Andrew Keeler and Samantha Matthews in Ghost: The Musical

Andrew Keeler and Samantha Matthews in Ghost: The Musical

 

Before the lights went down on January 13's opening night of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Ghost: The Musical, producer Denny Hitchcock informed the audience of the show's background, telling us that although it was originally produced on Broadway with a cast of 22, this version was scaled down with a cast of 10. But even though this minimized presentation is the story of a ghost, director Jerry Jay Cranford's show is anything but transparent and weightless.

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

 

What really goes on in a beauty salon? As someone follicly challenged, I have wondered what happens behind all the glamor posters, hair products, and Hollywood-scandal magazines: Certainly there's more than stereotypical gossip between the customers and their stylists – right? Well, the truth is out. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre production of Steel Magnolias lifts the veil and exposes the beauty-shop mystique, and at least in this particular shop, Southern ladies come to share their fears, secrets, joys, and love with their very best friends – all while getting the perfect shampoos, colorings, and styles.

Kyle Chandler and Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea

 

Looking over my list of favorites from the recently ended movie year, I was trying to find something – anything – that connected them beyond my admittedly eclectic tastes. I mean, seriously: low-budget drama next to Disney animation next to indie horror next to teen comedy next to musical romance next to cops and robbers next to sci-fi next to a woman being transformed into a Shetland pony ... . What the hell kind of cinematic Top 10 is this?

Art in Plain Sight: Neon Signs


The neon sign at Bowlmor. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Downtown Davenport was once bathed in the bright glow of neon signs. In a photo taken from the intersection of Main and Second streets in the 1940s, the Hansen’s Hardware neon sign in the foreground rises several stories over the street below. So does a nearby Kaybee sign. There are, seemingly, a dozen or more smaller neon signs in the block.

Today from the same vantage point, we see U.S. Bank, the Figge Art Museum plaza, and the Charles J. Wright Ground Transportation Center. The prominent Hansen neon sign? Long gone. So are all of the other large neon signs in the photo: Kaybee, The Hub, Three Sisters, Baker’s Shoes. Also gone are the even-more-impressive neon signs rising high above the downtown theatre marquees.

Neon signs from this past era, fortunately, can still be found elsewhere in the Quad Cities.

The most-famous work by the Guerrilla Girls is simple and direct, asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

The pointed text of the 1989 poster continues: “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

That work is more than a quarter-century old, but the Guerrilla Girls have updated it over the years – with the results just as discouraging. The 2011 version states that women represent 4 percent of the artists in the modern-art sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art but 76 percent of the nudes.

The work gets more complex as one considers it.


Composer Cheryl Leonard

Claire Kovacs is in her third year as director of the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art, and she said that from the outset she needed to answer one question.

“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about since the moment that I even considered coming to Augustana,” she said, “was ‘What is the purpose of an art museum when the Figge is across the river?’”

The answer can be seen this month in a pair of free public events: the Guerrilla Girls’ January 18 lecture in Centennial Hall, and the January 11 performance collaboration of visual artist Oona Stern and composer Cheryl Leonard in Wallenberg Hall.

Most theatre patrons don’t need a good reason to see Steel Magnolias, as author Robert Harling’s six-woman dramedy set in a Southern beauty parlor has been a beloved staple of professional, community, and educational theatres for more than a quarter-century. But Donna Weeks, who directs the Playcrafters Barn Theatre’s January 13 through 22 presentation of the play, certainly had a good reason to want to direct it, given that like Steel Magnolias’ ingénue Shelby, Weeks herself has spent most of her life with type-1 diabetes.

“We knew it would be a good fit and we hadn’t done it for a while,” says Weeks of submitting the title for inclusion in 2017’s Playcrafters season, “and it’s a crowd-pleaser. I’ve always liked it – the movie and the show. But I’ve always been irritated by the scene at the beginning where Shelby has the low-blood-sugar attack. Part of me was like, ‘Oh, I just wanna get ahold of that show so just once it can be done right.’”

Sean Moeller Illustration by Dave Leiberg for the Time & The Mystery Podcast

I’m a glutton for these year-end wrap ups. They’re fascinating and ultimately demoralizing because as you’re reading all of them – taking that finger down the rankings – it doesn’t take you very long at all to see a pattern, and you wonder why everyone’s lying. You know damned well that there can be no consensus for this activity – especially across so many publications and outlets. But there is almost always a consensus, and I call BS on it. Don’t fall for these lists. Each one should be startlingly different and ranging. They should be the result of tightening the beautiful shambles that music does to you and your daily life.

Résistance, American Style

Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day

Rarely do I want movies to be longer. But there’s enough that’s great about Patriots Day – director Peter Berg’s procedural thriller about the Boston Marathon bombings – that suggests how great it might have been if given a more expansive presentation à la FX’s 10-part docu-drama The People v. O.J. Simpson. Heaven knows Berg had the cast to pull it off – with one exception. One major, infuriating, movie-wrecking exception.

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