This is a busy week for all. Schools will be closed for the holidays and some parents are wondering what to do with their kids.
Tonight is also the beginning of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) and Christmas is right around the corner. We seem to be so busy cooking and preparing for the holidays that it takes a bit of reminding that the goal is to spend time with each other. If you can’t get outside and enjoy the numerous Adirondack adventures perhaps stage a family bowling tournament or enjoy indoor ice-skating.
One thing we like to do, besides being outside skiing, skating or sledding in the winter is to enjoy a small intimate theatre experience. Not just live theatre, though that plays (no pun intended) a prominent role in our lives. No, it’s escaping for a few hours and going to “The Movies.”
At one time many towns in the Adirondacks had their own year-round movie houses. Sadly most have made way for the multiplex. Some theatres have retained their original architecture so the movie is not always the only thing to observe.
Take a moment and enjoy a small slice of history. Each theatre offers a unique experience that a larger cineplex may not. These theatres are independently owned and operated and can offer a less expensive ticket price. After a holiday spending spree, saving money is a pretty good gift, too.
Here are five year-round Adirondack movie theatres to get in a few laughs, enjoy a snack and leave any aspect of holiday stress behind.
Hollywood Theatre 14232 NYS Route 9N, Au Sable Forks, NY 12912 (518) 647-5953 (in the winters closed Monday and Tuesdays)
*Lake Placid Palace Theatre 2430 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946 (518) 523-9271 *open every day including Christmas and New Year’s with a 2:15 p.m. matinee through the Christmas-New Year’s week.
Lake TheatreMain Street, Indian Lake, NY 12842 (518) 648-5950
The Adirondack Lakes Summer Theatre Festival continues its second season with an encore performance of stage director Peter Brook’s work performed in the Great Hall at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. After performing two sold out performances at St. Williams on Long Point, Conference of the Birds returns due to popular demand at a much-reduced cost. With a single performance on August 8th at 8 pm, audiences will get one last opportunity to see this production. The storyline of the play focuses on a nation of birds in crisis. Urged on by one of their flock, the Hoopoe, they chart a path to find their king. Above all, the Hoopoe tries to help them conquer their fear of life as the stage becomes an astonishing aviary. Through masks, dance and song, this beautiful adaptation of the 12th Century poem comes to life in a magical evening of theater. Appropriate for all ages. » Continue Reading.
Shakespeare in the Park comes to the Adirondacks in many forms this summer from the Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s five-week tour of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) to the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts traveling performance of Romeo and Juliet. The one theatre presentation set apart from the others is The Depot Theatre’s annual Shakespeare program for young people.
For the tenth year Westport’s The Depot Theatre has introduced Shakespeare to those children from 7th grade and older to the wonders of the Baird. Directed and instructed by theatre educators Lindsay Pontius and Scott Gibbs, The Depot Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park do not hold formal auditions but use word of mouth and The Depot website to let interested children know when rehearsals will start happening for the annual Ballard Park performance. » Continue Reading.
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
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
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
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 [email protected]
Illustration: Postcard of the historic Sacroon Manor outdoor amphitheater, Schroon Lake, NY.
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.
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.
Obituaries vary widely in their historical value. Sometimes they’re elaborate; at times they are understated; some leave out important facts; and some, well … some are just hard to explain. Like this one from March, 1952: “Richard A. Whitby, a native of Warrensburg, died on Wednesday of last week at his home in Albany. Survivors are his wife, Mrs. Kathryn M. Waring Whitby; two sisters, Mrs. Frank Chapman and Miss Kate Whitby of Yonkers.”
That notice appeared in his hometown newspaper. Accurate, no doubt, and surely succinct, but brevity isn’t always a good thing. In this case, the inattention to detail is stunning, and it’s quite a stretch from what’s true to what’s important. I’d like to take a crack at bridging that gap. Richard Augustus Whitby (not Richard E. or other variations that appear in many records) was born to Louisa and Richard James Whitby on January 22, 1879. The family’s background played an important role in Richard’s legacy. Once established, the Whitby surname remained prominent in the Warrensburg-Glens Falls area for decades.
In 1872, the Whitbys (they had two young sons) emigrated from Yeovil, England where Richard J. had operated a cloth manufacturing business employing 61 laborers. He pursued the same work in America, first at Leeds in Greene County and then at Salem in Washington County, finally settling in Warrensburg, where he was superintendent of the woolen mill.
Financially sound, Mr. Whitby was able to pursue his interests, which were family and music. He managed to combine the two in remarkable fashion, and mix work in as well. Each family member learned to play a musical instrument, and as they entered adulthood, each was employed in the family business. By 1899, son Percy was managing the mill with his father, while Eloise, Eustace (salesman), Kate (stitcher), and Richard (buttonhole maker) toiled for Whitby & Co.
As good as they were at making clothing, it was in the world of music that the family excelled. The Whitby dance band played countless gigs and was in great demand, but the family performed solos and joined other musical groups as well. In 1895, the GAR Band and the Citizens’ Band ended an ongoing competition by merging into the Warrensburg Military Band. Among the dozens of members were several Whitbys—Percy, clarinet and Musical Director; his father, Richard J., cornet; Eustace, saxophone; and young Richard A., baritone horn.
After a performance on baritone by Richard in 1893, one prescient local reviewer said Whitby’s effort “… would have done credit to a professional player.” Besides the baritone horn, Richard also played two related instruments, the euphonium and the trombone. By the mid-1890s, his euphonium solos were known far and wide, and highly praised.
During the next several years, he performed at dozens of graduations, church events, and the like, routinely accompanied by his mother, Louisa, on the piano. In the summer of 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Whitby and son Richard were the star attraction at the Leland House in Schroon Lake.
In 1896, the 17-year-old was hired by Scribner & Smith’s Circus to play slide trombone during the summer. In 1899 he signed with a traveling comedy and music act, followed by several years as trombonist for the Broad Street Theater in Richmond, Virginia.
Word of his ability spread, and in 1910, “Dick” Whitby was the trombone soloist for Carl Edouarde’s 60-piece band, a top act in Philadelphia and New York City. (Edouarde, who later composed film scores, conducted the music for Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon.)
In October, 1911, Whitby married Bertha B. Lancaster (yes, Bert Lancaster) of Peekskill, and the couple moved to New York City. All the while, Richard’s fame continued to grow.
Though he had made steady progress over the years, his rise now seemed meteoric. Outstanding performances in Edouarde’s band were soon followed by a stunning announcement in 1913: Richard had been offered the second chair in John Philip Sousa’s band, which for decades had featured some of the world’s finest musicians. Second chair meant the number two position, but Whitby was also promised first chair upon the lead trombone player’s imminent retirement.
It was a tremendous honor and highly regarded confirmation of his great talent, but there was a problem: Richard was still under contract to Carl Edouarde, who had no intentions of releasing him from a prominent run at New York’s Palace Theater.
He continued as lead trombonist for Edouarde’s concert band, and it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime had passed. But such was the talent of Richard Whitby that Sousa was willing to wait. When he became a free agent in 1915, Sousa signed Richard to an 8-month contract, beginning on April 1, 1915.
The timing was fortuitous. After three years of playing one main venue and going on only a short tour each season, Sousa’s band was suddenly once again a hot property. When Richard joined the orchestra, it was for an extraordinary tour reaching all the way to the West Coast.
San Francisco was hosting a major event, the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (the World’s Fair), celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal and the city’s own recovery from the horrific 1906 earthquake. Sousa’s band played on opening-day and performed for an extended run through May and June, allowing untold thousands to enjoy Whitby’s great solos.
The band might have played longer but for a telegram from New York, requesting their services for an upcoming extravaganza at the world’s largest theater, the Hippodrome.
Leaving San Francisco, the band toured the Northwest to great acclaim. Notable was a July concert before 17,000 attendees at a high school stadium in Tacoma, Washington. From there, the band toured through the Midwest and then played before large crowds in Pennsylvania, including a month at famous Willow Grove Park and two weeks at the Pittsburgh Exhibition, before finally arriving in New York.
Those were heady days for one of the world’s most famous bands, now performing at the 5,200 seat Hippodrome for an 8-month run. Critics raved, as did Theatre Magazine: “The astonished and delighted spectator feels like cheering all the way through the really wonderful program.” It was a smash success, but Whitby remained for only half the run (about 215 performances).
When his contract with Sousa expired at the end of the year, Richard returned to more familiar haunts. In 1916, he opened with a slide trombone solo for a Warrensburg concert by students of the famed Oscar Seagle. Whitby’s rendition of Patriot Polka was a tribute to his friend and former instructor, Arthur Pryor, author of the tune and acknowledged for decades as one of the world’s premiere trombonists.
Richard’s preference was to remain in the North Country, but no matter where he was, his talent and fame kept him in high demand. A renowned soloist who tested the limits of his instrument, Whitby starred for several years on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. The main venue he played there was the famed Steel Pier, which extends 1000 feet over the ocean and today sits directly across the Boardwalk from Trump’s Taj Mahal Resort and Casino.
He also did stints at New York’s Palace Theater, and in the 1920s was soloist with the Paramount Symphony Orchestra at the Paramount Theater.
When he was upstate, he played with Noller’s Band of Troy and the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra. Whitby lived in Albany for many years, and through the 1930s and 1940s was one of the city’s and the region’s most sought-after musicians. He was widely acknowledged as one of the greatest trombone players in the country.
Obituaries normally mention one’s accomplishments, and when Richard Whitby died in 1952, his hometown obit noted only two events: “… native of Warrensburg … died … at his home in Albany.” It suggests an innocuous existence marked largely by his entrance into and exit from life. Being born and dying are surely significant, but as you can see, there was some other stuff in between.
Photo Top: The John Philip Sousa Band performing at the Panama-Pacific Exhibition (World’s Fair) in 1915.
Photo Middle: A euphonium, one of the instruments mastered by Richard A. Whitby.
Photo Bottom: The famed Steel Pier on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One hundred and fifty years ago, few knew about Lavinia Bell, a fugitive from slavery who trekked from a Texas plantation to Rouses Point, New York, in search of freedom in Canada. Now, for the first time, her experiences will be presented to the public in “Never Give Up: The Story of Lavinia Bell,” reenacted by Melissa Waddy-Thibodeaux at Plattsburgh State University’s Krinovitz Recital Hall. The presentation will begin at 7:00 PM on February 11, 2011. The event is free and open to the public.
Ms. Thibodeaux’s visit to Plattsburgh in February will be her first to the North Country. She has already earned national acclaim for her sensitive depictions of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. The North Country location of the premiere of Mrs. Bell’s story, in the region where her vision was at last realized, is as fitting as are the sponsoring organizations: the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, Plattsburgh State University, and Clinton Community College. Ms. Thibodeaux will also offer performance workshops for university and college students during her stay in Plattsburgh. On February 12, she will cross into Canada where, under the sponsorship of the Negro Community Center in Montreal, she will introduce Mrs. Bell to a waiting audience.
To see Ms. Thibodeaux portray Harriet Tubman visit You Tube.
To learn more about this event, contact Don Papson at [email protected] or (518) 561-0277.
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.
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
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Murder, mystery, music and mayhem abound in the latest offering from Adirondack Theatre Festival. Murder for Two, the new musical comedy by Kellen Blair (lyrics/book) and Joe Kinosian (music/book) will receive its first full production as a part of ATF’s 16th season. The show will be performed at the Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen Street in downtown Glens Falls. Performances run July 22 – July 31. Official opening night is Friday, July 9 at 8pm. Tickets and more information can be found by calling 518-874-0800 or visiting www.ATFestival.org. This fast-paced musical comedy/mystery features two actors– one playing a detective and the other portraying all suspects in the murder of a well-known novelist – and one piano (on which they both share the piano playing duties). Along the way, audiences meet a distraught but ditzy widow, a comely ballerina, the town psychiatrist, a grad student aspiring to become a detective, a 12-member boys’ choir, a squabbling middle-aged couple, and more.
Under the direction of Scott Weinstein, the cast is composed of New York City stage actors Adam Overett as Officer Marcus and Joe Kinosian as the wacky suspects. The show’s design team includes Kina Park (sets); Jason Kantrowitz (lighting); Lydia Dawson (costumes); and Ken Goodwin (sound). The production is sponsored by Stewart’s Shops.
This will be the first full production of Murder for Two. ATF Producing Artistic Director, Mark Fleischer, first saw the show as a staged reading in New York City last year. “I was so impressed with the humor and versatility of this show. This writing team is exploring ways to present a full scale musical comedy with only two performers. Their talent as songwriters is very impressive and their comedy very sophisticated. Most importantly Murder for Two offers audiences a fun evening at the theatre.” Fleischer has followed the development of the piece by attending readings at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor NY and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The production at ATF will be the first time the show is fully staged with actors not holding scripts and with the addition of sets, lights and sound design. The show has already caught the attention of theatres across the country and future productions are already in negotiation at theatres in large cities across the country. However, audiences in our area will be the first to see this musical. As Fleischer states, “ATF is reversing the trend of summer theatres producing NYC approved shows. ATF audiences in the Adirondacks give the approval before shows head to NYC.” ATF has a 16 year tradition of developing new works for the theatre. Last summer ATF produced Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days. The show was then produced at NYC’s Roundabout Theatre. The creators and ATF hope that Murder for Two will follow in this tradition.
Photo: Adam Overett and Joe Kinosian in Murder for Two
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