Monday, September 26, 2011

The Valley of the Dollies (Ho Ho Ho)

The Forwardian Arts Society hosted its monthly Film Lovers’ Gathering at The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA on Friday September 23rd. Due to the weather, very few were present as the screening of the 1967 “Valley of the Dolls” began and fewer stayed as the film progressed. The film is based upon the 1966 novel written by Jacqueline Susann which became very successful. Her success later led the way for other authors such as Jackie Collins to depict the private lives of the real-life rich and famous under a veneer of fiction. The term “Dolls” as referred to in the title is a slang term for downers and barbiturates used as sleep aids.

The film featured Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke who began portraying more serious roles after the film‘s release, and Sharon Tate who was married to Roman Polanski and became a victim of the Charles Manson Family in 1969. It about three women who come to New York City with dreams of stardom in their eyes. They meet with some success but the pressures of being always on top of the hill leads to the use of drugs and romance in order to maintain whatever they need to maintain. This is never quite clear throughout the film.

One does have to constantly remind oneself the film was made in 1967 in order to keep laughing uproariously at the tragic lives being paraded upon the screen. However, there are some groups who meet in theatres and reads the script in order to enjoy a hearty laugh at the film’s campy qualities. It is also a favorite among the gay and lesbian community for one derogatory line Sharon Tate utters. Although the line is derogatory, her utterance of it recognizes gays and lesbians exist. No film up to that time did so.

During the time of the film’s release, it received a number of positive reviews and nominations for awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, and Adaptation or Treatment of music by John Williams, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Female Newcomer to Sharon Tate, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture to André Previn. One can’t help wondering if the film was made in 2011 in the same style and manner if these accolades would be bestowed on it. I personally doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

Still, the film was fun to watch and it was interesting character study in some instances. I feel it would have been a better film if they wiped away the glittery generalities and focused the story on one woman instead of trying to give screen time to all three. But, that is merely second guessing a film maker’s approach that was decided upon nearly 45 years ago and, since the film made lots of money at the time, who really cares what I think. Smiles.

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. The next Film Lovers Gathering held at The Cheeky Monkey is yet to be scheduled and the film has not been decided upon. However, our October gathering will be our last for the season and will resume in April with out Forwardian Film Festival kicking another season off. The Cheeky Monkey is currently showing the work of Kim Pollard as part of their Espresso Yourself Art Shows Series in an Exhibition which continues until November 1st. Ongoing events at The Cheeky Monkey include their Tuesday evening Open Mic Nites and their “Spoken Word Symposium” on Thursday evenings. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at or call 570-420-8222 for more information.

The Forwardian Arts Society is a fellowship for people who love the arts seeking to enhance the creative community by encouraging those interested in the arts to go forward toward their dreams, by supporting those groups and individuals who are manifesting their dreams through performances and/or presentations, and by loving them and all they do. In addition to their Film Lovers’ Gatherings and Annual Forwardian Film Festival, The Forwardian Arts Society publishes a literary and arts magazine titled, “Forwardian” and is currently displaying the work of Kari Nespola as part of their “Forwardian Solo” exhibition being presented at The Sarah Street Grill and will continue until October 31st. The Forwardian Arts Society also offers information and news relating to the arts through its website. Please Explore The Forwardian Arts Society Website at to learn more information about all they have to offer the creative community.

Theatrical Review: “Postmortem”

Theatrical Review: “Postmortem”
Written by: Ken Ludwig
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 “Postmortem” by Ken Ludwig. The title of the play refers to events occurring after a death. These events include those involving police investigations in which a post mortem examination (autopsy) is performed to determine if the cause of death of a corpse was natural, accidental, or resulted in foul play (murder). The play itself is centered around such an investigation leading to discoveries of aspects embedded in each character long thought to be dead.

The play takes place in 1922 at the home of William Hooker Gillette (as portrayed excellently by Patrick Turner who serves on The Center Stage Players’ Board of Directors and helped designed the set) who was actually an actor who lived from 1853 until 1937 and was best known for his portrayals of Sherlock Holmes introducing his iconic deerstalker cap and meerschaum pipe. Ken Ludwig presents a scenario in which Gillette utilizes the mechanics of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle detective in order to solve the case of the apparent suicide of his fiancée Maude Redding who was found dead of a gunshot wound the previous year. He utilized the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of his famous play titled, “Sherlock Holmes” (which he co wrote with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) which he recently revived to assemble those he suspects to be Maude’s murderer.

The Center Stage Players’ production of “Postmortem” by Ken Ludwig begins with all the makings of a gentile dinner party murder mystery but it isn’t long until tensions between the characters makes the air thick enough to cut with a chainsaw. This served to draw the audience into the plot more deeply by adding an unexpected texture to the play. It also put the audience on notice there may be more unexpected turns ahead and it may be wise to look out for them.

These turns include landmarks on intrigue and secrets which well makes for a treacherous and mysterious theatrical journey. They are embodied in the characters who include Bobby Carlyle as portrayed by David Schappert (who helped design the set as well as the lighting design and special effects), May Dison as portrayed by Jessica Sue Santos, Marion Barrett as portrayed by Mary Stewart Erm (who also serves as The Center Stage Players’ Vice President) in the production I experienced and is portrayed by Katherine Neville Who served the production as the designer of the program’s cover and The Center Stage Players as its Treasurer) on other dates, Leo Barrett as portrayed by Dan Eash (who helped design the set and serves on The Center Stage Players’ Board of Directors), Lilly Warner as portrayed by Pat Van Varick (who serves on The Center Stage Players’ Board of Directors), Louise Parradine as portrayed by Juliet Dunham, and Macready as portrayed by an actor who makes his debut at the playhouse and bares an uncanny resemblance to Paul Newman named, “Casey Anderson.” Each had a motive to murder dear ol Maude and each have a reason to keep their motivations undiscovered.

Many productions presented by The Center Stage Players gave the audience the sensation the actors really enjoy the art of theatre. This production is no exception as one can tell the time and dedication each actor placed in discovering their character so it can be presented in a manner faithful to the script. This created a depth of understanding to the role which translated well on stage. The dialogue flowed freely and naturally suspending the audience’s disbelief that what they were witnessing wasn‘t being staged.

As wonderful as the acting was, there was one instance during the play which proved to be quite impressive. There was a scene in which a séance took place in order to contact Maude Redding. The stage was darkened and the characters sat around a table with some having their backs turned to the audience. This is a potentially dangerous thing to do as it breaks many theatrical rules and may have resulted in producing a very boring sequence.

However, it had the effect of entreating the audience to feel as if they were a part of the séance and involved with its progressions. This was a result of not only the caliber of acting but also of the play’s direction provided by Sue Butler. It is relatively easy to follow theatrical precedence and come up with a good scene but it is somewhat of a challenge to break with tradition and wind up with something as engaging as the scene described in this review.

The Center Stage Players’ production of “Postmortem” by Ken Ludwig was Directed by Sue Butler who also serves as The Center Stage Players’ President and as one of the production’s Set Designers. The production was Stage Managed by Lillian Ramirez-Gonzalez who also serves as The Center Stage Players’ Secretary. Jack Butler helped with the set design and Luke Swierczek served the production as its lighting and Sound Technician.

The Center Stage Players is a non-profit community theater group which was formed in April of 1990 and led by a board of directors. Membership is open to everyone regardless of experience. All auditions to their productions are open to the public as they strive to provide an environment in which persons with an interest in theater can grow and develop in all aspects of theater. Please feel free to Explore The Center Stage Players Website at to learn more information about them.

This presentation of The Center Stage Players’ production of “Postmortem” by Ken Ludwig will conclude its run at The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA until October 23rd. I would recommend seeing this production as it‘s a truly great theatrical experience filled with mystery and intrigue. This is enhanced by the excellent acting and interesting staging techniques.

The Shawnee Playhouse provides professional quality year-round entertainment in a historic yet comfortable setting while bringing their guests a variety of theatrical experiences to the residents and vacationers of the area. They also serve as a training ground for young theatre performers and technicians. The Executive Director of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky while the producers are Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood. Their Group Sales Manager is Mary Horn with Becky Haskell serving in the Marketing Department. Members of the Box Office Staff are Barbara Ross and Stacey Mattern. The Playhouse’s costumer is Missy Benefield.

Future presentations at The Shawnee Playhouse will include “Hollowed Wedding” by Brydie Jacques running October 28th through 31st, Pocono Shakes’ production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” running November 4th through 13th, “Home for Christmas” by Rod Foote running November 15th through December 22nd, “A Christmas Wizard of Oz” which is a Children’s Show by Kathryn Schultz Miller running November 18th through December 22nd, The Northeast Ballet Ensemble production of “The  Nutcracker Ballet” #by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky running December 3rd through 12th, Mark Mysterrio’s Tales of Magic and Mystery for Kids running December 4th through 27th, The Annual Messiah Sing In featuring the work of George Frederick Handel on Tuesday December 20th, and a Kid’s Kabaret titled, “Back to the 80s” running December 29th and 30th. Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their Website at for more information and to reserve your ticket.

Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $3.00 discount off the admission fee of selected productions (excluding Children Theatrical Productions and those presented by non Shawnee Production Companies) of The Shawnee Playhouse.

Image provided by Katherine Neville.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Community Celebrates in Smithfield

The 175th Anniversary of Monroe County was Celebrated in The Smithfield Township’s Waterfront Park in East Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday September 17th. The celebration at the park was one of the many events commemorating the anniversary taking place throughout the year at various locations. Although the temperatures of this event reflected the approaching Autumn season by being a bit nippy, those who gathered to participate and partake of the day were provided with a warmth as their shared interest in the history of the county and the joyous entertainment ignited the furnaces of their being. I, personally, was honored to serve the festival in the capacity of an emcee in the guise of P. T. Barnum who lived in the 1800s and is best known for his business partnership with James Bailey that became a Circus.

Although the festival itself would not be considered a circus, it did have quite a variety of events going on reflecting the wide diversity of what the County has become throughout the years. The festival had numerous vendors selling merchandise and food while others shared the history of the area through demonstrations of how people lived in days gone by. The diversity of the county was also find in the entertainment it provided attendees ranging from presentations by actors portraying historical figures to dance and music performances.

The vendors and demonstrators at the festival included Fiber Artist Charlotte Weitzmann, Rose Ann Whitesell of Kooky Knitts, David and Kathy Reder of Pocono Alpacas, and Tammy Maple of Justin’s Parties Catering along with representatives from The Latino American Alliance of Northeast Pennsylvania (LAANEPA), The Lenape Nation, The New Jersey Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, The Single Action Shooting Society, and The North Country Spinner, Inc. The festival also had an antique car show, a Horse-drawn Hay Ride, and a civil war camp reenactment from which rifles of the era (with blank cartridges) were being shot. Engaging in a conversations while gun shots were being fired was a very interesting experience reminiscent of my misspent youth. The festival also featured a variety of performances presented in two areas which were the Pavilion and the Gazebo Stages.

These performances began on the Pavilion with the singing of the National Anthem for the United States and continued with some stunningly beautiful dance performances presented by The PA Dance Mission led by Maria Triano. They were followed by Midge McClosky, Sara Ferguson, and Kara Snyder who portrayed the Andrew Sisters who were a favorite musical trio during the years associated with World War II. Their performance echoed that of the one presented at The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on Delaware, PA titled, “Sister of Swing: The Story of the Andrew Sisters” which ran from June 1at to September 3rd. They were followed by a performance given by Stephen Washington as William Penn who founded the state of Pennsylvania presenting the 1682 frame of government for the (at that time) province of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the Gazebo Stage presented a performance titled, “The Devotions and Despairs of George and Marsha Washington” recounting the private life of the first elected President of the United States and his wife. They were followed by The Pocono Barbershop Choir who sang a treasure trove of songs bringing back pleasant memories of younger days to many of their listeners. They were followed by presentations made by actors portraying historical figures including Fredrick Douglass who escaped slavery to become a prominent orator and worker for social justice, Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery and became a beacon of hope by forming the underground railroad, Sojourner Truth who escaped slavery with her infant daughter and became the first black woman to gain custody of her son from a slave owner, and Rosa Parks who decided not to leave her seat designated for “Whites Only” on a public bus.

The Gazebo Stage also bore witness to some rock and blues sounds of the band “Least Likely” whose Gospel messages were empowered by its kick butt beat, guitar riffs, and penetrating vocals. They were followed by some German Folks Songs performed by The Sheila/Mark Duo whose renditions of joyous music enhanced the celebration of the day with laughter. Meanwhile, the Pavilion Stage enjoyed the presence of Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln in an amusing skit titled, “Ever the Twain Shall Meet” and African Tribal Dancing performed by the Cultures Closet Studio. There was something for everyone at the festival and I had a lot of fun.

As mentioned earlier, I severed the festival by being an emcee for some of it’s performances. Fulfilling this meaning and enjoyable function did not afford me the opportunity to experience all the wonderful aspects of the festival. So, not everything that occurred was a part of this article as I only intended to record what I’ve actually witnessed. However, if there are those among you who are reading this and find they or some participant was not included in these writings, please feel free to amend my words by mentioning them or yourself in the comment section. You’ll find more photographs I took during the festival in The Monroe County 175th Anniversary Celebration Gallery at

Monroe County is located in eastern Pennsylvania, situated 90 miles north of Philadelphia, 75 miles west of New York and 116 miles east of Harrisburg. Today, the County stretches across 611 square miles of rural terrain, rolling hills, and farmlands to the more populated boroughs. The  County Celebrates its Anniversary in appreciation for its unique history, its beautiful natural features, memorable past events, present and past assets and amenities, and its exciting future endeavors. The next event to join in the celebration will be the Annual Harvest Festival taking place at The Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm in Stroudsburg, PA. Please Explore The Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm Website at for more information. To gain more information about Monroe County and all it has to offer, please explore their website at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Theatrical Review: Macbeth

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

A new theatrical group known as Pocono Shakes formed by Richard M. Rose presented their production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (aka “The Tragedy of Macbeth”) in the David W. Miller’s Park located behind the Dansbury Depot in East Stroudsburg, PA. The outdoor theatrical setting provided a modern audience an opportunity to experience a Shakespearian play in a similar way it was experienced by an audience living in the 17th Century. This added to the charm of the production as it allowed the audience to be an intimate part of by being in a proximity closer than that of a modern traditional theater.

Although many historians believe “Macbeth” was seldom (if ever) performed for an audience outside the court of King James during the time it was written, the play has been presented in a variety of styles to accommodate the tastes and cultural diversities of the modern era. The first most notable example of this was The Federal Theater Project’s (which was part of a recovery program initiated during the Great Depression) production by Orson Wells which was presented in 1936 at The Lafayette Theatre featuring an all African American cast and set in post-colonial Haiti. The production has become known as “Voodoo Macbeth.” The second example how adaptable the play can be is seen in the cinematic production directed by Akira Kurosawa titled, “Throne of Blood” (aka “Kumonosu jô”). This Japanese film version of “Macbeth” was set in feudal Japan and contained none of the play's script. However, it was considered one of the best film version of the work by many of the critics of the day.

#The Play “Macbeth” itself is known as one of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies and is loosely based on the accounts recorded in The Holinshed's Chronicles of  Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (aka “the Red King”) who was King of the Scots in the 11th century. It’s about a Lord (Thane) of the Scottish Court named Macbeth (as portrayed by Patrick Bresnyan) who, along with his friend and fellow nobleman Banquo (as portrayed by Richard M. Rose who also served as the production’s director and fight choreographer), encounters three witches (as portrayed by Amy Cramer who also portrays Lady Macduff and served as the production‘s Choreographer, Emily Rose who also served as one of the production’s Property assistants, and Lorelei Sands) #as they are returning triumphantly from a war fought with the allied forces of Norway and Ireland who were led against King Duncan (as portrayed by Scott E. McIntosh who also portrayed Siward) by the traitor to the Scottish Crown Macdonwald. The witches greet the men with a series of predictions which include one foretelling of Macbeth becoming the thane of Cawdor (which was the position Macdonwald held before the treachery) and another of his rise to the throne of Scotland itself. The witches also informs Banquo he will produce a line of kings though he will not be one.

After this other worldly encounter, a thane named Ross (as portrayed by Robin Kessler who also served as the production’s Music Director) informs Macbeth of the king’s favor for his part in the war by declaring him the thane of Cawdor as predicted by the witches. Macbeth is also informed King Duncan will be staying at his castle for the night in which Macbeth writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth (who is portrayed by Gillian Bender), about his elevated position and the prophecies he received from the witches. They both begin to harbor ambitions of Macbeth becoming king.

An assassination is planed, carried out, and Macbeth does indeed become King of the Scotts. However, his position is accompanied by neurosis and paranoia as the prophecy of Banquo producing a line of kings leads Macbeth to send men (Mark Pender who also portrays Angus and the Bloody Sergeant, Griffin Wagner, and Ryan Moore who also portrays Malcolm) to murder him and his son Fleance (as portrayed by Bryce Cramer) in an effort to secure his throne. But, Fleance escapes and Macbeth’s political insecurities are heightened as he begins seeing apparitions such as Banquo and the realization that thane Macduff (as portrayed by Robert Taylor) suspects him as the assassin of  Duncan. As a result visiting the witches again and receiving additional prophecies from their goddess Hecate (as portrayed by Holly Newcomb who also portrays a Gentlewoman), Macbeth exiles Macduff to England and kills his wife and son (as portrayed  by Samantha Wagner).

Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth becomes wracked with guilt and eventually kills herself as armies begin to march upon Macbeth led by an English Nobleman named Siward and Macduff. The battle is won and, after he kills Young Siward (as portrayed by Grant Wagner who also portrays Caithness) Macbeth is beheaded by Macduff. Malcolm, the son of Ducan, takes the throne. Thus ends the play.

The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” was very well done although the pacing of the play seemed a bit rushed at times and kept the audience from absorbing the enormity of the horrendous slaughtering and their aftermaths. However, upon doing some research of the work and it’s history, this reviewer discovered this approach would have been exactly how a theater company in Shakespeare’s day present the work. Still, a slowing down of the pace a bit may enhance an already fine production of the play by adding a slight more depth to it.

Otherwise, there are many reasons to recommend seeing this production. There so many things that can go wrong in performing in a play written in an Elizabethan style for an actor. Yet, the skill these group of actors have in translating the play’s manner of speech and actions to resonate with a modern audience is superb. This was not only true for the principle players, but for the remainder of the cast as well. The members of the cast include Glenn Geiser-Getz as Lennox, Maureen Harms as Doctor and Gentlewoman, Marty Courtney as Old Gentleman and Porter, Renard Cohen as Seyton, and Cordelia Rose as Donalbain. All gave stellar performances.

How the technical aspects of the production were utilized during the production were also impressive. The lighting for the play consists of a simple row of lights strewn along the edge of the acting area. In the scene where Lady Macbeth is lamenting on her part of the murder of Duncan, she moves so the light hits her in a manner in which her face appears ghostly and withdrawn. This underlines the potency of her speech and enhances the scene a great deal. All in all, this is a production worth seeing for all who love the theatrical classics which is well represented by this presentation which was done extremely well.

The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” continues its run free and open to the public at David W. Miller Park located on South Kistler St. in East Stroudsburg, PA from Thursday September 22nd to Sunday September 25th. Attendees are asked to bring a chair and it is advised to dress for the weather. Refreshments are provided by The Brakeman Coffeehouse which will be located in the newly renovated Dansbury Depot and rest rooms facilities are also available.

The Pocono Shakes production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is directed by Richard M. Rose and Stage Managed by Robin Kessler and Amanda Kalinowski. Dramaturges of the production are Sean Gubitosi and Catherine Zini. The Costume Consultant for the production was Bella Person while Missy Benefield, Irene Garner (who also served as a  Production Assistant), and Stacy Ritchie served as costumer. Lou Grillo served as a Production and Property Assistant as did Krysten Swithers. Edward Kelly served the production as its Graphic Artist designing the program, the poster, and other promotional material.

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

Photograph provided by The Pocono Shakes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Transregional Castle

The Castle Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Saturday September 10th for their Exhibition titled, “Transregional Aesthetics” which derives it’s name from the contributions of the artists who came from various countries to show their work. They included Melissa Jordan, Ira Kvetny, Michelle Jane Lee, Mira O’ Brien, Nickolas Roudane, and Alan Ruiz (who curates the exhibit) along with Eoin Burke and Jim Desscino. While each artist brought their individual insights based upon their life’s (which included their geographical) experiences to their work, together they produced a show that not only complimented each other’s work but also brought a sophisticated aura in which those who came to see the exhibit could contemplate how deeply the area in which we find ourselves effect our perceptions and how we regard life as a whole.

The work itself was displayed in what some would refer to as a simplistic almost Zen like fashion. There was a sense of separation between each piece (or grouping of pieces) which entreated the gallery’s visitors to focus upon each one as if it were the only work the establishment was exhibiting. It isn’t until one steps back from their transfixed gaze when it is remembered there were other images and sculptures to be explored in the same satisfying manner. Perhaps the sparse placement of the pieces were meant to underline a theme which suggest, while each region and point on the planet (including ourselves) may seem separate from the rest, it is all part of a whole from which we can derive a great sense of comfort from.

The reception greeted a sizable number of people which could be largely attributed to The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival which was in the fullness of its festivities while it was taking place. However, the interesting aspects of the work may have been all that was needed for area art lovers to attend this very unique exhibit. As for me, it was a very pleasing experience as it allowed me to explore another realization of the unity inherent in the human condition without hearing the insipidly repetitious echo of “We are The World.” You’ll be able to find more photographs in The Visual Arts 2011 (Part 2) Gallery at

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

The Transregional Aesthetics Exhibition continues in The Castle Inn Gallery located in Delaware Water Gap, PA until November 4th. The Production Coordinator for the exhibition is Kristin Speranza while Jose Sanatmaria serves as the Gallery’s Director. More information about the exhibition as well as The Castle Inn can be gained by explore their website at

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

COTA is Approaching

On Tuesday September 6th, The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) held their final Volunteer Meeting in order to plan for their 34th Annual Jazz and Arts Festival at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA. The festival will begin taking place in various locations throughout the town on Friday September 9th which is just a few days after the meeting. New and established friends met to receive the final updates on how things are progressing and to tidy up any last minute tasks that are still needed to be completed.

The meeting include the introduction of new volunteers who have experienced COTA who wish to be a part of the process that brings it all together. They were welcomed into the gathering as their presence reasserted the fact it is never too late to become involved with the festival. The meeting continued with the announcement of some changes in staff procedures designed to help make things run smoothly especially if there is a great deal of rain during the festival as predicted by a number of weather services. However, text messages and emails have been sent to the people who are responsible for the Earth’s weather so it should be a nice weekend.You’ll find more photographs taken during the gathering in The COTA Meetings 2011 Gallery at

The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival is scheduled to begin Friday September 9th and will continue until Sunday September 11th. The three day festival begins on Friday evening with an Artists’ Reception at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery who will present their Annual Music Motif Exhibition and continues with the night of Music, Theater, and Dance presented at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain. The festival continues the following Saturday and Sunday with outdoor performances of Jazz on the Main Stage along with numerous strolling musicians, story tellers, and vendors offering a variety of high quality crafts, art, and food. You’ll be able to read my article about The 33rd Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival which took place in 2010 at

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) presents and supports the arts and the music of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. The festival and all its functions is organized and run by volunteers. Their next volunteer meeting will be held Tuesday October 11th at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA beginning at 7:30pm in order to explore this year‘s festival and determine what changes (if any) should be made in order to make The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival an even better one. More information the festival can be obtained by Exploring The COTA Website at or by calling 570-424-2210. I hope to see you there.

Photographic Fantasies for the Community

The Pocono Community Theater held an Artists’ Reception on Sunday September 4th for their exhibitions. The exhibition presented in their front gallery was titled, “Fantasy” featuring the works of Myke Maldonado, Peter Ambush, Shane Izykowski, Don Manza, and Joan Sayer while the exhibition presented in their back gallery was titled, “Photo” featuring the work of John Kopp. The exhibition opened to a modest gathering but this did not diminish the excellent qualities contained within the work.

The general mood among the work in the “Fantasy” exhibit seemed to be a dark one. Several of the images contained monsters, dissatisfied fairies, and scenes of torture which was somehow perversely refreshing as compared to the “Feel Good” images society associates with a fantasized existence. The exhibit correlates a realization there is a darker side to what we dream about and we should be careful (unless we prefer the darker side to prevail) what we wish for and fantasize about.

The “Photo” Exhibition had nearly the opposite mood going on. Many of the pieces depicted automobiles in a way epitomizing the term, “Joy Rides” as colors were manipulated to create a sense of celebration. A motto of an automobile manufacture once proclaimed, “It’s not just a car. It’s your freedom.” and the images Mr. Kopp presents reflects the truth of that assertion without trying to sell the viewer of them a car. Although one can appreciate the expertise in creating each image not much more can be said about them except they were fun. Perhaps that is all one needs to say as having fun can be a profound experience in and of itself. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery at

In addition to hosting art exhibits, The Pocono Community Theater presents a variety of films both popularly current as well revivals of those films released in the past. They also host special events such as their Pocono Got Talent competition and their Book Club which explore novels that have been adapted to the screen and are currently being shown. The “Fantasy” and “Photo” exhibition will continue until October 23rd while the next exhibition will begin in November featuring the work of Marcos Oksenhender. Please Explore The Pocono Community Theater Website for more information.

Dead Things Kick… Well, You know

The Main Street Jukebox in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception on Saturday September 3rd for an exhibition titled, “Dead Things and Women” featuring the Art of Victoria Penna. If the title of the exhibit wasn’t enough to catch your attention, the work displayed upon the Jukebox’s walls certainly did. They ranged from deceptively simple drawings sprawled out on huge sheets of paper to portraits of intriguing characters who one may wish to avoid due to their apparent creepiness. But then, they could be related to us.

And, like a creepy uncle, many of the images presented in the exhibition lures one in so they can have their way with you. Ms. Penna’s work may or may not lead one to the need for therapy after one’s encounter, but a journey to some inner dimension of the mind is certain to take place. The images on the wall served as signposts but there were also prints, flipbooks, mini books, mini comics, stickers, and other extensions of Ms. Penna’s creativity to provide some additional landmarks to guide your way. That is, if one dares to disembark from their comfortable abode of mediocrity in the first place.

Those who are brave enough to venture forth on the journey Ms. Penna entreats one to partake, won’t find any hint of mediocrity anywhere. What they will find are images that reflect we create but wish not to gaze upon due the discomfort they cause us. Ms. Penna opens the cupboards we hide our creations in and we are forced to see them in all their splendor. Sometimes this revelation can be liberating as we realize the monsters we manifest aren’t monsters at all and are really a part of us we need to embrace a bit more endearingly. However, there are times when looking into the depth of our own abysses pulls us down into them and we become lost in the labyrinth of madness. The doors to enlightenment and insanity are never clearly marked, but a great adventure often awaits one who courageously turns the knob.

The music presented during the Reception was well matched to the themes and implications the work. The collection of musicians that performed tumbled through their songs grabbing everyone by their throats as their voices and instruments kicked some big time ass. Singer/songwriter Ritchie Murder was the first to reach out with his music and to lift his boots which found their mark before most knew what hit them. He was joined for a few selections by Lucy Fuur which led some to think would bring a softer tone to the set, but it was soon learned she could kick as hard if not harder even though she’s not aiming as an ass. They were followed by what many were certain would be a more mellow band as they are well know as a Christian Rock band. But, those who have heard LeasT Likely perform know they have a way of making their listeners enjoy turning the other cheek as it means they’ll be slapped with more of their hard hitting music whose non preachy Christian messages make more meaningful. They were followed by Rob Carlton and his band who miraculously managed to rip the slight remnants of the souls that were left to the listeners after the previous performances and tied them up in a bow in order to give them back without the pretensions a societal induced morality inflicts upon the masses. The music was raw, it was hard, but it was real.

The combination of the music, art, and conversation made the “Dead Things and Women” Reception a great end of a fantastic day which happened to be the day Stroudfest 2011 was celebrated. It was a lot of fun. You’ll be able to find photographs I took during the festival in Stroudfest 2011 Gallery at However, you’ll find more photographs I took during the “Dead Things and Women” Reception in the Main Street Jukebox 2011 Gallery at

In addition to the Art Exhibitions held at The Main Street Jukebox, they offer recordings made on CDs, Tapes, and Vinyl. The “Dead Things and Women” exhibition featuring the Art of Victoria Penna continues until September 30th with the artist featured in the October exhibition yet to be announced. Please Explore The Main St. Jukebox Website at or call 570-424-2246 for more information about these events and all they have to offer.

The Vergence of Womanhood is Centered

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Saturday September 3rd in their ArtSpace Gallery. The featured Artist in the main gallery was Joann Castrillo who presented her latest series of work titled, “Women On The Verge.” One can hardly look at her work with wondering which is more fascinating in regards to the individual pieces. Is it the vibrancy of the colors and they way she molds each image to the surface or is it her selection of the surfaces themselves which often consist of wooden boards or some other non conventional material. In either case, one can’t help but to be captivated and impressed by the deftness of skill embodied in her work.

The images presented in Ms. Castrillo work invites the viewer to enter the work. In fact, one can almost hear a voice seductively entreating the one to partake of all the luxurious emotionality the piece has to offer. A smile begins to form as one begins to encounter the full experience which is led to a deep feeling of satisfaction as the time we dwell within it increases. Some may describe this as hypnotic but I simply consider it being in a state of a profound pleasure although they could be the same thing.

In addition to the ArtSpace Gallery, The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center also houses a Studio Gallery which featured works created by Shirley Epstein and Tricia Lowrey Lippert. Both artists focused their works on the theme of nature. Ms. Epstein presented soft watercolor images of flowers and other works of nature while Ms. Lippert presented oil painted images of a variety of pets which reflects her love of animals. Both artist’s work were pleasing to the eye as their eye for detail and ascetics enhance the beauty found upon each canvas.

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center also boasts a Hall of Poetry and Writings on which poets and writers may share their talents with those who enter their center. This month the wall featured the poems of Ka-Son Reeves whose words form images in the mind by reflecting the realities we experience. Although Mr. Reeves is best known for his visual works, his poetry seems to touch a deeper chord than the images he creates. I, personally, am not sure what it is but this may be because there are much more inner landscape I need to explore before I can find the words to describe what they are. Yet, I sense there is something and it isn’t always to know what that something is. But, knowing there is a something can lead us to a wonderful journey of discovery even if we never find out what that something is.

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center reception took place in the midst of the Stroudfest 2011 festival which occurred throughout the town. You’ll be able to find photographs I took during the festival in Stroudfest 2011 Gallery at However, you’ll find more photographs I took during The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center reception in the Visual Arts 2011 Gallery at

The current exhibition continues until September 30th. The next exhibition at The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center will be presented in The ArtSpace Gallery and begin with an Artist’s Reception on Saturday October 1st. It will continue until the end of the month. Please Explore The ArtSpace Gallery Website at for more information.

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

A Festive Day in Stroudsburg

It was just one week after Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc on much of Northeast PA when Stroudsburg held its Annual Stroudfest to throughout the town of Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday September 3rd to celebrate all things relating to the municipality and all who live, work, and play there. It was a perfect day to not only celebrate the town but it was great to get out and about after the effects of the hurricane subsided. The streets were aligned with music sharing their songs, merchants selling their wares, and artists sharing their talents as those who attended the festival encountered many moments which were soon to become lasting and enjoyable memories.

My experiences began with a visit to The Stroud Mansion which represented for me the genesis of the festival. The mansion was the family home Jacob Stroud in 1795 who founded the town which is now the Monroe County seat and now houses The Monroe County Historical Association which ##is a non-profit community organization dedicated to preserving the history of the area. The Association held its 3rd Annual Olde Time Fun Event featuring a variety of children’s activities in the mansion’s backyard while providing tours within the mansion for those who wished to learn more about the town’s heritage.

The tour not only included a view of how life was lived throughout the town’s history but it also included an exhibit commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. The exhibit titled, “Monroe County in The Civil War” began July 1st and will continue until October 28th. It features many artifacts from the era along with numerous interesting facts such as the area did not support the war or President Lincoln and became a haven for those soldiers (from both sides) who deserted their regiments. You’ll be able to learn more about The Monroe County Historical Association and all it has to offer the community by contacting them at (570) 421-7703 or by exploring their website at

After being reacquainted with the local history which was first introduced to me through a tour of the building when I was in the 3rd grade, I ventured out to partake of all the sights and sounds the festival had to offer. I soon became overwhelmed by the multitude of vendors and musicians that I encountered after taking only a few steps onto the sidewalk. Those who participated in the day are far too numerous to mention, but I’m going to give it a try. Of course, if you are or know someone who I neglect to list, please accept my apologies and feel free to make a comment in order to make yourself known as well as partake of an opportunity to share your impressions of the day.

The vendors who inhabited the sidewalks of Stroudsburg included The Shawnee Market who sells local produce every Tuesday at The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in Shawnee on Delaware, PA and Equi-Librium, Inc. Adopt-A-Horse who provide therapy horses for handicapped individuals. There were plenty of adornments for the human form including those of Leeland Jewelry featuring pieces made by Gloria Lee, Earth Envi featuring jewelry designed by Mitzi S. Mager, Gemini Designs featuring jewelry designed by Claire Lai, and Bettlecap Creations featuring jewelry designed by Tina Traver. There were many artists and crafters sharing their talents and they included Jimmy Smeltz, Jewell Woods of the Bijou Art Studio, Amy Donahue of Twigs and Twine Devine, Craig D. Harley of Twist of Fate, and “We Like to Party” who offer theme parties for any occasion. There were also several community organizations and services to be found throughout the town including The Red Cross of Monroe County and The Salvation Army along with political groups such as the Democrat, Republican, and TEA Parties (not to be confused with the many Beer Parties going on in the many drinking establishments that were opened during the day). Members of the local media made their way through the abundant crowd which included those from Blue Ridge Cable (WBRC) Television and their talk program titled, “The Morning Mix Show.”

Music filled the air and souls of the festival goers. Again, these were too many to remember in order to mention in this article. But, here are those I can recall. They are Randy Bigness and friends, Jazz Juice, The Dirk Quinn Band, The Erin McClelland Band, Upstairs Down, Los Diablos with Johnny Rydell, Vince Del Sol, and Friends, The Statesman with Jonah Smith, Josh Dion, Ben Rubin, and Eric Metzger, The Pocono Vocal Arts, Mystery Fyre, The Kevin Brennan Band with Chris London, Sonni Shine, and Waiting For Katie. Again, my apologies to those who were not mentioned but please feel free to make yourself known along with your reflections of the festival by leaving a comment.

There were also performances given during what I consider festivals within a festival and they included those given at Driebe Freight Station which was postponed from last week due to the hurricane and featured The SheilaMark Band, Mark Hamza, Sheila Stratton, Steve Shiposh and Big Daddy Dex, Steve Nelson, Dean Rickardand, Don Slepian and music and other cultural performances held at The Latino American Alliance of Northeast Pennsylvania (LAANEPA) Festival. The LAANEPA Festival also had vendors which included Optimus Health and Wellness who offers a number of physical fitness programs and classes.

It was a great day and I met a great number of wonderful people. Many were friends I’ve encountered throughout the many years I’ve lived in the area while others I met for the very first time. In either case, it was a pleasure and delight to meet and share so many meaningful conversations with. I had fun. You’ll find more photographs taken during the Stroudfest 2011 Gallery at

The Annual Stroudfest event is organized by The Jacob Stroud Corporation and The Sherman Theater designed to Celebrate the town by providing entertainment throughout the day along with opportunities to explore and purchase works created by local artists, artisans, and crafters. The Jacob Stroud Corporation was formed in 1995 in order to revitalize the downtown historical heritage. They continue to establish a healthy downtown environment for residents and visitors to the area. To gain more information about The Jacob Stroud Corporation and all they have to offer the community as well as its visitors, please Explore their Website at

The Sherman Theater was built in the 1920s and now presents many of today’s biggest shows. Please Explore The Sherman Theater Website at to learn more about the establishment and for a full schedule of their upcoming shows. You can learn more about Stroudfest and how to become involved in next year’s festival by exploring their Website at

Shuffling the Cheeky Fantastic

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception featuring the work of Kim Pollard for a photographic exhibit titled, “Show on Shuffle” on Friday September 2nd as part of their Espresso Yourself Art Series. The work that touched the walls of the popular coffeehouse primarily depicted scenes of nature and were quite stunning. Each image inspired thoughts of exploring the many wonders to be found in the world around one along with those found within.

Kim has noted that “The world looks so different when I view it through the lens of my camera.” and she encounters “unexpected surprises in nature… things you stumble upon when you weren't even looking for them.” The worlds revealed upon the walls at The Cheeky Monkey populated the mind of each attendee to a fully abundant capacity. The vibrancy of each photograph captivated each viewer while its intricacies wove an unexpected web to bring the viewer deeper into its simple complexities. The resulting experience was that few were able to leave each piece untouched by its beauty and found themselves eager to partake of those who neighbored it. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Cheeky Monkey 2011 Gallery at

The Kim Pollard Exhibition continues until November 1st. The next Artist’s Reception as part of their Espresso Yourself Art Series will be held at The Cheeky Monkey on Friday November 4th beginning at 6pm featuring the works of John Kolbek and Michael Parsons. The Exhibition continues until January 1st. In the meantime, Cheeky Monkey will host a comedy night featuring the Off Track Players on Friday September 9th beginning at 7pm, an Opera Night on Friday September 16th beginning at 7pm to benefit The Women’s Resources of Monroe County, and The Forwardian Arts Society Film Lovers’ Gathering on Friday September 23rd beginning at 7pm featuring a free screening of a film which will be followed by a discussion of it. Those who attend the gathering will be afforded the opportunity to suggest what film will be shown during their October get together. The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse also offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at or call 570-236-5574 for more information.

Note: Kim Pollard’s work titled, “Night and Day” was selected to appear on the back cover of the next issue of The Forwardian Arts Society Art and Literary Magazine, “Forwardian” during it’s recent Cover to Cover Exhibition held at The Sarah Street Grill in Stroudsburg, PA. You may see the piece hung at The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse.