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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast


American Players Theatre's Travesties is a brilliant blend of history, fantasy and anarchic humor

Oscar Wilde dubbed The Importance of Being Earnest "a trivial comedy for serious people." I'm not sure that descriptor would fit Tom Stoppard's 1974 play Travesties, even though it riffs on Wilde in many ways, from reprising some of Wilde's characters to sharing his glee with wordplay and clever aphorisms. Both are playing this summer at Spring Green's American Players Theatre. >More
 Sarah Day grapples with grief as Joan Didion in American Players Theatre's The Year of Magical Thinking

"Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends," writes Joan Didion in her arresting 2005 memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. She returns to these phrases over and over throughout the book, as if by repeating them she can ultimately accept them. Through plain yet penetrating language, Didion explores both the rawness and the very ordinariness of grief. >More
 20th-century art stars are the subjects and creators of the Chazen Museum portrait exhibition A Passion for Photography

Artists, like writers, often work in solitude. Sure, there are larger-than-life, highly public personalities (think Andy Warhol), but there are also plenty who are happy to hunker down in the solace of their studios and let their work do the talking. That's why it's all the more fascinating to see famous artists in their studios or living spaces, a subject that occupies much of the newest Chazen Museum exhibition, A Passion for Photography: The John W. and Carol L.H. Green Collection. >More
 American Players Theatre's The Importance of Being Earnest is a fun, frothy start to the 2014 season

Oscar Wilde's biggest hit, The Importance of Being Earnest, might seem sexist to modern viewers if the men weren't every bit as foolish as the women. As it is, Wilde skewers both sexes in his takedown of the social pretensions of the English upper classes. The play is the first to appear on the outdoor Up-the-Hill stage at American Players Theatre this summer. >More
 Madison Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates the American collage tradition with A Tumultuous Assembly

One man's trash is another man's treasure, as the saying goes. Artists have been working with cast-off materials and found objects for about a century now, beginning with pieces like Marcel Duchamp's inverted bicycle wheel mounted on a wooden stool and Cubist collages incorporating everyday items like newspaper clippings. Collage and found-object art-making became major trends in 20th-century art. >More
 Jim Dine's skull-themed art makes a bold statement at the Chazen Museum

Skulls have become such a commonplace motif these days that they seem drained of their meaning. From garish Ed Hardy T-shirts to faux-badass toddler clothes, they're everywhere, neither sinister nor edgy. Artist Jim Dine, known for his extensive reworking of a limited set of motifs (tools, hearts, bathrobes), can be exempted from this insipid trend. >More
 Forward Theater finds farcical fun in Or, a tale about spy-turned-playwright Aphra Behn

The new Forward Theater Company production, Or, is set in Restoration England, but it's no fussy costume drama -- not by a long shot. Rather, it's a saucy and smart finish to the company's fifth season. During the opening night performance, the three-person cast quickly won over the audience with fine comic timing. The production runs through April 13 at Overture Center's Playhouse. >More
 Chazen Museum's Changing Hands displays modern takes on Native American traditions

The latest exhibition by the Chazen Museum is a mammoth one, with an equally mammoth title: Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3, Contemporary Native Art from the Northeast and Southeast. The traveling show organized by New York's Museum of Arts and Design runs through April 27. That long, dry title is ultimately a little misleading; there are several artists from the Upper Midwest, including two Madisonians -- but that's no matter. >More
 MMoCA's Real/Surreal blurs the lines between two contrasting art movements

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art examines how surrealism and realism might not be total opposites in Real/Surreal, a traveling exhibition on loan from New York's Whitney Museum of American Art (through April 27). This is a terrific show that challenges us to see familiar artists -- and some lesser-known ones -- in a new light. >More
 Forward Theater Company's Red is a tightly focused production about art, age and self-absorption

While artists can be notoriously temperamental -- at least in the popular imagination -- the Mark Rothko in John Logan's 2010 Tony winner, Red, could win a prize for it. Self-righteous, rabidly opinionated and obsessed with what place he will occupy in art history, Rothko paces around his New York studio like a tiger in a too-small pen at the zoo. >More
 The Chazen offers a fascinating glimpse of contemporary Japanese art

One of the great things about art is how it can reflect not only an artist's own time and experiences, but also enter into a dialogue with the history of art itself. A single work can call to mind a whole web of images and allusions. >More
 Chazen Museum's Mithila Painting shows how adaptable a traditional Indian art form can be

It's been a strong year of exhibitions for the UW's Chazen Museum of Art, and there is a little time left to catch one of its most intriguing and unexpected offerings. Mithila Painting: The Evolution of an Art Form (through Dec. 1) features a style of painting that's unfamiliar to many. But even if it's new to you, you'll quickly be drawn in by intricate, stylized works with themes ranging from Hindu deities to contemporary social and political issues. >More
 Forward Theater Company's Sons of the Prophet explores how two siblings make sense of physical and emotional pain

Some plays have an unfortunate tendency to package life a little too neatly: set-up, conflict, tidy resolution. No one can accuse Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama and the kickoff to the fifth season at Forward Theater Company (through Nov. 24), of such a sin. >More
 Wisconsin Triennial 2013 offers samples of our state's finest contemporary works

Visual artists in Wisconsin grapple with the often-solitary nature of making their work, plus a limited number of venues in which to show it. Viewing art offers the hope of discovering a new and compelling take on the world, the thrill of finding something one hasn't seen before. >More
 American Players Theatre's Antony & Cleopatra takes creative risks in the indoor Touchstone Theatre

When American Players Theatre, beloved for its open-air amphitheater, opened an intimate, indoor stage in 2009, company leadership gave several reasons for the new direction. It wasn't only about staging plays that would likely draw smaller crowds, but also about keeping core company staff creatively engaged and able to take risks. You could say that the Spring Green theater's new adaptation of Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra (through Oct. 20) is one of those creative risks. >More
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