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? 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Still time for a, sadly, always-relevant 'Terezin'

The Actors Studio of Newburyport will stage Anna Smulowitz's
award-winning "Terezin, Children of the Holocaust" Saturday
It's a small theater and the time is running out, but you might be able to slip in, just under the wire, for a new production of "Terezin, Children of the Holocaust," the award-winning play by Anna Smulowitz being staged Saturday at The Actors Studio of Newburyport. That's one-night only, folks. 

This story is set in a “showcase” prison camp, Terezin, known as Theresienstadt in German, in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The camp was designed to show the occasionally meddlesome international community that the Nazis weren't being too mean to the Jews. It tells the story of six children and the truths they face in the two days leading up to their deportation to the death camp at Auschwitz, Poland. In heartbreakingly childlike ways, these characters reveal the resilience of the human spirit and the psychological barbarism of the Nazi war machine — and, sadly, resonates in new ways, going beyond ”just” never again and tapping into new hot-button issues like homophobia, xenophobia — any phobia in the Trump years — even good old-school schoolyard and big league political bullying. There will be a talkback after the performance — and plenty to talk about.

This is the 46th anniversary of the original production, which won the 1984 American Children's Television Award and has been performed at Terezin for the child survivors and their families, and at Auschwitz as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of its liberation. Translated into German and Spanish, "Terezin" has been performed in high schools in Central America and has toured all over New England high schools. It also grabbed five stars at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and enjoyed an Off-Broadway run. This performance is a fundraiser for an upcoming tour to Cuba.

The show will be staged at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at The Actors Studio of Newburyport, 50 Water St., The Tannery, Mill #1, Suite #5, Newburyport. Tickets are $18 or $16 for seniors and students. There's more info at or call 978-465-1229.