A look back at the decade just past yielded a vivid picture of pop culture and fine arts in Winston-Salem. Relish and Sunday Arts reporters want to take you for a dance down the memory ballroom to mark what stood out for us 2010-2019.
If we missed your faves, please comment on this story on JournalNow.com.
Best of the fests
The loss of Phuzz Phest was a blow to fans of indie music. Started in 2011, the two-day festival brought in more than 50 acts that played on stages throughout downtown. The logistics of staging such an event proved too much, and the festival ended in 2016.
Gears and Guitars is a different sort of festival from Phuzz Phest, with proven names bringing thousands of people to Bailey Park at Innovation Quarter during the annual Winston-Salem Cycling Classic. Now in its fifth year, the festival gets a little bigger, a little better. Past acts have included Jason Isbell, Drive-By Truckers, Cold War Kids and Stone Temple Pilots.
Started in 2001, Heavy Rebel Weekender, a festival devoted to Greaser culture, has managed to stay vibrant, attracting thousands of visitors from across the Southeast for three days of cars and rockabilly.
MerleFest has also survived, despite the 2012 death of its founder and guiding light, Doc Watson. Now more devoted to roots music than strictly bluegrass, MerleFest headliners over the last 10 years have included Elvis Costello, Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers. Attendance for the four-day festival in Wilkesboro hovers around 75,000.
The Guns 'N' Roses show at BB&T Field in 2017 was a cause for celebration, regardless of your opinion on the band, as it marked the return of big-ticket acts to Winston-Salem. Billy Joel played there the following year to a crowd of 30,000. There were no big name to play there last year but here's hoping for something big in 2020.
We hear Bruce Springsteen is going to tour.
Finally, we can't close a 10-year retrospective on noteworthy music news without acknowledging the "5" Royales, the city's born-and-bred R&B act that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. The vocal group is the first from the city to be inducted into the Hall. Though its contributions have long-been ignored, the group has been riding a wave of much-deserved recognition.
UNCSA takes TV
UNC School of the Arts has long provided familiar faces - and voices - on the big and small screen, including Mary-Louise Parker, Tom Hulce and Tim Guinee among many others, but in the past decade even more alumni have turned up on TV shows.
On TV this decade, the powerhouse trio of Danny McBride, David Gordon Green and Jody Hill have given us three impressive dark HBO comedies in a row - "Eastbound & Down" (which technically started in 2009, but most of it ran in the 2010s) followed by "Vice Principals" and now "The Righteous Gemstones."
Alumni in other TV shows of the 2010s include Anna Camp ("Perfect Harmony," "True Blood"), Brett Gelman ("Stranger Things," "Fleabag"), Jenn Lyon ("Claws"), Chris Parnell ("Archer," "Rick & Morty"), Diedrich Bader ("American Housewife"), Matt Lauria ("Tell Me a Story"), Elizabeth Lail ("Once Upon a Time," "You"), Billy Magnussen ("Tell Me a Story," "Get Shorty"), Jada Pinkett Smith ("Gotham," "Red Table Talk"), Anna Wood ("The Code," "Deception"), Natalia Cordova-Buckley ("Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."), Dane DeHaan ("In Treatment"), Missi Pyle ("Impulse"), Celia Weston ("American Horror Story: Freak Show"), Margaret Qualley ("Fosse/Verdon," "The Leftovers"), Will Patton ("Falling Skies"), Hunter Schafer ("Euphoria"), Bridget Regan ("The Last Ship," "Agent Carter"), and many more.
And looking forward, the trend will continue, with 2020 bringing us Jonathan Majors as the lead in HBO's supernatural thriller "Lovecraft Country"; Jake Lacy in a reboot of "High Fidelity"; and a Falcon-centered Disney+ series and a new season of Netflix's "Altered Carbon," both starring Anthony Mackie. Also in development, there's a prospective spinoff of "Aladdin" starring Billy Magnussen, "Paradise Lost" with Bridget Regan, and a revival of "Weeds" starring Mary-Louise Parker.
Movies in the Triad
At the start of the decade, it looked like North Carolina might become a major hub of film activity, with "The Hunger Games" (2012) and "Iron Man 3" (2013) among the blockbusters shot in the state. Film incentives were changed drastically in 2014, and much of the production moved to Georgia, but there were still some movies being made here throughout the 2010s.
"This last decade in terms of film making in the city and how the incentives have changed the market can be summed up in the words of Charles Dickens 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...'," said Rebecca Clark, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission.
"We had a terrific incentive at the start of the decade and were able to recruit all sizes and types of films. The decade started out on a positive upward swing when we recruited the first Hallmark TV movie 'The Shunning' to Winston-Salem, directed by Michael Landon Jr." They were also able to draw movies starring Eddie Redmayne, Emily Blunt and Colin Firth that were produced largely in Wilmington to film partially in the Piedmont Triad.
In 2012, she said, her office scouted just about every single farm in the Piedmont Triad and other sites to recruit the Matthew Weiner film “Are You Here” starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galiafinakis and Amy Poehler. Other movies shot in the Triad later in the decade included "One and Two" (2015) with Kiernan Shipka, "The Longest Ride" (2015) with Scott Eastwood, and "The Disappointments Room" (2016) with Kate Beckinsale, and "Abundant Acreage Available" (2017) with Amy Ryan.
Classical and concert music
The decade got off to a pretty thrilling start for Winston-Salem Symphony-goers as well as Americana music fans when Chris Thile, who now hosts NPR's "Live From Here," was a guest soloist in March of 2010.
Thile played the N.C. premiere of his whimsically named "Concerto for Mandolin and Orchestra: Ad astra per alas porci (to the sky on the wings of a pig)," and the Journal music critic Ken Keuffel gave him high marks.
Later that same year, the great Renee Fleming, a soprano noted for her recordings and performances at the Metropolitan Opera, performed with the symphony in Reynolds Auditorium. In 2014, we heard superstars violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
In 2015, the symphony gave a transcendental performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, led by Robert Moody, who was music director 2005-2018.
This year, the symphony got a new music director, Timothy Redmond of London, who has already brought a sense of renewed excitement for classical music to the community. Redmond has led orchestras and opera companies in Europe for more than 20 years, and brings a sense of humor and theatricality to the concert hall.
Theater and Dance
The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem has been through some changes in the past decade. Regardless of changes in leadership and name - it returned to being the Little Theatre after having been renamed Twin City Stage in 2009 - it has been producing theater here for more than 80 years.
Two of its shows that I did not want to see turned out to be completely fabulous: "Little Women: The Musical" in 2016 was a moving and a vivid portrayal of coming of age in a loving family; "Mamma Mia" in 2017 had me bouncing in my seat. It was a tour-de-force hoot.
At Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance in 2011, Ken Ashford gave a performance that is seared into my brain. He played a middle-aged transgender person, striking a perfect balance between tortured and humorous in "Looking for Normal," a tender and unlikely love story.
Also at Theatre Alliance, in 2014, the team rolled out a delicious "La Cage aux Folles" full of angst, hilarity and perfect drag queens. The theater's "Ragtime" in 2017 was brilliantly cast, directed and performed, dazzling from beginning to end.
A new-ish kid on the block, Spirit Gum Theatre Co., got cranked up in August of 2014 with "Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche," and has followed up with two or three current and topical shows a year. "Every Brilliant Thing" in 2019 dealt with suicide and depression, brilliantly. "Venus in Furs" in 2018 looked at sex and power; "Ironbound," 2019, at immigration.
N.C. Black Rep produced professional theater throughout the years and five National Black Theatre Festivals, bringing $7.5 to $10 million into the local economy, and celebrities such as Andre de Shields, Debbie Morgan and Louis Gossett Jr. to town.
UNCSA probably deserves its own decade column it does so much, but in dance:
In 2013, Gillian Murphy, UNCSA alumna, was pure perfection in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in UNCSA's "The Nutcracker." In my 30-plus years of writing about the arts, she is the most gifted, skillful and transcendent dancer I have seen.
Winter Dance in 2014 featured Juel D. Lane's magnificent "How to Kill a Ghost." It was organized chaos at its very best. Lane is also an alumnus of the school.
In 2010, UNCSA's Fletcher Opera Institute presented "Mary, Queen of Scots," with a young singer named Jodi Burns in the role of the antagonist Elizabeth I of England. Nine years later, this past October Burns once again played the Virgin Queen as a woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders in Piedmont Opera' production of the dynamic "Mary." Both were highlights of their seasons.
Another opera featuring Burns, "Silent Night," caused a stir in 2017 with its N.C. premiere, and in 2016, PO presented a gorgeous "Tosca" with Jill Gardner dazzling in the title role and Jake Gardner, Jill's husband, as the dastardly Scarpia.
In 2015, Jane Hanes Poindexter donated $400,000 to the opera so that they could buy a home of their own on Holly Street.
The decade began and ended with impressive performances from a venue: The Milton Rhodes Center, which included the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art, theaters spaces, office space for the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and more, cost $26 million.
In the ensuing years, it added Coffee Park Arts, and ended with another renovation to the facility that resulted in the gorgeous Arboreal Gallery and gift shop, and, most importantly, a third performing space, Reynolds Place Theatre. That renovation cost $2.7 million.
Reynolds Place is providing a new home for N.C. Black Repertory Co., the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem and other performing groups.
UNC School of the Arts has set an intention to renovate the Stevens Center. To pique the public's interest, then-Chancellor Lindsay Bierman hired a facilities director Wiley Hausam.
Hausam has begun programming intriguing concerts, including Kathy Mattea, Steve Earle, and an all-female mariachi band, Flor De Toloache, who closed this year's Hispanic League Fiesta.
Winston-Salem's first touring Broadway show in many years, "Kinky Boots," sold out, and Hausam has booked several more musicals in the Stevens Center.
One more venue: In April, Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance bought a 16,484-square-foot building on .92 acres at 650 W. Sixth St. In November, they kicked off the first public capital campaign in their 36-year history. They aim to pay for (about $2.5 million) and complete renovations on the building by 2021.