March 2011 Event Highlights

A&E events brighten the end of winter

Habib Koité performs in 'Acoustic Africa' at the Union Theater March 10.

Habib Koité performs in 'Acoustic Africa' at the Union Theater March 10.

March is a most difficult time to live in Wisconsin. It’s gray and slushy and feels like winter will never end. But to an arts lover, this month is alive with colors, rhythms, drama and movement.

Timely Tales

A number of theater companies delve into complex issues of modern times. Forward Theater Company presents Going to St. Ives (March 3–19, forwardtheater.com), a story about the mother of an African dictator who travels to England to see a doctor. Each woman seeks a hidden agenda through the other: for the surgeon, the release of a colleague held captive in Africa; for the patient, saving her country from her evil son. The Bricks Theatre stages one of the first plays to address the September 11th terrorist attacks. The Mercy Seat (March 3–12, thebrickstheatre.com) centers on Ben, who works at the World Trade Center but was absent the day of the attacks because he was with his mistress. As his wife frantically tries to reach him, he contemplates letting his family think he’s dead so he can start a new life. And Broom Street Theater offers an original work by Wisconsin playwright Eric Theiss. Riverwest: A Rhapsody (March 4–April 10, broomstreet.org) is part musical, part social commentary and part theater experiment. Based on the Milwaukee neighborhood Riverwest, the play is “a not-so-make-believe story on the art of gentrification and the culture of resistance” exploring how residents grapple with racial integration, activism, artistic expression and police repression.

Around the World

Fans of classical music will happily note that both the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra present concerts at Overture Center. Joining the WCO for the season’s fourth Masterworks concert is Time for Three (pictured at left) (March 4, wcoconcerts.org), a string trio from Philadelphia that melds classical music with country, gypsy, jazz and other traditions. And violinist Robert McDuffie teams with maestro John DeMain and the MSO for a performance featuring Barber’s lush and technically demanding “Violin Concerto” (March 25–27, madisonsymphony.org). Songs of Africa fill the Wisconsin Union Theater as Acoustic Africa (March 10, uniontheater.wisc.edu) brings together acclaimed singer-songwriters from across the continent, including Habib Koité and Afel Bocoum from Mali and Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe. And famed pianist Jeffrey Siegel stops by Mills Hall for Paris 1911: A Century Celebration (March 22, music.wisc.edu), his latest “keyboard conversation.”

 Risks & Rewards

The month brings new challenges for Madison Ballet and StageQ. In Midsummer Night’s Dream (March 19–20, madisonballet.org), the ballet shares Shakespeare through dance! The Bard’s whimsical comedy of fairies, enchanted woods and love is the company’s final performance of the season. Madison’s LGBT theater company tackles its first musical review in Make Me a Song (March 11–26, stageq.com), celebrating the music of William Finn. Artistic director Tara Ayres says the show is equal parts sarcastic and touching, with a compelling story conveyed through song.

Divine Diversity

Art is eclectic in every sense at museums and galleries. At the UW Arboretum’s Steinhauer Trust Gallery, find mixed-media intaglio works by Wisconsin artist CathyJean Clark quietly exploring the mysteries, magic and beauty of nature in Into the Mystic (March 1–April 20, uwarboretum.org). The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art becomes a celebration of creativity with Young at Art (March 20–May 15, mmoca.org). If you’re underwhelmed by the idea of kids’ art, this show will change your mind; works by Madison kindergarteners to twelfth-graders offer an incredible amount of wit, intelligence and beauty. But where you’re sure to find me is at the Chazen Museum of Art. I’m eager to see Holy Image, Sacred Presence (March 12–June 5, chazen.wisc.edu), an exhibition of Russian icons (pictured at right), a corner of art history that’s intrigued me for years. Thirty works from the museum’s permanent collection illustrate the tradition of these Eastern Orthodox holy images created from the sixteenth to early twentieth centuries. The show takes a look at their devotional function as well as how their style changed over the years.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine. Find more arts and entertainment coverage in profiles and the Liberal Arts column.

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