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A time for running, joking and singing

by Mark Burger

Onthe night that Hurricane Hanna was supposed to buffet North Carolina(that would be Sept 5), a standout crowd braved the elements to attendthe state premiere of James Moll’s documentary feature, Running the Sahara at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro. The event, a benefit for the H20 Africa Foundation, was emceed by WFMY-TV anchorman Kent Bates. Richard Eldridge, oneof the film’s producers, was also on hand. The film depicts thegrueling, 111-day journey in which extreme athletes Charlie Engle, RayZahab and Kevin Lin traveled the Sahara on foot — a seemingly inhumanfeat that tallied some 4,600 miles on some of the most punishing placeson the planet. Engle, a Greensboro resident who was profiled in a January issue of YES! Weekly, was also present at the screening, and received a rousing round of applause when introduced. Inaddition to the sheer accomplishment of such a feat as running acrossthe Sahara Desert, the three runners also wanted to draw attention tothe plight of the millions of people in the region who lack cleanwater. “There is no one on earth who should not have cleanwater,” Engle said. Proceeds from the screening would be enough to fundfive wells in Africa, thereby bringing the indigenous populationsomething they desperately need. Throughout the film, the runnersencounter people who lack the sorts of amenities that many Westernerstake for granted. For many of them, the difference between life anddeath is, simply, clean water. Although the film focuses on theultimately triumphant attempt by the three runners, it also exploresthe plight of these people, and it is unforgettably conveyed. “Oncesomething is seen,” noted Engle, “it cannot be unseen.” The threerunners, accompanied by a camera crew and a support team, averaged 42miles a day on their journey, despite the physical and emotional tollof the journey, as well as the punishing terrain and the weather. Therewas also the matter of dealing with entry into various countries. Libyawas by far the most reticent, refusing to grant permission untilliterally the last minute. Produced and directed by James Moll (Oscarwinner for the 1998 documentary The Last Days), Running the Sahara isnarrated by executive producer Matt Damon. The film will be released onDVD later this year. Later, Engle joked, “don’t believe everything yousee in the movie,” referring to scenes in which he loses his temper. Heis by far the most impassioned of the three runners, and given thearduousness of the trek, one can easily understand his sometimesabrasive behavior. The film doesn’t shy away from the harsher aspectsof the journey, nor its effects upon its participants. For Engle, andfor those who ran the Sahara, it was “a life-changing experience,” hesaid.

For more information about the film, visit the official website: www.runningthesahara.com

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Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance hasan evening of music and mirth on tap this weekend, with its specialpresentation of “Spend the Night with the Queen of Comedy and the Kingof Rock and Roll.” This “Silver Series” event showcases the talents oflocal comedian Sarah Barnhardt and rock ‘n’ roll tribute artistDavid Joy, both of whom have also done some pretty sharp acting onstagein area theater productions. Here, they’ll be doing their best to keepaudiences rocking in their seats and rolling in the aisles. Showtimesare 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday at Theatre Alliance’s newperformance space, 1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem. All seats are$10. Next up for Theatre Alliance will be next month’s presentation ofthe award-winning stage musical Reefer Madness, based on theinfamous 1930s B-movie that depicted, in harrowing and uncompromisingfashion, the devastating consequences of that wacky weed. One puff isall it takes… (For one thing, it makes you play the piano really,really fast.) To reserve tickets for “Spend the Night” or for moreinformation about Theatre Alliance’s upcoming productions, call336.768.5655 or check out the official website: www.wstheatrealliance.org.

To comment on this story, e-mail Mark Burger at marksburger@yahoo.com.

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