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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Electrical bugs cancel BUG's opening night at REP

Posted by on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 10:10 AM

Raleigh Ensemble Players has just announced that an electrical problem in the theatrical lighting at its theater at 213 Fayetteville Street has forced the company to cancel its opening night performance of Tracy Letts' creepy psychological drama, BUG. BUG had been scheduled to open Thursday night, Oct. 28, but the work required to get the last-minute "bugs" out of the theatrical wiring will make Friday's performance the production's opening night.

"During the final dress rehearsal on Thursday evening, we encountered some electrical issues," managing director Gary Williams wrote in an email to patrons early Thursday morning. "After several hours of working to address the issues,
we feel it best that we cancel the October 28th performance of BUG." With an electrician on site today, Williams is confident that the rest of the run will occur according to schedule.

Patrons who already had reservations for Thursday's "Pay What You Can" performance will have those reservations honored for any other performance during the run.

The production runs this weekend at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. on Halloween. It resumes Nov. 4-7, 11-14 and 18-20. Seats are currently available for all performances.

The REP box office can be reached online or by phone at 919 832 9607.

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Building a musical—literally: BILLY ELLIOT at DPAC

Posted by on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Michael Dameski, one of five actors sharing the title role, performing during a press preview
In its first two years, Durham Performing Arts Center has hosted the professional touring versions of 12 Broadway musicals. But the demands of number 13, BILLY ELLIOT, which opens this Saturday, Oct. 30, have posed a set of challenges new to the venue.

It’s forced DPAC to go dark for a month and a half—the longest period of inactivity since the center opened in November 2008. It’s converted the building’s spacious lobbies—on all four stories—into rehearsal spaces for the cast and orchestra. The loading dock now stands as an ad hoc carpentry shop.

Meanwhile, the orchestra section of the theater, which was seen by local media on Oct. 14, resembles some theatrical equivalent of NASA’s venerable Mission Control. Some 21 separate "command centers," tables littered with an impressive array of desktops and laptops, headsets and control consoles for house lighting, sound and automation—the computerized hydraulics that will expedite complicated scene changes on and off stage—are scattered throughout the audience area; one or more for every major subsystem of the production. A current of focused energy runs through the room as Stephen Daldry, the director of the original stage productions (as well as the film that inspired them) cues the beginning of a scene during a press preview.

You’d be right to assume that this much trouble doesn’t go into the average bus-and-truck production at DPAC. But then, BILLY ELLIOT isn’t one. Instead, it’s the first professional-grade touring production to actually be constructed—literally, from the ground up—at DPAC, prior to what its backers plan for as a national tour.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

John Hope Franklin Center Gallery hosts Freedarko basketball art show

Posted by on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 11:09 AM

A view of the Freedarko John Hope Franklin Center gallery
  • A view of the Freedarko John Hope Franklin Center gallery
The Freedarko collective blog has always taken an intense view of professional basketball and its heroes. Taking the whole of the NBA in their sights, Nathaniel Friedman (under the name Bethlehem Shoals) and his co-writers, sporting such tart nicknames as Dr. Lawyer IndianChief, Silverbird 5000, and Brown Recluse, Esq., bring a fresh, intellectual view of sport, especially the power and cult of personality around The Player.

Their first book, The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, deeply explored The Player. Now they have a second book, The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History digging deeper into the basketball universe.

At Duke's John Hope Franklin Center, a new show focuses on the visual work surrounding their vision, including the in-house artist Jacob Weinstein's vibrant portraits. From the show's wall text, "FreeDarko provides an outsider's perspective. But we prefer to think of it as a complement to the way sports usually does business, a way to get more out of pro basketball than simply 82 games and the playoffs—a recognition that for the obsessive, engaged or speculative fan, what happens on the court is merely the beginning of the game."

The show runs until January 7. Don't miss it.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Pandemonium, but only through Sunday; rest of tour cancelled

Posted by on Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 5:31 PM

Squonkaphones in Pandemonium
  • Squonkaphones in Pandemonium
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Through Oct. 3
Whether it's the haunting overtures made by glass bottlebellows or the claxon of squonkaphones and bicycle horns, Pandemonium, a new show by Stomp creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, found numerous ways to inspire its Raleigh Memorial Auditorium audience last night. But this is no Stomp redux. Instead, the Lost and Found Orchestra pursues a distinctly different melodic strategy.

Unfortunately, Pandemonium is coming to an end only two weeks after the tour began in Miami. Today, the producers announced that after Sunday's performance, the remainder of the tour will be canceled. As reported this afternoon in the Chicago Tribune, the producers cited the "current economic climate" as making it "unrealistic" to continue with it further. It's not a surprising decision, given that Memorial Auditorium was only filled to about one quarter of its 2,277-seat capacity last night, despite ticket prices that were slashed from $61 to $30 on the high end, and from $20 to $15 on the low end.

All of this is too bad, because this is a pretty decent show. A 25-member troupe takes on a dazzling array of unfamiliar-looking instrumentation to do something more than just the rhythmic fascinations of Stomp. They create an environment of breath and sound that transcends their original work while still paying homage to its roots.

Voicing and the arrangement of the instruments are both vital to the performance. However, the instruments are not quite instruments as we know them. They operate on the same principles of resonance as trumpets, marimbas or violins but this show's version of those instruments is very interesting. The trumpets are made from variously sized road cones and funnels, which are attached to lengths of tubing. The marimbas are slats of wood held by several performers running back and forth across the stage each rhythmically presenting their specific key to a mallet wielding marimba player in a perfectly synchronized dance. And the violins are the eerie transpositions of the common work saw being bent and manipulated by its artist with a bow.

Cresswell and McNicholas also test the boundaries of voice when utilizing the skills of The Concert Singers of Cary to belt out tones which seem more percussive than vocal. When all of these instruments are put together, a music machine is born which is reminiscent of a calliope at a funeral dirge in a not-yet-conceived Tim Burton film.

  • Pandemonium

And come to think of it, maybe Tim Burton is the man to revive this intriguing, but soon to be silenced, production.

Performances continue through Sunday, Oct. 3, at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh. Tickets are $30 for all seats and $15 for students. Visit and

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A weekend of escape: Reviewing the Escapism Film Festival

Posted by on Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:37 AM

“We really shook the pillars of Heaven, didn’t we?”
—Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) in Big Trouble in Little China

I’m sitting next to another journalist in the Carolina Theatre’s Cinema One on a Friday night, watching 1987’s Robocop on the big screen. “Best line coming up,” he whispers to me, moments before Kurtwood Smith’s character bursts through the door and deadpans, “Bitches leave.”

A little later, I’m elbowing him. “Best random part,” I whisper as Paul McCrane’s character gets melted by toxic waste, thus creating an impromptu monster movie in the middle of the climax.

We’re at the Escapism Film Festival, an annual event celebrating genre cinema that boosted its attendance last year by more than 64 percent after switching over to all older films (this year, they’ve added a few R-rated numbers for the 9 p.m. showings. Their focus on nostalgia offers a rare opportunity to see films on the big screen that most moviegoers only know from TV and video.

This is a bigger deal than you’d think. Even as the technology that allows us to watch movies grows smaller and smaller (“You’ll be able to watch them on your fingernail soon,” grouses Carolina Theatre Senior Director Jim Carl), there are fewer and fewer prints available for the original 35-mm versions of these films.

In fact, as discussed in an earlier Artery post, five of the 12 films screening at the festival are either the last or among the last remaining 35-mm prints in North America. Almost none are films I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Over the course of the festival, I manage to make it to eight of the 12 films, which I try to watch from two perspectives. First, how does seeing the film on the big screen change the experience, for better or worse? And second—for all the fond memories, how many of these actually hold up?

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn: Haven’t seen this scenery-chewing contest between William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban all the way through since it came out. As I catch it on the first screening of the festival, the verdict is that Montalban gets more cheesetastic moments, but Shatner gets the big licks in with his classic scream of “KAHHHNNN!”

Other than the fact that 23rd-century computers look very bright and cardboard-y, the film holds up better than I remembered—the script is relatively tight, and there’s plenty of character moments. But the big screen doesn’t add that much—the effects are fun, but mostly serviceable. Greatest note—Spock’s sacrifice at the end was ripped off in the final episode of Lost, only instead of a reactor, it was…a stone in a big…watery…island…thing. It’s not good to think about that show too much.

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