Monday, November 30, 2015

Event Forecast: Kevin Keefe November 30, B.A. Shapiro December 1, John Gurda December 2, "The Story of My Life December 3-5 and 10-13."

For train fans!
Monday, November 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kevin Keefe, author of Railroad Vision: Steam Era Images from the Trains Magazine Archives

Join Kevin Keefe, former editor and publisher of Trains Magazine, as he discusses the legendary locomotives from famous railroads such as New York Central, Norfolk & Western, and Union Pacific and the lost world of the steam short line as well as the intimate details of railroading: gallant locomotive engineers, gritty roundhouse workers, elegantly uniformed conductors. For art and historical fiction fans!

Tuesday, December 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
B.A. Shapiro, author of The Muralist

Here's the Indie Next rec from Anderson McKean of Page and Palette in the Birmingham, Alabama area: “With the same level of intrigue and attention to detail that drew readers to The Art Forger, The Muralist focuses on the early days of WWII and the dawn of Abstract Expressionism. Shapiro brings to life New York City artists Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, who are both inspired by the novel's brave and talented protagonist, Alizée Benoit. As these struggling artists find traction within their trade, Benoit attempts to bring awareness to the plight of European refugees and to defuse anti-Semitic politics in the U.S. through her art. Moving from past to present, readers will cheer for Benoit's grandniece, Danielle, who is researching her family history to find the truth about Alizée's mysterious disappearance and shed light on the sacrifices and contributions she made through art. Shapiro delivers another fascinating and compelling story.”

From Charles Finch in USA Today: "My favorite parts of Shapiro’s novel are the ones where Alizée takes on Breckenridge Long, a powerful Roosevelt official doing everything he can to prevent the entry of European refugees. This is a group of people that includes her own family, which makes for tense, sharp, dramatic scenes, with an uncomfortably close relevance to our present political moment."

For Milwaukee fans!
Wednesday, December 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Gurda, author of Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods

There's no question that Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods is our book of the year. Though we might sell more of some event titles, this will be our bestselling book that was not connected to a multiple-copy sale or connected to ticket purchase. And what a book it is! Years in the making, this is a spectacular neighborhood-by-neighborhood history of Milwaukee.

The book may be pricey ($44.95) but it's actually a bargain, as you can see right away that foundations have helped pay for the coast of this book, which without that help, might have run $75-100.

Inspired by the Department of City Development posters of the 1980s, the book project inspired artist Jan Kotowicz to create 11 new posters to come out with the book, which are available at HMI. They've also gotten the rights to reproduce and sell the original posters from the city of Milwaukee.

We expect this to be a very large event, so come early. As always, we will close to the general public for the talk if we reach capacity, but we'll open again for the signing.

For Musical Theater Set in Bookstore Fans!
Seven performances of The Story of My Life at Boswell:
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, December 3, 4, and 5, 9 pm
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, December 10, 11, and 12, 9 pm
Sunday, December 13, 7 pm
Tickets are $25, $15 for students.
Please note that Boswell will close to the general public at 8 pm on these nights.

There's a chance we may be able to move up a few of the performances from 9 to 8 pm. If that's the case, the store will close at 7 pm.

We're pretty sure that nobody else has tried this one. Boswell is both the theater and the setting for a collaboration of the Milwaukee Opera Theatre and The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. The Story of My Life is a two-person musical about friendship. Thomas and Alvin were close until one moved to the big city to be a writer while the other stayed behind to manage the family bookstore.

I don't really think people are understanding how magical this story is, how much it is about books, and how much it's also about Christmas (which is why were hosting this event now instead of February). And that's why I need to reprint the liner notes.

"For more than a century, musicals have told us all about love...but how many musicals have dealt with friendship?...Yet hasn't musical theatre given short shrift to platonic-but-full-of love friendship? (Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly don't count.) After all, this is a medium that has claimed that a girl's best friend is diamonds.

"Here's The Story of My Life to fill the void. It's about the unlikely friendship between a writer - one who tells stories - and a bookseller - one who lives among them: a conformist and a misfit, an artist and his muse. It's a bout the small moments - those seemingly insignificant moments that pass by unnoticed but have reverberations long and into the future. And in fact it's a love story of sorts, about two souls who meet by chance and forever change each other's lives.

"Brian Hill's book and Neil Bartram's score tell what happened to Thomas Weaver and Alvin Kelby, who met in first grade and became fast friends - which at that age, often means best friends. The catalyst for their friendship was Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, which each had already seen and adored before they met. Thomas and Alvin's contemporaries may have grown up refusing to watch any black-and-white movie, but HIll and Bartram offer us two old souls who could get past that barrier.

"In the days even before VCRs, let alone TiVo, Thomas and Alvin must wait for the film to air - which of course happens at Christmas. In the time between their annual tradition, they find they have much in common, in part because both are voracious raders (Old souls, indeed.). Alvin's the leader at this point, because his father ownsa bookstore, and Thomas is ripe for new material...While we don't meet Alvin's father in this two-character show, Hill makes him come alive for us through a fascinating detail: Dad was famous for taking a look at a customer and immediately guessing what book he'd like. Alvin endeavored to do the same, so he introduced Thomas to Tom Sawyer - which Thomas loved. When assigned a book report, Thomas chose as his subject Mark Twain's masterpiece that was originally published in 1876, writing that "Because that writer wrote this amazing story, 1876 was so much better than 1875."
--Peter Felichia

I'll speed things up and note that Thomas leaves Alvin behind, which of course seems a bit amusing for me, as writer friends always get back in touch when their book is coming out. But there was a period in the 80s and 90s when it was hard to get back in touch, and indie bookstores were taken for granted. How could one little bookstore help an author when there are so many reviewers to court, chains to conquer, and book clubs to be the main selection of? And well, Thomas is, as Mr. Felichia puts it, "a flawed friend." How the story plays out is the subject of this musical. (please note one of the several spotlights added to Boswell's ceiling at right.)

The cast:
Doug Clemons as Alvin Kelby (the friend who stayed home)
Adam Estes as Thomas Weaver (the friend who moved away)

The creative team:
Stage Direction: C. Michael Wright
Music Direction: Anne Van Deusen
Costume Design: Jason Orlenko
Lighting Design: Antishadows LLC
Milwaukee Opera Theatre producting artistic director: Jill Anna Ponasik

Here's another link for tickets.

Links to the cast album
CD purchase. Alas, not through us! We don't have a relationship with a distributor who is carrying the album.

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