The Bard’s Town Theatre broadens its focus this season with an outstanding production of Samuel D. Hunter’s “A Bright New Boise.” This tightly-wound family drama about a disgraced evangelical who takes a job at an Idaho Hobby Lobby won an Obie Award in 2011 and has enjoyed a number of exciting regional premieres over the last season by companies like Washington, D.C.’s Wooly Mammoth Theatre and Chicago’s LiveWire.Doug Schutte’s production is riveting, an emotionally-resonant exploration of the tension between steadfast faith and human frailty. “A Bright New Boise” opened yesterday and runs through August 11 at The Bard’s Town Theatre, upstairs from the restaurant and bar.“A Bright New Boise” takes place in the break room and parking lot of a Hobby Lobby, those cavernous impersonal stores that anchor interstate exit shopping centers across the country. It’s both rooted in its region and entirely region-less, thanks to the ubiquity of the suburban big box corporate store.The break room is both sanctuary and panic room for store manager Pauline (Ally Giesting) and her crew: new hire Will (Schutte), sensitive Alex (Ben Gierhart), confrontational conceptual artist Leroy (Corey Music) and awkward Anna (Megan Brown). They’re presided over by a closed-circuit corporate television channel that occasionally and capriciously switches to explicit surgical documentaries, one of the funnier nods to the bizarre nature of the corporate part-time workplace, which demands excellence yet delivers little back in rewards.We quickly learn that Will has taken a job at this particular Hobby Lobby in order to reconnect with Alex, the son he didn’t raise. But his arrival in Boise is preceded by a scandal at his old church that rocked his once air-tight faith, and over the course of the play he struggles to reconcile his faith with the realities of forming relationships with people outside of the evangelical bubble.Hunter’s script treats fervent believers with dignity, never turning Will’s fundamentalist faith into a punchline or a grotesquerie, and so it allows us to understand why a man would so desperately want to see the end of the world for reasons ultimately more personal than theological. This is a play about godliness, and every character struggles to maintain faith in that which sustains them. For Will, it’s actually God, the evangelical, apocalyptic version that both feeds and challenges him daily. For Alex, it’s family, and for his brother Leroy, art. Pauline believes in the promise of order in the big box store. She really believes in Hobby Lobby. Anna wants to believe in a story that has stakes.Hunter’s characters are real, nuanced and recognizable, and Schutte directs a tight ensemble, all delivering truthful, layered performances. Giesting’s potty-mouthed store manager is straight out of Mamet, but she doesn’t just play her profane outbursts for laughs. Her tense exasperation reveals Pauline’s determination to run the best version of her store and crew that she can. Music’s ferocity gives Leroy’s protective older brother teeth, while Brown’s quiet, fidgety Anna is heartbreaking, a portrait of a girl overlooked, quietly pining for a better story. Gierhart’s teenaged Alex is fragile, frustrated and full of anger. It’s a demanding role, and Gierhart is all need and desire, navigating the spectrum of Alex’s moods with an ease that belies its effort.“A Bright New Boise” is Will’s play, and audiences more accustomed to seeing Schutte play broad comedic roles in recent Bard’s Town productions might be surprised by his dissolute evangelical, vacillating with great emotional intelligence between seeking a new life and holding onto old truths. He walks the line between atoning father and abandoned son with shaky steps, wondering how deep his reserves of strength need to go. It’s a pretty tall order to star in and direct a production this emotionally demanding, and Schutte pulls it off between shifts in the kitchen downstairs. This production represents a bit of a programming departure for The Bard’s Town, which focused primarily on new work by Kentucky playwrights in its first season, but it fits—the play’s empathetic exploration of evangelical faith and working class life feels familiar and very relevant to this Kentuckian. It’s exciting to see more smaller Louisville companies (Theatre , which opens Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries” next week, is doing similar work) stage excellent newer plays by award-winning playwrights, the types of productions we used to only see once a year in world premiere at Actors’ Theatre’s Humana Festival. “A Bright New Boise” is an exciting addition to the summer season and a programming strategy I hope The Bard’s Town will continue to explore.
Actors Theatre of Louisville will open the doors to its costume shop Saturday for a cocktail party hosted by the GO Board, a group of young professionals who raise money and awareness on behalf of the theater. Costumes and Cocktails is the GO Board’s main recruitment event for the year. The GO Board offers networking and exclusive inside-the-production events for the under-45 theatergoing crowd."We all kind of have a joint love for the theater and appreciate supporting the theater," says board co-president Emily Lamb.The theme for the party is Through the Decades, so attendees are encouraged to come dressed in clothing from their favorite decade, or they can grab a costume or accessory from the costume shop when they arrive.“Kristopher Castle, our costume director, will be on hand to give tours to people and explain to them what all goes into designing costumes for all the different shows that come through the season,” says Lamb. Lamb loved going to plays and wanted to meet other young professionals who were serious about supporting the theater. Now she’s co-president of the GO Board, planning fundraisers for the apprentice company and hosting behind-the-scenes events.“I grew up in Louisville, and I was really fortunate growing up to come from a family that had a strong appreciation for the arts. So I was always kind of in that environment," says Lamb. "I feel like Actors Theatre is one of the real local treasures we have here, and the quality of productions we can get locally aren’t available in similar sized cities.”The group hosts several exclusive behind-the-scenes events each season, in addition to public events like Costumes and Cocktails and fundraisers like the Loose Tie party that helps kick off the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Many of the board's events benefit Actors Theatre's apprentice/intern company. "During certain shows throughout the season, the board will get together for informal meetings, usually in the form of a dinner or happy hour before the show. We try to bring in someone associated with the theater, whether it is the director for the particular production, somebody from the costume department, somebody from casting, to explain their role in that particular show or in the theater in general," says Lamb. Admission to Costumes and Cocktails is $10, and the price can be applied to an annual GO Board membership. The event is held in the theater’s costume shop on Market Street, in the same building as FedEx Kinko’s, and the party starts at 7 p.m.
The Kentucky Arts Council has announced the recipients of this year’s Governor’s Awards in the Arts. Long-time Courier-Journal music writer Jeffrey Lee Puckett is among the honorees.The Governor’s Awards are the commonwealth’s highest honor in the arts. The annual awards recognize individuals and businesses who have made a significant impact on the Kentucky arts landscape. They’re awarded in nine categories, including media. The Governor’s Awards are nominated by citizens, and after 25 years as a professional music writer, Puckett’s voice is among the most trusted in the state – he’s both an expert and a fan.“The more I learn about music the more interesting new music becomes, because the context gets clearer," says Puckett. " So I get excited when a band like Passion Pit puts out a new record, and I can say wait a minute, that has elements of the Jackson 5, or elements of Bananarama, or this and that. It stays fun.”This is Puckett’s first journalism award since college – he’s a modest guy, and doesn’t enter his own work in competitions, so the good news caught him by surprise. “It just sort of settled into my chest, like, this is amazing, to be doing this for this long. And even though it’s probably an award of attrition, like he’s still here, let’s give him a plaque, it still was such a humbling and flattering and fulfilling experience,” he says. The awards will be presented in October at the Capitol. Nominations for the awards are accepted by the Kentucky Arts Council in the spring. 2012 Governor's Awards in the ArtsNational Award – Bobbie Ann Mason, Lawrenceburg: Kentuckyauthor Bobbie Ann Mason has given voice to the personal stories, lives and issues facing generations of Kentuckians for nearly four decades through her published works of fiction and non-fiction. Ms. Mason established herself as a bright and bold voice of the American literary scene with the publication of her first short story collection in 1982, “Shiloh and Other Stories.” Artist Award – Gray Zeitz, Owenton: Zeitz is the founder of Larkspur Press, producing dozens of fine, letterpress editions, mostly of Kentucky poets, for nearly 40 years. The business is regarded by many as being among the finest small press printers and designers of books in Kentucky, the region and across the country. Business Award – UK HealthCare Arts in HealthCare Program, Lexington: The program includes art in all forms – from the whimsy of folk art, to the textural richness of glass, wood and ceramics, to the soul-moving sounds of a musician or vocalist, to the stillness of a dancer in repose. Aside from internationally commissioned pieces in key public locations, the core collection features artists with a Kentucky connection, many who have achieved national and international reputations. Community Arts Award – Latitude Artist Community, Lexington: Latitude Artist Community serves all people with an emphasis on people with a disability. Since 2001, Latitude has designed innovative supports which encourage artists with a disability to succeed and contribute to their community. By design, Latitude develops some of the most innovative, elegant and daring social and creative supports of any program of its type in the country. Education Award – Christina Hartke Towell, Morehead: Towell is the teacher, director and founder of the Lucille Caudill Little String Program for Rowan County Schools. The program instills awareness and appreciation of music performance for the next generation of string performers. Since its beginning in 2006, the program has grown to provide instruction and participation to 136 students, including students with hearing and physical disabilities. Folk Heritage Award – Leona Waddell, Cecilia: A former master in the Kentucky Folklife Program’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Waddell has dedicated her life to conserving and perfecting the south central Kentucky white oak basket making tradition, which has important economic and social history, and is a source of pride in the region. Government Award – U. S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Louisville: Congressman Yarmuth has set himself apart from other governmental arts supporters by donating his entire congressional salary to numerous nonprofit and charitable organizations, many with an arts focus, like the Governor’s School for the Arts, Louisville’s Fund for the Arts and the Kentucky School of Art. The Media Award – Jeffrey Lee Puckett, Louisville: Writing about music since he was 16, Puckett keeps Louisvillians informed and up-to-date on the area’s music scene and provides perspective on the national music scene to readers of the paper and his blog, Tune in Louisville. His knowledge of music and his exceptional writing ability have made him an invaluable asset to his community.
The Kentucky Arts Council will accept nominations for the state's poet laureate position for the 2013-15 term. The position is not limited to the Commonwealth's poets—accomplished fiction writers, playwrights and nonfiction and living in Kentucky with strong ties to the state also qualify. Nomination forms and program guidelines are available on the Kentucky Arts Council website. The deadline for nominations is September 30.During his or her term, the poet laureate travels the state promoting the literary arts at schools, institutions and conferences. The poet laureate also gives a talk on the state of literature in Kentucky at the annual Kentucky Writers' Day celebration in Frankfort in April.Louisville poet Maureen Morehead is the current Kentucky poet laureate. She began her term in 2011 and will serve through the end of this year.
Diana, Princess of Wales was a member of England’s royal family, a style icon and a beloved advocate for international children’s charities. Her life and work is celebrated in a 7,500-square-foot exhibit that will travel from Althorp Estate in England, where the princess grew up, to the Frazier History Museum in September. “The Frazier has always been seen as an arms museum, and that’s what we were in the beginning, but now we’re leaning more toward being an arts and culture institution, sticking with our arms roots," says museum spokesperson Ashley Schaffner. "'Diana, a Celebration' we think will do that beautifully.”The exhibit includes Diana’s tiaras and jewelry, as well as the original text of the Earl Spencer’s eulogy for the princess delivered at her funeral in Westminster Abbey. Fashion galleries will 28 designer gowns worn by the princess, including her royal wedding gown.“(Diana) was a kindergarten teacher, the ravishing royal bride, she was a mother, a sister, a daughter, a charity advocate, a spokeswoman for all different types of charities. She did a lot of good work that gets overshadowed by her being a princess sometimes,” says Schaffner. Advance tickets are discounted for museum members and are available on the Frazier’s website and at the museum. Full-price advance tickets will go on sale to the public on August 1. Tickets will have a designated time for visiting the exhibit, so advance purchases are encouraged. The exhibit opens September 15 and runs through January.
The Brown-Forman Corporation, which owns Jack Daniel's whiskey, among many other liquor brands, is claiming local author Patrick Wensink has violated the company's trademark.This could have been a classic David vs. Goliath story, in which corporate lawyers threaten to squash a struggling novelist. But in this case, it seems Goliath would rather take David out for a friendly drink.Wensink got the letter from Brown-Forman's attorneys on July 12.“I was on vacation, actually. I was drinking whiskey,” says Wensink. “But I’m a writer, so I don’t make any money, so I was actually drinking bottom-shelf whiskey.”According to the legal team, the cover of Wensink’s new novel, “Broken Piano for President,” infringes on the Jack Daniel's trademark. Alcohol is a theme of the book, and the cover is an obvious design homage to the distinctive black and white label found on bottles of Old No. 7. “I checked my email and laughed, because it seemed like such a crazy thing to happen. It didn’t scare me, but I was just like oh my god, that’s ridiculous,” he says.The letter starts out fairly formal, but by the third paragraph, a human voice starts to poke through. See the entire letter here.“It starts out very stern and legal and lawyerly, but as it keeps going they refer to me as their ‘Louisville neighbor,’ and I stopped worrying quite as much,” says Wensink. “They’re being very nice, and at the end they offered to pay for new cover art, which is unheard of in the publishing world as far as I know. I’m not an expert, but I can’t imagine any other company offering to pay for new cover art when you violate their trademark.”Phil Lynch is the spokesman for Brown-Forman. He sent the book to the Jack Daniel’s brand team after hearing our story on Wensink’s Louisville book launch back in May. Lynch says Jack Daniel’s sees several thousand instances of trademark infringement a year, ranging from unlicensed t-shirts for sale to pop culture homages like this.Lynch says there’s no one-size-fits-all response, but the company tries to do the right thing when talking with obvious fans.“And we try to communicate in the same way Jack Daniel’s communicates with consumers. There’s a voice for Jack Daniel’s. Jack Daniel’s stands for independence and masculinity and individuality, and we try to respect the Jack Daniel’s voice and communicate, at least initially, when we first reach out to people in that Jack Daniel’s voice,” says Lynch.“If people end up ignoring us, or don’t respond, or say to heck with you, we’re going to do whatever we want, the second and third letters will be a little bit more lawyer-ly and a little stronger in tone,” Lynch adds.Like most authors, Wensink didn’t have direct input or control over the cover of his book. His publisher, Lazy Fascist Press, works with an artist, Matthew Revert, who designs most of the imprint’s jackets.“I don’t have any say in it. It’s my publisher’s decision,” says Wensink.Lazy Fascist Press editor Cameron Pierce decided the press would commission new artwork as soon as possible. He says a new cover should be in place by August.“To be completely honest, the trademark thing never crossed our minds,” says Pierce. “We had no idea. I was very surprised and confused when Patrick called and broke the news.”After getting the go-ahead from his press, Wensink published the letter on his blog, where it caught the eye of Cory Doctorow, a blogger for the influential website BoingBoing. It’s gone viral from there, appearing on some of the most high-profile publishing and lifestyle blogs, from Esquire to The Atlantic. They're calling it the nicest cease and desist letter ever. “My personal website usually a good day is 20 hits. In the last 24 hours I’ve had 100,000 hits,” he says. “So I thought hey, something’s going on here.”The response has been uniformly positive for Jack Daniel’s, with bloggers and readers praising their humane approach.“Obviously we’re pleased people think we did the right thing, but we try to do the right thing anyway,” says Lynch. Once the story broke, Wensink did what any self-respecting author would do—he checked his Amazon sales ranking. “Broken Piano for President,” an absurd satire about a man who’s more productive when drunk than sober, had broken into Amazon’s top 50 books. The new Oprah Book Club pick is number two. Before the letter went viral? His ranking was in the hundreds of thousands range.“I assumed I would have had to have murdered somebody to get this kind of publicity, unintentionally. I’ll take it. I’m very pleased,” says Wensink.“I’d like the world to be applauding me because I make Hemingway look stupid, but I’ll take trademark infringement,” he adds.He’ll drink to that.
The 37th annual Kentucky Music Weekend cues up Friday at Iroquois Park. Through Sunday, the festival will host traditional music acts ranging from jug bands to the state-wide dulcimer competition.The weekend kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday with a concert featuring John Gage. There is a suggested $10 donation for evening mainstage concerts, but daytime events are free. A full festival schedule is available online.Not all musicians performing are Kentuckians, but the festival’s emphasis is on acoustic traditional sounds."It covers everything from blues to jazz to string band to bluegrass to singer/songwriter. We try to touch on many of those bases. We’ll have Grease Gravy String Band, and we’ll have Juggernaut Jug Band, and bluegrass greats Storefront Congregation will be there,” says festival organizer Nancy Johnson. The festival also features Corn Island Storytellers, traditional crafts and the state-wide dulcimer competition. The dulcimer is the official musical instrument of Kentucky, and this is the ninth year the Kentucky Music Weekend has hosted the contest. There are two kinds of dulcimer, so two state champs. State winners go on to the national stage in Kansas this September. Johnson says the Kentucky Music Weekend helps keep the state’s musical history and traditions alive. She plays the mountain dulcimer – the one you play across your lap.“It’s got three or four strings, and it’s very melodic, beautiful, haunting sound. The hammered dulcimer is a large trapezoid-shaped instrument, and you strike the strings with little sticks we call hammers. That was the predecessor of the clavichord, the harpsichord and finally the piano,” says Johnson.The Louisville Dulcimer Society will host an informal jam tent all weekend, and on Saturday morning, you can even take a class – bring your own dulcimer.
It all started with a "driveway moment," during an episode of This American Life on the theme of classified ads. In the introduction to Act 3, Ira Glass noted how often we see classified ads offering things, right next to classified ads of people looking for those very same things—a phenomenon he said was especially common in the musician section. "What if somebody were to play matchmaker for all of those people and do what all of us think when we see those ads?" the show wondered. And they embarked on a project: "to go through the classifieds and create a band, a band culled entirely from the classifieds, to play together for exactly one day, long enough to gather together in a recording studio to record their one and only song."Filmmaker Archie Borders was listening that day, and thought the idea would make a great premise for a movie. He joined WFPL's arts reporter Erin Keane on Friday's Byline to talk about the resulting film, called "Pleased to Meet Me."
Visitors to the Forecastle Festival in Louisville last weekend may have noticed a unique installation—a recording booth for making impromptu tapes. It’s called Nave, like the center of a church. The booth is shrouded in a white tent, near a side stage. Trixie Whitley’s playing outside, but in here, the muted music could be your parents’ stereo leaking down into your basement sanctuary. Artist Jacob Heustis designed the space to feel intimate and familiar, like the spare rooms he hung out in as a kid.“We used to squeeze in a full band, and kids would come crowding in and hang out during practice,” says Heustis, who also plays bass for the band Wax Fang. Carpet squares stapled to the wall offer some soundproofing. There’s half of a sagging couch, a gargoyle on the table next to an ashtray.“I definitely wanted it to feel very lived in, so you felt transported from the environment you were in outside, so you feel like you are possibly in someone’s basement, which feels the furthest place from a festival,” he says.Here’s how it works: you take a blank tape from the door attendant and step inside, where a guitar, a toy piano and other instruments await.“We got a little Casio. A tambourine. A shaker, in case you want to get Cuban,” says Heustis. "I laid off the bongos." There’s a double-decked portable radio–what we used to call a boom box–and a smaller tape recorder, which Heustis calls "kind of noisy, but it's still old-school, like the original first portable General Electric cassette recorder."After you record, you label the tape–give it a name–and leave it with the attendant. The tapes will be digitized and archived online, so you can share your song or remain anonymous.“There’s no pressure either when you’re just like, whatever, you’re just making a tape,” says Heustis.Heustis dreamed up Nave with singer EMA for a gallery exhibit at Land of Tomorrow about the intersection of art and music. They wanted to capture the experience of making music on the fly, without the safety of digital tools and professional studios, to explore the power of "that immediacy, and the low-fidelity quality, and how that is really important to a recording and to the vibe,” says Heustis.Unlike everything else at a music fest, Nave asks the audience to create rather than consume. It’s invitational and participatory, almost revolutionary for the setting.“I know that I’ve been super inspired at live shows," he says. "And to think that, yeah, you might walk away from that set totally reeling and come across this nook and lay down a track.”Forecastle is Nave's first music festival, but the plan is for the booth to tour the country next year. As Nave tours, the online archive, which Heustis says will be live soon, will grow.
The University of Louisville has signed a new one-year contract with former Fund for the Arts CEO Allan Cowen. Cowen is exploring partnerships between the university and the arts community. Cowen signed on with the University in January for a six-month, $50,000 contract to help the university determine, among other things, whether the university would exercise its option to buy the downtown land previously slated for the Museum Plaza development.University spokesman Mark Hebert says the new contract was offered to give the university more time to fully explore possible partnerships between the arts and culture community and the university, including a presence downtown. Cowen will also raise money for new initiatives that arise from these collaborations.He will be paid $150,000 from private funds for one year of work. The university is not announcing any formal plans or initiatives related to Cowen’s work at this time.Cowen left the Fund for the Arts last year after a controversy over his gruff demeanor in dealing with several arts organizations.
This weekend's Jane Austen Festival in Louisville will feature a one-woman play about Fanny Kemble, a legendary English actress and author who wrote in the style of Jane Austen.“Shame the Devil: an Audience with Fanny Kemble, written by Anne Ludlum, is based on Kemble’s own journals. Kemble never met Jane Austen—she was only six when the novelist died. But Austenites celebrating the Regency Era this weekend will hear a deep kinship between the two women.“Both Jane Austen and Fanny Kemble were writers all of their lives, and they were both perceptive observers of people and society and culture,” says director Kathi E.B. Ellis. “In that respect, although they never met, their writing and their view of the world and the way they recount the world has a lot of similarities.” “She’s so precise about who she sees and what she thinks about them, so much in the way that Jane Austen, when you read her novels, her heroines always have very pithy, sometimes humorous, sometimes acerbic opinions about everybody she comes in contact with,” she adds. The play stars Megan Burnett, who plays the actress and the many people in her life—English and American, man and woman, free and slave, as well as the many characters Kemble plays in the one-woman staged readings of Shakespeare's plays she toured with after she officially retired from theater.“It is a tour de force for the person playing the role,” says director Kathi Ellis. "There are some wonderful passages of Shakespeare in the piece."Kemble toured the United States with her father, Charles Kemble, for two years, performing all over the Eastern seaboard. On her tour, she fell in love with and married Pierce Butler, a young man from Philadelphia whose family owned plantation lands in the Sea Islands of Georgia.She’s best known for the journals she published of her time living on the plantation, in which she condemned slavery. Her writings, as an outspoken, influential outsider, helped fuel the abolitionist movement.“It’s really interesting both to read her journal and hear her refer to how she handled those three months, trying to make a difference on a plantation and in some small ways succeeding, but one person against a system that’s entrenched is not necessarily going to make a difference,” says Ellis.The Jane Austen Festival runs Saturday and Sunday at Locust Grove. The event also features a Regency Era fashion show, bare-knuckle boxing demonstrations and a children’s tea.
After more than three decades in the historic Water Tower on River Road, the Louisville Visual Art Association will move downtown later this year. In October, the LVAA will move into interim headquarters at 609 West Main Street while they search for a new permanent home. Scheduled children’s art classes will remain at the Water Tower through the fall semester.Executive director Shannon Westerman says they’ll likely seek out space in what he calls the art nexus—between the East Market district and West Main and Ninth Streets, extending down to Spalding University south of Broadway.“As the art community has evolved over the last ten or fifteen years, it is increasingly difficult to attract people in their busy lives to a destination that’s off the beaten track, if you will,” says Westerman. The LVAA has leased the Water Tower from the Louisville Water Company for 32 years. The Water Company opted not to renew the organization's lease earlier this year.Westerman also says the the organization has outgrown the Water Tower. They're seeking six to eight thousand square feet of multi-use space for public art programs for their new headquarters. LVAA will hold a moving sale Saturday at the Water Tower to clean out their archives of art and art supplies. The sale begins at 8 a.m.
A healthy lifestyle isn't just about physical health. Seven Counties Services and the Mayor's Healthy Hometown Movement want to remind the community not to neglect mental health, so they're staging a free concert in the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theater Friday that will emphasize the importance of preventative measures and empathy for those dealing with mental health issues. The first Shine On Louisville Music Fest will feature The River City Drum Corp, La’Nita Rocknette Dancers, Winnie and the Mojo, Appalatin, YPAS (Youth Performing Arts School) senior flutist Loren Been, the Louisville Youth Orchestra, VOICES of Kentuckiana community choir and Daniel Hardin and Jeff Thomas of The Sweet Nothings. Doors open at 6 p.m. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Further Reading on Mental Health IssuesThe National Institute of Mental Health prevention resourcesToo Little Mental Health Care For Boomers: 1 in 5 seniors has a mental health or substance abuse problemArmy Wives Battle With Their Own Mental HealthConcrete Steps for Creating a Happier OfficeFacebook Might Not Be So Healthy for Those with Low Self-Esteem
The 11th annual celebration of all things Lebowski—bowling, White Russians, what-have-you—happens this weekend at the Executive Strike and Spare. The Coen Brothers' 1998 film "The Big Lebowski" spawned a cult following with its own traveling fan festival, a religion based on its hero (Dudeism) and now a book of essays examining philosophical questions raised by the film. Is sloth a virtue? Is there such a thing as a just war? Is bowling a new interpretation of the Sisyphus myth, and is it the key to a meaningful life? How would Kierkegaard and Camus respond to "The Big Lebowski?"Peter Fosl is chair of the philosophy department at Transylvania University. He edited "The Big Lebowski and Philosophy: Keeping Your Mind Limber with Abiding Wisdom," published by Wiley in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series. Fosl says the Dude’s philosophy of abiding is how the film ultimately confronts violence and the difficulties of the modern world. He wrote about it in his essay for the collection titled "Bowling, Despair, and American Nihilism."“On one hand, The Dude is a loser and a deadbeat," says Fosl. "On the other hand, he has this compelling, engaging, compassionate humane virtue to him. It’s that virtue of abiding that draws people in.” Slacker and bowling league mainstay Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, played by Jeff Bridges, is neither violent nor particularly frightened by the strange and menacing events surrounding him in the increasingly chaotic plot that involves a cadre of nihilists, a missing trophy wife, a case of mistaken identity and another Lebowski, a millionaire tycoon offended by the Dude's lackadaisical lifestyle. "The Dude abides" is one of the film's many catch-phrases, reproduced on bumper stickers and shirts sported by the film's fans. It's in this act of abiding—to endure, to withstand without active opposition—that Fosl says the character unveils the key to finding meaning in a chaotic universe. "The film says the Dude was the perfect man for his time and place, for our time and place. If abiding is what he does, if abiding is the way he confronts nihilism and violence and difficulties of the world as he faces it in this post-Reagan, post-Vietnam, post-hippie place we’re in, then abiding is the centerpiece, the thing that has to be understood in order to understand the film," says Fosl. Fosl became a fan of the film because of the annual festival (he lives in Louisville, where the flagship event happens every year) and began to see its philosophical angles after repeat viewings.“I’ve always been committed to the idea that there’s philosophy everywhere, in our ordinary lives and in the scholarly world," says Fosl. "You can find it in pop music and film and books. Academic philosophers make a mistake in focusing so much on academic work.” Fosl will read from “The Big Lebowski and Philosophy” at Carmichael's Bookstore (2720 Frankfort Ave.) on Thursday. He’ll also sign copies Saturday at Lebowskifest.