What I Learned This Week: #118

Monday, September 2 – Sunday, September 8


All Arts and Culture Edition

The Week In Broadway: The Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati presented the regional premier of the Tony winning musical Fun Home this week and running through the end of the month. It is one of the best local productions I’ve seen with a terrific cast, and impressive lighting and staging. The show about a father and a daughter’s relationship that is mirrored by each of their own personal demons about sexuality makes for an emotional roller coaster of an evening. McKenna James Farmer playing the narrator at age 12 blew the audience away with her powerful voice, but also her channeling of awkward sexual feelings in the song “Ring of Keys.” That’s a song about a young girl trying to understand why she’s so taken by the butch delivery driver she runs into at the diner.

Later in the show, Sara Mackie, the long suffering wife and mother who’s been quiet as mouse, steps up to belt out “Days and Days” a loud, angry, and yet sorrowful song about how she fell into a life of lies. At 140 minutes with no intermission, the story flies by hitting its comedic and tragic notes on point.

The set of Fun Home. The musician are in the “attic”.

This Week in The American Songbook: Wikipedia says – “The Great American Songbook, also known as “American Standards”, is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century.” If you’re hearing a jazz instrumental playlist while you’re shopping or eating, you are hearing these songs. And, chances are you are hearing the greatest singers and instrumentalists of the era: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, etc.

This week I grabbed dinner at Taste of Belgium and I heard a lot of great songs that I recognized, except, they clearly were not being done by the great talents that made these songs memorable. In fact, I was hearing a collection of the worst versions of the greatest songs. Incredibly awful, and, for someone who appreciates music, a little offensive.

I asked the bartender about the music selection and he said it was a public domain playlist (hence the lack of name brand artists) called something like Mellow, Intellectual Jazz. Ha. Just terrible.

Puig Waffle
The Reds traded fan favorite Yasiel Puig who had a sandwich named after him. Too bad he couldn’t have take Taste of Belgium’s awful taste in music with him.

The Week in Modern Art: At the Contemporary Arts Center, artist Saya Woolfalk ‘s installation A Cabinet of Anticipation is on display. She uses science fiction and fantasy to re-imagine the world in multiple dimensions and in this exhibit she has imagined a psychedelic, perhaps post-human future. The multi-media pieces are colorful and thoughtful. I had to walk through twice AND get the docent’s help to get a grip on what was going on.

Oh, and I love the CAC, but when I leave an exhibit, even when I take the pamphlet of information the provide about the installation, I cannot find the names of the individual pieces. This seems like something I should be able to find on the website so I can discuss the work with some knowledge. If there’s a list, I can’t find it. Maybe that’s how all art museums work. I don’t know about that. I just know I don’t like it.


The Week in Fire: One of Cincinnati’s smaller museums is the Fire Museum. The whole thing takes about an hour and it proudly notes that in 1853 Cincinnati had the first paid, professional fire department in the United States. It’s an easy to take in tour and a reminder of how far we have come in fire safety.


The Week in Country Music: On my way to work, trying to avoid too much political noise on NPR, I  happened upon David Allan Coe singing the classic song You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’. It’s a satirical song about stuck up record execs who don’t want to recognize songwriters. But what a lot of folks remember about this minor hit that’s a jukebox favorite, is the third verse.

Coe stops singing to explain that his friend Steve Goodman wrote the You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’ and Steve considered it a perfect Country and Western song. Coe begs to differ, noting the song had not mentioned “Mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting drunk.” Goodman agrees, and sends a third and final verse to Coe who belts it for the finale:

I was drunk the day Mama got out of prison
And I went to pick ‘er up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned ol’ train

That is classic. I sang it right out loud on I-71 to give my morning the best musical start!



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