Posts Tagged ‘Performing Arts’

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lake George Theater Lab’s 7th Season

The Lake George Theater Lab has announced its 2011 season, “A love letter to the Adirondacks”, including their annual free outdoor Shakes on the Lake “Twelfth Night, or What You Will” (the very first Shakespeare play they performed in Rogers Memorial Park); Tales for Tots Players (a children’s show); “The Cottage”(an eerie and mysterious new play representing the New Play Laboratory); an evening of original Ghost Stories; and “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney, starring Lake George Theater Lab Artistic Director Lindsey Gates and Adirondack Theater Festival Artistic Director Mark Fleischer.

The season opens with the annual free outdoor production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, or, What You Will”, Shakespeare’s comedy about love, mistaken identity and the power of will. The Theater Lab has again teamed up with the Classical Acting Studio at New York University’s Associate Director Daniel Spector, who cuts all of Shakespeare’s scripts to 90 minutes, casts the play with graduates of the Classical Studio, rehearses at a breakneck pace and brings a naturalistic Shakespeare to Rogers Memorial Park. Through a grant from New York’s Roundtable Ensemble the production will be performing in New York City’s Riverside Park June 24th and 25th before travelling upstate. July 14th, 15th and 16th, Rogers Memorial Park, Route 9A; 7:30 PM. Rain location is at Bolton Rec Center. Free and outdoors.

Next up is Daisy Foote’s “The Cottage”, an eerie mystery set on an unnamed body of water in upstate New York. Every summer Lake George Theater Lab selects artists to come upstate for a week on the lake and lab a brand new play. The playwright, director and actors all live in one house and workshop the play’s structure, theme, dialogue, etc., and then present a reading to the public with a guided talk-back afterward for the playwright to gather as much feedback as possible. Daisy Foote and the director Evan Yionoulis are frequent collaborators, including Ms. Foote’s play “Bhutan” off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater and Daisy’s upcoming play “Him” this Fall at Primary Stages in New York City. Ms. Foote is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Horton Foote. July 30; The Sagamore Hotel, 110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing; 8:00 PM; $15. Reservations: (518)203-2600.

The full Lake George Theater Lab 2011 season includes:

“Twelfth Night, or, What You Will”

Shakes on the Lake
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Daniel Spector
July 14-16, 7:30 PM
Rogers Memorial Park
Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing
Rain location- Bolton Rec Center
Free. Outdoors.

Tales for Tots

Children’s Fairytale performance
July 20, Free
Bolton Free Library
(518)644-2233

“The Cottage”

New Play Lab
By Daisy Foote
Directed by Evan Yionoulis
July 30th, 8 PM
Sagamore Hotel
110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing
$15, (518)203-2600

Original Ghost Stories

August 6, 8 PM
Sembrich Opera Museum
Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing
$12, (518)203-2600

“Love Letters”

By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Michael Barakiva
Starring Lindsey Gates and Mark Fleischer
August 12-14, 8 PM/2PM
Sagamore Hotel
110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing
$25, (518)203-2600


Friday, June 10, 2011

Shakespeare Co Launches Preservation Effort

Adirondack Shakespeare Company (ADK Shakes) is returning to the Adirondack region for its second full Summer Festival Season. The company plans to follow last summer’s presentations of As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth with an all-new expanded season featuring ADK Shakes’ daring and adrenaline-fueled RAW performance style which strips the Bard down to the bare bones.

This year, the company will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice, along with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield and Theseus and the Minotaur, an original children’s production by Sean Adams.

In addition to their full season, ADK Shakes has taken on a new challenge. The company is determined to revitalize the outdoor amphitheater at Scaroon Manor Day-Use Facility (formerly Taylor’s Point). This historic landmark was once a vibrant destination for locals as well as tourists looking to take in professional theatre amidst the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains. ADK Shakes’ Artistic Board has made it their mission to get the outdoor amphitheater on New York’s list of historic sites.

“One of the reasons we are looking to establish a Shakespeare company in the Adirondacks is to save this amazing outdoor amphitheater,” says Artistic Director Tara Bradway. The company’s plans to raise awareness during the course of the season include public presentations and petitions in the Adirondack region.

The Adirondack region tour of The Complete Works will begin July 4th, while the Mainstage Season opens July 21st and will run through August 7th. Performances of the children’s show Theseus and the Minotaur are set to run from July 27th through August 6th. Performances will take place primarily at the Boathouse Theater in Schroon Lake Village, as well as the Little Theater on the Farm in Fort Edward and LARAC Gallery in Glen Falls. Weather permitting, the final weekend of performances will be held at the outdoor amphitheater at Scaroon Manor.

This event is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, administered locally by the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council. For more information, a full performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit www.adkshakes.org. Email inquiries may be sent to info@adkshakes.org.

Illustration: Postcard of the historic Sacroon Manor outdoor amphitheater, Schroon Lake, NY.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: North Creek Reader’s Theatre

The Our Town Theatre Group (OTTG) in North Creek has started a new outreach program to continue their focus to provide live performance to people around the Adirondack Park and beyond. Known as The Penny Readers, the group has chosen classic short stories for its upcoming staged reading June 11, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Chestertown Town Hall. With the exception of a chapter from the Roald Dahl children story, “The BFG,” all stories will be read in full. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: Elvis is in Lake George

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

With an opportunity to bypass a trip to Vegas and be married by the King of Rock n’ Roll at the Lake George.com Elvis Festival, I feel it may be time to renew our wedding vows. My husband hates the idea but only slightly less than my Halloween wedding plan of dressing up as the bride and groom and being married by Beetlejuice.

In Lake George this weekend the Elvis Festival opens this Thursday, June 2 with a free tribute concert at Shepard’s Park starting at 7:30 p.m. According to Festival Director Jason Sherry the concert is family-friendly and gives a sampling of what the weekend festivities hold.

“Not only will people be able to see tributes to Elvis, James Brown, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson but also Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. The musicians are all tributes,” says Sherry. “Friday night is about Rock and Roll History, which is where all the other tribute artists come in. Saturday is Elvis all day long. Elvis will be on a boat, playing in restaurants and seen all around Lake George.”

Another activity families can look forward to is the Elvis Classic Car Parade. The parade starts at 9:00 a.m. on June 4th. The parade route starts at the high school and continues to the Lake George Forum. All the performers will be showing their stuff.

“We have set up the Forum to seat 2,100 people for our event,” says Sherry. “Some of the events are only $15 so there is a lot of variety for families. We also hold the Elvis Gospel Music Contest on June 5th. The event is free but we are asking for donations for United Way. We have always held one event for charity in the eight years that we have held this event. The past four years we have raised funds for the United Way.”

Sherry recommends people to stop by the Lake George Forum and pick up the $3.00 program which includes a complete schedule and all the free events.

With the hum of gospel music in the background you can set your own stage to be married by Elvis. Perhaps you can have your own themed wedding but I will only be able to watch from the stage as Pricilla Presley beehive hairdos fill the Lake George Forum.

Call 518-681-7452 for Elvis Festival tickets and more information.

Photo: An Elvis tribute performer courtesy LakeGeorge.com Elvis Festival.


content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Adirondack Arts in the Park Summer Event Calendar

The Adirondack Arts community has announced its 2011 summer season highlights, featuring Shakespeare in the Park, Saranac Lake Village Art Walks, free concert series and a new Adirondack art festival that celebrates the artistic history and community of the Adirondacks.

Arts in the Park – Summer 2011 highlights will include the inaugural Adirondack Arts Heritage Festival in Saranac Lake on June 26- July 4. For nine days, 35 uniquely Adirondack activities span a range of art forms, from fly fishing to historic Saranac Lake walks, to Cure Cottage lore. Join the Adirondack arts community in Saranac Lake for the first heritage celebration of the arts, culminating with a July 4th Parade of Boats on Lake Flower, concert and fireworks.

Free summer concert series kick off every summer in communities throughout the Adirondack Park. In June, Songs at Mirror Lake Music Series kicks off a summer of free musical performances in Mid’s Park on Main Street, Lake Placid. This free concert series runs every Tuesday through August. The Lake Placid Sinfonietta will also perform six free Wednesday night concerts in Mid’s Park July through August. Offering classical music fare, the Sinfonietta is the Orchestra of the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Lakes Summer Theatre Festival features 42 performances of six productions in 18 Adirondack towns. Based in Blue Mountain Lake, the theater troupe’s festival line-up includes: Romeo & Juliet, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Violet, The Conference of Birds, Movie Madness Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Live in Concert. For performance dates and locations, log onto AdirondackExperience.com for more information. At the Charles R. Wood Theater near Lake George, the Adirondack Theatre Festival will present The K of D, a ghost story and one-woman play, June 29-July 2.

A 4-year tradition will take place during the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council’s Annual Arts Festival June 11-12 in Glens Falls. This two-day festival features juried arts and craft shows, family activities, food and entertainment. For a complete list of summer concert series, arts festivals, workshops and museum exhibits.

You can search events, attractions and Adirondack vacation packages online.

Photo: Tara Bradway as Helena, Collin Ware as Demetrius in a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Hungry Will’s Variety Hour produced by The Adirondack Shakespeare Company in 2010.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Random Acts of Shakespeare

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities
Random Acts of Shakespeare is a newly formed theatre group with the hope of making Shakespeare accessible through the popular form of “flash mobs.”

Founder and Director April Iovino wants to draw attention to the fact that Shakespeare is not stuffy or boring, that the plays of Shakespeare are as relevant today as they were 400 years ago.

Iovino and the fledging group of 12 or so actors thought that one way to appeal to people would be to perform “flash mob” Shakespeare in various places. Armed with the more mainstream quotes, passages and soliloquies, Random Acts of Shakespeare made its debut during the Lake George Winter Carnival.

Iovino says, “ We decided to start performing scenes and monologues from the passages of Shakespeare that people would recognize. We wanted to demonstrate how popular Shakepeare still is, how Shakespearean plays have gotten into our popular culture without people even knowing it.”

She begins to rattle off well-known pieces in general pop culture, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”, from the play Julius Caesar or Hamlet’s, “To be our not to be: that is the question.” The list goes on.

“Romeo and Juliet is once again being remade and currently in the theatres as a cartoon,” reminds Iovino. “ This was an experiment to see if people were interested. We want to entertain the general public in an unconventional way.

“We are all involved in theatre in some capacity,” Iovino speaks about the other troupe members. “I have a Bachelor’s in Theatre from SUNY Plattsburgh and have worked with Schuylerville Community Theatre and the Hudson River Shakespeare Company. I then asked my theatre friends if they were interested in performing.”

“The idea to start at the Lake George Winter Carnival came quickly and everything fell into place,” says Iovino. “We needed to get dates and times. We needed to get the piece to memorize. We then went to Shepard’s Park by the beach and just started spewing out Shakespeare. I hope it is something we can do in other areas. We hope that other venues will open up to us. We hope to get the information out there, outside of a traditional theatre setting.”

The whole purpose of performing in a “flash mob” format was to expose Shakespeare’s works to the general public in a similar vein as a street performer or performance artist and, judging from the feedback they’ve received, it worked.

To date, Random Acts of Shakespeare’ troupe consists of April Iovio, SaraBeth Oddy, Molly Oddy, Jenelle Hammond, Jeremy Hammond, David Lundgren, Sereh Lundgren, Lisa Grabbe, Jeremy Grebbe, Andy Haag, Nik Korobovsky, Kate LeBoeuf and Sara Lestage

Iovino and the rest of Random Acts of Shakespeare are looking to broaden their scope to include school groups and other venues. Anyone can email or find them on Facebook to set up performances. As Iovino and Shakespeare remind us, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” As You Like It.

Photo used with permission of Random Acts of Shakespeare


content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wife of Abolitionist John Brown Subject of Performance

Author-historian Sandra Weber and musician David Hodges will present a dramatic performance of the life of Mary Day Brown, wife of radical abolitionist John Brown.

The Adirondack Museum‘s Cabin Fever Sunday series will return to Saranac Lake, New York on February 27, 2011. “Times of Trouble” with Weber and Hodges will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers. The time will be 2:00 p.m. The presentation will offered at no charge to museum members, residents of Saranac Village, and children of elementary school age or younger. The fee for non-members is $5.00.

Dressed in period costume, Weber and Hodges will weave narrative and song to share the little known life of Mary Brown. The poignant piece illustrates the significant role this plain woman played as wife of the radical abolitionist John Brown.

The program will present Mary’s early life and marriage as well as later tragedies involving bankruptcy, accidents, and death. The presentation closes with Mrs. Brown’s most difficult “times of trouble” in the aftermath of the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Sandra Weber has spent ten years researching the life of Mary Day Brown.

Weber is an author, storyteller, and independent scholar with special interest in the Adirondacks, Mary and John Brown, as well as women’s history. Her publishing credits include eight books and numerous articles in periodicals such as Civil War Times, Adirondack Life, Pennsylvania Magazine, and Highlights for Children.

In 2004 and 2005, Sandra Weber toured with folksinger Peggy Lynn performing stories from their book, Breaking Trail: Remarkable Women of the Adirondacks.

David Hodges has played guitar and bass for more than twenty years. He has performed with bands throughout New York, Texas and Pennsylvania and recorded CDs with “Mad Factory” and “Evil Twin.” Hodges currently plays with “Mr. Freeze,” a blues-rock band, and accompanies Sandra Weber in folk music performances.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Lafayette Spaulding:
Old Time North Country Music on Broadway

Ol’ time, foot-stompin’ fiddle music is a North Country staple, rooted in times past when people made their own fun. Its heyday was principally from the mid-1800s to the 1940s, finally giving way in the post-war years to the automobile and widespread availability of electricity. Sources of entertainment changed, but before that, the tradition of barn dances and the like was strong across the Adirondacks.

For the past seventy years or so, that tradition has been preserved by a number of outstanding musicians. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when some of the old tunes were rolled out, it brought back memories of Crown Point’s Lafayette Spaulding. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Whitehall Movie: The Girl on the Barge

As a follow-up to last week’s piece on the late Mary Barber (Aunt Mary), below is the story of the movie that was filmed long ago on the barge canal in Whitehall. It was researched and written by my partner, Jill McKee, and is now part of an exhibit in Whitehall’s Skenesborough Museum.

In 1929, Universal Pictures released a film called The Girl on the Barge. The movie was about Erie McCadden, the illiterate daughter of a crusty, alcoholic barge captain. Erie falls in love with Fogarty, the pilot of the tugboat that is towing her father’s barge from New York to Buffalo on the Erie Canal. Captain McCadden is not at all pleased when he discovers the romance, and his anger is escalated further by the fact that Fogarty is teaching Erie to read.

Happily, in the end the captain comes to his senses, likely due in no small part to Fogarty’s rescuing of McCadden’s barge when it is accidently set adrift. Erie marries her love and the two present McCadden with a grandson.

The Erie Canal proved too difficult a setting for the Universal production department to create on or near the studio’s lot. However, the Erie Canal itself was not deemed suitable either. At least that was the opinion of the movie’s director, Edward Sloman, who came to New York State with two veteran cameramen, Jack Voshell and Jackson Rose, to find the right filming location.

Such location trips were rare at that time in the movie industry, but Universal was willing to invest the added time and money necessary to film the movie in the correct setting. After scouting the entire modern, commercialized Erie Barge Canal from Albany to Buffalo, Sloman felt it would not be believable to audiences. “They would swear we faked it in California,” he said.

Enter a contractor from Waterford, NY, named John E. Matton. He believed the Champlain Canal was just what Universal was looking for. After seeing it, Sloman agreed and chose Whitehall as the filming location.

In May, 1928, Sloman and rest of the film’s cast and crew set up their headquarters at Glens Falls and took up temporary residence at the Queensbury Hotel in order to begin making the movie. The silent era was giving way to “talkies,” and The Girl on the Barge was a hybrid between the two—a silent film with talking sequences.

The film’s cast was made up of some notable stars. The title role of Erie was played by Sally O’Neil, who had found stardom in 1925 when she appeared along with Constance Bennett and Joan Crawford in Sally, Irene, and Mary. Erie’s father, the barge captain, was played by Jean Hersholt, who appeared in 140 films from 1906–1955, and served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1945–1949.

Malcolm MacGregor (or McGregor), who appeared in over 50 films during his career, played Erie’s love interest, Fogarty. Erie’s sister, Superior McCadden, was played by Nancy Kelly, whose career spanned from the 1920s to the 1970s, during which time she received nominations for an Emmy and an Oscar, and also won a Tony Award. Both Ms. Kelly and Mr. Hersholt have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The movie’s director, Edward Sloman, was no slouch either. He directed nearly 100 films and acted in over 30, with some producing and writing thrown in for good measure. The story on which the movie was based was originally written by Rupert Hughes for Cosmopolitan magazine. Mr. Hughes was a prolific writer who saw more than 50 of his stories and plays made into movies.

The entire episode apparently caused quite a stir in the Whitehall/Glens Falls area. Several Whitehall residents took part in various scenes in the movie, and a humorous incident at the Queensbury Hotel was reported in the Syracuse Herald on June 11, 1928.

It seems that Mr. Hersholt arrived at the hotel after a day of filming. He was still dressed as his drunken barge captain character and asked for his room number without giving his name. The desk clerk not so politely informed Mr. Hersholt that the hotel was filled with “those motion picture people,” and there were no rooms available. In order to gain access to his room, Mr. Hersholt had to call upon director Edward Sloman to vouch for him.

Universal had a three-tiered rating system for its motion picture productions at the time Girl on the Barge was filmed. Low-budget flicks were dubbed Red Feather, and mainstream productions were labeled as Bluebird. Girl on the Barge was categorized as one of Universal’s most prestigious films, called Jewel. Jewel productions were expected to draw the highest ticket sales.

The movie was released on February 3, 1929. Various newspaper ads and articles have been found showing the movie still playing in theatres around the country into the following fall. The movie also received many favorable reviews. The Chronicle Telegram of Elyria, Ohio, complimented the “realistic and picturesque scenes” of “the barge canals of Upper New York State” (May 20, 1929).

The New York Times reviewer, Mordaunt Hall, raved about Mr. Hersholt’s make-up and costume, and stated, “The scenes are admirably pictured.” The Sheboygan Press of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, called the film “an exceptional picture,” and went on to report, “The picture actually was photographed along the picturesque Champlain Ship Canal in Upper New York State.”

Photo Top: Movie Poster now on exhibit in the Whitehall Museum.

Photo Middle: Sally O’Neil and Malcolm MacGregor in a scene near the canal.

Photo Bottom: Movie advertisement in the Ticonderoga Sentinel, 1929.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Woodstock of the North: The 1970 Churubusco Live-In

1970 Churubusco Live-In posterWe’ve all heard of Woodstock at one time or another—that famous (or infamous) concert held in August 1969. It was scheduled at different venues, but the final location was actually in Bethel, New York, about 60 miles from Woodstock. For many who lived through three major homeland assassinations, the Vietnam War, and the racial riots of the turbulent 1960s, Woodstock was an event representing peace, love, and freedom. It’s considered a defining moment of that generation, and a great memory for those who attended (estimated at 400,000). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You might be an Adirondacker if . . .

Jeff Foxworthy has made millions making fun of rednecks. He’s famous for one-liners that start off, “You might be a redneck if …”

Example: “You might be a redneck if you ever lost a tooth opening a beer bottle.”

The other day my son and I were wondering if we could come up with similar one-liners for Adirondackers. So I made a list of ten below.

I’m no Jeff Foxworthy, but you might be. I’m hoping my ten will inspire you to come up with your own one-liners. Please add them in the comments section.

You might be an Adirondacker if …

1. Your all-season tires are snow tires.

2. When your marriage goes bad, you blame the APA.

3. You think Glens Falls is downstate.

4. Your snowmobile cost more than your truck.

5. You’ve seen a mountain lion.

6. The family car has a plow.

7. Your kid has a firewood stand.

8. You’ve tasted bear.

9. You create art with a chainsaw.

10. Your ice shanty is better furnished than your living room.

Photo of Jeff Foxworthy from Wikipedia.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Bryan O’Byrne: Plattsburgh Character Actor

In late July, 1941, a young Plattsburgh boy received permission from his parents to visit the movie house just a few blocks away. Hours later, he had not returned home, and Mom and Dad hit the streets in search of their missing son. Soon they were at the Plattsburgh Police Station, anxiously seeking help. Two patrolmen were immediately put on the case, which, unlike so many stories today, had a happy ending.

The two policemen obtained keys to the theater building and began searching the interior. There, curled up in his seat near the front row, little Bryan Jay O’Byrne was fast asleep. He later explained that he enjoyed the movie so much, he decided to stay for the second showing, and must have drifted off into dreamland. When the theater closed for the night, no one had seen the young boy lying low in his seat.

Perhaps no one knew it then, but that amusing incident was a harbinger of things to come. Bryan O’Byrne was born to Elmer and Bessie (Ducatte) O’Byrne of Plattsburgh on February 6, 1931. Life in the O’Byrne home may have been difficult at times. Six years earlier, Bryan’s older sister was born at the very moment Elmer was being arraigned in Plattsburgh City Court on burglary and larceny charges.

Still, the family managed to stay together, and after attending St. Peter’s Elementary and Plattsburgh High, Bryan went on to graduate from the State University Teacher’s College at Plattsburgh. After stints in the army and as an elementary school teacher, he pursued acting, studying at the Stella Adler Studio.

He appeared on Broadway with Vivian Leigh in “Duel of Angels” (the run was cut short after five weeks due to the first actors’ strike in forty years). Other jobs followed, but he soon surfaced in a new, increasingly popular medium: television.

In the early 1960s, Bryan began appearing in television series, becoming one of the best-known character actors in show business. Most people recognized his face from numerous bit parts he played in television and in movies, but few knew his name. That is true of many character actors, but ironically, in O’Byrne’s case, it was that very anonymity which brought him fame.

It all took place in the 1966-67 television season with the launch of a show called Occasional Wife. The plot line followed the story of an unmarried junior executive employed by a baby food company. The junior executive’s boss felt that, since they were selling baby food, it would be wise to favor married men for promotions within the company.

So, the junior executive concocted a plan with a female who agreed to serve as his “occasional wife.” He put her on salary and got her an apartment two floors above his own. Hilarity ensued as a variety of situations in each episode had them running up and down the fire escape to act as husband and wife. This all happened to the obvious surprise and bemusement of a man residing on the floor between the two main players. That man was played by Bryan O’Byrne.

O’Byrne’s character had no name and no speaking lines, but he became the hit of the show. Usually he was engaged in some type of activity that ended up in shambles as he watched the shenanigans. The audience loved it. The show’s writers had such fun with the schtick that O’Byrne became somewhat of a sensation. His expert acting skills made the small part into something much bigger.

Eventually, in early 1967, a nationwide contest was held to give the “Man in the Middle” an actual name. Much attention was heaped on O’Byrne, but the high didn’t last for long. Occasional Wife went the way of many other promising comedies that were built on a certain premise, but were not allowed to develop. It survived only one season.

O’Byrne’s career continued to flourish. Among his repeating roles was that of CONTROL Agent Hodgkins in the hit comedy series Get Smart, starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. Over the years, O’Byrne remained one of Plattsburgh’s best-kept secrets, appearing in 45 television series, 22 movies, and several Disney productions.

Among those television series were some high-profile shows and many of the all-time greats: Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Batman, Ben Casey, Get Smart, Gunsmoke, I Dream of Jeannie, Maude, Happy Days, Maverick, Murder She Wrote, My Three Sons, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Sanford and Son, The Big Valley, The Bill Cosby Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Lucy Show, The Munsters, The Partridge Family, The Untouchables, and Welcome Back Kotter.

Advertisers discovered the appeal of Bryan’s friendly face, and he was cast in more than two hundred television commercials. His experience in multiple fields, and his love and understanding of the intricacies of performing led to further opportunities. He became an excellent acting coach. Among those he worked with, guided, or mentored were Bonnie Bedelia, Pam Dawber, Nick Nolte, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jimmy Smits, and Forest Whittaker.

Writer Janet Walsh, a friend of O’Byrne’s since the early 1980s, noted that, early on, he recognized the talent of young Nick Nolte. According to Walsh, “Nick slept on Bryan’s couch for a year. Bryan cast him in his production of The Last Pad, and that launched Nick’s career.”

Besides working as an acting coach for the prestigious Stella Adler Academy, O’Byrne also served on the Emmy Nominating Committee in Los Angeles. He spent nearly forty years in the entertainment business, working with many legendary stars, including Lucille Ball, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Wayne. His television resume covers many of the best-known, most-watched series ever. And through it all, he remained a nice, unpretentious man.

Quite the journey for a ten-year-old movie fan from Plattsburgh.

Photo Top: Bryan Jay O’Byrne.

Photo Middle: Bryan O’Byrne and Vivian Leigh.

Photo Bottom: Michael Callan, Bryan O’Byrne, and Patricia Hart from Occasional Wife.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet At Depot Theatre

Adirondack Almanack is pleased to offer this guest post by Fred Balzac of Jay, NY:

Until about midway through the play, William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, has all the trappings of a comedy: two feuding families; two young lovers who meet and marry in secret; their hot-blooded, sword-wielding cousins and buffoonish elders whose rivalry is sure to be o’erthrown by the fecund love between two representatives of the next generation of fair Verona.

But then wily old Will throws a curve into the proceedings: during a swordfight between the best duelists among the Montagues and Capulets, the lovestruck Romeo intervenes, enabling Tybalt to fatally wound Romeo’s sharp-tongued cousin, Mercutio, who musters enough breath to utter the curse, “A plague on both your houses,” before succumbing. Dazed and confused, Romeo picks up his cousin’s sword and, before he realizes what he is doing, manages to run it through his new in-law Tybalt, killing him. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Placid: Chris Noth Presents ‘What I Meant to Tell You’

To live the life of a poet, says the actor Chris Noth, “is the ultimate political act, one of incredible bravery.”

At the very least, it’s an act of resistance or dissent, and one of last great dissenters, Peter Kane Dufault, will join Noth at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on September 23 for a conversation, a poetry reading and a screening of a new film about Dufault, What I Meant to Tell You: An American Poet’s ‘State of the Union’.

Noth, best known for his roles in Law and Order, Sex and the City and The Good Wife, is the film’s associate producer.

In the 1970s, he was a student at the Barlow School, a small, progressive boarding school in the Hudson Valley, where Peter Dufault was a teacher.

Dufault was the best teacher he ever had, said Noth, who later attended Marlborough College and the Yale School of Drama.

“He opened up a way of life to me, a life of the imagination; he showed us through his example how that life can be developed and explored through poetry,” said Noth.

What I Meant to Tell You: An American Poet’s ‘State of the Union’ was directed by Ethan Dufault, the poet’s son, and is based on Dufault’s conversations with his father.

The title of the film, What I Meant to Tell You refers not only to what a poet might tell his country, were it willing to listen to poets, but what a father might tell his son.

“The title suggests what it is we wish we had said and heard from the people we love,” said Dufault, whose parents separated when he was a child.

But according to Michael Thomas, the film’s producer, What I meant to Tell You transcends the merely personal.

“Peter Dufault is a World War II veteran, a boxer, a musician, an environmentalist and a political activist as well as a poet. You can chart our history through his life,” said Thomas.

For Peter Dufault, poetry is the constant in his life.

“Everything else is secondary to poetry; poetry is the touchstone for every move I make,” he said.

“I concluded early in life that time was of the essence; it’s a non-recouperable commodity; every job I took was something that gave me time to squeeze out whatever poetry was in me,” Dufault said. “To be a poet means to live my own life.”

“His embattled status as a poet and a political activist is part of his strength,” says Ethan Dufault.

But, he said, his father’s “contentiousness” has hurt him professionally.

“He’s refused to play the game, but his life has not been an easy one,” said Ethan Dufault.

(Or, as Peter Dufault himself says, “I ain’t venerated, I’m resented. In England, I’m considered a great American poet. The English like my politics.”)

In 1968, Dufault ran for Congress on an anti-war platform; shortly thereafter, he began teaching at Barlow, where he taught a course in American history.

“It was unlike any other history course they were likely to take,” recalls Dufault. “It was a matter of life and death for these kids, who were either going to be drafted or find some dodge to avoid the draft. How did this nation get to the point where we were incinerating villages in Southeast Asia? That’s what I wanted them to understand.”

Politics has never been far from the center of Dufault’s life, nor for that matter, from his poetry, which makes him a rarity among American poets.

“What’s bothered me most about the majority of American poets is that they are less and less engaged; while the United States, this great millenial experiment, is crumbling at the joints, they’re undisturbed,” said Dufault. “They seem to be suffering from an attention deficit disorder.”

Dufault was first exposed to left-wing politics as an undergraduate at Harvard, when a classmate took him to a meeting of the campus chapter of the John Reed Club, then dominated by party-line communists.

Not one to adopt any party’s line, Dufault never returned. Nevertheless, in the 1950s, he found himself blacklisted from New York newspapers. He headed north, becoming editor of the Catskill Daily Mail. He then found his way into teaching.

“For me, he was a sage,” said Chris Noth. “He was always interested in what you had to say. When you showed him a poem or an essay, you always went away with a kernel of something to work with. He didn’t treat us as school boys to be talked at.”

But Dufault’s “vivacity, his capacity for enjoying life, whether it was through a soccer game, chess or a conversation,” was also a lesson in living in the world, said Noth.

“Chris Noth has done more for this film than I could have asked,” said Ethan Dufault.

In addition to helping win attention for the film, Noth also played a role, albeit an indirect one, in its inception, said Dufault.

“My father and I are both birders, and we happened to run into one another on a bird walk,” said Dufault. “He mentioned that Chris Noth had approached him about making a film about Robert Frost, but some how that fell through. So I suggested that I make a film about him.”

Of the film, Peter Dufault says, “Film is not my medium; I don’t have any personal, aesthetic or political stake in it. When Ethan first asked me to look at the footage, I was astonished by how good it was. The piece of film that I saw was of a person reciting a poem; it didn’t register as me, it was just some agreeable old fart speaking poetry; it sounded good. It was a collaboration of film and poetry which I’d never seen before. I agreed to sign on but to back off; I’ve remained outside of it by choice. Ethan has his own agenda.”

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts is located at 17 Algonquin Drive in Lake Placid. The program, which is co-sponsored by the Lake Placid Institute, starts at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 per adult and $2 per student. People under 18 will be admitted at no cost.

The film makers are especially interested in attracting young people to the event, hence the low prices for tickets, said Michael Thomas.

“Peter Dufault is an 87 year old volcano,” said Thomas. “The kids are open to his message. They get it. We’ve held Question and Answer periods wherever we’ve screened the film, and the questions have been fantastic.”

Chris Noth will screen the film at NYU, Columbia, Yale, Middlebury and other schools.

“I talk to a lot of kids, and I’m chagrined when they say they want to study business or communications; those years of high school and college should be the time of intellectual awakening. My hope is that this film about Peter Dufault will have the same effect on them that he had on me,” said Noth.

“Today, poetry is an endangered species,” Noth said. “Peter made you feel that poetry was a noble and worthwhile endeavor, and I still feel that.”

For more information about the event , contact the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 518-523-1312.

Photos: Noth and Dufault in New York courtesy of Lake Placid Center for the Arts; Ethan and Peter Dufault courtesy of Ethan Dufault.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, August 20, 2010

A Rebirth for Lake George Dinner Theatre?

The Lake George Dinner Theatre began more than forty years ago as a producer of light, summer stock. Over the years, it has presented entertaining but predictable fare to an increasingly aging audience, usually delivered to the door in motor coaches.

Three years ago, actor and director Terry Rabine purchased the business, fully aware that while he could ill-afford to lose the tour bus trade, the Lake George Dinner Theatre required new energy, more sophisticated shows and new audiences if it was to survive.

This year’s production, Our Son’s Wedding, may well mark the re-birth of the Lake George Dinner Theatre.

A comedy that’s nearly flawless in its construction and execution, Our Son’s Wedding is what every Dinner Theatre production is supposed to be: well-crafted, fast-paced entertainment after a perfectly fine dinner.

Our Son’s Wedding, however, also features one of the best casts ever seen in Lake George.

And the play itself, while respecting and mining all the conventions of a two-act comedy, is a far more thoughtful piece than any heretofore presented on the Dinner Theatre’s stage.

Whether you find the ostensible subject matter – the pending marriage of two gay men – objectionable or a welcome and belated nod by a local, mainstream entertainment venue toward 21st century realities, will probably depend upon your politics.

But the theme of the play, and the issues that the playwright, Donna DiMatteo, obviously wants to explore, are far more universal and timeless than contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality.

Even the class, social and ethnic fault lines that still demarcate American society, and which are also exploited for comic effect, are ultimately less important to DiMatteo than family bonds, especially the love parents naturally feel for their children.

Mary, played by Marina Re, and Angelo, played by Paul D’Amato, travel from the Bronx to Boston to attend their son’s wedding. They’re staying at the Ritz-Carleton, which is meant to stand in for all posh hotels and where Angelo is painfully uncomfortable until he can divert himself with the bathroom’s plumbing, his particular field of expertise.

Mary’s experience and observations have widened her horizons far further than her husband’s; she’s noticed enough strange things among her own family and neighbors to know that ‘normal’ is a relative term.

Nevertheless, even she describes their trip as a visit “to a foreign country, where we don’t even speak the friggin’ language.”

That foreign country is not simply a hotel in Boston; it’s every world they’re unfamiliar with, including that of their son’s.

Marina Re and Paul D’Amato are pleasures to watch. One indication of the skills of Marina Re, who created the role of Mary at Gloucester Stage Company, is the fact that she is never upstaged by D’Amato.

There’s a reason why D’Amato is still famous for his supporting role in Slap Shot, the 1977 Paul Newman movie that’s still shown on every high school hockey team’s away-game bus trips. He has a big personality, one that can command a screen and a stage and certainly a room the size of the Dinner Theatre at the Holiday Inn.

But when required, D’Amato can limit the force of his character’s own outsized personality; it’s a calibration of voice, gesture and even posture. When we learn that the bullish Angelo is no less reflective than Mary, it comes not as a surprise but as a delayed recognition.

Mick Bleyer plays Michael as someone who is charming but vulnerable; his vulnerability
and the wish to protect him unite not only Mary and Angelo, but Mary and Angelo and the steady David, played by Eric Rasmussen.

Our Son’s Wedding will be performed every evening Wednesday through Saturday until October 14.

Anyone who’s become a supporter of the Adirondack Theatre Festival, the Lake George Theater Lab and Wrightstage in recent years owes the Lake George Dinner Theater another chance. With that kind of support, Rabine could take the Dinner Theatre in any number of unpredictable directions.

Photo: Paul D’Amato and Marina Re, courtesy of Lake George Dinner Theatre

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror
http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com



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