The Green Room

Your weekly dose of arts and culture, airing every Friday morning on IPR News Radio & Classical IPR.  

Members of the chorus gossip about Medea's fate during a recent rehearsal.
Parallel 45 Theatre

Parallel 45 Theatre company is out with a fresh take on the ancient Greek tragedy Medea.
Throughout their advertising campaign, the company has been comparing what it meant to be a celebrity during Medea's day, versus what it means today, with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Lindsey Lohan.
Is it determined by the history books, or trends on Twitter?

The music world lost two legendary figures recently: composer and conductor Pierre Boulez and rock star David Bowie. 

Bowie lost his battle with cancer at age 69— just three days after releasing his latest album Blackstar. Pierre Boulez, while perhaps less of a household name, was a giant in the classical music world. He passed away last week at age 90. 

While drastically different in certain senses, these two artists shattered the perceptions of their musical genres, and took creative risk-taking to another level.


One of the unique things about Interlochen Public Radio is that the people who work here are often full of surprises. Take, for example, Classical IPR host Amanda Sewell.

Amanda is a musicologist and has studied plenty of traditional classical music from the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. But, she’s also published academic studies on hip-hop. During her music studies, she discovered a hip-hop niche called "nerdcore." 

 


Ruby John performs in many fiddle styles, including Métis.
Aaron Selbig

America has long been thought of as a melting pot; a place where people from different backgrounds come together and in so doing, create new and unique cultures. As the fur trade in the upper Great Lakes region blossomed in the late 1600’s, French voyageurs and trappers began to marry Native American women. People with this mix of native and European heritage became known as Métis. 

Métis is a French word that roughly translated means “mixed blood” or “of mixed descent.”


As the Creative Director for The Traverse City Film Festival, Meg Weichman, has seen a lot of films over the years. This week, she stopped by our studio to give us her top five holiday films of all time. “When I put together this list, it was pretty agonizing,” says Weichman. And don’t think the conversation stops at her top five either— Meg also reveals what holiday film offends her most basic sensibilities. 

Plus, our own Aaron Selbig will make his pitch as to why the film Die Hard, is and should be considered a classic Christmas flick.  


Kyle Novy will embark on a 52-song music project in 2016.
Kyle Novy

Kyle Novy is a singer-songwriter who teaches at Interlochen Arts Academy, and he’s embarked on an ambitious music project called Mount Valor.

Kyle sees himself as offering some alternatives to the often times, shallow pop music of today. His goal is to write songs that have a rich depth of meaning and that peer above the fray. Stylistically, he’ll be all across the board— from piano ballads, to folk music, to what he calls journeying songs, with sweeping string sections and tom-tom drums. 

During a recent crowdfunding campaign, Kyle raised over $22,000 dollars from fans, and people who believe in his vision as an artist.

Kyle says often times today, artists are simply viewed as entertainers. And while he says he doesn’t have a problem with people who are focused on entertaining others, that’s not his ultimate goal.


When Joseph Morrissey took the position of Director of Dance at Interlochen Arts Academy earlier this year, one of the shows he was most excited about producing was The Nutcracker.

“One of the first things I asked about is, ‘Do you have a Nutcracker?’ And they said, ‘Not only do we have a Nutcracker, but we’re building a brand new set.’”

Morrissey has high ambitions for this classic, and wants to make sure it appeals to a variety of audiences. He says there are a lot of different elements—  romance, comedy, and some suspense. 

“Especially with the mice,” says Morrissey. “They are supposed to be scary— they are the conflict of the story. But we also have to keep in mind this is a holiday production. So, there is a lot of comedy as well,” he says. 

 


Todd and Brad Reed Photography

Sara Kassien is not a photographer. She was in the right place though on Sunday, August 2nd, driving home from work when the storm that had wrecked Glen Arbor swept over Traverse City.

“I saw all these other people pulled over,” she remembers. “I’m like, ‘That’s a good idea, I should do that.’ I followed the crowd.”


Illustrated for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1860

On the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, we got to thinking about how much the media has covered this particular event. With 8,000 known wrecks on the Great Lakes alone, why would this wreck be so popular? And why does it seem like our collective knowledge of maritime history starts and ends with the Edmund Fitzgerald? 

The best explanation seems to be Gordon Lightfoot and his chart-topping song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” 

 


Aaron Selbig

Meet Travis Duncan, manager of the Swamp of Suffering. That's the main attraction at Screams In the Dark, a big haunted house set up on the county fairgrounds near Traverse City.

Duncan plays a zombie that’s dressed as a member of a SWAT team. He and his small army of volunteers see themselves as something resembling a theatre troupe.

“This whole idea is to set up an illusion that you’re actually in a swamp," says Duncan. "You’re in a mausoleum, you’re in a graveyard. So we try to keep people in character so they can give that illusion and keep that illusion up.”

Wikipedia

Mykl Werth grew up as the art form he now loves was being abandoned in the U.S. He was a boy in the 1950s when dances like the Twist were popular and left people dancing next to each other. The ecstasy of the 1960s enthroned individual expression and led to the typical social dance we see today: a bunch of people shuffling around solo.

Mykl didn’t start dancing himself until he was 38. When he did, he quickly took an interest in partner dancing, which meant ballroom dancing. But he says it was no fun memorizing all those steps and people in the classes looked grumpy to him.

“I found it pretty laborious,” he recalls. “I wasn’t enjoying myself and if I wasn’t going to enjoy myself I wasn’t going to keep doing it.”

So he decided there had to be another way and he came up with a method all his own that he calls “co-creative.” It begins with dancers leaning away slightly from their partner. He says that creates a shared balance point a couple can move around naturally.

The members of PigPen Theater Co. get asked a certain question a lot: How did they come up with their name? 

They have a number of different stories about its origin, but Curtis Gillen says this one is true:

Seven freshman guys arrived at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2007 and found out about a student-produced arts festival. Despite being short on time, the group decided to put a show together anyway.

After covering the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan for NPR, author Sarah Chayes decided to stay in the country and start a non-profit. The many types of corruption Chayes witnessed there firsthand, led her to write the book, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She argues that while everyone around the world agrees corruption is bad, it’s a subject that usually get’s pushed to the back burner.

“We’re under-appreciating the degree to which a lot of the turmoil we’re seeing the world today is actually sparked by indignation at acute public corruption,” says Chayes. 

Morgan Springer

Incarcerated poets get together weekly at Writer’s Block, a poetry writing workshop at Macomb Correctional Facility outside Detroit. Eight inmates file into a conference room. Dressed in navy and orange jumpsuits, they greet everyone with affectionate handshakes.

 


Maryfrances Phillippi in front of her "Circle of Angels" barn quilt.
Daniel Wanschura

Have you ever been driving around and noticed huge, quilt-like squares hanging on the sides of barns?

Those are called barn quilts, and just as fabric quilts tell stories with what's stitched into them, so do these wooden quilts. 


Chuck Korson prepares espresso for the first round of the Latte Art Throwdown.
Kate Botello

If you ever find yourself in a room full of people, drinks being poured, and a giant bracket posted on a white board, you’re probably in one of two places: a sports bar during March Madness, or a coffee house during a latte art throwdown. 

While latte art is a popular subject for people posting photos of their drinks on social media, the quality of the art is also a determination of the deliciousness of the drink. 

“It’s a sign that you’re taking care in what your doing with the coffee,” says Chuck Korson, owner of BLK MRKT, a coffee shop in Traverse City. “It’s the most easily recognizable manifestation of the care that is put into the coffee making,” he says.


Theater director Minda Nyquist getting acquainted with her new office at West High School in Traverse City.
Daniel Wanschura

Ready or not, it’s back to school time!

While students are cherishing their last days of summer, teachers are busily preparing for the upcoming school year.

Minda Nyquist is one of them. She’s getting ready for her new role as the theater director at West High School in Traverse City. She’s taking over for Kristie Bach, who developed the theater program at West into the renown program it is today. Minda hopes to continue to build on what Kristie started 18 years ago.

Students rehearse during marching band camp at Interlochen last week.
John Roddy

High school football kicks off this weekend and with it marching band season. 

Some high schoolers spent last week getting ready for the band season at band camp hosted by Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Amy Wang was in marching band in high school and college. She’s been helping out as a color guard instructor for about 10 years.

One of her favorite things about band camp, is seeing the progression of the students.

“It’s pretty amazing what they can do in one week,” she says. 

Amy says anybody wanting to be in the color guard should be prepared to work hard, have lots of spirit, but to remember to enjoy the moment.

Not only do they have to memorize all the music and choreography, but they have to perform in all sorts of weather conditions- all while carrying and playing their instruments. 

 


This week the Green Room celebrates the ukulele, a sweet sounding little instrument with a growing fan base all over the world. Plus, Kate Botello plays something unexpected.

Librettist Scott Diel (left) and composer Eugene Birman (right) pictured during their two-week residency on Rabbit Island just off the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Andrew Ranville

Throughout the 19th century, operas were written to address the social issues of their day. Some people think those operas and their traditional format don’t have much context or relevance in today’s world.

Meet composer Eugene Birman and librettist Scott Diel. They believe opera should be made to reflect the current times and shed some of the formalities that characterize traditional opera.

That’s why they’re creating “State of the Union,” a neo-opera that challenges how humans view their urban environment, the world and each other. 

The piece will feature 12 voices. It doesn’t have any instruments, but it will have a megaphone.

The 2015 Traverse City Film Festival kicked off on Tuesday and wraps up on Sunday.
Daniel Wanschura

The 11th annual Traverse City Film Festival has turned northwest lower Michigan into everything cinematic.

While it’s smaller than say, Sundance or Cannes, the Traverse City Film Festival has it’s own unique flavor. 

David Cassleman

Armed with an eight-track recorder and an eighty dollar microphone, Matt Jones travels around Michigan, recording local musicians.

So far, he’s recorded about 100 artists from all over the state. 

“Everybody I’ve recorded has been completely worth it," Jones says. "So how could I possibly stop?"

The "JunkYard Music Box" was made out of a rusty water tank, old car parts, leftover granite, two I-beams, and an antique meat grinder.
Tom Kaufmann

What most of us would see as useless junk, Tom Kaufmann sees potential for making instruments. 

“I love junk,” Kaufmann says, laughing. 

From a giant 25-foot tall music box made out of a rusty water tank, to glockenspiels created out of hand tools, he has spent much of his life making music out of unexpected materials.

"Beaches" the musical runs through August 16 at the Drury Lane Theatre near Chicago.
Brett Beiner

"Beaches" just opened as a new musical in a pre-Broadway tryout in the Chicago area. The musical is similar to the 1988 film starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.

 

Director Brian Nash is an Interlochen alum. He says it feels like you’re looking at the same story as the film, but focusing on different days of the girls lives. 

“Weird Al” Yankovic has been making people laugh for more than 30 years.

On Sunday, he’s stopping by Traverse City with his “Mandatory Fun” Tour.

Hear how he came up with the idea for his song Foil, which parodies the pop song Royals by Lorde.

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