MSIM returns–and much more!

MSIMVetCenterflyer162016 has been a busy year, so busy that I haven’t been writing on this blog too much.  Most of the work I have been doing involves upcoming events supporting veterans and their families.  I’m thrilled to say that my traveling version of MAKE SURE IT’S ME will return to the Manchester Vet Center on September 29th.  I will be joined there by a cast of 5 veterans to read dramatic scenes from Kate Wenner’s play, as well as VA Manchester clinicians to help me address questions about Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD.  Then, on October 20th I will take it to UNH, where my readers will be members of the Student Armed Forces Association, joined by some Theatre majors.  That promises to be a winning combination!  The research and treatment options for TBI and PTSD keep evolving, so whenever I pull this presentation out I retool my framing material to reflect recent developments.  It’s also extremely fun for me to work with the coordinators and readers as different venues, as well as to meet the audiences and mediate the conversation on performance day.  So I’m looking forward to both of those events.

CS logoI have also had the honor of serving as Humanities Expert for Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away, a nine-week event series celebrating, commemorating and supporting veterans and military families across 8 libraries in Southern NH, as well as Timberlane School District.  The event series runs September 16 through November 12. My duties to this project have included helping the amazing group of library officials on the committee to write the grant proposal for the New Hampshire Humanities (which was successful, thank you NHH!);  helping to identify presenters and keep a “humanities” angle across the event series;  and I’ll be contributing to the “after-action” report to NHH about how Community Stories fulfilled its mission.  I am also involved in three of the events: I will present a brand new presentation, “Staging War: Veterans’ Voices in Post-9/11 Theatre” at the Plaistow Public Library on October 4;  I will mediate a book discussion of “Either the Beginning or the End of the World” will the glorious author Terry Farish on October 27th in Hampstead;  and I will be co-presenting the final keynote presentation on November 12th, “War Trauma: A Changing Story”, with neurologist Dr. James Whitlock.  That final presentation will include some readings from MSIM, aided by veteran and former Vet Center counselor Al Porsche.

So that’s a lot of exciting work I’ve been putting together, with fantastic and inspiring collaborators.

I have also been invited to do several more ongoing projects:  The NHH Humanities To Go program has selected my new presentation for their catalog.  In response to their feedback, the title is slightly different from the one in Community Stories, but it will be effectively the same format: “Speaking of War: How Theatre Gives Voice to Combat Veterans.”  (It’s always tricky to figure out appealing titles.)  Once the presentation is in the catalog, it remains to be seen if anyone wants me to bring it to their library or meeting hall.  So stay tuned!

I have also been hired as an actor by PowerPlay Interactive Development.  PowerPlay was founded by UNH Theatre Department Chair David Kaye.  It is a UNH sponsored business that uses Applied Theatre techniques to address issues like corporate culture, gender bias, harassment, and diversity for clients who include university departments, nonprofits and corporations.  So far, I have worked on four improv-based workshops for Easter Seals in Manchester;  in November, I will be traveling to the University of Virginia to present a combination of scripted material and improv addressing biases and potential conflicts in faculty hiring.  This is extremely challenging, fascinating work!  I am learning a lot and, once again, working with a great group of people that includes David Kaye, CJ Lewis and Susan Poulin.

Lastly for now, I am pleased to have been cast in New Hampshire Theatre Project‘s winter show, METAMORPHOSES, directed by Genevieve Aichele.  Rehearsals begin in November.  Phew, that’s a lot!!!

HAVENlogoIn the meantime, my Board work for HAVEN is ongoing, so don’t be surprised if I tap your shoulder in a fundraising campaign.  Best wishes to all as we move into Autumn!

MSIM wows at the Manchester Vet Center

MSIM15Last Thursday, October 8th, a group of veterans helped me present my traveling version of Kate Wenner’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME at the Manchester Vet Center in Hooksett, NH. With the help of counselor Mearlene Filkins, who joined me in reading the educational material about Traumatic Brain Injury, and the coordination of Team Leader Colleen Moriarty, we presented to a group of about fifty in the Vet Center’s welcoming, well-appointed conference room.

This was my second time using the model of directing a group of volunteer readers nominated by the venue itself. The first time my readers were members of the student veterans’ group at the campus of Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA. This time, Mearlene invited community members who attend the Manchester Vet Center regularly for various kinds of support to step up and share their time and talents by acting in this reading. I was blown away by the intelligence and emotional courage of these readers. These two men and two women, who clearly had put their hearts, minds and bodies on the line in service to their country, were serving again by spreading the word about the effects of TBI on veterans and their families. The audience was extremely responsive to their portrayals of injured veterans and their struggling caregivers. Maybe it was the dueling apple crisps baked by two community members and enjoyed during intermission, but I swear the audience did not want to leave! Many observations and questions were shared during a talkback with Susan Burns, Nina Romano, and Sherry Thrasher, all clinicians from the Manchester VA Medical Center with expertise in treating TBIs. We were even able to connect an audience member on the spot with resources for TBI screening. Thanks again to Colleen, Mearlene and all the staff at the Vet Center for making this event possible.

As always with the MSIM project, I was thrilled and humbled by this experience. There was a lot of support in the room for more MSIM programming, so stay tuned for news as I follow up with my new contacts and continue to spread the word. For more information on the history of the project, or to find resources, visit the MSIM home page.

 

MSIM coming to the Manchester Vet Center!

I’m delighted to bring the MSIM traveling presentation to the Manchester Vet Center on October 8th at 2 pm! A team of veterans will read the dramatic roles and we’ll have a talkback with clinicians from the VA’s TBI clinic. Thanks to Colleen Moriarty and Mearlene Filkins for bringing me and assembling the team. Admission is free but seating is limited, so RSVP by September 30 to Selena.herbert@va.gov!

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the reviews are in!

Whitebottoms 2015Well, the cast and crew of Duck and Cover rocked audiences during opening weekend! In the midst of scorching temperatures and electric fans, Kim, Shawn, David, Jim, Alan and Michael elicited applause, cheers and even some appreciative catcalls and standing ovations. Here’s what the critics had to say:

Seacoast Online review

Portland Phoenix review

Catch the show for the next two weekends, we close on September 20th! Visit playersring.org for details!

set dressing

This week has been hot hot hot, especially in the Player’s Ring in Portsmouth, which has a huge heart but no air conditioning! As we’ve prepared for tonight’s opening of Mike Kimball’s Duck and Cover, we’ve been working a number of oscillating fans into the theatre experience. We’ve also had to all pitch in to make the set happen. I’m not so effective with carpentry so I was doing set dressing acquisition much of the week, but finally our set feels like a little home. Congrats and thanks to Mike and his carpenter pal Alan, to Joe Dominguez for helping build, and to Brett Reis, our lighting designer, for also playing Mr. Fixit throughout the week. Stage manager extraordinaire Kate Quisumbing also wrangled numerous props, all while learning to navigate an unfamiliar CD player and new computerized light board. Now we’re ready to watch the actors do their thing! See you at the Ring!

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my amazing DUCK AND COVER cast

Rehearsals for DUCK AND COVER are a total hoot and the show opens at Players’ Ring on September 4!  Love these talented folks, plus my brilliant playwright Mike Kimball and couldn’t-do-without-her Stage Manager Kate Quisumbing.  Pictured below, clockwise from top left: Shawn Crapo, Jim Manclark, Kim Holliday, Alan White, Michael Stailey and David Sullivan. Photo by Mike Kimball. Visit PlayersRing.org for reservations.

Ensemble

better DUCK AND COVER!

Whitebottoms 2015

A “Father Knows Best” family, happily sheltered in 1962 suburbia, tries to maintain their innocence during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the arrival of eccentric jazz trumpeter Uncle Bunny and his African-American musical partner.

On September 4th, the Players’ Ring Theatre’s 2015-16 season opens with “Duck and Cover,” an award-winning play by York playwright/novelist Michael Kimball, who received the 2014 John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award (New England Theatre Conference) for the play, which was also named “Best Play” at the 2013 Northern Writes Festival (Bangor, ME) and has just been nominated for 8 Desert Star Theatre Awards in Palm Springs, CA, including “Outstanding Comedy.”

The September production will mark the play’s second appearance in Portsmouth. The play premiered at the West End Theatre in the winter of 2013 to widespread popular and critical acclaim. “A GEM,” raved one audience member. “Light and Dark. Witty, Funny, Heartbreaking. You’ll be so glad if you see it.” Others wre similar in their praise: “Hilarious & touching.” “Totally evokes the early 60s historically and personally!!” “A delicious mix of drama, history and humor,” the Portsmouth Herald wrote. “Smart, witty, heartwarming and incisively written. Truly engaging.”

Seacoast audiences who’ve seen Kimball’s other work (The Secret of ComedyBest EnemiesGhosts of Ocean House, and Santa Come Home,) will recognize the writer’s comedic style, about which the Boston Globe once wrote, “Some of Michael Kimball’s humor is black and some of it is blue, and he shoots it at us at a whiz-bang slapstick pace that leaves us alternately laughing, squirming and gasping for breath.” Stephen King similarly observed that “Kimball is humane enough to capture our hearts and wicked enough to make us laugh our asses off.”

“Duck and Cover,” directed by acclaimed actor/director Leslie Pasternack, features a dynamic ensemble cast of familiar faces from the Portsmouth, Newburyport and Boston stages: Kim Holliday, Shawn Crapo, David Sullivan, Michael Stailey, Alan White, and Jim Manclark.

The show will run from September 4th through the 20th with shows at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays, Sept 6th and 13th; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept 20th. Tickets are $15 general admission, with discounts for members, seniors, and students. For reservations or information, call 603-436-8123 or visit PlayersRing.org.

 

into the light

Hello, all. I have been lured out of the shadow cast by my mother’s death to take over direction of Michael Kimball’s Duck and Cover at the Player’s Ring, where it will run September 4-20. This marvelous, award-winning show about an American family grappling with wars domestic and foreign on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis was last seen at WEST and I’m honored to be working on it now. Stay tuned for more details, I’ve got homework to do for tomorrow night’s rehearsal!

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Spotlight 2015 nomination news!

DVphoneI’m giddy to announce that I was nominated for Best Actress by the Seacoast Spotlight Awards committee for my performance as Dorothy Vaughan in Saving Portsmouth.

Even better, my actor Eliot Johnston was nominated for Best Actor for his performances of Bernard One, Bernard Two and Michael Black in A Number! Congratulations to us, and huge thanks to everyone involved in both shows, and to our audiences (and patient loved ones) for all their support.gameofthrone1

I have a feeling we are each dark horses in this race, but it is marvelous to know that the panel thought so highly of our work in 2014. As they say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” I will let you know how it turns out!

 

 

A NUMBER ruled the WEST stage!

SB1-2Kudos and deepest thanks to Robert Macadaeg and Eliot Johnston for their masterful performances in my production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number.  Kate Quisumbing was my Stage Manager extraordinaire, Meghann Beauchamp designed impeccable lights and sound and Michele Macadaeg gave invaluable help with costumes.  We had great houses that surpassed my expectations for such a peculiar, offbeat little show.  And we were extremely well reviewed!  This was a deeply satisfying directing experience for me and I’m sad to let these characters go.  Best wishes to all, and I hope to work together soon.  Next up for me: “Saving Portsmouth: The Preservation Crusades of Miss Dorothy Vaughan”!

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