Best bets

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2000

Juneau is in the midst of a month loaded with entertainment, and there are many fine choices for the coming week. This week there are two blues bands, two plays, an original dance performance production and a dozen classical concerts to enjoy.

``Wild Nights With Emily'' is not to be missed. It's fast, funny and entertaining on the surface, and thought-provoking beneath. There are two stories told simultaneously. Every one of the 52 scenes propels both stories.

One is the story of Dickinson's life, and her original poetry and writing is beautifully showcased. Actress Marta Lastufka is excellent portraying her as a teen-ager in girls' school and as a grown woman. Dickinson's struggles to be accepted as a writer and to maintain a profound romantic relationship in a conservative society make for a great story.

On top of that is another tale that spans 100 years, the tale of how Mabel Todd created and perpetuated the myth of Dickinson as an eccentric spinster maiden. Patricia Hull nails this part - in fact the entire cast is right on the money, slipping in nuances that give depth to all the major characters.

The play can be hard to follow. It's fast and there are dozens of bit parts. Here's a couple tips. Keep track of the two separate stories: Dickinson's life story is essentially told chronologically and Mabel Todd basically narrates the re-telling, as she should. If you spend a few minutes checking out the displays in the theater lobby, you can appreciate that very often, Lastufka is directly quoting Dickinson's own poems and letters.


The Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival offers more than a dozen workshops and concerts in the next week, and that's just the first half of the festival. Since all the players are top-notch, the highlights depend on your tastes.

I'd recommend the free concerts: Monday through Thursday at noon at the State Office Building Atrium, and Friday at Marine Park and the Nugget Mall. There's a free open rehearsal with The Lark Quartet at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Northern Light United Church. There's also a free concert with the Greatlanders Show Band, the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

If you're a player yourself, the workshops will certainly be worth the $10 to $25 cost, less than a single private lesson. I took a class from jazz guitarist Gary Solt when he came up a few years ago, and he delivered an excellent introduction and overview of jazz lead guitar style. He teaches 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Bill Ray Center.

It's electric Chicago blues weekend in Juneau. Studebaker John Grimaldi is playing at 9 p.m. at the Penthouse with his band the Hawks, the opening show for jazz and classics. He's got strong reviews, and he's just here for the weekend. Justin Smith and the Bluesband plays 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday at the Alaskan Hotel. Both professional guitarists are excellent; they also both also play harmonica and sing. The Bluesband plays locally in the summer about once a month.

An original production that looks well worth attending is the Visions dance performance. There will be three shows, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the JDHS auditorium. This is original choreography by local and guest artists.

Choreographer and dancer Becky Engstrom was inspired by the artwork of Jim Fowler, Rie Munoz and Dale DeArmond, and it will be intriguing to see how she translates a static visual art into a dynamic performance art. The choreography also includes the unusual art of trapeze dancing. Dancers include ballet masters Rio Mitani and Christian Martinu from Austria, and Anthony Manuel and the Fusion Dance Company from Seattle.

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