Editor's Picks 

The must-see events of the season

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The Seafarer

What I like about PURE Theatre, among many things, is the effort it makes to stay fresh. The Seafarer made its American debut last October in New York, closed in the spring, and now it's here. Such efforts to stay apprised of currents in contemporary theater are a great service to Charleston's theatergoers. It also sounds like a terrific play. A man named Sharky comes home for Christmas to take care of his aging and blind older brother. Sharky is trying to stay away from the booze, but long-time drinking buddies who visit for a night of cards are making that all but impossible. As the cohort sinks deeper into inebriation, vanity, and blarney, a dapper but ominous stranger arrives, raising the stakes of the evening beyond winning a mere pot of cash. Written by the Irish playwright Conor McPherson, The Seafarer puts the spotlight on the inner selves of tortured, and in this case very drunk, souls. Alcoholism, Ben Brantley wrote, is not so much a medical condition in The Seafarer as it is an existential one. The play plots the many ways in which individuals deal with the persistent and mysterious ache of being. Perfect for PURE. —John Stoehr

Sept. 4-6, 11, 18-20, 24-26, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, 2 p.m. $10-$30. Lance Hall, Circular Church, 150 Meeting St. (843) 723-4444. www.puretheatre.org

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Speed-the-Plow presented by the Village Playhouse
Sept. 12-13, 18-20, 26-27, 8 p.m., Sept. 21, 5 p.m. $20-$25. Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd. (843) 856-1579. www.villageplayhouse.com

The Story presented by the College of Charleston
Oct. 2-4, 6-7, 8 p.m., Oct. 5, 3 p.m. $10-$15. Emmett Robinson Theatre, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. (843) 953-5604. www.cofc.edu/theatre

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Rocky Horror Show

The first thing you need to know is this Rocky Horror is not set to the movie. Note the missing word "picture" in the title. This isn't one of those live-action role-playing glibfests (though audience participation remains a key part of the fun). Members of the Little City Musical Theatre Company say their production is a radical departure from the cult classic in that it's a faithful return to the original. The 1975 film is classic. Tim Curry is campy and iconic. So it's easy to forget the original was meant for the stage. I did. Kudos to Little City for reviving the mid-century musical, assembling a new cast and crew (I'm told the band is kickass), and bringing back to the fore its political and subversive undertones. Another factor of the show is its venue: the Terrace Theatre. There's enough space between the first row of seats of the facility's largest theater and the big screen for a portable stage. Given the energy and drive I saw during Little City's debut show last spring, Songs for a New World, I'm confident this new venture will be worthwhile. —John Stoehr

Oct. 24, 8 and 11 p.m., Oct. 25, 8 p.m. $35. Terrace Theatre, 1956 Maybank Hwy. (843) 762-9494. www.littlecitymusicaltheatre.com

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Poe: Back From the Grave presented by Creative Spar k
Oct. 11. $30, $50/VIP. Fort Moultrie, 1214 Middle St. (843) 881-3780. www.creativespark.org

Frankenstein presented by Charleston Stage
Oct. 15-Nov. 1, 8 p.m. $22-$29. Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain St. (843) 577-7183. www.charlestonstage.com

War of the Worlds presented by the Village Playhouse
Oct. 17-18, 23-25, 30-Nov. 1, 8 p.m., Oct. 26, Nov. 2, 5 p.m.$22-$29. Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd. (843) 856-1579. www.villageplayhouse.com

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Southern Circuit Film Series

When it comes to film, there's a lot going on. New tax incentives are encouraging the movie industry to work here. Army Wives is back and running. "Extreme" Akim Anastopoulo, the host of TV's Eye for an Eye, opened a new studio in Hollywood, S.C. Creative Forge Productions has been plugging away on Daniel Island since February. Before these came the Southern Circuit Film Series. Since 1975, it has remained the country's only regional tour of independent film. This fall bring three choices. Shame (Sept. 5) is a documentary about a Pakistani woman unjustly accused of a crime her brother committed. Director Mohammed Naqvi captures her quest for redemption. In Beyond the Call (Oct. 10), three Americans take a vacation into the world's forbidding locales to deliver food and medicine. And Tjúba Tén, or Wet Season (Nov. 7, pictured), documents the rituals and customs of a rural village in Suriname, South America. Presented at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, this is a fine chance to experience film that takes a close and intimate look at life in an intimate setting. —John Stoehr

Sept. 5, Oct. 10, Nov. 7, 8 p.m. Free. Room 309, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. (843) 953-5680. www.cofc.edu/halseygallery

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College of Charleston French Film Festival 2008
Aug. 28-31. $5, free/students. Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. (843) 953-6721. www.cofc.edu/filmfestival

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Faith, Hope & Charity

Leave it to PURE to make a liar out of me. I was just praising it for being au currant. But it's also not afraid to look back. This rarely performed work by Austrian playwright Odon von Horvath, an early critic of Hitler's Nazi regime, lived in fear of being struck by lightning all his life. He was eventually killed by a falling tree branch. This kind of magical irony can be found in his 1930s play, Faith, Hope & Charity. It's about a woman so impoverished, we are told, that she "visits a cadaver company to sell off her body parts (once she dies), meets a dissector more interested in showing her his aquarium, sells lingerie door-to-door, and eventually ends up in the bed of a policeman who would rather clean his toes than be with her." Yeah, it's like that. On the other hand, this isn't far afield of PURE's direction lately. Cloud Tectonics, Eurydice, and The Seafarer also have characters whose lives smack of the absurd, but they aren't necessarily aware of that — providing ample opportunity for comedy as well as pathos, something, of course, that PURE has proved time and again it can pull off magically. —John Stoehr

Nov. 13-15, 20-23, 26, 28-29, 7:30 p.m. $10-$30. Lance Hall, Circular Church, 150 Meeting St.(843) 723-4444, www.puretheatre.org

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The Piano Lesson presented by the Flowertown Players
Oct. 30-Nov. 2. $15. James F. Dean Community Theatre, 133 S. Main St. (843) 875-9251. www.flowertownplayers.org

Fully Committed presented by PURE Theatre
Dec. 11-13, 18-20. $10-$30. Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St. (843) 723-4444. www.circularchurch.org

Pure Lab Show: Horse Tranqs & Carriage
Oct. 16-18, 23-25. $10. Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St. (843) 723-4444. www.puretheatre.org

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The Katrina Ballads

Composer Ted Hearne probably didn't expect his Katrina Ballads to remain timely. After all, the hurricane devastated New Orleans three years ago. But given the incompetence of FEMA, the upcoming CD-release party seems more timely than ever. The Katrina Ballads is a new 65-minute song-cycle inspired by the storm, using primary-source texts (the words of flood survivors, relief workers, politicians, etc.) to illustrate a musical portrait of that horrific week. Hearne's music is rhythmic, theatrical, and all-American, with a minimalist beat and a deep jazz influence. It was recorded last March in New York City and will be released as a download on New Amsterdam Records (www.newamsterdamrecords.com) on Aug. 29. Two days later, Charleston's New Music Collective celebrates with a free performance. You hear much about the purpose-driven life these days. That's easily applied to NMC. These musicians, led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Koci, could simply gig around town, but they don't. They have a vision to add fresh new music to the American canon, and they strive toward that. This is not a sexy gig, but there's major talent here. If that means anything, you'll go. —John Stoehr

Aug. 31, 7 p.m. Free. Robert Lange Studios, 151 East Bay St. (843) 805-8052. www.katrinaballads.com, www.newmusiccollective.com

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Steamboat Bill, Jr. with New Music Collective and Kenosha Kid
Sept. 18, 8 & 10 p.m. $10, $6/students. Redux Contemporary Art Center, 136 St. Philip St. (917) 690-2031. www.newmusiccollective.org

Silent Music Series: 4'33" and Beyond
Oct. 5, Nov. 2, Dec. 7, 8 p.m. $5-$10, Circular Church, 150 Meeting St. (917) 690-2031. www.newmusiccollective.org

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New Music, New Jose Porcel Ballet Flamenco

The Charleston Concert Association does more than concerts. That wasn't always the case. For most of its history (the first event was in 1731, it says), it presented genteel concerts for Charleston's effete. In recent years, it has taken a turn for the better, booking dance ensembles and theater troupes as well as orchestras, choirs, and other musical groups. The association is making a bid to provide top-shelf performances yearlong. The Warsaw Orchestra plays in November, followed by the famed Vienna Boys Choir in December. Star violinist Joshua Bell and jazz master Wynton Marsalis, along with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, are also scheduled to perform, as is the buzzworthy Aspen Sante Fe dance ensemble. The hottest item, though, in terms of exotic allure, is the Jose Porcel Ballet Flamenco. If you haven't experienced flamenco, you must. At first, it's somewhat hard to believe, because it feels like a soap opera set to movement. Then, it starts to make sense. After that, you want more, and then more, and then, after that, even more. Recall the feeling of timelessness and weightlessness inherent in rave music. It's the same with flamenco, only it's being performed by beautiful people in beautiful constumes beautifully. —John Stoehr

Nov. 11, 8 p.m. $75-$350. Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. (843) 571-7755. www.charlestonconcerts.org

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Carmen presented by the Charleston Ballet Theatre
Oct. 3-5. Black Box Theatre, 477 King St. (843) 723-7334. www.charlestonballet.org

Moscow Ballet's Russian Nutcracker
Dec. 26, 3 & 7:30 p.m. $25-$65. North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive. (843) 529-5050. www.moscowballet.com

Charleston
Nov. 20, 8 p.m. $6-$10. Circular Church, 150 Meeting St. (917) 690-2031. www.newmusiccollective.org

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Marcus Amaker

There's more to America's cultural contribution to the world than jazz. Musical theater, vaudeville, minstrelsy. Movies (yes, the French did something, but whatever). Stand-up comedy, the TV sitcom, the whole notion of a variety show. Blues, gospel, hip-hop. And spoken word. Over the past decade, spoken word has evolved into something distinct. The world is now becoming aware of its potential. Locally, Marcus Amaker is a leading figure of the performance style. He's pushing its already hard-to-pin-down boundaries. The release of his book last year, titled The Soft Paper Cut, was a fascinating amalgam of poetry and what he called visual poems — pastiches containing varying layers and textures integrating word and image. This month, he released an ambitious record (for download at www.charlestonpoets.com) of sound art using visual and aural forms of propaganda ubiquitous in American media during World War II. This fall promises more stretching and pulling — and an illustration of Amaker as creator and collaborator. His White Lights features musicians, visual artists, and spoken word (everyone's encouraged to wear white). And his performance at this year's MOJA Arts Festival features his poetry with musical accompaniment. —John Stoehr

Aug. 29, 8:03 p.m.. Free. Kudu Coffee, 4 Vanderhorst St., (843) 853-7186; Sept. 29, 6:03 p.m., Gallery Chuma, 43 John St., www.mojafestival.com

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The Main Branch Poetry Series
Fourth Tues. of every month, 7-9 p.m. Free. Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St. (843) 805-6930. www.ccpl.org

The Poetry Society of South Carolina
Nov. 14, 7 p.m. Free. Second Presbyterian Church, 342 Meeting St. (843) 723-9237. pssc.programs@gmail.com

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The Great Gatsby

What I like about the Charleston Ballet Theatre, among many things, is its focus on theater as much as dance. This can be a liability, but choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr and her company of young professional dancers have proved remarkably consistent for more than 20 years. Bahr has a mind for compelling movement as well as a story. In most works, there are characters whose inner lives require dramatization through movement. Case in point is this season's line-up. Carmen kicks off the season, that scandalous, impossible-to-please femme fatale. Capping off the year is Camelot, an interpretation of the myth of a lengendary king. For my money, the best story of the 2008-2009 season, and the most relevant to our times, is The Great Gatsby (pictured). It's based, as you know, on Fitzgerald's classic novel about the decadent life of a self-made man named Jay Gatsby and his lovely Daisy in the Roaring Twenties. It's not a happy story, but Bahr has rarely shied away from the dark side of human nature. If cheeriness is more to your taste, check out the premiere of Bahr's Magical Mystery Tour, choreography inspired by the Beatles, in March.

Oct. 10-12. Black Box Theatre, 477 King St. (843) 723-7334. www.charlestonballet.org

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show , a dance performance presented by the Charleston Ballet Theatre
Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Black Box Theatre, 477 King St. (843) 723-7334. www.charlestonballet.org

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Painters of American Life: The Eight

The Gibbes Museum of Art doesn't do much to tell us where we're going in the art world, but it does a good job of telling us where we've been. And by telling us about our history, we can avoid being doomed to repeat it. Painters of American Life tells the story of pioneering painters who felt art should be closer to the everyday lives of Americans. They were driven to break from the aesthetic orthodoxies of Europe and create a visual idiom native to the United States. Known in art history simply as The Eight, they converged in New York City to exhibit just once in 1908. That exhibit, however, proved hugely influential for the rest of the 20th century. In December, the Gibbes hosts a highly anticipated exhibit showcasing this octet of renegades, and it promises to be edifying and rewarding. One wonders, however, if perhaps the Gibbes and its new director, Angela Mack, might reflect on its offering. It has struggled to resolve internal tensions between those who want to see the museum preserve the past and those who want to see it lead the way to the future. The Eight respected their history, in some cases emulating their European forebears, but they refused to be limited by it. They had a vision of what could be. The Gibbes is uniquely positioned to do the same. —John Stoehr

Dec. 19-March 22. Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. (843) 722-2706. www.gibbesmuse um.org

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Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art
Aug. 29-Nov. 30. Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. (843) 722-2706. www.gibbesmuseum.org

City Gallery Exhibit: Jing Zhou, Keli Tolley
Sept. 2-30. Free. Charleston Area Convention Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive. (843) 745-1087. www.northcharleston.org

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The Future Is on the Table

This was a beautiful idea that actually resulted in beautiful objects. Five years ago, Charleston artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet, owners of Fast and French on Broad Street, sent 56 handmade three-legged stools to artists around the world and asked them to comment on contemporary issues like globalization, social justice, and human rights. The seats of the stools were cut from a single sheet of marine plywood that was painted with a map of the world. Each, therefore, represents a neighborhood of the global community. According to the press release: "The Future Is on the Table is an art project built on the belief in the importance of local communities. Its goal is to create an open dialogue around the metaphorical table around which we gather to share ideas, discuss problems, and contemplate the future of our world." What's important about this exhibit is not just the objects but something else, something that informs as we move from this decade into the next: It's an act of engaging the world from Charleston. In a way, this follows the Holy City's history of being a port of entry, a place where worlds, and worldviews, came together to make something new. —John Stoehr

Sept. 12-Nov. 2. Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. (843) 722-2706. www.gibbesmuseum.org

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Amir H. Fallah: Post Stagecraft
Sept. 5, 6-9 p.m. On view through Oct. 19. Artists talk Sept. 5, 6 p.m. Free. Redux Contemporary Art Center, 136 St. Philip St. (843) 722-0697. www.amirhfallah.com

Spotlight: Loul Samater, Jarod Charzewski
Opening reception Sept. 5, 5-7 p.m. Gallery talk 5 p.m. On view through Oct. 10. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, 54 St. Philip St. (843) 953-5680. www.cofc.edu/halseygallery

2008 Fall Arts Preview

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