Gospel Meets Symphony turns 25

This marks the 25th anniversary of Gospel Meets Symphony. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron. The Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Gospel Meets Symphony Choir will join together. Tickets range from $20 to $60. For tickets, go to http://www.akronsymphony.org.

Shakespeare fest season unveiled

The Ohio Shakespeare Festival promises a sword fight or two along with some singing and scene readings at its season announcement event at 7 p.m. Saturday at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St., Akron. Six plays for the 2018-2019 season will be unveiled consisting of two outdoor Shakespeare productions at Stan Hywet and four mainstage performances at Greystone Hall including a new Family Theatre production. Two bonus productions also will be announced. There will be light snacks and a cash bar. Season subscribers, donors and volunteers can attend for free and $5 tickets are available for others. See http://www.showclix.com/event/osf-season-announcement-party for reservations.

Big Love Festival at Summit Artspace

The Big Love Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., Akron. Admission is a suggested $5 donation for those 12 or older. The annual festival is a mix of live art, music, wellness and healing programs, community-building workshops and more. This year’s theme is “honor the generations that came before us, celebrate those that live now, and support those who will come after us.” For more information, visit biglovenetwork.us.

You know how games with your friends often take that leap from jovial fun to hyper-competitive?

Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) take their weekly challenges to the next level, from the family room couch to streets of danger in the likable new comedy Game Night.

They love to play trivia, charades, fishbowl, Jenga and seemingly all board games. Most of all, they like to win.

Max’s older brother, the flashy, full-of-himself Brooks (Kyle Chandler), kicks it up a notch by inviting the couple to his house for a more organized Murder Mystery night, which promises realistic mayhem and a kidnapping.

Along for the fun are Max and Annie’s regular game-night crew, which includes longtime couple Michelle and Kevin (Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris), and the actively single Ryan (Billy Magnussen). Ryan is handsome but a bit of a dolt. His MO is that he brings a different eye-candy date each week for the games. But on the night of the Murder Mystery, Ryan comes with a ringer, his brainy co-worker Sarah (Sharon Horgan). Sarah is from Ireland, but Ryan keeps insisting she is British, and therefore “smart.”

Needless to say, it’s no surprise when the staged kidnapping turns into something more sinister. (One of the party guests has a secret that puts everyone at risk.) Suddenly the gang is scouring the streets scavenger-hunt style and tangling with some bad dudes.

For comic, and creepy, relief, the group also reaches out to Max and Annie’s neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons), a police officer who never takes off his uniform, never stops petting his handheld dog and never stops pining over his ex-wife. In terms of his unrelenting gaze, Plemons goes full stone-cold serial killer. (Perhaps the DVD extras will show us how hard it was for him to maintain that steely stare.)

Written by Mark Perez and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (the team behind the Ed Helms comedy Vacation), Game Night is not exactly a great movie. There’s not an ounce of believability in these characters, and several scenes play like forced set pieces. But thanks to its charming cast and some good laughs, Game Night is a fun, silly slice of escapism.

It helps that Bateman and McAdams are two of our most affable movie stars. They are both deft at delivering dry asides and getting caught up in the more manic moments.

It’s also fun to see Chandler get to play an arrogant ne’er do well for a change.

Side note: Friday Night Lights fans might appreciate a mini-reunion between Chandler’s Coach Taylor and Plemons’ Landry Clarke, though they don’t have a lot of scenes together.

There are also brief appearances by Jeffrey Wright, Danny Huston and Michael C. Hall. The super-talented Wright has such a small part, you wonder why he even bothered. Maybe he just likes playing games.

By the way, don’t leave the theater too quickly. The closing credits cleverly tie up some of the film’s loose ends.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.

Is your costume ready?

The make-believe mash of Wizard World Comic Con returns to Cleveland next weekend. Thousands of fangirls, fanboys, Marvel maniacs, DC devotees and cosplay cut-ups will descend upon the Huntington Convention Center on Lakeside Avenue.

This year, in addition to the Thors, Hulks and Disney princesses, there should be a huge uptick in the number of Black Panthers.

Celebrity guests will include Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher, The Flash and Cyborg, respectively, from DC’s Justice League, as well as David Tennant and Billie Piper of Dr. Who fame.

Also on hand:

• Nichelle Nichols, Uhura from the original Star Trek series and films.

• Michael Rosenbaum, aka Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor from the Smallville series.

• Jon Heder, best known as Napoleon (“My lips hurt real bad”) Dynamite.

• Holly Marie Combs from Charmed.

• Jason David Frank of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

One cancellation: Mr. Marvel himself. Stan Lee, the comics legend who has had cameo appearances in every Marvel movie, will not be making a cameo in Cleveland.

Artists appearing will include Phil Ortiz, who has designed numerous characters for The Simpsons, including Flanders, Apu, Otto and Herman; Joe Rubinstein, who has worked on more than 2,500 comic books, drawing Wolverine, Warlock and Aquaman; and Steve Geiger, whose portfolio includes drawing for Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and Bloodshot.

There will also be painting and drawing demonstrations, singers, dancers, magicians, and thousands of comic books to buy or ogle over. How-to sessions include lessons in playing Pokemon, sculpting, face-painting and a Worbla Workshop.

Organizers describe Worbla as “a thermoplastic popular among cosplayers for a wide array of crafting purposes.” You can learn how to mold and shape armor, props and other accessories with cosplay artist Princess Morgan.

This is the fourth year the tour has come to Cleveland, and the folks from Akron’s Rubber City Cosplay will be there once again. Last year, Ryan Dyke and Cody Stanley were dressed in handmade costumes as Lumiere the candelabra and Cogsworth the clock from Beauty and the Beast.

“It was really fun,” Stanley said. “We had all these people coming up to us because the movie had just been released.”

Rubber City Cosplay will have people this year dressed as Captain America, Batgirl, Beetlejuice, Star Lord, Poison Ivy and Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars. They will also have a free Photo Booth set up with multiple props. (People can pose with the Rubber City gang and find the pictures posted later on social media.)

If you’ve never been to a Comic Con, Stanley says, “it’s really a lot of fun. And there’s something for everyone. It’s not all superheroes. It’s not all the typical nerdy things.”

Pop-culture frenzy

I covered the convention last year, and the whole experience was pretty jaw-dropping. It’s capitalism-meets-celebrity-meets-Halloween.

In addition to the more mainstream Marvel and DC characters, people were dressed as Pikachu, Snow White, the Mad Hatter, and, going really old school, there was even a Zorro.

I knew that my pop-culture life was forever altered when I exchanged a few tweets with Kato Kaelin, the world’s most famous house guest.

The man who the world came to know from O.J. Simpson’s marathon double-murder trial in the 1990s, turned that into a career as a sort-of celebrity. Kaelin has a reputation as a goofball, but he proved to be an energetic and deft master of ceremonies at one of the main stages.

One of the most surreal encounters was seeing people subject themselves to a “Weapons Check.”

A desk near the entrance was set up to make sure that the array of blasters and light sabers was people-friendly. A few folks had to clear their “Lucille” bats from The Walking Dead. Once they demonstrated that the “barbed wire” wrapped ominously around the bat was in fact made of plastic, they were allowed to proceed inside.

Admission ranges from $46.31 to $57.38, depending on the day. Weekend passes go for $90.62. You can also spend hundreds of dollars on VIP Packages that include special access, autographs, photo ops and collectibles. Those are not, shall we say, cheap.

The “Dr. Who Dual Gold VIP Package” costs $584. The “Ezra Miller Gold VIP Package” goes for $384, while the “Walking Dead Platinum VIP Package” will only set you back $299.

If you can’t make it to Cleveland, the Wizard World tour heads next to Portland, Philadelphia and Des Moines before circling back to Columbus June 8-10.

Closer to home, Akron also has its own annual Comic Con gathering. For this year’s event, Nov. 3 and 4, it will be held at a new location: Goodyear Hall.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham went after LeBron James on Thursday night.

In defending President Donald Trump, Ingraham told James to “shut up and dribble.” She questioned James’ intelligence, his grammar and his education.

The fuel for Ingraham’s fire was a new segment of Rolling with the Champion, which was posted Thursday on James’ Uninterrupted website (http://www.uninterrupted.com). The segment featured host Cari Champion driving James and fellow NBA superstar Kevin Durant around snowy Akron.

It had the feel of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. But instead of singing, the three discussed a series of wide-ranging topics. It was taped Jan. 14, the night before a Cavs-Warriors game in Cleveland.

Ingraham opened her segment on The Ingraham Angle by saying, “This is a Jumb Dock Alert.” She meant to say “Dumb Jock.”

She went on to criticize James for criticizing Trump.

“Here’s his barely intelligible not to mention ungrammatical take on President Trump,” she said, before cutting to a brief clip of James saying Trump did not care about people, which included an expletive.

After the clip, Ingraham reappeared and, her voice dripping in derisive sarcasm, said. “But wait.” Pause. “There’s more gripping insight.”

In the full segment on Uninterrupted, Champion had actually asked James what the climate was like in the Trump era to be an athlete with a platform.

“The climate is hot,” said James. “The No. 1 job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a [expletive] about the people.”

When James was growing up, he continued, “there was like three jobs that you looked to for inspiration or you felt like these were the people who could give me light. It was the president of the United States, it was whoever was the best in sports, and then it was, like, whoever was the greatest musician at the time. You never thought you could be them, but you could grab inspiration from them …”

“At this time right now, with the president of the United States, it’s at a bad time, and while we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way.”

Ingraham referred to James and Durant’s remarks as “ignorant comments.”

She added: “Must they run their mouths like that?”

Ingraham came across sounding like an old, angry racist sitting on a porch shooing a couple of black kids off her lawn.

The clip she showed on Fox was also out of context.

If Ingraham, or her minions, had bothered to watch the entire 16-minute and 44-second drive-around, they would have learned that very little of it was about politics or Donald Trump. Topics included when the two men were first introduced to basketball, the NBA All-Star Game, racism, the contributions of Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., growing up fatherless, being good husbands and good parents, as well as good-natured childhood memories, which for James represented the sights and sounds of Akron outside the car window.

Ingraham also jumbled some facts.

• She called the segment “a podcast on ESPN.”

It was not a podcast. It was not on ESPN.

• She said James makes $100 million a year to “bounce a ball.”

James’ Cavaliers salary for the 2017-2018 season is about $33.3 million.

• She said James should be a cautionary tale for kids, because he left high school early to play in the NBA.

James graduated from Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003.

The lack of an education charge is especially galling. Are you not entitled to an opinion if you did not attend college?

And by the way: The LeBron James Family Foundation and its I Promise programs have committed millions of dollars to helping elementary and secondary school students to learn, focus and move on to college. James also teamed with the University of Akron to provide four-year scholarships for students who complete the I Promise program. The price tag is around $90 million.

The foundation just sent a group of “LJFF 330 Ambassadors” to Los Angeles for the NBA All-Star weekend.

The ambassadors are Akron teens who mentor young kids. On Friday, they were scheduled to plant trees in an area devastated by wildfires.

Ingraham’s questioning James’ right to speak out is bizarre. James has delivered thoughtful remarks in recent years about racism and social injustice issues. He does not go off half-cocked.

Apparently, Ingraham was not watching Uninterrupted when Champion asked James and Durant about some people’s discomfort with, and often toxic response to, black men with money, black men with a voice.

Ingraham pulled off a double-double. She managed to miss the point and prove the point.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.

Back in 1993, a team of leaders from various Akron communities dreamed up a concert.

The mission was not only to bridge the long-established if ephemeral gap between two musical genres, but also to build a bridge between the communities that love the respective styles.

The Greater Akron Musical Association, parent organization of the Akron Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, wanted to find a way to attract and appeal to minorities. They researched ideas that had been tried in other orchestras around the country, melding classical music with non-classical in organic ways that respected and highlighted both styles of music.

The effort was spearheaded by the orchestra’s late music director, Alan Balter, and he set about finding someone in the gospel community who would share the vision.

“He spoke to me about it and I was quite excited,” said Cleo Myricks, who would become the as-yet-untitled event’s inaugural choir director.

“I invited him over to my house and we talked for a long time about what could be. We’d never had anything like this before and I felt … that it could be grand,” Myricks said as she sat in the front pew of her longtime spiritual home, Arlington Church of God, where she was the choir director.

“So we talked about how to get music, and I was big help to him. But he was a big help to me, because I had never worked with an orchestra before, but I had a whole lot of dreams. So I told him about my dreams and he told me about getting this [idea of] gospel meeting symphony together and we named it there in my house: Gospel Meets Symphony,” she said.

“I know I sounded crazy, but I just had a whole lot of ‘wanting to do, happy to do, glad to do.’ ”

The musical and social experiment has become a community tradition that will mark a quarter of a century on Saturday, Feb. 24, at E.J. Thomas Hall. The Gospel Meets Symphony 25th Anniversary Celebration will feature pieces that span the concert’s history, including All In His Hands, which was performed at the first concert in January 1994.

The first GMS brought together pieces such as Aaron Copland’s well-known Fanfare For the Common Man with Martin Luther King from Duke Ellington’s jazz- and gospel-infused symphonic work Three Black Kings. Alongside the classic gospel and orchestral songs — We Will Overcome, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus — was an original song, Stand, written by Charles Myricks Jr., son of Cleo, who brought along his gospel group Divine Hope. The group will perform the song again at the anniversary concert.

Charles Myricks admits when Balter, associate conductor Eric Benjamin and ASO executive director Connie Linsler came to him with the idea, he was skeptical.

“Oftentimes when you cross genres, there’s a loss of understanding about the integrity or the quality or the perceived musicianship in some other area,” he said. “So the idea of trying to join gospel and symphony was something completely unheard of for us.”

Charles Myricks noted that the few other times he had seen pieces attempted, the result was more often “gospel and symphony sharing a stage, not necessarily melding into a new way of communicating together.” But he was impressed by Balter’s dedication to the idea of more than just sharing a stage — the orchestra would be participating in gospel and the choir would sing classical pieces with the orchestra.

“Alan had a desire to build a bridge that was so authentic and so real that he won us.”

A timeless show

The pair of musicians hit it off, showing each other some of the intricacies of their respective music genres. Current Music Director Christopher Wilkins recalled a story he heard about those first meetings.

“In the very beginning, Chuck would be coming over to Alan’s house, sitting in the living room, and Chuck would be at the piano playing gospel pieces and then Alan would teach him Hava Nagila and they’d be dancing around like at a Jewish wedding.”

Myricks said, “We sang and danced in a round, a.k.a. Israeli style in my living room. It was great.”

Balter died in 1998, but Gospel Meets Symphony kept going with subsequent musical directors and guest conductors, including Benjamin (who took over for Balter), Charles Floyd, Rev. Raymond Wise and Roland Carter. In 2006 Wilkins became the music director and conductor of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and one of his first big assignments was figuring out how to join the community tradition that was brand new to him, something he admits was daunting.

“I had done nothing like it. It has happened other places but it’s very unusual to have it for 25 consecutive years without interruption and as strong as it is. Very few cities have something like that,” Wilkins said.

“I’d done a lot of community collaborations, a lot of partnerships, a lot of mixing of genres, but gospel music in general wasn’t something I was familiar with, so in the beginning I was really intimidated. I felt like there was a lot of people on stage who were better qualified to lead this thing than I was.”

He continued, “The good thing was that there was leadership coming from every corner. We had (current chorus master) Jennifer Jones, the awesome rhythm section and the soloists themselves and the chorus, and the section leaders of the chorus and the arrangers. It’s really a team of experts that makes it happen; it’s not the conductor by any means.

“So over time I came to appreciate that it really is community-driven, and that’s the beauty of it, and I don’t have to worry about or be too concerned about getting everything right. Everyone pretty much knows what their job is,” Wilkins said.

He praised the committee and the complex system of planning that requires figuring out the basics as early as possible so everyone can get into rehearsals.

Wilkins said for the big 25th anniversary show, the chorus members had plenty of suggestions: some of the greatest hits, popular gospel tunes and GMS staples such as All In His Hands.

Throughout its history the size of the chorus has fluctuated, with local churches always lending their support. But this year’s edition boasts 175 members representing 45 area churches. Wilkins suspects many singers who have performed in the past want to be a part of the anniversary celebration.

Built on community

Jennifer Mekel Jones is celebrating her own anniversary: 2018 marks a full decade that she has been GMS chorus master. The ordained minister and professional gospel singer, who has had music on the Billboard gospel charts, admits she wasn’t all that excited about the job initially, because she already had a plate full of community, musical and spiritual responsibilities.

“My focus had always been choral and not orchestral, so those were big shoes to fill, and I was very much aware of those that preceded me. So it was with reluctance that I took the job,” Jones said. “But I’m really glad that I did because it gave me so much of an opportunity to grow, as well as meet a new family. And that’s how they have always treated me, as family.”

Everyone involved with the organization speaks about the familial and community aspect as much as the music, and contends at the heart of GMS’s success is the people.

“It was built on a rock. And the rock consisted of the truth of the music, and the truth of the message and the people,” Charles Myricks said.

“There was nothing that was phony about it … We just did it because we loved good music and we came to appreciate each other.”

Jones concurred. “It’s never been just a concert or just a thing; It’s always something that is centered around(on) people,” she said.

“It’s always been a wonderful way to highlight what happens in Akron. And how we all have the ability to work together and come together and to embrace not only our similarities, but also our differences, and be able to celebrate them. … That’s always been at the heart of what GMS represents, and that’s something that is timeless.

“It is always something that has been welcomed by our community and is a wonderful testament to our community as a whole. And that’s why it’s still here and, hopefully, it will outlive us all.”

Beacon Journal arts writer Kerry Clawson contributed to this report. Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

Smart smaller cities all over the country are trying new ways to encourage customers to support local businesses. Right here in Akron, we have the Northside Marketplace at 21 Furnace St. in the Northside Lofts.

This hub of social eating, drinking and commerce opened in November. Now that the matter-of-factly named Local Brew has started pouring and the frigid weather should be giving itself a rest in the next month or so, the whole marketplace should heat up.

Local Brew and its wine-shilling sister Belle Vie (the two share the same big bar space) are at the heart of the Marketplace. The bar dominates the spacious, wide-open floor plan of the entry room dubbed the Social Lounge, and Local Brew and Belle Vie sit comfortably at the back of the lounge area, with huge windows on either side giving imbibers a postcard-picturesque look at the hustle and bustle of the North Howard Street hill.

Above the bar are five large plasma screens, and if those aren’t big enough, there’s a massive, wall-sized screen that is visible from anywhere in the seating area. The bar itself has an unadorned modern look, and as the name implies, Local Brew serves nothing but locally sourced beer.

Currently, the 10 taps feature a variety of beers by Akron-based Thirsty Dog, Hoppin’ Frog and R. Shea, as well as North Olmsted’s Fat Head’s and Canton-based Royal Docks. It doesn’t get much more local than that, and the Local Brew folks wisely chose a good variety of ales, lagers, stouts and shandies.

Belle Vie is less beholden to the region (feel free to make any jokes about Ohio wine here) and features half-bottles of champagne/sparkling wine in the $15-$50 range. Regular wines comes in glasses ($9-$13), half ($15-$40) and full bottles ($34-$50) of reds and whites from the United States and the world.

In addition to the booze, Local Brew offers a small menu of “grub” that changes with the taps. Currently, that includes tasty $3 street tacos with your choice of protein (the chicken is yummy), a healthy heap of loaded nachos for $9 and pretzel bites for $6 with local beer cheese sauce, of course.

We also tried the Nosh prepared by the folks at nearby DBA, a charcuterie plate with some flavorful exotic meats including duck pastrami, various cheeses, fruits, chocolates and other edible accoutrements that you can purchase separately or in one convenient Chef’s Platter for $15.

Once you get a little or a lot lubricated, there are nearly 50 local shops to peruse. They run the gamut from longtime local favorites such as DeVitis & Sons sauces and the recently relocated Rubber City Clothing, to the Akron Creamery, which offers the latest craze in frozen milk, Thai rolled ice cream.

As you walk through the shop area, there are many things to catch your eyes and your money. There’s handmade art, jewelry and photography, several clothing shops, cosmetic and body care vendors, cute toys, Akron Honey Co. and even a virtual gaming zone featuring PlayStation 4 games.

Katie Johnson of Wadsworth and Olivia Damiano of North Royalton were not only making their first trip to the Northside Marketplace, but they also were meeting each other for the first time. Come fall, the high school seniors will be freshman roommates at Ohio University in Athens, and one of the first things they discovered about each other was similar cravings.

“We just wanted rolled ice cream and we looked it up, and they suggested this place and we’ve just been here chilling,” Damiano said.

Their assessment of the ice cream craze came in unison: “It’s really good!”

“We thought it was just one place; we didn’t know it was a billion other places. It’s cute, it’s very nice,” Damiano said.

The new roomies say that though they will do absolutely nothing else in Athens but study hard, like all the other dedicated students, they will return to the Northside Marketplace when they’re home and have a few more places they’d like to try.

“I’ll definitely come back here, this is a really cool place. I want to see what it’s in that Twist place [Twist Candy Co.], that looks good,” Johnson said.

Local Brew and Belle Vie may be the physical heart of the Northside Marketplace, but there is plenty more for casual shoppers and anyone who enjoys supporting local and locally sourced businesses.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

Artists are often a reflection of the time in which they live. If an idea or style is in fashion, artists will tend to follow and work within the parameters society sets up.

What happens when an artist or group of artists goes against this grain? In general, time is the best judge; through its lens we are able to see the effect these artists had.

Some of the most influential artists of the past 130 years were the German Expressionists. Through them, we can see trends in art and design that have ramifications into the present day.

Graphic Discontent: German Expressionism on Paper at the Cleveland Museum of Art is a thought-provoking look at this influential group of artists. Curated from the museum’s collection, it highlights the styles and talents that made their work so strong and meaningful.

Attempting to emphasize “the mystery and spontaneity of emotions,” the German Expressionists made work that flew in the face of traditional art-making practices of the time, which they often saw as bourgeois and lacking depth. Creating works that are gestural or even abstracted, as well as emotionally and visually charged with the depth and meaning of the subjects, this group helped redefine how artists saw their practice for many generations.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner — who founded the group Die Brücke (The Bridge) with Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel in Dresden in 1905, one of the cornerstones of this movement — has many pieces in the exhibit. The lithograph White Dancer in a Small Nightclub is an excellent example of his style.

A female dancer takes the central focus, kicking her leg up, and while she looks female, only the most important information has been drawn to get this point across. There is only so much detail utilized and certain parts, like her hands, feet and face, communicate only so much information while the focus is put on her movement and the light shining on her. It is this direct, emotive study of their subjects that helped to define the group’s style.

Surrounding the dancer are multiple other people, represented in dark, heavy lines with as little detail as possible given to their features, the drinks they are consuming and their clothing. Even with this minimal information, you can still glean their body language and the overall “vibe” of the establishment.

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Vassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in Münich in 1911 is the other foundational group of this movement. Tiger, a woodcut by Marc, was made to illustrate the creation story in the book of Genesis. Expressionists not only wanted to show emotion more directly, but they also sought to highlight more direct access to higher spiritual states. They believed in the potential of an earthly paradise and felt strongly that their work could help lead humanity in that direction.

Marc enlisted in the German army and died in battle at Verdun, France, on March 4, 1916. Tiger was printed posthumously in 1921. In the work, a tiger can be seen staring back over its shoulder toward another animal. The tiger’s personality comes through in its posture, the size of its paws and the heavy dark lines used to illustrate it.

The surrounding natural scene and cowering animal in the background highlight the straightforward style of this group of artists, supplying the details needed to place the animal in the proper context and to show off its personality and its interaction with its surroundings.

Walking through a show like this is an opportunity to reflect on a different time and to draw lines to our own, and to other moments in history. We can ask questions like: What artists in our own present will redefine art? Did punk rock really influence the arts like we thought it did in the 1970s?

Where will our current fascination with information, handheld devices and the internet lead us in the “now” and the future?

Exhibits like Graphic Discontent can help us understand our placement in a world and universe that marches on, no matter what we might do or not do.

Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].

Elisa Gargarella

An associate professor of art education at the University of Akron, Elisa Gargarella, Ph.D., wears several hats. She heads Arts LIFT (a summer program for inner-city high school students) and the Art Bomb Brigade, which, thanks to a Knight Arts Challenge, has created several murals in Greater Akron. She has taught classes in diverse environments, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland’s public schools. She lives in Highland Square with her two children, Giovanni, 10, and Marian, 6.

Inspiring students with Arts LIFT

I realized that if I could find pathways for students to make a mark that was more lasting, which for me is public art, then it would be a contagious phenomenon. Both for the public to view them differently and for kids to develop leadership acumen and the realization that they can contribute in a joyful, beautiful, prideful, creative way, and make a change.

Art Bomb Brigade

Students work with a resident artist and they design, paint, deliver and implement a mural with a public partner. This semester, 14 UA students are collaborating with Community Support Services and their expressive arts clients. Their artists in art therapy are collaborating with my students to develop and design a mural of about 3,000 square feet for their Wolf Ledges building.

Future artists

I give them leadership training, community-engagement training. I teach them a lot of marketing skills, how to write press releases. They learn how to pull off a special event, how to do merchandising.

Ice cream clowns

Originally, to the Knight Foundation, I pitched the idea of purchasing an ice cream truck, because I wanted to make it a moving mural that had a killer sound system that we would file out of like clowns and art-bomb across the country. But, as a single mom, while I can dream big, I need to stay home for a while.

Broad canvas

We happen to live in this beautiful concrete jungle and there is a lot of canvas available. Especially in post-industrial cities like Akron. That’s part of the allure for bohemian artist communities. I could see us becoming a little Nashville in the future, or a little Austin. Art has the capacity to keep young people here, to interest new businesses in coming here.

Long-term goal

My goal is to make Akron more rock and roll, and to make sure my kids have this awesome legacy of bad-ass art and pathways to leading creative lives and making contributions wherever they go.

Rock your town

I always wanted to have a show on HGTV. Instead of Pimp Your Man Cave, it would be, Rock Out Your Small Town. You go away, and we transform your town in a day, furiously spreading art bombs, and blasting out a bunch of music while we’re doing it. We’d sing and dance and have an awesome time.

Elisa’s Faves & Raves


We hang in the national park a lot. We are creek-stompers and hikers. We like all the trails. My kids and I also like to roller skate, skateboard, ride bikes.


I’m a soccer freak. I play all over. Right now, I play three nights, at Akron indoor, and one in Tallmadge. I’ve been playing since I was 5. It’s one of my true passions.

Dirty bars

I like hidden gems. I like dirty bars. I’m a cheap beer drinker, so I’m not into the breweries. If I have to pay more than a dollar for a beer, forget it.

— Clint O’Connor

Some fans who received an early peek at Marvel Studios’ latest superhero movie, Black Panther, offered nothing but praise for a film that they’ve been anticipating for some time.

Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as the king of Wakanda, a hidden African country that possesses a thriving economy and advanced technology to make James Bond envious.

“I thought it was very good,” said Elijah Owens, 11, after taking in one of the first screenings in Northeast Ohio. He was there with his father Quenton Owens, 35, a registered nurse.

Quenton Owens said his son, a Transformers fan, has wanted to see the movie, which officially opens Friday with early screenings hitting theaters Thursday evening, since learning about it. Dad joined him in that anticipation.

“I thought the movie was excellent,” Quenton said. “The character development was great. You didn’t spend too much time in the origin [story], so you didn’t get bored. The one thing I got from it, every character I knew their motivation.”

They attended the screening with Damion Kendrick, a friend and Akron artist, who offered a similar assessment.

“It sent nothing but positive messages through the whole thing about how people are and how we need to come together as one nation,” he said. “They talk about needing to build bridges instead of borders; I thought that was awesome.”

That message comes with a history lesson. Black Panther, as appealing as it is as a superhero movie, addresses the connectedness of those of African descent around the globe and the history associated with it.

“It was done seamlessly enough … but I was very aware of it,” Quenton Owens said of that facet of the movie. “If you knew what you were looking for, you saw it, but it wasn’t overtly in your face.”

That’s an aspect of Black Panther that Kendrick expressed some concern over.

“Everyone is going to come to it thinking it’s a [black] movie. It wasn’t just about black people. There just happened to be black people in it,” he said.

The clamor for any new news associated with the film certainly provides hope that people will treat the film, which signals the arrival of Ryan Coogler as an A-list director, with respect. He leads a predominantly African-American cast of acting heavyweights that includes Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o, and Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett.

Opening weekend projections have only risen over the past few weeks. The movie has set records at Fandango for advance ticket sales for any film opening in the first quarter of the year, and for any superhero movie.

Eat your hearts out, Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America. Most recent projections suggest it will break Deadpool’s Presidents Day weekend record of $152.1 million from 2016 with approximately $170 million.

“This is going to be a much talked about film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for comScore, a media tracking firm, “and a movie that hopefully opens doors for a more diverse group of filmmakers. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Parent-child relationships like most human relationships are quite complex.

Outside of abuse, for every mom or dad who are lifelong besties with their offspring from birth, there are many others who need time and life experience just to come to a place of mutual understanding, respect and love.

Add the hormonal rebellion of adolescence, social, societal and generational differences and it’s easy to see why most family relationships don’t resemble The Brady Brunch.

Devo’s Gerald Casale and his father, Robert E. Casale Sr., who died Feb. 6 in Akron at age 93, were fortunate enough to be able to share and forge a strong relationship as adults.

“It’s amazing he lived that long,” Casale said from the family home.

Robert Casale was an orphan who was raised in the boroughs of New York by foster parents. He was drafted at 18, joined the 4th Infantry Division, landed on the beaches at Normandy, and fought in France and Germany, earning a Purple Heart among other military awards. After the war, Casale discovered his birth parents and family lived in Northeast Ohio, so he moved to the area, reclaimed his Casale name, and at 23 got married to 19-year-old Catherine Rogers. They moved to Kent and a short time later, Gerald Vincent Casale, the first of five children, was born.

But Gerald Casale didn’t know much about his father’s life story until he was a grown man and a new-wave, MTV-era rock star.

“It’s the case of that generation, where children were having children and they never pursued their own trajectory in life and lived their own dreams,” Casale said. “They toed the line and lived for their children.

“I think a child comes to know their parents in three acts, if they’re lucky. The first act is the Garden of Eden, idealist act. They’re your parents, they’re adults, you live in awe of them. And if they exhibit love for you, you feel loved and you think it’s wonderful and you look up to your mom and dad.”

He noted that his young father would come home from work at Colonial Machine Company in Mogadore and teach him how to swing a bat, play football and bowl, among other activities. But Robert was also an old-school, blue-collar, staunch Italian-Catholic, and a disciplinarian.

“He didn’t stand for any nonsense, the household was run in militarist order and there was a balance that worked,” Casale said.

But then comes Act II: “The ’60s come along and I’m a teenager and I’m in a cultural revolution. … But I have a father who likes Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis, and likes clean-cut guys in suits and he’s kind of politically conservative and what happens? The Beatles, the Vietnam War and Gerry, his eldest son, instead of making him proud, I start growing my hair and listening to the Rolling Stones,” he said with a chuckle.

After being kicked out of the house after high school graduation, Casale continued his rebellious second act, shacking up with a young Kent State student, “living in sin, there was Act II, complete separation, the face-off against authority of the parents and my dad was flummoxed and embarrassed. This was the last thing he needed and we grew apart,” Casale said.

While at Kent, Casale did all the things that make parents shudder, particularly of the WWII generation: questioning authority, the motives of the government and the status quo. Long-haired Casale also started jamming with a thick-bespectacled fellow student, Mark Mothersbaugh, and eventually enlisted younger brother Bob Casale Jr. into the band, who had to explain to their father what his sons were doing.

“It sounded awful to him, ‘Oh, my God, I’m living in hell,’ ” Casale said of his father’s reaction.

For years, the eldest son and his father’s relationship was fractured until the early 1980s when the youngest Casale brother, Roger, persuaded his parents to come see Devo on their elaborately staged New Traditionalist Tour, where the band performed on treadmills and the staging included a parody of an ancient temple dolled up to look like a fast food joint

Bob Sr. enjoyed it.

“I think the ice broke because he saw something that — whether he liked it or not — it was professional and worked out and had a compelling momentum and a whole big crowd going crazy,” Casale said.

“He came backstage and he let me hug him and he hugged me back and he goes, ‘You know, I like that song Beautiful World; you ought to do more like that. That’s got melody and a positive message,’ I don’t think he delved too heavily into the lyrics. He must’ve missed the last line ‘but not for me.’ And we started talking again,” he said.

It was in his late 30s that Gerald Casale finally really got to know Robert Edward Casale Sr., the person. “Suddenly it was Act III: reconciliation,” he said.

Over the ensuing years, Casale would return to the Akron area and learn something new about his dad. Bob Sr. told his son about the struggle of being an orphan in 1930s New York and how it shaped his upbeat nature and low tolerance for violence, bullies and bigotry, and about his time fighting in Europe and the fact that he had musical and artistic talent.

“In the last 10 years before he died, he took up bass playing [like his son] and started playing in a swing band with seniors, and he was very good,” Casale said proudly.

“You always hear you inherit these traits from your parents and I never figured out I was. But now that I know what the real dad was, it makes his death so less sad,” he said.

Casale now understands his father and is thankful that the two men could form a relationship of mutual love, respect and some understanding.

“I was missing all these dimensions,” he said. “Before he ‘went away,’ I got to put it all together and I got to experience it and I feel very lucky for that because a lot of people don’t get an Act III and live a life of regret because the parent dies while you’re still coming to loggerheads.”

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

Orchid Mania at Cleveland Botanical Gardens

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than strolling among exotic orchids? The Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Orchid Mania continues through March 11, and is open late on Wednesdays, until 9 p.m. The Garden Cafe will offer specials for lovebirds such as chocolate-covered strawberries with prosecco. Admission is $12, $8 for ages 3-12. http://www.cbgarden.org.

Birds and bees nature hike

Learn about the birds and the bees — literally — with a Valentine’s Day nature hike at 3:30 p.m. at O’Neil Woods Metro Park, 2550 Martin Road, Akron. A naturalist will discuss ways animals show their affection as you hike along Deer Run Trail, which the park service notes “is challenging and has ups and downs, like any relationship.” summitmetroparks.org, 330-865-8065.

Decompression Chamber music

Tuesday Musical’s “Decompression Chamber” initiative brings the Escher String Quartet to the Summit County Courthouse atrium, 209 S. High St., from noon to 1 p.m. Whether you’re picking up a marriage license or just passing through, you can enjoy the music of the famed quartet for free. While you’re downtown, go sigh over the couples being married at the Akron Civic Theatre from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.

Helen Welch at Bricco Prime

Songstress Helen Welch performs “Love is the Answer” at 7 p.m. at Bricco Prime Portage Lakes, 4315 Manchester Road, Akron. Tickets are $15 at the door. 330-644-2239.

At one point in Black Panther, Erik Killmonger, Michael B. Jordan’s character, says: “Can you believe that? A kid from Oakland running around believing in fairy tales?”

With one grand film and a single line, director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) lays out the story of the African-American experience, framing it in an escapist piece of entertainment.

In a script Coogler wrote with Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther feels like — by leaps and bounds — the most personal Marvel film to hit screens. For some, based on the subject matter, it will be more so.

Coogler subtly, intelligently, emotionally and with humor connects the dots from European colonialism to present-day problems that plague the African-American community and the negative perceptions that continue to hang around the neck of Africa.

He does this within the confines of a comic-book movie. Coogler and Cole serve up a compelling plot and mix genres, as Black Panther possesses aspects of a James Bond film and a thriller, laced with just the right balance of humor to even the tone.

Set a week or so after the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the lush, technologically advanced country of Wakanda to claim the crown that is rightfully his. He struggles emotionally without his father, T’Chaka (John Kani).

With the throne comes the responsibility of keeping his people’s confidence, not an easy task when you were there when your father was killed and could not save him.

T’Challa’s mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), sister and whiz kid Shuri (Letitia Wright, who has a bright future ahead), leader of the imperial guard Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the love of his life, Naki (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o) remain in his corner.

He certainly needs them after discovering his father’s old nemesis, who he hunted for decades, Ulysses Klaue (a delightfully over-the-top Andy Serkis) is back on the prowl attempting to sell “vibranium,” the metallurgical element that is a key to Wakanda’s success.

Working with Klaue is Killmonger, a young man who wants nothing more than the power that vibranium wields, in the hopes he can use it to lead Wakandan spies throughout the world to overthrow repressive regimes.

Killmonger is both a monster, as he is described on more than one occasion in the film, and also a tragic figure brilliantly portrayed by Jordan (who starred in Coogler’s two previous films). He almost — almost — steals every scene where he appears. But his character points to a strong Shakespearean influence on Coogler and Cole’s script.

There’s endless optimism in Black Panther, but the film isn’t constrained by that fact. The writers broker in reality and aren’t afraid to examine serious issues through this extraordinary lens that they’re given.

Realistically, there would be little success without the cast they have. Jordan’s performance is balanced with a regal performance from Boseman. While Killmonger is raw emotion, T’Challa is calculating, intelligent and restrained, laced with empathy that’s hard not to admire. Behind it all is an attitude that his kindness should not be mistaken for weakness.

While the juxtaposition of those two characters and their respective backgrounds eventually stand at the center of Black Panther, a stellar supporting cast, which includes Forest Whitaker and Martin Freeman, is unforgettable. It’s one more aspect of the film that should make Coogler proud.

Coogler’s overall ambition in crafting a sociologically complex story and presenting it as standard comic-book-movie fare succeeds: There is nothing common about Black Panther.

George M. Thomas dabbles in movies and television for the Beacon Journal. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @GeorgeThomasABJ.

The Cleveland Orchestra is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its summer home, Blossom Music Center, with a festive lineup of concerts including performances by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Broadway star Audra McDonald, three classic film nights with scores played live, and special events that include a performance of the Who’s Tommy with Roger Daltrey and a Symphony of Food and Fine Wine benefit.

Opening night for the Cleveland Orchestra will be July 7, with Music Director Franz Welser-Möst conducting Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Cleveland Orchestra soloists Joela Jones, piano; Mark Kosower, cello; and Stephen Rose, violin.

Roger Daltrey and members of the Who touring band will also perform with the orchestra that weekend, July 8, as a special event that is not part of the subscription season. And the Blossom Festival Band, conducted by Loras John Schissel, will start the celebration with a bang with the “Salute to America” concerts July 3 and 4.

Eight Cleveland Orchestra classical concerts are scheduled as part of the regular subscription season, as well as seven evenings of orchestra pops concerts. Among the classical offerings, Jahja Ling will conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”) — a side-by-side performance with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Kent Blossom Chamber Orchestra — and the Blossom Festival Chorus, also celebrating its 50th anniversary, will be featured in Carmina Burana Aug. 25.

Amid a 20-concert lineup of many treats, Ma will perform all six Bach solo Cello Suites Aug. 12 in an encore of his sold-out performance last summer at the Hollywood Bowl. The Cleveland Orchestra will not play that evening.

Guests will enjoy hearing the scores of three contrasting films played live this summer at Blossom: Singin’ in the Rain July 14, The Little Mermaid on Family Fun Day Aug. 4 and the season-ending Star Wars in Concert Aug. 31 and Sept. 1-2. In other pops concerts, McDonald will sing Broadway favorites July 29, and songs by crooners Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald will be featured Aug. 19.

Adding to the 50th anniversary fun, new LED screens in the Pavilion will display live footage during select concerts, a partnership with ideastream (WVIZ/PBS and 90.3-FM WCPN). And speaking of the Pavilion, for those attending the benefit evening July 13 (which includes a performance by members of the Cleveland Orchestra), Pavilion designer/architect Peter van Dijk will be honorary event co-chair with his wife, Bobbi.

The 50th anniversary celebration is sponsored by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., while J.M. Smucker is the sponsor of the 2018 Blossom Music Festival season. Blossom, created as the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra in what is now Cuyahoga Falls, has drawn more than 400,000 visitors each summer for the Blossom Music Festival and a range of rock, country and other pop concerts. More than 20 million visitors have attended Blossom since 1968.

Subscriptions and lawn ticket books for the 50th anniversary Blossom Festival season are on sale now and individual tickets will go on sale in early May. See http://www.clevelandorchestra.com or call 216-231-1111.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ.

Blossom Festival 2018 Schedule

• July 3-4, 8 p.m.: Salute To America with the Blossom Festival Band, Loras John Schissel, conductor. Includes Sousa marches, Broadway favorites, Armed Forces Salute, the “1812” Overture and fireworks.

• July 7, 8 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst, conductor; Joela Jones, piano; Mark Kosower, cello; Stephen Rose, violin. Beethoven, Triple Concerto; Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Maurice Ravel). Fireworks.

• July 8, 8 p.m.: The Who’s Tommy, with vocalist Roger Daltrey, the Cleveland Orchestra, members of the Who’s touring band. (Special event, not part of subscription season.)

• July 13: 50th anniversary benefit with Cleveland Orchestra musicians, dinner on Blossom’s stage and surrounding areas, and wine pairings. (Special event, not part of subscription season.)

• July 14, 8:30 p.m.: Singin’ in the Rain, film with live orchestral score; the Cleveland Orchestra, Richard Kaufman, conductor.

• July 15, 7 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; John Storgårds, conductor; Vilde Frang, violin. Antheil, Over the Plains; Britten, Violin Concerto; Schumann, Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”). Blossom Picnic Contest, details to be announced.

• July 21, 8 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Jahja Ling, conductor; Kent Blossom Chamber Orchestra; Blossom Festival Chorus. Berlioz, Overture to Benvenuto Cellini; Vaughan Williams, Serenade to Music; Mahler, Symphony No. 1 “Titan”). Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra performs at 7 p.m.

• July 28, 8 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Herbert Blomstedt, conductor. Mozart, Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”); Brahms, Symphony No. 4.

• July 29, 7 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Andy Einhorn, conductor; Audra McDonald, soprano. Broadway favorites.

• Aug. 4, 8:30 p.m.: The Little Mermaid, film with live orchestral score. The Cleveland Orchestra; Sarah Hicks, conductor.

• Aug. 5, 7 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Michael Francis, conductor. Smetana, “Sárka” No. 3 from Má Vlast; Janácek, Taras Bulba; Dvorák, Symphony No. 7.

• Aug. 11, 8 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko, conductor; Simon Trpceski, piano. Liadov, Baba-Yaga; Rachmaninoff, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5.

• Aug. 12, 7 p.m.: Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach. (Cleveland Orchestra will not perform.)

• Aug. 18, 8 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; James Gaffigan, conductor; Stephen Hough, piano. Barber, Essay No. 2; Mendelssohn, Piano Concerto No. 1; Sibelius, Symphony No. 2.

• Aug. 19, 7 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Randall Craig Fleischer, conductor; Capathia Jenkins, vocalist; Tony DeSare, vocalist and piano. Songs by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

• Aug. 25, 8 p.m.: The Cleveland Orchestra; Adrien Perruchon, conductor; Audrey Luna, soprano; Matthew Plenk, tenor; Elliot Madore, baritone; Blossom Festival Chorus; Cleveland Orchestra Children’s Chorus. Copland, Statements; Orff, Carmina Burana.

• Aug. 31, Sept. 1-2, 8:30 p.m.: Star Wars: A New Hope, film with live orchestral score. The Cleveland Orchestra; Vinay Parameswaran, conductor. Fireworks.

Ask any fan of the comic book character Black Panther, who made his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War, how they feel about the Feb. 16 release of a film devoted solely to that character, and familiar words likely tumble forward.

“Finally,” said 34-year-old Tony Miller, an artist and employee of the Fairlawn Country Club, during a recent discussion with a group of friends at Rubber City Comics in downtown Akron. “He finally got a movie. Our regard may be different from other people. He’s always been around — like Captain America — but he never had any recognition. I feel like he should have had some recognition. Now he’s being brought to the forefront; people get to understand who he is.”

He is King T’Challa, portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, the monarch of the mythical and technologically advanced country of Wakanda. What he represents is something even bigger, for people of African descent in particular.

The buzz on social media in recent weeks has reached deafening levels as the Black Panther’s release date draws near. Advance ticket sales are matching that chatter. In African-American communities across the country, #BlackPantherChallenge fundraisers sprouted up on sites such as GoFundMe.com to raise money to send children to theaters. The excitement is unmistakable and undeniable.

Quenton Owens, 35, a registered nurse from Akron, sat with his son, Elijah, as the guys around him talked about the significance of Black Panther at Rubber City. Owens, who is biracial, grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood and is thrilled that his son will be able to see a film directed by a black filmmaker (Ryan Coogler, Creed), starring a primarily cast of color that doesn’t involve some of the familiar tropes associated with black culture and history’s presentation in film.

“He’s actually able to see something portrayed in a positive manner, so I think it’s really big,” he said. “This is opening doors up down the road for him. He has the potential to do something like this one day if he chose.”

Breaking stereotypes

Yes, T’Challa is African royalty, but the character represents a milestone in the comic book genre because it addresses the stereotypes. He’s an educated man who happens to be a scientist and one of the richest, most powerful people on the planet.

It’s not exactly a portrayal African-American audiences are accustomed to seeing on screen.

Stacy Morgan, an associate professor who lectures on and researches popular culture at the University of Alabama, said in terms of diversity in casting and storytelling, Hollywood still lags, disappointingly. Therefore, he’s not surprised by the enthusiasm the film is generating among blacks.

“To have a film where black characters feature not only in one token role,” he said, “but across the cast [which includes Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett] creates room for a wide array of black identities and personalities on the big screen in a way that simply hasn’t been offered in the superhero genre before.”

In that respect, it could serve as a starting point. Owens is taking his son to see the film because of the overtly positive message and image it presents of the people and also the continent of Africa. Dr. Zachery Williams, who researches pop culture and teaches African-American history at the University of Akron, agreed.

“I think with Black Panther, I think the possibilities are limitless in terms of what it might provoke within young people in a positive way, particularly those who have been typecast and stereotyped,” he said. “Even in terms of how pop culture could provide some sort of infusion of creativity into the curriculums of K-12 schools.”

Kent State University’s Dr. Cheryl Lambert, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, agreed.

“This is the first high-profile superhero U.S. film in which the majority of the cast is black,” she said. “Representation matters because people who are interested in set design, wardrobe, even comic book ideas will be able to envision the possibilities of access to an industry that has been unwelcoming.”

Reclaiming Africa

Williams sees another stereotype being challenged.

The country of Wakanda, T’Challa’s fictional homeland, functions as a character, too. Given the perceptions that exist among some regarding African nations, seeing a technologically advanced, economically thriving country represents a shift that belies the recent “s***hole” comment made by President Donald Trump several weeks ago.

“I think it helps us to engage with the complex workings of history and even social movement,” Williams said. “… Even the whole notion of Africa as having value and having history and having worth and having hidden potential that may not be appreciated by the larger society. But internally, there’s an awareness of what value’s there.”

None of this means that Black Panther should be considered just a “black film.” It’s a movie that presents a different perspective, one that has been underrepresented in film and television. Being a Marvel film, however, gives it a boost, and that’s evident in the run-up to its release.

Advance ticket sales and early reviews suggest the film will transcend any labels ascribed to it. Thus far, Black Panther has outsold any prior movie released in the first three months of a year since ticketing service Fandango entered the advance sales business. It became the top-selling comic book film in that regard several weeks ago.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for media tracking firm comScore, who has seen the film, believes the February weekend box office record set by Deadpool two years ago will fall, expecting the movie to earn in the $140 to $150 million range.

“You don’t even want to define it as a superhero movie because it’s so much more than that,” he said.

He expects Black Panther to enjoy an extended run in theaters because it possesses mass appeal, but he also understands its importance.

“It is a watershed movie,” he said. “It is a great moment for the culture and for moviegoers who often feel they aren’t represented on the screen. It just kicks down a door kind of in the same way as Wonder Woman did within the superhero genre.”

Staying power?

The reality is that it’s important for Black Panther to succeed. Dergarabedian said these milestones help to show cynical Hollywood types diversity in storytelling represents progress and opportunity.

“In this time frame, it’s big for people of color to have heroes of color,” Miller said. “Back in the day, you wouldn’t see something like this.”

There’ve been false starts. Think Spawn, about a superhero demon who was a black man. Then there were Wesley Snipes’ Blade films. They didn’t generate this magnitude of buzz.

The arrival of Black Panther, which in all fairness comes after the success of another African-American Marvel hero, Luke Cage, on Netflix and more recently Black Lightning on the CW (created by Medina native Tony Isabella), has a different vibe to it.

Is a change gonna come? Time will have to tell.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected].

“I think with Black Panther, I think the possibilities are limitless in terms of what it might provoke within young people in a positive way.

Dr. Zachery Williams

African-American history instructor at the University of Akron

They met over meatloaf.

In 2013, restaurateur Brandon Chrostowski and filmmaker Thomas Lennon were having dinner with mutual friends in New York.

“I was visiting two of my mentors, Karen and David Waltuck of Chanterelle, the restaurant they owned in New York. We were having dinner at their apartment and Tom and his wife were there,” said Chrostowski.

“Tom and I were just talking and I told him that I was getting ready to open the best French restaurant in the country, in Cleveland, staffed by people just coming out of the justice system. His radar went up.”

Soon after, Lennon drove out to Cleveland to start shooting footage for a documentary. It ended up being a four-year project off and on.

“Tom didn’t have a story, he just said it would be fun to watch,” said Chrostowski. “He really captured what it is.”

The restaurant, Edwins, part of the Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Shaker Square, opened to raves in November 2013.

In July 2017, the film Knife Skills debuted at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan (it later played at the Chagrin Documentary Festival). Last month, it was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary short.

Now audiences nationwide will get to see what Chrostowski has built as the Oscar Nominated Shorts hit theaters on Friday. The shorts, grouped into three programs (animated, live-action and documentaries), will screen at Akron’s Nightlight Cinema, Cleveland’s Capitol Theatre and Chagrin Cinemas in Chagrin Falls.

Lennon is no novice filmmaker. The director has been nominated for four Oscars, and won in 2007 for the documentary short The Blood of Yingzhou District. His films have aired on HBO and PBS, and he has scored a few Peabody and DuPont-Columbia awards as well.

Edwins, which trains people recently released from prison in the restaurant business, had already received a lot of publicity for its life-changing programs. But the Oscar nomination turned up the heat.

“It’s great for the mission,” said Chrostowski. “For the students and the graduates who have done the heavy lifting, it’s great to get the recognition.”

Will he be attending the Oscars in Hollywood on March 4?

“It’s not my type of crowd,” he said. “Tom gets one other ticket. I told him it’s not a high priority for me. ‘Take your wife, take your film buddy.’ I would be happy to spend it with the staff, the students, the people who got us there.”

If he watches, he will need to acquire something: a television.

“We don’t have a TV at home. For over 10 years now, it’s a conscious decision, just so I can keep my instincts correct with life and not blur them.”

His plate is full, but last year Chrostowski took time to try something new: running for mayor of Cleveland.

“It was great. I stepped back from the restaurant for a couple months and I campaigned my ass off. We lost, but I came in fourth out of nine candidates [in last fall’s primary]. I was very pleased with the results.”

In addition to the restaurant and training center, the Institute has housing for students and alumni, continues to offer training programs in several Ohio prisons and hopes to open a butcher shop near Shaker Square. In about eight weeks, Chrostowski said, the Institute will expand further with a new restaurant and training center in Medina. Serenite will focus on people in recovery from addiction.

And why is it called Edwins?

Two reasons.

One: Edwin is short for “EDucation WINS.”

It’s also Chrostowski’s middle name.

“It was named for both,” he said. “It takes more than education to win. It takes a backbone. My grandfather was a real son of a bitch. His name was Edwin. So I got his name for my middle name, and part of his son of a bitchiness.”

When he first saw Knife Skills on the big screen, Chrostowski said it was a moving experience.

“It was shocking. In the theater, with the visuals and the sound, the boom-da-boom gets into you, and the crowd was in tears. I was blown away.”

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.

Get ready for the big game

You may be watching for the ads, for the entertainment (Justin Timberlake at halftime), for possible controversy (will any players kneel?), for the sheer crazy spectacle of it all, or maybe even for the football, but odds are you will be watching the Super Bowl on this unofficial national holiday. If you really are watching for the football and want to miss the hours of pregame hype and yammering, kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on NBC.

Watch ‘This Is Us’ or set DVR

If you’re setting your DVR for the highly anticipated episode of This Is Us that will air after the game, be sure to program lots of extra time, since you never know whether overtime or a random blackout will make the festivities run long.

Skip game, enjoy TV marathons

As always, there’s counterprogramming for those who can wrestle a TV away from the football fans, including marathons of The Walking Dead (AMC), Star Trek: The Next Generation (BBC America), Golden Girls and Everybody Loves Raymond (TV Land) and Cops (Spike). There’s also the drop-dead-cute Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, and Kitten Bowl on Hallmark.

Visit new Marketplace spots

The opening weekend celebration concludes for three new places in Northside Marketplace at 21 Furnace St.: Local Brew, Belle Vie wine and champagne bar and Akron Creamery, which specializes in Thai rolled ice cream. The Marketplace will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the party continuing through the Super Bowl at the bars with a tailgate buffet available. northsidemarketplace.com.

The Canton Museum of Art is presenting African American Masterpieces: Permanent Collection Highlights, showcasing paintings and ceramics created between 1945 and 2010 that were chosen for the museum’s permanent collection.

The artists in this show have international and national profiles. Many also have ties to northeast Ohio, and it’s exciting to be able to see this exhibition in the greater context of the history of visual art in our community.

Al Bright grew up in Youngstown and taught at Youngstown State University for 47 years. He is best known for painting while being accompanied by jazz or classical music. The work in this show, Fertility Piece (1975), is a mostly deep sea-green oil on canvas painting featuring key colorful elements painted on quite thickly with a palette knife.

A yellow to orange swath cuts through the middle, changing the rhythm and temperature of the painting much like a burst of sound. Directly above this colorful swath is a circular element painted with so much density the paint rises inches off the canvas and makes you wonder, even though the work is more than 40 years old, if it will ever dry out completely. Likely not, and in many aspects that is the point to this painting. The piece retains a fluidity and motion, like sound that has come to take shape for a time on the canvas.

Syd Carpenter is originally from Pittsburgh and is a professor of studio art at Swarthmore College. Her ceramic piece Grazers on Yellow (1985) is a raku fired piece. Carpenter has evolved to doing primarily sculptural work, and this piece retains some of the functional elements that attract many artists to clay while showing signs of the direction her work would take.

In this particular piece, a vessel form has what looks like a horse painted on the outside, with a seed pod or heart-shaped element for a lid. Organic forms have long been a part of Carpenter’s work, so it’s interesting to be able to see some of the sources of that interest on display.

Elizabeth Catlett was a graphic artist and sculptor best known for her depictions of the African-American experience from a female point of view. Mother and Child (1944) is a lithograph on paper, small in size, and this intimacy conveys a feeling of meaning and reflection. Interestingly, this has many of the same elements as her sculptural work.

John Moore was born in Cleveland and has lived in New York City since the mid-‘80s. Moore is “interested in the relationship of humankind to its surroundings, especially the urban landscape, and the interior, psychic spaces our experience of the physical world helps to shape.” Phalby (1987) is an oil on canvas that begins as a dark, almost black work that changes to almost white from left to right. It is a geometric or architectonic composition that shows depth and form by highlighting the brushwork and texture.

Hughie Lee-Smith was best known for his paintings of urban or seaside landscapes. Industrial Scene (1953) is a rather bleak watercolor of industry from the vantage point of a dock looking across a river or inlet. What’s outstanding about this painting is that it conveys a lot of information while using a minimal amount of paint to get the point across.

African American Masterpieces is interesting not just for its quality of work, but also for how it highlights the collection of the institution. These works act as a reflection of the values and interests of the community they are housed in, historic, important and full of texture and meaning.

Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].

There is an old motivational proverb that states, “If at first you sort of succeed, try, try again in a better location.”

Well, I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes.

Down in the Merriman Valley, the medical-themed Barmacy bar and grill was just OK. There was a building with alcohol, some food and working bathrooms, which is generally a good start, but it wasn’t exactly a destination.

So, the new Barmacy Bar & Grill is try, trying again in a new location, joining the Parade of Bars in Highland Square, in the corner spot previously held by Ohio Brewing Co., Two Amigos and a few places that never got around to actually opening.

Barmacy has been doing business there for a little over a month, having recently held its grand opening. And though West Market may not have been clamoring for another booze dispensary, Barmacy is a good addition to the Highland Square business district’s Alcohol Row.

Ohio Brewing regulars may notice the main room hasn’t changed much: The L-shaped bar is intact, and you can still see the unused brewing machinery through the big window behind it. The bar sports about 20 taps, offering a good variety from basic Bud Light to ciders, local brews and even some rare finds such as Modelo. Additionally, the cooler is packed with nearly 70 beers, along with a solid selection of wines.

The medical theme manifests in the menus, which include specialty drinks such as Birth Control — a concoction of Smirnoff Cherry, Watermelon Pucker, pineapple juice and Sprite, the effects of which would seemingly belie its name.

Likewise, everything on the food menu is under $10, mixing traditional pub fare with some Lebanese flair. It offers pithy names such as the Dammit Jim, I’m Just a Doctor! which is kafta (wonderfully seasoned Lebanese meatloaf) on a pita. The Anti-Oxisticks are tasty, crisp-fried green beans.

There are also a few pizza variations, a brioche-bunned burger and wings. My Barmacy Pepperoni pizza was hot, fresh and hit the sweet spot where the melted cheese and the not-too-much pepperoni grease commingle in that comforting, delicious way.

The service and servers are attentive, friendly, and have a good knowledge of both the menu and the action-packed beer cooler. The atmosphere is chill, with several tables made out of barrels, a pool table and enough smartly placed screens so patrons can watch the Cavs flounder or look away and just enjoy each other’s company.

Cantonites Rana Farah and Matthew Kocsis were enjoying each other’s company, their drinks and the band led by local musician Jefferson Rice that anchors Open Mic and Jam night every Thursday.

The first-timers, who had never visited Ohio Brewing, either, were suitably impressed. “It’s really nice. It’s a great atmosphere, a lively atmosphere,” said Farah, who does marketing for a local dental office, during the band’s break.

Kocsis, owner of a medical supply company, said the couple doesn’t go out much in Canton, but would be more than willing to make the 20-minute drive to Akron again.

“The drinks are really good,” Kocsis said.

Generally, the nighttime crowd is a low-key mix of young, hip Highland Square denizens and grown folks of varying levels of mature hipness, giving the room a pleasant, relaxed, welcoming vibe.

Barmacy also serves lunch, neatly dovetailing with its lengthy happy hour, which lasts from 1 to 7 p.m. and features $2 domestic beers, $3 well drinks and $6 pitchers of Bud Light.

If you’re looking for a good excuse to check out the new and improved Barmacy Bar & Grill, they’re throwing a Super Bowl Kickoff Party on Sunday with drink specials and free appetizers.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

When seeking out art exhibitions, people often look for new and interesting work. An original exhibition can inspire us and push our boundaries and comfort zones. Perhaps most important, it can tease out new thoughts by giving us the opportunity to look at the world though an artist’s eyes.

The Shrine of Realization and Other Extraordinary Objects and Visionary Images by Mark Soppeland, on view at the Harris-Stanton Gallery, highlights new ideas from one of the area’s most unusual individuals and thinkers.

Soppeland’s current work is related to his interest in found objects and images. He has recently embarked on a new investigation in painting called his Organic Algorithm series.

Soppeland states: “These works are concerned with our unique cultural moment where massive amounts of real-time data are being processed instantaneously to manipulate and control various aspects of our lives. Some of these computer programs are of obvious benefit to the many. However, unknown numbers exist in secret and are of value to only a select few, often working against the interests of the majority.

“The process of this artwork attempts to model this new reality. It involves creating multiple layers of various materials: metallic pigments, paint, pencil, binders and paper that are repeatedly established and removed.”

The works have a familiar feel. While they are abstract, they also give off a sense of something old or well-worn. Like looking at an old photograph that has been damaged over time or watching a movie that was copied from older technology, there is a sense about these paintings of something on the periphery or not quite fully assembled. These elements add to the aesthetic and make the works really interesting to look at.

Escape Character uses a dark red, almost black color that moves and changes to nearly white. Rectangles and other square-like shapes make up the surface, which has been layered and layered and at the same time scraped or sanded. This process of adding and subtracting informs the painting’s look while activating the surface. Nothing feels overworked; rather there is a sense of something that was or that is still becoming.

With a palette of blues, greens, browns, yellow and white, Source Code, perhaps more than any other work in the exhibit, has an earthy and organic feel to it, like some kind of satellite photograph or topographical map. This painting is reminiscent of many natural elements, like rocks, water and even snow-covered fields.

Data Stream is aptly named, as it looks like images of lines of data popularized in movies and television, except with a painterly twist. Working with a palette that is more browns and blacks, Soppeland has made smaller elements the rule, giving a busier feel and even larger scope. It seems like the artist is using his hands to gather in some kind of cosmic information for all of us to gaze at.

The exhibition also features several of Soppeland’s sculptures. My Favorite Time Travel Companion (Trying to explain the last 223 years to Ben Franklin) is one notable work. The use of light in sculptural work has been an important part of Soppeland’s process for almost 50 years. It represents the “power of the object, a symbolic representation of a part of ourselves, to expand beyond its physical limitations, and by extension, to begin a discussion of our own potential abilities.”

In this mixed media sculpture, a bust of Ben Franklin has various elements attached to his head to hold playing card-sized printouts of different images. The bust is set on a table that is also covered in images that seem to range in subject from the scientific to entertainment industry.

There is a certain lack of fear in all of these sculptures. It’s as if the artist works hard to not limit the sharing of his thoughts and visions, and you come away with sense of who he is, from his fears to his sense of humor. These sculptures don’t hold back and wonder if people will like them; they let it all hang out, and that’s what makes them particularly wonderful.

Soppeland is an innovative and original-thinking artist who has spent a lifetime investigating, discovering, interpreting and sharing elements in our world that fascinate him in a way only an artist can. Here you can discover and understand him a little more, and get an exciting first glimpse into his new investigations.

Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].

It used to be huddled in the corner. Its colors muted, its lights darkened, its calamitous noises silenced, a place to toss your coat or rest your drink, its scribbled “Out of Order” sign like an ominous headstone signifying its fate: Ghost of Games Past.

But now it’s in the midst of a beautiful resurgence.

Pinball machines are on the rise in bars, arcades and game rooms, while pinball leagues and tournaments are seeing an increase in players.

This was evident on a recent Monday night at Stonehedge, the bowling and entertainment center just off Route 8 in Akron, where the inviting glow of Batman and Star Trek and Game of Thrones and Metallica beckoned.

“This is the Mecca, Akron’s pinball parlor,” said Tommy “Pin Wizard” Bizzi. “We have 23 machines here.”

When he’s not working, Bizzi is playing pinball, and when he’s not playing pinball he’s organizing pinball tournaments, more than 100 last year.

“There’s a whole pinball community,” he said. “We play all over. We go to Berea, we go to Cleveland. We’ve been down to Columbus. We want to take pinball to a whole other level.”

The Stonehedge Pinball League gathers on “Knockout Mondays,” for weekly IFPA-approved tournaments, and on “Casual Thursdays,” for newer players. The IFPA is the International Flipper Pinball Association. It coordinates leagues and tournaments around the country. The Ohio state championship was held earlier this month in Columbus. The national championship is on March 1 in Las Vegas, followed by European and world championships.

Pinball interest has exploded in recent years. There were nearly 4,500 competitions worldwide in 2017, with more than 55,000 players, according to the IFPA. That compares with only 50 competitions in 2006.

The championship tournaments consist of best-of-seven rounds played on different machines. This year in Columbus, most of the 16 competitors were from Northeast Ohio.

“It was amazing, it was my first state championship appearance,” said John Tomsich, standing over the row of machines at Stonehedge. Actually, at 6 feet 10 inches the former basketball player was towering over the machines and everyone else.

“Like a lot of kids, I grew up playing video games. But there’s something different about pinball. There’s the physical nature of it and the unknown, the fact that every single game is going to be different.”

Tomsich, assistant athletic director at Youngstown State University, was clad in a Birdfish Brewing T-shirt. “They’re my sponsor. They provide me with quarters and porters.”

In Columbus, amid the whir of flippers, bumpers, poppers, pegs and call-outs (things the machine says to you during games), Tomsich upset the defending champ in round one, but fell in seven games in round two. (Andrew Lee of Cleveland was the ultimate winner.)

Tournament play can last as long as 12 hours. “When you’re around good pinball players, their quarters and balls last a lot longer,” he said.

Two machines over from Tomsich is Will Heaney from Cleveland. He won the state championship in 2015, held at Superelectric Pinball Parlor in Cleveland. “We started at noon or 1 and I left there after midnight,” said Heaney. His victory came on the final machine of the night: Jungle Queen.

“I discovered pinball one day in the bottom of a bar, and that was pretty much it,” said Heaney. “I love that you can always get further into the game.”

Evolving technology

It was one thing for old-school pinball machines to be shunned during the video arcade craze of the 1980s. But you wonder how they can hope to compete in the digital age of high-tech video games, 3-D, HD, drones and the vast horizons of virtual reality.

The answer, in part, is a if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach.

“It’s an evolution of technology,” said Zachary Sharpe, vice president of the IFPA. “Pinball games now have LCD displays.” There’s also an app, Pinball Map, which can locate pinball machines in your area.

To appeal to millennials, Jersey Jack created Dialed In, a pinball machine equipped with Bluetooth and a camera. (You can control the flippers from your smartphone.)

Of course, there are also video versions and pinball games for your phone. But it’s the non-virtual, hands-on appeal that drives most players.

“It’s not like video games that are pre-programmed,” said Sharpe, who was speaking on the phone from Elk Grove Village, Ill., where he is director of marketing for Stern Pinball Inc. “With pinball, you’re battling physics and gravity. It’s fun trying to keep that ball alive as much as possible.”

In addition to Stonehedge (580 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave.), popular Northeast Ohio pinball haunts for leagues and tournaments include both Cleveland Happy Dogs, the one inside Euclid Tavern on the East Side (11625 Euclid Ave.), and the West Side location at 5801 Detroit Ave.

Just down the block from that Happy Dog, and next to the Capitol Theatre, is the exquisitely vintage Superelectric Pinball Parlor (6500 Detroit Ave.), which offers funky-retro décor and pinball machines you can actually buy. In Berea, you’ll find pinball inside Kidforce Collectibles (103 Front St.), which, in addition to more than 20 machines, offers a wide array of cards, comics, games and toys.

Alien attackers

At Stonehedge, you soak up the ’70s vibe as you stroll past the bowling lanes and party areas and walk behind the massive oval bar to the pinball area and its 14 machines (nine more are located near the side entrance, including a stunning Wizard of Oz game).

One of its most dedicated players and organizers is Jessie Carduner. By day she is an associate professor of Spanish and linguistics at Kent State University. By night, she pounds the flippers and gets a kick out of creating themed competitions for “Casual Thursdays.”

“It’s like lesson plans without being restrained by a curriculum,” she said.

Carduner is an accomplished flipper and nudger (adroitly adding a little body English to the machines) as well as an aficionado. She has eight pinball machines in her house. “It relaxes me,” she explains. “It also stresses me. But mostly, it unstresses me.”

Her favorite game at Stonehedge is Attack from Mars. Between the rolling, banging, dinging and kachunk-a-chunka, a scenario of an entire alien invasion unfolds.

“Earth will be ours!” threatens the invading leader. “Come here, tasty human!”

It is a remake of a classic machine from the 1990s, and like a kid let loose with a handful of quarters, Carduner lights up when she plays it.

“This is one of the greatest games ever made,” she said. “With this one, I feel like I’m killing Martians.”

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.