The new `King Lear': hip, fun and sexy?

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October 28, 2005|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Is that King Lear playing at Center Stage? Or King LEER?

The theater is advertising its Shakespeare production with a postcard of a mini-goateed man standing at a bar. He's got a martini in one hand, a come-hither look in his eyes, and two condoms dangling from his back pocket.

The only hint that the play's the thing: A bust of Shakespeare in the background and the words "King Lear" printed on the condoms."Karem knew there was no better aphrodisiac than Shakespeare and a martini," it reads on the back.

The card - the first of six for this season- is part of a campaign dreamed up by Charisse Nichols, the theater's GenNext coordinator. (Yes, that's her official title; her full-time job, created this summer, is to draw young professionals, "scenesters" and college students to the theater, just as the BSO hopes to do by asking the likes of Elvis Costello to get into the act.)

"It's basically about creating this underground, hip version of marketing the show," she said. "Kind of hip and fun and sexy."

The theater even had 500 King Lear promotional condoms made up for city bartenders to hand out.

Maybe the campaign will send the average Center Stage subscriber - a 55-year-old white female Baltimore Countian - running from the theater, quoting from Act III, scene IV:

"O, that way madness lies, let me shun that; no more of that."

But theater demographics won't change on their own.

"Nothing," we hear in Act I, Scene I, "will come of nothing."

In the name of love, charity and cheap designer dresses

Let a bunch of brides-to-be loose in a hotel ballroom full of cut-rate wedding gowns, and what do you expect? A catfight worthy of the famous Filene's basement sale in Boston, right?

Wrong.

At least there were no Bridezillas in evidence at the Holiday Inn Select in Timonium yesterday.

The dress shoppers were on their best behavior, presumably because the sale was for a good cause: the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. Similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the charity grants wishes to women and men with breast cancer.

That's not to say there wasn't a lot of frantic dress donning and doffing, with dozens of blush-less brides stripping and dressing, stripping and dressing in a gang fitting room. But no tugs-o-war over toile and lace.

"Brides in a blender" is how Fran Hansen describes it. Hansen started the charity in 1997 and takes the sale - which continues today from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. - around the country.

Some of the dresses are new, donated by designers including Vera Wang. Some are used, having been donated by individual women.

Giannina Garces Ambrossi, a Hopkins med student, was first in line yesterday, having arrived a half hour before the doors opened.

She got a couture Demetrios dress with a full ball gown skirt, six-foot train and strapless beaded top for $600.

"I've seen it for $2,000, $2,500," she said.

Anything for a good cause.

Washington College saddles up for prize fight

The University of Texas at Austin has just announced the creation of a $90,000 annual writing prize.

Sounds like good news for writers, except at Washington College.

That school's Sophie Kerr Prize was the nation's richest undergraduate literary award - until now. Last spring's winner got a $53,609 check. Seemed like a good chunk of change at the time. Now it looks like peanuts.

But Sophie isn't going to give up bragging rights. At least not without a fight.

"Sophie, get your guns! Those Texans are tellin' a tall tale," begins a missive dashed out by creative writing professor Robert Day.

"Yes, yes, Texans tell us, they are bigger and better than the rest of America when it comes to most everything, but hold your horses ... when you claim to award the largest student literary prize and thus `dethrone' Washington College's Sophie Kerr Prize. You'll need a couple of footnotes to make that claim stick."

Day notes that the Texas prize is doled out over two years in two checks ($45,000 apiece), as opposed to Kerr's single-check whopper. He points out that the Texas prize is open to undergrads and graduate students, while Kerr's is for undergrads only. And the Texas prize goes to the student who writes "the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience." The Kerr award isn't limited to any particular subject.

"With its new literary prize, is the University of Texas a better place for young writers to learn to be good writers than Washington College? Well, put on your chaps, ride your horse to Chestertown, and see for yourself. Our passion for writing is as big as Texas - even if we can no longer be a Lone Star in the field of college literary prizes," Day writes.

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