Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer’s new collection Southern Fictions, a series of sonnets coming out of black-white relations in the Jim Crow-era Georgia of her youth, is the third book off Richard Krawiec’s Jacar Press. Dave Wofford of Durham’s Horse and Buggy Press and Raleigh-based artist and papermaker Ann Marie Kennedy collaborated on the design of this edition of only 100 books. Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books and Music hosted an event last Sunday afternoon in which Byer read her poems, Wofford and Kennedy talked about their bookmaking process, and a panel of writers led a town-hall meeting on race and the South.
There’s minimalism. There’s out-and-out starkness. And then—unfortunately—there’s the form of aesthetic anorexia that director Tea Alagic and actor Alice Turner have come up with in this production of MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE.
Throughout theatrical history, more than one director has wisely advised an actor facing an emotionally daunting text to “let the words do the work.” Generally, that means an actor should do less with a text to achieve more; gauging the intrinsic impact the words already have so as not oversell the dialogue.
But in this “Wait Till You See This” second-stage production at Burning Coal Theatre, the words of activist Rachel Corrie are called upon to do a number of things that we normally expect from a production’s director and actor instead.
Things like effectively represent transitions between scenes, subjects, places and times, for example. Or indicate at least some of the changes a central character might go through between the age of 12 and, say, becoming a junior in college. Or relive, embody, visualize and relate a character’s emotions and experiences—instead of merely reporting them.
But on Friday night, Alagic and Turner basically didn’t bother much with the first two items in the list above—and only belatedly got around to the third—in a production in which a “stripped down” aesthetic has too frequently been taken straight to the bone.
Early in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Johnny Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow must devise an escape from the heart of King George’s court. His throwaway rearrangement of an armchair, a stray napkin tossed on the floor, even a cream puff he skewers onto an overhead chandelier are mere components in an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine designed to facilitate Sparrow’s flight. The scene pointedly seeks to answer the recurring question over Sparrow’s renowned unorthodoxy: “Do you think he plans it all out, or just makes it up as he goes along?”
Unfortunately, the same query can rightly be asked about the Pirates of the Caribbean films themselves. Gore Verbinski’s original trilogy was successful, handsome and exhilarating, but also bloated with a convoluted mythos that saw Jack literally travel to hell and back. Under new helmsman Rob Marshall (Chicago; Nine), however, On Stranger Tides is a repetitious, plunder-by-numbers spectacle that breaks free from Verbinski’s muddled moorings only to find itself adrift in well-charted waters.
For this latest voyage, Jack and crew set sail in search of the Fountain of Youth, although part of the film’s problem is that you never really know why. Indeed, two previous Pirates films included pirates trying to free themselves from the shackles of the undead, so when did eternal life become such a valuable commodity?
Jack finds himself the prisoner of the villainous, legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), whose evil manifests itself mainly through natty facial hair and an ability to telepathically control his ship’s rigging. Blackbeard’s first mate and daughter is Angelica (Penélope Cruz), a Spanish sexpot Sparrow once corrupted who hopes to salvage her father’s wretched soul. In pursuit is Capt. Barbossa (reprised by Geoffrey Rush), now peg-legged and in service of His Majesty’s Royal Navy.
Little in On Stranger Tides makes sense, even for fantasy fiction. Barbossa’s ultimate revenge motive doesn’t square with why he gave chase to Jack and the Fountain in the first place. Minutes after Jack and Co. enter the Fountain’s sanctum through a subterranean portal, a group of Spaniards simply march in from beyond the mist. And, why doesn’t Blackbeard zombify his entire crew, not just just the officers, to achieve their compliance and stave off any pesky mutinies?
Leiby was much beloved in the literary community. (Here is an in memoriam page, which paints a picture of a fierce and honest firebrand.) Before taking over the Southern Review, she edited the Florida Review at the University of Central Florida.
The Independent's review of Leiby's strong debut collection concluded, "Some of the pieces in Downriver [...] feel like sketches for a novel, one that would shine a hard, bright light on a coal-dark place. Here's hoping she writes it." It's with regret that we have to report she'll never have the chance.
I believe I’ve stumbled upon a late-breaking conspiracy theory—so please say you heard it here first:
A Vast (or, possibly, Half-Vast) Right Wing Conspiracy is actually funding the revival and tour of that touchstone 60s rock musical, HAIR.
Impossible, you say? Hard to believe? Beyond the realm of possibility? Yes, I thought all those things, too—once.
But then I saw the touring version this week at Durham Performing Arts Center. And then I started connecting all the dots…
Let’s dispense with the disclaimers up front. According to the old one-liner, if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. To tell the truth: I wasn’t. In addition, Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot’s iconoclastic musical has had two full revivals—and a handful of self-styled “concert” presentations—in New York after the original cast first bowed there in 1967. I’ve seen none of these iterations. Indeed, the only production I had seen going into this performance was a Burning Coal Theatre staging last fall—one that I wasn’t as taken with as reviewer Kate Dobbs Araial. (No slam there; critics regularly agree to disagree on the merits of a show.)
So, here a national, professional touring version had the opportunity to make the first case for this musical with a viewer who still had pretty fresh eyes for the work—and next to nothing in the way of preconceptions about what it actually did in a darkened room.
And by the end of the evening I was wondering exactly when HAIR had been hijacked by the Conservative Cabal.
According to Kristin Buie, spokesperson for the Raleigh-based theater company, Shepherd sustained her injury on a staircase last Wednesday morning. She soldiered on through the rest of the day, but on Thursday afternoon, a medical exam revealed that she had sustained a tibial plateau fracture and severe ankle sprain.
The decision to replace her was made Friday afternoon, Buie said. Although there is an understudy for the role, NC Theatre hired Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, who was flown in from the New York area on Saturday. Donovan is a seasoned musical veteran who will be familiar to NC Theatre audiences for her turns in productions of The Music Man (Marian the librarian) and Funny Girl (Fanny Brice).
Hello, Dolly! will be performed as scheduled, from May 7—14 at Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium.
Two weeks ago, Zack Smith spoke with Cybill Shepherd for a planned story for the May 4 issue of the Independent Weekly. Smith's story follows. —David Fellerath
From her roles in such acclaimed 1970s films as The Last Picture Show, The Heartbreak Kid and Taxi Driver, to half of one of TV’s most beloved couples in the 1980s series Moonlighting, to her recent appearances on The L Word, Cybill Shepherd has never been afraid of reinvention, or speaking her mind. This week, Shepherd begins a run with North Carolina Theatre as the title character in the classic musical Hello Dolly at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. We spoke to Shepherd over the phone in Los Angeles to discuss her journey to the stage, memories of Taxi Driver, her relationship with director (and UNC School of the Arts professor) Peter Bogdanovich and more.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What made you want to do Hello, Dolly?
Cybill Shepherd: I’ve been a singer my whole life. I started formal training at 16, sang choir before that, and I’ve done albums and live shows. I always wanted to do a musical comedy, a really great one, and I’ve been offered a lot of things that I didn’t feel like I’d love to do, because it takes a lot of dedication on my part. You know, you can’t just walk in and do two weeks’ rehearsal—it takes several months. With Dolly, though, every song is just so wonderful.
It’s a wonderful step for me to get to play Dolly Gallagher Levi and to find my own Dolly—it’s been done by so many great people. I believe it’s a great show, and an uplifting show, and a funny show. I’m viewing it as a tryout—if I love it here, maybe I’ll do Dolly somewhere else as well.
It’s a classic character—what appealed to you most about Dolly?
It’s a story of a woman who hasn’t felt alive in years. There’s a beautiful monologue where Dolly talks about this. I think, being 61 myself, you do have things in your life where you have things happen that make you feel alive again. It’s about love, and no matter how old we are, love makes us young again. I can relate to that in my life too—I’ve been involved with someone since a year and a half ago.
So it feels very personal to me, this story, and she’s a survivor as well, an Irish girl married to a Jewish man. That was pretty shocking to people! And she was widowed, and if you look at the time frame when this occurs, 1890s, there was nothing a woman could do! She has to become a master of all trades to keep things together. I relate to that as an actor, because every time I play a different part, I’ve got to learn a different skill.
You just did a new pilot for ABC, My Freakin’ Family, and you’ve maintained a presence in different media ranging from film to TV to the theater in recent years. What’s been interesting about working in those different formats?
The L Word was a bit of a comeback for me; that got me a lot of new fans. I also did a one-woman show called Curvy Widow that I didn’t write, and that was an experience—I did it in Atlanta and in San Francisco, and I really loved doing it. So I want to do more theater. That’s been my dream—and part of that was doing a musical comedy.
On the new pilot, it’s a half-hour, and I’m attracted to half-hours, and more important than that, it’s a comedy. I was thrilled—this is a very funny pilot, and the cast is brilliant. I love ensembles—I started with ensembles, with The Last Picture Show.
…which just had its 40th anniversary, obviously—and Peter Bogdanovich is in North Carolina.
I know! He’s coming to see me! If I wanted to learn how to make a great film, I would find out where Peter Bogdanovich was teaching and sign up for his class. I can’t believe it’s an undergraduate class he’s teaching—he should be teaching a doctoral program.
I say a prayer every day for Peter, what he has contributed to my life, to the films he made and the films he exposed me to, and to the great, great friendship and great love, which will last forever. Every time I see him, he’s so entertaining.