Critic's Picks for the Fall Arts Calendar 

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Shining City
PURE Theatre
Aug. 30, Sept. 19 (pay what you can), 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31, Sept. 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9, 2 p.m.
$25
The Cigar Factory
701 East Bay St.
(843) 723-4444
www.puretheatre.org

The London Telegraph described playwright Conor McPherson as "the finest dramatist in a generation" based on the 2004 production of his ghostly tale, Shining City. Stateside on Broadway it went on to be nominated for two Tony's, including Best Play. Set entirely in the office of a beginning therapist in Dublin and told via monologues from patients, the play is a study in challenges and life. When the therapist needs therapy, who suffers more? PURE Theatre has developed a reputation for going after scripts that are different and complex and this is no exception. Our Town and Othello might never find a place on their stage, but the works they present offer every bit as much entertainment, if in a somewhat unconventional sense. Guided by PURE veteran director Dana Friedman, this is sure to be another sterling example of why great shows come in small packages over at the Cigar Factory. —William Bryan

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Cage Match! at Theatre 99
Sept. 7, 28, and Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
$10
Theatre 99
280 Meeting St.
(843) 853-6687
www.thehavenots.com

Stuff enough comedians, all oozing with creativity, into a confined space with finite time slots for shows and a few cage matches here and there are inevitable. Theatre 99's Cage Match! show is like Battle of the Bands on laughing gas. The payoff for the audience is razor-sharp wits actively competing for the top slot, no holds barred. Veteran improvisers like Brandy Sullivan and Greg Tavares go head to head on the slippery slope against newer company members, who get a chance to establish teams and make a play for fame. —Jason A. Zwiker

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Lorna Simpson
On view Sept. 7-Dec. 2
$5-$9 (includes museum admission)
Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting St.
(843) 722-2706
www.gibbesmuseum.org

Some people go to a museum to admire and appreciate, others to edify their souls. Some go against their will because a teacher or parent tells them to. No one goes there expecting instant entertainment. Lorna Simpson may change that with her retrospective. Her work incorporates a stylish, impassioned brand of biography, African-American narrative tradition, and an awareness of the world's changing technology and sensibilities. Simpson uses felt, photographs, film, and video to address the role of black women in today's society. The themes resonate with men and women of all races, but don't underestimate the artist's highly personal take on intimacy, relationships, and loneliness. Simpson fans always expect the unexpected from her — she takes an art form and does something different and socially relevant with it: street photography, low-lit portraits, minimal domestic scenes, films shot with intuitive, on-the-hoof scripting; they're all reconceived in this encapsulation of the artist's 20-year career. —Nick Smith

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One World, One Cloth
Opening reception and performance Sat. Sept. 8, 5-8 p.m.
On view through Oct. 20
Free
City Gallery at Waterfront Park
34 Prioleau St.
(843) 958-6484

Somewhere in the universe, in a place where myths are as immortal as the gods they propagate, three Weird Sisters weave threads that bind the fate of the human race. Every person on earth has a thread of their own. Some are long and colorful, others short and desperately delicate. Office of Cultural Affairs Director Ellen Dressler Moryl is not a Weird Sister. But something fateful resonated within her when she learned of the

One World, One Cloth project, which weaves a multitude of disparate threads into one mighty art exhibition. The concept of one thread connecting everyone has resonated with thousands of people across the world, and at Moryl's behest the City Gallery at Waterfront Park will soon be filled with weavings made up of cloth from all kinds of sources, such as Moryl's string from a quarter-sized violin that belonged to her child and a piece of cloth from a WWII veteran's parachute sent by his grandson. There are threads from Cambodia's killing fields and a grandmother's wedding veil. All of the contributions have a personal and a collective significance.

One World, One Cloth is the brainchild of Terry Helwig, who sees the growing thread as a symbol of compassion and global unity. The international aspect will be further highlighted by a performance of The Thread Narratives: Real Threads and True Stories, a one-act play using excerpts from thousands of letters and threads received by Helwig. She hopes to promote harmony in a precarious time, suggesting that, although our world is hanging by a thread, its survival may not be left entirely up to fate. — Nick Smith

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Branford Marsalis at Chazzfest
Sat. Sept. 22, 8 p.m.
$35-$75
Family Circle Tennis Center
161 Seven Farms Dr.
(843) 849-5300
www.chazzfest.com

Last year's first ever Charleston Music & Heritage Festival was a grand day for over 6,000 attendees. A diverse lineup of great music acts — Al Green, Buddy Guy, Karl Denson, Sam Bush, The Drive-By Truckers, and others — performed on four different stages at the Family Circle Tennis Center facilities on Daniel Island. This year's festival features a strong lineup as well. One act that stands out in particular is jazz/funk saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who co-headlines with veteran R&B group Kool & The Gang. Marsalis is a critically-acclaimed, Grammy award-winning New Orleans veteran. He first came to prominence playing with his trumpet-playing brother Wynton in the 1980s. Since then, he's stretched out into the pop and rock fields and dabbled in funk and classical styles. Marsalis and his versatile combo will perform at the stadium stage in the late evening. —T. Ballard Lesemann

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Brian Regan
Sat. Sept. 22, 8 p.m.
$34.75
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
(843) 529-5050
www.ticketmaster.com

It's refreshing to know that smart jokes devoid of filthy language still sell well. The busy Comedy Central Live! series will bring top-selling goofball comedian Brian Regan (www.brianregan.com) to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Regan's dopey/doofus style fits his relatively clean stand-up material — much of which is as sharp and good-natured as anything Seinfeld, DeGeneres, or Cosby ever did. The spiky-hair comedian grew up in Miami, idolizing the likes of Johnny Carson, The Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin, and Jonathan Winters. He moved to New York City in the late '80s and won $10,000 in the "K-Rock/Miller Lite Funniest Person in New York" contest in 1988. Through the '90s, he landed killer gigs on MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour, Pat Sajak's and Arsenio Hall's talk shows, and, eventually, on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Most fans remember him in those Coca-Cola-produced "Concession Stand Comedy" vignettes featured during the previews in movie theaters in the late '90s. His latest DVD is a concert film called I Walked On the Moon. —T. Ballard Lesemann

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Pianist Leon Fleisher
International Piano Series
Tues. Oct 16, 7 p.m.
Sottile Theatre
44 George St.
(843) 953-5623

Leon Fleisher was hailed as the finest American keyboard virtuoso of his generation back in the 1950s and '60s, before he suffered a pianist's worst nightmare: a sudden, unexplained crippling of his right hand that nearly ruined his career. Yet he stayed active in music, excelling in the left-hand piano repertoire, and as a conductor and teacher (one of his prize pupils was our own Enrique Graf, who directs this series). But Fleisher's story is spinning out a fairy-tale ending these days. A treatment was found about a decade ago that's allowed him to return, in his 70s, to performing with both hands. It didn't take him long to regain his stature as one of his era's true greats. He'll be appearing here both as a soloist and in some duo-piano works with his wife and piano partner, Katherine Jacobsen-Fleisher. Don't miss this season's top living legend. —Lindsay Koob

Kakalak 2007
Launch Party and Reading
Sat. Sept. 22, 5 p.m.
Free
Blue Bicycle Books and the French Hare Boutique
418 and 420 King St.
(843) 722-2666
www.kakalak.net

Last year's premiere of the Kakalak Anthology of Carolina Poets (Kakalak's folksy slang for "Carolina" — an amalgamation with "Appalachia"), based out of Charlotte, was a hit. Local poetry maniacs packed the downtown library for a reading; the Charleston contingent of contributors in '06 was a who's who of local poets. This year's issue includes work by Donald Geddes, Donna Levine Gershon, Kit Loney, Jim Lundy, Susan Meyers, Jonathan Sanchez, Deborah Lawson Scott, and Denny Stiles. A wine and cheese reception will be followed by a book signing at Blue Bicycle Books and a reading next door in the French Hare boutique. —Stephanie Barna

Jerry Tachoir
Mon. Sept. 24, 8 p.m.
$5 (free for CofC Students with valid ID)
Recital Hall, Simons Center for the Arts
(843) 953.5927

The College of Charleston's vibrant Monday Night Series shines the light on acclaimed jazz vibraphonist Jerry Tachoir on Sept. 24. Tachoir (pronounced "Tash-wah") is one of the most in-demand artist/clinicians for the Ludwig/Musser division of the Conn-Selmer company, with whom he's been associated for 35 years. "I'm essentially a frustrated pianist on a three-octave instrument," he says. The virtuosic vibes player will be presenting a jazz improvisation clinic to the students at CofC and a master class for the percussion students. Tachoir earned a degree for Applied Music for Mallet Instruments at the Berklee College of Music in 1976 before going into teaching and collaborating with various symphonies and musicians. He's performed at major concert halls and jazz festivals throughout North America and Europe. He's also released numerous recordings released with his band, Group Tachoir, and is the author of A Contemporary Mallet Method: An Approach to the Vibraphone and Marimba (Riohcat Music). —T. Ballard Lesemann

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Her Smile Unending: Silkscreens and Etchings of the Ubiquitous Goddess
Opening reception Thurs. Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m.
On view through Nov. 13
Plum Elements
161 1/2 King St.
(843) 727-3747

Japanese-born artist and activist Mayumi Oda makes her first visit to the Lowcountry this fall with Her Smile Unending: Silkscreens and Etchings of the Ubiquitous Goddess at Plum Elements. The nature-inspired, female-centric silkscreens and etchings are meant to reflect the universality of the goddesses, and how the feminine divine exists in all of us. The vibrant prints express a special joy and energy, and the subjects themselves transmit a sense of self-knowledge and contentment through their smiles. Now living in Hawaii, the 66-year-old Oda's works reflect the wide range of her life experiences. She graduated from the prestigious Tokyo University with a degree in fine art, then moved to the U.S. in the '60s, where she studied at the Pratt Institute. After living in New York, Princeton, and Cambridge, she moved to Muir Beach near the Zen Community Green Gulch Farm. Her work is included in the permanent collections of a number of public institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Library of Congress. Oda will be at the opening reception on Sept. 27, and the following day she'll lead a workshop on personal creativity at Mepkin Abbey. —Erica Jackson

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McLean Stith
Opening reception Fri. Sept. 28, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
On view through Nov. 8
Free
John M. Dunnan Gallery
131 King St.
(843) 720-7425

"I always wanted a big gallery," says local painter McLean Stith, "a big white room with white walls, a high ceiling and a clean floor. I've always thought of that as the quintessential modern gallery." So what does she do when she's offered a solo show in just such a space, with the room to hang large, glorious work? She creates over a hundred postcard-sized images, her version of snapshots of places she's been or wants to go.

Stith's last Charleston show, Lifting the Veil, was in the non-traditional gallery space of 53 Cannon, a house converted into an art venue. There, she looked at postcard-perfect foreign landscapes and gave them her own expressionist twist. "As a person, I have a tendency to revise in general," says Stith. "I usually obsess on paintings, reworking them 20 to 100 times. I like to go back and achieve satisfaction and perfection over everything." But not this time. For her exhibition at the John M. Dunnan Gallery, she's trying something different. "I paint one, put it aside and go on to the next one. The variation of technique makes it interesting — going from being obsessive to not allowing any revision of a painting." Stith will choose the best results from her whirlwind experiment, and spend more time on some larger, wider works. Pricewise and stylewise there should be something for everyone, but all of the work will reflect the artist's "positive, expansive approach to life" — a breath of fresh air for Stith's dream space. —Nick Smith

Carl Orff's Carmina Burana
Charleston Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series
Sat. Sept. 29, 7 p.m.
$15-$55/general, $5/students
Gaillard Auditorium
77 Calhoun St.
(843) 577-7400

This huge, colorful choral-orchestral masterpiece is for sure the world's favorite choral-orchestral blockbuster. It's based on lusty medieval German and Latin poems celebrating wine, women, and song. You'll know it the minute you hear it, having been used in countless TV ads and sword-and-sorcery flicks. Stahl and his orchestra will join forces with a pair of spiffy soloists and a mega-chorus made up of four local choirs: the trusty Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the CSO Gospel Choir, the College of Charleston Concert Choir, and the Charleston Children's Chorus. As a former CSO Chorus member, I sang this marvy music five times over eight seasons, and it never failed to generate a full house or a standing O. Be there — and get ready for drama, excitement, and lots of noise! —Lindsay Koob

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Hairspray: The Musical
Oct. 2 and 3
7:30 p.m.
$50-$60
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
3420 Montague Ave.
North Charleston
www.hairsprayontour.com

Tracy Turnblad isn't your average 1960s overweight dancing sensation with dramatic hair and a gruff-sounding, mannish mother. When she gets her lucky break on Baltimore's Corny Collins Show, Tracy decides to take on the show's whites-only standard, with hilarious results. The musical is based on the cult classic John Waters film by the same name, but reimagined for the stage, receiving eight Tony awards, including Best Musical. Hairspray made it back to the big screen this summer with an adaptation of the musical starring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Queen Latifah. It's likely best known for the gender-bending portrayal of Tracy's mother, Edna — originated by drag legend Devine, followed by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, and Travolta's hilarious turn in the latest film. The show also has one of Broadway's most addictive soundtracks, with can't miss numbers like the opener, "Good Morning Baltimore," the mother/daughter romp "Welcome to the '60s," and the show-stopping "You Can't Stop the Beat." Really. You can't stop it. You'll be humming it for days. —Greg Hambrick

Everyone Can Be an Artist
Opening reception Fri. Oct. 5, 6-9 p.m.
On view through early Nov.
Free
Redux Contemporary Art Center
136 St. Philip St.
(843) 722-0697
www.reduxstudios.org

If you've ever been to an art show and thought, "I could do that," here's your chance. Thanks to installation and performance artist Tattfoo Tan, everyone can help instigate the art at Redux. Walk into the Contemporary Art Center come October and you won't see a regular exhibition. Instead, Tan will leave a stack of instructions on the floor for you to look at and follow, creating your own work through his cultural context. "The title 'Everyone Can Be an Artist' isn't to be taken literally," says Redux Executive Director Seth Curcio. So don't expect to be transformed into Van Gogh in one visit. "But you'll be able to achieve a certain type of result by following through with the instructions." Tan seeks to break down the overly restrictive boundaries between artist and viewer.

For a preview of Tan's show you can find a similar project on his website, www.tattfoo.com. On his Everyone Is an Artist page, a poster shows how to make ink paintings with fax paper and fillo dough, or sculptures with coffee filters. Each art project is given a difficulty, time, and budget rating.

"Tan allows viewers to tap into elements of creativity," says Curcio. "We're always willing to give artists who think out of the box the opportunity to work with our community, get people involved." This show fits the Redux remit perfectly, enabling everyone to be an artist if only for as long as their visit lasts. —Nick Smith

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David Sedaris
Mon. Oct. 8, 8 p.m.
$31, $36, $41
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
(843) 554-6060
www.ticketmaster.com

In spite of our new smoking ban, writer David Sedaris has agreed to return to the Charleston area. (Actually, the noted anti-anti-smoker has been cigarette-free all year, although he claims quitting has caused him to shout out a high-pitched phrase in Japanese.) At his last NCPAC reading he took questions from the audience and shared some of his new research-based animal fables, including one about a leech that lives in the rectum of a hippopotamus. One of the funniest memoirists in American literature, Sedaris' greatest strength is a rare combination of vulnerability and venom. He's also the greatest performer of his own work you'll ever hear. You won't want to miss him on this third trip to Charleston. —Jonathan Sanchez

Tick, Tick ... Boom
Charleston Stage Company
Oct. 10 (pay what you will), 12, 17-19, 25-26, 8 p.m.
Oct. 13, 20, 27, 6 and 9 p.m.
Oct. 14, 21, 6 p.m.
$21-$30
American Theater
446 King St.
(843) 577-7183
www.charlestonstage.com

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Tick Tick ... Boom is a tribute to the beauty of Jonathan Larson's Rent and its signature song "Seasons of Love," so popular that most of us now know the number of minutes in a year. Before his magnum opus, before he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama and four Tony awards, Jonathan turned a keen eye on his own life and wrote what he called a "rock monologue," an autobiographical telling of his life called Tick Tick ... Boom. The story of an aspiring composer who begins to question the validity of himself and his chosen profession, the show is a touching account written well before the success of Rent that somehow still manages to predict the fame yet to come. For diehard Rentheads and the uninitiated alike, this is a touching tale of devotion and the trials, tribulations, and joys that come from working at something you love. Don't miss the chance to experience more of the music of Jonathan Larson, who died the same day that Rent opened on Broadway and never lived to see his own success. With strong Sondheim influences (Larson's personal hero), this musical is a behind-the-scenes look at what "making it" really takes. —William Bryan

Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight
The Footlight Players
Oct. 11-13, 18-20, 9 p.m.
$10/Thurs., $15/Fri.-Sat.
Footlight Players Theatre
20 Queen St.
(843) 722-4487
www.footlightplayers.net

Footlight joins the growing list of area companies whose recent shows seek to titillate as much as entertain with this gem from playwright Peter Ackerman. A mature show, Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight features three beds, three couples, and three unexpected moments of coitus interruptus. The sexual farce explores, during the witching hour of 3 a.m. in New York City, the fantasies and foibles that come with love and life. This might be the only chance to experience, within the confines of Charleston, a woman shout out in the middle of her orgasm, "Do me, do me, you hook-nosed Jew!" Part of Footlight's Salt and Battery Series, Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight is directed by JC Conway, whose recent credits include acting in Noises Off and directing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Moans, thrashing, and sweaty bodies aside, Midnight provides a hilarious look at laughter between the sheets of our modern lifestyles. —William Bryan

Free Theatre Night
Oct. 18
(843) 813-8578
www.theatrecharleston.com

On Oct. 18, various Charleston theatre companies will participate in the Free Night of Theatre, a nationwide event aimed at attracting new audiences to live theatre. In its third year, the event has attracted a significant number of people who fall into the non-traditional audience categories — a.k.a. not white and old. With the proliferation of an increasing number of more contemporary theatre venues in town, this event fits well with the scene's attempt to attract a younger, more diverse crowd. Tickets are available starting Oct. 4, and seating is limited, so reserve early. Participating theatres to be announced. —Erica Jackson

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The Santaland Diaries
Charleston Stage Company
Dec. 6, 12-14, 20-21, 8 p.m.
Dec. 7-8, 15, 22, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
$19.50-$26.50
The American Theatre
446 King St.
(843) 577-7183
www.charlestonstage.com
A Christmas Story
Village Repertory Co.
Nov. 23, 24, 29, 30, Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15 at 8 p.m.
Dec. 9, 16 at 3 p.m.
$12 - $22
The Village Playhouse
730 Coleman Blvd.
(843) 856-1579
www.villageplayhouse.com

As if to prove that you can never have too much of a good thing, recent years' holiday productions have included a couple of Christmas Carols running concurrently in local theatres. Last year, Charleston Stage gave us an all-frills version, complete with effectively scary flying ghosts and ambitious, Tiny Tim-dwarfing musical numbers. Over in Mt. Pleasant, the Village Playhouse presented Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, a one-man show told from the point of view of Scrooge's ghastly partner. This year, though, both theatre companies are taking a break from Carol and trying something different. Charleston Stage will balance tea-time performances of Beauty and the Beast with later stagings of The Santaland Diaries, David Sedaris' autobiographical account of a Holiday-hating Macy's elf (Sedaris himself will be appearing at the N. Charleston Performing Arts Center this fall too. See pick, p. 40). Those expecting a saccharine tale of happy helpers will be dismayed by the lashings of harsh humor that make this show so memorable. Have Nots! star Greg Tavares will direct.

Santaland was produced here several years ago by the Village Repertory Co., which has also switched gears this year. A Christmas Story may be a cult classic on cable, but this is a recent adaptation of the Jean Shepherd story that has been produced only a few times. The family show is a deceptively simple tale of a little boy who wants a Red Ryder air rifle from Santa, with dollops of nostalgia and sly wit.

But fear not, Dickens fans — since the season wouldn't be the same without a serving of Scrooge, the North Charleston Performing Arts Center will oblige with its own flashy version of A Christmas Carol.Nick Smith

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Gypsy
The Company Company and Village Repertory Co.
Oct. 18-20, 25-27, Nov. 2, 3, 9, 10, 8 p.m.
Oct. 28, Nov. 4, 5 p.m.
$22-$24
Village Playhouse
730 Coleman Blvd.
(843) 856-1579
www.villageplayhouse.com

Best of Broadway Series
Dec. 7, 8 at 8 p.m.
$48-$58
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Dr.
(843) 554-6060
www.ticketmaster.com

Gypsy is the quintessential musical. New York Times critic Frank Rich has even gone so far as to call it American musical theatre's answer to King Lear. Loosely based on the memoirs of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, the musical features one of theatre's most memorable characters, Mama Rose, a role that can make an actress' career. Memorable performances have been turned in by the likes of Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, and Bernadette Peters. The season finds not one but two versions coming to stages in the Charleston region. The first is a co-production between the Company Company and Village Repertory Company with the same team that produced an excellent rendition of Urinetown last season. It features direction by Maida Libkin and choreography by Johanna Schlitt (see profile, p. 28). While they may not have the same budget and star power as the Best of Broadway version that plays at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center in December, the Company/Playhouse is sure to present this larger-than-life musical in a way that makes the audience feel they're part of the show. See both productions and compare the talents, the heart, and the dedication, and dare yourself to not walk away whistling "Everything is Coming up Roses." —William Bryan

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Charleston Ballet Theatre's 20th Anniversary Program
Nov. 16-17, 7:30 p.m.
$30-$40
Sottile Theatre
44 George St.
(843) 723-7334
www.charlestonballet.com

The Charleston Ballet Theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a cornucopia of live performances from years past that have been voted the best by its patrons. Program 1 includes three contemporary works by various choreographers. Seven Deadly Sins shows a woman's battle to destroy the demons in her mind. In Nine Lives, by emerging choreographer Daniel Pelzig, the dancers move to the music of Lyle Lovett. Souvenance by ballet great Eddy Toussant uses the songs of Canadian singer/pianist Diane Juster. This concert will be a good example of how the dancers handle more contemporary work with a youthful freshness, and you should make plans to attend so you can wish the CBT a happy birthday and revisit some of their best works ever. —Eliza Ingle


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