What To Do in May
'Wicked,' Gallery Night, Lisa Frank's unique, nature-inspired photography and more are all on deck this month
May 17–June 30
Nature has long served as a muse for artists, but it reveals itself in intricate and imaginative new ways in the hands of Lisa Frank. Referencing traditional wallpaper—a nod to her extensive work in home furnishings—Frank uses photography to manipulate forms found in nature into complex, repeating patterns. Her work is shown along with Nova Czarnecki’s oil paintings, which meld the human figure with fantastical depictions of outdoor worlds, at the James Watrous Gallery. wisconsinacademy.org
Li Chiao-Ping Dance marks the hundredth anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and explores the intersection of rebellion and contemporary dance with Riot of Spring. Inspired by the riots the ballet provoked in Paris in 1913, this new work combines Li Chiao-Ping’s athletic and creative choreography with new interpretations of Stravinsky’s music. lichiaopingdance.org
What better way to enjoy spring in Madison than gallery hop across the city? Gallery Night offers the perfect opportunity, with more than fifty museums, galleries and businesses on the east side, west side and downtown open for exhibitions, demonstrations, live performances, refreshments and more. mmoca.org
A Whole New World
Children’s Theater of Madison sweeps audiences into the story of a genie, princess and adventurous young man in Disney’s Aladdin. But CTM offers a twist: English and Spanish languages mesh in this spellbinding musical. ctmtheater.org
Strollers Theatre takes up Shakespeare’s most beloved and recognizable comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But in addition to presenting the tale of love, betrayal and illusion at the Bartell, the company promises to take a fresh approach to the classic. strollerstheatre.org
With the help of only her cello and a foot-controlled laptop, Zoë Keating creates an innovative orchestra—and intricately layered, hauntingly beautiful music. Joining her at UW–Madison’s Music Hall is local dance artist and choreographer Kate Corby and members of her contemporary dance company. uniontheater.wisc.edu
Sounds of Spring
Madison Youth Choirs rings in its tenth anniversary with a Spring Concert Series at Overture Center’s Capitol Theater. Concerts highlight the girlchoirs, boychoirs and high school ensembles and showcase the talents of the organization, which works with more than five hundred children ages seven to eighteen. madisonyouthchoirs.org
As the nation turns its attention to the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, because of the horrific acts of one of its residents, two couples struggle with issues of values, beliefs and morals in The Arsonists. Mercury Players Theatre presents this play about the waylives change in the wake of Ed Gein’s terror. mercuryplayerstheatre.com
May 10–August 18
Inspired by childhood memories of wire and burlap forms at Native American trading posts along Route 66, artist Michael Lucero constructed a series of hanging figures out of fruit crates he found in New York City. Made in 1979, the wood works have been exhibited only once, at Wake Forest University in 1980, and now come to the Chazen Museum of Art. chazen.wisc.edu
The Thrill Isn’t Gone
Blues legend B.B. King began recording in the late 1940s. Since then, the Mississippi-born singer and guitarist has released more than sixty albums. He’s been named the King of Blues and performed nearly three hundred shows a year into his seventies; today at eighty-seven, he still racks up a hundred performances—including a concert at Overture Center. overturecenter.com
May 18–September 1
Through images by Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman and other acclaimed artists, the Madison Museum of Contem-porary Art examines how photography has captured American identity. Focal Points: American Photography Since 1950 explores such themes as the body, cities, fantasy and nature. mmoca.org
May 22–June 9
Wicked flies back to Madison, telling the story of green-skinned Elphaba and her popular classmate long before they become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. Featuring beautiful music and a powerful story, the Broadway blockbuster musical has earned a Grammy and three Tony Awards and sold out in record time the last time it came to town. overturecenter.com
with Greg Hettmansberger
School is out early, musically speaking, for the “big kids” in town—which means that a number of worthy ensembles who usually create their art in the shadow of the better-known groups have the musical playground to themselves. Let’s join ’em!
At the First Unitarian Society, the Ancora String Quartet offers a typically varied concert: a half-dozen of the rarely heard “12 Cypresses for String Quartet” of Dvorak, along with early Haydn and late Shostakovich (May 4, ancoraquartet.com).
The Sound Ensemble Wisconsin completes its first season with an event of American music filtered through international composers—Milhaud, Ravel and Stravinsky with a little Joan Tower and a set by the Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble. Catch them at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery (May 11, sewmusic.org).
It is great news when a local group gets to Carnegie Hall, as con vivo!…music with life did last December. Having given their regards to Broadway, they close their season with a “Homecoming” concert at the First Congregational United Church (May 17, convivomusicwithlife.org).
Another of the newer classical kids on the block is the Middleton Community Orchestra. Joined by cellist Mark Bridges, director Steve Kurr leads a program of Schumann, Saint-Saens and Tchaikovsky at the Middleton Performing Arts Center (May 29, middletoncommunityorchestra.org).
Many of the musicians in these groups are members of those larger ensembles that tend to grab the headlines, reviews and bigger audiences, yet they’re all compelled to find more outlets for their wonderful gifts.
Want more classical coverage? Find Greg Hettmansberger’s Classically Speaking blog.
Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Check out her arts and entertainment blog.