Givens Performing Arts Center presents ‘Noises Off!’

11 noises off“Noises Off!” is a play within a play. A farce filled with physical comedy. A witty production written by British playwright Michael Frayn. It will be at Givens Performing Arts Center for two nights only — Nov. 14 and 15.

Jay Reume portrays Frederick Fellowes in “Noises Off!” and Fellowes plays Phillip Brent in “Nothing On,” the play within “Noises off!”

“It is a funny play,” said Reume. “It is a comedy where all these people come together to put on a play.  It goes in a lot of different directions and goes wrong in every way you can imagine. It is also a lot of fun to watch.”

Olivia von Opel plays Brooke in “Noises Off!” and her character has the part of  Vicki in “Nothing On.” “Brooke is a bombshell. I am using Marilyn Monroe as my inspiration for the role,” said von Opel. “I see her as ambitious. I think others see her as a dumb blonde. I think she is intelligent in her own way, and she is trying hard.”

Both Reume and von Opel agree that one of the challenging yet rewarding things about the production is the physical comedy. 

“I love physical comedy,” said von Opel. “Getting to do that has been a dream of mine. To do something where it is all about throwing props and slamming doors and climbing out a window is a dream come true. If you do it correctly, it looks easy.”

Reume added, “The more work actually comes from the physical perfection the show needs to have. It is almost like a dance. There are so many entrances and exits and pants falling down and things being thrown around. You have to do it well and on time. The playing two characters is the fun part. … The real labor is the dance of the show.”

“Noises Off!” includes local talent as well. “We have two students in the cast,” said von Opel. Chelsea Williams is a sophomore and Jamonte Madison is a senior. “We get to collaborate with them, and they can work with us and we can show them what it is like to be a professional actor. They are super talented. We are enjoying working with Jonathan  (Drahos, the director) and his wife Carolanne.(Marano). Jonathan is a professor (at UNC-Pembroke) and has been on Broadway. All of us are understudied by a student as well, so we have that additional layer of student involvement.”

As for the performance,  Reume promises a lot of laughs. “If you’ve never seen live theater and just laughed and laughed and been around others laughing, you have not experienced good theater. This piece really has the potential for that. If you have experienced that, then you know what kind of show this is.”

The show starts at 8 p.m. each night. For tickets and information, call 910-521-6000 or visit https://www.uncp.edu/resources/gpac/professional-artist-series/noises.

That’s not all GPAC has in store this month. Nov. 22, UNCP hosts its 11th Annual Holiday Extravaganza at 8 p.m. University choirs, ensembles and more will perform holiday favorites and family singalongs. Come early and take in “Tuba Christmas,”  a mini-concert in front of GPAC, at 7:30 p.m. Call 910-521-6230 or email music@uncp.edu for more details.

Nov. 24, GPAC presents “The Nutcracker Ballet” by Dance Alive National Ballet at 4 p.m. The company hosts a roster of award-winning international dancers and is the official State Touring company of Florida.

Red Apple Run to fight diabetes

09 N0870320Looking for a way to get fit while also helping a good cause? Look no further than the Red Apple Run for Diabetes. It’s set for Nov. 16 in downtown Fayetteville.

What started in 2013 as a simple fundraiser has turned into an event that raises money to help support Better Health’s mission to provide for the unmet health care needs in Cumberland County. The run reinforces the same lifestyle that Better Health encourages its clients to live. This event offers several options for its participants. These options fit their needs while also allowing them to complete the run at their own pace. Participants can either do the 10k, 5k or the one-mile fun run.

“We want to encourage community members to come out and be active. It is a safe, fun way to be active with your family and friends, whether you are a competitive runner doing the 10K, or perhaps a parent with young children pushing a stroller in the 5K or fun run,” said Executive Director Amy Navejas.

Navejas is the executive director at Better Health. In terms of the Red Apple Run, she works with the volunteer Red Apple Run committee and committee chair, Mick Noland, on coordinating, marketing and planning the event. On the day of the event, she will also be running around cheering on runners, handing out medals and checking up on people.

There are many goals that this event strives to achieve. Navejas said, “I see the event as having several goals. Of course, it is a fundraiser, so it is crucial that the event raises funds to help provide for our services to the community. Better Health offers emergency direct medical aid like medications, dental extractions, free diabetes clinics (and) loans out medical equipment and hosts a childhood obesity program. While all of our services are free to the community, there are costs to providing these services. The Red Apple Run goes toward supporting those programs.”

There is much that goes on behind the scenes for this event to take place. From logistics to applying for a permit, the list of what must happen for The Red Apple Run to succeed is endless. Navejas said that a run like this requires “a lot of coordinating and planning.” The event organizers have to select a date, apply for a permit and secure a timing company to solicit sponsors.

On Nov. 16, the run will take place in the downtown area of Fayetteville. The course will start in the downtown area and go toward Haymount. It will then go through the historic neighborhood, past the E. A. Poe House, and finish off near the site of the new Civil War Museum & Reconstruction History Center where the 5k runners will go back to the starting point. Each participant will also receive a medal and a beanie.

So, if you are looking for something to do that weekend or want to support a great cause, go to the Red Apple Run on Nov. 16. For more information, visit https://www.betterhealthcc.org/ or call 910-483-7534.

‘No Child ...’ presents the ongoing struggle in public education

11 no child chalkboardNilaja Sun’s “No Child …” is a play about a play. The setting is a public high school in the Bronx in 2006. The characters are students, teachers and faculty.

On the surface, as the title indicates, the story highlights the issues of the public education system. Just below the surface is a powerful statement about the soft bigotry of low expectations placed on economically disadvantaged students.
Teaching artist Ms. Sun, played by Tara Whitney Rison, comes into Malcolm X High School to lead a 10th-grade class to present a play. Her enthusiasm is greeted with scorn, bad language and bad attitudes. Over the next six weeks, she slowly breaks down barriers. Her steadfast willingness to see the potential in every student encourages loyalty and commitment from the class.

The students are caricatures of troubled teenagers — the class clown, the thug, the international student, the shy kid and so on. While the performances bring a lot of laughs, there is a serious undertone that kids who are told repeatedly that they are the worst will become the worst.

Director Kaja Dunn brings together a fantastic cast of five actors who play 16 characters. It is a treat to see each of these actors shift between two to four characters, sometimes between sentences. The dialogue is fast-paced and gives the audience a peek into how a lone teacher must wrangle a classroom of rowdy students.

The cast includes Ja’Maul Johnson, Andrea Somera, Brandon Rivera and Monet Noelle Marshall. All deliver fine performances in their various roles. Johnson also serves as the narrator in his role as the school janitor who grounds the story with history and details.

An admirable quality of the play is the lack of finger-pointing, which has become the norm in the discourse on public education. Bureaucracy, bad teachers, bad students, uninvolved parents — honestly, there is enough blame to go around. But Dunn and the cast present the story as students and teachers across this country see it — the reality of struggle. “No Child …” is the presentation of the struggle of children to be accepted, to be loved and encouraged. It is the presentation of the struggle of teachers to reach their students.

Ms. Sun’s selection of play is apropos to the struggle of many disadvantaged students. She has the class present Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good,” which explores how drama and language can become a refuge from the hopelessness of grim conditions.

The play itself is adapted from the Thomas Keneally novel “The Playmaker,” a story about a group of British Royal Marines and convicts in a penal colony in Australia in the 1700s.

While such an origin story may not seem applicable to public school students in the 21st century, it shows the restorative power of drama as a means of giving purpose and a sense of community to a group of social outcasts. It gives credence to the idea that people born without a chance deserve a chance to become something better.

Simply highlighting the similarities between characters in a story about prisoners in the 1700s and students in modern America doesn’t necessarily make any profound statement that fixes any problems in public education. But it does point out that there is value in the effort of even one teacher who is able to reach one student.

The Cape Fear Regional Theatre is presenting “No Child …” through Nov. 17. For information on ticket discounts for teachers and military, call the box office at 910-323-4233.

Community Concerts presents Mannheim Steamroller

 12 2019 Tour Shoppers strolling through many local retail stores lately can’t help but be aware of the Christmas decorations edging out decorations in the traditional colors associated with fall holidays that have yet to make their appearance on the scene. In keeping with our ever-expanding Christmas season, the Crown Theater will host Mannheim Steamroller Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Community Concert series.

 The group’s unusual name comes from an 18th-century German musical technique known as “Mannheim roller” or “Mannheim Walze,” which was popularized by the Mannheim school of music at that time. The contemporary Mannheim reinvention is considered a neoclassical new-age music group known for blending classical music with elements of jazz and new-age rock. In the beginning, no major record label wanted anything to do with founder Chip Davis and his music. So Davis founded his own music label, “American Gramaphone,” another nod to its German roots, being a play on the name of a popular German classical music record label called “Deutsche Grammophon.”

 Although Mannheim Steamroller has become synonymous here in Fayetteville with Christmas music, the group’s early recordings, the “Fresh Aire” series, were an exploration of the four seasons. All four albums consisted of a combination of the baroque classical music, light jazz and rock for which Davis and his musical partner, Jason Berkey, were becoming noted. In 1984, Mannheim Steamroller released its first Christmas album, which took traditional Christmas carols and gave them an interpretation consistent with their earlier work. Despite industry insiders’ belief that the album would never sell, it became a hit. It also inspired other mainstream musical artists to record Christmas albums of their own. Most of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums have since gone platinum on the Billboard music charts. Mannheim Steamroller is now celebrating its 35th annual Christmas concert touring season, making it the longest-running consecutive tour in the entertainment industry.

 It seems fitting that such a venerable concert tour should be hosted by Fayetteville’s oldest art organization. Founded in 1935, Community Concerts is an all-volunteer, nonprofit endeavor. Fulfilling its mission statement to bring “the finest in top-notch entertainment to Fayetteville, N.C. and the Fort Bragg/Cumberland County Community” and to “make Fayetteville better …one concert at a time,” CC is currently celebrating its 84th season with the following lineup: 
Chicago performed Oct. 15, Mannheim Steamroller takes the stage Nov. 19, Texas Tenors are scheduled for Feb. 14 in 2020, The Four Tops and the Temptations come to town March 6, 2020, and the fifth concert in the series is a mystery yet to be announced.

 In addition to the concert series, CC contributes to the overall artistic well-being of our community in many lesser-known, behind-the-scenes ways. CC sponsors the Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame, which honors those musicians who have brought musical distinction to the community, among them the Cumberland Oratorio Singers — recently rebranded as Cumberland Choral Arts — the 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus and many other individuals, performing in both secular venues and local churches. A complete listing of past Hall of Famers can be found on the CC website.

 CC awards college music scholarships annually to promising local high school graduates. This year’s scholarship recipient is David Song, a graduate of Douglas Byrd High School who will be attending UNC-Greensboro, where he plans to major in music education. Past scholarship recipients are also listed on the website.

 Additionally, CC is the creative force behind the Local Artist Showcase, which gives talented local performers a chance to take the stage as opening numbers for the nationally renowned musical artists that CC brings to town. Recently, Voices of the Heart opened for Gladys Knight, children from the Linda Kinlaw School of Dance performed with Martina McBride and local country music artist, Trae Edwards, opened for Ricky Skaggs.

 CC provides free concert opportunities for children, seniors, members of local fire and police departments, members of the military, local high school theater arts classes, and other deserving non-profit community groups.

 CC enjoys widespread financial support from the community with sponsors ranging from categories such as master of ceremonies, executive producers, producers, concertmasters, benefactors, sponsors and patrons. A full list of these financial assistance opportunities can be found on the website, along with the amount of the financial pledge needed for each category. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland is also a major contributor.

 Season tickets are now available for this 84th season concert series. There are ticket prices and options available for all budgets and those needing special seating. For season ticket purchasing information, contact Becky Spell at 910-303-3513. To view prices for various seating levels and sponsorships, see the CC website at www.community-concerts.com. Tickets for individual shows may be purchased in person from the Crown box office or online at www.CapeFearTix.com. Parking at the Crown Theater is free, and ample space is available.

The Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch moves to Cape Fear Botanical Garden

14 PiaEvery quarter the Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch hosts a luncheon for the women of this community. Not only does it include a meal and a keynote speaker, there are prizes, a Shopportunity Expo with a variety of vendors and a wine tasting, too. The next luncheon is set for Nov. 14 at Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

 A perfect fit for this event, the botanical garden offers a professional yet serene setting for the gathering.

The Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch board and partnering sponsor, Women's View Magazine, have been working diligently to heighten guests' experience going into 2020. "Changing the venue and caterer are a couple of the modifications that you will see going into this final event of the 2019 season. We think that everyone will agree that the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens offers a magical space and Two Brothers Catering provides top notch cuisine and we're very excited that we could make those changes happen in November," said Paulette Naylor, a member of the advisory board for the Power Lunch.

Doors open at 10 a.m. with the Shopportunity Expo. Previous events have hosted fitness centers, locally owned and operated pet stores, home businesses, spas, events venues, home interior firms and more. Enjoy a glass of wine while shopping and networking before the midday meal is served.

The formal portion of the luncheon starts at noon. The Vine will cater this month’s meal. The catering company provides delicious fare for all kinds of events, including weddings and gallery openings as well as business events.

Pia Duncan is this month’s keynote speaker. Duncan is a college educator, an entrepreneur and the cofounder of Ben and Pia Duncan Foundation. According to its Facebook page, the BPDF is a charitable organization that seeks to “pioneer initiatives that will bridge the opportunity gap for youth in the areas of Health & Science, Arts, Global Education, Social Justice, and College accessibility for youth in the community. … The Ben and Pia Duncan Foundation strives to instill these principles in youth and in the community to help bridge the gap of opportunity to children and youth. The foundation will support education, through the granting of scholarships; provide valuable information, knowledge and resources; and to provide a framework for new and innovative research to help narrow racial gaps and to improve the quality of life of all Americans across a wide spectrum of areas.”

Lunch ends at 2 p.m. with plenty of time left to continue shopping and networking before the event ends at 2:30 p.m.

While the mission of the FLPL is to inspire, educate, empower and celebrate women in the community, the organization also supports local nonprofits. This year, the Power Lunch has chosen education as its charity of choice platform. A portion of the luncheon proceeds will benefit the Kidsville News Literacy and Education Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides funding assistance for reading and educational resources to school children in Cumberland and Hoke Counties.

Tickets cost 45 dollars and are available at https://www.fayettevilleladiespowerlunch.com. Sponsorships are also available.

Pictured: Pia Duncan, the keynote speaker for the Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch

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