Northern Michigan Arts & Culture

Northern Michigan is a place with incredible natural beauty and varied landscapes. It is also home to Interlochen Center for the Arts and several other longstanding cultural institutions. Little wonder the region has been so attractive to artists and musicians of all types. Here we bring you those stories. 

Welcome to Episode 28 of Show Tunes with Kate Botello! Coming up: foodies, take note. We’ve got a smorgasbord of food-related tunes coming your way. Then, some odes to the trials and joys of being alive. At Intermission, musical director Brian Nash stops by to tell us a story about a Broadway legend from one of his many fascinating gigs, and we’ll hear a cut from his album, Forever After.

Click through for this week's playlist and our featured video clip: Lauren Bacall goes wild!

How do we respond to betrayal? Where do we turn when our horses bite us, our fiancés sneak into haylofts with other women, our husbands date their college students, our daughters run off with our boyfriends, our brothers place us in harm’s way? These are the kinds of predicaments Bonnie Jo Campbell confronts in her latest story collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.


One of the most famous radio broadcasts of all time happened on October 30, 1938.

Orson Welles, just 23 years old, and his Mercury Theater Company convinced many Americans that Martians had invaded with their radio adaption of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

It’s a reminder of the power of a radio performance, and it’s something that Joseph Zettelmaier wants to bring to audiences in Michigan.

Zettelmaier’s Roustabout Theatre Troupe is going around Southeast Michigan bringing creepy, spooky, old-time radio plays to audiences so people can see the actors and see how the sound effects are made.

C. S. Lewis believed the nuanced imagination was important for perceiving reality.
The Wade Center

C. S. Lewis was a Christian theologian who authored over 70 books, including The Space Trilogy, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

This weekend in Petoskey, the annual C. S. Lewis Festival will celebrate Lewis’ imagination. 

The authors of the book, The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis say he had a nuanced understanding regarding imagination. They Identify over 30 different types of imagination that Lewis recognized and used in his writings.

Mark Neal is one of those authors, and a featured speaker at the festival in Petoskey. He says the nuanced approach to imagination helps us better understand reality. 

"It's this idea that it helps us to see things that, without it, would be unseeable," Neal says.



October is National Bullying Prevention Month. One of the most likely to be on the receiving end of bullying is the child who is on the autism spectrum.

Ron Sandison knows what that’s like.

Welcome to Episode 27 - the Season Three premiere of Show Tunes with Kate Botello! Tonight: neighbors, pesky and otherwise, and we’ll hear some songs about a hot button issue - the telephone. Then, a it’s a WICKED intermission! We’ll talk with the lovely Emily Koch, who just wrapped up her turn as Elphaba in the national tour of WICKED. In Act Two: feeling down? Need a boost to your self esteem? We’ve got you covered.

Click through for this week's playlist!

Garlic sits ready to be judged in advance of the Third Annual Crosshatch Garlic Auction.
Dan Wanschura

Michigan has a lot of festivals. There’s a tulip festival, a cherry festival, an apple festival, we even have an asparagus festival.

Recently, I came across a sort of garlic festival that happens in Elk Rapids. 



Broadway musicals have covered a dizzying array of subjects. It may be hard to believe, but that list includes the life and trials of a young physician.

On this evening, 69 years ago, the medical musical "Allegro" opened on Broadway.

Although it’s long been forgotten, University of Michigan medical historian Dr. Howard Markel believes the lessons taught by "Allegro" are worth remembering today.

Hasan Minhaj is a first generation Indian-American. The comdedian shares stories of what it was like growing up in America in a show called, 'Homecoming King.'
Hasan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj loves the way humor can get a message across. As a high schooler, Minhaj was involved in speech and debate. Then, while in college, he saw Chris Rock's Never Scared comedy routine. He equated it to 'funny' speech and debate.

"I even remember in forensics, if you could basically ridicule the other person's point, it would make your side seem so much stronger," he says.

Aaron Peterson stands atop Sugarloaf Mountain, in Marquette. He's launching the Fresh Coast FIlm Festival, in hopes of making more adventure seekers aware of the U.P. and some of the conservation issues facing the Midwest.
Dan Wanschura

Aaron Peterson grew up and attended school in Wisconsin. After college, he moved to southern Minnesota, where he lived for about nine months. That's when he and his fiancé decided to move north to Michigan. They chose Marquette, literally because of how it looked on a map. 


Both of them are really big kayakers and they wanted a place where they could settle down, raise a family and still play outside.

Composer Eugene Birman (left) and librettist Scot Diel on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. The two artists created a contemporary opera that had its U.S. premiere in Marquette, Michigan.
Jacques-Alain Finkeltroc

Last summer, we met Eugene Birman and Scott Diel on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. They were working on their newest opera called State of the Union.

On almost everything Birman and Diel have attempted to do, they've tried to ask themselves, "Why does it have to be this way? Can it be different?"

Eugene Birman says in most cases, other people have responded, "Well yeah, I guess it can be.”

Hystopia, the first novel of acclaimed Michigan short story writer David Means, is a complex book built around a simple question: what can we do about the trauma that war inflicts on our veterans?  

Emilio Rodriguez (left) chats with fellow artists in residence during The MITTEN Lab residency.
Dan Wanschura

What’s one of the biggest challenges for emerging artists today?

A lot of them will tell you, it’s about getting their new work noticed. Think about, a playwright for example. Their work has to be compelling enough for a theater company just to notice it.

But even then, it’s not enough to just be compelling. The work has to be so good that the theater decides to take a chance and invest in the production of the show. If the playwright doesn't have much of a track record, it’s a huge gamble for the theater company.

Take a presidential campaign. Mix in a large serving of old-fashioned musicals, and top it off with two women realizing they are in love, and you've got the new film Liberty's Secret.

Andy Kirshner is the writer, composer, director, producer and he has a role in the film, which is having its premiere this Thursday at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor. Kirshner is also an associate professor of both music and art & design at the University of Michigan.

The film, which the website describes as "the all-American lesbian movie-musical," tells the story of a struggling presidential campaign fronted by moderate Republican Kenny Weston, who recruits the charismatic Liberty Smith to be his running mate. This singing and dancing preacher's daughter is just what the campaign needs to get back into the race to the White House. That is, until she falls in love with one of the campaign's political consultants, who is a woman.

Christopher Hebert's Angels of Detroit has a rich cast of feckless and out of their time hippies who make their way to Detroit for no good purpose. Hebert is a generous and perceptive writer who gives his characters a long hard look, but his anarchists have a difficult time explaining why blowing up Detroit will lead to something better.