Wednesday, January 9, 2013

THEATER: Pull Tight Theater's "It's A Wonderful Life" (December Issue)

If you have never been to a show at the Pull-Tight Theatre in Franklin, it is a must.  The intimate atmosphere is unlike any other.  I went to my first show there a few months ago, and now I am hooked.  I love community theater, and the Pull-Tight does it very well.

I was able to go to a rehearsal of this month’s production of It’s A Wonderful Life to see a little of the performance and also get to know JT Landry.  The Brentwood resident and Belmont alum is making his debut as a producer, as he usually is an actor.  He was approached about producing by his friend, Justin McIntosh, who is directing the show.  JT loves the classic story and wanted to be a part of something really special for Christmas.  From what little I have seen, the sold-out show will be special indeed.  Fortunately, I got my tickets just in time.

Seeing a show, going to a rehearsal and just being a part of the process in general has definitely given me the acting bug.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been on stage to do anything other than sing, and I find myself really missing the acting part lately.  There are some great shows coming up this season at the Pull-Tight.  Stay tuned to see if I will be making my own debut…

MUSIC: SHAHNAZ (December Issue)

Before having children of my own, I volunteered at Franklin High School as a Young Life leader.  Within Young Life, small groups are formed, and I was blessed to lead an incredible group of girls who will always hold a very special place in my heart.  One of those girls was Meghan “Shahnaz” Kabir.  When she could get a break in her busy schedule of singing, writing, dancing and studying to graduate early, Meghan would come to our meetings and share her authentic kind spirit.  When I think of Meghan now, the word EXQUISITE comes to mind. 

Since high school, Meghan has accomplished so many amazing things and is still just getting started in what I believe will be a life long successful career.  At the age of 24, she has already had her songs on television shows such as The Hills, The City, and Victorious.  American Idol’s Chris Allen is recording one for The Biggest Loser, and she had a song recorded by Selena Gomez in the movie Ramona and Beezus.  Most recently, her song “People Like Us” was chosen to be on Kelly Clarkson’s next album and will be released sometime in January.   I’m sure there will be lots of iTunes gift cards in Christmas stockings this year so put that one on your list to download!

The “Shahnaz” in Meghan’s name comes from her father who is from Afghanistan.   She is now using that as her name and forming a brand with it.  She feels it is global like her music.  Meghan has recorded songs in Farsi, one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan, and she was nominated there for best new artist. 
In addition to writing and singing, Meghan has started a jewelry line that came about from her wanting to custom tailor pieces to her style.  She wants the jewelry to have a life of it’s own, but it is inspired by her music.  She custom designs some of the pieces with her lyrics on them. 

Meghan’s favorite lyric is “We are all misfits living in a world on fire”.  It’s about owning who you are.  Meghan came to a point in high school where she didn’t fit in anymore.  She wrote the song to unite other misfits in her situation.  She says that music is such a spiritual connection.

Meghan “Shahnaz” Kabir’s music is timeless, positive, colorful and inspiring.  She is able to paint a vibrant picture with her words, and her soulful sound can transport you to a better place.  It’s not always easy putting yourself out there, but Meghan stays authentic to who she is.  I am certainly inspired…

ART: elle dee studio by LAUREN DUNN (December Issue)

While browsing the booths at Main Street Festival this year, I stopped to admire some artwork and distressed frames by a local artist.  As usual, I had two little boys in tow so I got a card from the artist in the hopes to see more of her work, undistracted.  The card ended up in a pile on my desk like so many others, and I just came across it a couple of weeks ago. The artist’s name is Lauren Dunn, and I went onto her website to see more of her art.  To my surprise, her biography read that she was from a small Mississippi delta town just like me.  Of course, I quickly contacted her to set up a time to meet and see the studio.  In just a few minutes of meeting with Lauren, I found out that she went to college with my high school best friend. We’re in the same sorority, and we now go to the same church.  Needless to say, we became fast friends!

Lauren’s Franklin in-home studio is filled with her beautiful artwork.  She uses the impasto technique when painting.  This technique is where paint is laid on an area of the surface very thickly, usually thickly enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. When dry, impasto provides texture, and the paint appears to be coming out of the canvas. Lauren uses acrylic on wood panels, and many of her pieces are churches inspired by her grandfather, a small town Mississippi preacher.  Lauren also does commission work from pictures.  Because her paintings are on wood panels, they can be displayed on their own.  However, she makes unique distressed frames that add even more artistic detail and interest to her work.

Lauren’s artwork can be found in Nashville at York and Friends Gallery and her frames are at Redo in Franklin and Hot Pink in Brentwood.  She also has artwork in many other towns across the South and plans to expand.  Meeting Lauren was such a pleasure, and I’m so happy to know that there is another “delta girl” living right around the corner!

Follow Lauren Dunn on Facebook and visit her site at

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

THEATER: Irving Berlin's White Christmas (November Issue)

With Christmas right around the corner, calendars begin to fill up quickly with many holiday activities, parties and traditions.  From the Rockettes to the Skaggs Family Christmas, there are certainly many ways to be festively entertained in our area.  One item on my to do list is catching Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the TPAC.  It opens on November 13th and runs through November 18th

Back when there was much more time to spend with extended family during the holidays, I would stay with my relatives in Northeast Mississippi.   Most of our time was spent doing something musical or theatrical.  We were kind of like the Partridge Family on Hee Haw with flair!  My closest cousins are sisters, and they had a tradition of performing “Sisters” from White Christmas.  It was always one of my favorites. 

With the show coming to Nashville, I was given the opportunity to interview someone in the cast.  Of course, I chose a sister!  Stefanie Morse is playing the role of Betty Haynes, which she says is her most favorite role to date.  She also really enjoyed playing Diana Morales on the European Tour of A Chorus Line.  One role she has not played but is a dream of hers is Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

During Stefanie’s short stay in Nashville, she plans to visit friends and family and hopes to see some great live music.  I think we’ve got that covered!  We’re also discussing a tour of Williamson County together.  She wants to see as much as she can, and of course, I’m proud to show it to her!
As a musician, I’m always curious as to what types of music performers enjoy.  Stefanie says she has very eclectic taste.  She loves Sara Bareilles, Adele, Gavin DeGraw…singer/songwriter stuff.  She has loved Streisand since she was very young and loves to sing from the Golden Age of musical theater.  “They don't write 'em like that anymore.”

I really enjoy getting to know actors before seeing a show.  I’m excited to start my holiday season off with Stefanie and the rest of the cast, as I am now “dreaming of a White Christmas!”

MUSIC: The Ryman (November Issue)

When going to a concert, I prefer an intimate venue.  Sure, I enjoy smoke and lights in an arena filled with power ballads from the gods of rock from time to time, but a more personal setting is always my first choice.  The Ryman Auditorium provides just that place for me to satisfy my appetite for good music the way I like it.  I love the atmosphere, the vibe, the acoustics, the history and the variety of performers.  Over the years, I’ve been to the Ryman to see Ben Folds, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Paramore, Trey Anastasio and even the Fresh Beat Band.  Did I mention variety?

My husband and I invited a friend from Boston a few years ago to come and do “Nashville stuff”, which consisted of a lot of new things for us, as well.  One of the stops on our itinerary was the tour of the Ryman.  There was so much more to it than I had ever imagined.  I got chills sitting in a dressing room thinking of all the great artists that had been looking in the same mirror before taking the stage.

Recently, I was invited to take a personal tour of the Ryman to dig a little deeper into its history and see it from a different perspective.  Upon my arrival, I received an apology that we wouldn’t be able to take a full tour due to Jamey Johnson’s band doing sound check and warming up, but I became even more excited.  As a musician, seeing what goes on the day of a show was definitely right up my alley. 

With levels being checked and instruments being tuned in the background, I listened to stories of how the Ryman was built and what the conditions were like.  Something that you don’t hear on the regular tour is how the bricks were still warm when they were placed.  They were made on site because there were no cars and trucks to haul them.  There are dips in the bricks in certain places where the fingers of the men placing them went in.  You can see a lot of the dips on the walls inside when you are about to enter the auditorium. 

My list of performers is only a tiny fraction of the talent that has been brought to Nashville because of the Ryman.  Elvis, Mae West, Louis Armstrong, Helen Keller, Bob Hope and many more have been on that stage.  Hank Williams, Sr., was unknown when he first played at the Ryman at the Grand Ole Opry and was called back out for six encores that night.  It’s the birthplace of bluegrass and where Johnny and June fell in love.  Did you know that the “Hokey Pokey” was recorded there?  I could go on and on…

If you haven’t been to the Ryman to see a show or take the tour, don’t wait any longer.  It’s so much of what makes Nashville the wonderful place that it is.  And when you go, be sure to touch the dips in the bricks.  It will be our little secret.