For the Kids: New Year’s Morning Music Party
Dec27

For the Kids: New Year’s Morning Music Party

Sleeping In? That’s So 2016Get those kids out of bed (it’s not like they stayed awake until midnight, anyway) and let them dive into a new year the fun way: with puppets and breakfast. Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective are continuing the beloved “Morning Music Party” series for another year with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, and diversions for kids. After a free breakfast of fresh pancakes, juice, and...

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Kids Stage Pick: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Dec27

Kids Stage Pick: The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Rug RatsIf that godawful stop-motion Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer movie from 1964 has coursed through your eyeballs a few too many times, consider taking the kids to see CactusHead Puppets, who present The Pied Piper of Hamelin for two days only at the Eric Carle Museum. The West Springfield-based company has put together a comedic, updated adaptation of the traditional folktale. Now, not only does the town find a musical solution...

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Nightcrawler: It’s Not Yuuuge – It’s Jewmongous
Dec19

Nightcrawler: It’s Not Yuuuge – It’s Jewmongous

Sean Altman was best known as a member of the a capella singing group Rockapella, which had a recurring role on the PBS television show Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego? from 1991 to 1995. Since then, based on Altman’s website, he’s been mugging with former senator Joe Lieberman, sharing stages with Billy Joel and Whoopi Goldberg, and hanging out with Terry Gross on NPR. So where in the world is he now?On Friday, Dec. 23, Altman...

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Stagestruck: Crossing the Color Line — Area theaters give (some) stage space to artists of color
Dec19

Stagestruck: Crossing the Color Line — Area theaters give (some) stage space to artists of color

In my last column, “Closing the Gender Gap,” I tallied the representation of women performers, playwrights and directors in the area’s professional theaters in 2016. I found some improvement in the gender balance, though we’re still a ways away from true parity. I wish I could say the same for that other group of chronically underrepresented artists — people of color.My year-end report for 2015 (1/7/16) noted 23 “minority”...

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Stagestruck: Turning the Screw
Dec17

Stagestruck: Turning the Screw

Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith is a gothic mystery-romance set in Victorian England. It’s a tale of devious crime, illicit love and cascading betrayals, with as many hairpin plot turns as a, well, as a Victorian novel. Alexa Junge’s stage adaptation, developed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and now playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge through January 8th, skillfully wraps the 500-page book into...

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This Weekend: Northampton’s Newest Dance Troupe Debuts
Dec12

This Weekend: Northampton’s Newest Dance Troupe Debuts

Company TimeBefore her days as the head of Northampton’s School for Contemporary Dance and Thought, Jen Polins directed the Catalyst dancers at South Hadley’s Pioneer Valley Performing Arts charter school for 17 years. In September, craving a return to that rewarding work, Polins founded Hatchery, the valley’s only independent pre-professional dance company for teens ages 13-19. In addition to studying with internationally acclaimed...

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Albany Berkshire Ballet brings The Nutcracker to Springfield
Dec05

Albany Berkshire Ballet brings The Nutcracker to Springfield

Visions of SugarplumsWhy mess with a good thing? The Albany Berkshire Ballet presents its annual tour of the holiday classic The Nutcracker with an eye toward elegant design, great music, and heartfelt performances. Artistic director Madeline Cantarella Culpo choreographs this production, working with theater and movie set designer Carl Sprague (a Stockbridge native) and costume designers Rita Watson and Victile Donahue. The...

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Stagestruck: ’Tis the Season for Carols and Grace
Dec05

Stagestruck: ’Tis the Season for Carols and Grace

When I heard about Silverthorne Theater Company’s upcoming production of A Christmas Carol, set in a 1930s radio studio, I thought of the story Garrison Keillor tells about the early days of television, when flickering black-and-white images were luring audiences away from radio drama. A young boy, asked which he preferred, radio or TV, answered without hesitation: “Radio. Because the pictures are better.”John Reese, who directed a...

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Winter Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (Jan-Mar 2017)
Nov28

Winter Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (Jan-Mar 2017)

A Spirited Debate One of two things will happen to you when confronted with the bold and brassy acts of clairvoyance that Rebecca Anne LoCicero whips up onstage. One will be a sense of reluctant amazement. The other will be a deep, head-shaking skepticism. LoCicero has been working in the New England area, nationally, and worldwide for more than two decades, and the funny, occasionally outrageous impromptu readings she performs on...

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Juárez: A Documentary Mythology
Nov28

Juárez: A Documentary Mythology

A Tale of Two Cities: Murdertown and SafevilleIt’s a tale of two cities: one is the self-declared “Safest Large City in America” while right next door, the other has earned the dubious distinction of “Murder Capital of the World.” Director Ruben Polendo and Theater Mitu have distilled hundreds of hours of interviews and audio recordings from Juárez, Mexico, and its neighbor to the north — El Paso, Texas, — into a theater stage...

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STRUT is Easthampton’s New, All-Inclusive Fashion Show
Nov28

STRUT is Easthampton’s New, All-Inclusive Fashion Show

Everything GoesCalling all designers, makers, artists, stylists, fashionistas, tattooers, dandies, body painters, costumers, and retailers: next Thursday, Easthampton turns all of its fashion dials up to a fabulous 11. The first-ever STRUT is an all-inclusive, volunteer-organized, body-positive runway show with live commentary, 15 awards, livestream, red carpet, cameos, goods from local breweries and wineries, high-flying emcee...

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Stagestruck: Seeking Refuge
Dec14

Stagestruck: Seeking Refuge

 You wouldn’t expect to find close connections between the Sinai desert, urban Serbia and the Appalachian mountains, but a new play by University of Massachusetts theater professor Milan Dragicevich brings them tellingly together. Refugee takes an episode from Dragicevich’s family history and follows its “generational aftershocks,” as the playwright puts it, into more recent history and the present day.Displaced by World...

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Friday to Sunday: Blithe Spirit at AIC
Nov28

Friday to Sunday: Blithe Spirit at AIC

Unfinished BusinessNoel Coward’s surprisingly durable stage comedy Blithe Spirit debuted in London in 1941 and still hasn’t give up the ghost. In fact, it’s one of the longest running non-musical plays ever, having come to Broadway and appeared in film, on television, and in revival on stages around the world. Now it’s given new life at the theater arts program at American International College (AIC).The love triangle, of sorts,...

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Stagestruck: Guy Meets Girl
Nov27

Stagestruck: Guy Meets Girl

I feel a kinship with the musical Once, because in a former life I did my own share of street-busking, like the bluejeaned lead in the 2007 film. It’s a simple, poignant tale that’s both heartrending and uplifting, filled with simple, tuneful songs that strike the same balance.The stage version, which won a double-handful of the 2012 Tony awards, including Best Musical, plays a one-night stand at the UMass Fine Arts Center on...

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Stagestruck: Closing the Gender Gap
Nov21

Stagestruck: Closing the Gender Gap

Every year I take note of the plays I’ve seen that are written and/or directed by women, and those that revolve around a woman (or women). For me, these are key indicators of progress in achieving gender equality in theater. To be sure, there are plenty of women filling backstage roles, and 11 professional theaters in the area have women artistic directors. But here and across the country, in these three artistic areas that define the...

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At the Majestic: Love, Loss, and What I Wore
Nov21

At the Majestic: Love, Loss, and What I Wore

Dress to ImpressWriter and director Nora Ephron passed away in 2012 at the age of 71, leaving behind a legacy of enchanting romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle. But even such a famous woman in Hollywood is not without her sleeper hits. One was 2008’s Drama Desk Award-winning stage adaptation of the book Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which Ephron wrote with her sister Delia. Organized as a series of...

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Stagestruck: Song and Dance
Nov16

Stagestruck: Song and Dance

In this time of national division and upheaval, we can be forgiven for craving a little feelgood. And what feels better than a good musical?As if on cue, two good’uns are coming to this area, both of them stage versions of beloved movies. This week through Sunday, An American in Paris fills the stage at the Bushnell in Hartford, while the more intimate and informal Once plays a one-night stand at the UMass Fine Arts Center on December...

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Friday: The Tempest and the Music of Shakespeare
Nov14

Friday: The Tempest and the Music of Shakespeare

This Rough MagicLost lovers of Shakespeare must labor each year — for centuries, apparently — against the preconception that the Bard’s work is boring. Surely, many stagings are. But they weren’t a bore in Will’s day, and they needn’t be now. This week, the Theatre Arts department at Mount Holyoke College has the right idea: get the music and dance students in the mix. The evening’s resulting onstage mash-up of ideas and styles will...

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Stagestruck: Three on the Screen
Nov04

Stagestruck: Three on the Screen

The National Theatre’s NT Live series of HD broadcasts from the London stage is back for its eighth season, starting with a mix of new productions and encore screenings. The Amherst Cinema has recently reprised Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and the double-A-side Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller trading off the lead roles.Three more are coming this month and next, starting with The Deep Blue...

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Stagestruck: And the Berkie Goes to …
Nov07

Stagestruck: And the Berkie Goes to …

New York has its Tonys and Obies, Boston its Nortons, and now the Berkshire region has its own rewards for outstanding work in theater — the Berkshire Theatre Awards. Twelve professional companies in the Berkshires, southern Vermont, and New York’s Capital District are included in the geographical catchment area, which reaches to Chester, but not into the Valley.The project is a cooperative effort by area critics, and I’m one of three...

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The Shanghai Acrobats Are Back!
Oct31

The Shanghai Acrobats Are Back!

Shanghai NightsThe Shanghai Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China don’t just have a long name — they’re one of the longest-running and most distinguished troupes in the world. Get out to see them, and you’ll understand why. Circus groups around the world bring overwhelming muscle and stamina to the stage, and most bring colorful costumes, great music, and a sense of humor as well. But few can blend those elements into something...

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The Next Last Waltz: Rev Tor Plays The Band at CityStage
Nov07

The Next Last Waltz: Rev Tor Plays The Band at CityStage

The Last Waltz, 40 Years LaterOn CityStage this week, The Rev Tor Band and a local cast of musicians will perform tunes from The Band’s classic 1976 Thanksgiving Day concert, The Last Waltz Live. The show, which was released as a film of the same name, was billed as The Band’s last performance, so the stage was stuffed with all-stars including Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison. On Friday, for the 40th...

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Stagestruck: Ghost Stories
Oct31

Stagestruck: Ghost Stories

Neither of the shows now playing in downtown Hartford are Halloween-themed, but both are thoroughly haunted by ghosts of the past, in one case literally.That one is The Piano Lesson, at Hartford Stage through November 13. It’s the 1930s segment of August Wilson’s decade-by-decade cycle of plays touching on African-Americans’ experience through the 20th century. In a program note, dramaturg Fiona Kyle locates the play as Wilson’s...

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House of Hors! Valley drag and burlesque’s not-so-secret weapon is Hors D’oeuvres
Oct24

House of Hors! Valley drag and burlesque’s not-so-secret weapon is Hors D’oeuvres

The host/ess with the most/est turns the business of drag on its pretty little headIf Drag Brunch strikes your fancy, don’t think twice — get yourself to Sláinte, the hilltop restaurant in Holyoke, as soon as possible. Just don’t do what I did last Sunday.I showed up at 12:30 p.m., after the buffet had come and gone. When I reached the upper level of the restaurant, a hundred guests turned in their seats to clock me on the stairs. Out...

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Top 12 Halloween Events in the Valley This Weekend
Oct24

Top 12 Halloween Events in the Valley This Weekend

Calling All HallowsAdmit it: we’re a happy Valley because we’re all a bunch of freaks. And Halloween seems to be the time of year we most like to let those flags fly. The night is a dark, blank canvas for creative expression and demonic possession. That’s why it proved hard for us to spotlight one event this week. So we dedicate this page to a bunch of ungodly fun that we’ll have to check out, or curse ourselves for skipping. Here are...

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Now Haunted: The Springfield Museums
Oct24

Now Haunted: The Springfield Museums

Day ScreamingGhosts are scary. Zombies are scary. Being surrounded by too many kids in Disney princess costumes is scary. If you’d rather run into any of these frightening folks in the daytime rather than in the late night hours, check out the Springfield Museum’s Halloween celebration. On Saturday the Springfield Museums will host a “haunting,” featuring an interesting round of Halloween-themed entertainment....

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Fab Rock Confessional: Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays Holyoke
Oct24

Fab Rock Confessional: Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays Holyoke

Hold Onto Your WigsLocal troupe Ghost Light Theater staged a killer Evil Dead: The Musical last year, but now these players are washing the fake blood out of their costumes in favor of a more earnest — but still outrageous — show: the award-winning rock and roll musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch by John Cameron Mitchell. Hedwig opened off-Broadway in 1998, became a film in 2001, and starred Neil Patrick Harris when it came to Broadway...

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Stagestruck: Coming Home
Oct21

Stagestruck: Coming Home

I didn’t attend my hometown college, but I grew up just down the street from the campus. I biked along its crisscrossed paths as a kid, DJ’d at the college radio station in high school and, most important, acquired my passion for theater from its plays.Antioch College had an active campus/community theater program from the time my dad went to school there in the 1930s, and in the 1950s it hosted a summer Shakespeare festival that...

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This Week: Greenfield Annual Word Festival
Oct17

This Week: Greenfield Annual Word Festival

Take a Page from Greenfield’s BookGot something to say? Sitting on a heretofore untold story, just biding your time for the right moment? Now’s your opportunity to stand up and share. The Greenfield Annual Word Festival has come back around again, providing visitors and local audiences with a chance to enjoy work crafted by poets, spoken word artists, storytellers, and writers young and old, from near and far.According to Paul...

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Saturday at the Calvin: Comedian Mike Birbiglia’s Insults and Insights
Oct17

Saturday at the Calvin: Comedian Mike Birbiglia’s Insults and Insights

Rolling with the PunchlinesA football team needs a good offensive line. So, too, does the lone, lowly comedian. That’s what Mike Birbiglia has been seeking, and perhaps has nailed down — depending on whom you ask, and how touchy they are. The mission of his new show Thank God For Jokes is to probe our knack for flipping from snarky to sore and back again — a journey through “the minefield that is modern-day joke telling.”If you saw or...

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Stagestruck: Fierce Visions
Oct19

Stagestruck: Fierce Visions

Last week Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, came to the Smith College campus to unveil her vision for the renovation of the venerable Neilson Library. Coincidentally, in Boston a new play was unveiled which recalls Lin’s uphill battle to fulfill her idiosyncratic vision for the design of the war memorial.Memorial, by Livian Yeh, plays through this weekend at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, a co-production with the...

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Scenic Easthampton, Meet Weird Ballet
Oct10

Scenic Easthampton, Meet Weird Ballet

Send in the FrogsNow we come fully into October, when the autumn breeze skims through the changing leaves, and the sun’s cold sheen casts the hills of the Valley in a light we’ll miss come winter. You’d be nuts, in other words, to miss taking a few long walks. The Royal Frog Ballet is here to help. The Western Mass art collective is back with its annual Surrealist Cabaret, and this year, for the first time, it’s at the scenic Park...

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Stagestruck: A Perfect Fraud
Oct12

Stagestruck: A Perfect Fraud

“Consider Lucifer,” says Han van Meegeren, huddled against the grimy wall of his prison cell in postwar Holland. He’s awaiting a summary trial and probable execution for allegedly having sold a previously unknown Vermeer to a Nazi officer during the occupation.The Bakelite Masterpiece, by Canadian playwright Kate Cayley, is now playing (through October 23) at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, a...

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One Night Only: The First AIDS Show Ever Written
Oct10

One Night Only: The First AIDS Show Ever Written

In Sickness and in HealthOn June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report describing cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five gay men in Los Angeles — all of whom were young and previously healthy. The men exhibited other unusual infections, which did not bode well for their immune systems. By the time the report was published, two of the five young men had...

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Staff Picks: Diva’s and Dwarves
Oct10

Staff Picks: Diva’s and Dwarves

Rock and Shock • Friday to SundayRock and Shock is like Disneyland for horror film buffs who love their music heavy. It’s a horror convention by day at the DCU Center. Then starting in the late afternoon and going all night: a concert at the Palladium down the street. There will be vendors galore, so bring extra spending money. For a full list of guests (Phil Anselmo will be there along with the dudes from Scream!!), tickets and set...

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