Cinemadope: How Swede It Is
Dec10

Cinemadope: How Swede It Is

If you’re anything like me, your schedule is a mess this month. End-of-year holidays, school vacations, shifted work schedules and last-minute shopping excursions: it all combines to make December the month where our regular calendars get thrown out the window. So it goes for the Far Out Film Discussion group at Forbes Library. Its usual “last Monday of the month” schedule would place December’s meet-up the night of New Year’s Eve — a...

Read More
Stagestruck: Angels in Middle America
Dec02

Stagestruck: Angels in Middle America

Harrison David Rivers specifies that his play When Last We Flew takes place in “a small town in Kansas (NOT Kansas City).” He also specifies that all eight characters are people of color. And that two of them are gay. As it opens, we find 17-year-old Paul in the bathroom, one hand holding a copy of Angels in America and the other hand down his fly. Later on there’s a tornado, and some flying, but we’re definitely not in Dorothy’s...

Read More
Josh Pearson on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Nov30

Josh Pearson on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Josh Pearson plays country, blues, and folk music with a dose of wry songwriting wit. Check out his complete Valley Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with Josh...

Read More
Michael Graffius on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Nov28

Michael Graffius on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Michael Graffius is a performer who plays sweet melancholy folk mixed with poetic indie and punk lyricism. Check out his Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with Michael...

Read More
Cinemadope: Beast Mode – New stories in an old world
Nov27

Cinemadope: Beast Mode – New stories in an old world

It’s almost the holiday season once again, which means that in a few short weeks many of us will be revisiting Pottersville, the what-if town that will come to pass if George Bailey decides to end his heroic existence in It’s a Wonderful Life. Filled with seedy bars, loose morals, and jazz, Pottersville was supposed to be a dark warning to George, but let’s be honest: it also looked a heck of a lot more interesting than Bailey’s plain...

Read More
Stagestruck: Staged Readings  — the key to writing “your best play”
Nov26

Stagestruck: Staged Readings — the key to writing “your best play”

In a program note for his play The War and Walt Whipple, now running at the Majestic Theater, author/director Danny Eaton describes the play’s page-to-stage gestation. First, “a few friends” saw a draft and offered comments, leading to  a staged reading with audience feedback, followed by final revisions and on to opening night. That term “staged reading” can mean anything from actors reading from scripts on music stands to basic...

Read More
Stagestruck: The War Within
Nov19

Stagestruck: The War Within

Every couple of years, Danny Eaton premieres a new play of his at the Majestic Theater, which he founded and leads. They range through topics dear to him, often touching on military service and veterans (he’s one himself) and all of them, in one way or another, asserting the importance of family, by blood or choice. His latest, The War and Walt Whipple, turns on both those themes. It’s a memory piece based on Eaton’s own forebears. He...

Read More
Sunny D & The Tangy Originals on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Nov16

Sunny D & The Tangy Originals on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Sunny D & The Tangy Originals is the solo project of guitarist Tom Del Negro (Lexi Weege & The Wondertwins). Sunny D performs electrified virtuoso looped guitar compositions, blending pre-recorded sounds with intricate soloing. Interview with Sunny...

Read More
Stagestruck: King Lear on NT Live
Nov09

Stagestruck: King Lear on NT Live

I’ll get right to the point. The King Lear I saw last weekend courtesy of NT Live is the most thoughtfully conceived, perceptively acted and richly achieved production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy I’ve ever seen. It stars Ian McKellen, and that in itself more than recommends it. But it’s far more than a star vehicle. Part of the National Theatre’s live-capture series from British stages, it’s onscreen on Monday Nov. 12th at...

Read More
Lexi Weege & The Wondertwins on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Nov08

Lexi Weege & The Wondertwins on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Lexi Weege & The Wondertwins perform hot jazz music with close vocal harmonies with blues roots. Check out the band’s full Valley Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with Lexi Weege & The...

Read More
Basemental: Why do we like live music anyway?
Nov08

Basemental: Why do we like live music anyway?

There are two reasons I like music. The first is that euphoric feeling you get when you see an amazing band (especially for the first time); the second is I like musicians and their stories. I enjoy compulsively consuming them. Gotta scrape the bottom of the Wikipedia references to get the fullest scoop (that is still incomplete and inadequate); also those glib Youtube interviews where the band is drinking beer and pretending to...

Read More
The V-Spot: Help! I Resent My Metamour!
Nov08

The V-Spot: Help! I Resent My Metamour!

Hi Yana! I’ve been in a non-monogamous relationship for over three years. Last year, one of my partners and I broke up in dramatic fashion. I partially blame my primary partner for this, because although he said he was okay being in a non-monogamous relationship, he refused to acknowledge or meet my other partner for the entire year we dated. Now, my primary partner has a new partner who he’s growing close to. I’m...

Read More
Stagestruck: Latin Roots
Nov08

Stagestruck: Latin Roots

Two productions in the Valley this weekend and next share Latin American roots, and couldn’t be more dissimilar. One is a colorful musical celebrating a New York barrio, the other a surreal movement-theater piece celebrating two surrealists. The sensational success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s boundary-breaking Hamilton has almost made us forget his first Broadway outing. In the Heights, which hit the Great White Way in 2008, was also a...

Read More
Stagestruck: Art and Identity — Valley plays confront life-changing issues
Nov05

Stagestruck: Art and Identity — Valley plays confront life-changing issues

Three plays in the Valley this weekend and next tackle provocative questions of art and identity. A woman musician is deprived of a career because of her gender. Two writers tangle in a carnal mix of sex and ambition. And an actor looks at the black experience via theater’s most famous black character. With one 19th-century exception, it wasn’t until the 1940s that a black actor (Paul Robeson) was permitted to play Othello. Keith...

Read More
Chris James on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Nov03

Chris James on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Chris James is a folk/pop singer-songwriter with a sweet tenor voice matched by remarkable falsetto. Check out his full Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with Chris...

Read More
Stagestruck: Three for the Show
Oct30

Stagestruck: Three for the Show

An instant evening of theater cooked up in a single day; a 19th-century musical with 21st-century themes; a multi-disciplinary evocation of “what is left when memory is gone.” This weekend in the Valley, there’s a diverse trio of shows to choose from – or see them all. Losing the Thread Theatre Re is an English company that employs movement theater, mime and original music to explore “fragile human conditions.” Its explorations,...

Read More
Mad Habits on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Oct29

Mad Habits on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Mad Habits is a  jazz-tinged progressive folk trio from Holyoke with vocal harmonies and strings. Check out the band’s complete Valley Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with Mad...

Read More
Stagestruck: Imaginary Forces
Oct26

Stagestruck: Imaginary Forces

In Shakespeare’s time, actors wore their own clothes with token costume pieces, they performed on a bare platform, and they were all male. Those facts are the springboard of Elizabeth Williamson’s vision for her production of Henry V, which plays at Hartford Stage through Nov. 11. Or, make that re-vision. She has adopted and adapted those conventions for her own use and our own time, connecting that English king’s 15th-century war of...

Read More
Cinemadope: King of Queen
Oct26

Cinemadope: King of Queen

Few people could command a stage the way Freddie Mercury did. Frontman for legendary rock band Queen as well as a solo artist, Mercury always seemed bigger than his own body; his energy, his sexuality, and above all his voice — that incredible, glass-clear, voice, effortlessly gliding up into the atmosphere — gave the impression that he could burst into pure light at any moment, and made it impossible to look anywhere else when he...

Read More
Basemental: Landowner’s new release, Blatant, skewers consumerism
Oct26

Basemental: Landowner’s new release, Blatant, skewers consumerism

Self described “weak hardcore” band Landowner leaves few stones unturned in skewering today’s tattered state of affairs on their August album Blatant. Everything from consumerism and television to insecure men and elite self-congratulation gets a scathing treatment by vocalist Dan Shaw, who is an urban planner in Holyoke. Weaving together a tight and precise soundscape with sparse post-punk riffs, the band — Elliot Hughes, Josh...

Read More
Cinemadope: First Blood – a director sets his direction
Oct24

Cinemadope: First Blood – a director sets his direction

If you’re familiar with the name Dario Argento, it‘s most likely through his stylishly supernatural horror film Suspiria. That 1977 film, about an American ballet student who gets caught up in an otherworldly conspiracy at a German dance academy, was like a glossy magazine soaking in a pool of blood. Slick on all counts. But it wasn’t Argento’s first film, or his first to marry almost over the top violence with a filmmaking...

Read More
Stagestruck: Not Your Granddad’s College Theater
Oct24

Stagestruck: Not Your Granddad’s College Theater

“What am I bid for this fine specimen of white manhood?” The swaggering black auctioneer scans the audience of prospective buyers, who quickly bid the price up, until the white man on the auction block goes to the jubilant winner for a fat five-figure sum. This table-turning riff on an antebellum slave auction was part of the UMass Theater Department’s season kick-off event earlier this month. What’s noteworthy about this season is...

Read More
Stagestruck: Texas Tough & Tangy
Oct22

Stagestruck: Texas Tough & Tangy

Barack Obama and Ann Richards both sprang to national prominence with sensational speeches at a Democratic National Convention. Richards’ came in 1988, and she used the opportunity to pitch her unique brand of tough-minded common-sense liberalism and kick sand on the white shoes of the Republican nominee, George H.W. Bush. Her best-remembered line from that moment in the spotlight was “Poor George – he can’t help it. He was born...

Read More
John-Michael Field on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Oct19

John-Michael Field on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

John-Michael Field performs spiritually themed folk with a dose of humor. Check out his full Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with John-Michael...

Read More
Stagestruck: Moonlight and Music
Oct17

Stagestruck: Moonlight and Music

Two moonlit pieces of music theater hit Valley stages this weekend. The Smith College Theatre Department premieres Moonlight on the Miskatonic, a musical based on the creepy tales of H. P. Lovecraft. And Pilgrim Theatre revives Moon Over Dark Street, a cabaret of songs by the jaunty genius Bertolt Brecht. “H.P. Lovecraft was unacknowledged in his time, but he is now regarded as one of the great writers of weird, terrifying, spooky...

Read More
Bizarro Briefs: Singing Locusts
Oct11

Bizarro Briefs: Singing Locusts

An opera about locusts in the Rocky Mountains? You bet. Locust: The Opera premiered on Sept. 28 at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. The piece tells the tale of the lost Rocky Mountain locust through arias and recitatives. Locusts disappeared in the Rockies during the early 20th century and no one’s 100 percent why. For decades, the insect could be found by the trillions. During the 19th century, they were...

Read More
Bizarro Briefs: Welcome to Jurassic … Er? Hotel
Oct09

Bizarro Briefs: Welcome to Jurassic … Er? Hotel

A hotel in Japan has a very weird and niche schtick, and that’s saying a lot considering Japan is known for many things wonderfully weird. This hotel has a reception desk manned by robot dinosaurs. Whether you speak Japanese, English, Chinese or Korean, the pair of robo-dinos are more than happy to assist their customers at the east Tokyo hotel through the use of a tablet system. The hotel belongs to the Henn na (weird in English)...

Read More
Stagestruck: Valley Variations — Celebrating words and music, autumn and murder
Oct09

Stagestruck: Valley Variations — Celebrating words and music, autumn and murder

A demon barber, a cockroach killer, a charitable speller, a balletic frog. This month, up and down the Valley, indoors and out, intimate and expansive, there’s a seasonal bounty of performances to choose from.   The Royal Frog Ballet is an  “amoeba of collaborators” who “create performance and installation art for community gatherings.” This weekend and next, Oct. 12-14 and 19- 21 at 5pm, the group’s tenth annual Surrealist...

Read More
Scott Cadwallader on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Oct05

Scott Cadwallader on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Scott Cadwallader is a folk/country singer-songwriter from Northampton and host of the weekly Thursday Yellow Sofa open mic at the Thirsty Mind. Cadwallader is a prolific songwriter, who has published dozens of his own original songs on YouTube. Check out his Advocate Sessions performance below. Interview with Scott...

Read More
Stagestruck Weekend: Coming Back to Life, in the (413)
Oct05

Stagestruck Weekend: Coming Back to Life, in the (413)

In the past, Life in the (413), New Century Theatre’s live-on-stage roast of all things Valley, was aimed at boosting its upcoming summer program. The sixth iteration, at the Academy of Music on Sunday, is aimed at reviving the company after its sudden collapse a year ago and the cancellation of this year’s season. “New Century Theatre has been a part of our home for 28 years and we hope to see it continue,” says Jarice Hanson, the...

Read More
Stagestruck: Two in the Berkshires – Naked & The Glass Menagerie
Oct03

Stagestruck: Two in the Berkshires – Naked & The Glass Menagerie

A desperate young woman, Ersilia Drei, has attempted suicide. From her hospital bed, she spins a heartrending, headline-grabbing story for an opportunistic reporter. His article draws a circle of interested parties into her twisting orbit: The novelist who sees in her story the germ of a terrific plot and who takes her under his wing and, as he intends, into his bed. His landlady, who’s scandalized by the arrangement – until she...

Read More
Stagestruck: Stage to Screen
Sep28

Stagestruck: Stage to Screen

The live-capture stage-to-screen season at the Amherst Cinema has begun, with a lineup of adaptations of world classics from the London stage – a dance-happy movie musical, a steamy exploration of transgressive desire, a surreal whodunnit, a Gothic horror story – plus a modern-dress Shakespeare. Most come courtesy of the ongoing National Theatre Live series. Here they are, in upcoming  order.   Sept. 29, 12:30pm — The Broadway...

Read More
Cinemadope: A filmmaker gets her due
Sep28

Cinemadope: A filmmaker gets her due

In the world of filmmaking, the French New Wave is the Dylan-goes-electric moment. Rejecting the period dramas that had theretofore dominated screens, the group of European filmmakers who led the new artistic charge instead found inspiration in the modern world, and they believed in the power of the singular auteur — that a film director, like a novelist, is an author whose style should be evident in the film itself. It was a rebuke...

Read More
Anjali Rose on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Sep28

Anjali Rose on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Local singer-songwriter Anjali Rose Kumar performs a melange of indie folk-tinged looped vocals and guitar with a world music perspective. Interview with Anjali...

Read More
Stagestruck: Murdering the Play
Sep26

Stagestruck: Murdering the Play

Even before the houselights dim, The Play That Goes Wrong is going wrong. On the uncurtained stage, a techie is still working on the floorboards and the stage manager is frantically trying to secure a part of the set. She recruits an audience member to help out while she goes in search of the dog who’s supposed to appear in Act Two. This is a preview of things to come in this English import and current Broadway hit, whose national...

Read More