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New play 'Seeds' opening at Road Less Traveled

Buffalo playwright Donna Hoke’s new play, “Seeds” deals with society’s expectations about procreation in some shocking and unexpected ways. The show, developed as part of the Road Less Traveled New Play Workshop, opens tomorrow. Look for Colin Dabkowski's preview of "Seeds" and interview with Hoke in tomorrow's Gusto.

Here, Road Less Traveled artistic director Scott Behrend discusses the play:

Van Cliburn in Buffalo: Exclusive pictures

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Since I put together that tribute yesterday to Van Cliburn, some pictures have turned up of Cliburn in Buffalo.

JoAnn Falletta, the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was nice enough to forward the picture up above showing Cliburn when he last performed here, in fall 2007. He played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, his showpiece. That is Ansgarius Aylward, the BPO's Assistant Concertmaster, on the left.

Hahahaa... I remember thinking at the time how petite JoAnn looked next to Cliburn as they walked out on stage.

Here is a beautiful shot...

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It is great to have a picture of yourself hugging Van Cliburn. When I was in the Van Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition, the other contestants and I were always taking pictures of each other hugging him. I will have to find where I put mine.

Here is a picture I love, from my own personal collection. It is of Cliburn playing the spinet at the Rue Franklin, accompanying our concertmaster, Michael Ludwig. There are more pictures of this memorable event on the Buzz Blog.

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What an entertaining evening that was!

The memories are priceless.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Thursday Theater Roundup

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Patrick Moltane (standing) and Mark Donahue star in Torn Space Theater's production of Sam Shepard's play "Buried Child."

"Buried Child," through March 16 at Torn Space Theater. ★★★½

From the review: "Shepard’s theories are once again aided by his usual themes: desperation, isolation, violence, temper, deceit. Add incest, murder and the always present Shepard staple, menace, and you have the makings for an uncomfortable, albeit intriguing, night at the theater, one interminable at times, riveting at others." --Ted Hadley

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Beth Donohue and Wendy Hall in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of "Dancing at Lughnasa."

"Dancing at Lughnasa," through March 10 in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's Andrews Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "...You enter and exit the picture fluidly, never sure of whose emotions you’re responding to. In the end, you feel awoken from a dream, in the hazy déjà vu of it all. How exquisite this can be." --Ben Siegel

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Anne Gayley, Victoria Perez and Mary Kate O'Connell star in the O'Connell and Company production of "Glorious!"

"Glorious!" through March 3 in O'Connell and Company's Gleasner Hall, Erie Community College Williamsville Campus. ★★★

From the review: "Call it what you will – bravura, tour de force – O’Connell is marvelous as Florence, gentle, innocent, trusting, so serious yet so ridiculous..." --Ted Hadley

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Tim Newell stars in the Jewish Repertory Theatre's production of "Mister Benny."

"Mister Benny," through March 3 in the Jewish Repertory Theatre's Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "In 'Mister Benny,' a one-man play by Mark Humphrey about the beloved comedian Jack Benny, Tim Newell slips a white handkerchief into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, puts on a pair of chunky black glasses, and disappears.In his place, the fumbling, charming, self-aware Benny – a comedian whose vaudevillian persona belongs to a distant and more innocent age – comes so vividly to life that even those with little to no experience of his work experience a pang of nostalgia for someone they barely recognize." --Colin Dabkowski

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Michele Marie Roberts, Jessica Ferraday, Guy Balotine and Josie DiVincenzo star in "Noises Off" in the Kavinoky Theatre.

"Noises Off," through March 10 in Kavinoky Theatre.  ★★★★

From the review: "The Kavinoky’s current production of Michael Frayn’s classic modern farce “Noises Off” is perhaps not absent of flaws. That would be absurd. I dare you to find anything wrong with it, though, or to not take pure joy in everything it offers." --Ben Siegel

Van Cliburn, a virtuoso and a gentleman

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It was sad to hear that Van Cliburn died today, of complications from bone cancer. He was a sweet, sweet man, not to mention a heck of a pianist, and he had a lot of connections with Buffalo.

Cliburn was the type of gentleman who remembered things and I will always recall how once, when I interviewed him for The News, he discussed so vividly his appearance with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Josef Krips in the 1950s, before the Tchaikovsky Competition that made him famous.

That was when the pedals came off the piano, and they had to be fixed. Cliburn and Krips found on that occasion that they had something in common: they were both very religious men. Cliburn was Baptist, and Krips was Catholic. And so they prayed together backstage that the pedals would be fixed, which they were. Cliburn remembered everything about the occasion. What the weather was like. The name of the musician who fixed the piano. I was amazed by all that.

When Cliburn came here most recently, in fall 2007, I will never forget how he showed up at the Rue Franklin and played the piano. This little spinet had been borrowed for the occasion, and there Cliburn was, his tall lanky frame bent over this ridiculous dinky piano, playing it.

Not only that, but he accompanied Michael Ludwig, the BPO's concertmaster. Ludwig played Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise." I will never forget it. I mean, you are looking at Van Cliburn, playing little chords, whatever. There were people in the other room eating and talking, oblivious to that it was Van Cliburn in the other room. Ha, ha!

Such modesty this man had. I do not even want to call it charm because that suggests something contrived. He was genuine. He was a strange kind of public person. You could tell he knew he was public property and he had accepted that. And he just spread joy.

At the Rue Franklin, it happened I was there with my aunt and uncle and my husband. I was not there in any, ahem, official capacity. Shyly, I went to say hello to Van Cliburn and tell him that I had talked to him for the paper and also I had been in his amateur piano competition back in, yikes, 1999, and I had been at his house, and I had loved that experience so much. You would not believe what it was like to be in Cliburn's house, by the way. It was this incredible mansion overlooking Fort Worth, with pianos in every room, and you could play the pianos and set your drinks down on them and he didn't care. If you walked up to him he would hug you. He wore this wonderful cologne, is another detail that sticks in my mind.

When I descended on Cliburn at the Rue, it is not as if he would have remembered me from that competition, but was so nice. After playing the "Vocalise" he came into the dining room where we were. He came picking his way between all the tables, and he's so tall, and I do not think anybody knew who he was, and everyone was just kind of staring at him. "Excuse me," he kept saying to people in his Texas twang. "Excuse me."

He did all that just so he could joke around with us! We were laughing about that I was going to make my comeback at his competition. And we had in common that we both hated Michael Moore, the filmmaker. It is no secret that Cliburn was this Texas Republican.

We also joked about stage fright and as he was exiting the dining room of the Rue, Cliburn got in one more laugh about that.

"Mr. Cliburn, I'm looking forward to your concert at Kleinhans," I said.

He was halfway across the room by that point but he turned and yelled back, "Ah'm going to be nervous!"

With everyone staring at him!

God love him, you know? When you look back on his career, sure, it could have been better. He had a tough time with his fame and it held him back. He felt overscrutinized, I think, for everything he did, and so for long periods of time he did next to nothing. It was an unfortunate situation and probably resulted in him not achieving his artistic potential. But it is human.

For all his ambivalence about his career, though, he never let it get to him. He was such a sweet man and the people who loved him, he loved them back. He was a dear man, a graceful man, a gentleman. Not to mention a heck of a pianist.

The world will miss him. I will, too.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Live video chat canceled

Today's chat has been canceled. The guys will return next Thursday at 1 p.m.

Diana Krall concert postponed

The Diana Krall concert scheduled for tonight in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts has been postponed due to an upper respiratory infection.

The new concert date is 7:30 p.m. April 23. Existing tickets will be honored. Those unable to attend the rescheduled date may obtain a refund at point of purchase. Call 645-2787 or email info@ubcfa.org with questions.

Move Over V. I. Warshawski; Buffalo Gets Its Own Crime Novel Heroine

Her name is Absalom Kearney but you can call her Abbie.

You may want to start soon because she's the homicide detective heroine of an extremely unusual series of crime novels set in Buffalo whose first --Stephan Talty's "Black Irish" (Ballantine, 336 pages, $26) -- is being published Tuesday Feb. 26. It's set in what the book's publicity calls "the working class Irish-American enclave of South Buffalo." (No stranger to best-sellerdom if you consider Tim Russert's memoir "Big Russ and Me.")


Ballantine spokesperson Lisa Barnes says that current plans are for at least one more Abbie Kearney crime novel, with her, in the next one, "hoping for a quieter life" and  buying a "house on Elmwood Avenue" which the author describes as his "favorite street in Buffalo."

The author of "Black Irish" is Buffalo-born Stephan Talty previously known for the non-fiction books "Mulatto America," "Empire of Blue Water," "The Illustrious Dead," "Escape from the Land of Snows"

Continue reading "Move Over V. I. Warshawski; Buffalo Gets Its Own Crime Novel Heroine" »

Polish-British singer Katy Carr in Buffalo today

British-Polish musician Katy Carr will be appearing today at Canisius College's Montante Cultural Center in support of her new album "Paszport."

Carr’s fourth album is a mixture of jazz influenced pop with traditionally tinged anthems that are soulfully constructed and seamlessly sung in Polish and English. All these threads are sewn together with Carr’s strong suit of alternative folk music that miraculously creates an album straight out of 1940s Poland. The truly stunning aspect of "Paszport" is the interweaving of sonically beautiful arrangements with the horrors of the Second World War that make up the lyrics of many of the songs.

Continue reading "Polish-British singer Katy Carr in Buffalo today" »

Confessions of a Wagner newbie

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Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" winds up Saturday -- that's tomorrow -- at the Canadian Opera Company. 

I reviewed it for The News. There were a lot of things to love about the performance, pictured above, which is the video-enhanced production by Peter Sellars. It was a thrill to hear tenor Ben Heppner. The orchestra was magnificent. Then there is just the stirring nature of this opera itself.

My colleague Michelle Kearns went with me to see "Tristan" -- and it was just about her first opera ever. A baptism in fire, you know? Anyway, to her surprise, she was very moved by it. I invited her to jot down her impressions as a first-time operagoer of this monumental experience.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Take it, Michelle!

"Tristan & Isolde": Observations of an Opera Dilettante

By Michelle Kearns

I know next to practically nothing about opera. During the few I’ve seen, I usually succumbed more than once to an overpowering urge to nap in my seat. Yet I won’t say no to the rare invitation to give it another try. Maybe I’m still trying to make up for the opera appreciation class I dropped in college. Skiing on student discount days had more appeal than what turned out to be a study of a German play-turned-opera about an impoverished soldier who stabs the mother of his child. "Wozzeck" (by Alban Berg) was too grim and dull, my sophomore self concluded. My curiosity dissolved, as things did in those days, into sun, snow and the next party.

Now that I’m decades away from the temptations of life in the Colorado mountains, I accepted a friend’s offer and a few weeks ago I went to Toronto for "Tristan und Isolde." The title had a promising royal sound. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bleak.

Continue reading "Confessions of a Wagner newbie" »

UPDATE: Shea's to handle refund requests on 'case-by-case basis'

Yesterday, I relayed some readers' questions about whether Shea's would offer refunds because of Wednesday night's tech troubles to Shea's marketing director Lisa Grisanti. She said the theater would deal with such requests on a "case-by-case basis." She also said that inquiries about ticket refunds should be directed to the Shea's box office at 847-0850.

UPDATE: When asked about Shea's official policy regarding regarding ticket refunds for significant technical malfunctions, Grisanti sent this statement:

"Normally, we do not issue refunds in this situation. However, we handle any complaints and issues on a case by case basis and make a determination regarding a response to accommodate the patron," Grisanti wrote. "For some who have contacted us, we have offered them to see the show again (which they agreed)."

In 2010, a similar malfunction affected a performance of the tech-heavy "Dreamgirls," and in that instance said refunds would not be offered:

Grisanti said no refunds would be offered to Wednesday's audience [for "Dreamgirls"] because the show went on, a decision that is in accordance with standard practice on Broadway and elsewhere in the theater world.

--Colin Dabkowski

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