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December 03, 2016
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Play on words

Texaco Country Showdown local winner Cathy Paty moves on to the next round following her performance at Mr. Willy’s in Monticello, NY.
TRR photo by Jonathan Fox

“Words can hurt,” my mother used to say, “choose them wisely.” It’s true, of course, and I have tried to abide by her advice through the years, with limited success. These days, I bite my tongue fairly often, but it’s not a bad way to live. Since words can also be empowering, I do my best to put my vocabulary to good use and err on the side of caution.

This past Friday, I joined fellow Yarnslingers (www.facebook.com/yarnslingers) at Cafe Devine (www.cafedevine.com) in Callicoon, NY where a swell crowd convened to hear our thoughts on this month’s theme: “Religious Recovery/Discovery.” Writers Ramona Jan, Marion Kaselle, Kazzrie Jaxxen, Marc Switko, Trebbe Johnson, Ann Finneran, Patti Zins, Mary Handler and Stacy Rogers, alongside yours truly, served up funny words, touching words and some bone chilling words that seemed to resonate with the audience. This writers’ collective is a great way for authors to share their thoughts with interested parties and I am honored to be a part of the experience.

Turning my attention outward, I decided to make a (suggested) reservation at the Liberty Free Theatre (LFT, www.libertyfreetheatre.org) and listen to actors give life to the words of noted playwright Shel Siverstein in the LFT production of “Shel’s Shorts,” running through next weekend at the theatre. The four one-acts, “No Skronkin,” “One Tennis Shoe,” “Do not Feed the Animal” and “Wash and Dry” are varied, with a common theme. Words. Director Paul Austin’s press release promised (among other things) “funny and frightening” and I found both adjectives to be true. Silverstein’s plays insist that his audience pay attention and he slyly points to misdirection being a common mistake that we all fall prey to, at one time or another. Listening is key, and thanks to Austin’s keen sense and the actors’ abilities, laughter (amid some gasps) were in abundance.

Actors Valeria Henry and Tom Delfavero were on point, but Austin managed to coax an outstanding (IMHO) performance out of the hilarious Valerie Mansi, who joined James Heisel, Janna Comando and Cass Collins in giving Shel’s words their all. The LFT offers these great shows to the public free of charge, in order to make quality, professional theatre accessible to everyone. My words of advice? Make reservations—an empty seat is rare.

Original words came into play (for some) in the form of country music on Sunday, as Mr. Willy’s (what—no website? Find ‘em on Facebook!) hosted the kickoff of the “Brad Paisley Virtual Reality Food Drive” benefiting the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless. The event, sponsored by Thunder 102.1 FM, (www.thunder102.com) and spearheaded by Paisley, featured contestants vying for a top spot in the Texaco Country Showdown, “the nations largest and longest-running talent competition” (www.countryshowdown.com ).

Eyes on the prize ($100,000!), 19-year-old Monticello cowgirl Anna Rose joined duo “Lucky House” (Joe Dibiscegle and Dianne Weber), 13-year-old (just call me) Kaylah, 12-year-old Mikki Zip (from Syracuse, NY), 14-year-old Jennifer Grace and winner-take-all, Mongaup Valley’s Cathy Paty, who will move on in the competition, now one step closer to fulfilling her dream. The panel of judges—Iron Cowboy’s “Big” John Davis, Bethel Woods marketing manager Gabrielle Scott, Nashville recording artists Marcum Stewart and Andrea Villareal (“Acklen Park”) joined local celebrity Dharma the wonder-dog (and me) in the tough task of grading the performers abilities, broken down into various categories.

Paty, who serves as the V.P. of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, was moved to tears and thrilled that her daughter, Lila Claire, was in the house, cheering her on. The evening was capped by a performance from duo Acklen Park (mobbed for autographs after the show) and 2011 Thunder 102 Texaco Country Showdown winner Jason Casterlin, whose career is clearly on the rise. Food pantry drop-off points are scattered throughout the county and more information on this worthy endeavor can be found by calling the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless at 845/794-2604. Once again, the generosity of spirit in the Upper Delaware Valley leaves me at (gasp!) a loss for words. Let’s all cowboy up and participate!