TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — The Empire Turns 20

In a few days, a week of events will mark the first two decades of the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks. A 20th Anniversary Celebration Concert on April 21 will open the week that will also include an open mic night, a movie night and more and conclude with the Empire’s annual dinner and dance.

The Empire is such a big part of Grand Forks it seems as if it has always “been.” But it hasn’t. It must have been a struggle to open the Empire just a year after the 1997 flood. And it’s taken a lot of dedication, fundraising and just plain hard work to keep the doors open ever since, the front door and the stage door.

It hasn’t always been the Empire Arts Center. The Empire’s original life was that of a movie theater, beginning in 1919.

The last film I can remember seeing there may have been “The Wrecking Crew” in 1968. I was a college kid, home for the summer, when a friend dragged me off the street and drove me against my will — more or less — from Hillsboro, N.D., to Grand Forks to see what must have been one of the last movies in the Matt Helm series, a James Bond-like knockoff vehicle for Dean Martin. My friend was a fan of Dean Martin’s acting. Me, not so much. Let’s just say the movie wouldn’t be an Oscar contender that year.

Flash-forward a good bit and for several years running I would emcee First Night shows at the Empire on New Year’s Eve, introducing acts like the late, great local vocal group Marcoux Corner. We often did “live shots” from the Empire on First Night for WDAZ News.

In the early First Night years, ice sculpture gardens were a big deal near the Empire. I believe it was my idea to ask the ice sculptors to create an ice news desk for us, from which to broadcast live, an idea I would come to regret. Sitting at an ice desk for a half hour in subfreezing weather may look cute, but it’s not exactly pleasant for the anchor boys and girls.

A few years ago, I was asked to narrate “Peter and the Wolf” as part of a Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra children’s concert. I loved it. A few years before that, I “conducted” the symphony, having won its “Make Me a Maestro” fundraising contest.

Never one to play it very straight, for my conducting stint I concocted a “bit” in which I  ordered, had delivered and ate a pizza on the stage after having kicked off the orchestra’s version of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Sometimes a person can have too much fun. Or at least, just enough.

Ginny and I have been in the audience for many great shows, including concerts by Leon Russell, Maria Muldaur and John C. Reilly & Friends.

The point is I feel at home at the Empire. On the stage and in the audience. And I’m not the only one. Hundreds of performers and audiences do, too. So congratulations to the Empire staff, board, performers and audience members on its first 20 years. Here’s to 20 more and another 20 more after that.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — ‘Zombie Empire’

Remember  the Sony Pictures hacking scandal a few weeks back? Hackers released a ton of confidential data belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment, including personal information about Sony employees, their salaries and whatnot.  It provided a glimpse of who was doing what to whom in Hollywood.   It embarrassed countless show business talent and executive-types and provided a lot of fun reading for the rest of us.

With that in mind, what follows is a heavily edited but very real Facebook conversation between the lovely and talented Maria Williams Kennedy and educator/actor/singer/director/agitator Brad Sherwood. I’m releasing it in hopes of stirring up some trouble around here.

Maria Williams Kennedy:  Hello! I am working on a collaboration with Emily Burkland at the Empire Arts Center about an Opera Project that will be turned into a film to be shown at the Empire. I have written the script and contacted singers and would like to ask you if you would be interested in performing….. Please let me know if you are interested in this fun Fundraiser for the Empire. I have attached the scrip. Thank you!

Brad Sherwood: What is the timeline of events around this work?

Maria Williams Kennedy: We would be filming in the Summer and a release date would be September.

Brad Sherwood: Sounds like fun … if it fits in the calendar of life … ‘I’m in”

Maria Williams Kennedy: Yay!

Brad Sherwood: But only if I can be killed by Terry Dullum!!!

Maria Williams Kennedy: LOL that could be arranged!

Terry Dullum: I’d love to kill Brad. I’m assuming this is a nonsinging role on my part?

Maria Williams Kennedy: Yes, no singing. We’d love to have you kill Brad, Terry!

Terry Dullum: I have a list of some others I’d like to kill … but we can discuss that later.

“Zombie Empire” is a real project. Without giving away too much, let’s just say the script revolves around zombies, Marilyn Hagerty and world domination.  I’ll be playing myself, as best I can.  Watch for it.