Winners, Killers and Witches..just another week in the Triad

by Mark Burger

We’re in the midst of Oscar season, but we’ve already got a winner for the 2009 O. Henry Award, given each year to a local individual with a lifelong commitment and achievement in the region’s artistic and cultural community.

This year’s recipient — drumroll, please — is Brenda Schluenes, the founder and artistic director of the Touring Theatre of North Carolina.

She was presented with the award at the Greenboro Partnership’s annual dinner on last week. Jeanie Duncan, the president of the United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro, said: “We are thrilled to honor Brenda Schluenes and her incredible body of work and contribution to the arts in Greensboro.” Over the past decade, the Touring Theatre of North Carolina has performed for over 150,000 people, with Schluenes herself producing and directing over 50 original productions. “Creativity drives me,” Schluenes said, “and how the arts can address issues like racism, prejudices, etc. to encourage dialogue, courageous conversations and solutions.” Previous recipients of the O. Henry Award include Logie Meachum, Barbara and Herman Cone, Bernie and Bobbie Mann, Shirley Spears and Louis Patseavouris. For more information about the Touring Theatre of North Carolina, check out their website: *** He’s back, and he’s madder and badder than ever. That would be actor and martial artist Brian Lee, returning in the on-line Web series Corporate Assassin, the brainchild — or brainstorm, perhaps — of filmmaker Andy Coon, he of All Aces Media and Dogs of Chinatown renown. This ongoing online series depicts the misadventures of one “Corbet A. Sassin,” who exacts revenge upon those bosses, suits and sleazebags who make your life at work a living hell. Who hasn’t wanted to kill their boss at least once (a day)? Here’s a way to do it that’s outrageous and fun. The entire series can be found online, and there’s even one installment that was filmed in and around YES! Weekly HQ in Jamestown — where death and destruction are daily occurrences anyway. Thus far, Coon has completed three shorts and has two more in development. Finding inspiration isn’t difficult, given the almost daily reports of economic hardships and financial disasters. While Wall Street worries, Coon creates. “I’m writing with a financial expert to create a “financialcrisis Corporate Assassin,” says Coon, “so we’re definitely keeping an eye on the current trends. It should be fun.” You can check out Corporate Assassin for yourself at “We’re still looking for office space,” says Coon. “That’s been our biggest problem.” So, if you’ve got office space and a desire to support local filmmaking, get in touch with the Corporate Assassin. He’s always looking for places to knock ‘em dead. (Rest assured, the crew is always careful to clean up the debris afterward.) And remember, like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, he’s doing it for you! *** Another veteran of Dogs of Chinatown and Corporate Assassin — who, like so many others didn’t manage to survive his encounter — is filmmaker Mike Beane, whose latest short film, Witches 3, is now up and running at This light-hearted romp stars Laurel Clabaugh, Stephanie Braden and Rachel Carter as a trio of witches (hence the title) who can’t seem to steer clear of mischief. With Mom and Dad (Martha Carter and Billy Roberts) away, the witches play — and accidentally unleash a nasty spirit. Truth in disclosure: Mike’s a good friend, although it’s probably less to due with my sparkling personality or wit than my extensive collection of Hammer Films merchandise (including original lobby cards for Brides of Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles), which he longingly gazes at whenever he drops by my apartment. In any case, Mike’s a movie maven who takes his inspiration from any number of cinematic sources. In the case of Witches 3, it’s a combination of the Marx Brothers (or Sisters, in this case), some supernatural hocus-pocus (and a nod to the famous Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee horror film The Skull), and just your basic good, clean slapstick. And, yes, there’s a brief cameo appearance by yours truly — start polishing that Oscar! — who can be glimpsed briefly hoisting a beer (that’s called Method acting) during an outdoor party sequence. Andy Coon and his cohorts from All Aces Media, Blake Faucette and Micah Moore, also lent their filmmaking expertise to the proceedings, which were filmed on location in Kernersville and Lewisville. Mike is already mapping out a sequel, one that’s even more ambitious than outrageous than its predecessor. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!

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