Category Archives: StarNews

Theater review – ‘God’s’ pain begets pleasure

By John Staton
Copyright © 2012

“God’s Favorite,” by Neil Simon. Presented by Big Dawg Productions.
When: 8 p.m. April 19-21, 26-28 and 3 p.m. April 22, 29
Where: Cape Fear Playhouse, 613 Castle St., Wilmington
Tickets: $20, $18 for senior citizens, students and military. Thursday shows are $15.
Details: 910-367-5237 or

There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, and what’s pleasurable for the audience about the play “God’s Favorite” by Neil Simon is inversely painful for the characters depicted in it.

Funny how that works.

Not that the audience is all that sadistic. Simon, in his 1975 play that’s at once a retelling and a send-up of the Book of Job, does a brilliant job of making ridiculous the suffering heaped on businessman Joe Benjamin (Bradley Coxe, a thoroughly likable Everyman) by a God who supposedly loves him. Under the taut, tonally astute direction of Tony Moore, Big Dawg Productions delivers one of the strongest local productions of the year so far.

The plot has Joe, a successful businessman with a high-maintenance wife (Elaine Nalee) and three kids, visited by a very strange fellow, Sidney Lipton, who claims to be a messenger from God. Winningly portrayed by Ron Hasson, who combines an impishness with flavors of the Cowardly Lion and Curly (“Soitenly!”) in a way I’ve never seen before, Sidney predicts the financial, physical and emotional calamities that are preparing to befall Joe if he doesn’t renounce God.

And why? Well, because God has a bet with the Devil, and He knows that His favorite human, Joe, would never renounce him, even when faced with all the torments of hell.

It’s a fairly hilarious concept, and Coxe does a yeoman’s job as Joe, who’s not the brightest bulb but is strong-minded and principled nonetheless.

It’s a well-cast show, from the not-always helpful help (Chase Harrison and Beth Raynor, both funny) to Joe’s clueless younger kids (Erika Hendrix and Jordan Stallings) to his drunken, resentful oldest son, David (Nate Kistler, balancing indifference and indignation).

“God’s Favorite” isn’t just about the comedy. Toward the end it makes an effective swerve into righteous anger that gives it some heft before ending on a lighter note.

John Staton: 910-343-2343
On Twitter: @Statonator


Kontras Quartet to play local church – Romanticism and Impressionism round out evening

The Kontras Quartet: Violinist Dmitri Pogorelov, cellist Jean Hatmaker, violinist Francois Henkins and violist Ai Ishida. Courtesy photo via The StarNews.

By Bob Workmon
StarNews Correspondent
Copyright © 2012
Reprinted with permission

If the thought of attending a brief history of the history of the string quartet whips trepidation into an intellectual dust storm, then perhaps a fresh attack led by an attractive group of young musicians can nudge open the door to this music for you.

Kontras Quartet is the group and a brief history of great quartet music is exactly what’s planned for its first concert with Chamber Music Wilmington on Sunday at Church of the Servant in Wilmington.

Kontras comes to town, in a sense, on the shoulders of Ludwig van Beethoven and Maurice Ravel, carrying the banner of Romanticism in music by Franz Schubert as well as the late 20th-century’s fusion of musical genres in a work by Astor Piazzolla. Together, it exemplifies the meaning of the quartet’s name, from the Afrikaans word for “contrasts.” The group’s spokesperson is South African-born Francois Henkins.

“We tend to pick programs that contrast musical styles and periods,” Henkins said during a phone interview. “This program has four standards – well, three standards and a work that is becoming a standard – a kind of brief history of the quartet.”

Henkins will be joined by violinist Dmitri Pogorelov, violist Ai Ishida and cellist Jean Hatmaker.

Henkins said that Kontras will open its performance with the last of Beethoven’s early quartets, the Opus 18 No. 6 in B-flat major. In this music Beethoven was on the cusp of breaking away from the Classical influence of another great composer of string quartets, Joseph Haydn.

Franz Schubert was an accidental iconoclast, whose single-movement “Quartettsatz” in C minor may have started out as part of a scheme for a large scale work, Henkins said. But it was left to stand on its own by the Romantic-trending young composer.

“Schubert had developed more of his own style than Beethoven at about the same age,” Henkins said. “It is a lyrical piece, showing off Schubert’s gifts as a writer of melody set in a beautiful landscape of harmony.”

Having established a Romantic mood before intermission, Henkins said it will be time for a little Impressionism: “Music by composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel matched the art of the period so well that the comparison was inescapable even if unwelcome.”

Becoming a modern classic isn’t easy, but “Four, for Tango,” composed in 1989 for the acclaimed Kronos Quartet by Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, has found an audience beyond its debut. Piazzolla’s sinewy melodies and acrid harmonies are wedded to the rigor of counterpoint inspired by Bach and the freedom of jazz in a singular style called “Nuevo Tango.”

The Kontras Quartet will play an open dress rehearsal prior to Sunday evening’s performance. “If you want to know why a particular piece of music was selected or why it’s played a certain way, this will be a great opportunity to ask those questions,” said CMW artistic director Barbara McKenzie.

What a great way to get know music that, for many of us, looms as a distant object.


What: Chamber Music Wilmington presents Kontras Quartet, with music by Beethoven, Schubert, Ravel and Piazolla.

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15. Open dress rehearsal at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Church of the Servant Episcopal Church, 4925 Oriole Drive (near UNCW campus)

Tickets: $25, $12 for students

Details: 962-3500 or

Features: 343-2343

In reversal, board OKs contraceptive funding

Abigael Collins, 6, holds up a during a protest against New Hanover County Commissioners' original vote rejecting a state family planning grant. On Monday night, the commissioners voted on the grant again, this time accepting the funds. Photo by Jeff Janowski/StarNews

By Shannan Bowen
Copyright 2012
Reprinted with permission

Sitting before a standing-room-only audience Monday night, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners narrowly voted to approve the state bonus money for contraceptive supplies – a controversial funding request that the board first turned down last month.

Commissioners Brian Berger and Jason Thompson were opposed to accepting the $8,899 bonus funding, which the health department planned to use to purchase intrauterine devices (IUDs), a long-acting form of birth control inserted directly into a woman’s uterus.

Last month, the five county commissioners voted unanimously to turn down the funds for contraceptive supplies after a couple of commissioners said they didn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill for IUDs that they argued would be used by women who were irresponsible with other family planning methods.

Before Monday’s vote, close to 100 people gathered by the steps of Wilmington’s historic courthouse to protest the commissioner’s earlier stance and urged the officials to reconsider.

Chairman Ted Davis attributed last month’s vote to a lack of information presented about the health department’s budget and the need for IUDs.

“This whole process took approximately six minutes,” he said about last month’s meeting. “I do not apologize for my vote, because I voted based on the information I had at that time.”

Davis then apologized for statements he made at the March meeting, including that the county wouldn’t be in the situation “if these young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with.”

But Davis received applause from audience members – a majority attending in support of the funds – when he said Monday night, “I now realize that a woman is being responsible when she seeks contraception from the health department.”

County officials had received a flood of emails and calls about their denial of the funds, and Davis said he wanted to reconsider the funding request with more facts presented by health officials.

In a presentation about the health department, New Hanover County Health Director David Rice said more than 60 women were on a waiting list to receive IUDs for birth control, but the health department does not have any IUD devices in stock because the only staff members experienced in providing the service left the department last year. He added that the health department recently filled that provider’s position and can offer the service again.

But Davis pointed out that the county’s health department, which is funded by federal, state and local funds, already has the ability to purchase IUDs and other forms of birth control from its budget for supplies.

“It’s not about denying women access to contraception, because the health department has been providing this in the past and they have the capability to do it now,” he said.

During a public hearing after the health department’s presentation, five people had time to speak in the 15-minute limit in support of the commissioners accepting the funds. Only one person spoke against the commissioners accepting the funds.

Rebecca Trammel said she thought IUDs would encourage young people to take more sexual risks, and she emphasized that IUDs do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

In speaking in favor of the acceptance of the funds, Brandie Stork, a health care provider, urged officials to put politics aside when voting on the issue.

“The previous decision to reject this funding shows the members of this Board of Commissioners are seriously out of touch with the needs of New Hanover County voters,” she said to applause from the crowd.

Despite a turnabout by Commissioners Davis, Jonathan Barfield and Rick Catlin, Thompson said he opposed the motion to accept the funding because health officials did not answer questions he had about the department’s budget and supply stock.

Berger said he was concerned with the notion of using taxpayer money to fund the supplies.

“There is no bonus money,” he said. “It is taxpayer money that is simply being returned to the local community from the state after the state has taken their cut.”

Barfield had changed his mind about his position shortly after the March meeting, saying that a conversation with his wife helped him see his vote was wrong.

The commissioners’ decision last month provoked a local protest and national blogs and media criticized the vote. At the protest held an hour before Monday night’s meeting, politicians, candidates for office and activists chanted and held signs with slogans related to women’s rights.

Planned Parenthood staff members, who helped organize the protest, handed out pink shirts and passed around a petition in support of eliminating insurance co-payments for birth control.

Shawnetta Wilson, a University of North Carolina Wilmington student, gave her own rendition of the popular play The Vagina Monologues by including the county commissioners in the script.

“My vagina? It wants the county to stay out of it,” she said in closing.

Shannan Bowen: 343-2016

On Twitter: @shanbow

Copyright © 2012

‘Occult’ filming picks spooky spots in the Cape Fear area

By Cassie Foss
Copyright 2012
Reprinted with permission

Maybe it’s the rural setting or the quaint, historical chapel at Shelter Neck’s Universalist Unitarian Camp, but something screams “The Occult” in Burgaw.

The local production, which kicked off filming in the region the week of March 20, has chosen the camp and the surrounding area as the setting of the fictional village of New Bethlehem, a devout community kept under the tight reins of the town’s vigilant elders, according to Blaise Noto, a publicist for the film.

But the production wasn’t satisfied with just being in the country.

On Wednesday, film crews began to spread dirt over about a quarter-mile stretch of Croomsbridge Road near the camp.

The road is expected to be closed near 3747 Croomsbridge until April 14, according to a N.C. Department of Transportation news release.

Although the horror thriller isn’t a period piece, the dirt is designed to give the area a more “countrified” feel, Noto said.

The story follows six girls who are born on the same day to different mothers.

On the eve of their 18th birthdays, the girls begin to mysteriously disappear and are feared dead.

The elders of the village believe the girls’ disappearances are linked to an old prophecy that foretells the coming of the devil’s daughter via the villagers.

Terror overtakes the community, leading villagers to wonder if a serial killer is at work or if the prophecy has come true.

The film, an LD Entertainment Production directed by Christian Christiansen (“The Roommate”) and written by Karl Mueller, stars Rufus Sewell (“The Illusionist”) and Alycia Debnam-Carey.

Heche has worked in the area before. She was cast in last year’s locally filmed “Arthur Newman, Golf Pro” and she had a small role in the 1997’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

Sewell stars in the upcoming “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Other recent cast additions include Colm Meaney (“Law Abiding

Colm J. Meaney, an Irish actor widely known fo...

Colm J. Meaney, an Irish actor widely known for playing Miles O'Brien in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, sits as he speaks into a microphone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Citizen”), Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”) and Cary native singer/songwriter Katie Garfield, who will play Abby, one of the village’s young women.

Burgaw isn’t the only spooky spot cast members will visit.

Location scouts chose Marilyn Meares’ Chestnut Street bungalow in Wilmington as the setting of at least one scene in the film.

The conservation consultant said she came home from work recently to find a note from production scouts taped to her front door.

Scouts may have chosen her bungalow, built in 1923, because of its location in an established neighborhood and its lush, leafy vegetation, Meares said.

They also needed a long hallway.

“I think the main thing they needed was a hallway for people to run through and hide, and I’ve got a long one that goes to my bedroom,” she said. “It just kind of came together.”

The film is expected to shoot at the home Monday through Thursday.

Crews also filmed scenes this month at a wooded area at Autumn Hall Lake near Eastwood Road.

Filming is expected to continue through the end of April, Noto said.

Cassie Foss: 343-2365
On Twitter: @WilmOnFilm

BRIEF: Coastal Christian High School taking shape

The rapidly growing Coastal Christian High School, which has become too large for its current home in a rented church activity center, is breaking ground on a new building in the Monkey Junction area. StarNews Staff Photo by PAUL STEPHEN

WILMINGTON | The new Coastal Christian High School is taking shape.

The metal framework for the interdenominational Christian high school’s new building is set to go up Wednesday. Concrete footings were poured earlier in March, and a concrete slab is set to go down in early April, said Cindy Auten, the school’s development director.

With 26,000 square feet, it will have space for 340 students in 15 classrooms, two science labs, a library and a gym. Students will move to the new building by the 2012 holiday season.

Coastal Christian has been renting Temple Baptist Church’s six-classroom activity center since the high school opened with 42 students in 2006. About 190 students attended the school this year, and administrators expect about 240 students to enroll for next year.

– Pressley Baird
Copyright StarNewsOnline 2012
Reprinted with permission


Cape Fear Watchdog$: New Hanover Commissioners choose not to accept family planning funds

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral cont...

Photo of Ortho Try-Cyclen oral contraceptives. Image via Wikipedia

Copyright StarNews 2012
Reprinted with permission

Following opinions on public funding of contraceptives, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to turn down a state family planning grant that would cover contraceptive supplies along with other medical services related to family planning.

Commissioner Rick Catlin, who represents the commissioners on the county’s health board, said he also voted against accepting the funds when the item was on the health board’s agenda.

He said he was concerned with answers to questions he asked about the funds.

“The answers that I got were that there were patients that were not being responsible with existing family planning that was being offered and that this would provide a more reliable solution for those people,” Catlin said at Monday afternoon’s commissioners meeting.

He added that he had an issue with “using taxpayer dollars to fund someone’s irresponsibility.”

The county’s health department was awarded $8,899 in family planning funds that would “provide medical services related to family planning including physician’s consultation, examination, prescription, continuing supervision, laboratory examination and contraceptive supplies,” according to a budget amendment item included in documents for Monday’s commissioners meeting. The county was not required to match the state grant.

Chairman Ted Davis said he thought it was a sad day when “taxpayers are asked to pay money to buy contraceptives” for women having sex without planning responsibly.

“If these young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Davis said.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said he was “one of those abstinence guys” and agreed with Davis’ comment.

No one made a motion to accept the funds. Instead, Catlin made a motion not to accept the funds.

Catlin said during the discussion that his views had nothing to do with discussions about contraceptives on the national level, which have included whether religious institutions should be required to offer birth control coverage.

At March event, diners eat soup to help feed others

By Marita Bon
Copyright StarNews 2012
Reprinted with permission

When area residents take their places in a soup line this spring, they’ll replicate a situation that has become a matter of routine for thousands of local individuals and families in need.

All proceeds of Empty Bowls 2012, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 23, support Good Shepherd Center and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, local nonprofits that provide meals and groceries to the area’s hungry.

Jane Radack of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, who’s spearheading Empty Bowls’ sponsorship drive, said hunger is not restricted to stereotypes – it afflicts people of all ages and backgrounds.

“The face of hunger in Wilmington may be the mom of three teenage boys whose hours were cut from 40 to 20 by a boss trying to keep all his employees in at least a part-time job,” she explained. “Or it could be the retired grandfather down your street who suddenly finds himself responsible for feeding his grandkids.”

According to Radack, one-fifth of Mother Hubbard’s clients are children.

“The youngsters that come to us wake up hungry, attend school hungry and go to bed hungry,” she said. “While we do serve the homeless and the mentally ill, they represent less than 10 percent of the 2,500 people we serve each month.”

A majority of the agency’s clients are the working poor or folks who suddenly find themselves in some sort of financial crisis.

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard distributed about a half-million pounds of food in 2011, a significant increase over prior years, while Good Shepherd’s soup kitchen served 77,588 meals in the past 12 months.

Due to the high demand, Empty Bowls planners strongly encourage purchasing tickets in advance. They will be available at: Blue Moon Gift Shop, First Baptist Activity Center, Good Shepherd Center, Grace United Methodist Church, Jester’s Java, New Elements, Spectrum Gallery and Temptations at the Porters Neck and Hanover Center locations.

Businesses and individuals can support Empty Bowls 2012 through sponsorship opportunities, Radack said. To find out more, call her at 793-9236.


Empty Bowls 2012

When: 11 a.m. -2 p.m. Friday, March 23
Where: First Baptist Activity Building, 1939 Independence Blvd.
What: For a $15 ticket, guests can dine on soup donated by more than 25 area restaurants and also take home a one-of-a-kind bowl created and donated by local potters. Take-out is also available.
Why: Proceeds support Good Shepherd Center and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.

Former Wilson’s building to become a church

The former Wilson's restaurant on New Centre Drive in Wilmington is the future site of the new Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. Photo by Ken Blevins/StarNews









Copyright 2012 StarNews
Reprinted with permission

It’s been 3 1/2 years since the cavernous Wilson’s restaurant just off New Centre Drive served a meal.

The restaurant – synonymous with weddings, banquets and parties – closed Oct. 21, 2008, and has been for sale since.

Now the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church is under contract to buy the 30,000-square-foot building, which sits on 4.8 acres, and turn it into its new house of worship.

The restaurant building is a good fit for the church, with a large open area, kitchen and meeting rooms, said Keith Austin of Maus Warwick Matthews commercial real estate in Wilmington, who represented the church in the transaction.

Maus Warwick colleagues Steve Hall and Charlie Rivenbark represented the seller.

“It will be quite a process to convert Wilson’s into the church’s new home,” Austin said, so the church will continue at its present location, 3701 Princess Place Drive, until then.

Austin said that when the church moves, it will use the old church building as a recreational center.

At one point, the church planned to build on 30 acres on Martin Luther King Drive, “but the cost of new construction as opposed to remodeling seems to make more sense,” he added.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Terry Henry, did not return phone calls Tuesday.

The popular restaurant fell victim to a nationwide retrenchment in the food and beverage business as the Great Recession deepened.

When it closed, Wilson’s employed 10 people full-time and 65 part-time. It had a main dining area, five banquet rooms, an outdoor tiki cafe, a sports bar and 110-game arcade.

In December 2008, a two-day auction of restaurant equipment and furnishings drew scores to the former eatery.

Just about everything was on the block – sports memorabilia, artificial trees, serving trays, restaurant equipment, chairs, and a box of plastic spoons that went for $7.

Wayne Faulkner: 343-2329
On Twitter: @bizniznews

Cheers for WHQR FM, Religion News Wilmington’s second media partner!

This week I had my first official voice training lesson for radio.

I’ve been singing in choral groups and on karaoke stages for about 20 years. And that’s how I lost my stage fright and most of my Southern accent.

But facing a radio board full of slide buttons and audio recording equipment, all while trying to keep my voice steady, was a little more daunting.

My thanks to WHQR FM’s anchor Bob Workmon for showing me the ropes.

I am pleased to welcome WHQR FM as Religion News Wilmington’s second media partner, in addition to the StarNews.

If you tune into Wilmington’s NPR affiliate, 91.3 FM, each week, you’ll hear news spots and features from Religion News Wilmington’s staff or contributors.

Listen for my first news spot next week.

– Amanda Greene

Coastal Christian’s building project on track to begin

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By Pressley Baird
Copyright 2012
Reprinted with permission

Multipurpose is the best word to describe the current state of Coastal Christian

The rapidly growing Coastal Christian High School, which has become too large for its current home in a rented church activity center, is breaking ground on a new building in the Monkey Junction area. StarNews Staff Photo by PAUL STEPHEN

High School.

There’s a closet in the school’s main office, for example, that does quadruple duty. Its main purpose is to serve as admissions director Jennifer Snyder’s office. But she jokes that she’s also got the supply closet on shelves above her head, the technology department behind her desk chair, and the school’s switchboard mounted on the wall to her left.

Come Christmas, Snyder will have her own office, switchboard not included. After five years of renting Temple Baptist Church’s activity center, Coastal Christian High School is getting a place to call its own.

The interdenominational Christian high school is moving forward with construction on the first phase of its new $3.6 million building on The King’s Highway in Monkey Junction. With 26,000 square feet, it will have space for 340 students in 15 classrooms, two science labs, a library and a gym.

Coastal Christian has been renting Temple Baptist’s activity center since the high school opened with 42 students in 2006, said Brenda McCombie, project manager for the new facility. But with about 190 students enrolled now and an anticipated 240 for the 2012-13 school year, they’re too big for the six-classroom activity center. Students will make the move to the new building by the 2012 holiday season, McCombie said.

The school ran a capital campaign to raise $1.2 million for the first phase of the new facility. Most of the gifts came from students’ parents, but a few members of the community also donated money, McCombie said. The school is borrowing the remaining $2.4 million.

The school is also building baseball and softball fields on land it’s leasing from Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church, its future next-door neighbor. Both the school and the church will be able to use the fields, and they’ll share the maintenance work, McCombie said. Myrtle Grove also donated 3.7 acres of land to the school for the new building.

Future phases of the school’s facilities will include a cafeteria, tennis courts and an aquatic center. Once they’re fully built, the new facilities will be able to accommodate 400 students.

Coastal Christian felt growing pains by its third year, bringing in a trailer to add two classrooms. Two more trailers with two more classrooms came the next year, and this fall, the high school had a waiting list for the first time, McCombie said.

Some employees, like math teacher Melissa Medlin, don’t have their own classrooms. Instead, Medlin rolls her black-and-purple bag of supplies from room to room and shares a desk in the affectionately named teachers’ cave (it’s too small to earn the title of lounge). But Medlin doesn’t mind.

“We’re such a family,” she said. “We always use each other’s stuff.”

Pressley Baird: 343-2328

On Twitter: @PressleyBaird