More Relevant Than Ever: “The Crucible” Opens At PlayMakers

In a time of political turmoil, Playmakers Repertory Company is breathing new life into a classic about witch hunts.

Opening Wednesday, Playmakers revisits Arthur Miller’s classic “The Crucible,” the play that opened Playmakers’ first season back in 1976. It’s set in the 17th century, during the infamous Salem witch trials – but Miller wrote it in the 1950s, amidst the “witch hunts” of Joseph McCarthy, so the play is meant to resonate in any time when people are unfairly targeted, ostracized, or persecuted.

Visiting artist Ariel Shafir stars as John Proctor; he says the play examines how we have to adhere to our principles even when that seems impossible – and that makes it more relevant now than ever.

“We all are faced with the gap,” he says, “between who we think we are, what we think we believe, and what we actually have to do to protect those ethics and principles.”

Fellow visiting artist Sarita Ocon plays John’s wife Elizabeth; she says her role is a reflection on the difficult choices that women face regarding their own principles, an especially timely topic this year.

“I still want to show a sense of integrity and courage in some of (Elizabeth’s) text,” Ocon says, “where she’s coming forward and speaking up about a situation that has created some dire circumstances.”

Shafir, Ocon, and director Desdemona Chiang spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL, and Shafir and Ocon read a scene from “The Crucible.”


“The Crucible” is an important piece of PlayMakers’ history, but director Desdemona Chiang is also leading the company into uncharted territory. She’s staging the show in the round, something she believes PlayMakers has never done before – to give audience members a chance to view not only the actors, but also each other.

“It’s valuable for audiences to see each other, to see the play through our fellow audience members,” she says. “There really is no way you can get away from the fact that (“The Crucible”) is about us, right now, today, in this place and time.”

The Crucible opens Wednesday, October 19, and runs through Sunday, November 6. For ticket information, visit

Will Arrington contributed to this report.

2016 Chapel Hill Festifall Attracts 15,000 Attendees

More than 15,000 residents and visitors filled West Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill on Sunday for the 44th Festifall Arts Festival.

The town announced the attendance figure in a release on Wednesday.

The event hosted more than 100 area artists and had live performances from local musicians and dance groups.

The town says the average group size for out of town visitors at Festifall was 2.8 people per group. Officials surveyed 256 attendees and found that 61 percent of those at the arts festival were local with the other 39 percent coming in from out of town. The estimates also showed that the visitors spent more than $220,000 at the event.

You can take a survey to let town officials know how the festival can be improved in the coming years.

“Broadway Twisted”: Showtunes, Flipped, For A Cause

Monday, April 11, Local 506 in Chapel Hill plays host to the fourth annual “Broadway Twisted” event – featuring classic showtunes performed by more than 20 local actors.

The gimmick? All these songs are gender-swapped: male actors playing women, female actors playing men.

“Broadway Twisted” got its start in Chapel Hill four years ago and it’s grown every year. It’s inspired by the annual “Broadway Backwards” event in New York City, which raises money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Chapel Hill’s version is also for a cause: proceeds from “Broadway Twisted” will also go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, as well as the North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN).

This year’s show is directed by Arielle Yoder and Jorge Donoso. (You’ve seen them both on stage at PlayMakers and elsewhere around the area. Many of the 22 performers are PlayMakers vets, including some who are currently performing in “Sweeney Todd.”)

Yoder and Donoso stopped by WCHL and spoke with Aaron Keck. (They also previewed the songs they’ll be performing on Monday: Yoder singing “You’ll Be Back” from the musical Hamilton; Donoso singing “Out Tonight” from Rent.)


“Broadway Twisted” takes place Monday, April 11, at Local 506 on West Franklin Street. Doors open at 7; the show begins at 8. Tickets are $10.

Visit for more information and tickets.

UNC Looking For Artists For Campus Buildings

The FedEx Global Education Center at UNC is accepting artists’ proposals to display their work during the current academic year.

The center hosts up to four exhibitions each year, including paintings, photography, sculptures and textiles.

Proposals will be assessed based on the extent to which work reflects complex contemporary international issues.  Proposals are accepted on an ongoing basis.

For more information about the requirements visit the UNC Global website.

NC Comedy Arts Festival Hits Chapel Hill

If Franklin Street seems a little funnier this week…here’s why.

The North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival is now in full swing. Hosted by Chapel Hill’s DSI Comedy Theater and now in its sixteenth year, the NCCAF brings in hundreds of standup, sketch, and improv comics from coast to coast (and Canada) for one of the largest comedy festivals in the nation.

Read the history of the NCCAF.

This year’s edition got under way on February 1 and runs through Valentine’s Day, Sunday the 14th, with shows at DSI, the ArtsCenter, Local 506, the Cave, and Flyleaf Books. Headliners include standup icon Emo Philips and Kevin McDonald of the legendary sketch group Kids in the Hall. (Not to mention hip-hop improv pioneers North Coast, all-stars from New York’s Magnet Theater, sketch favorites the Defiant Thomas Brothers, and the annual Carolina’s Funniest Comic competition.)

Zach Ward of DSI and NC Comedy Arts Festival headliner Emo Philips joined Aaron Keck on WCHL Friday.


Emo Philips will be performing at the ArtsCenter on Wednesday, February 10, at 9:00 pm. Kevin McDonald will be at the ArtsCenter on Thursday, February 11, at 7:30.

Get the full schedule of the NC Comedy Arts Festival, including ticket information.

Emo Philips and Zach Ward with Aaron Keck at WCHL studios.

Emo Philips and Zach Ward with Aaron Keck at WCHL studios.

“Three Sisters” Arrive At PlayMakers, Say They’ll Reach Moscow Soon

It’s one of the most iconic plays of all time, and a new version of it is coming to Chapel Hill.

PlayMakers Repertory Company is staging Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” newly translated by Libby Appel, beginning Wednesday, January 20, and running through Sunday, February 7. The show will be directed by Vivienne Benesch, who recently took over from Joseph Haj as PlayMakers’ new producing artistic director.

“Three Sisters” is the story of Olga, Masha and Irina, sisters living in a provincial Russian town who yearn to move to Moscow but never quite seem to make it there. Benesch actually agreed to direct it even before she knew she’d be taking over as artistic director. “Life and art sometimes play the very best tricks on us,” she says. “I cannot think of a more perfect work to engage in at this moment than Chekhov’s vibrant meditation on the nature of time, love and our unexpected journey through life.”

Vivienne Benesch spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


For a full schedule, information about related special events, and a link to purchase tickets, visit

Voices Chapel Hill Heads To Durham For Holiday Concert

This Saturday, December 19, Durham’s Carolina Theatre plays host to the annual holiday concert by Voices, the Chapel Hill Chorus. It’s their first time ever in the Carolina Theatre.

The show begins at 8 pm. It’s called “Rejoice This Night,” featuring familiar carols and works by seven composers.

Voices Chapel Hill is a 130-voice chorus; it performs two concerts each year, one in May and the annual holiday concert in December.

Sue Klausmeyer is the conductor and artistic director of Voices Chapel Hill. She spoke Friday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Get tickets online at

Visit to learn more about the chorus.

Chapel Hill Keeps Festifall 2015 Alive

Every fall, Chapel Hill is treated to the Festifall Arts Festival.

But, earlier in October, the 43rd annual Festifall Arts Festival was cancelled due to the threat of severe weather.  It was the first time that Festifall has been cancelled.  Up until 1995, the Town of Chapel Hill reserved a rain date for the event each year for the following Sunday.  But, the event grew in size and complexity.  This made the logistics and expense of a rain date not feasible for the Town, artists, entertainers, and contractors.

But, despite Festifall’s cancellation, the Town of Chapel Hill has found a way to bring the popular event back.

Immerse yourself in the arts with the Festifall virtual artist market.  You can browse and shop with the unique vendors of Festifall online until Friday, October 23.

This one of a kind event will feature over 30 artisans from all over the South representing the finest in painting, photography, jewelry, glass, ceramics, wood, metal, fiber and mixed media artworks.

Amanda Fletcher, Supervisor of Festivals and Community Celebrations with the Town of Chapel Hill says:

“Festifall may have been cancelled, but the fun isn’t over! We wanted to give our talented artists from our juried show the opportunity to showcase their work and promote their business with our online community. Artists have been very receptive to the idea and have created some great discounts and products for our patrons!”

Debi L. Drew, a participating artist stated:

“After the considerate cancellation of Festifall, due to inclement weather and safety concerns for the public and artists, Chapel Hill’s Festifall team has come up with a superb opportunity for all involved. The Online Market gives us a new venue to showcase our uniquely handcrafted items to the community. What a wonderful solution!”

Follow Festifall on Facebook and Twitter to receive notifications regarding the special discounts and sales.

But, that is not all.

Mark your calendars.  Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation will promote a Festival in the Park event on Saturday, November 14, from 12pm-4pm, featuring Live Entertainment, Food Trucks and some of your favorite community arts organizations.

festival in the parkAbout the park take over, Amanda says, ”

“Hundreds of park patrons and soccer leagues players are already scheduled to be at the park on this date, and we plan to build on that momentum, to invite the community to join us for a park take over and community event.”

See list of vendors and performers here.

Presented by Food Lion, the Food Lion Better Bus will make a stop in the park too, with shopping cart races and free park survival kits full of great foods and snacks for everyone. Don’t miss all the fun, and join us for a Festival in the Park at Southern Community Park!

Master Class: “Seminar” At PlayMakers

It’s a play about four young writers who sign up for a master class taught by a legendary novelist, as performed by four young actors who are currently studying under the man playing the writer. Hold on to your hats.

PlayMakers Repertory Company‘s 2015-16 mainstage season continues with “Seminar,” an acclaimed 2011 comedy by Theresa Rebeck. (Rebeck is the creator of the NBC show “Smash” and a former writer/producer for “NYPD Blue” and “Law and Order,” among many other credits; her plays have been compared favorably with Neil Simon’s.) It stars PlayMakers vet Ray Dooley as the aforementioned legendary novelist; Dooley is also the head of UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program, so he’s very familiar with the mentor role. (Though he says he doesn’t perform it in quite the same way as his character.)

The show opens on Wednesday, October 14, and runs through November 1 in the Paul Green Theatre on Country Club Road. It’s directed by Michael Dove, a Helen Hayes Award winner who serves as artistic director at the Forum Theatre in Washington, DC.

Ray Dooley spoke about “Seminar” with WCHL’s Aaron Keck this week.


For ticket information and a schedule of related special events, visit this page on

UNC To Host NC’s First National Veterans’ Arts Festival

Sunday, October 18, UNC will play host to the 2015 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, featuring an art exhibition and performances by military veterans from around the country.

The annual festival got its start in 1981 and travels to a different city each year – but this will be its first-ever stop in North Carolina. It’s a project of the Veterans Affairs Department: VA hospitals nationwide hold local arts events, with the top performers being invited to appear in the national festival.

More than 120 vets will be in Chapel Hill for this year’s festival. It begins at noon with an art exhibit in Gerrard Hall, followed by a show at 2 pm on the stage at Memorial Hall.

NVCAF Host-Site Coordinator Jillian Thompson and veteran performer Dolores Day (a singer-guitarist) joined Aaron Keck on WCHL this week to talk about the festival.


Tickets to the Memorial Hall show are free. To order them in advance, call 919-286-0411, extension 6070.

For more information on the NVCAF in general, visit this page.