NERD ALERT! “Intelligent Nightlife” Series Coming to Charlotte Stagesby Matt Olin on November 26, 2019
Stages managed by Blumenthal Performing Arts rarely go unused, but there are odd times they can be quiet. And, there’s nothing lonelier than an empty stage.
No worries, though. The Blumenthal team has a plan.
About 18 months ago, Blumenthal Performing Arts CEO and President Tom Gabbard discovered a small club in New York featuring a series of live “intelligent nightlife” shows combining education, laughter and, well, booze. Tom was immediately intrigued by the unique brand of content created by Caveat and shared his experience with his staff, challenging them to develop similar shows in Charlotte, with the help of Charlotte Is Creative and WFAE’s Joni Deutsch.
Thus, the “Nerdy Night Out” series was born, starting with an initial flight of 4 shows, produced with the aid of the Caveat team.
We sat down with Joe Hunsaker, Event Manager for Blumenthal Performing Arts, for the skinny on what’s happened so far – and what’s next – with “Nerdy Night Out.”
Q: What is “Nerdy Night Out?”
“Nerdy Night Out” is a new series of affordable live shows Blumenthal Performing Arts is proud to present featuring intelligent content presented in a fun or comedic way. Educational shows don’t have to be boring.
Q: How did the idea originally surface?
Caveat NYC is a small club in Manhattan that specializes in intelligent nightlife. They have a unique brand of “info-tainment” (they don’t like that word, but it might best describe what they do). Things you could learn while having a cocktail at Caveat include the history of ice cream, adult sex education, how to pair wines with comedians, how plastic is destroying the planet, how LSD works on the brain, the biography of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.
While attending the NY Comedy Festival in 2018 to prep for the Queen City Comedy Experience in Charlotte, I squeezed a visit to Caveat into my schedule. That night I saw a show called “Monotony” featuring comedians doing PowerPoint presentations on topics of their choice: the history of potatoes, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life story, and an in-depth critique of a Liz Phair album. I was so impressed with the show and the ideas behind it, I returned the next afternoon for their version of Open Mic called “Scratch Paper.”
This is not your typical open mic. Half the participants were comedians working to improve their research skills and the other half were scientists/experts trying to improve their presentation skills. The result was an incredibly supportive environment of people interested in making audiences smarter in an entertaining way. Surveying the audience during these two separate events, it was clear the room was filled with intelligent folks sipping wine and having a laugh. I had a feeling that Caveat’s shows would be very popular with the creative Charlotte community.
Q: Tell us about Caveat and their role in “Nerdy Night Out.”
I reached out to [Caveat.] On a series of conference calls and emails, we came up with a two-part plan for them to help us create “Nerdy Night Out” [in Charlotte]. The first step would be for them to host a Charlotte creative team for a bootcamp of sorts. The second would be for the Caveat team to visit Charlotte to help cultivate a local version of their shows.
Q: So far, in an effort to give Charlotte audiences a feel for what the team is brewing up, you’ve presented two Caveat shows: Dark Matter and Versus. In December, you’ll present two more Caveat shows: Nevertheless She Existed and Ride Or Die: Oregon Trail Live. After that, what’s next for the “Nerdy Night Out” series?
The next steps are still being developed, but the plan beginning in the first quarter of 2020 is to form a creative team in Charlotte to start an incubator program to design and develop our own Nerdy Night Out shows. Depending on what local Charlotte creatives come up with, we hope to launch by Spring or Summer.
Q: What sort of gap will “Nerdy Night Out” fill in Charlotte’s theatrical landscape?
Blumenthal Performing Arts prides itself on encouraging local performing artists, from Slam Poets to aerial dancers to local theater companies & improv troupes. This is a unique event that could potentially include all of these groups and encourage new performing arts. Charlotte is a popular, up-and-coming city. Intelligent people of all ages and backgrounds are flocking here, and the arts community should reflect that.
I’ve been approached by multiple attendees of the first two “Nerdy Night Out” events, thanking me for creating this unique event. One patron said, “In a world that seems to be increasingly glorifying ignorance, ‘Nerdy Night Out’ is a fun way to embrace intelligence!”
Q: What’s the criteria for an original NNO show, and want kinds of Charlotte creatives do you foresee getting involved by submitting their own ideas?
The criteria is still being developed with the help of Kate and Ben [from Caveat], plus Joni at WFAE and your team at Charlotte Is Creative, but it should be something entertaining and informative. I really hope that creative Charlotteans from many different arts and academic backgrounds get involved. One key component of Caveat’s success is their access to academic experts.
While Blumenthal Performing Arts is very connected to the arts community, it will take some work to find academic experts who are willing to give this endeavor a shot. I am hopeful, however, after meeting several patrons with some promising credentials who have spoken with me after the last two Nerdy Night Out shows, as well as the great performance by Kate Shaner at Versus. Kate is the Education and Program Manager at the Carolina Raptor Center. She was very funny and super impressive at Versus.
Q: Joe, what are you most excited about with this project?
Caveat shows inspire me to be creative. Each show that I have watched at Caveat has spawned multiple ideas of possible new shows I’d like to try in Charlotte. Much like positivity breeds positivity, I feel that creativity breeds creativity. I love Charlotte, and I feel happiest when I am able to be creative. I cannot wait to engage with the local Charlotte community to create smart and funny shows that audiences are hungry for.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Biscuit is published by Charlotte Is Creative, which is mentioned in this article.