Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TITO's ghouls with a twist .... mmmmmmm, tasty

Okay, admit it: You've gotten a little spoiled, haven't you? Getting to see all those cool shows without spending a penny, like you're some kind of hotshot critic, or arts writer or something. Well, you're gonna have to dig into your wallet this time and cough up five bucks if you want to experience Theater in the Open's Haunted Trail, a one-hour walk through the Maudslay State Park, and exercise. we hear, is supposed to be a good thing. And when you're out on the trail, you'll see eerie vignettes, spooky sketches and get a good haunting — all in the autumn grandeur of Maudslay State Park. Besides, a fiver? It's nothing. Especially seeing how so many of you have enjoyed an exceptional season, with productions like "The Flies" and "Grimm, or the Uses of Enchantment," for nothing. Well, dude, even free shows always have a price tag. Someone has to pay the bill, and the Halloween show has been vehicle that brings in the money to pay for, at least partially, next year's coming attractions.

Expect old favorites, like the Monster Mash and Scary Clowns with a twist, but expect to laugh while you've getting spooked. That's from the press release. Personally we've always thought the phrase scary clown is redundant. They're scary and evil. And the only way to consume them is with a twist. Mmmmmmm, scary clown. But don't expect to be scared out of your wits or grossed out by clowny drinks. "We're family friendly," says TITO artistic director Edward Speck, who made his Theater in the Open debut in a Haunted Trail take on Hansel and Gretel when he was 14 years old. "I really miss performing in it now that I'm supervising, it's that much fun," he says. "We are not the blood and gore of Spooky World. We look to entertain as well as scare, and we expect easily as many laughs as chills." The skits are designed to appeal to all ages, and don't worry, smaller children will be provided with Magic Acorns to ward away the creepiest clowns — um, I mean monsters.

The Trail runs from 2 to 4 p.m. October 22 and 23 at Maudslay State Park. Tickets are $5. The state grabs two bucks for parking in the lot. Allow for a brief walk from the parking lot and follow the Frankenstein flags. Kids age 3 and under get in for free. Raindates are October 29 and 30.

For more information, check out the theaterintheopen.org or call 978.465.2572. You can look at a map here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Port cruise is a stone cold groove

Damned hippies, right? Always gotta do things their way, do their own thing in their own time.  And this thyme they've naturally decided to do things a little differently — they being the Joan-and-Ra-era Fowle’s and the Canta Libre and Cluster School crowds — at least when it comes to this whole "Wasted Youth Cruise" business. It's a a three-hour cruise (all together now, a three-hour cruise) on the mighty Merrimack, from Plum Island Point to the Chain Bridge and back, that started out as an old-school reunion party, one with a distinctly counter-cultural vibe to it — and, at the same time, incorporating the spirit, if not the tedium, of Yankee Homecoming with the shut-up-and-dance fun of the Bluescruise, another Port summer tradition, focusing on survivors of Canta Libre, a short-lived, way-left-of-center alternative school back in the '70s; students at the Cluster School in Cambridge, another attempt at alt-education, and folks who remember the old food co-op at the YMCA. Well, they're doing it again this month. It won't be the Young Moderns this time, but Four Barrel Billy, Mark Hoag's Connecticut-based '60s rock and surf trio. That's them in the picture. Want a taste, see what you're getting yourself into? Here's some grainy video of them playing "A Taste of Honey" at  Uncle Eddie's, the Salisbury Beach club where folks went after last year's cruise. But this year, organizers want it to be even more inclusive, opening up the reunion to like-minded people — and everybody who likes to dance and get a little crazy, in a responsible way. The theme will be a '60s revival dance party, a concept that resonates even with folks who weren't around during those crazy times. The event will be held on the Captain’s Lady III, a large party boat departing Plum Island Point at 7 p.m. Sept. 17. If you really really really want to go, you should grab your tickets soon. It sold out last year. Rather quickly, actually. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Dyno Records, 1 Middle St., Newburyport, and Captain’s Fishing Parties, Plum Island Point. You can get them online here, but there's a $4.50 fee tacked on. Bring a little green along with you. It's a cash bar. Sorry. For more information, call 978.462.3141. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Affirmative: The answer is yes, yes, yes

It's the last word of James Joyce's "Ulysses." It's the word John Lennon saw when he looked through the telescope at Yoko''s exhibit. And it's Brendon Pelsue and Natasha Haverty's answer to the musical question posed by Frankie Valli all those years ago: Will I see you in September? And, yup, like we said, the answer is yes. If not in Newburyport, where the two actors have been staging "The Dangling Conversation," an ongoing improvisational series, then in Cambridge. The duo begins a Monday-evening residency at the Lily Pad for performances with themes having to do with changing times and changing seasons. The show is about a complicated relationship between two people with history, lots of it, that is created in the present, in real time. It’s something of a high wire act, of course, meaning the performance could be magical or, just as easily, could crash and burn, which is kind of exciting in itself — and about as close to bloodsport as theater gets to bloodsport. And on Sept. 27, they’ll use the Lily Pad as the launch Pad for a listening party for ‘The Yankee City Series.’ Yes, “The Kindness of Strangers” and “Parents Night,” the first two episodes of the performers’ long-anticipated radio show are ready to hit the airwaves. And, shhhhh, friends and supporters will be heading to the People’s Republic for a taste of the audio. The show is a unique combination of improvisation and scripted audio drama about life in a contemporary America,exploring small-scale mania and beauty behind everyday relationships with performances that are loopy, complex, strangely true to life, and yet hopefully different from what you've seen before. All the events take place at The Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St., Cambridge. Tickets are $7. For more information, check out the venue or the performers' blog.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Zhu II: Bringing "Romance" to Easter

Tricky date to schedule a concert, Easter Sunday. Lots of people busy with family obligations that day. Meaning that if you hop-hop-hop to it, there's a chance to snatch up a couple of tickets for "The Romantic Piano," the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival concert with Philadelphia-based pianist Natalie Zhu, who is known for intense, emotional performance pyrotechnics. The concert had been all but sold-out on Feb. 5, before mean old Mother Nature put the snow-smackdown on us. So here's to second chances. The concert takes place at 4 p.m. April 24 at The Carriage House, 203 High St., Newburyport —  a lovely space with amazing acoustics. The program will include Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major; Rachmaninoff preludes, including “The Bells of Moscow,” and Liszt’s majestic B minor Sonata. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ron Pullins and the chocolately goodness of theater

After hearing that Ron Pullins was going to the fudge festival, we thought, "Mmmmmm, fudge!" and started brainstorming ideas to weasel our way in for free. But it turns out the festival has nothing to do with actual chocolate. D'oh! Well, almost nothing. Turns out that ”fudge” is actually an acronym. Seriously. Stands for "friends united developing genuine entertainment." But upon further investigation, we discovered the sweet, sweet connection: When the company came together in Wakefield more than a decade ago, the organizers had lots of big ideas, but could not come up with a name to save their lives. Story goes that someone came into the room with a plate of freshly baked fudge. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth fudge, presumably without nuts because that would ruin the whole fantasy. And she asked, sans acronym, “how about some fudge?” The bleary-eyed creative team jumped on it, then came up with the acronymic justification. A couple of years ago, the company launched a festival of short plays, and that’s where Port playwright Pullins comes in. They’ll be staging “Pico,” a 10-minute play that was actually a study for "Woman. Bicycle,” a Pullins production that had its first reading this month at the North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative. The title character is the sprite who shows up at a bar and … well, let’s just say it has almost nothing to do with fudge. It turns out to be a play within a play within a play — “not easy to do in 10 minutes,” says Pullins, who owns Focus Publishing, which specializes in classical Greek and Roman drama as well as textbooks. The play had its first reading earlier this year at the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston’s Open Mic for Playwrights, with Ian Thal, artistic director of Teatro Delle Maschere and a playwright specializing in commedia dell’arte, reading the Pico character. It will be directed by Dan Bourke. It will be staged May 2 and 3 at the New Rep in Watertown. Should be a treat. For more information, check out F.U.D.G.E. or Pullins online.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ain't that a Shane: Rocker hosts Japan benefit

There were times during the go-go '80s — and we have the deliciously dated videotape to prove it — that Gary Shane would pull double duty, playing in the opening and headlining acts — exchanging the goofy cowboy hat he wore with Alan Laddd and the Abashed, his country-tinged side project, for the de rigueur skinny tie for his power-pop band The Detour. Well, time flies. More than two decades have passed, but there he goes again. The Ipswich rocker has not slowed down at all. Or learned his lesson. In fact, he's going to redouble his efforts, literally. Shane will be front for four (count em, four) bands — The Detour, The Silvertones, Alan Laddd and the Abashed and, where it all got started more than a quarter-century ago, the Shane Champagne Band — during the Japan Disaster Relief Concert, a four-hour shebang set to ... Nah, scratch that. Make it five. He’ll also play in Imojah and the Skylight Band, the reggae act fronted by ex-Cultural Roots singer Wade Dyce. We hear there’ll also be a few other acts on the bill. We’ve heard some names, but aren’t saying nothing until it’s nailed down. Except for Asa Brebner and Friends, because he’s on the poster. Shane will probably be playing with him, too, but we’re hoping that Brebner will bring along some other friends, like, um, maybe the girl singer from that band he was in... what was the name? Oh, yeah. Robin Lane and the Chartbusters. Here’s to hoping. The gig had originally been scheduled for the Rowley VFW, the site of Shane’s last benefit concert — for the 2004 tsunami that battered Indonesia. At that show he opened for a sock puppet performance, a la Spinal Tap. Ah, good times, good times. The show runs from 4 to 7 p.m. April 17 at Ipswich Town Hall, 25 Green St. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. For more information, check out Shane's web.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Remembering a martyr to the cause

No jokes, no smart comments, just the facts, man. Just the ugly history: The rightist government of El Salvador was pretty pleased when the church named Oscar Romero archbishop of San Salvador in 1977: He wasn’t one of those Commie “liberation theologists” who were always bellyaching about death squads and human rights and all that nonsense. This was someone they could work with. Then, barely missing a beat, they went after his buddy, the Rev. Rutillo Grande, who was assassinated by paramilitary death squads funded, at least in part, by the United States. And it was like the scales fell from his eyes. The archbishop became the “voice of the voiceless” during a time of terrible repression and the beginning of that country’s 12-year civil war — making him a problem for the generals running the show. They took him out three years later. On March 24. On Good Friday. During Mass. Shot him dead as he prepared the Eucharist. Saint Paul’s Church will observe the Feast Day of this modern-day martyr by screening “Romero,” a film about his life that stars Raul Julia. The film will be screened at 6 p.m. March 24 at the church, 166 High St.,  Newburyport. It’s free, but they will be accepting donations, which will be used to support the church’s outreach ministry in El Salvador.  For more information, call 978.465.5351.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Casting about for 'Forbidden Newburyport'

Three months out and there's already a buzz about this show, even among those of us who think musical theater is a form of torture as despicable as waterboarding. And why not? Because this show, being a musical, will have a full slate of irritatingly catchy tunes about our favorite subject, us, and our town. That’s right. Suzanne Bryan’s gonna tell you a big fat story, baby, all about our town. Yeah, down by the river, down by the banks of the River Merrimack. And, even better, it’s forbidden. And lightly seasoned with Rain Forest goodness. Just imagine the story of old, weird Newburyport sung to a Broadway melody. That’s what "Forbidden Newburyport” will be like. It’s a satirical musical revue with 15 big, splashy Broadway tunes that have been spun to parody Port icons, institutions, and um, issues. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cellist takes a break. OK, done.

When the credits started rolling on the screen behind her at Cape Ann Community Cinema, Kristen Miller was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally. She’s been busy, busy, busy, releasing and promoting two albums — “Walk,” a distinctive solo album that mixes world beat rhythms and Eastern melodies with a rock attitude and a beat sensibility, and “Winter Loves Company,” a celebration of a maligned season, with Tom Eaton. Then she wrote and premiered an original score to “At Land,” a silent film by Maya Deren. And then she wrote two more and premiered them in four shows over the course of two weekends. Whew! “It feels like a bit of a marathon,” the cellist says. And now her plate is clear. It's time to take a well-deserved break. Isn't this nice? OK, done. Now it's time to think about her show at Finch Coffeehouse on Friday That will be more of a "regular" concert: cello, looping, singing and spoken word. She may throw one Deren short film into the mix. Maybe. She’s being a little cagey because it’s a day off — “a luxury I haven't had in months,” she says. She’s chilling with a second cup of tea and listening to ”Hejira,” the 1976 Joni Mitchell album. (“Heaven on earth,” she says.) But Miller admits she’s thinking about the Finch show and feeling that excitement build. “Trying not to make mental set lists on my day off,” she says, “but I am, in the back of my brain, working out a set list." Ah, the joys of down time ...  She performs at 8 p.m. March 18 at the Finch, located at First Religious Society Unitarian, 26 Pleasant St. Tickets are  $15 and can be purchased at Dyno Records, 1 Middle St., or at the door. Small place, though. Best bet is to think advance ticket. For more information, check out Miller's web

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Boston Duo: A spicy performance

We’ve been so caught up in George Little’s other exploits — like bowling his best game ever, hitting the triple-figure mark for the first time in his life, or the … well, let’s just come out and say it plain, the masochistic “spice challenges,” like trying to gobble down 10 super-spicy at the El Diablo Wings Challenge at Wing Itz so he can get his name on the Wall of Flame — that we almost forgot about the other thing: You know, the music thing? The Amesbury guitarist is a man of many guises. He’s a folkie sometimes, and sometimes he’s doing the classical thing. That’s what the degree from Longy is all about. And sometimes he’s in the wings, providing accompaniment for local theater productions. But this week, Little will be in the Port City with violinist Elizabeth Burke to perform as the New Boston Duo, which may not be quite as spicy as those El Diablo wings, but is pretty hot stuff anyhow. The duo digs deep into the Django/Grappelli l.e. "red hot” gypsy swing repertoire, but you never know exactly what they’re going to kick out. It could be anything from Django's "Minor Swing" to standards like "All of Me” to pop tunes like “All My Loving.” The concert begins at 4 p.m. March 6 at Central Congregational Church, 14 Titcomb St. Ten bucks gets you in the door. For more information, check out the web. And, for the record, Little was able to gobble up five El Diablo wings in 6.5 minutes. The challenge was to finish ten in ten — definitely doable, but “being 90 seconds behind pace I could tell I would fail to beat the time and threw in the towel,” he says. "I'm now 2 for 4 on spicy challenges." Now, please, somebody pass the Tums.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The season: Tell 100 of your closest friends

It’s gonna be a free-for-all at Maudslay State Park this year with the announcement that Theater in the Open will be staging all of its “in the open” shows gratis, a move that underlines the company’s belief that art is a necessity, not a luxury, and that everyone needs to get a little more into their system — and,  perhaps, coax the more people into the park, or encourage them to stop and see what’s happening if they stumble across a play while walking around the park. Here is the schedule:

The Spring Thaw: An evening of thought-provoking theater and a showcase of local talent. Several guest artists and Theater in the Open regulars will perform April 28 at the Firehouse. Tickets are $25. This is a major fundraiser to help finance the free season. Info: 978.462.7336.

Pinocchio: A Playful Puppet Panto: TITO’s second plunge into the panto: a storytelling form, derived from ancient Italian improvisational shows and refined in 18th century Britain, which features song, dance, buffoonery, slap-stick and audience participation. What happens to old big nose as he journeys through the zany world of panto? What crazy characters will he meet along the way? Shows are 2 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, June 4-26. Free.

Family Hour in the Open: Storytelling, song, dance, fairy tales and group activity, 11 a.m. the third Saturday of every warm month at 11 a.m. May 21, June 18, July 16, Aug. 20 and Sept. 11 at Maudslay. Follow the flags from the parking lot. Free.

Summer Arts Workshop: Theater and visual arts workshops for youths between the ages of 6 and 16. Three two-week sessions for young people ages 6 to 12. Also a six-week performance workshop that ends with a  full-scale production. For adolescents between the ages of 13 and 16, there’s a four-week production workshop. Session I: July 5th-July 15th, Session II: July 18th- July 29th , Session III August 8th –August 19th. Performance Class July 5th- August 19th, Teen Intensive Workshop July 5th- July 29th .

The Flies by Jean-Paul Sartre: Veteran director Stephen Haley taps into Theater the Open’s unique storytelling traditions in presenting Jean-Paul Sartre’s interpretation of the classic Greek tragedy Elektra. Themes of filial duty, vengeance and redemption combine to create a powerful theater experience. Showtimes 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, July 23-Aug. 14. Free.

Grimm by Gregory S. Moss: An original adaptation of the Grimm Brother’s classic fairy tales, will draw on the natural magic of Maudslay State Park and the talents of Gregory S. Moss, who will be writing the original script. The classic fairy tales will come to life in unexpected ways. Shows are 2 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 17-Oct. 2. Follow the flags from the parking lot. Free.

Maudslay is Haunted:  Theater in the Open's  annual haunting. Eerie vignettes, spooky sketches and an all-around haunting during a one-hour walk through Maudslay State Park. This is a family event intended for all ages. Shows are 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 22-23. Rain dates are Oct. 29 and 30  Tickets: $5, children 3 and under are free. Follow the Frankenstein signs. 

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play: A  twist on the holiday classic, “It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show” is based on the beloved Frank Capra film but done in the style of "the golden age of radio,” complete with sound effect foley artists, singing sponsors and old-fashioned holiday spirit. Shows are Dec. 15-23 at the Firehouse.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Weekend: The Argument continues in NYC

Yeah, sure. It’s a long haul, you’ll get no argument here, but the Big Apple is the only place you’ll get an argument from Port playwright Gregory S. Moss. Well, not “an” argument, but “The Argument.” The play, originally produced at The Hangar Theater almost four years ago as part of director Kerry Whigham’s Drama League Fellowship — and, not long after, enjoyed a successful run at the Firehouse in a stunning Stephen Haley production, is the story of life, death and regret in post-Katrina New Orleans, although the hurricane is never mentioned by name. The story is non-literal, a funny, grotesque, apocalyptic fairy tale conceived as a response to the disaster. It addresses the issues raised, and still unresolved, and rapidly fading from the public consciousness, without directly invoking the actual events: Two young Chinese twin sisters inherit a Big Easy watering hole, a business that has consumed their  lives. One sister wants to sell the business, to leave, to live. The other believes it's their "duty" to carry on. This is the argument, which ends when flood waters claim the life of one sister. The surviving sister then begins a quest to give the life unlived by the dead sister back to her.
Attic Theater Company, a collective focusing on the work of contemporary playwrights, brings the new production to the stage this weekend at another former firehouse — DCTV, a Manhattan landmark, with Whigham at the helm again. The cast includes John Albano, Brooke Bundy, Sara Bues, Ted Caine, Nick Choksi, Eric Clem, Andrea Dionne, Michael Eisenstein, Sam Gooley, Monica Hammond, Krista Hasinger, Harrison Hill, Sarah Kohl, Sarah Montgomery, Claire Natale, Kevin O'Callaghan, Mallory Portnoy, Stephen Stocking. The show runs March 4 to 13. Moss, who seems to be leading a vagabond existence, bouncing from city to city for productions of his work, which is grabbing some rave reviews. His “punkplay,” a play inspired by the purple-hair kids hanging around the Inn Street fountain,  was described as “brilliantly funny dissection of adolescent grasping for identity” by Time Out Chicago. His “Orange, Hat and Grace,” recently staged at Soho Rep, “works its way into the creases of your soul, conjuring influences as disparate as Pygmalion and Beckett and Shepard,” says  New York Magazine ... Wow, We like him, too, man.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: The Attic Theater Company will stage Gregory S. Moss's "The Argument" 
at 8 p.m. March 4-6 and March 10-13, at DCTV,  87 Lafayette St., New York. The theater is located between Canal and White streets, Tickets are $18, or $5 for students. For more information, check out the Attic web.