Dayton City Paper » a&c feature Miami Valley's Arts, Culture & News Weekly Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:14:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Past And Present Wed, 06 Oct 2010 18:46:42 +0000 Indigo Work Of Rowland Ricketts At Wright State

Rowland Ricketts, Indigo Site-Specific Installation, Indigo Plants And Dyed Mop Cord

Rowland Ricketts delves into the realm of what he calls “immanent blue” (Aizome) personified by the indigo plant and its ability to recall the color of the sea and sky and “to transfigure all the energy of human endeavor so that its vitality lends its life to and lives on in my dyed works.” The transmutation of the ancient art of indigo dyeing into contemporary installation pieces is the focus of the exhibition “Past Present: The Indigo Work of Rowland Ricketts” on view through Sunday, October 10 at the Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries of Wright State University.

The use of indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) was initiated in India as early as 1600 B.C. and used in the indigo-dyed cloth wrappings of Egyptian mummies, later perfected for fabrics, hangings and bindle wrappings in Japan. “The smell of an indigo vat just as it begins fermenting and springs to life is one of ripeness” writes Ricketts, “I momentarily stand between the history of the materials and processes that helped me get the indigo thus far and the promise of all the works that the vat is still yet to realize.”

Ricketts studied as an apprentice for two years in Tokushima, Japan with Osamu Nii and in a year-long apprenticeship in the atelier of master dyer, Richiro Furusho, a Tukushima Prefectural Living Treasure. His acquired knowledge of traditional farming and dyeing techniques led to his own growing, harvesting, drying of the leaves, and the composting of it “to make the traditional Japanese indigo dyestuff called ‘sukumo’.” He returned to the United States, received his M.F.A. at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and is now assistant professor of textiles at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he farms and cultivates his chosen material from scratch.

Ricketts has utilized the unique two-level space of the WSU gallery to create a quietly spectacular and meditational open enclosure that centers around a large bed or square of dried indigo plants. Suspended from high above in concentric circles are long spans of cotton mop material, some natural and most dyed either completely or partially in indigo blue, demonstrating the tonal variety of indigo and creating a shrine that honors the material itself. Surrounding on all four walls is a horizon line of half-dyed indigo wool pieces like fuzzy feathers with the lower blue sections anchoring the firmament.

Augmenting this ethereal space, Ricketts has chosen to show in the outer gallery several other permutations of his use of indigo, with a rectangular wall arrangement of indigo plants still morphing from green to shades of blue mounted on dark blue pushpins, and a thoughtful slow-paced documentation of indigo growth and processing in video projection. There are five hanging panels of indigo-dyed antique hemp mosquito curtains, elegantly imprinted with paste resist vertical lines of white discs on the fabric indigo-dyed from left to right in lighter to darker shades of blue. Another wall installation has a varied matrix of indigo dyed felt wrapped stones mounted on thick metal pins, producing the effect of interspersed dark and light objects like an Op Art color field.

Rickett’s wife Chinami also attended the Furusho workshop and went on to learn to weave in Kyoto and Shimane Prefecture, spinning cotton into yarn and reinventing traditional kasuri designs for use in kimonos. Her parallel career complements her husband’s and has encouraged collaborative projects as textile artists.

In the upstairs Cantelupe Gallery are many 19th century hand-woven and dyed Japanese textiles from Rickett’s collection. Full of “historical blue” pieces, this selection of textile art reflects in the words of curator Lisa Morrisette “the eye of an artist, selected because they represent the processes and idiosyncrasies of the indigo dyer… all hand spun, hand dyed, the guiding principle in their creation was no waste, repair, and reuse.”

Mounted above the stairwell is a Sleeping Set and Futon cover in the shape of a kimono, all probably a bride’s trousseau imprinted with the circular family crest (mon).

A baby Layette (tsutsugaki technique) has stylized bamboo and plum blossom motifs, representing long life and renewal, and a two-piece Kamishino costume for a Samurai Child (c. 19th century) has a stencil pattern of white dots suggesting a hailstorm, or the force of the warrior. A blue wrapping cloth is imprinted with a swallowtail butterfly motif drawn with a white paste resist, and western-style jeans from the 19th century are repaired by necessity by an infusion of tattered indigo-dyed rags, producing a very modern chic effect.

Additionally, a Furoshiki for tying around bundles is made in sashiko technique or little reinforcement stitches, a Futon cover in Katazome technique (stenciled with flour paste resist and soybean paste) was brushed with dye and joined skillfully into an overall woven brocade, and a Futon cover with a Noshime design is made of dried abalone strips bound together with cord (noshi) for the continuation of the family line designed for a wedding gift. Viewing these beautiful traditional objects, we must concur as Morrisette has pointed out: “Indigo dyeing verges on becoming a lost art, the traditional process replaced by synthetic blue dyes.”

The Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries are located in the Creative Arts Center of Wright State University, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy, Fairborn. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and until 7 p.m. Thursday, and 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call (937) 775-2978 or visit

Reach DCP visual arts critic Jud Yalkut at

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True Man Group Wed, 29 Sep 2010 18:32:08 +0000 Blue Man Group Performs At Schuster Center

By J.T. Ryder

Members Of The Blue Man Group

Since the perfect family doesn’t exist, it’s never a surprise, no matter how uncomfortable or unnerving, to discover that deception, hate, jealousy and regret can live and fester under the same roof of people who say they love each other. Secrets and lies linger for years in order to avoid destructive repercussions. Children are caught in the middle of parental squabbles beyond their control. Marriages disintegrate from the sting of infidelity. Reconciliation is possible, but hope can seem futile to a household in shambles.

In the three-act contemporary masterwork August: Osage County, the recipient of the 2008 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize that has received an impressive regional premiere at Wright State University courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company and Wright State, playwright Tracy Letts (Bug, Superior Donuts) authentically constructs, in the vein of Edward Albee, James Goldman, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and August Wilson, one of the most fractured, dysfunctional and mesmerizing families ever fathomed. The Weston clan that dwells near Pawhuska, Oklahoma is on the verge of collapse having been dealt a huge, life-altering blow. Beverly, the patriarch, noted author and genuinely amiable soul with a penchant for the profound, has vanished for reasons unknown. Dissecting the mystery surrounding his disappearance drives this dark comedy, but the meticulously structured, inherently compelling action, which contains the kind of juicy, jaw-dropping twists that have been fodder for soap opera cliffhangers for decades, is propelled to brutally honest heights as the Westons go to war among themselves.

Directors Marsha Hanna and Scott Stoney (who supplies great sensitivity as Beverly in the low-key yet pivotal prologue) have commendably executed this sizable undertaking for both theater companies. Despite the necessity for age-appropriate casting that this production takes liberties with due to its collaborative nature, the relationships established are entirely credible, which is paramount. The six students are not diminished or seem inept alongside the seven professional actors, and the engaging cohesiveness that arises is a testament to each company’s artistic integrity.

Susanne Marley is an intimidating and unpredictable cyclone of anger, cruelty, lunacy and torment as Violet, the all-knowing, verbally abusive, pill-popping matriarch coping with mouth cancer and the responsibility of carrying the weight of the Westons on her incompetent shoulders. The marvelous Marley understudied Tony winner Deanna Dunagan in the sensational Broadway production, and her exceptional astuteness and maddening complexity is a joy to behold. She provides a brilliantly methodical performance, from her hurriedly frazzled staircase descents to the tenderness displayed in Act 3 that finally reveals Violet’s motherly warmth. Marley particularly shines in the humorous and volatile Act 2 dinner scene that serves as the hallmark of the play and wonderfully builds to a thrilling climax. Unafraid to speak her mind as usual, Violet bluntly slings insults at her daughters and their significant others under the hurtful guise of “truth-telling.”

As Barbara Fordham, Violet’s menopausal eldest daughter who is not as bulletproof as she would appear to be, the dynamic Kristie Berger radiates with multifaceted panache. Berger, so memorable in the 2003 Race production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, beautifully unravels, with captivating depth and vulnerability, multiple layers throughout Barbara’s emotionally frustrated journey, which involves testy battles with her philandering husband Bill (Bill Simmons) and pot-smoking teenage daughter Jean (an appealingly rebellious Chelsey Cavender) not to mention a useful if fleeting reign as head of household.

Strong, colorful, fully realized performances extend to the delightfully earthy Madeleine Casto as Violet’s overbearing sister Mattie Fae Aiken, a revelatory Jason David Collins as Charlie Aiken, a nicely understated Gregory R. Mallios as awkward loser Little Charles Aiken, Rainbow Dickerson as housekeeper Johnna Monevata, the quietly observing outsider on the inside, Kelsey Hopkins as Violet’s introverted middle daughter Ivy, head over heels in a forbidden romance, Alex Sunderhaus in a breakthrough portrayal of Violet’s flighty younger daughter Karen, Brian Evans as Karen’s shady fiance Steve Heidebrecht, and Daniel C. Britt as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau.

Additionally, Pam Knauert Lavarnway’s terrifically detailed, three-story set ranks among her finest designs and John Rensel’s lighting excellently reflects the varying moods within the material. The contributions of costumer David M. Covach and properties masters John Lavarnway and Heather Powell are
also noteworthy.

In Act 3, after sparks fly from a moment shared between Steve and Jean, Karen reminds an enraged Barbara that everything in life is not always cut and dry:

Karen: I’m not defending him. He’s not perfect. Just like all the rest of us, down here in the muck. I’m no angel myself. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of. Things you’ll never know about. Know what? I may even have to do some things I’m not proud of again. ‘Cause sometimes life puts you in a corner that way. And I am a human being, after all.

Karen’s statements define Letts’ potent, occasionally poetic saga, which also addresses political correctness, societal entitlement and frank opinions on womanhood. The people we care about make mistakes and can hurt us very deeply, but we must find a way to forgive and move on. Your family might not be as diabolical or tumultuous as the Westons, but it’s a safe bet you’ll find something relatable in their experiences. August: Osage County is simply a fascinating epic you’ll never forget.

August: Osage County continues through October 10 in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center at Wright State, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Fairborn. The play contains adult language and mature themes, and is performed in 3 hours and 30 minutes including two intermissions. Performances will be held Sept. 29, Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 30, Oct. 1, Oct. 2, Oct. 7, Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.; and Oct. 2, Oct. 3 and Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. A post-show talkback featuring Marsha Hanna and Scott Stoney will be held following the Oct. 3 performance. All tickets are $21. For tickets or more information, call the WSU box office at (937) 775-2500 or visit

Reach DCP A&C editor/theater critic Russell Florence, Jr. at

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Romeo and Juliet Wed, 15 Sep 2010 18:45:59 +0000 Shakespeare in South Park Troupe prepares ‘Romeo And Juliet’

By Katie Maurer

L to R: Susan Rober, Mary DeMatteo and Karen Righter in Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet will make an appear-ance in South Park this weekend, but it won’t be the Romeo and Juliet we are used to.

Director Daniel Wilson has decided to go with a Civil War theme for the Shakes-peare in South Park Company’s mini-malist interpretation of the Bard’s time-
less romantic tragedy.

“I’ve enjoyed this concept,” Wilson said. “However we are not trying to show why the Civil War started but what the Civil War caused.”

Wilson has made additional changes to this familiar tale of star-crossed lovers. In addition to the story being set in Dayton after the Civil War, the role of Friar Laurence, normally played by a male, will be Mother Laurence, portrayed by Judi Earley, an African-American female.

“We wanted to set the story among people whose history we know intimately here in Dayton,” said Galen Wilson, South Park resident and co-producer who will portray Lord Montague. “(The War) takes on a reality and we get inside and grasp the tragedy and disaster.”

Wilson said he wants the audience to know that the play is not about the causes of the Civil War but the fallout. The goal is to look at a snapshot of life in Ohio after the War. Additionally, the Montagues will be depicted as Union soldiers while the Capulets serve as Confederates.

“We are setting it right here, because we are right here and that makes it more interesting to potential audiences,” he said. “It is very likely that there would have been a situation right here in our fair city in which two fairly powerful and well off families landed on opposite sides of the Civil War issues and maybe even some of the battles.”

About half of this year’s cast actually lives in South Park while the other half is from the Dayton area. Mary DeMatteo, a Dayton resident, will play Juliet. She heard about the show while performing in Cinderella this summer at La Comedia Dinner Theater. She recently graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Mike Embree, who will play Romeo, is excited to perform Shakespeare once again. The Dayton resident hasn’t had the opportunity to be in a Shakespeare play since 2005.

He particularly regards this interpretation of Romeo and Juliet as a great platform for him before he moves to New York City in the next couple of months to pursue a career in acting.

“I love the twist Daniel has put on the play because it’s relevant to today,” he said. “It references more of a recent timeline and people can relate to it because it’s not just a love story but feuds where families are against families.”

Jarrett Dickey, a South Park resident, will actually get a real life experience in what it was like to be on both sides of the story. Dickey will play Abraham, who starts a fight at the beginning and is part of the Montague family, as well as Paris, Juliet’s jilted love interest who wants to be a Capulet.

“I hadn’t done any drama or acting until I got involved with Shakespeare in the Park last year after I moved to the neighborhood,” he said.

For Susan Roberts, a Brookville resident, acting isn’t anything new. Roberts directed many plays at Dayton Christian Middle School. She will portray Lady Capulet in this third production from the Shakespeare in South Park troupe.

“It’s something to work with,” she said, “because the Capulets will be talking with a Southern accent and the Montagues will have a Northern accent.”

Romeo and Juliet will be performed Friday, September 17-Sunday, September 19 at 8 p.m. at the South Park Green, Hickory and James Streets. Admission is free but donations are gladly accepted. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Parking will be available at Hope Lutheran Church or Emerson Academy. In case of rain, the production will be held at Hope Lutheran Church, 500 Hickory Street. For more information, call (937) 603-4893 or visit online at

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Maurer at

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Artistic Extravaganza Wed, 08 Sep 2010 19:48:32 +0000 Urban Nights Showcases Downtown Dayton

By Lara Donnelly

Many Galleries offer Entertainment Such As These Drummers At Gallery 510 Fine Art.

As the nights start to cool off and students head back to school, the city of Dayton is giving summer one last hurrah. On Friday, September 10 from 5 to 10 p.m., downtown Dayton, the Oregon District and the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood will be the stage for the free, bi-annual extravaganza that is Urban Nights. Artists, singers, musicians, dancers and bicyclists will be just a few among the crowds swarming the streets of downtown. Multiple performance venues will be set up at different places around the city, and some acts will simply take to the streets, dancing and singing on corners. Weather permitting, Hauer Music will release some pianos into the wild for Urban Nights adventurers to play, whether they are virtuosi who can perform the works of Mozart from memory or someone who just wants to plunk out “Chopsticks.” Molly Eaton, Downtown Dayton Partnership marketing manager, hopes the incorporation of pianos will help people “bring out (their) inner musician on the street. (They) can step right up and play a song.”

This community participation is a new development for Urban Nights, which started eight years ago as an art hop and housing tour. At the first event, says Eaton, there were about 700 attendees. Last May, at the most recent Urban Nights, over 30,000 people turned out to see the excitement. “The event continues to grow and attract more people,” says Eaton.

This edition of Urban Nights will feature more than just art galleries and snazzy real estate. “In the past,” says Eaton, “we’ve always advertised it as a walk on the artsy side. We’ve decided to add more interactive events.” Not only will there be pianos on the street corners, but you’ll find a chalk walk on Main Street, karaoke by the Kettering Tower, and free tap dance lessons at Courthouse Square and around the city.

During the chalk walk, chalk will be provided for free to anyone who wants to try their hand at sidewalk art. At the Spotlight on Second Stage, by the Kettering Tower, there will be an open call for karaoke fans from 6 to 9 p.m. All are welcome to step up and show off their pipes there, but for the truly ambitious, the Human Race Theatre Company is presenting a ‘70s Karaoke Contest at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St. The first 30 people to sign up, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Loft, will compete for the chance to sing on stage before the Race’s December production of 8-Track: The Sounds of the ‘70s. The 30 contestants will be divided into three groups of 10 who will perform beginning at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. The championship round will commence at 9 p.m. Cash prizes of $250 (first place), $100 (second place) and $50 (third place) will also be awarded. All three finalists and possible other contestants will receive free tickets to the show. Dan Edwards of WDTN-Channel 2 will serve as host and University of Dayton law professor and former member of Sha Na Na, Dennis Greene, will judge.

In addition, the Community Stage, located at the corner of Third and Jefferson Streets, will feature local artists who have signed up for a 10-minute time slot to perform in front of the multitude of Urban Nights guests. At Gallery 510 Fine Art in the Oregon District, there will be a large easel set up out front, and any passersby will be invited to add to a large Zentangle drawing. The main hub of Urban Nights will be Courthouse Square, where the stage will be filled with various choirs (such as the Wilberforce University Choir and the Schuster Center Celebration Choir among others), big bands, and tap dancers from the Tap Factor.

Christopher Erk, founder of the Tap Factor, says that their 15 to 20 minute show will run the gamut from improvisation to choreographed routines, performed by all sorts, from students at Stivers School for the Arts and Wright State University, to local
senior citizens.

“If you can reference the last show that we did,” says Erk, referring to the Tap Factor’s much smaller performance at a previous Urban Nights, “(this show) is a testament to the growth of the company.”

Most importantly, during the show, there will be 2-by-2 foot tap boards scattered throughout the audience. At the conclusion of the dancing, the performers will give a short lesson. “It will be like the first 15 minutes of a class they would take if they’ve never tap danced before,” Erk explains. His goal is to show people that tap is a relevant (and fun) type of artistic expression. “Tap dancing is easier, and more accessible and appealing, to a wider form of audience than (people) may think,” he says. “It’s more of an urban and accessible art form.” After the main Tap Factor show in Courthouse Square, dancers will disperse into the street with their 2-by-2 boards, each custom painted by local artist Mike Elsass of the Color of Energy Gallery, to teach anyone who wants to learn a little tap dancing.

Erk says that this year, there will be “more things happening in between staging

Chalk Walk Images

areas,” such as the Tap Factor’s impromptu lessons. Instead of an oasis of art, dance, and song that guests have to travel between, events will be happening all over the city, on stage and off, some large, some small. Opinions vary on the best way to see everything; the aforementioned Eaton recommends navigating Urban Nights on foot, but Andy Williamson disagrees. Williamson, the organizer of the Urban Bikes at Urban Nights program, says that the city is best seen from the seat of a bike. “The human body is able to interpret data at a speed no greater than 15 miles per hour, which is the average speed of a bicycle,” he says. The not-too-slow, not-too-fast pace of a bike allows for easy cruising, while letting riders “still have that intimate connection” with the surroundings, says Williamson.

The overall intent of Urban Bikes at Urban Nights is to “promote cyclists right to the road,” but the mass ride is also an easy and fun way to get an eyeful of the excitement. “It’s a pretty slow pace,” says Williamson, “and it is escorted by the Dayton police, and people drop in and out.” Everyone is encouraged to attend, as long as they can keep up. Parents are encouraged to attach buggies or seats to their bikes for smaller children.

The Urban Bikes at Urban Nights ride meets at Fifth Third Plaza at 5 p.m. Riders will head down Monument Street towards the Wright-Dunbar district, to “see some of the happenings.” The ride will end at Courthouse Square at 6 to 6:15 p.m., so that participants can take advantage of the information and entertainment that the Downtown Dayton Partnership will be offering there.

If walking or biking isn’t your style, there will be free event shuttles running from 5 to 10 p.m., to take visitors around downtown, to the Oregon District, and out to Wright-Dunbar.

Whether by bike, foot or bus, there is a wide range of things to do and see. With more than 100 participating galleries, restaurants, and organizations, it’s conceivable you might miss a few sights here and there. Even so, that’s all right, according to Eaton. “We want the community to experience all the unique places we have downtown that you can’t find anywhere else,” she says. “All these businesses are here all year round, and there’s so much to do during Urban Nights. We hope people will come back later.”

For more information about Urban Nights, visit online at Information can also be found by following Urban Nights on Facebook at

Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at

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Cover Story: A Wonderland Of Art And Purpose Wed, 11 Aug 2010 18:42:46 +0000 The Art And Articulation Contained Within Front Street

By J.T. Ryder

Front Street North And South Buildings

The red river brick monolithic structures sit straddling East Second Street with Front Street, intersecting through the middle of what has become known colloquially as the Front Street artists’ lofts. Simultaneously daunting and

inviting, the buildings have housed some of the area’s most recognized and prolific artists alongside brick and mortar businesses like machine shops, roofing companies, heating and air conditioning services and even small manufacturing ventures.

It was through sheer curiosity that I recently found myself in the office of the Front Street Building Co., speaking with its building manager, Morty Epstein, about the history and future of the site. Epstein is an affable character that will intimidate most with his cantankerous nature and booming voice upon first meeting. Still, after he began to speak about the history of the property, it certainly became evident how much of his life he has dedicated to Front Street to make it a viable real estate venture in addition to a haven for the arts and businesses that ply their trade within these walls.

Epstein first addressed the inception of the buildings and their original purposes.

“They were built at different times,” he said. “Front Street North and South, they were built from 1885 and 1922. The Annex was built between 1914 and 1916. The back part was the first concrete building in Dayton, in 1916. That thing is so overbuilt that you could add three more stories with no problem. You could go in there, tear off the roof and start going. Front Street North and South was International
Envelope, which was a division of International Paper and before that it was the Mercantile Corp-oration, starting around 1908. All of the stamped envelopes, the ones that were embossed, were printed here for at least 50 years. They lost their contract and my father-in-law bought it in November of 1965 and I came in March of ‘66.”

Henry Schenck, assistant building manager, was also on hand. When questioned about Front Street creating a mecca for artists, Schenck’s selflessly detailed answer was slightly surprising.

“I don’t care what the percentage is, and I’m not going to go into that, but I think it is really important that you always keep artists coming in,” he said. “I was just telling Morty a couple of days ago that they had an article in
Business Weekly, or one of those magazines, where they took 10 cities that were about to go under and they were trying to find a defining factor. It was found that they had given up on the arts in all 10 cities. So, I just told Morty it’s nothing against any business because they are just as important as art, but you want to keep the artists in here, too. It’s just a very good thing to keep the Front Street thing alive. For example, I think that places like The Digital Fringe…I think they had opportunities to do different things, but they like being around the artists.”

With the Dayton City Paper art director and photographer in tow, Epstein and Schenck took us on a tour of the whole property. Their conversation wandered between telling us little bits of information about the history of the buildings and their tenants to talking among themselves, discussing various maintenance schedules and future projects. They first took us through the Annex, where Bill Foreman has his pottery
studio and where Althea Harper once designed clothes before moving her operation to New York after being a runner-up on Project Runway. On the second floor of the Annex, we met Geneva Duncan, a
vibrantly beautifully young entrepreneur. Duncan was moving from her previous space to one that was at least twice as large. She excitedly gave me a tour of what was to be to be her new venture: Pole
Vixens Xtreme.

“First and foremost, we are going to be doing the Pole Xtreme, which is a signature aerobics/core training that we have designed which is also really fun,” she said. “That’s the main thing, but we’re also going to have self defense classes, for which we’re going to bring someone from the outside in to teach and incorporate that. We’re going to do nutritional classes. We’re definitely going to do hip-hop classes and we’re going to have Zumba classes. We’ve got all kinds of fun stuff.”

Duncan also addressed how she stumbled upon Front Street as a place to start her business.

“Actually, I turned down the wrong street one day, and I was like, ‘What is this place?’ I always like the ‘warehouse look,’ so I pulled over and asked this guy, ‘Hey! What is this place?’ and he said, ‘You’re in the warehouse district and this is Front Street.’ I thought to myself, ‘Wow!’ and I never forgot this place. So, long story short, I ended up moving out of town, came back and said, ‘You know what? I want to go check out that place over there again.’ I actually got a hold of the owner, Morty, and he said that they had some places available. I still had it in my head, though, that I was going to have some kind of venture somewhere in this building. I just couldn’t get over the fact that it was cleanest warehouse I had ever seen…and that’s how that happened.”

As Duncan proceeded to describe the other tenants, it was telling that she particularly referred to other businesses and artists in the buildings as “neighbors.”

“Of course, I’ve instantly gotten friendly with the neighbors downstairs and across the hall. The gentleman who works in the hydraulics shop said that his wife has always wanted to take this type of class. Then the people across the street, Jane over at Digital Fringe, are the ones who are going to do my banners. Of course Joe, the photographer in the other building, will do the promotional pictures.”

It was apparent that working relationships at Front Street developed as friendships. “I really haven’t had to go out or venture out far or pick up a Yellow Pages or a phone for anything,” Duncan said.

Since Digital Fringe had been mentioned several times by various people, I knew I should speak with its president Jane McCoy, who has been a Front Street tenant since 1999.
McCoy seemed to represent a kind of bridge between the strictly artistic community and the entrepreneurs. After lecturing me about the correct French pronunciation of Dutoit Street (pronounced dew-twa) as opposed to how many Daytonians pronounce it, which is much like a person with a speech impediment pronouncing Detroit, she answered my question about symbiotic relationships developing between the artists and the businesses. In addition to receiving business either directly or through referrals from the artists, she said they were all “intertwined” as she would refer her clients to the artists and other businesses located in the complex. She proceeded to mention the history of the building, as everyone did. It seems like everyone is ensnared by the extensive history of the building while all the while adding to it.

“About four years ago, we had some guys knock on the door who used to work in the envelope factory and they were telling me all kinds of stories,” McCoy said. “Like one guy, he met his wife here and he brought her back and I think she was mesmerized, kind of like, ‘I can’t believe we used to work here.’ She was just talking about going up and down the stairs every day and how everybody, men and women, had great looking legs from walking up and down the stairs.”

Epstein and Schenck’s tour went on, taking us into the main building. We walked down a large corridor that had large wooden patterns and molds from the old Platt Foundry affixed to the walls, taking the mundane and transforming it into a historically textured piece of art. We walked past the site where the Zoot Theatre Company creates their extravagant puppetry. I momentarily marveled at the back half of a car, sans frame, engine and transmission that was propped against the wall, as if the front half would be seen poking out from the floor below. Graffiti and impromptu artwork festooned the hallways, elevator shafts and exterior walls: a vibrant reminder of the art that was all around us, hidden behind locked doors. Throughout the whole 220,000 square foot footprint of the combined structures, it was astounding to think of the miles and miles of plumbing, electrical wiring and sprinkler system with thousands of sprinkler heads jutting down from the ceiling. It was an epic feat of maintenance and a testament to Epstein and Schenck’s care for the building and what it represents.

Next, I visited The Tap Factor, Christopher Erk’s tap dancing studio. As the young aspiring dancers duplicated the steps that Erk had shown them, a train went by outside. The thrumming of the steel wheels against the metal tracks resonated throughout the building with its own cadence that became a strangely syncopated rhythm that acted as a back beat to the young dancers’ routines. After the session was over, Erk, a former member of the renowned tap troupe Tap Dogs, spoke briefly about his impression of the building and its inhabitants.

“This is the kind of place where people walk in and they’re like, ‘Oh! Cool!’ It could be taken other ways, though. I mean, this is an old building and there are a lot of funky things in the hallways and you never know what you’re going to come across,” he said, chuckling. “The elevators are kind of crazy and there’s graffiti in areas that you may never have been to before. I think that when people come here, they feel like they are participating in something cool. It’s not just some run of the mill strip mall. It’s got an interesting appeal to it.”

As for his own studio and any collaborative effort between him and other tenants, Erk said, “I love having a place I can come to at like 12 o’clock at night and tap dance and turn the music on. The people here are so friendly. I’ve never once felt like, ‘Oh no! Tap dancing!’ They actually like it and, from what I hear, people like that we have people coming up here and tap dancing. It’s a positive thing for the building and it’s really not all that disruptive. Mike Elsass (proprietor of the Color of Energy Gallery) is across the way and we’ve already combined and had some painting sessions where we painted our portable tap floors in the styles and the color of energy. Honestly, we’re just really friendly with everyone around.”

On the way back to the third floor elevator, I met artist Scott Gibbs, whom the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District designated as a “Master Painter.” Entering his studio requires you to pass through a small confined area, crammed full of materials and books until you enter into the vast studio proper. It is a methodically chaotic sanctuary, where everything is in an orderly disarray which, with the vibrant colors and depth of textures, becomes a work of abstract art in itself: a fractal trace of Gibbs’ psyche. “For me, creativity is romantic,” he said. “I mean, if I look back at it, it’s a purely romantic notion. It’s funny to say that you have a romantic idea of your profession when your profession is considered romantic, but I’m very fantasy oriented about being an artist. The sabbatical that I’ve established for myself in my little enclave is totally suitable to my nature. I get to be a romantic in the studio; I get to be in a warehouse that has another history that I’ve incorporated myself into…I’m very symbiotic with this environment here.”

As I commented on the view of the downtown Dayton skyline, Gibbs said, “It’s really quite gorgeous. That’s a gift to me. I’ve had options to leave the building, which I was really leaning toward, but when I thought about what I was leaving…Plus I had already downsized from two studios to one and the idea of me moving this stuff and being comfortable in my next work environment…I think I’m too old to need to do that. Also, I couldn’t justify that I would be gaining more to justify leaving this.”

For more information about Front Street, located at 1000 E. Second St.,
contact Morty Epstein at (937) 478-7006.

Photos by Todd White, Photo of grafitti wall art by J.T. Ryder

Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at

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The Other Will Ferrell Wed, 04 Aug 2010 16:39:08 +0000 A semi-serious look at the seriously funny star of ‘The Other Guys’

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Will Ferrel ( Left ) Mark Wahlberg ( Right ) in 'The Other Guys'

Longevity, besides being a respectful euphemism for old age, means you’ve got more stories to tell and there’s a greater chance that one or two of them might be good. Quite often I joke about being old because I’ve got a few gray hairs (I’m not lying if most of my hair is still black and what does it matter anyway because at least I still have a full head of hair, right?) and I find that I’m a little slower getting out of movie theater seats than I was a decade or so ago. I know I’m still a young guy, relatively speaking, and I can prove it because I’m still younger than Will Ferrell, a guy I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with on three occasions during the last four years. And boy, do I have some stories about him.

Back in 2006 at the media weekend for Stranger Than Fiction in Los Angeles, Ferrell seemed poised for a breakout of sorts, a stretch outside the comic mold that had earned him a legion of fans eager to cast him as “the next Adam Sandler,” which is a rather narrow tag when you consider that those guys have very little in common, in terms of comic stylings and the fact that they both got breaks on Saturday Nigh Live. Although the more I think about it now, each of them developed into reliable box office jokesters and then hooked up with serious filmmakers (Paul Thomas Anderson and co-stars Emily Watson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love, while Ferrell partnered with Marc Forster and heavyweights Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman in Fiction) in order to transition into the drama club, so maybe they are brothers from other mothers.

Anyway, Ferrell, during interviews for Fiction, seemed so driven to distance himself from his wild and crazy persona that he completely locked the funny guy in the hole. He talked about comedy from a remove that felt like he was observing that part of himself from deep space. He was all about the acting, although, to be fair, it wasn’t in a pretentious, preening manner because he didn’t need to toot his own horn, since he had Dustin Hoffman telling us, “He (Ferrell) was acting right from the third or fourth take in the first scene we had (together) and I said, ‘uh-oh,’ he’s more real than I am. And I went to the director and I said that he (Ferrell) is really working very subtly. The director agreed with me and I said I better match that because I realized that he was
showing me up.”

I caught up with him a couple of years later, much closer to home, in Columbus when he was on a publicity tour for the basketball comedy Semi-Pro and this time the funny Ferrell was completely off the leash. Out of the self-imposed, self-serious prison, he was like a two-strike offender on a bender. He was “Will Ferrell, comedy whore” and while that guy was a riot, there was something studied in that turn as well, as if he had to give us exactly what we expected and then some. I wouldn’t have been surprised if, in this highly manufactured manic state, he had come up to each and every member of the press on hand, gotten right up in our faces, and started telling jokes in rat-a-tat-tat fashion with little bits of spittle spraying us, while we did our best to act like it wasn’t freaking us out.

All of which generated a curious level of anxiety in me as I prepared for my most recent encounter with Ferrell in Los Angeles in support of The Other Guys, in which he and creative partner Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) set their sights on a pair of cops (Ferrell and the decidedly unfunny Mark Wahlberg who is quite funny when surrounded by his hilarious co-stars in a safe, nearly impregnable comedy cocoon), known as “the Other Guys,” who are quite obviously not the heroic types.

Which Will Ferrell would await me?

Well, it is safe to say that another Will Ferrell entered the room for the press conference with co-stars Wahlberg, the irrepressible Michael Keaton, the junior comedic diva Eva Mendes, and McKay in tow, and this other guy was quite funny, but much more relaxed. He wasn’t out to impress us with refined actorly tics or zany mania yet those aspects were present both in the film and in person. There is no doubt that Ferrell is a comedic actor intent on breathing life into whatever character he’s playing.

In The Other Guys, Ferrell plays Allen Gamble. While Gamble is “the” supportive player on the police force, a desk jockey watching and admiring the exploits of heedlessly destructive supercops Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson), he is certainly the leading man in his life story and that of his wife (Mendes) who works as a successful doctor during the day and as Gamble’s ever-supportive helpmate at home. And what was clear from the outset of the press conference is that Ferrell was just as much of a team player as Gamble.

Wahlberg deadpanned his way through comments about how surprised he was to have been approached by Ferrell and McKay to be involved in this project. Mendes brandished her divaliciousness like an old school pie in the face to such an extent that I’m sure Lucille Ball would have been quite proud of her. Keaton and McKay flung quips and anecdotes of the on-set hijinks that transformed the event into a DVD outtake.

But Ferrell, well, he seemed content to wait his turn and let the moment come to him. At one point McKay praised the cast, saying that “you go through everyone in this movie – Mark and Eva, Michael, Dwayne, and Sam – they all had the great instincts of knowing to play comedy real.”  He didn’t include Ferrell in that comment, but the other guy up on that panel has proven himself to be as real (and really funny) as they come.

But what do I know about being funny?  That’s a whole other story.

The Other Guys will be shown at Rave
The Greene 14, Dixie Twin Drive-In and more

Reach DCP film critic
T.T. Stern-Enzi at

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Of Saints and Wonders Thu, 29 Jul 2010 21:20:29 +0000 Of Saints and Wonders

Unite Irish of Dayton Presents Dayton Celtic Festival.

-By J.T. Ryder

The mythopoetic imagery of the Emerald Isle causes a stirring in some, a sense of longing, a yearning to hear the strident fiddle match against the keening wail of the uilleann pipes calling over the misty mountains and across the Giant’s Causeway. The time of
despair and Diaspora has passed and the harp’s weeping strain has given way to merriment. The time is now as the United Irish of Dayton presents a respite for the weary this weekend: the ninth annual Dayton Celtic Festival at
RiverScape MetroPark.

“We do try to keep a balance in our Irish/Celtic entertainment which appeals to all ages,” said Bill Russell, festival
organizer and artistic director. “This is one of the great elements of our festival; the appeal to all ages – bringing together generations to share in our Irish/Celtic music, dance and culture. We try to
balance the acts presented at any particular time so our attendees can leave one stage and find at one of our other stages something exactly to their
liking. We also review each and every attendee survey form after the festival to help us shape next year’s entertainment in keeping with the desires of
the community.”

One of the more intriguing groups to take the stage this weekend is the band known as Scythian, whose unique blend of Celtic melodies are overlaid with Ukrainian and Middle Eastern rhythms. Danylo Fedoryka,
one of the founding members who also
provides vocals, accordion and rhythm guitar, addressed the group’s marriage of beats
and melodies.

“My brother and I kind of started the band and our parents both emigrated from the Ukraine during World War II. It was just sort of a progression. We started playing mostly Celtic music, but then we had this music that we grew up with and we wanted to start playing some of our heritage and so we kind of came up with this mix.”

Fedoryka also explained that the Middle Eastern rhythms were a contribution from their drummer, whose father is from Jordan. The incorporation of these diverse influences somehow seems to seamlessly enhance the Celtic flavor.

“I really think that Celtic music lends itself really well to Middle Eastern drums. They have the same rhythms. So do African beats, like 6/8 time…the Irish jigs are in the same rhythm as the African tribal beats.”

He went on to address some of the history that may suggest why such cross-pollination works so well. “They actually say that in Ireland, the Egyptian monks came over and things like the Celtic cross and other symbols are actually Coptic, which is Egyptian. The bagpipes also originated elsewhere, in the Middle East, so it seems somewhere, way, way back, those cultures emigrated from wherever they were and influenced the Irish culture and tradition. It’s kind of cool to play the Ukrainian music with the Celtic music because there is almost a natural fit”

2010 marks the third year of Scythian’s involvement with the Dayton Celtic Festival. Fedoryka particularly praised the quality of the bands acquired by festival organizers.

“Bill Russell has done a great job bringing in bands that are cutting edge,” he said. “He brought in Slide for a couple of years and, in my mind, they are the best traditional band on the circuit.”

Another amazing Irish group scheduled to perform is the ever-popular Gaelic Storm. The group is probably one of the most recognizable Irish bands simply due to their appearance in the blockbuster film Titanic. Gaelic Storm played “John Ryan’s Polka” in the scene commonly known as “An Irish Party In Third Class.” The band has played at several Dayton Celtic Festivals, and guitarist Steve
Twigger reflected on how the group’s relationship with the festival
has developed.

“Dayton has always been family to us,” he said. “We met Bill Russell many, many years ago. I remember (when) his daughters were (young) and dancing out in the crowd and we brought them up on stage. We were there at the very first Celtic Festival and here we are again. We always try to make the music completely
accessible and seamless with the audience, and I really think that it’s come
to fruition.”

Since Dayton can be considered a “special friend” of Gaelic Storm, it’s a plus that Daytonians will have the first shot at purchasing the group’s new CD, Cabbage, days before it is to go on sale nationally. Cabbage supplies a rather different approach since the band takes elements from the rock, bluegrass, Jamaican, African and Middle Eastern styles of music and rhythms. Twigger addressed whether borrowing from other types of music maintained the essence of Celtic music.

“Yes, in fact, we were just in Spain. We played Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, at a huge festival with like 30,000 people. Of course, there they had some of the usual suspects from Ireland and England, but the local Gaelic and Celtic music there is huge. They love the (uilleann) pipes, but it is a very different sound than what we are used to and especially to what Americans term to be Celtic music. There is almost a Middle Eastern influence throughout Galician music. On tour, we’ll pass through France and listen to the music of Brittany, the Breton music. So, all in all, even within the subsection of Gaelic music, there are different sounds. You don’t have to step out of the genre to hear completely
different sounds.”

Another aspect of the Dayton Celtic Festival that will surely appeal to multiple generations is the cultural exhibits and displays, which will encompass dancers, a harp maker, musical instrument demonstrations and storytelling. Julie O’Keefe-McGhee, a noted storyteller who will appear Saturday and Sunday, brought forth the different aspects of Irish lore. She particularly explained, historically, the differences and definitions of what a storyteller is.

“A seanchaí is the storyteller. I would call it ‘the people’s storyteller.’ There was a big difference between a seanchaí and a bard or a poet. Becoming a bard was quite an intensive, lengthy preparation of about 12 years and it was all an oral tradition. You had to memorize all of the old legends and myths, and you were tested by your peers before you were granted the title of bard or poet. They took a poet as not only one who composed, but they would also compose them on the old legends. But with a seanchaí, there had to be someone in the
village or community that had heard the stories and maybe had an intrinsic talent for sharing. Around the fireside, when the nights would be long, that was their entertainment…music
and storytelling.”

O’Keefe-McGhee was also quick to reit-erate what she felt was the most important purpose of storytelling.

“When you tell stories, you connect with your audience. It’s something a movie can’t do because the teller and the audience have a definite connection. I taught school for many years and storytelling is intrinsic to teaching. Kids come alive.” In reference to the importance of storytelling, O’Keefe-McGhee said, “You’ll find how some of the stories evolve. I started resurrecting stories because I felt that I needed to reconnect with my Irish heritage. My family was always very proud of it. I think the best stories are your own life. People need to be aware of their background and heritage. If you forget that, you’ve forgotten a lot
of yourself.”

Even though the schedule for this year’s festival is stellar, next year’s celebratory incarnation promises to be even better. Russell and his fellow organizers are busily preparing the slate.

“Next year is our 10th anniversary and we started looking at themes and added features to celebrate this milestone last year,” he said. “We have many ideas in mind and will also look to our attendees’ comments this year to help us shape the best 10th anniversary celebration possible for the community. We definitely want our 10th anniversary theme or themes to reflect the ties and contributions the Irish and broader Celtic traditions and culture have had on the Greater Dayton community and this part of the country.”

With any festival of this size, the logistics can be tedious and the scheduling and promotion of the event can turn into quite an arduous task.
Russell wished to acknowledge those working behind the scenes, and also give a heartfelt thank-you to those who have attended the festival in the past as well as those who will attend this year.

“Our entire committee is all volunteers and contributes countless hours throughout the year to this growing event. We have been able to sustain and grow our festival each and every year because of the community support and their efforts to return each year and take us up on the offer to bring more family and more friends with them – they are our best
marketing tool.”

The 2010 Dayton Celtic Festival will be held Friday, July 30 from 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday, July 31
from 12 to 11 p.m. and Sunday, August 1 from
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at RiverScape MetroPark,
111 E. Monument Ave. Admission is free. In addition, a 5K run/walk will be held Saturday at 4 p.m. and a Gaelic Mass and Celtic breakfast will be held
Sunday at 10 a.m. For a complete schedule of events, and list of performers, call (937) 372-9788 or visit online at

Contributed photos

Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at

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Welcome Back, Mr. Koz Thu, 29 Jul 2010 19:01:05 +0000 Saxophonist Dave Koz Returns to Fraze

By Alan Sculley

Photo by Lori Stoll

Saxophonist Dave Koz. Photo by Lori Stoll

Perhaps more than ever, jazz saxophonist Dave Koz sees his concerts this year – and the entertainment they provide – as playing a vital role in the larger lives of his audience.

Like most people in the music industry, he has watched some acts either cancel tours altogether or some shows because of low ticket sales.
approved cialis Koz’s current tour with guitarist Jonathan Butler and percussionist Sheila E. is doing good business, Koz said, and he is especially thankful for the support fans are showing in these
challenging times.
“It’s kind of a great responsibility on our part, on stage, to make sure that that (the fans’) time and money is well spent and that people leave feeling that they really got something out of it,” Koz said in a phone interview last week.
That means, of course, giving fans a couple of hours of good entertainment. But Koz also hopes fans find the shows and the music inspiring and helpful during a season in which a lurching recovery to the economy has people worried about their jobs and their financial futures.
“It just feels, for a lot of people, no matter what you do, it’s a confusing time and a disorganized time and this strange feeling a lot of us have. It’s uncomfortable because we know it’s not going back to the way it was, which we were so comfortable with. Yet, there’s not this feeling of I know where
this is going. Music is really a primary source of inspiration and comfort in dealing with this interesting time that our generation has never dealt with. We’ve never dealt with the velocity and frequency of change that we’re experiencing right now at this moment in our lives.”
Koz, of course, is feeling the uncertainty within his own career. The entire music industry is in crisis over declining record sales that have resulted from illegal downloading of music.
“Recorded music is really a different world than it was a very short time ago,” he said. “People don’t seem to be consuming music in the same way. And whether that will improve, I’m not sure. I hope so.”
While doing concerts helps Koz return to the pure enjoyment of playing music and performing, he said writing music for his next CD has also been therapeutic and helped him embrace the uncertainties in his own life and career, which now has spanned two decades and more than a dozen albums in the smooth jazz genre. He hopes it will have the same effect on people that hear the CD, which is targeted for release
in October.
Called Hello Tomorrow, the new CD – which Koz has just finished recording – centers around dealing with the uncertainties in the world
today. The theme is present, Koz said, in songs like, “Start All Over Again,” one of a couple of vocal songs on the CD.
“And there are song titles and feelings of songs that are meant to access that part of peoples’ kind of consciousness when they’re listening to it,” he said. “It’s on a very subtle level, but there are song titles like ‘When Will I Know For Sure’ and ‘What You Leave Behind’ and ‘Remember Where You Came From’ and ‘It’s Always Been You.’ It’s kind of got a spir-
itual, a very subtle spiritual bent to it that if you listen to the music, and most of it is instrumental so it doesn’t tie you to a lyric, you can almost use it as a musical meditation – even though it’s got a lot of energy, by the way. It hopefully in a perfect world will allow people to find that
inspiration inside.”
Koz is pleased enough with Hello Tomorrow that he has been performing some of the new songs on his current tour. He said he has been happy with the musical quality of the shows this summer,
noting that he and Butler have a great chemistry on stage.
He expects that his show at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering will be a standout during this summer of touring. In recent years, the venue has been a regular tour stop, and with good reason.
“It’s hard not to like that venue because it’s sort of the epitome of the summer touring season,” Koz said. “It’s outside. It’s in this beautiful kind of suburban area. It feels like a little hamlet, just this quiet little area, and all of a sudden there’s this beautiful amphitheater outside. And the place is just set up for music. It’s just a perfect spot for a summer concert. It’s big, but not too big. You get enough of that roar of the crowd.
“Every time we play a show at Fraze, it’s always one of the most memorable of our summer touring season because of the audience. The audience that comes there, they’re ready to have a good time. I mean, from the first note, that’s what I remember most about that place. Boom, you hit the stage, and boom, you’re off to the races because the audience is just pumped. They’re ready for it.”
Dave Koz will perform with Jonathan Butler and special guest Sheila E. Saturday, July 31 at 7 p.m. at the Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering. Tickets are $27. For tickets or more information, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit online at
Reach DCP freelance
writer Alan Sculley at
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The Fraze – Kettering’s Outdoor Oasis Wed, 05 May 2010 18:36:43 +0000 Fraze Pavilion organizers have seemingly perfected the art of scheduling a lineup with a balanced mix of music and entertainment that cuts a swath across all demographics and musical genres. The 2010 season particularly sets the bar higher, including a variety of music we have come to expect from the venue such as jazz (Dave Koz and Jonathan Butler, Saturday, July 31), rock (Gregg Allman, Saturday, May 15, and Bachman & Turner, Friday, June 25), country (Vince Gill, Friday, June 4, and McGuffey Lane, Friday, July 9) and soul (Jeffrey Osborne, Peabo Bryson and Freddie Jackson, Saturday, July 10). Even so, there is a broadened spectrum thanks to shock rock (Alice Cooper, Sunday, July 18), comedy (Capitol Steps, Thursday, July 1, and Weird Al Yankovic, Friday, July 2) and homespun variety (Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion “Summer Love” Tour,  Thursday,  August 12).

Karen Durham, Fraze general manager, recently revealed some of the acts she particularly looks forward to as the season dawns.

“I think the high point for me would be the Goo Goo Dolls (Friday,  May 14) even though they are the first show out of the gate,” she said. “It’s a different audience than we typically program for and that’s a wonderful thing for us. Again, it’s always nice to have first timers on the stage, like Billy Idol (Friday, September 3). Bachman-Turner is going to be cool because it’s a reunion with those guys.”

Toward the end of our conversation, I told Durham I was planning to accent this story with  some trivia about a few acts that will be appearing at the Fraze this year, and she added one little tidbit of her own.

“Our season magazine will hit the streets in the next week or so and we have 10 questions with Weird Al Yankovic. One of the questions we asked was, ‘Did you know that Ohio’s (official Rock) Song is “Hang On Sloopy”?’ and he responded, ‘Did you know that Rick Derringer, who is singing on “Hang on Sloopy” as the lead singer of The McCoys, produced my first six albums?’”

“I wish I would have invented sex.”

~Deborah Harry

While Deborah Harry began her musical career inauspiciously enough by waiting tables at the infamous Max’s Kansas City, it was enough for her to go from being a waitress to becoming the peroxide blonde pin-up of the post-punk pop movement. Her first band was a folk outfit called Wind in the Willows, and her second attempt at forming a group, called the Stilettos, while not successful, planted the seeds from which Blondie would grow. Another member of the Stilettos was Chris Stein, who would eventually become Deborah’s boyfriend as well as Blondie’s lead guitarist. The early influence of the Ramones, The New York Dolls, CBGBs and other New York underground music venues gave the burgeoning Blondie a harder edge, more reflective of the blank generation’s punk persona. Blondie’s first two albums only enjoyed moderate success outside of the U.S., but the merging of mainstream pop and edgier strains of punk helped propel their breakout 1978 album Parallel Lines. In turn, Blondie rode this new wave of music to new heights and across the videodrome of the fledgling MTV. With a string of hits such as “Rapture,” “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me,” Blondie remains one of the most influential and often emulated groups. They will perform at the Fraze on Saturday, August 28.

“Every one of us is sort of a figment of our own imaginations.”

~Kris Kristofferson

While Kris Kristofferson’s first stint in the music industry was sweeping and mopping floors at Columbia Records, it was all he needed to be heard. While performing his second job as a helicopter pilot for the petroleum industry in Louisiana, he would write such hits as “Help Me Make It through the Night” and “Me and Bobby McGee” and pitch these songs when he returned to his janitorial duties in Nashville. He managed to get some of his songs recorded and they became hits for such artists as Dave Dudley (“Viet Nam Blues”), Billy Walker and the Tennessee Walkers (“From the Bottle to the Bottom”), Ray Stevens (“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Once More with Feeling”) and Roger Miller (“Me and Bobby McGee,” “Best Of All Possible Worlds,” “Darby’s Castle”). Kristofferson also managed to gain the attention of Johnny Cash albeit in a more unconventional manner: he landed his helicopter on Cash’s front lawn to give him some demo tapes. In addition, Janis Joplin recorded “Me and Bobby McGee” for her album Pearl mere days before she died. Kristofferson, who had been a long time lover and friend of Joplin, did not even know she was planning on recording it, and only heard it the day after she had died. He will perform at the Fraze on Thursday, June 10.

“I’m a little nuts. I’m a lot nuts. All I know is that in the midst of the madness of this world it’s my therapy. The music touches my heartstrings.”

~Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot began his musical journey at a very young age. His mother recognized his talents and he was schooled to be a child performer. His first performance was little more than a recitation of the Irish lullaby “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” over his elementary school’s PA system. He grew and his voice began to change. He taught himself piano and percussive instruments, performing at a local resort area “for a couple of beers.” He began to be influenced by Steven Foster’s music, which propelled him to learn how to play folk guitar. Later influences would be such folk singers as Pete Seeger, Bob Gibson and The Weavers not to mention the jazz compositions he was learning while attending Hollywood’s Westlake College of Music. His early career was a flurry of random tours, songwriting and even hosting a country and western show in the United Kingdom for a year. After he gained popularity once his music was recorded by such artists as Judy Collins and Marty Robbins, his career followed the peaks and valleys that are all too familiar within the entertainment industry: success, infidelity, divorce and addiction. Lightfoot dealt with all of these issues as they came, and with a banner of hit songs waving high above him, he has constantly maintained a touring schedule, playing such hits as “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” One of the more interesting recent developments in his career pertains to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Apparently, a diving team located the actual wreck and found that the hatches of the vessel were intact, nullifying Lightfoot’s lyric, “At seven p.m. a main hatchway caved in.” Lightfoot, prompted by the discovery and staying true to his art, has since changed the lyric. He will perform at the Fraze on Thursday, June 17.

“(Marilyn Manson) has a woman’s name and wears makeup. How original.”

~Alice Cooper

Although born Vincent Damon Furnier, Alice Cooper will forever be known as simply Alice. All of the apocryphal stories about Cooper are well known, including how his stage name was chosen by using a Ouija board (or just to “spit in the face of society,” whichever version you believe) or that, in 1969, he killed a live chicken at the Toronto Peace Festival (untrue, but the story lives on). While having Ozzy Osbourne featured on Hey Stoopid or Jon Bon Jovi singing backup on Trash isn’t exactly a stretch, it is hard to comprehend Donavan singing on Billion Dollar Babies or Liza Minnelli lending her voice on the Muscle of Love album. Well, the latter should come as no surprise, as Minnelli has been quoted as saying that her “good friend, Alice Cooper,” told her “his whole career was based on the movie Cabaret.” In addition, one of Cooper’s more philanthropic acts that doesn’t get too much press was his drive to raise money to remodel the then-deteriorating Hollywood sign, donating $27,000 himself and dedicating the “O” to his friend and favorite comedian Groucho Marx. Marx, along with Mae West, both reflected that Cooper’s early shows were just a form of a vaudeville revue. Another intriguing fan of Cooper was artist Salvador Dalí, who was so moved by Alice’s surreal lifestyle that he  made a hologram titled First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper’s Brain.

You can find the complete 2010 Fraze lineup on the back page of the Dayton City Paper throughout the season. For more information, call (937) 296-3300 or visit The Fraze Pavilion is located at 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering.

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The Great Drum Wed, 21 Apr 2010 15:06:15 +0000

San Jose Taiko

The drummer stands, legs rigid and splayed, mimicking the wide lines of the prone wooden drum. His left arm points to the heavens as his right arm traces an ever increasingly insistent tattoo across the taut drum’s head with the straight wooden drum stick, or bachi. This technique, called oroshi, utilizes silences, or ma, to counterpoint the increasing tempo, building itself into a flurry of sharp attacks until the whole ensemble of drummers joins into the fray. The group moves as one, weaving a story through percussive punctuations and bold, rolling rhythmic cadences. Welcome to taiko drumming.

Taiko was introduced to Japan from China during the Yayoi period (500 B.C. to 300 A.D.) and was used for several purposes. The military incorporated it for communication purposes, particularly to convey troop movements and strike fear into the opposition. Taiko was also a core form of music played at court and became a staple of royal ceremonies. It was also adopted by the Shint Buddhists to be utilized only during religious ceremonies. Some temples used the largest drum in Taiko’s arsenal, the great drum, or daiko. Eventually it became common for everyone to take up taiko drumming for religious holidays, festivals and other communal events. In fact, in some villages, it was used to accompany the oral folklore of the region and draw people together.

The creation of the modern ensemble form of taiko (called Kumi-daiko) is credited to Daihachi Oguchi who, in 1951, mused as to why taiko drums had never been used in an ensemble group before. Oguchi was a jazz-influenced drummer and infused the traditional styles of taiko drumming with a more modern jazz structure, bringing together the many drums and other instruments that were previously used separately. In some villages where taiko drumming and singing was once a focal point of a community’s interactions and history, such activity has been supplanted for evenings spent at the local karaoke bar. The younger generations seem to gravitate to the larger cities, such as Tokyo, the moment they are old enough to move away.  Traditional values and important folklore are in danger of being forgotten due to the progression of technology and a preference for more Westernized diversions.

San Jose Taiko, who are set to appear Saturday, April 24 at the Victoria Theatre, takes in the art of the performance, the somber duty of tradition and the ability and energy to bring an ancient form of music into a new age. Much more than a percussive ensemble, the group utilizes cymbals, flutes and chanting to convey their unified message. The members move as one, invoking a sense of interpretive dance while chanting and sporadic shouts pepper the performance, creating a high harmonic counterpoint to the low rumble of the larger drums. The members’ brightly colored costumes, style of dance and expressive facial movements also impart a more intimate meaning to the music, connecting with the audience on a more universal level. All of this is tied together by the ever-present thunder of the drums.

In addition, San Jose Taiko is much more than just a traveling troupe akin to Stomp or Riverdance. They embody a sense of community, tradition and opportunity. The group began as a way to encourage youth to be involved in the local temple and has blossomed from there. Members take on a regular exercise regime, such as running, to build up their endurance for the grueling stage performances. They are also expected to compose, create costumes, choreograph numbers and handcraft the drums they will play, giving the members a more well rounded understanding about their abilities to express themselves. San Jose Taiko even differentiates itself from other taiko groups in that they mostly create and compose their own original concepts and pieces and that they perform them in the Kumi-daiko or ensemble form.

San Jose Taiko has more long-term goals in mind, such as creating a conservatory as a repository of the art form and a resource center to provide assistance, training and professional development. The troupe has already established a very successful touring residency program that has created a binding relationship with many communities. They have also implemented a Junior Taiko program, established as a means to perpetuate an interest in the culture and the art form of taiko.

San Jose Taiko will perform Saturday, April 24 at 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Tickets are $26-$43. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit

Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at

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