‘The Wire’ actor Charlie Scalies returns to Baltimore for annual literary event

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It’s a holiday tradition as delightful as a December dip in the Chesapeake Bay; one that is older than the bust of Frank Zappa which overlooks Conkling Street.

For the sixth year running, screenwriter and novelist Rafael Alvarez will host his annual Highlandtown Literary Extravaganza. This happening takes place Saturday, December 21 at 2:00p.m. at the Southeast Anchor Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Writer Rafael Alvarez (Bill Hughes)
Writer Rafael Alvarez (Bill Hughes)

Building on the Baltimore-centric themes of his other literary events (including the current Fiction at Freddies reading series), Alvarez often spotlights the working class stories emblematic of the city he proudly calls home.

Past events have included established writers such as poet Afaa Michael Weaver, Dean Bartolli Smith (Never Easy, Never Pretty), Parade Magazine contributor Michele Wojciechowski; and up and coming area talent Dije Coxson, a junior vocalist at the Baltimore School of the Arts.

This year’s event will include a staged reading of a brand new screenplay by Charlie Scalies.  Scalies portrayed Thomas “Horseface” Pakufa on HBO’s “The Wire”.  Alvarez became friends with Scalies while working as a writer for the award winning series; penning the edgy waterfront dialogue which helped turn “Horseface” Pakufa into a household name.

Scalies’ screenplay,  “It Takes Balls”, is something of an Italian mob Christmas tale, which highlights the strength, love and determination – or “balls” – of a character named Tressa. In an interview which aired last week on WYPR’s The Signal, Scalies told producer Lisa Morgan about his story.

“I decided to write this story around my father’s (Philadelphia) pool room,” said Scalies, “and all of these strange, funny people.  I was gonna write this story with the character of my father as the hero, but I realized my mother was my hero.  She’s the one who did everything for us but never said a word about it.  She just did it.”

Actor Anthony Scalies of The Wire
Actor Charlie Scalies of The Wire

As Scalies, through the narrator in the screenplay, explains, “Balls is not courage.  Courage acts in the face of fear, mindful of fear, calculating the odds before it attacks.  Balls ignores fear.  Fear is not in the equation.  A non-factor.  Courage is to be respected.  Balls is to be awed.  Courage says, ‘Let’s do it.’  Balls says, ‘Screw it.’”

Fans of “The Wire” should note that there will be an auction for an original script from the series; signed by Alvarez and Scalies.  This auction will benefit Poe Baltimore, the new organization responsible for managing the affairs of Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum.

Cookies and other refreshments will be served.

The Pratt Southeast Anchor Library is located at 3601 Eastern Avenue Baltimore, MD 21224.  Metered on-street parking is available throughout the neighborhood.  More information may be found by visiting the library website.

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