The three most magical words in the Deep South? “After Labor Day.”
After Labor Day the daylight, the temperatures and the peak of hurricane season all slowly recede. So do the electric bills.
After Labor Day the kids are back in school and the holiday season begins its approach. After Labor Day whispers promises of drier air and cooler mornings, of a time you can open the windows and dust off the nicer pieces of your wardrobe.
After Labor Day the arts season revives. Back when Mobile still enjoyed a daily newspaper, that meant an early September Sunday edition loaded with the annual arts preview. Months of symphony, ballet, opera, chamber music, theatre, visual exhibits and shows, all revealed for the faithful and curious alike.
Although various causes dispatched that former luxury, it doesn’t mean the arts season has disappeared with it. After Labor Day still means there’s a wealth of cultural expression available, as much as there’s been at any time in regional history.
The Mobile Symphony Orchestra season features a grand sweep of musical flavors, from the Latin to the Emerald Isle, along with some of the most cherished names in the genre like Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart and America’s John Williams.
Mobile Opera will stage Verdi’s “La traviata” in late October, a Winter Gala Concert borne on the ethereal voice of Suzanne Marie Lommler and Puccini’s brilliant comic opera, “La rondine,” in late March.
Mobile Chamber Music Society has five concerts – two in the fall, one after New Year’s and two after Mardi Gras – and season tickets are available. The January show will certainly sate a variety of palates.
The Mobile Museum of Art is awash in impressive exhibits by our area’s most notable talent, shows that will be in place through New Year’s. A new exhibit on Azalea City architecture opens in October.
The Alabama Contemporary Art Center is steadfast in its titular focus. Their latest exhibit, Urban Wild, remains in place until just before Halloween. It has three exciting new shows by New York’s Francine Tint, Atlanta’s Y. Malik Jalal and London’s K. Yoland arriving in November.
Mobile Ballet will bring “Giselle” to the stage in late October, followed by “The Nutcracker” in December and then “Beauty and the Beast” in March. Director Katia Garza is determined to break notions of ballet as “for a certain audience”; the marvel of dance is for all Mobilians.
The Mobile Bay-area theater companies all have full seasons of musicals, mysteries and laughter ready. Rumor has it Mobile satirist Thomas Perez is set to bring the third in his Society Shell sendups to audiences this winter.
We boast museums and outdoor events, discounted and free programs. There’s more than enough to harpoon the “nothing to do in Mobile” canard.
Speaking of summer, this one was odd. A particular convergence between present and past clarified revolutionary shifts in America’s most pervasive art form: motion pictures.
Quentin Tarantino’s latest project, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” not only generated a ubiquitous ad campaign but highlighted 1969 as the midst of a major change in cinema. Its central characters are struggling to shift from the old studio system into a new reality.
Simultaneously, television network CNN unveiled its latest documentary series, “The Movies,” a review of an artistic genre only possible with the advent of 20th century technology. The series has its flaws. It’s broad, sometimes shallow and certainly aims right down the middle of the road. The only foreign influence I recall even mentioned is German Expressionism. No French New Wave. No Kurosawa or Ingmar Bergman.
It would bore true cinephiles, but if you regretted never taking a general film history class, it’s worth watching while enduring summer’s remaining sweaty slog.
The series complemented Tarantino’s premise. For the unaware, American cinema underwent an unparalleled sea change from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. Breathtaking in scope and reach, all of film’s subgenres were affected: Westerns, drama, comedy, horror, sci-fi … everything evolved with startling speed and abundance.
All for the better. A lot of saccharine was extracted and rougher edges embraced.
Bye bye to “The Bellboy”; bring on “Blazing Saddles.” So long, “Beach Blanket Bingo”; howdy, “The Last Picture Show.” Adios, “Pollyanna”; hello, “Paper Moon.”
If you’re on the younger end of cinema fandom and want a primer for what Tarantino meant, take a look at CNN’s survey. Make sure to take notes for later exploration; there’s great stuff from the era.
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