Wednesday, July 27, 2016

All Aboard With The Pirates of Penzance at Skinner Barn

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 8:49 AM

Singing sisters in The Pirates of Penzance - COURTESY OF DAVID GARTEN
  • Courtesy of David Garten
  • Singing sisters in The Pirates of Penzance
If you're looking for some silly entertainment without rancor and boos and, well, politics in general, step away from the tube, stream, Twitter — basically, reality — for a night and let Gilbert & Sullivan have their way with you. To be precise, The Pirates of Penzance, or, the Slave of Duty in a current run at the Skinner Barn

First of all, the Skinner is not just another renovated barn. Peter Boyton, actor/singer, proprietor and artistic director, kicked it up a notch when he transformed this classic beauty from a cow place to a people place. No doubt he was inspired by this location, on Common Road in Waitsfield, which is so lovely it almost takes your breath away. For me, a summer must-do is a picnic on the grass before the show, taking in the impossibly green and glorious landscape along with my plastic cup of rosé and takeout whatever.

When it's time to go in for the show, I'm so chill that the Skinner Barn theater troupe would have to really blow it to ruin my mood. But, in all the years I've been attending, that's never happened.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Vermonters Receive NEA Grants, Spring for Joy

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 2:38 PM

NEA grantee AXIS Dance Company (through the Flynn) - COURTESY OF THE FLYNN CENTER
  • Courtesy of the Flynn Center
  • NEA grantee AXIS Dance Company (through the Flynn)
In its spring grant cycle, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded eight grants totaling $893,000 to six Vermont organizations.  The majority of that amount, $718,000, went to the Vermont Arts Council, which in turn provides a variety of grants to individuals and smaller organizations statewide.

The other grantees were the Vermont Folklife Center, the Dorset Theatre Festival, the Flynn Center for the Performing ArtsKingdom County Productions, the Vermont Folklife Center and Weston Playhouse Theatre Company.

Congrats, everybody! The full NEA document here

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Shakespeare Is Still Dead; Long Live Shakespeare!

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 4:32 PM

The Bard is beloved worldwide: a production in Mexico City - COURTESY OF VERMONT HUMANITIES COUNCIL
  • Courtesy of Vermont Humanities Council
  • The Bard is beloved worldwide: a production in Mexico City
What will the world do on the 400th anniversary of your death? For most of us, the answer is a big fat nothing. But perhaps there's still time to turn out a zillion plays that actors and audiences will revere four centuries from now.

Meantime, Tuesday brings a pair of back-to-back opportunities to get your Will on. William Shakespeare, that is. Not surprisingly, Vermont Shakespeare Festival executive director John Nagle and the University of Vermont have a hand in both Bard-themed happenings.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

U.S. Promotes LGBT Rights With Fun Home

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 4:56 PM

Alison Bechdel at Fun Home - EVA SOLLBERGER
  • Eva Sollberger
  • Alison Bechdel at Fun Home
Vermont cartoonist Alison Bechdel has had an exhilarating decade. Her 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was a bestseller. In 2014 she became a MacArthur fellow, and Fun Home was made into a musical that won five Tony Awards last year. Oh, and Bechdel got married last year, too.

Today, a Reuters story (as reported on heaps more accolades on Fun Home from an unexpected source:  U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. According to the story, Power  took 15 fellow ambassadors from countries around the world to see the Broadway show as part of an effort to promote LGBT rights. She told Reuters that the lesbian coming-of-age story "brings home the challenges that LGBTI  are facing every day around the world."

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Flight Records: Finding a Tuskegee Airman From Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Yearbook photo of Robert Cole, Northfield High School class of 1938 - COURTESY OF NORTHFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY
  • Courtesy of Northfield Historical Society
  • Yearbook photo of Robert Cole, Northfield High School class of 1938
This Friday, January 29, Black Angels Over Tuskegee comes to the Flynn MainStage in Burlington. The critically acclaimed off-Broadway play by Layon Gray is about the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black aviator corps that played a critical role in the U.S. air campaign during World War II.

When the curtain rises, many audience members will undoubtedly know something about the corps, and some may have seen the 1995 movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne. Yet few audience members will be likely to know that the Tuskegee's ranks included an aviator from the Green Mountains.

Robert Cole, who was born and raised in Northfield, was the only Vermonter ever to serve in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in history. At least one living Vermonter, Bill Lyon of Northfield, personally remembers Cole from his days in Northfield both before and after the war.

Robert Arthur Cole was born in Northfield on March 8,1920, to Alonzo and Martha Cole. According to the Northfield Historical Society, U.S. Census data from 1930 shows that Cole had two sisters and two brothers.

Cole attend Northfield High School where, according to his yearbook, he belonged to the drama club, played basketball, sang in the chorus and played guitar in a dance band called the Blue Jackets. According to Lyon, now 68, Cole's father was himself a musician who played in and around Northfield. Lyon remembers that Alonzo Cole died tragically while his children were still young, after he fell off a trestle bridge in Northfield and drowned.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Mothers and Sons' Inspires Photo Competition

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 3:33 PM

Production photo for Mothers and Sons - COURTESY OF VERMONT STAGE COMPANY
  • Courtesy of Vermont Stage Company
  • Production photo for Mothers and Sons
The first production of 2016 for Vermont Stage Company is Terrence McNally's Tony-nominated Mothers and Sons. A drama that "addresses change, reconciliation and what it means to be family," according to VSC's description, it explores relationships past and present between adults (gay and straight), and between adults and their children. Critics described the 2013 work as "moving," "intense" and "resonant." 

Mothers and Sons is decidedly adult fare, not an all-ages family entertainment. But its themes inspired VSC to ask Vermonters what family means to them — or rather, what it looks like — in photographs. "How do you define your family? Who is a part of it? How do you see them? What do you like to do together?" queries a press release.

The company invites photographers of all levels to send a photo that "best describes your family" to no later than Wednesday January 11. It can also be mailed to 110 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401. Include name, contact info and a brief description of your photo.

If your photo is chosen, you'll win two free tickets to the production, which runs January 27 through February 14 at FlynnSpace in Burlington. The top 10 photos submitted will be on display at the theater.

If you don't have a suitable family photo but just want to see the play, get tickets here.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six Vermont Organizations Receive NEA Grants

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 11:10 AM

Performance by Carmelita Tropicana and Ela Troyano - COURTESY OF VERMONT PERFORMANCE LAB AND ELA TROYANO
  • Courtesy of Vermont Performance Lab and Ela Troyano
  • Performance by Carmelita Tropicana and Ela Troyano
In the latest round of arts funding announced last week by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), six Vermont arts organizations were awarded a total of $110,000. Of these groups, four are music, dance or theater related, one is literary and one is both writing and visual arts related (Vermont Studio Center). 

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Fun Home Wins Big at the Tonys!

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 11:17 AM

If you didn't stay up late to watch the Tony Awards, or read about the winners this morning, perhaps we can break the happy news to you that Fun Home won for Best Musical!

The show, currently on Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre, also won for Best Direction of a Musical (Sam Gold), Best Original Score (Lisa Kron, lyrics, and Jeanine Tesori, music), Best Book (Kron) and Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris). It was the most awards for any single musical production in the 69th Tonys, broadcast last night on CBS. Also, by the way, it is the first time an all-female team has won best score.
  • Courtesy of Holly Rae Taylor
  • Alison Bechdel

We could not be happier for Vermont cartoonist Alison Bechdel! Her best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is the basis for this most unlikely musical, in which the lead character comes out as a lesbian, and her father comes out, too. And then commits suicide by walking in front of a truck.

But as various critics have said in various ways, everyone has a dysfunctional family — and everyone can relate, in some way, to Fun Home. It helps, of course, that the music is just extraordinary, and the cast — right down to the little brothers, one of them played by Vermonter Oscar Williams — is, too.

For a quarter-century, Bechdel penned the comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" (carried by Seven Days, among many other alt weeklies). She sure couldn't have guessed back then that she was the one to watch out for.

Congratulations, Alison!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

With Cofounder Departing, Spielpalast Cabaret Faces the Future

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 9:06 AM

Phinneus Sonin and Lois Trombley - COURTESY OF HEATHER HAYES
  • Courtesy of Heather Hayes
  • Phinneus Sonin and Lois Trombley
Now in its 14th year, Burlington's Spielpalast Cabaret has plenty of sassy, sexy history under its collective garter belt. Inspired by 1930s cabaret performances in Europe, the annual production presents a bevy of dancing, singing beauties and an always-awesome band. True to the Weimar era, Spielpalast mixes in skits that address topical issues — particularly that evergreen one, abuse of power.

It's gratifying to say that this saucy entertainment has become a Vermont institution that in no way, shape or form has anything to do with cows. This year's production — entering its last week at Main Street Landing's Black Box Theatre — offers what one has come to expect from Spielpalast: a freewheeling variety show featuring both borrowed and original music (primarily by musical director Zoe Christiansen) and a spirited band; just enough corny jokes; women whose attitude is at once flirty and don't-fuck-with-me; mesmerizing ensemble dance numbers; and a slightly fatalistic undertone that suggests we're all going to hell in a hand basket so we might as well have fun.

This while everyone's clad in lingerie or costumes that show a sea of tattooed young flesh to excellent advantage. (So ample is the body ink that its various artists ought to have considered handing out business cards during intermission.)

The 2015 production of Spielpalast Cabaret has another undertone: Cofounder Phinneus Sonin has announced it will be his last. "At least as the MC," he says of his juggling, impish impresario character, Maxi.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fun Home Grabs 12 Tony Award Nominations

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 12:21 PM

Fun Home on Broadway, right next to another pretty popular musical. - PAMELA POLSTON
  • Pamela Polston
  • Fun Home on Broadway, right next to another pretty popular musical.

Vermont cartoonist Alison Bechdel's star just got even shinier. The musical based on her graphic memoir Fun Home was nominated for 12 Tony Awards!

As reported in the New York Times and elsewhere today, Fun Home is in the running for the following:

  • Best musical (along with An American in Paris, Something Rotten! and The Visit)
  • Book—Lisa Kron
  • Original score—Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (lyrics)
  • Actor, lead, in musical—Michael Cerveris (who plays Bruce Bechdel, Alison's father)
  • Actress, lead, in musical—Beth Malone (as adult Alison)
  • Actress, featured role, musical—Judy Kuhn (Helen Bechdel, Alison's mother), Sydney Lucas (young Alison) and Emily Skeggs (middle Alison)
  • Scenic design, musical—David Zinn
  • Lighting design, musical—Ben Stanton
  • Direction, musical—Sam Gold
  • Orchestration, musical—John Clancy

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