Lena Horne – Fats Waller – Harlem Globetrotters
By Rodger Skidmore
One of the biggest hits in 1943 for Lena Horne – who had many big hits – was Stormy Weather. But Ethel Waters sang that song first, in 1933. Billie Holiday sang Am I Blue in 1941, a few years after Ethel Waters sang it in 1929. Sweet Georgia Brown was the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters starting in 1949, 24 years after Ms. Waters cut her disk in 1925.
So, who was Ethel Waters? If you’ve read the paragraph just above you may have guessed that she was a pretty famous singer. You’d be right, she was. In 1920 she was the highest paid performer on Broadway. Most Americans know that the first Black actor with their own TV show was Nat King Cole back in 1956. Except for the fact that there was something called the Ethel Waters Show which first aired in 1939. In that show Ms. Waters performed in an excerpt from the DuBose Heyward (Porgy and Bess) play Mamba’s Daughters. Variety magazine called it “deeply stirring drama.” She starred in her own TV sitcom in the 1950s, and appeared in plays, movies and other TV shows. And, naturally, through the years, was nominated for quite a few awards. All of this tells you about the performer, but who was Ethel Waters, the person?
For a more in depth view of this star, read her autobiography “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Or, if you want to hear someone like Ms. Waters sing her songs while reciting her words, go see the musical biography of the same name at the Florida Studio Theatre, now playing through August 4th. The world premiere of this play was back in 2005 at the Strand Theatre in New York city. Oops, that premiere was actually here in Sarasota at the Florida Studio Theatre. This time around the musical is directed by Kate Alexander with Jim Prosser at the keyboard – so we know it will be well directed and harmonically sound. AND, reprising her role as Ms. Waters will be Ms. Jannie Jones – one can’t get any more authentic than that. While the show is at the Keating theatre, lunch (matinees only) and dinner is being served in the Green Room just a block away. More info at Floridastudiotheatre.org. Additionally, Carole Bufford is the song stylist in Come Together, running thru July 21st at the Court Cabaret.
Interpolation is the insertion of something into an item to (hopefully) make it better or markedly different. Sort of like adding garlic or oregano to tomato sauce to make a better pasta dish. Or a dab of peanut butter on the end of your banana before you take a bite
An in depth version of this kind of insertion occurs this month relative to the Ringling Museum’s Interpolation exhibit in the Searing gallery (thru September 8th). In addition to the insertion of new works to the museum, the museum is inserting three movies, about the artists whose works are on display, into the exhibition. The addition of these films should enhance our understanding, not only of the works of these artists, but of how they reflect our times through their art. Images of Life, a film about Käthe Kollwitz, is shown on July 8th. Her art centered on peasants and/or war. Awareness of the Fourth Dimension, about Louise Nevelson, is slated for July 22nd. Ms Nevelson was known as an assemblage artist (mostly working in wood) in the style of Robert Rauschenberg – except that she did her work before he did his. The final film, Infinity, is about the artist Yayoi Kusama and her works. It will be shown on August 5th. You may purchase a ceramic yellow pumpkin by Kusama from the Museum of Modern Art gift shop in New York for $280 (members $224) or one of her yellow pumpkin handbags from Selfridges in London for only $945. Art you can wear is all in vogue these days.
The Victoria and Albert museum in London has an extensive collection of textiles from all over the world. The V&A has put together a traveling collection of over 140 of their clothes and preserved fabrics from India – 15th to the 21st century – which the Ringling has also put on display in the Searing gallery. On July 13th there is a members walk through the exhibit with the Curator of Asian Art, Dr. Rhiannon Paget. This exhibit runs from July 7 – October 13.
Just a reminder, for you and for children of all ages: the Summer Circus Spectacular (Ringling + the Circus Arts Conservatory) is on again at the Historic Asolo theatre. There are two shows each day – Tuesday thru Saturday – until August 3rd. More info about everything is online at Ringling.org.
A second chance. Wonderful. Isn’t that something that we all would like to have at some point in our lives? That really nice gal/guy that we met – and then we put our foot in our mouth. The interview we had for a promising job and we just weren’t feeling up to par. That really great contemporary dance performance that we could have seen but had too much to do that day. Sorry about the missed relationship and that highly rewarding job but, congratulations, you have two chances to see In The Round. Once at 7PM on July 26th and again at 2PM on the 27th. Both performances are at the Sarasota Contemporary Dance Studios at 1400 Blvd. of the Arts, suite 300.
SCD has two Summer Intensive Programs each year. The one that ended in June and the one ending in late July. Advanced dance students take instruction in both contemporary and urban techniques during those sessions and then do two performances accompanied by members of Sarasota Contemporary Dance. The guest artist teaching contemporary dance technique is Maria Bauman-Morales, a Brooklyn based multi-disciplinary artist and Artist in Residence at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange. Stephanie Bastos, teaching urban technique, is a first generation Brazilian-American who has appeared in solo performance to great acclaim here in Sarasota, has worked with the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble and has taught at the FSU/World Dance Festival.
Performance is often an alternative to viewing – and for children aged 4 – 9, performing is what they like to do. How many times have you heard the little ones shout “Watch Me! Watch Me!” over and over again, while they do the same twirl around the coffee table? And you watch, you watch, just hoping they don’t knock over your half empty glass of slowly warming chardonnay. Why not upgrade their skill set by sending them to the July 8-12 KIDS Summer Program at the SCD Studio. They will have fun, they will be learning, they will be gone for five mornings, and they will be cool. Yes, or course the studio is air-conditioned, but learning contemporary dance is also cool, in and of itself. Give them this great experience and, when next they twirl around your living room, your chardonnay will be safe. Leave it on the table and you will be able to clap with both hands. Lots of information at sarasotacontemporarydance.org.