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How We Came To Do A Documentary About Las Abuelas In Argentina

In 2002, a couple of my broadcast journalism students were Morehead Scholars. The young people who vie for that scholarship are among the best and the brightest in the world. Morehead Scholars get to travel, at university expense, on a summer research trip. My students, Tim and Callie were double majors in Spanish and Journalism. In one of their Spanish classes at Carolina, they first learned about the Dirty War and “los desaparecidos”, the thousands of dissidents kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the military dictatorship of the time.

They decided to travel to Argentina and research the Dirty War. Their research would take the form of news stories for play on the student newscast “Carolina Week.” When they arrived, they sort of stumbled upon the group Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, or the grandmothers of May Plaza. The grandmothers have been looking for some 500 babies stolen from “subversive” mothers by the military. The moms were allowed to stay alive in the prison camps until their babies were born and then were summarily executed. Supporters of the military took the babies and changed everything about their identities. Las Abuelas has been looking for those missing grandchildren ever since and to date has recovered 107 of them. The reporting from Tim and Callie about the grandmothers won them the 2002 Hearst national reporting championship.

The next year, I began going to Argentina during most summers to teach at the Catholic University. After 5 or 6 such trips, my wife and daughters wondered why I got to go experience the lifestyle and culture of Argentina every summer, and they never got to go. So in 2009 the family took a trip to Buenos Aires. My younger daughter Bethany was a rising senior at the time, also studying broadcast journalism at UNC. I told her if she was going to be in Argentina for several weeks, I wanted her to do some follow-up stories about the abuelas for the student newscast. Her work won her the Society of Professional Journalists national prize for in-depth reporting.

Her older sister Brynne made the observation that even though the news stories we’d done in 2002 and 2009 were strong, they went only about an inch deep into a story that was much deeper than that. So in 2010 the girls and I returned to Argentina, along with three other young alums from the J school. Nearly two years later we debuted the English version of the documentary. A few months ago we finished the Spanish version and are currently working on translations into French, Russian, Chinese and Portugese. In the meantime, we’ve screened the English and Spanish versions nearly 130 times, with more than 20 screenings scheduled for April, including the one on April the 18th at the Varsity Theatre in Chapel Hill. We hope you’ll join us as we share this labor of love with our friends and neighbors an as we all examine the question: Is the right to know who you are a basic human right?

Dr. C. A. Tuggle is a Reese Felts Distinguished Professor and Head, Electronic Communication Specialization at UNC-Chapel Hill
http://chapelboro.com/columns/uncategorized-columns/how-we-came-to-do-a-documentary-about-las-abuelas-in-argentina/

'Of Two Minds' Tackles Mental Illness

The film shifts in and out of stories of pain, hope, connectivity, isolation, and struggle—following various adults who are afflicted with, but not defined by, bipolar disorder.

Of Two Minds” was directed by Lisa Klein and her husband Doug Blush. After premiering at the Cleveland International Film Festival last April, the documentary has been shown throughout the country—at various festivals. The film arrived in Chapel Hill last Wednesday for a one-time showing at the Varsity theater.

A full house gathered for the free event, which was followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session. The film was created in memory of Klein’s older sister, Tina, who ended her own life eighteen years before the film’s creation, after a struggle with bipolar disorder.

Klein and Blush’s documentary captures the day-to-day existences of different individuals as they manage and pursue rich and multi-faceted lives while coping with bipolar disorder. The majority of the film is narrated by four adults of different ages who have the disorder, with occasional explanations and ideas offered up by psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental illness advocacy leaders.

The family members, lovers, and support networks of those who are profiled also add their voices to the fabric of the narratives—lending insight and perspective. Their accounts help speak to the variety of experiences and challenges that greet those whose loved ones are afflicted by a mental illness. The inclusion of these loved ones also emphasizes the idea that people with bipolar disorder are still, first and foremost, people. They are individuals with whom others fall in love. They are people with families and friends—with jobs, responsibility, and complex networks of relationships.

The film’s focus is upon allowing others to hear about mental illness from the mouths of those who are affected by it. The directors sought first-hand accounts in order to depict bipolar disorder as one facet of a life instead of an identity in and of itself.

The voices of professionals are used minimally and in a way that allows the authority of narration to remain firmly in the hands of those with the disorder. The individuals featured in this film were followed for a significant span of time—through the advent and dissolution of romantic relationships, the discovery and processing of a diagnosis, and changes of treatment regimens.

The documentary was brought to the Varsity by Donna Kay Smith and hosted by Accessible Minds, LLC. This group, founded by Donna Kay Smith and B.B. Smith, works to provide multi-media resources to people with mental illnesses and their family members or loved ones. With these resources, individuals will have the opportunity to create something—to give voice to their lived-experiences, perspectives, and struggles.

“Of Two Minds” immediately resonated with Donna Kay Smith, who quickly got in touch with the filmmakers and asked about gaining a copy of the DVD. They informed her that they weren’t giving out copies yet but were screening the movie around the country—usually with discussion panels afterwards. She thus began her efforts to bring last Wednesday’s event to life.

Smith herself is enrolled in Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies. A longtime mental health advocate and certified rehabilitation counselor, who, ten years ago, was faced with the discovery of her son’s severe mental illness, Smith is deeply passionate about de-stigmatizing mental illness and giving voice to those affected by bipolar and other disorders.

“One of our goals at Accessible Minds is to help people make connections with others who live with mental illness so that they can learn that their experience is not wholly unique—that they’re not so completely different form everyone else,” said Smith. She wants people to feel less isolated and aberrant—less thoroughly marked by difference.

Among other aims, Smith is interested in bringing the word “normal” into conversations about mental illness. “We’ve got to start using this word—because there are things that are “normal” when you’re dealing with different disorders,” said Smith.

When considering her options for advocacy and action, Smith recalls, “I really decided I wanted to go the multi-media route, and that’s when I enrolled in the Center for Documentary Studies. I saw the trailer for “Of Two Minds,” and I was like, ‘oh my god, that’s the documentary I want to make,’” she said.

The film emphasizes the idea that living with bipolar disorder is a constant process—a process whose methods must sometimes be re-worked and reconsidered. The individuals followed have different personalities, lives, and experiences of mental illness. The documentary highlights the fact that there are common experiences—recurring struggles to deal with the manic highs and the devastating lows. Yet, at the same time, the adults who are chronicled vary in terms of their responses to medication, their preferred manners of coping, and the ways in which they have incorporated their bipolar disorder into their identities.

Carleton, a 65 year old artist who was diagnosed quite late in life, after many harrowing travails, embraces medication and has had a very positive response to it. He doesn’t find that it stifles his creativity. With his diagnosis and on medication, Carleton’s wife, who has acted as an astoundingly loyal support system, says he is the happiest she’s seen him in many, many years.

Cheri, on the other hand, has begun easing off of medication by the end of the film—finding that it limits her creatively. Her alternative, holistic approach seems to be working for a while. (However, the information we are given at the very end of the movie tells us that she is back on medication, highlighting the idea of life with mental illness as a continual process. There is not merely diagnosis and then treatment and resolution.)

Cheri tells viewers about the manic highs of bipolar disorder, describing the colors as more vibrant, more beautiful. She says it’s like taking your best day and multiplying it by a million. She wouldn’t want to go without those unique experiences. For all the incredibly tough, dark times, there is also something about bipolar disorder that has enriched her life, she says.

An interesting contrast is drawn between Cheri and Liz, another of the movie’s subjects. Liz defines bipolar disorder much more wholly as an illness—as something purely adverse. She feels that her disorder interferes with her life and her identity more than it helps to shape or enrich it. These sorts of differing perspectives lend a richness to the film—helping it to more thoroughly investigate what it means to live with bipolar disorder.

Liz is a writer and editor for a Philadelphia publication. She gained fame and a bit of a following through a column she writes—addressing her bipolar disorder. She has also, more recently, started posting youtube videos featuring updates about her mental state and life. She receives masses of positive, encouraging, and intensely grateful responses. Though she may choose not to be afflicted by the disorder, unlike Cheri, if given the chance, she has also found something positive in it by reaching out—by forging and becoming a part of a community.

Smith feels that helping people with mental illness to find a voice, to tell their stories, and to discover a community will help them to refuse the stigma of their disorder. They can, she said, “start to derive strength and identity from their experience.”

“If people who have mental illness buy into the stigma, then you’re not going to change it from the outside in,” Smith added.

The film resonated with Smith because it portrays people with mental illness as members of society—as people with lives and relationships. They have real, often messy struggles due to their disorders, but they are also people like anyone else with normal human components to their lives.

Often we receive images of mental illness as highly sanitized and simplified with too neat—too glossy—a finish (think “Silver Linings Playbook,” “A Beautiful Mind” and other film depictions of mental illness). Or else we get horror stories of mentally-ill loners turned violent. “There need to be multi-dimensional portrayals that don’t capitalize on fear or rely on simplification,” said Smith.

“Of Two Minds” is a good start. It offers up a full, rich, and well orchestrated portrayal of life with a very serious mental illness. The panel after the showing included director Lisa Klein along with two adults with schizoaffective disorder and the mother of a son with schizoaffective disorder.

“I didn’t want a panel with a lot of professionals because that tends to happen a lot. Everyone else gets to talk about mental illness, but we don’t really hear about it from the people who have to live with it,” said Smith.

Smith and others hope that hearing direct, first-hand accounts of mental illness will help to thwart misconceptions and simplifications. Perhaps more importantly, such films and such platforms may help those who are actually affected to get a say in the depiction of mental illness.

Wednesday night’s event, and other similar efforts seek to effect change by removing the stigma and empowering voices. The movie, the panel discussion and the goals of B.B. Smith and Donna Kay Smith’s Accessible Minds endeavor are powerful examples of grassroots efforts to force the issue of mental health and mental illness out of the margins of our society—one first-hand account at a time.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/alexis-nelson/of-two-minds-tackles-mental-illness/

Legend David Amram Coming to Carrboro

When the veteran director of The ArtsCenter says this “might be the most excited” he’s been about a performance, you have to pay attention. And with a name like David Amram, you can understand where Mr. Art Menius’ excitement is coming from.

Mr. Amram comes to Carrboro on Thursday, April 4th, at 7:00 p.m. at The ArtsCenter.

A renowned, musician, composer, conductor, and storyteller, Amram is as close to a Renaissance man as 20th century entertainment has come. He’s contribued scores to major Hollywood Blockbusters, played the French horn in the Charles Mingus Orchestra and adapted Shakespeare for the opera with Joseph Papp. Famous collaborates with Amram include Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson (to name a few).

Poetry wil be read by special guests David Need and Joseph Donahue, and of course, Amram will bring his legendary style and high energy to the stage. Don’t miss it! Contact The ArtsCenter for details and tickets.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/uncategorized-columns/legend-david-amram-coming-to-carrboro/

Spring Breakers, Defined

The film opens to a montage of butts, boobs, beer funnels, and blissfully dreamy yet hard-edged debauchery. Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” overlays the revelry. The song swells like a techno lullaby, declaring, with a sweetness, “You don’t need to hide my friend/For I am just like you,” and then crashes cathartically onto a scratchily-screamed, urgently-felt “Yes, Oh my god!” One can’t really make out the lyrics—heard only is the desperate yet strangely joyous refrain.

Spring Breakers’ director, Harmony Korine, has been described by many as unflaggingly—even indulgently bizarre. This film has been hyped as something potentially alienating—a strange stab at a work of art that will prove at best esoteric, at worst incoherent and aimlessly offensive.

However, from the opening sequence on, Korine’s latest film belies this prediction—challenging viewers without holding them at arm’s length or refusing them entry. This is not a self-indulgent piece of cinema that works to trick the audience into a false sense of its artistic merit through impressively madcap yet hollow antics.

Neither is the film pretentious—burying its worth and meaning within labyrinthine webs whose tangles may only be unbraided and decoded by the most sophisticated, cinematically-literate of viewers.

Yes, like most truly, rewardingly lovely movies and works of art, Spring Breakers inspires discussion, dissection, analysis. The film is capacious. Its structure is marked by folds and pockets that the audience may inhabit. One begins unfolding such creases only to become happily weary—noticing, as I did, that there is more, more, more—a proliferation of analytical entry points, of significance, of sentiment.

The film’s continual refrain, ostensibly insipid but also provocative and multifariously interesting, is “spring break forever.” Candy, Faith, Cotty, and Brit are best friends who begin the movie vying for their chance at that storied, frenetic Florida escape. They’ve been saving up all year but have not accumulated nearly enough cash. The ennui of their drizzly, nondescript college campus is palpable. For them, spring break is not just a vacation, a typical March pilgrimage—a given. No, you don’t understand. They need to go.

All of them, especially the more angelic, moralistic Faith (played convincingly by the Disney Starlett Selena Gomez), simply must get out. They are tired of seeing the same things—the same sad street lights. And it is a depressing little college town, and one does get the impression that these girls haven’t seen themselves in other contexts, in other places. They have little mobility. They need it so much (you don’t—can’t understand) that they rob a local dive—pretending ferocity with hammers, gratuitous bravado, and theatrical pseudo violence. Nicki Minaj’s “Moment 4 Life” plays from their getaway car.

The concept of spring break is transcendent in Korine’s film. It captures some of the organic, humanistic spirituality of a Terrence Malick movie. Only Korine’s work is set to Skrillex, Wakka Flokka Flame, and all things neon. You might predict that these girls’ expectations would be a bit disappointed when they finally arrive to the vomiting, natty-light-imbibing, sun-streaked world of St. Petersburg, Florida. Or else you may assume that they’d simply have a good time reveling in such filthy, torrid jumbles of body parts, of bathing suits on and off. But as Faith says on the phone to her grandmother, it’s more than fun. It is a spiritual experience. They’re finding themselves—truly, she says. It’s so beautiful and perfect; it seems like it should—must, actually—continue forever.

Faith, bathing in the motel pool at night with Brit and Candy, is stunned—almost re-baptized—by the beauty, by the feelings of freedom, of love and of friendship. (Another refrain, played throughout the movie, is her description of how sweet everyone is, how everyone is just like them, how they are making friends.)

Korine lingers on and mashes together shots of body parts—capturing the flagrant objectification of oneself and of others that occurs on typically trashy spring breaks. Girls are their parts. Only bikinis are worn; boobs, butts, and thighs are shown more often than faces.

There are scenes of partying that appear sad and dehumanizing, dirty and impure. And it seems as if nothing good or connective could emerge out of that—could occur alongside of and as a part of the dirtiness, the fragment. And yet it does. The girls, especially Faith, feel connected to the other revelers and derive a sense of spirituality—of transcendence, of beautiful camaraderie—from these moments of ostensible depravity. The concepts of purity and impurity are intensely problematic, simplifying, and ultimately implausible, and so Korine complicates them. He portrays transcendent experiences and communion that are no less beautiful though they are un-sanitized, debauched, and unhallowed.

We, as a society, like to separate out ideas of love, sensitivity, and genuine human connection from concepts of impurity, of crassness, and of iniquity. We wash and compartmentalize the good—removing what appears messy. This film lets everything exist together—the only way it truly can.

James Franco’s character, Alien, is magnificent and stunningly rendered by the actor, who turns in one of his best, most invested and uninhibited performances to date. Franco ensures that Alien’s role in the film doesn’t become a complete, ridiculous farce—purely oddball and comic. Instead, he plays the character with gravity—even during his more hilarious moments. Alien is a brilliantly superficial yet sensitive hustler who takes the girls under his wing, recognizing a certain something in them. (What this something is, exactly, is a central question of the film. It is certainly not purely hardness or crass uncaring.)

Vanessa Hudgens is, okay I’ll just say it, surprisingly impressive in her role as Candy. The performance is genuine and unafraid. She brings to life a shockingly distinct character and way of interacting with the world. Rounding out the group of friends, Rachel Benson and Ashley Korine, as Brit and Cotty, also turn in thoroughly convincing performances.

There are departures that occur throughout the film—first Faith, cowed by the strange scariness of Alien, and then Cotty, leave for home. Brit and Candy, however, refuse to acknowledge an end to spring break and continue in Florida with Alien.

The idea of excess is a major theme throughout the film, and Franco’s character, with his grillz, decadent house, money, and lifestyle of hustling, embodies this concept. He repeats “This is the American dream,” referring to himself and to the splendid gratuity of spring break. He plays Scarface, the classic film about chasing the American dream, on repeat. That dream, it seems, is ever-escalating excess, constant growth, and a refusal to ever stop or opt out. America works toward a hollow, wonderfully dreamy too-muchness.

Excess, though, cannot be sustained. By definition both excess and break time cannot exist without forcing eventual recourse back to reality. These concepts, in themselves, can only maintain their definitions if they are positioned against their opposites. Yet, in so many ways, excess defines how we live our lives and what we strive for. It makes sense that we are so beguiled by this idea; for it is, in a way, a beautiful, romantic, and mythic concept. Excess is fascinating, even moving.

Korine’s Florida world is a dreamland because excess cannot define our reality. Only it does. Gratuity and a constant striving for more are driving forces of society. This contradiction is acutely manifested and exaggerated in Spring Breakers. And so we get this strange, bizarre and untenable-seeming place.

This excess is not purely a symptom of a sick society—a gaudy emblem of misdirected values and indefatigable desire. Instead, Korine illustrates the rapturous qualities—the beauty, the voltage—that can emerge from this intensely-hyper American dream.

Two who have visited this land of gratuity depart, acknowledging that you cannot both exist and exceed—or, somewhat equivalently, that you cannot live in spring break unendingly. But two remain, challenging the boundaries of the gratuitous and the forever. They want to derive their sustainable realities from the unsustainable concepts and trappings of excess and overflow.

The visuals and the techno-pop mishmash of sickly-sweet, jarringly-overwhelming music capture the gratuity of the film. The repetitive dialogue and voice overs lend a rhythmic, dream-like feel.

Korine’s film is rich. It is not a satire because it is too invested in its material, seeming to realize that by aiming too much to comment upon or critique something you also necessarily set yourself apart from it. Thus, there is no move toward judgment and, consequently, nothing is lost or simplified.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/alexis-nelson/spring-breakers-defined/

Tyler The Mediocre

It had all the makings of an epic night. The Cat’s Cradle had been sold out for weeks, and Tyler the Creator’s new studio album was set to release on April 2nd. I knew I could be in for something special. What I discovered however was a different kind of ‘epic’ than I was expecting.

Let me begin by saying that I almost feel bad proceeding with this review in this manner, because it makes me feel like an old timer complaining about today’s youth and their crazy antics with my old timer buddies while sipping a saucer of warm milk. Alas though, I cannot un-see what I saw, and thusly must report my version of the truth to the good readers of Chapelboro. This “concert” was probably one of the best nights of 95% of those in attendance lives. Unfortunately for this reporter, the average age of that grouping hovered somewhere between ages 15 and 17, and for the first time in a long time, I simply did not get it. There were chaperones a plenty cautiously lurking throughout the Cradle, which I noticed almost immediately after entering. That was the first red flag in a series of peculiarities that I was not expecting from this show.

Tyler the Creator is a Los Angeles based rapper (and more so entertainer) who over the last year and a half has gone viral throughout the back alleys of the internet. Since obtaining this popularity, he has broken through in relative form into mainstream media, and is the front man for his group Odd Future. I found out about Tyler from tech savvy friends who discovered his unique and raspy style of emceeing through posts on Facebook, and other social networks. Usually in my experience, this is a good sign. Underground rappers who require an active listener to seek their material out for themselves have lived up to the hype previous to my stumbling upon Tyler. There is nothing “cooler” then being the first to discover something new in what will ultimately become your friends’ next favorite thing. Such names return to me as Immortal Technique, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Lyrics Born, Aesop Rock and Brother Ali. Each of these lyrical beasts were for the most part popularized to me amongst the aforementioned active, savvy hip hop listener, and I remember the proof being in the pudding once the record needle hit the wax. I wanted this to be the case with Tyler the Creator, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, I wanted this to be the review of me witnessing another great emcee in the making. It is just not so. Why you say? On to the actual performance.

I am no novice to hip hop as a genre but keen to recognize difference and innovative new styles as being good things, and, folks, Tyler the Creator is nothing more than a 20 year old kid doing exactly what a 20 year old kid with newly acquired massive fame and money would be expected to do: acting crazy and being vocal about doing it. He is living the dream, apparently not giving a damn, and utilizing sensationalism to the utmost degree. Trust me, I am trying to comment on the actual music but there was so little of it during his performance. One of my biggest qualms with unprepared, poorly delivered rap shows is that many times a studio rapper or group does not translate well to a live stage. This is because the genre as a whole relies much more on studio production, since in hip hop the lyrics and beats go hand in hand. As a result, just as I have seen sporadically in the past, rappers will sometimes do a medley of their songs on stage, as opposed to performing whole tracks all the way through. It is very unsatisfying. This was the case at the Cradle as I tried to establish somewhat of a groove or flow to Tyler’s “set.” Thirty second verses were delivered over and over again, interposed by what was in my opinion some of the most heinous crowd interaction I’ve ever seen. The most memorable part of the show was when Tyler and a female fan on the front row went back and forth about how much money the young lady would accept in exchange for literally licking a pair of one of Tyler’s crony’s undergarments. Yes friends, sensationalist “he said what!?!?” rap is long removed from the times of NWA’s “F— the Police.” Enter a sad state, where “munching my man’s draws” (yes that is a direct quote from Tyler) is far more enjoyable to the young and spry crowd than a lyrical beauty.

The exclamation point on the evening came as Tyler embarked on his last song. About halfway through his verse, so in real time no more than 20 seconds into the backing beat, the sound went out. The faux pa seemed to be Tyler’s own DJ’s fault, not the in house sound man who the group did not hesitate to bark at, probably unjustly. Now this was an opportunity for something really cool, one which Tyler did not capitalize on. When the sound goes out at a good rapper’s show, specifically during the last song, the crowd is usually in for a special treat: a freestyle. For a second, I actually thought the Creator was about to deliver something worthwhile, because you can’t fake a freestyle. Instead, in what was the ultimate anti-climax to the night, he simply remarked about how it sucked to end a show like that, and then walked off stage. Close curtain.

For the first time in a while, I left the Cat’s Cradle disappointed, but interested. Why? Tell me, what is the allure in this man and his music with the youth? Is it simply to feel like one’s youthful self is a part of something? Probably. If the mission was to confuse an optimistic young music journalist, mission accomplished. Touche, Mr. Creator, for to some extent I believe it is this confusion that makes your presence viable whatsoever. Still though, it is ALWAYS great to get out and see something different. I look forward to Ghostface Killah’s upcoming appearance at the Cradle, and the opportunity to show people what a real rapper and professional performer can do.

You can follow Charles on Twitter @This_Is_Bones

image by mehan via flickr

http://chapelboro.com/columns/charles-frank/tyler-the-mediocre/

Cat's Cradle: Lotus


 

Let me start out by saying that at times I have been somewhat resistant to the tidal wave of electronica and the newfangled dub-step craze that fascinates the youth. However, I am never one to discount true talent and musicianship, and thus my opinions and preferences on what some have dubbed “Jamtronica” have changed through the years, and continue to shift as the musical landscape evolves. Lotus is a prime example of this transition, bridging areas of instrumental musical expertise and digital innovation to create a truly unique sound.

Lotus, formed in 1999 at Goshen College in Indiana has been pioneering the electronic sound on the jam scene that now influences countless national touring acts from their inception. As I was enjoying the sights and sounds of my most recent Lotus experience at Cat’s Cradle on a late February evening, I took note of two specific points of interest that have perhaps helped sustain and expand the brand of live sound that Lotus boasts.

Firstly, I took specific interest on how the band kept the Chapel Hill crowd interested throughout the show. This may sound like a no-brainer, but for an electronic act it really isn’t. Without lyrics in their songs, bands like Lotus have to find other ways to keep the crowd energy in flux. Imagine if a DJ at a nightclub were to play the same song on repeat. Regardless of how melodic or dance friendly it is — that simply does not work. The crowd will get restless, bored, and eventually lose interest entirely. While this is not at all the case with a Lotus show, it is an effective analogy in demonstrating just how talented an electronic artist actually has to be to keep things moving.

The composition of their tunes is always similar. There will always be a back drum beat; there will always be eclectic guitar and keyboard riffs that float in and out, almost teasing the senses until the ultimate drop and subsequent climax in their given song. The intricacies of the songs are what captures the attendee’s attention, and help build the “what comes next” anticipation that vitalizes a live show. This is something that Lotus has absolutely mastered. While “Jamtronica” acts are popping up on festival scenes right and left these days, Lotus has had over a decade to refine their sound.

And it shows. In order to alternate the pace of the music, and control the crowd, Lotus uses trancelike building sounds on the keys and quickly paced repetitive drum strokes. Lotus is able to do something that I identify to be a staple of all great bands, which is create tension followed by release. Peaks and valleys of speed and complexity really let a listener get lost in the groove.

Secondly, I was keen to always examine their light show and the way they use it as another instrument in the band. Since the sounds coming from the stage are often intermingled and similar, lacking a definitive starting or stopping point, Lotus uses their lights as another weapon in their arsenal to dominate eye sockets and keep people’s feet moving. Since Lotus’ sound is driven by the backbeat, their lights are always in rhythm until like the other pieces of the band; they too indulge in a solo per se. The lights flooded out over the Cradle crowd in a stunning fashion, which is something I was skeptical of having never seen Lotus in a small venue, but the band had no problem adjusting. The Cat’s Cradle was the most crowded I have seen it in recent months, and the body of the crowd lent nicely to the light show, creating a human canvas for the band to work with. The mood was set masterfully all night long by the Hoosier state 5-piece. I cannot stress how critical of an element this plays at this type of endeavor, for without a high energy, consistently stirring dance floor, the concert implodes altogether. It is like capturing lightning in a bottle, and being able to sustain that lighting for an entire evening. Not an easy task.

Overall, Lotus delivered a show which stands testament to the power of musical innovation. I have been slowly and cautiously stepping out of my own comfort zone of live musical preference for years now, and the rewards of discovery have been priceless. I would urge everyone to step out and give bands like Lotus a shot to deliver the “wow” attitude that I left the Cat’s Cradle with. Lotus heads out to the west coast to conclude their spring tour, before hitting the festival circuit this summer. For more info on their music and my experience there, please contact me!

Until next time folks, see you at the show!

You can follow Charles on Twitter @This_Is_Bones

image by base10 via flickr

http://chapelboro.com/columns/charles-frank/cats-cradle-lotus/

Fred Applegate Speaks on DPACs "Anything Goes"

Fred Applegate – starring as Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin, in the upcoming performance of Anything Goes at the Durham Performing Arts Center – took a moment to speak with Ron Stutts of 97.9FM WCHL. Anything Goes runs from March 19-24 at DPAC.
 

Tell us about Anything Goes. What can people expect?

“Well people can expect a really good time,” Applegate says. “It’s Cole Porter music. It’s amazing how many songs from this show you’re going to think you knew before you were born. People think it’s a jukebox musical because all of the songs are so famous and such a part of our culture. There’s a lot of tap dancing, some good comedy, some mistaken identities, and some mixed-up romances, and it all gets solved on a five day cruise from New York to London.”

Winner of three 2011 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival and Choreography, this production of Anything Goes is sure to astound audiences. The New York Times calls it “MUSICAL-COMEDY JOY” and USA TODAY hails it as “GLORIOUS and EXHUBERANT!”

Anything Goes follows the story of two unlikely couples on a cruise from New York to London. With the help of some singing sailors, clever disguises, Public Enemy #13 (Applegate’s character), and an evangelist turned nightclub singer, Anything Goes proves that sometimes love needs a little push to come out on top. Top it off with musical theater classics such as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely” and, as the song says, “Anything Goes!”

Applegate plays Moonface Martin, Public Enemy Number 13.

“I just don’t have the heart to make the top ten I guess,” he says, “but it does bother me.”
 

When did you first get started in Show business?

Applegate had his first professional job in 1977. He got the acting bug early in life when he played one of the Siamese children in his local high school’s production of The King and I.

“I thought this absolutely makes sense, and this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Applegate says. “I told my father when I was seven that I wanted to be an actor, and he said ‘How do you do that?’ I said ‘I don’t know,’ and he said ‘Well find out!’”

“My parents have always been very supportive. My parents grew up in the Depression. They came out of it wanting my sister and I to do whatever we wanted because they grew up in a world where you couldn’t do whatever you wanted.”
 

You spent a lot of time on Broadway, tell us about some of your experiences and some of your performances.

Applegate says he came to Broadway “kind of late in life.” He lived in California for 25 years doing television (You might recognize him from an episode of Seinfeld in which he fires George from a real estate job. George decides to get revenge by spiking his drink, just as he decides to give George his job back). Although he did both The Sound of Music in 1997 and The Producers in 2003 on Broadway, it wasn’t until he was asked to do Young Frankenstein in 2007 that he moved to New York.

“I thought ‘How many chances, how many bites at the big apple do you get?’ Applegate says.

Since his move Applegate has performed in Happiness at Lincoln Center, Fanny for Encores!, La Cage aux Folles, Sister Act, and now Anything Goes.

“Life on the road is not so easy when you have a family and if I weren’t really enjoying this show so much I would be pretty miserable. These people are great, the cast is wonderful, the show is great, the audiences love it. It’s really worth doing.”
 

Tell us about your family.

Applegate describes his parents as “delightful” and attributes his sense of humor to his mom. He and his wife, Cherie, have been married for 33 years.

“I blame her for that,” he says while laughing. “She says it’s been 12 of the happiest years of her life.”

He has three children: Ben, Meredith and Ethan. His youngest son is studying acting and directing.

“I encouraged them to do whatever they wanted to do,” Applegate says. “If you find something you’re passionate about, it’s worth doing.”
 

Back to Anything Goes

Applegate describes the show as a farce. The show follows a romance between a young man, Billy Crocker, and woman, Hope Harcourt, as they travel from New York to London aboard the S.S. “American.” However, Hope is engaged to a lord and heading to London to be married. Applegate’s character and his sidekick, Erma, try to help Billy derail the marriage and get the multiple couples on board with the people they are “supposed to be with.”

“Over us all is Reno Sweeney, played by the truly extraordinary Rachel York,” Applegate describes. “Reno is a nightclub entertainer who’s entertaining on the ship on her way to London. And she’s in love with the guy who’s in love with the girl who’s going to marry the lord.”

“It keeps getting complicated so it can all get sorted out in the silliest possible way at the end, and on the way we get to sing a catalogue of Cole Porter hits that are all terrific.”

You can find all the info you need on how to see the show at DPAC’s Website. And enjoy the show!

http://chapelboro.com/columns/uncategorized-columns/fred-applegate-speaks-on-dpacs-anything-goes/

Fred Applegate Speaks on DPACs "Anything Goes"

Fred Applegate – starring as Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin, in the upcoming performance of Anything Goes at the Durham Performing Arts Center – took a moment to speak with Ron Stutts of 97.9FM WCHL. Anything Goes runs from March 19-24 at DPAC.
 

Tell us about Anything Goes. What can people expect?

“Well people can expect a really good time,” Applegate says. “It’s Cole Porter music. It’s amazing how many songs from this show you’re going to think you knew before you were born. People think it’s a jukebox musical because all of the songs are so famous and such a part of our culture. There’s a lot of tap dancing, some good comedy, some mistaken identities, and some mixed-up romances, and it all gets solved on a five day cruise from New York to London.”

Winner of three 2011 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival and Choreography, this production of Anything Goes is sure to astound audiences. The New York Times calls it “MUSICAL-COMEDY JOY” and USA TODAY hails it as “GLORIOUS and EXHUBERANT!”

Anything Goes follows the story of two unlikely couples on a cruise from New York to London. With the help of some singing sailors, clever disguises, Public Enemy #13 (Applegate’s character), and an evangelist turned nightclub singer, Anything Goes proves that sometimes love needs a little push to come out on top. Top it off with musical theater classics such as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely” and, as the song says, “Anything Goes!”

Applegate plays Moonface Martin, Public Enemy Number 13.

“I just don’t have the heart to make the top ten I guess,” he says, “but it does bother me.”
 

When did you first get started in Show business?

Applegate had his first professional job in 1977. He got the acting bug early in life when he played one of the Siamese children in his local high school’s production of The King and I.

“I thought this absolutely makes sense, and this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Applegate says. “I told my father when I was seven that I wanted to be an actor, and he said ‘How do you do that?’ I said ‘I don’t know,’ and he said ‘Well find out!’”

“My parents have always been very supportive. My parents grew up in the Depression. They came out of it wanting my sister and I to do whatever we wanted because they grew up in a world where you couldn’t do whatever you wanted.”
 

You spent a lot of time on Broadway, tell us about some of your experiences and some of your performances.

Applegate says he came to Broadway “kind of late in life.” He lived in California for 25 years doing television (You might recognize him from an episode of Seinfeld in which he fires George from a real estate job. George decides to get revenge by spiking his drink, just as he decides to give George his job back). Although he did both The Sound of Music in 1997 and The Producers in 2003 on Broadway, it wasn’t until he was asked to do Young Frankenstein in 2007 that he moved to New York.

“I thought ‘How many chances, how many bites at the big apple do you get?’ Applegate says.

Since his move Applegate has performed in Happiness at Lincoln Center, Fanny for Encores!, La Cage aux Folles, Sister Act, and now Anything Goes.

“Life on the road is not so easy when you have a family and if I weren’t really enjoying this show so much I would be pretty miserable. These people are great, the cast is wonderful, the show is great, the audiences love it. It’s really worth doing.”
 

Tell us about your family.

Applegate describes his parents as “delightful” and attributes his sense of humor to his mom. He and his wife, Cherie, have been married for 33 years.

“I blame her for that,” he says while laughing. “She says it’s been 12 of the happiest years of her life.”

He has three children: Ben, Meredith and Ethan. His youngest son is studying acting and directing.

“I encouraged them to do whatever they wanted to do,” Applegate says. “If you find something you’re passionate about, it’s worth doing.”
 

Back to Anything Goes

Applegate describes the show as a farce. The show follows a romance between a young man, Billy Crocker, and woman, Hope Harcourt, as they travel from New York to London aboard the S.S. “American.” However, Hope is engaged to a lord and heading to London to be married. Applegate’s character and his sidekick, Erma, try to help Billy derail the marriage and get the multiple couples on board with the people they are “supposed to be with.”

“Over us all is Reno Sweeney, played by the truly extraordinary Rachel York,” Applegate describes. “Reno is a nightclub entertainer who’s entertaining on the ship on her way to London. And she’s in love with the guy who’s in love with the girl who’s going to marry the lord.”

“It keeps getting complicated so it can all get sorted out in the silliest possible way at the end, and on the way we get to sing a catalogue of Cole Porter hits that are all terrific.”

You can find all the info you need on how to see the show at DPAC’s Website. And enjoy the show!

http://chapelboro.com/columns/uncategorized-columns/fred-applegate-speaks-on-dpacs-anything-goes-2/

Rain: A Beatles Tribute

The Beatles are supposed to be the kind of band that comes once in a generation. (At least that’s how my “Intro to Rock” professor at UNC described them.) The band brought an entirely new sound to the US, ushering in the British Invasion and Beatlemania. They dominated the charts for nearly a decade.

However, I think the Beatles are better described as a band that spans generations. How many other artists transformed music in such a dramatic way? How many other bands have inspired musicals, movies (I adore Across the Universe), and even a show by Cirque du Soleil? How many are loved just as much by the youngest generations as they are by the generations who experienced their live concerts?

Simple answer: none.

RAIN: A Tribute to The Beatles which is returning to Durham for a second time. From what I’ve gathered, if you never saw a Beatles performance, this is about as close as you’ll get to seeing a live concert nowadays, over forty years since the band called it quits.

The RAIN band recreates history by performing the Beatles’ music in the style and dress of the Beatles. For those few who saw a Beatles live concert, it’s sure to bring back memories; for others, it’s the exciting opportunity to experience the nearest thing to a Beatles concert for the first time. For a taste, look at some of the videos.

I’m excited to hear “Blackbird,” “Come Together,” and “All My Loving” played live onstage. Others may enjoy “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Let It Be,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” The only way their concert might be even better is if they played “Eleanor Rigby” with a proper string quartet (fingers crossed!).

You can find all the info you need on how to see the show at DPAC’s Website. And enjoy the show!

http://chapelboro.com/columns/uncategorized-columns/rain-a-beatles-tribute/

Parenting Page: Learning To Swear

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings. (They will not go in any chronological order FYI, and all names except immediate family have been changed.)

Learning To Swear

When Page was about three years old my friend Ingrid and I were driving with Page to Ingrid’s beach house. It was about a three-hour drive and Page was getting bored. In particular she had tired of our music and started asking for her music to be played. But the reality was we had played kid music for a good bit of the trip and had not been switched to a regular radio station for very long when Page started complaining. Complaining soon moved into whining when I repeatedly said ‘no.’ I explained it was our turn to pick the music for a while because she had already had a long turn. After trying to wear me down to no avail, Page exclaimed in angry exasperation, “I’m sick of this crack!”

Ingrid thought about that for a second and burst into laughter, realizing Page meant, “I’m sick of this c-r-a-p!” And realizing Page had to have learned that expression from somewhere…

Meantime I’m trying to tell Page that isn’t an OK thing to say and not to say it, all the while thinking how funny it is to try to explain to a child not to say something they’ve heard you say. And to complicate matters she’s said it incorrectly, which somehow makes me worry she’ll say it wrong on the playground and her friends will make fun of her. Swearing is bad, but swearing incorrectly in front of your peers and getting teased is also bad. So my conversation with Page goes something like this: “That’s a bad thing to say Page. You shouldn’t say that. But if you’re going to say it, it’s ‘crap’ – as in, I’m sick of this crap, not crack. But don’t say it. But if you do say it, it’s ‘crap.’ With a ‘p’ at the end, not crack, crap. Which is a bad word we shouldn’t say. So don’t say it.”

The best thing about this conversation was Page seemed to realize there was something very odd about it, because Ingrid was laughing and I was going back and forth with my don’t-say-it-but-if-you-do-say-it explanation, thus it completely distracted Page from complaining about the music and we had a nice quiet trip the rest of the way. Undoubtedly while my three-year-old mulled over the difference between ‘crack’ and ‘crap.’

 

Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. You can find her on twitter at @LepageAssoc or at Facebook.com/LepageAssociates.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/dr-tina-lepage/parenting-page-learning-to-swear/