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Henry V: Fighting words hits the stage en force.

Opening Thursday, June 15, 7:30 p.m. (through June 25)
If you are frustrated with the lack of imagination as it relates to language under our current President, then maybe it is time to take a trip back to a time when kings roamed the land in battle and in the pursuit of love. If so, then “Henry V” by William Shakespeare is just the ticket.

Produced by our region’s Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company (PCSC), “Henry V” is part of Shakespeare’s canon of plays devoted to the English Monarchs and is one of my favorites. 

What I have always enjoyed about this particular play is the heroic warrior-king language that peppers so many of the scenes of this action-filled story leading a group of misfit soldiers to battle the well-trained and heavily outnumbered French Army. 

It is hard not to get misty eyed nor sit still in your seat when the famous speech from Henry V is delivered right before the battle of Agincourt. This is why the power of a well written speech can often lead others to achieve the unthinkable in battle and is the stuff big Hollywood blockbuster’s writers wished they could emulate for the big screen. Even the wooing of the woman he seeks to make his own is a thrill to behold and provides a nice bookend to this story of battle. 

For PCSC’s production of “Henry V” they have cast Actors' Equity Association’s actor Paul Riopelle will return once again to our local stage to play King Henry and is directed by Angela and Francis Boyle.

The cast also features actors Alyssa Banister, Mike Dodge, Ryan Farrell, Josh Fremer, Amanda Grah, Michael Hays, Kat Hermes, Bridget McCarthy, Ashley Normand, Steven Schwall, and Scott Wright.

Performances are June 16, 17, 23, and 24 at 8:00 p.m. and June 18 and 25 at 3:00 p.m.. Tickets are $14 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors.

29th Grand Rapids Pride: A rainbow celebration in the shadow of Calder

Nearly thirty years ago when I attend our first Gay Pride, it was a lonely affair in many ways since it was typically the only event that took place to commemorate our community’s LGBTQ. 

Now the entire month is packed full of events happening all over the city including this weekend’s Third Annual White Party kick off event at Rumors on Friday, June 16 to a festive Pride Block Party / Family Gathering hosted by the Apartment Lounge and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum with special musical guest Betty on Sunday, June 18. Even at Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids a play devoted to the Stonewall uprising, "Hit the Wall," will open this weekend and run until June 25. 

But the real star of our festive Pride weekend is the annual Grand Rapids Pride taking place at Calder Plaza. 

This annual homecoming style event features area merchants an organizations serving the LGBTQ of our city as well as a lively stage show with the best of our local talent performing alongside national acts including Billy Gillman, Bonnie McKee, DJ Citizen Jane, Lipstick Jodi, DJ Keller Shaw.

Grand Rapids Pride’s main headliner, Billy Gillman, a country singer, is a former contestant of The Voice who was the runner-up in season 11.  In 2014 and hours after another country singer Ty Herndon had come out, Gillman posted a video on YouTube indicating he, too, was gay.

Gillman’s “One Voice” was nominated for Grammy in 2001 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and won the American Music Award’s Favorite Country Artist (2001).

And while coming out stories are more and more common these days, within certain parts of the entertainment and sporting industry, Gillman’s and Herndon’s act made sure that their voices would be heard not just within the genre they serve via their music, but so that others who might be gay also have a north star to help them navigate the choppy waters of our society as they come out.

As they often chanted in the 90s at Pride celebrations all over the world, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” Coming out has real power still today and Grand Rapids Pride is the best place to land and celebrate our diversity. 

Pride costs $8.00 to attend and supports the work of our local Grand Rapids Pride Center

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Pan’s Labyrinth: A thrilling double feature

Friday, June 16, 6 p.m. gates, 7 p.m. film one, 9:30 p.m. film two
This Friday is a great time to pack the picnic blanket and head to the banks of the Grand River for a double feature as a part of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.’s Movies in the Park.

And unlike in years’ past where you had to wait until sunset to begin the first film, thanks to new brighter screen technology provided by LiveSpace of Grand Rapids, this season’s double features can begin earlier so that you are not wandering home in the wee hours of the early Saturday morning.

What makes this lineup so delicious is not just supremely wonderful film choices. Rather, it is their fantastical tales that make this a standout in programming unlike any other.

For starters, at 7 p.m. the classic 1971 musical confectionary based thriller-comedy “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” based on the beloved Roald Dahl novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” tells the story of a child overcoming all odds to become a recipient of a much-desired golden ticket that will win him a private tour of the famed chocolate factory. 

The brilliant choice to program the Spanish speaking language film “Pan’s Labyrinth” alongside Wonka will erase any sugar high you might have from the syrupy opener as this dark modern fantasy directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro will have you cuddling in fear at times as the fantastical overlaps with reality in this Academy Award-nominated film. 

Before the film presentation you will be entertained by host Gabriella de la Vega of the El Mundo Musical with special guest DJ Adrian Butler.

Food Trucks will be on site should you wish to nosh during the program and, as always with Movies in the Park, those 21 and older are free to bring in adult beverages. 

This evening is brought to you by Franklin Partners with Star Partners including Linc Up and the Latino Community Coalition.

Movies in the Park is produced by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in partnership with The Rapid: Transit Authority for the Grand Rapids metro area, The City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Community Media Center, Tobacco Free Parks, and LiveSpace.

Juneteenth 2017 and Book Signing: History observed and read

Juneteenth celebrations have been happening across America since 1865 and are held each year in various cities to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States and this weekend you have an opportunity to attend a special commemoration open house event at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA).

Starting at noon at their home on Monroe Center in the heart of downtown, GRAAMA will present a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation as well as read this historical document for the public.

Also on the occasion of this historic event, Author Jackie James be in attendance to sign books from her Friends of Martin Luther King, Jr. series. 

James, a former teacher, noticed over her career that often when it came to telling the stories of African Americans, that most accounts were not even written by a person of color (if they were being told at all). 

This disturbed James as an educator and so rather than complain about it, she stepped up to become the voice of the many who had been silenced over time, giving a new generation of students of all races an opportunity to better understand the many leaders who came before them.

The Friends series has grown to an impressive 28 titles, including stories on famed Black leaders like A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Dorothy Height, and many more. And while these books are aimed at a middle school reading level, it is worth noting that, given the absence of many of these voices from generations of education, these books are great for folks of all ages seeking to know more about those who fought to ensure that the rights won under the Emancipation Proclamation are not lost or eroded.

James’ contribution to African American literature is significant because, through her books, a new generation of children are finally having an opportunity to know their history more fully. 

During the three-hour window on Saturday, James will be signing books at GRAAMA.  

Rock The Block: Southtown’s neighborhood-centered celebration turns 7!

If last weekend was about celebrating downtown Grand Rapids with events like Festival for the Arts and the Local First Street Party, then this one presents an opportunity to shift your path to one of our neighborhoods as Rock The Block returns to the Southtown community.

This is the 7th year of Rock The Block—an annual celebration where neighbors and visitors intersect with good food, plenty of local talent, and a variety of community-focused vendors looking to connect you and your entire family to the goodness of our region. 

New this year is a chance to pitch your business idea in the hopes of winning a $599 prize courtesy of Start Garden. But get in line early since this opportunity to present your idea in 99 seconds or less takes place between noon - 2 p.m. Additional details including the reason for the $599 dollar payout can be found here.

This lively event is produced by Linc Up, a Grand Rapids-based community revitalization nonprofit whose mission is transforming our region—including this Madison Square neighborhood where civic pride and history is reason enough for this celebration.

And you never know who you’ll run into at this popular Southtown event. Two years ago, I bumped into Grand Rapids’ Floyd Mayweather Jr. while strolling the festival. 

For a sneak preview of what to expect, please visit this Vimeo page for a video snapshot of the event. 
 

As We Go On: Personal narratives from (and for) Our LGBT (fund)

The power to change our world has many roads one can consider taking, but the most powerful tend to be the sharing of our personal stories from the journey.

On Saturday night a new theatrical work “As We Go On,” which originated from Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ community, will be on stage at Wealthy Theatre.

This evening of live storytelling delivered via performers on stage and those projected onto the screen is a presentation of the real life passages one goes through as a LGBTQ individual. 

The performers on stage—from young to old—tell the stories of coming and being out. These staged tales are funny, witty, sad, infuriating, uplifting, and touching, reflecting the diversity of experiences that not just our LGBTQ can relate to but, in all honesty, something others will as well.

And while “As We Go On,” like all good theater, promises to deliver greater understanding and appreciation of others lives, a portion of each ticket purchased goes to supporting the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Our LGBT Fund.

To read more about “As We Go On” please visit Cultured.GR’s article on the production. Advance tickets can be purchased here
 

38th Annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Pow Wow: “Our Future” celebrated on the Grand River

After last year’s historic Native American protest at Standing Rock (and numerous supportive events and marches locally) against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), this year is the perfect time to visit the annual Three Fires Pow Wow held at Grand Rapids’ Riverside Park.

Situated on the banks of the mighty Grand River, the 38th Annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow provides an opportunity to experience and learn about the heritage of our first people's lives at this social gathering that attracts hundreds of visitors each year.

In addition to providing booth space for folks to grab a bite to eat or to buy things from a vendor list of approved Native American crafts and designs, the year’s Pow Wow will expand upon their theme of “Our Future” via the three Grand Entries. The Grand Entry, which involves prayer, song, and dance, will occur twice on Saturday ( 1 p.m. & 6 p.m.) and once on Sunday (noon).

If you have missed this riverside Pow Wow in the past and had hoped to attend, please set aside time this weekend to learn just a bit more of the history of this place from the people who have been telling our region’s story long before most arrived here.  

Pow Wow organizers remind Rapid Growth that this is a strict drug- and alcohol-free event, so arrive sober please. They also ask that you do not bring your dog(s) to the event and under no circumstances should you leave them in the car due to the projected high 80s temperatures expected this weekend. Service dogs are always welcome at the annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow.

Loving Day Family Block Party & Film Festival: Expanding on love

What began as a one-day event, the Loving Day Celebration, an open and affirming event for multicultural, multiracial families, and their supporters, will expand to three days of unique programming this weekend.

The expanded programming arrives right as the nation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Starting at the Ladies Literary Club on Friday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m., a staged program from the Ebony Road Players (ERP), "Giving Voice to Love,” will feature local musicians, dancers, film, spoken word, and theatrical works sharing stories of identity, race, love and personal expression.

On Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., ERP will partner with downtown Grand Rapids’ Park Church (10 E. Park Place) for a block party/festival that will showcase musical performances, vendors, workshops, and plenty of children's activities. 

Organizers ask that if you wish to hang out to enjoy the musical programing that you please bring a chair. 

Once inside the church at this rain or shine event, there will be special film screenings from The Mosaic Film Experience, as well as a chance to record your voice as a part of a StoryCorps-like narrative project courtesy of Wrinkle Creative.

Finally on Sunday, June 11, at 11:45 a.m., you are invited to return to Park Church for the closing event—a broadcast of the award-winning HBO documentary, “The Loving Story.” This special screening is co-sponsored by Conversations at Park Church. A luncheon as well as a community discussion of the documentary will be a part of this final Loving Day weekend event.

All of the events are free to attend except Friday’s live "Giving Voice to Love” kick-off staged presentation, which ranges from $10 - 20. 

High Growth Happy Hour w/ Elliott Rader: Raise a glass to those who dare to dream…and do.

For those who have ever wondered if their idea was big enough to launch, High Growth Happy Hour is just the shot of inspiration you might need to get started.

Rapid Growth’s first High Growth Happy Hour welcomes Elliott Rader, one half of the team of brothers who created the snack sensation the Gluten Free Bar.  

Thursday night you will have a chance to hear firsthand from a local entrepreneur who recognized a need in society and through a steady vision and testing of their idea became something tasty and new. 

The Gluten Free Bar is not just enjoyed in 230 Meijer stores, but according to Rapid Growth’s Lauren Carlson’s article last week, “Transforming a Celiac diagnosis into a top-selling snack,” this exciting locally-produced snack “can be found in Spartan Stores, all Whole Foods groceries in the midwest, Stop 'n Shop on the east coast, Harvest Health, Kingma's, and a few Canadian and European groceries as well.”

So come mingle and have an adult beverage on us courtesy of Comcast Business at The Mitten Brewing Co. as we hear from Elliott about how an idea became a tasty product so many have come to count on to satisfy their cravings. This event is free to attend and welcoming to all.

Yolo Ride: Exploring the White Pine Trail and Creston together

For those staying in the city this Memorial Day weekend, you don’t have to feel like there is nothing going on. Despite your friends’ updates showcase some heading to the lakeshore or jetting off to some far-off destination, adventure indeed awaits here on Saturday with the return of She Rides Her Own Way’s YOLO (You Only Live Once) ride in Riverside Park.

Unlike last year’s event, this year’s YOLO ride is focussed on the Creston so you’ll get to experience the White Pine Trail but also get a tour of the neighborhood via your trail hosts.  

This year’s YOLO Ride will begin in Riverside Park with an informal meet up and registration. At 1 p.m., riders will participate in a pre-ride yoga session before hitting the White Pine Trail for a leisurely ride north before ending up at the Creston Brewery for a late lunch and some of the best new beer in the city. 

What makes Creston Brewery such a fine choice is their attention to detail with many of their brews, taking on the names of historical and region-specific activities associated with the Creston neighborhood. 

After (and depending on how you arrived at the park) you can just ride on home or pedal the short distance from the brewery back to Riverside Park. 

She Rides Her Own Way is organized by Johanna Jelks whose events are created in the hopes that these rides will help others build their confidence as many of us begin to contemplate our transportation options this summer. YOLO Ride 2017 creates yet again an opportunity for new riders and new citizens of the city to venture out and make some friends.

Local First Street Party: All things local celebrated in the streets

Judy Wicks who is credited as one of the pioneers of the “shop local” movement wrote, “Not long after I opened the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia in 1983, I hung a sign in my bedroom closet in my home above the business—right where I would see it each morning. ‘Good morning, beautiful business,’ it read, reminding me daily of just how beautiful business can be when we put our creativity, care, and energy into producing a product or service that our community needs.

I was just beginning my journey. I didn't know then what I do now: that when you connect head and heart in business, you can transform not just business as usual, but the economy in general. You can find a way to make economic exchange one of the most satisfying, meaningful, and loving of human interactions." 

There is no better way to write a description what so many local businesses are beginning to adopt and experience and it is because of Local First that this message continues to evolve and  expand this powerful message in our region of the state. 

On Saturday, June 3, the public are invited to celebrate the joys of supporting our local living economies of West Michigan via the 14th Annual Local First Street Party.

This wildly popular street festival is a chance for many of our West Michigan businesses, artists, and organizations to showcase the very best in our local music, local food, local beer, and local entertainment. (See a trend here? This is about celebrating the best of our locals.) 

And if you think that the Local First Street Party is resting on their laurels, then consider these fantastic upgrades that include a new bubble and craft table from the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, a photo booth by Smitten Booth, Happy Henna tattoos, and clearly marked access points for people with disabilities. Even Rapid Growth’s Publisher Tommy Allen will be debuting on stage this year at the festival as the event’s MC.

In addition, this year’s festival is bilingual-friendly with new signage for our Spanish-speaking attendees. Local First Street Party will once again showcase how a large festival can be a lot of fun but also create zero-waste for the environment via their partnership with the High Five—an emerging and growing small business committed to making special events greener and sustainable. (Honestly, I wish more festivals in our city took this as serious as Local First does each year.) 

Returning to the festival this year will be chalk for creating art on the sidewalks, recycled and up-cycled art from Avenue of the Arts’ Sanctuary Folk Art Gallery, interactive hula hooping with Audacious Hoops, and thrilling breakdancing performances from 61Syx Teknique Street Dance Academy. 

For a snapshot of the activities and food/beverage offerings, please see below:

Entertainment Schedule for 2017:
  • 3:00 p.m. - Yoga with AM Yoga
  • 3:30 p.m. - Molly Bouwsma-Schultz & Friends 
  • 5:00 p.m. - Wealthy & Diamond 
  • 6:00 p.m. - Hollywood Makeout 
  • 7:15 p.m. - JRob and Bedrock: The Foundation 
  • 8:30 p.m. - Cabildo 
  • 9:45 p.m. - ConvoTronics 
  • 11:00 p.m. - The Crane Wives

Food Vendors:
  • A Moveable Feast Truck
  • The Candied Yam
  • Love's Ice Cream
  • Daddy Pete's BBQ
  • The Maine Dish Food Truck
  • Patty Matters Food Truck
  • Malamiah Juice Bar
  • Mosbyspopcorn
  • What The Truck
  • Twisted Rooster Grand Rapids
  • GRPD (Grand Rapids Pizza and Delivery)

Beverage Vendors:
  • Founders Brewing Co.
  • Brewery Vivant
  • The Mitten Brewing Co.
  • Farmhaus Cider Company 
  • Free water from Gordon Water Systems

Brighton Beach Memoirs: Broadway’s wittiest goes semi-autobiographical in this classic revival

In 1983, Neil Simon, one of America’s most prolific and funniest playwrights/screenwriters debuted his semi-biographical play about his childhood in “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

What made this production stand-out, beyond the obvious of art imitating life, was the various devices Simon used to break down the theatrical fourth wall with the character speaking at times to the audience as if to let them in on the various secret backstories and thoughts of Eugene Morris Jerome, the main character.

Circle Theatre's second production of their 2017 season is set in the the early 1930s depression and features Eugene, a budding young male dreaming of baseball and girls. But this comedy about coming of age in an age of uncertainty is also a story about a family trying to navigate the hardships of their time with a steady mother, a much-overworked father, and Eugene’s very worldly older brother Stanley. 

Add to the mix a widowed Aunt Blanche, her two young (but rapidly aging) daughters, and you have all the ingredients for a wild ride of a comic play with a big heart. (Bring your tissues.)

Simon as a playwright in the 1970s and beyond always had a knack for banter and with “Brighton Beach Memoirs” he is at the top of his craft. “Brighton Beach Memoirs” would go on to win numerous awards as well as spawn a trilogy that includes “Biloxi Blues” about Eugene’s time spent in the World War II and “Broadway Bound,” where the family begins to fall apart right as his career is poised to take off.

Good theatre like “Brighton Beach Memoirs” reminds all of us of the powerful life lessons that can be seamlessly delivered via the witty dialogue and fine acting that is sure to be a part of your experience and every show at Circle Theatre’s summer season. 

Antwone Fisher: Every child is a star to be cherished

Film fans are in luck this month once again as yet  another exciting connection to the industry will be appearing in West Michigan.

This time is the chance to see Antwone Fisher speak at the Every Child is a Star to be Cherished/Michigan CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) event at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on Tuesday, May 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Antwone Fisher is the subject of the 2002 film directed by and starring Denzel Washington. But the film is rooted in Fisher’s bestselling autobiography, “Finding Fish,” that the author would adapt for the big screen. 

Born in an Ohio prison to a teenage mother, Fisher was placed in foster care with the hopes that one day he would be reunited with his mother.

As Fisher waited within the foster care system, he would be subjected to unspeakable abuse from his host family that spanned from the physical to theverbal, and sexual. 

Fisher’s book and film is about a man coming to terms with his abusive past and how, through the help of a United States Navy therapist,  he unlocked a better future.

Michigan CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) fitting choice to bring Fisher here is not just because of his heartbreaking yet inspiring story, but for the advocacy work he has performed over the years that includes book writing, public speaking, playwriting, and even testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on behalf of Child Welfare. 

This is a special one night only event benefiting our Michigan CASA organization whose mission is to reach every child who needs a court appointed special advocate. Please contact Rachel@MichiganCASA.org for details on attending.

Roll'n Out Food Truck Fest: Strolling Ionia for the best restaurant on four wheels

It has been a long road to get to our city’s food truck ordinance, but now that we have cleared the way, it is time to celebrate the joys of having more options to dine in the city (even if your favorite restaurant is housed on four wheels and is on the go).

To mark this occasion, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) in partnership with our Grand Rapids Food Truck Association (and many other community partners) want to invite you to attend the Roll'n Out Food Truck Fest to taste the best of your city in one location this Sunday.

Roll'n Out Food Truck Fest showcases the diverse offerings of our community’s food trucks and chefs along Ionia Street south of Cherry Street.

Scheduled to appear this year are What The Truck, Patty Matters, The Everyday Chef and Wife, Silver Star Cafe, RIX STIX Pronto Pup, PorkFat Slim's, Pizzaiolo Wood Fired Pizza, Pig Out on the Fly, NoLo's Soul, Moochies Dream Cream, The Maine Dish, K Gourmet Bake Shoppe, Ice Box Brand Ice Cream Bars, Gettin' Fresh, Daddy Pete's BBQ, Coffee Rescue, Cheese & Company, Brown Butter Creperie & Cafe, Blue Spoon, Big Baby's Bar-B-Que, Ananda Ice, and A Moveable Feast Truck.

Scheduled to screen this Sunday are these culinary themed films: “Ratatouille” (noon), “The Princess and the Frog” (3 p.m.), and “Chef” (5 p.m.)

You can also grab a meal and stroll down Ionia Ave. to the Downtown Market where a special Artisan Village market will be held from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. on this day. 

Scheduled to appear at the Artisan Village: 

Aron Lowe, Sarah Jean Anderson, Barbara Danger, Charis Moblo, Creative Art by Mali, Debra Van Deusen, Distinctive Designs by Judi, Henry Brown Collages, Imagination Creations, Jerry Berta, Joel Howell, Kate Lewis Ceramics, Lions & Rabbits, Nora Faber Gallery, Parliament the Boutique, Randy Finch, Ryan Wyrick, Sanctuary Folk Art Gallery, Square Peg Events, Sugar Vibe, Tributary Art Gallery, and Woosah.

You will even have a chance to vote for the best food truck. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. 

Insiders are already buzzing about the most recent win at the inaugural Friday Night Food Fight where our local food truck, The Everyday Chef and Wife, took home the Golden Food Truck Trophy this week. 

Come on down this Sunday for a taste of something refreshingly brand new and always fresh. 

Fluorescent Black: UV dance party lights up the GRAM

Who hasn’t as a kid wandered into Spencer’s and marveled at the simple joys of staring at a black light poster as the colors vibrated with life on this two dimensional surface?

If you have not experienced this feeling or you are aching for the tug of nostalgia for this hold-over gimmick from the 1960s, then you must attend Fluorescent Black—the first big part of the summer of 2017 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

The black light is actually a very dark purple, drawing its light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum, and is invisible to the human eye. However, when you place anything white (t-shirts, teeth, etc.) or brightly fluorescent colored, it suddenly becomes alive with a glow-in-the-dark quality. Cool, huh?

This event’s dance experience will be hosted by WOODTV 8’s Rachael Ruiz and is powered by the beats of DJ’s A/B, Super Dre, Todd Ernst, DJ Composition, and DJ Snax with special guest appearances from DITA ( Dance In The Annex ), Rebel Kusco, and a fashion show from Iconoclasp & A/B. 

Special pricing is available for those who purchase tickets in advance at this site or pay full price at the door (if tickets are still available.)
 
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