whatzup2nite • Tuesday, January 27

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Things To Do

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National Shows

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Music & Comedy

KT & the Swingset Quartet — Blues at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 483-5526

Karaoke & DJs

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Stage & Dance

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Art & Artifacts

Celebrating 20 Years, 1995-2015 — Featuring national and regional artists; Forrest Formsma, Fred Doloresco, Robert Eberle, Pamela Newell, Diane Lyon, Jody Hemphill Smith, Katy McMurray, Maureen O’Hara Pesta, Michael Poorman, Mike Kelly, Carolyn Fehsenfeld, Doug Runyan, CW Mundy, Susan Suraci, Terri Buchholz, Andrea Bojrab, Bill Inman and Terry Armstrong, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru Feb. 7, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568

Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts — Costumes, accessories, set pieces, documentary excerpts, historical photos and tour posters from the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s first 40 years, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 15, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Expedition Earth — Traveling exhibit featuring grassland, forest and tundra biomes, Wednesday-Sunday thru May 17, Science Central, Fort Wayne, $6-$8 (2 and under, free), 424-2400 ext. 423

Hunt Slonem: Magnificent Menagerie — Nature inspired paintings, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 8, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Rock Paper Scissors — Mixed media pieces focused on games and annual postcard sale and fundraiser, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 4, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

Featured Events

Fort Wayne Dance Collective — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theatre classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977,

Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, $100 per month, 432-8176 ext. 1961,


The Smell of the Kill

Decidedly Black Comedy

One of the great things about serving as the executive director of a theater and sitting on the play reading committee is finding new plays and playwrights to bring to audiences. When a slot in our 2014-2015 schedule opened unexpectedly, I was scrambling to find a play to fill the opening. My partner, Steve, reminded me of a play I had read and enjoyed when we were planning the previous season. So I pulled the script out, reread it and really fell in love with it. Hence our current production at Arena Dinner Theatre of Michele Lowe’s The Smell of the Kill, sponsored by Lutheran Life Villages Home Care. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I have a very dark sense of humor. A well written and entertaining black comedy is one of my favorite things, and this show certainly fits that bill. The action of the play revolves around three married couples at one of their monthly dinner parties where the women have tolerated one another for years. While their unseen spouses play golf in the dining room, the women exchange confidences in the kitchen, for the first time revealing that all three marriages may not be as happy as they seem. At one point, the women are accidentally presented with a life or death decision: should they let their husbands live or die? One by one, the women make their choices (with more than a little help from each other). The reviews of the original New York production called the show “devilish, wicked, ultimately touching black comedy” and “nice, mean fun … a deft little anti-love story … alternately light hearted and cold hearted.” I think our audiences will find that to be true of this production. We welcome back to our stage three Arena favorites, Gloria Minnich, Rebecca Karcher and Kristin Jones as the wives and Kevin Knuth, Kevin Boner and myself as their no-good husbands. Come in from the cold and enjoy a fine dinner from Goeglein’s and a wonderfully funny show in the heart of the West Central neighborhood. We’re always so happy to have you at Arena!

Brian Wagner

Justin Johnson

An Artist Switches Gears

If you’ve taken a stroll through Artlink or Crestwood galleries lately, you might have noticed a few surprising pieces hanging on the walls. Justin Johnson, a local favorite, is changing gears as he explores a brand new style, purpose and technique. Most of us are familiar with Johnson’s previous body of work: warm toned backgrounds layered with succinct, sometimes figurative drawings topped by a thin, translucent veil of gold overlay. His current pieces are void of color, minimalist abstracts representing transomed and transeptal features of architecture, most frequently derived from medieval references. “This is a distinct departure from what I normally do,” says Johnson. “This is something I’d been planning out in my mind for about a year and a half.” Johnson’s new approach involves the use of velum, a translucent paper that allows him to simultaneously use both the back and front of the substrate. Similar to his earlier work, this technique requires the careful manipulation of layers, each one placed after a great deal of contemplation, until the artist achieves a sense of completion. “If you distill both bodies of work you still see very similar aspects in terms of composition,” says Johnson. “Doing both an under-drawing and over-drawing on velum doubles the value of the tones in terms of what’s positive and negative.” Black, white and grey tones pull Johnson away from his previous body of work, but those tones allow him to focus on composition and the process of building each piece. When faced with a blank piece of velum, Johnson first lays down a series of loose lines with pencil. He studies these lines, searching for beginnings of satisfying compositions. “I work on a large sheet in several different areas or grids,” he explains. “I begin to see compositions develop and trim those areas off. On a sheet I may have four to six compositions going at the same time, and then I pull those pieces out and rework them into a finished sense … I work until if I put another line down I will dismantle it.” In his work Johnson tries to extract the fundamental elements of ancient architecture. He tries to capture the spiritual experience felt when entering a majestic, ancient cathedral. “I like to take a contemporary perspective on them,” he says. “It’s a matter of working with distillation of line and shape to create these compositions.” As Johnson’s pieces progress, he tries not to take lines away. Unwanted marks are not erased but rather incorporated into the design, which is often accomplished by applying layers of a dominant medium. “With working on both sides of the velum I can kind of erase lines that I don’t want to use by overlapping with ink and Wite-Out,” he explains. Johnson is a contemplative artist who saves the unused fragments of the original substrate and studies them to learn about himself; he learns about how he works as an artist, especially how he develops composition. Careful observers can learn about Johnson’s thought process if they look for the similarities in past bodies of work that led him to his current work. As he was working on his most recognizable pieces, the figurative, warm-toned compositions, he began to pay more attention to the translucent quality of the gold overlay than the primary subject of each piece. He was attracted to the intuitive nature of the medium. Working with the gold was a bit uncontrollable. According to Johnson, it sometimes wanted to do it’s own thing which forced him to follow the path of the paint and use spontaneity to his advantage. His inquisitive nature led Johnson to think about new options. As he finished his work with gold overlay, he found himself fantasizing about velum, charcoal, pencil and Wite-Out. He decided to leave color behind. Once he started producing these new pieces, Johnson felt reinvigorated and steamed forward. “I love the minimal aspects of this,” he says. “I probably won’t go back to color until I feel like I’ve conquered the aspects of black and white … there is a meditative quality about them without color.” By removing color from the equation, Johnson is able to create simplistic landscapes and architectural structures that emit a serene tone that pulls the viewer in, tempting one to look past the page and imagine what might exist beyond his picture plane. Johnson’s passion for the design of structure is deeply seated. With a background in drafting and architecture, his mind is predisposed to concise lines and angles. “My work has always been a bit rigid,” he says. “If I go too far in another direction, it will feel contrived.” The influences of two area artists, Rick Cartwright and Maurice Papier, also steer Johnson’s approach to making art. Johnson was introduced to these artists through his study as an undergraduate at the University of Saint Francis where he went on to fulfill his master’s degree. Johnson’s relationship with the university continues; he has spent the past 12 years serving as gallery director. “My work as a director has allowed me to study a broad range of artists,” he says. Being exposed to a constant stream of art – ranging from smoke paintings and contemporary installations to traditional oil paintings – Johnson enjoys an ongoing influx of new material that accumulates in his mind, waiting to be extracted and expressed onto canvas. Art enthusiasts in town are becoming familiar with Johnson’s new body of work. It has been displayed at the faculty expo at the University of Saint Francis, Crestwood Gallery and Artlink. He hopes to soon accumulate enough pieces to support a solo show. You can catch a glimpse of his work at Crestwood Gallery during its year-end show, Greatest Hits. A closing party will be held Saturday, January 17 from 3-6 p.m. The show closes officially on January 31.

Heather Miller

Old and Dirty

An Old Band's New Start

If Old and Dirty were any less dedicated, they probably would have called it quits when the once five-piece band devolved to a duo less than a year ago. Perhaps another reason the band is still around after two years of sporadic activity is because they never developed or nurtured any grand ambitions beyond just jamming with friends who share mutual tastes in music. With its current lineup of Pete Dio on vocals and guitar, Hope Wherle on fiddle and Joe Bent on bass and backing vocals, Old and Dirty have focused on honing their rather unique style of bluegrass and country music. If one were to consult the band’s Facebook page for information, it would imply that Old and Dirty are of the cowpunk genre (think Meat Puppets). And cowpunk sounds exactly like what you would think: country, folk and bluegrass music, but with a faster-paced, aggressive edge. Founding member and guitarist/vocalist Dio, however, doesn’t necessarily agree with the description on Facebook. “When we started out, we were doing some bluegrass renditions of punk songs,” Dio said, “We did some Rancid and Fat Ass, but [we’re not punk] aesthetically or sound-wise; it’s just our approach to it.” Even though a song like “Untitled” (posted on the group’s ReverbNation page) seemingly contradicts Dio’s claim, that original punk element still persists. Unless it’s at a family-friendly venue like the Botanical Conservatory, an Old and Dirty show might include mouthing off at the audience, accepting donations from audience members in the form of alcoholic beverages and, after ingesting them, loosening up the structure of the songs to make them all the more unpredictable. After all, the way Dio prefers to describe Old and Dirty’s repertoire is “drinking music.” Appropriately, the venue formerly known as the Berlin (now christened the Skeletunes Lounge) played host to Dirty Thursdays where dollar drinks were offered while the band provided the musical entertainment. The Dirty Thursday shows that ran throughout 2012 funded the recording of the band’s debut album. However, as the album entered the mixing stage, most of the band members decided to exit the group. “Sometimes ... you think you’re being funny when you’re not,” Dio said by way of explaining how the band began to fall apart. “Some of it’s too personal, and if you read close enough into the lyrics, you can understand why the band had a sort of regrouping. It’s self-documentation of life imitating art and art imitating life. It started out with good intentions, like releasing tension, but ended up creating tension.” A subsequent low point for the then duo of Dio and Wherle came at a performance at the Woodcrest Lanes bowling alley in Union City, Ohio. According to Wherle, nobody knew Old and Dirty or their style of music, and to make things worse there was no bass player to provide backbone to the songs, so the set became an emaciated shell of what it had once been. Though Dio and Wherle laugh about it now, the experience at the time was enough to make them question the future of Old and Dirty. An embarrassing episode like the Woodcrest Lanes fiasco might have destroyed another band. However, instead of completely imploding, Dio and Wherle decided to move forward by enlisting Dio’s mutual friend and bandmate, Joe Bent, on bass. Dio and Bent are in several other bands togther (including the new incarnation of Left Lane Cruiser with Bent on bass and Dio on drums). And, according to Dio, they also have the same kind of musical brain, making it easier to set the band’s new course. “[Wherle’s] like, the focus,” Dio said, “which is a lot better than what she used to do with a five piece. She would have to fight in order to be heard. Once we started rocking as a three piece, and we got Joe on bass, Hope just blossomed, and I like the sound that we have now much better.” Dio also credits Wherle for keeping Old and Dirty going. “I like to say it’s Hope’s band because she’s the one [who] makes it worth paying attention to,” Dio says. Her role elevates the band’s music beyond what Dio calls “boring, regular, sad bastard stuff. “She’s the heart and soul of the band because she’s a pretty positive person, and if it wasn’t for Hope sticking around when the band had its hard times, there wouldn’t be no band,” Dio said. While the group is still together and rehearsing, Old and Dirty are also currently in a state of limbo due to Dio recently undergoing surgery on his back. After he fully recuperates, the group plans on pressing and releasing that full-length debut album featuring the original five-piece lineup. Future plans include working on a new set of songs and eventually playing at the Muddy Roots Festival in Cookeville, Tennessee. For now, it appears as though Old and Dirty have earned themselves a fresh, clean start for the second phase in their career.

Colin McCallister

Christi Campbell

Stronger Than She Knew

For many performers, acting is a way to make their voices heard. For others, it’s a way to learn about the human experience and to take away lessons. For Christi Campbell, it’s about both. “I was always ridiculously comfortable in front of people as a kid,” she says, “and once I got my first taste of being on a real stage, it became a passion and a permanent part of who I was.” She took inspiration from her father, a Methodist pastor who performed in high school theater and is a gifted speaker and storyteller. “Like me, he is stupidly comfortable in front of people,” she says. “I use that phrase because it’s absolutely stupid to be comfortable in front of a large group of people but nervous in front of two or three you don’t know. But that is true of us both.” While a high school freshman, her family moved to Monon, Indiana, and to relax after a long day of travel, they decided to take in a student performance of Oklahoma! at the North White High School. They were impressed by the size of the theater for such a small town and even more impressed by the quality of the performance. “From that moment,” she says, “it was my dream to be in their next show.” Although not a singer, Campbell auditioned for their next production, the musical Once upon a Mattress. She admits to being completely out of her depths and ill-prepared for the experience, but was thrilled to be cast. “It was more than enough,” she says. “I sang in the ensemble and helped backstage with props. It was the time of my life. I was introduced to a magical backstage world and I’ve been hooked since.” She performed all through high school, including summer shows, and she joined a traveling theater group in college. She attended the University of Indianapolis and Purdue, studying writing and communication with a focus on psychology. She met her future husband during her studies, and after having three children she took a long break from theater to focus on her family. She currently works as a freelance writer and blogger for Moms Fort Wayne. She also has a personal blog, Ditching the Masks, in which she discusses some of the personal struggles both she and her family are going through, including Chiari malformation (“my brain tissue does not fit into my skull correctly, causing pain and other challenges”). Recently, however, after a 17-year break, she felt the draw of the theater again. Despite her challenges, she was determined to revisit her passion. So far she has performed in six shows at First Presbyterian Theater, including their current production, The Savannah Disputation, in which she plays Melissa, a spunky, over-eager Southern evangelical missionary. She has enjoyed getting to know Melissa and finds her character’s struggle similar to her own. “She is perky and confident, excited and super happy,” she says. “She is willing to get doors slammed in her face over and over because she doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. Her real flaw is her fear of failure. I so get that. That is my biggest hang up in life, my fear of failure.” Campbell’s own struggles have made her somewhat reticent in new situations. However, she says she has found a home at First Presbyterian Theater. “It’s meant a lot to me and my whole family,” she says. “My daughter has become part of the behind-the-scenes family there. They are supportive, unquestioning, and they just care. They are a blessing in our lives.” Nevertheless, she is eager to see what the other groups in town have to offer. “I’d love to get a chance to romp at least once on each stage around town,” she says, “to get a feel of each space and the audience reflected back in it. The flavor of the community is different in every venue, and I love that.” For now she is enjoying working with her First Presbyterian family in The Savannah Disputation. With just four cast members – married couple Meg and Jonathan Brouwer, Nancy Kartholl (who is married to director Thom Hofrichter) and Campbell – the group is particularly tight-knit. “The cast is small, and this has led to more of a ‘family closeness’ than I’ve had before,” Campbell says. “It’s just been amazing.” She compares nightly rehearsal to “taking a college level acting class” and cites Kartholl as one of her top acting role models, along with another frequent First Pres actress, Kate Black. “I admire their performances and techniques,” Campbell says. “When I see them in a show, I take in every moment, almost like a student takes in a lecture, tucking it away for future reference. Mostly I admire them for their human real side. They are constantly growing and wanting to be more.” The other lessons she is taking away from the theater experience have been more surprising to Campbell. Through performing, she says, “I’ve found I’m stronger than I ever knew.” She says she generally feels more confident onstage than off, but she is learning to bring that confidence with her when she leaves the theatre. “I knew there was this strong, fearless, kick-ass side of me,” she says. “Performing has allowed me to give her a voice and legs.” One character that she found particularly therapeutic was one of the three women she played in last year’s First Presbyterian Theater play, Mrs. Packard. Her character was an unnamed patient in a 19th century mental asylum, and she was called on to scream in terror during one scene. Like several of the women in the play, which was based on the actual journal of a former patient, her character was perfectly sane but had been forcibly admitted to the asylum by a husband who simply disagreed with her ideas. “She was driven mad by being there,” says Campbell. “I made up a whole back story for her, because she needed a reason to scream her head off every night. I called it ‘scream therapy.’ It was actually very good to unleash all life’s frustrations rather than bottle them up.” She likewise appreciates working with other actors who take new things away from theatrical experiences. “I especially love working with actors who recognize that we do this for enjoyment and fulfillment,” she says. “It’s about having fun and growing as a person. People who love to grow, laugh and help me learn a thing or two about myself and the craft are my favorite people.” Campbell also continues to use what she learns as an actor in her writing. “I love to write fiction and create worlds that are very real and characters that are flawed and relatable,” she says. She plans to publish her first book this year and has three more in the works. Her personal blog is something she is also becoming more passionate about. “It’s slowly becoming a platform for me,” she says, saying that the challenges she writes about there are “harder than any stage production.” But, she says, “without the theater, I’d become lost. It’s how I can come back home fresh and be a better mom. Doing something that makes me come alive is the best thing I could do for my kids.”

Jen Poiry-Prough

Koze Thai Cuisine & Bar

Good, But a Bit Overpriced

Anyone who knows me well understands that I gravitate towards Asian cuisine – Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese – so when I saw a new Thai restaurant opening on Lima Road in the former O’Charley’s location, I was stoked. There is always room for more dining options. Having been a long time Baan Thai fan, I was skeptical that this new place could top it, but I knew I had to give it a try. Koze, which opened in late 2014, places its focus on ambiance which dances the line between casual and sophisticated. The newly renovated space has shed its chain-restaurant feel and is tastefully decorated with authentic Thai art. The spacious bar can comfortably seat up to 40 people, and there’s a private room that can accommodate up to 20 people for a private event. I sat at the bar when I visited and received prompt and courteous service, though I should mention I was the only one in the place at the time. The cocktail menu is adequate and includes some signature drinks priced at $8. I tried the Farang Fizz made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Cointreau, muddled orange slices, cherries and a dash of Angostura bitters, shaken and stirred and served on the rocks with a splash of soda. I enjoyed the taste of this cocktail, but I found the abundance of orange pieces a bit bothersome, especially as I tried to drink through a straw. The restaurant boasts that the custom cocktail menu features only freshly prepared juices and mixers. If I make a return visit, I plan to try the Bangkok Stinger, made with Bombay Sapphire gin, blackberry brandy, grenadine and fresh lime juice with a splash of pineapple juice. Koze offers a few beers on tap and some bottled beer choices, as well. The food menu is fairly simple and features a small selection of fried rice, curry, noodle and stir fry dishes. Whenever I try a new Thai Restaurant, I always order Pad Thai ($13). This is the quintessential Thai dish and, if done well, is a good indicator whether the rest of the menu is worth exploring. I ordered mine with tofu. I also tried the Spicy Basil and Peppers Stir Fry ($13). Pad Thai is a straightforward dish made with stir-fried rice noodles, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions and peanuts and seasoned with tamarind pulp and garlic. Though simple, Pad Thai typically packs a flavor punch, but I found Koze’s to be quite bland and Americanized. It is edible, but certainly nothing to write home about. On a positive note, the ingredients tasted fresh, and I have it on good authority that the owners plan to source as many ingredients locally as it can. The Spicy Basil and Peppers Stir Fry was quite tasty – and spicy, as the name implies. It may be prepared with pork, chicken, beef or tofu. I chose beef and was pleasantly surprised with the result. The dish contained the perfect blend of spices, and I enjoyed the crunch of the red and green bell peppers. While basil is in the name of the dish, it was not overpowering— punctuating each bite with a fresh pop of flavor. Overall, the food and drinks were fine. My biggest issue is the prices: $3 to $4 more than comparable dishes at other Thai restaurants in town. I’d be okay paying those prices if the food were outstanding, but as it stands, Baan Thai remains the king of Thai cuisine in my book.

Amber Recker



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