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ALOHA, SUPERSTARS: Walkerworld Luau set to benefit Superstar Academy theater programs and outreach

encore sat down with Zach Hanner to learn more about this year’s luau-inspired fundraiser for Superstar Academy and Theater for All, set for March 4.

With temperatures topping at 70 and even 80 degrees in February, a luau in March doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right now. So, this weekend’s fundraiser for Superstar Academy and Theater for All should have everyone rushing to the waterside getaway of Walkerworld Organic Artist Retreat in Castle Hayne.

KID’S THEATER: Superstar Academy’s after-school program (above) is one of several outreach initiatives to benefit from luau fundraiser. Photo by Zach Hanner.

KID’S THEATER: Superstar Academy’s after-school program (above) is one of several outreach initiatives to benefit from luau fundraiser. Photo by Zach Hanner.

The “Southern-fried riverside luau” fundraiser will help fund many outreach programs and theatrical productions held throughout the year. The family-friendly affair includes BBQ from Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach, as well as tasty bites from Indochine, YoSake and their new sister restaurant, Dram + Morsel. Also, craft brews will be served from Front Street Brewery, including a kolsch and an ESB.

“We will [have] silent-auction items and raffle prizes up for bidding as well,” Superstar Academy’s executive director, Zach Hanner, adds. “Dining gift certificates, killer deals on rentals and [Superstar Academy] lessons, as well as some amazing art from local artists!”

Tickets are all-inclusive at $40 for adults, and since this is a fundraiser for kids’ programs, $10 for kids 16 and younger. All funds raised support Superstar Academy programs, including the nonprofit’s ongoing Theater for All creative arts group for folks with disabilities.

encore sat down with Hanner to learn more about this year’s luau-inspired fundraiser, Superstar Academy, currently based out of TheatreNOW, and Theater for All.

encore (e): Tell our readers more about Superstar Academy and Theater for All.

Zach Hanner (ZH): While Superstar Academy offers after-school classes, theatrical productions, summer camps and workshops, we also offer outreach programs into Williston, D.C. Virgo and Lake Forest Academy. Our Theater for All program offers weekly Saturday class at TheatreNOW, but Kim Henry also works with students at Laney High School and with Transitions, a county program for young people with special needs.

While some of our endeavors come with a participation fee, we have scholarship opportunities at every level, so no child will be turned away. Of course, all our in-school enrichment programs are free to the school system and are funded through events like the Walkerworld Luau.

e: Tell us more about the role you play on the board of directors and what these programs mean to you.

ZH: My parents were both teachers, and I felt very fortunate to have a number of wonderful teachers that encouraged and inspired me to become the person and performer I am. I’ve always wanted to provide that for young and aspiring talent. Being executive director of this program means I can steer the nonprofit in what I think is the best direction for our participants. Being an educator within the program and seeing these young people becoming confident onstage and growing into adults that want to continue on with theater is perhaps the most rewarding thing I do.

e: How do these fundraising dollars benefit or improve programming?

ZH: Our nonprofit has grown incrementally each year of its existence, and we still have many outreach programs we wish to actualize.There’s a potential program that will offer staged readings, improv and movement classes and more for senior centers, as well as a proposal to offer therapeutic theater instruction for female inmates in the county jail. I would love to bring in another filmmaking teacher to further our outreach to elementary schools where kids can make a movie in an hour on their iPads. Of course, those things cost money, as does equipment to make them happen.

We need more qualified instructors, more volunteers, and we need motivated board members who can help us fundraise and spread the word about our mission. If anyone is interested in becoming involved, I would love to chat with them.

e: What upcoming productions are you excited to work on?

ZH: We’ll have our end-of-class showcase on Friday, March 10—and that’s always a lot of fun. The kids, especially the younger ones, really love going from classes in the upstairs studio to performing on a real stage for their family and friends. The following week, we’ll be holding auditions for our upcoming “Tales of the Unusual: Vol 2,” an anthology piece featuring two one-act plays.

The first is called “What Lies Beneath,” and it follows a group of kids that are devotees of a Dungeons and Dragons-type game. After attending a gaming convention, they go to the park to play their game. Just then a sinkhole opens in the earth, and they find themselves in a subterranean world, ruled by an evil overlord. Only their gaming skills can help them escape.

The second short, called “Super Zeros,” is about a washed-up comic-book artist who can only come up with terrible superheroes. He finally gives up his dream and takes a real job. On his first day at the nuclear plant, he spills radioactive waste and is fired. Upon arriving home, he turns on the news to find a giant robot is headed for the city at the bidding of an evil scientist. Having thrown his nuclear waste-tainted shoes in the trash, along with all his failed superheroes, the artist can’t believe it when they all come to life and try to stop the evil robot.

e: For folks who haven’t been to Walkerworld, tell them what they can expect of the adventure.

ZH: I like to describe Walkerworld as an Air BnB for the folk-art enthusiast. Allen [Walker] is an old friend, and he’s created this wonderfully eccentric enclave that is like a “Southern Gothic Winchester House” right on the river. It’s a sprawling space of giant art pieces, funky old barns and outbuildings, eccentric architecture and a view of the Cape Fear River that can’t be beat! Add in some groovy luau food and Hawaiian music from Da Howlies (I’m the ukulele player, so I got the band cheap!), and this will be a singular event on the Wilmington cultural calendar.

e: What are some kid-friendly activities and entertainment you have lined up for guests and their families?

ZH: We’ll be featuring the sounds of the islands courtesy of Da Howlies Hawaiian Band, a group that’s been playing here in Wilmington for the past 15 years. In addition, we’ll have performers from some of our programs, including participants in our Theater for All program. There will be some hand-percussion jams for the kids to get involved in, as well as a handful of games.

e: What should people wear to this shindig—it is a luau, after all.

ZH: Hopefully, the weather will be awesome, so we recommend shorts and Hawaiian shirts for the gentlemen and Muumuus or sundresses for the ladies. No high heels, as flat surfaces are rare at Walkerworld.


Walkerworld Luau to Benefit Superstar Academy and Theater for All
Sunday, March 4, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Walkerworld Organic Artist Retreat
453 Blossom Ferry Rd., Castle Hayne
Tickets: Adults, $40; kids, $10

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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