The play’s the thing!
What a weekend. With the onset of what promises to be a busy and fun-filled season, the plethora of events seems to be even more action-packed than usual, and making choices is (already) more difficult than ever before. That said, I made my selections, sorry (as usual) that I can’t be everywhere, yet confident that there are enough events here in the Upper Delaware valley to suit even the most discerning. As always, the Where and When section of The River Reporter is informative, and I continue to recommend this resource.
Having written extensively in last week’s issue about “The Way Home, the Liberty Free Theatre’s (LFT, www.libertyfreetheatre.org) fundraiser in association with Citizens Reunited to Overcome Cancer (www.crocalumni.org), I felt compelled to check out the show. Chatting briefly with LFT artistic director Paul Austin before the show, I was informed that response to the event was “overwhelming,” and that it is likely that another performance is waiting in the wings.
Constance Alexander’s “spoken opera” was (IMHO) brilliant. Touching, funny, thought provoking and inspiring, the playwright managed to infuse the piece with a laundry list of issues without being preachy or saccharine, which, considering the theme, is no mean feat. The cast (Janna Comando, Ellen Pavlov, Dorothy Hartz, Valeria Henry, Lynn Priebe and Valerie Mansi, under the direction of Austin) carried the one-act play with style and a keen understanding of the material, and I’m keeping fingers crossed that another opportunity for others to experience “The Way Home” is indeed, in the offing.
In between theatrical experiences, I tucked Dharma (the wonder dog) under my arm and headed out to chat with celebrity DJs Paul Ciliberto and Mike Sakell from local radio station Thunder 102 (thunder102.com) as they conducted a live feed from Kauneonga Lake, in anticipation of the Allyson Whitney (www.allysonwhitney.org) 5 K run/walk, beneftting the organization’s efforts to find a cure for (a theme emerges) cancer. The day was glorious, the turnout (with hundreds of participants) exceeded all expectations, and the event was a tremendous success.
I snapped pics, sampled some of the many treats available and cheered those participating as they made their way through the streets, completing the route with strollers, dogs and children. Jeffersonville’s Jared K. Hart was the first to cross the finish line, and he took his place on the sidelines, cheering his fellow runners as they ran, walked and came out in droves in support of this fantastic event.
Unsuspecting that the theme was about to continue, Dharma and I made our way to Narrowsburg and the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA, www.artsalliancesite.org) on Sunday to observe the progression of a work-in-progress, playwright Richard Scheinmel’s “Lost on Staten Island—More Tales of Modern Living.” The play, which is part of a series, deals with family, suicide and (surprise!) cancer, among other subjects. Once again, these serious issues are deftly handled with the talented playwright’s ability to take the audience along on Scheinmel’s personal journey, sharing his experience through the creative process, addressing universal themes that have touched the lives of so many.
The show, which is slated to open in New York City’s La Mama Etc. (www.lamama.org) on June 16, is really well written, and audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions following the actors’ workout.
Curious as to how the company found itself in Narrowsburg, I discovered that the cast includes some locals—Wendy Merritt Kaufman and actor/musician Chris Orbach—and that the company had recruited our own Cass Collins to sit in, reading an assortment of roles, for a few cast mates who were unable to make the trip. Director Jason Jacobs, along with stage manager Heather Olmstead, were there, and they all took time out of their schedules to address the audience afterward.
Responding to my query regarding working on the show here, as opposed to the city, Kaufman enthused about the bucolic atmosphere and the different experience. “Doing what I love to do [acting] on the banks of the Delaware River—well, it’s just great,” she said, as the others nodded in agreement. “We are treating this experience as a retreat,” director Jacobs said, “and we’re hopeful that this will lead to not only enhancing the work, but enriching our experience along the way.”
I found the entire afternoon to be very cool. Enticed by observing how other writers work, the level of professionalism was impressive; the tidbits of script teased the audience and left me wanting more. And the local involvement proved once again that the talent residing here at home is substantial. As for “Lost on Staten Island,” playwright Scheinmel expressed interest in the show being performed here in the Catskills, and knowing Giguerre and Co., I have high hopes that we will see it happen.
As gal-pal Fran Drescher expressed in her life-affirming book “Cancer Schmancer,” “Chances are you’ve already been affected by cancer in some way, whether personally or through a close friend or family member,” and I know this to be true. Whether it’s a theatrical play, a 5K run, or a work in progress, community is the through-line for inspiration, education and the continuing race for the cure. My hats off to all concerned, with a heartfelt “thank you” to boot.