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Archive for July, 2010

5 projects on life of MLK underway in Hollywood, on stage

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

While there have been a smattering of depictions of Martin Luther King Jr. since his death in 1968, Hollywood and Broadway have long approached the slain civil rights leader with caution.
“People are somewhat holy about the iconic nature of Dr. King,” Atlanta director Kenny Leon said. “For the black community especially, it was like, he’s up there and you can’t touch him. Now, it’s come to a place where I can touch him.”
Leon is bringing the London hit “The Mountaintop,” probably starring Samuel L. Jackson, to Broadway this fall or next spring.
He’s in good company in interpreting the Atlanta minister’s story. Between movies, plays and TV, there are five major King projects in various states of production or planning, with others likely bubbling under the radar.
In addition to the largely fictional “Mountaintop,” there’s “I Dream,” the world premiere musical booked at the Alliance Theatre through the end of …

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Chinese youth orchestra plays twice in metro area this weeekend

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

The 60-plus members of China’s Hangzhou Wenlan School Youth Orchestra will perform twice in the metro area this weekend while getting treated to some southern hospitality courtesy of their hosts, the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission.

The group will perform at the Rialto Center for the Arts in downtown Atlanta at 2 p.m. Saturday (free), and at 3 p.m. Sunday at Coweta County’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts ($8, $5 students and seniors).

Partnered with Coweta teens for their visit through Tuesday, they’ll get to enjoy covered-dish and barbecue meals, tour Atlanta and play games at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.

Information: www.rialtocenter.org, www.thecentreonline.net.

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Ga. Ensemble Theatre goes public for help with $100,000 debt

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Roswell’s Georgia Ensemble Theatre has run up a $100,000 deficit, the worst in its 17 seasons, and is asking the public for help before its fiscal year ends Aug. 31.
In a strategy notably similar to Horizon Theatre’s “I [Heart] Horizon” campaign, in which the Little 5 Points troupe recently completed the raising of $100,000 to finish its 26th year in the black, Georgia Ensemble has launched a viral “I Get G-E-T” fund-raiser.
While Horizon’s debt was generally attributed to lagging ticket sales and cuts in corporate, foundation and government support, Georgia Ensemble Theatre is recoiling from a particular set of circumstances.
In April, just days before it was to open a season-closing production of “Grease,” the rights to produce the musical were rescinded, and the show had to be canceled. Instead, in eight days, it remounted a production of “Always … Patsy Cline.” However, because the effort was last minute, managing …

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Your guide to Friday, Saturday, Sunday events at National Black Arts Festival

Philadanco will perform at the Rialto Center for the Arts on Saturday. Photo: Lois Greenfield

Philadanco will perform at the Rialto Center for the Arts on Saturday. Photo: Lois Greenfield

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

The five-day National Black Arts Festival has been building momentum as it heads into its finale weekend, concluding Sunday. Centennial Olympic Park is the nexus of this year’s celebration of African-American and African diaspora culture.
Weekend highlights:

International Marketplace: More than 100 booths in Centennial Olympic Park feature hand-crafted jewelry, leather goods, fabric pieces and more. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday. Free.

Legends Celebration: “To Curtis With Love”: The Impressions, Eddie Levert, Van Hunt, Frank McComb, Dionne Farris and Joi Gilliam pay tribute in song to the late Atlantan Curtis Mayfield. 8 p.m. Friday, Symphony Hall. $25-$65.

Philadanco: The Philadelphia-based modern dance company presents four works, including a new one set to the music of George Clinton. 2 p.m. Saturday.  …

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Sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ in the shower? This contest is for you

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Turner Classic Movies are looking for singers with heart for the “Atlanta Symphony Songster 2010” vocal competition.

Three amateur warblers will win a chance to sing a portion of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with the ASO at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park on Aug. 14 (when the orchestra is performing music to “The Wizard of Oz”).

Audience members and online viewers will vote the winner, with the first-place finisher snagging a trip to New York to see the ASO perform at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 30.

Entry details: http://www.atlantasymphony.org/songster2010.

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Aurora Theatre announces diverse 15th season

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Aurora Theatre’s just-announced 2010-11 season, its 15th, offers a slate of six Main Stage productions and an expanded second season of its lab series in the smaller studio theater. Here’s what’s in store at the Lawrenceville theater:

Main Stage

  • “Singin’ in the Rain,” Aug. 5–Sept. 5. Onstage precipitation is promised to complement the original choreography by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.
  • “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Oct. 7- 31. Jeffrey Hatcher’s new adaption of the chilling Robert Louis Stevenson tale.
  • “Aurora Christmas Canteen 2010,” Nov. 26–Dec. 23. Gwinnett County’s longest-running theatrical holiday tradition gets its 15th production.
  • “Sirens,” Jan. 13–Feb. 16. Deborah Zoe Laufer’s (“End Days,” “The Last Schwartz”) comedy that opened the Humana Festival of New American Plays in February tells the story of a husband and wife, the hit love song he wrote for her years ago, and their missing …

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Years after his death, Atlanta returns Curtis Mayfield’s love

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Long before Atlanta was the ATL, the Motown of the Dirty South, before Big Boi was even a little boy, Curtis Mayfield saw the city as a potential music capital.

Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com Curtis Mayfield’s widow Altheida Mayfield, flips through old family albums of her late husband in Atlanta on Monday, July 12, 2010. Mayfield, who moved to Atlanta from Chicago with his family in the late ’70s and died here in ‘99, loved Atlanta’s youthfulness, his widow said, and foresaw that it was going to become an important music center.
Curtis Mayfield's widow Altheida Mayfield, center, with daughter Timfany Mayfield-Scott, left, Scott's daughters, Taylor, 2-months, and Michaela, 8, son, Kirk, and daughter Sharon Mayfield-Lavigne, right, in Atlanta.

Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com Curtis Mayfield’s widow Altheida Mayfield, center, with daughter Timfany Mayfield-Scott, left, Scott’s daughters, Taylor, 2-months, and Michaela, 8, son, Kirk, and daughter Sharon Mayfield-Lavigne, right, in Atlanta.

Though he didn’t move his family here permanently until 1979, the Chicago native bought a small home in the decade before …

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Your guide to 4 films unspooling at National Black Arts Festival

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

“Besouro” is a heady telling of a distinctly Brazilian legend, but the South American action film doesn’t stop there for cinematic kicks, both literal and figurative.

The opener and highlight of the National Black Arts Festival’s movie slate, it also features gravity-defying martial arts straight out of the China-set smash “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and even some taking-it-to-the-Man-style revenge from 1970s American blacksploitation films.

The film, which showed at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and screens here Thursday, is set in 1920s at a Bahia sugarcane plantation — unchanged despite slavery’s abolition four decades earlier.

Starting as a boy, the hero of the title learns capoeira – a discipline of acrobatic movement and fighting – from Master Alipio. Later, the revered teacher is murdered on orders of Col. Venancio, the scruffy plantation owner who fears the seeding of rebellion.

Besouro (chiseled …

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Q&A with Emory scholar James Flannery on new roles in Ireland

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

James Flannery, an Emory University professor and nationally noted Irish drama scholar, was recently named international associate artist at the Abbey Theatre, the national theater of Ireland.

One of Flannery’s main challenges at the Dublin theater will be to develop a Yeats Studio that would train directors, actors, dancers, designers and musicians in performing the dramatic works of Abbey co-founder W.B. Yeats.

Abbey artistic director Fiach Mac Conghail called Flannery, 73, an “essential partner in our effort to explore and celebrate the genius of Yeats.”

It’s not the first time that Flannery has been commissioned to bring a key cultural facet of Ireland back to the Irish via the Abbey. From 1989 to 1993, he produced the Yeats International Theatre Festival there, staging 15 Yeats plays including the Abbey premiere of his mystical epic “The Cuchulain Cycle.”

Though the festival was well received by Irish critics and audiences, …

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‘This Is Just Exactly Like You’ by Drew Perry

Book Review
Fiction
“This Is Just Exactly Like You”
By Drew Perry
Viking, 352 pages, $25.95

PerryBy Gina Webb / For the AJC

The picture on the cover of “This Is Just Exactly Like You” is of a suburban backyard, where what looks like a 5-foot-high statue of an upright chipmunk (or is it a gopher?) stands dead center at the end of a cement pathway that ends in an arrow. It has the cheerful inscrutability of a found photo, and undoubtedly makes sense only to the person who lost it.

Greensboro, N.C., native Drew Perry offers a possible interpretation in his deadpan, uproariously funny first novel about a young couple whose marriage has collapsed.

Whether it’s because of a kitchen remodel gone bad, or the fallout from dealing with their autistic child, husband and father Jack Lang is on a mission: There’s something out there that will fix things, but only he will know what it is, and he won’t recognize it until he sees it.

Along for the ride are Jack’s two employees: the beer-guzzling …

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