Music, drama, lectures highlight WCU cultural art series for 2005-06

CULLOWHEE – A Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, a chamber orchestra from the Czech Republic on its North American debut tour and a performance by the Shenandoah Shakespeare Co. highlight the lineup of events scheduled for Western Carolina University’s upcoming Lectures, Concerts and Exhibitions Series.

The cultural art series will feature 10 productions for the 2005-06 season. A majority of the programs will take place in Western’s new $30 million, 122,000-square-foot Fine and Performing Arts Center, a facility capable of hosting Broadway-quality productions.

The LCE Series begins Monday, Sept. 19, with a reading by Beth Henley, a playwright, screenwriter and actress. Henley ‘s “Crimes of the Heart” has won several prestigious awards, including the New York Drama Critics Award for best new American play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. She also has received a Tony Award nomination for best play and an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay.

Four female poets – La Bruja, Catzie Vilayphonh, Yolanda Kae Wilkinson, and Vanessa Hidary – will perform poems, skits and monologues in “Her Story,” a slam-poetry performance Thursday, Sept. 29. The poets will share stories of empowerment and tell tales of women from different ethnic backgrounds, ages and cultures.

The Saint Louis Brass Quintet will take the stage Tuesday, Oct. 11. The quintet performs the entire spectrum of music for brass instruments, from modern composers to Baroque and Renaissance music. The group also plays music of the Americas , jazz arrangements by Ellington and Strayhorn, and selections from Gershwin and Cole Porter. The Oct. 11 concert will serve as an open house and sneak peak for Western’s new Fine and Performing Arts Center, which includes a 1,000-seat auditorium and more than 10,000 square feet of gallery and atrium exhibition space.

The Brno Chamber Soloists will perform at Western on Saturday, Nov. 12, as part of the orchestra’s North American debut tour. The chamber orchestra is from the Moravian region of the Czech Republic and will be collaborating with renowned pianist Michiko Otaki.

Civil rights activist Judy Richardson will share her personal experiences from the civil rights movement on Thursday, Jan. 19, and connect these events with the “post-civil rights” decades of the 1970s and ‘80s. She will explain the relevance of these years to the current struggle for racial equality and harmony in today’s society.

The play “My Soul is a Witness” will stage Tuesday, Jan. 24. The production is a vivid retelling of the crucial moments in the civil rights movement, from tragic assassinations to explosive debates over non-violent protest. The drama also focuses on the history-making public gatherings of the era and features re-enactments of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and John F. Kennedy.

Step Africa , a “percussive” dance ensemble based in Washington, D.C., will perform Wednesday, Feb. 22. The ensemble highlights the art form of “stepping” and its links and origins to dance traditions around the world. The tradition of stepping is kept alive by African-American fraternities and sororities at colleges and universities nationwide, including Western.

The Touring Theatre Ensemble of North Carolina will present “Let Your Children Tell” on Wednesday, March 1. A theatrical documentary about the Holocaust based on true events, the play explores racism, discrimination and prejudice as it existed in a modern society.

The Shenandoah Shakespeare Co. will present the comedy “Much Ado about Nothing” on Tuesday, March 28. Based in Staunton, Va., the organization re-creates the elements of the Renaissance era and makes Shakespeare more accessible to the audience with fresh, energetic productions.

Pianist Joe Chapman will close the series on Thursday, April 6, with an evening of popular piano classics encompassing a wide variety of styles, from Chopin to Gershwin. Chapman has toured worldwide as a conductor, accompanist and soloist, and serves as director of keyboard studies and coordinator of the North Georgia College and State University All American Piano Celebration.

All LCE programs will take place in the performance hall of the Fine and Performing Arts Center, except the Sept. 14 reading by Beth Henley, which will take place in the theatre in the A.K. Hinds University Center, and the Sept. 29 slam-poetry reading, which will take place in the studio theatre in the Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Tickets for the Nov. 12 Brno Chamber Soloist concert and Jan. 24 performance of “My Soul as a Witness” are $7 for the general public, $5 for Western faculty and staff and non-Western students, and $3 for Western students with proper identification.

Tickets for the March 28 production of “Much Ado about Nothing” are $10 for the general public, $7 for Western faculty and staff and non-Western students, and $5 for Western students with proper identification.

All other programs are free and every program begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the LCE Series, call (828) 227-7206.