The nonprofit Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts opened three years ago in the shadow of the Overture Center, bringing together regular concerts of improvised music, cultural outreach and arts-education activities. MCCCA director Hanah Jon Taylor and project manager Susan Fox have put together a major event for the venue's third anniversary: Freedom Fest, a festival of improvisational and inspirational music that runs at the center Feb. 15-18. It features a broad range of talent, including demanding improvisers like Taylor, Art Ensemble of Chicago co-founder Roscoe Mitchell, keyboardist Joan Wildman, Miles Davis/McCoy Tyner alumnus Sonny Fortune and bass great Richard Davis.
Fox and Taylor both say that, like many independent arts facilities around the country, MCCCA can always use a financial shot in the arm. But that doesn't deter them. 'So many people come in for the first time and say, 'Wow this is such a cool place!'' says Fox. 'We're so happy for that, and we keep planning for the future.'
While the center's stage often hosts musicians from out of town, Taylor says that one of its great contributions is exposing the work of Madison improvisers who are often better known internationally than they are in own their hometown.
'Madison has an opportunity for being such a great town,' says Taylor, a reed player whose own career often takes him to Paris, Chicago and other musical centers. 'But someone like Joan Wildman doesn't get one fraction of the exposure she deserves in town because she plays [in a] free [style]. We want to expose people to what they have right here in this community.'
Fox hopes that all the proceeds from Freedom Fest will go to support MCCCA rather than to pay artists' fees and expenses. But for that to happen, local businesses and other funding sources must be found to cover the festival's costs. She's still actively seeking donors and can be contacted at 251-2787.
Tickets will be available at the Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts, 306 W. Dayton St., beginning Jan. 16; for more information, call the above number.
Zombies in the White House?
Brendan Hartmann admits to having a long fascination with movie zombies.
'As far as movie monsters go, they are us,' muses the budding Mount Horeb filmmaker, who's just begun casting 50 parts for his Madison-based mockumentary Behind the Scenes: The Media and the Zombie Phenomenon. 'They're humans that have gone wrong. That's what seems frightening to me. It's a thing with two arms, two legs, a nose and face.'
Hartmann's film takes a step away from straight crunch-and-munch zombie anthropophagism by examining what would happen if zombies tried to participate in the political process and ran their own candidate for the White House. Unsurprisingly, the script takes a few potshots at the political zombie currently occupying the Oval Office. Hartmann's previous experience with political satire consists of a faux zombie campaign commercial he shot in Mount Horeb last year.
Hartmann has already filmed a crowd scene for the low-budget flick, but he says most of the shoot will take place during March and April. As with any horror project, makeup is key, and thanks to what he calls a 'very reasonable price,' Hartmann has secured the services of Bloodshot Productions, which handled the gory details on the local monster film Buckystein.
Although roles have already been cast with veteran actors from Mercury Players Theatre,Broom Street Theater and other local theater companies, Hartmann still has about 50 speaking and nonspeaking parts to fill. He'll try to cast most of them Monday, Jan. 29, at the Atwood Community Center during an open casting call that runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Actors interested in speaking roles are encouraged to register with Leah LaBarre at 608-444-3101 or email@example.com.
Palace Latin Club
On Jan. 4, the Palace Latin Club, 1401 University Ave., was damaged by a fire that is now the subject of an arson investigation. The club is currently closed, and co-owner Martin Palacios tells Isthmus he can't comment on its future.
Since opening last February at the former site of Luther's Blues, the 425-person-capacity club had become a magnet for the city's growing Latino community and other lovers of Latin-flavored dance music. It's permanent shuttering would be a real blow to Madison's nightlife, which lags behind the city's changing population in the diversity department.