Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pick of the Week - Michael Clark Dance Company at the Byham

Michael Clark Company. Featured Oxana Panchenko and Clair Thomas. Photo by Jake Walters


Pittsburgh Dance Council will bring the award-winning British dance troupe Michael Clark Company to the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth Street, downtown Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 1. The evening’s program will featuress Clark’s choreographic work "come, been and gone." Michael Clark is considered one of Britain’s leading choreographers and the performance will mark the company’s Pittsburgh debut.
    Michael Clark Company’s critically acclaimed production "come, been and gone" premiered in 2009 and was created for the company’s 25th anniversary. The choreography is paired primarily with the music of rock legend David Bowie. The production features original lighting design by long term collaborator, filmmaker and lighting designer Charles Atlas, with costumes by Stevie Stewart and Michael Clark.  The choreography is also influenced by the music of Iggy Pop, Brian Eno and The Velvet Underground.
    The Observer commented, "…an outrageously gorgeous piece of modern dance."  The Daily Telegraph wrote, "…beautifully and inspiringly danced… unmissable."  In this work, Clark’s unique style seamlessly weaves and crosses the worlds of classical ballet, contemporary dance, fashion, music and visual art.
    "Rock is my rock," shared Clark. "It has been vital to me at a personal level; it has shaped me as an individual as well as an artist."
    A video excerpt from "come, been and gone" was included in the smash hit exhibition David Bowie Is, presented at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. This worldwide exhibition can be seen in the United States at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago from September 23, 2014 through January 4, 2015.  For more information, visit www2.mcachicago.org/exhibition/david-bowie-is/.
    The first act of come, been and gone features Clark’s work, SWAMP.  SWAMP debuted in 1986 and was choreographed for Rambert Dance Company.  The work was later revived by the company in 2004.
Clark joined Rambert Dance in 1979 when it was known as Ballet Rambert.  SWAMP received the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production (2005).  The choreography is known for its mix of contemporary and experimental movement, with less rigid classical overtones and a finale section that highlights Clark’s choreographic sense of style, through the use of constant changing partners and group dynamics.
    Michael Clark chose to become a choreographer believing that actions speak louder than words. He creates works that combine his classical integrity with a more complex, contemporary sensibility, embracing virtue and vice, abandon and control, grace and embarrassment. Clark is renowned for his legendary collaborations with bands, fashion designers and visual artists including Wire, Bodymap, Leigh Bowery, Trojan and Sarah Lucas. His works have been commissioned by major dance companies around the world.
    In 2011, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen conferred on Michael Clark an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Arts in recognition of his distinguished career in the field of choreography and dance.  In 2012, Michael Clark presented WHO’S ZOO?, a specially commissioned piece for the Whitney Biennial in New York.  This year, Michael Clark was the recipient of the Robert Robson Award for Dance, presented by the Manchester Theatre Awards; in June and he received a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) award in recognition for his contributions to dance, as part of the Queen’s birthday honors.
    Michael Clark’s "come, been and gone" was commissioned by barbicanbite09 and Dance Umbrella (London), La Biennale di Venezia (Venice) and Dansens Hus (Stockholm) as part of European Network of Performing Arts (ENPARTS). Co-produced by barbicanbite09, Dance Umbrella, Michael Clark Company, Edinburgh International Festival, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg and Maison des Arts de Créteil. Michael Clark Company is supported by Arts Council England. Support for 2014 US Tour is also provided by the British Council.
    For more information visit, www.michaelclarkcompany.com. For tickets, which start at $19, phone 412-456-6666.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New-To-Me Grape Variety - Viura

Bodega Franco-Espanolas Rioja Photo Credit Bill Rockwell


    One of the things that makes wine such an interesting subject is the vast catalogue of makers, styles, regions, growing conditions and grape varieties to choose from. Sometimes it seems as if you can have a different bottle of wine each day for the rest of your life without repeating. And, of course, you can.
    This week, I discovered a new-to-me grape variety in the guise of the Viura grape, also called Macabeo, which is grown in the Rioja region  of northeastern Spain and constitutes 90% of Rioja's white wine production. Again the maker, Bodega Franco-Espanolas uses 100% Viura grapes to make this meant-to-be-drunk young wine with  a slightly tart finish.
    Noted wine writer Jancis Robinson calls Viura "The Cinderella Grape," saying in 2010 that over the past few years she'd "been increasingly impressed by wines made from a grape that is hardly ever written about."
    Again, I discovered vegetative qualities like rhubarb and green beans  on the nose and fruit like apple, apricot, cantaloupe and lemon on the palate.  The Viura's light body and crisp taste makes it refreshingly apt for the holidays, either as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to fresh fish, oysters, calamari, clams, mussels and lobster. And, of course, turkey.
    More like a Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay, the 2012 Royal has a pale straw color, a light to moderate body and 12% alcohol and is a bargain at $10.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pick of the Week - Christopher O'Riley at Olin


Pianist Christopher O'Riley

    Located on the beautiful campus of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., the Olin Fine Arts Center is one of my favorite entertainment venues in the Greater Pittsburgh region. Comfortable, spacious and with great acoustics and sound and light systems, the Center is the home to art exhibits, concerts, theater, film, dance and more each year. To make matters even more attractive, ticket prices are unbelievably low, generally at $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors and non-W&J students.
    At 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, renowned pianist Christopher O'Riley, host of the NPR music program, "From the Top," will appear in concert. His repertoire for his "Out of My Hands" concert usually includes works by R.E.M., Portishead, Cocteau Twins, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, The Bad Plus, The Smiths, Tears for Fears as well as material from Radiohead and Elliot Smith.
    Mr O'Riley is regarded as one of the leading American pianists of his generation and is known for his compelling musings on music and popular culture. Heralded by "Rolling Stone" for his "unblinking virtuosity," the pianist has toured extensively as a recitalist and chamber musician and has appeared with every major American orchestra.
    Now in his fifteenth year on air, Mr. O'Riley introduces the next generation of classical music stars to almost a million listeners each week on "From the Top," broadcast by 250 stations across the United States. He's also hosted the Emmy Award-winning television series "From the Top at Carnegie Hall," and has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFarrin, Midori, Bela Fleck, Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Sir James Galway, Michael Feinstein and many more.
    A prolific recording artist, O'Riley has recorded the music of Beethoven, Stravinsky, Scriabin, Liszt, Ravel, Gershwin, Debussy and John Adams for Sony Classical, Oxingale Records, RCA Red Seal, Decca and Harmonia Mundi. His most recent solo recording featured two discs of Liszt's transcriptions, including songs by Schumann and Schubert, the opera paraphrase on Mozart's "Don Giovanni," the Don Juan Fantasy and Liszt's own transcription of Berlioz's "Symphony Fantastique," liberally re-imagined by O'Riley.
    Also a voracious reader, Mr. O'Riley has developed a number of projects combining music and literature. He's composed scores for works of Mark Z. Danielewski and Kris Saknussemm. Most recently, he collaborated with choreographer Martha Clarke on "Vers la Flamme," a fully-staged production with six dancers based on the short stories of Anton Chekhov set to the music of Alexander Scriabin. This program was performed at Lincoln Center, The American Dance Festival, Jacob's Pillow Festival and the Kewnnedy Center.
    For reservations for his October 29th concert at the Olin Fine Arts Center, 60 South Lincoln Street in Washington, phone 724-223-OLIN (6546).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Savannah - Sultry, Sassy, Seductive and Sublime

Dave Taking a Segway Tour Standing in Front of the Mercer Williams House

This travel article was first published in the fall edition of Pathfinders Magazine. Here's the unedited version. To see more travel features in Pathfinders, log on to www.pathfinderstravel.com.

It’s said that when General Sherman entered Savannah during the Civil War on his "March to the Sea," he was so taken by the city’s beauty that he spared it from the fate he so often inflicted on other Southern cities - burning them to the ground.
Today, that same beauty Sherman saw draws 6.5 million visitors annually who come to catch a glimpse of Savannah’s genteel Southern ambiance, which, to my mind, certainly gives New Orleans a run for its money.
Settled in 1733 as the first planned city in the U.S., Savannah benefited from the experience of towns like London, devastated by a great fire in 1666. To act as fire breaks if a conflagration broke out, town planners gave the city wide streets and 24 town squares that conveniently double as park-like gardens.
Today, a 2.5 square mile area of Savannah filled with gorgeous houses, restaurants, beautiful churches, shops and museums, shaded by large trees, many of them oaks dripping with iconic Spanish moss, have been designated a Landmark Historic District, one of the largest urban historic districts in the U.S.
Sadly, the city’s architectural treasures had deteriorated over the years, but in the 1950s a group of preservationists spearheaded a movement to restore more than 1,200 architecturally or historically significant buildings with help from the renowned Savannah College of Art and Design.
With so much to see, more than 40 tour companies vie for a chance to give visitors an insider’s look at Savannah. They also offer a great variety of options. Bus and trolley tours, carriage rides, walking tours, ghost tours (including one in a reconditioned hearse), afterlife tours based on "real" paranormal evidence, gourmet foodie tours, pub and tavern crawls and bike, architecture and garden tours - it’s all there for the taking.
I was all set to take a two-hour long, group walking tour with Savannah Dan, a  Trip Advisor and Yelp five star-rated gentleman who wears a white hat with a black band, seersucker suit, white shirt and gold bow tie on his history-laden jaunts. Then I spotted something that excited me even more - a Segway tour.
Savannah is a great place to tour via this electric-powered, two-wheel vehicle that’s easy and fun to drive. The city’s flat, traffic is slow moving through the historic district, the pace is perfect, the route is smooth, my guide knew a lot about the city, and we stopped for photo shoots along the way. I’m glad I took it. Phone 912-233-3554.
Historically, early Savannah got rich on the cotton trade, and cotton means the city has a rich African American history. As Georgia’s oldest Black community, Savannah is one of the most historically-significant African-American settlements in the nation. The current mayor, Edna Jackson, is African-American as is 55% of the city’s population.
Another African-American, Johnnie Brown, has been conducting Black History tours of Savannah’s Freedom Trail for over 20 years. His three hour long bus tour starts at the visitors center and stops at the oldest Black church in North America - the First African Baptist Church, the Beach Institute - a former school for freed slaves, the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum and the slave burial grounds.
The church was founded in 1773 and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad (ventilation holes in the floor that hid a four-foot crawl space for hiding are still visible). The three-story Civil Rights Museum provides glimpses into what life was like during the Civil Rights struggle in the city and highlights the sit-in efforts in Savannah with a powerful lunch counter exhibit that underlines the struggles for  integration. 912-398-2785.
Fans of the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," which is set in Savannah, might like to know it’s now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Several of the sites mentioned in the book and the 1997 by director Clint Eastwood are still there. They include the Mercer Williams House (a must-see for all fans), Clary’s Café and Club One, where Lady Chablis still performs her sultry act once a month.. Phone 912-232-0200.
On the way out to Tybee Island, Savannah’s five mile long stretch of sandy beaches and sun filled fun, I stopped at Pin Point, a Gullah/Geechee seaside community. In 1890, over 100 freed slaves migrated to Pin Point where they sustained themselves by fishing, oystering and crabbing. Living in relative isolation, they maintained their Gullah culture and language, the historic Creole language of the Low Country drawn extensively from West African languages.
In 1926, the A. S. Varn and Son Oyster Factory become the community’s main source of work and income. The factory closed in 1985, but today five buildings that make up the Pin Point Heritage Museum tell the history of the community through videos, photos and exhibits.
According to Gail Smith, museum interpreter who still lives on the property her grandfather bought in 1925, most Pin Point residents now hold alternate jobs. Every two years, however, residents and former residents and their kin get together for a reunion, which might include a return of the settlement’s most famous son, Supreme Curt Justice Clarence Thomas, who lived in Pin Point the first 12 years of his life.
While there’s nothing wrong with just relaxing or having fun on Tybee Island’s beaches, visitors can get some exercise (and a wonderful view of the area) by climbing the 178 steps to the top of the Tybee Island Lighthouse.
For more information on Savannah, phone 1-877-SAVANNAH or visit website VisitSavannah.com.
Tania Smith-Jones  (L), director and Gail Smith( R, museum interpretor) at Pin Point Museum

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pick of the Week - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s "The Sleeping Beauty"

Artist: Julia Erickson  Photo by: Rich Sofranko 
Since the turn of the millennium, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has produced choreographer Marius Petipa’s "The Sleeping Beauty" in 2000, 2005 and 2009. Obviously a popular ballet, "The Sleeping Beauty" will once again grace the stage of Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center this weekend as PBT’s  45th anniversary season opener.
With music by Tchaikovsky played live by the PBT Orchestra, the ballet premiered in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and has since gone on to become one of the classical repertoire’s best known works.
Showcasing more than 150 performers, including students of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, PBT’s "The Sleeping Beauty" tells Charles Perrault’s classic tale through illustrative scenery and tour de force dancing.
"The Sleeping Beauty" features staging and direction by artistic director Terrence S. Orr with choreography after Marius Petipa. Considered "the father of classical ballet," Marius Petipa choreographed more than 60 full-length ballets, including some of the great 19th century classics, Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Don Quixote and The Nutcracker.
Distinguished by its purity and precision, the choreography of "The Sleeping Beauty" is widely regarded as the gold standard for classical ballet technique. Among its highlights, the famous "Rose Adagio," performed by Aurora and her four suitors, showcases the strength and control of the ballerina through a series of impressive balances and promenades, and the Act III wedding scene captures the elation of the lovers in a grand pas de deux often performed alone as a showpiece.
In addition to the leading roles of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire, "The Sleeping Beauty" displays the depth of the cast through the solos of the six good fairies, the soaring male choreography of the Bluebird Pas de Deux and the virtuosity of the Act III variations in the wedding scene. Other notable characters include the infamous fairy, Carabosse (known as Maleficent in the Disney version), and Act III cameos by Puss ‘n Boots and other characters from Perrault fairy tales.
The story line  begins with the baptism of Princess Aurora in which invited guests bring the young babe gifts. One uninvited arrival, Carabosse, is insulted she hasn’t been welcomed as one of the guests and, in retribution, curses the baby with a spell that will have her prick her finger on her 16th birthday and promptly die.
Fortunately one of the last of the invited guests who haven’t yet presented their gift is the Lilac Fairy. She intervenes to soften the wicked fairy’s malfeasance, but unable to completely overturn the curse, she substitutes a long sleep for the immediate demise of the princess. It’s a 100 year sleep that will be broken only with the kiss of a handsome prince.
The ballet ends happily with the marriage of the savior Prince and Princess Aurora in which the entire kingdom joins the King, the Queen and the Lilac Fairy in a joyous celebration of dance.
The ballet features one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest and most recognizable scores, including the iconic "Garland Waltz" used as the tune for Disney’s "Once Upon a Dream." At the time of the ballet’s creation, Tchaikovsky and Petipa collaborated closely to devise the tempo, themes and timing of the score. In a note to a benefactor, Tchaikovsky wrote, "The subject is so poetic, so inspirational to composition, that I am captivated by it."
The PBT Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s famous score under the direction of guest conductor Martin West, who serves as music director and principal conductor for San Francisco Ballet. West made his conducting debut at English National Ballet in 1997, and, in addition to his post with SFB, has went on to guest with some of the top ballet companies in North America, including New York City Ballet, Houston Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.
Originally created for the Royal Ballet of London, "The Sleeping Beauty" features scenic and costume designs by David Walker, who evokes a 17th century aesthetic with the regal columns and gold finery of the palace that frames the story. Costume styles include the intricate classical tutus of the fairies, elaborate robes of the courtesans and the jeweled snakes and spiders of Carabosse’s costume.
Lush music, exquisite dancing, gorgeous costumes and sets all combine to make "The Sleeping Beauty" a must-see production and underscore its great popular appeal to people of all ages.
"The Sleeping Beauty" is at the Benedum Center in Downtown Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. on October 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on October 25 and 26. Phone 412-456-6666.

Artists: Gabrielle Thurlow & Nurlan Abougaliev 
Photo by: Duane Rieder


Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs" - A Cerebral Theatrical Adventure

Daina Michelle Griffith as Grace and Ken Bolden as Henry in "The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs"


Off the Wall Theater in Carnegie should have gotten hold of Mensa’s email list and sent invites to all the brainiacs in the tri-state area to come sit through its current production of "The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs."
Not for those who simply want to sit back and soak in some bland and easily digestible Pablum sort of play, "Stairs" requires mental concentration and synapse-snapping thinking from the audience during its non-stop, 90-minute ride through this macabre and eerie adaptation of the Bluebeard folk tale by Canadian playwright Carole Frechette.
Even before the play begins, the set stimulates the neurons with its improbable configuration. Why the column bent at a right angle at the foot of the wall? Why the chair attached to the back wall as if we are staring at the floor from above? Is this the work of Escher or Dali, you might wonder? The program identifies the creator of this dimension-bending  construct as Rich Preffer, set designer.
The plot draws from the traditional folk tale of the young beautiful maiden who marries a rich man, years her elder, who owns an exquisitely-furnished 28 room mansion, complete with Olympic-size swimming pool, greenhouses and carefully tended gardens. Into the palatial oasis, Grace, as the new bride is called, is invited, but with one admonition - not to enter the small room at the top of the stairs.
Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, she’s tempted to violate the injunction, well aware that her spouse has been married three times before. Could it be that his wives have already paid an awful price for their disobedience, and could the answer be found behind the enigmatic door to the small room?
The emotional feel of the play is dark and somber with touches of "American Horror Story" kitsch, Hitchcockian suspense and film noir morbidity, which makes it especially apt for the Halloween season. The playwright asks not whodunit but what was done, if anything. As a possible clue to understanding the work, the playwright adroitly hints that the meaning of "true tears" helps as a guide through this mental labyrinth, something I found absolutely useless in understanding the proceedings until I fully digested the plot a day later and came up with a Eureka experience.
Open ended enough to give rise to several plausible interpretations, the play is a decidedly good production. Lighting designer, Bob Steineck, knows how to give us just enough light at crucial moments to allow the chills to creep up our spine, and sound designer Ryan McMasters’s use of the pulse of a rhythmically-beating heart gets the adrenaline going even further.
In the lead, Daina Michelle Griffith as Grace has the looks for the part as well as the skills to carry the production. Named the Pittsburgh "Post-Gazette" performer of the Year for 2013, Griffith is flawless in her newly wedded wife persona that she deftly transitions into that of a terrified woman victimized by her curiosity.
As her husband, Henry, Ken Bolden can be both roses and champagne sweetness as well as enraged, ax-wielding maniac. But don’t let these descriptors make you think you can figure out the story line from what I just said. You can’t without actually seeing the play.
Two allied characters are positioned at desks on either side of the stage. On stage left, Sharon Brady serves as Grace’s mother, offering advice at various times and reveling in her daughter’s happiness and new-found wealth.
On the right, Grace’s sister, Anne (Amanda Brooke Lerner) is a bit suspicious not only of her sister’s motives for marrying a much older man but also of the man himself. While loving her sister, sibling rivalry is also part of the dynamic of their relationship.
Add to the complex mix of personalities an enigmatic maid, Jenny (Amy Landis), a person of unidentified ethnicity who always shows up when needed and seems to have designs on the mansion, the master or both.
Ingrid Sonnichsen directs this challenging, opening production of Off the Wall’s 2014-2015 season. A small room it may seem, but Frechette’s intricate work is geared for those with large intellects.
"The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs" is at the Off the Wall Theater, 25 W. Main Street in Carnegie through November 1. Phone 1-888-71-TICKETS or www.insideoffthewall.com.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

"The Glass Menagerie" - Truth in the Pleasant Disguise of Illusion."

 
   
Cathryn Wake as Laura and Jordan Whalen as Jim O'Connor
One of the perks of writing a theater review for a blog as opposed to one for the traditional media is that you’re given more leeway to say things that may not pass the scrutiny of a zealous editor or the strictures of the standard review template. That said, I’d like to start off by commending Pittsburgh Public Theater artistic director, Ted Pappas, for his welcoming aplomb and urbane introduction to the opening night production of "The Glass Menagerie," the dream drama that drew Tennessee Williams out of obscurity and set him on the way to become one of the nation’s most prominent 20th Century dramatic voices.
Completely at ease in front of the city’s theater cognoscenti, Mr. Pappas pulled off one of the most interesting and entertaining prologues imaginable. Kudos, Ted. You can host my roast anytime.
One of the things Pappas mentioned was that the 2014-15 season at the Public is also its 40th. To help celebrate the occasion, Pappas and company dug into the past and decided to re-stage the work that launched season number one back on September 17, 1975.
A lot has happened since 1975, not to mention 1937, the era in which "Menagerie" is set, eight years into the Depression.  But, thanks to the playwright’s ability to create timeless atmospheres with his well-regarded poetic propensities, the fact that the play is now decades old seems highly irrelevant and inconsequential.
When the  stage lights go up on the comfortable living room of the Wingfield family of St. Louis, we find Tom Wingfield, a young man who begins his dreamlike memory narrative by advising the audience "Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."
The truth he provides is that of a family plodding through the hard times of the Depression. The patriarch, a telephone company employee, is long gone, abandoning his wife and two children for the lures of the road by falling "in love with long distance" as one of the lines so cleverly puts it.
This leaves Tom as the household’s only breadwinner, bringing home his scant paycheck from a warehouse job he despises. To escape his unhappy family life, where his mother constantly hounds both him and his sister about everything from their attire to personal appearance and especially to getting on in the world.
Tom finds relief by going to late night movies (illusion with the appearance of truth) and occasional forays into neighborhood bars. Fisher Neal plays the conflicted lad, who seems to have a genuine affection for his mother and sister, as one dedicated to helping his family while all the while, looking for a way out to a more exciting life. One of the things he considers is the merchant marine, an outlet he sees as an adventurous alternative to his current stifling circumstances.
Mother Amanda, played magnificently by Lynne Wintersteller, has her own unbearable cross to bear. As a youth that enjoyed the social life of a well-heeled Southern belle, her fall for a charming and handsome neer-do-well was the springboard for her fall from grace and her former agreeable lifestyle, to which she fondly refers throughout the play.
In a difficult role, Cathryn Wake, plays the physically and emotionally wounded Laura - young, shy and diffident-to-the-point of total social impairment. Suffering from a limp that causes her to retreat from all social contact, she co-habits an imaginary world peopled by small glass animal figurines, a menagerie she displays on the family end table.
Aware that Laura will never be able to provide for her own support, Amanda presses Tom to bring home to dinner an eligible young man from work. Jordan Whalen’s Jim O’Connor seems a likely remedy. All optimism, energetic yet sympathetic to Laura’s plight, he seems to enjoy the dinner engagement presided over by Amanda’s  delightful coquettish playfulness.
In what first appears to be a glimmer of hope for Laura’s future, Williams, after a touching, emotion-packed scene in which Laura starts to emerge from her shell, takes his play in another direction - one that leaves the audience wondering ( and worrying about) what lies ahead for this much troubled trio of Wingfields.
Directed by Pamela Berlin, Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of "The Glass Menagerie" is at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh through November 2. Phone 412-316-1600 or ppt.org.
Fisher Neal as Tom and Lynne Wintersteller as Amanda

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pick of the Week - Heritage Festival

Harvest Festival at Greene County Historical Society Museum
    Dating back to 1971, the Harvest Festival organized by the Greene County Historical Society has been a popular draw for the past 43 autumns.
"This year, we’re trying to up our game by making the Festival a celebration of local history and culture," said Eben Williams, executive director. "Intended as a fun experience for the whole family, the festival includes demos of farm machinery such as threshers and features vendors selling harvest-time items such as corn stalks, jams and jellies and carved pumpkins. Our farm machinery such as thrashers, butter churns, broom making machines, plows, wagons, corn shellers and soil aerators will be on display both in our barn and outdoors. To answer questions posed by our visitors, volunteers will float around in the barn and grounds."
Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, October 11 and 12, the festival includes a reenactor skirmish at 3 p.m. both days between soldiers of Company A of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and the 2nd Virginia Infantry.
Bonnie Reese from the Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life in Avella, Washington County, will show festival-goers how to spin yarn and weave on the society’s second floor loom.
A children’s area next to the stage will feature games and activities such as a duck pond, a live alpaca display, face painting and toy vendor displays. Over 40 craft and food vendors will be on hand with foods like soup, candies and funnel cake, the Warrior Trail Association will sell buffalo burgers, Moore’s of Waynesburg will sell hot dogs and BBQ To Go will serve barbecued delights.
"We’ll have a big tent under which people can sit and enjoy their food," Williams said.
A whole roster of entertainment is planned for both days. The tentative schedule is as follows"
Saturday, October 11, 2014
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.     OPEN
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.     MD & the Double P’s
12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.       The Pioneer Cloggers
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.         Contest      
3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.         140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Civil War Re-enactment
4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.         OPEN
 Sunday, October 12, 2014
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.     Worship Service/Rev. Donald Wilson
11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.     The Weedrags
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.         Squonk Opera
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.         Civil War Ceremony
3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.         140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Civil War Re-enactment
4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.         Squonk Opera
New this year is a shuttle service by King Transit, which will provide rides from parking lots at the Franklin Township lot just down the road from the historical society and the Central Greene High School parking lot. The festival is held rain or shine.
"The Harvest Festival is our biggest fundraiser of the year and draws between 2,500 and 3,000 visitors annually," Williams said. "It is one of our best revenue generators. Although we get a small grant from the county, most of our funding comes from our events and membership in the society. We’re hoping everyone will join us in the festivities at our 43rd Harvest Festival."
For more information, phone 724-627-3204.