Merman the Medium

May 16, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

When Varla Jean Merman hits a high note, it’s an out of body experience. The drag superstar and opera diva is famous for her campy shows, hilarious movie appearances, and her days of knocking back cans of Easy Cheese while singing one of her signature parodies. But in recent years, Merman (a.k.a. Jeffrey Roberson) has increasingly been making a name for herself as an opera diva performing Classical Varla, an annual night of opera to raise money for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. And now Merman is dipping her high heel into the opera world again with the Provincetown production of the Gian Carlo Menotti opera The Medium, opening at the Art House this weekend. 

The Provincetown production of The Medium, produced by Counter Productions in association with Mark Cortale, will open in New York City at the Little Theater at the end of October, harkening back to the days when Provincetown was a preview springboard for theatrical productions before they headed to the Big Apple. 

“We are sitting on a can of dynamite,” says director Donna Drake. “I cannot wait to take this to New York and introduce the opera world to this diva.”

Famous for writing the opera The Telephone and Amahl and the Night Visitors, Menotti wrote The Medium in 1946 after receiving a commission from Columbia University. The hour-long, two-act dramatic opera features Madame Flora, portrayed by Merman, a bitter con artist who pretends to have supernatural powers that allow her to communicate with the dead. She holds a séance cruelly taking advantage of those who have recently lost a child, with the help of her daughter Monica and a mute servant boy, Toby. However, during the séance Madame Flora begins to truly hear voices from beyond, sending her into a panic and setting the stage for a thriller of an opera.

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The Poet In Motion

May 9, 2012 5:00 am0 comments


Nick Flynn on writing, memory, and The Fine Arts Work Center

Nick Flynn is shaving.  He has an engagement at the Rubin Museum of Art in downtown Manhattan along with psychologist William Hirst titled “Based on a True Story” to discuss memory.  Hirst studies it, Flynn makes it into art. 

An award-winning poet Flynn reached literary stardom with his 2004 memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City , which recounts encountering his estranged, alcoholic father while working at a Boston homeless shelter.  He followed it up six years later with The Ticking Is The Bomb: A Memoir, an exploration of  having children while the country is engaged in two wars.  His first book is now a film, Being Flynn,  starring Robert DeNiro,  Julianne Moore, and Paul Dano, as Nick. 

With the water running, there’s the sound of the tap of a razor with a splash. 

“Its something that I’m without a frame of reference, for me at least,” says Flynn, who was on set of the film’s shoot. “I don’t know many examples of having one’s life reenacted at such a high level.”

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From the Beatles to Brahams

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A Decade of Music with the Outer Cape Chorale


As spring rain forms puddles in the street, and gray clouds hide the blue sky above, it can be hard to see the beauty in things. But looking out the window of his Commercial Street home overlooking the Bay, Outer Cape Chorale director Jon Arterton admires the beauty of the ever-changing view. 

“The other day we saw a fox running along the beach,” he recalls as he grabs a pair of binoculars to get a better look at a black shape in the distance.

Arterton moved to Provincetown in 1993. It was several years later, in 2002, that he found himself “semi-retired” and wanting to return to conducting, in which he’d majored in graduate school. Serendipitously, the Provincetown Choral Society found itself leaderless when Betty Kelly, who’d led it for 35 years or so, decided to call it quits. It was under these circumstances that the Outer Cape Chorale was formed.

The Outer Cape Chorale celebrates its tenth year with performances of Johannes Brahms’ beautiful Ein Deutsches Requiem this month and in the fall, a program of Stephen Sondheim favorites. It is this range of material that has made the Chorale an incredibly popular group, and their biannual concerts eagerly anticipated.

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The Bitter Cup of Bragan Thomas

May 2, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

After a particularly trying day of rehearsals for his role as Erronius in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Bragan Thomas went home frustrated and despondent. It had been a terrible day. He poured himself a glass of orange juice and prior to drinking exclaimed: “Oh woe is me; God has given me a bitter cup to drink,” recalls Thomas with a wonderfully theatrical recitation. “And then I thought, ‘a bitter cup’, that would be a wonderful name for a play.”
Desperation turned into inspiration, and that night he wrote the first draft of A Bitter Cup, a short play chosen as part of this year’s Spring Playwrights’ Festival at the Provincetown Theater, May 4-6 and the following weekend, May 11-13. While Thomas is a member of the newly assembled board of directors of the Provincetown Theater, his inclusion into this juried festival is the result of an invitation and not self-promotion, he adds. The fast-paced mystery was well received by the festival judges for its sense of suspense and action.
“There are four characters and only one remains at the end of the play,” says Thomas. “ It’s action packed. I’ve been told it’s Agatha Christie meets Oscar Wilde meets Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a lot of fun.”

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REVIEW: Me & Orson Welles

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Richard Linklater made his name as a unique filmmaker with his second feature Slacker (1991), a film that spoke to the generation for which it was named. Subsequent films like Dazed and Confused (1993), Before Sunrise (1995), and Waking Life (2001) furthered his reputation and broadened his appeal. But in the early 2000s, he  shifted focus with more mainstream films like the remake of The Bad News Bears (2005), the funny, but generic School of Rock (2005), and now another Jack Black starrer, Bernie (2012). As part of the filmART series, programmer Howard Karren has chosen a Linklater film that falls somewhere in between his quirky early work and current Hollywood fare – Me & Orson Welles (2009) starring Zac Efron, Claire Danes, and Christian McKay.
The film takes place in 1937 and follows a young boy from New Jersey named Richard (Efron), who aspires to be an actor on the level of John Gielgud. While hanging out in Manhattan, he comes upon the famed Mercury Theater and manages to get himself a part as Lucius in Welles’ upcoming production of Julius Caesar. As the rehearsals go on, Richard learns about life, love, and the nature of creative genius. As an audience, we get a sense of what it may have been like to be in the theater in New York’s heyday and also to be around the brilliant Welles as he was just starting to make his name (this is several years before his cinematic masterpiece Citizen Kane and two years before his famously terrifying War of the World radio broadcast).

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Review: The Three Stooges

April 25, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

by Rebecca M. Alvin It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the Three Stooges. The slapstick trio who got their start in vaudeville managed to maintain and grow a fan base over several generations through the short films made for Columbia Pictures and their endless presence on Saturday morning [...]

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Q & A with Miss Gay Massachusetts US of A.

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On Sunday, April 15, Anita Cocktail won the hotly contested Miss Gay Massachusetts US of A Pageant at the Crown and Anchor. Also known as Michael Steers, Miss Cocktail is a native of Easton, Massachusetts, but has been a Provincetown resident for quite some time, making her a hometown girl. And now with the crown newly placed on her head she’s making plans for the Miss Gay US of A Pageant scheduled for May 22 – 25 at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, Texas. Steers took a moment to chat with Provincetown Magazine about the sisterhood of drag pageantry, how to get a custom-made sequin gown from Thailand in two days, and the trials and tribulations of wearing double-D-cup falsies.

Provincetown Magazine: Congratulations! Sunday was quite the evening at the Pageant. 

Michael Steers: It was amazing.  The good thing was that I got to go first so I didn’t have time to obsess while waiting to go on. I didn’t get to see anything anyone else did. I’m going to watch a tape of the pageant tonight.

PM: What was it like backstage?

MS: Everyone backstage was great. We are all friends. It was such a supportive atmosphere. There was none of the catty, bitchy RuPaul Drag Race drama.  It was a real competition this year and that made it fun. I love competition. It really motivates me to be on my game. The only drama backstage is I wish my necklace didn’t break.

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April 12, 2012 4:24 pm0 comments

The 1st Annual New England Transgender Film Festival comes to Provincetown by Rebecca M. Alvin Each year, some 5,000 film festivals around the world bring new films to the attention of audiences who might otherwise never get to see these works. While many festivals are industry events designed to facilitate [...]

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Review: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum

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by Steve Desroches A very funny thing is happening at the Provincetown Theater with their spring production of the Stephen Sondheim musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  This production of the newly reorganized Provincetown Theater is a spirited and clever first bill for the [...]

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Cabaret: Then and Now

4:04 pm0 comments

by Rebecca M. Alvin What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “cabaret”? If you’re in Provincetown in April, it’s probably Cabaret Fest, a fun annual festival of cabaret music, now in its fifth year, runs April 13 – 15 at the Crown & [...]

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