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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Basemental: Mal Devisa’s prolific November releases – everything from punk to jazz
Dec14

Basemental: Mal Devisa’s prolific November releases – everything from punk to jazz

November brought with it not one, not two, but three Mal Devisa releases. First, on November 9th, came a full-length titled Shade and the Little Creature and a complementary EP called Mystery Tsrain, presumably named for the Amherst record shop. And a few days later, another EP with the all caps titled ANIMAL EQUATION arrived. The ground these releases cover — musically, vocally, genere-wise, and creatively — is astounding; hitting...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: Happy Chardonnays 
Dec11

Monte Belmonte Wines: Happy Chardonnays 

When I started pursuing wine snobbery, I would’ve identified myself as a “red wine drinker.” Now that I have academically pursued alcoholism for the better part of a decade, one should expect some hard-core side-eye from me if you deign to say something as audacious as my previous statement whilst I am in earshot. Saying you don’t like white wine is like saying I don’t like movies. “You don’t like any movies … at all? None of...

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The V-Spot: I’m Still Texting with a Ghost
Dec11

The V-Spot: I’m Still Texting with a Ghost

Hi Yana, I met a man on Tinder about a year ago, and we were unable to meet in person for over a month due to scheduling issues. In that time, we texted everyday for hours and when we were finally able to meet in person, I felt an intense connection with him. We met once more after that and hooked up (no sex, just kissing, I wanted to move a little slower). After that, he barely spoke to me but when asked, said he was still...

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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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Monte Belmonte Wines: “Hard” cider is basically apple wine
Nov27

Monte Belmonte Wines: “Hard” cider is basically apple wine

From a fermentation perspective, your traditional “hard” cider is basically apple wine. It certainly isn’t beer. No hops. No malts. Just apple juice and the magical yeast that turns sugar into alcohol. So, I hope you’ll indulge me in this, a wine column, as I write about apple wine, better known to fans of craft beverage as cider. I don’t even like calling it “hard” cider. There’s sweet cider which is for babies and for mixing into...

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The V-Spot: The Birds & The Bees & The Herpes
Nov27

The V-Spot: The Birds & The Bees & The Herpes

Hi Yana! When it comes to sex, I’ve never really cared for it to begin with. Then, five years ago, I found out I have genital herpes, and that put an even bigger damper on things. I’ve had sexual partners since then, but having to have “the talk” before getting involved with someone really can bring you down. Would you recommend telling someone right away, or is it okay to wait it out and get to know each other more before you tell...

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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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Cinemadope: Ski Mogul – The legacy of Warren Miller
Nov21

Cinemadope: Ski Mogul – The legacy of Warren Miller

If you’ve ever been on a pair of skis, you know the feeling: a strange and exhilarating mixture of lightness and speed, freedom and danger, that feels a bit like a giddy dream of flight and a bit like you’re cheating death. And while today’s aerialists — particularly the spinning tops of the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team — grab a lot of the attention, winter games were cool long before they came along. That is largely due to the late...

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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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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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