Entertainment Highlights: Cold War Era Drama to Open Chandler’s ‘Issues Plays’ Series

  • Drummer Tomas Fujiwara and other guest artists will be performing with the Barbary Coast jazz ensemble at Dartmouth College's Spaulding Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, at 8 p.m. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Saxophonist Dan Moretti is to perform as part of the Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon program at the Center at Eastman from 4-7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Grantham, N.H. (Tomoji Hirakata photograph)

 Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2018

Two years ago this weekend, Quechee resident Mike Backman transferred custody of one of his plays-in-progress to director Richard Waterhouse for a staged reading at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph.

Now that he’s holding the reins on Stowe, Vt., dramatist Emily Rosenbaum’s Precession, the Cold War-era drama that will open the Chandler’s Issues Plays series on Sunday night, Backman hopes that he is pulling with as light a touch as Waterhouse applied to Sunset.

“I’m much more sensitive to interpreting the material the way that Emily wants,” Backman said during a telephone interview last week. “Speaking from my own experience, I told her, ‘For this first reading, I want to interpret this the way you envision it, the way it is in your head.’”

Helping Backman coax the story along in Rosenbaum’s image are Thetford Center resident Dean Whitlock and Hanover’s Will Moore, both of whom Backman has worked with at the Parish Players in Thetford. Whitlock plays the German scientist applying for sensitive, defense-related work in the United States, and Moore portrays the young Jewish refugee from Germany who interrogates him.

“Mike reached out to me to gauge my interest in participating,” Moore recalled this week. “We'd recently worked together at Parish Players in Thetford, and so had established a solid rapport. I played Dennis Wright in their winter production Scooter Thomas Makes it to the Top of the World. … Mike served as stage manager.  … I found him to be incredibly insightful and thoughtful. He has a way of gently guiding an actor to realize possibilities they might not otherwise see.”

This play, meanwhile, has impressed, and sobered, both actors.

“It’s serious drama,” Whitlock, a writer and writing coach by day, said last week. “I usually get cast as the good guy, so this was a chance to play a character with more nebulous morality, in this case shaped by or justified by his complete devotion to his scientific research. The dialogue gets very personal, and the playwright takes a stance that I can agree with.”

With little time for rehearsal, Whitlock is grateful that he’s acting face to face with Moore, with whom his character locked horns in the Parish Players’ staging of Sleuth together in the fall of 2016.

“He was a wonderful collaborator,” Whitlock recalled, “open to pushing the relationship, really flexible in the multiple roles his character plays, very supportive and completely unflappable in the face of technical glitches and the slings and arrows of life outside the theater.”

Precession is one of three plays chosen, through an annual contest, by the Issues series for staged readings. On March 25, Jeanne Beckwith directs East Montpelier, Vt. resident Margot Lasher’s dystopian drama I Belong Somewhere. And on April 29, Waterhouse takes on Cross Talk, former Bethel resident Maura Campbell’s play about a young man trying to adjust to life after drug rehab..

Issues producer “Sharon Rives sent me the script for Precession, and I loved it from the first reading,” Backman said. “I said, ‘I’d love to take it on.’”

The Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph opens its “Issues Play” series of monthly staged readings of works in development with a performance of Precession on Sunday night at 7, in the venue's Upper Gallery. For tickets ($5 to $12 per play or $25 for series pass) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

Best Bets

Shaker Bridge Theatre kicks off its production of Simon Stephens’ drama Heisenberg tonight at 7:30 at Whitney Hall in Enfield. The play, which examines a relationship between an older man and a younger woman who meet on a train in London, runs through March 11. For tickets ($16 to $35), visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.

Folk singer-songwriter Tom Rush returns to the Upper Valley on Friday night at 7:30, with a concert at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. For tickets ($24 to $32) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

Baby, if you think it's cold outside this weekend, check out The Eagle Huntress on Saturday afternoon at the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock. The Woodstock Vermont Film Series is screening the lyrical documentary, which follows a 13-year-old girl who becomes the first female in her family to train eagles to stalk prey in the windswept highlands of Kazakhstan, at 1, 3 and 5 — one more showing than usual for the series. Reservations are strongly advised for all screenings, by calling 802-457-2355 or visiting billingsfarm.org/filmfest.

The Conniption Fits provide the musical soundtrack for their annual Masquerade Ball at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon on Saturday night starting at 7. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $30; packages also are available for ball-goers aiming to stay overnight at the inn. For tickets and more information, call 603-298-5900.

Guitarist Mary Halvorson, cellist Moeka Reid, saxophonists Jim Hobbs and Ingrid Laubrock, trombonist/tuba player Bill Lowe, bassists StomuTakeishi and drummer Tomas Fujiwara join Dartmouth College's Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble at the Hopkins Center's Spaulding Auditorium on Saturday night at 8. For tickets ($10) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Northern Stage opens its production of Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Disgraced at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction next week, with previews at 7:30 on Wednesday night, next Thursday night and the night of March 2 before the official opening on March 3. To reserve seats and learn more about the show, which runs through March 18, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Former Egyptian physician Bassem Youssef appears at Dartmouth College's Loew Auditorium on Wednesday night, for the screening of Tickling Giants, the documentary chronicling his not-always-voluntary evolution from a medical career to hosting a TV comedy show during the Arab Spring protests of 2011 and 2012. Youssef's popularity as the “Egyptian Jon Stewart” led to his eventual exile from his native country under pressure from the authoritarian government that wound up replacing the authoritarian government that democracy activists had overthrown. For tickets ($5 to $10) and more information about the screening, which starts at 7, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Looking Ahead

The Hopkins Center will screen the central Asian epic film Qyrq Qyz (Forty Girls) at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover next Thursday night at 7. Live on stage, seven young woman musicians will accompany the pictures by playing instruments, singing and reciting poetry from the ancient narrative about woman warriors defending what is now Uzbekistan against invaders from Persia. For tickets ($17 to $25) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422. Before the screening, starting at 6 at the Top of the Hop, director Saodat Ismailova will talk about the evolution of her project with Dartmouth music professor Ted Levin; admission is free.

Theater/Performance Art

The theater department at Dartmouth College completes its adaptation of 1984at the Moore Theater in Hanover this weekend, with performances at 8 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night and at 2 on Sunday afternoon. For tickets ($10 to $12) and more information visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.


Singer Chloe Brisson leads her jazz quintet into the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret on Friday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($20) and learn more, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

The North Country Chorus performs medleys of songs from the Broadway musical West Side Story and from folk singer Joni Mitchell's 1968 album Both Sides Now at Alumni Hall in Haverhill on Saturday afternoon at 3. The program also will include Appalachian, gospel, jazz and rock. To reserve seats ($5 to $10), visit catamountix.org. Admission at the door is $12.

Saxophonist Dan Moretti plays this weekend’s Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon concert at 4 in the Center at Eastman in Grantham. To reserve tickets ($18 to $20) and learn more, visit josajazz.com, call 603-763-8732 or 603-381-1662 or email bill.wightman@comcast.net.

The Vermont Chamber Artists chorus performs Gabriel Faure's Requiem and other compositions at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover on Sunday night at 7. Admission is by donation, half of which will go toward a program benefiting veterans of the U.S. military. To reserve tickets and learn more, visit vermontchamberartists.weebly.com.


Guitarists Colin McCaffrey and John McKelvey and fiddler Katrina Van Tyne set the rhythm and Chip Hedler calls the steps for the contra dance at Tracy Hall in Norwich on Saturday night at 8. A run-through for newcomers starts at 7:45. All dancers should bring clean, soft-soled shoes, and are encouraged to bring finger food for the potluck snack break. Admission is $6 to $10

Bar and Club Circuit

Saxophonist Katie Runde, guitarist Ted Mortimer and accordion player Steve Pixley perform at the Taverne on the Square in Claremont tonight from 6 to 9, and at the Public House in Quechee on Saturday night at 7.

Randy Miller leads the weekly live session of traditional Irish music at the Salt hill Pub in Hanover tonight starting at 6. The weekend lineup at the venue features Flew-Z frontman Alec Currier with an acoustic set of rock on Friday night at 9 and the country/roots ensemble Whiskey Crossing on Saturday night at 9.

Whiskey Crossing plays country music at the Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9. On Saturday night at the same time, the Boneshakerz ramp up the rock.

Singer-songwriter Mike Preston performs his blend of rock and country at the Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday night at 9, and the Newport's Got Talent show takes over the venue on Saturday night at 9. Roger Kahle joins Randy Miller in Newport on Wednesday night at 6 for their weekly live session of traditional Irish music.

Club Soda rocks the Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night starting at 9. Turner Round frontman Chad Gibbs plays a solo acoustic set at the venue on Saturday night at 9.

Sensible Shoes pulls into Windsor Station tonight at 7, and Chris Powers leads Off the List into the venue for a set of rock on Friday night at 9:30. The Wheelers rock the house on Saturday night at 9:30,  and saxophonist Mike Parker accompanies singer Colleen Mari on Tuesday night at 6.

Troubadour/poet Lara Herscovitch performs at the Sunapee Community Coffeehouse on Friday night at 7, in the basement of the Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor. Admission is by donation.

The Party Crashers set the rockin' rhythm for dancing at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

Pianist Sonny Saul performs jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6 to 9.

Soulfix plays the Farmer's Table in Grantham on Saturday night at 7.

The roots quartet Out on a Limb performs at Brocklebank Brewery in Tunbridge on Saturday afternoon from 2 to 5.

Guitarist Ted Mortimer and bassist Glendon Ingalls play jazz at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm on Wednesday night from 6 to 9.

Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner perform at Carpenter and Main in Norwich on Wedesday night at 7.

Folk singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey will perform at the Flying Goose Brewpub & Grille in New London next Thursday night at 8. To reserve tickets ($25) and learn more, visit flyinggoose.com or call 603-526-6899..

Open Mics

Woodstock-based troubadour Jim Yeager hosts open mics on the following nights over the coming week: tonight at 7 at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret; at Bentley's Restaurant in Woodstock on Monday night at 7:30; at the Public House in Quechee on Tuesday night at 6; and on Wednesday from 8 to midnight at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Al Carruth and E.J. Tretter host the Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse's monthly open-mic on Friday night at 7, at the Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor.

Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

Neil Allen hosts an open mic at the Java Cup in downtown Claremont on Tuesday night at 6.  

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

Tom Masterson hosts the weekly open mic at Bradford’s Colatina Exit on Tuesday nights at 8.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.