“Miracle on 34th Street” a Holiday Treat

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“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.   Jim Landskroener, director and Mr. Bloomingdale, David Ryan as Kris Kringle, Allan Price as Mr. Macy.      Photo by Jeff Weber

“Miracle on 34th Street,” one of the classic films for the Christmas season, has been adapted as the Garfield Center’s annual holiday offering. Directed by Jim Landskroener, the play assembles a large cast to present this heart-warming story of how Santa can imbue even the most cynical among us with the true spirit of Christmas.

The 1947 movie on which the play is based won three academy awards, including “Best Original Story” by Valentine Davies and “Best Supporting Actor,” Edmund Gwynn, who plays Kris Kringle. And it was chosen in 2005 to become part of the Library of Congress National Film Registry as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.

“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.        Photo by Jane Jewell

The plot is the story of an elderly man who takes a job as a department store Santa Claus at Macy’s in New York City. But Kris Kringle, as he introduces himself, is not content to steer the children who come to see him toward the most profitable merchandise, as his supervisor instructs him. Rather, he does his best to see that they get what they really want — even if it means sending them to another store that carries the item at a lower price than Macy’s. This, of course, goes down very poorly with his supervisors, who warn him, and when he won’t cooperate, fire him.

But meanwhile, the owner of the store, learns that Macy’s is getting unusually favorable publicity because of the new Santa. He expresses his approval, leading the supervisors to reverse course and rehire him. But Kringle has aroused the enmity of Miss Sawyer, the store’s psychologist, who files a complaint that he has attacked her and tries to get him committed to an asylum. At this point, the play shifts to a courtroom scene, where Kringle is on trial for his mental competency. His attorney, Fred Gayley, decides to base his defense on the proposition that Kringle really is Santa Claus.

At the same time, there’s a warm love story running parallel to the Kris Kringle plot, with Fred Gayley trying to win over his neighbor Doris Walker, the Macy’s supervisor who hired Kringle. Fred has decided to let Kringle use his spare bedroom, so he sees a good deal of Doris after work hours. A disillusioned young divorcee, Doris is raising her daughter Susan not to believe in fairy tales or Santa Claus. But when Fred takes Susan to see Kris, her skepticism begins to waver. Eventually, the barriers begin to break down…

 

Kris Kringle is taken to BelleView and must now prove that he isn’t crazy – because he really is Santa! Photo by Jane Jewell

 

It’s a wonderful Christmas fantasy, with a nice love story woven into the plot, and a full quota of interesting characters. Director Jim Landskroener said before the Saturday performance that the script, written in the 1990s by Valentine Davies, was revised somewhat freely for the Garfield version, smoothing out some of the dialogue to feel more natural. Adapting a film script to live theater is always tricky; many things easily done on film are out of reach for even the most ambitious theatrical production, but Landskroener and crew have done a good job of making the story work on stage.

David Ryan as Kris Kringle     Photo by Jeff Weber

David Ryan is a delight as Kris Kringle, radiating warmth and good will. Ryan, pastor of Chestertown’s two Methodist churches, has become a valuable addition to the local theater scene, appearing at both the Garfield (“Mr. Roberts”) and Church Hill  (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”)

Natalie Lane plays Doris Walker, the Macy’s manager who initially hires Kringle. She does a nice job showing the character’s transition from distrust of emotions and skepticism about Santa to acceptance. A member of the Kent County Library staff, she previously appeared in “My Fair Lady.”

Izzie Southworth, making her acting debut here, plays Doris’s daughter Susan, who learns to trust her imagination under Kris’s prompting. She makes the character’s different moods come across clearly — well done.

Zac Ryan, whose previous GCA credits include “Mr. Roberts” and Short Attention Span Theater, plays Fred Gayley, a young lawyer who is in love with Susan. He believes in Kris almost from the beginning, and does his best to make sure the old fellow isn’t mistreated either by Macy’s management or by the legal system. A good job in a prominent part.

“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.   Susie and Santa. Photo by Jane Jewell

Diane Landskroener, one of the most versatile actors in local theater, is wonderful as Sawyer, deploying an appropriately grating New York accent and using body language to create the character. She’s hilarious!

“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.  Mrs. Sawyer accuses Santa of attacking her as Doris looks on, startled.    Photo by Jane Jewell

Gil Rambach is convincing as Judge Harper, whose sense of justice is tempered by the need to get reelected.  June Hall takes the role of Halloran, the judge’s campaign manager, who is appalled that he is sitting on a case that could require him to rule against Santa. And Mike Heffron does a nice job as Mara, the prosecuting attorney who discovers that he’s got a tougher case on his hands than he thought. And James Diggs is well cast as Dr. Pierce, who knows Kris from the hospital he’s lived in for a number of years.

The Macy’s elves — played by Ben Anthony, Thomas Martinez, Ellie Morton and Shane Saunders — double as stagehands and carry much of the comic energy of the scenes they appear in. They are especially funny when they give a dead-pan demonstration of the history of elvish “pranks,” culminating in the ever popular pie-in-the-face.  Young audience members should especially enjoy these slapstick bits, while older theater-goers will be amused by their interplay with the Macy’s management as the elves try to defend Santa.

Mr. Macy and the staff envision the fabulous profits that will incur due to the great publicity and good will that their Santa is bringing to the store. “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.       Photo by Jane Jewell

The play’s pace is sometimes a little slow, largely because of the number of scene changes. This, of course, is one of the complications of translating something from film — where such changes can appear instantly and almost effortlessly — to the stage, where things have to be physically moved into place in view of the audience. Using the elves as stagehands is a clever solution, adding a bit of fun as the elves scamper and romp while they reset the stage for the next scene.  The lively Christmas music also adds to the holiday atmosphere.

The Garfield’s “Miracle on 34th Street” is a nice addition to a holiday season that has already hit high notes locally with the “Dickens of a Christmas” festival. It has the right mix of sentiment and comedy, delivered by a strong cast. Young theater-goers should find it engaging, and older audience members who know the movie are likely to find it a fresh re-interpretation of the story. Don’t miss it!

The show runs through Dec. 17. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m, and Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for military and.seniors 65+, and $10 for students.

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 410-810- 2060.

“You can’t put Santa on trial!~” says Halloran, Judge Harper’s campaign manager.
“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.        Photo by Jane Jewell

Lawyer Mara, Clerk Finley, & Judge Harper
“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.        Photo by Jane Jewell

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Mid-Shore Arts: Artist Emily Lombardo Has a Three Year Chat with Goya at the AAM

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One of the first things that must be said in prefacing our Spy interview with artist Emily Lombardo is that her current exhibition, The Caprichos: Goya and Lombardo at the Academy Art Museum, is not complicated for the audience to comprehend.

Two artists, separated by some 300 years, offer similar and sobering images of their contemporary society’s failures. For Francisco Goya, his eighty etchings, which make up the original work known as Los Caprichos, reflected the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition and the moral bankruptcy of the Catholic Church among many other social illnesses of his time.

For Emily Lombardo, who, as a young art student in Boston would spend her afternoons at the Museum of Fine Art observing Goya’s work, Los Caprichos offered her an entirely new gateway to express her moral outrage at today’s injustices as well as, you guessed it, the moral bankruptcy of Catholic Church and its more recent sins related child sex abuse.

The challenge for the audience is to go beyond these often dark images and see how these two worlds both contrast and connect with each other in this remarkable exhibition organized by the AAM’s curator Anke Van Wagenberg.

The Spy caught up with Emily before the opening of The Caprichos: Goya and Lombardo to talk about this extraordinary undertaking (it took both artists three years to complete their work) and some suggestions for visitors and they observe these two worlds which fill the Museum’s two primary gallery spaces for the next few months.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information on The Caprichos: Goya and Lombardo please go here

 

Profiles in Philanthropy: Kent County’s Arts in Motion and the Hedgelawn Foundation

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In an age when news of million-dollar gifts to charities are now considered run of the mill, and billionaire philanthropists make their mark with large capital gifts, it is easy to forget that every day in this country much smaller acts of philanthropy can also create transformational change as well.

One example has been the Hedgelawn Foundation and their support of the Arts in Motion program, which is devoted to the development of Kent County public school student artists and their teachers. Through Hedgelawn’s support, Arts in Motion was able created the Easels and Arts project which now displays the work of our regional students at six primary locations in Kent County. To date, it is estimated that over 7,000 Kent County residents have viewed their work.

The Spy was interested in these small but mighty acts of philanthropy by Hedgelawn, so we sat down with Tom McHugh, the volunteer leader of Arts in Action, to hear first hand how the Foundation’s seed funding was critical as leverage for additional support to make Easels and Arts a reality. We also talked to Judy Kohl of Hedgelawn (which she founded with her husband, the late Ben Kohl) about why it decided to make this investment and how it coincides with the foundation’s mission.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Arts in Motion please go here.

Miracle on 34th Street Opens Dec. 1 at Garfield

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Veteran Director Jim Landskroener has assembled a cast of new and familiar local faces for the production of Miracle on 34 th Street, which opens during the Dickens of a Christmas weekend, Friday, December 1st at the Garfield Center for the Arts. This play version is adapted from the Twentieth Century Fox motion picture, and based on the novel by Valentine Davies. &quot.

“This is a tale that we want to believe in, that creates a world we seem to desperately desire, free of the blatant commercialism that surrounds us, where love and decency and generosity of spirit are their own rewards. What we want Christmas to be all about.” So writes the Santa Cruz Sentinel of this most heartwarming holiday
story.

By chance, Kris Kringle, an old man in a retirement home, gets a job working as Santa for Macy’s. Kris unleashes waves of good will with Macy's customers and the commercial world of New York City by referring parents to other stores to find exactly the toy their child has asked for. Seen as deluded and dangerous by Macy’s vocational counselor, who plots to have Kris shanghaied to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, Kris ends up in a court competency hearing. Especially at stake is one little girl's belief in Santa. In a dramatic decision, the court confirms Kris as the true Santa, allowing Susan and countless other children to experience the joy of childhood fantasy.

The cast in order of appearance on stage:
James Diggs – Dr. Pierce
David Ryan – Kris Kringle
June Hall – Bag Lady
Rich Person – Laura Crabtree
Shellhammer (Shelly) – Lori Wysong
Doris Walker – Natalie Lane
Susan Walker – Izzie Southworth
Fred Gayley – Zac Ryan
Drunk Santa – Tom Dorman
Macy – Allan Price
Sawyer – Diane Landskroener
Gimble – Special Cameo
Judge Harper – Gil Rambach
Finley – Tom Dorman
Mara – Mike Heffron
Halloran – June Hall
Duncan – Laura Crabtree
Mara, Jr. – Aaron Sensenig
Assorted Elves: Ben Anthony, Thomas Martinez, Ellie Morton, Shane Saunders
Children & Parents: Lia & Sarah Schut, Quentin & Phyllis Bergenholtz, Joe Diggs, Aaron Sensenig and Josie
Merton.

Take advantage of the Garfield’s recurring opening night discount; get $5 off when you wear your Garfield t-shirt! The show runs three weekends, from December 1 to 17. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m, and Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for military and.seniors 65+, and $10 for students.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.GarfieldCenter.org or by calling the box office at 410-810- 2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown. This production is sponsored by Sutton Building & Remodeling, who recently installed the Garfield’s new movie screen.

Photo credits — Jeff Weber

Mid-Shore Arts: The MSO “Holiday Joy” Preview with Julien Benichou and Jeffrey Parker

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While there are plenty of reasons to be grateful that the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra makes Easton its home throughout the year, it is hard to match the enthusiasm and brilliance performances that come with the Symphony’s annual holiday program. And this year is no different.

On December 7 at 7 p.m., the Orchestra will return to the Avalon for their celebration of the December holidays which gave us an opportunity to catch up with Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s musical director, Julien Benichou, and the Symphony board president, Jeffrey Parker to get a sneak preview of what’s planned for what must be the MSO’s most popular performance of the year.

This year the orchestra will be joined by soprano Leah Hawkins in what both Julian and Jeffrey agree could be a perfect pairing of an extraordinary singer with the warmth and brilliance of David Fraser’s This Christmastide or Jessye’s Carol since composition was written for the great Jessye Norman.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra please go here

 

Doug Sassi: RiverArts Gift Shop Artist of the Month

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Pottery and crafts by Doug Sassi currently in RiverArts Gallery’s gift shop

“That’s the great thing about doing a job you love,” he says. “You never have to retire from it—you just do it until you can’t do it anymore.”

Doug Sassi, potter

Doug Sassi has been a potter since 1962. He has a BS in Art Education and an MFA with a major in Ceramics and a minor in Art History. He has operated his pottery in Still Pond, MD, since 1978. He taught Ceramics and Sculpture in high schools from 1971 until retiring in 2011. He has taught workshops for local organizations in Kent County three times. You can see his work on Facebook (Doug Sassi Pottery) and on Google+. Mr. Sassi makes his own clay and glazes and works primarily on the potters’ wheel. His work is high-fired stoneware and almost entirely functional.He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and the subsidiary of the American Crafts Council, American Crafts Enterprises. He has exhibited in prestigious craft markets such as the ACC’s Rhinebeck and Baltimore Winter Market fairs. In 1975 and 1976 he was an artist-in-residence in Pennsylvania public schools. In 1977 he was granted by the National Arts Foundation to host an apprentice for a year in his studio.

For more information, contact the artist at info@sassipottery.com.

RiverArts Holiday Gift Shop Hours:
Monday – Saturday10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday11 a.m. to 3 p.m
Located in downtown Chestertown on High Street in the breezeway behind Dunkin’ Donuts
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Play It Again — at Garfield Center

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Come and celebrate the 75th Anniversary of one of the all-time great films at the Garfield Center!

In 1943, “Casablanca” won three Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture. Today, 75 years after its release, the film is still considered a classic.

On Warner Bros. back lot in Burbank on May 25, 1942, the first day of shooting for the new film “Casablanca,” the production schedule called actors Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Dooley Wilson to the set at 9 a.m. to shoot a flashback scene set in Paris, where the romance between Rick and Ilsa began.

Seventy-five years later, the film has reportedly been screened more times in theaters and on television than any movie in history.

On Saturday, November 25, come to the Garfield Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. for a special 75th anniversary celebration of the film. The event is FREE with donations to the Garfield encouraged. The Garfield Center for the Arts is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown and can be reached at 410-810-2060.

Illustrated Lecture: “Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors, and the Creative Arts”

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WarFront/HomeFront with new Kent Arts Building in background

The public is invited to an Illustrated Lecture this coming Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 2 p.m. at the Kent County Arts Council Gallery, 101 Spring Avenue, Chestertown, Maryland.

“Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors, and the Creative Arts” will be presented by Tara Tappert, Founder and Principal of The Arts & The Military; and, Michael D. Fay, Retired Combat Artist and Founder of The Joe Bonham Project.  Both work with wounded veterans to help foster healing through artistic expression.  The works displayed show war through the eyes of those who lived it – and are still living with war’s impact.

Main Art Gallery in new Kent Arts Building

Tara Tappert, Art Consultant and founder of ThemArts and the Military

Tara Tappert, Founder & Director, The Arts & The Military (www.artsandmilitary.org) is an Award-winning scholar, researcher, writer, curator, collections manager, archivist/librarian, editor, graduate-level teacher, academic adviser, and tutor for cultural, educational, and business institutions, and for private individuals and families. Her scholarship is focused in 20th c. American craft – particularly as a rehabilitation tool for war trauma and in late 19th and early 20th c. American art and culture– particularly portraiture, biography, women and art, family history, and genealogy. She is also a noted scholar of the portraitist Cecilia Beaux.

Michael D. Fay, artist and founder of WarFront/HomeFront & Joe Bonham Project

Michael D. Fay, Founder, The Joe Bonham Project, first served in the Marines from 1975 to 1978 as an infantry man attaining the rank of sergeant. He left the service to pursue a college degree and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education from the Pennsylvania State University in 1982. He then re-enlisted in the Marines in December 1983 and served on active duty until September 1993. During this ten-year period he served in the Presidential Helicopter Squadron under President Ronald Reagan, and participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Eastern Exit, and Provide Promise campaigns. Seven years later, he enlisted  into the Marine Corps Reserve in January 2000 in order to fill the billet of combat artist with the Field History Department supporting the Historical Division of the Marine Corps.

As an official Marine Corps combat artist, Fay has been mobilized for four extended periods, and has served two tours each in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fay’s paintings and drawings made during these deployments demonstrate how combat looks and feels in a very personal and immediate way. The focus of these works is the human face of war. In images of ordinary people conducting routine business in difficult and unfamiliar circumstances, he reminds us of individual sacrifice and heroism.

Drawings of soldiers in the WarFront/HomeFront Exhibit currently at the Kent County Arts Council Arts Building through Dec. 3.

 

 

 

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Art Review: WarFront/HomeFront at the Kent County Arts Council Gallery

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Silhouetted against a pinkish-red background, several doves perch on a rifle held high by a soldier’s arm. This poignant image is just one of many in “WarFront/HomeFront, Through the Eyes of Our Military” on view through December 3 at Kent County Arts Council. After languishing for years, the former Town Arts Building is open again and hosting a show that vividly celebrates the healing power of art.

Whether the glowing red background connotes blood and fiery violence or the radiant pink blush of sunrise, hope and love is not clear, and the tension behind this riddle tells the terrible truth that while war is waged to bring peace, peace never lasts.

“Birds over Peace,” Patrick Sargent (U. S. Air Force), screen-print on paper made from Walter Reed hospital scrubs, 13 ½ x 6 ½ inches, 2015

Created by Patrick Sargent, an Air Force veteran, at a workshop at Walter Reed National Military Center, “Birds over Peace” was screen-printed on paper made from worn-out scrubs from the hospital. Many of the show’s works were created in similar workshops, and many use handmade paper pulped from military uniforms by recovering soldiers in a powerful metaphor of transformation paralleling the soldiers’ transformative healing through making art.

“WarFront/HomeFront” is a heart-rending, provocative and soulfully beautiful exhibit drawn from the 600 works in the ART/ifacts Collection of The Arts & The Military, a grassroots organization that actively engages wounded veterans in the arts. They are joined by drawings and paintings of wounded soldiers from the Joe Bonham Project by artists from the Society of Illustrators and the International Society of War Artists.

Little boys love to play with toy soldiers, but the melted and mutilated toy soldiers scattered across Malachi Muncy’s “To Play Army” will never be played with again. The words scrawled across the paper pulp painting where they are imbedded blurt out a painful message that recurs throughout this show, “I Didn’t Know What It Meant To Play Army.”

“To Play Army,” Malachi Muncy (U. S. Army), pulp panting and ink with toy Army men embedded in paper made from pulped military uniforms, 11 x 17 inches, 2013

Military service was romanticized when Muncy was growing up as an Army brat, and like many young people with limited prospects, whether white, black, Latino or Native American, he chose the military as a way to obtain training and education. After two deployments to Iraq and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, he has turned to art, as well as other therapies, for healing.

Art engages experience on many levels. The viscous feeling of clay between the fingers and the sweep of an arm brushing color across a piece of paper are strongly physical. The artworks these actions create stimulate both eyes and brain in a process that probes memory and belief, digesting experience and feeling in order to work toward understanding.

Chosen by Guest Curator Tara Tappert, Executive Director of The Arts & The Military, and KCAC Co-Executive Director John Schratwieser, the exhibit includes paintings, drawings, ceramics, poetry, found object art, and many handmade paper works created from old uniforms. It’s a show in which art has a double mission, serving both as a therapeutic process and as a compelling advocacy tool teaching visitors about the inward experiences of individuals in the military.

It’s in some of the Joe Bonham Project drawings that personal stories come to life with intensely affecting strength. Civilian illustrator Jeffery Fisher’s watercolor “A Fitful Sleep” is a powerful image of a wounded soldier, arm bandaged, sheets pulled into sweeping diagonals, grimacing face turned away. The sense of aloneness in his nightmarish physical and mental pain is palpable.

“A Fitful Sleep,” Jeffrey Fisher (Civilian), watercolor and graphite on paper, 27 ½ x 18 inches, 2012

Through the process of creating, these wounded soldiers are able to discover ways to examine and express their wartime experiences in a safe and nourishing atmosphere. In one of the exhibit’s most inspired works, visitors may do the same. Across the gallery’s double windows hang several pairs of combat boots. These regulation boots have obviously been worn—despite the mandatory spit shine, they are scuffed and creased, each by an individual soldier. (No one wears a pair of boots in the same way as anyone else, as Van Gogh’s paintings attest.) Visitors are invited to write wishes, prayers or stories on paper provided and put them into the boots. Just a few days into the show, they were already brimming with handwritten notes which, at the end of the show, will be added to those collected from previous exhibits of the ART/ifacts Collection.

Interaction is crucial to the process of art, as it is to the process of healing. Wounded veterans worked together to pulp old uniforms into paper, to pose for drawings, and to organize workshops. It took great courage for them to open up through art to work on their own healing, and it takes courage to experience this show, but do it. You’ll be richer for the experience.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.