  • North Carolina-born funk crooner Lee Fields recorded his first single in 1969.

Legendary British singer and songwriter Elvis Costello is returning to Richmond with his band, the Imposters, for the Imperial Bedroom and other Chambers tour on Tuesday, June 20 at the Classic Amphitheater at the Richmond Raceway Complex.

Tickets go on sale Friday, March 10 at 10 a.m. and you buy them here.

Also announced today were the first two acts of the Friday Cheers line-up this summer: Funk legend Lee Fields performs with locals, Kings, on Friday, May 5 for $5. That should be a nice one.

And on Friday, May 12, the Bay Area newschool funk of Con Brio performs with the more global dance groovers, Red Baraat. Also $5.

Show Announcement: Aaron Neville at the Tin Pan in June

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Legendary crooner, Aaron Neville.
  • Legendary crooner, Aaron Neville.

Inimitable crooner and New Orleans legend, Aaron Neville, will be performing at the Tin Pan on Saturday, June 17 at 8 p.m. for what is sure to be a highlight of the summer concert season.

Tickets are $79.95 or $84.95 at the door and can be purchased here.

Neville rarely plays intimate venues this size anymore, if you're wondering why the steep price. Also if you're wondering whether it will be worth it -- just listen to his big hit again (he still sounds like this):

From the press release:

Aaron Neville’s incredible career has seen him move seamlessly back and forth between solo work and his role in the Neville Brothers, known as the “First Family of New Orleans Music.” His first hit single was the landmark “Tell It Like It Is,” which held the number one spot on the R&B charts for five weeks in 1967. He went on to win GRAMMY Awards for his triple-platinum 1989 collaboration with Linda Ronstadt, Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, and reached the country charts with the title track of “The Grand Tour” in 1993.

His latest release, "Apache," is a solo album that makes the case for Aaron Neville as the most holistic of soul men. It is hard R&B that matches anything the Neville Brothers ever recorded for true grit, while still allowing plenty of space for a singer who is arguably the most distinctive vocal stylist on the planet to tell it like it is. Apache also reflects Neville’s social and spiritual concerns, marking only the second time in his fifty-six-year recording career that he has cowritten nearly an entire album’s worth of material. The words are straight out of a poetry journal he began keeping in the 1970s.

“The voice of Aaron Neville is the greatest export of New Orleans.”—Guardian

“The man still sings like an angel who’s swallowed a wah-wah pedal. It’s that blend of unforced sweetness, honesty and melodic sensibility that still makes his music so believable after a career spanning more than five decades.”—NPR

Calling Richmond Artists

Public Arts Coordinator encouraging locals to apply for Hull Street Library project.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 9:00 AM

The location for a new art work in front of Hull Street Library.
  • The location for a new art work in front of Hull Street Library.

The giant rings along the river are from a Denver-based artist. The forthcoming Maggie Walker statue is by a Maryland artist. And the emancipation proclamation statue coming to Brown’s Island is by an Oregon-based artist. (Side note: all white men.)

Every time a new public art project comes to town, folks are upset if it’s not by a Richmond artist. But, as public arts coordinator Ellyn Parker said at a Thursday Public Arts Commission meeting: “A local artist can't get the commission, if no local artist applies.”

To that end, Parker is encouraging local applications for an upcoming work to be installed front and center at the Hull Street Library, where a bush and sign now stand.

There are two informational meetings happening Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. and March 4 at 1 p.m. where artists can learn more about the project and how to apply. The allocation is $51,000 for the art, Parker says.

The official request for proposals will be posted after the meetings, but Parker shared this draft language with Style.

This Call for Artists requests proposals for original or existing artwork to be located in small plaza area in front of the Hull Street Library. The artwork should strengthen the identity of the library as a community asset and also help to create a sense of place. The location for the art work will be visible to library patrons, pedestrians and automobiles so the piece should be iconic and engaging, while considering that it is located in neighborhood library that is well utilized by both families and elderly residents and therefore should be a piece that can be relatable to all ages. The artwork needs to consider durability and weather and be suitable for longevity. This location is suitable for a sculpture, installation or other integrated piece of art that will complement the space. Electrical connection is available and a lighted piece of artwork is highly desired. No murals or paintings will be considered as appropriate submissions.

Commission members would also have you know that the bush being removed is quite small. “This is not an historic bush,” joked one member on Thursday.

Have at it, Richmond artists.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Round Up: Jonathan Richman Returns to the Camel, Mr. White Goes to UVA, and a New Bowling Alley for Scott's Addition

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 3:40 PM

Bryan Cranston, pictured here as Walter White from "Breaking Bad," will be speaking at John Paul Jones Arena in March.
  • Bryan Cranston, pictured here as Walter White from "Breaking Bad," will be speaking at John Paul Jones Arena in March.

A few notable items from today:

Richmond BizSense has some news about a new high-end bowling alley planned for Scott's Addition, which only recently had geek hearts like ours humming with news of two new arcade venues.

Let's see: great craft beer options, a nearby cinema with art films, plus bowling (River City Roll is a great name, btw) and two arcades/bars -- right near a heap of new apartments, many taken by young millennials sans kids? Wow. It's almost starting to feel like a cooler version of one of those planned communities in Short Pump. The apartment owners must be feeling pretty good about now.

In music news, solo artist and legendary performer, Jonathan Richman of Modern Lovers fame, will be returning to the Camel on Tuesday, April 11 with his longtime drummer, Tommy Larkins. Tickets are $15, go here to buy them.

Looking for a weekend getaway in C'ville?

Famed actor Bryan Cranston will be UVA's President's Speaker for the Arts on Sunday, March 26 at John Paul Jones Arena.

The best-selling author and award-winning actor (because you can't help but be both nowadays) will "share reflections on his career as an artist and the impact that the arts have on our lives, education, and the world," per a press release. Academy Award-winning producer and University alumnus Mark Johnson will moderate the conversation.

If you're expecting meth recipes, you probably won't get that here. But who knows?

Also, from the release:

The event is free for students, staff, faculty and members of the local community. General admission tickets are free and will be available starting Wednesday at the following locations: UVA Arts Box Office (weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.); John Paul Jones Arena Box Office (weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.); ID Card Office located at Observatory Hill Dining Hall (weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Starting Thursday, tickets will also be available to print online at www.ticketmaster.com (search: JPJ Arena; note that Ticketmaster fees will apply).

There is a limit of one ticket per student and two for faculty/staff/community members at the box offices; up to four may be acquired online. Doors will open March 26 at 1 p.m.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vote for Richmond Bands to Play Lockn Festival

Voting lasts until March 1.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Richmond's reggae ambassador, Mighty Joshua.
  • Richmond's reggae ambassador, Mighty Joshua.

A number of rising Richmond acts are asking for your vote to help them take the stage at the large Lockn outdoor festival at the end of the summer.

The jamband-dominated festival, known for plenty of hippies and camping on site, takes place in Arrington, Va. on Aug. 24 through Aug. 27. This year's Lockn festival features headliners such as Widespread Panic, Avett Brothers and Phil Lesh and Friends.

Among the local groups who made the top 20 in the annual Rockn' to Lockn' contest are Mighty Joshua (reggae), Afro-Zen Allstars (world/funk), Big Mama Shakes (Americana), and the Atkinsons (Americana/roots). Click here to vote for your favorite.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pick: Album Release for Macon "McChicken" Mann at The Gypsy Room on Feb. 16

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 10:45 AM

Jazz pianist and rapper, Macon "McChicken" Mann.
  • Jazz pianist and rapper, Macon "McChicken" Mann.

The release party for Macon “McChicken” Mann’s debut CD “Grease Trap” promises to be a unique experience to two reasons. First, Mann is emerging as key player on the local scene. He’s a talented pianist and arranger who has been curating one of the most consistently fine series in the city, the Wednesday night jazz sessions in the basement lounge at Vagabond.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, his poultry-themed rapper alter-ego is totally bananas, a firehose flow with serious thought occasionally surfacing in a cascade of humorous absurdity.

He’s backed by a ten-piece band, including many fellow players from The Devil’s Workshop big band: Andrew Randazzo on bass, John Waters on drums, Jacob Ungerlieder on keyboard and David Hood, Logan Beaver, Steven Norfleet, Tim Turner and Kevin Simson on saxophones. With a $5 cover charge, that is only fifty-cents per player. And they throw in McChicken for free.

Not to mention Ivy League-educated RVA rapper Chance Fischer as the opening act.

The show takes place tonight, Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Vagabond's basement space, The Gypsy Room. Doors at 8 p.m., music at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Movie Review: "I Am Not Your Negro"

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Writer and social critic, James Baldwin.
  • Writer and social critic, James Baldwin.

As a young writer in the late 1940s, James Baldwin left America, disgusted by racism and wanting to obliterate his own boundaries.

Settling in Paris, he returned home only after seeing a photo of a young African-American student being spit on and taunted as she entered a desegregated school in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Everybody else was paying their dues and it was time I went home and paid mine,” his words echo at the beginning of the acclaimed documentary by Raoul Peck, “I Am Not Your Negro.” What follows is a solemn journey into the acerbic mind of a great American writer and cultural critic. The power of his insights make this one of the most engrossing documentaries of the year so far, even with a major oversight by the director.

Featuring masterful use of archival materials, the film is told entirely through Baldwin’s own, thought-provoking words -- from recorded speeches and television appearances to notes and letters voiced by actor Samuel L. Jackson. His gravitas melds seamlessly with Baldwin’s weary skepticism, almost as if the writer were speaking from the grave (he died in 1987).

But make no mistake: this is not a biographical sketch, or anything close to a full portrait of Baldwin, the man. Most noticeably, it omits hardly any mention of his gay identity – a startling oversight. What it does do well is tap into his passion for human connection that made him a great communicator.

In the late ‘70s, Baldwin was embarking on his final book manuscript (“Remember This House”) in which he planned to re-examine the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers – each of them not only assassinated, but also his friends – in hopes of having their legacies “bang against and reveal each other as they did in life,” he says.

The movie can feel scattershot at times, considering the juggling of excerpts and that Baldwin’s book was unfinished, but the words assembled here slowly take on a prophetic momentum. Through it all, the viewer is guided by Baldwin’s hard-earned insights on the psychological devastation wrought by America’s system of brutal racism. One gets the sense of a complex man who truly was ahead of his time, a former child preacher who recognized that the future of America is intertwined with the future of the black race in America.

Especially powerful is Peck’s interspersing of dramatic footage from modern riots in Ferguson, Missouri, with harrowing archival film from the heyday of civil rights struggles. What it reveals simultaneously is how much and little things have changed. Apart from the latest dramatic example on social media, most racism is far more insidious and class-based today – less in the open. As Baldwin writes, “The world is not white. ... White is a metaphor for power, and that is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank.”

It’s clear that Peck wants the film to celebrate and draw inspiration from Baldwin’s uncompromising approach to racial politics, and the movie’s most powerful moments come simply from clips of Baldwin himself, including a takedown of a Yale philosophy professor on the Dick Cavett show.

Baldwin doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but he does maintain hope for a future where any and all oppressors will face their need to subjugate or dehumanize “the other” – a pain he felt doubly as a gay black man.

While the film will be an eye-opener for anyone who has never thought deeply on the subject, more than anything you may come away wishing Baldwin had finished that last book. It probably would have been a useful text for the decentralized, leaderless swell of social justice movements today. 4 stars.

“I Am Not Your Negro” (95 minutes) opens at Criterion Cinemas at Movieland on Feb. 16 with showings at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Voices from the past emerge in Heritage Ensemble’s “Message from a Slave.”

Posted By on Sun, Feb 12, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Pamela Shaw.
  • Pamela Shaw.

Margarette Joyner is a woman with many hats to wear. The actress, director, professor and founder of the Heritage Ensemble Theater Company is also an award-winning playwright.

Her play “Reflections of a Black Cowboy” won a Sycamore Rouge playwriting competition and last year her original play “Sweet Chocolate and the Seven Christians” was nominated for an Artsie Award last year. She also wrote Heritage Ensemble’s upcoming production, “Message from a Slave,” which she calls “a gift.”

Joyner wrote the play back in the '90s, she says, quite by accident.

“I didn’t intend to write this play. I was in a little apartment and I had read a couple of slave narratives. And the storytelling was just so compelling. One day I just started speaking this woman’s story.” Aware that something significant was taking place, Joyner grabbed her tape deck and started recording.

“It was the strangest thing I had ever experienced. Mattie’s story just came to me,” Joyner says, referring to the titular character in her one-woman play. “A couple of weeks later, I just started speaking her daughter’s story.”

The play, which takes place over the course of two acts, tells the stories and experiences of two black American women, in their own voices.

“The story is really about undying love,” Joyner says. “In the midst of all this turmoil and all of what they went through, the through-story is undying love and trust in God.”

Joyner says she’s looking forward to opening night, which will be the first time that she sees how director Shanea Taylor and actress Pam Shaw have interpreted her work.

“The reason I turned it over to them is because I trust them,” Joyner says. She hasn’t attended any rehearsals because she wants to respect their process by not interfering with her own ideas of how the play should look or sound. “I’m doing the costumes,” she says, “but I’m doing them from a distance.”

Pam Shaw, who plays both of the mother and daughter roles in the play, says that taking on this script has been a journey.

“It has taken me back to my roots as a storyteller,” she says. Shaw found the material daunting because it called on her to connect with her roots as a black American woman, as well. “It hasn’t been easy, to be quite honest, but it’s been worth the push,” Shaw says.

Joyner may be staying away from rehearsal, but she knows what Shaw and Taylor are going through, because she experienced it all herself back in her little apartment, when the story first came to her. “We feel like it’s our ancestors talking through us,” Joyner says.

“Message from a Slave” opens Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Pine Camp Arts and Community Center. Tickets cost $15.

Running: VA Rep’s “Airline Highway” closes Feb 12, “Grand Concourse” at TheatreLAB runs until Feb. 18, Swift Creek Mill’s “Death Trap” runs until Feb. 25, and Firehouse Theatre’s “The Boatwright” runs until March 4.

On Deck: HATT Theatre’s Bill W. and Dr. Bob opens Feb. 10, in addition to “Message from a Slave,” Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company, in partnership with Richmond Triangle Players, will also offer “Choir Boy,” this month, opening Feb. 22. Cadence’s “Violet” opens Feb. 18, and Virginia Rep’s “Dancing Lessons” opens Feb. 24 at the Hanover Tavern.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Listen: An Early Valentine

Minor Poet releases cover of 1950s' pop hit with RVA roots.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 4:45 PM

Andrew Carter of Minor Poet.
  • Andrew Carter of Minor Poet.

A new band in Richmond, Minor Poet, has released a cover of a pop hit from the 1950s that has local connections.

The song they are debuting here today is a cover of "Little Things Mean A Lot," a pop hit from 1953 that was written by two contributors to the Richmond Times Dispatch and WRVA. The song was written by Edith Linderman, film and theatre contributor for the RTD, while the music was composed by Carl Stutz, a deejay for WRVA at the time.

Check out the original:

Minor Poet is the Beach Boys-inspired project of Andrew Carter of the Mad Extras and the group also involves bassist Noma Ilmensee (Lucy Dacus and Manatree).

Just in time for Valentine's Day, the story behind the cover has its roots in romance.

"I had this ongoing project where I record songs as gifts to my girlfriend," Carter says. "She's a huge fan of songs from the '50s. So I thought this would be a great Valentine's Day love song gift. After I started recording it, I realized there was this huge history in Richmond."

Carter says that Minor Poet will have a full-length of originals available this summer.

For now, listen to their cover of this RVA classic:

Minor Poet is performing on March 9 at Strange Matter opening for Tim Darcy.

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