Making a List

From a Shakespeare action figure to a 55-act opera , The Sun's arts staff offers some recommendations for artful gift-giving.

Arts

December 14, 2003|By SUN STAFF

Hanging up history

Why not give a piece of history?

Each year, a local group called the Preservation Society commissions a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a historic building, district or sailing vessel that it has worked to preserve, and uses the sales proceeds to help fund its efforts.

This year's ornament depicts the Fells Point Maritime Museum, which the society opened this summer in collaboration with the Maryland Historical Society. It features ship models, paintings and other maritime artifacts from the George Radcliffe Maritime Collection of the Maryland Historical Society, displayed inside a restored horse trolley barn at 1724-26 Thames Street.

Ornaments from previous years depict the London Coffee Shop, Admiral Fell Inn, Chase's Wharf, the tugboats at the city's Recreation Pier, Federal Hill and the Fells Point waterfront. This is the 10th year they have been sold.

"It helps us get the word out." said Denise Whitman, associate director of the Preservation Society. "It lets us give people a piece of history and helps support the work we do."

The nonprofit group, also known as the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point, has offices at 812 S. Ann St. Besides working to save historic buildings and make sure new construction is compatible with historic districts, it runs the Fells Point Visitors Center at 808 S. Ann St. and sponsors the Fells Point Fun Festival.

Its Web site is www.preservationsociety.com.

Made of brass with a 24-carat gold finish, the ornaments come in limited editions and cost $18 each. You can buy the latest one or ones from past years. Either way, you know you have a handsome ornament that will last for years -- just like the subjects they commemorate.

-- Edward Gunts

Dish up, towel off

Hey kids! Have a hankering for the wedding china (above) used by former Bachelorette Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter when they got hitched on ABC Wednesday night? No? Maybe someone in your family is secretly desperate to find it beneath that Christmas tree. No interest whatsoever? Don't let that stop you. ABC is selling off the china set for charity -- the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. An auction was to begin last Thursday at $480 for a dozen five-piece place settings. Bidding at www.ABCAuctions.com continues through Dec. 18.

At the other end of the scale, Comedy Central is helpfully offering a plush, talking version of Towelie (below), the hit animated show South Park's imperturbably upbeat public service spokesman for the urgent cause of towel safety. "This double-sided plush doll is a marvel of modern technology," Comedy Central burbles. The front side shows Towelie at his happy best, while the flip side reveals his less civic-minded, stoner self. (At least you've been warned.)

For $19.99, it can be bought through the shop section at www.comedycentral.com.

-- David Folkenflik

A smorgasbord of the musical arts

Sure, instant gratification gifts are great, but it's also fun to get one that delivers the goodies at a future date. For those on your gift list who crave classical music (and the other arts), how about a warm-weather trip to a charming spot where notable performances abound: Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C.

Since 1977, the festival has tempted music lovers with opera, symphony, choral and chamber music presented, practically around the clock, along with theater, dance and jazz. The 2004 Festival, May 28 to June 13, promises 120 performances, including Mahler's Ninth Symphony and works by 20th century mavericks Henry Brant and George Crumb, along with productions of Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos and Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

But the big news is a 1598 Chinese opera, The Peony Pavilion -- all 160 characters, 55 acts and 18 hours of it, presented in six episodes spread out over four days. For the ultimate way of experiencing this exotica, you can splurge on the Orient-Express Peony Pavilion Package that includes tickets to the entire opera, four nights accommodations and plenty of pampering at luxury-level Charleston Place. Price: $1,800 per couple. Call 800-611-5545.

Of course, there are more modestly priced choices for Spoleto tickets and lodging. Call 843-579-3100 or visit www.spoletousa.org.

Can't swing a trip to the South? Get a taste of what's in store at the Spoleto Festival with the DVD of The Peony Pavilion -- abridged to just two hours (about $30).

-- Tim Smith

A Cohan Christmas

People who buy Yuletide gifts five months in advance observe "Christmas in July." Last-minute shoppers should try doing the Fourth of July at Christmas with Warner Home Video's exhilarating two-disc DVD presentation of Yankee Doodle Dandy.

James Cagney won his only Oscar, as best actor of 1942, for his characterization of patriotic showman George M. Cohan. He filled it with exuberance, freshness and cock-of-the-walk wit -- and funneled all that into his phenomenally visceral and graceful dancing. He created a Horatio Alger hero with chutzpah -- a wisecracking flag-waver.

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