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This Week's Events

The Motherf**ker With The Hat: Broadway Plays Here (Again)

Opening Thursday, Aug. 21 (through Aug. 30), 8 p.m.
This weekend is the exciting West Michigan debut of The Motherf**ker With The Hat, a play that garnered critical acclaim, including a Tony Award nomination.
 
This dramedy by playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis is a production from the Mixed Roots Collective – another visionary and locally focused collective of DIT artists who seek to come together and host music, comedy and spoken word events in our region.
 
The story centers around Jackie, a petty drug dealer who is just out of prison and trying to stay clean while still in love with his coke-addicted childhood sweetheart, Veronica. And while the title of this production would be off-putting for most local venues, this is exactly why Mixed Roots Collective needed to stage this play, according to one of the collective's co-founders, Sammy A. Publes.
 
"We selected this as a collective because it is a beautifully written script diving into bungled lives," says Kyle Los, who is the co-director for this production along with Fred Sebulske. "Each character in the small ensemble fights for existence from varying perspectives - programmatic/systematic reasoning, addiction, love, etc."
 
From the perspective of an audience member attending, quite often the most successful art experiences are those where the image of one's self emerges through the work. This, according to Los, is what this play achieves as "you sense your own blunders and immaturity, passions and loves."
 
What really helps connect the audience to this engaging material is Grand Rapids Community College's Spectrum Theater's Black Box performance space, where the actors and audience nearly touch due to the production's intimate staging. It employs minimalist elements of cubes functioning as set and props, allowing swift transitions carried on the backs of the language effortlessly between scenes.
 
Grand Rapids' theatre scene is ever in flux and, as evident by the host of innovative theatrical programming options that were once only a dream, it's currently presenting diverse options. Simply put? There's more to love about being here. Just get there if you can.
 

Admission: $15.
 

Revolution/Evolution: To Cuba via East Hills

In East Hills' Cherry Hill business district a new Revolution/Evolution is about to begin, and you might be surprised at what you discover.
 
OK, so Revolution/Evolution is not an in-the-streets event but an art exhibition of the photographic works of Cuban artist Roberto Salas (son of photographer Osvaldo Salas) and Ann Arbor-based photographer Jack Kenny.
 
This show contains many instantly recognizable iconic photos from the 1950s and '60s by Salas of Havana and the outlying regions. Salas' photos act as a documentary of the revolutionary time in Cuba where change was coming, but it also presents viewpoints not often seen in the U.S. newspapers.
 
For Kenny, the journey began much later and spans more than 50 visits to Cuba starting in 1996. His focus has been to harness the digital dominion on his site Cuba-photo.com as he seeks to assist educators and students alike who wish to understand more about the people of Cuba from the street level. And one of Kenny's key roles is to aid in the ending of the embargo against Cuba, thus giving people a more honest look into the lives of Cubans.
 
All of the work from Revolution/Evolution will be presented in a rich black and white format, which helps to connect the two contrasting styles of these two photographers and brings two eras closer together.
 
According to Richard App, gallery owner and photographer, this body of work not only opens Cuba up to the West Michigan art audience in a beautiful and culturally rich exhibition that surveys many decades of this country's historical visual richness and its people, but it's also a chance for fans of the last century's predominant way of producing photographic works  – the silver emulsion process --to see many printed on paper. 

Artist Jack Kenny will be attending the Thursday opening reception.
 
 
Admission: Free
 

Yassou!: Roots Worth Eating (and Dancing)

Friday - Sunday, Aug. 22-24, see event link for times
Who could have predicted that the best new local event launched in 2010 would have been Yassou! - our city's premier Greek festival on Grand Rapids' east side.
 
And when the food, music, and dancing is this good, it is easy for a cultural attaché to get really emotional at such a wonderful display of a culture that seems to always find more room for … well, more.
 
And more is what you get when you attend Yassou!, where traditionally outfitted folks offer to those who visit a hearty taste of their culture in this heritage celebration.

The food reflects the handmade goodness of Greek cooking with dolmathes, moussaka, and kantaifi flowing endlessly out of the make-shift kitchens at this outdoor event. Over the course of three days, you can swing by to listen to the authentic music of Greece, and enjoy dancing -- all while noshing on a menu that literally will take three days to eat through.
 
But don’t wait too long to get there. The Greeks clearly know they are on to something; as the crowds grow in size more and more each year, organizers warn not to wait too long to arrive since “all food items and tavern items to be served based on availability.”
 
These entrees take time to prepare and marinate, so if you think Greek food is like slapping burgers and franks on the grill, have they got a slice of heaven waiting at Yassou! It's so much more than just delicious! It's a Yassou! handcrafted just for you!
 
Admission: Free

 

Grand Rapids Zine Fest: Lovers of All Things Small Gather Big

Fans of the handmade and the written word are in luck this weekend as the 2nd annual Grand Rapids Zine Fest arrives this year -- bigger and better than ever at downtown's West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology.
 
For the uninitiated, a zine is, in the simplest terms, a very limited run of an often-handmade publication that uses the principles of DIY and DIT culture in its production.
 
These are not items that will hit the best-seller list of the New York Times, but the attraction is their beautiful ability to remain small and to give voices to folks who might not otherwise have one is our society.
 
The event has sold out their booth space and has, as a result, created a waiting list of artists and authors who are seeking to be a part of what will be the literary event of the summer.
 
What makes Grand Rapids Zine Fest so special is their very intentional programming that seeks to create a safe space for everyone.
 
From their site they write, "Grand Rapids Zine Fest is organized to create and uphold a space that is not ruled by commercial interests, publishing giants, sexist, racist, ageist, albeit, and/or trans*/homophobic individuals. It is a collectively shared and generative space wherein all peoples involved are respected and cared for. For these, and a number of other reasons, GRZF will not tolerate zinesters, zines, or attendees who promote what we are working against."
 
But lest you think this is all about cute pictures and flowery poetry, please think again, since I have read some of the most wonderful locally created (and very honest) erotica from many of the authors who will be showcasing new works at this event. In short, if you bring children please be advised that some titles may not be appropriate for their age bracket, so exercise some discretion if you do bring the little ones – who are most certainly welcome.
 
As I look at the tiny library of local and internationally produced zines I have collected over the years, I cannot help wishing I had discovered such a space as a child. But time moves forward and the Grand Rapids Zine Fest is a chance for me and others who enjoy literature to once again experience the childlike discovery of such wonderfully rich titles on display for purchase at this one-day-only literary event.
 

Admission: $10

 
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