Highlights: Parish Players host two weekends of yarn-spinning

  • Alan Haehnel rehearses his new show, "Wonders of the Shiny Dome," at the Parish Players' Eclipse Grange Theatre in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2019. The presentation of original speeches, poems and stories will be at the Theatre from Feb. 21-24, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jed Williamson, of Hanover, N.H., in a Nov. 30, 2009, photograph. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Morton (Valley News photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2020 4:48:18 PM
Modified: 3/4/2020 4:48:09 PM

Around a dinner table or a campfire, Vietnam veteran and former marathoner John Morton and retired outdoor educator Jed Williamson will spin yarns for as long as you let them.

At “Hindsight is 20/20,” a storytelling festival starting Friday at the Eclipse Grange Theatre on Thetford Hill, the Parish Players are reining in the raconteurs. With a mere 10 minutes each onstage — while seven other storytellers wait their turns — the two men, both former Olympic-class biathletes, will agonize over what to include and what to leave out.

“I had to limit the stories to four or five,” Morton, a trails designerwho lives in Thetford, said this week. “I decided to go with some dining situations I encountered during my year as an advisor in South Vietnam. When I was growing up, the most exotic thing we ate was fish sticks on Fridays at elementary school, so this was something completely different. It’s been a hard paring-down process.”

Williamson can relate: Before competing in biathlon in young adulthood, the Hanover resident tackled high-altitude expeditions around North America in his teens and early 20s.

By the mid-1960s he was serving as an Outward Bound instructor in Colorado, which inspired him to use outdoor expeditions as a teaching tool, first at the University of New Hampshire and later at Dartmouth College.

“I picked out four or five stories from those experiences that are just real zingers,” Williamson said. “My wife, Perry, helped me pick them out, saying, ‘Yeah, that would be a good one.’ ”

While Williamson jumped at the invitation to share those memories — “I did summer theater, and plays in high school and college, so it’s not my first stage rodeo,” he said — Morton gave in to spousal pressure from Kay Morton, co-director of the “Hindsight” festival and a veteran Upper Valley actor.

“I’m a reluctant participant,” John Morton said, “but I’m a very strong supporter, behind the scenes, of the Parish Players.”

Kay Morton said that 13 storytellers in various states of willingness tried out, and “only a couple of them decided they were too shy.”

Nobody has called Hartford native Alan Haehnel a shrinking violet. In 2019 he followed up a stint in the company’s “Pieces of Work” festival of storytelling and then put on a one-man show, Wonders of the Shiny Dome, in which he recycled his observations about life at occasions ranging from speeches at Toastmasters International competitions and Upper Valley poetry slams to the commencement address he delivered to Hanover High School’s class of 2015.

Haehnel is one of four storytellers who will take the stage on Thetford Hill on each of the next two weekends. Another, Lyme resident Jerry Brightman, “will tell a ghost story,” Kay Morton said, part of a wide range of themes.

“Some are humorous and some are very sad,” she added. “There’s a whole mix of emotions. It’s a really nice balance.”

The Parish Players stage “Hindsight is 20/20” over the next two weekends, starting Friday night at 7:30, at the Eclipse Grange Theatre on Thetford Hill. For tickets ($10 to $20) and more information, visit parishplayers.org or call 802-785-4344.

Best bets

So much for Lent: In three Upper Valley towns this weekend, they’re letting les bontemps rouler with costume parties.

On Friday night at 9, the Space on Main in Bradford, Vt., hosts a masquerade bash for ages 21 and older, featuring dance music from DJD Entertainment. Admission $10; to buy ahead, visit space.onmain.app.

Next in line: Babes Bar in Bethel invites survivors of 1980s culture to a workout of a dance party, on the theme of “Let’s Get Physical!”, on Saturday night at 8. Proceeds from the cover charge of $5 benefit the Let’s Grow Kids program.

And on Sunday evening starting at 5:30, the BarnArts Community Arts Center stages its eighth annual Masquerade Jazz and Funk Winter Music Carnival at the Barnard Town Hall. Saxophonist Michael Zsoldos and guitarist Jason Ennis open the celebration, followed by Woodstock pianist Sonny Saul leading his Sultans of Saul through some of his recent compositions, and by the Woodstock Union High School Jazz Funk Band. The Wanda Houston Band will set the funky rhythm for the party-ending dance. For tickets ($10 to $20) and more information, visit barnarts.org.

■Young Tradition Vermont’s dream team of teen musicians and dancers performs a concert of Celtic-flavored roots music on Saturday night at 7, at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. Admission by donation. To learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-9878.

■The Nova Scotia-based Mermaid Theatre company stages The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a musical adaptation of the children’s books of Eric Carle, on Sunday afternoon at 2 in Dartmouth College’s Moore Theater. Admission $15.

Theater/performance art

Citrus, performances of Northern Stage production from Thursday afternoon through March 15 at Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. For tickets ($17.75 to $57.75), visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.


Flat Iron Jazz Quartet, Thursday night at 7 at the Library Arts Center in Newport. Admission $15 in advance (call 603-863-3040 or visit libraryartscenter.org), $20 at door.

■North Country Chordsmen, Friday night at 7 at Whipple Hall in New London. Free.

■The CoffeeHouse Crew, folk/roots, Friday night at 7 at Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse. Admission by donation.

■Folk singer-songwriter May Erlewine, with bassist Max Lockwood and drummer Michael Shimmin, Friday night at 7:30 at Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon. Tickets $20 in advance (visit sevenstarsarts.org), $25 at door.

■Jazz singer Amanda Carr, Sunday afternoon at 4 at the Center at Eastman’s Bistro Nouveau in Grantham. Admission $18 to $20; visit josajazz.com.


Dance party with music from Quechee-based DJ Sean/Livemixkings, Thursday night at 9 at Dartmouth College’s Top of the Hop. Free.

■The Shindigs, monthly dance, with rock and Americana music from GrooveSum, Saturday night at Tunbridge Town Hall. Admission $10.

Bar and club circuit

Mad Hazard Band, jazz, bossa nova and blues, Thursday night at 5:30 at the Quechee Club’s Davidson’s Restaurant.

■Sensible Shoes, danceable rock and pop, Thursday night at 7 at Windsor Station; Moxley Union, rock, Friday night at 9:30; The Party Crashers, rock and pop, Saturday night at 9:30; Chris Kleeman, blues, Tuesday night at 6; Over Under, rock, next Thursday night at 7.

■Bassist Peter Concilio, keyboardist Eugene Uman, saxophonist Matt Langley and drummer Tim Gilmore, jazz, Friday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

■The Contraband, roots rock, Saturday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon.

■Singer-guitarist Ken Macy, Saturday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■The Dinosaurs, roots rock, Sunday night at 6 at Peyton Place restaurant in Orford.

■Singer-songwriter Jim Yeager, Monday night at 6:30 at 506 on the River in Woodstock.

Open mics, jam sessions

Jim Yeager’s twice-monthly open mic, Thursday night at 7 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret. Free.

■Alec Currier’s weekly open-mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, 8 p.m. Thursday.

■Fiddler Amy Cann’s monthly slow jam, Friday night at 5:30 at Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon.

■Jakob Breitbach hosts two jam sessions over the coming week at venues in White River Junction: jazz on Friday night at 6 at Hotel Coolidge’s Cafe Renee, and acoustic roots on Tuesday at The Filling Station Bar & Grill.

■Randy Leavitt’s monthly old-time string-band session, Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at First Branch Coffee in South Royalton.

■Barbershop jam, traditional and multi-genre, Tuesday evenings at 5 at Ken’s Barber Shop in Randolph.

■Tom Masterson’s open mic, Tuesday night at 7 at Colatina Exit.

■Peter Meijer’s open mic, Wednesday nights at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Looking ahead

Tickets are now on sale for Opera North’s Summerfest 2020 series. The festival opens at Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish over the weekend of July 10-12, with singers from the company joining acrobats, clowns and jugglers in performances on the theme of “Carnevale.”

The company tackles Mozart’s The Magic Flute July 23 to 26 at Blow-Me-Down, then moves to the Lebanon Opera House for a run of Verdi’s Rigoletto on Aug. 2, 5, 7 and 9.

To reserve tickets and learn more, visit operanorth.org or call 603-448-0400.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304. Send entertainment news to highlights@vnews.com.

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