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Called to Witness: Rwanda

Few tragedies of the last decade equal the horrors of the Rwandan genocide. In this small central African nation—Rwanda is bordered on the west by Congo and north by Uganda, and is geographically similar in size to Maryland—approximately one million ethnic Tutsis were slaughtered by the ethnic Hutu majority. Most of this killing took place between April and July 1994 at the rate, according to one estimate, of one murder every 17 seconds. Within Rwanda itself, it was a complete societal breakdown, with government officials, the army and police, teachers, and Protestant and Catholic officials deeply implicated in the genocide. The international community, particularly the United Nations, the United States, Belgium (Rwanda’s former colonial ruler) and France, were aware of the killings but did nothing.

In March 2002, Catholic Relief Services sponsored Called to Witness, in which a diverse group—including Saratoga Springs artist Catherine Wagner Minnery—traveled to Rwanda to visit genocide sites and meet with both survivor groups and prisoners who committed the murders. The goal was understanding and healing. This experience has led to Minnery’s Called to Witness: Rwanda, an exhibit of paintings, drawings, writings and photos opening tomorrow (Friday) at the Visions Gallery in Albany. As Minnery explained in the gallery’s press release, “The exhibit is one of the ways that I have been telling the story of my week in Rwanda. . . . To bear witness is to struggle under the weight of what you know and to be held accountable. It is a great gift. My challenge is to make this visible.”

Called to Witness: Rwanda will be presented at the Visions Gallery in the Diocesan Pastoral Center (40 N. Main Ave., Albany) tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 10) through Feb. 28, with the opening reception Friday from 5 to 7 PM. On Jan. 26 at 3 PM, Eugenie Mukeshimana, a genocide survivor and current College of Saint Rose student, will give a presentation. A donation will be requested for this program, the proceeds of which will help Mukeshimana defray the costs of her education and stay.

Gallery hours are 8 AM to 7 PM weekdays, and the exhibit is free and open to the public. Call 489-5311 for information.

Fit to Kill

Curtain Call Theatre continues its 2002-2003 season with a world-premiere comedy-thriller by Saratoga Springs native Victor L. Cahn, opening tomorrow (Friday).

Cahn, a professor at Skidmore College, has had several of his plays produced both locally and in New York City, and his current production also is receiving much NYC buzz. It’s the story of a high-powered CEO in the exercise business, her chess-playing husband and an alluring stranger. There are plot twists galore in this 90-minute puzzler. The production will be directed by Curtain Call’s resident director Steven Fletcher, and features Eva Dolan, Agnes Kapusta and Howie Schaffer.

Fit to Kill will be staged at Curtain Call Theatre (210 Old Loudon Road, Latham) starting tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 10) and running through Feb. 2. Performances will be Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 877-7529.

The Extras CD-Release Party

You haven’t seen Albany punk band the Extras lately—if you think you have, you must have just woken up from a 20-year sleep. ’Cause the Extras were hot then—20 years ago—banging out power chords to adoring audiences all over town. Now many of you who may remember the band—frontman and bassist Mark DeForge, guitarist Eric Van Sleet and drummer George Lipscomb—may not be clubgoing regulars these days, but that’s OK. It’s just like riding a bike. For the kids who are perhaps unfamiliar with the early-’80s music scene ’round here, let us tell you a little story.

There was a time when many area band names were littered with those letters relegated to the end of the alphabet: the Scuzzies, the Dizzies, the Dronez, the X-Istentials. The Extras, an integral part of that era’s scene, ran with that crowd. “It was a great time to be alive and into music in Albany, New York, USA,” DeForge claims on the liner notes of the band’s recent release, Ugly American.

Which brings us to our point: The Extras recorded Ugly American on a June day more than 20 years ago (1982 to be exact) in a mad dash to get their songs recorded before DeForge did time for a drug rap. Those tapes sat around for 18 years until onetime Extras fan Jim Furlong (who provided the dough for the session) decided they should see the light of day. After some remastering and tweaking, the CD finally was finished, and the reunited band will celebrate at Savannah’s tonight (Thursday). Ugly American contains a load of original material and select covers such as the Barbarians’ “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl,” the Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’ ” and the Modern Lovers’ “Rockin’ Shoppin’ Center.”

You can revisit early-’80s Albany when the Extras play their CD-release show tonight (Thursday, Jan. 9) at Savannah’s (1 S. Pearl St., Albany). Local pub-punk favorites Nogoodnix will open the show. Doors open at 9 PM, and $5 gets you in the door ($4 advance tickets). Call the club, 426-9647, for more information.


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