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Jackson Ward Armory to Get Needed TLC...

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Are You Seeing What We're Hearing?
Jackson Ward Armory to get Needed TLC
Local Dance Group Pays Price Tag to Swing
Junior League Fodder for NY Gossip
Shakespeare's Globe Spans Continents Are You Seeing What We're Hearing? With all the recent advances in eye care generally and exciting developments in treating blindness, particularly, perhaps it is only fitting that a new Richmond Eye and Ear Hospital television ad features music strongly reminiscent of The Cure. Reminiscent, perhaps — but not, insist the people behind it, plagiaristic: "It's original music," avows Bill Boger of The King Agency, which created the ad. (Park Group, a video production company, produced the "Fingerprints" spot, but by press time it could not definitively state where the music originated.) "I don't even know what people are thinking it sounds like," Boger says. It sounds like — exactly like — the guitar track on "A Letter To Elise," a dreamy number released by the, umm, visionary British Goth-pop group in 1992. The ad's jangling guitar chords are so similar to the song's, in fact, they've sent some viewers/listeners digging through CD collections to see if they're, well, hearing things. "A few people have said that," says Debra Hill, director of public relations at Richmond Eye and Ear Hospital. "'I think that song is great,'" she recalls an admirer telling her. "'I'm surprised [The Cure] approved it.'" But, Hill assures, the ad track was "arranged specifically" for the hospital. And as for the relationship between experimental treatments to alleviate blindness and the band's name, Hill says: "That's cute." — Rob MoranoWhat do you think? Listen to:

!S!The Cure's "A Letter to Elise"

-->!S!Richmond Eye and Ear Hospital Commercial audio (Requires free RealPlayer) Jackson Ward Armory to get Needed TLC If those walls could talk, they'd speak volumes. Volumes on a culture that Seldon Richardson, archivist for architectural records at The Library of Virginia, says should be preserved — and shared. And after 12 idle years, the walls of the Jackson Ward armory building finally could soak up the culture of family life again. But this time, incredibly, it will be for just one family. hose walls could talk, they'd speak volumes. Built in 1895, the First Virginia Volunteers Armory at 122 W. Leigh St. housed the fellowship of Richmond's African-American community for nearly 85 years. Its red-brick towers signaled to its Jackson Ward neighbors strength and pride within a segregated city. It has served schoolchildren and servicemen, staying up late for everything from social dances to basketball games. Soon, for Cedric and Scottessa Hurte of Durham, N.C., it will be a place called home. That is, if City Council votes Feb. 14 to pass an ordinance to convey the property from its current status as city surplus to family residence. So far, only council member Sa'ad El Amin has voiced opposition to theAC plan. El Amin did not return calls for comment. Still, with eight council members giving nods to the proposal, hopes are high that the Hurtes will be moving in relatively soon. For 20 years Richardson has kept careful watch on the armory building, afraid it would suffer the fate of neglect and indifference and be torn down, like many other structures in historic Jackson Ward. Citing its unique architecture and distinguished history, Richardson worked to get the armory listed with the national Register of Historic Places. "It sounds trite," says Richardson "but it's a dream come true." And a dream come true for the Hurtes. "My husband used to say, 'I would love to live in that building one day'" says Scottessa Hurte, from the couple's North Carolina home. Cedric Hurte, an Internet e-commerce consultant in Durham, grew up in Richmond, where Jackson Ward was a second home. Family is there still — family that shares the armory's history: A cousin played ball in the gymnasium; an uncle attended its USO events. The Hurtes decided to purchase the armory more than 18 months ago, knowing they would eventually move back to Richmond. "There is nothing in Durham to compare it to," Scottessa says. Still, the armory's condition is far from habitable. Although the exterior of the armory has suffered little damage, its interior needs work. Most notably, the roof was badly burned in the '70s. But with the help of a federal grant, the Hurtes hope to move in within a few years. "We're working on a grant for roof repairs," says Tyler Potterfield of the department of community development, which administers Save America's Treasures funding through the National Parks Service. Plans to turn the school-sized building into a house, Hurte says, will remain consistent with the armory's integrity. "The architectural design is so unique," explains Hurte, "we can't imagine anyone changing it." What's more, tells Hurte, "You power-wash it down, and all the history comes back." For more on the Jackson Ward armory, go to the Jackson Ward Armory web site. — Brandon Walters Local Dance Group Pays Price Tag to Swing Don't tell the Richmond Area Swingdance Society the swing craze is over. You may not see those Gap ads anymore, but swing dancing is still alive and well in Richmond. Or it could be. After being ousted from Cafine's when Swing Night ultimately lost its rave status and the club stood to profit more from regular cocktail-swirling customers, the 13 members of the Richmond Area Swingdance Society moved its Friday night gig to Area 51 in Shockoe Bottom. But like Goldilocks searching for the perfect fit, the space just didn't suit. "They gave us a home for a while," tells RASS member Catherine Farmer, "but it was hard to park and we couldn't draw as wide a variety of people." Then the group approached Jeff Allums at the Baja Bean Co. in the Fan. "It amazes me that a group would go to such lengths to have a place to dance," says Allums, noting that members of the group paid for and installed the dance floor themselves, even offering to take it up at any time. "We spent close to $1,000 to buy the hardwood and stain," says Farmer. "We were a real sight yesterday." The group plans to meet most Friday nights with a swing lesson beginning at 8 p.m. and followed by dancing from 9 p.m. until after midnight. "It was actually a help that we were put out," explains Farmer, who says the group swings best to the sounds of Count Basie and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. "It's really a floor-raising. And Friday's a great night to go dancing." For more swing dancing in Richmond, go to www.capitolswing.com. — Brandon Walters Junior League Fodder for NY Gossip Some things may be better left unsaid. The rest is fodder for gossip columnists. Such was the case with Liz Smith's recent chatter in the New York Post plugging the soon-to-be unboxed volumes of ex-Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown's new book "I'm Wild Again." Smith, a longtime friend of Gurley Brown is quoted on the book's cover saying: "If this book doesn't get Helen Gurley Brown run out of town, nothing will." Perhaps, Smith means Richmond, not New York. At the end of her column, extolling Gurley Brown's brazen authority on everything from paid escorts to nutrition, Smith adds that a friend at St. Martin's Press informed her that "The Junior League in Richmond, Va., had Helen Gurley Brown set for an author's luncheon. Someone at the Junior League then actually read the book and promptly canceled Mrs. Brown saying she is 'too racy'." The hurly-burly over Gurley Brown's book, due out this month, is, surprisingly, news to members of the Junior League of Richmond, a women's club whose members' median age falls well below half that of the 78-year-young Gurley Brown. Members of the Junior League committee that plans the annual book and author dinner — the oldest event of its kind in the country — recently returned from a trip to New York, where Junior Leaguers met with publishers to discuss which best-selling authors might be available for group's sellout event in May. And while Gurley Brown's book has been read and reviewed by at least one member of the Junior League of Richmond, Paige Fox, chairwoman for the steering committee, says Gurley Brown simply didn't have the appeal that other authors had. What's more, Liz Smith's column, Fox says, misses the mark. "She [Gurley Brown] had not been formally invited," says Fox "that I do know." So far, the Junior League here is keeping the lid on who's coming to dinner. Still, the Junior League of Richmond isn't offended by the New York tabloid's lip service. Invitations are expected to be mailed out March 20, and the gossipy nod might spice interest. "That's funny," laughs Fox, "that we'd make Liz Smith." — Brandon Walters Shakespeare's Globe Spans Continents It's not Dickens-inspired, but it is a tale of two cities: London and Richmond. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is the setting — and the story explores centuries of how dramatists interpret the legacy of Will as he would — versefully — like it. Grant Mudge, Cindy Liffick and Foster Solomon, all members of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival, and WCVE's John Felton traveled Jan. 11 to the Bard's homeland to film the documentary "Shakespeare in Performance," a look at the sonnet king's theater, the Globe. "Basically it takes a look at the Globe Theatre and its relation to Agecroft Hall," says Mudge, who contends that Agecroft — which once resided in the London countryside — could well have been a secondary stage where the Globe's actors performed. "Occasionally the original Globe had to close," says Mudge, "due to say, when the plague came to town." Whether or not touring actors — or Shakespeare himself — attended performances at Agecroft, today the transplanted English mansion in Windsor Farms sees many a local Shakespearean take. After the local debut of "Shakespeare in Performance" on April 23 and five repeat performances, Mudge hopes the film's appeal will garner national syndication and maybe will become a regular series. The group's visit also helped bolster some important "Global" contacts for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. "We're hoping to create a sister program," says Mudge, where Internet theater students can exchange e-mail on "how actors tackle the same roles on two continents." This information sharing, Mudge says, is nearly as stimulating as Hamlet's soliloquy. "We're helping solve the challenges these plays present."

The Richmond Shakespeare Festival Web SiteBrandon Walters

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