“I wanted to scream,” Byrne recalls when she received news of the agreement at the end of last week. “[My agent] was excited, everyone was so excited, and so pleased by the deal, which was considerable.”
Crown signed what Byrne characterized as a six-figure deal for the North American publication rights in a pre-emptive contract for the book, buying it before it went to auction with other publishers. As a result, she now joins a group whose roster of writers is capped by the likes of Rachel Maddow, Martha Stewart, George W. Bush and Michelle and Barack Obama.
The Girl in the Road, some 98,000 words long in manuscript form, traces the harrowing twin journeys of two women forced to flee their homes in different times in the near future. The first, Meena, is a Brahmin-caste student whose odyssey takes her from the coastal city of Mumbai toward Djibouti across a futuristic but treacherous bridge that spans the Arabian Sea. The second, Mariama, escapes from slavery as a small child in Mauritania, joining a caravan heading across Saharan Africa toward Ethiopia.
The novel took five years to write, Byrne says, and was completed during a research trip to Belize at the end of last year. Its purchase came three weeks after she acquired representation with the Frances Goldin Literary Agency, a New York firm specializing in literary fiction and politically oriented nonfiction. Its clients include Barbara Kingsolver, Adrienne Rich, Dorothy Allison and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The development follows Byrne’s successes as a playwright on local stages over the last two years. After she appeared in productions of Fistful of Love and REDGHOST with Durham’s Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, artistic director Jay O’Berski directed Byrne’s dark comedy Nightwork for Manbites Dog Theater in 2011. Last April, Little Green Pig commissioned and produced What Every Girl Should Know, a speculative historical drama inspired by the work of Margaret Sanger. The company has commissioned a new work for their 2013—14 season. A subsequent drama, The Pentaeon, was selected for the 2012 Collider New Play Project, a collaboration between Fermilab and Fox Valley Repertory Theater in Illinois.
Byrne is currently at work on her second novel.
One change is taking place at the top. Early this week, CAM parted ways with Elysia Borowy-Reeder, the museum's executive director of the last two years. The change has been announced internally but an official announcement is expected soon.
[UPDATE 4:11 p.m.: Here it is.]
Kate Shafer, who has served as gallery and exhibitions manager since the institution’s opening, is now interim director.
“There was a desire on the part of the Contemporary Art Foundation and the advisory board to seek a new direction for the philosophy and the leadership of CAM,” says Marvin Malecha, ex-officio of the museum’s advisory board.
Borowy-Reeder, who is traveling, referred questions to Malecha.
“I think there are some people here who were looking for maybe more of an out-of-the-box thought process relative to how we go forward with CAM, rather than a traditional director’s role as we’d been in," Malecha said.
"We’re looking to take a new turn after two years of finally getting the museum into place after years of aspiration. This is really a chance to go off in a new direction.”
What does “new direction” mean, exactly? The museum’s two governing bodies—the 14-member advisory board and the 16-member Contemporary Art Foundation—will kick around answers during a half-day retreat next week. They’ll also decide what kind of search CAM will make for a new director, or whether they’ll simply reorganize the existing staff.
In other very recent changes, Marjorie Hodges has taken on the role of director of the Contemporary Art Foundation. Her commute won’t change, however—Hodges leaves the Flanders Gallery, directly across West Street from CAM.
Gab Smith also comes on board as director of advancement and membership engagement.
North Carolina Theatre’s Nerds: A New Musical Comedy, running from Jan. 18 to Feb. 2 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, is the story of Bill Gates (Stanley Bahorek) and Steve Jobs (Darren Ritchie), the two men most celebrated for the rise of personal computing.
“We thought it would be fun to watch nerds singing,” says co-writer Jordan Allen-Dutton. “In any type of musical you have to believe that someone at anytime can burst into song. And in order to do that, you need characters who are really over-the-top, bigger-than-life characters. And these two guys fit that model.”
Allen-Duton, along with writing partner Erik Weiner and composer Hal Goldberg, have crafted the story of how two lowly nerds rose to the highest levels of wealth and success. The heart of the show, however, is Gates and Jobs’s personal rivalry. In real life, their companies, Microsoft and Apple, were fierce competitors for decades, and the play makes this competition personal: Gates the insecure geek, Jobs the brash stoner, both trying to overcome the social limitations of being a “nerd.”
The celebration of nerds in all their forms is a major theme of the show. Producer Carl Levin notes that nerds have transformed from being social outcasts to leaders of the world. “They’ve evolved. I think now being a nerd is cool.”
Covering the years 1975 to the present, the show also uses the music as a way of exploring history and the characters. “We define Jobs as a rock star in a lot of ways,” says Goldberg, “so that comes through musically. Whereas Gates, he starts off in more of a traditional musical theater way, which is nerdy.”
At rehearsal, it takes no time at all to fix the LED screens. Such technology, of course, is possible thanks to the show’s real-life subjects. “I think the show is really a celebration of American ingenuity and innovation,” says Allen-Dutton.
“Over those 30 years that the show focuses on, we went from seeing a computer that was the size of a city block to a computer in everyone’s pockets at all times. And that was a lightning speed transformation.”
The NC Theatre production is the very first time Nerds is being performed for an audience. After being given a chance to workshop and premiere in Raleigh, Levin hopes to bring the show to New York and, eventually, the world.
“People in Europe and Japan, they really know Bill Gates and they know about Steve Jobs.”
It surely can't hurt the show's chances, then, that nerds are a universal subject.
It used to be that fans of station WCHL 1360’s progressive talk lineup were resigned to turning off their favorite station with a sigh at nighttime—particularly if they lived outside of the station’s main broadcast area.
And Raleigh? Forget about it. You had a hard enough time listening during the day if you live there. Making matters worse, the FCC required the station to turn down the signal at night. Well, that’s not a problem anymore.
When listeners wake up on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 28, they’ll find a more powerful antidote to all that Limbaugh/Hannity/Dumas crap on Triangle radio. And they’ll find it on the FM dial.
WCHL, which has enjoyed its modest home on AM radio since 1953, will now simulcast on 97.9 FM. The station recently purchased a translator station from Liberty University in Virginia—that's right, the university founded by the late Jerry Falwell. (Oh! The irony!)
To celebrate this victory for radio sanity, WCHL is holding a Food Truck Rodeo at VilCom Center on Weaver Dairy Road on Aug. 30, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
To find out more about the station’s daily lineup of progressive talkers (Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann, mainly), go to chapelboro.com.
(Correction: The Thom Hartmann Program is no longer on WCHL's daily schedule. It has been replaced by local news.)
This afternoon, the company sent an email to members of the area theater community confirming that the company had ceased operations, effective immediately: "Following the unanimous adoption of a resolution by REP's Board of Directors, the company has filed for bankruptcy." The email was signed by C. Glen Matthews, the company's artistic director.
According to documents filed yesterday in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, REP has $224,507.77 in unsecured debts.
The company has no real property, but its personal assets, including lighting equipment, costumes and props, were valued at $9,932.14.
According to a profit and loss statement for April 2012, REP's monthly expenses included $4,070 in rent and $3,523.65 in office and administrative expenses.
For the first four months of 2012, the company reported revenue of $31,734.78, with nearly 80 percent coming from grants and donations.
The two largest debts are owed to figures associated with the company's new performance space at 213 Fayetteville St., which opened in the summer of 2009.
The largest creditor is Alphin Design Build, the contractor hired to renovate the theater space, which is owed $110,000. The second-largest debt, $60,000, is owed to Jean Pauwels, the owner of the building. Raleigh Ensemble Players does not have equity in the building.
Also listed among more than 20 creditors is Vincent Whitehurst Architect, who is owed $2,489, according to the documents.
Whitehurst and Will Alphin are owners of Foundation, a popular bar located in the basement of 213 Fayetteville St. Whitehurst designed the Raleigh Ensemble Players space and Alphin served as the contractor. Pauwels, the building's owner, operates a business in the same building, a countertop materials supplier called Pyrolave.
Gary Williams, the company's managing director, is owed $10,000 for unpaid wages.
REP, the Triangle's oldest independent theater company, had performed in Artspace, located on East Davie Street, for 20 years prior to its move to Fayetteville Street. In 2011, it was recognized by the Independent Weekly with an Indie Arts award.
In a 2009 article in the Independent Weekly, company artistic director C. Glen Matthews cited a desire for the greater visibility that a permanent downtown home would bring them.
Pauwels, for his part, was looking for a tenant for the four-story building he was renovating.
"I wanted something I would enjoy having around, something more unusual, more fun than a clothing store or fast food," Pauwels told the Indy in 2009. "Some artistic activity in the building would be good for Fayetteville Street, good for everyone. It would make downtown more lively."
But in the same article, the company acknowledged difficulties in paying its contractor.
At the end of March, $100,000 in debt to its contractor, company management asked the builder to stop further work. "We didn't want to get in over our heads more than we already were," said Williams.
Calls to Alphin, Williams and REP board members Betsy Henderson and Don Davis were not immediately returned.
The city’s proposed 2011—12 budget cuts funding to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission (CORAC) from $4.50 per capita down to $4. CORAC, which represents 35 arts groups and programs, already has funding that is far below the national average. Representatives for the arts community didn’t take up too much time when Mayor Charles Meeker opened up the floor to people who wanted to speak on the budget.
CORAC chairwoman Laura Raynor, along with Capital Bank CEO Grant Yarber and local artist Sandra Dubose-Gibson, stepped to the microphone and spoke briefly on how the budget should not be gutted.
“This is the fabric of our lives,” Dubose-Gibson told the council. “It’s something that we all depend on at the end of the week, to be able to have that outlet of expression and to go to the symphony and the plays and all of that kind of stuff. So, it’s not something that we can afford to take away from.”
After a few minutes of case-pleading, the members left the meeting. Downstairs, other Raleigh artists and creative types explained how the $4.50 has helped the community.
“A number of our arts organizations—newer arts organizations—have opened, and have been able to be funded by that,” said Karen Galvin, violinist for the North Carolina Symphony and board member of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild.
“And the arts organizations that are here have flourished and have provided jobs. And those jobs and the arts that are happening in Raleigh are causing other businesses to be able to form and thrive.”
A decision will be made by the beginning of July whether or not to cut back funding. Until then, continued activism is on the agenda for the Raleigh arts community, including talking to council members individually as well as informing local arts supporters of the situation, so they can also write to council members.
“We have a great, great story to tell,” Raynor said, “and we have got to keep this rally going.”
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.
We've got another one of those insanely
great—and totally last minute—performance
opportunities for you.
If you'd like to see a live performance of Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle's controversial production of FRANKENSTEIN, at London's National Theatre on Thursday, March 17, you have two options.
Plan A: Fly to London and take your chances on a scalper's ducat or a last-minute cancellation. Price: ~$1,500—up.
Plan B: Drive 90 minutes to Southern Pines, where you can see the performance, broadcast live via HD satellite feed, at the historic Sunrise Theater. Price: $20 ($10 with a student ID). Plus gas fare.
We happened upon the National Theatre Live website by accident, while researching a different story altogether. When we did, we discovered that two venues in North Carolina have been broadcasting the renowned London company's full season this year in state-of-the-art HD projection. But since the other venue is a 50-seat classroom somewhere at UNC Wilmington, your best bet is probably going to be down 15-501 (or Highway 1 from Raleigh) in Moore County.
Critical reviews of the production have been, for the most part, incandescent. "What to say about", the Guardian's "summary judgment" column of collected reviews, begins:
If the critics' advice should ever be followed, and if you can get a ticket, then Frankenstein at the National is clearly the place to be. There was always going to be hype around any production that could promise Danny Boyle's return to the theatre, the presence of television's Benedict Cumberbatch and American television's Johnny Lee Miller, plus an original score from Underworld. (That's a three-way Trainspotting reunion, '90s fans.) What is never guaranteed is a good reaction from the reviewers. Let alone the kind of ecstasy that Frankenstein provoked.
For those who have yet to take in an HD satellite live performance, the viewing promises to be an experience different from—and possibly superior to—a live theater experience. By showtime, the theater and the production company should have scoped out optimum sight lines and viewing angles for each scene, with visual fields varying from the entire stage to extreme close-up. The HD technology produces an image several times crisper and clearer than 35mm film. "In some ways," notes Sunrise Theater administrator Patricia Wallace, "it's a more intimate experience than you'd have if you were actually at the National Theatre."
The Sunrise will be screening the last production of the National's 2010-2011 season, with Zoë Wanamaker starring in The Cherry Orchard on June 30. They've also committed to broadcast the National's 2011-2012 season this fall.
All seating is reserved. The live performance starts at 3 p.m. — to coincide with the show's 8 p.m. curtain time in London. The runtime for the production is 2.5 hours. With graphic scenes, the production is intended for viewers 15 years and older. For reservations, call the theater at 910 692 8501.
Spring is in the air. Heaps of little creatures are prepping for debut, from bitty bunnies to budding bulbs and... lucky little cork gnomes, as the Indy staff has learned.
The news came in an "a-gnome-ymous" letter of Lilliputian proportion, attached to this little guy (or gal?). Locals will start spotting these little cuties beginning March 20, according to the message.
It seems they were inspired in part by last year's garden-gnome spottings across Durham, which were documented on a local blog, as well as here at the Indy website. (In fact, we even placed random gnome in one issue last year!)
Despite the gnome-nappings of last year, the "population is back on the rise," the letter said. And in this case, the letter says, it's actually good luck to take these little corkers home.
The very small gnomes, called "korknisse" are being tracked at the Cork Gnome Home
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.