Monday, July 1, 2013

BACKSTAGE: Woofstock at Fontanel (Summer Issue)

The 2nd Annual Woofstock at Fontanel was held on June 8th, and I was on location for great music and a great cause.  Multi-Grammy Award winner Emmylou Harris put on the event to benefit Bonaparte’s Retreat, an organization she established that rescues dogs whose time has run out at Metro Nashville Animal Control.  Crossroads Campus was also benefited.  “This is a great day for the people of Nashville and their dogs,” Emmylou said.  Many of her friends joined her on the bill for the event, and there were some surprises, as well.  There were performances by John Hiatt, Joan Osborne, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Bobby Bare and several others.  My favorite surprise was Keb’ Mo’ and Sam Bush taking the stage to perform together.  They were phenomenal.  In addition to the music, there were tents set up with dog related and un-related vendors, along with several artists.  Among those artists was John Cannon.  Someone you will hear more about from me soon.  I also plan to get more in depth with some of the music artists I met at the event.  Stay tuned!

THEATER: Disney's The Lion King (Summer Issue)

In the fall of 2006, I was expecting my first child.  It was no surprise that anything to do with children would stir my emotions and very often bring tears to my eyes.  My husband and I went to see the Broadway version of Disney’s The Lion King at the TPAC during that time, and I pretty much cried through the entire performance.  It was overwhelming from the moment Rafiki began singing “Circle of Life” to the reprise at the end.  The life-sized animals coming down the aisles were astonishing.  The costumes blew me away.  I had never seen anything like it in a theater.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to one day take my child to see it.  Well, this year the day finally came.

The TPAC brought The Lion King back to Nashville in May for the last show of the 2012-2013 season.  It was perfect timing.  The baby in my belly in 2006 was my son Hudson.  He turned six years old in April and got tickets to the show for his birthday.  He was so excited about his “date with mom”, and I couldn’t wait to see the look on his face, when the show began.  As I had imagined, it was priceless.

Since I knew the animals were going to come down the aisles, I had called the ticket office to make sure we would be sitting right next to the action.  When it all began to happen, Hudson’s eyes grew wide, and he looked at me to make sure I was seeing what he was seeing.  It was the moment I had been waiting for, and of course, I cried again.  I pulled Hudson into my lap, squeezed him tight, and did not take a minute of the moment for granted.

Through out the show, he was mesmerized.  The translation of The Lion King from animation on screen to live performance on stage was brilliant, and Hudson took it all in.   There was never a time when he asked to get up or wondered how much longer until it was over, and those things happen every time we go anywhere that he has to sit still for more than 30 minutes.  The only things he asked were “Did that happen in the movie?” and “When are they gonna fight?”  The show kept his attention the entire time and that is saying a lot.  After the show, he said, “It wasn’t good.  It was awesome!”

I highly recommend taking your child to see a show at the TPAC.  It was a great experience with my son, and I definitely plan to take him back.  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is going to be here in September, and we definitely don’t want to miss it.  Hopefully, The Lion King will be back in a few years.  I’ve got another little cub to share it with!

MUSIC: Nicole Witt (Summer Issue)

When discussing columns with YOUR Williamson’s “designHer”, Amy Freese, she said that I should consider a story on her dear friend Nicole Witt.  She went on to describe all of Nicole’s amazing talents and that she knew we would connect.  Amy was right.  I had the pleasure of spending some time with Nicole during the week of the CMA Fest, and she was all that Amy said she was and more.

Nicole is a lot like me with a list a mile long of all the things she has going on in her life, but we both agree that when we’re not busy, we don’t feel normal.  Songwriting, singing and playing fiddle/violin in two bands (“Mama’s Blue Dress” and “More Than Rubies”) and being a mom are just a few things on Nicole’s list.  With the support of family a friends, she keeps it all in balance, giving her the opportunity to continue to use all her many talents.  Talents that she gives all the credit to God for having, as He is the number one priority in her life.

When Nicole and I met, it was at 12th and Porter in Nashville before a “Mama’s Blue Dress” show.  I was already excited to see the group perform, but after seeing the line to get in wrapped around the corner of the building, my excitement grew.  Fortunately, YOUR Arts and Culture gal doesn’t have to wait in lines, and I got to be there during sound check for a little preview.  The vocals alone of these four female powerhouses will blow your socks off.  Add two fiddles, a guitar, an occasional mandolin and a bass drum made out of an old suitcase, and you’ve got high-energy country/bluegrass female greatness.  And the icing on the cake, literally, is a cakewalk and baked goods at every show made by a mom of one of the members.  The caramel bourbon rice crispy treat at 12th and Porter might be one of the best sweet treats I have ever had.  I don’t know much about her blue dress, but that mamma can cook!

Nicole describes her other project, “More Than Rubies”, as faith-based contemporary/folk, worship music.  Together Nicole and Christa Wells make up this duo that recently had a cd release party at the Franklin Mercantile.  Nicole flip flops between touring with Christa and MBD.  She says both tours are important to her.  MBD gets her back to her family’s bluegrass roots, while MTR fills her need to spread the Gospel.

When I asked the seven-year Brentwood resident what her favorite part of Williamson County is, Nicole replied, “The people, the schools, the teachers.  I love my neighbors and my church.”  I think we can all agree that Williamson County is the most perfect place to raise a family, while pursuing music.  With Nicole’s beautiful family by her side, this nationally touring, award winning Nashville songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is definitely the perfect example!

Check out Nicole at

ART: Bruce Monro's LIGHT at Cheekwood (Summer Issue)

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens proclaims, “Using an inventive array of materials and hundreds of miles of glowing optic fiber, Munro’s fascination with light as an artistic medium will transform Cheekwood’s beautiful gardens into an iridescent landscape.”  It certainly does!  I was able to experience Bruce Munro’s incredible light display this month.  It was awesome.

Hailing from the UK, Munro is an installation artist working in light.  He creates many different forms of the art, but large scale instillations are his “heart and soul” and best express what he loves about light.  He portrays this to the fullest extent at his exhibit at Cheekwood displayed now through November 10th

I’ve been to Cheekwood many times during the day.  Its gardens are gorgeous and, the view of Nashville from the Museum of Art is breathtaking.  Now Cheekwood at night is just as magnificent, but in a completely different way.  Upon entering the LIGHT exhibit, you feel as though you have stepped into a magical place.  A friend who went with me to see it said, “It feels like we’re in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ ”.  

The first instillation is called Water-Towers.  It is comprised of 40 structures built out of more than 10,000 one-liter recyclable plastic bottles filled with water, laser-cut wood layers, and fiber optics connected to LED projectors and sound system.  Munro chose the music to represent many nations.  African tribal songs were playing during my visit.  There are nine more instillations through out the gardens and museum.  They were all incredible.  A couple of my favorites were Fireflies in the Bamboo Garden and Field of Light in the Museum of Art Lawn and surrounding gardens.  “The bamboo garden at Cheekwood has presented me with an opportunity to create a magical space of illuminated springs amongst the bamboo. I hope that it instills a sense of wonder and surprise to those that see it,” said Munro about FirefliesField of Light consists of a landscape of 20,000 lighted glass spheres, each rising from the ground on a slender stem and is designed to utilize the existing pathways in the garden to allow people to wander through it and view it from various different perspectives.

I feel as though I cannot do the exhibit justice with descriptions.  You just have to see it for yourself.  However, another instillation that I must mention is Light Reservation.  What is so interesting about this one is that it is described as “an assembly of tipi-like structures made from spent fluorescent tubes”.  However, I didn’t really see it as “tipis”, until I took a picture of it with a slow shutter speed (see right).   It appears more like diagonal flashes of light to the naked eye, but the camera tells a different story.  “The installation is about my enthusiasm for the imagination; but I also hope that Light Reservation presents people with an opportunity to ponder both the good and bad aspects of our recent history,” said Munro. 
I hope this story has inspired you to spend an evening at Cheekwood.  You will not be disappointed!  The exhibit is available for viewing Wednesdays – Fridays from 7pm-11pm.  For more information go to

THEATER: Studio Tenn

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I love Broadway in New York.  Love it.  However, as I’m sure you know, just to see one show is no small fee.  I just added it all up with the current prices.  If I wanted to leave today and head to the Big Apple, it would all cost me about $500 and that’s for a cheap flight, cheap hotel, not the best seats in the theater and going alone.  Also, I would have to leave my husband and children to “fin for themselves” for more than a day, and the world just seems to fall apart when Momma’s gone!  So I’ve been thinking of writing a letter…

Dear Broadway,
 I love you, but I have a mortgage and children to feed.  Could you please send some of your finest actors to Franklin, Tennessee?  We have some great theaters, and I think you’ll especially like the one on Main Street.  Oh, and I really want to only pay about 10% of the price that I costs me to come to you.  Is that too much to ask?
Your Frugal Fan in Franklin

Well, it seems that someone beat me to it.  Well, maybe not the letter, but the same idea; and from that, Studio Tenn was born.  I recently had the privilege to sit down with Studio Tenn’s Matt Logan (Executive Vice President and Artistic Director) and Jake Speck (President and Managing Director) to really dive in to what Studio Tenn is all about and what makes it so unique.

Matt and Jake both have extensive experience on Broadway, including production, acting and casting.  They love it but wanted to come back to their Tennessee roots to bring Broadway quality shows to Williamson County.  They do audition locally.  The last season has been predominately Nashville actors, which they are proud of.  However, they want the best cast possible so they pull from Broadway, when they feel it is necessary. For The Sound of Music, Ben Davis (Les Miserables, La Boheme) and Jessica Grove’ (A Little Night Music, Les Miserables) were brought in to play Captain and Maria Von Trapp.  Conrad John Schuck, who is currently on Broadway in Nice Work If You Can Get It, was in Studio Tenn’s Twelve Angry Men.  Jake actually performed in Twelve Angry Men, as well; and he played Bob Gaudio in Broadway’s Jersey Boys.  “We have found that it’s a beautiful blend to have the best of the best here and the best of the best there,” Matt said.  “The magic that happens with that is pretty exciting.  The actors that have made TN their home and have a renewed sense of why they do it.”  

Matt and Jake agree that plays written in the South are much more successful on stage here.  The most deeply gratifying show that Matt has directed is The Glass Menagerie.  “Tennessee Williams is never going to get better than the South,” he said.  “New York can’t pull it off like the South can.”  This season’s Smokey Joe’s, which cast included Melinda Doolittle (see MUSIC), is another great example of that statement.
Matt’s hope is that the actors of Studio Tenn never try to be a copy of a person.  For example, he did not want Jessica Grove’ to be Julie Andrews.  He wanted her to own the role and make it her own.  “In the age of Pro Tools and Photoshop,” he said, “this city beckons for authenticity.”  He says he directs “in riddles”.  He doesn’t just tell the actors what to do.  He wants them to be in the driver seat and own it.  Hiring professionals make that possible.  I think a little bit of that theory is just Matt being humble.  Jake says, in Twelve Angry Men, he relied a lot on Matt’s direction.  He didn’t think the show would be easy, but he thought he knew it.  “ Matt never stops directing, when the show is already running,” Jake said.  “The general rule is to stop at opening night, but if Matt sees that something can be better, he will change it.”
Next on the bill for Studio Tenn is My Fair Lady, and I can’t wait to see it.  Matt and Jake are excited that this is the first musical that has been an all Nashville cast.  Playing Eliza Doolittle is Laura Matula.  “She’s one of the most talented ‘under the radar’ musical theatre talents in the country,” Jake said. “And she lives right here in Nashville!”

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Matt Logan and Jake Speck.  I could say so much more about them, but I will leave you with this…

These two incredibly talented men’s combined forces of theater greatness make Studio Tenn a great big diamond at the top of the box holding all of Williamson County’s treasures. 

Find out more about Studio Tenn at