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.
Holiday Marketplace ignites nostalgia at old Globe Store
For ScrantonMade, home is where the holiday marketplace is.
The marketplace changed venue again this year, moving from Marketplace at Steamtown to the former Globe Store on Wyoming Avenue. The event stretches across three days this year, Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Globe Store building soon will convert to Lackawanna County offices, but in the meantime, ScrantonMade’s Cristin Powers said, her group saw a chance to bring life into an old building — especially one locals associate with Christmas magic.
“We’re hoping that the nostalgia will get people out,” said Maureen McGuigan, the county’s deputy director of arts and culture, which partners with ScrantonMade on the event.
For a full throwback experience, youngsters can visit Santa Claus or walk through Make-A-Wish Wonderland, a play on Santa’s Workshop from the Globe’s heyday. Children can buy small, affordable gifts for their family and friends in a shopping area, too.
Valley View and Scranton High School choirs perform starting at 5 p.m. in a ceremony to kick off the marketplace. Organizers then flip the switch to light up the Globe Store on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
In conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk, a trolley will make multiple stops throughout downtown Scranton, including one right in front of the holiday marketplace. Carolers will roam downtown and sing holiday tunes, and guests can ride a horse and carriage around the city.
With more than 150 vendors inside the marketplace, shoppers can snag something for everyone on their list. In recent years, Scranton-centric art and gifts popped up more frequently at the marketplace, and those items will be on hand this weekend as well.
“More artists saw people come through who wanted Scranton merchandise,” Powers said.
“I think more (vendors) have jumped on board with that.”
Hungry guests can drop by Terra Preta’s pop-up restaurant for small plates and cocktails each night. Local musicians provide entertainment all three days, and a large model train and scenery display by Anthracite High-Railers Club begins in the foyer and travels through part of the marketplace.
In the four years since its inception, the marketplace cemented itself as a one-stop destination for shopping, food and holiday activities.
“(When it started), we knew it was going to be a unique event and you were going to go and experience something really special,” McGuigan said. “People are finding a real interest in Scranton and Lackawanna County again, and we wouldn’t be able to (continue this event) without that support.”
Shoppers can give back this holiday season, too, at a food and essentials drive inside the market. Scrantonmade, along with Valerie Kiser Designs and the Century Club of Scranton, will collect items for local food pantries and charity organizations. Non-perishable items like peanut butter and canned tuna or chicken will be accepted, as well as toothpaste, soap, hats, gloves and socks.
Holiday Marketplace welcomes change each year to better serve guests. Though, ScrantonMade never loses sight of why the event began.
“The goal is to support local artists, crafters and designers, and branch out to regional (ones),” Powers said. “We’re excited about it and that people want to buy local and support their community.”
— gia mazur
If you go
What: Scrantonmade Holiday Market at the Globe Store
When: Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: The former Globe Store,
123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton.
Details: The first 200 shoppers on Saturday will receive a free goodie bag. For more information, visit www.scrantonmade.com or the event’s Facebook page.
‘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.”
Created 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.
Everhart Museum’s free Community Day offers programs, relaunches gift shop
Aurore Giguet wants to change the notion that museums are stuffy.
The executive director of the Everhart Museum, its staff and volunteers welcome all to its upcoming free Community Day, set for Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., filled with presentations, workshops, a re-launch of the museum’s gift shop and more.
“People perceive museums to be static spaces,” said Giguet, who assumed her new role in July. “Having presenters, educators, people in the gift shop really brings the space alive.”
Community Day, possible through a Lackawanna County Arts Engage grant, started as a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization still participates and will have a sign-up for prospective Bigs at the event, but the day also offers interactive crafts, visual art and story workshops, a magic potion scavenger hunt and guided tours of museum exhibits for the entire community.
Artist Mark Ciocca will draw caricatures, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple’s youth theatre program will perform scenes from “Shrek the Musical Jr.,” and stylists from Alexander’s Salon & Spa will braid hair into Rapunzel-inspired designs.
Amy Everetts, Aurore Giguet, Dawn McGurl, Anthony Grigas, Michael Sorrentino, Elizabeth Davis, Stephanie Colarusso, Jen Shoener, Miranda Morgan, Zak Zavada, BethBurkhauser, JoAnna McGee, Valerie Kiser, Tiffany Rose Harris and Mary Ann Kapacs are participants of Community Day at Everhart Museum gather inside the gift shop that is in the final stages of renovation. MIchael J. Mullen / Staff Phtoographer
“It’s a day to show what the Everhart has to offer all year round, and it’s a showcase of all of the different organizations, businesses and people in the area we partner with for these programs,” said Stefanie Colarusso, director of interpretive programs. “The day is all of what makes up the Everhart coming together.”
The museum will unveil a new shopping experience for visitors, too. During the gift shop’s re-launch Saturday, guests can shop body products, accessories, home goods and more from vendors, which will change every few months.
“You can purchase items from artists who may not have storefronts, and (Community Day) is an opportunity to meet these artists,” said Amy Everetts, director of development and marketing.
Exclusive items from Valerie Kiser Designs will there, too, as well as ornaments by fine artist Jack Puhl. Puhl will sign ornaments, unveil some new designs and bring some old favorites. The ornaments then will be available in the gift shop, with all proceeds going to the museum.
“(Everhart Museum) is amazing to a child, but as you get older, you appreciate the artworks and understand a little more about culture and diversity and how art relates to your life,” Puhl said. “It’s so wonderful to me, professionally and personally, to give back to that.”
This event kicks off a year-long transformation of the museum, which also offers 200-plus educational, all-ages programs that take place regularly, Giguet said. Pending grants, the Everhart plans to add more dynamic programming, exhibits and events.
“You think because you’ve been here when you were a kid that that’s what it is, but we’ve really grown and will continue to grow,” Giguet said.
— gia mazur
If you go
What: Community Day and gift shop relaunch
When: Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Everhart Museum, 1901 Mulberry St.
Details: Admission is free, but some workshops require reservations. There will be a Fidelity Bank tote bag giveaway for the first 350 people.
For more information, visit
Blood-sucking plants and businessmen scrambling for stand-in wives don’t seem to share similarities, but this weekend local theater lovers can see both stories on college stages.
The horror comedy musical “Little Shop of Horrors” will rock the Wilkes University theater, while “Whose Wives Are They Anyway?” will leave audiences in stitches at King’s College.
When choosing the farce, “Wives” director Sheileen Godwin wanted to pick a show that wasn’t “overdone” in the region.
“I don’t remember how I stumbled upon ‘Whose Wives Are They Anyway,’ but when I read it, the pure ridiculousness of the show gave me a lot of crazy ideas I could incorporate,” she said. “As farce is extremely difficult to direct and perform, I knew it would be a challenge, and that is an absolute must for me.”
Michael Parker’s play follows the story of two vice presidents of the Ashley Maureen Cosmetics Co. on a weekend vacation to relax before their new CEO arrives. With both of their wives on a shopping spree in New York City, the duo checks into a country club. When their new boss unexpectedly shows up at the club insisting on meeting their wives, the two scramble to produce partners to introduce to the CEO.
In order to grasp the components of farce, surprise and sight gags, Godwin workshopped the cast throughout its rehearsal process.
“What many don’t understand is that farce needs to be played seriously,” she explained. “Farce needs actors who can play tragedy, but also they must have the technique, the stamina, the precision and the dexterity that farce demands. Farce is teamwork. You can’t have selfish actors pulling attention at the wrong moment. The characters must be believable.”
Meanwhile, students at Wilkes University have rehearsed the Alan Menken musical about a hapless florist who raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh. The show is based on the low-budget 1960 black comedy film of the same name, with added music in the style of early ’60s rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown. Some well-known tunes include “Skid Row (Downtown),” “Suddenly, Seymour” and “Feed Me (Git It).”
“The script is pretty clear on what the point of the play is — don’t feed the plants — which is the key,” director Teresa Fallon said. “What are the plants though? My feeling is that it is a story of what happens to good-hearted people in a cruel world.”
The cast of 16 students worked tirelessly on the family show to create a snappy and fun production anyone could enjoy. Aside from technical challenges with the plant, props and costumes, Fallon said the group had a blast working on the show.
“I have to say thank you to the cast; they have done a tremendous amount of work and done an amazing job with it,” Fallon said. “I think it’s because they’ve enjoyed it. If the people on stage are having a good time, it’s easy for the audience to enjoy it.”
And the cast of 10 over at King’s College certainly enjoyed its time with creating a perfect farce, Godwin said.
“The laughter that resonates when things go right, when things go wrong or when we don’t even know what happened,” she added. “When you have students who will run around and risk looking ridiculous and acting ridiculous without giving it a second thought, you know you have something special.”
— charlotte l. jacobson
Little Shop of Horrors
When: Nov. 11 to 20; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m.
Where: Dorothy Dickson Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students and seniors and free for Wilkes students and staff. For more information, call 570-408-4540.
Whose Wives Are They Anyway?
When: Nov. 10 to 19; Thursdays to Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Where: George P. Maffei II Theatre, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $12 for general admission, $7 for senior citizens and $5 for King’s alumni and non-King’s students. Call 570-208-5825 for more information.
Art can be more than a framed piece hanging on an office wall or a handcrafted design displayed in a home.
Art can be an immersive experience.
Organizers of the 28th annual Holiday Art Auction drew upon this philosophy to enhance the offerings available during the bidding war set for Saturday, Nov. 19, at AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.
In addition to the variety of pieces of fine art donated from members, which include sculptures, photography, woodworking, batik and watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings and prints, supporters placed service items on the auction block this year.
Among them are a year’s access and use of Moscow Clayworks’ studio, plus participation in the open studio sessions; a garden landscape tour and opportunity for sketching and photography on the picturesque property belonging to Gretchen Ludders, who also will provide the winner with gourmet picnic fare; a visit to Crystal Earth Studio hosted by Bill Tersteeg, plus discussion, demonstration and refreshments there; a series of drawing classes by Rick Huck; and a 90-minute portrait session and five prints from KAE Imagery.
“That is the most exciting part of the auction this year,” said Melissa Carestia, gallery coordinator. “Almost all are fun, group activities.”
Visitors can view the artwork up for auction during this week’s First Friday art walk from 6 to 9 p.m. at AFA, and the pieces then remain on display during regular gallery hours.
“People think of art as monetary investments, which it is, but at the same time, it’s to collect things that really make you happy,” Carestia said. “People looking to start collections, such as young couples who just purchased a home, can get well-known artists’ (works) for possibly less than it usually goes for and support a great organization at the same time. Take a look around and figure out what really speaks to you so the night of the auction you know what you need to have.”
Thirty-year-old Dunmore resident Allison LaRussa provided the featured raffle piece for the auction, an oil-on-canvas painting titled “Wild” that one of her many nature hikes inspired.
“Basically, I like creating these places that are very peaceful, places you can escape reality from,” LaRussa said. “I always am inspired by nature, and I add my own flare to it.”
AFA’s primary fundraiser for the year, the auction begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. followed by the live bidding at 7, guided by Ken Rivenburg. Proceeds benefit general operations of the gallery, including rent and utilities, as well as programming, such as the weekly life drawing classes.
“AFA is just a great place for people to support each other,” LaRussa said. “They’re always doing different events and trying to bring the community together, so I think it’s important that everyone gives back to them.”
Guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, Champagne, open bar and live music with their $25 admission, which guests can pay at the door or in advance through AFA members. Raffle tickets are three for $5.
“It’s a really fun evening. You’re able to come down to the gallery, and the live auction is very exciting,” Carestia said. “It’s usually how we are able to keep our doors open.”
If you go
What: 28th annual Holiday Art Auction
When: Saturday, Nov. 19; cocktails begin at 6 p.m. The art also is on display starting with the First Friday art walk, Friday, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.
Details: Admission to the gallery is free during First Friday and regular business days. Auction admission is $25 at the door or through AFA members. Raffle tickets are three for $5. For information and reservations, call 570-969-1040.
First Friday activities
Obscured Faces: Works by Alex Seeley with music by Aiden Jordan, ArtWorks Gallery & Studio, 503 Lackawanna Ave.
Grand opening celebration: Featuring various
artists and dancers, 8 Count Dancewear, 534 Lackawanna Ave.
Art by Sam Kuchwara: With handmade, vintage and repurposed pieces by various artists, On&On, 518 Lackawanna Ave.
Unique home decor and style accents: Works by the Bhakti Collective, NOTE Fragrances, 401 Spruce St.
Be Your Best Self jewelry and accessories: Outrageous Pop-up Shop, 349 N. Washington Ave.
Printed Matter: Works by Abraham Camayd and Cliff Prokop, Laura Craig Galleries, 307 Linden St.
A.R.T. (Active Random Thoughts): Works by Eliud Nieves, Eden — A Vegan Cafe, 344 Linden St.
Norton: Recent Works in Mixed Media and Landscape Painting: Works by Sam Kuchwara with music by DJ Honeyman Lightnin’, Terra Preta Restaurant, 222 Wyoming Ave.
2016 Globe Store ornament release: Works by Valerie Kiser, Lavish Body & Home, 600 Linden St.
Harvest Festival: Rosa’s Southern BBQ, 414 Spruce St.
Organic Abstract Symmetry: Works by Michael Lloyd with music by Fake Uncle Jack, Ale Mary’s, 126 Franklin Ave.
’90s Flashback Friday: Works by NEPA Design Collective, the Workshop, 334 Adams Ave.
Do You See What I Hear? A Visual Symphony: Works by Dominic Cioffi with music by Jimmy Carro, Bar Pazzo, 131 N. Washington Ave.
Stage Portraits: Works by Jason Riedmiller, the Bog, 341 Adams Ave.
Group show: Works by stained glass students, Tammy’s Stained Glass Treasures, 350 Adams Ave.
Young Artist Showcase: Featuring Skylar Conway, Phoebe Sebring and Carolyn Lyon, the Post Home and Body, 344 Adams Ave.
Oil paintings: Works by Cathy Bianchi Arvonio, Bella Faccias Personalized Chocolates & Gifts LLC, 516 Lackawanna Ave.
First Friday Steamtown Winter Market: Featuring various vendors and artists, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave.
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.
“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.
Life, Death and Poetry
Brian Fanelli launches “Waiting for the Dead to Speak”
Brian Fanelli has saved some of his poems just for Scranton.
The poet and city native will read selections from his new book, “Waiting for the Dead To Speak,” at a launch party Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., Scranton.
“There’s poems very specific to this area that I’m saving for this launch party, because I think that this audience will be able to relate to them. … And it’s just going to be fun,” Fanelli said. “We’re going to have a fun time and just allow people to be able to connect to the poems.”
Published by New York Quarterly Books, the book is Fanelli’s second full-length collection. It includes poems about not only Northeast Pennsylvania and his experience growing up in Scranton but also broader issues and recent events, such as economic inequality and the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri.
Fanelli described the poem that gave its name to the collection as “one of the hardest poems I’ve ever written.” It drew on the death of his father, Frank Fanelli, and “some of the anger I felt after he passed away when I was a young guy in college, trying to process that grief and also … these big questions we ask: What is my faith? What do I actually believe in?”
He began crafting the poem while at a workshop in Binghamton, New York. He doesn’t remember what the prompt was, but he knows he cranked out the poem and “that it pushed me in places that maybe I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I’m grateful I got it out of this workshop.”
“That poem I think is really one of the most confessional, exploratory poems I’ve ever written,” Fanelli said. “It was really difficult to write.”
He looks at his new book as a response to his first full-length collection, which came out in 2013.
“It’s been a span of time, but I wanted to make sure that they fit well together and I wasn’t just throwing something together to have another book out,” he said. “I think I really took my time with this.”
His first book helped Fanelli land readings in New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia and put him in touch with “the broader literary community in the tri-state area.” He’ll build on that with his new tour, which will take him back to New York and Philadelphia plus Boston, Harrisburg, Reading and Lancaster.
Poetry’s oral tradition traces back to Homer in ancient Greece, Fanelli pointed out, and he believes writers today need to share their work at readings, too.
“I love getting out there and reading in front of people,” he said. “Poems can work one way on the page, but I think they work totally different when spoken aloud.”
He looks forward to showing others “that there is a lot going on in the Scranton area and (that it has) a strong literary community. We really do have a wonderful art community.”
“It’s going to be a busy fall into the winter, but I’m so excited,” Fanelli said. “It’s really great to get out there and connect with other people and represent our area.”
Friday’s launch party also will feature drinks and food, and Fanelli will have copies of his book available for $15. People also can buy it at Library Express in the Marketplace at Steamtown and through online retailers including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Fanelli expects that people who attend his readings will learn more about his upbringing, some of his beliefs and a little bit about his past relationships. He said he wanted the launch party “to be a fun, engaging experience.”
“I just hope that they enjoy it, and … most of all I want them to realize that poetry can be fun and can be accessible,” he said.
— caitlin heaney west
IF YOU GO
What: “Waiting for the Dead To Speak” reading and launch party
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., Scranton
Alternative performance artists require unique platforms to express their messages.
Scranton Fringe Festival returns for its second year Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 2 to Oct. 2, to fulfill these needs at various venues throughout the Scranton area.
Admission to performances costs $10 each, with tickets available at venues or online at scrantonfringe.org. Festival buttons are $5 and allow for $7 admission at events.
The weekend kicks off with a free preview party on Thursday, Sept. 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. The weekend concludes Sunday, Oct. 2, at 8 p.m. with a wrap party at AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.
Festival co-founders Conor O’Brien, who acts as executive director, and Elizabeth Bohan, who serves as managing director, said about 3,000 people attended last year’s festival.
Fringe festivals date back to 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and feature diverse sets of shows, such as comedies, musicals, dance, short stories, visual exhibits and more.
O’Brien formerly participated in several fringes throughout the country as an actor and writer. He and Bohan decided Scranton should participate to bring artists and the community together.
Guests can expect to see more than 50 acts this year, ranging from improv comedy to Shakespeare interpretations and many more. The full schedule can be found on the festival’s website.
“The festival represents performers from nine different U.S. states,” O’Brien said. “We’re very proud to be hosting national friends and artists.”
He added that Scranton Fringe also features the talent of artists in the local community, and that while the directors provide the platform, it is really the artists who promote themselves and their talent.
For Cody Clark, Scranton Fringe Festival provides a valuable opportunity.
The recent University of Louisville graduate and Kentucky native is a full-time magician and autism self-advocate. Clark hopes to inspire audiences with his show “Cody Clark: A Different Way of Thinking.”
Clark enjoys the thrill of performances and likes fringe festivals in particular, because he meets all different kinds of people. He aims to influence audiences through his love of magic and by incorporating living with autism in his shows.
“I hope to share that, for me, autism is simply a different way of thinking,” Clark said. “It’s nothing for you to be scared of. Through my love of magic, I’ve learned to embrace who I am.”
Clark’s performance is slated for Saturday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center. He’ll also perform “Conductor Cody,” a children’s magic character based on railroading, earlier that afternoon at 3 p.m. at Lackawanna County Children’s Library, 520 Vine St.
Scranton Fringe offers an eclectic mix of talent and ideas that appeal to diverse patrons from all walks of life, organizers said.
“I hope that people take away the fact that Scranton is full of passionate, dedicated people who are interested in art,” Bohan said.
— emma silva
If you go
What: Scranton Fringe Festival
When: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 29 to Oct. 2; times vary
Details: Tickets for each performance cost $10 and are available at the door or online at scrantonfringe.org. Festival buttons are $5 and give wearers $7 admission to each show. For buttons, visit Fringe headquarters at 222 Wyoming Ave. For a complete schedule, visit the festival’s website.
Hoist a stein, don the lederhosen, grab the nearest wiener dog or just enjoy some beer at this year’s PA Oktoberfest, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 16 to 18. The festival has become a fixture to kick off the fall — organizers boast it’s one of the nation’s top 10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
Festival organizer Tim Holmes promises another enjoyable festival for returning visitors and seasoned veterans alike. According to Holmes, the early ticket sales indicate this year’s festival will bring sizeable crowds to Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Twp. With buy-one, get-one free tickets available at Shur Save locations, he said, fans are taking advantage of a bargain.
“Everything is coming together beautifully. Tickets are selling well at Shur Save,” Holmes said. “Once we get beyond Labor Day, people really start thinking about Oktoberfest. We have more than 70 beers, great food vendors and, of course, the award-winning Alpine Wurst and Meat House.”
Alpine is a tradition at PA Oktoberfest since the festival’s inception in 2011. The Honesdale-based sausage maker was awarded multiple medals earlier this year at the DFV-AAMP Quality Competition for Sausage and Ham, juried in part by The German Butchers’ Association. Oktoberfest visitors will have an opportunity to purchase some of Alpine’s gold-medal krainerwurst, bratwurst and Braunschweiger liverwurst as well as other traditional German dishes.
Some of PA Oktoberfest’s visitors are a different, four-legged type of wiener. Many fans return year after year to attend the wiener dog races that have brought smiles to both dachshund owners and spectators. According to Holmes, more than 200 dogs will participate in races throughout the weekend.
“There are a few who have asked to be in extra races; there are more than ever,” Holmes said. “We had a preview at PNC Field with ‘Aug-toberfest’ where 25 of the dogs came up and raced, so they got a little training in this year.”
Colorful and humorous costumes as well as on-field hijinks and mishaps punctuate the wiener dog races. Holmes said they’ve become an integral part of the weekend-long celebration of German beer, food and heritage.
For 2016, Holmes said festival organizers have other “Oktivities” planned, including the return of stein hoisting as well as new competitions from NEPA Cornhole, which hosted its inaugural cornhole tournament at PNC field earlier this summer.
“We contacted them and asked if they’d like to set up shop,” Holmes said. “We’re basically going to have mini tournaments throughout the weekend. We’re not looking for a grand champion or anything. It’s basically going to be eight teams in a mini tournament. They’ll all be playing for new PA Oktoberfest leder-steins. It’s a cool way for them to get engaged. It’s a cool new addition.”
Strong-armed visitors will also get a chance to hold a title for stein-hoisting sponsored by Sam Adams.
“Stein-hoisting competitions have been going on throughout bars and restaurants in Northeast Pennsylvania over the last couple of weeks,” Holmes said. “People are qualifying to participate in the official stein-hoisting competition at Oktoberfest all weekend.”
Sports fans won’t miss out on the big games while touring PA Oktoberfest. Last year’s sports tent is getting a sizeable update for 2016.
“The ESPN/Flying Fish sports and beer tent sits right at the 50-yard line of the wiener dog track,” Holmes said. “The cool thing with that is we introduced the ESPN tent last year with a bunch of TVs so people can watch college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday; it’s basically something people watch all weekend. We didn’t have beer last year, but we now have beer, and it’s a great addition from Flying Fish.”
While the weather forecast can sometimes put a damper on festivities, this year is shaping up for mild weather. Regardless, PA Oktoberfest’s 50,000 square feet of tent will keep guests out of the sun or rain.
Alp horns will punctuate moments throughout the festival, bringing a traditional flair to the atmosphere, and festival favorite Romy returns with traditional music and an upbeat, crowd-energizing attitude. PA Oktoberfest will mirror Munich’s own, original Oktoberfest. The Munich festival kicks off Sept. 17, and Holmes said organizers are happy to be in sync with the festival’s German cousin. Oktoberfest fans from throughout the region have begun to recognize PA Oktoberfest as a true companion to the original festival, according to Holmes.
“There’s always a lot of flurry and frenzy online as it gets closer,” Holmes said. “We’re selling more tickets in stores than we did last year, which was the first time we did buy-one, get-one. People now know that’s a value and are buying tickets out there. People are tuned into it for sure.”
Returning visitors are welcome to bring mugs and pitchers from past PA Oktoberfests — even heirlooms are welcome.
“People can walk in with steins and pitchers from previous years. They can’t bring one full of beer, that’s for sure, but they’re welcome to bring an empty one,” Holmes said. “Some folks come and bring old steins their grandparents brought over from Germany. It’s really cool.”
Other PA Oktoberfest special events include the Lederhosen 5K race Sunday, the Crystal Lederhosen homebrew competition award ceremony Saturday and entertainment throughout the weekend on the main stage.
Holmes said visitors are encouraged to plan ahead for safe rides. PA Oktoberfest has partnered with Uber to provide a first ride up to $15 free with the code PA2016.
“We’re looking forward to another great year celebrating Oktoberfest right here in Northeast PA.,” Holmes said. “Every year, we see between 20,000 and 35,000 thousand people, and we want to continue the legacy of food, beer, wiener dog races and everything folks have come to love from the festival. It’s truly a unique event for our area, and we are delighted that people have made it a tradition. We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable time.”
— tucker hottes
From left: Kimmie Leff, Mark Petrole, Alicia Nordstrom and Barbara Rogoni Walder in rehearsal for Wonder of the World.
Diva Opens Wonder of the World in Scranton
So maybe you never actually packed the suitcase or bought the tickets out of town, but you’ve surely felt the itch to run away from home and start a new life from scratch. It’s this universal thirst for a do-over that grounds the absurd humor of David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2000 play Wonder of the World. Diva Productions presents the dark comedy this weekend and next at the Olde Brick Theatre under the direction of Casey Thomas.
Disillusioned after discovering a perverse secret about her husband Kip (Mark Petrole), runaway Cass Harris (Kimmie Leff) meets suicidal alcoholic Lois on the bus to Niagara Falls and adopts her as reluctant sidekick. Played by newcomer Celine Carlier the first weekend of the run and Alicia Nordstrom the second weekend, Lois is also running away from a broken relationship, except she was the one abandoned. Her plan for revenge is to float over the famous falls in a pickle barrel.
After arriving in Niagara, Lois and Cass cross paths with a series of colorful locals, including a tour boat captain (Chris Eibach), an older couple who survive by picking up odd jobs (Barbara Rognoni Walder as Karla and Robert Balitski as Glen) and several other quirky characters all played by Meredith Miner-Reese. Not willing to let Cass go so easily, Kip shows up to complicate the hilarity.
The comedy is very deliberate, at times pandering, and often playfully silly in a way that continually surprises audience expectations. The script is crafted in a way that some of the show’s funniest lines are one word.
“It’s out there, but it’s so well-written,” Leff told electric city during a recent rehearsal.
“It’s very absurd, very cartoonish, very camp.” Walder agreed.
“It is reminiscent of a cartoon. Everything is slightly over the top,” Thomas said, “yet, the only way the audience buys the absurd storyline is if it is presented to them in a way that is safe … Essentially the show is about a repressed woman who is feeling backed into a corner and runs out on her life to go sew some (wild) oats. She’s only ever been with this one guy.”
Petrole and Leff in rehearsal.
Although she is the traditional protagonist, Cass is the character Thomas finds to be most unrealistic and annoying for the demands she places on everyone, trying to force them into an idealized version of what she thinks life should be like.
“I keep on telling Kimmie, ‘I want you to be likeable, but don’t forget you are the only person in this show who is unrealistic,’” Thomas laughed.
He envisioned Lois’s deadpan along the lines of comedian Tig Notaro’s delivery.
“I had such a strong idea of who (Lois) was because I think I wanted her to be a voice of reason,” he noted of the double-cast character.
Carlier is naturally more of the Notaro type than Nordstrom is, but the latter, Thomas said, has brought her own valuable insight to the part. As a director, he said, he sometimes struggles to compromise his initial vision with the twists actors bring to their roles.
“I just resigned myself and said (to Nordstrom), ‘stop trying to do what I’m telling you to do. Do what you do because you are wonderful.’ … I have to remember that certain things are out of my hands and I have to let them run with it.”
It was Leff who introduced Thomas to the play two years ago when he was preparing to direct Misery for Diva, which then lost the rights. He would go on to stage Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane but friends lined up to share their favorite scripts for consideration first. Leff had wanted to do the show since she saw her friend Nordstrom in Bracken Theatre Company’s production at the former Showcase Theatre in Exeter more than 10 years ago.
Leff and Nordstrom would go on to work together in History of the Devil and Private Eyes right after that, but then did nothing together, even though they maintained a close enough friendship that Nordstrom was in Leff’s wedding party a few years back. They consider this production of Wonder of the World a coming full circle of sorts, especially considering the friendship their characters Cass and Lois form.
Leff and Nordstrom in rehearsal.
Thomas never did get around to reading Wonder of the World until Diva’s Paige Balitski caught wind the show might be an option and signed Thomas up to direct in the theater’s September slot.
“Then I figured I’d better read it now, and I was thrilled because I actually enjoyed it,” Thomas laughed. “I hate directing shows that I don’t enjoy. The results are worlds apart when you don’t feel passionate about the play you’re doing, because it’s so much time and effort.
“Every person I got in the cast is the person I pictured while I was reading it, so everyone is pretty perfect for their part.”
“We’re really happy to get Casey back. He has a great eye and pays a lot of attention to detail,” Bob Balitski said on behalf of Diva.
“I feel like Casey’s TV background really comes through when he does theater,” Nordstrom said. “I worked with him on Intimate Moments in the 2015 Scranton Fringe Festival, and I’ve never had such a fast pace. ‘Cause he’s like pace pace pace pace pace, and it feels like a TV show. So I think that’s a lot of what he’s going to be doing with us in this last week is really ramping up the pace.”
“Bob said something the other night that was really profound for me,” Walder concurred. “I’ve been doing (theater) for 20 years, and I know about pacing and yet he said, ‘Pacing is not about how slow you say your line; pacing is keeping those lines coming one after the other. That is what pacing is.’”
“There’s a lot that goes on in a very small amount of time on a very small stage,” Leff said.
“It’s very much like a Saturday Night Live skit,” Miner-Reese chipped in. “There are little vignettes one right after another with no real punch line at the end, but overall when you put them all together, it works.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Wonder of the World
Where: The Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St. Scranton.
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., Sept. 9 to 18
Tickets: $10-$12, 570-209-7766.
Meredith Miner-Reese, seen here in rehearsal for Wonder of the World, plays the roles of Barbara, Pilot, three waitresses and Janie.
Rock of Ages Rolls into NEPA
You know the story: small town girl moves to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She falls in love with an aspiring rock star. You know the words. That’s half the fun of a jukebox musical like Rock of Ages.
Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre opens its 94th season on Friday, Sept. 9, with the regional premiere of the ’80s glam rock show. When “Don’t Stop Believin”’ cues the musical’s finale — and you know that’s how it will end — it is expected the audience from teen to senior will join in.
Conceived by Chris D’Arienzo and constructed around ’80s rock and glam metal songs by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benetar, Twisted Sister, Poison and others, Rock of Ages is not just for folks who grew up during the Reagan era, confirmed director Thomas Franko.
“This is not your normal night of theatre. It’s like you’re going to Montage for a rock concert,” Franko said. “We think it’s going to attract a different group of people — not only the theatre crowd and the folks that always come and see shows at all the theaters, but it is going to attract new people.”
While Rock of Ages is a theatrical show, Franko said, he likens it to getting 25 of your favorite ’80s hits for the $20 you might put in a jukebox at a local bar, plus a live stage show. Little Theatre has even applied for a liquor license to serve alcohol during the run of the show.
Set on the notorious L.A. Sunset Strip in 1987, Rock of Ages is a stylized music video world come to life and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Franko referred to a moment in which assistant club manager/narrator Lonny Barnett (Lou Lyons) jokes, “I was hired to explore deep and challenging plots and here I am narrating a show with boob jokes and Whitesnake songs.”
“It’s a very hammed up script,” Franko said. “It’s not campy like Rocky Horror. This is like, ‘How many jokes can we squeeze into this?’ There are a handful, maybe two or three of what I’ll call serious moments, and my take on it is that we want to play up those serious moments to counterbalance the humor that’s in it.”
Katie Owens and Joey James as Sherrie and Drew. Photo: Angel Berlane Mulcahy / ON MY CUE Photography
The boy/aspiring musician is Drew Boley (Joey James) who meets girl/aspiring actress Sherrie Christian (Katie Owens) promptly after she gets off the bus from Kansas, and helps her get a job where he works in The Bourbon Room. The uncertain climate breeds the expected uncertain romance between the two. Stacee Jaxx (Conway Rowe) is the established rock star who both corners out the love triangle and also falls from grace, so that Drew can rise in his place. And because every story needs conflict and a villain, there is a pair of German developers (Christian Lynch and John Beppler) trying to buy up and clean up the Sunset Strip against the will of city planner (Maureen Hozempa) who leads the protest to save sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
Make that insinuations of sex and drugs. If Franko was asked to rate the show, he’d give it a PG-13.
“Are there scenes where someone happens to get some in the men’s bathroom? Yes. There are scenes in a strip club. Obviously no one is stripping, but there are strippers,” Franko said. “Is there drug use in it? Yes. But nobody is doing heroin or cocaine. There’s a reference to one character who smokes a lot of weed, so we let him do his thing. Obviously it’s all fake.”
The rock ‘n’ roll, on the other hand, is most definitely real.
“In a lot of musical theatre productions, the band is either in a pit or they’re backstage. With this the band — Arsenal — is an actual integral component of the show and had lines. We built on the stage, a band stage that they are going to be on, so you will see two guitars, the bassist, a drummer and a keyboard player.”
While most people who buy Rock of Ages tickets are probably coming for the music, Franko said, he still worked with his cast to ensure everyone on stage — from leads to ensemble members — has a character that will develop during the course of the show.
“They all came up with their own names, their own back stories and mannerisms. We incorporated some of that into the costuming … and it helps give them stuff to do in the background instead of just being there, they can be there in their character. It’s the ’80s: they might want to be drinking a wine cooler.”
Just because the score features popular tunes doesn’t mean it’s easy to sing, especially for classically trained singers, the director assured.
“Those of us who have a very theatrical voice, a lyrical voice, probably can’t do justice to this show. In the same manner that you wouldn’t see David Lee Roth sing a Josh Groban tune, and you don’t see Josh Groban sing anything from Van Halen. It just wouldn’t happen. They are two very different types of vocals… (Rock of Ages) has to sound like a rock and roll show. It has to sound like a concert. So we can’t have those voices mixing.”
The production team searched for five weeks to cast the show, holding extra auditions to find the requisite “very, very heavy rock tenor type voices,” in particular, said Franko.
The resulting cast features some musical theatre veterans along with performers new to Little Theatre. Both Joey James, who is the show’s musical director and who plays Drew, and Conway Rowe, who plays Stacee Jaxx, are making their Little Theatre debuts. James joined Trans-Siberian Orchestra tribute band Twelve Twenty-Four shortly after graduating from West Chester. Rowe works with Act Out in Taylor and auditioned specifically for the rock star role.
“He just blew it out of the park at the audition,” Franko said. “He costumed himself. He went out and got a rhinestone belt buckle that says “Stacee” on it.”
Conway Rowe is Stacee Jaxx. Photo: Angel Berlane Mulcahy / ON MY CUE Photography
Other notable newcomers are choreographer Dan Pittman from Chambersburg, who responded to an ad placed on a state arts network/board after knowing NEPA only from his work with the Chipotle restaurant chain.
“He works a lot with kids and really wanted to work on a show he could grind his teeth on,” Franko said. “There are a lot of meaty dance numbers. Out of 25 songs, 13 or 14 are fully choreographed.” Pittman has had significant help from dance captain Janelle Nemetz and Kayt Musto, assistant dance captain.
“As a director, my first concern is that everybody is having fun and everybody is feeling that it is a positive experience in a positive environment, and you feel supported from both the institution and the crew and from each other, and I think we have that,” Franko said. “The cast is always laughing. …They’ve been hearing the punch-line jokes for two months now and they are still laughing, so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when people who haven’t seen it, see it. We’re busting our butts and we’re sweating our butts off, but we’re having fun and that’s the most important thing, and because we’re having so much fun, that’s going to spill out into the crowd.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Rock of Ages
Where: Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, 537 N. Main St.
When: Sept. 9 to 25, Fridays and Saturdays at
8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets: $20; rocknepa.com or 570-823-1875
Ensemble members, Rock of Ages. Photo: Angel Berlane Mulcahy / ON MY CUE Photography
There is only one theatre company in the world performing classical Japanese Noh plays in English, and it’s got one foot in Bloomsburg. This weekend, Theatre Nohgaku presents one performance only of Deborah Brevoort’s Blue Moon Over Memphis at NACL Theatre in Highland Lake, New York. The story follows Judy, an Elvis Presley fan, on a pilgrimage to Graceland on the anniversary of Elvis’s death. During a candlelight vigil, she is let into the meditation garden where The King is buried by a mysterious man. There in the moonlight, the ghost of Elvis appears to her.
Ghosts are common in supernatural or Mugan Noh, a 650-year-old dramatic form.
“Noh is an interesting means by which to have imaginary conversations with people from the past,” Nohgaku’s artist director Richard Emmert said in an interview at The-NOH.com. “Noh makes you think about the significance of the places we inhabit, and the fact that we occupy these places for a short time but they have been occupied by others before and will be occupied by yet others in the future.”
Emmert has taught in the musicology department at Tokyo University of the Arts since 1974 and started teaching resident foreigners with the Noh Training Project in 1991. After studying with Emmert, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble member Elizabeth Dowd helped launch a summer intensive arm of the program than ran for 20 years (1995-2015.) That’s where actor John Oglevee, who plays Elvis in Memphis, became so enamored with Noh that he moved to Japan to study even though he was starting too late to ever work as a professional.
Everything is memorized in Noh, he told electric city. There is no sheet music, no conductor, no director and no rehearsal before a production.
Noh is a chanted drama with singing kept to a limited range of tone. Verses are written in the seven/five syllable rhythm common in Japanese poetry. While copyright laws limited the musical selections available for use in Memphis, the play drew on songs by others that Elvis made famous, such as “Blue Moon,” written by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and “Unchained Melody,” written by Alex North and Hy Zaret in 1955.
Noh orchestra or hayashi always features four instruments — a flute, small and large hand drums, and stick percussion. A traditional Noh drum, Oglevee said, is heated for an hour over coals to tighten up the drumhead. Musicians specialize in one instrument they will play for their entire lives.
“Japanese musicians perform in the Noh style daily, and while they don’t understand English, they are able to understand the feeling of a piece, like jazz musicians who are really in tune with how to change certain elements and how to make the sound slicker.”
Among the aesthetic qualities of Noh is a poetic concept called yugen, which invokes an awareness of universal truth and beauty felt so deeply and profoundly it cannot be translated into words.
“Poetry comes from intention. It forms in the mind and gives way to words. Songs give music to the voice. Music compels dance from the body. All these things are derived from the heart. If we’ve done what we set out to do, it is the intention of the heart that we’ve laid bare,” Emmert shared in a post at theatrenohgaku.wordpress.com.
In addition to chanting the verse, an actor’s performance is composed of martial arts-like kata poses strung together to make a dance. The pose itself may have meaning, but emotion is communicated in the way the performer does the pose, Oglevee explained. Adjustments to the performance of a pose are made according to the teacher’s direction.
“When you get about 35 to 40 years old, your teacher stops correcting you,” he said.
In a blog post about a 2013 workshop of Blue Moon Over Memphis, Dowd, who played Judy at that time, wrote: “‘I love that it can take 30 minutes of discussion to determine a single movement in a Noh play. It reminds me that the economy of Noh is effective because gesture is so carefully and deliberately used.”
When Brevoort’s play was brought to Theatre Nohgaku’s attention in 2001, the company saw that “there was a lot of Noh in the play, but it wasn’t a Noh yet,” Oglevee said. Most Noh plays are only about nine pages long but run an hour to an hour and a half. It was clear the playwright had done her research, however, and so the company asked Brevoort if she was interested in writing a new Noh. She declined, but she was willing to work with Nohgaku to rework Memphis according to the strict specifications of the Japanese style. That process spanned from 2006 to about 2013, Oglevee said, as the company and playwright worked together to shape the piece, rework the script and compose the music. The first workshop in Bloomsburg was followed later by a residency at the Orchard Project, also in upstate New York, and finally a workshop in Tokyo. This Saturday’s performance at NACL is technically the premiere. Then players will split up before coming together again in March 2017 to tour to colleges in Indiana, New Jersey and Ohio.
The previously workshopped performance of Memphis in Japan was attended half by Elvis fans and half by Noh fans, said Oglevee. Afterward they heard: “I had no idea Noh was so expressive,” or “I had no idea Elvis was such a great Noh story.”
“There are professionals who think what we are doing is great and will say, ‘This is good Noh.’ They would love to see Noh performed more around the world. They are more than happy for us to do it,” said Oglevee. “But there are also some scholars that get bent out of shape and think it is an anathema. They have defined what Noh is, and here we are redefining it, which means their definitions are no longer valid.”
For those who would accuse them of cultural appropriation, he pointed out that for its first 200 years, opera was only performed in Italian, and when they first started doing it in German, there were riots in the streets.
“So you’ve got this 650-year-old art form, and we’re trying to do it in English. All Japanese syllables end in a vowel, and you can hold out a note for a long time and it sounds good,” Oglevee said. “When you’ve got a chorus of eight people trying to sing ‘Walk,’ it doesn’t sound as pretty in English as it does in Japanese.”
NACL Theatre presents Blue Moon Over Memphis by Theatre Nohgaku of Tokyo, Japan, and Bloomsburg on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Visit nacl.org or theatrenohgaku.org for tickets or for more information.
Enjoy the 4th annual Arts on the Square
Lackawanna County Courthouse Square will turn into a one-stop shop for arts, crafts, homemade food and much more as the fourth annual Arts on the Square festival takes over Scranton’s centerpiece.
Set for Saturday, July 30, from noon to 8 p.m., the festival will gather 133 vendors selling “something for everyone,” said Cristin Powers of ScrantonMade, which has helped organize the festival since it began in 2013. It will offer such items as jewelry, clothing, artwork, accessories, soap, dog treats, mead and wine at stands around the square. Admission is free.
“That’s more (vendors) than any other year,” Powers said. “Usually we stay around 100 (or) 110, so this year we’re really packing them in there and have added a cafe area as well as a farmers market.”
The market and cafe will set up on the lawn on North Washington Avenue. Purple Pepper Farms will sell fresh produce, and other vendors will offer such goodies as baklava, honey, canned foods, popcorn and candy.
“We want to make it a little bit different and grow a little bit more,” Powers said of the festival. “We thought one thing we were kind of lacking was food on the square, and the farmers market is (new) just because I feel that we really want to highlight some of the local farmers and makers who are making food-related items.”
The cafe will feature food from Harvest Catering & Events, Terra Preta, The Soupchic and Electric City Roasting Co. Manning Farm Dairy’s ice cream truck also will set up on the square.
Many vendors from previous years will return, but the festival also will feature some new sellers. Powers attributed part of the festival’s growth to December’s related and successful Holiday Market, which last year moved from the square to the Marketplace at Steamtown. She said people who might not necessarily come to events downtown felt comfortable checking out the art festival in the mall.
“I think more vendors are finding out about Arts on the Square as well as the public,” Powers said. “We had to turn down a lot of people just because of the limited amount of space.”
One new addition to this year’s vendors is Whimsy and the Welder, the husband-and-wife duo of Bill Zack and Maria Livrone, who also run Art on Main in Pittston. Livrone said some of the artists featured in that gallery have participated in Arts on the Square before, but the festival always conflicted with other shows she and her husband participated in. They cut back on shows this year, which actually then gave them a chance to join the Scranton event for the first time.
“I really am looking forward to showing our work to a whole (new) group,” Livrone said.
Livrone has made glasswork for many years and encouraged her husband to learn how to weld after she could not find a specific type of base for her larger pieces. He quit his 9-to-5 job and picked up the craft.
“It kind of snowballed, and then he started loving it, and now we not only do glass and metal together, but he also does metal sculptures on his own,” Livrone said. “We’re not young people, and now he says, ‘I should have done that years ago.’”
The couple will sell their fused glass and metal pieces, including glass flowers, one of their biggest sellers. They also often work with recycled objects, Livrone said, adding that “we’re always trying to repurpose things.” In one such case, she took an old wheelchair rim and inserted stained glass pieces into the spokes, and her husband then made a stand on which to display it.
The festival also “helps everyone of all ages experience art” by offering a lot to do besides shopping, Powers said. Since it coincides with National Dance Day, the event will include a flash mob at 1 p.m. The public can participate and learn the National Dance Day routine in advance through the demonstration video on YouTube.
Live music will run throughout the day on stages on Linden and Spruce streets. The Dishonest Fiddlers,The Bog Swing Group, Grupo Zona, Hickory Project, Jung Bergo, Nasstronaut, Das Black Milk, Science Queen, Spur, Pity Party and Esta Coda all are set to perform. Laugh Out Lepkas Comedy will perform between the bands on the Spruce Street stage.
Other interactive activities include a large mandala creation led by Ariell Stewart of Mandalas by Ariell. The public can help paint one of the 20 pieces of canvas that will help make up the 4-foot-by-5-foot mandala.
The public also can help with several murals. Artworks Studio and Gallery’s interactive mural will incorporate Scranton landmarks and buildings to celebrate the city’s art and architecture. The gallery will display the completed mural during August’s First Friday Art Walk and then donate it to a to-be-determined Scranton organization. And the Workshop, 334 Adams Ave., will create a dinosaur-themed vinyl community mural on which the public can stamp, print and paint. The Workshop will then turn it into tote bags it will have available during First Friday.
DxDempsey Architecture will host an art installation involving balloons and paint, Powers said, and a “message on that wall will be revealed at the end of the day.”
Other organizations that will have a presence on the square include Scranton Girls Who Code — a computing group that pushes for technology education, mentorships and networking opportunities for girls in the community — and the Bhakti Collective, which will create a fiber art bohemian photo backdrop. Scranton’s Artists for Art, meanwhile, will have an outdoor gallery featuring local artists such as Marissa Gable, Becca Jett, Earl Lehman, Shane McGeehan, Jess Meoni, Tom Noone, Travis Prince and Alex Seeley.
Powers said this year she is “just excited to see the energy grow” with this festival.
“(Arts on the Square) just organically has grown, which I think has been the best part of it,” she said. “It’s never been forced.”
Round 2 Studio
Jill Juka, Design Team
Earth and Wears
Always Give A Scrap
Victory Garden Gnomes
Hello Cloud by Aline
Whimsy and the Welder
J Crane Jewelry
Matteo Scammell and Lee Minora as Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare’s comedy continues with one final performance on Sunday, July 24 at 6 p.m.
Scranton Shakespeare Closes Season with Four-Play Finale
“What we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours.”
Friar Francis advises us to better appreciate what we have in Much Ado About Nothing. Taking the hint, there’s no reason to wait and tempt fate before you affirm your love for the Scranton Shakespeare Festival. The only thing more remarkable than the company’s production of four solid shows in one month is that all four will run this weekend as its fifth season comes to a close.Each is offered free of charge with donations strongly encouraged.
A Tale for Winter
Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is known best, not for any particular characters or lines of dialogue, but rather for a stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”
Written and directed by University of Scranton alum Anthony Mercado (‘09), A Tale for Winter names that bear Mischa and gives him sidekick duty to the clownish Otto. The team, played by Colin Holmes and Joe McGurl, respectively, is discovered singing and dancing (“I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”) by rebellious Polish coal miner Anton (Matteo Scammell), who washes up on the Isle of Chechen/Bohemia after causing a dramatic flood.
The majority of A Tale for Winter is set in Russia circa 1922, and the play not subtly condemns totalitarianism. Anton axes through to the river after dining unsatisfactorily on wallpaper paste soup. The soldiers took “everything, even the cabbage,” his wife Polina (Jill Guerts) explains. She cares more about books than food, but Anton forbids her to read. “Books make ideas, which make arguments, which make war,” he concludes. But once he husband disappears, she charms her way into a position as scribe for the Russian commander.
Leon (Conor McGuigan) tries to lead a “war for normalcy,” the main strategy of which is the destruction of subversive materials, but he is distracted by a crippling hand cramp as well as romantic notions and leaves the logistics to the Ninotchka-like Raisa (Sam Morales). Raisa is the brain; Leon is the heart. “Love, not war, not money, no, love, is man’s greatest burden,” he pronounces.
Also extracted from The Winter’s Tale are a 16-year time gap, narrated here by a cloaked Colin Holmes as “Time,” and a mysterious statue. Powdered in chalky silence, Jessica McDonough appears as a street character whom Leon calls Princess Sophie, as he tells a meandering tale about the preservation of beauty before his orders escalate to more brutal ends (not unlike Macbeth). Runs approximately one hour.
Scranton native Maura Malloy directs a darkly sensual and aggressively dramatic production of “The Scottish Play.” She’s also responsible for the tragedy’s hair-raising sound design, which is notable along with all of the show’s design elements (set and lights by Richard Larsen, costumes by Je Tellier). There’s post-apocalyptic feel to this Macbeth built on broken sections of scaffolding. It’s as if the costumes were stitched together out of an abandoned costume shop by Tank Girl or Mad Max. There’s a moment as King Duncan (WVIA’s Chis Norton) is surrounded by buff young servants that we could be backstage at a fashion show or watching one of the better episodes of Charmed. The “weird sisters” (Katarina Lugo, Tamara Sevunts, Sarah Keyes) seizure like mediums into synchronized soothsaying over an open-spoked cauldron that gushes with supernatural smoke. They linger in the shadows as if they have possessed Macbeth (Conor McGuigan) and his manipulative wife (Sam Morales), who taunts him into action by questioning his manhood.
The ambitious couple dominates the stage but the play’s supporting characters are far from subordinate. British actors Yaw Asante and Matthew Barter are worthy threats as Banquo and Macduff, respectively. Logan Sutton turns the often-forgotten character Ross into an intriguing, instigating figure. Norton doubles as a drunken porter in the one comic scene Shakespeare wrote before the time-obsessed tragedy spirals rapidly off into bloody madness. We’re only halfway through Act 2 when Macbeth realizes: “Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessèd time, for from this instant There’s nothing serious in mortality.”
Runs approximately two hours and 30 minutes.
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
SSF artistic director Michael Bradshaw Flynn stages Shakespeare’s dual-couple comedy on the under-construction McDade Center lawn. The Hamptons 1959 setting raises questions best left unasked (e.g. why would a wealthy mid-century man be so eager to give his daughter and fortune over to a sailor?), but invites a hip soundtrack of early rock ‘n’ roll and preppy costumes. Flynn keeps the action moving so audiences used to camera cutting are less likely to drift and miss some of the Bard’s best lines — “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy if I could say how much,” Claudio (Logan Sutton) stammers when ingenue Hero (Billie Aken-Tyers) accepts his proposal.
It’s obvious sworn bachelor Benedick (Matteo Scammell) and the cynical Beatrice (Lee Minora) are fated for each other, but that doesn’t take the fun out of watching their friends and family push the two independent stars into each others’ orbit. Witty lines are peppered first with physical comedy and, later, shocking emotion as innocent Hero is shamed and cursed to death by her own father (Jonathan Strayer) due to misunderstanding plotted by the diabolical Don John (Joe McGurl). Providing comedic “tent poles” are Colin Holmes as self-important constable Dogberry (predecessor of Ralph Kramden) and Matthew Barter as drunk Borachio, who gets sucked into the deception over his head. Runs approximately two hours and 30 minutes.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Based on the ancient Roman plays of Platus, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is built around a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart (M.A.S.H., Tootsie) with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The vaudevillian farce follows clever slave Pseudolus (Connor McAndrews) as he works to win his freedom by helping his master find love. Director Brenna Geffers is based in Philadelphia, where she earned her MFA in directing from Temple in 2009, and has stayed on to work with Theatre Exile, EgoPo Classic Theater and the Rebel Theater ensemble, among others. Scranton’s Stephen Murphy is music director. We asked Geffers a few questions about her experience.
Why did directing Forum appeal to you?
I rarely get the chance to do big, gloriously fun musicals, so I had to jump at the chance to get to spend time in this zany, wonderful world.
How did you come to work with the SSF?
I live and work primarily in Philadelphia where I often work with one of my favorite collaborators, Lee Minora, who is originally from Scranton. She also was working with Michael (Flynn) here at the festival. So Micheal become familiar with my work when attending shows that Lee was in. When he was looking for a director who might bring a unique take to Forum, Lee connected us. And I am glad she did.
What’s notable (unusual or outstanding) about this particular production?
We have a much smaller ensemble than your standard Forum with a lot of actors playing double roles. The power of the ensemble is important element to all of my work as I feel that the more connected and possessive of the story the actors feel, the more potent the piece for an audience. Using a smaller ensemble allows the individual actors to have a deeper investment in the show at large. It gives the audience a chance to connect with faces they see over and over again.
Because of the double casting— we also have women in roles they traditionally do not play and men in roles they traditionally do not play. I don’t have a lot of space in my world for “traditional” gender roles and male-centric sexuality.
What is it like to work on a show like this as part of a one-month summer repertory season?
It has been fantastic to work here; the actors are passionate, talented, focused and wild. It has been a pleasure to watch them in other roles through out the festival— playing tragedy one night then comedy with me. I feel part of a larger whole as opposed to just my single show. Some of my cast are performers I already know and deeply admire, so it is great to travel with some of my favorite Philly performers. And many of the cast is new to me, so it has been fantastic to meet new performers.
And to work in Scranton?
I love it here. Eden is amazing and walking around the square at dusk is wonderful. The Radisson lobby and Trax Station bar took me by surprise. I love the Electric City sign and really wish I could have a pillow from Lavish to take home to remember it by. Hopefully I will come back again next year.
All plays are presented inside the Royal Theatre at the McDade Center for the Literary and Performing Arts at The University of Scranton except Much Ado About Nothing, which is staged on the lawn outside the building. Tickets are free but can be reserved in advance. Visit scrantonshakes.com for details.
Friday, July 22
8 p.m. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Saturday, July 23
Noon: A Tale for Winter
3 p.m.: Macbeth
8 p.m. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Sunday, July 24
3 p.m. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
6 p.m. Much Ado About Nothing