Thursday, April 20, 2017

Welch poet on fire at Actors Studio.

photo courtesy of
Welch poet Peter Thabit Jones at Big Sur, California, where "The Fire in the Wood," his verse drama about the sculptor Edmund Kara takes place. The play opens May 9 at The Actors Studio of Newburyport. 
Written by Welsh poet Peter Thabit Jones, “The Fire in the Wood” explores the life and legacy of the great sculptor Edmund Kara. In both verse and prose, the characters recount the important life moments and character of this enigmatic artist, who designed wardrobe and costumes for both Universal and Paramount studios — for such greats as Lena Horne and Peggy Lee — before he retreated to his coastal studio in Big Sur, California, where he immersed himself in sculpting wood.

The story, a verse drama that opens May 9 at The Actors Studio of Newburyport, takes place after Kara’s death. In the early minutes, a surviving friend of the sculptor notes that his home studio, where his vitality flourished, is slowly decaying and sliding down the cliff into the sea. She sees it as consistent with his Zen way of life — in rhythm with nature.

In the precious days before the house is gone for good, Kara’s ghost, the main character of the play, returns to assess his life and legacy.  In a way, he’s analyzing his own bones. He remembers fondly the sanctuary of the place he built for himself to create in and the sensuality of his craft — carving wood. He acknowledges the myriad forms of fertile nature that had surrounded him in life.

By his own account, Kara’s art was about self-discovery.  The characters in the play — his longtime friend and Big Sur neighbor, two poets, his ghost and his younger self — contribute to a simultaneously frank-yet-poetic assessment of the life Kara led.


WHAT:            Peter Thabit Jones’ “The Fire in the Wood.”
WHERE:          The Actors Studio of Newburyport
                        50 Water Street, Mill #1, Suite #5
                        Newburyport, MA  01950
WHEN:           8 p.m., Tuesday, May 9, and Friday and Saturday, May 12-13
                        5 p.m., Sunday, May 14

TICKETS:        Adults: $10 Tuesday, $18 or $15 for student and seniors Friday and Saturday

RESERVATIONS: 978-465-1229, or online at

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The ultimate three-hour tour

Never mind why a millionaire would be on a cheesy commercial cruise instead of enjoying his servant-staffed yacht or why the Professor, our generation's MacGyver, able to solve impossible problems with ordinary, everyday objects, and, of course, his ever-present Swiss Army knife, couldn't figure out how to get the castaways off that island. 

Just make sure to round up your friends for what promises to be the summer’s ultimate “three-hour tour” — The Gilligan’s Island Costume Fundraiser Cruise, a fundraiser for The Actors Studio of Newburyport. No worries about the weather getting rough and a tiny ship being tossed on this this July 14 cruise. Although it is a rain-or-shine event, the S.S. Minnow has been upgraded to the 106-foot, 3,600 horsepower Captain’s Lady III, with state-of-the-art electronics, life-saving equipment and cruising speed of 20 knots, as well as seating for 100 people. 

Expect hors d’oeuvres, dancing with DJ Shelly Cullen spinning tunes and the bonus of feeling good about supporting The Actors Studio of Newburyport.  Come dressed as one of the characters: Gilligan, The Skipper, Mary Ann, Ginger, The Professor and, last but not least, The Millionaire and Her Husband! (Didn’t see that coming, did you? But Natalie Schafer, the actress who played Mrs. Thurston Howell III, or “Lovey,” as she was known, was indeed a millionaire!) By the way, if you’re too young to have seen the “Gilligan’s Island” TV show, Google it! Cross-dressing encouraged. 


We’re theater people. What did you expect?

Your support makes it possible for The Actors Studio of Newburyport, a registered nonprofit, to continue its stellar programing of established plays, new original works, readers theater, acting workshops, musical performances, story slams, films, and all the other events you love. 

And thanks for helping to keep local arts alive!

What: The Gilligan’s Island Costume Fundraiser Cruise
Where: Newburyport Waterfront
When: Friday, July 14. Arrive by 6:30 p.m. We cast off promptly at 7 p.m. Don’t miss the boat! Cruise departs rain or shine!
Admission: $35 by June 1, $40 after June 1 gets you on the boat, includes hors d’oeuvres, dancing and some good feelings about supporting The Actors Studio of Newburyport. Advance purchase required. There will be a cash bar, and DJ Shelly Cullen will have you on the dance deck all night long! All proceeds to benefit The Actors Studio of Newburyport.
Info: 978-465-1229, or online at

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tooher: Not that same old, same old

In "Perfect Sameness of Our Days," the new play by Michael Tooher, two tortured souls, each a victim of warfare in his own way, meet in an abandoned lot, metaphorically, a  psychic space where their internal worlds meet and, ultimately, clash. With  the play, Tooher, artistic director for the 2014 Maine Playwrights Festival and founding member of Crowbait Club and its infamous Theatre Death Match, has crystallized epic issues into an intimate and personal confrontation between two very real and recognizable types. TheNorth Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative  will present  the show at 10 a.m. March 11 at The Actors Studio of Newburyport. 

“Perfect Sameness” was a Play Lab play in the 2014 Great Plains Theatre Conference. It won the 2012 Hidden River Arts Playwriting Award and had a reading at the 2013 Shubin Festival in Philadelphia. It will be presented at the Tannery studio in a readers theater format, a play-development series that mounts no-frills productions in which works-in-progress get their first realistic spin around the stage and, after which, the audience dispenses instant criticism. Performing will be Charles Card, Joe Dominguez, Ann Dooley, Mike Kimball, Mike Pingree, Creston Rice and Gretchen Stone. Marc Clopton directs. The reading will be followed by a feedback session with the playwright. 

Tooher, who spent the first 25 years of his working life as a special-effects technician (pyro) for stage, TV and film. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and three outrageously spoiled cats.

WHAT: The North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative presents “The Perfect Sameness of Our Days,” a play by Michael Tooher
WHERE: The Actors Studio of Newburyport, 50 Water St., Mill #1, Suite #5, Newburyport
WHEN: 10 a.m., Saturday, March 11
TICKETS:  $10 suggested donation. Reservations
RESERVATIONS:; 978-465-1229.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wait a second. That doesn't sound like ...cha cha cha

Marian and Jimmy McPartland: Not a TV theme to be found between
the album covers. Plenty of cha chas. Not theirs, but, you know, 

When I go to record stores, my goal is to get in and out without leaving any cash behind. Even when I really, really want something. Like “1984,” that David Peel and the Lower East Side album that has been taunting me from the bins of the Record Exchange for a decade or more, and which I swear I will buy if it the price ever drops below $35. The trick is to have steel nerves, knowing you already have all the music anyone could possibly want in a lifetime too short to listen to it all, cha cha cha, all while remaining unconcerned by the  possibility that you might be letting something brilliant get away, like that bootleg of alternative takes from the Rolling Stones' “Their Satanic Majesties Request” sessions I spotted — and walked away from — at Mystery Train. Or was that a twisted fever dream straight out of Hunter S. Thompson? Yet I persist in holding onto the dream of landing that major score, like when I found the Plastic People of the Universe album “Pašijové hry velikononi /Passion Play” tucked away in a box under the bins at Toonerville Trolley for far less than the previously mentioned “1984.”

But not all my family is as ... um, cheap. Which is how we ended up with “Jimmy and Marion McPartland Play TV Themes,” an album we bought for a buck, a price that almost brings a smile to a parsimonious Yankee’s face — almost — at Welfare Records, one of our favorite haunts for looking at, if not actually  buying records, before what has become an interminable renovation at the Haverhill storefront. It’s an album we bought, took home, but never actually possessed, because we never really purchased it. Cha cha cha. We had a musical pig in a poke, whatever that means, a vinyl wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or something. What we actually had, hidden inside the sleeve of tragically misspelled “Jimmy and Marion” was “Noro Morales Plays Cha Cha Chas,” a way-out-of-print Pickwick International Records release from two years later than the album we thought we’d bought (that would be 1962), loaded with classic chas — hot-cha-cha cha-chas, as Jimmy Durante might have said around the same time. Famous chas like “Ja-Da,” “Don’t Be That Way” and “Darktown Strutters Ball.” Others like  “Once In A While,” “Maybe,” “Three O’Clock In The Morning,” “Pagan Love Song,” “Paradise,” “Peg O’ My Heart” and “Candy.”

Cha cha cheesy?