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  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor

    Detroit home-girl Lily Tomlin will perform at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 14. A press release reads, “Get together with Lily Tomlin for an unforgettable night of fun and sidesplitting laughter. “Tomlin is amazing” The NY Times and “as always a revelation.” The New Yorker This unique comic artist takes her audience on what the Washington Post calls a “wise and howlingly funny” trip with more than a dozen of her timeless characters—from Ernestine to Mrs. Beasley to Edith Ann.” “With astounding skill and energy, Tomlin zaps through the channels like a human remote control. Using a fantastic range of voices, gestures and movements, she conjures up the cast of characters with all the apparent ease of a magician pulling a whole menagerie of animals from a single hat.” NY Daily News “Her gentle touch is as comforting as it is edifying.” NY Time Out She has “made the one-person show the daring, irreverent art form it is today.” Newsweek Her long list of awards includes: a Grammy; two Tonys; six Emmys; an Oscar nomination; two Peabodys; and the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Find more info here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor

    The Detroit Metro Times, Detroit’s award-winning alternative weekly media company, is proud to announce the recent hire of Valerie Vande Panne as Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning independent journalist and Michigan native, Vande Panne’s work has appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among other publications. Previously, Vande Panne attended Harvard University and was a regular contributor to The Boston Phoenix, and a news editor of High Times magazine. She has spent years covering drug policy among other subjects, including the environment, culture, lifestyle, extreme sports, and academia. “Valerie understands our business and what we expect to accomplish in Detroit. She has an excellent sense for stories that will move our readers, as well as experience with balancing print and digital content. I’m excited to have her at the paper and trust her leadership as we move forward,” said Detroit Metro Times publisher Chris Keating.

    The post Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Joumana Kayrouz to cover ‘Metro Times’

    She welcomes you when you enter Detroit, from every direction, with the one word that might just be Detroit’s biggest philosophical question: Injured? Joumana Kayrouz is deeper than the inflated image watching over Detroit, peddling justice to the poor and broken of the city. This Wednesday, Drew Philp takes us behind the billboard and into the heart of the Kayrouz quest. (And all of Brian Rozman’s photos of Kayrouz have not been retouched.) Check out MT‘s cover story, on newsstands Wednesday!

    The post Joumana Kayrouz to cover ‘Metro Times’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Fire at PJ’s Lager House, no people hurt

    There was a fire in an upstairs apartment at PJ’s Lager House on Monday evening. No people were hurt, although three cats belonging to the tenants died after CPR. The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. during a show featuring Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band, Curtin, and Jeffrey Jablonsky. “We just smelled smoke and someone yelled everyone has to get out,” 33-year-old Nick Leu told MLive. On the Lager House Facebook page in the early hours of the morning, a post said, “We at PJ’s lager House would like to thank everyone for their care and concern. Also, a very big THANK YOU to all who stepped up to do what they could this evening. The fire was contained to the upstairs but due to water damage in the bar, we will be closed until it can be assessed. Everyone is safe and we will keep you updated.” A later update read, “Update from the big boss. Since there was no damage to the stage side of the bar, the show will go on tomorrow! You may have to enter through the back door and there may not be a large selection of booze but we are going […]

    The post Fire at PJ’s Lager House, no people hurt appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

Fela's last laugh

The father of Afro-beat’s long march to Broadway and Music Hall

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Sahr Ngaujah as Fela with Catherine Foster (l) and Nicole de Weever. The Nigerian Afro-beat radical is reincarnated as a Broadway sensation.

Fela's parents were social activists, yet they still had entry to Nigeria's polite, bourgeois society. Fela totally rejected it as a colonial mind-set, and preferred what he saw as traditional African values. The song "Gentleman" lays out his stance: "I no be gentleman at all, I be Africa man original." Middle-class Nigerians were horrified when their daughters wandered over to Kalakuta or the Shrine where Fela reveled in all-consuming sensuality. His appetites were legendary. 

"He liked to eat," says Stein. "When I ordered food for Fela, I would order six meals. He would wolf it all down. He liked to eat; he liked to fuck, a lot, and play music."

In 1978, to mark the anniversary of the attack on Kalakuta, he wed 27 women at the rebuilt compound — a repudiation of European marriage and mores in favor of polygamy. He pointed out that European men cheated in their marriages, and said they should bring their mistresses home to live with their wives. Later he developed a revolving system of 12 wives at a time before renouncing marriage altogether in a mass divorce.

For years he bought space in newspapers to print his controversial opinion pieces; he formed his own political party and was blocked in an attempt to run for president in 1979.

"He was on a mission for the mental liberation of Africans," Ghariokwu says. "The colonial mentality has been a problem in Africa for hundreds of years. Presently, it's self-colonization bringing the same forces to bear. He was a complex character, an egalitarian, a social critic. He was so brave in taking on the military governments of Nigeria. He didn't give up."

But there was a price to pay. In addition to numerous beatings, he was jailed for 20 months in 1985-86 on trumped-up charges of currency smuggling. Stein says Fela was arrested more than 200 times. He was banned from Ghana after a riot broke out during a concert there. In 1993, he was charged with murder but was exonerated after several months in jail. But that year he stopped recording and began to fade from view. In 1997, he was arrested for possession and drug trafficking. Months later, Fela died from conditions related to AIDS.


In 1999, Universal Music France remastered 45 Fela albums and released them on 26 CDs. Since then, a number of other re-releases (including a recent Questlove-curated vinyl box), a film, and the music careers of Fela's sons Femi and Seun have helped keep his music and ideas alive in popular culture, as have a proliferation of Afro-beat bands, seemingly in every big city in America. Fela!, which started out as workshop collaboration — now backed by Jay-Z, and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith — has taken his posthumous popularity to an unprecedented high.

Locally, Fela! is something of a programming departure for Music Hall, which is more known for jazz acts and Tyler Perry plays. Most Tony Award-winning shows land at the Fisher or Fox theaters, but Music Hall President and Artistic Director Vince Paul saw Fela! before it hit Broadway and was determined to bring it to his stage. 

"Our mission is to evolve culture and discuss issues through dance and drama," Paul says. "There are parallels between what is happening in Lagos and what is happening in Detroit — social injustice, greed, who's the teacher. It was so uncanny. I thought, 'Detroit has got to see this.' It became a hassle. It probably wouldn't have if the play hadn't gone Broadway." 

In fact, the Fela! phenomenon isn't just at Music Hall. Paul created partnerships with dozens of local organizations and as a result there are Fela-related events all over town. The Wright Museum of African American History and the Carr Cultural Arts Center have exhibits of art inspired by Fela. Ghariokwu lectured on African art aesthetics at the Detroit Institute of Arts last week. Wayne State University, Wayne County Community College District, the University Music Society at the University of Michigan and some area high schools are all hosting events related to Fela and his music. In addition to the coup of bringing in the show, Music Hall is creating a model of how to engage the community in productions.

"Arts are important," Paul says. "A revolution could start over a play. I ran it for three weeks as opposed to a week because I felt like the message wouldn't stick around if it ran for just a week. If we could have it for two months, it would have been better. It's fun; it's great; it's going to stick in your brain. I wonder if we aren't teaching a lesson of what we can do if we work together."

Paul sounds like he's ready for one of those meetings at the Kalakuta Republic, where Fela and his compatriots wrangled out their ideas. Fela's life work was a struggle for the disenfranchised. And if a play about his life can bring a community together, then maybe that will engender a smile from Fela beyond the great divide.

"I always think of him laughing," Stein says. "I consider Fela to be a social engineer. He couldn't have gone through all the punishment and sacrifices that he made unless he was full of love. His message was universal."

That's why people in Detroit should be able to smile, even laugh, at a play about a musician from Nigeria. He's universal. 


Fela! runs through March 4, at Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit; 313-887-8501. Moving to His Own Beat — Fela: The Man, The Movement, The Music is on exhibit through April 1, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit; 313-494-5800. Say Yeah Yeah: A Felatastic Detroit Artists Exhibition is on display through April 9, at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, 311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-965-8430; works by Lemi Ghariokwu are on display there through Feb. 18. 

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