City on the fringe – Scranton Fringe Festival returns with expanded schedule

City on the fringe – Scranton Fringe Festival returns with expanded schedule

A longer schedule aims to open up more opportunities for audiences to check out the variety of entertainment the Scranton Fringe Festival will bring to the city this month.
Expanding from five days to nine this year, the festival boasts activities ranging from improv and theater to film, dance and interdisciplinary work.
“We were trying to figure out how to have as many shows in the festival as possible with our resources available. … There’s only so many slots of time that you can put shows into, so pulling it apart like that really gives the audience a little bit more time to see things and also get involved a little bit earlier,” festival co-founder and managing director Elizabeth Bohan said.
The festival opens Saturday, Sept. 22, with the Big Gay Storyslam in Shopland Hall at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. Bohan expects the 8 p.m. show to sell out.
A few other activities will take place in the days following the storyslam, with most events happening toward the end of that week. The festival will hold a free preview party Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave., and close Sunday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. with a free, all-ages wrap party.
Tickets cost $8 for festival button-holders and $12 for those without buttons. Buttons cost $5 and offer holders discounts at various local partners, which include downtown restaurants and boutiques. They are available at festival headquarters in the Leonard, 335 Adams Ave., and all button partners. For a list of partners and more information, visit


518 Lackawanna Ave.
“Artemisia’s Intent”: Thursday, Sept. 27,
6:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.; theater/solo, by the Anthropologists, featuring Mariah Freda; rated R; 60 minutes
“Here We Are in Spain’s Night (Or Late Afternoon Depending on What Day You Go) of Comedy”:
Friday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; improv; rated R; 60 minutes
“Goddamned”: Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 and 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; dance/movement;
rated R; 45 minutes
“Make Your Own Damn Sandwich!”: Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater; rated PG-13; 60 minutes

AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.
Preview party: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m.;
rated PG; 120 minutes
“The Presented”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; theater, starring Chris Davis; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“I Killed the Cow”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; solo/theater, By Larissa Marten and Leia Squillace; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“My Condolences: An Experiment in Grief Presented by the New Vintage Ensemble”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; theater; rated R;
60 minutes
“#VANLIFE”: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 and 9 p.m.; theater, by Chalk & Cheese Productions; rated R; 60 minutes

Artworks Gallery, 503 Lackawanna Ave.
“The World Will Stop If We Make a Mistake”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; interdisciplinary, performed by Sarah J. Stachura and Tim McDermott; videography by Brendan Regan; rated PG-13; 45 minutes
“Sound and Song: Oveone and Over-Sung”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/musical, presented by C4 Studios; rated PG; 45 minutes
“From Plaid To Pork Chops… And Postcards To Paris”: Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29,
6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; solo, starring Jeannine M. Luby; rated R; 45 minutes
“The Hugging Army 3.0: Connect Now!”: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29,
4:30 p.m.; poetry/spoken word; rated PG-13;
45 minutes

The Bog, 341 Adams Ave.
“A Fringe-Tastic Electric City Boogie”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m.; dance/movement; 21 and older; 90 minutes

Brennan Hall, Pearn Auditorium, University of Scranton
“Inside Mecca: Insights Along the Path of Abraham”: Sunday, Sept. 23, 3 p.m.; film by Anisa Mehdi; rated PG-13; 90 minutes
“Omega Male”: Monday Sept. 24, 6 p.m.; film, presented by the 411 Studio; created by Bob-A-Lou Productions; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Charlie Chaplin’s Body”: Tuesday, Sept. 25,
6 p.m.; film by Jeff Boam; rated R; 60 minutes

Craftsman Hall, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
“Too Late for Help”: Thursday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.; comedy featuring Ellen Doyle; rated R; 60 minutes
Scranton vs. the World Comedy Festival: Friday, Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29,
9:30 p.m.; comedy from Laugh Out Lepkas Comedy LLC; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Crime of the Hour”: Friday, Sept. 28, 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 6:30 p.m.; comedy hosted by Abby Deely; rated PG-13; 60 minutes

Junior Ballroom, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
“Fruit of the Sea”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.;
Friday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29,
4 p.m.; musical/theater; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Rejects Anonymous”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/improv, created and performed by Double D; rated R; 60 minutes
“Hedy! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; theater/solo, written and performed by Heather Massie; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Light // Sound”: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; interdisciplinary/theater; rated PG-13; 60 minutes

Lackawanna County Children’s Library, 520 Vine St.
“We Are … The Children’s Library! A Visual Arts Experience”: on display Sept. 22 to 30; visual arts; rated PG; 90 minutes; free
Balloon workshop: Sunday, Sept. 23, noon;
Monday Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m.; with Miss Molly Balloons; rated PG; 90 minutes; free
Open mic night: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; rated PG; 90 minutes; free
Playing Shakespeare: Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 and
4 p.m.; youth acting workshop; rated PG;
90 minutes; free

The Leonard (Scranton Fringe headquarters), 335 Adams Ave.
“The Comment Section”: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.;
Saturday, Sept. 29, 4 and 7:30 p.m.; theater, by David and Toni Jo Parmelee; rated PG-13; 45 minutes
“Good Joke/Bad Joke Bingo”: Friday, Sept. 28,
8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/improv, presented by Bad Theater Fest of New York City; rated R; 60 minutes
“He’s Dead!”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; theater/solo, by Grace Kapacs;
rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“The Ryan Case 1873”: Friday, Sept. 28, 11 p.m.; improv/theater walking tour; presented by Live in Theater; rated PG-13; 90 minutes
“A Spectacle & Mirth Cabaret”: Saturday, Sept. 29, doors open 10 p.m., show 11; cabaret, presented by Scranton Fringe; rated R; 90 minutes
Monologues That Impress: Saturday, Sept. 29, noon; workshop, with Carlo D’Amore
Teen playwright workshop: Saturday, Sept. 29,
2 p.m.; theater/spoken word presented by Scranton Fringe Festival in partnership with the Everhart Museum; grades seven through 12; rated PG; 90 minutes
Stand-Up Comedy Workshop: Sunday, Sept. 30, noon; workshop, with Ellen Doyle
Scranton Fringe Festival Wrap Party: Sunday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.; all ages; free

Shopland Hall, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Big Gay Storyslam: Saturday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.; theater; rated R; 90 minutes
60X60 Dance Concert: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30,
5 p.m.; dance/movement, by Rob Voiseyo; rated PG; 60 minutes
“Rehabulous! The Lighter Side of Narcotics Recovery…”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 5 p.m.; theater/interdisciplinary; rated R; 90 minutes
“My Sister’s Keeper: A Poetic Stage Play”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3 p.m.; theater, by Jody Austin; rated PG-13; 90 minutes

The Space at Olive, 541 Wyoming Ave.
“Harper Lee: The Secrets of a Mockingbird”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; theater/solo, starring Prudence Wright Holmes; rated R; 60 minutes
“Right Is the Price”: Thursday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/improv, presented by Montrose Movie Theater; rated PG; 45 minutes
“An Interview with Peggy Guggenheim”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 and 6 p.m.; musical; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“50 Shades of Gay”: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 9 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; theater/musical, starring Ike Avelli, Chris Williams and Jeza Belle; rated R; 60 minutes

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 232 Wyoming Ave.
“Golden Avatar”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.;
Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; theater, by Viva Kultura, featuring Ethan Smith; rated PG; 90 minutes
“Falkland — The War the World Forgot”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater, by Tasty Monster Productions, Heather Bagnall and Luke Tudball; rated PG-13;
60 minutes
“Just a Penny”: Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; musical; rated PG; 60 minutes

Compound interest Trains and local history of coal unite for this year’s railfest theme

Compound interest Trains and local history of coal unite for this year’s railfest theme

A celebration of the region’s coal heritage and its connection to railroading plus more exhibits, music and activities make for a busy weekend at Steamtown National Historic Site.
The annual Railfest returns to the venue at Lackawanna Avenue and Cliff Street in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year focuses on the 250th anniversary of anthracite coal’s importance to Northeast Pennsylvania with the theme “Railroading and Coal: A Labor of Love.”
“Obviously the early steam trains ran with anthracite coal, and coal was such a great part of it,” said Debbie Conway, Steamtown’s superintendent. “The two … are really closely connected.”
While visitors normally enter Steamtown for free, the site will charge what Conway called a “cost recovery fee” to offset the event’s price tag. One-day passes cost $10 for ages 16 and older and $7 for children 6 to 15, and two-day passes cost $15 for adults and $10 for children. Ages 5 and younger enter for free.
Railfest officially runs Saturday and Sunday, but the venue will host a special event to kick things off Friday, Aug. 31, when David Stone: The Johnny Cash Experience performs at 7:30 p.m. in Steamtown’s theater.
Throughout the weekend, visitors can enjoy activities such as speeder car, handcar, caboose and Scranton Limited train rides; tours of Mattes Street Tower; photo opportunities; locomotive shop demonstrations; magicians; and more live music. They also can check out model trains, visiting railroad equipment and exhibits such as “The Call of Trains” by railroad photographer Jim Shaughnessy and coal-related photographs by Scott Herring.
Guests can take pictures of their own during a special Sunday morning photo shoot. Reservations are required for the event that Conway said will offer “really unique photo opportunities.”
“Rail fans love taking pictures of trains, so we’re going to try to set up a couple special shots,” she said.
Part of Steamtown’s goal for Railfest is to bring in visiting equipment from other railroads, Conway said, but that has grown more difficult in recent years as rail lines serving the area started to charge fees. Steamtown looked for other options and came up with the idea of a joint trip — dubbed the Northeast PA Railfest Flyer — with the Honesdale-based Stourbridge line, which routinely makes sightseeing excursions to Lackawaxen.
The Flyer will run Saturday, departing Steamtown for Moscow at noon. After lunch, a bus will take passengers to Lackawaxen, where will they will board the Stourbridge line for Honesdale. Another bus then will bring them back to Steamtown, arriving at approximately 5:45 p.m.
“It’s going to be a nice little partnership,” Conway said. 
She recommends that people buy their tickets in advance so they have an accurate number for bus seating. Tickets cost $80 for ages 13 and older and $60 for children 3 to 12; children 2 and younger ride for free on a lap. The tickets include two-day admission for Railfest and lunch.
Steamtown also will offer diesel train-pulled excursions to Moscow both days. Tickets cost $24 for ages 16 to 61, $22 for ages 62 and older and $17 for ages 6 to 15. Children ages 5 and younger ride for free but require a ticket.
Visitors also can take advantage of Railfest’s proximity to La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square by riding a free County of Lackawanna Transit System shuttle between the events during Steamtown’s operating hours on Saturday and Sunday. The neighboring Electric City Trolley Museum also plans to expand its schedule of trolley rides during Railfest.
The weekend offers “a lot of really fun things that are fun for the whole family,” Conway said.
“We’re really trying to mix it up and bring in different acts and kind of different draws,” she said.


Art and soul – Trio of events pack weekend with entertainment

Art and soul – Trio of events pack weekend with entertainment

A trio of summer traditions fall under a new umbrella together this year — the inaugural Lackawanna Arts Weekend.
The First Friday Art Walk, Scranton Jazz Festival and Lackawanna Arts Fest (formerly Arts on the Square) take over the city’s downtown with a vibrant mix of music, fine art, crafts and more starting Friday, Aug. 3.
“I really hope that this is just the beginning of putting Scranton on the map for our thriving arts community,” said Cristin Powers, ScrantonMade founder. “It does take a while to get things off the ground, but I think that we did a good job this year and I’m hoping that it just brings people from outside the area, from neighboring counties, to Scranton.” 

Devon O’Keefe, of West Pittston, paints a lion during the fifth annual Arts on the Square in downtown Scranton on Saturday, July 29, 2017. Jason Farmer / Staff Photographer

ScrantonMade’s Lackawanna Arts Fest spurred the change as it sought to move from its traditional July weekend “to take away some of the traffic downtown that day,” since it usually coincided with the county’s three-on-three basketball tournament, Powers said. Organizers brainstormed and decided to move the one-day offering of items from local artisans and craftspeople on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square to the same weekend as First Friday and the 14th annual Scranton Jazz Festival, “hopefully making Scranton and Lackawanna County a tourist attraction for that weekend,” Powers said.
Kicking off the weekend on Friday, with most stops open from 6 to 9 p.m. or similar, First Friday again brings a range of artistic mediums to locales across the downtown. Many also plan to offer live music, and First Friday has hired roving musicians to entertain throughout the downtown.
Uniting First Friday with the other two events will “add so much” to each event since each compliments the others so well, said Thom Welby, First Friday’s acting executive director. It gives them a chance to show off their events to new audiences, he explained.
“It’s so exciting,” Welby said. “We know that we’re going to be bringing in people from outside the market that normally wouldn’t come in, and we have the opportunity to show off these other events. … None of them take away from the other. I think it’s such a great opportunity to show off our area, and our First Friday events have been getting stronger every month.”
The jazz festival also opens Friday night with a happy hour at 5 followed by Voodoo BBQ Brass Band at 8 and Special EFX All-Stars — featuring Chieli Minucci, Eric Marienthal, Regina Carter, Lao Tizer, Joel Rosenblatt and Jerry Brooks — at 9 at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel.
“They are a conglomeration of musicians that not only have they been award-winning and together for many years … but individually they’ve had some significant accomplishments on their own with solo albums and playing for other musical greats,” said Sarah Effertz, jazz festival marketing director.
Performances continue with jazz walks around the city Friday and Saturday nights and shows through Sunday.
“People love being able to then just filter out (of the concert and) walk through the city of Scranton, because the city’s beautiful at night, too,” Effertz said. “And on a summer evening, it’s a really nice walk.”
Other headliners include the Bernie Williams Collective — which features jazz guitarist and former New York Yankees player Bernie Williams — performing Saturday, Aug. 4, at 8:30 p.m., and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis — son of Ellis and brother of Branford, Wynton and Jason — who plays with the SJF Big Band on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 8:30 p.m.
Visitors also will find live music at Lackawanna Arts Fest, taking place Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. on the square, where many familiar vendors will return alongside some new faces. 

Patricia J. Annabelli, spray paint artist, creates art work during the second annual Arts on the Square Festival in Scranton on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Jason Farmer / Staff Photographer

“More artists from out of town are making this a show on their calendars,” Powers said. “We have everything from handmade furniture, candles, jewelry, art, accessories, children’s accessories, wine and, mead, baklava, cupcakes, local honey. Really everything that our area has to offer from local independent artists and craftsmen.”
Live entertainment will come from Yam Yam, Chris Kearney & Friends, Starbird, Rogue Chimp and James Brown Dance Party, while people of all ages can enjoy free activities and even get to meet artists and crafters whose work is for sale.
“I think people really appreciate spending their money locally and getting to hand that over, say, to the person making the products,” Powers said. “It’s a really feel-good buy. I think that it’s just a great, family-friendly event to come to.”
Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., will offer an outdoor cafe, while Terra Preta Prime has something special planned at its new location, 301 N. Washington Ave., Powers said.
The weekend precedes the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, set for Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple. The lead up to that event also includes the Scranton Fringe Festival guide launch, Thursday, Aug. 2, 6 to 8 p.m., Adezzo, 515 Center St., Scranton; an architectural building tour, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 5:30 p.m., Catlin House, 232 Monroe Ave., Scranton; and “The Arts & the Public Good: A Forum,” Aug. 8, 3 p.m., Scranton Cultural Center.
Organizers hope the arts weekend brings more people to the county.
“Now that we have First Friday, Lackawanna Arts (Fest) and the jazz festival, it’s really exciting,” Effertz said. “It gives Lackawanna County and the surrounding area just a lot of activities, and it’s a lot of options to have a lot of great family fun. And it just enriches our area.”

Set the stage Scranton Shakespeare Festival ready for diverse season

Set the stage Scranton Shakespeare Festival ready for diverse season

Youth across the country have found their voices and undertaken challenges of late in the wake of violence and negativity.
In its seventh year, the Scranton Shakespeare Festival has chosen pieces that reflect that.
“It was supposed to be all about a new generation and a bit of a coming-of-age season, and it’s only become more relevant with the … Parkland activities in Florida,” said Michael Bradshaw Flynn, the festival’s founder and artistic director. “All of the plays we have this summer have some sort of element of young people finding their voices or making their way to some sort of top.”
The festival opens Thursday, June 28, with the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which it will present downtown in center court of the Marketplace at Steamtown. The story follows an ambitious young man who rises quickly through a company’s ranks. 

“This part show is about … the chaos that happens at one of these big New York businesses, and I thought it would be really cool to be in an actual business,” said Flynn, who will play lead J. Pierrepont Finch. “And it has a great space.”
“How to Succeed” opened on Broadway in 1961 and starred “Mad Men” actor Robert Morse. Flynn worked with Morse on Broadway and nabbed him to provide recorded narration for Scranton’s “How to Succeed.” Morse donated his services, Flynn said.
“It’s pretty fantastic,” he added. “We are a younger company in that we don’t have a lot of more mature actors, so it’s really sort of nice to hear this old-fashioned character, this mature voice doing these iconic lines. It was really exciting.”
The festival’s remaining shows move to Scranton Preparatory School’s St. Robert Bellarmine Theatre. Opening Friday, July 6, the festival offers its first Shakespearean work of the season, “The Tempest,” which focuses on a father and daughter, Prospero and Miranda, who live on an island where a shipwreck occurs.
“It’s really about Miranda finding her voice and changing her father’s opinions, so there’s sort of that slip in power from the daughter… now being the person who’s basically changing his policy and really spurring him for forgiveness,” Flynn said.
While “The Tempest” usually features about 18 actors, the festival will present it with just three plus a featured singer, a group that includes Scranton native and Actors’ Equity Association member Maura Malloy.
“We’re going to work in on a table basically, so there are different objects to play with, to use as characters, to use as different aspects of a personality,” said Malloy, who lives in New York City and directed for the festival during its last two seasons. “It’s experimental in a way at this point in the rehearsal process. … (The director is) letting the three of us discover it as we go, so it’s kind of a fascinating rehearsal process in a way.”
“The Tempest” is double-billed with a newer prequel, “Sycorax,” which focuses on a witch only mentioned in Shakespeare’s original, Flynn said.

“It’s going to be a really cool piece that’s going to complement that evening,” he added.
A family-friendly staging of “Hansel & Gretel” from the festival’s Youth Theatre Lab follows at Scranton Prep on two Saturdays, July 7 and 14, before the festival presents Shakespeare’s comedic “As You Like It” starting Friday, July 13. The festival then shifts back to musical theater with a production of “Footloose,” whose original Broadway version was adapted for the stage and directed by Scranton native Walter Bobbie. That opens Thursday, July 19.
As in past years, the festival will stage each work once more in its final weekend, wrapping up Sunday, July 29. It stars a great group of giving people who have energy and talent, Malloy said, and “I don’t think there’s going to be two shows that are all similar.”
“I don’t know what it’s becoming exactly, but I know it’s growing, which is pretty exciting in that more and more people in the community are getting on the train, which is pretty cool,” Flynn said of the festival. “And I think it’s becoming more inclusive, and I think there are people who keep coming back to us who might never have cared about Shakespeare.”

Scranton Shakespeare Festival schedule

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
When: Thursday, June 28, through Saturday, June 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 1, 5 p.m.; and Friday, July 27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Center court, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton

“The Tempest” and “Sycorax”
When: Friday, July 6, and Saturday, July 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 8, 3 p.m.; and Saturday, July 28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

“Hansel & Gretel”
When: Saturdays, July 7 and 14, noon
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

“As You Like It”
When: Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, July 15 and 29, 3 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

When: Thursday, July 19, through Saturday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 22, 3 p.m.; and Sunday, July 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

Cheers to 125 years Swingin’ on vine fundraiser to celebrate library’s milestone anniversary

Cheers to 125 years Swingin’ on vine fundraiser to celebrate library’s milestone anniversary

Swing by the 500 block of Vine Street this weekend to celebrate Scranton Public Library’s 125th anniversary and help it prepare for the future.
The ninth annual Swingin’ on Vine fundraiser takes over the street outside Albright Memorial and Lackawanna County Children’s libraries on Friday, May 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission to the 21-and-older event costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door, and benefits programs and operating costs at the city libraries, which include the Nancy Kay Holmes branch in Green Ridge at Library Express in the Marketplace at Steamtown.
“It’s community members serving other community members, and you just can’t go wrong there,” Albright spokeswoman Jessica Serrenti said. “I think we heave wonderful support for the library in our community — Scranton and Dunmore and Dickson City and beyond.”
As guests check out the numerous raffle baskets filled with prizes donated from local businesses, they can listen to the music of Picture Perfect, which takes over from longtime performer Paul LaBelle and the Exact Change Band as the entertainment for the night.
“They have a great mix of everything — your Top 40 pop tunes, everything from Bruno Mars, and then they’ve got some Latin, a little bit of country, some rock in there,” Serrenti said. “I have to say, their song list is just never-ending. They’ll definitely be doing more current tunes … but for our older audience, they have those classic tunes as well.”
Subway, Domino’s and Cooper’s Seafood House will provide much of the food, but guests also can munch on items from numerous other local restaurants. Serrenti said they should expect to find lots of pizza, wings, hoagies and such “traditional kinds of picnic foods.”
For dessert, partygoers can grab a slice of cake featuring the library’s 125th anniversary logo on it, courtesy of Minooka Pastry Shop.
Library director Jack Finnerty believes reaching that milestone makes the library one of the city’s “senior institutions.” He wonders “how many tens of thousands of students” learned research methods and worked on term papers within the Albright’s walls through the years, and where their lives took them from there.
“Everybody who’s been a resident of this city, I think, over those 125 years has, at one time or another, found their way through the doors and benefitted from the visit,” Finnerty said.
Library founder John J. Albright built his namesake library on his family’s former homestead as a gift to Scranton residents. The building opened in June 1893 and recently closed for a few months as it underwent a significant restoration.
“When we reopened back in March, it was wonderful to see everyone come back, and they were very appreciative of the changes that we did make,” Serrenti said.
Reaching 125 years shows that the library is “still here for a reason,” she said.
“We are here serving our community’s needs as far as their informational needs, educational needs and even recreational,” she said. “There’s this idea that with everything going digital … that libraries are not needed. And while Google has given more access to information for everyone, it can still be daunting to find out what information is correct (or) how do (you) even start to use Google, and that’s where libraries come in. We can take that daunting task of ‘How do I find information?’ and say, ‘This is how you start.’”


If you go
What: Ninth annual Swingin’ on Vine fundraiser
When: Friday, May 25, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: 500 block of Vine Street, Scranton
Details: Guests must be 21 or older. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door and are available at Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St.; Nancy Kay Holmes Branch Library, Green Ridge Street and Wyoming Avenue; and Library Express, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave. Proceeds benefit Scranton Public Library.

Lyrical Legend- ‘Beautiful — The Carole King Musical’ tells songstress’ story

Lyrical Legend- ‘Beautiful — The Carole King Musical’ tells songstress’ story

Carole King and Gerry Goffin impacted the musical landscape with their creative genius, a story that lives on in a Broadway show coming to Scranton next week.
“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” takes over Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., from Tuesday, May 8, through Sunday, May 13, for eight shows thanks to Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The show traces King’s career as a songwriter and her relationship, both romantic and professional, with Goffin, as well as her coming into her own as a performer. The pair wrote numerous songs other performers made famous, and many, such as “The Locomotion,” appear in the musical. The first time King sits down at the piano and sings “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” tour star Andrew Brewer said, he can hear the audience trying to sing along.
“And the show is kind of full of those moments, especially (in) the first act, of ‘I didn’t know they wrote that’ and ‘I didn’t know they wrote that,’” he added. “It’s all these recognizable songs that we think of as (belonging to) these other groups, and then … it shows up that it’s (King).” 
King wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as a 17-year-old, and she and Goffin followed it with numerous hits for such acts as the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers and Herman’s Hermits. She began recording her own vocals, too, and her 1971 solo album, “Tapestry,” won her four Grammy awards, including best record, song and pop vocal performance (female) as well as album of the year. She has released numerous platinum and gold albums through the years and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987.
Brewer, who plays Goffin in the tour, has had a chance to see King in person a few times when she has come backstage, and he called her “very sweet.” Her story has been part of his life for several years, going back to his job as a swing — a cast member who can step into various roles when needed — on the Broadway production, which continues to run in New York City. Brewer then moved on to the national tour, where he worked his way up to the role of King’s ex-husband and songwriting partner.
The experience let him see multiple actors’ takes on the role and learn “what sort of worked with audiences or what didn’t work with audiences and kind of build my own version of that.”
It can be a tough role, too, “because he’s the catalyst for a lot of things happening in sort of a negative way,” Brewer said.
“I try to get you on his side as much as possible at the beginning and to understand and make clear that they were in love,” he said. “Despite the mistakes that he makes … through it all, he did care. And that’s the one thing I want to make sure is as clear as possible. He’s not just a bad guy doing bad stuff to be mean.”
The show has so much emotion and relatability, Brewer noted, with many moments people have all experienced, such as the fear of losing love that “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” emphasizes.
“That’s what makes the song so powerful, and the melodies play into that,” he said. “And (King and Goffin) were such a great team. … It really shows through the notes why they’ve remained so popular through the years.”
Brewer hopes that, at the bare minimum, audiences “just have a good evening” when they come to see “Beautiful.” They will hear King’s songs in context and see what the songwriters thought of as they penned them, he said. And the musical “ends on a very high note,” he added.
“It’s a very fun show,” Brewer said. “It has some heavier moments, and I think what’s surprising to a lot of people is, while it is whatever we call a ‘jukebox musical’ … there is a great story behind it that I don’t think a lot of people know.”


Evening of Fine Food and Wine unites culture, culinary arts

Evening of Fine Food and Wine unites culture, culinary arts

Take a tour of a historic Scranton landmark and the flavors of Northeast Pennsylvania all in one night.
The annual Evening of Fine Food and Wine returns for an 18th edition on Sunday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., in whose unique rooms guests will sample dishes from several local restaurants.
The $100 ticket gains each audience member of sampling of food from such spots as Fire and Ice on Toby Creek, Kingston Twp., and Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel and Montage Mountain Resorts, all in Scranton. Proceeds benefit the cultural center.
“It’s so important, because this is the most beautiful building in Scranton, and we need to preserve it,” said Elizabeth Murray, event co-chairwoman.
Kenny McGraw will provide music during cocktail hour, and groups then will visit rooms across the cultural center where chefs will serve tasting portions and wine. will speak with the audience about the dishes as they prepare them, and members of local media — including Times-Tribune reporters Gia Mazur and Patrice Wilding and newspaper librarian Brian Fulton — will provide background on the facility’s history.
“It’s great for the community,” Hilton chef Donnie Schmidt said, adding that the event lets the chefs break out of their “everyday routine,” too. “It definitely gives us a different outlook to the day.” 
Schmidt and Radisson chef Chris Chludzinski still were deciding on what dinner entrees to serve as of last week, while Fire and Ice chef Gary Edwards looks to make an oxtail ragu with quail hash. Wines will accompany the dishes, but event co-chairman John Murray guests also can enjoy beer pairings and cocktails that night.
Electric City Roasting Co., meanwhile, will prepare batch brews of hot coffee in addition to having cold-brew coffee on tap as guests try desserts and listen to music from the Wanabees, said Kyle Mervau, the company’s director of products.
While Montage Mountain participated in the event previously, this marks chef Tony Mendicino’s first time cooking for it. He plans to prepare a Bailey’s panacotta with Jameson salted caramel for what he expects to be a large crowd.
“(It’s) definitely going to be a good time, a great benefit,” he said.
The chefs also enjoy the camaraderie with their peers the night provides, Chludzinski noted, and he enjoys seeing familiar faces coming back year after year. Edwards said he enjoys sharing his knowledge with the patrons and connecting the culinary arts with the other arts at the cultural center, “such a wonderful facility.”
“I think they go hand in hand,” he said.
Organizers recommend guests buy tickets in advance. John Murray said they are selling fast, and only a limited amount are available.
“It’s the best event anybody will ever attend,” he said.


Show of talent PSU displays range of musical groups, styles with free performance

Show of talent PSU displays range of musical groups, styles with free performance

A free concert will show off Penn State Worthington Scranton’s growing music program and its wide range of musical styles this weekend.
Worthington Scranton Chorale, the Roc[k]tet show choir and Campus Jazz Band all will perform in the college’s annual spring concert Saturday, April 21, at 4 p.m. at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton.
Sharon Ann Toman, director of music and assistant teaching professor in music, began holding the spring concerts a few years after she joined the staff in 2000. The groups performed on campus on many years, but as the years went on, the groups grew and so did the audiences for the shows. The campus auditorium can accommodate 200 people, and after the concert reached capacity two years ago, Toman knew they needed a new venue. They shifted to the Theater at North in 2017 and packed that, too, she said.


Toman has watched the groups grow since she arrived, with the chorus up to 40 members from just a dozen back then. The band, too, started small but has grown to about 20 to 25 members, she added. Some faculty and staff also sing in the chorus and play in band, which Toman called “nice because then faculty and students and staff can interact.”
“All of them have a love for music,” Toman said of her students. “They like to sing; they like to play. … I always say we work hard but we also laugh hard.
“The rehearsals are interesting. They’re light-hearted, and the students have a good time, and I think that’s important. And above everything else, while they’re having a good time, they’re learning.”
In Saturday’s four-part concert, audiences will hear the eight-member mixed show choir perform “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney cartoon “Moana,” “Stand by Me” and “Forget You.” The chorale, a mixed chorus of about 40 voices, will perform a traditional spiritual, “Peace Like a River”; “Candle on the Water,” from “Pete’s Dragon”; Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” and Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
“We do fun stuff. … And of course we always sing the Penn State alma mater,” Toman said.
The 25-piece campus jazz band, meanwhile, will play “everything and anything” from “Smoke on the Water” to the Blues Brothers, Toman said. 
“They play about seven songs, which is enough to show off their talents,” she added.
Under the direction of Deano Noto, Abington Heights Middle School’s eighth-grade chorus also will perform at the concert, continuing a tradition Worthington Scranton began three years ago when it invited a local school group to perform, too. The choir will perform two songs on its own and then join the college performers for a patriotic song.
People sometimes are surprised to hear Worthington Scranton has such a thriving music program, Toman said, “because when you think of music in higher-education places, you really think of Marywood (University) as well as the University of Scranton.” But her students can stand on level with those music students, she insisted.
“The unique spin on this is the fact that none of these students are music majors,” Toman said. “They could be science, they could be English, they could be business. They’re all from different majors. I don’t have music majors on campus. I’m a graduate (of) Marywood, (and my students) can keep up with the people from Marywood and the University of Scranton. I’m very blessed with a lot of talent here on campus.”

Razzle dazzle ‘Chicago’ returns to Scranton with ‘All That Jazz’ and more

Razzle dazzle ‘Chicago’ returns to Scranton with ‘All That Jazz’ and more

Walter Bobbie knows just a bit about Scranton, Broadway and all that jazz.
Well, maybe more.
Since making his way to New York City decades ago after graduating from University of Scranton, the Tony Award-winning city native built a resume full of starring roles and star-making directorial efforts, including 1996’s Broadway revival of “Chicago,” which continues to run there.
Legendary choreographer and actor Bob Fosse staged the original “Chicago” on Broadway in 1975. It ran for two years, but the revival has completed nearly 9,000 performances, won six Tonys — including one for Bobbie’s directing — and is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. This weekend, Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania brings the national tour back to Scranton for five shows from Friday, April 13, through Sunday, April 15, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Bobbie, 72, had hoped to visit to his hometown “to be able to share the moment” with the “Chicago” audience, but his return to the Broadway spotlight — portraying Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, in “Saint Joan” — prevents that. The play about St. Joan of Arc — whose cast also includes Condola Rashad and Jack Davenport — opens Wednesday, April 25, at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., New York City.
The grandson of Polish coal miners, Bobbie described his beginnings in Scranton as modest. He and his family moved out of the city when he was about 11, but Bobbie returned to study at University of Scranton. During a trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, he saw “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway and thought, “I’m coming back here. This is what I want to do.”
“Saint Joan” marks Bobbie’s first Broadway acting gig since he played Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the early ’90s’ “Guys and Dolls” revival. His career there began with 1971’s musical “Frank Merriwell” and picked up speed when he originated the role of Roger in “Grease” in 1972.
Bobbie acted in several other productions in the ensuing years but also developed a desire to direct. He helmed little projects here and there, he said, and conceived and directed the Tony-nominated musical revue “A Grand Night for Singing.”
“Nothing’s overnight,” Bobbie said. “It’s just that sometimes you have the opportunity to really leap forward in a way you couldn’t have planned or imagined or dreamed.”
He started directing for the “City Center’s Encores!” concert series and became its artistic director. After he directed “Chicago” for the series, he said, it “took off like a rocket”and moved to Broadway within a year.
At the time, the O.J. Simpson murder trial had recently transfixed the nation, which Bobbie felt made “Chicago’s” story of the interplay of crime and fame timely. And that “topic has never gone away,” he added, enabling “Chicago’s” record-breaking run. While the 1970s version came across as more of a satire and indictment of America’s judicial system, Bobbie said, today the story seems like “more of a documentary.”
“Basically, it’s about getting away with murder,” he said. “It’s about the use and abuse of celebrity. … As much as it is a lot of razzle-dazzle and a lot of toe-tapping, it also leaves your mind engaged.”
Bobbie and Ann Reinking — who starred as Roxie Hart in the original show and the revival, which she also choreographed — wanted to honor Fosse’s “theatrical imagination” but not replicate his ’70s version, Bobbie said. The pair started by reworking three major numbers, such as by making “Cell Block Tango” look “like one of those great Fosse chair numbers,” Bobbie explained.
“I think that one of the nicest things that’s ever been said to me (was) by the great agent of Sam Cohn. … He said, ‘If Fosse was alive today, this is how he would do it,” Bobbie said.
Eager to direct, Bobbie did not think about the show’s potential success at the time but rather his commitment to things and how they stimulate the imagination.
“(Scenic designer John Lee Beatty) and I decided early on … that we wanted to put the band in a jury box on stage,” he said. “We compressed them. Everybody should be trapped in this show. We continued to use visual metaphors that kept informing our process. And then we had all this joyous music with this singular dance vocabulary.”
Paulette Merchel — Marywood University’s former theater program director, chair of Broadway Theater’s education committee and a relative of Bobbie’s by marriage — said tears filled her eyes the first time she saw “Chicago” on Broadway, in part because it put into perspective all Bobbie had achieved. Bobbie presented “Chicago” in a more abstract, minimalist way that “makes you stop and think,” Merchel said.
“To see something that from the first moment was exciting and fresh and different and compelling and contemporary,” she said. “I appreciated it immediately as a new era. He was part of a new era of getting the message through musical comedy out in such a different way.”
The public tells whether a show succeeds, Bobbie said, and they certainly did that with “Chicago.” Besides running for decades in New York, it spawned several tours and an Oscar-winning film adaptation.
Since earning his Tony, Bobbie has gone on to direct such Broadway shows as “Sweet Charity,” “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” “Footloose” and Steve Martin’s “Bright Star.”
“I feel blessedly part of the theater community, and I have since I got here,” Bobbie said. “I don’t know how that happened. I got off the bus and started working. If they wanted to get rid of me, they missed their shot 40 years ago.” 

Bobbie has returned to Scranton through the years and said he feels honored to know the community has supported him during his career.
“All I can say is that if you’re in Scranton and you’re interested in the arts, stay there, make a difference in the arts, or do what I did and follow your dream. … I’ve been all over the planet because of ‘Chicago’ alone, (not) including my other work,” he said. “It’s important when you’re in Scranton to dream big, and if not, stay in Scranton and make a difference, because it’s a remarkable community.”

If you go
What: “Chicago,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, April 13, 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 14, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 15, 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: Tickets cost $42 to $77 and are available at the box office, and 800-745-3000. For more information, visit

What: “Saint Joan,” starring Scranton native Walter Bobbie
When: Now in previews; show officially opens Wednesday, April 25
Where: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., New York City
Details: Tickets cost $65 to $145 and are available at For more information, visit


Dance workshop and talkback
Broadway Theater League of Northeastern Pennsylvania will offer a jazz dance workshop with members of “Chicago’s” touring company Saturday, April 14, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Ballet Theatre of Scranton’s studio, 310 Penn Ave. The program is open to intermediate and advance student dancers and dance teachers. Admission is $25 and includes a ticket to that day’s 2 p.m. “Chicago” performance. Reservations are required by today and can be made by calling Broadway Theatre League’s office at 570-342-7784.
Following that 2 p.m. show, Toyota of Scranton will present a talk-back with “Chicago” representatives in the Scranton Cultural Center theater. The free talk-back is open to workshop students and anyone from the public who wants to stay after the performance.

Chillin’ Out: Annual Lake Wallenpaupack winter festival returns with frozen fun

Chillin’ Out: Annual Lake Wallenpaupack winter festival returns with frozen fun

Bundle up to tee up at Wally Ice Fest.
Looking to return after two years of warm weather prevented the festivities, the event features not only a golf tournament but also a pond hockey competition, golf-ball driving contest and curling demonstrations, all on the frozen surface of Lake Wallenpaupack.
Activities run Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28, on the ice outside Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, and the Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, both in Palmyra Twp.
While a lack of enough ice kept the festival from going forward in recent years, this winter’s cold snap froze about a foot of the lake’s surface heading into last week’s warmer weather, said Keith Williams, Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center manager and one of the event organizers.
“Granted, ice doesn’t form uniformly across the entire lake, but it’s a really good start to the season. … We keep a close watch on it, so ideally we’re looking for 10 inches of ice for safety, to be able to handle the activity that we have planned on the ice,” he said.
If the lake does not freeze, enough, however, the pond hockey tournament and curling demonstrations will be moved to nearby Promised Land State Park for the weekend (the golf tournament and driving contest would be canceled). Organizers used to set aside an alternative date for the festival later in the season in the event of low ice levels, but with hockey players coming from outside the area to participate, Williams said, “it’s real difficult to shift people’s vacation schedule to accommodate” another date.
Under current plans, the adult pond hockey tournament will take place both days, and teams will play four-on-four games with two 15-minute periods and a five-minute intermission. Registration is $360 per team of four to six players, and teams are matched against one another based on skill level. Organizers will set up two rinks outside Silver Birches and four by the Boat House.
Long organized by Chamber of the Northern Poconos, the Ice Tee Golf Tournament runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants can register in advance for $20 and each day for $25.
“Sunday’s going to be the bigger day,” Williams said. “We’ll have some kind of prizes with craziest sled, craziest hat, those types of things.”
Golfers will compete on one of two nine-hole courses outside Silver Birches, where they will tee off from an artificial green and aim for a Christmas tree marking each extra-large hole (which do not go all the way through the ice).
Golfers will receive a colored golf ball, scorecard and map and should bring two clubs plus a putter.
“You don’t need any special shoes, although we recommend people dressing warm,” Williams said.
Throughout the weekend, Anthracite Curling Club of Wilkes-Barre will give free demonstrations of the Olympic sport near the Boat House and let visitors try it as well.
“That’s kind of another unique piece to (the weekend),” Williams said.
On Sunday, visitors can see how close they can hit a golf ball to a 6-foot-tall snowman dubbed Wally in a driving contest benefiting the chamber. The three hitters who come closest win prizes.
“You don’t have to play golf (in the tournament) to do that,” Williams said. “You can go down and just try.”
Participants and spectators are encouraged to park at lots off Route 507 across from Tanglwood Resort; East Shore Lodging, 2487 Route 6; the visitors center, 2512 Route 6; and Wallenpaupack Area High School, 2552 Route 6, all in Palmyra Twp., and take the shuttle bus to both event locations, since the restaurants have spaces reserved for patrons. Organizers estimate the trip will take about five minutes between each stop.
Visitors can watch the on-ice activities for free, and Williams said the festival also gives guests a chance to dine at local restaurants, visit cultural sites such as the Sculpted Ice Works Factory Tour & Ice Harvest Museum in Lakeville, which will provide ice sculptures at each tee and an ice bar at Silver Birches, plus other winter activities in an area known as a summer destination.
“We’ve got really great restaurants and pubs, and this is a really great way to bring business … to those folks,” he said.

If you go
What: Wally Ice Fest, featuring pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments and curling demonstrations
When: Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28
Where: The Dock on Wallenpaupack and Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, Palmyra Twp., and The Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, Palmyra Twp.
Details: Participation costs $360 per hockey team, and $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event for the golf tournament. Register for the adult pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments online at Curling demonstrations are free.


Frozen festivity ShiverFest features kayak race, Thaw Party

Frozen festivity ShiverFest features kayak race, Thaw Party

Recent sub-zero temperatures could have kayakers shivering even more than usual at an annual wintertime race down the Lackawanna River.
That is, if they can even get down the river at all.
As long as ice that has built up along the Scranton section of the river breaks, the annual ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race will go on as planned on Saturday, Jan. 13, said Bernard McGurl, executive director of Lackawanna River Conservation Association, which runs the event. This month’s cold snap froze parts of the river, putting kayakers in danger of getting tossed into the water if they hit ice and then getting washed under the solid surface, but he said warmer temperatures expected this week could melt it.
“We’re going to hold judgment until the morning of the event,” McGurl said. “People will show up, and we’ll scout the whole course.”
Should the weather cooperate, the race will begin at noon at the Parker Street landing, travel 3 miles down the river and end around 12:35 or 12:40 p.m. at Sweeney’s Beach, about 1,000 feet downstream of Poplar Street, where the association will have a bonfire.
The race is “mostly for fun,” McGurl said, but the association does time it and give out prizes to the top three finishers. Each participant this year will receive a clear plastic, waterproof bag they can use to keep their cell phones dry while on the water. 
Racers must be at least 18, wear a personal flotation device and bring their own kayak or canoe. Helmets are not mandatory, but the association strongly suggests racers wear wetsuits.
“If you’re just coming out in casual fall attire like blue jeans or something like that or a Polartec sweater, it’s not going to cut it,” McGurl said. “You’re going to be dead in 10 minutes.”
The $30 race fee also includes a ticket to the Thaw Party, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton, and features music from DJ Jack Martin, food, beer and other activities. Watching the race is free, and non-racers can pay $20 to attend the party.
Racers can register in advance on the association website,, or at the launch site that day. Should the association cancel the event, those who registered in advance will receive refunds unless they want to attend the Thaw Party, which will go on no matter what the weather.
Proceeds from ShiverFest benefit the association and the work it does to support the Lackawanna River.
“If you are a kayaker and you’ve done some wintertime kayaking, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy some camaraderie with a larger group of people who are so inclined,” McGurl said. “We have several family groups that come, and the cultural aspect of costuming themselves with all kinds of accoutrements and masks. … It’s pretty colorful site for some of the participants.”

If you go
What: ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, noon
Where: Parker Street landing to Sweeney’s Beach on the Lackawanna River, Scranton
Details: Racers must be 18 or older, wear a personal flotation device and provide their own kayak or canoe. Wetsuits are strongly recommended. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association.

What: ShiverFest Thaw Party
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton

Race entry is $30 and includes a ticket to the post-race Thaw Party. Watching the race is free. Tickets for the party only are $20 and include food, drinks and entertainment. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association. Visit for tickets. For more information, call 570-347-6311 or visit

Mid-East Feast-Downtown Scranton eatery prides itself on serving authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine from original family recipes

Mid-East Feast-Downtown Scranton eatery prides itself on serving authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine from original family recipes

Hamid Azizi turned to family recipes passed down among generations when he opened the Gyroz Club earlier this year.

Originally from Afghanistan, Azizi came in 2003 to Scranton, where other family members had settled. He works full-time as a supervisor at Americold in Gouldsboro but decided to open a restaurant after noticing a lack of options for people seeking kosher and halal foods locally.

Azizi and his family members have experience working in restaurant kitchens and have several cousins who own their own eateries around the country. He added his own to the fold in February when the Gyroz Club opened at 111 Wyoming Ave., the former spot of Curry Donuts.

“I saw this place was empty, vacant, for a while, and it was downtown, so it was a good opportunity,” Azizi said.

His wife, Nazifah Shah; his brother-in-law, Habib Mirzaye; his brothers and other family members all have full-time jobs, some in the medical field, but pitch in at the restaurant whenever and wherever they can, from the kitchen to the front counter. The dishes come from family recipes passed down from one generation to the next, making for a true Middle-Eastern taste that customers would find Azizi enjoying at home.

“It’s family-run, authentic,” he said. “Everything is homemade.”

The menu includes beef and chicken kabobs that all come with basmati rice he buys specially — customers can have the meat skewered or served over the rice — along with a garden salad, bread and white sauce, which Azizi calls “magic sauce.” He makes it with cucumbers, yogurt and other “secret ingredients” for what he described as a tasty, healthy combination. A Family Platter of kabobs serves four people.

On the gyro side, customers can pick from beef, chicken, vegetable, and a chicken and beef combo, all served in grilled pitas Azizi gets from a specialty store in New Jersey. They come with tzatziki, white and hot sauces, lettuce, fries and a drink.

Sandwiches, meanwhile, come with fries and a drink and include a Kabob Sandwich (marinated beef or chicken served on a pita with fried onions, grilled tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce) as well as more traditional American fare, such as the Philly Cheesesteak, Hot Wing Sub, Cheeseburger, Chicken Tenders and Hot Dog.

Customers can add on sides of rice in two sizes or fries, and then finish their meal with baklava.

Azizi shops at local grocery stores each morning to gather ingredients for the day’s dishes. The restaurant marinates its meats overnight and then slow-roasts it on a spit, shaving it off as it cooks.

“Everything is fresh,” Azizi said. “It’s not frozen or cold.”

He said he keeps his prices reasonable and serves the food fast. People from around the region have dined there, and the restaurant already has several regulars, including a family that told him they used to travel to New Jersey to get food like his. Now, they walk from their home in South Scranton.

“It gave me pride to give back something for the community,” Azizi said.

He made a few upgrades to the property when he took over, adding televisions and artwork his uncle made. Beyond the food, he and his family emphasize their heritage through music playing in the restaurant and art depicting their village back home.

The restaurant has booth seating for customers dining-in, and Azizi said it pulls in the downtown work crowd for weekday lunches and lots of families at dinner. It also offers takeout and delivers to Scranton and Dunmore with a $20 minimum order. The restaurant offers catering, too.

Azizi plans to make a few more upgrades inside the restaurant and hopes to expand to more locations one day. He has received positive feedback so far.

“The quality talks itself,” he said. “We try to keep it that way. (The food) is a bit different.”

His brother, Abdul Azizi, a nurse and former chef, described his brother as someone who embraces the community, from offering food to a homeless person who came by to a few moments of warmth inside the restaurant for people attending events downtown. Starting the business took a lot of courage and dedication, Abdul Azizi said, and his brother’s customers are there to support him.

“The guy’s got a heart of gold,” he said. “A lot of people won’t do that.”

Scranton is his home now, Hamid Azizi said, and a great place to raise his two young daughters, who’ll one day learn those family recipes.

“It’s our duty, our responsibility, to pass it on to the next generation,” he said.

Clocktower Theater Company returns with ‘Christmas Carol,’ sets 2018 season

Clocktower Theater Company returns with ‘Christmas Carol,’ sets 2018 season

A nascent theatrical troupe brings Ebenezer Scrooge, his ghostly companions and a timeless Christmas message back to the Scranton stage this weekend.
Clocktower Theater Company presents Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story, “A Christmas Carol,” from Friday, Dec. 8, through Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton. Tickets range from $15 to $25.
Founded in 2016, the professional theatrical troupe first presented the play, its inaugural production, in Scranton last December. Executive director Brad Morgan spent many years presenting “A Christmas Carol” with the professional Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott, New York, each holiday season. When that group decided not to produce the show last year, Morgan brought it to Scranton, where he grew up and lives.
For him, “it just wouldn’t have seemed like Christmas without doing that show,” he said, and last year’s show was “very well receive by everyone who saw it.”
“It’s a holiday tradition up there (in Endicott), where that’s what I’m trying to establish down (in Scranton),” Morgan said. “But that’s going to take some time for people to become aware of our facility … (and) to build up a subscription base and some dedicated theatergoers.”
“A Christmas Carol” stars a mix of actors from the Scranton and Endicott areas, with Actors’ Equity Association actor Bernard Burak Sheredy reprising his role of Scrooge from last year. A Binghamton, New York, native, Sheredy is the son of Joe Sheredy and Mary Burak, who owned a neighborhood butcher shop and grocery in Throop. He graduated from Yale School of Drama and has appeared in the movies “Meet the Parents” and “Quiz Show” as well as TV shows “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
Nearly 800 local students will attend a matinee performance of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 8, Morgan said, noting how “every school reading list” includes Dickens’ story. He called the account of Scrooge’s transformation from miser to generous man “a classic tale.”
“Just the story, the Dickens story itself, even if you’re going to read it, it’s just so inspiring and just encapsulates (to) me the joy of the holiday season,” Morgan said.
In addition to performing the show at the Theater at North, Clocktower will present “A Christmas Carol” at Cider Mill Stage, Endicott, the former home of the Cider Mill Playhouse on the following two weekends, Dec. 15 to 17 and 21 to 23.
Morgan and his group look to expand on last year’s success by offering a full season of shows in 2018. While Scranton has several community theater companies, he said, it lacks much professional theater beyond Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He aims to change that with Clocktower, which pays its actors and staff.
“You’re going to notice a difference in quality,” Morgan said. “People would not see any difference in going to see our show and going to see an off-Broadway production in New York.”
The season will include “Taking Steps” in February, “Girls Night: The Musical” in March, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in June, “Rose’s Dilemma” in September, “Lucky Stiff” in November and “A Christmas Carol” again next December.

What: “A Christmas Carol,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company
When: Friday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 9, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 10, 3 p.m.
Where: The Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton
Details: Tickets are $15 to $25 and are available at the box office, 570-703-0846 and

Crafty Christmas – ScrantonMade Holiday  Market returns with  skating, shopping and more

Crafty Christmas – ScrantonMade Holiday Market returns with skating, shopping and more

ScrantonMade heads back to its outdoor roots with its fifth annual Holiday Market.
While most of the action — including pictures with Santa, shopping with about 200 vendors, live music and dining — remains inside the city’s former Globe Store, 123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, the group will set up a skating rink for the first time outside the building. The 100 block of Wyoming Avenue will shut down to accommodate the 100-foot-by-40-foot synthetic ice surface during the market, which runs Friday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2, 11 to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3, 11 to 4 p.m.
“Last year, people were so excited about (having the market in) the Globe, and it was such a big thing,” said Chrissy Manuel, ScrantonMade partner, editor and creative director. “And we were like, ‘How do we top that?’”
Organizers are still determining a ticket price for skating. Participants can borrow skates there, and a parent or guardian will need to sign a waiver for children and teens to participate.
“It gives a big-city feel as if you’re in New York City,” said Cristin Powers, ScrantonMade founder and events and marketing director. “It’s festive as well.”
ScrantonMade started its holiday market in 2013 in a tent on Courthouse Square. After second year there, it moved to the Marketplace at Steamtown for a year and then to the old Globe Store space in 2016 thanks to support from the Lackawanna County government, which owns the property and will move some of its offices there after renovations.
Returning to the site of the beloved department store, which closed in 1994, brought back a lot of memories for visitors and led to a lot of story sharing, organizers said.
“People loved it,” Powers said.  

Guests can enter the free market from both the Wyoming and Penn avenue entrances to check out vendors selling items ranging from fiber products and fine art to jewelry and artisanal food. This year, some vendors — such as Tig & Cooneys, which will sell whiskey glasses with maps of Scranton and Clarks Summit etched on the sides (visit to order) — will allow customers to order items in advance and then pick them up at the market. Decorated lightbulbs from the Electric City sign already sold out during the pre-order period, organizers said.
Items like those that have a local focus, which also include ornaments and pen-and-ink drawings, have become more popular of late. People might move out of the area, but they still have a familial or emotional connection to it, Powers pointed out.
“Scranton pride is at an all-time high, where artists are making Scranton-themed art,” she said.
Organizers also have seen more crafts geared toward men in recent years than there was when the market started, Manuel said, and people are using the market to do their holiday shopping.
“I feel like we reach a wider audience. … We’re getting the people who would be at Macy’s on the weekend shopping,” she said.
But the event has grown to encompass much more than local artisans and crafters. Visitors can bring their own cameras to take photos with Santa, check out an art exhibit from Employment Opportunity Training Center and a miniature train layout, and hear live music. They can grab food from five eateries that will set up in the former Charl-Mont restaurant space — Terra Preta, Backyard Ale House, Zuppa Del Giorno, Mendicino’s Italian Specialties and the Garden Mediterranean Cafe — while Electric City Roasting Co. will host a pop-up cafe in the Wyoming Avenue foyer.
On Saturday morning, the first 200 people in line will receive a tote bag filled with treats from vendors and other local spots. Items include sweets from local chocolatiers, airboarding tickets, free yoga passes and other samples, as participating vendors must contribute a product rather than filler, Manuel noted.
Last year, the line for the bags wrapped around the block as people came several hours before doors opened for a chance to take one home. Waiting for the bags has turned into a tradition akin to shopping on Black Friday, organizers said. Seeing hundreds of people lined up to get into the market makes all the work involved in putting it together — which includes partnerships with the county, city and more in the community — worth it, Powers said.
“It’s a surprise,” she said. “You’re getting a bag of goodies for yourself.”

What: Fifth annual ScrantonMade Holiday Market
When: Friday, Dec. 1, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Former Globe Store, 123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton
Details: Admission is free. The first 200 people on Saturday receive a free goodie bag. For more information, visit or the event’s Facebook page.

Light it Up – Region welcomes holiday season with annual radio tower lighting

Light it Up – Region welcomes holiday season with annual radio tower lighting

Colorful bulbs reaching to the sky will alight on Thanksgiving eve in a decades-long tradition that’s transformed into a block party full of holiday cheer.
The lights running up the radio tower atop The Scranton Times Building, 149 Penn Ave., will turn on tonight at 6 during the free annual festivities that include food, music, movies and fireworks.
“It’s a good little family thing to do while the family’s getting together,” said Ian L. Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications. “Especially (with) a fireworks show, it’s always nice to get out and have a spectacle like that. … Anything associated with the Times and family kind of makes sense.”
The action starts at 4 p.m., when the building will open to guests to watch holiday movies in the fifth-floor auditorium. Short films will be shown at 4 and 5, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Meanwhile, outdoors, visitors can check out an exhibit of holidays photos from The Times-Tribune archives in the Newseum adjacent to the building on Penn Avenue and get a peek at Santa’s printing press through the windows of the historic pressroom along Spruce Street. Music and entertainment will take place on a stage in front of the building.
“We’ve got the Jingle Girls coming back from Ballet Theatre of Scranton,” Lopera said. “They’ll be there all dressed up, and they might bring some toy soldiers with them. And we’ve got DJ Jamie Callen, (who) is going to come and bring all the holiday classics for us.”
While they enjoy the entertainment, guests can pick up dinner and drinks, too. Zummo’s Cafe from Scranton’s Green Ridge section will bring hot beverages, while Scranton food truck Truck’n Kitchen will sell its unique eats.
“They’ve got a big variety of things,” Lopera said. “They do a Buffalo pierogie, they do cheesesteaks and kind of out-of-the box burgers. And they have a really wide variety of options.”
Former West Scranton High School and Penn State University standout football player Matt McGloin, who was recently cut from the NFL’s Houston Texans, will pull the switch to light the tower at 6 p.m.
“He’s a pretty prominent figure from Scranton, and we figured if he was available that would be great to have him along,” Lopera said.
Rock 107 will broadcast the countdown live. Weather permitting, the fireworks will immediately follow, launching from the Electric City parking garage across from the Times building. Activities will wrap up by 7.
To accommodate the event, the 100 block of Penn Avenue will close at 7 a.m., and the 200 block of Penn Avenue and the 200 and 300 blocks of Spruce Street will close around 4:30.
Lopera said he looks forward to seeing everyone coming together and filling up the streets to watch the fireworks.
“(It’s) just a good feeling to have everyone out there and be together,” he said.

If you go

What: Annual Scranton Times Building radio tower lighting and festivities

When: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 4-7 p.m.

Where: The Scranton Times Building, 149 Penn Ave.

Details: Admission is free. Call 570-348-9100 for more information