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Play on words

Photo by Ted Waddell Valerie Mansi and James Heisel exchange words in Shel Silverstein's 'One Tennis Shoe' at the Liberty Free Theatre
Photo by Ted Waddell

June 7, 2012

“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.