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Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

actors in god of carnage on stage
Sean Carter Photography / Courtesy of the Purple Rose Theatre

Theater happenings around Michigan this week range from a sequel to the Phantom of the Opera to a show about systemic racism.

David Kiley of Encore Michigan joined Stateside to talk about those shows and more.

Courtesy of the Grand Valley State University special collections

One way to learn history is through textbooks and lectures. Another is through the words and handwriting of the people from our past. That’s right: letters, something today’s college students don’t see too much of.

Students at Grand Valley State University are getting a chance to experience the emotional and historical power of letters through a podcast called To the Letter.

English has a few great phrases for the people at the top of an organization.  

Depending on where you stand in the hierarchy, you probably have a few of your own -- maybe even some that aren't appropriate for a public forum. We'll let you keep those to yourself.

Instead we're going to look at a pair of terms that are fairly print and radio appropriate -- bigwig and muckety-muck.


a farm in lansing michigan
Michael Coyer / FLICKR - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In 1920, there were 5.5 million white farm operators. By 2007, that number was down to 2.1 million. That's not all that surprising given that many white farmers are able to own and farm more acres because of today’s machinery.

Now, let's look at a different set of numbers. In 1920, there were 926,000 black farm operators. By 2007, the number was just over 30,000. That is a much steeper decrease, just one thirtieth of the original number.

may erlewine
John Hanson

May Erlewine is out with her newest album Mother Lion. And she’s introducing it first to Michigan audiences.

"I’ve been so lifted up and supported by the community here, so it seemed really fun and sort of tangible to actually be able to physically give the record and present the songs," Erlewine said. "I also haven’t played most of them live ever, so it’s sort of really presenting all of it as a piece for the first time."

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s fall. Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings has been thinking about apples – heirloom apples.

“We have tons of different kinds of apples in the store, right? But, there were hundreds and hundreds more than that that have been grown over the years," Coxen said. 

That's partly because today, apples are shipped far and wide, and not all heirlooms hold up.

Wikimedia Commons

A British invasion is coming to Detroit. 

This week a five-day music festival called Detroit a Go Go kicks off in the city.  Phil Dick organized that festival and he joined Stateside today to explain why the music appeals so much to British listeners.

Courtesy of Scott Page

The Next Idea

Let’s say your boss wants you to assemble a team to work on a complex problem at your company, or your agency, or your non-profit.

You think about your best and brightest people with some knowledge of the problem, you buy some bagels and coffee, and get together, right?

Turns out, you might not be approaching this kind of problem solving in the best way.

rock and roll hall of fame
Chris "Paco" Camino / Flickr- HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL

Could 2017 be MC5's year? 

Detroit Music Magazine Publisher Paul Young and Executive Editor Khalid Bhatti think so. 

After two unsuccessful nominations to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and 2016, they say nostalgia around the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit uprising might help their case, along with the band's famous supporters like Iggy Pop and The Stooges. 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Scary, mysterious radio dramas – there’s just something about hearing a creepy story with all the sound effects and the trembling voices, forcing your imagination to go places you might not want it to go.

The Roustabout Theatre Troupe seems to agree. On Saturday, Oct. 21 at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre, the troupe’s Dark Ride Radio Hour will bring four original radio plays to life –  and death. I mean, this is Halloween, right?

Today on Stateside, we hear how Kent County is looking for cancer clusters near Wolverine tannery dump sites. And, Jeff Daniels talks about Flint, his upcoming play about race and poisoned water. The Grass Lake schools superintendent also explains why the district chose to let a transgender student use the boys' bathroom. 

purple rose sign
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr- HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL

Jeff Daniels says he was originally going to write a comedy when he sat down to work on his newest play Flint.

But then Trump happened. And Charlottesville. 

So Daniels started to think about the precursors that might explain what made those things possible.

A Broadway theater called the Eugene O'Neill
Rough Tough, Real Stuff / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

One of America's greatest playwrights was born 129 years ago this day.

Eugene O'Neill was a prolific writer whose works earned him four Pulitzers and a Nobel Prize.

And it was his youthful battle with tuberculosis that inspired many of his greatest works.

Takashi Yamamiya / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

You've probably heard of One Thousand and One Nights. It's a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales in Arabic from what's known as an Islamic Golden Age collected over many centuries. 

The English-language version is The Arabian Nights.

Something else stemming from that bygone era is coming to the Michigan Science Center — an exhibition called 1001 Inventions: Untold Stories from a Golden Age of Innovation.

The word "singular" doesn't raise any eyebrows when we're talking about grammar. However, there's some concern about how the word is being used outside the grammar world.

A listener named Brian recently wrote to us about the use of singular as "a pretentious version" of single. He was under the impression that singular only means single in the context of grammar, and otherwise means unique.

"However, just in the past year, I've heard [singular] used more and more often to mean single, usually in a more formal context. I wonder if the horse is already out of the barn on this one," he says.

Brian, we can't even see the horse at this point. 


In 2009, Lake Superior State listed "iconic" on its annual list of words to banish.

The list's authors say it was one of the most-nominated words that year. People calling for its banishment said "iconic" was overused, especially among entertainers and entertainment news.

Bryan Murphy of Fairfield, Connecticut said, "Just because a writer recognizes something does not make it an icon or iconic. It just means that the writer has seen it before."

That may be, but eight years after it was banished, "iconic" is still alive and flourishing in an ever-wider range of contexts.


"A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter, one of the winning pieces in this year's Grand Rapids ArtPrize
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Downtown Grand Rapids will surely be less busy now that the ninth annual Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition is over.

Artists from all over the world come to West Michigan to share their art. But only two artists each year are grand prize winners.

Both Seitu Jones and Richard Schlatter will take home $200,000 for their pieces "The Heartside Community Meal" and "A. Lincoln," respectively. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor Distilling is releasing its second round of whiskeys, a bourbon and a rye under a new brand, Fox River. The small batches (700 bottles of rye, 1200 bottles of bourbon) are both high proof whiskeys. The rye is 105 proof. The bourbon comes in at 102.5 proof.

“We found that a little bit higher than that was too hot and a little bit lower was sort of flabby and the flavors didn’t come through quite as well,” explained Product Developer and Brand Ambassador Phil Attee.

black and white headshot of author
Courtesy Gasper Tringale

Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit in 1960, and later moved to Grosse Pointe. Since high school, Eugenides has lived in New York, Chicago, Berlin and many other places, but the influence of growing up in Michigan filters into many of his works. Detroit plays a major role in his novel Middlesex, which won the 2003 Pultizer Prize for fiction. Eugenides also set his debut novel The Virgin Suicides in metro Detroit.

Psychedelic Eyes Photography

Desmond Jones, the funk/rock/jazz fusion band is releasing its debut album on October 10.

After meeting in college at Michigan State University and playing gigs around the Lansing area, the five-piece band has settled in Grand Rapids.

I spoke with drummer John Nowak and guitarist Chris Bota about their eclectic musical diversity. 

Thomas / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

John Sinkevics, editor and publisher of Local Spins, which covers west Michigan’s music scene, said his listening suggestions for the month were made with a somewhat higher purpose than normal after yesterday’s events: the largest mass shooting in American history at a Las Vegas country music festival called the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

One of the best things about putting together That's What They Say is getting to utilize Professor Anne Curzan's vast knowledge of English to suss out language debates.

That's why when a listener named Bill asked us if we had ever covered the word "utilize," we were surprised when we realized we hadn't.

'This is one that pundits, friends and colleagues have been concerned about for awhile," Curzan says.


Chuk Nowak / Courtesy of Detroit Public Theatre

After lots of praise from critics in New York, a play set in Detroit, written by someone from Detroit is coming to Detroit. The play is “Skeleton Crew,” and it’s beginning a four-week run at the Detroit Public Theatre this weekend.

The play “is a peek into the world of the auto industry,” said Dominique Morisseau, the playwright who is originally from Detroit. “This is about a small fictional stamping plant,” one of the last in the city. The play focuses on a group of workers who are threatened by plant closure.

Michael Bolden / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Some people are enthused about what’s happening in the central business districts in Detroit. New pedestrian areas in downtown, old buildings being rehabbed, new art installations, new restaurants, boutiques, and other retail opening up and down Woodward and Cass.

And some people are hopeful that eventually, someday, some of that development will spill over into the neighborhoods. But some leading design people say now is the time to look at these neighborhoods.

Joey Schultz

Finding inspiration for writing and making music can be a challenge for songwriters. But, for Brandon and Bethany Foote it's the place they call home that fuels their imagination.

The duo known as Gifts or Creatures is out with their third full-length album, Fair Mitten (New Songs of the Historic Great Lakes Basin).

Their music celebrates the rich history and beauty of the upper Midwest.   

Stateside 9.26.2017

Sep 26, 2017

Today on Stateside we discuss what white people can do about racism in America and we hear how a new package of bills could mean big cuts to Michigan's high auto insurance premiums.

kaykayberrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In Michigan, it’s not just students who mark the start of a new year in September.

Encore Michigan Editor-in-Chief David Kiley said local theaters will roll out the upcoming season’s programming this fall. He joined Stateside today for Theater Talk.

Courtesy of the University Musical Society

Editor's note (Oct. 2): A quote from VanBiesen's interview has been expanded below in order to clarify a point the guest was making about the role of the arts in society. 

The University Musical Society recently welcomed its 7th president, and he’s already contributing to a season of what he calls socially conscious theater.

Matthew VanBesien, formerly the director of the New York Philharmonic, says he wants the UMS “to help spark dialogue and help move it forward around sometimes very difficult issues.”

Courtesy of Wayne State University

What can white people do about racism in America?

Flatiron Books, 2017

Librarian Annie Spence knows what it’s like to love a book so much she has to write it a love letter. She also knows what it’s like for a break-up letter to be in order.

Her letters to books fill the pages of her own new book Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks.

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