Kentucky’s poet laureate will read from her new book in the Axton Reading Series at the University of Louisville tomorrow.Morehead will read from her new collection of poems, “Late August Blues: the Daylily Poems,” in U of L’s Ekstrom Library, in the Chao Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.Morehead is also the author of "In a Yellow Room," "Our Brothers’ War," "A Sense of Time Left" and "The Melancholy Teacher." She teaches in the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Spalding University.Since taking the office of poet laureate in April 2011, Morehead says she’s logged about 30,000 miles on her car traveling around Kentucky to give readings and talks on literature and literacy.“I’ve gotten to meet people all over the state who love literature. There are pockets of people everywhere. Last night there was a large audience at Northern Kentucky University,” says Morehead.“There have been audiences in Jackson, Kentucky; and Pippa Passes, Kentucky; and Paducah and Hopkinsville. It’s been nice connecting with people who like what I do and who are doing it themselves, either teaching or writing or just reading,” she adds.Morehead’s latest book is “Late August Blues: The Daylily Poems,” a gently melancholy collection of persona poems in the vein of Edgar Lee Masters’s “Spoon River Anthology.”The collection is illustrated by Carolyn Whitesel and published by Kentucky's Larkspur Press, which is owned and operated by celebrated letterpress publisher Gray Zeitz. Zeitz is the recipient of a 2012 Governor's Award in the Arts. Morehead named the characters in her poems after different types of daylilies growing in her husband’s garden. Daylily varieties carry human names, like James Marsh and Mary Todd, and Morehead took the inspiration for her human characters from the flowers’ shapes and names.“Because at the time I was writing the poems for (her previous collection) ‘The Melancholy Teacher,’ so many of these poems end up having to do with education, the people in education, the ideas in education,” says Morehead. Morehead’s poet laureate term will continue through April, when the new poet laureate will be inaugurated. Nominations for the next poet laureate are being accepted by the Kentucky Arts Council through September 30.
A.T. Simpson Jr., an associate professor at Bellarmine University, will teach a condensed version of his Music in the Black Church course through the Louisville Free Public Library next month. The course will explore traditional African music, American folk music, European classical music and American pop music, and will touch on everything from traditional Negro spirituals to hip hop. “There’s so much stuff out there and Louisville has such a rich tradition of black churches,” Simpson said. Students in the course will observe how the black church is portrayed in popular media by listening to music recordings, watching movie and television clips and experiencing the live in-class performances Simpson has scheduled with local musicians. “We talk about the musical component in the black church. We talk about its history and its varying periods, its stylistic kinds of categories. We sort of watch it evolve over 100 or so years,” Simpson said. Simpson says he designed Music in the Black Church Short Course to be an introduction to the topic, but will tailor it to suit the expertise and interests of students it attracts. Library Short Courses are taught like college courses by professors and experts in their fields, for an hour and a half each week. They are free and open to anyone. Music in the Black Church is being offered on four Tuesdays, starting October 9, from 5:45 -7:15 p.m. To register, call 574-1635.
Every season, performing arts companies take on a group of young up-and-comers who will work, and learn, with the pros. The Louisville Ballet calls them trainees. At Actors Theatre of Louisville, they’re apprentices. Kentucky Opera has studio artists. They’re in residence at a professional company for the first time, understudying for the stars and taking on small roles while learning the ins and outs of the business. In the new series "The Big Break," we’ll go inside the Ballet, Actors Theatre and the Opera through the eyes of three developing artists in residence. Claire Horrocks, Samantha Beach and Brad Raymond are keeping audio diaries, and every Thursday, we’ll air excerpts from the secret lives of understudies, told in their own voices. Horrocks, 22, is a trainee with the Louisville Ballet. She grew up in Los Angeles dancing both ballet and jazz, but went on to study ballet performance at the University of Oklahoma.“Ballet had been something that I really loved because it was a process. It was never something you were perfect at and you never would be perfect, but every day you would go to class and try to be better than you were the day before,” says Horrocks.She even went tour with the Rockettes between high school and college. At a diminutive five feet and one full inch, she danced in the ensemble (Horrocks has a talent for being cast in bird roles), not on the Rockette line. “It was during those four months performing with them as an ensemble member that I realized ballet is my biggest passion and that’s what I wanted to pursue,” she says. "So I went to school and now I'm living my dream."You’ll see Horrocks on the Louisville Ballet stage during the holidays, dancing in “The Nutcracker.”Actors Theatre acting apprentice Beach just graduated from Northwestern University. Her first taste of the stage happened at church, during the annual holiday play.“I was asked to be a sheep. It wasn’t a traditional pageant, but I was a sheep." says Beach. "And I had so much fun doing it that I asked my mom when I could be used again and she started finding me more opportunities.”Beach majored in drama, but minored in creative writing. She wants to be a triple threat—an actor, a playwright and a director. Through Halloween, she works on "Dracula," understudying the role of Lucy while working on the crew.“I feel most comfortable in drama," says Beach. "I want to take some improv classes and start to expand my comedic skills. I love contemporary new plays. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to be at Actors Theatre, because they do so much new work.” Kentucky Opera studio artist Raymond is a tenor. He's 30—opera singers don’t hit full voice maturity until age 27, so their developmental period is longer than dancers and actors. He got his start in a second grade talent show his parents enrolled him in to combat his early stage fright.“I wrote this kind of a rap for my school, about the principal and stuff. ‘When I get on the yellow bus, I go to a school that is made for us,’" says Raymond with a laugh. Raymond is done with school now—he just finished his doctorate at the University of Texas. He fell in love with performing, and later came to love opera for its full, rich sound."It’s a manly thing to do. Singing might not seem manly to people, but operatic singing is so strong and virile,” says Raymond. "You put your whole body into it." This week, Raymond is singing the role of evil henchman Spoletta in Puccini's “Tosca.” He has a fantastic maniacal laugh. Up next for Raymond is The Tempter/Abbott in Benjamin Britten's "The Prodigal Son," October 4-5.
Pulitizer Prize winning author Robert Massie is coming to Louisville this week to talk about his latest work, a highly acclaimed biography of Catherine The Great, who was empress of Russia for 34 years. The 82 year old Massie, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, has devoted most of his career to writing about Russian royalty. Robert Massie will speak Thursday evening at 7:00 at the main Louisville Free Public Library. All the tickets have been distributed, but the library says there may be some standby seats available that evening. Massie spoke with WFPL’s Rick Howlett from his home in Irvington, New York.
Baby Horse Theatre Group, a new Louisville company, blurs the line between drama and performance art with its first experimental show. Devised from extensive interviews with one ordinary subject, “Biography of Physical Sensation” tells the story of one woman’s life through her memories.Here’s the twist: the audience doesn’t watch the performers act out scenes. You select a level of intensity before the show starts, and that number dictates the level of involvement with the performance. Each audience member will be experience sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of varying degrees.Level one is "the least intense," says co-artistic director Jon Becraft—mostly smelling, hearing and feeling items.“Level two gets a little more intense, a little more risky. They open themselves up to some discomfort, maybe something might be a little bit embarrassing," says Becraft. “Level three will have maybe some things that are painful, that will push them outside of their comfort zone, possibly some removal of clothing, some getting messy and dirty, things that they might not normally be comfortable doing in front of strangers.”Becraft and fellow artistic director Kelli Fitzgibbons borrowed the concept from Austin's Rubber Repertory Theatre, but chose a new subject (a friend from their college days, Lydia Lovell) for their original production."We interviewed a few different people we thought would be interesting subjects for the show. We narrowed it down to people we thought would really open up to us and be comfortable with this process," says Becraft. "Most people who come to seet his show aren't going to be extraordinary people, so they can relate to these events and these memories most people have," he adds.Becraft, Fitzgibbons and actress Danielle Burns will direct audience members through their interaction with the script. "As performers, we’re there to guide and instruct the audience members to be the performers themselves," says Becraft. "They are the ones performing the art, they’re the ones up in front of the audience or with other audience members performing these acts."The show is a meeting ground of devised theater and performance art, which demands a higher level of involvement and physical engagement from its audience. It's a niche that isn't often explored by other theater companies in Louisville. Becraft and Fitzgibbons hope to change that."It’s really an exciting thing for an audience that’s so used to coming in to a theater and sitting down to watch a show, to interact directly with the people putting on the show and for them to have an experience they couldn’t have at a movie theater or watching TV," says Becraft. Seating is limited to 18 for each performance of "Biography of Physical Sensation." The show opened last weekend and runs Friday and Saturday at Highland Green Discovery Center on Bardstown Road. Tickets are available online, and due to the limited audience, advance purchase is suggested.
Host of "The Tobolowsky Files" (Thursdays at 9 p.m. on 89.3 WFPL), Stephen Tobolowsky will be speaking at the Kentucky Center on Friday, October 5. Tickets are now on sale.Tobowlowsky is currently touring in support of his brand new book, "The Dangerous Animals Club.""He weaves a spell not unlike Jean Shepherd or Garrison Keillor." – Leonard MaltinJoin us for an entertaining presentation and book-signing with actor/author STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY, who has appeared in over 100 movies and over 200 television shows in his long career, including unforgettable roles in "Mississippi Burning," "Groundhog Day," "Californication" and "Glee."The Dangerous Animals Club is Tobolowsky’s first book, a collection of short stories with a distinct Southern flair. Full of heart and adventure, the stories touch on life’s great mysteries, like first love, discovering faith, losing a parent and having a near-death experience. Film critic and author Leonard Maltin says, "Stephen Tobolowsky has found his true calling as a storyteller. He is candid, insightful, often profound and very, very funny."
Every year, Actors Theatre of Louisville commissions a new multi-writer play to showcase its apprentice company during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. A project already forged through collaborative partnerships will take on a larger role within the community this season. "Sleep Rock Thy Brain," a suite of three one-act plays exploring the brain science of sleep, will be created by Actors Theatre through partnerships with the University of Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools and Louisville-based international stage flight experts ZFX Flying Effects. Acclaimed playwrights Anne Washburn ("A Devil at Noon," Humana Festival 2011), Lucas Hnath ("Death Tax," HF 2012) and Rinne Groff ("Orange Lemon Egg Canary," HF 2003, "The Ruby Sunrise," HF 2004) have been commissioned to write the script using research from the University of Louisville School of Medicine's sleep center. The project is conceived by Actors Theatre apprentice/intern company associate director Amy Attaway and literary manager Sarah Lunnie, and Attaway will direct the premiere. The production will feature choreographed aerial effects created in collaboration with ZFX Flying Effects, who will train the young actors to fly on stage."Though sleep takes up fully one-third of our lives, its purpose has long been shrouded in mystery. The science of sleep is cutting-edge stuff. Researchers are only now beginning to unlock the secrets behind one of life's universal experiences," says artistic director Les Waters. "Groff, Hnath and Washburn will harness the rich movement vocabulary of flight to explore the mysteries and complexities of the sleeping brain."Waters says that since he arrived in Louisville to take the reins as artistic director, he has been impressed by the community’s desire to engage in dialog about the theater’s work.“I think the strong cross-disciplinary community relationships ‘Sleep Rock Thy Brain’ will forge are a fantastic example of how that energy, combined with a spirit of entrepreneurship in this town, can be a galvanizing force in the realization of creative projects,” says Waters.U of L provost Shirley Willihnganz says this collaboration is part of the university’s mission to be a nationally-recognized metropolitan research university.“What a metropolitan university really is, is a place that’s not just located in a city, but a place where the city and the university can synergistically combine the resources that we have to produce something that is wonderful and can only be done by a great research university partnering with the city next door,” says Willihnganz.The production will be staged in the Owsley Brown II black box theatre at Lincoln Performing Arts School, where Actors Theatre's education staff will teach a playwriting residency this year. U of L will also produce a series of interdisciplinary campus and community events about sleep and the intersections of art and science. After “Sleep Rock Thy Brain” premieres at the Humana Festival, U of L’s theater department will produce a second production, also at Lincoln Performing Arts School, directed by department chair Rinda Frye.
Louisville historian Samuel W. Thomas is donating his personal collection of photos, negatives, manuscripts, audio tapes, maps and building plans to the University of Louisville Photographic Archives.Thomas, a prolific Louisville historian, has written more than 20 books on Louisville neighborhoods, institutions and architecture.Archives staff are currently sorting though 200 linear material, but an exhibit of notable photos is on display.“Just as his research is meticulous, his record-keeping also has been meticulous. I have never seen an archival selection in quite the exquisite order,” says Delinda Buie, head of special collections.Buie says two striking pieces of the collection include a 19th century watercolor painting of the Falls of the Ohio, as well as a photo taken by Thomas of a private mausoleum in Cave Hill Cemetery.Thomas received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry from U of L in 1960 and 1964 before becoming the first director at Locust Grove historic home and the first Jefferson County archivist.“My first book, ‘Views of Louisville since 1766,’ published in 1971, was based mainly upon material in the R.G. Potter Collection housed in the Photographic Archives,” Thomas said in a statement. “The Photographic Archives have been a starting point for my research ever since.”Buie said the Thomas collection is a tremendous addition to the Photo Archives, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the R.G. Potter Collection this year.“We feel so humbled to be the repository for this collection because it really is not a University of Louisville collection. It really is a collection for the region, and certainly for the Louisville community.”The Samuel Thomas exhibition runs through October 25 at the Photographic Archives in the university's Ekstrom Library.
Over the last ten years, Actors Theatre of Louisville has made educational outreach an institutional priority. The theater's student matinees are a cornerstone of its education program. About 15,000 students, teachers and chaperones attend matinees at Actors Theatre every season."You could say that education is valuable because it's growing future audiences, it's an investment, it's exposing young people to what the theater is and what it's like, in the hopes that as adults, they'll be buying tickets," says director of education Steven Rahe. "But beyond that, we believe theater can happen anywhere. It can happen outside of this building. It can happen in classrooms.""Dracula" is by far the most popular student show—a third of the groups come to see Van Helsing and friends defeat Count Dracula. They'll also fill the Pamela Brown Auditorium this fall to see "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Christmas Carol," and experience a lesser-known narrative of the Civil War era with Matthew Lopez's "The Whipping Man" in January. The program is underwritten by Yum! Brands, enabling the theater to offer deeply discounted tickets ($10 per student) for school groups. “We send teaching artists out into schools who are coming to see a production here and we prepare them for the experience, to engage with the story, with the characters, themes, and get their heads wrapped around the theatergoing experience in advance," says Rahe.To prepare students to see "Dracula," Actors' teaching artists lead school workshops on the monologue, so students have the opportunity to create, too. Rahe calls it "waking the artist within." "They’re interactive, on-their-feet, fun experiences,” he says.The matinees are interactive, too. Students silence their cell phones, but not their screams. At a recent "Dracula" performance for students from Mercy Academy and Highland Middle School, the opening scene—where the vampire chases his female victim around the cemetery before swooping in for a fatal bite—is met with howls of delight and fear. The matinee program represents one half of a mantra Rahe says the education department lives by—young people see plays and make plays. “We try to promote this idea that everyone is an artist, everyone is a teacher, everyone is a student. So we always have something to learn, we always have something to offer someone else, and we all have a creative capacity,” says Rahe. To that end, Actors Theatre teaches playwriting workshops in schools for groups as young as fifth grade, and also leads programs in community centers and youth development organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The theater's annual young playwrights festival accepts submissions of ten-minute plays from Kentucky and Southern Indiana high school writers and selects about ten for full productions in the Bingham Theatre. The plays are the final project of the apprentice/intern company, and each playwright is invited to be part of the rehearsal process, working with their dramaturg, director and cast, just like a professional playwright would in any new play festival. "We do our best to create a sense of community and empower their voices," says Rahe. "It can be a pretty intimidating thing to come into the building as a teenager. You don't necessarily expect to be taken seriously as an artist. They are invited into the rehearsal process and are considered a major player in the shaping of their work." Last year, Actors received 450 ten-minute play submissions for the New Voices Young Playwrights Festival, which means the message the theater is sending is being received. Rahe says he sees students who go through their education programs returning to the theater after graduation, too. "Young people belong at Actors Theatre of Louisville," says Rahe. "They are welcome here. When kids around town think about the theater, we want them thinking about Actors Theatre of Louisville, that they've had fun, positive learning experiences here."
The Kentucky Opera opens Puccini’s tragedy “Tosca” this week. The company will begin its 60th anniversary season with Friday’s gala performance in the Brown Theatre, accompanied by the Louisville Orchestra.Soprano Kara Shay Thomson returns to the Kentucky Opera stage to sing the role of Floria Tosca, an opera singer in love with Cavaradossi (Jon Burton), an artist who runs afoul of the law when he shelters an escaped political prisoner. The lovers’ bond is threatened by Scarpia (Michael Chioldi), the corrupt police chief who offers to commute Cavaradossi’s execution in exchange for Tosca’s love.Listen to musical excerpts from the show. Puccini's enduring tragedy is consistently ranked in the top ten operas performed around the world. “'Tosca' continues to enthrall opera fans as it easily engages new audiences to opera with its powerful drama and passionate score,” says director David Roth.First performed in 1900, the story is set in 1800 Rome, which was occupied by the kingdom of Naples and facing invasion from Napoleon's army. It's a story of passion and loyalty, but also murder, revenge and torture. “Seldom does one find a tragedy where all principal characters fail to be standing when the curtain comes down at the end,” says Roth. “Tosca” runs through September 28.
The Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington is preparing to celebrate its 90th birthday and a group of local volunteers is working to raise up to $1.5 million for renovations to the movie house. The theatre, which is owned by the city of Lexington and leased to a private management firm, was last renovated 20 years ago after a fire. Since then, the seats have become worn out and paint has started to chip. But theatre manager Fred Mills says the biggest issue is Hollywood’s ongoing shift away from 35 mm film to digital production of movies. “This digital conversion with projection and sound, we’ve estimated about $250,000 to do the Kentucky Theatre auditorium.” Mills says without a digital projector, Kentucky Theatre won’t be able to show new movies. The fundraising group is working with the non-profit Bluegrass Community Foundation to track donations and expenditures. A formal campaign launch is set for next month.
Actors Theatre opened the “Dracula” crypt Friday for its 18th consecutive Halloween season run. Directed and adapted by William McNulty, the play is based on Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel about a mysterious count from Transylvania who terrorizes a seaside town in England.The gothic thriller is a perennial crowd-pleaser whose special effects (including pyrotechnics and a bang-up finale) never fail to impress the audibly appreciative audience. If this is your first time at “Dracula” and you are not entirely faint of heart, try to book front-row seats. The actors make excellent use of the Bingham’s round stage and the low stone walls surrounding it.Actors Theatre continues to tweak and push this holiday tradition, never staging the exact same play twice. This year’s production, for example, is a lot bloodier than previous runs (fair warning). So even if you’ve seen “Dracula” so many times you remember V. Craig Heidenreich as the Count, it’s never a dull way to welcome the fall season.While John Balderston and Hamilton Deane first adapted Stoker’s novel for the stage, McNulty adapted their adaptation a few years ago, streamlining the plot for maximum action—less talking, more biting. McNulty also plays Van Helsing the vampire hunter, sent for by Seward (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend) when his fiancée dies of a mysterious, wasting illness caused by an unexplained loss of blood.This year’s production features several other returning cast members, including the riveting Marc Bovino as Renfield, a role he seems to have single-handedly redefined. He’s hilarious as the bug-eating lunatic barely controlled by man or monster, and offers some much-needed comic relief from the horrors surrounding Seward’s friends and family. But his ravings come with their own particular tension, as he serves as living reminder of the vampire’s power and wrath. Van Helsing, Seward and Jonathan Harker might get the dashing action sequences, but Renfield asks the play’s central, heartbreaking question: “where is mercy?” Nobody answers. Randolph Curtis Rand is also back as Count Dracula after a two-year absence, and for my money, he is the gold standard vamp (he’s the one on the poster, even in years when he’s not on stage), perfectly sinister as the stranger from the Carpathians who moves into the deserted abbey next door to Seward’s asylum. He has a few funny lines (“I never drink … wine.”) but for the most part, Rand’s Dracula is more gruesome Nosferatu than Edward Cullen, and the monster he transforms into erases all doubt his courtly appearance might otherwise provide.Dracula sets his sights on Lucy (Marianna McClellan), Seward’s houseguest and fiancée to the dashing Harker (acting apprentice Andy Reinhardt), who traveled to Transylvania to close the abbey real estate deal and went missing soon after. McClellan was a stand-out member of last year’s apprentice company, and it’s great fun to see her back at Actors really owning such a meaty role. Seward’s orderly Mr. Briggs is played by another former apprentice, Alex Thompson, infusing a quiet dignity into a role that is often played broadly for laughs, especially in his scenes with Ms. Sullivan (acting apprentice Christa Wroblewski).Paul Owen’s set is as creepy as ever, and scene changes are handled swiftly (at times to eerie effect) by the Bingham’s trusty traps. Between Tony Penna (lights), Benjamin Marcum (sound) and Phillip Allgeier (some new video touches), the atmosphere is as spooky as a Victorian sanatorium stalked by a bloodthirsty demon should be.“Dracula” runs through October 31 in the Bingham Theatre.
Our arts segment on this week's Byline was bittersweet; Charles Venable is leaving Louisville after five years as director of the Speed Art Museum. Meanwhile, the Speed itself will say goodbye for now, as it breaks ground on a $50 million renovation and expansion, starting next weekend. WFPL's Erin Keane spoke with Venable about what's next for him, and the institution he's leaving behind.