Hitchcock, swing dance, drag, and more come to Ypsi Freighthouse in new UMS residency

This story is part of a series about arts and culture in Washtenaw County. It is made possible by the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Destination Ann Arbor, Larry and Lucie Nisson, and the University Musical Society.

From April 4-28, the University Musical Society (UMS) will return to the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, 100 Market Place in Ypsilanti, for a month of live programming.
Events, which are designed for Ypsi residents of all ages, include a night of swing dance, a drag show, a silent movie accompanied by a live score, an open mic, and an orchestra with which audiences are invited to participate.
"We create programming in response to community needs and interests," says Cayenne Harris, UMS' vice president of learning and engagement. "The idea is to prioritize participation for Ypsilanti residents."
Part of that means ensuring that "price is not a barrier" to participation, Harris says. As a result, all events are either free or "pay what you wish." Harris says UMS wants audiences to know that if they enjoy one performance, "they can come back and try something else."
"For many years," she notes, UMS was associated "primarily [with staging] Western classical music [concerts]. That has not been our focus at the Freighthouse. Thus far, we've done more popular music, jazz, social dance, [and] participatory events."
For example, on Earth Day, April 21, singer/songwriter Joe Reilly will give "a really wonderful family performance," according to Harris. Reilly will perform at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and his shows will be followed by a family activity with Growing Hope Urban Farm.
Earlier in the month, UMS will collaborate with the Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti (iFFY) to present a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 film "The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog." The screening at 7:30 p.m. on April 11 will be accompanied by an original live score from the Michigan-based trio Little Bang Theory.
The film, which stars Ivor Novello and is based on a 1913 novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, helped establish Hitchcock’s reputation as a master of the thriller/mystery genre.
But Micah Vanderhoof, iFFY’s co-director and programmer, says there’s another reason you’ll want to see "The Lodger" at the Freighthouse.
"The landscape of London is kind of a main component of the film," she says — and, in particular, the "grittiness" of that city. Vanderhoof says the "industrial elements" in the film’s setting seemed to reverberate with the "revived nature of the Freighthouse."

A still from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lodger."
Not only that, but she says "there's this recurring theme of a foghorn in the fog of the movie." And with an actual train passing by the Freighthouse every once in a while, Vanderhoof says, "there’s these specific, atmospheric, diegetic elements that are going to be made more visceral performed live."
Adding to the creep factor will be the Little Bang Theory, led by composer Frank Pahl, which will perform the film’s score on toys and modified children’s instruments.
"Having something that’s live and in-person creates an added tangible nature," Vanderhoof says.
She adds that "UMS has been a really great partner to work with. …We're extremely grateful for their contribution on the project."
Harris says she hopes to "have more opportunities to collaborate with local organizations" in the future. Plus, she adds, "I’m hoping that we will have more community input into what happens in the Freighthouse."
UMS has already conducted surveys and public meetings to gauge public interest in events: what kinds of artists were Ypsi residents interested in seeing, for example? What kinds of events were desired?
"We heard a lot from people that they wanted opportunities for social interaction," Harris says. "People talked about not necessarily knowing their neighbors — or understanding that Ypsilanti has different communities, sub-communities, within it."
As a result, UMS has introduced opportunities for social dance into each residency thus far. (This month’s Swing Dance Night will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 4.)
"Those are the kinds of events where you can show up and you don't have to have a partner. You can meet other people," Harris says.
The same is true of the other events, as well. As a whole, Harris says, the April residency is "a fun way to get together and interact with people who may share your community but who you may not know."

For a full list of residency programming, click here.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photos courtesy of UMS.
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