m i n g a r ts
20 1 1
Discover the flavors of Memphis
memphis symphony plays a different tune
memphis at interim restaurant
Theatre Memphis takes center stage
New Ballet Ensemble dances the Blues
from the editor
performing arts issue
If variety is the spice of life, then Memphis is the place to spice things up. You may be here on a musical pilgrimage—visiting the site of the first rock-and-roll recordings, the home of the King, or the rich history of the blues. Perhaps you are dropping by for a chance to sample our mouth-watering barbecue, or maybe you come as a business traveler, here to collaborate with our world-class organizations. Whether you’ve traveled from near or afar, for business or pleasure, Spoon magazine is your guide to go beyond the blues and barbecue and taste the rest that Memphis has to offer. One way to experience our city is through the innovative performing arts scene. From grassroots theatre to nationally acclaimed ballet companies, from professional actors to light-hearted entertainers, this issue of Spoon introduces Memphis’ most talented performers. You can find classical music, exciting shows, unique dance performances and laughout-loud comedy in nearly every corner of the city.
10 At the Barre
Ballet Memphis at Interim Restaurant and Bar
creative director Jason Prater
14 The Grizz Girls
designers Tina lovett Chris Strain
at Local Gastropub
on the cover
photography jay adkins justin fox burks brandon dill Donny Granger Joey Miller
sales Bev sams patricia landers ricky delashmit kelly lackey
SCRIPPS BC DEVELOPMENT vp of business development Rob Jiranek
ballet memphis at interim
16 The Best Medicine Wiseguys Improv at the BBQ Shop
18 At the Movies Indie Memphis Film at Playhouse on the Square
20 Wrestlers at Kooky Canuck
22 Singing for Supper Opera Memphis at Ciao Bella
director of production Scott Binford
24 Perfect Characters
Theatre Memphis at Grove Grill
26 Magician Michael Clayton at The Silly Goose
28 A Different Tune Memphis Symphony at Majestic Grille
As always, we bring you the most complete guide to the best restau-
30 King of Rock and Roe
rants in Memphis. On every page you'll find a mouth-watering menu
Elvis at Blue Fin
and an open invitation to join the chefs and staff for a satisfying meal.
32 Soul Men
Let them know you saw them in Spoon, and they’ll be sure to offer an extra helping of heavenly hospitality. All of the artists in this issue (performing or culinary) have two things in common: a love of Memphis and a love of their craft that they're eager to share with locals and visitors. So pick your dining spot, pick your performance and explore the sights and sounds in the most entertaining city in the Mid-south.
Stax Academy Students at Corky’s BBQ
34 Double, Double, Toil and Trouble Tennessee Shakespeare Co. at Napa Café
36 Movement with Heart New Ballet Ensemble at Blues City Café
38 Collective Harmony
Project Motion + Collage Dance at Brushmark
43 Restaurant Menu Directory over 30 pages of restaurants and menus
45 Project Green Fork 82 The Spoonful outtakes and extras from the making of Spoon
spoon | fall 2011
For 25 years, Ballet Memphis has been an anchor of the performing arts scene in Memphis. performing arts issue
Founded in 1986 by lifelong Memphian Dorothy Gunther Pugh, the company has grown from humble beginnings into a nationally respected artistic organization. “We’re a very innovative and communitycentric company,” describes Ms. Pugh. “We’ve crashed a lot of barriers because we’re a ballet company for now; we don’t just pull the same old tired things out of the closet.” As a result, Memphis boasts a dance scene that is fresh, unique, and exhilarating.
at the Barre by holly whitfield Photography by donny granger
Julie (front), Kendall (center) and Travis of Ballet Memphis. Costumes by Bruce Bui
spoon | fall 2011
Choreography inspired by Emily Coates and Lacina Coulibaly's Où Que Nous Soyens/ Wherever We Are.
The first performance of the 2011-2012 season in September is Connections: Food, where three talented members of Ballet Memphis— Travis Bradley, Kendall Britt and Julie Niekrasz—will perform their own culinaryinspired pieces and those of accomplished choreographer Matthew Neenan. The three dancers convened at Interim Restaurant and Bar in East Memphis to discuss their upcoming works, and why Ballet Memphis is an integral part of the Memphis performing arts scene. ast Latin guitar, strong drumbeats and blue-hued light accompanied the dancers’ lively movements. Intricate footwork and perfectly sculpted leaps were evidence of dedicated classical ballet training, and the pulsing, staccato movements that echoed the music were fresh and engaging. The controlled but urgent steps of dancers in formation alluded to a school of fish, swimming through a turbulent river. Their flowing skirts flared like a splash of water as they jumped, then hung long and still as they froze for an instant, arms at right angles, before twirling again. The specific elements of this performance were no accident. The piece, Trey McIntyre’s The Barramundi, was inspired by the fish of the same name. McIntyre choreographed and premiered the the piece with Ballet Memphis in 2006. The Barramundi is only one example of the contemporary works produced and supported by the company, which celebrates its quartercentury anniversary this year.
Stuffed Mountain Trout with Orzo Pasta
at interim restaurant in east memphis
performing arts issue
The dancers of Ballet Memphis have a collection of reasons why they enjoy the unique company. “It’s wonderful to be a part of so much new work,” explains Kendall Britt. “Our director [Dorothy Gunther Pugh] does a great job of pursuing new work, especially innovative ‘work that matters,’” agrees Travis Bradley. Ballet Memphis is a relatively small company of about twenty members who perform locally and nationally at a variety of venues. “We genuinely are a family, which is very rare with larger dance companies,” says Julie Niekras. While Ballet Memphis often participates in the creation of new work, well-known ballets are an equally important part of their repertoire. Julie Niekras danced in The Barramundi and other roles in contemporary pieces, but she has a special connection with the classic story ballets. “My most recent role was Juliet. That is every ballerina’s dream to dance—even the greatest ballerinas don’t have the opportunity to perform this in-depth role,” Julie shares. “In any story ballet, people are already involved because they are familiar with the characters,” explains Kendall, who played the role of plucky, sprightly Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To deepen audience involvement and keep stories fresh, Ballet Memphis sometimes updates the time or setting, or reinvents the character with a dancer’s personal interpretation. Travis was particularly fond of the Scarecrow role from Steven McMahon’s Wizard of Oz. “I’ve never had so much fun onstage. In certain roles, we are able to transcend ourselves and become something completely different,” he shares. “It’s one thing to act and to speak a role, but it’s an entirely different thing to embody a role through dance.” Facial expressions, precise movements, and the particular energy of the character all contribute to the immersion in a ballet role. The dancers lose themselves “from the inside out,” as Kendall says.
Kendall Britt, Jr.
Julie is from Arlington Heights, Ill. and is beginning her eighth season at Ballet Memphis. She has danced lead roles in Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, the Nutcracker (Clara), Travis Bradley’s Beauty and the Beast, and Mark Godden’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hermia), and others.
Travis has been with the company since 2004 and is from Mechanicsville, Va. He is an accomplished choreographer and has collaborated with many acclaimed artists. He has performed in Romeo and Juliet (Friar Lawrence, Romeo), Beauty and the Beast (The Prince), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon), and several Trey McIntyre ballets.
Kendall is originally from New York City, and joined the company in 2006. He has performed several roles including the Lion in Steven McMahon’s Wizard of Oz, Romeo and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, and Puck in Mark Godden’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Ballet Memphis emphasizes the fundamentals of ballet performance as the first step in reaching people, especially young children or others who may not be the expected audience for ballet. Julie’s recent portrayal of Juliet was more than a personal dream; it was a chance to interact with the local students who were invited to performances. “We brought Shakespeare alive for them,” Julie explains. Such exhibitions are part of Ballet Memphis’ community and school outreach programs, which also include Dance Avenue, a dance curriculum offered to several Memphis City Schools, Youth Villages and the Stax Academy. In addition, collaboration with local authors, musicians, visual artists, and chefs is a way that Ballet Memphis reaches out and brings together the rest of the arts community. Dorothy Gunther Pugh and the talented team at Ballet Memphis strive to make ballet relevant and accessible and by all accounts have succeeded. The heart of their message lies in the quality of the performances and the passion of the dancers. “What the dancers do in the theatre, in many ways, is the apex of outreach. All people are capable of being drawn into the story or the dialogue [that happens onstage],” Dorothy explains.
Beef Tartare with Fried Quail Egg and Herb Salad
spoon | fall 2011
performing arts issue
at playhouse on the square in Midtown
Ryan Parker & by holly whitfield | Photography by joey miller
“Memphis is the kind of environment that fosters good stories.”
Brian Pera At the Movies
winning huey’s award s d onion ring r seburge an bacon chee
Ryan Parker and Brian Pera were both born outside Memphis city limits, but after decades of living in the Bluff City, both consider it to be their home. The two have collaborated on several award-winning films, including “The Way I See It” (2008) and “Woman’s Picture” (2011), as well as individual projects like Parker’s short film “Fresh Skweezed” (2010).
- ryan parker
When these hard-working moviemakers get hungry, they head to midtown neighborhood favorites Young Avenue Deli, The Beauty Shop, or enjoy burgers and brews from Huey’s.
filmmakers from across the country will come together in
midtown, Memphis for the 14th Annual Indie Memphis film festival. The three-day event showcases features, documentaries,
The close-knit community of artists, musicians, performers, and film buffs makes Memphis the ideal place for upand-coming artists like this pair. Ryan studied film at The University of Memphis, and met Brian—who has been interested in film since childhood— while both were living in midtown. “I’ve always looked for like-minded collaborators,” Brian shares.
and short films from indie filmmakers, including plenty of Memphis artists. The festival has gained national press for being an accessible, worthwhile festival for movie lovers and movie makers alike. The screenings and events will take place at Malco Studio on the Square, the Brooks Museum, and Playhouse on the Square, where two filmmakers met to enjoy
Ryan and Brian are looking forward to this year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival. The two have entered the first three installments of their series “Woman’s Picture,” which focuses on what Brian, the director, describes as cinematic portraits of women. The film was shot by Ryan and includes a performance by Memphis songstress and actor Amy Lavere.
some Huey’s burgers and talk about their Memphis roots and the upcoming festival.
spoon | fall 2011
performing arts issue
at blues city café on beale
by holly whitfield | Photography by brandon dill
"If you have a heartbeat, you can move. A turn of the head or a curl of the fingers, it's all dance." - Jayme Stokes
hen it comes to style, the dancers of New Ballet Ensemble
Movement with Heart
aren’t concerned about labels;
they simply love to move. Memphian Katie Smythe founded the NBE in 2001 with a goal of offering dance training for talented students regardless of their ability
“We have a fresh approach to something that’s been around for a long time,” says Jayme Stokes, company dancer and instructor at the school. One example, Nut Remix is a redo of Nutcracker set on Beale Street and features hip hop, ballet, African dance, flamenco and more. The children’s ballet Peter and the Wolf gets a similar NBE makeover. “The Hunters are break dancers. The Duck is a modern dancer, and the Bird is a ballerina. I play the Cat, whose piece is a jazz dance,” Jayme shares.
to pay. The end result is a motivated, vibrant group of dancers and students from every corner of the city. Company members Jayme Stokes and Gene Seals gave an exciting demonstration of balletmeets-Memphis at Blues City Café on Beale Street.
Company dancer Gene Seals is a New Ballet Ensemble success story. Seven years ago, he started dancing at a school program and soon after was introduced to Director Katie Smythe. “Later, I came to ballet class and I stayed. I loved it,” he shares. “We bring people together, and we care about the community. New Ballet Ensemble feels like family.” Jayme Stokes (Left) and Gene Seals show off moves from a recent piece by performing artist and choreographer Kevin Guy.
When Jayme takes a break from teaching class and rehearsing, she enjoys meals with friends at downtown spots like Ernestine and Hazel’s or Blue Fin, while Gene recommends Memphis favorite Interstate BBQ.
full rack of bbq ribs (top) garlic broiled shrimp skillet (bottom) 36
spoon | fall 2011
Cover + Selections | "From the Editor" | "Contents" | "At the Barre" | "At the Movies" "Movement with Heart" | Stories and concepts by Holly...