Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Catfish Moon" Will Tickle Your Funny Bone And Reel In Your Heart--Now Playing At The James F. Dean Theatre

Outside on Summerville's S. Main Street adjacent to the Town Square, the newly installed marquee of the James F. Dean Theatre brightly lit the front entrance. Inside the rejuvenated community theater, the prop lighting radiantly illuminated the beautifully prepared set--an assemblage of weathered timber fashioned into a rustic, old fishing pier overshadowed by moss-laden trees and unforgotten recollections. But the most brilliant luminary of the celebratory evening was the magical, celestial light fondly remembered as the "Catfish Moon."

The fishy sounding full moon and weatherworn pier are literally and figuratively significant  pieces in the puzzling lives of the three long-time friends featured in Laddy Sartin's touching and lighthearted play reflecting the true meaning of the words, "Let's go fishing." A resident of Rock Hill and Mississippi educated, Sartin understood small town, southern ways and catfish angling with alligators.

A favorite hangout when they were kids, where after skipping school the threesome would skinny dip, woo girls, and go on overnight fishing trips, the old pier in many ways had become the mirror image of their relationships--weather beaten, neglected and in serious need of loving care.

Successful in business but left lamenting, "There is more to life than the almighty dollar," Curley(Barry Gordon) was the big brother of the group. Sensing time was running short on their fractured friendships, he sets out on a plan to put in motion the healing process by recapturing their youthful glory days. He invites Gordon(Ernie Eliason) to meet him on the old pier where they share drinks and reminisce--no beer for Gordon who was an alcoholic.

Curley takes the opportunity to address the on going feud between fun-loving Gordon and short-tempered Frog(Chad Reuer) worsened by the fact Gordon, described by Frog as "a person who doesn't know the meaning of moderation," had developed a love interest in Frog's ex-wife Betty(Shannon Johnson); also Curley's sister. With this rendezvous, a sequel of events are thus put in motion that takes you on a trip down memory lane, stirs your passions, tickles your funny bone, and breaks your heart.

The superbly crafted props and artfully appointed scenery were mesmerizing. I had to restrain the urge to jump on stage and join Curley and Gordon on the pier, crank the top off a couple of beers, and shed a few clothes. "I spent a long evening meticulously hot gluing the grassy weeds to the stage floor," Chrissy Eliason recounted--the set designer, director and driving force behind the perfectly casted actors.

So convincing were the cast's performances, you forgot you were sitting in a theater and not observing real life unfold before you. As the goofus of the trio who couldn't control his fishing rod any better than he could his drinking habits, Ernie Eliason delivered a top notch performance demonstrating both versatility and temperament; transforming himself into a love-smitten fool one minute and a drunken fool the next.

Barry Gordon, southern boy born and raised on Savage Street in Charleston, skillfully charmed his way through his role like the dying with dignity, southern gentleman he is while tough guy Chad Reuer provided the fireworks and validated the quote, "Your acting like a big baby." See the play and you will know what I mean. And equally notable, Shannon Johnson sweetened the cast with her irrepressible smile.

So, if you appreciate the value of friendship, love to laugh, and believe in second chances, "Catfish Moon" will brighten your smile, warm your soul, and illuminate your heart. It is a must-see.

Things just keep getting better and better at the James F. Dean Theatre. You can purchase tickets at Flowertown Players.

Monica Shows-Assistant Director; Jane Batten--Stage Manager; Scenic Artist--Robert Maniscalco; JC Conway--Lighting and Sound Design; Makala Becker--Light Board Operator; Jeff Wolf--Sound Operator

8 PM shows: March 28 and 29; April 3, 4, and 5; April 10, 11, and 12
3 PM shows: March 30; April 6; April 13

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Clue: What Was One Of The Most Successful March Events In The Lowcountry--Third Thursday In Summerville

With the clues strategically scattered about, the game was afoot. The location: the downtown district of the Birthplace of Sweet Tea, historic Summerville. The time: Third Thursday. It would be an evening when no one was above suspicion and everyone looked guilty, especially the proprietors of the local businesses--guilty of pleasure that is. With the necessary green assets in hand, I set out onto The Sweet Tea Trail to solve the crime of the century--who bumped-off the Mayor, the crime scene, and the weapon used?

A short walk from the free parking garage was Short Central--an appealing section of bricked-road closed to automobiles lined with shops and outside dining. It was beginning to fill up with residents and visitors. The usual Third Thursday tables of arts and crafts were scattered about.

My first destination was Four Green Fields. I quickly surveyed the interior of the crafty gallery and lured into sampling a spicy Asian concoction called CO Singapore--a fruitless attempt by the proprietor to distract me from apprehending my first clue. With a little assistance from an innocent bystander, I zeroed in on the clue, pocketed it, and slipped out the door. My next stop was Simple to Sublime.

Upon entrance I was greeted by the owner, Samantha, who proceeded at trying to win me over with her insatiable British charm and infectious smile; I am a push over when it comes to interesting accents. I successfully resisted. While checking out a rack of unusual looking flip-flops made from recycled tires, she offered me a glass of red wine, perhaps another attempt to weaken my keen senses. Unwittingly on he part, the wine led me to the clue I was seeking. I nonchalantly picked it up and politely exited. I pressed on.

Piazza Home and Art Central Gallery were packed with patrons. I was able to blend in with the crowd at Piazza and went about my business relatively unnoticed--a skill I had acquired over the years in my travels around the Lowcountry. In Art Central, I interrogated one of the employees about an artistically painted rocking chair. "It's part of the Summerville ROCKS initiative. They will be auctioned off to support a scholarship for a local art student and other community charities," she informed. I took some necessary pictures to be uploaded later for further scrutiny.

Next, family owned, family made Downtown Crossing was a challenge. Co-owner, Sarah, was suspiciously evasive when I tried to engage her in some conversation, as if she was purposely obstructing me from the clue. She began to reel off a host of quotes from a murder/mystery movie. The ruse worked, I had no Clue what she was talking about. Her partner, Jewel, entered the retail area and gave me a cold stare that sent chills down my spine. She became a prime suspect. Despite the setbacks, I persevered and acquired the proof I came there for.

And so, I went from Central to W. Richardson to Cedar, from business to business--Relic Revival, Southern Belle Epoque, Savvy Rose, and so-on and so-on--People, Places and Quilts quite possibly could be the longest store in Summerville.

Acquiring the clue at Eat/Sleep/Play was kids play and Off the Wall Art Gallery was curiously cooperative. The charming couple attempted to bribe me with a beer all the while masterfully doing their level best to frame one of the other local proprietors, Brad Mallett of Coastal Coffee Roasters. Misdirection or was their actions genuinely sincere? I was looking for baba ganoush, but found no traces of the Levantine dish. I was in need of more clues to sort out these unknowns.

Hutchinson Square was bustling with activity. Muscle cars lined one end and the Wounded Warriors occupied the other. The smell of Kettle corn laced the tall oaks scattered about. Underneath the trees long branches, the gathering crowd danced in the street to the rock tunes of the ever popular Vistas. I filtered through the happy partiers acquiring more pictures and recording more video to sift through later on. I sat at one of the sidewalk tables outside of Accent On Wine and discreetly gleaned the chatter of the patrons as they munched on cheese platters and hoisted glasses of wine and beer to their lips.

I analyzed the evidence collected thus far. The guilty suspect was narrowed down to two--the what and the where were still unclear. Darkness was emerging and the 8:00 pm hour was rapidly nearing. Six more establishments were my targets--all on Town Square.

Walking S. Main, I came across more painted rocking chairs. Among the targeted shops were Guerin's Pharmacy; the oldest pharmacy in South Carolina and Homegrown Brewhouse; a brewpub in the heart of Downtown. Considered Third Thursday hotspots, neither yielded any usable leads. Although, a quick stop at the Summerville Dorchester Museum around the corner on East Doty Ave, the pick up point for the Trolley Tours, proved very informative.

Back on the Town Square, the music had ended and the crowd was beginning to disperse. The vendors were dismantling their booths. It was time to rap up my investigations for the evening. I returned to Accent On Wine to enjoy a parting beer. Reflecting back on the night's activities, all evidence overwhelmingly pointed to another successful Third Thursday in Summerville. The next date of interest: Monday, March 24th. The three clues will be revealed and the winning investigators announced. "Elementary, my dear Collins, elementary."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Top Ten Things To See And Do Around Charleston's Lowcountry This Spring And Summer of 2014

Charleston easy is reclining on a well-used beach chair while basking in an early summer sun with subtle coastal breezes gently washing over me, fishing line stretched to the max, and feet cooling off in the restorative, salty waters of Breech Inlet just a stones throw from the Hunley Bridge.

Or paddleboarding the meandering tidal waters along the bustling water front of Shem Creek's plentiful eateries in the hospitable Lowcountry sun, dolphins curiously cruising past a few feet away while local shrimpers tend to the well-used nets on their rustic, steel trawlers.

These are just a couple of the simple pleasures enjoyed by the opportunistic individual of Charleston's sunny, water-soaked coastline. Watersports not your cup of sweet tea--there are plenty of things for the land lover as well. A city jam packed with interesting tours, yearly festivals, tasty Lowcountry cuisine, fashionable shopping, rooftop bars, and an active nightlife to fill your days and evenings.

But trying to compile a list of the top ten things to see and do around Charleston's Lowcountry from my own humble point of view is like trying to find a quiet place on S. Main Street during Summerville's most attended yearly event, the Flowertown Festival, downright difficult. There are a net full of landmarks and points of interest I as of yet have not had the pleasure to experience. Of those I have, I now earnestly attempt to rate my personal favorites highlighting varying interests for your consideration.

1) Botany Bay Plantation
A 4,687 acre wildlife preserve tucked away on the mossy oak draped roads among the marshy tidal creeks of Edisto Island is a pristine step away from civilization. Even its name summons an air of resplendence, as do the two plantations that were combined to make it, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud. However, having been established after the Civil War, it is not officially a plantation. But that is of little import when compared to the beauty and splendor of Botany Bay Plantation--Botany Bay Rd., Edisto Island, SC

2) Morris Island Lighthouse
The phrase, shifting sands of time, is an old saying usually associated with an hour glass. Its meaning forbodes a change in circumstances. A famous lighthouse outside of Charleston Harbor, once a proud guardian of the coastline, now a vanquished sentinel, was victimized by the shifting sands of time, literally. The lighthouse residents and visitors see today was constructed beginning in 1873 and completed 1876. It was named the Morris Island Lighthouse because that is where it once upon a time stood. Sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, but this is no fairy tale.

3) Thriller Charleston
The Thriller ride offers a different and unique venue from which to see Charleston at a quick glance and once again learn about its colorful history, a story that is told in detail many times over through the numerous popular tours Charleston is famous for on the dry peninsula. It will whisk you past 2 lighthouses, 5 forts, the panorama of Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic coastline around Morris Island. The dock is located on beautiful Shem Creek, in front of Vickery's Bar and Grill. Just turn off of Coleman Blvd onto Shrimp Boat Lane.

4) Old City Jail
Old City Jail housed some of Charleston's most infamous criminals, 19th century pirates, and Civil War prisoners. It is billed as the scariest tour in Charleston. Its imposing structure and aged condition makes for some good pictures--40 North Market St., Charleston, SC. Call 843-722-8687 to make a reservation for the tour.

5) South Carolina Aquarium
The South Carolina Aquarium needs no introductions. It is the number one attraction in Charleston. You can view shoreline favorites such as herons, diamondback terrapins, and puffer fish as well as the all-new stingray exhibit with more than 25 stingrays in the Saltmarsh Aviary. Catch a glimpse of a rare albino American alligator in the Albino Alligator Experience. It is home to four ring-tailed lemurs in the new Madagascar Journey exhibit. The aquarium has a massive, two-story Great Ocean Tank which holds 385,000 gallons of salt water and contains hundreds of fish, invertebrates, sea turtles and marine mammals--100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC.

6) Irvin-House Vineyards and Firefly Distillery
The Irvin-House Vineyards is a 48-acre winery about 30 minutes south of Charleston. The vineyard offers walking trails, a petting zoo, a garden, large pond, winery, and gift shop. You can take advantage of the winery's affordable and informative wine tastings. For $4, you can taste all 5 of their varietals and will receive a complimentary wine glass for a keepsake to remember your time at the vineyard. The winery is also home to the Firefly Distillery, South Carolina's only distillery. Firefly became the world's first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka. Lowcountry Trolley offers a 6 hour Island Sip and See for $52--6775 Bears Bluff Rd., Wadmalaw Island, SC.

7) Historic Horse Carriage Tours
If you want to get a quick history lesson of the historic district of Charleston and pinpoint areas to return for a more intimate look-see, the carriage rides are one way to achieve it. They are both entertaining and informative. Old South Carriage Co, Olde Towne Carriage Co, Carolina Polo and Carriage Co, and Classic Carriage Tours are four you can choose between. You can choose one in the Old City Market.

8) Angel Oak
Angel Oak looks like a giant octopus covering 17,200 square feet of real estate and from tip to tip its longest branch is 187 ft. At 500 yrs young, it has survived hurricanes, civil war and everything else the Lowcountry has been able to throw at it--3688 Angel Oak Road, Johns Island, SC.

9) Sweet Tea Trail Food Tour
The "Good Eats on the Sweet Tea Trail Tour" with Summerville resident and nationally-known
storyteller Tim Lowry. On this tour, you will be treated to complimentary tastes of delicacies from a number of Summerville’s restaurants and gourmet shops. As the trolley travels from one establishment to the next, Tim entertains you with the tall tales and factual stories of Summerville and its related history--Summerville Dorchester Museum, 100 E Doty Ave, Summerville, SC.

10) Holy City Brewing
A labor of love that began in the garage of Joel and Sean's rickshaw business where they built a 15-gallon, all-grain pilot system that produced roughly a dozen signature brews, later joined by professional brewer Chris Brown and beer enthusiast Mac, Holy City has grown into a dominant player in the craft beer market of Charleston. The brewery is a converted 4000 square foot warehouse. The exterior of the warehouse, like the beers brewed inside, is a Lowcountry work of art--4155 C Dorchester Road, North Charleston, SC.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Summerville's "Crime Of The Century" Needs Solving--Get Your Sherlock Holmes On And Join The DREAM Team Downtown March 20th

The beloved Mayor of Summerville, Bill Collins, has been ruthlessly liquidated. Preliminary reading of the sweet tea leaves are pointing accusatively towards local business owners as likely suspects.

The Summerville DREAM Team has been assigned the difficult task of investigating the case and are imploringly requesting the assistance of all residents and visitors to solve the mysteriously shocking and perplexing incident. "Who did it", "what did they do it with", and "where did they do it" are the three parts of the case needing a resolution.

March 20th, Third Thursday, Summerville will be transformed into a game board patterned after the murder-mystery game sold by Parker Brothers called Clue--invented by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Pratt of Bournemouth, England and originally published by Waddingtons in Leeds, England in 1949 called Cluedo. No description of the games components is presumably necessary--Clue has a wide distribution and is considered one of America's favorite classic board games.

As a young child I, like many of my contemporaries, spent countless hours playing this addictive game. As a result, I became quite skillful at going from room to room collecting clues, employing cutthroat strategies such as misdirection, and ultimately arriving at the correct assumptions--with the assistance of a high role of the dice, which is key to quickly moving around the board in collecting the necessary clues. In the Summerville version, how quickly you move from clue to clue will be totally dependent on your fleetness of foot or as Sherlock Holmes would say, "The game's a-foot."

The fun begins at 5:00 pm. Clues will be spread throughout the various stores and restaurants in the downtown district of Summerville. You will have just three hours to collect and solve the case. Your due diligence will pay off--prizes will be handed out.

For background music, the Vistas will be performing on Hutchinson Square and at the end of the Square near the railroad tracks the 'Wounded Warriors' will be visiting to take pictures with you and share their stories. Expect to see 25-40 bicycles.

Also, make it a point to stop by the Summerville Dorchester Museum for "Tales of Summerville" history talks presented by Dr. Ed West.

Three more birds will be released as part of the ongoing B.I.R.D.S. Project and maps for the Summerville ROCKS will be distributed.

So, join the fun. Get your Sherlock Holmes on and solve the murder-mystery. Your favorite, local business just might be implicated in perpetrating Summerville's crime of the century in Lookin' Local.

Other notable events to consider in March are the Summerville Trolley Tours: March 14, 10:30 am, Historic City Tour with tour of Timrod Library and 1:00 pm, Historic City Tour with Tea at the Museum. March 21, 10:30 am, Good Eat on the Sweet Tea Trail Tour with storyteller Tim Lowry and 1:00 pm, Historic City Tour with Tea at the Museum. Visit lowcountrylooptrolley to reserve your spot on the trolley.