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Fusionworks Celebrates 25th Anniversary

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Category: Aht Events, Aht Reviews

Buenos Dias performed by Fusionworks Dance Company

Buenos Dias performed by Fusionworks Dance Company

The Fusionworks Dance Company, founded and directed by Deb Meunier, celebrates its 25th year of artistry with a special concert performance on November 16 and 17.  After observing a final rehearsal before the performance, this writer can definitely recommend attending this special event.

Titled, “Fusionworks’ Greatest Hits”, this collection of original, modern dances were all choreographed by Artistic Director Deb Meunier. For the anniversary celebration, Meunier decided to “call back” some past favorites except for one, “Bounded by A Curve”, which Meunier created just for this event.

Fusionworks is the only professional modern dance group in Rhode Island. Director Meunier has toured the group throughout New England, as well as other select cities around the United States. She hopes to add an international performance date for Fusionworks in the near future.

Modern dance has been Meunier’s life work. She knew, even as a young student, that she would have her own dance company one day. This allows her the breadth of artistic expression she wants for both herself, and to share with others. She is an active collaborator with other artists, and her passion for her work is clearly evident on the stage.

Education is an important element of Fusionworks’ philosophy. Along with the professional Fusionworks Company, Meunier runs a complete Fusionworks Dance Studio for youngsters as well. The troupe performs concerts, master classes, residencies, and educational programs for all audiences.  The members of this professional group put in many long hours of practice and rehearsal to maintain their athletic and graceful form.

Both followers of modern dance and those new to the experience will enjoy the diverse choreography of this dance company. This is not just abstract movement, each piece is developed as if it were a moving painting on stage. The mood runs from light and gleeful to serious and poignant. But all are infused with an energy and intensity that exemplifies the dedication both choreographer and dancers give to their art.

Choreographer Deb Meunier, Photo: Laurie Gaddis.

Choreographer Deb Meunier, Photo: Laurie Gaddis.

During rehearsal, three pieces were absolute standouts for me. The first, “The Moons of Rousseau”, performed as a suite, brought back to me the pure joy of dance from my own classes as a child. It evokes a kind of jungle/mythical sensibility as the dancers leap with abandon, transforming into different characters or animals and back again. The second, “Finning”, brought up stong emotions about injury and loss. Meuinier took her inspiration from the senseless killing of animals in order to use only one small part of them.

The third is “Losing Elevation”, which is based on a recurrent dream of trying to find one’s way. This piece is elegant and dreamy, yet has great impact. There is exquisite use of a long balance pole that is seamlessly woven into the dance. It is representative, but very powerful. This dance creation, “Losing Elevation”, is simply breathtaking.

Current members of the company are Amy Chaio, Melody Gamba, Sheramy Keegan-Turcotte, Mary Hanlon, Betsy Miller, Alexdra Rose, Stephanie Stanford Shaw, and Mallory Walker.

Fusionworks’ 25th Anniversary Concert runs only on November 16 and 17, 2012. Show time is 8:00pm at Sapinsley Hall, RIC, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence, RI. For tickets please call 401-456-8144 or go to the RIC Box Office at www.ric.edu/pfa/orderinfo.php. Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 for Seniors and Students with ID.

For more information about Fusionworks call 401-334-3091 or go to their website at www.fusionworksdance.org.


Counter-Productions Theatre Goes Boldly

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Category: Aht Events, Aht Reviews
The crew fights off Elmer, Lulu's robot boyfriend

The crew fights off Elmer, Lulu's robot boyfriend. (From L to R Ian Conway, Edward Warren, Ted Clement, Laura Minadeo, Rufus Qristopher Teixeira)

Attention Science Fiction fans, this show is for you! Although, “Return to Planet X Minus One” is a show for everyone. You can even bring the kids. This series of 1950′s radio plays, adapted for the stage, is currently running at the Artists’ Exchange at 54 Rolfe Street in Cranston, RI through October 21.

Counter-Productions Theatre Company has presented three other similar shows of “Return to Planet X Minus One” to audiences. Two of their shows were done in Boston, where the troupe was originally founded in 2007. “We really enjoy doing these”, announces Ted Clement at the top of the show.

Ted Clement and Christine Fox are the principals of Counter-Productions Theatre, and both teach at Rhode Island’s CCRI. “We try to bring college students into our productions, so they can learn by way of the real theatre world”, says Fox.

The Black Box at the Artists’ Exchange seems just the right venue for this company’s productions. A few key set pieces, well-designed and brightly lit, are enough to engage the audience in the intimate theater.

The poster in the front window of the theater, painted by Gary Deslauries, is creatively artistic, and evokes a sense of camp. The first piece of the evening, “No Contact”, lends itself perfectly to a campy vibe, but it is not the only genre of the evening.

I enjoyed “No Contact”, originally written by Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts, which is typical of a space opera, a genre that has been readily embraced by audiences for generations. Adapted and driected by Rufus Qristofer Teixeira, the adaptation was fun with many “winks” to the audience. However, I would have preferred to see even more “campiness”.

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2nd Wave of One Act Plays Rolls In

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Category: Aht Reviews
Edward Warren, Cassia Chipman in Moving Pictures

Edward Warren, Cassia Chipman in Moving Pictures

The 2nd Wave of One Act Plays is currently running at the Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, RI. This fresh group of works is also part of the 7th Annual One Act Play Fest produced by Rich Morra, Artistic Director of the Black Box Theater in the Artists’ Exchange. The 3rd Wave will run August 16 through August 26.

This Wave has a different ambiance than the 1st Wave. But that is the charm of a festival. One never knows what will be presented next, so simply keep an open mind. Perhaps because this set of one acts is comprised largely of two-person plays, there is a more subdued feeling to the overall presentation. Three local playrights are included in this Wave: Barbara Svhweitzer, Lenny Schwartz, and Holly Jensen.

Playright Mark Harvey Levine is quite prolific. In addition, he has generously sent Artistic Director Rich Morra many new works over time for use at the Artists’ Exchange. Comedy seems to be Levine’s strength. One of his plays, “The Folks”, closes this Wave. “The Folks”, with actors Tom Chace and Melissa Penick, is an uproarious look at new relationships and the impact families can have on them. It’s a strong ending piece.

Another one of Levin’s plays, “Charming”, opens this Wave. “Charming”, with actors Cassia Chipman and Anthony Caraman, is a straight-forward conversation between two people about sexual orientation. Unfortunately, I found it to be boring. While I do think the subject matter is important, the play is not preseted in a manner that is thought-prokoving. It doesn’t take a slant that we haven’t heard or seen before. Perhaps it should be played with more humor, Levine’s usual strength.

“Bench Burner”, by playright Sally Domet, is interesting because of a surprise ending. Domet travelled here from her home in Ohio to see the play produced and was pleased with the production. Actors Ken Benoit and Nicholas Viau play the characters in conflict, resolved, and then in conflict again.

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One Act Festival at Artists’ Exchange

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Category: Aht Reviews
One Act "Blind Man's Bluff" by Steven Kobar

One Act "Blind Man's Bluff" by Steven Kobar

Festivals are a wonderful thing. Both play and film festivals are bountiful. They serve as a venue for new, as well as established, playrights or filmmakers to present new work in a welcoming environment. They are a great “win-win” for everyone involved.

The key word for the 7th Annual One Act Playfest currently running at the Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, RI is “opportunity”. Opportunity for audiences to experience something new, opportunity for a range of actors to work their craft, opportunity for playrights to see their work produced, and even opportunity for aspiring directors.

This year Artistic Director Rich Morra and the Review Committee decided to produce three “waves” of new plays, instead of two. “We had over 200 one act plays submitted from all over the country”, said Morra. “There was so much great writing and creativity, we felt the need to produce more plays this year.”

The first “wave” runs through July 29. The second “wave” runs August 2 through August 12, and the third runs August 16 through August 26. This was such an ambitious project, Morra brought in guest directors. Kate Lester, Ted Clement and John Carpentier assisted with the set of plays presented in the first “wave”.

This first set of plays is immensely entertaining. This is not always so with new work. The very first play on the docket is an excellent example of a writer, Rich Orloff, using humor to great effect. His “The Latest News from the Primordial Ooze” leads with two fish-like beings swimming into the picture. The audience loved it, laughing nearly all the way through.

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Clever Writing Inspires Great Characters in “Play by Play”

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Category: Aht Reviews
Ken Benoit, Sandra Barrett in "Up on the Roof"

Ken Benoit, Sandra Barrett in "Up on the Roof"

The current show running at The Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, RI is “Play by Play”, a set of original, short pieces all written by playwright Mark Harvey Levine. Some of the pieces are monologues, some are short plays, but all are well written and entertaining.

“Play by Play”, the title of the collection of work, gets its name from one of the on-going “bits” throughout the play.  Two imposing sportscaster-like actors introduce the work at the top of the show.  Then they continue their commentary throughout, in a sports-like fashion, but all comments are theater related. “Saw a bit of over-acting on that last piece,” announces Commentator Chris White. “Yes, and someone missed their cue,” adds Announcer Jason Quinn. It’s funny, clever, and lends a cohesiveness to the “action” on the stage.

In the opening piece, “The Order”, a waiter writes down what a couple wants.  Sandra Barrett as the Woman is full of romantic ideals, dreamy with love, and fully dedicated to the “relationship” they order. David Ferranti as the Man also wants a “relationship”, but is hesitant, and doesn’t state exactly the same goals as the Woman. Sounds familiar, yet is said and set in a very inventive way.

“LA 8am” is a fable of sorts with a familiar setting. The husband (Ross Gavin) is upset over a simple spilling of cereal. So invested in his own obsession he barely looks at his lovely wife (Julian Trilling), as she gets ready to leave for work.  However, there are two “on-lookers”" (Robert C. Reynolds and John Carpentier) whom the couple cannot see nor hear. Only the audience is privy to their commentary. Every line is clear and articulate. Only at the end does sadness strike as the “on-lookers” reveal it that one member of this duo will die this day. Did you leave the house this morning, angry with your loved one?

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BTC Presents Premiere of New Work

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Category: Aht Reviews
A Lesson in Refacilitation

A Lesson in Refacilitation

The Burbage Theater Company is currently showing one short play by new playwright, Jeff Church, and one short play by well-known playwright, Eugene Ionesco. These two provide the audience with a fascinating evening in “semantics”.

This set of plays only continues through March 22, 23, 24 at 8pm at the William Hall Library in Cranston, RI. Email btctheater@gmail.com immediately for tickets. $15 general admission, $10 for students. Plenty of free parking behind the library.

The first play, “A Lesson in Refacilitation”, was written by Jeff Church, as a stylistic homage to one of his playwright idols, Vaclav Havel, who passed away in 1992. While Church has been developing his writing for some time, this is his second produced play to premiere in Rhode Island. Church still considers acting to be his primary artistic outlet, yet obviously has a gift for writing as well. “Refacilitation” is an uproarious romp through the zaniness of corporate America. It is also refreshing to see a new play so briliantly stylized.

Jeff Church, Artistic Director of the Burbage Theater Company (BTC) wrote, directed and acts in “A Lesson in Refacilitation”. Church also directed the second play of the evening, “The Student” by Eugene Ionesco. Church is indeed busy. Shortly before this show, he was seen as a lead actor at 2nd Story Theatre in “Take Me Out”, and has been a regular as a cast member at 2nd Story and other venues.

Both “A Lesson in Refacilitation” and “The Student” fall into the category of theater of the absurd, bringing surprises and twists completely unexpected by the audience. Church reveals his “A Lesson in Refacilitation” was inspired by a short term of employment at an insurance company. But the nonsensical rules, invented “buzz” words and pointless job positions could be representative of nearly any old, established business enterprise anywhere.

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“Scared of Sarah” Takes Autism Personally

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Category: Aht Reviews
Cast of "Scared of Sarah"

Cast of "Scared of Sarah"

“Scared of Sarah” is the current play being performed by Sidecar Theater Company showing at the Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, RI.  The play personalizes the sometimes bewildering, sometimes challenging, and sometimes humorous behavior of Asperger’s Syndrome and how it affects one family.

Asperger’s Syndrome is classified as “high functioning” on the autism spectrum.  Written by Laura Brienza, fresh from the Fringe Festival in New York City 2011, “Scared of Sarah” presents a full spectrum of emotions through its three characters: pregnant Lily and her husband Sam, and Sarah, Lily’s older sister who has Asperger’s.

Written as a one-act play that runs about an hour and a half, Director Rich Morra, wisely chose to insert a short intermission after the first hour of the play. Wise because of the intensity of the emotions in the play both for the actors, and the audience.

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Christmas Carol Full of Good Spirits at Black Box

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Category: Aht Reviews
Alex Rotella as Scrooge_John Carpentier as Nephew Fred

Alex Rotella as Scrooge_John Carpentier as Nephew Fred

If you don’t have the spirit of the holiday in your heart yet, you jolly well will after experiencing Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Black Box Theater in Cranston, RI.  This lively rendition of a holiday classic runs from December 8th through the 18th at the Artists Exchange on Rolfe Street.  In addition, performances on December 22nd and 23rd will be presented at the historic Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, with a holiday pre-show Gala on the 23rd.

Artistic Director Rich Morra and Musical Director Tom Chace have infused this immortal story with a unique blend of great character actors, a well-tuned and lively children’s choral ensemble, and a scene change precision unmatched by any other I have seen on an opening weekend.  There are nearly 50 cast and chorus members that must whisk on and off stage quickly and quietly, at the right time, sometimes with set pieces.  The changes are quick, but not distracting, and help move the pace along crisply.

Morra gives acknowledgement to the many people who worked  to help make the show a reality, but it is clearly Morra’s leadership that sets the tone for everyone in the cast to freely contribute their gifts. They do so with a calm confidence.  Even one of the youngest children in the cast, Richard Soucy as Young Boy Scrooge, strides on stage alone without hesitation when he is cued to enter for his part in the story. Several of the cast members are also clients of the services at the Artists Exchange for developmentally challenged adults. One would be hard-pressed to single them out in the cast. When the children’s chorus sings, the sound is one of pure joy in the experience.

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New Sidecar Theater Company Presents “Love Song”

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Category: Aht Reviews
Tom Chace as Beane in "Love Song"

Tom Chace as Beane in "Love Song"

The contemporary play, “Love Song,” is currently showing at The Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, RI. Written by John Kolvenback, “Love Song” is a complex, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking dark comedy. It explores the questions that plague every one of us. What is love? Who is to say who we love or how? Is it real if you can’t see it or touch it?

The newly formed Sidecar Theater Company presents “Love Song.” Director Rich Morra, who is also the Artistic Director of the Black Box Theater at the Artists’ Exchange, created Sidecar. Morra formed the new group, along with Tom Chace, in order to explore challenging, small cast plays with other talented area actors. The state of Rhode Island has many talented actors, and they all crave new and challenging works to exercise and stretch their artistic muscles.

“Love Song” is the story of up-tight, demanding executive Joan (Christina Mealey), her logical and long-suffering husband Harry (Alex Rotella), and her reclusive, mentally ill brother Beane (Tom Chace). An additional character who seems to appear and disappear at will is Molly (Emily Lewis), a tough cookie who breaks into houses and steals things for a living. John Carpentier is cast as a waiter in a scene at a restaurant.

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Did You Know…

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Category: Aht News

The BTC production of "The Maids" by Jean GenetDid you know that The Burbage Theater Company (BTC) has been producing stage plays for a year now?  This group, based in Providence, RI, uses various locations around the state for their productions. They have been quite prolific and successful in their first year.  Like many new theater companies, the core group met each other in college (RIC).  They decided their theatrical talents needed more of an outlet than could be provided for them within the given constraints on campus, especially for their own original work, and seldom seen theatrical works.

The mission of the BTC (from their website) is to “perform classical and modern works; ranging from the absurd to the contemporary, that are prone to stimulating discussion not only about content, but the means of conveyance and the creative process; plays that are culturally and psychologically relevant to the audience they play to.”  The core members of the troupe are Alex Duckworth, Valerie Westgate, Jeffrey Church, Andrew Iacovelli, Nina Genatossio and Kelli Noonan. The BTC calls on other area actors when they need an expanded cast.

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