Friday, December 24, 2010

On Vacation

We've been enjoying a bit of a break and will be on vacation through New Year's. To you and yours, we wish the happiest of holidays.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quick Hit Review: Bossa Nova -- Yale

Francesca Choy-Kee and Libby Woodbridge in Bossa Nova. Photo © Joan Marcus, 2010.

What: Bossa Nova, by Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Evan Yionoulis. The relationship between submissive daughter, Dee (Francesca Choy-Kee)
and controlling mother Lady (Ella Joyce) comes to a head in this well- written study of broken dreams, forgiveness and standing up for what you believe is right.

Memories of her experiences at a New England boarding school flood back when Lady announces that she's sending her other daughter, Jane (Malenky Welsh) to the mostly-white school where Dee never fit in.

When: The run concludes Saturday, Dec. 18.

Where: Yale Repertory Theatre (1120 Chapel St. at York Street).

Who Will Enjoy this?: Anyone who has had a controlling parent, a failed relationship or who has struggled with taking a stand.

Grace Mahoney as Dee's quirly artist roommate at the school is a hoot. She's funny and sad all at once. Michael Cabot gives an affecting performance as the jazz worshipping teacher with whom Dee becomes romantically involved.

Lowlights: Part of the plot that is supposed to come as a surprise was telegraphed by a flubbed line the night I saw the show, though things seemed pretty obvious by that point any way.

Note: Mature subject matter.

Tickets range from $10 to $85 and are available online at, by phone at 203-432-1234, and in person at the Yale Rep Box Office, 1120 Chapel St. at York Street). Student, senior, and group rates are also available.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quick Hit Review: Cirque Dreams Holidaze -- The Palace

Performance tonight at 7:30.
What: Cirque Dreams Holidaze, where holiday dreams meet fantasy and imagination. Giant ginergbread men, snowmen and candy canes provide a backdrop for aerial, contortionist, juggling and balancing acts performed by an international cast dressed in sparkly and flowing costumes.

When: A limited engagement at the Palace Theater, Waterbury, ending tonight. For information and tickets, call 203-346-2000, visit, or go in person to the box office. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Where: The Palace Theater, 100 East Main St. in Waterbury

Who Will Enjoy this?: Kids, mostly, but a few of the acts are very skilled and will entertain the whole family.

  • An audience interactive bell-ringing song that is quite funny and tonight's segment will offer an added surprise for one audience member.
  • The song "Every Child," performed by the the Ice Queen, the Angel, the Dream Engineer and company at the top of Act Two.

  • Best part of the night for me was the expression of total disbelief on the face of my companion when Elvis, playing a Christmas-tree-shaped guitar joined the action.
  • Some irritating, VERY LOUD, ear-blsitering, pounding, canned music that doesn't even stop during a lengthy intermission.

  • People talking non-stop throughout the performance.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Script in Hand: Holiday Play with Music at Westport Country Playhouse

The Greatest Gift, a special family holiday playreading with music, will be presented by Westport Country Playhouse in association with Bisno Productions as part of the Playhouse’s popular Script in Hand series, on Monday, Dec.13 at 7 pm. Tickets to the one-night-only event are $15.

With book and lyrics by David Wiltse and music by Denis King, this new play tells the story of the Smith-Goldman family who celebrate the holiday season in their own way. When 8-year-old Emma bumps her head in a fall, sending her into a fantastical dream world, she and her parents discover that what really matters has nothing to do with gifts and ritual and all to do with who you love.

The cast includes Jeremy Peter Johnson as Daniel/Grandfather; Stacie Morgain Lewis as Jill/Grandmother; Howard McGillin as Oscar/Showman; Orly Salik of Westport as Emma; and Luke Sauer of Westport as Young Daniel. Actors are subject to change.

In addition to The Greatest Gift, the Playhouse’s upcoming December events include Seasons with Tracie Thoms, a concert, on Friday, Dec.10; The Clowns and Mr. Beckett, an evening with Bill Irwin and Doug Skinner, on Saturday, Dec. 11; Season’s Greetings, a family festivities afternoon, on Sunday, Dec. 12; and The Broadway Boys, a holiday concert Broadway style, on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18 and 19.

For more information or ticket purchases, call the box office at 203-227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets may be purchased online at

Bring Toys for Tots to Long Wharf Dec. 11

Long Wharf Theatre is joining forces with the US Marine Corps Reserves for a Toys for Tots drive on Saturday, Dec. 11.

The drive will take place in the Long Wharf Theatre parking lot from 1 to 6 .m. Marines will be on hand to collect new, unwrapped toys. The event coincides with Long Wharf Theatre’s production of Shirley Valentine, by Willy Russell, running on Stage II through Jan. 2.

“For more information about Toys for Tots, visit For more information about the show and the 2010-11 Long Wharf Theatre season, visit the new or call 203-787-4282.

Long Wharf Announces Audience Engagement Program

The process of creating a new play all comes down to an initial moment of creation – an instance, an event, a word, phrase or image that starts a playwright towards a compelling story. The quest for that creative spark is a fascinating one.

Long Wharf Theatre has put together a program to illustrate to audiences how that moment of creation is nurtured and given life on stage. The SPARK program, led by Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting, is designed to allow audiences to engage in a series of hands-on experiences that illuminate Long Wharf Theatre’s work. Participants will learn the specific skill of reading a play, meet the cast and creative team of the new play Agnes Under The Big Top, learn exactly what a director does, giving a new perspective on the work brought to life on Stage II.

“I've been given the great gift of getting to know our audiences through our post-show conversations – they've come to feel like collaborators in this making that we do. So I wanted to give back a little and invite them into our process, give them a little taste of this electric feat that we pursue all season long. I hope they'll come out for this, take part, and be inspired!” Ting said.

All of the events surround the new play Agnes Under The Big Top, written by Aditi Brennan Kapil and directed by Ting, and presented March 2 through April 3 on Stage II. The play is a magical tale of hope, identity, and reinvention, exploring the journey of immigrants in New York City.

The hope is that by endowing a group of committed audience members with insider knowledge, Long Wharf Theatre can create ambassadors for new work. Access to this unique lecture series costs $15. This nominal fee will support Long Wharf Theatre’s efforts to create new plays and support emerging playwrights. Space is limited for this unique opportunity.

All events are an hour long, unless otherwise noted.

HOW TO READ A PLAY (January 12). Learn not just how to read a play, but how to see it. Join Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting in a 90 minute seminar as we explore the different tools a playwright uses to convey rhythms and meaning. Learn how dramatic structure and text analysis can enhance your understanding of a play.

FIRST REHEARSAL (February 1). Meet the cast and creative team on their first day of rehearsal. Hear the designers present the plans for the set, costumes, lights, and sound and listen to the director’s opening remarks as we launch into our four-week investigation of the play.

THE DIRECTOR’S ROLE (February 16). Mid-way through the rehearsal process, we’ll talk about the challenges a director faces in tying together the many creative voices contributing to the production: From communicating with designers, to working with actors, to supporting the playwright’s vision.

PREVIEWS! BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER (March 7). Get a backstage tour of the production. See the play come to life on our Stage II. Learn about technical rehearsals and the work our shops do to create what you see on stage. Hear from playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil as we bring closure to what we’re sure will be a wild ride!

For more information about Long Wharf Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit or call 203-787-4282.

Ivoryton Playhouse Stages Greatest Show on Earth

R. Bruce Connelly as Barnum and Beverley Galpin as his wife, Chairy. Photo by Anne Hudson

What? Barnum
Where? Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street
When? Dec. 9 - 19. Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2pm; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday evenings at 7:30pm;
How? Tickets: 860-767-7318 /on-line at
More: Prices: $30 adults/ $25 seniors/ $20 students/$15 children

Celebrity Autobiography Casting Announced at Long Wharf

Joe Pantoliano, best known for his role as Ralph Cifaretto on “The Sopranos,” Tony Award-winner Roger Bart, who recently played Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein on Broadway, and comedian Michael Ian Black join the cast of Celebrity Autobiography at Long Wharf Theatre.

The show runs Dec. 29-30 on the Mainstage. The performances take place at 7 and 9:30 pm. Tickets are $40.

In addition to his role on “The Sopranos,” Pantoliano has appeared in over 100 films and television programs. He is a Connecticut resident. Bart, a Norwalk native, received a Tony Award for his performance as Snoopy in the revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. He was nominated for another Tony Award for The Producers. Black, a writer and actor, began his career with The State, a sketch comedy troupe he co-founded at New York University in 1988, which went on to have a successful run on MTV. He then co-created the Comedy Central television series "Viva Variety," a fake European variety show and played Phil Stubbs, the quirky bowling alley manager on NBC's "Ed."

Rachel Dratch, Karen Ziemba and show co-creators Dayle Reyfel and Eugene Pack, have previously been announced as part of the cast. Further casting announcements are pending.

Celebrity Autobiography, created and developed by Emmy Award-nominated writer-performer Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel, recently won the 2009 Drama Desk Award in the category of Unique Theatrical Experience and the 2010 Bistro Awards. For more information about the show and the 2010-11 Long Wharf Theatre season, visit the new or call 203-787-4282.

Hartford Stage Announces Fräulein Maria for SummerStage 2011

Family-friendly Dance Piece Performed to The Sound of Music Soundtrack
Hartford Stage will launch its 2011 SummerStage season next June with Doug Elkins' & Friends' Fräulein Maria, the innovative and award-winning dance piece performed to the soundtrack to Rodgers & Hammerstein's movie classic, "The Sound of Music."

Fräulein Maria has a cast of 14 dancers and was conceived and choreographed by Elkins. The production is directed by Barbara Karger and Michael Preston and is presented in cooperation with The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Tickets for Fräulein Maria are on sale now to subscribers and go on sale to the general public Dec. 10. The production will run at Hartford Stage June 15 - 26, 2011.

Fräulein Maria is Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music as re-imagined by Elkins. It began as a love letter to Elkins' children and is now a bona fide family tradition as well as a gender bending, tour-de-force comedy. Elkins' humor shines through his idiomatic tips of the hat to such dance legends as Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham. He merges modern and popular dance forms including hip-hop and "vogueing," reinventing this beloved classic into an edgy and fun cabaret romp.

Tickets range from $25 - $50. To purchase tickets, call the Hartford Stage Box Office at 860-527-5151, or visit our website at Groups of 10 or more may receive discounts; call the box office for further information.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dickens Comes to Twain House with Ebeneeza

It's Dickens brought to Hartford, with three ghosts transporting a greed-obsessed main character, who deals in shady mortgages, back to the 1960s - and then to an unvarnished present day, and then to a possible future.

And The Ghost of Hartford Past in this theatrical homage to "A Christmas Carol" is Mark Twain himself.

The Mark Twain House & Museum continues a holiday tradition with a heart, once again welcoming HartBeat Ensemble's free traveling production of Ebeneeza: A Hartford Holiday Carol to the Museum Center. It's an exploration into what hardens a woman's soul -- but as in Dickens' and Twain's work, it's a message delivered with humor.

There will be three free performances: Friday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 pm.; and Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2 pm.

Ebeneeza is a multi-cultural retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and is set in modern-day Hartford and its suburbs. The title character is an elderly woman who has made her fortune in local real estate and mortgage brokering.

The production takes us from Ebeneeza's childhood home on Front Street during the Depression, through the civil upheavals of the 1960s in the city's North End, into the Greater Hartford suburbs of the present -- and finally into one possible future.

This year, the play has been updated to include the grit, the grime, and the humor that 2010 brought to the city and the nation. "It's a wild ride through our common history and current reality," says HartBeat Co-Artistic Director Gregory R. Tate. "HartBeat really enjoys highlighting the humor and deep emotional bonds that make this play a perennial holiday favorite."

Ebeneeza was originally written in 2006, and is re-examined every year to address timely issues. HartBeat ensemble, whose works never fail to please in city parks, schools and public spaces, has taken many of the words and ideas of the play from interviews with residents of the local area. The ensemble believes this is essential to its mission of telling people's stories.

Ebeneeza will also be performed for the public at Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, The West Indian Social Club, and West Hartford's Playhouse on Park. For more information visit or call (860) 548-9144.

Ebeneeza is written by HartBeat Ensemble and directed by Nora Mathews from original staging by Brian Jennings. The production is made possible by the City of Hartford, The Office of Cultural Affairs, The Greater Hartford Arts Council's United Arts Campaign, the United Way Community Campaign, The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation and the The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Media sponsor is The Hartford Advocate.

The event is one in The Mark Twain House & Museum's continuing series of Mark Twain 2010 Centennial Celebration events . The Hartford Financial Group, Inc., is the Mark Twain House & Museum's Centennial Sponsor.

The mission of HartBeat Ensemble is to create original, professional theater based on stories from our community. Through Mainstage plays, Open-Air performances, and Education programs, HartBeat Ensemble makes theater accessible beyond the barriers of class, race, and gender.

Palace Jazzes Up Holidays with Manhattan Transfer

Audiences will get jazzed this holiday season when 10-time Grammy Award-winning The Manhattan Transfer brings their Christmas Show to the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 pm.

Vocalists Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul and Janis Siegel celebrate the holiday season by lending their ageless vocal harmonies to a collection of familiar and best loved Christmas classics. Additionally, the group is also celebrating its 40th Anniversary with the highly anticipated release of "The Chick Corea Songbook." The vocal quartet’s first new record in five years was inspired by the classic work of jazz great Chick Corea, and features fresh and exciting vocal interpretations of his popular compositions, including “Spain” and “500 Miles High.”

The platinum selling, world-wide chart topping super group, widely renowned for broadening the musical landscape with their innovative, genre defying sound, made Grammy history in 1981 by becoming the first group to win Grammys simultaneously in both the jazz and pop categories. The group also put out the second most honored album in pop history in 1985, with Vocalese, earning an impressive 12 Grammy nominations, surpassed only by Michael Jackson’s "Thriller."

Before the performance, a 5:30 pm pre-show dinner will be held in the Poli Club, located in the Mezzanine Level of the theater. Dinner is $40 per member and $50 for non-members, which includes tax, service fee, coffee and tea. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited and reservations may be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Tickets for The Manhattan Transfer Christmas Show can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main St. in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

A Flea in Her Ear Opens at CT Rep

Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) presents Georges Feydeau’s A Flea In Her Ear, adapted by David Ives, Dec. 2 - 11 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the Storrs campus. For tickets and information, call 860-486-4226 or visit

Mistaken identity, revolving beds and an improbable, hysterical plot provide the riotous foundation for Feydeau’s bedroom farce. The amorous antics are unleashed with mathematical precision to create a fast and furious, sexy comedy featuring a suspicious spouse, a lusty lothario and a hot-blooded Spaniard – all chasing each other through this hormone-powered, rollicking romp.

Raymonde Chandebise misguidedly concludes her husband Victor is having an affair because of their recent declining romance and his suspenders mysteriously showing up in the mail. To prove her suspicions, Raymonde solicits her friend Lucienne to write an anonymous letter to her husband inviting him to a romantic rendezvous at a seedy hotel. Victor misinterprets this letter and sends his best friend Tournel, a notorious womanizer, in his place. Hilarity ensueswith mistaken identities, revolving beds, and more secret liaisons lead to confusion and comic mayhem.

Director Art Manke said, “A Flea In Her Ear is a perfectly crafted farce that never fails to elicit gales of laughter whenever produced. I’ve wanted to direct it for a long time, and am delighted to have extraordinary designers and a brilliantly talented and very attractive cast bringing it all to life.”

Manke returns to CRT where he directed and choreographed Rent this past summer. He is a five-time winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for his productions of a wide range of classics and new work. Credits include: South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, Denver Center Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Magic Theatre, American Players Theatre, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz, among others.

Manke is a co-founder and former artistic director (1991-2001) of A Noise Within, L.A.’s acclaimed classical theatre company, where he staged the work of Shakespeare, Moliere, Wilde, Coward and Sophocles.

The Creative team includes: Cassandra Beaver, scenic designer; Michelle Mann, lighting designer; Sachiko Komuro, costume designer; Steven Magro, sound design.

The cast will feature Equity actor Leigh Miller (Camille). Most recently, Leigh collaborated and performed in a five person As You Like It set on Low-Flying Trapeze. Leigh also played Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons at The Arvada Center and Adam in the World Premiere of Yankee Tavern at Curious Theatre. Graduate acting students Gretchen Goode as Raymonde Chandebise, Ryan Guess as Tournel and BFA acting student Tom Foran as Victor Chandebise, also are featured.

Evening performances start at 7:30 Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at
8 Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2. A free audience talkback will follow the performance on Thursday, Dec. 9.

Ticket prices range from $11- $29.

HSO Holiday Celebration Features Messiah, Pops! Spectacular

HSO’s Holiday POPS! Spectacular and Edward Cumming with Santa Claus.
(Photo Credit: Steve Laschever.)

Featuring the Hartford Chorale, Connecticut Children’s Chorus, Vocal
Soloists, Hartt Community Division Dancers
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is giving the gift of music this December with two programs that celebrate the magic of the holiday season:

On Friday, Dec. 10 and Saturday, Dec. 11 the Hartford Chorale will join the HSO for Handel’s Messiah at 8 pm in the Belding at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.

Led by HSO Music Director Edward Cumming, this program will feature solo performances by soprano Jihee Kim, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Feinstein, tenor Eric Barry, and bass-baritone Andrew Craig on such well-loved arias and choruses as “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” the epic “Amen” chorus, “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted,” and, of course, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Tickets range in price from $30-$62. Student tickets are $10. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit

The Hartford Chorale will join the HSO again for Hartford’s beloved winter tradition: the HSO Holiday POPS! Spectacular on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 3 and 8 pm in Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell. Cumming will take audiences through a Yule-tide adventure with Santa and Rudolph, while featuring music from The Nutcracker with ballet dancers from the Hartt Community Division; a Holiday sing-along with the Hartford Chorale and Connecticut Children’s Chorus; O Holy Night sung by guest soprano Tessa Romano; as well as an assortment of festive carols and seasonal favorites including “Sleigh Ride,” “Let it Snow,” “Slalom,” and more. As an added treat, audience members will get the chance to vote via text-messaging to select one of the pieces on the program.

Single tickets range in price from $30-$62. Student tickets are $10. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit

The Hartford Chorale, under the direction of Richard Coffey, is the primary symphonic chorus of the Greater Hartford community, particularly in its critically acclaimed collaborations with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Through such collaborations and with other organizations, the Chorale seeks to reach and inspire the widest possible audience with exceptional performances of a broad range of choral literature, including renowned choral masterpieces.

The Connecticut Children's Chorus (CCC), under the direction of Stuart Younse, is the Hartford region's most comprehensive youth chorus program and a division of the Hartt School Community Division. CCC continues to thrive as our region's premiere children's chorus, boasting performance invitations with the region's best professional ensembles and provides strength and excellence in training Connecticut's youngest talented voices. Past activities have included performances with the Hartt Opera, CONCORA, and the Nashville Children's Chorus.

The Hartt Community Division of the University of Hartford is a comprehensive community arts school providing instruction in music and dance for individuals of all ages and experience levels. It is a division of The Hartt School, one of the seven colleges of the University of Hartford. One of the largest schools of its kind, the Community Division is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Community and Pre-College Art Schools, is an active member of National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, and is viewed as a national model for community schools based on university campuses.

Coming Up:
with Carolyn Kuan, guest conductor and music director candidate; Alex Beyer, piano
Dec. 2-5 at the Belding Theater

Kuan will lead a pre-concert chat one hour before each performance.
Program: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550; Samuel Barber: Excerpts from Suite from Medea, Op. 23 Ticket Information: Tickets range in price from $30-$70. Student tickets are $10. To purchase tickets or for more information about concert times, contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Theater Review: God of Carnage -- TheaterWorks

Photo by Lanny Nagler

Note: Addition performances Sunday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 pm

A Comedy of Manners Without the Manners
By Lauren Yarger
It starts as a polite meeting between parents to discuss a recent fight between their sons, but the God of Carnage wins out and soon the competitive, childish and selfish nature of these adults comes out in Yasmina Reza’s play making its Northeast regional debut at TheaterWorks, Hartford.

The play is bitingly funny -- you can’t help but laugh even though it’s too bad this is how people are.

Michael and Veronica Novak (Wynn Harmon and Candy Buckley) invite Alan and Annette Raleigh (Royce Johnson and Susan Bennett) over to discuss the 11-year-old boys’ playground fight in which the Raleighs’ son struck the Novak boy with a stick, knocking out some teeth. High-strung Veronica hopes some tulips, a few drinks and her specialty clafouti dessert will help ease the peace negotiations. Peace, ironically, is important to the author who is working on a book about Darfur.

Annette, nauseous at the thought of what her son has done drags along her reluctant husband, a high-powered attorney who keeps interrupting the conversation to take cell phone calls to try to cover up potential hazards in a drug manufactured by his client.

Soon all pretenses at politeness are lost and the discussions turn hostile -- and humorous -- as feelings beneath the surface emerge, not only about the playground altercation, but about how the husbands and wives really feel about each other and their kids. Manners go out the window and insults, the tulips, the cell phone and the clafouti all get hurled in various ways before it’s all over.

While the script, translated by Christopher Hampton, is a riot (it won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play), director Tazewell Thompson fails to rein in the actors to give varying levels to the chaos. Buckley is over the top throughout, yelling and using excessive arm gestures. Johnson is all hi-key and doesn’t show contrast with his lack of interest in his wife, his son or the situation in which they have found themselves.

Likewise, Bennett and Harmon, though funny as the passive members of their partnerships, aren’t given much room to change tone when their characters become more aggressive (fueled by alcohol). The pace also isn't as quick as it should be, especially when the hostilities escalate.

It’s a fun 90 minutes overall, though, sure to make you laugh and cringe. God of Carnage runs through Dec. 19 at TheaterWorks at City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm with weekend matinees at 2:30. There is no performance on Thanksgiving.

For tickets and information, call 860-527-7838 or visit

Friday, November 19, 2010

Theater Review: White Christmas – The Bushnell

Show Rings in the Holidays at the Bushnell
By Lauren Yarger
It’s snowing, the tree tops are glistening and a film comes to life on stage over at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts where Irving Berlin’s White Christmas makes a stop on its national tour through Sunday.

The stage show is based on the hit 1954 movie featuring a number of Berlin’s most popular tunes and lyrics like “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “I Love a Piano,” “Sisters,” and of course “White Christmas.” If you’re looking for a serious plot (David Ives and Paul Blake, book), or strong singing voices (there's way too much vibrato up there for me), this production isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for some nostalgia, some great dancing and a wholesome way to celebrate Christmas with the family, get over to the box office.

John Sherer and Denis Lambert star as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, a song-and-dance act trying to help their former WWII General Henry Waverly (Erick Devine) save his financially troubled Vermont Inn. Helping are their love interests and sister act Betty and Judy Haynes (Amy Bodnar and Shannon M. O’Brian).

Norb Joerder directs the large ensemble’s action on nice travelling sets adapted by Kenneth Foy (Anna Louizos, original Broadway design) enhanced by Randy Skinner’s well-executed choreography and Carrie Robbin’s colorful costumes. The orchestra is conducted by Musical Director John Vesser. There are some sound issues (Peter Fitzgerald, Erich Bechtel) as the actors’ voices sound tinny or echo throughout.

Standing out is Ruth Williamson as Martha Watson, the general’s assistant, who belts out a couple of numbers (showing the best singing skill in the troupe) and who milks the role for some fun humor. Also fun is James Young as “a-yupping” New Englander Ezekiel Foster.

For tickets call the box office at 860-987-6000 or visit

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dreams of Holidaze at Palace Theater

Whimsical dreams become a magical reality when Cirque Dreams Holidaze transforms the Waterbury Palace Theater’s stage into a holiday wonderland of fantasy and imagination for three 3:30 pm performances, Dec. 7 to 9.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze is an original musical extravaganza where ornaments that come to life as costumed characters perform astonishing feats that celebrate the holiday season with spectacle and imagination. An international cast of artists transform into gingerbread men flipping mid air, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, and reindeer soaring high above a landscape of holiday wonderment. With an original musical score featuring holiday favorites, Cirque Dreams Hoildaze will have audiences of all ages mesmerized with its memorable tribute to the holiday season.

In conjunction with The Broadway League’s annual “Kid’s Night on Broadway” promotion, the Palace Theater is offering a special “Buy One Ticket, Get One Half Price” promotion for children, ages 6 – 18, to attend the 7:30 pm evening performance on Wednesday, Dec. 8. The special offer is valid on all remaining seats and is only available by phone or in person at the Box Office. All children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and the offer is not valid on previous purchases.

In the spirit of holiday giving, the Palace Theater is donating a portion of ticket sales from the Cirque Dreams Holidaze performance on Dec.7 to the WATR Sunshine Fund to help those in need during the holiday season. In addition, the Republican-American’s Campership Fund will have their “Celebrity Beggars” out in force before the Dec. 9 performance to collect donations to help defray the cost of sending deserving children and youth to summer camp.

Tickets for Cirque Dreams Holidaze, sponsored in part by WTNH/MyTV9, WATR Radio, Republican-American, Brass Mill Center, Powerstation Events and Crystal Rock, can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main St. in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Mark Twain House News

Party on the Mississippi to Celebrate Author's 175th Birthday
The Mark Twain House & Museum will celebrate America's funniest writer's 175th birthday in a style he would have loved, with a Party on the Mississippi Friday, Dec. 3.

The historic property's spacious Museum Center will be decked out in Southern style to throw a Mardi Gras-style party for Twain's 175th birthday. River City Slim & the Zydeco Hogs will fill the Museum Center with their musical gumbo, and Sea Tea Improv will transform audience suggestions into comic jambalaya. The party will be catered by Hartford favorite Rajun' Cajun.

Party on the Mississippi will begin at 7 pm. Tickets are $30 ($25 for members of The Mark Twain House & Museum). There will also be a cash bar. For tickets or information, call 860-280-3130.

House Decorated for the Holidays
Starting tomorrow the Clemens mansion on Farmington Avenue takes on all the excitement of the holidays in an upper-middle-class Hartford mansion of the Gilded Age -- one that just happened to be the home of one of America's greatest and funniest writers and his extraordinary wife and daughters.

The excitement comes in part from the dazzling array of garlands, gifts, grand rooms and glittering table settings, but also from the stories that the Mark Twain House & Museum's seasoned and eloquent guide corps tell at this time of year. The drama and and pathos of American Victorian holiday ritual, and the intimate details of life in the Clemens family, provide a new perspective on the much-visited home where they lived for seventeen Christmases. And there's no extra charge for this cornucopia of delights, other than the standard house tour admission.

There are the children's muffs and coachman's cape spread out in the house's ornate entry hall, fresh from a sleigh ride through Hartford distributing gifts. There are the gifts under the tree in the drawing room: a gold comb, a silver jardiniere, a German children's book translated by Mark Twain himself, and a sack of hickory nuts sent by an Iowa uncle.

There's the schoolroom decorated with stockings, as Clara described. And finally, there's Twain's third-floor billiard room, where he wrote, and where a Santa jacket is mow strewn on the table. All these things have intriguing and compelling stories behind them.

The Mark Twain House is decorated for the holidays though early January. In the spirit of the season, the admission prices for this one-of-a-kind Gilded Age holiday experience remain the same as for the rest of the year: $15 for adults and $9 for children ($13 for seniors). A Servant's Wing Tour may be added for the complete experience at a nominal charge.

The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave.. Hartford are open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am.-5:30 pm., and Sunday, noon to 5:30 pm. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit

Meet Tracie Thoms at Westport's Young Professional Event

Westport Country Playhouse’s Young Professionals Network will present a post-performance party with actress and vocalist Tracie Thoms following her “Seasons” concert on Friday, Dec. 10 at 8 pm.

Tickets are $30 per person for party and show; $25 each when purchasing two. Reservations: 203-227-5137, ext. 116 or

Tracie Thoms will grace the Playhouse stage following her smash hit debut at New York’s Feinstein’s. Throughout her young career, Thoms has had wide-ranging success in film, television and theater. Audiences will recognize her from her starring role as 'Joanne' in Sony's film of the musical Rent, a role which she reprised on Broadway in 2008 and again recently at the Hollywood Bowl under the direction of Neil Patrick Harris. In 2007, she starred in Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse: Death Proof,” and was also featured in "The Devil Wears Prada.” Thoms was a regular on the hit CBS series, "Cold Case.”

The Playhouse’s Young Professionals Network creates fun and interactive programs geared to young professionals, ages 21 to 40, featuring cocktail parties and live music, in conjunction with Playhouse performances.

Hearst Media Services is sponsor for the 2010 holiday special events series. In addition to the concert by Tracie Thoms, other December events include “The Nutcracker,” a holiday ballet presented by Ballet Etudes, on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5; “The Clowns and Mr. Beckett,” an evening with Bill Irwin and Doug Skinner, on Saturday, Dec. 11; “Season’s Greetings,” a family festivities afternoon, on Sunday, Dec. 12; “The Greatest Gift,” a Script in Hand playreading, on Monday, Dec. 13; and The Broadway Boys, a holiday concert Broadway style, on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18 and 19.

Shows Ring in the Holidays at Long Wharf

Long Wharf Theatre offers two holiday shows this year.

Steve Solomon returns with My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m Home for the Holidays. His hilarious one-man show will play on the Mainstage from Dec. 21-23 at 8 pm. All tickets are $40 with group discounts available.

When the family arrives home to celebrate the holidays, Steve is thrown together with all of his dysfunctional family members in a riotous celebration of the holiday season.

The smash hit Celebrity Autobiography will run for four performances on Dec. 29 and 30 at 7 pm and 9:30 p.m. All tickets are $40 with group discounts available.

Celebrity Autobiography, created and developed by Emmy Award-nominated writer-performer Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel, recently won the 2009 Drama Desk Award in the category of Unique Theatrical Experience and the 2010 Bistro Awards.

The show features a comedic ensemble performing from the actual memoirs of a wide range of celebrities. The passages run the gamut from the “poetry” of Suzanne Somers to the shocking “romance tips” from Tommy Lee to the most famous Hollywood love triangle in history – Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Eddie Fisher. The cast will be announced soon, but previous productions have featured Carole Kane (“Taxi”), Kristen Johnston (“Third Rock from The Sun”, Mario Cantone (“Sex and the City”), Karen Ziemba (Long Wharf Theatre’s 2010 Gala and Sylvia), and Rachel Dratch (“Saturday Night Live”), among many other stars of stage and screen.

This evening of sidesplitting (and true) comedy answers a series of timeless questions. How does Vanna flip her panels? What does Stallone have in his freezer? Why did Burt and Loni topple from the upper tier of their wedding cake? What makes the Jonas Brothers get along? “The show is a bracing tonic for anyone weary of our fame-addled culture. It gives you a chance to indulge in a little celebrity schadenfreude without having to endure the shame of grabbing that issue of In Touch Weekly off the rack at the grocery store,” wrote Charles Isherwood in the New York Times.

For more information about these shows and the 2010-11 Long Wharf Theatre season, visit the new or call 203-787-4282.

Calling all Writers

There still are openings for this Saturday's Elements of Style: A Novel Writing Workshop from 1-3 at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown. Email to reserve a seat. The fee is just $20.

How many times have you found yourself struggling with point of view, limited by that first person narrative perspective, or dizzied by that third person omniscience in which you tend to jump from head to head? What’s more effective, present tense or past tense? When writing dialogue, how natural should it be to everyday speech, and how do you know when your characters talk too much? When is description too much description? In this hands-on workshop, we'll answer these questions and more!

Barnum, Block Party Coming Up in Ivoryton

If you have kids, or you are still a kid at heart, you won’t want to miss Barnum at the Ivoyton Playhouse. The show is the theater's 2010 Family Musical.

Barnum runs Dec. 9 - 19. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Also coming up:
Looking for a different way to celebrate Christmas? Then head down to Ivoryton for a “Not Your Traditional Christmas Block Party” on Dec. 4th from 5 to 8 pm. The entire village of Ivoryton will be participating in this Holiday Extravaganza with carol singing, face painting, Santa’s Workshop Holiday Bazaar, culminating with the lighting of the Ivoryton Illuminations at 6pm (over 70,000 lights!) and the arrival of Santa.

Family activities include writing letters to Santa and holiday letters to our soldiers abroad at the Ivoryton Library; visiting with Santa in the Gazebo (photographs can be purchased from The Ivoryton Studio); face painting and musical entertainment at Leo’sGallery; carol singing outside the Playhouse at 5:45pm with the clowns and circus folk from Barnum, artisans with hand crafted gifts at Gather; Santa’s Christmas Workshop and Holiday Bazaar run by Boy Scouts and local churches; Aggie's for free hot dogs and cookie decorating at "Something Special " and finally chili and hot cider at the Ivoryton Tavern & Café where you can also catch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” to round off this wild and crazy Christmas celebration.

Ivoryton residents are invited to enter their homes in the “Colors of Ivoryton” Christmas Lights competition. Email for more information.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Theater Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest -- Ivoryton

Solomon Landerman, Daniel Robert Sulivan and Andrea Maulella

It’s a Battle of Wills and Sanity vs. Insanity
By Lauren Yarger
It’s hard to tell just who the sane ones are in Dale Wasserman’s dark comedy One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a look at the goings on inside a mental health ward, playing at Ivoryton.

The latest “inmate” is Randale Patrick McMurphy (Daniel Robert Sullivan), a gambling trouble maker who might be faking being a psychopath to get out of his sentence at a work farm. He immediately begins to challenge ineffectual Dr. Spivey (Keith Eugene Brayne),Nurse Flinn (Jenna Sisson) and the person who’s really in charge of the rule-driven life on the floor, Nurse Ratched (Andrea Maulella).

The rest of the inmates are reluctant to join McMurphy's rebellion at first, but Dale Harding (Neal Mayer), president of the patients’ association, suicide risk Billy Bibbit (Jonathan Fielding), hallucinating Anthony Martini( Nicholas R. Camp) and post traumatic distress sufferer Frank Scanlon (Douglas Sobon) soon are on board. They and two extreme cases -- Ruckly (John Samela), who’s a catatonic Jesus, and Chief Bromden (Solomon Landerman), who is deaf and mute in the ward, but who talks to his father who lost the Native Americans’ lands -- soon are enjoying McMurphy's antics, including a party complete with girls Candy (Bethany Fitgerald) and Sandra (Jenna Sisson, who in a very brief part, has a comedic command of the stage).

A battle of the wills and for the loyalty of the patients ensues between McMurphey and Ratched with tragic consequences. Who’s crazy here -- the guy who recognizes common sense or the rigid rule enforcer? We even have to wonder how stable two aides (played by Lesley Billingslea and Jovan Davis) are when they torment the patients.

Peter Lockyer directs, but fails to bring out the tension of the conflict between McMurphy and Ratched, who seems too overtly cold and uncaring throughout. The play, based on Ken Kesey’s novel, works best when Ratched’s cruel nature is masked behind a no-nonsense exterior. Likewise, McMurphy doesn’t make an adequate transition in emotion when he realizes that his gambling luck has failed and that Ratched holds all the cards.

Daniel Nischan designs a nice set, using privacy screens to frame the action and to serve as displays for video projections (Tiffany Hopkins, design), nicely orchestrated, but unnecessary to enhance the storytelling.

Cuckoo flies over the Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton, through Nov. 21. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets are $38 for adults, $33 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Theater Review: The Train Driver -- Long Wharf

Harry Groener and Anthony Chisholm. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
It’s a Dark, Lonely Ride Down to the End of the Track
By Lauren Yarger
The journey down a track to peace isn’t always straight in Athol Fugard’s newest play, The Train Driver, receiving its East Coast premiere at Long Wharf Theater.

Set in South Africa, the play explores the guilt and redemption of Roel Visagie (Harry Groener) as he searches a cemetery for “those with no names” in the hope of discovering the grave of the woman and baby he hit while driving his train. He needs to yell at her for ruining his life. And why did she just walk out in front of the train like that? He needs to put things right and find some peace.

Roel’s relationship with his wife and children has suffered, he’s lost his job and no one ever claimed the victim’s body for funeral. Helping him sort through his emotions and find some closure is Simon Hanabe (Anthony Chisholm), the kind-hearted grave digger who lets Roel sleep in his shack while he searches the graveyard and his soul.
Simon buried the woman and her child, but can’t remember exactly where in the vast, sandy graveyard (nicely created by set designed Eugene Lee and dramatically lighted by designer Christopher Akerlind who recreates the sadness of Roel‘s heart and the shadows haunting him in an almost tangible way).

Roel, oblivious to the danger from gangs and dogs who roam the area at night, rearranges the rubbish and stones Simon uses to mark the graves into crosses to give so many souls “without names” more proper final resting places. Long Wharf’s Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein directs moving performances from both actors.

The play, heavy on Roel’s monologues while Simon listens, tends to be tedious in places (imagine someone talking almost non stop for an hour and a half) and Fugard extends the ending beyond the natural conclusion to force more drama, but overall, The Train Driver is a thought-provoking piece about peace and the stations through which we must pass to reach it. Roel is a good man who wants to do right by the woman and God and we like him and feel for his plight -- all elements of a good story that stays with you.

The Train Driver pulls in at Long Wharf’s Mainstage, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven through Nov. 21. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7 pm, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 and Saturday matinees at 3. Tickets are $45-$70 with special discounts available. Call 203-787-4282 or visit

Theater Review: A Delicate Balance -- Yale Rep

Kathleen Butler, John Carter, Keira Naughton, and Ellen McLaughlin
in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance. Photo © Joan Marcus, 2010.
It’s a Balance with all the Scales Tipped
By Lauren Yarger
Life’s A Delicate Balance thrown out of equilibrium by choices that we and others make, but when too many choices pile on the scale, it tips, leaving few choices left for fixing it.
That’s the crux of Edward Albee’s play -- the one that won him his first Pulitzer-- now playing at Yale Rep.

The theater’s artistic director James Bundy guides the three-hour, two-intermission angst fest which features good performances, but a frustrating plot as characters forced into close living quarters find themselves teetering between sanity and madness.

Edward Hermann plays Tobias, a laid back guy trying to stay that way while dealing with the reality of his loveless marriage, his sister-in-law’s drinking problem, his daughter’s failed fourth marriage and unexpected house guests. His methods of coping involve drinking, staying up all night to find some alone time and -- at least at one time --, engaging in an affair, possibly with sister-in-law Claire (Ellen McLaughlin).

His wife, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant) is the self proclaimed “fulcrum” trying to maintain the balance in all this mess, but it’s hard when she has to confront Clare about her drinking, deal with some mentally unbalanced rants from daughter, Julia (Keira Naughton), and entertain uninvited guests all while musing about what a relief it might be to lose her own sanity.

Inserting themselves into this mess are Harry (John Carter) and Edna (Kathleen Butler), life time friends of Tobias and Agnes, who, driven by some unknown and unexplained fear, arrive on the doorstep of their suburban home (lavishly paneled and bookcased by set designer Chien-Yu Peng) asking for a permanent place to stay.

While each of the performances is strong (McLaughlin stands out as the sarcastic, wise-cracking Claire), they fail to tip the scales back from the weight of a contrived and confusing plot and characters that aren’t very likeable to justify a three-hour visit with them. Before it’s done someone has threatened -- either seriously or in veiled conversation -- gunfire, a bomb explosion, the plague and burning bodies and belongings as ways to deal with what they want. Oh, and Claire also plays the accordion and yodels.

This scale needs some recalibration before it will find A Delicate Balance , but you can see the fine performances through Nov. 13 at Yale Rep., 1120 Chapel St. at York Street, New Haven. Performance times vary. Tickets range from $10 to $85 and are available at 203-432-1234 or

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theater Review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying -- Goodspeed

The cast performs "The Great Big Brotherhood of Man. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.
Goodspeed Production Knows How to Succeed
By Lauren Yarger
It’s not clear how hard Brian Sears is actually trying, but he sure is a success playing a window washer who climbs to the top of the corporate ladder in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Goodspeed.

Director Greg Ganakas has assembled a strong cast who sings (music by Frank Loesser) and dances (clever and tight choreography by Kelli Barclay) their way through the silly tale of the rise of J. Pierpont Finch who succeeds in business by following the steps laid out in an instruction manual (the recorded voice of the narrator is supplied by Sen. Christopher Dodd -- is theater a new career path for the outgoing politician?) Finch also finds success in a romantic relationship with secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Natalie Bradshaw) on his journey.

The action takes place on a retro-looking, paneled set (the year is 1962, design by Adrian W. Jones), with period costumes by Gregory Gale. Lighting Designer Paul Miller lends a nice touch with a spotlight on a smirking Finch every time one of his manipulative get-ahead strategies earns him another advantage or promotion. It’s a fun show, staged nicely on the Goodspeed stage.

Standing out is a very funny Tom Deckman as Bud Frump, the wimpy nemesis of Finch who runs to his mother, the CEO’s sister, for help whenever he’s in trouble at the office.

Giving nice turns are Ronn Carroll as the company’s CEO J.B. Biggley, Nicolette Hart as Biggley’s bombshell mistress Hedy LaRue, who with a typing speed of 12 words a minute, isn’t very successful holding a position as a secretary in the company, and Jennifer Smith as Biggley’s uptight executive assistant Miss Jones.

On the musical side (Michael Flattery, direction), some tightening is needed as a number of vocals don’t come in on the right beat and voices on some ensemble numbers aren’t together. The orchestra does a nice job playing the Loesser score which includes familiar tunes like “I Believe in You” and “The Brotherhood of Man.”

This run continues through Nov. 28 at the opera house in east Haddam, CT. Performances are Wednesdays at 2 pm and 7 pm; Thursdays at 7:30 with select performances at 2; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm; and Sundays at 2 pm with selected performances at 7:30 pm.

For tickets and more information, call 860-873-8668 or visit

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theater Review: The Blue Man Group – The Bushnell

Photo copyright Blue Man Group
Pulsating Percussion, Vivid Visuals Drive Production
By Lauren Yarger
If you’re thinking about getting out the sun lamp to drive away the doldrums brought on by the dark mornings and earlier sunsets of fall, why not try a different kind of blues? The Blue Man Group, on tour this week at The Bushnell in Hartford, offers light – lots of it in different shapes and colors to stimulate your senses.

The show also features three all-blue men doing various silly gags, skillfully catching marshmallows in their mouths, drum painting and beating on various PVC pipe drum configurations amidst a backdrop of video and digital projections. Housed on the second story of the set are musicians directed by Byron Estep, who provide additional drumming and instrumentals for the electrically charged presentation.

Audience participation figures in as well, as the Blue Men, who never speak, enter the house and select participants for various segments. Those seated in the first few rows in front wear plastic ponchos to protect them from paint and other messy materials that fly free during the event. Video footage of the crowd is shown and the audience gets a chance to join in toward the end of the show.

Young and old seem to enjoy, but be forewarned. It’s loud. Really LOUD. The pulsating drumming will rock your seat. It’s 90 minutes with no intermission.

The show, created, written and directed by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, has tours around the country and a long-running engagement still playing in New York. At the Bushnell, performances continue tonight and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 1 pm and 6:30 pm.

Tickets start at $17. Call 860-987-5959 or visit for more information.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Judith Ivey Returns to Long Wharf in Shirley Valentine

Tony Award winner Judith Ivey teams up again with Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein, the director of her Lucille Lortel Award winning performance in The Glass Menagerie, for the hit comedy Shirley Valentine by Willy Russell, on Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II from Dec. 2 through Jan. 2.

The creative team is comprised of Frank Alberino (sets), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Rui Rita (lights), Ryan Rumery (sound). Jason Hindelang is the stage manager.

Wondering what happened to the joy and vibrancy in her life, Shirley Valentine, an English housewife, finds herself talking to the walls. But when she is offered a chance to go to Greece, Shirley is introduced to the adventure, hope, laughs and ultimately, love she had been missing.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 203-787-4282.

Shirley Valentine
• Dec. 2, 2010 to Jan. 2, 2011
• Stage II
• Tickets: $45-$65
• Performance Schedule: Tuesdays at 7 pm, Wednesdays, at 2 pm and 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm.

Schoolhouse Rock! Performs Live at Hartford Children's Theater

"Unpack Your Adjectives" and "Do theCirculation" at the Hartford Children's Theatre production of Schoolhouse Rock Live Nov. 5-14 at Hartford Children's Theater's Carriage House Theatre, 360 Farmington Ave.

Directed by HCT's Associate Artistic Director Ayla Kapiloff with musical direction by John DeNicola, SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE is the debut production of HCT's new touring division HCT ON THE ROAD. The program will tour productions directly to schools within greater Hartford and beyond, furthering HCT's mission of providing access andexposure to high quality theatre to young audiences.

The EmmyAward-winning 1970s Saturday morning cartoon series that taught history,grammar, math, science and politics through clever, tuneful songs is instructing a whole new generation. The show features music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg,Kathy Mandry, George Newall and Tom Yohe. The cast includes Justin Boudreau as "Tom," Christopher Cavallo as "Joe," Jamison Daniels as "George," Emely Larsonas "Dori," Meagan MacLeod as "Dina" and Tori Mooney as "Shulie."

Caitlin Sailer choreographs and serves as a swing. Performances The performance schedule is as follows: Friday, Nov. 5 at 7 pm; Saturday, Nov. 6 at 2 and 7 pm; Sunday, Nov. 7 at 2 pm; Friday,Nov. 12 at 7 pm; Saturday, Nov. 13 at 2 and 7 pm and Sunday,Nov. 14 at 2 pm. Tickets are $18 for adults, $13 for children (13 and under) and senior citizens and are available online at

For more information or to book aschool performance, call the HCT Box Office on 860-429-7970 ext.12.

Fly Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Ivoryton

Pictured: Solomon Landerman, Daniel Robert Sullivan and Andrea Maulella
Photograph by Anne Hudson
Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and its unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her, will open at Ivoryton Playhouse Nov. 3.
This cast includes Daniel Robert Sullivan as McMurphy and Andrea Maulella, who was last seen at the Playhouse as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, as Nurse Ratched. The play will be directed Peter Lockyer, a one-time resident of this area and past student of Valley Regional High School. A Broadway veteran, Peter has played the title role in Phantom of the Opera, and has recently finished performing in South Pacific at the Lincoln Center. Set design by Dan Nischan and lighting design by Doug Harry.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest runs Nov. 3-21. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30; Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $38 for adults, $33 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting .(Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main St. in Ivoryton.

HSO's Chairman Has Issued a Challenge

David Roth, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, is challenging the community to increase its giving through the “Chairman’s Challenge.” He has pledged to match on a dollar-for-dollar basis any new or increased gifts made to the HSO by May 31, 2011, up to $500,000.

The search for a new music director for the HSO includes seven candidates making guest conductor appearances (four occurred during the 2009-10 season, and three are taking place in the 2010-11 season during October, November and December 2010). The successor to current Music Director Edward Cumming is expected to be announced in January 2011. Cumming will continue to lead the orchestra through the conclusion of the 2010-11 season (his ninth with the HSO) in June of 2011.

The HSO, marking its 67th season in 2010-11, is the second largest orchestra in New England and widely recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras. Dedicated to the performance of live symphonic music and the presentation of quality education and community programs, each season the Hartford Symphony plays to audiences numbering approximately 125,000. Supported by more than 4,500 subscribers and 2,000 donors, the orchestra's extensive array of Musical Pathways educational activities serves more than 64,000 individuals in Hartford and surrounding communities annually. For more information about the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, visit

Palace Theater Bus Tours Hit the Road

The Palace Theater is hitting the road and inviting patrons to come along for the ride. The non-profit theater is organizing two different bus trips to the vibrant city of Providence, Rhode Island, where guests can experience the arts at the Waterbury venue’s sister theater, the Providence Performing Arts Center. Proceeds from the trips will benefit the Palace Theater Annual Fund.

The first bus trip will take patrons from Waterbury's Palace Theater to see a 3:30 pm matinee performance of the national tour of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a glittering production full of fun and surprises featuring the eye-high kicks of the world-famous Radio City Rockettes® on On Sunday, November 28.

The second bus trip will bring audiences of all ages to a 1 pm matinee of the Tony Award-winning Broadway sensation, Disney’s The Lion King on Sunday, Feb. 13.

Tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Disney’s The Lion King bust trips are $139 per person and include transportation to and from Waterbury, VIP seating and a cheese reception. The buses will stop for dinner at a location to be determined. Seating is limited and can be reserved by phone at 203-346-2000 or online at

Monday, October 18, 2010

Theater Review: The Diary of Anne Frank -- Westport

Front row, from left, Monica West (Miep Gies), Lou Liberatore (Mr. Dussel), Lauren Culpepper (Margot Frank), Steve Vinovich (Mr. Van Daan), Molly Ephraim (Anne Frank); back row, standing from left, Felicity Jones (Edith Frank), Mitch Greenberg (Otto Frank), Mimi Lieber (Mrs. Van Daan) and Ari Brand (Peter Van Daan) in “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Westport Country Playhouse, now playing through October 30. (203) 227-4177. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Be Prepared to Leave the Theater and Be Transported to a Small Attic During World War II
By Lauren Yarger
The Westport Country Playhouse production of The Diary of Anne Frank is one of those rare experiences where the fourth wall vanishes and audience members are swept into the drama unfolding on stage so effectively, that in this case, you’d swear you’re hiding in a small attic in Amsterdam where the fear that you might be discovered by the Nazis is palpable.

The experience is the result of excellence in many elements of the production. Wendy Kesselman’s newly revised adaptation of Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett stage play about Anne’s two years of hiding with her family and other Jews during World War II focuses on emotions felt by the characters. It’s impossible not to feel what they feel.

Secondly, the small attic above her father’s former office is brought to vivid life by designer John Ezellthe. Multiple levels depict the living and common spaces shared by the Franks, the VanDaans and a dentist, Mr. Dussel, who joins the two families later. The walls, furniture and props all are drab. Bedding, linens and even the costumes (Wila Kim, designer) lend no color or life to the plight of those living in the attic and coiled barbed wire, high above in the rafters, is a constant reminder of the prisons that await outside the attic, which is accessed by stairs leading from below in front of the stage, completing the razing of the fourth wall.

Finally, but perhaps most effective in creating the experience, is the direction of Gerald Freedman. He coaxes winning performances from the actors and masterfully separates action taking place in one part of the attic from the day-to-day activities continued by others (the effect is aided by excellent lighting design by Travis McHale). The result is the creation of the audience as another entity in the drama taking place in the attic.

After a first act that is so engrossing, the characters stroll back onto stage as audience members return to their seats after intermission, cementing the feeling that we’re all in that attic together. We share the horror of a bombing raid, the chill of a radio address by Hitler, the sweeping joy of news that the Allies have invaded Normandy and the terror that every noise might bring the Nazis up the stairs.

Molly Ephraim’s Anne is a typical adolescent, annoying the Van Daans (Steve Vinovich, Mimi Lieber) with her constant chatter, high spirits and pranks -- all a contrast to her quieter sister, Margot (Lauren Culpepper), who is much more like their mother, Edith (Felicity Jones), against whom Anne rebels. She relates more to her father, Otto (Mitch Greenberg), and teases the Van Daans’ son, Peter (Ari Brand), with whom she shares a budding romance.

Providing supplies, news from the outside world and their only distraction from a life in hiding are Miep (Monica West) and Mr. Kraller (Allen McCullough), Otto’s former business partner. Rounding out the cast are Lou Liberatore as Dussel, Philip M. Gardner, Jack Kesy and Nicholas Wilder.

This production is a “don’t miss” of the season. It runs through Oct. 30 at the Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. For information and tickets, visit or call 203-227-4177.

God of Carnage Opens TheaterWorks Season

TheaterWorks opens its 2010-2011 Season with the East Coast regional theater premiere of the blockbuster hit God of Carnageby Yasmina Reza.

A self-proclaimed "comedy of manners...without the manners", God of Carnage depicts a cocktail get-together of sophisticated parents discussing their misbehaving children. As discourse becomes debate, civility turns to absurdity and the evening rapidly degenerates into a hilarious brawl. With insults flying, all vestiges of adult behavior are eventually lost in a chaotic spiral of delicious devastation.

Winner of The Laurence Olivier Award as well the Tony Award for Best Play, God of Carnage took Broadway by storm during its extended New York run, earning knockout reviews and setting box office records.

Broadway star Candy Buckley headlines TheaterWorks' cast which also features Susan Bennett, Royce Johnson and Wynn Harmon. Directed by Tazewell Thompson, the show runs Nov. 12- Dec. 19.

The design team for God of Carnage includes Donald Eastman (Sets), Harry Nadal (Costumes), Marcus Doshi (Lights), and Fabian Obispo (Sound). Production Manager is Michael Lenaghan.

Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:30 pm.; Fridays and
Saturdays at 8 pm, with weekend matinees at 2:30 pm. There is no performance on Thanksgiving.

Seats for God of Carnage are $40 for weeknights and matinees; $50 for Friday and Saturday evenings. Seating is general admission. There is a $12.50 service charge for center reserved seats. College-age student rush seats are $15 at show time with valid school ID (subject to availability). Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

For complete information and reservations, call TheaterWorks at 860-527-7838 or visit

Subscriptions for TheaterWorks’ entire five-play 2010-2011 Season are $129 - less than $26 per play.

God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza
Nov. 12 through Dec. 19, 2010

This by Melissa James Gibson
Jan. 21 through Feb. 27, 2011

A Steady Rain by Keith Huff
March 25 through May 8, 2011

Race by David Mamet
June 3 through July 10, 2011

The Understudy by Theresa Rebeck
Aug. 5 through Sept. 18, 2011

Discounted parking is available to TheaterWorks' patrons for $5 at CityPlace Garage (diagonally up Pearl Street from TheaterWorks).

A free matinee for college students and faculty is offered Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2:30 pm. TheaterWorks' ALL-FREE performance is sponsored by Bank of America.

Wanda Sykes Heads November Events at Palace

The Palace Theater in Waterbury has something audiences of all ages can be thankful for with this November lineup. Tickets and gift certificates can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at, or in person at the Palace Box Office, 100 East Main St. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 pm
Deemed "one of the funniest stand-up comics" by her peers and one of Entertainment Weekly's”25 Funniest People in America,” comedian Wanda Sykes brings her smart-witted stand-up to Waterbury. Sponsored by Bank of America and WCCT-TV.

Friday, Nov. 5 at 9:30 and 11:30 am
If you want to add fun, subtract boredom, multiply test scores and keep your students’ undivided attention, then The Math Maniac Show is your answer to an A+ educational program.

Live Nation presents BRIAN REGAN
Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 pm
Comedian Brian Regan is the perfect balance of sophisticated writing and physicality that fills theaters nationwide with fervent fans that span generations.

Saturday, Nov. 13 at 8 pm
Founded and led by the charismatic virtuoso violinist Guido Dieteren, Guido’s Orchestra is a vibrant contemporary fusion of classical and popular music.

Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 pm
Join TV medium and clairvoyant Lisa Williams.

CT Virtuosi presents MOZART’S “THE MAGIC FLUTE”
Saturday, Nov. 20 at 8 pm
Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is a fully staged co-production with the Connecticut Lyric Opera, and is performed by an international cast in the original language with English Sub-titles.

'Sweet' Sue Terry Heads HSO Jazz & Strings

HSO Jazz and Strings: A Tribute to Art Pepper’s Winter Moon Album
with “Sweet” Sue Terry, alto saxophone; Gene Bozzi, artistic director & drums; Rick Rozie, bass; and Walter Gwardyak, music arranger & piano

When: Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 at 8pm
Where: Immanuel Congregational Church, Hartford
What: Tracks from Art Pepper’s Winter Moon album and original charts by Sue Terry
How: Advance Tickets for preferred seating are $40; general admission is $20. Tickets at the door for preferred seating are $45; general admission is $25. Student tickets are $10. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit

Photographer Erickson Honored for 25 Years at Hartford Stage

Photographer T. Charles Erickson recently spoke at a reception in his honor at Hartford Stage, where a number of his works were on exhibit inconjuntion with the opening of the theater's renovated space and the current production of Antony & Cleopatra. Erickson is the photographer for productions at Hartford Stage (25 years) and other Connecticut theaters. Above, his image of Hallie Foote,Des Macke and Devon Abner in 2005's The Trip to Bountiful.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Theater Review: Ella, The Musical -- Long Wharf

Tina Fabrique as Ella. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Ella Fitzgerald's Life, Songs Merge on Stage
By Lauren Yarger
The scene: a stage of a concert hall in Nice, France, 1966. The star: Ella Fitzgerald (Tina Fabrique). The plot: Will the star, who just attended her beloved sister's funeral, be able to perform, especially after learning that her estranged son will be in the audience? The audience: you -- at Long Wharf Theatre's Mainstage.
Ella The Musical is a show combining a narrative of events in the singer's life with big band and jazz songs she made famous, like "Cheek to Cheek," Let's Call the whole Thing Off," Blue Skies" and "Lullaby of Birdland," to name a few of the 23 tunes included in the program conceived by Rob Ruggiero, who directs, and Dyke Garrison.
Helping unfold the tale are her manager, Norman Grantz (Harold Dixon) and her on-stage musicians (George Caldwell, piano, who also serves as music director, Ronny Harper, drums, Ron Hayes, trumpet and Cliff Kellam, who stands out with some solos on the trumpet) who double as some of the people the "first lady of song" meets along the way.
The first act, which includes a lot of narration about how Ella got her start, her two marriages and the relationship with her sister. It's a little slow moving, but the second act, which is staged as the Fitzgerald concert in Nice, is packed full of songs which have the audience tapping toes and bopping in the seats. Fabrique gives a nice turn as Ella and masters the scat singing which made her famous.
The show runs through Oct. 17. For information visit or call 203-787-4282

Theater Review: Everything the Traffic Will Allow -- MTC

Klea Blackhurst sings Ethel Merman.
Subtitled 'The Songs and Sass of Ethel Merman,' This Show Has That and Even More
By Lauren Yarger
"Everything the Traffic will Allow: The Songs and Sass of Ethel Merman" offers all that and even more -- Klea Blackhurst narrating and singing her way through an hour and a half of the life and songs of her idol. Watching Blackhurst enjoy Merman is almost as fun as enjoying the songs and stories themselves.
Blackhurst, in a vintage style black cocktail dress evoking memories of the Broadway legend, crams facts, anecdotes and songs originated in a Broadway show by Merman (that was the criteria for inclusion in the program) accompanied by Bruce Barnes on the piano. She does justice to them all and proves that there really is no business like show business when it comes to being able to live out your dream on stage.
After finishing an exhausting rendition of "Blow, Gabriel Blow" from Cole Porter's Anything Goes, Blackhurst quipped that it's just a little number she likes to do on days when she can't make it to the gym.
The show is fun and provides a nice variety of Merman's most well-known belting numbers as well as some less recognizable ballads.
It runs through Oct. 24 at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 246 Post Road East, Westport. For tickets and performance times, visit or call 203-454-3883.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Come Participate in Chat with Edward Albee

A Conversation with Edward Albee will be held 3 pm Friday, Oct. 22 at the Yale University Art Gallery McNeil Lecture Hall, 1111 Chapel St. at York Street.

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required: arrive early for best seating.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Albee will participate in a discussion moderated by Catherine Sheehy, resident dramaturg at Yale Repertory Theatre and Chair of the Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism Department at Yale School of Drama.

Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of Albee’s A Delicate Balance directed by James Bundy, dean of Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Yale Repertory Theatre, begins performances that evening at 8. The cast features Kathleen Butler, John Carter, Kathleen Chalfant, Edward Herrmann, Ellen McLaughlin, and Keira Naughton.

Othello Continues at CT Rep

Othello (Brooks Brantly) is persuaded by the treacherous Iago (Kevin Coubal) in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s classic, Othello, being presented in the Nafe Katter Theatre Oct. 7 – 17, 2010. For tickets and information call 860-486-4226 or visit Photo by Kim Bova.

'People's Tenor' Celebrates Italian Heritage Month at Palace

World-renowned “People’s Tenor” and musical heartthrob Michael Amante will perform everything “From Pavarotti to Broadway” when he is joined by Connecticut’s own soprano, Marissa Famiglietti, to celebrate Italian-American Heritage month at the Palace Theater on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 8 pm.

Affectionately known as the “People’s Tenor,” Michael Amante has been crowned the “Prince of High C’s” for his remarkable ability to hit and sustain with ease one of the highest notes of a tenor’s voice. Singing since the age of five, he is gifted with a greater than four octave range and is considered a most versatile performer for his ability to sing in a variety of languages, including Italian, Spanish, Polish, French, German and Latin.

With a combination of good looks, romantic charm and emotionally charged singing, Amante has wowed audiences everywhere. He regularly records and performs in a vast array of styles, including Classical, Italian Art, Pop/Rock, Gospel and Broadway with a flair, finesse and finely crafted artistry that put this virtuoso vocalist firmly in his own class. Also known as “the Voice of the Mets” for singing opening and playoff games at the former Shea Stadium and the new Citi-Field, Amante has been hailed as “The Fourth Tenor,” by Regis Philbin, and deemed “The next Mario Lanza” by artist Tony Bennett.

Joining Amante on stage is Waterbury resident and soprano Marissa Famiglietti, who is scheduled to perform as a duet partner on several of Amante’s 2010 concert engagements. A frequent and versatile concert artist, Famiglietti was most recently heard in the role of Marguerite in Faust, conducted by legendary tenor Perry Price, with The Hillhouse Opera Company. Ms. Famiglietti made her debut singing the role of Suor Genovieffe in Suor Angelica with the Opera Theater of Connecticut, where she recently returned to sing the role of Annina in La Traviata this past August. Famiglietti’s recent appearances in Connecticut include Soprano Soloist in the Mozart Requiem with Musica Sacra at the Shrine of St. Anne, Guest Artist at the Waterbury Chorale’s Favorite Catholic Hymns at the Basillica of the Immaculate Conception, and the Pavarotti Tribute Concert at the Silas Bronson Library.

Before the performance, a 6 pm pre-show dinner will be held in the Poli Club, located on the mezzanine level of the theater. Dinner is $40 per member and $50 for non-members, which includes tax, service fee, coffee and tea. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited and reservations may be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Tickets for Michael Amante: “From Pavarotti to Broadway” can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main Street in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002. For more information on becoming an EPASS member, contact the Box Office at 203-346-2000.

New Haven Students on Stage at Long Wharf

Long Wharf Theatre is partnering with the New Haven Public Schools to offer a pair of jazz concerts featuring some of the best student musicians the city has to offer.

Students from Hill Regional Career High School and Mauro-Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School will be performing next week before two performances of the hit musical Ella. Hill Regional, led by Scott McCoy, will perform from 6 to 6:30 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 13. Curtain is 7 pm. Mauro-Sheridan, led by Olivia Malin, will perform on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 2 to 2:30 pm – the performance of Ella will begin at 3.

To buy tickets to Ella, call 203-787-4282 or visit For information about Long Wharf Theatre’s education programming click on

Auditions for Annie Set at Hartford Children's Theatre

Hartford Children's Theatre announces auditions for Annie, the second production in the 2010-2011 Family Main Stage Series "Pure Imagination," by appointment only, on Sunday, Oct. 24 from 11 am to 3 pm and Monday, Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 pm at HCT's Carriage House Theatre, 360 Farmington Avenue.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Ryan Ratelle,performances will take place Jan. 7-17, 2011. Roles are available for girls ages 8 - 12 as well as teenagers and adults age 13 and up. There are two roles available for girls ages 6 - 7. Audition sides are available online at should come prepared dance a short combination (as taught by the choreographer) and to sing 16 measures of an appropriate song of their choosing (you must provide sheet music for the accompanist.) Girls should not to sing from the Annie score that this call.

AUDITION TIMES ARE AS FOLLOWS: Sunday, Oct. 24 from 11 am to 1 pm. Children ages 8 - noon, 1 - 3 pm. Adults & Teenagers Monday, Oct.25 from 6 to 7:30 pm. Children ages 8 - 12 from 7:30 to 9 pm. Adults & Teenagers Auditions are by appointment only; there are a limited number of appointments available. To schedule an audition, call 860-249-7970. More info online at

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Theater Review: Broke-ology at TheaterWorks

Royce Johnson, Frank Faucette and David Pegram
Broken and Trying to Find a Fix That Works
By Lauren Yarger
Broke-ology is a new scientific theory Ennis King (Royce Johnson) has developed: the science of being broke and staying alive while being broke.

What he doesn’t realize when he laughingly defends his theory to his brother Malcolm (David Pegram), however, is that his family, depicted in Nathan Louis Jackson’s play directed by Tazewell Thompson at TheaterWorks, is a living proof.

Ennis, already stressed by working a job he hates to try to provide for his girlfriend and a baby on the way, is glad when Malcolm returns to their Kansas City, KS home after college at the University of Connecticut, presumably to help him care for their father, William (Frank Faucette), suffering from escalating Multiple Sclerosis.

Malcolm and his father have different plans, however. The son wants to return to Connecticut where he’s been offered a job that will help him in his goal of turning around urban neighborhoods, like this one in Kansas City, now on gang territory. William, plagued by dreams of being on a sinking boat, unable to save his family, doesn’t want to be dependent on either of the boys. He’d like to return to happy times, like when he and his late wife Sonia, first bought the house (a living room, kitchen and bathroom crammed onto the small stage by designer Luke Hegel Cantarella). When William believes Sonia (Gina Daniels) has been paying him visits, he gives the boys even more cause for concern.

Just beneath the loving, good-natured ribbing the men give each other while playing dominoes and pulling childish pranks lurks the question of how each can get “unstuck” without hurting any of the others. The rich performances and Tazewell’s tight direction make a poignant study of putting the needs of other above one’s self and just how far a father might be willing to go to do that.

The play runs through Oct. 24 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm with weekend matinees at 2:30 at THeaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. For tickets and information, call 860-527-7838 or visit

Note: The play contains strong language.

Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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