January 31, 2017
James Baldwin's "The Amen Corner" will be presented by Pyramid Theatre Company in its new season.
dsm EXCLUSIVE: PYRAMID ANNOUNCES NEW SEASON

When Ken-Matt Martin called to tell us about Pyramid Theatre Company's upcoming season, his excitement was palpable--with good reason: Following a robust debut season last year, the company will build on that success with "The Amen Corner," a classic play by James Baldwin, and the premiere of "Mississippi ...," a new work by Dallas-based playwright Jonathan Norton. The two shows will be presented on a rotating basis July 21-Aug. 6.

Executive Director Martin, who's currently earning an MFA in directing at Brown University, will direct both plays. "The Amen Corner" takes place in New York in the 1950s and examines the role of religion and dysfunction in an African-American family. "The show is about faith, family, loss and redemption," says Martin, a co-founder of Pyramid. "It's about healing. ... In light of the current divisiveness in our country, this [play] feels really right for right now."
  
Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963, "Mississippi ..." explores the tension within families and among neighbors in the hours before the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. The play takes a look at "what it meant for a black family to be caught in the crossfire of well-known civil rights leaders. Some families didn't always agree with what the leadership was doing; they saw them as agitators," Martin says, likening those apprehensions to ones some older-generation African-Americans may harbor about today's Black Lives Matter movement.
 
The venue for the shows will be announced at a later date. "We are spending February celebrating Black History Month and rolling out information about our new season," Martin says. The Little Rock, Arkansas, native and Drake University graduate adds he's excited to return to Des Moines and remains committed to bringing to local audiences high-quality classic and contemporary works that explore authentic African-American life. As Martin gains increasingly high-profile acting, producing and directing gigs in Chicago, New York and other locales, "people ask me why I keep coming back to Des Moines," he says. "My response is that Des Moines has become home. ... I am truly committed to be there the rest of my life."
 
To learn more about Pyramid and Martin, read this dsm story and go to the company's website.
 
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Forget leotards and tutus; ballerinas will be stepping out in high fashion when Ballet Des Moines presents Runway Ballet.
RUNAWAY SUCCESS: RUNWAY BALLET

Like chocolate and peanut butter, some combinations are just naturally delightful. Consider Runway Ballet, a fashion show with better moves than one sees from your run-of-the-mill supermodel. It's an evening of collaboration between the grace and artistry of Ballet Des Moines and the elegance of style and fashion.

The artists of Ballet Des Moines will take to the runway Feb. 10  to model clothes by local and national designers in a show created by internationally acclaimed choreographer Vera Ninkovic, with music written and performed by neo-cabaret artist Scilla Hess. Ninkovic produces versions of Runway Ballet with her own company of dancers as well as in collaboration with local troupes. 

Runway Ballet will be presented from 6 to 10 p.m. at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines. Semiformal or cocktail attire is encouraged. Tickets are $150 and can be purchased online here. For more info and images, click here, call 515-440-1177 or email info@balletdesmoines.org
Steven Brunia of Ames is the subject of a photo exhibit by his daughter, photographer Stephanie Brunia, in which she explores her anxieties about seeing him aging. The exhibit opens Friday at the State Historical Building,
PHOTOGRAPHER'S FOCUS: FATHER, TIME

"Thursday's Child," a collection of tenderly captivating photographs created by Stephanie Brunia, is the most recent exhibit in the "Art in the Cafe" at the State Historical Building. The exhibit opens Friday, Feb. 3, with a free reception from 5 to 7 p.m. in Cafe Baratta's on the building's third floor.

Brunia, 32, a native of Ames, returned to Iowa after earning an MFA degree from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Struck by the recognition that her father was aging, she began creating the photos that became her "Thursday's Child" exhibit, documenting what she calls "the circle of love," as their interaction changes and she begins to care for the father who cared for her as a child. Implicit in the imagery is, as she says, "acknowledging that this person will not be there forever."

Now a visiting instructor of photography at the University of Iowa, Brunia photographs her father, Steve, 65, in her studio in Oxford and at his home in Ames.

In those photographs, she uses gestures to explore her anxieties about her father's aging. In one image, she wraps her hair across his face, an abstract gesture suggesting her desire to shield and protect him. In another, she strokes his wrinkled brow, as if attempting to erase evidence of his aging.

"He's always been a fixture in my life," she says, "and the awareness I felt went from knowing he is aging to seeing and feeling it."
Dancer Tamisha Guy soars in a performance choreographed by Kyle Abraham. Photo: Jerry and Lois Photography.
KYLE ABRAHAM TROUPE KICKS OFF DANCE SERIES

Go early, stay late. That's the bonus when choreographer Kyle Abraham's dance troupe performs tomorrow-- Wednesday, Feb. 1--at the Des Moines Civic Center.

It's the first performance in Des Moines Performing Arts' 2017 Dance Series and incorporates hip-hop, jazz, ballet, African and modern dance. Born into the hip-hop culture of the late 1970s, Abraham had an artistic upbringing in classical cello, piano and the visual arts. His dancers use the language of motion to tell stories of personal investigation.

Tomorrow's performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$47 at the Civic Center box office or online here. Adding to the value, a member of the company's artistic staff will chat with interested ticketholders for 30 minutes at 6:30 p.m. And you may want to stay late because, after the performance, dancers will answer audience questions and discuss their experience.

The dance series continues in coming months with "Beauty and the Beast" March 28, performed by Malandain Ballet Biarritz, and Ballet Jazz of Montreal on April 27.
Outstanding volunteer Mary Oliver was honored by United Way of Central Iowa in 2016. Nominations are now invited for this year's Live United awards for individuals and businesses.
NOMINATE GOODNESS  FOR UNITED WAY AWARDS

United Way of Central Iowa is accepting nominations for its Live United Awards, recognizing the community impact of organizations and individuals over the past year through giving, advocating and volunteering. One organization will be honored with the Spirit of Central Iowa Award for significant efforts in all three areas. Winners will be recognized at the annual Live United Luncheon on May 1. Nomination forms, available here, must be submitted by Feb. 9.

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