Thursday: Hawaiian Dance Celebration at UMass Amherst
Feb06

Thursday: Hawaiian Dance Celebration at UMass Amherst

Mortal HeroesMichael Pili Pang and the Halau Hula Ka No’eau dance studio returns to the Northeast to showcase traditional Hula. The company commemorates its 30th year producing traditional Hawaiian dance, chants, and art. Audiences can expect to be captivated by “exquisitely artistic” and “culturally authentic” Hawaiian dance. The company’s founder Michael Pili Pang, a cultural historian and teacher at the University of Hawai’i at...

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Out of Their Comfort Zones
Feb03

Out of Their Comfort Zones

Two shows this week find performers venturing beyond the usual parameters of their craft. At UMass, students in the music department’s Opera Workshop take on Gilbert and Sullivan, and in Northampton, stage actors meet improvisers in a mashup of scripts and ad libs.On Sunday at the Academy of Music, the Happier Valley Comedy troupe teams up with New Century Theatre actors in Making Up Love, putting a new spin on Happier Valley’s...

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Stagestruck: Identity Crises
Jan31

Stagestruck: Identity Crises

The two shows now playing at Hartford’s rep theaters couldn’t be more different, but they still share some core themes. They are Shakespeare’s rambunctious, large-cast Comedy of Errors, at Hartford Stage, and Dominique Morisseau’s small, intense contemporary drama Sunset Baby, at TheaterWorks. Both run through February 19.What they share, expressed in diametric ways, are a focus on lost or estranged parents and their children, and...

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Feb. 9: Stand-Up Comic Eugene Mirman Plays Turners Falls
Jan30

Feb. 9: Stand-Up Comic Eugene Mirman Plays Turners Falls

Beyond the BurgerIf you knew only that Eugene Boris Mirman was born in the Soviet Union in the mid 1970s, you might be skeptical of the quality of his stand-up comedy. If you knew Mirman only from the animated FOX show Bob’s Burgers, where he portrays an 11-year-old boy who plays a keyboard that makes fart noises, you might be very skeptical of the quality of his stand-up comedy. Thankfully, Mirman — who spent most of his childhood in...

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Sunday Performance: Exploded View
Jan23

Sunday Performance: Exploded View

Reflective CollectiveWhat happens when eight talented women — all of whom are involved in creative communities across Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties — meet to make poetry and art together? In the case of Exploded View, they create multimedia exhibits and spoken-word performances unlike anything else in the Valley.Exploded View was conceived by Candace Curran, who showed up at Samantha Wood’s studio one day last spring...

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Stagestruck: The Cold Warrior’s Mask
Jan23

Stagestruck: The Cold Warrior’s Mask

Travels with a Masked Man, John Hadden’s compelling “two-character solo performance,” seems to fall squarely in the by-now-familiar genre of the one-person memoir, in this case exploring a rocky relationship with his father.Except that this one is not at all typical. For one thing, Hadden’s father was a spy.The show itself, which comes to the Valley next Friday, is more impressionistic than strictly biographical. It’s based on a...

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Stagestruck: Changing Lives, One Play at a Time
Jan24

Stagestruck: Changing Lives, One Play at a Time

When I was in California last month, I saw two plays by a small, adventurous professional theater company in Berkeley that I’d never heard of. They’re called Shotgun Players, and they’ve gone straight to the top of my Bay Area must-see list.The shows I saw were riveting, in quite different ways, but more than that, the company’s core mission and key policies are, for me, what theater is – or should be – all about. In addition to...

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After Orlando: Short Plays Pay Respects on Friday night
Jan09

After Orlando: Short Plays Pay Respects on Friday night

Reflecting on a TragedyThe night of June 12, 2016, news of a horrific shooting unfolding in an Orlando gay nightclub sent shockwaves around the world, leaving collective heartbreak in its wake for the 49 lives cut cruelly short that fateful night. The pain cut especially deep in the Valley as one of the victims, Kimberley “KJ” Morris, lived and performed as drag king “Daddy K” in Northampton. Since then, there has been much somber...

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Stagestruck: Defying God … and Trump
Jan09

Stagestruck: Defying God … and Trump

Partway through last Friday’s performance at West Springfield’s Majestic Theater, something unscripted, overdue, and quite wonderful happened.The show was Peter Shaffer’s brilliant examination of genius and envy, Amadeus. The title refers to Mozart, but the protagonist, if we can call him that, is Antonio Salieri, a man blessed by fortune but despised, as he sees it, by God. Court composer to Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, he is the...

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A Mid-winter Night’s Read
Jan09

A Mid-winter Night’s Read

This weekend, Shakespeare & Company presents a Winter Studio Festival of Plays, five diverse readings as interpreted by five local directors. Works range from classics by playwrights like Anton Chekhov to established contemporaries like Sam Shepard and emerging talent like Emily DeVoti.Winter Studio Festival of Plays: Jan. 14-15, 1 p.m. Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre,70 Kemble St, Lenox. $10-$25. (413) 637-3353. shakespeare.org — Peter...

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Saturday Music: Christine Ohlman at NextStage
Jan03

Saturday Music: Christine Ohlman at NextStage

Blue-eyed Rock ’n’ SoulThe higher the hair, the closer to God, honey. So you know Christine Ohlman, the Beehive Queen, is tight with The Man Upstairs — and you can hear it in her soulful rock. Ohlman, whom you may recognize from her years as a vocalist in the Saturday Night Live Band, is hitting up Putney with Rebel Montez for a dance party at Next Stage. The concert is a showcase for the theater, which recently installed an improved...

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Halos & Horns: Our 2016 List of Who’s Been Good or Bad… or Worse
Dec27

Halos & Horns: Our 2016 List of Who’s Been Good or Bad… or Worse

How Does This Work?Who on earth do we think we are, doling out judgement left and right? Find out here. The List HALOS // The People of East Longmeadow — For creating a seven-member Town Council in the wake of a coup on the now-defunct three-member Board of Selectmen. This March, two board members teamed up to overthrow the chairman and hire a new police chief and town administrator. During the annual town election in April, East...

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Cinemadope: Denzel Washington stars in August Wilson’s Fences
Dec27

Cinemadope: Denzel Washington stars in August Wilson’s Fences

Month of August Despite his legendary status in American theater, August Wilson is not a name one hears attached to many film projects. The self-taught dramatist, who dropped out of high school after being falsely accused of plagiarism, left behind an astounding body of work — including plays like Jitney and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — when he passed away at age 60 in 2005. His work changed the way the experience of black Americans was...

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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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