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The hidden gems of the season

Fallternatives 

Art:
Your first assignment this fall is to check out antfarm decade: a 10th anniversary exhibition at the Gallery of Art & Design at NCSU. This retrospective features the works of past and present members of the antfarm artist collective of downtown Raleigh, which has been putting out some of the best art and design work around, since it began. The exhibit ends Sept. 28.

In October, a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks will begin their residency at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where they will create a sand mandala. Dances, ceremonies and lectures will give the public a chance to watch the creation and dismantling of the sacred art.

If you've never ventured to Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, this fall is a great time to go see its impressive exhibitions of documentary photography. Digital prints of the work of legendary photojournalist Walker Evans will be on display Oct. 13-Jan. 10, but while you're there don't miss exhibitions of work by local artists such as Luis Velasco, who documents Durham's Latino culture.

If you're looking for an introduction to the visual arts in the Triangle, go on an art walk. One evening of each month, doors are open late, and you can move from gallery to gallery enjoying live music and light refreshments while rubbing elbows with the artists themselves. Raleigh's art walk is on the first Friday of every month from 6-10 p.m. and will take you through the impressive contemporary galleries of Artspace, Lump Gallery and others. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro art walk is on the second Friday of each month from 6-9 p.m. The Bull City doesn't have a monthly crawl, but it does put on a big day-long event. The next Durham art walk will be Sat, Nov. 15 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Even nearby Clayton is getting into the act, with a recently launched "Final Fridays" art walk featuring lots of live music on the town's Main Street from 6-11 p.m. --Fiona Morgan

Theater and Dance:
You can either blame or credit John Adams' Nixon in China for the stream of "docu-operas"--theatrical productions based on current or recent historical events featuring serious vocal and orchestral music--that followed in its wake. Still, someone had to innovate within the genre, and extend its relevance to contemporary generations.

The first such work regional audiences will see up-close is the pop opera Jackie O by Michael Daugherty, the culturally-obsessed composer of Dead Elvis, Sing Sing: J. Edgar Hoover and The Tomb of Liberace. The controversial 1997 premiere of this exercise in mid-'60s iconography (whose on-stage characters include Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Taylor) left the critics deeply divided. We make up our minds when Long Leaf Opera presents it at Carolina Theatre, Oct. 3-5.

In dance, Ron K. Brown unites the spheres--and regional dancers from UNC, Duke and Hayti Heritage Center--in a series of workshops Oct. 31-Nov. 8, and his group, Evidence, performs Come Ye, the new work to music by Nina Simone at Hayti, Nov. 6. The work he creates with regional dancers we'll see next spring.

And one of this fall's largest performances in regional theater and dance won't actually be staged in North Carolina. Not when the stage adaptation of Allan Gurganus' best-seller Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All opens at the Longacre Theater on Broadway, Nov. 4. Stage and screen veteran Ellen Burstyn performs some 25 characters in Martin Tahse's one-woman show adaptation, in a performance the San Diego Union-Tribune termed "a tour-de-force" in its January out-of-town tryouts. Previews begin Oct. 17.

Closer to home, four don't-miss productions: Burning Coal opens Adrian Hall's two-part marquee production of All The King's Men Oct. 2, while Playmakers presents the U.S. premiere of A Prayer for Owen Meany starting Oct. 15. The following week, Streetsigns explores Joe Calarco's Shakespeare's R & J beginning Oct. 22. And Manbites Dog kicks off the holiday season with Shopping and Fucking which bows Nov. 20. --Byron Woods

Music:
If you feel that your body temperature needs a little boost as the winter chill of November sets in, you may want to consider swinging by the Lincoln Theatre for a bit of Dionysian funk with two of the emerging rulers in the world of jamdom. Derek Trucks, the baby-faced, guitar-wielding champion--who (along with Warren Haynes) helped reinvent the Allman Brothers after their mid-'90s indication of senescence and comfort--brings his Band to the Lincoln, Saturday, Nov. 8, for the second time this year. Playing radically smart jazz for a unit so young, Trucks & Co. seem as if they're afraid of nothing, taking on Coltrane joints, "Afro Blue" and eclectic originals with a spirit and scholasticism one can almost feel. Trucks was listed as the 81st "greatest guitarist of all time" in Rolling Stone; he'll hit the Top 30 in a matter of years.

Galactic, perhaps the most impulsive and incendiary club unit touring today, takes to The Lincoln on Nov. 12. A five-piece led by harmonica and saxophone blowtorch Ben Ellman and the Dennis Chambers-influenced drumming of Stanton Moore, Galactic delivers one hot import of swingin' and honkin' brass band-schooled R&B directly from The Crescent City. Their new album, produced by Dan The Automator, even packs a few surprising touches: careful studio production, electronic beats and songwriting concision.

Willy Porter, who plays Go! on Sept. 23, comes through where Leo Kottke missed the mark. With his dynamically perfect and rhythmically exploratory guitar playing, Porter continues the solo acoustic direction of his idols, Kottke and Michael Hedges, while writing memorably authentic pop songs of the highest order that shine in the company of his touring band. A blue-collar guy with a voice that makes you want to fall in love all over again. --Grayson Currin

Film:
As we descend into autumn, the movies will get better and, as always, culminate with the annual December Oscar derby. This year, several likely contenders for the awards season have significant connections to the Triangle.

Later this month, we'll finally see the much-discussed Thirteen, a tale of two very precocious 'tweens who go on a rampage that seems designed to push every button of every anxious parent. (Those pierced tongues featured in the ads are the very least of it.) Early reviews have been terrific, both for the film and its star, Raleigh native Evan Rachel Wood. The 15-year-old Wood was seen last year in S1mOne and she shows no signs of slowing down. In December, she'll appear opposite Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett in Ron Howard's The Missing. Currently, she's in the U.K. working on The Upside of Anger with Kevin Costner and Joan Allen.

In December, two local literary heavyweights will see their films on the big screen. First, Chapel Hill author Daniel Wallace's Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions will get the Tim Burton (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) treatment. The local angle also includes UNC grad Billy Crudup, who stars alongside Ewan MacGregor, Albert Finney and Helena Bonham-Carter. This picaresque film will get a NY/LA Oscar-qualifying opening in time for the holidays, but likely won't reach the Triangle until January.

And then there's Miramax's latest Oscar monster, a film adaptation of Raleigh novelist Charles Frazier's celebrated Cold Mountain. Slated for a Christmas Day release, this movie is poised as the gilded belle of the Oscar ball, loaded as it is with pricey talent ranging from direction Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) to actors Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger and Jude Law (not to mention Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Portman, Brendan Gleeson, and Giovanni Ribisi). Despite a troubled shoot in Romania, during which the production briefly lost its financing, expect Cold Mountain to be the most hyped prestige film of the holiday season. --David Fellerath

  • The hidden gems of the season

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