Every winter, I hatch ambitious plans for all the home-improvement projects I’ll do, come summer. But those balmy days bring with them an explosion of creative and cultural activities, here in these mountains. The following sampler of summer arts happenings is by no means a complete list — but it’s enough to get you started (and a look at the regular weekly listings in Mountain Xpress will fill in the rest). In the meantime, maybe this will help explain why I never seem to get around to painting my house.
• Asheville Community Theatre (35 Walnut St.) launches its 53rd summer season June 26-27, with a Reader’s Theater production of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman. Based largely on actual trial transcripts, this internationally acclaimed drama explores the gross injustice Victorian prudery inflicted upon one of the English-speaking world’s noted literary lights. Tickets are $5. Or, if something a little more kid-oriented is your glass of sweet tea, try ACT’s Youth Theater production of The Fabulous Fable Factory — a musical based on Aesop’s Fables, penned by student playwrights Joseph Robinette and Thomas Tierney (playing July 17-18). And Aug. 6-22, it’s big-summer-musical time: Neil Simon wrote the book, Cy Coleman wrote the music, Dorothy Fields wrote the lyrics, New York got to love it, and now Asheville does too, as ACT pulls out all the stops for its production of the Broadway smash Sweet Charity.
ACT performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons only. Call 254-1320 for ticket prices, curtain times and additional info.
• Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, now in its 25th season, always serves up a wealth of theatrical treasures for those willing to venture a few lovely miles north to pretty little Mars Hill. First, it’s Always Patsy Cline, a two-person musical revue featuring the songs of the late, great candle-in-the-wind of the Ryman Auditorium, running July 1-11. July 15-25, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof heats up the stage in a production featuring Pat Hingle, a Hollywood fixture for more than 50 years (most recently playing Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies). July 28 through Aug. 1, SART brings to the boards the world premiere of The Gratuity, by local author William Doswell — a love story about a trucker who tips a small-town waitress with something other than cash. Aug. 5-15, it’ll be Mandy Lou, a musical spoof of the old south by Mars Hill native C. Robert Jones. And Aug. 19-29, it’s Smoke on the Mountain, a down-home, pickin’ and singin’ musical that weaves well-known country-gospel tunes into an inspirational story.
SART performances run Wednesday through Saturday at 8:15 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m., at Owen Theater on the Mars Hill College campus. Ticket prices range from $14 to $18, with discounts for seniors. Call (828) 689-1239 for directions and more info.
• The nationally known Flat Rock Playhouse, 20 miles south of Asheville in historic Flat Rock, presents a quartet of music and comedy offerings this summer. June 30 through July 10, it’ll be Sugar Babies, the old-time, burlesque song-and-dance-and-sketch revue that’s been a Broadway staple for generations. July 14 through Aug. 1, the immortal Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I reigns, serving up a hugely disproportionate slice of the American songbook, including “Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers” and “Shall We Dance.” Sinners, a contemporary comic mystery, is next on tap, running Aug. 4-14. Rounding out the season will be Honky Tonk Angels, the story of three women on the road to Nashville, featuring songs made famous by Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and other Music City queens (Aug. 18 through Sept. 5).
Flat Rock Playhouse productions run Wednesday through Saturday, with shows at 2:15 and 8:15 p.m. (no Friday matinees). Tickets are $25 for musicals, $22 for nonmusicals, with discounts for seniors. Schedules may change; call (828) 693-0731 for info and directions.
• Folkmoot USA, now in its 16th year, has become the nation’s largest international folk-dance festival. With its two weeks of performances (beginning July 12) in Asheville, Waynesville, Hendersonville and other locations by folk-dance troupes from all over the world, Folkmoot is one of the premier cultural events in the Southeast. This year’s lineup will include dancers from such exotic locales as Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Ivory Coast, Nepal, Peru and the Ukraine, not to mention cloggers from the good ol’ U.S.A. For more info, call (877) FOLK-USA or (828) 452-2997, or visit the festival Web site at www.folkmoot.com.
• The New Studio of Dance is sponsoring a residency by French-based, Vietnamese choreographer Thierry Raymond (how’s that for multiculturalism?). Raymond specializes in movement involving the outdoors; he’ll be organizing two weeks of workshops, beginning Aug. 15. Raymond will also collaborate with Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater, performing at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater (in Asheville’s historic Montford district) as part of East Meets West, an outdoor festival the weekend of Aug. 27-29. East Meets West will also feature local, national and international artists in wildly diverse media — including cooking, music, dance, theater and puppetry. Call 254-2621 for more info.
• Each summer, the Haywood County Arts Council brings the internationally renowned Atlanta Ballet to the Haywood Community College auditorium for a series of performances. The dancers will be in residency Aug. 2-29. Call (828) 452-0593 for program dates, directions, prices and times.
• And on Friday, Aug. 6 at 7:30 p.m., choreographer Ann Dunn will unveil a new piece — “Constellation”– at The Fletcher School of Dance, 177 Patton Ave. Call 252-4761 for details.
In addition to that mother of all music festivals, Bele Chere — which runs July 23-25 (don’t miss the Official Festival Guide, produced this year by Mountain Xpress, coming July 21) — and the mind-boggling array of music you’ll find in the growing number of local clubs any night of the week, the following musical highlights merit your undivided attention:
• Downtown After Five offers weary downtown workers the chance to boogie down to the sounds of hot national and local bands, enjoy cold thirst-quenchers (both alcoholic and not) and sample fine foods from some of Asheville’s favorite restaurants. Kicking off at 5:30 p.m. on select Friday evening at Pack Place, this free event has become a favorite summer pastime. This year’s roster is as follows: June 25: Tinsley Ellis and Dirt Poor Authority; July 9: Los Straitjackets and Sons of Ralph; Aug.13: Mandorico; Sept. 10: Deke Dickerson.
• The Haywood County Arts Council is bringing the world-famous Miro String Quartet to the Performing Arts Center in Waynesville on July 11, 18 and 25, and Aug. 1 and 8. Performances start at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $15 ($60 for all five shows). Call (828) 452-0593 for more info.
• Somehow, the Brevard Music Festival — a seven-week-long musical feast that’s served just 45 minutes south of Asheville, at the Brevard Music Center — remains surprisingly little-known to locals hereabouts. Running now through Aug. 8, the impressive festival features an ear-boggling array of symphony orchestras, bands, chamber ensembles and a full opera company. The more than 70 different concerts ensure that there’s something for everyone, including appearances by special guests Marvin Hamlisch (July 20, but tickets are going fast); 19-year-old piano prodigy Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto; violinist Ruggiero Ricci performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major; Garrick Ohlsson performing Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2; and the percussive jazz ensemble Rhythm and Brass (back by popular demand), playing everything from Baroque to the Beatles to a tribute to baseball. Prices range from free to $25 (tickets for the special performance by Hamlisch are $25-$45). For a schedule, prices and directions, call (828) 884-2019 or (888) 384-8682, or visit the festival’s Web site at www.brevardmusic.org.
• And then there’s Jazz Brevard, the annual weekend of all that’s hot and cool in the world of jazz, starting on Friday, Aug. 13 with an evening performance by Latin-jazz trombonist Conrad Herwig, at the Paul Porter Center on the Brevard College campus. The festival continues its celebration of a century of jazz on Saturday, Aug. 14 at the Brevard Music Center. Highlights will include classic jazz vocals by Dizzie Gillespie’s daughter, Jeanie Bryson; traditional bootie-shaking Dixieland from the Rebirth Brass Band, straight from New Orleans; hot Cuban and salsa (with plenty of room to dance!) from Bio Ritmo; a performance by rising tenor-sax star Joshua Redman; a rare live rendition of the classic Miles Davis/Gerry Mulligan collaboration Birth of the Cool by Sharp Nine; and a festival-closing show by the night-tripper himself, Mac Rebenack (a.k.a. Dr. John). Expect workshops, interaction with the stars, Ellington tributes and much more. Tickets range from $15 to $25, and children under 12 get in free. Call (828) 883-4679 or (888) 283-4878 for a complete schedule, tickets and more info.
• One of the region’s most popular events, Shindig on the Green — held each Saturday evening from July 3 through Sept. 4 and now in its 33rd season — offers mountain-music lovers the chance to sprawl out on the grass that fronts City/County Plaza and enjoy the glorious strains of the area’s finest bluegrass and old-time string bands. Bring a blanket and a lawn chair to this free event, which gets underway at 7 p.m.
• Asheville’s River District is rapidly becoming the center of a young, vibrant arts scene. A good place to start a tour is Great Southern Glassworks (9 Riverside Drive, 255-0187), where you can snack on moon pies and RC-Cola while watching Roddy and Andy persuade 2,200-degree molten crystal to take on improbable but lovely shapes and colors. And don’t forget the Odyssey Gallery (242 Clingman Ave., 285-9700), specializing in innovative ceramic arts. Note: Many River District art spaces are working studios that aren’t regularly open to the public.
• Now through Oct. 3, the Asheville Art Museum is exhibiting Abstraction, 1940-1970, a breathtaking collection of masterpieces from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The show includes works by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg and Helen Frankenthaler (many of whom studied and taught at the old Black Mountain College). The museum, in Pack Place, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Fridays until 8 p.m.) and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $4 for kids.
• Don’t miss the next City Center Art Walk (scheduled for Friday, Aug. 6, 5-8 p.m.), when 22 downtown-Asheville galleries stay open late to showcase their offerings. Maps are available at each gallery and at other downtown businesses.
• The Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, sponsored by the Southern Highland Craft Guild, continues its 50-year tradition of showing off the best work of mountain artisans. This year’s event runs Thursday through Sunday, July 15-18 at the Asheville Civic Center (10 a.m.-6 p.m.). The fair’s 165 participants are all Guild members from the mountain areas of nine Southern states; each will be there with a boothful of inventory sure to appeal to both collectors of fine crafts and those who just want to take home a little piece of the mountains. More than a dozen demonstrations, plus raffles and a full schedule of live music (including certified old-timer Red Wilson playing real old-time fiddle and banjo tunes, and the sizzling bluegrass combo Split Rail) will make this family event a bona fide slice of mountain culture. Admission is $5 (kids under 12 get in free).
All of the above
• An Appalachian Summer Festival, running July 5-31 on the Appalachian State University Campus in Boone, offers the finest in pretty much every artistic medium: music, dance, theater, visual arts and more. This year’s highlights include a concert by Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter (Sunday, July 11); performances by the legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Tuesday, July 20 and Saturday, July 31, respectively); Hal Holbrook’s critically acclaimed one-man extravaganza, Mark Twain Tonight!; slide lectures from the Smithsonian Institution, titled “The Appalachian Craft Revival: 1890s-1930s” (Thursday, July 22) and “Contemporary Appalachian Craft: Looking at Process” (Friday, July 23); a Celtic-music celebration showcasing Irish performers Mark Black and Solas (Wednesday, July 21); and the 13th Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition (running throughout the festival). A wide variety of ticket options are available. For a complete schedule, tickets and other info, call (800) 84-ARTS, or visit the festival Web site at www.appsummer.appstate.edu.