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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Stagestruck: Hometown Tales & Terrors
Sep19

Stagestruck: Hometown Tales & Terrors

Walk down Main Street in any small American town and look around. There are the unassuming shopfronts and placid homes, holding private, ordinary lives. But behind the doors lie extraordinary secrets and dreams. Three plays this weekend in our not-so-ordinary Valley take us down some increasingly twisty side streets, from Thornton Wilder’s deceptively tranquil village, to a high school that hides the portal to an underworld of...

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Basemental: Pussyvision Debuts Self-Release, Replicate
Sep17

Basemental: Pussyvision Debuts Self-Release, Replicate

Two years ago when I wrote a profile about Finley Janes’ project Pussyvision, she was just getting started. A year prior, she didn’t know she was musician. She had yet to go on multiple tours, one of which took her as far as Mexico, and release her self-produced debut album, Replicate, which came out earlier this summer. Coming up in the local experimental/noise scene, sharing bills with musicians spanning many genres and approaches,...

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Cinemadope: The Informant – A drug war casualty
Sep17

Cinemadope: The Informant – A drug war casualty

In regional conflicts around the world, the use of child soldiers has become a sadly common phenomenon. Boys and girls — some still under ten — are pulled or forced into violent, dangerous situations far beyond anything they are prepared for physically or emotionally. When Americans hear these children’s stories, they are usually set in far-off jungles or forests, where charismatic and threatening leaders create a self-contained world...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: Day Drinking – Solving The Problems of the World
Sep17

Monte Belmonte Wines: Day Drinking – Solving The Problems of the World

Some of the greatest ideas in human history were concocted while cocked. Allegedly, Grant won the Civil War while entirely inebriated. Kruschev avoided war while gently jingled. And Iron Butterfly wrote their biggest hit, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, while thoroughly chateaued. Now, I am not advocating for daily debauchery. But I am advocating for more day drinking during the workweek. This may allow you to loosen up, be more creative, and...

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Stagestruck: Puppets in the Green Mountains
Sep15

Stagestruck: Puppets in the Green Mountains

For two decades, Sandglass Theater, the justly world-renowned puppetry troupe headquartered in Putney, Vermont, has produced an international festival that serves as a gathering and showcase for masters of the form. The tenth biennial “Puppets in the Green Mountains” festival, Sept. 20-23 in Putney and Brattleboro, offers a variety of cross-disciplinary performances, some “for all ages” and some primarily for grownups. The performers,...

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The V-Spot: Is a Good Lay The ONE?
Sep14

The V-Spot: Is a Good Lay The ONE?

Hi Yana, Can you even find The ONE when searching for The One? I know that when searching for The One, you have a list of all the things you’re attracted to, but what if those things are what are bad for you? Like, when you’re into hot and rough sex and you find the person who gives it to you just right, but then it causes you to not be able to see who they really are…is that bad? I mean you feel like you know them and that they...

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Stagestruck: Women in the Saddle
Sep12

Stagestruck: Women in the Saddle

Hot on the heels of my recent rundown of women’s representation in the area’s summer theaters comes more encouraging evidence from some of the fall season’s first shows. The Majestic Theater is playing a cowboy musical in which the lead is not a boy. WAM Theater, which provides on- and offstage opportunities for women, continues its popular staged-reading series. And Pittsfield’s Whitney Center for the Arts revives the classic...

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Cinemadope: Hollywood Hilltown — A small town with a big festival
Sep11

Cinemadope: Hollywood Hilltown — A small town with a big festival

Pull up the details on the Franklin County town of Ashfield, and it might look like a sleepy little drive-through of a place: population hovering somewhere under two thousand, a pizza place that gets good reviews, a lot of trees. You could be forgiven for thinking that it didn’t have a lot going on. But boy, would you ever be wrong. The town has always been the sort of tight-knit place that makes its own fun. But for the last eleven...

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Stagestruck: An Extraordinary Ordinary Man
Sep06

Stagestruck: An Extraordinary Ordinary Man

Two years ago I reviewed A Fiery and Still Voice, a living-history performance at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Mass. The delightfully engaging show by Enchanted Circle Theater is back for four Saturdays this fall – Sept. 8th & 15th and Oct. 13th & 27th, two shows a day, 11 and 1. Info and tickets here. Here’s what I wrote about it at its premiere. If you’re like me, you studied William Cullen...

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Stagestruck: Minority Report — Women and people of color on summer-theater stages
Sep05

Stagestruck: Minority Report — Women and people of color on summer-theater stages

Readers of this column will know my practice of periodically reporting on the progress (or not) in the representation of women and people of color in area theaters. The summer season has recently ended, so I’ve been making a tally of this summer’s shows. The news is good. My usual accounting falls into three categories — plays written by, directed by, and centrally featuring women and/or “minorities.” This year the results are better...

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Basemental: The swampy grunge anthems of Owen Manure
Aug31

Basemental: The swampy grunge anthems of Owen Manure

Western Massachusetts is known for its rich lineage of foundational bands that have defined underground music from different eras. Of course Dinosaur Jr. comes to mind, not to mention Pixies. While the shadow of bands like that certainly looms large (“omg, Murph just came into the bakery where I work!”), it’s hard to deny the depth of talent that often seems endless — always appearing in musty basements when you don’t expect it: From...

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Cinemadope: Starman – the undeniable talents of David Bowie
Aug31

Cinemadope: Starman – the undeniable talents of David Bowie

For all his undeniable talent as a musician and songwriter, the late David Bowie was always an incredibly visual creature. His many guises onstage and off told the story of an artist completely comfortable with the process of reinventing himself, and while some might see it as mere resurfacing — the suit and tie that gave way to the glam of Ziggy Stardust that morphed into The Thin White Duke — Bowie never let it stop at skin-deep....

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Patty Schemel — drummer of Hole — is coming to the Valley, thanks to Women Of Rock Oral History Project and Amherst Cinema
Aug29

Patty Schemel — drummer of Hole — is coming to the Valley, thanks to Women Of Rock Oral History Project and Amherst Cinema

On a stormy Wednesday afternoon, I huddled in my car, pushed the driver’s seat back to get comfy and opened up my Wonder Woman notebook, clicked my pen and put my phone on ‘do not disturb.’ After a failed attempt to reach her, she called me back two minutes later and the name “Patty Schemel” popped up on my phone. Her pleasant, friendly voice on the other side — all the way from California to my Massachusetts — calmed my nerves as I...

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The Beerhunter: New neighboring breweries find homes in old industry buildings
Aug29

The Beerhunter: New neighboring breweries find homes in old industry buildings

This month’s local craft beer update highlights a pair of new Valley breweries that are opening soon. If your first thought is ‘Oh man, not again,’ this probably isn’t the column for you. Massachusetts is in the midst of another wave of entries into the craft beer market, and tracking the progress of these newcomers will be taking up a lot of this Beerhunter’s time for the next few months. The arrival of these new companies — some...

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Stagestruck: Physick and Physics at Shakespeare & Company
Aug25

Stagestruck: Physick and Physics at Shakespeare & Company

A few years ago, when I told my brother I was directing a production of As You Like It, he said, “That’s the one about Beatrice and Benedick, isn’t it?” Well, no, but the confusion is understandable. Several of Shakespeare’s comedies have interchangeable titles: As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing (the one my brother was thinking of), All’s Well That Ends Well, and for that matter, Twelfth Night. As You Like It is the one about the...

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Stagestruck: At Barrington Stage, a revival and a premiere
Aug24

Stagestruck: At Barrington Stage, a revival and a premiere

Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield is ending its impressive summer season with a pair of productions, one celebrating a 50-year-old milestone, the other confronting our troubled present. On the mainstage, a lovingly rendered revival of West Side Story, running through Sept. 1st, honors the musical’s half-century along with the 100th birthdays of its prime creators, composer Leonard Bernstein and director/choreographer Jerome...

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The V-Spot: Is My BF Having Multiple Orgasms?
Aug24

The V-Spot: Is My BF Having Multiple Orgasms?

Hi Yana, My boyfriend and I have been together for six years but only recently discovered that he can have multiple orgasms. If he puts his penis back inside me or if I stimulate just the tip a few seconds after he has orgasmed he can ejaculate a second time. At first he was self conscious about the mess and didn’t want to do it again. But after reassuring him that I don’t mind a mess we have done it more than once....

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Cinemadope: Women Rockers in Film
Aug24

Cinemadope: Women Rockers in Film

When I opened Instagram over my morning coffee one recent morning, the first face staring back at me was that of a blue-haired Alice Bag, the fifty-nine year old punk icon and activist. Still a force after some four decades in the game, Bag and her band had played a show in Greenfield the night before — that Instagram shot was snapped by the Advocate’s own Valley Show Girl Jennifer Levesque — before continuing on to New York for the...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: Your Election 2018 Wine Ballot
Aug24

Monte Belmonte Wines: Your Election 2018 Wine Ballot

The morning after the 2016 election, I was grateful that one of the disc jockeys at the radio station where I work kept a bottle of Jägermeister stashed in our freezer. And while these 2018 midterms are not necessarily driving me to drink, things are pretty wild here in Western Mass. With virtually all of our Beacon Hill delegation up for grabs, we at the station have been referring to this election cycle as “Wild West Mass” (with...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: Bonjour, Monsieur Touton
Aug14

Monte Belmonte Wines: Bonjour, Monsieur Touton

I ain’t gonna lie. I got into this wine writing racket for three reasons: 1) as an attempt to write off all of my alcoholic beverage purchases, which I will list as “considerable,” 2) to see my name in print, and 3) in the hopes that I would receive free wine on a regular basis. I know basically every wine purveyor in the 413 area code. Many of them have been on my radio show. I assumed if I put out the word that I would like to do a...

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The V-Spot: Help My Partner Help Me
Aug14

The V-Spot: Help My Partner Help Me

Dear Yana, I’m a queer woman in my late 20s living in the U.S., and my girlfriend lives overseas. In the 2.5 years we’ve been together, about half that time has been long distance, and about half together. We’re absolutely crazy about each other and we want to get married and have babies. The problem: we fight. A lot. The germ of our fights is almost always: I have issues with anxiety and depression and am an empath...

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Cinemadope: Art and the business of art
Aug14

Cinemadope: Art and the business of art

Like musicians and record labels, the worlds of artists and art dealers have never been quite in the same business. Despite all the often necessary crossover and interaction, there is often a nagging feeling (if our films are to be believed) that while one half of the relationship is interested in a full palette of colors, the other just wants to see green. It’s probably an unfair depiction, but one that was exacerbated by the ghastly...

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Valley Show Girl: Reliving childhood punk nostalgia with Blondie at MassMoCA
Aug09

Valley Show Girl: Reliving childhood punk nostalgia with Blondie at MassMoCA

I’d just devoured a bowlful of multi-colored Chicklet gum, then jumped up and down on the couch with my blonde pigtails smacking up against my cheeks. Blondie’s “Rapture” blared from the 80’s radio/boombox in the kitchen while my mother was either cooking or cleaning. I sang along to the lyrics, through my gum-infused sugar high. That is one of the first happy memories I can remember. Blondie has always been one of those bands...

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Stagestruck: End-of-summer shows in the Berkshires — food for fun and thought
Aug08

Stagestruck: End-of-summer shows in the Berkshires — food for fun and thought

When Shakespeare & Company first set up shop in the Berkshires, their mainstage was a greensward before a wooded glade at the Mount, Edith Wharton’s Lenox estate, with the audience seated on folding lawn chairs. That tradition has lately been revived, with outdoor performances at their present home in Lenox, as well on the grounds of the Mount, just down the road. The productions are generally the Bard’s comedies that have some...

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Stagestruck: Dancing down Hubbard Street— 40 years young
Aug03

Stagestruck: Dancing down Hubbard Street— 40 years young

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is a frequent and popular visitor to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. This year, celebrating its 40th season, the company presents a quartet of works showcasing its history and its current 16-member troupe, one of the most technically accomplished ensembles I’ve seen. The program, running through Sunday on the Pillow’s Ted Shawn mainstage, begins with “Decadance/Chicago,” excerpts from Israeli...

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Bizarro Briefs
Aug02

Bizarro Briefs

The Early Snail Gets the Lettuce What probably seemed like the slowest race ever recently took place in Congham, England. More than 150 snails took part in the annual Snail Racing Championship with the grand prize being a silver tankard stuffed with lettuce. The snails were placed on a damp cloth marked with three concentric circles and the gastropods raced 13 inches to the outer ring. Apparently, English snail trainers take this sort...

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Stagestruck: Three in the Hills
Aug01

Stagestruck: Three in the Hills

A trio of two-character plays now running in the Hilltowns and Berkshires offer a summer-season variety of subjects, styles, and even venues – a black-box theater, a converted town hall, a church sanctuary. Pauline Productions is dedicated to “producing and creating theatre with a focus on strong roles for women onstage and behind the scenes.” The Roommate, running till Saturday on a purpose-built stage in the Ashfield Congregational...

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The Beerhunter: Invisible Flavors
Aug01

The Beerhunter: Invisible Flavors

Hermit Thrush Brewing hunts the hills for wild yeast Many brewers rely on websites, blogs, and social media to follow the latest craft beer trends. But lately Christophe Gagné, the bearded Vermont dweller who runs Hermit Thrush Brewing, seems more interested in following deer. The opportunity doesn’t arise much in downtown Brattleboro, where Gagné and his team opened their brewhouse and tasting room on High Street in 2014. There is...

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Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, Part 2 — Stratford
Jul29

Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, Part 2 — Stratford

Nowadays, Stratford-upon-Avon feels not so much like a town as a gift shop. The once-sleepy hamlet where William Shakespeare was born some 450 years ago, which he abandoned for a life on the London stage, has become a mercantile monument to Stratford’s most famous son – which must seem ironic to the “anti-Stratfordians” in the Shakespearean authorship controversy, who can’t credit the notion that an uneducated bumkin from a provincial...

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V-Spot: Are We Screwed if We Stop Screwing?
Jul29

V-Spot: Are We Screwed if We Stop Screwing?

Hi Yana! My partner and I have been dating since October and from the beginning have had really intense sexual energy for each other (like every day, sometimes multiple times). But in the last week or two it’s sort of died out for a number of reasons. I can’t help but feel unattractive to my partner when I’m ready to go and he’s not. But, at the same time, I never ever want to guilt or manipulate him into having sex. Further, as a...

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Cinemadope: ‘The Judge’ stirs the stagnant waters of the Middle Eastern judiciary
Jul29

Cinemadope: ‘The Judge’ stirs the stagnant waters of the Middle Eastern judiciary

Back in my art school days, I was always fascinated by my art history classes. Seeing our changing world reflected back at me through the lens of artistic evolution made the lives lived in the distant past seem much more like my own — less a mannered bit of historical style, and more about finding creative ways to process the issues of the time. One of the artworks that has stayed with me from those days is Judith Slaying Holofernes,...

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Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, part 1 — The Globe
Jul26

Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, part 1 — The Globe

When I was in England earlier this month, I saw four plays at the two venues most closely associated with William Shakespeare – his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe playhouse on London’s South Bank. At the Globe, there was a gender-switching Hamlet and a time-switching Winter’s Tale, and on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s two Stratford stages, a bloody Macbeth and a revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi, by Shakespeare’s...

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O Cannabis: Swapping bongs to benefit the Holyoke Creative Arts Center
Jul26

O Cannabis: Swapping bongs to benefit the Holyoke Creative Arts Center

The Great New England Marijuana Accessories Swap Meet will be “like an Antique’s Roadshow for bongs.” According to Jeff Bianchine, director of the Holyoke Creative Arts Center, which will benefit from the fundraiser event, potentially hundreds of people swapping, selling, or purchasing marijuana accessories and two appraisers of marijuana accessories available to buyers or sellers. The bong swap is slated for Aug. 26...

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Valley Show Girl: A show/album review for Body/Head
Jul26

Valley Show Girl: A show/album review for Body/Head

I have been to a handful of noise shows at The Root Cellar in downtown Greenfield and I just love the vibe. So, I gave up my usual lazy Sunday night and made my way over to check out the happenings. I sat at the bar and finally had the pleasure of ordering a Coconut Ginger Libation (so good, and I’m NOT a coconut fan). My sparkly leggings illuminated a blue tint under the neon lights at the bar. I moved over to a table set up...

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