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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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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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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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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Stagestruck: Compromises and Contradictions in Chester
Jul07

Stagestruck: Compromises and Contradictions in Chester

A poster hanging in the lobby at Chester Theater Company points out common roots and themes connecting Islam, Judaism and Christianity – for example, the Archangel Gabriel figures in all three religions’ core legends. It serves as prelude to the current production, which prowls around issues of faith and heritage in a fractious world. Director Kristen van Ginhoven and a superlative cast have created an arresting rendition of Ayad...

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Stagestruck: Masters of Melody, Onstage at BTG
Jul06

Stagestruck: Masters of Melody, Onstage at BTG

What happens when your music goes out of style? – when the teenagers are swooning over Elvis Presley instead of Frank Sinatra? If you’re Irving Berlin, and it’s Christmas Eve 1956, and the song at the top of the Hit Parade isn’t “White Christmas” but “Hound Dog,” you invite a couple of fellow songwriters over to your Manhattan townhouse to drink, kvetch, and reminisce. That’s the premise for Lee Kalcheim’s charming and tuneful...

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Dark and Light: Duality at the Hosmer Gallery
Jun22

Dark and Light: Duality at the Hosmer Gallery

The Forbes Library is a handsome structure abutting the Smith College Campus at 20 West St. in Northampton. It’s stately and grand and at one time it was known as “the castle on the hill.” The grounds are perfectly manicured and the circular drive allows for easy entrance and exit. The second floor of the library is dedicated to arts and music, and the Hosmer Gallery sits between the second floor stacks and the Calvin Coolidge...

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Valley Show Girl: Rock Like It’s 1794
Jun22

Valley Show Girl: Rock Like It’s 1794

For my last column, I wrote about The Stone Church in Vermont, a church renovated into a performance venue. What are the chances I happen to find another one of those without knowing it until I show up? Well, I did. Enter the 1794 Meetinghouse in the center of the quaint historic district of New Salem. And on the night I went, it was the season opener for their summer concert series. I had heard about this venue before, but never had...

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Stagestruck: At Shakespeare & Company, the Show Must, and Did, Go On
Jun13

Stagestruck: At Shakespeare & Company, the Show Must, and Did, Go On

A theater story: For three years in the mid-’70s, Anthony Perkins starred in the long-running Broadway production of Equus, playing the psychiatrist Dr. Dysart (pause for Psycho jokes). Just before one matinee came an announcement: “Anthony Perkins will not be appearing in this performance.” Groans of disappointment! “His role will be played by Richard Burton.” Buzz of excitement! At the time, Burton, who had played the part in...

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Stagestruck: Lessons in Survival
Jun04

Stagestruck: Lessons in Survival

Two plays now running in Hartford are framed by resistance movements against political and economic oppression, and both carry weighty metaphors. At TheaterWorks through June 23, a lesson in global economics is tucked into a torn-from-the-headlines thriller, and at Hartford Stage through this weekend, a lesson in trust and betrayal is wrapped around a tenacious plant. That plant is the aloe, the spiny green succulent that manages to...

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Art Review: Martha Armstrong: A Big Deal in a Little Town
May23

Art Review: Martha Armstrong: A Big Deal in a Little Town

Hatfield resident Martha Armstrong is exhibiting at the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton. Her collection of paintings, Friends and Family, is currently on display in the back gallery of the Pleasant Street venue. The back gallery at Oxbow is very small and intimate, longer than it is wide, white with a utilitarian feel. One might be inclined to think that it’s reserved for “lesser” talents. That, of course, isn’t true; artist-members of...

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The Soaring Beauty of Paul Goodnight’s Imagination
May08

The Soaring Beauty of Paul Goodnight’s Imagination

Given Paul Goodnight’s international stature, it’s difficult to understand the lack of fanfare and the dearth of coverage he receives when his work is exhibited at Rosemary Tracy Woods’ Art for The Soul Gallery in Springfield. Since 1984, Goodnight’s work has been awarded and acquired by scores of individuals, institutions, and museums, including The Smithsonian American Art Museum. He has also exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine...

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The CDs You Gave Me: ‘Hush Money’ is pure catharsis
Apr18

The CDs You Gave Me: ‘Hush Money’ is pure catharsis

Last year, I reviewed psychedelic bluesy rock band, Old Flame, with their debut extended play (EP) “Wolf in the Heather.” Now, a year later the band has released a new six-song EP called “Hush Money” continuing to create political charged art rock that takes an every-man approach mixing politics with raw emotion.   Hush Money by Old Flame Hush Money kicks off with “Hollow,” a psych rock meditation with intricate guitar riffs that...

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Review – Doing Justice: Denise Beaudet’s Roots to Resistance
Apr16

Review – Doing Justice: Denise Beaudet’s Roots to Resistance

Going into Denise Beaudet’s exhibit Roots to Resistance at the New England Visionary Artists Museum, requires a bit of preparation. Beaudet, after all, has amassed a master’s course in global female activism. In her bountiful literature, her writings concerning the process, and her descriptions of her subjects, Beaudet has produced an unforgettable set of images. New England Visionary Artists Museum is in the Anchor House of...

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Thoughts on Barb Hadden’s Thoughts on the Education of Daughters
Apr13

Thoughts on Barb Hadden’s Thoughts on the Education of Daughters

Barb Hadden walks about the white walled Oxbow Gallery on Pleasant Street, contemplating the placements in her show at the Northampton artist collective. With two galleries, artist-members have a show in the large front gallery and a show in the back gallery. Hadden’s show is in the front gallery and it is her last. “I can’t figure out how long I’ve been a member at the Oxbow,” she says perplexed. “About 10 years maybe… or maybe...

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The CDs You Gave Me: Rob Maher’s ‘Man of Many Misses’ hits the mark
Mar23

The CDs You Gave Me: Rob Maher’s ‘Man of Many Misses’ hits the mark

Northampton-based singer-songwriter Rob Maher’s debut 10-track album, “A Man of Many Misses,” is a an ode to the underdog and to overcoming life’s pains with a wry sense of humor and unshakable empathy.  It’s a record that blends melancholy folk with haunting alternative rock in a union that, despite sounding depressing, results in emotions that are uplifting through hard earned moments of epiphany. What’s most surprising about...

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Basemental: Tundrastomper Cleans It Up
Mar13

Basemental: Tundrastomper Cleans It Up

Before writing this column, I stopped by Tundrastomper’s band house near the border of Easthampton and Southampton. Bassist Andrew Jones was getting surgical with a vacuum in the suburban home’s awkwardly large bathroom. He then offered me a bowl of black beans, which he had prepared, and I proceeded to microwave them and then spill them on the floor in such a way that they splattered 20-feet, making a clear trail all the way across...

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Review: Sally Clegg’s Bundle curious and unique; UMass’ Hampden Gallery could use work
Mar08

Review: Sally Clegg’s Bundle curious and unique; UMass’ Hampden Gallery could use work

There are so many settings in which you can find art exhibitions: Cafes, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and of course college campuses. UMass Amherst, as a matter of fact, has four galleries under the auspices of the Fine Arts Center. The Student Union Gallery, Augusta Savage at New Africa House, Herter Gallery and Hampden Gallery. Hamden Gallery is the only gallery on campus that is housed in a student residential area, and...

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Lauren L. Anderson is Connecting Moments at Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe in Northampton
Mar02

Lauren L. Anderson is Connecting Moments at Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe in Northampton

Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe is nestled in the 200 block on Main Street in downtown Northampton. Like its owner, Sam Harbey, the eatery is down to earth and friendly. “We’ve been here for 11 years in the same spot,” Harbey says sitting in one of the glossy wood benches that skirt the restaurant. “I like belonging to a community — being in a community place.” And with that, Harbey spots another Sam — a beautiful, lean greyhound, who...

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The Face of Children’s Literature: Eighty Years of Caldecott Books
Feb27

The Face of Children’s Literature: Eighty Years of Caldecott Books

There are three exhibitions on display at the Eric Carle Museum this month, but the one that will tug at the book lover’s heartstrings is Eighty Years of Caldecott Books. It’s a collection of first edition Caldecott medal-winning children’s books that date from 1938 to 2018. Sandy Soderberg, the museum’s marketing manager, says that although the museum is dedicated to the illustration of children’s books, in its 15-year history,...

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Poste Nebuleux: Ben Banville’s Life in Art
Feb08

Poste Nebuleux: Ben Banville’s Life in Art

Bernard “Ben” Banville’s life sounds as if it was an unfettered celebration of creativity.  Born in Quebec, for many years Banville made his home in Greenfield. He was a musician, a photographer, and an artist who spent years on the Pioneer Valley artscape developing and refining his talents.  In a photo taken prior to his death last year, Banville is a gray bearded gentleman with salt and pepper hair and a slightly mischievous...

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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: “Son of The Pink Panther” falls far from the tree
Feb08

Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: “Son of The Pink Panther” falls far from the tree

It may come as a surprise to my faithful readers that I actually own a few classy movies — notably, the well-regarded “Pink Panther” series starring the great Peter Sellers as Detective Inspector Clouseau. After Sellers’ death, the producers unwisely decided to try to keep the series going with a “Son Of” sequel. Alas, I am forced to quote the immortal Rocky the Squirrel: “But that trick never works, Bullwinkle!” You know you’re in...

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Color and Heat: Pan American Prints at Smith College Museum of Art
Feb01

Color and Heat: Pan American Prints at Smith College Museum of Art

The great mysteries of the southernmost countries of Pan America lie in the enormity of its territory, its rich history, and the shroud of chaos and human suffering. But Nobel-winning Mexican poet Octavio Paz beautifully sums up the artistic heritage of these nations. In his preface for the art book Agpa: Artes Gràficas Panamericanas Paz wrote, “printmaking, like the poetry and novels of Latin America; gives us back our confidence in...

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Review: Forgotten Girls: Lives In Peril
Jan23

Review: Forgotten Girls: Lives In Peril

Walking into the genteel Von Auersperg Gallery, one is reminded that Western Massachusetts is truly a bastion for visual arts venues. One is also reminded of how many choose to host phlegmatic collections of New England landscapes rather than those that may court controversy. But the Von Auersperg, a teaching gallery, housed on the tony Deerfield Academy campus, has chosen to take a chance. Gallery Director Lydia Hemphill is hosting...

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Cannabis Consultant Ezra Parzybok Talks Marijuana as Medicine in New Book
Jan02

Cannabis Consultant Ezra Parzybok Talks Marijuana as Medicine in New Book

As its medical uses evolve and marijuana becomes legally available for recreation in Massachusetts, an area cannabis consultant is working to fill an information hole he thinks is undermining its use. “In our culture, marijuana is known for all the bad reasons because of its psychoactive abilities,” said Ezra Parzybok of Northampton, author of Cannabis Consulting: Helping Patients, Parents, and Practitioners Understand Medical...

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Fat Bradley EP: A Funk Rock Voyage
Dec04

Fat Bradley EP: A Funk Rock Voyage

Northampton-based funk sextet Fat Bradley’s new self-titled five-song extended play (EP) recording is an acid jazz fusion of instrumental kaleidoscopic funky rock that grooves along with frantic energy and a sense of reckless abandon that’s downright entertaining. This is virtuosic showmanship that’ll get you jumping. Fat Bradley is comprised of Jeff Ritterson (keys), Tyler Silva (drums), Matt Postel (bass), Josh Hirst (guitar), Kat...

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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: The Demons of Ludlow
Nov20

Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: The Demons of Ludlow

As I type this column, it is not yet Halloween, but by the time it sees print the holiday will be over. I’m still in a scary-movie mode, watching such fare as “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” But maybe I should switch gears and see what’s available now on TV. Wow! Hallmark is already running Christmas movies! That’s pretty scary right there. Well, OK — let’s go with one last spookfest. Think of it as munching on those leftover...

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Valley Show Girl: A Bloody Good Time
Oct30

Valley Show Girl: A Bloody Good Time

Later this month, Chicopee’s Maximum Capacity will close and open at some point in the future with new ownership. Will there still be shows? If so, will they include metal/rock shows? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, you still have a chance to get to “one last show.” Over the years of going to certain clubs/venues, you develop memories that either bring a smile to your face, or a head shake, like “wow, yeah, that totally...

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Review: Terrible Yarn, but Moving Art, “The Scarf” Displays a Noble Struggle
Oct30

Review: Terrible Yarn, but Moving Art, “The Scarf” Displays a Noble Struggle

As I wait for Brattleboro artist Joan O’Beirne to arrive at her exhibit “The Scarf,” showing now through Feb. 11 at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, curator Mara Williams brings a museum guest into the showroom. She gestures to the (at least) 12-foot orange weave of cables winding its way down from an elevated chair to the floor on one side of the room. Williams explains, “she knitted it entirely out of extension cords.”...

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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: The Crawling Eye
Oct23

Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: The Crawling Eye

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and view an exhibit by Kirk Hammett. “Kirk who?” you ask. Why, none other than the lead guitarist for the thrash metal band Metallica. Can’t say I was ever a fan, but Hammett’s collection on display was interesting. Growing up with a love for old horror films, he has amassed a treasure trove of original movie posters. The collection mostly focuses on the...

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Your Hot Steaming Guide to Local Mac & Cheese From Springfield to Brattleboro
Oct09

Your Hot Steaming Guide to Local Mac & Cheese From Springfield to Brattleboro

The weather is getting colder, so it’s time for us New Englanders to look inward for some of that warm toasty comfort — literally. Fill yourself with some happy via one of everyone’s favorite comfort foods, mac ‘n’ cheese (even the dish’s name is nice ‘n’ cozy). At its best mac ‘n’ cheese is a sumptuous joy ride for the mouth across various plains of strong and/or creamy cheeses strung together by buttered noodles. Mac ‘n’ cheese...

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Review: Art in the Orchard is a Museum that Breathes
Oct02

Review: Art in the Orchard is a Museum that Breathes

Captivating. Whimsical. An idea at once exotic and comforting. Art in the Orchard is a curatorial triumph striking a perfect balance between art and nature. This was my first visit to Art in the Orchard, which has been hosted by Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton in odd number years since 2011. An orchard, where you go to pick fruit from the tree, seems the perfect locale for an art exhibition. Rather than being stuffed into the rigid...

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Stories From The Stoop a Nuanced Look at Growing Up in 1960s New York
Sep18

Stories From The Stoop a Nuanced Look at Growing Up in 1960s New York

I first met Steve Bernstein when I was working at a small library in Marlborough, New Hampshire, a little more than a decade ago. In the newsletter I put a note in for a writers’ group without knowing if anyone from the little town would show up. Steve was among the small handful who did. Two things immediately stood out about Steve — his strong Bronx accent, and the quality of his work. The stories he brought in over the weeks were...

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The Sacred Space in Between: Auferoth Exhibit in Easthampton
Sep11

The Sacred Space in Between: Auferoth Exhibit in Easthampton

The paintings in Susannah Auferoth’s exhibit at the Grubbs Gallery in Easthampton, have one thing in common: They all use the template of three exact lines, two thick, the middle one thin, in colors with cavernous depth. But that’s it. Within this framework Auferoth has created individual expressions of movement and reflection on three plains: Earth, sky, and the space in between where life happens. Seven of these pieces are on view...

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