July 2012 Event Highlights
Madison’s arts and entertainment scene is hot, hot, hot! This month brings music festivals, art fairs, smash musicals and more.
In a gritty British town during the miners’ strikes of the mid-1980s, a boy follows his heart by giving up boxing for ballet. This is the story of Billy Elliot, a smash hit musical that makes its way to Overture Center (July 10–15, overturecenter.com). Featuring music by Elton John, the show is still going strong in London’s West End, and on Broadway it won ten Tony Awards in 2009, including Best Musical.
Art All Around
If you’re an art lover, you won’t want to be anywhere other than downtown the second weekend of the month. That’s because Art Fair on the Square (July 14–15, www.http://www.mmoca.org) and Art Fair off the Square (artcraftwis.org) are happening once again! Hosted by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Fair on the Square transforms the Capitol Square into an arts bazaar, mixing music, food and more than 450 artists exhibiting photography, paintings, prints, sculpture, jewelry and much more. Nearby on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Art Fair off the Square showcases the work of 140 Wisconsin artists along with food, kids’ activities and a public art project.
America the Beautiful
Celebrate the nation’s 236th birthday with the Madison Early Music Festival (July 7–14, dcs.wisc.edu/lsa/memf). This year’s seven-concert series, “Welcome Home Again: An American Celebration,” highlights musical discoveries from the colonists, the Revolutionary era and the Civil War. Among the festival’s guest artists are Anonymous 4, Chatham Baroque with flutist Chris Norman, the Rose Ensemble and the Newberry Consort, and don’t miss the All-Festival Concert that concludes the musical celebration.
In Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (July 13–29, utmadison.com), a group of strangers is snowed in at a boarding house. A murderer is among them but who is it—the newlyweds who run the house, a spinster, an architect, a retired army major? A policeman arrives on skis just before the first killing, and he must probe into the backgrounds and motives of all the guests. University Theatre presents this play, which opened in London in 1952 and has been running ever since.
Music Theatre of Madison offers the city premiere of Parade (July 26–August 4, mtmadison.com) at the Bartell Theatre. The Tony Award–winning musical tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager who was charged with the murder of a teenage girl in 1913. His death sentence prompted national debate and outrage as well as the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. MTM calls the production about Frank’s life, his case and its aftermath “part mystery, part courtroom drama and part love story.”
Visitors to Grace Chosy Gallery will feel they’ve had encounters with nature, thanks to a new exhibition of work by Jane Fasse and Bobbette Rose (July 6–28, gracechosygallery.com). Fasse’s colored pencil drawings on vellum offer a stylized presentation of the organic growth of plants, while Rose’s encaustic and hand-cast paper pieces suggest natural processes. In her artist statement, Rose says, “There is a delicate balance between the natural forces, human impulse and spiritual mystery. I explore the edges where they meet and what lies beneath the surface, within the context of growth, decay, memory and the passage of time.”
Opening this month at American Players Theatre is Skylight (July 1–October 20, americanplayers.org), David Hare’s story of two former lovers who reconnect, attempting to understand their troubled past to determine if they have a future together. Also in the indoor Touchstone Theatre is Heroes, about three World War I soldiers seeking adventure in a veterans home. And at the outdoor Up the Hill Theatre, catch Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Richard III, plus The Royal Family, a funny play about a family of actors.
Humor, heart and hearty Italian food combine in Mangia, Mangia!, a unique performance by TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater (July 12–13, tapitnewworks.org). Interviews with former residents of Madison’s Greenbush neighborhood and cookbooks by local author Catherine Tripalin Murray inspire this theatrical journey into the past. Audiences not only hear tales of the ’Bush but can also enjoy a menu based on the community in a special dinner at the Madison Elks Club.
Sounds of Russia
This month, the Balalaika and Domra Association of America brings musicians from all over the world to Madison for its annual convention on Russian music and cultural traditions. But Madisonians shouldn’t miss the Russian Festival Concert (July 13, russianconcert.info) featuring ensembles highlighting the balalaika and domra instruments, soloists and the hundred-member festival orchestra, led by Victor Gorodinksy of the UW Russian Folk Orchestra.
With Greg Hettmansberger
Whether it’s indoors or out, the classical music scene this month is heavy on the singing, with plenty of spice and spectacle to go around.
Continuing the recent wave of big-number anniversaries, the Madison Savoyards celebrate their fiftieth season with arguably the most popular of all the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, The Pirates of Penzance (July 20–29, madisonsavoyards.org). It promises to be “the very model” of a thankfully not too modern tradition, and you’ll have seven chances to catch it at the Music Hall.
Speaking of singing, July is Opera in the Park time with the Madison Opera. The eleventh fabulous and free event at Garner Park will reprise the winning combination of some preview excerpts of next season, Broadway tunes and operatic “greatest hits” (July 21, madisonopera.org).
The month presents four opportunities to pull up a chair on the Capitol Square and take in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Concerts on the Square (July 4, 11, 18, 25, wcoconcerts.org). Beginning with a splash of patriotism on July 4, other Wednesday-evening highlights include Sergei Belkin on accordion, A.J. Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle singing us back to the sixties of Simon and Garfunkel, and finally the Cuban music group Tiempo Libre.
And in case of a heat wave, you can cool off at the Point Cinema and take in the Bolshoi Ballet’s production of Glazunov’s Raymonda (July 10, marcustheatres.com/Promotion). See you at the concession stand.
Want more classical coverage? Visit Greg Hettmansberger’s Classically Speaking blog.
Bursting with color, pattern and a mosaic-like quality, Lon Michels’s paintings draw the viewer in for closer inspection. His Entrances exhibition of figure paintings, landscapes and still lifes is presented alongside Flowers by Livija at the James Watrous Gallery (July 6–August 19, wisconsinacademy.org). Flowers, a project by photographer James Brozek and Debra Brehmer of the Portrait Society Gallery, pays tribute to Livija Patikne, a late artist who documented hundreds of her own flower arrangements, still lifes and self portraits.
Cool off with Summer Breeze: The Fan in Japanese Prints (July 7–September 9, chazen.wisc.edu). The latest exhibition at the Chazen Museum of Art explores the use of fans in nineteenth-century Japan through a collection of prints—some of which were designed and cut to fit into the standard framework of a bamboo fan. Fans not only provided relief from the summer heat in Japan, but were also used in theaters and to commemorate favorite actors.
Madison Shakespeare Company co-founder and director John Varda offers details on the company’s first production, Julius Caesar.
Why did you choose Julius Caesar for your debut production?
Aside from the fact that all the people in it really existed and the events in it were monumental, it has an interesting point of view. Shakespeare doesn’t really say who is right and who is wrong—he presents them all equally. Caesar’s a fascinating individual and those times were so tumultuous.
How are you approaching the play?
We’re going with a classic interpretation. We’ll have traditional costumes and set it in the traditional time period.
I understand you’re performing at Breese Stevens Field. Why have you chosen an outdoor location?
The whole concept was to be outdoors. The park has sort of that Romanesque, classic feel; its stone walls evoke a different time. Audiences will need to bring their own chairs to set on the concrete risers.
What are you most looking forward to?
Just to get it up on stage and see it live. Warren [Hansen, the company’s co-founder] and I have been talking about this for a year. When you do Shakespeare, the language is so beautiful and his insight into the human condition really shines out. You just can’t go wrong with Shakespeare.
Julius Caesar runs July 26–29. madisonshakespeare.org
Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Find more arts and entertainment coverage in Liberal Arts.