This Friday Iron Man 3, which was partially filmed in Cary and throughout North Carolina, will blast into theaters after already taking in $200 million internationally. While it's the biggest comic-book-related event in the Triangle, it's not the only one, as a series of local and national creators are headed through the area during the next few months. These events help emphasize the variety and diversity of the medium.
Scholars of classic illustration would do well to check out Fantagraphics' sample from their reprints of the classic comic strip Prince Valiant, while fans of the AMC mega-hit The Walking Dead should check out the free issue of the comic book that inspired it.
Local creators are also represented at Free Comic Book Day. While there's plenty of books for kids featuring Adventure Time, the Smurfs, the Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants and even translations of Swedish Pippi Longstocking comics, we recommend checking out the Princeless/Molly Danger book from Action Lab Entertainment, featuring a pair of well-developed, strong-willed female heroes that are equally appealing to young boys and girls — and their parents.Free Comic Book Day event at Chapel Hill's Ultimate Comics along with Pittsboro-area creator Tommy Lee Edwards, who in addition to his comics work has helped design such feature films as The Book of Eli with Denzel Washington and the scuttled live-action remake of the popular Japanese anime/comic Akira.
Ultimate Comics celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, along with the fourth anniversary of the Durham-based NC Comicon, which attracted such record numbers to the Durham Convention Center last fall that they've doubled the space for this November's show. In celebration, they're doing a series of events with Marvel Comics creators over the next few months.
According to a news release, Nice Price has partnered with the Friends of the Chapel Hill Library for a benefit bag sale on March 9 and 10. Nice Price will donate 20 percent of sales to the Friends of the Chapel Hill Library, with books priced at $10 a bag on Saturday and $7 a bag on Sunday. Records, CDs and movies will also be available at 75% off their lowest marked price.
The sale is part of the Friends of the Library's efforts to meet the financial needs of the Chapel Hill Library's expanded facility. Friends has pledged $200,000 toward that goal this year.
Nice Price co-owner Cindy Kamoroff said in the release that she saw an opportunity to help the library and clear out store inventory.
“For many years, Friends of the Library volunteers have shopped with us. With the decline in bookstores and the strained economy, libraries have an even more important role in society. We want to show our gratitude for the support the people of Orange County have given us. And we need to sell a lot of stuff.”
Nice Price Books announced the closing of its Carrboro location last month after more than 20 years at its Boyd Street location, citing declining sales and increased competition from such outlets as online sellers as among the reasons for the closing.
The sale will be held at Nice Price's original location at 100 Boyd St. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 9, and 1 p.m to 5 p.m. on March 10.
If strange be the tales that are invoked by strong drink, the National Theatre of Scotland has ginned up a production to match in The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.
But if any expect the gravitas of Black Watch, the Iraqi War documentary drama which got our nod for five stars when the company performed here last February, they’re in for a shock. Instead, playwright David Grieg’s 2011 tall tale about a prim young scholar’s tryst with the Devil during a small-town academic conference is a whopper worth telling over drinks in a pub.
And that is exactly where Carolina Performing Arts endeavors to place it: They’ve rented out the Back Bar at Top of The Hill for the production, which runs through Thursday night. If the second-story bunker of chrome, concrete and brick lacks some of the soul required for the gig, that was provided, quickly enough, by the quintet of performers who constituted not only the show’s cast, but its band as well.
After Annie Grace’s chilling rendition of the folk song “The Twa Corbies (The Two Ravens)” establishes the tone, the crew indulges Grieg’s mischievous, rhyming discourse—appropriate enough for a title character who studies folk ballads only to find herself supernaturally stuck in one before the night’s through. A brief sample: After describing Prudencia’s father’s penchant for odd quests which would now qualify as autistic spectrum, we learn,
“Whatever he was — whatever his spectra —
Prudencia’s complex was Elektra.”
Melody Grove’s buttoned-down reading of Prudencia finds inevitable contrast with actor Andy Clark’s average-guy take on Colin Syme, her academic nemesis. Though most actors play multiple roles, it’s unclear why Wils Wilson directs a no-nonsense David McKay to split the lines of The Man Downstairs with Clark. The choice turns Clark into a demonic subordinate—and a separate character which never appears in Grieg’s script.
While karaoke night in a Kelso pub devolves into a boozy bacchanal for the rest of these Profs Gone Wild, Prudencia makes of Hell a sort-of heaven, before a crisis provokes intervention and the possibility of rescue. Yes, things get entirely too silly when audience participation is taken to a bit of an extreme; a hapless viewer who volunteered as a minor character is gifted with a lapdance in midshow. And a rewritten and, unfortunately, reiterated “Guantanamera” proves to be the one tune this group cannot sell the whole night long.
Still, this Strange Undoing remains a wild ride that occasionally rises to the poetic in its sensibilities as well as its verse. Well worth a round of drinks, or maybe two. Sláinte mhath!
Those words have already summoned the disgust of fans, admirers and even Simone family members, who don’t think casting the light-skinned, Avatar ingénue as the late, legendary artist is a good idea.
The New York Times recently reported that one woman posted an online petition that called for the producers of an upcoming biopic to cast someone who could pass for the darker-skinned Simone. Meanwhile, Simone Kelly, Simone’s daughter (who wrote on Simone’s official Facebook page that the project was unauthorized and Simone’s estate was not asked to participate in the film), stated she would have preferred Oscar nominee Viola Davis or Kimberly Elise as acceptable Simone stand-ins.
Durham playwright/ poet Howard Craft already thinks the casting of Saldana is “the worst casting in the world.”
“I know I like Zoe,” says Craft, “but she’s no Nina Simone.”
Craft should know who would be essential to play Simone, a native of Tryon, N.C., considering he’s written a one-woman play about the woman that will run this weekend at UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center, as part of a retrospective exhibit on Simone.
Both the play and the exhibit are titled Nina Simone … What More Can I Say? Beginning tonight, the exhibit will be on display until Nov. 30. Culled from three different collections (including a collection from her brother, San Diego civil-rights activist Dr. Carrol Waymon), the exhibit will feature photos, LPs, even correspondence between her and her brother.
According to Stone Center director Joseph Jordan, this is a chance for people in her home state to discover Simone and her legacy. “She’s one of those people that you could arguably go over to France or London, and those young people there, as well as the general public, would know more about her than we do,” says Jordan.
“So, in a lot of ways, she’s sort of that story in the African-American community—whether it’s Paul Robeson, whether it’s James Baldwin—that, every now and then, we discover these individuals. And she’s one of those people that we think should be rediscovered and never placed away again.”
The play, on the other hand, will only have two shows this weekend: Saturday night at 7 and Sunday afternoon at 2. The play, which stars actress and vocalist Yolanda Rabun as Simone, is a one-woman show that Jordan says will be both autobiographical and speculative.
“In other words, what if she was alive today?” muses Jordan. “What if she could Tweet, you know, with all of the stuff that’s in her head? So, you see all of those kinds of speculative items in this theater piece.”
Craft worked on the play for several months, reading autobiographies as well as pulling up articles and looking at interviews and performances Simone did. It was a challenge that led to many fascinating revelations.
“I mean, she done shot a couple of people, dog!” exclaims Craft. “So, her life is so expansive, the challenge is trying to figure out what parts to pull out that contain the best picture of who she was as a person. And the play is my attempt at that.”
Ultimately, the entire exhibit is both a tribute to Simone and a lively example of how the woman inspires and influences to this day. Hell, Meshell Ndegeocello’s new album, Pour une ame souveraine (For a sovereign soul): A dedication to Nina Simone, is a straight-up Simone salute, containing 14 Simone tracks.
“By and large, we didn’t do this for it to be a history lesson,” says Jordan. “This person’s work is much too alive to say that it’s only a history lesson, all right? It’s a little bit more than that.
Steampunk, for those not in the know, is a branch of science fiction that postulates what would have happened if modern or futuristic technology had been created in the past, using the technology and materials available at that time, e.g. steam engines, zeppelins and the like. It’s become a particularly popular subset of science fiction fandom, with many fans creating steampunk-themed outfits and crafts sold online and at shows.
Priest has become one of the most popular authors of steampunk in her “Clockwork Century” series, which began in her award-winning bestseller Boneshaker, about how a massive steam-powered drill unleashes a zombie plague in Civil War-era Seattle.
Priest says that steampunk’s appeal comes from a “perfect storm of pop culture” where people embrace the sense of design and functionality in the old-fashioned technology, as opposed to the sleek, compact style found in Apple-style products. “In that school of design, everything is this sort of pristine, inscrutable box where if you don’t know where to touch it or how to react to it, it might as well be a brick,” Priest says.
“The Victorians, God bless ‘em, thought their technology should be beautiful as well as functional. And we seem to have lost that in the streamlining efforts to make everything look futuristic. I think in one regard, Steampunk is a reaction to that, a way of saying, ‘No, we don’t want something that looks like what everybody else has, that’s flat and inscrutable.’"
So are the fans wearing homemade goggles and railroad pocket watches giving the finger to the iPad?
“I’ll put it this way: If the Victorians made a giant death-ray killing machine, it would look like a giant death-ray killing machine,” Priest says. “It would fill an entire room and have gears and brass and engraving, and would be this enormous, powerful, beautiful-looking thing. If Apple made a giant death ray killing machine, it would look like a button. And I think there’s a sense that something has been lost, and steampunk’s trying to reclaim that a bit.”
Have you ever been to a poetry reading? You know that awkward time afterward when you're not sure what to do?
The Hinge Poem, a new online feature from the Hinge Literary Center, gives a new model for how to connect with an author's work, perhaps even more deeply than one might at an auditorium or bookstore reading.
Alan Shapiro's lyric poem "Wherever My Dead Go When I’m Not Remembering Them" kicks off the program, which will feature a new poet and poem each month. As with a blogpost, readers can start and participate in conversations about the poem by making comments. And Shapiro will hang out in the comments boxes live from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16 for a highly interactive conversation. The poem is up and ready for comments already, in advance of Shapiro's online time.
"I've never done anything like this before so I don't know what to expect or anticipate," Shapiro, an English and creative writing professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, says. He's just as curious as anyone as to how the dialogues might go. "I hope the poem will spark a conversation about the process of writing, how one finds one's way through a poem from the first inklings to the final choices, how one knows when to start writing and when to stop. Something like that, I guess."
[UPDATE 9/30/2011: Video of the full lecture is now embedded at the end of the story.]
David Simon warned Monday night that America’s “great engine is beginning to rust,” the middle class is being destroyed, the poor are cast aside and the sale of the political system to the highest bidder along with wars on drugs and the Middle East spell the end of the country’s ability to lead and prosper.
No one is going to confuse Simon, the screenwriter and director for The Wire, Treme and Homicide: Life on the Street, for an optimist.
“Every time I try to reach a level of cynicism that goes too far, I find out I’ve been outmaneuvered,” he said.
THE SERPENT'S EGG runs Fridays through Sundays through Sept. 5 at UNC's Forest Theatre, and Sept. 9-11 at the N.C. Museum of Art. A musical pre-show begins at 6:20 p.m. The performance starts at 7. Admission is a suggested donation of $12/adults and $8/children at the door, but the company stresses that no one is ever turned away for lack of funds.
United Arts of Raleigh/Wake County
110 South Blount Street
Tuesday, March 8, 12 noon
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
Monday, March 14, 11:30 a.m.
Playmakers Repertory Company
Paul Green Theater, UNC-Chapel Hill
Monday, March 28, 2 p.m.
The moment has occurred repeatedly since the early part of the 2000s, when Arts N.C. executive director Karen Wells and her colleagues began conducting what she calls “Advocacy 101”—hour-long workshops that teach total novices how to coordinate and raise their voices with their elected representatives as citizens who support the arts.
At some point it starts to dawn on her students: It isn’t difficult. And when you’re doing it with others, it’s actually pretty fun. “That’s it?” she chuckles, recalling one such moment in Wilmington: “That’s all there is to it?”
The truth is, arts activism is “not the mountain people think it is,” Wells notes as we speak before a series of free arts advocacy workshops slated in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill in the coming weeks. She’ll conduct two lunchtime workshops, one at United Arts of Raleigh/Wake County on Mar. 8, the other at Durham Arts Council on Mar. 14. On Monday, Mar. 28, she brings Advocacy 101 to Playmakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill at 2 p.m.
Wells calls arts advocacy “applied common sense, actually. It’s just one person talking or writing to another person about what they believe in, and through that person-to-person contact, you make the effort to persuade that individual to support your beliefs, your values. It’s about expressing a viewpoint in an organized, unified, articulate way. And anybody can do it."
"We just sort of demystify the whole process,” she adds.
Experts—and state legislators themselves—credit such grassroots activism with turning the tide on arts funding in North Carolina in recent years. Indeed, it’s helped make the state one of a handful of success stories in arts funding across the nation over the past decade.
The questionable side? For the second season running, PlayMakers' performance schedule for said blockbuster creates—oops!—an embargo that essentially keeps the region's critics gagged during the first two weeks of the run.
As they say, once is an accident. Twice... and it begins to look like company policy.
The still unfolding story of SPIDERMAN: TURN OFF THE DARK has raised a number of potentially useful questions. Just how "sacred" should preview performances be considered? Under what circumstances is the convention conceivably being abused? And what is the appropriate response from the media under those circumstances?
As we and our editors are mulling these questions over...
Dear Readers: Now, it really comes down to you.
For the next week, the public critical conversation on PlayMakers Rep's ANGELS IN AMERICA is entirely in your hands.
If you saw it or will see it during its opening weeks, please share your responses, below. If you didn't see it, but know someone who did or will, please send them our way.
We're just wondering. What's ANGELS IN AMERICA like? What does it make people feel, and think?
We only ask because we believe a show of this magnitude deserves a lively, full and public critical conversation—one that begins well before the third week of a six-week run.
Post your responses in the comments, below.
And thank you for continuing the public conversation on the arts—while we observe conventions that prevent us from doing so ourselves. For the moment, anyway.