It was a good weekend for the arts here in Milwaukee. Three
Visual art at Villa
On Friday evening the Villa Terrace Decorative
opened a small mixed media group show called “Chasing
Guest curators Nirmal Raja
and Christopher Willey, who both have ties to UWM, assembled a diverse set of
Milwaukee artists whose work uses the idea of landscape as a point of
departure. It’s not the kind of show one typically associates with Villa
Most of the work is installed gallery fashion in the cleared
upper rooms of the historic mansion. My favorite pieces, however, were the two
site-specific installations. Kevin Giese has inserted two slender, undulating
trunks of stripped buckthorn into the steeply sloping, carefully landscaped
“backyard,” which sweeps dramatically down to the lakefront.
Emily Belknap, whose show at the Chazen I recently reviewed
has taken wonderful advantage of the ambiance of the building. Her
installation, called “Flight Zones,” is made up of three life-size bronze
sculptures of robins. A precise circle of finely sifted dirt surrounds each,
indicating the distance at which a person’s approach will cause the bird to
take flight. The circles of dirt echo the decorative period moldings on the
ceiling and the intrusion of the “wildlife” creates a curious dialogue with the
portrait paintings hung on the walls.
If you didn’t get to the opening you have plenty of time.
The show will be up through August 25.
The Oriental Theater offers
another great movie
Since we were in the neighborhood and it was still early my
wife and I checked out the Oriental
. From amongst the several interesting choices
we were glad we picked “The Place Beyond the Pines.” It’s being promoted as a
“crime thriller,” and there are aspects of that in it. However, it’s a much
more nuanced and complicated story than that genre generally implies. It would
be hard to describe much of the story without ruining the many truly surprising
It begins with a stunt motorcycle driver played by Ryan
Gosling who goes on a crime spree for an unusual motivation. Things don’t turn
out as planned but that’s the only thing predictable about this provocative and
sensitive narrative. Go see it before it goes away.
The Milwaukee Rep and
Although we are season ticket holders for the MilwaukeeRepertory Theater
, we might have missed this show because it isn’t part of the
regular season. But we were very happy that we took advantage of a special
Cinco de Mayo offer and went to see it last night.
It isn’t exactly a concert and it isn’t really a musical
play. But I’ve never seen the Powerhouse Stage rock like it did last night. The
performers were outstanding and the music was as energetic as any concert I’ve
seen—and then some!
I’ve never been a particular fan of Joplin. I was just a
couple years too young to have gone to see her perform live. Anyone my age has
heard her most famous songs (especially “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes
Benz”) repeated endlessly on the radio, of course, as well as seeing video of
her performing. But those don’t hold a candle to the actual experience. The
show was a visual and auditory extravaganza that seemed to represent her
onstage persona pretty accurately. The only thing missing was a pall of pungent pot smoke wafting over the crowd--but I only know that from heresay!
I could quibble that the attempt to add a story line to the
show was flawed by the lack of any real arc to the narrative. The implications
of her famous dissolution and untimely death were quite subtle and understated.
Still, it was nice to see and hear the people who influenced her, including
Bessie Smith, Odetta, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin. Blues singer Sabrina
Elayne Carten recreated all of those voices and presences and she deserves
credit equal to Mary Bridget Davies, who played Joplin.
The audience was an intriguing mix and far more diverse than
usual for the Milwaukee Rep. There were plenty of folks who looked old enough
to have seen Joplin live—and even a few that came garbed in authentic-looking “period
costumes” like dashikis, tie-dye, colorful stripped bell-bottoms, and leather
vests. However, I was glad to see a wide variety of ages amongst the
appreciative crowd. At first it took a bit of urging by the cast to break
through the Milwaukee/Midwest reserve, but by the end of the first set the
entire audience was on its feet, clapping, singing, and generally rocking the
As she sings in Bobby McGee, “…feeling good was good enough
The show is called “One Night with Janis Joplin
,” but you
have many nights to choose from before the show closes June 2 to join in the