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Archive for February, 2010

‘Brownie Points’ at Theatrical Outfit

Atlanta playwright Janece Shaffer

Atlanta playwright Janece Shaffer

Theater review
‘Brownie Points’
Grade: B-
Through Feb. 28. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $35. Theatrical Outfit, 84 Luckie St. N.W. 678-528-1500, www.theatricaloutfit.org.
Bottom line: More thoughtful than insightful.

By Bert Osborne

As one well-intentioned character poses it in Atlanta playwright Janece Shaffer’s “Brownie Points,” “How do we judge others – by their best moments, or their worst?”
The answer, as any decent theater critic could tell you, is: both.

Smoothly directed by Jasmine Guy, Theatrical Outfit’s handsome production (rustic set by Jamie Bullins, moody lighting by Rob Dillard) also boasts the formidable acting talents of Terry Burrell, Carolyn Cook, Mary Kathryn Kaye, Courtney Patterson and Nevaina Rhodes as diverse mothers stranded on a camping trip with a group of adolescent schoolgirls (including their daughters).

Shaffer typically touches on socially relevant topics in …

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‘Shooting Star’ at Horizon Theatre

Theater review
“Shooting Star”
Grade: B-
8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; 5:30 p.m. Sundays. $20-$25. Pay as you can show today, $5 minimum. Also 3 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 27.  Through March 14. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-584-7450, www.horizontheatre.com.

By Wendell Brock

They parted ways after a stormy relationship and came together again during a blizzard. Such is the story of Steven Dietz’s “Shooting Star,” a romantic comedy about a pair of long-parted lovers who find themselves stranded at an airport in the so-called snowstorm of the century.

Warily at first, then with the energy of a speeding jet, Reed and Elena enjoy a flickering encounter that allows them to reconsider the past, unbury their secrets and sort through the accumulated debris of their real and metaphorical baggage in this featherweight play at Horizon Theatre.

Directed by Jeff Adler and starring Jim Hammond and Leigh Campbell-Taylor as the snowbound former …

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‘Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine’ By Max Watman

whitedog

Nonfiction
“Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine”
By Max Watman
Simon & Schuster, 320 pages, $25

By Gina Webb

White dog — aka moonshine, hooch, white lightning, rotgut, firewater, tangleleg, popskull, mountain dew, mule kick, bush whiskey. Whatever you call it, it has come a long way from its stereotypical hillbilly past. It’s even gone legal, enjoying a renaissance with “white-collar” moonshiners who label their artisan brews “Catdaddy” and “Georgia Moon.”
In the revealing, sometimes hilarious and fact-filled “Chasing the White Dog,” journalist and native Virginian Max Watman explores moonshine’s long,  eventful history.

“White dog” refers to the clear liquor straight from the still, before it’s stored in the charred wood barrels that age it into whiskey. You can make and sell it, as more and more small distillers are now doing. But you better have a license for it and plan to pay the tax — about $13.50 on …

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Kenny Leon to receive Drama League Award for directing

Kenny Leon in rehearsals for "Our Town." (Jason Getz)

Kenny Leon in rehearsals for "Our Town." (Jason Getz)

According to a press release from True Colors Theatre Company, artistic director Kenny Leon has been named the recipient of the 2010 Julie Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing by the Drama League.

The Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing can be won only once in a lifetime and is given to an individual whose work over time sets new standards of directing excellence within American Theatre. This award is being given in recognition of Leon’s body of work, highlights of which include acting as artistic director of the Alliance Theatre Company and True Colors Theatre Company; “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Gem of the Ocean,” and “Radio Golf” on Broadway; the August Wilson Century Cycle at the Kennedy Center.  His efforts to promote and revitalize the African American classics, as well as helming bold new works, has exposed a fresh generation of theatergoers to great works by Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison and August …

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Dee Dee Bridgewater sings tribute to Billie Holiday

Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. Courtesy Decca Label Group

Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. Courtesy Decca Label Group

Concert preview
“To Billie with Love: A Celebration of Lady Day”
8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 13. Rialto Center for the Arts. 80 Forsyth St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-413-9849, www.rialtocenter.org, www.deedeebridgewater.com.

By Adrianne Murchison

There is little doubt Billie Holiday would be intrigued by Dee Dee Bridgewater, the award-winning singer-actress who has portrayed Holiday onstage.

Like Holiday, Bridgewater has a certain verve that sets her apart from others. Yet she is lauded for the way she literally envelops singers that she pays tribute to, such as Ella Fitzgerald or Holiday.

Bridgewater has felt a special affinity for Holiday over the years.

She sings some of Holiday’s famously recorded songs in “To Billie with Love: A Celebration of Lady Day” at 8 p.m. Sat., Feb 13 at the Rialto Center for the Arts. The concert is a preview of Bridgewater’s album “Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee …

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‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the New American Shakespeare Tavern

Lee Osorio & Marry Russell play the lead roles in "Romeo and Juliet" at the New American Shakespeare Tavern

Lee Osorio & Marry Russell play the lead roles in "Romeo and Juliet" at the New American Shakespeare Tavern

Theater preview
“Romeo and Juliet”
7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 28. $12-$28. New American Shakespeare Tavern, 499 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-874-5299, www.shakespearetavern.com

By Wendell Brock

Jeff Watkins remembers the first time he saw Juliet. It was love at first sight.

He was a 13-year-old kid living in Dallas. When his big sister wanted to go to the movies, his mother made him tag along. It was Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and he was transported.

“I had no idea what I was going to see, just coming in cold,” says the artistic director of Atlanta’s New American Shakespeare. “And then there it was. And there she was. It was Olivia Hussey. I mean, the eyes, the hair, that red dress, the décolletage, the whole thing. … And then you had the sword fights. That movie blew my mind.”

Watkins says flat out, …

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Q & A with Daredevil Clown Bello Nock

Bello Nock with the Big Apple Circus

Bello Nock with the Big Apple Circus

Event preview
Big Apple Circus
Call or check Web site for times. Feb. 12-15, 18-21, 24-28. $15-$42. Stone Mountain Park, 6867 James B. Rivers Drive, Stone Mountain. 800-922-3772, www.bigapplecircus.org.

By Jon Waterhouse

February is circus month in Atlanta as UniverSoul Circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Big Apple Circus each set up shop.

Fans of former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus star Bello Nock may be surprised by his absence from this year’s tour.

But as the Greatest Show on Earth presents its new, magic-laden production, “Zing, Zang, Zoom,” at Philips Arena, Nock, who refers to himself as a “free agent,” will be clowning around at Big Apple Circus at Stone Mountain Park.

Q: First off, how do you keep your hair standing up like that?

A: Can you keep a secret? Very simply, I put Viagra in my shampoo. … When I was 11 years old, I was in a water ski show at Cypress Gardens in Florida. Along with …

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Q&A with author Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan

By Jon Waterhouse

Rick Riordan doesn’t sound like someone who knows what it’s like to firmly plant himself atop The New York Times Best-Seller List. He comes off more like the middle school teacher he used to be: reserved, articulate and lighthearted enough to keep things entertaining.

Riordan is responsible for taking Greek mythology out of the classroom and making it cool again. His young adult book series, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians,” is about an unassuming 12-year-old boy who finds out he’s the offspring of a Greek god.“The Lightning Thief,” the first book of the series, makes its way to the big screen Friday. But Riordan has been so busy cranking out a pair of new books, he hasn’t seen it. The AJC caught up with the author recently by telephone.

Q: It seems like teaching middle school would be a great way to learn how to be a young adult writer.

A: Absolutely. … And when I was writing “The Lightning Thief,” I had my own students in …

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Atlanta Ballet presents ‘Cinderella’ at the Cobb Energy Centre

Christine Winkler as Cinderella. Photo by Charlie McCullers

Christine Winkler as Cinderella. Photo by Charlie McCullers

Ballet preview
Atlanta Ballet’s “Cinderella”
Through Feb. 14. $20-$120. Cobb Energy Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Pkwy. 800-982-2787, www.atlantaballet.com.

By Pierre Ruhe

Atlanta Ballet’s new production of “Cinderella” is playing now through Valentine’s Day, but don’t expect evenings of sentimental romance. In artistic director John McFall’s choreography, the social-climbing heroine isn’t the hapless, saved-by-the-prince lass of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale. Instead, she is a modern, independent young woman who, aided by a magical Godmother, gains strength through the power of love.
It’s danced to Sergei Prokofiev’s lyrical three-act ballet score — a classic of ironic, Stalin-era Russian music — with the ballet’s fine orchestra in the pit, conducted by Dan Alcott.
For the 43-year-old conductor, it’s a bittersweet show. Alcott became Atlanta Ballet music director in 2000, and except for …

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‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot

Lacks

Review
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By Rebecca Skloot
Crown: 330 pages; $26

By Sarah Sacha Dollacker

When Henrietta Lacks, a descendant of Virginia tobacco sharecroppers, was treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins in the early 1950s, she had no idea that part of her would stay in a medical lab long after her death.
Scientists had been working feverishly to keep human cells alive for study. They had  successfully harvested cells and had moderate success keeping them alive for short periods, but they had not discovered a cell line robust enough to stay alive for extensive study.
Henrietta’s cells, scraped from a malignant tumor during surgery, quickly proved to be the cells science was desperately seeking. They not only lived longer than any other previously harvested human cells, but they also heartily multiplied, making them ideal for unlimited production.
These cells could be grown in labs and sent to scientists all over the world — and they were. …

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