Carrie – A Halloween Hit!


Carrie, now playing at Church Hill theatre, is an appropriate show for the Halloween season. Based on the 1976 horror film “Carrie,” which draws its plot from a Stephen King novel of the same name, the story takes place in a high school in Maine – and ends with a thoroughly traditional horror movie amount of blood and gore.

A joint production of Chesapeake College and Church Hill Theatre, the play ran three performances at the college’s Cadby Theater, and opens at Church Hill for two more weekends beginning Friday, Nov. 3. Many of the cast members are members of the Peake Players, made up of current or recent students at the college. This works well, considering that a large number of the characters are high school seniors. And, as director Robert Thompson notes, this gives them an immediate sympathy with the feelings and problems of their characters.

King’s 1974 novel, his first to be published, was set in the near future, 1979, in a fictional small town. It used letters, fictional newspaper and magazine stories, and excerpts from Carrie’s own journal and poems to give the story an air of reality. Probably because of its use of a high school setting to generate a terrifying, blood-thirsty plot, it is one of the most frequently banned books in high schools around the country. The film, starring Cissy Spacek in the title role and Piper Laurie as her mother, appeared two years after the book.

Carrie – Queen of the Prom    Photo by Jane Jewell

Carrie happy dancing with Tommy – her first date!      Photo by Jane Jewell











The play debuted in 1984, with Lawrence D. Cohen reworking the screenplay he wrote for the film version which became a big hit.  It was more the movie than the book that made King a best-seller and jump-started his writing career.  In contrast, the first version of the musical stage play did not do so well. Michael Gore wrote the music and Dean Pitchford the lyrics – the two had made their mark with the music for “Fame.” Cohen was reportedly inspired by a performance of Alban Berg’s atonal modernist opera “Lulu.”  The original production was panned by critics, and despite sold-out houses, closed after only five official performances. It was revived in 2012 with the new script and several new songs, and while it too closed after only 48 performances, the authors said it had accomplished their goal of giving the play new life. More recent revivals, including one in Los Angeles in 2015, have received good reviews.

The plot revolves around Carrie White, a shy teenage girl who has become the target of the pranks and insults of her schoolmates. When she experiences her first period in the shower during gym class, she panics – having made it to age 17 without learning the facts of life from her mother, a religious fanatic who thinks menstruation is the result of wicked thoughts. This home life clearly gives Carrie little guidance in dealing with her life at school.

Teens prepare to torment Carrie with a bucket of fake blood.     Photo by Jane Jewell

The teachers make attempts to help Carrie, and another girl, Sue, arranges for her boyfriend Tommy, a popular athlete, to take Carrie to the prom. Carrie at first refuses, but convinced Tommy really wants her as his date, accepts the invitation. Her mother is furious – but Carrie stands up to her and goes anyway.

Carrie wreaks her revenge. Photo by Steve Atkinson

The twist in this otherwise fairly typical story of the teen misfit at the prom is that Carrie has telekinetic powers – the ability to affect and move objects by sheer mind power. When the stress reaches a peak, her psychic powers cause havoc – with the climax coming at the prom, when several of the mean students play a final trick on her.

Carrie The Musical is more than just a teen story or a horror movie transferred to the stage.  It is that.  And Halloween is exactly the right season for it. Horror movie fans will love it.  But it is also a close-up look at what can happen when idle pranks go too far and become cruel; when a lonely teen is seduced years ago and ends up a lonely single mother, embittered and hiding behind extreme religiosity.

Two of the guys dance around as the decoration committee gets the gym ready for prom.  

But don’t worry, it’s neither all horror nor all deep insight.  There are also light moments, poignant moments when a young teen watches her boyfriend ring the doorbell to pick up another girl for the prom. Even humorous moments as when the English teacher confiscates a joint from a student then takes a toke himself as soon as the student’s gone.

Shannon Whittaker, who has numerous CHT credits and who served as director of the CHT Green Room Gang this last summer, plays Carrie. With strong acting chops and a good singing voice, she makes the character both believable and sympathetic. Whittaker gives an excellent portrayal of a shy but sweet teen who finds her strength too late.  Her performance is outstanding.

Maureen Currin plays Carrie’s mother.    Photo by Steve Atkinson

Maureen Currin plays Margaret, Carrie’s mother. The character is possibly the least sympathetic character in the play, but Curris, who has appeared in a number of productions with the Tred Avon Players, gives it a strong interpretation.  Her aria, sung alone in her kitchen after Carrie defies her to go to the prom, is especially poignant, showing both insight into her own fallibility while clinging to her own religious mania.

Reilly Claxton, a first-year student at Cheaspeake, takes the role of Sue, one of three popular girls who lead the laughter at Carrie.  But as things get out of hand in the locker room, Sue begins to feel guilt and shame at her behavior. She tries to apologize to Carrie but isn’t believed, so Sue makes the ultimate teen sacrifice of getting her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom.  Claxton conveys all these emotions beautifully. While this is her first Peake Players appearance, she has many previous credits both at CHT and in TV commercials. Her experience shows – a nice job in an important part.

Sue convinces Tommy to take Carrie to the prom to make up for all the mean tricks.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Jacob Wheatley is well cast as Tommy, the boy who takes Carrie to the prom.  He is a good match for Sue. He’s one of the guys  – yet he, too, balks at the continued, excelerated bullying of Carrie.  Wheatley comes across exactly right as the all-American boy next-door, fun-loving but not really mean. Wheatley, a student at Chesapeake College, has acted in two previous productions there, including the lead in How to Succeed in business Without Really Trying.  Hope to see more of him on stage in future.

Olivia Litteral, a recent Chesapeake College graduate, takes the role of Chris, the “bad girl” who targets Carrie for her practical jokes.  Litteral shows the stubbornness and cockiness of a teen leader who won’t admit things have gone too far. A good job.

Brandon Walls, who has numerous credits both with the Peake Players and at CHT, plays Billy, Chris’s thuggish boyfriend. He does a fine job too, using his physical presence to give the character an air of menace while playing the disruptive class clown.

Among the other cast members, Samantha Smith and James Kaplanger are very good in supporting roles as teachers who try to take Carrie’s side and reign in the bullies.

The music is a challenge, which the cast mostly rises to, especially since much of the dialogue is presented in the form of songs. This requires the singers to enunciate very clearly – a challenge most but not all of them met at the performance I saw. The music as noted is more sung dialog than song, so the emphasis is on the words not pretty melodies – perhaps the influence of the Berg opera. The small band, directed by William Thomas, does a solid job, for which due credit.

Photo by Jane Jewell

The choreography, by Evelyn Paddy, is one of the show’s strong points, especially in the large ensemble scenes where several things can be going on at once. There are several particularly acrobatic performances by some of the cast members, notably James Kaplanges who executes a flawless, exuberant aerial maneuver in one of the dance scenes.

Spirits raised by Carrie’s psychic powers. Photo by Steve Atkinson

The use of masked dancers to represent the telekinetic spirits called up by Carrie lends an air of menace to every scene they appear in, lurking silently in the edges of the scene – and when they do break into action, it is especially powerful. Thoroughly spooky!

Costumes range appropriately from preppy to punk ’80s.  The prom dresses are pretty even on the the punk girls with punk purple hair.


“Carrie the Musical” is probably too intense – both in style, subject matter, and strong language – for very young audience members. But for anyone who isn’t put off by horror-movie material, it is worth seeing if only for the fine performances by a large cast of actors, many of them college age – a real testimony to the wealth of talent in the local community. And it’s good to see CHT willing to stretch the boundaries of “safe” community theater fare.  And if you stick around afterward, you can watch the cast and crew rise from the dead – as should happen in all good horror tales – and bring mops & buckets out and wipe up all the “blood” before the next show.

“Carrie” runs through Nov. 12, with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students. Groups of 10 or more qualify for special prices. For reservations, call 410-556-5867 or visit the Church Hill Theatre website.

Photo gallery below by Jane Jewell

Teens torment Carrie with a bucket of fake blood.


Margaret, Carrie’s mother, faces her own inner demons as she becomes aware of Carrie’s very real demons. 

Carrie’s “spirits” rise as her mother warns her about boys. 

Carrie and her mother just before the prom



Carrie calls her spirits – her revenge is coming…

Carrie realizes they are mocking her. Her mother was right!


















Carrie – Mopping Up Afterward for Next Show!




“Songs for Our Future” by Pam Ortiz


Pam Ortiz Band – Phil Dutton (keyboard), Ford Schumann (guitar), Bob Ortiz (percussion), Nevin Dawson (violin), Pam Ortiz (guitar & lyricist)           Photo by Jeff Gruber, Blue House Productions

It’s Fall, and Downrigging Weekend is right around the corner — with a featured concert by the Pam Ortiz Band at the Garfield Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, Oct. 28. This has been a very active year for the band, and the Spy thought it would be a good idea to catch up.  Following the article is a photo and video gallery of the band by Jeff Weber. Here’s the story of this year’s activities in Pam’s own words.  — Editors.

It was three days after the election of 2016.  I had several friends who were showing clear signs of PTSD.  Beyond the kvetching and rending of garments, many people I ran into were staring blankly into one another’s eyes, googling “Sweden” or “Canada” and figuring out when and for how long they would have to go “news dark” in order to maintain their hold on life.

My husband, Bob Ortiz, and I play original music in a five-piece band.  After an interesting but exhausting year, I had suggested we take a bit of a hiatus.  We had done our annual show at the Sultana Downrigging Festival at the end of October, and, with that commitment behind us, I was looking forward to some downtime.  Then the election hit.

My immediate thoughts turned to those groups of people who would be vulnerable going forward.  And the critical rights, those rights that leverage other rights – the right to vote, the right of free speech, and others – all of which were now at risk.

On November 11th, I wrote the following to my band mates, Nevin Dawson, Ford Schumann and Philip Dutton:

I know I said I felt like I wanted to take a break, but the events of this week have caused me to reconsider.  I sat down after the election and made a list of: i) rights to protect; ii) people to protect; iii) people to support; and iv) people to challenge or stop.  I came up with 12 to start with and put organizations that do that work by each one.  So I have a list of 12 organizations I want to support.  I was thinking Bob and I would write some puny checks (which we will indeed do, which is about what we can do). Then tonight I thought about how everyone around us is anxious to DO something and thought:  we could host a series at Bob’s shop of monthly concerts and each one would be designed to address one of those issues and support one of those organizations.  

Within days, the group convened to plan what became the Songs for Our Future concert series.  Ultimately, we narrowed down the list of organizations to seven. We planned one concert each month, to be held between January and July, 2017.  Here’s what our final list looked like [with all proceeds going to the listed organization]:

JANUARY – A Concert to Protect the Right to Vote  – NAACP Legal Defense Fund 

FEBRUARY – A Concert to Protect the Rights of Immigrants  – National Immigration Law Center 

MARCH – A Concert to Highlight Climate Change & Clean Energy (2 events) – 

APRIL – A Concert to Protect the LGBTQ Community  – FreeState Justice 

MAY – A Concert to Protect Our Muslim Neighbors  – Council on American Islamic Relations 

JUNE – A Concert to Support Women’s Reproductive Rights  – Planned Parenthood 

JULY – A Concert to Protect the Right of Free Speech  – ACLU of Maryland 

My husband is a furniture maker.  His studio is a large, funky space in Chestertown, Maryland, a town in a rural county on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Amazing things happen in that space.  People stop by all week for counseling, advice, help with a project, or just to check in.  We have hosted a myriad of concerts, parties and special events there over the years, so it seemed a natural place to host the series.  We initially planned six events.  When former director of The Mainstay, Rory Trainer, asked if they could participate, we added a final, culminating show to be held there in July.

We invited special guests to join us for each show — poets, artists, musicians and singers who had a connection with the group or right we were supporting. – Sombarkin, Meredith Davies Hadaway, Sue Matthews, John Schratweiser, Capt. Andy McCown, Howard and Mary McCoy.  Guest bassists Tom Anthony, Mark Dykeman, and Jeff Davis each joined us for several events.  Salvadoran songwriter and artist , Fredy Granillo, joined us for our show to support immigrants. Our friend and frequent collaborator, poet Robert Earl Price, became our “house poet,” but we had others too – James Allen Hall, Mary Azrael.  A high school friend and professor of Arabic read Arabic poetry at our event to support our Muslim neighbors.  And she helped us make a connection with a young Syrian immigrant who came and spoke eloquently about his experience – as a Syrian dissident, as a refugee, as a young man isolated from the community and far from his family.  He spent four years in a Turkish refugee camp. Of his family, he was the only one who got a Visa to come to the U.S.  His mother and sister are in Sweden; his dad remains in the refugee camp.  When asked if he could talk or Skype with his family, he said, “Of course.  But I can’t do this.” And he proceeded to come over to me and give me a big hug, like you might give your mom who you hadn’t seen for 3 years.  Our collective hearts broke.

As we put these shows together, over and over again, people came out of the woodwork offering to contribute or participate in some way.  Everybody wanted in.  Our friend and potter, Marilee Schumann, made “Resist” mugs which folks could have for an additional donation.  Her daughter, Brooke, made “Resist” soap.  Volunteers came forward to help set up the shop, transport chairs, carry equipment, help at the door.  When we celebrated women and raised funds to protect women’s reproductive health, Marilee and her sister-in-law, Jamie, made pink pussy hats for the audience. Videographer, Jeff Weber, set himself up to film most of the shows.

And we sold out every show.  We ended up raising over $18,000.  All this from our small town of 5,000 people in a county of fewer than 20,000.  Not everyone thinks the same in our small town. We have people from every walk of life and point of view.   I’m sure not everyone agreed with what we did.  But we did it in a way that was inclusive.  We framed these events as celebrations of what we stood for and who we are – not what we hated or who we were not.  And I think that is what made the difference.  Folks who came to these events – and many old friends came from far and wide for every show – told us time and again how powerful it was to be a part of this effort.

I had a sense that we were building community through art.  The arts provide us with a language when we do not have the words to express how we feel.  The arts give us a way to voice our discontents without being mired in despair.  Under the armor of the arts we have the courage to fight for something that seems impossible.

I am sharing this because it is my hope that as a nation we can find a way to reclaim who we are and what we stand for.  Maybe your community will host a concert series, or maybe you’ll gather people for a special exhibit or theatrical performance that allows people to feel they are part of building something new – something that challenges the diminished vision of America we see in the mirror of the media —  and in our leadership.

I leave you with these words, which I hope will inspire you as they have guided us. When we launched our series my husband read this to the audience.  It is a framed quote we have in our house, from Spanish cellist and composer, Pablo Casals.

“I am a man first and an artist second. As a man, my first obligation is to defend human dignity. As an artist, I will fulfill this mission through music — the unique weapon which God has given me – and that which transcends the boundaries imposed by language, politics and national borders. My contribution to world peace will be humble, but at least I will have given all for this ideal which, to me, is sacred.”

Pam Ortiz,      Chestertown, MD

Photo & Video Gallery Below by Jeff Weber.  Video is from the final “Songs of Our Future “concert at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD last summer.

Phil Dutton, Marc Dykeman, Nevin Dawson, Pam Ortiz, Ford Schumann, Bob Ortiz         Photo by Jeff Weber


Pam Ortiz       Photo by Jeff Weber

Bob Ortiz       Photo by Jeff Weber

Phil Dutton       Photo by Jeff Weber

Ford Schumann Photo by Jeff Weber

Nevin Dawson photo by Jeff Weber


Mid-Shore Arts: The Pleasure and Science Behind Listening Live to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons


The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra returns to Easton on November 2 and will be offering up a number of remarkable orchestral work that would stand out any time and in any season. The list for November’s performance includes Autumn Legends by William Alwyn featuring Carl Oswald on Oboe and the Symphony No. 45 by Joseph Haydn, affectionately known as the “Farewell” Symphony, composed to celebrate the annual migration of summer musicians back to their families after performing for Prince Nikolaus Esterház at his summer palace at Eszterháza in Hungary.

All good stuff, but the main attraction at the Easton Church of God on that Thursday night is none other than Antonio Vivaldi’s classic Le Quattro Stagioni (the Four Seasons).

Some in the stratified world of classical music might complain that this old workhorse of a crowd pleaser is hardly adventurous terrain for such a gifted collection of superior musicians, but the fact of the matter is this 1723 composition of Vivaldi serves many purposes beyond its orginal intent.

While it is true that the The Four Seasons might be the most popular classical music only  after the the works of Beethoven, its popularity with both musicians and audiences rests on a number of surprising cofactors that makes it so memorial but also so important to be performed.

The first of which is the simple fact that musicians love playing the Four Seasons. While they may intellectually pine at times for the challenges of far more sophisticated and contemporary work, these gifted artists also understand, as the MSO’s music director, Julien Benichou, notes in our Spy interview, it’s simply “great music.”

There is also some good science that backs up the claim that those that hear a live performance of  The Four Seasons feel significantly more alert while EEGs suggest the music impacted “two distinct cognitive processes by producing “exaggerated effects” on one component of mental activity that is tied with the “emotion-reward systems within the brain,” and increasing cognitive functioning.

One can get lost in the weeds here, but the takeaway, as Jeffrey Parker, the MSO’s board president, suggests, is that Vivaldi’s masterpiece is the auditory equivalent of meeting of dear old friend.

That’s hard to beat.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For ticket information about this performance and others by  Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra please go here

“Carrie: The Musical” at Chesapeake College and Church Hill Theatre


Carrie the Musical, playing at both the Cadby Theater and Church Hill Theatre during the Halloween season, offers supernatural thrills to a classic rock genre score.  Blood, fire and telekinetic powers will have audiences gasping as the naïve and innocent Carrie takes on the high school mean girls. Bullied by both her classmates and her fanatically religious mother, Carrie finds some support from her gym teacher and a sympathetic classmate. But in this musical version of Stephen King’s psycho-horror novel, we know Carrie will find her own solution as the torments continue. Prom night will never be the same.

The kids sitting in class. From L-R, Morgan Jung, Shannon Landers, Brandon Walls, Olivia Litteral, Jacob Wheatley, Shannon Whitaker, Albert Conteh, Reilly Claxton, Catharine Jacobs, Sean Priest, and Briana Litteral.

Rob Thompson, a Chesapeake College professor, directs this joint Chesapeake College-Church Hill Theatre production. Shannon Whittaker will play Carrie; Maureen Curtin will portray her mother, Margaret.  Carrie’s classmates Sue, Tommy, Chris, and Billy are played by Reilly Claxton, Jacob Wheatley, Olivia Litteral and Brandon Walls. The sympathetic teacher, Miss Gardner, is Samantha Smith. Other featured characters are played by James Kaplanges, Kiya Cohen, Shannon Landers, Catherine Jacobs, Morgan Jung, Sean Priest and Albert Conteh. Students, dancers, telekinetic spirits, police officers and others include Anna Terry, Savannah Bixler, Briana Litteral, Gracie Jordan, Megan Kaley, Alyson Farnell and Morgan Jung.

Musical Director William Thomas will conduct from the piano. His musician are Gary Caffrey, on guitar, Tom Anthony on bass, and Ray Anthony on drums.  The backstage and production team includes a set by Richard Peterson and Carmelo Grasso, with lights by Nic Carter, costumes by Miranda Fister and Jennifer Houghton, Maddie Baynard is acting as stage manager, and Jacob Blades is assistant stage manager.  Shelagh Grasso is producing Carrie with Sylvia Maloney as associate producer.

Carrie’s shadowy telekinetic spirits threaten to enter the auditorium.

Based on the King novel, Carrie the Musical was adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen, with lyrics by Dean Pitchford and music by Michael Gore. It opened on Broadway in 1988 and enjoyed a successful revival in 2012.  While some critics panned Carrie, it has become a cult favorite, with many unofficial spoofs and campy tributes. It’s not for the squeamish or small children but if you enjoyed CHT’s Rocky Horror Picture Show, you’ll certainly appreciate Carrie.

Carrie the Musical opens on Friday, October 27, 2017, and runs through Sunday, November 12. Because this is a joint production, with performances at two locations, please note the theaters and times carefully.

CHESAPEAKE COLLEGE: Friday, October 27, Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29 at the Cadby Theater.  Shows are at 8 pm on Friday and Saturday with a Sunday matinee at 2 pm.

CHURCH HILL THEATRE: Fridays, November 3 & 10, Saturdays, November 4 & 11, and Sundays, November 5 & 12 at Church Hill Theatre, with evening shows at 8 pm and matinees at 2 pm.

At Chesapeake College, tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. Reservations for Cadby Theatre can be made by calling 410-827-5867 or by visiting

At Church Hill Theatre, tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and $15 for members.  Tickets can be reserved by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online at

Theater Review: Garfield’s “Sylvia” a Winner by Peter Heck


Cast of “Sylvia”: Bryan Betley, Christine Kinlock, Will Robinson, Jennifer Kafka-Smith              Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, opening this weekend at the Garfield Center, is a romantic comedy about a man, his dog, his wife, and his mid-life crisis. – and, once you get beyond the surface, about the role of love in the modern world.

Directed by Bonnie Hill, the play is set in New York City sometime in the early 1990s.

Sylvia had its Off-Broadway premiere in 1995, with Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie of Sex and the City) in the title role. It ran for 197 performances and received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Play. Parker was nominated for Outstanding Actress, and the costume design by Jane Greenwood was also nominated. Oddly enough, it was 2015 before a Broadway production took place, although it had a number of productions elsewhere – including one at Church Hill Theatre in 1999, also directed by Hill.

Reportedly, Sylvia originally had trouble finding a Broadway production because potential backers found the play’s main plot device – a young woman playing the role of a dog – objectionable. Gurney’s answer was that the play was about connecting in an increasingly impersonal, alienated world, with the dog Sylvia the means by which the other characters ultimately connect.

Sylvia is part poodle and all beautiful after Greg takes her for a grooming. – Christine Kinlock and Will Robinson      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The play begins as Greg, a middle-aged New Yorker, brings the dog Sylvia home after finding her in the park. Greg has left work – at a financial institution – early, and we soon learn that he is on the edge of burning out at work. Sylvia, who says at the outset that she loves Greg unconditionally, is a welcome relief from the cold business of commodities trading that makes up his day at work.

Sylvia the dog sits on the sofa with Greg – but only when Kate isn’t there!    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

But when Greg’s wife, Kate, arrives home, she makes it clear she has no interest in adopting a dog. Her career is just taking off, and the couple’s children are now in college, so they can begin to enjoy a more independent social life. Having a dog in the city would only burden them, she says. Greg convinces her to let Sylvia stay “a few days” to see how it works out. Of course, the few days extend to a much longer period – and the strain on the couple’s relationship builds, especially as it becomes clear that Greg is on the verge of losing his job.

Meanwhile, Sylvia goes about being very much a dog —  although a speaking dog who makes no bones about what she thinks and how she feels about things. Sylvia also tangles Greg up in the leash when they go for walks.  Kate sarcastically calls her “Saliva.”

The name “Sylvia” – imprinted on the dog tag that Sylvia wore when Greg found her – is particularly ironic to Kate as she teaches Shakespeare to teenagers.  She can’t help but be constantly reminded of the famous Shakespeare lyric, “Who is Sylvia?  Who is she/ That all our swains commend her?”

The relationship between Greg, Sylvia, and Kate soon takes on many aspects of a love triangle, although Kate is at first the only one who really understands what is happening. Her husband sees no problems with having a dog in a small New York City apartment.  She sees nothing but. Of course, in the end, as all romantic comedies should, love wins out. But it’s a close race in determining whose love for whom will win.

Jennifer Kafka-Smith as the wife, Kate –    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock, who recently appeared in Earl Lewin’s Orlando Rising at Church Hill Theatre and Shore Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, delivers an absolutely winning performance in the role of Sylvia. The role demands a good deal of the actor, with considerable use of body language to put over the character’s canine nature – tail wags, jumping up on furniture, and so forth. She makes good use of her voice to suggest barking, and her facial expressions are icing on the cake. Her reaction to seeing a cat on the street is hilarious, as is her “romance” with Bowser, a dog she meets in the park. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Will Robinson, one of the stalwarts of the local theater community, plays Greg. He puts across the character’s amiable nature – and his goofy infatuation with his new “friend” – with considerable warmth. He makes Greg’s half-understood bumbling through a mid-life crisis and ignoring his wife for “the other’ almost forgivable. A very good performance – as we always expect when we hear that Robinson is onstage!

Jennifer Kafka-Smith is the perfect pick for Kate, a sophisticated woman finding her way as an English teacher after spending her early adulthood raising a family. Her objections to bringing a dog into a New York apartment are in fact reasonable, and her frustration that Greg doesn’t’ recognize them is palpable. She creates a sympathetic, likable character out of a role that could easily be seen as a villain – not easy to do but she makes it look easy.

The marriage counselor Leslie – played by Bryan Betley,    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The fourth member of the cast, Bryan Betley, plays three very different roles – and plays them all well.  There is the fellow dog owner Greg meets in the park, one of Kate’s society friends (in a fabulous dress!), and an androgynous marriage counselor the couple visits.  Betley makes them all distinct and believable, using different voices and clothes to set the characters apart. A nice show of versatility!

The set, designed and built by Earl Lewin and crew from a concept and sketch by director Bonnie Hill, consists primarily of Greg and Kate’s apartment, with a wonderful view of the New York skyline projected on the back wall. The front corner of the stage doubles as Central Park, and the desk plays double duty as Kate’s and the marriage counselor’s offices. Simple but attractive – and with no set changes needed, it allows the play to move along briskly.

Set of “Sylvia” – ta contemporary living room with a view of the New York skyline.      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The play maintains a nice balance between laugh-out-loud comedy and a tender look at the importance of love in the modern world. While it could easily be played very cartoonishly, Hill’s direction brings out both aspects of the play, making for an unusually rich performance. With all four actors delivering excellent performances, area theater-goers should make every effort to see this one.

Sylvia is an adult comedy, with some sexual references and frequently salty language – mostly from the dog, who expresses herself very directly and without filters. Parents might want to leave younger children home. Hill said the Church Hill performance cut much of the saltier language, but here the original script is presented almost intact.

Sylvia opens Friday, October 13 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 22. Performance times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for the military or seniors aged 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets are available online on the theater’s website or by calling the box office at 410-810-2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is located at 210 High Street, Chestertown.

Photography by Jane Jewell

Greg warily eyes the marriage counselor as Leslie asks him “What gender do you think I am?” (Will Robinson and Bryan Betley)     Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Greg and a fellow dog-owner discuss pooches and their partners. – (Will Robinson and Bryan Betley)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia at the park – where she meets Bowser, another dog, (Will Robinson & Christine Kinlock)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Kate & Greg – He sees no problems with a dog in a small New York City apartment.  She sees nothing but. (Jennifer Kafka-Smith & Will Robinson)  Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Phyllis is the friend Kate confides in about Sylvia. – (Bryan Betley)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia after her session with the dog groomer. Isn’t she beautiful? Greg thinks so. (Will Robinson, Christine Kinlock, Jennifer Kafka-Smith)                    Photo credit: Jane Jewell


It’s a Dog Life! “Sylvia” Opens October 13 at The Garfield


Jennifer Kafka-Smith, Will Robinson, Christine Kinlock

The Garfield Center for the Arts’ fall production Sylvia by A.R. Gurney opens at 8 pm Friday, October 13. Originally produced at the Manhattan Club in 1995 with Sarah Jessica Parker in the title role, this sparkling comedy is about a marriage and a dog.

Empty nesters Greg and Kate move to Manhattan after raising their family in the suburbs. While at the park, Greg finds Sylvia, a street-smart stray, and brings her home. With his career in a tailspin, Greg welcomes the distraction of dog ownership, while Kate, whose career is coming to fruition, affirms that “the dog phase of my life is definitely over”. Sylvia promptly becomes a bone of contention between Greg and Kate, straining their marriage with hilarious and touching effect.

Will Robinson as Greg, the husband, and Christine Kinlock as Sylvia the dog.

The show, directed by Bonnie Hill features a strong and talented cast. Will Robinson, last seen in Mr. Roberts at Garfield, will play Greg, a New York businessman whose mid-life crisis involves Sylvia. Jennifer Kafka-Smith, who was last seen in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, plays his sophisticated and long-suffering wife. A newcomer to the Garfield, but not to theater, Christine Kinlock, last seen in Shore Shakespeare’s summer production A Midsummer Night’s Dream, tackles the title role with gusto and charm. Bryan Betley completes the cast, playing the dog park visitor Tom, Kate’s friend Phyllis, and the androgynous marriage counselor, Leslie.

Along with the Director and Producer Julie Lawrence, the Production team includes Butch Clark, technical director and light design; Earl Lewin, set design; Patrick Fee; sound design; Steve Atkinson; stage manager; Meg Lenher, assist. stage manager; and Juanita Wieczoreck, costumes.

“Sylvia” will run two consecutive weekends, October 13 – 15, and October 20 – 22. Performance times are 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 pm matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for the military or seniors aged 65 and older, and $10 for students. The show is sponsored in part by Running W Kennels, a safe and convenient dog boarding service for pet owners in Chestertown and the northern Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their staff provides quality pet care at affordable prices, with a personal touch. If Greg had ever had to leave Sylvia with a boarding service, he would have picked Running W!

Tickets are available online on the theater’s website or by calling the box office at 410-810-2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is located at 210 High Street, Chestertown.

Jennifer Kafka-Smith as Kate, the wife.


Church Hill Theatre & The Peake Players to Present Joint Production of Carrie the Musical


A telekinetic spirit in Carrie the Musical, opening October 27.

In a unique collaboration, Chesapeake College’s drama department and Church Hill Theatre will team up for a community presentation of Carrie the Musical from October 27 – November 12, 2017. Combining the college’s young actors eager to experiment with a challenging musical and CHT’s long-standing reputation for professional production values, Carrie promises to be an exceptional experience. Productions will be held on both the Church Hill stage and at the college’s Cadby Theater.

Based on a novel by best-selling author Stephen King, Carrie tells the story of a high school prom gone horribly wrong. Mistreated by her domineering mother and bullied by cruel classmates, Carrie discovers supernatural powers—and uses them in a destructive finale. The music is full of catchy and vibrant tunes, and while perhaps too violent for very young children, Carrie is a must-see addition to the Halloween season.

Director Rob Thompson, a Chesapeake College professor, has assembled an outstanding cast, with many talented newcomers to the Church Hill stage. Shannon Whitaker will play Carrie; Maureen Curtin will portray her mother, Margaret.  Carrie’s classmates Sue, Tommy, Chris, and Billy are played by Reilly Claxton, Jacob Wheatley, Olivia Litterall and Brandon Walls. The sympathetic Miss Gardner is Samantha Smith. Other featured characters are played by James Kaplanges, Kiya Cohen, Shannon Landers, Catherine Jacobs, Morgan Jung, Sean Priest and Albert Conteh. Students, dancers, telekinetic spirits, police officers and others include Anna Terry, Savannah Bixler, Briana Litteral, Gracie Jordan, Megan Kaley, Alyson Farnell and Morgan Jung.

Shannon Whitaker as Carrie with members of the company.

Carrie the Musical, by Lawrence D. Cohen, Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore will open on Friday, October 27, 2017, and run through Sunday, November 12. Because this is a joint production, Carrie the Musical will spend its opening weekend at Chesapeake College’s Cadby Theatre, and the subsequent two at Church Hill Theatre.  Subscription tickets and membership discounts for Church Hill Theatre will be honored at Church Hill only.

Please note the following performance sites and times carefully:

Chesapeake College, Cadby Theater: October 27, 28 and 29, Friday and Saturday at 8, Sunday at 2.

Church Hill Theatre: November 3 – 12 Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. Reservations for Cadby Theatre on the Chesapeake College campus can be made by calling 410-827-5867 or visiting the Chesapeake College website

For Church Hill call 410-556-6003 or go online to Church Hill’s website 


Renaissance Folk Music to Launch 2017-18 “Resonance” Series




When the musicians of Ayreheart come to Chestertown next month, they’ll bring a mix of sounds they love to share, from the haunting purity of Renaissance art music to timeless folk songs.

The first concert of the National Music Festival’s 2017-18 Resonance concert series, at 7:30 pm on October 7th at Sacred Heart Church, will feature ancient music played by Ronn McFarlane (lute) and his colleagues Brian Kay (vocals, lute, komuz), Willard Morris (colascione), and Mattias Rucht (percussion).  Now a GRAMMY-nominated classically trained master, McFarlane first taught himself to make music at thirteen on a “cranky sixteen-dollar steel-string guitar.”

McFarlane started Ayreheart expecting that he would write and perform lute solos that would appeal to a wide audience, but soon he invited Morris, Rucht and Kay to join him.  Today, their sound is a blend of lute, vocals, komuz, colascione, and percussion.

Some of these historical instruments may be unfamiliar. The lute is a plucked string instrument that was used in an extraordinary range of music from the Medieval through the Baroque eras; it was particularly important in the Renaissance. The komuz is an ancient fretless string instrument, and the colascione is a type of long-necked Italian lute.

The boundaries of the music Ayreheart plays are ever-moving, the kinds of music they and their audiences love.  On October 7, Ayreheart offers “Will You Walk The Woods So Wild,” a program of Renaissance music from the British Isles. Music of John Dowland, William Byrd, and John Johnson will be featured, as well as old ballad tunes from England, Scotland, and Wales.

NMF’s Music Director Richard Rosenberg says Ayreheart’s mix of “high art and folk music” has a universal appeal.  “This concert offers an opportunity for us to hear Renaissance music much as audiences of the time would have heard it,” he says. The music to be performed ranges from the 13th century through the 17th century, taking the listener on a historical and musical journey.

For the maximum musical experience throughout the year, purchase the NMF Annual Pass, which at $300 is your best value for access to all six Resonance concerts, plus entrance to all ticketed events at the 2018 National Music Festival, a souvenir Festival Guide, and an invitation to the Pass-Holders only dessert reception, beautifully catered by the National Music Festival Hospitality Committee.

For just the year-round chamber music events, a Resonance Pass is available for $100; for just the 2018 National Music Festival, purchase a Festival Pass. Festival Passes are priced at $225 through the end of the year; the price increases to $250 as of January 1.

Single tickets are available for this and other Resonance concerts at $20 each; children and students are $5 each. (Please be prepared to show a school ID for students over the age of 14.)

Tickets are available at, P.O. Box 284, Chestertown, MD 21620, or at the door.

The Resonance season will continue with members of the Annapolis Symphony on November 12 at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s, Kent. The season will continue in the New Year with concerts every month from January through April, culminating in a performance by the acclaimed Jasper String Quartet (former mentors at the National Music Festival at Washington College) on April 14, 2018.

PigPen Theatre Returns to Garfield


On September 30th, the musical/theatrical sensation, PigPen Theatre Company, returns to the Garfield Center for the Arts. The Garfield has once again joined forces with The Mainstay, Rock Hall’s home for live music, to bring this incredible group to Chestertown for a one-night only concert performance.

The self-proclaimed “band of storytellers” began creating their unique brand of theater, music, and film as freshmen at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2007. They have since produced their original plays in New York City and toured the country – earning them critic’s picks from The New York Times, Time Out New York, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, and many more, ranking them in the top ten theatrical events of 2011, 2012, and 2013. They were the first group to win the NYC Fringe Festival’s top honor for a play two years in a row (2010/11) and have gone on to win IRNE (2012, 2015) and Jeff Awards (2014) for their theatrical productions. In 2016, Sir Trevor Nunn invited PigPen to be a part of his first American acting company for a production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles”.

PigPen’s debut album, “Bremen”, was named #10 album of the year in The Huffington Post’s 2012 Grammy preview, sending PigPen on tour playing to sold-out crowds across the country. American Songwriter premiered their follow-up EP, “The Way I’m Running”, in 2013 while the band was playing a series of concerts that became one of the most popular residencies of the past decade at the legendary Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago. In 2015, PigPen released their sophomore album, “Whole Sun.” performed at Mumford & Sons’ return to the Gentlemen of the Road Festival, and made their feature film debut in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash” starring Meryl Streep.

Co-sponsored by The Mainstay and The Garfield Center for the Arts, the concert on September 30th is at 8pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online, over the phone by calling 410-810-2060, or in person at the Garfield Center box office. Get your tickets early! This concert was nearly sold out in 2016 and you don’t want to miss them. The theater is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown.