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Cucalorus Festival Announces Headliners For 23rd Annual Celebration

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 26, 2017
Cucalorus has announced its headliners and some of its performers for its 23rd annual festival in November.

The new Cucalorus Festival schedule this year, which takes place Nov. 8-12, includes three branches; Film, Stage and Connect. Early this year, officials announced the Cucalorus brand was taking on another name.

During the Connect Conference on Nov. 9 and 10, Michele Holbrook, Wilmington plant operations manager for Corning Inc., is the opening keynote speaker. Holbrook will be followed by other executives, including GE Hitachi Nuclear CIO and CDO Mona Badie, and others with ESPN, CBS Sports, SAS, Microsoft, K4Connect and more.

Entrepreneur George Taylor, who Connect officials say has been instrumental in building the ecosystem for startups in North Carolina, will make a special announcement during the closing keynote about his work to launch a brewery run by gang members as a way to combat gang violence.

Dan Brawley, executive director of the annual Cucalorus Festival, said officials knew it would take a few years to fully develop the festival's Connect Conference, now in its third year. But a key development for the conference this year, and for the future of its programs, was the formation of its first Connect executive board, and appointing Tom Looney as president, he said.

“We’re excited to see what happens in November, and this is truly the debut of Cucalorus Connect. It’s this year's conference … We have developed this into something that we are really proud of,” Brawley said.

Looney said he is excited for the full lineup of keynoters, track speakers and panelists, who he said, "will inform and inspire us at Connect this year." 

"Maybe the thing I'm proudest about, in terms of the program, is that the 'Digital Industrial' is taking center stage. Our opening morning keynotes both Thursday (Corning's Holbrook) and Friday (GE's Badie) will help set the tone by sharing their insights about continual waves of innovation, the industrial internet and advanced manufacturing," Looney said in an email.

"They are two of our region's most senior executives in our innovation economy and will certainly inspire some of the wonderful programs done by the chamber around STEM education in K-12, as well as the women-in-tech efforts of some of our other speakers," he added. 

Looney will also take the Connect stage at the event to speak on "Jobs in the Now and Next Economy."

"We hope our community pours out in record numbers to be a part of this celebration of Wilmington's Now & Next Economy ... led by innovation and the digital transformation that is changing the way we work, live, learn and play," he said.

Headlining Thursday's schedule of the film branch of Cucalorus, Onur Tukel returns to Wilmington for the Southern U.S. premiere of his latest film The Misogynists, a satirical comedy about two Trump supporters celebrating in a hotel room on election night.

Cucalorus officials said the festival is hosting the world premiere of Canadian filmmakers Hannah Cheesman's and Mackenzie Donaldson's The Definites.

And rounding out the premieres at the film festival are Dan Mirvish's Bernard and Huey, Jordan Canning's Ordinary Days, Jennifer Morrison's Sun Dogs and Bob Byington's Infinity Baby. The festival's Works-in-Progress program, a workshop-style review of top social documentaries in-the-making from African-American filmmakers, also includes a lineup of six filmmakers.

Headliners have also been announced for Cucalorus Stage, the festival's newest branch that was built on the success of performance-focused events such as Dance-a-lorus, the Bus to Lumberton and Visual/Sound/Walls. The Cucalorus Stage experience includes more than 40 performers working in dance, music, theater, comedy and performance.

Alexandra Tatarsky returns to the festival with Americana Psychobabble, as well as Shirley Gnome, who will share her new show Taking it up the Notch.

Dram Tree Shakespeare, Pineapple-Shaped Lamps and a host of other performers round out the lineup, while the David Lynch-inspired Bus to Lumberton installation is being created by award-winning alum Josephine Decker.

The Cucalorus Festival will include more than 180 events over the five days, Brawley said. Cucalorus officials are buttoning up all the final details and aim to release its full schedule next week.
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