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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Connect with Culture initiative expands
ASC program spreads across Mecklenburg
Published Sunday, January 27, 2019 1:38 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Scene from Brand New Sheriff Productions' “Two Trains Running.”

Connect With Culture Day keeps growing.

What started as a single-day event for the Arts & Science Council has turned into an annual multi-day event across Mecklenburg County. The Jan. 25-26 event features 13 hubs in Uptown, but also 12 locations outside of Center City.

“Uptown, the museums will be open for free—the Mint, the Bechtler, the [Harvey B.] Gantt Center, and the McColl …but then there are also great performances in other locations including sites in Cornelius, Pineville, Ballantyne, Mint Hill and the Mallard Creek area,” said Arts & Science Council President Robert Bush. “There are all kinds of experiences all around the community that people can participate in. Last year, over 11,000 people participated, and we are sure that number is going to go up again this year.”

Northwest School of the Arts, 1415 Beatties Ford Road, is among the added sites for 2019. Charlotte Ballet’s Storytime with a Ballerina will take place from 10-11 a.m. The Charlotte Symphony’s Prelude Ensemble will perform from 12-12:45 p.m. Brand New Sheriff Production’s musical “Be a Lion” takes place from 12:30-2:30 p.m.

“It’s inspired by ‘The Wiz,’” Brand New Sheriff founder Rory Sheriff said. “It tells what happens in Oz after Dorothy clicks her heels and goes home. It is 17 original songs. We’ve got some hip-hop. We’ve got some Motown appeal to it, and some pop songs going on.”

While “Be a Lion” includes multiple layers, it primarily focuses on Lion.

“All of the characters have these gifts,” Sheriff said. “Now Scarecrow can think, Tinman can feel and Lion has courage, it’s time for them to use their gifts. Who better to restore order in Oz than the lion who has his courage.”

Lion must face the daughter of the Wicked Witch of the West, but his companions from the first battle have moved on. Scarecrow is teaching and the Tinman is busy being happy. Enter Miles, an African tree mouse, and lioness LaDawn.

“Lion has some new friends who are there with him from the beginning,” Sheriff said. “Miles is profound in all the African arts. I named him after Miles Davis, the jazz musician. Then Lion ultimately finds a lioness who ultimately becomes his queen once they accomplish this great feat. She is a Rastafarian lioness who is actually a vegetarian. A lioness who don’t eat meat, which is particularly cool.”

Additional events at Northwest School of the Arts include:

• Number Drummer, 1:30-2:30 p.m., 3-4 p.m. and 4:15-5:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• Discovery Place’s Solar System Spectacular, 2-5 p.m.

• Brand New Sheriff’s presentation of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” 4:15-5:15 p.m. Note that “Two Trains Running” contains adult language. It is set the year following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and examines the correlation between his death and the impact it had on black Americans. Sheriff notes the way in which Wilson wove the narrative of his characters into the larger scope of what the nation experienced as a whole.

“‘Two Trains’ offers a reminder of how far we have come, and how much work we have to do as an African American community,” Sheriff said. “It reminds of us of how we are often challenged in the community by outsiders, and yet we have to still overcome these challenges, and make do with what we have, and ultimately stay together as family, and as a people.”

Sheriff sees Wilson’s work as a call to resist settling in life.

“It reminds us how we tend to become content and happy in our certain space, but we know there is so much more out there for us,” Sheriff said. “Sometimes we have to step outside of our box, and our comfort zone to accomplish these things.”


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