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: 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: 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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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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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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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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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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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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