The three mains stars hogging the limelight from Fred Kerslake were pigs Jerry, Peggy, and Pete, whose antics were irresistible. Recognizing the possibilities, booking agents sought them for summer tours and winter vaudeville circuits. Rave reviews followed in Buffalo, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a host of other stops in between. Audiences couldn’t get enough of watching pigs play leapfrog, read, and count―it was both bewildering and hilarious at the same time.
Professionals were taking notice as well. Among them was Germany’s Carl Hagenbeck, who pioneered the displaying of animals in their natural habitats rather than in caged enclosures. Hagenbeck emphasized properly selecting animals with the right temperament for training or display choosing only a few prospects from a large group, and then using what was described as “constant patience, firmness, and kindness” to train them. Still, there’s no denying that whips were used to tap or give a quick sting to animals during training. Continue reading
“That’ll do, pig.” It’s a line I’ve heard more than once from my wife and business partner, Jill (we’re always razzing each other about something or other). It is, of course, the famous line near the end of Babe, a movie we both enjoyed. We’re also fans of Arnold from Green Acres, and of the pigs who played leadership roles in George Orwell’s allegorical novel, Animal Farm. You can see a theme developing here―a bunch of very smart pigs who, in fantasy worlds, did all sorts of things that a reasonable person knows a pig can’t really do.
Can’t really do? Not so fast. Yes, Orwell’s pigs were the smartest animals in the barnyard. Arnold could get the mail and understand English. Babe could herd sheep as well as any sheepdog. But in the real world, the North Country once had something to rival them all. I give you Fred Kerslake’s pigs. Continue reading
I’ve learned so much about the history and culture of my state (NY) and local communities in which I reside (Buffalo NY and Piercefield NY in the Adirondack Mountains) through the traditional music of these places.
Similarly, my interest in local and state history has informed my understanding and appreciation of the music of our forebears. Before mass media came into the home, you got your music as you got your food – from someplace local, mostly. The newspaper, perhaps. Travelling shows, yes. But also from people in your community. Family members, neighbors, coworkers. What did they sing about? And what can those long-forgotten songs tell us about a community? Continue reading
The Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana, CA provided the stage set for a new music video, “Spirit of 1776,” which the production team calls a “suffragette anthem”, scheduled for release in time for Women’s Equality Day celebrations.
Observed on August 26th each year, the occasion commemorates American women’s campaigns to win the vote from 1848 to 1920. The music video is inspired by an actual suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” used in New York State as a speakers’ platform and in suffrage parades prior to 1920. Continue reading
A recent lecture I delivered on Prohibition in the North Country allowed me a closeup look at what community activists can accomplish. Among the historic buildings in many towns of northern New York are theaters that were once the center of social life. Many of these old structures have been refurbished as part of city or village revitalization programs. Reclaiming and reviving them is costly, requiring the efforts of dedicated, thoughtful, and energetic folks, mostly volunteers. Just as important is the work that follows—utilizing the facilities as self-sustaining ventures while bringing a community together. Continue reading
Snazzy musical numbers, snappy dialogue and souped-up friction between bureaucrats and scientists make Atomic: The Idea that Shook the World a sizzling treatment of the history of the Manhattan Project.
Leo Szilard is not the best-known maker of the Atomic Bomb but his dramatic story highlights the high-pressure situation from 1936 to 1945. The play’s run off-Broadway at the Acorn Theater ties to a surge of public interest in the Cold War era. This week is the 75th anniversary of the August 2, 1939 Einstein-Szilard letter to Pres. Roosevelt alerting him to the necessity to move quickly to beat the Nazi regime to the development of an awesomely powerful new weapon. Continue reading
Noted cabaret vocalist Andrea Marcovicci will be visiting Great Camp Sagamore to perform a special program celebrating the noted American Songbook composers who stayed at Sagamore Lodge: Richard Rogers, Jerome Kern and Hoagy Carmichael.
Marcovicci’s performance will be part of the camp’s 2014 benefit for historic preservation. Proceeds from the benefit help with the ongoing restoration of the Sagamore’s 27 National Historic Landmark structures. The benefit will be on Saturday, August 2nd and will include cocktails and a silent auction at the camp’s play house, followed by Andrea Marcovvici’s performance and a catered sit down dinner and live auction. The evening will be capped with cigars, port, and a camp fire. Continue reading
Cold warriors of the 1950s achieved one of their most macabre victories by frying Ethel Rosenberg in the electric chair, not for sharing atomic secrets, but simply as leverage to coerce her husband Julius to reveal sources.
Joan Beber’s play, “Ethel Rosenberg Sings: The Unsung Song of Ethel Rosenberg” at the Beckett Theatre until July 13th probes gender politics and personal story. This lively and intelligent exploration doesn’t flinch at setting Ethel’s story to music, since as a smart Jewish girl from the Lower East side bursting to escape the confines of immigrant horizons Ethel (Tracy Michaelidis) saw herself on stage “hitting a high C.” Undercover Productions and Perry Street Theatricals give this rendition of “straight from the spy files” of history an imaginative twist by framing it with prison politics and interracial casting that bounces the themes in an echo chamber of past and present. Continue reading
The Iroquois Indian Museum will have a Social Dance Saturday on July 12 at the Museum featuring Onota’a:ka (Oneida Nation Dancers), based in the central New York Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) community of Oneida.
Founded by Elder and Wolf Clan Mother Maisie Shenandoah for the purpose of cultural education, the troupe’s original purpose continues to be carried forth by daughter Vicki, granddaughter Tawn:tene (Cindy Schenandoah Stanford) and an extended family with common goals. Continue reading
Crailo State Historic Site has announced that the historic Yankee Doodle Band will be performing in Crailo’s riverside park in Rensselaer, NY on July 10 at 7:00 pm. Bring chairs or blankets and a picnic dinner and join us for the patriotic and stirring songs of the Yankee Doodle Band as the sun sets over the Hudson River. This event is free to the public.
Organized in 1928 the Yankee Doodle Band has played all over the country from Miami to New Orleans to Hawaii. Members of the band range in age from their teens to their 90’s and will play a blend of Sousa marches, Broadway show tunes, popular hit songs, and music from the movies. Continue reading
The museum ship Lilac has opened for the summer at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. The exhibition Hero Project will be on view there through June 30.
With photographs by Jonathan Atkin, Hero Project is a selection from his on-going work-in-progress collaboration with dance artists aboard historic ships. His mission is to increase visibility of our maritime heritage by reaching new non-maritime audiences. In the exhibition, dancers athletically grace the gritty vessels in oversize photographs mounted throughout Lilac, from the bridge to the engine room. For more on the project, see http://www.heroproject.us Continue reading
American Heritage Living History Productions and the Historical Society of Rockland County have teamed up to offer: “Drums Along the Mohawk” overnight, guided bus tour. This attraction dense trip occurs on Saturday August 9th and Sunday August 10th, 2014.
There will be two convenient departure and return points that take you to 12 upstate New York locations. The on-board guide, step-on guides, and off-bus docents will add rich commentary to enhance the factual aspects of the story. Continue reading
Following a successful debut in 2013, the Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is expanding its performance schedule to four shows for 2014 at Gelston Castle Estate, 980 Robinson Road, Mohawk, NY.
Kyle Jenks, the writer and producer of Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama used the plotline from the famous novel Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds and adapted it for the outdoor stage. Continue reading
Architect Robert Dadras is quick to admit that when he helped conceive the idea of an Architectural-Historical Bus Tour back in 1996, he wasn’t at all sure it would catch on.
“There were comments like, where will you ever find architecture in Sullivan County?” he recalls.
The fact that cities from Miami, Florida and Greensboro, North Carolina to Chicago, Illinois and Toronto, Canada had successfully used similarly constructed tours to boost tourism and economic development did not make it any easier to sell the idea locally, Dadras concedes, at the same time relishing the fact that this year’s tour will be his nineteenth. Continue reading
On the eve of the opening of the Erie Canal navigation season, acclaimed performer and teaching artist Dave Ruch will present a treasure trove of music and stories from the workers, captains, crews, immigrants, and professional songwriters who plied their trades on upstate New York’s iconic waterway.
This special concert is being presented live in an online format on April 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm eastern daylight time, available around the world to anyone with an internet-connected computer or device. The Erie Canal navigation season opens on May 1, 2014. Continue reading
This Sunday, April 27, the Green-Wood Historic Fund will celebrate the life and career of Florence LaBadie, an early 20th century silent film sensation known as “Fearless Flo” (because she often performed her own stunts), with a dedication ceremony at her final resting place, featuring music and remarks. A reception will follow in Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel.
Although she appeared in more than 180 films, a car accident in 1928 tragically cut her life short at the age of 28. Mysteriously, no monument was ever placed at her burial site and her resting place has remained unmarked for nearly a century. Continue reading
The OBIE Award winning Metropolitan Playhouse will present the fifth annual East Village Theater Festival, a three-week celebration of the life and lore of New York City’s East Village.
The festival features four different evenings of new plays and solo-performances, as well as the work of local artists, and a panel discussion on the neighborhood’s changing identity. Continue reading
Following its debut at Gelston Castle Estate in 2013, Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama, based on the book by Walter D. Edmonds, is expanding its performance schedule to four shows. The show opens Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, 2014 at Gelston Castle Estate (980 Robinson Road in Mohawk, NY). It continues the following weekend (August 9-10). Performance times are: Saturdays at 5:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is the story of Gil and Lana Martin, a young couple who settle in the Mohawk Valley of upstate NY to raise a family in 1777, only to find they are in the pathway of the American Revolution. It’s the story of Nicholas Herkimer, a patriot of Palatine German descent who carved out a successful livelihood despite living on the edge of the frontier. The strife amongst colonial neighbors in the Mohawk Valley of upstate NY was vehement in 1777 and these events set up several flashpoints that spark a conflagration of valley conflict during the American Revolution. Continue reading
Lawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.
Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading
Research projects sometimes take unexpected, but fascinating, twists and turns. I had reason a few years ago to look into the case of a woman called Madame Sherri. She is mostly known for an unusual castle-like house built for her in a rural area of New Hampshire–its ruins are now popular with hikers and lovers of the odd and mysterious.
My investigation dragged me far from New Hampshire–to the world of cabaret reviews in New York City, the vaudeville circuit, and “soldier shows” (popular during World War I, with Irving Berlin’s “Yip Yip Yaphank” being the most well-known). And, for good measure, toss in a scandal involving sex and blackmail. Continue reading