Arts & Life

Arts and lifestyle coverage from around the globe and Illinois.

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

If you're a dutiful fan of Stephen King's work — myself, I'm an off again, on again follower — you will have read The Shining, King's hit 1977 novel about a haunted resort in the Colorado Rockies. Depending on how recently you immersed yourself in that story, you'll have a sharp or vague recollection of a young child with the power of "shining," or mind-reading mixed with telekinesis.

'Don't Know'? Just Admit It

Sep 18, 2013

We've all faked our way through conversations before — whether about books we haven't read, movies we haven't seen or concepts we don't understand. In her new book, I Don't Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance (Except When You Shouldn't), Leah Hager Cohen explores moments in history and everyday life when "I don't know" can have a big impact.

For the past few weeks, the culinary arts students at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., have been working with some less-than-seasoned sous chefs.

One of them, Clinton Piper, may look like a pro in his chef's whites, but he's struggling to work a whisk through some batter. "I know nothing about baking," he says.

While NPR's Melissa Block is in Brazil, we'll be showcasing the work of several Brazilian writers. Today: Tatiana Salem Levy, whose short story "Blazing Sun" was featured in the literary magazine Granta. Levy splits her time between Rio de Janeiro, where she's spent most of her life, and Lisbon, where she was born. She calls "Blazing Sun," which is excerpted below, her love letter to Rio.

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With a career that spans rock, pop, country and everything in between, Linda Ronstadt knows no genre, only what her voice can accomplish. Her most famous recordings include "Heart Like a Wheel," "Desperado," "Faithless Love," and many more. But last month, Ronstadt revealed that she has Parkinson's disease and can no longer sing.

Tufts University announced Tuesday that one of its researchers broke ethical rules while carrying out a study of genetically modified "golden rice" in China.

Health, cultural assimilation and language are some of the top concerns on the minds of a group of Latino parents, social media influencers and regular contributors to Tell Me More. Health was something first lady Michelle Obama highlighted in July, when she addressed the National Council of La Raza, the nation's leading Hispanic civil rights organization.

Nicholson Baker has become a sort of poet of the particular and the peculiar. His books are filled with people who focus minutely on what captivates them – in other words, obsessives. A positive way of looking at obsession is as passion taken to an extreme. The danger, of course, is that the object of one person's intense fascination — such as the broken shoelaces in his unforgettable first novel, The Mezzanine, or the disquisitions on Debussy, dance music, and drones in his latest, Traveling Sprinkler — may spell another's total snore.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

I approached this review with a little bit of dread. How do you write about the iconic novelist Thomas Pynchon, whose books are strange and difficult things, and whose die-hard readers gather online to wax poetic, and use words like Pynchonian, Pynchonalia and Pynchonesque? They are just so into him, and often so articulate about their love. If you read the thoughtful and detailed writing by Pynchon devotees, they make a very persuasive case.

On July 18, 1863, the Union Army's famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — a black military unit — made a desperate assault on Confederate forces at Fort Wagner near Charleston, S.C. In the end, they were unsuccessful and lost almost half of their forces. Escaped slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman bore elegiac eyewitness to the terrible day: "We saw the lightning and that was the guns," she said later.

The French novelist Marcel Proust immortalized the connection between food and memory when the narrator of his novel Remembrances of Things Past bit into a madeleine and was transported to thoughts of his childhood.

But what if that madeleine were poisoned, so to speak?

That is the question underlying Russian American writer Anya von Bremzen's new memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. Though it contains recipes, this is not a cookbook but rather, a history of a family and of Soviet Russia.

Thanks to donations from the community, the Hoogland Center for the Arts in 2012 dodged foreclosure and landed on firmer financial ground.  

That means the staff can now plan longer term.  Executive Director Gus Gordon says he's now selling full season ticket packages for the very first time.

The new documentary Muscle Shoals recalls how interracial harmony in tumultuous times made possible a new kind of music. Leading African-American artists traveled to North Alabama — not exactly a place they thought they'd be welcome in the civil rights era — to jam with an all-white crew of session players. In little rooms near the wide Tennessee River, they perfected soul and anticipated Southern rock.

Dynamic Patterns Theatre/Donna Lounsberry

Matthew Dearing says theatregoers don't need to study Quantum Electrodynamics in order to enjoy a show about the man behind the theory.

Dearing is directing QED: A Play, which stars Decatur actor Al Scheider as theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.  Feynman helped develop the atomic bomb.  He also gained notoriety in the 1980s as a member of the panel that investigated NASA after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Our September edition of Heavy Rotation features an African legend, an indie-folk orchestra from Portland, and a French band ready to catch on in America. But first, our panelists:

  • David Dye, host of WXPN's World Cafe
  • Anne Litt, a host on KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Kevin Cole, program director at KEXP in Seattle

Plan For Ebert Statue Unveiled

Sep 10, 2013
Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Filmgoers attend Roger Ebert’s 16th annual film festival in Champaign next spring, they’ll be able to pose with the famous Urbana native.

A fundraiser campaign aims to build a life-size sculpture of Ebert, and unveil it as part of the festival in late April, outside the Virginia Theatre.  The bronze tribute to the late Urbana native and longtime Chicago Sun-Times critic places him in the middle of three theater seats, giving the trademark ‘thumbs up.’

About 125-thousand dollars is needed to build the sculpture.   

David Landis

Rosie Flores brings her rockabilly style to the Hoogland Center for the Arts Saturday night.  She and Marti Brom will be on stage in the next Bedrock 66 Live music event.  This show will be a tribute to Janis Martin, also known as the "Female Elvis."

WUIS' Sean Burns interviewed Flores about her music background and the latest project:

The show begins at 8 p.m. Saturday and tickets are available.

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Audiences at The Muni shouldn't worry about being presented with a watered-down version of RENT.  

Director Mac Warren says he's "staying true" to a show that some theaters edit for language and content.  

RENT's themes, some unabashedly adult, are arguably just as relevant as they were in the mid-90s when the show debuted in New York.

Actors Scott Lecocq and Jeremy Goeckner joined the show's director on Illinois Edition to share their take on a show they say has "finally come home" to the Springfield Muni:

David Landis

Rosie Flores started a Kickstarter project in 2011 to record, "The Female Elvis," Janis Martin.  Martin died shortly after the sessions.  Flores completed the project and has now released the recording.  Flores has partnered with Marti Brom in a rockabilly tribute to Martin.  They will play WUIS' Bedrock 66 Live Saturday, September 7 at 8 p.m.  

Tickets are available at 217-523-2787 or purchase them online from the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Watch Flores Kickstarter appeal video below for some background on Martin:

Musicians Create "Sound Portraits"

Aug 29, 2013
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Combining audio and visual effects, three Illinois musicians have joined up to create an act that defies conventional genres.

The trio plays a host of electronic and acoustic instruments - everything from saxophone, to cello, to the iPad.

The group recently released an album that is 100% improvised, as well as a DVD of those performances. They call their production, "Sound Portraits".

The three will be performing live again on August 31 as part of the Chicago Jazz Festival.

Springfield Art Association

Those everyday items that have a story to tell are the focus of a new Springfield Art Association exhibit called "Hidden In Plain Sight: The Material World of Early Springfield."  It will explore the art, architecture and decorative arts of antebellum Springfield. 

It opens August 31 and runs through October 5.  The public is invited to the opening and to visit the gallery at 700 North 4th Street during normal business hours. 

A free lecture series each Thursday at 7 p.m. in September.

Donna Lounsberry/Hoogland Center for the Arts

The Hoogland Center for the Arts starts its fall lineup of performances with the popular musical Gypsy.

The Hoogland's executive director, Gus Gordon, is also directing this production.

Gordon and leading lady Devin Dinora joined us on Illinois Edition to talk about the show they're calling the most ambitious of 2013:

New Orleans' based band The Iguanas make their way into Springfield Saturday to play Donnie's Homespun

Our Sean Burns, host of the Sangamon Valley Roots Revival on WUIS, profiles the American group, which has been touring and putting out albums for two decades.

Some rusty, faded fire hydrants in Hannibal, Missouri are getting creative touch-ups.

Julie Rolsen owns a gift shop in the Mississippi River town and also runs a bed and breakfast.  This spring, city leaders granted Rolsen permission to launch the "Hannibal Hydrant Project".

UIS Theatre Announces Upcoming Season

Aug 19, 2013

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, the director of the Theatre Department at University of Illinois Springfield, joins WUIS to tell us about the upcoming season: 

CLICK HERE for more information about the upcoming theater season at UIS as well as info on how to audition or become part of the productions.

Little Women The Musical At New Salem

Aug 16, 2013

Most people are probably familiar with the story of 'Little Women', a novel by  Louisa May Alcott about four sisters living during the Civil War and their quests to find meaning in life and true love. What you might not know is that it's been made into a musical. You can see a local production of that this weekend at the Theatre in the Park in New Salem.

We recently spoke with three men who are part of the production; Austin Dambacher who plays Professor Bhear, Rhett Warner who plays Laurie, and Will Barnhart, the director: 

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