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Ford, Fisher, Hamill returning in seventh Star Wars film

Actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill have been included in the cast for 'Star Wars: Episode VII', which has been announced today. (Getty Images)


After months of fan speculation, J.J. Abrams on Tuesday finally lifted the deflector shields protecting the identities of his “Star Wars” cast members. Seven newcomers and six stalwarts will star in the seventh installment of the space epic, which is scheduled for release in theaters in December 2015.

The newcomers are John Boyega, a young actor with mostly television on his résumé; Adam Driver, from HBO’s “Girls”; Oscar Isaac, who had a prominent role in the 2013 Coen brothers film “Inside Llewyn Davis”; Domhnall Gleeson, an Irish actor recognizable from the last two “Harry Potter” films; the veteran Swedish actor Max von Sydow; the “Lord of the Rings” star Andy Serkis; and Daisy Ridley, a largely unknown British actress. No information was provided about the characters they will play.

The returning veterans are Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

When Disney bought Lucasfilm in late 2012, it acquired the popular and lucrative “Star Wars” franchise and immediately said it would produce a seventh installment. Abrams was named the director early last year.

“We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud,” Abrams said in a statement.

– New York Times

City of Night puts out a call for site-specific work

City of Night, the grassroots multi-arts festival which will take over Silo City on June 28, is seeking proposals for "performance art, installations, sound art, murals, dance, theater, and light-based works."

Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, the group behind the popular festival, released a teaser video in hopes of inspiring Western New York creative types to apply. Check out the City of Night website if you're interested in applying. Here's a look:


And a handy walkthrough of the site for artists interested in exactly what they're applying to:

 --Colin Dabkowski

Tonight at Hallwalls: 'Tropical Seasonings' explores Southeast Asia

MedA Ripe Volcano_Taiki Sakpisit_1

A still from Thais artist Taiki Sakpisit's video "A Ripe Volcano."

Tonight at 7, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center will present a screening of 12 short films from or about Southeast Asia. The screening, an outgrowth of the KLEX Experimental Film and Video Festival, will feature films by Western New York artists as well as natives of the region.

The films range from Thai artist Taiki Sakpisit's "A Ripe Volcano," a sweeping look at the state of contemporary Thailand to Western New York artist Debora Bernagozzi's "Green Cloud Temple," based on a visit to Malaysia's Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. Here is the full list of films in the mini-festival, curated by Malaysia-based video artist Siew-Wai Kok, a graduate of the University at Buffalo's media study M.F.A. program:

Andrew Stiff (UK/Malaysia), “Gong Xi Fa Cai Part 2” // AU Sow-Yee (Malaysia), “Ruins I” // Azharr Rudin (Malaysia), “Colorfool” // Debora Bernagozzi (USA), “Green Cloud Temple” // Jason Bernagozzi (USA), “Memory and Ritual in Frame Difference” // Koji Tambata (Japan/Thailand), “The First Rain” // KOK Siew-Wai (Malaysia), “Mud Game” // LIM Chee-Yong (Malaysia), “Lulai” // Maulana M Pasha (Indonesia), “The Endless Steps” // Taiki Sakpisit (Thailand), “A Ripe Volcano” // WONG Eng-Leong (Malaysia), “Mist” // Wuttin Chansataboot (Thailand), “16x9 Capsule”

More info on the screening is here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Arts Services Initiative launches cultural awards

The Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, a cross-cultural advocacy organization headed by Tod A. Kniazuk, announced today that it is lanching an annual series of cultural awards.

The new awards program is similar to the yearly honors the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County handed out until its demise in 2010. ASI is accepting nominations on its website for lifetime achievement, organization of the year, artist of the year, rising star, cultural supporter of the year, cultural advocate of the year, volunteer of the year and DEC program of the year. The ceremony will be on June 25 in the Hotel @ Lafayette.

Read ASI's release on the new awards program here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Infringement Fest issues call for work

The 2014 Buffalo Infringment Festival, scheduled for July 24 to Aug. 3, is now accepting applications from local artists, musicians, filmmakers, poets and performers of all stripes. Some info from the release:

Infringement welcomes all musicians, visual artists, dancers, poets, actors, filmmakers, performance artists and street performers to be involved. There are no fees to enter and every application is accepted. Once you have started an application, you can go back to it at any time and add or change information. Registering early keeps you in touch with the monthly events and fundraisers and links you with an organizer in your genre of art. It also helps organizers plan ahead with volume, as the festival grows larger every year. To celebrate our 10th year we encourage everyone applying to step outside with their creative ideas and transform the streets of Buffalo into the ultimate free venue!

To submit your proposal, click here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Babeville to host forum on art, culture and 'placemaking' tonight

Jason Schupback, director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, will lead a forum on the role of art and culture in the development of urban spaces tonight at 7 in Babeville's Asbury Hall

As projects such as Larkinville and Canalside spring up in American cities recovering from decades of economic stagnation, developers, architects and politicians are thinking much more about the role of culture in creating new urban landscapes and economies. The term for that trend is "placemaking," a highly lampoonable piece of jargon The Atlantic Cities included on its list of "Urbanist Buzzwords to Rethink in 2014."

Whatever you may think of the word itself, the trend is well worth exploring. Tonight's forum is sure to touch on many important issues central to the development of Buffalo in the next few years. Anyone interested in the rapid development of the city should check it out.

The forum is sponsored by Partners for a Livable Western New York, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and presented by Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. As seating is limited, those interested in attending should RSVP by calling Hallwalls at 854-1694.

--Colin Dabkowski

Erie County adopts a culture-friendly 2014 budget

On Tuesday, the Erie County Legislature passed County Executive Mark Poloncarz's 2014 budget along party lines, as Harold McNeil reported. Just as a refresher, here's a look at what the budget contains for Erie County arts organizations:

  • A 1.5 percent increase in operating funding support for 63 arts organizations, bringing total 2014 cultural funding (not including libraries) to $5.64 million
  • Funding for previously unfunded groups including Arts Services Initiative, Buffalo Niagara Choirs Inc., Central Terminal Restoration Corp., Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Orchard Park Symphony Orchestra.

Take a look at the full list below or download a PDF copy here.

--Colin Dabkowski

'Traviata' at Amherst Theatre to start early on Saturday


By Mary Kunz Goldman

The La Scala production of Verdi's "La Traviata" being shown Saturday at the Amherst Theatre will be starting at noon -- an hour earlier than was previously announced.

The reason is that the opera is longer than anticipated. "We received word from La Scala that the total runtime is closer to 210 minutes with one intermission as opposed to the original approximated runtime of 160 minutes with one intermission," Mike Clement of Dipson Theatres said in an email.

The production stars Diana Damrau, pictured above in the featured role as Violetta, and sounds as if it is worth seeing.

Remember, it's noon on Saturday, not 1 p.m.

'Buffalo: America's Best Designed City'

Buffalonians gathered earlier this evening in Larkinville to watch the premiere screening of John Paget's short promotional video "Buffalo: America's Best Designed City." Take a look:

--Colin Dabkowski

A brief look at City of Night

On Saturday afternoon, I caught the very start of City of Night, the mammoth arts festival sponsored by Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo. Like last year's version, it was packed with interactive art installations scattered around the post-industrial site and inside its endlessly photogrpahable, out-of-use buildings. Word from organizers is that the second festival attracted some 12,000 people -- about 4,500 more than expected -- though it's unclear exactly how they counted. Here are some pics:

A sculpture by Scott Bye:





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