Claudio and The Carolina Theatre of Durham, North Carolina

An Element of History and A Matter of Pride

Claudio and The Carolina Theatre

In the Summer of 1992 Technical Director Paul Gabriel of Durham’s Carolina Theatre hired Claudio to assist in its restoration project and assume any position that would be required of him during this extensive and historical undertaking. As the theatre’s very first stage hand Claudio also assumed the position of assistant carpenter (for aiding in the building of the stage and orchestra pit as well as other areas throughout the house), overall labourer where and as needed and assistant to Paul Gabriel and Pepper Fluke in touring the public through the backstage area and the overall renovation process. He also filled in as host and translator to International visitors (particularly to the German, Dutch, French, Afrikaans and South African tours) and eventually also took position as the internal head of Security under the auspices of Paul Gabriel. Claudio also assisted Jamin Skipper who came in as head of maintenance initially and is now the overall Facilities Manager. The Grand Opening of Fletcher Hall known as SOMETHING TO POINT TO was as much a celebration of all the hands on deck as it was art unto itself ~ a praiseworthy accomplishment by all . This year (2006) is another milestone for The Carolina Theatre as it is its 80th Birthday celebration.

It is with particular appreciation to Pepper Fluke, Jamin Skipper, John Elliott (the current Technical Manager) and The Carolina Theatre Management Staff that Claudio remains on call as a member of the in – house stage crew and wherever else his skills and services are required ( to include the culinary arts as Chef Claudio ) . He has also performed on stage as the sole narrator for Igor Stravinsky’s “Histoire Du Soldat” with Conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann and The North Carolina Symphony. Claudio Oswald Niedworok is proud to be woven into the tapestry of this unique theatre’s history since well before its reopening to the public in 1993 and credits this inspiring aspect of his life to his late friend Paul Lamont Gabriel (“Gabe”) with whom he shared a longtime history in the arts.

carolina theatre durham nc lobby

Note to my Family of Friends. Please forgive this lengthy personal profile of my history with the beloved and Historic Carolina Theatre but I have never bothered to remember and record it all before. A picture from my dear friend Mollie Moses reminded me of my own “Cinema Paradiso” experience at The Historic Carolina Theatre of Durham which I helped restore and run in almost every capacity imaginable. From Back Stage to On Stage to Stage Manager and Theatre Technician to the pre-recorded Voice of The Theatre and In-House Announcer to Actor/Narrator with Symphonies to joining the crew constructing the Fly-rail and rebuilding the Orchestra pit and our Cinemas and their Projection Booths. Also Executive Chef for Special Events and The Grand Opening Gala with Mandy Patinkin singing Broadway Songs and then joining me in the kitchen after his show once I was done preparing a $200 a plate New Orleans Style Buffet Luncheon / Theatre Fundraiser at the Armory across the street. The media, I am grateful to say, later reviewed the food as: “To die for!” There is a picture of Mandy and me, taken of him enjoying my cuisine, along with my Menu for the fantastic sold-out Carolina Theatre Gala on my Culinary Arts link on my website: I was the very first Theatre and Stage Technician hired in that glorious realm by my late friend, Paul Gabriel, the Technical Director and President of the Theatre Union. I enjoyed the ambient spirit of our beloved Theatre and collaborations with House Manager Jamin Skipper and the wonderful ongoing house crews (upstairs and downstairs) that the Carolina Theatre itself seemed to summon in for the good many years I was there. I can still feel the love of that beautiful realm anytime I enter it like being engulfed by a BIG HUG…and I HUG that profound mystical aspect right back! I am in the throes of penning many a tale of my experiences with the ghosts residing there and am calling my literary tapestry: FOCUSING THE GHOST LIGHT. Well before the sophisticated alarm system of today there was none and I spent many nights alone as Head of Security roving all levels of that old three storied Theatre and Cinema building. As time passed, and ever so gradually, I came to be encountered by some of these mystical countenances that went all the way back to the 1920’s when it was a Vaudeville House that frequently featured Eddy Arnold in top hats and tails along with the likes of The Three Stooges and other celebrities of the day. I dare say I never met any of them in spirit. I remember, as a few others do, a young black lad in restaurant style service attire of that era holding a tray and looking my way from off in the distance on the upper stairwell and sometimes, also distantly, on the catwalk when I unlocked the access door and peered inside. The strongest presences I met and sensed more clearly seemed to be more recent ones and some of them occasionally warned me of intruders in the building when I dozed off while taking a break in a dressing room. I considered them my friends and would have been less comfortable without them there. They enabled me to play an old ghost myself and scare the hell out of people breaking in. I scared a good number of them away without them ever realizing I was still a living entity by sneaking close to them in the dark or above them from a balcony and making subtle throaty sounds or loud indistinguishable whispers which the acoustics in the house did much to emphasize and dramatize as they often stumbled and could not run out of the building fast enough. I had to keep myself from laughing out loud at times. These remembrances will be posted on my new ~ The Artist CLAUDIO / Members Only ~ website to which you will find a big yellow link on the home page of my regular one.

In conclusion I want to give a big shout out to The Historic Carolina Theatre of Durham for being the loyal Underwriter, Sponsor and ongoing Financial Supporter (for a marvelous 8 years) of my hit Radio Show: “Claudio’s SpeakEasy and Radio Theatre” on WCOM 103.5 FM in Carrboro/Chapel Hill and Worldwide every Tuesday on Prime Time ~ 10:00 AM. I must also express my undying gratitude to The Apex Arts Council and its President Bob Crowley who also joined as an Underwriter, Sponsor and Financial Supporter of my Radio Theatre.

~ Cheers! ~

Claudio Oswald Niedworok | Author, Actor, Narrator, Visual/Graphic Artist, Recording Artist, Performance Artist, Poet, Monologuist
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