Saturday, 04 December 2021

Arts & Life

Clovice Lewis. Photo by Nathan Dehart.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center is launching “Sounds of Liberation” — conversations about race and music on Juneteenth, June 19.

Following the inaugural conversation and performance with musician/composer Clovice Lewis at the MAC, there will be a Juneteenth celebration including an authentic Kenyan dinner, live performances and a dance party.

Dinner starts at 6 p.m. followed by performances at 7 p.m.

Performances include an introduction and welcome by Clovice Lewis, call and response singing with Gloria Scott, poetry reading by Lake County Poet Laureate Georgina Marie, West African Dance and Drumming featuring Djibril Camara and live music and dancing with the Midnight Sun Massive band (Soul, Reggae Ska Calypso).

Juneteenth — also called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day — is recognized as a holiday in 45 states, including California since 2003.

June 19 commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Africans and African-Americans in the US. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was declared in 1862, word did not reach Texas until June 19, 1865, hence Juneteenth.

“The Sounds of Liberation: Discovering Wisdom and History in African American Music” launches with an intimate conversation and performance with Composer/Musician Clovice Lewis at 4:30 p.m.

Throughout the series, Lake County African-American musical artists will share their stories and music in intimate settings with small participant audiences.

Seating is limited, so interested community members are encouraged to purchase tickets early.

“We aim to open doors to challenging conversations about being Black in America and building bridges among Lake County communities and neighbors,” said Lewis, who conceived of the Sounds of Liberation with MAC director Lisa Kaplan and project manager Sabrina Klein.

While Lewis is the first artist to be featured, he will be followed by Victor Hall of Midnight Sun in July, Gloria Scott in late August, and future dates with Andre Williams and Robert Watson among others.

Sounds of Liberation events will be livestreamed on Zoom (with chat participation) and on MAC’s Facebook page (@mtownartcenter).

Each Sounds of Liberation conversation will also be recorded to raise awareness and engage more people over time.

Register for Zoom participation or purchase tickets to attend live at www.Middletownartcenter.org/sol.

Dinner is served from 6 to 8 p.m. ($25 per plate) inside the MAC. The outdoor dance party is free and open to the public. No host bar on-site, alcohol will be available for purchase.

The Juneteenth dinner and dance are a fundraiser for the Sounds of Liberation project which is made possible with community support and with support from California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information about the Juneteenth event, and dinner menu, or to purchase tickets, visit www.middletownartcenter.org/sounds-of-liberation.




‘FRIENDS: THE REUNION’ ON HBO MAX

Running on NBC for 10 seasons and a total of 236 episodes, “Friends” gained acclaim as a sitcom about the lives of six close friends in their 20s and 30s living and working in Manhattan.

On HBO Max, the six primary cast members return after seventeen years for “Friends: The Reunion” for a real-life celebration of the beloved series and are joined by show creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman.

The series starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.

According to the credits, the reunion marks only the second time all of them have been together in one room since the series finale.

Moderated by late night talk show host James Corden (who incidentally really adds nothing of interest to the show by his lack of insightful questions), “Friends: The Reunion” is a nostalgia trip for the cast members.

In some respects, the reunion seems more like a nice payday for the primary cast members and those involved in the production rather than delivering incisive revelations.

But then, it’s great to see the sets on Stage 24 recreated in all their glory with the apartments and Central Perk.

While the show creators dropped a few notable morsels about casting, one of the best disclosures was how Aniston and Perry were committed to other shows that flopped so promptly as to free them up for “Friends.”

The special cuts back and forth, often with jarring effect, from vintage clips to celebrity cameos (Tom Selleck notably for his role in the May-December romance with Cox’s Monica) to an array of spontaneous recollections from the cast.

Probably most revealing of all was Perry’s remembering that he felt like he was going to die if the audience didn’t laugh, noting that he would “sweat and just go into convulsions” if there was no laughter.

More casual television viewers may not be drawn to this reminiscence of the popular series. Devoted fans who connected with “Friends” will find delight in the show clips, bloopers and cameo appearances of characters from Maggie Wheeler’s Janice to James Michael Taylor’s Gunther.

As a demonstration of “Friends” global reach, one of the more interesting aspects of “The Reunion” had to do with earnest testimonials of avid fans from countries ranging from France to Ghana to Slovakia and elsewhere.

“Friends: The Reunion,” though it may shed not enough insights on happenings behind the scenes, is obviously geared to the passionate fan base that probably realizes a similar gathering won’t happen again any time soon.

OVATION TV PREVIEW

Ovation TV, America’s only arts network, is planning a summer of “Secrets & Crimes” with film and drama series pairings every Monday night. Episodes of “Street Legal,” “The Brokenwood Mysteries” and “Mystery Road” are part of the programming block.

The episodes are planned to air following a range of widely known films, such as “The Usual Suspects,” “The Bank Job,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” (hopefully the Steve McQueen original), “Fargo,” and “Pulp Fiction,” to name a few.

A character-driven legal drama that follows the professional and private lives of a group of ambitious lawyers at a start-up firm in Toronto, “Street Legal” stars Cynthia Dale as Olivia Novak, now a named partner, who is deep into a massive class-action lawsuit.

Three tenacious young lawyers at a rival firm challenge Olivia and her usual methods. Cara Ricketts, Steve Lund and Yvonne Chapman have blind-sided Olivia by stealing her case right out from under her.

Crime apparently runs rampant in a small rural New Zealand town in “The Brokenwood Mysteries” series. Neill Rea’s Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd and partner Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) investigate the mystifying and macabre crimes that hit the town.

The first episode takes Shepherd on an investigation of the death of a local farmer found in a river, where he uncovers a family’s tragedies and secrets, and learns that Brokenwood is a place where shadows lurk just beneath the surface.

The Australian outback is the setting for the six-episode “Mystery Road” series. At the remote town of Patterson, Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) arrives to investigate a mysterious disappearance from a cattle station, thinking he’s got an easy three-day job.

But it soon becomes clear this is not a simple case. Jay now has to work with smart, tough local cop Emma James (Judy Davis). Born to a wealthy pastoral family and proud of her pioneering history, Emma’s life is embedded in the town, but she harbors her own secrets.

For a crime series, the “Mystery Road” has the feel of a soap opera, as the investigation uncovers a past injustice that threatens the fabric of the whole community. There’s also the tension that arises even between Jay and Emma trying hard to put their differences aside.

Both “Street Legal” and “The Brokenwood Mysteries” debut in June, with the former on Tuesday, June 8, and the latter on Tuesday, June 29.

“Mystery Road” arrives late in the summer on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

There is a long and ancient tradition of poetry as a form of prayer, even in the face of faithlessness or persistent belief.

Here, in a poem from his new collection of new and selected poems, “The Naked Prince,” South Carolinian poet, Ben Greer, brings to my mind the faith we have in words, even as he contemplates the comforts of his own faith in God.

Ease
By Ben Greer

Sometimes my prayers are short
they stop above my head
and God must bend to lift
the ones which I have pled
not nearly hard enough.

But when I think again
about my little pleas
is it some kind of sin
to offer them with ease?

I’m getting old, not long to live.
I hold my life above a sieve.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Ben Greer, "Ease" from The Naked Prince, New and Selected Poems, (Press 53, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Permissions Company, LLC and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

In many cul­tur­al tra­di­tions, an encounter with an owl at night is an omi­nous sign.

But here, in a poem by recent Shel­ley Memo­r­i­al Award win­ner, Arthur Sze, (first pub­lished in 1982), there is a won­der­ful trans­for­ma­tion from the pur­ple of dusk to the green of dawn that cap­tures a moment of pure opti­mism in this strange and decid­ed­ly mag­i­cal noc­tur­nal encounter between the poet and an owl.

The Owl
By Arthur Sze

The path was purple in the dusk.
I saw an owl, perched,
on a branch.

And when the owl stirred, a fine dust
fell from its wings. I was
silent then. And felt

the owl quaver. And at dawn, waking,
the path was green in the
May light.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Arthur Sze, “The Owl” from The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems, (Copper Canyon 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of Permissions Company, LLC and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

The “Apart & Connected” exhibit at the Middletown Art Center in Middletown, California. Photo by Jacque Adams.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Now on view at The Middletown Art Center, “Apart & Connected” is an exhibition showcasing artwork in a wide array of media, from paintings in oil, wax, and acrylic on canvas, to sculpted clay vessels with various functions.

Works in the collection reflect common themes: feelings of change, isolation, new directions, and human connection.

The gallery space is energized by bright monumental paintings harmonizing with felted forms alongside the ceramic sculptures, whose heavy-weight and purposeful-shape give feelings of grounding and stability.

Be sure to catch the exhibit by June 20 when it closes.

Ceramic work on exhibit in “Apart & Connected” range in function, size, surface, and intention. The common thread is the material and the flame.

“Our materials are from the earth,” said Jacque Adams, current resident at Cobb Mountain Art & Ecology Project, or CMAEP. “Clay and wood are the bare essentials that create vast results in the firing.”

Multiple ceramic artists participating in the exhibit are associated with CMAEP, founded by Scott Parady.

The project hosts an artists-in-residence program that provides opportunities for cooperative moments amongst artists.

Practicing and professional ceramicists come from around the country, working alongside Parady to care for the land, create new projects and utilize the ample studio space and kilns. To learn more about Cobb Mountain Art & Ecology Project visit www.cobbartandecology.org.

Biannually, CMAEP artists join together as a team to fire a 250-cubic foot Anagama kiln for a total of 12 days using a mixture of hard and soft-wood sourced from the property. The large-capacity kiln bestows various surface results throughout different zones in the kiln’s chamber.

Surface variations can be observed from piece to piece within the exhibition; some vessels became overly saturated in wood ash, which melted and became glaze, other vessels which received just as much ash, but not the highest temperature, are finished with a harder texture of un-melted ash along the form.

Every firing gives a different result, due to where the work is placed in the chamber and how the team fires the kiln.

“Our end-result is heavily dependent on one another, which is unique for art-making. This distinct quality attracts us to wood firing and the community keeps us coming back,” said Adams.

Vessels in the exhibit showcase the wide range of textures, color and artistic approaches that can result from such a laborious firing and diverse group of artists.

The presence of these varying clay vessels reinforms the themes of “Apart & Connected” through process and materiality. Viewing the work in person is highly encouraged, as it allows for details unseen to the camera lens.

“Apart & Connected” will be on view through June 20 at the Middletown Art Center. The gallery is open five days a week, Thursday through Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

MAC activities are in full swing. To find out more about upcoming events, programs, opportunities and ways to support the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County visit them at www.middletownartcenter.org​.



‘CRUELLA’ RATED PG-13

The setting of “Cruella” begins in the mid-1960 and finds its footing in 1970s London amid the punk rock era, which is befitting for its titular character, a young grifter named Estella (Emma Stone) determined to make her mark in the fashion world with a subculture flair.

As opposed to our familiarity with “101 Dalmatians,” a divergent origin story is at the heart of “Cruella,” where we learn that a very young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) endured a tough childhood and became an orphan who made her way to London.

Her two-tone black and white hair sets Estella apart from everyone else, but she finds dodgy soul mates in a pair of London pickpockets, Jasper (Joel Fry) and goofy Horace (Paul Walker Hauser), who become her accomplices in petty crimes and then on a grander scale.

Taking a low-wage janitorial job at a posh department store, Estella seeks to work her way into an apprentice position with the haughty fashion designer Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson).

After landing a dream design job, Estella becomes increasingly resentful of the abusive Baroness, morphing into her alter ego of Cruella to engage in an ingenious bit of fashion terrorism that seeks to disrupt her boss’ hold on a lofty perch as the sartorial trendsetter.

More disturbing is a revelation of the real source of Cruella’s discontent and resentment of the Baroness. While Cruella moves to a dark side which makes her naughty if not an incipient anti-hero, it’s the Baroness who is a hands-down evil tyrant.

There is a rooting interest in Cruella’s fashion escapades that are designed like a commando operation to upstage the Baroness, whether during a gala costume ball or the unveiling of a new line of haute couture.

Abetted by the media circus that chronicles her impromptu fashion shows, in part due to the interest of journalist Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Cruella revels in flamboyant antics that unsettle the cold exterior of the Baroness.

Motivated by revenge for reasons ultimately disclosed, Cruella’s ambition is not just to take the fashion world by storm, but to emerge on top in a contest of energetic verbal jousts and one-upmanship with the icy Baroness.

“Cruella” has plenty to offer most audiences, from a great soundtrack of the period, ranging from the funk band Ohio Players to punk rock The Clash to the broad range of Nina Simone, to the visual appeal of elaborate costumes and sets.

On the whole, “Cruella” is a campy adventure that savors the naughtiness of its titular character and those in her orbit. It’s pure fun and thankfully lacks animal cruelty, though Cruella has good reason to dislike Dalmatians.

Cruella claims late in the story that she’s “brilliant, born bad and a little bit mad.” Add to that the mid-credits scene and Cruella saying she’s got a few ideas about the future, and this may not be the last we’ve seen of Emma Stone vamping it up as a Disney villain.

ABC TV PREVIEW

During its recent Upfront presentation, FOX claimed to be the number one network for the second year in a row.

ABC has released their 2021-22 season prime-time schedule, asserting it holds the top spot of the entertainment networks among adults 18-49 for the second year in a row.

There is likely minimal, if any, interest among viewers as to where a network stands in the ratings. All we care about is investing time in new or ongoing series that hold our attention.

For the fall season, ABC has announced two new series. “Queens” is about four estranged and out-of-touch women in their 40s who reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had as the Nasty Bitches, a ‘90s group that made them legends in the hip-hop world.

“Queens” stars Eve as Brianna aka Professor Sex, Naturi Naughton as Jill aka Da Thrill, Nadine Velazquez as Valeria aka Butter Pecan, Brandy as Naomi aka Xplicit Lyrics, as well as Taylor Sele as Eric Jones and Pepi Sonuga as Lil Muffin.

Inspired by the beloved award-winning series of the same name, “The Wonder Years” is a coming-of-age story set in the late 1960s that takes a nostalgic look at a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, through the point of view of 12-year-old Dean (Elisha “EJ” Williams).

With the wisdom of his adult years, Dean’s hopeful and humorous recollections show how his family found their “wonder years” in a turbulent time. “The Wonder Years” stars Don Cheadle, narrating the series as adult Dean Williams.

While two midseason series, “Abbott Elementary” and “Maggie,” are in the works, the most consequential limited series to come most likely early in 2022 is “Women of the Movement,” shining a light on Emmett Till’s mother and her search for justice for the vicious killing of her son.

The tragedy of 14-year-old African-American Emmett’s brutal torture and murder during the Jim Crow era in 1955 Mississippi galvanized the Civil Rights movement. Adrienne Warren stars as Mamie Till-Mobley and Cedric Joe as Emmett Till.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

4Dec
12.04.2021 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Festival of Trees
6Dec
12.06.2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
7Dec
12.07.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
9Dec
12.09.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
11Dec
12.11.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks
11Dec
12.11.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Steele
11Dec
13Dec
12.13.2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
14Dec
12.14.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
16Dec
12.16.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown

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