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Jennifer Rainey Marquez


For five decades, Ashley Bryan’s works have shown children that black lives matter

Ashley Bryan color birds
A collage from Bryan’s 2003 book, Beautiful Blackbird, which won the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration

The birds’ colors were mirrored in the waters: Ashley Bryan (American, born 1923), ca. 2002, from Beautiful Blackbird (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003), mixed media collage on paper.

In the first two years of its annual series featuring the work of children’s book illustrators, the High Museum has showcased much-loved superstars Mo “The Pigeon” Willems and Eric “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” Carle. The artist featured in this year’s exhibition—Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan (April 1-January 21, 2018)—may not have quite the instant familiarity, but “he’s someone that we think every Atlantan should know,” says cocurator Ginia Sweeney.

Bryan, 93, grew up in the Bronx and learned to draw and paint at free classes run by the Works Progress Administration. He attended art school at Cooper Union and later won a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, but it wasn’t until 1967, when Bryan was 44, that his first book was published.

Ashley Bryan "Freedom Over Me"
An illustration from Ashley Bryan’s most recent book, Freedom Over Me

Stephen dreams: Ashley Bryan, 2015, illustration for Freedom Over Me: Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016), diluted tempera and black marker pen on paper.

Inspired by the black oral tradition, many of Bryan’s books are reworkings of traditional spirituals, folk stories, and poems. “His works are a celebration of African American experience and offer black children an important opportunity to see themselves represented in the pages of books,” says Virginia Shearer, the exhibition’s other cocurator.

Painter and Poet features illustrations from 20 of Bryan’s children’s books, as well as a selection of puppets fashioned from objects found near his home in Maine and sketches that he made while stationed in Europe during WWII. One of the highlights is a series of 10 multimedia works from his newest book, Freedom Over Me, published last fall. Based on historical records from the 1800s, the book gives imagined voices to 11 slaves and includes vibrant portraits and poems detailing their hopes and dreams.

“We all have dreams, but slaves were never asked about theirs,” said Bryan in an interview with School Library Journal. “All my life I’ve said that no matter what I experienced, nothing would keep me from drawing. While creating this book I saw myself, a black man, reading, drawing, and painting freely.”

This article originally appeared in our April 2017 issue.

Flight Path author Hannah Palmer on how the airport changed Atlanta’s south side

Flight Path comes out April 4

Cover courtesy of Hub City Press

In her new hybrid memoir-urban history, Flight Path, writer and urban designer Hannah Palmer explores the airport’s impact on Atlanta’s south side. We recently spoke with Palmer, who grew up in Forest Park but now lives in East Point, about the book’s inspiration and her vision for the communities surrounding Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

You don’t come across a lot of personal memoirs about the airport. Can you explain how this book came about?
In 2004, after living in Brooklyn for four years, I moved back to Atlanta. Well, I take that back, I wasn’t really in Atlanta—I was in McDonough, because I had a free place to stay while I figured out where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. When I got there, I was disturbed by how much the south side had changed in just a short amount of time. It was because of this massive project to expand the airport and build the fifth runway.

Around the same time I stumbled across a news clipping from the 1970s that featured my parents. They were taking a Lamaze class, which was novel at the time, and so it was covered in the Clayton News Daily. They were described as “a couple from Mountain View,” which—I didn’t even know what that was or where it was. I started digging a little into Mountain View and why it disappeared, and also what the fifth runway was doing to other communities around the airport.

And what did you find?
Mountain View has been virtually erased from history. It was completely bought out by the airport in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a city, with a charter, a police force, a post office. But the charter was revoked. I thought, This was kind of scandalous, but nobody’s written about it.

All of the houses I lived in as a kid are gone now. They were either bought out by the airport, or they were rezoned for commercial and industrial purposes. You truly can’t go home again. But these places were around long before there was an airport.

What are your memories of the airport from childhood?
Growing up in Forest Park, the sound of aircraft was so constant. It was this unrelenting noise in the background that we had all just become accustomed to. In some ways, it became like white noise—we didn’t even hear it anymore. It was only when I left and came back, that I realized: This is unacceptably loud. This is crazy that we live with this volume of noise.

Author Hannah Palmer

Photo by David Naugle

What do you think the solution is for these communities?
It’s tough, because the areas around the airport are like bedroom communities for airport employees. They need the airport to invest and thrive. But we have to bargain and deal with the noise and the traffic.

I would like to see better integration between the airport and the surrounding communities. When you think about it, the airport really functions like a fortress. It’s essentially a mini-city and it’s completely walled off. The closest Starbucks to my house is inside the airport. The best restaurants in the area are inside the airport. But I can’t get there.

Because of airport security. Is that ever going to change?
Culturally it’s cut off for security reasons, but I have two young sons who would love to go watch airplanes. Why doesn’t the world’s busiest airport have an observation deck? The interface might be rooftop observation decks, or it might be parks and greenspace. But there need to be gestures of openness to the community.

What role does the business community play in this? Because the south side is home to not just the airport now—you’ve got Pinewood Studios, you’ve got Porsche.
There is this aero-tropolis planning process going on. The leaders and mayors of all these jurisdictions and the CEOs of the companies down here like Porsche, Delta, Chick-fil-A—they’re all talking about planning issues. This is long overdue and it’s exciting to see, because together they can start discussing common opportunities and challenges. The city of Hapeville, for instance, can’t solve these problems on its own.

How do you see the south side evolving over the next few years?
It’s still really affordable. Houses are cheap. There are large-scale redevelopment opportunities. And as Atlanta gentrifies, people are looking for new frontiers. On paper, there’s so much potential. I just don’t want to see it become another “non-place” in Atlanta. I want development that’s rooted in history—the south side is old. There are all these historic railroad towns that are really cool with interesting architecture, and we have this rich culture of generating Atlanta’s hip-hop stars. There’s cultural capital here that I don’t want to get lost.

Palmer will launch her book at Highland Inn & Ballroom Lounge on April 13 and 7 p.m. The event is hosted by A Capella Books. She will also read from Flight Path at Hills & Hamlet Bookshop in Serenbe on April 15 at 7 p.m. Or catch her author talk at SCAD Ivy Hall on May 4 at 6 p.m.

More: Read our review of Flight Path.

Traveling to Memphis? Here’s what to eat and do

Memphis, Tennessee

Nashville may be known as “Music City, U.S.A.,” but it’s Memphis that can lay claim as the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. Home to Sun Studio, Stax Records, and—of course—Graceland, it played a central role in the history of early rock, blues, and soul music. And then there’s the barbecue. But this Mississippi River city offers more than Elvis and top-notch ribs. You’ll also find a wealth of civil rights history, hip bars, and one of the country’s largest urban parks.

Shelby Farms Park
Shelby Farms Park

What to do
Built around the Lorraine Motel room where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the poignant National Civil Rights Museum chronicles the movement from slavery through the present. The 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park is home to a BMX racetrack, more than 20 lakes for fishing, and even a herd of buffalo. For an oddly peaceful retreat, visit the Crystal Shrine Grotto, a crystal-lined man-made cave inside Memorial Park Cemetery.

Sun Studio
Sun Studio

Photograph by Dan Ball

Music history
Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Howlin’ Wolf all got their start at Sun Studio, which still operates as a recording studio at night, offering visitor tours during the day. Across town, the Stax Museum tells
the history of soul music in Memphis, featuring wild displays like Isaac Hayes’s circa-1973 24-karat gold-trimmed Cadillac Eldorado.

Where to stay
Downtown, the circa-1925 Peabody Memphis—with ducks paddling about its lobby fountain—is an opulent mainstay. Elvis fans should check out the new Guest House at Graceland. Find tasteful Elvis-themed decor and a theater where guests can screen Elvis movies and hear local bands.

Where to drink
Beale Street is the famous nightlife strip, but for a more low-key evening, drop by Earnestine & Hazel’s, a supposedly haunted dive bar with live music. In Midtown, order a retro cocktail at the nautical-themed Cove, or knock back a pilsner at nearby Wiseacre Brewing.

Dry-rub ribs at Central BBQ
Dry-rub ribs at Central BBQ

Where to eat
For old-school Memphis eats, order crispy fried catfish at Soul Fish Cafe or mouthwatering dry-rub ribs and pulled pork nachos at Central BBQ. Top off your feast with a glazed treat from the 50-year-old Gibson’s Donuts (901-682-8200). On the new-school side, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, run by James Beard–nominated chefs, serves modern Italian fare (try Maw Maw’s Ravioli).

This article originally appeared in our March 2017 issue.

Every year Georgia Tech hosts a search for the world’s best new musical instruments

Guthman Musical Instrument Competition
The laser harp won third place in 2016.

Photograph by Tyler White

Most of the musical instruments that we play today have been around for decades or even centuries, from the piano (introduced around 1700) to the electric guitar (1931). At Georgia Tech’s annual Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, however, inventors show off what could be the instruments of the future.

Guthman Musical Instrument Competition
An electromagnetic harp was also entered in 2016.

Photograph by Tyler White

In previous years those creations have included a laser harp, a grid of laser beams that creates sound when you pass your hand through it; a keyboard whose tone changes depending on how much pressure you apply; and an iPhone app that produces a simulated choir. Entries are accepted from around the world, and the unusual contest—which is billed as an “X-Prize for music”—has gained international attention. This year it drew more than 60 applicants from 19 countries. About 20 semifinalists are invited to Atlanta to demonstrate their inventions for a panel of judges, which in 2017 includes a professor of digital media at London’s Queen Mary University; the president and CEO of Moog Music; and Daedelus, an electronic musician.

“We look at the quality of the engineering, the design, and the musicality,” says Gil Weinberg, founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, who oversees the competition. “The instruments have to be unique in terms of musical expression and human-instrument interaction.” The open-minded approach to what constitutes an instrument can make a judge’s job difficult. “It’s very tough to compare a robotic instrument, a controller that connects to a computer, and an app, and say which is best,” Weinberg says.

The judges select up to 10 finalists to perform in what is perhaps the city’s most bizarre concert, held at the Ferst Center. “The goal is to bring together people on the technical side and on the artistic side,” says Weinberg. “We want creators to push forward and create the next generation of musical experiences.”

This article originally appeared in our March 2017 issue.

Allergic to human touch? Colleen Oakley’s latest novel explores the idea

Colleen Oakley
Colleen Oakley

Photograph by Jim Hancock

Try to imagine your life without touch. No hugs or kisses (or sex), but also no brushing hands with the cashier as you pay for your deli sandwich, no handshakes at business meetings, no shoulder rubs with strangers in a packed MARTA train. In her new book, Close Enough to Touch, metro Atlanta novelist Colleen Oakley considers the practical and emotional ramifications of such a life. We recently chatted with Oakley about her inspiration for the book.

This story revolves around a woman, Jubilee Jenkins, with an extremely unusual medical condition—she’s allergic to human touch. Was it based on a real condition?
Before I was a novelist, I was a health journalist, and I’ve written a few articles about allergies. I knew that allergies—food allergies, environmental allergies—are increasing at an exponential rate. These days, everybody knows somebody who has some kind of severe allergy. For me, it was my nephew and my niece, who both have very severe, life-threatening food allergies.

I knew I wanted to incorporate allergies into the book, but—of course, as a fiction writer—I had to take it a step further. So I started researching really bizarre allergies, and there are some crazy ones out there. I read about a woman who became pregnant and developed an allergy to water. She couldn’t even take a shower because her skin would swell up with hives. I found a woman who is allergic to technology. It sounds strange, but she can’t be around computers—can’t even have one in her house—and can’t use a cell phone because she’s allergic to the radiowaves that they emit. And there are people who are allergic to the sun and have to stay indoors all the time.

I was doing all this research, and I was struck with a thought, What if you were allergic to other people? I reached out to a lot of allergists to help me create the theoretical genetic reason that she would have this affliction and come up with the science behind it.

Courtesy of Gallery Books

Being allergic to people might sound a little silly at first, but it’s clear that it has made a deep emotional imprint on this character.
When I started thinking about what it would be like if you truly couldn’t touch people, I realized how hard it would be. First, just to think about how many people you touch every day, often without even thinking about it. The book is also a love story, and it was a challenge to consider how you could possibly fall in love with somebody without being able to physically touch them.

The book also touches on how Jubilee’s condition affects her as a kid.
Being a mom myself, the idea that you can’t touch your children—when touch is how you bond with them and show your love—it made me consider how that would affect the way your kids would turn out. And the way that it would affect a mother’s relationship with her child.

Your last book, Before I Go, also had a medical backdrop—the main character was dealing with metastatic cancer. Is this a theme that you’ve chosen purposefully?
I think because of my background doing a lot of health and medical reporting, I’m one of those types of people who loves poring through studies and learning about conditions and how doctors and patients are dealing with these issues. It naturally finds its way into my books. I don’t go out seeking it, but those are just the ideas that I’m drawn to.

How do you think that people who have other kinds of life-threatening allergies will see the book?
I hope that they will read this and find something familiar in it and relate in a way. Watching my sister with her two kids gave me a different perspective on allergies. The burden of responsibility as a parent is already really high, but when your kids have food allergies, it is a constant 24/7 level of vigilance. It’s already terrifying to let your kids out into the world, but knowing that something as little as a peanut or an egg could end their life, and you’re the sole person responsible for that, is really heavy. I made sure that my sister read every scene. Even though the affliction that Jubilee has is not real, I wanted it to be as true to life as possible.

Foxtale Book Shoppe hosts a launch party for Oakley’s book on March 7 at Room & Board Furniture, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

She will also be reading and signing books on March 13 at the Decatur Library from 7:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on April 29 at Foxtale Book Shoppe at 2 p.m.

My month-long quest for lustrous hair

Ever since puberty, the texture of my hair has resembled that of curly straw. And as I’ve gotten older—and, let’s face it, grayer—it’s only gotten drier, particularly in the arid winter months. I happily volunteered to embark on a month-long quest for lustrous, supermoisturized locks.

My first stop was eco­friendly beauty boutique Fig & Flower. The owner, Sara Lamond, suggested a Briogeo deep-conditioning hair mask (pictured above), applied at home in the shower. It softened my hair, but the effects only lasted through my next shampoo.

It was time to call the pros. I booked an appointment at Helmet, where a stylist massaged a deep conditioner (Aveda Dry Remedy Penetrating Moisture) into my hair, then wrapped it in a toasty warm towel for 10 minutes ($65). Afterward, I noticed a slight difference in shine for a week.

Next up, I tried Barron’s London Salon in Buckhead, which customizes its treatment for each client. The stylist chose a leave-in conditioner from Eufora for me. After a spin under a rotating heat lamp and a blow dry ($70), my hair felt silkier. Days later my coworkers were still commenting on how shiny it was. The salon recommended repeating the treatment every three to four weeks. But at $70, I think I’ll try to mimic the results at home, using the Briogeo mask, a shower cap, and a hair dryer.

31 splendid spring events for Atlanta families in March

Through 3/5
The Phantom of the Opera
Where: Fox Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $30 to $125
What: “Sing once again with me our strange duet” when this new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gothic musical—including updated special effects, staging, and choreography—hits the Fox.

Through 3/12
The Adventures of Mighty Bug 
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $20.50 ($10.25 for members), free for kids under 2
What: In this comic book-style show, Mighty Bug must rescue the citizens of Bugville from the villain Scorpiana. For ages 4 and up; attendees can also make a lightning bug rod and string puppet.

Through 3/19
Exit Strategy 
Where: True Colors Theatre at Southwest Arts Center
When: Various
Cost: $20 for adults over 30, $10 for those age 30 and under
What: Recommended for teens ages 15 and up, this play explores the neighborhood tensions that arise when a Chicago public high school is slated for closure.

Through 5/7
Wild Weather 
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Have you ever wondered about the forces that create severe weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes? In this interactive exhibition, you can whip up your own storm and learn how scientists are learning how to better predict extreme weather.

Engineering Day
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $17 for students; $16 for kids 3 to 16; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Want to get your little one excited about STEM? Fernbank’s event, inspired by the museum’s new “giant screen” movie Dream Big, will include crafts, games, and other activities, and the chance to meet real-life engineers.

The Phoenix Flies
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Free
What: Each year, the Atlanta Preservation Center offers a peek inside some of the city’s most beautifully preserved historic structures and landmarks—from the Callanwolde mansion to Castleberry Hill—in this series of free guided events.

Gunthman Musical Instrument Competition
Where: Ferst Center for the Arts
When: 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Every year, Georgia Tech hosts a competition to find the world’s best new musical instruments. Semifinalists will demonstrate their creations at what may be the Ferst Center’s weirdest concert, and a winner is crowned at the end of the night. Just be prepared: your kid might just come home asking to play the “guitarbot.”

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: 7 p.m.
Cost: $10.50 (free for members)
What: The Center for Puppetry Arts screens the 1985 Jim Henson film in which Big Bird runs away from home. Ticket prices include admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum, and (bonus for parents!) there will be a cash bar available leading up to the show.

Harlem Globetrotters
Where: Philips Arena
When: 2 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $22 to $160
What: The basketball-comedy team returns, this time with a “four point line” located 30 feet from the basket. The Globetrotters will also perform at Infinite Energy Center on 3/18.

Daffodil Day
Where: Oakland Cemetery
When: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Ring in spring with storytelling, children’s activities, and guided garden walks in the peaceful Victorian cemetery.

Peter and the Wolf and Friends
Where: Symphony Hall
When: 3 p.m.
Cost: $15 to $20
What: The ASO performs the Prokofiev symphony, Peter and the Wolf, plus Flight of the Bumblebee, “Elephant” from Carnival of the Animals, and other kid-friendly classical compositions.

Poetry Out Loud State Final Competition
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Watch as Georgia high school students perform great works of poetry and spoken word—the winner will go on to represent the state in the national competition in D.C.

The Dragon King
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $10.25 for members; $20.50 for nonmembers
What: In this marionette show based on a Chinese folktale, a grandmother sets out to find the Dragon King, who rules over water from the bottom of the sea, and ask him why he won’t bring rain to her drought-plagued village. For ages 4 and up.

Where: Alliance Theatre
When: 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. (Tuesday through Saturday); 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for kids ages 6 to 17; free for kids 5 and under
What: Developed in collaboration with Fernbank Museum of Natural History, this world premiere production gently introduces kids to the giants of the prehistoric world.

Atlanta Science Festival
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Various
What: One of the coolest events for kids and teens in Atlanta (in our humble opinion), the ASF is a weeklong celebration of local science and tech. Drop by one of the dozens of events held in venues across the city—this year’s lineup includes a talk by astronaut captain Mark Kelly, a demonstration of the science of circus tricks, a mock crime scene investigation, a 3D-printed pancake design challenge, and an astronomer-led tour of the night sky. On Saturday the 25th, Centennial Olympic Park hosts the free Exploration Expo, with more than 100 interactive exhibits, demonstrations, and performances.

DRUMLine: Live!
Where: Ferst Center for the Arts
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $28 to $38
What: This touring show brings the HBCU halftime experience to the stage, with a high-stepping drum major leading a cast of percussionists, other musicians, and dancers.

Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Where: Midtown
When: Noon
Cost: Free
What: Atlanta was a baby city when this parade first began in 1858—making it one of the country’s oldest St. Pat’s celebrations. Show up early to race (or cheer on runners) in the parade’s 3rd annual 5K, which starts at 10 a.m.

Where: Fox Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only), 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sunday only)
Cost: $30 to $75
What: The Tony-winning musical stops by the Fox, where you can introduce your kids to Ms. Hannigan, Daddy Warbucks, and all the classic songs—from “Tomorrow” to “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”

White Woman in Progress
Where: 7 Stages Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday), 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $22.50 for adults, $15 for students
What: After Atlanta actress Tara Ochs played the role of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo in the film Selman, she was inspired to create this one-woman show that tackles issues of privilege, race, and social justice. Teens may find inspiration in message, which stresses the power of the individual to spur change.

Secrets of Slave Songs
Where: Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center in Decatur
When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $20 for adults, $10 for students and children
What: This expressive, full-length work by Threads Dance Project founder and artistic director—and Georgia State alum—Karen Charles is a moving reimagination of traditional Negro spirituals. The theater will host a discussion after each performance.

Forest Fairy House Trail
Where: Chattahoochee Nature Center
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday), noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($10 for adults, $7 for students ages 13 to 18, $6 for kids ages 3 to 12, free for kids 2 and under)
What: Tinkerbell would feel quite at home in a Fairy House—a tiny, magical-looking abode made from moss, leaves, and other natural materials. As you wander the Homestead and Kingfisher Pond trails, see how many you can spot.

Cinderella and Fella
Where: Alliance Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $32 for adults, $18 for kids
What: Janece Shaffer is known for writing plays that feature strong female characters, and this world-premiere musical is no exception. Expect a spunky take on the classic fairy tale, in which Cinderella is a high-tops wearing gal ready to join her new best friend (aka the prince) in fun and adventure.

The Price is Right Live
Where: Fox Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $35.50 to $75
What: Have you ever wished for a chance to spin the Big Wheel, prove yourself at Plinko, or place the winning bid on a Showcase? Well come on down to the Fox for this touring interactive stage show, in which audience members have a chance to win real prizes. (You must pre-register with the producer to be eligible to play.)

Atlanta International Auto Show
Where: Georgia World Congress Center
When: Noon to 9 p.m. (Wednesday and Thursday), noon to 10 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $12 for adults, $6 for kids ages 6 to 12, free for kids ages 5 and under
What: Is there any kid alive who doesn’t like to slide into the driver’s seat and pretend to take the wheel (or at least fiddle with all the controls)? This 400,000-sqare-foot auto extravaganza will feature hundreds of futuristic concept cars, classic cars, off-road vehicles, and more. If that’s not enough, Spiderman, Scooby-Doo, and Captain America will make special guest appearances.

International Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Macon, Georgia
When: Various
Cost: Various
What: Did you know that one of the world’s largest cherry blossom festivals is in…..Macon, Georgia, whose streets are lined with more than 300,000 of the pink-blooming trees? Make the trek, and you’ll find concerts, amusement rides, puppet shows, a butterfly encounter, an open-air market, pink pancake breakfasts, and more. The 35th annual (free) cherry blossom parade kicks off at 4 p.m. on March 26.

Rescue Dog Olympics
Where: Brook Run Dog Park
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Bring the family pet (pre-registration is free, but not required) to compete in games like “toss and fetch” and “Scooby says.” Don’t forget to stop by the kissing booth for a drooly smooch.

Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Blackburn Park
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If Macon is a little too far (see above), you can hit this ITP festival featuring a classic car show, live music, pet costume contest, and children’s village (think face-painting, balloon art, and bounce houses)—plus 140 cherry blossom trees.

Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Georgia International Horse Park
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free ($5 to $8 for parking)
What: ‘Tis the cherry blossom season! This annual weekend event will host plenty of live entertainment (including traditional Japanese dance), arts and crafts booths, a newly redesigned children’s area with climbing walls and obstacle courses, and lots of festival treats.

Atlanta’s Young Artists Concert
Where: Michael C. Carlos Museum
When: 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Some of the city’s best middle- and high-school musicians show off their chops in this one-hour concert.

Side-By-Side Concert featuring the ASO and ASYO
Where: Symphony Hall
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $10
What: This annual concert features student performers from the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra playing alongside professionals from the ASO.

Two Boys Kissing
Where: Druid Hill Presbyterian Church
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only)
Cost: $12.50 to $30
What: The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus performs a new work based on the critically-acclaimed YA book of the same name, which follows the interlocking stories of gay teenagers.

The story behind PBS’s new John Lewis documentary

Whether you live in Georgia’s 5th district or had never heard the name “John Lewis” until Trump began tweeting about him last month, now’s your chance to learn more about the civil rights hero. On Friday, February 10, PBS will air John Lewis—Get In the Way, a new documentary that chronicles Lewis’s life from his childhood in rural Alabama, where he was born to sharecroppers in 1940, to his leadership of last year’s Congressional sit-in for gun control. We recently chatted with the film’s producer and director, Kathleen Dowdey, about the project:

Can you talk a little bit about how this movie came to be? I read that footage for this film was shot over 20 years.
In the 1980s, I was living in Atlanta and working for Turner Broadcasting, making independent films. We did a big film on Ralph McGill, and it was actually while we were interviewing [Lewis] for the McGill film that I first heard his story. It was clear right away that someone should be making a film about this guy.

We shot maybe 20 hours of tape in the 1990s, and then the film basically sat in my closet for about 15 years. Then around 2010, after President Obama had been in office for a while, people started asking about it. I thought, “Well if it’s ever going to get made, it would be now,” because Obama’s first presidential campaign had put the spotlight on a lot of civil rights leaders. I brought some tape of what I had shot in the 1990s to Lewis’s office, and I asked him, “Should we finish it?” He agreed. There was about 150 hours of tape, which we edited into a film-length documentary.

Congressman John Lewis at his polling station in Atlanta.

Courtesy of Early Light Productions

Is there a particular scene or interview that stands out to you?
There’s a whole section that we shot early on of his family in Pike County, Alabama—a big family reunion. It was amazing to get a truer sense of where he comes from and how integral that is to who he is. You can read all you want about the Black Belt in Alabama, but when you go there, especially back then in the early 1990s, you get a glimmer of what the hardship of growing up in a place like that would be.

I think a lot of people meet him and hear his stories and just can’t figure out how this guy can be so authentic, have this spirit of optimism and commitment to nonviolence. The challenge to a filmmaker is to be able to show that, and when I started this film, I had no idea how I ever would. I felt like in that scene with his family, you could begin to understand that essence in him and where it came from. This was the start of his road, and if you look at the extraordinary path he has traveled since then, it’s built on the foundation of this place.

The film doesn’t cover Lewis’s recent criticism of Donald Trump or the President’s counter-attack on Lewis. Were you surprised by the events?
John Lewis is an unusual member of Congress. He is someone who is referred to as the conscience of Congress, someone who speaks his mind and speaks it very plainly and straightforwardly. To hear him say [what he said] about Trump, it was not an unusual thing. It was the timing and the essence of it that brought international attention. For those of us who follow him, though, the words were not surprising.

Can you talk a bit about the title, Get in the Way?
That’s one of the Congressman’s favorite phrases and one of his real identifiers: Make some noise, get in the way. It refers to, I believe, the need for all of us to respond to injustice in our world and in our society. It means that it’s up to us—those of us who are in positions to do so—to stand up and to speak out, make some noise, and not allow those injustices to continue.

John Lewis was jailed in Jackson, Mississippi,
during the 1961 Freedom Rides.

Courtesy of the FBI

What do you hope viewers—especially those who aren’t already familiar with Lewis’s story—take away from this documentary?
In screenings so far, people have just been enormously inspired. And that’s something I had hoped for. Some people want to go out and start voter registration drives, other people want to go volunteer at the soup kitchen. Lewis is a master at connecting people and giving them a sense of purpose in their lives. And I hope that seeing the film, even for people who already have a sense of purpose, it kind of reignites them. I would be very proud to be associated with a film that has that effect.

As for the Congressman, he was most eager to support this film because he wants what he learned and what he went through in the [civil rights] movement to be of use to future generations. And as we were putting the film together, we kept that in mind. It is meant to be a useful tool as well as a piece of entertainment. There are so many things that John Lewis’s generation, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s generation went through in a really concentrated period of time. It was an extraordinary period in history for so many reasons, and they carry those experiences with them. It was our job to take that and put it together into film.

29 fun February events for Atlanta families

Through 2/12
I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle
Where: High Museum of Art
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday); 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday); 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($14.50 ages 6 and up; free for kids 5 and under)
What: Even if your kid is too young to read, he or she would likely still recognize the distinctive hand-colored collages of children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle, best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. See 80 original artworks from 15 of Carle’s most popular books in this career retrospective.

Through 2/15
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: $13 for adults, $11 for students
What: The 17th annual festival will include screenings of three family-friendly flicks: Abulele, the E.T.-like story of a grieving child who befriends a furry monster; The Children of Chance, a coming-of-age drama set in a children’s hospital in Nazi-occupied France; and Fanny’s Journey, about a 13-year-old girl who leads a group of young orphans to safety during WWII.

Through 2/26
Snow Mountain
Where: Stone Mountain Park
When: Various
Cost: $28; free for kids ages 2 and under
What: Make it a white Christmas (er, New Year) at Stone Mountain’s annual winter wonderland, with tons of trucked-in snow for sledding, tubing, and snowman making. Work up an appetite for warm drinks and roasted marshmallows.

Through 3/12
The Adventures of Mighty Bug 
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $20.50 ($10.25 for members), free for kids under 2
What: In this comic book-style show, Mighty Bug must rescue the citizens of Bugville from the villain Scorpiana. For ages 4 and up; attendees can also make a lightning bug rod and string puppet.

Through 5/7
Wild Weather
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Have you ever wondered about the forces that create severe weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes? In this interactive exhibition, you can whip up your own storm and learn how scientists are learning how to better predict extreme weather.

Le Petit Prince
Where: 7 Stages Theater
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $27.50 for adults, $18.50 for students
What: For decades readers of all ages have loved the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry story of a pilot who befriends a mysterious child. Atlanta’s Francophone theater company Théâtre du rêve will stage the play entirely in French—but don’t worry, there will be subtitles projected onto a screen.

Roswell Roots
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Various, though many events are free.
What: Roswell’s monthlong festival of black culture and history includes concerts, plays, storytelling, living history demonstrations, a poetry slam, and more.

Timothy Tyson
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $10 ($5 for members)
What: Tyson, a senior research scholar at Duke University, discusses his new book The Blood of Emmett Till, about the brutal 1955 murder of Till, a 14-year-old African American boy accused of violating racial norms by engaging in an exchange with a white woman named Carolyn Bryant. The book includes the only interview ever given by Bryant, and is a powerful way to introduce teens to Till’s story and talk abut the region’s history of racial violence.

Where: Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center
When: Open gaming runs 10 a.m. Thursday through 11 p.m. Sunday. Events take place throughout the weekend.
Cost: $50 for a three-day pass. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
What: Bring your gaming nut to this three-day convention dedicated to board games, miniatures, card games, and roleplaying. Events include game demonstrations, workshops, and championship matches.

Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival
Where: Yaarab Shrine Center
When: 5 to 11 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (Saturday), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Daytime events are free for spectators
What: Watch as jugglers, unicyclists, yoyo-ists, and hula hoopers show off their skills, then pick up some new tricks at one of the many workshops.

The One and Only Ivan
Where: Synchronicity Theatre
When: 7 p.m. (Friday), 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (Sunday). There will also be some weekday matinees for school field trips.
Cost: Various
What: This kid-friendly production (for ages 5 and up) pays tribute to Ivan, a real gorilla who lived at Zoo Atlanta from 1994 to 2012, with a story loosely based on his life and adapted from a Newberry Award-winning book by Katherine Applegate. Show up on Fridays, and the kids can wear their PJs and snack on cookies and milk while watching the show.

Too Heavy For Your Pocket
Where: Alliance Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday); 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday); 2:30 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Cost: $35 to $42 for adults, $10 for teens
What: This world-premiere play, recommended for ages 13 and up, takes place in rural Tennessee during the peak of the Civil Rights movement. The story follows a college student who joins the Freedom Riders—and whose fight against racism in the South takes a toll on his personal relationships.

Super Museum Sunday
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Free
What: As part of the Georgia History Festival, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources offers free admission to a number of parks and historic sites throughout the state—including some not normally open on Sundays. Participating sites include Andalusia Farm, the Dahlonega Gold Museum historic site, the Marietta Museum of History, the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta, and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film.

Malpaso Dance Company
Where: Rialto Center for the Arts
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $31.21 to $62.64
What: See this young Havana-based dance troupe, which blends ballet, modern, and Afro-Cuban styles.

Culture Through Rhythm and Movement
Where: Center for Civil and Human Rights
When: Noon to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free for kids under 18; $18.25 for adults
What: Kids can learn how today’s popular music and dances are inspired by African culture and traditions in this month’s SPARK Saturday event.

Snow White
Where: Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center
When: 2 p.m.
Cost: $10 to $51
What: Each year the Atlanta Ballet presents a one-hour, family-friendly performance in the month of February, offering young arts lovers an opportunity to experience the beauty and drama of classical dance. Designed for kids 12 and under, this year’s production of Snow White will have special appeal for Disney fans.

Champion Tree Tour
Where: Fernbank Forest
When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission to Fernbank Museum ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under). Advance reservations required.
What: Celebrate Arbor Day with this guided hike through Fernbank Forest (for kids ages 8 and up). You’ll visit and learn to identify some of the city’s largest, most impressive trees.

Fancy Storytime
Where: Little Shop of Stories
When: 3 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: It’s fancy day at the beloved Decatur bookshop. Don your finest dress-up clothes, and settle in for some fancy tales and fancy snacks.

Love Stories of Oakland
Where: Oakland Cemetery
When: 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: $16 for adults, $10 for students
What: Learn about the romantic pasts of some of Oakland’s “permanent residents” in this guided tour.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Where: Fox Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Wednesday through Saturday); 2 p.m. (Saturday only); 3 p.m. (Sunday only)
Cost: $25 to $90
What: African American choreographer Alvin Ailey, who grew up during segregation and would have turned 86 this year, was a pioneer in the modern dance world for his socially conscious works and diverse troupe of dancers. Decades after their creation, many of his most famous pieces—including the extraordinary Revelations—continue to resonate deeply with audiences.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Where: Philips Arena
When: Various
Cost: $15 to $225
What: In January, the nearly 100-year-old Ringling Bros. announced that this spring’s tour will be its last, making this your last chance to see the spectacle before it closes permanently in May. Infinite Energy Center will also host Circus XTREME later in the month.

Sweet Honey in the Rock
Where: Rialto Center for the Arts
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $38.56 to $73.44
What: For more than 40 years, this Grammy-nominated all-female group has combined a capella singing and American Sign Language interpretation to create powerful, uplifting performances.

Vanilla Sunday
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden
When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($18.95 for adults; $12.95 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids two and under)
What: Did you know that vanilla comes from an orchid? Taste a vanilla ice-cream sundae, and learn about the process by which vanilla beans are turned into vanilla extract. Then stop by the conservatory to marvel at the Garden’s annual ode to orchids.

Founders Day
Where: Callaway Gardens
When: All day
Cost: Free
What: Each year, visitors can explore Callaway Gardens’ beautiful grounds for free on November 6 and February 21—the birthdays of its founders. Stop by the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel between noon and 4 p.m. for special organ concerts.

Exit Strategy
Where: True Colors Theatre at Southwest Arts Center
When: Various
Cost: $20 for adults over 30, $10 for those age 30 and under
What: Recommended for teens ages 15 and up, this play explores the neighborhood tensions that arise when a Chicago public high school is slated for closure.

The Phantom of the Opera
Where: Fox Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $30 to $125
What: “Sing once again with me our strange duet” when this new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gothic musical—including updated special effects, staging, and choreography—hits the Fox.

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies under 1 year)
What: See Atlanta Ballet dancers perform excerpts from Snow White, meet Cinderella, listen to Anansi and The Magic Stick, and learn to dance the minuet.

Black History Month Parade
Where: Downtown Atlanta, beginning at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
When: 1 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Last year’s parade drew everyone from the Atlanta Dream to marching bands, cheerleading squads, and Girl Scout troops. In 2017, the event will pay homage to the late Earl Little, a community leader who launched the city’s first Black History Month Parade in 2011, and will end with a post-parade ceremony at Woodruff Park.

Mardi Gras Fun
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies under 1 year)
What: At this G-rated celebration, kids can make their own glittery masks and then don them for a Mardi Gras parade.

The “Jerry Seinfeld of France” is ready to conquer America

Gad Elmaleh
Gad Elmaleh

Photograph by Arié Elmaleh

In 2015, French Moroccan comedian Gad Elmaleh made an unusual decision. After enjoying years of fame and success in France—he is often referred to as “The Jerry Seinfeld of France,” and indeed, Seinfeld is a friend and supporter—Elmaleh decided to learn English and discover how his comedy translates in America. In early 2016, he began a six-month stint at Joe’s Pub in New York City, and has now embarked on a U.S. tour. We recently chatted with Elmaleh in advance of his show at Symphony Hall on February 3.

You are a major comedy headliner in Europe, and yet you (at least temporarily) gave it up to pursue a stand-up career in the U.S.—and in English. What has been the most difficult part?
There were many, many difficulties when I first started. Obviously the first issue, the first struggle, is the language. Two years ago, I didn’t speak English like I speak now. I took so many lessons, and worked with a dialect coach, and tried to watch the news everywhere I was in English.

I had to master speaking English, and I also had to learn a new way of delivering my jokes. The way the Americans are used to hearing and receiving stand-up is so, so different. In Europe, we have a tradition of acting and performing during stand-up, and I’m not saying the American audience is not ready to receive that, but you have to stay sharp with the delivery so they can follow what you’re saying.

What kinds of changes did you have to make to your stand-up routine?
When I first started doing stand-up in English, I tried to translate some jokes from my French act, and it didn’t work at all. I think people want to hear a unique new perspective. In my act, in my show, there’s this whole perspective about me coming from France and observing American culture, behavior, traditions, the way of talking, eating, dressing, traveling, dancing. I like that; I was really happy to see that [for] Americans, stand-up comedy is such a big part of the culture, they’re used to that style of self-deprecating jokes.

Does your new material draw on your time on tour?
I just have new material all the time when I travel. When I first moved to France, because I was born in Morocco, my first stand-up show was about my journey: being Moroccan and moving away to Canada, and being established in France. And now I feel like I’m doing it again, but instead the material is about me traveling across the U.S. Stand-up comedians always talk about personal stuff, and this is my life now.

Do you have any preconceived ideas about Atlanta?
Not a lot. I know just the clichés, so for Atlanta I think of Coca-Cola. It’s stupid, but this is all we learn in France. But I realize the history of the city is so much more interesting than only Coca-Cola. I’m looking forward to exploring, and then later I can talk about this trip in my act when I go to other cities. There’s always something new to say.

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