Arts celebration features workshops, performances

Robey plays mayor of Munchkinland

January 23, 2000|By Nelson Pressley | Nelson Pressley,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A concert version of "The Wizard of Oz" featuring County Executive James N. Robey as the mayor of Munchkinland last night anchored Howard Community College's First Arts 2000, an all-day celebration of the arts.

The event included free performances and workshops during the afternoon and a $100 per ticket fund-raising show in the evening, featuring two selections along with "Oz."

"This is kind of a thank-you to the community, which has been very supportive," said Valerie Costantini, chairwoman of HCC's arts and humanities division who doubled as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West in "Oz."

"It's also a chance for us to give people a taste of what we do," she said.

The festivities began at noon in the college's atrium known as the Galleria, where the HCC Jazz Ensemble entertained a crowd eating hot dogs and drinking soda. An hour later, classrooms filled with people attending lectures, demonstrations and workshops.

Actress Peggy Yates had children standing and shrieking during a Shakespeare for Kids workshop, while across the hall a crowd listened to a lecture by professor Vlad Marinich on the history of horror films.

In the Galleria, Ellyne Brown Downs and Johnette Henderson coaxed lavish hip movements out of about 50 people as the Aurora Dance Company led an impromptu performance in African dance. Forming three lines, the crowd mimicked the shimmies and high steps of their instructors while drummer William Goffigan pounded out infectious beats.

"I heard a woman next to me, maybe 50 years old, say that this was better than aerobics," Henderson said.

The evening benefit featured a music and theatrical performance by Rachel Spaght and selections from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" played by the HCC Concert Band.

More than a hundred people -- about half were children -- sat in rapt attention in the Galleria during children's operas based on "The Ugly Duckling" and "Chicken Little." Artist Jim Adkins attracted two dozen people for his charcoal drawing workshop.

Families seemed particularly drawn to First Arts 2000, which Costantini hopes will become an annual event.

Five-year-old Ben McGarvey's parents said they brought him to the event because of his interest in art.

But kids weren't the only ones having fun.

"Just a nice cultural day," said 67-year-old Sam Berkowitz.

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