Arts and Culture | WGLT

Arts and Culture

Brent Simonds

Illinois State University School of Communication Professor Brent Simonds knows his just completed documentary of Nashville singer/songwriter Verlon Thompson tells a compelling story.

“It’s a sweet story about a really sweet man who has monstrous talent, especially when it comes to playing acoustic guitar,” Simonds said of his film "Sweet Dreams Do Come True."

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

An ancient invention that was used for spying, rescuing and military communications eventually evolved into a popular toy—the kite. Now that toy is proving it's more that just for fun at an event that allows families to play together while raising money for a good cause.  

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

What was once a stopping place on the Mother Road has found new life, thanks to a partnership between a local Route 66 scholar and the Town of Normal.

After Hours

Barbershop quartets aren't just for squares and old movies. The music style is alive and kicking in the 21st century, thanks to a recent resurgence and young vocalists like Tim Beutel.

Warner Bros. Pictures / The Associated Press

"It's intense. It's brutal. It's a strong film."

Al Goldfarb / Courtesy

Former Illinois State University provost and retired Western Illinois University President Al Goldfarb is not slowing down in retirement. Goldfarb has just published a new edition of his book on the history of the theater, called "Living Theatre."

Sarah Ackerman / Flicker via Creative Commons

Prairie Fire Theatre is staging "The Most Happy Fella," a musical set in Napa Valley with a plot that's future forward.

Joel Ryan/Invision / The Associated Press

The world's most famous time traveler is about to undergo a change that, for some, is shocking and disturbing.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

The latest exhibition in the Joe McCauley Gallery at Heartland Community College features works by an artists whose brand is Romance, and who believes that art and beauty have the power to evoke change.

Courtesy

This is the first time in several years arts advocate Tina Salamone won’t be involved in the Miller Park Summer Musical. But the former director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, who passed away earlier this year, won’t be forgotten. This year’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” is being staged in her honor.

Aaron Wiessing / Courtesy

"The Little Mermaid," with its charismatic singing sea creatures, ushered in a new era in Disney animation. The 1989 film was the precursor of all those blockbuster film and stage musicals that followed, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."

Now Bloomington-Normal audiences will have a chance to see if the stage version of "The Little Mermaid" contains everything they loved about the animated film with Community Players' new production of the musical.

Guy with camera and people sitting on bar stools at Six Strings local nightclub.
Jennifer Feaman

A one-time pastor from a church in Towanda felt called to a new mission a decade ago. Kevin Mounce left the flickering lights of liturgical candles for the bright lights of Hollywood to pursue his dream of making movies.

Nicole Radja

"I somehow chose the only profession in the world that has fewer chances of employment than professional wrestler."

'True Blood' Actor, Former ISU Student Nelsan Ellis Dies at 39

Jul 10, 2017
Nelsan Ellis speaks to students
Lyndsie Schlink / Illinois State University

Former Illinois State University student Nelsan Ellis, best known for his role on HBO's True Blood, has died.

The actor is best known for playing Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood. He was just 39 when he succumbed to complications from heart failure. His manager confirmed the news, first carried by The Hollywood Reporter.

Ellis visited ISU in 2013, when he received a distinguished alumni award. Ellis won a national forensics title and distinguished himself in the School of Theatre and Dance while attending ISU.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

With energy, humor and hip hop verse, Shakespeare's timeless masterpiece Romeo and Juliet moves to a new rhythm created by the Q Brothers Collective for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Illinois Shakespeare Festival

When Shakespeare first wrote Cymbeline in 1623, it was well received. But by the 18th century, the play had fallen out of favor.

Audiences found it difficult to pin down and classify, plus it was darkly comedic and just had a whole lot going on from curtain up to curtain down. But there's a new adaptation afoot at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival that puts the problems of the play in their place and sets the action under the big top.  

Illinois Shakespeare Festival

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival presents a music-filled version of A Midsummer Night's Dream this season that turns out to be a bit of a family affair.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

Artist Cynthia Kukla has not put her feet up since retiring from teaching in the Illinois State University College of Fine Arts.  Instead, she's put on her traveling shoes and found inspiration on a far shore.

Wonder Woman Wows

Jun 22, 2017
JD Hancock / Flickr via Creative Commons

It's about time!  That's the feeling of many Wonder Woman fans as the DC legend finally gets her own blockbuster movie.

Peter Guither / Illinois Shakespeare Festival

At the first-ever Illinois Shakespeare Festival -- back when it wasn't even called that yet -- the plays were staged on the tennis courts at Ewing Manor in Bloomington.  Forty years later and the acclaimed festival has its own spiffy theater at Ewing and a great reputation as a local cultural gem.

Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Associated Press

She was the first African American ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, and first black woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was only the second person to serve as Illinois Poet Laureate, succeeding Carl Sandburg. She was also the state's longest-serving laureate, an unpaid position she held for more than 30 years.

Illinois is pausing this month to celebrate the life and work of this woman of firsts,  who would have turned 100 on June 7.

Malls: Love Gone Cold

Jun 13, 2017
WGLT

What was once a ubiquitous part of American consumer culture now seems to be sliding towards extinction.  A recent study suggests 15% of traditional shopping malls will disappear in the next decade.  When we lose the malls, do we  lose something more than just a collection of shops?

Jason Judd / University Galleries

The walls of the University Galleries in Uptown Normal are filled with joyous, colorful works of art.  That's not at all unusual, except that this art was created right in the space where its being exhibited in a celebration of creativity, inclusion and collaboration.

Dennis Beck / Broadway Tour

A story line taken from Tolstoy's War and Peace. A musical remake of the nineties film Ground Hog Day. The trials of an anxiety-ridden adolescent and the true story of a Newfoundland town faced with hosting stranded air travelers on 9/11. 

Those are the themes of this year's line up of Tony nominees for best musical. The four nominated musicals are Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,Ground Hog Day, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away.

Got Ten? See A Play!

Jun 2, 2017
MaxiPixel / Google Images via CC

In just ten minutes, Heartland Theater can give you a play from start to finish.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

The Penguin Project of McLean County is staging the musical James and the Giant Peach, Jr. this weekend in U-High's Stroud Auditorium.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

Forty years ago this week, the lines began to form around the block for Star Wars—a film that went on to explode not just box office records, but make a profound impact on culture.

Public Domain / Google Images

Instead of letting old plastic shopping bags clog our landfill or flutter around on the whims of the wind, one local group is upcycling them to help folks in need.

Friends of the Arts

At a time when student debt continues to escalate, the annual Gala at the Galleries event takes some of the sting out of paying for a fine arts education at Illinois State University.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

One of the most enduring characters in comic book history is Wonder Woman, and a new book lets us take a look behind the cuffs and tiara to gain a deeper understanding of the popular superhero,

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