Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Handeling the Holidays

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on Delaware, PA presented their 31st Annual Messiah Sing-In featuring a Community Concert on Tuesday December 22nd performing G. F. Handel’s 1741 Sacred Oratorio entitled, “Messiah.” The annual event invites the community to become the composition’s chorus while area musicians and soloist provide the musical portions of the piece. The event was proceeded by a special “Messiah Warm Up” event held at the neighboring Shawnee Gallery which offered an opportunity for those planning to sing along to stretch their vocal cords while enjoying the artistry around them as they partake of a “Snog of Nog.”

For several, the evening began with a delightful visitation to The Shawnee Gallery which housed a variety of arts and crafts entreating all who have seen them to become part of their holiday shopping. This includes their current exhibition featuring the works of Bill Hobbs and continues until January 4th. The conversation was as intriguing as the pieces which enhanced the warm atmosphere of the gallery. The entire experience served to be a perfect preparation to the wonderful choral experience yet to come.

Upon entering The Shawnee Playhouse, one is immediately struck by holiday adornments of the theatre. This sets a joyous mood not only contributing to the community concert but lingers quite some time afterwards. The seats had signs designating where people with a particular vocal range such as Bass, Tenor, Alto, or Soprano could sit with similar voices. There were also seats available upon the balcony for those who came to merely observe the musical treat.

Mr. Terry Flat conducted the work while sharing humorous stories and historical trivia adding to the evening enchantments. Featured soloist lending their voices to the event included Nancy Everden, Sara Ferguson, Tassy Gilbert, Wendy and Gary Grice, Marjorie Groenwald, Chris Henry, Rob Howell, Christopher Joyce, Jordan Lewis, Midge McClosky, Tom Revelle, Dale Viernstein, and Michael Yasenchock. Those lending their musical talents included Wendy Davis (who also served as Concert Mistress), Carol Kraemer, Veronica Jurkiewicz, Brittany Smith, and rev, Karl Viernstein on Violins, Betsy Buzzelli-Clark (who also served as the Orchestra Coordinator), Marsha Cahn, Christopher Jurkiewicz, and Ellen Yorgey on Violas, Mercedes and Julia Jurkiewicz along with Rachel Vowcicefski on Cellos, Dave lantz on Bass, Jenny Collins on Piano (who also served as the rehearsal accompanist), Molly Malone on Oboe, Tim Eich on Trumpet, and Beth Faulstick on Timpani.

The entire evening proved to be a wonderful avenue in which one could travel alongside the fullness of the season. The many walking through the theatre at the concert’s conclusion were visibly touched by the music and song with fond thoughts of next year’s community gathering already filling their hearts. The next presentation to be held January 9th - 17th at The Shawnee Playhouse featuring their production entitled, “Moments” consisting of several original plays written by Rob Howell. Please Contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 for more information. For all the workshops, exhibits, and other special events The Shawnee Gallery offers during its 2010 season, place contact them at 570-420-9404 for more information. You find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Visual Arts 2009 and Music 2009 Gallery on

Websites of those mentioned in this article are The Shawnee Playhouse at and The Shawnee Gallery at

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Poetry of the River

The Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA held an afternoon filled with poetry and music to honor The Delaware River on Saturday December 19th as part of the ongoing 7th Annual Inter-Disciplinary Art Show entitled, “The Riv-7 The Delaware River–A Big Picture.” The exhibit began on Saturday November 4th presenting the works depicting aspects of The Delaware River by numerous painters, photographers, and other visual artist including Filmmaker Nick Patrick whose “Ghost Waters” detailed the story of the abandoned Tock’s Island Dam Project and how it affected the local population. The poetry and music presented on the 19th continued this tribute to the mighty river which concludes January 10th.

A rather small number of people were in attendance which may be accounted for by news of an impending snow storm. However, the poetry and music presented proved to overpower the approaching storm and any fears it may have accumulated among those who did attend. The spoken words moved the listener while the music presented moved its hearer in amusing and thoughtful ways.

The event began with some welcoming words by the event coordinator Rod Cameron which was soon followed by a piano recital of some well played classical pieces performed by Zachary Wynne. The mood set by his renderings opened the mind and heart to the poetic words soon to follow. This began with a reading by poet Dr. Juanita Kirton which included several specially written poems honoring The Delaware River along with selections from her recently published first book entitled, “Inner Journey.”

The afternoon continued with a solo performance by Eric Hanston of the band Dewey Decimal and the System whose powerful lyrics shook the audience with their rhythmic deliveries set to a hard rock country beat. Even if one desired to do so, none could Dam that river of emotions expressed in his songs as they kept braking through. This performance was followed by my reading some poetry written by me.

A solo performance by Darrin Bradbury of the band Big Wilson River followed which not only presented some very good tunes but gave insight to the creative process as many of the songs were so new they gave the feeling they were being written at the very moment they were being sung. This, to say the least, was a very interesting experience and inspired more appreciation to the skill and art of song writing. This was followed by some readings presented by Rod Cameron of poets who could not be in attendance. Their work was varied except for the fact they all related to The Delaware River and they were of a very high quality.

Alicia Johnson ended the musical performances with her uncanny performance that never fails to reach into each listener’s soul to convey the emotions she utters through each song. Some songs were originally written by her while others were created by better known writers. However, every song she played sounded as if they were her own as she placed her unique touch upon every note and lyric. Even her rendition of the classic “Stormy Weather” gave many to pause wondering if she really wrote it or not. This remarkable performance was followed by another reading by Dr. Juanita Kirton whose words proved to be a wonderful way of brining the afternoon to a full circle closure creating a feeling as one imagines a river experiences as it flows into the yet mightier ocean.

Throughout much of the event, guitarist Fritz Jackman provided musical accompaniment for many of the musicians and poets on his Bass Guitar. This enhanced the performances by creating more audio substance to the songs and echoing the sentiments expressed in each poem as they moved beyond the words uttered. Mr. Jackman’s contribution to the afternoon was well appreciated as they explore another dimension to all that was presented.

As mentioned earlier, the ongoing 7th Annual Inter-Disciplinary Art Show entitled, “The Riv-7 The Delaware River–A Big Picture” continues until January 10th and can be seen at The Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA. This can be done by visiting the theater during their regular hours or by exploring the many images while waiting for a film to begin. Please contact The Pocono Community Theater at 570-421-3456 for more information about the exhibition and all they have to offer. You’ll find more photographs at The Forwardian Arts Society Literary Arts 2009 Gallery at

The websites of those mentioned in the article are The Pocono Community Theater at, The Film “Ghost Waters” at, Eric Hanston of Dewey Decimal and the System at, and Alicia Johnson at

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Boar’s Head Festival

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Tannersville, PA presented the final day of their Annual Three day Boar’s Head Festival on Sunday December 13th. The festival is based upon the information obtained from a booklet written by Paul Kramp entitled, “Twelfth Night, Yesterday, and Today” which details the pageants which took place throughout Medieval England to celebrate the Vigil of Epiphany. The Boar was thought to be the King of the English Forests and this festival is held as it is associated with the arrival of the biblical three kings who came to bestow gifts upon Joshua, Son of Joseph (aka Jesus the Christ) sometime after his birth which is commemorated on December 25th.

The festival at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church had a variety of activities which both gave those attending a feeling for the time the event was initiated as well as a foretaste of the musical experience yet to come. In it’s fellowship hall, there were displays of foods surrounded by candlelight featuring plentiful supplies of cheese, nuts, breads, and (in respects to the Boar) some pork. There were many church members adorned in Medieval garb to greet visitors to the festival which included some wenches serving up some “Wassel” which supposedly was the period’s name hot apple cider.

Before arriving in the Church’s Sanctuary, a bevy of musical tones by the St. Paul’s Bell Choir led by Nancy Joy Kotch filled the passage ways. Their deceptively simple chimes echoed throughout the mind and hearts of all who were touched by their song. While many lingered to hear more, many more moved into the church to take their place to prepare for the spectacle which awaited them.

Pipers from The City of Bethlehem Bagpipe Band led by James B. Ruhf opened the main festivities with a rousing rendition of a traditional Piper Ode. It twas indeed a glorious beginning it was as dancers soon joined them for a highland fling complete with the showing of the blade and other traditions bearing the signs of the Scottish isles. This was later followed by entrance of the lady and lord of the Manor along with the Noblemen and women who came to join them in the feast. The event continued with a number of processions beginning with that of The Boar’s Head, the Swan and Peacock, the Jester’s, Yule Log, Angels, the Holy Family (Mary, Jesus, and Joseph), The Magi (aka Three Kings), and St. Nicholas. The entire event was an enjoyable one presenting a little known history of Church Tradition of the time period.

Those who participated in the event included Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Richards, Jr. who is the Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Larry and Bertie Kishbaugh who portrayed the Lord and Lady of the Manor with the Noblemen and Women portrayed by Bill Dinterman, Sarah Glenn, Mike and Linda Diver, Steve and Tammy Manhart, Kim Robertson-Holzman, Joe Washko, and Bob and Cathy Wentz. Their serving wench was Brooke Schmidt. Mary was portrayed by Nicole Barron while Joseph was portrayed by Derek Garis. Saint Nicholas was portrayed by Bruce Orlowski. The Event’s music was directed by Bob Riday as assisted by Kelly Foley and Gary Raish. Those lending their voices to the choir included Jane Asher, Anna Busteed, Will Eldredge, Lori Flanagan, Tassy Gilbert, and Arline M. Smeltz.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church’s Annual Three day Boar’s Head Festival is traditionally held the second week of December in honor of the modern Christmas season. Please Contact St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 570-629-1992 for more information on the festival and what they have to offer the community. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Boar’s Head Festival 2009 Gallery at

The websites of those mentioned in the article are St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at and James B. Ruhf of The City of Bethlehem Bagpipe Band at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Artspace for Shoppers

The Artspace Gallery in Stroudsburg, PA is currently holding their Annual Holiday Store offering a wide variety of creative ideas for gift giving. These offerings consist of some very fine arts and crafts created by some of the most renowned local artist in the Monroe County, PA Area. Their names include water colorist Wil Daskal, Joanne Stratakos of Mudworks Pottery, and Jeweler April Field. The items are of the highest quality and perfect as gifts to those special people in the lives of those who purchase them. The Exhibition continues until Wednesday December 23rd. Please Contact The Artspace Gallery at 570-476-4460 for more information. You find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Visual Arts 2009 Gallery at

The websites of those mentioned in the article are The ArtSpace Gallery at, Will Daskal at, Joanne Stratakos at, and April Field at or

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The First Publication Gathering

We, The Forwardian Arts Society, gathered together with several artists, writers, and other interested parties at The Starbucks in Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday December 12th to begin the envisioning process as we embark upon a wonderful adventure leading to the creation of a New Literary and Art Magazine. The Forward Papers will present enriching literature consisting of poetry, essays, short stories, and other forms touching a variety of genres and subject matter, enticing art work which will include stand along pieces along with illustrations of the literary material we’ll present, and articles exploring the many aspects of the arts both seen and unseen to the Pocono (Monroe County, PA) Area and beyond. Those who joined us at this initial exploratory gathering included musician, writer, and poet Holly Avilla of the band Blue Planet/Planeta Azul, writer and poet Alexandra Carpenter, writer Hiroko Sciaretta, poet Ray Burke, and musician, poet, writer, and editor of The Forward Papers Debbie Burke of Pocono Jazz and Poetry.

Many topics relating to the publication of The Forward Papers were explored as our envisioning began to take the shape of a manifested reality. The gathering was conversational as some tasks to move the magazine forward began to develop. Some of these ideas included setting a deadline of February 15th for material to be submitted to the magazine for consideration of inclusion and for revenue from the magazine’s investors such as advertisers, sponsors, patrons, and financial contributors. There was an excited discussion on holding events filled with music, poetry, and art to help raise additional funds to assure the publication of our premier issue and beyond. We hope to explore this possibility further in the very near future and encourage more people to participate in the planning of this endeavor.

The next Publication Gathering will take place soon after the Holidays. Topics will include reports on the progress we’ve made on the tasks discovered to be done at our first gathering along with further explorations into what The Forward Papers can be for those who seek it out. In the meantime, we’ll be meeting with those who could not attend our initial meeting due to scheduling conflicts in individual get together to partake of their insights. We’ll also be putting the call out for an event to help raise funds for the magazine and those reading this may well expect an email or message to that effect in the very near future. So, keep an eye out for it.

To learn more about The Forward Papers, please feel free to contact me, Paul Adam Smeltz, through The Forwardian Arts Society Website or our editor Debbie Burke through The Pocono Jazz and Poetry Website. We’ll be happy to share any thoughts with you as we go forward together. You find more photographs in The Forward papers Gallery at

The websites of those mentioned in this article are The Forwardian Arts Society at, Debbie Burke of Pocono Jazz and Poetry at, and Holly Avila of Blue Planet/Planeta Azul at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Horrors

The Sherman Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA hosted another installment of their Severed Sinema Series on Thursday December 10th presenting the films, “Don't Open til Christmas” and “Christmas Evil” along with an opportunity a picture taken with an Evil Santa with special effects created by Shane Izykowski. In addition to the films, the band “Mega Savant” performed between the films. It was a fun and frightful Christmas making the season filled with remaining holiday shopping seem a bit less scary.

The first film shown was “Don't Open Till Christmas” which was made in 1984 and directed by Edmund Purdom. It was as cheesy as cheesy can be. In fact, if you looked up cheesy films in a dictionary, you may just find a picture taken from this film as an illustration. It was about a murderer running loose through the streets of London hunting down men dressed as Santa and killing them. The film worked on weird, misplaced logic and little sense in continuity connecting scenes together.

But, it was, as all films in the Severed Sinema Series, a lot of fun. In fact, it’s lack of cohesiveness was what made it great in the annals of really bad films. “Don't Open Till Christmas” didn’t quite make the distinction of being so bad it was good. But, it came pretty darn close.

During the intermission, Mega Savant performed providing a varied interlude for those who experienced them. Their repertoire ranged from Classic heavy metal and acid rock to jazz and funk. Although their audience were small in number, the energy of their songs enhanced the evening’s event. Mega Savant is an Indie Band from Milford, PA whose influences include that of Frank Zappa and consists of "Francis" on Drums, "Jack" on Saxophone, "Mike" on bass, and "Tom" on Guitar.

The second film to be show was “Christmas Evil” which is also known as “You Better Watch Out” and “Terror in Toyland.” It was made in 1980 and was directed by Lewis Jackson. Although I can’t say this was the best film ever made, it proved to be heads and shoulders about “Don't Open Till Christmas.” In fact, “Christmas Evil” has gained the status of being a cult classic with a list of fans to include film maker John Waters.

The film is about a man who, as a child, has seen his mother sexually groping Santa, who was actually his father, during Christmas. He grows up to work in a toy factory and secretly spies on his neighbors making a list of who is naughty or nice. After an incident at the office Christmas party, he decides to dress up like Santa, take the company’s toys, and share them with the good people he encounters. But, when he encounters some baddies, oh oh oh.

The film is interesting as it communicates through its narrative on several levels. One is that of a straight forward slasher film although there are few victims and primary person getting slashed is the protagonist himself. Another level the film touches upon the psychosis of the protagonist as it explores the make up of his personality and how his childhood experiences come into play with his adult behavior. What is very interesting about this aspect of the film is that the protagonist comes across as a pretty stable person with no obvious indicators he’s about to go out and kill anyone. This later leads to the audience wondering if he is really evil at all in spite of the murders he commits.

In fact, it seems those who are in pursuit of him may be considered evil. There is one amusing scene where the towns people are chasing the protagonist with torches just as they often do in Frankenstein films. Their relentless persecution stems from their fear and misunderstanding which pulls into our society’s response to a figure pretty much by that represented by Santa Claus. This is further complicated by his apparent ability to induce it to snow when he heartily proclaims, “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas” and with the final scene in which he drives his van off a cliff and it magically flies into the evening moonlight sky. What an ending.

Throughout the evening, Evil Santa was on hand for those who were brave enough to sit upon his lap to have their pictures taken by his special effect creator Shane Izykowski. His helpers were on hand with body bags for those who were among his victims (ok, I made that part up). It was a great deal of fun and added a wonderfully gruesome dimension to the holiday season. Perhaps this will become a new tradition replacing a shopping malls Santa with an Evil one in which young children will leave these capitalistic Meccas as traumatized as their shopoholic parents and keep many psychiatrists well employed for years to come. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Film 2009 Gallery at

The next installment of Severed Sinema Series will be at The Sherman Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA Friday January 29th beginning at 7pm in celebration of their fist anniversary. The special event will feature the films “The Bloody Ape” and “Night of the Demon” which will include a special live appearance of Keith Crocker who directed “The Bloody Ape” along with the Bloody Ape himself. The next events taking place at The Sherman Theatre are David Archuleta’s “Christmas from the Heart Tour” on Friday December 18th at 7:30pm and Christmas Jam in the Poconos All-Stars on Saturday December 19th featuring Liquid Sunshine and Juggling Sunsalong with special appearances by Len Mooney of The Roamin' Gabriels, Erin McClelland, Zac Lawless of Valley of the Giants, Mike Papile and Joe Lynch of Shaker Jones, Ellen Ryan of Ryans Revenge, Ryan Leaver of the Dirk Quinn band, and more. Please Contact The Sherman Theatre at 570-420-2808 for more information.

Websites of those mentioned in this article are The Sherman Theatre at, Severed Sinema at, Mega Savant at, Shane Izykowski at, Liquid Sunshine at, and Juggling Suns at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Songs of Winter

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Music presented their annual Winter Choral Concert featuring the University A Cappella Ensemble and Concert Choir in The Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall located in The Fine and Performing Arts Center on the campus of ESU in East Stroudsburg, PA on Wednesday December 9th. Both the ensemble and choir were under the direction of Prof. James Maroney. While the ensemble was composed of students, the choir membership was much more varied as it contained a satisfying mixture of students, teachers, and community members who love to sing. This love shown through in a wonderful evening of song touching the heart in preparation of the holiday season.

The concert began quietly as almost in a whisper with the A Cappella Ensemble’s presentation of Hugo Alfven’s “A Maiden Is In a Ring” to very melodic compositions such as the Spanish Carol entitled, “Riu, riu, chiu” featuring soloist Brian Foley, Paula Dixon, Patrick Mertz, and Laura Wall. Their performance ended with “Hodie Christus nature est” by Francic Poulenc but the sounds of their voices lingered with the audience as it awaited the end of the intermission to listen to the larger concert choir.

The Concert Choir performed a well blended mixture of well loved classical and holiday tunes along with some not as familiar but nonetheless a delight to experience. These songs ranged from the presentation of two movements of W. A. Mozart’s “Requiem” to Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” This arousing finale encouraged everyone present to imagine they were in their sleighs speeding around the countryside to visit as many loved ones as they could.

Among those lending their voices to the event included Katie Dembesky, Arline M. Smeltz, Brian Foley, Michael Kessler, Timothy Oesterle, and Christian Porter. Future presentations by The ESU Music Department for the Holiday Season include The Annual Winter Band Concert on Sunday December 13th at 7pm in The Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall featuring The University/Community Concert Band and Woodwind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Otis French and The Student Voice Recital on Tuesday December 15th at 7pm featuring the students of Professors Terry L. Flatt and James Maroney. Please Contact The ESU Music Department at 570-422-3483 for more information. You’ll find more photograph in The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2009 Gallery at

The website of East Stroudsburg University is

Creativity Awarded

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in East Stroudsburg, PA held a special reception on Wednesday December 9th to present scholarships to those students recognized by their teachers, peers, and members of The ESU Arts Society for their outstanding achievement and dedication to their creative discipline. These areas included those in the art of dance, theatre, and music along those in the visual arts such as painting and sculpture. The event proved to be a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to gather to show their encouraging support for these young artists.

The reception was held at Madelon Powers Gallery located within The Fine and Performing Arts Center on the ESU Campus. The exhibition entitled, “Working with Wood” featuring the work of Michael A. Lukachko accompanied the event. The presence of pieces provided a creative atmosphere which was quite fitting to the festivities. The exhibition itself concludes Friday December 11th. You’ll find more photograph in The Forwardian Arts Society Visual Arts 2009 Gallery at

The websites of those mentioned in the article are East Stroudsburg University at and Michael A. Lukachko at

Friday, December 04, 2009

Film Review: Everybody’s Fine

Directed by: Kirk Jones
Performances by: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Melissa Leo
Film Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The film, “Everybody's Fine” is directed by Kirk Jones and is a remake of the Giuseppe Tornatore 1990 film entitled “Stanno Tutti Bene” which translates to “Everybody’s Fine.” The original film was about a retired Sicilian bureaucrat named Matteo Scuro (as portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni) who has named his five children after characters from his favorite operas. They don’t arrive to a summer gathering and he decides to go visit them after optimistically determining they’re too busy with their successful lives to come see him. He does so only to discover their lives are not a he imagined them to be but learn to love them for what they are thus realizing, “Everybody’s Fine.” The film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and was nominated for Golden Palm at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival as well as winning the David di Donatello Awards for David Best Music and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Silver Ribbon Best Original Story.

The 2009 Kirk Jones version depicts the main character, Frank Goode (portrayed by Robert De Niro), not as optimistic as the one in the Giuseppe Tornatore film as well as other dissimilarities. But, without having the opportunity of seeing the original film, this reviewer can’t ascertain which is the better version. However, this reviewer can say this is a “Tear Jerker” that works beyond the purely emotional levels most common to the genre. It achieves a certain degree of poignancy enabling the audience to discover things within their relationships and themselves which may enhance their lives and not merely saturate a tissue.

The film explores the journey Frank Goode has as he seeks to connect with his grown children after the death of his wife. We discover during the course of the film his children has always told their mother things they never told him. It is also discovered Frank had something to do with the installation of a certain substance placed on Telephone cable to keep them from corroding thus enabling people to contact one another without fear of a disconnection. It strikes us ironic that he helped make it possible for people to connect with one another when he cannot connect with his own children.

Essentially, the film is really about discovery. Frank begins to discover the truth about who his children really are and how he has effected their lives. This comes with a realization of the reason why they told their mother of their life’s challenges was because their father would always try to step in, push them, and try to fix everything to his liking. Although this is what he thinks a father should do, it depletes his children with a sense of being able to live their lives their way. It also creates the perception they can never really be accepted as they are by their father and there will always be a sense of shame for them.

In his search of discovering who his children are, there are moments in the film indicating Frank has an internal knowing about his children. One takes place at a roadside grave site where he gives a moment of silence. One can take this to mean somehow he knows of the fate of one of his children without being told what it is. Another moment is when he suffers a heart attack and envisions himself talking to his children when they were children. They reveal the truths about themselves and each other that were hidden from him. This is an aspect of parenthood seldom explored or acknowledged but every mother and father knows of its existence.

The film explore other aspects of parenting and the effects it has on the family along with the reasons why they come into being. Although this reviewer has no children of his own, he can appreciate these revelations as they can be transposed to other forms of relationships including the one with himself. While this reviewer has a desire to watch the original 1990 film as it may have more profound lessons to be learned, he is quite content to allow those contained in this film to settle for a while.

“Everybody's Fine” is rated PG-13 and is currently running at The Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA. You may call 570-421-3456 or visit their website at for show times and dates. Most films run one week but some films may be held over for an additional week or two depending on ticket sales.

After the Friday December 4th showing of the film, The Forwardian Arts Society Gathered in The Pocono Community Theater’s Café to discuss the numerous aspects of it. The turnout was quite sizable and led to some very in-depth conversations not only relating to the discoveries depicted in the film but of those found in each person‘s life. We invite you to join us Friday January 1st to watch a film and participate in an equally engaging conversation. You’ll find more photographs on The Forwardian Arts Society Film and Chat Gathering 2009 Gallery.

Feliz Tapestry Ole’

The Tapestry Corner* in Stroudsburg, PA held a Holiday Party on Thursday December 3rd featuring some festive music along with some intoxicating tango, cumbia, and cha cha musica by Blue Planet/Planeta Azul* with special guest Debbie Burke* of Pocono Jazz and Poetry* on Saxophone, plentiful food, a variety of vendors including Peggy A Conklin of Scarlet Ice Jewels and Joanna Sukiennik of JS Advanced Skin Care and Aristo JS Cosmetics* offering items to purchase for that special someone (including yourself), and a lot of fun conversation reflecting the spirit of the season. It was a wonderfully relaxed evening to enjoy while supporting Bridget Williams* of The Tapestry Corner* along with the other businesses located in the Shoppes on Main Complex who has served as a beacon to the arts by presenting musical events, art exhibitions, and festivals such as ArtSmash of the Poconos on their doorstep. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2009 Gallery.

The websites of those mentioned in the article are Bridget Williams* of The Tapestry Corner* at, Blue Planet/Planeta Azul* at, Debbie Burke* of Pocono Jazz and Poetry* at, Peggy A Conklin of Scarlet Ice Jewels at, and Joanna Sukiennik of JS Advanced Skin Care and Aristo JS Cosmetics* at and

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Theatrical Review: Polaroid Stories

Written by: Naomi Iizuka
Directed by: Stephanie Daventry French*
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU)* Department of Theatre along with the Student Theatrical Group Stage II* presented their production of “Polaroid Stories” written by Naomi Iizuka. The play explores the plight of the homeless in our society especially those who are among the young. Their stories are presented through a series of clever and poignant retellings of Greek Mythology in which the characters of the play are listed as minor gods and goddesses who find the underworld (the realm of the dead) to be their virtual home. This view of the homeless as divine beings encourages us to wonder if the fact we presently have a house to live in makes us major gods and goddesses if we do nothing to help relieve their condition.

The first thing capturing the attention of the audience is how they are to enter the theatre. Instead of entering from the main doors which are on the upper level of The Fine and Performing Arts Center, they are asked to go downstairs and enter from the dressing room area. This gave each person the impression of ascending from the underworld and thus preparing them for what they were about to experience.

The second thing capturing our attention was how the stage was set up. The audience was seated upon the stage itself which made them a part of the play. This might have been done to encourage us to identify more closely to the characters and issues relating to the homelessness they’re experiencing. Regardless of the thinking behind the setting, it was effective as this reviewer found himself looking at the audience as much as those performing since their reaction to the scenes became an intricate part of them exposing some inner meanings to them.

From the very first moments of the production itself, one can hear oneself say, “Damn, this is a good play.” The acting was superb, the blocking was exciting, and the stories were compelling. The direction of Stephanie Daventry French* provided the framework in which the audience can relate to every emotion and action of the characters in spite of their situation and divine status. The audience can easily identify with everything going on to the point it becomes a bit uncomfortable to see so much of oneself being presented for all the world to see.

The play begins with a prologue given by D (Dionysus - as portrayed by Ryan Castro) and is reminiscent of one found in classical Greek Theatre setting the tone and mood of the entire production. It is followed by one of the many themes of the play of Eurydice (as portrayed by Samantha Crawn*) leaving an abusive mate and later meet Orpheus (as portrayed by Joseph Bednarchik and also portrayed Tereus) who becomes the love of her life. However, it is soon revealed she has left behind follows her as Orpheus’ love for her becomes obsessive and abusive leaving us to wonder if Eurydice created what was familiar to her previous existence so she can feel at home or is the true nature of Orpheus finally revealed.

Another compelling theme of the play centers around the plight of Narcissus (as portrayed by Brian Foley*) as he talks to his mirror while accompanied by Echo (as portrayed by Keighty Simmons) who serves as his subconscious helping him to see the truth behind the lies he tells himself. Echo’s words begins as mere verbal repetitions of what Narcissus tells himself in vain soon becomes revelations he doesn’t want to see. Instead of looking at them and learning how he can improved his imperfect state, he attacks the true works of his Echo and therefore defeats himself.

However, what made these scenes particularly interesting for this reviewer was, from my vantage point, the mirror Narcissus looked into was physically warped and showed a deformed reflection of the character. This added a depth to the scenes and it seemed not every member of the audience could see this distortion from their point of view. It encouraged me to wonder what aspects of other scene am I unable to perceive while dwelling in my point of view. It also encouraged me to ask myself what am I not seeing in my life while being attached to my particular points of views. Are the homeless and those less fortunate than I among the things I cannot (or will not) see? Am I looking into a mirror showing a poor reflection of who I am as I cling to my own vanity?

The stories centering upon Eurydice and Narcissus are just two of the themes of this play. There are many more and they all act as streams flowing into one concentrated pool. This pool is that found in the harsh realities suffered by the homeless in our society. The abuse, abandonment, drug addiction, and fear they encounter every single moment is graphically displayed throughout the play. It brings, what to many, a distant reality into the realm of the here and now and instills in each audience member a desire to do something about this sense of hopelessness.

Yet, the production does offer hope. The play’s program presents a list of recourses those who find themselves homeless can rely upon along with ways an audience member can support the site’s endeavors. The play also has a Post Show Discussion with Jessica Ryan who is an Advocate for the homeless and former homeless youth on Friday December 4th. There are also displays depicting those facing homelessness with information about the individuals and how to be a help to them.

The cast consisted of many wonderful actors who portrayed their roles with excellence. Many were new to the ESU* Stage and it is with great anticipation to see them in future productions. They are Maria Picon as Persephone and Semele, Merrill McGuinness* as Philomel who also served as the production‘s scenic artist, Janel Martinez as Skin Head Girl, Neon Girl, and Ariadne, Ryan Drozd as Skin Head Boy, Oklahoma Boy, Speed Racer, Theseus, Pentheus, Prometheus, and The Lydian Sailor, and Christopher Centrella* as G (Zeus and Hades) and also served as the production‘s Fight Director. The Ravers seen throughout the play and served as a modern Greek Chorus without words were Doug Brehony (Lead Raver) and served the production as its Sound Engineer, Alexandria Bellivan, Dan Miller, Phillip Domschke, Stephanie Carifi who also served as the production‘s Assistant Costume Designer, Laura Wall, Nitah Otieno, Gabryal Rabinowitz, Stephan Regman, and (appearing Thursday night only) Jessica Pachuta who also served as the production‘s Assistant Costume Designer.

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU)* Department of Theatre and Stage II production of “Polaroid Stories” written by Naomi Iizuka was Directed by Stephanie Daventry French* as assisted by Erin Lanza and Stage Managed by Robert McIntyre who also served as the production’s Electrician, Master Carpenter, and Scenic Artists. The Assistant Stage Managers were Michelle Tuite and Laura Sollazzo who also served as the production‘s Scenic Artists. The Production’s Costume and Set Designer was Yoshinori Tanokura and its scenic artist. The Assistant Scenic Designer was Laura Fiore who also served as the production’s Hair and Makeup Designer/Artist, and scenic artist. The Lighting Designer was Pierre Clavel as assisted by Scott Ross whos also served as the production’s Master Electrician. The Sound Designer was Farai Wonderful Bere who was consulted by John Scognamiglio. The Technical Director was Ken Larson. Carpenters Meg Dowling who also served as the production’s Electrician and Luke Swierczek who also served as the production’s Sound Board Operator. The Property Master was Rachel Mack as assisted by Melissa Sherry with the Set/Props Crew consisting of Katayan Ameri who also served as the production’s scenic artist and Katie Dembski. The Light Board Operator was Kendrick Williams, the House manager was Amanda Kalinowski, the Box Office Manager was Alex Writh, and the Program Cover Design was by Gregory Pammer who also created The Poster Designs along with Erin Raought.

This production of “Polaroid Stories” 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 6th and is recommended for those who wish to explore beyond all they can see from their singular vantage point and discover how coming to the aide of the minor gods and goddesses we encounter can enhance their own divinity. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University (ESU)* Theatre Department at 570-422-3483 for more information and to reserve your ticket.

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Memories Shaken and Stirred

The Pocono Community Theater* in East Stroudsburg, PA and Eclipso Media Wurks presented a reading of works along with a musical performance by members of Railroad Earth* on Saturday November 28th. The afternoon celebrated the completion of a manuscript written by Samuel Saint Thomas entitled, “Frying Spam and Other Things to do before The Rapture” in an event called, “Memories and Martinis” and included a Martini Reception at The Liquid Martini Bar located in Stroudsburg, PA after the event. The well attended event has the distinction of being initiated and promoted through facebook.

The event began with a welcoming statement given by Eric Hanston* of The Pocono Community Theater*. Rex Fortuna then took the stage to introduce the writers and musicians who were about to share their talents. Rex is best known for his show on The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO)* whose show entitled, “Purveyor of Style” can be heard every Tuesday beginning at 6pm.

The readings began with a recitation of work created by musician and writer Michael Buozis of the Band Nocoats. His sense of poetic melody was quite evident as he read his words. The poetic essence of his words flowed though his voice which enhanced not only the pleasure of hearing them but also added something indescribable to their deeper meanings. It brought to mind how much richer literary work is when the writer has a poet’s love for words and the playful sounds they can make.

Poet and teacher Sara Bauer followed with work reflecting the many images she continues to carry from her past. Many centered around her family and how much its members mean to her. One could not help but to be touched by those recounting her relationship with her grand father and the stories of her parents’ romance. In the later, she described how her father would travel a distance on foot to court her mother. It reminded me of stories my father told me of how he once walked up a steep and long hill during a snowstorm to be with my mother. I’m not certain if the tales my father told are true, but, if they are, Ms. Baurer’s poem gave me an understanding of his love for her I didn’t have before.

The spoken word was followed by a performance by Timothy Carbone, John Skehan, and Andy Goessling of Railroad Earth*. This well known Jam Band scaled down to an acoustic set with Guitars, Mandolin, and Fiddle to accompany the rousing yet soothing songs they presented. This was a delight as it allowed many of their fans (including me) to just sit and listen to their music without the usual atmosphere adding to the performance. Not that the atmosphere is unwelcome as it often enhances the experience of the performance. But, just as it’s great to live an exciting life, it’s also good to just sit and take it all in without any distraction no matter how pleasant they are.

After a brief intermission, Author Samuel Saint Thomas took the stage. The mixture of humor and pathos in his newly completed work entitled, “Frying Spam and Other Things to do Before the Rapture” captured the audience with its bizarre stories that seemed a bit too familiar to many. The stories consisted of instances in Saint Thomas’ childhood memories of being a member of a Pentecostal family. The reading proved to be quite enjoyable inspiring all who experienced it to look forward to purchasing the book once it becomes published.

The event ended but continued to The Liquid Martini Bar where a Martini Reception awaited all who traveled to the location. I personally did not go but I’m sure there were numerous occasions for those who enjoyed the event to learn more about those who participated in it. The Next event scheduled to be held at The Pocono Community Theater* will be The Forwardian Arts Society Film and Chat Gathering on Friday December 4th in which a film will be watched and followed by a discussion of it afterwards in the Theater’s Café. Please Contact The Pocono Community Theater* at 570-421-3456 for more information. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Literary Works Gallery

Here are the Website of those mentioned in the article. They are Eric Hanston* of The Pocono Community Theater* at, Rex Fortuna of The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO)* at, The Liquid Martini Bar at, The Forwardian Arts Society at, Samuel Saint Thomas at, Michael Buozis at, and Sara Bauer at along with Tim Carbone, John Skehan, and Andy Goessling of Railroad Earth* at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Mudworking the Holidays

The Antoine Dutot Gallery and Museum* in Delaware Water Gap, PA hosted an Opening Reception for The Mudworks and Friends* Holiday Show and Sale featuring a variety of artisans on Friday November 27th. The myriad of items included everything from jewelry to ceramics and from stained glass window adornments to unique clothing accessories keeping the wearer warm and fashionable. The afternoon proved to be a wonderful experience to get some holiday shopping done early as well as engage in some delightfully enriching conversation with those who created the item with their creative gifts.

There seemed to be fewer artisans present this year than previous ones. But, this diminished number did little to diminish the enjoyment of the event. In fact, the increased space of the gallery lent itself to a more leisurely atmosphere in which attendees could explore the variety of offerings without becoming overwhelmed by them. It seemed the idea behind this year’s show was to have a “Less is More” approach which worked very well.

Among those sharing their creative talents through their handiworks were JoAnn Stratakos* of MudWorks Pottery*, Ursula Pooley* of Me Crazy Jewelry, Linda Newswanger* of Get Lit Stained Glass, Mary Ann Kirkhoff* of Luxury Mohair Fiber Art, Pottery by Margaret Benson*, A and M DiCillo, and Cathy Wells of Out of My Gourd along with Marci Molina*, Anita Bondi*, Stan Stewart* and Susan Bradford* of Mandala Design Works*. In addition to these artisans, Jen Kotch* and Katie Taylor (who are studio assistants at MudWorks Pottery*) shared their works along with young Jessie Pooley* who had some soap products for sale. The Show and sale continues two more consecutive weekends on December 5th, 6th, 12th, and 13th. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Visual Arts 2009 Gallery

Here are the Website and email addresses of those mentioned in the article. They are The Antoine Dutot Gallery and Museum* at, JoAnn Stratakos* of MudWorks Pottery* at, Ursula Pooley* of, Cathy Wells of Out Of My Gourd at, Linda Newswanger* of Get Lit Stained Glass at, Marci Molina*, Anita Bondi*, Stan Stewart* and Susan Bradford* of Mandala Design Works* at, Mary Ann Kirkhoff* of Luxury Mohair Fiber Art at, Jen Kotch* at, and A and M DiCillo at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Theatrical Review: “An O Henry Christmas”

Written by: O Henry as adapted with music and lyrics by Peter Ekstrom
Directed by: Anthony Frisina
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse* in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA is currently their presenting their production of “An O Henry Christmas” featuring the dramatization of two of his short stories entitled, “The Last Leaf” and “The Gift of the Magi.” The plays are presented as Operettas with a chorus of children presenting Christmas Carols between the scenes. They consisted of a Red cast featuring Audrey Haskell, Aarti Katara, Jessica, Ledergerber, Jadyn Lynah, and Kimberly Rauscher and a Green cast featuring Tori Debenedetto, Lorynn and Olivia Eldridge, Claudia Hernandez, and Anastasia Moreo. While imperfect, the plays proved to be a nice time out in preparation to holiday season.

O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter whose short stories are well known for capturing the zeitgeist of the early 20th century and for their twist endings which has become known as "O. Henry endings" by literary enthusiasts. “The Last Leaf” and “The Gift of the Magi” are typical to this style and have become much loved by O. Henry fans throughout the years.

“The Last Leaf” begins with a Doctor (as portrayed by Dan Lendzian) who introduces the play and serves as it’s narrator throughout. During the course of his introduction, two women named, “Sue” (as portrayed by Jenell Manzi*) and “Johnsy” (as portrayed by Sara Ferguson*) begin moving into a third floor garret located in Greenwich Village. We soon discover they’re both artists and we learn of Johnsy’s dream to paint the bay of Naples. They soon meet their elderly neighbor, who is also an artist, named, “Berhman” (as portrayed by Ray Papay). He is of German descent and likes to drink a great deal of Gin.

During the course of the story, an epidemic comes over the city and Johnsy becomes seriously ill. It’s revealed earlier she perceives the world in a slightly dark manner in which death and hell often comes to her mind. This preoccupation is heightened by her illness as she refuses to consume the broth the Doctor prescribed her and declares, when the last leaf of a vine outside her window falls, she will die. She then proceeds to wake up every morning in morbid curiosity to see if it’s time for her to depart from this world.

In the meantime, we discover Berhman is a failed artist who endeavors to bestow the success he never had upon the two women. He desperately beseeches Sue to make sure Johnsy recovers so she can pursue her vocation and admits he drinks because he could not as evident by his empty canvas. She leave him to mull over his broken dreams to tend to her friend.

The next day, Johnsy begins recovering from her illness as it’s discovered the last leaf of the vine did not fall as it was expected to. The Doctor enters to examine her and declares all she needs now is further rest and nourishment to continue to a state of full wellness. He also reveals that Behrman was found outside that morning dead and left a painting of a leaf on a vine in his room.

It is often said that the singing in musical productions are done because sometimes the emotions needed to be expressed are to profound and intense for mere dialogue to convey. However, sometimes the musical aspects of a play can obscure those contained in the original work. Although the songs are nice to hear in this production of “The Last Leaf,” one had to pay particularly close attention to the story’s assertion Behrman gave his life so Johnsy could live. This level of attention was not necessary for the readers of the short story to obtain in their endeavors to get the meaning of it but it was for this reviewer during the play.

This reviewer saw two other troubling aspects of this production as well. As mentioned earlier, the Doctor served as the narrator throughout and was seen quite often on stage. This was true even when he wasn’t serving such purpose or when he was part of the scene. His almost constant presence on stage proved to be a distraction from the action the other characters were presenting.

Another troubling area of the production was Ray Papay’s performance of Behrman during the song entitled, “I’m a failure in Art.” The song conveys Behrman’s feeling of failure as an artists while revealing the despair he feels is a reason why he drinks. There are many moments in the song where he hiccups. Although his performance through the rest of the play is more than adequate, the hiccups he transmits seem fake and only take place because that is where they’re indicated by the song to be presented. It was amusing, but very few believed he was drunk.

The second play, “The Gift of the Magi” was much more straight forward which might have been largely due to the fact it was the better know of the short stories. It’s about a man named, “Jim” (as portrayed by Dan Lendzian) and his wife named, “Della” (as portrayed by Sara Ferguson*) who are somewhat financially impoverished and live in a one room flat in NYC. Jim admires Della’s long black hair while Della admires his pocket watch. In order to give each other a gift for Christmas, Della sells her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s watch while Jim sells his watch to purchase some special combs for Della’s hair.

The actions of the characters seem frivolous and ultimately without any intellectual merit, but O Henry said it best when he noted at the end of his short story that the Magi was wise and therefore gave wise gifts. And while the gifts of “two foolish children” seem unwise, those who received the gift they have that day are the wisest in that they gave each other love. As O Henry wrote in his concluding sentence. “They are the magi.”

The Shawnee Playhouse* production of “An O Henry Christmas” featuring two short stories written by O Henry as adapted with music and lyrics by Peter Ekstrom was Directed by Anthony Frisina and Staged Managed by Byrdie Jacques* as assisted by Kevin Hillman while the Set Designer was Scot Cleveland. The Lighting Designer and Tech person was Michael Demyan* with the Sound Tech Person being Marshall Haskell* with Travis Southard* on Spotlight. The Costumer Designer was Missy Benefield* with Amy Rau serving as Musical Director and Kyle Donahue composing the Musical Arrangements. The Shawnee Playhouse* producers are Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood while group Box Office Sales of their productions are handled by Mary Horn* as assisted by Becky Haskell*. The Box office staff included Barbara Ross, Christina McManus, and Areil Hudak*. The Shawnee Playhouse publicity is handled by Amy Cramer*. Midge McClosky* serves as The Shawnee Playhouse* Executive Director.

This production of “An O Henry Christmas” continues its run at The Shawnee Playhouse* in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA until December 20th. In spite of the imperfections I’ve noticed throughout their presentations, they are somewhat worthwhile seeing as they are a very good way to begin the holiday season with a lighter heart which may be needed as the madness of this time of year becomes a bit more pervasive inspiring many to wish for the more simpler times depicted in these stories. The next Shawnee Playhouse* presentations will be their Children’s Theatre production of “A Winnie the Pooh Christmas” November 28th through December 19th, “The Nutcracker.” December 6th through 21st, and their Annual Free Community Sing In of Handel’s masterwork, “The Messiah” on Tuesday December 22nd. Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $2.00 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 for more information and to reserve your ticket.

No Photograph was provided to The Forwardian Arts Society by The Shawnee Playhouse for this production.

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Martians at The Bookhouse

The Eastern Monroe Public Library* in Stroudsburg, PA hosted The Ghost Light Theatre* on Friday November 20th as part of their Bookhouse Series. They presented their re-creation of an installment of The Mercury Theatre on Air radio drama production of H. G. Wells “The War of the Worlds.” A large group of fans gathered to enjoy an evening experiencing the dramatization and all the history associated with it. It was an enjoyable performance as one could almost close their eyes and relive those auditory moments and the emotions of dreadful apprehension they inspired.

The Theatre Company itself was founded in in 1937 by Orson Welles and John Houseman and earned a reputation for their inventive adaptation of William Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar” which was set in contemporary Fascist Italy. They were later picked up by The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) to present an anthology series which began with their production of Bram Stoker's “Dracula” with Welles playing both Count Dracula and Doctor Seward. The broadcast of The Mercury Theatre “War of the Worlds” took place as a Halloween Special in the series on October 30th, 1938. It was written for the medium by Howard Koch and directed by Orson Wells who also starred in it. The series ended on December 4th, 1938 with their production of "Bridge of San Luis Rey."

The first two thirds of “The War of the Worlds” broadcast was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins which suggested to many listeners an actual Martian invasion was in progress. Since The Mercury Theatre on the Air was a “sustaining show” running without commercial breaks, the dramatic effect was heightened. There were numerous accounts of listeners believing an actual extraterrestrial invasion was in progress creating an unprecedented panic throughout the country. This was partly due to people listening to only a portion of the broadcast missing the introduction to the show and partly due to the ever growing tensions throughout the world which eventually led to the outbreak of World War Two. Regardless of the cause of the reaction, the episode was widely criticized as its news-bulletin format was considered cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures.

The Ghost Light Theatre* re-creation of “The War of the Worlds” broadcast did not produce the panic the original was known for, but it did prove to be a good evening out. The cast performing the radio drama consisted of Dan Eash*, Irene Garner*, Maude Garner, Michelle Kane* (who also participated in the Program Art and Design along with Ethan Kane), Mark Lichty*, Kyle Mahaney* (who served as the production‘s Sound Consultant), Rob Ramos*, Patrick Turner*, and Chris Webster. The Production Stage Manager was Tom Nordin and was introduced by Barbara Keiser who is the Director of The Eastern Monroe Public Library*. Please Contact The Eastern Monroe Public Library* at 570-421-0800 for more information on future events in their Bookhouse Series and all they have to offer the community. You’ll find more Photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Theatre 2009 gallery

The Website of The Eastern Monroe Public Library* is

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Souls Giving Thanks to Horror

The Sherman Theatre* in Stroudsburg, PA hosted a special Thanksgiving installment of their Severed Sinema* Series on Thursday November 19th presenting the films, “Horror Hotel” and “Carnival of Souls” along with two short experimental films entitled, “Girl and a Bicycle” and “Robots Don’t Exist.” In addition to the films being shown, there were a variety works of whose styles had a visual relationship with the films while Steve Truglio* of the Real Great Debate Show on The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO)* was on hand to sell his line of Dead Issues* Tee Shirts. The entire evening proved to be a great time to enjoy some truly creepy films, checking out some intriguing art work and apparel, and engaging in some enlightening conversations with horror and art enthusiasts.

The film entitled, “Horror Hotel” (whose original title when released in the UK was “City of the Dead“) was made in 1960 and directed by John Llewellyn Moxey who has received some renown for directing episodes from a variety of Television shows ranging from “The Saint to The Avengers” in the UK and from “Kung Fu” to “Murder She Wrote” in the US. It starred Christopher Lee as Professor Alan Driscoll, Patricia Jessel as Elizabeth Selwyn, and Valentine Dyall as Jethrow Keane with Venetia Stevenson as Nan Barlow. In spite of its low budget producing some slightly laughable moments, the film does manage to create a mood of eeriness throughout giving its audience something to gasp about.

The film begins in 1692 where a witched named, Elizabeth Selwyn is being burned at the stake by the townspeople of Whitewood, MA. She beseeches her fellow witch Jethrow Keane to intercede which he does by first denying he knows her and then praying to Lucifer to come to her aide. He does so by creating a storm allowing her to put a curse upon her tormentors. The film then cuts to a tutorial lecture on the incident is being given by History Professor Alan Driscoll in which Nan Barlow is one of the attendees. Her boyfriend and fellow student, Bill Maitland (played by Tom Naylor), mocks the idea there is anything to the curse or witchcraft itself but Nan proves to be more open minded to the possibilities. This allows her to be persuaded by Professor Driscoll to go to Whitewood, MA to research the event and write a term paper on it.

In spire of the objections of her boyfriend and brother Science Professor Richard Barlow (played by Dennis Lotis), she goes to the town. She meets the nearly 300 year old Jethrow Keane along the way and later the town’s Inn Keeper Mrs. Newless (who is the reincarnation of the witch Elizabeth Selwyn). She begins her research and soon experiences a great number of odd going ons until she becomes a victim of a ritual sacrifice. We later learn she is a descendant of one of the townspeople who took part of the burning of Elizabeth Selwyn back in the day and is recipient of the curse made against her ancestors.

The rest of the film takes place two weeks later and details the process of Nan’s boyfriend and brother quest to discover what has happened to her. They go to the town and soon begin to experience the same mysterious occurrences Nan had before her demise. However, when the grand daughter of a blind local reverend named, Patricia Russell (played by Betta St. John) is taken, they come to her rescue. The coven is kaput and so is the film.

After the film and intermission, the showing the short experimental films entitled, “Girl and a Bicycle” and “Robots Don’t Exist.” The first was pretty much about what the titled indicated. It was about a girl who took a ride on her bicycle. Yet, the four to eight minute film wasn’t so much what it was about but in its presentation. The colors were saturated so one could not see the images depicted but somehow one could tell what was going on. This was an interesting approach as it placed the cinematography of the film in each audience member’s imagination. The second film entitled, “Robots Don’t Exist” was a much shorter piece lasting only a few minutes but it nether the less proved to be a potent work as it contradicted it’s title and demonstrating the real robots that exist are humans as they routinely go through their repetitious daily endeavors.

The low budget 1962 “Carnival of Souls” shown soon afterwards which was directed by Herk Harvey and starred Lee Strasberg-trained Candace Hilligoss who portrayed Mary Henry. The film was made with a $33,000.00 budget over a three week period while the director was on vacation in Salt lake City UT from his job as a director and producer of industrial and educational films for The Centron Corporation which was located in Lawrence, KA. The film didn’t receive much attention when it was first released but has since gained a large cult following as evident from the audience members of this night’s Severed Sinema event.

The film begins in the Lawrence, KA area where two drivers challenge each other to a drag race. While crossing a bridge, an accident ensues sending one of the cars into the river. One of the passengers, Mary Henry, is later seen walking dazed upon a sand bar by the rescue team who are searching for the car and any survivors. She later returns to her life and leave town to begin her job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, UT. She begins to see a mysterious figure who appears at frightening times during her journey.

Her arrival at her destination is accompanied by even more bizarre experiences which includes more visitations by the figure and not being seen or heard by those around her. She is inexplicably drawn to a Pavilion which she discovers was a carnival. She becomes obsessed by the pavilion feeling she is somehow tied to it in a way that she can’t understand. She visit’s the Pavilion alone and discovers something she had guessed at was all too true. In turn, we are shown the truth of her experiences in a surprise ending.

Most of the film shown during The Severed Sinema* Series are noted to have the distinction of being so bad they’re good. But, this was not the case during this installment of the series. Although “Horror Hotel” and “Carnival of Souls” were low budgeted films and subject to the flaws the lack of funds could have upon a production, these were far from inferior works. The acting, directing, and the cinematography create a mood that often escapes many modern day horror films as they lack the same level of talent of those who made the films shown at The Sherman Theatre* that night. This made the evening an enjoyable one not only for horror cult film aficionados but for film lovers in general.

The Severed Sinema* Series showcases the best classic horror, cult, and art house cinema each month whose goal is to act as a vessel for people to experience, re-live, and enjoy the golden era of extreme cinema in all its scary, sleazy, and sometimes cheesy glory. The next installment of The Severed Sinema* Series will be held at The Sherman Theatre* in Stroudsburg, PA on Thursday December 10th beginning at 7pm featuring the films entitled, “Don't Open til Christmas” and “Christmas Evil” along with an opportunity to have your picture taken with their Evil Santa with special effects created by Shane Izykowski*. There will also be music provided “Mega Savant” but I personally wouldn’t expect to hear any old time Holiday Carols.

The next events taking place at The Sherman Theater includes a performance by Railroad Earth* on November 27th and 28th who are back by popular demand. Please Contact The Sherman Theatre* at 570-420-2808 for more information. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Film/Video 2009 Gallery

The websites and email addresses of those mentioned in the article are The Sherman Theatre* at, Severed Sinema at, Steve Truglio* of the Real Great Debate Show at, The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO)* at, Dead Issues* Tee Shirts at, Mega Savant at, and Railroad Earth* at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Drumming up An Appetite

The Kirkridge Retreat Center* in Bangor, PA held their November Pot Luck Gathering at the Farmhouse on Sunday November 15th featuring an introduction to drum circles provided by Reiki Master and Drumming Instructor Cat Coley*. A sizable crowd of friends gathered to enjoy an afternoon of rhythmic fellowship as the beat of the drums resonated with the good feeling the gatherings at Kirkridge* are known to inspire. Once the last echo of the session (which included an exercise on Hunting and Gathering), a variety of foods awaited the attendees to be digested along with some relaxed conversations.

Although most of the drum circle held at Kirkridge* had a native American feel to it, it’s said the origins of a Drum circles can be traced back to Africa when humans first began to gather about 100,000 years ago forming communities known as villages. This was done for a variety of reasons most notably to enhance the protection of their young and most vulnerable members from attack from animals and other tribes wishing them harm through territorial disputes. Drum circles seem to have been developed as a means of community support as they embarked upon endeavors maintaining their needs such as hunting, gathering, and healing.

As seen in villages still existing in remote areas of Africa and South America, the whole community participates in Drum Circles including the elderly, women, and small children. The process of Drumming Circles takes each individual’s beat and combines it with others participating so that a harmony develops thus creating a relationship among the community enhancing that found within oneself. Drum Circles have become popular in recent decades in Modern Cultures as there is a need for many to go beyond their own limitations and seek the strength of harmony found in the beat of many drums.

To learn more about Drumming Circles along with workshops designed to enhance the experience, please contact Reiki Master and Drumming Instructor Cat Coley*at 610-863-6764. Please Contact The Kirkridge Center* at 610-588-1793 for information on their upcoming workshops and all they have to offer the community. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2009 Gallery

The websites of those mentioned in the article are The Kirkridge Center* at and Reiki Master and Drumming Instructor Cat Coley*at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A River Flows with Art and Cinema

The Pocono Community Theater* in East Stroudsburg, PA held an Opening Reception for the 7th Annual Inter-Disciplinary Art Show entitled, “The Riv-7 The Delaware River–A Big Picture” featuring a variety of artists and styles all paying homage to the Delaware River area on Saturday November 14th. Numerous artist presenting their work included Filmmaker Nick Patrick whose documentary film entitled, “Ghost Waters” detailed the story of the abandoned Tock’s Island Dam Project of the early 1960’s and how it affected the local population living along the Delaware River. The film complimented the complex beauty depicted in the paintings and photographic images of the river.

A large crowd filled the halls of the quaint little theater which has become well known for the independent and foreign films they show to a discerning audience. Yet, this afternoon, they opened their doors to art lovers who find a unique fascination for The Delaware River which figure prominently in the Monroe County Area. The works found along the theater’s wall presented all the complexities of the river ranging from it’s quiet journey from the New York State area to its end in the Philadelphia, PA area when it enters the Atlantic Ocean. The pieces themselves were as varied in their dimensions as they were in their styles which created a unique phenomenon of encouraging the viewer to look closely at the smaller images thus allowing him/her to see even more when their gaze were cast upon the larger ones.

A special treat was presented to those who attended the Opening in the manner of some films relating to the Delaware River being shown. The first film was Nick Patrick’s “Ghost Waters” whose Documentarian approach his film was quite unexpected and pleasing to the viewer. The film began as a narrative film which means it started as a story of a couple who ran out of gas and searched an abandoned town until they came across a man in an empty barroom. It was from him they learned the story of The Tock’s Island Dam Project as the audience began meeting people who were involved in the film’s subject in the usual Documentary film manner. This made the film much more interesting as it would have otherwise have been as it places us in the position of the young couple who is discovering why the town is so disserted.

The second film was entitled, “Lucky Lake” and was made by Tina Spangler who won a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for the film. The film is about an area called Lucky Lake (aka Luxton Lake) which is located two miles south of Narrowsburg, NY (on the east shore of the Delaware River in an area between the Catskill and the Pocono Mountains). It once had a racially mixed vacation community with a vibrant past which was a jazz and vacation Mecca throughout the 1950s and ’60s until, in 1982, the lake was drained causing the population to dwindle. Although the film was a brief and a much more conventional documentary than “Ghost Waters,” it nonetheless proved effective in depicting the frustration people feel when the politics of water effects their lives in ways they have no control over. The film proved to be a good companion piece to its predecessor.

Among the artists showing their work at The Pocono Community Theater* during “The Riv-7 The Delaware River–A Big Picture” exhibition were Jackie Lima*, Jim Smeltz*, Will Daskal*, Jean and Gordon Perry*, Joanne Bridgeman*, Joan Polishook*, Thomas Augusta*, Penny Ross*, and the exhibit’s coordinator Rod Cameron*. The Exhibition continues until January 10th with several events yet to be scheduled including a poetry reading and musical presentations. Please contact The Pocono Community Theater at 570-421-3456 for more information. You’ll find more photographs at The Forwardian Arts Society Visual Arts 2009 Gallery

The websites of those mentioned in the article are The Pocono Community Theater* at, Will Daskal* at, Thomas Augusta* at, and The Film “Ghost Waters” at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Gentle Sounds Find a Home

The ArtMusic Coffeehouse* in East Stroudsburg, PA presented Harpist Patrick Ball as part of their monthly house concert series on Friday November 13th. The friendly atmosphere welcomed all who were drawn to the abode owned by Don and Jan Slepian* to hear and become reacquainted with the souls met during previous concerts. However, newcomers to the series were greeted warmly in a similar manner which newborns are welcomed in the warmth of their families.

The evening’s host, Don Slepian, began the evening in his usual manner in which he played a series of compositions designed to wash away all the cares the pre-show conversations failed to dispel so the audience gathered could enjoy the sounds they were about to encounter more fully. And, what sounds they were. From the first stirrings of the harp Patrick Ball expertly played, a hypnotic hush encircled those who experienced them. The music moved each member of the large audience to contemplate all they were and could be in a journey taking them to indescribable realms where they met their spirits and played. This act of play was evident in the stories Mr. Ball interspersed throughout his performance. Their humor lightened the room with laughter which was accompanied by an everlasting smile.

The next installment in The ArtMusic Coffeehouse* will be Saturday December 5th beginning at 8pm although those who wish to attend are requested to arrive between 7 and 7:30pm. The performance that evening will be by Singer Songwriter Craig Bickhardt*. Please contact The ArtMusic Coffeehouse* at 570-476-6307 for more information and to reserve your spot as space is limited. You’ll find more photographs at The Don Slepian’s ArtMusic Coffeehouse 2009 Series Gallery

The websites of those mentioned in the article are The ArtMusic Coffeehouse* at, Patrick Ball at, and Craig Bickhardt* at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Around the world on behalf of a book

Dear Friends,

I hope my words find you well. Here is a review regarding The Centenary Stage Company’s Production of “Underneath the Lintel” which is continuing its run until November 22nd. Please feel free to explore their website at for more information. I look forward to hearing from you soon and I’ll keep a good thought for you until then.


Around the world on behalf of a book
By Peter Filichia/For The Star-Ledger
November 11, 2009

What a difference seven years on “The West Wing” can make for an actor.

Back in 2006, when Richard Schiff bounded onto the stage of a New Jersey theater to perform “Underneath the Lintel,” he got a warm and enthusiastic round of applause before he’d said a word.
Now, when Steven Dennis enters at Centenary Stage Company to do the same play, he’s greeted by silence.
That’s the fate for an actor who does play after play on a Hackettstown stage, instead of a series in a Hollywood TV studio.

Ah, but at the end of Dennis’ one-man marathon, the audience makes it up to this splendid performer. The cheers let him know just how magnificent he was.

Dennis portrays a character simply known as “the librarian.” Playwright Glen Berger considers this man such a nonentity that he won’t even bother to give him a name. Indeed, the librarian is so meek that he may feel he doesn’t deserve one.

The diminutive Dennis starts out as man who seems unaccustomed to public speaking, with the delivery of an eccentric if not quite nutty professor. His story starts out unassumingly, as he recounts manning the overnight slot into which people deposit their returned books.

But one book turns out to be 113 years overdue.

Dennis conveys well the outrage that this officious librarian feels. When he discovers that the borrower signed out with only the letter “A,” he’s as scandalized as the Puritans were when Hester Prynne sinned.
His moral code demands that he get to the bottom of the “crime” and make certain that the offender pays the hefty fine. To start tracking him down, The librarian consults an atlas. Suddenly Dennis trades in his agitated face for a small smile when he says, “I’ve always liked atlases. They allow you to travel all over the world without the expense.”

Without the fun, too. But the librarian is about to have plenty of adventure as he goes literally to the ends of the Earth to find the offender. Dennis’ furrowed brow and nervous demeanor disappear as a much wider smile embraces his face. “I was a regular detective,” he says, feeling alive for the first time in a long time — perhaps in his life.

After he is away from everybody and everything, The librarian finally finds the time to discover who he really is inside. Like anyone who talks too much, he winds up revealing more of himself than he originally expected.

He also does, in a manner of speaking, find the person responsible for the overdue book. It’s neither a zombie nor Bigfoot; Berger has a much more profound agenda going on here about “things we cannot understand.”

The librarian is established as a citizen of Holland, so Dennis must adopt a Dutch accent. He sustains it beautifully for the show’s entire 75-minute length — except when he must mimic the voices of the foreigners he meets on the journey. There he’s entirely successful, too.

“Underneath the Lintel” could be slow going without an expert actor on hand. What fascinates the librarian about an overdue book might not strike the same chord in all theatergoers. Dennis, though, so commands an audience’s attention that he prevents any dull spots from intruding. Credit director Carl Wallnau, too, for keeping the actor honest and focused.

The action is punctuated with handsome slides that show London, Peking and other cities.

Fine destinations. But the serious theatergoer is urged to get to Hackettstown, too.

Peter Filichia may be reached at

Underneath the Lintel
Where: Centenary Stage Company, 400 Jefferson St., Hackettstown
When: Through Nov. 22. Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 2:30 and 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
How much: $17.50 matinees, $20 evening performances, except Saturdays, which are $25. Call (908) 979-0900 or visit

Photograph provided by The Centenary Stage Company and taken by Carl Wallnau which depicts Steven Dennis as the Librarian in the Centenary Stage Company’s production of “Underneath the Lintel” presented in Hackettstown, NJ through Sunday November

“Underneath the Lintel’ fascinates at Centenary

Dear Friends,

I hope my words find you well. Here is a review regarding The Centenary Stage Company’s Production of “Underneath the Lintel” which is continuing its run until November 22nd. Please feel free to explore their website at for more information. I look forward to hearing from you soon and I’ll keep a good thought for you until then.


“Underneath the Lintel’ fascinates at Centenary
By Sheila Abrams
Contributing Writer
Published in “Out and About” on November 11th

We love theater because, when it works, it does magic. It turns one person into another. It transforms time and place.

That kind of magic is happening on the stage of the Centenary Stage Company, on the Centenary College campus at 400 Jefferson Street in Hackettstown, where Glen Berger’s intriguing dark comedy, “Underneath the Lintel,” will be presented through Sunday, Nov. 22.

The Librarian, the only visible character in the 80-minute opus, is being played by Steven Dennis. Or, more accurately, Steven Dennis is becoming the Librarian. His performance is more a transformation than a portrayal.

And he is the only visible character because the play has an invisible one too: the subject of the Librarian’s quest and his obsession. Because of the brilliance of the writing, the intensity of Dennis’s performance, the deftness of Carl Wallnau’s direction, and the cleverness of Brian Flynn’s set design, the audience is drawn into that quest. The Librarian’s obsession becomes the audience’s as well. That’s what theater at its best does.

The play is quirky. A Dutch librarian of middle age and limited accomplishment finds in the book drop one morning a battered copy of Baedeker’s travel guide. He determines that it is 113 years overdue.

Moved by bureaucratic zeal he thinks, What a coup it would be to collect that fine!. But who is this mysterious miscreant, identified only with the capital letter “A,” who is responsible? Aha! There’s a clue, an ancient laundry ticket from a cleaning establishment in London.

That he pursues the clue, although London is far and the library refuses to pay for his travel, is a telling window into the soul of this man. We know from a few snippy comments about his co-workers that he is not immune to pettiness. Something unspoken in his manner tells us right away that he has no family at home waiting for him at the end of the day. In fact, he has so little in his life to engage him that he is swept away by the mystery of the book and its borrower.

The first clue leads to a second and London leads to China and then to Bonn, and so forth. The clues take him on an odyssey that leads him to a strange conclusion: The travel guide was borrowed by The Wandering Jew of legend. Which leads us to the meaning of the play’s title.

The myth, of indeterminate origin, is that a cobbler in Judea found, collapsed by exhaustion on his doorstep, a criminal, on his way to execution by crucifixion. Though at first moved to offer comfort, he made what is perhaps the world’s most common decision: Not to get involved. Since the man on the doorstep was Jesus, the cobbler, whose name is Ahasuerus, suffered a far worse consequence than befalls most who make that decision. He was doomed to wander the world with no respite until Jesus returned. All this happened on his doorstep, underneath the lintel.

That the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and this whole story seems very unchristian, has not stopped the story from hanging on. Ahasuerus, or A., the Librarian discovers, has turned up in a multitude of places over the centuries, most recently he relates, outside the fence of a Nazi death camp.

We gradually see the Librarian assuming for himself many characteristics of this mythological person he is pursuing. The weight of the world is on his shoulders but he finds he also can’t, figuratively, sit down and rest.

All of this is related by the Librarian, speaking to the audience from a grungy-looking lecture room (that cleverly-designed set) rented for one evening for “An Impressive Presentation Of Lovely Evidence,” as the play is subtitled. His presentation is aided by a handful of props and a few slides projected on a screen.

What is most surprising about the Librarian and his tale is that it is funny! Not Three Stooges funny or George Carlin funny. The dry and prissy man on the stage makes us laugh most often because we begin to recognize aspects of ourselves in him. Therein lies the brilliance of Dennis’s portrayal.

“Underneath the Lintel” will be presented Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Wednesdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets range from $17.50 to $22.50, depending on the performance.

Thursday is Family night, with two tickets for the price of one at the box office prior to the performance. Discounts are also available to seniors and students. Moreover, during the run of “Underneath the Lintel,” a special 15 percent discount will be offered to anyone presenting a card for any New Jersey library.

For more information and reservations, call the box office at (908) 979-0900 or visit the website,

Photograph provided by The Centenary Stage Company and taken by Carl Wallnau which depicts Steven Dennis as the Librarian in the Centenary Stage Company’s production of “Underneath the Lintel” presented in Hackettstown, NJ through Sunday November 22nd.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Tapestry of Poetry

The Tapestry Corner* in Stroudsburg, PA held a poetry reading and book signing featuring the works of poet Dr. Juanita Kirton* and readings on Sunday November 8th from her recently published first book entitled, “Inner Journey” which is available on and She is the recipient of a grant from "Sisters in Script" and will soon receive The Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE) South Africa Initiative (SAI) “Vision Award” at their New Brunswick, NJ campus on Wednesday November 18th.

The afternoon proved to be a thoroughly delightful experience. Juanita* moved around a room full of comfortably seated poetry lovers as her words took them upon mental journeys. Many of them were to experiences and locations unknown before hearing her words while others took them back to their hearts with renewed perspectives enriching their souls. The numerous conversations engaged in throughout the event reflected this sentiment and enhanced it a great deal.

Much of the proceeds gained by the sales of the book will go to benefit The Rutgers Graduate School South Africa Initiative (SAI) which is an interdisciplinary program facilitating international contacts among United States and South African educators and committed to educating students for responsible global citizenship deepening their learning and improve the quality of the world community. SAI envisions educators as vital agents and architects of a diverse democracy and works with business and educational institutions to further cross-national considerations of educational issues.

Please Contact Dr. Darren Clarke at 732-932-7496 ext. 8106 for more information about The Rutgers Graduate School South Africa Initiative (SAI). For more information regarding The Tapestry Corner* and all it offers, please Contact them at 570-426-1584. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Literary Works Gallery.

The websites and email addresses of those mentioned in the article are The Tapestry Corner* at, Juanita Kirton* at, and The Rutgers Graduate School South Africa Initiative (SAI) at

(*) denotes members of The Forwardian Arts Society in good standing and are considered Our Good Friends.