May 2016 Final Friday Preview: ‘Soundshapes’ in North Lawrence, blacklight art, ‘Sideshow Serenade’ and more
Among the attractions at this month's Final Friday: circus-themed creations, blacklight art, "Soundshapes" and a romp through Catherine Reed's textile "jungle" at the Percolator.
All events are from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Check out www.lawrenceks.org/finalfriday for a complete listing.
The Brewhaus, 624 N. Second St.
The Brewhaus works double duty this Final Friday, hosting not one but two events, both slated for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
First item on the agenda: The public debut of Independence, Mo., artist Jason Sinsley’s (also known as Goghtea) mysterious “blacklight creations.” We’re not sure exactly what that entails, but word on the street (or in the city’s Final Friday listings) is that the coffee bar’s rooms will be converted into a black-lit display space for the show. Visitors will receive UV reactive wristlets, and there’s also the chance of a “creation station.”
Also going on at the Brewhaus: an artists’ reception for the Ballard Community Services’ “Soundshapes and Silos” public art events. Funded in part by a grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and by the National Endowment for the Arts, this exhibition showcases the work of local students who spent three weeks exploring the “art, science and technology of sound” under the guidance of public artists Shannon and Darin White. As its name implies, the show will also feature color-changing “Soundshapes” artwork projected onto the grain silos next to the Lawrence Pacific Union Train Depot (402 N. Second St.) from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Phoenix Underground, 825 Massachusetts St.
The circus is coming to town this Final Friday — or, rather, Thomas Sciacca’s exhibition of circus-inspired artwork at the Phoenix Underground. The whimsical display, dubbed “Sideshow Serenade,” will also include live painting by Sciacca himself, plus circus-themed baked goods by Kansas City artist Betsy Barrett.
Lawrence Percolator, 913 Rhode Island St. (look for the yellow building with the green awnings in the alley behind the Lawrence Arts Center)
Guests are invited to “walk into the depths of a jungle made from yarn, cloth, paint, light and sound” at artist Catherine Reed’s installation opening. What you’ll find once inside has yet to be revealed, but we know for sure that all ages are welcome at this quirky arts-and-crafts event.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
Last year, the Douglas County Historical Society partnered with local artists and arts organizations across the state to document the overlooked and untold stories of Kansas’ past through a series of colorful posters.
Friday’s exhibition opening, slated for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., includes a first look at the Kansas People’s History Project Portfolio printed by Lawrence artist Justin Marable. Project director Dave Loewenstein and original Celebrate People’s History Project organizer Josh MacPhee will also join the festivities.
Yantra Financial Technologies, 840 Massachusetts St.
The young artists of Hang12 (the local art collective brings together local high schoolers interested in how art intersects with public engagement and relevant social issues) unveil “Collaborative Canvases” this month at downtown’s Yantra Financial Technologies.
The exhibition is a series of abstract collaborative pieces created by six groups of young people through the community, curated and installed by Hang12.
Lawrence City Band to kick off summer series Wednesday with new conductors at the helm; storm threat forces relocation
Update: Wednesday's concert has been moved to Room 130 of KU's Murphy Hall because of the threat of thunderstorms. The performance will begin at 8 p.m.
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When the Lawrence City Band performs its first concert of the 2016 summer season Wednesday evening, it’ll be without longtime conductor Robert Foster, who retired after last year’s season.
Instead, audiences will find a trio of new — but familiar — faces directing things from the William Kelly Bandstand (aka the gazebo) in South Park.
“We just can’t take his place and we don’t want to,” says assistant conductor Marion Roberts, who will share rotating conducting duties this summer with newly appointed conductor Paul Popiel and fellow assistant director Martin Bergee. “We want to honor the past and move forward into the future.”
Roberts, a 30-year veteran of the band and chairman of its board of directors, says he — along with Popiel and Bergee — made a conscious effort this year to select pieces with the potential to “appeal to a larger audience.” That includes more contemporary music compared with some of the ensemble’s Big Band staples, such as selections from “Les Miserables,” Disney tunes and “American Bandstand”-era hits.
“With the times the way they are, one of our concerns is that we continue to make it a part of the heart of Lawrence,” Roberts says of the City Band, which he says held its first concert the night before Quantrill’s Raid some 150 years ago. “It appeals to all ages. It’s something that truly is a piece of Americana.”
All concerts are free and open to the public, and will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday nights through July 13 in South Park, 1141 Massachusetts St. In the case of inclement weather, performances will be moved to Room 130 of Murphy Hall on the Kansas University campus.
Here’s a look at this summer’s thematic lineup:
• May 25: Opening Day
• June 1: March Kings
• June 8: Greatest Generations
• June 15: Hooray for Hollywood
• June 22: For Children of All Ages
• June 29: Rockin’ the Bandstand
• July 6: America the Beautiful
• July 13: Grand Finale
Barry Crimmins won over audiences at last year's Free State Festival, where the veteran stand-up comedian, political satirist and activist joined director and comic Bobcat Goldthwait for a screening of "Call Me Lucky." Goldthwait's critically acclaimed documentary chronicles Crimmins' story of survival, from his brutal rape as a boy growing up in upstate New York to his later advocacy against child sex abuse and online child pornography.
The film also serves as a "testament" of sorts, Crimmins says, to the relationships he's forged with fellow comedians over the years, as a peer and as an owner of the legendary Ding Ho and Stitches comedy clubs in Boston. Among the many now-famous funny people on his "Thank-God I was nice to that kid" list: Louis C.K. The superstar's production company, Pig Newton, is set to produce Crimmins' one-hour comedy special, for which Crimmins will return to the Lawrence Arts Center stage June 4.
Lawrence has treated him well over the years, and the comedy special (Crimmins has opted to keep prices low, at $10 for general admission) is his "thank you" to the many friends he's made here — "It's my way of saying, 'I think your town's the greatest.' I mean, I just do," he says. "I really do."
In advance of the big night, Crimmins chatted with the Journal-World about "Call Me Lucky," political correctness, the state of comedy today and way, way more insightful and provocative stuff than we could include here. Read on for an edited and condensed version of our interview.
What’s life been like since “Call Me Lucky” came out?
It’s been very busy. I’ve been on the road a lot, doing a lot of smaller dates to get my act together, because I spent almost two years on the movie before that. And in particular since “Call Me Lucky” hit Netflix, I spend a lot of time just sorting through mail and communications from abuse survivors who felt like, I guess, from watching the movie, that I was someone they could talk to. That takes up a chunk of every day. For the first several months (the movie) was on Netflix, it was a big chunk of every day. That’s now quieted down a bit, but it’s still a daily obligation I make every effort to try to keep up on.
Was that a surprise to you, to get that huge influx of messages from survivors?
No, because I’ve been public for almost a quarter century now. I wrote about this in the Boston Phoenix years ago and from that point on. I did the work exposing the child pornography trafficking on AOL, and that kept me in the public eye. I would continue to comment on things, including particularly the scandals of the Catholic Church. I don’t have scientific information about child abuse, but I have an incredible wealth of anecdotal information because I feel like everybody tells me everything, you know? I’m used to it. I knew before we did the movie that this would happen, but it still became even overwhelming for me. It just adds up. You add up five or six really tough stories in a row, and you get a little weary. But then when you hear from people you spoke to a couple weeks ago, and they’re gaining ground and doing well, you get a little shot in the arm. It’s two steps forward and one step back sometimes, but I’ve gotten better also with finding other resources for people and trying not to handle everything myself. But if anybody writes me, I really do try to get back to them.
Do you think we as a society have a problem verbalizing the word “rape” and what constitutes it?
Sure, we do. We really need to call rape, “rape.” We really need to describe what it is and we really need to be able to live with that. People who use the term “political correctness” all the time tend to be some of the biggest censors, even though they’re allegedly fighting for free speech. As Mark Twain said, “use the right word, not its second cousin.”
You remarked in the documentary — and have continued to discuss this issue since — that a lot of these people who pride themselves on being so politically incorrect regard themselves as cutting-edge rebels, but really they’re just reinforcing the “oppressive status quo.”
Well, that’s it. You’re this brave, cutting-edge rebel, and all you’re doing is what’s most convenient for yourself and your narrow view of things. I’m in the comedy business, and I’ll talk about this in the show, but it’s the guys who say, “The world used to be 99 percent based around people like me. Now it’s only 97 percent based around people like me. What’s up with that?” They lose a little tiny bit of work over it, and they’re all upset. I’ve been losing work for decades because of how I speak. I’m not calling myself a martyr over it, but I’m just saying that if their soap pollutes the river, they’re probably not going to let me stand on their soapbox.
What are your thoughts on the current state of comedy?
When I got into it, there weren’t very many comedians. I don’t know if there were 100 comedians when I got into it in the early '70s. I mean, there are far more comedians in Lawrence than there were in the United States when I started doing comedy. When I was a kid, we all wanted to be rock 'n' roll stars, but it turns out you had to be able to do something. Well, there’s not that kind of a threshold for comedy. You just need to be able to think you can do something. I think there’s a problem in comedy right now, in that there are so many people calling themselves comedians that they’re really creating this sort of enormous mountain for the people with some real talent and making it much harder for the people with real talent to be seen and get stage time. There’s really good young comics who are getting buried in this, and that’s who I’m most concerned about. These kids go out and do open mic nights, so they have two minutes. When you’re putting your act together two minutes at a time, it’s going to look like a ransom note. In a way, it’s this huge vindication for those of us who got into it a while back and really sort of made it into something that other people wanted to do. On the other hand, it’s created a real economic crisis for the workers, because basically, everybody’s a scab. There’s a million people waiting to do what you do. It’s like Syria’s taking in comics now. It’s a refugee crisis.
At one point in your career, I think it was the '80s, you said you were almost ashamed to call yourself a stand-up comedian.
What happened was the comedy boom came and really, at that point, the problem was everybody wanted to open up a comedy club but there weren’t enough comics. There were suddenly 600 comedy clubs in the country, and on a Saturday night, there weren’t 600 people that could headline a show, unless you allowed the headliner to be someone who used every hack premise and lowest-common-denominator thing. And that’s what they did. And the audience that digs that became the audience at comedy clubs. But we didn’t come with a laugh track, you know? It was like, “Come on, when are you going to talk about airline peanuts or women going to the bathroom in pairs?” I’d go out and play the clubs — and I’d just done the HBO young comedians special or something — and they’d put some local, real hacky act on in front of me, just doing all this crotch stuff and whatever, and I would follow and struggle. But fortunately when the comedy clubs got stupider and stupider, I got lucky — Jackson Browne took me on tour with him, Billy Bragg took me on tour with him, and Dar Williams, and I always went out with Steven Wright. And then I was able to develop audiences in these towns kind of free of the comedy clubs, and I could go back and play places like the Lawrence Arts Center.
Mark Twain once said, “the secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow.” Do you think a person has to go through immense pain in order to be a truly great comic?
No (laughs). And if I said yes, there would be people out there hurting themselves right now, so I’d better say no (laughs). I don’t think there are a lot of people in this life who don’t go through some sort of immense pain sooner or later. What Twain’s talking about is sort of constructing humor and not necessarily being eligible to write it or speak it. He’s saying that there’s a dark underside to things that generally the real strong stuff comes from. I agree with that. We all go through some things, but the idea that it’s necessary to comedy. ... You could do the same (thing) with insurance salespeople and say, “Well, it turns out every insurance salesperson has been through some crap, which explains why they screwed you out of that annuity” (laughs). I don’t know. Maybe I should be smart enough not to even answer that, because I’m sort of a “see the ball, hit the ball” kind of comic and don’t take it apart that much, you know? I guess sometimes I know more than I realize, but I like to keep it that way.
Recently you tweeted about Jared Fogle and really spoke out about poking fun at the hypothetical situation of him being assaulted in prison.
I abhor all rape, and if I say it’s OK to rape this guy in prison, then a kid who’s in prison on a marijuana rap is going to get raped, too. And that just means there’s going to be more rage and more violence, and it means that I’ve OK’d rape on any level, and I don’t. It’s a horrible thing. I’ve been raped; no one should ever be raped. If I had my way, that would be it. Snickering about Bubba and the soap in the shower and all that crap — forget it. People say that to me all the time and really think I’m going to light up. They couldn’t be more wrong. I’m disgusted. I’m just like, “Why do you presume I’m in favor of rape? I’m not.”
Do you see any situation where it might be OK to joke about sexual assault? Like, for instance, if a survivor wanted to talk about their personal experience?
I think it’s OK to joke about the hypocrisy, the cowardice surrounding it, the injustice for the victims — all those things are good things to go after. Go after the hypocrisy, go after the cowardice, go after the institutions that cover it up, go after the rapists and facilitators, but the minute you get a snickering little joke in there about some child or some woman or man getting raped, you’ve lost me. You have a First Amendment right to do whatever you want. I have a First Amendment right to take you apart after you do it.
Speaking of using comedy to go after institutions, you describe your two big life goals in the documentary as dismantling A, the Catholic Church and B, the United States government.
I do (talk about) it as a peaceful overthrow, but that got left out of it, I guess (laughs). But, yeah. It just means I want to take down oppressive institutions that are not what they seem to be.
Are you any closer to accomplishing those goals?
In a way, the (Bernie) Sanders campaign is encouraging, and as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, I think the new pope’s job is to change the subject and not the Church. I mean, it recently came out that they’re teaching new bishops that it’s not necessarily their job to turn in (suspected abusers) to civil authorities, and I’m a big “render unto Caesar” man on that one. And he sent his representatives to a U.N. hearing on torture to assert that the rape of children, particularly by the clergy, is not torture. I disagree. I’m glad that he’s concerned about climate change. So am I. But he’s not doing anything to change the climate of the Church. He could really make a difference. There haven’t been any of the major fundamental changes the Church needs. I’m glad the guy pays lip service to socialism. If he wants to redistribute the wealth, he could give me the keys to the Vatican vault, and I would be happy to fly over to Rome and start helping on that front.
But I’m a heretic, former altar boy who was abused and humiliated on the altar every morning by a priest who hated me because he knew I probably wasn’t a good prospect to rape, so he was trying to drive me off every day. And he humiliated me in front of a group of people who, had they noticed or said anything, maybe someone would have looked into this guy and found out he was one of the most savage pedophile priests who has ever been documented. He was the guy who would orally rape little boys and tell them they had to swallow because it was like the Eucharist, because he was God’s representative on Earth. I know several people who committed suicide because of that priest, and there’s a lot more stories like that out there.
But we’re getting places. “Spotlight” won the Academy Award (for Best Picture). Granted, it was about journalism, but it won the Academy Award. Things are moving along.
Sean Sullivan sees things differently — literally.
The Lawrence artist was born without a corpus callosum, the band of white matter that connects the two hemispheres of the brain.
That means Sullivan has trouble processing information at times and reading social cues. It also means that the part of his brain responsible for visual recall and construction is unusually active, allowing him to remember tiny details — the number of holes in a stranger’s shoe, for instance — years after the fact.
Sullivan has his struggles, he admits, but he also has “a gift” in his condition.
“My art is how I see the world. It’s how my brain processes the world around me,” says Sullivan, whose colorful, surreal paintings — they’re mostly images conjured from his imagination — are currently on display at the Lawrence Percolator’s “We Can” exhibit. “It feels so cool to be able to share that with the world, that perspective that’s unique.”
Sullivan is one of six artists, each of whom live with chronic mental illness, featured in the show, which he curated himself over a year of visiting local facilities and building relationships with prospective artists. For many of the painters, photographers and sculptors involved, “We Can” marks their first gallery show.
“We Can” is set to end its one-month (that month also being Mental Health Month) run at the Percolator, 913 Rhode Island St., by Sunday. And Sullivan —who also lives with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, as well as landing on the autism spectrum — couldn’t be prouder.
“I’ve had many, many diagnoses, and through all of that, I’ve learned to feel ashamed of who I am,” says Sullivan, who traces the exhibit’s origins back to his first hospitalization in 2011, when a fellow patient suggested the idea. “Feel less than, feel inadequate. But the goal of the show was to show that we’re not less than. We’re just as capable as anyone else at achieving something meaningful.”
Art allows Linda Clark to “get into the flow” and out of unhealthy fixations on piles of clothes rotting away in the landfill or runaway diapers floating around in public pools, for instance. A longtime member of Lawrence’s downtown street-musician circuit (she earns cash singing and playing guitar along Massachusetts Street), Clark also has bipolar disorder and “a thing for fabric.”
Her hammock — which she crafted out of a painter’s dropcloth, bits of clothing and a climbing rope, among other items — is a “sacred space” hanging in the middle of the Percolator. In addition to textiles, Clark enjoys painting, and her creations often contain images of mermaids, the Virgen de Guadalupe and Lady Liberty.
One, she points out, hangs next to a plaque labeled “$5 million.” It’s more of a statement than anything else.
“That’s the amount on a check I need to build a psych wing on Lawrence Memorial Hospital,” Clark says, adding: “At Bert Nash, they’re overworked and underpaid and short-staffed. It’s too much.”
The Percolator’s art show is “kind of a cry for help” in that way, she says. In Kansas, community-based mental health treatment facilities have seen their state funding for treatment of the uninsured cut in half since 2007, according to a 2015 report from the Adult Continuum of Care Committee. Larger facilities like the state psychiatric hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie have been over-stuffed as of late, with the latter being cut off from federal Medicare funding last December.
Another primary force behind “We Can” is the “huge problem” of mental illness in Lawrence and Douglas County, where “there seems to be a revolving door between the jail, the homeless shelter and the street” with no real solution in sight, Sullivan says.
Still, since the exhibit’s debut during April’s Final Friday, the Percolator has hosted an art-education class from Washburn University and a public discussion on the roadblocks to accessing mental health services in Lawrence and Kansas as a whole, moderated by Recovery and Hope Network director Mary Lisa Pike.
That, coupled with the many personal anecdotes he’s collected from patrons — many shared stories of family members attempting or committing suicide due to struggles with mental illness and substance abuse, he says — leave Sullivan hopeful.
He’d like to make “We Can” an annual event at the Percolator. He knows the mental-health community in Lawrence has plenty more to create — “just the fact that we pulled it off is a huge boost to everyone’s self-confidence and self-esteem,” Sullivan says.
“All the artists here never thought they would be in an art show. They didn’t think their stuff was good enough,” he says. “I mean, just look at it. It’s amazing.”
*Update: An earlier version of this story inadvertently misquoted Linda Clark. Clark said that Bert Nash staff is "overworked and underpaid," not "underworked and overpaid," as the story originally noted.
We literally drank the Kool-Aid — and vodka, naturally — in this month’s Lawrence Libations.
Frank North Star Tavern’s signature “drank” involves plenty of the two, but also mixes in soda water to keep things from getting too sugary sweet.
And, because summer’s almost here and also because my horoscope in the venerable pages of People StyleWatch told me I’d be feeling nostalgic this season, the dominant flavors of grape Kool-Aid here definitely served as a welcome reminder of carefree days gone by. (Like, the days when you’d go to your neighbor’s house and drink Kool-Aid, because your own mom had ~views~ on those sorts of beverages.)
Drink up, kids at heart and fellow Pisces.
The hard stuff: Vodka
Where it’s served: Frank’s North Star Tavern, 508 Locust St.
What it costs: $3.50 for a single (you can get it on special for $3 on Saturdays)
Other libations at this location: A wide selection of wines and on-tap beers, plus other wacky creations like the Cap’n Frank’s Rum Punch in the Throat, which comprises a four-rum blend with orange and cranberry juices. (Cap’n Frank, also known as bar owner Frank Dorsey, is home and seems to be doing well after the hit-and-run accident that left him hospitalized earlier this month, tavern employees told me.)
La Parrilla’s signature rice bowls, tacos and burritos are hitting the streets soon.
Subarna Bhattachan, co-owner of the longtime Latin American restaurant at 724 Massachusetts St., expects to unveil the new La Parrilla food truck, dubbed "La Parrilla on Wheels," about two or three weeks from now. La Parrilla co-owner/chef Alejandro Lule will manage the truck, says Bhattachan.
Bhattachan describes Lule’s vision as street food in a fast, casual environment. The menu will resemble its brick-and-mortar cousin at La Parrilla, “with a little difference,” Bhattachan says — also think “very simple but tasty” favorites like nachos and tamales.
“That’s where the trend is,” he says of portable eateries. “We also thought of it as an extension of the restaurant where we could do catering events.”
Aside from catering, Bhattachan plans to park outside of restaurant/food-truck hub Fork to Fender, 1447 W. 23rd St., on Monday nights from 5 to 10 p.m. Events like Art in the Park and the Free State and GoFourth! festivals are also on the tentative roster.
“We’re excited,” says Bhattachan, who says he’s open to tweaking the menu depending on customer feedback. “It’s an adventure for us, and that style of cooking is a little more fast-paced than even at the restaurant. I think it’ll be a good addition and a nice challenge.”
Political satirist Barry Crimmins to film comedy special in Lawrence next month; Louis C.K.’s Pig Newton to produce
Well, comedy fans, here's a spot of sunny news for you on a rainy day:
Barry Crimmins, the veteran political satirist and activist who "won hearts" during last year's Free State Festival with his critically acclaimed documentary "Call Me Lucky," returns to Lawrence next month — this time to film his one-hour comedy special, the Lawrence Arts Center announced Monday.
The action will go down June 4 at the Arts Center's main stage, 940 New Hampshire St., with shows slated for 7 and 9:30 p.m. In another fun tidbit, Louis C.K.'s production company, Pig Newton, will produce the show.
For those of you not in the know, Crimmins' satirical writings and comedy routines have largely focused on the need for political and social change over the years. In the 1990s, this led him to spearhead a crusade against images of child abuse on the internet, calling for police investigations of ISPs. His work has earned him the “Peace Leadership Award” from Boston Mobilization for Survival, a Community Works “Artist for Social Change Award" and the “Courage of Conscience Award” from Wellesley College and Massachusetts' The Life Experience School.
Crimmins is also the founder of the Ding Ho and Stitches comedy clubs, which have hosted performances, among others, by Steven Wright, Paula Poundstone, Kevin Meaney, Jimmy Tingle and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait, who chronicled Crimmins' personal life in the "Call Me Lucky."
Podcast nerds may also recognize Crimmins from comedian Marc Maron's popular "WTF" podcast.
We've reached out to Crimmins to see if an interview might be in the cards before his Lawrence visit, and are hopeful at the prospects. In the meantime, you can purchase tickets (they run $10 for general admission) for Crimmins' big show(s) at www.lawrenceartscenter.org.
- In other artsy news, Tuesday is the last day to catch Kansas University's visual art department's annual senior show. The send-off to graduates, which kicked off Sunday, will feature work from students in painting, drawing, sculpture, new media, installation, textiles, ceramics, metals and printmaking. Check it out anytime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Art and Design Gallery (and also rooms 412 and 421) of Chalmers Hall, 1467 Jayhawk Blvd.
If the titular antagonist of Card Table Theatre’s “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” reminds you of a certain colorful self-described-billionaire turned presidential candidate, you’re not alone.
Similarities to Donald Trump, both in rhetoric and coiffure, are easy to recognize in Ui, a Chicago gangster doubling as an allegorical Hitler in Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 satire about the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany. It’s partly why director Will Averill chose to stage the play now, just as Trump has all but officially cinched the Republican nomination amid a primary election marked by divisiveness and disillusionment on both sides.
“I think with the current and widening gap in income, the type of anger that we are seeing (with) the system and the type of frustration that Donald Trump is tapping into, I think, is almost exactly a blueprint for what was happening in 1930s Germany,” Averill says.
Card Table Theatre’s production, which opens at 7:30 p.m. May 19 at the Eagles Lodge, reminds the audience that what took place some 90 years ago in a Germany plagued by hyperinflation and unemployment could just as easily happen at any time, anywhere — if the conditions are right.
“It’s not necessarily specifically just Trump, but we wanted to show that it could be anybody,” Averill adds. “Hitler was not an anomaly.”
Hitler meets Al Capone meets Shakespeare’s Richard III in “Arturo Ui,” which follows one unremarkable thug’s ascent to power in Depression-era Chicago and nearby Cicero, which stand in for Germany and Austria, respectively. Ui’s band of hoodlums (read: several real-life Nazi figures) assists him in his takeover of the local cauliflower trade, an allegory for Germany’s struggling economy.
At the Eagles Lodge, “Arturo Ui” is staged in the Brechtian style of Epic theatre, in which audiences are encouraged to not identify emotionally with the characters but instead engage in rational self-reflection and a critical view of the onstage action. Card Table Theatre’s all-female cast (a first in the play’s history, from what Averill can tell) has nine actresses playing more than 40 roles, a move Averill hopes will focus attention on what the characters represent rather than their individual narratives.
Then there’s the venue itself, the Eagles Lodge’s east ballroom with its wood-paneled walls and “old high-school gym” vibe, which Averill likens to a “time capsule of the '40s and '50s.”
“It just seemed ripe to make into the feel of a working man’s club where people would often go for meetings or soup dinners and pancake feeds, and then there would be prayers or maybe a short sermon or political talk,” he says. “It’s a tongue-in-cheek throwback to the 1920s breadline soup kitchen culture.”
In Card Table Theatre’s staging, guests will be served soup and hear a short prayer before the action begins — “the lecture in this place will be the play,” says Averill.
Brecht also championed total theater, which emphasized the use of all theatrical elements — lighting, costumes, sets, film projections, music — so Card Table Theatre follows in that vein with its mishmash of video production, soundtrack (“smart, political artists” from Hank Williams to Dead Kennedys to Rage Against the Machine), striking costumes designed by Dusty Shaffer and even shadow puppetry.
“He came from a beer hall tradition of staging things in smaller venues — or even large venues — but always for the people, by the people,” Averill, who hopes audiences of all political persuasions will check out the show, says of Brecht.
Originally, Brecht intended to open his play in America, but audiences were shocked by its suggestion that the freedom-loving U.S.A. could produce a Hitler of its own, Averill thinks, and refused to produce it here.
Instead, “Arturo Ui” opened in Stuttgart, West Germany, in 1958. Brecht had died two years before, and German critics, as he had feared, did not receive the play well.
Trump’s “us versus them” tactics, as Averill describes the strategy that has called for the nationwide banning of Muslims (Trump recently softened on that stance, claiming it was “just a suggestion”) and the construction of a border wall funded by the Mexican government are not unlike language used by Hitler during his ascent, Averill contends.
And an America frustrated by the current political system and changing social mores is embracing it. As much as people “discarded” Trump at first, he’s since become a viable candidate, much to Averill’s surprise, he says.
“Now, will that continue or will be smart enough to step up and say, ‘This is wrong — we treat each other better than this’? That’s the real question,” he says. “Six months ago, I would have laughed if we’d have the same conversation and said, ‘No, we’re far too smart to be in that mess.’ Right now, I’m honestly not too sure.”
If you go What: Card Table Theatre's "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" When: 7:30 p.m. May 19-21 Where: Eagles Lodge, 1803 W. Sixth St. Cost: $7.50 for the Thursday show and $15 for the Friday and Saturday shows. Tickets are available at the door or at www.brownpapertickets.com.
On most trips to the drive-thru, no more than a few seconds pass between being handed my food and inhaling said food. (Because, really, what’s sadder than lukewarm french fries?)
Not so much with Tuesday’s jaunt to Burrito King, where I was the picture of ladylike restraint as I wearily received my tongue torta, still warm in its tin-foil blanket, and contemplated my fate as I very purposefully took the long, long way back to the newsroom.
If you’re squeamish (read: weirdly afraid of one part of the cow’s body that is regarded as a delicacy in some cultures but weirdly OK with, for whatever reason, other parts of the cow’s body) like me, you’ll probably need a moment to get yourself into the correct mental state before taking your first bite of tongue, otherwise known as lengua in Latin cooking. After centering yourself or tossing out a quick Hail Mary, you’ll find that the tongue isn’t so bad.
In actuality, lengua (mine was diced up into tiny pieces, thankfully) is fairly tender and, with its extremely high fat content, tastes kind of like roast beef. Burrito King also slathers on the refried beans (also sour cream, jalapeno slices, lettuce, cheese and guacamole) pretty thickly, which helps ameliorate things further.
So, give the tongue torta a try. Just don’t look too closely under the sandwich bun, unless you’re cool with a few papillae.
Where to get it: Burrito King, 900 Illinois St.
What you’ll pay: $6.70
Try it with: An open mind and lots of napkins
Also on the menu: Other Mexican staples like tacos (which you can also order with tongue), quesadillas, nachos and burritos, naturally.
— Off The Beaten Plate highlights some of the more exotic, oddly named or inventively concocted dishes from local menus. Know of an offbeat item we should check out? Email reporter Joanna Hlavacek at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/hlavacekjoanna. Check monthly for more Off the Beaten Plate and Lawrence Libations.
In this month's 10 Questions, 715 partner and manager Matt Hyde (the restaurant biz veteran also co-owns Ladybird Diner) shares insight into his pop-culture hobbies, fashion influences and days as a gravedigger in Iowa. So, not quite "Tales from the Crypt," but almost.
Here's a condensed and edited version (once again, we are playing fast and loose with what counts as a question and how many add up to 10) of that conversation.
You worked a lot of jobs before landing at 715 — roadie, gravedigger, stockboy, cashier, truck unloader, among others. Any stories you’d like to share?
I got to spend a week in the South with an opening band for Lynyrd Skynyrd. That was exciting. I did all the roadie stuff and tour managing stuff before there were cell phones, so we would use calling cards and maps. There was no GPS or anything like that, so we would get lost on a regular basis. Grave digging was a summer job working for the city of Iowa City at the Black Angel Cemetery….
That’s a hardcore name.
It was the Oakland City Cemetery, but there was this big statue of a black angel (on the grounds)….that’s what they called it. That’s where the high school kids went to get high — you know, at the Black Angel Cemetery. Most of the time, it was just doing landscaping, mowing and all that. It was an old cemetery, so there were a lot of trees, and they’d use a backhoe to dig a lot of graves, but some of them we had to do by hand if they were in a weird spot or the backhoe could only go so far and we’d have to finish it up. Then, we’d get down on top of the caskets after they’d go in to put sand around. It was a real process. There were really bad rains that summer, and because it was an old cemetery, sometimes we’d have to walk around and look for bones that had washed up in some of the spots and then repair those and, you know….
Wait, so, um, I’m curious here. How did you know where…?
Well, places that saw more erosion, in the hillier spots. Because they didn’t bury at the same protocols back in the 1800s that they do today, and so they didn’t have the same type of casket materials and the same depth and all that. And then sometimes, if graves from long ago hadn’t been well-marked, they’d be digging a grave and they’d have to redirect where they’re digging.
Was this before or after you got into food?
I’ve worked in restaurants on and off since I was 15 or 16. I worked dorm food service, I did dishwashing, I did everything. Almost 30 years now. When I was digging graves during the day, I worked as a dishwasher and pizza cook at night.
What was your first job in the restaurant industry?
I worked as a busboy at a pancake place in suburban Chicago when I was really young, but I spilled coffee on somebody and the waitresses were really mean to me, so I quit pretty quickly.
I recently learned that you’re the guy behind all those celebrity birthday shoutouts on 715’s social media accounts. (Bar manager Katrina Weiss also handles a sizable chunk, Hyde points out.) How do you guys go about curating the birthdays?
We just try to find somebody interesting and not too offensive. I really have an affinity for pro wrestling names, so it’s always fun to find pro wrestlers. And for whatever reason, on this website that we look at — you know, we just Google birthdays — it seems to be mostly…they curate it in a way that seems to be mostly Asian pop stars, pro wrestlers and obscure historical figures. We just make (expletive) up. I mean, they’re accurate birthdays, but we want it to be fun. We try to mix it up. Not just movie stars and TV people but more obscure people, just to make it fun.
Whose birthday is it today?
I don’t know. I haven’t looked yet. I usually look after lunch when we’re getting ready to work on happy hour and dinner. So, yesterday it was Frankie Valli. I’m not sure who we’ll pick today. It’s always last-minute. We never plan ahead, you know? (It turned out to be Spanish motorcycle racer Jorge Lorenzo.)
Last week, you tweeted a birthday shoutout to Ace Frehley (former lead guitarist of KISS), and he actually “liked” the tweet….
Yeah, that was a big deal. We’ve also had Thomas Lennon (from Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!”). We’ve had Ron Jeremy, the adult-film star. He shares a birthday with Mitt Romney, so we made a salute to two great Americans. Ron Jeremy favorited that one. Who else? I think Jenny Lewis and St. Vincent, who’ve been here (to 715) before.
Back in 2009, you were featured in a Style Scout column in which you cited your fashion influences as Kid Rock, Anderson Cooper and Billy Mays. That’s a pretty eclectic mix — care to elaborate?
Oh, did I? I honestly have no recollection, because that must have been right after we opened the restaurant and I think I must have been pretty sleep-deprived. I remember seeing the picture but I don’t remember getting the picture taken. That sounds about right, though. Probably less Kid Rock, more Anderson Cooper. Well, Anderson Cooper in his casual (wear)….he can get overly dressy.
So, you’ve become a little more refined — a little less Kid Rock — over the years?
I would say so. As I’ve gotten older, for sure.
Billy Mays isn’t in the mix anymore?
No. He kind of crashed and burned toward the end there. His enthusiasm was contagious, though.
So, you were drawn more to the personality and less to the sartorial choices?
In the first two installments of this feature, we asked the subjects for their favorite places to eat in Lawrence. We didn't ask Hyde this time around, but he offered up a few favorites anyway:
- Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St.
- Leeway Franks, 935 Iowa St.
- Hank Charcuterie, 1900 Massachusetts St.
- Rudy's Pizzeria, 704 Massachusetts St.
- Ladybird Diner, 721 Massachusetts St. ("of course")
- WheatFields Bakery and Cafe, 904 Vermont St. (the croissants are his "ultimate favorite in this town," Hyde once told us)
- Limestone Pizza, 814 Massachusetts St.
- Little Saigon Cafe, 1524 West 23rd St.
- Checkers Foods, 2300 Louisiana St. ("best grocery-store fried chicken and ribs in town, by far")
Darrell Brogdon didn’t expect his hour-long, weekly celebration of “incredibly strange music” to remain on the airwaves when he started hosting Kansas Public Radio’s “Retro Cocktail Hour” in January 1996.
“I didn’t think it would last 20 minutes in the beginning because it was just so weird,” recalls Brogdon, whose programming grew out of a brief resurgence in what he describes as “Space Age bachelor pad” tunes in the mid-1990s. “It was such an odd thing for a public radio station to do — but on the other hand, I thought, if a public radio station doesn’t do it, who will?”
Turns out, Brogdon’s prediction was a little off. Twenty minutes? More like 20 years.
After two decades on air and 700-plus episodes, “Retro Cocktail Hour” is celebrating the milestone with a 20th anniversary concert 8 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
The party begins Friday at the Jackpot Saloon, 943 Massachusetts St., with some “pre-celebration” jams courtesy of the local lounge-music outfit BongoTini at 7 p.m. Minneapolis-based Exotik-a-GoGo will take a break from their duties as house band at the very real Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge to headline Saturday’s event, which will also feature dancing, drinking (think classic “Mad Men”-style drinks with a little “island flavor,” Brogdon says), a photo booth and plenty of “Retro Cocktail Hour” swag. Dressing up is encouraged but not required.
At 20, “Retro Cocktail Hour” is almost old enough to legally drink a martini, jokes Brogdon, seemingly in a nod to the Underground Martini Bunker where he records the show — which has since expanded from one hour to two — every week.
Culled solely from Brogdon’s vast (about 10,000 albums and CDs, by his count) personal music collection, “Retro Cocktail Hour” reaches far beyond KPR’s signal these days. It’s now broadcast on 20 public radio stations across the country, across the world at Radio New Zealand, and to an unquantifiable mass of listeners virtually everywhere else via live streaming and podcasts.
The show has even spurred a few copycats over the years, says Brogdon, but he doesn’t seem to mind. What’s exciting to him is the production of new music that pays homage to his favorite mid-century artists, and the fans — young and old — who love it along with him.
“It’s been an amazing experience. I hear from people all the time who tell me they just discovered this either by accidentally hearing the show on the radio or by stumbling across it on the Internet,” he says. “They had no idea this music exists, and they’re really turned on and captivated by it.”
KPR's "Retro Cocktail Hour" airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Fridays at 10 p.m. Tickets for Saturday's celebration range from $20 to $30, and can be purchased at the Liberty Hall box office or at www.ticketmaster.com.
If I had a nickel for every press release in my inbox that uses adjectives like “icon,” “world-class” or “superstar” (let’s also throw in their cousin “legendary” for good measure) to describe decidedly less-than-iconic musicians, I’d be a very rich reporter, indeed.
But the press announcing the Lied Center of Kansas' 2016-2017 season is actually justified in its employment of such words. It isn’t every day The Beach Boys come to town. Or Emmy and Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth. Or public-radio star Ira Glass — he’s a superstar to some of us, anyway.
The list also includes folk singer Judy Collins, CMA Award-winning country artist Clint Black and the Russian National Ballet Theatre’s production of “Swan Lake,” in addition to a doubling (from last year) of performances in the “Just Friends” jazz series.
“It has been so much fun orchestrating all of next season’s events based upon meaningful feedback from all of you — our wonderful patrons,” Derek Kwan, the Lied Center’s executive director of the Lied Center, said in the release.
The Lied Center has also received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to “present performances featuring artists with disabilities and to serve audiences with disabilities,” which will include several free performances for children with autism, Gospel Music Hall of Fame honorees The Blind Boys of Alabama, “Last Comic Standing” winner Josh Blue and “the dance company that is known for changing the face of dance and disability,” AXIS Dance Company.
Tickets go on sale May 1 for Friends of the Lied and KU students, with a deadline for advance purchases for the aforementioned patrons at 6 p.m. May 20. Ticket packages for the public will be available starting at 11 a.m May 23, followed by single tickets at 8 a.m. June 6.
For more information, including performance details and ticket information, visit www.lied.ku.edu or call the Lied Center ticket office at 864-2787.
In the meantime, here’s the complete 2016-17 season schedule:
An Evening With Judy Collins, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24
KU Symphony Orchestra with special guest Caroline Goulding, violin, and special guest conductor Jung-Ho Pak, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30
The Blind Boys of Alabama, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1
The Capitol Steps, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8
Josh Blue, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12
Direct from Shanghai, the P.R. of China, The Shanghai Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China Performing “Shanghai Nights,” 7 p.m. Oct. 14
Clint Black, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22
Ira Glass: Seven Things I’ve Learned, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5
KU Wind Ensemble with special guest Joey Tartell, trumpet, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9
AXIS Dance Company, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” 7 p.m. Nov. 29
The Beach Boys, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical,” 7 p.m. Dec. 9
The Paludan Sisters present “The Music of the Mind,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27
Russian National Ballet Theatre: “Swan Lake,” 2 p.m. Jan. 29
“Pippin,” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2
Rebirth Brass Band, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10
Jon Nakamatsu, piano, 2 p.m. Feb. 12
Erik Kaiel / Arch 8, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25
An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth, 7:30 p.m. March 6
Imani Winds, 7:30 p.m. March 15
KU Jazz Ensemble I with special guest Kneebody, 7:30 p.m. March 28
American Brass Quintet, 7:30 p.m. March 31
MOMIX: “Opus Cactus,” 7:30 p.m. April 7
Erth’s “Dinosaur Zoo Live,” 4 p.m. April 9
Takács Quartet, 7:30 p.m. April 11
Chris Perondi’s “Stunt Dog Experience,” 7 p.m. April 28
Pavilion Chamber Series
Zorá Quartet, 2 p.m. Oct. 16
Charlie Albright, piano, 2 p.m. Nov. 13
Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet, 2 p.m. Feb. 26
“Just Friends” jazz series
Benny Green, solo piano, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27
Jimmy Greene Duo, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and 15
Bria Skonberg Duo, 7:30 p.m. April 24 and 25
Performances for children with autism
Red Kite, Brown Box, Oct. 23 and 24 at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m.
The Paludan Sisters present “The Music of the Mind,” 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 28
Cheyenne Bartz had always been drawn — pun intended — to creative pursuits from an early age. From the time she could hold a pencil in her tiny hand, she was also reaching for a paintbrush.
Instead of joining her classmates on the playground at recess, Bartz would stay inside and command an audience of girlfriends, who would watch her intently as she brought to life on paper the images they’d requested.
“They were almost mesmerized by it,” recalls Bartz, 32, whose artistic inclinations made her somewhat of an oddity in her small central-Kansas town. “They would just sit there and watch me.”
At the time, her commissions were usually waterfalls and “Lisa Frank sort of stuff,” she says, because this was the early 1990s, and little girls loved their high-chroma unicorns and tiger cubs and panda bears.
These days, she’s still fascinated by the natural world, and is happily exploring her two loves — science and art — with her studies in ecology and evolutionary biology at Washburn University.
“Looking at a specimen under a microscope is actually a beautiful little world on its own,” Bartz says.
Despite her busy schedule, Bartz has kept up with her painting and drawing and will exhibit her work, along with more than 100 other artists, at this weekend’s Art in the Park.
Slated for Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in South Park, the latest cycle of the Lawrence Art Guild’s annual juried arts-and-crafts exhibition — which will also feature live music, food vendors and children’s activities — has fallen amid a bit of a “rebuilding year,” says Art in the Park coordinator Jennifer Unekis.
In January, former officers called an emergency meeting to discuss financial irregularities and insufficient guild leadership. After years of dwindling membership and participation in events like Art in the Park and the guild’s holiday arts show, the public has rallied behind the Art Guild with “amazing support,” Unekis says, and the results are palpable.
Since the January meeting, the guild’s membership has shot up from “around 30 to something over 200,” she says. The Art Guild has also received nearly $4,000 in grants from the city of Lawrence to fund marketing efforts for Art in the Park. The number of artists participating in this year’s event is nearly double that of last year’s, according to data reported by Unekis at the January meeting.
“It’s been a really strong community event, and it would have been pretty tragic to let it fall apart,” she says of Art in the Park, which Unekis had coordinated on and off from 1997 to 2013 before taking up the job again this year. “It took some great measures and some quick-moving measures and some pretty harsh measures in order to pull it back from where it was and the management it was under.”
“Where it was,” Unekis told her fellow guild members earlier this year, was far removed from the Art in the Park of years past, when the event attracted more than 140 artists — some formally trained, some not — from the Lawrence community during its first incarnation as an indoor arts show in 1962.
“It was the talk of the town,” original guild vice president Joyce Schild recalled in a written history of the event, which was regarded at the time as both elegant — ladies showed up in dresses and hats, and attendees were handed silk-screened programs — and populist.
The show was open to all Douglas County residents 18 and up who could spare $1 for yearly dues to the Art Guild.
“The reason why they started it was because they had so many people who wanted to do it — the garbage man and the hair stylist and a variety of people who didn’t professionally show as artists in a gallery. It’s always been a mix,” says Unekis. “For a lot of artists, it’s the only event they’ll do all year. They don’t want to do the big art fair circuit, but they really want to do Art in the Park.”
Sunday will mark Cheyenne Bartz’s “second or third” appearance at the event, where she’ll sell mostly watercolors and chunky pieces of jewelry (copper, brass and mixed-metal pendants and necklaces that resemble “something an art teacher would wear,” Bartz says) that she crafted as an art student at Kansas University.
The pressures of “trying to sell myself and make that my living” became too much for her eventually, and she took a step back from art for a while. But Bartz, realizing she could still enjoy art as a creative outlet without pursuing a life as a career artist, came back to it eventually. She even makes money with her talents as an instructor at Painted Kanvas and through events like Art in the Park.
After graduation, Bartz says she’d like to find a job that combines art and science, ideally in conservation. A few years back, she heard about a series of projects at two East Coast universities that used invasive tree species to create environmentally friendly art.
“They had to work together, and it brought art to the science students and science to the art students. The implications of it are huge,” she says. “We could do this in Kansas.”
If you go
What: Art in the Park
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. In the event of a rainout, the fair will be rescheduled for Sunday, May 8. Rain cancellation will be announced Sunday morning on KLWN 1320AM radio, the Lawrence Art Guild’s Facebook page and at 760-4800 by 7:00 a.m.
Where: The east side of South Park
Cost: Entry is free
A previous version of the info box included an incorrect location for the event. Art in the Park will be held on the eastern, gazebo side of South Park, between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets.
This month’s Lawrence Libations is something of a mystery.
Earlier this week, we sampled a refreshing — and potent — cocktail at Five Bar and Tables called “Hares Away!” We’d originally come across the ambiguously named concoction (cutesy animal-themed food/drink items are like catnip to this reporter) on the bar’s online menu, so when we journeyed a few blocks down Massachusetts Street to sample the drink, we were a little let down to see it missing from the menu’s printed edition.
Our bartender wasn’t quite sure what exactly went into the cocktail at first, but reassured us that folks can still order the Hares Away and yes, he’d make one for us.
We’re still not certain if what we sampled really was a Hares Away!, whatever that is, because it wasn’t 100 percent reflective of the description on the online menu. What we got looked sort of like Butterbeer (you know, from “Harry Potter,” obviously) in terms of coloring, and tasted mostly like Jack Daniels blended with lemon juice and muddled mint leaves. It was nice.
Apparently, the sole keeper of the Hares Away! secrets, we’re told, is Five Bar owner Nick Wysong, who could not be reached for comment. But from a bit of online sleuthing, I did find a few entries on dictionary websites that offered what is now my best speculation: To “hare off” or “hare away” means to move quickly, like a hare.
If you’re looking to move quickly into a state of intoxication, this is your drink, I guess. It’s strong, but also tastes light and springy (maybe the “hare” has something to do with that? Easter and rebirth and all?), which makes it deceptively easy to overindulge.
The hard stuff: Jack Daniels whiskey, triple sec and vodka, according to our bartender. Bourbon, crème de menthe, triple sec and vodka, according to the Five Bar and Tables online menu.
Where it's served: Five Bar and Tables, 947 Massachusetts St.
What you'll pay: $6.50, according to my receipt, but if we're going to go by what's on the online menu, $10
Other libations at this location: Classics like Moscow mules and gimlets, plus plenty of warm-weather cocktails like the Cool Cucumber, strawberry margarita and the intriguing cherry limeade and whiskey.
Contrary to what some hapless customers might think, the restaurant owned by Nancy and Rick Renfro at 4821 W. Sixth St. is not Maceli’s, nor does it serve Italian food or tacos.
It’s Mariscos — but not for much longer. The upscale eatery, which you might’ve visited for a special-occasion steak or seafood dinner, is undergoing a rebranding and renovation process set to wrap this summer and will henceforth be known as J. Wilson’s, Nancy Renfro told the Journal-World on Monday.
“Cosmetically it’ll change, menu-wise it’ll be tweaked, but generally it’s just a facelift,” says Nancy, who’s kept the rebranding on her backburner since taking over operations at Mariscos in 2010. “We wanted to change the name to something that is a meaningful name for us now.”
For those not in the know, the Renfros also own Johnny’s Tavern. Rick bought the original spot at 401 N. Second St. in 1978, and the couple has seen Johnny’s expanded to west Lawrence and the Kansas City area. J. Wilson’s, Nancy says, is a nod to the longtime bar’s first owner, John T. Wilson.
Since getting their start at Johnny’s Tavern, the Renfros’ tastes have evolved. Mariscos started out in 2001 specializing in Southwestern seafood dishes (the name itself means “seafood” in Spanish), which explains the Southwestern design motifs scattered around the restaurant and the mild confusion surrounding its menu, says Nancy, who classifies Mariscos as leaning more toward “New American” cuisine these days.
The aesthetics will change, but the menu, by and large, won’t.
“We’re probably going to keep the all-time favorites that people love and tweak them a bit to make them more up-to-date and contemporary,” says Nancy, who plans to keep Mariscos steak and seafood dishes on the streamlined menu while rotating in more locally sourced and seasonal features.
Nancy envisions a sort of understated “New York supper club” vibe with dark woods, upgraded flooring and softer lighting (to replace Mariscos’ “spotlight”-style bulbs), and more seating to allow for bigger gatherings. One of the major changes is moving the entrance to the west side of the building, so that patrons will face a renovated bar area (which will be rebranded Wilson’s Bar, complete with banquette seating and “Bar Plates,” which I’m guessing are sort of like tapas) as they walk in. The Renfros are also planning on removing the walls that now separate the main area from a private dining room to allow for more seating, though Nancy says she’s installing drapes to section off areas for “smaller parties.”
Mariscos (or J. Wilson’s, we should say) will remain open throughout renovations, which should be complete sometime this summer. Nancy isn’t offering any specifics yet, but says the new menu should debut around the same time. In the meantime, I’ll try to stay in the loop and keep up with any developments that pop up.
“It’s really exciting and I love all the things that are going on in that neck of the woods, with Rock Chalk Park and the new apartments and home construction,” Nancy says. “I think we’ll be a good, solid base for people who want to eat in their locally owned restaurant … that’s who we’re going to be when we open up.”
Originally, Patti LuPone was slated to perform her popular, long-running concert “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” for Thursday’s gig at the Lied Center, which as of press time was still advertising the show under that name.
But the Broadway star, she of “Evita,” “Gypsy” and the myriad showbiz honors, was quick to correct me — good naturedly, it should be said — during a phone interview last week on the eve of her 67th birthday.
“Don’t Monkey with Broadway” is the name of her new show, which revisits classics by Rodgers & Hart, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Irving Berlin, among others that ignited her Broadway dreams as a young girl growing up in Long Island.
Enjoy the show, by all means, but don’t “monkey around” with your cellphone, or you might find it snatched away by LuPone herself, and not without a good lecturing. (Yes, that has actually happened on several occasions, and has since become the stuff of legend.)
I heard it’s your birthday tomorrow. Any fun plans?
Well, I’m with one of my oldest friends in the world in Seattle, where we’re performing tomorrow. I’ll be singing and I’m here in Seattle. That’s what I have planned.
How’s Seattle right now?
It’s beautiful. The sun is shining. It’s warm. I think it’s global warming at its best (laughs).
So, how did you go about curating the songs in the new show?
Well, I got sick of singing the old ones, quite frankly (laughs). We’ve done “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” for a very long time, and I was sick of these songs. So we thought, “OK, how do we update the show without really changing the premise, which is basically singing Broadway show tunes?” And so I went back to my very beginning history of involvement in musical theater. It really goes all the way back to when I was quite young and discovered Broadway musicals.
I’d read somewhere that your first production of “Gypsy,” one of the shows that later made you famous and earned you a Tony, didn’t go so well. Something about a fiasco with a live lamb onstage?
I was part of a group called the Patio Players, and this was on Long Island. There were kids in my high school obsessed with music. What they did in school was not enough; they had to continue their obsession in the summertime. So they formed a little group called the Patio Players and they performed great big Broadway musicals on Cathy Sheldon’s patio. The second production I did with the Patio Players was “Gypsy,” and Cathy Sheldon was my Rose and I played the lead, Gypsy. We went to some rich estate, someplace out on Long Island, and they had sheep grazing on the way up the driveway to the mansion. We went up and we talked to the caretaker and they said, “Yes, of course you can have a lamb when they’re born.” Well, the lambs were born in the spring and we were doing this (the show) in the summer, and the lamb was a sheep by the time we got him (laughs). He was great in dress rehearsal under the huge spotlight, with me singing “Little Lamb” to this sheep. Come opening night, I sang “Little lamb, little lamb,” and it went off. Well, the sheep just got very nervous and started stomping all over the stage, and there was nothing I could do except let him go, and he ended up in the boy’s room. They caught him in the boy’s room, which was tiled, and this thing was bah-ing all the way through the show in the boy’s room. It was a riot. We loved it. We were kids — we didn’t care.
So, did you glean any lessons on show business from that incident?
Oh, we gleaned lots of lessons on show business all through junior high and high school because we had great teachers. They had a lot to say — not just about what might happen in a show, but they gave us really heady lessons about commitment and doing the best you can. I’m telling you, I just sang with the (LuPone’s alma mater) Northport High School choir last night in the show that we’re calling “Don’t Monkey With Broadway,” and the kids were unbelievable. These kids could hold pitch, they enunciated their words, they were a professional choir, and they’re high school kids. It was just very moving to see these kids who could be doing anything else, and they chose to do this. They chose to present themselves this way and they chose to be good at it. That’s pretty impressive in today’s world. Not a cellphone in sight, not a distraction in sight. Not that they didn’t get on their cellphones when they came off stage, but they were disciplined. They were fantastic. I started to weep, I really did, just thinking that, “Wow, this exists. This really exists.”
Right, and that kind of professionalism is something we don’t normally associate with Millennials. It makes me think of your cameo on “Girls,” where Lena Dunham’s character is interviewing you and picks up her phone mid-interview to answer a call from her boyfriend, which just made me cringe, by the way. Was that scene a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to your no-nonsense attitude about cellphones in theaters?
No, not with “Girls.” That’s how people interview now. I’m sure that’s what you’re doing! I’m not against phones. I have a phone; I use a phone. It depends on how you use that phone. You don’t pull it out at the distraction of the audience. You don’t pull it out when you’re supposed to be involved in anything, like a piece of art in a museum or a concert or a ballet. That’s the big question to me — why did you spend the money to get there when you can’t get away from your phone? I don’t know what’s going on. It’s so alienating, you know what I mean? We live in a society now where we don’t look at each other and we don’t talk to each other. We text, or we just don’t do anything. It bothers me so much more in concerts than it does in theatrical events, because you’re trying to cast a spell for an audience and it’s difficult to cast that spell if the audience is distracted in any way, not just by phone. It breaks the spell.
**Speaking of casting a spell, I remember watching an interview with you on TV a few years back where you said people still approached you assuming that you were your character from “Evita.”
No, no, they remember me now as Eva Peron, but back then, you know…
Where do you think that phenomenon comes from? Of people not being able to disassociate you as an actor from the character you play?
Well, it doesn’t go that far. They don’t talk to me as if I am Evita. If they have been affected that deeply by the production, then that’s great. I mean, people still come up to me today and say that “Evita” was a very seminal moment in their life, that production.
“Evita” is partly about fame, about pursuing fame and what happens when you get it. Did you ever have a moment when you realized you were famous?
Well, no, because it was controversial fame. There were a lot of people, in the theater community and just period, who were not happy that a fascist dictator’s wife cozied up with the Nazi regime, was being glorified. So, that’s infamy — it’s not fame. I had Peronistas and anti-Peronistas in my dressing room — people from Argentina that had escaped the Peron regime or that had just come to America, anti and pro, saying, “You had her to a T.” And they weren’t seeing me — they were seeing Evita Peron. It was a very, very controversial fame. It wasn’t celebrated as much as it was controversial.
You’re very close friends with your “Evita” co-star Mandy Patinkin, who attended KU here in Lawrence before matriculating to Juilliard. Do you guys have any plans to work together again?
I hope so. We have a show that we dropped because we’d been doing it a long time and we have to come up with a new one. But yeah, it’s such a joy to be on stage with him, anytime I can be. He was my rock in “Evita” and he’s one of my dearest friends in life.
Do you have any roles on your bucket list at this point, that you haven’t played yet but would like to?
No. I never think that way because I never get the roles I want to play, you know what I mean? I audition for them and I don’t get them, so there’s no reason to think that way. What’s exciting to me about my career is the surprise of it. I never know what’s coming next.
If you've ever wondered about the potential value of an estate sale impulse buy (can one really have too many coasters? ... is a question I have been asking myself to no avail for years now) or family heirloom, you might find some answers at this weekend's "Know Your Antiques" event, hosted by the Watkins Museum of History at 1047 Massachusetts St.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., history buffs, "Antiques Roadshow" fans and lovers of old stuff can have their antiques appraised by local experts, then participate in presentations on caring for family heirlooms and behind-the-scenes tours of the Watkins collections. (All for a small fee, of course.)
Experts include: quilter and quilt historian Barbara Brackman (quilts and textiles), Ernie Cummings of Kizer Cummings Jewelers (jewelry), Mass Street Music Store owner and "Antiques Roadshow" appraiser Jim Baggett (musical instruments), Patricia Graham, owner of Asian Art Research & Appraisals (Asian art); Dirk Soulis, owner and principal auctioneer of Dirk Soulis Auctions (fine and decorative art); and Soodie Beasley, art and antique appraiser (fine and decorative art).
Tickets cost $5 per item or $12 for 3 items if you're a Douglas County Historical Society member, and $10 per item or $25 for 3 items if you're not. They can be purchased at the door or online. All proceeds benefit the Watkins Museum.
Check out www.watkinsmuseum.org for details.
If Terrebonne’s Cajun twist on this classic summertime treat were a person, she’d be the corndog’s sassy, tell-it-like-it-is cousin from down South. (I’ve very sincerely thought of my cat as my own hairy, clawed “problem child” for a while now, so personifying food just seems like a natural progression at this point, OK?)
The Cajun Corn Dog is greasy and gluttonous as all hell and totally unapologetic about it. One bite into its crispy, golden hushpuppy shell reveals where this corn dog differs most prominently from its relatives — instead of a hot dog is a spicy smoked andouille sausage, glistening like New Orleans city lights upon the mighty Mississippi. Or, like, meat grease.
Gird yourself with napkins and enjoy.
Where to get it: Terrebonne Cafe, 805 Vermont St.
What you'll pay: $3.50
Try it with: The corn dog already comes with a side of honey-mustard sauce, but if you're still hungry for more (no judgement here), Terrebonne makes a nice, vinegary cole slaw that would help ameliorate some of the sausage's spiciness.
Also on the menu: Other Cajun favorites like the po' boy (Terrebonne offers the Louisiana sub with shrimp, gator, crawdad and andouille sausage, among other protein options), muffaletta, gumbo, fried okra and hushpuppies.
— Off The Beaten Plate highlights some of the more exotic, oddly named or inventively concocted dishes from local menus. Know of an offbeat item we should check out? Email reporter Joanna Hlavacek at email@example.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/hlavacekjoanna. Check monthly for more Off the Beaten Plate and Lawrence Libations.
Nick Schmiedeler is committed to eco-friendly practices in his art, but he doesn’t like to get all philosophical about it.
“It’s what I’ve always focused on, just because I enjoy trips to the junkyard anyway,” says Schmiedeler, whose Missouri Street yard has become something of a folk-art destination in recent years, even garnering a spot on HGTV’s “Home Strange Home” for its myriad whirligigs, mobiles and other castoffs-turned-treasures. “I try working with 100 percent recycled materials all the time.”
His latest creation, a 6-foot, 500-pound metal sculpture he’s calling “Evolving Auger,” is no exception. The piece, designed and built by Schmiedeler and longtime buddies Pat Slimmer and Kobie Kobler, will be displayed, judged and auctioned off (with 60 percent of proceeds benefitting Van Go, Inc., and the rest going to the artists) at Saturday’s Earth Day celebration in South Park.
The 16th annual event, slated for 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and once again hosted by the city of Lawrence’s solid waste division, will feature a handful of metal sculptures produced by local artists in Advantage Metals Recycling’s “Scrap Showdown” contest. In keeping with the Earth Day theme, all materials were repurposed from the company’s yard of scrap metals.
Jenica Nelson, a waste reduction and recycling specialist with the city’s solid waste division, is coordinating this year’s Earth Day celebration. She expects about 2,000 people to attend the free South Park festivities, plus another 200 in the Earth Day parade, which is organized by KU Environs and will begin in Buford Watson Park at 11 a.m. and proceed down Massachusetts Street to the party in South Park.
“We definitely have an emphasis on trying to teach people about some sort of environmental effort, whether that’s reusing materials or what we can do to help wildlife, or water issues,” Nelson says, adding that it’s important to instill mindfulness in children early on in life. “It’s supposed to be an educational opportunity, more than anything. Hopefully they’re learning and taking something away from it.”
But that doesn’t mean the event’s no fun. Among the family-oriented activities this year: live music at the South Park gazebo, free yoga classes every half hour beginning at noon, courtesy of OmTree Shala; face painting and a bouncy house for the kiddos; food vendors and dozens of informational exhibits; and the ever-popular ReCycle Cycle, a four-wheel pedal car made with recycled materials by Lawrence resident Richard Renner.
In promotion of the eco-friendly festivities, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is providing “bike valet” services free of charge to South Park attendees, and the Lawrence Transit System is offering free bus rides all day Saturday. Botany-inclined visitors can also partake in “tree I.D. tours” of South Park led by the Lawrence Parks and Recreation department.
It’s a fittingly green location for the unveiling of “Evolving Auger,” the scrap-metal piece created by Schmiedeler and his “Team LFK” buddies. After being given an hour to sift through scraps at Advantage Metals Recycling, the artists procured a large industrial metal auger, from which they organically welded and braised steel and copper scraps upward in a tree-like shape.
The piece, with its nature-minded form, represents a life cycle in which forgotten and discarded materials have the chance to be become something new, Schmiedeler says.
There are so many useful and interesting objects being tossed — and loaded onto trunks to the junkyard — every day, the artist adds, having just returned from a junkyard haul himself.
“It’s amazing what can be reused as something beautiful,” Schmiedeler says.
Sad news, music fans.
West Side Folk, the popular longtime local concert series devoted to "folk, bluegrass and old-time" jams, will end its 20-year run next month.
The series' founder and artistic director, Bob McWilliams, confirmed Monday that the May 20 concert would be the last. He shared the news first with West Side Folk email subscribers Sunday.
"It just seemed like the right time," McWilliams says, reassuring fans that the concert series is "not going broke."
Between his day jobs (McWilliams is also the jazz director at Kansas Public Radio, and teaches history at Johnson County Community College) and health issues, he says the move is partly to cut down on stress.
The series' last two concerts, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and May 20, will feature Ellis Paul and Cheryl Wheeler, respectively, at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St., and at the Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane. The musicians have been regular performers at West Side Folk throughout the years.
Since its founding in 1995, the concert series has featured artists such as Greg Brown, Tim O'Brien, Dougie MacLean, Martin Sexton and Lucy Kaplansky.
In those 20 years, similar programs have emerged in Topeka, Manhattan and Johnson County, McWilliams points out, providing folk fans across northeast Kansas and beyond with far more choices than what existed in West Side Folk's early days.
"It's a time when there are going to be alternatives," he says. "We feel like we're leaving the music scene in this region healthier than it was 20 years ago."
For more information on West Side Folk, including a concert schedule and how to purchase tickets, visit www.westsidefolk.org.