Appalachian Theatre Hires First Executive Director

Charlotte Native Laura Kratt Brings Decades of Experience to Boone

Laura Kratt.image.jpg

BOONE, NC — The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, Inc. (ATHC) announced today that arts management professional Laura Kratt of Charlotte has been hired as the organization’s first Executive Director. She will begin her tenure in this newly-created, full-time position on July 16, 2018.

When introducing Kratt to the ATHC Board of Trustees at their meeting on June 27, Chair John Cooper said, “It was truly a national search with finalists from California, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas, but we found the perfect candidate right here in North Carolina, just 100 miles away in Charlotte.” Cooper was pleased that Kratt was the unanimous choice of the search committee, a decision that met with the complete endorsement of the executive committee. “All the pieces are in place to begin the final stage of construction that will restore this jewel in the cultural crown of the High Country to its former glory.”

A native Charlottean, Kratt has over 20 years of experience managing the visual and performing arts. Prior to coming to the Appalachian Theatre, she managed National Historic Landmark theaters in New York and Georgia as well as university presenting programs at Washington University, Wingate University and the University of Cincinnati. Classically trained in piano and voice, Laura is a graduate of Wake Forest University and pursued Master’s degree studies in Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music. Most recently, Kratt served as Wingate University’s Director of Cultural Events and was responsible for the artistic and operational management of three theaters serving 90,000+ visitors annually. Prior to her tenure at Wingate, she managed the programs and preservation of two 19th century National Historic Landmark theaters – the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in New York and the State Theatre of Georgia, the Springer Opera House. At the Springer, Ms. Kratt managed the $11 million renovation and expansion of that historic theater complex. Among her accomplishments, Kratt has served as a Peer Consultant for the League of Historic American Theatres, founding member of the Georgia League of Historic Theatres, Grant Panelist for the North Carolina Arts Council, SouthArts, and the New York State Council on the Arts, and board member and officer of the North Carolina Presenters Consortium.

The executive director search committee was chaired by Denise Ringler, Director of Arts Engagement and Cultural Resources at Appalachian State University, and included board and community leaders John Cooper, Jim Deal, Gail Hearn, Jane Lonon, Keith Martin, Frank Mohler, Bob Neill, and Dave Robertson.

"Laura Kratt's wealth of experience as a seasoned arts presenter made her the unanimous choice of our committee, following a national search," noted Ringler. "Her knowledge and skills in the areas of non-profit management, arts programming, theater operations, events management, and fundraising, combined with her interest in the preservation of historic venues, make her a tremendous asset to the Appalachian Theatre as we head toward our opening and inaugural year."

Jane Lonon, Executive Director of Ashe County Arts Council, served on the regionally diverse search committee. She said, “The Appalachian Theatre will be in good hands with the leadership of Laura Kratt. She brings a wealth of experience in administration, programming, and connecting with the community. I have had the privilege of working with Laura on the Executive Board of the North Carolina Presenter’s Consortium for four years, and the High Country is fortunate to have Laura join our team!”

In accepting the job offer, Kratt remarked, “It is a real pleasure to work alongside these dedicated volunteers and Trustees who have worked so diligently to reopen this historic theater. I know we all want to make it a vital contributor to the cultural landscape and economic development of downtown Boone and the High Country.” Kratt told trustees that she was anxious to get started, and wanted local arts supporters to know that “while the theater doors may be closed during construction, you can rest assured we’ll be working hard getting ready to put our best foot forward for the curtain raising in the summer of 2019! Make sure you’re on our mailing/email list.”

The mission of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is “to provide a quality venue for a variety of artistic genres; to contribute to the region by promoting and strengthening the area’s unique cultural identity and creative history; to enhance business in downtown Boone and the High Country; to provide a cultural hub for the area; and to find new life for a historic building while maintaining its financial sustainability and maximizing its economic impact.”

Additional information about the Appalachian Theatre and their ongoing capital campaign may be found on the theater’s new website, https://www.apptheatre.org.

The Comedy of Terrors

By Will Vogler (originally published March 9, 2015)

At the Appalachian on Tuesday, March 10, 1964: The Comedy of Terrors (Jacques Tourneur, 1963, 105 minutes).

Like his father, renowned director Maurice Tourneur, Jacques Tourneur was a film director with (according to Felicia Feaster) a special talent for subtlety, sustained moods, and mystery and fantasy. Tourneur’s atmospheric style can be seen in two of his most famous movies, Cat People (1942) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943), and are also on display in The Comedy of Terrors (1963).

The Comedy of Terrors begins at a funeral site. The solemn music, mixed with the slow movement of the camera, sets us up for a tearjerker, but as soon as the funeral is over and the mourners leave, the main characters Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) and Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) dump the body from the casket, bury it, and return to their funeral parlor with casket in hand. This scene establishes the film’s black-humor tone and also begins to set up the plot.

Trumbull, a stubborn, hypocritical, drunk, owns a funeral home service, along with his wife’s father, Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff). And Felix Gillie, the lovable, child-like, ex-convict, is Trumbull’s downtrodden pack mule. The funeral home is running low on business (hence the keeping of the “one good casket”) so Trumbull must find a way to make some money. His plan consists of killing people so he may jump to the families’ rescue and relieve them of the burden of burying the loved one. Things begin to go awry though, when one of the victims, his landlord Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone), just won’t die.

Price and Lorre, although an unlikely comedic team, do a spectacular job of making lighthearted jokes about a pretty macabre situation. The two talented actors seem to compliment and contradict each other at the same time. The Comedy of Terrors (the title of which is based off of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors) is also not their first rodeo: prior to Terrors, the two (along with Rathbone) had starred together in Tales of Terror (1962) and The Raven (1963). Tourneur directed the 1963 films and Richard Matheson wrote the screenplays for all three of them. These talented people could almost be thought of as the Rat Pack of comedy horror films.

During the making of Terrors, Basil Rathbone was actually meant to play the part of Trumbull’s elderly father-in-law and business partner, Amos Hinchley, instead of the landlord Mr. Black. Coincidentally, Mr. Black was originally to be played by Boris Karloff. While filming, they soon found that Karloff could not perform the strenuous slapstick that was to be portrayed by his character, so he and Rathbone switched roles. And speaking of strenuous slapstick, Peter Lorre’s character had to perform multiple trips and falls throughout the movie. This called for a stunt double, of course, who ended up having to wear a Lorre mask, complete with his signature bulgy eyes.

For more information about The Comedy of Terrors, see Felicia Feaster's “Jacques Tourneur Profile” on the Turner Classic Movies website.

The Conqueror

By Dylan Brown (originally published March 9, 2015)

At the Appalachian on Saturday, March 9, 1957: The Conqueror (directed by Dick Powell, US, 1956, 111 minutes).

Dick Powell—himself a well-known classical Hollywood actor—transitioned behind the camera during the 1940s and 1950s, and collaborated with John Wayne for the first time on the set of The Conqueror. The film follows the trials and loves of the notorious Genghis Khan (Wayne). The film is shrouded in controversy because the set location was close to a nuclear testing site, a location that exposed the cast and crew to radiation and gave cancer to many of them in the years to come. In addition to this tragedy, the movie was a commercial flop, often associated with the downfall of Wayne’s career.

The Conqueror moves at a slow pace and builds at the same pace, only to crescendo in two separate raids and a final battle sequence that ends all too quickly. Interestingly enough, this movie about Asian history features no Asian actors or actresses. All the performers lack authenticity, even John Wayne. This is most apparent in his iconic speech patterns and long vocal pauses, which work well in cowboy films, but not so well as Genghis Khan. Strangely enough, Wayne pined for this role and continually pressed Powell to be cast after being told numerous times that the role was not a good fit. Eventually, Powell capitulated, saying, “Who am I to turn down John Wayne?”

Acting and casting choices aside, the aesthetics of the film are superb. The sets are elaborate and detailed, the costumes are elegant, and the background music is both fitting and eloquent. The attention to detail can be attributed to the film’s producer, Howard Hughes.

Howard Hughes was a rich and famous business investor and filmmaker, producing movies like Scarface (1932) and Vendetta (1950). In the medical fallout following the release of The Conqueror, Hughes felt a big responsibility for the cast and crew’s well-being, and bought up all the copies and prints of The Conqueror in circulation in an attempt to bury the film and erase its existence. Hughes also refused to let the film be re-released to the general public until the middle of the 1970s. It is rumored that The Conqueror left a mental scar on Hughes, resulting in him watching the film every evening to remind himself of the horrible things he had done and the lives he had destroyed.

For more information about The Conqueror:

Caggiano, Greg. “The Conqueror (1956): The Film that Killed John Wayne…Literally.”

Old Radio Shows, “Atomic Consequences of The Conqueror: Howard Hughes’ Big Budget Film Flop.”