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.
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IF YOU GO
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 clocktowertheater.thundertix.com.

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 mapabouttown.com 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.”
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IF YOU GO
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 scrantonmade.com 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.
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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

It really is the thought that counts when presenting

It really is the thought that counts when presenting

Thank your holiday hosts with unique gifts that reflect their lives.
Host and hostess gifts have replaced the custom of bringing a bottle of wine to holiday gatherings, said Lora Hobbs, owner of Live With It gift shop in Peckville. People gravitate toward gifts because they know their hosts already have wine for the occasion or they feel like a bottle is not thoughtful enough, she explained.
Such gifts can range in cost from $10 to $100, Hobbs said, putting the average buy at about $30. Kathi Whitney Davis, owner of Over the Moon in Scranton, estimated her customers spend between $40 and $75 on presents for their hosts.
Be scents-ible 
“Holiday candles are always a good idea,” Davis said, and they’re one of her shop’s most popular sells for hostess gifts. Select a seasonal scent such as Fraser fir or balsam and pair it with a set of printed cocktail napkins for a gift your hosts can use during the holidays.

 

Holiday spirit 

Both shopkeepers recommended gifting glass ball ornaments, whether it be Hobbs’ detailed orbs in seasonal colors or Davis’ clear ones with “2017” emblazoned across them. They make an easy gift that can help your hosts replace decorations they might have broken, Hobbs said. And people remember where they acquired their ornaments, noted her husband, Dave, so your hosts will have something to remember you by.
Other seasonal decorations, such as small nativity scenes, can do, too. Davis carries glass Christmas trees made by Simon Pearce that come in several sizes and “are always very popular,” she said.
“A little piece of holiday gift wear is always a good recommendation,” she said.

Let’s eat 
Help hosts with future meals by gifting practical tools, such as oversize stainless steel serving utensils or bowls.
“They can always use an extra plate or an extra bowl for service,” Dave Hobbs said.
Some are part of larger collections that release a new piece annually, he added, and people come by each year to get the addition.
Or, combine two gifts in one: Make a special treat and present it on a serving platter to keep, or place goodies in a glass candy dish, such as a Christmas tree-shaped one like Davis carries.

For the kids
Not every gift goes to the adults in the home. If the hosts have a new baby, guests can bring items such as a child’s dish and utensil set or a porcelain keepsake, Dave Hobbs said.

Drink up
If your hosts prefer beer over wine, grab a well-made glass for them to pour their favorite brew into, such as ones made in the beer-making hub of Germany.
“A nice set of higher-quality, specialty beer glasses are often given,” Lora Hobbs said.

Festive Favorite: ‘A Christmas Story: The Musical’  heads from screen to stage

Festive Favorite: ‘A Christmas Story: The Musical’ heads from screen to stage

Pull on your pink bunny suit, turn off your leg lamp and be sure to drink your Ovaltine as you head out for a night with the Parker family in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”
The Broadway adaptation of the classic 1983 movie comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for five performances from Friday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Nov. 19. Presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the show follows 11-year-old Ralphie Parker as he longs for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and deals with his quirky family and the dilemmas of childhood in the 1940s.
“They will see all of their favorite moments (from the film): the flag pole, the pink bunny pajamas, the Bumpus hounds and my personal favorite moment of me putting the bar of soap in (Ralphie’s) mouth,” said Sara Zoe Budnik, who plays Ralphie’s mother. “All the best moments are included and done so well in the musical.”
The original film starring Peter Billingsley and Darren McGavin became a holiday viewing staple over the years, especially as channels TNT and TBS ran it for 24 hours straight on Christmas in recent years. Despite its prevalence, “A Christmas Story” never made it to Budnik’s TV screen before the California native auditioned for the musical. She thought doing her own version of the character without watching the original might be more interesting for her tryout, she said, and while she’s watched the film since then, Budnik still set out to make the character hers. 
“It’s interesting because the original actress who played the mother, Melinda Dillon, she’s so incredibly interesting and very specific and unique,” Budnik said recently by phone. “And when you translate anything from a movie to a musical, a lot changes. So it has kind of become a process of making (the role) my own, and of course you don’t want to mimic anything, but the movie is so highlighted. It’s highlighted very well in the musical version, and I think it brings a whole new zhoosh to the show, making it a musical.”
One of the most iconic scenes in the film, when the Old Man receives a lamp shaped like a sexy leg, comes to life in a big dance number in which the cast hoofs it with several lamps.
“It’s like a big, Broadway, classic showstopping number,” Budnik said. “And it’s led by the Old Man. It’s so funny, and you just have to see it.”
While Budnik’s song, “What a Mother Does,” about her character going about her daily tasks, has become one of her favorite songs she’s ever performed, Ralphie sings her top tune in the show, “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun.”

“The song is just really incredible,” Budnik said. “The orchestrations just are so ear-catching. It’s impossible not to smile while you’re watching this kid live out his Christmas fantasy, and it just brings nostalgia back to your youth and all the things that you wanted for Christmas.” 
Budnik has to try not to laugh in the scene in which her character washes out Ralphie’s mouth with soap, and she has to make sure she gets the bar in just right. She works with about a dozen kids in the production and was surprised by their talent and how well they captured their characters.
“I’ve never worked with kids before, and it’s incredible, their voices and their dance abilities and the acting choices that they make,” Budnik said. “They’re fearless, and they’re just so excited to start the tour.”
The show reminds audiences of the Christmases of their youth, Budnik said, describing it as “incredibly relatable.”
“I think I’m just so excited for everybody to see how much heart is betrayed by each character,” she said. “Each character just shows so much love toward one another, and it’s so honest, and it’s just a show that’s for every family member.”

 

Something about Mary – Singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter ready to connect with NEPA audience

Something about Mary – Singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter ready to connect with NEPA audience

Before Taylor and Shania or Faith and Miranda, one name defined the best in country music: Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The five-time Grammy Award winner and member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame achieved stardom thanks to such ’90s hits as “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “Passionate Kisses.” Now she brings a mix of her early and newer work to Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, Scranton, where she’ll perform Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker will open the show, which benefits Pocono Environmental Education Center.
“A lot of people don’t tour unless they have a brand new record, but we’re lucky enough that we can go out and play music whether we have something new to offer or not,” Carpenter said earlier this month by phone from her home in Virginia. “I’ve been playing a lot of songs from the new record, and that’s just been really joyful for me.”
The songstress released her 14th studio album, “The Things That We Are Made Of,” last year, the latest in a long line of work that began in the late ’80s. Carpenter really grabbed the public’s attention with “Come On Come On,” the 1992 album that produced several hits.
“There’s a lot of components that go into the success of a record, and certainly it was a moment in time that I had a certain amount of momentum with songs on the radio, and that was a whole different existence and situation as well,” Carpenter said, noting the album also had push from a major record label. “Momentum is a real thing. … Maybe people felt like it spoke to them.”
Her work has earned her numerous accolades, including Grammys for best female country vocal performance for four consecutive years — 1992 to 1995 — and best country album in 1995. The Country Music Association named her female vocalist of the year in 1992 and 1993, while the Academy of Country Music chose her as 1990’s top new female vocalist and 1992’s top female vocalist.
While Carpenter said she doesn’t consider herself “a prolifically topical songwriter,” she doesn’t shy away from social and political commentary in her music, either. But inspiration comes from everywhere, she added, and sometimes just a phrase can kick off an idea or “evoke a feeling that five minutes before I wasn’t anywhere near.” She goes long stretches without writing — usually while on tour — and prefers to work at home on her farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“It’s really beautiful, and it’s really serene,” Carpenter said. “That’s where I feel like I can get in touch with whatever that serious muse is. Right now, I’m kind of in a phase where I’m just kind of scribbling. I don’t have large themes that I’m chasing or anything like that, just small vignettes of things that haven’t yet fully blossomed.”
Her songs reflect where she was in the moment of penning them, she said, and while she might think she writes about her own experiences, she also sees how the music reaches others. Carpenter has noticed people on social media sharing how her latest album “reflects a lot of what they are going through.”
“The more personal something is, the more universal something is as well,” she said.
With a couple decades of songs to choose from, Carpenter crafts a set list that draws from “The Things That We Are Made Of” plus some of her older work, although it might change from show to show or if she accommodates a request. No matter where she plays though, from amphitheaters that seat thousands to more intimate venues, Carpenter looks to connect with the crowd.
“It’s really gratifying to look into the audience and see the faces of people who’ve come to see us year after year, and it’s also really great to see younger folks, too,” she said.

Killer  instinct ‘A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder’ opens BTL season

Killer instinct ‘A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder’ opens BTL season

Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania found an apropos tale to open its season on Friday the 13th.
“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder,” the 2014 Tony Award winner for best musical, comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for four shows from Friday, Oct. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 15.
And while this story of a man seeking to kill off the relatives who stand in his way of inheriting a fortune might sound dark, star Colleen McLaughlin assured that the musical has a lighter side with lots of laughs. Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak wrote a complex, brilliant show stocked with jokes, she explained recently by phone from the tour’s stop in Madison, Wisconsin.
“The writing is just so incredible, but you can’t help but laugh about everything,” said McLaughlin, an Oklahoma native. “The whole entire cast is just laughing. I come out to the wings just to see some of my favorite scenes.”
Set in London in 1909, the show centers around working-class man Monty Navarro (Blake Price), who, after learning he is ninth in line to become an earl, decides to eliminate the relatives between him and the aristocratic title. All the while he hopes to marry McLaughlin’s character, Sibella Hallward.
“I’m kind of this narcissistic girl and kind of a gold digger, so I don’t want to marry him, and he thinks the only way he can win my hand in marriage is to become the Earl of Highhurst,” she said of the role.
Actor James Taylor Odom, meanwhile, portrays all eight members of the D’Ysquith family who become Navarro’s targets. 
“Every scene that James Taylor Odom is in is pretty incredible. … He’s amazing,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin praised the sets for the show, which she described as beautiful, intricate and specific to the characters, but she also noted that Peggy Hickey’s choreography “is pretty incredible.” One song she expects to blow away audiences is “I’ve Decided To Marry You,” whose choreography involves actors entering and exiting through double doors as one character tries to keep two others apart.
“The choreography is so specific. … The rehearsal process was actually really quick, but I think … each of us had to go home and practice with the doors in our apartment just to get it down perfectly,” McLaughlin said. “It was a process but enjoyable.”
The actors worked with a dialect coach to perfect their British accents, but McLaughlin noted learning the songs also posed a challenge.
“The music is beautiful,” McLaughlin said. “(It is a) beautiful score but really intricate, and your diction kind of has to be on point.”
“A Gentleman’s Guide” opened on Broadway in November 2013 and racked up more than 900 performances before closing in January 2016. In addition to best musical, it picked up Tony Awards for best director of a musical (Darko Tresnjak), best book (Freedman) and best costume design (Linda Cho).
McLaughlin described the show as “very thrilling” with “lots of shenanigans.”
“It’s just a night full of laughter,” she said.

Final bow – Lawrence Loh conducts last NEPA Philharmonic concert to the music of John Williams

Final bow – Lawrence Loh conducts last NEPA Philharmonic concert to the music of John Williams

Lawrence Loh’s tenure as music director of Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic comes to an end this weekend as the orchestra regroups.
After 12 years with the orchestra, Loh says goodbye with “The Music of John Williams,” a pops program set for Saturday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. at Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College in Scranton. The concert is the orchestra’s only show of the season as it suspends operations for 2017-18 to develop a plan to keep the group financially viable.
“The plan is the philharmonic will be able to fundraise and be in a strong position to have success in the future,” Loh said. “I’m hoping it’s a temporary setback for the philharmonic, because I know the people there, particularly the audience, really value the orchestra, and it has such an important history in the region. And it’s something that needs to be supported and saved.”
The philharmonic gave Loh his first job as a music director, and he believes together they “accomplished a great deal over all these years,” from letting him take an adventurous approach to classical concerts to impacting the community through activities such as educational programs and piano competitions. Nancy Sanderson, philharmonic executive director, called Loh “a community-oriented fellow” and noted that he will donate his services for Saturday’s concert.
“While he has been here, he’s cared very much about Northeast Pennsylvania,” she said. “Sometimes (for) conductors, it’s just a job. They come in, conduct and go. But it was more than that to Larry.”
Sanderson pointed out that Loh’s career is on the rise, and he had been honest with her about other job prospects. He continues to guest conduct around the country and has been named music director of West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“He cares so much about the orchestra,” Sanderson said. “The thing that people have said to me … is that Larry decided because of the (orchestra’s financial) situation to leave, and that’s not it at all.”
The orchestra had an entire season planned for 2017-18, but decided to go with John Williams’ popular movie soundtracks when paring it down to a lone show. Loh called Williams an “iconic composer” and said he is excited to conduct music from “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series.  

Conductor Lawrence Loh leads the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic during opening night of the thirty-ninth season at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.

“I think that they probably rightfully assumed that that would have a good audience, a good draw,” Loh said. “It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Loh does not expect his relationship with the philharmonic to end with Saturday’s final note, however. Many concerts with other orchestras will keep him busy this year, but he will continue to be available for anything the philharmonic needs and hopes people “would agree how important the orchestra is and how amazing these musicians are.”
“It’s important also because there are varying levels of arts programs in schools,” he said. “ Some are very good, and some are nonexistent, and so the philharmonic really fills that void. And I think most people agree that if people, especially young people, are allowed to express themselves artistically, it can help with every aspect of their lives. And so the philharmonic as the leading cultural institution in the region has a responsibility to be to fill that need.”
The orchestra will present seven chamber concerts this season that will serve as fundraisers for the orchestra and allow it to keep up a presence in the region, Sanderson said. The first will feature pianist Fei-Fei Dong on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for the Creative Arts, Kingston, with a reception at nearby Kevin’s Bar & Restaurant, 247 Wyoming Ave.
While the group hopes to have a full season next year, Sanderson said, “there’s a lot to work out in the meantime.”
“We are exploring all sorts of options for doing something more sustainable,” she said. “I really am reluctant to talk about those options now before we really get them in place, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the meantime, the group will say goodbye to the man who “just won a place in all of our hearts,” Sanderson said. And when he conducts on Saturday, Loh expects to feel emotional.
“I’m sure that I’ll feel a flood of memories of being with this orchestra and with these people, and I’ll just try and hold it together while I’m up there,” he said. “And I really hope it’s a sellout. I really hope that people absolutely fill the hall.”

A grape escape: PA Wine Land Festival offers wide range of vintages from more than a dozen state makers

A grape escape: PA Wine Land Festival offers wide range of vintages from more than a dozen state makers

Sit back and sip the best wines the state has to offer.
The fourth annual Pennsylvania Wine Land Festival returns to the Lodge at Montage Mountain Resorts, Scranton, on Saturday, Sept. 30, with vintages from 15 wineries ready for tasting. General admission is $29 in advance, and the price increases to $40 on Friday, Sept. 29, and at the door.
“We’ve had it there last year, and it was a great success,” said Ian Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications, which presents the festival with Gertrude Hawk Chocolates.
All of the wines come from Pennsylvania, and many from the northeast corner, Lopera said. Guests can sample drinks from Antler Ridge Winery, Bee Kind Winery, Benigna’s Creek Winery, Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyard, Deer Creek Winery, Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery, Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Olivero’s Vineyard, Sand Castle Winery, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars, Shade Mountain Vineyards, Sorrenti’s Cherry Valley Vineyards, Stone & Key Cellars and University Wine Co.
Organizers offered food-pairing passes for the first time last year, and guests can choose that option again this time to try items from various local vendors. A limited amount of these passes, which include the regular admission for wine tastings, are available for $34.99 in advance and $55 at the door.
“That way you get to sample different wines from the different wine vendors, but then you also get to sample different fare that pairs along with the wine,” Lopera said. “People enjoyed it.” 
Several local food trucks also will be on hand, including Peculiar Culinary Co., Sweet Lush Cupcakery, iGourmet, Keystone Farms Cheese, Windsor Inn and Carmella’s Pastries. And visitors also can peruse the numerous vendors who’ll have their wares for sale — such as Scentsy, Collana de Vino, On a Whim jewelry, Cornucopia, Celestial Soap Co., Plow & Hearth, Damsel in Defense, J. Borthwick LEDs, Rodan & Fields and LuLaRoe — as they enjoy the various vintages.
“You can’t go wrong with events based on alcohol in Pennsylvania, especially NEPA,” Lopera said. “I think they’re done well, and I think that’s what people really respect about it. The people who plan the events, they really care about it, and they really want to see them get bigger and better. I think people see that, and they see the attention to detail. … It’s a local thing that people can (get) out and enjoy.”

Participating wineries 
Antler Ridge Winery
Bee Kind Winery
Benigna’s Creek Winery
Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyard
Deer Creek Winery
Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery
Maiolatesi Wine Cellars
Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery
Olivero’s Vineyard
Sand Castle Winery
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars
Shade Mountain
Vineyards
Sorrenti’s Cherry
Valley Vineyards
Stone & Key Cellars
University Wine Co.

If you go
What: Fourth annual Pennsylvania Wine Land Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 30, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Lodge at Montage Mountain Resorts, 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton
Details: General admission is $29 until Sept. 28 and $40 after then. Tickets that include food pairings are $34.99 in advance and $55 at the door; tickets are limited. Visit montagemountainresorts.com/wineland for more information.

Pints and Pretzels PA Oktoberfest moves to PNC Field for weekend of eclectic  German fare, brews and games

Pints and Pretzels PA Oktoberfest moves to PNC Field for weekend of eclectic German fare, brews and games

PAOktoberfest found a new home for the classic German food, wiener dog races and seasonal beers fans have come to expect from the annual festival. This year, the event moves to PNC Field, Moosic, after six years at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Twp. The action will take place around the baseball stadium’s concourse as well as on the field.
“We really just wanted (a venue) who was kind of in it for the long haul … and we wanted to make the event bigger and better,” said Ian Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications, which runs Oktoberfest. “And PNC Field was really a place where we could see that happening.”
The festival runs Friday, Sept. 22, from 4:30 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for a one-day pass and $10 for a weekend pass. Food and beer will available for purchase, and visitors no longer will need to buy “Oktobucks” vouchers to do so like they had to in past years, Lopera said.
Local beer suppliers Ace Beverage Co., Banko North L.T. Verrastro Inc. and Northeast Eagle Distributors are supplying more than 50 types of beer with “a lot of fall” flavors plus authentic beer from Germany, the originator of Oktoberfest celebrations, Lopera said.
“There’s pumpkins there, and some beers that the breweries and vendors wanted to get out for the first time,” Lopera said.
Legends, which handles the food at the ballpark, will serve many classic German dishes — such as bratwurst and schnitzel sandwiches — from Alpine Inc. Wurst & Meat House in Honesdale. But guests also can dig into food regularly found at PNC Field, including barbecue and nachos. 

“We’re trying to cast a wider net, trying to appeal to all crowds,” said Rich Kloss, Legends’ general manager. “There’s going to be people coming for the German food and beer, but at the same time there might be people tagging along with them that might not want that.”
Live entertainment will fill the weekend, too, including returning favorite Romy, a German singer; Joe Stanky & His Cadets; Schützengiggles; John Stevens’ Doubleshot and John Stanky & the Coalminers. Patrons can test their strength in the periodic beer stein-holding contests or check out the various vendors, a new addition that includes LuLaRoe, Tarot for Living, German Gift Chalet, Spring Hill Services, Jerky Hut, Green Mountain Energy, Cigars on State, VIP Imprints and Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. 
While registration for the wiener dog races has ended, visitors still can watch the dogs try to best each other several times during the weekend: Friday at 3 and 6 p.m.; Saturday at noon, 3, 6 and 9 p.m.; and Sunday at noon and 3 p.m. It’s a “bit of a spectacle” that’s fun to watch, Lopera said.
“Last year, we had thousands of people up in the stands and around the track looking,” he said. “People just get really happy. The dogs are always so happy to get out and run, and this year they’ll get to run in green grass in the field.”
On Saturday, the Lederhosen 5K begins at noon, and the $20 registration fee includes admission to Oktoberfest plus post-race beer from Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. Runners can register in advance at scrantonrunning.com or at PNC Field the day of the race from 11 to 11:45 a.m. The race is open to ages 21 and older, and the first 150 registrants also receive a short-sleeved tech shirt.
Kloss said he expects PNC Field to “bring a good vibe” to the event.
“I’m just excited to see how people take to it at the new venue,” he said. “I think it’s going to be awesome. … It’s not just in a parking lot, you know? We’re utilizing the whole venue.”
People not only enjoy that Oktoberfest is a three-day, 21-and-older event but also the authenticity of it, Lopera said.
“We always try to make it something authentic for people,” he said. “It’s not just a beer party.”

Oktoberfest 2016 at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Into the spin Festival offers an up-close look at fiber and where it comes from with education, demos

Into the spin Festival offers an up-close look at fiber and where it comes from with education, demos

Learn about the fiber-making process from sheep to finish this weekend when the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival returns for a 14th year.
Set for Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10, at the Harford Fairgrounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford, the festival brings together not only yarn spinners, weavers and dyers but also many of the animals that provide the natural material for their products.
The festival runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ​Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and education makes up a large part. Demonstrations focusing on sheep shearing, natural fiber dying, border collies and more plus classes in such subjects as spinning, weaving and fleece processing fill out the schedule. 
“You don’t have to really know anything to participate in the classes,” festival president Ellen Anderson said. “You can really almost go knowing nothing.”
Anderson raises angora rabbits, long-wool sheep, Romeldale sheep and angora goats in Lebanon County and joined the festival as a vendor its second year. She is one of the more than 50 vendors set to participate this time — selling what she called “everything from the raw fiber to the finished product” — but her favorite part of the festival is the chance to talk to and teach visitors.
“People are just getting so far removed from agriculture nowadays,” Anderson said. “It’s important to (teach) especially the younger children. … You tell them, ‘Well, this is how somebody did it 100 years ago, and the technology changed.’”
That includes giving them a chance to get up close to fiber-producing animals. In addition to alpacas, llamas, rabbits and goats, the festival features more than a dozen breeds of sheep showing the different types of wool that can end up in sweaters, hats and much more after weavers and knitters get their hands on it.
“We’re trying to get people involved to learn how to do things so they can make their own products,” said Catherine Hines of Alpacas of Sunshine Farm in New Milford, part of the group of alpaca farmers who founded the festival.
Those efforts seem to be working. 

“We just finished up the Harford Fair, and it’s a big difference. We’ve been doing that for nine or eight years,” Hines said. “In the beginning, we had to tell them, ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ And now you can hear the kids telling ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ They’re learning.”

Interest in the fiber arts has grown in recent years, something Anderson attributes to a desire to unplug from technology and get “back to the basics.”
“You start from the raw fiber, the raw wool, the alpaca, (and) you spin something, you make it into yarn. … You can wear it,” she said. “(It) makes you feel like you’re being a little more down to earth.”
Festival admission costs $3 per day or $5 for a weekend pass for ages 12 and older; parking is free. The festival draws visitors and vendors not only from Pennsylvania but also Maryland, New York, Virginia and beyond.
“It’s big enough that there’s a huge selection of items but yet small enough that the visitors to the festival can really stop and talk to the vendors,” Anderson said.
The weekend also features contests, a fleece sale and raffle, and guests can grab a bite to eat from several food vendors or bring their own for a picnic.
“Last year, I believe, our numbers (were) probably over 500 through the gate each day, but that doesn’t include a lot of volunteers and vendors there shopping with each other,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping our numbers continue to grow. It’s just getting the word out about it. A lot of it is people finding us online (and) friends telling friends.” 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you go
What: 14th annual Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; ​Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Harford Fair Grounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford
Details: Admission for ages 12 and older is $3 daily and $5 for the weekend. Parking is free. Visit endlessmountainsfiberfest.com

Full Steam Ahead – Train-related activities abound during Labor Day weekend

Full Steam Ahead – Train-related activities abound during Labor Day weekend

Tom Nemeth’s mom used to tell him how he’d peer over the side of his baby carriage to watch a passing train.
He outgrew the carriage but not his interest in railroading.
Next weekend, the editor and publisher of Railpace magazine serves as grand marshal for Railfest, Steamtown National Historic Site’s annual celebration of railroading. He felt flattered when he learned of the honor a few weeks ago, knowing past grand marshals include railroad presidents and late businessman Albert Boscov.
“I was rather surprised and kind of honored, because it was like, ‘Me? What did I ever do for Steamtown that merited that?’” said Nemeth, a retired packaging engineer who lives in Greentown.
In 1982, he and two friends started Railpace just for fun, focusing on prototype railroading in the Northeast. Nemeth estimated the monthly publication has about 6,000 readers, although it had a bigger audience during the heyday of hobby shops.
As part of Railfest, which takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the historic site, Lackawanna Avenue and Cliff Street, Scranton, Nemeth will share some of his photographs of Steamtown. They range from past Railfests to visiting trains to the attraction’s move from Vermont to Scranton in 1984. Nemeth also will participate in Saturday’s 10 a.m. ceremony to open Railfest, which this year has the theme “Transition from Steam to Diesel.”
But railroad fans can start the celebration early with other train-related activities in the area. On Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m., Lackawanna Historical Society will present two railroading movies — “Unstoppable” and “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” — at Circle Drive-In, 1911 Scranton-Carbondale Highway, Dickson City. Admission is $7.
The next night, in conjunction with Scranton’s First Friday Art Walk, the Johnny Cash Experience featuring David Stone will give a free concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Steamtown’s theater. Stone will return for Railfest, performing both days as the site demonstrates the “ring of fire,” a method of replacing locomotive tires using flame.
Other special programs and activities at Steamtown include a World War I presentation, exhibits by Dennis Livesly and Mark Perry, and rides on specialty cars in the rail yard. Steamtown also will run a diesel-driven excursion to Moscow from 12:30 p.m. to 3; tickets prices vary and include park admission.
Additionally, guests can meet “Miss Phoebe Snow,” hear folk music by singer Jay Smar, see demonstrations and check out a 1925 Whitcomb gasoline-powered locomotive.
Children’s attractions, meanwhile, include rides on a 1/8-inch-scale steam train, a photo booth, magicians and train layouts.
“Folks who live in New Jersey may ride trains into and from work each day and see them out there, but they can’t get close to them,” Steamtown spokesman Bill Nalevanko said. “Here, you can get up close and personal to see not only the equipment but (also) meet with people who actually run the equipment. It’s a great opportunity for families, too, to experience downtown Scranton.”
On Saturday, the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will hold a night photography session for up to 75 people to take pictures of three railroad scenes lit and staged by Steve Barry of Railfan & Railroad Magazine. Orientation starts at 7:15 p.m. with photos from 8 to 10. Tickets are $25, available at project3713.com.
Railfest makes up just part of a busy weekend in the city. Across the Steamtown parking lot, Electric City Trolley Museum will run additional trolley trips along the Laurel Line. A free County of Lackawanna Transit System shuttle will move visitors among Steamtown; the Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave.; and La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square during Steamtown’s hours.
Nemeth looks forward to meeting a lot of people at Railfest.
“You see some people you do know,” he said. “It’s a nice venue to get together with friends and people you haven’t seen in a long time, because a lot of rail enthusiasts go there.”
Nalevanko said people enjoy doing something over the last summer holiday weekend, which has turned Railfest into one of the park’s biggest events.
“Come, bring the family and have a great time,” he said.

Showstopping Finale – ‘Pippin’ closes out BTL season this weekend with high-flying shows at Scranton Cultural Center

Showstopping Finale – ‘Pippin’ closes out BTL season this weekend with high-flying shows at Scranton Cultural Center

Step into a colorful world of acrobatics, magic and more as “Pippin” closes the season for Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend.
The league brings in the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical for four performances from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Set around 780 A.D. in the Holy Roman Empire, the show-within-a-show musical focuses on a young prince, Pippin, and his search for the meaning of life through war, murder and love — all told to the audience as a story told by a performance troupe.
“The way I describe it is that you see a young boy who’s trying to find some meaning to his life, and he tries an extraordinary life and then an ordinary life,” said Erica Cianciulli, who plays Pippin’s stepmother, Fastrada. “And it’s very relevant to what’s going on today in the world.”
“Pippin” opened on Broadway in 1972 with a book and choreography by Bob Fosse and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Featuring such songs as “Corner of the Sky,” “Magic To Do” and “Morning Glow,” it ran for 1,944 performances and five previews before closing in 1977. Its only revival on the Great White Way came four years ago under the direction of Diane Paulus. That production closed in 2015.
The tour is based on the revival, which picked up four Tony Awards, including one for best revival of a musical. Many of the artistic team members from the Broadway revival worked with the tour at its rehearsals, and Paulus’ assistant directed the production and passed on her plans and vision, Cianciulli said. The show incorporates acrobatics and other circus-style entertainment, from hula hooping to knife throwing, plus Fosse-style choreography.
The acrobats all excel in different things, said Cianciulli, who grew up in Lansdale near Philadelphia.
“We have one girl who she went to school for German wheel. It’s like a big steel wheel, and she goes across the stage rolling through it,” she said. “And there’s all this cool stuff and a lot of two-highs and three-highs — people standing on each other’s shoulders. … And it’s interesting because it all just fits into the show somehow.”
Cianciulli doesn’t have to perform any of the acrobatics, but she does a few magic tricks. And as an understudy for the Leading Player character, she had to learn the trapeze routine just in case.
“It’s scary up there,” she said. “If you’re scared of heights, it’s not the best time.”
The cast has heard that the audience enjoys the acrobatics and magic tricks, Cianciulli said, but the songs draw a response, too. In “Magic To Do,” the Leading Player drops a curtain to reveal the acrobats and open the show.
“It’s just a bunch of colorful costumes and everything, which is pretty cool, which gets people excited for the show,” Cianciulli said.
She called “Corner of the Sky” the show’s biggest number because a lot of people know it and she knows many people who have performed it for auditions. And she pointed to “On the Right Track” and “Extraordinary” as big second-act pieces.
Cianciulli gets her own chance to shine. As the “evil, conniving stepmother” hoping to kill her husband and stay queen forever, Cianciulli said, Fastrada shares her plans in “Spread a Little Sunshine.”
When she comes to Scranton, she may even get to perform it for family members and friends making the trip up from the Philadelphia area. In the meantime, she enjoys sharing “Pippin’s” story across the country in her first theatrical tour, which kicked off in January.
“Of course I love doing the show,” Cianciulli said. “The show hasn’t gotten old for me at all. … I don’t really have a night where I’m like, ‘Eh, I don’t feel like doing the show.’ It’s so much fun and such a special show.”
— caitlin heaney west

If you go
What: “Pippin,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, May 5, 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 7, 1 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: The show runs approximately 2 hours, 20 minutes, and is recommended for ages 13 and older. Tickets are $37 to $59, available through the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit broadwayinscranton.com.

Ballet Theatre of Scranton’s ‘Dracula’

Ballet Theatre of Scranton’s ‘Dracula’

Ballet Theatre of Scranton sinks its teeth into a classic tale for its latest production.
The troupe’s senior company presents “Dracula” for one night only, Saturday, April 29, at 7:30, in the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton.
But preparations for the ballet began in the midst of winter, as the show’s creators, Katya and Arkadiy Orohovsky, ventured to the city from their Mississippi home for nine days to set up the production with the cast.
“It’s been crazy,” Katya Orohovsky said during those rehearsals. “They pick up really quickly, very enthusiastically.”
The couple saw a few ballet versions of “Dracula” through the years, but never any they identified with. Then they heard music from 20th-century Ukrainian composers that incorporated that country’s folk songs, and they developed their own version of the story using that music.
“It’s so appropriate,” Ballet Theatre artistic director Joanne Arduino said. “Some of the melodies are just haunting. It’s really a perfect selection for this ballet. (In) one of the scenes, there’s Romanian folk dance, so it has some very rousing music. It has some beautiful, romantic music.”
The Orohovskys’ production combines elements from Bram Stoker’s classic novel “Dracula” with real history, resulting in what Arkadiy Orohovsky called a “more family-friendly” story — less horror and more heart. The dancers play up the love story between Dracula and young Mina.
“(We) wanted to tell a little bit of the history and a little more of the romanticism,” Katya Orohovsky said.
Arduino called “Dracula” a well-known, timeless story she believes audiences will enjoy because of how Ballet Theatre chose to portray it this time.
“We’re sort of billing it as it’s not the gory story of Dracula that everybody thinks,” she said. “It’s really a haunting love story. Granted, it’s still ‘Dracula.’ There’s still his story, but we are focusing on his love story.”
The tale became more believable and resonated with audiences as a result of those changes, according to Arkadiy Orohovsky. When the couple first staged the show with their studio in Ohio in 2007, they saw how the audience connected to the character.
“A lot of people cried at the end, which was surprising,” Katya Orohovsky said.
The Orohovskys revived the show in Mississippi a few years later with their company there, and this marks the first time the couple staged it for someone else. Katya Orohovsky said “it’s been really nice kind of brushing it off.”
“I’m really happy that our ballet is going to stay alive,” her husband said.
Taking on the lead is professional dancer and Ballet Theatre veteran Colin Bolthouse, while Jerica Tallo, another longtime Ballet Theatre dancer, portrays Mina.
“With the costumes and the lighting and the sets, it’s just going to be exceptional,” Arduino said. “And we’re all excited about it.”
Since the choreography “is not really set in stone,” Katya Orohovsky said, she and her husband could tailor the moves for Ballet Theatre’s dancers. Arduino believes it is good for her crew to work with different choreographers, noting how the Orohovskys brought “some interesting concepts.” The couple fit in well with the Ballet Theatre family, she added, calling Arkadiy Orohovsky “very easygoing.”
“He wants them to just express themselves and have a good time with their roles,” Arduino said.
Arkadiy Orohovsky said he and his wife enjoyed working with Arduino and her team and are happy with how Ballet Theatre took the show forward.
“I think it’s going to be a great ballet,” he said.
Arduino expects Ballet Theatre will bring “Dracula” back to the stage again one day.
“This is a new work; it’s classical yet contemporary,” she said. “There are a few of those that we have done throughout the years at Ballet Theatre that have been loved by the audience but also loved by the dancers, and this, I think, is one of them.”
— caitlin heaney west

IF YOU GO
What: “Dracula,” presented by
Ballet Theatre of Scranton’s senior company
When: Saturday, April 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Theater at North,
1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton
Details: Tickets are $25, available at tututix.com. For more information, call 570-347-2867 or visit balletscranton.org or the group’s
Facebook page.

Gender Roles

Gender Roles

Two Scranton playhouses present all-male and all-female shows over same run

The all-male “Glengarry Glen Ross” with its female director and the all-female “The Women” with its male director play out on separate Scranton stages starting this week in a theatrical battle of the sexes.
Diva Productions brings David Mamet’s examination of the 1980s cutthroat real-estate business to the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., while Actors Circle tackles female relationships amid a gossipy, catty society in comedic style at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road. “The Women” opens Thursday, and “Glengarry” follows Friday; both run on weekends through April 2.

Planning ahead
Paige Balitski, “Glengarry” director and Diva’s founder, scheduled the show after learning of Actors Circle’s plan to present “The Women.” She knew a play with more than 20 women in its cast meant actresses she might want for a Diva show likely would be unavailable. Balitski always wanted to tackle “Glengarry” and thought now seemed like “the perfect time” to do it.
“First of all, it’s Mamet, and he writes tough and gritty,” she said. “And for men, this is always a play that men want to do, so I knew that if I announced auditions, I would get excellent actors. And, boy, did I ever.”
Diva’s eight-man cast includes T.J. Zale and Casey Thomas as salesmen and Scott Colin as their office manager. Balitski described the characters — businessmen tasked with making deals or else risk losing their jobs — as “men who make or break their careers on closing (deals).”
“Roles like this or shows like this come along so rarely. … When you’re able to sink your teeth into a piece of drama like this, you jump at the chance as an actor,” Colin said.
The Tony-winning “Glengarry” debuted on Broadway in 1984, and an acclaimed film adaptation starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and Alec Baldwin followed in 1992. Colin said the show has endured because “David Mamet is able to turn these characters in a short amount of time into very, very real, conversational people.” Zale called it “excellent modern playwriting.”
“Every character has something going on underneath these words,” he said.
Diva’s cast has impressed Balitski with its ability to learn a tough script with dialogue that often changes direction mid-sentence.
“Mamet writes tough,” she said. “He writes in what I like to call ‘fits and stops.’”
Zale called the frequent swearing in the script “part of the texture of (the characters’) language,” but it “doesn’t mean their human emotions are different than anybody else.”
“They are striving and working really hard to what they got,” Zale said. “It’s the human endeavor. It’s what it’s about to make a living and support your family and do the right thing.”

Focus on relationships
While known mainly for its all-female cast — a vision adaptations take so far as to feature only female children, animals and subjects in artwork — “The Women’s” greater focus falls on the relationships among its characters.
“Women have now — and back in the ’30s, when this is set — they do have a mind of their own,” said Brink Powell, who plays Mary Haines. “They are in charge of their own destinies. (And) particularly in the case of these women, they’re rich society women; they don’t go to work. Their husbands support them. But even in that situation, they’re not letting themselves be defined by men. Women and men and any person need to define themselves and not let themselves be defined by someone else.”
Clare Boothe Luce’s comedy hit Broadway in 1936, and a now-classic film adaptation starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell followed in 1939 (another came out in 2008). The story follows Mary, whose husband has divorced her and married Crystal Allen, a social climber he had an affair with, and their interactions with each other and their fellow society mavens.
“It’s a comedy for sure, and what is not more comedic than love?” said Jennifer Frey, who plays Crystal. “We see it being treated seriously, and not that love isn’t serious and marriage isn’t serious, but if you can’t laugh at the tragedy of life, what can you laugh at? And so falling in love, falling out of love having boyfriends … all of these storylines are taken on in ‘The Women.’”
Director Ted LoRusso told the cast to think of the play like a “Real Housewives” show.
“There’s a whole slew of really hilarious, funny characters who just go a mile a minute with all these wonderful one-liners,” he said. “And there’s a catty quality to it.”
Since Powell’s character deals “with some pretty heavy emotions,” she doesn’t get opportunities to be funny. But she said the play nevertheless is a lot fun, with the cast laughing its way through rehearsals.
“You don’t think a play about catty women backstabbing each other could be so hilarious,” she said.
Frey — president of the board of Cinderella’s Closet of NEPA, a nonprofit that takes donated prom and other types of dresses and sells them at affordable prices to girls in need — also helped behind the scenes. Cinderella’s Closet sometimes receives slightly broken or vintage donations, which it cannot use. Instead, the group donates them to different theaters, this time sending the pieces to “The Women,” which Frey said “called for some very dressy dresses.”
“That was one of the issues I did stress out about,” LoRusso said. “We have 22 actresses and 12 scene changes and about 60 costumes. And I thought, ‘How in the heck are we going to do this?”

Continued support
While the plays run the same weekends, in truth, this battle of the sexes ended before it began. Many cast members know those from the other play from previous productions, and each show plans to take one of its off nights to catch the other in action, even if it’s at a rehearsal. The playhouses sit a mile apart, Balitski said, so “there’s no reason not to help each other out.”
“The theater community is very small,” she said. “There’s a lot of them in the surrounding counties, but we all belong to an organization. We all see each others’ shows and help each other.”
And audiences can experience the “best of both worlds” with the two shows running concurrently, Powell said.
“I hope that people will come to both,” she said. “Have a night of women, and then have a night of men.”
— caitlin heaney west

 

If you go

“The Women,” presented by Actors Circle
When: Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m., through April 2
Where: Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton
Details: Tickets for Thursday’s show are $8 for general admission and seniors and $6 for students. For remaining dates, tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. For reservations, call 570-342-9707 or email tickets@actorscircle.com.
“Glengarry Glen Ross,” presented by
Diva Productions
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m., through April 2
Where: Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., Scranton
Details: Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 570-209-7766. Seating is limited. The show contains adult situations and strong language.