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Act Up Theater to Present Annual Performance: Ebony Annie


HARTFORD — Act Up, a community-based theater group, will present its third annual performance with the play, Ebony Annie.

The three-day event will be at the Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School on Dec. 6, 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinee performance on Dec. 8 at 3 p.m.

The Broadway-style performance will approach the classic play Annie from a unique and relevant angle, organizers said. The mother-daughter duo Faithlyn and Tyler directed the multicultural cast of more than 50 urban youth and community members.

This version, presenters said, explodes with high energy and comedy that will have the audience laughing and singing.

Act Up Theater strives to make positive impact in Hartford by offering children and adults the opportunity to express themselves. Act Up also recognizes social justice issues pulled from today’s culture and addresses them through the power of the arts.

Posted in A & E, Neighborhood, YouthComments (0)

Ready for Their Closeup: What Crazy Rich Asians Means to the People Who Made It


By Ann Branigin

In an interview with The Root, Chu divulged that he and the movie’s cast and crew “cried almost every day on set.” The history-making film is only one of a handful of Hollywood films to boast an all-Asian cast, and is the first major romantic comedy to ever do so. As focused as everyone was on the task at hand—making a great movie—it was hard to escape the significance of what they were doing.

“When we [watched] a scene, we’d get this feeling of, ‘Why haven’t I ever seen this before?’ Why isn’t it so obvious? And also never been done? Like a romantic comedy lead of Asian, American Asian, British Asian all these people, it feels so natural,” Chu said. Watching it all manifest onscreen, “it becomes a very emotional, cathartic.”

For much of the past year, Chu, who previously directed Now You See Me 2 andStep Up: All In, has been by himself, editing the film. He thought he was done plowing through those feelings of catharsis—as he describes it, “a weighted cry.” But a flurry of screenings in the lead-up to Crazy Rich Asians’ nationwide release has the Palo Alto native and son of Chinese restaurant owners reliving the experience.

“When you’re showing it again, and you see people—you forget other people have not been on that journey with you,” he said. “And you see that brings it all back up again. It’s been a magical week, actually.”

To say anticipation runs high for Crazy Rich Asians is an understatement. The movie boasts talent from across the Asian diaspora (Chu, who held open casting calls for the film, told the New York Times he wanted to cast theAvengers of Asian actors), and with a 95 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, early audiences clearly like what they’ve seen from the movie.

The love story, based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 bestselling novel of the same name, centers on Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding), both professors at New York University. Rachel, however, is unaware of her low-key and unassuming partner’s wealthy background, until she joins him on a visit to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. There, she’s confronted by opulence—and a less-than-welcoming potential mother-in-law (played by the iconic Michelle Yeoh).

For Golding, a new-comer who previously hosted BBC News’ Travel Show, the leading man role places on the precipice of Hollywood stardom. Golding is undoubtedly Hollywood heart-throb material; the abs on abs, the chiseled jaw, the baritone that is equal parts soothing, equal parts “where did my pannies go?” The magnitude of his history-making both was just starting to sink in for Golding last weekend, as he was waiting for his family and best friend to join him for the movie’s premiere.

“The trappings which come with Hollywood sort of fame is pretty strange. It’s something I haven’t experienced before so I don’t know how it’s all going to be,” Golding told The Root. “Life has definitely changed, I know that for sure.”

In the lead-up to the film’s release, Chu and the Crazy Rich Asians cast have embraced the film’s responsibility—and the high stakes. Chu recently told theHollywood Reporter, “We can sugarcoat it all we want, but the moment you bring up an Asian-led movie, there’s one example to point to, and that’ll be us. To be on the biggest stage with the biggest stakes, that’s what we asked for.”

Crazy Rich Asians faces a crazy amount of pressure—the kind of which only seems to fall on underrepresented stories and the people who tell them. One of the mostly flatly unfair expectations hoisted on Crazy Rich Asians is that it represent more of the Asian diaspora—a demographic so broad and diverse that many Asian Americans report having difficulty identifying with the term. Others have criticized the film for not showing more of Singapore’s diversity (the country boasts a large Malay and Indian population that are largely unseen in the film). Still others have asked if the movie (and its cast members) are “Asian enough.” Frankly, it’s the sort of dialogue that arises every time a mainstream movie centers people of color; films that are so few and far between they are left to shoulder undue burdens of representation (Asian American writers have parsed their feelings around the film—and its burden of representation—with great nuance and care).

While Chu is certainly aware of the movie’s historic importance, he makes clear that his film is not supposed to be emblematic of the Asian American experience. In fact, talking about the film, from cleaning up the script to letting the actors “off the leash,” Chu frequently refers to the film’s specificity.

“This is only one movie. This is only one perspective, this is only one set of characters,” Chu said, adding “We knew the universality would come from the specificity.”

So Chu dives with gusto into the world of Singaporean elites—the combination of futuristic superstructures alongside street markets filled with families of different ethnicities coming together for a meal.

“It’s the warmth and the family traditions, the idea that ‘family first,’ and sacrifice for your family was the center of this,” Chu observed. It becomes part of the central tension of the whole film—how Nick and Rachel navigate disparate values and influences as they sort out who they are in and outside of their relationship.

For Golding, the movie is special for how it explores these themes—the sort you find in many other mainstream romantic comedies.

“It represents so many people, not just Asians,” Golding said. “It represents those who struggle bringing their partner home, or vice versa. Struggle with love. Struggle with overbearing parents or mothers-in-laws or crazy uncles and cousins.”

In rom-coms, likeability, relatability and charisma are the currency that lead actors bank on; that Asians—frequently viewed in American media as perpetual foreigners—could command roles that require mostly non-Asian audiences to relate to and identify with them, is no small thing. In fact, many are also curious whether Crazy Rich Asians could revive the romantic comedy genre—all but abandoned by major studios—as a whole (you know, no pressure). It’s true Crazy Rich Asians is no Black Panther: it’s decidedly less political than the Marvel film in terms of its content and its themes (it’s also a strange comparison—between an escapist rom-com and a superhero from an African utopia— that only exists because they’re two POC-driven films). But given the context of Hollywood’s incessant whitewashing of Asian characters and storylines, Crazy Rich Asians’ unabashed embrace of and commitment to an Asian perspective feels inherently meaningful.

“We have so many characters in this movie that can have their own spin-off because they’ve been given the access to be able to express themselves fully in a three dimensional way, not just to the sidelines character, the tech assistant or the karate expert,” said Golding. “It’s proven that that we can do the job. We just need the chance.”

Both Chu and Golding expressed the hope that the film, rather than capturethe Asian American experience, would be part of a larger movement of diverse and underrepresented stories and characters stepping into the limelight.

“It is a necessity for cinema to survive. A medium that I love so much needs new stories and new perspectives to survive to the next generation. And it’s a call to action, to say we must keep doing this,” said Chu.

For him, making the film created a space for Asians and Asian Americans to be themselves and own their specific stories—“the idea that we can be who we are. And in a fun way, not be heavy-handed about it,” he said.

In this way, Crazy Rich Asians, like other POC-led casts before it, acts as a sort of safe space for the cast and crew who made the film, as well as for the audiences who come to soak in its images. For Chu, the experience of making the film was about exploring something that always felt too “cringey” and intimate—cultural identity—but about being free. Free to be specific. Free to tell one great story. Free to not hide.

“This movie has changed me more than anything, any movie I’ve done for sure,” said Chu. “Feeling that confidence, to love my unique background and love America and love the people that are here that will see this and understand our journey together. To me it’s a story that is sort of trying to be crushed right now, but is ultimately what America is all about. And I think that is an important thing to have in this world.”

This article was first published by The Root.

Posted in A & E, Featured, Nation/WorldComments (0)

Trio to Perform at Cedar Hill Cemetery Concert


HARTFORD — The Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation on July 27 will present a free concert showcasing the popular Connecticut trio Last Fair Deal.

The concert will be held on the lawn at 453 Fairfield Ave. in Hartford.

Known for their stellar vocals and unique acoustic synergy,  Last Fair Deal guitarist Paul Howard, fiddler Tom Hagymasi and banjo player Phil Zimmerman will perform an eclectic selection of old time string band, blue grass, swing and popular music.

Last Fair Deal is influenced by blue grass, jazz, acoustic rock and contemporary singer-songwriters. Their repertoire include original music as well as interpretations of classic songs from John Hartford, Gillian Welch, Nat King Cole, the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

For more information contact Beverly Lucas at blucas@cedarhillcemetery.or or 860-956-3311. Or visit www.cedarhillfoundation.org

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Stowe Center Presents “Quakers and Civil Rights”


HARTFORD — The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s Salons at Stowe will present “Quakers, Anti Slavery and Civil Rights: The Past and Present of Faith-Based Activism” on July 21 at the Stowe Center.

The free event will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at 77 Forrest Street in Hartford.

The discussion will be on the history of Quaker involvement in the antislavery and civil rights movements as well as faith-based activism embodied by Quakers today.

From Levi and Catherine Coffin to Bayard Rustin, Quakers or the Religious Society of Friends have a long-standing history of social activism. From abolitionists to civil rights leaders, Friends have participated in causes furthering social equality for centuries

Speakers will include George J. Willauer, Professor Emeritus of English and Charles J. MacCurdy Professor Emeritus of American Studies at Connecticut College and John Humphries, Governor’s Council on Climate Change.

For more information, call 860-522-9258 x 317.

Posted in A & E, HartfordComments (0)

Monday Night Jazz to Begin July 9


HARTFORD — The 51st annual Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz series will begin its 2018 season on July 9.

The event will feature Michael Palin and the other Orchestra plus the Jason Palmer Quartet featuring Donny McCaslin from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Bushnell Park in downtown Hartford.

The series is presented by the Hartford Jazz Society and will continue every Monday night through Aug. 13. All concerts are free and open to the public.

Other performances include Eli Williams Blues Jazz Project and the Dr. Lonnie Smith trio; Don DePalma Trio with vocalist Linda Ransom and the Laszlo Gordony Sextet; West End Blend and the Theo Croker Quintet.

All concerts will be broadcast on WWUH 91.3 FM and on line at www.wwuh.org. The rain venue for Monday Night Jazz is Asylum Hill Congregational Church at 814 Asylum Ave., Hartford.

For more information about featured artists, visit www.hartfordjazzsociety.com

Posted in A & E, Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

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Latino Fest Has New Location


HARTFORD — Latino Fest has a new location this year.

The Fourth Annual Latino Fest will be held June 23 on the lawn of Good Shepherd Church 155 Wyllys St at the corner of Charter Oak Avenue. The free event will be from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Latino Fest will kick off at 1 p.m. with performances by several youth dance groups.

The event will also host Mariachi Corazon de Oro and Mariachi Mexico Antiguo at 2 p.m.  This will be followed by famed Hartford guitarist Lorena Garay and the Surcari Band to perform a wide range of traditional and contemporary Latin American music.

Other acts for the day will include Grupo Mambo Tropica with meringue and Bachata music, Joe Diaz y Su Grupo Boriken and King Heric and Tina Torres with Latin Pop songs.

The final act by Edwin Pabon y su Orquestra will pay tribute to Puerto Rico.

For more information, visit hartfordlatinofest.com.

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Historical Society to Host Irish Music Concert


HARTFORD — The Connecticut Historical Society will host an outdoor Irish music concert this summer featuring fiddle music, step dancing and old style singing.

The quartet of Irish music masters will be held on June 21 at CHS, 1 Elizabeth St. in Hartford from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The concert is one in a series of the Connecticut Historical Society’s outdoor concert series on summer third Thursdays. This is also a part of Make Music Day, a global celebration of live free music in over 800 places including ten Connecticut cities.

The performers will be traditional dancer Kevin Doyle, designated as a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts; Bridget Fitzgerald, performer of the Irish traditional style of unaccompanied singing known as sean nos; fiddle player Dan Foster who will play tunes from his extensive repertoire and provide accompaniment for Kevin’s dancing; Mary Lee Partington, a singer and song writer inspired by local traditions and stories.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 860-236-5621 or go to www.chs.org.

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Beecher Stowe Offers Free Admission for Dads


HARTFORD — In an effort to honor Father’s Day, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center will offer free tours for fathers on June 17.

The tour will be from noon to 5 p.m. at the Center at 77 Forest Street in Hartford.

The tour will preview the famous author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which will inspire the family with a lesson about how one person can change the world.

Reservations are suggested for the 1:30 p.m. Family Tour, a hands-on , minds-on tour of Stowe’s home where storytelling, photographs and historic letters connect the past to the present for kids 5-12 with an adult.

Email info@stowecenter.org or call 860-522-9258 x317. Or visit HarrietBeecherStowe.org for more information.

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Hartford Jazz Society to Hold Contest


HARTFORD — The Hartford Jazz Society will present its second Emerging Jazz Artists Showcase this summer in Hartford.

The winner will receive a cash prize and an opportunity to perform at the Hartford Jazz Society 57th Annual Jazz Cruise. Applications must be submitted by June 16.

The Hartford Jazz Society will accept submissions from musicians who have never been signed to a recording contract and who have not released any widely distributed recordings as a leader. Applicants must be 18 to qualify. The Hartford Jazz Society reserves the right to not accept any submissions that it determines do not to meet minimum standards for the competition.

During June and July, the Hartford Jazz Society will feature up to four videos on its website and invite the jazz audience to vote on its favorite solo artist each week. Four finalists will be selected and invited to perform one song as a soloist during the intermission at the 2018 Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz series July 9 through Aug. 13.

For more information on how to apply, go to the website www.hartfordjazzsoceity.com/artistshowcase.

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Hartford to Host Drill and Drum Team Competition


HARTFORD — Get ready for the rumble and tumble.

Hartford’s Proud Drill, Drum and Dance Team will host its fourth annual Stomp The Violence East Coast Explosion Drill and Drum Team competition on May 26 at Dunkin Donuts Stadium.

The event will begin at 4 p.m. at the Stadium 1214 Main Street in Hartford and is expected to host team from New York, Philadelphia, Delaware and others from the northeast.

The reigning champions, including Brooklyn Unite, are expected to return this Saturday.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. To order tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/stomp-the-violence-tickets Or call Terry Starks at 860-913-8282.

Posted in A & E, Business, Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

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