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.