Stage

StageStruck: Facing Down the Flood

Brattleboro area shows stand up to natural and unnatural disasters.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Mitzi Trumbo Photo, Courtesy the Trumbo family
Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

At the end of August, Flat Street in downtown Brattleboro became a free-flowing river as tributaries of the Connecticut, whipped up by Hurricane Irene, ruptured their banks. The New England Youth Theatre, one of the businesses affected by the flood, is "still mucking out," according to NEYT staff member Sandy Klein. But the theater, housed in a comparatively new building on the street, was relatively unscathed compared to other shops and homes inundated by the rushing water.

For people and businesses in the city center, the flood was a double whammy after last spring's devastating fire in a historic downtown building. Inspired by local musician Scott Ainsley, NEYT is presenting two fundraising concerts and a family-friendly cabaret this weekend, in partnership with Ainsley and videographer Michael Hanish. The shows benefit two local relief funds and the Vermont Food Bank.

The pair of evening concerts feature Ainslie and other area performers, including Becky Graber and Pentavoc, Lisa McCormick, Alki Steriopoulos, Samirah Evans, Buzzards Brass Band, Keith Murphy and Becky Tracy, The Stockwell Brothers, The As Yet Quartet and the ever-ingenious Sandglass Theater.

Sunday's cabaret, produced by NEYT's youth mentors, includes the theater's founder, Stephen Stearns, with clowning partner Peter Gould, along with performers from the New England Center for Circus Arts, the Vermont Theater Company and participants from local art centers.

The shows are collectively titled Get Up 8, after a Japanese proverb, "Fall down seven times, get up eight." Recognizing that "Brattleboro has had a lot of hard knocks [recently]," NEYT's Jess Callahan says, "We just want to help the town get up again and feel strong."

Oct. 1-2, 7 p.m., Oct. 2, 1 p.m. New England Youth Theatre at 100 Flat St., Brattleboro, www.neyt.org.

*

Meanwhile, just across the still-swollen Connecticut River from the city, the Actors Theatre Playhouse continues its occasional series of staged readings with a particularly intriguing look back to a time when reputations and careers were swept away by the red tide of anti-communist hysteria.

Trumbo: Red, White and Blacklisted is a documentary play about Dalton Trumbo, the most prominent of the Hollywood Ten screenwriters who were driven from the industry by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the infamous HUAC. After declining to "name names" before the committee, Trumbo was jailed for contempt of Congress (the richest of double meanings). During his years on the blacklist in the 1950s, Trumbo nevertheless won two screenwriting Oscars, for The Brave One and Roman Holiday, under assumed names.

The play was crafted by Trumbo's son Chris from his father's letters to friends and family during this dark period of his life. They express the expected frustration and outrage, but also convey the writer's witty, ironic mockery of the political system, the cowardly cogs of the Hollywood amusement machine, and his own predicament.

Oct. 1, Actors Theatre Playhouse, Brook and Main Streets, West Chesterfield, N.H., www.actors-theatre.info, (802) 254-4714.

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