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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    Just a day after it was announced, a planned concert at the Michigan Theater by Hugh Laurie has been canceled by Laurie's management.

    The theater announced the cancellation Wednesday, and a note on Laurie's website blames "scheduling difficulties." A concert in Toronto has replaced the Ann Arbor date (Oct. 20). A rescheduled date in the future remains possible, but at this time no Ann Arbor date is on the tour itinerary. Laurie is scheduled to play in Chicago on Oct. 16 and Kent, Ohio on the 19th.

    For more information on Laurie's music and the tour, see his website.


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    Thumbnail image for Rothbart.jpg

    Davy Rothbart

    3 Ann Arbor natives scored prizes at the 10th annual Indianapolis International Film Festival, which happened July 18-28, 2013, and screened nearly 100 films.

    Directors Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart (of Found Magazine and This American Life fame) won IIFF's awards for Grand Jury - Feature (which has a cash prize of $1,000); Best Matter of Fact - Feature Film; and the Audience Award for Feature Film, all for the documentary "Medora," which chronicles the fate of long-winless high school basketball team in the former manufacturing town of Medora, Indiana.

    Director Joshua Izenberg, meanwhile, won awards for Best Matter of Fact - Short Film and Audience Award - Short Film for "Slomo," which tells the story of neurologist John Kitchin, who found the meaning of life on a pair of rollerblades.

    SLOMO Trailer from Josh Izenberg on Vimeo.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


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    Theater-Avenue Q Anni_Need.jpg

    Lexy Fridell and Jason Jacoby, with Nicky, and Darren Bluestone, with Rod, in a scene from "Avenue Q."

    Associated Press

    Theater producer Robyn Goodman walked into the popular Broadway restaurant Angus McIndoe in mid-2003 and bumped into Nathan Lane, sipping wine.

    He told her that he'd just seen her raunchy new downtown musical.

    "You're not moving that to Broadway, are you?" he asked her in disbelief.

    "Actually we are, Nathan," she told him.

    Fast forward to the Tony Awards.

    "Who hands me my Tony for the show?" asks Goodman, with a smile. "Nathan Lane."

    The musical was "Avenue Q," the groundbreaking show that combined Muppet-style creatures with human actors to create something funny and dangerous, paving the way for "The Book of Mormon."

    With its puppet-on-puppet sex, off-kilter songs like "It Sucks to Be Me" and general naughtiness, "Avenue Q" was a blast of tequila at a time when Broadway was safely drinking vino.

    "Everyone in the business thought we were crazy," says Goodman, who would go on to produce hits like and "In the Heights" and "Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella."

    This summer, "Avenue Q," which began life in an off-Broadway theater downtown, had a six-year Broadway run and is now chugging along nicely off-Broadway again, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

    "It's just the little train that could," says Goodman.

    PUPPET DEAL

    It began with just three songs - sung by a puppet.

    Goodman and one of her producing partners, Kevin McCollum, recall hearing three songs from the nascent show at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. They were delivered by a happy-go-lucky green puppet called Nicky, controlled by designer Rick Lyon.

    Two tunes have endured - "If You Were Gay" and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" - and one fell along the way for not advancing the plot. ("Tear It Up and Throw It Away," a tune about what you get when you get a jury summons.)

    What the producers loved was that the music and lyrics of University of Michigan graduate Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez - both inspired by "South Park" - had fused the chirpy world of musical theater with the jaded view of those weaned on "Sesame Street," reruns of '80s sitcoms such as "Diff'rent Strokes" and the Internet.

    "I thought it was the most original thing I'd ever seen," says Goodman.

    Marx and Lopez had been toying with making it into an episodic TV show about young temps in New York. Goodman thought it might fit better on the stage, as long as there was a love story.

    For his part, McCollum, whose Broadway credits include producing "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "Rent," was amazed that he had found himself earnestly discussing the show with the squeaky-voiced Nicky, not the puppet controller Lyon.

    "I had the meeting about the show with the puppet," he recalls, laughing. "It was so real to me that I was making the deal with this puppet."

    'GREEK DRAMA'

    The concept - using puppets and putting them in modern situations to help reveal real life - was a winner but everyone wanted it to go deeper than just a bunch of funny songs.

    Enter playwright Jeff Whitty.

    "My agent just called and said, 'How do you feel about writing a musical starring puppets?'" he says with a laugh. "I didn't have anything else going on at the time. So I said, 'Sure.'"

    Whitty, Marx and Lopez eventually created the story of a recent college grad called Princeton who comes to a rundown street in an outer borough of New York in search of what he fondly calls his "purpose."

    Along the way, Princeton gets sidetracked by a sweet yet furry kindergarten teaching assistant named Kate Monster and a voluptuous vixen with the telltale name of Lucy T. Slut.

    Others on "Avenue Q" include a closeted, gay Republican investment banker; the investment banker's slacker, yet straight roommate; a Japanese therapist; a hairy creature obsessed by Internet porn; and Gary Coleman, the diminutive star of "Diff'rent Strokes," who in the musical is now working as a building superintendent.

    The cute furry animals with heads larger than human ones were a Trojan horse, in a way. "The puppets were a perfect way to get a generation that had grown up scoffing at musicals to find a way to like them," Lopez says.

    There are jokes about Scientology, Fox News and "Girls Gone Wild," but serious issues, too. Marx is proud that the musical had a closeted character that showed audiences how frustrating life can be.

    "I've always felt it was so important that the audience wants him to come out and be gay, which is really a starter step for people accepting the gay people in their own lives," says Marx.

    The use of puppets turned into a freeing device - "Avenue Q" could poke fun at topics like racism, porn and schadenfreude. "I think it's one of the most human shows ever because puppets tell the truth and nobody says, 'You can't say that,'" says McCollum. "We allow puppets to say anything politically incorrect because it is like the mask in Greek drama."

    ODD START

    "Avenue Q" opened on March 20, 2003, at the Vineyard Theatre, a small off-Broadway venue east of Union Square. Everyone was worried: Would the subscription audience accept puppets saying and singing four-letter words?

    Actually, few cared, initially.

    That was because March 20, 2003, was the day U.S. missiles began hitting Baghdad, signaling the start of the U.S.-led campaign to topple Saddam Hussein.

    But "Avenue Q" couldn't be sidelined. Word-of-mouth extended its run at the Vineyard four times and producers began looking for a possible Broadway home. McCollum was only able to entice Gerald Schoenfeld, who ran The Shubert Organization, Broadway's biggest landlord, to come see it.

    Schoenfeld brought his wife and then-19-year-old grandson. They both loved it - for different reasons - and that secured a deal. "Avenue Q" moved into the John Golden Theatre on Broadway and stayed for more than six years. It won the Tony for best musical in 2004, with U-M grad Jeffrey Seller as one of the producers. Marx and Lopez also won the Tony for best score of a musical.

    For the past four years, the show has been in the off-Broadway theater complex in New World Stages, where it has never had a losing week. Running costs are about $100,000 a week - a third what they were on Broadway - and "Avenue Q" has a very healthy $400,000 in advance sales.

    For the people who helped create the show, "Avenue Q" changed their lives. Whitty, who had toiled in New York for 10 years, says it was "my first experience of having something actually become a success."

    Marx calls it "the thing I'm most proud of in my life and want on my tombstone." Lopez, who went on to co-create "The Book of Mormon," still looks back fondly on his first hit: "Personally, I can't imagine anything ever topping the experience of 'Avenue Q.'"

    And for Goodman, accepting the Tony from Nathan Lane for "Avenue Q" was her proudest moment in the theater. "It was so dangerous to do in a way and so fulfilling," she says. "I loved it so much. It made me laugh. It still makes me laugh."


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    A convenience store clerk confronted by a would-be robber with a gun thwarted the robbery attempt by pulling out his own gun, Pittsfield Township Police said.

    PittsfieldRA073113.jpg

    Police are looking for this man, who tried to rob the Golfside Market Wednesday.

    Courtesy of PTPD

    Police said a man walked into the store, 2642 Golfside Drive, with a long gun Wednesday morning. The man pointed the gun at the clerk and told him to put his hands up.

    “The clerk pulled his gun, at which time the suspect fled the store,” police said in a press release.

    A University of Michigan police dog tracked the man to a parking space in the Greenway Park Apartments next to Golfside Market. However, the man had driven away.

    The man is described as black, 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall, with a thin build. He was last seen wearing dark pants and shoes, a long-sleeved white shirt under a dark-colored short-sleeved shirt. He was also wearing a dark winter ski mask hat with white stripes.

    Police released a photo of the suspect taken from security camera images.

    Investigators responded to the store at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday.

    Anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to call the Pittsfield Township police at 734-822-4911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).


    View Larger Map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Related coverage:

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday to discuss new options for filling the district's vacant superintendent position, and AnnArbor.com will be covering it live.

    The board has been forced to regroup and consider some Plan B alternatives, after its first choice for filling the leadership role, South Orange-Maplewood School District Superintendent Brian Osborne, declined the board's job offer Saturday.

    Osborne left the board waiting for an answer for a little more than a week, while he weighed the possibility of moving from New Jersey to Ann Arbor with his family. In a statement he released Sunday about his reasons for declining the superintendency, Osborne cited an ailing family member, concerns about moving his young children and a desire to finish what he started at his district in New Jersey.

    The meeting, which is being conducted in the Balas Administration Building's Main Conference Room, 2555 S. State St., will get underway shortly. Follow along in the live blog below.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    The 25-year-old woman who saved Raybeon Rochelle Jenkins’ sister from Lake Michigan but couldn’t get to Jenkins in time told MLive the incident is haunting her.

    dianekooi.jpg

    Diane Kooi

    MLive photo

    According to a report in the Muskegon Chronicle, Diane Kooi managed to pull a 14-year-old girl from Lake Michigan on July 19. Kooi said she only rested for a moment before a 5-year-old boy told her that his sister needed to be saved, too.

    “Friday night, I didn’t sleep. I just tossed and turn. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw that little boy asking me to save his sister, too. When I got out there and saw them out there, I just should have gone out there then. I just saw that over and over again,” she told MLive.

    Jenkins drowned in the lake and was found dead on July 21 by rescuers. Jenkins and her family were swimming at the Pere Marquette Park beach.

    Kooi and Michelle Mitchell, a witness to the incident, spoke to the Chronicle about what they saw that night.

    • Read the full report here.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Police believe they found the body of the 46-year-old fisherman who went missing Sunday.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Police said Wednesday afternoon that they believe the body pulled from Whitmore Lake earlier that day is that of the 46-year-old Green Oak man who went missing while fishing Sunday.

    "I'm pretty confident this is the individual who was reported missing," Green Oak Township Police Chief Robert Brookins told AnnArbor.com around 4:30 p.m.

    Brookins said the body has been taken to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing where the Livingston County Medical Examiner's Office will make further efforts at making a positive identification.

    Authorities pulled the man from the water about 1:45 p.m., about two hours after they were first called out there by residents of East Shore Drive who discovered it.

    Brookins said residents on shore spotted something floating in the water, prompting one of them to ride out on a personal watercraft. The resident called 911 around 11:45 a.m. to report finding a body.

    The 46-year-old Green Oak Township man was fishing on the lake when he went missing Sunday. The Associated Press reported his boat was seen circling on the lake with no one aboard. The man's name has not been released.

    Mary Christianson and Angela Ostrom, both of Northfield Township, gathered at the lake's edge with other residents to watch as authorities on three different boats retrieved the body Wednesday afternoon.

    There was a sense of relief among the residents that the missing man was found, but also an outpouring of sympathy.

    "We feel awful for the family," Christianson said.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Superintendent candidate Jeanice Kerr Swift answers questions from the public earlier this month.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    The Ann Arbor school board voted 4-3 Wednesday evening to offer the job of superintendent to Jeanice Kerr Swift.

    The offer is contingent upon reaching a satisfactory contract with her. Board President Deb Mexicotte was authorized to negotiate with Swift on behalf of the board.

    Swift is the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District 11. Swift was one of two finalists before the board decided July 19 to offer the job to Brian Osborne, superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey. Osborne turned down the district's offer over the weekend.

    Wednesday's meeting was called for the sole purpose of discussing next steps in the district's superintendent search. The search began in April when former Superintendent Patricia Green tendered her resignation.

    At that time, the board decided to conduct a quick national superintendent search, as long as there were good candidates available, that would yield a new top official by the start of school to lead the district through what is expected to be a challenging year, with some unpopular changes coming down the pike.

    With that in mind, Mexicotte and trustees Irene Patalan, Andy Thomas and Glenn Nelson voted to offer the job to Swift. Trustees Susan Baskett, Christine Stead and Simone Lightfoot voted against it.

    After the vote, the board discussed how to show support for Swift despite the split vote but decided against any additional motions. Nelson said trustees will vote again to hire Swift officially after a contract is negotiated and brought back before the board for consideration.

    Lightfoot and Baskett stressed the board does not have a history of not supporting its superintendents. Both were quick to state they would welcome Swift and encourage and guide her, should Swift decide to take the position.

    Lightfoot, Baskett and Stead advocated abandoning the board's original thoughts regarding a quick timeframe in favor of finding the absolute best-fit candidate. They wanted to keep an interim superintendent in place for a year and to conduct a fresh search at a later date. They expressed concerns about a community that saw Osborne as a clearly superior candidate and concerns about Swift's lack of financial acumen.

    Trustees in favor of Swift highlighted her motivation and enthusiasm, her ability to make tough choices in light of budget constraints at her current school district and her experience in closing school buildings, leading a zero-based budgeting project, being a transparent and visible leader and engaging the community.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    A six-car accident was snarling traffic on eastbound M-14 near Barton Drive in Ann Arbor around 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.

    A Washtenaw County dispatcher said all six vehicles were pulled off onto the shoulder of the road.

    A Google traffic map showed a significant backup on the freeway.

    No additional information was immediately available.


    View M-14 accident in a larger map

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Former Michigan player Kip Maurer, left, being chased by Michigan coach Red Berenson during the 2011 Michigan Hockey alumni game.

    Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Many Michigan hockey greats will strap on their skates for the annual alumni game at Yost Ice Arena on Friday.

    Michigan’s training staff better stock up on the ibuprofen.

    The game will be played from 6:15-7:15 p.m. and an hourlong open skate will immediately follow. Both events are free and open to the public.

    The oldest former player scheduled to play so far is former forward Kip Maurer a 1978 graduate. Maurer and Dave Debol made up the most potent one-two punch in Michigan hockey history with 38 and 43 goals and 38 and 56 assists, respectively during the 1976-77 season. Michigan finished runner up in the NCAA Tournament that year.

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    Former teammates Lee Moffie, left, and Shawn Hunwick, right, will both be in attendance at the Michigan hockey alumni game.

    But it’s not just old-timers that will be playing on Friday. Players of more recent lore will be on the ice as well, such as Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson and former Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick.

    Another former captain scheduled to participate is Luke Glendening, who bounced back and forth between Grand Rapids and Toledo in the Detroit Red Wings farm system this past year. Glendening eventually earned a permanent spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins squad and helped the team to a Calder Cup championship. His performance prompted the Red Wings to sign him to a one-year deal.

    Not bad for a former walk-on.

    Former Red Wing Mike Knuble is also scheduled to play along with assistant coaches Billy Powers and Brian Wiseman, among others.

    Complete list of participants.

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcnningham.


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    A series of renovations at the Washtenaw County Jail at 2201 Hogback Road has resulted in fewer fights among inmates, Heritage Media reported.

    Updates to the jail began in 2008 and ended this spring, expanding the jail's capacity from 332 beds to 404, according to the report. Inmates are housed in the facility for up to one year.

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    The new 14A-1 District Court wing of the Intake, Transfer and Release Center in 2010 at the Washtenaw County Jail at 2201 Hogback Road.

    Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Observation rooms and corridors in the area where new prisoners are housed make it less crowded, the report stated.

    New cell block configurations also place corrections officers directly on the floor with the inmates at all times. Previously they were in an office observing inmates via video surveillance and relied on hourly walk-through inspections, the newspaper reported.

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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    Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado is one step closer to becoming the next superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

    Related coverage:

    Jeanice Kerr Swift has accepted the Ann Arbor school board's offer to become the next superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

    Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson confirmed shortly before midnight in a phone call to reporters that Swift said "yes" to entering into formal contract negotiations with the district. He said the board anticipates she also will be releasing a statement to the community sometime Thursday morning.

    The offer is contingent upon reaching a satisfactory contract with her. Board President Deb Mexicotte was authorized to negotiate with Swift on behalf of the board.

    The Board of Education voted 4-3 to offer the position to Swift in a special meeting Wednesday to discuss next steps in the district's superintendent search after its first choice for the job, Brian Osborne of New Jersey, turned down the superintendency over the weekend.

    The board was divided on whether to conduct a new superintendent search in early 2014 or to offer the job to Swift, the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District 11.

    Swift was one of two finalists, along with Osborne, after the candidate pool was narrowed down from six semifinalists in early July. A total of 61 applications initially were received. Both Swift and Osborne traveled to Ann Arbor for extensive, daylong final interviews with the board and the community on July 16 and 17.

    Swift told AnnArbor.com Wednesday night following the board's special meeting she was "thrilled with the news of the offer."

    Nelson, who led Wednesday's meeting because Mexicotte and Vice President Christine Stead were out of town, said Swfit is eager to have a district of her own and has been well trained and prepared to lead a district by her current Colorado Springs superintendent. Nelson believes she is ready to make Ann Arbor her school district and her home for the long haul, he said.

    "I think her quick acceptance (of the offer) and her excitement speaks more toward her — quite understandable — confidence in her abilities," Nelson said, "when even with these circumstances, she still gives an enthusiastic 'yes.' That to me, is her saying, 'Yes, I can do this and I am going to have a great time doing it.'"

    At the meeting Wednesday, Mexicotte, Nelson and trustees Andy Thomas and Irene Patalan voted in favor of the motion to enter into negotiations with Swift, while Stead and trustees Simone Lightfoot and Susan Baskett voted against it.

    The trustees in favor of Swift highlighted as positives for Ann Arbor her motivation, warmth and enthusiasm; her ability to make tough choices in light of budget constraints at her current school district; and her experience in closing school buildings, leading a zero-based budgeting project, being a transparent and visible leader, and engaging the community in decision-making processes.

    The three trustees who voted against the motion wanted to keep an interim superintendent in place for a year and conduct a fresh search in 2014. They expressed concerns about a community that saw Osborne as a clearly superior candidate and that would view Swift as a second choice, as well as concerns about Swift's lack of financial acumen.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    Opening at the multiplex

    Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star in "2 Guns" as two operatives from competing bureaus who are forced to go on the run together. But there is a big problem with their unique alliance: Neither knows that the other is an undercover federal agent. DEA agent Bobby Trench (Washington) and U.S. naval intelligence officer Marcus Stigman (Wahlberg) have been reluctantly attached at the hip. Working undercover as members of a narcotics syndicate, each man distrusts his partner as much as the criminals they have both been tasked to take down. When their attempt to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel and recover millions goes haywire, Trench and Stigman are suddenly disavowed by their superiors. Now that everyone wants them in jail or in the ground, the only person each man can count on is the other. “2 Guns” opens Friday.

    smurfs-2.png

    "The Smurfs 2"

    In the "The Smurfs 2," evil wizard Gargamel creates a couple of mischievous Smurf-like creatures called the Naughties that he hopes will let him harness the all-powerful, magical Smurf-essence. But when he discovers that only a real Smurf can give him what he wants, and only a secret spell that Smurfette knows can turn the Naughties into real Smurfs, Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette and brings her to Paris, where he has been winning the adoration of millions as the world's greatest sorcerer. Starring Hank Azaria and Neil Patrick Harris and featuring the voices of Katy Perry, Alan Cumming, George Lopez and the late Jonathan Winters, “The Smurfs 2” opened Wednesday.

    Opening downtown

    “Fill the Void” tells the story of an Orthodox Hasidic family from Tel Aviv. Eighteen-year-old Shira is the youngest daughter of the family. She is about to be married off to a promising young man of the same age and background. It is a dream come true, and Shira feels prepared and excited. On Purim, her 28-year-old sister, Esther, dies while giving birth to her first child. The pain and grief that overwhelm the family postpone Shira’s promised match. Everything changes when an offer is proposed to match Yochay, the late Esther’s husband, to a widow from Belgium. When the girls’ mother finds out that Yochay may leave the country with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower. Shira will have to choose between her heart’s wish and her family duty. Chris Chang of Film Comment Magazine says, “Director Rama Burshtein's debut is nothing less than astonishing. She's a card-carrying member of Israel's Hared community and, with that experience, has crafted a work of moral complexity and visual artistry.” "Fill the Void" opens tonight at the Michigan Theater.

    Returning downtown

    Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met in their twenties in “Before Sunrise” (1995), reunited in their thirties in “Before Sunset” (2004), and now, in “Before Midnight,” they face the past, present and future; family, romance, and love. Before the clock strikes midnight, their story again unfolds; realities intrude during any idyllic night in Greece, testing the couple in unexpected ways. Farren Smith Nehme of the New York Post says, “Finding romance is easy. Staying together is hard. Making a movie this warm, funny, and rigorously truthful about lovers trying to remain partners is even harder.” Directed by Richard Linklater and co-written by Hawke, Delpy and Linklater, “Before Midnight” returns Friday to the State Theatre.

    Special screenings downtown

    The Summer Classic Film Series continues at the Michigan with one of the most beloved musicals of all time, “The Sound Of Music”! A landmark of cinema, the Michigan Theater is proud to present this very special sing-along presentation complete with on-stage costume parade, onscreen lyrics, goodie bags and more, providing fun for the whole family. Starring Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as Georg von Trapp, the movie features songs including "Climb Ev’ry Mountain," "Edelweiss," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" and "My Favorite Things". ”Sing-Along Sound Of Music” plays Sunday, Aug. 4 at 1:30 p.m. and Tuesday, August 6 at 7 p.m.

    The Summer Classics After Dark series continues with “Taxi Driver.” Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, a Vietnam veteran who is slipping slowly into isolation and violence on the streets of New York City. Trying to solve his insomnia by driving a yellow cab on the night shift, Travis grows increasingly disgusted by the people who hang out at night: "Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets." “Taxi Driver” plays Thursday, Aug. 1 at 10 p.m.

    See you at the movies!

    Russ Collins is executive director of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tune in to the audio version of “Cinema Chat” on WEMU radio (89.1-FM) each Thursday at 7:40 a.m. and 5:40 p.m., or listen to it online at WEMU's web site.


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    New Zealand's Nick Willis walks off the track after winning the men's special mile run at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Des Moines, Iowa.

    AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

    Training as a world-class runner while trying to raise an infant son can be a tricky proposition, so Ann Arbor's Nick Willis, a former University of Michigan runner, has found a way to do both:

    He’s bringing some of the country’s best competition to him.

    Willis, a silver medalist for New Zealand in the 1,500 meters at the 2008 Olympics and ninth place finisher in 2013, has organized the Running Institute Mile to be run at 8 p.m. Sunday at Saline High School.

    Nine runners will be on the start line, eight of which have run the mile in less than four minutes -- a field that doesn’t often come together outside of Europe or Oregon.

    “There’s not a lot of track put on in the summer anymore, it’s really a sport that’s based around the high school and the college calendars, most of the Americans go to Europe to race in the summer,” Willis said. “This is quite unique indeed.”

    Willis has two goals for the race. The first is to tune up for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships that start Aug. 10 in Moscow. The second is to try to clock the fastest mile ever run in the state of Michigan, a distinction currently held by former Michigan runner Kevin Sullivan, who ran a three minute, 55.87 second mile in 2000, which broke Tom O'Hara's for 37-year-old state record of 3:58.9.

    The Running Institute Mile marks the second time in recent years that local runners have taken a stab at a sub-4 minute mile. In April 2010, former Michigan runner Lex Williams and Eastern Michigan runner David Brent organized the Washtenaw Invitational Mile to try and accomplish the feat, but were thwarted by strong winds on race day.

    Even though Willis is originally from New Zealand and has rarely competed in the state since running for the University of Michigan, being able to set the state’s mile record would be significant. Sullivan, he said, is one of the main reasons he came to Ann Arbor in the first place.

    “It would be nice to have a crack at that,” Willis said. “It would be a great thing for people to come to Saline High School to say they hopefully saw the fastest mile ever run in the state.”

    And if the state’s fastest mile ever is to be run on Sunday, Willis knows most of the crowd will be expecting him to be the one that does it. He's lived in Ann Arbor for 11 years now, and said friends are often asking him when he will be competing locally. Along with Willis, among the star-studded field will be former All-Americans Liam Boylan-Pett, Brian Gagnon and others.

    Willis is hoping to have 1,000 people in attendance. Admission is free of charge.

    “There’ll be quite a lot of pressure on me, because I’m the hometown local favorite,” Willis said. “I’m getting on in my years now, and there’s a lot of young guys coming through, but most of the home crowd will be expecting me to win. It’s a good pressure for me to face as I get ready for the world championships.”

    The venue at Saline High School also serves multiple purposes. Willis said the 20-minute drive from his house mimics the ride from a meet hotel to a competition venue.

    But more importantly, having the race in Saline allows him to avoid a long overseas trip for a tune-up race. His wife, Sierra, gave birth in early July.

    "I wanted to be home for as long as possible for the world championships so I could be with my newborn son and help my wife as much as possible instead of leaving here for many weeks,” Willis said.

    For Willis, the race also marks the end of a recovery period. During a race in Shanghai on May 18, Willis clipped the heels of another runner and fell at the finish line. The result is a calf injury and a “slow, long rehab.”

    “I’m getting pretty fit, and this race will be the final test to my fitness before I have to race against the very best guys in the world,” Willis said. “But I’m quietly confident that I’m coming just in time to perform for when it matters.”

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


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    The University of Michigan's Blood Drives United will partner with Michigan Blood to host a blood drive from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday in the Michigan Union’s Anderson Room, 530 S. State St.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Michigan-Union.JPG

    A blood drive will be held in the Michigan Union on Aug. 1.

    Chair members of the student-run volunteer organization that promotes, organizes, and staffs campus-wide blood drives decided to expand their reach this summer by pairing with Michigan Blood, a non-profit blood center that supplies more than 40 Michigan hospitals.

    Community members, students, faculty and administrative staff are invited to participate in the drive. Donators must be 17 years or older (or 16 years old with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 pounds. Blood can be donated every 56 days.

    Participants must bring a photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID in order to donate.

    A coupon for a free Papa John’s Pizza will be given to every person who attempts to donate as a thank you from BDU and Michigan Blood.

    For more information about donating blood or to schedule an appointment for donation, visit Michigan Blood’s website.

    Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.


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    A two-vehicle accident slowed traffic on westbound Interstate 94 east of State Street just after 9 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Washtenaw County dispatch.

    The accident wasn't blocking the lanes, but vehicles were pulled off onto both the right and left shoulders, dispatch said.

    It wasn't immediately known if there were any injuries or not.

    This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


    View Aug. 1 accident in a larger map

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    As one chapter in Manchester's cultural life ends, another begins.

    Manchester is ready to debut its first annual Manchester Street Festival, on Saturday.

    Three stages of music have been booked. People are planning to "Run Manchester," a 5K, 10K, and 1-mile fun run. "Bed Races" are another main attraction. Artists have been juried for an art show. Vintage car enthusiasts will convene at a car show. A variety of vendors are reserving their spots in the festival marketplace. And Washtenaw County Sheriffs have even agreed to sit in the dunk tank, one of the kid-friendly activities at the new festival.

    PREVIEW

    Manchester Street Festival

    • Who: Manchester area volunteers.
    • What: Major new summer festival including a run, three stages of musical acts, an art show, kids' activities and more.
    • Where: Throughout downtown Manchester; see website for specifics.
    • When: Aug. 3, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    • How much: Free admission.
    It all came together rather quickly, considering that summer festival organizers typically have all year to pull together a program of events. In January, the announcement came that Manchester's annual Riverfolk Festival would be no more. The previous festival's founder Mark Palms spoke with AnnArbor.com earlier this year about his reasons. In 2011, it downsized and half of it was moved out of Manchester to The Ark in Ann Arbor. It was a sign that others would need to step in and fill a gap in local summer entertainment.

    Manchester Area Friends found many collaborators and sponsors who were more than happy to help. Festival organizer and Village Council trustee Amelia Woods is impressed by how well individuals, businesses, and organizations rallied together to pull off a new event in time for this summer.

    "In January, we still didn't even know if this would be feasible," Woods says. "But a lot of organizations and people banded together to make this happen. Businesses got involved. I can't say enough about volunteers in Manchester. There is a strong sense of community here. Everyone is really good at working together."

    One thing that helped: "We could take a bunch of past events in Manchester and marry them into one day," she says.

    "Run Manchester" used to happen immediately before the Riverfolk Festival. The event now serves as a cornerstone of Manchester Street Festival, commencing at 8 a.m.

    "In the past, once the run ended, it went right into the Riverfolk Festival. When that festival ended, I imagined hundreds of runners and their family members standing around downtown Manchester, asking, 'where's the festival?' It was like, oh God, we have to do something," Woods explains.

    Other past local events are planned for festival day, including Manchester Mens Club's Vintage Car Show, beginning at 9 a.m. Bed races, which are becoming a tradition in Manchester, begin at 1 p.m.

    The way music is showcased has changed from the days of the Riverfolk Festival. "The way it's set up, we've got 3 different stage locations with 3 different genres of music. The beer tent in front of Village Tap will have rock n' roll and open mic. On Main Street, at our Mill Porch, it will be more bluesy, folksy, and Americana. And Wurster Park is about classical, family-focused educational music," Woods explains.

    An art show, juried by Wild Acorn Gallery owner Dee Miles, will feature artist booths down Main Street.

    A "Street Festival Market" will feature diverse booths—crafts, produce, flea market items, and other vendors—from noon to 4 p.m.

    Woods hopes the new festival will not only please people residing in or around Manchester. She hopes it will also bring people in from all over the area. Her fingers are crossed that it could be an economic driver.

    "We made it so you don't have to spend a lot of money at the festival. Music and a lot else is free. We want people to come and shop our shops, and find out about our best local secrets. Manchester is really the hidden gem of Washtenaw County," Woods says.

    Visit www.manchesterstreetfestival.org for a full schedule, the music lineup, and information about individual events. Or keep posted on the festival's Facebook page.


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    Ann Arbor's resident "fairyologist" Jonathan b. Wright will hang out and talk fairies at the Artisan's Market at Kerrytown on Sunday, August 4, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., while face painting, crafts, art and live music combine to celebrate these tiny mythical creatures. (Attendees are invited to dress in fairy apparel.)

    But Wright and some of Ann Arbor's "official" fairy doors will also be featured in the Children's British Broadcasting Company (CBBC) children's show, "All Over the Place."

    Wright answered a few questions via e-mail about his involvement in the show.

    Q. Could you talk about when and how you were contacted?

    A. May 17, 2012. I received an e-mail from an employee of BBC in Glasgow, Scotland, who worked in the children's department on the television show "All Over The Place" (The show is a fun and fact-filled travelogue, and their presenters visit unique, fun, and interesting places. This season, 2013, focused on the U.S.A.)

    Q. Was this a segment of a single episode?

    A. Yes, just a segment. Also included was the Toilet Seat Museum in Texas (as well as some other fascinating places).

    Q. What was the gist of the segment? Which locations did the TV crew visit, locally?

    A. The hosts Ed Petrie and Michelle Ackerley (dressed as fairies, Ed with green hightops) investigate the rumors of fairy doors and stumble upon a fairy car (the U.F.O. commuter alternative fuel fairy vehicle) and me. I introduce them to their 1st fairy door at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea (123 West Washington) and then they are off on the hunt. They find one at The Peaceable Kingdom (210 South Main Street) and RedShoes Homegoods (332 South Ashley). Then a flash to a bit about tooth fairies with Ed and another male actor as tooth fairies.

    We did a lot more filming, with much more dialogue and including The Ark (316 South Main Street) and The Selo/Shevel Gallery (301 South Main Street, the door is on the Liberty side)

    Q. Any word on whether it will become available here, or available online anytime soon?

    A. I don't think so. They have posted some segments online in the past.

    Q. You've watched the episode. What did you think?

    A. It's kinda funny. It's a silly kids show with bits of interesting "culture" and geography thrown in. There was some good stuff that was cut out. Both Ed and Michelle are quite fun and funny. Ed was not phased at all being dressed in a tutu. He can actually really act and sings too (not in this segment). They were real troopers as it was very hot and humid during filming, with lots of takes.

    With each show there is usually a song about one of the locations. I was sad that there was no fairy door song.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


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    A former Brighton man was sentenced Wednesday to 165 years in prison for traveling from Florida to Haiti countless times to sexually abuse dozens of children who lived in a group home he ran for the poor.

    A jury convicted Matthew Andrew Carter, 68, in February on five counts of traveling from the U.S. for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with minors, along with one count of attempt child sex tourism.

    On the second day of Carter's sentencing hearing, Judge Joan Lenard imposed the maximum sentence prosecutors sought: 15 years for the first count and 30 years in prison for each of the remaining charges.

    Carter, who also went by the names "William Charles Harcourt" and "Bill Carter," ran the Morning Star Center in Haiti, first in Croix-des-Bouquets and then in the capital of Port-au-Prince, from 1995 until his arrest at Miami International Airport in 2011.

    Prosecutors said he targeted poor and vulnerable children. Former Morning Star residents testified during trial and again during sentencing that he forced them to engage in sexual acts with him when they were children in exchange for food, clothes, toys, shelter and school tuition.

    Carter's actions sullied America's reputation for generosity and aid, Lenard said.

    "I say to the victims of these crimes, as an American, America apologizes to you. This is not what America is about," Lenard said.

    Thousands of children in Haiti live in orphanages or group homes like the Morning Star Center even though at least one parent may be living. Carter testified during trial that Haitian national police investigated multiple complaints of sexual misconduct at the center over the last decade, but Haitian authorities never charged him with any crime, nor did they take the rare step of shutting down the home until after his arrest in the U.S.

    Carter, formerly of Brighton, Mich., questioned the lack of physical evidence presented during his trial. He also disputed the credibility of the dozens of victims who testified against him and wrote letters to the judge for his sentencing.

    Some had been expelled from the Morning Star Center for stealing, left in a dispute to join another minister's program, or "got in with a very bad crew," he said.

    "Your honor, you've said these boys were very credible. I beg to differ," Carter said.

    Prosecutor Maria Medetis said although all the victims who testified during trial were male, Carter also abused girls at the center. Altogether, U.S. authorities identified 52 victims sexually abused by Carter throughout the years at the group home.

    A female and former resident said in a letter read by prosecutor Bonnie Kane that Carter sent her home on weekends, adding to the torment of the sexual and physical abuse she endured in exchange for regular meals and an education.

    "He knew it was hell for me because we had no food," she wrote. "I knew what I had to do to go to school."

    Four young men who once lived at the center said during Wednesday's hearing they had come to Carter when they had nowhere else to go, and though he may have fed, clothed and educated them, they continue to mentally suffer from the effects of his abuse.

    One turned to address Carter face-to-face in English. "I don't hate you. I do forgive you. You did do some good for me, but I think society doesn't need someone like you, that you should be locked up for what you did," he said.

    The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.

    Carter's court-appointed defense attorneys declined comment. U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer said in a statement that Carter's sentencing "brings to a close a horrific chapter in the lives of these victims."

    Carter has 14 days to file an appeal.


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    The tree-loving tradition and the special ambience of Ann Arbor have been under attack for a long time, but the city now seems to be at an important crossroad. Ann Arbor's greenery has created an ambience that has raised its quality of life and enhanced its economy; however, these qualities have attracted businesses and developers. Paradoxically, these interests threaten Ann Arbor's special qualities, a sort of “kiss of death”. I will outline some of these issues and call for changes in planning.

    Increasingly, merchants feel entitled to occupy public sidewalk space for outdoor seating creating unpleasant congestion, even forcing pedestrians out into the street. Outdoor seating along the streets also subjects customers to air-borne dirt and fumes. Better outdoor solutions are needed The same interests wish to bring more large convention business to Ann Arbor, but these would be best served in Detroit which badly needs that economic activity.

    Another increasing trend is to construct new buildings closer to the streets thereby removing the green setbacks eliminating not only the trees but all greenery. That creates concrete-/brick-lined canyons. As the city-center residential population soars in numbers and vertically in taller buildings, there is no effort to implement neighborhood green spaces where these people can go to relax, exercise, enjoy the outdoors and develop a sense of community. Ann Arbor has outstanding parks and natural areas, but these are very limited in the city center. Developers need to contribute more. Those controlling the development process have shown resistance to soft lines and complex patterns of green spaces and parks in favor of a concrete/brick world of hard lines. The resistance to the Allen Creek greenway and a park next to the downtown library are two prominent examples of these problems.

    This development is choking Ann Arbor. In the longterm, it will choke the businesses who push them for short-term gains and reduce the vitality of the University of Michigan.

    Why is this natural green ambience important? Abundant scientific evidence indicates that urban green space and plants mingled with buildings not only help to purify the air, but these natural environmental components absorb noise, are aesthetic and have psychological benefits including stress reduction and improved cognitive functions.

    Experience has demonstrated that the Public needs to have more role in city planning. The whole process needs to be better informed and serve longterm Public interests more, not primarily developers and special interests. In particular, the Downtown Development Authority has demonstrated its limited ability to think in the Public interest, and it needs restructuring. The proposed $200,000 expenditure for “planning” seems likely to serve as a cover for more of the same. As Albert Einstein famously noted "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

    Of course, some development is needed; however, better information (openness) and more environmental vision are needed.

    Larry Nooden
    Ann Arbor


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