Charlie Chaplin’s Body: A Film as a Part of Scranton Fringe

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Charlie Chaplin’s Body
Scranton Fringe Festival 2018
Pearn Auditorium, Brennan Hall
University of Scranton

In 2006, Jeff Boam had his debut film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. His short film, Charlie Chaplin’s Body, a twenty-minute comedy about the theft of the famous actor’s remains wowed viewers, and went on to impress patrons around the world, including those at the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner and other festivals. Some locals may remember the play version of the film, which was produced at the University of Scranton in 1998. The black-and-white story of two unemployed mechanics will no doubt impress people in northeastern Pennsylvania, as will its original jazz soundtrack written by Marko Marcinko. For one night only, you can see the uncut director’s version of the film at Pearn Auditorium in Brennan Hall at the University of Scranton. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 25,  at 6:00 p.m. and is free to the public. After the viewing of the film, the cast (which includes Sam Falbo, E.L. Dougher in the lead roles), the crew, and the author will host a question-and-answer session.

Come celebrate this film’s 20th anniversary of its stage debut by seeing the film, but remember this even contains adult themes and is for mature audiences only.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1804317733017871/?active_tab=about

Diva Productions Presents, Bella Saves the World: A Frolic

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Bella Saves The World: A Frolic

Diva Theater Productions
Olde Brick Theatre
Providence Section, Scranton

The children at the Olde Brick Theatre have a spectacular play prepared for Scranton this summer. They will be performing Bella Saves The World: A Frolic, an original play written by local playwright, Michael Pavese.

I had the privilege to speak to two of the youngsters performing in this show last week.  Thirteen-year-old Rusty Morgan was one of them. This is Rusty’s first show with Diva Theater Productions. In this play, he’s performing the role of Riley the Chicken. Rusty admits that Riley is one of the smartest characters in the play—one who knows lots of definitions. Riley is one of the good guys who helps Bella the Labradoodle figure out how to stop the machinations of Marquez the Chihuahua and his evil gang who, of course, are trying to take over the world.

Not a stranger to the Diva stage, Kelly Phillips (age 11) shared that she is on Marquez’s team of bad guys playing Sidney the Badger. Her character, along with Marquez, Sophie the Porcupine, and Flash the Fox, try to conquer the world. Bella and her friends must work hard to try to stop them.

The show is actually a musical, complete with singing and dancing, according to director, Laura M. Heffron. She and her production team are orchestrating quite a feat with a cast of twenty-nine youngsters. She insists though that with the patient crew and determined and talented children in the play, it’s been gratifying to work towards making an extraordinary show as a team.

Both Rusty and Kelly share that the best part of working on this show is the new friends they’ve made. They both seem to want to return to Diva’s free summertime program next time around. They feel everyone should come see the show because everyone is working hard to make it an outstanding production, and that it’s a really funny play.

Come have a good time at Bella Saves The World: A Frolic which runs August 2, 3, and 4 at 7:30 p.m. and August 5 at 2:00 p.m.  Seating is limited, but you can reserve your seats by calling Diva Theater Productions at 570-209-7766.

 

 

The Sizzle-Fingered Scribe

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NEPA-based writer, Karl Hubert

The Sizzle-Fingered Scribe

 

When I asked Karl Hubert what made him start writing, I didn’t know what to expect.  One never can with Karl.  His response was that he was very photogenic as a child, so I followed up with the question of when he started writing.  Again, I was not disappointed.  His response:  “when I laughed at the end of Pan’s Labyrinth.

And a new writer was born.

Karl is a stalwart member of our Ink Writers Group, but I’d mostly heard poems and short stories from him until he raised the idea of National Novel Writing Month (or more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo) last November.  Turns out he’s been hiding numerous novel drafts.

If you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo entails, it’s simple.  You write fifty thousand words of a novel draft in the month of November.  If you make it within that amount of time, you win.  It’s hard.

Karl’s won it six times.  He’s been doing it for the past decade or so.  Most of it is his own genre—a “fun and squicky” comedy-horror-sci-fi blend.  Some of his completed drafts include “Needlin’ the Dermis,” a story of a tattoo parlor plagued with tattoos coming to life to kill people, and this past year’s “Meme the Dream.”

Having a particular personal interest in “Meme the Dream” (for it follows Karl’s character, Benjamin James, from our Unknown Armies roleplaying game), I asked about it.  He admitted that this year’s winning draft came somewhat easily.  It was a familiar character and a chance to develop the ten years prior to the game for the character’s background.  It was a bit of Benji’s things fondly remembered and ranged to things that might have been able to happen to him.  It even had his cheerleading girlfriend from high school.

The nerds always get the best girls, right?

There are many writing benefits beyond a draft of a book though.  Karl feels that NaNoWriMo is a great experience for writers mostly because it forces you to write, whether you reach the final goal or not.  He can ease your mind about it though—“No one’s going to hurt you if you don’t write,” but a good support group of people (like the ones you can find with NaNoWriMo or a local writers group) helps you.  And you don’t have to write anything great—just write.  If it’s bad though?  Karl says if it’s bad, just cry, maybe drink, and then that’ll get you more to write about.  And that’s the point.

NaNoWriMo isn’t all fun, however, but Karl encourages us to keep trying to get past the days of falling short of your daily goal, or when you can’t get in the writing groove.  If you’re really stuck, he has the best advice that he shared with me when I had writer’s block:  “When in doubt, write porn.”

It sure helps pad that word count.

Karl is a good example to follow.  He’s been writing off and on since senior year of high school with not only novel drafts but a couple of novellas and a script about shark attack survivors on a cruise.  You can, and should, write about anything that interests you in any form you feel like playing around with.  And if you’re bored, just write.  “Just don’t post any stuff on the internet that could get you arrested.”

Karl’s full of good advice.

Karl also shared that he feels writing has been “part therapy and part giving a louder voice to the voices in my head.”  It can be easily done, and it’s pretty fun.  And as “one of the oldest forms of entertainment, it’ll let people argue about your work for years.”

Karl’s always one to get people talking.

Find his works on his Deviant Art page (he’s “wendiigo”) or on The Game Chateau’s Ink Writers Circle, “Rolling the Dice” blog. He’ll also be reading at the Ink Writers Circle event, Unexpected Landscapes, on April 20, at The Game Chateau in Plains.  Our theme is “Unexpected Landscapes.” Karl’s sure to come up with something unexpected, as usual.

Poet Progressing

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Mischelle Anthony, Poet

Poet Progressing

Sometimes it’s daunting to do an interview with your boss. But when you have a talented and sweet boss like mine, it makes it easier.

Mischelle Anthony is a poet, department chair, associate professor, and Poetry in Transit creator hiding and writing in plain view. I honestly don’t know how more people in Northeastern Pennsylvania don’t know about her and the good she does for our community and its local university students.

Professor and Poet

For more than a decade now, Mischelle has been teaching in the English Department at Wilkes University. Her favorite thing to teach isn’t creative writing though—and it’s not really even a class. Her chosen subject matter is getting her students to analyze structures and to find what the piece is actually about. She also likes to have students analyze first-person plural narrators. The “we” fascinates her—and it’s even better when the narrator is unreliable because it’s, as she says, “way too true to life.”

But it’s not all unreliable. Since 2007 Mischelle’s creation, Poetry in Transit, has been a staple of Wilkes-Barre. Not familiar with it? Just hop on one of the Wilkes-Barre buses and you’ll see the fruits of her program. Poetry—short poetry—lines banners on all of the city’s buses for riders to read and enjoy. The program idea came to Mischelle when she was on the #6 bus that runs from Luzerne to Wilkes-Barre. She and the other usual riders she talked with on their commutes would read the advertisements for fast food and community groups. Often, they’d be encouraged to find a breakfast sandwich when they got off at their stop from the encouragement of said advertisements. Mischelle thought—why not give riders poems that they can read and talk about on their bus rides instead? She mentioned it to the marketing department at the university, who offered to pay for the program for the first year or so. After that, the bus company had had such good responses from their riders that they cover all of the costs of the program now (after a grant that helps out). Poems are switched out every month, and the program gives local writers the chance to submit their works for consideration each April. Submissions are chosen by English departments of five local colleges each year and in late August the launch of the new set is held in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Writers in NEPA—watch for the new theme coming this April.

She’s not only busy on the buses or in the classroom though. Mischelle is also a poet who’s been writing since her piece about her Cheer Bear Care Bear she wrote at just nine years of age. She admits she hadn’t taken creative writing too seriously until graduate school, but since then has been active in poetry and writers circles and has been published often in American Chordata and, by the poetry press Foothills among others. Much of her writing focuses on her family and growing up in Oklahoma. She feels “it’s the only thing [she] knows how to write.” She credits this progression in her writing to Sir Richard Hugo, for after having read his Triggering Town (about how writers need to find the one subject that is theirs—and then keep writing on it), she realized her days in the Midwest were what she had to tell others about in her writing. One of her poems, “Keep Your Eyes Open,” which was recently nominated for Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Award, treats the subject of her Aunt Karen’s rape that the family avoided talking about, and only finding a voice in Mischelle’s work.

Fertile Space and Sage Advice

Mischelle stresses that to become a better writer or a published writer, you need to gather with other writers and be a part of writing community. “This is not a world for writers—we need each other,” she says, and goes on to say that it needs to not only be writers—but it needs to be writers that you can trust showing your work to as well. Whether it’s writing groups or workshops, just try to find other writers you know that want to get together and share writing and ideas. Creating a positive environment is crucial to being able to feel confident to keep producing writing and to be able to test out the new. This “fertile space” will yield more pieces and more words and will give you a chance to figure out how to think about your writing in new ways. And that’s what it’s really about.

And here, a taste from Mischelle Anthony:

Simulacrum

Sure, we had cowboys. I knew five
men from different families
with “Bubba” worked into
their State Fair belts. But my town
was no metaphor. The dairy farmer’s
son grew up a banker with that
fieldstone walkway, every Saturday
digging irregular shapes in the clay.
His shovel tangled in chickweed,
sent up red eddies from his sloping
lawn. We all sucked our teeth
when his corner bank went under.
We worked stalks of dried grass
with our tongues, nursed porcelain
mugs at the Cafe. Some of us sympathized.
Most didn’t. That family had it coming
with their Lincolns and slacks. Mr. Morris
approached the wife’s office, belt buckle
shining over Lee denim, to show that woman
she deserved it, perched there while electric
hands swept around the dial, her buzzing
typewriter’s metal ball ready to strike.
Later we recalled a prairie woman captured
in some silver-screen Western, pale dirt rivulets
dividing her skirts, straddled
by a Seminole who made her swallow
her own jeweled chain, the necklace
stubborn as a bull snake in a well line.
I want to tell you the superintendent
sheriffed in, paunch spilling over
his trouser snaps, and defended her
from the savages. But he didn’t.
My town was no metaphor—
the secretary lived, no sticks or stones,
just a quiet dinner that night,
my father’s grim mustache
over the Swiss steak,
my mother smiling, smiling
across the dark wood expanse,
even as she choked around
the clasp and settings in her mouth.

6X6 One-Acts

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6X6 One-Acts
Diva Theater Productions
Olde Brick Theatre
Providence Section, Scranton

Experienced and brand-new playwrights’ works make up the Diva Theater Production’s “6X6 One-Acts Show” this week.  An annual tradition at the Olde Brick Theatre in Scranton, this year’s show has a one-act for every season the production company has been in the area.

New to writing plays, but not new to creative writing, James Scott Flannery’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is one feature of the show, starring Flannery and Michael Madajeski.  Flannery shares that while screenplays have been more of his genre in the past, this one-act has inspired him to attempt a full-length play now.

Full-length plays are known territory for Thirty-Third Wheel’s own Marnie Azzarelli, though.  Her piece, “Hairworm,” came from an acting class exercise at Diva, but she and her mother (and director), Margo Azzarelli, are known local playwrights.  The sequel to their work, “The Bristol,” will be produced at Diva later this season.

Michael Pavese is another local writer of NEPA.  His plays have been featured at the Olde Brick Theatre and at Gaslight Theatre Company in Wilkes-Barre in their Playroom series.  He was excited to be able to work with director, Paige Balitski again this year with a new set of animals in “Another Day at the Lab.”  Balitski is also directing Flannery’s play and K. K. Gordon’s comical one-act, “Killing Naked Roses.”

The show also features John Schugard’s “Fun with Richard and Jane” which he is also directing, and Sarah Regan’s “Summer Storm,” directed by Paul J. Gallo and featuring Susan Parrick and Jennifer Frey.

Surely, the Diva One-Acts are not to be missed.  As Marnie Azzarelli says, writing a complete story portrayed in twenty minutes is “very satisfying.”  These pieces should satisfy all audience members with their varied themes and styles.

This show includes adult language and themes.

Call to reserve your tickets for this weekend’s shows soon—seating is limited and it’s filling up fast.  The show runs Thursday (January 25), Friday (January 26) and Saturday (January 27) at 8 p.m. and Sunday (January 28) at 2 p.m.  Call Diva Theater Productions for your tickets today at 570-209-7766!

A Stand Up Guy

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It happened in college.

That’s when Zack Hammond decided he needed to be a comedian. He experienced comedian Christopher Titus’s “Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding”—a comedy appearance treating his dysfunctional family, and Zack decided comedy could be a way for him to better cope with the dysfunctions in his own life.

A Comedian Is Born

Zack began attending all of the open mic nights he could. When he turned twenty-one, he signed up to perform at Wise Crackers (when it used to be at the Clarion in Scranton), and he shares that “it sucked.” The host announcing it was his first night to perform probably didn’t help. The guy that heckled him for being an English major probably didn’t either. Still, Zack made it through the tough Pennsylvania crowd, figuring he had to keep at it in order to be better.

Zack’s got a list of comedians who’ve influenced him to keep trying ranging from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Patton Oswalt and Doug Stanhope, who Zack opened for in Scranton earlier this year. There are writers he encountered in his English major days that move him, too—Hemingway, Joyce, Milton, and the more contemporary David Foster Wallace, who Zack really seems to admire. He likes that the author is “clever and smart” and adds that the asides in his writing translate to comedy easily. With society heading down a sad path of stupidity, Zack is grateful for his English background that got him not only reading, but writing, too. In the recent Creative Writing Conference hosted by King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Zack shared with students that his career in writing isn’t just about jokes and being funny, but that the literary techniques of foreshadowing, plot and structure are crucial to not just setting up a good joke, but being able to carry them through a successful comedic act as a vehicle as well. You’ve got to have these to keep audiences interested, and more importantly, laughing. “Comedy has limits, unless it’s good,” he shares. Structure and mechanics of writing are clearly what helps make the comedy last.

I asked Zack about inspiration for new material. He says there isn’t anything like that. He just takes things he notices (that often annoy him) and he tries to comment on them in a way that will be funny. He adds some advice from Carlin—the idea that you have to divorce yourself from society. Zack echoes the truth in this concept. Good comedians need to put anything and everything on the table as potential material—even themselves. He writing isn’t only about the mechanics of it, but working on the analysis of material, too, including self-awareness.

Zack’s tried other creative writing with screenwriting, skits and sketches, but isn’t a big fan of writing these out, as visualizations of an idea are sometimes easier to just explain. He isn’t interested in writing comedy for others to perform either as it can be frustrating for his vision to take the form he wants through the actions of others who might interpret things in unintended ways or just disregard his direction all together. Plus, long-form comedic writing is a big commitment, and shorter forms are more Zack’s style. He believes it’s more exciting when it’s you performing and you get to see firsthand how successful the comedy has been received.

But writing comedy is challenging, to be sure. Zack shares that it’s not like performing music where you can hear it when you practice it to make adjustments or corrections. “With comedy, you don’t know it’s funny until someone laughs at it,” he confides. Then, editing can take place to see if a bit is too wordy or if there’s a better way to get an idea across. He adds, “You have no idea how much gas [a bit] has until you test it out.” You have to learn how to proofread onstage to fix it offstage for the next show.

Some Sage Advice

I questioned Zack about what advice he had for aspiring comedians who want to get on stage. He said simply, “Don’t.” I’m fairly sure he was joking, But it leads to the advice he has to give. One, be motivated—nose to the grindstone, full-out hard work will be what gets you the big payoff. Two, “Be yourself 100%.” You can’t rely only on imitation or emulation and feeding off of others. You must “bear your soul” and “suffer and such for a very long time” until –hopefully—things click into place. He adds that becoming a comedian is a “very long road of highs and very depressing lows. You question yourself all the time and have moments of doubt where you wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea. You have to be passionate and crazy to do it.”

You can find Zack Hammond (to follow him around like a groupie) on Facebook ( Zack Hammond: Comedian) or find him at the following upcoming shows, several of which he’s hosting or head lining:

December 22: Stroudsburg, PA @ The Sherman Theater at 8 p.m.
December 28: Binghamton, NY @ Peterson’s Tavern at 8:30 p.m.
December 29: Erie, PA @ The Harlequin Ballroom at 8:30 p.m.
December 30: Hershey, PA @ The Vineyard at Hershey at 8 p.m.
January 12-13: Wilkes-Barre, PA @ Wise Crackers at Mohegan Sun Casino at 9 p.m.
And hunt down his albums online: Sorrow Tree, Appalling and Utilitarian.

A Little Diva Holiday Show

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A Little Diva Holiday Show: One-Acts for Children & Teens

Diva Theater Productions
Olde Brick Theatre
Providence Section, Scranton

The youngsters at the Olde Brick Theatre have quite the holiday spectacular planned this year. Their upcoming performance, A Little Diva Holiday Show: One-Acts for Children & Teens features four one-act plays by local playwrights.

First is “The Shortest Day” by local actress Lorrie Loughney. She shares that her play helps audience members (and the kids especially) to learn about the Christmas traditions we have today. Shannon O’Malley, one of the young performers, says the best part of being in this Celtic Christmas fairytale is working with new people and getting to see the play come together. This echoes the one-act’s director, Sandra Connolly, who claims the best part of this performance experience has been helping the young actors better understand how theatre works and letting the kids learn how to express themselves in character.

Connolly also directs “The Kid Who Hates Christmas” by Margo and Marnie Azzarelli. Marnie Azzarelli hopes that audiences recognize it is important to spend time with family at Christmas while you still have them with you. This mother-daughter writing team is passionate about history and family and their play has both, according to Marnie. Margo hopes people will come to the youth performance not only to support local arts, but for the opportunity to support our future actors and actresses, too. She says, “There may be a future Meryl Streep in the cast”—perhaps it’s one of the young actresses in their play.

Ted LoRusso’s “The Threes of Throop” is also running in this performance set. Mia Scotti, an actress in this Christmas elegy, feels LoRusso’s one-act has great detail and that it’s fun to play a real-life character, as the play is based on a portion of the childhood of Lou Bisignani of Actor’s Circle fame. LoRusso and director, Laura M. Heffron, both feel that the kids are rising to the occasion and challenging themselves and their imaginations. Heffron adds that everyone is wearing many hats to make this production happen, too, and that the collaboration taking place throughout all aspects of the performance is phenomenal, and the youth are embracing it.

Heffron is also directing “Mother’s Little Elfer” by Wendy Wescott. The large cast of this play had a great deal to share about it, most agreeing that they thought it was funny, but people could learn a lesson from it as well. It’s relatable, they say, too, because nearly everyone has an Elf on the Shelf to keep them in line.

A Little Diva Holiday Show: One-Acts for Children & Teens runs December 7, 8, and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and December 10 at 2:00 p.m. Seating is limited, but you can reserve your seats by calling Diva Theater Productions at 570-209-7766.