DETROIT: DIA, Friday Night Live !

11 Nov

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It’s no secret that Detroit has one of the finest art museums in the country, but did you know the DIA is open every Friday until 10 pm? They call it Friday Night Live; a combination of art, music, guided tours, drawing and craft classes, the vibe is casual and fun. There’s something different happening each week. All activities are included in the price of admission, if you live in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties, it’s FREE! So what are you waiting for……….

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It is the Friday before Halloween, the front of the Beaux-arts building is specially lit in colored lights. Inside it is darker than usual, we pass a family dressed in Halloween costumes, we check in at the members desk and get the low-down on the evenings activities. We proceed up the stairs to the Great Hall, the giant circular chandeliers glow dimly, a laser light show is being projected on the right-hand wall. The wall to the left is lined with glass cases filled with William Randolph Hearst’s Armor collection, tonight they look spooky. There are special tours going on, sort of a scavenger hunt, people hold lists and point. The grand space has a completely different look and feeling; we notice fine details in the architecture and decor we have previously overlooked. We proceed to other galleries, we notice two young girls who appear to be sleep-walking, suddenly they drop to the floor and sleep.  I seem to be more fascinated by the building than the art tonight, faces carved in stone that once seemed harmless now look menacing, I notice beautiful sconces lit by a cluster of globe shaped bulbs, the luster of pewabic tile glazes come to life. Further on we encounter more sleep walkers, these carry pillows and blankets, soon they lie down on the floor, they look quite comfortable. Easels are set up randomly to encourage visitors to try out their drawing skills, young and old give it a whirl. I check the time, we have to get moving, the performance is about to start.

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The show is taking place in the auditorium of theDetroit Film Theatre, the stunning 1,150 seat theater was designed by C. Howard Crane ( also designed Fox Theatre, Orchestra Hall, Opera House and State Theatre, to name a few) the Aerial Angels are getting ready to perform. Streams of people are filing in, we find good seats, before long the lights dim. The stage is oddly lit, the music a bit peculiar, the atmosphere is a bit creepy, after all it is the season for the strange and unusual. The only male in the cast takes center stage and begins to juggle, he’s good; the number of items increases, so does the difficulty, it’s fascinating to watch. Other cast members appear on stage, a woman mesmerizes us with her hula-hoop skills, how do they do that? The music changes with each new act, it is a continuous stream of captivating tricks and acrobatics. Three women begin to climb the aerial silks that hang from the ceiling, they maneuver up and down the long flowing silk, they move gracefully to the music. When they finish the mood becomes serious, a female dressed in heels and a long coat appears, and she’s carrying a whip! Her heels click as she moves across the floor cracking her whip, the sole man reappears wearing shorts and holding a newspaper, hhhmmm…….Hesitantly the guy extends his arms holding the paper out in front, Crack! The paper is now cut in two; the procedure continues until the paper is a smidgen of what it once was, no blood was shed. The show is like a dark, edgy version of a Cirque troupe, the finale consists of juggling many large, sharp knives. We are enthralled, enchanted, bewitched. 

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We decided to end our evening with a nightcap at the Motor Bar inside the Book-Cadillac Hotel on Washington Blvd. The building is incredible; designed by (you think I’m going to say Albert Kahn, but I am not!) Louis Kamper in the Italian Renaissance style, it opened in 1924 as the tallest hotel in the world at 33 floors. The hotel has a rich history, including guests such as Presidents Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan, Frank Sinatra stayed here too. The hotel closed in 1984 and was sold off in 1986. After a $200 million restoration the building was brought back to life as the Westin Book-Cadillac, a truly amazing feat! We head up the stairs to Motor Bar, the rectangular space is just lovely; modern chandeliers hang from plaster ceiling medallions, a series of huge windows line one wall, columns with richly ornate capitals separate the windows. Cozy seating areas line the perimeter of the room while larger tables are placed in the middle. We order drinks at the bar, a Cabernet Sauvignon for myself and a Whiskey and Coke for Kris. The room is warm and inviting, we take our drinks to a seating area by a window, they have a good crowd tonight. There’s a character to an old building you just don’t get in new construction, it’s like the walls themselves have absorbed the past. The drinks were wonderful, as was the atmosphere.

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