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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES Michigan mom launches search for daughter after 49 years | 4:23
A Michigan woman, with the help of her five children and social media, is hoping to reunite with the child she gave up for adoption 49 years ago. WZZM
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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES Watch: Tom Izzo pleased with MSU's performance | 10:42
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo reacts after the No. 1 Spartans blasted Maryland, 91-61, at Breslin Center on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES Controversial book on Trump released | 0:56
“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” was released on Friday. It paints a disparaging picture of President Trump and his family. The President says it‘s filled with lies. One Washington bookstore opened overnight and quickly sold out. AP
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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES East coast storm grounds nearly 5,000 flights | 1:19
The flight-tracking site FlightAware reports nearly 5,000 canceled flights across the U.S. due to the massive winter storm, disrupting travel nationwide. That includes over two-thirds of flights in and out of New York City and Boston airports. (Jan. 5) AP
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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES North Korea accepted the South's offer for talks next week | 1:09
The rival Koreas agreed Friday to revive their first formal dialogue in more than two years next week to find ways to cooperate on the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South. Time
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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES Why you won't win the lottery | 0:48
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in more than 302 million. You have a better chance at all these other extraordinary things. USA TODAY
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CLOSETODAY'S TOP STORIES Up North taxidermy museum aims to promote hunting | 2:12
Voss Guntzviller noticed that fewer kids go hunting nowadays. So he set out to change that with Guntzviller‘s Spirit of the Woods Museum in Williamsburg, Mich.
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- Michigan mom launches search for daughter after 49 years
- Watch: Tom Izzo pleased with MSU's performance
- Controversial book on Trump released
- East coast storm grounds nearly 5,000 flights
- North Korea accepted the South's offer for talks next week
- Why you won't win the lottery
- Up North taxidermy museum aims to promote hunting
Assembly Line Theatre launched in June with a production of “(Profanity) White People” at a Southfield church.(Photo: Bonnie Fitch)
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Best small theater companies that did big things
Free Press assistant entertainment editor Greg Crawford puts the spotlight on some of metro Detroit‘s daring, smaller theater groups.
Assembly Line Theatre: The new Assembly Line Theatre, which calls itself “a working-class theater for a working-class town,” launched with a bang in June by staging local playwright Sean Paraventi’s “(Profanity) White People” at a Southfield church. The edgy play (the title contains a word that can’t be used here) zeroed in on a racially sensitive issue that’s all too familiar to longtime Detroiters: the role gentrification is playing in the city’s much-touted comeback. Political correctness got a skewing in the production, as did, in Paraventi’s words, “young white liberals and their black-and-white view of things.”
Slipstream Theatre Initiative: Ferndale’s Slipstream Theatre Initiative continued to reimagine, reinvent and, in some cases, turn classic theater works on their ears. Among its offerings: a January 2017 lesbian version of “Romeo and Juliet” in which the Montagues and Capulets bore a suspicious resemblance to the Trump and Clinton clans; a spring production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” that asked the audience each night to vote on which cast members should play the three principal characters; and an all-male, all-gay adaptation of “Lysistrata” that reimagined Aristophanes’ title character as a washed-up drag queen.
Puzzle Piece Theatre: Puzzle Piece Theatre took over Slipstream’s space in October to stage Leigh Fondakowski’s somber 2005 drama “People’s Temple,” an exploration of the 1978 mass suicide by more than 900 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones at his Jonestown complex in Guyana. In a production that ran 2½ hours with intermission, a cast of 10 played politicians, journalists, relatives and Jonestown survivors who were witnesses to Jones’ rise and fall.
Joseph Sfair as charismatic cult leader Jim Jones in Puzzle Piece Theatre's production of "The People's Temple." (Photo: Puzzle Piece Theatre)
Open Book Theatre: Trenton’s Open Book Theatre continued to deliver a compelling mix of comedies and dramas, some of which had a ripped-from-the-headlines feel. Among its offerings: playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 “Good People,” which dives poignantly into the widening gap between America’s haves and have-nots, and Rebecca Gilman’s “Boy Gets Girl,” a thriller first staged in 2000 about a young woman whose life is nearly destroyed by an amorous stalker. It took on new meaning in a year in which news stories about sexual misconduct and harassment were a near-daily occurrence.
Little Door Theatre: Classic plays and revered playwrights ruled 2017 at Warrens’ Little Door Theatre, which launched its second season in November with Ibsen’s dark and heavy “Ghosts” and followed it in December with a fearless staging of Shakespeare’s bold and bloody “King Lear.” Among the shows coming in 2018 are “Three Sisters,” “As You Like It” and an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Emma.”
Best and most surprising nights in Detroit theater
Free Press contributor John Monaghan recalls magical moments on area stages.
“Disgraced,” (March, Jewish Ensemble Theatre): Focused on a New York City artist and her Muslim lawyer husband, this modern musing on the post-9/11 landscape poses difficult questions about art, ethnicity and the current state of the American Dream. Nuanced performances in the five-person cast (especially leads Maggie Meyer and Matt David) made this adaptation of Amir Kapoor’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama the first must-see play of the year.
Maggie Meyer and Matthew David in Jewish Ensemble Theatre's production of "Disgraced." (Photo: Jan Cartwright)
“Capital” (April, Detroit Repertory Theatre): This slapstick farce, in which Karl Marx tried to impart his socialist beliefs on a teenaged daughter, was the year’s biggest surprise. This appropriately economical production (Harry Wetzel both starred as the Father of Communism and designed the sets) highlighted an especially hit-and-miss year at the 61-year-old Detroit Rep.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (May, Fisher Theatre): An unforgettable, immersive evening of Broadway-caliber theater. Through inventive staging and performances, the 2015 Tony Award-winner for best play completely placed audience members in the shoes of a 15-year-old autistic boy. His investigation into the murder of a neighbor’s dog launched him on an odyssey both courageous and harrowing.
“Skeleton Crew” (September, Detroit Public Theatre): Set in the break room of a soon-to-be-shuttered Detroit stamping plant, “Skeleton Crew” continued the creative rise of Detroit-born Dominique Morisseau. The third play in a trilogy of Motown-set works (“Detroit ’67” played last year, “Paradise Blue” hopefully next), it delivered an irresistible blend of humor and drama, celebration and eulogy, while always remaining rooted in truth. Ella Joyce led a pitch-perfect ensemble, most with Detroit connections.
Brian Marable and Ella Joyce in "Skeleton Crew" at Detroit Public Theatre. (Photo: Chuk Nowak, Chuk Nowak)
Andrew Lloyd Webber in the house! “Love Never Dies” (October, Fisher Theatre): The 2010 sequel to “The Phantom to the Opera,” chose Detroit’s Fisher Theatre to host its official reboot, with the famed composer in town for almost a week to tweak with it. Though the show only occasionally scored in the musical and melodrama departments (the sets were great!), seeing the legendary composer during the opening curtain was this year’s tell-your-grandchildren moment.
Andrew Lloyd Webber (center, in gray jacket) at a curtain call for "Love Never Dies" at the Fisher Theatre. (Photo: Broadway in Detroit)
Best local albums of 2017
Free Press contributor Jeff Milo highlights new releases from local artists.
Deadbeat Beat, “When I Talk To You”: The indie-rock/surf-psychedelia trio Deadbeat Beat is already bursting with inventive spins on modern pop-arrangements, harmonies and thematic guitar riffs. But this batch of 3-minute earworms is augmented by the savvy, reverb-loving ear of producer Matt Smith (of Outrageous Cherry).
Sheefy McFly, “Murals”: It was a remarkable year in local hip-hop, with new music from vets like Miz Korona and rising stars like Nolan The Ninja. But it was the painterly poetry of Sheefy McFly’s “Murals” that sustained a regular spot on my playlist. McFly co-produced this independent album of murky electronica, slick hip-hop beats and impassioned lyricism back in May, capped by a memorable performance at Movement.
Tashif Turner, a.k.a. Sheefy McFly, a.k.a. Sheefy. (Photo: Brian Rozman)
Carmel Liburdi, “Insomnia Slumber Party”: The charisma and relatability of this songwriter imbues the folk-singer aesthetic with a combination of intensity and levity. In melodic and catchy choruses, or in playful sing-speak verses, the emotions pour out with heartfelt poignancy over a sway of acoustic guitar strums.
Goldzilla, “Immaculate Misconception”: Ambient synths, intricate beats, cerebral lyrics and surreal soundbites. Fans of left-field hip-hop eager for inventive spins on the genre should seek out Goldzilla. The local emcee and his collaborating producer Eddie Logix both reach new levels on this conceptual aural autobiography.
George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus, “George Morris”: Singer/songwriter George Morris went into the studio with producer Zach Shipps and laid down eight dazzling songs. With ballady vocals from his uniquely high/hazy register soaring over steady, striding rhythms and catchy choruses, Morris created something that’s subtle yet epic, simple and indelible.
Best venues to encounter the local music scene
Free Press contributor Jeff Milo tips his hat to clubs devoted to local sounds.
Ant Hall / Ghost Light, Hamtramck: The Ant Hall complex on Caniff is a newer performance space annexed by Planet Ant, the long running DIY comedy theater. Ant Hall’s connected room known as The Ghost Light offers a cozy and hip, yet laid-back, bar/venue space with a clubhouse vibe. Here you’re sure to find a blend of folk singers, indie rockers, and some louder, stranger psychedelia.
Marble Bar (Detroit): The Marble Bar hosts a balance of notable national artists as well as local showcases of hip-hop and rock artists, as well as techno and house-inspired DJs. The monthly Motor City Soul Club is a dance party propelled by rare ‘60s/‘70s funk and soul records spun by local DJs.
A Soul Stomp was held at the Marble Bar last August. The Motor City Soul Club moved the event there for good in January. “I didn’t realize how much appetite there was for this kind of night in the city until we moved to Marble Bar,” says club cofounder Dan Austin. (Photo: John Froelich/Special to the Detroit Free Press)
The Loving Touch (Ferndale): A great way to familiarize yourself with some of the musicians and voices of the local scene is through the Loving Touch’s monthly program of themed cover shows, where several bands from otherwise diverse genres and styles inhabit the songs of icons like Bowie, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty and more.
A roster full of local talent paid homage to legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio during the 2017 Detroit Dio Tribute at the Loving Touch in Ferndale on Saturday, May 13. The benefit concert raises money for a local person with a cancer-related illness. All of the evenings proceeds donated to a single individual to help ease the financial burden during his or her cancer battle. (Photo: John Froelich, Special to the Free Press)
The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor: The Blind Pig is Ann Arbor’s primary venue for live music. The 400-capacity space has been open for decades, a rollicking space often visited by on-the-way-to-stardom touring bands that also goes out of its way to program diverse, all-local lineups. It was recently bought by new owners with enthusiastic assurances of continuing its essential live music lineups.
Small’s, Hamtramck: This spacious Hamtramck venue hosts a range of genres, but is often the preferred performance space for local punk and hard-rock groups, as well as post-Industrial electronic artists. You can also find monthly showcases of local stand-up comedians.
Best new Detroit street art
Ryan Patrick Hooper looks back on key moments in the city‘s exploding street-art scene.
Charles McGee brings “Unity” downtown: At 92 years old (now 93), celebrated Detroit artist McGee put an exclamation point on an already outstanding career with his largest-work-to-date — the 11-story “Unity” mural that manages to feel tucked away in downtown Detroit.
"Still Searching", an exhibit spanning the 70-year career of Detroit-based multimedia artist Charles McGee, drew hundreds to 1505 Woodward Ave. coinciding with the unveiling of his large-scale, outdoor mural "Unity" located directly adjacent to the exhibition. (Photo: John Froelich, Special to the Free Press)
Pat Perry’s ode to the neighborhood: Perry’s Murals in the Market contribution focused on a sense of place via portraits of his neighbors who live near the intersection of Mitchell and Gratiot. It is full of details like an interior light that illuminates a lantern depicted on the mural.
Pat Perry stands beside the four story tall mural he is painting at Mitchell and Gratiot Avenue. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Southwest Detroit shines: Detroit’s Freddy Diaz and Australian native Meggs (who now calls Detroit his home) collaborated on transforming a viaduct at Chamberlain and Springwells into a vivid mural that represents two distinct artistic styles as well as the neighborhood around it.
Ouizi’s garden grows: Few artists in Detroit had a more prolific year than Quizi, but one of my favorites pieces is easy to miss — her flora-and-fauna painting adorning an independently owned garden center in Rosedale Park. It creates a green getaway along bustling Grand River Avenue.
Murals in the Market expands its footprint: There’s plenty of individual pieces to love from this year’s Murals in the Market (like Perry’s piece above), but the festival in total has not only grown the city’s street art portfolio but also shined a light on local emerging talent. There’s debate about whether out-of-town talent should play such a major role on Detroit’s walls, but a festival like Murals spotlights an international art city not only concerned with itself.
Windsor-based artist Daniel Bombardier, better known as the street artist "Denial," paints his mural during the Eastern Market After Dark event Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 in downtown Detroit. The After Dark event coincides with the final day of the annual Murals in the Market festival that saw nearly 30 new large-scale paintings decorate the district. (Photo: John Froelich, Special to the Free Press)
Best museum shows of 2017
Sarah Rose Sharp looks back at the most memorable exhibitions staged this year by metro Detroit museums.
“Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe,” Cranbrook Art Museum: It is hard to pick a favorite from the wall-to-wall terrific programming at Cranbrook this year, but for sheer scope and variety, this retrospective of Midcentury Modernist powerhouse Alexander Girard takes top honors. Girard’s work was prescient, mitigating the stark sterility of American Modernism with the introduction of bold color, materials that are at turns earthy and futuristic, and the quotidian aesthetics inherent to folk art. Items from Girard and his wife’s prodigious international collection of folk art were on display, enabling visitors to make some straight-line connections between Girard’s points of inspiration and his output as an architectural, interior and textile designer.
A view of the Alexander Girard exhibit at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. (Photo: Mark Niedermann,Vitra Deisgn Museum)
“Detroit 67: Perspectives” Detroit Historical Museum: Any longtime resident of southeast Michigan has a story about the summer of 1967 and the infamous events that escalated to a citywide state of civil disobedience, known alternately as the Detroit riot and the Detroit rebellion. As the city marked the 50th anniversary, the Detroit Historical Society was one of the leading institutions on the topic, presenting “Perspectives” — an ongoing collection of 500+ oral histories of the summer of ’67 — and building an exhibit around it. The results are detailed, dense and merit multiple visits for maximum understanding.
A section of the interactive Detroit 67: Perspectives exhibit is dedicated to The Algiers Motel at the Detroit Historical Museum on Friday, June 16, 2017 in Detroit. (Photo: Elaine Cromie, Detroit Free Press)
“Drawing the Diaspora: Comic Art & Graphic Novels by Leila Abderazaq,” Arab American National Museum: For artist and organizer Leila Abdelrazaq, comics are a means of communication as much as a beautiful mode of self-expression. In this solo show at AANM, the Palestinian-American artist presented common narratives of the Palestinian refugee and immigrant experience. The goal, she has said, is to connect with and instruct a Western audience that may be less familiar with these stories. Abdelrazaq’s work defies easy interpretation as either art or activism, tackles themes including the representation of the Palestinian diaspora, and gracefully demonstrates the ability for comics to convey dense and complex issues in a more easily digestible format.
“Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage,” Detroit Institute of Arts: Artist Frederic Church was the most popular and financially successful painter in mid-19th-Century America, and from the late 1860s until the late 1870s, many of his most important paintings represented ancient cities or buildings from his trips to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. This exhibit exquisitely showcases some of these masterworks by Church (including two from the museum’s collection), surrounded by a wealth of supplemental materials. The lighting and tone of exhibition space enables precisely the kind of quiet reflection needed to match these reverent and radiant paintings, which attempt to convey Church’s deep faith through the sublime glory of sunbeams shimmering though cloud breaks over iconic cities from religious mythology.
“House Industries: A Type of Learning,” Henry Ford Museum: Andy Cruz is famous for his fonts, having created them for 20-plus years under the auspices of House Industries, a design firm cofounded with Rich Roat in the early 1990s. “A Type of Learning” is directly informed by House’s longstanding practice of close collaborations with clients across a variety of media. For Generation Y-ers, the exhibition would leave your synapses blazing in remembrance of iconic pop culture ephemera: Shag stickers; Rat Fink hot rod kits; the HOUSE33 clothing line that directly referenced California skate culture of the early ’90s; the imagery of artist Chris Cooper, whose iconic “smoking devil” design bears more than a passing resemblance to Cruz himself. This exhibition was expertly crafted and installed with an obsessive eye for detail, but what really makes it a perfect fit is the ways in which it dovetails with the Henry Ford’s overarching collection of cultural artifacts.
An Jimmy Kimmel live logo is part of the House Industries: A Type Of Learning at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. (Photo: KMS Photography)
Best gallery shows
Sarah Rose Sharp puts an eye on this year’s outstanding art exhibitions at metro Detroit galleries.
“Beverly Buchanan: Low Country,” David Klein Gallery: A charming little retrospective of shack sculptures and drawings by an African-American artist who explored Southern vernacular architecture in her art. Buchanan’s evocative little constructions and childlike pastel drawings are alive with the same kind of color and wabi-sabi principles that inspired a whole category of practicing artists in Detroit, and the aesthetics felt right at home with those of landmark Detroit artists like Olayami Dabls, Gilda Snowden, and John Egner.
“May Contain Fruit,” the Scarab Club: Joining work in diverse media by artists Alyssa Bogdan, Ginny Martin, and Manal Shoukair, artist Mary Eddy’s made the standout contribution, with 46 pieces that made direct use of the fruit as a living material. Eddy cultivated an experimental process of converting fruits from Chile, Guatemala and Mexico into 2D painted works, with pigments developed from the juice of the various fruits, and 3D sculptural works that use basket-woven reed constructions as the superstructure for intricately cut-and-dried fruit skins, resulting in delicate and uncanny organic sculptures.
“After Industry,” Wasserman Projects: This synthesis of three masters in divergent media — Italian sculptor Willy Verginer, Norwegian painter Christer Karlstad, and Michigan-based photographer Jason DeMarte — is a credit to both gallery director Alison Wong’s gift for grouping artists in potent combinations and gallery owner and steel company executive Gary Wasserman’s passion for discovering art during his travels. Wasserman’s main gallery was dominated by a massive installation of detailed wood carvings by Verginer, poignant oil paintings of uneasy moments by Karlstad, and eye-popping digital compositions by DeMarte. This was just one of several strong offerings by Wasserman this year, as it begins to solidify its identity for risky and spectacular presentations.
“Random Negotiations Toward an Unreasonable Happiness,” Hatch Art: With all work by fastidious printmaker Ryan Standfest, there is a kind of sly humor beneath the grotesque. The black-and-white relief prints, punctuated with flashes of color and occasional mixed media elements, are nonsensical, grossly disturbing and also funny — gags in more than one sense of the word. The intense effort and thought Standfest invests in the work amplifies its funny and spontaneous aspects — the odd instructions, the occasional hand-drawn elements — breaking up what might otherwise feel stiflingly formal and highbrow with subtle winks to the viewer.
“Cass Corridor: Connecting Times,” Simone DeSousa Gallery: This summer-long exhibition series featured a glorious look at past Cass Corridor artists, curated by painter and queen of the old school, Nancy Mitchnick. Celebrating nearly 10 years in the neighborhood, Simone DeSousa Gallery launched one of the only opportunities to take career-survey looks at extremely influential Cass Corridor artists, including Michael Luchs, Jim Chatelain, John Egner, Gordon Newton, Steve Foust, Greg Murphy and Nancy Pletos; it was a summer series that reminded everyone how good it feels to occasionally revisit (or discover!) your roots.
Artist Nancy Mitchnick, who is curating a series built on her experience of the Cass Corridor. It will appear at the Simone DeSousa Gallery. (Photo: Sarah Rose Sharp)
Best books from Michiganders or Michigan natives
Free Press contributor Ellen Piligian takes stock of top books with strong local connections.
“A $500 House: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City,” by Drew Philp: Based on his widely read essay in Buzzfeed, Philp details his investment of a lot of time and not a lot of money on a broken down house in a broken down city in a neighborhood, Poletown, still on the outskirts of the more glamorous areas of Detroit’s rebirth. In the process of becoming a Detroiter and good neighbor, Philp discovers his most important investment — in himself.
“The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook,” edited by Aaron Foley: I love guidebooks with a twist, books that give you more than what to do and where to eat. This is an inside view of Detroit by Detroiters for people who live here. The book has a diversity of voices and literary styles, including poems, essays and fiction, delving into places the authors know best, from Highland Park to the West Village.
Author Drew Philp. (Photo: Garrett MacLean)
“You Can’t Buy Love Like That,” by Carol E. Anderson: At first glance, this touching and uplifting memoir might not seem to have broad interest: about a woman growing up in 1960s Detroit struggling with her sexual identity in a fundamentalist Christian home. But Anderson’s tale delves into many areas: A mother-daughter bond, strength of family, the emergence of feminism, and how much — and sometimes how little — things have changed for gay people today.
"Horse Soldiers" by Doug Stanton (Photo: "Horse Soldiers")
“Fresh Complaint,” by Jeffrey Eugenides: Short stories are a great way to get a fast fiction fix as well as get to know an author — or know a favorite author better. In Eugenides’ first short story collection, readers will find a wide range of stories and voices — including a poet who agrees to steal from his boss, and an elderly woman struggling with dementia — by an expat author who still considers Detroit home.
“Odyssey of Echo Company,” by Doug Stanton: The Traverse City author’s third non-fiction book, about a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam after the Tet Offensive in 1968, is a richly detailed account of what it was like for this band of brothers on the ground. More than a great way to read history, it opens the door for Vietnam veterans today to finally share their stories, something Stanton believes is vital not just for the men who served but to our country as a whole.
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