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"We said it before, and we can say it again: Over the past decade, the arts in this city have changed considerably, and largely for the better.”

Those words began the Scene’s 2003 Winter Arts Preview nearly a decade ago, but they ring even truer today, and they say a lot about how fortunate we are to live in a city that — despite burst housing bubbles, crashing stock markets and rising economic instability — seems to be perennially on the upswing.

As laid forth in the Scene’s Year in Music issue last month, 2011 was a watershed year for what Rolling Stone has deemed the country’s best music scene — a designation that would have seemed laughable a decade ago. And as we look ahead to the season’s offerings in the rest of the arts, it seems like the perfect time for Nashville culture lovers to do a little gratitude check, and to put in perspective just how far we’ve come.

It wasn’t all that long ago that some of us here at the Scene bemoaned Nashville’s arts scene for being too safe and provincial. In that context, last year was nothing short of mind-boggling: The top-notch Nashville Symphony and the ever-adventurous Alias Chamber Ensemble earned Grammy nominations. Our beloved arthouse The Belcourt had its best year ever, with a record box office and exceptional programming. Two young impresarios with little drama experience, Marshall Weber and Cody De Vos (aka Husky Jackal), staged one of the most imaginative, entertaining and well-attended theatrical productions in years, Terminator the Second. Nashville authors were on fire, with critically acclaimed new books from Ann Patchett, Adam Ross, Ruta Sepetys, Daniel Sharfstein, Lorraine Lopez, Holly Tucker and Victoria Schwab. And local visual art institutions hosted some exceptional shows, including the Frist Center’s Warhol exhibit; Tennessee State Museum’s Howard Finster retrospective; Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery’s Bestia contra Bestia/Beast vs. Beast, featuring the stunning fantastical photography of José Luis Raymond; and Zeitgeist’s fabulous Wayne White/Kurt Wagner show.

And judging from the upcoming winter offerings, 2012 should be just as strong. Former Tennessee Titan Eddie George takes the title role in Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Julius Caesar. Nashville Symphony tackles John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony, while Alias debuts a recently commissioned French horn work by Kenji Bunch. Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema screens a particularly strong schedule for its popular International Lens series, while the Belcourt explores all things Marilyn. And authors including Robert K. Massie,Wells Tower and Robert Goolrick speak at venues such as Vanderbilt, Chapter 16’s Salon@615 series at the downtown library and Parnassus Books, the new bookstore from author Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes.

It’s because of these heady times that the Scene is launching its new arts and culture blog, Country Life. Starting today, it will provide a forum for all things concerning the city’s aesthetic life, from gallery openings and classical concerts to books, film, theater and fashion. Whether the topic is graffiti, tattoos or architectural oddities, expect Country Life to explore the Nashville beyond the honky-tonks and country clubs.

Meanwhile, the Frist is preparing to open one of the most significant exhibits in its history: Fairy Tales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination, which runs from Feb. 24 through May 28. The brainchild of Frist curator Mark Scala, the exhibit examines the intersection of art, fairy tales, science and myth, and features work by more than 20 renowned contemporary artists including Meghan Boody, Kiki Smith, Tom Sachs, Marcel Dzama, Cindy Sherman, Trenton Doyle Hancock and Patricia Piccinini. Scala began planning Fairy Tales years ago, even before Paint Made Flesh, the well-received show he curated for the Frist in 2009.

The Scene’s Laura Hutson recently sat down with Scala to discuss the upcoming exhibit:

The Patricia Piccinini piece, “The Long Awaited,” seems to be the show’s signature image. Tell me about it.
We really love this image, and every time I show it to anyone, they love it too. Really, Patricia Piccinini was one of the inspirations for the show to begin with. When I first started seeing her work back in 2002 or 2003, it struck me as really compelling that she works with ideas related to genetic engineering, to cloning, to the latest medicine and research having to do with the human body. But the language that she’s using is not a language that makes you think of the future. It’s a language that’s inherited from the past. “The Long Awaited” brings to mind children’s stories, or the kind of creature that would have been conceived of in Greek mythology. It seems like Piccinini is harkening back to these earlier ideas, and the question is, “How do you imagine a new kind of body?” That became the whole premise of the exhibit.

It seems like there’s a lot of structural work, a lot of sculpture. Was that a conscious departure from Paint Made Flesh?
There’s sculpture, video, photography, painting, film — every major art form is represented. It’s not really meant as any kind of conscious departure from painting per se — there are paintings in this show too. What was interesting about Paint Made Flesh is that so many people who were painters around the world, and who had seen the catalog or heard about the show, had assumed that I’m somehow an apologist for painting. And I’m not. That was what that show was about, and I think painting is as viable an art form as anything. I don’t think it’s dead by any means. But I’m not a soldier for the army of painting.

click to enlarge "Little Miss Muffet," Paula Rego
  • "Little Miss Muffet," Paula Rego

So what is the unifying idea of Fairy Tales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination?
Well, there’s the idea of hybridization, which is such a catchword these days, but it really seems to make sense in this context. Our Judeo-Christian heritage sort of argues for human exceptionalism, that humanity somehow needs to rise above its animal properties, and when it doesn’t, then the depictions of Satan or witches are very bestial. So we have that tradition. And then we have the rationalist, the scientific tradition. And then in the 1980s and 1990s, DNA research and people realizing that the difference between you and me and a baboon is infinitesimal. There’s an idea that, genetically speaking, we’re very much like the animals that we talk about.

Do you feel like that gives the show a tension that’s specific to Nashville? Because of the Vanderbilt community, we have a lot of scientists, but we’re also right in the middle of the Bible Belt. Not that one has to contradict the other, but I’ve noticed a lot of science-based art in Nashville, and I often wonder if that dichotomy plays into people’s creative process.
I don’t know. I’ve spoken to some scientists about this show, and at least one person has said, “This is all just about superstitions.” And I think that if you’re a very religious person you might say the same thing. This is all about the dark age of humanity, where if you didn’t know something you would make up some sort of animal or beast or something to embody the thing you didn’t know. But the more you know, the more light is shed on the mysteries of life, and the less need there is to invent or create these things. So I understand that position, and I don’t disagree with that position. But the interesting thing is that science itself is no longer understood to be a completely linear process. My father is a scientist, and we spoke about the importance of intuition, of imagination. I think that most scientists would acknowledge that imagination is important. Before you can enter into an experiment you have to imagine what it could be.

Your father was a scientist? That’s an interesting detail that must have influenced your outlook on things, and this exhibit in particular.
I don’t know if it influenced this exhibit so much as it led me to think more about the relationship between rationality and irrationality, and the role that art plays in this constant conversation. No matter how rationally one can understand and explain art, unless it is used in a very instrumental purpose like propaganda, art is, at essence, a kind of communication that goes beyond reason. This is where the interest in science lies.

When did you start working on the exhibit?
2008.

Was there a specific spark that inspired you? Was it seeing Piccinini’s work, or something else?
I’ve been thinking for a long time about our relationship with animals. Ages ago I conceived of a show that I never did that was called Animals Are People, Too. The whole idea of exploring anthropomorphism and animal imagery as a metaphor for human behavior is something that had been with me for quite some time. It was triggered by Piccinini, and also some of the work from Paint Made Flesh: the last gallery, especially the work of Wangechi Mutu, and how she uses composite bodies, so that kind of helped propel me to this line of thinking. One project leads to another, and this will hopefully lead to another.

In some ways it was an extension of Paint Made Flesh. That show was about using paint as a tangible corollary to the stuff of the body, but also a corollary to the psychological conditions of the mind. This exhibit is much more about the invented body. Why do we invent bodies? Why do we imagine other types of bodies than the ones that we have, and why have we done that throughout history? And what if, instead of just imagining an anthropomorphic creature, what if we could actually make one? What language would we use? What would we think about? What fears, desires, hopes, visions would they represent for us?

It’s interesting that we have this sort of historical view of parables and fairy tales, things like dragons and unicorns and minotaurs and things, and we dismiss it, like people in the past used to believe in weird things. But we’re still telling the same stories. If someone mined our culture for what we watch or think about or believe, it’s still that. It’s never really left.
It is interesting. I don’t know if you saw last year’s Red Riding Hood, or Shrek, for example. We tell those stories in quotations, and they’re mostly tongue-in-cheek. But I think that we’re creating our own new stories that are at times inspired by those stories, but that are complex and difficult and paradoxical and challenging, that are not necessarily Little Red Riding Hood rewarmed, but the person mining our culture would see that we create our own mythologies to match our times. The things that we create are oftentimes rooted in deeper mythologies, but they also can have a type of language that is distinctive to this moment.


VISUAL ART

If variety is the spice of life, 
Nashville’s winter art 
offerings are red-hot

By Laura Hutson and Joe Nolan

"Rock Bottom," David Hilliard
  • "Rock Bottom," David Hilliard

Zeitgeist Gallery
Exhibit Your Symptom (Through Jan. 28)

The Frist’s contemporary art exhibit will be the backbone of art in Nashville this year, but Zeitgeist’s first show of 2012 will probably be its heart. Some of the best Nashville contemporary artists are showing, and if you only see one gallery show this winter, this should be it. It works like a primer for area artists at the top of their game, including Caroline Allison, Patrick DeGuira, John Donovan, Richard Feaster, Brady Haston, Alicia Henry, Vesna Pavlovic, Greg Pond, Megan Lightell, Hans Schmitt-Matzen, Terry Rowlett, Brent Stewart, Lain York and Manuel Zeitlin. —LH

Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Gallery
Izel Vargas (Jan 9-Feb. 9), Lauren Kussro (Feb. 13-March 22), Karen Bondarchuk (March 26-May 14)

Vargas grew up on the U.S.-Mexican border, and his mixed-media paintings feature imagery borrowed from the experience of living in a space where two worlds collide. Kussro’s paper-flower sculptures and lamps will be familiar to gallerygoers who’ve seen her work at Twist Gallery in the Arcade. She’s obsessed with the virtue of formal beauty for its own sake, and we’re curious to see how she exhibits in a noncommercial space like Sarratt. Bondarchuk is a Michigan artist whose latest sculptures are inspired by John Marzluff and Tony Angell’s book In the Company of Crows and Ravens. —JN

The Arts Company
The South Through Eight Lenses & a Code (Through Feb. 24)

A show of photography featuring work that presents eight diverse perspectives on Southern life, The South Through Eight Lenses & a Code includes work by members of the SouthLight Salon: Chuck Arlund, Jerry Atnip, Nick Dantona, David Robert Farmerie, Robert McCurley, Mark Mosrie, Jerry Park and Pierre Vreyen. The titular code refers to the inclusion of scannable QR codes that allow viewers to explore expanded information accompanying the various images. In conjunction with the exhibit, The Arts Company will host an intriguing series of Salon Saturdays — see theartscompany.com for details. —JN

Cumberland Gallery
Without Borders (Jan 7-Feb. 11)
Andrew Winn and Tim McDowell (Feb. 18- March 31)

Without Borders is a group show by gallery artists including unframed work hung in a salon style. While Borders will include some unframed canvases, it is primarily a show of works on paper, and includes work by Kit Reuther, Bryan Harrington, Don Gilbert, Greg Gummersall, Barry Buxkamper, and gallery newcomer Jesse Shaw. In February, Cumberland will host a two-artist show featuring McDowell, a painter and printmaker whose figurative work includes natural imagery ranging from microscopic molecules to plants and animals, and Winn, whose acrylic paintings straddle the line between narrative paintings with architectural elements and purely geometric abstracts. —JN

Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery
The Arts of Japan (Jan. 12-Feb. 26)

This exhibition at Vanderbilt University’s Fine Arts Gallery serves dual purposes — as recognition of the 25th anniversary of the school’s Asian American Student Association, and as a showcase for some of the more than 1,300 objects that make up the gallery’s collection of Japanese fine and applied arts, including screen paintings, ceramics, rare books and ukiyo-e, a form of Japanese woodblock printing. —JN

Vanderbilt’s Space 204
Eric Ehrnschwender: By Self and Others (Jan. 12-Feb. 17)

Space 204 was one of the best galleries in the city last year, and we can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring. Ehrnschwender works in ceramics, and his figurative pieces in this show were developed during the artist’s recent residency program in Reykjavik, Iceland. A Vanderbilt alumnus, Ehrnschwender attended the residency on the heels of winning the university’s Hamblet award, which provided the artist with a year of research and travel. —JN

Watkins College of Art, Design & Film
Visiting Artists Series: Natalia Almada (Jan. 26), David Hilliard (Feb. 9) and Harrell Fletcher (March 29)

Watkins began its most ambitious visiting artist series to date last fall with Artemio Rodriguez’s talk on his printmaking background, which included his childhood in Mexico and a truly amazing printed-up car — and there was a packed house. The series continues through the spring, with talks by Almada, a documentary filmmaker who takes on challenging, sometimes controversial issues like immigration reform, border issues and human rights; Hilliard, a photographer whose work exists somewhere between autobiography and fiction; and Fletcher, an interdisciplinary artist concerned with socially engaged collaborations and interactive projects.(An exhibit of Hilliard’s work will hang in Watkins’ Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Gallery Feb. 9-March 2.) —LH

Twist
Steve Ward (Feb. 4-25)
Meredith Setser (March 3-31)

Ward is new to oil painting, but not to art. The artist took his MFA in printmaking and taught drawing and art theory for a decade at Middle Tennessee State University. His most recent work is a series of narrative paintings that take reports of UFO abductions as their jumping-off point. The work recalls science-fiction comic books, and the aesthetics of some of these paintings would look right at home on a Philip K. Dick first edition. Meredith Setser is primarily a printmaker, but her most interesting work utilizes print elements in sprawling, organic installations perfectly suited to Twist. —JN

Seed Space
CSArt Reception (Feb. 10)

Seed Space’s CSArt project was one of last year’s most groundbreaking art experiments. Gallery director Adrienne Outlaw used the model of community-supported agriculture to distribute original works by local artists to the community. In order to maintain the works’ value, the works were kept closely under wraps until now. The reception will feature pieces by Vesna Pavlovic, Derek Coté, Emily Leonard, Ryan Hogan and Mike Calway-Fagen. Hopefully, it’s also the beginning of an invigorated relationship between local artists and a supportive community. LH

Threesquared
Strong in the Broken Places: New Work by Jodi Hays (Feb. 11-26)

To call Hays’ paintings landscapes probably isn’t be the best way to describe them, but it’s not inaccurate. She uses images of construction fences, festoons and caution tape minus the actual landscape, which remains only through implication — kind of like a temporary map of a place that’s in transition. In the same way that blueprints stand in for a building before it’s built, but are really no more than ink on paper, Hays’ works break down a place to its bare essentials. The new paintings in her show at Threesquared, curated by Sara Estes, are just as aesthetically pleasing as the traditional Japanese woodblocks you’ll see at Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery this season, but with a distinctively contemporary sentiment. —LH

Ovvio Arte
Garland Gallaspy: Tender Moments (Opening Feb. 16)

Garland Gallaspy is a rowdy exhibitionist who’s at all the right parties, and with all the right substances in tow. He’s taken to bringing along Polaroid cameras wherever he goes, and the stories those snapshots tell will either scare or seduce you, depending on whether you think public urination, morning drinking and hilarious nudity have a rightful place in visual art. He’s self-published a book that documents all these exploits and more, and this exhibit at Ovvio Arte will feature some of those images, as well as several new additions. The quantity and variety of work is just as excessive as the behavior of its subjects, who are in turn beautiful, debased, innocent and absolutely filthy. —LH

Belmont’s Leu Gallery
Lindsey Bailey’s Deliciously Happy (Opening Feb. 29)

Bailey straddles two worlds in her creative work, bringing traditional crafting techniques into fine art spaces in the form of elaborate, colorful installations and costumes. The artist collaborated with school kids for this performance and installation at Belmont, and she funded the show by raising more than $4,000 through a recent Kickstarter campaign. We predict this February show — drawing on talented youngsters from Bordeaux Elementary, LEAD Academy and University School of Nashville — will be something like Pee-Wee Herman hosting a ’60s-style happening. —JN

Cheekwood Museum of Art
Mathilde Roussel: Anatomia Botanica (March 24-May 13)
Hans Schmitt-Matzen: Cross-Reference (March 24-May 27)

In March, Cheekwood will open the inaugural exhibition of their new Martin Shallenberger artist-in-residence program. Anatomia Botanica, a site-specific installation by French artist Roussel, is the first product of this collaboration. Working with natural outdoor elements and the landscaping and gardens of the Cheekwood grounds, Roussel’s work references botanical and anatomical drawings, creating human/plant hybrid forms that ask questions about our interconnectedness with the natural world. Viewers who’ve seen Schmitt-Matzen and his collaborator Gieves Anderson’s recent work at Zeitgeist Gallery will recognize the ongoing exploration of library spaces in Cross-Reference, showing in Cheekwood’s Temporary Contemporary gallery. This time, though, Schmitt-Matzen will be on his own. The centerpiece of the show will be one single painting made up of 53 panels that will cover the 28-foot-wide back wall of the TC Gallery. —JN


THEATER

What do you get when you cross a former Tennessee Titan, Kabuki and church hats? Why, the 2012 winter theater season, of course!

By Martin Brady

From left: Brian Webb Russell, Eddie George and Eric D. Pasti in Julius Caesar
  • From left: Brian Webb Russell, Eddie George and Eric D. Pasti in Julius Caesar

Spring is the season most often associated with renewal, but it could be that after all the holiday stress, some of us might need rejuvenation of a more immediate nature. Fortunately, Nashville’s theater and dance community has been cooking up some sweet, savory and inspirational New Year’s goodies, from refurbished classics to issues-oriented dramas, from challenging premieres to locally penned originals — and of course, musicals. With that in mind, we’ve culled some of the highlights of the forthcoming season, to help you shake off those winter blues.

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a play that pretty much belongs to Brutus and Cassius and Mark Antony. Still, all the action swirls around the title character, and Nashville Shakespeare Festival drives that point home with a new mounting featuring Tennessee Titans football great Eddie George as the Roman leader who meets a bloody demise. George has acted previously on a Nashville stage or two, and his post-NFL life includes numerous radio and TV appearances as a commentator. Beki Baker directs, and she has a worthy legion of veteran players surrounding her star actor, including Brian Webb Russell, David Compton and Eric D. Pasto-Crosby. Jan. 12-29 at Belmont University’s Troutt Theater

Nashville Children’s Theatre also gets out of the starting gate with some serious drama. The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 goes back in time via multimedia enhancements to tell the tale of a Michigan family road-tripping straight into one of the most shocking moments in American history: the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. Director Scot Copeland’s cast includes Jessica Kuende, Shawn Whitsell, Patrick James, Nikkita Staggs, David Chattam, Aleta Myles, Tony Morton and Jacqueline Springfield. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Jan. 17-Feb. 12 at Nashville Children’s Theatre

Hats off to Christ Church Cathedral , whose Sacred Space for the City Arts Series is gearing up for Crowns , an intriguing gospel musical by Regina Taylor. The script is based on Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry’s book of photographs and interviews exploring the role of the church hat as a symbolic crown and means of expression. The monologues and musical numbers are under the co-direction of Ted Swindley and Mary McCallum, with musical direction by Randy Craft. Cast members include Tamiko Robinson, Theola Futch, Dajuana Hammond, LaToya Gardner, Charletta Jordan, Naeandria Callihan and Nick Oldham. Jan. 26-27 and Feb. 9-10 at Christ Church Cathedral

The ambitious Blackbird Theater takes a serious bite out of the American musical apple with a challenging and very rare mounting of Pacific Overtures , Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s unusual 1976 opus concerning Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 mission to open trade relations with then-isolationist Japan. The creators’ blend of conventional theatrical form with Kabuki theater was a controversial proposition from the get-go, so it’ll be interesting to see how well this piece’s deliberate style and experimental score have aged over more than 35 years. Blackbird co-founders Wes Driver and Greg Greene share directorial duties, and the large cast features Travis Brazil as The Reciter, a role originated on Broadway by late renowned Japanese actor Mako. Other notable players include Nancy Allen, Tyson Laemmel, Chris Bosen, Joann Coleman and Mike Baum. The musical director is Benjamin van Diepen. Feb. 2-18 at Lipscomb University’s Shamblin Theater

Tennessee Repertory Theatre brings in the new year with a rumination on bad behavior. Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning God of Carnage — recently made into a film directed by Roman Polanski (see the review) — explores what happens when two playmates at the park work out their differences with physical force, and then their parents sit down to discuss the matter … like adults. The results are scathingly funny, but also shine a light on the tenuous constraints of politeness. René Copeland directs a worthy cast — David Alford, Jeff Boyet, Shannon Hoppe and Shelean Newman — in this sharp examination of human nature and contemporary manners. This is the Nashville premiere. Feb. 4-18 at TPAC’s Johnson Theater; reviews begin Feb. 2

Based on the 2008 Tony Award-winning Lincoln Center revival, the TPAC -bound touring production of South Pacific recaptures all the Broadway Golden Age brilliance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s World War II tale of U.S. naval personnel and South Pacific islanders. Based on the stories of James A. Michener, the show supplies a boatload of reminders why R&H were the greatest theatrical co-write team ever: “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “Happy Talk,” “A Wonderful Guy,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger Than Springtime.” Plus a song like “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” helps reinforce the authors’ prominent stance on tolerance. It’s always been a flat-out robust and romantic opus, and the scuttlebutt on this one says it’s a winner. Feb. 7-12 at TPAC’s Jackson Hall

Yet another local premiere should pique theatergoers’ interest as Boiler Room Theatre presents the musical Xanadu . Based on the 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, this stage version — book by Douglas Carter Beane, music and lyrics by ELO legend Jeff Lynne and John Farrar — survived on Broadway for a year-and-a-half after its 2007 opening. It strives to offer all-ages entertainment, not to mention hilarity on roller skates — and how that will work in the intimate BRT venue may be the most intriguing aspect of the production. The score is filled with pop hits, including “Magic,” “All Over the World,” “Suddenly,” “I’m Alive,” “Evil Woman” and “Have You Never Been Mellow.” Feb. 10-March 10 at The Factory at Franklin

click to enlarge Vali Forrister in The House of Bernarda Alba
  • Vali Forrister in The House of Bernarda Alba

Other Shows of Note:

Master Class, Jan. 20-28 at Darkhorse Theater
Terrence McNally’s 1995 portrait of opera legend Maria Callas, as she challenges students to make the great sacrifices required to have a life in art. Pat Rulon is the diva, and Dan McGeachy directs for ACT I.

Kiss Me, Kate, Feb. 2-18 at Keeton Theatre
Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew meets the sophisticated melodies of the great Cole Porter in this Broadway favorite. The familiar score includes “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” “Wunderbar,” “So in Love,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” Kate Adams-Johnson directs.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Feb. 2-12 at Street Theatre Company
Lighthearted musical look at relationships starring Megan Murphy Chambers, Bakari King, Michael Kitts and Cathy Street.

Cloud Gate 2, Feb. 4 at Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium
The Great Performances at Vanderbilt series imports Taiwan’s leading contemporary dance ensemble. 

Salsa Dreams, Feb. 10-12 at TPAC’s Polk Theater
Nashville Ballet’s winter series mixes three popular pieces, including the titular ballet, driven by the live salsa music of Lalo Davila y Amigos. Cryin’ Out features music performed by songwriter Gary Nicholson. Lastly, the company revives Aaron Copland’s historic Billy the Kid. With children in mind, the ballet is also offering a single Feb. 11 performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

 Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, Feb.10-19 at Lamplighter’s Theatre Company
The Smyrna-based theater company has previously mounted Paula K. Parker’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and now brings to the stage Parker’s adaptation of another beloved Austen work. 

Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia, Feb. 15 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center
This Medellin, Colombia-based company mixes classical and contemporary ballet styles to relate the story of country’s vibrant cultural traditions. A colorful and exuberant journey through one of South America’s most enchanting lands. 

The House of Bernarda Alba, Feb. 17-26 at Belmont University’s Troutt Theater
Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca’s last play concerns an aging Spanish woman who dominates her five daughters. Both repression and passion are explored in the notable absence of male characters. Vali Forrister stars in the Actors Bridge Ensemble production.

Tommy in Concert, Feb. 22-26 at Street Theatre Company
The Who’s classic rock album performed as a part of STC’s continuing series of stage works in concert.

The Miracle Worker, Feb. 23-March 4 at the Franklin Theatre
The accomplished Studio Tenn Theatre Company, based in Franklin, takes on William Gibson’s enduring classic about the young Helen Keller.

The Disappearance of Janey Jones, Feb. 24-March 11 at Looby Theatre 
Tennessee Women’s Theatre Project artistic director Maryanna Clarke once again draws from our neighbors to the north (Canada, that is) to find a script worthy of a regional premiere. Jennifer Fawcett’s play is about depression, family and the past, and asks probing questions about the state of mental illness in modern society.

Spirit of Uganda, Feb. 25 at Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium
Another entry in Vandy’s Great Performances series, Spirit of Uganda features 22 youthful performers who use percussion, movement and call-and-response vocals to share the story of their wartorn nation. 

La Belle et la Bete, Feb. 28-March 18 at Nashville Children’s Theatre
NCT artistic director Scot Copeland adapts the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. The strong cast features Eric Pasto-Crosby, Marin Miller, Chip Arnold, Peter Vann, Jamie Farmer and Cori Anne Laemmel.

Julius Caesar, Feb. 29 at Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium
Another take on the Bard’s tale of power politics, presented by The Acting Company, a foremost touring classical theater company. An entry in the Great Performances at Vanderbilt series.

Unconditional, March 2-10 at Darkhorse Theater
Playwright Myra Anderson returns to a Nashville stage with one of her originals — an unflinching look at life on the streets, specifically under an elevated train bridge in Chicago. The GroundWorks Theatre cast features Lauren Shakespeare, John Silvestro, Adele Akin and others. Mature themes. 

Brighton Beach Memoirs, March 2-18, Circle Players at Keeton Theatre
Neil Simon’s 1983 coming-of age comedy concerns a colorful yet dysfunctional Jewish-American family in Brooklyn. Johnny Peppers directs. 

Potty Talk — Number Two, March 16-24 at Darkhorse Theater
Rhubarb Theater Company artistic director Trish Crist’s original play is a sequel to 2009’s Potty Talk, and features the previous show’s five original cast members (Laurel Baker, Robyn Berg, Jervon Dailey, Wesley Paine and Lisa Marie Wright), plus one (male) newcomer.

Superior Donuts, March 17-31 at TPAC’s Johnson Theater
The Rep stages the Tennessee premiere of Tracy Letts’ tale of an unlikely friendship that emerges in the most unexpected of places — a downtrodden Chicago doughnut shop. The strong cast features David Compton, Henry Haggard, Shelean Newman, Joe Robinson, Jon Royal and Brian Webb Russell. Lauren Shouse directs.


BOOKS

From the halls of academe to bookstores, libraries to dive bars, Nashville in 2012 is looking stellar for the written and spoken word

By Steve Haruch

click to enlarge Wells Tower
  • Wells Tower

Around this time last year, we were lamenting the loss of a local bookselling institution and wondering what would fill the vacuum. Now we’re celebrating the lack of a vacuum — our literary scene doesn’t suck! And we’re not alone: The opening of Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes’ Parnassus Books in Green Hills in November drew the attention of The New York Times, among the many outlets to take note. (Tin House published an appreciation penned by Nashville novelist Adam Ross, in which he notes, “Hayes and Patchett are thrilled: Parnassus has already far exceeded initial sales projections. More satisfyingly, the city’s goodwill has floored both.”) Add to that the Humanities Tennessee brainchild Salon@615 — arguably the biggest and best new literary series to hit Music City in recent memory — and the opening of the new joint Barnes and Noble/Vanderbilt bookstore and you’ve got some seriously good news for word persons.

Vanderbilt University is more than holding up its end of the bargain, too, bringing an impressive range of writers to Nashville in 2012. This Thursday, Jan. 12 , brings a reading by daring fiction writer Wells Tower , author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned and some of the most adventurous journalism you’re likely to read (7 p.m., Buttrick Hall 101; see Critics’ Picks). On Jan. 19 , poet, essayist and cultural critic Lewis Hyde will speak on what he calls the “cultural commons” — the sprawling collection of ideas, innovations and works of art that comprise our cultural inheritance — which are the subject of his latest book, Common as Air (4 p.m. at Wilson Hall 115). Later the same day (and on the same campus), acclaimed writer Lorrie Moore , author of Self-Help, Anagrams, Like Life and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? will read from her evocative, artful and disquieting fiction as part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series (7 p.m. at the Jean and Alexander Heard Library Community Room). Look for more VU events below.

Salon@615 kicks off its 2012 schedule this Thursday, Jan. 12, with a reading by author Robert K. Massie (see story), and keeps things going strong with an appearance by Erin Morgenstern , author of The Night Circus, on Thursday, Jan. 26 (6:15 p.m. at Nashville Public Library’s treasure of a downtown main branch).

A retail partner for the Massie and Morgenstern readings, the aforementioned Parnassus Books is now starting to fill out its own in-store event schedule: Robert Leleux , author of The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving, leads things off at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30 . And Robert Goolrick , author of Heading Out to Wonderful, will appear at Parnassus at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 15 .

Up north of I-440, Hillsboro Village mainstay BookMan/BookWoman hosts free appraisals for rare and unusual books at 5 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The store will also be hosting numerous author events, including a Feb. 14 appearance by Mark Etheridge , author of Grievances. (The film Deadline is set to premiere the same week, and is based on Grievances.) Call 383-6555 to reserve a signed copy (5 p.m. at BookMan/BookWoman).

Meanwhile, East Nashville dive bar Dino’s has become a gathering point for a literary event of a smokier sort: Poetry Sucks! A Night of Poetry, Music and All Sorts of Bad Language has packed engaging local and visiting writers, scrappy rockers, and a laid-back vibe into a tight space — with rousing results. Nickole Brown, Jake Adam York and Janaka Stucky are among those scheduled to appear later in the year. See Critics’ Picks for a rundown of this week’s lineup.

click to enlarge Lorrie Moore
  • Lorrie Moore

And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a short list of other upcoming highlights:

Jan. 26: Alicia Ostriker at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.
Jan. 26: Poet’s Corner feat. Diana Ault Morningstar ; 7 p.m. at Scarritt-Bennett Center.
Jan. 28: Rosemary Zibart , author of True Brit; 1 p.m. at Parnassus Books.

Feb. 9: Bonnie Jo Campbell , fiction writer and author of the novel Once Upon a River; 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.
Feb. 16: Poets Rick Hilles and Lorraine Lopez , 7 p.m. at Wilson Hall 126, Vanderbilt University.
Feb. 23: Poet’s Corner feat. Tanya Jarrett ; 7 p.m. at Scarritt-Bennett Center.
Feb. 23: Spring Literary Symposium: Sustainability and Creative Writing, presented by Alison Hawthorne Deming and John Lane ; location TBA, Vanderbilt University.
Feb. 27: Taylor Polites , author of The Rebel Wife, 6 p.m. at Parnassus Books.

March 15: Manuel Muñoz , novelist and author of What You See in the Dark; 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.
March 23: Symposium on Poetry and Translation presented by Rick Hilles ; time TBA, Wyatt Center, Vanderbilt University.
March 24: Poetry Sucks! A Night of Poetry, Music and All Sorts of Bad Language feat. Zachary Schomburg , Janaka Stucky and Chet Weise ; 8 p.m. at Dino’s.
March 29: Elizabeth Spires , poet and author, most recently, of The Wave-Maker; 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.


FILM

Sarratt’s Independent Lens series stars in a strong lineup of winter cinema fare

By Jim Ridley

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, coming to Sarratt's International Lens series Feb. 25.
  • Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, coming to Sarratt's International Lens series Feb. 25.

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to see revival screenings of classics, the newest foreign films, cult movies and nuggets of regional and documentary cinema, there was only one theater in Nashville that showed them reliably — and it wasn’t The Belcourt in Hillsboro Village, which was playing the likes of the Mel Brooks remake of To Be or Not To Be. It was Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema , which for decades functioned as the city’s repertory theater until home video, cable and administrative indifference allowed the campus cinema to dwindle in the early 2000s.

Over the past five years, though, Sarratt has reclaimed some of its old luster, thanks to one of the best arts programs in the city: the International Lens film series, which offers free weekly screenings representing a rainbow coalition of countries and continents, typically introduced by a Vanderbilt faculty member, staffer or student with knowledge of the culture. Included this semester are films from more than 15 countries, among them both North and South Korea, and local premieres by world masters such as Portugal’s indefatigable 103-year-old Manoel de Oliveira (The Strange Case of Angelica, screening Jan. 18).

A few of the films are known quantities. An arthouse hit from the late 1990s, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s lovely After Life (Jan. 19) mixes documentary and fantasy in a celestial way station where the recently departed select the memory they’ll restage to keep for all eternity. 12 Monkeys (March 21), Terry Gilliam’s 1995 reworking of Chris Marker’s sci-fi short “La Jetée,” gives Brad Pitt one of his twitchiest character roles while anticipating the apocalyptic concerns of the new year. Speaking of which, Sarratt dusts off a pair of troubling end-times visions: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s scandalous Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Feb. 25) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s terrifying study of viral alienation Pulse (April 12).

But the majority of the selections are films unlikely to play even The Belcourt. Some are unreleased titles such as Where Are You Going Moshe? (Feb. 21), a Moroccan comedy about a bar owner desperate to hang onto his last Jewish customer, or Pardon (March 22), a Turkish tragicomedy about three friends whose lives swirl the drain when they’re mistaken for terrorists. Some are foreign-language films that simply slipped through the cracks, including The Hedgehog (March 27), the film version of Muriel Barbery’s best-seller The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Miral (April 10), the latest from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly artist-turned-director Julian Schnabel.

Perhaps most valuable, from an outreach standpoint, are the many topical documentaries studded throughout the semester. Their subjects range from the effect of the immigrant experience on black America (Kobina Aidoo’s Neo-African Americans, Feb. 10) to an organization that helps North Korean refugees escape to new lives in China at great peril (Ryan Downer’s Hiding, Feb. 16). Music figures prominently in two selections: Martin Scorsese’s The Blues: Feel Like Going Home (Feb. 7), to be introduced by its screenwriter, Vanderbilt writer-in-residence Peter Guralnick; and The Mighty Uke (Feb. 23), a paean to the ukulele revival to be hosted by Vanderbilt senior lecturer and in-demand Nashville instrumentalist Jen Gunderman.

A full schedule may be found at vanderbilt.edu. Watch the Scene each week for screening information.

click to enlarge Michael Fassbinder in Shame, opening next month at The Belcourt
  • Michael Fassbinder in Shame, opening next month at The Belcourt

• Bowing to public demand — stoked, no doubt, by the success of the current My Week With Marilyn The Belcourt has devoted its first retrospective of the year to Marilyn Monroe. Present are her iconic roles in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (Feb. 11-12) and John Huston’s The Misfits (Feb. 18-19), as well as lesser-known titles such as the Fritz Lang-Clifford Odets melodrama Clash by Night (Jan. 21-22) and Otto Preminger’s sole Western River of No Return (Jan. 28-29). The one most likely to intrigue audiences, though, is Laurence Olivier’s The Prince and the Showgirl (Feb. 4-5) — whose tortured making is My Week With Marilyn’s subject.

• The Belcourt’s first-run calendar spotlights a number of year-end awards contenders: Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in director Steve McQueen’s NC-17 sex-addiction study Shame (Jan. 20); Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey (Jan. 27); Tilda Swinton in Lynne Ramsay’s demon-seed psychological thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin (February); and one of the new year’s most talked-about movies, the devastating Iranian domestic drama A Separation (February). Watch also for a pair of acclaimed documentaries, Pianomania (Jan. 15-19) — in which a Steinway tuner goes to nerve-wracking lengths to satisfy some of the world’s most exacting concert pianists — and Dragonslayer (Jan. 18-19), a dreamy meditation on skateboarding.

• In honor of actor Jeffrey Combs and director Stuart Gordon, whose one-man Edgar Allan Poe show Nevermore is coming Jan. 19 to the Nashville Public Library, The Belcourt shows their beloved splatter epic Re-Animator at midnight Jan. 20-21. See next week’s Scene for an interview with the two. Next up at midnight: the original Fright Night (Feb. 3-4).

• Another of the city’s best screening series, ITVS Community Cinema , resumes at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Nashville Public Library with Sharon La Cruise’s Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock , a portrait of the black community leader who stood her ground in aiding the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School. Next is More Than a Month (Feb. 11), in which filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman launches a tongue-in-cheek quest to dismantle Black History Month. All screenings are free and open to the public. See library.nashville.org for a full schedule.

The Frist Center ’s film programming usually seems like an afterthought, but the spring schedule contains a pair of goodies projected on DVD: Lawrence Kasdan’s nifty 1981 neo-noir Body Heat (Jan. 20) — watch for Ted Danson as a tap-dancing lawyer — and Guillermo del Toro’s career-making fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth (March 16). All screenings are free and open to the public.


CLASSICAL

Grammy-nominated Alias and Nashville Symphony spearhead a busy winter classical season

By John Pitcher

click to enlarge Jon Kimura Parker
  • Jon Kimura Parker

“Winter is not a season,” wrote Sinclair Lewis, “it’s an occupation.” For Nashville’s classical music fans, it’s more like a labor of love, an annual avocation that compels us to attend an exhausting number of exhilarating concerts, all of which are guaranteed to warm the soul and fire the imagination.

Two of Nashville’s leading classical groups are spending the cold-weather months basking in the iridescent glow of Grammy nominations. The Nashville Symphony Orchestra was nominated in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for its recording of Joseph Schwantner’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra. The Alias Chamber Ensemble , meanwhile, received a nod in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category for its world-premiere recording of Gabriela Lena Frank’s Hilos. Not surprisingly, the NSO and Alias will both be performing adventurous contemporary American works this winter.

The highlight of the NSO’s winter season comes in February, when the orchestra, under the direction of music director Giancarlo Guerrero , performs John Adams Doctor Atomic Symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (Feb. 9-11 ). Adams, arguably America’s best-known and most successful living American composer, adapted this symphony from his 2005 opera Doctor Atomic, which deals with nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer and the testing of the first atomic bomb. The symphony features music from the opera’s overture and various interludes, as well as orchestral arrangements of important arias, such as Oppenheimer’s “Batter My Heart.” Appropriately enough, Guerrero will pair the Adams with Haydn’s Military Symphony.

Alias has long specialized in performing adventuresome new music. This season, the ensemble has been lavishing attention on American composer Kenji Bunch , whose music will be featured on an upcoming Alias disc. Alias recently commissioned a new French horn work from Bunch, which will receive its world-premiere performance at the ensemble’s March 3 concert at the Blair School of Music. The ensemble’s winter concert will showcase several other contemporary works, including Bunch’s Luminaria (2002), Stevan Tickmayer’s Three Variations on the Theme of J.S. Bach (2005), Kevin Keller’s Riding the Purple Twilight (2008) and Christopher Norton’s Open Door, Peninsula Field (2009).

Not to be outdone in the world-premiere department, the Blair String Quartet will present the first performance of American composer Michael Hersch 's new quartet From a Closed Ward on Feb. 1 7 at the Blair School of Music. Hersch found inspiration for his work from the relentlessly creative printmaker Michael Mazur’s early 1960s etchings and lithographs titled Closed Ward, which depicted the unbearable torment of inmates in a mental asylum. Following the world premiere in Nashville, the Blair String Quartet — violinists Christian Teal and Cornelia Heard , violist John Kochanowski and cellist Felix Wang — will take this work on the road, performing it this spring in Philadelphia and New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Music City Baroque prefers its music to be old and historically informed. But that doesn’t mean it’s averse to breaking new musical ground. This winter, the group will present Nashville’s first-ever period-instrument performance of J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor. Composed in bits, pieces and chunks over an extended period from 1724 to 1749, the B-minor Mass is a lofty, sublime and idealized work that attempts to summarize the grand tradition of the European Mass in a single perfect piece. Bach never heard his mighty Mass performed in its entirety during his lifetime. So Music City Baroque’s authentic rendition of the work on March 25 at St. George’s Episcopal Church is an event not to be missed — no ifs, ands or sackbuts about it.

click to enlarge Thomas Hampson
  • Thomas Hampson

Other highlights:

Jan. 20: The Blakemore Trio — pianist Amy Dorfman , violinist Carolyn Huebl and cellist Felix Wang — present the world premiere of Adam Schoenberg’s Luna Y Mar. The group will also play Haydn’s Trio No. 18 in A major and Dvorak’s Trio in F minor. Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall

Jan. 26: Baritone Thomas Hampson, one of the Metropolitan Opera’s leading stars, presents his “Song of America” project at the Blair School of Music. His recital will include the music of Copland, Barber, Ives, Hopkinson, Griffes and Thomson. Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall

Jan. 26-28: Pianist Garrick Ohlsson joins the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. In 1970, Ohlsson became the first American pianist in history to win first prize at the International Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland. Expect his interpretation of Chopin’s E-minor concerto to be as authoritative as it gets. The concert will also feature Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor. Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Feb. 23-25: Pianist Angela Hewitt performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of associate conductor Kelly Corcoran . The concert at the Schermerhorn also includes Blair School of Music alum Daniel Bernard Roumain ’s Dancers, Dreamers and Presidents and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3. Schermerhorn Symphony Center

March 8-10: Violinist Cho-Liang Lin performs Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 with Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra . Classical fans may need to break out the vodka to stay warm at this all-Russian concert, which also features Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60, “Leningrad.” Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

March 19: Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in a special concert at the Schermerhorn. Guerrero was appointed principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency last year. For its one-night stop in Nashville, the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor with pianist Gabriela Montero . Schermerhorn Symphony Center

March 29-31: Pianist Jon Kimura Parker performs Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Gilbert Varga . The orchestra will also perform Kodály’s Dances of Galänta and Franck’s Symphony in D minor. Schermerhorn Symphony Center

March 30: Pianist Craig Nies concludes his five-year survey of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier with a recital at the Blair School of Music. In addition to Bach, the concert will also include a selection of Debussy preludes to mark the 150th anniversary of the great French composer’s birth, along with a performance of Beethoven’s monumental Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier.” Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall.

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