By Mik Hyldebrandt and Artis Olds
The international dance and percussion show sensation STOMP! performs at the Fox Theatre on April 6 and 7 (tickets at foxtheatre.org). Peach spoke to one of the show’s talented performers, Artis Olds (@Artis.The.Artist), about why the show is still going strong after nearly 25 years.
Why do you think STOMP! it is still so wildly popular?
I think the answer is actually quite simple. Yes, we are doing some rather unique things with everyday objects while making beautiful music but, the show allows people to see themselves on stage. Life happens to all of us, and as performers, we get up there and portray characters in situations. It’s more of a journey, and at some point, everyone in the audience can identify with what they see on stage.
Is there a lot of pressure to perform this show to a certain standard?
The creators of the show, Luke Cresswell, and Steve McNicholas, had a great vision and the original cast brought that vision to life. So, there is a tremendous responsibility, but I wouldn’t define it as pressure. It’s more like an honor. Hopefully, we can keep this amazing ride going for another 25 years!
This is a BIG production – how much time goes into rehearsing?
This show is very real. We don’t use modified props; everything is functional. So, if it looks dangerous the potential for it to be dangerous certainly exists. With that in mind, being well-rehearsed is vital. After training to learn the show, which takes 4-6 weeks; 8-9 hours a day; 5 days a week, we typically rehearse about an hour a day, on any day that we have a show.
How physically strenuous is the show?
The show itself has plenty cause for physicality; some roles more than others. If you couple that with the “joys” of tour travel, it can take a toll. Personally, I think physical conditioning outside of the show is an absolute must!
What can the audience expect of the STOMP! show in Atlanta at the Fox?
You should expect to leave the Fox Theatre and see music all around you! We’re going to have a great time, and I hope to see you there!
Have you performed in Atlanta before? How do you like Atlanta?
I have; several times, actually! I wasn’t with STOMP at the time, but I do recall having VERY energetic crowds. We love that! Atlanta is an amazing city, and I’m looking forward to returning. I hope we get to come back and perform for an even longer stay, soon. Fingers crossed!
STOMP! sets a wildly different example of what a dance/Broadway show could be – what do you think the legacy of STOMP! is?
We’ve been going for nearly 25 years, changing the scope of what live theater is “supposed to be.” STOMP’s legacy in short: We’re kinda dancers. We’re kinda musicians. We’re kinda actors. We’re kinda awesome! And we hope you keep STOMPING with us!
What’s next for STOMP!?
We have about six weeks left on this tour, but you can always catch us, year-round, at The Orpheum Theater in New York City! For more information, visit us a www.stomponline.com.
Photography and Styling: MH & RB
All clothing courtesy of Boy Next Door Menswear
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By Gregg Shapiro
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
Opening in theaters mere days after Disney won its umpteenth Best Animated Feature Oscar (for “Coco”), Ava DuVernay’s catastrophically boring, abysmal and embarrassing film adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s beloved Y/A novel “A Wrinkle in Time” (Disney) is not the studio’s first attempt at bringing the story to the screen. A mostly-ignored version came and went in 2003. Perhaps someone should have taken that as a sign that L’Engle’s tale of good triumphing over evil might not be meant for a cinematic interpretation. Instead, “A Wrinkle in Time” joins such costly Disney duds as “John Carter”, “Tomorrowland”, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “The Lone Ranger” as one of the worst live-action movies ever released by the studio. At least it’s not a musical (see “Newsies”, or better yet, don’t).
Among the generous liberties taken by screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, NASA scientist parents Mr. and Mrs. Murry (Chris Pine and Gugu Mbataha-Raw, respectively) have two children (not four as in the book); daughter Meg (Storm Reid) and adopted son Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Meg is very close to her father and shares her parents’ love of science. Her kid brother Charles Wallace, on the other hand, is so creepy he practically defies description.
After a particularly embarrassing presentation at NASA where Mr. Murry (not Dr. Murry, for some reason) is ridiculed for his tesseract concept, which involves traveling through space via your mind, not an over-priced rocket ship, he disappears. It turns out, he can actually tesseract (and overact, too)!
Papa Murry’s absence is felt particularly strongly by Meg who goes from being a star pupil at school to the bottom of the heap. She’s unpopular and bullied, leading to aggressive behavior. But that doesn’t stop cute classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) from attempting to interact with Meg.
However, things are about to change in unexpected ways. Via Charles Wallace, who possesses psychic abilities, the siblings are visited by three spectacular beings – Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) – who promise to reunite them with their father. The bizarre trio of Mrs. are the most annoying trinity since the Sanderson sisters in “Hocus Pocus”. In her initial appearance in the Murry’s backyard, Mrs. Which is presented as a giant, leaving some of us waiting for her to ask “Does this planet make my ass look big?”
Through a combination of tacky and laughable special effects, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin are first transported to the planet Uriel, where they meet guru Happy Medium (Zach Galifinakis providing some desperately needed comic relief) and then to the frightening sphere known as Camazotz where the evil IT rules everything and everyone. Camazotz is where Mr. Murry is being held and where IT briefly takes control of Charles Wallace.
As the millions who have read the book since it was published are aware, there is a reunion and a hard -won happy ending. Good triumphing over evil is one of the timeless (and not especially original messages) sewn into the shiny fabric of DuVernay’s film. That would have more meaning and impact if “A Wrinkle in Time” was a better movie. But it’s not. It’s terrible. Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling look like they are flailing, desperate for direction. Not even a new Sade song (“Flower of the Universe”) or Chris Pine can smooth out the mess that is “A Wrinkle in Time”. It’s not too early for Winfrey and DuVernay to start writing their Razzie Award acceptance speeches. Rating: F
Love, Simon, The Way We Were, and the LGBT Rescue Fantasy
By Scott King
“Hey, dude. Dude!”
“Why are you wearing a pink t-shirt?”
“So that I’m not naked.”
Howls of laughter.
“Ugh! No, I mean why don’t you wear a more masculine …”
He couldn’t even finish. He knew that he had been had. By a very sharp tongue. I was proud of him for at least trying to articulate his point, that men shouldn’t wear pink shirts. It wasn’t very becoming of their attempts at gender conformity.
His name was also Scott, and he was also gay. I’m almost completely sure that he knew this. I’m also almost completely sure that he was having clandestine gay sex with a guy named Brandon, who sat in the back row of our chemistry class and was bisexual. Brandon always chatted with this girl in her Prince t-shirts in 1997. This girl, Jennifer I think, she was so badass. She let me borrow all three discs of “Emancipation.” Everybody keeps trying to break my heart. Everybody, except for me …
Brandon and I had become flirty, dangerous friends. He was queerbaiting the F out of me, telling me that he was bisexual and asking me if I was gay. I was and I was out to my friends, but it was so conspicuous the way he was asking me, I would just turn away and dooble guitar hero caricatures on my notebooks. Totes masc.
I was ashamed for saying no when he asked me directly, but Brandon was not exactly somebody who was to be trusted. He was a live fucking wire. He was sweet and funny and weird and fit, and his hair was cut kind of like a clown’s, but he had a strong jawline and pretty green eyes. He wore clunky shoes and tight pants and polo shirts and sport coats that he bought at a thrift store but they still fit. I was a grunger in jeans and Tori Amos t-shirts and jackets that said things like, “Plumbing!” My hair was short and platinum blond.
As I got to know Brandon a little better, I realized that he wasn’t dangerous. I just had to tame the monstah. So we set it up that he would buy us alcohol for my friend’s senior prom and then he would hang out with us for a bit at the house. I was really excited. We got back to the house and of course he wasn’t there nor was the alcohol or the money that we had given him.
I was pissed. I was traumatized I was burning up.
I didn’t see Brandon all summer. I figured we’d have a good laugh about it the next fall, or not. But he never showed up. In July, he had driven his Chevy into a telephone pole. He didn’t make it.
Looking back, I wish I had been there for him. I wish I had forgotten about the money and just said hey dude I’m gay, too. It’s okay. We can be friends, and we can be there for each other. You don’t need to drive around messed up on pills thinking that you’re not worth anything because you’re queer.
Of course, nobody talks like that.
What does all this have to do with “Love, Simon,” America’s most beloved feel-good lgbt coming-of-age film? Well, the truth is, it’s not all that feel good. It’s not all pathos and knowing smiles and empathetic hugs. Among the plot twists and the emo feel-good moments, there is howling, poignant drama. There’s heartbreak and neurosis and loneliness and that burning pit in your stomach that everyone is going to know your dirty secret and laugh at you.
Then you grow up, and you realize that they will laugh at you. A nervous laugh, because you scare them. Because you’re free. Because gay dudes are hilarious.
When people wrong you, its okay to hold their feet to the fire. It’s also okay to hold out a hand. Sometimes people just need to be rescued.
by Gregg Shapiro
Photo: Edward Bishop
It’s not too soon to say that Record (Merge), the new album by Tracey Thorn (of Everything but The Girl fame), bowing in early March, is one of the best records of 2018. The nine songs are the perfect combination of thought provoking lyrics and emotions, most of which are set to irresistible dance beats. The only complaint listeners could possibly have is that at just 36 minutes, it all ends too soon. The solution is to listen to it again and again. I had the privilege of speaking with Tracey shortly before the album was released.
Gregg Shapiro: Tracey, when I interviewed you in 2010, we talked about the song “Hormones” from your album Love and Its Opposite, in which your daughters were featured. Can you please say something about the way that motherhood figures prominently on your new albumRecord, in the songs “Go”, “Babies” and “Sister”?
Tracey Thorn: I’ve returned to that subject again, which is obviously such a big part of my life. Other people’s lives (too). It seems to me a really rich topic. In “Babies”, I’m partly talking about contraception. I’ve loved being a mother precisely because I could choose exactly when I had my babies. Taking an honest look at that subject, which I hadn’t really heard written about in songs much before.
GS: That’s true.
TT: In “Go”, I’m talking about watching your kids grow up and leaving home. That can be a really difficult experience, but it’s also an entirely natural part of the process. You have to try and make your peace with this notion that that’s part of it; helping them grow up and leave and become independent adults. “Sister” is a song about female solidarity, in general. I specifically refer to how I feel, perhaps more and more as I get older, this bond with other women where we almost blend and become each other. I can feel myself as I get older becoming more and more like my mother, almost to the point where I feel like I am my mother [laughs]. I feel closer all the time to my actual sister. Especially, at this moment, I feel very close to theoretical sisters [laughs] as well.
GS: You incorporated dance-oriented tracks on your solo albums Out of The Woods and Love and Its Opposite, but dance music is more dominant on Record, especially on the songs “Dancefloor”, “Queen”, “Babies”, “Guitar” and “Sister”.
TT: Very early on in the writing and thinking about this record, I knew I wanted to make a very positive, upbeat record. I knew I was going to be approaching some topics I wanted to talk about directly. There would be some anger and strong opinion expressed in some of the songs. I thought the best way to convey that, without it starting to get dragged down by the subject matter in some cases, was to just really link that with an upbeat record. I always like it when you get records that have a good dance-floor element to them, but are also lyrically strong. I enjoy that combination. I’ve never thought that if you want people to listen to the lyrics that it has to be a singer/songwriter ballad. I’m combining those two elements.
GS: “Dancefloor” contains shout-outs to disco classics “Shame”, “Let The Music Play”, “Golden Years” and “Good Times”.
TT: I suspect that all of us take to our hearts the dance floor anthems that we hear at a certain age, when we’re going out. For me, those songs represent the kind of records that used to be played when I was at parties or discos when I was quite young. That means they have a strong resonance for you. I obviously love more recent records as well. But I probably love them in a different way. Things that I hear as an adult, I hear them in a different way. I suspect that people who are out there now hearing contemporary dance music for the first time, that’s going to have that same impact on them [laughs].
GS: Was going dancing in gay clubs part of your youth?
TT: I didn’t, really. I wasn’t that cool [laughs]. I grew up in a small village, outside of London. As a teenager, I used to go to discos nearby which were very unsophisticated [laughs]. That’s where I did my first dancing. But then I got into rock bands and punk music and started going to (live) gigs for a long time. I didn’t go to so many club then until later on.
GS: “Dancefloor” also reminded me of your song “Oh, The Divorces” in the way that it incorporates references to infidelity – “we talk of our affairs” and “who’ll be the next to fall”. Is this something that has become a fact of life among your friends?
TT: Yes. That song is written very much from the point of view of someone of a certain age. When I sent the recording to the producer Ewan (Pearson), I said, “You’ve got to think of this song as being about a kind of yearning for the dance floor. It’s not about someone who’s 19 years old, going out clubbing every weekend. It’s probably someone much older for whom the dance floor represents this golden age; freedom, liberation and escape. That’s the feeling we wanted to get into the song. Almost romanticizing the dance floor. It means so much. Perhaps as you get older and you don’t go there as often, you express this yearning for it.
GS: “Face” is also a musical examination of relationships. What kind of effect has social media had on the way you establish and maintain relationships?
TT: [Laughs] well, I feel very lucky. I haven’t had to conduct relationships in the era of social media. In that song I’m singing as an imagined character. What it would be like now to split up with someone and get them out of your life completely, but you can’t. Every time you go on Facebook or something, there they are. You see every detail of their life. In that song, I imagine this woman singing, it’s late at night, she’s had a few glasses of wine, looking and looking at this ex-partner’s photos. I thought it would be an interesting subject to write a song about.
GS: I found the techno-folk tune “Smoke” to be one of your most overtly political statements. Would you agree?
TT: It’s me writing about London and how much I’ve always loved London. But I can see how much it’s changing in the same way that other cities are changing. I grew up just outside London. All of my ancestors before that had lived right in London. It was only my parents’ generation who moved out after the war. Growing up in the suburbs, I dreamed of getting back to living in London. As soon as I could, I moved back. To me, it represented a place of greater freedom and all the things you wanted a city to be. The political side of it is my worry that if it starts to squeeze out anyone who can’t afford to live there, then a city becomes less and less diverse and that kills its very life blood.
GS: In addition to the years you spent collaborating with your husband Ben Watt in Everything but The Girl, you have continued to be an artist who collaborates with others, from guest artists on Record such as Corinne Bailey Rae (on “Sister”) and Shura (on “Air”), to John Grant, Jens Lekman and Massive Attack. What do you think it is about you that makes you so good at playing well with others?
TT: [Laughs] that’s interesting. I like it because I always think you come out sounding a bit different. It’s why often do agree to sing on other people’s records or ask other people to help me when I’m making a record. As soon as you bring someone else into the room or as soon as you put your voice on someone else’s record, something new happens. It’s not the same as you doing it on your own. It becomes unpredictable. You bring in an element that you’re not in complete control of. You’ve got another human being who’s going to bring some ideas and the way they sound to it. To me, that’s endlessly fascinating. You can come up with something completely different.
GS: Finally, the aforementioned “Queen” is practically a gift to drag queens worldwide. Have you ever encountered a drag performer doing you in their act?
TT: I feel like I have. I feel like someone has sent me something like that. A clip of someone doing one of my songs. But I can’t remember which song. It was a couple of years ago. I’d love it if “Queen” would become an anthem [laughs]. That’s fantastic!
Aaron is an artist, author, and creative consultant who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Midtown with his partner, Craig, and their two dogs, Maddy and Toby. For over a decade, Aaron has been traveling the world speaking about his story, art, design, and how they all intersect. His book, Love as an Art Form, came out in 2017 and in 2018, he is focused on expanding his art business and working with more designers to create custom art for clients. Check out aaronleeharris.com.
Before You Know It, It’s Here!
Short Sleeve Shirt
Photo: PR, SikSilk, ABETTERBUZZ, Herschel
By Jamie Kirk
With all of the focus on social media and the attention given to how many “likes” a picture has or has not received, it can be very easy to be envious of others. When you scroll through Instagram or Facebook (I can’t be the only one), you literally can feel that your life is passing you by.
Unfortunately, when we do this, we are not honoring all of our hard work and could be viewed as being ungrateful. It is very easy to compare what we don’t have, against what others appear to have and get down in the dumps. We don’t stop to think that our ordinary life is being compared to filters, lighting, Photoshop and about 1,000 re-takes to get the best pic to post.
Normal lives seldom get do-overs. We get one shot. We don’t get a chance to fake giggle or pretend to be in a conversation with someone; or my favorite: the-perfect-hair-selfie-laying-in-bed saying “Good Night All.” That just doesn’t happen.
Everyone has heard the cliché ‘the grass is not always greener on the other side.’ But sometimes it is. Some folks take a vacation monthly, qualify for low-interest rates, have well-behaved pets, and their car interior does not have ONE stain.
But for every scenario above, they could be using companion passes; their new home could have passed down from a family member, training for pets that cost over $2,000, and car payments that often fall behind.
It is important to water our own grass, but keep our eye on our neighbors. I say that because sometimes we do need the motivation of others successes to push us out of our comfort zones. When we are looking at our own situation by comparing parts of our lives to others, we just have to keep it in perspective. Things are seldom as good or as bad as we think. And they are almost never as good or as bad as others observing think they are.
It is important that we stay the course of our own life and shoot for VSOP (virtual signs of progress) at all times. Stepping up our own game will help us avoid comparison, prevent anxiety, curb over-spending and allow us to trust the process of our own life – whatever that may be.
Jamie Kirk works for a software company and is a certified spinning instructor. He also enjoys yoga, swimming, bicycling and running. He aspires to start a blog about what we put in our bodies not only fuels our body but our mind and spirit as well. Follow Jamie on IG @tysonsdad.
By Darren Floro-Bryant
When it is cold outside, a lot of focus is put on the upper body when training. We often forget about our greatest assets: our legs. They seem to be an afterthought because they are covered up and as they say “outta sight, outta mind.” Well, I’m here to shine a spotlight on these overlooked, neglected pillars of strength just in time to show them off!
The good news is, it’s never too late even if you skipped leg day. Leg muscles respond quickly, and there are many ways to help them develop and grow – some even with body weight alone. Squats, lunges, wall sits, calf raises, and butt (glute) exercises can all be done at home, at the gym, or outside while enjoying the weather. If you want bigger gains or more development, these same moves can be enhanced at the gym, in a fitness class, or by adding some additional resistance equipment and training.
Before attempting any of these moves, engage your core, keep your shoulders back and down (no shrugging), chest up, and back straight.
Start with your feet planted hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out in a natural stance. Start bending at the knees, stick your butt back, chest up, and heels firmly planted on the ground. Your weight should stay on your heels, not your toes. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and keep your back flat throughout the move. The movement should be similar to sitting down on a chair. Straighten back up to the standing position by driving your heels into the floor, keeping your chest up. At full standing position, be sure to keep your knees slightly bent to avoid hyperextending.
Start with your feet hip-width apart toes pointing forward on both feet. Keeping your left foot in place, take a large step forward with the right leg by lifting the knee and extending the foot out in front of you, stepping down onto the floor and softly landing on the heel. Your left knee should be bent, and lower to the floor. Don’t let your right knee go past your toes. To get back to the starting position, lift your toes on the front foot and push back up with the heel of the front leg. Repeat with the left leg.
Start with your back against a wall, feet about a foot and a half away from the wall. Similar starting stance as a squat, but now you’re leaning back against a wall. Slide your back down the wall and stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, like you’re sitting in a chair. In this position, curl your toes up in your shoes, keeping your heels driving into the floor. Flex the muscles on the top of your legs and resist pushing your lower back or tailbone into the wall. Hold in this position for a set amount of time, and then slowly push yourself up to the standing/leaning position.
Find a step or ledge to use as a platform. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the platform. Ideally, find a spot where you will have something to hold onto for balance. Lower your heels slightly down past the platform, then lift your whole body up onto the balls of your feet, pause, and then lower back to the neutral or starting position. Repeat.
Lay on the floor, on your back. Bring your hands, palms down, by your sides on the floor. Bend your knees, so your feet are flat on the floor. Press your heels into the floor as you drive your hips up to the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top of the move. Then lower your hips and glutes back down to the floor. Repeat.
As mentioned, all of these exercises can be done with just your bodyweight or intensified by adding different forms of resistance. For best results and to help reduce the risk for injury, please consult with a fitness professional to learn proper form, technique, and different variations to help maximize results.