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‘A World Without Ice’: Final week in Traverse City with Michigan temps above 90 degrees

TRAVERSE CITY—Imagining a world without ice is, for many of us, not very difficult to do. Especially in the midst of hot and humid summers with ever-rising temperatures, icy environments can be hard to picture. 

Herein lies the importance of “A World Without Ice,” a groundbreaking, multisensory experience focusing on Earth’s changing climate on view at Traverse City’s Dennos Museum Center through July 24. 

Part science, part music, part art, this exhibit is a collaboration between Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist and University of Michigan emeritus professor Henry Pollack and U-M School of Music, Theatre and Dance professors Stephen Rush and Michael Gould, who is also a professor in the Residential College.

Pollack and Rush were both asked to speak in a lecture on creative process where Rush says he found as many ways as possible to dress up the notion of “messing around” and trying not to predict the end result of what he sets out to do. He listened to Pollack speak next and thought, interestingly, scientists work in a similar way — they don’t know how things might turn out, but they try and fail until they get where they are going.

Inspired by Pollack’s book of the same title, the group tasked themselves with expressing the issue of climate change in an audiovisual way. 

"A World Without Ice"

“A World Without Ice”

“The chief problem Henry would say is, ‘How do you get a scientist to speak a common language for people to understand what’s going on, the Anthropocene, what we are doing to the climate, and what are we doing to the planet?” Gould said. “For us it’s not red or blue, it’s just purple; we are not trying to impose any one thing about what’s going on, we’re just trying to achieve a moment of self reflection for people to come to whatever terms, on their own.”

Gould decided his contribution to the project would explore how to “sonify ice.” He did this by suspending blocks of ice over old drums and waiting for them to start melting. 

"A World Without Ice"

“A World Without Ice”

“As the day goes on, you get drips and streams of water that almost sound like a drumroll,” he said, to which he added microphones for amplification, reverb for an ethereal feel, and slotted pans for the water to drip through more methodically.

Rush wrote the score, not only as backup music to the ensemble’s percussion — the blocks of ice — but as a delivery system for data. Rush took Pollack’s book with 100 years of climate change data and created a score for piano and tuned cymbals interpreting that data through music; notes will rise a step or half-step in accordance with temperatures increasing through time. There is no stopping the ice as the star of the show, though. 

“The ice domes all have a personality and a rhythm of their own, and that creates an interesting structure,” Rush said. “So at the end of the work, the music that plays behind this piece cuts out to create space for an ice ‘drum solo’ and it is a really cool way to celebrate randomness.”

A video created by visual artist Marion Tränkle accompanies the score and the ice drumming to immerse the viewer in an audiovisual experience; the sights and sounds of climate change.

"A World Without Ice"

“A World Without Ice”

The importance of infusing art into different areas of study is one that is of particular importance to Gould. 

“Steve and I wrote a class together called Creative Process, which got together engineers, the art school, architecture school and the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, to explore how the creative process works across different disciplines,” he said. 

“I’m really interested in trying to capture students who don’t think the arts have a certain relevancy in what they do, but in actuality it will help not only sustain them as a human, but also deepen how they look at themselves and others on the planet, and how they look at their work. There is creativity in all fields, and harnessing that perspective will help you grow as an expert in whatever field you study.”

The installation has its final week in Traverse City at the same time the U-M Board of Regents ascend upon the city for their July meeting.

U-M Humanities exhibition explores aging, identity and labor

The University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities presents “Beautiful By Night,” an exhibition by Chicago-based photographer, filmmaker, and visual artist James Hosking. The photo series and documentary project is about the veteran drag performers at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a small bar that has had an outsized influence on San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community for more than twenty years.

Sadly, it is now the last gay bar in the area. The project captures the performers Donna Personna, Olivia Hart, and Collette LeGrande as they transform at home, backstage, and onstage. It is a candid exploration of aging, identity, and labor.


According to curator Amanda Krugliak, the timely work reveals not only the multiple dimensions of the protagonists, but also our skewed perceptions and value judgments in regards to aging, identity, class, and work.

“The artist and documentarian James Hosking lived in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood from 2010 to 2018, during which time he created the series of photographs and video Beautiful By Night. The exhibition presents intimate portraits of three long-time drag performers at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a small bar that has been so meaningful to San Franciso’s LGBTQ+ community for decades, and is now literally the last surviving gay bar in the neighborhood,” Krugliak said.

“The project is a deftly crafted and sensitive homage to performers Donna Personna, Olivia Hart, and Collette LeGrande. The images show us complicated, sometimes messy, multi-dimensional people in their environments, taking us from backstage to front and center, from the routine to the out of this world. Hosking’s focus on small details, the nuances of color, or the particularity of light, result in an expansive vision. As viewers, we feel the closeness of Hosking’s relationships to Donna, Olivia, and Collette, and, in turn, we also feel for them. They are the protagonists of their own stories, both everyday and extraordinary, and we are their rapt audience.”

Some of artist James Hosking’s photos featured as part of the U-M Institute for the Humanities exhibition, “Beautiful By Night.”

James Hosking’s portraiture explores underseen LGBTQ+ communities and subcultures. He often combines multiple images to explore sequentiality and juxtaposition. In recent work, he prints on fabric and acrylic, as well as collages with archival material, vernacular photos, and found textures.

His work was included in the 2020 exhibition Come to Your Census at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and he had a multi-year collaboration with the city’s Tenderloin Museum that featured screenings, public programming, and a solo exhibition. His work has been screened internationally and has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostMother Jones, and many other publications.

He collaborated with National Book Award-winning writer William T. Vollmann on a portfolio about transgender women for Port magazine. His work has received support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts program

Beautiful By Night will be on view through February 21, 2022 at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery. The Institute for the Humanities Gallery is located at located at 202 S. Thayer St., Ann Arbor, and is free and open to the public from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays.

Related Events:

Wednesday February 16, 6:30 PM joing the Institute for the Humanities for a special viewing of James Hosking’s film, “Beautiful By Night” with guests, protagonists, and queens Donna Personna and Olivia Hart in the Thayer Academic Building.

Filmmaker got their start early with VHS camcorder

As a teenager, Charli Brissey shot videos of family members and friends with a large VHS camcorder.

It was the beginning of an award-winning filmmaking career that mixes dance, science, technology, live-action and animation with innovation.

Brissey, who uses they and them pronouns, is an assistant professor of dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. They love both dance and film, and said the latter allows them to express their creativity in new ways.

“What I like about filmmaking, it’s a different kind of palette of options,” Brissey said. “I can sort of bend time and space in ways I can’t do with dance.”

Part of Brissey’s video work, Revolution Study 1, 2016.

Brissey’s films have been presented in galleries, conferences, film festivals and performance venues around the world. Many of them include queer content or content centered around movement and dance.

The films are often categorized as experimental, meaning that they have a non-traditional narrative and are usually driven more by visual or kinetic qualities rather than a particular storyline.

One of their most recent projects, the video-animation hybrid film “Canis Major,” is about a writer who has writer’s block but is able to get through it with the help of their dog. The film toured to 17 countries and won multiple awards, including Best Experimental Film at OUTFEST and the Richmond International Film Festival.

Brissey doesn’t follow a set process or pattern when making a film.

“It’s always different. It’s always incredibly nonlinear or unplanned,” Brissey said. “I don’t do big storyboards. I don’t pre-plan a lot of content or editing. A lot of the actual shooting and editing is done pretty improvisationally, and it often changes as I go.”

Brissey’s love of filmmaking started in middle school.

“I had a big camcorder I would lug to school every day. I would write scripts and make my friends be the actors,” they said.

Brissey earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance at Virginia Commonwealth University and went on to study kinetic imaging there.

“That’s when I really dove into experimental video work and integrating my dance training with my filmmaking desires and skills,” they said.

Brissey has two master’s degrees, in kinetic imaging and in dance. They have worked at U-M since 2018 teaching film, composition and technique classes in the dance department.

Promotional image for “Future Fish.”

Brissey’s latest project, “future fish,” is set to premiere in March at the Jam Handy in Detroit. It is a live-performance iteration of “Agua Viva,” a multiyear research project exploring the choreography of oceans, water systems and the deep-sea floor as potentially radical sites for reimagining the terrestrial future.

Brissey and an MFA dance student will perform in the piece as the last two fish left in the sea. They hope to tour the East Coast and Midwest with “future fish” later this year.

Brissey also has a book project. “Dance We Must: Choreographies of Space, Time, and Emergent Matter(s)” integrates auto theory, speculative fiction and movement scores from U.S.-based dance artists to illuminate the potential of choreographic thinking in creating social-political-ecological landscapes.

Looking ahead, Brissey plans to continue finding new ways to reach people with their art.

“I want to keep making live performances and I want to keep making film work, so on stage and on screen, and just figuring out new ways to present all of that kind of work during the pandemic, and to engage audiences across geographies,” they said.


What memorable moment in the workplace stands out?

Last winter I had an outdoor film shoot with dance majors where we put up a greenscreen in a foot of snow and danced on a tarp. It was the only way to make it happen because of COVID-19, and it was totally absurd and fantastic. Such a glimmer of joy amid so much loss and sadness. That project really helped me (us?) push through that awful pandemic winter.

What can’t you live without?

Dogs, books, good coffee, sparkling water, hats, copy editors.

Name your favorite spot on campus.  

I don’t know if this counts, but I really love Sava’s. It’s one of the first restaurants I went to during my campus visit, and whenever I have guest artists, visiting scholars or friends in town we almost always meet up there at the end of the workday. It’s become this place I definitely associate with work, but the funner side of work. The more social “after hours” part of the job that allows for different kinds of connections and conversations.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by people who are bold and risky and hungry for new ideas. It doesn’t necessarily even matter what the project content is. It could be anything from food to quantum physicals to films. When people are really into what they’re doing — especially when it involves something bigger than just themselves — I find that energy very intoxicating.

What are you currently reading?

I tend to read many things at once. At the moment the two taking up most of my time are “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado and “A Body in Crisis” by Christine Greiner.

Who had the greatest influence on your career path?

I learned a lot about being an artist in academia from my mentors in grad school: Jennifer Monson, Tere O’Connor, Cynthia Oliver and Sara Hook. Without them I’d be a mess right now. Also Octavia Butler. Whenever I start feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing, Butler always gets me through.

This story was originally posted on The University Record. 

Henry Ford’s ghost confronts complex legacy in new film by U-M professor

ANN ARBOR—Why did you undermine Edsel? How did the “working man’s friend” become the enemy of Labor? Why did you hate Jews? 

Writer/Director/Composer, Andy Kirshner

These are three of the 10 questions posed to the ghost of Henry Ford in a new film produced, written and directed by Andy Kir­sh­ner, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design and School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Part documentary, part biopic, 10 Ques­tions for Henry Ford follows Ford’s character, played by actor John Lepard, on a journey through the modern-day, post-industrial landscape of southeast Michigan, juxtaposing it with historical footage and photographs from 1914-41, Ford’s period of greatest public influence. The film also features several dance sequences choreographed by Debbie Williams, reflecting on Ford’s passion for “traditional” music and dance.

The 67-minute-long feature-length film is set to premiere Nov. 6 at the Ojai Film Fes­ti­val and will be avail­able on-demand virtually through the festival’s website to national audiences Nov. 9-14.

To piece together the film, Kirshner poured through Ford’s personal notebooks, letters and documents, as well as newspaper clips, interviews, photographs, video footage and oral histories. He found them in various historical archives, including the National Archives, the Benson Ford Research Center at the Henry Ford Museum, the U-M Bentley Historical Library and the Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archives at Temple Beth El.

“The presentation of it is very unique because the dialogue is completely based on words and ideas expressed by Ford,” said Kirshner, who began research for the film in 2016. “In some cases, we’re ‘guessing’ what he would have said based on how he is documented to have responded to personal and historical events throughout his life, and in others, we hear his words verbatim.”  

It opens with Ford’s ghost (Lepard) watching footage from his own public memorial viewing at Greenfield Village in 1947, where he comments that he could have made the process for the mile-long line of mourners waiting to see his casket “much more efficient.” 

The scene, which uses actual historical footage Kirshner found in the National Archives, is a technique that he utilizes throughout the film. As Ford (Lepard) glances toward a clearing at his Fair Lane estate in Dearborn, the focus shifts to a clip—or memory—of him there with his grandchildren and wife, Clara; as he approaches the Ford River Rouge Plant, footage of the violent Battle of the Overpass, where members of the United Auto Workers clashed with Ford Motor Co. security guards, flashes onto the screen. 

Ford Motor Company Servicemen beat Richard Frankensteen, a UAW organizer, during the “Battle of the Overpass”, Dearborn, MI.

Scenes were shot over the course of three years at various locations in southeast Michigan, including Greenfield Village in Dearborn, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, the Highland Park Model T plant, the remaining Willow Run Bomber Plant building in Ypsilanti, and the site of Ford’s first workshop at 58 Bagley Ave. in downtown Detroit. Viewers will also notice Detroit scenes shot inside the People Mover, outside of Michigan Central Station and at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals—commissioned by Ford’s late son, Edsel—can still be found. 

The picture that Kirshner paints of Ford is brutally honest. At the heart of his exploration into the American icon is a series of inflammatory anti-Semitic articles that he published in the 1920s through his personal newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Blaming Jews for everything from World War I and economic depression to short skirts and the corrupting influence of Jazz, Ford’s publications quickly spread around the world—and to Germany, where they became enormously popular. Adolf Hitler praised Ford as “the leader of our fascist movement in America,” and awarded him a medal. 

“On one hand, you have this person who accepted a medal from one of the worst people in human history, and on the other hand, he described himself as a pacifist,” said Kirshner, who also composed the music for the film. “In fact, there is existing correspondence between Henry Ford and Gandhi.”  

The ghost of Henry Ford (John Lepard) kills time on Detroit’s “People Mover”

Another theme explored throughout the film is Ford’s relationship with his son, Edsel, whom he was close to as a child, but increasingly estranged from as an adult. According to Kirshner, oral histories in the archives showed that the two grew further apart as time went by, especially as their differences in politics, management style and personality came to light.

“During the years that I worked on this film, I was constantly struck by how similar that world was to the one we find ourselves in today, he said. “As is the case in our current historical moment, Ford’s era was a period of enormous technological and social change, marked by political demagoguery, anti-immigrant exclusionism, economic inequality and domestic terrorism.”

The lingering ghost of Henry Ford wanders Detroit in 2021

As the film progresses, each of the “10 questions” is posed to Ford’s ghost as he encounters ruins of his former factories, the resilient beauty of the Rouge River, the violent legacy of his own words and insistent memories of his son.

According to Kirshner, each “answer” is layered and complicated. 

“The film is a musi­cal-visual-chore­o­graphic rumi­na­tion on the ways in which the lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive ghosts of the past still haunt us,” he said. “I believe that we need to deconstruct the myths and the icons of American history in order to explore the complexity of these people who have been presented to us only as heroes or villains—and also to fully understand ourselves.”

U-M’s ‘Daisy Chain’ project explores post-pandemic perspectives of national and regional artists

ANN ARBOR—In this time of reentry, when we are cautiously emerging from a year in isolation and also merging back into action at breakneck speed, a new video zine by the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery offers the opportunity for contemplation in its assemblage of artists, art and ideas.

Daisy Chain” is presented as a compilation of short vignettes documenting the candid and illuminating perspectives of nine national and regional artists as the world opens back up. According to project collaborators, the title refers to the traditional string of daisies threaded together by their stems, as well as the contemporary wiring scheme of the same name used in electronics and engineering. 

It was released at noon June 30 via the institute’s YouTube channel

“‘Daisy Chain’ explores the ties that bind us, the past and the future, and the loose ends,” said Amanda Krugliak, curator of the U-M Institute for the Humanities. “Perhaps as important, it alludes to surprising and new combinations, and a renewed capacity to find joy.”

For the project, which is 35 minutes long, Krugliak interviews artists with diverse experiences, perspectives and practices. She asked each of them the same series of questions: How do you feel you are emerging from the past year? What kind of world are you trying to build for the future? How are you thinking about responsiveness and responsibility? Are there any creative strategies you have identified moving forward?

Their answers—along with images of their work—have been strung together visually in one video, one artist connecting to another in sequence. The video was co-produced and edited by gallery project coordinator Juliet Hinely.

“This may be my favorite project of the year,” said Krugliak, who launched “House Calls” at the outset of the pandemic, a streaming series that offered virtual studio visits with artists. “So much has happened over the last year and their responses go against the rhetoric of the day, really getting at the heart of the matter from so many perspectives. The artists talk candidly about working through the past year, while also discussing the intersection of ideas surrounding systemic racism, health and our responsibilities to one another.”

Participating artists include Ruth Leonela Buentello (San Antonio), Abigail DeVille (New York City), Hubert Massey (Detroit), Shanna Merola (Hamtramck, Michigan), Scott Northrup (Detroit/Dearborn, Michigan) David Opdyke (New York City), Shani Peters (New Orleans), Sheida Soleimani (Providence, Rhode Island) and Jeffrey Augustine Songco (Grand Rapids, Michigan). 

This project is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


U-M Maverick Nancy Savoca featured in TCM Classic Film Festival 2021

Nancy Savoca, a celebrated director, producer and screenwriter whose archive is part of the University of Michigan Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection, has been selected to be a part of the Turner Classic Movies annual TCM Classic Film Festival 2021.

The festival will take place virtually on TCM and HBO Max May 8–9, and will feature a screening of Savoca’s 1991 film “Dogfight,” a coming-of-age drama starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. Based on Bob Comfort’s novel, the film, set in late 1963 just prior to the assassination of JFK, centers on a group of Vietnam-bound army recruits who decide to play a prank on unsuspecting women by hosting a dance at a local bar on the eve before their departure. As part of the premise, whomever brought the ugliest date to the dance won the contest—or the “dogfight.”

Nancy Savoca donated her papers to U-M in 2016.

“Savoca’s take on the heartless, cruel and misogynistic behavior of the male characters belies what most might have done with the story,” said Philip Hallman, curator of U-M’s Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection. “Savoca does not dismiss them or relegate them as buffoons or one-dimensional characters. Rather Dogfight shows off her innate ability to find the humanity within all her characters, to understand what drives and motivates them by concentrating on what makes them authentic—warts and all.”

According to Hallman, the film was critically well-received at the time of its initial release, however Warner Bros., its distributor, failed to market it in a way that connected with audiences.

A veteran filmmaker, Savoca became the first female “maverick” to join the popular collection when she donated her personal archive, which spans more than 25 years of her career, to U-M in Feb. 2016.

Her work exists alongside the papers of notable independent filmmakers including Orson Welles, Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph, John Sayles and Jonathan Demme, as well as distributors Ira Deutchman and Robert Shaye.

This “Dogfight” storyboard sketch is an example of one of the many items that can be found in Savoca’s archive that is part of the U-M Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers Collection.

Savoca’s papers, which include photographs, storyboard sketches, budgets and other items related to the making of “Dogfight” are part of the U-M Library Special Collection Research Center. Her work was the subject of a class in the LSA’s department of Screen Arts & Cultures in 2019 which concluded with a student-curated exhibition and screenings at the Michigan Theater’s Cinetopia Film Festival.

“Kudos to TCM for including Savoca’s unsung and underrated gem in their annual film festival,” said Hallman. “You can see through her papers in the archive how hard Nancy fought to make it her film. She was hired by Warner Bros to direct a script by someone else but over and over again you see edits, changes and tweaks that show her push to make it more genuine, more authentic and overall a more moving and touching film.”

This is the second year that Turner Classic Movies, which has held a popular four-day classic film series every year since 2010 in Los Angeles, has presented their festival virtually. As part of the “extras” that will be made available alongside selected films, Savoca will join TCM festival host and author of The Female Gaze Alicia Malone and Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu for a discussion about the themes and the making of it.

Dogfight will be available to watch throughout the month of May.

Stamps 2021 Big Idea Award goes to senior Phoebe Danaher

To pass as a gangster in most crime stories, Phoebe Danaher (BFA ’21) says a man has to present himself as a fantastical archetype — hyper-masculine, without mercy, and above the law. But when this character is a trans man in the early 1900s, that archetype becomes fraught with vulnerability and potential danger.

Danaher plans to explore conflicts like these, as well as the historical representation of queer and trans people in Charlie Blood, her new, original TV series about a transgender brothel owner set in early 1900s Chicago. Danaher is the recipient of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design’s 2021 Big Idea Award, providing $25,000 to a graduating senior to jump start what Penny Stamps referred to as their “big idea” in her 2018 commencement speech.

Upon graduation, Danaher is eager to accelerate production on the show, including art direction, talent, location, and post-production. Her goal is to complete a presentation package used to pitch Charlie Blood to cable networks and streaming services. Hiring and filming for the package will be done in Greater Detroit.

Concept cast illustrations of Constantina Lovelace and Lionel Greenberg by Phoebe Danaher.

Charlie Blood, the show’s title character, was partly inspired by the 2015 film Legend, a biographical drama about twin brothers working in London’s criminal underground in the 1960s. Watching the film, Danaher was struck by how important the brothers’ identity as gangsters was to their success.

“They had to look the part and behave the part,” she says. “That really interested me — to have that knowledge of what the image has to be and have to live up to it.”

Through her research, Danaher started to see gangster fiction as a form of masculine fantasy with parallels to themes related to trans identity, which she started exploring through the character of Charlie.

“Basically, it’s a fantasy about power,” Danaher says. “I think that kind of trans-masculine fantasy and a gangster-masculine fantasy completely work together. And that’s the show.”

Phoebe Danaher

Danaher is not only the show’s creator, writer, executive producer, and art director, but she’ll also take on her first acting role as Charlie. She and her cast started filming test scenes via Zoom earlier this month.

Her entire U-M career seems to be culminating in the production; while focused on textiles work at Stamps, Danaher also completed an art history degree with a focus on period clothing through U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) and an honors thesis about the image of the male criminal in turn-of-the-century Chicago. She also took several screenwriting courses through LSA’s Department of Film, Television, and Media (FTVM), and after graduation, she plans to earn her master’s in management from the Ross School of Business to sharpen her executive producing skills.

In addition to the Big Idea Award, Danaher recently won an $8,750 Hopwood Screenplay Award and $1,500 Naomi Saferstein Literary Award for her script The Millertown Vessel. Last month, she was the only Stamps senior invited to join Phi Beta Kappa, the United States’ oldest and most well known honor society.

As a student of history, staying true to Charlie Blood’s 1901 time period is important to Danaher, a priority expressed in every aspect of the production, from the set designs to the costumes, to the characters’ language. Charlie Blood isn’t meant to be an alternate history, but an attempt to portray a wider view of it than was recorded.

Another inspiration for the series comes from Emily Skidmore’s True Sex: The Lives of Trans Men at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. The book’s nonfiction accounts of low-profile trans men assimilating into mainstream culture in an age with less formal documentation.

“If you could pass reasonably well, you could build a life for yourself,” Danaher says. The book made her wonder what other stories might have never been told — stories that didn’t necessarily end with an eventual public outing, persecution, and even court trial, like the men in the book faced.

Original wallpaper design by Danaher for Charlie Blood.

She’s not following Charlie’s career path, but as a trans individual of Irish-Italian heritage with a strong relationship with her religious father, Danaher considers the show to be a “work of fiction as autobiography.”

While the show will explore queerness from diverse perspectives, including that of a black Australian trans woman and a Jewish gay cisgender man, Danaher says the story is ultimately an American one rooted in timeless themes of royalty, sex, consumption, secrecy, violence, wealth, and religion. Charlie’s troubles are less based in his being trans than continually “kicking the hornet’s nest.”

“I am very wary of having the show be this really easy thing to define, because then you make it one dimensional,” Danaher says. “At the end of the day, it just has to be a really good story.”


Capitalizing on collective nostalgia: U-M expert discusses why film, TV reboots are here to stay

From “The Wonder Years,” “Sex and the City” and “Frazier” to “Home Alone,” “Scarface” and “Dirty Dancing,” news has been swirling with announcements and new details related to reboots of popular television shows and movies.

Just this month, two recent major motion picture releases—”Mortal Kombat” and “Godzilla vs. Kong”—have also reimagined popular films of the past.

According to Daniel Herbert, associate professor of film, television, and media at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Hollywood’s somewhat recent obsession with reboots is as much about the money they generate as it is with the audience’s obsession with nostalgia.

Herbert recently co-edited the book “Film Reboots,” a collection of essays that brings together the latest developments in the study of serial formatting practices—which also includes remakes, sequels and series. Examining notable examples such as “Batman,” “Ghostbusters,” “Star Trek” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” among others, the collection contends with some of the most important features of contemporary film and media culture today.

In addition to recent news about upcoming reboots and releases, Herbert is available to speak about these and other related topics as the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony approaches.

How would you define a reboot?

It is a new way of thinking about how Hollywood repackages and recycles material. At the turn of the millennium, we used the term “remake,” but it wasn’t met with a lot of positivity. Rebooting is a lot like remaking a film, but better. We are thirsty to see new versions of stories we think we know, and sometimes that can be because of changing technology or because of new actors playing James Bond or Batman. We as a culture are ambivalent about how we feel about seeing old ideas over and over again. The reboot is a careful negotiation between media makers and audiences that, yes, we’ll be seeing the same ideas, but we all agree that it will be new enough to be good. 

It seems as if we hear about a new reboot every other week. Why has it become an increasingly popular phenomenon? 

There are a lot of reasons for this. There is obviously the nostalgia of the experience of watching a character you know or seeing what has happened to them since you last left them. But there are also very relevant reasons to reboot something from the past. For example, “Gossip Girl” was perfect for the moment it aired, but it has to be reimagined now because the technological landscape in which the show existed has come to pass. We’ve also undergone tremendous and rapid changes around the issues of identity and representation that is sparking a lot of reboots. One of the essays in the book talks about the casting of females and people of color in lead roles as Disney’s performance of social justice, even if we can say that it is flawed or problematic. Another talks about “Creed,” which picks up the “Rocky” franchise with a Black protagonist. Rebooting is a way to rectify the past, where characters weren’t treated with the nuance and sensitivity that audiences demand now.

While reboots are a way to address cultural and social change over time, are there any downsides to bringing old ideas back in new ways again and again?

Part of the problem with reboots is—as audiences, we have to accept the fact that we want familiarity. We like to think that we want original stuff more than we really do. On the other hand, reboots are generally monetarily successful. There’s a real economic incentive to make us want these familiar things. Disney, Warner Brothers and others, they’re really in the intellectual property warehouse business. They make movies, television, etc., because they have a bunch of IP and they’re looking to turn it into money. Essentially they’re taking assets they already have and commercializing them over and over again. However, Hollywood and the recycling of existing IP is actually a creatively conservative endeavor. 

Any thoughts on the Academy Awards nominees as we head into this weekend?

The Oscar nominations this year are wonderfully original, generally. What’s happening right now is interesting though. Warner just released “Mortal Kombat” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and they both recycle/reboot old material. This is only notable because studios are releasing so few new movies, and two of the very few “new” movies are actually old.

Do you have any favorite reboots? Why?

The 2009 “Star Trek” reboot with Chris Pine—I thought that was amazing. They managed to create a sense of fun and excitement in that film that wasn’t there before. I think the Batman films by Christopher Nolan are pretty fantastic. “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”—they are solid movies whether or not they have a super hero in them. Another really interesting one is the “Fargo” TV series. That one is unbelievably great because each season is totally distinct; it has its own vibe and plot, but it makes me as a viewer believe that it’s in the same world as the original. The plots never have anything to do with the original film, it just builds off of it. Those kinds of reboots are the best because they’re unexpected, yet familiar.

Celebrating U-M alumnae for Women’s History Month

Throughout the month of March 2021, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting trailblazing University of Michigan alumnae in a variety of arts and cultural fields. From the Brady Bunch to Saturday Night Live, and Superman, bookmark this tab or follow us on Instagram to learn more about how these pioneering U-M women have shaped our culture.


Renowned opera singer Jessye Norman (1945–2019). Norman, who earned her Master of Music at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance in 1968, was one of the world’s most celebrated performing artists, acclaimed for her performances in a wide range of leading roles with the world’s premier opera companies, in solo recitals, and in concerts of her cherished classical repertoire with preeminent orchestras all over the globe.

A bonafide opera star who was unafraid to venture onto stages beyond the genre, Norman was often called upon to perform at many of the world’s most important events. She sang at the second inaugurations of Presidents Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton; at Queen Elizabeth’s 60th birthday celebration; at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta; at the 200th anniversary celebration of the French Revolution; and at a ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11 when two monumental columns of light were unveiled at the site of the former World Trade Center. Read more.


Ann B. Davis (1926–2014) was an American actress who achieved prominence for her role in the NBC situation comedy The Bob Cummings Show (1955–59), ahead of playing the part she was best known for: Alice Nelson, the housekeeper in ABC’s “The Brady Bunch” (1969–74).

As Alice, Davis, a 1948 U-M graduate, carved out a special place in pop culture history. She would go on to reprise the role in spinoffs and specials once the show ended its five-season run; she would create a cookbook based on recipes related to the show; she would star in a Swiffer ad. 

Davis’s journey to fame and a 1970’s version of fortune is highlighted throughout the collection of her papers and photographs that were recently added to the U-M Bentley Historical Library’s collection. She grew up in Schenectady, New York, where she, her twin sister, and their brother and parents performed variety shows in their living room. The twin Davis girls then moved to Ann Arbor, where Ann decided to study pre-med before switching to speech and drama. The rest is history.


Nancy Pearl is an American librarian, best-selling author, and literary critic who graduated with her BA at U-M in 1965 before going on to earn her master’s in library science in 1967. In addition to having her own action figure, which comes with a stack of books and her finger to her lips mouthing “Shhhhh,” she is known for her reviews books on NPR’s “Morning Edition”; was named Librarian of the Year in 2011 by Library Journal; and, at 72, saw the publication of her first novel, “George & Lizzie,” set in Ann Arbor. She is well known for recommending books to readers through her “Book Lust” series.

Pearl was raised in Detroit, Michigan and, by her own account, spent much time of her childhood at the public library. Her decision to become a librarian started at the age of 10 with the inspiration of the children’s librarian at her local public library. She credits books and librarians with helping her through a difficult childhood: “It’s not too much of an exaggeration—if it’s one at all—to say that reading saved my life.” She earned her master’s in library science at the University of Michigan (1967) and became a children’s librarian in her hometown library system before moving on to other libraries.


Gilda Radner (1946–1989) was an actress and comedienne who was one of the seven original cast members for Saturday Night Live (SNL). In her routines, Radner created unforgettable characters, including misinformed news commentator Roseanne Roseannadanna. In 1978, she won an Emmy Award for her performances on the show. She also portrayed those characters in her highly successful one-woman show “Gilda Live” on Broadway in 1979. Radner’s SNL work established her as an iconic figure in the history of American comedy.

Radner was born and raised in Detroit, MI, and attended U-M from 1964–1970 while studying education. After she lost her life to ovarian cancer in 1989, her husband Gene Wilder carried out her personal wish that information about her illness would help other cancer victims. He established the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai to screen high-risk candidates (such as women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent) and to run basic diagnostic tests. He testified before a Congressional committee that Radner’s condition had been misdiagnosed and that if doctors had inquired more deeply into her family background, they might have attacked the disease earlier.

She was posthumously awarded a Grammy Award in 1990; was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1992; and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.


Barbara Ess (1944–2021), who passed away earlier this month, was an avant-garde musician and photographer who was widely known for her large-scale ambient works shot with a pinhole camera.

Ess graduated from U-M in 1969 with a degree in philosophy and English literature. In a varied career rooted in the downtown Manhattan art scene of the 1970s and ’80s, Ms. Ess sang and played guitar and bass in Y Pants, The Static and other “No Wave” bands, and was also known for publishing an influential mixed-media zine.

She taught at Bard College from 1997 until her death and continued to release music, playing in the three-woman band Ultra Vulva and participating in a project called “Radio Guitar” with her friend, the video artist Peggy Ahwesh.


Christine Dakin is an American dancer, teacher, director, and a foremost exponent of the Martha Graham repertory and technique. Dakin graduated from U-M in 1972, and in addition to dance, she majored in French and Russian studies. She is known for her performances of Ms. Graham’s roles and for those created for her by Martha Graham and artists such as Robert Wilson, Twyla Tharp and Martha Clarke.

Performing in the principal theaters of the world, partnered by renowned artists such as Rudolf Nureyev, she was chosen by Graham for the company in 1976. Dakin became its associate artistic director in 1997 and was named artistic director with Terese Capucilli in 2002. Leading the company to its rebirth, they are credited with bringing the artistic excellence and repertory of the Company to a level not seen since Martha Graham’s death. They were both named Artistic Directors Laureate.

On the faculty of The Juilliard School since 1993, she is currently also on faculty at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater School in New York, and is known internationally as a teacher and guest artist.


Celeste Ng is an award-winning writer and novelist. Her first novel, “Everything I Never Told You” (2014), was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named “best book of the year” by over a dozen publications. The novel, which drew on her personal experiences of racism as well as her relationships with family and friends, took six years to write. It was the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the ALA’s Alex Award. It has been translated into over thirty languages and is currently being adapted for the screen.

Celeste’s second novel, “Little Fires Everywhere(2017) was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1 Indie Next bestseller, and Amazon’s Best Fiction Book of 2017. It has spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list, in part due to the well-known mini-series of the same name released on Hulu last year, which stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Ng is one of the show’s producers.

Ng grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, the setting of her second novel. She attended graduate school at U-M, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts in writing in 2004 (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program). While at U-M, Ng won the Hopwood Award for her short story “What Passes Over.”


Lucy Liu is an award-winning actress, producer, director, artist and social justice advocate who has worked in both television and film. 

Liu was a transfer student and a member of the Chi Omega sorority at U-M, where she graduated with a BA in Asian languages and cultures in 1990. Without prior acting experience, she auditioned for a small part in a Basement Arts production of “Alice in Wonderland” at U-M and walked away with the lead during her senior year.

After beginning her career by guest-starring on numerous television series episodes, including “The X-Files,” “NYPD Blue,” and “ER,” Liu has gained popularity through many other characters such as ill-mannered lawyer Ling Woo in “Ally McBeal,” and Viper in the “Kung Fu Panda” animated movies. She once said in a 1990 New York Times interview that “There aren’t many Asian roles, and it’s very difficult to get your foot in the door.” She went on to star in many blockbuster films like “Kill Bill,” “Charlie’s Angels”, “Chicago,” “Lucky Number Slevin,” “Domino”…the list goes on. Lucy Liu became the second Asian-American woman with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Liu is also an accomplished visual artist, often producing art and exhibitions under the pseudonym Lu Ying, her Chinese name. She given to, raised money for, and has served a spokesperson for many different causes, including breast cancer research, global human trafficking, UNICEF, and The Human Rights Campaign.


Jesmyn Ward is a novelist, scholar, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, and is the only woman and only African American to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice. 

Ward received her MFA in Creative Writing from the U-M Helen Zell Writers Program in 2005. Shortly afterwards, she and her family became victims of Hurricane Katrina. Empathizing with the struggle of the survivors and coming to terms with her own experience during the storm, Ward was unable to write creatively for three years – the time it took her to find a publisher for her first novel, “Where the Line Bleeds.” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called Ward “a fresh new voice in American literature” who “unflinchingly describes a world full of despair but not devoid of hope.” Her second novel “Salvage the Bones” drew from her experiences of surviving Katrina, and won her a 2012 Alex Award and the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction. She also won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction for her novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing.”

Ward, who wrote a memoir about the loss of her brother “The Men We Reap” (2013), recently penned an essay in Vanity Fair about the recent loss of her husband:  “Even in a pandemic, even in grief, I found myself commanded to amplify the voices of the dead that sing to me, from their boat to my boat, on the sea of time.”

She is currently an associate professor of English at Tulane University.


Kapila Vatsyayan (1928–2020) was a leading educator and scholar of Indian classical dance, art, architecture and art history. Vatsyayan, who has been described as the ‘grand matriarch’ of cultural research, served as a former member of parliament and bureaucrat in India, and was a lifetime trustee of the Indian International Centre.

Apart from being scholar and dancer – trained in Kathak and Manipuri – she also advised several governments on education and culture. She held several posts in the Government of India and in institutions such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, of which she was the founding director.

In 1970, Vatsyayan received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honor conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s national academy for music, dance and drama; and in 1995, was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship, the highest honor in the fine arts conferred by Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s national academy for fine arts. In 2011, the Government of India bestowed upon her the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor.

Vatsyayan completed her MA in education at U-M and wrote nearly 20 books on different forms of art and their histories during her storied career. Notable works include “The Square and the Circle of Indian Arts” (1997), “Bharata: The Natya Sastra” (2006), “Dance in Indian Painting” (2004), “Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts” (2007), and “Transmissions and Transformations: Learning Through the Arts in Asia” (2011).


Leslie Newman (1939–2021) is a screenwriter and author who co-wrote the first three Superman films with her husband and collaborator David Newman.

 She also wrote a novel titled “Gathering Force” (Simon & Schuster, 1974), and a best-selling cookbook titled “Feasts: Menus for Home-cooked Celebrations” (HarperCollins, 1990). 

She graduated from U-M in 1960—which is where she met her husband—and they went on to write more than a dozen motion pictures together. According to U-M FTVM professor emeritus Frank Beaver, “their collective interpretation of Jerome Siegel’s and Joseph Shuster’s original comic-book characters dared to mix narrative styles: action-adventure, satire, and screwball comedy with mythic and religious themes,” and all went on to enjoy commercial success.

In a 1981 interview with People Magazine following the summer after the release of Superman II, which grossed $190M, Newman said: “I identify with Lois Lane because it’s possible to be madly in love with a guy and want to settle down, and still want to have a career.” Sadly, Newman passed away in January this year.


Julia Wolfe is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer whose music has been said to “reimagine classical forms by mixing minimalist patterns and the driving energy of folk and rock genres.”

Wolfe learned piano as a teenager but only began to study music seriously after taking a musicianship class at U-M, where she received a B.A. in music and theater from @umichrc as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1980. 

Distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power, Wolfe’s music pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from anyone who listens. Her 2019 large-scale work for orchestra and women’s chorus, “Fire in my mouth,” has received extensive acclaim for being “commandingly imaginative and emotively potent.” 

A 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Wolfe is also co-founder/co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can. Founded in 1987 and called “the country’s most important vehicle for contemporary music” by the San Francisco Chronicle, the organization focuses on the presentation of new concert music, and has presented hundreds of musical events worldwide. 

Wolfe is the current artistic director and professor of music at NYU Steinhardt Music Composition.


Nina Davuluri is a television host, public speaker, and advocate who won Miss America 2014. She was the first contestant of Indian descent to win the competition, and only the second Asian American to be crowned. 

While at U-M, she was a Sigma Kappa/Alpha Mu, was on the Dean’s List, and in 2011, graduated with a B.S. in brain behavior and cognitive science.

Though Davuluri competed and won as Miss New York, the first pageant she won was Miss St. Joseph at age 16 in St. Joseph, MI—where she moved to at age 10. This period of her life would influence her future Miss American platform, “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency,” as its goal is to confront bullying by actively learning to talk about diversity in an open and respectful way. 

Drawing on her background in Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam, Davuluri danced to the song “Dhoom Taana” from the film “Om Shanti Om” for her Miss America talent performance. Her routine marked the first time Bollywood appeared on the Miss America stage. After being crowned Miss America, she said that she was told that she was “never going to win with a Bollywood talent” and was encouraged to “go back to singing” if she was serious about winning.”

Since her 2014 win, Davuluri has worked as a public speaker and advocate for diversity, gender equality, and the promotion of STEM education. In this capacity, she has spoken in both political and diplomatic venues. She is currently the host of the reality show “Made in America” on Zee TV America.


Esmé Weijun Wang is a Taiwanese-American writer. She is the author of “The Border of Paradise, A Novel” (2016) and “The Collected Schizophrenias” (2019). She is the recipient of a 2018 Whiting Award and in 2017 was selected by Granta Magazine for their once-a-decade Best of Young American Novelists list of 21 authors under 40.

Wang received her MFA from the U-M Helen Zell Writers’ Program in 2010—her thesis became the basis for a chapter in her first novel, which was a gothic drama about a family whose patriarch committed suicide, leaving the mother to raise her two children alone. The Chicago Review of Books noted the careful handling of mental illness in each of the characters, concluding that “the novel raises interesting questions about child rearing, culture, and isolation”.

Wang’s 2019 essay collection, “The Collected Schizophrenias” focuses on her experiences related to her struggles with schizoaffective disorder. It won starred reviews from a variety of publications, and was a New York Times bestseller. 

Wang was diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease in 2015. The combination of living with chronic illness and schizoaffective disorder inspired her to found The Unexpected Shape Community, a resource for “ambitious writers living with limitations, chronic conditions, and disabilities.”

I believe in resilience. My enthusiasm for both the practice and the living-out of resilience are borne out by my own daily existence with illness—I choose to live as best as I can, and I encourage others living with chronic illness and other forms of limitation to do the same.”


Diane Gromala is a Canada Research Chair and a Professor in the Simon Fraser University School of Interactive Arts and Technology. Her research lies at the intersection of computer science, media art and design, and has focused on the cultural, visceral, and embodied implications of digital technologies—particularly in the realm of chronic pain.

Gromala received her bachelor’s degree (BFA) in Design & Photography from Stamps School of Art & Design in 1982. After graduating from U-M, Gromala worked in industry as art director for both MacWorld and Apple Computer. She was one of the first artists to work with immersive virtual reality (VR), beginning with Dancing with the Virtual Dervish, a landmark artwork co-created with choreographer Yacov Sharir. They created it as part of a 1990 Banff Centre for the Arts’ Art & Virtual Environments residency and it went on to be exhibited worldwide from 1993–2004. 

Gromala subsequently designed immersive VR for patients to promote stress-reduction, anxiety-reduction and pain distraction during their chemotherapy while at Georgia Tech. Her work has been used in over 20 hospitals and clinics.

Gromala is the Founding Director of the Chronic Pain Research Institute, an interdisciplinary team of artists, designers, computer scientists, neuroscientists, and medical doctors investigating how new technologies—ranging from virtual reality and visualization to social media—may be used as a technological form of analgesia and pain management.

In recent months, Gramala has made the news for her work to study patient needs for COVID-19 vaccine distribution software.


All illustrations in this series are by Sophie Herdrich. Captions are by Sydney Hawkins, Natsume Ono and Lilian Varner.

A love letter to Black femmes: Artist Ayana Evans debuts new collaboration with U-M students, faculty

Themes of Black feminism and perseverance will take center stage in a new improvisational performance that will premiere as part of the University of Michigan’s winter 2021 Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series season kick-off event on Jan. 22.

Ayana Evans, is a New York-based performance artist who grew up in Chicago, IL.

The work was produced and directed from more than 600 miles away by New York-based performance artist Ayana Evans, who collaborated with U-M Stamps School of Art & Design professor Rebekah Modrak and students in her “Dressing Up and Down” course during the fall 2020 semester. Evans, a Roman J. Witt Visiting Artist at Stamps, is known for her guerilla-style street performances and public interventions where she uses her physicality to express ideas about the body, race and gender. These ideas were present as she worked through a series of phone calls, Zoom meetings and emails to communicate what her next big performance would be—a spectacular show on U-M’s Elbel Field, complete with cheerleaders from the U-M Cheer team, vocalists and actors from the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance and professional artists based in Detroit. Ahead of the performance, which was filmed Oct. 25 with strict safety protocols in place, Evans worked behind the scenes with Stamps students, who translated her elaborate costume renderings into works of wearable art. “She asked us to watch the film Mahogany, which helped us to understand the spirit and vibe of what she wanted for the performance,” said Shannon Yeung, a Stamps senior, who was part of Modrak’s class. “She also incorporated the use of venetian blinds into the design, which was an interesting challenge to translate into a physical costume.”

Ayana Evans’ sketch of costume worn by Detroit-based dancer Cleo Anderson. Students at the Stamps School of Art & Design created the costumes for Evans’ performance as part of professor Rebakah Modrak’s “Dressing Up and Down” course.

Yeung, who worked on costume construction with a team of other Stamps students, also spent several hours acting as Evans’ eyes and ears through Facetime during the shoot while she made decisions and directed from afar. “While there was planning done for the performance, there were also many decisions that had to be made on the day of filming, and I was really grateful that she put so much trust in us to deliver her message” she said. Mahogany, the 1975 film starring Diana Ross about a struggling fashion design student who becomes a popular fashion designer, was one of the main sources of inspiration for Evans. “The strength of Diana Ross as an actress is that there are moments in all of her films where she ‘breaks’ and looks crazy and screams—it seems effortless,” said Evans. “And it’s in these moments when she seems to be channeling trauma more than she is acting trauma. These moments are what I am interested in.” The performance opens with a startling scene where each of the lead actors walk up and spits straight into the camera, an effect created using a plexiglass box.
  • Ayana Evans' sketch of costume worn by vocalist and SMTD student Daelynn Jorif. Students at the Stamps School of Art & Design created the costumes for Evans' performance as part of professor Rebakah Modrak's "Dressing Up and Down" course.
  • A performance directed by University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design artist-in-residence Ayana Evans. The performance was filmed on Oct. 25 at U-M's Elbel Field. Photos by John Baird.
​"Ayana uses her body to express discomfort and joy—and we can see this through the students and dancers that participated in making the film," Modrak said. "Though it takes on a new meaning when so many of us are so conscious of the impact of our breath and aerosols, spitting is something that she has incorporated into performance before—it's a way of expressing anger or disgust." According to Modrak, Evans' signature performances also have many celebratory elements alongside the discomfort. That joy is depicted as the 17 minute-long film moves from cheerleaders "primping" the main characters ahead of improvised high-energy performances of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and Tina Turner's "Better Be Good To Me." "During the Tina Turner song, we all stripped down to nude suits—for me it was an actual brown suit that was the color of my skin, which I really appreciated—and we just danced," said Jailisa Spell, an SMTD graduate student and one of lead vocalists for the performance. "For me, as a Black trans woman, it felt very powerful to act out the idea of putting on a face for the world every day and then just living in those moments when you're able to be free and be yourself."

Performance artist Ayana Evans directs the filmed performance of "Better Be Good To Me" via Facetime on Oct. 25, 2020. Photo by Rebekah Modrak.

According to Evans, who performed all of her artist-in-residence duties virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, the work is as much about striving for the freedom that Spell felt as it is about dismantling hierarchies of the past. "My work is a tribute to Black resilience and creativity," she said. "It is also an acknowledgment of the anger, beauty, destruction and rebuilding of our current times—racially, economically and mentally. Last but not least, this is a love letter to Black femmes who have set many trends in pop culture and gave us examples of the joy perseverance can bring."

Related events

In conjunction with the premiere of the film, "You Better Be Good To Me," Evans will give a virtual presentation as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series at 8 p.m. Jan. 22. The 2020-21 series is brought to audiences this year with the support of Detroit Public Television and PBS Books. Evans also participated in a virtual Q&A event with Reginald Jackson, associate professor of Japanese literature and performance, about her work on Jan. 25. The event "Is Acceptance the Future of Art?" was hosted by the U-M Arts Initiative's Future of Art series, which explores the nature of art, the role of the artist in society and the future of art. Both events, which were free and open to the public, are part of the 2021 U-M Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Symposium.