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Spotlight: Story of ‘REMIX’ a happy one, so far

For nine months, Spokane Public Radio’s third channel – KPBZ-FM (90.3) – has been considered somewhat of an experiment.

Now General Manager Dick Kunkel is just about ready to declare the experiment a success.

“So far, yes,” said Kunkel. “We don’t know how long. Maybe forever.”

This format is called “Public Radio REMIX” and it contains nothing but storytelling – stories from public radio stations and networks around the country, “re-purposed, re-formatted and re-presented,” said Kunkel.

He called it a cross between “This American Life” and “All Things Considered” – although it actually includes neither show. But it contains stories in that style.

It’s aimed at a younger, hipper audience than the typical public radio format, but Kunkel said it has fans in all age groups.

Spokane Public Radio is one of only two stations to run “Public Radio REMIX” over the air (the other is in upstate New York). It’s also available online and on Sirius/XM satellite radio.

The station has been getting the show, which was launched quietly last September, for a bargain price because it is helping to test and hone the format. It has a small but growing audience and some loyal fans – although not everyone has discovered it.

Check it out for yourself. You should be able to pick up 90.3 FM in most of greater Spokane.

Sophia in the NY Times

That was Spokane’s Sophia Caruso, 9, smiling on the pages of the New York Times on Monday.

Sophia was one of thousands of little girls auditioning for a new revival of “Annie” on Broadway. A Times photographer caught her singing and dancing while waiting in line on the sidewalk.

She made it to the first call-back and has been asked to appear at a second call-back. She still has a lot of competition, including a number of young Equity (union) performers. It will take another two weeks or so until we know if she remains in the running.

Sophia played Helen Keller in the Patty Duke-directed “The Miracle Worker” this spring at the Interplayers Professional Theatre.  She’s loaded with talent and moxie.

Go get ‘em, kid.

Idaho Repertory Theatre

The Idaho Repertory Theatre, the professional summer theater company at the University of Idaho in Moscow, cranks up the season starting July 6:

• “Noises Off,” by Michael Frayn, July 6-9 and 13-14 at 7:30 p.m. and July 10 and 17 at 2 p.m. – One of the funniest backstage comedies ever written.

• “The Taming of the Shrew,” by William Shakespeare, July 21-23 and 27-30 at 7:30 p.m. and July 24 at 2 p.m. – The Shakespeare comedy about the war between the sexes.

• “Moss Gown,” by Micki Panttaja, Aug. 3-6, 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 7, 2 p.m. A twist on the Cinderella story, with a Cajun accent.

There are a few changes this year. The shows will run in stock – that is, one show will finish its entire run before the next one starts. As you might guess from the theater’s name, it was formerly all-repertory (shows alternating from night to night).

There will be only three shows this year instead of four, and the Shakespeare play will not be outdoors, as usual; all shows will be in the UI Hartung Theater. But there will be Green Shows (variety shows) outdoors prior to the Shakespeare performances for those who want to picnic.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, $14 for students and $10 for youth, available by calling (208) 885-7212 or at

The SJO lineup

Here’s the just announced 2011-2012 season for the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, with the theme “Jazz Around Town”:

• “South Side Swing,” with guest vocalist Nicole Henry, Sept. 24.

• “Home for the Holidays,” with guest vocalist Charlotte Carruthers, Dec. 3.

• “Jazz Underground,” with guest vocalist-bassist Kristin Korb, March 10.

• “Downtown Divas,” with vocalists Nicole Lewis, Rachel Burns, Heather Villa and Rachel Bade McMurphy, May 12.

All shows are at the Bing Crosby Theater.

A facelift for the Panida

Great news for the Panida Theater in Sandpoint: This fine old theater has been given a $450,000 Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency grant.

That means it will get $90,000 each of the next five years to help restore this jewel. This is a key part of a five-year, million-dollar restoration campaign.

Mitchell’s legacy

Ben Mitchell was laid off as senior curator of art at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture for financial reasons last week, and I want to take a moment to recognize his fine work.

Mitchell was responsible for giving Harold Balazs the serious, comprehensive retrospective he so richly deserved. He did the same for another local artist, the late Ruben Trejo, who was less well-known but incredibly influential, not just in the region but in the country.

And most recently, Mitchell introduced many of us to a Colfax artist, Timothy Ely, who was legendary among the cognoscenti, but had been relatively under-the-radar here.

And this is by no means all. In the case of Balazs and Trejo, Mitchell helped produce handsome, coffee-table-sized art books which will enable their influence to continue to spread.

I suspect that someday soon, we will look back on Mitchell’s tenure as a remarkable age of art at the MAC, an age in which local artists received the shows – and the scholarly, intellectual respect – that they had earned.