Cultural Arts Playhouse has been fostering the development of up-and-coming actors for more than 15 years. At its Musical Theatre and Acting Academy, students from 1st–12th grade hone their on-stage skills by taking classes on singing, acting, and improvisation under the tutelage of an experienced teacher. Kids get to show off these skills in full theatrical productions, with main-stage shows opening up auditions to the entire community so people can see their neighbors' acting chops and dusted-off fake skulls. Cultural Arts Playhouse alumni have found success in New York and throughout the country, appearing in HBO's The Sopranos, and such Broadway productions as Les Miserables and Aladdin.
In the 74 years between the Paramount Theatre's opening night, when people used to line up to see “talkies” for 50 cents, and 2002, when it was voted Best Mainstage Theatre in a Seattle Weekly Reader's Poll, the palatial venue faded and decayed alongside its Roaring Twenties brethren throughout America. Luckily, former Microsoft Vice President Ida Cole saved it from the rubble heap in the mid-‘90s when she established the Seattle Landmark Association and vowed to render the Paramount "kissable" once again.
Over the course of seven months, the renovation crew expanded the size of the stage wings to accommodate more ambitious live productions. They also cleared decades of grime from the french baroque plaster reliefs, uncovering long-forgotten designs and causing only one long-dormant horror to snap open its eyes dramatically. They also replaced the gold leaf in the floral designs of the wall medallions, repainted all the surfaces in their original 16 colors, and scrubbed each of the 1.6 million crystal beads in the chandelier by hand with a toothbrush. The original Knabe Ampico player piano was returned to its spot on the four-tiered lobby's lush carpeting, and a 21st-century sound system now shares sonic space with the thundering, luminous sonority of the Paramount's fully restored Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Though the Paramount's calendar runs the gamut from rock concerts to standup comedy to Broadway musicals on the scale of Wicked, its decadent Beaux Arts trappings transport audiences to the days when reality was still black and white.
The Long Island Comedy Festival, which won a thumbs-up from Newsday in 2009, sends laughing fits rippling through southeastern New York with showcases of some of the area's most accomplished comedians. The namesake festival spreads out across Long Island every summer, landing at venues that might range from an old-fashioned playhouse to a family amusement park. Many alumni return to perform year after year, making for a festive atmosphere that executive producer Paul Anthony likens to "a comedy party that the audience members have been invited to," rather than one that they sadly listen to through the floorboards. During the rest of the year, the organizers stay busy producing comedy series at other historic venues and exporting their team of comics to college shows.
Film fanatics flock to Cinema Arts Centre to get their fix of foreign, independent, and other hard-to-find flicks. Upcoming attractions include Mao's Last Dancer, Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford’s inspirational story about a young ballet dancer's climb from poverty to international stardom; Get Low, inspired by the true story of Felix “Bush” Breazeale, and starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray; and Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, a thrilling two-part snapshot of France’s most famous gangster, as well as a story about 101 freckled puppies dodging a cruel women in a fur coat. Pair your celluloid eyeball feast with some freshly popped organic popcorn doused with all-natural butter and a fountain soda infused with the fizzy essence of imported giggles.
A close look at the truffle selection tells you that XO Restaurant • Wine & Chocolate Lounge walks the tightrope between classic tastes and reinvention. Seated near the upstairs fireplace, you can sample a set of housemade chocolate truffles in classic milk, dark, and white variants, or nibble truffles dressed up as childhood treats such as oreos and s'mores. Alongside indulgent fondues, these desserts lend sweetness to the romantic atmosphere of the lounge, where live music plays every Friday and Saturday night.
Downstairs, the scene swings to a chic, brick-lined restaurant. The same spirit of experimentation is present in the menu, though: lobster pot pie, lamb and feta burgers, and flatbreads with toppings of fig and prosciutto are just a few of the kitchen's elegantly plated New American dishes. Wines have been sorted into flavor profiles such as "full-bodied and robust," saving patrons the trouble of asking each bottle for a character reference.
Svetlana Caton-Noble and Venti Petrov's mission is to promote cultural awareness through performances that combine the traditional European legacy of dance with contemporary American influences. When not sparking audiences' sensory centers with beautiful renditions of The Nutcracker, Coppélia, or Danses D'Automne, co-directors and instructors Svetlana and Venti can be found teaching students of all ages and experience levels how to properly imitate swans without attracting the attention of avid bird hunters. Their nonprofit dance company also brings Dance as a Second Language programs to the community's public schools.:m]]