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.

Magic Moment: Cinderella

Magic Moment: Cinderella

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ transforms with help from NEPA native

Cinderella and her prince finally found their happily ever after on Broadway in 2013 after decades of televised productions, tours and community theater. And they did so in an updated story from Wilkes-Barre-born Douglas Carter Beane, who invigorated Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical for a new audience.
Now, the fairy tale’s national tour comes to cast its magic at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., where Broadway Theater League of Northeastern Pennsylvania presents five performances from Friday through Sunday.
“The minute the Broadway version was happening and going successfully, people were wanting it for their theaters across America. … The story had enough of a twist and relevance — and now, since the most recent election, even more relevance — that it was wonderful,” Beane said recently by phone. “We did one year of touring, and a lot of the cities rebooked it.”
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II originally created “Cinderella” for television, and an estimated 107 million people watched Julie Andrews play the heroine when CBS broadcast it live in 1957. The work eventually hit stages around the world and returned to television twice more before reaching Broadway for the first time with the help of Beane.
The five-time Tony Award nominee, who grew up near Reading and who has a home in Wyoming County, initially said no to producer Robyn Goodman when she approached him about working on the project. Beane thought “Cinderella” had a great score but that its story bore a message he didn’t want to share with his young daughter or nieces.

He headed to his home on Lake Carey over Christmas and happened across the original French version of “Cinderella.” He discovered how much it differed from what he knew of the story, as later versions cut out what he called “wonderful parts” in which Cinderella met the prince several times and affected change in him.
“She brought kindness to the court, and one of the stepsisters turned out to be her friend and helped her,” Beane said.
He told Goodman he’d found a way in to the story, but he needed more music to turn “Cinderella” into a two-act musical. In their long careers, Rodgers and Hammerstein created few songs they didn’t use, Beane said, but he and music arranger David Chase went through song fragments and notes at the duo’s library and crafted new works from the masters’ ideas. New songs such as “Me, Who Am I?” join such favorites as “In My Own Little Corner” and “Impossible/It’s Possible.”
“It really was whipping out a Ouija,” Beane said. “It’s all their work. We just arranged (new pieces).”
The basics of the classic tale remain: an orphaned girl, Ella, toils for her wicked stepmother, falls in love with a prince, attends a grand ball with the help of a fairy godmother and — spoiler alert — lives happily ever after. But Beane incorporated the “social satire” element of the French version throughout, along with other plot points, including making the prince, Topher, an orphan like Ella, and giving him help from a court member, whom Beane turned into a negative influence. He took a formerly unnamed stepsister — who now helps Ella — and named her Gabrielle after his daughter.
A piece of the “Cinderella” ballet also snuck in, showing Ella’s kindness toward a homeless woman, who turns out to be her fairy godmother.
“That was sort of just irresistible. … Isn’t that just a fabulous lesson to be teaching your kids?” Beane said.
Beane has heard from parents about how the show “was a great lesson for the kids, and it’s not shoved down their throat. It’s done with humor.”
“There was a wonderful review … which was very meaningful to me, which is about how happy (the reviewer) was to take her daughter to the show and that the lesson of kindness and tolerance and acceptance and different points of view coming to a common conclusion were meaningful to her,” said Beane, who hopes to make it to Scranton for part of the show’s run. “And the kids just enjoyed it. And it was about how a hero can be a hero through sensitivity, through kindness. It was my intent.”
— caitlin heaney west

If you go
What: “Cinderella,” presented
by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: The show runs about 2 hours, 10 minutes, including an intermission,
and is recommended for all ages. Tickets are $37 to $65, available at the box office, ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000.

 

 

Back in Action

Back in Action

Local theaters ready to raise the curtain for winter shows

The frozen air gives way to the heat of stage lights this month as local theater groups return to action after the holidays.

One-Act Festival
Diva Theater’s fourth annual One-Act Festival, a collection of 10 short plays, takes over the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., from Thursday to Saturday, Jan. 26 to 28, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m.
Diva loves to present original work, founder Paige Balitski said, and “writers feel comfortable” there.
“We appreciate writers in this area,” she said, noting how most of the writers and directors are local. “They love to see new stuff. Let’s face it — we’ve got a Pulitzer Prize-winner in Jason (Miller) and a Pulitzer Prize (finalist) in Stephen Karam. And they had to start somewhere. People are hopeful.”
The lineup includes works by Margo L. Azzarelli, Marnie Azzarelli, Jason Belak, Christopher Conforti, K.K. Gordon, Michael Pavese, John Schugard, Albert Shivers, J. Stewart and Rachel Luann Strayer. They’ve penned a love story, an 1870s-set piece full of what Balitski called “shoot-em-up-cowboy stuff,” a historical tale focusing on four generations, a piece about a man having philosophical conversations with a monkey and much more.
“We’ve got some eclectic stuff,” Balitski said.
Tickets are $10 and $12, and seating is limited in the second-floor theater; call 570-209-7766 for reservations.

‘Macbeth’
January means another chance to tackle Shakespeare for United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Youth Department.
UNC again teams up with New York- and Philadelphia-based REV Theatre Company, this time presenting a free production of “Macbeth” on Friday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m. at UNC’s Oppenheim Center for the Arts, 1004 Jackson St.
Scranton resident Miranda Chemchick takes on the role of the Scottish thane whose play for power ultimately leads to his demise, while West Scranton High School student Kayla Chofey portrays the conniving Lady Macbeth. Fifteen-year-old Kayla aimed for that role during auditions, interested not just because of Lady Macbeth’s overall character but also “everything around her.” Nabbing the lead surprised but thrilled Chemchick, 20, who noted she plays a man who has somewhat of a feminine side and has moments of sanity and insanity.
“It’s all these different emotions,” she said.
REV tends to add unique touches to its shows, too, Chemchick said, and this time opposite sides of the audience will sit facing each other.
“Some of the scenes will be very up close to the audience,” Kayla said.
“I think the audience will like how interesting it will be,” Chemchick added.
For details, call 570-961-1592, ext. 105.

‘Terra Nova’
While it might feel like Antarctica in Scranton this winter, Actors Circle transports its audience to the end of the earth in “Terra Nova,” a drama focusing on the fatal British expedition to the South Pole that began in 1911.
For director Robert A. Spalletta, Ph.D., the play marks the fulfillment of a goal he set 34 years ago when he first saw the play.
“I said, ‘I have to do this sometime,’” he recalled. “It feels great. I am having a wonderful time.”
The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Feb. 2 through 12 at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road. Spalletta presents it with what he called his “dream cast,” featuring Casey Thomas as Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, who led his team to the Pole in the shadow of a rival Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen (William Zeranski).
The play was “taken literally from the journals of the Englishmen,” Spalletta said, and deals with the expedition and the British-Norwegian conflict. He noted it shows how people “accept or reject their higher circumstances.”
“You would think that a play in which everybody dies — and you know from the beginning that everybody dies — that it would be a real downer, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s fascinating to see how someone could relate to this. So you also see that they’re going crazy, they’re losing their minds because they’re freezing to death and they’re starving to death.”
Tickets are $6 and $8 for the Feb. 2 show and $8, $10 and $12 for remaining dates. For details, visit actorscircle.com or the group’s Facebook page, call 570-342-9707 or email tickets@
actorscircle.com.

‘The Wizard of Oz’
Act Out Theatre Group, 408 N. Main St., Taylor, heads to the Emerald City in its latest show, “The Wizard of Oz.” It runs Feb. 3 to 12 with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
The show closely resembles the beloved 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s story about a young girl, Dorothy (played this time by both Kendall Joy and Isabella Snyder), who ends up in a faraway land of witches, Munchkins and magic. Audiences will hear favorite songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”
Act Out typically presents a family-friendly show this time of year and wanted to do the musical for a while, founder Candice Rowe said.
“It’s just one of those classics that I feel like the people just love it,” she said. “It’s a real
crowd favorite.”
Older high-schoolers make up the majority of the cast, although some younger kids fill in the Munchkin roles. Act Out double-cast the leads, so each performer does three of the six shows.
“It’s always nice when we do a big, family-friendly show to get new people in and see what we do here,” Rowe said. “Live theater is just so important.”
— caitlin heaney west

Boys are Back

Boys are Back

‘Jersey Boys’ returns to Scranton
Cultural Center for eight shows

It seems “Jersey Boys” can’t take its eyes off Scranton for too long.
The national tour of the Broadway sensation about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons returns to the city almost three years after drawing in crowds during a nearly two-week run. Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania again brings the musical to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., this time for eight shows starting Tuesday, Jan. 17.
“People love the music, but one of the great things about ‘Jersey Boys’ is it’s so well written. … They just put something together that is really entertaining in that it’s like an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ but with music,” said Keith Hines, an Oklahoman who plays Four Seasons member Nick Massi. “It’s a gangster story, and that’s entertaining. On top of that, (it’s) a story about blue-collar guys achieving extreme stardom.”
Valli — who often visited his maternal grandmother in Dunmore as a child — formed his iconic singing group in New Jersey along with Massi and the other two “seasons,” Tommy DeVito and Bob Gaudio. They achieved stardom with the 1962 hit “Sherry” and followed with such now-classics as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.” Personal troubles eventually broke up the original quartet, but Valli and a new lineup continued to find success through the years.
The musical based on the group’s experiences opened on Broadway on Nov. 6, 2005, and closes this Sunday after more than 4,600 performances and four Tony awards, including best musical. Featuring many of the group’s biggest hits, “Jersey Boys” attracted a devoted following and was turned into a feature film in 2014.
“We’ve all worked our whole lives in musical theater and (were) not used to seeing people getting up out of their seats and dancing in the aisles,” Hines said. “When we go back to other shows like ‘Carousel’ and ‘Oklahoma,’ it’s going to be a culture shock.”
The only original member of the Four Seasons no longer living, Massi broke from the group in 1965. But he left a legacy in his bass solos, said Hines, who has been with the show for three years.
“It’s very specific and it’s unique, and people hear it and … even though they might not know the name, the voice is very identifiable,” he said.
Hines called the singer a loving, caring “musical genius” who, even in the Four Seasons’ early days singing on the street, “was designating all the harmonies just off the cuff.”
“He wasn’t using any sheet music, and he could hear them all,” Hines said. “Even when they got into the studios … (songwriter Bob Crewe) was amazed with Nick. He just had a knack for music.
“And I think outside of music, he was struggling to find an identity, so he did a lot of womanizing and a lot of drinking, and that didn’t fulfill him. And he eventually kind of made his way away from the group and surrounded himself with family.”
While Hines’ favorite moment in the show changes from night-to-night, he enjoys performing “Cry for Me,” the first song the Four Seasons sing together on stage. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” often gets a standing ovation, he added, and audiences really seem to love when the stars perform the group’s iconic songs for the first time.
“It’s palpable,” Hines said. “You can feel people lean forward in that moment.”
Hines described “Jersey Boys” as an underdog story that inspires people and gives them excitement and hope.
“It’s a great lesson for people who dream big, that if you dream big and work hard, you can do it,” he said. “You can make your dreams come true.
“In addition to that, I think it’s a magical experience to walk into a theater and leave your worries and concerns outside and allow yourself to be taken away and entertained by people who are actually in the room.”
— caitlin heaney west

If you go
What: “Jersey Boys,” presented by
Broadway Theater League of Northeastern Pennsylvania

When: Tuesday through Thursday, Jan. 17 to 19, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 21, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 22, 1 and 6:30 p.m.

Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.

Details: Because the show contains “profane Jersey language,” gunshots, smoke and strobe lights, it is recommended for ages 12 and older. It runs about 2 hours, 35 minutes, including intermission. Tickets are $37 to $82, available at the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com. Visit broadwayinscranton.com.

Greenery Meets Machinery

Greenery Meets Machinery

Festival of Trees mixes old-fashioned technology with sci-fi to create steampunk theme

Gear up for Christmas with the merry mechanics of a steampunk-inspired festival.
The annual Festival of Trees this year takes on the genre that mixes old-fashioned technology with sci-fi, asking people and groups from across the region to decorate or create Christmas trees with a steampunk theme.
“I think the (planning) committee was thinking we have such a great kind of industrial-era Victorian past here, so I think we’re hoping to see people get into that industrial side of things,” said Maureen McGuigan, deputy director of arts and culture for Lackawanna County.
That means visitors can expect to see trees incorporating elements such as gears, clocks and steam power, which ties in with Scranton’s railroading history. McGuigan said she hopes people will research the steampunk aesthetic and come up with unusual takes on the trees, which she noted could incorporate “elements of the fantastical.”
“I think the color tones are a little bit more gray and brown and stuff, but I think people will be very creative,” she said. “I think we’ll see nontraditional-type trees.”
This year’s exhibit runs from Friday, Dec. 9, through Monday, Jan. 9, in the former Express store across from Santa Claus at the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave. (From Monday to Sunday, Dec. 12 to 18, the trees will be displayed by a temporary, indoor ice-skating rink.)
Exhibit admission is free except during the Dec. 9 opening reception, which runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and costs $20. Proceeds from the show and reception benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
Tree participants like to give to Toys for Tots and put a lot of effort into the trees because it helps families in need, McGuigan said. The holidays are especially important to children, she said, but some families are not in a position to buy such gifts. That’s where Toys for Tots steps in.
“This group has helped people have a wonderful holiday season, because that’s important to growing up and having those good, positive memories about the season,” McGuigan said. “I think it always pulls at our heartstrings. We don’t want to think of any child not having a toy at this time of year.”
Organizers plan to set up a collection box for toy donations during the opening reception, which also includes music and a steampunk costume contest.
“We usually have the Marine Corps (Reserve) speak on behalf of Toys for Tots,” McGuigan said. “We usually have a band, but I think this year we’re going to do a fun steampunk playlist and make it more like a dance party. … (Steampunk) has this particular sound. It’s different-type music.”
She estimated that about 32 or 33 individuals and groups — from businesses to churches to schools — sponsored and decorated trees last year, and she hopes to get about that same number this year. People start calling her as early as August to find out the year’s theme, she said, and “each theme brings some new people who are interested in that topic as well.” She thinks the program lets participants put their personalities and visions into a tree while also getting their names out there.
“I think it just gets addicting,” McGuigan said. “It’s a chance to use your imagination, your creativity.”
The exhibit remains up further into January than last year because organizers learned “people were still trying to come way past the first week of January” to check out the trees, she said. It also opens a week later than last year.
“We want people to experience the trees,” McGuigan said. “People put a lot of time into it.”
— caitlin heaney west

 

If you go
What: Annual Festival of Trees
When: Friday, Dec. 9, through Monday, Jan. 9;
opening reception Dec. 9, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave.
Details: Tickets for the opening reception are $20; admission for remaining dates is free. Proceeds benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

No Day But Today

No Day But Today

‘Rent’ 20th anniversary tour comes to Scranton Cultural Center

The cast and crew of “Hamilton” earned praise for bringing to Broadway a musical that broke into new territory with its subject matter and musical styles. Twenty years ago, the same was said about “Rent.” The musical helped define the Bohemian culture of late 20th-century New York City and the struggles of its residents as HIV/AIDS devastated communities. It brought those stories into the mainstream when it moved to the Great White Way in 1996 after selling out shows nightly off-Broadway. Now it celebrates its 20th anniversary with a national tour that comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for four shows from Friday through Sunday. And audiences of all ages have turned out already, a nod “to how enduring the show is,” Katie LaMark, who plays Maureen Johnson, said recently by phone. “We get a lot of really wonderful people who say they saw the show on Broadway when it came out 20 years ago. … Most of our audience members are between 15 and 20 years old, who weren’t even alive when the musical was written,” the Boston native said. “There’s also people who come to see the show because they’re very moved by it because it’s something they’ve lived through.”

ec17_rent_2_webCreated by Jonathan Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm the day before his legacy began previews at the New York Theater Workshop, the show is based on Puccini’s classic opera “La Bohème.” It focuses on a group of impoverished artists who struggle to survive and maintain hope and happiness in the midst of love and loss. The musical won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and four Tony Awards, including best musical. The musical touches on ideas of police brutality and sexual identity, topics LaMark noted remain relevant today. But “Rent” endures because it makes a point about how “you can say goodbye to all those things.” It focuses on the importance of love and brings up questions about what you would do if you learned you only had a year to live. “My character does not have AIDS … but (when you) have to go through the trauma of losing half of your friends in a year (to AIDS), you sort of have to set aside all of your personal issues and realize that connecting with other people is the only way you’re going to get by,” LaMark said. In Ms. LaMark’s case, other characters talk about Maureen throughout the first act, so all the information about her comes through the lens of others. They share how she cheated on her now ex-boyfriend and has since entered into a relationship with a woman “who just can’t seem to get a leash on her,” LaMark said. Then Maureen shows up and gives the audience a chance to form its own opinion. “I would say that it’s exciting because then Maureen can be very different, depending on who plays the role,” she said. “I think you’re always going to have a Maureen who’s free-spirited, and … for me I think it was about finding where is the fun and where is the joy in laughing with her and maybe at her a little bit, because she does take herself so seriously. You don’t really get to play many roles like this as a female in musical theater. This is a pretty unique opportunity.” Audiences also “really seem to have a strong reaction to” Maureen’s song “Over the Moon,” which LaMark said always flatters her because of the challenges the piece poses. She said audiences seem to like her co-star, Aaron Harrington, who plays Tom Collins and whose reprise performance of “I’ll Cover You” after a character dies leaves no dry eyes in the house. “Aaron is a gifted performer and gifted singer,” LaMark said. The musical “totally changed the landscape” when it debuted, she said, and she encourages people to come see one so outside the norm as “Rent” is. “I think there are very few opportunities where you get to see characters sing in their own musical styles,” LaMark said. “So the show is written in 1996, so it’s music of 1996, and I think regardless of even any information you have about the plot, to have the opportunity to be on the receiving end of something really visceral about that is a great experience. I think it’s why ‘Hamilton’ is such a success. … This was 1996’s ‘Hamilton.’” — caitlin heaney west

IF YOU GO What: “Rent,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania When: Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. Details: Tickets are $37 and $59, available at the box office, by calling 570-344-1111 and online at ticketmaster.com. For more information, call 570-342-7784 or 570-344-1111 or visit broadwayscranton.com.

Light Up the Night: Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces

Light Up the Night: Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces

Cultures from around the world have contributed not only to Scranton’s history but also to today’s Halloween traditions.
As the holiday nears, the sixth annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces celebrates many of those pastimes and people. On Saturday night, the Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave., alight with a towering bonfire and activities for all ages from 6 to 10 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum.
Maureen McGuigan, Lackawanna County deputy director of arts and culture, said the bonfire offers high-quality entertainment and education that honors the city’s earlier immigrants as well as its newer ones.
“Every year I love seeing how it evolves,” she said. “It just keeps getting better, and it’s really a testimony to the (organizing) committee. The public, I think, we’re getting more new people coming out. … I really like seeing the people enjoy it. As one of the organizers, that’s one of the best parts, to see the people having fun.”
This year, organizers expanded the activities into Bonfire Week, whose activities, art exhibits, food and more focus on not just fire but also cultural heritage, the harvest and industry.
Bonfire Week kicked off with the First Friday Art Walk and includes bonfire-themed specialty drinks and treats available through Saturday at city venues Adezzo, Bar Pazzo, Café Sveda, Terra Preta, the Keys Beer & Spirits, POSH at the Scranton Club, the Bog, Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, Whiskey Dick’s and Zummo’s Cafe.
Several businesses — including Duffy Accessories, Lavish Body and Home, Nibbles & Bits, Note Fragrances, On & On and the Post Home and Body — also offer seasonal deals, and some will display bonfire-inspired windows. The Radisson features a special Bonfire Week package that includes two tickets to the bonfire.
“The goal behind it is to kind of capitalize on that fun and energy (of the bonfire) and kind of spread it around downtown,” Ms. McGuigan said.
Other Bonfire Week activities include a sugar skull paint night Thursday from 6 to 9 at Adezzo, 515 Center St. On Friday, The Leonard Theater, 335 Adams Ave., hosts the Boss Lady Mixer and Costume Party, a women’s networking event, from 7 to 9 p.m., and the artists of Bogart Court will hold their grand opening Friday and Saturday.
ec13_bonfire_2_web“October’s a busy month, and maybe not everyone can get to the bonfire, but we still want the people to get into the party,” Ms. McGuigan said. “It’s the reason for adding other activities.”
Organizers always try to weave different cultures into the festivities, Ms. McGuigan added. They had not previously focused on German culture, which she said had a large presence in Scranton and especially in the neighborhood around the iron furnaces, so this year’s activities draw in some of that country’s traditions.
With Germany’s strong fairy tale background thanks to the Brothers Grimm, the group partnered with the Everhart Museum, which showcases a fairy tale-themed exhibit through Dec. 31, for a fairy tale display and activity. Fairy tales for all ages will be shared on the Firebowl Stage from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and the band Schützengiggles plays traditional brass oom-pah music on the main stage from 7:30 to 8:15. The West Scranton High School German Club, meanwhile, will conduct a lantern-making activity with children. Ms. McGuigan said it calls back to German tradition on St. Martin’s Day, the Nov. 11 commemoration in which children make lanterns and carry them in a procession to a bonfire.
Other features of the cultural tent include the Day of the Dead ofrenda, which draws on Mexican culture; a harvest display by the Greenhouse Project of Nay Aug Park; and jack-o’-lanterns, a Halloween tradition based on an Irish folk tale and custom.
In addition to the lighting of the bonfire, which takes place from about 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. and includes a short procession down the hill to the iron furnaces, the event also offers food from a few local restaurants plus traditional Mexican tamales, spiced cider, hot chocolate, beer and wine.
Artist Brian Murray of Reclamation Industrial Furnishings will present a large-scale art-installation that highlights the site’s blast furnace. Other activities include face painting and tarot card readings, and a fire hooper, a fire spinner, fire twirlers, balloon artists and stilt walkers also will entertain the crowd.
“We had one stilt walker last year, but this year we’re going to have a core of stilt walkers,” Ms. McGuigan said. “They’re going to perform in the procession and up on top (of the iron furnaces) before the fire.”
On the main stage, meanwhile, Symmetry Dance performs original choreography from 6 to 6:30 p.m., Colleen Bender and Jimmy Reynolds sing from 6:30 to 7:30, and the band Light Weight plays from 8:30 to 10.
Admission is $15 in advance online and $20 at the gate and includes $5 in “Bonfire Bucks,” which guests need to use for food, beverages and activities (more tickets will be available for purchase at booths that night). Children 12 and younger enter for free, Ms. McGuigan said, because organizers want everyone to be able to access the bonfire.
“There’s something very beautiful and primal about (the bonfire), really,” Ms. McGuigan said. “I do think there’s something for everyone. All of the activities the family can enjoy, a person in their 30s can enjoy. It’s just a fun fall night. I think people love fall naturally, and it’s nice to be outside. (There is) this big fire and a sense of community, but you’re also learning things in a fun way.”
— caitlin heaney west

If you go
What: Sixth annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces
When: Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m.
Where: Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave.
Details: Tickets are $15 in advance online and $20 at the gate and include $5 in “Bonfire Bucks.” Admission is free for children 12 and younger. Visit scrantonbonfire.com for more information.