Monthly Archives: April 2015

Ethan Lipton’s Obie-winning Satire, “No Place to Go,” to Play Lyndon State College

Ethan Lipton - photoKingdom County Productions will present the exclusive New England performance of Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra performing Lipton’s Obie Award-winning show, “No Place To Go.”  Showtime is 7:30pm, Saturday, May 2nd at the Alexander Twilight Theater, Lyndon State College.  Tickets are now on sale at Catamount Arts or by calling 888-757-5559 (toll-free).  Online sales are available at KingdomCounty.org.

“No Place to Go” was called “One of the ten most galvanizing moments on stage in 2014,” by lead New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley.  The show combines satirical theater and music to conjure a humorous look into the near future when playwright and composer Lipton is told that the company where he’s worked for the past 10 years is moving to another planet.  The problem is: Lipton doesn’t want to go.

Part love letter to his co-workers, part query to the universe, part protest to his company and country, Lipton’s “No Place to Go” delivers an hilarious, irreverent, and personal musical ode to the unemployed. Directed by Leigh Silverman, this acclaimed production is a Woody Guthrie-meets-Woody Allen chronicle of the last weeks of its hero’s “permanent part-time” job as his company moves to a place very far away: Mars.

As a playwright, Ethan Lipton’s work has been seen and heard in NYC, LA, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Edinburgh, and Berne.  He has received playwriting grants from New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as commissions from Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb and True Love.  He has received an Obie Award and a Drama-Logue Award, been an O’Neill Conference finalist and a resident playwright at New York Stage & Film. As a performer, Ethan has backed up Laurie Anderson on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and he originated the role of Klipspringer in the Elevator Repair Service production on “Gatz.”

Ethan Lipton & his Orchestra has been a band since 2005, playing at Joe’s Pub at the NY Public Theater, Mass MoCA and many others.  The band includes Ethan Lipton (vocals), Eben Levy (guitar), Ian M. Riggs (standup bass) and Vito Dieterle (sax). Ethan writes the lyrics and melody, and the quartet arranges the songs together. EL&hO has released five albums and been named the city’s “Best Lounge Act” by New York Magazine. In 2012, the band won an Obie for No Place to Go, which was produced by the Public Theater at Joe’s Pub. The show earned rave reviews and has since been featured on radio shows such as Weekend Edition, The World, Word of Mouth, and Soundcheck.

Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra will be produced and presented by Kingdom County Productions (KCP).  For information contact series producer Jay Craven (jcraven@marlboro.edu).

Jay Craven’s new film, “Peter and John” to Play Vermont Preview Dates

peter-and-johnJay Craven’s newest film, “Peter and John,” will play four Vermont preview dates, between April 29th and May 3rd, before its official premiere in late June. The film is based on the 19th century novel “Pierre et Jean” by Guy de Maupassant and it’s set in 1872 Nantucket, during the island’s “ghost period”— after the decline of whaling, before the rise of tourism, and in the New England shadow of the Civil War.  The film tells the story of two brothers whose relationship strains when the younger one receives news of an unexpected inheritance—and both brothers become attracted to the same young woman who arrives on their island.

“Peter and John” will play the Latchis Theater, Brattleboro (Wed. April 29); Montpelier’s Bethany Church (Thursday, April 30); The Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, Burlington (Friday, May 1); and Catamount Arts, St. Johnsbury (Sunday May 3rd).  Show times are 7pm, with pre-receptions at 5:30 with Craven and special guests from the film.  Tickets are available at the door—or at the Catamount regional box office (888-757-5559).  Online tickets, information, and a film trailer are available at KingdomCounty.org.

“Peter and John” stars 2014 Golden Globe winner Jacqueline Bisset (“Bullitt,” Truffaut’s “Day for Night”); Christian Coulson (“The Hours,” “Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets”); Shane Patrick Kearns (“Blue Collar Boys”); Diane Guerrero (“Orange is the New Black,” “Jane the Virgin”); and Emmy-winner and Tony nominee Gordon Clapp (“NYPD Blue,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Glengarry Glen Ross”).  The supporting cast includes Vermont actresses Abbey Volmer and Tessa Klein (“War Horse,” “Disappearances”).

“Peter and John” was produced by Craven and Virginia Joffe through the Movies From Marlboro (MfM) program, a biennial film intensive semester jointly produced by Marlboro College and Kingdom County Productions.  As with the MfM 2012 production of “Northern Borders,” 22 filmmaking professionals mentored and collaborated with 32 students from 12 colleges (Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Boston College, University of Vermont, Lyndon State College, Dartmouth, Smith, Sarah Lawrence, Emerson, Antioch, London School of the Arts, and Marlboro).  A 2016 Movies from Marlboro production is now in development (info at Movies.Marlboro.edu)

Maupassant’s novel was widely credited for changing the course of narrative fiction through its detailed psychological characterizations. Tolstoy and Nabokov both cited the novel as an influence and even Vincent Van Gogh cited its evocation of visual power and beauty in a letter to his brother Theo.  “Monsieur de Maupassant has never before been so clever,” wrote Henry James who called “Pierre et Jean” a “masterly little novel” for its potent themes of family, status, self-discovery and the lengths to which someone will go to reveal or suppress the truth.

Jay Craven’s seven feature films include Disappearances (2007 with Kris Kristofferson) and Where the Rivers Flow North (1994 with Rip Torn and Tantoo Cardinal).  His pictures have played 58 countries and 73 festivals, including Sundance—with special screenings at The Smithsonian, Lincoln Center, LeCinémathèque Française, the Constitutional Court of Johannesburg, and others. Craven’s commitment to New England place-based filmmaking was recently profiled by Orion Magazine that wrote: “Jay Craven has come closer than any other filmmaker to realizing (American poet, essayist, and film theorist) Vachel Lindsay’s dream of a vital regional cinema that embodies the character and genius of a place in all its mystery, magnificence, and pain.”

Production costs for Peter and John production were supported by Marlboro College and Kingdom County Productions, along with more than 450 individual donors and the Massachusetts Film Incentive program. For more information, contact Jay Craven (jcraven@marlboro.edu).

Peter and John Trailer 2015 from Jay Craven on Vimeo.

Still Alice – A Review

Still Alice: A Powerful Tale of Memory Loss
Daniel Davis
04/19/15

Still Alice is a very well made, well-acted film that doesn’t shy away from showing the real difficulties of people with early Alzheimer. The film follows a linguistics professor, Dr. Alice Howland (played by Julianne Moore), in a fantastic Oscar-winning performance, as she becomes diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. As her mind begins to fall apart, her relationship with the rest of her family is tested. With a solid supporting cast, Still Alice, deals with a difficult and growing problem in today’s society.
In most of the advertising for Still Alice, the acting, particularly Moore’s performance is pretty much mentioned 99% of the time, and it’s true, Julianne Moore’s acting is fantastic. She plays a hard-working middle-aged professor, whose kids are all grown-up and have gone to college. It’s fascinating to watch Alice, as she keeps slowly losing her memory and Moore is able to portray the character’s memory loss so perfectly. Seldom does Moore actually show-off, and much of her performance works because she’s so restrained. Even moments, like when she’s complaining to her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) about her memory loss in her bed, features terrific acting. Deservedly, she won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, being her first, after four previous nominations.
Alec Baldwin plays the supportive husband, and what I liked about his character, was unlike most movies of this kind, the husband does not run off because he can’t face his wife’s problems. Here, although Alice’s husband Tom might be a bit of a stiff when it comes to his wife, he still clearly loves and supports her, even to the point where he’s willing to delay a job promotion just to help her. Kristen Stewart plays one of their daughters, Lydia, who is an aspiring actress. Stewart, whom I found to be quite bland and lifeless in the Twilight movies, does quite well in this role, giving her mother support in spite of their relationship problems. The scene where Stewart is on the computer, talking directly from a recording, features her best acting in the film, as she breaks down and complains at her mother. The other major supporting players in the film include Kate Bosworth as Anna, the eldest of the two daughters, who just had a baby, and Hunter Parrish as Tom, the only son of the family.
This movie features some very good choices of direction and editing. In particular, I liked the use of flashbacks, as we slowly see Alice’s memory fading away. These flashbacks are shot are much like home videos would have been in the 70’s and 80’s, with a very grainy style to them, and they help to develop the character of Alice and her family in the movie.
The direction by Richard Glatzer (who sadly died just a month after Moore won her Oscar) and Wash Westmoreland, is good and they manage to help elevate the material from standard fare to something that is actually quite well-made and even enjoyable to watch. If there’s anything I didn’t like about the film, it was that it was occasionally predictable, given the dramatic subject material. Overall, Still Alice is well-made, relevant, and I definitely recommend it.

Timbuktu – A Review

Timbuktu: A Review
Dan Davis
4/18/2015

Timbuktu is a well-made French co-production about the ancient city of Timbuktu, set in modern times. The relationship between the characters, particularly the family, is very strong in the film, and it works because of that. At the same time, the film is not especially engaging and it does include some brutal scenes. Overall, I’d say it’s a mixed bag, even if I do admire what it’s trying to do.
The film follows the people of Timbuktu who are powerless against Jihadists who want to control their fate. Many forms of different entertainment have been banned by these oppressors: music, laughter, and soccer, among others. The women are especially powerless, but they still manage to have some resistance against the evil leadership, and try to be independent, despite the laws imposed on them. Although the film has some other minor stories, it’s essentially about a family led by a cattle herder named Kidane, his wife, Satima, their daughter Toya, and a twelve-year old shepherd named Issan.
What I liked about Timbuktu was the relationship between the father, his wife, and their daughter. Each of these three characters feel realistic, especially given the setting of the film. Neither Kidane nor Satima are particularly hard on their daughter, Toya, but they still expect much out of her. So when she gets into trouble in the film, Kidane is not proud. I especially liked the scene where Satima is telling Kidane that she’s wants to leave the country, and Kidane reminds her how utterly pointless that idea really is. It’s a strongly acted scene that helps to give more development to these already realistic characters.
The opening of this film, a five minute sequence that features no sound, is of the Malian men hunting a deer and doing other hard jobs near their city. It’s a nice sequence that helps to give the audience an idea of what the film their watching will be like. Another sequence I liked that included a musical score, involved a group of African people playing soccer, until they are caught by some of the members of the Jihadists. Another sequence I liked involved a local man walking through a small river where the camera is set up a large distance in front of him, an interesting choice of direction, especially given what the scene is about. This film doesn’t shy away from the violence of the country. Whippings, rocks being thrown at people’s heads and other violent acts are shown in the film, making it more realistic.
However, for as much as I might praise the movie, there were a number of things there were other sequences that did not work for me, for example, when the African is getting interrogated for illegal playing soccer in the city, it just didn’t seem to go anywhere afterwards, and the character is quickly dropped. Also, the sequence where a cow is killed by a fisherman, although interesting, is seemed to last too long, as the camera cuts closer and closer to the cow as it is dying.
Timbuktu is a well-made movie, but some people might find the film hard to sit through, given that there are a few disturbing scenes. I, however, found it to be tame compared to other violent movies. It’s a well-meaning picture, that isn’t especially fascinating or entertaining, but you may find it enjoyable.

Poetry Slams: Cheering, Hissing, Laughing

For those who think poetry is boring, a poetry slam will surely make you think again. Slams are raucous, competitive (but friendly) events in which poets perform original poetry. They are participatory, with audience members serving as judges, usually with absolutely no experience. They are filled with drama, cheering, hissing, booing, math (someone’s got to tally those scores!), and lots of laughter.

Last night’s poetry slam at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, a PoemTown St. Johnsbury event, was enormously entertaining for everyone involved. Host and slam poet Geof Hewitt set the tone of the evening, which was relaxed, sometimes rowdy, and filled with hilarity. Eight poets competed, performing two poems each, with Bill Biddle named the winner after a third round tie-breaker.

Geof will host a second PoemTown slam on Thursday, April 23 at 7pm at the Kingdom Taproom on Railroad Street in St. Johnsbury. Interested poets should bring 2-3 original poems to perform. Poets can also read (maybe as a practice run for the slam) tomorrow at 6pm at Washburn Tattoo on Railroad Street during a poetry open mic session. Both events are open to all ages, though parents should be aware that poems performed may contain adult language and/or situations.

For more information on either of these events, contact Sam Bainbridge at sbainbridge@catamountarts.org or call Catamount Arts at 802-748-2600, ext. 108.

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QNEK Productions presents Arsenic and Old Lace

arsenicInternational Theatre Company in Residence at the Haskell Opera House, QNEK Productions, kicks off it’s 23rd season with the dark and delightful comedy Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring. Murderous Aunts, a Boris Karloff look-alike, and a daffy and demented cast of characters – what more could you want?

Set in the late 1930’s, Arsenic and Old Lace draws you into a day with the kookily sinister Brewster family. The two sweet Aunts love to welcome charity case lodgers into their home, but it seems no one ever leaves after a sip of their homemade Elderberry wine. Once their nephew Mortimer finds out, the surprises don’t stop! His long lost brother Jonathan shows up with a new face and a penchant for violence while his other brother Teddy can’t seem to stop charging the battlefields of the house believing that he is President Theodore Roosevelt. Will Mortimer make it through this day with his sanity intact? Will he even make it out alive? Come and spend a night with the sweetly disastrous Brewster clan for a delightful evening at the Haskell Opera House to find out!

This fantastic cast features founder and Artistic Director Lynn Leimer (Newport, VT), and favorites from both sides of the border: Susan Lynn Johns (Derby, VT), Mike Desjardins (Newport Center, VT), Chris Planetta (Stanstead, QC), Ross Murray (Stanstead, QC), Doug Flint (Newport, VT), Andrea Webster (Barton, VT), Mark Rumery (Derby Line, VT), Calvin Longe (Morgan. VT), Jim Cross (Island Pond, VT), Lonn Stewart (Newport, VT), and introducing Ron St. John III (Newport, VT).

Led by Director Phil Gosselin (Newport, VT), Arsenic and Old Lace boasts a stellar production team featuring: Assistant Director Jenny Dunne (Newport, VT), Stage Manager Sunny Naughton who is returning to QNEK after 15 years (Newport, VT), Costume designer Emma Mormon (Newport, VT), Props Mistress Lisa Foster (Newport, VT), Lighting Engineer Dennis Zeigler (Holland, VT), Master Carpenter Rick Gosselin (Newport, VT), with construction assistance from Tom Rooney, and the North Country Career Center Building Trades.

Come and enjoy a haunting, harrowing, and hilarious night at the Brewster house alongside the quirky cast that surrounds them. QNEK Productions presents Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring April 24th – May 3rd, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are available by calling the QNEK Box Office at 802-334-2216, reserving by email at qnek.com, by advance purchase online or by phone at catamountarts.org and the Catamount Arts Box Office at 888-757-5559, and by advanced purchase at the MAC Center for the Arts in downtown Newport. The Brewster house has a vacancy and a glass of wine waiting, won’t you check in?

Tickets are available online.