Arts

Actor Boris Kodjoe to speak at ‘True to Yourself’ Black History Month Talk Series

11BorisK  The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, along with Piedmont Gas, presents Boris Kodjoe’s “True to Yourself” Black History Month Talk Series on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at Fayetteville State University’s J. W. Seabrook Auditorium.

“The purpose of this event is to have really deep, candid conversations with industry executives and TV/ film actors to pretty much explore their challenges and difficulties as well as their successes as being an African-American,” said UniQue Webster, development director of the Arts Council. “Last year we had Tichina Arnold and casting director Winsome Sinclair.

“So, basically, this experience is also supported by video, and we hope that Boris will include some of his vignettes and video outtakes … to support the talk.”

Webster added that another part of the talk is audience engagement. With that in mind, there will be a Q&A segment toward the end of the event.

Webster went on to explain the vetting process for choosing a speaker for this event. “We have a Black History Committee chaired by Attorney Cull Jordan III. We came together to explore some options and came up with our top five choices that we chopped down to three,” she said.

Webster added, “We looked at the success of the actor, some of their challenges, and we made sure they had an amazing and compelling story to tell.”

Kodjoe grew up in Germany and excelled in sports. He became one of the best tennis players in Germany. A chronic back injury, however, forced him to explore other options. After earning a degree in marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Kodjoe was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency in New York, where he became one of the most recognized male supermodels.

He took acting classes while modeling, and Hollywood took notice. Kodjoe was featured in “Love and Basketball” and the hit TV series “Soul Food,” for which he won three National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Award nominations. He continued to appear in many movies and drama series as well as a Broadway debut.

In 2010, Kodjoe and his brother, Patrick, launched World of Alfa, a clothing company offering the luxury of high-quality, custom-made shirts and suits at affordable prices.

Boris and his wife, Nicole Ari Parker- Kodjoe, established the Sophie’s Voice Foundation in honor of their daughter, Sophie, who was diagnosed with Spina Bifida at birth. SVF helps families affected by the birth defect and educates all women of childbearing age about the importance of folic acid in protecting unborn children from this 75 percent preventable birth defect.

“We encourage everyone to come out to enjoy an amazing show,” said Webster. “We make it so that you leave with something new about the person. We want you to come with your questions and leave with some motivation and inspiration.”

For more information, call the Arts Council at 910-323-1776.

Photo: Boris Kodjoe

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Visit Methodist University to see ‘gallery goes POP: Warhol’

09Warhol 1Visit the David McCune International Art Gallery at Methodist University to take in the works of artist Andy Warhol at “gallery goes POP: Warhol,” on display until April 12. The exhibit, which opened Feb. 7, features 34 of Warhol’s silkscreen paintings from his various art series. The McCune gallery provides an intimate setting for viewing a sampling of works by the famed artist and pop icon.

“This really is a great exhibition that lends itself to not only adults, but obviously children as well,” said Silvana Foti, director of the gallery. “We’re trying to get school children involved.”

Warhol, an American artist, is nearly synonymous with the term “pop art,” an art movement that gained ground in the United States in the late 1950s. Warhol used his background in commercials and advertising to transform everyday items into iconic art recognized by millions.

Although Warhol died in 1987, he remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. In just one example of his lasting impact on pop culture, the 2019 Burger King Super Bowl ad featured Warhol eating a Whopper while touting the “have it your way” slogan by telling people to #EatLikeAndy.

Most people are familiar with Warhol’s famous works: Campbell’s Soup Cans, Coca-Cola bottles and Marilyn Monroe. But this exhibit goes far beyond that. Yes, there are some of the expected iconic paintings of subjects like Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman. But there are also many surprises.

Prints of other American pop culture figures grace the gallery, including a classic Santa Claus, the Wicked Witch and Superman, which are part of Warhol’s “Myths” series.

Twelve pieces from his “Cowboys and Indians” portfolio are also on display. They pay homage to Western lore and include John Wayne, Annie Oakley and Geronimo as they’ve never been seen before. There are also works from Warhol’s “Flash” series and more.

A lively twist at the exhibit is its sound accompaniment. Methodist University musician and music department employee Yaroslav Borisov created a soundtrack collage that features commercials and sound bites from characters and movies to match the art on display. This soundtrack helps to the viewer connect with the art on another level.

Nicole Dezelon, assistant director of learning at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, travelled to Fayetteville to conduct educational workshops with visitors earlier this month. She said, “I hope visitors to the exhibition will take away that same sense of wonder and intrigue about the ‘everyday’ that Warhol had. He erased the boundaries between high and low art and made art accessible to the masses."

Dezelon continued, “Warhol said, ‘Once you ‘got’ pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought pop, you could never see America the same way again.’

“Once visitors see this exhibition, they will never see Warhol in the same light again. …It tells you a whole different side of who you may think Andy Warhol is. Somebody who misses this exhibition will really miss something spectacular.”

The 34 silkscreen images in this show are on loan from The Cochran Collection, a private collection based in Georgia, and the Ackland Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

David McCune International Art Gallery is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m. It will be closed March 4-11. A donation of $10 per person is suggested to help cover the cost of the exhibit.

To learn more, visit davidmccunegallery.org.

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Musical ‘Love is in the Air’ at Methodist University

01coverUAC013019001 For Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra Music Director Stefan Sanders, programming concerts for holidays can be especially fun. The Feb. 9 “Love is in the Air” concert is no exception. It includes classic pieces sure to stir the soul as well as a performance by guest pianist Anton Nel, who will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.”

“Concerts close to holidays offer an opportunity to program thematically, and love and romance and longing for someone are a major part of the human condition,” said Sanders. “Putting together a concert is like creating a menu. You want to put together things that pair well and accent each other and are palatable. Think about the songs we listen to on the radio. As people, we have strong feelings, and there is a lot of great music that is love-inspired.”

And there will be plenty of them in this performance. Whether it’s romance or great music you are after, FSO has a well-programmed performance set for the weekend before Valentine’s Day. The playlist includes selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” plus iconic music from “Casablanca” and “West Side Story.”

“The symphony is going to play some incredible, beloved romantic music — some of the songs will be very recognizable,” Sanders said. “There is also a lot of music that has been used in TV and film so that the audience will hear it, and even if they don’t know it by name, they will recognize it.”

Special guest Anton Nel has been an international performance pianist for nearly four decades. He is also an acclaimed harpsichordist and fortepianist. But it is not just his talent that makes him a great fit for this FSO concert. Sanders credits Nel with inspiring not just audiences but the performers with whom he shares the stage — a pleasure Sanders has had more than once.

“Any time you work with someone, there are some unknowns,” Sanders said. “But just the rapport with someone you have worked with and can trust makes for a positive experience. And Anton is an incredible artist. He is renowned for his interpretation of certain composers. I think the other performers will enjoy working with someone of this caliber.

“I have seen several performances with Anton and other greats where their artistry inspires everyone else on the stage to be their absolute best. Anton is one of those artists who brings out the best in other artists.”

The piece Nel is playing is significant for more than one reason. It’s great music, but the back story is also something many people will be able to relate to and find hope in. It’s about mental health. Early in Rachmaninoff’s career, he wrote a symphony. When it premiered, the performance was abysmal. The audience hated it.

“This threw him into a very deep depression,” said Sanders. “He was at the bottom. Thankfully, he was able to get help.”

A therapist helped Rachmaninoff to get out of his deep depression. And Rachmaninoff did more than just survive. He started thriving. “He felt inspired to write a second concert,” said Sanders. “And he dedicated it to his therapist, Nikolai Dahl. It goes to show that the things people deal with today are similar to what people dealt with years ago.”

With a mission to educate, entertain and inspire the citizens of the Fayetteville region as the leading musical resource, FSO is creative in its programming and outreach initiatives. The organization is built on the premise that great symphonic music should affordable and fun.

One of the initiatives that aims to make the symphony fun and approachable to everyone is the “Music Nerd” preconcert talks. About 45 minutes before the concert begins, Sanders and FSO Musicologist Joshua Busman will take the stage. Sanders described the Music Nerd portion as a casual chat. “It is a way for curious minds to learn about the music and other interesting facts related to the programming,” Sanders said. “Often, people like to have more context than what a program note provides. It is a way for people to learn more about the music we are going to play.”

FSO also provides program notes on its website so attendees will have a good idea about what the performance will contain. The program notes are available at www.fayettevillesymphony.org.

Methodist University will host the concert at Huff Concert Hall, 5400 Ramsey St. The Music Nerd talk starts at 6:45 p.m. The concert starts at 7 p.m. Visit www.fayettevillesymphony.org or call 910-433- 4690 for tickets and information.

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Review: Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s ‘Annie’ is fantastic

08Annie WarbucksFrom Mary Kate Burke’s soft rock introduction to the final curtain, the opening night performance of Cape Fear Regional Theater’s production of “Annie” was nothing short of spectacular, often drawing cheers from the full house.

With the book by Thomas Meehan, lyrics by Martin Charmin, music by Charles Strouse and a setting in the midst of the Great Depression, the adventures of a young orphan in search of her parents touches on a theme still relevant today. The contrast between Hooverville, where Annie takes refuge, and her life as a guest in Oliver Warbucks’ mansion emphasizes the vast gap between the very rich and the majority of citizens just struggling to eat and keep a roof over their heads. Yet, despite the dire circumstances in which the musical is set, the message of “Annie” is hope.

The Orphan Ensemble captivates from the very beginning. Lily Hogge, playing the title role, has an amazing vocal range for such a young girl. She plays Annie with tomboy-ish enthusiasm and transitions seamlessly from wistfulness to defiance to winsomeness as the situation demands.

Thanks to the orphans, the mood never descends to pathos. Their superb rendition of “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and subsequent heckling of Miss Hannigan convince the audience these are resilient little girls determined not to let the circumstances of their lives break them.

Erin Fish’s Miss Hannigan, a role she played on the national tour, is the villainess we all love to hate. Yet there is a certain upbeat cheerfulness to her chicanery. Fish plays Miss Hannigan for laughs, of which there are plenty, which allows the audience to see her as overwhelmed by all the little girls in her charge, rather than evil.

Greg King, as Rooster Hannigan, and Jodi Bluestein, as Lily St. Regis, ooze a greasy, bumbling, minor criminality from the first moment they set foot onstage. Not to put too fine a point on it, but their “Easy Street” number reminds us of why we really play the lottery.

Robert Newman’s character transitions believably from the gruff, enormously rich and influential Oliver Warbucks to the openly affectionate “Daddy.” This is in large part due to Newman’s seeming lack of celebrity ego and to the positive onstage chemistry between Newman and his young co-star.

Newman is believable as a successful, no-nonsense businessman with time for little but work when we first meet his character. We watch him mellowing before our eyes as his character goes from bellowing his disgust at President Roosevelt to humbly asking for the president’s help on Annie’s behalf.

Finally, we watch him opening himself to the charms of his winsome assistant, played by Becca Vourvoulas, and expressing completely believable affection for Annie.

Newman brings star power to Fayetteville, having appeared for 28 seasons as Joshua Lewis on the longrunning TV program “Guiding Light” among many of his stage, film and television credits. Yet there was no sense of his celebrity status evident onstage at CFRT on opening night. He is a generous actor. He commanded the stage when appropriate to his character and managed to be just another member of the cast whenever the script called for some other character to take center stage.

Newman, Fish and Pegues are supported by a cast of talented actors, a few of whom appeared for the first time at CFRT on opening night.

Artistic direction for all CFRT productions is provided by Mary Kate Burke. “Annie” is ably directed and choreographed by Robin Levine, assisted by Sebastiani Romagnolo. Both the set, designed by Charles Glenn Johnson, and the costumes, designed by Sarah Harris, are simple yet evocative of the era in which the musical is staged. Musical direction is supplied by Jillian K. Zack. The orchestra is superb, taking care to enhance rather than overwhelm young voices.

“Annie” runs through the evening performance on Sunday, Feb. 24, with a special Sensory Friendly performance scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 10. Contact the CFRT Box Office at 910-323-4233 Tuesday-Friday from 1-6 p.m. for more information and ticket prices.

Photo: Robert Newman as Daddy Warbucks; Zoi Pegues as Annie

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