So you’ve skated comfortably across the surface of Charlotte culture and want to delve deeper? The city can accommodate you. We don’t have the wide variety of cultural groups we did in the 1990s and 2000s, when small and usually underfunded companies blossomed and withered, but we have a diverse lineup of more stable organizations. Here are recommendations from the current season for cultural veterans who seek a challenge.
Through Sept. 23: “Peter and the Starcatcher”
Sept. 28-Oct. 7: “Becket”
Charlotte has two fully professional theater companies that run pretty much year-round: Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. But it’s also lucky to have long-running theater companies that depend on talented amateurs, and these two continue to do some of the best work at that level. Theatre Charlotte kicks off its season by re-telling the Peter Pan legend, which provides a back story for Peter, Captain Hook and other characters; Central Piedmont Community College Theatre follows with Jean Anouilh’s drama about the priest who so offended Henry II that the British king – once a close friend – sought his death.
Through March 2: “What We Ask Is Simple”
by Hank Willis Thomas at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art + Culture.
Thomas’s work sources 20th-century protest imagery from around the world, printed on retro-reflective vinyl and mounted to aluminum – similar to street signs. Past lenticular works created by the artist just required the viewer to shift position to experience the work fully, but these new pieces are dependent on light. Borrow a pair of work glasses provided by the Gantt, or utilize your camera’s flash. Snap a photo with your flash on and your role shifts from passive viewer to image maker. The simple interactive exercise of placing one’s own body into these protest photos reminds us of our own role in present social movements, and more importantly, in shaping the kind of future we want. – LN
Oct. 20 – in Durham
If you work to stay current, you’ll want to make the 2 1/2 -hour drive to Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art: Painter Amy Sherald will give this year’s Rothschild Lecture. Sherald is known for her engaging paintings of African American subjects, and received additional praise for her official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery. Seating will be limited. – LN
Oct. 20-21: “Rivers of Light: Exploring Music from the Baltics”
Conductor David Tang and Vox continue to explore new choral landscapes. This concert features pieces by Ēriks Ešenvalds, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Veljo Tormis, and Pēteris Vasks; fellow Baltic master Arvo Pärt will get his turn when Vox sings his “Passio” in April. Vox has tackled everything from jazz concerts to Mahler songs to Thomas Tallis’ extraordinarily complicated “Spem in Alium,” and it’s a well-drilled group.
Oct. 25-Dec. 14
(Take special note of Nov. 14)
British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE uses Dutch wax textiles – commercially printed fabrics inspired by Indonesian batiks and sold in West Africa – to explore numerous issues including colonialism, migration and identity. His “Wind Sculpture (SG) I,” now in Central Park, will be permanently installed on the Davidson College campus and dedicated on Nov. 14; it’s been purchased for the college by Pat Rodgers in honor of her husband, B.D. “The American Library” will be the main part of an exhibition at Davidson: It’s an installation in which Shonibare fills shelves with 6,000 fabric-covered books. Most are embossed with the names of first- and second-generation immigrants who have enriched America through their contributions to the arts, business, academia, technology and politics – but others bear the names of their detractors. This compelling, largely celebratory, exhibition is sure to inspire debate. – BS
Nov. 9: Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish, aka the Honey Dewdrops
The Charlotte Folk Music Society began as a group that gathered to play the acoustic music we now call Americana, with an emphasis on bluegrass and folk. Decades later, it still does that but also imports performers such as this duet, who blend voices and guitars in traditional and original numbers. In addition, it sells instruments and CDs, connects students with teachers, holds monthly Slow Jams and Song Circles and serves as a clearinghouse for all folk-related activities.
Nov. 12: Jessica Lang Dance
Blumenthal Performing Arts may get the lion king’s share of its income and attention from Broadway tours, but it brings esteemed, lesser-known artists here for one-night stands. Lang, a choreographer who has worked at American Ballet Theatre and other big institutions, gets a Charlotte premiere for her female-driven contemporary ballet. We’re lucky to get someone of the caliber of Lang, and she’s not alone on Blumenthal’s fall dance roster; it also includes Tablao Flamenco and iLuminate.
Jan. 30-Feb. 9: “Two Trains Running”
May 8-18: “Jitney”
August Wilson, the best-known African-American playwright, has been fortunate locally: Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, CPCC Theatre, On Q Productions and others have dipped into his 10-play Pittsburgh cycle, which covers the African-American experience in his hometown across each decade of the 20th century. In 2019, Brand New Sheriff Productions will tackle two of his plays, the first about urban renewal in the 1960s and the second about a gypsy cab station in the 1970s.
Feb. 8-9: “Rouge”
Caroline Calouche has choreographed dance that works on the ground and in the air – sometimes simultaneously – longer than anyone in Charlotte. Her shows usually contain both humor and drama, but “Rouge” ventures further into cabaret-style comedy and thrills for a more mature audience. Caroline Calouche & Co. does its own updated and abbreviated version of “The Nutcracker” (“Clara’s Trip”) and conceptual shows such as “Lingua,” but “Rouge” seems to be a perennial favorite.
April 5: “Miles 1958”
The city has two valuable monthly jazz series. Jazz Arts Initiative’s tribute shows at Stage Door Theater pay homage to masters; in the next, Sept. 14-15, clarinetist Janelle Reichman plays the music of Benny Goodman. The other has a more varied format and runs at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Saxophonist Ziad Rabie and his quartet back singers or instrumentalists who change from month to month; the most intriguing concert this season may be the one that celebrates trumpeter Miles Davis at his peak, in the year he recorded “Milestones” and “Porgy and Bess.”
May 12: Chamber Music
If you love chamber music (or just wonder what it is), the city’s best bargain can be found at Providence United Methodist Church, where musicians in the Providence Chamber Music Series – many from the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra – play on a donations-only basis on Sunday nights. “Music of the United States” offers pieces by undeservedly obscure African-American composers, a string quartet by Florence Price and a clarinet quintet by William Grant Still, plus a viola-and-piano reduction of a viola concerto by Rock Hill composer Leonard Mark Lewis.
May 23-June 1: “Oslo”
Three Bone Theatre, which started from scratch on a shoestring six years ago, has built up an impressive body of work. The company combines socially conscious plays (including comedies) with commitments to local nonprofits, which it publicizes through its productions. Three Bone scored its biggest coup ever by getting first local rights to the 2017 Tony-winner for best play, J.T. Rogers’ drama about back-channel negotiations that led to the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1993.
Barbara Schreiber and Lia Newman contributed.
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.