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February 21, 2007

Good Reads from the Midwest

Bridgette Redman

Jeff Daniels creates another gem

Long a favorite in Michigan for creating The Purple Rose theater in Chelsea and for his perennial sell-out play Escanaba in da Moonlight, Jeff Daniels has garnered yet more laurels for his dramatic abilities.

The American Theatre Critics' Association has named Daniels' "Guest Artist" as one of six finalists in their annual new plays competition.

Jeff Daniels is someone who is passionate about his belief that theater exists outside of the major cultural centers. When writing about why he left New York to open a theater in a small town in the Midwest, he says:

Years later, after moving back home to Michigan, I bought an old bus garage in the small town of Chelsea with the dream of creating a Midwestern answer to Circle Rep. I wanted a professional theatre company, featuring Midwestern actors, directors, designers and playwrights, situated in the middle of America, producing plays about the middle of America. People, of course, thought I was an idiot. From the local critics who wanted the latest shows from New York starring my "movie star friends" to the townspeople who thought Art was someone who lived out by the highway, no one could understand what I was trying to do. It made no sense. Except to all those local actors, directors, designers, and especially playwrights, who call the Midwest their home.

In case you haven't noticed, the New American Play can't get a cup of coffee in New York. It seems to me that if the American Theatre is to remain vital it must produce American plays, and it can only do that by supporting, nurturing, and developing American playwrights. Period. Just like Circle Rep did.

That's what we do here at The Purple Rose and we love it.

(Thanks to Roger LeLievre, mlive.com)

Dance Troupe celebrates 16 years

Dance Kaleidescope Choreographer and Artistic Director David Hochoy trained in New York, but has found a home in Indianapolis. The modern dance troupe is one he says reflects the community as well as his artistic aesthete.

This summer marks their last season with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and they're now looking to expand in their home town.

(Thanks to Whitney Smith, Indy Star)

Martinis and Mozart

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra stretches its creative muscles from its music to its outreach program. They're bringing people in to experience symphony through such programs as a happy hour concert with free drinks and appetizers, a peek behind the curtain, a side-by-side mentoring program for youth, and radio broadcasts.

(Thanks to Whitney Smith, Indy Star)

Country-bluegrass-mandolin artist ready to experiment

He's been performing for 40 years, but tonight's show marks only the second time Marty Stuart has gone solo. He'll be taking the stage in Davenport, Iowa at the River Music Experience. His own band, the Fabulous Superlatives, will have a night off while Stuart explores his music before an audience.

"I'm just at a place in my life where I need to get out and do four or five shows on my own, to just see what's going on in my mind. I've been so busy, so productive for the past few years, I just have to see for myself what's going on up there."

(Thanks to David Burke, Quad-City Times)

Veteran turns to playwrighting to understand Abu Ghraib

Iowa-native Joshua Casteel experienced a crisis of faith while serving as an interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison. A jihadist prisoner challenged him that he wasn't following the precepts of his own Christian faith. Casteel listened.

He left the military and wrote "Returns," a play exploring the difficulty a soldier has in returning to civilian life. It's an autobiographical play that asks questions about faith and military service. Casteel, now an advocate for peace, has performed scenes from his play for such people as Czech President Vaclav Havel, British playwright Harold Pinter and actor Jeremy Irons.

The play received a full run in Iowa this past weekend.

(Thanks to Michael Morain, Des Moines Register)

International Jazz Festival touches down in Moscow, Idaho

Jazz has never been a corporate property, but has always belonged to the grass-roots musicians. So it should raise no eyebrows that the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival is running in Idaho this week. It features four days of performances, workshops, lectures and competitions.

(Thanks to Dana Oland, The Idaho Statesman)

Posted by Bridgette Redman at February 21, 2007 11:03 AM

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