Spirit Square becomes the arts Mecca of the South as the Southern Arts Federation holds its annual Performing Arts Exchange Project in Charlotte this week. The four-day conference includes two very full evenings of performance showcases running simultaneously at McGlohon Theatre and the smaller Duke Power Playhouse. Performances at these venues are presented in two sets, from 6-7:30pm and 9:30-11:30pm, with free admission on a first-come basis. Theatre followed by Classical Music/Jazz are the showcase themes at Duke on Thursday, with Music & Variety followed by Family & Children's Programming on Friday. The McGlohon lineup leads with Folk Singer/Songwriters followed by Dance on Thursday, concluding with World Music and more Music on Friday. The southarts.org website lists the entire lineup, which includes the Marcus Roberts Trio, fiddler April Verch, and Boston Brass. (Tannenbaum)
Always one of the best people-watching events of the year, the Festival In The Park -- a Charlotte tradition for 39 years -- returns to Freedom Park, beginning at 6pm today. A remnant of the small-town feel Charlotte had nearly 40 years ago, the festival can be fun, quaint or, well, kind of odd for those not used to it. There's no charge for admission and it runs until 10pm tonight, 12noon-10pm on Friday, 10am-10pm on Saturday, and 10am-6pm on Sunday. Featured are the usual array of vendors, arts and crafts, music, children's activities, the Afro-American Cultural Center's Fifth Annual Multicultural Marketplace and Blues Experience, and loads more. New this year is a stage set aside for Americana music. For more information, call 704-338-1060, or log on to www.festivalinthepark.org.
While Hugh McColl is speaking up for NC Dance Theatre, echoing CL's "Best Performing Arts Company" Critic's Pick, the company is revving up its marketing with catchy program titles. Red Hot 'n' Bluegrass kicks off NCDT's season with an Alvin Ailey landmark and two enticing world premieres. Ailey's The River boasts a Duke Ellington score and a mixture of ballet and modern dance. Niccolo Fonte explores aspects of bravery in a Spanish vein to original music by Diego Dell'Osto. NCDT artistic poobah Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux throws his own Shindig choreographed to live bluegrass music from the Greasy Beans combo. Call 704-372-1000. (Tannenbaum)
SEPTEMBER 19 - FRIDAY
The international cinema scene makes its way to Queens University for the Film Fanatics Festival, which will present three foreign-language titles at 7pm on select Fridays in the Sykes Learning Center's Accenture Auditorium on campus. Tonight's attraction is the exciting Chinese martial arts drama Iron Monkey; October 10 will see the screening of Mexico's controversial Oscar nominee The Crime of Father Amaro, while October 24 showcases Japan's animated epic Princess Mononoke, from the same director of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. Admission is free; for more info, call 704-337-2470. (Brunson)
OK, haven't we see the Kiss Farewell tour already...and twice, come to think of it? Maybe Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley really like wearing all that make-up after all as Kiss is back again to rock & roll all night -- or until their bedtime -- tonight at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. Speaking of old rock bands that just won't go away Aerosmith is also on the bill. The last time Steven Tyler and company were in town they sold the place out. The show starts at 7pm and tickets cost $115 (hey, Botox and Glucosamine are expensive, you know) and $45. Call the venue's hotline at 704-549-5555, for more info. (Farris)
SEPTEMBER 20 - SATURDAY
The Charlotte Great Grapes! Wine & Music Festival kicks off today at Symphony Park at SouthPark Mall. The two-day event features tastings from North Carolina wineries, gourmet foods, local artisans and cooking seminars. Performances by well-known regional acts such as Liquid Pleasure, Beth Chorneau and Cherry Bomb will run on two stages throughout the festival. Tickets cost $20. Admission includes all performances, cooking seminars, a souvenir wine glass and ten wine samplings. Hours are Sat. from 12-8pm and Sun. from 12-6pm. Visit www.greatgrapesfest.com or call 1-800-830-3976, ext. 103 for details.
Keep the aisles clear for the dancers as they bounce off the seats and start tapping around. Plena Libre have popularized Puerto Rican music known as Plena outside of that sunny island with a sound reminiscent of a non-stop Caribbean carnival. Traditional tunes and instrumentals are created using progressive styles of salsa, calypso, Bomba and other Caribbean rhythms. Eddie Palmieri's "Plena Plena Plena," from this year's release Mi Ritmo is just one of the numbers from their repertoire that's infectious and immediately danceable. Make it a tropical Saturday night at Spirit Square's McGlohon Theatre at 8pm. Tickets are $22-25. Call 704-372-1000 for more details. Get there early for the Baile Musica Latina grand finale dance-off starting at 6pm. (Shukla)
SEPTEMBER 23 - TUESDAY
Past PAC prez Judith Allen was among the co-founders of the Independent Presenters Network, which nurtured Thoroughly Modern Millie through its painstaking development process and brought it triumphantly to Broadway. Now six Tony Awards later, including Best Musical of 2001-02, Millie's run in Charlotte through September 28 is sort of a homecoming. The prime purpose of the Presenter Network was to ensure member companies that topnotch Broadway hits would tour their cities in first-rate productions. Expect Millie to deliver. And expect tickets to disappear once the word starts to spread. Call 704-372-1000. (Tannenbaum)
The most well-known comic and Jell-o pitchman in the world, Bill Cosby makes his second visit to the Charlotte area this year with a 90-minute performance in Belk Arena at Davidson College tonight at 8pm. Cosby's stand-up has been selling out venues for 40 years, and this show will be no exception. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased by calling the Union at 704-894-2135. (Herman)