UMS Playlist: Electronic Music
The world of electronic music is vast…the component genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres too numerous to even begin to catalog (for me, anyway). So…I’m not going to even try to pretend to be qualified enough to provide any sort of formal thesis about the traditions from which James Blake draws. It’s much easier for me to tap into the emotional pulse of an artist’s work or to talk about the “vibes” I get when I listen to a song and then make recommendations for what else might feel similar.
So with that completely non-committal introduction, I offer up this playlist which I call: “Voices of Angels.” Though…the only voice you’ll hear in the Mux Mool track might be a duck??
James Blake – Retrograde
James Blake – I Never Learnt To Share
Sampha – Without
Sampha and Jessie Ware – Valentine
Baths – Miasma Sky
Mux Mool – Baba
Chad Valley – Up & Down
London Grammar – Hey Now
Purity Ring – Obedear
AlunaGeorge – Diver
Toro Y Moi – Say That
Mount Kimbie – Made to Stray
Disclosure – Latch
James Blake – Life Round Here w/ Chance the Rapper
Listen to select tracks on Spotify:
What did you think about this playlist? Share your thoughts or song suggestions in the comments below.
(APAP + RCLA) ^ DC = LDI x 2
3 months ago, I provided some riveting coverage of the first convening of the second cohort of the LDI program. It is about time to revisit our progress. But you probably already concluded that from the title of this post because you are very good at theoretical computations of acronyms and place names.
When I last left you, I was about to depart for the District of Columbia for the second meeting of LDI. While there, we spent a fair amount of time debriefing the action steps we’d committed to taking in the aftermath of the first round in Austin. Remember…the LDI group is doing a collaborative inquiry to understand how an organization can come to know and connect with communities…a process which requires a repeated series of actions and debriefing sessions. The actions included a bunch of readings, an audit of current organizational community engagement practices, interviews with community members broadly identified as either currently engaged with our organization or not, and for some of us, either a mapping exercise of our choosing or an interview with someone we felt was an exemplar in the area of connecting with communities.
As a result of the debriefing sessions, we started to notice some themes developing. Many of our conversations started to fall broadly into several areas (which may or may not show up in some form in our final report. I make absolutely no promises.). These are Knowing/Understanding Community (i.e. a list of strategies and best practices), Shaping Internal Culture (i.e. a recognition that an organization must actively embrace community engagement as part of its mission if it wants to be successful in Knowing and Understanding) and Evaluation (i.e. how do we know when we know and understand community and how do we communicate this?).
These headers ultimately informed the next round of actions we’ve been working on and which we will debrief starting this Wednesday in DC. All 14 of us worked on the Shaping Internal Culture bit by developing a staff action/knowledge building experience around our topic and documenting what happened (here’s a sneak peak for you the reader that the rest of my team doesn’t know yet…I failed to deliver on this one. YIKES. Summer time proved too tricky to get all of our staff together in one place for this exercise. I will try again, though! ). Also on this front, we were asked to grill the management teams at our home organizations about their impressions of engagement work happening at those organizations. For the other two areas, we split off into groups. I was on team Evaluation, aka “The Immeasurables.” We read. A lot. Assigned readings and some that were self-selected. We did an audit of current organizational evaluation tactics and practices. We were also asked to conduct expert interviews with folks outside the arts sector about their evaluation strategies. Luckily, being situated on a major university campus this wasn’t hard. I went deep into Public Health land and learned that they’re dealing with the same questions we’re grappling with in this exercise.
Yes. I’m glossing over things here, but think of it like you do the anxiety-inducing (super annoying) season-ending cliffhanger of your favorite JJ Abrams cable television show. I’m dangling what is clearly a LOST-esque carrot in front of you. But instead of asking you to delay your understanding of why there are polar bears living on an island, I’m asking you to hold out for our final report and presentation at the APAP conference in January for the full story. Yes. It is going to be that huge.
Outing fun facts about my LDI colleagues was so fun last time, that I’m going to do it again. This time, you’ll get to hear about what they thought their summer plans might include at the time of our last meeting in late June:
• Bobby Asher, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, MD (newly married and poor as a result. Only solid plans include remembering to wear his wedding ring)
• Brad Carlin, Fusebox Festival, Austin, TX (going on a New Orleans swamp trip)
• Rachel DeGuzman, Rochester City Ballet, Rochester, NY (crossing the border for a family vacation à Quebec City)
• Shirley Elliott, Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust, Tulsa, OK (cruisin’ on the Vespa and a whole lot of gardening)
• Sharon Fantl, Redfern Arts Center/Keene State College, Keene, NH (jet setting to Copenhagen. With a one-year old. )
• Emily Harney, MAPP International Productions, New York, NY (Wedding planning and camping in a tent in her NYC living room)
• Brooke Horejsi, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University Fine Arts Programming, St. Joseph,MN (dining at a Dutch oven dinner party. She assured us that this is a real thing)
• Rebekah Lengel, Miami Light Project, Miami, FL (hangin’ with her brother and sister-in-law’s new baby)
• Mollie McFarland, AXIS Dance Company, Oakland, CA (celebrating her son’s pre-K graduation and taking their first trip to Disney)
• Judy Oliver-Turner, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia, WA (concert-hopping and checking out Journey, Pat Benatar, and Loverboy)
• Andre Perry, The Englert Theater, Iowa City, IA (going on vacation to San Francisco)
• Liza Sacheli Lloyd, Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT (breaking the rules and playing in a Middlebury College men’s only golf outing; assured us she will not be using a hockey stick)
• Elizabeth Snodgrass, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (celebrating her sister’s marriage in Wisconsin; also mentioned that Carnegie gives all their staff paid vacation every Friday between the 4th of July and Labor Day!)
APAP + RCLA = LDI
A couple of months ago I got some great news—I found out I had been accepted into the second round of the Leadership Development Institute (LDI), a program facilitated by —get ready for a mouthful— the Association of Arts Presenters (APAP) and the Research Center for Leadership in Action at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University (RCLA). Phew. APAP is the national service and advocacy organization that looks after the performing arts industry here in the US. Many of us UMS staffers attend their annual conference in NYC every January. The work of the RCLA is broadly centered around “moving beyond the traditional ‘heroic’ image of a leader to facilitating leadership in which people work across sectors and boundaries to find common solutions.” So, APAP + RCLA = LDI, and LDI’s main aim is to develop the leadership capacity of mid-career performing arts professionals.
How is this accomplished? Through a specific kind of research that the 14 of us chosen to participate are doing together called collaborative inquiry (CI). CI is a practice grounded in the idea that we can come to know certain things by researching “with” rather than “on.” Put another way, each of us will serve as both the test subject and the researcher in our respective “lab” (our organization). The process is moved forward through a repeated series of reflection and action around a certain theme in which the participants all have a vested interest. Our group is researching how an organization can come to know and connect with its community. The output—other than 14 newly minted performing arts leaders/forces to be reckoned with—will be a white paper we’ll present at the aforementioned APAP Conference in January 2013.
Our first session was held at the end of April in Austin, Texas. I’d never before been to the great magical land of cowboys and BBQ, so I was, needless to say, very excited to be there. With our two facilitators/den mothers—RCLA executive director Bethany Godsoe and Theresa Holden, co-director of Holden and Arts Associates—securely at the reins, we spent a great deal of time on the first day getting to know the people behind all those intimidating bios and learning about the process. By the second day (and several trees worth of sticky notes later) we were well on our way towards narrowing down our specific research question—the thesis that will ultimately form the backbone of our work. By the final day, we’d been assigned accountability partners (Brad and Beth are the unlucky pair tasked with keeping me on track) and had settled on a series of action steps we’d each commit to take between then and our next session in June.
So that’s where we’re at—each working hard to get our homework done by June 18 when we take the city of Washington DC by storm. I’ll delve more into the specifics next time, so get ready!
In the meantime, I am pleased to present to you my 13 esteemed partners in this lofty endeavor (and a brief fun fact about each):
- Bobby Asher, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, MD (was only a few short weeks away from marriage during the time of our first convening and was remarkably present)
- Brad Carlin, Fusebox Festival, Austin, TX (was only a day away from the start of his organizations’ festival launch and was remarkably present)
- Rachel DeGuzman, Rochester City Ballet, Rochester, NY (a Michigan native and U-M Alum!)
- Shirley Elliott, Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust, Tulsa, OK (fellow Fringe fanatic—shared stories with me from her first trip to Edinburgh)
- Sharon Fantl, Redfern Arts Center/Keene State College, Keene, NH (state-straddling New Englander, living in Vermont, but working in New Hampshire)
- Emily Harney, MAPP International Productions, New York, NY (very recently engaged at the time of our meeting)
- Brooke Horejsi, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University Fine Arts Programmin*, St. Joseph,MN (awoke ridiculously early on our last morning in Austin to do 6am hot yoga across town)
- Rebekah Lengel, Miami Light Project, Miami, FL (the second youngest member of the group and the lone holdout from Facebook)
- Mollie McFarland, AXIS Dance Company, Oakland, CA (the first to hit the dance floor at the Continental Club in Austin)
- Judy Oliver-Turner, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia, WA (in a group full of mommies, wins with the most kids)
- Andre Perry, The Englert Theater, Iowa City, IA (Iowan-by way of DC and CA-indie rocker immortalized in cartoon form on popular music blog Daytrotter)
- Liza Sacheli Lloyd, Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT (an avid hockey player!)
- Elizabeth Snodgrass, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (had a do-over of a certain milestone birthday because she was sick during the actual one; purchased herself a ukulele to celebrate)
Dispatch from Dublin on Easter
Editor’s Note: Mary Roeder works in Education & Community Engagement at UMS and is also our resident jet-setter and theater expert. We’ll occasionally feature some of her adventures here on the Lobby.
[Note from Mary: I started writing the blog post in April, after making a promise in March that I would do it. I ignored it for much of May and here it is now June. It’s a good thing I don’t rely on getting paid for my thoughts—a penny or otherwise, else I’d be homeless by July.]
The month of April flew by (pardon the pun, even though I’m the only one who gets that this is a pun at this point). Maybe it had something to do with crossing time zones a few too many times, spending a bit too much time above 30,000 feet, and definitely waaay too much time in JFK’s Terminal 2. I’m not complaining though. I had a whirlwind month of travel that took me to, among other places, Dublin, New York, Montreal and Austin, Texas. Would you like to hear a little bit about what I did and what I saw? Rhetorical questions are so much fun!
Easter in Dublin!
I have been trying to get to Ireland for awhile. To say I have romanticized the heck out of this place is an understatement. Well, I finally made it, and I really couldn’t have picked a better time. Thanks to the alcohol ban during the Easter weekend, I got to see what the city looks like underneath all of the clichéd debauchery I’ve been programmed to assume is ever-present. It’s definitely risen to the top of my list of favorite places…you know, the ones where you just breathe a little easier and sort of resonate at the same frequency (the Oregonian Portland reigns supreme on this one). Add in the fact that I had my own personal tour guide, a local who also has a penchant for the theater/re, and it was a pretty fantastic weekend all around.
I landed early Good Friday, hopped aboard the Airlink express bus and made my way into the city where, thanks to a mercifully early check-in, I promptly fell into a deep jetlag coma until 1pm local time. That night I saw Pan Pan’s production of A Doll House (note the lack of the ‘s after Doll is intentional). Pan Pan is a Dublin-based company that, according to co-founder Gavin Quinn “is interested in…[making] theatre like the French model of theatre art, as opposed to the craft of making theatre.”
I first saw Pan Pan this past November when our pals down in Columbus at the Wexner Center presented their show, The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane (note that I’ve checked the OSU/U-M rivalry at the door. The arts build bridges, people). The cool thing I remember about seeing that show at Wex (other than the fact that there was an actual Great Dane onstage) was that it was littered with references to Beckett’s Endgame which UMS had just presented a couple weeks prior—and thank goodness, because I certainly wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise (note that there was another pun there. The stage in the second half of the Pan Pan show was covered with trash cans. Littered. Anyone?).
Ok, back to A Doll House. I saw this show in the Smock Alley Theatre, which, from what I understand, is the oldest officially sanctioned theater in Dublin. There’s a fascinating history to the building spanning centuries. The theater as it currently exists is brand new—A Doll House was actually the first show housed in the new space, so needless to say, I feel really lucky to have been there.
I would return to Smock Alley the following evening to see a performance by a young theatre collective called Collapsing Horse. Their puppet/comedy/musical production of Monster/Clock had a charming handmade feel, and featured Jack Gleeson of HBO’s Game of Thrones fame where he plays the role of a seriously annoying young prince.
The third production I saw was Alice in Funderland, produced by THISISPOPBABY at the Abbey Theatre. Oh, my…where to start on this one. Alice in Funderland was the first musical to be produced at the Abbey in 20 years. Those of you who know me are likely well aware of my complete and total aversion to most musical theater. Most. There are a few select asterisked members of the genre for which I have great affinity, and I loved this one more than I care to admit. I can actually still hum the main thematic tune, and could even sing a few words if pressed (please don’t ask though). As the title suggests, it’s a take on Alice in Wonderland, this version’s heroine a girl from Cork who visits an unhinged version of Dublin inspired by contemporary Irish life. I have to say, a fair bit of the most laugh-inducing moments escaped me, references to parts of the Irish experience I as an American couldn’t truly understand, but it didn’t matter. It had me at its disco ball/club beat-infused entr’acte, and if I could be a bit further convinced that its message could stand more universally outside of Ireland , I’d be first in line to bring it stateside if ever the opportunity arose. Check out this video interview here with its creators and some choice excerpts featuring my favorite character (I think he was everyone’s favorite character, actually).
Montreal and New York and Austin are going to have to wait. My hands are cramping.
Delinquent Dispatch from Fringe
Image: The Simple Things in Life
My sincerest apologies…I’m a little delinquent here with my second “dispatch.” I was operating at a fairly severe sleep deficit for a bit there. But I’m back and ready to share some last highlights from a whirlwind trip to my favorite European city (a title I’ve also been known to bestow on Budapest when I want to sound a little more exotic).
Best Thing Ever
On Tuesday, I saw the best thing ever. I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to speak in hyperbole at times. And I’ve generally tried to temper my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the purposes of work-related blog posts. So, with that initial caveat, I hereby reaffirm my initial statement and proclaim 1927’s “The Animals and Children Took to the Streets” as The Best Thing Ever. 1927 is a UK-based company that mixes live music, performance, and animation. Inspired by silent film, this piece has a “live” cast of three actors interacting with animated ones, including a posse of really, really poorly-behaved children, a horde of cockroaches, and cat named Mr. Meow, all residents of a decrepit tenement block known as “the Bayou.” It’s very rare that I’m able to fully disengage with the world around me and lose myself in an experience, but this performance was so cleverly and expertly choreographed that I actually felt a little like I was trapped in a cartoon. Rest assured that I’ll be badgering a certain Director of Programming ‘round these parts to consider this one for possible inclusion in a future season.
That National Theatre
On my last day in Edinburgh, I managed to squeeze in one more show and “experience” before rushing (understatement) to the airport. (I admit—I harbored a secret hope of not making my flight and being granted an extra night in the city.)
I made my way to the Traverse Theatre to see another National Theatre production. Not the National Theatre (of London, whose delayed broadcast screenings UMS presents throughout the season in partnership with the Michigan Theater), nor the National Theatre of Scotland (whose “Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart” I espoused in my last post). This time, it was the National Theatre Wales and their production of “The Dark Philosophers,” an adaptation of the life and stories of Welsh writer Gwyn Thomas. Gwyn wrote some dark stuff, most of it tinged with a humorous edge. The setting for this piece is a Welsh mining community, the mountain referenced throughout represented by a plot of wardrobes, dressers, and the like. The tone of the play reminded me a bit of Martin McDonagh’s “Cripple of Inishmaan” performed here last season by the Druid Theatre Company. Previously unfamiliar with Gwyn Thomas (as I was with Martin McDonagh), I wasn’t sure if was I allowed to laugh. I wanted to. The knowing audience around me eventually did. And, similar to “Cripple,” I was left with a sense of the insular nature of a community mostly isolated from those surrounding it—the character and cadence of the local life different from anywhere else.
The Simple Things in Life
The last thing I went to was “The Simple Things in Life.” Housed in the Royal Botanic Garden, five artists were tasked with creating an experience celebrating the simple things in life, each to be housed within a small shed. The goal: to create “a haven within the hubbub of the festival.” First stop: “Lost in Words.” This shed, created by Lewis Gibson, was an exercise is looking (through viewfinders), listening (to calming soundscapes), and reading (a weaving of text excerpts from famous stories…Moby Dick, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Nightingale and the Thorn). It was a nice reprieve from the inner voice inside my head, a constant companion that at the time was worrying/hoping I was going to miss my upcoming/looming flight.
The journey ended at the London Snorkeling Team’s shed, the location of The 2011 Annual Science Demonstration and Space Fête. The London Snorkelling Team are funny fellows. Funny fellows that play music and draw cartoons that are projected and “animated” on a standard-issue classroom overhead projector. You know, the kind used in the olden days. Audience members were given a glimpse into the workings of an interesting new take on a particle accelerator. Not one tasked with answering the greatest mysteries in the Universe, no. In this instance, the particles to be collided included a pig and a cow, the intended result being a shower of meat. Ludicrous and fun. Just like the animated fight between Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. As good a place as any to end things.
Dispatch from Fringe
Oh goodness me! I’m back in Edinburgh! During the Fringe! The largest arts festival in the world! It’s been 9 years exactly since my last (and first) visit, when I came as part of the American High School Theatre Festival. A recent high school graduate at the time, I was tasked with running the light board for a musical version of the Ugly Duckling called Honk! Yikes! (This is reminding me that my 10 year high school reunion is nigh. Double yikes!!)
I arrived only yesterday, but I feel like I’ve been here for ages. That’s what happens when something literally takes over a city. If you’ve never been, the Fringe is to Edinburgh as a football game at the Big House is to Ann Arbor. But sustained for a month! The energy is at an all-time high from morning ‘til, well, it never stops!
I’ve seen exactly 8 shows as of now, 11:37pm local time, Monday, August the 22nd. 6 of them today. Yes. 6. And some of them more “experience” than “show.” Here’s a little taste.
The first show I saw was the National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart at the Ghillie Dhu, a local pub. Written by playwright David Grieg, the story follows an uptight academic named Prudencia as she travels out of town for a conference, and learns to loosen up along the way. How this happens is the crux of the action, the fun, and the heartache, some of which can be seen in this youtube video. The National Theatre of Scotland has had some hits on their hands as of late—most recently in the U.S. with their production of Black Watch. If the buzz surrounding this one at the Fringe is any indication, you just might see this one at a pub near you. I sure hope so.
Today’s marathon of shows included the premiere of a work in progress called A Reply to Kathy Acker: Minsk 2011 by incendiary political theater-makers, Belarus Free Theatre. BFT was founded in 2005 by a husband and wife team in response to the pressure and censorship of Europe’s last surviving dictatorship. Under constant threat of persecution, the group’s rehearsals and performances are often held in secret , and have at times been broken up by police. In their short history, members of the company have faced harassment, beatings, and even arrest. In this piece, the audience was given a glimpse into Minsk today from the artists’ perspective. And it was, in a word, brutal. They’re a brave group. And their acting is likewise brave. It’ll be interesting to see how the work develops.
Later in the evening, I was able to catch David Leddy’s newest work called The Untitled Love Story. Some of you may remember David’s Susurrus made an appearance in Ann Arbor this past year out at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Though this piece was housed in a more traditional theatrical setting, the hallmarks of David’s style of writing rang loud and clear. His knack for weaving seemingly disparate storylines into one cohesive production is astounding and the story all the more powerful because of it. And, as with Susurrus, the use of music is crucial—and used to great effect. Here are the basics: the setting is Venice. The characters are known only as the Collector, the Historian, the Priest, and the Writer—two men and two women who have all suffered/will come to suffer great loss. It’s not all sad though! I promise!
The night ended with a short 15 minute “live video” experience for one called And the Birds Fell From the Sky by Brighton-based Il Pixel Rosso. In a nutshell, I joined a group of nomadic criminal clowns (collectively known as the Faruk) for a car ride. Crimes were committed. Birds fell from the sky. I was supremely freaked out. And I totally loved it. Logistically, it involved an impressive pair of video goggles synced up with an in-ear audio track. An actor unseen to the audience member provided the other tactile sensations—smells, touch, movement . All in all, a deep and bizarre Fringe experience. The best kind.
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Have you been to the Fringe? Are you at the Fringe now? Share your experiences below.
Gate Theatre Dublin Coverage Round Up
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UMS presents The Gate Theatre Dublin performances (opening night Thursday, 10/27!).
Your reading options!
Leslie Stainton’s Q&A with Gate Artistic Director Michael Colgan Topics covered: Do actors think of Beckett as a sadist? Is theatre the art of loss? And what of Beckett’s genius?
UMS Residency Coordinator Mary Roeder’s highly-entertaining backstage preview: No Rest for the Wicked…..or The Gate Theatre Company Dublin
Akiva Gottlieb, a PhD student and instructor in English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, writes about Beckett’s only film, Film (Spoiler: it’s 20 minutes long & the only audible dialogue is one “shhhh!”)
Akiva Gottlieb on the audacity of Watt