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whatzup2nite • Thursday, March 5

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Things To Do

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National Shows

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Music & Comedy

Dan Smyth — Variety at Checkerz, Fort Wayne, 6:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 489-0286

Open Mic Night — Hosted by Mike Conley at Mad Anthony Brewing Company, Fort Wayne, 8:30-11 p.m., no cover, 426-2537


Karaoke & DJs

American Idol Karaoke w/Dave — Karaoke at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526

Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Karaoke at Deer Park, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 432-8966

Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., cover, 422-5055


Stage & Dance

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Movies

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Art & Artifacts

Art Madness — Pieces from CW Mundy, Rick Wilson, Fred Doloresco, Forrest Formsma, B. Eric Rhoads, Robert Eberle, Pamela C. Newell, Diane Lyon, Jody Hemphill Smith, Katy McMurray, Michael Poorman, Mike Kelly, Joey Frisillo, Shelby Keefe, Doug Runyan, Susan Suraci, Terri Buchholz, Andrea Bojrab, Bill Inman, Terry Armstrong, Mark Daly, Dan Woodson, Donna Shortt, Lori Putman and Mark Burkett, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, 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

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

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards — Student artwork and writing from the region, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 12, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467


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, www.ipfw.edu/caa

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, academy.sweetwater.com



Features

The Wailers

Say you missed your chance to hear the Wailers back in the late 60s when Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh grabbed the Barrett brothers from another band and became a reggae sensation. Suppose you’ve always wanted to hear selections from the Wailers’ seminal album Legend performed live. You thought your wish would never come true, right? Wrong. The Wailers, now fronted by original bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett, will be in Fort Wayne at Piere’s Entertainment Center on Saturday, March 7 when they’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Legend’s release by treating fans to an evening of some of the band’s most beloved hits. In addition to songs from Legend, the Wailers – Barrett on bass, Aston Barrett Jr. on organ, Anthony “Benbow” Creary on drums, Audley “Chizzy” Chisholm on lead guitar, Cegeee Victory on vocals, Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin on vocals, Joshua David on vocals and rhythm guitar, Keith Sterling on keyboards and Melvin“Ras Mel” Glover on rhythm guitar – will also perform pieces from 1977’s Exodus, named by Time magazine as the album of the 20th Century. It’s safe to say that the Wailers were instrumental (pun intended) in introducing the U.S. and Western Europe to reggae, as well as the Rastafarian religion. When the original group split up in 1974, Marley went on to a very successful solo career. He died in 1981 of cancer, but not before his friend and bandmate, “Family Man” Barrett, swore a vow to keep his legacy alive. “My life with The Wailers has been an odyssey ... We’ve come so far,” Barrett said. “Sharing this music with so many people around the world was my last promise to Bob, and here we are.” Rusted Root and Adam Ezra will open the show.







Tom Green

Anything for a Laugh

Tom Green has done some bizarre things over the course of his life in comedy. Fans of his first major motion picture, Freddy Got Fingered, will, of course, recall the scene in which he plays the keyboard like it’s a pipe organ, all the while munching on sausage links hanging from ceiling strings and singing “Daddy, would you like some sausage?” Speaking of daddy issues, he’s also had his own father’s car (aka “the Slut Mobile”) vandalized with an X-rated lesbian sex scene and thrown a cow’s head into his parent’s bed in homage to his dad’s favorite movie, The Godfather. (The latter two stunts were filmed for The Tom Green Show, which ran on MTV from 1999-2003.) As if these pranks weren’t enough to establish his reputation as a funnyman who thinks outside the box, he’s also eaten melon with Ryan Seacrest, drunk until he dropped with Dennis Rodman (which earned Green a one-way ticket off Celebrity Apprentice) and dared to rap. As a white guy. You might think, then, that there’s very little Green won’t do for a laugh, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Green, who will be at Snickerz Comedy Bar Sunday, March 8, takes a firm stance against comedy that picks on the little guy. He steers clear of jokes that target minorities, the disabled, women or people’s religious beliefs or sexual orientation. He prefers, instead, to speak truth to power. “In my standup I like to talk about the society we’re living in,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “We’re in a time when we’re basically being brainwashed by commercials and advertising, the movies, the internet, and we’re stuck on our cell phones. Constantly. I guess because we believe that’s how we’re supposed to live our lives. I take on a lot of different subjects in my routine, but how technology effects us – our relationships with our wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, all the people we love – is definitely one of the focal points.” Sounds like pretty heavy stuff, but Green sees the funny side of serious and has since he began performing standup at age 15 at a local club in his native Pembroke, Ontario. Later, after attending college and working on his short-lived rap career, Green hosted the first iteration of The Tom Green Show, a sketch comedy show on unpaid Canadian public access TV. The show quickly gained the attention Canada’s Comedy Network. Twenty-six episodes aired on that channel before MTV took notice in 1999. Still called The Tom Green Show and true to its original format, the program showcased silly stunts, Green’s exasperated but incredibly patient parents, his longtime friends and collaborators Glenn Humplik and Phil Giroux and a man-on-the-street sort of style. The MTV incarnation of The Tom Green Show was, for Green, the apex of his fame. During that time he became engaged to and married American sweetheart Drew Barrymore (they divorced after a year) and was invited to host Saturday Night Live. He also wrote, directed and starred in Golden Raspberry Award-winning head-scratcher Freddy Got Fingered. But being famous isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, as they say. The comedy game is more a marathon than a sprint, and no one knows that better than Green who, since recovering from testicular cancer in 2000 (and a number of film flops), has never given up on going for the laugh. For the last 10 years, he’s hosted a handful of variety/chat/sketch shows, including The New Tom Green Show, The Tom Green Subway Monkey Hour, Tom Green Live and Tom Green’s House Tonight. His latest project is the return of the interview-heavy, internet-based Web-o-Vision, which he was in the process of moving from his living room to a downtown Los Angeles studio as we spoke. “It’s still not going to be all glossy,” he said. “I’ve always had fun experimenting with accessible consumer electronics that are within reach of regular people – home video cameras, microphones. It might not look like the kind of show you’d see on network TV, but I like it that way. You get the rawness, the accessibility that comes with being creative and low-tech and fun.” Green enjoys his time as a host behind a desk, but he cherishes his time on the road. For the last six years he’s toured as a standup comedian, happy to return to his roots as just a man and a microphone. He said his standup shows are very different from his television work and guaranteed to give audiences a good time. “The shows are very high-energy,” he said. “I do a lot of physical, outrageous, over-the-top kind of comedy. The material I’m working with, some of it’s road-tested, some of it’s brand new, all of it’s really funny, and I invite everyone to come out and party with us, to come out and laugh like you haven’t in a long, long time.”

Deborah Kennedy







Brit Floyd

Keeping Floyd's Vibe Alive

Last November Pink Floyd formally retired with the release of their final studio album, The Endless River. The band had recently returned from a long hiatus, ceasing activity in 1994 only to resume touring in 2013. But the album officially marked the end of an era, one that started in London in 1965 and resulted in one of the biggest-selling and massively influential career trajectories in rock history. Fortunately for diehard and casual fans alike, there’s a stellar, 11-member tribute band to carry the torch. Brit Floyd produce an elaborate stage show that strives to faithfully recreate the Pink Floyd experience. “It’s an audio-visual extravaganza for all the senses, a real journey through the history of Pink Floyd music,” says founder Damian Darlington. “There’s something for everyone in the show. You don’t have to be a die-hard Pink Floyd fan; you can be a more casual fan of Pink Floyd and you will find something you’ll enjoy and come away being excited by things going on in the show.” Calling the band Brit Floyd may seem superfluous; the original band was, after all, British. But the name Brit Floyd was chosen to distinguish the group from another Pink Floyd tribute band, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, the band from which Brit Floyd sprang. Darlington was a part of The Australian Pink Floyd Show for 17 years until he left the band in late 2010 in order to take the concept of a Pink Floyd tribute band in a new direction. “It was just sort of refining it, getting it a bit more right,” Darlington says. “The attention to detail, the production, all the elements, all the aspects that make up the Pink Floyd show that we put on – I just wanted to improve it even further, and I believe we’ve managed to do that.” The tribute band has been successful enough to tour worldwide, and has even had one-time Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt join them on stage. That wasn’t the first time a band member had experienced a brush with a member of the original Pink Floyd. During his tenure with The Australian Pink Floyd Show in the 1990s, Darlington was asked to play at Floyd singer/guitarist David Gilmour’s 50th birthday party. “That was obviously quite a special occasion, and quite a nerve-wracking experience, says Darlington, adding that fellow Pink Floyd founders Rick Wright and Nick Mason were in attendance as well. “It was daunting in many respects,” he adds. “I played about an hour of Pink Floyd music and [during] the final number Rick Wright appeared onstage and very, very quietly and shyly asked could he join in on the keyboards, so I got to play with one of the founding members of Pink Floyd as well.” Brit Floyd include a hearty cross-section of Pink Floyd standards along with lesser-known tracks in their setlist. The goal, of course, is to play some of the best-known numbers everyone knows and expects, combined with lesser known tracks, pleasing hardcore fans and exposing more casual fans to something new. Distilling the work of a band that spanned no less than six decades and featured three distinct eras is not always easy. “We do try to be as representative [of their catalog] as possible. You’ve got to play what people might consider their greatest hits, stuff from Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, etc.,” Darlington says. “But outside of that, we certainly do like to leave room for some of those hidden gems or earlier sort of work Pink Floyd produced in the late 60s, so we sort of hope we can please every sort of Pink Floyd fan out there.” Aside from replicating Floyd’s music, they make an attempt to replicate certain visual effects as well. While they may not have a giant inflatable pig as Pink Floyd famously did, the band members do study recordings of Pink Floyd live shows, attempting to glean things they are able to include in their show. “Certainly, we’re referencing the production that Pink Floyd put on in the past. To a certain extent, we’re re-creating the visual experience that Pink Floyd put on back in the 70s, 80s and 90s,” Darlington says. “We will try to recreate some of those looks that we think are going to work and we think are going to look right and impressive in the context of the music we’re playing. It’s very much a labor of love and we study all aspects of what Pink Floyd did.” Pink Floyd’s music became a global phenomenon, and that popularity has taken Brit Floyd to scattered points across the globe. While some of their best experiences have been here in the U.S., they’ve also had some positive experiences that were perhaps more unexpected. “It’s amazing how many Pink Floyd fans there are across the globe,” Darlington says. “You’ll go to the strangest places – you’ll do a gig in Beirut in the Middle East – and you’ll have 5,000 [mostly] young people singing along to every word.” It just goes to demonstrate the universal appeal of Pink Floyd’s music. And there remain plenty of fans happy to know that, with the dissolution of the original band, there are still groups like Brit Floyd touring to keep the music alive.

Ryan Smith







Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

A Sunnier Take on Chekhov

For his comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, contemporary American playwright Christopher Durang borrowed many elements from the works of 19th century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. So what does that make Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike? A satire of Chekhov? A parody? A remake? A reboot? None of the above, says Christopher Murphy, who is directing the play for Arena Dinner Theatre. There may be only one word to describe the play. It’s a Durang. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike opens on March 13 for a three-weekend run. The play concerns two siblings whose lives are ebbing more than they are flowing. They are roused from their existential (not to mention, actual) drowsiness by the arrival at the family manse of celebrity sister Masha (played by Suzan Moriarty) and her hunky young boyfriend Spike (played by Mason Dillon). Murphy said Durang appropriated “to some degree” the setting of Chekhov’s plays. The Pennsylvania countryside, where Durang currently lives, stands in for the Russian countryside where Chekhov grew up. And Durang, Murphy said, has “taken some of those existential questions that Chekhov deals with that are still relevant to a modern audience.” For example, such questions and quandaries as “our sense of home and what happens to us when we feel like we lose that home,” “the complicated nature of sibling relationships,” and “that particular depression that sets in when you start questioning if you’ve really lived your life to its fullest potential … “Or in the case of these characters,” Murphy said. “‘Did you live it at all? Did you ever leave your childhood home? No, you didn’t.’” I could go on and on this way, making the play sound as dour and solemn as possible. But here’s the truth about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: It’s funny. Among the Chekhovian elements that Durang declined to borrow from the Russian was the melancholy tone of his plays. Don Aucoin of the Boston Globe wrote in a review that the play is “as subtle as a sledgehammer, as nuanced as a whoopee cushion — and a good deal of fun.” Murphy might not entirely agree with that assessment, but he did echo a line from New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley – that Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a sunny play about gloomy people. “It’s not a gloomy play,” he said. “These people are definitely unhappy, but the tone of the play is sunny.” Seeing as the two contentious sisters wind up competing in an impromptu costume contest dressed as Snow White and the Evil Queen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike would have to work awfully hard to retain a uniform sobriety throughout. Nancy Kartholl, who plays Sonia, described her as “kind of a sad sack, like my dog Bosley.” “She’s based her entire portrayal around her dog,” Murphy said. Sonia is “sometimes hopeful in an unrealistic way,” Kartholl said, but her hopes are not dashed as they might be in a Chekhov play. “As it turns out,” she said, “some of her hopes are actually realized which is kind of sweet.” Kartholl said Sonia is overly dependent on her brother Vanya, played by Todd Frymier. If Vanya is overly dependent on anything, Frymier said, it’s a kind of surrender. “I guess he tries to be the peacekeeper,” he said. “He tries to make people happy. He tries to make everyone happy. He wants everybody to be happy. He tries not to rock the boat. He tries not to upset anything.” Vanya doesn’t want to deal with drama, Frymier said. “He doesn’t necessarily shut it out as much as try to shut it down before it happens,” he said. “He’s sometimes successful, and sometimes he’s not.” “It wouldn’t be much of a play if he were totally successful,” Murphy added. Vanya’s capitulation ends, as capitulations often do in the theater, with a five-page monologue. “He finds his breaking point,” Frymier said. “Hopefully, if it’s done right, the audience will be able to see the process that leads to that breaking point.” The Arena Dinner Theatre is largely known for its mastery of farces and breezy comedies, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Murphy said, is “on Arena’s road, but maybe we’re just in a different lane. “I don’t think we totally veered onto the path of what audiences expect,” he said. Given that the play won a Tony Award in 2013 and no local venue or troupe has presented it before now, Murphy said Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is something of a “blank slate” for everyone involved. “We don’t really have much of a frame of reference,” he said. “I’ve never seen a production of this play. These guys have never seen a production of this play. The play was originally very tailored for the three original stars that did it, so it’s been fun to see these guys put their own spins on things.”

Steve Penhollow







Buddy Guy

How many 78-year-olds do you know who can not only pack a house, but bring it down? Over and over and over? Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy (or “Mr. Guy” as he is known to some) might be pushing 80, but he’s living proof that age is just a number. Also, that the blues are immortal, especially if Guy, who will take the stage of Wabash’s Honeywell Center Saturday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m., is playing. George “Buddy” Guy got his start playing the blues in his native Baton Rouge as a teenager. In 1957, at the age of 21, Guy moved to Chicago. That’s where he met his fate – the electric blues – and Muddy Waters, who would serve as his mentor. It’s also where he won a guitar playing contest and earned his first recording contract. Guy’s rising star caught the attention of Chess Records, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. The execs at the top weren’t crazy about his laid-back, live-performance recording style, and it wasn’t until the 1980s, when Chicago blues had a resurgence, that Buddy Guy (whose virtuosic playing had already influenced the careers and technique of a generation of guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan) really became a household name. He hasn’t stopped playing since. Guy is the guitar and voice behind countless hits, including “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues,” “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “When My Left Eye Jumps.” Live, he’s electric – literally and figuratively. But don’t take our word for it. Take Eric Clapton’s, who had this to say to Musician magazine about Guy’s unique ability to win over a crowd: “Buddy Guy is by far and without a doubt the best guitar player alive...if you see him in person, the way he plays is beyond anyone. Total freedom of spirit, I guess. He really changed the course of rock n’ roll blues.”







Thumbelina

Kid-Firendly Ballet

In addition to their mainstage performances in the fall and spring and their annual staging of The Nutcracker, Fort Wayne Ballet also features performances designed to attract younger audience members with somewhat shorter attention spans. While it’s tempting to introduce youngsters to the beauty of ballet or theatre when they’re small, it can often be challenging for children to sit still and really absorb a full performance of more two hours or more. It can also be very trying to those who sit near the restless (and sometimes very vocal) child who has become bored. Providing for that audience is at the heart of Fort Wayne Ballet’s Family Series which also features three annual performances, including the upcoming Thumbelina. (The Secret Garden will round out the season in May.) Aimed at younger children, both in theme and in length, the Family Series offers a far more informal environment, with chairs available along with space for blankets and floor seating. The shorter productions and the close proximity allow for more interaction and less time for impatience, all while introducing children to dance and literature. The Family Series also provides a forum for the talents of Fort Wayne Ballet’s Youth Company, a group with 33 dancers ranging in age from 10 to 15. Led by Youth Company Director and FWB Academy Principal Alexis Ingram, the Youth Company performs the Family Series productions at the FWB studios in its home at the Auer Center for Arts & Culture downtown. Sometimes the shows will hit the road, visiting the Allen County Public Library, but the surest way to see them is to buy a ticket to see it at FWB. But you won’t want to dawdle since the performances often sell out. The story of Thumbelina, written by Hans Christian Andersen, begins with her arrival in the heart of a flower only to be snatched by a toad. Her adventures continue with fish and butterflies and other creatures, with the FWB version being narrated by a bluebird. Ingram says she “loved the opportunities in characters and roles that the story offers. It’s a story that seems easily translated into a vibrant dance show for kids.” The kids who benefit from these performances are not only the young audience members who get to sit right on the edge of the action, but the young up-and-coming performers who are also emerging at the ballet. After the performance, the Youth Company makes itself available for photos and the chance for kids to meet the dancers in a fun atmosphere. Ingram adds that audiences will also get the chance to decorate their own fairy garden like the one in which Thumbelina’s action takes place. Tickets for the Saturday, March 14 performances (there’s one at 10 a.m., another at 11:30 a.m.) are only $10 and can be purchased through ArtsTix, either online at fortwayneballet.org or by phone at 422-4226. They can also be purchased at the Arts United box office during regular business hours. michele.whatzup@gmail.com

Michele DeVinney







Zakir Hussain's Celtic Connections: Pulse of the World

A Cultural Collaboration

In January 2011, while playing her fiddle on a stage in Glasgow, Scotland, Patsy Reid discovered something about herself. She was performing at the annual Celtic Connections festival, the United Kingdom’s largest winter music event, in a group comprising six Celtic and six Indian musicians. The driving force and musical director of the band was tabla master Zakir Hussain. For Hussain, the Celtic Connections concert was yet another ground-breaking event. For Reid, it was life changing. “That January in 2011 is when I decided to leave the band I’d been in since 2003,” Reid said. “And I feel like it’s kind of relevant because, being in one band with the same instrumentation, I didn’t realize until that collaboration how pinned down I was and how the world wasn’t my oyster.” In Reid’s former band, Breabach, which she co-founded and continues to support and admire, her vision seldom strayed beyond the small world of traditional Celtic music. When Hussain invited her to play, a wider vista unfolded. “Just being on the stage and having the freedom was what made me say actually I want to do more of this. I want to play with different people. I want to play with different cultures,” she said. “And in the band I was in, I was busy, and if I was offered collaboration or different work, I had to say no. So it was actually that gig that set me free.” The genius of Zakir Hussain has that effect on people. Such collaborations are Hussain’s specialty. His explorations formed the template for world music. In 1974 he formed Shakti, and Indo-jazz group, with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar. He played in Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, in Tabla Beat Science with Bill Laswell and in Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland. The list of recording and performance collaborations is long: George Harrison, YoYo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Rennie Harris, the Kodo drummers. After an appearance at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony and several dates in Europe and India, Zakir Hussain’s Pulse of the World: Celtic Connections is embarking on its first tour of the United States. The group will perform Saturday, March 14 at the Auer Performance Hall on the IPFW campus. The concert is part of an ongoing effort between IPFW’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and Shruti, the Indian Cultural Society of Fort Wayne to bring Indian culture to northeast Indiana. Along with Hussain and Reid, the lineup for the U.S. tour is a who’s who of Indian and Celtic musicians: Rakesh Chaurasia (bamboo flute), Fraser Fifield (flute and pipes), Jean-Michel Veillon (flute), Ganesh Rajagopalan, (violin), Charlie McKerron, (fiddle), Tony Byrne (guitar) and John Joe Kelly (bodhran). Nearly from the moment of his birth, Hussain has lived with the language of music. In India it is tradition for the father to whisper prayers into the ear of his newborn son. His father, Ustad Alla Rakha Qureshi, the tabla master and Ravi Shankar’s preferred accompanist, sang the rhythm of the tabla instead. “When I was born, my father was very sick,” Hussain wrote in an e-mail. “His friends thought that he did not have long to live. I imagine that he was at that point desperate to pass on the knowledge to an heir. My birth was an answer to his prayers and he felt that he needed to start me off as early as possible, and so the rhythm prayers in my ear.” His father guided him through the traditions of the tabla in a way that bears no resemblance to parents forcing their kids to take piano lessons. Hussain said his father knew the difference between inspiring a young student and turning him away. “He did schedule our time together, and in that time he would talk to me of the music, where it came from, what it meant to him and how sacred it is,” he wrote. “But he never imposed a regular schedule on me. Instead he let me digest, analyze and put into physical practice all his teachings in my own time.” Hussain, who was born in 1951, played his first professional concert in India 1963. He often joined his father on concert tours in the U.S. Near the end of the 60s Hussain wound up staying with members of the Grateful Dead in Hart’s barn/studio in Marin County. The jam sessions would last for days. “The marathons taught me to listen deeply to whomever I was playing with, how to find the groove that could make me dance and then how to hold on to it. The Celtics love to find just the right rhythm and tempo for a song, while the Indians follow an elastic rhythm movement. My training in the Dead (Mickey Hart) school helps to marry these groove ideas. Fun! “ Reid says the Celtic/Indian union is thrilling – and a little bit scary. “I find the experience of playing with the Indian musicians so exhilarating,” Reid said. “It’s also very frightening. They can just at the drop of a hat play a solo. They don’t panic. It doesn’t fall apart. Sometimes it’s totally sitting on the edge of your seat, not quite sure if you’re going to be put on the spot.” It’s the improvisation that gets to Reid. She has no problem winging it through Celtic songs. The boundaries and forms of the music are familiar. She knows what to play and when. With Indian music things get a little trickier. “It’s not my strength, but I’m not terrible at it. Their scales are different,” she explained. “They’re the same going up but are different coming down. It’s whatever you’ve grown up with. Often times I feel terrified I’m going to play a bum note, that they’re going to be horrified. But they’re not like that at all. It’s very much relaxed. That is the beauty of it. We are collaborating and not pretending or competing. But it’s so exciting. I just want to go for it. I just hope Zakir keeps on pointing at me, and I hope I get better at it.” Hussain’s goal is not only to get the musicians to understand one another, but to include the audience in the conversation as well. “Music is a language. Musicians talk to each other in this language. Then there are those magical moments when the audience suddenly starts to understand and chime in speaking in the same language. That’s when it is bliss on the stage.” Hussain has his father to thank for finding that bliss. Though keenly interested in the development of his son’s career, he had the wisdom to allow it to find its own path. “I think he wanted to closely guide my career,” Hussain wrote. “But he also felt that I needed to find my own voice and my own way of communicating through this music. I would say that he would be happy to see how it all turned out.”

Mark Hunter







Gary Lanier

Community Theater's Triple Threat

Over the past 30-odd years, Gary Lanier has proven himself to be a triple-threat powerhouse and has become a pillar of the Fort Wayne theater community. Lanier grew up in Seymour, hometown of John Mellencamp and former Miss America Katie Stamm. Although he says he was a shy child, he was an active one. “I loved climbing things,” he says. “That’s probably why I was in the ER so often.” He lived in a neighborhood with plenty of other kids, so there were lots of group activities to keep him busy. When he entered high school, he connected with the “theatercrowd” and found himself cast as one of the king’s children in The King and I. “I was a freshman,” he says, “but I looked like I was around 12 years old.” After roles in The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof in high school, he earned his “first actual role with a character name” when he was cast as Stuart Dalrymple in Brigadoon. While earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Indiana University, he auditioned for the prestigious vocal group Singing Hoosiers and was accepted as a tenor. “I was thrilled,” he says, “because I wasn’t a music major and I was part of a performing choral group in one of the nation’s renowned schools of music.” Although he didn’t major in music, Lanier did take ballet classes and voice lessons through the School of Music. “My voice teacher was a graduate student of [Metropolitan Opera star] Margaret Harshaw’s,” he says. “That’s what I love about that school.  You are working with the best.” He also studied jazz, modern dance and tap through the IU African American Arts Institute, and he danced with the Windfall Dancers, IU Dance Theatre, and IU African American Dance Company. Lanier moved to Fort Wayne in 1984 and soon began doing community theater. His first production was a Fort Wayne Civic Theatre Guild Show called Woman and directed by the late Larry L. Life. “I was in the chorus,” he says. “Nobody really knew me at the time.” He was later hired as the box office manager at the Embassy Theatre. It was then he decided the arts should be a part of his career. His current full-time job is administrative assistant in the dean’s office of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at IPFW. On the side, he choreographs musicals at the Civic Theatre and other local venues. He estimates he has performed in around 80 shows over the years and is proud of the influence he has had, not only on community theatre performers, but on members of his own family. “I have a niece who was into musical theater in high school, and now her older daughter is,” he says. “I think I’ve influenced family members to appreciate theater.” Lanier not only has the singing and the dance chops, but he takes acting seriously as well. He spends time doing his homework on every characters he plays. “I try to come up with some sort of biography on the character before I delve into anything else,” he says. “If the character is in the midst of something in an historical context or of social significance, I do some research. Then I think of that person’s relationship with other characters in the piece. The rest just seems to fall into place during the rehearsal process, sometimes sooner than others.” He has created a back story for his current character, Herr Schultz in the Civic Theatre’s current production, Cabaret. “He grew up as an only child in a close Jewish family in Berlin,” Lanier says. “I believe his wife died at a fairly early age. They had no children. He has been running his fruit shop since he took it over from his family’s business. As a single elderly gentleman, he found it easier to live in the boarding house that he currently resides in.”   Several of the characters he has played have an accent or particular way of speaking. Herr Schultz speaks with “a sort of a combination of German and Yiddish,” he says. “The rest seems to come with experimentation through rehearsal and leadership from the artistic team.”   Cabaret is a show Lanier has revisited several times in his performing career. He was in the chorus of the IPFW production in 1985. He played the Emcee at Arena Dinner Theatre in the 1990s. He cites the Emcee as being his all-time favorite role. “There were times when I actually lost myself in the character,” he says. “It was wonderful and scary at the same time. I had never experienced that before. My character in that production rarely left the stage. He was always this ominous observer.” He doesn’t compare the two productions of Cabaret, but he does acknowledge that the Civic’s cast is “about as solid as they come. You will be very impressed by the quality performance of some amazing young talent in this production.” The production is a newer version of the 1966 musical by Kander and Ebb. It was revised in 1998 and starred Alan Cumming who is currently reviving the role in the Broadway production, which also stars Emma Stone. “This version is a lot more ‘in your face,’” says Lanier. “The sexual overtones are a lot more blatant, and the social stigmas involved with what was going on politically in Germany at the time are more pronounced. This version also has included some of the movie version’s music and removed a couple of the original songs.” Lanier compliments the Civic Theatre for their choice of theatrical offerings, which appeal to a wide variety of audiences. “They do a nice job of adapting to society and how it evolves,” he says. “Their season choices are a little more diverse. There is the lighter fare and the more risky, such as Rent, which mainly pulled in the younger crowd.” Lanier has also worked at Arena Dinner Theatre, First Presbyterian Theater and the IPFW Department of Theatre, but he doesn’t play favorites. He does admit, however, to a favorite performance space: Studio Theatre in Kettler Hall at IPFW. Under the direction of Larry Life and originally known as PIT (Purdue-Indiana Theatre), the space was home to some of the most cutting-edge and important theatrical pieces this city has seen. Lanier is proud to have been part of several of them, including The Normal Heart and Corpus Christi. “Larry Life was a big influence on me as he was with a few generations of actors,” Lanier says. He takes every role seriously, but he also appreciates the importance of keeping a sense of humor. “Once when we were in dress rehearsal for one of Larry Life’s guild shows,” he says, “there was a moment during a Disney segment that one of the actors dressed as a forest creature [and] who had no peripheral vision in the costume tripped over the young lady dressed as Snow White and literally fell on top of her and flattened her. It happened to be a moment when Larry was having one of his infamous tirades, but in spite of that the whole cast broke into instantaneous laughter.” As experienced and accomplished as he is, Lanier acknowledges that he shares something with a majority of performers: a fear of auditions. “I think that most actors feel like the audition is like being led to guillotine,” he says. “It never gets easier.” Lanier’s next project will be less nerve-wracking – at least for him. He will choreograph The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. He approaches choreography similarly to his acting roles: through repetition and visualization. “The first thing I do is read the script several times,” he says. “I listen to the cast recording over and over. Then I start visualizing, [taking] notes and putting the movement to the score in my own little language.” He also considers the abilities of the performers, which he discovers during the audition process, and tailors his choreography to what they can – and cannot – do. “I think that I can choreograph to a median level to different levels of dance ability in the actors, and still manage to make it interesting,” he says. “I love the challenge. It keeps me on my toes. Pardon the pun.”

Jen Poiry Prough







Robert Nance

Growing the Heartland

Although not a native of this area, Robert Nance has set deep roots in Fort Wayne for the last 25 years. His passion for music – and his desire to share it while elevating its value – is at the heart of everything he has done not only since his arrival in northeast Indiana in 1990 but from his early education in the arts. Born in South Carolina, Nance grew up and began his musical education in Williamsburg, Virginia. His interest was first piqued when his sister began taking piano lessons. “I was a curious child, and when my sister began taking piano lessons, I don’t know if it was jealousy or if I just wanted to do what she was doing. There wasn’t enough money for both of us to take lessons, so my parents let her take them because she was the one they perceived to have a talent for it. But my mother tells a story of one time when she heard her playing and wanted to tell her what a good job she was doing, and she discovered it was me that was playing.” Although Nance says there’s no long line of musicians in his family, his mother was part of the church choir which gave him his first real opportunity to fan the flames of his passion for music. “I was raised in the Baptist church, but I was also participating in the Anglican tradition of choirs and would sing at another church early on Sunday. Then I would head to my parents’ church afterward, and I did that for nine years. Since my mother was in the choir, I would sit with the organist, which she liked because she could keep an eye on me. I would watch the workings of the organ, and I was always a toy freak, so I loved seeing what all of the parts of the organ were doing, the pedals and the keys. That’s when my love of keyboarding and musicianship really began.” Nance pursued an education in keyboards, but he was encouraged – even required – by all of his teachers to also continue in choirs to further his musicianship and understanding of music. “Most of my teachers were also choir conductors, and they would tell me that the choirs would further my ability on an instrument. Singing does grow the inner musician, and you have to have something to help you develop that inner musician. Instruments are an extension of the body, so once you develop internally, the rest of your body can catch up and you can begin merging those two.” His talents were great enough to allow him to assume the job of choir master and organist at his church while still a senior in high school. The job had become available a year earlier, and he asked to be considered but admits now that “they were rightly cautious about a high schooler being able to handle that level of responsibility.” When the post hadn’t been filled the following year, they gave Nance the opportunity to assume the role for his last year before graduating. He also received a recommendation from a friend to attend the revered Interlochen program, and it was there that he began the journey to music as a profession. “I knew when I went to Interlochen that this was what I really wanted to do. It was a wonderful experience, but I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had been one of the best where I came from, but I was the lowest of low there, it seemed. But it made me want to work harder, get better. That was my challenge.” He used that hard work to earn a full scholarship to Depauw University, his first time calling Indiana home. Although he began as a liberal arts major, intending to pursue a career in education, he ultimately felt that his time would be better spent as a performance major where he could more fully devote himself to music. However, he says the classes taken in liberal arts – particularly courses in psychology and education – have greatly benefitted his work since. After completing a graduate program in conducting at the Peabody Conservatory, Nance began a career that, in 1990, brought him to Fort Wayne where he began a decade with First Presbyterian Church. There he found a vibrant arts program and discovered many new ways to explore his love of music and understanding of how it works in the community. He is fervent in his belief that music education is a vital way of connecting people. “There are studies that have found that people who are involved in choir from fourth grade through high school are above the national average in terms of involvement – in politics, in PTA, in donating to charities. They are engaged in community activity because there is no way you can be in a choir and not be taught how to exist in a community.” Nance has also become a champion for vocal performers, although he himself is not a professional vocalist. When he began organizing musical events in the area, he discovered that while Fort Wayne has many trained instrumentalists available through the Philharmonic, there was a dearth of professional vocalists, leaving him to look outside the area for talent. He also noted the poor pay scale available for vocalists versus instrumentalists and determined to change that. It was then he began what is now Heartland. “My goal with Heartland was to have a paid, professional vocal ensemble. Everybody laughed when I’d say that, even the musicians who would benefit because they’d say, ‘Oh, we do it because we love it.’ I had to change the energy and the focus. But once it started, the seed grew very fast. I quit my job at First Presbyterian, and when I did that and told people I had made that commitment, others began jumping on board.” Heartland’s humble beginning in 1997 may have been suspect to some, but Nance was determined to make it work. It has now grown to include eight full-time professional vocalists (called The Eight), 24 part-time vocalists (The Chorale), and 80-plus volunteer vocalists (The Festival Chorus). With almost 20 years of history, Nance is now excited to move the organization forward with a risky but bold move toward the future in entertainment. “Non-profits are donor-dependent, and I want to take a more marketplace approach to the future. We have a seven-year plan, and we’re going to use the money we’ve raised for the first two years, then earn the money in the last five years to pay ourselves back. We have to start marketing ourselves as entertainment and not limiting ourselves. I look at Heartland’s Celtic program, and I would put it up against Celtic Women any day. But people will pay $10 for our program and then pay $85 for a similar program that comes to town.” Nance acknowledges that it’s a risky plan, but he feels it’s one that other non-profits will soon be following. He understands the continued need for donors, particularly when it comes to providing educational programs for kids, but he feels the operational component “should jolly well earn for itself.” “It’s been shown that income in this area allows for about five to six percent philanthropic dollars. And there are more and more people and organizations competing for those dollars. But if audiences will pay $100 for a ticket to a concert, that’s not part of that income. I want to tap into that other part of the income and not be limited to that five or six percent.” As he continues to bring the organization he began into a new and exciting time, his heart and talents are also deeply attached to Plymouth Congregational Church where he moved after he left First Presbyterian. Agreeing to be its interim musical director at the turn of the century, Nance was happy to assume the job permanently and now says he can’t imagine a better home. Although he did additional freelance work over the years – with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Fort Wayne Children’s Choir and Saint Francis among others – he is now happily focused on his work at Plymouth, which he calls “the best playground on earth,” and Heartland, where he eagerly anticipates exciting years ahead. “I think with our new plan, we’re going to redefine how it’s done so it’s worth the risk. It’s worth the risk. And I think it’s going to be long-lasting and life changing.”

Michele DeVinney







Skeletunes

An Old Club Gets a Makeover

Anyone who has lived in the Fort for a decent stretch knows the Main Street bridge and that ever so slight lift you get when you crest its tiny hill just over the river – a feeling in the stomach and in the head, a sense that you’re passing over and into a unique portal as it were. Trust that odd feeling and embrace the wave because you are. What other one-mile span of asphalt offers the kind of variety that you find here? From outlaw biker watering holes to the finest seafood in town; from arguably the grittiest “Irish” bar in town guised as an “Italian Pub” to everything the adventurer in you needs to tackle the wilderness of Indiana, be it in a lightweight kayak or in a pair of rugged hiking boots. While all of the aforementioned can be found on your right (if you’re driving west, the only direction where you experience the particulars I described in my opening lines) there is something on your left just past the bridge that is not to be missed: a stretched out, squatty, off-yellow building that suggests a bunker – a bar called Skeletunes. Yes, that bar. Formerly the River, then the Berlin, the building is a legendary watering hole that has been around for decades. While I had been to the Berlin on many occasions over the past few years, I had not been to the newly overhauled Skeletunes until mid-November, just shortly after it had its grand opening. Owner Lee Shockley and freshly appointed manager Jeremy Wysong got together sometime in late summer and talked shop – specifically the kind of shop related to all things makeover. And while they didn’t hire some acerbic jerk with a camera crew to come in and yell at them until they got it right, they did spend considerable time together tossing ideas back and forth on what, exactly, they wanted to see. Wysong, fresh from years at the Brass Rail, had some concrete ideas and pulled no punches in asking Shockley for the keys to all the doors. Shockley agreed and the work began. While the Berlin had been known for years as primarily, though not exclusively, a “metal” bar Skeletunes is “down for whatever,” and I witnessed this in grand fashion on my first visit in October. A bluegrass band from Pennsylvania stopping through town is not unusual. But a bluegrass band that actually sounds like a bluegrass band is. The Jakobs Ferry Stragglers took the stage and dropped more jaws than the Pope at an atheist convention. Trust me. I’ve seen my share of “string bands” on local stages over the past six or so years. None of them brought the musicianship, harmonies and all-around performance that this outfit did. The 20 or so people there can attest. When the band comes through again to Skeletunes in April, I will be doing my best to get more people out. There were other jaw-dropping or at least heard-turning things to see on this night – the fruits of labor as it were. Gone were the old cramped booths that once lined the wall across from the bar. In their place were simple, classic, white-topped diner-style tables with no-frills chairs, the kind that let you sit comfortably and talk for hours over a pitcher, but not so cushy that you will miss an entire show at the back of the bar so you can stay in them. Freshly painted walls, newly hung, large, spotless mirrors behind the bar, a border of vinyl records above the bar, lights – lots and lots of small Christmasy lights, red mostly – and show posters, not just flyers. Actual posters. Everywhere. Many of them dedicated to metal bands and most done in a similar metal style a la Derek Riggs (think Iron Maiden). Metal still lives here at Skeletunes that is for sure. Just a few short weeks later I was back. Back to take more notes, and on this particular night to catch Nashville’s hottest rockabilly band, Hillbilly Casino. The boys tore up a newly expanded stage while breaking in a set of new Mackie speakers as a delighted and packed crowd took it all in. Speaking of, I took in a couple of pints from the modest 6-handle tap row that consistently features a 50/50 offering of IPAs (Two-Hearted seems to be a regular) to standard lagers like PBR, any of which can be enjoyed from a frosty mug on request. Oh, and there is 1919 root beer on tap as well if you’re in the non-alcohol mood. My most recent visit was in January for Gypsy’s “Vagabond Ball,” an annual event hosted by one of the bar’s regular tenders, Gypsy Lujin. This fun-loving, bear of a man is a local music fan and supporter who throws this party as an excuse to get all of his favorite bands in one room with all of his favorite people. This year’s lineup featured Fort Wayne legends The Bel Airs, a band that has been playing off and on since Reagan first took office. Still sporting the requisite rockabilly haircuts, cuffed jeans and leather jackets, these seasoned vets sounded as good to my ears as they did in the late 90s when I first saw them. They tore through an impressive 90-minute set of standards with nary a missed beat or bad note. Drifting back to the bar after their set and talking “state of public education” with guitarist David Todoran, I decided to try a new Skeletunes feature: pork tacos. The seasoned meat is kept in the same upright cooler as the beer and is served warmed in a small toaster oven and garnished with cilantro and onion only. It took me about four of these at only a $1.50 to decide that I was in heaven. So with a hum and ring in my ears, a cold beer in hand, and the exquisite after taste of raw onion and cilantro on my tongue, I took it all in. I gave a high-five to Mr. Wysong and congratulated him on some very fine work. I also noticed one other thing. The famous “banned” list, written in permanent marker on a torn-off piece of cardboard was no longer above the bar. A fresh start indeed.

Darren Hunt







The Mighty McGuiggans

A Turney Toward Green

Mark Turney is an intense guy with shocking blue eyes, a sometimes wry smile and a boyish exuberance, especially when it comes to talking music. In his later 40s, Turney lights up when the discussion turns to the one subject that has kept his attention for nearly four decades. “My father would have been a music teacher had he not become a doctor. I, on the other hand, would have tried my hand at fiction or perhaps designing board games.” While playing music has not made him rich, one thing is for sure: Turney has done music and done it in the kind of variety and style that most would not dream of doing. In the two-plus decades he has lived in Fort Wayne, Turney has fronted numerous outfits ranging from world-music-infused rock, to Prohibition-era jazz, to his most recent musical project, The Mighty McGuiggans, which explores traditional Irish music in all its variations. Turney’s previous band, Rhapsody in Wax, had been playing JK O’Donnell’s almost since the pub opened in 2007. At some point along the way, the bar began asking the band to do an Irish set around 7 p.m. (midnight in Ireland), and they happily obliged. As an Irish Pub, JK O’Donnell’s had no shortage of clientele already partial to all things Irish, and soon the band was getting more and more requests for Irish songs. In time, nearly the entire night was being dedicated to Irish music. In January 2014 the band converged for a meeting, and everyone agreed the signs were pointing clearly to a change. Turney had come across the name “McGuiggans” when he first moved to Indiana from the Sacramento area as a teenager. He had never forgotten the McGuiggans, a pair of brothers who preached a fiery brand of evangelical sermons, and he decided to name the band The Mighty McGuiggans as an homage. “It has a nice lilt,” he told me with a grin as we sat talking over – what else? – a pint. There was a tinge of sadness as Turney and the band bid farewell to Rhapsody in Wax. The band had been going strong for over five years and had played memorable shows both in Fort Wayne and out of town to great reception. But there was no time to wallow. As the Irish do, the band saw it as an opportunity to stretch in new ways; they even brought original songs they had done in Rhapsody and reworked them to fit The Mighty McGuiggans. A prolific songwriter with nearly 100 original songs in his portfolio, Turney set to penning new material for The Mighty McGuiggans as well as perusing the canon for covers. One of the first original songs he came up with is a haunting, instantly memorable sea shanty titled “The Lord of the Long Arms.” Scored in D minor, it is a first-person survivor narrative that recounts the horrible fate of a ship and its crew decimated by a giant octopus, or “kraken” as it is sometimes referred to in lore. It begins with a gang vocal “Timme, Hey – up! A – way and hey – o!” that all five members enthusiastically shout and a haunting, repeated refrain, “the Lord of the long arms is watching below,” that continues throughout to the point that by the dramatic conclusion you’re checking the barroom floor for tentacles. Trust me. I saw it live and it grabbed my imagination as no live song has in quite some time. In the company of Tommy Meyers, the band’s designated multi-instrumentalist, Turney admits that in the beginning of his musical journey he tended toward the morose, writing intense, introspective songs that he hoped would get his audience to “look deep within and contemplate the state of their lives and even the world.” “He was listening to a lot of Depeche Mode,” opines Meyers rather dryly. About halfway into their nearly 20-year collaboration, Meyers finally looked at Turney one day and said, “You know, Mark, these are great songs, they really are, but you do realize that it’s okay to write something that makes people smile, that’s just fun.” Turney had – and continues to have – a deep respect for Meyers, one of the few local and still active players who has off-Broadway orchestral experience deeply rooted in jazz. So Mark listened. And what he soon discovered is that he had a funny bone. Songs like “Alopecia” “Caffeine” and “Tell Me It’s Raining (Don’t Piss Down My Back)” began to show up at rehearsals, much to the delight of Turney’s wife Gwendra who has been the band’s lead soloist on violin from day one. A Mighty McGuiggan’s show is a fine escape indeed. With 75 songs polished and at the ready, the band offers audiences a wide array of material ranging from Flogging Molly, to Dropkick Murphys, to the Dubliners. And expect to get involved. One of the band’s core goals is to have people participate. “In pubs across Ireland and England as well as parts of Europe, attending a show is an active commitment; it is not about passively taking it all in, but actively participating in the performance,” says Turney, his eyes sparking and his tone becoming fervent. As someone who has caught their show recently, I liken it to boarding a ship. There is a sense of passing over from dry land to water. The intense drumming of Danny Boy Hogan, who moves effortlessly from full kit to hand-held boudran, and the driving bass lines of Dave Nelson call up the steady, waltzing, heave-ho of a vessel riding turbulent water and deckhands tending rope and sail. And with a plethora of sea shanties and pirate ballads in their repertoire, it is a near-constant ride for both band and audience. Just like the band’s namesake, the McGuiggans are on a mission, and if you’re ready to climb aboard, you can catch them at the Brass Rail on February 28. Ship sets sail at 10 p.m. You can also catch The Mighty McGuiggans on WBNI’s Meet the Music on March 15. Check the WBNI website for times.

Darren Hunt








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