Alphabet snoop [with video]

Alphabet snoop [with video]

It’s a sick day, and Curtain Calls is sprawled across the sofa with ginger ale and crackers galore, malcontent for reasons beyond his grumbling, somersaulting gut. Will Shortz, editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle and the sole recipient of a degree in enigmatology (as well as a degree from the UVA School of Law), would speak in town on April 2 (see calendar, page 34), and CC was yet to nab an interview with the fellow. Forgive the harsh words, but an elusive puzzlemaster can make Curt a little cross.

Meet your local lady arm wrestler: Alix Bryan.

Rousing himself from his blanket of Canada Dry and saltine dust, Curt crawled to his Artmobile and drove—pathetic and sickly, mind you—to Sneak Reviews to pick up a copy of Wordplay, the 2006 documentary on Shortz and the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Mission accomplished and spirits soothing his stomach like Pepto B, CC drove home and crawled back into bed, content to use the film as a Shortz primer or a tutorial for Charlottesville’s own Wordplay event, a trivia competition to benefit the Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle slated for April 23 at the Omni Hotel (details at Just because a fellow’s a little cross doesn’t mean he has to feel “2 Down,” right?

11 Across: Cops, Oz and the theater

CC is wedged between Melissa Lauricella and Georgia Snow in the Jefferson Room of the Central Library, waiting for his moment to interview someone, anyone, about the new Charlottesville Women’s Theatre Project that the two gals co-founded.

“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”: Melissa Lauricella (left) and Georgia Snow offer female perspectives on Oz and everything else in Talking With…, the first play produced by their Charlottesville Women’s Theatre Project.

No interview is necessary, however: Like some combination of “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and the Odd Couple, Lauricella and Snow seem to generate precisely what they want from their interactions. Snow (who Curt would peg as the Bad Cop) is giving directions to a girl named Lauren, one of the 11 performers cast in Talking With…, a play by the enigmatic Jane Martin and the first from the new performance troupe, set to premiere on Friday, April 11, at The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative. Lauren, cast as a married woman obsessed with L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books, is ready to run through her monologue about The Patchwork Girl of Oz; she wears a quilt of fabric leftovers and a white mask.

“If you need a line, call for it,” Snow tells Lauren. “And, if you’re gonna make a mistake, make it bloody.” Lauricella responds with body language rather than the firm words of her partner; her strawberry blond curls bounce as she nods enthusiastically.

When Lauren’s rehearsal time is up, the two founders practically interview one another, asking the other where to begin talking and answering Curt’s questions in the process. Lauricella moved to Charlottesville from New York in the fall of 2007 and posted an online ad to generate interest in a community theater group. Snow, a self-described “professional actor from New York” (Curt was skeptical of the phrase, but it checks out; the gal toured with the 40th anniversary production of Fiddler on the Roof and pops up in the “Chappelle Show” mock ad for “Samuel Jackson Beer”), answered the ad. Weeks later, the pair performed monologues from Talking With… during an “open floor” night at the Tea Bazaar and put another ad online to attract local performers.

“Now, we’re two-and-a-half weeks from opening night, and we’re like…” Lauricella begins, and, true to her personality, yields to an enormous grin. “Bad Cop” Snow finishes, instead, in a mock-horrified voice: “‘Oh my gawd!’”

Talking With… is a bizarre way to begin a theater company—a collection of monologues by women in offbeat jobs, relationships and life situations riding the quakes of immense change. Additionally, playwright Martin has never been seen in public; writers theorize that the female writer may actually be a pen name for Martin’s recurring director, a fellow named Jon Jory. Which makes this a play about women with wavering identities, written by a woman that might be a man, directed and produced by an all-female theater company that has yet to establish a history for itself.

The interview wraps up as the next performer arrives to rehearse with Snow and Lauricella. Back to their “Mutt and Jeff” act, Snow takes charge, updating the performer on props. “You should have a cat tonight,” Snow tells the woman. Then, a moment later: “Here’s your hammer.” Make it bloody, right? Lauricella smiles and bounces slightly in her chair.

The scenes don’t make sense to Curt yet, but he suspends any judgment. After all, how can you tell if a disparate collection of stories adds up to something greater until you see it for yourself?

47 Down: Physics, Tibet and books

“A couple of years ago, one of our winners had a flipbook collection,” says Anne Ribble, secretary of UVA’s Bibliographical Society and the biannual Student Book Collecting Contest. “Last year, one of our winners had a collection of graphic novels. Someone submitted a collection of Hardy Boys children’s books. We’ve had a collection of Alexandre Dumas, collections of artists’ books, more traditional things like ‘18th century novels’…”

Founded in 1947, the Bibliographical Society is a small team of text junkies hooked on the looks of books (Hey, Wordplay: Any points for a triple rhyme score?)—graphics, binding, materials, you print it and they’ll pore over it. Since 1955, the society’s book-collecting contest has received a handful of entries from UVA students (recently averaging about 10 each year, according to Ribble) and selected a few worthy bookpiles for awards.

Last Friday, however, the Bibliographical Society announced that the winning collection broke free of the usual humanities-heavy flock to claim first prize. Jaideep Singh’s collection, titled “The Education of a Physicist,” nabbed $300 and eligibility for the national Book-Collecting Championship, narrowly edging out Christopher Bell’s “Books of Tibet, Books from Tibet.”

All right, a book competition is a bit less thrilling than, say, women’s arm wrestling (we’re getting there, folks!), but Ribble let this gem slip when she brought up Bell’s collection with Curt. Apparently, UVA has an immense collection of Tibetan texts and materials, removed from the contested land following the agreement that made Tibet part of the People’s Republic of China. Give the collection a look at

CLAW of the Month

In preparation for the next Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestling competition—April 8 at Blue Moon Diner, gals and pals—Curt ventured into the dark world of underground arm wrestler training camps (which look a lot like Jeff Wadlow’s Never Back Down, actually) to speak with bicep buster Alix Bryan. By day, Bryan is a travelling pacifist; her cross-country Vespa trip, dubbed P.E.A.C.E. Scooter, is catalogued online at But on April 8, Bryan plans to rip a few wrists off to raise money for her “peaceful” roadtrip, set to resume in May. For video of Bryan, a.k.a. “Cowgirl Sady-istic,” check out

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