Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Red Letter Plays: Two By Suzan-Lori Parks Aug 22 to Oct 8 2017

From a release:

Two Plays by Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks
Fucking A - August 22 to October 1, 2017
In the Blood - August 29 to October 8, 2017
All tickets $30 - No Fee Code (below)

NEW YORK CITY - Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks, The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A & In the Blood are new productions of two modern-day remixes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter that conjure two distinct interpretations of Hester, Western literature’s most famous adulteress.

In Fucking A, Hester Smith, the revered and reviled local abortionist, hatches a plan to buy her jailed son’s freedom—and nothing will deter Hester from her quest. In this wild-eyed blend of story and song, directed by Obie Award-winner Jo Bonney (Father Comes Home From the Wars), Hester’s branded letter A becomes a provocative emblem of vengeance, violence, and sacrifice.

In the Blood’s Hester La Negrita is a penniless mother of five condemned by the men who love her, in this play hailed by The New York Times as "…a work of art." You will leave thrilled, even comforted by its mastery.” Hester turns to former lovers, friends, and the institutions meant to support her, only to be spurned by them all with devastating consequences, in this new production directed by Obie Award-winner Sarah Benson (An Octoroon).

The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A
by Suzan-Lori Parks
directed by Jo Bonney
August 22 - October 1, 2017

J. Cameron Barnett • Brandon Victor Dixon • Ben Horner • Joaquina Kalukango • Marc Kudish • Christine Lahti • Ruibo Qian • Elizabeth Stanley • Raphael Nash Thompson

The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 W. 42nd Street @ 10th Avenue, NYC

All tickets $30
Use code MarciaFA for no fee tickets.

To Purchase Tickets
Online: Click here.
By Phone: Call 212.244.7529.
In Person: Visit the Signature Theatre Box Office, 480 W. 42nd Street @ 10th Avenue, NYC.

The Red Letter Plays: In The Blood
by Suzan-Lori Parks
directed by Sarah Benson
August 29 – October 8, 2017

Jocelyn Bioh •  Michael Braun • Russell G. Jones • Anna Reeder • Saycon Sengbloh • Frank Wood

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
The Pershing Square Signature Theatre
480 W. 42nd Street @ 10 Avenue, NYC

All Tickets $30
Use Code MarciaTB for no fee tickets.

To Purchase Tickets:
Online: Click here.
By Phone: Call 212.244.7529.
In Person: Visit the Signature Theatre Box Office, 480 W. 42nd Street @ 10th Avenue, NYC.

Travel Tips for LGBTQI Travelers

With material from a media release:

Travel Tips for LGBTQI Travelers

Holidays are for relaxing, unwinding, and hopefully learning something about the world outside your everyday. When you belong to the LGBTQI community, holiday decisions become more complex. Feeling safe is a priority.

That's why doing your research, and choosing your destination carefully, lays the groundwork for a great holiday experience. Finding LGBTQ-owned accommodations is another way to help ensure an enjoyable holiday. The owners are sure to offer advice on places to go and things to do along with lodgings.
Gay Section on the beach Ipanema in Rio de Janero, Brazil by Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil
A pragmatic approach overall is what's recommended by Lou Wiltshire-Smith, a coach driver with Topdeck, a tour operator specializing in group tours for 18 to 39s with a taste for the unusual and the adventurous. Lou, whose gender identity is non-binary, is also an experienced world traveler in their own right, and that has included areas of the globe known to be unfriendly to the gay community.

"My gender identity is very non-binary, so I present myself as 'masculine' most of the time. I have to be careful in places where homosexuality is not yet accepted, making sure I’m culturally sensitive and have researched the laws thoroughly ahead of visiting."

No one likes the thought of having to hide their identity, but there are parts of the world where an LGBTQ identity alone can and will cause problems. Lou's advice is to make sure you know what you will be getting into.

"Be careful and try to blend in. You can be a human rights warrior as much as you like on your own turf, but if you're waving the rainbow flag in an unfamiliar country as a tourist, you could end up having a bad holiday. As much as I hate advising people to be anyone other than their fabulous selves, it's easier to 'fit in,' in some instances. We always advise passengers to be culturally sensitive, monitor their behaviour and dress appropriately wherever we go."

Traveling with a partner can add a few more issues to keep in mind. "Something as simple as holding hands in public could cause some grief in the wrong setting."
San Francisco Pride 2015 by zoxcleb -
London, with Soho, its large gay district, Madrid, which has hosted World Pride and other major events, Toronto, with a plethora of gay venues all over town in addition to a thriving Gay Village, Tel Aviv (one of the most gay-friendly places in the Middle East), Copenhagen, Berlin, New York City, Lisbon, and San Francisco are listed by Pink News as among the most gay-friendly destinations on the globe. All of those locations celebrate gay culture and feature LGBTQI friendly venues and institutions.

Lou add several tips based on experience.
  • London - Go to Soho or Shoreditch. G-A-Y is aimed towards men, but it's great for anyone that just wants to dance. Ruby Tuesday's at Ku Bar is fun for the ladies. 
  • Paris - The Marais is the LGBTQI area and has lots of great bars and cafes.
  • Barcelona - Head to El Cangrejo Raval for 80's themed drag shows and tapas with your drink. This year I'll be heading to visit the island of Lesvos for the annual two-week Women's Festival. The festival is from 9th - 23rd of September and is completely run by women, for women. 
  • Amsterdam - Cafe Saarein is the first lesbian cafe I set foot in whilst travelling across Europe on my own six years ago. I made five new friends that night and spent three days at Pride with a close-knit group of lesbian locals. It's one of the highlights of my travels. 
  • Berlin - The Berghain. This place is notoriously hard to get into. You have to be a certain sort of punk-rock/grunge-chic/hipster-gay to get in there, but I've heard amazing things about how bizarre it is inside. I plan on getting in there one day!

Lou recommends a group tour operator like Topdeck for a first trip overseas, especially for solo travelers. "I'm hoping Topdeck can gain further ground in the LGBTQI demographic so more young, gay travellers feel comfortable to travel alone and know that our company will cater for them and take care of them."

Despite the need for extra caution, travel can still be a life changing experience. After taking their first trip with Topdeck about three years ago, Lou's become a professional nomad working for the company, and the rewards are the memories and the friends that have become family. The most memorable experience?

"Having a beer in the midnight sun at Nordkapp, the most Northern point of Norway. I was with fantastic crew members and we'd been having such a good trip together. The midnight sun is often hidden behind cloud cover, but we had full, beaming sunlight and it was brilliantly surreal. We also popped some champagne and celebrated a passenger's birthday up there, followed by a karaoke coach trip back to the campsite."

Final word? Do the homework, and get packing.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cesar F. Correa Cordoba: Painter, sculptor, artisan and musician.

Cesar F. Correa Cordoba
Painter, sculptor, artisan and musician.

Follow him on Instagram
Check out his Soundcloud channel

Cesar F. Correa began his artistic life early, exploring painting and drawing as a child in Mexico City. He began to teach himself how to work in various media, later attending workshops at various cultural institutions to add to his expertise.

Cesar's techniques and materials are born in Mexico's land and traditions, including ceramics, woven arts, and working in wood, metal, glass, and paper along with paints. He's been exhibiing his artistic work in solo and group exhibitions in his native Mexico since 2003. Cesar's work tends to fall in a few distinct streams.

Cesar's paintings inhabit a surreal world where fantasy and reality mix, lit up by a rich sense of colour and depth. People and natural subjects are both examined, with an overarching theme of linking human nature to its environment, often through social and political themes. Street life in Mexico City is a frequent subject of his work.
Mural en "casa de colores" Guanajuato, Mèxico (2016)
Organic Sculpture
For about the last 15 years, Cesar has been developing a body of animal sculptures crafted from plants, fruits, seeds and dry organic materials that he collects from all over Mexico and other parts of the world. He's collected materials from forests, beaches, and parks in Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Estado de Mexico, Mexico City, Guanajuato, and Veracruz, among other locales.

From them, he crafts insects, birds, reptiles, fish, and even fanciful beasts like dragons that have a lifelike, organic flow and sense of movement. They're quite remarkable. His own goal is to explore the consciousness of the natural world.

Dibujo lUz
This series explores the stark contrasts of day and night, black and white in drawings that fuse plastic, paint, and electric light. In daylight, the images appear black and white. At night, the colours emerge.
Energia - pintura acrilica, sobre plastico y lampara (2012)
Artisan Work
From the whimsical to the practical, Cesar takes his love of natural materials and forms to making novelty sculptures - like a singing skeleton music box - lamps, and other decorative objects. As with the more purely artistic work, he links the human and natural worlds through the marriage of form and function.

To add to his talents, Cesar is an accomplished composer and musician. Here's a little of the music you'll find on his Soundcloud channel.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mû Mbana: A Music Whispered On The Wind

Mû Mbana:
A Music Whispered On The Wind

Connect on Facebook
Check out his releases at WhatAbout Music

When Westerners think of "African music" and West African music in particular, we tend to think of danceable party music - and there is plenty of that in existence. Artists like Mû Mbana, however, offer music that is more intimate and contemplative, trance-like as it builds layers of intensity.

One of the perks of working with/for a music festival is getting to know some of the artists and their music a little better than I would as an audience member alone. The Hamilton World Music Festival is how I came to know Mû.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, he traces his passion for music back to the age of three, when he first remembers dancing to the music on the radio. After stints working as a singer-songwriter in Portugal and Spain, including a jazz-fusion trio and a gospel group, he began to develop his own style in earnest by about 2001. He's been focusing on his own work as a solo artist since 2008.

His is a music that lies close to its roots, music that arises on the wind, and is whispered through the leaves and back down to the earth, translated by his body into sound. If you could call music organic, this is what it would sound like. The sounds of Guinea-Bissau and West Africa mingle with jazz flavors and complicated rhythms in a seamless flow of song.

While his songs and compositions are definitely connected to his own roots, he's always been open to collaborations in virtually any genre.

At the Hamilton World Music Festival, he easily collaborated with a Canadian roots/folk/country band, an Irish harpist, and others, and charmed them all with the sincerity of both his music and his personality.

Here, he plays with Waleed Abdulhamid, a Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist originally from Sudan.

Mû's compositions begin with a beat; like a heartbeat, they begin the life of the song, which then takes hold of his voice, eventually weaving itself into more complex rhythms and counter melodies. His voice ranges from an expressive baritone to a soft tenor that sings, sighs, speaks his lines of poetry, and even laughs at times.

He plays simbi, bensuni, and various percussion instruments which are attached to his leg and ankles, allowing him to play, sing, and add complex rhythms simultaneously. Mû's music has an intense focus, and that's what translates into the mesmerizing sounds he makes. It's not a show that you will go to see, but rather an experience you will take part in as listener.

It was his first time in North America. Here's hoping Mû will put us on his tour list for good.

Artist & Master Printer: Agustin Rolando Rojas

Artist & Master Printer:
Agustin Rolando Rojas

Agustin Rolando Rojas is an artist and printmaker. Born and educated in Havana, Cuba, he now makes Toronto his home.
"Cuanto tiempo espere para abrazarte" from the HUGS series, a drypoint selected by the jury of The Bucharest International Print Biennial, November 2016.
Agustin studied Fine Art Printmaking at Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba, and prior to that, graduated from the Higher Art Institute of Havana, Cuba (where he has also taught printmaking,) and Friends Select School. In 1997, Agustin won an Artist Residency at the Banff Center for the Arts in Calgary and came to Canada. After stints in both Canada and the U.S.A, he settled back in Toronto, Canada since 2007.
"Zona del Refugio", etching, selected by Ourense International Print Biennial 1994.

His earlier works from about the mid-1990s are largely representational and realistic. In 1995, Agustín received the Prize Pilar & Joan Miro & Sothebys Foundation for Techniques and Development of Creative Projects with a series of six etchings which had been exhibited previously at The Fifth Biennial of Havana in 1994.
"Balca cerca de la costa", one of the prints that received a Prize Pilar & Joan Miro & Sothebys Foundation for Techniques and Development of Creative Projects in 1995.

Newer pieces are more abstracted or expressionistic. His work is evocative, with a lovely sense of texture, and engaging compositions that draws on the viewers emotions.
Etching and drypoint, printed with special handmade Japanese papers - selected by the jury at The 6th Douro International Print Biennial 2012.

Augustin's work has been shown in solo exhibitions all over the world, including the Fyns Grafiske printmaking studio in Odense, Denmark, Banff Center for the Arts, Alberta, Canada, and Stuyvesant Fine Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. He's also shown extensively in collective exhibitions from Japan to Serbia to Miami and back.
Etching and drypoint, printed with special handmade Japanese papers - selected by the jury at The 6th Douro International Print Biennial 2012.
Along with his own work, gallery and exhibition submissions, he teaches and conduct Intaglios workshops both privately and publicly. Augustin's works are part of the collections at the National Fine Art Museum of Havana, Wolfgang Shreiner, the Private Collection of the Ludwig Foundation, Lowe Art Museum, Cuban American Permanent Collection and others.
Etching by Agustin Rolando Rojas

Saturday, August 5, 2017

CD Review: Rich Lerner & the Groove - PUSH ON THRU (Independent, May 5, 2017)

CD Review:
Rich Lerner and The Groove - PUSH ON THRU
(Independent, May 5, 2017)

Stream on Spotify
Buy on CDBaby

This latest from North Carolina band Rich Lerner and The Groove continues in the Southern-tinged rock vein the band has been plumbing for many years and through many releases. A flair for hook-laden songwriting and tight musicianship give it an instant likability factor.

Push On Thru, the title track, has a bit of a country swing, with twangy guitar lines and lyrics about just keeping on.

There's a little bit of glory on the avenue
Ya we're gonna drive it, that's what we're gonna do
We're gonna push on thru

The songs cover life and love from a working man's perspective, something that the band's local following no doubt connect with. She Kept My Room Warm is another track that leans towards country rock, with a wry, down to earth message about relationships. It's Always Something turns to classic rock for inspiration, with a nice guitar solo in the middle.

Lord Have Mercy is one of the stand out tracks. The band's easy groove translates perfectly into the retro vibe of the song. They've had largely the same personnel for the past several years and you can hear that loose/tight swing in the music.

Love Monkey is another interesting song with a stripped down, bluesy feel that layers in a wailing steel pedal together with a prominent bass riff and inventive drumming. The lyrics mine the well worn territory of love with insight and hard earned wisdom.

I stumble to submission
I'm falling through the cracks
Should've seen it coming
Like a full on freight train running
Got this monkey on my back

Soul Sistah is a radio friendly song in a mournful minor key that sticks in your head.

Back in the 1990s, Rich recorded and released four solo albums on the Rockduster label. Since 2000 Rich Lerner and The Groove have released four more albums on their own Freethemusic label. As longtime members of the community, the band founded their own annual Groove Jam Music Festival to benefit their local homeless shelter and food bank. The festival has been running since 2012.

If you're looking for solid rocking blues with a dash of country played with an upbeat groove, this is your album.

Rich Lerner - guitar & vocals; Sammy Smith - guitar & vocals; Craig Pannell bass & vocals; Sam Seawell - drums; Bob Sykes- pedal steel & guitar; Steve Taub - keyboards


It's a blurry live video, but the sound is not bad on Lord Have Mercy

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rock Review: Chrystyna Marie - LIFE (Independent - July 24, 2017)

Rock Review:
Chrystyna Marie - LIFE
(Independent - July 24, 2017)

Buy the CD

LIFE is the solo debut release from Chrystyna Marie, a full length album full of rock and blues hooks. Chrystyna says she's inspired as much by classics as contemporary singers and musicians, from Janis Joplin, Ottis Redding and Etta James to Selena and Christina Aguilera. Born in Toronto, Canada, she now makes her home in Los Angeles.

I Want That Boom Boom, the lead single, is a straight ahead driving rocker with her strong, clear voice threading through the heavy guitar licks. Chrystyna attacks vocal duties with a strong rhythmic sense and while she has the obvious control of a trained and experienced vocalist, she knows when to let a sense of abandon take over, as in the bouncy, bluesy Devil The Angel Eyes.

She's been active in the music industry since the age of 18, when she began as a demo singer on indie label. She's also an actress, and has appeared in local community plays like West Side Story as Maria and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, along with accumulating a long list of smaller roles in music videos, and TV. She was the lead singer in an LA founded pop group called Greencat.

Mr. Insecurity, the second single, is a torchy ode to Mr. Wrong, with some nice guitar riffs from David Gavin Baxter. Stylistically, she takes from the rock/blues/classic rock genre, but adds polished vocals and harmonies that create a different effect - more sophisticated and urban. Special props to drummer Michelle Josef, who provides not only solid beats but some impressive fills.

She covers the old blues classic Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out. It's a version that plumbs the vocal virtuosity rather than the bluesy irony inherent in the lyrics. If that's the one critique I'd make, it's that the vocals are a little too polished for truly convincing blues expression.

Chrystyna sounds more at home on A Woman Knows, an original song about...well you can pretty much guess. It's always about that damn man, but here she really connects with the sense of the song. Mama's Blues goes into a traditional 12-bar blues mode, her vocals alternating between sultry and strident. It's one of the stand out tracks on the release.

If you're into rock and blues with a polish rather than an edge, this is a release you'll want to dig into.

Personnel: Artist: Chrystyna Marie; Bazil Donovan: Bass; Michelle Josef: Drums and Percussion; Jason Sniderman: Piano, organ, guitar; David Gavin Baxter:  Guitars, Banjo, keyboards and percussion; Paul Reddick: Harmonica; Jim McGrath: Trumpet; Philip Oleksiak: Background Vocals; Joanna Medeiros: Background Vocals

1)  I Want That Boom Boom
2)  Devil With The Angel Eyes
3)  Mr.  Insecurity
4) The Witching Hour
5) Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
6)  Stop Stoppin' Myself
7)  A Woman Knows
8) MaMa's Blues

Twitter:  Chrystynamarie
Instagram:  Theonlychrys