Tag Archives: Theatre

19th Century Celebrity Phat Boy Babbage


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EF BabbageThis is a story about a fat guy. In this politically correct and hyper-sensitive world, some of you might already be reaching for your keyboards to send me a nasty message for being so thoughtless. But without referring to him as fat, I couldn’t have written this piece. I’m pretty sure he knew he was obese, as did anyone who met him. But if there was ever any doubt, one could always refer to his professional name: Phat Boy. (Imagine … a name like that, 150 years before the birth of Rap music.)

His given name was Edward Frederick Babbage, the son of John and Frances Babbage, who emigrated from England in the early 1800s and settled in Rochester, New York. Among their five children was a pair of twins, Edward Frederick and Edwin Francis, born about 20 miles west of the city in 1841. Early on, Edward exhibited a propensity for gaining weight. He was considered large at age six, and weighed 200 pounds when he was fourteen. Continue reading

Adaptive Reuse in Rochester: Bread and Water Theatre


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6a01157088010c970b017c387a3014970bWhat follows is a guest essay by J.R. Teeter, the founding artistic director of Bread & Water Theatre. Since 2000 Bread & Water Theatre has had as its purpose the development of new dramatic works and affordable arts programming for the public. This essay first appeared on the site Preservation News.

Rochester, New York has fallen on hard times, not unlike many of the cities across the nation. The Erie Canal, once a major shipping route, is now considered obsolete. The city’s biggest employer, Kodak, is now bankrupt. Major businesses have either downsized, moved out of town, or both. When a new company takes an interest in the city, the red carpet is rolled out and tax breaks are doled out, sometimes at the cost of the city’s legacy. Continue reading

Local History Collaboration Leads To Annual Theater Event


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547569_600954409922681_354691017_nThree organizations – Colton Historical Society, Grasse River Players and Colton-Pierrepont Central School – have announced new collaborative work for 2013 following the successful production of Sunday Rock—The Folk Musical in 2012.  Last year, when they first combined their historical, theatrical and educational interests to produce the show along with author and Colton resident Evelyn Riehl and her family, they received lots of support and encouragement to continue.

The partnership has now committed to presenting a theatrical performance addressing a dimension of history each July around the time Colton celebrates its history. Over the winter plans were made to produce The 1940’s Radio Hour and to also pursue an oral history project in conjunction with it focusing on World War II. Continue reading

Unique Stoneware Jug Depicting Entertainment Acquired


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acrobat jug detailA four-gallon stoneware jug manufactured by Fulper Bros. in Flemington, New Jersey during the 1880s is now part of the New York State Museum’s Weitsman Collection of American Stoneware. Now on display at the State Museum, the historically significant piece of stoneware was recently acquired for the Museum by stoneware collector and benefactor, Adam Weitsman.

According to an announcement release to the press today, “The acrobat jug, a sought-after example of decorated American stoneware, has been breaking stoneware record prices at auction for decades and Weitsman had wanted the piece for over thirty years.” Weitsman recently purchased the jug from Allen Katz Americana the statement says. Continue reading

Bryan O’Byrne: From Plattsburgh to Hollywood


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In late July, 1941, a young Plattsburgh boy received permission from his parents to visit the movie house just a few blocks away. Hours later, he had not returned home, and Mom and Dad hit the streets in search of their missing son. Soon they were at the Plattsburgh Police Station, anxiously seeking help. Two patrolmen were immediately put on the case, which, unlike so many stories today, had a happy ending.

The two policemen obtained keys to the theater building and began searching the interior. There, curled up in his seat near the front row, little Bryan Jay O’Byrne was fast asleep. He later explained that he enjoyed the movie so much, he decided to stay for the second showing and must have drifted off into dreamland. When the theater closed for the night, no one had seen the young boy lying low in his seat.

Perhaps no one knew it then, but that amusing incident was a harbinger of things to come. Bryan O’Byrne was born to Elmer and Bessie (Ducatte) O’Byrne of Plattsburgh on February 6, 1931. Life in the O’Byrne home may have been difficult at times. Six years earlier, Bryan’s older sister was born at the very moment Elmer was being arraigned in Plattsburgh City Court on burglary and larceny charges.

Still, the family managed to stay together, and after attending St. Peter’s Elementary School and Plattsburgh High, Bryan went on to graduate from the State University Teacher’s College at Plattsburgh. After stints in the army and as an elementary school teacher, he pursued acting, studying at the Stella Adler Studio.

He appeared on Broadway with Vivian Leigh in “Duel of Angels” (the run was cut short after five weeks due to the first actors’ strike in forty years). Other jobs followed, but he soon surfaced in a new, increasingly popular medium: television.

In the early 1960s, Bryan began appearing in television series, becoming one of the best-known character actors in show business. Most people recognized his face from numerous bit parts he played in television and in movies, but few knew his name. That is true of many character actors, but ironically, in O’Byrne’s case, it was that very anonymity which brought him fame.

It all took place in the 1966–67 television season with the launch of a show called Occasional Wife. The plot line followed the story of an unmarried junior executive employed by a baby food company. The junior executive’s boss felt that, since they were selling baby food, it would be wise to favor married men for promotions within the company.

So, the junior executive concocted a plan with a female who agreed to serve as his “occasional wife.” He put her on salary and got her an apartment two floors above his own. Hilarity ensued as a variety of situations in each episode had them running up and down the fire escape to act as husband and wife. This all happened to the obvious surprise and bemusement of a man residing on the floor between the two main players. That man was played by Bryan O’Byrne.


O’Byrne’s character had no name and no speaking lines, but he became the hit of the show. Usually he was engaged in some type of activity that ended up in shambles as he watched the shenanigans. The audience loved it. The show’s writers had such fun with the schtick that O’Byrne became somewhat of a sensation. His expert acting skills made the small part into something much bigger.

Eventually, in early 1967, a nationwide contest was held to give the “Man in the Middle” an actual name. Much attention was heaped on O’Byrne, but the high didn’t last for long. Occasional Wife went the way of many other promising comedies that were built on a certain premise, but were not allowed to develop. It survived only one season.

O’Byrne’s career continued to flourish. Among his repeating roles was that of CONTROL Agent Hodgkins in the hit comedy series Get Smart, starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. Over the years, O’Byrne remained one of Plattsburgh’s best-kept secrets, appearing in 45 television series, 22 movies, and several Disney productions.

Among those television series were some high-profile shows and many of the all-time greats: Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Batman, Ben Casey, Get Smart, Gunsmoke, I Dream of Jeannie, Maude, Happy Days, Maverick, Murder She Wrote, My Three Sons, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Sanford and Son, The Big Valley, The Bill Cosby Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Lucy Show, The Munsters, The Partridge Family, The Untouchables, and Welcome Back Kotter.

Advertisers discovered the appeal of Bryan’s friendly face, and he was cast in more than two hundred television commercials. His experience in multiple fields and his love and understanding of the intricacies of performing led to further opportunities. He became an excellent acting coach. Among those he worked with, guided, or mentored were Bonnie Bedelia, Pam Dawber, Nick Nolte, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jimmy Smits, and Forest Whittaker.

Writer Janet Walsh, a friend of O’Byrne’s since the early 1980s, noted that, early on, he recognized the talent of young Nick Nolte. According to Walsh, “Nick slept on Bryan’s couch for a year. Bryan cast him in his production of The Last Pad, and that launched Nick’s career.”

Besides working as an acting coach for the prestigious Stella Adler Academy, O’Byrne also served on the Emmy Nominating Committee in Los Angeles. He spent nearly forty years in the entertainment business, working with many legendary stars, including Lucille Ball, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Wayne. His television resume covers many of the best-known, most-watched series ever. And through it all, he remained a nice, unpretentious man.

Quite the journey for a ten-year-old movie fan from Plattsburgh.

Photos: Bryan Jay O’Byrne; Bryan O’Byrne and Vivian Leigh; Michael Callan, Bryan O’Byrne, and Patricia Hart from Occasional Wife.

Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and more than 100 articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

New Drama to Bring Roebling, Brooklyn Bridge to Stage


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A new drama Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge is in development for a New York City Equity Showcase Production to be produced by special arrangement between the author Mark  Violi and Theater to Go. Plans are underway to present this show in March 2013.

Based on the true story of the Roebling family who helped conceive, design and finally build the New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, the play has been endorsed by the Roebling Museum and by descendants of John Roebling. “Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge” brings to the stage the human drama surrounding the construction effort to complete one of the most enduring engineering icons in the world. 
The play examines the beginnings of the project to build the Brooklyn Bridge in1869, through its completion in 1883. It is a play about a forward thinking family on the cutting edge of the Industrial Revolution. The play shows how this project foreshadowed the 20th century in its huge ambition, the revolutionary construction techniques developed by John Roebling and implemented by his son Washington, and in the recognition of the invaluable role that a woman, Emily Roebling, played in the completion of this enormous project. 
“Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge” has had two widely acclaimed non-equity productions in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. The New Jersey premier was produced in 2010 by invitation of the Roebling Museum to open the restored Roebling Auditorium and it was because of the overwhelming response to this play that plans were implemented to bring it to NYC. 
Fundraising has begun through IndieGoGo. Through a special arrangement with Fractured Atlas, Theater to Go is able to accept tax deductible contributions and has arranged to offer some incentives donated by the Roebling Museum including artifacts from the Roebling factories. With the success of the fundraising, this showcase production is seen as a first step toward a larger New York production. Theater to Go is well known throughout the Mid-Atlantic region for their  unique interactive theater events. At the helm is Ruth Markoe who has produced, directed and performed throughout the region for many years and who brought the NJ premier to the stage. 
Photo: Mark Violi and Ruth Markoe holding original cable from the Brooklyn Bridge (provided).  

Roxy Rothafel: Legendary American Showman


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American Showman chronicles the life of Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882–1936), the prolific movie palace showman and radio star who helped transform the moviegoing experience, radio broadcasting, and American popular culture to become an international celebrity.

Ross Melnick’s American Showman: Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry (2012, Columbia University Press) is the first book devoted to Rothafel’s multifaceted entertainment career. Among Roxy’s notable popular culture contributions include the first showings of Robert Flaherty’s documentary “Nanook of the North” and the German film that reinvigorated the a genre, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” – oh, and there was also those Rockettes, and that mention in Cole Porter’s “You’re On Top.”

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Cayuga Museum Opens Newly-Renovated Theater Mack


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The Cayuga Museum has announced that Theater Mack, the carriage house undergoing renovation for the past several years, has reopened. A massive brick building originally constructed around 1850 on the foundation of an earlier wooden barn, the carriage house was turned into a theater in 1941 through a collaboration between the Cayuga Museum and the Auburn Community Players.

Once known as the Museum Playhouse, the building became the cultural hub of Auburn from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. The building gradually fell into disuse after the Auburn Children’s Theater, the company that became the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, outgrew the space in the 1970’s.

The in mid-1990’s, the Board of Trustees of the Cayuga Museum set an ambitious goal of restoring each of the three buildings on the Museum property. The Museum has been steadily working on that goal ever since. Before beginning on the carriage house, the Museum completed more than $1.2 million in capital improvements on the other buildings. The Case Research Laboratory, birthplace of talking films, was restored and re-opened, and the Willard-Case Mansion in which the Museum is housed was renovated. The first phase of the carriage house project was finished in May 2010, at a cost of more than $248,000.

In 2011, the Museum named the carriage house Theater Mack in honor of long-time supporters the Maciulewicz family and their company, Mack Studios. Now, the Museum brings the project to fruition and the building returns to use as a multi-purpose space equipped for everything from a musical production to a wedding reception.

Theater Mack is a perfect little “jewel box” of a theater, retaining much of the charm of its 19th century beginnings and adding modern amenities. There is now heat, air-conditioning, restrooms, dressing rooms, and a catering kitchen, as well as a first-class sound system, and theater lights and draperies. The lower level and the main floor have been completely renovated but the second floor, where Theodore Case created a sound studio to make his test films in the 1920’s, remains intact. The Museum now turns its attention to plans for a new Case exhibit including both the laboratory and the sound studio.

It’s taken the same kind of collaboration that originally put the theater in the building during WWII to bring the project to fruition today. New York State, local foundations and many individuals and families donated more than $600,000 to the project. Several local contractors contributed their work at or below cost. The completion and re-opening of Theater Mack is a triumph for everyone involved. This totally unique building will become an asset to the Museum and the community for decades to come.

The new Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival has rented Theater Mack for ten weeks this summer for their concept show, The Pitch. The Cayuga Museum is already programming film screenings, lectures and shows for Theater Mack for the rest of the year and it is available for rent to organizations and individuals.

Doris Kenyon: Famed 1920s Adirondack Actress


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Ausable Forks was once the favored respite of one of America’s most famed and beloved actresses of her time. During the prime of her career in the 1920s, to escape constant media scrutiny, this lady returned often to the Adirondacks, a quiet, peaceful place filled with the memories of childhood.

Doris Kenyon was born on September 5, 1897, the daughter of James and Margaret Kenyon. James, once a protégé of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a person of some renown in his own right, achieving widespread fame and praise for his skills as a poet. Many of his works were featured in Harpers, the Atlantic, and other reputable magazines.
After writing two books, James remained in the literary world and became a publisher. His position would someday help open doors for his talented daughter.

The family lived for a time in Chaumont, New York, northwest of Watertown, and then moved to Syracuse, where Doris was born. Her brother, Raymond, nineteen years older than Doris, was a dentist and oral surgeon in both Philadelphia and Syracuse. Health issues and a deep love of hunting and fishing prompted his move to the Adirondacks in pursuit of a less strenuous life.

Ray Kenyon chose Ausable Forks as his new home, immersing himself in local life, business, and politics. He served in several key positions, including many years as chairman of the Essex County Republican Party, and several more as state assemblyman. Due to his great skill as a dentist and his affable nature, Raymond became a fixture in the community.

Young Doris was a frequent visitor and guest at her brother’s home—so frequent, in fact, that she has sometimes been claimed as an Ausable Forks native. She spent many summers at Fern Lake and was well known in the village, particularly for her singing ability.

When Doris was in her teens, her father became head of the publishing department of the National Encyclopedia of Biography. It was a position of prominence and power, earning James close ties with luminaries from many venues, including show business.

By this time, Doris had sung with different choirs and had developed a reputation for the quality of her voice. At a meeting of the Authors Club, which she attended with her father, Doris was invited to sing, delivering a very impressive performance.

Among the attendees was the renowned Victor Herbert, who had been a superb cellist in Europe, having played in the orchestra of Johann Strauss. In America, he worked at the Metropolitan Opera and became a famed composer and conductor. Like many other stars, Victor maintained a home in Lake Placid.

Her performance before the Authors Club wowed Herbert, and though Doris was only sixteen years old, he decided to cast her in the stage musical Princess Pat. The show opened on Broadway in the Cort Theatre, and Doris’ stage debut as the character Coralee Bliss was a big success. The movie industry soon showed an interest in her (apparently for her acting skills and not for her lovely voice. The silent film era wouldn’t give way to talkies for another 14 years.)

Doris couldn’t resist the opportunity. She left a promising stage career to appear as Effie MacKenzie in The Rack (Milton Sills was the leading star), which was released in December 1915. That performance earned her the lead role in Pawn of Fate, released in February 1916. Within a month, Worldwide Film Corporation signed Doris to an exclusive three-year contract at $50,000 a year ($1 million per year in today’s dollars) … and she was still a teenager!

Despite her youth, Doris displayed maturity with her newfound wealth, donating to projects like the Children’s Home in Plattsburgh. She supported the troops during World War I, subscribing to $50,000 worth of Liberty Bonds, the highest amount of any actress in show business.

Under her new contract, Doris played the leading role in many movies. In 1917, after making A Hidden Hand for Plathe Films, she formed her own company, De Luxe Pictures. The crew stayed at the Lake Placid Club while filming its first project, The Story of Seven Stars.

As life became more hectic, Doris returned frequently to her childhood roots in Ausable Forks, spending time with Raymond. She and her brother shared an affinity for fox hunting, a very popular pastime in those days. Raymond’s camp on Silver Lake was one of Doris’ favorite places, and there she hosted luminaries from show business and other industries.

Next week, the conclusion: Doris reaches the stratosphere of fame, but tragedy strikes as well.

Photo: A Doris Kenyon collectible tobacco card.

The Doris Kenyon story is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama Seeks Volunteers


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The non-profit Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama is seeking volunteers and interns to assist with a variety of short term and long term assignments for their annual theatrical production in Lake George, NY this summer. This outdoor drama, which recently garnered the “Tourism Excellence for Cultural Heritage” from the NYS Tourism & Vacation Association, brings alive the pages of history through James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel.

Participants will have a chance to learn more about local history, support a local non-profit organization and assist in bringing the historical dramatic performance to audiences of all ages. This opportunity also provides a learning experience for college students seeking to enter careers in theater, design, fashion design, construction, tourism, public relations and marketing.

Volunteers and college interns are specifically being sought to assist with costume, scenery and set production, delivering of promotional flyers to surrounding businesses, etc., as well as some duties during the actual performance dates which would include ticket booth, ushers  and back stage helpers.

Training and supervision will be provided but experience with live performances is a plus. Any volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. All volunteers will receive complimentary passes to a performance of the historical outdoor drama and will be recognized for their efforts. Performance
dates for 2012 are July 27 to August 18th, with nightly performances on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. There is one matinee performance on Saturday August 4th. Most volunteer assignments start in early June.

For more information about The Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama visit www.LastoftheMohicans.org. This summer’s production has received support in part by the Warren County Tourism Occupancy Tax Fund and with public funds from the New York Council on  the Arts Decentralization Program and administered by the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council.

Those interested in applying for volunteer work should email volunteer@LastoftheMohicans.
org or call 518-791-6342 or e-mail Maura Fox at volunteer@LastoftheMohicans.org by May 15.

The Great Bare: The Celebrity of Adah Menken


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Adah Menken, dubbed “The Great Bare” by writer/admirer Mark Twain, was the first media celebrity, who was known around the world as “The Naked Lady” because her stage show featured her nude (in a sheer body stocking).

Her star power inspired poets like Walt Whitman and writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used Menken as the basis for the classic Sherlock Holmes supporting character of Irene Adler. Her popularity was fueled by a new advent of the period, mass circulation newspapers.

Their reporters couldn’t wait to write about her latest adventure, according to biographers Michael and Barbara Foster, who call her the originator of the modern celebrity femme fatale.

In a century remembered for Victorian restraint, Menken’s modern flair for action, scandal, and unpopular causes – especially that of the Jewish people – revolutionized show business. On stage, she was the first actress to bare all. Off stage, she originated the front-page scandal and became the world’s most highly paid actress—celebrated on Broadway, as well as in San Francisco, London, and Paris. At thirty-three, she mysteriously died.

“Menken was an original who pioneered in several areas we now take for granted,” said the Fosters, authors of the newly published A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835 – 1868 (Lyons Press, 2012). “Adah invented ‘stardom’ in the modern, media-driven sense, making use of the newly invented newspaper, the telegraph, photography, railroads and steamships to become the first global superstar — number one on Broadway, the rage of gold rush San Francisco, the toast of Victorian London and Paris. Onstage, Adah risked her life every evening in the Civil War sensation Mazeppa, in which apparently stripped naked she rode up a four-story stage mountain tied to a stallion. The mix of sexuality and danger made her the Civil War siren, the highest paid actress in the world, and caused her death at 33.”

Moreover, it wasn’t that Adah did these things to garner attention or as cheap publicity stunts. The Fosters believe that “Swimming Against the Current”–an essay she wrote in defense of Walt Whitman–was an essential part of her personality. There was nothing contrived about her.

A Dangerous Woman is the first book to tell Menken’s fascinating story. Born in New Orleans to a “kept woman of color” and to a father whose identity is debated, Menken eventually moved to the Midwest, where she became an outspoken protégé of the rabbi who founded Reform Judaism. In New York City, she became Walt Whitman’s disciple. During the Civil War she was arrested as a Confederate agent—and became America’s first pin-up superstar. Menken married and left five husbands.

Michael Foster is a historian, novelist and biographer. A Dangerous Woman is his fifth book. Barbara Foster is an associate professor of women’s studies at City University of New York.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama Planned


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Kyle Jenks, producer of Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is a native of Albany, NY. His outdoor drama will pay homage to iconic American author Walter D. Edmonds, noted for his historically accurate novels, including the popular Drums Along the Mohawk (1936). This American classic was made into a highly successful Technicolor feature film in 1939. Directed by John Ford, it starred Hollywood legends Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. Edmonds was born in 1903 in Boonville (in Oneida County, NY) and died in 1998.

The world premiere of Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama coincides with the British Brigade and Continental Line’s national Revolutionary War encampment at Gelston Castle Estate. Located at 350 Galina Lane, Mohawk, NY the estate will be home to an estimated 1,000 Revolutionary War reenactors. The theme of the weekend long festivities will be to honor the 235th anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany.

One hallmark feature of a great outdoor drama is the unique way in which the story and the site are inextricably intertwined. Historic Gelston Castle Estate is located at the epicenter of a hotbed of America’s Revolutionary War activity.

After moving to Ohio, Mr. Jenks found a concentration of outdoor historical dramas there. Once he attended a performance of Tecumseh!, in Chillicothe, OH, his vision to produce his own outdoor drama instantly materialized. According to the prestigious Institute for Outdoor Drama, outdoor dramas have the potential to make a significanhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gift impact on the local economy. Besides creating a way to increase total economic dollars to the Mohawk Valley, Mr. Jenks envisions the project to be an exciting way to connect the local citizenry with a feeling of ownership to this classic American story.

For more information about the drama, contact Kyle Jenks at 216 509 7502 or www.AmericanHeritageLivingHistoryProductions. Visit www.oriskany235th.org to learn more about the National reenactment weekend. Jenks is also offering an associated six day bicycle tour that visits the historic sites included in the plotline of the drama (See www.AmericanHeritageBicycleTours.com). Food, period sutlers (merchants), vendors and entertainers will also be present during the weekend.

Westport’s Historic Depot Theatre Looks to 2012


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The historic Depot Theatre in Westport on Lake Champlain will celebrate its 33rd year with a new managing director, a new volunteer guild and four shows for the 2012 season. The popular professional theatre company was founded in 1979 by Carol Buchanan, former President of the Westport Historical Society, which maintained stewardship over the historic Westport train station.

The Historical Society saw the potential for cultural activity in the partially renovated D & H Railroad station, and turned first to a Wednesday Night Bingo game to reach the goal. In 1985, the Depot Theatre stepped out from under the Historical Society’s umbrella to become its own separate not-for-profit entity (the theatre company turned professional in 1988 under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. In 2006, the Depot Theatre also became a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for professional, non-profit theaters.

Since 1979, the Depot Theatre has produced over 170 plays in its handicap accessible, 136 seat performance space (the former D&H freight room, now fully air conditioned.) In 1995, the Depot Theatre was recognized with a Park Heritage Award from the Adirondack Council and in 2000 with an Adirondack Architectural Heritage Award which recognized major renovation and restoration work to the historical building.

Though Delaware and Hudson is no longer in operation, AMTRAK continues to service rail passengers on the Adirondack Line between NYC and Montreal. The Westport stop is a gateway to the Adirondack Park, and the train station and the Theatre have developed a unique partnership to keep this historical space maintained – the Depot Theatre serves as steward of the historical site.

The Depot has launched a national search to replace outgoing managing director Chris Casquilho who is moving to Ogden, Utah with his family to work for Weber State University.

The Board of Trustees has said it’s approaching this leadership transition as an opportunity to realign operations to focus on the Depot’s long range plan. “We’re looking for an individual who can help grow the operating budget in order to nurture our commitment to exploring new work alongside the canon of American Theatre,” explained Artistic Director Shami McCormick, whose involvement spans the organization’s history. The annual operating budget recently ranges between $300,000 and $350,000, but McCormick is says there is room and demand for growth.

“There’s something quite magical about being behind the scenes in a live theatre atmosphere,” said Kim Rielly, board trustee. “And in 2012, we plan to ramp up our Volunteer Guild, with new opportunities for community members to take a real hands-on role in the operation of our hometown Theatre, and earn some great perks to go along with it.”

The 2012 season will feature four main stage shows including a Country/Blues Love Story, a fast-paced comedy, a 1950‘s musical with classic favorites, a funny story of five full-figured women racing to meet nearly impossible production deadlines, plus a full season’s worth of mid-week and special events.

For more information, season subscriptions, tickets and a complete schedule, contact the Box Office at 518.962.4449 or visit depottheatre.org.

Olana Presenting The Life of Emily Dickinson


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The Olana Partnership will present “To See a Summer Sky,” a one-woman theatrical performance based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Excerpted from William Luce’s play “The Belle of Amherst,” on Saturday, July 2 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. The performance will take place at Cosy Cottage, the first home of Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church located in the historic farm complex at Olana State Historic Site.

The production, performed by Triple Shadow actress Mari Andrejco as Emily Dickinson, and directed by Beth Skinner, focuses on Dickinson’s quiet life of transcendent reflection. Dickinson’s poems were inspired by a circumscribed world of home, garden, and village of Amherst. Andrejco says the play is “created for family audiences and allows them to learn about Emily Dickinson as if they were living at that time period (1830-1886).”

Triple Shadow creates visual theater challenging artistic boundaries, revealing the interconnectedness between human cultures and nature. The collaborative process is intercultural and interdisciplinary, affecting audiences in sensory and subconscious ways creating new perceptions of time and memory.

Mari Andrejco trained with Sanford Meiser at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. She has performed in Europe, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States. Andrejco has done stage acting, television, and video including appearing as Queen Elizabeth I and Susan B. Anthony for PBS. She has worked with Shakespeare and Company, Triple Shadow, and the Pleiades Company and has taught at the Institute for Arts in Education in the Albany schools.

Beth Skinner has premiered ten productions at La Mama E.T.C. in New York City with support from the theater programs of National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as grants from NEA Opera and NEA Presenting Program. The company has toured in Egypt, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Canada, and Indonesia and collaborated with artists from Japan, China, Korea, Hungary, Romania, Indonesia, Mexico, and Russia.

The performance will take place at Olana State Historic Site 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY.

Cost of the play is $5.00 per person for non-members and free for members of The Olana Partnership. A $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (fee is waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as house tour tickets are available. Please bring blankets and lawn chairs for seating. For more information contact Sarah Hasbrook, Education Coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

This program is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Educational Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

Shakespeare Co Launches Preservation Effort


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Adirondack Shakespeare Company (ADK Shakes) is returning to the Adirondack region for its second full Summer Festival Season. The company plans to follow last summer’s presentations of As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth with an all-new expanded season featuring ADK Shakes’ daring and adrenaline-fueled RAW performance style which strips the Bard down to the bare bones.

This year, the company will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice, along with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield and Theseus and the Minotaur, an original children’s production by Sean Adams.

In addition to their full season, ADK Shakes has taken on a new challenge. The company is determined to revitalize the outdoor amphitheater at Scaroon Manor Day-Use Facility (formerly Taylor’s Point). This historic landmark was once a vibrant destination for locals as well as tourists looking to take in professional theatre amidst the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains. ADK Shakes’ Artistic Board has made it their mission to get the outdoor amphitheater on New York’s list of historic sites.

“One of the reasons we are looking to establish a Shakespeare company in the Adirondacks is to save this amazing outdoor amphitheater,” says Artistic Director Tara Bradway. The company’s plans to raise awareness during the course of the season include public presentations and petitions in the Adirondack region.

The Adirondack region tour of The Complete Works will begin July 4th, while the Mainstage Season opens July 21st and will run through August 7th. Performances of the children’s show Theseus and the Minotaur are set to run from July 27th through August 6th. Performances will take place primarily at the Boathouse Theater in Schroon Lake Village, as well as the Little Theater on the Farm in Fort Edward and LARAC Gallery in Glen Falls. Weather permitting, the final weekend of performances will be held at the outdoor amphitheater at Scaroon Manor.

This event is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, administered locally by the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council. For more information, a full performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit www.adkshakes.org. Email inquiries may be sent to info@adkshakes.org.

Illustration: Postcard of the historic Sacroon Manor outdoor amphitheater, Schroon Lake, NY.

Live Theater Returns to Ellis Island


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Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty, a new play celebrating Lady Liberty’s 125th year, dramatizes how the writer’s poem “The New Colossus” transformed the beloved Statue into a symbol of welcome. The show opens at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum’s intimate Living Theater for a limited run beginning April 16 through Labor Day weekend. Written by playwright/director Ken Urban, the 30-minute play also features stories of immigration.

Produced and funded by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the show will be presented April 16 through June 27 on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Beginning June 28, the show will run Thursday through Monday. Show times are 10:45; 11:30; 12:15; 1:00; 2:30; 3:15; and 4:00. Admission is $6.00.

A gift from France to the American people, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated October 28, 1886. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up a private sector effort to restore the Statue of Liberty for her centennial. Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public/private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., and on July 5, 1986 the newly restored Statue re-opened to the public during Liberty Weekend. The famous sonnet written by poet and essayist Emma Lazarus (shown here) in 1883 is engraved on a bronze plaque which has been affixed to the inner walls of the pedestal since the early 1900’s.

Ellis Island Living Theater performances, which are both educational and entertaining, are especially popular with students, scout troops, day campers, religious groups, senior clubs, and families. Reservations for Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty are accepted for groups of 10 or more. Since the theater seats 56 people, some groups may have to schedule multiple shows. Please note that the National Park Service, which administers Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, requires one chaperone for every ten children. Individuals without reservations are encouraged to purchase their tickets upon entering the museum.

For more information or to make reservations, contact The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at 212-561-4500, ext. 0 or theater@ellisisland.org. More on Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty can be found online.

For ferry tickets and schedules, call Statue Cruises at 1-877-LADY TIX or go online.

The Actors employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Cayuga Museum Celebrating 75 Years


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2011 is the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. The Museum’s celebration kicks off with a gala dinner dance at the Holiday Inn in Auburn, NY on Saturday, May 7.

The Cayuga Museum opened its doors in the former Willard-Case Mansion on October 16, 1936. It was the culmination of a vision by founding director Walter Long, an art professor at Syracuse University, and representatives of many of the leading families of Auburn, to create a permanent home for the arts in Cayuga County.

The Museum was started with four divisions: Art, History, Industry and Children’s Activities. These four divisions have given rise to other great arts institutions in our community. The Merry-go-Round Playhouse started in the Children’s division of the Cayuga Museum; and the Art division was critical in the founding of the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center. Over the years, the Cayuga Museum has played a vital role in celebrating, preserving, and defining the history and culture of our area. Tens of thousands of people have visited the Museum exhibits; and thousands of families and businesses have donated objects to the Museum collection.

The Museum is coming full circle back to its earliest years, when the mansion’s carriage house was transformed into a community theater through a collaboration between the museum and the Community Players. Known then as the Cayuga Museum Annex, the theater was a popular venue for a variety of programs from the early 40’s through the early 70’s. Used primarily for storage for the past several decades, the carriage house is presently undergoing a major restoration that will return it to life. The second floor sound studio, where Theodore Case filmed some of the world’s first sound movies, will be open to the public for the first time. The main floor theater will be available for shows, concerts, and parties year ‘round, as well as being one of the venues of the summer Musical Theater Festival.

The Museum’s 75th Anniversary Dinner kicks off a celebration of this important milestone. The dinner will be May 7, at the Holiday Inn. Guests can dine on filet mignon, crab-stuffed sole or stuffed Portobello mushroom, and dance to the music of the Soul Traders. Tickets are $75 each and benefit the Museum’s operating fund.

This Fall, the Museum will host an exhibit on its own 75 years in the community, from the earliest discussions about creating a museum to the present, and showcasing treasures from the Museum collection. The Museum is asking the public to share their own memories or photographs of the Museum over the years. To reserve tickets to the dinner, or to share your memories, call the Museum at 253-8051.

CANCELLED: Burgoyne’s Gold, A Murder Mystery Event


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On Saturday, April 9 from 7pm to 9pm in Saratoga Town Hall on Spring Street (Rte 29) in Schuylerville, “Burgoyne’s Gold – A Murder Mystery” set in an 18th-century candle-lit “tavern,” with light refreshments, merriment, mystery, and murder. Tickets cost $17.77 with all proceeds benefiting the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield.

Shortly after the American victory in the Battles of Saratoga people are searching for the rumored fortune in gold that British General John Burgoyne buried before his surrender in 1777. Participants will be asked to put on their detective caps for an evening of unique entertainment by blending the lore of British General John Burgoyne’s hidden gold with portrayals of local historical figures, stirring in fictional characters and adding a dash of “homicide.”

Written by O’Connor’s Murder by Design, Diane and Steven O’Connor have produced interactive murder mystery fundraisers since 1989, raising over $200,000 for local non-profits.

Light refreshments using 18th-century recipes include meat and vegetable pasties made by BOCES Culinary School and cookies made by Doris Olszewski, plus tea, coffee and apple cider. For more information about the event call 664.9821 ext. 227.

Reservations must be made in advance by emailing megan stevens@nps.gov or calling 518.664.9821 ext 219. Sorry, no walk-ins allowed.

Saratoga National Historical Park and the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield work together to foster awareness, enjoyment and preservation of Saratoga Battlefield.

Life of Fugitive Slave Lavinia Bell to be Presented


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One hundred and fifty years ago, few knew about Lavinia Bell, a fugitive from slavery who trekked from a Texas plantation to Rouses Point, New York, in search of freedom in Canada. Now, for the first time, her experiences will be presented to the public in “Never Give Up: The Story of Lavinia Bell,” reenacted by Melissa Waddy-Thibodeaux at Plattsburgh State University’s Krinovitz Recital Hall. The presentation will begin at 7:00 PM on February 11, 2011. The event is free and open to the public.

Ms. Thibodeaux’s visit to Plattsburgh in February will be her first to the North Country. She has already earned national acclaim for her sensitive depictions of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. The North Country location of the premiere of Mrs. Bell’s story, in the region where her vision was at last realized, is as fitting as are the sponsoring organizations: the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, Plattsburgh State University, and Clinton Community College.

Ms. Thibodeaux will also offer performance workshops for university and college students during her stay in Plattsburgh. On February 12, she will cross into Canada
where, under the sponsorship of the Negro Community Center in Montreal, she will
introduce Mrs. Bell to a waiting audience.

To see Ms. Thibodeaux portray Harriet Tubman visit You Tube.

To learn more about this event, contact Don Papson at NCUGRHA@aol.com or
(518) 561-0277.

Mettawee River Theatre at Johnson Hall


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The Friends of Johnson Hall State Historic Site, 139 Hall Avenue, in Johnstown, NY, will host the Mettawee River Theatre on Thursday evening, August 5, 8:00 p.m., on the lawn under the black walnut trees – this popular annual theatre company presented their first production at Johnson Hall over 30 years ago. This year’s 35th anniversary production is an Iroquois creation story. Bring chairs, blankets, snacks, and bug spray – but no pets, please.

Mettawee’s outdoor production for the summer of 2010 is The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, which was originally produced in 1997. It is drawn from the Iroquois creation tale in which the Sky Woman falls from the spirit world and lands on the back of a turtle. Water animals bring up mud from the bottom of the sea so the earth can grow. The character Sapling creates all the earth’s delightful things; his brother Flint brings us mosquitoes and thorns and sharp rocks. The abrupt arrival of Hodu’i, a whimsical crack-pot who claims to have created it all, spells the readiness of the earth for the arrival of human beings. The production will incorporate many puppets representing the spirits and creatures of this young world.

According to Mettawee Artistic Director Ralph Lee, “At this time, when serious concerns about the state of our environment weigh heavily on us, it’s nourishing to hear these clear voices from the beginning of the world, reminding us of the gifts we’ve been given.”

For further information, contact Wanda Burch at 518-762-8712 or wanda.burch@oprhp.state.ny.us