During 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
Whitney 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
Malcolm Atterbury, who later became a well-respected character actor in Hollywood, married an Amsterdam woman and built a summer theater in the Adirondacks in the 1930s.
Kirk Douglas came up with his stage name when, as Isadore Demsky, the Amsterdam native was a stage hand and actor at Atterbury’s Tamarack Playhouse in Lakes Pleasant in 1939 and 1940. Continue reading
Two Amsterdam clergymen had concerns and asked Mayor John Dwyer to do something about the situation. The Rose Hill Folly Company was planning to perform on Wednesday, November 6, 1889 at the Potter Opera House on Market Street.
The formidable Reverend John McIncrow of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and Reverend Donald Sprague of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church told the mayor the company had an “immoral tendency.” The clergymen also asked Dwyer not to allow the “posting of indecent pictorial advertisements of shows” in the city. 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
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
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
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