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Archive for March 2011

Greg Mortenson packs ‘em in

Greg Mortenson, the author of “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones Into Schools” drew a crowd of at least 4,000 to Gonzaga University's McCarthey Athletic Center — on a night when this basketball-obsessed college was playing an Elite Eight women's game right down the road.

It was exhilarating and refreshing to see so many people perfectly aware that some things are more important than sports, namely, empowering people in Pakistan and Afghanistan through education. That's what Mortenson does with his Central Asia Institute. They have built 178 schools, mostly for educating girls.

It was an inspiring night, but not necessarily because Mortenson is a dynamic and polished speaker. He's not. I would describe him more as heartfelt and sincere. He admits he's no born speaker. But that's one reason I have been so impressed with him, both in an interview I did with him last week and in Monday's GU talk.

He doesn't have any of the smooth slickness of a politician, a huckster or an evangelist. He's just a guy who thought he saw something that needed doing, and kept doing it until he got it done. And then he kept doing it after that.

If you missed the speech — maybe you were watching a certain basketball game — I would encourage you to get a copy of “Three Cups of Tea” (and after that, “Stones Into Schools”). His story is told more thoroughly there — and it's a story that may change the way you think about the world.

Here's one of his insights: Educate a boy and you educate an individual. Educate a girl and you end up educating  the whole village 

Steve Martin, k.d. lang booked at Fox

Two new shows have just been announced  at the Martin Woldson Theatre at The Fox: Steve Martin and his banjo act, July 22 and k.d. lang on July 25.

This will be Martin's second banjo-centric appearance at the Fox. I attended his sold out show in 2009 and it was a riot. Once again, he'll be backed by the Steep Canyon Rangers. Expect plenty of comedy amidst the bluegrass. Tickets will be $68 and $52, on sale March 31 through Ticketswest or the Fox box office, (509) 624-1200.

Canadian singer k.d. lang will be accompanied by her new band, the Siss Boom Bang. Tickets will be $69 and $49, also on sale March 31 through the above outlets,

Greg Mortenson on the military

I just finished interviewing Greg Mortenson, the co-author of “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones Into Schools.” I have tremendous admiration for him and his work building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and I have written an extensive story for Saturday's paper.

But I didn't have enough space to include all of the topics we discussed, including this fascinating one: His changing perception of America's military.

 Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

“In 'Three Cups of Tea,' I was fairly critical of the military. I said they were all laptop warriors. … But my opinion of the military has really changed. The military really gets it. …

“Because many of our troops have been on the ground three or four times, of all of our government entities, the military understands and has an awareness of respecting the elders and building relationships and listening to the people. There has been a huge learning curve.”

In fact, the military sought him out as an adviser on how to effectively build relationships with the Afghan people. 

He'll be speaking at Gonzaga University on Monday at 7 p.m. Tickets available through TicketsWest.

‘9 to 5’ rolls in

Diana DeGarmo, former “American Idol” finalist, and the rest of the “9 to 5” cast and crew will soon be pulling in to the INB Performing Arts Center for a Thursday-through-Sunday run.

This is the Broadway musical version of the fine 1980 comedy of the same name. This is an Actor's Equity (union) tour, which generally translates into high production values and an experienced cast. That's certainly true of this cast, which also includes Dee Hoty and Joseph Mahowald.

Watch for a full preview story in Thursday's edition of The Spokesman-Review. Tickets are available through TicketsWest.

Modest Mouse booked for May 28

Modest Mouse, the indie rock trio, is headed to the Knitting Factory Concert House in Spokane on May 28.

Special guests will be Talkdemonic.

Tickets are $32, on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through TicketFly online or the Knitting Factory site or by calling (877) 435-9849.

Pre-sale ticket code for Menzel

The Spokane Symphony has announced the pre-sale ticket code for the Idina Menzel show on May 15 at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox,

The code is GLEE. Enter it into the “promotion code” box on the Ticketswest site. 

This will give you a head start on Menzel tickets, since the offical on-sale date isn't until Thursday. Ticket prices range from $42 to $62.

Idina Menzel of ‘Glee’ booked at Fox

Idina Menzel – well known to “Glee” viewers and Broadway aficionados – will join the Spokane Symphony for a concert at the Martin Woldson Theatre at The Fox on May 15, 7:30 p.m.

Menzel made her name in 1996 originating the role of Maureen in “Rent.” Then she originated the role of Elphaba in “Wicked” on Broadway in 2003 and in London in 2006.

Her career has been on a roll in the last year because of her recurring appearances on the hit show, “Glee,” as Shelby Corcoran.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, 10 a.m. through TicketsWest outlets.

Spokane Civic on the way to nationals

Once again, the Spokane Civic Theatre has advanced to the national community theater competition finals.

The Civic’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” won first place in the state festival, held here last weekend. Idaho, Oregon and Alaska did not have state festivals due to lack of participants – times are tough for community theater – which means that Washington’s state festival was, de facto, the regional competition.

So the next event will be the American Association of Community Theater Festival in Rochester, N.Y., June 20-26.

Going to nationals is nothing new for the Civic. In fact, the Spokane Civic Theatre has won the national competition twice and finished second once.

The Civic also won a slew of other awards last weekend. Here’s the list:

WSCTA Magic Moment Award: Lacey Bohnet singing “The I Love You Song.”

Oustanding Performance: Mark Pleasant.

Outstanding Costume Design: Jan Wanless.

Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

Oustanding Choreography: Kathie Doyle-Lipe.

Outstanding Design and Production Team.

The Big Read is on a roll

Spokane’s Big Read is already getting rave reviews in its first week.

Verne Windham of KPBX-FM wrote to tell me that he was amazed by the theater adaptation of “Tim O'Brien's “The Things They Carried.” He praised it for its “deep, thorough characterizations” and “consistent attention to detail.”

Tim O'Brien's novel was adapted by Jeffrey Sanders and directed by Sara Goff in this Eastern Washington University theater department production. It has three more performances at EWU's Campus 210 Theatre, Thursday at 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 or free with EWU student ID. Then it wil be reprised on March 18, 7:30 p.m., at the Bing Crosby Theater in a free presentation.

.Want more details on the many Big Read events, and lots of them? Go here.

‘Wicked’ run is 80 percent sold

About 80 percent of the tickets for the 16-performance run of “Wicked” at the INB Performing Arts Center have already been sold, as of Monday.

 There's no way to predict how long the 40,000-plus tickets will last — some performances are nearly gone. But indications are that it will sell out early. The national touring production plays Spokane May 18-29.

Individual ticket sales began on Saturday. Jack Lucas of WestCoast Entertainment and TicketsWest said that about 650 people bought tickets in person at the INB box office on Saturday morning and many more bought tickets by phone and online over the weekend. He called the turnout “just amazing.”

He also said that group sales have been about three times stronger than expected..

Buy tickets through TicketsWest here.

‘Wicked’ tix still available

About 300 people were in line early today (Saturday) for “Wicked” tickets, including some people who had been huddled since the wee hours. Then at 10 a.m., phone and online sales began.

Yet as of noon, a quick survey of 'Wicked” dates on Ticketswest showed that there were still plenty of good tickets left for many (but not all) performances. With 16 performances (May 18-29) and over 40,000 seats available, this show has a much larger inventory than, say, your average Elton John concert.

Make sure you go directly to the actual TicketsWest site, www.ticketswest.com. That's because if you do a simple search for “ticketswest” you'll actually dredge up some third-party ticket brokers that might charge you over the regular price. 

For instance, I just typed in “ticketswest” to google and the top entry was something called Got The Tix, which wanted to sell me one ticket for $418.

The true price range on Ticketswest is $37.50 to $142.50.

‘Thunderballs,’ filmed in Spokane

North by Northwest has just signed a contract to film, “Thunderballs, ” a sitcom pilot, for the cable TV channel Spike.

It’s about three 30-something guys on a beer league bowling team. As North by Northwest’s Rich Cowan points out, “Spokane should be a good city for that.”

The pilot will be filmed in May and if it gets picked up by Spike network, the entire series will be filmed here.

Will it have stars? Casting is still under discussion, but Cowan predicts it will have some “recognizable” names. It will probably use some local actors and extras as well.

North by Northwest, a Spokane production company, has filmed dozens of movies, but this will be the company's first foray into television.

Wicked fun in the ‘Wicked’ ticket line

If you're one of those people who will be standing in line (or camping) for “Wicked” tickets on Saturday at 7 a.m. at the INB Performing Arts Center, the people at WestCoast Entertainment say they will try to make it worth your while. Here's how:

  • The first 100 customers will receive a “Wicked” gift — some kind of souvenir, I presume.
  • Free coffee will be provided by Craven's Coffee.
  • Free donuts.
  • Everyone in line will be entered into a contest to win a pair of emerald earrings provided by Dodson's Jewelers.
  • KZZU (92.9) will be on hand with contests and prizes throughout the morning.
  • Northwest Photobooth will be providing free photos with a “Wicked” logo, of you and your friends, .

I should point out that this “fun” may be the only true reason for standing in line on Saturday. Tickets have already been available for months for subscribers and for groups. Also, an online pre-sale has been going on for almost a week for those who received the pre-sale code from TicketsWest. And finally, there should still be plenty of good tickets left even when “official” on-line and phone sales start on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Just to remind you about how this works: Tickets will be sold in person only at the INB box office from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. Saturday. Then, at 10 a.m., all remaining tickets will go on sale through TicketsWest outlets (www.ticketswest.com, 800-325-SEAT). There's no way of predicting how fast tickets will get snapped up, but with a 16-show run, “Wicked” will probably not be an instant sellout, a la Elton John.

By the way, tickets will run you between $37.50 and $142.50, with the mid-level seats running about $77.50 or $82.50.

  

Why Hal Holbrook deserves a Kennedy Center Honor

I just finished writing a story about Hal Holbrook — it will appear in the paper March 10 in advance of his March 12 appearance here in “Mark Twain Tonight!” — when I realized something surprising. Holbrook has never received a Kennedy Center Honor or a National Arts Medal.

Few actors have, of course; these are very selective honors. Yet it seems to me that Holbrook has a particularly strong claim for consideration:

  • His Emmy-winning portrayal of Abe Lincoln in the 1974 TV series based on Carl Sandburg's biographies (one of three Emmy awards).
  • His portrayal of Deep Throat in “All the President's Men.”
  • His portrayal as the Stage Manager in the 1977 version of “Our Town”
  • His many other film roles, including his Oscar nominated performance at age 82 in Sean Penn's “Into the Wild.”
  • And finally, for his stage show, “Mark Twain Tonight!” which has brought the words of Mark Twain alive for more than 50 years.

I say he belongs in the same company as other Kennedy Center recipients, such as Jack Lemmon, Charlton Heston and Robert Redford, and other National Arts Medal winners, such as Robert Duvall and Angela Lansbury.

Let's mount a Hal Holbrook appreciation campaign. Is anyone with me on this?

Save the MAC with a beer and a doughnut

A bunch of Browne’s Addition restaurants and shops have initiated MAC Madness, in which you get a discount for writing a letter to your local legislator urging support for the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC), which is facing the possibility of closure due to state funding cuts.

 So the following places are partnering with the Save the MAC people to encourage a letter writing campaign for the month of March. Here are the deals you get:

The Elk, 1931 W. Pacific Ave.: $1 off drinks throughout the week when you write a letter (beginning March 6) Also, Sundays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., informal letter writing party.

 Italia Trattoria, 144 S. Cannon St.: Saturday and Sunday brunch, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., write a letter while you dine and they will treat you to an Italian doughnut with your a purchase of an entree.

The Avenue, 2001 W. Pacific Ave.: All day Wednesdays,  $1 off drinks with a letter; MAC Special is any two topping medium pizza for $10 (regularly $14) with a letter.

Tully's, 2001 W. Pacific Ave.: Seven days a week, receive 10 percent off any barista beverage that is accompanied by a letter. Browne's Addition location only.

Also, the Roberts Mansion, 1923 W. First Ave., is offering free tours on Friday, March 4, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (First Friday) if you write a letter to your legislator.

Letter templates, by the way, will be provided.

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