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Introducing ArtsPulse 

New column debuts with piece on great Scott

After winning the Loaf's prize for Best Supporting Actress in a comedy, Donna Scott isn't resting on her pesto. She's staying busy both as a performer and a producer. Buoyed by the success of The Body Chronicles, which packed the SouthEnd Performing Arts Center for six straight evenings back in January, Scott-the-producer is plotting a reprise of the feel-good show that was staged for Molly Barker's feel-good enterprise, Girls on the Run. Scott is scoping out various venues on Tryon Street and Stonewall Street for a possible repeat Body experience in early 2006. While most Charlotte companies avoid programming right after New Year's, Scott found that the timing chimed well with her message.

"I loved the January date," Scott confides, "because it seems like the minute the holidays are over, you just can't pick up a newspaper or mag without some 'Improve yourself' headline in your face."

Scott will be able to sample the revival experience as an actress this summer as she reprises the role of Kate — the wife who's such a poor sport about her shiftless husband's attachment to the family pooch — in Sylvia. The award-winning Off-Tryon Theatre Company production comes to Tryon Street on July 28 as the City Stage Fringe Festival occupies Spirit Square once again with a slate of fringe faves beginning on June 16.

But back to the pesto. As the catty co-worker Denise in the Actor's Theatre production of Bright Ideas, Scott was not merely poisoned by the pesto in Eric Coble's latter-day Macbeth. She plopped face-first into a plate of the stuff late in Act 1 — and returned in additional roles after intermission.

Since she had to sink her mug into it — and go through the first stages of rigor mortis until the scene ended — you have to figure the fatal entrée was edible.

"It was really pesto, garlic and all," Scott confirms. "So strong, in fact, that, for the run of the show, I could never get the smell completely out of my hair."

Five or six washings didn't get the smell out of her skin.

"Something about the oil and garlic combo really makes the smell difficult to wash away, I guess. Yeah, there was a big makeup and sometimes hair redo at intermission. Actually, I got really good at falling so that it didn't end up on my clothes, though — a talent that I am still quite proud of."

NC Dance Theatre recently slipped away to New York via an invitation from the prestigious Guggenheim Museum. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and his superstar bride, Patricia McBride, discussed the influence of George Balanchine on March 13-14 as part of the museum's Works & Process series.Eight dancers from NCDT also made the trip, showcasing the company's proficiency on two pieces from their Balanchine inventory, "Agon" and "Stars and Stripes," and works by Bonnefoux and Alonzo King. There's plenty more travel and touring in the company's future.

NCDT will take their wondrous production of The Nutcracker to Penn State University this fall, and they'll begin a much-anticipated "Under Southern Skies" tour next winter. Right now, the 15-stop tour ranges from Atlanta to West Point, but the company is still busily lining up additional gigs.

Since departed Theatre Charlotte executive director Candace Sorensen's parachute never quite opened in Florida as advertised, whispers are circulating to the effect that the self-proclaimed diva's skydive wasn't altogether voluntary. A reliably placed source confirms that 2004-05 was destined to be the final curtain for the outspoken Sorensen, a co-winner of CL's Theatreperson of the Year crown in 1999.Sorensen was conspicuously absent from the Metrolina Theatre Awards last September, reportedly serving a suspension after she unleashed a tirade against cast members involved in the season opener, Cabaret. She made a more gracious bow last month, directing a creditable production of Our Town in her farewell outing.

Epic year-long searches are not the fashion at the Queens Road barn. Unlike Charlotte Rep, which stumbled around for over a year before failing to replace Michael Bush, Theatre Charlotte can be expected to name Sorensen's successor before the 2005-06 season begins. Meanwhile, Sorensen is facilitating the regime change by working with TC's transition committee, putting the finishing touches on this week's fund-raising gala, and crunching the numbers on the company's basic operating grant for FY06.

Her new date of departure is April 30. May 1 or June 1 is the target date for the new executive director to take office — such as it is — on Queens Road.

Tom Vance is already on the rebound after getting the boot at CPCC for a Christmas present. While it remains to be seen whether his newborn Charlotte Summer Theatre will take the city by storm, it's obvious that Vance's pluck has taken CP Summer Theatre by surprise.Marc Dalio, who played Tony in CP's production of West Side Story, returns on June 17 to star as the hirsute lead in Beauty and the Beast, which he played on the Disney circuit in Germany. Getting the rights to Beast is quite a coup for the fledgling company, and Dalio's loyalty to Vance was likely a key factor. Dalio will also serve as music director in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (opening July 15).

Best remembered as Annie Oakley and Dolly Levi over at CP, Deborah Rhodes bustles back into town after an overlong hiatus, radiating her energy on all three Charlotte Summer Theatre shows, including the season closer, Children of Eden (July 29). Longtime CP stalwarts Steve Bryan, Stephen Ware and Holly Riley are also in the fold onstage. On the design side, Charlotte's prince of gels, Eric Winkenwerder, is aboard with scenic guru Joe Gardner.

Vance scotches the rumors that performers in his new troupe are being told they can't sign on with CP.

"We never ever said that," Vance vents. "Dennis Delamar is going to be doing the Senator, and we've got Patrick Ratchford coming in to do a small part in Best Little Whorehouse — and he's doing a major role at CPCC. Eddie Mabry is choreographing for us and doing Cats over at CP. And I'm sure there are others who I don't know about yet. There's a lot of theater talent here in Charlotte, and hopefully this will give more people a chance to participate."

The ingratitude Vance saw when he was dismissed after 37 years of teaching at CP must have been prodigious, but he pooh-poohs vengeance as the motive for his new enterprise. Retirement simply hasn't agreed with Vance. "I like to stay busy. There's just so much grass you can cut and so many birdhouses you can build," he quips.

ArtsPulse is a new feature that will take a backstage look at current events on the theater scene.

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