SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Li’l Friday is a weekly roundup of events in art, music, theater, comedy, pop-up markets and more.
It’s wise to check in ahead of attending any one happening to ensure it’s scheduled as normal. Inclement weather and unforeseen circumstances may shift for organizers at the last minute.
Thursday, May 18
N.C. Black Film Festival
Various locations • Tickets: $50-$125
The N.C. Black Film Festival, hosted by the Black Arts Alliance and Arts Council of New Hanover County and Wilmington, will celebrate 20 years of cinematic impact over four days, featuring 44 films, multiple meet-and-greet events and an awards ceremony.
The opening-night cinemixer at Cameron Art Museum is celebrating the work of Pam Grier, who was born in Winston-Salem, but moved across the country due to her father’s military career.
N.C. Black Film Festival is honoring Grier with a lifetime achievement award. Grier is revered as one of the first female action heroes on the big screen. She is best known for her role in the ‘70’s flick, “Foxy Brown,” which will screen as part of the kickoff party at CAM. There will be a Q&A with Grier, moderated by arts council executive director Rhonda Bellamy, at 7:30 p.m.
Earlier in the day at UNCW’s Upperman African American Center (601 S. College Road), student films will be shown for free beginning at noon. The N.C. Black Creatives will be hosting a panel on independent film.
On Friday, May 19, at Jengo’s Playhouse (815 Princess St.), shorts will be screened at 5:30 p.m. The film “Dope Boy Magic,” by Marquand Ragland will close out the festival.
Saturday, movies start at 10 a.m., with family cinema taking place until 1 p.m. at the Community Boys and Girls Club (901 Nixon St.). The films are appropriate for middle-schoolers and free to the public. There also will be family-friendly activities.
Then at Channel, 106 Market St., a variety of films, documentaries and features alike, will show from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Awards take place Sunday at Cameron Art Museum, 2 p.m., to honor best documentary, student film, feature and short. The festival also will honor emerging filmmaker Taliah Breon. The festival closes out with “Butterfly in the Sky,” a documentary that delves into the impact and founding of the 1980’s children’s show, “Reading Rainbow.”
Thursday- and Sunday-only tickets can be purchased at CAM; otherwise purchase here a one-day pass for $25, two-day passes for $50, full-access, four-day passes are $100; upgrade to the red carpet experience, $125, to receive a festival T-shirt and unlimited popcorn.
OTHER THURSDAY EVENTS
Burger Week — It’s the final stretch of Port City Taste Burger Week, which wraps Sunday, May 21. More than 20 restaurants are featuring unique handhelds on special for one week only. That’s 32 burgers offered, from Poe’s Tavern’s Cubano burger to Whiskey Trail’s Lancelot to Fork N Cork’s apple-bacon-brie concoction. From Topsail to Carolina Beach, midtown to downtown, check out all options and prices here; no coupons, special passwords, or tickets are needed to get the best from Burger Week. Just head to one of the listed businesses, ask for the special restaurant week menu and indulge.
“Fiddler on the Roof” — The classic musical about a Jewish family aiming to keep its traditions alive in pre-revolutionary Russia will be staged at the North Street Theater (21 N. Front St.). Acting Up Community Theater is presenting “Fiddler on the Roof.” The story centers on father and milkman Tevye, who is rearing three daughters, all of whom wish to marry for love rather than allowing the village matchmaker to pair up the daughters with well-to-do husbands. Songs like “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker” and “Tradition” became popular from the show, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock. Tickets to the evening shows are $20 and matinees are $15.
Sunset Cruise — Wilmington Water Tours hosts 90-minute sunset cruises along the Cape Fear River every Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 and Thursday night’s performer is Kelly Godfrey; Friday features John Wolf; Saturday is Andrew Covil; and Coleman Daley plays Sunday. The boat is outfitted with a fully stocked cash bar.
Pleasure Island Jeep Jam — Jeep owners will unite on Pleasure Island this weekend for the annual jeep jam kicking off Thursday at 6 p.m. Massive Grass will perform on the Boardwalk stage until 9:30 p.m. There also will be pre-purchased tickets and beach access passes available for pickup at Seawitch Tiki Bar and Cafe. Tickets and merch will be on sale for the jeep jam, which includes Friday’s poker run, Saturday’s Show and Shine (with jeeps voted on by the crowd) and cornhole tournament, and jeeps driving onto the southend beach both Friday and Saturday. There is plenty of live music to see throughout the weekend, including East Bound (2:30 p.m.) and Jam Sandwich (6 p.m.) on Friday, and Many Everythings (11:30 a.m.) and the Original Machine Gun (3 p.m.) on Saturday. The event takes place at Fort Fisher Rec Area on Friday and the Fort Fisher State 4×4 Beach on Saturday; multiple vendors will be set up both days at 10 a.m. There are daily and weekend passes available, priced $10 to $75, depending on participation level. See lineup here.
Friday, May 19
“High Voter Turnout”
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St. • Tickets: $32 and up
Local humor columnist Celia Rivenbark has a new production opening in Thalian Hall ballroom this weekend. “High Voter Turnout” takes on the political hubbub permeating the world currently, as written by Rivenbark and Kevin Parker.
The production was originally planned for the summer of 2020, an election year, but Covid-19 halted plans. The townsfolk in rural North Carolina are up in arms over the legalization of marijuana.
The show is directed by Zach Hanner, who also performs in the production as Pastor Doug. It’s Hanner’s first time back on stage since taking on the role of Captain von Trapp in Opera House’s “Sound of Music” at the beginning of 2020 (Opera House and CZN Productions are also producing “High Voter Turnout”).
“I’m having so much fun creating and playing this wide-open character,” Hanner said. “Fans of the show ‘Letterkenny’ will notice some similarities between Doug and Glenn, the pastor on that show, who my character is largely based on.”
Hanner said the plot is more timely than it was three years ago. The state Senate has attempted to pass a medical marijuana bill for six years, including in 2023, where the N.C. Compassionate Care Act now sits in a House committee. Today, roughly 38 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use.
“The whole legalization part of the plot is just the hook,” Hanner said. “As the show progresses, you see that it’s about much more than just issues or politics but more so about media perception, relationships and having integrity in the face of a changing cultural landscape.”
The humor will appeal to both aisles of the political spectrum, according to the director. Hypocrisy is covered in broad character writings and tropes that Hanner said the audience will assuredly recognize in modern-day media.
“No one that gets made fun of in this play doesn’t deserve it,” he noted.
A few roles were written with actors in mind, such as Liz Michaels who plays the lead, Patty Stilley, and Braxton Williams. Erin Hunter, Katie Villeco, Forrest Underwood and Shannon Playl round out the show, along with Bobby Reville.
It’s the local artist and Tavern Law bar owner’s second production this year; Reville performed in “Kinky Boots” in January.
“He’s our antagonist, Donnie,” Hanner said, “the cheesy used car salesman and county commissioner.”
Rivenbark, who writes for the StarNews and has been privy to the coverage of small-town politics, strikes the script with her Southern quick wit. But in the end, the show beams with positivity.
“A lot of people bemoan the state of the world we live in but very few try to do something to change it for the positive and that’s what our characters attempt in this tale,” Hanner described.
The show will take place in Thalian Hall ballroom, as the main stage and Ruth and Bucky Stein theater are booked with other productions. Hanner said there are only two sets constructed by Terry Collins for the play: a living room and commissioners’ meeting hall.
Thalian’s ballroom serves as city council’s meeting chambers already.
“It seemed like a no-brainer to pick the ballroom since the dais is already there,” Hanner said.
Michael Kenneway’s lighting and Peyton Smith as stage manager have helped bring the show to life, while Hanner, who oversaw productions at the now-defunct TheaterNOW, is handling sound design and visual projections.
The show will take place May 18 through June 4, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $32-$37.
OTHER FRIDAY EVENTS
“The Wedding Singer” — In more theater offerings, Thalian Association is hosting an ‘80s smash with “The Wedding Singer,” based on the movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. With music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, the show tracks the life of Robbie Hart, a wedding singer down in the doldrums after getting dumped. He falls in love with a catering waitress Julia Sulliva, engaged to be married to Glen Guglia. The score is ‘80s bent and the humor is intact from the big screen version. The show takes place May 19-27, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday; tickets are $28 to $42.
The Bow Wow Luau and Cat’s Meow — An annual fundraiser to help homeless and abused cats and dogs takes place at Shell Island Resort, 2700 Lumina Ave. from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Polynesian luau features entertainment by Hula Carolina, music by ukulele and Tahitian drum players. Island-style hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be served from the cash bar. The tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door available here; proceeds benefit Heidi’s Hope for Homeless Animals.
Saturday, May 20
Wilmington Greek Festival
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 608 College Road • Tickets:
One of Wilmington’s most delicious spring events takes place over three days, May 19 to 21, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on College Road.
Celebrating three decades of Greek culture, the congregation comes together and cooks authentic Hellenic cuisine, hosts live music by Lazaros and has dance performances scheduled throughout the day. A marketplace is also set up for participants to shop, with cooking demonstrations and church tours available.
The menu includes moussaka, roasted leg of lamb, pastitsio, dolmathes, spanakopita, tiropita, plus pastries galore — almond crescents, kourambiethes, finikia, koulourakia, baklava, kataifi and chocolate flogeres.
Admission is $5, though kids 12 and under enter free. For festival-goers who can’t make it to the main event, a drive-through is available to purchase the food to-go.
Festival hours are Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
The full schedule can be accessed here.
OTHER SATURDAY EVENTS
Surf Dog Experience — Interested in seeing a dog surf? For a good cause? This is the weekend to do so at Carolina Beach Pier. Surf Dog Experience takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by Ocean Events. Each year, pups are paired with two ocean rescuers, who are also dog lovers, to help the dogs successfully ride the waves. Life jackets and soft boards are provided. Pups can be registered here for $30, with proceeds benefiting Freedom Bridge Animal Rescue, an adoption and foster agency.
Wilson Center Community Day — A free community day is taking place at Wilson Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with family-friendly games, drinks and snacks, bubbles and giveaways. There also will be the opportunity for the public to purchase tickets to the new Broadway season at Wilson Center at the box office, ahead of online sales going live in June. The event takes place at 703 N. Third St. and free parking is available next to the venue.
Family Farm Day — The Wilmington Children’s Museum (116 Orange St.) is hosting an event for families from 9 a.m. to noon, centered on farming. There will be interactive learning opportunities and crafts centered on gardening, sustainability, and healthy eating. Barnyard animals — bunnies, donkeys, baby goats and others — also will be on site. Tickets are $10.
New Earth Consciousness Expo — Holistic practitioners and vendors will be set up at the Hampstead Inn on 17th Street for a consciousness expo. There will be psychics and mediums giving presentations and gallery readings. Also available will be aura photography, reiki, sound healing, tarot card readings, chair massages, and more. A vendor market will be set up with crystals, jewelry, and essential oils for sale, plus raffle prizes will be given away. There is a $5 entry; all services are individually priced.
Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” — The North Carolina Symphony will perform a Shakespeare classic interpreted by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky at 7 p.m. at Wilson Center. It’s styled in Overture-Fantasy, a symphonic poem, moving through the tragic tale of the star-crossed lovers. The show will be conducted by Michelle Di Russo with tickets starting at $20.
Ten-Minute Miscellany — Port City Playwrights is launching its annual 10-Minute Miscellany — a showcase of new short plays written by PCP members. The weekend will feature 18 actors in 30 roles during 10 various plays; each captures a moment in time, such as how the sleepy town of Southport triggers one man’s inner fanatic or what happens when a 20th century lover first encounters a cell phone. There are only two performances taking place — Saturday, May 20, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 21, 2 p.m. Tickets are $10, with a $5 low-income option available here. The program takes place in Thalian Hall’s Ruth and Bucky Stein Theater.
Willie Stargell 5K Road Race — The Willie Stargell Foundation, which helps patients living with kidney disease and donates funds to research, will have a 1-mile and 5K run or walk in Mayfaire Town Center starting at 8 a.m. Those who can’t participate in-person on the flat course — both wheelchair and stroller friendly — can join the virtual option. There will be medals and awards given to the top three overall, male and female, and top three in various age groups. There is a $5 donation to enter and all ticket proceeds benefit the animal adoption nonprofit. Registration is between $30 and $40, available here.
Doggie’s and Divas — Coglin’s and Dauntless Dog Rescue are hosting a fashion show with drag queens strutting their mutts and dogs up for adoption at 1 p.m. Plus, a DJ will spin hits from the ‘80s through the early 2000s.
Special Pedals BBQ — A BBQ to benefit a local nonprofit that hires neurodiverse adults to do bike repairs will take place at Flying Machine Beer Company at 3130 Randall Parkway from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be $20 BBQ plates for sale and folks can bring bikes for a tuneup. Live music also will be provided and brews will be for sale.
Sunday, May 21
Wilmington Ukrainian Festival
Waterline Brewing, 721 Surry St. • Free
From noon to 5 p.m, a community event to celebrate Ukrainian heritage and culture will take place, in honor of refugees who have sought safety from their war-torn country since winter 2022, when Russia invaded the country.
More than 200,000 Ukranians have entered the U.S. under the Uniting for Ukraine program, which allows them to reside and work legally for up to two years.
The festival — featuring dancing, art and food — is hosted by Church World Services, an international humanitarian assistance program, with outreach operations in Wilmington. The organization helps asylum-seekers across the world with rent assistance, employment guidance and emotional support.
The Ukrainian Festival will take place at Waterline Brewing, located at the foot of the Cape Fear Bridge.
OTHER SUNDAY EVENTS
Art at Harbor Way Gardens — Artists will take to the Harbor Way Gardens in Wrightsville Beach at 321 Causeway Drive to paint plein-air before selling the works Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, with free parking provided. A portion of the art proceeds benefit Harbor Island Garden Club, whose 50-plus members focus on community beautification and work with the town toward environmental improvements.
Wilmington Choral Society — Conductor Byron Marshall and accompanist Sheryl Tjon will oversee the recital, featuring more than 50 men and women in the choral society, in “America’s Favorite Songs: A Patriotic Concert for All.” The score includes works by John Rutter, Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, John Philip Sousa and others. Local instrumentalists and a brass-string quartet also will be part of the show. Tickets are $22 and up.
Phantom Playboys — Wilmington’s rockabilly ska outfit is performing as part of Boogie in the Park, a free concert series from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Kure Beach Ocean Front Park. Beach blankets and lawn chairs are available. Concerts are held the first and third Sunday of the month through October.
Wilmington Symphonic Winds Concert — At 4:30 pm, the Wilmington Symphonic Winds will have its final concert of the season at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium. “Heroes” highlights the acclaimed wind band conductors, Eugene Migliaro Corporon and Mallory Thompson. The concert will include works like John Williams’ “Summon the Heroes,” Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep,” and the “Mother of a Revolution” by Omar Thomas, along with composers Katahj Copley, Jay Kennedy, Erika Svanoe, and Giacomo Puccini. The show is free, though donations are welcome. Tickets still must be reserved, either in advance through the Kenan website or at the box office beginning at 3:30 p.m. the day of the concert.
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