Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: Pendragon Theatre's Baskerville: (A Sherlock Holmes Mystery) is An Adrenaline-Filled Comedic Thrill

Mrs Hudson (Rachel Kemp), Dr Mortimier (Michael Ring)
and Holmes (Jonathan Whitney)
(Saranac Lake) My children have grown up on classic radio plays. My son is familiar with a host of radio plays and characters such as Johnny DollarThe Great GildersleeveOur Miss BrooksThe Jack Benny Show and all the sound effects that go along with them. He even knew the stories of the great detective Sherlock Homes and his faithful friend Dr. Watson before he could read or was allowed to watch TV. With that enthusiasm for classic productions, we were thrilled to find out that a version of a family favorite was going to be gracing Pendragon Theatre’s summer stage. 

Jonathan Whitney as Sherlock Holmes
and Tyler Nye as Dr Watson
After a bit of research, I realize that the play we are seeing, Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville, is adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles but with a comedic twist. Ken Ludwig has written a hilarious play with odes to Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein, a touch of Vaudeville and the wit of classic radio. Director Anita Montgomery pulls together a strong ensemble that hits all the marks and easily keeps the jokes tossing back and forth like a game of hot potato. 

The set design from Kent Streed and Anita Montgomery is black box minimalist, allowing lighting and sound to play a more active role. This works wonderfully within this performance as the silhouettes, fog and even gun fire (blanks) add to the intrigue.

The play unfolds as Holmes and Watson are asked to probe into the death of Sir Charles Baskerville who has seemingly been frightened to death. Dr. John Mortimer (Michael Ring) seeks answers from Holmes regarding his friend’s death while he worries for the safety of Sir Charles’ American heir, Sir Henry.  

Easy Adirondack Hikes: Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower (Elizabethtown NY)

Hurricane Mountain 
Elevation = 3,694'  
Vertical ascent = 2,000'
Distance = 2.6 miles

Hurricane Mountain, located in Essex County, has a solid rock summit and 360º view. It's most known for its fire tower that was first built in 1909. That wooden structure was replaced in 1919 with the current 35' Aermoto LS-40 tower and 7'x7' metal cab.  There had been quite a lot of controversy regarding whether the fire tower should be repaired or maintained, but in 2014 New York State approved the plan to restore public access to the Hurricane Fire tower. Now in 2016, the fire tower is open, thanks to the Friends of Hurricane Mountain and other volunteers. 

There are three different approaches for this mountain. Coming from the Rt. 9N approach, this hike gains very little elevation for the first mile.  After signing in at the register, the path follows an old road that weaves through wooded areas, crossing plank walkways over marshy areas. 

After passing crossing another log walkway the area opens up to a bog. This crossing can be swampy after a recent rain or during mud season so be careful. It is a popular spot to spy red efts (red-spotted newts). 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Smokey Bear's Connection to World War II and Disney's Bambi

Smokey the Bear, the iconic American symbol for forest fire prevention, actually was preceded by an earlier fire prevention strategy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt first started a fire prevention campaign when millions of acres of National Forest were being lost due to careless people. The campaign started with Uncle Sam and took a religious turn before tapping into the war movement.

When Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Japanese submarines fired shells exploding a Santa Barbara, California oil field - the war was brought to American soil.

With young men and experienced firefighters enlisted in the war and stationed away from the home front, fear grew that these attacks would continue to destroy lives, property and National Forests.  Citizens were encouraged to take a personal interest in fire prevention and organize community prevention efforts.

With the success of Disney's 5th animated movie, Bambi, the fire prevention campaign shifts from one of fear to one of sympathy. After Disney loaned its Bambi characters for one year for a fire prevention campaign, the Ad CouncilUSDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters recognized the need for an animal mascot of their own.  In 1944 a cute bear was chosen as the mascot making Smokey Bear a part of the longest running public service ad campaign in US history.
1943 poster 

The goal was and is to encourage people to be careful. With preventative measures, most fires can be avoided.

Fun Fact: Smokey Bear is often called Smokey the Bear, but "the" isn't really part of his name. The "the" was added to the 1952 song written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. The extra "the" was added to maintain rhythm. 

US Forest Fire Prevention Campaign Timeline:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 13-14, 2016 World Premiere of "The Night We Met" Showcases Schroon Lake at The Strand Theatre

Schroon Lake became a hotbed for the film industry early this year when the wife and husband team, Tracy Nicole Cring and Jon Russell Cring, of Cinema Rebellion filmed their latest project in the Adirondacks. Originally set in a small town in Tennessee, the script called for a timeless location with a small town vibe. Now the World premiere of The Night We Met is set for August 13-14 at the Strand Theater.

“This film is my wife’s autobiography,” says Jon Cring. “One of the people has a camp in Schroon Lake so we came to just take a look. When we got here we met Maureen and Robert of the Adirondack General Store and noted it as a place similar to a location in the script.  We walked out and saw a phone booth that was also in the script. We were surrounded by all sorts of references to the film. It worked out perfectly. We look for a place that people can relate to. A place that screams out that they want to come here and spend time here. That is exactly what Schroon Lake is, beautiful sunrises and sunsets and accommodating people. It 's about capturing that great American feeling and putting it into the film.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Pendragon Theatre's Amadeus is Divine

Pendragon Theatre presents Amadeus
(Saranac Lake) My thirteen-year-old daughter sits in the Pendragon Theatre audience with me madly reading the program to learn a bit about the play Amadeus, before the lights start to dim. I bring her with me as a lover of history and music. She grasps that the main story is a fictional account of the rivalry between two classical musicians, Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. It's later on that she learns rumor and innuendo are just as fatal as murder. 

Salieri (John Nicholson) with Katerina (Emily S. Wanamaker)
I’ve watched the 1984 Oscar winning movie based on the Peter Shaffer play, but I’ve never seen the stage production. The differences are vast, as the play's action draws us in and allows the audience to be involved in the process. A poignant story of artistic brilliance, jealousy and destruction is brought to life through the powerful performances of the entire cast under the direction of Kimberley A. Bouchard. Amadeus is an emotional rollercoaster that ended with us both in tears. 

John Nicholson, last seen as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, plays Salieri with the perfect mix of self-righteousness, resentment and vengeance. The story opens with an elderly wheelchair-bound Salieri, still holding onto his bitter rivalry with a deceased Mozart.

The Ventis (Rachel Kemp and Emily S. Wanamaker)
with Salieri's servant (Will Gray) 
Bonnie B. Brewer’s lighting triggers shifts in moods from forbidding darkness to mischievous lightness while Tijana Bjelajac’s simplistic set design transforms us to 1800s Vienna with ease. It is Cathy Mason’s brilliant costume design that truly allows us to enter the court of Austria’s Emperor Joseph through rich brocade fabrics and elaborate Baroque-style wigs.  (Some wigs are works of art themselves, intricately fabricated from paper.)