Category Archives: Culture

Lincoln Center: Out of Doors

Tonight marks the opening of the 46th annual Lincoln Center Out of Doors cultural festival.  For three weeks there will be daily performances of music, dance, and the spoken word.  The festival is free, but seating may be limited, so attendees should arrive early—at least one hour in advance. Check the website at www.lcoutofdoors.org for additional information.

Chi-town

Millenium Park is also home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a bandshell where the Grant Park Orchestra and other bands, choirs, and theater groups perform in an open air setting. The architecture of the bandshell, as well as the  serpentine bridge nearby, is the work of Frank Gehry, the famed architect behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. His use of stainless steel has become his trademark and in this structure he created strips that appear to be pulled back by a can opener to create the opening of the stage.  There is seating for 11,000 people — 4,000 seats within the bandshell and room for another 7,000 people to sit picnic-style on blankets on the great lawn beyond the seating.  There is a trellis system of steel pipes that have speakers attached to them to carry the music out to the lawn and to create the feel that the lawn is part of the structure. I heard a choral group warming up and they looked and sounded great. This is yet another reason to return to Chi-town.

Love is Love is Love is Love . . .

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There was so much anticipation leading up to the 70th annual Tony Awards ceremony last night because of the general excitement surrounding Hamilton: the Musical and the number of awards that it was in contention to win.  Tragically, the ceremony was overshadowed by the horrific mass murder that occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning. Broadway stars had heavy hearts as they attempted to entertain the audience and collect their awards while grieving and showing respect for the victims of such a heinous attack.

Hamilton did, in fact, win many awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book, and so many others. Lin-Manuel Miranda deserved all of the accolades that came to him. He is a genius — anyone who can conceive of a rap musical about a historical figure from the eighteenth century, write the book, the score, and the lyrics must be. He came to the Tony Awards, equipped with a sonnet about love, which he most likely wrote prior to the mass shooting in Orlando but which he probably adapted in the hours before the awards ceremony began. It was the sonnet heard round the world.  Here is the full text:

My wife’s the reason anything gets done. 

She nudges me towards promise by degrees. 

She is a perfect symphony of one. 

Our son is her most beautiful reprise. 

We chase the melodies that seem to find us 

Until they’re finished songs and start to play. 

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us 

That nothing here is promised, not one day 

This show is proof that history remembers. 

We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. 

We rise and fall, and light from dying embers 

Remembrances that hope and love last longer. 

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; 

Cannot be killed or swept aside. 

I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story. 

Now fill the world with music, love, and pride. 

I can’t wait to see what this man comes up with next.  I am sure that it will be nothing short of amazing.

 

Forever The Greatest

As legend has it, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, took up boxing so that he could beat up the thief who stole his bicycle. He channeled his anger over the theft into an illustrious career as a boxer, first winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and then going on to become the most famous athlete in the world.

His career was derailed when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War on the grounds that it was in opposition to his religion. He was convicted of dodging the draft, suspended from boxing for 3 ½ years, stripped of his boxing titles, and vilified by mainstream America. He returned to the ring after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and the boxing commission reinstated him.

Muhammad Ali was undefeated but out of practice when he fought Joe Frazier in a hotly anticipated fight at Madison Square Garden, billed as the Fight of the Century of just the Fight. He lost that particular match, but went on to fight many others, including a rematch against Frazier called the Thriller in Manila, and a win against George Foreman called the Rumble in the Jungle. He probably boxed well past his prime and took too much pounding to the head that resulted in Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological impairment that left him with slurred speech, accompanied by tremors, and eventually loss of movement.  

Ali proclaimed himself The Greatest and then lived up to his own hype. In addition to his boxing prowess, he was confident, funny, witty, and caring. He was also a principled peace activist and a philanthropist. My father has always been one of his biggest fans. He proudly displays an autograph that he got from Ali, when he met him aboard a plane in the 1970’s. Ali gave autographs happily because he treated people in the way that he wished to be treated. President George W. Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon him in 2005, the highest civilian honor, calling him a ‘man of peace’ and the ‘Greatest of All Time’. RIP The Greatest

Splish Splash

Along Fifth Avenue at the entrance of Rockefeller Center, sits a very unusual site: a giant swimming pool rising upright from the sidewalk to the height of a four-story building. Unsure of why a pool might be situated along a busy stretch of Fifth Avenue, I discovered that it is not a swimming pool at all but rather a sculpture of a turquoise blue, mid-century, California-style swimming pool. The artists responsible for this sculpture are Michael Elmgreen of Denmark and Ingar Dragset of Norway, whose most well-known sculpture is Prada Marfa, a tiny replica of a Prada Store dropped in the desert 26 miles from the tiny city of Marfa, Texas (population 2000).  

Tishman Speyer, the owners of Rockefeller Center, commissioned this piece in conjunction with Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization that exhibits art in public spaces with the goal of bringing culture to a wide audience without any barriers of entry. The piece, when viewed from behind resembles an ear, so the artists decided to call it Van Gogh’s ear, named for the artist who famously cut off his own ear.

This piece will be on display until June 3, 2016 on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street.

Computer Age Couture


The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened its 2016 exhibit entitled Manus x Machina, which refers to manmade versus machine made. On exhibit are approximately 200 garments ranging from haute couture pieces that were made by hand utilizing the precise measurements of the client to contemporary pieces made for the current spring season utilizing computer technology and other machine  techniques. Typically haute couture has been identified as being more exclusive and better made than ready-to-wear and machine made garments, but the advancement of computer technology has enabled designers to use new techniques, principally 3D printers, to construct unique, contemporary garments that are every bit as exclusive as haute couture apparel. Handmade and machine-made no longer have to remain mutually exclusive of each other, but can be complementary to one another.  

This exhibit will be on display throughout the summer, so be sure to check out these works of art. 

American Psycho

British artist, Cornelia Parker, recently installed a commissioned piece of art called Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two American icons inspired this piece: an old red barn and the eerie house featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. The house, which appears to be a full building dropped in place on the rooftop, is actually just a façade like one that might be found on a movie set. Ms. Parker built the house out of reclaimed wood from a one hundred year old barn that was slated for demolition in upstate New York. The juxtaposition of this Victorian-style house against the backdrop of the New York City skyline is highly unexpected. The exhibit runs through the end of October.  

Disclaimer: I don’t know the woman in the picture, but she was wearing  a very theatrical outfit/costume, so I thought she would liven up my photograph.

Derby Day

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

The Kentucky Derby is not simply a race to determine the fastest three-year old thoroughbred horse in the country. It is an event steeped in tradition and pageantry for both the horses and the spectators. People come dressed to impress, sip Mint Juleps, and wager bets on the outcome of the race. Women wear beautiful dresses complimented by elaborate millinery (hats) and men wear coats, ties, and fedoras. Held in Louisville, Kentucky at the Churchill Downs racetrack since 1875, the Kentucky Derby otherwise known as the Running for the Roses attracts an enormous crowd with over 167,000 spectators in attendance this year and more than 16 million tuning in at home. The track is 1 1/4 miles long or, in horseracing parlance, 10 furlongs.  It may take only 2 minutes to run the race, but for breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, spectators, and bettors, it is the most exciting couple of minutes of their lives. The winner takes home a purse of $2 million, gets draped in a garland of red roses, and has the chance to win the Triple Crown if it goes on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in the following weeks. Nyquist, jockeyed by Mario Guiterrez was the horse favored to win, and he did not disappoint. He posted a time of 2:01.31 minutes, which was the 14th fastest time in the race’s 140 year history. Congratulations to Nyquist and good luck to him as he seeks the Triple Crown.

Sweet Sixteen

Photograph Courtesy of The New York Times

The phenomenon known as Hamilton has added another feather in its cap with the unprecedented number of Tony Award nominations that it received.  It was nominated for sixteen awards in all, which no other production has ever received, including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Direction, etc.   It cannot win as many awards as it was nominated for because there were multiple nominations in the Best Actor and Best Actor in a Featured Role categories and only one person can win. Nevertheless, it was a huge honor for the Hamilton writers, actors, composers, directors and other people associated with the production to receive such widespread recognition for their groundbreaking work. There were a lot of other worthy nominees from productions such as Waitress, Shuffle Along, The Crucible, Noises Off, The Color Purple, The Humans, King Charles III, School of Rock, Blackbird, and many others.  Tune in to the Tony Award Presentation on June12, at 8 PM on CBS to see who won in what categories, but more importantly make a plan to attend a Broadway show soon.  It is immensely gratifying to see great live theater.

Prince: Rock Royalty

Prince was a masterful musician, a prolific songwriter, a spectacular performer, a flamboyant dresser, and from what I have been reading about him, a tad eccentric — many geniuses are. Unfortunately, I am learning more about Prince following his death than I did during his life.  Pop radio stations tend to play the same music over and over again.  Only now, to mourn Prince’s death and to pay tribute to him, are radio stations playing his classics and, boy, are they great!  1999 is my favorite, so far, but there are a plethora of them to listen to. My mom was my age when Prince released 1999 and she was a huge fan. I have to commandeer her iPhone to listen to her Prince collection. In fact, the top 19 downloaded songs on iTunes today are by Prince. With such a huge catalogue of music, I could be listening for days. RIP Prince!