One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is tragic, but at Western Reserve Playhouse, this theatrical classic carries a solid message about how indomitable the human spirit is.
Leading the way in director Brian Westerley’s cast is Ryan Rasnick as the rebellious, charismatic Randle P. McMurphy, who thinks he’s going to get out of serving time on a work farm by doing an easy stint in a psych unit. This cocky show-off ends up mobilizing all of the other patients, bringing them out of their introversion and helping them learn to relish life again.
One character is catatonic and others have extreme anxiety or sociopathic qualities. But Westerley and his cast don’t resort to crazy caricatures as they portray this motley crew of what could be called extreme misfits at best.
The character that comes closest to a caricature is Ruckly, played with humor and perfect comedic timing by Irv Korman as he holds up a wall and yells obscenities regularly. He’s among the funniest characters but we also realize he’s too far gone: At one time Ruckly was the toughest guy in the ward.
Ruling the ward is Nurse Ratched, played with an unsettlingly soothing voice by April Deming that belies her sadistic behavior. She cruelly manipulates all of the patients, shaming them and exploiting their most terrifying weaknesses in group sessions — until McMurphy shows up.
He’s the only one willing to challenge her, immediately coming to the brainy Dale Harding’s (Joe Turner) defense when Ratched treats him with mental cruelty. It’s fun to see McMurphy make bets about how fast he can make Ratched angry, ultimately leading the patients in several revolts.
The young, handsome Rasnick is charismatic in this seminal role. But he tends to give a one-note delivery of many of his lines, as if he’s yelling them out and proclaiming everything at high volume. The actor does not employ much vocal variety but nevertheless does quite a good job, considering this is his first play ever.
On Friday night, the show contained some awkward pauses in tempo. But together, the male-dominated cast of patients is a strong unit. Craig Webb provides some frightening humor as the threatening, bomb-obsessed Scanlon. Most heartbreaking is Ryan Dyke as the nervous, sensitive, stuttering Billy Bibbit.
As the seemingly deaf and mute Chief Bromden, who gives hallucinatory soliloquies to the audience, Dennis Burby neither looks part Native American nor is he especially big. The role calls for Bromden to be a giant who thinks he’s little. Yet Burby is no taller than Rasnick’s McMurphy, who repeatedly talks to him about how big he is. The actor’s lack of size weakens the symbolism of power that comes along with these exchanges.
The production, which contains adult languages and sexual references, is for mature audiences only.
McMurphy may seem like all fun and games, but it’s a sobering moment when he realizes that the rule-obsessed Nurse Ratched holds all the power over him, considering he’s the only involuntary patient in the ward. On the WRP stage, this is a battle of wills worth seeing.
LeBron James is still just that kid from Akron.
But a new comedy series from his online entertainment arm Uninterrupted tells the fictional story of that “other” kid from the Rubber City.
The Crossover: The Story of Laurence Moses Bryant tells the tale — documentary style — of how the NBA wannabe claims he once crossed over LeBron during a pickup game in an Akron city park.
A film crew follows Larry, played by New Girl actor Lamorne Morris, around town as he brags about the fateful day some 20 years ago when he quickly switched dribbling the ball from one hand to the other and tripped up then-teenage LeBron when he changed direction.
The only problem is no one else in town seems to remember it that way.
The first episode went live Monday afternoon with plans to record future episodes in Akron and elsewhere.
Larry is shown in a city park missing shot after shot and being pushed off the court by others who are actually playing a game.
About the only shots he actually makes is when he’s throwing bags into the back of the garbage truck as he makes his rounds collecting rubbish, waiting for the call to join LeBron in the NBA.
He claims that on the day of his signature crossover move, even former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, whose last name he horribly mispronounces, was there to witness it.
He talks about how in a pick and roll, LeBron ended up defending him.
“It was a mismatch,” Larry says. “It was the mouse in the house. The Indians in the Cupboard.”
Even the grandmother he lives with, surrounded by his collection of participation trophies from his youth including Akron CYO, is dubious of her grandson’s claims. She admits they ran out of trophies one year so she paid to have one made for “being good.”
The mockumentary features cameos by Maverick Carter, LeBron’s business partner and classmate at Akron’s St. Vincent/St. Mary, and former Beacon Journal sportswriter and current ESPN NBA analyst Brian Windhorst, who both cast doubt on Larry’s claims.
“If he crossed LeBron, trust me, he would have been legend in Akron,” Windhorst tells the camera.
Morris’ character pays homage to Akron, where he claims to be Patient Zero and talks about never seeing a need to leave the city limits, except for one trip to the airport to corner Stan Van Gundy to sign a pair of Nike LeBron basketball shoes that sit on display on a dresser in his bedroom.
In the end of the eight-minute show, Larry invites LeBron over to his grandmother’s house but he tells the superstar not to use the doorbell because it is broken and ignore the “beware of dog” sign because the dog died.
“Haters gonna hate,” Larry says. “You always have to stay motivated. At the end of the day, man crossed LeBron James. Ain’t no one gonna take that away from me.”
Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.
Almost everyone with a pulse will hit movie theaters this week to check out Deadpool 2, the first film with a legitimate shot to dethrone Avengers: Infinity War from the top perch at the box office.
Those looking to escape the summer comic book and blockbuster onslaught will have to settle for Book Club.
“Settle” may not be an appropriate description, as Book Club isn’t without its charms, which come primarily via an all-star cast that includes Oscar winners Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen, and Emmy winner Candice Bergen.
It’s in that cast that the conventional comedy finds its strength as each and every one of them brings something to the table. They portray a group of lifelong friends navigating the next phase of life — that time when the kids have flown the coop and life belongs to them and, to those who have them, their spouses.
Fonda’s Vivian, a very successful hotelier, remains carefree and single. Keaton’s Diane is learning to deal with life as a widow and two hovering, obnoxious daughters who think she’s practically dead. Carol (Steenburgen) is a restaurateur who is struggling with marital difficulties with her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson). Bergen’s Sharon is a federal judge who hasn’t remarried after being divorced for close to two decades.
To be honest, they’re in a rut. Vivian, recognizing this, prescribes a cure. The friends have always met on a monthly basis to share and discuss a book. Her next choice for them to read: Fifty Shades of Grey.
Guess what initially creates guffaws before eventually influencing their lives? Vivian hooks up with the only man she ever loved after 40 years. Diane meets and is romanced by a handsome airline pilot (Andy Garcia). Carol manages to find the courage to talk to her husband about their “issues.” Sharon? The judge loosens her robes — significantly.
In that respect, the film plays like Love Actually, weaving their assorted stories in and out of the overall narrative. It makes Book Club more enjoyable and holds the audience’s attention.
Written by Ben Holderman, who makes his directorial debut, along with Erin Simms, there’s little revolutionary about this rumination on life, love, growing old and what it all means. Holderman assembles a stellar cast that reminds those in the audience familiar with their past successes, just why they are held in such esteem.
Book Club is a comedy with charm that matches its cast’s skills. If death, mayhem and graphic violence aren’t your idea of a good time at the movies, this is a good alternative.
George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected].
Marc Lee Shannon album release party
Marc Lee Shannon, longtime sideman for Michael Stanley, holds a release party for his solo album, Walk This Road, at 8 p.m. at Tangier, 532 W. Market St., Akron. (Read Malcolm X Abram’s interview with Shannon at https://bit.ly/2IUEgUZ.) Tickets are $12-$15 at thetangier.com, 330-376-7171.
Attend Senior Summit Expo
The Senior Summit Expo, with food, prizes and services for seniors, runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Firestone Community Learning Center, 470 Castle Blvd., Akron. Free Metro service to the summit is available from all routes through 5 p.m. http://summitohioprobate.com/senior-summit-2018/.
Celebrate Interbelt’s 30th
The Interbelt Nite Club is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a party beginning at 9:30 p.m., with entertainment including Alejandra J-Love, who recently won the Miss Akron Pride title. The club is at 70 N. Howard St.; interbelt.com.
Happy Tails Thrift Shop opens
The Humane Society of Summit County holds an opening party for its Happy Tails Thrift Shop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1770 Merriman Road, Akron, with refreshments, activities, promotions and a Mobile Adoption Center. http://www.summithumane.org.
Enjoy Royal Wedding Tea
Tea goodies, croquet and a replay of the nuptials on a big screen will be available at the Royal Wedding Tea fundraiser at Christ Episcopal Church in Kent. Seatings are at noon, 1 and 2 p.m. Cost is $20, $10 for children ages 12 or younger. For reservations, call 330-322-1236. The church is at 118 S. Mantua St. (state Route 43). A portion of the proceeds will go to Freedom House in Portage County and CANAPI (Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative) in Akron.
Bruce Graham’s White Guy on the Bus, which dives headfirst into issues of racism and stereotypes, is clearly meant to make audiences highly uncomfortable. If you don’t feel disturbed, you’re definitely not listening.
The 2017 play, being performed at None Too Fragile in Akron’s Merriman Valley, confronts some ugly truths about racial fear and hatred in a story set in Philadelphia. This tale follows two white couples, one being Ray (Joseph Bonamico) and Roz (Dede Klein), who work as a financier and an inner-city schoolteacher, respectively.
They are close friends with younger couple Christopher (Tony Zanoni) — who is like their son — and the idealistic, privileged Molly (Rachel Lee Kolis). They grew up with nannies and study abroad, while the older couple began by scraping to get through school.
No character can be called a hero or someone who speaks or acts without prejudice. The person who comes closest is African-American character Shatique, a young, intelligent, underprivileged mom played with warmth and intensity by India Burton.
Shatique is working hard to complete nursing school as she makes numerous sacrifices for her young son, but even she ends up snapping and revealing her racial hatred.
Graham has written scenes that tellingly overlap between debates on race that the white, upper-class characters engage in over cocktails, and Ray’s interactions with Shatique week after week on a Philadelphia bus. This white businessman sticks out when he repeatedly rides the bus to the end of the line but never gets out at its final destination — a prison.
The playwright creates such a shocking plot twist, it’s as if he’s dropped a bomb into the story.
The debates the white characters have about race are difficult to stomach, ranging from glib to sneering. Klein creates a particularly flawed character in Roz, who refers to a troubled student named Nazir as dumb one moment, and cries about him having no chance in life the next.
Realism and idealism
At the surface level, much of what she says about the black students at her school sounds derogatory. For that reason, it’s difficult to believe that Roz has altruistic reasons for working with an underprivileged population.
Her debates with young Molly pit a supposed realist vs. an idealist when it comes to issues of race and poverty. The older woman has experienced being called a “white bitch’’ by students every week of her career and knows that two of her students have robbed a 7-Eleven. The younger woman, who has never worked with or been exposed to an at-risk population, speaks only from what she has read.
The talk gets so ugly at points, it makes you want to leave the room. But there’s a lamentable honesty to Graham’s flawed characters, who reveal the ugly, base or violent side of human beings that so many people choose to hide.
In the end, Graham creates a damning commentary on what money and white privilege can do for a person who wants to manipulate others’ lives. Don’t expect a sense of resolution or healing in this stark play, which is bound to leave audiences feeling more disturbed than before about the racial divide in America.
Music-making at the highest possible level has always been the name of the game for James Mismas, who will play his last service at 10:30 a.m. May 27 before retiring as organist and music director at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Akron.
After 23 years at the church’s musical helm, he has numerous accomplishments to look back on that he says would not have been possible without the solid support and friendship of so many in the parish. Mismas, 67, not only works at the church but is also a member with his husband, local artist Bruce Stebner.
“This church has been so kind and lovely and caring for me and my husband and our children for the past 23 years,’’ Mismas said.
Born in Cleveland, Mismas was raised in Wooster and started studying the organ at age 11. He received a degree in organ performance at Oberlin Conservatory in 1973, followed by a master’s degree in organ performance in 1976 at the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Akron in 1980.
He began working as a professional organist as a teen and has never looked back.
“I’ve been doing this for 53 years pretty successfully, I feel, and it’s really important to me, and it always has been really important to me as I’ve pondered when all this might wrap up, that I stop riding the crest of the wave still feeling like I’m doing a really good job, I’m connected,’’ the musician said of his decision to retire now.
He and Stebner are the parents of Aaron (Emily) Stebner of Denver and Amy (Aaron) Leonhardt of Canton.
First things first
When Mismas arrived at Westminster in 1995, the organ was older and “in need of some significant help.“ He suggested forming a committee to research replacing it, and Orrville company Schantz was chosen to build a new 71-rank organ in 1998. Mismas served as volunteer consultant to save the church money on the nearly $700,000 organ restoration project.
According to current pastor Jon Hauerwas, through Mismas’ vision and leadership in cultivating donors, full funding was achieved in several months, in time for the installation in October 1998.
“Jim is a really beloved person and people that meet him and get to know him inevitably just really, really like him as a person,’’ Hauerwas said. “He’s an incredibly joyful person. He laughs a lot.”
Hauerwas is the fifth pastor Mismas has worked with at Westminster. The pastor said other churches have tried to woo the popular Mismas away over the years, but Westminster has always found a way to pay him a competitive salary and support his projects.
Another legacy Mismas leaves is the Five at Five free concert series, a gift to the community that has run annually from September through May for 20 years.
“I wanted it to be professional-caliber music-making and I was really, really insistent that there be no cost,’’ said Mismas, who on Sunday directed and accompanied many of his current and former vocal students in his final Five at Five concert, the Mother’s Day Opera/Broadway Gala.
He said the series has been well supported financially by the parish since its inception, and an endowment fund specifically for the music series will ensure that his successor has the resources to keep this outreach program going.
At the end of last Sunday’s concert, keeping with tradition, the performers ended the concert with Sing to Love, from the Johann Strauss operetta Die Fledermaus. And as he does each year for the Mother’s Day concert, Mismas told concertgoers: “The beginning of all art is love. … The worth and extent of every art will, above all, be determined by the artist’s capacity and ability to love,’’ quoting German poet/novelist Herman Hesse.
Many community members have told Mismas how valuable the Five at Five series is.
“This is just so important to me to be able to come here and hear all these concerts because I can’t afford to buy tickets at E.J. Thomas or wherever you’re buying tickets,’’ concertgoers have told him.
Over two decades, the series has featured musicians ranging from Akron Baroque to pianist Philip Thomson of the University of Akron. Each November, Mismas also has presented a major choral work that features area high school and college singers, which he calls “outreach at its finest.”
“I can’t think of too many things that are more sustaining to the soul than a bunch of people making music together. Everyone is focused on excellence, they are working together and trying their hardest to be the strongest participant in the group, and it makes for wonderful music-making,” he said.
During Mismas’ tenure, three different music endowment funds have been created at the church to continue Westminster’s music programs in perpetuity.
Mismas has taught voice at local universities including Mount Union, the University of Akron, the College of Wooster and Kent State. He currently teaches voice at Baldwin Wallace, where he has been an adjunct professor for five years. He also conducted the Akron Symphony Chorus for 10 years.
In another Akron legacy, he also founded West Side Vocal Academy more than 20 years ago, run in the beginning by three of his KSU voice students — Sue Wallin, Jamie Cordes and Ron Hazelett.
“There was a need for it in the community at that time in particular,’’ he said. “In exchange for them having space to teach, they sang in the church choir.
“It took off like a rocket.”
In his final year as music director at Westminster, Mismas has enjoyed doing favorite anthems with the choir as well as scenes from Amahl and the Night Visitors on Christmas Eve.
“I’ve spent time learning new organ pieces to play that I had not previously learned,’’ said Mismas, who stressed that he won’t have the organ that he helped design to practice on when he retires.
He knows he’ll likely be asked to serve as a substitute organist. He’ll also continue teaching at Baldwin Wallace, and will conduct Summit Choral Society’s spring concert in May 2019.
“It’s just going to be fun to see what presents itself,’’ he said.
Mismas has enjoyed great satisfaction nurturing multiple generations of voice students and watching them grow as musicians. He cited the life-changing care his own community put into his early musical development, including the College of Wooster organ teacher who gave him free lessons when he was a teen in exchange for his working as an assistant to the school organ tuner. A family gave him use of its car during undergraduate school in Oberlin so he could commute to Wooster to continue as organist at First Presbyterian Church.
In other life-changing gifts, a Wooster music club got money together to send him to Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan when he was 15 and had just lost his father. And former Rubbermaid executive Horatio Ebert, who made it his mission to help young people pursuing their education, paid for Mismas’ tuition, apartment, food, car and gas during his graduate school years in Illinois.
“I lived under a star,’’ Mismas said. “You need that affirmation and love and care and concern. I’ve received that for my whole life, from when I first began. … I’m just really grateful and feel like it’s been a really blessed life, getting to do the things that I love the most. It’s been a real gift.’’
Understanding one’s historical place in time is difficult. Too often, we forget how or why we have arrived at the moment we have. What caused us to achieve this point in time and what sacrifices by ourselves or others help us get to the place we are today?
Odysseus and Penelope: The Long Journey is an exhibition at the Canton Museum of Art by artist Kari Halker-Saathoff. Finding her inspiration in the story of the Odyssey and the Women’s March of 2017, “the artist’s ambition for this show is to illuminate the many parallels between the present and 650 B.C.E.,” the information states.
The exhibition features 12 vessels paired with 12 drawings. The drawings tell the story of Odysseus and the vessels the story of Penelope. The vessels are placed in such a way as to force the viewer to circle them to understand Penelope’s story and struggles better. It is often thought that Odysseus is the “hero,” but here the artist is calling attention to the fact that Penelope is her hero.
Working with potter Joshua Ausman, the artist has put drawings on vessels whose necks gradually get longer, signifying Penelope’s long wait for Odysseus to return. This is a subtle but powerful symbol, enhanced by the detailed drawings Halker-Saathoff has placed on each vessel.
Vessel #4: Nevertheless is a piece that depicts the pressure on Penelope to remarry after waiting so long for Odysseus. At the same time it references a battle cry of the 2017 Women’s March, “She was warned … nevertheless, she persisted,” spoken by Sen. Mitch McConnell, who used a special rule to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
On one side, the piece features a drawing of a woman wearing a “pussy hat,” which was popularized during the march. It’s a detailed drawing that also features a scarf and a roll of yarn drawn on the foot of the pot just below the portrait.
The other side depicts two people, perhaps a mother and daughter, holding up “Nevertheless” signs. The sense of camaraderie portrayed here with the two sign-wielding people, and the link to the struggles of Penelope, coupled with the reference of a “vessel” and what it can mean in regards to motherhood, is extremely meaningful.
It’s important also to note that the pots are well made and the drawings are well executed. If this were not the case, the message and the feelings this exhibition evokes might not be achieved.
Image 3: Heartsick on the Open Sea – Make His Name By Sailing There is a drawing that describes the moment in the story of Odysseus where his son is visited by the god Athena, who is disguised as an old friend and tells him she believes his father will return and that he must stand up to the suitors for his mother. The drawing features a boat out on the sea with dueling eagles flying above.
There is movement and interconnected lines of imagery and clouds throughout this work, as well as portraits in each corner that must be autobiographical. Indeed, many if not all of the drawings seem to feature friends or family, along with the point in the story being referenced.
The autobiographical imagery gives a deeper meaning to Halker-Saathoff’s fascination with this famous story. Like the references to the Women’s March, the portraits bring a fresh meaning to what is being portrayed and also snap the viewer in and out of time, if only for a few moments.
Often people steer away from exhibitions like Odysseus and Penelope: The Long Journey for the fear that the work might be too confrontational. However, it should be argued that this is exactly the reason you should see it. This is a well-executed, extremely thoughtful exhibition that brings important ideas and feelings to the world, in ways that only the arts can. Here is an opportunity to connect and find deeper understanding, and perhaps a better vision of tomorrow through the eyes of an artist.
Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].
Many who have danced professionally for decades say they choose to go out on a high note. Kent native James Ihde could say he went out with sparkle and dazzle performing in George Balanchine’s famed Jewels last weekend with the Pennsylvania Ballet.
After 25 years with the company, Ihde retired after performing in Emeralds from the three-part dance Jewels Friday and Saturday night, and in the pièce de résistance Sunday — the coveted pas de deux Diamonds, which he performed opposite Lillian DiPiazza.
“It was a little bit of a bucket list part for me,” Ihde said of his climactic final performance. “I did kind of look at it a bit enviously, so it was a real treat to get to do it,’’.
Jewels, premiered by the New York City Ballet in 1967, was an immediate hit, a full-length, abstract ballet in three acts with the dancers dressed in jewel-colored costumes. For the Diamond act, which Balanchine created in the Russian style to music by Tchaikovsky, Ihde and his partner dressed in white and performed against a backdrop depicting a star-strewn sky.
“It’s almost like too good to ask for. It builds up to this gigantic finish with this really grand music, tons of people on stage, a big kind of ‘tada’ finish,’’ Ihde said by phone Tuesday from Philadelphia on his 43rd birthday.
Ihde began his studies at the University of Akron Dance Institute at age 10, where teacher GenaCarroll encouraged him to join sisters Elizabeth [now Cavallero] and Jessica [now Godbey] in taking ballet. She encouraged him to try out for the Pennsylvania Ballet when he was 18.
Ihde began as an apprentice in Philadelphia in 1993, moving up to the corps de ballet in 1995 and soloist in 2003. In his quarter century with the Pennsylvania Ballet, he has performed across the nation and internationally in hundreds of premieres, danced in more than 500 Nutcrackers and originated dozens of roles in numerous productions.
It’s hard for him to choose a top ballet, but one of Ihde’s favorites is contemporary choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, one of the few dances he said he has been able to lose himself in.
“The choreography’s beautiful and subtle. It’s just got a really beautiful score by Arvo Part, which is really simple and hypnotic,’’ Ihde said.
In the ballet world, it’s rare to dance professionally for 25 years. It’s even more rare to stay with the same company for your entire career. Ihde said he didn’t set out with that plan. But he loved Philadelphia so much, he made it his home and made a strong network of friends.
When Ihde started with the company, several other dancers had been there about two decades. Now, the average age of the company is about 25. Ihde himself has worked with three artistic directors: Christopher D’Amboise, Roy Kaiser and Angel Corella.
At some point, the body stops cooperating quite how a dancer wants it to, Ihde said: “I had kind of pushed it already and I didn’t want to push it anymore to the point where I wasn’t aging gracefully.”
Now, he plans to continue teaching at several dance schools in Philadelphia and is open to new ventures.
Ihde’s family, including parents Bill and Marcia of Kent, his two sisters, brothers in law and niece celebrated his final performances with him last weekend, as did numerous friends from throughout his career. The ballet threw a party for him after Sunday’s performance and Ihde and his friends and family continued the celebration into the night at a brewery next to Academy of Music, where the company performed.
In a program tribute, longtime friend Tom Turner made an analogy between the timeless, entertaining Diamonds and Ihde. He wrote, “like him, a diamond itself is renowned for its elegance, rarity and superlative physical attributes.”
In other dance news, Robin Prichard, associate professor of dance at the University of Akron, was awarded an Individual Excellence Award in Choreography from the Ohio Arts Council. The dancer, choreographer and educator has taught at UA since 2009.
Prichard’s choreography investigates personal and cultural identities, often in relationship to current social issues. Her awarded work includes The Art of Making Dances (Not About Ferguson), a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and to violence against African American men in 2016.
Also receiving the award is Prichard’s intergenerational mother/daughter duet that explores the mourning of unrealized opportunities and is dedicated to mothers and daughters everywhere.
The community can enjoy a free concert by 11 first- and second-place winners of Tuesday Musical’s 2018 Scholarship Competition at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Faith Lutheran Church, 2726 W. Market St.
Performers will be Caleb Stabaugh, Baldwin Wallace, trombone; Brianna Bragg, University of Cincinnati, soprano; Wei-An Hung, Cleveland Institute of Music, cello; Henry Spencer, University of Akron, guitar; Li Wang, University of Cincinnati, piano; J Bennett, Oberlin Conservatory, organ; Preston Light, University of Cincinnati, tuba; Nadia Marshall, Ohio State University, soprano; Peter Loferski, University of Akron, marimba; Aram Man, Oberlin Conservatory, flute; and Ju-eun Lee, Cleveland Institute of Music, violin.
A total of 20 college music students received $22,300 in the 2018 competition held in March, which drew 174 applicants. Two additional scholarships for $1,000 and $2,000 will be awarded Sunday during a post-concert reception.
Other scholarship winners are: Robyn King, University of Akron, music education; Rebecca Terschak, Capital University, music education; Brianna Volkmann, Baldwin Wallace, French horn; Yaoyue Huang, University of Cincinnati, piano; Eben Wagenstroom, University of Cincinnati, piano; David Lee, Oberlin Conservatory, cello; Dawna Rae Warren, Baldwin Wallace, voice; Colin Roshak, Oberlin Conservatory, clarinet; and Camilla Yoder, Baldwin Wallace, oboe.
There’s a lot to celebrate.
And I’m not just talking about the fact it is no longer snowing.
We love our fairs and festivals and the coming summer months are full of reasons to get outside and eat a corn dog or two. Or three.
The unofficial start of summer is Memorial Day, but we are already getting into a festive mood in Northeast Ohio.
This weekend has two big events.
One is on a statewide level. And another is a big party locally.
After a year of renovation work, the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay will once again open to tourists on Saturday and there are a lot of activities planned there to mark the occasion.
The memorial is a Doric column — the largest such column in the world — that rises some 352 feet over Lake Erie to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Workers have spent months re-tucking each and every one of the granite blocks that comprise the column that stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The elevator — it costs $7 to ride — will reopen to the public on Saturday to reach the observation deck that is 12 feet higher than the statue of Liberty’s torch.
It is named after Oliver Hazard Perry for his naval victory in the war.
Buried under its stone floor are three American officers and three British officers who died in the naval battles.
Park Superintendent Barbara Fearon said in keeping with the National Park’s mission as a Peace Memorial, it will play host to the free Put-in-Bay Music Festival on June 9.
Music, she said, unifies people and it’s fitting that the park will host the festival that attracts tens of thousands with a common love of music from bluegrass to zydeco to folk to rhythm and blues.
“This is never more relevant than it is today,” Fearon said of the political divisiveness in the nation.
A common love of flowering trees and concession stand food will unite folks in Barberton this weekend.
The city’s Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off around Lake Anna Friday night and continues through Sunday with activities, music and lots of fried food.
The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday.
This is just the beginning of a busy festival season in the area.
Looking ahead, notable dates to mark on your calendar include the county fairs.
The Summit County Fair runs July 24 to 29 with the demolition derby on Wednesday night and the Rough Truck competition on Sunday.
The 173rd Medina County Fair will be July 30 to Aug. 5.
The headliner on Aug. 2 is Kane Brown. Tickets are $30 and go on sale at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the fair office window, 720 W. Smith Road, or online at medina-fair.com. Phone sales at 330-723-9633 start at 10 a.m.
The Wayne County Fair, which bills itself as Ohio’s Foremost Agricultural Fair, runs Sept. 8 to 13.
It has a full lineup of national acts this year with Sara Evans on Sept. 9, Trace Adkins on Sept. 10 and Larry the Cable Guy on Sept. 11. Tickets for the grandstand shows will go on sale July 2.
The 160th Portage County Randolph Fair will be Aug. 21-26. It will have back-to-back demolition derby nights Aug. 21 and 22.
Other notable festivals and events this summer include:
• May 19 — Craft and Herb Festival in Wadsworth
• May 24 — Vintage Canton in downtown with live music, art exhibits and wine.
• May 26 — Spring Grove Civil War Encampment at 115 North Spring Grove St. in Medina.
• May 26 — Reggae Fest Cleveland in the Twinsburg Perici Amphitheatre.
• May 26-27 — Fairy Days at the Farm! at Heritage Farms, 6050 Riverview Road, in Peninsula.
• June 1 and 2 — WQKT & Daily Record Music & Ribfest in Wooster
• June 2 — All The Square’s A Stage in Highland Square with live theater performances.
• June 2 — Art and Wine Festival in downtown Kent.
• June 3 — Bath Art Festival in the Bath Community Park on North Cleveland-Massillon Road.
• June 8 to 10 — Riverfront Irish Festival in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.
• June16 — Bauman Orchards Strawberry Festival in Rittman.
• June 17 — Father’s Day Car Show at Stan Hywet Hall.
• June 19-23 — Blue Tip Festival in Wadsworth.
• June 22-23 — Freedom Fest in Green’s Boettler Park at 5300 Massillon Road.
• June 22-24 — Sarah’s Vineyard Summer Solstice Festival in Cuyahoga Falls.
• June 22-24 — Rock the Dock around Springfield Lake.
• June 29 to July 4 — Rib, White and Blue festival in downtown Akron.
• June 30 to July 1 — Boston Mills Artfest Show I in Boston Township.
• July 5-8 — Boston Mills Artfest Show II in Boston Township.
• July 12 to 14 — Olde Canal Days Festival in Canal Fulton.
• July 12 to 14 — Summit County Italian-American Festival in downtown Akron.
• July 13 — Kent Blues Fest in downtown Kent.
• July 14 — Portage Lake’s Kiwanis Pirate Days Festival in Portage Lakes.
• July 14-15 — Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival in Bath Township.
• July 19 to 21 — Lodi Sweet Corn Festival.
• July 20-22 — Festa Italiana in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.
• July 20-22 — JamGrass Arts and Music Festival in Medina.
• July 20-22 — Akron African American Festival.
• July 26 — Taste of Akron.
• July 26-28 — Rittman Sleepwalker Festival.
July 27-29 — Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton.
• Aug. 3-4 — Rogues Hollow Festival in Doylestown.
• Aug. 3-5 — Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg.
• Aug. 10-11 — Festa Italiana in Wooster.
• Aug. 11 — Signal Tree Fest in Akron.
• Aug. 11-12 — Hale Farm Civil War Reenactment.
• Aug. 12 — An Affair on the Square Craft Fest in Medina.
• Aug. 17-18 — Taste of Ireland Fest in Akron.
• Aug. 18 — PorchRokr Festival in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood.
• Aug. 18 — art-A-palooza in Green.
• Aug. 19 — Valley City Frog Jump Festival.
• Aug. 25 — Akron Pride Festival in Akron’s Hardesty Park.
• Aug. 25 — Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival at Lock 3 in Akron.
• Aug. 25-26 — Art on the Green in Hudson.
• Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 – Made in Ohio Arts and Crafts Festival at Hale Farm.
• Sept. 1-2 — Summer Sunset Blast in Stow.
• Sept. 2-3 — Taste of Hudson.
Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.
There are Marvel movies, and then there are Deadpool movies.
Deadpool, as embodied by a hilariously hyper Ryan Reynolds, is the self-absorbed, foul-mouthed Frat Bro of the Marvel universe. He hurls a torrent of one-liners, pop culture put-downs and sexual innuendo almost as often as he slices off heads, chops off arms, or otherwise shoots, burns or blows up enemies.
His maniacally mischievous antics make for a madcap and blood-soaked romp in Deadpool 2. If you liked the original, you will love the sequel. It’s more of the same. Only more so.
Deadpool in 2016 was the first Marvel film to embrace an R rating: sex and drugs and rocking violence. No. 2 also exploits the sleazy nether regions of the R. This is not your cuddly, PG-13 superhero movie.
The jokes and asides — Deadpool likes to talk to the audience — are fast and unrelenting. The pop songs, like the seemingly incongruous tunes in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, are recognizable, hummable, somewhat nauseating and yet oddly satisfying. (Celine Dion even contributes a “power ballad,” Ashes.)
The gang regrouped for No. 2. Deadpool (aka Wade Wilson) is still mad-crazy for Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), gains wisdom from Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), trades comic barbs with Weasel (T.J. Miller), and receives dubious assistance from Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic). Along the way, Deadpool visits X-Men headquarters, where he becomes a “Trainee,” and teams with a fiery young dude with a thick New Zealand accent named Russell (Julian Dennison), who has escaped from the Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation.
The chief villain in Deadpool 2 is a time-travelling vengeance-seeker named Cable.
Of course, casting is crucial in any film, but the choice for Cable really slaps you in the face: Josh Brolin.
Yes, that Josh Brolin! The same guy currently playing universe-altering Thanos in the global mega-smash Avengers: Infintiy War.
The Screen Actors Guild has 129,000 members, and they couldn’t find anyone else to play the Marvel supervillain other than the guy who is already playing the Marvel supervillain in the other Marvel movie?
Deadpool needs help battling Thanos, er, Cable (actually Brolin is terrific), so he recruits a not-so-awesome group of ne’er-do-wells including Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews) and Shatterstar (Lewis Tan). They call themselves “X-Force,” and yes, there will be a spinoff movie. There are also a host of surprises and bonus characters, and must-see closing credits.
It’s always a kick when an actor and a character are so utterly simpatico. Reynolds could not be having any more fun as the zany, scenery-chewing Deadpool, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He is also expert at wrapping meta inside jokes within inside jokes. According to Marvel movie lore, it took Reynolds 11 years to make the first Deadpool. The studio just wasn’t quite sure what to make of it (and all of the F-bombs).
Thanks to director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) and the writing team of Reynolds, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the sequel is not a letdown. It may not be as refreshingly clever as the first Deadpool, but it certainly delivers in laughs and lunacy.
Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.
There are so many places to take your mother
It’s Mother’s Day, so be sure to thank your mom or the mother figure in your life. Here are a few ways to treat her:
■ You can take her to the Akron Zoo or Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, where moms get in free all day. Great Lakes Science Center is offering half off admission for mothers.
■ The Akron Art Museum has an open house with brunch, a craft project and more ($50, $35 members).
■ Lots of restaurants are hosting special brunches and buffets; call first, since it’s one of the busiest days of the year for eateries.
■ See a movie with your mom at any Cleveland Cinemas theater and she’ll get a free popcorn.
■ Take a history walk around Massillon at 1 p.m. on historic Fourth Street, beginning in front of Five Oaks at Fourth and North Avenue ($7).
‘Sunset Boulevard’ movie returns to big screen
“It’s the pictures that got small …” If Mom is a classic-film buff, TCM Big Screen Classics presents Sunset Boulevard (1950), starring Gloria Swanson, at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday at cinemas including Cinemark Cuyahoga Falls; Hudson Cinema 10; Montrose Movies 12; Tinseltown USA, Jackson Township; Cinemark Macedonia; Valley View 24; Movies 10 Wooster; and Cedar Lee, Cleveland Heights. http://www.fathomevents.com.
Scot Symphonic Band to play at Wooster concert
The College of Wooster Scot Symphonic Band plays its Commencement Concert at 8:15 p.m. in McGaw Chapel, complete with Scottish pipers, dancers and drummers. It’s free. 330-263-2419.
Finding a way to form a connection with people is one of most basic elements of being an artist. Whether you’re a choreographer, musician or visual artist, the audience and the bond you do or do not form with them affects the interpretation and reaction to the work you’re making.
Ministers of the Kingdom: Brian R. Williams, on view at the Canton Museum of Art, is an excellent exhibit full of work inspired by nature, history, animals, ghost stories, folklore and old-fashioned photography, forming an easy connection to its viewers.
Williams compares his drawings to Aesop’s Fables, “where animal characters exist in a man-made environment — either posing as a person or replacing man-made technology — to illustrate the ways that people and animals are similar but also to create unusual, humorous, and surreal drawings.”
Part of the “fable” too is that Williams frequently puts animals with humans pulled from history and creates a relationship there that likely never existed, but makes you think about the human subject in a new way. It doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re being told a secret about who these people from history actually were, but much of the fun in looking at these works is the idea that there may be more to learn.
Further, they are all superbly illustrated, with a detail and an artistic mark that reminds you of books and illustrations that have been beloved throughout history as well.
In general, ornate and gilded frames detract from the quality of contemporary visual art. However, in the case of Williams’s work they help support the portraits and add a level of value. It’s as if you are looking at a prized family heirloom that’s been cherished and is now being shared with the public.
Annie Oakley and Stegosaurus pictures Ms. Oakley with a star on her hat, holding a double-barrel shotgun and looking off to the left. Her stegosaurus “friend” is standing to her left and is looking to the right across her. There is a familiarity between to the subjects that creates a feeling of a long companionable relationship.
Williams states in the exhibit information that “Annie Oakley and Stegosaurus is one of my favorite drawings because it combines two of my favorite subjects: history and dinosaurs. I was in the mood to draw a dinosaur, so this drawing started as a question that I posed to myself: ‘What if famous Americans from history had dinosaurs as companion animals?’ ”
Brookes of Hammockshire is a drawing that’s been presented in an antique photo frame. It shows a well-groomed otter siting in Victorian dress on what looks to be a parlor chair. It’s a serious-looking portrait, one that looks like something you might take to “show and tell” in elementary school and present to your classmates for part of a genealogy assignment.
What is most magical about Williams’ work is that you instantly form personal stories while looking at it. Furry, Four-Legged and Family portrays an aristocratic woman, well dressed, with her equally well-dressed pets. There are multiple portraits of what must be previous pets in frames behind the subjects, and there is also a sculpture of a cat on a pedestal placed directly over the woman’s shoulder.
There are so many questions that come to mind. Like, how did she get her hair like that? Can you imagine trying to get cats into those outfits? Like the other works in this show, this piece has lovely details that enhance and make it real.
The fact that Williams is inspired by many different subjects gives his work an investigative feel too. Here is an artist working to make better visual art, who mines the subjects he loves. And here is an artist who strives to make work that shares these passions.
Ultimately, because of the use of the animal kingdom and people as subjects, these pieces are very easy to connect with and it is this level of communication that makes this exhibit a real treat.
Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].
Some folks enjoy drinking and socializing in a dirty, gritty dive, while others feel most comfortable in a loud kinetic sports bar, a well-known meat market or a fancy place with bartenders in vests and leather-bound seats.
But for social drinkers and eaters looking for something in between — a balanced mix of a relaxed, friendly atmosphere with high-quality food, booze and service — try Moe’s.
Moe’s Restaurant is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018. The restaurant sits north of the “hustle and bustle” of most Front Street establishments, and the surrounding scenery ain’t much to look at, unless you enjoy staring at cars you don’t own parked on dealer lots.
Nevertheless, Moe’s unassuming low-key storefront leads to a choice: Sit on the fine dining side of the restaurant filled with nice tables with linen tablecloths, or the tavern side, which also sports some fine linens plus a pretty cool bar.
The bar area (which we are frankly more interested in) is cozy but not cramped, and doesn’t have that pre-fab “standard contemporary restaurant design 101” look or feel. If you don’t feel like sitting on a stool, there is a wall of booths opposite the bar and a few larger tables in the back of the room suitable for small groups.
After dark, they keep the lights comfortably low, and the music on the night I visited was bumping old school R&B from the ’70s and ’80s. Moe’s is definitely the only place I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy a few drinks in a bar with cloth napkins while grooving to the smooth Philly Soul sound of the late Teddy Pendergrass’ Close The Door, the thumping P-Funk of Bootsy Collins’ Stretchin’ Out (in a Rubber Band) and Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s A Real Mother For Ya.
As for what you can eat and drink while doing the Hustle in your stool or seat, as with most restaurants these days, Moe’s has a fancy cocktail menu that includes a slew of martini variations for $10 a pop, and a nice array of small batch bourbons and single-malt scotches, to go with a varied and well-stocked beer cooler and surprisingly large wine list.
The food on the menu isn’t cheap, but it’s damn good. Moe’s switches out its main entrees monthly and April kicked butt (sorry you missed it). Most entrees are around $25-$30, and included pan-seared duck on lemon and goat cheese risotto, a big sexy hunk of salmon on top of mozzarella and parmesan risotto, walnut and bleu cheese ravioli with a cream sauce and asparagus for the grazers, and for me a plate of perfectly pan-seared scallops along with a few tasty potstickers stuffed with veal and more scallops, all on jasmine rice.
Brian Nichols of Stow and Matt Gorday of Munroe Falls have been regular customers at Moe’s for more than a decade.
“These drinks,” Nichols said pointing at his espresso martini, “and this bar staff is definitely a 10.”
He added, “They are friendly and they talk a lot; they’re just good people.” He’s even gotten to know a few of the staff outside of the restaurant.
“The first time I came here he told me about it, and their food is awesome. I’ve never had a bad meal here,” Gorday said, picking the chicken wrap as his favorite.
Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m. and there are dinnertime specials throughout the week, such as retail wine Mondays, $6 burgers and house-made chips on Wednesdays, and $1 shrimp cocktail on Thursdays.
Moe’s Restaurant has found a good balance between casual drinking and fine dining, and folks who don’t mind spending a bit more for good, fresh food and healthy portions should add it to their list of hot spots.
It’s definitely added to mine.
In the new movie Tully, Charlize Theron exposes us to the dark side of motherhood. She’s in the throes of postpartum depression as she struggles to juggle the demands of a newborn daughter, her two other children and her ineffectual husband.
The comedy-drama, directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, is hardly the first film about motherhood or raising a family. But it is one of the most starkly realistic representations of the sleepless agony of those first few weeks.
Theron gained 50 pounds for the role. She lets it all hang out.
On June 15, the latest offering from Pixar animation, Incredibles 2, will focus on a different brand of mom-stress: How a modern, working mother (Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl, voiced by Holly Hunter) juggles her familial responsibilities with the pesky demands of saving the world.
Theron and Hunter will join the ranks of women who have shown us the good (and not so good) sides of raising children, from Serial Mom and Teen Mom, to Scary Mother, All About My Mother and Mother’s Day. There are the movies that inspired TV shows, I Remember Mama, and ones that launched sequels, Big Momma’s House. There are those demanding exclamation points — Mother! and Mamma Mia! — and films with plot-revealing titles: Throw Momma from the Train and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.
Hollywood often gets it wrong. But sometimes its made-up moms really strike a chord.
In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a salute to 10 of the screen’s most memorable moms.
Bambi’s Mother in Bambi (1942). Really? This was the wholesome, G-rated Disney movie that our parents took us to so we could learn about forests and furry animals? And, oh, by the way, just as we’re basking in the warmth and wisdom of our little hero’s mom, she gets gunned down by hunters? Dead. Gone. A tragic loss of a nurturing spirit. (Not on the playlist at NRA conventions.)
When all is crumbling around you, thankfully there are some rock-solid women to turn to.
Cicely Tyson as Rebecca in Sounder (1972). Rebecca fights off racism and hunger with equal strength and keeps her family afloat when her husband is shipped off to prison during the depths of the Great Depression.
Jane Darwell as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Speaking of the Depression, the Joad family personified the horrors of the Dust Bowl and the long trek from Oklahoma to California, facing a scarcity of jobs, food and hope. Ma Joad kept the family moving forward despite the odds.
Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983). If your daughter was in the hospital fighting cancer, you would definitely want the feisty Aurora advocating for her with the nurses: “My daughter is in pain! Give my daughter the shot!” She couldn’t save Debra Winger, but she helped ease her anguish.
Sally Field as M’Lynn Eatenton in Steel Magnolias (1989). M’Lynn is mad as hell at God for taking away her beautiful young daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts). It’s not the how, but the why. “Oh, God! I am so mad I don’t know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know why Shelby’s life is over!” she wails in a wrenching speech. “Oh, God, I wanna know why? Why?”
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981). The classic, sweaty, scenery-chewing moment is when the sadistic, alcoholic Crawford rants incessantly at her adopted daughter Christina about using “wire hangers,” then proceeds to beat her with one. Pretty awful film. Ironically, 35 years earlier, Crawford had won an Oscar for playing a mother who would risk everything just to help her daughter, in Mildred Pierce.
Large and in charge
Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (2009). Bullock owns the screen as the no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-me mom who takes young adrift athlete Michael Oher under her wing and into her home. She’s a pistol when taking on the outside world, but a supreme nurturer on the homefront.
Pass the Kleenex
Susan Sarandon as Jackie Harrison in Stepmom (1998). Jackie is dying. This means that soon, the new woman in her two children’s lives will be her ex-husband’s young fashion photographer girlfriend Isabel (Julia Roberts), whom she loathes and distrusts. Of course, as her illness worsens (sniff) she has to bid farewell to her kids (sniff, sniff) and somehow reconcile with Isabel.
Make that two boxes
Ann-Margret as Lucile Fray in Who Will Love My Children? (1983). Stepmom is sad. But for massive tissue-tearing, puffy-eyed super-weeping, nothing comes close to this TV movie directed by John Erman. Ann-Margret plays an Iowa mother with a terminal illness, who, before she dies, is determined to find good homes for all of her children. Yep. It’s 95 minutes of a dying woman giving away what she loves most in the world.
Did I mention that she has 10 children?!
Did I mention that it’s based on a true story?!
Tears are touching, cheers are inspiring and laughs are joyous. But there is another realm we have yet to honor: utter ruthlessness.
For my money, the all-time most memorable matriarch is Angela Lansbury as Eleanor Shaw Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). No one is as controlling, manipulative and Machiavellian as Lansbury as the bloodthirsty political climber.
John Frankenheimer’s thriller about brainwashing and an insidious assassination plot is one of the greatest films of the 1960s. And it features strong performances by Frank Sinatra as a Korean War vet, and Laurence Harvey as Iselin’s unsuspecting son, Raymond.
When President John F. Kennedy heard that one of his favorite novels was being turned into a film, he had one question for his friend Sinatra, “Who are they getting to play the mother?”
After Iselin reveals her diabolical plot to her unwitting son, she grabs him and gives him a square-on-the-lips smooch. It’s a little too long, a little too affectionate.
It’s the mother of all creepy kisses.
Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.
Akron Youth Symphony at Mount Union concert
The Akron Youth Symphony will feature its three concerto winners — Meredith Gallagher, Miriam Koby and Jason Zhang — in its 3 p.m. performance at the Giese Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mount Union in Alliance. Also on the program are Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and selections from West Side Story, and Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1. Tickets are $10 (ages 10 or younger free) at akronsymphony.org, 330-535-8131, or at the door.
‘Choral Trifecta’ at Faith Lutheran Church
More classical music is on offer at the “Choral Trifecta” concert, featuring the Crooked River Chorale, St. Cecilia Choral Society and 722, at 4 p.m. at Faith Lutheran Church at 3415 W. Market St., Fairlawn. Each ensemble will perform individually and then all three groups will come together for the finale. It’s free.
Comedian Bill Maher to do routine at Rocksino
A few seats remained at press time for comedian, talk show host and provocateur Bill Maher at 7:30 p.m. at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park. Tickets are $65-$99.50 at 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.
Miranda Sings at Connor Palace Theatre
Miranda Sings, aka comedian and Netflix/social media star Colleen Ballinger, brings her live show to the Connor Palace Theatre in Playhouse Square at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 and $75 at 216-241-6000 or http://www.playhousesquare.org.
Steve Olson is playing a loser and loving it.
In his new comedy-drama Fishbowl California, now streaming on iTunes, Amazon and Vudu, Olson plays an aimless deadbeat named Rodney.
“He’s broke, jobless, carless and girlfriendless,” said Olson on the phone from Los Angeles. “He finds himself in this awkward living situation with an elderly, cantankerous, ill-tempered widow with a fondness for whiskey and talking smack.”
The film, directed by Michael A. MacRae, also stars Katrina Bowden, Kate Flannery and Katherine Cortez. (http://www.facebook.com/fishbowlcalifornia.)
“It reminds me of an ’80s or ’90s buddy-comedy or dramady, a Steve Martin-Carl Reiner type of film,” he said. “So many movies lean dark these days. This is brighter. These characters end up in a better place than where they started.”
Olson, who was born in Akron and grew up in Hudson, has been nibbling at the edges of fame for more than a decade. The lead role in an independent feature film is a big moment.
“I’ve primarily been doing commercials and some TV guest parts,” he said. “Small parts in big things and big parts in small things. It was very exciting to get this role. It was a taped audition. You don’t go into the room. These days they just have you send a self-tape in. The final call-back was a chemistry-read between me and Katherine Cortez, who plays the widow, June. Both of us got the parts.”
Olson was not a theater rat at Hudson High School (class of 2003) or in college. Before moving to L.A., his only stage “experience” had been in a seventh-grade talent show doing an imitation of an imitation.
“I did Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray from Saturday Night Live,” he said. “It was me doing that, and then 18 groups of girls dancing to *NSync. That was the show.”
After his freshman year at Kent State University, he headed west and transferred to California State-Los Angeles.
“At Kent State, I had no idea what I was doing. At 19, I was so oblivious, I didn’t even know that I had no idea. Transferring was my excuse to move to L.A. I had been reading the book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell. It was all about how he and [director] Sam Raimi and a group of friends made that movie The Evil Dead in Detroit back in the early ’80s.”
“Something about it was really inspiring to me, I thought. Some people from the Midwest figured out how to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
It was slow going at first. “I got maybe two things in the first five years.”
Olson has since appeared in more than 50 commercials, for everything from Bud Light and Orbit Gum to Arby’s and Miracle-Gro.
The one that got the most attention was his appearance in a Doritos commercial, in which Olson plays a guy accused of stealing his co-worker’s precious snack. He vehemently denies it while caked everywhere with orange Dorito dust. The fan-made ad was part of a contest with filmmakers vying for $1 million and a Super Bowl slot in 2012. Olson’s commercial came in third. (To see a clip and other examples of his work: http://www.steveolsonsite.com.)
To make ends meet over the years, he has worked some odd jobs and had a stint doing sketch comedy at the Acme Comedy Theatre, whose alumni include Joel McHale and Adam Carolla.
“I loved it when I wrote something good and the sketch went well,” said Olson. “But that was one out of 10. The other nine were really hard. You’re sitting there at 3 a.m. trying to come up with something, anything.”
Fishbowl California had its world premiere in March in the Columbus International Film & Animation Festival.
Olson was in Columbus for the premiere and said he gets back to Ohio about three times a year. His mom, Janet, lives in Hudson, and he has relatives sprinkled around Fairlawn, Munroe Falls, Wadsworth and Cleveland.
His next trip home is scheduled for June 30, to see Steven Tyler at the Hard Rock Rocksino.
Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.
Summer is nearly here and that brings with it a slew of musicians and pop stars on tour, along with outdoor festivals, summer concert series and many ways to enjoy local, national and international talent.
This year, several big tours are coming to Northeast Ohio, featuring artists young and old. Emcee Logic, and the awful and awfully popular arena pop band Imagine Dragons, will both headline Blossom.
There is also a slew of veteran acts, including a few classic-rock dual bills: Journey and Def Leppard at Quicken Loans Arena on May 28, Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers on June 23 at Blossom, and Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson (yeah, they’re both old dudes now) on July 17 at Blossom.
Award-winning, understated jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall will bring her Turn Up the Quiet World Tour, returning to her Great American Songbook roots, to the Akron Civic Theatre on June 3. Platinum-selling country and bluegrass singer, and multi-instrumentalist, Alison Krauss will also grace the Civic’s historic stage, on Sept. 11.
Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters are also hitting the road this year to hold it down for mainstream arena rock with songs from their latest Concrete and Gold. They land at Blossom on July 25.
Here are some of the more notable concerts heading our way this summer.
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band
Parrotburgers in Margaritaville. You surely know him and you likely either love him and the fantasy world he’s constructed or you don’t really care either way. If you’re cool on the one-man cottage industry’s pleasant music, but enjoy hanging out in parking lots with drunk, friendly and (alcoholically) generous yuppies, then save yourself a few hundred dollars, get a parking pass and make some new friends!
When/Where: 8 p.m. May 27, Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls.
Kenny Chesney: Trip Around the Sun Tour
Chesney has been a hit-maker and wildly successful tour monger for more than a decade. He’s working his 16th album, the well-received Cosmic Hallelujah from 2016. Old Dominion will open.
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. June 6, Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls.
Sure, thrash metal isn’t for everyone, but this is the final tour for the pioneers of the genre. For their last go-round, the Slayer guys have gathered a lineup that includes fellow former Big Four members Anthrax, along with Testament, Lamb of God and Polish extreme-makeup-wearing band Behemoth. Extreme headbanging is sure to ensue.
When/Where: 5 p.m. June 7, Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls.
The locally produced music festival is in its third year and returns with a typically eclectic lineup of bands both national and local. Among the artists coming to Russell Township are indie popsters Fitz & the Tantrums, Foster the People, singer/emcee Matisyahu, New Orleans funkmeister Trombone Shorty & the People and reggae legacy Stephen Marley. It’s one of the few area multiday festivals that isn’t happening at Nelson Ledges Quarry.
When/Where: June 9-10, Butler Campus of Laurel School, 7420 Fairmount Road, Russell Township.
Old School Soul proudly presents Masters of Funk
Much of this year’s Lock 3 Park summer slate is filled with tribute bands and local openers, but one of the few nights of all-original bands will be a funk master class and should fill the Lock 3 lawn with dancing feet and bumping booties. The soundtrack will be provided by One Way featuring Al Hudson of Cutie Pie fame, Steve Arrington of Dayton’s Slave, which brought the dance floor Just a Touch of Love and Watching You. Also on hand: The Bar-Kays of Soul Finger and Holy Ghost, and Rick James’ proteges the Mary Jane Girls, who had hits with In My House and All Night Long.
When/Where: 6 p.m. June 23, Lock 3 Park, 200 S. Main St., Akron
Taylor Swift: Reputation stadium tour
Assuming this global jaunt goes off without a hitch, Taylor Swift is reportedly set to earn up to a half a billion dollars for this stadium tour. The 10-time Grammy-winning hit-maker needs more of your money and your adulation, so she’s playing stadiums with what is hinted to be an impressive stage show.
When/Where: 7 p.m. July 17, FirstEnergy Stadium, 100 Alfred Lerner Way, Cleveland.
Vans Warped Tour
The long-running, taste-making, merch-marketing, youth-oriented, traveling musical fest is making its final cross-country trek after 23 years. For the final tour, the Warped folks have brought back some of the bands they helped break, including Black Veil Brides, Sum 41 and Senses Fail along with a gaggle of young bands hoping to get one last bump in their national exposure.
When/Where: 12:30 p.m. July 18, Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls.
Jay-Z and Beyonce OTRII
Beyonce blew minds with her epic, out-sized Coachella performance and once again showed the other big boys and girls of the pop world that she is indeed the Queen Bey. Her husband released 4:44, his best album in years and the most mature release of his lengthy catalog. Together, the power couple’s show should be as massive as the stadiums they will be filling throughout the tour.
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. July 25, FirstEnergy Stadium, 100 Alfred Lerner Way, Cleveland.
Highland Square PorchRokr Festival
As someone who lives in the Akron neighborhood and has attended all of the PorchRokr fests, the 2017 edition (which conveniently took place in my neck of the neighborhood) was the best one so far. This community festival gathers up a bunch of local talent and a few traveling bands and plops them on the porches of friendly folks in alternating regions of Highland Square. There’s not much information on 2018 yet, but if you like a variety of live music and lively beer tents, it’s definitely worth a trip.
When/Where: Aug. 18, Highland Square neighborhood.
Incuya Music Festival
And here’s another entry on the aforementioned shortlist, “Cleveland’s Newest Summer Festival.” Another eclectic lineup that includes new-wave icons New Order, the legendary old-school soul of organist Booker T. Jones, the hot contemporary R&B sounds of singer/songwriter SZA and the heavily licensed dance rock of AWOLNATION. Local bands are also invited, including indie pop quartet the Modern Electric and veteran Cleveland band the Jack Fords.
When/Where: Aug. 25-26, the Malls in downtown Cleveland.
Also on tap
The 39th annual Tri-C JazzFest (June 28-30) will feature a concert by Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr., which may be as close as most folks get to seeing the massive Broadway musical during its Cleveland run. And the third annual Rubber City Jazz & Blues Fest returns to Akron Aug. 23-26.
‘Jersey Boys’ brings Four Seasons hits to E.J.
The musical Jersey Boys strings together the many hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and December, 1963 (Oh What a Night) — to tell the story of the group’s career. It plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at E.J. Thomas Hall to close out this year’s Broadway in Akron season. Tickets are $40-$102 at http://www.uakron.edu/ej.
Salute bands at RubberDucks game
The Akron RubberDucks salute the bands of the Akron Public Schools at Tuesday’s 6:35 p.m. game. Buy through https://groupmatics.events/group/APSBandNight and you can choose which band will get your $3-per-ticket donation. Also, you’ll probably get to see Tim Tebow play too.
Sample ‘Brews and Prose’ at Market Garden
Market Garden Brewery’s “Brews and Prose” literary series focuses on the new essay collection Voices from the Rust Belt, with Editor Anne Trubek and contributors Kathryn Flinn, Ben Gwin and Greg Donley. Market Garden is at 1947 W. 25th St., Cleveland. http://www.brewsandprose.com.
In the world of art, the idea that the maker would value things made by hand doesn’t sound so unique. However, if you consider our present artistic and industrial climate that is grappling with automation, when and when not to use it, as well as a virtual world of data and design that is still being developed, something handmade can often feel forgotten or at the very least quaint.
William Morris: Designing an Earthly Paradise, on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art, is a truly gorgeous look at a pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement. Morris was known as one of the most hardworking and influential textile designers, poets, novelists, bookmakers and social activists the world has ever seen.
“William Morris devoted his life to creating beautiful and useful objects using the highest-quality materials under fair labor conditions. His richly varied patterns have been reproduced without interruption since his death in 1896, testifying to their timeless appeal,” states the museum on its website.
One look around the exhibit, which features textiles and books designed by Morris, and you quickly begin to hear and see the powerful voice of this person who, through his labors, was able to make work that transcends generations and remains relevant more than 120 years after his death.
Honeysuckle (bleached linen, block printed) is a pattern inspired by this well-known plant indigenous to much of Europe. “Unlike German and Japanese textile designers, or his English competitors, he was inspired not by exotic greenhouse flowers but by the simple blooms of the English garden,” writes Cory Korkow, associate curator of European art at the museum.
While the textiles are certainly representational of their subject matter, there remains a unique translation, style or “flair” that highlights the designer’s vision. How the blossoms are illustrated and the color palette chosen by Morris create a depth and a vibrancy for this pattern that broadens its appeal.
Strawberry Thief (indigo-discharged cotton, block printed) features a design inspired by watching birds, in this case thrushes, stealing strawberries from the garden at his home.
Like so many of Morris’ textiles, there is a playfulness and joy in making that comes through. Strawberries seemingly sprout and almost loop out from the plant in dramatic fashion, only to be eaten by highly patterned thrushes. This was one of Morris’ most popular patterns and continues to be to this day.
What is intriguing about patterns or pattern-making is the parameters the maker sets up. There is a structure and repetition the maker must follow to create the pattern; when things go wrong, this can create a lack of excitement and energy. However, Morris’ spirit is seemingly harnessed in this process and in the parameters he created for himself. It’s a part of what makes his work so strong, influential and timeless.
The Story of Sigurd the Volsung is a look at the opening lines of an epic poem in a book printed by the Kelmscott Press. Morris founded the press in 1891 and the museum is fortunate enough to have each of the 53 titles it printed.
The press featured ornaments and typefaces created by Morris, and several books, including this one, were illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones, a painter and longtime friend of Morris. Like the textiles, these are highly patterned works that highlight Morris’ design prowess, while harkening to the earlier days of the printing press. Detailed and labored over, these pages stand on their own, let alone as part of a book.
The Chaucer type, created by Morris, has elements that flow into the border ornaments. If you look closely, the “G” and the “P” curl and swoop like the patterns lining the border of the page. This connection of the type and the visual elements creates an almost meditative moment for the reader, drawing you into the page and the fantasy world Morris was working to create.
Like so many things the Cleveland Museum of Art does, this exhibit is beautiful in its detail and in how it’s presented. The museum has done an excellent job showing Morris not only as a designer and maker, but also as a person and visionary. This show offers a momentary respite from our own time and gives a glimpse into a world created by an artist who lived long ago but who continues to influence thought to this day.
Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].
Baldwin Wallace graduate Ellis C. Dawson III is an important part of the magic and wonder of the national tour of Aladdin.
The 2016 musical theater grad is one of two standbys for the lead role of the Genie, who in the live production is inspired by Fats Waller and Cab Calloway, a performer rooted in jazz, blues, R&B and gospel.
Dawson, a Virginia native, spoke by phone recently from Denver on the first anniversary of the tour, which the cast was celebrating with a toast. He auditioned for Aladdin several months after graduation in 2016, when he was first considered for the Genie role for the national tour.
A couple of months went by after the audition, with Dawson playing in the ensemble of a production of In the Heights in Texas before returning to New York. The day he got back, he threw out his Genie audition materials.
“The next day, I got a call saying they wanted to see me for the standby for the national tour,’’ Dawson said.
That’s when Genie Boot Camp began, which entailed eight-hour days in rehearsal with 11 other hopefuls vying for the role. Dawson said all the other guys were big and bald. He’s a thin 6 feet 2 inches and wasn’t bald at the time, but he sported a big beard.
First, Disney paid for them to see the Broadway show. Then they had a week of paid rehearsals where they were coached and learned the dances in the rehearsal hall of the New Amsterdam Theater, where Aladdin plays in New York.
All of the Genie auditioners did their scenes in front of each other and were coached by the associate director in front of each other. The men were very supportive, Dawson said, and he made some great friends.
“We call it the Genie brotherhood,” he said.
Playing the Genie
At the end of the process, Dawson got a call that it was time to shave his head: He was going to be one of two Genie standbys for the tour. A third standby was chosen for the Broadway show from the same boot camp. (A standby is an actor who must be ready to step into a lead role at any moment, even in the middle of a show.)
“My dream ever since I was 12 years old was to book a national tour out of college,” said Dawson, who attended the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Va. “I figured what better way to see the country than to get paid doing what you love and share a beautiful story to the masses?”
In the last year, Dawson, a baritenor, has gone on as the Genie more than 85 times. The first time he went on was Mother’s Day, when he was called to play the second show of the day because Genie Michael James Scott was losing his voice.
He pulled it off despite not yet having yet had a “put-in” rehearsal onstage with the whole cast, in costume. Up until that point, as a standby, Dawson had rehearsed only with the stage manager, dance captain and some swings.
Dawson’s nickname is “Teeny Genie” because he’s tall yet much smaller than other Genies, a role originated by Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart on Broadway.
“They gave a very, very skinny 22-year-old with an Afro a chance … [In costume] I look larger than life onstage but in a different way. What I don’t have in size, I make up in presence.”
Dawson said the inspiration for the musical Genie is very different from Robin Williams’ for the film, a role he made uniquely his own as a shapeshifter. Now, the character goes back to the roots of how he was originally written. Onstage, the Genie stays himself but takes on different voices when he becomes other personas.
Beyond the film
The actor also is the standby for Babkak, one of Aladdin’s friends who didn’t make it into the 1992 animated film but was brought back for the stage version. Those three characters — Babkak, Omar and Kassim — were replaced with Aladdin’s animal friend Abu in the movie.
“Outside of Genie, Babkak is another comic relief,” Dawson said of the sarcastic, wisecracking street rat. “He’s always hungry. Always hungry. He makes a lot of food jokes” and is hungry not only for food but also for a better life.
The musical, based on the film that was the highest-grossing film of 1992, features the film’s five beloved songs (including A Whole New World) and additional numbers to fill out the score. The show includes multiple illusions, 84 special effects including pyrotechnics, 38 tons of flying scenery and more than 2,000 different fabrics and trims in its costumes from 13 countries.
As the Genie, Dawson wears four costumes, the most recognizable being a blue jumpsuit with parachute pants and vest.
“It is bedazzled and blinged out. It’s super comfortable and there are jewels everywhere,” he said. “We look like royalty.”