Beware, New York City: Ali is coming!
(At last: Now I know what Masaji Sieji must have felt like in the 1954 classic, Godzilla.)
As a character, this one-woman juggernaut is Margo Channing with a chainsaw, a drama school diva able to size up a room with a glance (well, a dorm room, anyway), and lay waste to its inhabitants with her invariably oversized gestures, her raw—or, at least, uncooked—sexuality, and a literally endless series of terribly witty putdowns. Though this baby barracuda steamrolls over all interpersonal borders, somehow the boys always come back for more. She’s insuperable, she’s insufferable, she’s…
…absolutely unbelievable. Or at least, the situation is. And that’s a major problem for playwright Michael Walker—and an even bigger dilemma for audiences awaiting his LETTER FROM ALGERIA. For after its world premiere last weekend, in a show by GroundUP Productions involving three UNC undergraduates—and actor, playwright and former Temple Theater artistic director Jerry Sipp—this work’s New York debut is slated for Oct. 29.
That’s not a lot of time to correct a first act as fundamentally unbalanced as the one we saw during Algeria’s out-of-town tryouts Sunday night.
DURHAM—The license plate on the car parked near mine across the street from the Carolina Theatre read, “ASK TELL.” Though North Carolina was long burdened with the anti-gay views of the late Sen. Jesse Helms, the attitude in downtown Durham was out and proud as the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival celebrated its 15th year—and a new attitude for festivals in the area.
Approximately 500 filmmakers and festival-goers were present for the event, a simple tent with music, chairs and hors d’oeuvres with a bar (and, there was also free ice cream, the truest sign of a good party) in the plaza outside the Carolina Theatre. But the soiree’s goal is surprisingly ambitious—to build and foster a community among festival attendees that stays close to the theater.
Last year, “people were looking for a community aspect outside of the films,” says Bob Nocek, the Carolina Theatre’s president and CEO. He hopes to make the party aspect a regular feature of future festivals at the Carolina Theatre. “I’m prepared to lose money,” he says.
He didn't confirm if they’ll do the same thing for the SF/ Fantasy-themed Escapism Film Festival in September, but fingers crossed. Parties are always better with a Klingon.
The festival itself remained a big hit, selling about 8,000 tickets as of Saturday night and one of the “liveliest” audiences in years, according to theater senior director Jim Carl.
And it continues drawing back regular filmmakers, such as producer Jerry Blackburn, who didn't have a new film this year but has come just to enjoy the festivities. “It’s like coming home for Christmas for me,” he says.
The party broke up around midnight, as remixes of Ke$sha, Lady Gaga and Cher blast through the speakers as the remaining tired-but-wired partygoers continued to dance.
Adrienne Zi, director of the short Mother of the Year, says she’s formed a strong opinion of North Carolina based on her experiences here. “The stereotype of the whole Southern charm is a reality,” she says.
“It really sucks to go back to LA.”
North Carolina’s reputation may slowly be changing, one gay filmmaker at a time.