Cultural Calendar

The Joys of the Spring Season Onstage in the High Country
“I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is?”

By Keith Martin

That Vincent van Gogh quotes adorns a restaurant in Ontario, Canada, near the famed Stratford Festival. Almost 135 years after the noted artist left us, that sentiment resonates with me as I consider all the joys of nature this spring while anticipating the artistry about to bloom on local stages throughout the High Country. Arts festivals, plays, musicals, concerts, and dance offerings are filling theatres and concert venues near and far with an endless stream of exciting programming. 

Here are several of the events that have been announced from now through late June, plus a sneak peek at select summer offerings, each listed alphabetically by producing company, with many more to be announced shortly. PLEASE NOTE that all the performances, dates, and times are subject to change; readers are strongly encouraged to check individual websites and/or the theatre box offices for the most current information. See you at the theatre!

The largest organization on our beat, featuring dozens of events each month, is the venerable APPALACHIAN THEATRE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY (ATHC), an 85-year old vaudeville movie venue in Boone lovingly restored to its former glory. Concert wise, the internationally acclaimed jazz artist and dedicated educator Emmet Cohen returns to the theatre on April 19 with his trio; Cohen is the winner of the 2019 American Pianists Awards, and a finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition. May 10 brings hometown favorite Adam Church back to the Doc Watson Stage close to where he grew up in nearby Foscoe, NC. Adam attended App State, where he met fellow classmate and future country music star Luke Combs, who asked Adam to join his first band. Opening the evening is another Boone local group, the Pressley Laton Band.

Del McCurry returns on May 5 for Cinco de Mayo and yet another sold out concert, then Mipsofollows on May 30; the band formed in 2012 as an excuse to play together between classes in Chapel Hill and have become known for combining a traditional string band format with close harmony and a variety of modern influences. The band is made up of Wood Robinson, Jacob Sharp, Joseph Terrell, and Libby Rodenbough. On June 28, Bluffett, featuring “The Son of a Sailor Band,” is a 100 percent live-on-stage tribute to the legendary Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band, complete with beach-type props and costuming to transport you back to “Margaritaville”!

The theatre’s popular Local Night @TheApp series continues June 2 with Western Watauga’s own Loose Roosters, who have earned a local following playing all over the High Country. The band blends their roots music background into an electric experience that is both ethereal and exciting. They will be joined by Real Companion, a project of Boone songwriter Seth Sullivan, whose songs “explore loss, sobriety, fatherhood, and the life of a small town rocker as he approaches 40.”

And then there are the films, whose screenings return the 1938 Art Deco venue to its original roots. IF4: The International Fly Fishing Film Festival is the world’s leading event of its type, consisting of films produced by professional filmmakers from all corners of the globe and showcases the passion, lifestyle, and culture of fly fishing. “Star Wars Day” on May 4 (“May the Fourth be with you”… get it?) will have back-to-back showings of the three now-classic films that began the Star Wars franchise, as will the three-film Back to the Future-thon on May 26 and the Pirates of the Caribbean-thon on June 29 and 30 with consecutive screenings of all five films in the series.

Over in West Jefferson at the wonderfully intimate Ashe Civic Center, the ASHE COUNTY ARTS COUNCIL has, yet again, programmed several events worthy of consideration. Wordkeepers on April 20 lets writers share their latest prose and poetry in five-minute open mic time slots and it’s free and open to the public. On April 21, the Kontras Quartet appears on their Chamber Music Series with their “vibrant and nuanced performances,” “crisp precision” and “superlative artistry.” Coffee House Live takes place on May 3 showcasing local and regional acts, this month focusing on pianists. 

The Jeff Little Trio appear at the Civic Center on June 8 with special guest Wayne Henderson. NPR said that “Little is a remarkable musician, steeped in the tradition of his native Blue Ridge, yet also a virtuosic and eclectic innovator.” Henderson has performed from Carnegie Hall to seven nations in Asia and is a recipient of a 1995 National Heritage Award presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. For tickets and information, visit

Timing is everything. The ASHE COUNTY LITTLE THEATRE is producing the landmark musical Fiddler on the Roof exactly sixty years after its 1964 debut marked the end of the “Golden Age of Broadway,” which began in 1943 with Oklahoma!  With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, the story is set in the Anatevka settlement of Imperial Russia around 1905 and is based on “Tevye and his Daughters” and other tales by beloved author Sholem Aleichem. Performances run from June 20 – 23 in the Ashe Civic Center. If “tradition” for this company holds true, you better not wait to get your seats. For tickets and information, visit

Check out the Local Business News in our printed edition to read about renovations to the Gilliam Stage at the BARTER THEATRE in Abingdon, VA, the “State Theatre of Virginia.” Their mainstage venue reopened with Ring of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash, Richard Maltby, Jr., and William Meade’s tuner that follows the story of Cash’s life from the cotton fields of Arkansas to the Memphis launch of his musical career, and his marriage to his beloved June Carter and all the soul-stirring music he created along the way. The show closes on May 11, but opening that same day through June 3 is Grandma Gatewood Took a Walk, a new play by Catherine Bush. Emma Gatewood was a 67-year-old who told her children she was “going for a walk” but failed to mention that it would be over 2,000 miles through 14 states, making her the first woman to solo through-hike the newly formed Appalachian Trail. Look for Barter favorite Mary Lucy Bivins in the title role.

In addition, the musical version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Ozbegins performances on May 26 with memorable music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. (Yip) Harburg. The   BARTER PLAYERS’ Classic Theatre for Kids of All Ages”has two family-friendly shows on tap with Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of the classic Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White continuing through May 14 and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel opening June 4. Eric Lane Barnes’ musical is based on the book by Virginia Lee Burton.  For more info or to purchase tickets, visit Barter’s website at

Check out our Regional Happenings and Music Guide for details about the third annual BOONERANG MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL, taking place on June 14-15 on seven different stages/venues in Boone, NC. This free downtown street festival is a community homecoming that brings Boone-connected artists and fans “to Boonerang back to the place we love.” Boone’s Got Talent is a new, kick-off event that has been added to the line-up June 13, during which High Country acts can showcase their talent on the Doc Watson Stage at the historic Appalachian Theatre.

The CITY OF MORGANTON MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM (CoMMA)has blues legend Keb’ Mo’ Live performing on June 2. “With five Grammys, 14 Blues Foundation Awards, and a groundbreaking career spanning nearly 50 years under his belt, Keb’ Mo’s got nothing left to prove. Just don’t tell him that.” On June 8, One Night Only: A Tribute to the Bee Gees uses incredible vocal talents, impeccable harmonies, and powerful voices to bring the iconic sound of the Bee Gees to life. Pay attention to the apt title of this event because it is only being presented for one night only. Additional information and tickets are available at or by phone at 800-939-SHOW (7469).

The DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DANCE at App State has only one production remaining on their season, but it’s a goodie: the rarely produced Carrie: The Musical.Adapted from Stephen King’s 1974 horror novel, Carrie, published exactly 50 years ago, the show focuses on an awkward teenage girl with telekinetic powers whose lonely life is dominated by an oppressive religious fanatic mother. When she is humiliated by her classmates at the high school prom, Carrie unleashes chaos on everyone and everything in her path out of vengeance. The music is composed by Michael Gore with lyrics by Dean Pitchford and book by Lawrence D. Cohen; it is performed April 24 – 28 in the Valborg Theatre.    

EAST TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY (ETSU) in Johnson City, TN, has two must-see national tours coming up beginning with Mean Girls, music by Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and a book by Tina Fey. This popular musical is based on the 2004 film of the same name written by Fey, which in turn was based on the 2002 book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman. The show premiered in Washington, D.C., in 2017 and opened on Broadway in April 2018, playing to SRO audiences before closing in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but now it lives again on film and in this fast-paced national tour. Performances will be given in the Martin Center for the Arts from April 29 – May 1.

The other event is STOMP, a show that is “explosive, provocative, sophisticated, sexy, utterly unique and appeals to audiences of all ages.” The international percussion sensation garnered an armful of awards and rave reviews and has appeared on numerous national TV shows. The eight-member troupe uses everything but conventional percussion instruments—matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, hubcaps—to fill the stage with magnificent rhythms. As USA Today says, “STOMP finds beautiful noises in the strangest places.” See what all the noise is about at

Don’t let the 15th Anniversary Season of ENSEMBLE STAGE fool you; the husband/wife duo leading this organization has decades of theatre experience. They will take to the stage of the Historic Banner Elk School from June 14 – 24 when Moon Over the Brewery,a heartwarming comedy” by Bruce Graham, opens their season. It is followed on June 29 by Robin Hood, “a show for kids” by Kathryn Schultz Miller with subsequent performances on July 13, 27, and August 10.

For the third year in a row, the HIGH COUNTRY JAZZ FESTIVAL (HCJF) brings to life a decades-long dream of local musician Todd Wright: a collaborative project to host exceptional and engaging jazz experiences that attract regional audiences to our region. More importantly, the festival raises funds to support arts and education initiatives of the App Theatre, App State’s Jazz Studies Program, and Boone Sunrise Rotary, vital programs that sustain and enrich our High Country home. Taking place from June 7 through 9, this annual event has booked a very impressive line-up.

The Dave Brubeck Brothers Quartet opens the festival on June 7 with a style rooted in “straight-ahead” jazz in concerts that reveal an inherent ability to explore and play odd time signatures while naturally integrating the influences of funk, blues, and world music. The group’s creativity, technique and improvisation can be heard in their uncompromising music, which reflects their dedication to melody, rhythm, culture, and the spontaneous spirit of jazz.

Jazzmeia Horn debuts at the App Theatre on June 8. Critics say that “Fans of such legendary jazz singers as Sarah Vaughan, Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter—and more contemporary standouts including Cassandra Wilson, Cécile McLorin Salvant and neo-soul singer Erykah Badu—will likely discover a lot to love about Jazzmeia Horn.”  

Charlotte-based tenor saxophonist Ziad closes out the Jazz Fest on June 9, having recorded with national artists including “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, Gospel Music Hall of Famer “John P. Kee,”​ chart-topping recording artist “Donald Lawrence and the Tri–City Singers,” the “Impressions,” and many more. For more info, festival packages, and additional events such as jazz luncheons and late-night jams, go to

LEES-MCRAE COLLEGE has two live performing arts series featured in our printed edition of CML. Be sure to check out the FORUM for presented events and the Lees-McRae Summer Theatre for the production of original musicals.

Likewise, MERLEFEST 2024 takes place April 25 through 28 on the campus of Wilkes Community College. Please go to our Regional Happenings and Music Guide in this issue for more information or visit

TWEETSIE RAILROAD is North Carolina’s first theme park, opening on the Fourth of July in 1957.  Known primarily as a Wild West adventure park with amusement rides and a petting zoo, Tweetsie features stunning three-mile long train rides aboard a historic, coal-fired, narrow gauge steam locomotive. From a performing arts perspective, Tweetsie is a major employer of professional talent and produces 21 performances of a half-dozen live entertainment and stage shows each day. A sampling of offerings includes the Can-Can Dancers, Country Clogging Jamboree, Hopper and Porter’s Musical Celebration, The Magic Show,and the ever-popular Sunset Show. Just as the cowboys ride off into the sunset at the end of the movie, Tweetsie’s entertainers mosey into the Palace for one last show at the end of the day, featuring performers from every show together on one stage. The 2024 season runs from April 6 to October 27.

WILKES COMMUNITY COLLEGE (WCC) and their John A. Walker Community Center in Wilkesboro are presenting This is the 60’s Live on June 6. The show is a walk through the most historic and memorable decade of the last century, from JFK to Beatlemania to Viet Nam and Woodstock, with a combination of unforgettable video images, narration, costumes, lighting, and live music performances to re-create the entire Sixties in all its colorful glory. Additional information and tickets are available online at

A Sneak Peek at Events in Our Upcoming Summer Issue

Space and print deadlines simply do not permit listing all of the wonderful productions on the summer horizon (some announced, others yet to be confirmed), but you might want to check out websites of the following organizations for advance notice about these events:

The 40th Season of AN APPALACHIAN SUMMER FESTIVAL runs June 29 to July 27; the major events will feature An Evening with Natalie Merchant: Keep Your Courage Tour, with the Western Piedmont Symphony on June 29, Buddy Guy: Damn Right Farewell on July 12, Broadway star Norm Lewis on July 14, St. Paul and The Broken Bones on July 20, the Paul Taylor Dance Company on July 24, all at the Schaefer Center. The Broyhill Classic Concert Series includes the Eastern Festival Orchestra with special guest Béla Fleck on June 30, Chanticleer: Sing Joyfully on July 3, Canadian Brass on July 10, the Bell-Denk-Isserlis Trio on July 18, Simone Dinnerstein and Awadagin Pratt pianists on July 21, and Brad Paisley: Son of the Mountains World Tour on July 27. 

Plus…the BARTER THEATRE’S Shawshank Redemption opens June 15, Cry It Out begins June 21, The Play That Goes Wrong opens August 31, and BARTER PLAYER’S productions of Snow White begins July 9 and A Wrinkle in Time opens September 24; BEANSTALK COMMUNITY THEATRE’s Matilda: The Musical runs July 22-27 at the App Theatre; ENSEMBLE STAGE’S Mindgame, a psychological  thriller by Anthony Horowitz performs July 19 – 28, Distance Music, a witty drama by James McLindon runs August 16 – 25, and The Love List, an unpredictable comedy by Norm Foster takes the stage from September 13 – 22; and, finally, HORN IN THE WEST, openstheir 72nd season of Kermit Hunter’s outdoor drama in the Daniel Boone Amphitheatre on June 21.

Alleghany Community Theatre |

Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance  |                      

Appalachian Theatre of the High Country |

Ashe Civic Center |

Ashe County Little Theatre |

Barter Theatre |

Beanstalk Community Theatre |

Blue Ridge Community Theatre |

City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium |

Ensemble Stage |

Hayes School of Music|

In/Visible Theatre |

Jones House Cultural & Community Center |

Lees-McRae College Performing Arts | | Instagram @lmctheatre

Parkway Playhouse |

Schaefer Center Presents |

Wilkes Playmakers |

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