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A night at Nuit Blanche, Artists & Models

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Yesterday, I took a trip to Toronto for the day. Before heading back to Buffalo, I caught a few projects from Nuit Blanche, the insanely popular all-night art extravaganza that's been an annual event in the city since 2006. The event, which this year included 150 separate art projects and installations, drew thousands of revelers into the streets of downtown Toronto. Some of them came out to see how artists are thinking about and interacting with the city itself, and some came for the party. Either way, art was the impetus, and the spectacle was stunning to behold. 

A few pictures of some installations I saw:

"Top Down," a whimsical, walkable city model by Toronto's BRDGLab:

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"Planes," a 1968 "equipment piece" by accomplished choreographer Trisha Brown:

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BIG NIGHT poet Filip Marinovich on politics, poetics, and being a 'Wolfman Librarian'

Poet Filip Marinovich, who headlines tonight's Just Buffalo BIG NIGHT event along with Buffalo-based poet Nava Fader, is an exuberant, outsized voice in the transatlantic, poet-as-witness and occasional visionary tradition.

The 37 year-old New York City-based poet with family roots in Belgrade--formerly the capital city of Yugoslavia, now Serbia-- is the author of two much-praised collections of effusive, witty, linguistically-agile and politically engaged work, “Zero Readership” (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008)--which dealt directly with his travels to Belgrade and through the Balkans for three summersafter the wars of the 90's--and “And If You Don't Go Crazy I'll Meet You Here Tomorrow” (Ugly Ducking Presse, 2011), which documented global and personal crises and loves spanning the decade from 2000 to 2010, including a weeklong meditation retreat in upstate New York, in Marinovich's cosmically maximalist style.

More recently, he has garnered considerable attention as one of the principal poetic voices associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, serving in the high-visibility role as librarian for The People's Library in the encampment at Zuccotti Park in the autumn of 2011.

Marinovich describes his forthcoming book "Wolfman Librarian" (some of which he will read from tonight) as "an epic mythography of lovers in New York City after the financial crash and during the rise of Occupy Wall Street Revolution, as well as inquiring into what [Walter] Benjamin means by 'Jetztzeit' or 'Nowtime'."

"How do the dead feel about their names being used to wage permanent war?" he elaborates. "The voices of the dead need to be heard and included in any true Democracy, along with the voices of the living, most of the time I can't tell the difference, that's how fast time feels."

In a recent interview posted on the Poetry Society of America website, Marinovich discussed the inextricably of his politics from his poetics in terms that give the reader a sense of his world-view and his influences:

It is impossible to write a-politically. If you don't directly address politics in your work, this is a conservative ideology. If you do directly undress politics in your work, you at least have a chance of being awake while you are meditating on what your politics are and what politics is. What is politics I would like to know. It is the life of the polis, the Multiverse, all the voices, being channelled through you, and you responding to them, in dialog with them, one with them, and contradicting them.

We can either choose to examine politics in our poetry, or politics will define us on its own terms, often prison terms, stolen presidential terms, or term limits dissolved with money. "I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's."—William Blake.

As for the physical process of writing, he is noting less than beatific in his approach:

When I write politics which is all I am ever really writing I go out into the street and listen and bring my pocket pad. And three pens. I go somewhere dangerous that needs to be documented before it disappears or becomes assimilated into state narratives and I open myself to visions. The key thing is to breathe to remember. I need to breathe from the belly to blow a long line and engender a thorough thought process through which I can discover things, poetry being discovery, not recapitulation of what I already know, although I know I only know I know nothing, really I know nothing. How one comes to know is always a question.

A poet writes history, ISTORIN, to use Charles Olson's translation from Herodotus: "Istorin in him appears to mean 'finding out for oneself,' instead of depending on hearsay." A poet writes the findings out in a simultaneously packed and empty spontaneously improvised field of action. Urgency comes from finding out what's going on in a Benjaminian "moment of danger," which threatens to disappear the moment mouth is opened or pen is set to paper. Hence the need for spontaneity. If you don't get what's happening down in the poem, the state will force-feed you the toxic simulacrab of what's happening in its sweet soft shell. There is not one of us without food poisoning. There is not one of us without medicine: awareness, conversation, action.

Joining Marinovich and Nava Fader, whose chapbooks include "Stonesoup,", "The Plath Poems," "The Rilke Poems," and the full-length collection “All the Jawing Jackdaw” (BlazeVox Books, 2009), are the Buffalo-based rock and post-psychedelia band The Cellars.  As is the popular tradition at BIG NIGHT events, BlazeVox Books publisher and Culinary Institute of America trained chef Geoffrey Gatza will supply an ample spread of his gourmet food creations.  The  festivities begin at 8 p.m. at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St. (near Mohawk St.).   Admission is $5, $4 for students, Just Buffalo members, and members of Just Buffalo's affiliate organizations.

--R.D. Pohl

Cypress Hill announces Buffalo show

Groundbreaking hip-hop crew Cypress Hill returns to Buffalo for a concert at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Town Ballroom (681 Main St.).

Tickets are $28 advance and $32 day of show and are on sale now through the box office, online at www.tickets.com or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

For more information, call 852-3900 or visit www.townballroom.com.

Live Chat with News Music Critic Jeff Miers

Spotlight on Christopher Howard of 'Billy Elliot'

Earlier today, I caught up with Unversity at Buffalo grad Christopher Howard, who has a major role in the touring production of "Billy Elliot" playing at Shea's Performing Arts Center through Sunday. Check out my review of the production and a preview of the show from last week's paper. Here's what he had to say (with all apologies for the bad lighting):

--Colin Dabkowski

Thursday Theater Roundup

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Ben Cook (Billy), Janet Dickinson (Mrs. Wilkinson) and Samantha Blaire Cutler (Debbie) in “Billy Elliot” at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

"Billy Elliot," through Sunday in Shea's Performing Arts Center. ★★★

From the review: "In the end, [Elton] John’s sub-par work holds this show back from perfection. But even so, [Peter] Darling’s magnificent work and these gifted performers help the rest of the show to succeed for the same reason Billy Elliot himself does: because of a joyful, uncomplicated love for dance." --Colin Dabkowski

"And the World Goes 'Round," through Oct. 14 in O'Connell and Company's home in Gleason Hall on the Erie Community College Williamsville campus. ★★★½

From the review: "Director Bucheker has paired his singers well and when the quintet joins together, on 'Money, Money' and the title tune from 'Cabaret,' their harmonies surprise and please. Bucheker wears a choreographer's hat, too; on occasion, movement is endearingly clunky. But, the pace is generally full of nonstop fun, with minutes of overwrought kept to a minimum."--Ted Hadley

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Tyler Doherty, left, joins Katie White and Ray Boucher in Buffalo Laboratory Theatre's production of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," through Saturday in Buffalo Laboratory Theatre's Swan Auditorium at Hilbert College. ★★★½

From the review: "This consummate production of Stoppard's play, which pays keen attention to the playwright's precise wordplay, stars BLT founder Taylor Doherty and his frequent collaborator Ray Boucher. Boucher's Guildenstern - or is it Rosencrantz, as these guys are never quite sure who they are - is brash and impatient, while Doherty's Guildenstern (or is it Rosencrantz?) is his wonderfully goofy and good-natured foil." --Colin Dabkowski

"The Guys," through Saturday at American Repertory Theatre's home in Buffalo's Church of the Ascension. ★★★

From the review: "Maybe that's the brutal art in this: there's too much horror to resolve. And so it goes on, every day, as long as it takes. This production does a serviceable job of testifying on behalf of those touched immediately, remotely or some place entirely removed." --Ben Siegel

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood," through Oct. 7 in the Kavinoky Theatre. ★★★★

From the review: "This is a sharp production of a smart show. It exalts the love of storytelling in a way that treats its actors, audiences and source material to a satisfying, complete night of theater. Dickens should be proud, if even a little jealous, of the way his life's final mystery finds its resolution." --Ben Siegel

The cast of "Crowns" at Paul Robeson Theatre. Photo by Sharon Cantillon/The Buffalo News.

"Crowns," through Oct. 7 in the Paul Robeson Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "More than a dozen gospel songs, traditional rousers, are sung: 'Wade in the Water,' 'We're Marching to Zion,' 'That's All Right,' "I'm on the Battlefield for My Lord' and more, plus a stunning, 'inspirational and memorable interpretation of 'His Eye is on the Sparrow' by Denise Smith. 'Powerful' doesn't do it justice. Ethel Waters and Whitney Houston would be proud." --Ted Hadley

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The Christmas crooner

I am sorry to hear that 84-year-old Andy Williams died. I love the song "Moon River." Plus, I got to interview him once and he was sweet and funny.

Yikes, that interview was back in 2000. He was coming to Shea's. Wow, that was a long time ago. Here is what I wrote:

On the phone from Cincinnati earlier this week, the 72-year-old entertainer laughed as he discussed the progress of his current Christmas tour. "The weather's been so bad!" he marveled, cheerfully. For one gig in Neenah, Wis., he reported, his two trucks - carrying lighting and sound equipment, costumes and musical scores - didn't make it. But the show went on anyway.

"We wore just what we were wearing on the plane, and borrowed instruments from a high school band. It was just awful," Williams laughed.  "I was calling the band my migrant workers from California. They looked awful, terrible, grubby. I said, "This is the worst thing I ever heard.' We just laughed."

Williams' career has been full of happenstance. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, he sang with his brothers on the radio. The quartet sang back-up on Bing Crosby's colossal hit "Swinging On A Star," from the 1944 movie "Going My Way." A year later, in one of the odder episodes in his life, Williams found himself dubbing Lauren Bacall's singing voice in "To Have and Have Not."

Williams said he began his solo career after his brothers broke up their act. Several times in those early days, he almost quit. "It's difficult," he admitted. "You sing and nobody cares. Years and years and years of singing in clubs, people dancing in front of your face, it's very discouraging."

As decades passed, Williams' relaxed, graceful style led to hits including "Butterfly," "Canadian Sunset," "Moon River" and the theme from "Love Story." He became best known, however, for his television shows.

He's proud of those TV shows, he said, and also of his artistic credo.

"You listen, learn from other people, and you don't fluff people off," Williams explained. "I used to come off stage and grade myself, 85, 95 . . . That's good training there. It gets you in the right frame of mind. You do the best you can."

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Strait rides into First Niagara Center

Country icon George Strait will bring his "The Cowboy Rides Away Tour" to the First Niagara Center on Feb. 22.

Tickets are $72 and $92 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Oct. 12 through the box office, online at www.tickets.com or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

For more information, visit www.firstniagaracenter.com.

Kevin Smith to speak at UB

Screenwriter, producer, director, author, comedian and actor (best known as "Silent Bob") Kevin Smith will head to the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts (North Campus, Amherst) for a talk and Q&A session at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7.

Tickets are $39.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 26 through the Center for the Arts box office, online at www.tickets.com or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

For more information, call 645-ARTS (2787) or visit www.ubcfa.org.

Shaw Fest announces season

Today, the The Shaw Festival announced its 2013 season. Here it is:

"Guys and Dolls" with book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser
"Lady Windemere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde
"Enchanted April" by Matthew Barber, adapted from the novel by Elizabeth Von Armin
"Peace in Our Time: A Comedy" adapted from George Bernard Shaw's "Geneva" by John Murrell
"The Light in the Piazza" with book by Crig Lucas, music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
"Trifles" by Susan Glaspell 
"A Wife for a Life" by Eugene O'Neill
"Major Barbara" by George Bernard Shaw
"Our Betters" by W. Somerset Maugham
"Faith Healer" by Brian Friel
"Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard

According to a release, the company will announce dates and casting for the productions at a later date.

--Colin Dabkowski

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