Weekend Best Bets

Posted: Friday, March 09, 2001

This weekend the Capital City Quilters host their 16th annual quilt show at Centennial Hall. I'm not a quilter, I don't sew, and I'm baffled by the patience and attention to detail this work clearly requires. But I enjoy this show every year. It's sort of like viewing large abstract paintings - in fabric. There are at least 130 quilts, and there are always real gems. The show is free, and if you have any questions about quilting these are the people to ask. They'll be demonstrating and talking about the work. The show opens at 10 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre presents "Dancing at Lughnasa" this weekend and next. The play puts us in the kitchen of an Irish farmhouse in 1936, and into the world of five close-knit sisters. Deborah Smith, Debora Stovern, Meilani Clark, Gina Spartz and Katrina Rice bring the sisters' relationships and characters to life.

Like all families, the siblings adopt roles, and the five women capture those roles and the family dynamics. They play off one another well. Gary Waid plays their ailing older brother, who has returned home after a long career as a missionary in Africa. Waid plays his character with strong presence. His slow-moving character is unexpectedly compelling -a devout Catholic who developed considerable respect for African culture. His blend of Catholicism and Animism brings to light the Pagan roots underlying these rural Irish folk.

The youngest sister's rambling boyfriend, played by Tim Lamkin, also returns for a visit. Lamkin is charming and seems to have stepped out of an old movie. Both the men provide a good foil to the women, bringing out sides we otherwise wouldn't see. It's unfortunate that the voice-over narration from offstage pulls us out of County Donegal occasionally, like a pedantic John-Boy introducing and closing "The Waltons" of Ireland.

"Dancing at Lughnasa" runs at 8 tonight and Saturday at the Palace Theatre, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday. The show plays through March 17.

Newbery award-winning writer Karen Cushman will be in town this weekend. The Friends of the Library group is sponsoring three opportunities to meet with this talented author and learn about writing, publishing and researching a book.

I interviewed Cushman this week and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I think her presentation and workshops will be well worth catching this weekend.

Cushman, 59, said she wrote all her life, but she began to seriously work on her first novel just 10 years ago. The story, about a young girl growing up in 1290, won a Newbery recognition Award, and her next book, "The Midwife's Apprentice," won the Newbery Medal in 1996.

All four of her books are about young girls - three are set in medieval times and one is set during the California Gold Rush. They are ideal for readers age 10 to 17 or so, but they are not simply children's books.

Cushman has a real talent for bringing the past to life. The term "historical novel" evokes gothic romances, western epics or Holmesian mysteries. Cushman's novels are not just set in the past, they're about the past, and they're not glamorous or romantic. She gets the grit and temperament of the times, and her characters are true to their eras. They are rich stories.

She'll do a little reading and talk, and then answer questions beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday at the downtown library. The library closes at 5 p.m. and will reopen shortly before 7. Sunday she'll offer two free workshops specifically for writers. She'll meet with young writers (middle and high school age) from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday and adult writers from 2:30 to 3:30 Sunday at the downtown library. Call 586-5267 to register as space is limited, but as of Thursday afternoon there was plenty of room.

Artists Mary Stroeing, Marcella Stutte and Wendy Swedell have a group show this monthly at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery. It features mostly portraits and still life works, in a variety of media, and the artists complement one another nicely. There are some standouts from each in the show. Drop by some afternoon and check it out. Gallery hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, through March 30.

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