Monday, September 28, 2009

Theatrical Review: The Mouse Trap

Written by: Agatha Christie
Directed by: Sue Butler*
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse* in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Center Stage Players‘* production of “The Mouse Trap” by Agatha Christie. Besides being a classic whodunit written by the renowned “Queen of Crime,” “The Mouse Trap” is also noteworthy of holding the record for the longest initial run in the world as it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London, UK on in 1952 and is still running after more than 23,000. True to the authors beloved style, the play has all the elements an Agatha Christie novel is known to contain.

There is a murder with suspects galore and a detective who confronts them all at once as he seeks to reveal the culprit and discover whodunit. In the meantime, the audience (as do Ms. Christie’s readers) spend the entire play trying to solve the mystery presented before them. When the revelations finally come, some go away proclaiming “Aha, I know it was him/her” while others admit they were mistaken. Regardless of an audience member’s crime solving prowess, the play proved to be as delightful as Ms. Christie’s other works.

The Center Stage Players‘* production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mouse Trap” kept this delightful experience well intact. The acting and blocking was right on matching the flavor of the times of which it was written. This production managed to maintain the play’s original charm while instilling some of its own.

The cast consisted of Dan Eash* (who also serves on The Center Stage Players’* Board of Directors and also served as the production’s Co-Set Designer) who portrayed Giles Ralston who runs Monkswell Manor which is a boarding house where all the characters (aka Murder suspects) come to stay along with his wife Mollie Ralston who was portrayed by Jennifer Serowick. Their guests are Miss. Casewell as portrayed by Juliet Dunham, Christopher Wren as portrayed by Robin Kessler*, Major Metcalfe as portrayed by John Baptiste*, Detective Sergeant Trotter as portrayed by Patrick Turner* (who also serves on The Center Stage Players’* Board of Directors and also served as the production’s Co-Set Designer), Mrs. Boyle as portrayed by Pat Van Varick* (who also serves on The Center Stage Players’* Board of Directors), and the mysterious unexpected guest Mr. Paravicini as portrayed by Jack Butler* (who also served as the production’s Co-Set Designer).

The Shawnee Playhouse* presentation of The Center Stage Players’* production of “The Mouse Trap” by Agatha Christie was Directed by Sue Butler* who also designed the production’s set and serves as The Center Stage Players’* President. The Center Stage Players’* Vice President is Mary Erm*. The production was Stage Managed by Lillian Ramirez-Gonzalez* who also serves as The Center Stage Player’* Secretary. The Lighting Design was done by Arthur Ritter while The Light/Sound Technicians were Eric Dwyer* and Katherine Neville* who also serves as The Center Stage Players’* Treasurer. The Executive Director of The Shawnee Playhouse* is Midge McClosky* while the producers are Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood*. Group Sales of the productions are handled by Mary Horn* (who also served as a member of the Box Office Staff with Becky Haskell) while The Shawnee Playhouse publicity is handled by Amy Cramer*.

This presentation of The Center Stage Players’* production of “The Mouse Trap” by Agatha Christie will continue its run at The Shawnee Playhouse* in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA until October 25th and is recommended to those who like a good old fashion murder mystery and would like to spend an evening is trying to discover whodunit. The next Shawnee Playhouse* in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presentations will be their production of “The Gin Game” October 30th - November 8th, “An O Henrey Christmas” November 20th - December 20th, The Shawnee Playhouse Children Theatre Production of “A Wu=innie the Pooh Christmas Carol” presented November 28th December 19th, and The Shawnee Playhouse 31st Annual Messiah Sing In Concert on Tuesday December 22nd.
Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse* at 570-421-5093 or Explore their Website at for more information and to reserve your ticket. Please feel free to Explore The Center Stage Players’* Website at to learn more information about them.

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 selected The Shawnee Playhouse* Productions.

Photograph provided by The Shawnee Playhouse and depicts Pat Van Varick, Dan Eash, Patrick Turner, Jennifer Serowick, Juliet Dunham, and Jack Butler in The Center Stage Players production of “The Mouse Trap.”

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Moe Jammin’ Music

Moe'st Everything Muse* in East Stroudsburg, PA held an Open Jam on their Lawn on Saturday September 26th. The event was filled with recently composed music relating to the Christian Faith including some original pieces written by members of the bands who performed along with some secular works. The bands included The Usual Suspects, Aragon, and InnerMission*, and more. It was a quiet and gentle afternoon filled with good music, food, and conversation.

The performances were quite enjoyable while presenting messages common to the Christian Faith. The blend of voices of the group InnerMission enhanced the songs they performed quite well. However, there was a quite astounding presentation of the Jefferson Airplane song, “White Rabbit” that really caught my attention. It’s energetically harsh instrumentation along with its equally powerful vocalizations often surpassed the original version by Grace Slick. In other words, it was modernized.

The Website address of Moe'st Everything Muse* is while the Website Address for is You can learn more about the music store along with the music of InnerMission* at these locations. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2009 Gallery.

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

Being Hungry and Happy at The Bookhouse

The Eastern Monroe Public Library* in Stroudsburg, PA presented The Folk Duo known as Hungrytown* on Friday September 25th as part of their Bookhouse Concert Series. After a brief introduction given by Rob Ramos*, the room became filled with the sounds of guitars and music reminiscent of the Appalachian Bluegrass stylings that never fail to bring a toe to taping or a heart to whisper a long forgotten melody to its owner. It was a night filled with established songs from the genre along with some original compositions which sounded like they could have been written during the same period as their qualities were consistent with each others.

The Duo consisted of Ken Anderson and Rebecca Hall whose voices meld together into a pleasing mixture while the tales they told relating to each song amused the audience to insightfulness. The rapport they built with the audience began with their accessible presence while people were coming into the Library’s Community room in which the concert was being performed. This is not usually done during an event of this nature for which the performers are often in another room waiting to go on. This change in procedure was very refreshing and encouraged a much more friendly atmosphere making the evening even more enjoyable.

The Website address of The Eastern Monroe Public Library* is while the Website Address for Hungrytown* is You can learn more about their music and their CD at this location. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2009 Gallery.

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

Educational Creeps

The Sherman Theatre* in Stroudsburg, PA present the films “Graduation Day” and “Night of the Creeps” on Thursday September 24th as part of their Severed Sinema* Series. The event also featured an exhibition of works by Artists John Kolbek* and Mike Parsons*. The entire evening consisted of an interesting balance of cheesy, yet fun films and some very compelling art works.

The screenings began with the film entitled, “Graduation Day” which was made in 1981 and directed by Herb Freed. It’s notable for presenting an early appearance of “Wheel of Fortune” letter turner Vanna White. The film begins with a track and field event which a young female Athlete collapses while crossing the finish line. Why she died, the film never attempts to answer. The film then cuts to the return home of the Athlete’s sister from the Navy just as murders of the remaining track team members begin to occur.

Although some of the camera work is impressive, the director never establishes any sense of suspense or even the shock the simplest of horror films obtain. It’s just a really bad and stupid film. However, this is exactly why it’s appealing. It’s as much fun to watch as it is to laugh at the absurdities of the plot and the attempts at acting.

The second film was entitled, “Night of the Creeps” which was made in 1986 and directed by Fred Dekker. Although not the greatest horror film ever made, it was by far a great deal better than “Graduation Day.” The acting, writing, and production values where much better which did produce not only some mild scariness but some truly intentionally funny bits.

The film began in outer space on an alien craft with one alien being pursued by two others. It is discovered the alien is carrying a cylinder containing a deadly experiment which it is determine to maliciously jettison into open space. It does so and winds up on earth in 1959 near a college campus. A young couple sees its fiery decent into the atmosphere and drives to it’s location. Upon their arrival, the young man begins his search while the young woman waits for his return.

Meanwhile, a deranged Axe Murderer who escaped from the local insane asylum, sneaks up on the woman and kills her. Meanwhile, the young man stumbles upon the cylinder and becomes infected by its contents which are small slithering leech-like animals that enters anything with a mouth through that orifice and incubates inside the body while it moves around like an undead Zombie. Meanwhile, a cop, who has had feelings for the young woman being murdered, comes upon the grisly act as it’s occurring and kills the axe wielding maniac. Are there enough “meanwhiles” here?

The film cuts to 1986 on the college campus. The cop is now a homicide investigator and the young man is kept in Cryogenic Hibernation in the campus medical center. Why he is there, the film doesn’t attempt to answer. Perhaps he is left there so long so some college students can come by to play a fraternity prank which involves stealing a body and placing it in front of a rival fraternity house. A good plan. It took 25 years later to make it work, but it’s a good plan.

The film also explored the romantic entanglements of young college students, regrets from the past, peer pressure, and, oh who the hell cares. This film was just fun. It was stupid but in a very intelligent way. The intelligence came from the occasional spoofing of itself and the entire B Movie genre containing all the icons found in the zombie, slasher, and alien creature invasion found in most of them.

Along with the films being presented as part of the Severed Sinema Series, the art work of Michael Parsons* and John Kolbek* filled the walls of The Sherman Theatre’s Lobby. Their intricate and hauntingly macabre imagery held a certain beauty which intrigues the human psyche. They proved to be heavily layered with symbolism which moved the viewer of each work to linger while allowing the piece entry into his or her subconscious. And, once it enters, it stays for a while.

The next installment of The Sherman Theatre* Severed Sinema* Series will be Friday October 16th presenting the films, “The Exorcist,” “Phantasm,” and a midnight screening of “Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated” which features over 100 animators contributing their own visions of the original film to create an experimental film of animated greatness. Special guests include local artists who contributed to the film and the musical guests Nu Pro Sta Kaif and Rooster Baby. The next presentation at The Sherman Theatre will be Raymond the Amish Comic Saturday October 3rd at 8pm.

The Website address of The Sherman Theatre* is while the Website Address for Michael Parsons* is and John Kolbek* is You can view their works at these locations. You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society Film/Video 2009 Gallery.

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Raising a Habitat

The Annual “Raise the Roof” Choral Concert combining several churches took place at The St. Paul’s Lutheran Church* in Tannersville, PA to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County* on Sunday September 20th. An evening of sacred music met supporters of this worthy cause whose mission it to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness worldwide by providing ownership of adequate housing to eligible families through no-interest mortgages.

After an opening prayer and a few opening remarks given by the Reverend Dr. Thomas E. Richards, Jr. of the host church, the evening began with choral selections presented by The First Presbyterian Church located in Stroudsburg, PA under the direction of Patricia thor Straten-Mohr with Anne Austell and Michael Capone serving as accompanists on Piano. The evening then continued with choral performances by The Blakeslee United Methodist Church located in Blakeslee, PA under the direction of Julie Kerrick Geiser, Our Lady Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church located in Gilbert, PA under the direction of by Lindsey Blundetto, St. The Paul’s Lutheran Church located in Craigs Meadow, PA under the direction of Mildred Kleiber, and concluded with The St. Paul’s Lutheran Church* under the direction of Bob Riday* with Gail Hines and Kathryn Raish serving as accompanists on Piano.

Once the performances of the individual choirs were completed, they combined their voices to form one large choir presenting three magnificent pieces under the direction of Bob Riday* accompanied by Anne Austell and Gail Hines on Piano, Gary Raish* on Organ, and Bill Bellows on Drums. The concert concluded with some remarks by Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County* Executive Director Leslie M. Howes and others and with a Benediction given by the Reverend Dr. Thomas E. Richards, Jr. and the combined choir. A meet and greet followed which provided many to learn more about Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County*, the work it does, and how to become more involved.

The websites of The St. Paul’s Lutheran Church* in Tannersville, PA is and Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County* is Please Explore their Websites for more information. You’ll find more photographs on The Forwardian Arts Society Music 2009 Gallery.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Art from all Angels

Gallery 705* in Stroudsburg, PA held an Opening Reception on Saturday September 19th featuring the Geometric paintings of Georg Zuter. Edward and Cornelia Evans* hosted the small gathering of art lovers in the gallery which also serves as their residence which has also become the home of modern and international artists making it a gallery unique among those in the area.

Mr. Zuter is no exception to the creative flavor the gallery is know to fill its walls with as he is from Germany while his wife is from Italy. The couple had some challenges in their attempts to communicate their thoughts in English, but this was not the case in regards to the conversation one had with the work displayed. Their radiant colors embedded in their subtle qualities enabled each viewer to admire the unsymmetrical symmetry of the work.

The exhibition continues until October 13th which will be followed by the works of Denis Defibaugh which will be Installed by Elaine Defibaugh and entitled, “Three Days of the Spirit: The Day of the Dead” taking place from October 31st to December 1st.

The website of Gallery 705 is

Please contact Gallery 705* at 570-421-0833 or visit their website for more information. You‘ll discover more photographs on The Forwardian Arts Society Visual Arts 2009 Gallery.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

COTA 2009

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA)* held their 32nd Annual COTA* Jazz and Arts Festival September 11th - 13th in the Delaware Water Gap in PA. The dampening rainy conditions permeating the area Friday and Saturday brought some fears that this year would experience a low turn out as it did last year due to the torrential rains from Hurricane Hannah came to the fore. Fortunately, although the numbers of those who came to enjoy the jazz were smaller than years gone by, the weather proved to be much more negligible than last year’s. This may have been due to many offering up prayers on intercession to Ed Joubert who was one of the founders of COTA* and passed away a few years after its conception.

The festival began with The Opening Reception of The Annual COTA* Music Motif Exhibition held at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery* in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Friday September 11th. The show is known to feature a talented variety of artists who creates works with a musical theme to be examined by a jury of their creative peers. COTA* and The Dutot* never fails to provide an impressive list of jurors which reassures those entering their work in the exhibition those who are fortunate enough to be chosen to receive special recognition for their work will be selected by those who are very knowledgeable in regards to the arts and will use their experiences and well developed insights in their deliberations.

The Jurors for this year’s exhibition were Michael Collins who is a local lawyer representing fine art photographers, writers, musicians, and music related companies and Liz Pemberton* who is a fiber artist creating Mural-art with elementary students in School Districts throughout Monroe and Pike Counties. She is currently awaiting the publication of her first children’s book entitled, “An Autumn Sunrise.” The third Juror of The Music Motif Show was Robin Scott who is an art teacher at Bangor Middle School and Bangor High School producing, directing, choreographing along with creating costumes and set designs for the school’s musicals as well as presenting her watercolor pieces throughout the area receiving numerous awards for her endeavors.

As with every year, determining which pieces to award proved to be a challenge even to this group of Jurors. However, The Musical Motif Best of Show was awarded to the artist Eduardo for "Tapestry," First Place in Painting was awarded to Bob Doney* for "Jam Session," and First Place in Photography to Garth Woods* for "Camp Jazz." These pieces well represented the variety of not only the styles of the work presented this year, but of the range of emotional qualities they brought together in one extraordinary show.

Some work depicted tranquil scenes with colors allowing the viewer to experience that quiet tune played within one’s being while others blared their embolden hues like songs designed to awaken your senses encouraging you to embrace a new awareness of life. The entire body of work challenged all who attended to discover the balance found within the range they presented. In doing so, a new world could be explored syncopating our existence just as the musical forms found within jazz does.

The exhibition for The Music Motif Show at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery* in Delaware Water Gap, PA continues until September 20th. I would recommend visiting the gallery as its exhibition will bring you to a good place. Please Explore The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery* Website for more information.

The first evening of COTA* continued across the street from The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery* at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain (PCOM)* who presented their annual Evening of the Arts featuring classical music, theatre, dance, and some soft jazz. Those who ventured across the mighty route 611 were treated to the creative gifts which soothed the soul, challenged our intellectual perspectives, enticed our divine natures, and set the jazzical mood for the remainder of the festival.

Their evening began with the classical renderings of Calliope with Gina Bertucci* and Barbara McMahon* on flute along with Laura Goss* of The Pocono Arts Council* on Bassoon. The calming sounds pronouncing themselves from their exquisite instruments touched the soul as only this genre of music can. It gently moves you to a stillness which is often abandoned in our daily lives. Yet, it is here in this sanctuary one can find a long forgotten and frequently sought after solace.

In stark contrast, The Water Gap Players presented their theatrical production entitled, “Waiting for Bar-o” featuring Greg Back* (who write the piece), Dennis Carrig* of The Deer Head Inn*, and David Hymes. Based on Samuel Becket’s “Waiting for Godot” in which two characters await the non - arrival of someone or something named, “Godot,” “Waiting for Bar-o” depicts two characters awaiting the solution of the energy crisis which continues to be depleted while causing numerous environmental calamities. As with the original play, “Waiting for Bar-o” is open to a multitude of interpretations with each thoughtful avenue expands the intellect just through the exercise alone.

As the applause of this theatrical presentation subsided, COTA* Board Member Tim Helman* rose to present The Sterling and Dorothy Strauser Award honoring the artistic contribution in the visual arts to Liz Pemberton* who is fabric artist known for her work with quilting and who also served as a juror for The Musical Motif Art Show at the Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery*. Due to her participation as Juror, she was not present to receive the award. However, those who knew her and were present acknowledge her as a well deserving recipient of the award through their very generous applause.

It was at this point The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain* grew dark as the lights began to dim. After a year’s hiatus, the dance troupe known as “Anita Bondi* and Friends” were back. Past performances often called to the us beyond who we are to become willing to believe there is an awareness that goes beyond our understandings. “At the Intersection of Stillness and Beauty” is such a piece as it utilized LED lit costumes, video, spoken word, live music, and sculpture to communicate its ever reaching whispers often found in the art of dance.

The imagery created from these whisperings touched the heart through our eyes. Anita Bondi’s* choreography utilized the entire space available within the small church. For example, many of the dancers placed themselves upon the window sills with their long lit skirts descending from them. I later asked Anita* if the thought of “Window Dressing” occurred to her as the imaginings of what she would create became manifested. She said, “No. But, it works.” Those who performed in “At the Intersection of Stillness and Beauty” included COTA* Advisory Board Member Susan Bradford*, Clair Collins, Marlene Druhan*, Amber Freda*, Betsy Jackson*, Michael Jones, Heidi Minich*, Marci Molina*, Stacy Nominator*, Patti Posten, Stan Stewart*, and Susanne Wilson.

The evening concluded with a performance by The Vicki Doney* Trio featuring Vicki* on Vocals and Piano, Bill Washer on Guitar, and Allan Gaumer on Trumpet. Vicki’s* voice moved along the walls to catch each listener off guard in spite of any preparedness one might make. This endeavor sent the mind whirling in delight as each note and measure tickled the auditory senses leaving them eager for more of the same. What an ending to a wonderful evening as it created an anticipation for joys to be discovered on another COTA* day. Please feel free to Explore The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain Website for more information on everything it has to offer.

However, before I move on to share my experiences of the Saturday and Sunday portions of the festival, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Photographer and Friend David W. Coulter*. As you know, I cover many events to taking pictures and writing articles about them just in the way I’m doing now. This Friday night, I brought my camera but forgotten my batteries. David was kind enough to lend me his to I could record the images which presented themselves to me throughout the evening. Of course, batteries for digital cameras being what they are, ran out on me. Nut I would not have been able to capture any images if it were not for the thoughtful generosity of David W. Coulter*. Thank you David* for your consideration, for your friendship, and for being all you are.

The Main Festival COTA* has become known for began at noon on Saturday September 12th. As mentioned earlier, the light rain continuing from the evening before aroused the fear of a repeat experience of inclement weather. However, the drizzle began ceasing by noon which was just in time for the first notes of music to be played. A small, eager crowd met the sounds of The Skip Wilkins Quintet with Dan Wilkins and Paul Kendall on Saxophones, Tom Kozic on Guitar, Tony Marino on Bass, Gary Rissmiller on Drums, and Skip on Piano as they initiated the main concert. The long year of waiting for COTA to return was over and it was time to reap the rewards of their patience as the powers that control the rains abetted so they could fully enjoy their favorite bands.

There were many wonderful band who performed throughout the day. The included The Magic Touch featuring “Sweet” Sue Terry and Nelson Hill*, The Bob Dorough* Ensemble, The Alex Gordon 3 (who were new to the festival), the big band known as The Jazz Artist Repertory Orchestra (JARO), and a Special COTA* Jazz Jam: Alto City hosted by COTA co-founder Phil Woods* featuring Phil* on Alto Saxophone, Eric Doney* on Piano, Evan Gregor* on Bass, Bill Goodwin* on Drums, and many others who appeared throughout the set. This special performance was not only designed to entertain the audience, but to give each member an opportunity to support COTA* through their financial donations which could have been placed in a special barrow previously utilized to help those effected by Hurricane Katrina which touched in New Orleans, LA in 2005.

The day continued with performances by The David Liebman* Group featuring Tim Hagans which took jazz from it‘s commonly recognized form to an interesting trancelike journey and Sherrie Maricle* and The Diva Jazz Orchestra featuring an all female orchestra with the exception of Evan Gregor* on Bass and were new to the festival this year. The day ended with Spencer Reed’s* Blues Jam All-Stars which included Spencer* on Guitar and Vocals, Eric Doney* on Piano, Rick Madigan* on Bass, and Drew Siciliano on Drums. This was a rousing ending to a great day which left a sensation of excited anticipation of another day yet to come with even more sunshine and even greater music to be partaken of.

Jazz Lovers who came to COTA* the next day were met with sunshine. The warmth of a new day filled each person with anticipation as they began their day with a spiritual respite provided by The COTA* annual Jazz Mass composed, conducted, and a lot of other stuff by Wolfgang Knittel*. The inspiring service was led by The Reverend Karen Nickels* of The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain*.

Musicians lending their instrumental talents to the service included Nelson Hill* and Richard Bartz* on Saxophone, Patrick Dorian* on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, COTA co-founder Richard Chamberlain* (who composed some of the pieces presented during the Jazz Mass) on Trombone and Euphonium, Jim Daniels* on Bass Trombone and Tuba, Spencer Reed* on Guitar, and Ed Hudak* on Percussions. Singers lending their uplifting voices to the service included Michele Bautier*, Bob Dorough*, and Bonnie Childs* along with a choir of near angels coordinated by Robert Hartman and led by Teresa Marino. The choral voices included Kate Broda*, Bill Brugger*, Carol Cartwright*, Marilyn Clark*, Susan Cooper*, Vicki Doney*, David Larrabee*, Lydia Liebman*, Bob Nickels*, Becky Pelotti-Ruggiero*, Sandy Rader*, Valerie Sagheddu*, Arline M. Smeltz*, Saralyn Whitaker*, and many more. The rousing music and the encouraging sermon enhanced the spiritual awareness of each jazz lover as they continued their pilgrimage through the Jazz Mecca known as COTA*.

After the service was over, many of the attendees were asked to leave and re-enter the festival site. While awaiting their return while the purchase of tickets and distribution of the day’s wrist bands were being completed, The Lost Ramblers performed their toe tapping brand of Blue Grass music making the wait not only enjoyable but cause many to linger a while after they were re admitted. However, once those who paid their admission fee found their place upon the festival‘s hill, they soon were greeted with the jazzy sounds of a brand new day.

The first performers who met their eager ears were 3 Spirit with Nancy Reed* and Val Hawk* on Guitars and vocals along with Vicki Doney* on Piano, Percussion, and Vocals. 3 Spirit originated as back up singers for Bob Dorough and became known as “The Bobettes.” They eventually decided to to their own gigs and became known as “Girl Talk.” On a personal note; it was during one of their performances at The Tapestry Corner* in Stroudsburg, PA that I interviewed them for a new local internet television station which was later to be known as TV Pocono. Regardless of the name they choose, they illustrate Shakespeare’s line from “Romeo and Juliet” which reminds us, “A Rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” 3 Spirit’s musical repertoire and magical blend of voices lingers in the soul of all who experience them and proved to be a fitting start of the day’s festivities.

Adding to the day’s musical program were COTA* Newcomers The Chris Parker Quartet, The Evan Gregor* Quintet, and The Brian Lynch “Unsung Heroes” Project. The Bill Goodwin* Band played several selections composed or made famous by the legendary Thelonious Monk. The band was hot but it also allowed for some thoughtful introspection by a guest soloist of whom I hope to be forgiven as I’ve forgotten her name. But, I shall never forget the sensations she inspired by her a cappella piece or from the soulful performances of the songs that followed. I personally saw her as the Janis Joplin of COTA*.

The Celebration of the Arts* in known to go beyond it’s Annual Jazz and Arts Festival to honor the achievements those involved in the arts in the community at large. The Joanne Mayer Memorial COTA* Volunteer Award is given each year to honor the COTA Volunteer Spirit. This year, it was presented to COTA* Board Member Randy Shumaker* who is in charge of the physical plant and also organized the COTA* Booth at the Festival. The Fred Waring Award is given to honor the recipient’s outstanding contributions to the arts and the community. This year, it was presented to Bob Bush who is Coordinator of The Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection which is the jazz archive housed in The Kemp Library at East Stroudsburg University. He is also the editor of its magazine, "The Note."

One of the Highlight of the festival was performance of the 2009 (Volume 29) COTA* Cats. The COTA* Cats consist of students from area school districts who have demonstrated considerable musical skills and a kinship to Jazz. These students are mentored by a group of Clinicians who include many of the great Jazz artists who have graced COTA* and other venues throughout the decades. Their outstanding performance this year features an original composition by former COTA* Cat Matt Vashlishan* entitled, “Time for T.D.,” a new arrangement by former COTA* Cat Dave Springfield of Peggy Lee’s, “I Love Being Here with You” featuring Lydia Liebman* on vocals; and former COTA* Cat Wayne Bishop’s arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” The performance also included two Al Cohn songs arranged by COTA co-founder Phil Woods* entitled, “Tea for Lou” and “Flugelbird” along with plus Phil* providing a performance of Benny Carter’s song entitled, “Souvenir.”

In addition to the annual performance, COTA* provides scholarships to exceptional students so they can continue their musical endeavors in an academic environment. This year recipients were Trumpeter Joseph Boga who is entering Manhattan School of Music; Trumpeter Chad Feakins who is entering Elizabethtown College and Pianist Davey Lantz* who is entering the Juilliard School of Music with a scholarship of $500 each. This year's Ralph Hughes Scholarship of $1000 honoring the COTA* Cat with the highest grade point average was presented to alto saxophonist Jenae Shoup of Delaware Valley High School. This year, COTA* and the family of former COTA* Cat Michael Richard Lacey initiated a new scholarship, "The Michael Lacey Memorial Scholarship" of $500 which is awarded to a student who maintains an A average. The recipient of this scholarship if Tenor saxophonist Nathaniel Partis who attends Nazareth High School. We at The Forwardian Arts Society would like take this moment to congratulate all the current scholarship recipients as well as those who will receive theirs for 2010. We wish you the best of luck in your meaningful endeavors and may you always go forward towards your dreams.

Other happenings around the festival site included strolling musicians Mark Hamza* on Accordion, The Lost Ramblers with John Updike* on the five string Banjo, Neil Morris* on Guitar, Coleman Smith on Fiddle, Anthony Hannigan on Mandolin, and Steve Belcher on Bass, and The Dixie Gents with Bob Leive* on Trumpet, Paul Hubbell* on Soprano Saxophone, Kevin Haines* on Trombone, Ray Schwsieguth on Banjo, and Jim Daniels* on Tuba. Rick Peoples played his Guitar and told stories in the children’s area while Maria Horn* shared her story telling talents with the children. In addition to all this, there was great food to be had by all and many wonderful items to be bought at the vender section.

Many of these vendors included COTA Board Member Don Conklin* who offered his Music Lamps, David W. Coulter* and Ron Ford* offered their photographic pieces, Robert E. Doney* whose painting of Phil Woods* and other artists was chosen to be this year’s image representing COTA* appearing on it’s poster, Tee Shirts, and other promotional material offered his other works, Harriet Ford*, Patricia Jiunta*, and Ursula Pooley* offered their Jewelry, COTA* Board Member Tim Helman* offered his creative works, Linda Newswanger* offered her stained glass pieces, Liz Pemberton* offered her fiber creations, John Sittig* and JoAnne Stratakos*, and Pia Somerlock* offered their Pottery collections, The Totts Gap Institute* offered information on they many classes and creative opportunities they have, and Anita Bondi*, Marci Molina*, Stan Stewart*, and COTA* Advisory Board Member Susan Bradford* offered a variety of creative avenues through their Mandela Design Works. There were so many things to do the two days of the outdoor festival hardly seemed enough time.

The Celebration of the Arts * Jazz and Arts festival came to an end with not one, but two outstanding performances. The first was the incomparable Nellie McKay* whose mesmerizing melodies and smittenizing mannerisms kept the audience spellbound throughout her set. Many of her songs were from her upcoming CD which is said to be a tribute to Doris Day. However, there were many renditions of jazz classics such as “Crazy Rhythm” added to the mix and sung reminiscent of the times they were written yet done so in Nellie’s unique way. She was accompanied by Danny Cahn on Trumpet, Lance Rauh on Tenor Saxophone and Clarinet, COTA* co-founder Rick Chamberlain* on Trombone, Tim Carbone on Fiddle, Jim Daniels* on Tuba, and Paul Wells on Drums.

Nellie McKay* was followed by the kick ass rock, jazz, and blues band, “Blue Sparks from Hell.” Their band is as old as COTA* and, Like COTA*, shows no signs of its age whatsoever. The band consisted of C. T. Tucker on Vocals, Timothy Carbone on Violin, Guitar, and Keyboards, Buck Dilly on Guitar and Keyboards, Andy Goessleing on Saxophone, Guitar, and Mandolin, Bob Fenstermaker on Bass, and Terry Wetmore on Drums. On a personal note; this band played at my first high school class of 1977 five year reunion and they can still get people to dance themselves into a frenzy. Damn, what an ending to a great festival. Everyone went home exhausted but in eager anticipation to next year’s festival so they can relive their experiences while creating new memories to sustain them throughout the year.

Still, there is much COTA* does throughout the year which helps ease the long wait for the festival to begin again in September 2010. The Sherman Theatre* in Stroudsburg, PA will present Phil Woods* and The COTA* Orchestra Library Alive with Concert IV being presented on Thursday November 12th and Concert V being presented on Thursday April 15th. The summer of 2010 will see the return of COTA’s* Jazz Camp which will conclude with a performance by the students who attend.

The Celebration of The Arts* an intricate part of the lives of everyone who love the arts. There is something for every interest regardless if those interests lie in music, the visual art, or the joy of experiencing a dance or theatrical presentation. I enjoy going each year as there is always a new experience to be added to my mental scrap book of memories. I always manage to make new friends and I never fail to be astonished by the adventures of those I have become reacquainted with throughout the years. It is especially rewarding to realize the numbers of friends who become a meaningful part of my life increase each year. I have seen many of you there and I’m glad for the time and conversation we shared. Please feel free to share your comments, reflections, and recollections about COTA* with me. I eagerly await your words.

The websites of some who mentioned in this article include: Celebration of the Arts (COTA), The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery*, The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain (PCOM)*, The Sherman Theatre*, and East Stroudsburg University The number of websites to be recorded are too numerous for me to do. However, if you participated in COTA* this year and would like your website included in this article, please let me know and I’ll edit it.

Please contact COTA* at 570-424-2210 or visit their website for more information. You‘ll discover more photographs on The Forwardian Arts Society COTA 2009 Gallery.

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Final COTA Meeting

The Final General Meeting to plan for The 32nd Celebration of the Arts (COTA)* Jazz and Arts Festival took place at The Deer Head Inn* in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Tuesday September 8th. Volunteers new to the festival along with those who have established their part in the event over the years met to discuss the finishing touches to be taken before the big days.

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA)* is scheduled to occur September 11th - 13th in the Delaware Water Gap, PA. Please Contact The Celebration of the Arts (COTA)* at 570-424-2210 for more information.

Here are links and contact information to those I mentioned in this article for you to explore. The Celebration of the Arts (COTA)*, The Deer Head Inn*

You’ll find more photographs in The Forwardian Arts Society COTA Meetings 2009 Gallery.

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

The September Film and Chat Gathering

We, The Forwardian Arts Society, held our monthly Film and Chat Gathering on Friday September 4th at The Pocono Community Theater* in East Stroudsburg, PA. Film lovers got together to see the film, “Taking Woodstock” and to chat about it in the Theater‘s café. Although the gathering consisted of four people, the satisfying conversation reflected the good humor and frivolity of the comedic film along with exploring the more subtle characteristics of the movie.

The next monthly Film and Chat Gathering is scheduled to be held at The Pocono Community Theater* in East Stroudsburg, PA on Friday October 2nd during the late afternoon hour. A free beverage is provided to all those participating in the discussion following the screening of the film. The film to be viewed and discussed is yet to be determined. Please feel free to contact The Forwardian Arts Society through its website for more information.

Here are links to some groups mentioned in the article. The Forwardian Arts Society and The Pocono Community Theater*

You’ll find more photographs on The Forwardian Arts Society Film and Chat Gatherings 2009 Gallery.

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

Monday, September 07, 2009

ArtSmash Mixes It All Up

Pocono Jazz and Poetry* and we, The Forwardian Arts Society, presented our very first ArtSmash of the Poconos on Saturday September 5th at The Shoppes on Main Complex on the corner of 8th and Main Streets in Stroudsburg, PA. The weather was beautiful and a multitude of people came by to enjoy the festivities. T Shirts related to the event were handed out as the supply of 100 soon dwindled down to zero. Our Community Partners included Bridget Williams* of The Tapestry Corner* who provided us with the venue, Nicole DeFour* of Quench Juice and Smoothie Bar* who provided food and beverage for all the participants, Nelson Ortiz* who designed the special ArtSmash logo, Patti Keegan* of Keegan Tees* who printed the ArtSmash Tshirts, Laura Goss* of The Pocono Arts Council*, Trudie Lear* of PoconoWomen, Richard Berkowitz* of The Sherman Theater* and Jacob Stroud Corporation*, Lonn Murov* and Joe Sinagra* of Grandpa Pete’s Bagels who provided food and beverage for the Open Jam Attendees.

The event was presented in two installments. The first was an outdoor affair with music, art, and poetry being presented from noon until 7pm. Watercolorist Wil Daskel* was on hand giving a demonstration of his award winning skill by painting a piece inspired by all going on around and within him. Artist Barbara Richardson* was also on hand as her work was on display within The Tapestry Corner* and answered questions concerning her endeavors posed by all interested parties.

The day began with Music. It sounds filled not only the neighboring streets, but all who walked upon them until their casual strides soon became movements of dance. Even those who decided not to physically demonstrate their desire to allow their forms to sway to and fro preferring to sit and listen, showed the pleasure of such enterprises in their eyes.

Ken Meyer* of the band “Long Time Comin’”* served as Emcee introducing one musical performer after another. He and other band mates often supported their colleagues throughout ArtSmash by lending their instruments and skillful manipulation of them to their musical brothers and sisters. This reflected the general mood of the entire event as many were seen lending a helping hand to one another which included people who were just happen to be walking by.

The first musician to perform was “Country” Bruce* who often performs with his band “Boots and Saddles” serving as the opening act for “The Marshall Tucker Band,” “Commander Cody,” and others. However, standing alone with his guitar proved to be a delight as the rousing tunes ranging from pieces from Hank William Sr. to Johnny Cash along with some classic rock. What a rousing beginning. There were even some cheerleaders who happened by as they were drawn to the music. Their movements inspired the people who watched them as if they were a sports team reaching to gain the highest scores possible. If there were scores taken for embracing music and holding its joy within, then “Country” Bruce‘s* performance was a winner.

“Country” Bruce* will soon be seen at High Elevations in White Haven, PA on Sunday September 27th a benefit show for Larry O'Rourke, a well-loved reporter from the Lehigh Valley’s “Morning Call,” who was recently stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

The music continued with “Java Duo*” featuring Barbara Ann Little* on vocals and Phil Carollo* on Guitar. What a powerhouse they proved to be. Their performance not only continued the echoing effects of “Country” Bruce*, but added a few shockwaves of their own enticing more people to gather on the un-before realized small street corner. Barbara Ann Little* belted out one song after another knocking the sox off everyone including those who wore sandals. Phil Carollo* workings of his guitar added a more subtle quality to the songs which provided a nice balance to the pieces.

Ed Wilson* performed next which enhanced the musical mêlée of sounds even further. Each riff were superbly presented as they were played first on his intriguingly styles guitar and then on the strings connecting each member of the gathering to those around them. All, that can be added to these statements is, “Damn, the dude can play.”

This line up concluded with “Long Time Comin’”* who were well worth waiting for. The band consists of Jeff Russ* on drums, “Just Joe”* on vocals and guitar, Meg Irizarry* on vocals and bass guitar, and Ken Meyer* on percussion but should never be asked, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?” As mentioned earlier, the band played in support of others throughout the day. But now, it was their turn. Hot Damn. They played everything from blues, soul, R&B, classic rock, dance, and even some country. The variety of the music was staggering and, when they began to play some “Santana,” I began to recall, “This is how WoodStock got started.” which, in turn led to some interesting comparative thoughts on future “ArtSmash of the Poconos.” I later heard there’s a farm in Mt. Bethel, PA that might be available.

The final echoing effects of the music and excitement it generated was soon replaced with another and more profound forms of the arts which “ArtSmash of the Poconos” embrace. Tricia McGarvin*, who is the founder of “Urban Mountain Voices” which is a newly formed organization designed to give voice to young poets throughout the area, took over the reins and served as Emcee for the remainder of the outdoor performances and presentations. Her sense of poetic nuances and wit enhanced each presentation.

Poet and artist Ka-Son Reeves* presented work from his book entitled "A Poet-Whore, Pimped By Pain." The power of his words were well match by his recitation of them reaching out to every ear made eager to hear his voice. Images of beauty, deprivation, sadness, and humor were all bound together in their individual and collective truths. Pushing the listener to examine images of his or her own making.

As with all first endeavors on events of this magnitude, ArtSmash of the Poconos did not run as smoothly as planned. Some presenters and poets encountered unexpected delays and the order of their appearance had to be re arranged. Not a very big deal. However, due to my poor memory which included forgetting to take notes during the event, I’ve forgotten the order of those who performed after Ka-Son. So, here is my account of those who

Photographers NV and Juan Cordero* presented their work to an ever increasingly intrigued audience. Their presentation of some truly intricate fine art and fashion photography made me wonder what the pictures I took might look like if I knew what I was doing. Their work included intimate portraitures which had a number of lingerie and nude pieces done in a very tasteful manner. Both Film and Digital Camera were utilized in the creation of the pieces with very subtle differences between the two yet profound enough to notice.

Artist Rebecca L. Huff* delighted those who viewed her work with her images and entertained their imagination with her revealing commentary of how she discovered each piece within her and how she managed to translate her perceptions onto the canvas. While a majority of her work is in landscape and nature art, the range of medium she utilized was quite impressive as they ranged from Acrylic and pastel to charcoal and pencil. Rebecca L. Huff* is also well known for her gift reproductions such as cards, mugs, and mouse pads.

Poet Valerie Cruz* captivated her audience with her work. Numerous topics were touched upon with all presenting recognizable aspects of the human condition. This made her work even more profound as her personalized understanding and perspective allowed each soul who heard her words see their lives in a new and refreshed way. I, personally, found several of her works very moving and inspired me to re-examine the way I live parts of my life.

Photographer Joanne Bridgman* presented her work which were filled with many delightful images along with many wonderful stories of how they were captured. A variety of subjected were depicted but each touched the fancy of each person who viewed them. Much of her work has won several awards and many can see why.

Photographer and Workshop facilitator Barbara Case* hosted a fun presentation of her work with images filled with a joy emanating from her amusing personality. Besides her work as a photographer, Barbara Case* holds workshops designed to inspire their participants have some fun. One can’t help finding a smile on his or her face while viewing her work or in meeting this unique artist.

Wire sculpture artist Helen Kopec* not only presented her work, but she also revealed some of the skill required to produce her wonderful jeweled pieces. She also had a table showing her wares which created a great deal of curiosity among those who gathered on the ArtSmash Corner as it became affectionately known as by this time. Her work is very intricate and very beautiful sure to impress anyone who you would purchase jewelry for. This made me wish I had a girlfriend.

Artist Laura Salazar* enchanted those who gathered with her work. The lightness of her colors lifted the soul as their brightness seem to make a beautiful day even more so. They could, indeed, be considered mood changers as one can’t view one without feeling a bit better about themselves and the world around them.

Guitarist John Catanese* dropped by to provide an unscheduled performance. This was such a delight. Not only was his instrumental renditions a soothing respite of the hustle and bustle festive gatherings often produce, but it allowed ArtSmash to experience some spontaneity which served to infuse it with a creative energy which proved invigorating. It reminded me of how some festivals would not allow for such impromptu performances to take place and I now wonder why they would deny themselves such a pleasurable possibility.

Holly Avila* took the outdoor stage prior to partaking of her emceeing duties later that evening. She expertly played her guitar and read some of her words from her book entitled, “Broken Dreams and Shattered Promises” which she co written with Judy Andreas. Both proved to be powerful ointments to be placed upon the scares society and the political systems have inflicted upon those who are and aren’t aware of them. No one can go away from Holly’s* musical or spoken performances without being a great deal wiser.

Some poetry was also shared by Tricia McGarvin* whose words reached into each listener almost daring them to see the truth of their existence. Maybe it was more than almost. Regardless, her words did what all great poetry does. It speaks directly to the soul and makes it aware of how it can be enhanced by becoming a more active partner in its host’s life.

The outdoor festivities concluded with another unscheduled performance by the band, “Quenches” consisting of Ashley Matos* on vocals along with Lucas Martins* and Walter Lee* on guitars. They played a number of cover tunes which are very popular. However, their renditions moves the listener to pay more attention to the song’s theme while allowing the audience to gently sing along. The band got their name from the fact they play in front of The Quench Juice and Smoothie Bar* every Friday evening.

The second half of “ArtSmash of the Poconos” was moved into one of the businesses located within The Shoppes on Main Complex known as “The Corner Tapestry” for an Open Jam Emceed by Holly Avila* and hosted by some of the members of her band entitled, “Blue Planet/Planeta Azul.”* The band played several times throughout the remainder of the evening whose world music found safe haven in every port within the human heart. Their musical styles include those reminiscent of those found in Puru, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Montreal. Holly was accompanied by an Accordion Player simply known as Ralph* and Don Gimble* on Bongos.

Michael Kessler* was the first to perform utilizing his incomparable talent with the guitar and sense of humor. He was accompanied by Don Gimble* on Bongos. His original work covered many topics and subject areas all pleasing to the ear.

He was followed by the poetry of Urban Mountain Voices* founded by Tricia McGarvin*. I mentioned this group earlier in this article, but it‘s would be remise if it wasn‘t added this organization not only gives voice to young poets. It also seeks out talented young people in all economic and social situations ranging from those in school and those who are not, those who are from loving families and those who suffer dysfunctional abuse, and those who live at home and those who have none. The poets featured were Ryan Bernard*, Carl Watts*, and Joseph Malara* (AKA Kid Music) along with Sabrina Torres* and Taliya Garibsingh* who presented their poem entitled, “Fight Like a Girl” which was originally performed for STOP (Students Together for Outreach and Prevention of Abuse) the Teen program offered by the Women's Resources of Monroe County. Their words were indeed powerful but made more so as their young years made their insights very unexpected to an adult ear.

Poet and Performance Artist Susanna Rich* presented her amusing pieces in a very interactive manner that created a festival within the ArtSmash of the Poconos event. What a delight it was to click your fingers and make the other noises relating to the Addams Family which she incorporated in one of her pieces. The body of work she presented was fun, sexy, and a delight. Damn, she was good.

The Band “Innermission”* featuring contemporary Christian songs performed consisting of Patti Keegan* of Keegan Tees* on Guitar and Vocals, Kevin Redesky* on guitar, and Moe Altamuro* of Moe’st Everything Music Store* on drums and percussion. The faith expressed through their performance was simply presented which made it all the more meaningful to those who heard it. It offers a world and life’s view while allowing those it offers it to a choice to travel down such a path or not. Perhaps this is where the name Inner-Mission derives.

A delightful Poet simply known as “Patty G.”* presented some good ol’ rhyme poetry documenting everyday occurrences and romantic dreams we all are aware of but don’t see in quite the same way. Patty G’s* poetry allows us to see our ordinary experiences and dreams in an extraordinary ways as her words places us as observers of our lives thus enabling us to see more than usual. We’re able to take a step back and see our lives are not as bad as they seem. In fact, they can be much appreciated and even a bit funny.

The evening and “ArtSmash of the Poconos” concluded with some “Milling Around Music” provided by Holly Avila* and “Blue Planet/Planeta Azul.”* This provided opportunities for those present to learn more about and from one another. Many conversations were shared. As one of the organizers of “ArtSmash of the Poconos,” I was fortunate to share many conversations with numerous people which included both participants and those who were part of the audience. A great number of the chats related to the arts while others were of a reflective nature revealing much of their private lives and memories. The later has a profound effect on me as it demonstrates how the arts can inspire such reflections and humbled me as others saw me as someone whom they can confide in.

Was “ArtSmash of the Poconos” perfect? Of course not. Could it be bettered? Of course it can. However, considering this was Pocono Jazz and Poetry and The Forwardian Arts Society first endeavor to put together an event of this size, it was pretty damn good. Of course I’m as biased as hell, but I do look forward to getting together with Debbie Burke* of Pocono Jazz and Poetry* and planning our next one. I hope those of you who attended the event will share with me your suggestions on how we can improve upon it. Please feel free to do so and don’t be shy.

I have met many of you during the day and I’m honored to have done so. I look forward to seeing you again. I’ll keep a good thought for you until then.

Here are links to some groups mentioned in the article. Pocono Jazz and Poetry,The Tapestry Corner, Nelson Ortiz, Keegan Tees, The Pocono Arts Council, PoconoWomen, The Sherman Theater, Jacob Stroud Corporation, Grandpa Pete’s Bagels, Wil Daskel, Long Time Comin’, Java Duo, Ka-Son Reeves, NV and Juan Cordero, Rebecca L. Huff, Barbara Case, Blue Planet/Planeta Azul, Susanna Rich, Moe’st Everything Music Store

You’ll find more photographs and information on The Pocono Jazz and Poetry* Website and on The Forwardian Arts Society ArtSmash of the Poconos Gallery at

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

Friday, September 04, 2009

Film Review: Taking Woodstock

Film Review: Taking Woodstock
Directed by: Ang Lee
Performances by: Demetri Martin
Film Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The film “Taking Woodstock” is based the later part of “Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert and a Life” which is a memoir written by Elliot Tiber who is portrayed by Demetri Martin. Earlier chapters of the book describes his early years and his awakening sexuality and alienation from his parents Sonia and Jack Teichberg as portrayed by Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman. The experiences gays in the 1950s and 1960s are also explored in the book which included Elliot Tiber being beaten up and robbed by youths who targeted him because of his homosexuality. He also describes being present as The Stonewall Riots began at a bar in Greenwich Village on June 28th 1969.

The film itself begins sometime later in Elliot Tiber’s life while living with his parents in Bethel, NY, working in their motel, and serving as president of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce. When he learns the town of Walkill had decided not to allow the Woodstock festival to be held there, he telephones Woodstock organizer Michael Lang as portrayed by Jonathan Groff and tells him he has a valid permit to hold a rock festival and fifteen acres to hold it in. The film continues with a telling of how a small town in upstate NY became the site of the iconic concert known simply as “Woodstock.”

There has been many who criticize the film for not placing enough emphasis on the music which made the Woodstock experience what it was. Well, all this reviewer can say, with all due respect to his colleagues, this was not the film they would make. This is not the film this reviewer would have made, either. Instead, this is the film Ang Lee has made and the story from the memoirs he wanted to tell.

The film is not merely about some guy who helped organized what became an icon of the Hippie Movement of the late 1960s, but of a man realizing his own destiny through the exploration of the world (both inner and outer) around him. It is through his experiences we begin to see our place in the world by realizing how our changing perspectives often takes away life’s meaning as we become comforted what seems to be the normalcy of existence. Lee uses the spirit of the times to reveal this message and make it relevant for each person who watches the film.

Of course the scenes depicting Woodstock do produce a longing for those simpler times. Times when we could all just let it all hang out by just getting high and leaving our cares behind a haze of herb while we partake of the freedoms we have forgone for the responsibilities we find upon ourselves in the here and now. The reality of this remembrance of the youth of many audience member may be actual memories or fanciful flashback similar to those of the film’s recently returned Vietnam vet named Billy as portrayed by Emile Hirsch.

But, this is exactly the point film is making. It does not matter if our memories of our youth are real or embellished. What matters is the perspectives we had making the world a wondrous place to be alive in have changed. We can choose to accept our present lives are no more than what we perceive them to be or we can go back to an earlier mindset and utilize the lessons they have to teach us. This is the purpose of nostalgia.

The film is enjoyable to watch and is well worth the price of admission. Like the hippie movement, it entices its audience into the promise of a carefree experience while delivering a very worthwhile lesson in life relevant in any era. In other words, the film gives it’s viewers much more than a contact high.

“Taking Woodstock” is rated R and is currently running at The Pocono Community Theatre 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 from Friday to Thursday but some films may be held over for an additional week or two depending on ticket sales.