Buzzworm news briefs

Get on board

A new local group, URTV Inc., is seeking applicants to serve on its board of directors. The private, nonprofit organization will set up and manage the new public-access channel that will serve city and county residents.

URTV Channel 20 will be available to all Charter Communications subscribers in Buncombe County, provided the channel is approved by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners (see “Sex and the County” elsewhere in this issue).

Most locally produced programming will be eligible for cablecasting on the channel, Interim Board President Beth Lazer told Xpress. That includes religious, cultural, educational and arts-oriented shows, political programs and discussions, and other content produced by people living within the service areas or by nonprofits serving the city and/or county. The following kinds of programming are prohibited: material defined as obscene by the N.C. General Assembly, and programming that endorses or promotes a particular political party or candidate, solicits or promotes unlawful conduct, or is commercial in nature (lotteries, business advertisements, requests for contributions, etc.).

At the moment, the URTV board consists of five members of Asheville’s Public Access Channel Commission: Marianna Bailey, Mary Ellen Brown, Mark Goldstein and Andrew Reed, plus Lazer. Asheville and Buncombe County are expected to appoint a yet-to-be-determined number of additional members. All eligible residents of Asheville or Buncombe County are encouraged to apply.

“We want strong leadership skills from every board member,” notes Lazer. “We’re looking for passion and commitment to public access. We need both long-range visionaries and long-range planners, people experienced at running a small business, and a board that represents the community in all its diversity — ethnic, racial, economic, geographical, age and gender.”

“In particular,” she stresses, “we’re looking for someone with legal knowledge, someone with strong technical expertise, someone experienced and enthusiastic about leading a fund-raising program, and people with good contacts throughout the community.”

For information or applications, please visit the URTV Web site (www.urtv.org) or call Beth Lazer (259-9729) or Vice Chair Marianna Bailey (299-8251).

— Cecil Bothwell

ACRC loses lease

The Asheville Community Resource Center is in trouble. On Feb. 4, the Magpie Collective (which operates the facility) held an emergency meeting to discuss the fate of their various programs after being informed that their month-to-month lease on the 63 N. Lexington Ave. property will not be renewed. The group has been told to vacate the space by March 1.

The ACRC is home to eight community-based nonprofits, ranging from the Asheville Global Report to the Asheville chapter of the environmental activist group EarthFirst (see “Not Your Grandma’s Community Center,” April 23, 2003 Xpress). The collective’s members believe it will be very hard to relocate all those programs to a new space before the end of the month.

In a letter from Clay Property Management to the primary lessor, Kitty Brown, Betty Crawford explained that the chief reason the lease was not renewed had to do with liability concerns. Crawford cited the often loud and seemingly uncontrolled nature of many of the ACRC’s fund-raising events. According to Crawford, many North Lexington business owners have raised concerns about the ACRC’s presence, both to her and at business owners’ meetings.

“The owners of the other businesses and building owners on that street have talked with the owner of that building and have told him that it is a very disruptive atmosphere,” said Crawford. “A lot of people hang around on the outside of the building. These people stand outside drinking beer, smoking and talking, and they can be very confrontational. We’ve had several incidents reported to us that have been out of line.”

Pressure from those businesses, Crawford admits, was probably a factor in the decision by the building’s owner not to renew the lease.

“The ACRC has tried to have a dialogue with the different businesses on Lexington, including two open houses this summer,” says Jodi Rhoden, a member of the ACRC collective who’s also an organizer for the Bountiful Cities Project. “We also attended meetings of the Lexington Avenue Business Association, but we were disinvited — asked not to come back — by the other businesses and groups.”

One of the main concerns raised by many involved with the ACRC is that they were never contacted by Clay Property about any potential liability issues or other complaints prior to being told that the lease would not be renewed.

“We’ve had policies in place to deal with all of the complaints that Clay Property addressed in their letter,” said collective member Adam McBroom, a staffer at the ACRC’s community reading room. “Those policies have been effect for the past year-and-a-half, and we don’t see this as a valid reason whatsoever for deciding not to renew the lease.”

— Steve Shanafelt

Step up to the stage

If you’ve never attended a unified audition, it’s something to behold, promises Peter Carver, declaring, “The energy is amazing.” Carver is one of the organizers of the 2004 Unified Auditions.

Modeled on the Southeastern Theatre Conference auditions, the annual event, now in its third year, enables local actors to showcase their talents to theater companies throughout the region. And this edition, says Carver, promises to be bigger and better than ever.

About 20 theater companies will be on hand, he reports, and as many as 125 actors are expected to audition (up from 100 last year). The companies will be equal parts professional and amateur organizations, ranging from local groups like Asheville Community Theatre, Highland Repertory Theatre and the North Carolina Stage Company to Abingdon, Va.’s Barter Theatre and The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, S.C.

And you don’t have to be a seasoned professional, either — even folks with little or no stage experience are encouraged to take the plunge. “It’s great practice,” notes Carver. “I’ve seen people really improve from one audition to the next.”

Actors are asked to prepare 90 seconds of material: either a monologue, two contrasting monologues, or 16 bars of a song and a short monologue. An accompanist will be available, but actors need to bring their own sheet music in the appropriate key, as the accompanist will not transpose. Children should present a memorized selection (such as a poem, rhyme or monologue) and, if they wish, sing a song. Singing to tapes is not allowed. Actors should also bring 20 copies of a headshot and resume for distribution to the various companies.

“The companies that will be there will all get a copy of [the actors’] headshots; they’ll get to see them perform; and if there’s ever a role where the company needs an actor, they can reference back to the audition,” Carver explains. “Some of them are actively looking for people for parts right now.”

The event, he says, “coordinates our theater community to some degree and also allows some regional companies to see some of the talent that we have.”

The 2004 Unified Auditions will be held in Ferguson Auditorium on A-B Tech’s Asheville campus. Adult auditions (for ages 16 and up) will take place Wednesday, Feb. 18, 6-9:30 p.m. (registration starts at 5 p.m.) and Saturday, Feb. 21, 1-7 p.m. (registration starts at 12:30 p.m.). Auditions for children ages 6-15 will also happen Saturday, Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon (registration starts at 9:30 a.m.).

The event is presented by the Western North Carolina Theatre League, with help from A-B Tech’s new drama club.

To preregister, send an e-mail to thestagepicture@aol.com, or mail 20 copies of your headshot and resume to: Unified Auditions, 71A Beaver Drive, Asheville, NC 28804. Please indicate your preference for Wednesday evening, Saturday morning (children only), or Saturday afternoon.

— Lisa Watters

Trash or treasure?

We all have stuff we don’t want anymore but that someone else might still take a liking to: an old couch, that soon-to-be-obsolete VCR, an older-model fax machine, the clothes we favored during our “gypsy” phase.

And finding that mysterious someone just got easier, thanks to a new Yahoo! Groups e-mail list. Asheville Freecycle (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Asheville_freecycle) lets any member of the community post a note about an item they’d like to give away — or one they’re looking for. The only rule: Every item posted must be free.

Asheville Freecycle declares itself “a tool we will use to connect folks, so that someone’s trash is always someone else’s treasure. By sharing, we will always have more! By recycling, we will foster connections between members of our community while preventing the creation of more waste.”

Already, the site (which was founded just last month) has 24 members. And on the day I visited, a twin-sized bed, a papasan chair, a rocking chair, recent issues of National Geographic and a pair of pogo sticks were all up for grabs.

Asheville Freecycle was inspired by the Tucson Freecycle Network, launched by a local recycling group. Nearly 1,900 people have joined the Tucson list since its inception last March.

— Lisa Watters

Bizworm

Sky high

The Asheville Regional Airport saw a remarkable upswing in passenger traffic during the last three months of 2003. Although the numbers were down 6 percent for the year as a whole, the figure for October was up 6.3 percent over the same month in ’02. This was followed by 15.5 percent and 16 percent increases in November and December, respectively.

Why this sudden jump? The airport’s new director, David Edwards, cites several reasons, including a general turnaround in travel and tourism nationwide. “I think it shows that consumer confidence is coming back,” he declares.

Edwards also credits the airport’s own efforts, such as increased marketing and publicity and a push to get reduced fares for people flying out of Asheville.

Scheduling changes have also helped, he notes. “Over the last year, we’ve seen some additional direct service by Continental to Houston as well as some re-timed service to Newark that has proved to be extremely successful.” Continental, says Edwards, “changed the timing of that flight from midmorning to an early morning departure which served the business traveler much better.”

In fact, during the last quarter of 2003, Asheville fared better than most similar-sized airports in the region, says Edwards. “We really saw some substantial growth … that I’d say a lot of other small airports in the Southeast did not see — airports similar to our size, like Tri-Cities, Greenville-Spartanburg and Wilmington here in the state.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Edwards sees still more good news. “When you look at total passenger traffic, not only were we up 16 percent [in December], we finally — on a year-to-year comparison — passed December of 2000. … So we’ve finally seen a jump back to growth and passenger numbers pre-2001 and 9/11, which is great to see.”

That leaves the airport director excited about the year ahead. “I think we’re going to look at another good month here in January,” says Edwards, “although I don’t think we’ll see double-digit increases. January and February are [traditionally] slower months … so if we can have some positive growth going in the first part of the year, we’re going to be ecstatic.”

To check out month-by-month statistics on passenger traffic, visit the Asheville Regional Airport’s Web site (www.flyavl.com). Click on “About Us” and then “AVL Data.”

— Lisa Watters

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