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 CafĂ© 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.