More treats than tricks coming our way

Betsy PickleOur Town Arts

Trick or treat is the theme for all of October, so it seems, but in Knoxville, it looks like mostly treats this weekend and beyond.

OK, there is one bummer: Oct. 19’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Tennessee Theatre is sold out, so you’ll have to get your Frank fix at your home theater. But otherwise, the Tennessee is rolling out the welcome mat.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s MasterWorks program tonight and Friday features pianist Natasha Paremski performing Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A, with its Norwegian folk-music influences; Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7; and more.

Freddie Brabson (Photo from Facebook)

On Saturday, the Tennessee is having a family-friendly open house to pay homage to the Saturday-morning movie clubs that many of us, ahem, are old enough to remember. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the theater will run a short reel of cartoons, with house organist Freddie Brabson introducing the cartoons on the Mighty Wurlitzer. Children 12 and under are invited to come dressed in their (non-scary, toy-gun-free) Halloween costumes.

Old-fashioned candy from Mast General will be available, and there’ll be a face-painting station. The theater will be open for self-guided tours. Proceeds from popcorn and soft-drink sales will go to the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation.

At the Bijou Theatre, Go! Contemporary Dance Works will present “Words Unspoken” at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. The matinee is a Penny 4 Arts event, with one child admission costing a penny with the purchase of an adult ticket.

“Words Unspoken” is a collaboration between Go! and Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking and will showcase a mix of contemporary and classical choreographic works by nine Knoxville creatives. It will include the premiere of Go! Artistic Director Lisa Hall McKee’s 20-minute work “Trafik’d,” a visual portrayal of human trafficking. She hopes the work will educate audiences and inspire them to take action.

“Gremlins” turns 35 this year.

On Sunday at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30), the Bijou will present a 35th-anniversary screening of “Gremlins,” the Joe Dante film that introduced us to mysterious creatures that do not react well to water. Or microwave ovens. It’s also one of the films that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating (along with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”), so don’t let the PG rating guide you on bringing younger kids. Attendees are encouraged to come in costume.

Not only is the $6 admission price a treat, but also $1 from every ticket sold will go to the Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee. Anyone who brings a new small-dog toy or can/bag of food to donate will receive a free popcorn in the lobby. Small-breed dogs will be available to adopt in the gallery room before and after the film.

I’m not sure if the wave of tribute bands we’ve been having is a trick or a treat, but the Bijou will have Rumours – a Fleetwood Mac Tribute at 8 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 24. In a way, the musicians will be in costume, so it would probably be appropriate for attendees to don ’80s rags themselves.

Hitting the books

Two new local book releases will be celebrated next week. The high-profile one is “Cas Walker: Stories on His Life and Legend” by historian Joshua Hodge. The event is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay St. It is free and open to the public.

Walker was one of Knoxville’s most infamous figures of the 20th century. A grocer who became mayor, he was also a master of media and a music promoter who introduced young Dolly Parton to the world.

The evening will feature a performance by members of the Cas Walker band, including Walker’s friend and master banjo player David West, and video clips from the Walker TV show, including recently discovered footage of Parton. Books will be available for purchase, and there will be a book signing.

The second book event is for “A Clown in Cobwebs” by Walt Nelson, aka retired Knox County schoolteacher Gary Harmon. From 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, Harmon will be at the Casual Pint (Northshore), 2045 Thunderhead Drive, to do a short reading, sell some books and sign them.

I played a small part in the editing of “A Clown in Cobwebs,” and I really can’t rave about it enough. Harmon used a pen name to publish his semi-autobiographical novel, but the reality is there, and it’s raw.

A prenatal condition called amniotic band syndrome resulted in Harmon being born without a right hand or feet, and only a thumb and pinkie finger for his left hand. These were challenging circumstances to overcome for a child in the 1960s, but his most difficult challenge was having a former Marine for a father – a father for whom physical ability was the highest goal in life.

Harmon’s memoir is blunt, but in no way is it self-pitying. It’s enthralling, and it showcases Harmon’s determination and quirky sense of humor. He wrote a nonfiction children’s book a few years ago. I hope that “A Clown in Cobwebs” is just the first step in Harmon’s career as a novelist.

Betsy Pickle is a veteran entertainment, features and news reporter and editor best known as the longtime film critic for the Knoxville News Sentinel.





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