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‘Seminar’: smart and racy

October 16, 2014

KINGSTON- With a cast of only five, the University of Rhode Island Theatre Department put on a performance of the smart and racy play “Seminar” last weekend, leaving the audience with dropped jaws.
Set in current day New York, and written by Theresa Rebeck, “Seminar” focuses on the lives of four young aspiring writers as they hire a professional to critique and improve their work during a ten week course that changes the way they think. What happens along the way as he tears their work apart is intense while remaining comical and realistic.

Hear Motown favorites with a twist

October 16, 2014

WESTERLY–Celebrated music talent Rockapella will be rocking the walls of Westerly’s George Kent Performance Hall this Saturday, Motown-style.

Summer beach residents are not the only ones migrating

October 16, 2014

While the rest of the region was busy celebrating Columbus Day or, instead, the indigenous people that Br’er Christopher discovered, the Naturalist was busy working with a local tree service that was, in my neighbor’s absence, taking down a venerable but almost deceased beech. There is, of course, a reward for practicing Good Samaritanism, and while I can’t vouch for a potential payoff in any afterlife, I’ll certainly benefit next year for a fine supply of stove wood.

Rhode Island coastline still seeing diverse fishing success

October 16, 2014

False albacore continue to be the hot fish in front of the south beaches, along Newport and in parts of the lower Bay. Reports from the Quonnie area have piles of them surfacing just out of surfcasting range but patient boaters are doing well. They have been pushing bait against the west wall in Galilee, mostly on the ebb tide. Interestingly, several reported doing better when the water was roughed up and not so well in mill pond conditions. Green Deadly Dicks and Sweedish Pimples still lead the charge for lures but don’t forget about those Epoxy Hogy’s.

Lobsters and love go together in this story of acceptance

October 16, 2014

The great majority of woes and troubles that all people in this world face come from a lack of acceptance of others. People judge and criticize others non-stop. Many are heard to say that my way is correct and good. Any other way is wrong and therefore bad. This begins either with small things, like how a person dresses, what kind of music they listen to or what kind of car they drive, or with larger and more general things, like where a person was born, the color of their skin or what religious beliefs they may have.

Johnny Cash’s forgotten album honored by folk and country stars

October 16, 2014

It’s been since 2008 that we last had an album from the country singer Lee Ann Womack. The Grammy winner returns in a big time way with the newly released “The Way I’m Livin.’” It is an album chock full of solid songs from an equally solid singer. It is in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week along with a new tribute recording that salutes a classic Johnny Cash album. Let’s get down to business.

Lee Ann Womack
“The Way I’m Livin’”
Sugar Hill Records

Rods are some men’s best friends

October 9, 2014

“I just wanted to puke.” What a way to reflect on your day of fishing. “I stopped the boat, looked back to grab my fly rod and it wasn’t there.” So said Steve Babcock last week when his 8 weight and Pflueger Trion reel somehow managed to have an escape somewhere between Galilee and Charlestown. Steve had a plotter line to turn and follow, but that was of little consolation to a rod gone and a day ruined. His best guess was that the fly left its keeper, caught the wind and stripped the rod down to the backing, which may have provided just enough energy to lift it up, sending it to the bottom.

Feast your ears on an assortment of spiritual sounds this week

October 9, 2014

Ear Bliss gone gospel? Well, if you caught last week’s piece and are on the verge of delving into this week’s biscuit, you may get that feeling. Consider it nothing more than coincidence that some fine collections of the spiritual variety are recently available. This week’s lead review is a big gulp of made-in-Memphis gospel music circa 1967-77. Designer Records was a vanity record label of sorts where the focus was gospel. The newly released collection “The Soul of Designer Records” is an extravaganza of 100-plus recordings made for the label.

Fall foliage puts on a colorful show

October 9, 2014

This year, the fall color show arrived early, and, sad to say, like the departure of my beloved Red Sox from competition, the display will most likely make an early exit as well.

Local mystery at Ramtail Factory still sends shivers down the spine

October 9, 2014

The month of October is known for haunted hay rides and scary stories told to get people in the Halloween spirit. Among the chilling stories and events is one that hits close to home for Rhode Islanders. A new book, “Rhode Island's Haunted Ramtail Factory,” by Thomas D'Agostino and Arlene Nicholson tells the story of a life lost, and a town haunted by what remains.

My Fair Lady comes to OSTC

October 2, 2014

WARWICK—Fifty years after the film’s release and almost 60 years since its Broadway opening, My Fair Lady has continued to charm audiences with its timeless music and smart story. This weekend through October 19, Ocean State Theatre Company brings “a little bit of luck” from Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle to Warwick with a cast that includes several local actors.
For Valerie Remillard Myette of North Kingstown, playing Mrs. Pearce (housekeeper to Professor Higgins) has been an unexpected emotional journey.
“Interestingly, it’s been easy for me as a mother to use my maternal instincts [in the role of Mrs. Pearce] as I interact with Eliza and watch her blossom from cockney flower girl into a proper lady,” said Myette. “I imagine Mrs. Pearce must be a widow and now, in her later years, feels pride for the young girl as she improves herself, and for me—as Valerie and as a mom—this was emotional.”
Myette’s sensitive interpretation of her character appeals greatly to Ocean State Theatre’s producing artistic director Amiee Turner, who Myette labels “an actor’s director.”
“I admire Amiee Turner very much. I enjoy how she analyzes, deciphers and discovers things underneath the surface of the words [of a script],” said Myette.
To help interpret the essence of My Fair Lady, both Myette and Turner spent time examining George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, the play upon which the musical and movie were based. First appearing in 1912, Pygmalion explored universal messages still pondered today.
“Shaw’s themes have proven to be timeless,” said Turner, citing male-female dynamics…the dominant male in history that we can’t get away from…don’t judge a book by its cover, but covers do matter…and the teacher becoming the student.
Like Turner, Myette is fascinated with the finger that Shaw seemed to have on the pulse of society in the early 20th century. “I’ve learned that he was actually a champion of women’s rights,” said Myette. She believes that perhaps Shaw built this facet of Mrs. Pearce’s personality into her character.
“I like to do my homework on a character and pull it together with pieces of me that are emotionally strong,” added Myette, who recently won a Motif Award for Supporting Female for her role as Germaine in Picasso at the Lapin Agile.
A long with Myette, fellow actors Taavon Gamble of Matunuck and Jade Genga of East Greenwich were hard at work studying their varied roles.
As a member of the ensemble, Gamble said that he is required to “become someone different at the turn of a dime.” From cockney street performer to a member of a barber shop quartet and a high society gentleman at the Ascot Races, “many hats keep it exciting but challenging,” said Gamble. “You want each character to be distinctly different,” he said.
Singing, acting and dancing, 28-year-old Gamble says he can’t imagine doing one without the other. He also serves as dance captain for the production, keeping track of any choreography or stage movement. “I keep notes in what I call my ‘dance bible’ and will clean up the ensemble’s steps while Amiee works on a scene.”
Gamble has also immersed himself in the script, working on the Cockney dialect that is one of the play’s signature sounds. “One of the cast members found a great online resource,” said Gamble, who said when he’s not dancing, he’s practicing his newfound vernacular.
For young Jade Genga of East Greenwich, My Fair Lady is her professional debut. The recent University of Mississippi theater graduate says the rehearsals leading up to opening night have been “an incredible learning experience.” As a member of the ensemble, Genga has especially enjoyed the period-style dancing and the challenge of exploring varied roles, like Gamble.
“Amiee pushes us to make distinct character choices for ourselves in the ensemble and I really appreciate that,” said Genga.
The passion that Myette, Gamble and Genga bring to their roles is not missed by Turner. “They are all so hard working,” said Turner. “Valerie [Myette] is such a smart and diligent actor and comes with the subtext she needs to develop her role. And she’s such a warm person, which is needed to be Mrs. Pearce.”
Said Turner, “Taavon [Gamble] is a joy to be with during rehearsal and is someone who can do it all. And Jade [Genga] was trained well as a triple threat in musical theater; she has a promising career ahead of her.”
Amid the demands of an intensive two-week rehearsal schedule, Myette, Gamble and Genga still view their experience as Ocean State Theatre with delight.
“Amiee’s expectations are high and I like that,” said 38-year-old Myette, who produces, directs and teaches theater herself. “It’s all hands on deck during rehearsal—no nonsense and very efficient.”
From a broader perspective, Myette added, “As a Rhode Islander, Ocean State Theatre is offering something different from what other theaters are offering. It brings something new to the mix. I’m really glad they’re here and I’m glad to be part of it.”
Gamble and Genga are grateful as well.
“It’s hard to find a theater to work in that builds a family aspect—where you’re always welcomed back,” said Gamble. “Ocean State Theatre is homespun and cares about its own community. The actors do and the patrons do as well,” he said, noting that most productions showcase several if not many local actors alongside cast members from other areas. “It’s a nice mix,” said Gamble.
Genga feels “blessed” to have landed her first role in professional theater with this particular company. “We are lucky to have a theater of this caliber right here in Rhode Island,” she said.
As the curtain rises, Turner is eager to open her third season with what she believes is one of the best musicals and stories ever written.
“I love musical theater but what I really love is smart storytelling,” said Turner. “And Lerner and Loewe, [who adapted Shaw’s work] were smart enough to recognize the brilliance of George Bernard Shaw who wove together the social stories of the time that still resonate today.”
Turner refers to Lerner and Loewe’s 1956 musical adaptation of My Fair Lady, which is the only version that is licensed and, consequently, remains in its most pure form. According to Turner, not only dialogue, but much of the lyrics of the musical were taken directly from Shaw’s Pygmalion.
My Fair Lady has been on our short list for a while,” said Turner, “We will be honest and true to George Bernard Shaw.”
My Fair Lady tells the story of linguistics Professor Henry Higgins’s self-serving attempt to teach cockney flower peddler Eliza Doolittle the ways of the upper class. It features classic musical numbers including, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”

If you go
The Ocean State Theatre Company is located at 1245 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick. “My Fair Lady” is playing now until Oct. 19. For tickets and information, call the Ocean State Theatre Company box office at 401-921-6800, or visit oceanstatetheatre.org. Ticket prices range from $39 to $54.

Explore the Ocean State with Rhode Tour app

September 18, 2014

Rhode Island natives and visitors can explore the Ocean State from a different perspective with the new Rhode Tour app.
The app, a joint effort of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the Rhode Island Historical Society and Brown University’s Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, is a mobile smartphone application that uses stories, sound and images to tell stories by and about Rhode Islanders.

Bringing in autumn at the Exeter Fall Festival

September 18, 2014

EXETER- With the weather cooling off and school back in session, it’s the time of year where pumpkin painting and other fall festivities begin. For the third year, Exeter will host the annual Fall Festival this weekend where families can bring in the new season with many fun and festive activities while benefiting the Exeter Public Library.

How the Naturalist learned to meet beetles

September 18, 2014

In the middle of the last century, the great English evolutionary biologist, Marxist, and atheist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane was asked by some theologians to ponder what might be inferred about the mind of the Creator from the study of nature. J.B.S. Haldane, as he was better known, replied that God, “if he exists,” must have had “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” After all, He’d created so many of them—Haldane said the same thing about stars—that they must have occupied a “special” place in the Master Craftsman’s heart.

Fishing for albacore

September 18, 2014

Albies are here in force. From the Harbor of Refuge to the east side of Narragansett Beach and Monahan’s, fishermen are lined up hoping to catch a ride with these bullets. Long revered for the great fight they give, they are loathed for their ability to disappear and follow no pattern we humans can understand. False Albacore, Euthynnus alletteratus, are local favorites that require lots of driving around with binoculars and can speed through the water up to 40 MPH devouring schools of rain bait, sardines and even some crustaceans.

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