The History Channel has taken it to a new level with its original series "Vikings."
I've stumbled upon something I never would have expected from the History Channel, a show that steps into the boundaries of the high level production value found with HBO and Showtime series. That may have a little to do with the fact that "Vikings" is written by screenwriter Michael Hirst, who wrote Showtime's "The Tudors" and the films "Elizabeth" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age."
"Vikings" is a serial television show that follows a Viking warrior named Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Australian actor Travis Fimmel. The series portrays Vikings in the brutal, bloody and primitive manner that folklore and modern media have perpetuated, which is awesome. Yet, it also adopts the technique of offering characters worth caring about.
Lothbrok is a farmer, one who has a beautiful wife, Lagertha, played by Katheryn Winnick, and a son and a daughter. But, that setup isn't enough for him. Oppressed by corrupt chieftain Earl Haraldson, played by Gabriel Byrne, Lothbrok is fueled by a desire for change. He is tired of living in poor conditions, and wants a better life for himself and his family. So, he does something that his chieftain has forbidden, and he sails to the West. In the West, Lothbrok discovers the riches and fame that he sought, but he also inadvertently reveals his people to the even more brutal and corrupt kings across the ocean.
The actual history behind Vikings, pagans and Norse mythology is mostly beyond me, and I wouldn't consider the show entirely accurate, but it is entertaining. The first episode of the series depicts valkyries carrying dead warriors to Valhalla, and Earth is called "Midgard." There are references to gods such as Odin, Thor, Freyr and Frigg, as well as their home, Asgard.
I'm four episodes into the series, and I can't wait for more. The show airs each Sunday at 10 p.m. on the History Channel. But, the series is available for free as it is released on both Hulu.com and www.history.com/shows/vikings.
As per usual, here are the highlights and happenings going on in the area.
Infinity Visual and Performing Arts Brings Polish Saxophonist To Jamestown: Polish saxophonist, Dariusz Samol, will present a workshop to Infinity saxophone students tonight at 6 p.m. in the Infinity Arts Cafe. The workshop will be followed by a recital at 7 p.m., in which the students will each have the opportunity to play a piece before Samol's portion of the performance. Both the workshop and recital are free and open to the public.
Samol teaches at the Academy of Music in Poznan, Szczecin Branch, and at the Integrated Music Schools in Szczecin, Poland. He is also an active clinician throughout Europe and the U.S. He performs with the Pomorski Kwartet Saksofonowy, a Pomeranian saxophone quartet, and the ArtSax Duo with pianist Ewa Ruszala.
The Infinity Cafe is located at 115 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information, call Infinity at 664-0991 or visit www.infinityperformingarts.org.
Auditions for Stage and Screen at The Spire: This spring, Big Time Productions will present the off Broadway hit, "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," a new show about agoraphobia, adultery, 1980s nostalgia, spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, kleptomania, strippers, flan and disco.
Auditions will be held at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 3, and Thursday, April 4, at The Spire Theater, 317 E. Third St. in Jamestown. Those interested in being involved in the show, but cannot make it to the auditions, can call Angelo Giuffre, director. Dates of the show are May 24, 25, 31 and June 1. For more information visit In-Spire.us.
Open feature film auditions for "Empire" are also set for tonight from 5-8 p.m. at The Spire. There are 25 speaking roles to cast and extras needed. A wide range of talent and experience is welcome.
With principal photography to begin in April, the feature film, "Empire," has gained great momentum throughout the community. Audiences will recognize familiar local landmarks on the big screen. Director Matthew Swanson is producing the film along with Paul Schermerhorn and Lewis Ecker. The screenplay was written by Swanson and Alyssa Raimondo. Filming will occur in Jamestown, and is set to complete in fall 2013.
"Empire" is a Brown Hat Production, in association with Schermerhorn Entertainment. For more information or to audition, visit SchermerhornEntertainment.com.
21 Brix Winery To Host Easter Egg Hunt And Live Music Saturday: 21 Brix Winery will host an event for those who wish to feel like a kid again this Easter. Area residents who enjoy scavenger hunts, chocolate and wine will feel right at home during 21 Brix's first annual adult only Easter Egg Hunt at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Participants will search and find classic decorated hardboiled eggs and plastic eggs filled with Easter treats and IOUs for bottles of 21 Brix wine. The hunt will take place outside at 21 Brix Winery, 6654 W. Main Road in Portland. It will happen rain or shine, so wear appropriate shoes and clothing. The event is $5, and space is limited.
In the evening Chautauqua County native Shawn Wilder will perform for the March edition of 21 Brix Winery's music series "Beats at the Brix." The event is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. in the 21 Brix Winery tasting room.
Wilder is an up and coming country singer and songwriter. Since his 2009 Chautauqua Idol victory, Wilder has shared the stage with artists such as Kenny Rogers, Sean Patrick McGraw and Stella Parton. Wilder lives and performs in Nashville, but is back in Western New York for 2013.
The event is free, but a wine purchase is required.
For more information call 792-2749 or visit www.21brix.com.
To include an upcoming show or event in this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 487-1111 ext. 253 by Monday.
Pete Pepke: 6-8 p.m., The Corner Coffeehouse, 54 W. Main St. in Frewsburg. Pepke was named Jazz Man of the Year 2006 by the Musicians' Union.
Blue Grass Jam: 7-10 p.m., Celoron Legion, 26 Jackson Ave. in Celoron. Area bluegrass musicians are welcome to sit in and play.
Stan Barton Jazz Mandolin And Violin: 6-8 p.m., The Corner Coffeehouse, 54 W. Main St. in Frewsburg.
Final Friday Students Recital: 6-9 p.m., Miraglia Gallery and Chautauqua Music, 108 E. Second St. in Jamestown. Admission is free of charge.
Black Widow Band: 9 p.m., Murdock's, 104 E. Main St. in Sherman.
3 Dead Frets: 6-8 p.m., The Corner Coffeehouse, 54 W. Main St. in Frewsburg.
The Coyote Band: 8 p.m. to midnight, Celoron Legion, 26 Jackson Ave. in Celoron.
Brian Chase: 8 p.m. to midnight, The Bellini Lounge, Chautauqua Suites, 215 W. Lake Road (Route 394) in Mayville.
Ken Hardley With Matt Gronquist: 9 p.m. to midnight, Steener's Pub, 322 Route 430 in Greenhurst.
Dan Vogan: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., The Jammin' Vine, 11884 E. Main St. (Route 20) in North East, Pa.