Jersey Boys

Took me long enough.  Finally made my way to see Jersey Boys on Broadway.  One reason is that I am a Bargain Broadway Buyer.  I use a couple of discount ticket sites to avoid paying full ticket prices.  It means I miss a few sold out shows but I am able to see many more shows because I pay less for each one.  I don’t see everything but I see about 2/3 of whatever is on Broadway at any one time.  As Jersey Boys began to wind down to their January closing they began offering on one of my discount sites.

I am very glad I caught it.  This is a fabulous show, but you don’t need to hear me say it.  You’ve probably already seen it in New York or on the road.  I’m late to the bandwagon.  Well narrated from several points of view it also includes great music from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  See it if you haven’t already.  If you’ve already seen it, see it again.  Fabulous.

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Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science on Broadway

I’ve fallen behind in reviewing shows I seen recently and will catch up as quickly as I can.  But jumping ahead is a limited run show I saw yesterday at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in New York City – Alton Brown Live; Eat Your Science.  His limited run takes him only through this weekend in the Big Apple but he continues the tour of his show around the country going forward.  Go see it.

It helps if you are a fan of his work from the Food Channel, for me especially his Good Eats program that helped to teach me to cook when I was moving from baking to the stove.  I have several of his books and enjoy his recipes.  I like that program better than his current gig of Cutthroat Kitchen, but then I am not a fan of reality TV of any flavor.  The good news is that he hinted there would be some kind of new version of Good Eats coming up in 2017. He pretty much exhausted every food and classic recipe in the original series so I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

His current show is a great mix of music, cooking thoughts and the science of how it all works.  You’ll be entertained and smile a lot.  See it if you have the chance.

bway-alton-brown-live-eat-your-science

New Bedford, MA (+the future of Freedom Training)

As previously noted my ten minute play “Freedom Training” was included in the 14th Annual Short Play Marathon for November 12 in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  As I planned to attend I wanted to stay overnight because the event did not finish until 10:30 in the evening and it is a long drive back to NYC.  I asked the sponsors of the event for a recommendation and they told me of a Bed and Breakfast run by one of the actors in their production and I booked a room.

Captain Haskell’s Octagon House dated from the early 1800’s and has been lovingly restored.  It is a charming place that I thought would be suitable for an overnight stay before returning to the city.  Our host, Chuck Smiler was very gracious and was performing in a couple of other works for the marathon, but not my script.  We checked in between sessions and proceeded to the theater.

The reading went well and at the end of the evening Chuck approached Pamela and I saying ” You didn’t tell me that your play was about Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964.”

I wrote the script a couple of years ago linking the 50th anniversary of that summer with a couple of other influences that focused on the classrooms in Ohio as they prepared for that adventure in Mississippi.  After initial workshops and readings many people had commented that it seems to be the first scene of a longer work instead of just a ten minute play.  While I like to inhabit my plays with vivid characters with a full backstory and a true moment in time hoping to avoid the sketch that is so easy to fall back on while writing short works, I didn’t see “Freedom Training” as a longer work, just the ten minute play I wrote.  And that was that.

Chuck continued, “I know someone who was there for Freedom Summer and has continued her work since then.  Would you like to meet her?”  Wow, fantastic, and Gloria Xifaras Clark joined us for breakfast the next morning.  She not only was a part of Freedom Summer but returned in the years since, cultivated friendships that have lasted fifty years and even donated her records of the event to University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Wow.  As she spoke about her experiences my brain started popping with what indeed would follow my short play.  Already at the breakfast table I was assembling in my head the outline for a full length work.  I have just started to explore her archives and I have a lot of work to do, but I do indeed want to write a longer version.

Oh, and as for Captain Haskell’s Octagon House Bed and Breakfast?  I highly recommend it to you if you ever visit New Bedford for the lovely atmosphere, the warm welcome from the host, the delicious breakfast and most of all, the potential inspiration you will find there!

captain-haskells-octogon-house

*as always you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes*

“Freedom Training” in Culture*Park Marathon

Culture*Park presented a marathon reading of short plays on Saturday, November 12 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.  One of the 26 selected plays was my very own “Freedom Training” which has received a workshop, a couple of readings but no productions as of yet.

The event was broken up into four segments followed by a playwright’s talkback and question session.  Held in the museum’s performance space it was ably managed and moved at a good pace.  There was a wide range of plays included of varying styles and approaches.  It was the first time I applied to this festival and I would consider myself lucky if I were accepted in future years.

My play received an excellent staged reading by Sydney Lipsett, Michele Mastruianni-Darche and Ian Vincent.  I did not get a chance to meet and thank them after the event as it went on until 10:30p and they had left by the end.  So thanks to all you were great and I appreciate every chance to see my work through new eyes because I learn things.  More important this time I got a major inspiration, quite by coincidence that I will describe in my next post.  A cliffhanger!

new-bedford-reading

*as always you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com and my Twitter feed @walterthinnes*

Just One Political Note

OK, just this once.  This blog was set up to chat about the plays I write and that are produced, the theater I see from time to time, the food I eat out and the food I love to cook.  It was not intended to be political in any way, but the last election was too monumental to ignore, even if it did take me nearly two weeks to straighten out my thoughts.

I am what used to be called a Liberal Republican, though I had to evacuate the party in the 1980’s.  I worked for the John B. Anderson campaign in 1980 and was a big backer of Barack Obama.  In 2016 I cast my vote for Hillary.  I was one of the many who were shocked by the actual result.

Shocked because most pundits saw data and indications that vindicated their opinion of what should be right and what they expected and never questioned or further queried the information and polls to find the truth lurking just below the surface.  I have no animus to Trump but felt he was outrageous enough to be disqualified for the post.

The best summary of the election was presented by Salena Zito of The Atlantic: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”  This sums up how so many of us missed the attraction of Mr. Trump.  We listened to his crazy rants and lines unrepeatable in polite company and wrote him off, whereas a great many Americans took his promises to help their lives seriously and dismissed his crazy lines as over exuberance or sarcasm for effect.  I and others should have taken him seriously.

I also expected women to publicly agree with their husbands and privately fail to pull the lever for a man who clearly treated many women poorly.  I’m still surprised his Access Hollywood tape alone did not repel more women but that is clearly not their highest priority.  We missed that to our peril.

Let’s be honest, this was a full throated rejection of Hillary Clinton.  For whatever reason, her perceived dishonesty, weariness of Clintons in government, or perhaps even the “fake news” (code word for lies) that were spread on social media and the internet.  Regardless she never made a case convincing to much of America as to why she should be selected.  She just pounded on how Trump was unfit, not a compelling reason to choose her except for the history that would be made.

Which brings us to the fact that Hillary won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.  But those are the rules and she was right to graciously concede for a peaceful transition.  The Electoral College is an outmoded method to balance state’s influences on the process and artificially remove the direct control from the people.  This is unlikely to be changed in my lifetime and politicians wishing to win need to craft their strategy toward the Electoral College.  Bottom line is she failed to attract enough of the Obama coalition who stayed home or voted for Trump.  As for me, I would prefer a parliamentary system that would allow a proliferation of candidates and viewpoints but that is for another blog post that will likely never come.

So, what now?  Unlike many out there I acknowledge that Donald J. Trump is my president, he won the election.  You have the right to protest civilly and peacefully as we still have the right of assembly and free speech.  I fear that the next four years will bring many disasters, big and small, but hold out hope it will not be crippling and may actually do well.  I hope so.  As Obama said, if Trump succeeds, America succeeds.  I only wish the Republicans had held that belief for the last eight years.  My real hope is that the “Manhattan Liberal” Trump was for most of his life comes through and he presses some of that on the Republican Party.  So far the selections for his administration do not bear that out, but I am hopeful.

I hope not to have to bring this blog back to politics.  Here’s hoping that theater and food win out.  Always.

One last note.  The kerfuffle regarding Mike Pence’s visit to Hamilton needs a mention.  First, the speech was part of the bi-annual appeal for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  It was not a sneak attack on the new administration.  I have seen many of these appeals and the actors often speak their mind from the stage as they try to raise money for a very noble cause.  Second, it was an appeal for tolerance and justice, something the Trump/Pence campaign treated shoddily during their appeals.  I hope this was just campaign rhetoric and not policy to come.  Peace.  Please.

 

election-2016

*as always you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes*

Spring Lake, New Jersey

While attending performances of my play “Your Turn to Watch Dad” by the South Street Players we stayed in the lovely little Jersey Shore town of Spring Lake.  Just one night at the Hewitt Wellington Hotel.  Very nice place on the shores of a nice little lake and just blocks from the beach.  The surrounding town is very well to do and quiet.  Clearly they jealously protect their enclave.

Luckily the restaurant included a superior fancy restaurant perfect for celebrations.  “Whispers” is a fancy schmancy white table cloth BYOB with a terrific menu.  The service was impeccable, attentive yet to intrusive, friendly but not overly familiar.  I enjoyed the Mozzarella Burrata and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Fettucini while Pamela had the Lobster Crepe and Sea Bass.  Excellent food.

On the way out in the morning we enjoyed Ray’s Cafe in the small downtown.  The shore is pristine and we watched whales playing and breaching off shore.  I am sure this is a big beach town every summer but I was struck by the lack of public facilities at the beach.  I’m sure this town prefers it that way and are much happier to have the tourists go to neighboring towns where there is more retail and bathrooms.  The fancy homes that line the shore probably like it that way.

spring-lake-hewitt-wellington

*as always you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes*

The 6th Annual Tri-State Theatre Festival

Last weekend I attended the South Street Players’ 6th Annual Tri-State Theatre Festival in Spring Lake, New Jersey.  My short play “Your Turn to Watch Dad” was one of nine plays presented.  The Director was Dave McGrath and featured Jon Weinstein, Mary Sullivan and Kristin Mueller.  They all worked hard to put on the play and I was very grateful for their efforts.  Interestingly, I have seen this play performed several times and each time it is a little different.  I am always intrigued to see how directors and actors approach the play.  I am not doctrinaire in how my plays are to be done, I enjoy the variation.

I won’t review the entire festival (produced with a lot of energy by Robert Scott Sullivan) but there were two high points I wanted to mention.  A play written by Carol Mullen,”3 BR/2 BA” was especially well written and well presented.  I very much want to see more of her work.  Also the closing piece, “Driving Ms. Crazy” was a standout.  Written, directed and performed by Annette Curran with the extraordinarily funny performance by Karen Anderson was a great way to finish the program.  The comic timing of these two was great and I laughed just as hard at both performances.  Great talent.

All in all it was a fun weekend.  I would be fortunate indeed to have this festival choose my work in future festivals.  Next blog post, a little about the town and where we stayed…

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L to R – Jon Weinstein, yours truly, Kristin Mueller, Mary Sullivan, Dave McGrath

*as always you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes*

Kristen Chenoweth is Amazing!

What a terrific show, amazing voice and wonderful personality.  No this has nothing to do with the coming election.  This is praise for an evening well spent with Kristin Chenoweth in her show My Love Letter to Broadway.  I can’t remember the last time I had such a great time in the theater for a concert.  Her talent held my attention every minute of the night.  Her accomplished musical director and band were fantastic.

Pamela was obsessed with her wardrobe but I just hung on to every note she sang.  I was lucky to see her debut in Steel Pier and have been a fan ever since.  This was especially true when I saw her last season in my favorite musical On the Twentieth Century.

This is a very limited run and you only have one more week to catch her.  Don’t miss it.  Book your ticket today, you don’t know when she’ll do this anytime soon.

my-love-letter-to-broadway

 

Semi-Finalist in Rover Dramawerks Festival

I got word this morning that my short play “Meeting Without End” has been selected as a semi-finalist for the 2017 10-Minute Play Festival for Rover Dramawerks in Plano, Texas.  It made the first cut of 37 plays from 308 submissions they received.  I don’t know the next steps but eventually they will probably cut the number down to 8 or 10 plays in the festival.

Rover Dramawerks bills themselves as a theater company that presents little seen works and discovers gems seldom produced by well known dramatists.  Their website  http://www.roverdramawerks.com shows them to be a pretty busy small professional company just outside of Dallas.  Companies like this that present works by starting writers such as myself provide an outlet for my work to get out there and I am grateful to be selected.

No idea if I will make it into their July presentation, but it is gratifying to be among the top ten percent that they selected.  Onward and upward!

rover-dramawerks

*as always you can find out more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com or follow me on Twitter @walterthinnes*

Thin Mints Cereal

I am truly frightened.  I have not eaten a bowl of cereal for decades.  Once I figured out how to cook some bacon and a nice scrambled egg I left that reassuring milk filled bowl behind.  I really haven’t missed it.  I have even eliminated most of my milk consumption (after building strong bones and teeth as a youth, of course)

And in recent years, especially since moving to Manhattan almost two decades ago, I have left behind Girl Scout cookies.  Before that move I would find Girl Scouts camped outside a suburban grocery store, their parents peddling their wares at work or even (how quaint) escorted uniformed Girl Scouts selling door to door.  Just doesn’t happen in Manhattan.  That was actually good for me as I could never resist Thin Mints.  I would buy as many boxes as would fit in my freezer (somehow room appeared each February – amazing) and then “ration” myself for weeks, or more often days to come.  Amazing how good they tasted out of the freezer.

Out of sight helped keep them out of mind.  Now, word that General Mills will be offering a Thin Mints Breakfast Cereal starting in January.  They say it is for a limited time but it can’t be limited enough as it will ruin me.  If I see them in the cereal aisle of my crowded Manhattan grocery store it is all over.  Done.  Finished.  A bowl of mini Thin Mints cookies in cold milk?  Forget drugs.  They are already calling my name and blocking out any rational thought.  I’ll need to shop for bigger jeans.

thin-mints-breakfast-cereal

*as always you can find me on the web at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes*