Carolina Theatre lifted from darkness

by Lenise Willis

For thousands of years, a multitude of cultures — Greek, Roman, Incan and Aztec — have appreciated, respected and celebrated the majesty of nature. Powerful, serene and awe- inspiring, nature has often been personified as a nurturing mother or even a great goddess. It is this powerful phenomenon that has inspired an original pageant to celebrate the winter solstice.

“It’s a magical time of year and we wanted to offer something that was an alternative to the traditional holiday fare,” said Scott Fray, the creator of Awake the White and Wint’ry Queen, a celebration of the season of light. “This is a moment that has been celebrated by any culture you could mention in the last ten thousand years. Every culture of every age, every group of people, have celebrated this magical moment of the return of light. We just had a desire for people to connect to a deeper current.”

The show is a passionate compilation of music, dance, storytelling, multimedia projections, fire dancing and even puppetry, which together tell the story of the changing of the season and the quest for the Winter Queen.

“It’s really amazing,” Fray said. “Some people really get what we’re trying to do. They come to us in tears and they’re crying and they’re feeling transformed and desperately want us to know. And that is remarkable.”

The production is set on Winter Solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year. The Autumn Queen, who is slowly dying, comes forth to pass the torch to the Winter Queen in order to turn the wheel of the seasons, but the Winter Queen is nowhere to be found.

Along the way, the audience encounters different characters, most of whom are dancers, like the Lord of the Forest — a fire performer who uses a stag head with antlers lit on fire.

“There are these elements of grand spectacle with the dance, and the spoken-word parts move you through the story as well, but it’s primarily What we do is we kind of take a more universal approach to sentiments, themes, modalities, song structures that have been around for thousands of years in a variety of cultures and discretions.

“There are parts that sound like a South African gospel choir; there are parts that sound Celtic; there are parts that sound like Renaissance music. But the jewel of it is the vocals.”

The characters, adorned with ornate costumes almost entirely created by Greco, will also showcase Fray and Greco’s creative flair and bodypainting skills. A family-friendly production, most of the actors’ bodies are clothed with only their faces and limbs transformed with paint.

Fray and Greco, who comprise Living Brush Bodypainting based in Reidsville, made international headlines this year by winning the World Bodypainting Festival in Portschach, Austria. The pair is also the current North American Bodypainting Champions and the holders of the current Guinness World Record for bodypainting.

Having skipped production last year, this is the fourth performance of Awake the White and Wint’ry Queen and its first at Carolina Theatre. Fray said they decided not to produce the show last year so that they could focus completely on winning the bodypainting competition.

“People made it clear over the summertime that we were expected not to skip another year,” Greco laughed.

“People felt very passionately that this was too good to let it die, and that’d they’d do anything possible to make it happen,” Fray said, “and they have. People have really stepped up, and we’re very grateful.”

about the music,” said Madelyn Greco, Fray’s partner who also plays the Winter Queen.

“At the heart of everything it’s a concert. It is all based around this music that Scott composed and the show that he initially wrote [five years ago] that has been fleshed out by people as they’ve joined us [over the years]. The show changes every single time we do it because different people sort of jump in and so there are different aspects of it that are brand new.”

wanna go?

Awake the White and Wint’ry Queen plays for one night only at the Carolina Theatre 310 S. Greene St., Greensboro Friday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20; children under 12 free 336-333-2605