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All the Rage

by Cynthia L. Close, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Rhonda Vincent and the Rage at the Flynn on Thursday, April 24 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets.

What do Vermont, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Tennessee, New Jersey, Illinois, and Indiana have in common? They are all stops scheduled in the month of April for the 2014 tour of Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, and Vermont is lucky to be on that list.

Dubbed the Queen of Bluegrass by the Wall Street Journal, Rhonda and her entourage will be zigzagging across the country straight through November 2014, bringing her brand of musicianship to old fans as well as those, like me, who are discovering there is a whole lot to like with a performer as versatile as Rhonda Vincent.

I confess my knowledge of who is who is limited when it comes to tracing the important and most influential sources of America’s musical roots. I fall more squarely into the “I know what I like when I hear it” category of music appreciation. The fact that Rhonda Vincent is a fifth generation musician, having started at the age of five playing the mandolin, graduating to guitar at the age of 10, and later adding the fiddle to her repertoire, tells you something about the breadth and depth of her skill set.

Rhonda’s first major public recognition came in 1985 when she competed in and won the TV series You Can Be A Star, a forerunner of American Idol or The Voice. While her style is eclectic, she has received the widest acclaim from The International Bluegrass Music Association, who named her Female Vocalist of the Year every year from 2000 to 2006, as well as Entertainer of the Year in 2001. The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America, crowned her Entertainer of the Year from 2002 to 2006. So clearly, her stellar reputation is built on her foundation in bluegrass. All told this Queen of Bluegrass has garnered over 80 awards, including five Grammy nominations. Quite an accomplishment for a little girl from Greentop, Missouri.

While the YouTube videos I’ve watched and listened to showcase Rhonda’s impressive range, as well as her beauty, there is nothing like attending a live performance to catch her positive energy and foot-stomping beat. On Thursday, April 24 she will be rolling into Burlington with her band, the Rage, aboard their big blue bus, the Martha White Bluegrass Express. I’m looking forward to joining her fans at the Flynn with some foot stomping and clapping of my own.

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A Full Cup from the Guru of Chai

by Erika Nichols, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Indian Ink Theatre Company’s Guru of Chai in FlynnSpace on April 8-10, 2014.

When Jacob Rajan came onto the stage—a small and simple set in the blackbox theater, FlynnSpace—he assured the audience that in the next few hours all our troubles would be gone. I have to admit, he was (mostly) right. I was immediately swept away to Bangalore, India through Rajan’s expert storytelling and character sketches, as was the rest of the full audience. Despite the sparse set and minimalistic props, consisting of a small table, tea pot, and a stuffed parrot, the train station scene came alive through Rajan and musician David Ward’s many talents.

Rajan managed to play over twenty distinct characters. With only a scarf and cartoonish fake teeth as a costume, he transitioned clearly between a huge arsenal of colorful characters to portray a story spanning decades. The audience was easily able to distinguish each character from Rajan’s wide range of voices and body movements. He played seven young sisters (all at once) who enchant the patrons of the Bangalore train station where the main character (also Rajan) sells chai, a policeman rising in the ranks who protects the sisters and by proxy the chai seller, an evil henchmen, roosters, and many more. Rajan even manages to act out a cockfight and several fisticuffs seamlessly. I almost felt like I was actually watching multiple actors. I was never lost to the lack of visual representation of the physical — his monologue, movements and physical acting gave it all away. Even Ward’s facial expressions and pace, movement and style of his music contributed to the emotional arc of the story. I’ve never seen someone express themselves so well without words.

The story is based on an Indian fairytale called “Punchkin,” which shares a name with the play’s corrupt policeman. Rajan acted out the tragic and yet hilarious story of a chaiwallah (tea-seller) in Bangalore struggling to make a living selling chai in a train station. By default he becomes the guardian of a talented group of seven young homeless orphans. Business is slow until the arrival of the girls, who sing beautifully and attract a chai-thirsty crowd. And Rajan and banjo player David Ward do sing beautifully. Their harmonies form an entrancing melody that permeates throughout the piece. Rajan uses his comedic and expressive storytelling — along with magic tricks — to explore globalization, corruption, power and class structure.

The performance was the first of three nights of Indian Ink Theatre Company’s Guru of Chai in the basement FlynnSpace, April 8-10. Rajan’s multitude of characters are accompanied by musician David Ward, who Rajan’s primary character (the tea-seller) explains has taken a vow of silence, except for singing, of course. I’m glad he left that out. In the character’s sarcastic, bitter, and hilarious con-man style, Rajan tells us “Dave is west, I am east. I give Dave yoga, enlightenment, music, and he gives me Starbuck. Stupid Dave.” “Starbuck” is one of the obstacles the chaiwallah encounters and complains about frequently. As he bemoans, his rival is everywhere. This is one of the frequent references towards the conflict of traditional Indian culture and values and the imposition of the modern Western world.

When the hilariously heartwarming tale was done, I couldn’t believe that one man talking was able to capture my attention for nearly two hours. Rajan wasn’t kidding — my troubles were gone.

Although in the end, he did confess that he couldn’t make our troubles disappear entirely. “Your problems are your problems,” he told us, holding up a metal cup. “Your life is a cup. Fill it with what you want.” I’m going to go for more chai.

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Stepping Out with Arturo

by AmyBeth Inverness, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra at the Flynn on Saturday, April 19. Get tickets.

afro_latin_jazz_orchestra

April is National Jazz Month and I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to take my teenage daughter to see Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra on the Flynn MainStage.

I expect we will thoroughly enjoy the performance, even though jazz is neither my usual choice nor hers. I grew up playing the cello, performing classical music with my high school’s symphony. I still rock out to the pop music of the seventies and eighties, and I do a mean impersonation of Stevie Nicks. My daughter loves One Direction and Katy Perry.

My daughter has never disliked any performance she’s ever seen. She’s very open to new things.

She also has special needs.

To her, the audience is just as interesting as the performance. She examines people’s faces and body language, wondering what they’re thinking and often misinterpreting them. She’s learned not to stare (that was not an easy lesson) and she’s working on recognizing signals in people’s posture and tone that let her know whether or not she is welcome to jump into their conversation.

Stepping out of my comfort zone does not only refer to exploring a new musical genre; it also means spending an evening with an adolescent girl whose primary form of entertainment is pushing Mom’s buttons. Special needs be damned; she’s a teenager with all the challenges and foibles that come with the label. My only form of self-defense is the ability (nay, the duty) of a mother to embarrass her child.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

After choosing Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, I went to YouTube and listened to a sampling. I briefly considered that perhaps I should bring, not my teenager, but my kindergartener who once picked out a Latin CD set at Costco instead of the kiddie-tunes because she wanted to dance to it. (She still does.) But as adorable as a dancing six-year-old is, I don’t think that’s appropriate for a performance on the Flynn Main Stage. Sitting still is not her forte.

After listening to a few samples, I went to ArturoOFarrill.com to learn more about Mr. O’Farrill’s life. His father’s legacy, his Grammy nominations, and his experiences as an educator form a fascinating prelude to my evening out with my daughter. I was particularly curious to find out why the leader of an Afro Latin group had an Irish surname. His father, Chico O’Farrill, was born into an Irish-German-Cuban family in the Havana region of Cuba. Chico is a legend in the music world, and his son is not only carrying on his legacy but taking the orchestra to new heights. In December 2010 Arturo traveled with the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Cuba, returning his father’s musicians to his homeland (Chico passed away in 2001) for headlining performances at the 26th edition of the Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival.

I’m looking forward to the evening. Not just the music, but sharing the experience with my daughter. I’m interested to see whether her eyes constantly dart to the crowd around us, or whether she’ll be able to relax and enjoy the performance. I wonder if she’ll be able to express anything more than “It was good” when we ask her about it later.

I wonder if I’ll make it one whole night without embarrassing her.

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Not What You’d Expect

by Benjamin Pomerance

Review of Nellie McKay in FlynnSpace on Friday, April 2. Pomerance also interviews McKay in this week’s edition of Lake Champlain Weekly.

 

nellie-homesweet-1-rick-gonzalezAbout halfway through her second set at a sold-out FlynnSpace, Nellie McKay forgot the lyrics to her own song. Modulating to a new key during her wistful number “Politan,” the 31-year-old singer-songwriter suddenly lost her own words. “Oh, boy,” she laughed. Then she kept right on playing, vamping underneath a commentary that began with a mock-pompous dissertation about transposing to the relative fifth, which merged into a discussion about accompanying tenors, which led to the first of several jokes about life in Vermont. Eventually, she returned to the song, this time singing it through to a successful conclusion.

The sequence was all so smooth, so disheveled but yet so beautiful, that you almost had to wonder if the whole thing was planned. Most likely, it wasn’t. McKay seemed as surprised as anyone when she opened her mouth and the words didn’t come out. Given her work as a Broadway actress, including a turn as the female lead in an award-winning production of The Threepenny Opera, it makes sense that she knows a thing or two about well-timed improvisation. Still, it left you wondering.

And that was the theme for the evening, really: never knowing precisely where you stood, but enjoying it all the while. It has become cliché for reviewers to claim, in a knowing tone, that a particular performer is impossible to categorize. Yet McKay leaves no other choice. One minute, she’s Doris Day, with a high-voltage smile and a throwback style and a voice smooth as satin, seemingly born for singing 1930s and ‘40s standards. The next minute, she’s punching out punishing rhymes that skewer everything from high school bullies to rampant commercialism to men. One moment, she’s the classic cabaret performer, bantering with the crowd. A few moments later, though, it’s as if she’s gone to a faraway place, light-years apart and untouchable.

What is consistent, though, is her musicianship. Accompanying herself on the piano for some numbers, and the ukulele for others, she seemed at home with both instruments. The ukulele particularly suited her voice, underlying the hushed, almost haunting, just-behind-the-beat singing that becomes so effective in an intimate venue. Her show-opening rendition of “Moon River” — sung in Portuguese — was one of the highlights of the entire night. Andy Williams made it a crooning ballad. McKay turned it into a lullaby.

Other classics followed, from Walter Donaldson and Harold Adamson’s “Did I Remember?” from the 1936 film Suzy to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “A Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific. A self-confessed film junkie since her adolescent years, McKay’s passion for these older works — and the stars who sang them — is obvious. Yet she’s not wedded to the earlier interpretations. Her driving, largely improvisational accompaniment to “A Wonderful Guy” proved that she’s happy putting her own stamp on these warhorses. At times, those stamps were surprisingly bold. Still, her audacity was refreshing.

The softness of McKay’s voice on these familiar tunes also proved to be the setup for a knockout blow. When she abruptly launched into her original creation “Inner Peace,” her first heavy hitter of the show, the contrast was palpable. She doesn’t do it often, but McKay knows how to belt, spitting out words with piercing enunciation.

The words themselves aren’t particularly comforting, nor are they meant to be. Even before she launched her music career, which began after she dropped out of the Manhattan School of Music and cut her debut album at age 19, McKay was an activist, speaking out about animal rights and environmental causes and progressive feminist ideals. Many of her songs now emphasize her disgust that things still haven’t changed, and that too many people don’t care.

Still, not all of them are dark. Her rendition of “The Dog Song,” a work which earned acclaim from Doris Day’s foundation, was sparkling and adorable, a charming description of the bond between canine and human. Another original, “Bodega,” with its Latin-esque beat and clever lyrics, was equally delightful, an ode to preserving mom-and-pop stores everywhere. As if to augment that theme, McKay sipped between numbers on an energy drink that she apparently purchased in bulk at an “old-fashioned bodega.” Given her sustained gusto throughout well over an hour of virtually non-stop music, the potion must have worked.

Throughout the night, McKay’s twists and turns were many. She spun out a cute version of “Don’t Fence Me In,” laced with a madcap audience participation segment. Her interpretation of “The Very Thought of You” was breathtakingly tender. Whenever she had lulled the listeners into contentment, however, she’d snap back with another crackling, sardonic, self-penned creation. In between selections, her remarks often were equally droll. “Fair Vermont,” she sighed once. “You once were 95% white. And now, you’re only 94% white.”

At the end of it all, the crowd — their energy unbowed despite the late hour — showered McKay with a standing ovation. She returned with the promise of two potential encores. Yet after just one — her own “It’s A Pose,” an all-out mauling of the male species — she called it a night, content to leave the audience wanting more. After such an eclectic program, perhaps they weren’t exactly sure what they wanted more of. But they probably understood that they weren’t likely to experience anything quite like it again.

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Bridging Space and Time

by Amanda Vella, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Nellie McKay in FlynnSpace on Friday, April 4.

Even with the mention of the ushers’ uteruses, there’s an underlying sense of being in an earlier time. A time before synthesizers and distortion. A time when singing and playing songs was about singing and playing songs. But Ms. McKay doesn’t leave us there in that time, she continually brings us back to our present and highlights a unique connection between the two.

There’s something downright classical about the woman. It’s in her hair-do, it’s in her voice, it’s in the piano, the notes she plays. But there’s also something unmistakably modern about her—so modern she makes typical modernity seem old and lost and empty. Her brand of modernity is humorous and accepting. It enlivens the past, finds its relevancy, and presents us with it on a fresh stage that’s dripping with references, sharp wit, and a smooth understanding of society’s overlooked foolishness. We may lose her modernity for a brief moment as we drift into a song, perhaps by Doris Day, but then it swings back and it quite briskly slaps us in the face. But what’s great is we’re happy to be slapped by her. In fact, we want to be slapped again. And again. We love to be slapped, spanked back into reality. Somehow with charm and a salty sweetness, that’s exactly what this woman does.

Along with her songs, we hear jokes and lucky for us, they’re good jokes. They’re funny. We laugh genuinely. We laugh especially hard at the specified jokes, the ones about Vermont, the mention of Peter Shumlin’s nose. We are pleased.

She even says “motherfucker.” in her set, right inside a lovely song about a man and a woman, amongst jazz chords in a high, falsely innocent voice. She does. She says it: “Mother Fucker.” That beautiful woman in red. The sweet one over there. The one playing old Ella Fitzgerald songs. She says the words “Mother Fucker.” Right toward the end of the set. And she’s mad she’s not on Letterman’s couch because she’d be funnier than the rest of them. And she’s right, she would. Oh, she would.

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The Rumor of the Sun

by Cynthia Close, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol in FlynnSpace on April 2, 2014.

“Our work has nothing to do with entertainment, it is a space to think.”  So states Luisa Pardo, one of the founding members of the Mexico City collective Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol. The performance I attended in the nearly sold-out Flynn Space on Wednesday night served up plenty of thought provoking moments. It also provided a gripping emotional experience, and while not “entertainment” of the light and fluffy Disney variety, it was undeniably engaging.

The set was a collage of media, demanding that the audience be fluent, if not in Spanish, in multi-tasking: the story unfolded in the form of archival footage and documents projected on a large screen behind the actors, combined with animation of small toy action figures videotaped by the actors during the performance, all this driven by the scripted dialogue that appeared in English translation on a large screen stage left.

There were three actors—Luisa Pardo, Gabino Rodríguez, Francisco Barreiro—all versatile and compelling as they assumed different roles in the reconstruction of the life of a woman, born in Mexico in 1944. Her birth and family milieu are described using what appears to be “real” evidence, gradually connecting her to events related to a guerilla uprising that paralleled the social, political and cultural upheavals of the 1960’s north of the border. Being born in 1945, I immediately felt situated somewhere in this woman’s history.

Luisa Pardo, playing the central role in this saga, filled the stage with her dynamic energy. We first see her as a young woman, sitting on a tabletop, cross-legged, smoking. She had the self-assured swagger of a women coming into her own in the 1960’s, empowered, convinced she had control over her destiny. Her coming of age, her involvement with various lovers, her capture and torture (a kind of water-boarding scene is dramatically recreated on stage) and the birth of her children are all woven through the political history of Mexico.

The following two quotes by members of the collective most clearly reflect their methodology:

“We are interested in selecting events from the past, working on a reconstruction, highlighting the arbitrariness with which history is created, generating another reading, perhaps just as arbitrary, but it is ours.”

“We do not want to correct history – instead we change the narrator, become actors of the past…we make up stories.”

The final dramatic scene comes as a shock. The female lead lights a match, turns and hurls it at the large video screen that has held an image of a forested place or jungle for part of the performance. The “real” flame of the match ignites the forested image. It is an incendiary act that is a metaphor for the entire play.

I left the theater feeling I had experienced something quite unique: a performance that had me questioning my own reality and how history is created.

Members of the collective include:

Luisa Pardo
Gabino Rodríguez
Francisco Barreiro
Juan Leduc
Yulene Olaizola
Marcela Flores
Juanpablo Avendaño
Carlos Gamboa
Harold Torres
César Ríos
Mariana Villegas

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Lyric Theatre at Forty

by John R. Killacky, Executive Director

This commentary first appeared on Vermont Public Radio. Lyric Theatre’s production of Les Misérables opens Friday, April 4 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets.

Forty years ago, when the Flynn was still a movie house, a group of music theater folks approached the then owner of the theater, Merrill Jarvis.  These entrepreneurs knew the Flynn was built in 1930 as both a film and vaudeville palace and they wanted to put on a show.  Backstage, behind the movie screen, there were inches of dust on the stage equipment that had not been used for decades.

The Jarvis family approved, so volunteers fixed the rigging, restored lights, and scrubbed the stage to produce Lyric Theatre’s first musical, “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” in 1974. But, even with the house cleaning, backstage conditions were abysmal.

There weren’t any bathrooms or dressing rooms – imagine changing in the boiler room and running outside to a port-a-potty in full costume. And musicians had to crawl through a trap door to get to the orchestra pit.

The original production budget was $15,000 and tickets were priced at two, three, and four dollars.  The company lost money, but these pioneers persevered, and mounted a second show, “Gypsy,” that was a financial success.  Other Broadway classics followed:  “Pajama Game,” “My Fair Lady,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Oklahoma,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

In 1980, Lyric made a down payment to buy the Flynn from the Jarvis family, and its board spearheaded the first fundraisers to establish it as a performing arts venue.  Quickly, however, the group realized its focus was on producing musicals and not raising money to buy, renovate, and run a theater, so a separate organization to manage the Flynn was created.

A beautiful partnership was born. There would be no Flynn without Lyric and Lyric has a perfect home in the art deco splendor of the Flynn.

To date, Lyric has produced 83 musicals. It’s an extraordinary history, and such a gift to the community.  This Friday, April 4, the company opens “Les Misérables” and presents nine performances over the next two weekends.

The production budget tops $200,000 with state-of-the-art stage projections and the show features 55 actors and 22 musicians.  There are more than 200 volunteers working behind the scenes.  The 22-person costume team is making 177 costumes, historically accurate with buttons galore and not one anachronistic zipper!

In previous centuries, amateur musicians were deemed loftier than those paid to play.  I am reminded of this as Lyric takes over the house.  I encounter many artists in my job running the Flynn, but I am never happier than when the Lyric team commandeers the stage.

It is thrilling how they come together to make inspired theater. Friends and neighbors transform before our eyes into theatrical artists performing high quality work. There is much to celebrate in Lyric Theatre’s fortieth anniversary.

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On the Tea Road

by Steve MacQueen, Artistic Director

Indian Ink Theater Company performs “Guru of Chai” in FlynnSpace, Tuesday-Thursday, April 8-10 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets.

Jacob Rajan brings you into his theatrical world from the moment he steps onstage, offering up a faux-motivational speech that is both hilarious and barbed. You are no longer in your own space; you are in his world. And the journey you take over the next 90 minutes as he weaves his labyrinthine story—at turns exhilarating, hilarious, and wrenching—is a powerful one.

Rajan is also a founding member of Indian Ink Theatre Company, which brings Guru of Chai to FlynnSpace for a three-show run April 8-10. I had the pleasure of seeing the show in New York and was amazed at how deftly and effortlessly Rajan and company transformed the rather drab theater space into, well, whatever they wanted it to be at a given moment.

The title character is a tea seller at the incredibly busy rail station in Bangalore, India. Rajan based his character on a man he met in Bali, “A squat little man with astonishing grace and fluidity; always smiling, always laughing, a weakness for beer and cockfighting.” Early on, he meets a group of sisters, who are watched over by a friendly policeman and occasionally threatened by a local crime lord. The show lives at the intersection of romantic thriller and character study, with the Guru as its mesmerizing but highly unreliable narrator.

Though the staging is modest—just the suggestion of a tea-cart and some fabric—the show’s sweep is epic, spanning decades and numerous settings, including a cockfight. All the characters that pop in and out of this teeming work are played by Rajan. This is bravura acting on a number of levels: logistically, he manages to act out scenes with multiple characters while always keeping clear which one is talking; physically, he creates characters with small gestures so that even before a character speaks, the audience frequently knows who it is. He’s aided by a simple but clever lighting design that creates different spaces and moods.

Rajan does all the talking, but he’s not the only person onstage: David Ward, who composed the score, accompanies Rajan as a wordless chorus, often nodding in assent or staring in puzzlement, but always accompanying the show musically on a banjo that sounds just like a sitar.

The Malaysian-born son of South Indian parents who moved to New Zealand when he was four, Rajan formed Indian Ink in 1996 with actor Justin Lewis, prompted by their shared love of physical theater and, specifically, masks. (His only mask in Guru is an attention-grabbing set of false teeth.) The troupe has met great acclaim in New Zealand and Australia with its works The Pickle King, Krishnan’s Diary, and The Dentist’s Chair. The American tour of Guru of Chai marks a rare foray to the US.

As Theatre Review puts it, “Jacob Rajan fills the stage with a bewildering number of characters, with the use of very few props and even fewer costume adjustments. His posture changes with each of his characters; each is different and identifiable. His storytelling is like a series of doors opening into ever more fascinating spaces.”

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The Flavor of India

by Erika Nichols, Burlington Writers Workshop

Indian Ink Theater Company performs “Guru of Chai” in FlynnSpace, Tuesday-Thursday, April 8-10 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets.

On a recent trip to Montreal (saying India would have been so much cooler, but alas, I can only dream), upon walking into a quirky thrift store, my partner and I were greeted by a friendly salesperson offering a platter of espresso cups of spicy hot chai. As I gratefully accepted the tiny cup and carefully sipped the sweet hot tea, I turned to my partner and said, “If only every store gave me hot chai when I came in, I would be much more into shopping.”

I am drawn to all things Indian: the food, the music, clothing, literature, art, jewelry, and of course – the chai. I am fascinated by the crossroads of ancient traditions and technological advances, the cultural premium put on spiritual enlightenment alongside the bustle of globalization, the history of community and artistic expression through colonial and class oppression, and all the enchanting flavors, spices, stunning landscapes, elaborate dress, and the haunting music that paint a picture in my mind of a place I’ve never been.

Though my current circumstances (ie. full-time job, a dog, limited resources) do not allow me to pick up and haul off to India whenever I feel like it – which is always – I have especially appreciated the Flynn Theater’s 2013 – 2014 season featuring such a widespread array of talented Indian artists. I have been lucky enough to see Aparna Ramaswamy dancing the bharatnatyam performance Sannidhi, and the renowned British-Indian sitar player Anoushka Shankar perform with an eclectic group of Indian and American artists, some using traditional Indian instruments I had never heard before. Being fully immersed in Indian music, dance and theater less than two blocks from home is about as close as I can get to India these days, and I will gladly take it.

Guru of Chai is Jacob Rajan’s one-man play about a chaiwallah (tea-seller) who falls in love with an abandoned girl through her singing. The extent of my knowledge about chaiwallahs derives pretty much exclusively from Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, I am 99% certain I had never heard the word before seeing that powerful film about poverty, class and identity in India. Here, baristas give me chai and it usually comes pre-mixed from a box. A friend hand mixes spices and looseleaf black tea in a glass jar for make-your-own chai, which is lovely, but I suspect  the process of brewing my own tea also does little to reflect the chaiwallah’s ceremony. I am curious to see how the calming beverage plays into this performance and one man’s portrayal of an unexpected love story of modern-day India.

I am looking forward to seeing Jacob Rajan and the India Ink Theater Company’s depiction of a tea seller’s struggle with class, poverty and love in India, self-described as “an outrageously funny and heartbreakingly beautiful romantic thriller.” Australia’s The Age calls the show “a tour de force from a master of multicultural mayhem.” Sounds right up my alley. I just hope I get some chai.

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Prepare to be Spellbound

by Amanda Vella, Burlington Writers Workshop

Nellie McKay plays two shows in FlynnSpace on Friday, April 4 at 7 & 9:30 pm. Get tickets.

Such a sweet looking young woman. Blonde ringlets, sparking shoes, a bright pink flower in her hair. Quite pleasing to look at really. She’ll enter from stage left, or stage right. We will immediately forget which side she will have entered from.. She’ll sit at the piano. Or she’ll stand tall, right in front of us with her ukelele. When she opens her mouth to sing, we won’t remember which century we’re in because we will be spellbound.

After singing a song, she will make a joke.  It might be suggestive of politics, but it might just be about her dog. Either way, the joke will be hilarious and we will laugh genuinely. She will have cupped us in her hand and we will feel comfortable there.

That’s when she’ll sing another song, one that makes us wonder who could write such a clever song. Her rhymes will be perfect and the inflection of her voice will suspend us from our duties at home, work and everywhere else. We will forget about our unpaid parking tickets. We will be free until her song ends. When it ends we will feel rewarded, though somewhat re-chained to those damn parking tickets. But we will be lucky, because she will sing again. And again. And again.

Somewhere between those “agains” we will decide we would like to personally meet this woman who has such an attractive personality. We will want to invite her over for a beer or to eat our very special banana bread that we learned to bake from our grandmothers. For some reason, we will think she would appreciate the tradition of the bread. We are quite certain she would appreciate the beer.

At the end of the show she will exit stage left, or will it be stage right? We will want to remember but we won’t be able to because we will be so softened by her. We will be thankful and happy. We will have been more than entertained. We will have been spellbound.

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Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
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