April 2012 Event Highlights
The city's arts awakens for spring, with vibrant art and plays, love stories and a fantastic lineup of films
A Glass Act
The Chazen Museum of Art celebrates a milestone and honors a strong artistic tradition in the city with Spark and Flame: 50 Years of Art Glass and the University of Wisconsin–Madison (April 21–August 5, chazen.wisc.edu). As 2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the university’s studio glass program, this exhibition focuses on both the art of program founder Harvey Littleton and the work of more than a hundred glass artists to highlight the breadth of contemporary glass today. Many of the nearly 160 works on display come from private collections, making this show a rare glimpse into art glass and UW’s role in that legacy.
As Strollers Theatre presents Beautiful Bodies, director Erin Baal shares the inside scoop on the play.
How did you become involved in this play?
I serve on the board of Strollers Theatre, and when we selected this play I was incredibly excited. It’s such a funny play. When they asked me to direct, it was a no-brainer.
What’s the play about?
This is a comedy with a bit of drama. It involves six women coming together for a baby shower. Each of the women is a different personality, and each is in her mid-thirties. Put them in a room together, throw a little wine on top and things get really honest.
What’s been the most challenging?
The most important element to any of these characters is believability. [The dialogue] is exactly the way we talk to each other—we exaggerate and try to shock each other once in a while. I’m interested in real people and being funny.
What are your goals for the play?
I would love to see droves of women coming with their girlfriends. The play is all women—that hardly ever happens. This is one you want to see with your girlfriends, your old girlfriends. I would love for them to come and laugh with us.
And what are you most excited about in presenting this work?
I’m definitely looking forward to what these very strong women will bring to the characters.
Beautiful Bodies runs April 6–28. strollerstheatre.org
With Greg Hettmansberger
Whether we have April showers or not, Madison’s music lovers will be positively drenched in can’t-miss events. The rarest of this quartet of concerts is the Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra at Overture Center (April 20, music.wisc.edu), testing their collective mettle against one of the gigantic pillars of the repertoire: Verdi’s quasi-operatic, daunting and thrilling Requiem.
You can follow that up the next night with the concluding concert of the Pro Arte Quartet’s centennial season (April 21, proartequartet.org). Featuring the last of four world premieres this season, with the internationally celebrated but our “own” John Harbison and his String Quartet No. 5, the free Mills Hall event also offers Haydn and Franck.
Another season-ender is marked with Madison Opera’s La Cenerentola (April 27 and 29, madisonopera.org). Rossini’s version of the Cinderella tale should sparkle with John DeMain’s deft touch with the Madison Symphony, and singers Daniela Mack and Gregory Schmidt lead Garnett Bruce’s staging that sets the story in Depression-era Hollywood. A happily-ever-after ending is guaranteed for all.
And Andrew Sewell and his Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra close their Masterworks schedule with a bang: Beethoven’s towering Symphony No. 9 (April 13, wcoconcerts.org). Not typically the purview of chamber orchestras, Beethoven’s final symphony (with so much more than the ubiquitous “Ode to Joy”) will undoubtedly yield a new insight or two with reduced forces than one most often encounters in the work—although with far more performers than usually grace the Capitol Theater stage. Besides, what better way to change your luck on a Friday the 13th?
Find more classical coverage on Greg Hettmansberger's Classically Speaking blog.
The natural world is the starting point for unique mixed-media artwork by Helen Mary Beck and Audrey Handler, artists highlighted this month at Grace Chosy Gallery (April 6–28, gracechosygallery.com). Beck applies watercolor on canvas and embellishes her images with embroidery, a process inspired by the historic handiwork of Victorian women. The results are exquisitely detailed and textured. Handler is an internationally known glass artist who recently began painting on tiles. She fires the tiles to bring out their colors, and often overlays them with a painted glass panel. Both her vividly hued paintings and glass sculptures are on display in this exhibition.
You may have fallen for her after hearing her 2007 hit, “The Way I Am.” But audiences will hear a darker, more complex side to Ingrid Michaelson when she performs at Overture Center (April 14, overturecenter.com). The indie-pop singer-songwriter has tackled heavier material in her new album, Human Again, with songs about lost romance and personal struggle. Expect to hear new works as well as fan favorites in her Madison concert.
And Philly-based Good Old War pays a visit to the High Noon Saloon (April 13, high-noon.com). The acoustic- driven indie-folk trio showcases tracks from their new album, Come Back as Rain, which they released last month. Also performing are The Belle Brigade and Family of the Year.
Forget the Oscars and the summer blockbusters. Spring is the best time of year for local movie buffs, thanks to the Wisconsin Film Festival (April 18–22, wifilmfest.org). Now in its fourteenth year, the fest showcases more than two hundred films—narratives, documentaries, shorts and more—in eight downtown theaters. While works hail from around the world, special recognition is always given to films made here in Wisconsin.
Bodies of Work
For nearly forty years, Pilobolus Dance Theatre has toured the world, surprising audiences with its innovative and physically demanding performances. The acrobatic dancers of this Connecticut-based company, who pay a visit to the Wisconsin Union Theater (April 14, uniontheater.wisc.edu), use their bodies as elements of sculpture, twisting, linking, contorting and tumbling to create a dynamic series of forms.
Fanny Garver Gallery is abloom in color thanks to new watercolor and oil paintings by Sarah Aslakson (April 6–May 1, fannygarvergallery.com). The Madison-area artist melds her interest in color with a desire to depict plants, trees and flowers as they appear in the natural environment. “I have concentrated on wild areas which man has overlooked, such as country roads,” says Aslakson in an artist’s statement. “I believe natural variety and selection are infinitely more interesting and dynamic than anything organized by a person.”
Love & Lust
For its third production of the season, Forward Theater Company sets its sights on love—specifically, through three one-act plays about the evolution of relationships. Love Stories (April 12–29, forwardtheater.com) brings together Bertolt Brecht’s The Jewish Wife, in which a woman flees her home in 1930s Germany; Dorothy Parker’s Here We Are, about newlyweds traveling by train to New York City for their honeymoon; and the tale of a chatty telephone operator pursuing a curmudgeonly travel writer in George Bernard Shaw’s Village Wooing. James Ridge and Colleen Madden of American Players Theatre portray the characters in these three classic works.
Broom Street Theater presents an original love story, 900 (April 27–May 19, bstonline.org). Written by Rob Matsushita and directed by Kathy Lynn Sliter, the play lets the audience follow along in real time as a phone-sex operator interacts with her caller.
And University Theatre stages The Two Gentlemen of Verona (April 20–May 5,utmadison.com). UW–Madison’s MFA acting class of 2012 performs Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers, marriages and mix-ups in Milan.
For a celebration of jazz and its many iterations, don’t miss the Madison Jazz Society’s annual Capital City Jazz Fest (April 27–29, madisonjazz.com/jazzfest). This year, performers include Wisconsin native Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band; Cornet Chop Suey, who mix traditional jazz with swing, blues and big-production numbers; the Milwaukee Connection, playing a diversity of jazz traditions; Andy’s Gang, reminiscent of Bix Beiderbecke of the 1920s; and special guest Marilyn Keller, who brings her soulful blending of jazz, gospel, big band and more.
A campus tradition twenty-seven years strong, the UW Varsity Band Spring Concert (April 19–21, badgerband.com) is a spectacle in the best sense of
the word. Dramatic lighting, pyrotechnics, beloved Badger traditions, Rose Bowl tributes—and of course the band led by its energetic leader, Mike Leckrone—combine for an unforgettable, extravagant performance at the Kohl Center. This year’s concert features Broadway legend Tom Wopat, plus salutes to the ’70s, Jersey Boys and Porgy and Bess.
Bringing Sexy Back
When the Majestic Theatre opened in 1906, it quickly became a popular spot for catching vaudeville acts. This month, the theater looks back on its 106-year history with Majestique: A Burlesque & Vaudeville Circus Spectacular (April 7, majesticmadison.com). This entertaining and titillating variety show brings together magicians, jugglers, comedians, acrobats and burlesque dancers from across the Midwest.
Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Find more arts and entertainment coverage in Liberal Arts.