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As part of the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and coinciding with a large gathering of alumni in what is being called "Picklestock 2015" (a tribute to Woodstock 1969 and named after the UNCSA mascot, the warty Pickle), the faculty committee of UNCSA decided to present a variety show, the UNCSA Faculty Showcase [starts at 1h13m26s] as a fund-raiser for the Faculty Scholarship Fund, currently benefitting a couple of students each year, and projected to expand to five scholarships annually.
Without going into detail, let me say that this was an emotion-filled occasion with new teachers and aging mentors, polished professionals and amateur thespians, composers and poets, faculty choreographers and student dancers – all profoundly committed and indebted to UNCSA for parts of their identity and personality. A pair of monologues drifting forlornly, an earnest violin solo, four Djembe interwoven with four claves, a Vivaldi Adagio played on a bar-room piano, accompanying dancers elegantly attired in medieval beige – the many facets of the artists' school sparkled with reflections of age-old learning transmitted by teachers and transmuted into new settings by new lives.
The acoustics of the Gerald Freedman Theatre, located in Performance Place on the UNCSA campus, favor the spoken word and did disservice to the four excellent singers and accompanists placed stage right – those of us in the other half of the theatre were left in an aural shadow but nonetheless appreciated the wonderful intonation and clear diction of their unnaturally distant voices. Speakers fared better, with subtle amplification, and a "triple threat" song and dance routine (Matt Loehr) fared best, as did the ladies of the Fire Pink Trio and the penultimate duo, Low and Lower.
Two short films of a group of five ("5 by 5," representing the five schools of UNCSA and portraits of individuals from its five decades of history) opened the entire show with nostalgia. "Ringleader" for the performance was faculty member, Mike Wakeford. In all, some 50 members of the faculty of UNCSA were involved, including lighting, sound, film, as well as the more visible "on stage" artists. Apart from nostalgia, we left the performance space with a profound sense of optimism and hope, and in the words of UNCSA poet, Joe Mills, "impregnated with ideas!"
In the interest of full disclosure of conflicts of interest, the author was a member of the faculty of the School of Music of UNCSA from 1981-1988.