Jack Garner: 'The Whipping Man' and Music Hall of Fame are must-sees
12:16 PM, Apr 24, 2013
You have through Sunday to see one of the most original and provocative plays in the long and fruitful history of Geva Theatre Center.
Don’t miss The Whipping Man, a wondrous and potent new American play that sheds light on issues of history and relationships among the races, as well as the horrendous scars of the Civil War. If you incorrectly think new American theater has nothing new to say or new ways to say it, see this first-rate production.
The superbly crafted play ties together seemingly diverse threads of civil rights, Judaism and American history, teaching us that slavery is slavery and chains are chains in any and all of their virulent forms.
Kudos also to a superb, three-man cast: Andrew C. Ahrens as a Confederate soldier who returns to his Richmond home as the Civil War concludes, Tyler Jacob Rollinson as the younger and more unruly of two surviving household servants (who are striving to understand their newfound freedom), and especially David Alan Anderson as Simon, the household’s senior slave.
With great originality, playwright Matthew Lopez establishes the parallels between the freeing of the slaves in Pharaoh’s Egypt and the emancipation wrought by the American Civil War, and also between the meaning of Abraham Lincoln to American blacks and that of Abraham the Patriarch to the Israelites. What an imaginative piece. It also gives lie to the dictum that writers should only write what they know. Lopez has said if that were true, he would have written a play about an Hispanic gay man in Brooklyn’s Park Slope.
Special screening. In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Skalny Center at the University of Rochester is teaming with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester’s Jewish Film Festival to present a special screening at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Little Theatre.
The Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising According to Marek Edelman is a 1993 Polish documentary. In it, Edelman, a leading participant in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when he was 23, gives his account of events from April 19 through May 10, 1942. His distinctive and thorough memories are supported by fascinating and often-disturbing archival footage, shot by the Nazis, made darkly poetic through slow motion and freeze-frame techniques. The footage includes images of Jews about to be deported to Treblinka.
A panel discussion will follow the 74-minute film. Admission is $8.
Short film festival. The Rochester International Film Festival (formerly known as “Movies on a Shoestring”) opens its 55th annual four-program fest at 8 p.m. Thursday; other (and different) programs are scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House.
The festival rightfully prides itself on being the world’s oldest, continuously held short film fest. This year’s features include live-action, animated, documentary and narrative shorts from as far away as Australia and South Africa and as near as Rochester.
Admission is free, though donations are accepted.
Music Hall of Fame. Honoring Rochester music greats not only pays them homage but also honors our own memories of the great music we’ve experienced here in town over the decades.
That’s why I’m especially excited to see and hear various performers, including some whom I consider friends, at the second annual Rochester Music Hall of Fame ceremony. They include Bat McGrath and Don Potter, Lou Gramm and the late blues legend Son House, at 7 p.m. Sunday in Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre.
I moved to Rochester in 1970, so I missed the early showstopper band period of McGrath and Potter. But I came to love their work as a folk-rock duo in the early ’70s, as themselves or as part of Chuck Mangione’s legendary Friends and Love and Together concerts. In later years, I’ve continued to follow their individual solo work.
Eventually, both men moved to the Nashville area, where Potter became a staple as a guitarist for country stars The Judds and got deep into Christian music. McGrath, meanwhile, lives in the Tennessee hills, composing and working on some excellent solo albums. McGrath frequently returns to the Rochester area to perform (and was at the 2012 jazz festival).
Gramm started as Lou Grammatico and was with Poor Heart and Black Sheep when I first reviewed him, before bursting on the world scene as lead singer of the powerful rock band Foreigner in the late ’70s and early ’80s. One of my fondest memories of covering rock music in the ’80s was a chance to go on the road (very briefly) for an Upstate magazine cover story about Gramm and Foreigner.
Gramm is now making a comeback as a solo performer. He’s also the subject of Juke Box Hero, a just-published autobiography by Gramm, with writer Scott Pitoniak.