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The BUZZ This Season pre-interview: Lawrence Toppman, panelist

October 17, 2012

The buzz is growing for The BUZZ This Season, a new program that features local journalists and critics offering insights about Charlotte’s cultural scene. The inaugural event is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at McGlohon Theater in Spirit Square. And it’s free to attend. And you’re invited to be part of the discussion. Bring your questions!

Among the panelists is Lawrence Toppman, a veteran writer and critic for The Charlotte Observer. His focus these days is theater. He answered these questions as a preview for the event:

What do you think about this season’s crop of shows?

It seems both more current and more risky than in previous years. Blumenthal is returning a drama to its Broadway Lights slate for the first times in three seasons. CAST is doing a number of contemporary plays, including “33: Variations” and “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” Actor’s Theatre has gotten back-to-back Tony-winners in “God of Carnage” and “Red.” Theatre Charlotte is doing “In the Heat of the Night” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” which is a stretch for TC. The dramatic material seems heavier all around the city than it has been, a change I welcome.

The shows I most look forward to are always the ones that make me perceive human behavior — or the theater itself — in a different way. That sounds high-falutin’, but it means I’m really curious about the hip-hop version of “The Red Badge of Courage” at Children’s Theatre and “Ruined,” the 2009 Pulitzer winner that On Q will do. I look for experiences I have never had before. I expect the puppetry of “War Horse” will provide another example.

What’s your biggest hope for the city’s cultural scene in ’12-’13?

My biggest hope this year — as it has been since I moved here when Jimmy Carter was president — is that audiences will step outside their comfort zones at least once or twice. They’ll try Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony along with Beethoven’s Ninth. They’ll gamble on a “Traces,” even if they’re not exactly sure what it is. They’ll spend an evening with N.C. Dance Theatre’s Innovative Works concerts. They’ll also patronize little independent companies, such as Carolina Calouche or Citizens of the Universe. Man does not live by “The Nutcracker” and “Messiah” alone — or, if he does, he turns into a cultural vegetable.

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