The spring arts season begins in earnest this weekend, starting with the Sunlight Project & Symposium, 50th anniversary celebrations of the Peace Corps, and Artworks: Madison. The calendar also includes: Maple Syrup Fest; productions of The Music of Cole Porter, Not Always a Parent, An Enemy of the People, and The Mikado; performances by the MSO; the MAMAs nomination party; more live music from the California Guitar Trio, Tim O' Brien, 7 Walkers, the Claire Lynch Band, Willy Porter & Patty Larkin, Twista, Jeremiah Nelson, Laura Doherty, and Or, The Whale; and, spoken word by Henry Rollins.
NOTEWORTHY: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and followers arrive in Montgomery to complete their four-day, 50-mile march from Selma, 1965.
BIRTHDAY: Grammy-winning R&B mega-diva Aretha Franklin, 1942.
Sunlight Project & Symposium
David Maraniss' book They Marched Into Sunlight, about dire happenings in Vietnam and Madison in 1967, is examined in a series of events. On Friday the Madison-bred, Pulitzer-honored author speaks at the Wisconsin Union Theater (6 pm). The proceedings culminate on Saturday, March 26, at the Union Theater with March Into Sunlight, a dance concert choreographed by Robin Becker and UW professor Jin-Wen Yu (see Arts).
California Guitar Trio
High Noon Saloon, 7 pm
This globetrotting trio's intricate, ethereal songs have been featured on NPR, NBC's Olympics coverage and the space shuttle Endeavor, which used them to help the astronauts rise and shine. See what their tunes do for you.
Madison Symphony Orchestra
Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), March 26 & 27
Violinist Robert McDuffie returns to Madison to perform Barber's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14. John DeMain's big ensemble also performs Dvorák's "Carnival Overture" and Beethoven's third symphony ("Eroica").
The Music of Cole Porter
Overture Center Playhouse, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (3 & 7:30 pm) & Sunday (3 pm), March 26 & 27
Four Seasons Theatre revels in tunes by the composer who wrote Kiss Me, Kate, Anything Goes, "Night and Day," and many other works recorded by stars like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and, more recently, U2.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
Not only does this Grammy-winning country and bluegrass performer sing, he plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, mandocello, bouzouki and banjo beautifully. Get to know his 2010 release, Chicken & Egg, at this show. With Bryan Sutton.
Not Always a Parent
Encore Studio for the Performing Arts, 8 pm. Also Saturday, March 26, 8 pm
Encore presents a new evening of short plays about moms, dads and others who support people with disabilities.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
The name of the new band fronted by former Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann won't win many Wisconsin fans, but the music certainly will, fusing the rock 'n' roll of the San Francisco Bay Area with the funk tradition of the Big Easy and featuring songs by swamp-tastic slide guitarist and songwriter Papa Mali and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
NOTEWORTHY: Guns N' Roses sign with Geffen Records, 1986. BIRTHDAY: Aerosmith vocalist/American Idol judge Steven Tyler, 1948.
Peace Corps 50th anniversary
President Kennedy's signature volunteer program observes its 50th anniversary this year, and you can join the celebration at events around town. On Saturday, March 26, at 4 pm, the Orpheum Theatre hosts Talking Peace Corps, featuring music, poetry readings, a short film and a talk by corps director Aaron Williams. On Sunday, March 27 (1:30-5 pm), head to Monona Terrace for the Peace Corps Around the World Expo, with speakers, workshops and exhibits. And through May 31, visit Promega Gallery to see the exhibit Bringing the World Back Home: 50 Years with the Peace Corps, which gathers art objects brought home by volunteers.
Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall, 10 am-4 pm
If you're sick of looking at your dreary house, it might be time to invest in some art. Forty painters, photographers, jewelers, sculptors and other artists, mostly from nearby, exhibit their wares at this gathering. It's an open secret that artworks also make excellent gifts.
Madison Area Music Awards nomination party
Brink Lounge, 7 pm
Disco divas VO5, rock-noir group the Daze and alt-folk songstress Anna Vogelzang provide the soundtrack as the nominees for the local music awards are announced.
Commonweal Theatre's An Enemy of the People
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
Minnesota's Commonweal Theater presents a roving production of Ibsen's 1882 play about a doctor thwarted by townspeople when he tries to expose an environmental calamity.
Claire Lynch Band
Greg Sutter Studio, Middleton, 7:30 pm
Having cycled through another couple of acts, the really excellent bluegrass singer, songwriter and guitarist Lynch now performs with the band that bears her name. Lynch came of age professionally in the 1970s and 1980s, when bluegrass had moved beyond its cowboy-hats-and-suits origins but had yet to fully establish itself with the jam music crowd.
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 8 pm
If someone asks you to name a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta everyone has heard of, there's a 33% chance you'll go with this favorite, set in Japan. The New York Gilbert & Sullivan players perform the tuneful satire about a strolling minstrel in love with a woman pledged to another.
Willy Porter & Patty Larkin
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
Milwaukee native Larkin returns to Wisconsin to team her sparkling urban folk-pop with Willy Porter's moody, magical guitar.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
The hip-hop artist, who's been known to top the album and singles charts, returns to our little burg. With ProbCause and Lil' Rail.
Frequency, 9:30 pm
Nelson unveils his new album, Drugs to Make You Sober, which gives his country-leaning alt-pop gems a lo-fi treatment. Visit the MadTracks review for the lowdown. With Surgeons in Heat, Cedarwell and Oedipus Tex.
NOTEWORTHY: Marlon Brando refuses Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather, 1973.
BIRTHDAY: Oscar-winning filmmaker/screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, 1963.
Maple Syrup Fest
Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Monona, 1-3 pm
Spring is here, and the sap is rising. Kids can learn up close how Native Americans and pioneers tapped trees for maple syrup and sugar, and try the techniques out themselves. All very educational, but did we mention that the event includes fresh syrup served over ice cream?
High Noon Saloon, 3 pm
This kid-friendly folk-pop troubadour cut her teeth rocking the house for anklebiters at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. Now she's made a big splash among the 10-and-under crowd across the country. Get in on the action with your favorite young 'uns.
Or, The Whale
Frequency, 7 pm
The seven musicians in this Cali country-rock outfit found one another through Craigslist and found a name in the classic novel Moby-Dick before Billboard, Paste, USA Today and Good Morning America found them. Find your own reason to love them at this buzzed-about show. With Chamberlin and Anna Vogelzang.
UW Memorial Union's Great Hall, 7:30 pm
The hardcore punk-turned-raconteur grapples with the issues of the day and other stuff that bugs him in his latest spoken-word tour, which celebrates his 50th birthday.