HARVIN COLUMN: A pirate, a circus, and a mystery

Rodney Lee Rogers of Pure Theatre will perform his one-man show “The Gentleman Pirate” in the North Charleston Dinner Theatre series.

Our performing arts companies are kicking off so many wonderful new productions that you can be busy every single weekend from now until Christmas.

It's hard to choose which will be more entertaining, but here's a variety with some familiar chords to strike your fancy.

The North Charleston Dinner Theatre series kicks off Friday starring Rodney Lee Rogers as “The Gentleman Pirate.” Not only will you get a meal of grilled Cypress chicken, but Rogers, one of the performers at Pure Theatre, brings in his one-man show based on the trials and glories of Stede Bonnet, also known as “The Gentleman Pirate.” The play focuses on Bonnet's 1718 trial here in Charleston, where he defended himself and in the end was sentenced to death.

Rogers referenced the existing trial transcripts to inform the production's script, filling any factual gaps in Bonnet's story with his Shakespearean-influenced imagination. Patrons then have the opportunity to question the pirate following the performance. Rogers answers questions in character.

If you have never seen this one-man tour de force, then you are missing out on some wonderful high jinks with a compelling actor. Rogers has no trouble holding the floor, and he's a treat to watch.

The Dinner Theatre will be at the Charleston Area Convention Center Ballroom (adjacent to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center) at 5001 Coliseum Drive. The doors open at 7 p.m. for dinner. Tickets are $40 and includes dinner, the play and gratuity. Parking is free. For tickets or more info, call Pam Smith at 740-5847 or email culturalarts@north charleston.org.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the “Little Mozart Circus” returns to Charleston. If you think your child might be interested in music, this is a wonderful way to find out.

Children of all ages can play a violin and find out about music education in our area. There are also free performances under the tents.

It's a hugely popular part of the “Mozart in the South Festival” produced by Chamber Music Charleston. This four-day celebration provides a chance to become immersed in a variety of classical music opportunities in Charleston.

The festival opens at 4 p.m. Thursday at Circular Congregational Church with a piano master class with Andrew Armstrong. Praised by critics for his passionate expression and dazzling technique, pianist Armstrong has delighted audiences around the world. He has performed solo recitals and appeared with orchestras internationally, including concerts at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and Warsaw's National Philharmonic.

A handful of promising Charleston pianists will perform as Armstrong helps them explore works.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Sottile Theatre, Chamber Music Charleston and the Charleston Chamber Opera collaborate to present Mozart's “The Impresario.” It is set in Charleston in the 1940s and Mr. Sournuff, the city's leading arts producer, is trying to cast his latest radio show.

With an ensemble of instrumentalists on stage to accompany the auditioning singers, everything is going smoothly until two prima donnas audition for the same lead role.

As you can guess, fireworks ensue and Mozart comes up with plenty of vocal and musical silliness that are a delight to hear.

This is a chance to hear some of our fine operatic voices in a production that is sure to be fine and funny at the same time.

The festival concludes at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul with a grand finale performance of music for piano and strings.

Armstrong will join violinists Frances Hsieh and Nonoko Okada, violist Ben Weiss and cellist Timothy O'Malley in a performance of Mozart's Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478 and Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. A courtyard reception follows the performance.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.mozartinthesouth.org or call 763-4941.

Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and James Bond are featured in a new exhibit called “The Detective, Spy and Detective Scholar” that runs through December at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, 68 Spring St. It consists of two dozen items that explore the history, theory and success of mystery and spy novels through the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming and Dorothy Sayers, the authors and creators of famous fictional superheroes.

If you look at the mystery story genre, the development of the superhero started with detective stories. It began with Wilkie Collins' novel “The Moonstone,” and reached its highest level with the Sherlock Holmes stories and Sayers' scholarly articles on “How to Write a Detective Story.”

From this grew spy stories such as Fleming's Bond series.

Sayers was a copywriter at a London advertising agency when her first major novel, “Whose Body,” was published in 1923 and featured for the first time Lord Peter Wimsey, the dashing gentleman-scholar-turned-detective. The book was followed by one or two detective novels a year for the next 15 years.

In Bond, Fleming single-handedly transformed popular detective fiction from common and average to an elegant world. Fleming argued that he created Bond as “an interesting man to whom extraordinary things happen.”

These and many other subjects are developed in the exhibit. If you have never been to the museum, it's worth it to see how the old church has been transformed into a display case for famous documents without losing it's distinctive ambience.

The best part is parking and admission are free. Hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday (closed Saturdays-Mondays). Call 853-4651.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or sharvin@postandcourier.com.