“The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” Opens Friday at the Garfield

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The Curate Shakespeare

As You Like It

a comedy by Don Nigro as directed by Earl Lewin

“Being the Record of One Company’s Attempt to Perform the Play by William Shakespeare.”

This sparkling comedy presents the tribulations of an itinerant band of amateur thespians, led by a dotty cleric, in their attempt to present Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Seven actors valiantly create thirty-odd different parts, as they frantically switch roles and costumes. By turns pushed, pulled, exhorted, inspired, and browbeaten by their curate, they often want to quit, endure countless humiliations, and make a near hash of the precious and holy words of the god Shakespeare. But now and then, to their own considerable surprise, they stumble across moments of beauty and integrity. It’s a hilarious send-up of all things theatrical (with jabs at our own 2018 production!) from one of the modern   stage’s funniest playwrights, Don Nigro.

The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It is directed by noted Chestertown playwright and director Earl Lewin.  The cast features company co-founders Avra Sullivan and Chris Rogers, along with members Max Hagan, Kathy Jones, Christine Kinlock, Brian McGunigle, and Troy Strootman.  Original music and choreography are by Greg Minahan, and costumes by Barbi Bedell.  Stage management is provided by John Feldman.

January 11th – 20th, 2019 

Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm.      Sundays at 3:00 pm
The Garfield Center for the Arts       Chestertown, Maryland
General Admission $15

The company is delighted to be partnering with The Garfield Center for the Arts to present The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It.  Be sure to call the box office at 410-810-2060 to make reservations for this delightful spoof of one of Shakespeare’s greatest hits!  Or send an email to boxoffice@garfieldcenter.org.

Get complete info HERE.
The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC

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Hush Now: A Poem by Stan Salett

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Hush Now

Hush now, listen to the moment,
Hear the silent sounds of memory,
Do not speak, do not think, just listen.

And what may come to you,
After the trumpets and salutes,
After the crowds and hurried movements,
Is the silence.

The moment when past and present
And future are one,
When Aha! has become Ahh.

Swallow deeply, close your eyes,
You are here, you are alive,
You are one.

Stan Salett has been a policy adviser to the Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations and is the author of The Edge of Politics: Stories from the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, and the Challenges of School Reform. He now lives in Kent County, Maryland. 

Boogie Woogie and a Message: Daryl Davis at Sumner Hall

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Daryl Davis

The Sumner Hall concert series, “African American Legacy & Heritage in Jazz, Blues & Gospel,” continues with a performance by pianist Daryl Davis, one of the modern masters of boogie-woogie piano. The concert, “Daryl Davis Offers Boogie Woogie and a Message,” is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.

Davis has performed and recorded with a veritable “Who’s Who” of musicians in the blues, rock, and popular fields, including Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and many others. He has been a frequent performer at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, especially at Rock Hall Fallfest. So he was one of the first performers sought by Tom McHugh, who assembled the talent for the Sumner Hall series, which features performers covering historically important styles of blues, gospel and jazz music.

In addition to his musical career, over the years Davis has gained recognition for a project in which he seeks out and enters into dialogue with members of the Ku Klux Klan. The idea came to him in 1983, when a white patron in a bar where he was playing complimented him on his renditions of Jerry Lee Lewis tunes. He told the man, who turned out to be a KKK member, that Lewis’s style was patterned on African-American blues and gospel music, and in the course of the conversation, the man gave him the contact information for several KKK members.

Davis went on to meet a number of Klansmen, including the Grand Dragon of the Maryland Klan, who arrived at the interview with an armed guard. Eventually Davis convinced the man to give up his Klan membership, as a token of which he gave Davis his Klan robes. Over the years, Davis says he has been directly responsible for between 40 and 60 members leaving the Klan, and indirectly responsible for as many as 200.

He told of his experiences in his 1998 book, Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan. Davis has frequently lectured on his experiences with Klan members, and was the subject of a 2016 film on PBS, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America. Davis has said that his success rests in part on his religious faith and partly on his belief that hatred is the result of ignorance. Getting to know someone well makes it harder to hate them.

As part of the Sumner Hall series, McHugh asked all the performers to answer audience questions about the music or anything else. In Davis’s case, this will undoubtedly include his encounters with the Klan as well as his extensive musical career.

Davis plays at Sumner Hall at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Some tickets, at $20 each, are still available. To make a reservation, visit the Sumner Hall website (https://aalhconcertseries.eventbrite.com)

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Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol a Holiday Delight at Garfield Center

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The cast of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol at the Garfield Center 2018 – Photo by Peter Heck

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim – one of the classic Christmas stories. This year, the Garfield Center is offering an adaption of the tale for young audiences, “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” and for good measure, the show’s second week coincides with Chestertown’s “Dickens of a Christmas” festival.

The story is set in London in 1834, a decade before the story was first published. Tiny Tim Cratchit, whose father works for the miser Scrooge, is trying to find a way to get his father a day off for Christmas. But Scrooge, who sneers at anything that doesn’t contribute to his bottom line, tells Crachett to be at work at 9 o’clock sharp on Christmas day – there’s money to be made, and that’s an end to it. Desperate, Tim and his young friend Charlotte enlist several street vendors to impersonate ghosts to scare Scrooge into recognizing the spirit of Christmas and giving his employee the holiday off. As the play continues, we watch the plan unfold – and just at the critical moment, a real Christmas miracle takes place.

Jim Landskroener as Scrooge – Photo by Peter Heck

Director Bonnie Hill has brought together a good cross-section of local acting talent, including several younger actors, for this production. Garfield veteran (and board member) Jim Landskroener – last seen as Groucho Marx in “Animal Crackers” – has the prize role of Scrooge, and Dickens would be proud of his portrayal. Whether he is rejecting a request for charitable contributions for the poor — “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” — or cowering before the ghosts called up to reform the miser’s ways, Landskroener is spot-on. 

Tiny Tim and Charlotte devise a plan to make Scrooge give Bob Cratchit a day off for Christmas – Photo by Peter Heck

John Crook plays Tiny Tim, who also acts as the narrator of the play, while Raven Miller takes the role of Charlotte, Tim’s young friend. They are on-stage pretty much the entire time, and they make the most of their stage time, whether they’re in the middle of the action or hiding just outside Scrooge’s view while their plans are going forward. They also serve as intermediaries for younger audience members, giving them an understandable hook to involve them in the main action of converting Scrooge from a holiday-hating miser to a participant in the spirit of the season. Both do excellent jobs.

The three vendors are played by Jane Jewell, David Ryan and Bryan Zajchowski – each of whom takes on several additional roles within the play. Jewell, whose last local appearance was in the role of Aunt Rhoda in Earl Lewin’s “Hitched,” is cast as a puppet vendor, the Ghost of Christmas Past and Tiny Tim’s mother, Mrs. Cratchit. Ryan is a pie-seller, Scrooge’s old employer Fezziwig, and the ghosts of Marley and Christmas Present. And Zajchowski plays a bookseller, Mrs. Fezziwig, andTiny Tim’s father, Bob Cratchit. All handle the multiple roles well, and their costume changes are done smoothly enough that the play doesn’t slow down. Zajchowski is especially funny when he portrays the cheerful Mrs. Fezziwig with a high, squeaky voice and dancing in a red evening dress. Good jobs by three versatile character actors.

Robbie Spray does a good job in several minor roles, including Scrooge’s nephew Fred, a gravedigger, and Mr. Stevens, a gentleman who solicits Scrooge for a charitable donation. He also ghosts the voice of Christmas Future, played onstage by a life-sized flying puppet manipulated by Steve Atkinson.  Atkinson also has multiple responsibilities as stage manager and playing a small role as Mr. Hollyfoot, a gentleman who collaborates with Mr. Stevens in collecting for charity and is appalled by Scrooge’s callousness and complete lack of Christmas spirit or any sympathy for the poor and underprivileged.

The three street vendors: David Ryan as the pie-seller, Bryan Zajchowski as the book-seller, and Jane Jewell as the puppet-seller – Photo by Peter Heck

Alden Swanson plays a young girl and a Christmas turkey.   Caleb Ford takes the part of the young boy who tells Scrooge it’s Christmas morning and runs to get and deliver the turkey.  Swanson and Ford join Kathy Jones, Cornelia Fallon, and Michelle Genovese as Christmas carolers, assisted by the rest of the cast at several points. The songs are traditional Christmas favorites of the era including “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “The Holly and the Ivy” – it’s nice to hear something besides today’s commercial seasonal fare. Julie Lawrence is musical director.

The costumes are period-appropriate and very eye-catching as well. Kudos to costume chair Juanita Wieczorek and her crew Connie Fallon, Tina Johnson, and Jen Emley. Several of the costumes, including the four gentlemen’s frock coats and most of the carolers’ outfits, were hand-made for this production by Connie Fallon and other costume committee members.  They will also be used in the Dickens Weekend activities. The set gives the feeling of the era while being flexible enough to allow reasonably quick scene changes. Earl Lewin designed and Beverly Smith painted the sets.  Jennifer Kafka Smith made the wonderful Victorian-period puppets.

Scrooge, played by Jim Landskroener, is awakened by the Ghost of Christmas Present (David Ryan) – Photo by Peter Heck

The play as a whole takes just under an hour, so it’s unlikely to strain the patience of young theater-goers, who are pretty much the natural audience for this adaptation of Dickens’ tale. And while this version of Dickens’ novella has been adapted and streamlined for younger viewers, there’s enough left of the original text, particularly in Scrooge’s lines, to serve as an effective introduction to the story for those younger audince members.  Scrooge still says “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population” and “Bah, humbug”. 

This production is definitely a play for the whole family – it might be a good idea to come the first weekend, before the Dickens festival brings in the large out-of-town audience. 

Scrooge (Jim Landskroener) in his nightgown is thrilled to be told by a boy (Caleb Ford) that it is still Christmas day – Photo by Peter Heck

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. General admission is $20. Tickets for seniors and military personnel are $15, and tickets for students are $10. Get a special $5 off on opening night if you wear your Garfield Center t-shirt! Call the Garfield box office at 410-810-2060 or visit Eventbrite to reserve tickets.

The puppet-seller (Jane Jewell), disguised as the Ghost of Christmas Past, arrives to scare Scrooge (Jim Landskroener). – Photo by Peter Heck

John Crook as Tiny Tim – Photo by Peter Heck

David Ryan as the pie-seller – Photo by Peter Heck

A gravedigger (Robbie Spray) gives Scrooge a glimpse of what lies ahead – Photo by Peter Heck

The Cratchit family dinner: Mrs. Cratchit (Jane Jewell), Emily (Raven Miller), Mr. Cratchit (Bryan Zajchowski), Tiny Tim (John Crook) – Photo by Peter Heck

Mid-Shore Arts: Troika Gallery’s Laura Era on Starting Anew

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The common Russian definition of the word “troika” refers to three horses abreast pulling a sleigh. That seemed to be the perfect name for Laura Era, her mother Dorothy, and their artist friend, Jennifer Heyd Wharton, when the trio opened their gallery in Talbottown twenty-one years ago. Since that time, the Troika Galley has become one of the great success stories of downtown Easton with their remarkable display of fine art from some of the country’s leading artists.

But like all things in life, let alone in the art gallery world, things do change, and the Troika Gallery was not spared that fate when Laura Era had to work through the almost simultaneous death of her mother and Jennifer’s decision to give up her share in the gallery since retiring to South Carolina. Within the span of less than two weeks, Troika had actually become a one-horse tarantass or a single horse-drawn carriage in Russian.

Nonetheless, with store manager Peg Fitzgerald at her side, Laura decided to keep Troika Gallery’s doors open. And, as she notes in our recent Spy interview, it was not a hard decision given what the three partners had achieved; a space of unique serenity, a remarkable collection of artists, and a gathering space for collectors and art lovers alike.

The Spy sat down with Laura this week to get an update.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Troika will have a special anniversary group show opening and reception on November 9. For more information please go here

 

Mid-Shore Arts: The Great Migration with John Schratwieser

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As part of the Kent County Arts Council agenda this fall, there will be a unique tribute to America’s great migration of six million African-Americans who moved from the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West. To provide a sense of scale for this remarkable transition, until 1910, more than 90 percent of the African-American population lived in the American South. In 1900, only one-fifth of African-Americans living in the South were living in urban areas.

In 2016 The Phillips Collection in Washington DC commissioned Playwright and Producing Artistic Director Jacqueline Lawton,to create an evening of short plays based on the Great Migration series painted by famed African American painter, Jacob Lawrence. These plays will be presented together as Act one of a Two-Act evening that also includes Kent County’s own RED DEVIL MOON, Thursday – Sunday, November 1 – 4, 2018 at the Garfield Center for the Arts.

The Spy chatted with John Schratwieser, KCAC director, about this amibrioust project a few months ago to help us understand better the history and what the audience can expect during this short run.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Great Migration project please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Sumner Hall Presents Roots of African American Music

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The MSG Acoustic Blues Trio, the opening act for the Sumner Hall concert series

Chestertown’s Sumner Hall begins a new venture this fall with a stellar concert series, “African American Legacy & Heritage in Jazz, Blues & Gospel.” The series, featuring local and nationally-known performers, is produced by Tom McHugh, well known for his work at the Mainstay in Rock Hall.

Since retiring from the Mainstay, McHugh has worked with the arts programs at the Kent County public schools, bringing recognition to the art teachers and students and working to bring in artists to help expand the students’ horizons. Now, working in a volunteer capacity with Sumner Hall, he has drawn on his many contacts throughout the music world to assemble a concert series to represent the rich spectrum of African American music, from spirituals and blues to the giants of jazz. McHugh was joined by Sumner Hall President Larry Wilson for a Spy interview on the concert series.

Musician Karen Somerville with Tom McHugh, producer of the concert series and director of Arts in Motion – Photo by Jane Jewell

McHugh said the inspiration for the series came when he was at Sumner Hall for an event and read a poster on the wall that made him think about the role of music in African American life in Kent County and how that links to the mission of Sumner Hall. “It’s a poster that just makes you think,” he said. The series inspired by it “is intended to be the legacy of African American contributions to blues and jazz and folk music.”

Reggie Harris

The first performer he thought of was Reggie Harris, guitarist, songwriter and storyteller extraordinaire. McHugh said, “Reggie has this reputation of being able to pull all these currents together.” He said that whenever he brought Harris in for a concert, “I just let him roll,” knowing the result would be right for the situation and the audience. When McHugh called Harris – even before contacting anyone at Sumner Hall – to tell him about the idea of a concert series to present “snapshots” of the different musical genres, Harris said, “I’m in.”

McHugh then began looking for other performers, particularly those who could take the history “way back,” which was when he found out about the MSG Acoustic Blues Trio, a Washington DC-based group that presents the Piedmont Blues style associated with such artists as Cephas and Wiggans. McHugh said MSG had performed at Archie Edwards’ barbershop in Washington, which featured live performances while Edwards cut hair. The group was referred to McHugh by Dave Robinson, a fixture of the Washington jazz scene, who brought a DC-area youth band to the Chestertown Jazz Festival a year ago. Robinson referred McHugh to Archie Edwards Barbershop Foundation and they recommended MSG Acoustic Blues Trio. “You have to get these people…they entertain and educate the audience about the Piedmont blues traditions,” Robinson said.

Larry Wilson, president of Sumner Hall Board of Directors – Photo by Jane Jewell

Having secured those two groups, McHugh said, he felt the rest would be a matter of “filling in.” He presented the idea to some of the Sumner Hall leadership, and the project began to take shape. He said that all the artists had agreed to perform for less than their normal fees, many of them because of their previous experience with McHugh at the Mainstay.

Phil Dutton

He talked about the performers, many of whom are already familiar to local audiences – especially Philip Dutton and Karen Somerville. For their performances in this series, McHugh asked both of them to stretch beyond what audiences have come to expect. Dutton, who usually appears with his band the Alligators, will do a solo set, talking about the influences on his playing. McHugh described Dutton as “a scholar” of the different styles of New Orleans piano playing.

Somerville, best known for gospel performances with the Sombarkin trio, will pay tribute to Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin – two of the most revered voices in African American music. McHugh said that he and Somerville have been friends for at least 25 years, and he described her as his main link to the Kent County African American community during his first few years here, introducing him to important members of the community and filling him in on bits of local history.

Pianist Daryl Davis and guitarist Guy Davis (no relation) have been regulars at the Mainstay, with Daryl Davis a frequent performer at Rock Hall Fall Fests. McHugh has known Guy Davis for many years, since inviting him to demonstrate slide guitar at a blues class he was teaching at Vassar. Guy Davis and Reggie Harris played a memorable concert at Sumner Hall a couple of years ago.

Guy Davis – photo by Joseph A. Rosen

One of the less familiar performers is Jason Blythe, a young tenor sax player from the jazz program at the University of Delaware, whom Mchugh heard when the U. Del. big jazz band played at the Mainstay. McHugh described Blythe as “a natural” musician. Learning that one of Blythe’s favorite tenor players is the late Lester Young, McHugh challenged him to recreate Young’s 1946 trio with Nat “King” Cole on piano and Buddy Rich on drums. Blythe recruited two members of the U. Del. faculty to fill out the trio.

McHugh said that each of the performers has agreed to talk about the music with the audience and to answer any questions. “It might have to do with your instrument, or it might have to do with how you got into this music, so people can take those stories out into the community,” he said. In some cases – notably with Daryl Davis, who has made an ongoing effort to meet and engage with members of the Ku Klux Klan – the discussion may range far beyond the music. That’s part of the point – as important as the music is in its own right, it has an important role as part of African American life, and draws on all aspects of the black experience in this country.

Daryl Davis

Wilson reminisced about the music he heard while growing up in Kent County. He and his friends listened to the black-run radio stations, WSID and WEBB from Baltimore and WANN from Annapolis until they went off the air at sundown, then switched to the Baltimore Top 40 station, WCAO – where much of the same music was crossing over into the pop mainstream. He said he hoped the concert series would attract more members of the local African American community – especially young listeners — to Sumner Hall

With this goal in mind, 20 tickets will be set aside for each concert for Special Guests. The concerts’ website notes that there are many members of the community who may be unable to purchase a ticket but who are either a part of the local African American music scene in the region or who are students and youth who would love to attend. Anyone interested in sponsoring one of these community members can purchase a “Sponsor a Special Guest” ticket in addition to their own, and Sumner Hall will make sure that ticket goes to a deserving local music fan. “Sponsor a Special Guest” tickets are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said of the concert series. “Each one is different in its own way but it brings a light to the music.”  The musicians will open the floor for questions and discussion at the end of each concert.  Most concerts are on Saturday, a couple on Friday evenings.  Shows begin at 7:00 pm. The complete series schedule is below.

Everyone involved in the production is spreading the word through email and other media, so anyone interested would be well advised to make advance reservations online here https://aalhconcertseries.eventbrite.com.  The series is supported in part by a generous donation from the Hedgelawn Foundation.

All shows begin at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $20 each.  The hall seats just a little over 100. Advance ticket sales only. No tickets will be sold at the door.See their website for more information on Sumner Hall and other upcoming events.

The complete schedule:

November 10 – MSG Acoustic Blues Trio Showcases the Piedmont Blues
December 8 – Daryl Davis Offers Boogie Woogie and a Message
February 9 – Phil Dutton Plays New Orleans Piano
March 1 – Guy Davis is on the Road with Blues and Songster Ramblings
April 13 – Jason Blythe & University of Delaware Band Re-create the Lester Young Trio
May 11 – Karen Somerville Sings Mahalia, Aretha. . . and More
June 1 – Reggie Harris Wraps It Up

Sumner Hall
206 S. Queen Street
Chestertown, MD 21620
phone 443 282 0023. 

Mid-Shore Arts: The Spy Checks in with Academy Art Museum’s Ben Simons

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The Craft Show has successfully come and gone, many of Academy Art Museum’s 60th Anniversary events have taken place, the fall exhibitions have been planned and ready for display, and its capital campaign is near completion; so you’d think it would be the best time for AAM director Ben Simons to take a break from it all and find a sunny beach somewhere.

That turns out to be the wrong conclusion when the Spy started our first periodic check-in with Ben a few weeks ago.  Still very much engaged in documenting the remarkable history of the Academy since 1958, completing a highly demanding national re-accreditation process for the institution, and leading a long-term strategic planning process for this rapidly growing museum and art school, his workdays are very much spoken for in the near term.

In the first of our periodic chats with Director Simons, the Spy talks in this installment about the remarkable history of the AAM, the grueling but highly rewarding success of being re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, and pushing hard for the four primary objectives of the Academy’s capital fund drive.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here 

Mainstay Monday Features Barbara Ferris

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The Mainstay has been presenting Mainstay Mondays with Joe Holt for some time now.  Each Monday, from 7-8:30 pm, musician extraordinaire Joe Holt has invited a different outstanding local musician or group to join him to bring a variety of talents and genres to the community.  It has become one of the more popular features on the Mainstay’s calendar.  And one of the few places where you can listen to live music on a weekday!

Singer Barbara Ferris joins Holt for a return engagement at the Mainstay Monday concert this Monday, Oct. 22.  She will be singing jazz gems from Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin along with other standards.  In addition, Ferris will perform an original improvisational song, “I Hear You Calling,” based on the traditional “kulning” – a calling song with which ancient shepherdesses called their flocks down from the mountains. Ferris describes it as “a poem put to music” and adds that it is her “first attempt at writing anything for the public.”

Ferris is familiar to local audiences from her performances with “Sam’s Jazzy Swing” group, which gave concerts at Church Hill Theatre and the Mainstay as well as various venues around the area. She also appeared as Golda in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Garfield Center. Currently, Ferris is working to recruit musicians for the house tour at this year’s Dickens of a Christmas sponsored by Main Street Chestertown.

Ferris was born in New York and spent her early years there and in Massachusettes.  The family then moved to North Carolina which she still considers home. A graduate of Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia, she combined an English major and an applied voice minor as a classical mezzo-soprano.  She traveled throughout the southeast USA with the college’s concert choir as both a choir member and a soloist.  Ferris also won first place in the advanced mezo-soprano division of the southeastern region competition sponsored by the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She followed college with appearances with various groups in the North Carolina area, and as guest vocalist with the Appalachian State University and Campbell College jazz bands. Her musical career over the years has included multiple appearances at concerts, festivals, and restaurants, not to overlook weddings and many other occasions. Many local students have received the benefits of Ferris’s professional expertise while she was employed as a speech-language pathologist in the Kent County Schools for seven years.

As the Mainstay website says about the Monday evening programs: “Each week is a unique, one of a kind show. Seating is casual and tables are available (bring your own dinner, if you like), along with a cash bar. Doors open at 6:30 pm with the show starting at 7:00 and running until about 8:30.”  Admission is $10. 

Joe Holt, host of Mainstay Mondays,  at the piano