Smile Politely

Five things in arts this month: February 2021

Whether you’re team #heartsandflowers or team #Hallmarkholiday, our February arts calendar offers some seriously swoony fare. Ranging from author readings to monologues from the Illinois Theatre MFA students, this month’s offerings remind us how much grit, ingenuity, and resiliency lives in the hearts of C-U artists—even as we approach the 12-month mark of our quarantine.  I hope you will find something to fill your heart will inspiration, hope, and maybe even joy. 


Photo of Folxtales production backstage. Photo from KCPA Facebook page

Photo from Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Facebook page

Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I’m really excited about this. In both content and format, Folxtales promises a welcome out-of-the-box experience months of live performance deprivation. Folxtales “mingles seven, short folkloric stories—both traditional and modern—as the basis for an outdoor film project that will be projected onto the upper exterior of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ Foellinger Great Hall lobby.” 

Monologues are performed by our very own Illinois Theatre MFA student actors and have been recorded in compliance with COVID-19 safety-protocols. Looping every 25 minutes, this content will be viewable from Thursday, February 4th through Sunday, February 7th, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. If you’re heading out, go ahead and park in the one of the five reserved spots on the Goodwin Avenue side of Krannert Center. You can also view it in the KCPA Amphitheatre and on the upper terrace with sound. Masks and social distancing are required. If you’d rather stay home, you can always watch the live stream online

Kudos to both Aaron Muñoz, director and script supervisor, and John Boesche, photography director and concept developer. 

Featuring Illinois Theatre MFA students
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and by Live stream
Thursday, February 4th through Sunday, February 7th, 5 p.m.

Jupiter String Quartet

Photo of the members of the Jupiter String Quartet in front of a white shingled building. Photo from KCPA website

Photo from Krannert Center for the Performing Arts website

If you’ve been missing the Jupiter String Quartet, here’s some good news. JSQ is offering a series of four, free, noon-time mini-concerts this month. “Each performance moves from a minor-key quartet masterwork to a more hopeful, major-key contemporary work.” JSQ members will also “offer personal reflections regarding each short program in hopes of providing a musical meditation for their audiences.” The programs include “contrasting styles and genres of music, each moving from a quartet masterpiece in a minor key to a more hopeful, major-key contemporary work.” So starting on Friday, February 5th, have lunch with the Jupiter String Quartet and let the gift of their music fill your heart and the rest of your work day. 

Reflection and Renewal with Jupiter String Quartet
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Free, Live stream
Fridays, February 5th, 12th, 19th, & 26th at noon
(Each 20-30 minute performance offers different selections)
Event links made available day of event here

Unmasked: Writers of Oya Book Release

Photo of the Writers of Oya on the steps of the IMC with an inset image of their newly released book Unmasked. Photo from Facebook

Image from Urbana Free Library Facebook page

I’m sure I’m not the only one counting down the days to the long-awaited release of this book. The Writers of Oya, founded by the force of nature that is City of Urbana Poet Laureate, Ashanti Files, are a fierce group of talented young women. Together, their work aims to “teach middle school girls, particularly girls of color, how to compose poetry as a skill to both express and assert themselves.” 

During the recent online reception for Ashanti Files, she shared the origin of the group’s name. Oya is a the Yorùbá Orisha of the winds and storms. And his namesakes have inherited his power to bring about change through language. As Files always reminds them, they are storm. 

Join the Writers of Oya on Facebook to “hear their poetry and learn more about their experiences and what they want to tell the world.” You’ll also learn how to get your own copy of the Unmasked. Stay tuned to this space for a review of Unmasked in the weeks to come.

Unmasked: The Writers of Oya Book Release
Hosted by the Urbana Free Library
Live on Facebook
Friday, February 5th, 7 to 8 p.m.

Illinois Authors Publishing Panel: Cris Mazza and Christina Pugh

Left to right: Photos of Cris Mazza and Christina Pu. Photo from Humanities Research Program Institute website

Photo from Humanities Research Institute at Illinois Facebook page

February marks the return of the Humanities Research Institute of Illinois’ Year of the Writer series with author Cris Mazza and poet/critic Christina Pugh. Whether online or in-person, it’s always a treat to hear a writer read their own work and to engage with the with audience. Mazza’s new novel, Yet to Come, from BlazeVox Books, follows Charlatan: New and Selected Stories, which “chronicled twenty years of short-fiction publications,” and was released in 2017.  Mazza has seventeen other titles of fiction and literary nonfiction including Something Wrong With Her, a real-time memoir; her first novel How to Leave a Country, which won the PEN/Nelson Algren Award for book-length fiction; and the critically acclaimed Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?  She is a professor in and director of the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Pugh’s fifth book of poems, Stardust Media, was awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry and is forthcoming in 2020 from University of Massachusetts Press. Her previous books of poetry include Perception; Grains of the Voice; Restoration; and Rotary. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry, the Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Memorial Award (for poetry treating a humanitarian theme), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from Poetry magazine, an individual artist fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council, the Grolier Poetry Prize, and the Associated Writing Programs’ Intro Journals Award. Pugh is also a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a consulting editor for Poetry magazine

Illinois Authors Publishing Panel: Cris Mazza and Christina Pugh
Hosted by the Humanities Research Institute at Illinois
Saturday, February 20th, 1:30 p.m.
Get the details here

Exquisite Trio: Black and White

Black and white drawings on top of black and white wide checked grid. Photo from Facebook.

Image from Facebook event page

I’ve made no secret of my passion for collaborations, and this one promises to be nothing short of spectacular. Artists EKAH, Kim Caisse, and Lydia Puddicombe were seeking news ways to create and connect during COVID-19 days, and “serendipitously,” the three friends found that “collaborating on an Exquisite Corpse game seemed like a logical step in the time of social distancing and after the cancellations of all seasonal art festivals.”

The best part is that Exquisite Trio is a multi-part, collaborative project, which means we have more to look forward to in the future. This first installments features a collection of black and white ink drawings. 

The artists shared that “the project was borne out of Double Take, an invitational group show from 40 North, where EKAH, Kim, and Lydia were participating artists.” Inspired by “the Exquisite Corpse drawing game invented by the surrealists where artists took turns creating sections of an image on a sheet of paper, folded to hide each individual contribution.” The three artists share an “affinity for dreamy creatures,” which is certain to be explored throughout the series.  

Exquisite Trio: Black & White
Online event featuring collaboratve work by EKAH, Lydia Puddicombe, and Kim Caisse
Saturday, February 27th, 2 to 4 p.m. 
Link to be provided on Facebook day of the event and will be available through March 28th

Arts Editor

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