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Highlights: Festival brings plays by black women to the Valley

  • The third annual JAGFest holds staged readings this weekend in White River Junction of plays by four black female playwrights, from left, Maine Anders, Kirya Traber, Gethsemane Amy Herron-Coward and Tracey Conyer Lee. (Courtesy photograph)

  • The acclaimed jazz trio Thumbscrew, from left, bassist Michael Formanek, guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, performs Friday night with Dartmouth College's Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble. See 'Music' for more information.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/6/2019 10:00:28 PM
Modified: 2/6/2019 10:00:34 PM

The first two times Jarvis Antonio Green featured works-in-progress by African-American playwrights, in February 2017 and 2018, he pitched them as one and then another small step for diversity in theater in the Upper Valley.

Consider this weekend’s JAGfest 3.0, with four staged readings at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, as one giant leap for black womankind.

“Last year we had all men, so I was determined to balance the scales this year,” Green, the founder and producing artistic director of JAG Productions, said last week. “Women have been doing so much for the culture, for the country, and have not been recognized for their power and knowledge.”

The readings at the Briggs begin Friday night at 7:30, with playwright and burlesque performer Maine Anders staging her The Last Day of Black History Month: A Conversation with a Naked Black Southern Lesbian. Green met Anders while they were working at restaurants in New York City between gigs early in their careers, and they developed a common network of friends and artists.

“I saw her show last year at Joe’s Pub and asked, ‘Have you every had an opportunity to do it in a staged-reading setting?’” Green recalled. “She said, ‘I would love to.’ ”

Three actors will read Tracey Conyer Lee’s Rabbit Summer at 4 on Saturday afternoon. The drama juxtaposes a young African-American couple with a friend whose unarmed husband was shot by police.

“She’s a strong, powerful voice,” Green said of Conyer Lee.

At 7:30 Saturday night, a cast of four will perform If This Be Sin, Kirya Traber and Sissi Liu’s new musical based on the life of queer Harlem Renaissance entertainer Gladys Bentley.

The festival concludes Sunday afternoon at 4 with a reading of Gethsemane Amy Herron-Coward’s  Blanks or Sunday Afternoon, at Church, in which a black woman medical student  “hunts for the romance of her dreams” while being haunted and advised by black “aunties” with long, often sad experience.

In all, more than 30 actors, stage managers, directors, playwrights, writers and music directors traveled to the Upper Valley last weekend, mostly from New York City. After an unscheduled drama for a number of them on Sunday night — their train to White River Junction struck a disabled pickup truck in Charlestown, mercifully with no injuries — they’ve spent this week following Green, both on snowshoes and to meetings with students and faculty of Dartmouth College’s Department of Theater.

To set the stage for the readings, Green and White River Indie Films are hosting a free screening of Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart, the 2017 documentary about Raisin in the Sun dramatist Lorraine Hansberry, at the Briggs on Thursday night at 7.

“When people think about black women in theater, they think about Lorraine Hansberry as The One,” Green said. “We’ve got a generation of new, exciting contemporary playwrights emerging, but we wouldn’t be here without Lorraine.”

Admission to JAGfest 3.0’s staged readings is $20 to the individual performances, and $50 for a pass to all four. For more information, visit jagproductionsvt.com.

Best bets

Shaker Bridge Theatre kicks off its production of Dry Powder, a dramedy by Sarah Burgess, on Thursday night at 7:30 at Whitney Hall in Enfield. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 through Feb. 24. For tickets ($16 to $35) and more information, visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.

■On tour with his new album, True in Time, folk singer- and songwriter-in-the-wry John Gorka stops at Flying Goose Brewpub & Grille on Thursday night at 8. Reservations are required. Admission $25.

■Upper Valley residents share their workplace experiences in six storytelling sessions over the next two weekends, starting this Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon, at the Eclipse Grange Theatre on Thetford Hill.

The Parish Players and the We the People Project are collaborating on the “Pieces of Work” sessions, in the run-up to We the People’s production of the musical adaptation of oral-historian Studs Terkel’s groundbreaking book Working, which is slated for March. For tickets to this weekend’s shows, or to the Feb. 15, 16 and 17 performances, visit parishplayers.org or call 802-785-4344.

■Talk about being true to your school: With instrumental accompaniment from the East Bay Jazz Ensemble, Ottauquechee School Principal Cathy Newton sings at The Engine Room in White River Junction on Saturday night at 7, during the inaugural Winter Snow Ball dance, which benefits the school. Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

The coming week also brings the following options for live entertainment:

Theater/performance art

Venus Rising, dramedy by Hanover playwright Marisa Smith, at Northern Stage through Feb. 17. Tickets $17.75 to $57.75.

■Monthly Comedy Club at The Engine Room, Thursday night at 8 with headliner Sam Ike. Ages 21 and older. Admission $5 to $10.

■Mike McDonald’s Comedy Extravaganza, with guests Tom Cotter, Nick Griffin, Karen Morgan and Corey Rodrigues, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets $32 to $37.

Music

“Warm Toes and Silky Tones,” free performance of opera and musical-theater favorites by guest baritone Alex Hurd and students from Dartmouth Opera Lab, Thursday night at 9 at Hopkins Center’s Top of the Hop.

■Pianist Annemieke McLane and flutist Anne Janson, classical works of Vivaldi, Carl Reinecke and Tan Dun, Friday night at 7 at United Church of Strafford. Admission by donation to the Manheim Fund for upkeep of the church steeple.

■Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble and Thumbscrew trio, big-band classics, Friday night at 8 at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium. General admission $10 to $12.

■North Country Chamber Players, classical works of Mozart, Cesar Franck and Arvo Part, Saturday afternoon at 3 at Court Street Arts’ Alumni Hall in Haverhill. Tickets $25.

■Folk-rock quartet Second Wind, monthly Coffeehouse Cabaret on Saturday night at 7, North Common Arts in Chelsea. Admission $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

■Singer-songwriter Dave Richardson, Saturday night at 7 at Reading (Vt.) Town Hall. Admission $10, proceeds benefiting Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, Reading Parent-Teacher Organization, Reading Green Spaces Committee and WISE agency serving survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Contributions of non-perishable food for food shelf also welcomed.

■Room to Spare duo of violinist Julia Connor and pianist David Leach, classical, jazz and pop, Saturday night at 7:30, at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Upper Valley in Norwich. Admission $15.

■Music Together concert for kids, by early-childhood faculty of Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon, Sunday afternoon at 3. Admission by donation to UVMC tuition-assistance fund.

■Classical pianist Richard Fu and violinist Max Tan, works of Bach, Beethoven and Fritz Kreisler, Sunday afternoon at Dartmouth College’s Faulkner Recital Hall. Admission free.

Bar and club circuit

Chris Comeau and Jonathan Cyr, classic and contemporary country, bluegrass and rock, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place.

■Roots duos Hoot & Holler and Oliver the Crow, Friday night at 7 at The Skinny Pancake.

■Chris Kleeman Blues Band, Friday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern.

■Drumstick, rock duo, Friday night at 8:30 at Babes Bar in Bethel.

■Supply & Demand, folk-flavored hip-hop, reggae and bluegrass, Friday night at 9:30 at Windsor Station.

■Singer-songwriter Alison “AliT” Turner, Sunday night at 7 at Tessie’s Tavern in Bethel, and Tuesday night at 6 at First Branch Coffee in South Royalton.

■Saxophonist Michael Parker with singer-songwriter Randy White on Tuesday night at 6 at Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton, and with jazz guitarist Norm Wolfe on Wednesday night at Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm.

■Jazz pianist Sonny Saul, Wednesday night at 6:30 at On the River Inn in Woodstock.

■At Salt hill Pub in Hanover, rockers Chris Powers on Friday night at 9 and Rich Thomas on Saturday night at 9.

■GrooveSum, rock, Saturday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon.

■At Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon, rockers Tad Dreis on Friday night at 9 and Chris Powers during Happy Hour on Saturday afternoon at 4.

■About Gladys, rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Newport.

Open mics

Weekly acoustic jam session on Friday night at 6:30, at BALE Commons.

■Al Carruth and E.J. Tretter host monthly open mic on Friday night at 7, at Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse.

■Joe Stallsmith’s weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass, 6 p.m. Monday at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach’s weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music, Tuesday night at 7 at Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

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

■Jim Yeager’s weekly open-mic, Wednesday nigh at 8, Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Looking ahead

The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s episodic comedy, performed Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. by students, faculty and staff of the Vermont Law School. Admission $5, proceeds benefiting Safeline’s programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

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




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