Saturday, October 31, 2009

Look: Whos at the Nock

Oh my. No, this is not good, this is not good at all. Horton hears a rumbly in his tumbly, to mix children's classics metaphors. He's down in the dumps, under the weather. Horton hears a flu, or a stomach bug, or something seasonally nasty. So does his son. And several other Whos. But, for now, anyhow, there's no fear of a pandemic striking Whoville and taking down next week's production of "Seussical The Musical" with it. "Nothing to worry about," says John Budzyna, the former Firehouse executive director who plays Horton, the persistent, put-upon pachyderm in his first trans-species role since he played Owl in "Winnie the Pooh" a few years ago: He's on the mend, the health hit hasn't been as bad as it could be when you have a stageful of school-aged actors and, all things considered, if you've got to deal with illness in the cast, now is the time to get it out of the way: The lines have been learned, the show has been blocked out. Right now, it's a matter of showing up and hitting marks for lighting and Seussical-musical cues — and staying healthy.

No worries about letting the Cat out of the Hat, er, bag with "Seussical." First staged in 2000, it's a monster of a musical and a tough puppy to summarize, mashing together a library of Seuss stories. The story centers about Horton the Elephant, who famously hears a Who (yes, the very same Whos who made the Grinch's heart grow so precipitously ) one of a whole world of Whos living on a speck of dust — a precarious existence, indeed — who seeks Horton's protection. He's up to the task and tries to enlist the citizens of his world. They think he's completely bonkers, of course, and ridicule and torment him. Which is just the beginning of Horton's tuneful travails.

There's a big happy ending, of course — for Horton and all those Whos and, hopefully, for the Rupert A. Nock Middle School, the venue for the show. The production will help pay for improvements at the long-in-the-tooth Nock theater, which, bottom line, will run an estimated $100,000. Not that anyone thinks that bill will be paid any time soon, "but it starts the conversation," says Budzyna. Short-term goals will be to buy new mikes or replace the grid of non-functioning pulleys. "We’re hoping to create an opportunity for students and adults to come together to put on a great show and raise some money to help update the theater," says Michael Pirollo, a language arts teacher at the Nock and head of its after-school theater department.

The show is being staged by Newburyport Summer Stock, a performance-based vacation program for middle and high school students. Pirollo will direct. Evelyn Mann is musical director. Deirdre Budzyna, co-owner of Acting Out Productions at the Tannery, is assistant director.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: "Seussical the Musical" will be staged at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 to 9 at Nock Middle School, 70 Low Street. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 7. Tickets are $18, or $8 for students and seniors for evening performances. Tickets for the matinee are $8, or $6 for students and seniors. More more information, email

JUST THE FOLKS, MAN: The cast of 72 of "Seussical the Musical" includes Caroline Acquaviva, Tom Adams, Olivia Anderholm, Kate Anderson-Song, Alison Balentine, Charlotte Balentine, Daniel Balentine, Georgia Balentine, Molly Balentine, Caroline Beauparlant, Katelyn Brannelly, Colin Budzyna, John Budzyna, Maggie Budzyna, Colleen Byron, Fedja Celebic, Haley Collins, Seamus Cummings, Gordon Cummings, Nicole Davis, Megan DesAutels, Anna Durning, Grace Eramo, Lucy Eramo, Sophie Fagerquist, Haley Gendell, Cricket Good, Lily Griffin, Annie Kate Gross, Meghan Healey, Grace Kelleher, Emily Rose Kelleher, Katherine Kjaer, Olivia Lemelin, Sam Losh, Julia Marcheterre, Anna Marcheterre, Bryan Marden, Audrey McCarthy, DJ McCarthy, Macie McGee, Ashley McIntire, Kyle McIntire, Melissa Moore, Abi Moore, Anna Moore, Anna Moreland, Karina O'Donnell, Jesse O'Neill, Emma O'Rourke, Katie O'Rourke, Berit Palma, Mika Phipps, Hannah Rikeman, Meaghan Robichaud, Hannah Rowe, Abby Seabrook, Rachel Serebnik, Sydney Skaff, Ricky Smith, Linsey Smith, Emily Smith, Vicki Smith, Mackenzie Tatro, Claire Thibeault, Meghan Timony, Emily Tradd, Madelyn Vining, Demi Wack, Dylan Wack, Adam Woo, and Julia Yameen. Mike Pirollo directs.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A super-duper low-key anniversary

It sounds way more impressive than it actually is. That's Andrew Mungo's thinking, anyway. "Lots of couples have done it, probably without ever realizing it," says the co-owner of The Screening Room. After all, it's just a click past silver on the anniversary scale. Which is pretty impressive. Chances are that you're not going to get smacked upside the head with a frying pan or, worse, the open-ended cold shoulder, for forgetting your twenty-seven-and-a-half, more or less, anniversary. But if the missus knew that you had let the occasion of your 10,000th day of wedded bless pass without an appropriate fuss? Big trouble? Maybe not. Right, dear?

And that, in a nutshell, is what's going on with Newburyport's long-running, hip-but-homespun alt-cinema: The theater marked a big anniversary not that long ago — its 25th or 30th, depending on how you count (30 years since Mungo and Nancy Langsam showed their first film, 25 since they got run off Plum Island (long story, that) and set up shop on State Street) — without a whole lotta hoopla. A story in the formerly cool alternative weekly, a mention on their Internet pages and mailers, lots of private congrats from the regulars. Then it was time to fire up the popcorn machine, run the evening's film ("La Vie En Rose," a portrait of French singer Edith Piaf, if we remember correctly) and then, after the hard-core filmies finish reading the credits, cleaning up all the spilled popcorn. A similar blowout celebration is in the works for the Screening Room's 10,000th night at the movies, which will also feature,by coincidence, a French-themed film: "Julie and Julia."

Now for the math — and we're taking Mungo's word on this, so let's hope he did well in school — the cinema began its run (on State Street) on June 12,1982, so October 28, 2009 marks 10,000 Nights at the movies for us. The tricky part is remembering to add seven nights for seven leap years. Mungo estimates they've served up one million pounds of popcorn. If that is true, and we have no way of verifying that number, exactly, we estimate that he has swept or vacuumed up 25,000 pounds of popcorn. Or maybe people don't spill as much we do.

Credits roll, curtain closes, congratulations.

You can always find out what's going on at The Screening Room on their Web.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cathy McLaurin: Letting go, remembering

There's still a couple of hours before the bread people show up to talk, but sourdough is not the topic of our conversation with Cathy McLaurin — not exactly, anyhow. But there are strong connections between "where the arms connect to the body," the bread exhibit, a continuing participatory series that explores memory and the concept of what remains when the people in our lives are are no longer in our lives, through the dispersal of bread made from her grandmother's starter, an almost ritualistic, communion-like exploration, and "daily diminishings," a continuing online exhibit in which McLaurin, a card-carrying pack rat, weeds through the "junk" that she's been carting around with her for years, meditates on the reason she's still hanging on to it, and, every single day, posts a picture of a piece and writes about its meaning, its importance to her, and offers to give it away to anyone in exchange for an explanation of why they want it. If nobody is interested, the physical piece faces oblivion, the memory, presumably, living on as long as the artists draws breath and her synapses fire properly. Both exhibits are ongoing. Both are about memory, which ultimately connects and divides us. Both are nebulous, having no immediately obvious antecedent or application. For now, the work itself is the point. "It's very much about the process, not what comes out of it," McLaurin says.

The project is wrapped up with McLaurin's move from Amesbury, where she lived for more than a decade, to the surprisingly cut-off wilds of southern New Hampshire, and from the 5,000-square-foot Lawrence studio she shared with fellow Carriagetown artists Kai Vlahos, John Schultz and Terese Zemlin. Moves, of course, assume progress, new physical and emotional vistas, and possibilities. But, short of victim relocation, they also require dragging much of the past along with you — a process that becomes increasingly difficult as the years, and their corresponding accumulations, pile up. Every day for more than three months, a little piece of the artist's emotional or actual life is posted in what could be described as a virtual emotional yard sale. Some of the postings are obvious, innocuous — like the Smiths poster from her days at Meredith College, the small private all-girls Baptist college in Raleigh, N.C. Like what self-respecting arty student wasn't into the Smiths and Joy Division back in the day? Some are intimate and moving, like the piece of red satin fabric — a remnant of a dress McLaurin's sourdough-baking granny made for her in 1968, when she was 3 years old, for the wedding of Aunt Shelia and Uncle Buck, her high school sweetie, who was drafted a couple of weeks later and died in combat not long after that. Many of the objects have no value at all, like Day 37's offering: the pieces of the stem of a wine glass, broken in a studio in Paris, and fashioned intoan earring, using a broken shoe lace. "It doesn’t look like much to anyone but the handful of people who were present when the events leading up to its forming took place," she says. But taken together, especially over a long period of time, they begin to reveal something (a lot, actually) about the person, a portrait of the artist. Which is creating just a little bit of discomfort. Which, she says, is the point. A lot of the work is about putting herself into a vulnerarble position, to work outside her comfort zone. "That's part of what I'm doing," she says. "It's also a chance to reflect on why these things are so important to me — and then to let go."

It's Day 103. The piece/memory on "daily diminishing" is a hanging lantern McLaurin the artist acquired during a 2003 residency in Sisters, Oregon — a place, she writes, where "everything seems to be quietly on the edge of something, but there is no fear in what that something might be. For me, this was possibly the most peaceful place I’ve ever been and when I need to escape from life’s challenging moments, I go to Sisters in my head." How long will it continue? McLaurin doesn't know. It's open-ended. She didn't expect it to go on this long, but she never constrained it with a time frame. It's become something of a "daily ordeal" — sorting through things, remembering, deciding and posting, with daily deadlines, no matter how informal and self-imposed they are.

There have been a few takers. Mostly friends. One stranger expressed an interest in the Smiths poster. She mailed it off. It was lost in the mail. The first box of stuff is packed, ready for oblivion. What happens if someone stumbles onto the blog and expresses an interest in something at some point in the future, before "daily diminishings" goes the way of the physical manifestations of the memories, secrets, they contain? "One of the fears I have," she says. "And something I don't have an answer for." She's not worried about losing something precious, her memories, when she no longer has the physical touchstones to remind her by having them. Just the opposite, actually. Most of the stuff has been packed away in boxes for years, decades. They may hold memories, but, packed away like that they are, in essence, repressed. By examining the objects, reflecting on their meaning, the memories become more vivid. Not that, from time to time, she doesn't have one of those "Oh, my God, what have I done?" moments. "That's part of what the challenge is," she says. "The fear of not having them and forgetting is more than balanced by the fear of constrantly having to think about them."

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Check out Cathy McLaurin here. Check out the daily diminishing blog here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pullins 'Crossing' finish line with 'new' play

"Ice's Crossing": If the name seems familiar, that's because the play has already been around the production-process block over the past year or so, from the cold readings at various stages of development, at Writers and Actors Ink and at various table readings, to a test run at the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative, where it had a rehearsed reading — and its first critical response. So, is it fair to say that the new show by Newburyport playwright Ron Pullins, which will launch the Actors Studio's new Stage Three Workshop is, well, actually a new play?

He says yes: It is a new — and stronger— story, thanks to the long creative process. "It's changed quite a bit over the years," says Pullins, owner of Focus Publishing and author of "The Boss is Dead," a play that became a novel, and plays like "Enemy of the State" and Fringe Festival audience favorite "Movie Mogul," which he wrote with his wife, Leslie Powell. "I think it's a much better play now. It's more of a finished play now."

More of a finished play, not a finished play?

"I think I'm done with it," he says. "Hopefully I am, but you never really know until you see it up on stage, when the actors act and the director directs. You learn a lot about a play after the actors get a hold of them. They understand as much about it as I do, or more, when they get past their lines and have the play 'in their bodies,' as Marc puts it," he says, referring to Actors Studio owner Marc Clopton. "It's been a fascinating process."

Set in the Flint Hills part of Kansas, where Pullins grew up, "Ice's Crossing" focuses on a family in transition: The matriarch is nearing death and, no longer able to take care of herself, has to be moved into assisted living. Her family — two sons and their wives — are at loggerheads over her care. Not exactly a happy play, but one that resonates and generates conversations because it hits so close to home. "In a way it's affirming," he says. "It's about the process of letting go. It surprises me how many people who have heard it, or read from it, express how much they see of some of their own experiences in it – the passing of a relative, the struggle that sometimes ensues between family."

The show will be directed by Marc Clopton, assisted by Suzy Goodspeed and Leslie Powell. It will feature performances by Terry Blanchard, Teresa Donohoe, Tim Hiltabiddle, Mary Shapiro, Tom Kenison, Susan Hern and Sherry Bonder.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: The Actors Studio will stage Ron Pullin's "Ice's Crossing" at Oct. 22 to 31. Shows are 7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15, $12 for students and seniors. Reservations are recommended. Call 978.465.1229. The Actors Studio is located in Mill #1, Suite 5, at Federal and Water streets. For more information about the play, click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Serfs up in Newburyport

Funny thing is that Gary Sredzienski has no idea who the guilty party actually is, the guy who got him started on this crazy quixotic journey, the “accordion god” he saw as a 4-year-old at the Eastern States Exposition. But looking back at it from a distance of more than 40 years later, as he does in “Creek Man: The Unbelievable True Story of the Accordion-Playing Merman,” the stage-play based on his improbable career, Sredzienski figures, well, he might have been a little over-enthusiastic. He was probably just another cookie-cutter Lawrence Welk wannabe dressed up in a shiny monkey suit, his hair combed into a pomp, a glitter vest: a “real accordion geek,” Sredzienski says in his one-man show. But when the guy did the bellows shake, a squeezebox trick that creates a stuttering effect, Sredzienski felt a shiver go up his spine. He knew he had found his calling. Of course, he had no idea that outside his Polish-American enclave in the Connecticut Valley, the accordion was not especially cool, that the phrase "accordion god" could never be used except with a sneer, and even the mere association with the instrument could result in noogies or worse.

Didn’t stop him though. Lessons as an 8-year-old. (You couldn't take lessons until you were 8 years old, for some reason.) Playing in the Hog Hollow Hooters, a vaudeville band whose name didn't cause adolescent giggles back then, for some reason, as a 10-year-old. (“The next youngest player was 70 years old,” he says.) Then came the emotional divorce from his supposed roots, the music most closely associated with the instrument, and his exploration of the actuality of polka (the real deal, a true folk music with dark, minor keys that reveal the turmoil and difficulties of life, not the cheesy, white-bread bastardization of the music popularized by Welk) and the possibilities of the accordion. Then the initially ironic, iconoclastic storming of the University of New Hampshire bastilles with eight examples of the afore-mentioned cheese when the always-hip WUNH was riffing on the “alternative” theme — and instead of getting a couple of laughs, ended up with what has been a two-decade-long gig as host of the Polka Party. (“I’m so sick of doing it,” he says. “I hate polka music so much. Imagine, a thousand years of Polish culture represented by this one song form. That’s just not fair.”) Then, of course, the ultimate challenge: to make people see what a “cool, diverse instrument” the accordion is.

Yeah, he knows. “It’s been a real uphill struggle.” But Sredzienski proves what may seem, to many, counter-intuitive or even a contradiction in terms (the phrase "cool accordion") every time he whips out his ax with the Serfs — the accordion-fronted Seacoast surf band that has been kicking out the alt-jams for, yikes, 20 years and will make its Port premiere this week at the Finch Coffee House. Actually, “surf-rock” is a little too flip a description, but you have to call it something, and no label really sticks. Even Sredzienski is at a loss to explain it, calling it world music, traditional music and surf, a round-peg-square-hold fusion of many styles that refuses to be categorized. Within a Serfs context, that would be ripping through a set that includes traditional music like “Hava Nagila,” and amped-up “covers” of “Flight of the Serfer Bee” and, of course,“Serf City,” tunes from “Cruising the Creek,” the band’s last album. Think Polish wedding meets beach party. It’s not quite right, but gets you into the room.

Actually, the band came together at a Polish wedding. Sredzienski was there, so was a surf/rockabilly band called Beach Cowboys. The two acts fused into the Serfs. The Serfs haven’t recorded in a while. “Cruising the Creek,” their last release, came out six years ago. Sredzienski hopes to get the band back into the studio next year. “It’s been far too long,” he says. But, in the meantime, he’s been doing pretty well with his own catalogue, licensing his music for television and film, including, “Bad News Bears,” Eddie Murphy’s “Meet Dave,” CBS’s series “Love Monkey,” ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” and NBC's "The Philanthropist." He’s got something coming up on the CBS series “Brothers and Sisters.”

Then there’s the whole swimming — and stage — thing: He’s a swimming nut. Yeah, a Serf in the surf. Five days a week, 12 months. In the dead of winter? And not dip-your-toes-in-the-water-and-call-it-a-day, either. Like a swim to the Isle of Shoals during January. Raised a pile of dough for charity. It’s all laid out in “Creek Man,” written and and performed by Sredzienski and directed by Kent Stephens. The play, which was staged a couple of times in New Hampshire this past summer, was a great experience. Not. He was abused by a team of literary thugs. He would write and they would tear it apart the next day. “It was torture,” says Sredzienski, 47. “I’m no writer. I’ve never even been in a play.” Then there was the schedule, to do two shows a day — up there, alone, no escape, not even a chance to duck into the shadows when someone else takes a solo. “Brutal,” he says. “Being in a band is like a vacation.”

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Gary Sredzienski and the Serfs perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Finch Coffeehouse, located at 26 Pleasant St., Newburyport, MA. Tickets are $15. Tickets are available at Dyno Records, and at the door the night of the show. For more information, about the show, contact Karen by email or at 978-465-5767. More information about the Serfs here. More info about the Finch here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

'Terezin' revisited: Powerful play returns to stage

OK, let's sort out the numbers: The one being thrown around the most is 30, but 40 is probably more accurate and you certainly could make the case for 25. Fact is, Anna Smulowitz has been doing theater in Newburyport for three decades, so when the poster says she will be staging her 30th-anniversary production of "Terezin: Children of the Holocaust" next week at the Firehouse, it is an accurate statement. But "Terezin," which depicts two days in the lives of children who share a cell in Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia, actually predates her arrival in town. Smulowitz wrote the play 40 years ago while a student at the University of Cincinnati. It premiered there in 1970 — close, but no cigar for round-number anniversaries. It was first staged locally 25 years ago, back when Smulowitz's fledgling Children's Theater still bounced from location to location. That 1984 production was filmed by Tom Bergeron, now the host of "Dancing with the Stars," but back then a reporter with WBZ-TV — which is how the production grabbed the American Children's Television Award.

Some more numbers:

• Seven years: That's how long since "Terezin" has been staged; the performance hiatus came as Smulowitz pursued spiritual goals, becoming an Interfaith Minister through the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. She is now the Rev. Anna Smulowitz Schutz, chaplain of Renaissance Gardens at Brooksby Village.

• Fourteen years: That's how long it's been since "Terezin" has been staged locally. The last show was a somewhat controversial performance at Triton Regional High School that vividly illustrated why the play is so important: A student threw a paper airplane on which he had written "Hile Hitler" at the actors during cast call. "I remember being especially annoyed by the spelling," Smulowitz recalls.

But the most important numbers are never directly mentioned in the play, but cast long shadows over everything: The six children represent the 15,000 children who died at Terezin, representing only a fraction of the 97,000 Jews who died in this one camp, representing only a fraction of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. And another number, 132 — the number of the children who survived Terezin — some of whom were in the audiences in the mid-'90s, when Smulowitz took the show to Europe for chilling, emotional performances at the site(s) of the crimes.

The daughter of Buchenwald and Auschwitz survivors who was born in a displaced persons camp in the aftermath of World War II, Smulowitz describes "Terezin" as a prayer and a testament for the million-plus children who were victims of Nazi war crimes. She won the North Shore Anti-Defamation League's Leadership Award last year for her work with the play — bringing it into the schools, linking its lessons with contemporary issues like bullying and homophobia. She sees theater "as a kind of ministry," and the school shows — especially after-show dialogues — as “a way to connect the dots of intolerance,” she says. "”That's why I do it."

After the Firehouse show, "Terezin" will begin a short tour of area schools.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Anna Smulowitz's "Terezin: Children of the Holocaust" will be staged Oct. 15-18 at the Firehouse Center, 1 Market Square, Newburyport. Show times are 7:30 p.m. There will also be matinee performances at 3 p.m. Oct. 17 and 18, and a dress rehearsal performance at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14. All ticket are $12 and available at the box office only. For more information, call 978.462.7336 or check out the Firehouse web.

Friday, October 9, 2009

To make a teardrop: Question-marking psychiatry

Nope, he's not a big Question Mark and the Mysterians fan. Exactly the opposite, in fact. Lawrence Hennessey thinks the strange-but-kinda-groovy mid-'60s band, which scored a monster hit with "96 Tears," whose lead singer still claims to be a Martian, was "a pretty mediocre example of pop culture of the era," despite the presumably unintentional Kurt Weill thing it had going on. No, that's not why the Rockport clinical psychologist, who looks just a little bit like Dr. Phil, wrote his own "96 Tears," a play dealing with the politics and treatment of mental illness that will have its first public performance this weekend at the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative. Although the song's distinctive Vox organ lines do strike the right sonic cue ("disturbing, spooky and irritating at the same time," the playwright says) and the title nicely foreshadows what is to come, the point is to reference, somewhat obliquely, a moment in time when everything changed in the head-shrink business, when the pill became king and when treatment became, well, "somewhat lazy," is how the author puts it: "Quick fixes," he says, "come at a cost."

Set in 1966, the play follows a woman who has "a nervous breakdown." She gets the full treatment of pharmaceuticals and so-called electro-convulsive therapy, which lots of folks probably think had been discontinued after McMurphy got his in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," but is still going strong today. The treatments make her more amenable to going home, but "for how long and at what cost," Hennessey asks. "The question is, have we done her any favors. We should be digging deeper." Does it reach any conclusions? "I hope not," the playwright says. "I hope people draw their own conclusion." He does admit, though, that his thumb is on the theatrical scales just a little bit: Nope, not a fan of Mysterians or psychotropics like thorazine, or quick fixes like Ritalin, or blanketing a world of neurotics in the fog of Prozac, with physicians immediately, instinctively reaching into their bag of chemical tricks. Not that he gets all in-your-face about it. "I can't say they're all bad," he says. "It's not all or nothing. They help some people, but I'm hoping the pendulum swings back a little." He's not under any illusions that it will. "The pharmaceutical business is a multitrillion dollar business worldwide," he says. "They won't go away too quickly."

Hennessey is new to the theater game, but "96 Tears" is not his first time out of the box: Five years ago, Independent Submarine founder Gregory S. Moss directed a production of his play "In the Service of the Hittites" at Jimmy Tingle's Off-Broadway. The play, which featured Port first-stringers Paul Wann and Bonnie Jean Wilbur, looks at a prospective shrink who is repeatedly unable to clear the final hurdle, the licensing exam, to begin his career, raising all sorts of questions in the process. ("I'm still basking in the glory," he says, sarcastically. The following year, a Lynn theater company mounted a staged reading of "Nuworld," his take on Huxley's "Brave New World" — a "totally out of control" production with hundreds of characters that he says could never realistically be staged, as entertaining as it might be. "96 Tears," also a staged reading, will feature Kathleen Henderson, Jack Ruston and Matt Kiely. It will be directed by Tim Diering.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative will present a staged reading of Lawrence Hennessey's "96 Tears" at 10 a.m. Oct. 10 at the Actors Studio, Mill #1, Suite 5 of the Tannery, Water and Federal streets. An audience talk-back session with the author follows. Tickets are $7. For more information, call 978.465.1229 or log onto the Actors Studio web.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Port filmmaker takes home an Emmy

Looks like third time's a charm for Mark Davis. The Newburyport filmmaker finally has an Emmy — in theory, at least. Last week, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences gave him the thumbs-up for "Five Years on Mars," his documentary about Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars rovers that defied everyone’s expectations by surviving five-plus years — and delivered a mountain of data that will keep scientists busy for years.

The news didn’t come during the glitzy, star-studded and mind-numbingly vapid televised ceremonies, but the next day, quietly, away from the cameras, in the “grand ballroom” of an overpriced midtown hotel, where newsies were safe from the prying eyes of TMZ. No matter. Davis, 59, was more than 2,000 miles away, standing at the top of a 8,000-foot butte in Wyoming (“a beautiful, beautiful space,” he says) when they named the winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Science, Technology and Nature Programming — him.

He knew the ceremony was going on, but he was trying not to think about it. He had been nominated and passed over twice before — for “The Curse of T-Rex” in 1996, and “Mars Dead or Alive” in 2005, both Nova episodes. He went to the ceremonies. The first time he wore a tuxedo, the second time a suit. So when he saw his name on the list this time out, he decided to take a raincheck. It wasn’t a snub. He just decided he didn’t want to get his hopes up.

Then, while he was enjoying the view from the Wyoming butte, he started getting a flurry of messages on his cell, which worked only intermittently in the rugged, desolate western terrain where he was shooting for his next project: a documentary about the so-called “bone wars,” a Civil Ward-era smackdown between paleontological superstars Charles Marsh and Edward Cope, a competition that eventually destroyed them both.

He was disappointed to learn that “the Academy” had passed over Mars animator Dan Maas and 2D motion graphics designer Anna Saraceno, Davis's daughter, for animation work for “Five Years,” which aired in November 2008 on the National Geographic Channel. “There wouldn’t have been a film without the animation,” he says. But he enjoyed his moment. “It was a nice way to end the day,” he says.

And about that Emmy ...

He doesn’t actually have it. They said it should arrive — by mail — in six to eight weeks, like something you order off the telly.

And what does it mean in the grand scheme of things? That Davis, who has been making films for Nova, American Experience and National Geographic for more than a quarter-century, will get the recognition of his colleagues and a gold(ish) statue ... Eventually. There’s no big cash prize, so the he’ll be hauling his camera a while longer. Which is fine, seeing how he’s got one project set to air ("Mars: Making the New Earth," which premieres in November on the National Geographic Channel), another show in production (the Bone Wars piece) and another film about the Red Planet on the horizon. “It's hard to get away from Mars,” he says. “It's got a hold on me."

As for the little statue, it’s probably going to travel around a bit until it finds a permanent place to collect dust, probably in Davis’s editing room.

When it finally arrives.