May 2012 Event Highlights
Start to finish, it's an exciting month full of compelling exhibitions, eclectic plays, original poetry and powerful singers
They’re creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky—and coming to Madison. The Addams Family (May 1–6, overturecenter.com) is Overture Center’s big spring musical, a macabre musical comedy by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, authors of Jersey Boys. In this original story, Wednesday Addams is grown up, in love and about to introduce her “normal” boyfriend and his parents to Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and the rest of her lovably morbid family.
The Night for Art
Call it art lovers’ favorite type of math: One night plus sixty-five venues adds up to Gallery Night (May 4, mmoca.org). The city’s twice-annual evening of visual and performing arts, organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, allows the public to visit museums, galleries and other businesses to see art, mingle with artists and take in an eclectic array of entertainment.
Two powerful singer-songwriters grace Madison stages this month. k.d. lang visits Overture Center (May 15, overturecenter.com) with the Siss Boom Bang, her first time fronting a band in more than twenty-three years. And Christina Perri, whose breakout moment was 2010’s beautiful breakup song “Jar of Hearts,” headlines the Majestic Theatre (May 18, majesticmadison.com) in an all-ages show.
Music, Poetry and Flowers
Celebrate Mom with a visit to Olbrich Botanical Gardens for its Mother’s Day Concert (May 13, olbrich.org). The New Horizons Concert Band performs, while spring blooms invite a stroll through the gardens. Later in the month, stop by for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (May 20). Fifteen poets from around the state read for ten minutes apiece in this special event that’s free and open to the public.
With Greg Hettmansberger
The goal of Classical Revolution is to take classical music to places—and audiences—where it isn’t usually heard; more than a dozen chapters worldwide bring Beethoven and the gang to coffeehouses, hotel lounges and more. This month, Madison chapter co-founder Andrea Kleesattel and friends offer a stimulating potpourri of chamber music at MMoCA (May 4, classicalrevolutionmadison.org).
It still seems incredible, but it wasn’t until 1975—nearly forty years after Gershwin’s death—that any opera house staged the complete version of Porgy and Bess, with Houston Grand Opera’s young John DeMain leading the way. Now Madison finally gets to enjoy one of “our” conductor’s specialties, as the Madison Symphony Orchestra closes its season with a Gershwin program. In addition to nearly an hour of selections from Porgy (with soloists and the Madison Symphony Chorus), the concert includes “Rhapsody in Blue,” “An American in Paris” and the “Cuban Overture” (May 11–13, madisonsymphony.org).
Gershwin for grownups is all well and good, but it's just as important for the MSO to keep grooming the next generation of concertgoers. May brings the next installment of Up Close and Musical, the orchestra's program aimed at children from kindergarten through third grade. The morning performance is already sold out, but tickets remain for the midday show (May 15, madisonsymphony.org/symphonysoup).
We check in with director Joan Brooks on Madison Theatre Guild’s production of Up
Why’d you want to be part of this play?
I have a habit of reading new plays, and Up jumped off the page at me. I thought it was funny, contemporary and serious. It just grabbed my imagination.
Tell me about the play.
It’s about the guy who flew in his lawn chair by attaching a bunch of balloons to it. He’s a real guy. Pixar made a very famous movie about it, but this is much closer to the original story. In other words, it’s not about a man who ties a hundred balloons
to his house and flies away.
Who’s the main character, Walter Griffin?
He’s an inventor. He had this idea sixteen years ago, and sixteen year later he hasn’t done anything about it. His wife, who has become a mail carrier to provide for the family, says “I wish you’d get a real job.” He goes out and gives her money. But unfortunately he’s pulling money out of their savings and giving it to her. If you know the signs, you see he’s bipolar. The whole thing sounds tragic, but it’s very funny.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
At the end of the play, Walter flies away with the balloons. But we’re in the Drury [Theatre at the Bartell]—we have no fly space! The chair and balloons really do appear on stage and really go up in the sky.
What are you most looking forward to?
I always like seeing how things come together, seeing the play evolve and build. I love that part of the process, combining the actors’ insights with my own.
What should audiences expect from the play?
It’s definitely contemporary. There are tarot cards and some language in it—it does have adult content. This is not your little brother’s Up. [Audiences] will not have seen this play before. It’s very unusual and will give them something to think about.
Up runs May 4–19. madisontheatreguild.org
In Like a Lion
If you like Daniel and the Lion, the folk-rock-pop band from Baraboo, you won’t want to miss their CD release show at the High Noon Saloon (May 16, high-noon.com). It’s a great chance to experience the group’s spare sound characterized by minimal instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics.
From playful mice at CTM to a blind date gone bad at Mercury Players—with some LGBT shorts thrown in the mix—it’s an eclectic month for local theater.
In Becky Shaw (May 4–19, mercuryplayerstheatre.com), a newly- wed couple fixes up two of their friends on a blind date. But as the night progresses, all four characters reveal unsavory aspects of their personalities. Mercury Players Theatre stages this dark romantic comedy at the Bartell Theatre.
Award-winning Wisconsin author Kevin Henkes’s children’s book Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse gets the star treatment this month, thanks to Children’s Theater of Madison, which presents the stage adaptation (May 5–20, ctmtheater.org) in Overture Center’s Playhouse.
For the seventh year running, StageQ presents its ultra-popular Queer Shorts festival (May 31–June 9, stageq.com). The playfest brings ten to twelve short plays to the stage, with a large cast and crew and lots of laughs guaranteed along the way.
Delight for the Senses
Follow Milwaukee artist Cecelia Condit as she leads viewers through mythic landscapes and cycles of existence in Within a Stone’s Throw (May 26–September 9, mmoca.org) at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The artist uses a three-channel video to play with senses of scale and reality, and also presents a new series of digital color nature photographs.
Grace Chosy Gallery presents watercolor and acrylic paintings by Jeane Crane and Francisco X Mora (May 4–26, gracechosygallery.com), two
of the gallery’s favorite artists. The Mexico-born Mora is known for vivid, clean-lined portraits while Crane offers beautifully detailed flowers.
Hatch Art House showcases colored pencil, acrylic and ink works on paper by Ashley Megal (May 1–31, hatcharthouse.com), a drawer, painter and
photographer who cites nature as her primary influence.
And at Absolutely Art, find work by Erika Koivunen and Efrat Livny (May 3–31, absolutelyartllc.com). A welder since age ten, Koivunen creates graceful and whimsical window, wall and garden sculpture. Livny draws inspiration from native traditions, particularly in America and the Middle East, and uses natural and recycled objects for her unique “talking sticks,” sculpture and jewelry.
You might come for the brats, but four stages of live music and entertainment will keep you at The World’s Largest Brat Fest (May 25–29, bratfest.com) all Memorial Day weekend. Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center becomes a hotbed for food, music and highlighting local charities that help staff the annual event.
In side-by-side solo exhibitions, the James Watrous Gallery showcases the work of Kristy Deetz and Linda Wervey Vitamvas (May 8–June 24, wisconsinacademy.org). Deetz’s Veil series paintings reference draped fabric, exploring ideas of “the fold” as well as painting itself. And Wervey Vitamvas, a former obstetrical nurse, creates porcelain and steel sculptures that reveal her interests in both scientific
instruments and organic forms.
Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Find more arts and entertainment coverage in Liberal Arts.