Friday, February 24, 2012

Theatrical Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie

Music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and a book by Richard Henry Morris.
Directed and Choreographed by: Brandon Hanks
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Worthington Players production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” by Jeanine Tesori, Dick Scanlan, and Richard Henry Morris as their first musical production. The origins of the play derives from the film of the same name which was released in 1967. It starred Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Channing along with an appearance made by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita as Bun Foo (Credited as Oriental No. 2) who later became best known for his roles as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on the “Happy Days” television show and Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” (Wax on. Wax off.) films.  

The 1967 film version of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” received seven award nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) winning in the category of Best Original Score by Elmer Bernstein. It was also received a Golden Globe nominated for Best Motion Picture and Carol Channing was awarded Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture by the organization. In addition to this, the film received an award for being the Best American Musical of 1967 by the Writers Guild of America.

The film took place in 1922 and was made 45 years after that date. 35 years later (in 2002), the stage version of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was presented on in New York City in the theatre district known as Broadway for which the production won six Antoinette Perry (aka Tony) Awards including one for best musical. It’s success soon lead to a tour throughout the United States and presented in London in the theatrical district known as the West End. In 2005, the play toured throughout the remainder of the United Kingdom. The production received very warm reviews.

Like the film, the theatrical musical version of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” takes place in 1922 during what has become historically known as “The Roaring 20s.” It was a time when the conventional mores established during the 19th century were being challenged by a younger generation whose readings of Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, and others fueled the rebellious fires of their imagination. This was largely demonstrated in the fashion of the day which departed from the modest Victorian exposure of the female form to apparel which brazenly exposed a woman’s shoulder and ankle.

The morality shift was also demonstrated by the introduction of a new musical form known as “Jazz” which was seen by the societal guardians of the day to contain some very overt sexual connotations which was compounded by the fear of a far greater deviation from the acceptable social norm in which members of different races were able to intermingle socially. It is said, in an effort to counteract the moral depravity and the “Racial Imbalance” of Jazz, automobile manufacturer and proponent of ethnical and racial purity, Henry Ford encouraged the re introduction of square dancing as an alternative to Jazz Clubs. Although the play doesn’t overtly explore these aspects of the period and this reviewer‘s making mention of them may be a self indulgence on his part, the play does reflect the era and the social changes that were taking place during it.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” is about a young woman named Millie Dumont (as portrayed by Liza Grando) who arrives in New York City with dreams of becoming a successful independent woman. After being mugged, she meets a young man named Jimmy Smith (as portrayed by Esteban Vazquez) who not only seems unsympathetic to her plight but encourages her to go home. A deep distaste of one another ensues and one can easily sense a romance in the brewing.

Millie takes a room at the Hotel Priscilla for Single Women and meets another young woman named “Dorothy Brown” (as portrayed by Kaitie Kaiser and also served the production as its assistant Choreographer) who is also a new arrival to the city with the desire to see how poorer people live as she is wealthy. They soon become friends and room mates as Millie goes into the world seeking a job in order secure not only an income but a rich and single employer to marry. She secures a job at a company called Sincere Trust and is assigned to work under Trevor Graydon III (as portrayed by Brian Foley).

She celebrates her success by going to a Speakeasy for wild night of illegal booze and jazz where she unexpectedly meets Jimmy Smith who helps her and her friends to get inside. However, the establishment is raided by the police and everyone is thrown into jail. After their release, Jimmy invites Millie to a party given at a Penthouse Apartment by a famous singer named, “Muzzie van Hossmere” (as portrayed by Wendy Williams) and she accepts. During the course of the party, they find themselves on alone on a terrace arguing until they kiss and fall in love.

This leads to a conflict within Millie herself as she endeavors to maintain her course to marry a wealthy man and therefore securing her financial and social future or to forego that practical and sensible plan in order to follow her heart and do what is right for her. The internal conflict Millie finds herself struggling with reflected the cultural and social changes prevalent among women and men during the late 1960 when the film was made. A redefinition of roles were taking place challenging the notion women needed men to be fulfilled socially, economically, or even sexually. So, the question the film asked its 1967 audience was, “Does a woman need to secure her place in the world by marrying someone whom she sees as an avenue to that goal or should she marry whom she loves and fearlessly safe guard her freedom as a woman regardless of the man in her life?”

Although this question remains a pertinent one to a thoroughly modern audience of 2012, the themes found within the play can be expanded to ask even more profound questions. “What messages of the soul are we willing to ignore in order to obtain something we feel we ought to possess?” “What aspect of our true nature which defines our values and all we find meaningful in our lives are we willing to suppress in order to be seen as acceptable in society?” These questions underscore the delight one experiences in the song and dance presented throughout the production while they subtly touch the unconscious until we begin to ponder them in our private moments after the final note is sung. This self examination allows “Thoroughly Modern Mille” to transcend its nostalgic qualities to become relevant through its timeless and universal themes. This is musical theater at its best.

The Worthington Players production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” successfully captures the joyful nostalgia of the period while keeping it’s themes and the questions they ask in tact. It was a funny, touching, and very satisfying time at the theater. The performances were superb as was the choreography. It is too early in The Shawnee Playhouse 2012 season to say “Thoroughly Modern Millie” to be one of the best productions to be presented at theatre this year, but this reviewer finds himself eagerly awaiting to experience future musical productions to discover if any will surpass the excellence of this production. They would be hard pressed to do so.

In addition to the excellent performances given by the cast members already mentioned in this review, the remainder of the cast equally excelled in their theatrical endeavors. They include Marshall Haskell as Ching ho and Griffin Wagner as Bun Foo whose scenes consisted of their characters speaking in Mandarin accompanied by subtitles. Other cast members included Chrystyna Janak as Mrs. Meers and Katy Burton as Miss Flannery. The dance ensemble included Joseph Ambrosia (who also portrayed George Gershwin and Kenneth as well as serving the production as its assistant tap choreographer), Annette Kaiser (who also portrayed Cora Lucille), Samantha Wagner (who also portrayed Ethel Peas and the New Modern Millie as well as serving the production as a Technical Apprentice), Lauren Santerelli (who also portrayed Rita), Karen Raub (who also portrayed Dorothy Parker), Brianne Smiley (who also portrayed Ruth), Jillian Dente (who also portrayed Alice), Shannon Buck (who also portrayed Gloria), Dorothy Turri (who also portrayed Mathilda), Lynn Papparlardo (who also portrayed Daphne), and William Brazdzionis (who also portrayed Rodney).

The Worthington Players production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” by Jeanine Tesori, Dick Scanlan, and Richard Henry Morris is their first musical production. The production was directed and Choreographed by Brandon Hanks and Stage Managed by Amanda Kalinowski who also served the production as its Dialect Coach. The Tap Choreographer was Katie Hauggard. The Set designer, Light Board Operator, and Production Manager was David Schappert. The Sound Board Operator was Curtis Burton. The Technical Assistant was Taylor LiBardi. Rehearsal Accompanists were Adam Benefield and Amy Tau while Missy Benefield served the production as its costumer. Special thanks was given to Tom Kirkwood and Emily Cioc.

The Worthington Players production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” continues its run until February 26th. The only unfortunate aspect of this production is it will soon be over. But, there is still time to see it and this reviewer suggests you do so at your earliest convenience by contacting The Shawnee Playhouse from the information found at the conclusion of this review. ##Boh-doh-dee-oh.

The Worthington Players serves as the artistic arm of The Shawnee Institute which was formed in December of 1999 as a 501-C3 organization designed to provide diverse, quality artistic programs to the residents of the historic village of Shawnee and the surrounding areas. Although “Thoroughly Modern Mille” is their first musical production, The Worthington Players performs their non-musical productions from January to March. Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse to learn how you can become a part of The Worthington Players and support The Shawnee Institute.

Future presentations at The Shawnee Playhouse will include their production of “Finnerty’s Follies” taking place March 2nd - 18th, Ms. Katy’s Dance production of “Peter Pan the Ballet” taking place March 2nd and 3rd, The Kaleidoscope Players’ production of “The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew” taking place March 23rd until April 1st, The Prestige Productions presentation of “Love, Sex, and The I. R. S.” taking place April 6th - 15th, and The Center Stage Players production of “An Evening in Comedy” taking place April 20th - 29th, and “The Lion in Winter” taking place May 4th - 13th.

All of the productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse are produced by Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood. The Executive of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky while its group sales manager is Mary Horn. The Box Office Staff includes Stacey Mattern and Barbara Ross. Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director.

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 and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The Shawnee Playhouse.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Freight Station Rides the Acoustic Rails

The Jacob Stroud Corporation hosted local Monroe County, PA musicians Renard Cohen and Cara Cara along with Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards from Webster, MA on Saturday February 18th at The Dreibe Freight Station in Stroudsburg, PA as an initiation of their Acoustic Concerts at the Station Series. The well attended event took place in a welcoming space within station as pre concert conversations between musicians and music lovers filled the seemingly small venue until it grew as large as the feelings of good will that inhabited the hearts of all who came to partake of the evening’s entertainment.

After a few welcoming words given by Billy Mack, who books the performances for the series, Renard Cohen and his guitar took their place to start an acoustic ruckus. There was a joyful enlightening quality in his songs which touched upon the many issues confronting our environment faces in these challenging times. His song, “Fracken Shame” addresses the practice known as “Fracking” which attempt to extract oil from shale deposits by forcing toxic and flammable chemicals deep under the Earth’s surface. It has been claimed this procedure can contaminate sources of drinking water with some evidence to substantiate these claims.

There are those who dispute these claims but, regardless where one stands on the issue, Mr. Cohen’s performance filled the room with a good natured atmosphere with those he dedicated to the issues along with those reflecting the experiences which embodies the seemingly ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. The reality of some of the circumstances presented in song may not easily lend themselves to inspiring a smile, but Mr. Cohen’s presentation of these circumstances elicited such a response as we become aware of how surmountable they really are.

Renard Cohen is a singer/songwriter and Emmy winning producer who began writing and performing in the tumultuous 60s and still believes that music should entertain, inform and enlighten. He is currently producing a documentary on “Fracking” called “Groundswell.” More information on the film can be gained by visiting its website at www.groundswellmovie.com. Renard is also in the band called, “Son of the Blues and can be seen in the lead role of “The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew” at The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on Delaware, PA during the last 2 weekends in March. To learn more about Renard Cohen and all his endeavors, please explore his website at www.renardcohen.com.

Upon the completion of Mr. Cohen’s performance, a brief intermission was followed by the entrance of Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards as they tuned their instruments to present songs whose roots who would grow deep within those who heard their enchanting tunes and insightful lyrics. Their musical stylings resonated throughout the room as head swaying and toe tapping became the norm along with moments of stillness created to absorb the meaningfulness of many of the compositions offered by the duo. The range of songs and the varied emotional responses they inspired filled the soul with solemn smiles which lingered long after the final note was played.

As mentioned earlier, Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards traveled from Webster, MA to be a part of this initial concert at the Driebe Freight Station. Their style has been known to falls between the alt-country and folk music categories with comparisons to The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Wil Oldham, and others made. Regardless of such esteemed comparisons, the duo has a voice all its own and that voice reaches out to those who hear it in ways their musical inspirations may seek to compare themselves to. You may learn more about Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards by exploring their website at www.markmandeville.com.

The final performance of the evening was presented by Cara Cara. Her soft haunting voice echoed as the seemingly unfinished quality of many of her songs allowed it to be completed within each listener. There was a sense a spirit was dwelling and moving among the room leading many to listen for it with a feeling heart. There was a momentary touch felt upon the soul and it’s disappearance created a yearning only to be satisfied by experiencing another sensation embodied in another song. And, when the final song was played, one is left with the sustaining memory of the subtle effects all the combined tunes created.

Cara Cara is currently Studying Animal Behavior at East Stroudsburg University of PA but it‘s unclear whether or not she has joined a fraternity to do so. Although her life begun on February 27th 1990, her songs are of timelessness quality which last beyond the ages. You may learn more about Cara Cara by exploring her facebook page at www.facebook.com/caracaramusic.

The evening ended as many reluctantly left their chairs with wishes the concert would never end. Yet, it was the lure of sharing their experiences with others through conversations which allowed many to be moved. A communal smile lit the eye as a reminder this concert was the first of a series and there are more to come. You’ll find more photographs taken during the first of Acoustic Concerts at the Station Series at The Driebe Freight Station 2012 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150689212150421.453103.636000420&type=3.

The Dreibe Freight Station was built in 1882 and serviced shipments traveling along the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad. In now serves as an art gallery to showcase the collections of the Monroe County Historical Association. Special exhibits by local artists are offered throughout the year. Please Explore The Monroe County Historical Society Website www.monroehistorical.org for more information about the Station and to learn more about the history of the area.

The Jacob Stroud Corporation was formed in 1995 in order to revitalize the downtown historical heritage. They continue to establish a healthy downtown environment for residents and visitors to the area. The next performance in their Acoustic Concerts at the Station Series will feature The Christopher Bell at The Dreibe Freight Station on Wednesday March 14th beginning at 7:30pm. The Jacob Stroud Corporation also presents their Annual “Stroudfest” event in September featuring entertainment throughout the day along with opportunities to explore and purchase works created by artists, artisans, and crafters living in and around the Stroudsburg, PA area. To gain more information about The Jacob Stroud Corporation and all they have to offer the community as well as its visitors, Please Explore their Website at www.stroudsburg.net

Ka-son La Galleria

The newly established The Galleria in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception featuring the work of Ka-Son on Saturday February 18th. As anyone who is aware of Ka-Son’s work can attest, the images he deftly creates often tell a story which entreats the imagination of those who experience them. The pieces in this exhibition is no exception to this welcomed fact as the scenes many depicts delights the eye and penetrates the soul with their tales.

Yet, there were also a number of pieces which captured the imagination without utilizing an obvious narrative which encouraged the viewer to find one within oneself. These beautifully composed images allowed their focal points to flow upon the canvas in order to be absorbed through the facial eye into the mind’s eye. Once there, it takes up a residence improving our perceptions of all we encounter throughout out days. The current exhibition featuring the work of Ka-Son continues until February 29th. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception at the Galleria 2012 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150689199485421.453100.636000420&type=1.

Ka-Son Reeves was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. His unique approach to the arts can be attributed his natural artistic ability and by his exposure to the creative processes of his father who was a portrait artist and his eldest brother who was a Graffiti artist. Both styles can be seen in his work. In regards to the content on his work, Ka-Son says, “My art represents the myriad spirit and emotion of urban life, with an emphasis on LIFE, as seen through my eyes, imagined in my mind and felt in my heart. That Life in my art is not limited to any one physical location, but expanded upon in an attempt to embrace a universal perspective.” You can learn more about Ka-Son and his creative endeavors by exploring his website at www.artofkason.com.

The Galleria in Stroudsburg, PA is a space shared by Bridget William, Gigi and Company Dance Studio, and Sara Smith-Katz who is the founding Director of “For ArtzSake” and curates the art gallery aspect of the space. The artists featuring their talents in their next exhibition are yet to be announced. Please feel free to contact The Galleria at 570-580-0996 for information about their future exhibitions and all the establishment has to offer.

A Shop of Shoppes

Several months ago, Bridget Williams and a number of friends she made throughout the years opened The Shoppes on Main Complex in Stroudsburg, PA in order to offer high end crafts, arts, and other similar items to those who traverse along the town’s main street. In the short time since its beginnings, it has become haven for sole proprietor businesses like Scarlet Ice Jewels, RJ and DJ, Ladies’ Flo, Beaded by Hannah, Photography by Stephanie, and more. There is a wide variety visual delights to admire and to purchase while enjoying the welcoming atmosphere of the establishment.

However, Saturday February 18th proved to be a special reason to come visit the Shoppes. A Reception featuring the artists whose works presently resides in their galleries was held inviting art lovers to experience the creative endeavors while enjoying conversations with some of the artists while partaking of the beverages and morsels offered freely to all. The variety of the work reflected and complimented the overall ambiance of the Shoppes and included works by Clavertis Miller of the Miller Fine Arts Gallery, Brigida Persia, James Chesnick, Nancy Martinez, and many more. It was an enjoyable time and is certainly a venue to visit repeatedly. You’ll find more photographs taken during the day at the Shoppes on Main 2012 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150689206365421.453101.636000420&type=1.

The Shoppes on Main offers over 20 unique stores and kiosks presenting a variety of jewelry, apparel, accessories, chocolates, embroidered gifts, new age products, and more We have stores under one roof. An additional vintage and collectible shop called Wildrick's World of Treasures is scheduled to open Thursday March 1st. The Shoppes’ Art Gallery welcomes area artists to display their work with art receptions held once per month. You may learn more about The Shoppes on Main by visiting their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/The-Shoppes-on-Main/141088652666366.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A Cyclical Storm Touches ESU

The East Stroudsburg University of PA (ESU) Art Department held an Artist’s Reception on Wednesday February 8th for an exhibition titled, “Storm Cycle” featuring the work of Thomas Mann in their Madelon Powers Gallery which is located in The Fine and Performing Arts Building on the ESU Campus. The exhibit chronicles the aftermath of hurricane Katrina which devastated the Gulf Coastal Region of the South Eastern United States in 2005. Although the center of the hurricane fell on Waveland, MS, it is best remembered for the effects it had on New Orleans, LA and its people.

The work displayed appeared in a series of Shadow Boxes which are enclosed cases in which scenes can be presented utilizing a combination of two and tree dimensional art. The medium felt particularly appropriate as each scene depicted the hopeful perseverance of each survivor while allowing the viewer to reflect upon the lives of each individual before the hurricane and how what was once their lives has now become a shadowed memory. Each piece was accompanied by a story posted upon the wall beside it. Some were amusing tales while others spoke of a soulful sorrow with all reflecting the enormity of the human experience which dwarfed the winds and waters that touched their lives.

The reception was well attended in spite of the mild snow shower that began just minutes prior to its commencement. It was as if a Northeast PA weather sought to greet its South Eastern counterpart minus the devastation. Regardless of the meteorological intent, the work and the conversation made for an enjoyable event in which one can gently reflect upon how vulnerable we are to the elements around us in spite of our self assuring technologies. The reception included a gallery talk given by Mr. Mann which humorously touched upon such realizations. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The ESU 2012 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150661494755421.450297.636000420&type=3&l=e882125dc2.

Thomas Mann’s early life centered around sights and sounds found in the Lehigh Valley, PA area in which he discovered his love and aptitude for the arts. He later became a student at East Stroudsburg University with the intent of earning a degree in physical education but succumbed to his muse and graduated with a degree in the performing arts. Since that time, Mr. Mann has gained a reputation as a Jewelry artist showing his work around the country. He now resides in New Orleans, LA and owns the I/O Gallery. You can gain more information about Thomas Mann and his work by exploring his website at www.thomasmann.com.

The “Storm Cycle” exhibition featuring the work of Thomas Mann continues at Madelon Powers Gallery which is located in The Fine and Performing Arts Building on the ESU Campus until March 9th. Future exhibitions presented by The East Stroudsburg University of PA Art Department will include 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, February 06, 2012

Theatrical Review: Visions of Johanna

Theatrical Review: Visions of Johanna
Written by: Ken White
Directed by: Amanda Kalinowski
Review Written by Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Worthington Players production of the Original Full Length Play which won their 2011 Playwright Competition as part of The Shawnee Original Playwright Series (SOPS). The annual event is a result of inviting playwrights to send in their original works, forming a panel to select the finalist, presenting the chosen plays in a series of staged readings, and tallying the votes received from the viewing audiences to determine which plays will be presented as full productions. This process not only gives a local playwright an opportunity to have his/her work presented on The Shawnee Playhouse stage but also gives the audiences who frequent the venue a chance to experience some new and interesting work.

This year’s selections for the Full Length Presentation was a comedy titled, “Visions of Johanna” written by Ken White. According to the playbill, the work is the first attempt at playwriting by the author which came about when the cable in his home went out and the situation left only two alternatives. They were either talking to his family or writing a play. The work produced indicates (as anyone who lives with their family knows) quality family time is very much overrated.

The play takes place in the Northeast US home of Austin (as portrayed by Scott E. MacIntosh) and Maryanne (as portrayed by Anne O’Brian) Hallerman whose adult son Stuart (as portrayed by Scotty Vinnacombe) lives with them. The parents are a likable couple with Austin being a retired professor in physics. Stuart is an unemployed journalist who spends a great deal of time in his room on his computer and occasionally contemplates “going over to the dark side” by beginning a blog in which he can write and post articles. A pretty popular idea with this reviewer.

Stuart is also in a relational transition as his fiancĂ© Melanie (as portrayed by Eileen Cohen) recently broke up with him. This time in the wilderness of affections begins its end when a knock on the door reveals a vision of Johanna (as portrayed by Nicole Dietze) who enters his life along with a dark, secretive, and amusing past. Part of this past is a former (although he doesn’t quite accept it) fiancĂ© Winston (as portrayed by Mike Duffy) follows her from her Georgian origins. This is further complicated when Melanie enters the home with intentions to resume were relationship with Stuart.

All this provided a very amusing theatrical experience as there are many funny lines throughout the work. The cast was rounded off with the appearance of Brian Foley who portrayed a police officer who brought about a resolution to the Johanna revelations and allowed for the play to enjoy a very well deserved happy ending. However, although the overall production was an enjoyable one to watch, there were certain aspects that kept it from becoming a complete theatrical success.

The first being the staging of the character Winston. Although the actor portrayed him well, there were several times his presence on stage felt uncomfortable as his character had really nothing to do during the scene. This was quite evident during his early scene in which he stood literarily twiddling his thumbs while Austin and Maryanne conversed with one another. Another scene was while the play revealed the past of Johanna in which every character on stage were animated by the revelation except for Winston who resumed his thumb twiddling.

Another aspect lacking in the production was how the conversation between a number of characters in an excess of two were presented. This was especially true of the dinner conversation scene which demonstrated why many productions avoid staging scenes around tables in which actors’ backs are toward the audience. However, the scenes in which two characters were conversing were very well done as they revealed a great deal about their personalities and the depth of their relationships with one another. In fact, one especially poignant exchange takes place between Stuart and Melanie as they make their final parting. There still remains many good reasons to see “Visions of Johanna” but, even if there weren’t, this one scene would be a very good reason to do so.

The Shawnee Playhouse presentation of The Worthington Players production of the Original Full Length Play which won their 2011 Playwright Competition as part of The Shawnee Original Playwright Series (SOPS) titled, “Visions of Johanna” was written by Ken White. It was Directed by Amanda Kalinowski. The Production Manager was David Schappert. Taylor LiBardi served as the production’s Junior Stage Manager while Marshall Haskell served as Lighting and Sound Tech. Special thanks were given in the playbill to Juliet Dunham, Kenny Luckey, and Pastor Karl Viernstein.

The Worthington Players production of “Visions of Johanna” by Ken White continues its run at The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA until Sunday February 12th. In spite of the areas this reviewer found lacking, the play remains one in which theatre lovers are bound to enjoy. There are a number of moments that touches one with laughter along with a few in which a quiet pondering in the heart takes place. Although the later of these moments are rare and very subtle, they still can be discovered if one would just keep an ear open to them.

The Worthington Players were established in 1999 and is the non-musical contingent of the Shawnee Playhouse. They present a variety of semi-professional theatrical productions from January through May working with community members to bring a quality-working atmosphere for those participating in the production and a quality performance for those attending. Their Original Playwright Series is one of the many programs the offer to the community.

As mentioned earlier, “Visions of Johanna” by Ken White is the full length play chosen from those submitted for The Worthington Players 2011 playwright competition and to be presented during The Shawnee Original Playwright Series (SOPS). The competition also selects two One Act Plays to be presented as well. This year’s winners were “A Cabin Fit for a King” by Julie Luongo and Sarah McCarroll and “The Messenger” by Paul Kodiak. They were presented January 7th - 15th. You may read our review at www.facebook.com/notes/paul-adam-smeltz/theatrical-review-original-one-act-plays/10150460420031232. “Visions of Johanna” by Ken White continues its run until February 12th.

The Worthington Players 2012 playwright competition discontinued accepting original work on Tuesday January 31st and will begin holding Staged Readings for the finalist on Friday February 24th and continue to do so until Friday March 30th. This stage of the competition will consist of  a number of actors who will read the plays submitted for the competition from the script. Audiences attending the readings will be afforded the opportunity to vote for the work they enjoy the most. Those receiving the most votes will be presented as full productions early in 2013.

Other Shawnee Playhouse presentations will be their production of “O’ Carolan‘s Farewell to Music” taking place February 17th and 18th, The Worthington Players’ production of “Thoroughly Modern Mille” taking place February 18th  - 26th, The Shawnee Playhouse Production of “Finnerty’s Follies” taking place March 2nd - 18th, Ms. Katy’s Dance production of “Peter Pan the Ballet” taking place March 2nd and 3rd, The Kaleidoscope Players’ production of “The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew” taking place March 23rd until April 1st, The Prestige Productions presentation of “Love, Sex, and The I. R. S.” taking place April 6th - 15th, and The Center Stage Players production of “An Evening in Comedy” taking place April 20th - 29th, and “The Lion in Winter” taking place May 4th - 13th.

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 Stacey Mattern and Ariel Hudak while Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director. The Executive Director of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky. Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their website at www.theshawneeplayhouse.com for more information and to reserve your ticket for their upcoming presentations.

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). Those who have seen the productions mentioned in this review are welcomed to share their thoughts and reflections by leaving a comment with this posting. To learn more about The Forwardian Arts Society and all they have to offer, please explore their website at www.theforwardianartssociety.com.

Photograph provided by The Shawnee Playhouse.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Baratonal Bookhouse

The Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA presented “Celebrating Diversity in Pocono, PA” on Friday February 3rd featuring Concert Baritone Phillip Mentor accompanied by Pianist Pauline Fox as part of their BookHouse Series. As the title suggested, the evening was filled with a variety of musical compositions ranging from those originating from the Emerald Isle of Ireland to the Great White Way of Broadway along with a delightful visit to 123 Sesame Street. The capacity crowd’s enjoyment of the performance were enhanced by the considerable talents of Mr. Mentor whose voice and phrasing of each piece created an inspired appreciation for it as it became re written in the heart of each listener.

Stories were knitted between each selection creating not only a deeper understanding of the song’s unique personality but generated warmth as Mr. Mentor’s approach to he craft was revealed, This allowed the audience to truly be a part of the program and not merely spectators confined to whatever they can experience through their hearing. The communal nature of the performance honored the celebration which eventually transformed the diversity into a unification between the spirits who resided in the library that evening.

As mentioned earlier, Mr. Mentor was accompanied by Ms. Pauline Fox on piano. Her expertise with the instrument enhanced the tonal nuances of each piece as her reputation of having the ability to do just that increased its worthiness to receive such praise with each passing note. As they combined with Mr. Mentor’s marvelous voice, the vibrations lingered within the heart and could be rediscovered whenever a memory of the concert was induced to resurface. In other words, it was a nice evening and you’ll be able to view more photographs in The Bookhouse 2012 Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150596755195421.441761.636000420&type=3&l=3401c5d76f.

Phillip Mentor was born in Belmont, Port of Spain #which is the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and became a trained opera singer performing in musical productions and with symphony orchestras. Among his awards are first place in the North American Guild Voice Competition, African-American Singer of the Year in 1986, first runner-up in the Metropolitan Opera Regional and Outstanding Young Vocalist of New jersey. He has conducted several Master Classes and Workshops at several universities across the United States. You may learn more about Phillip Mentor by exploring his website at www.phillipmentor.com.

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.

The next Bookhouse Concert will feature an evening of Celtic Music with “Four Shillings Short” on Friday May 18th beginning at 7:30pm. 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.