"Lady Day" kicks off CFRT season

14 DSC 5176“Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill,” the musical play that opened Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s long-awaited 2020-2021 season, is far from the blockbuster musical openers of previous seasons. This is a piece of serious theater particularly well suited to its makeshift staging. Performed in a parking lot behind an abandoned building on Hay Street, complete with ambient traffic noise as background, it is easy to imagine that one is seated in the gritty South Philly neighborhood where the play is actually set.

“Lady Day” is the story of one of the great jazz legend’s last performances just a few months before her untimely death. A victim of her times (or of her own vices, let each member of the audience decide), Billie Holiday has been stripped of the cabaret card that entitled her to play the big clubs and reduced to singing in a small venue in a place she thought she’d sung herself free of.

Janeta Jackson gives a selfless performance as Holiday. Those who saw her in “Crowns” know the power of Jackson’s voice, which breaks through most notably in numbers such as “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and “Strange Fruit.” But Jackson is playing Holiday at the end of her career, when alcohol and drugs have taken their toll on her health as well as her voice. Her performance reflects this. Clad in mink and glitter at the outset, Jackson as Holiday disintegrates onstage and the songs follow her down. Brian Whitted as Jimmy Powers, Holiday’s accompanist, brings his piano in at critical moments to prevent a complete breakdown. Much as folks passing the scene of an accident, the audience is drawn along, mesmerized.

“Lady Day,” written by Lanie Robertson, is called a musical play because there is much dialog in addition to the musical numbers. Holiday’s onstage ramblings give the audience an idea of the trajectory of her life. Some of her reminisces are hilarious but much of the dialogue is raw. Holiday is presumably speaking to a Black audience so theatergoers who are not Black may squirm a bit.

Given COVID-19 restrictions and the fact that CFRT’s theater is undergoing renovations, Artistic Director Mary Kate Burke and company are to be commended for choosing an opener that is well suited to both our time and place. The cast is small. The lighting is low. The night itself becomes part of the show. Social issues that are still relevant over 60 years after Holiday’s death are served up, if not as entertainment exactly, then certainly as art. And art is always worth supporting. If you want to hear Billie Holiday at her best, buy a CD. If you want to witness a heroic performance of serious theater, book a ticket to one of the performances of “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill.”

For information on performance schedules and ticket availability, please visit cfrt.org or call the box office at 910-323-4233.

Pictured: Janeta Jackson performs as Billie Holiday in CFRT's "Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill" through Oct. 25.

Cape Fear Regional Theatre innovates, continues to entertain

01 Square Banners CFRT copyAfter closing its doors to audience members back in March, the Cape Fear Regional Theatre spent the last 6 months innovating and leading the way for regional theaters during the pandemic.

One of the first to create daily online programming for kids, CFRT launched virtual Edutainment classes that offered daily lessons for students in grades K-5. After 9 weeks of online classes, CFRT opened its doors for 15 sessions of summer camps between June and August, following CDC guidelines for in-person camps and ultimately reaching almost 200 campers.

In September, CFRT announced the receipt of a $225,000 Community Organization Resource grant from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, Inc. for the 2020-2021 Season.

"We are so honored to receive this grant from the Arts Council. This funding will allow us to continue producing high quality productions and serving parents and children adapting to this new paradigm. We know how essential art is to healing and processing, and we look forward to another year of creatively engaging with our community,” said Ella Wrenn, CFRT’s managing director.
CFRT is committed to presenting an annual series of plays, performances, and special events that, in addition to entertaining, will enlighten, inspire, and educate performers and audiences.

"We are proud of the work we’ve done throughout the last year to continue to provide the award-winning productions and nationally recognized education initiatives, and we could not have this impact without the tireless advocacy and support of the Arts Council,” said Artistic Director Mary Catherine Burke.

Just last week, CFRT returned to in-person productions with “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” The show is being performed outside, right down the block from CFRT behind Haymount Auto Repair. Extensive safety procedures are in place for these performances. Audiences will be limited to fewer than 50 people in accordance with state COVID-19 guidelines. Seating will be in six-foot distanced pods of two or four. Masks will be required of all audience members, and temperatures will be checked at the entrance. Robust sanitation will take place between performances and the show will be as low contact as possible with digital programs and no paper tickets.

The rest of the 2020-2021 season will be performed in the spring. Dates for those shows will be announced later in the year.

The Wizard of Oz
Click your heels together and join Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy, and her little dog, too. They’re off to see the Wizard in the magical land of Oz, but in order to make it there, they have to face the Wicked Witch of the West. This iconic musical reminds us that there truly is no place like home. Join us for this beloved family friendly musical that has entertained generations.
The show is by L. Frank Baum and adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is based upon the classic motion picture. It is rated G for everyone.

Clue: On Stage
It’s a dark and stormy night, and the host of a dinner party has turned up dead in his own mansion. Inspired by the board game and film, join Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, and other colorful guests for this hilarious murder mystery. As the guests race to find the killer, audiences will be in stitches to try and figure out who did it, where, and with what.
Rated PG for parental guidance, this play contains mild and comedic themes of violence. It is based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, the motion picture and the board game “Clue.”

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story
Before the Beatles, there was Buddy Holly and the Crickets. It’s the 1950’s and a young man from Texas with big glasses and an even bigger dream of catapulting to the top of the Rock and Roll charts. With classic songs like “Peggy Sue,” and “That’ll Be The Day,” along with “La Bamba,” this high octane musical is a celebration of a man whose music and values were ahead of his time.
The show is rated PG for parental guidance and contains some mild adult themes. It is written by Alan Janes.

The Color Purple
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this landmark musical is about a remarkable woman named Celie. All she knows is heartbreak and despair, until her friend Shug helps her realize her own self-worth. Celie uses her flair for fashion to build a better future. With a joyous score featuring jazz, gospel, blues, and African music, it is a story of resilience and a testament to the healing power of love.
The show is rated M for mature audiences, it contains some language and adult themes.Based upon the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Alice Walker and the motion picture.

Gilbert Theater brings Neil Simon classic to stage Oct. 2

17 Gilbert Theater Ad barefoot 092320 475X587 1 2Local actors are returning to the stage to deliver the fun and creative performances we’ve been missing since the pandemic closed curtains and theater doors in March.

This month, the Gilbert Theater brings “Barefoot in the Park” to stage Oct. 2-18 with limited seating and social distancing in effect. There will only be 25 seats sold per performance, in order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines for public gatherings.

“‘Barefoot in the Park’ is a classic Neil Simon comedy,” said Larry Carlisle, the show’s director and the Artistic Director for the Gilbert. “It’s about two newlyweds who move into a tiny apartment in New York City and deal with being newlyweds, weird neighbors and mothers.”

Simon, who died in 2018, was a playwright, screenwriter and author. In his lifetime, he received more combined Oscar and Tony award nominations than any other writer. Widely considered to be a Broadway icon, Simon wrote more than 30 plays, including “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “The Odd Couple.” Simon won the Pulitzer Prize for “Lost in Yonkers.”

The “Barefoot in the Park” cast includes Tanisha Johnson and Gage Long as newlyweds Corie and Paul; Deannah Robinson as Corie’s mother; Gabe Terry as neighbor Mr. Velasco; and James Merkle as the telephone repairman. Carlisle will also have a small role as a deliveryman.

Despite performing to a quarter of the theater’s capacity, Carlisle and the cast agree that producing the show is worth the effort.

“Everyone’s gotten stir crazy,” Terry said about closures due to the pandemic. “The show’s a lot of fun to do.”

Providing live entertainment is something the performers enjoy, no matter the crowd size, Carlisle said. With COVID-19 restrictions, the cast and crew have been able to explore some interesting ways to adapt their performances.

“I’m just excited to get back to stage,” Robinson said. “Granted, it will be limited capacity.”

Safety precautions in place will include masks for theater attendants, hand sanitizer stations, no-contact concessions, temperature checks upon entry and cleaning between performances.

“For all the performances we’re asking all patrons to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” Carlisle said.

Preparing for the masked performances has been a fun challenge for the cast.

“It is interesting because there’s so much (in the story) that involves intimacy,” Terry said.

Robinson added, “We’re working around it, having fun with it, even with the mask.”

The team at the Gilbert is optimistic that the audience will attend and enjoy the show, if only for a short respite from the daily headlines.

“It’s two hours to take your mind off your trouble, don’t worry about everything going on outside,” Carlisle said. “It’s a light breezy sitcom-esque

Johnson added, “Come out and laugh, have a good time.”

Recognizing that some patrons might not be comfortable even with all those precautions, Carlisle said there will be two performances where the actors will also wear masks. Those shows are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The Gilbert Theater is located at 116 Green St. in downtown Fayetteville. There are several discounts available including student, military and first responder. Contact the box office for more info on the show or to purchase tickets at boxoffice@gilberttheater.com.

Whole Vet brings braggin' through the 'Ville to town

The veterans-supported nonprofit organization, Whole Vet Building Lives Together, makes its community-event debut in Cumberland County Oct. 24 with the Braggin’ Through the ‘Ville Car, Truck, Jeep and Bike Show at I-95 Muscle from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

A classic, used and new car retailer located at 4115 Legion Rd. in Hope Mills, I-95 Muscle is a frequent host to car shows, movie nights and community events. Benefiting Whole Vet, the show features multiple vehicle divisions in both judged and nonjudged categories, as well as food trucks, a DJ, drawings and raffles. The event is open to the public for viewing.

“Life is all about connection that becomes trusted relationships” is the mantra and guiding life principle of Dale Robbins, the founder and CEO of Whole Vet, a 501c3 nonprofit serving veterans, service members and their families. The quote speaks to the doors that have opened to Robbins along his 10-year-journey with volunteer veterans affairs and with the start of this fledgling organization. However, the phrase also provides a glimpse into what matters to this local man — namely, building lasting bonds and putting programs in place to impact the lives of service members, both past and present.

Whole Vet seeks to provide veterans, transitioning servicemembers from all military branches, National Guard and Reserve members, and their families, with the tools, resources and support to have a fulfilling civilian career and life.

Robbins, a 19-year-veteran of Cisco Systems with over 25 years total spent in corporate America, never served in the military. His trajectory toward nonprofit work and interest in the nation’s armed forces and veterans began with a deep sense of admiration for those who serve and have served, coupled with years of physical and medical challenges both he and his family faced and eventually overcame. The times of struggle magnified his faith in God and belief that he was being called to do something more with his life. Already a long-term volunteer in his workplace with veteran relations and events, Robbins saw a real need and an open door to step-up and serve this population of selfless individuals more directly. Now engaged in full-time work with Whole Vet, Robbins explained his outlook for the organization.

“This is a comprehensive vision to create a platform that can serve our military and veteran community,” he said. “Everything from helping them make connections at our events to getting jobs and internships to the mentorship piece that gives them someone that really cares — these are all components of Whole Vet.”

According to Robbins, Whole Vet encompasses building up the life of the veteran physically, spiritually, mentally, social-emotionally, economically and beyond — the whole person, in other words. The organizational colors, purple and white, are symbolic of representing all branches of service memebers. Purple is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue. Hence the saying, “Purple Up!” a national slogan used to solicit support for military families and kids.

In addition to purple up, Whole Vet seeks to build up the career and family of Whole Vet clients, a twofold mission, as well as create community between the private sector and military and veteran groups. Robbins established the Military and Veteran Enablement Coalition made up of vested parties to help get this job done. Like seed to soil, the tasks grow as the nonprofit does.

While operating on Harnett and Wake county lines in North Carolina in Robbins’ home office in Willow Springs, the company founder describes his vision as stretching across the state, country and beyond. Since 2017, the Whole Vet’s Military Career Transition Event, has been held in Raleigh, Cary, Clayton and Wilmington.

Employer-focused virtual sessions kicked off in 2020 in keeping with the pandemic, with programs serving Fort Bragg, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station and more. These networking, employer-spotlight events help transitioning service members connect with corporate representatives from companies such as Biogen, Pike Corporation, PSA Airlines, NetApp, SAS, Biotest Pharmaceuticals. Educational entities like Campbell University, East Carolina University and North Carolina State University are also at the table.

Large scale conferences from Whole Vet welcome governmental giants such as the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, NC Troops to Teachers and the State of North Carolina governmental agencies. Veterans-affiliated institutions that, on paper, reads like a Who’s Who list, have made a great showing at these Whole Vet days. Present and accounted for have been NC4ME, Onward2Opportunity, Hire Heroes USA, The Honor Foundation, USO-NC, Marine for Life Network, K9s Serving Vets and Hope for The Warriors, to name a few. Other event offerings include professional development panels, workshops, networking opportunities and inspirational speakers.

In conjunction with transition events, Whole Vet hosts quarterly Military Corporate Networking campus visits. These tours have been held at host company campuses such as Biogen in RTP, Deutsche Bank in Cary and Caterpillar of Clayton to allow participants to experience the corporate environment while gaining valuable insight on civilian career paths. The tours also help participants make connections and build relationships, a familiar Whole Vet refrain.

Though standard programming is on hold due to COVID-19, Robbins looks forward to resuming a regular schedule as soon as possible.

After rolling out the red carpet to military members and veterans with exceptional and well-executed events, Robbins plans next to put mentorship, marriage and youth programs center stage. First up: The Military Mentorship Program.

Mentors and mentees will be matched to align servicemembers who are exiting the military with a civilian that can share feedback, knowledge and contacts to ease the transition process to a nonmilitary career. Mentors will come from a participating MVEC company.

The marriage and youth tracks will begin once additional program funding is secured from sources such as grants, donations, sponsorships and fundraising avenues. According to Robbins, retreats and conferences are in the line-up for marriage programming, while collaboration with the General H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center at North Carolina State University is on tap for youth directives.

Are you interested in learning more? Options exist to give your time, talents and resources to Whole Vet, as well as participate. Community events like the I-95 Muscle car show are held to bring fun, fellowship and some fundraising to bear.

To learn more, go to https://www.facebook.wholevetinc. You can also check the T-shirt box by sporting Whole Vet gear available at their online store, https://wholevet.square.site/.

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Pictured: Nonprofit Whole Vet raises funds through activities such as car shows to support veterans initiatives like mentorship programs, job networking conferences and counseling services.

His Outreach Worldwide Ministry hosts a BBQ Fundraiser

16 HOW day campHis Outreach Worldwide Ministry will host a BBQ Fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 3, to support the construction of a school building in Tamu, Myanmar. The barbecue will be held at the ministry's "log cabin," located at 2770 Breezewood Ave., from 1-5 p.m., for takeout or a picnic on the grounds. The food will be priced at $10 per plate.

“We are praying we will have a huge turn out, we need at least $5,000 for the school, and it has to be finished by January,” said Lynne O’Quinn, president of H.O.W. “We are really needing this funding now and needing it quickly.”

The barbecue will benefit over 100 children in the Tamu area attending His Outreach Worldwide School, the only government-licensed English-teaching school in the area.

The event will offer great food by Hopkins Barbeque and great music on the patio by Currie Wayne Clayton Jr., O’Quinn said.

The ministry is excited to have the accomplished musician Currie Wayne, who has played with the rock band Molly Hatchet in the past and has won many musical championships.

O’Quinn said she believes the fundraiser will be a great event that will be outdoors, and a lot of people are looking forward to it, especially since the pandemic.

“We'd love for people to come that day, purchase tickets, enjoy the entertainment and just have a great day,” she said.

H.O.W., a Christian ministry, was founded in 2008 in Fayetteville by O’Quinn and supports several activities around the world, including providing funds, food, clothes and more. The faith-based organization is founded on prayer and God’s word.

“In a nutshell, God woke me up one morning and wrote a book through me sharing Jesus to children around the world,” O’Quinn said. “That one little book is what founded this worldwide

The barbecue is one of its many fundraising events, including an annual 5K, which was cancelled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We are praying for a great sunny, fall day and attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs to comply with social distancing and have a picnic on the grounds," O'Quinn said.

“Bring your own chair, grab a plate of barbecue, sit here and have great entertainment and fellowship,” she added.

For more information about H.O.W. or the BBQ, visit http://hisoutreachworldwide.org/

Pictured: His Outreach Worldwide Ministry President Lynne O'Quinn entertains children at a H.O.W. project at a day camp in Brno, Czech Republic.

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