FestiFools/Foolmoon: “Most notable puppet-friendly festival”
Each April Fool’s Day since 2007, Main Street has been bombarded by a parade of larger-than-life-sized puppets. The spectacle, known as FestiFools, is orchestrated each year by LSA lecturer Mark Tucker, who teaches a public art class to non-art students. The students, with help from community members, spend all year exercising the right side of their brains while carefully constructing a veritable army of giant puppets. The students prove that art doesn’t have to be confined to a mantel as they work to actively engage Ann Arbor residents with their artwork. Each puppet tells a story, but the work isn’t complete until the creations take to the streets. This past spring, Tucker also debuted “Foolmoon,” a moonlit street party during which participants paraded with their luminary sculptures on the eve of FestiFools. For the most ridiculous, wonderful and colorful pair of street parties in Ann Arbor, mark your calendars this spring — I’m not fooli’n around.
IASA’s “Rivaayat”: “Most notable cultural dance party”
The Indian American Student Association’s yearly cultural dance extravaganza never fails to amaze its thousands of audience members, and this year was no different. The show’s theme asked participants to rediscover their roots, creating an atmosphere that showcased the cultures and characteristics of the multifaceted regions that make up the India we see today.
Nearly 250 participants and many months of meticulous planning were combined to create diverse performances that featured traditional and modern musical elements divided into roughly 10 segments. With more than 20 years of experience under its belt, IASA has mastered the art of putting on an entertaining and educational show that keeps audiences electrified year after year. “Rivaayat” featured top-notch talent and choreography, keeping in line with the consistently high quality of IASA’s yearly performances — and making the wait until next year’s show seem even longer.
Jesmyn Ward: “Most notable ‘U’ alum author visit of 2011”
Which ‘U’ alum graduated from the MFA program, survived Hurricane Katrina and published an award-winning novel based on the events? Why, it’s Jesmyn Ward, who won this year’s National Book Award for fiction with her haunting, corporeal “Salvage the Bones.” And a well-deserved honor it was: The Washington Post said the book “has the aura of a classic about it.” The novel patiently encircles the 12 days preceding the storm in a mournful Gulf Coast city, turning its foci onto a family riddled with poverty and sickness. At 34, Ward has had a hell of a year — having recently been announced an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama — and already has a new nonfiction book in the works about her younger brother, who was killed in a drunk driving accident. And to think: Three years ago, she almost quit writing altogether to enroll in a nursing program.
Carl Grapentine: “Most notable voice at the Big House”
About a month after the night game against Notre Dame, the Daily caught up with Big House announcer Carl Grapentine — the man who has been calling Michigan home games over the stadium’s P.A. system since 2006. Though Grapentine’s voice can be heard booming throughout the stadium every Football Saturday, he’s not someone students are likely to recognize — that is, until he speaks. In keeping with the traditions of the P.A. announcers before him, Grapentine doesn’t view himself as the fire-up-the-crowd sort of guy — but nonetheless, it’s his voice that confirms every Michigan touchdown and precedes every deafening cheer.
Mark’s Carts cook-off: “Most notable Ann Arbor competition between meals — on wheels”
In early October, the Daily covered a cook-off event at Mark’s Carts on West Washington Street, which opened in May 2011. Ranging from discussing Indian food to pickles, this article describes a relatively new eatery in the Ann Arbor community that received a lot of exposure this fall. The piece captured the good vibes shared by throngs of students, Ann Arbor locals, and other food cart patrons who enjoyed the live music at the cook-off and the new dishes served throughout the competition. A video accompanying the article can also be found on the Daily’s website, but be careful: If you’re not hungry before you watch it, you will be by the end. Close-ups of tasty lunches and snacks will make you long for both a sunny fall day and some original food-cart food.
Spectrum Center: “Most notable 40th birthday party of the year”
Forty years ago, the first-ever collegiate gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation resource center opened its doors right here in Ann Arbor. Ever since, the Spectrum Center has helped students with their questions about sexuality and gender. To celebrate the work put into the center over the last 40 years, the Spectrum Center held the “Broadway Comes Home” Pink Carpet Gala Event on Nov. 17. There were performances by Broadway stars and alumni Gavin Creel, David Burtka and Celia Keenan-Bolger, as well as a special piece written by Laura Karpman, an Emmy Award-winning composer. The weekend was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Spectrum Center, but that night was special for the alumni and co-founders Jackie Simpson and Jim Toy. Former Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong also revealed his new scholarship for victims of bullying. The night was unforgettable for the LBGT community and the University.
UMS: “Most notable University Presenting Organization”
2011 may have been the year the School of Music, Theatre & Dance gave us theatrical treats like “Suddenly Last Summer,” and MUSKET reminded us why “life is a cabaret,” but it was the University Musical Society that brought the Gate Theatre Dublin to the Power Center in October for performances of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” and “Watt.” In October, UMS hosted acclaimed actor John Malkovich in Hill Auditorium. He portrayed serial killer Jack Unterweger in a “theatrical opera” accompanied by the music of Vivaldi, Mozart and Beethoven! Sophisticated, educational theater? Check. Star power coupled with the rock stars of classical music? Check. Founded over 100 years ago, UMS continues to prove that old school dominates.
“Paradise Lost” reading: “Most notable 10 hour endurance reading of 17th-century poetry”
Ann Arbor may be home to a thriving poetry community, but this year, English professors Linda Gregerson and Doug Trevor decided to once again take their love of the spoken word to truly epic proportions. Their second annual reading of John Milton’s blank verse poem “Paradise Lost” consisted of nearly 10 hours of round-robin participation, giving students, staff and any passerby with a love of literature the chance to speak their favorite verses aloud.
Snacks were provided — including apples during Eve’s own fateful snack — in order to help sustain the reading’s most dedicated members, who showed up at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning. With people coming and going as they pleased and no limit to the number of verses readers could choose to speak, the event was fluid and engaging while highlighting the surprising differences between seeing words on a page and hearing the action unfold.
Vienna Teng: “Most notable balance of studying and a stage name”
Once a computer software engineer, now a student at the University, and always a musician, Vienna Teng graced the Power Center’s stage in October. Currently a student at the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, Teng studies business as well as environmental concepts. But despite tens of thousands of followers on YouTube and fans on Facebook, Teng remains humble and a student with one of the most dazzling careers on campus.
Chinese hip hop: “Most notable musical genre you’ll wish you’d heard of earlier”
What happens when you live in China and the Ministry of Culture bans hip-hop music and you’re a hip-hop artist? You come to the United States and keep making music. In the spring of 2011, Young Kin spoke at the University about the growing underground hip-hop scene in China and the struggles many young artists are going through. Students who attended the event had the opportunity to see a cultural phenomenon and national music figure from the other side of the globe — Chinese hip hop isn’t something you hear every day.