Arts & Entertainment

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Copenhagen: Joshua Kelly directs Michael Frayn's play about a fateful meeting between two physicists

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 1:23 PM

Joshua Kelly directs Copenhagen.
  • Joshua Kelly directs Copenhagen.

Joshua Kelly does not like to make things easy for himself. In 2015, the Missoula theater director took on Look Back in Anger, the dark and meaty 1956 play by John Osborne about a fairly unlikable man raging against society in post-World War II Britain. This week he tackles Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, a three-hour drama based on the true story of Danish physicist Niels Bohr and his former protege Werner Heisenberg, who find themselves on opposite sides during World War II. The play stars E.T. Varney as Niels Bohr, Leah Joki as Margrethe Bohr, and Thain Bertin as Heisenberg.

“It takes place in a kind of afterlife,” Kelly says. “Think of it more as the end of history, where Niels Bohr and his wife Margrethe Bohr and Werner Heisenberg are all obsessed with trying to answer a question about what happened during one night in 1941 when Heisenberg comes to visit Niels Bohr.”

That 1941 conversation remains a mystery in real life, but what happened between the two men—who apparently cared for each other deeply—appeared to set into motion who would end up with the atomic bomb.

“It was either Hiroshima or London that gets bombed,” Kelly says. “And so that was the major theme that drove me to it. This is a play about the notion of what might have been. It’s about the moment that happens when you become an active agent in the course of human events.”

Most people know Frayn’s work through Noises Off, the popular farce, which the University of Montana produced this spring. But Frayn’s other plays are much more complex. That doesn’t mean they’re dry, though. Kelly compares what Frayn does with Copenhagen to what Aaron Sorkin did with The West Wing.

“It feels like you’re watching a good story while you’re learning stuff,” he says. “There’s no reason that a subject matter with which you have no technical affiliation can’t be deeply entertaining—and Copenhagen is the same way.”

Exploring what might have been is a common trope in Post-World War II British theater. Kelly is clearly drawn to this idea. In 2014 he directed The History Boys, which deals with history through a subjunctive mood. Copenhagen also works in that imagined space in which ghosts try navigate the imprecise science of untangling a chain of events.

“I love stopping and asking questions about history in that way,” Kelly says. “I think it’s important for all of us to do that. I think it forces us to take responsibility for our own places in active events. Everything we think and do does in fact matter.”

Joshua Kelly presents Copenhagen at the Downtown Dance Collective Thu., July 27 and Fri., July 28 at 7:30 p.m. $10 at the door.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Five questions for Michael Workman about From Parts Unknown

Posted By on Sat, Jun 3, 2017 at 4:27 PM


In his upcoming documentary, Missoula filmmaker Michael Workman follows a group of Spokane's independent backyard wrestlers. The main focus of the story is Jesse Lawson, the founder of Spokane Anarchy Wrestling, who uses his wrestling character, "Madman," as one way to cope with PTSD and depression. It's a story about violence and camaraderie, performance art and nostalgia.

Workman is the program coordinator for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and an artist who often explores violence, purpose and American dreams through the lens of commercialism and absurdity. The wrestling documentary, From Parts Unknown, is a project two years in the making, and the film's Kickstarter campaign comes to a close at the end of the day Monday.

What is this film about?
Michael Workman: From Parts Unknown follows Jesse "Madman" Manson, a wrestler who expresses his pain and trauma through wrestling. It's a look into how class frustrations of post-industrial America are expressed via professional wrestling. It examines the need for recognition, the allure of violence, and how self-expression in all forms creates purpose.

This project was initially supposed to be a fictional film about wrestling, right? What’s your interested in the subject matter?
MW: It was originally suppose to be a fiction film, but once I started meeting the wrestlers I realized their stories were more interesting and compelling than something I could write. I was interested in professional wrestling because it is really a form of artistic expression for marginalized working-class people. The storylines that play out in the ring reflect the fantasies and frustrations of the people who watch them.

At what point did you know this needed to be nonfiction—was there a particular moment for you?
MW: We knew this needed to be a documentary when one of our main characters first opened up to us, and we knew that we could get beyond the surface of wrestling and into something deeper.

What was your first impression of these backyard wrestlers, and how did your view of them change over the course of filming.
MW: Our first impression of Spokane Anarchy Wrestling was intense. Our first shoot was in December of 2015, and we really did not know what to expect. We were thrown backstage following one of the wrestlers who ended up spraying a fire extinguisher at his opponent, then was slid down the bar on his belly like a cartoon character, and finally was concussed with a broken nose when his opponent messed up a "super kick" that actually hit his face. We were all in shock from that night. It was by far the most over-the-top brutal day of shooting. From then on it was much less chaotic and no one was seriously injured.

How did the wrestlers first respond to you, and how did you get them to open up about what they do?
MW: Most of the wrestlers were pretty open to the idea of a documentary crew filming them. We found our main characters about six months after our first shoot because they were the most introspective and open people. I believe that good documentarians that work in observational cinema need to develop real meaningful relationships with the people in their films, because that is truly the only way for someone to feel comfortable enough to open up to you. After filming periodically for a year with someone, you really get to know them on a personal level, and they feel comfortable telling you things they would not tell most people.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Good theater and the meaning of life in Between the Lines' production of Stupid Fucking Bird

Posted By on Sat, May 20, 2017 at 1:45 PM


Stupid Fucking Bird reminds me of one of the best Onion headlines in the history of the Onion: “‘I Can’t Do This Anymore,’ Think 320 million Americans Quietly Going About Day.” The play, which is a kind of remix and update to Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, deals with existential crisis in a raw, heartbreaking and hilarious way. What’s the point of anything? Do we really just have to go on and on being disappointed, over and over again, until we die?

The play begins with Mash and Dev bickering over whose life is worse. “What are we, in a fucking Dickens novel?” Mash quips.

“And I'm unhappy in love,” Dev says. “I'm unhappy in love! I mean, you know I love you ridiculously and you, you know, barely tolerate me... But mostly I'm really, really poor.”
Over the course of three acts, this unhappiness becomes the foundation of a surprisingly fun experience.

Missoula's Between the Lines production of Stupid Fucking Bird doesn't squander the script. Directed by company founder Mason J. Wagner, the cast does an incredible job of taking the audience on an adventure that walks the line between tragedy and comedy. This is a play that takes a lot of risks, and in the beginning it’s easy to feel a little panicked that you’re going to be locked into two and half hours of super whiny characters doing a bunch of navel gazing. But the best part of Stupid Fucking Bird is that it both wallows in existential malaise and then, with comic brilliance, acknowledges the melodrama. There’s metaphor (the bird), there’s the breaking of the fourth wall, there’s a little audience participation, and there’s an entirely non-traditional ending that is neither a twist nor any kind of predictable catharsis.

It’s always worth seeing any local production featuring "E.T. Varney," whom most people will recognize as a prominent actor not named E.T. Varney. Varney's portrayal of Dr. Eugene Sorn is endearing. Part of the gimmick of Stupid Fucking Bird is that it’s self-referential, and characters constantly address the audience and make fun of the play. Sorn’s monologues are some of the best moments, and Varney is a natural at getting the audience on his side as he sips a cocktail and reflects on how emotional all the other characters are.

I’d love to provide some critique here, but the truth is that every actor is great in this production. I’m not going to mention them all because they all stand out as capturing multi-dimensional flawed, funny, desperate, selfish characters, but it’s definitely worth mentioning Nathan Snow, whose Conrad, the playwright within the play, is particularly well rendered as his frustration with love and theater forces him to take unsettling action. He so believes in a world where happiness and authenticity can happen, and Snow nails that character in all his sympathetic unraveling.

In the play's beginning, the dialogue and acting feel a bit stereotypically theater-y, but it isn’t long before the script and characters begin to upend the format. It’s a twisting, turning story, and it’s an investigation into despair and longing. There’s good music, and the audience never feels quite safe from the action and emotion on stage, since the dialogue often seems directed at the viewers, and the storyline often dissects itself. Stupid Fucking Bird is both a critique of theater and a love letter to it, and no one should miss a chance to see this production.

Stupid Fucking Bird continues at the Roxy Sat., May 20, at 7:30 PM and Sun., May 21, at 2 PM and 7:30 PM. $20.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Photos: Ink, cake and machines at Blaque Owl's anniversary party

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 6:01 PM

For the first two hours of Blaque Owl Tattoo’s 6th anniversary party everyone was afraid
to cut into the cake because it looked so cool. But then again, everything in Blaque Owl looks cool. The tattoo shop opened its doors for May’s First Friday and welcomed the public
to come in and have a beer and check out the work by local artists on display throughout the front rooms.
The Blaque Owl tattoo shop in downtown Missoula celebrated six years - of business this weekend and opened its doors to the crowds downtown on a Missoula spring evening.
  • The Blaque Owl tattoo shop in downtown Missoula celebrated six years of business this weekend and opened its doors to the crowds downtown on a Missoula spring evening.
Blaque Owl was opened in April of 2011 by Mike Shaefer (aka “Shaf”) who has been a tattoo
artist since the early 1990s. There are currently nine artists laying down ink at Blaque Owl,
including Shaefer, although he said he doesn’t do nearly as much tattooing as the others
nowadays. Shaefer takes his work a step further and builds and sells his own tattoo machines, which are also used by many of the artists at Blaque Owl.
Mike Shaefer’s tattoo machines use magnetic pulses to generate the rapid motion required to effectively push and pull an inked needle in and out of - skin. He sells them at
  • Mike Shaefer’s tattoo machines use magnetic pulses to generate the rapid motion required to effectively push and pull an inked needle in and out of skin. He sells them at
Schaefer’s machines are like a steampunk I SPY scene in microcosm. They are made of items like straight razors, worn paper currency and intricate metal shapes and cogs.
Tattoo artist and body painter Melissa Thompson applies paint to a very patient individual.
  • Tattoo artist and body painter Melissa Thompson applies paint to a very patient individual.

During the party, Shaefer was wading through the crowd talking to friends and guests with his son, Johnny, on his shoulders. The party attracted visitors of all types, inked or not. Fake tattoos were being passed around for kids and anyone else that wanted them, and in one of the shop windows tattoo artist and body painter Melissa Thompson was hard
at work turning a human being into a temporary work of art. 
Louise Spencer gets work done on a tattoo by artist Britt Felgate. Spencer had been in the chair for about two hours, a stint she described as “not - bad.”
  • Louise Spencer gets work done on a tattoo by artist Britt Felgate. Spencer had been in the chair for about two hours, a stint she described as “not bad.”

In the back, several customers were getting some work done. Someone eventually did tear off a corner of the cake, causing a wave of hungry visitors to do the same, and it was close
to gone in a matter of minutes. 
Artist Ian Caroppoli, Rebekah Ghaddar and Bridget Stoltz man the front desk during the party.
  • Artist Ian Caroppoli, Rebekah Ghaddar and Bridget Stoltz man the front desk during the party.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Vintage bikes to be exhibited as First Friday art show

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 12:03 PM

I’m pretty sure it’s a rule of the universe that cycling nerds can’t talk about old bikes without telling you about our own. I’ll be quick. Mine’s a 1973 Raleigh International that I rebuilt (rather amateurishly) from the frame up. The lugs are gorgeous. I had it painted gold, then asked a shop to cut the frame in half so my bike and I could travel the world together. That never happened, and now this vintage Frankenstein’s Monster sits in my basement.

Anyway, the bikes to be showcased on First Friday have had a lot more TLC than my Raleigh. In fact, the word on the street as that these wheels are road ready. “They’re not just bikes that he has sitting on a rack and polishes and keeps in this pristine condition,” says Missoula Bicycle Works owner Alex Gallego. “They are in pretty pristine condition, but he rides these bikes.”
Larry Lockwood will display his collection of restored vintage road bikes at Missoula Bicycle Works tonight as part of a First Friday show. - PHOTO BY DEREK BROUWER
  • Photo by Derek Brouwer
  • Larry Lockwood will display his collection of restored vintage road bikes at Missoula Bicycle Works tonight as part of a First Friday show.

That rider is Larry Lockwood, who after retiring has made a hobby of finding and restoring (and riding again) the kinds of bikes he rode in the 70s. "Missoula in the early 70s was pretty much a cycling hotbed," he says, before pulling out old photos of group rides. One of the bikes on display tonight is the same machine he's riding in the photos.

"I consider them to be works of art," he says.

Gallego decided to organize the show after realizing that Lockwood and another of his customers, Dirk Visser, had amassed impressive collections of bikes that date back to the 40s. Gallego starts reading the list to me: a couple Hetchens, a Claud Butler, a Porsche mountain bike, and a mid-80s Kestrel roadie with one of the first carbon frames around. Gallego remembers eyeing those Kestrels himself back when they were produced. “I was absolutely blown away,” he says. I imagine I will be, too.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Five more things to do at the Big Sky Doc Fest

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 3:32 PM

Being Evel
  • Being Evel
As if we didn't already give you enough to do.

1. It was a blow to fans everywhere when Carrie Fisher died in late December, and even more heartbreaking when her mom, Debbie Reynolds, died the next day. Strangely enough, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival had planned to show the HBO film Bright Lights—an intimate portrait of the  pair—to open the festival. Bright Lights uses vintage family film and recent interviews to tell the story of the mother-daughter legacy in a way that seems more poignant now than ever.
Tonight, Fri., Feb. 17, at the Wilma, at 7 PM. Free.

2. You barely need to be a conscious human being to know that podcasts are blowing up everywhere. If you're like me, you've got dozens of subscriptions loaded on your phone, including everything from RadioLab and 2 Dope Queens to Missoula-based Last Best Stories, which features slice-of-life tales about Montana people and critters. This year at BSDFF, podcasts get their due as genre of documentary storytelling. Jule Banville, UM School of Journalism professor and producer of Last Best Stories, has set up a listening lounge at Montgomery Distillery to showcase several audio shorts. You can sip an artisan cocktail and plug in to hear stories about, among other things, a bear encounter, a river trip gone wrong, a surprise brunch with David Bowie, and a woman who inherited a small Montana town but doesn't want it.
At Montgomery Distillery Sat., Feb. 18, through Sat., Feb. 25, from 3 PM to 6 PM. Sponsored by UM's School of Journalism and Last Best Stories.

3. In this week's coverage of the festival we wrote about EyeSteelFilm, a Canadian film collective that often deals in experimental works, 17 of which will be showcased as part of a retrospective at this year's festival. Another retrospective will focus on Daniel Junge, an Oscar and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker whose 2015 film, Being Evel, explores the life of Butte-born stunt motorcyclist Evel Knievel. The festival will show 10 of Junge's films including Saving Face, about acid attacks on women in Pakistan, and They Killed Sister Dorothy, about a nun from Ohio killed in the Brazilian rainforest.
Being Evel screens at the Roxy Sat., Feb. 18, at 3 PM.

4. If you're a filmmaker or a film geek, you might be interested in Big Sky Pitch, an open-to-the-public event  where you can watch filmmakers pitch documentary ideas and in-progress films to a panel of producers from ESPN Films, Film Independent, ITVS, Tribeca Film Institute and New York Times Video. Ten projects have been accepted and will each get 20 minutes to dazzle the panel in the hopes of getting funding.
At the UC Theatre Thu., Feb. 23, starting at 9 AM. Free.

5. Viewing films is the most obvious part of the Big Sky Doc Fest, but for aspiring and professional filmmakers it's also an opportunity to network and learn. Doc Shops is a set of workshops on documentary journalism, branding, crowd-funding, technology and distribution. There's even a Filmmaking 101 workshop for those just dipping their toes in. These classes are hosted by companies and organizations from all over, including The Audience Awards, Epic Montana and The Atlantic. The cost is $150, but the workshops are free to UM and MSU students.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Palace Lounge to close as a live music venue

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 10:38 AM

Missoula band Tiny Plastic Stars playing the Palace in September 2016. - PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN
  • photo by Amy Donovan
  • Missoula band Tiny Plastic Stars playing the Palace in September 2016.

The Palace Lounge will close its doors as a live music venue after Sat., Feb. 25, according to a press release from Scott MacIntyre, owner of the four-bar complex that includes Palace, Badlander, Golden Rose and Savoy.

"Given the competitive demands of a live music venue in Missoula, the owners of The Palace have decided to switch directions of the venue to better diversify their businesses and focus more on the music scene in the Badlander," MacIntyre wrote.

The basement bar is slated to reopen on March 17 as a billiard room called Three on the Side, a reference to a difficult billiards shot. That opening will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the complex. According to the release, the space will host several pool tables, games, television, seating and a full bar. The final live show at the Palace on Feb. 25 will also be the final Rock Lotto (Rock Lotto V: The Final Countdown), an annual event where musicians throw their names into a hat and are randomly placed in bands, with which they play for one night only.

The Palace has been home to the independent rock scene, and is one of just a couple of venues in town that cater to the DIY scene. The basement space has been a dive bar and live-show venue since at least the late-1980s, when it was called the DownUnder. It later became Club X and then Trendz. Over the years the space has hosted several artists who later became big, including the Offspring, Red Fang and Reggie Watts.

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