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Burger’s homage to cowboys and campy summer camp

by Mark Burger

As much as I love movies, I have to admit that it took me awhile until I liked Westerns. Once I did, however, I took to westerns like a horse to water. In many ways, it is the quintessential American genre.

There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think about filmmaker Sam Peckinpah – a reflection, perhaps, less on the western films in which he specialized than the mindset he frequently found himself in. (I can dig it.)

For fans of westerns, something very special is coming to town this week. This year’s Western Film Fair is coming home to roost in Winston-Salem. The event opens Wednesday at the Clarion Sundance Plaza Hotel (3050 University Parkway).

This marks the 31st event, and will include daily screenings of more than 80 16mm Western films and TV shows in different screening rooms, as well as a dealers’ memorabilia emporium with approximately 100 tables of various western goodies, daily autograph sessions and panel discussions with the guest stars, an awards banquet, live entertainment each night and a special presentation of the Ernest Tubb Memorial Award, so named for the legendary pioneer of county-and-western music whose nickname was the “Texas Troubadour.”

Special guests at this year’s Western Film Fair will include Betty Lynn (from the original Cheaper by the Dozen), best known for her regular role as Barney’s girlfriend Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show”; character actor Henry Darrow (The Hitcher, The Last of the Finest, Badge 373), a veteran of many TV westerns including regular stints on “The High Chaparral” and numerous appearances as Zorro, including providing the voice on a Saturday-morning cartoon; actor Geoffrey Lewis (father of Juliette), whose many film and TV appearances include High Plains Drifter and Dillinger (both 1973), Night of the Comet (1984) and a memorable turn as the unfortunate small-town gravedigger Mike Ryerson in Tobe Hooper’s original 1980 version of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot; and James Best, fondly remembered as the pathologically inept Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Finally, there will be LQ Jones, a veteran of several Sam Peckinpah films (The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid), who also went toe-to-toe with Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995), had a lovely role in Robert Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion (2006) and wrote, produced and directed the 1975 sci-fi cult Western, A Boy and His Dog, based on Harlan Ellison’s novel.

Jones (real name Justus McQueen), who took his name from the character he portrayed in his first film, Battle Cry (1955), also wrote, produced and co-starred in a 1972 horror thriller called Brotherhood of Satan, which is – no joke – one of the scariest films I saw as a kid. What’s more, The Wild Bunch (in which Jones was unforgettably teamed with Strother Martin as two of Robert Ryan’s grubbier bounty hunters) is, in my opinion, the greatest western ever. Any time I need a little cheering up, I watch the end.

Among the performers scheduled to attend are Jean Shepard, whose 1953 duet with Ferlin Husky, “A Dear John Letter,” was the first post-WWII record by a woman to sell a million copies. Shepard’s other hits include “A Satisfied Mind” and “Beautiful Lies.” Also on the bill are the Triad Harmony Express and renowned guitarist Johnny Meeks.

Ticket prices range from $5 for an individual ticket (after 5 p.m.) to $75 for a couple’s three-day pass. The event runs through Sunday.

The Western Film Fair was created by the Western Film Preservation Society for the purpose of preserving and promoting the memories and ideals of classic western movies and TV.

For more detailed information about the event, see www.westernfilmfair.com.

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When I was a kid, I never had all that good a time at summer camp. The experience always seemed to fall somewhere between Meatballs and Friday the 13th. Then again, I didn’t go to any really cool summer camps….

That’s not the case with the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem’s summer camp, which is probably very cool. Again teaming with the Open Dream Ensemble, the camp will be a week-long, half-day, multi-disciplinary theater arts camp for children ages 7-11.

The camp will be held the week of Aug. 4-8 at the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem (390 S. Liberty St.). The camp fee is $175 per camper (includes a daily snack and beverage), with a limited number of scholarships for economically disadvantaged students.

Just like last year’s program, the campers will be split into three age groups and will rotate through three theatrical disciplines (acting/improvisation, music, dance), as well as learning a myriad of practice skills and performance exercises. Already it sounds more fun than the summer camps I went to!

For more information about the summer camp program, or to register your child (or children), call 336.725.4531 or e-mail the lovely and talented Karen McHugh at Karen@childrenstheatrews.org

While we’re on the subject of the Children’s Theatre, tickets are already on sale for its 2008-’09 season, which will include such family favorites as The Jungle Book, Madeline & The Bad Hat, Max & Ruby, The Great Alphabet Adventure, Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester and many more. Unless otherwise noted, these shows will be presented at the Arts Council Theatre (610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem), which is currently undergoing renovations.

The Children’s Theatre will kick off its 68th season will a free presentation of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs on Oct. 4 at Reynolds Auditorium (301 N. Hawthorne Road, Winston-Salem).

The Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem remains one of the hottest tickets in the Triad – and that’s no joke. Tickets are $8 (general admission) and $12 (reserved seats), and can be ordered by calling the theater (same number as above) or checking out the website, which is constantly updated: www.childrenstheatrews.org.

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