Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Open Plath to Poetry

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA held an Open Mic Poetry Night on Tuesday December 20th. The event was hosted by Patrick Bresnyan and presented Tara Vivian as the evening’s featured poet. When I first arrived as The Cheeky Monkey, I found Ms. Vivian relaxing upon one of the many couches of the establishment enjoying her beverage while reading a book of poetry composed by Sylvia Plath. We spoke briefly before I ordered a drink for myself while she thoughtfully returned to her reading.

It wasn’t long afterwards until the evening’s host, Patrick Bresnyan, entered the Cheeky with an array of percussion instruments including some tribal drums. I remembered thinking “Tribal Drums and Sylvia Plath, what a night this would be.” As the evening progressed as poets, musicians, and those who came to enjoy the event filled the room, it became evident night would be a wonderful one to reflect upon for quite some time.

The event began with some welcoming remarks given by Mr. Bresnyan which included assurances all forms and subjects presented will be greeted without critique or censorship. Immediately afterwards, he began sharing some of his poetry with those who came to partake in the evening. His style in both composition and delivery proved to contain a power designed to shake the soul of all who experienced his words out of its complacency and to open the inner eye to see what is their’s to witness. This was done with great effect as a soft inaudible “Ah” was felt throughout the room along with the sound of eyes becoming opened. Mr. Bresnyan also read works from his long time facebook friend, Sean Poole, whose words equaled the qualities found in Mr. Bresnyan’s work.

These readings were followed by those composed by the evening’s featured poet, Tara Vivian. Upon the first utterances of her words, one can feel the depth of human experiences in her work. The earlier introduction I had of her reading from the poet, Sylvia Plath, became a beacon from whose light I was able to fully absorb the poignancy of Ms. Vivian’s body of works. Each word, each movement, each gesture of the eye wrote and re wrote each poem until they were inscribed in the minds, hearts, and souls of every being who received their echoes.

The readings gave me thoughts about Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel titled, “The Bell Jar.” Although I’ve never read it, the image of a bell frantically ringing out the cries of it’s inner existences while being muffled by a jar so anyone passing by could only hear a faint whispered reflection touched my imagination. Perhaps this was due to the sensation I felt of something existing beyond Ms. Vivian’s words and only a muffled echo touched my awareness.

It is then when I began to reflect upon how our experiences deemed too unacceptable to be expressed in their complete honesty are like bells being encased in societal jars made of glass blown from the ingredients of shame, ridicule, and judgment we and others combine in order to create a barrier strong enough to contain our cries. Occasionally, our tears finds flaws in the jars we have adopted but they are soon dried so these openings can be closed before our tones can discover an avenue for escape. They are shut up to maintain a polite distance enabling the denial of their existence.

Yet, there are times when these tones can be heard by the bell within our hearts. The evening at Cheeky Monkey’s was such a time as each poem shared by Ms. Vivian resounded their profound qualities throughout all they touched. For me, the awareness of what existed beyond her words increased as the long silent ringing of my own bell began to experience a heightened fidelity as each poem was revealed. As the evening approached its close, she read Sylvia Plath’s confessional poem titled, “Daddy,” she not only captured it and the poet’s essence, she also captured the essence of every soul within the room.

However, before Ms. Vivian concluded her sharings, a number of poets and musicians took the mic in order to share their talents. All of the presentations were befitting to the openness embodied in the event as many styles and levels of performances were offered an opportunity to be experienced by those who attended. The evening ended with a drumming performance by Mr. Bresnyan which allowed another, more honest view of the holiday to emerge. You’ll find more photographs taken during the Open Mic Poetry Night in The Cheeky Monkey 2011 Gallery Part 1 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150126424220421.327714.636000420&type=1&l=0ac968b925 and Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150545891045421.433139.636000420&type=1.

Tara Vivian is a poet who host The Broad Street Poetry Revival presented at The Broad Street Coffee House the second Tuesday of each month. The Broad Street Coffee House is located in Milford, PA and specializes in coffee brewed with filtered water to enhance it flavor and food made on the premises. Please Explore The Broad Street Coffee House Website at www.facebook.com/BroadStreetCoffeeHouse or call them at 570-409-6090 to learn more about The Broad Street Poetry Revival, other events they are planning, and all they have to offer the community.

The next Open Mic Poetry Night will be held Tuesday January 17th and the second Tuesday of every month beginning at 7pm hosted by Patrick Bresnyan. Images of the Cheeky Monkey’s Espresso Yourself Art Series Exhibition featuring the works of John Kolbek and Michael Parsons continues to be seen upon their walls and will remain there until January 1st. The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse also offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at www.cheekymonkeycoffee.com or call 570-236-5574 for more information.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Night With Miraglia

The ArtMusic Coffeehouse in East Stroudsburg, PA presented Singer/Song writer Danielle Miraglia Saturday December 17th. A gentle and calming mood touched those who arrived early to the concert. It was enhanced by the welcoming greetings presented by the home’s owners, Don Slepian and Jan Julia, and their musical guest along with those who arrived even earlier. The lights were dimmed to a reddened glow bringing forth the energies associated with the color and the conversations were instinctively kept to a whisper as not to interfere with the natural flow of the aurae traveling from one internal vibration to the next.

Slowly, the home began to fill with excited conversations brightening the lights within the house and each other with anticipation. Ms. Miraglia discreetly spirited herself away from the presence of those who were entering the abode to prepare for her performance and, perhaps, to create an atmosphere in which her “Official” entrance would have a more mystical effect. The sharings among friends who have met during previous concerts and those who arrived for the very first time until the 8 o’clock hour arrived and Don Slepian (or as Ms. Miraglia later affectionately referred to as “Don Slepiano”) gently quieted the gathering to experience the mood enhancing sounds his improvised performance on the keyboards are well known and well appreciated.

Singer/Song writer Danielle Miraglia is considered by many to be a blues artists. But, if her performance is what it means to have the blues, I’m throwing away my Prozac. There is a joy and humor which stitches their way throughout each song and story connected to it sewing a smile to each face and heart who are penetrated by her needling insights and wit. While the influence many great blues singers has on Ms. Miraglia’s compositions and performance styles can be speculated on, there is little doubt, if any of those legendary performer were the experienced her talents, they would be inspired by her.

The uncanny quality of  Ms. Miraglia’s songs have a way of leading the listener into many directions within each piece. Sometimes, the audience are led into several emotional avenues at once. This deft weaving allows one to instantaneously develop a desire to go deeper into a song to discover the enormity of its depth. An example of this would be one particular song in with a great deal of sorrow is shared. There was a line which served as comic relief for many until it is realized the words also denotes an underlining sadness related to the song. However, the chuckle the line inspired allowed the audience to experience the enormity of the song’s theme without shying away from it. This is how a song writer becomes master song writer.

Ms. Miraglia’s effect was pleasantly demonstrated throughout the evening as her presence on and off the stage continued creating music within all who encountered her. It was a delight to meet such an enchanting woman whose exuberant demeanor and understandings of the profundity of every day life brings forth a person quite uncommon in the familiar discourses of everyday life. You’ll be able to see more Photographs taken during the concert in The ArtMusic Coffeehouse 2011 Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150297458280421.386056.636000420&type=1&l=0f79879505.

Danielle Miraglia was raised just outside of Boston in Revere, MA and on a variety of popular music ranging from Motown to classic rock influences. Listening to The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin encouraged her to learn to play guitar at the age of thirteen. She also developed a passion for the arts and discovered an outstanding gift for writing and theater in addition to music. Ms. Miraglia released her debut EP titled, “Bad Poetry” in 2001. This was followed by “Just Wrong Enough” in 2002 and her recent CD titled, “Nothing Romantic.” You can learn more about Danielle Miraglia, her music, her creative influences, and how to obtain her work for your collection at www.daniellem.com.

The ArtMusic Coffeehouse is held in the home of Don Slepian and Jan Julia who reside in the borough of East Stroudsburg, PA as part of the Concerts In Your Home Series. A variety of musical forms are presented including folk, jazz, classical, and electronic music. Although the concerts welcomes all who wish to attend, seating is limited as they take place in a private home. The Danielle Miraglia was the final concert to be held at The ArtMusic Coffeehouse for 2011. It was a very befitting gift for the holidays. The ArtMusic Coffeehouse Concerts will resume in 2012 beginning with Ian Ethan on Saturday January 14th and continuing with Jacob Johnson on Friday January 27th. Both concerts start at 8pm. Please Explore The ArtMusic Coffeehouse Website at www.ArtMusicCoffeehouse.com or Call 570-476-6307 for more information and to reserve your seats.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Little Historical Night Music

The Monroe County Historical Association held its Annual Holiday Concert on Friday December 16th at The Stroud Mansion in Stroudsburg, PA. The concert was presented in the upstairs quarters of the building which was designated to present a variety of functions including workshops and concerts like the one being performed that evening. It proved to be the perfect setting as it provided an intimate and congenial atmosphere for both performers and the sizable number of music lovers who came to attend alike.

After some welcoming remarks given by Bob Wehe and The Monroe County Historical Association Executive Director #Amy Leiser, the local choral group “Discipleship in Song” performed a number of selections reflecting the holiday season indicative of the Christian faith. The blend of voices were a pleasing combination and the songs brought both a smile and a contemplative humbleness to those who experienced them. Those who shared their voices included Debbie Booth, Bill Dimmick, Bill Hoy Sr., Bruce Kraeutler, Tamara Paff, Lynn Pappalardo, Linda Ross, and Kathy Sharp. They were accompanied by Joanne Albertson on Piano.

They were followed by a series of soloist who performed selections ranging from the classical as in those composed by Mozart, Puccini, Handel, and John Phillip Sousa to more contemporary pieces written by Jerome Kern and Cole Porter. There were also a number of traditional Christmas carols performed which included a portion of the program inviting the audience to sing along. Each soloist interpretation of the piece they performed brought not only showcased the vocal nuances of the compositions but their movement added to the piece’s subtext where were written in an universal language with in the soul of each listener, The soloist who shared their beautifully powered voices included Dr. Nadia Worobij, Gil Janes, Bob Wehe, Nicole Rideout, and Erin MacMillion. They were accompanied by Pauline Fox on Piano who also performed a special arrangement of “What Child Is This?”

The concert’s conclusion brought with it opportunities for the audience to share conversations with the performers and with each other which served to allow the good fellowship created by the event to linger on long afterwards. Plus, the cakes and cookies were good. You’ll find more photographs taken during the concert in the Music 2011 Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150510736315421.429428.636000420&type=1&l=4713dd0bf8.

The choral group “Discipleship in Song” is an ecumenical music ministry based in the Pocono, PA area. Their mission and purpose is to present inspirational music and personal testimonies in order to encourage their audience to develop a closer relationship with God. The group does not adhere to any particular belief or creed but, instead, rely on the supernatural Grace of the Divine to move their mission and purpose forward.  

The Stroud Mansion was the family home Jacob Stroud in 1795 who founded the town of Stroudsburg, PA which is now the Monroe County seat. The building houses the offices of The Monroe County Historical Association which is a non-profit community organization dedicated to preserving the history of the area while providing tours for those who wished to learn more about the town’s heritage. The Monroe County Historical Association future events will include their annual meeting and awards luncheon on Sunday February 26th and their Annual Victorian Tea and luncheon on Sunday April 29th. You’ll be able to learn more about The Monroe County Historical Association and all it has to offer the community by contacting them at 570-421-7703 or by exploring their website at www.monroehistorical.org.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Night of Dance and Puppetry

The School of Visual and Performing Arts (SVAP) in Stroudsburg, PA presented a holiday performance on Saturday December 10th featuring a puppet show and dance performances. The performance showcased the talents of their students and faculty as a gift to the community and those who support the school. The huge gathering of family and friends of the performers combined with the joy of experiencing the excited energies of those performing successfully created an atmosphere designed to delight the child within each attendee. 

The evening began with a puppet show titled “What’s for Christmas?” with the majority of the skits written by Aileen Fisher and directed by Jazmin Ospa. It featured puppets designed by the students who attended their puppet making classes and their young creators. The Show was Emceed by Robert Kash who also presented a skit titled, “Something in the Air” featuring Cat and Dog Puppets made and designed by Gabby Kash. As eluded to, the puppet show consisted of a number of skits which were selected by a bevy of eager children who picked the titles out of a Santa’s hat.

The first of these skits was titled, “Night at the Museum” which was Choreographed by Jazmin Ospa who also appeared as the Pterodactyls. The skit also featured Michaela Miller as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Daniella Turso as the Comet, Alex Osborne as the Caveman, Minnie Ospa as the Saber tooth Tiger, Zack Aniano as the Silver Knight, T. J. Salmon as the Gold Knight, Bella Hewitt as the Princess, Teri Salmon as the Handmaiden, Alex Aniano as the Fairy, and Christopher Barton as the Sleepy Guard. This skit was the audience’s introduction to the puppets created during the workshops and many were impressed by the details they embodied.

The remaining skits consisted of those titled, “Cartoon Heroes” which was Choreographed by Jazmin Ospa who also appeared as Turanga Leela and Amy Long along with Den Kayer who appeared as Mario and Luigi. This was followed “Christmas Dreams” featuring Christopher Barton and his puppet, “Not Taking Any Changes” featuring Alicia and Daniella Turso and their puppets, and “Speaking of Presents” featuring Alex Aniano and his puppet. The performances were enjoyable and did well to showcase the talents of the children who participated.

“What’s for Christmas?” concluded with Ben Krayer sharing a message from Santa saying he wanted to be there but was too busy Christmas Shopping. However, Eric Mark donned the garb of the jolly old elf and was accompanied by Alicia and Daniella Turso as his elves. The children did not mind on bit they were in the presence of a surrogate Santa as Eric and his helpers brought joy to the gathering.

After the intermission in which the audience were moved to a larger room, the Holiday Performances continued with dance performances by Kathy Kroll Dance and Paper Theater, Paula and Robert who combined Martial Arts with Dance, The Northeast Ballet Ensemble who performed sequences from “The Nutcracker” under the direction of Diane Verdi, The SVPA Senior Dance Class, and Welcome to Salsa. All the performances were well done and involved a number of dancers ranging from toddlers to those who are experiencing life from a more mature perspective. The entire event led to an enjoyable evening in which one can happily include in their list of holiday delights. You’ll find more photographs in The Performing Arts 2011 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150517235885421.429950.636000420&type=1&l=4bafae6105.

The School of Visual and Performing Arts is located in Stroudsburg, PA and is #a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to exposing, inspiring, and educating the public in the arts. They offer classes in Dance, Theater, and Art along with a space to present special shows and to display art. Please Explore The School of Visual and Performing Arts Website at www.schoolofvisualandperformingarts.org or call 570-817-3453 for more information about the school, how to register for their classes, and all they offer to the community.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The 2011 ESU Winter Choral Concert

The East Stroudsburg University of PA presented their Music Department’s 2011 Winter Choral Concert on Wednesday December 7th in The Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall at their Fine and Performing Arts Center. The program consisted of performances given by the A Cappella Ensemble and The Concert Choir under the direction of Prof. James Maroney with Pauline Fox serving as musical accompanist. The well attended event featured the voices derived from members of the campus community along with those individuals residing in the surrounding area.

The program began with selections sung by the university’s A Cappella Ensemble featuring solo performances given by Danielle Tretola, Ely Reys-Viruet, Patrick Mertz, Paula Dixon, and David Yablonski. The variety of the pieces ranged from the classical works such as one written by Felix Mendelssohn to holiday folk carols originating from eastern and western Europe. The vocal ranges were pleasing to the ear and served to prepare the audience for the concert yet to come.

Several more Classical and folk melodies touched the audience’s ears and hearts as the Concert Choir performance filled the recital hall with their voices. A gentle swooning took place as one piece reflecting the holiday spirits traveled among the seats and stairs where the audience were seated followed another. The blending of the sounds created a peace long sought for by those whose hurried and daunting preparations for their not too distant family gatherings leaves them exhausted. This peace allowed a renewal to take place within the hearts of all who experienced it through the magical properties of the performance. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2011 Gallery Part 1 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150134623910421.332199.636000420&type=1 and Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150510736315421.429428.636000420&type=1&l=4713dd0bf8.

Future concerts and recitals presented by The East Stroudsburg University of PA Department of Music will include their Winter Concert featuring the University Jazz Ensemble on Thursday December 8th at 7:30pm, a Senior Recital featuring music from Broadway on Friday December 9th at 7pm, their Winter Band Concert on Friday December 11th at 7pm, and a Student Voice Recital featuring the students of James Maroney and Wendy Grice on Tuesday December 13th. Rehearsals for the Spring 2012 Semester Choral Performance begin Tuesday January 24th and all those who would like to participate in the program are welcomed to attend. The performance will take place Wednesday May 2nd. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University Department of Music at 570-422-3483 for more information.

Scholastic Art in Review

The East Stroudsburg University of PA (ESU) Art Department held an Artists’ Reception on Wednesday December 7th to present The Fall 2011 Fine Art Review of their students’ creative achievements. Although the exhibit began November 29th, the reception was held at the Madelon Powers Gallery which is located in The Fine and Performing Arts Building on the ESU Campus on its final day. A variety of styles and approaches were represented as were the students’ youthful excitement of discovering new techniques to express their creativity. It was a well attended event as it began but the numbers began to dwindle considerably as the evening went on.

However, this gave those who decided to linger an opportunity to establish a greater relationship with the works displayed throughout the gallery. The conversations ceased to be among those expressing their thoughts relating to the works and became shared experiences between the viewer and the work itself. And, the work indeed had much to share as the lives of the artists and their perspectives on the life they chose to depict in their work were deftly conveyed. These insights helped to make the reception an enjoyable evening filled with wonderful art, conversation, and cookies.

The students who presented their work in the Fall 2011 Fine Arts and Art and Design Review included M. K., W. H., Benjamin Koch, Sam Popple, Angie Fregoni, Abby Braman, Chris Hodge, Dominick Frabizio, Dana Rivera, Michael O’ Connell, Steph Sanders, David Kennedy, Christina Aidala, Mirtha L. Estevez, Kayla Littrell, Abby Oxford, Brandon Minninger, Celeste Hylton-James, Stacy Owino, Megan Fortmann, Jason John, Nick Sullivan, Anna Maino, Michael Kttl, David Canady, Summer Smith, John Cherney, Chris Hingley, Katie O’ Neill, Katlyn Valenti, Jess Wilner, Ray Wells, Alma Barrantes, Erin Gittens, Krystale Sbat, Krysta Schwuchow, Sam Peterson, Bethany Wert, Lauriel Gingrich, Tiffany Pyzik, Amanda Kawczynski, Mathew Mc Nulty, Shawn Savage, Carlin Todd, Alison Morisano, Chad Jacobson, Cassandra Cota, Danielle Marshall, Chad Crane, Brittany Ott, Seamus McKelvey, Sarah Shields, Adam Ward, Nathan Rosetti, Taylor Vonrohr, Jeremiah Johnson, Kara Zucek, Katelyn Steiner, and Drew Lingel.

In addition to the work being presented in the main gallery, students from the 3 - D Design Class presented an exhibit titled, “Beyond 50,000 Years” on the upper level (mezzanine) of the gallery featuring a dinosaur created out of Styrofoam. In order to aid the environment, the material will be gathered by the university’s recycling committee and sent to their recycling facility after the exhibit is concluded on December 13th. Several of the artists who presented their work in the main gallery participated in creating the piece along with Jaymee N. Dymond, Michael A. Garcia, Nicole A. Yatison, Chelsea M. McMahon, Elizabeth A. Miorelli, Renel Rejouis, Jr., Kylie A. Silvestri, and Grace K. Smith. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery Part 3 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150485302325421.426918.636000420&type=3.

Future exhibitions presented by The East Stroudsburg University of PA Art Department will include an exhibit featuring the works of artists yet to be announced February 1st - March 9th, The Art Association All University Student Juried Art Exhibit March 21st - April 13th, and The Senior Seminar and Portfolio in Art Student Exhibition April 19th - May 8th. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University Art Department at 570-422-3695 for more information.

Monday, December 05, 2011

An End to an Era of Dreams

The Dreamland Creations in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception on Sunday December 4th for their exhibition titled, “Phantasms, Faces, Perspectives, and Places” featuring a wide variety of work created by Shane Izykowski which included not only the Photographic endeavors he is best known for but paintings, sketches, Three Dimensional pieces, and two short films titled, “Regretfully So” and “Thine Own Hands.” Both films won the Severed Sinema Short Film Audience Award for 2010 and 2011.

The variety of the work ranged from Wedding Pictures to those depicting scenes of grotesque gore touched the walls and poured upon the senses of the many who came to attend the reception. It may be debatable to which images are more horrific, but the creative skill in which the artist presents his subjects can find very few (if any) to dispute the wonderful effects his work inspires. They allow each viewer to be amused, bemused, and transfused by what they experience as they explore the extensive talents possessed by Shane. The Exhibition continues until December 31st. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Dreamland Creations 2011 Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150403440525421.413359.636000420&type=1&l=b30ae78bea.

As mentioned earlier, the reception included the screening of two short films Shane created. The first was “Regretfully So” which was about two thieves breaking into a home of an elderly lady only to find  an unexpected outcome to their endeavor. The second film “Thine Own Hands” took place in a psychologist  office whose Dr. was treating a patient convicted of child molestation. Both films were very well done and contained what has been called the M. Night Shyamalan twist. But, neither of these film contained the sense of redundancy which has become associated with the M. Night Shyamalan films. Instead, the twists they contain are (although surprising) consistent to the flow of the films’ narratives and avoids a negative WTF response from the audience.

Although the reception was an enjoyable one in which those who attended were touched by the art created by Shane and the conversations it inspired, there was a sense of sadness in the air. It had been announced prior to the reception that this exhibition will be the last one held at Dreamland Creations. As Shane put it as he offered a toast to the establishment, the shows presented over the last three years not only showcased the work of those who aren’t shown in the more established galleries in the area, but they have encouraged others to explore their talents by creating work of their own. It is hoped many of these artists will find a place to share their visions and perspectives, but, for now, it is time to bid Dreamland Creations a fond adieu filled with the appreciations it well deserves. Thank you Myke and Sherley.

Shane Izykowski was born in Taegu, South Korea and was adopted at the age of two. He grew up with a strong background in art and continued to study all different aspects and mediums. Shane is currently working as a freelance photographer with his ranging from weddings and fashion events to that of a freelance publication photographer at East Stroudsburg University. He is also working at Stroudsburg Foto Shop, Inc., as an Adobe Photoshop specialist and salesman. Shane is also a member of the Pocono Photo Club and The Pocono Arts Council and frequently exhibits his fine art photography in many different venues in northeastern PA. You’ll find more information about Shane along with images of his work and a listing of his photographic serves at www.theartisticalternative.com.

Although the exhibitions have come to an end, The Dreamland Creations in Stroudsburg, PA continues to serves as a studio where individuals can adorn their forms with a variety of body art such as tattoos and piercings.  Please Explore The Dreamland Creations Website at www.myspace.com/dreamlandcreations or call 570-421-6313 for more information of all they have to offer.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

It’s A Juggernautic World of ArtMusic

The ArtMusic Coffeehouse in East Stroudsburg, PA presented The Juggernaut String Band on Saturday December 3rd. The energy of the musicians who were to perform could be felt immediately upon entering the home of Don Slepian and Jan Julia. The greeting they and the home owners shared created an anticipation for the music that would entreat them (for many) an hour later.

When the 8 o’clock hour arrived, the house full of music lovers were treated first to the calming effects derived from the impromptu compositions performed by the house concert’s host Don Slepian and then were immediately and gleefully assaulted by the layers of music the trio hurled at the audience. The Juggernaut String Band consisted of Pete Taney on vocals, guitar, fiddle, and harmonica, his daughter Joy Taney on Guitar and vocals, and Cat Burbage on drums and vocals. Together, they performed an eclectic mix of music covering every variety imaginable.

These forms included Bluegrass, Cajun, Classic Rock, and African Tribal Music. It was as if the whole world converged upon the stage and into the ears of the band’s listeners in order to let its songs be heard. Yet, it was in combining these musical styles with the songs waiting to be sung from within the hearts of the audience that made the evening even more enjoyable. A laughter was felt within the soul which was sure to linger long after the concert had concluded. This sensation was enhanced even further when the audience were given musical instruments and were invited to participate in the performance.  All of which can be summed up in just a few words. It was fun. You’ll be able to see Photographs taken during the concert in The ArtMusic Coffeehouse 2011 Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150297458280421.386056.636000420&type=1&l=0f79879505.

Te performance given by The Juggernaut String Band at The ArtMusic Coffeehouse was very typical of those their fans have come to enjoy throughout the years. They’re well known to present a high octane blend of music with much of it written by Pete Taney for the many musicians he had worked while following the musical road from major festivals locally and abroad to humble mountain pubs. Pete has also adapted music for the handicapped so they could explore their creative gifts and discover new avenues within themselves. In addition to this, Pete holds drumming sessions encouraging participants to let their song escape the confines of their everyday responsibilities and to be heard in the echoes of musical abandonment. You can learn more about The Juggernaut String Band and all they have to offer by exploring their website at www.juggernautstringband.com.

The ArtMusic Coffeehouse is held in the home of Don Slepian and Jan Julia who reside in the borough of East Stroudsburg, PA as part of the Concerts In Your Home Series. A variety of musical forms are presented including folk, jazz, classical, and electronic music. Although the concerts welcomes all who wish to attend, seating is limited as it they take place in a private home. The Next The ArtMusic Coffeehouse Concert will feature Danielle Miraglia on Saturday December 17th beginning at 8pm. Please Explore The ArtMusic Coffeehouse Website at www.ArtMusicCoffeehouse.com or Call 570-476-6307 for more information and to reserve your seats.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Theatrical Review: A Christmas Carol

Theatrical Review: A Christmas Carol
Directed by: Margaret Ball
Based on the Novella: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Book, Music, and Lyrics by: Mavor Moore
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre presented their production of “A Christmas Carol” which is a musical adaptation of the seasonal classic written by Charles Dickens. This musical version is not the first to be inspired by novella as anyone who was born since it was written in 1843 can attest. In fact, it would be extremely difficult to find anyone who doesn’t know the story of a miserly old man who is warned by his deceased business partner he must become more generous with his wealth or face an eternity of torment in the afterlife. He is then visited by three spirits who reveal his forgotten memories of his past, the present results of his actions, and a frightening future if he continues his life as it is.

The ESU production of this familiar tale was a likeable and enjoyable one. However, if anyone is waiting for this reviewer to jump up and down in order to give the production a rave review, they may be waiting for quite some time. At the considerable risk of being accused of being a “Scrooge,” I must say the production was lacking in many areas. This is unusual for an ESU production as the insightful plays chosen, the stellar performances by the actors, and the production’s deftly executed direction helps defines high quality theater in the area.

However, when endeavoring to re tell a story that has the familiarity “A Christmas Carol” has, one had to remember everyone knows it almost verbatim. So, it would be germane to seek out a version that has some new insights regarding the work. The production’s program included a well written article by Dr. Rita M. Plotnicki about the origins of the Novella and it’s indictment of 19th century industrial capitalism and its’ effects on the poor. However, the play makes very little attempt to address these issues and decided to be a quaint retelling with forgettable songs even though these very issues have become very prevalent in recent times as illustrated by the “Occupy” movements.

Another aspect of the production that kept it from being thoroughly enjoyable by this reviewer was the uneven acting throughout the performance. There were moments when an actor delivered a line which was followed by an impregnated pause before a response was uttered. This hindered the flow of some scenes and led to many members of the audience to dispel their suspension of disbelief by reminding them were watching a play.

Also, this reviewer wondered about the necessity of actors wearing microphones. Not only did it seem anachronistic, but the devices seemed unnecessary. It would make sense, to this reviewer, if the actors had to speak or sing while accompanied by a large orchestra so their voices could be heard. But, the musical accompaniment to the actors consisted of a piano. This may be considered a minor point to ponder, but it makes this reviewer wonder.

Now, before I get more coal than usual in my stocking, it would be neglectful of this reviewer not to mention this production was enjoyed by the audience. There were some great moments in the play and some of the portrayals of characters did bring some life into the production. Still, for this reviewer, it seemed the overall quality of the production was a bit mediocre and not to be considered one of the University’s best.

The cast consisted of Michael Lloret as Ebenezer Scrooge, Rich Hennesy as Bob Cratchit, Joseph Dougherty as The Ghost of Jacob Marley, Mr. Fezziwig, and one of the two Toffs, Tyler Whitman as The Ghost of Christmas Past, a Gentleman, and one of the two Toffs, Shannon Leigh Christmann as The Ghost of Christmas Present and Mrs. Dobbs, Deanna Knapp as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and a Caroler, Gregory J. Back as Tiny Tim Cratchit, Karen Guilliams as a Lady and Belle, Tyler W. Adams as Tom, a Soldier, Dick Willoughby, Jack and Billy Cratchit, Katie Dembesky as a Caroler, Charity and served the production as an Electrician, Molly Bunkard as a Caroler, Rebecca Regina as a Caroler, Miss Fezziwig, Susan, and Martha Cratchit, Laura Wall as a Caroler, Mrs. Fezziwig, and Belinda Cratchit, Kristen Walsh as Mrs. Dilbert, Hope, and Mrs. Cratchit, and Zenobia Colah as Ali Baba and Betsy Cratchit.

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol” was directed by Margaret Ball. The play’s book, music, and lyrics were composed by Mavor Moore and based on the Novella written by Charles Dickens. Betsy Buzzelli-Clark was the production’s Musical Director with incidental music composed by Stephan Woodjetts. The production was Stage Managed by Robert McIntyre who also served as a Carpenter and as a Electrician. Assistant Stage Managers were Ahleea Zama and Michelle Tuite who also served as a Carpenter and as a Property Assistant, Yoshinori Tanokura served the production as its set and costume designer, Shannon Long and Melissa Sherry served the production as Costume Assistants, Michael Thomas served the production as its Technical Director, Bruce Candlish served the production as its Lighting Designer, Kelsey Pulzone served the production as its Master Electrician, its Light Board Operator, and as a Carpenter, Mary Dennis, Gabe Rabinowitz, and Brandon Cabrera served the production as Electricians, Devon Sparks served the production as its Property Master and as an Electrician, Jackie Knollhoff served the production as Property Assistant, Michelle Jones served the production as its Dialect Coach and as a Carpenter, Eric Lang and Tiff Cruz served the production as Carpenters, Dave Dougherty and Matt Pierson served the production as Sound Board Operators, Aaqilah Lewis served the production as its House Manager, Elyse Burnett served the production as its Box Office Manager as assisted by Megan Rosvanis, The Posters promoting the production as the programs were designed by Darlene Farris-LaBar.

This production of “A Christmas Carol” will continue its run at The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in East Stroudsburg, PA at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center in it’s Smith-McFarland Theatre until December 4th and, while it is lacking in many areas, it is an enjoyable for many. The next production to be presented at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center will be Stage II’s production of their 2012 Student Directed One Act Plays. The theme this year is “Love and all that it entails” featuring the plays “The Wedding Song,” “A chocolate Affair,” “F. L. E. X,” and “Starting Over.” The production runs from February 14th until the 19th. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Theatre Department at 570-422-3483 for more information about future productions and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Tis the Season to be Artsy

The Pocono Arts Council held an Artists’ Reception for their Annual Holiday Show and Sale of Fine Crafts (aka The Holiday Store) at the ArtSpace and Studio Galleries (aka The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center) in Stroudsburg, PA on Thursday December 1st. The works on display featured those created by the members of The Pocono Guild of Craftsmen. Although surprisingly very few (if any) of the pieces creators were present at the reception, much of the work was eye catching and the event brought a modest amount of art lovers to it. More information about The Pocono Guild of Craftsmen can be gained by exploring their Website at www.pacrafts.com.

The evening also served as an opportunity for members of The Pocono Arts Council to hold their Annual Meeting which was very informative. This information include highlights of what the council had accomplished throughout 2011, the funds they raised to reach their goals, appeals to obtain more capital to reach even greater heights, and revelations to whom is serving on their board of directors and their leadership positions. The meeting concluded with a poetry reading by Noreen Ayers who is currently featured on the gallery’s Hall of Poetry and Writings and the awarding of a basket of edible goodies to Margaret Benson who won the evenings raffle. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception and the Meeting  in the Visual Arts 2011 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150485302325421.426918.636000420&type=1&l=ac02183230.

The Pocono Arts Council’s Annual Holiday Show and Sale of Fine Crafts (aka The Holiday Store) continues until December 24th. The next exhibition at The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center will be presented in The ArtSpace Gallery and begin with an Artist’s Reception on Saturday January 7th. It will continue until the end of the month. Please Explore The ArtSpace Gallery Website at www.poconoarts.org/artspace for more information.

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center is part of The PoconoArts Council which is an organization designed to build the communities in which it serves artistically and culturally by providing leadership, service, and education. It does so by offering avenues for artists to display their work through the ArtSpace and other galleries, educational opportunities for those who would like to explore and/or enhance their creative natures, and encouragement to those who seek to express and/or support the arts. You’ll be able to learn more about The PoconoArts Council and all they offer at www.poconoarts.org.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Topping the Sky with Art

Colorful lights, enchanting art and crafts, and the excited utterances known to accompany the holiday season filled the Executive Conference Center located within the Skytop Lodge in which The Pocono Mountain Arts Council held their 7th Annual Holiday Arts Festival on November 26th and 27th. Although I was only able to attend the festival during it’s final two hours, much of the spirit of the festival was still felt as it permeated among the vendors and all who experience their seasonal hospitality. A relaxed joy touched the air as offerings ranging from the creative works of renowned artists and crafters to the pieces created by energetic students from local school districts who shared their newly discovered talents.

Over 50 creative souls presented their works to a sizable number of art and craft lovers who awaited for the yearly arrival of the festival. Many came with a desire to enhance their holiday shopping through the purchase of the pleasantly beautiful images, the divinely adornment jewelry, and gently crafted household décor that were on display while many came to simply admire the work. Indeed, this was a festival combining love with commerce in a tastefully satisfying manner.

As for me, it was an enjoyable festival filled with some very nice work and delightful conversation. The objects presented by the crafters caught the eye’s attention and proved to be interesting products while the art presented pleased the eye with their gentle depictions. With few exceptions, the body of work presented at the festival were created with commerce in mind so there were very few pieces providing any reflections of the state of human existence.

However, there was a love for the crafts and art that were presented which emanated from their creators. Without this love, the objects would hold no more significance than those found in retail stores whose items are merely placed their to make the shop owners a profit. One can sense the work presented during The Pocono Mountain Arts Council’s 7th Annual Holiday Arts Festival were not made with a mere profit motivation to which its existence was owed. A human heart was present as each stroke of a paintbrush touched a canvas, as each nail was hammered in a piece of wood, and as each pierced stone was strung together.

The Pocono Mountain Arts Council supports the work of artists and promotes the arts in the community through education and by providing avenues of creative expression encouraging working relationships among the area's artistic groups, providing financial support toward the education of aspiring artists, and working toward the establishment of a permanent gallery space in which to host workshops and exhibitions. The Pocono Mountain Arts Council’s Annual Holiday Arts Festival is held every year during the weekend following Thanksgiving. You’ll find more photographs I took during my time at the festival in The Visual Arts 2011 Galleries Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150316388700421.390846.636000420&type=1&l=559eabb691 and Part 3 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150485302325421.426918.636000420&type=1&l=ac02183230. Please Explore The Pocono Mountain Arts Council Website at www.poconomac.com or call 570-595-3157 to learn more about them, what they offer to the community, and how to become welcomed as a member.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Castling Faces Emerge

The Castle Inn Gallery in Delaware Water Gap, PA held an Artist’s Reception on Saturday November 19th for their Exhibition titled, “Faces.” The exhibition features the works of Donna A. McCartney who was debuting her talents at the gallery. The reception was well attended by art lovers who were treated to a pre thanksgiving feast of etchings and sculpture destined to satisfy the creative appetite of anyone who experienced the work.

The work was arranged in an order which allowed attendees to flow freely from one object to another while enabling them to take pause long enough to contemplate the style and intricacies of each piece. There was much to contemplate and admire as each face presented in the individual pieces reached out with their expressions until it was mirrored within those who gazed upon it. This encouraged the viewer to reflect upon the feelings they were feeling during this exchange and allowed them to be acknowledged in a more profound way.

The conversation mimicked the arrangement of the work as topics flowed freely throughout the entire Castle Inn which is made up of a variety of shops. These include Ms. McCartney own (DM) Custom Framing and Art Studio in which she offers a variety of frames and workshops. She has become well known for helping artists frame and show their work throughout her 15 year residency in the Monroe County area and it was an enjoyable experience to experience her creative endeavors revealed for the very first time during the reception. You’ll be able to learn more about Ms. McCartney, her art, and all her studio has to offer by contacting her at dm-studios@hotmail.com.

Wine and appetizers were provided by The Zen Safari Ethnic Art Center which is one of the shops found within The Castle Inn offering items found in various parts of the world including Australia and Haiti.The modest variety of foods and the properties of the beverages enhanced the relaxed atmosphere of the evening. You’ll be able to learn more about The Zen Safari Ethnic Art Center and all it has to offer by contacting them at zensafari@gmail.com. You’ll be able to find more photographs taken during the reception in The Visual Arts Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150316388700421.390846.636000420&type=3&l=559eabb691.

The Castle Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA was built in 1906 and was the last of the great hotels to be built in area. It housed an ice cream parlor, a mosaic floor, bowling alleys, a pool, and a billiard parlor. Performances were presented which included those given by Opera legend Enrico Caruso, Marching Band Leader John Phillip Sousa, and Big Band Leader Fred Waring along with the Pennsylvanians. This all came to an abrupt end when fire touched the Inn in the 1970s and it laid dormant until 2005 when it was purchased by Theresa Veltri and Frank Paccione who continues their endeavors to bring the Inn back as an asset to the community and all who visit it.

The Exhibition continues in The Castle Inn Gallery located in Delaware Water Gap, PA until January 21st. Jose and Maggie Sanatmaria serves as the Gallery’s Directors. More information about the exhibition as well as The Castle Inn can be gained by explore their website at www.castleinndwg.com.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Theatrical Review: Macbeth

Theatrical Review: Macbeth
Written by: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Richard M. Rose
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (aka “The Tragedy of Macbeth”). The company previously presented the play in The David W. Miller’s Park which is located in East Stroudsburg, PA earlier this Autumn. I’ve seen one of the presentations and I’ve written a review. You’ll find it posted at www.forwardianartssociety.blogspot.com/2011/09/theatrical-review-macbeth.html.

In the review, I’ve explored the history and shared a fairly detailed synopsis of the play. I choose not to be so meticulously repetitious in writing this review as the facts I’ve referred to in the previous one has not changed. So, I would refer those who would like to experience the history and synopsis of the play to click onto the link provided earlier and feel free to do so.

However, for those who choose not to click the link, I would briefly like to share the play is about a Scottish Thane (Lord) named “Macbeth” who wins a great war for his king. After the final battle, he and his friend meet some witches who predict his ascendance to the throne and his friend’s decedents will soon follow. Afterwards Macbeth and his wife plot to kill the king and they go mad. In his paranoia, Macbeth kills his friend and has others whom he sees plotting against him murdered as well. This encourages a real plot to develop which leads to a war and the death of Macbeth.

The review also mentioned the superb acting and directing which was experienced during the production at The David W. Miller’s Park. This not only remained true on The Shawnee Playhouse stage but the performance of the actors who grew in their roles as actors often do when a play is presented over an extended period of time greatly improved the theatrical experience. This extended run of the play also seemed to have a positive effect on it’s pacing which I felt The David W. Miller’s Park production seemed a bit rushed at times and kept the audience from absorbing the enormity of the horrendous slaughtering and their aftermaths. The pace of The Shawnee Playhouse production slowed and the audience seemed to respond to the occurrences on stage with more reflection.

The cast of The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” included Patrick Bresnyan as Macbeth, Gillian Bender as Lady Macbeth, Richard M. Rose as Banquo, Amy Cramer as Lady Macduff and a witch, Emily Fiona Rose as Lady Ross and a witch, and Lorelei Sands as Lady Lennox and a witch. There were also Robin Kessler as Ross and served as the production’s Music Director), Mark Pender as Angus and the Bloody Captain, Griffin Wagner as a Lord and murder, and Ryan Moore as Malcolm and served as the production’s Weapons Master. And there were Robert Taylor as Macduff, Samantha Wagner as Macduff’s Son, and Holly Newcomb as the goddess Hecate and a Gentlewoman. Mathew Cramer as Siward, and Grant Wagner as Young Siward and Caithness. And finally there were Maureen Gilleece Harms as Doctor and Gentlewoman, Marty Courtney as the Porter, Renard Cohen as Seyton, and Cordelia Ariel Rose as Donalbain and an apparition.

There were also come cast changes between The David W. Miller’s Park and The Shawnee Playhouse productions due to various reasons. These included Ray Papay as King Duncan, Marshall Haskell as Lennox, Sarah Mitchell as an Alternate Witch, Jeremy Cramer and Cameron Cramer as MacDuff siblings who both served the production as a stagehands. All enhanced the play with their stellar performances. Even if one had seen The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” The David W. Miller’s Park last September, this reviewer would recommend seeing it once again as there seemed a certain charm in doing so. However, if anyone reading this review hasn’t seen it at the park, well, a treat awaits those who enjoy Shakespearian theater done well.

The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is directed by Richard M. Rose and Stage Managed by Amanda Kalinowski. The Costumer for the production was Bella Shanice while Irene Garner and Stacy Ritchie served as roving assistants. The producers of the productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse are Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood while the group sales manager is Mary Horn. The Box Office Staff includes Chrissy McMannus while Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director. The Executive Director of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky.

Pocono Shakes is a newly formed theatre group dedicated to shaking up Shakespeare and giving him back his groove. Their future plans include many more performances, film screenings, lessons, comedy, improv, and fun. They practice an absolute, no-discrimination policy and encourage all actors and musicians to audition and participate. Pocono Shakes is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. For more information please contact Pocono Shakes at PoconoShakes@gmail.com or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/poconoshakes.

The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” continues its run until November 13th. Future Shawnee Playhouse presentations will include their production of “ Home for Christmas” and their Children Theater production of “A Christmas Wizard of Oz” both running from November 18th until December 22nd, “The Ultimate Elvis Tribute” on Saturday November 19th, The Northeast Ballet Ensemble production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s “The Nutcracker” running from December 3rd until the 12th, and their Annual Holiday Sing In Concert featuring Handel‘s “Messiah” on Tuesday December 20th along with their children’s presentations of “Mark Mysterrio’s Tales of Magic and Mystery” on December 26th and 27th and “Kids Kabaret” on December 29th and 30th. In addition to these presentations, The Shawnee Playhouse is seeking aspiring playwrights to participate in their Shawnee Original Playwright Series (SOPS). The Submission deadline is January 31, 2012 with Staged Readings of the finalist are scheduled to take place March 6th - 30th.

Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $3.00 discount off the admission fee of The Shawnee Playhouse Productions (excluding Children Theatrical Productions and those presented by non Shawnee Production Companies). Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their website at www.theshawneeplayhouse.com for more information (including submissions for their 2012 Playwright Competition) and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The Pocono Shakes.

Theatrical Review: “The Glass Menagerie”

Theatrical Review: “The Glass Menagerie”
Written by: Tennessee Williams
Directed by: Jan Julia
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Kaleidoscope Players production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” The play premiered in Chicago in 1944 and was reworked from one of the author’s short stories titled, “Portrait of a Girl in Glass.” The work became known as a “memory play” in which (as the term suggests) the onstage occurrences are derived from the recollections of a narrator named, “Tom Wingfield” (as portrayed by Scotty Vinnacombe) whom many consider to be Tennessee Williams himself. After receiving a modest reception in Chicago, the play moved to Broadway and received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1945.

The play takes place in a St. Louis Tenement in which Tom, his sister Laura Wingfield (as portrayed by Shannon Felletter), and his mother, Amanda Wingfield, (as portrayed by Amy Jo Shaefer) lives. The family had been abandoned several years earlier by Mr. Wingfield who is the husband of Amanda and the father of Tom and Laura. Although he is a central influence on what occurs onstage, only a portrait of him hanging on the wall appears throughout the production.

In her somewhat delusional recollections of her younger days as a “Southern Belle,” Amanda seeks to instill the visages of her bygone days upon her physically handicapped daughter. Her goal throughout the play is to obtain a “Gentleman Caller” for her daughter so she could enjoy the securities of marital bliss. This in spite of the fact her marriage left her in a state of insecurity which is demonstrated through her desire to control the fate of her adult children.

Both Laura and Tom seeks to escape their mother’s overbearing by distancing themselves at every opportunity. Tom does this by leaving the apartment to attend late night screenings at the local cinema and returns home drunk so the criticisms heaped upon him by his mother is diluted. Laura retreats by listening to music from the records her father left behind and by gazing at the glass menagerie she keeps near her bed. When her retreats are not enough to isolate her from her mother, she becomes ill as she attempts to ward her effects away.

As they play progresses, Tom succumbs to his mother’s constant obsession of securing a husband for Laura and invites a co worker named, “Jim O'Connor” (as portrayed by Patrick Murphy) to come to dinner. Preparations are over made with great expectations by Amanda for Jim’s arrival. However, when the gathering occurs, Laura recognizes Jim as a boy she fell in unrequited love with in high school and is too embarrassed to greet him. She later succumbs to her mother’s will but becomes ill so she can be alone during the dinner. Jim comes to her after the dinner.

As they begin to strike up a friendship, Jim tells Laura about his Fiancé. He later reveals the news to Amanda and leaves soon afterwards. Amanda later accuses Tom of deceiving her and he soon leaves to go (as he said) to the cinema. However, this is a deception as he actually goes to sign up for the merchant marines and never returns. Yet, (as stated in his concluding soliloquy) he never left Laura behind because he is “more faithful than I intended to be.” From the distance of time, Tom encourages Laura to blow out her candles so she can walk into the brighter light of living her own life. The play ends with her seen doing so.

To say this production of “The Glass Menagerie” is very well done would be a grotesque understatement. The mood and pacing that was kept constant throughout the production enhanced the work‘s realistic depiction of every day life. It showcased all the flaws a frailties of existence often found in dysfunctional families with all its mundane aspects intact. It would be a considerable challenge for any member of the audience to leave the theater without recalling some aspect of their lives revealed through the play. The acting was superb by actors who were expertly cast for their roles.

The performance this reviewer attended, had a small audience which led to my reflection how the original production was received in 1944. However, it is with great hope more theatre lovers will come to experience this production as it will remind them why they love theater in the first place. It not only relates the stories and what composes them within each character seen and unseen on stage, but it also allows the audience to explore their own stories and what may have inspired them to be written.

The Kaleidoscope Players is a local theatrical group led by Jan Julia. In addition to presenting plays at a variety of venues including schools, They offer opportunities for those interested in the theater to develop these interests into tangible skills. Their next production at The Shawnee Playhouse will be “The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew” to be presented from March 23rd until April 1st. The public is invited to attend auditions for the production which will take place at The Easter Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday November 26th and Thursday December 1st.  Please Explore The Kaleidoscope Players’ Website at www.poconoplays.com for more information.

The Shawnee Playhouse presentation of The Kaleidoscope Players production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” was Directed by Jan Julia and was Stage Managed by Emily Cioc as assisted by Jasmine Sacarello. The Production Manager was David Schappert. The producer of The Kaleidoscope Players production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” was Don Slepian who also composed the original music for the production. The producers of the productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse are Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood while the group sales manager is Mary Horn. The Box Office Staff includes Chrissy McMannus while Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director. The Executive Director of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky.

This presentation of The Kaleidoscope Players production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” will conclude its run at The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA until November 13th. Future Shawnee Playhouse presentations will include their production of “ Home for Christmas” and their Children Theater production of “A Christmas Wizard of Oz” both running from November 18th until December 22nd, “The Ultimate Elvis Tribute” on Saturday November 19th, The Northeast Ballet Ensemble production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s “The Nutcracker” running from December 3rd until the 12th, and their Annual Holiday Sing In Concert featuring Handel‘s “Messiah” on Tuesday December 20th along with their children’s presentations of “Mark Mysterrio’s Tales of Magic and Mystery” on December 26th and 27th and “Kids Kabaret” on December 29th and 30th. In addition to these presentations, The Shawnee Playhouse is seeking aspiring playwrights to participate in their Shawnee Original Playwright Series (SOPS). The Submission deadline is January 31, 2012 with Staged Readings of the finalist are scheduled to take place March 6th - 30th.

Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $3.00 discount off the admission fee of The Shawnee Playhouse Productions (excluding Children Theatrical Productions and those presented by non Shawnee Production Companies). Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their website at www.theshawneeplayhouse.com for more information (including submissions for their 2012 Playwright Competition) and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The Kaleidoscope Players.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Dreams Touch a Cheeky Monkey

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception featuring the works of John Kolbek and Michael Parsons on Friday November 4th as part of their Espresso Yourself Art Series. The dreamlike imagery touching the walls of the popular coffeehouse flowed in and out of the perceptions of those who encountered them until one began to question where the realities of their existence ended and where the fantastic depictions reflected in the works began. It wasn’t long until one was led to discover there were no beginnings or endings as the realities and fantasies emerged as their natural states dictated.

Although each artists has their own style and vision that permeates their work, John Kolbek and Michael Parsons share a great deal of traits in their artistic approaches and interpretations of existence. This may lead some to find it difficult to discern the difference between the two. However, if one would double their endeavors to do so, the observer would be enriched by the subtle aspects within the works that distinguishes the individual artist.

John’s work often depicts imagery reliant upon the viewer’s ability to recall the validity of their dream’s logic while Michael often utilizes familiar objects which can be readily seen throughout our waking states and reinvents them so they could be seen within the seemingly contorted context of our dreams. In either case, one is treated to a journey with each image serving as a marker to a new awareness of reality and the dreams that inspires it.

The music for the reception was provided by Singer/Songwriter Jeni Hackett on guitar as accompanied by her bass player simply known as Ken. Jeni has become a favorite among those who frequent the coffeehouse and with good reason. Her voice touches the songs and the hearts of those who listen with a gentleness which guides one to melodious routes leading to solemn reflections and amused smiles. The performance enhanced the reception a great deal.

As always, Jeni presents a mix of material consisting of original works as well as those composed by others. Except for the obviously popularized pieces, a listener is hard pressed to determine which songs are hers and which belongs to another song writer. She has the wonderful ability to make every song her own including (to a large extent) those obviously popularized ones. Jeni and Ken are members of The Steel Creek Band who perform throughout the area and information on the band along with their future performance schedule can be obtained by exploring their website at www.steelcreekband.us.

The John Kolbek and Michael Parsons Exhibition continues until January 1st. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Cheeky Monkey 2011 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150126424220421.327714.636000420&type=1&l=0ac968b925. The next Artist’s Reception in The Espresso Yourself Art Series to be held at The Cheeky Monkey is yet to be scheduled. In the meantime, Cheeky Monkey will host a comedy night featuring the Off Track Players on Friday November 11th beginning at 7pm and an Open Poetry Night on Friday September 16th beginning at 7pm. The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse also offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at www.cheekymonkeycoffee.com or call 570-236-5574 for more information.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gillette and Mangsen at The Bookhouse

The Eastern Monroe Public Library (EMPL) in Stroudsburg, PA presented Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen on Friday October 28th as part of their Bookhouse concert series. The event was well attended and, after a brief introduction from Linnae Cintron of the EMPL, the atmosphere of the library’s Edinger Community Room became filled with a wonderful array of folk tunes written throughout the ages as well as some original works written by the duo either together or individually. The performance was enhanced by the duo’s gentle demeanor creating the pleasant sense of community the room was designed to inspire.

Each song had it’s own history and it was shared not only through the entertaining introductions the couple conveyed but also through the expertly crafted narrative renditions of each piece and the instruments they employed (which included concertinas). Their entire musical arsenal allowed the essence of each song to become prominent as each theme and its subtle nuances were explored and revealed. The varied effect of the selection of songs could be seen in the faces of the audience whose countenances ranged from smiles and laughter to reflections upon the haunting melodies that entered their imagination and memories.

During the course of the concert, a friend of the duo who performs with them often took the stage to join them in a few wonderfully performed tunes. Anne Hills’ vocals added additional texture to the already splendid interpretations of the music performed throughout the evening. Ms. Hills’ performance proved to be a wonderful treat to the audience as it added to the delight the Steve and Cindy established earlier. You’ll find more photographs in The Music 2011 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150134623910421.332199.636000420&type=1&l=5c69119dd6.

Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen began traveling, performing, and recording together since their marriage in 1989. Their CDs include a “Live In Concert” album recorded in 1991 at The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI, “The Light Of The Day” which was named Top Folk Album of 1996, “A Sense of Place” which was released in 2001, and “Being There” which was released in 2006. In addition to her musical talents, Anne Hills is also known for her literary and theatrical skills. She has received numerous honors thoughout her career which includes the WFMA 2002 Kate Wolf Memorial Award and The Kerrville Music Foundation’s Outstanding Female Vocalist of the Year Award (1997). In addition to the Bookhouse performance in which she accompanied Steve and Cindy, she performed on a children’s CD titled, “Never Grow Up” in 1998 with Cindy and participated in a collaborative endeavor with Steve and Cindy for a CD titled, “Fourtold.” Please Explore The Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen Website at www.compassrosemusic.com and The Anne Hills Website at www.annehills.com to learn more information about their music, future concerts, and how to obtain a CD for your music collection.

##The Eastern Monroe Public Library (aka The Hughes Library) is located on N. 9th Street (aka route 611) in Stroudsburg, PA. It is the main branch of the Monroe County, PA library system which include their Pocono Township Branch in Tannersville, PA and their Smithfield’s Branch in Marshalls Creek, PA. The library offers access to numerous books, DVDs, Audio Recordings, and cultural programs free to the public. The library’s BookHouse series is part of its cultural programs designed to provide a venue for literary and musical events which are outside of the commercial and literary mainstream. Please Explore The Eastern Monroe Public Library Website at www.monroepl.org to learn more information about the library, their BookHouse series, and all the institution has to offer the community.

Duality and Robots Muses The PCT

The Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA presented a special Haunted Halloween edition of their Silent Films to Loud Music Series on Thursday October 27th featuring the 1920 Horror Classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” starring John Barrymore and 1927 science-fiction classic “Metropolis” directed by German expressionist Fritz Lang. Also featured were music performed by Willbium, King Dead, and Rez Lep and the Apparatus. The combination of these artistic forms created a newly inspired experience which led to a deeper appreciation of each approach expression of talent. The event was well attended and emceed by Derek McCauley of The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO).

The evening began with the screening of  “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” as accompanied by Willbium whose instrumental explorations enhanced the film’s qualities by providing a score denoting the psychological implications of the film. The film is based upon The 1886 novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson titled, “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde.

The film departs from the novel in several ways which includes the introduction of characters not found in the novel along with deleting some that were. However, the film remains cinematically effective through it’s beautifully constructed scenes and thoughtful ##intertitles (aka title cards) which not only revealed the content of the dialogue but the inner workings of the characters. This added a depth as well as a sense of dread as the audience began to become involved in the story and wonder where the actions of the characters (especially those of Jekyll and Hyde) would lead.

The next film to be shown was “Metropolis” which was first accompanied by King Dead featuring Charlie Abriel on drums, Wil McG on 6-string bass, Will Sovinski on slide guitar and harmonica, and Kevin Vanderhoof on bass and later by Rez Lep and the Apparatus. King Dead’s music is often associated with a sound similar to the music found in what has become known as  “Spaghetti Westerns” #(aka Italo-Westerns or Continental Westerns) which were films made popular during the 1960s and were a sub genre of Westerns made in Italy. Utilizing this musical genre as a soundtrack added an uncommon dimension to the film which reinterpreted much of its classic imagery. It was the stuff film historians get overly excited about but those who attended the event were able to simply sit back and enjoy the film.

Rez Lep and the Apparatus accompanied a later portion of the film and his performance added an eerie texture to the work even beyond the considerable one it had gained a reputation for. Rez Lep’s familiar use of electronic voiceovers, demonic vocalizations, and peculiar instrumentalities allowed the audience to explore the deeper and darker aspects of the film and themselves. In spite of the technical difficulties that plagued the performance, Rez Lep and the Apparatus created a dystopian environment reflecting that of the film while creating a Hellishly unique realm derived from his imaginative performance.

“Metropolis” takes place in a futuristic mega-city in which society is divided into two classes. These classes are managers (about 1 percent of the population) and workers (well, the rest). The city is a repressive and controlled state where those worker who are enslaved by the city’s managers live a meager existence while those who rule live in luxury. The conflict of the film derives from the love that blossoms between the city’s founder’s son named, “Freder” and a worker Named, “Maria.” Freder soon realizes the horrors the workers must endure and begins to sympathies with their condition as his love for Maria increases.

After his son leaves, #Joh Fredersen is disturbed by the news he had become aware of. However, his disturbance doesn’t inspire him to make life better for the workers but to find ways to secure the status quo and to discredit or do away with any thoughts of self determination among the workers. This later approach  becomes more imperative when Maria begins to preach to the workers the need for a mediator to explore the needs of management and the worker so they may both be accommodated in equanimity.

Fredersen discovery of this threat to his way of life and control of his domain leads him to seek out his old collaborator Rotwang. Rotwang introduces Fredersen to a Machine-Man he has constructed. A plan is put into place in which Maria would be abducted and a replica of her would go before those whom she swayed with her oratories. This occurs and the Machine-Woman imitating Maria endeavors to discredit her reputation through various methods including presenting herself as “The Whore of Babylon.”

I wish I could share with you how the film progressed, but, like the screening of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the film was discontinued as the musical performances came to an end. This was an unfortunate aspect of an otherwise enjoyable evening which included a costume contest. Still, it was a good night to get out and enjoy some good music and films with friends. You’ll find more photographs in The Music 2011 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150134623910421.332199.636000420&type=1&l=5c69119dd6.

The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO) is a radio station which broadcasts its programming over the internet with a desire to help support and promote our community, local musicians and artists, locally owned small businesses, and give the surrounding communities a locally owned broadcast outlet that it has been missing for many years. Towards these ends, PIBCO offers a variety of programs covering a wide array of interests and musical styles. Please Explore #The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO) Website at www.pibco1.com to listen to their programs and for more information about all the station has to offer.

The Pocono Community Theater is located in East Stroudsburg, PA. The relatively small theater houses three screening rooms in which films ranging from the commercially popular films of the day to the Independent and Foreign films not readily available in larger venues are shown. The Pocono Community Theater also holds special events throughout the year including a Red Carpet Event at The Stroudsmoor Terraview on Friday November 11th, and a screening of the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Sunday November 13th in remembrance of Kristallnacht followed by a special presentation given by Ken Wolk. Please Explore The Pocono Community Theater Website at www.poconocommunitytheater.org or call 570-421-2036 for more information about these event and all the theater has to offer.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Color, Pattern, and Design at PCT

The Pocono Community Theater Gallery in East Stroudsburg, PA is currently presenting an exhibition titled, “Color, Pattern, and Design: Highlighting the work of local Artist Marcos Oksenhendler of Monroe County.” I stopped by the gallery on Sunday October 23rd to experience the work as did a number of patrons who came to the theater to view one of their films. It was interesting to note how these patrons took time to view the work instead of going directly into the screening room after purchasing their tickets without giving the pieces a second glance. Instead, I saw many linger at the work as if they were visiting a long time acquaintance with the desire to catch up on all the news that occurred since they last seen each other.

Mr. Oksenhendler works are mostly abstracts whose properties have a tendency of bringing the viewer deeper into their compositions. This is a pleasurable tendency as one begins to feel a swimming sensation which nears the point of becoming hypnotic. I can’t say the effects are actually hypnotic as I, for one, was in full command of my facilities during the time of my visit to the gallery. However, I have heard many who have experienced hypnotism claim the same full command of their facilities so who knows.

In any case, the work is interesting and well worth the pause given to them while venturing into the Pocono Community Theater’s screening rooms. The Exhibition Continues Until January 8th. You’ll find more photographs in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150316388700421.390846.636000420&type=1&l=559eabb691.

The Pocono Community Theater Gallery is located within The Pocono Community Theater which is located in East Stroudsburg, PA. The relatively small theater houses three screening rooms in which films ranging from the commercially popular films of the day to the Independent and Foreign films not readily available in larger venues are shown. The Pocono Community Theater also holds special events throughout the year.

Theses special events include a screening of the films “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Metropolis” along with musical guest “Beasts of Traal,” “Willbium,” “King Dead,” and “Rez Lep and the Apparatus” on Thursday October 27th as part of their Silent Films to Loud Music Series, a screening of the 1973 film “The Exorcist” on Saturday October 29th as part of their film revival series, a Red Carpet Event at The Stroudsmoor Terraview on Friday November 11th, and a screening of the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Sunday November 13th in remembrance of Kristallnacht followed by a special presentation given by Ken Wolk. Please Explore The Pocono Community Theater Website www.poconocommunitytheater.org or call 570-421-2036 for more information about these event and all the theater has to offer.

Abandoning Phantoms with Flair

The Gallery at Local Flair in Mountainhome, PA held a Pre Halloween Party and Artists’ Reception featuring the works of Sue Tatterson in an exhibition titled, “Spirits of the Abandoned” and Shane Izykowski in an exhibition titled, “Phantasmatography” on Saturday October 22nd. Numerous aficionados of the magazine gathered in the small but elegant gallery to partake of an enjoyably spooky evening out. They were met with imagery ranging from deeply haunting structural apparitions allowing reflections of a bygone era to depictions inspiring blood curdling terror to be experienced in the dreams of those who find it possible to sleep after cautiously laying their head upon their pillows.

The photographic work of Sue Tatterson depicts the ruins of the now dilapidated The Inn at Buck Hill Falls which opened in 1901 and ceased operations in 1991. During its tenure, the Inn became known for its elegant beauty and grandeur while reflecting their humble geographical surrounding by maintaining a rustic flavor throughout its dwellings. This could be seen clearly in the beautifully haunting images captured by Ms. Tatterson.

There were several attendees of the reception who have visited the Inn throughout its illustrious history. They presented a countenance while viewing the images suggesting they were once again walking along its corridors and resting upon its many alcoves. One could not help but to be touched by these silent remembrances while marveling at the photographic skills that inspired them.

Upon Ms. Tatterson’s website, she writes “We live in a constant cycle of abandonment and renewal, discarding the old for the new as we strive to build bigger and better facilities - erasing the past in our process.” While this is certainly true of the man made structures such as The Inn at Buck Hill Falls serves as an example, one can easily expand the theme to envelop the human condition as well. After all, the reason one is touched by the images depicted in Ms. Tatterson’s work is derived from the many times we have felt it necessary to discard aspects of ourselves in order to make room for a new perspective of how to continue living it.

Sometimes we find the act of removing these traits from our spiritual makeup to be a liberating one allowing us to live a more enhanced life freed of the chains keeping us from moving forward. Yet, there are times we wonder if what we’ve given up was worth the endeavor as we begin to feel there is something missing which wasn’t the case before. We become haunted by ghosts we may never be able to make contact with again and yearn to hear their wise council as we face the challenges their absence creates. And, our regret is compounded when we recall how cavalierly we cast them out.

This cavalier approach is often associated with property owners who have no sense or regard to the intrinsic value of what they see as unprofitable. They replace buildings with soulful histories which touched the lives of many with structures which have the sense of being a hollow echo inadequately replacing what had stood in their place. Many developers declare their love for the community as they present plans to improve the area by demolishing meaningful parts of it. But, it’s not difficult to decipher their proposals as means to make a profit regardless of what is right for the community.

It is said, “When the power of love becomes greater then the love of power (which includes an unconscionable desire to accumulate large amounts of money), the world would be a better place.” Perhaps if such developers would consider how the love their “unprofitable” acquisitions have empowered those with their beauty, they may find replacing it for the sole purpose of increasing there income is not as a worthwhile endeavor as their business plan suggests. Such considerations may not only make the community they claim to serve a better place, but the world as well. And, if we apply such considerations (on a more spiritual level) to the changes we contemplate as we develop ourselves, we may become a better world as well.

The photographic work of Shane Izykowski depicts unfathomable horrors made popular by the film genre along the fiction and video games associated with it. Yet, Mr. Izykowski’s work goes beyond the contrivances of the medium as the images he captures travels deeper into the human psyche. The viewer of his work knows intellectually Mr. Izykowski had created the images through the use of models, makeup, and set designs. However, each image gives each viewer the unnerving certainty these photographs are of their deeply concealed terrors which were taken clandestinely without their conscious knowledge. As a matter of fact, these images may have been captures without our sub conscious knowledge as well; as impossible as it sounds.

Although the images Mr. Izykowski are clear and concise in their uncanny composition, they remain difficult to describe through the usage of words. How can one describe the unfathomable dimensions of a dream? And, how much more daunting the endeavor would be when, in the process of doing so, one would encounter their own terror which has been high on their list to avoid since the age of three? I choose not to release such daemons by opening the doors one much in order to explore Mr. Izykowski’s work in depth as such avenues to the mind are best left alone.

However, I can tell you the quality inherent in his photographic approach is par excellence and perfect for the subjects he presents. Perhaps there are those of you reading this who may be more apt to disregard your cautious nature more than I am to share your unshielded perceptions of Mr. Izykowski’s work as displayed in The Gallery at Local Flair. I invite you to do so as the Exhibition Continues Until October 31st. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery Part 2 at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150316388700421.390846.636000420&type=1&l=559eabb691.

The Gallery at Local Flair is an extension of Local Flair Magazine which was first published in 2005 celebrating excellence in every aspect of the communities located through the Pocono Area in Northeast PA while striving to maintain the highest quality publication possible. The magazine has earned a reputation for being an informative guide to what is truly beautiful and life enhancing with a savvy, creative edge offering a refreshing view of the Poconos. Local Flair Magazine is published bimonthly and is available to be read free of charge at numerous distribution sites. Please Explore The Gallery at Local Flair Website at www.localflairgallery.com to learn more about the gallery and www.flairmag.com to learn more about the magazine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Theatrical Review: Sold

Theatrical Review: Sold
Directed by: Stephanie French
Based on the Novel: Day of Tears by Julius Lester
Adapted to the Stage by: Stephanie Daventry French and Ahleea Zama
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre presented their production of “Sold” which was adapted by Stephanie French and Ahleea Zama and directed by Stephanie Daventry French. The production is based upon the novel “Day of Tears” written by Julius Lester which is about slavery in the United States which existed as a legal institution prior to the 1860s. Like the novel, the play is presented through first-person points of view from the perspectives of both the slaves and the slave holders and is centered around the lives who were effected by that has become known as “The Weeping Time.”

The weeping time was an event which took place at a race track in Savannah, GA on March 2nd and 3rd in 1857. The two day event was the largest sale of human beings on record in the United Sates with hundreds of Africans being sold into slavery. During the sale, rain touched the area and many interpreted this weather conditions to mean the heavens were crying at the spectacle of men, women, and children being sold off like cattle to the land owners. Several of the Africans died while standing at the race track waiting to be sold while the remainder were bought to continue their lives of slaves until those surviving the conditions associated with slavery were freed when the Civil War concluded.

The ESU production of “Sold” wasted no time to indicate how the issue of slavery remains a prevalent one for the audience of 2011. During the announcements known as “housekeeping” in which theatre goers are reminded to turn off their cellular and electronic devices while refraining to take pictures during the presentation, the audience was reminded slave trafficking still exists in many areas of the world and is especially prevalent in the sex trade industry. The cast’s reminder concluded with an equally powerful appeal for the audience to do whatever they can to stop the abduction of women and children by those who profit from these practices.

The play itself remained a powerful production throughout as it explored the lives and circumstances around the characters (mostly historical ones) that were depicted. The play begins at the home of Pierce Butler (as portrayed by Douglas Saint James) who was the 2nd largest Slave Holder in Savannah, GA. Hi wife, Fanny Kemble Butler (as portrayed by Shannon Leigh Christmann) who is an abolitionist and objects to how the slaves on her husband’s plantation are being treated. The marriage is seen in its deterioration as Fanny leaves the unacceptable situation to return to England and is forced to leave her two daughters, Sarah (as portrayed by Stephanie Clare) and Frances (as portrayed by Cassandra Daily), in their father’s care as he and the law of the 1800s saw children the property of their father.

As they play progresses, so do the lives of Pierce Butler and his children. Frances adopts a mentality which allows her to accept slavery and all its implications while Sarah re-examines the culture in which human bondage and the suffering it inflicts is an acceptable means of maintaining a high standard of living. The play also examines the lives and varied perspectives of the slaves which range from acceptance to the point their lives are seen as preferable to the challenging life they would lead once freed to those who either pray for freedom or death to come so their misery that accompany a life filled with a lack of dignity and self determination could end. The play also explored the lives of other slave owners which enhanced a revelation of a thread connecting all the characters of the play which is woven to the realization that no one is free in an oppressed society.

While it’s obvious those who are slaves have little or no say in their fate, the need of their “Masters” to suppress their property enslaves them as well. The “Masters” are unable to recognize their slaves as human beings deserving of the dignity and respect entitled to each person. The “Masters” must meet societal expectations and look upon their “Niggers” as sub human in order to justify their place in society. The “Masters” are not free to refrain from perpetrating the abuse many slaves experienced during those times nor are they free to comment upon the morality of such practices to their colleagues, friends, or family out of fear of losing their acceptance.

Although the play centered around the historical period of the 1800s, this reviewer began to reflect upon the references the cast made to slavery in the modern era. I began contemplating how many in our world are suffering the effects of slavery whether it’s imposed by others or self inflected. These effects pertain to relationships and situations many find themselves in throughout the course of their lives. Those who are abused in relationships are kept in fear of seeking a change in their condition and are immobilized by those who enslave them. It is often easy for those who wish to share their wisdom to say such life conditions are best avoided but the reality is they often can’t as emotional attachments come into play and these are not easily controlled.

There are also those who are enslaved by their own thoughts and prejudices. Many of us become attached to certain ideas or concepts and merely entertaining a contradictory one creates a great deal of anxiety. This is often due to our perception that to change our thoughts would deny us of our steadfast certainties and we lose our ability to control our part of the world. We then become prone to second guessing ourselves to the point where we begin to mistrust our every decision. Some may seek out individuals or groups who are willing to enslave them while others may isolate themselves in order to maintain a certain illusionary control over their environment. In either case, they become both the enslaved and the enslaver as, like several of the slaves portrayed throughout the production, they become accustomed to their enslavement as it allows them to live life without having to live it.

However, freedom does come to those who are tired of accepting the unacceptable whether it originates from others or from within. Those who accept a new life without oppression may find it to be a better one. Those who don’t may choose to remain in the comfort being enslaved provides them. Still, knowing one can be free if they’re willing to accept its blessings and challenges does empowers one whether they choose to embrace it or not. In other words, it’s the ability to choose and not the choice itself that makes one free; even if that choice is slavery.

As mentioned earlier, the production of “Sold” was a powerful one. It was well cast by exceptional actors who brought to life the characters they portrayed (both historic and fictional) in a very believable way. One often felt the soul of the person embodied the actor making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. This added significantly to the quality of the production along with the set design and direction the play was given by its director Stephanie Daventry French.

Besides those mentioned earlier in this review, members of this production’s cast included Tyler W. Adams as Will, Bob, and Samson, Esther Joseph as Emma, Shawanda Davis-Farber as Mattie and Aunt Hager, Andrew M. Confair as Auctioneer Weems, Brad Reigner as Mr. Denman and Jeremiah Henry, Michelle Jones as Mrs. Denman (who also served the production as its Dialect Coach), Tyler Whitman as Mr. Ellington, Michael Lloret as Mr. Powell (who also served the production as its Music Arranger and Choral Director), Brandon Luis Cabrera as Jeffery and Charles, Melquis Reyes as Anson, Mary Dennis as Mary and Winnie, Gabryal Rabinowitz as Joe, Joseph Dougherty as the Auctioneer’s Assistant, Tinesha Davis as Dorcas, and Marie Steeger as Mistress Henfield. The cast also included Karen Guilliams who added depth to the production by lending her voice in song and served the production as a member of its Running Crew. There were also understudies mentioned in the program and they were Aaqilah Lewis and Shannon Long

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre production of “Sold” was directed by Stephanie Daventry French who also adapted the novel by Julius Lester and was assisted by Ahleea Zama who also adapted the novel by Julius Lester and served the production as an understudy. The production was Stage Managed by Zenobia Colah who was assisted by Elyse Burnett and Katie Dembesky. Yoshinori Tanokura designed the set as assisted by Gillian Reinartz. The Lighting was designed by Robert McIntyre as assisted by Kelsey Pulzone who also served as a member of the production’s Carpentry Crew along with Eric Lang. Michael Thomas was the production’s Technical Director, Devon Sparks was the Master Electrician, Molly Bunkard was the Wardrobe Mistress, and Michelle Tuite was the Property Mistress as assisted by Briana Tyler and Mari Pollock. The Poster and Program Cover Design for the production was done by Michael Marshall.

This production of “Sold” will continue its run at The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in East Stroudsburg, PA at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center in it’s Smith-McFarland Theatre until October 23rd and is recommended for those who wish to not only learn more about the plight of slaves in the United States during the 1800s but to reflect upon the insidiousness of its nature which persists to the modern day and may do so as long a humans inhabit the earth and themselves. The only drawback to this production is it only lasts until the 23rd so it is also recommended to be expedient in making arrangements to attend a performance. The next production to be presented at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center will be “A Christmas Carol” December 1st through 4th. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Theatre Department at 570-422-3483 for more information about future productions and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The East Stroudsburg University of PA.