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Looking ahead: January in arts and culture

Bill DeYoung




Hello, 2019. How about we take a look at the highlights from January’s arts and culture calendar? OK then.

E.G. Barnhill (1894–1987) arrived in St. Petersburg in 1913, equal parts P.T. Barnum and Doc Webb. He was a shrewd businessman, a marketing genius … and an artist who photographed, and sold prints (on both glass and paper) of Florida landscapes, landmarks and street scenes. Since color photography was not widespread during his productive era, Barnhill – like many photographers – often hand-tinted his photos. Uniquely, he used uranium dyes on large glass plates – “before anyone understood the element’s radioactive potential,” according to the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, which opens a retrospective of Barnhill’s unique products Jan. 12.

“Falling somewhere between photography and vernacular art, these ‘glowing’ works combine ethereal beauty with Barnhill’s unique sense of showmanship” reads the MFA’s go-to blurb on the exhibition, Glow: The Hand-Painted Photographs of E.G. Barnhill.


At the movies

Et Cultura’s Listen Up Film Series continues with a Jan. 14 screening of the documentary Joan Jett: Bad Reputation at the Hideaway Café. As always, tickets are free, but you have to have them (don’t just show up at the door).  Get tickets here.

The Tampa Bay Actors Guild’s Sunshine City Film Festival, which celebrates locally-produced shorts, documentaries and other productions, takes over thestudio@620 Jan. 14 for My Story Night: Documentary Films. The next night (that’d be Jan. 15), the Sunshine City fest moves into the Palladium for a program called LIFE: Ladies in Film and Entertainment. Here’s the entire Sunshine City schedule.

On Jan. 22, thestudio@620 welcomes the Sunscreen Film Festival’s short-film festival, featuring 70 minutes of audience and/or panel favorites from previous events (Sunscreen, our area’s largest and most prestigious film soiree, next happens in April, at the Palladium).


Making the scenes

The American Stage 21st Century Voices New Play Festival begins Jan. 3 and runs through the 6th, with staged readings of five new plays from five up-and-coming American playwrights. After each reading, there’ll be a talk-back and discussion with the creative team and Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte, who bootstrapped the committee responsible for choosing these five winners out of several hundred submissions.

The first American Stage production of the year is Pipeline, a drama by Dominique Morisseau. Opening Jan. 23 and running for a month and a day, Pipeline explores the limitations of our country’s education system through the eyes of Omari, an inner-city teen whose hardworking single mother, Nya, enrolls him in a private school, with disastrous consequences.  The lauded 2017 play looks at racial, societal and family dynamics through a tough-but-clear lens.

“I thought I really wanted to explore what young black male rage is,” the playwright told NBC. “Like all teenagers have young rage, why when a young black man has rage, we therefore criminalize him? I find it a very passionate issue in this country when I think of my students and what kind of way of which they’re being criminalized and going straight into the school to prison pipeline.”

The recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” for 2018, Morisseau is the author of nine plays, including the three-part cycle The Detroit Projects (Detroit ’67, Paradise Blue, Skeleton Crew).

More theater: Perfect Arrangement, onstage Jan. 26-Feb. 24 at freeFall Theatre, turns the time-tested 1950s sitcom formula on its ear. Topher Payne’s comedy focuses on Bob Martindale and Norma Baxter, employed by the U.S. Departmet of State to sniff out communists on the government payroll (it’s the height of the Red Scare). Complications set in when the Big Boss demands the witch hunt extend to “sexual deviants.”

Bob and Norma, it seems, are gay; Bob’s in a relationship with Norma’s husband Jim, while she’s involved with his wife Millie. Together, they’ve constructed one very large closet to hide in – it’s a secret corridor between their neighboring apartments.

Perfect Arrangement has elements of Mad Men, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and, in a pinch, Three’s Company. And maybe The Flintstones, if Fred and Barney and Wilma and Betty had … other interests. The mind boggles.


The sound of tuneage


Victor Wainwright, who won the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award (no small feat) at the Blues Music Awards in 2013 and 2014, brings his smoking-hot blues ‘n’ boogie outfit The Train to the Palladium Theatre this Saturday, Jan. 5. Wainwright’s currently riding a Grammy nomination for the album Victor Wainwright and the Train. It’s probably worth mentioning that he took the prize as BB King Entertainer of the Year, and Band of the Year, at the Blues Music Awards in 2016. Tickets are going fast; click here.

The Safety Harbor Center for the Arts is a needle in a haystack (it’s a small building in a small town), but it’s also something of a hidden gem. On Jan. 25, legendary singer/songwriter Melanie (who lived for a time, with her family, in the Tampa Bay area) is performing. Melanie (last name: Safka) is best remembered for such hippie-era anthems as “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” – which she wrote after performing at Woodstock in 1969 – “Peace Will Come (According to Plan)” and “Brand New Key.” She also won an Emmy for her theme song to the 1980s TV series Beauty and the Beast. (On the 24th, the night before Melanie’s show, guitarist and frequent Dave Matthews collaborator Tim Reynolds performs). Tickets and info here.


Beat this

St. Pete’s literary aggregate Wordier Than Thou has come up with a cool-sounding fundraiser: A “Literary Roast” of beat author extraordinaire Jack Kerouac, who died 50 years ago (right here in St. Petersburg) but will nevertheless “make an appearance” at the Jan. 20 event, happening at thestudio@620. Among the delights will be a silent auction and one drink for your $20 admission. Tickets here.


Be like Bill (Shakespeare)

The month of February has been designated the official home for the inaugural St. Petersburg Celebration of the Arts, a rather loosely-organized collection of performances, exhibitions and otherwise interesting artistic endeavors all tied in some way to one official theme: William Shakespeare.

Although February is still a ways off, take note that this aggregate includes the previously-scheduled St. Pete Opera production of the musical Kiss Me, Kate – Cole Porter’s bouncy backstage interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew; Veronica Matthews’ St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival performances of Hamlet, Snell and Ella J at the Museum of History; a Bard-themed drag performance by the incomparable Matthew McGee and Roxanne Fay at freeFall Theatre and a few others. Here’s the website.




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