April 1, 2014

'Dead Man Walking'

By Kellye Crocker 


Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO) this month launches "Staging Connections," a series of events exploring capital punishment that will lead up to the company's performance this summer of Jake Heggie's "Dead Man Walking." The graphic, searing opera, about a defiant death-row inmate and a nun who reaches out to him, is based on Sister Helen Prejean's autobiographical novel.

The provocative opera "is the most powerful thing I've ever seen in a theater," says Michael Egel, DMMO's general and artistic director. The related events are designed to "give people entry points" to the production, he adds.

Sponsored by the Des Moines law firm Weinhardt & Logan, "Staging Connections" builds on DMMO's 2nd Stages Series, which aims to connect with new audiences through unexpected collaborations. Highlights include a performance and Q & A with Heggie (June 28 at 1:30 p.m. at The Temple for Performing Arts) and a conversation with Prejean (May 6 at 7 p.m. at Drake University).

A screening of the 1995 Oscar-winning film "Dead Man Walking," also based on Prejean's book, kicks off the series April 10 at 7 p.m. at the Fleur Cinema and Café ($5). The rest of the events are free: "Seventeen Minutes," a juried art exhibit organized by Grand View University art professor Mary Jones, April 15 at 4 p.m. at Grand View; an opera preview and discussion with stage director Kristine McIntyre April 27 at 1:30 p.m. at the Des Moines Art Center; and an expert panel discussing the death penalty, with excerpts from the opera, June 4 at 7 p.m. at Drake Law School. For more information on "Staging Connections," click here. To learn more about the opera and buy tickets, click here.


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The two-tiered salt cellar makes
both a handy and attractive
addition to your kitchen.

Fresh Ground Pepper?
No, Thank You.

By Wini Moranville


A while back, I received a lovely gift bag of spices from Allspice. Amid the otherwise exotic offerings lurked a simple jar of course-ground black pepper. "Pre-ground pepper?" I thought. After all, it has long been drummed into my culinary psyche that freshly ground pepper is always best.

Listen up, cooks: It's time to get that silly notion out of our heads.

I started using Allspice's course-ground pepper, adding pinches to my recipes directly from the jar. I loved doing so for many reasons. One, I could tell precisely how much I was using (aren't most pepper grinders annoyingly inexact?). Two, the size of the little dots of pepper were perfectly consistent--pepper dust didn't scatter and hide insidiously in the dish. And finally, the pepper's flavor was as bright and spicy as if I did just grind it myself--Allspice is known for the freshness of its goods.

Try it. And if you become as much of a fan of the pre-ground pepper as I am, you may want to invest in Allspice's two-tiered salt cellar. Handmade of oak and walnut by a Kentucky woodworker, the lovely vessel offers a graceful way to keep your salt and pepper handy--for an exact pinch here and there.

Allspice is at 400 E. Locust St.; 868-0808;

Artist Mary Muller

Arts Within Everything


Metro Arts Alliance's annual "Dining for the Arts: A Taste of Spring" party April 5 looks to be even more AWEsome this year, thanks to the new AWE (Arts Within Everything) awards. Celebrating those who bring the arts into the community, the inaugural AWE-ers are Des Moines painter Mary Muller (Distinguished Artist) and the Western Hills Elementary School PTA (Creativity Champion).

Muller, known for her portraits and landscapes, is a longtime art teacher who, in 2004, started the Inmate Art Program at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville. In an age when arts-education budgets are being slashed nationwide, West Des Moines' Western Hills PTA sponsored Fine Arts Day last spring, bringing in several Metro Arts teaching artists to lead a variety of creative activities with students.


Along with the awards, this year's "A Taste of Spring" includes a fashion show, a jazz trio and fine dining. The event is 6-9 p.m. at John Deere Financial headquarters, 6400 N.W. 86th St. in Johnston. Tickets ($100 or $1,500 for a corporate-sponsored table) are on sale here. Proceeds benefit Metro Arts programs. -K.C.
Ralph Smith will give
the keynote address
at United Way's recognition luncheon.
Change Makers
On the heels of its record-breaking $27.5 million fundraising campaign last year, United Way of Central Iowa's LIVE UNITED recognition luncheon April 22 will honor a dozen community members and organizations that helped make a difference in 2013.

Two people will receive individual awards for advocacy work and volunteering. Also, three companies will be recognized in each of three categories--Give, Advocate and Volunteer--with the Spirit of Central Iowa Award going to the top overall company among those categories. Aviva USA won last year's Spirit award.

The luncheon, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Meadows Conference Center at Prairie Meadows, includes a keynote speech by Ralph Smith, senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, one of the nation's largest private philanthropic organizations serving children and families. Tickets ($20 individual; $150 for a reserved table for eight) are available through April 17 here. -K.C.
One of Chiri's new 
lightweight sweaters for spring. 
Photo by Austin Day.
Mission Accomplished
Des Moines-based Chiri, a fair-trade clothing wholesaler, describes its mission like this: "Look good, feel good, do good." We break it down:

1. Look good: Stylish handmade knits designed by Chiri, such as a color-blocked vest or one-button cardigan, plus accessories, including lacey scarves and embellished hand-warmers.

2. Feel good: Whisper-soft yarn from the fleece of baby free-range Peruvian alpacas (aka "baby's first haircut"). Alpaca clothes are durable, smooth and hypoallergenic.

3. Do good: Chiri works closely with a women's knitting collective in south Peru, paying fair wages and honoring the women's desire for dignified work as well as their artistry. (Each item includes the name of the woman who knitted it; you can learn more about Chiri's individual knitters here.)

Light Chiri knits, perfect for spring, are available at Back Country Outfitters. (In the fall and winter when the selection is larger, the line also is available at Active Endeavors and other Midwestern retailers.) Read about Emily Field and Lexi Wornson, the two young Des Moines women behind the business, in the March/April issue of dsm here (scroll to "Fair Trade Fashion"). -K.C.
Kellye Crocker

Kellye Crocker lives in Clive and writes fiction for teens and nonfiction for adults. A former Des Moines Register senior reporter and current dsm contributing writer, she's also written for Parents, Better Homes and Gardens and Glamour, among other national publications. Connect with her on Twitter: @kelcrocker.
Wini Moranville

Wini Moranville, author of "The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day," is a food, wine and travel writer who covers the dining scene for dsm magazine. Follow her at All Things Food DSM - Wini Moranville and catch her food segment on Fridays at 6:40 a.m. on KCWI-23's "Great Day" morning show.

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