October 2012 Event Highlights

October 2012 Event Highlights

Is it a bird? Is it a man? If you’re looking at a work by Chicago artist Robert Lostutter, it’s a hybrid who inhabits fantastical worlds that are simultaneously beautiful and menacing. In The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter (October 5–January 6, mmoca.org), the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art surveys the artist’s work from the 1960s to the 1990s through more than thirty paintings, drawings and prints. 

Whether you know him best as Fat Albert or Heathcliff Huxtable, you almost certainly have a soft spot for Bill Cosby. The actor, comedian and author headlines Overture Center (October 19, overturecenter.com) to offer his unique mix of humor, observations, life experiences and perhaps some poignant advice. 

A blues powerhouse in the tradition of Etta James and Koko Taylor, Shemekia Copeland was born in Harlem and first hit the stage of the famed Cotton Club at the tender age of eight. She’s since performed with B.B. King and Buddy Guy and for President Obama; last summer, she was crowned “Queen of the Blues” at the Chicago Blues Festival. Don’t miss her Madison performance at the High Noon Saloon (October 17, high-noon.com). 

Bloodshed, madness and crime link the four one-act plays of Svengali’s Follies, staged by Broom Street Theater (October 19–November 10, bstonline.org). Horror stories alternate with comedies—just in time for Halloween!

Brief works are also in store in University Theatre’s production of I Can’t Go On. I’ll Go On. (October 18–November 13, utmadison.com), a series of short plays by Samuel Beckett.

With Greg Hettmansberger

Okay, class, get out your notebooks: We’ve got a very busy month.

A ticket to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s opening concert is quite a bargain: not just ten flying digits of some dazzling soloist, but the fifty fingers of the sibling quintet of pianists, The 5 Browns (October 5, wcoconcerts.org). Then catch the WCO’s new Overture Hall Wisconsin Pops series, Disney in Concert (October 6).

The Madison Symphony Orchestra brings their second event of the season, with violinist James Ehnes headlining a powerful program of Berlioz, Bartok and Brahms (October 12–14, madisonsymphony.org).

The Wisconsin Union Theater may be under reconstruction, but its events continue with the always-stimulating Keyboard Conversations of Jeffrey Siegel (October 16, uniontheater.wisc.edu). His Mills Hall program, Spellbinding Bach, promises great insights and superb artistry.

The Pro Arte Quartet has a century under their collective belt, but why stop at 100? They’ll continue marching toward their sesquicentennial in Mills Hall with another of the best bargains in any city, anywhere: a free concert (October 27, proartequartet.org).

And Madison Opera’s “Season of Temptation” does indeed tempt, thanks to a production of a Verdi opus too often overlooked: A Masked Ball (October 16 and 18, madisonopera.org). William Joyner and Alexandra LoBianco lead a cast that will surely unmask all the latent genius of this work.

There might be a quiz, students … Extra credit if you can get to them all!

Want more classical coverage? Find Greg Hettmansberger’s blog.

Renowned ballet companies from north and south descend on Overture CenterBallet Folklórico de México (October 9, overturecenter.com) traces Mexican culture and dance traditions through history to the present day. And Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet brings Moulin Rouge–The Ballet (October 30) about the infamous cabaret in fin-de-siècle Paris. 

It’s time for Madison’s best gallery-hop! Held twice a year by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Gallery Night (October 5, mmoca.org) sees dozens of galleries, museums and businesses across the city opening their doors to visitors who come to meet artists, view art and watch demonstrations and performances.

Industrial lots, overgrown gardens, railroad embankments—where nature meets development is where you’ll find Greg Conniff. The photographer captures such overlooked places with depth, texture and intricate detail in Greg Conniff: – 30 – (October 26–December 23, wisconsinacademy.org), a show at the James Watrous Gallery representing thirty years of the artist’s work.

If you consider YouTube the source of obscure videos, turn your attention to the Found Footage Festival (October 7, majesticmadison.com). The fest, which began in New York City in 2004, hits the Majestic Theatre as part of a fifty-state tour. Stoughton natives Joe Pickett of The Onion and Nick Prueher of the Late Show with David Letterman host the screening to provide commentary on hilarious, oddball and curious videos discovered at thrift stores and garage sales. 

Madison native Juliet Darken is a linocut artist, illustrator and storyteller who creates whimsical works using traditional—and complex—relief printmaking techniques. Her works convey compelling tales, many of which can be seen at Hatch Art House (October 1–31, hatcharthouse.com).

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, how about an exhibition of ten photographers? Through My Own Lens at Absolutely Art (October 4–31, absolutelyartllc.com) highlights the diversity of photography through traditional film, digital and manipulated images, in both color and black and white, with each photographer taking on different subject matter. 

Relive the beloved story of Charlotte the spider and young pig Wilbur as Children’s Theater of Madison presents Charlotte’s Web (October 20–November 4, ctmtheater.org). CTM sets the classic tale in southern Wisconsin in 1953 and weaves in elements of Native American culture, music and storytelling. 

Playwright Doug Reed tackles religion and politics in The Opiate of the Missus, a comedy staged this month by Mercury Players Theatre

How did this place come about?
This is one that I wrote in 2008, as a one-act play [for the Actor’s Factory youth theater group in Stoughton]. I realized I was writing about religion and politics but I felt like I chickened out on the end. This year, Mercury was looking for something political because it’s so close to the election. They asked my wife Deanna if she’d be interested in directing something political, and she told them I had this one-act in my drawer.

Can you give a synopsis of the plot?
It takes place in the mid-1950s, with a McCarthy-ite running for reelection against Godless communism. But then God shows up in his kitchen and talks to his wife … She winds up climbing into the tree house in the backyard and won’t come down. 

Why did you choose the 1950s as the setting?
In 2008, there was still a lot of “you’re with us or against us” talk. The historical parallels are too obvious to not want to shake people by their lapels. We did this once as a country and it didn’t work.

How have you changed the play?
What I really wanted to say is if you take the idea of an omnipotent God seriously, to say you speak for him is absurd. You can either take the idea of God seriously and realize you’re the ant on the anthill, or you don’t take him seriously and claim that you speak for the Almighty.

What’s it like to work on another play after your success from last year, The Lamentable Tragedie of Scott Walker?
I kind of had to let go of it. Lamentable Tragedie was so immediate; the audience came in pre-fired up. I won’t have that with this play. It weighed on me when I first started working on it, but this isn’t that. I sort of have to do a Zen thing, make this the best Opiate of the Missus.

What do you hope audiences get from seeing this play?
I think this whole mixing your God and your politics is not a new thing. I’m hoping that a thoughtful conservative could come in and say, “Yes, I see your point. It’s a lot bigger than partisan politics.” It behooves us all to go sit in the tree house for a while, to do a little less shouting and a little more listening.

The Opiate of the Missus runs October 12–27 at the Bartell Theatre. mercuryplayerstheatre.com


Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Read her arts and entertainment blog .