September 2008

Frank Cammuso first made a splash with his acclaimed series Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective. His work there got him noticed by Scholastic Books, which led to his new full-color graphic novel series Knights of the Lunch Table.

The first volume, The Dodgeball Chronicles, introduces us to Artie King, newest student at Camelot Middle School. The principal can’t stand him, and he’s already run afoul of head bully Mo. But luckily, he finds a few friends in fellow outsiders Percy and Wayne, and has an ally in science teacher Mr. Merlyn…and somehow manages to open a locker that no one else has been able to crack.

Together with his friends as a dodgeball team called the Knights, Artie King’s legend is about to begin. To find out more, we talked with Cammuso, who also did the young readers GN Otto’s Orange Day with Jay Lynch earlier this year, about his new series.

Read the full interview here!


It’s a week and a half before the opening of the third annual SPARKcon, and about 20 of the participants are gathered on the second floor of DesignBox in downtown Raleigh to finalize plans. Dressed in everything from vintage outfits to suits to T-shirts and shorts, they buzz among themselves, quickly resolving minor difficulties; one person worries that they’re short on tents, only to find another has some extras he’s happy to share.

As the discussion continues, Jarrett Lee of filmSPARK mentions that they’ve been contacted by Disney about running a preview of Spike Lee’s new film Miracle at St. Anna as part of the presentation. There’s a slightly awkward moment before it’s determined that it’s past the due date for submissions. “Sorry, Spike!” Lee jokes.

Even with his independent film credentials, a known Hollywood commodity like Spike Lee doesn’t have much of a place at SPARKcon, where the talent on display is local and often unknown. For its third year, SPARKcon continues to wage the battle to help brand the Triangle as “the creative hub of the South.” The three-day conference and showcase of local talent is designed to bring together the area’s creative community, helping it connect with the public—and itself.

Full Story in the Independent Weekly

‘night, Mother
Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Sept. 28

It’s not the most cheerful way to spend an hour and a half, but Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of ‘night, Mother is a superb showcase for actors Linda O’Day Young and Martie Todd Sirois in a drama that gets under your skin. Marsha Norman’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize winner is a disconcerting exercise in suspense and family drama that leaves people talking as they leave the theater; it’s unsentimental yet eerily real.

‘night, Mother unfolds in real time over the course of an evening with Thelma Cates (Young) and her daughter, Jessie (Sirois). Middle-aged and dumpily dressed Jessie lives with Thelma as an unofficial caretaker, doing minor tasks and making sure the older woman’s supply of candy is well-stocked. Just a few minutes into the play, Jessie nonchalantly announces to Thelma that she’s going to kill herself. From there, the clock is ticking.

Mother‘s strength comes from its distressingly realistic depictions of Thelma’s and Jessie’s mundane lives. Even in its short run time, we learn everything we need to know about these two women, without any long, expository speeches. Sirois captures the right note with Jessie, who gradually reveals the extent to which she’s been planning her demise. Suffering from a failed marriage, a delinquent son and painful bouts of epilepsy, she’s calmly resigned to the fact that there is nothing more waiting for her in life, and she goes about her last night as though she were simply leaving for a trip. Young gets into the meat of Thelma, as her character’s initial bewilderment gives way to sorrow, anger and surprising ferocity, throwing out family secrets in a desperate attempt to keep her daughter both alive and in her life.

These are heavy themes, but Norman’s writing and Jesse Gephart’s direction keep the story moving and avoid a grim, dour tone. That in turn makes Mother‘s message all the more effective; it’s about the combination of selfishness and need for control that drives people to Jessie’s situation, and the need to understand each other before it’s too late. Mother is a thought-provoking piece of writing and acting—and one that’ll make you want to call your parents afterward.

Reprinted from The Independent Weekly

Reprinted from the Independent Weekly

History on the move at Blount Street Commons

Making a “neighborhood thing,” with tractors and dollies

3 SEP 2008  •  by Zack Smith

I usually sleep in on Saturdays, but it’s not every weekend you get to see half a million pounds of history towed down the street.

I’m on North Blount Street in downtown Raleigh to watch the Blake Moving Company haul two historic houses to new foundations as part of a new development, an event that will be filmed for the National Geographic Channel’s Monster Moves. A brochure I’m given points out that Blake (who also moved the Midway Plantation for the family of Independent film critic Godfrey Cheshire, who documented the event in his film Moving Midway) has never dropped a building. For some reason, I’m a little disappointed.

The houses being moved are part of Blount Street Commons, a plan to revitalize the North Blount Street historic district through a combination of redeveloped homes and new units. As part of this, several houses are being moved from their foundations on North Wilmington Street onto North Blount Street.

A large crowd has gathered on my side of the barrier, many of them architects and engineers. One member in particular stands out: 79-year-old Mary Lou Pressly, who lived in the 133-year-old Merrimon-Wynne home from 1934 to 1964. Her father was president of Peace College, and the soon-to-be-moved home served as the president’s residence. She recalls it as a big house with lots of room to play, though she doesn’t mind seeing it uprooted. “I’d much rather see it move than get torn down.”

Pressly says her family lived in the Merrimon-Wynne home “on sort of the edge of the good times,” before the Blount Street neighborhood began to deteriorate. She’s a fan of the Blount Street Commons development: “They want to revitalize it by using the old. I hope they can do it and make a neighborhood thing out of it.”

Pressly, who now lives in North Raleigh, is both optimistic and slightly wary about the many developments in the area. “I think there’s some progress, but I think sometimes they bite off too much to chew at one time,” Pressly says. “Right now, we’ve got a lot on the books to get chewed.”

The move represents a major step forward for Blount Street Commons, though there’s still the question of what will happen with the houses once they’re moved. One house is currently available for sale, while the other will be for sale once the land is purchased from the city next August.

Michael Davidson, the director and cinematographer for the TV show, says the Monster Moves episode will probably air in November. The Blount Street houses represent a unique type of move for the show. “It’s rare in a moving project to find a collection of historic homes,” Davidson says. He’s filmed everywhere from Vancouver to London, but he’s found shooting in the North Carolina heat a unique experience: “A few months ago, we were at minus-40 degrees in Manitoba.” Luckily, it’s a pleasant, non-humid 75 degrees this morning, though gnats appear as it wears on.

There’s a lurch ing noise as the first house, the 102-year-old Hume Home, slowly heads down the street. “Bye, house!” calls a kid in the crowd. Work begins on getting the 250-ton Merrimon-Wynne home up on six-wheel dollies. The PR lady reminds me again that Blake has never dropped a house. I’m watching carefully. Both houses arrive at their new lots safely—though whether they’ll find new owners as well remains to be seen.

For more information, visit

Read also: Zack Smith’s July 2007 story “Building Blount Street Commons

All-Ages in a Onesie. Corey Barba Talks ‘Yam’

By Zack Smith

It’s a lovely life on the island of La Leche de la Luna. On an average day, you might find yourself dealing with a cupcake that thinks it’s a pet, a flower that wants to start a rock band, turtles with delicious treats for shells, or even meet the girl of your dreams…and hang out with her in her dreams.

It’s the life of an adventurous little boy with a jetpack and orange onesie known as Yam. For years, his adventures have appeared in Nickelodeon magazine, and now they’ve come to comics in Top Shelf Productions’ new collection Yam: Bite-Size Chunks, which features an all-new 38-page story. Yam’s creator, Corey Barba, talked to Newsarama about his surreal creation, and how it came to be.

Read the full interview here!