Round two of the New Horizons Reading Festival

by Mark Burger

If you missed the first week of the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem’s New Horizons Staged Reading Festival, have no fear: There’s another weekend to go. Round Two is coming right up.

Delivering on its theme of “North Carolina Voices,” this year’s festival is devoted to the works of North Carolina playwrights, some of them from quite nearby.

This Friday, beginning at 8 p.m., the festival will present the topical political satire Raney, by John Justice. The story focuses on Raney, a conservative Southern Baptist girl who marries Charles, an outspoken liberal (doesn’t every family have one?), leading to all sorts of complications in their relationship. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to attend marriage counseling… and the battle is joined!

On Saturday (also at 8 p.m.), the festival will present Bekah Brunstetter’s (equally) timely drama Green, in which a young soldier returns stateside after a tour of duty in Iraq and tries to put the pieces of his life back together again – an undertaking made all the more difficult because he’s in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.

For a family-friendlier change of pace, there will be a special presentation of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” adapted by Todd Hatlem from the classic story by Margery Williams.

One night in the nursery, the Velveteen Rabbit learns from the old Skin Horse about a wonderful magic called “Real.” Real is what happens when a child truly loves a toy, and the Velveteen Rabbit is determined to become Real, and embarks on a journey of love and devotion to achieve this goal.

Showtimes for “The Velveteen Rabbit” are 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Most readings will be presented in Winston-Salem’s hub of community theater – the Arts Council Theatre (610 Coliseum Drive). The presentation of “The Velveteen Rabbit” will take place in the main branch of the Forsyth County Public Library (660 W. Fifth St.). Admission is $10. Season ticket-holders are admitted free.

For more information about this series, or about the goings-on at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, or call 336.748.0857.

By the way, the Little Theatre’s next mainstage production will be Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, which opens April 4 and runs through April 20.

Adapted, as you might surmise, from the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story, the original Broadway production earned four Tony nominations and ran for over 1,500 performances at Manhattan’s Plymouth Theatre, making it the longest-running musical at that theater.

This is a pretty wild show. After all, both Sebastian Bach (anybody remember Skid Row?) and David Hasselhoff (anybody care?) have played the role(s). What significance does that have? I have no idea, but I dig the story of Jekyll & Hyde. Rumors abound that a movie version is in the works, too.

As discussed in this column a few weeks back, things are heating up at the RiverRun International Film Festival (April 23-28 throughout Winston-Salem). This marks the festival’s 10th birthday, and organizers are planning big things this year.

The closing-night presentation will be the 1925 silent classic The Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney. Providing live musical accompaniment will be the acclaimed Alloy Orchestra, which previously provided the accompaniment for the Douglas Fairbanks silent classic The Black Pirate when it played RiverRun two years ago. The Phantom screening will be 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 in the Main Theatre of the ACE Cinemateque Complex at NCSA (1533 S. Main St., W-S).

A few of the films selected for the festival have already been announced, as well. Among them are Robb Moss and Peter Galison’s documentary feature Secrecy, which was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; the US premiere of writer/director Gareth Lewis’ black comedy The Baker, starring Damian Lewis and Michael Gambon; Stefan Stuckert’s short film “Medium Rare,” and Donald Race’s short film “I Am Bob,” which features real-life rock ‘n roller Bob Geldof (“I Don’t Like Mondays”). For kids (of all ages), there will even be a program of Saturday-morning cartoons at 10:30 a.m. April 26 at the Stevens Center that will include Will Becher’s “Off Beat” and Molly Porter’s “Banking on Escape.”

Many more will be announced as the festival approaches.

In addition, you can already purchase all-access passes, which provide admission to all festival events (screenings, panel discussions, public parties). Until March 26, all-access passes are available for $275. Beginning March 27, when regular tickets go on sale, all-access passes will be available for $300.

The full program for the 2008 festival will be announced March 26. For further information about the festival, check out Passes can be purchased at the Stevens Center box office (405 W. Fourth St.) or over the phone: 336.721.1945.