Good morning (or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are).

Welcome to, where you’ll now find my list of the upcoming or currently running arts and entertainment events I’m excited about. Being only human, I can’t get to them all. But these are the events I’d prioritize if I had a wide-open schedule.

(Skip the next paragraph if you already know me.)

In case we aren’t acquainted, here’s some context. I’ve been covering the arts locally and nationally for decades, most recently–well, for the past 25 years or so–anchored in Indianapolis. I’m on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association where I chair its New Play Committee and I’m proud to be part of the island of misfit toys known as the Indiana Film Journalists Association (I say that with love, of course). I served until recently as Arts & Entertainment Editor for and continue to write for that esteemed publication. I edited the gone-but-not-forgotten Indy Men’s Magazine and have written for more than 50 publications and websites including Variety, TheatreWeek, and Howlround. My stack of published books include Kid Culture, The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures, Creative Block, and The High-Impact Infidelity Diet: A Novel. I also wrote the novelization of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. So there. If you make it to the bottom of this post, you’ll find a rundown of where I’ll be speaking or otherwise making a nuisance of myself.

(Welcome back, friends.)

Here we go with this week’s A&E To-Do List (which needs a name–suggestions welcome).

  1. The Eiteljorg Museum’s “Reel West” 

I’ll have to check with my aforementioned IFJA colleagues, but is the western dead as a genre? Is it back? I haven’t been paying close enough attention and its status in Hollywood seems to change every other year. That wild fluctuation–and the way these films tend to reflect the times the movies are made more than they reflect the period the films are set–are one of the key points of interest here. I wrote a preview piece on the exhibit for IBJ. You can find it here. Have to admit, I’m proud of the headline.

2. “Les Miserables”

How many times have I seen this one now? I’ve lost count. But I still remember seeing it for the first time on Broadway, taking my seat with great anticipation…and feeling like it climaxed in the first twenty minutes. Once we got past “Who Am I?” I felt, from my balcony seat, like it never quite developed the urgency and passion. Subsequent viewings have made up for that initial disappointment and I found the first few national tours far more compelling. The movie version was hit and miss–with far too many misses (and a “WHY? WHY? Why? performance by Russell Crowe) to make me want to rewatch–but the most recently Broadway revival (sans turntable) showed that the hefty show still had breathe left in it. The tour–in Indy courtesy of Broadway in Indianapolis–has the benefit of strong performances in the difficult supporting roles of Cosette and Marius and a fluid design that keeps things moving. The ensemble is strong as well. I only wish Josh Davis’ Javert didn’t come across as if he were auditioning to play one of Cinderella’s Princes from Into the Woods and that the otherwise solid Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) had more gravitas when having to don old-age makeup and halting delivery. What once felt weighty, now feels more concert-like. Nonetheless, it’s still “Les Miserables.” It runs until Sunday, at which point the barricade is dismantled and the show moves on. Oh, and the Thenardiers, once again, overstayed their welcome. Alas, too late to change that.

3 and 4. “Appoggiatura” at Indiana Repertory Theatre and “Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre

Being out of town running a conference in Cincinnati (hello, ATCA members!), I missed the openings of both of these less-familiar titles at Indy’s two leading downtown regional theaters. The first is the latest in James Still’s collection of marque-unfriendly titles–this one about a family trying to cope with past personal losses while in Venice. The second is the final show at the Phoenix’s old home before migrating to its brand new theater complex. Happy trails.

5. Indy Actors’ Playground 

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Indy Actors’ Playground is a free monthly play reading at Indy Reads Books. And if you haven’t gone, then you really can’t complain that theater is too expensive or that there’s nothing to do except binge watch TV shows. Every month, a different professional actors in town picks a play that he or she has a burn to do. The actor picks the cast and, voila, a play is presented. The audience doesn’t know what the play will be, although a hint or two can usually be picked up on Facebook. Yes, I co-created this series and usually introduce it, but I have zero control over the content so I have no qualms about endorsing it here. Over the last five years, it has offered some of the most satisfying theater evenings I’ve experienced here. This month, Leah Brenner–who recently relocated from Indy to Chicago–offers her pick. Oh, and someone on this page is a hint as to the show she selected. Indy Actors’ Playground is always the third Monday of the month. If you have some books to donate, bring them along. If not, consider coming early to do some shopping.

See you around…

As for me, I’ll be participating in the Intersections Summit for regional theaters at Milwaukee Rep March 22-24 (and seeing three shows), speaking to a journalism students at Butler University on March 26, and presenting the Steinberg and Osborn Awards for the American Theatre Critics Association at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Lousville on April 7 (and seeing six shows while there). Say hello if you see me and let’s talk arts.