January 2012 Event Highlights

Local arts groups start the new year off on a strong note

"Candelabro (Oaxaca)" by Vita Castro at MMoCA

Here’s a goal worthy of a New Year’s resolution: Experience as much art as possible in 2012! Fortunately, arts organizations big and small present exciting plays, concerts and exhibitions this month.  


This month brings the opening of two intriguing exhibitions—one chronicling a significant era of Mexican printmaking and another delving into the myth of the American West.

Tierra y Libertad! Revolution and the Modernist Mexican Print (January 14–April 15, mmoca.org) at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art reveals the print revival that followed the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920 and paralleled the country’s mural movement. Many artists—Diego Rivera, David Alfara Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and others—created both murals and prints, as both were an accessible, populist medium that could transmit political messages to broad audiences. The exhibition draws from the museum’s
collection of Mexican prints, considered one of the most extensive in the Midwest.

In Inferior Mirages and Incidental Detours (January 10–February 26, wisconsinacademy.org) at the James Watrous Gallery, B.A. Harrington and Chele Isaac combine video projections, sculpture and sound to investigate themes of migration, dislocation and the ways nostalgia impacts the idea of “American-ness.” The multimedia installation is the result of a road trip the artists took from Madison to San Diego, following historic and infamous routes such as the Oregon Trail and Highway 66.

Moments in Time   

Madison Opera’s “Season of Dreamers” celebrates the spirit of risk takers, while Forward Theater Company’s season centers on the concept of portraits; both organizations honor these themes and experiment with the sense of time in their first offerings of the new year.

Madison Opera presents Galileo Galilei (January 26–29, madisonopera.org) by the iconic American composer Philip Glass, who turns seventy-five this month. The opera, Glass’s eighteenth, which he premiered in 2002, draws from letters between the famed astronomer and his family to share the story of the man who discovered that the earth revolves around the sun. The opera opens with Galileo as an old man in his final days and moves backward in time to explore questions of science, religion and humanity. Tenor William Joyner and baritone John Arnold play old and young Galileo, respectively, while soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine takes on the role of the scientist’s daughter.

Forward Theater Company joins with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre to stage the world premiere of A Thousand Words (January 19–February 5, forwardtheater.com), a play by Forward’s own Gwendolyn Rice. Starring American Players Theatre favorite Sarah Day, the play centers on a box of photographs from the 1930s discovered among Ernest Hemingway’s long-lost possessions. Laying claim to the photos are two women—a curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a woman who might be the granddaughter of the photographer— and stories from two time periods unfold, offering unique perspectives on what a picture is truly worth.

Warm Welcomes 

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra picks its Masterworks series back up after the holidays with the appropriately titled Triumphant Return (January 13, wcoconcerts.org). The concert also sees the return of cellist Amit Peled, who’s performed twice in Madison. This time around, he plays Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in B-flat Major, while the WCO presents works by Lilburn, Kopytman and Haydn—his “Military” Symphony No. 100.

Later in the month, guest violinist Augustin Hadelich makes his Madison Symphony Orchestra (January 20–22, madisonsymphony.org) debut with Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Maestro John DeMain also leads the symphony through Debussy’s Iberia, inspired by Spain, and Tchaikovsky’s “Little Russian” Symphony No. 2.

Playing Around    

Four plays opening this month provide audiences plenty of options: Whether you’re in the mood for comedy, a moving story or political edge, you’ll find exactly what you’re craving on a local stage.

While public school teachers have clearly been in the news and on the minds of many Wisconsinites over the past year, how many of us actually know what life is like for local educators? Mercury Players Theatre gives teachers the chance to speak for themselves in Talking Out of School: Plays by Wisconsin Teachers (January 6–28, mercuryplayerstheatre.com).

Over at Broom Street Theater, Autumn Shiley makes her debut as playwright, director and actress in on the corner of clark and vine (January 13–February 4, bstonline.org). The play is a wrenching and delicately beautiful story of two strangers who in finding each other find themselves.

Meanwhile, in the one-act play Black Comedy (January 20–February 11, strollerstheatre.org), presented by Strollers Theatre, a blackout foils the plans of a young artist to impress two important people—a potential benefactor and his future father-in-law. Fast-paced and full of slapstick humor, this inventive production takes place completley in the “dark.” And for the third year, Music Theatre of Madison presents Miscast (January 20, mtmadison.com), in which local performers share songs meant for roles they’ll never play. Witness these highly unlikely pairings in action and decide for yourself whether against all odds they’re meant to be.

Feeling Blue

You’ve undoubtedly heard of them but have you ever seen the Blue Man Group (January 24–29, overturecenter.com) perform live? Their unique shows combine comedy, music and technology and move audiences without using words. Maybe it’s time to get the blues—at least for a day as they take to the Overture Hall stage.  

Musical Mixes       

The Stoughton Opera House welcomes Harmonious Wail (January 20, stoughtonoperahouse.com), one of the Midwest’s most popular groups. Mixing jazz, gypsy swing and folk—not to mention mandolin, guitar, bass, snare percussion and vocals—the group creates a style all their own. The quartet is also known for their uplifting performances.

For more music in a wide array of styles, stop by Olbrich Botanical GardensWinter Concert Series (January 2–March 26, olbrich.org). The Sunday afternoon concerts offer blues, jazz, folk and more, as well as the opportunity to stroll the indoor gardens.

Bright Spots     

Wood is colorful, whimsical and a lot of fun when it’s the chosen medium of Lake Geneva–born Tracy Skibitzki, the featured artist for the month at Fanny Garver Gallery (January 6–30, fannygarvergallery.com). And find artwork that’s vibrant and truly eclectic as Absolutely Art and Café Zoma host their First Annual Staff Show  (January 6–31, absolutelyartllc.com), featuring photography, pastels, collage, paintings, videography and more. Don’t miss Jennie Nuese’s photography, which she framed in a recycled windowpane from the gallery’s Re-Art SWAP. 

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Find more arts and entertainment coverage in Liberal Arts and Classically Speaking.



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