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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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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Monte Belmonte Wines: Glendale Ridge Vineyard
Nov08

Monte Belmonte Wines: Glendale Ridge Vineyard

The sound was terrifying. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard in the Valley. Was it the high-pitched, piercing shriek of a machine, desperately in need of lubrication? No. It was birds. Thousands of birds. A scene and a sound straight out of the Hitchcock movie. Starlings. An invasive bird species brought to the U.S. by an overzealous Shakespeare enthusiast. “Thanks to the Bard for that one,” says Matt Jaksik, the former literature...

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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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Cinemadope: Two stories of Jewish struggle
Nov08

Cinemadope: Two stories of Jewish struggle

Like so many, I have been glued to my radio these last few weeks, as ever-changing reports have been released about the death of Saudi journalist and author Jamal Khashoggi. Those horrifying reports have often been paired with reports from the Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict, which has left Yemen in a state of humanitarian disaster, with famine, cholera, and other terrors threatening the country’s people. What seems so surprising, though,...

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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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The V-Spot: What Do I Do About My GF’s Long Nails?
Nov01

The V-Spot: What Do I Do About My GF’s Long Nails?

Hi Yana, I started dating a girl recently who always wears really long nails. Like the type that are super pointy at the end and as long as her pinky fingers are (they are super cool!). After we started dating she mentioned something about thinking about cutting them, but I also remember her saying when we first met that they gave her a lot of confidence and were a huge thing that connected her to her persona and made her feel good!...

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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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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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The Beerhunter: How to Age Gracefully (if you’re a beer)
Oct26

The Beerhunter: How to Age Gracefully (if you’re a beer)

Jay Sullivan joins me at a taproom table and sets down a bottle of Real Friends. He flicks open the bottle, then lines up three glasses: one for himself, one for Sean Nolan, and one for me. The beer is a grisette, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale similar to a saison, which has been aging in oak barrels for over a year. Sullivan and Nolan co-own Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. Thanks to them, Real Friends is just one of many...

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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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The V-Spot: I Wanna Be Topped by My Top Surgeon
Oct26

The V-Spot: I Wanna Be Topped by My Top Surgeon

Hi Yana! I’ve been struggling a bit for the last few weeks. I’m a little bitty trans guy who recently had top surgery and I somehow managed to get it bad for my surgeon. Fantasizing about her is one thing (I should also mention that I’m a sub), but it’s grown into this almost active search for older, powerful and dominant women looking for someone like me (submissive trans guy). Mostly I feel kinda hopeless. To no one’s surprise, it’s...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: Vino Volo – A Wine Flight Guide 
Oct26

Monte Belmonte Wines: Vino Volo – A Wine Flight Guide 

Airports are not known for elegance. They exist in a particular hell, somewhere between a hospital and the Registry of Motor vehicles. Bad food, bad lighting, an unwelcome groping from a TSA agent: all to ready ourselves as we prepare to experience the miracle of flight, packed together like sky sardines in a long, thin, flying tin can, watching from the cheap seats in the back while first class gets a meal brought to them on a silver...

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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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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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Valley Show Girl: Neon Fauna’s Bootleg Debut
Oct11

Valley Show Girl: Neon Fauna’s Bootleg Debut

On January 13, 2017, Neon Fauna played a gig at 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence in the midst of recording sessions for the full-length album “Drag Beach.” Like all of their shows, the band felt it was a burst of energy and thought of bootlegging it. Sound engineer guru, Rob Ives “Robo Sound” usually records the multi-tracks for shows at the venue, so the band later asked him for some of the tracks. They brought the selected six...

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The V-Spot: Oops, I Had a Threesome
Oct11

The V-Spot: Oops, I Had a Threesome

Hi Yana, I made a rookie mistake. I had a spur-of-the-moment, sober threesome with a couple I’ve been friends with for over 12 years. They visited me from across the country. We are very close friends and I’m feeling very tender now. I’m feeling like it wasn’t a big deal for them, so I’m a bit nervous to bring up my feelings. Do you have any tools for unicorns about self-care as aftercare? Unicorns just have to be so self-sufficient...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: Wineing at Gypsy Apple
Oct11

Monte Belmonte Wines: Wineing at Gypsy Apple

“It’s a white boys’ game, dude. When I first went to take the somm exam, I had this idea that there is going to be one other black person there and it’s going to be a woman. And there’ll be, like, two Indian guys and everyone else will be white. There was actually one other black guy. One guy who came up from Brazil. One black woman. And three guys from Asia. Out of 70 people.” Wine may be a white boys’ game (says this white boy with...

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Cinemadope: Legends onscreen and off
Oct11

Cinemadope: Legends onscreen and off

Even as a young actor, Robert Redford often carried himself with the quiet dignity of an old-timer. In films like The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Redford combined his boyish charm and good looks with a steady center that seemed borrowed from an older man; the combination of wise and wise-cracking enriched both sides of his personality, and helped make him a star. Many years later, and Redford, now 82, has grown up to...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Valley Show Girl: Behind the scenes of booking shows
Sep28

Valley Show Girl: Behind the scenes of booking shows

Since this past March/April time-frame, I’ve been booking some shows at 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence. The shows started in July, but it took months to get to the actual show part of it. I wanted to curate these shows a little differently, and put a somewhat mixed genre set into play. However, I didn’t want to go crazy, especially for the first couple. So there was a lot of cultivating involved just to come up with a list of...

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The Beerhunter: What the hell is a Milkshake IPA?
Sep28

The Beerhunter: What the hell is a Milkshake IPA?

The mountain drive from Montpelier up to Burlington is, of course, beautifully scenic. But a Valley Beerhunter has homework to do, even on the occasional summer camping trip. So I pulled off the highway last month in Williston, VT to stop in at Burlington Beer Company, where I got to know the milkshake IPA. A few local brewers make milkshake IPAs here in the Valley — I’ve tried and enjoyed several — but Burlington is the place to...

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The V-Spot: My Libido’s Got the Post-Birth Blues
Sep28

The V-Spot: My Libido’s Got the Post-Birth Blues

Hi Yana, I gave birth a beautiful baby girl about three months ago. And it’s wonderful! She is a good sleeper and I generally feel like “we got this.” Problem is, I’ve had, like, zero libido since I gave birth. My husband is clearly (politely) dying to get back to what was a very satisfying sex life. From what I’ve read, it isn’t uncommon for birth and breastfeeding to cause a low libido, but I miss...

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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...

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Stagestruck: “Hir” and Now
Sep26

Stagestruck: “Hir” and Now

Playwright Taylor Mac has described Hir as “a kitchen-sink drama.” Which is fair, as long as you understand that the sink in question is full of filthy dishes and fresh vomit. The genre- and gender-bending play, at Shakespeare & Company through October 7, begins with a homecoming and ends with an expulsion. In between, it tackles themes of gender and identity, power and privilege, dysfunction and abuse, love and hate – and one of...

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Stagestruck: Eight Shows for the Price of Two
Sep24

Stagestruck: Eight Shows for the Price of Two

This weekend and next, two theater companies demonstrate, once again, the breadth and variety of Valley stages. In Greenfield, Silverthorne Theater Company opens a two-week run of “six unruly comedies” by America’s cheekiest stage satirist, Christopher Durang. In Northampton, Serious Play Theatre Ensemble makes a triumphant return from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a pair of pieces that marry words and music in unique ways....

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Stagestruck: Play by Play by Playwrights
Sep20

Stagestruck: Play by Play by Playwrights

Before a play hits the stage, it goes through several other stages. The first is the opposite of public performance – the writing, solo and in private. Then, for the members of the Northampton Playwrights Lab, it’s shared with a small circle of fellow dramatists, who offer insights and suggestions to the work in progress. Then, usually after several revisions and further feedback, it’s put on its feet for the first time in a reading....

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