Tag Archives: Performing Arts

Voodoo Opera from Harlem Renaissance


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Barry Robinson as Fojo, the voodoo priest and Janinah Burnett as Lolo, a thwarted lover who resorts to voodoo rites.Magic rites in the jungle seal the fate of a love triangle in the long-forgotten opera of H. Lawrence Freeman restaged on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Voodoo was composed in 1914 and had its last performance in 1928. The music and libretto come from a composer who was a friend of Scott Joplin. author of more than 20 operas, and founder of the Harlem Renaissance’s Negro Grand Opera Company. The revival features Gregory Hopkins of Harlem Opera Theatre conducting in a production that drew on collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players and the Morningside Opera. Continue reading

1861: Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth in Albany


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The Delavan House on BRoadway in AlbanyFollowing his election as President in 1860, Abraham Lincoln undertook a train ride to Washington that took him through Albany. He arrived in the city on February 18, 1861 with his wife and three sons.

As their train passed the West Albany railroad shops, an electrical switch was turned off at the nearby Dudley Observatory, causing an electromagnet mounted on the roof of the Capitol in downtown Albany to release a metal ball that slid down a pole, signaling to military officials to start a 21-gun salute in Capitol Park. Continue reading

Folk Singer Dave Ruch On “The Historians” Podcast


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with performer and teaching artist Dave Ruch from Buffalo. Ruch will perform traditional and historical songs of New York State at 7 p.m. on Saturday June 13 at the Mabee Farm Historic Site on Route 5-S in Rotterdam Junction, N.Y. The Radio Rounders will entertain as well. The event features beer, wine and snacks and is sponsored by the Schenectady County Historical Society. Listen online here.
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Plattsburgh To Honor Comedic Actor Jean Arthur


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Jean Arthur publicity photo from the mid-1930sOn Saturday, May 2, 2015 the Clinton County Historical Association and Museum in partnership with the City of Plattsburgh, SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for the Study of Canada, and The Strand Center for the Arts will commemorate film legend Jean Arthur with an all day celebration beginning with the official unveiling of a plaque at her birthplace

Born Gladys Georgiana Greene on October 17, 1900 to Hubert and Hannah Greene, Jean Arthur and her family resided that day at 94 Oak Street and lived in Plattsburgh, NY from 1887 to 1903. She died in 1991. Continue reading

Watertown’s Wizard of Show-Business (Conclusion)


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NYH3A CGiblynSelzPosterIn 1920, Charles Giblyn produced his first film for William Fox. (If the name sounds familiar, William founded Fox Film Corporation in 1915, the forerunner of today’s Fox TV and movie units.) The film, Tiger’s Cub, allowed Giblyn a homecoming of sorts. With his lead actress, Pearl White, who reportedly had the widest following of any star worldwide at the time, he came north for filming in Port Henry, about an hour south of Plattsburgh, where he once lived.

After producing a few more movies, Charles was sent to the West Coast on behalf of Fox, where he continued working. For a brief period, he assumed leadership of the Motion Picture Directors Association, but when Fox reassigned him to more movie projects back East, he surrendered the top spot with the MPDA and headed for New York. Continue reading

The Hamilton Musical and America’s Future (Part II)


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Hamilton MusicalLast week, I described what I think is a significant perilous trend facing history and the American culture through the process of hypehnization. I argued that identity in a society nominally based on We the People and e pluribus unum was being replaced by one where people self-identify as hyphenated Americans, with  corresponding history classes and museums to reflect these differences.

Diversity resonates in New York history. Take William Johnson, the the British royal agent in the 18th century, and an Irishman. His European world consisted of Dutch, French, English, and German (Palatines), all of whom were distinct from each other, as demonstrated for example, by the French and Indian War. Continue reading

Watertown’s Wizard of Show-Business (Part 2)


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NYH2A CGiblynBy 1911, Charles Giblyn, now 40, had been acting for more than 20 years and receiving many great reviews for his theater work. That he often stood out was reflected in comments like the following, taken from the pages of the Los Angeles Herald: “Not Yet, But Soon, currently at the Grand Opera House, has just one thing to commend it to theater-goers. This is the acting of Charles Giblyn as a dope fiend. Apart from Mr. Giblyn’s work, the piece is silly, stupid, and boresome.”

He had also managed several stock companies, and in recent years had directed many stage plays and vaudeville shows at LA’s Belasco and other theaters. The experience would serve him well as he plunged headfirst into a new show-business medium: the world of movies. Continue reading

Charles Giblyn: Watertown’s Wizard of Show-Business


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NYH1A CGiblynDuring research, trivial bits of information often lead to the discovery (or uncovering) of stories that were either lost to time or were never told. For instance, did you know that a North Country man once directed Harrison Ford in a movie role as a young adventurer? Or that a coast-to-coast theater star hails from Watertown? Or that a man with regional roots patented a paper toilet-seat protector two decades before it was offered to the public? Or that a northern New York man was once a sensation after posing for a famous calendar? Or that an area resident was the go-to guy for the legendary titans of a very popular American industry? Continue reading

Ticonderoga Actor Whitney Armstrong (Conclusion)


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NYH02MWitneyTyreeStarTrekWhitney Armstrong went to Los Angeles in late 1962. In less than a week, he tested for and won the role of Buck Coulter in a new TV series, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, with Kurt Russell among the cast members. After 14 episodes, Whitney was replaced by Charles Bronson.

By this time, his bulky name (Whitney Michael Moore Armstrong) was remade for Hollywood purposes. After jumbling it and dropping the “h” from Whitney, they arrived at Michael Witney. Continue reading