Things have been busy at Cape Fear Botanical Garden the past year or so. Along with the opening of the Wyatt Visitors Pavilion Complex, the nationally renowned Big Bugs exhibit by artist David Rogers and the first annual Holiday Lights in the Garden, the garden has stepped up its programming, giving people even more reasons to come and enjoy what the garden has to offer.
Spring is a beautiful time in the garden, and a concert just adds to the ambience. The inaugural Spring Concert Series in the Garden has been a big hit with catering provided by Elliott’s on Linden in Pinehurst, and a variety of music genres. “We’ve had wonderful turn out and the weather has cooperated,” said Director of Development and Marketing, Iris Goode. “We actually had people dancing at the last concert — kids and grown-ups alike. I’m sure we will be doing something similar next year.”
On June 22, the concert series at the garden winds down, drawing the first seasonal concert series to a close. So far, the playlist included tropical and classic rock, jazz, blue grass and country music. The program ends with this final concert, a big band performance by The Casa Blanca Orchestra.
The Casa Blanca Orchestra is composed of a piano, drums, bass, guitar, trumpets, trombones, saxophones and the vocal talent of Debbie Bennett. The band has a repertoire of more than 300 songs that include swing, Latin, jazz and blues hits spanning the 1940s to the 1990s.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare Company presents Much Ado About Nothing June 27 through July 1. A comedy about two young soldiers returning from war and adjusting to civilian life, the women they love and the misunderstandings they endure, Much Ado About Nothing offers an opportunity to enjoy a laughter-filled evening in the garden.
“We are looking foreward to having Shakespeare in the garden,” said Goode. “I think it will be well received and something that people will enjoy.”
Assistant Professor of Theatre at Fayetteville State University Jeremy Fiebig is heading up the Sweet Tea Shakespeare Company project sponsored by Fayetteville State University’s Fine Art Department and supported by Gilbert Theater, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and Methodist University.
“I’ve been in Fayetteville for almost two years now and the first time I went to the Botanical Garden, I though ‘Oh wow, there needs to be a performance here,” said Fiebig, who is also the Sweet Tea Shakespeare artistic director and project coordinator. “I am interested in all the theater organizations in Fayetteville being supportive of each other, so for this to be successful we needed to be certain we weren’t going up against each other. We are trying to do this in a window where there is not a lot of competition between the theaters, so that we are not competing with each other.”
You don’t have to be a Shakespeare fan to appreciate Shakespeare in the Garden. The entire experience is laid back. Snacks and beverages will be available and the cozy atmosphere and the informal seating are all built in to the experience to help the audience enjoy the show.
Fiebig thinks that the audience will enjoy seeing familiar faces, as well as a few new personalities in the local theater scene. He is enjoying the mix of personalities and experience levels and thinks the audience will too.
Much Ado About Nothing was an obvious choice for Fiebig when it came time to choose the opening production. “The way to we are doing this is going to appeal to everyone, whether they get or like Shakespeare or not,” said Fiebig. “Much Ado About Nothing is a funny play. It has a lot of humor that would play to a modern audience just as readily as it did audiences in Shakespeare’s day. It is a unique choice for Fayetteville audiences because the main story has to do with soldiers coming back from campaigning and struggling with the transition from military life to civilian life. It has something specific to say to the local community, that I think everyone will enjoy.”
Fiebig is planning a second Shakespeare in the Garden in July with the production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
Say good-bye to summer with the Fall Concert Series scheduled to take place each Thursday in September. Unlike the spring series, which offered many different types of music, the fall series explores the orchestra. At each concert, the performance will focus on an instrument family in the orchestra. It’s a great opportunity to not only enjoy a concert, but to learn something as well. The concerts are on Sept. 6, 13, 20 and 27 and will explore the jazz combo, brass string and woodwind instruments.
After Big Bugs was such a hit, the door was opened for another garden-related critter to make an appearance. Ribbit the Exhibit runs September through November and features 10 of Andy Cobb’s copper frogs.
A North Carolina native, Cobb sculpts five and six-foot frogs from copper. His first frog was inspired by Old Toad, from the book The Wind in the Willows. Cobb also sculpts birds, fish and other animals. His work is friendly, spirited and whimsical — a perfect match for the garden.
This particular exhibit will benefit local students as well as the public. “We do educational events, we have school tours, and public workshops for adults and children,” said Goode. “We felt that we needed something to follow Big Bugs, and the curriculum in the schools will be on amphibians this year, so we went looking frogs. Last year the curriculm was bugs and we just fell in to that. Once we found out that the children will be studying amphibians this year we met with the schools system and did some coordinating. We will have activities that are student related, we will have an adult workshop on frogs and toads and we will have crafts at selected times when they can come in and make their own crafts. I think it is going to be fun and a good educational opportunity”
Find out more about what the garden has to offer at www.capefearbg.org.Photos: Top right; A crowd gathers for a concert in the garden. Left; A painting frog by Andy Cobb.