What in the World


The wires are on FIRE.  Newswires, that is.

The past several days, I follow this travelogue of hatred – spiraling nonsensical violence that spreads like a disease vector. Except that the virus of violence has always been like a recessive gene awaiting something to activate it.

Black Lives Matter exists because it’s open season on people of color, especially men, ever since Othello and might will never make right. “With great power comes great responsibility” is often attributed to Spiderman, though Voltaire may be the first person who uttered those words (but they were in French, so the Americans would rather go with Stan Lee).

When we treat *everyone* with respect, everyone gets along. When we neglect to remember our manners and that other people are human is where the trouble begins. We are one people. We ALL are Orlando. We ALL are Baton Rouge. We ALL are Minnesota. And now we are ALL Dallas. It’s time to lead by example and stop looking outside for guidance when the answer is within.

YOU have the power to make a difference. YOU have the power to make positive change. YOU have the power to reach out a hand to help someone who doesn’t look like you – who’s not your race, who’s not your age, who’s not your gender expression or identity, who’s not your spirituality and learn more about the world.


Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s “A Song at Twilight”

photo by Jerry Dalia

l to r Alison Weller, Laila Robins, Edmond Genest photo by Jerry Dalia

STNJ Opens with Coward’s End Game “A Song at Twlight” by Sherri Rase

Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opens a bright new season with Noël Coward’s penultimate play, “A Song at Twilight”.  It is thought to be evocative of W. Somerset Maugham and presents a scenario that could only have played out in a time when closets held more than clothes.

Part of a trio of plays, “Suite in Three Keys”, all three set in the same luxurious Swiss hotel, was written in 1966.  When Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” came out two years later, Coward quipped “Such a good idea having different plays all played in a hotel suite! I wonder where Neil Simon got it from?” This stylish play is in the hands of favorite players at STNJ and it sings in a way that many may have thought forgotten, like the ghost of a song that is mostly elusive but was much beloved in our earlier days.

The cast is intimate, in a number of ways.  First off, there are only four characters – Dour duenna and worker of magic Hilde Latymer (Alison Weller) whose unconventional love for her unconventional husband makes her the most grounded character in the piece, the staunch and faithful Felix (Ben Houghton), Swiss-Italian gentleman’s gentleman who assures everything runs like clockwork even when it’s a cuckoo clock, Hugo Latymer (Edmond Genest) self-styled genius and wit whose chequered Past is catching up with him and Carlotta Gray (Laila Robins) who is the personification of that Past in a number of ways.  Each of these characters is fully four dimensional – they have a past as well as a presence – and the verbal sparring between Carlotta and Hugo is sometimes a scintillating frisson and at others a shower of sparks, as in Flint, meet Steel.

Felix’ dulcet tones and deft touch on the piano paint a period picture, sepia-toned and lush.  Director Paul Mullins has assembled a brilliant cast and technical team.  Michael Giannitti’s lighting is beautifully subtle as day moves gently into night, complementing Brittany Vasta’s gorgeous set.  Nikki Delhomme’s costumes are particularly evocative with Hilde seeming a dowdy sparrow to Carlotta’s exotic goldfinch.  But looks can be deceiving, and I’ll leave it at that.

This play was quite daring in 1966 and it gives one a great deal to consider even now when, to quote Poe, “all that we are and all that we seem, are but a dream within a dream”.  Coward knew that well and while some dreams are gossamer, others are far more dark and when we have most of our life behind us, the subterfuge of our youth often returns home to roost.

This play is a must-see for people who love wit and thought provoking work.  Each of the actors is an all-star and you’ll be buzzing with thoughts about this play long after you’ve left the F.M. Kirby Theater.  Genest and Robins’ clash of the Titans, Houghton’s humility, patience and open love and Weller as clear-eyed all-knowing Demeter show that gods still walk among us.

What are you waiting for?  If you don’t mind spoilers, head over to the Know the Show section at www.shakespearenj.org.  Or get your tickets first, then look it over after the show.  Either way, get your tickets now or you’ll be left out in the Spring wishing you were on the inside.  Best choice of seats is right NOW!

Conversations – Lea DeLaria by Sherri Rase

photo by Sophie Holland

photo by Sophie Holland

LeaDeLaria has been a cause célèbre since 1993 when she became the first out gay comic to be featured on late night television when she appeared on Arsenio Hall’s show.  Now a nationwide household name, though she’s been a name in many of our households for the past 25 years and more, Lea is enjoying some well-earned and richly deserved renown.  A gifted jazz singer with Broadway chops, DeLaria revolutionized the portrayal of Hildy Esterhazy in the 1998 Broadway revival of “On The Town” that Entertainment Weekly called “showstopping”.  It garnered her a Drama Desk nomination.  She’s also got an impressive discography including the February 2015 release of her latest work, “House of David delaria+bowie=jazz” on the presciently named Ghostlight Records.

UT:  Your role as Carrie “Big Boo” Black in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”, for which you’ve won a Screen Actors Guild award, has put you on the map for many who don’t know your career – do you believe that’s because it’s more difficult for women who choose to be comedians or because it’s more difficult for women to be seen as the talents that they are?

LD:  The industry is what it is, I’m not sure how to respond.  I can point to a million people who are out and successful.  Does it take longer for women or lesbians to become famous?  I don’t think that’s true.  Gender or heterosexism doesn’t have anything to do with the length of time it takes to become famous, with one caveat.  Years ago, in the 1980s, it was us radical bitches who had a different agenda.  We were out performing not to become famous, I wanted to change the world.  That’s why those who come out later might be a little suspect.  Were they not doing well before and coming out might help?  It’s hard to say.

UT:  Back when you MC’d Jersey Pride in Asbury Park (back in 1995 or 1996), you gave a concert at the Paramount the Saturday before the Parade and Rally.  You had a three piece combo working with you and you were SWINGING!  Who were your musical influences growing up and when did you first find you had a jones for jazz?

LD:  When I first began singing it was more about having your own sound. My father was my first influence, he was a jazz pianist as many people know. My first experiences were singing with his combo so I was always into jazz sounds.  From my very early days, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter and many others as singers were influences, but maybe even more were instrumentalists like Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.  They probably influenced me more than singers.  But I’ve always been a fan of jazz.

UT:  How soon after the Arsenio Hall gig did you begin acting?

LD:  Less than a year after I appeared on Arsenio, there was a cameo written for me in the lesbian wedding episode of “Friends”.  Same as they did for Candace Gingrich (who played the minister).  I got to not only hit on Phoebe, part of my backstory was that I got her!  Now when I first appeared on “Matlock”, that was different.  A lot of directors were thinking “she’s a stand-up comedian, what does she know about acting”.  I had to prove to them I could act.  And when I did, my role as Detective Pat Jordan led to a return (as Detective Pat Poletti).  Andy Griffith was a friend, and I think of him as a mentor as well. He taught me how to act for a television camera.


UT:  Your latest CD, House of David, was released in 2015.  It’s ironic that the tribute you did while he was living has become a paean now that he’s passed.  Did you hear from David directly regarding your interpretation of his work?

LD: David started following me on Twitter last February (2015) and his office contacted us and got a copy of the CD. We were trying to figure out how to get him into the concert, when he passed.  As I understand it from his people, he enjoyed it and was listening to it, right before he died.

UT:  What’s the question you always wish you would be asked in an interview?

LD:  I gotta say (laughing, low), I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there isn’t one!  I’ve lead a very charmed life.

UT:  In terms of being very outspoken and plain-speaking, what benefits have you seen from being so straightforward, honest and correct?

LD: I do a lecture series at universities now and apparently I’m a role model for the LGBTQ community.  I’ve always said, if I’m a role model for the LGBTQ community, then we’re really in some fucking trouble! When I talk to students, I tell them the most important things in life: Love yourself, and no fucks given – don’t apologize for who you are, and life will fall into place.

UT: Did you ever imagine when you were being out and loud and proud that you would ever be where you are today?

LD:  Did I ever think I’d be on One Life to Live for a decade, or get an Obie or be snubbed for a Tony or have an acting career?  When I started out in the 80s no one thought that, because the world was different then.  Did I ever imagine that social media would have everyone from 9 to 90 taking pictures and wanting to talk to me, the moment I walk out of my door?  I’ve been famous for a long time and I’m a little more prepared for this than most people. I haven’t had a day job since 1982. Most of the people who approach to say hello, or get an autograph are very polite.  My fiancée coined the nickname for me “Bull Dyke Santa Claus” because when people just see me, they smile.  But I never imagined this when I began.  All I ever wanted to do was change the world.

GSP’s Thought Provoking “Sex with Strangers”

by Sherri Rase


l to r JoAnna Rhinehart, Kyle Coffman Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Laura Eason’s “Sex with Strangers”, starring JoAnna Rhinehart as Olivia Lago and Kyle Coffman as Ethan Kane, poses a host of interesting questions from the very first moments.  As the play spins out, some of those questions are answered and some are left pendant and consequently the play itself and the effects of it’s thought-bombs will stay with you long after you’ve emerged from the darkness of the theater.

You may not know Eason’s name, but if you’re a fan of “House of Cards” then you already know her work.  She writes complex characters and the ideas ping off one another like the dice in your childhood Pop-o-Matic.  The ideas and their offspring come back again and again as the characters spar, coalesce, change and do all of the things that molecules and electrons do.  Olivia and Ethan initially throw off electrons like there’s going to be an explosion, and when it happens it’s a 180 from GRRRR to O-O-O-OOOOOHHH.

Olivia is at her favorite writer’s retreat, literally far away from “it all”.  She’s a Chicago resident who uses this remote cabin, where there’s wireless but no television or cable, to collect her thoughts.  She’s putting finishing touches on her sophomore novel, though her first effort was nearly two decades previous.  While many loved her novel, it didn’t achieve the numbers she or her publisher had projected.  She withdrew and it’s taken *this long* for her to work through her demons that prevented her completing her second work until now.  In like the big wind from Winnetka sweeps 20-something social media phenom Ethan Kane, whose nom de plume “Ethan Strange” and his blogging about his cocksmanship has made him the darling of the male hipsters and gamers.  His nihilistic pursuit of women to conquer provides grist for the mill and has made him a wealthy man.  Yet this pursuit leaves him empty and he’s searched out (stalked?) someone who’s become his favorite author hoping some of her genius will ignite the “real” book he knows he has within.  When angst-ridden immovable object meets hither-to irresistible force, seismic shifts occur on fault lines that neither knew existed.

Jason Simms’ sets and Michael McDonald’s costumes are well complemented by Scott Killian’s sound and Christopher J. Bailey’s lights.  Eason’s characters shine through Rhinehart and Coffman and while “Ethan Kane” sounds like an alter ego of some kind, his quirky spikey energy is an excellent contrast for “Olivia Lago”, whom some might interpret as “peaceful lake”.  Consider, however, that still waters run deep and lakes have their own secrets as well.

Social media, print versus “soft” or electronic copies of books, cacophonies of reminder and notifications and what does it mean to reveal too much or too little of yourself in a world with a 15-second news cycle?  These and other questions will surely spring to mind and you owe it to yourself to experience “Sex with Strangers” now.

Share this show with someone you love to talk to – you’ll have plenty to say! The run of the show ends March 27, so hurry and visit GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org today for best seating!

Chatham Community Players’ “Lion” ROARS

by Sherri Rase

l to r, Maria Brodeur, Kevern Cameron & Adrian Spizuoco photo by Jill Fischer

l to r, Maria Brodeur, Kevern Cameron & Adrian Spizuoco
photo by Jill Fischer

King Henry II (Kevern Cameron) is in a pickle.  It’s Christmastime in 1183 and France and England as we know them today do not officially exist.  England controls much of what is now France, in the immediate wake of the Norman Conquest, while Henry rules in Brittany, Normandy, and the land his current wife Eleanor (Maria Brodeur) brought with her, the province of Aquitaine.  When they first met, she was married to Louis VII, the French King and son of her guardian Louis VI.  At the time we meet them in James Goldman’s classic, “The Lion in Winter,” now being given in New Jersey by the Chatham Community Players, he’s about 50 and she’s 61–both advanced in age and wiles and moving their children and ward around like pawns in a game of Christmas chess.
Alais (Adriana Spizuoco) is Eleanor’s ward and has become Henry’s mistress during the time that Henry has had Eleanor imprisoned so that she wouldn’t, quite literally, meddle in his affairs.  Alais is conflicted–Eleanor has treated her as a daughter, yet she feels she loves Henry in a way that Eleanor has never done.  However, youth has a hard time remembering that elders were once young and equally hot-blooded, as we discover when Eleanor and Henry remind us of their meeting.
Their sons who survived infancy number four … Henry, the presumptive heir, has died in battle.  This leaves the Henry’s kingdom up for grabs since primogeniture, inheritance by the eldest, has not yet come into fashion.  Richard (Dominick J. Denucci) is Eleanor’s favorite.  He took control of his own army at 16 and now, at 26, he feels he’s the son who should inherit.  Next eldest, and heir of his parents’ wiles, is Geoffrey (Scott Tyler), who ultimately becomes Duke of Brittany, but vies strongly with his brothers to become King, and is a great friend and ally of Alais’s brother Philip (Shane Long), King of France.  Finally is John (Matt Coakley), the youngest brother, who is Henry’s favorite.  He’s only a teen, whose puny body is no match for his great will and even larger temper.  These three brothers are classic in the petulance and pique, as they spar with one another and their parents for supremacy but, as always, we find that age and experience trump youth and enthusiasm.  Henry and Eleanor play their progeny like the virtuosi they are and it’s refreshing to know that my family and yours are not the inventors of Christmas family dysfunction.
This ensemble, headed by Brodeur and Cameron, chews the scenery to sawdust in as intense a version of this play as I’ve ever seen.  Henry roars while Eleanor weaves her web and Richard, Geoffrey and John have no idea of the complicated dance that’s choreographed for them.  Alais is twisted, like a floating needle between two magnets, in her freshness and nuance of her romantic love for Henry and familial love for Eleanor, while Philip is motivated by a different love of his own, as becomes apparent in a Marx Brothers-worthy bedroom scene.  Jim Peskin’s expert direction orchestrates the characters like the parts of a symphony, while Roy Pancirov and Bob Lukasik have created a versatile set design that is as evocative as it is flexible.  Sound by Joe DeVico further adds to the drama and if you fancy the stained glass windows on the set, those are available to grace your home after their work at Henry’s castle in Chinon.
Want to warm up YOUR winter?  This show is more exciting than MMA and more memorable than a night at the fights.  Visit Chatham Community Players’ website at www.ChathamPlayers.org.   Reserve NOW!  “The Lion” sleeps after March 19 so get your choice of tickets NOW!

The Brothers Size – Now at Luna Stage

Back: Brandon Carter, Front: L: Clinton Lowe, R: Shamsuddin Abdul-HamidPhoto Credit: Christopher Drukker

Back: Brandon Carter, Front: L: Clinton Lowe, R: Shamsuddin Abdul-HamidPhoto Credit: Christopher Drukker

By Sherri Rase

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “The Brothers Size” was written back in 2007 when McCraney was in his third year as a student at Yale School of Drama.  Though it was written nearly 10 years ago, it reverberates with that knell that resonates deep in the heart like the lowest thrumming notes of a pipe organ.  So many overtones to that note and so deep it is almost below the human capacity to hear.  But it is felt.

Combining Yoruba mythology for whom his characters named with an all too familiar urban tale, we have two sets of brothers.  Ogun (Brandon Carter) is the eldest brother Size who’s always felt the weight of providing for and protecting his family.  Their mother died when both boys were so very young and Oshoosi (Shamsuddin Abdul-Haid) ever since that time has always found himself on the wrong side of most situations.  When the action of the play begins, Oshoosi has just completed serving time in prison and it’s made him bone-deep exhausted and as enervated as it’s possible for a human to be.  Set in bayou country, it’s easy to image humidity so deep you can swim in it and Oshoosi feels every molecule of its weight.  Ogun does his best, but motivating Oshoosi is like herding cats.  Oshoosi’s not lazy, but his nightmares have him running full out in a way Ogun has yet to fully fathom.

Oshoosi’s other brother is one of circumstance, his buddy Elegba (Clinton Lowe) with whom he bonded in prison.  There’s a thrumming current between them and it’s only later that we see the web that Elegba has woven.  Elegba’s sinuous machinations and smooth ways of influencing Oshoosi could be based in his own psyche or possibly his knowledge of what motivates his young friend, the dreamer.  Elegba was Oshoosi’s “brother in need” during his time in prison when Oshoosi missed Ogun like an amputee misses a limb.  Until the end of the play, however, it’s not clear fully what that means.  Elegba has a level of influence parallel to Ogun’s but very different in affect.

Oshoosi’s special talent is seeing and believing the best in everyone, yet this is what leads him down the primrose path time and time again.  When Ogun makes the penultimate sacrifice for Oshoosi, there’s no doubt of this brother’s love.  The question is always what will we give so others may live.

Be sure to visit the Context Room, a very new feature of Luna Stage productions.  There, you’ll see historical context, how Christopher and Justin Swader’s spare and clever set and Daisy Long’s brilliant lighting design set the various scenes.  Isaac Mandel’s sound designs give greater depth to piece and Joya Powell’s choreography gives us a sense of the dance of everyone’s life – as we work with our partners to create what’s real for us.  Deborah Caney’s costumes were perfection, though throughout the evening, the hooded sleeveless sweatshirt Oshoosi wears kept bringing to mind Trayvon Martin, though that tragedy was five years in the future from when this play was written.

“The Brothers Size”, part two of McCraney’s trilogy The Brother/Sister plays,  only runs through March 6, 2016.  If you want to give someone an amazing experience, get your tickets now by visiting lunastage.org.

Keeping Up Appearances

Remember the James-Lange theory in Psychology 101?  Encourage your body to “feel” something on the outside and ultimately it will penetrate within.

What is challenging you right now?  Are you overwhelmed with work?  Are you snowed in by family or volunteer obligations?  First things first – step back and give yourself a little room to breathe.  What would make you happy in terms of this challenge – what would be an appropriate resolution?  You solve problems this way for others, don’t you deserve the same care?

John Stuart Mill was a philosopher whose theory was the best course of action is that which provides the greatest good for all, rather than the individual.  Sometimes though, you need to take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others.  Remember to do the things that make you feel most like yourself – eat well, shower regularly, get enough sleep – as a post-Modern adult, I fall down on some of these (I DO love my hot showers…) but when I’m on top of them, my best foot is firmly forward.

Keep up appearances – not for others, but for yourself.  When you feel like YOU, you’re able to achieve more and be the best part of yourself.

Sherr’s Going-to-the-Theatre Tips

After a bit of a hiatus, I’m baaaack!  Check it out!

Sherr’s Going-to-the-Theatre tips: Do you want to feel tall and young? Go to the Theatre! Whether you’re into Classical (or contemporary Classical) music, live theatre like plays or musicals, you’ll find that it’s the opposite ends of the spectrum of experience who attend. That said, there are many who feel that the lines to get into the audience area do not apply to them. News bulletin: those lines DO apply to you!
-If an elder person in front of you drops a scarf, offer to help them retrieve it.
-Be aware of your surroundings – when you back up quickly, you could knock someone over
-When in queue for the rest room, be mindful and aware
-When washing up afterward, get your paper towels first – that’s usually the bottleneck in the queue to leave
-Wipe around the sink before you discard the paper towel – not everyone was raised as you (to clean up after themselves)
-Remember to hold the door (if needed) so others with clean hands don’t need to touch that (surely contaminated) handle
Most of all, unwrap the candies first, turn off your (bleepin’!) phone and enjoy the show!

“The Last Romance” at the Bickford Theatre

“The Last Romance” at Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre

by Sherri Rase

Joe DiPietro is a Jersey boy.  He “writes” Jersey, and is most known for writing his characters in such a natural style that the dialogue comes sui generis from their lips rather than from a writer’s pen.  An East Coast premiere, “The Last Romance” is a play written originally for Marion Ross and her husband Paul Michael, who became friends with DiPietro and, while they are not mirrors of Carol and Ralph, there are elements of each actor in each of these characters and is part of what makes them SO real.

J.C. Hoyt is Ralph, the octogenarian, whom we first meet sitting in a dog park, clearly waiting for someone.  Hoyt’s Ralph is a sparky, sparkly gentleman of mature years, who comes from that Greatest Generation of Depression-era young adults, who did things because they were the right things to do.  This will be an important point during the reveal of the plot twist in Act Two.  It is highly likely that his antic good humor will remind you of an elder male relative of your own, born in a time when men and women had their sense of humor to get them through the toughest of times.

Rose is Ralph’s sister and she looks out for him.  Noreen Farley’s Rose is brassy, street-wise and as plain-spoken and Hoboken as they come.  She’s Archie Bunker in a frock and she’s got a—ahem—way with animals.  She takes nothin’ from no one.  Farley has an astonishing range in the characters she performs and it’s always a treat to see where she goes with the personalities she creates.

Ralph is waiting for Carol, played by Thea Ruth White with an elegance and reserve that many women lack today.  She treats Ralph with a distant grace, slightly cool until she’s got enough information to get a read on him and that’s long enough for her to succumb to his charm.  She’s a bit mysterious, and from the other side of the dog park – the more expensive side.  Will they take a chance on meaning something to one another?

Cory Singer is the character who gives us a glimpse, as the Young Man, into Ralph’s youthful psyche.  This is not a spoiler: early on you learn that Ralph loves opera–the majesty and theatrical qualities of it are in his Italian blood.  And this passion for life, not necessarily a carnal passion, illuminates his existence.  The aptly named Singer gives us the sense of the youthful Ralph, who really has become the Ralph we know in “second youth” when Carol shines a light into the darkest recesses of his heart.

I attended the performance at which Joe DiPietro, Director Eric Hafen, and the cast fielded questions from the audience about the show.  Hafen discussed his choices of projected scenery and minimal sets.  “The focus,” he said, “needs to be on the language and the characters.”  “It’s about the families we make, whether people or animals” according to DiPietro, and the production is truly memorable.

“The Last Romance” closes on October 13.  Visit the Bickford box office now at the stately Morris Musem, or go online to  www.bickfordtheatre.org and get your tickets today!  Take someone you love– romantically or family or both—and make memories you’ll cherish.

Register Now for Preview of Communications I and II

This Thursday night in Montclair, something special is happening at the First Lutheran Church of Montclair in the Luther Room – Urban Telegraph’s Communications workshops!

Learn how you work and how your approach affects others.  Learn how each person taking a half step toward one another puts the whole group in synchronicity.  Begin to move your organization to the next level as you develop a new generation of leaders.

September 27, 2012
First Lutheran Church, Luther Room
153 Park Street
Montclair, NJ

Register now – it’s only $5 cash at the door to cover the cost of the room and materials for the course.  This is an introductory price so take advantage of two experienced facilitators – learn when to lead and follow, and understand the difference.

Email Sherr@urban-telegraph.com and join this exclusive list for Thursday night’s program.