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The top brass must be in a jam. Guess who called our psychic entertainment critic to chat about the times ahead?

Ten-hut! 

The top brass must be in a jam. Guess who called our psychic entertainment critic to chat about the times ahead?

"I understand you're pretty good at predicting what will happen in a theater of operations, Mr. Woods."

It wasn't the first time I'd been jolted from a sound sleep by a troubled soul. As a rule, it tends to happen sometime during that crucial third week of rehearsals to a disaster in the making. The phone on the nightstand rings--usually just a little after closing time.

When I pick up, the voice on the other end says, "Whatever you do, don't blame this one on me." The conversation goes from there. It happens more often than you might think.

But something told me this gentleman caller had deeper cares than most. Of course I recognized the reedy voice at once--a little hoarser, granted, than when it was on the news the night before, when the network hacks were grilling him about Fallujah. First, the coffin candids, then those low-grade faux gay-porn money shots from Abu Ghraib: When the administration lost vertical control of the images from Iraq, it lost it in a big way. I could almost hear the sweat beading on Don's iron brow.

"Intelligence informs me you've correctly predicted events in North Carolina theaters of operations consistently for the past two years," the mosquito voice continued in my ear. "To come to the point, Mr. Woods, your country is in need."

"Do yourself a favor," I snorted. "Get your people to tell you what kind of theaters I'm operating in down here."

"No time," he said. "My team needs help right now."

"Team?" I chuckled. "Perhaps you haven't read the papers. I'm Independent," I shot back.

Which was when the Donald said, "I've already wired an initial consultation fee to your bank, and I'm not taking no for an answer."

I looked down at the phone, and thought of Joseph Heller. Some are born weird, some achieve weirdness--and some have weirdness thrust upon them.

"All right. But I'm only going to say it once," I said. "I assume you've got your tape recorders running?"

"Actually we're digital, now."

"Aces," I hissed. "But since this isn't a secure line, I'll be doing it in code. Your people can pick up the pieces later. You interrupt me once, and the concert's over. Understand?"

"Redoubtably."

I winced, and took a deep breath. The clock read 2:02.

"Well, then. Shall we dance?"

DANCE
It's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Don, when Carolina Ballet presents Act I of George Balanchine's new adaptation this weekend, May 13-16, at BTI Center. And the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble will host the North Carolina Rhythm Tap Festival at the Carrboro ArtsCenter, with classes June 10 and a showcase on June 11. Before that, Caroline Williford continues excavating the past in a new work May 22 at the LOOM3: Labeler festival in Pittsboro. More info is at www.loom3.org.

Which leaves the American Dance Festival. In-depth coverage is coming for the festival which opens June 9 and runs through July 24, but let's appetize things for now with a briefing on companies and dates. Pilobolus presents new works and a children's concert June 10-12. Paul Taylor looks back with a 50th anniversary retrospective of works--three different concerts over three nights, June 17-19. Former Mark Dendy dancer (and former ADF student) Larry Keigwin brings his new company to town, June 22-23. ADF students who saw the workshop version of Ron K. Brown's Come Ye last summer (and locals who witnessed it at Hayti last winter) can see the finished version when EVIDENCE arrives, June 24-26. And John Jasperse returns to Durham with his latest full-length work, California, June 29-30.

Keeping up, Don? Because a Kathak, tap and flamenco dance trifecta is gonna stomp Page Auditorium July 1-3. And the promise of a world premiere by Shen Wei should be enough to sell out Reynolds Theater, July 5-7. After making new work for ADF school students in recent years (in the festival's International Choreographer Commissioning Program), Tatiana Baganova and Sasha Pepelyaev return with their respective Russian companies, Provincial Dance Theater and Kinetic Dance, July 8-10.

Next comes Krapp--an Argentinian dance theater, exploring the Buenos Aires underworld in the evening-length Mendiolaza, July 12-14. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs July 15-17, before Olga Pona of Russia, Miguel Robles from Argentina, and Japan's Toru Shimazaki choreograph this year's ICCP Concert, July 19-21. And Israel's Batsheva Dance Company closes the ADF mainstage with decadence--make that Deca Dance, a greatest hits package of choreographer Ohad Naharin's 10 years with the group, July 22-24.

But that's not all. ADF presents North Carolina choreographers and companies in its free Acts to Follow series, a sequel to last summer's inaugural Opening Acts sets. This summer, native dance insurgents Jan Van Dyke, Terpsicorps Theater, Wilmington's Harper Piver and Cornelia Kip Lee perform June 19. On June 26, Laura Thomasson and Nicole Laliberte from Greensboro show up with Amy Chavasse & Lisa Gonzalez and Michele Pearson. Courtney Greer and Jodi Obeid will open things on July 3, with work from Andrews Arts, Lindsey Greene, and alban elved dance. The series closes July 10, with Rachel Brooker/Anima Dance, Gaston County's Caroline Calouche and Dancers, Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre (who dazzled us at N.C. Dances last week), and Choreo Collective. All shows start at 6:30 p.m.

THEATER
But you strike me, Don, as someone who needs a bit more drama in his life.

Now here's a timely topic, Don: Disaster Relief. Burning Coal's got a play about Fred Cuny, the man who rewrote the book on it in the world premiere of The Man Who Tried to Save the World, adapted from the bestseller by Scott Anderson. It goes up May 27-June 13 at Kennedy Theater.

N.C. State's TheatreFest goes on hiatus this summer for the first time since its start in 1992. After their Man Who Came to Dinner runs June 11-26, they'll stay dark until Sondheim's Follies goes up starting August 12.

Other festivals will take its place. The 10 by 10 New Plays Festival presents their findings July 8-18 at Carrboro's Artscenter. And Streetsigns launches a New Works Initiative with a week of concert-style readings of new plays June 21-26 at Swain Hall at UNC.

Before that, new neighbors at Livewire Theater present their inaugural production: Romeo and Juliet, al fresco, at Raleigh's Pullen Park. Catch them Saturdays and Sundays at 6 p.m., May 15-30. As long as we're outdoors, consider Sword of Peace and Pathway to Freedom, perennial historical outdoor dramas at Snow Camp Historical Society. Their season runs July 2-Aug. 14 this year, with a production of Annie Get Your Gun added Aug. 17-21. For info, call 800-726-5115.

Company's coming before that. Broadway Series South brings Fame the musical to BTI Center June 1-6. If you go planning to relive "Hot Lunch Jam," Irene Cara's "Out Here on My Own," or "I Sing the Body Electric," the standout songs from the film, you're going to be disappointed. Except for the title song, all the original film score was ditched for this off-Broadway musical adaptation in favor of new songs by Steve Margoshes (The Who's Tommy) and Jacques Levy (Oh, Calcutta).

Lou Diamond Phillips drops in to play The King in N.C. Theater's production of The King and I, July 10-18. And TV star Denny Dillon inhabits the title role of Driving Miss Daisy at Triad Stage, June 20-July 11. Other visitors include The Rebelles, an Asheville-based burlesque society with a thing for equally revealing political satire--or so they say, at least. Judge for yourself, at www.therebelles.com, or catch them June 5 at ArtsCenter.

And that visitation thing works both ways these days. Wordshed's busy this summer--but largely on the road. If you're in Key West, keep an eye peeled for their production of Ernest Hemingway's short stories the week of June 9. They do return for an encore run at John Cheever's stories in A Paradise It Seems in Swain Hall July 30-Aug. 1--before they fly to Edinburgh to do it at the Fringe Festival.

Opera lovers have two productions to ponder: Opera Company of North Carolina's Turandot, May 21-23 at BTI Center, and Capitol Opera Raleigh's inaugural full production, Don Giovanni, at Meredith College, June 18-20.

Paper Hand Puppet Intervention stages a May 29 performance at 11 a.m., outdoors at Duke Gardens amphitheater, and a show that night at LOOM3.

Those missing the rush of simultaneous productions we dealt with all year long should check back the second week of June. Manbites Dog's Far Away, Caryl Churchill's chilling tale about a girl who grows up during wartime will still be running, after opening the week before on June 4 (with a June 3 sneak preview), through June 19. Meanwhile, Temple Theater presents Always, Patsy Cline, June 10-27; Raleigh Little Theater's got Smokey Joe's Cafe, June 11-19; and Theater in the Park presents Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth, June 11-27.

And I dunno, but something tells me, Don, that in the days ahead, you're going to need a few laughs. Loveseat Theater obliges with Candice Churilla's dark new comedy, Sex, Drugs & Dinner, July 23-31 at Ringside and Aug. 13-14 at Skylight Exchange. And if you can make it to August, Actors' Comedy Lab has got Alan Ayckborne's Comic Potential, Aug. 4-28, at Thompson Studio Theater. EndBlock

  • The top brass must be in a jam. Guess who called our psychic entertainment critic to chat about the times ahead?

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