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VISUAL ARTS/COMEDY — 'Tis the season for smiling
Zoo Valdes
Wed. Dec. 20
6 p.m.
Theatre 99
280 Meeting St.

Charleston ex-pat (and current Spartanburg resident) Marius Valdes returns to town just in time for the holidays, bringing over 50 new, no-doubt adorable paintings of his favorite subjects — animals — with him. His longtime buddies at Theatre 99 host Zoo Valdes, which features affordable depictions of monkeys, bugs, birds, dogs, lions, and that irresistible Arctic scamp, the penguin, plus limited edition posters and other surprises. After the reception, which will have a cash bar (perfect for wallet- and tongue-loosening), everyone is invited to stay for a free Theatre 99 comedy improv show. Speaking as someone who pleasantly surprised her mother with a Valdes last Christmas, I will personally vouch for their family-friendliness, and with a portion of the sales going to Theatre 99, it's a guilt-free evening of both arts and entertainment.

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EVENT — A portable parade
Unsilent Night
Wed. Dec. 20
5 p.m.
City Gallery at Waterfront Park
34 Prioleau St.
(917) 690-2031

Caroling is a Christmas tradition that seems to be dying a slow death in the age of widespread neighbor fear and a nagging wonder if the person who opens the door will be holding some type of firearm. Naturally, the local avant-garde players in the New Music Collective have organized something special for the season — a Charleston performance of New York City composer/artist Phil Kline's "Boombox Symphony," Unsilent Night. The hook is that instead of strolling and singing, participants will each be carrying a portable sound source playing prerecorded music on tape, CD, or mp3. The trek begins when everyone meets at the City Gallery at Waterfront, then travels to Marion Square via East Bay, Market, and King streets. If you're reading this on Wednesday, there's still time to participate: just call NMC director Nathan Koci at the number above or e-mail him at and include your name and whether you will need a tape or CD, then show up with your rock box and pump up that volume!

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THEATRE — Seems like old times
A Child's Christmas in Wales
Dec. 21-23 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Dec. 24 at 3 p.m.
Footlight Players Theatre
20 Queen St.

A Child's Christmas in Wales, a one-man show based on a 1955 radio story written by Dylan Thomas ("rage against the dying of the light"), truly embodies the holiday spirit as it unites three accomplished local groups: the Actors' Theatre of S.C., Charleston House Concerts, and the Footlight Players. Actors' Theatre cofounder Clarence Felder plays the narrator, who relates his prose-poem filled with memorable holiday vignettes to an inquisitive young boy, and a trio of chamber musicians from Charleston House Concerts — flutist Regina Helcher, violinst Nonoko Okada, and cellist Timothy O'Malley — will provide the subtle background ambience.

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EVENT — No humbugs allowed
Dickens Dinner
Wed. Dec. 20
6:30 p.m.
$65 (not including tax, gratuity, or beverages)
Circa 1886
149 Wentworth St.

Travel back in time with storyteller Tim Lowry as he retells Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol, during a sumptuous four-course dinner at Circa 1886, located inside the AAA Five Diamond Wentworth Mansion in downtown Charleston. If you're in from out of town (or just longing to pretend you're in Victorian England), you can take advantage of a special package offered by the hotel that allows two guests to attend the Dickens Dinner during a one-night stay (not including room tax). Please make reservations for the dinner and/or the hotel package in advance.

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