1. Theatre Lawrence’s new home (ongoing)
After decades of venue-hopping and squeezing into a retrofitted downtown church, come summer, Theatre Lawrence should have a shiny new home designed just for it.
Construction is progressing on Theatre Lawrence’s new $6.5 million home at 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. Plans call for a 300-seat theater with dressing rooms and offices, plus an education wing with classrooms and outdoor space.
“We’re going to have a lovely building,” executive director Mary Doveton says. “People have been so generous.”
If things go perfectly (and winter weather doesn’t interfere with the construction schedule), the theater could be complete in time for the final show of Theatre Lawrence’s 2012-13 season, “Ragtime,” scheduled to open June 7.
In the meantime, shows will go on at Theatre Lawrence’s current location, 1501 New Hampshire St. The next performance will be “The Fox on the Fairway,” opening Jan. 18.
While opening the new building doesn’t depend on it, a final fundraising effort is hoped to enable the theater to upgrade some of its equipment to better fit its new home, Doveton says. Theatre Lawrence has raised about $150,000 of $350,000 to pay for equipment such as stronger lights, a new sound system and certain stage rigging.
“We just want to ensure that the equipment that we put in the building will provide high-quality performance,” Doveton says. “And no theater is ever finished when it comes to equipment.”
— Sara Shepherd
2. Josh Ritter at Liberty Hall (April 21)
In an age of Twitter and manufactured pop hits, a truly literate songwriter seems almost a novelty. Josh Ritter follows in the footsteps of musical storytellers such as Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan in crafting songs that are more like short stories — tales of a female soldier in combat, love lost and found, ships in danger of foundering, even romance in a Cold War missile silo. Ritter even published a novel, “Bright’s Passage,” a couple of years ago, earning a favorable review from no less than Stephen King in The New York Times.
But songwriting and performing are his forte. Not quite folk, not quite rock, not quite alternative, the 36-year-old Ritter makes music for people who appreciate smart lyrics and strong melodies.
His upcoming album, “The Beast in Its Tracks,” due out March 5, will be his most personal, dealing with the collapse of his marriage. Ritter describes the songs, in his typical evocative fashion, as being like “rocks in a shoe, hard little nuggets of whatever they were, be it spite, remorse, or happiness” and the cover depicts the singer with flames licking from his shirt. But he’s not bitter: the first song released from the album, “Joy to You Baby,” is an affectionate send-off.
Live, Ritter is as smart, articulate and funny as his songs, apt to trot out a folkie version of “Moon River” or his hilarious ditty “Stuck to You,” which explains the science behind everything from photosynthesis to Teflon. As you’d expect from a singer-songwriter whose oeuvre includes a song called “Lawrence, KS,” Ritter’s tours rarely miss a stop here — he’ll be performing his latest bunch of songs, along with his classics, April 21 at Liberty Hall.
— Mark Potts
3. Books on the move, Logs to Literature (ongoing)
A major renovation project is beginning at the Lawrence Public Library — so major that the library is moving out of its home at 707 Vermont St. to accommodate construction.
Fortunately for bibliophiles, the library has secured a temporary home not far away — the former Borders book store building at 700 New Hampshire St.
The library will close for about two weeks during the move, anticipated sometime between Jan. 7 and Jan. 21. The temporary library on New Hampshire Street will house the Media Room collection, nearly all of the children’s collections, most of the teen collections and about half of the adult collections. The rest of the collection will go to a nearby storage facility, where staff will be able to access items requested through the library catalog.
At some point during the construction process, the trees surrounding the library will have to be cut down. On the bright side, there’s a plan to give them new life — as art.
A project called Logs to Literature aims to distribute lumber from the trees to area artists and craftsmen, selected through a juried application process, to create art objects and furniture. Their work will be auctioned off to benefit Friends of the Library. The library expects to announce details and dates later.
— Sara Shepherd
4. Mummenschanz at the Lied Center (March 8)
There really are no words to adequately describe what Mummenschanz does, which is fitting, because Mummenschanz is a Swiss mime troupe.
Don’t worry, this isn’t Marcel Marceau or hundreds of lesser silent street performers bracing themselves against an imaginary gust of wind or pretending to walk an unseen dog. Mummenschanz performances speak silent paragraphs about the absurdity of the human condition, in the most ingenious ways imaginable.
The core of Mummenschanz’s genius is countless clever props: unfurled toilet paper to mimic tears and flowing hair; full-sized clay masks that can quickly be molded into any emotion; enormous fabric hands that roam the stage gesturing and congratulating each other; giant corrugated tubes that writhe around the stage in the name of storytelling, pathos and comedy. Lots and lots of wordless, physical comedy.
If you can imagine giant, grown-up Muppets, you’ll be sort of on the right track, but Mummenschanz isn’t kids’ stuff (though kids love it). There are echoes of Blue Man Group, too, though Mummenschanz was doing its act long before the Blue Men established residency in Las Vegas.
In fact, the Swiss artists’ collective has been doing its delirious, ultra-creative act for 40 years, delighting unsuspecting audiences on every stop on their increasingly rare world and U.S. tours. Catch them at the Lied Center on March 8 — and then see if you can find words to describe the indescribable. Ticket prices range from $9-$26. For more information about the performance, visit lied.ku.edu.
— Mark Potts
5. Kansas Music Hall of Fame inductions at Liberty Hall (March 2)
The Kansas Music Hall of Fame will celebrate its annual induction of new members with, naturally, a performance by some of the inductees themselves, including Lawrence’s Clyde Bysom and the Junkyard Jazz band.
The induction ceremony and concert is set for March 2 at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 each and can be purchased at the Liberty Hall box office or online at ticketmaster.com.
Scheduled to perform with Junkyard Jazz are The Devastating Dinks of Salina, Exceptions of Topeka, Ray Hildebrand of Prairie Village, Playmate Blues Band of Hays and Tempests of Hays.
Bysom and Junkyard Jazz are being honored with one of two Directors Awards, with the other going to inductee Sherman Halsey of Independence. Larry Emmett and the Sliders, of De Soto, are being honored with the Bob Hapgood Award.
The other 2013 Kansas Music Hall of Fame inductees are Kerry Livgren of Berryton/Topeka, Chuck Mead formerly of Lawrence, Mystic Number National Bank of Kansas City, Steve Werner of Kansas City and Wizards from Kansas of Lawrence.
— Sara Shepherd
6. "It Gets Better" (Feb. 16)
Tolerance, diversity and the sensitive and sometimes tragic issue of bullying will take center stage when the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, with other performers, presents “It Gets Better.”
The performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive. Tickets are $17 for adults or $17 for youths. Purchase tickets online at lied.ku.edu or in person at the Lied Center.
The Gay Men’s Chorus will be joined by local choirs in the theatrical event created with Speak Theater Arts. The multimedia performance will include local video, plus video and text projections from the national It Gets Better movement archives.
Parental discretion is advised for young children, as the show includes strong language and addresses adult issues.
— Sara Shepherd
7. "Guru of Chai" (Feb. 7-9)
Another Lied Center performance will transport audience members to the central train station in Bangalore, India, where a humble chai vendor unexpectedly finds himself living a life of surprising drama, passion and humor.
“Guru of Chai,” a production by Indian Ink Theatre Company, shows at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 through Feb. 9 at the Lied Center Pavilion. Tickets are $32 for adults or $17 for students and youths. Purchase tickets online at lied.ku.edu or in person at the Lied Center.
The show’s cast consists of a musician and Jacob Rajan, a founding partner of the company, who will portray 16 characters.
The poor tea seller’s life is forever changed when a young girl is abandoned in the busy station and brings the place to a standstill with her beautiful singing. The performance is set against a backdrop of India’s cultural contradictions — iPhones intersecting with ancient gods — and cautions against the dangers of keeping your soul locked in a cage.
— Sara Shepherd
8. VIM at Lawrence Arts Center (Jan. 18)
The next new visual arts exhibit scheduled to open at the Lawrence Arts Center is called “VIM,” a first-time collaboration between painters Kent Michael Smith, Lisa Lala and Archie Scott Gobber and ceramist Ben Ahlvers, who is also the Arts Center’s exhibitions director.
The exhibit will feature new works from all four artists, who use color and varied techniques to suggest energy and momentum, according to the Arts Center’s description. The exhibit aims to accentuate distinctive qualities in materials, process and ideas, and relationships between the works on display.
VIM opens Jan. 18 at the Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., and runs through March 2.
A reception is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 27, and an Insight Art Talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 7.
— Sara Shepherd
9. “Empire of Things” at Spencer Museum of Art (ongoing)
Members of the public will have a rare opportunity to watch a gallery installation in progress as the Spencer Museum of Art’s new exhibit “Empire of Things” is unveiled slowly throughout the first months of 2013. Open areas within the museum’s galleries will allow visitors a glimpse inside the work in progress.
“Empire of Things” explores where the carefully selected objects within — a few emerging from storage for the first time since being acquired by the Spencer — come from, why they look the way they do, what they meant to their collectors and inheritors and, finally, what earned them a place within the walls of a museum, according to the museum’s description.
Themes include colonial expansion, the complexity of international commerce and the dialogue between art and science. Artworks range from architectural fragments to blue-and-white ceramics, from paintings depicting coveted objects to the coveted objects themselves.
“Empire of Things” is the second gallery overhaul in the museum’s ongoing effort to reinstall its permanent collection in fresh, new ways. The effort, dubbed Project Redefine, aims to transform galleries organized in the traditional way — grouped by time period or geographic area — into exhibits where artworks from different regions and time periods are selected and grouped by theme. The museum’s first redefined permanent exhibit, “Corpus,” opened in spring 2012.
— Sara Shepherd
10. “An Errant Line” at Spencer Museum of Art (March 2)
Two internationally recognized artists with Kansas University ties are teaming up to create room-sized, site-specific installations for an immersive exhibit at the Spencer Museum of Art.
“An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton / Cynthia Schira” will fill the museum’s Central Court and other galleries March 2 until Aug. 31.
Using digital technology to explore the fundamental nature of cloth and the ways museums organize and maintain material legacies, Hamilton and Schira will consider the role of the hand and human practices that reveal and conceal, according to the museum. The resulting exhibit will employ images of, as well as actual, objects from the museum’s permanent collection to create a “multisensory tapestry” of changing interactive elements.
“Errant Line” also has an important interactive twist, inspired by the artists’ own former student-teacher relationship (Hamilton came to KU in 1976 to study fiber arts with Schira). Hamilton and Schira will involve current KU visual art students in the project.
— Sara Shepherd
11. Cowboy Indian Bear’s new album (April)
It has been about two-and-a-half years since Lawrence indie stars Cowboy Indian Bear released their auspicious and bracing debut “Each Other All The Time.”
This time span isn’t a knock against the group — some bands take half a decade between one album and the next — and Cowboy Indian Bear exhibits the perfect amount of organic flow with composed songcraft that is seemingly well-considered and uncovered over time. And it’s not as if the band has suffered for a lack of activity: Katlyn Conroy was integrated as a full-fledged member, there were regionwide tours, a Daytrotter session, plus solo work from Martinez Hillard under his nom de rap, Ebony Tusks.
But between Cowboy Indian Bear’s debut, singles and resolutely moving shows, a new album is an exciting prospect, especially as the band seemingly rediscovers itself. It is thrilling to watch a band build on its promise and early potential — of which “Each Other All The Time” has in spades.
The band seems as if it could morph and grow in any number of hypothetical directions, an estimation that comes after seeing the group play tight-focused sky-weltering new songs at gigs over the last year. Hillard says Cowboy Indian Bear’s sophomore effort, as yet untitled, will be launched at a CD release show at The Bottleneck on March 2, with a national drop date (digital and physical) sometime in April.
For as hard the group has worked on developing its spectral and shiver-inducing focus, it will be great to finally hear the fruit of the band’s labors.
— Chance Dibben
12. Theatre Lawrence presents “12 Angry Men” (April)
Classic television and pop culture land on Theatre Lawrence’s stage in April. In what is scheduled to be the final show in its current facility, the group presents a jewel of American dramatics, “12 Angry Men.”
Originally presented live on CBS television in 1954, the story concerns the deliberations of a jury at a murder trial. The case appears to be open and shut. But a single juror thinks they should discuss the case more thoroughly before just voting to convict a young man of homicide. Slowly, he sows the seeds of reasonable doubt in the mind of one juror after another. Arguments break out, and recriminations fly, revealing more about the individual jurors than the trial or the defendant.
The teleplay was adapted to the stage in 1955 and to an Oscar-nominated screenplay that starred Henry Fonda as the heroic Juror No. 8 under the direction of Sidney Lumet in 1957. Over the years, several more versions appeared, including a 1997 teleplay that starred Jack Lemmon and a 2007 national tour with Richard Thomas.
The story has captivated the American imagination for over 50 years. The idea of a lone person fighting heroically against bigotry and a tyrannical majority so that a poor, less-fortunate innocent will not be wrongly convicted is a powerful idea that has inspired a lot of imitation. Homages to “12 Angry Men” can be found in episodes of “Happy Days,” “All in the Family,” “The Odd Couple,” “7th Heaven,” and even “The Simpsons.”
This spring, the battle will be fought once again in Lawrence. “12 Angry Men” begins its run April 12. For more information, visit theatrelawrence.com.
— John R. Phythyon Jr.
13. Souper Bowl Saturday (Feb. 2)
If artistic bowls and hot soup on a cold winter weekend sounds like your thing, mark your calendar for the annual Souper Bowl Saturday event.
This year’s Souper Bowl Saturday — strategically scheduled the day before Super Bowl Sunday — will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.
Attendees can choose from and purchase bowls and other ceramic vessels created by local artists and art students, most starting around $10. With each bowl purchased, the buyer gets a complimentary bowl of soup to enjoy with other attendees at the event.
Proceeds benefit the ceramics program at the Arts Center.
— Sara Shepherd