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August 2013

Divergent paths through the Civil Rights era

As a young boy in 1920s Georgia, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker: The Last Stand) learned how the world worked for black people. On a whim, their white land-owner not only rapes Cecil’s mother but also shoots his father, who is buried by his fellow black sharecroppers in a shallow grave.     In compensation, Cecil is invited in as a house servant. The work is easier than field labor, but he’s still treated as a sub-human.

Great vocal talents and imaginative theater choices lead you into the woods of an atypical fairy tale

As you enter Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, take note of the Into the Woods set, designed by show director and choreographer Darnell Morris. The woods are beautifully painted in soft pastels with large trees on each side of the stage, evoking a pastoral Monet sensibility. Appreciate the beauty while you can because, as advertised, “this is not your typical fairy tale,” and with Alex Doan’s lighting, the stage becomes dark and ominous very quickly.

You remember those days, the excitement — or terror — a new school year brings, mixed with the sorrow of letting go of summer.     It’s a story each of us shares and each generation repeats. Yet each person’s story enriches the theme with delicious detail.     As the 2013 school year begins, we’ve asked 12 kids (and one surprise returnee) — kindergarten through 12th grade — for their views.

Local community colleges boast new buildings so smart they’ve earned top honors

New buildings at both Anne Arundel Community College and the College of Southern Maryland are working just like good students do to achieve perfection.     Anne Arundel’s renovated Andrew G. Truxal Library has already graduated LEED (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) with top honors. It’s only the eighth building in Anne Arundel County to achieve those honors.

Our neighbor, warts and all

The American toad may be the most-seen amphibian in Chesapeake Country. I’ve seen several in my yard this summer, and you probably have, too.     Odds for spotting an American toad are best near their preferred habitat: garden, forest or meadow. They are active mostly at night, which is when I always find them hopping around my yard or sitting on my patio.     American toads are large; they grow up to four and a half inches long. Full-grown adults are usually chubby.

Help make sure every kid goes back to school with the supplies for success

You loved shopping for school supplies. You’re out of school, maybe your kids are, too, but you still find yourself walking down the school supply aisle, drawn to untouched spirals, sharpened No. 2s, creative folders and a backpack to carry all.     Regain that pleasure this August by buying and donating to local back-to-school programs that make sure every kid returns to class with supplies for success.

Acid-loving plants need iron but rusting metal won’t help

A Bay Weekly reader told me he throws a handful of nails in the bottom of each planting hole whenever he plants trees or shrubs. The tradition has been handed down from grandpa to grandson. The purpose, he says, is “to provide an adequate supply of iron to the roots, of course.”     He could not tell me if nail size, such as ten-penny, finish nails or shoe tacks, made any difference. He had no preference for rusty nails or new nails.

A dozen kids add the now to our then

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear … Memory does see the past through rose-colored glasses. Looking down all the years to my own school days, I remember anticipation as it shivered through me before school started.

Full moon is like a celestial movie screen

As the sun sets, Venus beckons above the west horizon until it sets around 9pm. This evening star is losing ground, setting a little earlier each night.     Saturn is in the southwest at dusk and sets around midnight. Don’t confuse its steady golden glow with twinkling Spica a dozen degrees to its east.

An entertaining transposition of Shakespeare to the 1950s

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing endures because audiences love smart love stories. Twenty years ago, Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson revived it on film. Joss Whedon’s critically acclaimed remake — now showing at the West End Cinema in D.C. — is set in modern-day California.