The cast of the Actor's Express production of Angels in America: Robert Bryan Davis, Carolyn Cook, Grant Chapman, Parris Sarter, Louis Greggory, Cara Mantella, Joe Sykes and Thandiwe Thomas DeShazor (Photo by Ashley Earles Bennett)
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January’s Best Bets

Even in Atlanta, January can be cold and dreary. Fortunately, the month offers a host of fantastic art events, from a monumental contemporary classic at the theater to a new exhibition devoted to exploring the history of Latino culture in the South. Here are our picks for the top five events that will help keep you warm and bright at the top of the year.

Angels in America. January 12–February 17. Actor’s Express.

Tony Kushner’s monumental play in two parts puts 1980s America under the microscope, but its sociopolitical vision is so incisive that it seems like a play written for our times, designed to shed light on a crisis-ridden country. In many critics’ estimation — ours as well — it remains the greatest play of the past 25 years, and it’s hard to think of a better Atlanta theater to take on the challenge of producing the show than Actor’s Express, which has lined up a stellar cast including Carolyn Cook, Joseph Sykes, Robert Bryan Davis and Parris Sarter. Part One: Millennium Approaches opens January 12, and Part Two: Perestroika opens a week later on January 18, with the two parts running in rep through February 17.

 

Kathleen Battle performs with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on January 19. (Photo by Douglas Foulke)

Kathleen Battle: Underground Railroad. January 19 at 8 p.m. Symphony Hall.

Twenty-two years is a long time to stay away, but that’s how long star lyric soprano Kathleen Battle was banned from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Fired from a 1994 production or La fille du régiment for “unprofessional actions,” she made her return to the Met stage in November of 2016 to perform Underground Railroad, a concert of spirituals inspired by the 19th-century network that helped bring slaves to freedom. The New York Times called the performance “worth the wait.” Battle performs the moving work in Atlanta in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day backed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Morehouse and Spelman College Glee Clubs.

 

¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South. January 6–December 31. Atlanta History Center.

A new exhibition explores Latino culture in the South. Developed by Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South in collaboration with the Atlanta History Center and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, ¡NUEVOlution! seeks to explore the personal stories behind the statistics. Through videos and interactive displays, the exhibition considers the complex issue of identity and historic tensions accompanying immigration. It looks at how music and culinary norms are influenced by blending cultures, and how in-migration is breathing new life into Southern towns and burgeoning cities such as Atlanta. The Atlanta History Center has also partnered with ArtsATL to select artists whose original creations provide a window into Latino life and culture in Atlanta today.

 

Carrie Mae Weems: From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. January 19–April 29. Hammonds House Museum.

Digging through archives, artist Carrie Mae Weems found photographs of enslaved people in the American South, among them daguerreotypes commissioned in 1850 by Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz. Weems has said, “When we’re looking at these images, we’re looking at the ways in which Anglo America, white America, saw itself in relationship to the black subject. . . . I wanted to intervene in that by giving voice to the subject that historically had no voice.” For her 1995–96 series entitled From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, Weems rephotographed the images, enlarged them, printed them through color filters and placed them beneath glass sandblasted with her own text. Atlanta’s Hammonds House exhibits the work alongside People of A Darker Hue, Weems’ 2016 film about police violence. The artist visits Atlanta on February 4 to speak at the Auburn Avenue Research Library about the exhibition and the work.

 

The Atlanta Jazz Festival presents Jazzmeia Horn. January 27 at 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center.

If we have any criticism of the Atlanta Jazz Festival, it’s that it only happens once a year. What we love about the festival’s new satellite series is the way it spreads some of the festival’s great music and summertime vibe to other parts of the arts season. On January 27, the festival brings emerging young vocalist Jazzmeia Horn (believe it or not, her real name given to her by her grandmother) to the Woodruff Arts Center. Winner of the 2015 Thelonius Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Horn’s music harks back to the great female vocalists of the past, but she also manages to give her sound an intriguingly contemporary, idiosyncratic edge. If anyone can help bring a summer-and-jazz vibe to Atlanta in January, it’s Horn.

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