Scott Meyers on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Dec28

Scott Meyers on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Scott Meyers is a mellow folk singer-songwriter with heart and soul. Check out his Advocate Sessions performance in the video below. Interview with Scott...

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Cinemadope: Holmes Sweet Holmes
Dec24

Cinemadope: Holmes Sweet Holmes

When it comes to our popular heroes, few if any can match the long and varied history of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous “consulting detective” made his debut in the 1887 tale A Study in Scarlet, and from the get go Holmes changed the detective game in ways that are still seen today (when sidekick-to-be Watson first meets Holmes, the latter is discussing the details of discovering crime-scene bloodstains, a century...

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Cinemadope: Hello Dolly – One man’s imaginary world
Dec24

Cinemadope: Hello Dolly – One man’s imaginary world

Eighteen years ago, Mark Hogancamp lost his life. That is not the same thing as saying that Mark Hogancamp died, because he didn’t. But when the Navy veteran was beaten so badly in a 5-on-1 attack outside a bar that he ended up in a nine-day coma, large parts of his past were gone forever. Memories, the ability to walk or talk — gone. Hogancamp would have to start from scratch, relearning not just the basics of life, but the basics of...

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The V-Spot: How Do I Get Fit to Be Tied?
Dec24

The V-Spot: How Do I Get Fit to Be Tied?

Hi Yana I’ve got some sex stuff on my mind, mostly about BDSM/kink. I’m a kinskter just getting my footing in the local (Western Mass) scene and was wondering what sorts of resources other than FetLife are available. I also wanted to ask about ropes, and what rope you think is good and safe and easy for beginners to practice with. Additionally, are there specific online sources that are accessible to beginner rope...

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Dirty Words on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage
Dec21

Dirty Words on the Valley Advocate Sessions Stage

Dirty Words is a project that combines soulful poetry with introspective jazz presented by singer-songwriter Cait Simpson (The Greys). Simpson created a special version of her poetry-driven performance for Valley Advocate Sessions, which you can watch in the video below. Interview with Cait...

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Valley Variety — 2018 in Review
Dec19

Valley Variety — 2018 in Review

I attended over 30 theater productions in the Valley this year, but that wasn’t half of what was on stage. What struck me most was the variety of fare – from the breadth of established companies’ seasons, to the ethnic and gender diversity on campus stages, to community theaters’ daring departures, to the exciting expansion of theater venues. Here, then, a partial but appreciative backward glance as the curtain falls on 2018. The...

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Last-Minute Gift Guide: Learn to Homebrew at Beerology
Dec15

Last-Minute Gift Guide: Learn to Homebrew at Beerology

The artisanal food scene is exploding here in the Valley, and that includes a wealth of locally-crafted libations from the newest crop of area breweries and vineyards. It’s likely you know someone who wants to know more about brewing and wine making, and the perfect gift for them might be signing them up for classes to learn just that. It’s never been easier to swing by a local tasting room to sample the liquid bounty on offer, much...

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Stagestruck:  Not Throwin’ Away My Shot on “Hamilton”
Dec14

Stagestruck: Not Throwin’ Away My Shot on “Hamilton”

What is there to say that you don’t already know about Hamilton, the game-changing musical that costs a bank loan to see on Broadway and is now on tour, where this month it’s at the Bushnell in Hartford for only an ATM max-out? Playing through Dec. 30 (by far the longest run in this road house’s recent history), it was all but sold out as soon as tickets went on sale, though I’m told “there are always five or six tickets available...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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The Beerhunter: Progression Brewing Company opens in old Gleason’s Camping Supply space
Nov21

The Beerhunter: Progression Brewing Company opens in old Gleason’s Camping Supply space

As a kid, I would sometimes wander the aisles of Don Gleason’s Camping Supply on Pearl Street in Northampton and daydream about living off the grid. In unchaperoned moments I’d climb in the tents, test flashlights, browse survival kits, and plan my inevitable, possibly permanent getaway into the woods. Gleason’s closed in 2016, after nearly 60 years of business. But I sat in the space last week, in the new taproom of Progression...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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