Justin Scott Bays is excited to be making his debut on the Theatre NOVA stage. Mr. Bays has performed with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, West Edge Opera, and Toledo Opera. He has participated in the iSing! and Toledo Opera Young Artist Programs. Some of his favorite roles include the Emcee in CABARET, Nicely-Nicely Johnson in GUYS AND DOLLS, Malcolm in THE FULL MONTY, and Gordon Michael Schwinn in A NEW BRAIN. Justin has not only a love of performance, but he also has a great appreciation for coffee.
Kristin Clark is thrilled to be making her debut with Theatre NOVA after many seasons in the audience as the proud daughter of Diane Hill. Particularly at home on the classical concert stage, Kristin made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 2015, and she can be heard as Electre on the NAXOS recording of Milhaud’s L’ORESTIE D’ESCHYLE, which was nominated for a GRAMMY for best operatic performance. Kristin completed her doctorate in vocal performance at the University of Michigan and is currently a professor of voice and chair of the music department at Adrian College.
John DeMerell is ecstatic to be back Live on stage again and is excited to make his Theatre NOVA debut with this wonderful fundraiser! Some of John’s favorite musical roles consist of Billy Bigelow in CAROUSEL, multiple roles in I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, Dan in NEXT TO NORMAL, and the role of his life so far, Don Quixote/ Miguel de Cervantes in MAN OF LA MANCHA, which garnered him his first Wilde Award. Favorite dramatic roles include McMurphy in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, Selridge in BILOXI BLUES, and Valmont in LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES.
K Edmonds is a multi-faceted performer whose stage credits include performances in Jeff Daniel’s ROADSIGNS and WILLOW RUN, both at the Purple Rose Theatre, Bessie Smith in DEVIL’S MUSIC and THE REVOLUTIONISTS, both at Theatre NOVA, GOOD PEOPLE at Open Book Theatre, AIN’T MISBEHAVIN‘ at Performance Network Theatre and RUINED at Plowshares Theatre. An accomplished musician, award-winning director (Boxfest Detroit 2011), and actress (Wilde Awards 2020), K is also an alum of Second City Detroit. She’s thankful of the support from her mother and inspired by her daughter and so many performers she’s been blessed to work with throughout her career.
Diane Hill has performed at many Michigan theatres including the Fisher Theatre, Meadow Brook, MOT, Detroit’s Gem Theatre, Purple Rose, Tipping Point, Encore Musical Theatre, Croswell Opera House, Open Book, and The Ringwald. She won Wilde Awards for Best Actress for WIT and THE HOW AND THE WHY, along with other acting awards for ‘NIGHT, MOTHER and I DO! I DO! Favorite roles include Diana in NEXT TO NORMAL, Margaret in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and Sherri in ADMISSIONS. Theatre NOVA audiences have also seen her in THE REVOLUTIONISTS, TOTALITARIANS, THE STONE WITCH and FOLLIES IN CONCERT.
Elizabeth Jaffe is excited to be back at Theatre NOVA where she was last seen in THE ELVES AND THE SCHUMACHERS. Favorite credits include Queenie in THE WILD PARTY (Wilde Award/Best Actress Musical) at the Dio Theatre, The Witch in INTO THE WOODS (Wilde Award/Best Supporting Actress Musical) at Flint Repertory Theatre, Lady of the Lake in SPAMALOT at Encore Musical Theatre, and Sally in CABARET at the Dio. Special thanks to the NOVA team for making this happen, her loving and supportive family and friends, her wonderful and caring husband Ken, and her new adorable and magnificent baby, Noah!
Roy Sexton has spent 25+ years “on the boards,” winning BroadwayWorld Detroit’s Best Actor Musical ‘17 (Ann Arbor Civic’s MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD). He authors the blog reelroyreviews.com, which also inspired two books. Roy is Director of Marketing for Clark Hill and serves on the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor, Legal Marketing Association (international president elect), Mosaic Youth Theatre boards. He was recently named one of Crain’s Detroit Business’ 2021 “Notable LGBTQ Leaders.” He thanks Diane for revisiting what was originally suggested five years ago to Penny Seats by his mother Susie Sexton, who passed away in August.
Want to see all shows and save with Flex Tickets or Subscriptions? SUBSCRIBE NOW!
As we reopen, the thing on everyone’s mind is “is it safe?” Here are the safety precautions we’re taking to ensure patron and artist safety, and do our part to mitigate the spread of Covid:
1. All artists and staff are fully vaccinated. 2. All personnel not on stage are required to wear a mask inside the building at all times. 3. All actors who are unmasked during the show will take a quick-response Covid test once a week. 4. All patrons are required to be fully vaccinated. Please bring your vaccination card or a photo or scan of it. 5. All patrons are required to wear a mask inside the building. Surgical masks will be available at the door for $1. 6. Two bathrooms (one upstairs) will be available for patrons. 7. High touch surfaces are wiped down after every performance. 8. Unvaccinated patrons will not be admitted. 9. According to Actors Equity guidelines, a ventilation audit is performed once a year. 10. Tickets will be sold at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing between parties. 11. We will not be selling concessions.
Policies are subject to change at any time, in accordance with fluctuating local, state, and federal guidelines. Please check our website for updates before attending.
As always, parking is free! But the parking lot is much nicer! Gone are the days of dust and gravel. Our beautiful new parking lot awaits you!
Tickets remain at 2019 prices! We’ve kept our prices affordable, with pay-what-you-can tickets available for all shows for those who need them.
*2019-2020 season subscribers will receive a credit for the shows they missed due to the mandatory shutdown in 2020.
ONCE I got my internet (sort of) squared away, Rob Kates and I had a delightful chat with Legal Marketing Association – LMA International Executive Director Danielle Holland. There may be show-tunes.
We DEFINITELY discussed opportunities and challenges of leading in a crisis, the magic that is the LMA community, the power of building a great team, DEI, only child super powers, going to kindergarten in penny loafers, telephoto lenses, “sweep buses,” horse shows, marathons, Chicago fashion, cheerleading, gratitude, statement necklaces, and #LMA21 annual conference in two weeks.
Shout outs abound including Kelly MacKinnon, Jill Mason Huse, Brenda Plowman, Andrew Laver, Jaime Lira, Jessica Aries, Amy Payton Verhulst, Dianne Rychlewski, Cynthia Voth, Jay Majitov, Kelly Bache, Ashley Stenger, Gia Altreche, Gina Furia Rubel, “Sing Happy,” Theatre Nova, Diane Hill, Hudson, BarkBox, Adopt A Pet of Fenton, Michigan, and more. Enjoy!
It’s been too long. I needed this. Thrilled to revisit a concept my mom Susie Sexton and dad Don Sexton first suggested to The Penny Seats five (!) years ago. They had an acclaimed award-winning run, if I recall. Honored to be able to appear in it this go ‘round. Such a phenomenal cast and crew. Thank you, Diane Hill. Love you! ❤️
Theatre NOVA presents “Sing Happy!” music by John Kander and Fred Ebb with musical arrangements by R. MacKenzie Lewis
Oct. 28 – Nov. 7, 2021
ANN ARBOR, MI (September 29, 2021): Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s resident nonprofit professional theatre presents a limited engagement of “Sing Happy!,” a celebration of the work of Broadway’s famous duo, Kander and Ebb.
An ensemble of singers will take the stage with showstoppers from “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and many others while weaving a tale of strength and determination. Directed by Diane Hill, with music direction by R. MacKenzie Lewis, “Sing Happy!” features Justin Scott Bays, Kristin Clark, John DeMerell, K Edmonds (“The Revolutionists,” ‘The Devil’s Music”), Diane Hill (“The Lifespan of a Fact,” “A New Brain,” “Follies in Concert,” “Admissions,” “The How and the Why,” “The Stone Witch,” “The Totalitarians,” and “The Revolutionists”), Elizabeth Jaffe (“The Elves and the Schumachers”), and Roy Sexton (“Follies in Concert”).
The production and design team includes Monica Spencer (scenic design), Jeff Alder (lighting design), and Briana O’Neal (stage manager).
For the health, safety, and well-being of our patrons, staff, and artists, COVID safety measures will be in place. All of the artists and staff participating in the season are required to be fully vaccinated, and patrons must bring proof of vaccination and wear a mask while in the building. Unvaccinated patrons will not be admitted. Tickets will be sold at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing between parties, and concessions will not be sold. This policy is subject to change at any time, in accordance with fluctuating local, state, and federal guidelines. Please check our website for our current policy before attendance.
“Sing Happy!” will run for two weeks only, Oct. 28 through Nov. 7, 2021. Theatre NOVA is located at 410 W Huron St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Performances are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General admission tickets for this limited engagement fundraiser are $30.
Tickets, memberships, flex passes, and subscriptions may be purchased online at www.TheatreNOVA.org. Tickets may also be purchased in person one hour before each performance. Seating in the theatre will begin 30 minutes before each performance. There is ample free parking, and quick access to the city’s restaurants, bars, bakeries, and coffee shops. New patrons can find Theatre NOVA across Huron Street from Ann Arbor’s YMCA, through a parking lot entrance on the north side of the street. For more information, visit www.TheatreNOVA.org.
Theatre NOVA is dedicated to raising awareness of the value and excitement of new plays and new playwrights in a diverse and expanding audience; and providing resources and outlets for playwrights to develop their craft, by importing, exporting, and developing new plays and playwrights.
John Kander is an American composer who has produced many well-known scores for the stage, television and film. He is best known for working with his musical partner, lyricist Fred Ebb. Kander was born in Kansas City in 1927. From a young age he played the piano and began formal music training at college, where he composed his first theater scores. After college he worked as a pianist for pre-Broadway musicals in Florida. Kander credits his big break as chancing upon the pianist for a production of “West Side Story” in Philadelphia. He was asked to stand in while the pianist went on holiday and, shortly after, he played for a production of “Gypsy” and was introduced to Jerome Robbins who asked Kander to write the dance arrangements for the show. In 1962, Kander had his Broadway debut with the musical “A Family Affair” and worked with producer Hal Prince. Although the show was not a success, it led to a successful future relationship with Prince. The following year, Kander was introduced to Fred Ebb and the pair began to write together. Their first song “My Colouring Book” was nominated for a Grammy Award. From then on, Kander and Ebb’s writing partnership grew and was consolidated with a string of musical hits. After a slow start with the Hal Prince musical “Flora, the Red Menace” (which featured a young Liza Minnelli making her Broadway debut), the pair wrote the musical “Cabaret” (1966). Their next big success came with “Chicago” (1975) and a fruitful collaboration with choreographer Bob Fosse. Both “Cabaret” and “Chicago” were made into hit films in the 1970s and 2000s respectively. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Kander and Ebb produced a steady stream of musicals with varying levels of popular success. 1990 saw the pair score another musical hit with “The Kiss of the Spider Woman.” His most recent show (without Ebb this time) is “Kid Victory,” which was produced off-Broadway in 2017. As well as his theatrical works, Kander has written the scores for several films and collaborated Ebb on the 1977 film “New York, New York,” as well as “Funny Lady” and “Lucky Lady” (1975). In addition to multiple Tony Awards, Kander and Ebb were made Kennedy Center Honorees in 1998, as well as receiving the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theater in 2000. In 2013 Kander received the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Fred Ebb – One half of the dynamic musical duo “Kander and Ebb,” Fred Ebb was born in New York City in 1928. In 1955 he graduated from New York University with a degree in English Literature; in 1957, he earned his Master’s in Literature at Columbia University. Ebb partnered with other composers before meeting John Kander. He worked with Phil Springer to write individual songs (notably “Heartbroken,” made famous by Judy Garland). Later, Ebb partnered with Paul Klein for his first musical theatre endeavor, the Broadway revue “From A to Z.” In 1962, Ebb met Kander. Their first book musical to hit Broadway was “Flora the Red Menace” starring Liza Minnelli. Their next collaboration was “Cabaret” in 1966 (the 1972 film starred Minnelli). The duo went on to have a widely successful career, including many collaborations with directors such as Bob Fosse and Hal Prince: “Chicago” (1975), “Woman of the Year” (1981), “The Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993), “The Visit” (2001). The pair’s last collaboration was “Curtains” (2006), a musical murder mystery. Unfortunately, Ebb died suddenly of a heart attack before it was finished. The pair’s last complete collaboration, “The Scottsboro Boys,” premiered in 2010. After Ebb’s death, the Fred Ebb Foundation and its award was established. The award is given to aspiring musical theatre writers – including Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, who won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Book of a Musical for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (2014).
Diane Hill (Director) was founder and Artistic/Executive Director of Two Muses Theatre, a nonprofit, professional theatre in West Bloomfield. There she performed in and directed many plays and musicals each year and did the work of technical director, publicist, sound designer, webmaster, and graphic designer for every production. Diane was a professor at University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland Community College, where she originated and designed the Theatre degree program. She has a Ph.D. in Theatre from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in Theatre from the University of Michigan. She previously taught high school drama and music in the public school system (Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor) for 20 years. Diane has additionally produced and directed shows for professional theatre companies including Breathe Art Theatre Company in Detroit, Opus Mime in Ann Arbor, Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield, Tipping Point Theatre in Northville, and Heartlande Theatre Company in Detroit. Diane has been a Producing Artistic Director at Theatre NOVA since 2017. At Theatre NOVA, she produced several Michigan Playwrights Festivals, directed “Clutter” (Wilde Award Best New Play), “Follies in Concert,” “Whatcha Doin?,” “The W.I.T.C.H,” and shares with her cast and design team the Council Cargle Award for Excellence in Diverse Storytelling for directing “Kill Move Paradise.” Diane also produced all the Zoom projects since the shutdown, including the Zoom Play Festival and the pro shot filmed version of “A New Brain.”
R. MacKenzie Lewis (Music Director/Musical Arrangement) is composer and music director for EMU’s School of Theatre Arts, and lecturer and accompanist with its School of Music and Dance. Some favorite projects include orchestrating/music directing the national tour and Off-Broadway premiere of “The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Matters, the Musical,” orchestrating/music directing “Gypsy” at the Hangar Theatre in New York (Broadway World Award: Best Music Direction); music directing “A Little Night Music” at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor (Wilde Award: Best Music Direction and Best Musical); music directing “Legally Blonde” as a guest artist for MSU (Pulsar Award: Best Music Direction); composing “Irrational” (Wilde Award: Best New Script); associate music directing the workshop of “Romance in Hard Times” with William Finn at the Barrington Stage Co.; composing music for “Mockingbird” (two Helen Hayes nominations), “Wings of Ikarus” and “Jason Invisible” – all of which were commissioned and premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. He also composed the musicals “Video Games: The Rock Opera,” “Treasure Island,” “Pinocchio,” “Soaring on Black Wings” – world premiere with Ben Vereen, and all of Theatre NOVA’s Pantos.
Cast: Justin Scott Bays Kristin Clark John DeMerell K Edmonds Diane Hill Elizabeth Jaffe Roy Sexton
Production Team: Director: Diane Hill
Music Director: R MacKenzie Lewis
Set design: Monica Spencer
Lighting design: Jeff Alder
Stage Management/Props: Briana O’Neal
WHAT: “Sing Happy!” music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, musical arrangement by R. MacKenzie Lewis
Theatre NOVA, 410 W. Huron, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 Box office: 734-635-8450,
Incredibly honored to be named among Crain’s Detroit Business’ “NOTABLE LGBTQ IN BUSINESS.” Thank you to Matt Friedman, Susan Ahern, Kelly MacKinnon, DeLashea Strawder, and Kim Kelly for their friendship and support during the nomination and selection process. And to my husband John and my parents Don and Susie – you are everything to me. ❤️
About the recognition: “The leaders on this list are change-agents, door-openers and role models, their peers and colleagues told us. They create safety and community where they live and work. They hire and mentor other #LBGTQ people and help them succeed. Many of them said that coming out and being themselves at work has been a journey, reminding us that the gains made for LGBTQ equity have been expansive in a relatively short period of time — within the span of many of these professionals’ careers.
“Roy Sexton joined Clark Hill three years ago as marketing manager, but the firm quickly promoted him to director. Now he oversees a team of professionals across the country and supports affinity programs at Clark Hill, including BOLD for women, PRIDE for LGBTQI employees and THRIVE for people of color.
“In 2018, Michigan Lawyers Weekly named him an Unsung Legal Hero for consistently going beyond the call of duty.
“As treasurer of the international board of the Legal Marketing Association, Sexton helped launch an outside DEI consultancy. He is also a guest on podcasts where he illustrates how inclusion brings growth and success to any organization.
“In the nonprofit realm, Sexton co-founded The Penny Seats, an outdoor theater company in Ann Arbor. He also chaired the governance committee for Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.”
METHODOLOGY: “The leaders featured in this report were selected from nominations by a team of Crain’s Detroit Business editors based on their career accomplishments, track record of success in the field and effectiveness of their efforts, as outlined in a detailed application form. The honorees did not pay to be included on the list. Notable LGBTQ in Business was managed and written by Leslie Green. For questions about this report, contact Special Projects Editor Amy Bragg.”
We had a pretty fantastic – and free-wheeling – conversation with our friend John Byrne today. This may be one of my favorite shows we’ve done yet. To be honest, I’m not even quite sure how to recap it, other than this was an authentic conversation between people who respect and love each other. There might be some references to the bathroom habits of naughty cats, a general love of anything Disney, and appreciation for the unique attributes of the only child – AND an understanding that truth when delivered from the heart is always a good thing.
Shout outs in the show to … Susie Sexton, Don Sexton, Thor Hodges, Lisa Towey Simon, Anne Gallagher, Megan McKeon, Nancy Leyes Myrland, Nancy Slome, Brenda Pontiff, Andrew Laver, Michelle Friends, Kelly MacKinnon, Brenda Plowman, Amy Payton Verhulst, Laura Toledo, Lindsay Griffiths, Kevin Iredell, Dianne Rychlewski, William Fitzgerald, Linda Sedloff Orton, Stephen D Barrett, Jose’ Cunningham, Trish Desilets Lilley, #oklahoma, #themusicman, and more!
It’s the show about legal marketing and the people that make it happen.
This week, Roy Sexton’s guest is fellow LMA International Board Member AND Midwesterner John Byrne, Chief Marketing Officer for Gould & Ratner LLP. John and Roy will not only reflect on nearly a decade of friendship and volunteer leadership together, but what trends they see in marketing, communications, and thought leadership in these neverending pandemic days. John, who also has worked as a practicing attorney and as a newspaper editor, will offer his observations on the intersectionality of legal and media and the opportunities represented for marketers therein. John and Roy are both only children who also have strong ties to the medical profession AND they both tend to enjoy the occasional shenanigan (or eight), so this conversation is sure to be heartfelt, free-ranging, and raucous!
Join our team of hosts: Jessica Aries, Tahisha Fugate, Andrew Laver and Roy Sexton , each week, as we talk to the leaders in the legal marketing community.
Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is brought to you by: By Aries and Kates Media.
So … THIS is happening. 10/28 – 11/7. I should be ready to leave my basement by then. 😉 🎶 Thank you, Diane Hill, Ryan MacKenzie Lewis, and Theatre Nova, for your kindness, including me in this fabulous upcoming event!
A fundraiser for Theatre NOVA and presented in concert, Sing Happy! is a celebration of the work of Broadway’s famous duo, Kander and Ebb. An ensemble of singers will take the stage with showstoppers from “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and many others while weaving a tale of strength and determination.
Directed by Diane Hill. Music Direction by R. MacKenzie Lewis. Featuring Jason Briggs, John DeMerell, Kalyse Edmondson, Diane Hill, Elizabeth Jaffe Smoot, Sarah Stevens, Connor Thomas Rhoades, Carrie Jay Sayer, and Roy Sexton (that’s me! 🤩).
Spoiler alert: my solos are “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago and “A Quiet Thing” from Flora the Red Menace.
LIMITED ENGAGEMENT October 28 – November 7, 2021 Single tickets: $30
On today’s episode, we chat with the divine Roy Schwartz about his book Is Superman Circumcised?from McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers and the Jewish context for comic book icon Superman. Schwartz is an accomplished legal marketing professional, and he details how his appreciation of storytelling, graphics, character, and effective narrative have enabled him to help lawyers discover their business development super powers.
We *may* also talk (a lot) about comic books.
Rob Kates and I also chat with my mom Susie Sexton about fleas, the Olympics, and the joys of marriage. Other topics addressed in today’s show, in no particular order: Britney Spears, Bill Cosby, Jack Kirby, Stephen Colbert, cosplay, pool toys, Richard Donner, Christopher Reeve, Superman and Lois, writing, Halloween costumes, Schneider, and heaven knows what else.
Shout outs include Richard Pinto, Scott Neitlich, Merry Neitlich, Andrew Laver, Jessica Aries (happy birthday!), Kimberly Schwartz, and more!
I have to say I am pretty damn proud of today’s show. Thank you, Terry Isner and Greg Griffin, for suggesting this and helping map out the approach and, Rob Kates, for being utterly amazing. In addition to Terry, we had gracious, candid, funny, loving guests in Keith Wewe and Amber Bollman. And my brilliant ma Susie Sexton is now EVERYONE’s ma. I’m so proud of her.
And our engaged and supportive commenters and friends Deborah McMurray, Heather Morse-Geller, Vivian Gorin Hood, Marcia Delgadillo, Tahisha Fugate, William Fitzgerald who kept the party going and helped us feel confident and loved every minute.
Yes, we laughed and shared deep truths. And there was singing. From I Will Survive to MacArthur Park, Don’t Leave Me This Way to Part of Your World. But, and I will only speak for myself, I suspect there will always be a part of any #LGBTQ+ professional worried about reception and approval and support. I know it felt very special to feel all of those things today. One hundred fold. #pride #loveislove #family 🌈
Our friend and fellow LMCT host Tahisha Fugate wrote, “Today’s episode of Legal Marketing Coffee Talk was one for the books. Do yourself a favor and catch the replay. The stories, the transparency, and of course the entertainment were phenomenal! You’ll also want to add a few songs to your playlist. … A special thanks to our wonderful host Roy Sexton and guests Keith Wewe , Amber Bollman, Terry M Isner and Roy’s mom (my favorite social mom).”
Terry wrote: “This was a big first for me, I am very comfortable being me, but never really discussed being me publicly like that, lol. … I love that the conversation has started and that our small community of legal marketing brothers and sisters are all in to create a community of acceptance and inclusion. … PRIDE is about everyone being proud to be themselves. 🐝 U but remember to 🐝Kind to everyone along the way.”
For kids of all ages – the #PiedPiper – with yours truly reading the title role. Thank you, Debbie DeCeco Lannen and Pass The Time Players, for having me. NOTE: no (virtual) rats were harmed in the making of this #Zoom event. You’re welcome. 😊 🐀 🎶
The Pied Piper of Hamelin Narrator: Debbie Lannen / Orlando, FL Merchant: Sally Daykin / DeLand, FL Erich – Kyle Coykendall / Wixom, MI Advisor: Tomothy Majzlik / Westland, MI Mayor: Joe Lannen / Orlando, FL Pied Piper: Roy Sexton / Saline, MI
Only I would take this beautiful day, and spend most of it indoors, working my way through the very long Zack Snyder’s Justice League. But it was worth it. Even if every 30 minutes John wandered through and said “Is this still on?”
I can barely remember the theatrical version, which is likely for the best. What I found in this updated version is that Snyder had room to explore ideas and relationships. And that made all the difference. I am not a fan of his work. By any stretch. But, perhaps because of what he has lived through the past few years, this film had something many of his previous efforts did not: heart.
My mom Susie Sexton’s take on Carey Mulligan’s Promising Young Woman:
GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY…already loved this actress … discovered her on PBS in a Dickens entry years ago. Outstanding!
This movie upends with its surreal treatment of a very real truth bedeviling this globe since the appearance of manKIND walking on its own evolved two feet – astounding, disturbing and so true and sad that it hurts, haunts and breaks any heart that is the least bit human.
The barbie doll sets and clothes simply enhance the deep damage done to humanity as we have all looked the other way and endured unnecessary heartache. Give it a look, enjoy!
No nudity, and only one supposed murder. An oddly wholesome at times comedic treatment of a tragic problem. Bravo!
Threw this viewer for a loop (which most all of us have existed within for all of eternity). Truth on film if there ever ever was. Whew?
“Your imperfections make you special.” – Joey, student actor in “Spotlight,” the final episode of Marvel’s 616
Today, we brought in our deck furniture (from the summer!) to store in the basement, that is after decorating our house for Christmas. We bought the set what feels like yesterday (April), and we dutifully covered it to protect it from harsh sun and booming thunderstorms, pretty much never sitting on it, once wrapped in a cumbersome, billowing shroud of waxy canvas. So we paid for outdoor couches, negotiated their delivery in pandemic, never used them, and just huffed and puffed maneuvering them through endless doors and hallways into our basement, in another attempt to protect them.
Futility and comedy, thy name is home ownership. Everyone keeps blaming 2020 for everything, as if an arbitrarily determined twelve-month signifier of time’s passage is the cause of our collective woes. Yet, what has actually been laid bare in this dumpster fire period is, in fact, that we are all ourselves to blame with our materialistic, self-absorbed mania day after day, a long-standing debt that finally came due. How much have we taken for granted and what damage have we done to planet, culture, ecology, health, and mental well-being in the process? We’ve likely only seen the tip of that iceberg. Ahoy, me maties!
Take these chances Place them in a box until a quieter time Lights down, you up and die Driving in on this highway All these cars and upon the sidewalk People in every direction No words exchanged No time to exchange
When all the little ants are marching Red and black antennas waving They all do it the same They all do it the same way
My last legit movie review was Birds of Prey. In February. Lord, I hope that’s not the last movie I ever get to see in an actual movie theatre. If I had only known, I’d have chosen … oh, who am I kidding? I still would have seen it. I miss the communal experience of movies, observing audience reaction and assessing the art as well as the commerce of cinema. Wild horses couldn’t get me to go now, if ever again, but I do miss it. Yet, between lone gunmen and rampant plague, performance venues are the new OK Corral.
Thanksgiving has always been a special movie time for my family. My parents and I, year after year, would see hundreds of films over the long holiday weekends, beguiled by Hollywood’s relentless marketing machine. We’d pronounce a film as “awful!” only to change our minds over breakfast, searching for connective tissue and insights into the human condition from such disparate selections as Life of Piand Daddy’s Home 2. I miss that. I miss my parents.
My husband and I have had no end of entertainment – deck furniture notwithstanding. Showing my age, I do resent that finding new shows to binge is tantamount to a digital Easter egg hunt these days. Netflix? No. AmazonPrime? Maybe. Disney+? Possibly. Do we just have this on DVD somewhere?
We’ve enjoyed a lot of what we’ve seen, at times arguably more forgiving of relative quality for the escape that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Ratched, Upload, All-American, Hollywood, The Order, The Boys, Emily in Paris, Mandalorian, The Umbrella Academy provided. I’m 99% certain we would have watched very few of these (let alone looked forward to each installment like Victorians eagerly awaiting the next Dickens chapter) had the world not been ending every five days. For this time with my husband, enjoying our home, staying at home, not chasing frenetically scheduled ACTIVITIES!, I am grateful. Pandemic has been a pleasant reprieve in that regard, and I may have been permanently transformed into Boo Radley as a result. Check our trees for handmade toys left for passers-by.
My dear friend Tyler Chase is a talented documentary filmmaker, and she gave me a sneak peek at her latest A Castle in Brooklyn, King Arthur. To say it was the right movie to see in my present mindset would be textbook understatement. I am haunted days after by her clear-eyed, unsentimental but utterly empathic filmic observations on the clash of creativity, capitalism, obsession, free thought, and community in postmodern America.
From the film’s website: “A Castle in Brooklyn, King Arthur with Golden Globe Award recipient, Brian Cox as the Narrator is an intimate and journalistic documentary by filmmaker, Tyler A. Chase. The intimate and journalistic documentary … filmed over a period of seven years, A Castle in Brooklyn, King Arthur, brings us through the doors of the iconic Broken Angel building and into the world of its creators, the visionary, Arthur Wood and his wife, Cynthia as they cling to their life’s work, the Broken Angel building, the last symbol of the bohemian artist culture that once permeated Brooklyn, NY.
“The Woods created the 108 foot Broken Angel objet trouvé building as a sculpture and landmark for the community located in a section of Clinton Hill bordering on Bed Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The Broken Angel building is the subject of local and international news specials; photographed by many. The Woods are loved by their neighbors who see the iconic structure as a beacon of freedom and the threat of its destruction as an omen of the disappearance of a way of life and community. To many it is a symbol of freedom – to others an opportunity for profit.
“Filmmaker, Tyler A. Chase renders the Woods’ story as one both magical and heart wrenching; following them through triumphs, judicial blunders, injustice, evictions, and comedic moments all the while inspired by the indomitable spirit of visionary artist and creator of the Broken Angel, Arthur Wood.”
The piece, which recently received the Audience Choice Award from YoFiFest 2020 and the Grand Jury Prize from the CARE Awards International Film Festival, is lyrical and poignant and heartbreaking. Chase captures the visceral nature of what it must have been like to live in that space. And the pain of being deeply misunderstood. Grey Gardens for the 21st century.
As far as narrative techniques, Chase employs interstitial chapter headings with ironic word choices/definitions, building the momentum inexorably. Like a slow-moving car crash, it’s clear things won’t end well for Arthur, Cynthia, or their beloved home. This chapter device – dare I invoke Dickensian tragicomedy again? – accentuates the tale’s inevitability. We all know how the relentless, monochromatic push of “economic development” can destroy the delicate work of sensitive souls creating art in the margins. America, ain’t it something to see? But the viewer mustn’t look away, and Chase’s gaze assures that you won’t.
The overall construction of the film mirrors the Broken Angel itself, layering upon itself in jagged turns, a documentary collage. Exquisite. The film FEELS artisanal – no doubt because of its lengthy gestation – which brings us that much closer to understanding Arthur’s quixotic DIY style. Hello, Oscar? Don’t overlook this essential, bespoke film.
Brian Cox’ regally dulcet tones as the film’s narrator are, yes, Arthurian, yet comforting with a wry edge. The use of music – folk, classical, even what seems like Gregorian chanting – is elegiac. And the moment Chase steps in front of her camera to advocate in real-time for Arthur (at The U.N. no less!), becoming a character in the story, is breathtaking. Just when the viewer is screaming, “Why can’t someone do something for these souls?!” … she does.
(Side note: for the inevitable scripted Hollywood remake, Willem DaFoe is Arthur Wood’s doppelgänger, and he could start preparing his Academy Award acceptance speech now. And then Stephen Schwartz could musicalize it for Broadway, dusting off some of the salvageable ideas from his work on Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Broken Angel! The Musical! Arthur and Cynthia could live on forever!)
Chase tells the story of Broken Angel with an artist’s appreciation and identification sans any judgment. That’s all Arthur likely ever wanted, in his expression and in his life. Is that why some of us “live out loud,” making bold choices, seemingly incongruous with the workaday world? Semiotic code for the person to be seen and accepted as they are? More devastating than the demolition of Arthur’s life’s work is society’s sniffy rejection of his unique soul made manifest in the Broken Angel.
Surprisingly, this same theme carries through another documentary – or rather documentary series – of a more corporate variety: Marvel’s 616 on Disney+. Across eight episodes, helmed by a bevy of filmmakers, the series wisely eschews a linear recounting of Marvel Comics’ storied history, instead highlighting unsung corners of fandom and creative output.
The incisive episode depicting the rise and proliferation of women comic book writers and artists is as reflective of the fraught times in which we live as it is of Marvel’s fits and starts where inclusion is concerned. The episode about toy creation and collection is as frenetic and joy-filled as you might imagine. And the feature on Marvel’s growing community of international artists is quietly introspective and appropriately moving, if not quite compensating for Marvel’s poor track record with creators of color in the past.
Episodes, respectively, on the cosplay community and school-based theatre are almost tangentially Marvel, shining a much needed light on people left behind who found kinship, purpose, and family through the characters, stories, and mythology of Marvel. I dare you not to shed a few happy tears while viewing.
Much (digital) ink has been spilled on the episode highlighting the legendary “Marvel Method,” whereby an issue is created iteratively and collaboratively between writer and artist. Affable, jocular Dan Slott, the subject of the episode, spurred great ire from fanboys over what they perceived as his seeming disrespect for his fellow creators (and, ultimately, for the end user). Slott’s procrastination is played for comic effect in the episode, and his chronic inability to meet dreaded deadlines is excused under the guise of “Marvel Method.”
The angry binge-watching horde missed the point, however. This isn’t about their inconvenience over receiving the latest issue of Iron Man 2020 a few weeks later than expected. This is about, yet again, the thorny nexus of art and commerce. For Slott, like Arthur Wood, creative expression is a kind of one-sided communion with his fellow human beings. The procrastination prolongs the fun, the invention, the collaboration. Hitting deadline means the party’s over, only to begin again on a schedule set by management, not artists.
The episode ends with Slott prowling his local comic shop – no doubt in avoidance of work awaiting him at home – joyously name-dropping his favorite writers and artists, as he thumbs through their latest issues. In that moment, he is a figure both inspiringly childlike and painfully alone. If anything, I am now more appreciative of Dan Slott as a singular voice than I am annoyed by delays in his output.
I’m just a face in the crowd Nothing to worry about Not even trying to stand out I’m getting smaller and smaller and smaller And I got nothing to say It’s all been taken away I just behave and obey I’m afraid that I’m starting to fade away
Hey, and for what it was worth I really used to believe That maybe there’s some great thing That we could achieve And now I can’t tell the difference Or know what to feel Between what I’ve been trying so hard to see And what appears to be real
We all just want to be seen, to be understood, to matter. While writing this, my mom Susie Duncan Sexton received a glorious email from her friend and fellow Columbia City, Indiana native Bill Schwarz. My mother wrote about Bill nearly a decade ago (here), and they recently reconnected. Both are accomplished talents in their own rights (check out Bill’s singing group “New Tradition Chorus” and upcoming concert), but their appreciation for one another is inspiring. Bill just finished reading one of my mother’s books, and here is an excerpt of what he wrote to her in response:
“After reading your book (on my Nook reader) it prompted me to write my opinion… I perceived a sensitive, creative intellect that deeply cared and loved unconditionally. Your pets have that quality as does your son Roy. I sensed in your writing the wholesome expression of joy, yet I saw you tempering feelings of dismay. You said, how does the song go: ‘looking for love in the most usual places…..’”
And isn’t that all any of us desire? A voice that is heard, appreciated, reciprocated. To all of the artists in this world … thank you.
And then one day A magic day he passed my way And while we spoke of many things Fools and kings This he said to me The greatest thing you’ll ever learn Is just to love and be loved in return
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn Is just to love and be loved in return
Want to join me in supporting a good cause? Beginning this #GivingTuesday and on through my birthday on December 28, I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps.
The mission of the Ann Arbor Ronald McDonald Houses is to provide families of children experiencing a serious illness or injury requiring hospitalization or treatment on an outpatient basis, a “home away from home” that assists in alleviating the families’ emotional and financial stress.